Pope Francis called on Sunday to fight indifference to poverty on what has been dubbed the first “World Day for the Poor” by the Catholic Church.
Celebrating the event in Rome at a mass attended by about 7,000 poor people at St. Peter’s Basilica, the Pope urged people not to ignore poverty by believing that “it’s not my business, it’s the fault of society”.
“We have the talents, we are talented in the eyes of God. Consequently, no one can think that he or she is useless, so poor as to be incapable of giving something to others,” he said.
He added that a lifetime of “doing nothing wrong isn’t enough. Because God isn’t an inspector looking for unstamped tickets”.
To mark the day, Francis is to have lunch with about 1,500 destitute people in the Vatican, while another 2,500 will be fed elsewhere.
Similar initiatives are taking place in other dioceses across Italy and elsewhere in the world.
The pope has often spoken about social inclusion, indirectly criticising governments that do not pay attention to those on the margins of society.
The grand imam of Egypt’s famed Al-Azhar institution Ahmed al-Tayeb, one of the Muslim world’s leading religious authorities, on Tuesday met Pope Francis and pledged greater cooperation to fight terrorism.
The spiritual leader of the world’s almost 1.3 billion Catholics in April became the first pope to visit the headquarters of Tayeb.
The grand imam said after the meeting that Islam was facing “a war against itself,” and underscored that Muslims too were “victims of terrorism”.
“It is a cancer which has metastasised to different parts of the world,” and Al-Azhar — of Egypt’s highest institution of Sunni Islam — “is offering its resources and a greater contribution for a permanent collaboration aimed at finding solutions to terrorism,” he told a meeting organised by the Sant’Egidio, a Christian community officially recognised by the Vatican.
Tayeb also evoked his meeting with the pontiff earlier in the day, saying: “We discussed several issues tormenting the world and we sought to … find ways together to reduce the suffering of the poor and the unfortunate.”
He said the pope “has a heart filled with love and a desire that humanity benefits from inter-cultural exchanges.
“I wish to state my conviction of the necessity for a dialogue between religions, between the wise, or we risk falling back into periods of violence and darkness,” he said.
“The last century witnessed two world wars which killed more than 70 million people and those that followed quickly showed how absurd they were and not a drop of blood should have been spilt.”
Francis said he had “learned my lesson” after allowing an Italian bishop to not defrock a priest who had been found guilty of acts of abuse, and who then committed similar offences two years later.
“The abuse of a minor, if it is proven, is sufficient for there to be no possibility of appeal. If the proof is there, the punishment is definitive,” the pope said in improvised comments to his child abuse advisory panel.
“And as for requests for papal pardons, I will not sign anything for these crimes.”
Francis also acknowledged that the Church had been slow to wake up to the scale of the problem of clerical abuse, which has done enormous damage to its standing in many countries.
“The means of resolving the problem are also arriving a bit late,” he said. “That is the reality, the old practice of moving (paedophile priests) from one diocese to the other put people’s conscience to sleep.”
Francis has repeatedly vowed to rid the Church of the scourge of paedophilia through a zero-tolerance approach which his predecessors proved incapable of implementing.
But his credibility on the issue has been hit by the resignation of two members of his advisory panel over opposition to changes from within the Vatican hierarchy.
Victims’ organisations also maintain that the Church remains reluctant to hand paedophile priests over to criminal justice authorities.
Pope Francis called Wednesday for categoric opposition to capital punishment to be written into an update of the most important guide to Catholic teaching.
His comments, which will be controversial with many fundamentalist Christians and some Catholics, came in a speech to clerics attending a conference in Rome to mark the 25th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
The catechism is a question and answer guide to what Catholics should think about a wide range of moral and social issues.
Acknowledging that the Vatican itself had historically had “recourse to the extreme and inhuman remedy” of judicial execution, Francis said past doctrinal errors should be put aside.
“We have to restate that, however grave the crime that may be committed, the death penalty is inadmissible because it attacks the inviolability and the dignity of the person,” he said.
The execution of a human being was fundamentally against the teachings of Christ because, by definition, it excluded the possibility of redemption, he argued.
The Catholic church has steadily increased the strength of its opposition to the use of capital punishment in recent years.
Pope John Paul II made an appeal for a global consensus on abolition in 1999 and Francis’s predecessor, Benedict XVI issued a similar call in 2011.
The 1992 text of the catechism says authorities should take appropriate measures in the interest of the common good without excluding the use of the death penalty in extremely grave cases.
More recent updates say justifying circumstances are now rare if not practically inexistant. And a version of the catechism aimed at younger people now includes a question, “Why is the Church opposed to the death penalty?”
Francis has made clear his own personal opposition to the death penalty on numerous occasions.
“It doesn’t give justice to victims, but it feeds vengeance,” he said in June 2016, arguing that the biblical commandment “thou shall not kill,” applied to the innocent as well as the guilty.
Pope Francis on Friday urged the world, including the Catholic Church, to face up to the devastating effects of online sexual violence on young people, including extreme pornography and sexting.
“We have to keep our eyes open and not hide from an unpleasant truth that we would rather not see,” Francis said at a gathering of technology executives and health professionals at the Vatican.
Alluding to the paedophile scandals that have rocked the church, he added: “For that matter, surely we have realised sufficiently in recent years that concealing the reality of sexual abuse is a grave error and the source of many other evils?”
In a speech about protecting the dignity of children in the internet era, Francis warned of the spread of extreme pornography, sexting and online bullying as well as sexual exploitation, trafficking and the live-streaming of rape and violence against children.
He also cited evidence of the “profound impact of violent and sexual images on the impressionable minds of children”.
“These problems will surely have a serious and life-long effect on today’s children.”
More than a quarter of the world’s three billion internet users are children, with many adults unable to understand technology that can block and filter disturbing content.
“We would be seriously deluding ourselves if we thought that a society, where an abnormal consumption of internet sex is rampant among adults, could be capable of effectively protecting minors,” he added.
While recognising how the internet has opened up a forum for the freedom of expression and exchange of ideas, he said it has also offered new means for the abuse and corruption of minors.
He said collaboration between governments and law enforcement was needed at a global level to address the problem.
Pope Francis prayed on Sunday for a peaceful solution to the “grave crisis” in Venezuela, where economic and political chaos has left scores dead.
“I assure all of you of my prayers for each of the countries of Latin America, and in a special way for neighboring Venezuela,” Francis said during a prayer service in the Colombian city of Cartagena.
“I appeal for the rejection of all violence in political life and for a solution to the current grave crisis, which affects everyone, particularly the poorest and most disadvantaged of society.”
Venezuela’s crisis has caused food and medicine shortages, deadly unrest and calls for President Nicolas Maduro to quit.
Clashes with security forces at anti-government protests left 125 people dead from April to July.
The Vatican tried to mediate in negotiations last year between Venezuela’s government and opposition.
The talks broke down with the sides accusing each other of bad faith.
On Sunday, Venezuela’s center right-led opposition was holding a vote to choose candidates for regional governorship elections scheduled for October.
The opposition MUD coalition and international powers have accused Maduro of stifling democracy by taking over power from state institutions.
While flying over to Colombia on Wednesday, Francis issued a telegram with “cordial greetings” to Maduro and the Venezuelan people.
He said was “praying that all in the nation may promote paths of solidarity, justice and concord.”
Thousands of Venezuelans have fled to Colombia to escape the crisis, authorities say.
Francis met in Bogota on Thursday with Venezuelan bishops, who warned him that priests and nuns had faced threats in their country.
They said in a statement that they “informed him about the worsening of the crisis and the radicalization of the government’s stance.”
The statement said Francis “expressed his concern for the worsening of the humanitarian crisis, which is taking the form of hunger and scarcity of medical supplies, and the emigration of many Venezuelans.”
The Argentine pope, 80, was due to fly back to Rome on Sunday evening after touring a deprived district of Cartagena at the end of a four-city tour of Colombia.
During his visit, he pleaded for lasting peace in Colombia as it moves towards the end of a half-century civil war.
Pope Francis called on South Korean religious leaders to promote reconciliation and spurn violence and fear on Saturday (September 2), at a meeting which took place amid a tense standoff on their home peninsula.
Representatives of several religions met the Argentine pontiff at the Vatican, and listened to an address in which he said their work must begin by “rolling up our sleeves”.
“Religious leaders are … called upon to initiate, promote and accompany processes for the welfare and reconciliation of all people,” Francis told the 20-strong delegation.
Wealthy, democratic South Korea is technically at war with its poor, reclusive northern neighbour, which regularly threatens to destroy the South and its main ally, the United States.
The visiting leaders, who included a Buddhist, wore traditional religious costumes. The Vatican did not say which other faiths were represented at the meeting.
Pope Francis asked everyone to pray with him on Sunday for all the victims and their families of the attacks in Burkina Faso, Spain, and Finland.
Suspected Islamist militants killed at least 18 people and wounded several during a raid on a restaurant in Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou last week.
Fourteen people were killed and over one hundred injured in Barcelona and nearby resort of Cambrils when a van rammed into a crowded pedestrian street on Thursday (August 17) and Friday (August 18).
Also on Friday (August 18), a man with a knife killed two people and wounded eight others in a stabbing rampage in a market square in the Finnish city of Turku.
Addressing the crowds in St. Peter’s Square gathered for his weekly Angelus prayer the pontiff denounced the ‘terrorist acts’ and made a plea to God ‘to free the world from inhuman violence’.
Pope Francis said, “Dear brothers and sisters, in our hearts we bear the pain of the terrorist acts that in recent days have caused many victims in Burkina Faso, Spain and Finland.
“Let us pray for all the dead, for the wounded and for their relatives; and we plead for the Lord, God of mercy and peace, to free the world from this inhuman violence. Let us pray together in silence and after to the Madonna.”
Pope Francis on Sunday (May 21) afternoon visited the parish of San Pier Damiani in the outskirts of Rome where held a light-hearted question and answer session with local children and youth.
During the meeting at an outdoor sports ground, the pope, who is bishop of Rome, took the time to answer questions posed by the youngsters. The children asked the pope what they could do to help save the world. They also wanted to know how Francis knew that he should become a priest and what sports the pope played when he was younger.
Francis told the children he had had a happy childhood growing up in Argentina with his five siblings and his parents. He said his clumsiness meant he had not made a very good footballer, and that he preferred to stick to guarding the goal post.
The pope asked the children to tell him what they believed they could do to make the world a better place. The children suggested praying and respecting others, to which the pope added that it was important to also respect those we do not get along with and not get in touch with the mafia to deal with those who have hurt us.
Francis has previously condemned organized crime groups, saying their members indulge in the “the adoration of evil”. He has said members of organized crime excommunicate themselves from the Church by their actions but could return if they repented.
Pope Francis departed Cairo on Saturday after a two-day visit to Egypt which he used to denounce religious violence.
The pope was escorted to his plane by Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and had to remove his zucchetto as he made his way down the red carpet battling strong winds.
The pair exchanged laughter and pleasantries before the pope made his way onto the plane.
Francis’ trip comes three weeks after Islamic State killed at least 45 people in attacks on two Egyptian churches. During his visit, Francis launched a strong appeal for religious freedom and accused extremists of distorting the nature of God.
Leaders of all faiths should unite in renouncing religious extremism and counter the “barbarity of those who foment hatred and violence,” Pope Francis said on Friday at the start of a two-day visit to Cairo.
“Let us say once more a firm and clear ‘No!’ to every form of violence, vengeance and hatred carried out in the name of religion or in the name of God,” the pope told a peace conference at Egypt’s highest Islamic authority, Al-Azhar.
Francis’s trip, aimed at improving ties between Muslims and Roman Catholics, comes three weeks after Islamic State suicide bombers killed at least 45 people in two Egyptian churches.
Religious sects and Muslim institutions in Egypt look forward to Pope Francis’ visit on Friday after a spate of deadly attacks against Christians.
Security is a primary concern less than three weeks after 45 people were killed in attacks on Coptic Christian churches in Alexandria and Tanta, claimed by Islamic State, on Palm Sunday.
But Francis has insisted on using an ordinary car during his 27 hours in Cairo, continuing his practice of shunning armoured limousines in order to be closer to people.
“No, he would not cancel because the first thing that occurred after Tanta was that he prayed for Egypt. After the Sunday mass he starts a prayer called Angelus, where he prays for a cause,” said Catholic priest Father Boutros Daniel.
That day he prayed for Egypt. At the same time to comfort the world he tweeted that he would still visit Egypt and that he does not fear anything.”
Francis will meet President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, the world’s most influential centre of Sunni Islamic theology and learning; and Pope Tawadros II, head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, who barely escaped the Alexandria bombing.
A main reason for the trip is to try to strengthen relations with the 1,000-year-old Azhar centre that were cut by the Muslim side in 2011 over what it said were repeated insults of Islam by Francis’s predecessor, Pope Benedict.
“When the largest religious leadership of the Christian world, speaking on behalf of a one billion and half people while Al-Azhar Grand Sheikh, Ahmed Al Tayyeb is speaking on behalf of one billion and 300 million people, these two large leaderships will deliver a message from Egypt to billions for cooperation between all those who follow and lead Abrahamic religions to radiate the culture of peace. This will be the biggest method to fight terrorism and violence,” said Azhar professor Ibrahim Salah Hodhod.
The Pope is expected to visit Cairo’s largest Coptic cathedral to pray for the 28 people killed in a Christmas season blast last year and lay flowers in their memory.