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"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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Wednesday, 1 February 2017

TOWARDS AN ECCLESIOLOGY OF MERCIFUL LOVE - I : GOD IS MERCIFUL LOVE AND HENCE ALL THE CHURCH'S POWER, ALL ITS AUTHORITY HAS NO OTHER FUNCTION THAN TO MANIFEST MERCIFUL LOVE


GOD IS LOVE, AND LOVE IS THE KEY TO UNDERSTANDING CATHOLIC TEACHING
words of 
ST. ISAAC OF SYRIA:
Let yourself be persecuted, but do not persecute others.

Be crucified, but do not crucify others.

Be slandered, but do not slander others.

Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep: such is the sign of purity.

Suffer with the sick.

Be afflicted with sinners.

Exult with those who repent.

Be the friend of all, but in your spirit remain alone.

Be a partaker of the sufferings of all, but keep your body distant from all.

Rebuke no one, revile no one, not even those who live very wickedly.

Spread your cloak over those who fall into sin, each and every one, and shield them.

And if you cannot take the fault on yourself and accept punishment in their place, do not destroy their character.

What is a merciful heart? It is a heart on fire for the whole of creation, for humanity, for the birds, for the animals, for demons, and for all that exists. By the recollection of them the eyes of a merciful person pour forth tears in abundance. By the strong and vehement mercy that grips such a person’s heart, and by such great compassion, the heart is humbled and one cannot bear to hear or to see any injury or slight sorrow in any in creation. For this reason, such a person offers up tearful prayer continually even for irrational beasts, for the enemies of the truth, and for those who harm her or him, that they be protected and receive mercy. And in like manner such a person prays for the family of reptiles because of the great compassion that burns without measure in a heart that is in the likeness of God.
The person who is genuinely charitable not only gives charity out of his own possessions, but gladly tolerates injustice from others and forgives them. Whoever lays down his soul for his brother acts generously, rather than the person who demonstrates his generosity by his gifts.
God is not One who requites evil, but who sets evil right.

In love did God bring the world into existence; in love is God going to bring it to that wondrous transformed state, and in love will the world be swallowed up in the great mystery of the One who has performed all these things; in love will the whole course of the governance of creation be finally comprised...

"GOD'S NAME IS MERCY."   POPE FRANCIS ON THE CHRISTIAN LIFE AS A RESPONSE TO AN ENCOUNTER WITH CHRIST'S MERCY

  You know how important the experience of encounter was to Don Giussani: the encounter not with an idea, but with a Person, with Jesus Christ. Thus he educated in freedom, leading to the encounter with Christ, because Christ gives us true freedom. Speaking about the encounter brings to mind “The calling of St Matthew”, the Caravaggio in the Church of St Louis of the French, which I used to spend much time in front of every time I came to Rome. None of them who were there, including Matthew, greedy for money, could believe the message in that finger pointing at him, the message in those eyes that looked at him with mercy and chose him for the sequela. He felt this astonishment of the encounter. The encounter with Christ who comes and invites us is like this.

Everything in our life, today as in the time of Jesus, begins with an encounter. An encounter with this Man, the carpenter from Nazareth, a man like all men and at the same time different. Let us consider the Gospel of John, there where it tells of the disciples’ first encounter with Jesus (cf. 1:35-42). Andrew, John, Simon: they feel themselves being looked at to their very core, intimately known, and this generates surprise in them, an astonishment which immediately makes them feel bonded to Him.... Or when, after the Resurrection, Jesus asks Peter: “Do you love me?” (Jn 21:15), and Peter responds: “Yes”; this yes was not the result of a power of will, it did not come only by decision of the man Simon: it came even before from Grace, it was that “primarear”, that preceding of Grace. This was the decisive discovery for St Paul, for St Augustine, and so many other saints: Jesus Christ is always first, He primareas us, awaits us, Jesus Christ always precedes us; and when we arrive, He has already been waiting. He is like the almond blossom: the one that blooms first, and announces the arrival of spring.

One cannot understand this dynamic of the encounter if astonishment and adherence are inspired without mercy. Only one who has been caressed by the tenderness of mercy truly knows the Lord. The privileged place of encounter is the caress of Jesus’ mercy regarding my sin. This is why you may have heard me say, several times, that the place for this, the privileged place of the encounter with Jesus Christ is my sin. The will to respond and to change, which can give rise to a different life, comes thanks to this merciful embrace. Christian morality is not a titanic, voluntary effort, of one who decides to be coherent and who manages to do so, a sort of isolated challenge before the world. No. This is not Christian morality, it is something else. Christian morality is a response, it is the heartfelt response before the surprising, unforeseeable — even “unfair” according to human criteria — mercy of One who knows me, knows my betrayals and loves me just the same, appreciates me, embraces me, calls me anew, hopes in me, has expectations of me. Christian morality is not a never falling down, but an always getting up, thanks to his hand which catches us. This too is the way of the Church: to let the great mercy of God become manifest. I said in recent days to the new Cardinals: “The way of the Church is not to condemn anyone for eternity; [but] to pour out the balm of God’s mercy on all those who ask for it with a sincere heart. The way of the Church is precisely to leave her four walls behind and to go out in search of those who are distant, those essentially on the ‘outskirts’ of life. It is to adopt fully God’s own approach”, which is that of mercy (Homily, 15 February 2015). The Church, too, must feel the joyous impetus to become an almond blossom, i.e. spring, like Jesus, for all of humanity.
 POPE FRANCIS ON POWER IN THE CHURCH
my source: from an Orthodox article in Pravmir.com
"What Orthodox Christians can learn from Pope Francis."

Orthodox Christians need to pause and remember that power in the Church is a paradox. It is also neither a title nor a jurisdiction. Power in the Church is not about who kisses one’s hand but how many feet one can wash in the service of Christ. Pope Francis made this clear when he visited a youth prison in 2013 and chose to wash the feet of the offenders including one who is an Orthodox Christian. “Real power is service. As He did, He who came not to be served but to serve, and His service was the service of the Cross. He humbled Himself unto death, even death on a cross for us, to serve us, to save us. And there is no other way in the Church to move forward. For the Christian, getting ahead, progress, means humbling oneself. If we do not learn this Christian rule, we will never, ever be able to understand Jesus’ true message on power.”
.
POPE FRANCIS ON THE CATHOLIC CHURCH AS SYNODAL 

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Marking the 50th anniversary of the Synod of Bishops, Pope Francis outlined his vision for a church that is "synodal" at every level, with everyone listening to one another, learning from one another and taking responsibility for proclaiming the Gospel.

"The journey of synodality is the journey that God wants from his church in the third millennium," the pope said Oct. 17. "A synodal church is a listening church, aware that listening is more than hearing. It is a reciprocal listening in which each one has something to learn."
Pope Francis, members of the Synod of Bishops on the family, theologians and other guests dedicated a morning to marking the anniversary of Blessed Paul VI's institution in 1965 of the synod as a forum for sharing the faith and concerns of the world's Catholics, reflecting together and offering counsel to the pope.

Referring to the Greek roots of the word "synod," Pope Francis said, "walking together -- laity, pastors, the bishop of Rome -- is an easy concept to express in words, but is not so easy to put into practice."
In fact, before Pope Francis spoke, five cardinals, an archbishop and the patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church spoke about the blessings and challenges of the synod process over the past 50 years. They agreed that while the synod's methodology has improved over the past five decades, there still is work to do.

"We must continue on this path," Pope Francis told them. "The world in which we live and which we are called to love and serve, even with its contradictions, requires from the church the strengthening of synergies in all areas of its mission."

Using the synod on the family as an example, the pope said it would have been impossible for the 270 bishops and priests who are voting members of the assembly to speak to real needs and concerns without listening to and trying to learn from Catholic families.

"It was that conviction that led me when I asked that the people of God be consulted" before the synod, the pope said. "How would it have been possible to speak of the family without calling upon families, listening to their joys and their hopes, their pains and their suffering?"

The need for everyone in the church -- from the pope on down -- to listen and to learn from others is based on the conviction, clearly explained by the Second Vatican Council, that through baptism and confirmation all members of the church have been anointed by the Holy Spirit and that the entire Christian community is infallible when its members discern together and speak with one voice on matters of faith and morals, Pope Francis said.

"The 'sensus fidei' (sense of faith) makes it impossible to rigidly separate the 'ecclesia docens' (teaching church) and the 'ecclesia discens' (learning church) because even the flock has a 'nose' for discerning the new paths that the Lord is opening up to the church," the pope said.

But ensuring the synodality of the whole church will be impossible, he said, if people misunderstand the church's hierarchy and see it as a structure in which some people are placed above others.

The church's structure, the pope said, "is like an upside down pyramid" with the top on the bottom, which is why the ordained are called "ministers" -- they serve the others.
 
In a diocese, he said, the bishop is the "vicar of that Jesus who, at the Last Supper, knelt to wash the feet of the apostles," and the pope is called to truly be "the servant of the servants of God."
"We must never forget: for the disciples of Jesus -- yesterday, today and forever -- the only authority is the authority of service; the only power is the power of the cross," he said. 
The world needs the Catholic Church to witness to that Christian vision of community, participation, solidarity and joint responsibility, he said. In too many countries power is in the hands of just a few people, the dignity of many is denied and authority is abused.

Pope Francis told the gathering that "the pope does not stand alone above the church," but he is "within it as a baptized person among the baptized and in the episcopal collage as a bishop among bishops, called at the same time -- as the successor of the Apostle Peter -- to guide the church of Rome, which presides in love over all the churches."

A synodal spirit must be at work in dioceses as well as in the universal church, Pope Francis said. Priests' councils, pastoral councils and other consultative bodies in a diocese must "remain connected to the base," to the grassroots, if they are to help a bishop respond to the real needs and concerns of the Catholic people.

Looking specifically at the Synod of Bishops, the pope said the process for each synod must begin with listening to the faithful. The second stage is to have the pastors listen to each other. The role of bishops at a synod is to "act as authentic custodians, interpreters and witnesses of the faith of the whole church, attentively distinguishing it from the often changing fluxes of public opinion."

The third stage of a synod is to listen to the pope, the bishop of Rome, called to make pronouncements "not based on his personal convictions, but as the supreme witness of the faith of the entire church," he said.

The fact that the synod is not a decision-making body and acts only "with and under" the pope, he said, "is not a limitation on its freedom, but a guarantee of unity."


Rome, Italy, Jan 25, 2017 / 10:20 am (CNA/EWTN News).
- During an ecumenical Vespers service on Wednesday, Pope Francis told both Catholics and members of other Christian communities that unity can only happen when past grievances are forgiven and all sides walk forward with their gaze on Christ.

“How do we proclaim this Gospel of reconciliation after centuries of division? Paul himself helps us to find the way. He makes clear that reconciliation in Christ requires sacrifice,” the Pope said Jan. 25.

Referring to the Gospel of Luke, he said that willingness to “lose our lives” in order to save them, out of love for God, as St. Paul experienced personally, “is, and always has been, the Christian revolution.”

“If we experience this dying to ourselves for Jesus’ sake, our old way of life will be a thing of the past and, like Saint Paul, we will pass over to a new form of life and fellowship,” Francis said, explaining that looking back is helpful and even necessary in order “to purify our memory.”


However, the danger comes with the temptation “to be fixated on the past, lingering over the memory of wrongs done and endured, and judging in merely human terms,” he said, adding that doing this “can paralyze us and prevent us from living in the present.”

We are called to draw strength from the memory of the good things the Lord has given us, but at the same time God asks us “to leave the past behind in order to follow Jesus today and to live a new life in him.”

Authentic reconciliation among Christians, he said, “will only be achieved when we can acknowledge each other’s gifts and learn from one another, with humility and docility, without waiting for the others to learn first.”

The Pope spoke during a Vespers service at Rome's Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Wall after celebrating a private Mass to mark both the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul as well as the close of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which this year focused on the theme “Reconciliation – The Love of Christ Compels Us.”

Led by Pope Francis, the Vespers was attended by representatives from various other Christian churches and communities in Rome, including Metropolitan Gennadios, a representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate; David Moxon, personal representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury in Rome; members of the joint commission for theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Churches; students from the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey; a group of Orthodox young people studying in Rome; and members of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

In his speech, the Pope pointed to the theme for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, saying the love of Christ referred to “is not our love for Christ, but rather Christ’s love for us.”

“Nor is the reconciliation to which we are compelled simply our own initiative,” he said, stressing that “prior to any human effort on the part of believers who strive to overcome their divisions, it is God’s free gift.”

“As a result of this gift, each person, forgiven and loved, is called in turn to proclaim the Gospel of reconciliation in word and deed, to live and bear witness to a reconciled life.”


Christians from all confessions are invited to move forward not by getting caught up in “programs, plans and advantages, not to look to the prospects and fashions of the moment,” but rather to find the path “by constantly looking to the Lord’s cross.”

Christ's sacrifice of himself for our sins, he said, “is an invitation to leave behind every form of isolation, to overcome all those temptations to self-absorption that prevent us from perceiving how the Holy Spirit is at work outside our familiar surroundings.”

Francis then pointed to the fact that 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, noting that while in the past it would have seemed impossible for Catholics and Lutherans to join in commemorating an anniversary that divided Christians, it’s possible today, as is demonstrated by his recent visit to Sweden for a joint commemoration of the event.

The fact that Catholics and Lutherans can commemorate the anniversary “with hope, placing the emphasis on Jesus and his work of atonement, is a remarkable achievement,” thanks to both prayer and God’s intervention, he said, adding that it is also the result “of 50 years of growing mutual knowledge and ecumenical dialogue.”

Pope Francis closed his speech saying the prayer for Christian unity is a reflection of Christ's own prayer to his Father on the night of his arrest “that they may all be one.”

“May we never tire of asking God for this gift. With patient and trusting hope that the Father will grant all Christians the gift of full visible communion,” he said, urging those present to “press forward in our journey of reconciliation and dialogue, encouraged by the heroic witness” of past and present martyrs.

He prayed they would take advantage of every opportunity given “to pray together, to proclaim together, and together to love and serve, especially those who are the most poor and neglected in our midst.”

Tags: Ecumenism, Pope Francis, Octave of Christian Unity






TAIZE: A PARABLE OF COMMUNITY

The kind of thing that Pope Francis

is talking about.






We are not going to put history on trial.  We are not going to find out who was wrong and who was right.  We are going to be reconciled.  Pope John XXIII.
next: TOWARDS AN ECCLESIOLOGY OF LOVE - II: "SCHISM, THE TRIUMPH OF TRUTH OR THE FAILURE OF LOVE?"

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