Pope Calls For End To War, Condemns Waste exacerbating hunger

Pope Francis, in his Easter address before a huge crowd, on Sunday denounced the “immense wastefulness” in the world while many go hungry and called for an end to conflicts in Syria, Ukraine and Africa.Pope Francis waves as he arrives to deliver the Urbi et Orbi (to the city and the world) benediction at the end of the Easter Mass in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican

“We ask you, Lord Jesus, to put an end to all war and every conflict, whether great or small, ancient or recent,” he said in his “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) message.

Francis, marking the second Easter season of his pontificate, celebrated a Mass to an overflowing crowd of at least 150,000 in St. Peter’s Square and beyond.

The crowd stretched back along all of Via Della Conciliazione, the boulevard between the Vatican and the Tiber River.

Speaking under a sunny sky after a midnight rainstorm soaked the tens of thousands of flowers that bedecked the square, Francis weaved his message around the suffering of people across the globe.

He prayed to God to “help us to overcome the scourge of hunger, aggravated by conflicts and by the immense wastefulness for which we are often responsible”.

Since his election as the first non-European pope in 1,300 years, Francis had made defense of the poor a hallmark of his papacy, often criticizing developed nations and the excesses of capitalism and consumerism.

The 77-year-old pope, wearing white vestments for the service, prayed for the protection of those members of society who are particularly vulnerable to exploitation, abuse and abandonment – women, children, the elderly and immigrants.

Easter is the most important day on the liturgical calendar because it commemorates the day Christians believe Jesus rose from the dead after his crucifixion and the Church sees it as a symbol of hope, peace and reconciliation among peoples and nations.

BOLD PEACE NEGOTIATIONS

The pope called on the international community to “boldly negotiate the peace long awaited and long overdue” in Syria, where more than 150,000 people have been killed in the civil war, a third of them civilians. Millions have fled the country.

“We pray in a particular way for Syria, that all those suffering the effects of the conflict can receive needed humanitarian aid and that neither side will again use deadly force, especially against the defenseless civil population,” he said.

Francis asked God to “enlighten and inspire the initiatives that promote peace in Ukraine so that all those involved, with the support of the international community, will make every effort to prevent violence and, in a spirit of unity and dialogue, chart a path for the country’s future”.

He also asked for an end to violence in Iraq, Venezuela, South Sudan and the Central Africa Republic.

Francis appealed for more medical attention for the victims of the deadly Ebola epidemic in Guinea Conakry, Sierra Leone and Liberia, and care for those suffering from many other diseases spread through neglect and dire poverty.

He called for a “halt to the brutal terrorist attacks” in f Nigeria, an apparent reference to Nigerian Islamist militant group Boko Haram, which earlier this month abducted some 130 girls from a school in the north of the country.

The Easter Sunday services were the culmination of four hectic days of Holy Week activities for the pontiff.

Next Sunday, he will canonize Pope John Paul II, who reigned from 1978 to 2005, and Pope John XXIII, who was pontiff from 1958 to 1963 and called the Second Vatican Council, a landmark meeting that modernized the Church.

Hundreds of thousands of people are due to come to Rome for the canonizations, the first time two popes are be made saints simultaneously and the first canonizations of a pope since 1954.

Jonathan, Pope Promise To Promote Inter-Faith Dialogue

vlcsnap-2014-03-22-22h32m55s47President Goodluck Jonathan at the Vatican City conferred with Pope Francis I on the promotion of inter-faith dialogue in Nigeria and other parts of the world to foster greater global peace and security.

Speaking to journalists after his private meeting with Pope Francis, President Jonathan said that the promotion of inter-faith dialogue was a cause to which the pontiff was very committed.

The president who said that his administration was already working in close collaboration with Cardinal John Onaiyekan who was “the team leader” for the effort to strengthen inter-faith dialogue in Nigeria, assured the pope of his administration’s continued commitment to the promotion of religious harmony and the peaceful co-existence of people of all faiths.

In their meeting, the President assured the Pope of diligence in the administration’s effort to alleviate poverty in the land. He also gave the pope an update on the interfaith programme in Nigeria.

The Pope, President Jonathan said, also assured him that he would continue to pray for God Almighty to bless the country and its people.

“My coming to see the Pope was to discuss issues, especially that of inter-faith dialogue which the Vatican has been promoting.

“Also the Pope has been advocating that the world should do more to eradicate poverty and make sure that the ordinary people of this world are in a position to live more decent lives. The Pope is very dedicated to poverty alleviation and I also interfaced with him on how we can collaborate more with the Vatican on what we are already doing in this regard back home,” the President said.

After his private meeting with President Jonathan, Pope Francis received the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Prof Viola Onwuliri, Governor Godswill Akpabio and his spouse, Governor Gabriel Suswam, former Governor Peter Obi and his spouse, the wife of the Senate President, Mrs. Helen Mark and other members of the President’s entourage.

Others present at the enlarged audience with the Pope included Nigeria’s Ambassador to the Vatican, Dr. Francis C. Okeke, the Chaplain of the Presidential Villa, Venerable Obioma Onwuzurumba and Chief Mike Oghiadomhe.

Before leaving the Vatican, President Jonathan also conferred with the Secretary of State, Monsignor Pietro Parolin. He had received Nigeria’s Vatican-based Cardinal Francis Arinze earlier in the day at the St. Regis Hotel in Rome.

 

Christmas Celebration: Pope Delivers First Homily

In Rome, Catholic faithful have flocked to St. Peter’s Basilica for Pope Francis’ first Christmas Eve midnight mass, in which the pontiff once again preached the importance of  humility.

NBC’s Martin Fletcher reports that Pope Francis offered a traditional lesson of light and love during his first Christmas Eve midnight mass in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.

Pope Francis reiterated the importance of reaching out to the downtrodden, using the shepherds who were the first to hear of Jesus’ birth as an example.

Quoting from the book of Titus, the Pope said that Jesus brought light and grace to the world, and that grace “made salvation possible for the whole human race.

The Pope added that while Jesus embodied light and love, those who hate walk in “darkness.”

Christians all over the world are celebrating Christmas, a holiday that honors the birth of Jesus, whom Christians believe is the son of God.

Christmas is regarded as the most important day of the year for Christians, along with Easter when the death and resurrection of Jesus are celebrated.  The Christmas season (called Christmastide) ends on January 6, known as the Epiphany or the twelfth day of Christmas.

The traditions are different from country to country, but they nearly always include a feast, giving gifts or cards, and enjoying church or public festivities such as singing Christmas carols and songs.

Pope Francis: Who Am I To Judge Gay People?

Pope Francis has said gay people should not be relegated but integrated into society. Speaking to reporters on a flight back from Brazil, he reaffirmed the Roman Catholic Church’s position that homosexual acts were sinful, but homosexual orientation was not.

He was responding to questions about whether there was a “gay lobby” in the Vatican.”If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge them?”. He also said he wanted a greater role for women in the Church, but insisted they could not be priests.

The Pope arrived back in Rome on Monday after a week-long tour of Brazil – his first trip abroad as pontiff – which climaxed with a huge gathering on Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana beach for a world Catholic youth festival.

Festival organisers estimated it attracted more than three million people. Pope Francis, the first ever pontiff from Latin America, has struck an unusual new tone. Now he is back at his desk in his modest Vatican quarters, he has some important decisions to make about the future governance of his Church.

Normally the cardinals who run the Holy See are off on their long summer holidays at this time of year. But Pope Francis’ seasons are not the same as those of his predecessors. In the Southern Hemisphere, where the bulk of his international flock now lives, it is winter.

Pope Francis plans to spend the month of August preparing for some radical changes in the future governance of his worldwide Church. Be prepared for some big surprises. His remarks on gay people are being seen as much less judgemental than his predecessor’s position on the issue.

Pope Benedict XVI signed a document in 2005 that said men with deep-rooted homosexual tendencies should not be priests.

But Pope Francis said gay clergymen should be forgiven and their sins forgotten. “The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this very well,” Pope Francis said in a wide-ranging 80-minute long interview with Vatican journalists.

“It says they should not be marginalised because of this but that they must be integrated into society.”

But he condemned what he described as lobbying by gay people.

“The problem is not having this orientation,” he said. “We must be brothers. The problem is lobbying by this orientation, or lobbies of greedy people, political lobbies, Masonic lobbies, so many lobbies. This is the worse problem.”

On the role of women in the Church, he said: “We cannot limit the role of women in the Church to altar girls or the president of a charity, there must be more.

“But with regards to the ordination of women, the Church has spoken and says no… That door is closed.”

 

Mark To Lead FG’s Delegation To Pope’s Inauguration

As Catholics worldwide prepare for the formal installation of Pope Francis 1 on Tuesday, president Goodluck Jonathan has approved that Nigeria be represented at the event by a federal government delegation headed by the senate president, senator David Mark.

In addition to attending the new pope’s inauguration mass at the Vatican City, the delegation will also convey a congratulatory letter from President Jonathan to Pope Francis who was elected by the College of Cardinals on Wednesday, to succeed Pope Benedict xvi.

A statement by the presidency listed other members of the delegation to include the minister of aviation, Stella Oduah, the minister of state (foreign affairs), Viola Onwuliri and the president of the catholic bishop’s conference of Nigeria, Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama.