Bangui, Central African Republic, Jun 8, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Following continued attacks on churches in the Central African Republic, the country still looks forward to a return to a peaceful and stable society, a priest stationed in the country told Catholic aid workers.
“We hope that the refugees will soon be able to return home, but no end is in sight,” said Father Federico Trinchero in a June 3 interview with Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, adding that peace is “still a long way away.”
Fr. Trinchero is an Italian Carmelite Father and Prior of the Carmelite Monastery in Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic.
His comments came after a May 28 attack on the Church of Our Lady of Fatima in Bangui, during which 18 people were killed and more than 40 people were abducted.
Since December 2012, the Central African Republic has been torn apart by violence, killing thousands, displacing an estimated 1.1 million persons and leaving millions more without an assurance of food or safety.
The fighting began when Seleka rebels, comprised mostly of Muslim fighters from other countries, began to carry out acts of terrorism and violence, with individuals continuing to loot, rape and murder even after the Seleka disbanded. Then, in September 2013, “anti-balaka” self-defense groups, many comprised of Christians, began to strike back, attacking Muslims in revenge for earlier acts of violence.
In response to the continued violence and conflict that now divides political, tribal, and religious groups in the country, the African Union has deployed 5,000 peacekeepers to the Central African Republic, and the United Nations has also pledged an additional 12,000 troops by the end of 2014.
Continuing attacks have displaced even more people, adding to the more than 7,000 refugees flocking to the Carmelite Monastery, which is one of the largest refugee camps in Bangui.
According to Aid to the Church in Need, there have been up to 15,000 people taking refuge on the monastery grounds at one time, and 30 babies have been born at the monastery since December 2013 alone.
In the Central African Republic, people are “tired and discouraged” by “the spirit of vengeance” and continued fighting that has taken the country, Fr. Trinchero said.
“The people of the Central African Republic are awaiting a truly political solution,” he stated.
However, the priest was cautious, warning that “the process of reconciliation will take years.”
“The country has undergone a very profound collapse. But I hope that it will be possible to mobilize the vital energies of the young people to enable them to take the future of the country into their own hands,” he said.
“The Church is not looking on passively, but is continuing with its mission. Nevertheless this may trouble many of those who do not love peace.”
Vatican City, Jun 8, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
During an audience with Pope Francis and the policeman of Italy, a young officer explained that his job is in fact a lifestyle of service, in which he is constantly attentive to the needs of others.
Speaking with CNA, Matteo Gianerelli said that he decided to be a policeman “because my father was. He is an example for me, so I want to follow him in this job, which is not a job but a way of life.”
Gianerelli was present during a June 6 audience with Pope Francis and the Italian police force, the carabinieri, held in honor of the 200th anniversary of their founding.
Being a police officer means “to help people, the people that need my help” Gianerelli observed, adding that he wants “to make things good for everyone. So this is what I want to do.”
“To strive to help the people, because in this job we help the people that are in need, that ask for help. And this is a great thing. This makes me happy” he said, explaining that “I do this job not for the money, but to help people.”
Reflecting on the significance of having an audience with Pope Francis, the officer explained that “I like it, I like his words.”
“He’s a great Pope, a great one,” he added.
In his address to the carabinieri Pope Francis thanked the officers for their service, explained that there is a strong bond of “bond of solidarity, trust and dedication to the common good” between them and the history of Italy.
Explaining to the officers gathered that “your vocation is service,” the Pope observed that their specific mission “is expressed in service to others and commits you to correspond every day to the confidence and esteem that the people place in you.”
“This,” he said, “requires constant availability, patience, a spirit of sacrifice and sense of duty.”
In wake of the long tradition of their 200 years of existence, the Pope stated that it is still “continued with serenity and generosity in your service, bearing witness to the ideals that animate you and your families, who are always at your side.”
Pope Francis also used the audience as an occasion to announce that on Sept. 13 of this year he will travel to the military shrine of Redipuglia, located in the northeastern Italian province of Gorizia, “to pray for the fallen from all wars.”
The occasion for the visit, he revealed, is the hundred-year anniversary of “the beginning of that enormous tragedy that was the First World War, of which I have heard so many painful stories from the lips of my grandfather.”
Containing the remains of more than 100,000 veterans, the Shrine of Redipuglia is the largest military shrine in Italy and sits directly across from what used to be the graveyard from which remains were taken.
Made of a large stone staircase, the shrine’s construction first began in 1935 and was completed three years later, being inaugurated in September 1938.
Vatican City, Jun 8, 2014 (CNA) -
On the feast of Pentecost, Pope Francis focused his homily and Angelus address on the work of the Holy Spirit in guiding and giving life to the Church.
The first Pentecost “does not remain only limited to that moment, but is an event that is renewed and renews itself again. Christ, glorified at the right (hand) of the Father, continues to realize his promise, sending the Holy Spirit to enliven the Church who teaches us, reminds us, and makes us speak,” the Pope preached to the congregation at mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on June 8.
The Holy Spirit is the “interior Teacher,” explained the pontiff, guiding us “along the right path, throughout the situations of life.”
“In the early days of the Church, Christianity was called ‘the way’, and Jesus himself is the way. The Holy Spirit teaches us to follow him, to walk in his footsteps. More than a teacher of doctrine, the Spirit is a teacher of life.”
Pope Francis noted that the work of the Spirit is something “we have all experienced” - for example, in reading Scripture, when we are drawn to one passage after another and feel Christ speaking to us.
“The Spirit of truth and charity reminds us of all that Christ has said, makes us enter more fully into the sense of his words.”
This ‘reminding’ helps Christians remain fully in the Church, for “a Christian without memory is not a true Christian,” he stressed. Rather he or she is a “prisoner of the moment, who doesn’t know the treasures of his history, doesn’t know to read it and live it like the story of salvation.”
The Holy Spirit gives us “the wisdom of memory,” which grows in us through prayer, another gift of the Spirit that allows us “to call God father - and this is not just a ‘figure of speech,’ but is the reality,” Pope Francis emphasized.
It is not only the speech of prayer that the Holy Spirit gives us, however, but also “fraternal dialogue” and “prophecy,” helping us to “speak with friendship, with tenderness,” as “humble and docile ‘channels,’ for the word of God.”
It was this power of the Holy Spirit that allowed the apostles to be heard in many different languages on that first Pentecost, explained Pope Francis later in his Angelus remarks.
“The book of Acts describes the signs and fruits of that extraordinary outpouring: the strong wind and the flames of fire; the fear disappears and gives way courage; tongues are loosened and everyone understands the announcement,” he recounted to the crowds filling St. Peter’s Square at noon on Sunday.
Pentecost marks the “birth of the Church,” the Pope noted, which has two aspects: “a Church that surprises, and that makes a mess.”
“Our God is a God of surprises, we know this,” he exclaimed.
The descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost “inspires awe because with the strength that comes from God, (the disciples) announce a new message - the Resurrection of Christ - with a new language - universal love.”
Although Jesus’ disciples had been gathered together in fear, at the Holy Spirit’s coming they are empowered to “speak with courage...and frankness, with the freedom of the Holy Spirit.”
Pope Francis then emphasized that the Holy Spirit leads Christians “into the world” to proclaim the gospel, even if at times it can be an uncomfortable truth for people.
“The Church of Pentecost is a Church that is not resigned to being innocuous,” or just a “decorative element” in the world, he insisted.
Rather, “the Church does not hesitate to come out, meet the people, to proclaim the message that has been entrusted to it, even if that message disturbs and worries consciences.”
The message, however, is a message of love, which “embraces the world” not to “capture” it but rather to “receive” it.
After leading the faithful in the Easter-time Marian prayer of the Regina Coeli, Pope Francis greeted the pilgrims who had journeyed to the Vatican and then asked for special prayers for this evening’s prayer event with the presidents of Israel and Palestine.
“As you know, this evening in the Vatican the Presidents of Israel and Palestine will join me and the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, my brother Bartholomew, to ask God for the gift of peace on Holy Land, the Middle East and throughout the world. I wish to thank all those who personally and in the community have prayed and are praying for this meeting, and will join spiritually in our supplication.”
The Pope closed with his customary wishes for a “good Sunday and a good lunch.”
Vatican City, Jun 8, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Francis on Saturday evening made a phone call to a group of young Italians who were on pilgrimage, encouraging them to embrace hope in God and reject mediocrity.
“Don’t let yourselves be discouraged by failure or anxiousness that wants to remove your dreams, that wants to close you into its dark mentality rather than letting you fly in the light of hope. Please, do not fall into mediocrity, into that mediocrity that lowers and makes us grey, for life is not grey, life is for betting on grand ideas and for great things,” he said in a phone call on June 7 to the participants of the 36th annual pilgrimage from Macerata to Loreto, Italy.
The basilica in Loreto is believed to contain the “holy house” where the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary at the annunciation.
The Pope said that was pleased to be with the young pilgrims “virtually,” the Holy See Press Office reports. He asked especially for their prayers for the June 8 meeting of prayer at the Vatican with the presidents of Israel and Palestine and the Orthodox Christian Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I.
“I ask you please, unite yourselves to us and ask God, through the intercession of the Madonna of Loreto, to make resound in that land in a new way, the song of the angels, ‘Glory to God in the highest and peace to mankind’,” the Pope added.
Pope Francis also expressed his joy at the theme chosen for the pilgrimage, “God is the Lord of surprises!”, saying “this is true!”
“For this reason, don’t be afraid to dream of a more just world; to ask, to seek, and to enhance,” he stressed.
“You know that faith is not an inheritance that we receive from others, faith is not a product that one buys, but is a response of love that we give freely and we build daily with patience, through success and failure.”
The Pope encouraged the young people to trust in God’s goodness, urging, “don’t be afraid to throw yourselves into the arms of God.”
He emphasized that they should not give into the temptation to be negative, but rather choose to be joyful in faith.
“Negativity is contagious but positivity is also contagious; desperation is contagious, but joy is also contagious: don’t follow negative people but continue to radiate light and hope around you! And know that hope does not deceive, it never deceives!”
Finally, Pope Francis reminded the pilgrims that “nothing is lost with God, but without him, everything is lost.” He stressed that they should open their hearts to God, because with faith “your eyes will see his life and his miracles.”
The pontiff concluded by asking for prayers: “Tonight, praying for peace in Loreto, close to the Madonna, don’t forget to also say a prayer for me, I need it!”
Vatican City, Jun 8, 2014 (CNA) -
Representatives of Judaism, Christianity and Islam said prayers from their respective religious communities at Sunday’s historic “Invocation for Peace” at the Vatican, praying for peace in the Holy Land and throughout the Middle East.
The meeting gathered in one place Pope Francis, Israeli President Shimon Peres, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and the Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I.
The June 8 meeting in the Vatican gardens featured prayers in Hebrew, Arabic and Italian.
Below are the official English texts of a prayer from each of the three faiths.
Jewish prayer from the Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) service, read in Hebrew:
Your servant David said before you: “Who may discern errors? Cleanse me from hidden faults”. Cleanse us, O Lord our God from all our transgressions, purify us from our impurity and cast pure water on us and purify us, as is written by Your prophets: “I will cast clean water upon you, and you shall be cleansed from all your impurities and from all your contamination I will purify you.” And it is said: “Take words with you and return to the Lord; say to him, “Take away all guilt; accept that which is good, and we will offer up the fruit of our lips.” You are merciful, accepting those who turn back to You, and with regard to repentance You promised from the beginning, and with regard to repentance, our eyes look hopefully to You. And out of Your love or us, O Lord our God, who loved Israel Your people in Your mercy, and in Your compassion with which, You had compassion on the children of Your covenant, You granted us forgiveness of sin and the pardon of transgression and the atonement of iniquity.
Christian prayer written by St. John Paul II, read in Italian:
Let us turn with trust to God our Father,
who is merciful and compassionate,
slow to anger, great in love and fidelity,
and ask him to accept the repentance of his people
who humbly confess their sins,
and to grant them mercy.
Let us pray that contemplating Jesus,
our Lord and our Peace,
Christians will be able to repent
of the words and attitudes
caused by pride, by hatred,
by the desire to dominate others,
by enmity towards members of other religions
and towards the weakest groups in society,
such as immigrants and itinerants.
Let us pray for all those who have suffered offences
against their human dignity
and whose rights have been trampled.
Islamic prayer, read in Arabic:
Praise be to God, who created the heavens and the earth, made darkness and light, brought everything out of nothing, created us as the best part of creation, formed us in the best of forms, bestowing on us hearing, sight, intelligence, and heart. Blessed be God, best of creators.
Oh God, to you all praise, O Lord, to you all praise, O Creator of the heavens and the earth, O You who know the unknown and the manifest, O Lord of everything and its sovereign, we testify that there is no god but You alone and You have no partner, we seek refuge in You from the evil in ourselves and the evil of Satan, his partners, his godlessness and his whispering, and we seek refuge in You from godlessness and want, and we seek refuge in You so that we do not bring evil upon ourselves or bring it upon anyone else.
O God, to You all praise, much praise, good and blessed, we praise You for all the grace bestowed upon us, seen and unseen, in religion or in the world, for Your graces cannot be counted or calculated, and we ask You, our Lord, that they last forever, be preserved and blessed, and that they might help us to remember You, thank You and worship You better, until we worship You, remember You and thank You as You desire, and to You all praise, O Lord, as befits the splendor of Your face and the greatness of Your power.
O God, You are all able and we are unable, You possess all and we have nothing, You know all and we know nothing, You know hidden things, we praise You, we thank You for all that You have showered upon us and all You have done so well for us in religion and in this world, to You praise, our Lord, in first things and in the hereafter, to You praise in good times and bad, to You praise until You are gratified and to You praise when You are satisfied, to You praise after satisfaction, there is no power and no strength but in You.
Vatican City, Jun 8, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Francis welcomed the presidents of Israel and Palestine to the Vatican on Sunday evening for an unprecedented meeting of prayer, the “Invocation for Peace.”
Joined by the Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, the three leaders prayed for peace in the Holy Land and throughout the Middle East.
“I am profoundly grateful to you for accepting my invitation to come here and to join in imploring from God the gift of peace. It is my hope that this meeting will mark the beginning of a new journey where we seek the things that unite, so as to overcome the things that divide,” said Pope Francis on June 8 in the Vatican gardens.
The Pope had issued the invitations on his recent trip to the Holy Land in late May. The presidents quickly accepted the invitation.
Presidents Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas arrived separately to meet with Pope Francis individually in the Casa Santa Marta guesthouse. The three eventually met and were joined by the Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, before proceeding to the Vatican gardens for an “Invocation for Peace.”
The evening’s prayer was divided into three parts, following the chronological ordering of the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic religious communities. Prayers were offered in Hebrew, English, Italian, and Arabic, praising God for creation, asking pardon for sin, and requesting the gift of peace.
Selections included several psalms, a prayer from the Jewish Day of Atonement service, a prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, and several Islamic prayers.
After the prayers, Pope Francis, Israeli President Shimon Peres, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas each spoke briefly about the need for peace.
“This meeting of prayer for peace in the Holy Land, in the Middle East and in the entire world is accompanied by the prayers of countless people of different cultures, nations, languages and religions: they have prayed for this meeting and even now they are united with us in the same supplication,” said Pope Francis.
“It is a meeting which responds to the fervent desire of all who long for peace and dream of a world in which men and women can live as brothers and sisters and no longer as adversaries and enemies.”
The pontiff then cautioned that “peacemaking calls for courage, much more so than warfare.”
History reveals that peace cannot come merely through human strength, noted the Pope. “That is why we are here, because we know and we believe that we need the help of God. We do not renounce our responsibilities, but we do call upon God in an act of supreme responsibility before our consciences and before our peoples.”
Pope Francis encouraged those present to “break the spiral of hatred and violence” with the word “brother.” We must “lift our eyes to heaven and acknowledge one another as children of one Father,” he said.
Israeli President Shimon Peres then made a heart-felt appeal for peace, saying “I come to call for peace between nations.”
He, too, acknowledged that “peace does not come easy.” Even if peace “seems distant,” the Israeli president continued, “we must pursue it to bring it close.”
“We are commanded to pursue peace,” he emphasized.
Peres expressed his belief that “if we pursue peace with determination, with faith, we will reach it.”
He recalled that in his life, he had seen both peace and warfare. He would never forget the devastation caused by war.
“We owe it to our children,” to seek peace, stressed Peres.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas spoke in the words of a prayer, beseeching the Lord “on behalf of my people, the people of Palestine - Muslims, Christians, and Samaritans - who are craving for a just peace, dignified living, and liberty.”
“Grant, O Lord, our region and its people security, safety and stability. Save our blessed city Jerusalem; the first Kiblah, the second Holy mosque, the third of the two Holy Mosques, and the city of blessings and peace with all that surround it,” Abbas prayed.
The Muslim political leader affirmed, “reconciliation and peace, O Lord, are our goal.”
He prayed that God would “make Palestine and Jerusalem in particular a secure land for all the believers, and a place for prayer and worship for the followers of the three monotheistic religions Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and for all those wishing to visit it as is stated in the Holy Koran.”
The evening closed with a handshake of peace amongst the leaders, and the planting of an olive tree, symbolic of the desire for peace on behalf of each of the religious communities.