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How US Catholics will mark the World Day of the Poor

Washington D.C., Nov 17, 2017 / 12:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As the first World Day of the Poor approaches on Nov. 19, Catholics in the U.S. aim to amplify their outreach and their prayers for those in poverty.

One prayer for the day, prepared by Catholic Relief Services, invokes Lazarus, the beggar, from a parable in the Gospel of Luke: “Lord, teach me to open the door to Lazarus, to the poor, to know them as your children, to lift them in their distress, to work to help them find a fair share of your bounty.”

The relief agency has created a parish packet to help parishes observe the World Day of the Poor. It includes prayers, homily suggestions, general intercessory prayers, and a bulletin insert.

Pope Francis announced the first World Day of the Poor in November 2016. In his June 2017 message for the observance, he asked that Christian communities “make every effort to create moments of encounter and friendship, solidarity and concrete assistance” ahead of time.

In Virginia, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington will host volunteer days, presentations, and events from Nov. 13-20 to help the community learn how Catholic Charities serves the poor.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is also encouraging the faithful to take part in the day.

“The Holy Father desires a real encounter with the poor in our midst, to reach out to them and invite them in concrete ways to share our life,” the archdiocese said Oct. 31. Ahead of the observance, Catholics should show “sincere efforts to show the poor among us the love and care of the Church.”

A prayer intention for the poor will be added in all parishes of the archdiocese for Nov. 19 Sunday Masses. The prayer asks that the poor throughout the world “may come to know more concretely the love and care of the Church, a love not with words but with deeds.”

In New Jersey’s Diocese of Metuchen, Bishop James F. Checchio has invited the faithful to the Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi on Nov. 19 for evening prayer dedicated to the World Day of the Poor.

The event will be an occasion for community reflection “on how poverty is at the heart of the Gospel,” the diocese’s invitation said. It is also an opportunity for those who aid, care for and comfort the poor to be affirmed, inspired and sent out with “a renewed commitment to building a ‘culture of encounter’” and to bring people together with “tenderness and solidarity” despite their differences.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has also created a pastoral aid for the day.

While the document acknowledges poverty of spirit, lack of love, and isolation, it focused on material poverty. Individuals, families and communities lack access to basic necessities like good nutrition, adequate housing, safe neighborhoods, good education, healthcare and jobs that pay a fair wage.

One of the USCCB’s intercessory prayers reads: “That we, the people of God, will open our hearts and souls to justice so that we will speak and act in ways that will eliminate poverty and injustice in this country and throughout the world.”

The Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization has also prepared a pastoral aid for parishes and schools to mark the day.

 

This article was originally published on CNA Nov. 7, 2017.

For Cardinal Parolin, Vatican II still benefits the Church

Washington D.C., Nov 17, 2017 / 11:16 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Second Vatican Council, rightly understood, continues to be a force for evangelization and renewal in the Church, according to Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Secretary of State of the Holy See.

Cardinal Parolin, speaking Nov. 14 at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., reflected on the council’s global impact, its focus on the poor, its efforts to counter clericalism and empower the laity, and its efforts to re-emphasize collegiality among bishops.

“Today we can gratefully turn our gaze to the Second Vatican Council: if we read it and receive it guided by a just hermeneutics, it can be and become more and more a great force for the ever-necessary renewal of the Church,” Parolin said.

The cardinal said that given the global origins of the council fathers, the Second Vatican Council was the first world church council in a geographic sense.

“The consequences were of no little importance: the introduction of local languages into the liturgy, for example, and also the emergence of a theology of a ‘local’ Church are the emerging points of a ‘new’ Church consciousness that is historically realized in the most diverse cultural contexts,” the cardinal said.

The irreversable introduction of the Church as a “world Church” is part of the permanent importance of the council.

The council did indeed introduce “a new style” and grew from “new seeds, drawn from the source of Tradition, especially biblical and patristic.”

He cited Pope Francis’ emphasis on the style of the council. The Pope had said it sowed the seeds of “synodality” or “conciliarity” at all levels of the Church, affecting all priests and bishops and pastoral advice. While the “monarchical” figure is essential in Catholic theology, whether in the parish priest, a diocesan bishop, or the Roman Pontiff, this figure has been “happily completed and balanced by this synodality that brings about real enrichment at all levels.”

The Pope thought this “conciliar” style of the Church was one of the most beautiful legacies of the council.
 
Cardinal Parolin noted some commentators who see the council through a “hermeneutics of misfortune” that places on Vatican II “all the calamities of the Church.” To these, the cardinal cited Benedict XVI’s arguments against a “hermeneutics of discontinuity and rupture” in favor of a “hermeneutics of reform, of renewal in continuity.” Benedict saw the council as having a prophetic interpretation. In the Pope emeritus’ words, its beneficial influence “preserved humanity and the Church itself from a crisis which at the end of the second millennium could have been much worse.”

Cardinal Parolin gave a lengthy exposition of the council, drawing on Benedict XVI, Francis, various commentators, and Blessed Paul VI.

The cardinal found in Paul VI “the idea of inheritance which is the passage of testimony from generation to generation” and also the image of “a flowing river feeding itself from its source.”

He also cited Francis’ description of the council as “a re-reading of the Gospel in the light of contemporary culture.”

Both Pope Francis and the Second Vatican Council emphasized the dignity of the lay faithful. Cardinal Parolin noted the transformation from a Church that had “the total concentration of every active function in the hands of the clergy” to a Church that recognizes “the right and duty of lay faithful to participate in the life and mission of the Church.”

Cardinal Parolin reflected on the importance of the “sensus fidei,” the “sense of the faith” in guiding Church teaching. He cited the discussions that led to the solemn declarations of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Ahead of hese declarations, the cardinal said, “the entire Church was involved in a large-scale synodal process, where everyone was active, each in its own way: the Pope, who started and ended the process; the bishops, who replied to the Pope attesting their faith and that of the faithful entrusted to them; the People of God, who witnessed a faith that manifested the ‘sense of the Church’.”

For the cardinal, the “sense of the faith”  represents “a vital resource for the new evangelization.” He cited Pope Francis’ first Angelus address, which cited an elderly woman who said, “If the Lord did not forgive everything, the world would not exist.” The Pope commented on this statement: “That is the wisdom which the Holy Spirit gives.”

“The intuition of that woman is a touching manifestation of the ‘sensus fidei’, which allows a certain discernment of the things of faith and at the same time nourishes true wisdom and arouses the proclamation of truth,” said the Pope.

The Pope’s 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium stressed the importance of the laity, praising those with “a rooted sense of community and a great fidelity to the commitment of the love of Christ.”

Cardinal Parolin noted that the exhortation characterizes clericalism as “a sin against the lay faithful.” While in some cases the laity have not been formed for important responsibilities, in others the laity  have not found space in their particular churches “because of excessive clericalism that keeps them on the margin of decisions.”

Parolin cited Cardinal Giacomo Lercaro of Bologna’s intervention during the council, in which he linked the “mystery of Christ in the Church” to the “mystery of Christ in the poor” and emphasized the need for the council to be for “the Church of the poor.” For Cardinal Parolin, this was a very strong statement, meaning  poverty is understood “as the mode of being essential to the mystery of the Church.”

Also a topic of the cardinal’s speech were various efforts to reconsider papal primacy, centralization, and local authority. He noted then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s concerns that bishops’ conferences might suppress the role of the individual bishop.

At the same time, the council documents Christus Dominus and Lumen gentium discuss the collegial nature of bishops’ ministry and base these conferences’ mission in the sacramental origin of the bishops’ ministry.

“In other words, these conferences are really ‘episcopal’: they have their reason for being not in a sociological principle of collaboration, but in the implementation of the ministry conferred on each bishop with episcopal consecration,” the cardinal said.

Cardinal Parolin’s U.S. visit included attendance at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ fall assembly and a visit with Vice President Mike Pence.

In Syria there are more deaths from lack of healthcare than from bombs

Rome, Italy, Nov 17, 2017 / 10:52 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Though the Syrian civil war has de-escalated in recent months, the Holy See's nuncio to the country says its problems are far from over, particularly regarding healthcare, with more people dying from a lack of proper medical care than from bombs.

“The risk in Syria is collapse,” Cardinal Mario Zenari, apostolic nuncio to Syria, told CNA Nov. 17, because “more than half of the hospitals and first aid centers are 'out of business' because of the war.”

Out of all healthcare personnel in Syria, two thirds have left since the start of the country's civil war in March 2011.

Zenari said the number of people who have died in bombings and shelling sits somewhere between 400 and 500,000. However, “those who die due to a lack of hospitals, a lack of medicines and a lack of healthcare are more numerous.”

“This lack of healthcare creates more victims than bombs.”

Zenari, who spends the majority of his time in Damascus, is in Rome for the Nov. 16-18 conference “Addressing Global Health Inequalities,” organized by the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development in collaboration with the International Confederation of Catholic Healthcare Institutions.

The goal of the conference is to launch a network connecting all 116,000 Catholic health organizations around the world through a platform of collaboration and sharing aimed at exchanging information.

Another key goal of the conference is to raise awareness about global disparities in access to healthcare.

Cardinal Parolin opened the conference outlining the Church's vision for the network they are trying to foster. Other big name speakers include Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the dicastery; Sister Carol Keehan, president of the Catholic Health Association; and Beatrice Lorenzin, Italy’s Health Minister.

Zenari gave attendees an update on the humanitarian situation in Syria, sharing stories of his experience on the ground.

In his comments to CNA, the cardinal said that of all that he has seen and heard in his various visits to health centers and hospitals throughout Syria, what stands out is the young victims of the conflict.

“I remember the children,” he said, and recalled how during the liturgy for Holy Saturday in 2014 he met a 9-year-old girl named Lorina, who was crying because both of her legs had been amputated the day before after being hit by fragments of a mortar shell that exploded near her school.

He also recalled the numerous “skeleton children” who live on the outskirts of cities or who have died of hunger after being abandoned, many of whom were never registered.

Thousands of other children have faced a similar fate, and while victims of the war come in all shapes and sizes, Zenari said that for him “the children leave a big impression.”

Hospitals and schools have consistently been a target for fighters on the various sides of the war in Syria, which is well into its sixth year, and as a result many hospitals in the country have been forced to go underground, with locals placing sandbags above the structure to cushion the effect of shelling.

According to UNICEF, 2016 was the deadliest year for children in Syria, which claimed lives of 652 children, 255 of which took place in or near a school. The number is a 20 percent jump from the number of child deaths in Syria in 2015.

More than 11,500 child deaths were reported in just the first two years of the conflict, and the number has continued to climb. However, the data provided by UNICEF only includes deaths that have been formally verified; the real figures could be much higher.

With only one third of the country's doctors still around and half of the hospitals not functioning, “the situation is very, very dramatic from a humanitarian aspect,” Zenari said.  

“You think that there are more than 5 million refugees in neighboring countries, and there are more than 6 million internally displaced people,” he said. “So the numbers are impressive. The humanitarian situation is very, very serious.”

In addition to taking a massive toll on the country's healthcare services, the war has left many unemployed, meaning that of those who are actually able to reach hospitals or medical centers, many can't afford treatment.

Before the war, Syria had one of the most advanced healthcare systems in the Middle East, and was one of the leading producers of pharmaceuticals.

But now “many of these industrial pharmaceutical factories are also 'out of business' because of the war,” Zenari said, noting that since these companies produced more than 90 percent of Syria's pharmaceutical product, “it creates a national need (for) healthcare work.”

Poverty in Syria has risen to 85 percent as a result of the conflict, and many don't have access to the national healthcare system, leaving some 11 million people without the care they need, Zenari said.

With this bleak scenario as a backdrop, the nunciature in Syria last year launched a project called “Open Hospitals,” which aims to support the hospitals and medical centers that are left, and offers funding that goes toward free treatment for families and individuals in greater need.

Religion isn't taken into consideration, Zenari said, explaining that if Peter walks in with a headache, has a large family and is unemployed, he will be treated for free, and the same thing goes for Muhammad.

Open Hospitals is backed by Pope Francis and is being carried forward with the help of the Vatican's development office. It works directly with the three Catholic hospitals in Syria to provide medicine, keep facilities up to date, and offer free care to those can't afford to pay.

Present in Syria for over 100 years, these hospitals have been “taken by the neck, so to speak, by the financial problem,” Zenari said.

With money needed to pay for staff, general management, monthly bills, and the renewal of old facilities, patients continue to file in with average healthcare needs and war injuries, making the financial strain near crippling.

“When more than half of the state hospitals are out of business and we don't have Catholic hospitals that are highly regarded, who don't work at full efficiency,” the rate at which the remaining structures function is not sustainable, he said, so they decided to launch the project to ease the burden.

So far around one million euros (nearly $1.2 million) have already been raised. Zenari said he hopes there continues to be a “positive response,” and would like the project to extend beyond three years.

The project is being done “with a lot of transparency and a lot of competency,” he said, adding that the nunciature is also collaborating  with a well-known local NGO which helps them with technical training.

With some 13 million people still in need of humanitarian assistance, according to U.N. estimates, the funds raised will support a variety of causes. The first and most urgent need is healthcare, Zenari said, but noted that there is also need for food, work, and education, since one in three schools in Syria have closed.

As far as a possible resolution to the situation, the cardinal said, “we still don't see the end of the tunnel. It's still far away.”

“The situation is very complicated, the political situation is complicated,” he said. While there has been a decrease in violence, “this de-escalation doesn't work everywhere,” so the political situation “is far from being (resolved).”

Venerable Solanus Casey: the priest who answered the doorbell.

Vatican City, Nov 17, 2017 / 06:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Venerable Solanus Casey, a Capuchin priest from Wisconsin, was humble before all else, said the postulator of his cause for sainthood.

The life of Venerable Solanus Casey is the story of his “humility, his simplicity, as well as his acceptance of whatever life gave him,” Franciscan-Capuchin Fr. Carlo Calloni told CNA Nov. 15.

Fr. Solanus Casey is an American-born Capuchin priest who died in 1957. He will be beatified at a Nov. 18 Mass in Detroit. Known for his great faith, attention to the sick, and ability as a spiritual counselor, he will be the second American-born male to be beatified.

As the general postulator for the Order of Friars Minor-Capuchin, Fr. Calloni is well-versed in the life and virtues of Venerable Solanus Casey, who he told CNA had a gift for listening and for consolation.

“He became the friar at the door of the monastery, who welcomes your spiritual needs but also answers to your physical needs or material difficulties,” he said.

“There was no one, after visiting Solanus Casey at the door of the monastery, who returned with nothing. Everyone received something, spiritual or material.”

The priest’s humility began even in his youth, Fr. Calloni said. Born on Nov. 25, 1870 to a family of Irish immigrants, he work from a young ag at a variety of jobs, including as a lumberjack, prison guard and tram driver.

Around the age of 20, he felt a strong desire to become a priest, entering the seminary at Milwaukee. But he had many difficulties in his studies there, Fr. Calloni explained, “especially to learn German and Latin, the languages in which theology was taught” at the time.
 
After the seminary encouraged him to enter a religious order, he joined the Capuchin Franciscans in Detroit and after struggling through his studies, was ordained in 1904 a “sacerdos simplex” – a priest who can say Mass, but not publicly preach or hear confessions.

Because he was a “sacerdos simplex” he was given the same jobs as lay brothers of the order; he worked as an assistant to the janitor, the cook, and the tailor. For 21 years he was the porter at St. Bonaventure Monastery in Detroit, assigned to answer the door whenever it rang.

“He accepted performing even these humble services, and in this he fulfilled, as it is said, God’s design for him,” Fr. Calloni said.

Eventually, because of his humility and good counsel, people began to seek out Fr. Solanus for spiritual guidance.

Over the course of his life “he also wrote many letters in reply to the people who asked him for advice.”

Fr. Solanus Casey died from erysipelas, a skin disease, on July 31, 1957, at the age of 87. Since then many people have received favors from his intercession. And on May 4, Pope Francis recognized a miracle attributed to his intercession, paving the way for his beatification.

Calloni said because the miracle is a “delicate” matter, he could only speak of it in general terms, but said it occurred to a Panamanian woman who was invited to visit Detroit by Capuchin Franciscan missionaries.

During her visit, the woman, who had a grave and incurable genetic skin disease, visited and prayed at the tomb of Fr. Solanus. Like many devotees, she wrote a note to place at the tomb, asking for a special grace or favor.

She prayed for a long list of family and friends, but then was moved to ask for something for herself. “And she asked only to have a greater faith. This is all,” Fr. Calloni said. She was completely healed.

“The figure of Solanus Casey is well known in Detroit,” he said. “He is truly in the heart of the city. Precisely because he accepted everyone to his door. He did not refuse anyone: the color of the skin, religion, social condition. He really was a man of great spirituality, of great faith.”

 

Ahead of Burma visit, Pope says he's coming to promote peace

Vatican City, Nov 17, 2017 / 05:29 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Friday, Pope Francis sent a video greeting to the people of Burma – also known as Myanmar – ahead of his Nov. 27-30 trip, saying he is coming to proclaim the Gospel and promote peace in a country gripped by a heated humanitarian and political crisis surrounding the Rohingya Muslim minority.

In the video, published Nov. 17, the said he wants to “confirm the Catholic community of Myanmar in its faith in God and in its testimony of the Gospel, which teaches the dignity of every man and woman, and demands (us) to open our hearts to others, especially to the poor and the needy.”

Above all, Francis said he is coming “to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ: a message of reconciliation, forgiveness and peace.”

The visit to Burma is the first of two stops in a Nov. 27-Dec. 2 trip that will also take Pope Francis to Bangladesh.

It also takes place amid an uptick in state-supported violence against Burma's Rohingya Muslim community – an ethnic and religious minority – which in recent months has reached staggering levels, causing the United Nations to declare the situation “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

With an increase in violent persecution in their home country, many of the Rohingya population has fled to neighboring Bangladesh, with millions camping along the border as refugees.

In his video message, the Pope thanked everyone working in preparation of his visit and asked for their prayers, that it would be “a source of hope and encouragement for everyone.” He said he also hopes to visit the country in a “spirit of respect and encouragement,” so the nation may endeavor to “build harmony and cooperation in serving the common good.”

Many people at this time, both believers and people of goodwill, feel an increasing need to grow in mutual understanding and respect as “members of the only human family,” he said, “because we are all children of God.”

The Pope’s pastoral visit to Burma and Bangladesh was officially announced by the Vatican in August and a first draft of his schedule was released Oct. 10. He will be in Burma Nov. 27-30 and in Bangladesh Nov. 30-Dec. 2.

Pope Francis will leave the Vatican in the evening on Nov. 26, landing the following day in Yangon, the largest city in Burma, where he will stay during the first portion of his trip. After the official welcoming, he will have time to rest before the full-schedule begins the next day.

On Tuesday, Nov. 28, he will fly to Nay Pyi Taw, where there will be another official welcoming and arrival ceremony and an official visit with President Htin Kyaw.

He will then meet with the state advisor and minister of foreign affairs, before an encounter with other government authorities, leaders of civil society and the diplomatic corps, where he will give his first official speech of the visit.

The following morning Francis will celebrate Mass at the Kyaikkasan Grounds park. In the afternoon he will give speeches at separate meeting with the Supreme Council of “Sangha,” a term referring to Buddhist clergy in the country, and in a meeting with the bishops of Burma.

He will conclude his visit to Burma with a Mass for young people at the Cathedral of St. Mary’s in the morning of Nov. 30 before departing for Dhaka in Bangladesh.

Catholics in Burma are a small minority, only making up approximately 1.3 percent of a population of nearly 52 million. There are also few priests - only one per every 742 Catholics.

Ahead of Burma visit, Pope says he's coming to promote peace

Vatican City, Nov 17, 2017 / 05:29 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Friday, Pope Francis sent a video greeting to the people of Burma – also known as Myanmar – ahead of his Nov. 27-30 trip, saying he is coming to proclaim the Gospel and promote peace in a country gripped by a heated humanitarian and political crisis surrounding the Rohingya Muslim minority.

In the video, published Nov. 17, the said he wants to “confirm the Catholic community of Myanmar in its faith in God and in its testimony of the Gospel, which teaches the dignity of every man and woman, and demands (us) to open our hearts to others, especially to the poor and the needy.”

Above all, Francis said he is coming “to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ: a message of reconciliation, forgiveness and peace.”

The visit to Burma is the first of two stops in a Nov. 27-Dec. 2 trip that will also take Pope Francis to Bangladesh.

It also takes place amid an uptick in state-supported violence against Burma's Rohingya Muslim community – an ethnic and religious minority – which in recent months has reached staggering levels, causing the United Nations to declare the situation “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

With an increase in violent persecution in their home country, many of the Rohingya population has fled to neighboring Bangladesh, with millions camping along the border as refugees.

In his video message, the Pope thanked everyone working in preparation of his visit and asked for their prayers, that it would be “a source of hope and encouragement for everyone.” He said he also hopes to visit the country in a “spirit of respect and encouragement,” so the nation may endeavor to “build harmony and cooperation in serving the common good.”

Many people at this time, both believers and people of goodwill, feel an increasing need to grow in mutual understanding and respect as “members of the only human family,” he said, “because we are all children of God.”

The Pope’s pastoral visit to Burma and Bangladesh was officially announced by the Vatican in August and a first draft of his schedule was released Oct. 10. He will be in Burma Nov. 27-30 and in Bangladesh Nov. 30-Dec. 2.

Pope Francis will leave the Vatican in the evening on Nov. 26, landing the following day in Yangon, the largest city in Burma, where he will stay during the first portion of his trip. After the official welcoming, he will have time to rest before the full-schedule begins the next day.

On Tuesday, Nov. 28, he will fly to Nay Pyi Taw, where there will be another official welcoming and arrival ceremony and an official visit with President Htin Kyaw.

He will then meet with the state advisor and minister of foreign affairs, before an encounter with other government authorities, leaders of civil society and the diplomatic corps, where he will give his first official speech of the visit.

The following morning Francis will celebrate Mass at the Kyaikkasan Grounds park. In the afternoon he will give speeches at separate meeting with the Supreme Council of “Sangha,” a term referring to Buddhist clergy in the country, and in a meeting with the bishops of Burma.

He will conclude his visit to Burma with a Mass for young people at the Cathedral of St. Mary’s in the morning of Nov. 30 before departing for Dhaka in Bangladesh.

Catholics in Burma are a small minority, only making up approximately 1.3 percent of a population of nearly 52 million. There are also few priests - only one per every 742 Catholics.

Who was Albino Luciani, the 'smiling Pope'?

Vatican City, Nov 17, 2017 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Last week Albino Luciani, better known by his papal name, John Paul I, took the next step on the path to sainthood. Yet apart from the fame garnered by various theories that sprouted due to the enigmatic nature of his death, for many little is known of his saintly life and brief pontificate.

Born Oct. 17, 1912, in Italy’s northern Veneto region, Albino Luciani, known also as “the smiling Pope,” was elected Bishop of Rome Aug. 26, 1978. He made history when he became the first Pope to take a double name, after his two immediate predecessors, St. John XXIII and Bl. Paul VI.

He sent shock waves around the world when he died unexpectedly just 33 days later, making his one of the shortest pontificates in the history of the Church.

In addition to the novelty of his name and the surprise of his death, Luciani was also the first Pope born in the 20th century, and is also the most recent Italian-born Bishop of Rome.

Yet behind all the novelty of the month before his death and mystery of those that ensued, John Paul I has been hailed as a man of heroic humility and extraordinary simplicity, with a firm commitment to carrying forward the reforms of the Second Vatican Council and a knack for explaining complicated Church concepts in a way everyone can understand.

Life and background

Coming from a northern region in Italy that borders Austria, Luciani grew up with people from all cultures and backgrounds passing through. The area saw high levels of immigration and strong activity on the part of Catholic movements.

The priests around whom Luciani grew up had a keen social awareness and involvement with the faithful.

While all the basic needs of his family were met, Luciani grew up in relative poverty, with his father gone most of the time for work. However, according to Stefania Falasca, vice-postulator of his cause for canonization, this background gave the future Pope “a huge cultural suitcase” that he was able to bring with him in his various endevours.

Ordained a priest of the Diocese of Belluno e Feltre July 7, 1935, at the age of 22, Luciani was rector of the diocese's seminary for 10 years. He taught various courses throughout his tenure, including dogmatic and moral theology, canon law, and sacred art.

In 1941 he received a dispensation from Ven. Pius XII to continue teaching while pursuing his doctorate in Sacred Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University.

He was named Bishop of Vittorio Veneto by St. John XXIII in 1958.

In 1969 he was named Patriarch of Venice by Bl. Paul VI. He was elevated to the cardinalate in 1973, and was elected Bishop of Rome five years later.

Literature also played a key role in Luciani's formation. According to Falasca, he had a library full of books in different languages and a special fondness for Anglo-American literature.

Though he knew English, French, German and Russian, his favorite authors were from the Anglo world, and included authors such as G.K. Chesterton, Willa Cather, and Mark Twain.

As cardinal, he wrote his own book called “Illustrissimi,” which is a series of letters penned to a variety of historical and fictional persons, including Jesus, King David, Figaro the Barber, Austrian Empress Maria Theresa Habsburg, Pinocchio, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, and Christopher Marlowe.

Luciani, Falasca said, was considered by Paul VI to be “one of the most advanced theologians” of the time, and was held in high esteem because he not just knew theology, but also knew how to explain it.

The clarity he had was “highly considered right away among the Italian bishops,” she said. “He was considered the brightest pen because of this 'cultural suitcase,' which knew how to synthesize in a very delicate writing, but clear and full of references.”

Luciani, she said, had “an ease of language” in his writing, which was coupled with “a solid theological preparation,” making him both credible and accessible.

Pontificate – 'an Apostle of the Council'

John Paul I above all else was “a son of the Council,” Falasca said. Luciani “translated and communicated the directives in a natural and simple way … So he was an apostle of the Council in this sense.”

“He explained it, he put it into practice, he put the directives into action in a crystalline way.” It was this desire to carry the Council forward that formed the basis for his priorities during his 33 days in office.  

Among these priorities was a “renewed sense of mission” for the Church, Falasca said, explaining that for Luciani, to accomplish this mission it was important “to go back to the sources of the Gospel.”

“This, you can say, was the meaning of the Council for Luciani.” And for him, going to the sources also meant “communicating the Gospel in simplicity and conforming his ministry” to it.

In addition to mission, John Paul I also placed a special emphasis on spiritual poverty in the Church and the search for peace and ecumenism.

Ecumenism and dialogue in particular are topics Luciani felt were “a duty that is part of being a Christian.”

Collegiality also was another key topic for Luciani, and it was the subject of his only written intervention during the Council, which he contributed in 1963.

Luciani also placed a strong emphasis on mercy, Falasca said, explaining that in many ways he was “was the Pope of mercy 'par excellence,'” and was known for his warm and friendly demeanor.  

These priorities can be clearly seen in the four general audiences John Paul I gave during his pontificate, with the subjects being poverty, faith, hope, and charity.

And the way he spoke about these and other topics, with “the simplicity of his approach (and) of his language,” left “an indelible memory in the People of God,” Falasca said.

John Paul I, she said, moved people with his naturalness and his ordinary way of speaking to the faithful.

Luciani had put this quality into writing long before his pontificate when in 1949, he published his first book, titled “Catechesis in Crumbs,” which focused on how to teach the essential truths of the faith in a simple and direct way, understandable to everyone.

Death

When John Paul I died 33 days after his election, his sudden and unexpected death led to various conspiracy theories that Luciani had been murdered.

However, in a book titled “John Paul I: The Chronicle of a Death” and published Nov. 7 to coincide with the announcement that Luciani's sainthood cause was moving forward, Falasca dispels the theories by outlining the evidence gathered on John Paul I’s death while researching for his cause.

In the book, she recounts how the evening before his death Luciani suffered a severe pain in his chest for about five minutes, a symptom of a heart problem, which occurred while he was praying Vespers with his Irish secretary, Msgr. John Magee, before dinner.

The Pope rejected the suggestion to call for a doctor when the pain subsided, and his doctor, Renato Buzzonetti, was only informed of the episode after his death.

Heroic Virtue

Luciani's prime virtue was humility, which is “the base without which you can't go toward God.” Humility, Falasca said, “was so embedded in him, that he understood it as the only way to reach Christ.”

Luciani's connection with the Lord was also evident in the way that he spoke about God, she said, explaining that he was able to make the love of God close to people, and felt by them.

Falasca said she believes he is an ideal model of the priesthood. To this end, she recalled how during her time working on Luciani's cause, many young priests came to her saying they felt the call of their vocation when they saw his election on TV.  

Another sign of his sanctity was the “spontaneous reputation” that grew over time, and is a “distinctive sign” in determining the heroic virtue of a person.

“The reputation for holiness is the condition 'sine quo non' (without which it could not be) to open a cause of canonization; there must be a reputation,” she said, and “Luciani enjoys much of it, and he enjoys it not in an artificial way.”

Many people pray to him and have continued to travel to his birth town over the past 40 years, she said, because people are attracted “by his charm.”

“He won over many with his stand in the face of contemporaneity, his closeness to the people of his time with that simplicity and with that familiarity of communication.”

Luciani opened “a new season in being and in the exercise of the Petrine ministry...with his charm, which knew how to conjugate in perfect synthesis, in my view, what was old and what was new.”

He also lived an extraordinary sense of poverty of spirit as seen in the Beatitudes, and had an “extreme fidelity to the Gospel in the circumstance and the status that he embraced.”

In a testimony given for documentation in the Luciani's cause for canonization, Benedict XVI said that when Luciani appeared on the balcony in his white cassock after his election, “we were all deeply impressed by his humility and his goodness.”

“Even during the meals, then, he was took a place with us. So thanks to a direct contact we immediately understood that the right Pope had been elected.”

Benedict XVI's testimony regarding John Paul I is four pages long and is one of the documents included in Falasca's book. In her comments to CNA, she said they had originally planned to interview him in 2005 while he was still a cardinal, but he was elected Pope on the same day he was scheduled to speak, and since a Pope is technically the one judging a saints' cause, he is not allowed to give testimony for it.

However, there are currently no previsions for a retired Pope, so when Benedict XVI resigned in 2013, Falasca and her team advancing Luciani's cause reached out again, receiving the testimony that has now been published in her book.

In his testimony, Benedict recalled that he first met Luciani while the latter was Patriarch of Venice. He had decided to visit the seminary in Bressanone with his brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, for vacation in August 1977, shortly after becoming a bishop.

Luciani came to visit the brothers after learning of their visit, and to go out of his way to do this in the oppressive heat of August “was a expression of a nobility of spirit that went well beyond usual,” Benedict wrote. “The cordiality, simplicity and goodness that he showed to me are indelibly impressed in my memory.”

Benedict said he was shocked when he received news of John Paul I's death in the middle of the night and didn't initially believe it, but slowly accepted the news in Mass the next day, during which the celebrant offered prayer for the “deceased Pope John Paul I.”

Speaking of John Paul I's pontificate, Benedict noted that in 1978 it was evident that “the post-conciliar Church was passing through a great crisis, and the good figure of John Paul I, who was a courageous man on the basis of faith, represented a sign of hope.” And this figure, he said, still represents “a message” for the Church today.

Benedict also noted that during the various public speeches Luciani gave, whether it was a general audience or a Sunday Angelus, the late Pope “spoke several times off-the-cuff and with the heart, touching the people in a much more direct way.”

Luciani often called children up to him during general audiences to ask them about their faith, Benedict said, explaining that “his simplicity and his love for simple people were convincing. And yet, behind that simplicity was a great and rich formation, especially of the literary type.”

So far hundreds of graces and favors have been recorded for those who pray to Luciani, and there are already two miracles being studied and considered for his beatification and eventual canonization. Falasca said they are currently trying to decide which to present first.

Who was Albino Luciani, the 'smiling Pope'?

Vatican City, Nov 17, 2017 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Last week Albino Luciani, better known by his papal name, John Paul I, took the next step on the path to sainthood. Yet apart from the fame garnered by various theories that sprouted due to the enigmatic nature of his death, for many little is known of his saintly life and brief pontificate.

Born Oct. 17, 1912, in Italy’s northern Veneto region, Albino Luciani, known also as “the smiling Pope,” was elected Bishop of Rome Aug. 26, 1978. He made history when he became the first Pope to take a double name, after his two immediate predecessors, St. John XXIII and Bl. Paul VI.

He sent shock waves around the world when he died unexpectedly just 33 days later, making his one of the shortest pontificates in the history of the Church.

In addition to the novelty of his name and the surprise of his death, Luciani was also the first Pope born in the 20th century, and is also the most recent Italian-born Bishop of Rome.

Yet behind all the novelty of the month before his death and mystery of those that ensued, John Paul I has been hailed as a man of heroic humility and extraordinary simplicity, with a firm commitment to carrying forward the reforms of the Second Vatican Council and a knack for explaining complicated Church concepts in a way everyone can understand.

Life and background

Coming from a northern region in Italy that borders Austria, Luciani grew up with people from all cultures and backgrounds passing through. The area saw high levels of immigration and strong activity on the part of Catholic movements.

The priests around whom Luciani grew up had a keen social awareness and involvement with the faithful.

While all the basic needs of his family were met, Luciani grew up in relative poverty, with his father gone most of the time for work. However, according to Stefania Falasca, vice-postulator of his cause for canonization, this background gave the future Pope “a huge cultural suitcase” that he was able to bring with him in his various endevours.

Ordained a priest of the Diocese of Belluno e Feltre July 7, 1935, at the age of 22, Luciani was rector of the diocese's seminary for 10 years. He taught various courses throughout his tenure, including dogmatic and moral theology, canon law, and sacred art.

In 1941 he received a dispensation from Ven. Pius XII to continue teaching while pursuing his doctorate in Sacred Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University.

He was named Bishop of Vittorio Veneto by St. John XXIII in 1958.

In 1969 he was named Patriarch of Venice by Bl. Paul VI. He was elevated to the cardinalate in 1973, and was elected Bishop of Rome five years later.

Literature also played a key role in Luciani's formation. According to Falasca, he had a library full of books in different languages and a special fondness for Anglo-American literature.

Though he knew English, French, German and Russian, his favorite authors were from the Anglo world, and included authors such as G.K. Chesterton, Willa Cather, and Mark Twain.

As cardinal, he wrote his own book called “Illustrissimi,” which is a series of letters penned to a variety of historical and fictional persons, including Jesus, King David, Figaro the Barber, Austrian Empress Maria Theresa Habsburg, Pinocchio, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, and Christopher Marlowe.

Luciani, Falasca said, was considered by Paul VI to be “one of the most advanced theologians” of the time, and was held in high esteem because he not just knew theology, but also knew how to explain it.

The clarity he had was “highly considered right away among the Italian bishops,” she said. “He was considered the brightest pen because of this 'cultural suitcase,' which knew how to synthesize in a very delicate writing, but clear and full of references.”

Luciani, she said, had “an ease of language” in his writing, which was coupled with “a solid theological preparation,” making him both credible and accessible.

Pontificate – 'an Apostle of the Council'

John Paul I above all else was “a son of the Council,” Falasca said. Luciani “translated and communicated the directives in a natural and simple way … So he was an apostle of the Council in this sense.”

“He explained it, he put it into practice, he put the directives into action in a crystalline way.” It was this desire to carry the Council forward that formed the basis for his priorities during his 33 days in office.  

Among these priorities was a “renewed sense of mission” for the Church, Falasca said, explaining that for Luciani, to accomplish this mission it was important “to go back to the sources of the Gospel.”

“This, you can say, was the meaning of the Council for Luciani.” And for him, going to the sources also meant “communicating the Gospel in simplicity and conforming his ministry” to it.

In addition to mission, John Paul I also placed a special emphasis on spiritual poverty in the Church and the search for peace and ecumenism.

Ecumenism and dialogue in particular are topics Luciani felt were “a duty that is part of being a Christian.”

Collegiality also was another key topic for Luciani, and it was the subject of his only written intervention during the Council, which he contributed in 1963.

Luciani also placed a strong emphasis on mercy, Falasca said, explaining that in many ways he was “was the Pope of mercy 'par excellence,'” and was known for his warm and friendly demeanor.  

These priorities can be clearly seen in the four general audiences John Paul I gave during his pontificate, with the subjects being poverty, faith, hope, and charity.

And the way he spoke about these and other topics, with “the simplicity of his approach (and) of his language,” left “an indelible memory in the People of God,” Falasca said.

John Paul I, she said, moved people with his naturalness and his ordinary way of speaking to the faithful.

Luciani had put this quality into writing long before his pontificate when in 1949, he published his first book, titled “Catechesis in Crumbs,” which focused on how to teach the essential truths of the faith in a simple and direct way, understandable to everyone.

Death

When John Paul I died 33 days after his election, his sudden and unexpected death led to various conspiracy theories that Luciani had been murdered.

However, in a book titled “John Paul I: The Chronicle of a Death” and published Nov. 7 to coincide with the announcement that Luciani's sainthood cause was moving forward, Falasca dispels the theories by outlining the evidence gathered on John Paul I’s death while researching for his cause.

In the book, she recounts how the evening before his death Luciani suffered a severe pain in his chest for about five minutes, a symptom of a heart problem, which occurred while he was praying Vespers with his Irish secretary, Msgr. John Magee, before dinner.

The Pope rejected the suggestion to call for a doctor when the pain subsided, and his doctor, Renato Buzzonetti, was only informed of the episode after his death.

Heroic Virtue

Luciani's prime virtue was humility, which is “the base without which you can't go toward God.” Humility, Falasca said, “was so embedded in him, that he understood it as the only way to reach Christ.”

Luciani's connection with the Lord was also evident in the way that he spoke about God, she said, explaining that he was able to make the love of God close to people, and felt by them.

Falasca said she believes he is an ideal model of the priesthood. To this end, she recalled how during her time working on Luciani's cause, many young priests came to her saying they felt the call of their vocation when they saw his election on TV.  

Another sign of his sanctity was the “spontaneous reputation” that grew over time, and is a “distinctive sign” in determining the heroic virtue of a person.

“The reputation for holiness is the condition 'sine quo non' (without which it could not be) to open a cause of canonization; there must be a reputation,” she said, and “Luciani enjoys much of it, and he enjoys it not in an artificial way.”

Many people pray to him and have continued to travel to his birth town over the past 40 years, she said, because people are attracted “by his charm.”

“He won over many with his stand in the face of contemporaneity, his closeness to the people of his time with that simplicity and with that familiarity of communication.”

Luciani opened “a new season in being and in the exercise of the Petrine ministry...with his charm, which knew how to conjugate in perfect synthesis, in my view, what was old and what was new.”

He also lived an extraordinary sense of poverty of spirit as seen in the Beatitudes, and had an “extreme fidelity to the Gospel in the circumstance and the status that he embraced.”

In a testimony given for documentation in the Luciani's cause for canonization, Benedict XVI said that when Luciani appeared on the balcony in his white cassock after his election, “we were all deeply impressed by his humility and his goodness.”

“Even during the meals, then, he was took a place with us. So thanks to a direct contact we immediately understood that the right Pope had been elected.”

Benedict XVI's testimony regarding John Paul I is four pages long and is one of the documents included in Falasca's book. In her comments to CNA, she said they had originally planned to interview him in 2005 while he was still a cardinal, but he was elected Pope on the same day he was scheduled to speak, and since a Pope is technically the one judging a saints' cause, he is not allowed to give testimony for it.

However, there are currently no previsions for a retired Pope, so when Benedict XVI resigned in 2013, Falasca and her team advancing Luciani's cause reached out again, receiving the testimony that has now been published in her book.

In his testimony, Benedict recalled that he first met Luciani while the latter was Patriarch of Venice. He had decided to visit the seminary in Bressanone with his brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, for vacation in August 1977, shortly after becoming a bishop.

Luciani came to visit the brothers after learning of their visit, and to go out of his way to do this in the oppressive heat of August “was a expression of a nobility of spirit that went well beyond usual,” Benedict wrote. “The cordiality, simplicity and goodness that he showed to me are indelibly impressed in my memory.”

Benedict said he was shocked when he received news of John Paul I's death in the middle of the night and didn't initially believe it, but slowly accepted the news in Mass the next day, during which the celebrant offered prayer for the “deceased Pope John Paul I.”

Speaking of John Paul I's pontificate, Benedict noted that in 1978 it was evident that “the post-conciliar Church was passing through a great crisis, and the good figure of John Paul I, who was a courageous man on the basis of faith, represented a sign of hope.” And this figure, he said, still represents “a message” for the Church today.

Benedict also noted that during the various public speeches Luciani gave, whether it was a general audience or a Sunday Angelus, the late Pope “spoke several times off-the-cuff and with the heart, touching the people in a much more direct way.”

Luciani often called children up to him during general audiences to ask them about their faith, Benedict said, explaining that “his simplicity and his love for simple people were convincing. And yet, behind that simplicity was a great and rich formation, especially of the literary type.”

So far hundreds of graces and favors have been recorded for those who pray to Luciani, and there are already two miracles being studied and considered for his beatification and eventual canonization. Falasca said they are currently trying to decide which to present first.

The story of an underground Catholic priest in China

Madrid, Spain, Nov 17, 2017 / 12:15 am (ACI Prensa).- Fr. Joseph of Jesus is a Chinese priest, faithful to the Catholic Church. Life is not easy for Catholics in China. Those who adhere to Rome are persecuted by the Chinese government, which only grants freedom of worship to those belonging to the state-controlled Patriotic Church.

Fr. Joseph recently shared his story on the “In the Footsteps of the Nazarene” program by the EUK Mamie Foundation, run by the Home of the Mother of Youth congregation of religious sisters.

His back faces the camera in the interview, and the precise details of his life in China, as well as his precise location – he is currently in Europe – are withheld for security reasons.

Fr. Joseph described what it was like growing up in a Catholic family in China. He is the third of five children, despite the rigid one-child policy instituted by the Chinese government.

“From time to time when the police would come into town, my parents had to go into hiding, away from us,” he said. “My older brother took care of us, we also had to hide everything we had in the house, because if the government discovered there was more than one child, they could take everything away from us.”

“Because they had more than one child, some Catholic parents had their houses destroyed and they were left with nothing,” the priest said.

“It was a test of faith, because as a child you don't understand why it is that because you're Catholic you have to live on less food and be separated from your parents,” he said.

However, he still persevered in his faith. His brother is also a Catholic priest.

The Catholic faith was maintained through “the domestic Church,” with families praying Lauds or Vespers secretly, and especially the Rosary.

“The Rosary is what gave us the strength for years because we didn't have the sacraments or priests; but the faithful prayed every day at least one Rosary in the early morning and another one at night,” and at the end they said a “prayer to Our Lady of Fatima who gave us the strength to live as true Christians,” he recounted.

At age 15, Fr. Joseph felt that he was being called to the priesthood.

“I was thinking that in China there are a lot of people who don't know Christ and the Catholic Church because we Christians are a minority,” he said. “So I thought that when I finished my studies I would go to the seminary and become a priest. That moment changed my life because I saw what the Lord wanted for me.”

He was inspired in his decision by the local pastor in the area, a dedicated priest responsible for 60 villages, who would celebrate Mass in the five largest villages, traveling from one to the next by bicycle.

“He's an example of faithfulness to Christ and the Church because he didn't want to be part of the official Chinese church and consequently he had to spend some time in prison or under house arrest,” Fr. Joseph said.

However, the priest accepted the sufferings that came to him, Fr. Joseph said, adding that at more than 80 years of age, that priest still wakes up at 3:30 every morning to pray and celebrate Mass.

“His exemplary life was decisive for me in finding my vocation. He is a priest for everyone, with such exemplary dedication.”

For more than 60 years, Catholics have faced persecution in China. The government-endorsed church, known as the “Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association” is loyal to Chinese communist authorities, who claim the right to decide whom to appoint as bishops, an authority that the Catholic Church reserves to the Pope.

Catholics who choose to remain loyal to Rome, particularly to the Pope’s juridical authority to appoint bishops autonomously, make up the “underground Church,” with its own bishops, priests, and lay faithful.

“There are…30 bishops of the underground Church who are not recognized by the state and so they cannot freely exercise their ministry,” Fr. Joseph said. “They are under house arrest and under surveillance, there are people who monitor their visits, whom they meet and their topics of conversation. Priestly ordinations are done in secret with no else knowing about it.”

Being part of the Catholic Patriotic Association would make life easier – with public Masses, a regular schedule, and the right to worship freely. But Fr. Joseph chooses to remain loyal to Rome despite the hardships.

“Fundamentally it's not the same because the Church is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic,” he said. “The Patriotic Church is independent from Rome and I can't accept that, because of my faith.”

Challenges abound, but the life of underground Christians in China is a witness of faith, Fr. Joseph said.

He asked for prayers that Chinese Christians may remain faithful, because “they teach us that the faith is much more precious than life, and that in living the faith we encounter Christ. We have to bear witness to those around us so those who don't know the faith can find it.”

 

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

 

Europe must be built on responsible freedom, EU religious freedom envoy says

Vatican City, Nov 16, 2017 / 09:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The European Union’s special envoy for religious freedom has called for “responsible freedom,” in the wake of the Vatican-based (Re)Thinking Europe conference, held Oct. 27 – 29 in the Vatican.
 
In an interview with CNA, EU Special Envoy Jan Figel stressed that “Christians should contribute to a free and one, reconciled and united Europe, by their active responsibility on all levels of public life.”
 
He underscored that “responsible freedom is what we all need. Without responsibility, freedom remains immature, or even ceases to exist, becoming an easy victim of populism extremism or even suffer for various ideology.”
 
A former EU Commissioner for School and Education, Jan Figel was appointed in May 2016 as the Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion and Belief outside the European Union. Figel is a native of Slovakia, and a well-known figure in Slovakian and European politics.

The appointment of an EU Special Envoy for Religious Freedom was announced in 2016, after Pope Francis was awarded the Charlemagne Prize by EU Commission President Jean Claude Juncker.  The Pope stressed the importance of protecting religious freedom when he received the prize.

As special envoy, Figel took part in last month’s (Re)Thinking Europe gathering, which brought European leaders together to reflect on the culture, heritage, and future of the continent.  Figel said the conference was an occasion to discuss religious freedom in Europe, and around the globe.
 
“Freedom is a great human gift and phenomenon, but without responsibility it is not sustainable,” Figel told CNA.
 
“Freedom needs maturity via active citizenship. We are free to choose, to decide, but only by seeking the common good will we strengthen our freedom. Decisions opposed to the freedoms and fundamental rights of others weaken or even eliminate overall freedom in society,” he added.
 
On the other hand, Figel said, “responsible freedom recognizes and respects duties and obligations together with rights. Our modern sense of unilateral, rights-only ‘freedom’ undermines and erodes the freedom of a whole society. My rights are possible and achievable only by respecting my obligations towards the others and towards the community I live in. This balanced attitude represents mature acting, and builds up responsible freedom”.
 
Figel emphasized that “Christians have been very active in the process of European integration. Their political contribution was unquestionable, even decisive through leaders like Schuman, Adenauer, De Gasperi, Monet and others.”
 
“Today Christians should not stay aside or lament over the situation, but the opposite, they should  bring again what is missing and needed for European renewal: fundamental values, personal commitment and spirit of unity. These contributions cannot be generated by the market, by the euro or by geography. They are fruits of responsible freedom, sense of solidarity and goodwill, and of reasonable, true solutions of problems,” he said.
 
“Europe knows very well two distinct lines of social evolution through the lessons of the twentieth century. And therefore Europe should embrace and promote the essential value of freedom of religion or belief much more actively.”
 
Figel explained that “freedom of religion is a litmus test of all human rights, because if this is disregarded, other political and civil rights are restricted as well. I can speak a lot about this lesson from experiences in communist Czechoslovakia and in the Soviet bloc countries.”
 
While Figel’s mandate concerns promoting religious liberty outside of Europe, he spoke with CNA about Europe’s own struggles to secure freedom of religion.  According to the 2016 Aid to the Church in Need Report for Religious Freedom in the World, religious liberty continues to be threatened in several European nations.   

Jan Figel noted that “internal and external EU policies are two parts of the same community agenda. Therefore more attention, fair engagement in favor of freedom of religion internationally can help to renew European commitment at home. This is one of the reasons why my mandate as special envoy is oriented outside the EU, but at the same time connected with the Lisbon Treaty.”
 
The Lisbon Treaty is an international agreement that is the legal basis for the European Union. The treaty calls for dialogue and respect between EU nations and churches, religious associations and philosophical and non-confessional organizations.
 
Figel told CNA that Pope Francis is an important figure for the protection of religious liberty in Europe. He said that the Pope “clearly understands the importance of freedom of religion for Europe, but for global development as well.”
 
Figel praised the Pope’s recognition of “dignity, justice, solidarity and dialogue” as pillars of European identity.

“I see how important these principles and pillars are becoming for Europe and for the world as well,” he said.
 
Figel said that “human dignity is the first and foundational value for people everywhere, especially after a century of genocides, starting in Armenia one hundred years ago, up to mass atrocities recently committed by ISIS. Peace is the fruit of justice. To work for justice, especially at the UN institutions, is the best war-preventive measure.”
 
He added that the Pope’s principles “are needed if contemporary Europe is to become true the holder of its destiny, leader of humanity, protector of democracy, and example of universal solidarity. And such a Europe will serve as a source of hope and integral humanism for both its people and for the world. This is message of Robert Schuman and of EU’s founding fathers to our generation. I share this dream and vision”.
 
As Europe begins to understand its identity, Figel said, “then reasonable reforms and policies must follow, responding to for today´s wave of frustration, populism and extremism.”

Figel said that now is the time for Europe to “shift from politics of identities to the ethics of responsibilities, without abandoning the importance of any identity, without questioning the diversity of our cultures, nations and religions. Unity, but not uniformity, based on equal dignity of all people is both a noble vision and a practical need. Christians and the Church historically offered a tremendous spiritual inspiration, a treasury of experience, and good tools to build and promote such a reconciled human community.”