Saturday, December 31, 2016

Will Pope Francis close the year by taking on another mayor?

Will Pope Francis close the year by taking on another mayor?During the early part of St. John Paul II’s papacy he made several visits to Latin America, encountering the strongmen who were in power at the time, including General Leopoldo Galtieri in Argentina in 1982, who was heading the country’s three-man military junta, and Augusto Pinochet in Chile in 1987.
Since most of those leaders were gone shortly after John Paul visited, Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston likes to joke that Fidel Castro was the only Latin American dictator who actually survived contact with the Polish pope.

So far, it’s hard to name a national leader whose exit from power is related to Pope Francis’s influence, but that’s certainly not true in the city of Rome, the pope’s own backyard, where he’s already had a role in bringing down one mayor, and may have mixed feelings about the current occupant of the job.

Tonight, when Francis delivers his traditional year-end homily during a vespers service at St. Peter’s Basilica, people across the entire world will be paying attention, but few places are likely to be more closely scrutinizing what the pontiff has to say than Rome’s City Hall.

Last year, Francis used the year-end talk in part to take a final shot at a mayor who had just resigned in disgrace. He was speaking shortly after the exit amid an expenses scandal of Mayor Ignazio Marino, a figure with whom he had a legendarily frosty relationship.

Marino resigned in mid-October 2015 after complaints that he had used public funds to cover the costs of meals and other personal expenses, while basic services in Rome languished. He then attempted to withdraw the resignation, but changed course again after a majority of the city council abandoned him and resigned.

One problem that had dogged Martino, and may help explain why few wanted to back him up, was the perceived antagonism of Pope Francis.

The pontiff had publicly disassociated himself from Marino during his trip to the United States in September 2015, when Marino popped up along the way, telling reporters he hadn’t invited him to come and testily adding the mayor “professes to be a Catholic.”

Things turned almost surreal a couple of weeks later when an Italian radio show called “The Mosquito” made a prank call to Italian Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, an aide to Francis, convincing him it was then-Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and getting him to admit “the pope was furious” that Marino had crashed the party in the States.

Thus when Francis spoke on New Year’s Eve in 2015, his reference seemed abundantly clear when he told Romans that “the commitment to recover fundamental values of service, honesty and solidarity will help to overcome the grave uncertainties that dominated the scene this year, and which are symptoms of a scarce sense of dedication to the common good.”

Obviously, to suggest that service, honesty and solidarity needed to be “recovered” implied they had been missing under Marino, and no one missed the jab.

Some observers wonder if Francis will follow that up this year, given impressions that relations between the Vatican and new Mayor Virginia Raggi aren’t much better. 

Raggi is the first woman to hold the post and represents the upstart, anti-establishment Five Stars Movement.

Some Vatican officials grumble that the city didn’t do any better job of supporting the pope’s jubilee year under Raggi than Marino, citing failed public works projects and promised transportation improvements that never came.

Pointedly, when Francis recently held an audience to thank some 400 people who had been involved in the jubilee, including the president of the region of Lazio, Raggi wasn’t on the guest list.

Just a couple of weeks ago, when Raggi tweeted out her “joy” that Pope Francis had written her a letter, the Vatican swiftly put a statement saying it was the same letter the pontiff had sent to 60 mayors taking part in a Vatican conference on migration, clearly not wanting to give the impression Francis was somehow endorsing Raggi.

Complicating things further, in the eyes of many Italian observers, is the fact that traditional political factions in the country typically have several senior figures in their ranks who know the ecclesiastical world well - who may have been in the seminary for a period themselves, who may have relatives in the clergy, and who have cultivated good ties over the years with Vatican insiders.

That’s not really the case with the Five Star Movement, however, since its populist thrust often means its leaders are not people for whom seeking favor with major institutions, including the Church, have ever been a priority.

Granted, popes have no direct role in choosing mayors, even in Rome. Granted, too, given the “rage against the machine” spirit of the Five Star Movement, the fact that some Vatican mandarins have their noses out of joint may actually help Raggi with her electoral base.

That certainly seems to be the spirit of Beppe Grillo, the former comic turned political maverick who founded the movement, and who recently made waves by suggesting that the Vatican Museums should pay more in property taxes to help resolve the city’s debts.

Still, every mayor of Rome has to come to terms with one immutable fact: There’s only one real rock star in this town, and it isn’t them. Get into a staring contest with a pope, therefore, and the smart money is rarely going to be on the mayor.

New Year Message 2017 - Ossory Diocese

As we, in Ossory, embrace the challenge of living out our faith in 2017 may this be at the heart of what we do; let us make all in our communities feel included, welcomed and loved.  

We wish all in our diocese and beyond a very blessed and peaceful New Year 2017.

NEW YEAR MESSAGE 2017 Bishop Leo O’Reilly

Image result for Bishop Leo O’ReillyNew Year’s Day is the day that the Church celebrates the annual World Day of Peace. This year marks the fiftieth World Day of Peace. It was inaugurated by Pope Paul VI and, since then, there has been a message each year from the Holy Father to mark this day.

This year Pope Francis takes a very relevant theme for his message: “Non-violence: A Style of Politics for Peace”. He recalls that Jesus lived in violent times. Yet he taught that the source of violence and evil is the human heart: for “it is from within, from the human heart that evils intentions come”(Mk 7:21). Jesus tells us to counteract violence with love, to love even our enemies, to turn the other cheek.

Pope Francis points out that if the heart is the source of violence, “then it is fundamental that nonviolence be practised before all else in families”. He goes on to explain why, namely that human hearts are shaped by families, by the attitudes and interactions of the family members:

“The family is the indispensible crucible in which spouses, parents and children, brothers and sisters, learn to communicate and to show generous concern for one another, and in which frictions, and even conflicts, have to be resolved not by force but by dialogue, respect, concern for the good of the other, mercy and forgiveness. From within families, the joy of love spills out into the world and radiates to the whole of society.”

In this context, the celebration of the World Meeting of Families (WMOF) in Dublin in 2018 takes on a new importance. The family is the fundamental cell of society and of the Church. If our families are healthy and strong , our society will too. If our families are strong in faith, the life of our Church will reflect that. We have already begun our programme of preparation for WMOF in our parishes at Christmas with the distribution of the Prayer to the Holy Family of Pope Francis. I invite families throughout the diocese to use this prayer and to make it part of daily family prayers over the next two years.

Towards the end of his Message, Pope Francis speaks of the importance of the family in promoting a culture of nonviolence and peacemaking:

“The politics of nonviolence have to begin in the home and then spread to the entire human family. St Therese of Lisieux invites us to practise the little way of love, not to miss out on a kind word, a smile or any small gesture which shows peace and friendship. An integral ecology is .. made up of simple daily gestures that break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness.”

As we are about leave 2016 behind and embark on another year my prayer is that violence, especially violence against women and children, will cease and that all our families will grow strong in faith and love, and that love will spread out from them to bring peace in our world.

I wish all the people of our diocese a very happy and peaceful New Year and every blessing in 2017.

World Day of Peace Homily - Archbishop Diarmuid Martin

Image result for Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of DublinHomily notes of  
Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin, 
Archbishop of Dublin

“This morning the Church celebrates for the 50th time the World Day of Peace.  The idea of this celebration came from Pope Paul VI who chose to celebrate it on the first day of each new calendar year, a day on which people, young and old, of different beliefs and in different parts of the world, wake-up almost naturally hoping for a better and more peaceful new year.

Paul VI’s initial World Day of Peace celebration came at what was a crucial moment in the era of the Cold War.  It was a moment marked by a worldwide escalation of social conflicts and rejection of military and bureaucratic elites.  It was a moment in which a broad movement emerged all over the world in opposition to the Vietnam War.   This opposition focused on the limits of military intervention and of forms of exercising power without the participation of people.  It also marked the rise of new nonviolent movements of social change.

Fifty year later now, Pope Francis proposes for our reflection the theme Nonviolence: A Style of Politics for Peace.  He does so at another critical and transformative moment in the search for world peace.  He speaks of living today “in a world war fought piecemeal”.  There are wars across Africa and the Middle East.  The relations between the great powers are in flux.  There is an in-going precariousness in which differing sides claim to be working for peace: but peace only on their terms.  Dialogue becomes difficult because the premises for dialogue are undermined by hidden vested interests.  Peace agreements and truces last only days.  Groups and factions on all sides have no difficulty in getting their hands on the most deadly of weapons, ready to start violence anew at a moment’s notice.

Fifty years on from Pope Paul VI’s first appeal, we have also seen so many changes, as many new hopes appeared.  The cold war as we knew it came to an end.  Here in Europe the desire for unity among people grew. The hope of an end to ideologies and an end to war sprung up.  The names of the various dictators who held power on the right and the left are slowly being forgotten.  Those who are remembered with honour are those often nameless men and women of vision who knew that the force of integrity and honesty and justice was stronger than the vast array of weaponry and the ruthless art of suppression which the dictators felt kept them secure.

There is then a phrase in Pope Francis’ Message which brings me closer to home. He was speaking about the international scene but his words apply directly to the ongoing situation of violence in this city.

“Can violence achieve any good of lasting value?” he asks.  “Or does it merely lead to retaliation and a cycle of deadly conflicts that benefit only a few warlords?” All we need to do is to change the word “warlord” to “drug barons”.  Violence only leads to retaliation and further grief and those who seem to think they are stronger by resorting to violence are left in an insecurity which they know no sophisticated modern security systems can really protect them or their loved ones.

Will these people ever learn or are they totally blinded by their own selfish interest in the drug trade, a trade in death which is of such enormous financial interest that it leaders feel that they must kill to keep their power and perhaps, according to news reports, even hire killers from aboard to carry out their evil work.    Gangland violence must stop, but not in such a way as to strengthen the trade in drugs.  A truce among drug barons could easily be used to enhance their commerce of death to the further detriment of so many young, innocent and vulnerable young people whose lives are ruined and of their loved ones whose hearts are broken.

There is a dangerous culture of violence in Ireland which is difficult to understand.   I am saddened by the growing number of stabbings in the past year, at times by very young people.  What lies behind such foolish violence?  Is there a growing anger being built up in the hearts and minds of young people?  Is it another form of emptiness and frustration which blinds people to the damage that can be done also to themselves by a moment of folly?

How do we teach a culture of nonviolence to our young people?   We have great young people.  I spent the Christmas period among  family and friends both here and in Rome and I have been moved to listen to children recite their Christmas poems:  they are poems of simple words and ideas about Christmas being a time when peace is possible, when goodness is better than hatred.  I have also in these days watched generous teenage volunteers turn out to support the needy and to assist in feeding the homeless.  How can we transform that goodness that is in our young people into an enduring new culture of nonviolence?

The first thing that needs to be said is that nonviolence is not a sign of weakness but a sign of being strong.  It is a sign which recognises that lasting peace can only be achieved by peaceful means.  It is a sign of working for justice through being just, living justly and being alongside those who suffer injustice.  But nonviolence is not just a nice idea for Christmas; it must become reality around which people can coalesce every day.

Nonviolence: A Style of Politics for Peace is the title of Pope Francis’ Message.  A politics for peace belongs not just on the global level.  We need a politics for peace in every country and in every locality.  There is no part of the world which is not marked by brokenness.  Here in Ireland there is the brokenness caused by homelessness but there is also the brokenness caused by hopelessness in so many forms.  A situation of brokenness will not be resolved by a politics of brokenness.  Certainly politics must involve a plurality of approaches and cherish difference, but there must also be an overarching culture of national purpose.

Our homes and schools must become the real seedbeds for nonviolence.  Young people must learn the call to service from an early age and learn that divisions can be overcome and that tolerance and respect, but also patient understanding and mercy, are the strong weapons for relationships that endure, in the personal as well as in the social and political sphere.

But behind the doors of families there is also often physical violence and sexual violence.  Some act as if human sexuality is just about personal satisfaction, whereas it is about a love, tenderness and a mutual respect which enriches human relations, and indeed can reflect the lovingkindness of our God.  The upcoming World Meeting of Families which will be held in Dublin in 2018 must place at its centre a renewal of the power of families to be places where love and sharing, peaceful relations and reconciliation can be practiced and learnt.    

The Church herself must witness to the fact that the God revealed in Jesus Christ at this Christmas season is a God of mercy who reaches out to all and from whose love and care no one is excluded.  The Church must rediscover a language which reaches out to those who fail not through the violence of humiliation and condemnation but through the tender embrace of mercy and forgiveness.

Finally the Church must learn to announce Jesus Christ as the source of hope, for those to whom hope does not come easy. The Church celebrates this morning also the Feast of Mary, Holy Mother of God.  It recalls the Motherhood of Mary, the attitude in which Mary accepted the call to be mother to the one who would bring lasting peace and challenge all of us to be men and women of peace in our times and for our tomorrow.  

Peace is fundamentally a gift of the God of Peace to whom we raise our prayer today for all victims of violence and for all who work for the promotion of peace.”

New Year Message 2017 Bishop of Derry

Image result for diocese of derry2016 will not be remembered among the years that celebrate the best of human nature. Despite remarkable successes in celebrating our own painful past, we have heard of much tragedy and brutality.

And for his message on the Fiftieth World Day of Peace, Pope Francis may seem to be a voice crying in the wilderness when he writes that violence is not the cure for our broken world. 

He describes Christian non-violence as “an attitude of one who is so convinced of God’s love and power that he or she is not afraid to tackle evil with the weapons of truth and love alone.”

God-made-flesh is not just a nice story about the past. It speaks of a God who still believes in us – even when events might suggest that we are incapable of creating a peaceful world, worthy of human dignity.

As we move on from the Year of Mercy and prepare for the World Meeting of Families in Dublin in August 2018, I pray that people of faith may work, not to defend privilege or avenge persecution, but to pour the balm of mercy on the world’s self-inflicted wounds. 

And I hope that we can use the emphasis on the family, not to stigmatise anybody but to celebrate that wonderful human capacity for faithfulness over self-indulgence, for forgiveness over revenge and for grace over sin.

We do that because we celebrate, not so much our New Year resolutions, as our faith in a God who still has a dream for us, a God who remains hopelessly hopeful for what we can become with his grace. 

I wish everyone in our diocese a blessed and energising 2017.


New Year’s Message 2017 from Archbishop Michael Jackson

Image result for archdiocese of dublin and glendaloughA New Year brings with it a combination of the exciting and the predictable. Many people try to gather with friends and family to see in The New Year. 

Others connect by modern media with people special to them the world over in ways we might never have considered possible even in the recent past. 

Others remain hopeless and homeless. Journeying from one year to another is not, nor has it ever been, all about jollification. 

Nor indeed should it be so. 
We all have the opportunity to make resolutions as a New Year beckons us forward. 

These resolutions can be big or small but they should always be generous. 

They can be local or global but, again, they should always be generous. 

Those of us who are blessed and who have blessings should count our blessings as we share them. 

And it is in such generous sharing that we will, in turn be blessed, by The Other, The Stranger, The Refugee, The Neighbour in our midst – whoever, wherever, whenever.

I wish all of you a very fruitful and memorable New Year.

+ Michael Dublin and Glendalough

A New Year Prayer

A New Year Prayer

Holy Father,

God of our yesterdays, our today, and our tomorrows.
We praise You for Your unequaled greatness.
Thank You for the year behind us and for the year ahead.
Help us in Your new year, Father, to fret less and laugh more.
To teach our children to laugh by laughing with them.
To teach others to love by loving them.
Knowing, when Love came to the stable in Bethlehem, He came for us.
So that Love could be with us, and we could know You.
That we could share Love with others.
Help us, Father, to hear Your love song in every sunrise,
in the chriping of sparrows in our backyards,
in the stories of our old folks, and the fantasies of our children.
Help us to stop and listen to Your love songs,
so that we may know You better and better.
We rejoice in the world You loved into being.
Thank You for another new year and for new chances every day.
We pray for peace, for light, and for hope, that we might spread them to others.
Forgive us for falling short this past year.
We leave the irreparable past in your hands, and step out into the unknown new year knowing You will go with us.
We accept Your gift of a new year and we rejoice in what's ahead, depending on You to help us do exactly what You want..
I say it again, we rejoice!
In Jesus name,

Oblates of Mary Immaculate gift stationery and books to 50 poor children in Colombo 50 poor children from a Colombo multiethnic area received Christmas baskets with school stationery, books and other teaching materials from the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) during the traditional Christmas celebration. 

This is the tenth edition of the event organised by the OMI-run Centre for Religion and Society (CRS).
"When we share or give something to people in need, we must not give them what we like or what we want, but what they need,” CRS director Fr Ashok Stephen told AsiaNews.

The gifted material will help the kids in the upcoming school year, and their parents who don’t have the money to buy pens, notepads, and books.

The children come from Summit Pura (Summit Town) in Mattakkuliya (Colombo 15), an area that began to be occupied in 1971 by beggars and poor families living on the edge of the Sri Lanka capital.

The area is home to a mix of people with different cultural and religious backgrounds, both Tamil and Sinhalese, mostly Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus, but with some Christians.

Its multiethnic character was clear on Christmas evening as children sang in Sinhalese and English.

Fr Steven noted that children put on a Christmas play to send a strong message to relatives and parents. "Alcohol abuse is harmful to health. For this reason, they asked their parents to avoid it".

Pope 2016 retrospective on YouTube


 The Vatican on Friday released a video on its YouTube channel titled "2016: A Year with Pope Francis", highlighting some of the pontiff's most important events and travels during the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

Some of Pope Francis's historic moments from the past year featured in the video include a visit to Rome's Synagogue, a meeting with Russian Orthodox bishop Patriarch Kirill in Cuba, a visit to Auschwitz, and the canonisation of Mother Teresa.

Family is holy tweets pope

Pope Francis tweeted Friday, the day the Church celebrates the Holy Family, "Holy Family of Nazareth, let all recognise the holy character of the family, its beauty in God's design".

Pope to baptise babies from Amatrice

Image result for pope francis baptising babiesPope Francis will baptise eight babies born in Amatrice and Accumoli, two Lazio villages worst hit by a deadly August earthquake, on January 14 at St Martha's House in the Vatican, Rieti Bishop Domenico Pompili announced Friday.