Monday, October 05, 2015

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Pope recognizes martyrdom of Syriac Catholic bishop killed in 1915

VATICAN CITY — As members of the Syriac Catholic Church face severe persecution in Iraq and Syria, Pope Francis formally recognized the martyrdom of one of their bishops who was killed in 1915.

Signing the decree recognizing the martyrdom of Syriac Bishop Flavien-Michel Malke clears the way for his beatification. Pope Francis signed the decree Aug. 8.

As the Ottoman Empire crumbled in the early 1900s, there were waves of violence and persecution against Christian minorities, especially the Armenians and Syrians. Bishop Malke was the Syriac Catholic bishop of Gazireh, which today is the city of Cizre, Turkey. Although advised to flee, the bishop stayed with his people, was arrested and beheaded.

Father Rami Al Kabalan, postulator or promoter of Bishop Malke's cause, told Vatican Radio, "He played a fundamental role in encouraging the people to defend their faith during that difficult era, during the persecutions of the Ottoman Empire.

"He lived in extreme poverty and even sold his liturgical vestments to help the poor," Father Al Kabalan said.

One hundred years after the bishop's death Aug. 29, 2015, "we Eastern Christians are undergoing almost the same persecutions," the priest said. "For us, the figure of this martyr gives us courage to defend our faith and life our faith;we do not have to be afraid, despite the difficult circumstances facing all Eastern Christians in Iraq and Syria."

According to the Vatican, the bishop was born in 1858 in Qal'at Mara in what is now southeastern Turkey. Although his family was Orthodox, he became a Syriac Catholic and joined the Fraternity of St. Ephrem. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1883 and named bishop of Gazireh in 1913.

— Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service

Pope designates Sept. 1 as World Day of Prayer for Care of Creation

VATICAN CITY — Like their Orthodox brothers and sisters, Catholics formally will mark Sept. 1 as the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, Pope Francis has decided.

The day of prayer, the pope said, will give individuals and communities an opportunity to implore God's help in protecting creation and an opportunity to ask God's forgiveness "for sins committed against the world in which we live."

Pope Francis announced his decision to add the annual prayer day to the Catholic calendar in a letter to Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and to Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

The text of the letter, dated Aug. 6, was released by the Vatican Aug. 10.

Pope Francis said he was instituting the prayer day for Catholics because he shares the concern of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, who initiated a similar prayer day for the Orthodox Church in 1989.

Metropolitan John of Pergamon, who represented the patriarch at the public presentation June 18 of Pope Francis' encyclical, "Laudato Si'," had suggested there that all Christians join in prayer Sept. 1.

"This would mark a step toward further closeness among them," he had said.

Pope Francis said Christians want to make their special contribution to safeguarding creation, but to do that they must rediscover the spiritual foundations of their approach to earthly realities, beginning with an acknowledgment that "the life of the spirit is not dissociated from the body or from nature," but lived in communion with all worldly realities.

The ecological crisis, he said, is a summons "to a profound spiritual conversion" and to a way of life that clearly shows they are believers.

Quoting his encyclical, he said, "living our vocation to be protectors of God's handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience."

The annual World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, Pope Francis said, will be a time for individuals and communities to "reaffirm their personal vocation to be stewards of creation, to thank God for the wonderful handiwork which he has entrusted to our care, and to implore his help for the protection of creation as well as his pardon for the sins committed against the world in which we live."

The pope asked Cardinal Koch to consult with and work with the Catholic Church's ecumenical partners and the World Council of Churches to make sure the prayer day becomes a sign of Christians' commitment to work together to safeguard creation "in order to be more credible and effective."

He entrusted to the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace the task of working with Catholic bishops' conferences and environmental organizations to publicize and coordinate the specifics of the celebration.

"I invoke upon this initiative the intercession of Mary, mother of God, and of St. Francis of Assisi, whose Canticle of the Creatures inspires so many men and women of goodwill to live in praise of the Creator and with respect for creation," he said.

— Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service

Care for creation, care for each other, pope says in radio interview

VATICAN CITY — Caring for all of creation includes paying particular attention to the needs of young people and the aged, Pope Francis told the audience of a Catholic radio station in Argentina.

As he did last August, Pope Francis granted a telephone interview Aug. 8 to a station operated by Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish in Campo Gallo, speaking for just under an hour with Fathers Joaquin Giangreco and Juan Ignacio Liebana.

When the priests asked Pope Francis about "Laudato Si'," his environmental encyclical, Pope Francis emphasized the need for everyone to work together to care for each other and for the environment.

"Care for the earth, the water and for all that God has given us," the pope said.

Pope Francis offered his support to priests and other church workers who are encouraging people to defend the forests in Argentina's Yungas and Chaco regions; Argentina has lost millions of acres of forests in the past 30 years to commercial soybean farming operations.

"It's heartbreaking when they clear forests to plant soybeans," the pope said.

The encyclical, he told the radio's listeners, is about more than protecting plants, animals, water, air and soil.

"We must make a great effort and take care of one another so as not to be a sad family; we must take care of the children and grandparents with that tenderness that Jesus taught us to have in caring for one another," the pope said.

Human beings, he said, were not created to live alone, but as a family.

Today young people need special support to continuing being hopeful about the future and in preparing to contribute to society, work and begin families, he said. "I don't want sad young people, youths who retire" before they even begin to work.

"Young people need to dedicate their lives to great things and do so joyfully," he said. They need to dream because "those who don't dream have nightmares."

Pope Francis also asked the radio station's listeners to pray for progress in the sainthood cause of "Mama Antula," as Maria Antonia de Paz Figueroa was known. The 18th-century consecrated laywoman was from the province of Santiago del Estero, the same province where Campo Gallo is located.

"Mama Antula is an example of the strength of the Santiago people," the pope said.

She promoted the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola and formed a small group of young women who lived in community, prayed together, did works of charity and assisted the local Jesuits. When the Jesuits were expelled from Argentina in 1767, she cared for as many of their institutions as possible and continued directing people in the Ignatian exercises. Pope Benedict XVI declared her venerable in 2010; the verification of a miracle attributed to her intercession is needed for beatification.

— Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service

Papal message for World Peace Day to focus on overcoming indifference

081115-afghan-kidsVATICAN CITY — Selfishness and fear keep too many people ignorant of the suffering of others and prevent them from finding creative ways to express solidarity and to promote peace, said a statement from the Vatican's justice and peace office.

To promote a reflection on the need for a "conversion of mind and heart" open to the needs of others, Pope Francis has chosen "Overcome indifference and win peace" as the theme for the church's celebration of the World Day of Peace 2016.

Announcing the theme for the Jan. 1 celebration, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace said that peace is difficult to achieve when people are indifferent "to the scourges of our time."

The problems everyone must be aware of, the council said in an Aug. 11 statement, include "fundamentalism, intolerance and massacres, persecutions on account of faith and ethnicity," disregard for human rights, human trafficking and forced labor, corruption, organized crime and forced migration.

Pictured: Afghan children are seen in late May at a temporary shelter in an internally displaced persons camp on the outskirts of Balkh province, Afghanistan. To promote a reflection on the need for a "conversion of mind and heart" open to the needs of others, Pope Francis has chosen "Overcome indifference and win peace" as the theme for the church's celebration of the World Day of Peace 2016. (CNS photo/Sayed Mustafa, EPA)

Simply increasing the amount of information about the problems is not enough, the council said: People must open their hearts and minds to the suffering of others.

"Today, indifference is often linked to various forms of individualism which cause isolation, ignorance, selfishness and, therefore, lack of interest and commitment," the statement said.

World Peace Day 2016 will be celebrated within the Year of Mercy, which Pope Francis will open formally Dec. 8.

The peace day theme and a papal message about it -- expected to be released in mid-December -- aim to help people reflect on how they can "build together a more conscious and merciful and, therefore, more free and fair world," the council said.

"The creation of a culture of law, education in dialogue and cooperation are, in this context, the fundamental forms of a constructive response," the statement said.

— Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service



Pope: Celebrations, including Mass, are essential for family life


VATICAN CITY — Families need moments of rest and celebration, time for standing back and recognizing the gifts of God and how well they have developed, Pope Francis said.

Celebrations are times "to enjoy that which cannot be produced or consumed, that cannot be bought or sold," the pope said Aug. 12 at his weekly general audience.

Continuing his series of talks about the family in anticipation of the September celebration of the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia and the world Synod of Bishops on the family in October, Pope Francis said he would be looking at "the rhythm of family life," focusing first on celebrations, then on work and on prayer.

Pictured: Nuns attend Pope Francis' weekly audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Aug. 12. (CNS photo/Remo Casilli, Reuters)

"Celebrations are God's invention," he said, pointing to the description in the Book of Genesis of how, after creating the world, God took a day of rest and contemplated all he had created.

Life becomes truly human when people take the time to do the same, the pope said. "A celebration is above all a loving and grateful gaze at work done well," whether it's a wedding celebration of a relationship that has matured or birthdays and graduations when people "look at their children or grandchildren who are growing and think, 'How beautiful.'"

The best parties are always those that gather families together, Pope Francis said. "Family life, seen with the eyes of faith, shows itself to be worth more than the effort it requires. It is a masterpiece of simplicity and is beautiful precisely because it is not artificial, not fake."

While not ignoring one's obligations at work, he said, it also is important to allow celebrations of birthdays, marriages, new births, welcomes or farewells "to infiltrate" the workplace. "They are moments of familiarity that throw a cog in the production line. It does us good."

Days of rest, especially Sunday celebrations of Mass and time with the family, are important reminders that every human being is made in the image and likeness of God and is not a "slave to work."

Unfortunately, he said, even in the modern world there are women and children who have been reduced to slave-like conditions. "This is against God and against the dignity of the human person!"

In other cases, the pope said, people have made themselves slaves to work, thinking the point of life is to earn a lot of money. Even when they celebrate, he said, they allow consumerism "to swallow" the party by thinking the more money they spend, the better the celebration will be.

"But is that why we work?" he asked. "Greed for consuming, which leads to waste, is a horrible virus that, among other things, leaves us more tired than we were before. It poisons real work and consumes our lives."

"Celebrations are a precious gift God has given the human family. Let's not ruin them," he said.

The most important celebration for a family, the pope said, is Sunday Mass, which brings people "the grace of Jesus Christ, his presence, his love, his sacrifice, his making us a community, his being with us."

When people bring their lives to Jesus in the Eucharist, the real meaning of life is revealed, Pope Francis said. "Work, family, our daily joys and efforts, even suffering and death -- all are transfigured by the grace of Christ."

— Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service