Vatican City, Oct 12, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Meeting with members of the Jewish community in Rome, Pope Francis reflected on the tragedies of the past and called for the cultivation of brotherly love and friendship between the Catholic and Jewish people.
“We will remember in a few days the 70th anniversary of the deportation of the Jews of Rome,” said the Holy Father, according to Vatican Radio. “We will remember and pray for the many innocent victims of human barbarity, for their families.”
“It will also be an opportunity to keep vigilant so that, under any pretext, any forms of intolerance and anti-Semitism in Rome and the rest of the world not come back to life.”
Pope Francis emphasized that Christianity and anti-Semitism are incompatible.
“It’s a contradiction that a Christian is anti-Semitic: His roots are Jewish,” the Pontiff proclaimed. “A Christian cannot be anti-Semitic! Let Anti-Semitism be banished from the heart and life of every man and every woman!”
Among those in attendance at the Oct. 11 meeting with the Holy Father were the Chief Rabbi of Rome, the President of the Jewish Community of Rome and the President of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities.
Pope Francis reflected on the Oct. 16 1943 deportation of more than 1,000 Jews from Rome under Nazi occupation. Sent to Auschwitz, only 16 ever returned, according to Vatican Radio.
Recalling the grave situation faced by the Jewish community during that time, the Pope also noted how local Christians reached out to those in need.
“We know how many religious institutions, monasteries and Papal Basilicas, interpreting the will of the Pope, opened their doors in a brotherly welcome, and how many ordinary Christians offered what help they could give, however big or small,” the Pope said.
“The vast majority were not aware of the need to update the Christian understanding of Judaism, and perhaps knew very little about the life of the Jewish community,” he remarked. “But they had the courage to do what at that time was the right thing: to protect their brother, who was in danger.”
He highlighted this need for “a dialogue of life, that of everyday experience.” In addition to theological and intellectual dialogue, he said, there must be “a real and concrete culture of encounter, which leads to authentic relationships, which exist without prejudice and suspicion.”
Recalling his own friendship with a Jewish community in his home country of Argentina, Pope Francis observed that the two faiths share much in common, including the Ten Commandments as a solid basis for morality in a society “disoriented by an extreme diversity of choices and positions, and marked by a relativism which does not have many firm or safe points of reference.”
He voiced his hope that a greater culture of encounter may be fostered between the two faith groups, who have been together in the city for centuries.
The relationship between the Jewish and Catholic communities in Rome has had its share of “misunderstandings and even true grievances,” the Pope acknowledged.
“However, it is a story that with the help of God, has for many decades experienced the development of friendly and fraternal relations.”
He encouraged the Catholic and Jewish people to continue down a “path of friendship, closeness and fraternity.”
Melbourne, Australia, Oct 12, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A Catholic doctor in Australia could face suspension or the loss of his license for refusing to refer a couple who sought the sex-based abortion of their unborn daughter.
“I refused to refer the patient because there was no medical reason to do it and it offended my moral conscience,” Dr. Mark Hobart told Nine News Australia.
“It’s very wrong, I don't know any doctor in Victoria that would be willing to refer a woman that wanted to have an abortion just because of gender at 19 weeks.”
The 55-year-old doctor, who lives in the Australian state of Victoria, has practiced medicine for 27 years. He said the pregnancy was “well advanced.”
The married couple had asked Hobart to refer them to an abortion clinic 19 weeks into the woman’s pregnancy, when they discovered they were having a girl but wanted a boy.
For the last five months, Hobart has faced an investigation from the Medical Board of Australia and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency. Victoria’s Abortion Law Reform Act of 2008 requires that doctors with moral objections to an abortion refer their patient to another non-objecting practitioner for treatment and advice.
He said the investigation shows that the state’s abortion law “stops doctors from using their conscience whether it is appropriate or not.”
Hobart went public about the request for the sex-selection abortion in April. The Medical Board of Victoria began an investigation after board members complained that the incident called into question his professional conduct.
Neither the woman nor her husband filed a complaint against him, the Daily Mail reports.
Any decision could affect Hobart’s ability to practice medicine throughout Australia.
Sex-selective abortions are common in parts of the world, particularly in some Asian countries where there is a strong cultural preference for boys over girls. The practice has contributed to severe gender imbalances in some regions.
Abortions based on sex also take place in Western countries, especially in some immigrant communities.
The controversial procedures have become the focus of controversy in the United Kingdom after investigative reporters with the Daily Telegraph secretly filmed doctors at British clinics agreeing to abort unborn babies merely on the basis of their sex.
Opponents of sex-selective abortions contend that the procedures violate the 1967 law allowing abortion only in “a limited range of circumstances.” However, the head of public prosecutions has said that the law “does not expressly prohibit” these sex-targeted abortions, the Catholic Herald reports.
Anthony Ozimic, a spokesman for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, warned that British doctors could face situations similar to Hobart’s if sex-selective abortion continues and if conscience protections continue to be weak.
“The lives of baby girls and livelihoods of good doctors are at stake,” he said.
In the United States, the states of Arizona, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Oklahoma have barred sex-selective abortions. Utah, Florida, New York, Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, Colorado and North Dakota are considering legislation to ban the practice.
Vatican City, Oct 12, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis met with experts on women’s issues today in Rome, affirming that the Church must continue to work for a more profound understanding of women and their roles.
“Also in the Church it is important to ask ourselves: what presence does woman have? Can it be valued more?” the Pope asked.
He met with experts who had participated in a seminar marking the 25th anniversary of Blessed John Paul II’s apostolic letter, “On the Dignity and Vocation of Women.” The three-day seminar was sponsored by the Pontifical Council of the Laity.
Pope Francis said the presence of women in the Church is “a reality that is very much on my heart.” He said he wanted to meet the seminar participants “and bless you and your task.”
He noted that John Paul II’s apostolic letter teaches that “God entrusts man, the human being, to woman in a special way.”
“What does this ‘special entrustment’ mean?” asked Pope Francis.
“I think it is evident that my predecessor refers to motherhood,” he explained. “And this is not simply a biological fact, but it involves a wealth of implications both for woman herself, for her way of being, and for her relationships, for a way of extending respect for human life and for life in general.”
The Pope then warned of two ever-present dangers, “two extreme opposites that degrade woman and her vocation.”
“The first is to reduce motherhood to a social role, to a task, however noble, but in fact sets apart woman with her potential, not fully valuing her in the construction of the community,” he noted.
The second peril is that of “promoting a type of emancipation that, in order to occupy the space stolen by the masculine, abandons the feminine with its priceless elements.”
He said women can help provide better insight into the nature of God.
“Woman has a particular sensibility for the ‘things of God’, above all in helping us to understand the mercy, the tenderness, and the love that God has for us,” he emphasized.
Pope Francis then abandoned his prepared remarks to convey his sadness at the situation of women who are reduced to roles of mere “servitude,” distinguishing it from the “servanthood” to which all Christians are called.
“I suffer – speaking truthfully! – when I see in the Church or in some ecclesial organizations that the role of service that we all have, and that we must have – but that the role of service of the woman becomes role of ‘servitude’.”
He then encouraged the experts to continue their work in order to better understand the role of women in the Church.
“Let us move forward together!” he exclaimed. “May most holy Mary – a great woman, eh? – the Mother of Jesus and of all God’s children, accompany us. Thank you!”
The Pope then took the time to greet each person in the hall, including the families of the experts present.
One little girl began to cry “mama!” as she stood near Pope Francis.
He smiled and turned to the women in the room, joking “that’s maternity, eh?”
Rome, Italy, Oct 12, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Approximately 100 women from around the world gathered in Rome from Oct. 10-12 to discuss the “feminine genius” described by Bl. Pope John Paul II 25 years ago.
The study seminar was hosted by the women’s section of the Pontifical Council for the Laity and focused on the theme, “God entrusts the human being to the woman.”
Experts in various disciplines ranging from medicine and law to academia and art arrived from 24 different countries to reflect on John Paul II’s writings on women, particularly his Apostolic Letter “On the Dignity and Vocation of Women.”
There were delegates from 29 different international organizations, including U.S. groups such as Women Speak for Themselves, Catholic Voices, and Priests for Life.
Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, celebrated the opening Mass of the seminar, saying, “It is in this context of serious anthropological crisis, where humankind wants to ‘go it alone’ and the criteria of humanity have become uncertain and extremely confusing and fluid, that we Christians are called to defend the nature and dignity of the human person, women and men.”
“As Christians in today’s world, we are called in a special way to safeguard humanity. By means of this seminar that starts today, we wish to assume this responsibility,” he continued. “In other words, we wish to safeguard what it is to be a human being, to be human beings who are God’s creatures, women and men.”
Helen Alvare, professor of law at George Mason University and founder of Women Speak for Themselves, spoke on how ideas about women have developed since the publication of “On the Dignity and Vocation of Women” in 1988, and how the Church might respond to those changes.
“We have had a more or less ‘natural experiment’ over the last several decades, allowing us to observe what happens when a substantial number of women can choose how they wish to spend their lives,” she explained.
The “preliminary results” show that “women still wish for the most part to marry and to have children” and that “women are happy to exercise their talents outside the home as well as in it.” Moreover, “when they are mothers, most women prefer to work part-time, or in cycles responsive to their children’s needs.”
“Furthermore,” Alvare went on, “modern empirical data is confirming the beneficial effects, not only of attending to the importance of stable relationships in personal lives, but of participating in labor imbued with meaning as human service.”
Women “are still voting with their feet disproportionately to work in the classic ‘caring-professions’ – teacher, nurse, social worker, etc. – and are now adding to that list, lawyers, doctors and politicians.”
What might this mean for the Church?
“Women seem naturally suited to communicate Pope Francis’ stunning calls to re-energize the Church’s mission to serve the dispossessed of this world,” she proposed.
“Women’s natural gifts…as well as their centuries of experience of work directly with the marginalized…make them natural leaders and communicators in all of these areas,” concluded Alvare.
Her words were immediately verified by women from around the globe, who began a lively discussion of how to better serve those individuals and families of the world who struggle with situations such as poverty or abuse.
Priscilla Kuye, the first and only female president of the Nigerian Bar Association, noted the need to encourage families to give girls, as well as boys, an education – a practice that is not often embraced in the more rural parts of her home country.
Jocelyne Khoueiry, co-founder of the Catholic feminine movement “La Libanaise-Femme du 31 Mai” spoke of her involvement in the John Paul II Center of Social and Cultural Services in Jounieh, Lebanon. The Center was begun not only to help alleviate poverty but to address the “psycho-social” needs of individuals, couples, and families wounded by many years of war and political unrest.
Many others joined the conversation with questions or contributions about their own experiences.
The seminar featured many different presentations and panel discussions on topics such as “What is the outcome of the sexual revolution 40 years on?” and “Legal protection of life and family.” The three-day seminar concluded with a meeting with Pope Francis on Saturday.
Seminar papers will be posted on the Council’s website, www.laici.va.
Vatican City, Oct 12, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis led a Marian prayer vigil Saturday, stressing that the Virgin Mary leads Christians to the mercy of God who can untie “all knotted hearts.”
Each one of us has “knots” in our souls, caused by sin, said Pope Francis.
“These knots take away our peace and serenity,” he said at the Oct. 12 vigil in St. Peter’s Square.
He acknowledged that some might believe they are without hope and say “But Father, mine can’t be untied.”
“That’s a mistake. All knots in the heart, all knots in the conscience, can be untied,” he emphasized.
If we ask Mary, “the woman of faith” for help, he continued, “she will surely say to us, ‘go forward, go to the Lord, he will understand you.’ And she takes us with the hand of a mother to the embrace of the Father, to the Father of mercy.”
As the crowds prayed, the Pope spoke of Mary’s example and reflected on her desire to lead others away from the “knots” of sin to divine healing. Mary is “the mother who patiently and lovingly brings us to God, so that he can untangle the knots of our soul by his fatherly mercy.”
In preparation for the Pope’s consecration of the world to Mary on Sunday, the original statue of Our Lady of Fatima was brought to St. Peter’s Square from the shrine in Portugal. Pope Francis took a moment to pray before the image, which depicts how Mary appeared to three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal in 1917.
The crowds of diverse pilgrims held up various images of Mary, celebrating her universal motherhood. The vigil, which interspersed international music with scripture readings that served as points of meditation and prayer.
Pope Francis taught that Mary, through her witness of faith, is the paradigm for all believers.
“Mary first conceived Jesus in faith and then in the flesh, when she said ‘yes’ to the message God gave her through the angel,” he told the vigil audience.
The Pope then challenged his listeners to consider their own faith more profoundly:
“Do we think that Jesus’ Incarnation is simply a past event which has nothing to do with us personally? Believing in Jesus means giving him our flesh with the humility and courage of Mary, so that he can continue to dwell in our midst.”
The crowds cheered as Pope Francis preached about following God.
“How was Mary’s faith a journey? In the sense that her entire life was to follow her Son: he is the way, he is the path!” he said.
The path of any Christian is the “way of the Cross,” even and especially for Mary.
“When Jesus was rejected, Mary was always there, with Jesus, following Jesus, in the midst of the people. And she heard the gossip, the hatred of those who did not love the Lord. And this cross, she was carrying,” he told the pilgrims.
During Jesus’ crucifixion, Mary’s faith was “like a little flame burning in the night.”
“And when she received word that the tomb was empty, her heart was filled with the joy of faith: Christian faith, in the death and resurrection of Christ, because faith always brings us joy. And she is the mother of joy!” he exclaimed.
“Mary teaches us to go forward with joy and live this joy!”
The prayer vigil at St. Peter’s Square preceded a world-wide vigil at various Marian sites throughout the globe.
These opportunities for prayer are being held as special events during the Catholic Church’s observance of the Year of Faith.