FEATURE: Making Word of God More Beloved & Known by People of God– Archbishop Fisichella Tells ZENIT the Motivation Behind the Sunday of the Word of God
“The People of God have the right to hear the Word of God and to receive a coherent explanation of the Word of God…”
The President of the Pontifical Council for New Evangelization, told this to ZENIT when they inquired about why it is necessary to have a Sunday of the Word of God when every Sunday at Mass we read and reflect on the Word of God.
The Archbishop was speaking to journalists in the Holy See Press Office, Jan. 17, 2020, at a press conference to present the first Sunday of the Word of God, to be celebrated on Sunday, January 26th.
In his letter, Pope Francis instituted this Sunday, which is to always fall on the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time.
“It’s an initiative that Pope Francis entrusts to the whole Church, so that “the Christian community may concentrate on the great value that the Word of God has in its daily existence” (Aperuit Illis),” the Archbishop told the press.
ZENIT asked Archbishop Fisichella why the need for such a day, when the Word of God should already be an essential part of every Sunday.
Recovering Contact with the Essence
“Several times in these months this question has arisen: The Word of God is listened to every Sunday at Mass. Why, then, was there a need for a Sunday of the Word of God?” Archbishop Fisichella responding to ZENIT’s question, acknowledged himself.
“In these cases,” he said, “I always make reference to the other feast, that of Corpus Domini, which is very much felt in the midst of the People of God. Every Sunday we celebrate the Holy Eucharist, and the Holy Eucharist is the heart of our life. This notwithstanding, beginning in the Medieval Age the feast of Corpus Domini was instituted, which has been increasing more and more throughout the Church and which is always celebrated with a particular Solemnity.”
The Vatican official then asked what was the motive to celebrate the Corpus Domini.
“There was a motive historically, because there were problems connected with the recognition of the real presence of Christ’s Body in the Eucharistic species, as regards the historical and theological dimension; and,” he continued, “in any case, the feast had its effectiveness in the life of the Church despite the Eucharist being celebrated every Sunday.”
He expressed his belief that, analogously, the same discourse can be made now.
Restoring Strength & Recovering Time Lost
“Catholics have, [they] need, they should feel the need to recover contact with the Word of God, because — let’s not forget that also from the statistic compiled now and then –, our people listen to the Word of God, in fact, only exclusively when they go to Mass on Sunday.”
“That’s why I’ve said that it must not be a book placed on shelves, because, moreover, we know that the Bible is the most widespread book. All have a Bible at home; however, this isn’t sufficient because it’s probably full of dust. Therefore, a Sunday of the Word of God can restore strength to our people, to Pastors, to priests, to catechists, to all those components of the People of God, so that the time we’ve lost is recovered.”
The President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization gave an example.
“When I was a student in Middle School, so I was 10, 11 or 12 years old, the Bible could only be read by those studying Theology in the Seminary. No one read the Bible, one couldn’t, even he passages of the Old Testament couldn’t be read, and this gives an idea of the whole recovery we must undertake in this field.”
This, he said, is a new beginning at the level of evangelization, of the New Evangelization.
Archbishop Fisichella also emphasized the importance of those doing the readings, lamenting that it is standard practice to just call on anyone–regardless of how disinterested or unprepared– who gets into the church or parish first, or any religious or future religious, to do readings.
“The Liturgy can’t be treated this way! There is a need of persons who not only can read, but who also know what they are reading; they are proclaiming the Word of God.”
Receiving Coherent Explanations Are a Right
This as an initiative of evangelization, the Italian Archbishop underscored, can help our communities and also our priests. “You made reference to the homily,” he recalled, adding how important it is “not to be improvisers in communicating the Word of God.”
“The People of God have the right to hear the Word of God and to receive a coherent explanation of the Word of God, not what the priest thinks at that moment, but of the Word of God.”
On September 30, 2019, 1600 years after the death of Saint Jerome, a great scholar of Sacred Scripture and translator in Latin of the original texts, the Pope made the Apostolic Letter Aperuit Illis, instituting next Sunday, public.
At the conclusion of the Jubilee of Mercy, in the Apostolic Letter Misericordia et Miserae, Pope Francis had already made an allusion to this prospect when he wrote: “It would be opportune that every community, in a Sunday of the Liturgical Year, be able to renew the commitment for the diffusion, knowledge and further reflection on Sacred Scripture: a Sunday dedicated entirely to the Word of God, to understand the inexhaustible richness, which stems from that constant dialogue of God with His people…”
Following the Second Vatican Council’s Dei Verbum, and the Synod on the Word of God in 2008 and its associated Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, there were many and different pastoral initiatives intended to put at the center knowledge, diffusion, reflection and study of Sacred Scripture.
Archbishop Fisichella also shared during the press conference what to expect around the world to commemorate this day.
In South America, in Brazil, 150,000 biblical aids will be distributed for free. In Argentina, in September, a Bible Month will be organized, whereas in Colombia, the Word of God will be proposed to children through a puppet game, hoping to make them smile and reflect.
“In Venezuela, the crisis notwithstanding,” he pointed out, “a diploma has been created to take care of the biblical animation of all pastoral care.”
From the United States to the Philippines
In the United States in November, he said, the International Day of the Bible will be observed in the country, the American Bible Society works to circulate and make the Bible, in various languages and formats, accessible, especially in poor areas.
“For the celebration of the Year of the Bible, which has young people as protagonists,” he said, “the Together Generation in Washington in June will be an interlacing of music, testimonies and readings.”
In the Philippines, Archbishop Fisichella continued, the Minister of the Interior has proclaimed Jan. 20-26, 2020, as National Bible Week, exhorting those that have the possibility of doing so, to extend the Week to the whole month. For ten years in the country, the National Bible Quiz initiative “has succeeded in involving the whole nation, through a biblical competition involving all the country’s Catholic schools,” he said.
The Pope, with his Letter Aperuit Illis,–the Archbishop reminded–expressed his intention to make always more loved and known God’s Word.
“Therefore, this Sunday of the Word of God, placed as a pastoral initiative of the New Evangelization,” he said, is meant to “revive the responsibility that believers have in knowledge of Sacred Scripture and in keeping it alive through an endeavor of permanent transmission and understanding, capable of giving meaning to the life of the Church in the different conditions in which She finds herself.
On Saturday, January 25, 2020, Pope Francis will preside over the First Vespers of the feast of Saint Paul’s conversion, in the papal Basilica of Saint Paul Outside-the-Walls, which houses the Apostle’s tomb, for the 2020 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (January 18-25) whose theme is: “They Showed Us An Unusual Kindness” (Acts 28:2).
On January 18 of last year, the Pope celebrated Vespers in the same Basilica, at the opening of the 52nd Weeks of Prayer for Christian Unity. The Holy Father invited to acknowledge God’s gifts to other Christians and put on guard against the “grave sin of diminishing or mistrusting the gifts that the Lord has granted other brethren, believing in some way that they are somewhat less privileged of god.” “If we nourish similar thoughts, we enable the grace itself received to become a source of pride, injustice, and division,” he said.
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The theme for the week of prayer is “They showed us unusual kindness” (Acts 28:2). It is based on the biblical passage describing the shipwreck of Saint Paul in Malta (Acts 27:18–28,10) and promotes reflection on Saint Paul’s journey of faith and also on the ecumenical virtue of hospitality.
Caritas’s Share the Journey campaign encourages communities to listen to and to accompany migrants and refugees in the same way the people of the island of Malta with Saint Paul and companions. It is through promoting the culture of encounter with migrants and refugees, and all people who are vulnerable, that our communities become stronger.
If you would like to be part of the global prayerful reflection on how Christians can unite their energies, especially to help migrant and refugees, take a look at this document which contains the biblical text at the heart of the theme, liturgy, a specially chosen hymn and prayers for each day of the week of prayer. This special week is promoted by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Christian Unity.
Caritas Internationalis’s Ecumenical and Interreligious Partnership Advisor, Davide Bernocchi, tells us more about Caritas’ work with other Christian denominations.
In his speech to the World Council of Churches in Geneva, Pope Francis reflected on ecumenism by focusing on three keywords: walking, praying and working together. The Pope teaches that, while Christians are still divided on many theological and ecclesiological issues, they are somehow already united in the “ecumenism of blood” and “ecumenism of charity”. For decades, Caritas has been striving to put into practice the “ecumenism of charity” with other Christian institutions, both at the local and global levels. The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity can be a moment for us to pause and thank God, together with our Christian brothers and sisters, for the feeling of unity we experience when we join hands while asking God to grant us again the perfect unity of the first Christian community, described in the Acts of the Apostles.What does the ongoing cooperation between Caritas and other Christian organizations consist of? Who are its main ecumenical partners?
Caritas Internationalis welcomed representatives from the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), the World Council of Churches (WCC), ACT Alliance, the Anglican Alliance, the International Orthodox Christian Charities and organizations from other faiths to its 2019 general assembly in Rome. Maria Immonen from LWF was a keynote speaker. These are Caritas’ main partners at the global level. LWF is of particular importance since we signed a global declaration of intent with them at the end of 2016 as part of the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.
With these and many other Christian institutions, Caritas works to uphold human dignity and promote integral human development at the global and local levels through advocacy, humanitarian responses and development initiatives. The ACT Alliance–Caritas Internationalis joint program for Darfur, which has been running since 2004, has helped hundreds of thousands of people who live in one of the most difficult environments on earth. Caritas has had joint projects with LWF in Colombia and Nepal and in Syria where they are currently helping us support the crisis-affected people in Aleppo.
Caritas and most of the partners mentioned above have also been very active in joint advocacy initiatives to advance the UN Global Compacts on refugees and migrants. To this, one should add the countless ecumenical initiatives in favor of the needy that see the participation of diocesan and parish Caritas throughout the world.What is the difference between this “ecumenism of charity” and the cooperation that Caritas has with other faith-based or secular organizations and institutions?
As part of the Catholic Church, in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council, Caritas seeks dialogue and cooperation with other Christians, believers of other faiths as well as nonbelievers. Vatican II’s decree on ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio, calls Christians to work together and pave the way to Christian unity. This means that when we cooperate with other Christians to express Christ’s charity towards the poor and the most vulnerable, we are also carrying out a service for broader ecumenical dialogue and the embodiment of Jesus’ prayer “so that they may all be one” (John 17:21).What are the main challenges taken on by Caritas and its ecumenical partners in today’s world?
I think Caritas and other ecumenical partners agree that the most urgent issues are the care for our Common Home and the growing inequalities, conflicts and global migration related to ecological issues. Regarding the care for creation and climate change, the pronouncements of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I and Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ are certainly regarded as references by most. As a Catholic network, Caritas has an important role to play.This year’s theme for the Week of Prayer is “They showed us unusual kindness” (Acts 28:2). How does this message resonate with Caritas?
“They showed us unusual kindness” refers to the treatment that St. Paul and his companions received from the people of Malta when they were shipwrecked, on their way from Caesarea to Rome. How can we not think of the thousands of people who risk their lives today trying to cross the Mediterranean from south to north? In today’s world, while migrants and refugees are increasingly victimized by xenophobia, it is reassuring to see the ample unity among Christian Churches and institutions – including Caritas – in showing kindness and humanity to them. While addressing WCC, Pope Francis said, “We cannot look the other way. It is problematic when Christians appear indifferent towards those in need. Even more troubling is the conviction on the part of some, who consider their own blessings clear signs of God’s predilection rather than a summons to responsible service of the human family.” Against the culture of indifference and the walls of inequalities, every day the people of Caritas join hands with their Christian brothers and sisters to defend humanity, with love and kindness.
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“I look forward to encountering you where you live, to asking you about your hopes and concerns, to working and growing together with you on the path of salvation offered to us in Christ Jesus.” Bishop Kenneth Nowakowski
Bishop Kenneth Nowakowski, hitherto Eparch of New Westminster, Canada was appointed bishop of the Eparchy of the Holy Family of London for Ukrainian Greek-Catholics in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland on 15 January 2020.Pastoral Letter
Kyr Kenneth has issued the following pastoral letter:
To the Reverend Clergy, the Venerable Religious, and the Lay-Faithful of the Eparchy of the Holy Family of London,
For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you – that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. (Romans 1:11-12).
Christ is Born! Glorify Him!
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ!
Today, the Holy Apostolic See of Rome and His Beatitude Sviаtoslav on behalf of the Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church have announced my appointment as the new bishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Eparchy of the Holy Family of London. Since July of 2007, I have been the Ukrainian Catholic Bishop of New Westminster, responsible for the territory of British Columbia and the Yukon in Canada. It has been a great privilege to serve as Bishop in New Westminster, and I will miss the Eparchy, my beloved-faithful and the clergy, my dearest brothers and co-workers in the Lord’s vineyard.
Looking forward to being your bishop, I wanted to write you a short letter to express my deep joy and hope, as I prepare to meet with you, to pray with you, and to journey together with you as your Pastor, in Christian discipleship and fellowship. A wonderful program and promise can be found in the words of the Acts of the Apostles:
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.” (Acts 2:42-43).
Some of you may know that I was born in Canada and am the great-grandson of Ukrainian immigrants. I first came to Great Britain in 1974, when I was 16 years old. This was to be the first of many visits to the United Kingdom.
I did not know the first Apostolic Exarch for Ukrainian Catholics in Great Britain, Bishop Augustine Horniak, OSBM. However, I have had the good fortune to know and, in fact, be good friends with Bishop Mykhailo Kuchmiak, CSsR, of blessed memory, as well as with Bishops Paul Chomnycky, OSBM, and Hlib Lonchyna, Studite. Each of these dedicated men have blessed our Eparchy with their particular leadership charisms and spiritual gifts.
I also wish to acknowledge the good work, dedication and generous spirit of service of Fr. Mykola Matviyivsky, appointed Apostolic Administrator by the Holy Father following Bishop Hlib’s resignation last year.
Over the last decade, I have attended many meetings in London, and was a frequent guest in the Bishop’s House. I have celebrated Divine Liturgies in the cathedral and am grateful to have been able to pray with so many of our clergy and faithful. However, I have not had an opportunity to visit the other parishes in the Eparchy. This is something that I will want to do as soon as possible. I look forward to encountering you where you live, to asking you about your hopes and concerns, to working and growing together with you on the path of salvation offered to us in Christ Jesus. As the Apostle Peter writes:
“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:8-9).
My dear Sisters and Brothers, know that I am praying for you and already rejoice in you. I humbly ask for your prayers as I make my farewells in the Eparchy of New Westminster and begin the journey towards my new home and flock in the United Kingdom.
I am placing all of you under the protection of the Holy Family, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, the Most Holy Mother of God and ever-virgin Mary, and the holy and righteous St. Joseph the Betrothed.
Your brother and servant in the Lord,
Catholics across the United States are preparing to pray 9 Days for Life, the annual pro-life novena beginning this year on January 21.
In the Catholic Church, a ‘novena’ consists of prayers or actions over nine successive days. The pro-life novena is an opportunity for recollection and reparation in observation of the anniversary of Roe v. Wade—the Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal throughout the United States.
The overarching intention of the novena is the end to abortion. Each daily intention highlights a related topic and is accompanied by a reflection, educational information, and suggested daily actions. The novena encompasses the annual Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children on January 22.
All are invited to sign up at www.9daysforlife.com. . . . Participants can choose to receive the novena via email, text message, a printable version, or through a free “9 Days for Life” mobile app (with customizable reminders) in English or Spanish. Participants can share their pro-life witness and invite their social networks to pray on social media with the hashtag #9DaysforLife. A leader’s kit. . . is available, and features the daily prayer intentions and reflections, among other resources.
Sponsored by the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, 9 Days for Life began in 2013 in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision.
Callista L. Gingrich, U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, released the following statement on January 16, 2020, in the wake of the launch of the Abrahamic Faiths Initiative (AFI).
NOTE: The White House has confirmed that Vice President Mike Pence will travel to the Vatican next week to meet with Pope Francis.
On January 14, I was honored to host the opening session of the Abrahamic Faiths Initiative (AFI) at my residence, facilitating discussions among faith leaders to advance peace and mutual respect around the world.
This remarkable gathering of faith leaders was organized by a U.S. non-profit organization, the Multi-Faith Neighbors Network (MFNN), under the leadership of Pastor Bob Roberts, Imam Mohamed Magid, and Rabbi David Saperstein, with the support of U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback.
The AFI, which convened 25 senior global religious leaders representing a range of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim communities for a two-day working dialogue at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, was inspired by Pope Francis and Al-Azhar Grand Imam Al-Tayyeb’s 2019 Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together.
Indeed, the AFI responds directly to their invitation to reconciliation and fraternity among all believers and people of good will. The Document on Human Fraternity, as stated by Cardinal Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, one of the participants in the AFI, is a “milestone on the path of interreligious dialogue.”
I commend the statement released today by the AFI participants, which endorses their commitment to “resolutely declare that religions must never incite war, hateful attitudes, hostility, and extremism, nor must they incite violence or the shedding of blood,” as stated in the Document on Human Fraternity.
As I told the AFI participants on January 14, I extend my heartfelt gratitude to them for their dedication to promoting peace and interreligious dialogue. The Abrahamic Faiths Initiative serves as a powerful demonstration that, through fraternity, cooperation, and mutual respect between the Abrahamic faiths, peace in our world is possible.
The U.S. Embassy to the Holy See will continue to proudly support and promote these efforts.
Callista L. Gingrich
U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See
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It is impossible to look at a newspaper without seeing reports on new medical breakthroughs – or the latest schemes for losing weight and getting physically fit.
Pope Francis admits that caring for the body is important but so also is caring for the spirit.
The bottom line: Life relies on a relationship with God, the source of spiritual healing, the source of forgiveness.
The Holy Father based his January 17, 2020, homily at Mass in Casa Santa Marta in the Vatican on the story of the miraculous healing of the paralytic described in the second chapter of the Gospel of Mark. It is a familiar story and among the most often cited of the Lord’s healings:
When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days,
it became known that he was at home.
Many gathered together so that there was no longer room for them,
not even around the door,
and he preached the word to them.
They came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men.
Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd,
they opened up the roof above him.
After they had broken through,
they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said to him,
“Child, your sins are forgiven.”
Pope Francis focused on the keywords: “Your sins are forgiven.” And the story goes on to explain that the paralyzed man got up from his mat and walked away healed.
Francis mentioned some of the other great healing from the Gospel: the sick man at the pool who couldn’t get to the water; the sinful and weeping woman; the Samaritan woman at the well. Each was healed and their sins were forgiven.
It is simple when Jesus goes to the essentials, the Pope said. Both a healthy body and a healthy soul are needed. A doctor can heal the body but it is Jesus who can heal the soul.
Pope Francis received President of the Republic of Congo, Félix Antoine Tshilombo Tshisekedi, in audience in the Vatican today, Jan. 17, 2020.
According to a statement published by the Holy See Press Office, during cordial discussions, the parties evoked the good bilateral relations” along with “the satisfaction at the ratification of the Framework Agreement between the Holy See and the Democratic Republic of the Congo on matters of mutual interest.”
In this context, the statement said, the contribution of the Catholic Church in the democratic process, and in promoting the common good and integral development of the nation was highlighted, especially in the fields of education and healthcare.
Attention then turned, it noted, to the country’s current situation, with particular reference to the sufferings of the population in the eastern provinces, due to persistent armed conflict and the spread of the Ebola virus.
“Finally, mention was made of the urgency of collaboration and cooperation at national and international level, to protect human dignity and to promote civil coexistence, starting from the many refugees and displaced persons who are facing a grave humanitarian crisis.”
The President of Congo subsequently met with Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, accompanied by Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher.
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Bishops from across Europe and North America called on their governments to insist on the application of international law in Israel and Palestine, following their visit to the Holy Land this week, according to a January 16 report from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.
The bishops of the Holy Land Coordination, who visit the region every year in support of the local Church to promote dialogue and peace, said they were inspired by the enduring resilience of the people they met in Gaza, East Jerusalem and Ramallah despite the worsening situation.
However, they echoed the local bishops’ lament the international community’s failure to realize justice and peace in the land of Christ’s birth. While the political solution had ultimately to be shaped by the people of the Holy Land through dialogue, they said there was an urgent need for the governments in their own countries in Europe, Canada and the USA to play an essential part by:
Insisting on the application of international law; following the Holy See’s lead in recognizing the State of Palestine; addressing the security concerns of Israel and the right of all to live in safety; rejecting political or economic support for settlements and resolutely opposing acts of violence or abuses of human rights by any side.
They concluded their communique with prayer for the peace of Jerusalem.Final Communique
We must not ignore the voice of people in the Holy Land
Every year we come to encounter and hear the people of the Holy Land. We are inspired by their enduring resilience and faith in a worsening situation.
In their recent powerful message, the local Catholic Bishops lamented the international community’s failure to help realize justice and peace here in the place of Christ’s birth. Our governments must do more to meet their responsibilities for upholding international law and protecting human dignity. In some cases, they have become actively complicit in the evils of conflict and occupation.
The local Bishops also warned that people are facing further “evaporation of hope for a durable solution”. We have witnessed this reality first-hand, particularly how construction of settlements and the separation wall is destroying any prospect of two states existing in peace.
In the same message, the local Bishops have sounded the alarm about living conditions becoming “more and more unbearable”. This is painfully clear in the West Bank where our sisters and brothers are denied even basic rights including freedom of movement. In Gaza, the political decisions of all sides have resulted in the creation of an open-air prison, human rights abuses, and a profound humanitarian crisis. We were welcomed by families whose focus is now day-to-day survival and whose aspirations have been reduced to bare essentials such as electricity and clean water.
Amid these circumstances, we are moved by the sacrifice of religious sisters, laypeople, and priests who are reaching out with respect to every side, in order to build a better future for all. They offer vital services, especially education, job opportunities and care for the most vulnerable people. We give thanks for their witness.
We encourage Christians in our own countries to pray for and support this mission. The increase in people making pilgrimages to the Holy Land is encouraging and we call for those who come to ensure they encounter the local communities.
At the same time, we implore our governments to help build a new political solution rooted in human dignity for all. While this must ultimately be shaped by the peoples of the Holy Land in dialogue, there is an urgent need for our countries to play their part by:
- Insisting upon the application of international law;
- Following the Holy See’s lead in recognizing the State of Palestine;
- Addressing the security concerns of Israel and the right of all to live in safety;
- Rejecting political or economic support for settlements;
- And resolutely opposing acts of violence or abuses of human rights by any side.
In taking these steps the international community can meaningfully stand in solidarity with those Israelis and Palestinians who are refusing to give up their non-violent struggle for justice, peace and human rights.
We pray for the peace of Jerusalem.Delegation
Bishop Declan Lang (Chair of the Holy Land Coordination)
England and Wales
Bishop Udo Bentz
Archbishop Timothy Broglio
United States of America
Bishop Peter Bürcher
Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden
Bishop Rodolfo Cetoloni
Bishop Christopher Chessun
Church of England
Archbishop Richard Gagnon
Bishop William Kenney
England and Wales
Bishop Alan McGuckian
Bishop William Nolan
Bishop Marc Stenger
Bishop Noel Treanor
Archbishop Joan Enric Vives Sicilia
Fr Antonio Ammirati
Council of Bishops’ Conferences of Europe
Dr Erwin Tanner
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Below is a Vatican-provided translation of Pope Francis’ address to members of an Ecumenical Delegation from Finland who are in the Vatican to take part in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I offer you a cordial welcome in the words of Saint Paul: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 1:7). I thank Bishop Teemu for his words, a beautiful invitation to mutual understanding in the midst of today’s many misunderstandings. Your ecumenical pilgrimage for the feast of Saint Henrik has once more brought you to Rome. Together you are journeying – as all of us are – in communion of faith, so as to encourage one another and to strengthen one another in Christian discipleship.
This past Sunday, we celebrated the Baptism of Jesus and we recalled our own baptism. A Christian is someone who can give thanks for his or her baptism; and this gratitude unites us within the community of all the baptized. The “baptism for the forgiveness of sins” that we profess in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed is also a clear summons to holiness.
The Report of the Catholic-Lutheran dialogue group for Sweden and Finland, entitled Justification in the Life of the Church, rightly observes that “those who are already baptized can, together with their brothers and sisters, develop their opportunities for holiness, which come from their common justification in Christ. As members of one and the same mystical body of Christ, Christians are bound to one another and must bear one another’s burdens. Since Christ came to redeem the whole world, it is also a mission for the church and for individual Christians, both lay and ordained, to witness to the good news in the midst of their daily life” (No. 203).
Hospitality is likewise part of our shared witness of faith in daily life. The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which begins tomorrow, shows us this ecumenical virtue, and indeed recommends it to us. “They showed us unusual kindness” (Acts 28:2) as we read in the Acts of the Apostles, with reference to the inhabitants of the island of Malta, who received with hospitality the Apostle Paul, together with hundreds of shipwrecked people.
As baptized Christians, we believe that Christ wishes to meet us precisely in those who are – both literally and figuratively – shipwrecked in life. Those who show hospitality grow richer, not poorer. Whoever gives, receives in return. For the humanity we show to others makes us in a mysterious way partakers in the goodness of the God who became man.
Dear Finnish friends, as heralds of humanity, as recipients of the goodness of God incarnate, we are journeying together in the community of all the baptized. Christians are those who can give thanks for their baptism. This gratitude links and expands our hearts, and opens them to our neighbour, who is not an adversary but our beloved brother, our beloved sister. The community of all the baptized is not a mere “standing beside one another”, and certainly not a “standing against one other”, but wants to become an ever fuller “standing together”.
Spiritual ecumenism and ecumenical dialogue serve to deepen this “standing together”. May this “standing together” continue to grow, prosper and bear fruit in Finland. To that end, I pray that God may grant you his abundant grace and his blessing. I would ask you also to please pray for me. Thank you.[Original text: English] [Vatican-provided text]
The Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Managua, Archbishop Carlos Avilés, denounced the intimidation against the faithful by the state: “Members of the police take note of the plate of the cars of the faithful only for the fact that they go to mass in a parish, is ridiculous. But the Church had this experience of persecution already in the 80s. We, despite this, do not stop in our work and in our mission, to evangelize and be next to the people. Since April 2018, when the people peacefully protested against the ‘Seguro Social’ reform and were brutally stopped by the dictatorship, the Catholic Church once again stood on the side of the weakest.”
Mgr. Aviles’ statements are contained in a video shared with Fides News Agency and disseminated on social media, in which he informs that there has been an official complaint by the Church on these facts, also published in the media. The video contains an interview with the newspaper La Prensa del Nicaragua, where the Vicar General of the diocese describes the situation of the Church: “Thanks be to God, the Church reflects how much society lives, how much people live. We have no power, neither military, nor political, to face and fight against a free repression only to be on the side of the people, or only to denounce the people’s requests for justice”.
Mgr. Avilés concludes by asking police members to stop the persecution of the Church and its faithful: “We cannot live in an environment of repression. We must live in a Christian spirit, in peace and harmony.”
The situation in Nicaragua is always of constant tension. The government’s attempts to present a peaceful and serene country to the international press when social and peasant leaders are persecuted, threatened or even killed are useless. Entrepreneurs no longer support the government’s economic policy, with immediate negative consequences for the international market; the national press is prevented from reporting on daily events; opposition parties find themselves without political instruments before the next elections.
However, the testimonies of young people in many cities of the country, through social media, confirm that a Free and United Nicaragua is not only possible but will be the result of every little contribution, according to the words of Mgr. Rolando Alvarez, Bishop of Matagalpa: “The people are teaching a lesson of unity”.
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The Oblates of Mary Immaculate in South Africa, OMISA are devastated by the death of Fr. Jozef (Jef) Hollanders, killed in a robbery in the parish of Bodibe, near Mahikeng, in the northwestern province of South Africa, on Sunday night 12 January”, says a statement reported by Fides News Agency. “His body was discovered on Monday afternoon by a parishioner. The police are fully involved in investigating his murder”.
“We are deeply affected by what has happened. Jeff was found tied hand and foot and with a rope around his neck. A terrible death for someone who dedicated his whole life to his mission,” said Fr. Daniël Coryn, provincial superior of the Oblate Missionaries of Mary, from Blanden in Belgium. According to His Exc. Mgr. Victor Phalana of Klerksdorp, Bishop of Bodibe, the missionary probably died of a heart attack or strangulation.
It is not excluded that Fr. Hollanders suffered a robbery attempt, but according to Archbishop Phalana, the robbers were misinformed: “Everyone knows he had no money. He served a poor community. He used every penny he ever owned for his people. He gave away everything he had”. According to the Bishop, the ecclesial community has been hit hard. Fr. Hollanders was “full of enthusiasm, life, and dedication” and spoke fluently Afrikaans and Tswana, a Bantu language spoken in South Africa and Botswana. “He was part of people’s lives.”
Fr. Hollanders was born in Belgium on March 4, 1937. He professed his first vows as an Oblate on September 8, 1958, and was ordained a priest on December 26, 1963. He arrived in South Africa on January 31, 1965.
“For 55 years was a dedicated and faithful missionary in the Tswana-speaking area, now North West Province of South Africa”, underlines the statement. “He liked to create new Christian communities, which have become parishes or parish stations in what has become the diocese of Klerksdorp.”
“We were reminded that Jesus died at the hands of others and we imagined that Father Jef would say:” Forgive them because they do not know what they are doing,” concluded the OMISA statement.
The funeral of Fr. Hollanders will take place on Wednesday 22 January, at 10 am, in the cathedral of Klerksdorp.
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Archbishop Follo: John the Baptist pointed to Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world
2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A- January 19th, 2020
Is 49: 3. 5-6; Ps 40; 1 Cor 1, 1-3; Jn 1: 29-34
Ambrosian Rite – Second Sunday after the Epiphany
Nm 20, 2. 6-13; Ps 94; Rom 8, 22-27; Jn 2: 1-11
1) Encountering the extraordinary of Christ in our ordinary life.
This Sunday begins Ordinary Time, the liturgical year during which the Church celebrates not a mystery of the life of the Lord and of the history of salvation, but the mystery of Christ in its totality.
In this ordinary time, the liturgy invites us to follow the Redeemer every day and does so starting from the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River. In year A, it offers us the report by the apostle John in which it is said that from every part of Judea people went to John the Baptist in large numbers to listen to him and be baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins. The fame of this “more than prophet” baptizer was so great that many wondered if he was the Messiah. But he replied firmly: “I am not the Christ” (Jn 1,20). However, he remains the first “witness” of Jesus, having received indications from Heaven: “The man on whom you will see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes in the Holy Spirit” (Jn 1:33). This happened when Jesus, after being baptized, came out of the water: John saw the Spirit descend on him like a dove. It was then that John “knew” the full reality of Jesus of Nazareth, and began to make him “known to Israel” (Jn 1:31), indicating him as the Son of God, redeemer of man, and saying: “Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world “(Jn 1:29). Precisely from this verse begins the Gospel reading of today, which offers us the testimony of the Baptist who points with his finger and says with his mouth who Christ is, the Lamb he carries on himself and takes away the evil of the world and frees man.
The testimony always starts from a saying that is the point of arrival of an experience.
Another thing corresponds to saying: hearing. A word, if it is said but not listened to, does not exist; if the word is like a seed the ear is like the womb that welcomes it like the earth. The disciple is the one who hears the word. What happens when we listen? We understand the word, therefore the word gives information to our intelligence. If the thing is true and interests us, we love it. Therefore, the word not only informs our intelligence but also our heart, love, and will and then we move on to action: the word informs our actions.
To man, everything comes from listening: his intelligence, his will, his action. The word totally determines us, we become the word we listen to. The disciples listen to this word. Listening is the second fundamental term, without listening there is nothing.
2) The Lamb of God.
For a deeper understanding of these events, today’s Liturgy makes us examine them in the light of the divinity of Jesus, whose incarnation makes life a sanctuary of divinity. Not only his life is divine. With the salvation brought by him by taking away sins, our daily life, our work, our joys, and tenderness become the sphere of divine holiness.
In Jesus, Lamb of God, holiness is revealed as a formidable promotion of life and man. And man, forgiven, is transfigured, made son of God and craftsman of light with his own hands.
On the day of his ordination, the priest receives the consecration of the hands. It is a magnificent fact. But in Christ all hands are holy, all hands are consecrated, all hands can become hands of light.
In Christ, all bodies are called to become the Temple of the Holy Spirit and the Members of Jesus Christ. The Temple that we are is much more beautiful than any church made of stone, and God is in us more than in a church because He is in that church to be in us.
In the Gospel, all faces are called to radiate the Face of Christ. The vocation that He offers when presented to us as the Lamb of God is not a call to enter a forbidden sphere. To gather us in unity, he invites us to the table, where “very simply” we eat bread and wine, which the sacrament has made the body and blood of the Lamb of God. Therefore, we become the One we eat.
3) The Lamb of God who forgives.
In this Sunday’s Gospel passage (Jn 1: 29-34) we find a profession of faith in Christ which is divided into three statements:
“Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (1,29), the Lamb who leads to the source of life and happiness, and wipes every tear from our eyes (cf. Ap 7,14-17) ;
“I have contemplated the Spirit descending like a dove and stopping on him” (1.32);
And “the Son of God” (1.34).
The declaration on which I will dwell is the first: “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”, putting them on himself. The Immaculate One, who erases the sin of the world with his sufferings and his death, reveals His Heart to this world that wants to measure everything, even God and his gift. Today, as at every Mass, we are asked to accept this statement as it is, an indication of the Eucharistic gift of God to us, and to respond to it as the liturgy asks us: “Lord, I am not worthy to participate in your table: but just a word and I will be saved. ” The Lamb, which the priest shows by elevating the host, is to be worshiped in his divine humility and to be eaten in communion to his infinite charity.
To understand today’s Gospel passage well, let’s go back to the scene it describes. After forty days in the desert where he had gone after John’s baptism, Jesus returns to the Baptist. He must have been shocked to see the Son of God return to him and moreover with an aspect of man tried by fasting and temptations suffered in the desert. John knows that the man who comes to meet him again is the Son of God, the Beloved. He sees the Messiah, who is from the tribe of Judah, but in him, he does not perceive the Lion of Judah, he sees the Lamb of God, the victim who offered himself freely in sacrifice for the world to be redeemed.
Among the multitude of sinners, he recognized the innocent splendor of the Man-God, who had left the glory of Heaven to go to the slaughterhouse on Earth and indicated him to the disciples as a person to follow.
The disciples did not understand. They were unable to understand what their master John meant by indicating the Master Jesus as the Lamb, an image not clearly known to the Jews to indicate the long-awaited liberator. We instead know (or at least we can know) that in the New Testament the word lamb occurs four times and always in reference to Jesus. In fact, from the beginning the Church looked at Jesus as He saw himself, that is, as the servant of God – innocent, suffering and patient – like a lamb led to the slaughterhouse. In Aramaic “talja” means both “lamb” and “servant”. Finally, according to the evangelist John, Jesus is compared to the paschal lamb, as it can be deduced from the fact that the crucifixion took place coinciding with the Jewish Passover and even with the same time in which the lambs were sacrificed for the Easter sacrifice in the temple (As it can be read in the book Jesus of Nazareth by Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI, Milan 2007).
Today’s Gospel confronts us with the mission of tenderness of Christ who asks for the collaboration of our love. This Gospel makes us take our steps in the steps of Jesus and asks us to accompany him to the end, to realize this mysterious plan in which the triumph of God must be accomplished in the “defeat” of the Cross so that we know that it is not for us to wait with folded arms the realization of a destiny that is accomplished without us. On the contrary, we are involved in the work to build with God a world founded on love, a world whose creative dimension is a dimension of generosity and self-giving, with Christ, for Christ, and in Christ.
The Church always treasures the Heart of the Bridegroom in its heart, and in the heart of the Church, it is always possible to live holiness and become the beautiful bride of the immolated Lamb.
In this, the consecrated virgins are of example. They answered yes to Christ the bridegroom and thanks to that yes, their presence in the Church and in the world is a living Gospel, a testimony of God, which they offer, reveal and communicate without needing to speak. Their life is a life of communion of love with Christ, who calls, forgives and dwells with us by conforming us to him: ” In the consecrated life, then, it is not only a matter of following Christ with one’s whole heart, of loving him “more than father or mother, more than son or daughter” (cf. Mt 10:37) — for this is required of every disciple — but of living and expressing this by conforming one’s whole existence to Christ in an all-encompassing commitment which foreshadows the eschatological perfection, to the extent that this is possible in time and in accordance with the different charisms”. (St. John Paul II, Ex. Post-Sin. Apost. Vita Consecrata, No. 16).
 Ordinary time consists of 33 or 34 weeks, distributed between the feast of the Baptism of the Lord and the beginning of Lent (first period), and between the week after Pentecost and the Solemnity of Christ the King (second period).
Two elements are fundamental to grasp the meaning and importance of ordinary time: the lectionary, which with the semi-continuous reading of the synoptic gospels rhythms the journey of the days of the week, and Sunday as the Lord’s day and the first day of the week . On Sundays, in each annual cycle, a different evangelist is read. In the year A it is Matthew, in the year B Mark, in the year C Luke. The first readings from the Old Testament are chosen based on the Gospel passage so that there is a relationship of promise-fulfillment, prophecy-realization. The second readings instead follow the semi-continuous reading of the Pauline correspondence, of the letter of James and of the letter to the Jews. Even on weekdays, the criterion of semi-continuous reading of biblical texts is followed. The three synoptic gospels are read every year: Mark (weeks 1-9); Matthew (weeks 10-22); Luke (weeks 23-34).
 The characterization of Jesus as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” is surprising, a phrase that can also be translated as follows: “which bears upon itself the sin of the world”. The Greek word means ‘to move away, to take away’, and to do this what must be taken away must be loaded on the shoulders.
To take away the sin of the world, the Lamb takes upon himself the consequences of sin by atoning for us, and thus removes all effects from sin, or rather from the guilt of sin. Therefore, this expression brings together two things, the taking of weight and its elimination. This exegesis illustrates well the ambivalence of the Greek expression ho airon ten hamartian tou kosmou (lat. qui tollit peccatum mundi), whose Greek verb airo, like the Latin tollere means to take away, to take on oneself, to load oneself on shoulders. It is not a philological erudition in itself. With this expression, in fact, the Gospel refers both to the fourth poem of the Servant of the Lord (Is 53.1-12), to the scapegoating lamb of Leviticus 14, 12-13, and finally to the paschal lamb (Ex 12, 1-14; Jn 19:36) which becomes the symbol of redemption.