Browsing News Entries

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Holy See at WTO urges for multilateral inclusive trade

by Robin Gomes

According to the Holy See, an unbalanced and unjust trade creates social exclusion and inequality, offends human dignity  and neglects the common good of humanity.  A healthy world economy needs a more efficient way of interacting which ensures the economic and well-being of all countries, not just a few, said Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations in Geneva on Tuesday. 

He was addressing the 11th Session of the Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) that is taking place in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Dec. 1-13.   WTO’s goal is to ensure that global trade flows as smoothly, predictably and freely as possible for the benefit of all.

Unequal distribution of benefits

While commending that fact that trade over recent decades has helped lift over a billion people out of poverty in developing countries leading to a decline in global extreme poverty, Arch. Jurkovic however noted that these benefits have not be shared equally, especially among the Least Developed Countries (LDC).  According to Holy See, what is needed is a multilateral and inclusive trade system guided by a spirit of solidarity that avoids being a closed economy seeking to defend privileged positions.   This will safeguard weaker and smaller countries, Arch. Jurkovic said, recalling that the aim of multilateral institutions is to seek the common good by respecting the dignity of every single person.  In this perspective of international  trade, the Holy See official talked about issues such as agriculture, women’s role, e-commerce and fisheries.  

Food security

The archbishop noted that despite the generally fast growth of agricultural trade, the problem of ensuring food security remains an enduring challenge, especially for developing countries, with more than 800 million hungry and undernourished people in the world. According to the Holy See, tackling the problem of food insecurity requires eliminating the structural causes that give rise to it and promoting the agricultural development of poorer countries, especially small-scale agriculture, the mainstay of the rural economy in the LDCs. 


The Holy See also noted the crucial role of women in the development not only of the family but also the entire economic system.  Studies have revealed that a higher participation of women is associated with stronger economic growth and with more equitable societies.  Yet women are often discriminated against and marginalized, particularly in education, Arch. Jurkovic said, encouraging among things training and skills development for them.  

C9 Cardinals updated on the ongoing Curial reform

(Vatican Radio) The Director of the Press Office of the Holy See, Greg Burke, briefed reporters at the Sala Stampa on Wednesday, regarding the work of the “C9” small council of Cardinals studying the reform of the Roman Curia. The members met for three days this week, starting Monday, to discuss specific issues related to the ongoing process of Curial reform.

Listen to the report by Christopher Altieri:

Vatican Media reform

At the center of the meetings were topics including the imminent launch of the new VaticanNews multimedia portal, which the Prefect of the Secretariat for Communication of the Holy See, Msgr. Dario Edoardo Viganò, presented to the council members during the course of the three days of working sessions.

Following the briefing, Press Office Director Greg Burke told Vatican Media this latest round of meetings was essentially a look at the progress of the work accomplished, and a chance to make any adjustments needed. “The C9 meeting these three days has been, in a way, a kind of ‘check up’ – the kind of thing you do with a car: you check up after 10 thousand miles, or 20 thousand miles,” Burke explained.

Curia: instrument of evangelization and service 

This week’s meetings were also in part dedicated to a reflection on the Curia as an instrument of evangelization and service for the Pope and for local churches. The Cardinal-members participating examined in great detail four dicasteries: the Congregations for Clergy, for the Evangelization of Peoples, and for Catholic Education; the Pontifical Council for Culture.

New Dicasteries

A significant portion of the work was devoted to the examination of a report from the head of the new Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, Cardinal Kevin Farrell, and another from the two priests responsible for day-to-day operations at the Section for Migrants and Refugees of the Dicastery for Integral Human Development, Fr. Michael Czerny and Fr. Fabio Baggio.

The over-arching concern, according to Burke, is to inculcate a spirit of service in the various departments of the Roman Curia.

Reforming mentality

“For the Pope, the reform is not only a reform of structures, and changing documents,” he said. “It is above all, creating a mentality – and that is a mentality of service: that the Holy See is at the service of the local Churches.” Burke went on to say this mentality must be, “a spirit of service and of evangelization.” 

The meetings this week, which took place with the participation of Pope Francis, were the 22nd of the C9 working sessions, and the last of 2017. The next round of meetings will be held February 26-28, 2018.


Pope Francis appoints new Bishop of Galway in Ireland

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has appointed as the new bishop of Galway and Kilmacduagh, Ireland, Bishop Brendan Kelly, who presently serves as Bishop of Achrony.

Bishop Kelly was born 20 May 1946 and ordained priest on 20 June 1971. He spent many of his early years of priesthood teaching in various colleges across the Diocese of Clonfert. Between 1986 and 1995 he was president of Our Lady’s College in Gort. He also spent a year ministering to the sick and disabled as part of the Larche community in France.

Returning to Ireland in 1996 he served as parish priest of Lisdoonvarna in County Clare.

In 2002 he was appointed as a Canon of the Cathedral and in 2003 he became Vicar Forane for the Diaconate in Kilfenora. From 2003-2007 he was parish priest of Spiddal. He was named Vicar General of the Diocese of Galway and Kilmacduagh in 2007.

He was consecrated Bishop of Achrony in 2008. He also serves as President of the Council for Education within the Catholic Bishops Conference of Ireland.

Hong Kong Bishop declares 2018 ‘Year of Youth’

Bishop of Hong Kong has declared 2018 as the ‘Year of Youth’ for his diocese. 

In his message for advent 2017 Bishop Michael Yeung Ming-cheung said that the Year of the Youth commences on the First Sunday of Advent 2017 and will close on the feast of the Solemnity of Christ the King 2018.

His decision came as a result of his many meetings and consultations with young people since he was installed as the bishop of Hong Kong in August this year. The Bishop’s decision also comes to complement the 2018 Synod on Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment, the Diocese had decided.

Praising their frank views he said  the young people have given him much to listen to and food for thought.

Personally agreeing with their suggestions, the Bishop promises to make every effort to achieve what they have suggested with God’s help and theirs,  in consultation and with the cooperation of the clergy, the laity and others concerned.

He recalled Pope Francis’ exhortation during World Youth Day Prayer Vigil on 31 July 2016, to leave their mark on history and not to be couch potatoes that confuse true happiness with comfortable sofas (sofa happiness).

Thanking them for their initiative and their enthusiastic, courageous and creative response to the call of the Church in different ways he invites them to walk the talk and through solidarity, prayer and action, help build a better world together with God and for His greater glory. (HK bishop’s advent letter)

UN joins Bangladesh in immunizing Rohingya children against diphtheria

Bangladesh is being supported by the United Nations agencies in a campaign it launched on
Tuesday to immunize Rohingya refugee children against diphtheria in camps in the south-east of the country, after an outbreak of the disease that has killed 9.      

The campaign will cover nearly 255,000 Rohingya children, and are supported by the UN’s children’s fund. UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO) and GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance.

Recent data from WHO and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) shows 722 probable diphtheria cases, including nine deaths, in the camps and makeshift settlements, between 12 November and 10 December.

Edouard Beigbeder, UNICEF representative in Bangladesh said the outbreak is an indicator of the “extreme vulnerability of children” which he said calls for “immediate action” to protect them from the killer disease.

 Navaratnasamy Paranietharan, WHO Representative in Bangladesh said they are trying to contain the emergency before it “spins out of control”.  Besides vaccinations, health workers are being helped to manage suspected cases and ensure medicine supply.   WHO is procuring 2 000 doses of diphtheria anti-toxins to treat diphtheria patients. Nearly 345 doses were hand carried by WHO from India's Delhi to Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh.

Diphtheria is an infectious respiratory disease caused by a potent toxin produced by certain strains of the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheriae. It spreads through air droplets by coughing or sneezing. Risk factors include crowding, poor hygiene and lack of immunization.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), there are nearly 860,000 Rohingya refugees in Cox's Bazar – of whom 646,000 have arrived since 25 August. Not only has the pace of new arrivals since 25 August made this the fastest growing refugee crisis in the world, the concentration of refugees in Cox's Bazar is now amongst the densest in the world.

Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil gets Mother Teresa award

Fr Tom Uzhunnalil SDB who was released after 18 months of captivity in Yemen received the Mother Teresa Award for Social Justice by Harmony Foundation Mumbai on Sunday. 

Fr Tom despite having had the opportunity to leave the country chose to serve the elders of the Missionaries of Charity in Yemen. Harmony Foundation  recognised  his compassionate humanity and dedication and commitment to his work in a location of great danger.  On this occasion he thanked God for the opportunity he was given to serve the mission in Yemen and for all those who prayed for his release. 

Asked by AsiaNews, if he ever thought of comparing his experience to that of Saint Maximilian Kolbe, the Franciscan who took the place of a man with a family in a starvation bunker in Auschwitz, Fr Tom answered simply: "It never occurred to me".

Speaking about the "dark night of the soul" – the period of sadness, fear, anguish, confusion and solitude of approach to God, considered indispensable to be born again, the Salesian said he had no doubts: "I do not know if it was dark. . . but for me it was always bright." "I thank the Lord for everything", he said.

Despite the period of suffering and deprivation in the hands of his captors, Fr Tom instils calm and serenity.

Harmony Foundation created this award in October 2005 to honour the memory of Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta and to spread the ideas of peace, dialogue and community aid without distinction of religion, caste, belief, gender or ethnicity. (AsiaNews)

Pope tells Christians that Mass gives meaning to Sundays

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis told the faithful on Wednesday that missing out on Mass on Sundays means missing out an encounter with the Lord.

Speaking to those present in the Paul VI Hall for the weekly General Audience, the Pope reflected on the question: “why go to Mass on Sunday?”

Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni:

Continuing his catechesis on the Eucharist Pope Francis reminded Christians that we go to Mass on Sunday to meet the resurrected Lord – or better still – “to let ourselves be welcomed by Him, to hear His word, eat at His table, and by his grace fulfil our mission as members of the Mystical Body of the Church.”      

Sunday is a holy day

He said Sunday is a holy day for Christians, and it is rendered holy by the celebration of the eucharist which is the living presence of the Lord amongst us.

“Thus, it is the Mass that defines Sunday for Christians” he said: “what sort of Sunday can it be if it is lacking an encounter with the Lord?”.

The Pope turned his thoughts to persecuted Christian communities are not able to celebrate Mass every Sunday and who do their best to gather in prayer on this holy day.

He also mentioned some swarthes of secularized society “that have lost that Christian sense of Sunday that is illuminated by the Eucharist: ‘this is a real shame’  he said reflecting on the need to recuperate this need.

2nd Vatican Council 

He recalled how the Second Vatican Council asked us to celebrate the Lord’s Day as a day of joy and rest from servile work as a sign of our dignity as children of God.  

“Without Christ we are condemned to be weighed down by the fatigue of everyday life, with its worries and fear of tomorrow” he said.

Our Sunday meeting with the Lord, he continued, gives us the strength to live today with trust and courage and to go forth with hope.

He explained that in the eucharist we receive a foretaste of the eternal bliss and repose to which we are called in which there will be no more fatigue, nor pain, nor grief nor tears; only the joy of living fully and for ever with the Lord.

Eucharist: source of grace and energy for Christians

The Pope finally acknowledged that the quality of Christian life is measured by our capacity to love the other, but, he said “how can we practice the Gospel without drawing from the energy provided by the inexhaustable source of the Eucharist?”

We go to Mass, he concluded, not to give something to God, but to receive from him the grace and strength to remain faithful to his word, to follow his commandments and, through his living presence within us, to be witnesses of his goodness and love before the world.

Pope Francis holds General Audience: English summary

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis continued his catechesis on the Eucharist at the Wednesday General Audience, saying Sunday is the Christian holy day par excellence.

Please find below the official English-language summary of the Pope's catechesis:

Dear Brothers and Sisters:  Our continuing catechesis on the Eucharist today centres on the importance of Sunday Mass.  As Christians, we celebrate the Eucharist in order to encounter the Lord, to hear his word, eat at his table and, by his grace to fulfil our mission in the world as members of his Mystical Body the Church.  As the day of the resurrection and the pentecostal outpouring of the Holy Spirit, Sunday is the Christian holy day par excellence.  How could we pass this day without encountering the Lord?  Sadly, in many secularized societies, we have lost the sense of Sunday.  The Second Vatican Council asked us to celebrate the Lord’s Day as a day of joy and rest from servile work, precisely as a sign of our dignity as children of God.  Each Sunday is meant to be a foretaste of the eternal bliss and repose to which we are called and which we share, even now, in Holy Communion.  In the end, we go to Mass not to givesomething to God, but to receive from him the grace and strength to remain faithful to his word, to follow his commandments and, through his living presence within us, to be witnesses of his goodness and love before the world.

Pope urges defence and promotion of Latin American, Caribbean richness and diversity

by Robin Gomes

The mother of God is a figure of the Church from whom we want to learn ‎to be a Church that embraces all the richness and cultural diversity of the people of Latin America and the Caribbean, where no one  feels ashamed or small. Pope Francis’ exhortation came in his homily at an evening Mass on Tuesday to commemorate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose image is enshrined in Mexico City and is venerated all over the world, especially in the Americas.     

Elizabeth's sterility

Reflecting on the Gospel episode of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth after the Annunciation, the Pope drew attention to the sterility and fertility of Elizabeth.  In her sterility, the Pope explained, she felt stigmatized and belittled by a mentality that considered her condition as a punishment for her or her husband’s sins

Juan Diego, the indigenous Mexican to whom the Lady of Guadalupe appeared in 1531, also felt the same.  The Argentinian Pope noted that it is the same with the indigenous and Afro-American communities.  Often they are not treated with dignity and don’t have a level playing field; many women are excluded for reasons of gender, race and socio-economic situation; young people receive a low-quality education and do not have the opportunity to continue their studies, or find a job to start a family; many poor, unemployed, migrants are expelled from their land; landless peasants try to survive in the informal economy, and children and girls are subjected to child prostitution, frequently linked to sex tourism.  

Elizabeth's fertility

‎On the other hand, the Pope said, when we contemplate Elizabeth’s fertility we see her as a fruitful-astonished ‎woman. “In her we understand that the dream of God is neither ‎sterility, stigma or shaming his children, but to make a song of blessing flow in  and from them.”   Likewise, the mantle of Juan Diego was imprinted with image of the dark-skinned Virgin of Guadalupe with the face of a mixed race, to show that the Mother is capable of assuming the ‎traits of her children to make them feel part of her blessing.‎ 

Richness, diversity of Latin America, Caribbean

The Holy Father said that the fertility-sterility dialectic draws our attention to richness and cultural diversity of the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean, which he said should not only to be cultivated but also defended courageously from any attempt at homogenization that ends up imposing a single way of thinking, being, feeling and living that ends up in sterility.   “Our fruitfulness ,” Pope Francis said, “asks us to defend our peoples from an ideological colonization that cancels what is richer in them, whether indigenous, Afro-American, mixed race, peasants or people in the suburbs.

Pope at Mass: have courage to let go of grudges and complaints

(Vatican Radio) At his morning Mass at Santa Marta on Monday, Pope Francis said we must learn to let ourselves be consoled by the Lord, leaving behind our grudges and complaints.

Reflecting on the day’s first reading from the prophet Isaiah, he said the Lord has come to console us. Just as the first disciples could hardly believe the joy of the Resurrection, we often find it hard to let ourselves be consoled by the miracles that God performs in our lives.

Listen to Philippa Hitchen's report:

It is easier for us to console others, than to let ourselves be consoled, the pope said. So often, we are attached to the negative sins and scars in our hearts and we prefer to remain there on our sick bed, like the paralised man in St Luke’s Gospel, not wanting to hear Jesus telling us to ‘Get up and walk!’

We prefer to stew in our own juice

Pope Francis continued by explaining that we prefer to bear grudges and to stew in our own juice because in that way we are masters of our own hard hearts. Like the paralised man, we prefer the ‘bitter root’ of original sin than the sweetness of God’s consolation.

Such bitterness always leads us to complain, the pope said, with a constant whining as the soundtrack to our lives. He described the prophet Job as the Nobel prize winner of whiners, who complained about everything that God did.

Have courage to let go of complaints

Pope Francis also recalled an elderly priest he knew who complained so much that his companions joked about what he would say to St Peter, upon arriving in heaven. They said his first thoughts would be to ask about hell and to complain that there were too few people denied salvation.

Faced with such bitterness, anger and complaining, the pope said, the Church repeats that we must have courage, just like the friends of the paralised man, who didn’t think about the reaction of the scribes, but only about helping their friend in need.

Let ourselves be consoled by the Lord

The message of today’s liturgy, Pope Francis concluded, is to let ourselves be consoled by the Lord, to be stripped of all our bitter egoisms and complaints. Let us examine our consciences and look into our hearts, he urged, asking if there is any sadness or bitterness there. Do we praise God, or do we always have something to complain about? Let us pray for the grace of courage, he said, asking the Lord to come and console us.