USA OFFICIAL USA WEBSITE Wed, 07 Oct 2015 03:13:01 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Pope in Philadelphia Sat, 03 Oct 2015 01:13:42 +0000 Photo © Renato Araujo
Photo © Renato Araujo

The Pope concluded his visit in the city of Philadelphia where the Declaration of Independence and the Consitution of the United States had been written. It was a historic visit that had a deep effect the people of the United States.

At Independence Hall, a central landmark,with his usual smile Pope Francis clarified that he is niether right nor left. He highlighted the importance of religious liberty and dialogue in an increasingly multicultural society, emphasising what is positive in the people of the United States: “We remember the great struggles that led to the abolition of slavery, the extension of the vote, the growth of the workers movement and the progressive efforts to eliminate every form of racism and prejudice directed towards successive waves of new Americans,” the Pope said.

He extended special greetings to Hispanic immigrants from a Pope who was the son of an immigrant family: “You bring with you many talents to your new land. Never be ashamed of your traditions,” he told an applauding crowd. He mentioned the fervid faith and family deep family values of the Hispanic population: “As you make your contribution, you will not only establish yourselves here, but you will help to renew society from within.” Jennifer Huertas from Puerto Rico, who has been living in the United States for two years: “The Pope asks us not to forget our roots, and to recognise the uniqueness of every individual. Yes, diversity isn’t something bad, because every human being is unique.”

A few hours later, he attended the conclusion of the World Meeting of Families with young and older families, singles, men and women Religious and priests who had prepared the city with particular care. After listening to six testimonies from couples and families who recounted how they tried to overcome their struggles through faith in God, the Pope delivered a very animated homily, highlighting the importance of family life. A boy had asked him what God was doing before He created the world: “God loved, because God is Love,” the Pope answered.

His words enchanted the half million people who had waited for hours along Benjamin Franklin Parkway. “It was fantastic to see the Pope,” says Thea from Los Angeles. “I especially liked when he pointed out that God had not placed Jesus in the midst of a Kingdom, but in a family. Nowadays, very few people visit their parents, many of my friends live like that and it’s painful. It’s not always easy in my own family either, it is often hard to listen deeply to one another, but the Pope’s words will help me to face this difficulty.”

On the following day, the crowds continued to wait patiently to hear the Pope, singing and dancing as they waited in long lines at security checkpoints. Never loosing their cool, they smiled and thanked the police officers for their work. “My son turned 2 today, but my wife and I thought that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity that couldn’t be missed,” one security officer said.

Photo © Andrea Re

Around a million people attended the Mass and, another million watched it on television. Francis greeted everyone and blessed children before the Mass began with Scripture readings in Spanish and Vietnamese. The liturgical readings of that Sunday contained strong words, where Moses and Jesus both affirmed that even people who do not belong to their group could perform miracles in the Lord’s name. “We must not be scandalised by the freedom of God,” the Pope told the crowd. Then he invited families to perform small gestures of love and compassion: a warm meal after a long workday, a warm embrace: “Love is shown in the small things,” he said. This means being “prophets,” overcoming the “scandal of a love that is restricted and petty” and he sent a clear message to the Church that must accept diveristy and trust the action of the Holy Spirit.

He also had other significant encounters: with prisoners, and the survivors of sexual abuse by the clergy; regarding which the Pope said “God weeps.” It is like a Black Mass, “there are no excuses.”

His six-day visit was a breath of fresh air, not only for the American Catholic Church, but for the whole country. The Pope highlighted the cultural values of the land beginning from the country’s founding, and he invited Americans to be faithful to those values: love, family, the dignity of every human being, caring for the poor.

While leaving the United States, he sent a message on Twitter: “With my gratitude, may Christ’s love continue to guide the American people! #GodBlessAmerica.”

Susanne Janssen and Sarah Mundell – Living City Magazine

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Word of Life – October 2015 Fri, 02 Oct 2015 03:39:16 +0000

Focolare Word of Life Logo

We can be like the first Christians and replicate their dramatic effect on society around them, if we live like them. For this we must focus on the Gospel’s core message and love one another in the power and the style of Jesus.

Here we have the badge, the mark, the typical brand of Christians. Or at least it ought to be, because Jesus saw his community in this way.
A fascinating text from Christianity’s early centuries, the Letter to Diognetus, recognizes that
‘Christians cannot be distinguished from the rest of the human race by country or language or customs. They do not live in cities of their own; they do not use a peculiar form of speech; they do not follow an eccentric manner of life.’ They are ordinary people, just the same as others. And yet they have a secret and it allows them to influence society profoundly, becoming as it were its ‘soul’ (see chs 5-6).
It is a secret that Jesus passed on to his disciples shortly before dying. Like the ancient sages of Israel, like a father for his child, so too he, the Master of Wisdom, left as his legacy the art of knowing how to live and to live well. He had taken it directly from the Father: ‘I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father’ Jn 15:15), and it was the fruit of the relationship between them. It consisted in loving one another. This is his Last Will and Testament, the life of heaven that he brought to earth, which he shares with us so that it can become our very own life.
He wants this to be the identity of his disciples, who should be recognizable as his followers by their mutual love:

‘By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’

Are Jesus’s disciples recognized by their mutual love? ‘The history of the Church is a history of holiness’ wrote John Paul II. Nonetheless ‘history also records events which constitute a counter-testimony to Christianity’ (Incarnationis Mysterium, 11). For centuries, in the name of Jesus, Christians have fought endless wars with one another and their divisions continue. There are people who still today associate Christians with the Crusades, with the Inquisition, or who see them as the defenders to the bitter end of an outdated morality, and as opposing the progress of science.
It was not like that for the new-born community of the first Christians in Jerusalem. People admired the communion of goods they practised, the unity that reigned among them, the ‘glad and generous hearts’ that characterized them (see Acts 2:46). In the Acts of the Apostles we read that ‘the people held them in high esteem’ so that more and more ‘believers were added to the Lord, great numbers of both men and women’ (Acts 5:13-14). The living witness of the community had a powerful attraction. Why today are we not known as people who stand out because of their love? What have we done with the commandment of Jesus?

‘By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’

Traditionally, in Roman Catholic circles, the month of October is dedicated to mission, to reflecting upon the command of Jesus to go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel, to pray for and support those who are in the frontline. This Word of Life could be a help for all to put into focus the fundamental dimension of every Christian proclamation. It is not about imposing faith on others, nor proselytism, nor a self-serving handout of aid to the poor so that they will be converted. Neither is it primarily a matter of the challenge to defend moral values or a firm stand against injustice and war, even though such stances are a duty the Christian cannot evade.
Before all else the Christian proclamation is a witness of life that every disciple of Jesus must offer personally. People in the modern world ‘listen more willingly to witnesses than to teachers’ (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 41). Even persons hostile to the Church are often touched by the example of those who dedicate their lives to the sick and the poor and who are ready to leave their homelands, going far away to the toughest places and offering help and solidarity to those in most need.
But above all the witness Jesus requires is that of a whole community which demonstrates the truth of the Gospel. It must show that the life he brought really can generate a new society, where we live genuinely as brothers and sisters, helping and serving one another, collectively attentive to the most fragile and needy.
The life of the Church has seen these kinds of witness, such as the settlements for indigenous peoples built by Franciscans and Jesuits in South America, or monasteries with the townships that grew up around them. Today too ecclesial Movements and communities give life to little towns of witness where it is possible to see signs of a new society, the fruit of Gospel life, of mutual love.

‘By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’

Without abandoning our homes and the persons we know, if among us we live that unity which Jesus gave his life for, we can create an alternative way of living and sow seeds of hope and new life around us. A family that every day renews their will to live mutual love in a practical way can become a ray of light in the mutual indifference of a housing block or a district. An ‘environmental cell’, in other words two or more persons who agree to put into practice the demands of the Gospel with total commitment – in the field of their work, at school, in local government offices, in administrative buildings, in a prison – will cut through the logic of the struggle for power and create a collaborative atmosphere that favours the birth of true fraternity, a fraternity previously unhoped-for.
Did not the first Christians behave like this at the time of the Roman Empire? Is not this the way they spread the transformative new life of Christianity? In our own day it is we who are the ‘first Christians’, called, as they were, to forgive one another, to see each other as always new, to help one another – in a word, to love one another with the intensity that Jesus loved us, in the certainty that his presence in our midst has the strength to draw others too into the divine logic of love.

Fabio Ciardi

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#SignUpForPeace Wed, 30 Sep 2015 16:51:06 +0000 Peace and development appeal ]]> Peace and development appeal ]]> 0 “Welcome to New York, Holy Father” Wed, 30 Sep 2015 02:32:17 +0000 20150926-03“Welcome, Holy Father” posters appeared all around the city already on Thursday. The taxi driver watching the Pope on TV was not indifferent: “So, you’re going to see the Pope tomorrow? Congratulations!”

“Everyone finds the Pope appealing because he is authentic,” a non-Catholic man on the train said. He’s right: Francis does not need to attract attention or make himself appealing to all. And so he gave us a lesson before the UN’s General Assembly: on sustainable development, climate change and the issue of refugees: “We must not be appalled by the numbers… we have to look at their faces and listen to their stories,” he said in Washington. And at the UN: “Every man must be able to have concrete access to indispensable material and spiritual goods: a home, a dignified and well paid job, enough food, drinking water and religious freedom. ” He again strongly criticized drug trafficking, sexual exploitation of people, the arms rackets. In the same way as he had clearly denounced before the US Congress, he made another appeal to put aside divisions and antagonisms between political parties and to help the poor.

The sacredness of each human being is a theme he strongly feels, and at the end of his speech, there were unending rounds of applause. He then left and greeted the people from his Fiat car which seemed so tiny amid the huge limousines.

20150926-aAt Ground Zero, 500 representatives of various religions were all waiting to pray together for peace. Sue Kopp, a focolarina of New York who was able to participate in the rite, affirmed: “It was so meaningful also due to the diversity of this country. This place, which seemed so sacred to me, and marked by such immense suffering, has been transformed into a place of hope. The dream of a civilization of love, is becoming a reality.”.

Joe Klock, of New Humanity (an International NGO accredited at the UN) said; “The Pope   underlined the importance of building unity in diversity, where peace and love reign among the nations and the hearts of all. This reality demonstrates that the world needs the spirituality of unity, which seems to be precisely tailored to this country!”

Also in New York, the Pope visited some charitable organizations, among which a model school in Harlem. And then, in Central Park. The 80,000 lucky people were able to get entrance tickets, waited for hours, even to get just a glimpse of him.

The Mass was celebrated at Madison Square Garden, where the seats are usually occupied by basketball stars and pop singers. The people waited for hours to enter but no one complained. Then the big surprise: Pope Francis arrived 20 minutes earlier than planned!

20150926-02The altar, the chair and the pulpit were simply handcrafted . Cardinal Timothy Dolan had the impression that the Pope would have appreciated this more than if the items were made by a designer. And here, Francis became the pastor of the immense city, recalling the reading from the book of Isaiah 9.1: “The people walking in the darkness saw a great light.”. He spoke about the difficulties of the multicultural cities where the light is absent due to so much smog. “But Jesus walks down our streets today,” he said and continued to invite all to go out towards the others, with the heart of a “merciful father waiting for his children to come home.”
The church is alive in the cities, the Pope stressed, and so Christians have to bear witness to the light of the Good News. The applause went on and on.
As in all the other countries, also in the USA the Pope has touched the heart of each one of us.

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#OpenYourBorders Thu, 17 Sep 2015 18:21:54 +0000 Hashtag for Peace]]> Hashtag for Peace]]> 0 Refugees: a new commitment and greater collaborative effort Wed, 09 Sep 2015 02:34:09 +0000 “Often we are closed in ourselves and create many inaccessible and inhospitable islands. Even the most elementary human relations sometimes create realities that are unable to open to each other: a closed couple, a closed family, a closed group, a closed parish, a closed homeland… And this does not come from God!”

Pope Francis’s words at the Angelus on 6th September resound strongly, in his call for concrete action to support the hundreds of thousands of refugees forced to leave their homes: “As we draw close to the Jubilee of Mercy, I appeal to parishes, to religious communities, to monasteries and convents and all the shrines of Europe to show the concreteness of the Gospel and take in a refugee family”.

In the name of the Focolare Movement, Maria Voce has expressed “gratitude” for this courageous and practical appeal by the Holy Father” and stressed the decision to do what he asks by “opening the doors of our houses and centers to receive people”.

Migrants B&B

Florence (Italy): Bed & Breakfast project for migrants

The Focolare Movement is already involved in many initiatives undertaken by individuals and groups in various countries: in North Africa, the Middle East, Europe, South East Asia, North and South America. Help is given to thousands of people from Myanmar in the refugee camps in the north of Thailand. There is the Bed & Breakfast open to migrants in Florence, Italy, reception of refugees in Szeged and other cities in Hungary and Austria; families are being welcomed in Lyon, France; a letter has been sent to the President of Uruguay to encourage reception of refugees. These are just a few of the thousands of examples gathered by the United World Project. But this is not enough.

“We must do more” Maria Voce said, to make political leaders take action, to stop the arms trade and to influence decision-makers in their strategic choices. This – as we are now seeing – can also start from ground level, with the mobilization of civil society. Moreover, the President of the Focolare Movement has called on its members “to commit themselves and to work together more” so as to promote, together with all those who are working in this direction, actions directed towards unmasking the causes of war and the tragedies that afflict so many places in the world, with the aim of bringing solutions “putting into play our capacities, our resources and our readiness”.

Press Releases –  Focolare Information Service (SIF)

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Cuba prepares to welcome Francis Thu, 03 Sep 2015 02:37:53 +0000 Plaza of the Revolution
Revolution Square and José Martí Memorial

There is much expectation on the island for the upcoming visit of the first Latin-American-born Pope, planned for September 19-23, 2015. The expectation is certainly expressed in a wide variety of ways depending on the conscience and awareness of who and what the Pope represents. If you ask the people on the street you get all types of responses: “I think we are dealing with a great human being; I’m hoping he’ll feel at home amongst us;” Let’s hope that he brings beneficial changes for the people;” “It seems like a dream! We feel privileged;” “It’s a blessing for this small people of great heart to welcome three Popes in only 13 years.” Indeed, only Cuba and Brazil can make this claim. Many Cubans are of the same opinion and do not hide their pride over the third visit of a Pontiff – both believers and non.

Construction work is already underway on the streets and on the building facades of the Habana that are found along the path of Pope Francis’s itinerary, especially the famous Revolution Square and José Martí Memorial where Pope Francis will celebrate Mass. The same is true in the city of Holguín, which has never been visited by a Pope; at the National Shrine of the Virgin of Charity of Cobre; and also Santiago de Cuba, second largest city in the country on the east side of the island where restorations of the beautiful and historic cathedral (1522) have been completed.

Church and State. With the triumph of “the Revolution” (1959), beginning in 1961, the relationship between the Church and State has always been difficult and traumatic. “The Marxist thought derived from dialectic materialism that carried ahead the young rebels of the revolutionary government since the 1960s set the basis for the secularization of Cuban society”[1]. During the First Congress of Culture and Education (1971) the foundations were put in place for the secularization of Cuban society, imposing orthodox Marxism as the official State doctrine, the main reference point for middle school, high school and university education. The regulating of religious activity was decreed in the 1976 Constitution and believers were officially excluded by the Cuban Communist Party (PCC).

During the 1980s the grip of the regime was a bit softened, allowing the participation of Catholic priests in the different liberation movements in Latin America, in the guerrillas in San Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, as well as for allowing the visits of religious leaders on the levels of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the Grand Rabbi Israel Meir Lau and members of the Latin American Bishops Conference (CELAM). In the Fourth Congress of the PCC (1991) participation was opened to believers. There were also the important and historic visits of John Paul II (1998) and, then, Benedict XVI (2012) which marked important steps towards easing and reconciliation – all of which inspires hope for the upcoming visit of Pope Francis.

The thaw in US-Cuban relations. In spite of how much Pope Francis tries so minimize his role in easing relations between those two countries, both Barak Obama and Raúl Castro have gratefully acknowledged it. On July 20, 2015, embassies were reopened in both countries, and on August 14, 2015, Secretary of State, John Kerry will attend the inauguration of the United States embassy on the island. The American Congress still needs to approve it, and it is not by chance that after Cuba the Pope will visit the United States for the 8th World Meeting of Families (WMOF) which will take place in Philadelphia, after having visited Washington DC and New York. He will be the first Pope to address United States Congress. In an interview given to a large group of journalists during the flight to Rome, Italy, following his visit to Latin America, he was asked about the benefits or disadvantages that the “thawing” in US-Cuban relations could produce. Francis responded: “Both will gain something and lose something. That is how it is in negotiations. What both will gain is peace. This is certain . . . encounter and friendship and collaboration . . . this is the gain!”

Cuban Catholic Bishops. Recalling the visits of the predecessors of Pope Francis “who will come as a missionary of mercy,” showing the continuity among the three visits, the Catholic Bishops Conference addressed a message “to the children of the Catholic Church, to the brothers of other religious confessions and to all the people.” It mentions the recent Pastoral Letter of Pope Francis in preparation for the Year of Mercy, which will open on December 8, 2015. And the bishops exhort everyone to prepare for the coming of the Pope by performing “gestures of mercy in daily life, such as visiting the ill, sharing what one has, forgiving and asking for forgiveness, consoling the sorrowful, loving others more and better. They go on to say: we hope that these days and forevermore our houses will be places of peace and welcome for all those who are searching for mercy!” A positive sign which will certainly not go unnoticed is the July 17th publication of the entire text of the document in the official newspaper of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party, “Granna”. Such a gesture has never been shown in more than 50 years.

20150813-01The Focolare Movement’s contribution. The Focolare communities across the island are trying – together with the Church – to offer its own contribution, geared mainly towards formation in fraternity in opposition to the “throw-away culture”, to privileging those in most need, promoting unity in diversity and proposing dialogue as an indispensable method for peaceful coexistence in a multicultural society.

Conclusion. The message of the Cuban Catholic Bishops concludes with a prayer to the Virgin of Charity, Mother of Cuba, the One whom we invoke as Mother and Queen of Mercy, that she might take maternal care of this longed-for visit. She who has accompanied our people in good times and in bad, may she obtain a great blessing from Heaven for Cuba and her children wherever they may be, whatever they may think or believe.”

From an interview with correspondent Gustavo Clariá


[1] Castellano Dennys, Sergio L. and Monterrey, Fontanella. Sin pecado concebidas, La Caridad del Cobre en las artes visuales cubanas, (Havana: Editorial UH, 2014), p. 66. (Our translation.)

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Teens Word of Life – September 2015 Mon, 31 Aug 2015 18:34:17 +0000 2015-09-wol-teens-featured

« Love your neighbor as yourself. »  (Mark 12:31)

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Children’s Word of Life | September 2015 Mon, 31 Aug 2015 18:16:44 +0000 Children's Word of Life September 2015

« Love your neighbor as yourself. »

(Mark 12:31)

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Focolare Word of Life – October 2015 Mon, 31 Aug 2015 16:25:37 +0000 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another’ (Jn 13:35)]]> By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another’ (Jn 13:35)]]> 0