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October 22, 2017
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Pope Francis: Putting God first doesn't mean avoiding reality

Vatican City, October 22 (CNA/EWTN News) .- On Sunday, Pope Francis spoke on the importance of both fulfilling our earthly duties and making God a priority, stressing that the two are never in opposition, but are complementary, with the primacy of God giving direction to our daily activities.
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Vatican

Pope Francis: Putting God first doesn't mean avoiding reality
Missionary work begins with everyone, cardinal says

Americas

Venezuelan bishops denounce pro-government bias in elections



Vatican

Pope Francis: Putting God first doesn't mean avoiding reality

VATICAN CITY, October 22 (CNA/EWTN News) .- On Sunday, Pope Francis spoke on the importance of both fulfilling our earthly duties and making God a priority, stressing that the two are never in opposition, but are complementary, with the primacy of God giving direction to our daily activities.

“The Christian is called to commit themselves concretely in human and social realities without putting God and Caesar into opposition, but by illuminating the earthly reality with the light that comes from God,” the Pope said.

Giving priority to God and having hope in him “do not lead to an escape from reality,” he said, but rather, “they make industrious that which belongs to him.”

Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims present in St. Peter's Square for his Oct. 22 Sunday Angelus address, which coincided with both World Mission Sunday and the feast of St. John Paul II.

In his speech, the Pope centered his reflection on the day's Gospel reading from Matthew, in which the Pharisees question Jesus about whether or not it is just to pay taxes to Caesar.

This meeting constitutes yet another “face-to-face encounter” between Jesus and his opponents, the Pope said, noting that the “thorny” issue of taxes is supposed to be a trap.

However, rather than falling into it, Jesus offers a calm response and “takes advantage of the malicious question in order to give an important teaching, rising above the polemics and opposing sides.”

By looking at the image and inscription of Caesar carved onto the Roman coins and telling the Pharisees to “render to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's,” Jesus on one hand says that paying taxes to the Roman emperor “is not an act of idolatry, but an act of duty to the earthly authority.”

On the other hand, in his reference to God, Jesus “recalls the primacy of God, asking to give him what is owed to him as the Lord of life, of man and of history.”

While the image of Caesar recalls our rights and duties as citizens of the state, the reference to God symbolically points to the image that is imprinted on every person, which is “the image of God,” the Pope said.

“He is the Lord of all, and we, who were created in his image, belong above all to him,” Francis said, adding that from the question posed by the Pharisees, Jesus derives a more vital and radical question for each one of us: “to whom do I belong?”

“To our family, our city, our friends, school, work, politics, or the state? Yes, certainly. But above all, Jesus reminds us, you belong to God,” he said, adding that the Lord is the one who has given us all that we have and are.

And therefore, in our daily lives “we can and must live them in renewed knowledge of this fundamental belonging and in the recognition of our heart to the Father, who created each one of us unique and unrepeatable, but always in the image of his beloved Son, Jesus,” he said. “It is a marvelous mystery.”

Pope Francis then led pilgrims in praying the traditional Angelus prayer. Afterward, he noted how yesterday Spanish martyrs Matteo Casals, Teofilo Casajús, Fernando Saperas and their 106 companions were beatified in Barcelona, and prayed that their “heroic example” and intercession would support Christians all over the world who today endure persecution and discrimination.

He also noted how Oct. 22 marks World Missionary Day, which was launched in 1926 by the Congregation for Divine Worship and is now promoted by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Pontifical Mission Societies.

Francis invited everyone to “live the joy of missionary witness to the Gospel” in their various states of life and urged faithful to support missionaries around the world either financially or through prayer.

To this end, the Pope announced that an “Extraordinary Missionary Month” will take place in October 2019 in order to “nourish the ardor of the evangelizing activity of the Church 'ad gentes',” or “to the nations.”

 

During Angelus, #PopeFrancis announced an Extraordinary Missionary Month for October 2019  in order to “nourish the ardor" of evangelization pic.twitter.com/3BNXxY2aF3

— Elise Harris (@eharris_it) October 22, 2017


 

In an Oct. 22 letter marking the centenary anniversary of the publication of Pope Benedict XV's 1919 apostolic letter “Maximum Illud” on Catholic missions after the First World War, Pope Francis said the main aim for the missionary month is to foster “an increased awareness of the 'missio ad gentes' and taking up again with renewed fervor the missionary transformation of the Church’s life and pastoral activity.”

Addressed to Cardinal Fernando Filoni, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the letter noted that “Maximum Illud” had called on the Church to transcend national boundaries and bear witness, “with prophetic spirit and evangelical boldness, to God’s saving will through the Church’s universal mission.”

The Pope voiced his hope that the 100th anniversary of Benedict XV's letter would be an incentive to “combat the recurring temptation lurking beneath every form of ecclesial introversion, self-referential retreat into comfort zones, pastoral pessimism and sterile nostalgia for the past.”

“Instead, may we be open to the joyful newness of the Gospel,” he said, and prayed that in “our troubled times” of war and conflict, the good news that “forgiveness triumphs over sin, life defeats death and love conquers fear,” would be proclaimed to the world “with renewed fervor, and instill trust and hope in everyone.”

He also prayed that the 2019 missionary month would “prove an intense and fruitful occasion of grace, and promote initiatives and above all prayer, the soul of all missionary activity.”

“May it likewise advance the preaching of the Gospel, biblical and theological reflection on the Church’s mission, works of Christian charity, and practical works of cooperation and solidarity between Churches, so that missionary zeal may revive and never be wanting among us.”

In his comments after the Angelus, Pope Francis also offered prayers for peace throughout the world, specifically in Kenya, where there is ongoing debate over their recent presidential elections.

General elections took place in Kenya Aug. 8, and initial results showed that President Uhuru Kenyatta was re-elected with the majority vote. However, his main rival, Raila Odinga, refused to accept the result and fought it in the country's Supreme Court.

As a result, the vote was annulled and fresh elections scheduled to take place Oct. 17. However, the date of the new election was later changed to Oct. 26.

In his remarks, Francis prayed that Kenya would “know how to face the current difficulties in a climate of constructive dialogue, having at heart the pursuit of the common good.”




Missionary work begins with everyone, cardinal says

VATICAN CITY, October 21 (CNA) .- In a press conference ahead of World Mission Day, Cardinal Fernando Filoni stressed the importance of missionary work, saying that it is a necessary aspect of the Christian faith, and that it must begin with each of us.

“In the Christian faith there is a pulse that gives life to the body. If the pulse stops, we enter into crisis, shock,” he said Oct. 20. This pulse of the Christian faith is missionary work, “and this pulse also begins with us.”

Head of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Filoni emphasized that all Catholics are called to be a missionary in some way, not only religious men and women and priests, but also young people and all laity.

For example, the two patron saints of missions are St. Francis Xavier and St. Therese of the Child Jesus, who were both missionaries in completely different ways, he pointed out.

The former traveled to Japan to spread the faith, while the latter stayed within the confines of a monastery, yet they were both great missionaries, each in their own way, he said.

To these, Filoni said he hopes to someday add a third patron saint, Venerable Pauline-Marie Jaricot, a French laywoman who in the 19th century founded the Society of the Propagation of the Faith.

“Jaricot is a laywoman who realized the role of lay people in missionary life,” he said. And she not only recognized the importance of active missionary work, but also of prayer.

One of her first initiatives was to create “a crown of prayer” for missionaries, because she knew that missionaries, who work at the “outposts” of society, could not survive without a network of prayer for support, he said.

Filoni spoke to journalists just two days ahead of World Mission Day, which falls on Oct. 22.

World Mission Sunday was begun in 1926 by the Congregation for Divine Worship and is now promoted by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Pontifical Mission Societies.

The Pope's message for the 91st World Mission Day was published by the Vatican earlier this year. Pope Francis said that World Mission Day “is a good opportunity for enabling the missionary heart of Christian communities to join in prayer, testimony of life and communion of goods, in responding to the vast and pressing needs of evangelization.”    
 
This is because “the world vitally needs the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” he said.

Christ, through the Church, “continues his mission as the Good Samaritan, caring for the bleeding wounds of humanity, and as Good Shepherd, constantly seeking out those who wander along winding paths that lead nowhere.”

You can tell that mission is “deeply imbedded” in the Pope’s heart, Fr. Tadeusz Nowak, OMI, said in the press conference Friday.

Representing the Pontifical Missionary Societies, Nowak said that Pope Francis “would want all Christians to have this deep sense of longing to share the faith and allow others to encounter personally Jesus Christ risen from the dead.”

 




Americas

Venezuelan bishops denounce pro-government bias in elections

CARACAS, VENEZUELA, October 22 (ACI Prensa) .- The Venezuelan bishops' conference has criticized bias by the National Electoral Council in favor of the government of socialist President Nicolas Maduro during last Sunday's regional elections.

The regime took 18 out of 23 disputed governorships, amid allegations of fraud leveled by the opposition. The opposition won five states, an increase of two.

It had been expected that the opposition would win a majority of states, given the economic crisis and months of anti-socialist protests in which more than 120 people were killed.

Regional elections were held Oct. 15. The US State Department has said the elections were neither “free nor fair,” citing last-minute changes to polling station locations without public notice, manipulation of ballot layouts, and limited availability of voting machines in opposition neighborhoods.

The 18 newly elected socialist governors were sworn in by the constituent assembly Oct. 19, while the five governors of the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable boycotted the event. Maduro has said the governors who will not be sworn in by the constituent assembly may not take office.

The constituent assembly is itself the product of contested elections, which took place July 30. The body has superseded the authority of the National Assembly, Venezuela's opposition-controlled legislature.

The Venezuelan bishops stated Oct. 19 their denunciation of the National Electoral Council for “ignoring the appeals made by various national and international bodies, has once again shown itself to be a biased arbiter in the service of the governing  political party,” the bishops charged in an Oct. 19 statement.

Even though Venezuela's constitution indicated regional elections should have been held in October 2016, through the National Electoral Council the government delayed the date of elections.

According to various media, this was became the regime feared losing some of the 20 states they controlled, as their United Socialist Party of Venezuela had low approval ratings. At the same time, protests in recent months had become widespread in the county due to the social and political crisis.

In its statement, the bishops' conference pointed out that there were “multiple irregularities committed in the implementation of the electoral process: preventing political organizations from substituting candidates as provided by law, sending voters over to other polling stations at the last minute, the lack of neutral international observers, and voters being pressured into voting a certain way.”

“All this constitutes an obstacle to exercising one's right to vote and creates mistrust in the election processes,” they charged.

The bishops also referred to “the decision to create new authorities, preventing from taking office governors elected in those states that did not support the Maduro regime in the elections.” This “is clearly ignoring and mocking the will of the people on which  the legitimacy of any election rests,” they stated.

However, despite the irregularities that led to a “pro-regime advantage,” the bishops called on Venezuelans to not lose “credibility and confidence in the power of voting as the way to a peaceful and democratic solution for the urgent and momentous changes that the country requires … We cannot do without the electoral route. Let us not lose hope!”

The bishops stated that “it is indispensable to restore justice and ethics to the electoral system” so that citizens “can freely and confidently express themselves” and that in the future, “elections supervised by neutral international bodies may restore peace and tranquility to Venezuelan society.”

The bishops' conference reiterated “the primacy of the individual and his universal rights over and above ideologies, systems of government and special interests.” They  called upon “all institutions of social life to respect, defend and promote civil rights and to not become discouraged in claiming them,” and they urged citizens to “not be carried away by irrationality or fanaticism in the political controversy.”

“The people have the right to demand that the political leadership concern itself primarily with their most felt necessities, to know and experience them firsthand and to offer to the people a coherent plan for the country, founded on justice and the common good without exclusions,” they said.   

The statement concluded asking God to raise up hope in Venezuelans “in face of the serious problems affecting our society, which creates anxiety and discouragement in many hearts.”

“We commend ourselves to the powerful intercession of Our Lady of Coromoto and we ask her to watch over us to that we can live in harmony, freedom and peace,” the bishops' conference stated.

Frustration in Venezuela has been building for years due to poor economic policies, including strict price controls coupled with high inflation rates, which have resulted in a severe lack of basic necessities such as toilet paper, milk, flour, diapers, and medicines.

Venezuela's socialist government is widely blamed for the crisis. Since 2003, price controls on some 160 products, including cooking oil, soap and flour, have meant that while they are affordable, they fly off store shelves only to be resold on the black market at much higher rates.

The International Monetary Fund has forecasted an inflation rate of 2,300 percent in Venezuela in 2018.





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