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Posted on 12/3/2021 13:23 PM (CNA Daily News)
Nicosia, Cyprus, Dec 3, 2021 / 04:23 am (CNA).
Pope Francis said on Friday that “Jesus alone frees the heart from evil” as he celebrated Mass in the divided capital city of Cyprus.
Preaching at the GSP Stadium in Nicosia on Dec. 3, the pope described Christ as a “physician” eager to bring healing to the human heart.
“Jesus is the physician: he alone is the true light that illuminates every man and woman, the one who gives us an abundance of light, warmth, and love. Jesus alone frees the heart from evil,” he said at the live-streamed Mass.
The pope was offering Mass on the second day of his visit to Cyprus, an island in the eastern Mediterranean Sea with a population of 1.2 million people.
The country is predominantly Orthodox Christian, with a Catholic minority of around 10,000 people — the estimated attendance figure at the Mass, according to the Holy See press office.
The booklet for the Mass, celebrated on the feast of St. Francis Xavier in the largest stadium in Cyprus, included Latin, English, Greek, and Italian.
The pope based his homily on the day’s Gospel reading, Matthew 9:27-31, in which Jesus heals two blind men who call out to him.
He reflected on three facets of the encounter: first, that the men went to Jesus for healing; second, that they shared their pain; and third, that they joyfully proclaimed the Good News.
“Like those two blind men, we are often like wayfarers, immersed in the darkness of life,” he said.
“The first thing to do in response is go to Jesus, just as he tells us: ‘Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’ (Matthew 11:28).”
“Is there any one of us who is not, in some way, tired or heavy laden? Everyone. Yet, we resist coming to Jesus. Often we would rather remain closed in on ourselves, alone in our darkness, feeling sorry for ourselves and content to have sadness as our companion.”
The pope urged Catholics instead to follow Jesus, telling him their needs, and handing over their bitterness to him.
Pope Francis celebrated the Mass at the same altar that Benedict XVI used during his trip to Cyprus in 2010, when he became the first pope to visit the island.
Francis was flanked by Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai, the leader of the Maronite Church, one of the 23 autonomous Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with Rome. The cardinal had welcomed the pope to the Maronite Cathedral of Our Lady of Grace in Nicosia on the first day of his visit.
Also at the pope’s side in the home stadium of the Cyprus national soccer team was the Latin Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa of Jerusalem, who oversees the pastoral care of Latin Catholics in Cyprus.
The pope, who turns 85 on Dec. 17, said that Catholics had much to learn from the way that the two blind men shared their suffering with Jesus, asking him to have mercy on them.
“Each of us is blind in some way as a result of sin, which prevents us from ‘seeing’ God as our Father and one another as brothers and sisters. For that is what sin does; it distorts reality: it makes us see God as a tyrant and each other as problems,” the pope reflected.
“It is the work of the tempter, who distorts things, putting them in a negative light, to make us fall into despair and bitterness. And a terrible sadness, which is dangerous and not from God, lurks well in solitude. So, one must not face the darkness alone. If we bear our inner blindness alone, we can become overwhelmed.”
He said that healing occurs when Christians carry their pain together, listening deeply to one another.
The pope noted that the two blind men began to share the news of their healing, despite Jesus’ request that they tell no one.
“From what we are told, it is clear that their intention was not to disobey the Lord; they were simply unable to contain their excitement at their healing and the joy of their encounter with Jesus,” he said.
Quoting from his 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium, he continued: “This is another distinctive sign of the Christian: the irrepressible joy of the Gospel, which ‘fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus.’ The joy of the Gospel frees us from the risk of a private, gloomy, and querulous faith, and leads us into the dynamism of witness.”
He thanked Catholics in Cyprus for their witness to the Gospel.
“It is not proselytism — please, never proselytize — but witness; not a moralism that judges — no, don’t do that — but a mercy that embraces; not superficial piety but love lived out. I encourage you to keep advancing on this path,” he said.
Concluding his homily, he said: “Brothers and sisters, the Lord Jesus is passing, passing also through the streets of Cyprus, hearing the cries of our blindness.”
“He wants to touch our eyes and hearts and to lead us to the light, to rebirth and raise us up within. He asks us the same question that he asked the two blind men: ‘Do you believe that I am able to do this?’ (Matthew 9:28).”
“Do we believe that Jesus can do this? Let us renew our faith in him. Let us say to him: Jesus, we believe that your light is greater than our darkness; we believe that you can heal us, that you can renew our fellowship, that you can increase our joy. With the entire Church, let us pray, all together: Come, Lord Jesus!”
Posted on 12/3/2021 10:15 AM (CNA Daily News)
Rome Newsroom, Dec 3, 2021 / 01:15 am (CNA).
In a meeting with Orthodox bishops in Cyprus on Friday, Pope Francis expressed the desire that the Catholic Church and Orthodox Church will continue to journey toward full unity.
The live-streamed meeting with members of the Holy Synod took place on the second day of Francis’ Dec. 2-6 trip to the Mediterranean island countries of Cyprus and Greece.
The Holy Synod is the highest authority of the Church of Cyprus, an autocephalous Eastern Orthodox Church.
“The grace of being here reminds me that we have a common apostolic origin: Paul traversed Cyprus and went on to Rome,” Pope Francis said Dec. 3. “We are thus heirs of the same apostolic zeal, and a single path joins us, that of the Gospel. I like to see us advancing on that same path, seeking ever greater fraternity and full unity.”
The meeting with Orthodox bishops followed a private meeting between Francis and Chrysostomos II, the Orthodox archbishop of Cyprus, at his residence early Friday morning.
Pope Francis said in his speech that he had been touched by the way that Chrysostomos II had spoken about the Church as a mother.
Chrysostomos II represented the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus at the funeral of Pope John Paul II and the opening Mass of Benedict XVI’s pontificate. Benedict XVI and Chrysostomos II met another two times at the Vatican and during Benedict’s own trip to Cyprus in 2010 — the first papal visit to the island.
Pope Francis thanked the bishops for their active participation in the International Mixed Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church.
He reflected on the example of St. Barnabas, an apostle who came from Cyprus and helped St. Paul to spread the Gospel among pagans.
“Barnabas, son of consolation, exhorts us, his brethren, to undertake the same mission of bringing the Gospel to humanity; he asks us to realize that the message cannot be based only on generic exhortations, the inculcation of precepts and rules to be followed, as often has been the case,” the pope said.
“Rather, it must follow the path of personal encounter, be attentive to people’s questions, to their existential needs.”
“Because the Gospel is not handed on by communication, but by communion,” Francis emphasized. “It is this that we Catholics want to experience in the next few years, as we rediscover the synodal dimension, which is essential to being Church.”
“In this, we feel the need to walk more closely alongside you, dear brethren, who, through your experience of synodality, can truly help us,” he said.
Pope Francis met the Holy Synod in the Cathedral of St. John the Theologian, the Orthodox cathedral of the Church of Cyprus in Nicosia, the country’s divided capital city. The cathedral was built in the 14th century and the interior features frescoes depicting scenes from Scripture.
“It is my heartfelt hope that there will be increased opportunities for encounter, for coming to know one another better, for eliminating preconceptions and for listening with docility to our respective experiences of faith,” the pope said in his speech.
He also spoke about the importance of keeping what is sacred, but not “absolutizing” certain customs and habits “that do not require uniformity and assent on the part of all.”
“Let us not become paralyzed by fear of openness or bold gestures, or give in to talk of ‘irreconcilable differences’ that in fact have nothing to do with the Gospel. Let us not permit the ‘traditions,’ in the plural and with a small ‘t,’ to prevail over ‘Tradition’ in the singular and with a capital ‘T,’” he said.
“That Tradition bids us imitate Barnabas and leave behind everything, however good, that could compromise the fullness of communion, the primacy of charity, and the need for unity.”
Pope Francis said that St. Barnabas laid all he had at the feet of the Apostles, and “we too are asked by the Lord to realize that we are members of the same body and to bow down, even to the feet of our brethren.”
He noted the deep divide that exists between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches, but said that “the Holy Spirit desires that with humility and respect we once more draw close to one another.”
“[The Holy Spirit] invites us not to grow resigned to our past divisions and to cultivate together the field of the kingdom with patience, perseverance, and concrete gestures,” he said. “For if we set aside abstract concepts and cooperate, for example in works of charity, education and the promotion of human dignity, we will rediscover our fraternity, and communion will mature by itself, to the praise of God.”
Francis said that Cyprus’ Church of Panagia Chrysopolitissa, “Our Lady of the Golden City,” is a concrete example of fraternity, since it serves as a place of worship for all of the Christian confessions in the country.
“It is thus a sign of communion in faith and life under the gaze of the Mother of God who gathers her children together,” he said.
“Each will maintain his own customs and identity, but in time, our joint efforts will increase concord and bear fruit,” the pope continued. “Just as these beautiful Mediterranean lands are embellished by respectful and patient human labor, so too, with God’s help and humble perseverance, may we cultivate our apostolic communion.”
Pope Francis landed on Dec. 2 in Cyprus at the start of a five-day trip that will also take him to Athens, Greece, and the island of Lesbos. The visit is expected to highlight the plight of migrants, since both countries have been major stopping points for people seeking to enter Europe, mainly from the Middle East and Africa.
The predominantly Orthodox Christian Republic of Cyprus has a population of 1.2 million people, just 10,000 of whom are Catholic.
The island is split by a U.N. buffer zone, with the de facto state of Northern Cyprus located on the northeastern portion of the island. The predominantly Sunni Muslim territory is recognized only by neighboring Turkey, which invaded Cyprus in 1974, and is regarded by all other states as part of the Republic of Cyprus.
Cyprus and Greece are significant in early Christian history, because the Apostles St. Paul and St. Barnabas traveled to the Mediterranean countries to bring the Gospel. The Acts of the Apostles records that St. Paul stopped in Cyprus and converted the Roman Proconsul Sergius Paulus to Christianity. The Apostle also famously preached on the streets of Athens.
“Dear brethren, I wish to assure you of my own prayer and closeness, and that of the Catholic Church, in the most troubling problems that beset you and in the best and boldest hopes that spur you on,” Pope Francis told the Orthodox bishops. “Your sorrows and your joys are also ours; we sense them as our own. At the same time, we feel great need of your prayers.”
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Posted on 12/3/2021 02:01 AM (CNA Daily News)
Sokoto, Nigeria, Dec 2, 2021 / 17:01 pm (CNA).
Christians in Nigeria’s Zamfara State have been cautioned against public worship in churches lest they be attacked, abducted, and their places of worship torched.
The warning, for which a “Fulani association” claims responsibility, is contained in a letter circulated by the office of the state police commissioner.
“The command has already alerted its Divisions/Formations for immediate proactive action and deployment of men at churches especially during services,” the police leadership in Zamfara said in reaction to what it described as “an anonymous letter threatening to launch attack on churches, especially churches located at the outskirt of the metropolis.”
The threatening letter was delivered to police headquarters in Gusau, the state capital, Nov. 19.
In the document, members of the "Fulani association who are planning to launch war against Christian religion" claimed responsibility of the "anonymous letter".
“We want churches to be closed from now to the next three years. If they are not closed, we will start burning them,” those behind the letter threatened, and added in reference to Christians in Zamfara, “We will follow their pastors to their houses whether during raining or in the mid night and kidnap them and their family.”
They claimed responsibility of some previous attacks on Nigerians saying, “We have been harming people but we have forgotten the Christians. So, we will start from now until Christmas time. We are going to start with churches located out skirt of Gusau.”
“We are going to start kidnapping of Christians and burning of their churches located outskirt of Gusau town and we are going to do it when no one expect it to happen.”
The letter said, “We are taking this action because they (Christians) were the one that started causing this problem; they harmed our children at Saminaka area and chased away our cows while on rearing behind Karma Hotel.”
According SaharaReporters, security officials in Zamfara said they have taken precautionary measures following the threats.
Mohammed Shehu, spokesperson for the Zamfara State police command, DSP, said that Christian Association of Nigeria leadership in Zamfara had been invited to “discuss security measures around the churches.”
“In that regard, a special squad has been created by the CP to patrol and protect worshippers, especially on Sundays,” the security official said, adding, “plain-clothes personnel have been deployed for intelligence gathering and to unravel those behind the threat letter.”
Speaking to ACI Africa Dec. 1, the Director of Communications of the Diocese of Sokoto said measures are being taken to protect Christians.
“No formal statement has been made by Church officials in the State but internal strategies are at work,” Fr. Chris Omotosho said.
In a Dec. 1 message, CAN representatives in Zamfara said, “Threat against Christians and churches by the terrorists is a divisive strategy against the effort of Christian and Muslim leaders towards ending criminalities in the North-West.”
“We know that all kidnappings and other criminalities being perpetrated in the North-Western part of the country are the handiwork of terrorists who either migrated from the North-East or those who were released under the purported rehabilitation program of the Federal government,” the Christian leaders said in their message, “No Christian Should Be Killed in Zamfara.”
They added, “Now that a Federal High Court has labelled those criminals terrorists, we call on the Police, the military authorities and other security agencies to rise up to the challenge of the terrorists who have turned kidnappings into the biggest business venture in the geopolitical zone.”
“The way and manner by which our security agencies have been handling those criminals are totally unacceptable, reprehensible and unprecedented. Criminals are criminals irrespective of their religious, political and ethnic affiliations,” CAN wrote.
“The leadership of the national Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in our recent visit to Sokoto and Kebbi states was alarmed, surprised and shocked by the record of those criminals who are killing and kidnapping with impunity in the area as if there was a pact between them and the security agencies,” the Christian representatives recalled.
CAN stated that with Christian and Muslim leaders in Nigeria working together to stop sectarian criminality in the northwest, the criminals “are now trying to introduce divisive ways by declaring war against Christians and churches in the zone especially in Zamfara State where they are gradually turning into their strongholds.”
“We have no problem with Islam or with our Muslim brothers and sisters but with the handful fanatics and their financiers who have declared war against Christianity,” they said.
CAN representatives in Zamfara appealed to all peace-loving Muslims “to speak against those who are painting Islam what is not. We know that there is no right-thinking Muslim leader who will be happy with the killings of Christians.”
“We call on President Muhammadu Buhari to sanction any Commissioner of Police or Zonal Police Commanders and the Director of State Security Services wherever kidnappers operate in the country henceforth. This will go a long way in reducing the menace as we are approaching the Yuletide season,” they said.
The Christian leaders urge the federal government “to refund all the ransom paid for the release of those who were abducted in the last five years.”
“President Buhari should also direct the Police to arraign all suspected kidnappers, bandits and terrorists in their custody with a view to stopping those who are perpetrating the atrocities. Failure to do this will force the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) to ask our members to embrace the principle of self-defense wherever the security agencies appeared compromised,” they added.
Nigeria has been grappling with insecurity since 2009 when the Boko Haram insurgency began targeted attacks with the aim of turning Africa's most populous nation into an Islamic State.
Members of the Islamist group have organized attacks on various targets including civilians and political and religious leaders.
Posted on 12/3/2021 01:15 AM (CNA Daily News)
Washington D.C., Dec 2, 2021 / 16:15 pm (CNA).
Thousands of abortion supporters and pro-life Americans rallied outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1 as justices heard oral arguments in the historic abortion case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
The case, which involves a Mississippi law restricting most abortions after 15 weeks, challenges two landmark decisions: Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide, and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which upheld Roe in 1992.
Here’s what it looked like outside of the Supreme Court:
Posted on 12/2/2021 23:02 PM (CNA Daily News)
Mexico City, Mexico, Dec 2, 2021 / 14:02 pm (CNA).
If the US Supreme Court were to overturn Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion across the country in 1973, what impact would it have on Latin America? Pro-life leaders in Latin America spoke to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language sister news agency, about how a ruling reversing Roe v. Wade would impact each of their countries.
A key effect, the leaders explained, is that there would be less pressure to legalize abortion in the region, which often comes politically and economically from the United States.
The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments about the constitutionality of Mississippi’s 15-week state abortion ban Dec. 1. The case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, could overturn the court’s Roe v. Wade decision, which has barred restrictive early-term abortion laws like Mississippi’s for the past 48 years.
Rodrigo Iván Cortés, president of the National Front for the Family of Mexico, and vice president of the Political Network for Values, told ACI Prensa that a decision reversing Roe v. Wade "would mean a huge setback for the ideological activism for the culture of death" that the United States exerts in Latin America, especially under the Biden administration.
Cortés said, "it has been clearly noted that that administration is putting pressure on Mexico to change laws and policies to impose abortion."
In addition, he said that this change "would mean a very important example" for the magistrates on Mexico's Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation, who "are clearly subservient to that ideology of death."
Julia Regina de Cardenal, president of the Yes to Life Foundation of El Salvador, stressed that if Roe v. Wade were overturned "it would help El Salvador, in the sense that the arguments and lies that were used in the United States to legalize abortion, and that are still used here by those promoting the abortion industry, would be undercut."
Although one would expect "more pressure from International Planned Parenthood Federation, in a desperate attempt to legalize its lucrative business that would be greatly affected," the president of the Yes to Life Foundation emphasized that with a pro-life ruling by the United States Supreme Court "the humanity of the 15-week fetus would become more evident, which has already been demonstrated by science and technology."
Ligia Briz, executive director of the The Family Matters Association of Guatemala, said that reversing Roe v. Wade "would be excellent news for us."
"The organizations that are trying to push this issue in our countries, going against our legislation, especially in Guatemala, by law they will have to cease and desist," she said.
Giuliana Caccia, director of the Origen Association in Peru, said that reversing Roe v. Wade "would be a clear example of an indisputable premise, which is that the truth always triumphs."
“In Peru, I think that, if it were reversed, it would give us an indisputable argument, because this ruling was always invoked. Abortion has no legal basis, and no ruling or law can deny that it is a duty to defend life from conception, under any circumstance," she said.
“Our country is one of the nations that has resisted the most, because abortion is legal in Argentina and in many countries in the region. The reversal of the ruling would be one more weapon to continue containing the advancement of this regional agenda that is making steady progress through NGOs financed by international collaboration,” she said.
The president of the More Life Foundation of Argentina, Raúl Magnasco, told ACI Prensa that "the possibility of reversing" Roe v. Wade “means for the whole world a very important ray of hope.”
“As the United States is the most influential country in terms of the communications media, it would mean great progress for the entire region and the world, which would understand, in light of the North American experience, that the future is inclusive regarding the care and recognition of both lives, the mother’s and the unborn child’s,” he stated.
Jesús Magaña, president of the United for Life platform in Colombia, stressed that the Roe v. Wade decision "has been disastrous not only for the United States but for the world," because "abortion was legalized through a juridical act that ended up exceeding the functions of the Supreme Court, because it’s practically a kind of legislation contrary to the spirit of the Constitution, which protects human nature and the people as a whole.”
"In fact, in Colombia the model that has been used to decriminalize abortion has been precisely that of the United States, since the Constitutional Court, acting against the Constitution, has decriminalized abortion," he said.
For Magaña, "if the ruling is reversed, it would be very important because it would put the Judiciary back within its just limits and the democratic process."
Thus "this terrible imbalance” would be avoided “that we have today in our countries, where the interference of the judiciary is so aggressive that it ends up destroying the democratic system by invading the domains of the legislative or executive branch,” he said.
For Elizabeth Bunster, director of Project Hope in Chile, “the possibility of reversing Roe v. Wade would be a sign of hope in the face of a powerful onslaught against life in Latin America and the Caribbean.”
Although Chile’s Chamber of Deputies narrowly defeated a bill Nov. 30 that would have legalized elective abortion up to 14 weeks of pregnancy, "we know that there are groups that will continue to insist on this law," she said.
If Roe v. Wade were reversed “it would represent great hope for Chile because one of the arguments wielded to legalize abortion is to talk about the progressivism of developed countries.”
"The United States is seen as a model for these issues," she noted.
Also contributing to this article were Walter Sánchez Silva and Diego López Marina.