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Papal charities buy food products to help quake-hit Italian farmers

(Vatican Radio)  The Office of Papal Charities this week helped out the earthquake-hit regions of central Italy at the express wish of Pope Francis, buying typical food products from local producers and distributing it to several soup kitchens in Rome.

Central Italy was hit by a powerful 6.3 magnitude quake in August 2016, which killed nearly 300 people. Other earthquakes have since caused major damage to the area.

Farmers and merchants in the affected areas have since suffered a drastic reduction in their revenues.

A communique from the Office of Papal Charities said the organization selected “several groups of farmers and producers at risk of closure because of the damages provoked by the earthquake” from which to buy alimentary products.

It said vendors were chosen in conjunction with Bishop Domenico Pompili of Rieti, Bishop Giovanni D'Ercole of Ascoli Piceno, Archbishop Francesco Giovanni Brugnaro of Camerino-San Severino Marche, and Archbishop Renato Boccardo of Spoleto-Norcia.

“The Office of Papal Charities bought a large quantity of their products with the intention, expressed by the Holy Father, to help and encourage them in their activities. It is a gesture in line with the Magisterium of Pope Francis, who in his meetings has often said that ‘when a person does not earn their bread, their dignity is lost’”.

The food products bought in the name of the Pope were distributed to several soup kitchens in Rome to make meals for homeless people in need.

The Vatican supermarket currently sells products from the earthquake hit zones of central Italy, in an effort to help out the local economy.

(from Vatican Radio)

Vatican seminar on water pushes for better public policies

(Vatican Radio) A 2-day seminar aiming to propose much needed public policies for water and sanitation management is underway in the Vatican

Organized by the Vatican Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the seminar is entitled “The human right to water: An interdisciplinary focus and contributions on the central role of public policies in water and sanitation management”.

The workshop focuses on the potential and effective contribution of science, culture, politics and technological advancements to the attainment of a fairer world of greater social justice and solidarity. 

One of the participants, Father Peter Hughes, a missionary priest who has spent his life working in the Amazon region, pointed out that water management impacts many issues including peace and the prevention of conflicts.

Listen:

Father Peter Hughes, who has worked all his life in Peru, in the Andes and in the Amazon explains he is currently involved in a new project in defense of the Amazon region – the Pan Amazon – which comprises nine geographical countries.

“We are very much aware that the life of the Amazon is now in real danger; the life of so many indigenous communities, their lands that are being taken over and destroyed by the onslaught of mining and oil companies and the destruction of the rainforest for the so-called timber industry” he said.

Hughes says all this is also to be taken into consideration in relation to the question of climate.

He says the destruction and the depredation of the Amazon is destroying the equilibrium of world climate.

“One fifth of the world’s water supply comes from the Amazon; another fifth of the drinking water of the world comes from the Amazon, and it’s now true to say that twenty percent of the Amazon has now been irrevocably destroyed. So the question is: can we, the human family, have the political will to stop the accelerated rate of destruction?” he said.

If not, he says, we are in deeper trouble.

Regarding the Vatican seminar which focuses on water, Hughes says everybody is aware that “the bottom line of life in all its manifestations is the need for water”

He said the need for water has become crucial in a world where water not only is scarce, “but is being denied as a human right, as a basic right for life to too many people”.

Hughes says this is due to a number of factors, one of which is that water has been transformed into something with market value.

“This takes away from water as something that has something to do with a fundamental human right and the common good” he said.

He pointed out that it is increasingly a subject of conflict and violence between peoples and between nations.

He says neighboring communities who have lived in relative peace and harmony over the ages are now, because of the scarcity of water, are entering conflictual relationships.

“These are some of the questions we are trying to address, he said, pointing out that water has to do with politics, with economics, with culture, with education.”

It is also a very sacred issue, Hughes concludes: “the religious dimension in relation to water is founded in all the great religious traditions, particularly in the Christian and Catholic tradition that a lot of us come from and a lot of are engaged in”.            

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis to Rabbis: Torah manifests God's paternal love

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received his long-time friend from his native Argentina, Rabbi Abraham Skorka, on Thursday, along with a delegation of Jewish leaders involved in the preparation of a new edition of the Torah.

The annotated, illustrated edition is already being hailed as an achievement in both the literary and visual arts.

Pope Francis told his guests, “The extensive introduction to the text and the editor’s note emphasize this dialogical approach and communicate a cultural vision of openness, mutual respect and peace that accords with the spiritual message of the Torah.”

Click below to hear our report

The Holy Father went on to say, “The important religious figures who have worked on this new edition have paid special attention both to the literary aspect of the text and to the full-colour illustrations that add further value to the publication.”

Also in his remarks, Pope Francis spoke of the Torah as a building-block of community – the worldwide Jewish community and the Christian community. “The Torah,” said the Holy Father, “manifests the paternal and visceral love of God, a love shown in words and concrete gestures, a love that becomes covenant.”

“The very word covenant is resonant with associations that bring us together,” and, “[t]his publication is itself the fruit of a ‘covenant’ between persons of different nationalities, ages and religious confessions, who joined in this common effort.”

The Pope went on to say, “God desires a world in which men and women are bound to him and as a result live in harmony among themselves and with creation. In the midst of so many human words that lead to tragic division and rivalry, these divine words of covenant open before all of us paths of goodness to walk together.”  

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope: Don't put off conversion, give up a double life

(Vatican Radio) Don’t scandalize “the little ones” with a double life, because scandal destroys. That was the message of Pope Francis in his homily at the morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta. And so, the Pope said, we should not put off conversion.

“Cut off your hand,” “Pluck out your eye,” but “don’t scandalize the little ones,” that is, the just, those who confide in the Lord, who believe simply in the Lord. That was the Pope’s exhortation in the homily, based on the day’s Gospel. For the Lord, he said, scandal is destruction:

“But what is scandal? Scandal is saying one thing and doing another; it is a double life, a double life. A totally double life: ‘I am very Catholic, I always go to Mass, I belong to this association and that one; but my life is not Christian, I don’t pay my workers a just wage, I exploit people, I am dirty in my business, I launder money…’ A double life. And so many Christians are like this, and these people scandalize others. How many times have we heard – all of us, around the neighbourhood and elsewhere – ‘but to be a Catholic like that, it’s better to be an atheist.’ It is that, scandal. You destroy. You beat down. And this happens every day, it’s enough to see the news on TV, or to read the papers. In the papers there are so many scandals, and there is also the great publicity of the scandals. And with the scandals there is destruction.”

The Pope gave the example of a company that was on the brink of failure. The leaders wanted to avoid a just strike, but the company had not done well, and they wanted to talk with the authorities of the company. The people didn’t have money for their daily needs because they had not received their wages. And the head of the company, a Catholic, was taking his winter vacation on a beach in the Middle East, and the people knew it, even if it hadn’t made the papers. “These are scandals,” Pope Francis said:

“Jesus talks, in the Gospel, about those who commit scandal, without saying the world ‘scandal,’ but it’s understood: But you will arrive in heaven and you will knock at the gate: ‘Here I am, Lord!’ – ‘But don’t you remember? I went to Church, I was close to you, I belong to this association, I did this… Don’t you remember all the offerings I made?’ ‘Yes, I remember. The offerings, I remember them: All dirty. All stolen from the poor. I don’t know you.’ That will be Jesus’ response to these scandalous people who live a double life.

“The double life comes from following the passions of the heart, the capital sins that are the wounds of original sin,” hiding the passions, but following them, the Pope explained. The first Reading, in fact, tells us that they do not satisfy, and not to trust in riches, to not say, “There’s enough for myself.” And so Pope Francis calls us to not put off conversion:

“It would be good for all of us, each one of us, today, to consider if there is something of a double life within us, of appearing just, of seeming to be good believers, good Catholics, but underneath doing something else; if there is something of a double life, if there is an excessive confidence: ‘But, sure, the Lord will eventually forgive everything, but I’ll keep going as I have been…’ If there is something saying, “Sure, this is not going well, I will convert, but not today: tomorrow.’ Let’s think about that. And let us profit from the Word of the Lord and consider the fact that on this point, the Lord is very strict. Scandal destroys.”

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope tells football players team spirit is important in life

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday told members of the Spanish Villarreal football club that the team spirit which is so vital in playing a good match is fundamental in life and society as well.

The Pope was receiving some of the Villarreal club players, managers and coaching staff who are in Rome to take on the “AS Roma” team in their second leg of the “Europa League” championship.  

To those present he said that football, like others sports, is a mirror of life and society: “when you are on the field you need each other. Each player puts his professional skill and talent to the benefit of a common goal, which is to play well and to win.”

The Pope pointed out that much training is needed to achieve that affinity and said that it is important to invest time and effort in creating a team spirit.

“This is possible if you act in the spirit of fellowship, leaving aside individualism or personal aspirations. If you play for the good of the group, then it is easier to win” he said.

Pope Francis also spoke of the power of sports to educate and transmit positive values.

He said many people, especially young people, watch and admire football players who have the responsibility to provide a good model and highlight the values of football, which are “companionship, personal effort, the beauty of the game, team play”.

The Pope also said one of the traits of a good athlete is gratitude: “you must remember the many people who have helped you and without whom you would not be here”. 

These include, he said, those with whom you played as children, your first teammates, coaches, assistants, and also your fans that encourage you in every game with their presence.

He said these memories are important and help one not to feel superior but to always  be aware that one is only part of a great team that goes back a long time. 

“Feeling this way helps us grow as people, because our ‘game’ is not only ours, but also that of others, who are somehow part of our lives” he said.

Pope Francis is known to be a football fan himself and he concluded his audience encouraging the athletes to keep playing and to keep giving the best of themselves so that others can enjoy those beautiful moments.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis marks Feast of the Chair of St. Peter

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis remembered the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter during his final blessing at his weekly General Audience on Wednesday.

“Today we celebrate the feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle, the day of the special communion of believers with the Successor of St Peter and the Holy See,” the Pope said.

“Dear young people, I encourage you to intensify your prayers for of my Petrine ministry; dear sick people, I thank you for the witness of life given in suffering for the building up of ecclesial community; and you, dear newlyweds, build your family on the same love that binds the Lord Jesus to His Church,” he continued.

On this feast day, the statue of St. Peter in St. Peter’s Basilica is dressed in Papal vestments, and venerated by the faithful.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Audience: ‘Hope helps to see beyond negativity of present’

(Vatican Radio)  Self-centeredness and sin corrupt the beauty of Creation, but God does not abandon humanity and turns Creation’s groans into hope for new life. That was at the heart of Pope Francis’ catechesis on Christian hope at his Wednesday General Audience.

Listen to Devin Watkins' report:

Drawing inspiration from Chapter 8 of the Letter to the Romans, Pope Francis continued his catechesis on Christian hope. He said that St. Paul reminds us that Creation is God’s gift to humanity but that sin corrupts it.

“St. Paul reminds us that Creation is a marvelous gift, which God has placed in our hands, so that we can enter into relationship with Him and recognize the imprint of His love, in whose realization we are all called to collaborate, every single day.”

But when we are self-centered and commit sin, the Pope said we break our communion with God, and the original beauty of human nature and creation is marred.

“With the tragic experience of sin, having broken communion with God, we damaged our original communion with all that surrounds us and we ended up corrupting Creation, turning it into a slave, submitted to our feebleness. Unfortunately, we see the dramatic consequences of this every day. When communion with God is broken, humanity loses its original beauty and ends up disfiguring everything around it; and where before all pointed to the Creator Father and His infinite love, now it carries the sad and desolate sign of pride and human voracity.”

Thus, rather than show God’s infinite love, creation bears the wounds of human pride.

Pope Francis said the Lord “does not abandon us but offers us a new horizon of freedom and salvation”.

He said St. Paul reminds us of this truth, by inviting us to hear the groaning of all Creation.

“In fact, if we listen attentively everything around us groans: Creation itself groans; we human beings groan; the Holy Spirit groans in our hearts.”

He said these groans “are not sterile or inconsolable, but – as the Apostle points out – they speak of the pangs of birth; they are the groans of one who suffers, but knows that a new life is coming to light.”

Despite the many signs of our sins and failings, the Pope said, “we know that we are saved by the Lord, and even now contemplate and experience within ourselves and all around us signs of the Resurrection, of Easter, of a new creation.”

He said the Christian does not live outside of this world, but in it. “The Christian has learned to read all things with eyes informed by Easter, with the eyes of the Risen Christ.”

And when we are discouraged or tempted to despair, Pope Francis said the Holy Spirit comes to our aid and “keeps alive our groans and the hopes of our hearts. The Spirit sees for us beyond the negative appearances of the present and reveals to us even here new heavens and a new earth, which the Lord is preparing for humanity.”

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis appeals for ‘suffering South Sudan’

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis has appealed for the hard-hit people of South Sudan, “where a fratricidal conflict is compounded by a severe food crisis which has hit the Horn of Africa region and condemns to death by starvation millions of people, including many children”.

He called on all involved to “commit not to stop at making statements, but also to provide concrete food aid and to allow it to reach suffering populations”.

The Holy Father also prayed that the Lord sustain “these our brothers and all those working to help them”.

South Sudan’s government officially declared a famine in some parts of the country on Monday.

The United Nations has warned that areas hardest hit by war and a collapsing economy have left about 100,000 people facing starvation, while one million others are at risk of famine.

Please find below a Vatican Radio English translation of the Pope’s appeal:

Of particular concern is the painful news coming from suffering South Sudan, where a fratricidal conflict is compounded by a severe food crisis, which has hit the Horn of Africa region and condemns to death by starvation millions of people, including many children. At this time, it is more necessary than ever that all commit not to stop at making statements, but also to provide concrete food aid and to allow it to reach suffering populations. May the Lord sustain these our brothers and all those working to help them.

(from Vatican Radio)