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Pope appeals for unity, non-violence in Chile's torn Mapuche zone

Temuco, Chile, Jan 17, 2018 / 07:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday, Pope Francis celebrated Mass in Chile's largely indigenous Araucania region, long divided by violent conflict. He stressed the importance of unity, which he said cannot be achieved through violence or forced uniformity.

Pointing to Jesus' prayer that “they may all be one” at the end of John's Gospel, Pope Francis noted that it is at this “crucial moment” before his death that Jesus “stops to plea for unity.”

“In his heart, he knows that one of the greatest threats for his disciples and for all mankind will be division and confrontation, the oppression of some by others,” he said, and urged those present to take Jesus' words in the prayer to heart.

We must “enter with him into this garden of sorrows with those sorrows of our own, and to ask the Father, with Jesus, that we too may be one,” Francis said, and prayed that “confrontation and division never gain the upper hand among us.”

Pope Francis spoke during his Jan. 17 Mass in Chile's Araucania region in Temuco, which for years has been torn apart by violent conflict surrounding the plight of the area's Mapuche people, an indigenous group present largely in south-central Chile and southwestern Argentina.

He traveled to the region as part of his Jan. 15-18 visit to Chile, after which he will make an official visit to Peru from Jan. 18-21.

The largest indigenous group in Chile, the Mapuche resisted Spanish conquest during colonial times by using guerrilla warfare tactics to evade soldiers and maintain control of their land.

They continued to resist after Chilean independence in 1818, however, in the 1860s the military gained control, and the majority of their land was given over to members of the military and incoming immigrants.  

Despite the launch of some initiatives aimed at restoring parts of their land and the creation of scholarships for Mapuche students, the Mapuche live in one of the poorest areas of Chile and claim to be mistreated by authorities.

Some of the Mapuche have in recent years adopted violent means of protest, and have bombed trucks and land of non-Mapuche people they say are illegally inhabiting the area.

They have also set fire to churches, burning more than two dozen in 2016 and 2017, according to the Chilean prosecutor's office. Just last Friday three more churches were firebombed in the Chilean capital Santiago in protest of the Pope's visit.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks, and authorities are unsure whether Mapuche activists are to blame, however, leaflets criticizing the upcoming visit of Francis and calling for a “free” Mapuche nation were dropped at the scene.

The field attached to the Maquehue Airport, where Pope Francis landed and celebrated Mass, had once been used as a detention center where many indigenous peoples were tortured during Chile’s military government under Augusto Pinochet.

In the lead up to the Pope's trip, a number of the Mapuche had protested the use of the airport for the papal Mass given the serious human rights violations that took place there, arguing that the land belongs to them and not the government. Two more attacks on churches took place shortly before the Pope's arrival to Temuco, however, no one has claimed responsibility for these either.

In his homily, Pope Francis recognized that in the past, the airport had been the site of “grave violations of human rights,” and said he was offering the Mass for “all those who suffered and died, and for those who daily bear the burden of those many injustices.” He paused in a moment of silence for all who died.

“The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross bears all the sin and pain of our peoples, in order to redeem it,” he said, and pointed to the day's Gospel reading from John, in which Jesus prays for the unity of his disciples.

Unity is a gift which must be “persistently sought” for the good of all, and for future generations, he said, but cautioned against what he named as two temptations that can “poison the roots” of this unity.

First, Francis warned against the temptation to confuse unity with uniformity, saying “Jesus does not ask his Father that all may be equal, identical, for unity is not meant to neutralize or silence differences.”

“Unity can never be a stifling uniformity imposed by the powerful, or a segregation that does not value the goodness of others,” he said. Rather, the unity that Jesus refers to is a “reconciled diversity” which recognizes the value of the individual contribution of each tradition and culture.

This unity “will not allow personal or community wrongs to be perpetrated in its name,” the Pope said, adding that “we need the riches that each people has to offer, and we must abandon the notion that there are higher or lower cultures.”

It also requires both listening to and esteeming one another, which in turn builds solidarity. And solidarity, he said, is the most effective weapon against “the deforestation of hope.”

He also warned against the temptation to obtain unity with the use of violence, and cautioned against two forms of violence which he said stifle the growth of unity and reconciliation rather than encouraging them.

The first, he said, are the “elegant agreements that will never be put into practice.” They consist of nice words and detailed plans, and while these are needed, they end up “erasing with the elbow what was written by the hand” when they go unimplemented, he said, explaining that this is a form of violence “because it frustrates hope.”

Second are the actual acts that take place, he said, insisting that “a culture of mutual esteem may not be based on acts of violence and destruction that end up taking human lives.”

“You cannot assert yourself by destroying others, because this only leads to more violence and division,” he said. “Violence begets violence, destruction increases fragmentation and separation. Violence eventually makes a most just cause into a lie.”

Rather than using these two avenues, which are “the lava of a volcano that wipes out and burns everything in its path,” the Pope urged attendees to pursue a path of “active non-violence” as a political style, and told them to never tire of promoting true and peaceful dialogue for the sake of unity.

After Mass, Pope Francis will head to the mother house for the Sisters of the Holy Cross order, where he will each lunch with around 11 people, eight of whom will be Mapuche.

Who cheats? The demographics of faith and infidelity

Denver, Colo., Jan 17, 2018 / 04:00 am (ACI Prensa).- Last week, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens admitted to an extramarital affair with his former hairdresser, although he denied allegations that he subsequently blackmailed her.

Greitens issued a joint statement with his wife saying that they had dealt with the affair privately, while his attorney issued a statement denying the blackmail allegations.

The allegations came as a surprise to many, given Greitens’ public persona as a family man, and a devout follower of Judaism.  Critics have accused the governor of hypocrisy, and he recently cancelled a statewide tour promoting a new state tax plan.

But recent data shows that Greitens’ infidelity is not the norm among religiously active people.

According to data gathered from the recent General Social Survey (GSS) by NORC, a non-partisan research institution at the University of Chicago, people who attended religious services at least semi-regularly were less likely to cheat on their spouses than people who attended religious services once a year or less.

The data was analyzed in a blog post by Wendy Wang, director of research with the Institute for Family Studies.

Wang said that while the data didn’t indicate whether the type of religious service played a role, “it’s a fact that people who regularly attend religious services are less likely to cheat.”

“I think it’s interesting how your faith could play a role in your relationship,” Wang told CNA. “It probably has something to do with what the church or the synagogue is teaching you. A lot of religions emphasize the importance of family, marriage stability, so that’s probably why it has such an impact,” she said.

The data showed that attendance at religious services was the strongest factor among both genders that indicated a low likelihood of infidelity.

On the whole, factors that indicate chances of infidelity varied widely between the two genders, Wang noted. For example, race and age were strong determining factors of the chances of infidelity among men, while for women, political party identification and family background were significant determining factors.

However, religious service attendance remained a significant factor for both genders, even when controlling for other variables, Wang said.

Family background was also a strong determining factor in indicating whether someone might cheat, Wang said. While it was a stronger determining factor for women, family background played a significant role overall in determining whether people were likely to cheat.

“Overall, Democrats, adults who didn’t grow up in intact families, and those who rarely or never attend religious services are more likely than others to have cheated on their spouse. For example, 15% of adults who grew up with both biological parents have cheated on their spouse before, compared with 18% of those who didn’t grow up in intact families,” Wang wrote.

“I don’t know the reasons why exactly, but we do see that people who grow up with both parents married to each other, they’re less likely to cheat,” Wang told CNA. “I think it is important to see how a steady family, a stable marriage actually could help even in your children’s marriage quality.”

Wang’s research also indicated that cheaters - both men and women - are more likely to be divorced or separated than non-cheaters.

“Men who cheated are more likely than their female peers to be married. Among men who have cheated on their spouse before, 61% are currently married, while 34% are divorced or separated. However, only 44% of women who have cheated before are currently married, while 47% are divorced or separated,” Wang wrote in her post.

However, the data doesn’t indicate whether men are more likely to remain married to the spouse whom they cheated on, or to remarry after infidelity, Wang said.

“Basically the question is who’s more likely to forgive their cheating spouse? I don’t have numbers for that,” Wang said. “What I see here is we definitely see a consequence for cheating.”

Part of the reason for the discrepancy among marriage rates after infidelity could be the differing reasons why men and women cheat, Wang said. Cheating men may more often act out of physical impulses, while women who cheat may be more likely to be emotionally involved in their affairs, and more likely to divorce as a result of them, she said.

“That might explain some of the gender difference there, but it’s hard to say,” she said.

Overall, Wang said that the data and analysis are important, especially as more accusations of sexual misconduct come out against celebrities and politicians, many of whom are married.

“That’s why I was interested to take a look and see the data; it is amazing to see how things have changed in a few months,” Wang said.

Wang said what couples can take from the analysis is that “there’s consequences to cheating...I just wanted people to be aware that there’s consequences to cheating and it’s very detrimental to a relationship.”

Bishop: Congo 'gained heroes' when protesters shed blood

Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Jan 17, 2018 / 12:14 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Catholic Church in the Democratic Republic of Congo held a memorial Mass Friday for protesters killed last month while demonstrating against the presidency of Joseph Kabila.

Catholic leaders were outspoken during the Jan. 12 Mass, honoring the victims of an anti-Kabila protest held on Dec. 31. During the New Year’s Eve demonstration, six people were killed and more than 120 were arrested.  

The country’s Catholic and Protestant leaders had called for peaceful marches to protest the continued presidency of Kabila, according to the Daily Mail.

Activists and observers say that police and military forces used violence to disrupt the protests. Days after the fatal event, Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, archbishop of Kinshasa, accused security forces of opening fire on peaceful protesters, calling their actions “nothing less than barbarism.”

Cardinal Monsengwo, who has become known for public criticism of the Kabila government, celebrated the memorial Mass on Friday.

The Mass at Kinshasa Cathedral last week drew a large crowd of locals, and diplomatic representatives from the United States, Belgium, Britain, Canada, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, the EU, and the Vatican, the Daily Mail reported.

“If we have lost a brother, a sister, we have gained heroes, real ones, because they have mingled their blood with that of all those who have died for a change of power, the guarantee of democracy,” Bishop Donatien Bafuidinsoni said during the Mass on Jan. 12.

After the Mass, police fired warning shots and teargas to disband worshippers outside the cathedral, where a few people sustained injuries.

Kabila has been Congo’s president since 2001, but failed to step down at the end of his constitutionally-limited two terms of power in 2016. Congolese bishops stepped in to help broker terms with the president in which both parties agreed that new presidential elections would be held in December 2017.

However, the country’s electoral commission postponed the original date, saying an election could not be organized until December 2018. Many of the president’s opponents believe that Kabila has no intention of leaving his position of power, despite the calls for his resignation.

Political tensions have risen as Kabila continues to postpone elections. Dozens have died during protests against Kabila, and some fear the return of a civil war within the country.

“We are witnessing a campaign of propaganda, of disinformation, of libel even, orchestrated by heads of the institutions of the republic against the Catholic church and its leadership,” said Fr. Donatien Nshole, a Church spokesman.

He encouraged Catholics to “peacefully block all attempts to confiscate or seize power by non-democratic or anti-constitutional ways.”

Pope Francis meets with sex abuse victims in Chile

Santiago, Chile, Jan 16, 2018 / 08:13 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis met privately Tuesday with 6 victims of sexual abuse committed by priests in Chile, the papal spokesman has reported. The meeting had not been previously announced as a part of the Pope’s schedule.

"Today after lunch, the Holy Father met with a small group of victims of sexual abuse committed by priests, at the Apostolic Nunciature in Santiago. The meeting was strictly private, and there was no one else present: only the Pope and the victims. In this way, the were able to share their sufferings with Pope Francis, who listened to them, and prayed and cried with them," reported Greg Burke, director of the Vatican’s press office.

At a press conference from Santiago, Burke told reporters that the meeting lasted half an hour.

The Pope’s visit to Chile has been marked by protests, including some from groups who allege a bishop appointed by the Pope covered up acts of sexual abuse committed by an influential Chilean priest.

Earlier Tuesday, during a speech to Chile’s civic authorities and diplomats, the Pontiff expressed his sorrow for the cases of abuses against minors.

"I can not help but express the pain and shame I feel at the irreparable damage caused to children by Church’s ministers. I join with my brothers in the episcopate, knowing that it is a matter of justice to ask for forgiveness, and to support the victims with all our strength. At the same time we must work so that it does not happen again," he said at the event.

Later, in the afternoon, the Pontiff conveyed solidarity with priests and religious who, he said, suffer insults and misunderstandings because of the abuses committed by some ministers of the Church.

"I know that at times you have been insulted in the metro or walking on the street, and that by going around in clerical attire in many places you pay a heavy price. For this reason, I suggest that we ask God to grant us the clear-sightedness to call reality by its name, the strength to seek forgiveness and the ability to listen to what he tells us,” the Pope said.

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

 

Catholic college contingents head to the March for Life

Washington D.C., Jan 16, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The 45th annual March for Life will take place in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 19, and hundreds of thousands of people are expected to attend. Many of the marchers will be students from Catholic universities, who will, in some cases, skip class to march for an end to abortion.

Here are some of the schools that will be well-represented at Friday’s march:

Nearby Christendom College, cancels all scheduled classes on the day of the March for Life, so that all students and faculty are able to attend. Christendom is located in Front Royal, Virginia, about an 80 minute drive from the National Mall. Christendom students have attended each March for Life since the school’s founding in 1977.

Franciscan University of Steubenville, which also cancels day classes on the day of the March, will send roughly a quarter of its student body--about 500 students--to the March for Life this year. In a press release, the school said that they will be sending eight busses on the five-hour journey to DC, with additional students and alumni making the trek on their own.

The University of Notre Dame likely is the winner of the sheer numbers game. The school says it is preparing to bring over 1,000 people from the greater Notre Dame community--including students from nearby St. Mary’s College and Holy Cross College, graduate students, and faculty--to Washington, D.C. for the March. In 2017, there were about 700 Notre Dame students at the March.

North Dakota’s University of Mary, which led the marchers at the 2017 March for Life, also will send a contingent of students on the two-day drive from Bismarck to the nation’s capital. In 2016, the group from North Dakota was trapped in the snow for over 16 hours, which resulted in a “snow Mass” that went viral on the internet. About 145 students, faculty, and staff will attend this year’s march.

On the other end of the travel spectrum is the Catholic University of America, whose students will only have to take a short metro ride to go to the March for Life. CUA plays host to the Vigil for Life Mass on the eve of the March for Life, and thousands of people descend upon its campus each year in the lead-up to the March. In order to successfully handle the influx of pilgrims, the school has a pro-life hospitality ministry, staffed by student volunteers.

Trump issues statement promoting religious liberty

Washington D.C., Jan 16, 2018 / 04:15 pm (CNA).- US President Donald Trump issued a proclamation declaring Jan. 16, 2018, as “religious freedom day.” This date was chosen as it is the 223rd anniversary of Virginia’s enactment of the Statute for Religious Freedom.

In his proclamation, Trump said that “Faith is embedded in the history, spirit, and soul of our Nation,” and that the day was intended to celebrate the religious diversity in America. Trump spoke of how the nation's forefathers came to what is now the US “seeking refuge from religious persecution” and believing that “freedom is not a gift from the government, but a sacred right from Almighty God.”

He noted that in 1786, Thomas Jefferson wrote the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, which said that “all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.” This bill would inspire the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights.

Trump touched on his efforts to preserve religious freedom in the United States, and said that it was “unfortunate” that past policies had infringed on this right. The president said that he attempted to address this issue with an executive order early in his presidency, and that “No American – whether a nun, nurse, baker, or business owner – should be forced to choose between the tenets of faith or adherence to the law.”

The president said that the United States is the “paramount champion” for religious freedom worldwide, and that the U.S. will keep fighting against extremism, acts of terror, and violence against people due to their religious beliefs.

He condemned the “genocide waged by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria” against religious minorities in the region, such as the Yazidi, Christians, and Shia Muslims. Additionally, Trump said that “we will be undeterred” in efforts to put into place policies that promote religious freedom worldwide and to ensure that people are not persecuted for their beliefs.

“Faith breathes life and hope into our world. We must diligently guard, preserve, and cherish this unalienable right,” said Trump.

Here's the newest basilica in North America

Arlington, Va., Jan 16, 2018 / 03:59 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- St. Mary Catholic Church in Alexandria, the first permanent Catholic parish in Virginia, has a new name and a new designation for the new year. It was announced Sunday that the Holy See had decreed the building to be a minor basilica, and the church will now be known as “The Basilica of Saint Mary.”

Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington announced during the 8:30 a.m. Mass Jan. 14 that he had recently received a letter from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments which decreed that the building would be a minor basilica. The parishioners broke into applause at the news.



The Basilica of Saint Mary is located in Alexandria, Va., fewer than 10 miles south of Arlington.

“Within our Catholic Church, this is indeed a great news, and it’s a very thorough process,” Burbidge said. Burbidge joked that the pastor of St. Mary’s, Fr. Edward Hathaway, inquired about the process to pursue the title “about three minutes” after he was named Bishop of Arlington last year.

“We are overjoyed and humbled by the recognition of St. Mary’s as one of the major churches in the world,” said Fr. Hathaway.

“We are overjoyed and humbled by the recognition of St. Mary’s as one of the major churches in the world.” Read the full story here: https://t.co/i560ZfhMax
Photos courtesy of The Basilica of St. Mary #Catholic #Vatican pic.twitter.com/JvMSQCLG6l

— Catholic News Agency (@cnalive) January 17, 2018 The designation of the building as a basilica means that the parish “has a special relationship with the Holy See,” and Burbidge emphasized that this was a “great honor” for the church. St. Mary’s was chosen due to its importance in the community, its history as a parish, and its significance in the history of the United States.

The Basilica of Saint Mary is the 84th basilica in the United States, and the first in the Diocese of Arlington. Throughout the world there are just under 1,800 minor basilicas, and there are four major basilicas in Rome.

The parish was founded in 1795, a time when Catholicism was heavily restricted in Virginia, with Catholics barred from voting or holding public office. The first donor to the church was George Washington, who was not Catholic; though his close aide, Col. John Fitzgerald, was. The president gave the parish the equivalent of $1,200 today.

The church moved to its current location in 1810, and the current building was dedicated in 1827. The site of the original church is now the parish's cemetery.

Now that St. Mary’s has been recognized as a minor basilica, it will be outfitted with an umbraculum, a canopy of yellow and red silk; a tintinnabulum, a bell mounted on a pole which is used when the Pope visits a basilica; and the display of the papal symbol of the keys of St. Peter.

As a basilica, St. Mary's has a new seal, which includes the umbraculum and the papal keys. It has adopted the motto Omnes cum Petro ad Jesum per Mariam, or “All with Peter to Jesus through Mary.”

 

Three signs indicate that a church has been designated as a basilica: an ombrellino (umbrella), tintinnabulum (bell to alert the Pope’s arrival) and the display of the Papal Symbol on church furnishings. More about @stmaryoldtown, now #StMaryBasilica! https://t.co/UtGIeZWGTt pic.twitter.com/Bw6ZOWV5Ir

— Diocese of Arlington (@arlingtonchurch) January 15, 2018


 

Dr. Chad Pecknold, a professor of theology at the Catholic University of America and a parishioner of St. Mary’s, appeared on EWTN’s “Morning Glory” radio program on Tuesday to discuss what this means for his home parish.

According to Pecknold, the historical significance of a basilica is that it is where an emperor would sit. Nowadays, given the relative lack of emperors, the designation of a basilica is more of a symbol of a church’s connection to Rome.

“It shows our special connection to the See of St. Peter,” said Pecknold. He said the process began about a year ago, and that the Vatican moved remarkably fast in making its decision.

“It was exactly a year from the beginning of our application to the end – of a great result,” said Pecknold. “We were absolutely thrilled that the Vatican worked so quickly. I think our case was strong,” he added.

The Basilica of Saint Mary will celebrate its 220th anniversary in 2020.

Pope Francis to Chile's bishops: 'the mission belongs to the entire Church'

Santiago, Chile, Jan 16, 2018 / 02:52 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis reminded the Chilean bishops of the importance of living out their priestly fatherhood united in mission with their people in his final address on Tuesday, the first full day of his apostolic trip to Chile and Peru.

“Stay close to your priests, like Saint Joseph, with a fatherhood that helps them to grow and to develop the charisms that the Holy Spirit has wished to pour out,” the Pope said Jan. 16 in the sacristy of the Santiago Metropolitan Cathedral.

He began his address by greeting Archbishop Bernardino Piñera Carvallo, who at 102 is the oldest bishop in the world. He is Archbishop Emeritus of La Serena and has been retired since 1990. Piñera was ordained a priest in 1947. He was consecrated a bishop in 1958, and attended the Second Vatican Council. The Pope called him a “marvellous living memory.”

In his address, Pope Francis stressed the importance of unity, especially at a time when secular individualism leaves many feeling isolated and alone: “One of the problems facing our societies today is the sense of being orphaned, the feeling of not belonging to anyone. This ‘post-modern’ feeling can seep into us and into our clergy. We begin to think that we belong to no one; we forget that we are part of God’s holy and faithful people.”

Pope Francis warned the bishops that they are not immune to this individualistic postmodern temptation, particularly in the form of clericalism, the narrow view of the Church as only “an elite of consecrated men and women, priests and bishops.”

“The mission belongs to the entire Church, and not to the individual priest or bishop,” said Pope Francis, stressing that clericalism poses the risk of stifling “the initiatives that the Spirit may be awakening in our midst.”

The Pope emphasized that seminaries must prepare future priests to avoid clericalism and for the challenges of postmodern secularism, saying, “Tomorrow’s priests must be trained with a view to the future, since their ministry will be carried out in a secularized world. This in turn demands that we pastors discern how best to prepare them for carrying out their mission in these concrete circumstances and not in our 'ideal worlds or situations'.”

The mission of today's seminarians is to be “carried out in fraternal unity with the whole People of God,” he said. “Side by side, supporting and encouraging the laity in a climate of discernment and synodality, two of the essential features of the priest of tomorrow. Let us say no to clericalism and to ideal worlds that are only part of our thinking, but touch the life of no one.”

He added that the bishops must “beg and implore” from the Holy Spirit “the gift of dreaming and working for a missionary and prophetic option capable of transforming everything, so that our customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and ecclesial structures can be suitably channelled for the evangelization of Chile rather than for ecclesiastical self-preservation. Let us not be afraid to strip ourselves of everything that separates us from the missionary mandate.”

With this address to bishops, Pope Francis ended the public portion of the first full day of his Jan. 15-22 apostolic trip to Chile and Peru.

He had earlier met also with Chile’s civil leaders, whom he asked forgiveness on behalf of the Church for the sexual abuse scandals among the country's clerics; female prisoners; priests and religious; and the country's bishops.

The Pope will spend two more days in Chile visiting Santiago, Temuco, and Iquique before he heads off to Peru.

Admit your wounds and receive mercy, Pope tells Chilean priests, religious

Santiago, Chile, Jan 16, 2018 / 02:13 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis said Tuesday that even amid the pain which results from sinfulness, the Church can still serve the world if she acknowledges the reality of her woundedness and puts Christ and his mercy at the center of all things.

"We are not asked to ignore or hide our wounds. A Church with wounds can understand the wounds of today's world and make them her own, suffering with them, accompanying them and seeking to heal them," the Pope said Jan. 16 at the Santiago Metropolitan Cathedral in Santiago, Chile.

"A wounded Church does not make herself the center of things, does not believe that she is perfect, but puts at the center the one who can heal those wounds, whose name is Jesus Christ."

Pope Francis spoke during an encounter with priests, deacons, religious men and women, consecrated, and seminarians, where he was welcomed by Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati Andrello of Santiago.  The meeting took place as part of the Pope's Jan. 15-22 apostolic visit to Chile and Peru.

Cardinal Ezzati reflected that “presbyteral and consecrated life in Chile have and do endure difficult times of turbulence,” and that while many have been faithful, “the weeds of evil have also grown, and their consequence of scandal and desertion.” He thanked Pope Francis for “your words which denounce sin and lukewarmness and, at the same time, your continuous calls to live the beauty of the election and the apostolic dedication of the consecrated vocation.”

Pope Francis said that it doesn't help to try to hide wounds and sins: "whether we like it or not, we are called to face reality as it is – our own personal reality and the reality of our communities and societies."

Even St. Peter had to acknowledge that he "was a sinner like everyone else, as needy as the others, as frail as anyone else,” Francis emphasized. “As disciples, as a Church, we can have the same experience: there are moments when we have to face not our success but our weakness.”

What made St. Peter an apostle? What makes us apostles? he asked. One thing alone: that we have received the mercy of Christ.

Francis outlined three moments in the Gospels where we can learn from St. Peter, even as imperfect and sinful people, to bring Christ to the world. These three moments the Pope called Peter disheartened, Peter shown mercy, and Peter transfigured.

Before the resurrection, but following Christ's passion, St. Peter and the other apostles were “dismayed and confused,” Francis said. “These are the hours of dismay and confusion in the life of the disciple,” he said.

He pointed to the child sexual abuse scandal that has occurred within Chile as a "time of upheaval," saying he is attentive to what priests, consecrated, and religious are doing "to respond to this great and painful evil."

It is particularly painful, he said, "because of the harm and sufferings of the victims and their families, who saw the trust they had placed in the Church’s ministers betrayed. Painful too for the suffering of ecclesial communities, but also painful for you, brothers and sisters, who, after working so hard, have seen the harm that has led to suspicion and questioning; in some or many of you this has been a source of doubt, fear or a lack of confidence.”

"I know that at times you have been insulted in the metro or walking on the street, and that by going around in clerical attire in many places you pay a heavy price. For this reason, I suggest that we ask God to grant us the clear-sightedness to call reality by its name, the strength to seek forgiveness and the ability to listen to what he tells us,” he stated.

The Church in both Chile and Peru has faced major fallout from sexual abuse scandals in recent years, which have damaged the Church’s image and created a strong distrust of the hierarchy.

The major case in Chile is that of Fr. Fernando Karadima, who once led a lay movement from his parish in El Bosque. He was found guilty of sexually abusing minors in 2011 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

He then addressed the changes Chilean society has seen since his youth: “New and different cultural expressions are being born which do not fit into our familiar patterns.”

“We can yield to the temptation of becoming closed, isolating ourselves and defending our ways of seeing things, which then turn out as nothing more than fine monologues,” he said. “We can be tempted to think that everything is wrong, and in place of 'good news', the only thing we profess is apathy and disappointment. As a result, we shut our eyes to the pastoral challenges, thinking that the Spirit has nothing to say about them. In this way, we forget that the Gospel is a journey of conversion, not just for 'others' but for ourselves as well.”

The Pope stated, “Whether we like it or not, we are called to face reality as it is – our own personal reality and the reality of our communities and societies.”

Turning to “Peter shown mercy,” he discussed St. Peter's encounter with the risen Christ: “It is time for Peter to have to confront a part of himself. The part of him that many times he didn’t want to see. He experienced his limitation, his frailty and his sinfulness. Peter, the temperamental, impulsive leader and saviour, self-sufficient and over-confident in himself and in his possibilities, had to acknowledge his weakness and sin. He was a sinner like everyone else, as needy as the others, as frail as anyone else … It is a crucial moment in Peter’s life.”

“As disciples, as Church, we can have the same experience: there are moments when we have to face not our success but our weakness,” the Pope said.

When Christ takes St. Peter aside to ask him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” he is trying to save him, the Pope said, “from the danger of remaining closed in on his sin, constantly dwelling with remorse on his frailty, the danger of giving up.”

Christ wants to free St. Peter “from seeing his opponents as enemies and being upset by opposition and criticism. He wants to free him from being downcast and, above all, negative. By his question, Jesus asks Peter to listen to his heart and to learn how to discern.”

The Lord “questioned Peter about love and kept asking until Peter could give him a realistic response: 'Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you'. In this way, Jesus confirms him in his mission.”

The reception of mercy is what confirmed St. Peter as an apostle, Pope Francis said. “We are not superheroes who stoop down from the heights to encounter mere mortals. Rather, we are sent as men and women conscious of having been forgiven. That is the source of our joy … A consecrated man or woman sees his or her wounds as signs of the resurrection; who sees in the wounds of this world the power of the resurrection; who, like Jesus, does not meet his brothers and sisters with reproach and condemnation,” he said.

Reflecting on how the risen Christ appeared with his wounds, which indeed “enabled Thomas to profess his faith,” the Pope said, “We are not asked to ignore or hide our wounds. A Church with wounds can understand the wounds of today’s world and make them her own, suffering with them, accompanying them and seeking to heal them. A wounded Church does not make herself the centre of things, does not believe that she is perfect, but puts at the centre the one who can heal those wounds, whose name is Jesus Christ.”

“The knowledge that we are wounded sets us free. Yes, it sets us free from becoming self-referential and thinking ourselves superior” and from a “promethean tendency,” he stated.

“In Jesus, our wounds are risen. They inspire solidarity; they help us to tear down the walls that enclose us in elitism and they impel us to build bridges and to encounter all those yearning for that merciful love which Christ alone can give.”

Pope Francis reflected: “I am concerned when I see communities more worried about their image, about occupying spaces, about appearances and publicity, than about going out to touch the suffering of our faithful people.”

He then quoted the words of St. Alberto Hurtado, a Chilean Jesuit of the mid-20th century who was involved in Catholic Action: “All those methods will fail that are imposed by uniformity, that try to bring us to God by making us forget about our brothers and sisters, that make us close our eyes to the universe rather than teaching us to open them and raise all things to the Creator of all, that make us selfish and close us in on ourselves.”

The Pope explained that “God’s people neither expect nor need us to be superheroes. They expect pastors, consecrated persons, who know what it is to be compassionate, who can give a helping hand, who can spend time with those who have fallen and, like Jesus, help them to break out of that endless remorse that poisons the soul.”

Pope Francis finally turned to “Peter transfigured.”

St. Peter experienced the “wound of sin” but “learned from Jesus that his wounds could be a path of resurrection.”

 But “to know both Peter disheartened and Peter transfigured is an invitation to pass from being a Church of the unhappy and disheartened to a Church that serves all those people who are unhappy and disheartened in our midst.”

“To renew prophecy is to renew our commitment not to expect an ideal world, an ideal community, or an ideal disciple in order to be able to live and evangelize, but rather to make it possible for every disheartened person to encounter Jesus,” he said. “One does not love ideal situations or ideal communities; one loves persons.”

A “frank, sorrowful and prayerful recognition of our limitations” makes us able to return to Christ, Pope Francis said.

“How good it is for all of us to let Jesus renew our hearts.”

Award to pro-abortion politician a matter of protocol, Vatican says

Vatican City, Jan 16, 2018 / 01:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The conferral of the Vatican’s Order of St. Gregory the Great to Dutch politician and pro-abortion activist Liliane Ploumen was part of an ordinary diplomatic exchange of honorific titles, and does not mean that the Vatican supports Ploumen’s abortion campaigns, a Vatican spokesperson explained Jan. 15.
 
Responding to requests of clarification, Paloma Garcia-Ovejero, deputy director of the Holy See Press Office, said that “the honorific of the St. Gregory the Great Pontifical Order that Liliane Ploumen, then Minister for Development received in June 2017, during the visit of the Dutch Royals to the Holy Father, is part of the diplomatic praxis of the exchange of decorations among delegations during official visits between heads of state and government to the Vatican.”
 
Garcia-Ovejero said that the decoration “cannot be by any way considered an endorsement to the pro-abortion and birth control politics advocated by Mrs. Ploumen.”
 
Liliane Ploumen, a Dutch politician, served as Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation from Nov. 5, 2012 to Oct. 26, 2017.
 
In that capacity, she was part of a delegation of the Dutch monarchy that visited Pope Francis on June 22.
 
On that occasion, the Vatican returned the Dutch Royal Family a stick belonging to William I, Prince of Orange, that had previously been lost in the Jesuit Catalan archives.

The stick – in fact a scepter – depicts the coat of arms of William of Orange. The stick was used by Louis of Nassau, the brother of William of Orange, during the 1574 Mookerheyde battle in 1574. It was lost, came into the hand of a Spanish general and eventually the superior of the Jesuits. Eventually, it got lost in the Catalan archives.
 
The occasion included an exchange of honorary titles, an element of diplomatic praxis that usually grabs no headlines.
 
Diplomatic visits to the Vatican are highly choreographed affairs.
 
During an official state visit to the Vatican, the most solemn kind of diplomatic meeting, protocol dictates that a solemn procession from St. Peter’s Square, into the Vatican, to the Cortile San Damaso, which accesses the Apostolic Palace.
 
The procession is greeted by three blasts of trumpets, and then the delegation enters the Apostolic Palace and walks through the rooms.
 
There is even a specific protocol for walking through Apostolic Palace. The procession toward the Papal Library, where the meeting takes place, is led by a Swiss Guard sergeant, follow by 6 Sediari Pontifici, ceremonial servants, in the case of head of state and 8 Sediari Pontifici for monarchs.
 
These details explain that a royal family enjoys a sort of “right of precedence” in Vatican protocol, and for that reason the visit of a Royal Family is a serious and solemn event.
 
The visit of the King William Alexander and Queen Maxima was not an official state visit, but a mere audience, and so an exchange of honorifics would not ordinarily to take place. However, the presence of the royal family, and the solemnity of returning of the Dutch stick, might have suggested to the Secretariat of State a protocol designed to highlight the audience, including the conferral of honors, a Vatican source explained to CNA.  
  
In some cases, the Vatican can ask not to proceed with an exchange of awards or honors, especially when some of the members of the other delegations can be controversial, a source close to the Vatican diplomatic service told CNA Jan. 15.
 
However, the exchange of decorations took place during the Dutch visit.
 
The presence of Ploumen in the Dutch delegation has sparked controversies because she is an abortion advocate.

In 2017, Ploumen launched an international campaign to support abortion, designed to counter the Trump administration’s decision to cut off funds for NGOs that facilitate abortion. Ploumen’s organization, named “She Decides,” collected nearly $400 million.
 
However, news of her award did not grab any headlines until Ploumen herself showed off the medal in a recent interview to the Dutch television BNR.

In the interview, the Dutch politician presented the decoration as a personal award, and said that while her the pro-abortion campaign ““was not mentioned” as the reason for the decoration, but, she said, “the Vatican knows that I founded ‘She decides’, but this did not prevent them from awarding me.”

“It is interesting,” she added.  

The honorific was apparently given without significant previous consultation. In a statement released Jan. 15, Cardinal Wilhelm Ejik, Archbishop of Utrecht and Primate of the Netherlands, stressed that he “was not involved” in the process that decided “to give the decoration of Commander of the Pontifical Equestrian Order St. Gregory the Great, which the former minister Ploumen received last year.”

Cardinal Ejik said that he had not initially been aware that the decoration had been given to the minister.
 
Established in 1831, the Equestrian Order of St. Gregory the Great is one of the five orders of knighthood of the Holy See, and can be bestowed to Catholic men and women, but also – in rare cases – to non Catholics. The honor is a recognition of personal service to the Holy See and to the Church.