Browsing News Entries

Catholic group will accept Scouts' decision to allow girls to join

IMAGE: CNS/Nancy Wiechec

By

IRVING, Texas (CNS) -- The leaders of the National Catholic Committee on Scouting, which has its headquarters in the Dallas suburb of Irving, said they "accept and work with the new membership policy of the Boy Scouts of America" to admit girls.

"We were informed this morning" of the policy change, said an Oct. 11 statement by George Sparks, the national chairman of the group, and the committee's national chaplain, Father Kevin Smith, a priest of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York.

"Once we have had more time to review the policy and a chance to consult our national membership, we will be able to comment further about how this new policy will reflect changes in the makeup of Catholic-chartered units," they said.

Sparks told Catholic News Service in an Oct. 13 telephone interview that a member of the Scouts' executive board came to the Catholic Committee's meeting shortly after the board vote "and brought us up to speed on it."

Afterward, "we took an informal straw poll, and everybody at our meeting -- there were about 18 people at our meeting -- thought this was the right thing to do," Sparks said.

The Boy Scouts currently have 2.3 million members, less than half than the 5 million the organization had at is peak in the 1970s.

The vote to accept girls as members was unanimous, according to a spokeswoman for the Boy Scouts.

The Boy Scouts allowed gay members in 2015, gay troop leaders in 2015 and transgender members last January.

Admitting girls to the Scouts has "really been an issue that's been there, although it hasn't been on the top of the list because of the other membership-related issues the Boy Scouts of America has faced. But it was an issue that was definitely brought up at the Boy Scouts' executive meeting in May of 2017, and it was carried forth to this board meeting," Sparks said.

"It is the mission of the National Catholic Committee on Scouting to utilize and ensure the constructive use of the program of the Boy Scouts of America as a viable form of youth ministry with the Catholic youth of our nation," said the Oct. 11 statement from Sparks and Father Smith.

"The National Catholic Committee on Scouting seeks to sustain and strengthen the relationship between the Boy Scouts of America and the Catholic Church and to work cooperatively with the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry and various other groups involved in youth ministry in the United States."

Girl Scouts leaders expressed displeasure over the summer when the Boy Scouts sought advice from its 270 councils on whether to accept girls. Girl Scouts of the USA's president, Kathy Hopinkah Hannan, in a letter to her Boy Scouts counterpart, Randall Stephenson, said the Boy Scouts should stick to recruiting "the 90 percent of American boys not currently participating in Boy Scouts."

Joseph Carballo, 70, a member of St. Helena Parish in the Bronx, New York, has two grown sons who were both Eagle Scouts. "And we all have the same view: no girls," he told The New York Times Oct. 11.

"Boys and girls should have separate organizations for activities," Carballo added. "There is an organization for girls. It's called the Girl Scouts."

- - - 

Contributing to this story was Mark Pattison in Washington.

- - -

Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Pope announces Synod of Bishops dedicated to people in Amazon

IMAGE: CNS photo/Fernando Bizerra Jr., EPA

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Addressing the challenges of evangelization in one of the world's most remote areas and the connection between faith and environmental concern, Pope Francis announced a special gathering of the Synod of Bishops to focus on the Amazon region.

"Accepting the wish of several episcopal conferences of Latin America as well as the voice of pastors and faithful from other parts of the world, I have decided to convene a special assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazonian region, which will take place in Rome in October 2019," Pope Francis announced Oct. 15.

Speaking at the end of a Mass in St. Peter's Square, the pope said the synod would seek to identify new paths of evangelization, especially for indigenous people who are "often forgotten and left without the prospect of a peaceful future, including because of the crisis of the Amazon forest," which plays a vital role in the environmental health of the entire planet.

The Amazon rainforest includes territory belonging to nine countries in South America and has experienced significant deforestation, negatively impacting the indigenous populations in the area and leading to a loss of biodiversity.

The pope prayed that the synod would highlight the beauty of creation so that "all the people of the earth may praise God, the Lord of the universe, and, enlightened by him, may walk along paths of justice and peace."

The pope had spoken about a possible synod with a variety of bishops from South America, who have been making their "ad limina" visits to Rome this year. The groups included the bishops of Peru; about 60 percent of the country is in the Amazon.

In an interview published May 16 in L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, Archbishop Salvador Pineiro Garcia-Calderon of Ayacucho, president of the Peruvian bishops' conference, said one of the primary challenges of evangelization in the Amazon is the difficulty in physically reaching the native populations.

For example, he said, although they are in the same church province, one bishop is five hours away and another is 17 hours away.

"It's easier to meet in Rome," he told L'Osservatore Romano. "It isn't an easy area and the pope is very concerned."

The church, he said, has been the only voice speaking out in defense of the indigenous people of the Amazon. In the early 1900s, St. Pius X strongly denounced the mistreatment of the native population in the rubber plantations of Peru, Archbishop Pineiro said.

A synod, he said, would expand that message and strengthen current efforts to evangelize.

"It is difficult to evangelize the native population," Archbishop Piniero said. "Recently, the seeds have begun to be sown. Some of my brother bishops who are in that area have learned to speak the native language in order to draw closer to the population."

- - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

- - -

Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Christian life is a love story with God, pope says at canonization

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Like the Catholic Church's newest saints, Christians are called to live their faith as a love story with God who wants a relationship that is "more than that of devoted subjects with their king," Pope Francis said.

Without a loving relationship with God, Christian life can become empty and "an impossible ethic, a collection of rules and laws to obey for no good reason," the pope said during Mass Oct. 15 in St. Peter's Square.

"This is the danger: a Christian life that becomes routine, content with 'normality,' without drive or enthusiasm, and with a short memory," he said during the Mass.

At the beginning of the Mass, Pope Francis proclaimed 35 new saints, including: the "Martyrs of Natal," Brazil, a group of 30 priests, laymen, women and children who were killed in 1645 during a wave of anti-Catholic persecution; and the "Child Martyrs of Tlaxcala," three children who were among Mexico's first native converts and were killed for refusing to renounce the faith.

Tapestries hung from the facade of St. Peter's Basilica bearing images of the martyrs as well as pictures of Sts. Angelo da Acri, an Italian Capuchin priest known for his defense of the poor, and Faustino Miguez, a Spanish priest who started an advanced school for girls at a time when such education was limited almost exclusively to boys.

An estimated 35,000 pilgrims -- many of them from the new saints' countries of origin -- attended the Mass, the Vatican said Oct. 15.

In his homily, Pope Francis reflected on the day's Gospel reading from St. Matthew in which Jesus recounts the parable of the wedding feast.

Noting Jesus' emphasis on the wedding guests, the pope said that God "wants us, he goes out to seek us and he invites us" to celebrate with him.

"For him, it is not enough that we should do our duty and obey his laws," Pope Francis said. "He desires a true communion of life with us, a relationship based on dialogue, trust and forgiveness."

However, he continued, Jesus also warns that "the invitation can be refused" as it was by those who "made light" of the invitation or were too caught up in their own affairs to consider attending the banquet.

"This is how love grows cold, not out of malice but out of preference for what is our own: our security, our self-affirmation, our comfort," the pope said.

Despite constant rejection and indifference, God does not cancel the wedding feast but continues to invite Christians to overcome "the whims of our peevish and lazy selves" and to imitate the church's new saints who, he said, not only said yes to God's invitation, but wore "the wedding garment" of God's love.

"The saints who were canonized today, and especially the many martyrs, point the way," Pope Francis said. "The robe they wore daily was the love of Jesus, that 'mad' love that loved us to the end and offered his forgiveness and his robe to those who crucified him."

- - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

 

- - -

Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

To fight hunger and forced migration, end war, arms trade, pope says

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- It makes no sense to lament the problems of hunger and forced migration if one is unwilling to address their root causes, which are conflict and climate change, Pope Francis said.

"War and climate change lead to hunger; therefore, let's avoid presenting it as if it were an incurable disease," and instead implement laws, economic policies, lifestyle changes and attitudes that prevent the problems in the first place, he told world leaders at the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization.

Pope Francis received a standing ovation after he addressed the assembly at FAO's Rome headquarters to mark World Food Day Oct. 16, the date the organization was founded in 1945 to address the causes of poverty and hunger. The FAO was holding a conference on the theme "Changing the future of migration."

Food insecurity is linked to forced migration, the pope said, and the two can be addressed only "if we go to the root of the problem" -- conflict and climate change.

International law already has all the instruments and means in place to prevent and quickly end the conflicts that tear communities and countries apart, and trigger hunger, malnutrition and migration, he said.

"Goodwill and dialogue are needed to stop conflicts," he said, "and it is necessary to fully commit to gradual and systematic disarmament" as well as stop the "terrible plague of arms trafficking."

"What good is denouncing that millions of people are victims of hunger and malnutrition because of conflicts if one then does not effectively work for peace and disarmament?" he asked.

As for climate change, he said, scientists know what needs to be done and the international instruments -- like the Paris Agreement -- are already available.

Without specifying which nations, the pope said, unfortunately "some are backing away" from the agreement. U.S. President Donald Trump announced in June that the United States would withdraw from the accord as a way to help the U.S. economy.

"We cannot resign ourselves to saying, 'Someone else will do it,'" he said. Everyone is called to adopt and promote changes in lifestyle, in the way resources are used and in production and consumption -- particularly when it comes to food, which is increasingly wasted.

Some people believe reducing the number of mouths to feed would solve the problem of food insecurity, but, the pope said, this is "a false solution" given the enormous waste and overconsumption in the world.

"Cutting back is easy," he said, but "sharing requires conversion and this is demanding."

"We cannot act only if others are doing it or limit ourselves to having pity because pity doesn't go beyond emergency aid," the pope said.

International organizations, leaders and individuals need to act out of real love and mercy toward others -- particularly the most vulnerable -- in order to create a world based on true justice and solidarity.

Arriving at the FAO headquarters, Pope Francis presented a gift of a statue depicting the tragic death of Alan Kurdi (also known as Aylan), the 3-year-old Syrian boy whose body washed up on the shore of Turkey when a small inflatable boat holding a dozen refugees capsized in 2015. The statue, made of pure white Carrara marble, depicts a child-like angel weeping over the boy's lifeless body.

- - -

Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Pope appeals for end to conflicts, climate change in fight against hunger, migration

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis on Monday appealed to the international community not only to guarantee enough production and fair distribution of food for all but also to ensure the right of every human being to feed himself according to his needs without being forced to leave his home and loved ones. 

He made the call at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome, where he marked World Food Day, which this year has as its theme, “Change the future of migration. Invest in Food Security and rural development.”  (Click here for the video of the Pope's FAO visit)

Conflicts and climate-change

Addressing the UN’s specialized agency that leads the international community’s fight against hunger and malnutrition in the world, the Pope urged governments to work together to end the conflicts and climate-change related disasters that force people to leave their homes in search of their daily bread. Citing the 2016 Paris climate accord in which governments committed themselves to combatting global warming, the Pope who spoke in Spanish, regretted ‎that “unfortunately some are distancing themselves from it.”‎  

He noted that negligence and greed over the world's limited resources are harming the planet and its most vulnerable people, forcing many to abandon their homes in search of work and food.  He called for a change in lifestyle and the use of resources, adding it cannot be left for others to do. 

World hunger

A UN report in September pointed out that the number of chronically hungry people in the world was growing once more after a decade of decline because of ongoing conflicts and floods and droughts triggered by climate change.  While the 815 million chronically undernourished people last year is still below the 900 million registered in 2000, the UN warned that the increase is cause for great concern.

Love, fraternity, solidarity

Describing population control as a “false solution” to tackling hunger and malnutrition in the world, Pope Francis said what is needed instead is a better management of the earth’s abundant resources and prevention of waste in food and resources.  What is needed, he said, is a new model of international cooperation based on love, fraternity and solidarity that respond to the needs of the poorest.  Pity, he pointed out, is limited to emergency aid, but love inspires justice that is needed to bring about a just social order.

As a token of his visit and message, Pope Francis gifted to the UN food agency a marble sculpture of Aylan, the three-year-old Syrian toddler of Kurdish origin, whose image in the media made global headlines after his body washed up on a Turkish beach in September 2015 after he drowned in the Mediterranean Sea. The Vatican explained that the sculpture featuring a weeping angel over the little boy's corpse, symbolized the tragedy of migration. 

 

(from Vatican Radio)

Amazon bishop grateful to Pope for Pan-Amazon Synod

(Vatican Radio) Bishop Emmanuel Lafont of Cayenne in French Guyana reacted with joy when he heard Pope Francis’s announcement of a Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon region.  

French Guyana and Suriname are part of the Amazon territory together with Guyana, Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, Peru and Brazil.

As well as being an essential ‘lung’ for the entire planet as Pope Francis said when he made the announcement, the six million square kilometers that define the region are home to indigenous tribes and even uncontacted peoples whose cultures and whose very existences are threatened by large-scale logging, mining and other industrial projects as well as by pollution and climate change 

Speaking to Vatican Radio Bishop Lafont said he is very grateful to Pope Francis for having called this Synod.

Listen

“I am very happy, grateful to the Holy Father for having called this Synod which is most important” he said.

For the benefit of the indigenous peoples

First of all, Bishop Lafont continued “for the benefit of the indigenous people – the First Nations – of the Amazonian region, because they have a long history, for the past 500 years of submission, of exploitation, of misunderstanding.”

For the protection of Creation

The second reason for which he is grateful, the Bishop said, that “the Amazon is one of the most important regions in the world for the protection of Creation” and it is currently facing many challenges.

“The Church, he said, ought to speak even more loudly for the protection of the region, and for the sake of the protection of the whole world”.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis: Do not distance yourself from South Sudan

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has called on the international community not to forget South Sudan and in particular the serious humanitarian emergency unfolding there.

The Pope made the call on South Sudan in a Preface he wrote to a new book on South Sudan. The book, published in Italian, is authored by Comboni Missionary, Father Daniele Moschetti. It was launched over the weekend, in Italy, Rome.

“Usually Missionaries are the ones to tell (the world) about lives lived on the periphery on behalf of the poor. So too is this testimony of Father Daniele Moschetti, a Comboni missionary, who offers a compelling account of the generous and passionate commitment of so many missionaries living side by side with those in need and, above all, of those who suffer because of ongoing conflicts that cause death and destruction,” Pope Francis wrote in the Preface.

Pope Francis has implored the international community, and everyone who believes in the Gospel not to give-up on South Sudan because to do so would be to betray the lesson of the Gospel.

“I feel the importance and need of raising this kind of awareness in the international community on a silent drama, which requires everyone's commitment to a solution that would end the ongoing conflict. To distance one’ self from the problems of humanity, especially in a context such as that which afflicts South Sudan, would be to "forget the lesson from the Gospel about the love of neighbour suffering and in need," the Holy Father emphasised.

The book, “South Sudan: The Long and Sorrowful Path towards Peace, Justice, and Dignity,” published in Italian as “Sud Sudan: Il lungo e sofferto cammino verso pace, giustizia e dignità” is a collection of Moschetti’s personal experiences of a land in which he lived and one to which he is still attached. It is part diary; part missionary chronicle and commentary. The book is a rich account of information which tackles a very complicated conflict while avoiding a patronising or know-it-all attitude.

Moschetti provides much-needed context often lacking in the usual 140 twitter character headline. More importantly, the book is an attempt to break through, in a personal way, and draw attention to a forgotten but real humanitarian emergency taking place right under our averted gaze. Moschetti is concerned that, in mainstream Western media,  migration and African conflicts are often portrayed in a distorted or simplistic manner.

An Italian Comboni Missionary priest, Fr. Moschetti studied Theology in Nairobi and worked for 11 years, as a missionary, in the Kenyan slums of Kibera and Korogocho. Between 2009 to 2016 Fr. Moschetti was assigned to South Sudan.

During Moschetti’s book launch, at Radio Vatican, another Comboni Missionary and renowned journalist, Fr. Giulio Albanese described South Sudan as a forgotten nation. His hope is that one day Pope Francis visits South Sudan and perhaps help focus the world’s attention on this troubled country –just as he did for the Central African Republic in 2015. In an unprecedented move, Pope Francis launched the Jubilee Year of Mercy in Bangui, Central African Republic, in November 2015.

Notwithstanding the odds in South Sudan, Fr. Albanese spoke of a civil society that actually exists there is trying to make a difference. He said civil society activists there need the support of the international community.

Present at the book launch was Ethiopian national, Fr. Tesfaye Tadesse Gebresilasie, the Superior General of Comboni Missionaries.

During the Wednesday Papal audience of 11 October, in Saint Peter's Square, Moschetti gave Pope Francis a copy of his book. The Pope told Moschetti: “I really would like to go to this country (South Sudan). I would like to go there as soon as it is possible.”

“Sud Sudan: Il lungo e sofferto cammino verso pace, giustizia e dignità,” 250 pp., 14 Euro, is published by Dissensi. In the meantime, Fr. Moschetti has taken up an advocacy appointment in New York and Washington.

(Fr. Paul Samasumo, Vatican Radio)

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope says new Saints show us how to say 'yes' to God's love

(Vatican Radio) Inviting all faithful to practice Christian love every day, Pope Francis on Sunday canonized 35 new saints, nearly all of them martyrs, holding them up as models who “point the way”.

To the over 35,000 pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the Canonization Mass, the Pope said “They did not say a fleeting ‘yes’ to love, they said ‘yes’ (to God's love) with their lives and to the very end”.  

Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni:

Those canonized included thirty martyrs, both priests and lay persons, who suffered anti-Catholic persecution in 1645 at the hands of Dutch Calvinists in Brazil, while three indigenous children in 16th century Mexico were martyred for refusing to renounce their Catholic faith and return to their ancient traditions. The other two new saints are a 20th-century priest from Spain and an Italian priest who died in 1739.

The Lord's desire for a true communion of life with us

The Pope’s homily inspired by the Parable of the Wedding Banquet speaks of the Lord’s desire for a true communion of life with us, a relationship based on dialogue, trust and forgiveness.

“Such, he said, is the Christian life:  a love story with God.  

We are all invited, Francis said, and no one has a better seat than anyone else.

“At least once a day, he continued, we should tell the Lord that we love him” because once love is lost, the Christian life becomes empty.  It becomes a body without a soul, an impossible ethic, a collection of rules and laws to obey for no good reason.  

Every day is a wonderful opportunity to say 'yes'

“We are the beloved, the guests at the wedding, and our life is a gift, because every day is a wonderful opportunity to respond to God’s invitation” he said.

But he added, the Gospel warns us that the invitation can be refused.  Many of the invited guests said no, because they were caught up in their own affairs.  

"They were more interested in having something, he explained,  rather than in risking something, as love demands: this is how love grows cold, not out of malice but out of a preference for what is our own: our security, our self-affirmation, our comfort…"  

The temptation of settling into the easy chair of profits

And the Pope warned Christians against the temptation of “settling into the easy chair of profits, pleasures, or a hobby that brings us some happiness.  And we end up aging badly and quickly, because we grow old inside.  When our hearts do not expand, they become closed in on themselves”.

God never closes the door

He said the Gospel asks us then where we stand: “with ourselves or with God?  Because God is the opposite of selfishness, of self-absorption.  The Gospel tells us that, even before constant rejection and indifference on the part of those whom he invites, God does not cancel the wedding feast. He does not give up, but continues to invite.  When he hears a “no”, he does not close the door, but broadens the invitation.  In the face of wrongs, he responds with an even greater love”.

Love is the only way to defeat evil

This is what love does, the Pope said, because this is the only way that evil is defeated. 

And inviting us all to live in true love and “practice” love every day, Francis said “the Saints who were canonized today, and especially the many martyrs, point the way: They did not say a fleeting ‘yes’ to love; they said they ‘yes’ with their lives and to the very end”. 

At Baptism, he concluded, we received a white robe, the wedding garment for God: Let us ask him, through the intercession of the saints, our brothers and sisters, for the grace to decide daily to put on this garment and to keep it spotless” by approaching the Lord fearlessly in order to receive his forgiveness”.  

“This is the one step that counts, for entering into the wedding hall to celebrate with him the feast of love” he said.

Who the new saints are

The newly-declared saints include 30 so-called “Martyrs of Natal,” who were killed in 1645 in a wave of anti-Catholic persecution by Dutch Calvinists in Natal, Brazil.

Also from Latin America was a group of three indigenous martyrs from Mexico - Cristobal, Antonio and Juan - known as the “Child Martyrs of Tlaxcala.” Aged between 12 and 13, they were among the first indigenous Catholics of Mexico, murdered between 1527 and 1529 for refusing to renounce their faith and return to their ancient ‎traditions.‎

And then there are Father Faustino Miguez, a Spanish priest who lived in the 19th and 20th centuries, and Father Angelo d‘Acri, an Italian itinerant preacher who died in 1739 after serving in some of the most remote areas of southern Italy.

Announcement of Special Assembly of Synod of Bishops for the Amazon

After the Mass, Pope Francis recited the Angelus prayer and announced a  Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon regionm to take place in October 2019. 

 

(from Vatican Radio)

Homily of Pope Francis'Canonization Mass for 35 new saints

(Vatican Radio) Inviting all faithful to practice Christian love every day, Pope Francis on Sunday canonized 35 new saints, nearly all of them martyrs, holding them up as models who “point the way”.

To the over 35,000 pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square for the Canonization Mass, he said “They did not say a fleeting ‘yes’ to love, they said ‘yes’ with their lives and to the very end”.  

Those canonized included thirty martyrs, both priests and lay persons, who suffered anti-Catholic persecution in 1645 at the hands of Dutch Calvinists in Brazil, while three indigenous children in 16th century Mexico were martyred for refusing to renounce their Catholic faith and return to their ancient traditions. The other two new saints are a 20th-century priest from Spain and an Italian priest who died in 1739.

Please find below the full text of the Pope’s homily for the Mass of Canonization:

The parable we have just heard describes the Kingdom of God as a wedding feast (cf. Mt 22:1-14).  The central character is the king’s son, the bridegroom, in whom we can easily see Jesus.  The parable makes no mention of the bride, but only of the guests who were invited and expected, and those who wore the wedding garments. We are those guests, because the Lord wants “to celebrate the wedding” with us.  The wedding inaugurates a lifelong fellowship, the communion God wants to enjoy with all of us.  Our relationship with him, then, has to be more than that of devoted subjects with their king, faithful servants with their master, or dedicated students with their teacher.  It is above all the relationship of a beloved bride with her bridegroom.  In other words, the Lord wants us, he goes out to seek us and he invites us.  For him, it is not enough that we should do our duty and obey his laws.  He desires a true communion of life with us, a relationship based on dialogue, trust and forgiveness.

Such is the Christian life, a love story with God.  The Lord freely takes the initiative and no one can claim to be the only one invited.  No one has a better seat than anyone else, for all enjoy God’s favour.  The Christian life is always born and reborn of this tender, special and privileged love.  We can ask ourselves if at least once a day we tell the Lord that we love him; if we remember, among everything else we say, to tell him daily, “Lord, I love you; you are my life”.  Because once love is lost, the Christian life becomes empty.  It becomes a body without a soul, an impossible ethic, a collection of rules and laws to obey for no good reason.  The God of life, however, awaits a response of life.  The Lord of love awaits a response of love.  Speaking to one of the Churches in the Book of Revelation, God makes an explicit reproach: “You have abandoned your first love” (cf. Rev 2:4).  This is the danger – a Christian life that becomes routine, content with “normality”, without drive or enthusiasm, and with a short memory.  Instead, let us fan into flame the memory of our first love.  We are the beloved, the guests at the wedding, and our life is a gift, because every day is a wonderful opportunity to respond to God’s invitation.

The Gospel, however, warns us that the invitation can be refused.  Many of the invited guests said no, because they were caught up in their own affairs.  “They made light of it and went off, one to his farm, another to his business” (Mt 22:5).  Each was concerned with his own affairs; this is the key to understanding why they refused the invitation.  The guests did not think that the wedding feast would be dreary or boring; they simply “made light of it”.  They were caught up in their own affairs.  They were more interested in having something rather than in risking something, as love demands.  This is how love grows cold, not out of malice but out of a preference for what is our own: our security, our self-affirmation, our comfort…  We settle into the easy chair of profits, pleasures, or a hobby that brings us some happiness.  And we end up aging badly and quickly, because we grow old inside.  When our hearts do not expand, they become closed in on themselves.  When everything depends on me – on what I like, on what serves me best, on what I want – then I become harsh and unbending.  I lash out at people for no reason, like the guests in the Gospel, who treated shamefully and ultimately killed (cf. v. 6) those sent to deliver the invitation, simply because they were bothering them.  

The Gospel asks us, then, where we stand: with ourselves or with God?  Because God is the opposite of selfishness, of self-absorption.  The Gospel tells us that, even before constant rejection and indifference on the part of those whom he invites, God does not cancel the wedding feast. He does not give up, but continues to invite.  When he hears a “no”, he does not close the door, but broadens the invitation.  In the face of wrongs, he responds with an even greater love.  When we are hurt by the unfair treatment of others or their rejection, we frequently harbour grudges and resentment.  God on the other hand, while hurt by our “no”, tries again; he keeps doing good even for those who do evil.  Because this is what love does.  Because this is the only way that evil is defeated.  Today our God, who never abandons hope, tells us to do what he does, to live in true love, to overcome resignation and the whims of our peevish and lazy selves.

There is one last idea that the Gospel emphasizes: the mandatory garment of the invited guests.  It is not enough to respond just once to the invitation, simply to say “yes” and then do nothing else.  Day by day, we have to put on the wedding garment, the “habit” of practising love.  We cannot say, “Lord, Lord”, without experiencing and putting into practice God’s will (cf. Mt 7:21).  We need to put on God’s love and to renew our choice for him daily.  The Saints who were canonized today, and especially the many martyrs, point the way.  They did not say a fleeting “yes” to love; they said they “yes” with their lives and to the very end.  The robe they wore daily was the love of Jesus, that “mad” love that loved us to the end and offered his forgiveness and his robe to those who crucified him.  At baptism we received a white robe, the wedding garment for God.  Let us ask him, through the intercession of the saints, our brothers and sisters, for the grace to decide daily to put on this garment and to keep it spotless.  How can we do this?  Above all, by approaching the Lord fearlessly in order to receive his forgiveness.  This is the one step that counts, for entering into the wedding hall to celebrate with him the feast of love.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope announces Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon region

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has announced a special assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon region that will focus on the needs of its indigenous people, on new paths for evangelization and on the crisis of the rain forest.

The Pope’s announcement came on Sunday during the Angelus after a canonization Mass during which he canonized 35 new saints, including three indigenous children martyred in 16th century Mexico.

“Accepting the desire of some Catholic Bishops’ Conferences in Latin America, as well as the voice of various pastors and faithful from other parts of the world, I have decided to convene a Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon region, which will take place in Rome in the month October 2019”  he said.

Evangelization, indigenous people, crisis of rain forest 

The main purpose of the Amazon synod, the Pope explained, will be to “identify new paths for the evangelization of God’s people in that region”.

Special attention, he added, will be paid to the indigenous people who are “often forgotten and without the prospect of a serene future, also because of the crisis of the Amazonian rain forest, a ‘lung’ of primary importance for our planet.”

REPAM

In 2014 The Catholic Church in Pan-Amazonia founded a Pan-Amazon Ecclesial Network – REPAM - as “God's answer to this heartfelt and urgent need to care for the life of people so they are able to live in harmony with nature, starting from the widespread and varied presence of members and structures of the Church in Pan-Amazonia”.

REPAM is constituted not only by the regional Bishops’ Conferences, but also by priests, missionaries of congregations who work in the Amazon jungle, national representatives of Caritas and laypeople belonging to various Church bodies in the region. 

As reported on the REPAM website “The Amazon territory is the largest tropical forest in the world. It covers six million square kilometers and includes the territories of Guyana, Suriname and French Guyana, Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, Peru and Brazil. It is home to 2,779,478 indigenous people, comprising 390 indigenous tribes and 137 isolated (uncontacted) peoples with their valuable ancestral cultures, and 240 spoken languages belonging to 49 linguistic families”. 

It is “a territory that is devastated and threatened by the concessions made by States to transnational corporations. Large-scale mining projects, monoculture and climate change place its lands and natural environment at great risk”, leading to the destruction of cultures, undermining the self-determination of peoples and above all affronting Christ incarnate in the people who live there (indigenous and riparian peoples, peasant farmers, afro-descendants and urban populations). 

(from Vatican Radio)