Migration Not A Threat To Christianity – Pope Francis

File photo: Pope Francis waves to worshipers from the window of the apostolic palace overlooking St. Peter’s Square on September 13, 2020 in The Vatican, during the weekly Angelus prayer within the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. (Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP)

 

 

Pope Francis, a strong advocate of the rights of refugees, said in a new book published Monday that migration does not pose a threat to Christianity.

“To reject a struggling migrant, whatever his or her religious belief, out of fear of diluting a ‘Christian’ culture is grotesquely to mispresent both Christianity and culture,” he said.

“Migration is not a threat to Christianity except in the minds of those who benefit from claiming it is.

“To promote the Gospel and not welcome the strangers in need, nor affirm their humanity as children of God, is to seek to encourage a culture that is Christian in name only, emptied of all that makes it distinctive.”

The pontiff made the comments in “Let Us Dream”, a new book written in conversation with British biographer Austen Ivereigh.

The pope, the grandson of Italian emigrants who settled in Argentina, regularly expresses solidarity with migrants who cross the Mediterranean, mourning those who lose their lives and denouncing rich countries that fail to welcome them.

“The dignity of our peoples demands safe corridors for migrants and refugees so they can move without fear from deadly areas to safer ones,” he said in the book.

“It is unacceptable to deter immigration by letting hundreds of migrants die in perilous sea crossings or desert treks. The Lord will ask us to account for each one of those deaths.”

This photo taken and handout on August 26, 2020 by the Vatican Media shows Pope Francis speak during a live-streamed weekly private audience from the library of the apostolic palace in the Vatican during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Handout / VATICAN MEDIA / AFP) 

 

He condemned leaders who “channel their resentments and hatreds against imagined enemies to distract from the real problems”, the 83-year-old pontiff wrote.

“A fantasy of national-populism in countries with Christian majorities is its defence of ‘Christian civilisation’ from perceived enemies, whether Islam, Jews, the European Union or the United Nations,” he said.

“The defence appeals to those who are often no longer religious but who regard their nation’s inheritance as a kind of identity.

“Their fears and loss of identity have increased at the same time as attendance at churches has declined,” Francis said.

AFP

Pope Francis Presses Young Catholics For A New Economy

This photo taken and handout on August 26, 2020 by the Vatican Media shows Pope Francis speak during a live-streamed weekly private audience from the library of the apostolic palace in the Vatican during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Handout / VATICAN MEDIA / AFP) 

 

Pope Francis urged young Catholic entrepreneurs Saturday to develop a new, more just economic model that could save a mistreated planet while helping the poor and the excluded.

Francis spoke via a video message beamed to a virtual meeting of young business leaders and urged them to make major changes to global economic relationships.

“You recognize the urgent need for a different economic narrative,” the pontiff said in comments translated into English.

“The present world system is certainly unsustainable from a number of points of view and is harming our sister earth, so gravely maltreated and despoiled, together with the poor and the excluded in our midst,” the pope remarked.

He pointed out that the coronavirus epidemic had caused people to think about the situation the world found itself in.

“Once the present health crisis has passed, the worst reaction would be to fall even more deeply into feverish consumerism,” Francis added.

The Argentinian-born pope has regularly taken capitalism to task, accusing it of indifference to social inequality and a party to the depletion of the planet’s resources.

He pressed the young business leaders and academics from 115 countries to “give birth to an economic culture” that inspired trust and created resources “that will enlighten minds, warm hearts” and give “all young people, with no one excluded — a vision of the future.”

Pope Francis Congratulates Joe Biden

A photo combination of Pope Francis and Joe Biden.

 

Pope Francis spoke with Joe Biden by telephone Thursday to offer “blessings and congratulations” to the US president-elect on his victory, the Democrat’s transition team said in a statement.

Former vice president Biden, 77, is only the second Catholic elected to the US presidency, after John F Kennedy in 1960.

“The president-elect thanked His Holiness for extending blessings and congratulations and noted his appreciation for His Holiness’ leadership in promoting peace, reconciliation, and the common bonds of humanity around the world,” according to a readout of the call provided by Biden’s office.

Biden “expressed his desire to work together on the basis of a shared belief in the dignity and equality of all humankind on issues such as caring for the marginalized and the poor, addressing the crisis of climate change, and welcoming and integrating immigrants and refugees into our communities.”

During a bitter 2020 campaign against President Donald Trump, Biden quoted Pope John Paul II, frequently invoked his Irish Catholic roots and pledged to “restore the soul of America” after four years of acrimony.

He also regularly carried a rosary that belonged to his late son Beau Biden.

Pope Francis himself has had strained relations with Trump. In early 2019 he called Trump’s wall project on the US-Mexico border “madness.”

Back when Trump was seeking the Republican nomination, in February 2016, the Pope made waves when he said during a visit to Mexico that someone who thinks about building walls instead of bridges “is not Christian.”

Trump fired back in a stinging statement at the time, saying: “For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful.”

In 2015 the Pope met with then-vice president Biden in Washington when Francis delivered a speech in the US Capitol to a joint meeting of Congress.

AFP

Pope In First Trip Outside Rome Since Virus Lockdown

Pope Francis takes off his face mask as he arrives by car to hold a limited public audience at the San Damaso courtyard in The Vatican on September 9, 2020 during the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. (Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP)

 

Pope Francis makes his first trip Saturday since the Vatican’s coronavirus lockdown, though it will be a solitary affair for the crowd-loving Argentine who has had to learn how to be close to the faithful from a distance.

Francis will journey to Assisi, the birthplace of his namesake saint, where he will sign his new encyclical — a document laying out the pope’s views on key issues — called “Fratelli tutti”, on the importance of fraternity, particularly in these Covid-19 times.

The Vatican has said it will be a private visit to reduce health risks — both to Catholics who usually throng the streets on such occasions, holding aloft babies to be kissed, and for the elderly pontiff himself.

As the virus, which has killed over one million people globally, began to spread around the world earlier this year, Francis reached out through a live-streamed mass, performed alone on Saint Peter’s Square.

“Thick darkness has gathered over our squares, our streets and our cities”, he said in the historic March address, describing the coronavirus “tempest” as having put everyone “in the same boat”, as heavy rain fell around him.

That, and his lonely walk through the deserted streets of Rome to pray at two churches for the end of the pandemic, captured his isolation, but were also seen by Catholics and non-Catholics alike as signs of solidarity and hope.

– The pope’s lockdown –
Saturday’s pilgrimage to the Basilica of Saint Francis, a UNESCO World Heritage site, marks a milestone in the pope’s slow return to normalcy.

Francis, 83, showed little fear as the virus broke out in Italy in late February, though he was forced to shun his usual practice of shaking hands.

Apart from suffering a cold early on, his health has remained good. Of more concern was frail Benedict XVI, who stepped down in 2013, and lives in the Vatican as “pope emeritus.”

In the end, the 93-year-old left a post-lockdown Vatican before Francis, heading to his native Bavaria in June to the bedside of his 96-year-old brother, Georg, who died not long afterwards.

Vatican staff have worked hard to protect both the former and current pope.

Francis opted on his election in 2013 to live in the tiny state’s “Santa Marta” guesthouse, instead of the papal apartments, and had been used to dining in the building’s shared canteen. It was not clear whether he then stopped eating in company.

– Getting out –
“Everyone works in his office or from his room, using technology. Everyone is working; there are no idlers here,” the pontiff said in an interview with papal biographer Austen Ivereigh in April.

That included Francis, who live-streamed his daily masses from Santa Marta, as well as the weekly Angelus prayers and general audience talks.

Priests were reminded it was their mission to “get out”, which many did through social media or video calls.

While the lockdown in Italy and the Vatican gradually lifted from May, Francis remained caged.

Instead, his closest aides, diplomacy chiefs Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, went abroad in his place.

Now it is his turn. While there will be no papal foreign trips this year — for the first time since 1979 — the Assisi outing is expected to go a small way towards charging the batteries of a man who believes a priest’s place is with his flock.

Pope Francis ‘Constantly Monitored’ For COVID-19 – Vatican

Pope Francis waves to worshipers from the window of the apostolic palace overlooking St. Peter’s Square on September 13, 2020 in The Vatican, during the weekly Angelus prayer within the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. (Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP)

 

Pope Francis is being “constantly monitored” for signs of the coronavirus, a top Vatican official said Monday, after the 83-year old pontiff met with a cardinal who later tested positive.

Philippine cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, 63, had a private audience with Francis on August 29. He went on to test positive for Covid-19 on his return to Manila on September 10.

“We are being prudent,” Secretary of State Pietro Parolin told ANSA news agency.

“There is no particular alarm (in the Vatican)”, but the health of the head of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics was being “constantly monitored,” he added.

Pope Francis, whose birth name is Jorge Bergoglio, has shown little fear for his own health since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic early this year.

The pope talks to those who visit him at the Apostolic Palace without wearing a face mask. Last week he was spotted wearing one for the first time since the start of the pandemic, but he took it off to chat to the faithful.

Francis shunned however his usual practice of shaking hands and kissing babies, and used hand sanitiser which was handed to him by a personal assistant.

The pope was tested for the coronavirus in March when a prelate living in the same residence as him was found to be positive.

AFP

Pope Francis Wears A Face Mask For The First Time In Public

Pope Francis takes off his face mask as he arrives by car to hold a limited public audience at the San Damaso courtyard in The Vatican on September 9, 2020 during the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. (Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP)

 

Pope Francis was seen Wednesday for the first time wearing a protective face mask as he attended his second traditional general audience before a limited public presence after a six-month suspension.

The pontiff — known for a fondness for close personal contact — however quickly removed the mask as he emerged from the car carrying him to the audience, which was suspended in February over the coronavirus pandemic.

But he shunned his usual practice of shaking hands and kissing babies as some 500 faithful filled a courtyard at the Apostolic Palace inside the Vatican.

At his second meeting since suspending general audiences on February 26, the crowd thronged behind a barrier and some even lowered their masks to greet the leader of the Roman Catholic Church.

The pope shook hands with prelates attending the audience and, smiling, then turned to the crowd, urging them not to shake hands and to return to their seats in order to “avoid contagion”.

Francis focused on the socio-economic impact of the pandemic which he said was “without barriers”.

He advocated a society in which people should have more solidarity with their neighbours.

Pope Francis, whose birth name is Jorge Bergoglio, has shown little fear for his health since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic early this year.

Before Wednesday he had never appeared with a mask and had continued to receive visitors within the Apostolic Palace — albeit fewer groups than before.

Last Thursday he shook hands with a group of French actors committed to defending the environment. The group was exempted from wearing face masks and included the actress Juliette Binoche.

The 83-year-old pontiff found it difficult to wear a mask that restricted his breathing, a member of his entourage said Wednesday.

When he was 21 Jorge Bergoglio suffered from acute pleurisy and surgeons removed part of his right lung, according to his biographer Austen Ivereigh.

This forced him to give up his dream of becoming a Jesuit missionary in Japan and he also had to give up playing football.

AFP

Pope Francis Says Lebanon Faces ‘Extreme Danger’ After Blast

This photo taken and released on April 13, 2020, by the Vatican Media shows Pope Francis delivering his message during a private Angelus prayer live broadcast from the library of the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican on Easter Monday, during the lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. Handout / VATICAN MEDIA / AFP.

 

Pope Francis used a first public audience in six months Wednesday to warn that Lebanon faces “extreme danger that threatens the very existence of the country” following last month’s massive explosion.

The leader of the Catholic Church focused on the disaster-hit country almost a month after the huge blast in the Beirut harbour ripped through the city, killing more than 180 people and wounding at least 6,500.

“Lebanon cannot be abandoned to its solitude,” the pope said at the limited audience with the public, meetings that had been suspended due to the coronavirus crisis.

“A month after the tragedy… my thoughts are still with dear Lebanon and its particularly hard-pressed population,” Francis said, holding a Lebanese flag brought to the audience by a young priest.

He called for a universal day of prayer and fasting on Friday, saying that he would send the Vatican’s Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin to Lebanon on the day.

“Faced with the repeated tragedies that each of the inhabitants of this land knows, we realise the extreme danger that threatens the very existence of this country,” he said.

– ‘It’s beautiful!’ –

The pontiff held his first audience in a closed courtyard of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace, with a maximum of 500 faithful.

Jorge Bergoglio — Francis’ birth name — last hosted an audience on February 26, as the grip of Covid-19 closed around Italy.

Back then the Argentinian pope, who is fond of direct contact, shook hands with dozens of faithful and hugged a few children massed in the front row of the audience of some 12,000 people.

But there were no hugs on Wednesday, with Francis simply exchanging a few words with those present, all wearing face masks.

There was a rush to meet the pope by attendees as he entered the courtyard.

Always without a facemask, the pope kept his distance before succumbing slightly by the end of the ceremony, when he blessed three married couples, shook hands with some cardinals and took a Lebanese priest by the arm.

So far, the coronavirus has killed more than 35,000 people in Italy since it was first detected, according to the latest official statistics.

“After all these months, we are resuming our face-to-face and not screen-to-screen meetings,” a smiling pope told the audience.

“It’s beautiful!” he laughed.

“The current epidemic has demonstrated our interdependence, we are all linked,” the pontiff continued, saying “this is why we must emerge better from the crisis.”

“We must do it together, not alone,” he said.

– ‘Message of freedom’ –

Turning to Lebanon — a country Francis called “a message of freedom and an example of pluralism in both the East and the West” — he called on religious and political leaders to work together in its reconstruction.

“We cannot allow this heritage to be lost,” Francis said.

The pope also pressed the international community to help “Lebanon emerge from a serious crisis without being involved in regional tensions.”

Visibly moved by the pope’s message, Maronite priest George Breidi, a student at a Catholic university in Rome thanked the pontiff for his support.

The Maronite clergyman, whose Eastern Catholic Church is based in Beirut, also thanked the pope for “saying that we cannot continue to live like this in Lebanon”.

AFP

Pope Steps Up Call For Poor Country Debt Cancellation

This photo taken and handout on August 26, 2020 by the Vatican Media shows Pope Francis speak during a live-streamed weekly private audience from the library of the apostolic palace in the Vatican during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Handout / VATICAN MEDIA / AFP.

 

Pope Francis renewed a call on Tuesday for the cancellation of debt owed by poor countries in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, saying it was time for restorative justice.

The pope is preparing for an audience with the public on Wednesday, his first since the pandemic hit Italy nearly six months ago.

“I repeat my call for the cancellation of the debt of the most vulnerable countries, in recognition of the severe impact of the medical, social and economic crises they face as a result of Covid-19,” the Roman Catholic Church’s highest official said.

“We also need to ensure that the recovery packages being developed and deployed at global, regional and national levels must be regeneration packages.

“It is a time for restorative justice.”

In April, the Argentinian-born pontiff called for debt to be reduced or cancelled in a message from an empty Saint Peter’s Basilica.

On Tuesday he said: “Policy, legislation and investment must be focused on the common good and guarantee that global social and environmental goals are met.”

The World Bank warned last month that coronavirus may have driven as many as 100 million people into extreme poverty.

The situation made it “imperative” that creditors reduce the amount of debt held by poor countries, the Washington-based institution’s president David Malpass warned.

Advanced economies in the Group of 20 have already committed to suspending debt payments from the poorest nations until the end of the year.

There is growing support for extending that moratorium into next year amid a pandemic that has already killed more than 840,000 people and registered 25.2 million cases globally.

AFP

Pope To Resume Limited Public Audiences In September

This photo taken and released on April 13, 2020, by the Vatican Media shows Pope Francis delivering his message during a private Angelus prayer live broadcast from the library of the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican on Easter Monday, during the lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. Handout / VATICAN MEDIA / AFP.

 

Pope Francis will resume limited public weekly audiences early next month, the Vatican announced Wednesday, six months after the head of the Catholic Church halted the practice because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Wednesday events will be held in a closed courtyard of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace, where a maximum of 500 seats will be placed, rather than in St Peter’s Square, a Vatican spokesman told AFP.

Entry into the courtyard will open without reservation two hours before the audience, which will start at 09:30 (0730 GMT), the Vatican official said.

Jorge Bergoglio – the birth name of Francis — last hosted an audience on February 26, as the grip of the COVID-19 disease closed around Italy.

Then the Argentinian pope, who is fond of direct contact, shook hands with dozens of faithful and hugged a few children massed in the front row of the audience of some 12,000 people.

At the time, few were wearing face masks for protection.

Shortly afterwards, the pope cut back his schedule because of a “cold”, raising questions about his health.

So far, the coronavirus has killed more than 35,000 people in Italy since it was first detected, according to the latest official statistics.

AFP

Pope Calls For Social Justice And Vaccines For All

This photo taken and released on April 13, 2020, by the Vatican Media shows Pope Francis delivering his message during a private Angelus prayer live broadcast from the library of the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican. Handout / VATICAN MEDIA / AFP.

 

The coronavirus pandemic is exacerbating inequalities between rich and poor, Pope Francis said on Wednesday, calling for universal vaccines not reserved just for the wealthiest.

As the virus continues to claim lives and wreak havoc on economies around the world, the Pope in recent months has tried to use all his moral force to demand a new post-pandemic society, more respectful of the poor and the environment.

The call for social justice is a familiar theme sounded by the leader of the 1.3 billion Catholics around the world, who witnessed poverty and a crippling economic crisis first hand at home in Argentina.

“It would be sad if, for the vaccine for Covid-19, priority were to be given to the richest,” said Francis during his traditional Wednesday audience broadcast live from his private Vatican library.

“It would be sad if this vaccine were to become the property of this nation or another, rather than universal and for all.”

Pharmaceutical companies are in a race to be the first to launch a vaccine against the disease, which has killed nearly 775,000 people worldwide since its emergence at the end of December. Some governments have struck deals with companies, hoping to secure exclusive supplies of the vaccines when developed.

The World Health Organization has called for widespread access. Director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Tuesday that governments “must prevent vaccine nationalism”.

– Curing injustice –

“The pandemic has exposed the plight of the poor and the great inequality that reigns in the world. And the virus, while it does not distinguish between people, has found, in its devastating path, great inequalities and discrimination. And it has exacerbated them!” he said.

Concurrent with a cure for the coronavirus, he said, the world “must also cure a larger virus, that of social injustice, inequality of opportunity, marginalisation, and the lack of protection for the weakest.”

It was not enough to focus on assistance to the poor, but rather to “resolve the problems that lead us to provide aid.”

Jorge Bergoglio — the birth name of Francis — pleaded for an economy that “brings benefits to the common people” and decried profits “not linked to the creation of dignified jobs”.

“And what a scandal it would be if all the economic assistance we are observing — most of it with public money — were to focus on rescuing those industries that do not contribute to the inclusion of the excluded,” he said.

AFP

Cardinal Delivers Message Of ‘Hope’ As Pilgrims Stay Away From Lourdes Celebration

Faithfuls pray in front of the Grotte de Lourdes on designated areas painted on the ground, to respect health measures, ahead of the 147th Assumption pilgrimage mass in Lourdes, on August 14, 2020. (Photo by GEORGES GOBET / AFP)

 

The Roman Catholic church’s annual Assumption celebrations took place in Lourdes on Saturday with fewer pilgrims than usual making the trip to the south-west of France because of the global health crisis. 

For the first time, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State and right-hand man of Pope Francis presided over the mass at the grotto, delivering a message of “hope” for a “world that knows darkness, fear”, referring in particular to the coronavirus pandemic.

Nearly 5,000 pilgrims took their place in the Basilica of Saint Pius X, a gigantic underground church, as large as two football fields, which can hold five times as many.

The organisers then closed access to the underground basilica, inviting pilgrims to follow on screens outside.

“It’s weird. There aren’t many people this year,” said Michel Clavel, a retired 66-year-old truck driver, who comes every year for the Assumption pilgrimage.

“In general, August 15 is the big crowd. Because of the coronavirus, there are no organised trips for sick people who come in train, plane or coach” from all over the world.

Wearing a mask was compulsory and scrupulously respected.

A few dozen patients, some in wheelchairs, were in the front row but because of the sanitary precautions, the large numbers of sick and infirm who normally travel to Lourdes in search of a miraculous cure were absent.

The cave where, according to Catholic tradition, the Virgin Mary appeared to Bernadette Soubirous in 1858, is closed to the public, to avoid contamination, because pilgrims are used to putting their hands on the walls, kissing the stone.

After a two-month closure during confinement, the sanctuaries of Lourdes have been gradually opening up but the large contingents of foreign pilgrims are missing and many hotels and souvenir shops remain closed.

Only up to 10,000 Muslims took part in the hajj in Mecca at the end of July, a far cry from the 2.5 million who took part in the five-day annual pilgrimage last year.

 

-AFP

Pope Condemns ‘Hell’ Of Migrant Detention Camps In Libya

This photo taken and released on April 13, 2020, by the Vatican Media shows Pope Francis delivering his message during a private Angelus prayer live broadcast from the library of the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican on Easter Monday, during the lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. Handout / VATICAN MEDIA / AFP.

 

Pope Francis on Wednesday condemned the “hellish” migrant detention camps in Libya on the seventh anniversary of his trip to Lampedusa, where many of those fleeing the country for Europe by sea land.

“The war is indeed horrible, we know that, but you cannot imagine the hell that people are living there, in that detention camp. And those people came only with hope of crossing the sea,” he said during a mass at his residence at the Vatican.

In July 2013, the newly elected Pope Francis chose the tiny Mediterranean island for his first trip outside of Rome, where he denounced the “globalisation of indifference” towards migrants.

“I remember that day, seven years ago, in the very south of Europe, on that island…,” he said.

“A number of people told me their stories and all that they had gone through to get there.

“There were interpreters present. One person was telling me about terrible things in his language, and the interpreter seemed to translate well, but this person spoke so long and the translation was brief,” he said.

Francis later found out the translator had “given me the ‘distilled’ version.

“This is what is happening today with Libya: they are giving us a ‘distilled version’,” he said.

Francis regularly expresses solidarity with migrants who cross the Mediterranean and mourns those who lose their lives in the attempt.

He has repeatedly slammed the refusal of richer nations to welcome the refugees.

AFP