"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

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Tuesday, 23 June 2015


Bartholomew, 270th Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch, is spiritual leader to 300 million Orthodox Christians throughout the world.

Ecology, Economy and Ecumenism

In a series of seminars organized between 1994 and 1998 on the island of Halki off the coast of Istanbul in Turkey, we drew attention to the close connection between ecology and economy. Both terms share the Greek root oikos, which signifies “home.” It therefore came as no surprise to us that our beloved brother Francis of Rome opens his encyclical, which is being released today in the New Synod Hall of the Vatican, with a reference to God’s creation as “our common home.”

Nor again did it come as a surprise to us that Pope Francis underlined the ecumenical dimension of creation care – the term “ecumenism” also shares the same etymological origin as the words “ecology” and “economy.” The truth is that, above any doctrinal differences that may characterize the various Christian confessions and beyond any religious disagreements that may separate the various faith communities, the earth unites us in a unique and extraordinary manner. All of us ultimately share the earth beneath our feet and breathe the same air of our planet’s atmosphere. Even if we do not do enjoy the world’s resources fairly or justly, nevertheless all of us are responsible for its protection and preservation. This is precisely why today’s papal encyclical speaks of the need for “a new dialogue,” “a process of education,” and “urgent action.”

How can one not be moved by the criticism of our “culture of waste” or the emphasis on “the common good” and “the common destination of goods”? And what of the vital importance attributed to the global problem of clean water, which we have underlined for over two decades as we assembled scientists, politicians and activists to explore the challenges of the Mediterranean Sea (1995), the Black Sea (1997), the Danube River (1999), the Adriatic Sea (2002), the Baltic Sea (2003), the Amazon River (2006), the Arctic Sea (2007) and the Mississippi River (2009)? Water is arguably the most divine symbol in the world’s religions and, at the same time, the most divisive element of our planet’s resources.

In the final analysis, however, any dissent over land or water inevitably results in what the Pope’s statement calls “a decline in the quality of human life and a breakdown of society.” How could it possibly be otherwise? After all, concern for the natural environment is directly related to concern for issues of social justice, and particularly of world hunger. A church that neglects to pray for the natural environment is a church that refuses to offer food and drink to a suffering humanity. At the same time, a society that ignores the mandate to care for all human beings is a society that mistreats the very creation of God.

Therefore, the Pope’s diagnosis is on the mark: “We are not faced with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather one complex crisis which is both social and environmental.” Indeed, as he continues to advance, we require “an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the underprivileged, and at the same time protecting nature.” It is also no surprise, then, that the Pope is concerned about and committed to issues like employment and housing.

Invoking the inspiring words of Scripture and the classics of Christian spirituality of East and West (particularly such saints as Basil the Great and Francis of Assisi), while at the same time evoking the precious works of Roman Catholic conferences of bishops throughout the world (especially in regions where the plunder of the earth is identified with the plight of the poor), Pope Francis proposes new paradigms and new policies in contrast to those of “determinism,” “disregard” and “domination.”

In 1997, we humbly submitted that harming God’s creation was tantamount to sin. We are especially grateful to Pope Francis for recognizing our insistence on the need to broaden our narrow and individualistic concept of sin; and we welcome his stress on “ecological conversion” and “reconciliation with creation.” Moreover, we applaud the priority that the papal encyclical places on “the celebration of rest.” The virtue of contemplation or silence reflects the quality of waiting and depending on God’s grace; and by the same token, the discipline of fasting or frugality reveals the power of not-wanting or wanting less. Both qualities are critical in a culture that stresses the need to hurry, the preeminence of individual “wants” over global “needs.”

In the third year of our brother Pope Francis’s blessed ministry, we count it as a true blessing that we are able to share a common concern and a common vision for God’s creation. As we stated in our joint declaration during our pilgrimage to Jerusalem last year:

“It is our profound conviction that the future of the human family depends also on how we safeguard – both prudently and compassionately, with justice and fairness – the gift of creation that our Creator has entrusted to us … Together, we pledge our commitment to raising awareness about the stewardship of creation; we appeal to all people of goodwill to consider ways of living less wastefully and more frugally, manifesting less greed and more generosity for the protection of God’s world and the benefit of His people.
my source: Sandro Magister ROME, June 23, 2015 - The encyclical “Laudato si’” has had a resonance on a worldwide scale that has been enormous but also highly selective.

The overall presentation of the encyclical is that of a “comprehensive”. And in fact in its almost two hundred pages there is a little of everything, from the ultimate destiny of the universe to the little things of everyday life.

But precisely this encyclopedic exuberance, all-encompassing rather than self-contained, has led many to cherry-pick from the text only that which is closest to their own expectations.

One interesting revelation on the genesis of the encyclical has been made by the bishop who worked more than anyone else on its composition: Mario Tosi, currently the head of the diocese of Faenza but until last January the secretary of the pontifical council for justice and peace.

He said in an interview with the Swiss vaticanista Giuseppe Rusconi:

“The encyclical, as it is presented to us today, shows a face different from that of the first draft, which was to include a long introduction of a theological, liturgical, sacramental, and spiritual character. If the initial configuration had remained, the encyclical would have been addressed more immediately to the Catholic world. Pope Francis, instead, preferred to change this configuration, moving the theological part to the middle and end, as he also did with the parts concerning spirituality and education. In this way he restructured the material made available to him, arranging it according to a method of analysis and discernment that implies a consideration of the situation, an evaluation and a prefiguration of practical guidelines for working on a solution of the problems. He thus wanted to involve the largest possible number of readers, including nonbelievers, in a thought process that to a large extent can be shared in by all.”

Another interesting observation has come from an economist who contributed to the composition not of this encyclical but of the “Caritas in Veritate” of Benedict XVI, former IOR president Ettore Gotti Tedeschi.

In an interview with “la Repubblica” and a commentary in “Il Foglio,” he has said that the profound meaning of the encyclical can be grasped only when to “Praised may you be” is added “my Lord.” Because the ultimate cause of the behavior that leads to environmental degradation “is sin, the loss of God,” while the proximate cause “is the exaggerated consumerism induced in order to compensate for the collapse of the birth rate in Western countries.” Of this proximate cause, he added, “I have found no satisfying explanations in the encyclical, probably because I read it in a hurry.”

If one reads “Laudato si’” with patience, in fact, one passage that coincides with the ideas of Gotti Tedeschi is there, in paragraph 50:

“Instead of resolving the problems of the poor and thinking of how the world can be different, some can only propose a reduction in the birth rate. At times, developing countries face forms of international pressure which make economic assistance contingent on certain policies of ‘reproductive health’… To blame population growth instead of extreme and selective consumerism on the part of some, is one way of refusing to face the issues.”

But this passage has been ignored by almost all the world’s media.

And the same neglect has fallen upon other passages of the encyclical in which Pope Francis condemns abortion, in paragraph 120, experimentation on embryos, in paragraph 136, the cancellation of sexual differences, in paragraph 155.

It must be said, however, that the almost universal disregard of these passages cannot be imputed to their slight prominence in the overflowing totality of “Laudato Si’.”

Because so far the same silence has also punished all the other position statements of Pope Francis on these topics.

The proof is that the only big controversy of global dimensions that recently erupted over such a matter was centered not on the pope but on his secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

It was the controversy ignited by his succinct judgment on the ‘yes’ victory in the Irish referendum on homosexual marriage: “A defeat of humanity.”

It was Tuesday, May 26, and Cardinal Parolin had been in audience with the pope the evening before, when the result of the referendum was leading all of the news broadcasts. That Parolin’s judgment was the same as the pope’s was beyond all doubt. “Word for word,” Fr. Federico Lombardi confirmed.

But in the narrative on Pope Francis that continues to dominate the media, there must be no place for such judgments. They are taboo. The indelible mark of the pontificate must continue to be: “Who am I to judge?”

And this in spite of the uninterrupted stream of severe papal judgments on abortion, divorce, homosexuality, contraception, all in perfect continuity with the previous magisterium of the Church.

Perhaps what facilitates the media blackout on these judgments of the pope is in part the care with which he times his position statements to avoid coinciding with big political events, like a referendum or a vote on a law, or with a big social mobilization, like a march of “Manif pur tous” in Paris or the imposing “Family Day” in Rome on June 20.

On events of these kinds Francis is silent, or nearly so. To say out loud what is closest to his heart he chooses other moments, more distant from the pressure of events.

And in fact on the referendum in Ireland, as has been seen, the one to speak was not he but his secretary of state, against whom - and not against the pope - the criticism was then focused.

I suspect that Graham Greene is pretty high on Pope Francis' list of favourite authors because one of his basic themes was the importance of distinguishing between the morality of actions seen in abstract and judging the people who commit these actions.   With Pope Francis, we must distinguish between condemning homosexuals - "Who am I to judge?" - and saying that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.  It does not seem to enter the thick sculls of some conservative theologians that human beings are not just concrete manifestations of a blue-print labelled "human nature".   Human beings are very complicated creatures,  with multiple layers of meaning, and every human action, even an intrinsically disordered action, has a human context which must be taken into account when any judgement of people is to be undertaken.   Judging actions in abstract and judging people are two distinct activities and are in no way equivalent.   There is nothing incoherent about believing that homosexulaty is disordered and admitting that I am unable to judge him because there are factor in the case that are unknown to me. or because Christ has forbidden me to judge him.

Moreover, if I have to reach some kind of judgement in order to help the person, then I will have to explore the relationship between his previous choices, the alternatives that are open to him and the grace that has been given him and that which is on offer.   All of this, without calling into question the fact that fallen human nature is wounded human nature, that homosexuality is a disorder and that, above everything, it is persons who commit sins, not natures, and that the homosexual person is as loved by God as any other person with an immeasurable love, revealed in Christ on the Cross.  The Question becomes, how can I preach the Gospel, the love of God, to this person.   If I haven't given an answer as clear as I have enumerated the factors to be looked at, it is because I do not wish to second guess the synod. 



Friday, 15 May 2015

Dear Brother Bishops,

It is a great joy for me to receive you on the occasion of your ad limina visit, my welcome is all the more fraternal and affectionate with the knowledge that your communities have been experiencing a difficult and painful situation for too many months. Our meeting is the occasion to strengthen even more the bonds of communion that exist between your local Churches and the Church of Rome. I want you to know how attentive I am to the events that you are experiencing, and how much my personal prayers and the prayer of the universal Church accompany you.

I sincerely thank Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga, President of your Conference, for the words and testimony he addressed to me on your behalf. I hope that this pilgrimage to the sources of faith gives you comfort and encouragement to carry out your pastoral ministry. May the intercession of St Peter and St Paul obtain for you the necessary graces to gather and lead the flock that the Lord has entrusted to you.

I would like you to convey to all the people of the Central African Republic the assurance of my closeness. I know the sufferings they have lived through and are still experiencing, as well as the innumerable testimonies of faith and fidelity that Christians have rendered to the Risen Christ on many occasions. I am particularly sensitive to all that your communities have done in favour of people who are victims of violence and refugees.

Your task is difficult, but it touches the very mystery of Jesus Christ, dead and risen. It is when evil and death seem to triumph that the hope of a renewal founded on Christ emerges. It is when hatred and violence are unleashed, that we are called — and we find the strength through the power of the Cross and the grace of Baptism — to respond with forgiveness and love. Even if, unfortunately, it has not always been so in the recent events you have experienced, it is a sign that the Gospel has not yet penetrated all places and depths of the heart of the People of God to the point of changing reactions and behaviours. Your Churches are of recent evangelization, and your principal mission is to pursue the work just begun. Therefore, you must not feel discouraged in the storm you are passing through, but on the contrary, you must find the source of renewed enthusiasm and dynamism in faith and hope. Today this exhortation of the Apostle St Paul to Timothy is addressed to you: “As for you, always be steady, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry” (2 Tim 4:5). Christian formation and a deepening of the faith at all levels are therefore priorities for you, so that the Gospel may effectively permeate the life of the baptized, for the good not only of the Christian communities, but of the whole society of the Central African Republic. Many are involved in this educational work, and I would like to pay tribute to the indispensable role assured by the catechists who generously offer their time and often their resources. The significant part of the mission assured by fidei donum priests also deserves to be underscored. May they be earnestly acknowledged for coming to share their ministry in such difficult conditions.

However, Brother Bishops, you play an irreplaceable role in the process of institutional transition under way, by recalling and witnessing the fundamental values of justice, truth, and integrity that are at the base of every renewal, by promoting dialogue and peaceful coexistence among the members of the different religions and ethnic groups, thereby fostering reconciliation and social cohesion, which is key for the future. I particularly appreciate your effort in this area, and I invite you to continue in this direction, while taking care to increasingly cultivate unity of thought and of action among yourselves.

You are called to form the conscience of the faithful and likewise that of all the people because your voice is heard and respected by all. This is the most appropriate way for you to take your rightful place in the present evolutions, avoiding entering directly in political disputes. However, by forming and encouraging the laity — convinced in the faith and solidly formed in the Social Doctrine of the Church — to engage in the political debate and to assume responsibilities, which is their role, little by little you will transform society according to the Gospel and prepare a happy future for your people.

In order to take up again and pursue the proclamation of the Gospel, it is necessary that you have at heart the need to take care of and strengthen your priests, for whom you must be attentive fathers. A Bishop’s closeness to his priests is important, because it allows him to dialogue with them in truth, to perceive what is most appropriate for each one and to foresee and remedy weaknesses. Sometimes sanction is certainly necessary but it is the last resort, and the door must always be open to mercy. Initial formation at the Seminary and vocational discernment are necessary. In addition to intellectual, spiritual and communal formation, particular attention must be given to their human and emotional formation, so that future priests are capable of living their commitment to celibacy, in which no compromise is acceptable. May those responsible in the Seminary be thanked for what they have accomplished. I ask you also to promote the unity of the presbyterium around you, and to foster, in particular among the youth, prayer, permanent formation and spiritual support. You must be models of unity and perfection in the practice of priestly virtues for your priests. I thank the priests of the Central African Republic for their dedication and the witness they render, in situations that are often difficult. I exhort them to courageously renew their gift of self to Christ in a radical way, fleeing from the temptations of the world and being faithful to their commitments.

I would also like to thank the consecrated men and women, who remain close to afflicted populations. Their dedication is praiseworthy and irreplaceable. How many works of charity have been accomplished by the numerous Religious Congregations, be it in the field of education, care, or human promotion, even though the needs are immense! I pray that men and women religious may find in this Year of Consecrated Life genuine spiritual comfort, and the occasion for a deepening of their vocation and of their union with Christ. It is good to always foster harmony among the Institutes and diocesan entities, in order to render to the world the best witness of unity and love.

My attention goes finally to the families, who are the first victims of violence and who are too often destabilized or destroyed because of the estrangement of a member, bereavement, poverty, discord and separation. I express my closeness and affection to them. Not only are families the privileged place for the proclamation of the faith, the practice of Christian virtues, and the cradle of numerous priestly and religious vocations, but they are also settings “for learning and applying the culture of forgiveness, peace and reconciliation” (Africae Munus, n. 43) of which your country is in such great need. It is of primary importance that the family be protected and defended “so that it may offer society the service expected of it, that of providing men and women capable of building a social fabric of peace and harmony” (ibid.). I cannot but encourage you to give marriage all the pastoral care and attention it deserves, and not to be discouraged in face of resistance caused by cultural traditions, human weakness or the new ideological colonization that is spreading everywhere. I also thank you for your participation in the work of the Synod that will be held in Rome next October, and I ask you for your prayers for this intention.

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, I entrust you all, as well as the priests, consecrated persons, catechists and the lay faithful of your dioceses to the protection of the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church and Queen of Peace, and I give you my heartfelt Apostolic Blessing.


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