The church in the U.S. should not and cannot ignore the ever-increasing Latino population, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia said Saturday, because they are the future of the Church in America.
Before launching into his full Aug. 16 address to the Catholic Association of Latino Leaders national conference in Houston, the archbishop paused to remember and to pray for the young undocumented immigrants on the southern border who “are stuck in an ugly kind of limbo.”
“There’s simply no excuse for the suffering of children and families,” he said. “I hope each of us will find time today to pray for the young people caught in our immigration mess, and also for the officials who need to deal with this reality quickly and humanely.”
CALL is a national organization dedicated to the growth and spiritual formation of the Latino leaders of the U.S. in their knowledge and understanding of the faith.
Continuing his talk, Archbishop Chaput noted that one of the biggest challenges facing the Church in America is creating a just and wholesome society in the face of an increasingly secular culture. But changes in culture, he said, must begin with patterning one’s heart and personal life after Christ.
“If we really want God to renew the Church, then we need to act like it. We need to take the Gospel seriously. And that means we need to live it as a guide to our daily behavior and choices – without excuses.”
But this challenge is not new to the church, and history often repeats itself, the Archbishop noted.
“Sometimes the best way to move forward as a culture is to look back first,” he said, illustrating his point with a story about the Cathars, followers of a dualistic heresy that flourished in the 12th century.
“That can sound harmless to modern ears,” he said. “But their beliefs had deeply destructive implications for the fabric of medieval society.”
Cathars believed that all matter or anything with a human influence was evil and corrupt. They rejected marriage, family life, government, and the church, and ultimately believed the human race should stop reproducing in order to be free of the corruption of created matter.
Although their beliefs may sound outlandish, Cathars drew in many followers because of their zeal and simplicity, which threatened the church and the political order of the day.
Even though the Albigensian Crusade was led to wipe out the Cathars, they were difficult to eliminate completely until one man, Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, had a conversion and became known as Francis of Assisi.
The purity, simplicity and zeal of St. Francis and his religious brothers soon surpassed the influence of the Cathars, and the entire church experienced a revival.
“Francis and his brothers in faith were then — and they remain today — a confirmation of how God renews the Church through a kind of gentle rebellion against the world; an uprising of personal holiness; a radical commitment to Christian poverty, chastity and obedience in service to the Church and the poor,” Archbishop Chaput said.
But what has St. Francis to do with Latinos and the Church in America?
“The Franciscan revolution of love teaches a lesson that Catholics too often forget,” Archbishop Chaput reflected. “Rules, discipline, and fidelity to doctrine and tradition are vital to the mission of the Church. But none of them can animate or sustain Catholic life if we lack the core of what it means to be a Christian.”
He said that “most of our practicing Catholics are catechized but not well evangelized. Catholics in Canada and the United States may know the ‘lyrics of the song,’ but they don’t always know the tune.”
“In contrast, most Latinos Catholics have a deep sense of God’s grandeur,” he said, noting how Latinos have a deep sense of Catholicism and devotional practice rooted in their culture. It is not uncommon to see Catholic art or hear God referenced in public in their native countries.
Latino Catholics are also more likely to refrain from receiving Communion when not in a state of grace because they truly understand the meaning of how the prayer, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you…” he said.
Therefore, Latino Catholics may know the “tune” of Catholicism, but not always the lyrics. While many remain Catholic when they come to the U.S., some fall away to protestant or evangelical communities, or, especially among young people, simply become “unaffiliated.”
And because the population in the U.S. is comprised more and more of Latinos — they make up half of the millennial generation ages 14-34 years old — the church should recognize Latino issues as issues that will affect the future of the church in America.
“I believe we are at a very powerful ‘Latino moment’ in our church — a moment that takes nothing away from the dignity or importance of any other ethnic community, but that simply acknowledges, again, that demography is destiny,” Archbishop Chaput said.
The election of the Latino Pope Francis is another example of this “Latino moment”, he said, “because the election of a Latin American Pope dramatically highlights the importance of the Latino community in our country, and it practically shouts out an invitation for Catholic Latino leadership.”
Recognizing that he doesn’t have all the answers when it comes to helping Latino in the U.S. grow in their faith, Archbishop Chaput made a few suggestions.
Bishops can attract more Catholics who are Latino in their diocese by providing more Masses in Spanish, as nearly half of the Latino population prefers Spanish Masses.
“As Pope Francis says: ‘The Church evangelizes and is herself evangelized through the beauty of the Liturgy, which is both a celebration of the task of evangelization and the source of her renewed self-giving,’” he said.
Also important is the teaching of the faith, he said, “so that our Latino brothers and sisters get to own more profoundly the substance of what we believe.”
Finally, Archbishop Chaput specifically challenged those present at the CALL conference.
“Ask yourselves if you’re really putting all your talents, all your efforts, and also your material resources into making sure that Latino Catholics receive appropriate formation,” he said, “from the most basic catechesis, to the preparation of our senior lay leaders, to the education of our future Hispanic priests.”
And so, inspired by Pope Francis and the Holy Spirit, the joy and energy of the American Latino Catholics “will mark the dawn of a new Catholic witness in this, the nation we share and love.”
Following more than a week of protests after the death of an African-American teen, the Archdiocese of St. Louis is asking Catholics to offer special prayers for peace in the coming days.
“We are all aware of the turmoil and tragedy our St. Louis community is experiencing. The residents of Ferguson, Missouri, are struggling to find peace in the chaos. As people of Christ, we are struggling to find direction in the unrest,” said Archbishop Robert J. Carlson of St. Louis in an Aug. 18 letter.
“In all circumstances, but especially in these difficult times, we are all called to be instruments of peace through our words and actions.”
Appealing for peace, the archbishop announced he will be celebrating a Mass for Peace and Justice at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, on Wednesday, Aug. 20, and will host a special collection “to assist food pantries and parishes in the Ferguson area that offer assistance to those who have been affected by the looting and destruction of property.”
Archbishop Carlson invited all the parishes “to offer Masses for peace in our community,” as well as to arrange Holy Hours, rosaries and additional special collections.
He also stated that Catholic schools within the archdiocese will “begin a daily rosary for peace and to offer special intentions during all school Masses,” as Catholic schools begin classes.
The archbishop — referencing Pope Francis’s encouragement “to ask Our Lady, the Undoer of Knots, to intercede for us in difficult circumstances” — asked Catholics to ask Mary for her prayers “for peace and justice in our community.”
The town of Ferguson, Mo., along with other communities surrounding St. Louis, have erupted in demonstrations and protests following the Aug. 9 shooting of unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown. Eyewitness reports conflict, with some saying that the 18-year-old was holding his hands in the air in a gesture of surrender as he was shot.
In the days since the shooting, vigils and protests have taken place around the St. Louis area. Some demonstrations have escalated into violence or been taken advantage of by looters. Local police have also come under criticism for the targeting of minority communities, as well as for the use of SWAT teams, tear gas and rubber bullets to disrupt peaceful demonstrations and unarmed protesters.
Reporters covering the protests, as well as numerous community members, have been arrested during the protests.
In some cases, protesters have reacted by volleying back tear gas canisters and objects towards the police.
In the days since the beginning of the protests, law enforcement duties have been transferred from local police to state highway patrol officials.
Archbishop Carlson said that he has “personally visited Ferguson and Michael Brown’s memorial to offer my prayers for everyone affected by this tragedy,” and expressed that he found strength in the face of the situation “in the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi: ‘Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.’”
USCCB Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs reasserts commitment to dialogue with Muslims
New statement cites respect for Muslims from Vatican II, popes
Expresses sadness over violence, Christians who reject engagement
Joins Pope Francis in saying dialogue leads to growth, witness and peace
The Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) reasserted their commitment to dialogue with other religions and Muslims in particular in a statement developed between October 2013 and its release August 19. The committee, which is chaired by Auxiliary Bishop Denis J. Madden of Baltimore, listed tensions between Christians in Muslims in different parts of the world as a primary reason for reaffirming the need for dialogue.
“We understand the confusion and deep emotions stirred by real and apparent acts of aggression and discrimination by certain Muslims against non-Muslims, often against Christians abroad,” the bishops wrote. “Along with many of our fellow Catholics and the many Muslims who themselves are targeted by radicals, we wish to voice our sadness, indeed our outrage, over the random and sometimes systematic acts of violence and harassment — acts that for both Christians and Muslims threaten to disrupt the harmony that binds us together in mutual support, recognition, and friendship.”
The bishops expressed sadness over “deliberate rejection” of the call to engage in dialogue with Muslims by some Christians, Catholic and not. They noted that the call to respect and dialogue comes from the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions (Nostra Aetate) and has been reaffirmed by subsequent popes. They also noted that, for nearly 20 years, their committee has dialogued with several national Muslim organizations, producing documents on education, marriage and revelation.
“Perhaps most importantly, our work together has forged true bonds of friendship that are supported by mutual esteem and ever-growing trust that enables us to speak candidly with one another in an atmosphere of respect,” the bishops wrote. “Through dialogue we have been able to work through and overcome much of our mutual ignorance, habitual distrust, and debilitating fear.”
The bishops affirmed Pope Francis’ words of November 28, 2013, to the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, that “dialogue does not mean renouncing one’s identity” nor accepting compromises on faith and morals. They wrote, “Like the pope, we are convinced that the encounter and dialogue with persons different than ourselves offers the best opportunity for fraternal growth, enrichment, witness, and ultimately peace.”
Full text of the statement is available online: http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/ecumenical-and-interreligious/interreligious/islam/dialogue-with-muslims-committee-statement.cfm
Vatican and papal statements regarding Muslims are also available online: http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/ecumenical-and-interreligious/interreligious/islam/vatican-council-and-papal-statements-on-islam.cfm
Information on Catholic-Muslim dialogues in the United States is available at: http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/ecumenical-and-interreligious/interreligious/islam/index.cfm
USCCB president, Archbishop Kurtz, calls for special collection for victims of violence in the Middle East
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has called on the bishops to consider taking up a special collection “to provide humanitarian relief and pastoral support for our affected brothers and sisters in the Middle East.” In an August 19 letter, he requested that the collection be held during the weekend of Sept. 6-7 or Sept. 13-14.
The impetus for the special appeal is a “great concern for the ongoing crisis in the Middle East, the cradle of Christianity,” Archbishop Kurtz explained in the letter. “Our Church mourns the terrible suffering of Christians and other innocent victims of violence in Iraq, Syria and Gaza who are struggling to survive, protect their children and live with dignity in dire conditions.”
Money given to the collection will be disbursed for humanitarian needs by Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and other Catholic agencies working in partnership with the local church.
These organizations, Archbishop Kurtz explained, have well-established partnerships with the Catholic Church in the region that allow them to respond quickly and efficiently to victims in some of the hardest-to-reach areas. Collection funds will also support church programs to aid persecuted Christians and for rebuilding needs of Catholic dioceses in the impacted areas.
“Our Christian brothers and sisters and other innocent victims of the violence in the Middle East urgently need the assistance of the Catholic community of the United States,” Archbishop Kurtz wrote. “Thank you for your support of this special collection and for your continued prayers for the victims of this crisis.”
The Holy See announced Tuesday that Pope Francis has asked that the faithful join him in praying for the repose of the souls of three members of his family who have been killed in a car accident.
“The Pope was informed of the tragic accident in Argentina involving some of his family, and is profoundly saddened,” Father Federico Lombardi, Holy See press officer, said Aug. 19.
“He calls upon all who share in his grief to be united with him in prayer.”
Pope Francis’ nephew, Emanuel Horacio Bergoglio, 38, was returning to Rosario from a weekend with his family in the mountains near Cordoba, in central Argentina.
Their Chevrolet Spin hit a truck carrying corn.
Emanuel is in the hospital of Villa Maria in critical condition. His wife Valeria Carmona, 39, died, along with their children, Jose, 2, and Antonio, 8 months.
The pope’s nephew is the son of his late brother, Alberto
Before any international trip Pope Francis visits Benedict XVI, a key Vatican archbishop revealed, noting the good relations between the two and how Pope Francis is carrying forward Benedict’s vision.
Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, who serves as prefect of the Pontifical Household, spoke in an all-out interview Aug. 15 with the Austrian Catholic press agency in “Kath.net” while he was in the Diocese in Freibourg.
There he led Aug. 13 the pilgrimage to the shrine of Lautenbach, in the territory of Oberkirch, where Archbishop Gaenswein served as a parish priest shortly after his priestly ordination.
Asked about the “two popes,” Archbishop Gaenswein underscored that “there is only one pope,” and then stressed that he personally is acting as a “bridge” between Pope Francis and the former pontiff, given his double charge as prefect and personal secretary of Benedict XVI.
“I live with Benedict XVI, I regularly meet with him in the morning for meals and during the evenings… so I work as a bridge, when Pope Francis and Benedict XVI want exchange messages, give one a phone call to the other, or even want to meet.”
“Usually, Pope Francis pays a visit to Benedict XVI before every international trip,” and this has become a sort of habit like that of going to pray to the Basilica of Saint Mary the Major.
Archbishop Gaenswein rejected any comparison between Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, since “the pope is not the successor of his predecessor, but the successor of Peter,” and so the differences of personas is quite normal.
“Comparing Pius XII with his successor John XXIII is like comparing day and night. And also Paul VI and John Paul II are very different,” the prefect explained.
Archbishop Gaenswein also stressed that Pope Francis is following the line given by the speech Benedict XVI’s held in Freibourg Sep. 25, 2011.
In that speech, Benedict XVI addressed the church’s tendency to “become self-satisfied, settle down in this world, becomes self sufficient and adapt herself to the standards of the world,” and underscored that “not infrequently, church gives greater weight to organization and institutionalization than to her vocation to open towards God, her vocation to opening up to the world towards the other.”
These issues are recurrent themes of Pope Francis’ preaching, who had often spoke about them, also during his voyage to South Korea.
In his meeting with Korean Bishops Aug. 14, Pope Francis underscored that “a prophetic witness to the Gospel presents particular challenges to the Church in Korea,” since the prosperous, yet increasingly secularized and materialistic society may tempt pastoral ministers lifestyle and mentality guided more by worldly criteria of success, and indeed power, than by the criteria which Jesus sets out in the Gospel.”
Pope Francis inherited the search for a less worldly church, and now this search is pervading the Curia reform.
Archbishop Gaenswein explained that “Curia is living reform the way it was expected, who knows the Curia also know that the Curia is better of its fame. Roman Curia is very ancient, there is no century during which its structure had not been modified, and this is partly because of internal suggestions and partly because of external suggestions.”
If Christianity could be contained in one tweet, it might read: God creates man, man sins against God, God sends his only Son into the world to bring man back to Him.
It’s a difficult task to fit the entire Gospel into 140 characters or less. But that doesn’t mean the church shouldn’t try.
That was Archbishop Jose Gomez’s Aug. 16 message on media and the New Evangelization at the Catholic Association of Latino Leaders (CALL) conference in Houston.
In fact, he said, the Church can learn from the brevity of some of Jesus’ teachings and the prayers of early Christians when creating social media content.
“Jesus spoke in ‘brief’ but memorable forms,” the archbishop reflected, “think about his beatitudes, his parables, and his aphorisms. The Desert Fathers and early Christian monks used proverbs and short prayers drawn from the Psalms and the Scriptures.”
The concept of the church employing the latest media to share the Gospel is not a new one, the archbishop noted. Evangelization has always been about communication, and technology has always helped further that mission, beginning with the printing press and continuing with radio, T.V. and the internet.
For the 23rd World Communications Day in 1989, even before the internet was standard household technology, Pope St. John Paul II observed: “The question confronting the Church today in not any longer whether the man in the street can grasp a religious message, but how to employ the communications media so as to let him have the full impact of the gospel message.”
That question remains relevant as technology continues to change and advance.
“We are living in the first generation where the Internet, computers, mobile phones and social networking media such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are a “given” part of ordinary daily reality,” Archbishop Gomez observed.
The way people think, express themselves, learn, and form relationships are all affected by this reality, he said, and the Church must respond, seeing the media as an opportunity rather than as a challenge to the Gospel.
The archbishop himself has a Facebook page and a Twitter account, with about 235,000 followers and 14,000 followers respectively.
“My goal is to make connections with my people, to build friendship and community, to address peoples’ spiritual needs, and to nourish their faith,” he said.
His own diocese of Los Angeles is employing a social media strategy with four goals: to provide news and information about the church, to provide the church’s interpretation of current events, to share church doctrine, and to defend and explain the church’s teachings.
The church must also be savvy when it comes to the culture of the “digital realm”, he said, recognizing that social media often makes use of brief snippets that tend to appeal more to emotions and experiences rather than arguments and explanations.
“The church holds the most extraordinary human-interest stories ever imagined — in the lives and adventures of our saints and mystics, in the stories of our missionaries and martyrs,” he said.
“What we need today is a new zeal and fresh imagination to bring out the riches from the vast treasury of our Catholic spiritualities.”
And despite the widespread secularization of today, social media reveals humanity’s need for connection and love, and ultimately their hunger for God.
“People are searching the social channels of the Internet for ‘answers’ and for spiritualities that will bring them holiness and wholeness and communion with God and other people,” he said, which is why social media must be “mission territory” for the church.
However, all social media must be used as a means to an end – to help people encounter the living God, outside of the digital world.
“But we need to remember…that our Catholic faith is incarnational and sacramental,” he said. “There is nothing ‘virtual’ about the Christian religion. That means our message will always be in a kind of fundamental tension with the ‘virtual’ realities and ‘virtual’ communities of the digital continent.”
So regardless of what form of social media interaction the church engages in,“it’s all about bringing people to Jesus.”
“(They must) experience of the reality of the living God who loves us, who forgives us, who cares for us like a Father. And this reality is only experienced fully in the Church and in the sacraments.”
CALL is a national organization dedicated to the growth and spiritual formation of the Latino leaders of this country in their knowledge and understanding of the Catholic faith.
Pope Francis supports international intervention in Iraq and is willing to go to there personally if it will help end the violence against Christians and other religious minorities.
“In these cases where there is an unjust aggression, I can only say that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor,” Pope Francis told reporters.
“I underscore the verb ‘stop.’ I don’t say ‘to bomb’ or ‘make war,’ (but) ‘stop it,’” he said in response to the question posed by CNA and EWTN News Rome bureau chief Alan Holdren.
Speaking to journalists aboard the Aug. 18 plane flight back to Italy from South Korea, the Pope noted the Holy See’s diplomatic efforts to end the violence in Iraq, especially against Iraqi minorities.
Pope Francis also said that a papal visit to Iraq was “one of the possibilities.”
“And in this moment, I am ready.” He added: “and right now it isn’t the most, the best thing to do but I am disposed to this.”
Military victories by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS or ISIL) have resulted in persecution and murder of Iraqi Christians and other religious minorities. Tens of thousands have fled their homes.
Many have taken refuge in the northern region known as Kurdistan.
A papal communique against the violence has been sent to all the nunciatures and a letter written to the United Nations’ Secretary General. The Pope has met with the governor of Iraqi Kurdistan and has named Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, as his personal envoy to Iraq.
Pope Francis stressed that the means to stop violence in Iraq must be evaluated and that the violence cannot be used as a pretext for other goals.
“To stop the unjust aggressor is licit. But we also have to have memory, as well, eh. How many times under this excuse of stopping the unjust aggressor the powers have taken control of nations. And, they have made a true war of conquest,” he said. “One single nation cannot judge how you stop this, how you stop an unjust aggressor.”
The pope noted the establishment of the United Nations after World War II and the need to discuss unjust aggression there.
“I am only in agreement in the fact that when there is an unjust aggressor that he is stopped,” he said. “Stopping the unjust aggressor is a right that humanity has but it is also a right of the aggressor to be stopped so he doesn’t do evil.”
The pope stressed the plight of Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq.
“They speak to me of the Christians, poor Christians, and the martyrs — and yes, there are so many martyrs — but here there are men and women, religious minorities, and not all Christian and all are equal before God, no?”
The pope also condemned “cruelty” in warfare, especially towards children and other non-combatants.
“Today, children don’t count. Once they spoke of ‘conventional warfare.’ Today this doesn’t count,” he lamented. “I’m not saying that the conventional war is a good thing, but today the bomb goes and kills the innocent with the culpable with the child and the women and mother. They kill everyone. But, we need to stop and think a bit about what level of cruelty we have reached. This should scare us.”
This comment is “not to create fear,” but rather a cause for more study, the pope said.
“The level of cruelty today of humanity is a bit scary,” he added. He also vocally rejected torture.
“Today, torture is one of the almost ordinary means of acts of intelligence services, of judicial processes. And, torture is a sin against humanity. It is a crime against humanity. And, to Catholics I say that torturing a person is a mortal sin. It is a grave sin. But, it’s more. It’s a sin against humanity.”
The pope’s remarks also touched on the prayer for peace at the Vatican, where he hosted the presidents of Israel and the Palestinian state as well as the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople.
“These two men are men of peace. They are men who believe in God. They have lived so many nasty things, so many nasty things. They are convinced that the only path to resolve that situation is negotiation, dialogue, peace.”
“Was it a failure? No, I think that the door is open.”
“Now the smoke of the bombs of the wars don’t allow us to see the door but the door is still open from that moment,” Pope Francis said. “As I believe in God, I believe that God is watching that door and all who pray and ask that he help us.
Two Korean nuns have expressed their excitement at having participated in an audience with Pope Francis, stating that his words on poverty and the witness of the martyrs were particularly impactful.
“I was very happy, thankful for his closeness. But for everyone, the whole people, they are very happy,” Sister Lee Hee Jung told CNA Aug. 17. “It’s a feeling that is difficult to express, because there are so many emotions that I felt – consolation, joy, gratitude, a feeling of surprise.”
It’s a “feeling that his words touch you,” she said, explaining that “he is a like a motor for us, he gives us energy, he moves us. He gives us strength. And this is hard to express in one word.”
Sister Lee, who is celebrating the 25th anniversary of her first profession this year, was one of the thousands of religious present for Pope Francis’ Aug. 16 audience with the religious communities of Korea, which was held at the Training Center “School of Love” in Kkottongnae.
The meeting came during the pope’s Aug. 13-18 visit to South Korea, with coincided with the Sixth Asian Youth Day. Earlier during the trip, he met with youth from across Asia and beatified 124 Korean martyrs at a Mass attended by an estimated 1 million people.
From what the pope said, one of the most impactful things for her personally was how he “highlighted the faith our ancestors, the martyrs who died for their faith” and the need “to imitate their faith,” the sister observed.
“So for me in this moment we must recover the faith of our ancestors who truly gave their lives for the faith.”
Speaking of the testimony they give as religious, Pope Francis told the communities gathered that “Only if our witness is joyful will we attract men and women to Christ.”
“And this joy is a gift which is nourished by a life of prayer, meditation on the word of God, the celebration of the sacraments and life in community,” he explained. “When these are lacking, weaknesses and difficulties will emerge to dampen the joy we knew so well at the beginning of our journey.”
Revealing how she is preparing to begin a new mission in China, Sister Lee stated that she is excited to go because “historically we have received the faith from China because our ancestors saw Chinese books that spoke about God, so they went to China to get baptized.”
“So now they have faith, but probably, in my own personal opinion, they are lacking their own spirituality, so I hope that we can go there, be with them, live with them with our spirituality, (the) spirituality of the martyrs, to guard the faith.”
Also present in the pope’s audience was Sister Renata Pa, who returned just two months ago from a mission in Virginia, USA. Belonging to the Sister of St. Paul of Chartres, the oldest order in Korea, Sister Pa has been a part of her community for over 20 years.
“I was so impressed” by the audience with the Pope, she said, “and we are blessed by the Pope. We are so happy.”
Recalling how she helped the Bishops conference prepare for the encounter, the religious sister observed that it was exciting to meet the pope afterward, stating that “I will never forget that time, I was so happy and it was a wonderful time with him.”
Particularly impactful for her were the Pope’s words on poverty, she stated, explaining that “For us poverty” is what “the Pope said; the church is going out to poor people.”
Sister Pa explained that she was also very moved by the pontiff’s words and actions surrounding the Sewol ferry disaster earlier this spring that killed over 300 people, mostly high school students.
“We have had a big accident in Sewol, so he gave us a lot of comfort. He met the Sewol parents, and he so impressed us. He gave us so much comfort. I can’t explain my heart, but he gave us much peace and consolation.”
Calls for peace and reconciliation dominated Pope Francis’ historic apostolic visit to South Korea, which concluded as the pope boarded a plane back to Rome Aug. 18.
“Jesus asks us to believe that forgiveness is the door which leads to reconciliation,” the pope said at the final Mass, which he described as being “first and foremost a prayer for reconciliation in this Korean family.”
“God’s gifts of reconciliation, unity and peace are inseparably linked to the grace of conversion, a change of heart which can alter the course of our lives and our history, as individuals and as a people.”
Earlier in the day, Pope Francis met briefly with about a dozen religious leaders representing various faiths, including Buddhism, Confucianism and native Korean religions, as well as the Anglican, Lutheran and Orthodox churches.
The Aug. 13-18 apostolic visit coincided with the 6th Asian Youth Day, which drew tens of thousands of young people from across the continent.
Pope Francis addressed the youth on several occasions, urging them to “wake up” and respond to God’s call. He reminded the young people of the continent that “you are not only a part of the future of the church; you are also a necessary and beloved part of the church’s present!”
“Dear young friends, in this generation the Lord is counting on you!” he said during a discussion with the youth. “Are you ready to say ‘yes’ to him? Are you ready?”
After listening to several young people present the joys and challenges of living as Catholics in different Asian countries, the Pope began to deliver a prepared address, but set aside his written remarks part-way through, saying that he wanted to speak to those present spontaneously, from the heart.
The off-the-cuff comments that followed were among the pope’s strongest words on the relationship between North and South Korea.
“There is only one Korea, but this family is divided,” he said, pointing to the parable of the Prodigal Son as an example of the need for humble conversion, repentance and forgiveness in order to achieve reconciliation.
During his apostolic visit, Pope Francis also beatified Korean martyrs Paul Yun Ji-chung and 123 companions, saying that “their witness to the power of God’s love continues to bear fruit today in Korea.”
The pope observed that today, there is a temptation “to compromise our faith, to water down the radical demands of the Gospel and to conform to the spirit of this age.”
“Yet the martyrs call out to us to put Christ first and to see all else in this world in relation to him and his eternal Kingdom. They challenge us to think about what, if anything, we ourselves would be willing to die for,” he said, noting that most of the martyrs were laity killed during a time of intense persecution.
Also during the trip, Pope Francis prayed at a cemetery for aborted children and visited a rehabilitation center for individuals with disabilities. He greeted a group of women were forced into sexual slavery during World War II by the Japanese military.
He also met with government officials, charging them to embrace hope and working for peace and justice in order to benefit the common good.
Meeting with a group of lay leaders, the Holy Father emphasized the family as the school of virtue and basic unit of society. Speaking to religious communities, he stressed that only the authentic joy of the Gospel, lived out in community life and public witness, will attract others to Christ.
The pontiff baptized a 62-year-old man whose son was among the victims in the Sewol Ferry tragedy earlier this year; the man took the baptismal name “Francis.”
On two occasions during the trip, the pope met with local bishops, urging them to be guardians of hope, protecting the legacy of the faith handed on by the martyrs of the nation.
Warning against relativism and an over-simplified reduction of the faith, he encouraged them to keep alive “the flame of holiness, fraternal charity and missionary zeal within the church’s communion.”
He stressed the importance of strong Christian identity, saying, “We cannot engage in real dialogue unless we are conscious of our own identity.”