Saturday, October 01, 2016

Pope: Small beloved flock of Georgia, receive the consolation of the Good Shepherd

Image result for pope francis georgia"Little and beloved flock of Georgia, who are so committed to works of charity and education, receive the encouragement of the Good Shepherd, you who are entrusted to him who takes you on his shoulders and consoles you": This is how Pope Francis addressed the faithful gathered in the Mikheil Meskhi stadium in Tbilisi for the celebration of Mass.
And indeed, there were no huge crowds at Mass, just, perhaps, a few thousand. The liturgy took place in a half empty stadium. On the other hand, across the country – which is not very populous – there are only 120 thousand Catholics and the majority of the population is Orthodox. Delegations of the various Christian denominations in Georgia attended the celebration: Armenian Apostolic, Orthodox, Chaldean, Syro-Malankara, ..

For the Pope, this "littleness", or "simplicity," is the sign of a gospel truth. The Gospel shows us how great wonders are accomplished with small things: with a few loaves and two fishes (cf. Mt 14:15-20), with a tiny mustard seed (cf. Mk4:30-32), with a grain of wheat that dies in the earth (cf. Jn 12:24), with the gift of just a single glass of water (cf. Mt 10:42), with the two coins of a poor widow (cf. Lk 21:1-4), with the humility of Mary, the servant of the Lord (cf. Lk1:46-55)".

This "smallness" is an expression of being "child". " The true greatness of man consists in making himself small before God.  For God is not known through grand ideas and extensive study, but rather through the littleness of a humble and trusting heart.  To be great before the Most High does not require the accumulation of honour and prestige or earthly goods and success, but rather a complete self-emptying.  A child has nothing to give and everything to receive.  A child is vulnerable, and depends on his or her father and mother.  The one who becomes like a little child is poor in self but rich in God".

And again: " This is the surprising greatness of God, of a God who is full of surprises and who loves surprises: let us always keep alive the desire for and trust in God’s surprises!   It will help us to remember that we are constantly and primarily his children:  not masters of our lives, but children of the Father; not autonomous and self-sufficient adults, but children who always need to be lifted up and embraced, who need love and forgiveness.  Blessed are those Christian communities who live this authentic gospel simplicity!  Poor in means, they are rich in God.  Blessed are the Shepherds who do not ride the logic of worldly success, but follow the law of love: welcoming, listening, serving.  Blessed is the Church who does not entrust herself to the criteria of functionalism and organizational efficiency, nor worries about her image".

"Become like little children," said Francis, it is the "underlying condition for receiving the consolation of God."

"The consolation we need, amid the turmoil we experience in life, is precisely the presence of God in our hearts.  God’s presence in us is the source of true consolation, which dwells in us, liberates us from evil, brings peace and increases our joy.  For this reason, if we want to experience his consolation, we must give way to the Lord in our lives.  And in order for the Lord to abide continually in us, we must open the doors of our hearts to him and not keep him outside.  There are doors of consolation which must always be open, because Jesus especially loves to enter through them: the Gospel we read every day and carry around with us, our silent prayer in adoration, confession, the Eucharist.   It is through these doors that the Lord enters and gives new flavour to reality.  When the door of our heart is closed, however, his light cannot enter in and everything remains dark.  We then get accustomed to pessimism, to things which aren’t right, to realities that never change.  We end up absorbed in our own sadness, in the depths of anguish, isolated. If, on the other hand, we open wide the doors of consolation, the light of the Lord enters in!

Yet God does not console us only in our hearts; through the prophet Isaiah he adds: “You shall be comforted in Jerusalem” (66:13).  In Jerusalem, that is, in the city of God, in the community: it is when we are united, in communion, that God’s consolation works in us.  In the Church we find consolation, the Church is the house of consolation: here God wishes to console us.  We may ask ourselves: I who am in the Church, do I bring the consolation of God?  Do I know how to welcome others as guests and console those whom I see tired and disillusioned?  Even when enduring affliction and rejection, a Christian is always called to bring hope to the hearts of those who have given up, to encourage the downhearted, to bring the light of Jesus, the warmth of his presence and his forgiveness which restores us.  Countless people suffer trials and injustice, and live in anxiety.  Our hearts need anointing with God’s consolation, which does not take away our problems, but gives us the power to love, to peacefully bear pain".

Hence the appeal to more fraternal unity among all Christians: "Receiving and bring the consolation of God: this mission of the Church is urgent. Dear brothers and sisters, let us feel called to this: not to fossilize in what is wrong around us or to mourn for some disharmony that we see among us. It's not good to get used to a .  Receiving and bringing God’s consolation: thismission of the Church is urgent.  Dear brothers and sisters, let us take up this call: to not bury ourselves in what is going wrong around us or be saddened by the lack of harmony between us.  It is not good for us to become accustomed to a closed ecclesial “micro-environment”; it is good for us to share wide horizons open to hope, having the courage to humbly open our doors and go beyond ourselves. "

He cited as witnesses of God's consolation the mothers and grandmothers of Georgia "who unceasingly defend and pass on the faith that was sown in this land of Saint Nino; and they bring the fresh water of God’s consolation to countless situations of barrenness and conflict".
And he pointed to the Saint that the Church remembers today, Therese of Lisieux, patroness of the Carmelite missions. 

"The young saint and Doctor of the Church, rather, was an expert in the “science of love” (ibid), and teaches us that “perfect charity consists in bearing with the faults of others, in not being surprised at their weakness, in being edified by the smallest acts of virtue we see them practice”; she reminds also that “charity cannot remain hidden in the depths our hearts” (Autobiography, Manuscript C).  Together let us all implore today the grace of a simple heart, of a heart that believes and lives in the gentle strength of love; let us ask to live in peaceful and complete trust in God’s mercy”.


bishop-noel‘Pope Francis has accepted today the resignation of Bishop Liam McDaid on the grounds of ill health.

‘I have had the great pleasure and honour of working alongside Bishop Liam both as a member of the Irish Episcopal Conference and as a close personal friend over many years.

‘Since his priestly ordination in 1969 and his episcopal ordination in 2010, Bishop Liam has ministered to the priests, religious and lay people of the Diocese of Clogher with a faith-filled spirituality, a compassionate pastoral sensitivity and a self-effacing humanity that has endeared him to those within his diocese and beyond.

‘Above all, he has served and supported his priests and all those entrusted to his care with a remarkable capacity for empathy and with a Christian heart.

‘I have no doubt that Bishop Liam can count on the continued prayers and support of his brother bishops along with the priests, religious and the people of Clogher in his years of retirement.

‘I wish Bishop Liam every happiness in his retirement and look forward to our continued friendship in the years ahead.’

+Noel Treanor
Bishop of Down and Connor


archbishop-martinIn a statement released on Saturday 1 October 2016, Archbishop Eamon Martin, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All-Ireland said:

‘I wish to express my deep gratitude to Bishop Liam MacDaid whose resignation as Bishop of Clogher was accepted by Pope Francis today on grounds of ill health.  

Bishop MacDaid has been a valued member of the Episcopal Conference since his ordination as Bishop of Clogher in 2010.  

His gentle pastoral wisdom, his warm concern for others and his genuine dedication to furthering the mission of the Church was evident in his fidelity to the work of the Conference.

‘In particular, I salute Bishop Liam’s generous contribution to ACCORD Catholic Marriage Care, his work with the Council for Marriage and the Family of the Episcopal Conference, and his commitment to the religious publisher Veritas.

‘Conscious of the horrific extent of injury and loss of human life on our roads, Bishop Liam has been a compassionate and tireless advocate for greater road safety awareness across the island, and in particular amongst young people.

‘One of the highlights of Bishop Liam’s episcopal ministry was his hosting in June 2012 of the Papal Legate, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, on the pilgrimage island of Lough Derg as part of the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Ireland.  It was a profoundly moving experience for all involved.

‘I look forward to our continued friendship in the years ahead and I pray God’s blessing on Bishop Liam, assuring him of our prayerful good wishes for his health at this time and in the future.’


bishop-liam-macdaidSTATEMENT FROM THE DIOCESE OF CLOGHER, 1 October 2016

Some months ago Bishop Liam MacDaid, on medical advice, wrote to Pope Francis requesting him to accept his early retirement as Bishop of Clogher due to ill-health, in accordance with Canon 401 § 2 of the Code of Canon Law. 

It is announced this morning in Rome (at Noon, Rome time) that Pope Francis has accepted Bishop MacDaid’s request and that, accordingly, his retirement takes effect immediately.

Bishop Liam has always been very keen to communicate with the people of the diocese, whether through visits to parishes or through pastoral letters. 

He is keen to ensure that the People of God throughout Clogher diocese should hear from him the background to his retirement, including some of the medical advice he has received, together with his reflections on diocesan life and that of the wider Church at this time. 

With this in mind, he has written a pastoral letter to the priests and people of the diocese which will be read at all Masses this weekend.

Bishop MacDaid was appointed Bishop of Clogher by Pope Benedict XVI on 6 May 2010, in succession to Bishop Joseph Duffy who is now Bishop-Emeritus. He was ordained on 25 July 2010 in St Macartan’s Cathedral in Monaghan.

As for the future, the governance of the diocese is now assumed by the College of Consultors (in this case the Diocesan Chapter) which will meet in the coming days to elect a Diocesan Administrator. 

The Diocesan Administrator will then lead the diocese, with limited powers, until a new bishop is appointed by Pope Francis.

October - The Holy Rosary

Image result for october holy rosary
To Our Lady of the Rosary
O Virgin Mary, grant that the recitation of thy Rosary may be for me each day, in the midst of my manifold duties, a bond of unity in my actions, a tribute of filial piety, a sweet refreshment, an encouragement to walk joyfully along the path of duty.
Grant, above all, O Virgin Mary, that the study of thy fifteen mysteries may form in my soul, little by little, a luminous atmosphere, pure, strengthening, and fragrant, which may penetrate my understanding, my will, my heart, my memory, my imagination, my whole being.
So shall I acquire the habit of praying while I work, without the aid of formal prayers, by interior acts of admiration and of supplication, or by aspirations of love.
I ask this of thee, O Queen of the Holy Rosary, through Saint Dominic, thy son of predilection, the renowned preacher of thy mysteries, and the faithful imitator of thy virtues.

Pope Francis' prayer intentions for October

Image result for Pope Francis' prayerThe Vatican has announced the prayer intentions of Pope Francis for October 2016.

The Holy Father's general intention is: “That journalists, in carrying out their work, may always be motivated by respect for truth and a strong sense of ethics."

His missionary intention is: "That World Mission Day may renew within all Christian communities the joy of the Gospel and the responsibility to announce it."

Boosting life in rural Ireland a priority – Bishop Monahan

Image result for Bishop Fintan MonahanThe Church has a key role to play in supporting rural life, Ireland’s newest bishop has said.

Speaking to The Irish Catholic, Killaloe’s Bishop Fintan Monahan, who was ordained in Ennis’s Cathedral of Ss Peter and Paul on Sunday, September 25, said that among his priorities as a new bishop would be doing whatever he could to enhance and support the quality of rural life.

“There’s a deep sense of loneliness among people in remote rural areas like in Clare,” he said, noting how reduced numbers of clergy – along with reductions in Garda numbers and a reluctance among GPs to set up practices in rural communities – were contributing to this sense of isolation. 

Health Minister Simon Harris has said the State must consider paying GPs to work in rural Ireland, since private practices may not be viable in such areas. 

The bishop also expressed concerns about a growing sense of an East-West socio-economic divide in Ireland, with the West not sharing in recent gains made in the East. 

Even now, though, Dr Monahan said, overstretched rural clergy were playing a valuable part in maintaining community life. 

“You see some of the elderly clergy keeping things together when you have clusters of four parishes cared for by maybe three priests,” he said.

The bishop’s comments come against the backdrop of this year’s The Irish Examiner-ICSMA Farming Poll, which found that almost a quarter of Ireland’s farm-dwelling adults have felt lonely or isolated. 

The survey, conducted by Behaviour & Attitudes at seven agricultural shows over a three-week period between August and September, found that 23% of respondents said they felt lonely or isolated. 

Isolation was most frequently felt among those aged between 55 to 64, with 33% of those in that group having experienced a sense of isolation. 

The poll also suggested that Mass attendance may have risen among Ireland’s farming community, with 69% of the surveyed farm-dwelling adults attending Mass on a weekly basis, a figure 7% higher than that found last year.

The Jesuits’ next chapter (Contribution)

Pope Francis with outgoing superior general Fr Adolfo Nicolás (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)A general congregation meeting of the Jesuits is always a major event. But this year’s, the 36th in history, is unique in a number of respects. 

It is the first time that a general congregation will occur “under and with” a Jesuit pope. 

It may also be the most ethnically, racially and linguistically diverse congregation yet: the Society of Jesus at present numbers more than 16,000, with membership rapidly increasing in areas such as Vietnam, Africa and India, and decreasing in the Americas and Europe.

Those 16,000 members will soon have a new leader. Along with discussing other questions, GC36 (as it’s been dubbed) will elect a successor to superior general Fr Adolfo Nicolás. He decided to step down in 2014, feeling that a younger person could better serve God’s people. 

A few months after Pope Francis granted his request, Nicolás sent a letter to the universal Society announcing the convocation of GC36. That letter opened a period of discernment. 

For me, as a young Jesuit, the discernment process is especially interesting. I underwent my own discernment in the spring of 2013 while studying at the University of Oxford. Like St Ignatius, I was left deeply unsatisfied by the “vanities of the world” and I was searching for something more, for God’s very self. 

A Jesuit priest, Fr Simon Bishop, helped me name the Holy Spirit’s movements in my heart. Within a year and a half, I entered the Jesuit novitiate. 

This sort of discernment is really what the general congregation is all about. There are several options in front of us: which is God’s will? Generally, we do this discernment in community, as did the founding fathers of the Society of Jesus. What is the “vocation” of this religious order at this time? What are the tasks at hand?

Fundamentally, this meeting has two intertwined tasks: to elect a new superior general, and to reflect on the Society’s mission. Assuming that the delegates confirm Fr Nicolás’s decision to step down, the group will proceed to elect the next superior general. Fr Brian Paulson, Jesuit provincial of Chicago-Detroit, says: “I imagine that we will look for a virtuous, holy man who has a proven track record as an excellent leader, with significant international/intercultural experience, demonstrated administrative abilities, someone in excellent health, with very good language abilities, lots of patience and a great sense of humour.” 

The new leader will, together with his advisers and the rest of the Society, have to address a number of challenges and opportunities that face the Jesuits and the world today. Fr Nicolás has already encouraged members of the Society to reflect on the “most important calls that the Lord makes to the whole Society today”. 

The results of that reflection, gathered by Jesuit provinces, have formed the agenda of GC36.

One challenge on many Jesuit minds is the situation of refugees. The Jesuit Refugee Service, founded in 1980, has expanded operations into 50 countries. Its work involves accompaniment of, service to and advocacy for some of the more than 60 million refugees on the planet. A current project called “Lampedusa” consists of a series of concerts raising awareness and resources for refugees. Several Grammy-award winning artists, such as alt-country stars Emmylou Harris and Steve Earle, are participating. 

It will be interesting to see how this congregation and this superior general seek to express their solidarity with the poor, and offer concrete solutions both to the immediate and long-term needs of migrants. 

Another challenge will be the future of Jesuit education. The Society’s schools and colleges seek to educate their students in accord with a characteristically Jesuit perspective, which views the promotion of justice as an integral part of the Catholic faith. Jesuit educational institutions aim to form a new generation of faithful “women and men for and with others”. 

The next superior general will implement, in union with the Jesuit conferences and provinces, the plans of recent general congregations to add depth and breadth to Jesuit primary, secondary, and tertiary education. In North America alone there are now more than 60 high schools with the Jesuit name. Even as the number of Jesuits is decreasing in the US, the Society continues to open new institutions thanks to fruitful collaboration with lay colleagues. Expanding this collaboration is an extraordinary opportunity.

But refugees and education are only two of the many subjects which may turn up in conversation. The resulting decrees will be online at

In the second edition of the Formula of the Institute, approved by Pope Julius III in 1550, the Society’s founding fathers declared that a Jesuit “should show himself ready to reconcile the estranged … and to perform any other works of charity, according to what will seem expedient for the glory of God and the common good.” 

This fundamental orientation to the outcast for the greater glory of God characterises Jesuit life and ministry. Whatever the outcome of GC36, Jesuits will continue to go where others will not, and, in going there, find our Lord.

Armed police patrol Canterbury Cathedral amid terrorist fears

Members of the public queuing to enter Canterbury Cathedral (PA)Police with guns are patrolling Canterbury Cathedral amid fears about terror attacks.

The extra security comes after a series of jihadist attacks across Europe, including the murder of Fr Jacques Hamel.

Essex and Kent Police have ordered armed officers to guard potential terrorist targets, including the cathedral, major shopping centres, the port of Dover and London Southend Airport.

Photos have emerged of police officers carrying Heckler and Koch G36 assault rifles, Glock 17 semi-auto 9mm pistols and Tasers outside the cathedral.

A spokesman for Canterbury Cathedral said: “Having grown used to armed police patrols in our rail stations, airports and in the capital cities we should not be surprised that Kent Police has judged the same provision for the security of people needs to be made at significant sites in their own area.

“It is a sadness to us all that such a response is necessary but the police has made this decision with the safety of the public in mind.”

In July, the Home Office also announced £2.4 million of funding to bolster security in places of worship and churches were advised to review their security measures. 

Canterbury Cathedral, consecrated in the 11th century, is the cathedral of the Archbishop of Canterbury. 

It receives a million visitors a year.

Catholic Church accused of ignoring independent review of Melbourne Response

Denis Hart is accused of ignoring an independent review into the church's response to abuse victims.Catholic Archbishop Denis Hart has been accused of exacerbating the suffering of clerical abuse victims by ignoring an independent report on the archdiocese's compensation scheme that he received a year ago.

Victims who want their compensation claims reviewed have been forced to wait while the Archdiocese of Melbourne continues to delay the release of the report, fuelling claims of stalling and obfuscation by the church.
The review of the Melbourne Response was commissioned by Archbishop Hart in August 2014, following repeated claims at the royal commission that the church's Melbourne Response victim compensation program was primarily concerned with avoiding litigation and minimising payouts.

Archbishop Hart had vowed the findings by retired Federal Court judge Donnell Ryan would be released by November 2014. The report was widely expected to recommend a significant increase, or removal, of the $75,000 cap on compensation.

Mr Ryan submitted the review to Archbishop Hart on September 30 last year, but the report and its recommendations are yet to be made public. He was unable to explain the delay.

"I have received a number of inquiries from people who contributed to the report. I have told them that the timing of the release of the report is a matter for the Archbishop," Mr Ryan told Fairfax Media.

On Thursday, Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne spokesman Shane Healy did not respond to emails or phone calls from Fairfax Media. In March, Mr Healy said an announcement would be made within a month.

Helen Last, chief executive of the In Good Faith Foundation, said the year-long delay demonstrated a shocking lack of compassion by Archbishop Hart towards those abused by priests in the Melbourne archdiocese.

"A lot of these people are ill and without support. I would ask the Archbishop to demonstrate some empathy and stop putting difficult questions aside. He needs to deal with the findings of this report," Ms Last said.

The church has been repeatedly urged to review the 326 cases it has settled since the contentious scheme was introduced in 1996 by the former Archbishop of Melbourne, George Pell.

The church paid $14.1 million in ex gratia payments for child sexual abuse claims between 1996 and 2014, which included medical and counselling expenses.

Victims received an average payout of $36,100.

But the cost of administering the controversial compensation scheme was more than $20 million, including $13.2 million on legal expenses.

Serial paedophile priest Kevin O'Donnell was responsible for the largest number of payouts. His 50 victims included Emma and Katie Foster when they attended Oakleigh's Sacred Heart primary school in the 1980s.

Their father, Anthony Foster, said the church was ignoring an "explicit promise" that the Ryan report would be publicly released, and failing to do so was causing further damage to victims.

"We had to go through telling our story again only to see the report suppressed. There is no legitimate reason it can't be released," he said.

In November 2014, the Truth, Justice and Healing Council released guidelines that allowed victims who had previously received compensation payments from the Catholic Church to have them reviewed if they thought the redress had "insufficient [regard] to the severity of the abuse they suffered".

The new guidelines were a response to mounting pressure from victims about the fairness and adequacy of the church's compensation programs, particularly the Melbourne Response which capped payments at $75,000.

But the 2014 pledge did not apply to the Melbourne Response because "the issue of how those cases should be reviewed" was the subject of the Ryan review, the council said.

"We've been waiting, waiting, waiting," said one victim, who asked to have his name withheld. "If you're a Melbourne Response survivor, nothing has changed. The church is still not putting the needs of survivors at the top of the pyramid."

Security and transport issues drive decline in visits to Lourdes

Complex factors behind declineThe past decade has seen a 30 percent drop in the number of organised pilgrimages to Lourdes. 

Staff believe it is due to factors including a crisis of faith, rising individualism, the security situation, and transport difficulties, according to Vatican Insider.

Fear and the dread of attacks doesn’t seem to have much to do with it, at the moment at least. 

Security checks have increased (particularly inside the enclosed area that leads to the basilicas and the grotto), but they are lax and limited to opening bags and rucksacks. 

Europe is the real patient of the pilgrimages to Massabielle.

Pilgrimages go ahead if they are organised by the local bishop in person (Britain and Ireland being interesting cases). Where apostolic drive is left solely up to the associations, the difficulties are evident. There are more Asians and North Americans coming to Lourdes but it is hard to identify their journey with a traditional pilgrimage.

The visit to the grotto is part of a tour that includes stops in Biarritz, Paris, and Rome. These kinds of visits are exclusive to tour operators not traditional organisations. 

During peak seasons, there are days when visitor numbers reach record lows, with smaller torchlit Eucharistic processions in comparison to recent years.

The shrine starts to get busy on Friday afternoon, reaching maximum capacity on the Sunday, when the international Mass is celebrated in the underground Basilica of St Pius X.

Pilgrimages are becoming short-stay visits in comparison to the traditional six-day visits (plus two days of travel).

Then there is the transport factor: Train journeys take forever. For example, a normal train journey from the northern Italian city of Milan to Lourdes used to take 15-16 hours. This has now risen to 23 or even 24 hours. 

These journey times would have been the norm back in the 1940s and 1950s. And this is taking into consideration the fact that there are seriously ill passengers travelling on board these trains.

So why are train journeys so long? For years now, the French railway company has been saying that the delays are down to railway modernisation.

Trains are often parked in way-stations in the middle of the night and stay there for hours, giving way not just to passenger trains but to freight trains, too. This causes discomfort to the sick, staff, and pilgrims alike. 

The coach is one alternative solution but it is by no means a definitive solution.

New cathedral precinct to be opened in November

Opening long awaited The new cathedral precinct in Maitland in the NSW Hunter region is expected to be officially unveiled in early November, to mark the 150th anniversary of the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, reports The Maitland Mercury.

The $5 million project has involved the renovation of St John’s church and major landscaping work on the surrounding grounds.

Vice Chancellor of Administration, Sean Scanlon, said St John’s was significant because it was the Diocese’s original church.

“We’ve spent quite a few million dollars trying to restore this church and bring this part of Maitland back to life so it can be a community asset again,” he said.

Fairfax Media previously reported the St John’s Convent building would be converted into short-term accommodation, the Bishop’s Residence would become private accommodation, and the cathedral car park would be transformed into a landscaped area that could be used for functions for up to 130 people.

Youth conference so popular it might outgrow its venue

Youth travelled from near and farTeenage attendance at the annual Ignite Youth Conference in Brisbane has gone through the roof, creating a happy problem for organisers, according to The Catholic Leader.

Conference organisers Luke Plant and Kym Keady, both members of the Emmanuel Community in Brisbane, said the four-day event might “soon outgrow” its venue at Mueller College, Rothwell.

“If that happens we’re going to say, ‘Thank You God for this amazing problem, we know You have a plan and we will wait to find out what it is,’” Mrs Keady said.

This year’s Ignite Conference from September 22 to 25 drew more than 1600 registered participants, a marked increase on last year’s event.

As many as 430 students and teachers arrived from Lismore Diocese alone and have been well represented since 2009.

Others travelled from as far as Melbourne, Canberra, Perth, New Zealand, and Canada.
These numbers are an improvement on what began as “a creative arts worship and youth conference” in 2001 with about 100 participants.

Ignite Conference is “a highly professional, national, annual Catholic youth conference drawing more and more people each year,” said Mrs Keady.

Organisers said the growing number of youth attending Ignite Conference meant more Catholic youth believed in the power of the Church.

When in Rome: Bishop Long's dinner with Francis

Special dinner companionThe Bishop of Parramatta, Vincent Long OFM Conv, has discussed the global refugee crisis with Pope Francis over a meal, according to an article in his diocesan paper, reports The Tablet.

Bishop Long said in the article, in Catholic Outlook, that while the Pope praised Italy’s treatment of asylum-seekers, he was critical of the “cold-heartedness” with which some other countries acted towards them.

“I spoke to his Holiness about a few things close to my heart,” he told the paper. “I introduced myself to him as Bishop of Parramatta and a former boat person. I raised the issue of asylum-seekers in Australia and our government’s harsh offshore detention policy.
"The Holy Father commended the way Italy handles the asylum-seeker crisis and grieved over the cold-heartedness with which some other countries act towards them.”

Bishop Long also spoke to the Pope about the opposition both from within the Church and elsewhere in respect of his leadership on issues such as climate change, the person-centred economy, and concern for the marginalised.

“His simple answer and his gesture left a deep impression on me: 'I seek to be authentic.' Pope Francis made me feel completely at home and without fear,” Bishop Long said. “When he asked me if I wanted wine and then poured it into my glass, it was as though the Servant Jesus came to life for me there and then. It was a privileged moment and an unforgettable experience. I thank God for it.”

Bishop Long welcomed Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's announcement at the UN summit on refugees last month that Australia will raise its humanitarian intake from mid-2018 from 14,000 to 18,750. But he said Australia's “harsh” policy of offshore detention on Manus Island and Nauru betrayed its long tradition of welcoming and resettling refugees.

Meanwhile, the Archbishop of Brisbane, Mark Coleridge, told an online conference in Sydney that the time of Christendom is over, and the Church must recognise its “real credential” is in mercy.

“When I speak about the covenant of God, it is a community of Mercy in a merciless world. Find the hungry one, the thirsty one, the naked one, the sick one, the one who is infinitely strange, and the one who is seemingly imprisoned by the power of death. Look at the Crucified and understand what you see,” Archbishop Coleridge said.

Pope: Day of Social Communications, "Fear not, for I am with you"

‘Fear not, for I am with you” (Is, 43:5): communicating hope and trust in our time’ is the theme of the next World Day of Social Communications, set for 28 May 2017.
In a statement released today, the Secretariat for Communication writes that “Numbness of conscience or letting desperation get the better of us are two possible ‘diseases’ that our current communication system can cause.

“It is possible that our conscience is cauterised, as Pope Francis comments in Laudato si’, as a result of the fact that often professionals, opinion leaders and means of communication work in urban areas distant from places of poverty and need, and their physical distance often leads them to ignore the complexity of the dramas faced by men and women.

“Desperation is possible, instead, when communication is emphasised and transformed into spectacle, at times becoming a genuine strategy for constructing present dangers and looming fears.

“But in the midst of this tumult a whisper is heard: ‘Fear not, for I am with you’. In His Son, God expresses his solidarity with every human situation and revealed that we are not alone, because we have a Father Who does not forget His children. Those who live united with Christ discover that even darkness and death become, for those who so wish, a place for communion with Light and Life. In every event, they try to discover what is happening between God and humanity, to recognise how He too, through the dramatic scenario of this world, is writing the history of salvation. We Christians have ‘good news’ to tell, because we contemplate trustfully the prospect of the Kingdom. The Theme of the next World Day of Social Communications is an invitation to tell the history of the world and the histories of men and women in accordance with the logic of the “good news” that reminds us that God never ceases to be a Father in any situation or with regard to any man. Let us learn to communicate trust and hope for history.

Chaldean Synod bears witness to Christ with love and hope amid war and violence

The Chaldean Church Synod met for its annual meeting on 22-27 September in Ankawa, a Christian neighbourhood in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan.
In its final statement, which was sent to AsiaNews, the Synod renewed its call for evangelisation. 

In the Jubilee Year of Mercy, the Chaldean Church has " to show a sense of responsibility, love, and hope" and “call to all our priests, monks, nuns and faithful to [bear] witness to Christ and his teaching”.

Each bishop, said the press release, “should feel free to study the subject of ordaining deacons and married priests" and select “those who have good spiritual, cultural, pastoral qualities and” have them go “through a well-prepared course before their ordination.”

His Beatitude Mar Louis Raphael Sako chaired the meeting attended by 20 Chaldean bishops from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Lebanon, the United States, Canada and Australia.

Only Mgr Sarhad Jammo, bishop emeritus of the Diocese of St Peter the Apostle in San Diego (USA) was absent.

In the recent past, he clashed with the Chaldean patriarchate over the issue of rebel priests and monks. This long confrontation sparked tensions within the Church, and raised fears about a possible mini-schism.

During the Synod, three candidates were selected for the Diocese of St Peter the Apostle in San Diego, and their names will be submitted to Pope Francis for a final choice.

Any decision with respect to vacant dioceses was postponed to the next Synod in order to see how the situation evolves in Mosul.

The final statement did refer to rebel priests and monks, noting that "Synod members agreed that priests and monks who left their dioceses and monasteries without formal permission had to leave their current dioceses immediately”. 

As their action raised “doubts among faithful,” they can resume their old positions only “after a month or two of rehabilitation”.

In addition to encouraging the “faithful to participate in the Church's life”, the Synod focused on “monastic and priestly vocations”.

Recognising that men are women religious have to deal with “challenges and obstacles such as immigration, birth control, new culture and social media, the instability of the country, [and] role model(s),” it is necessary to stress the “role of the mentor as well as the necessity of focusing on psychology, education and sustainable” preparation.

The bishops also called for peace in Iraq and “the liberation of all the seized land, so that [the] displaced can return to their homes”.

They also prayed with their brother Antoine Audo, bishop of Aleppo, renewing their call to “stop the war in Syria”, and urging decision-makers to engage “in a constructive dialogue to find a peaceful political solution that preserves the country and the nation”.

The statement also reiterated the bishops’ commitment to support the family, following the directives outlined by Pope Francis in the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia.

Lastly, it noted that the list of all Saints mentioned in the Chaldean liturgy and traditions will be submitted with a support letter from 2016 synod to the Holy See to speed up the beatification and canonization process of Chaldean martyrs.

Pope: the logic of weapons and oppression, dark interests and violence continue to devastate Syria and Iraq

"The weapons of logic and oppression, the dark interests and violence continue to wreak havoc" Syria and Iraq: If we have "the impression of being wrapped in a spiral of arrogance and inertia from which no there seems to be no escape” it is the experience of the evil that is in man and in history.
The humanitarian crisis in the Middle East continues to be a central concern for the Pope who, after numerous appeals for an end to the violence, or at least for help for the people, today received the members of Catholic charitable organizations operating in Syria, Iraq and neighboring countries in the Clementine Hall at the Vatican. The aid agencies are gathered in Rome for their fifth meeting organized by Cor Unum.

The audience was also attended by Staffan de Mistura, Special Envoy of the Secretary General of the United Nations to Syria, which is also scheduled to speak at the gathering who has drawn together about 40 Catholic charity organizations.

Francis first expressed his grateful appreciation to Cor Unum "for the careful and effective support to what the Church is doing to try to alleviate the suffering of millions of victims of these conflicts. In this sense, I would stress the importance of a renewed cooperation at all levels between different actors operating in this area".

Data released by the Pontifical Council reveal that the ecclesial network, in total, in the period 2015-2016 reached more than 9 million individual beneficiaries, mobilizing approximately $ 207 million (2015) and $ 196 million (this year to July2016) .

In Syria and Iraq, four and a half million people directly assisted by Catholic Charities, with twelve thousand workers involved in the two areas of conflict and in neighboring countries where refugees have taken refuge.

The Pope stressed that "a year after our last meeting we note with great sadness that despite the many efforts made in various areas, the logic of weapons and oppression, the dark interests and violence continue to ravage these countries and that, until now, there has been no end to the exhausting suffering and the continued violation of human rights. The dramatic consequences of the crisis are already visible far beyond the borders of the region. The serious phenomenon of migration is an expression of this".

"Violence begets violence and we have the impression of being wrapped in a spiral of arrogance and inertia from which there seems no escape. We should question this evil that grips consciousness and will power. Why does man, even at the price of untold damage to people, property and the environment, continue to pursue lies, revenge, violence? We only have to think of the recent attack on a UN humanitarian convoy ... It is the experience of that mysterium iniquitatis, of the evil that is present in man and in history and needs to be redeemed. Destroying for the sake of destroying! Therefore, in this Holy Year, in which we fix our gaze on Christ more intensely, the incarnate Mercy who has conquered sin and death, I am reminded of these words of St. John Paul II: "The limit imposed upon evil, of which man is the architect and victim, is ultimately Divine Mercy "(Memory and identity, p. 70). It is the only limit. Yes, the answer to the drama of evil lies in the mystery of Christ. Looking to the many suffering faces, in Syria, in Iraq and in neighboring and distant countries where millions of refugees are forced to seek refuge and protection, the Church sees the face of her Lord during his Passion”.

"The work of those like you who represent the many workers on the ground, who are committed to helping these people and to safeguarding their dignity, is certainly a reflection of God's mercy and, as such, a sign that evil has a limit and that it does not have the last word. It is a sign of great hope, for which I want to thank, along with you, so many anonymous people - but not anonymous for God! - who, especially in this jubilee year, pray and intercede in silence for the victims of conflicts, especially for children and the weak, and in doing so support your work. In Aleppo, the children have to drink polluted water !. Beyond the necessary humanitarian aid, what our brothers and sisters in Syria and Iraq want most now is peace. Therefore I will never tire of asking the international community for more and renewed efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East and not to look the other way".

"Ending the conflict is also in the hands of each one of us, we can and must be peacemakers, because every situation of violence and injustice is a wound to the body of the entire human family. "My request is made in daily prayer to God to inspire the minds and hearts of those who have political responsibilities, so that they know to give way to partial interests to achieve the greater good: peace. This meeting gives me, in this perspective, the opportunity to thank and encourage international organizations, in particular the United Nations, for their work of support and mediation among different governments, to reach agreement to end the conflict and finally put the welfare of defenseless people in first place. It is a road that we must travel together with patience and perseverance, but also as a matter of urgency, and the Church will continue to make its contribution".

"Finally, my thoughts turn to the Christian communities of the Middle East who suffer the consequences of violence and look to the future with fear. In the midst of so much darkness, these churches bear aloft the lamp of faith, hope and charity. Helping with courage and without discrimination those who suffer and working for peace and coexistence, Middle Eastern Christians today are a concrete sign of God's mercy. They need the admiration, gratitude and support of the universal Church. I commend these communities and those who work in the service of the victims of this crisis to the intercession of Saint Teresa of Calcutta, model of charity and mercy. May the Lord bless you and Our Lady keep you. And thank you, thank you so much for what you do. Thank you so much!".

After the meeting with the Pope, the participants will come together at the Pontifical Urbaniana University. After the introduction of Msgr. Giampietro Dal Toso, secretary of the Pontifical Council, Staffan de Mistura will address those gathered, followed by the presentation of the Second survey on the response of the Church's network to the Iraqi and Syrian humanitarian crisis 2015-2016, made by "Cor Unum" and the intervention of the Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

In the afternoon, after updates on the political and humanitarian situation by Msgr. Mario Zenari, apostolic nuncio in Syria, and Msgr. Alberto Ortega, apostolic nuncio in Iraq, the participants will meet in working groups and the meeting will focus on the practical aspects of collaboration between the various parties involved in the Middle East.

Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate has twice as many parishes as two schismatic organizations together

Image result for Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow PatriarchateThe Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate has 53 dioceses where 84 hierarchs and 10 169 priests work.
Besides, the UOC has 12 334 communities, 207 monasteries with 4847 monks and nuns, 3707 Sunday schools, press service of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church reports.
Meanwhile, two schismatic organizations - the so-called Kiev Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Church - have correspondently 36 and 12 hierarchs, 3332 and 723 priests, 211 and 19 monks and nuns.

According to the report, the UOC has "twice as many parishes as two other major confessions jointly, and the number of its monks and nuns exceeds theirs in 21 times."