USA OFFICIAL USA WEBSITE Thu, 03 Sep 2015 02:41:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 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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Word of Life – September 2015 Wed, 02 Sep 2015 02:34:16 +0000
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If we all truly loved our neighbor as ourselves, wars would cease, corruption would disappear, universal brotherhood wouldn’t be a utopia, and the civilization of love would soon become a reality.

Here is one of those words of the Gospel that demand to be put into action immediately, this very instant. It is so utterly clear, and demanding, that it does not need a huge amount of comment. To see the power it contains, it may be useful, all the same, to look at it in its context.

Jesus is replying to the question of one of the scribes (one of the students of the Bible) who had asked him which was the greatest commandment. It was an open question, especially as 613 precepts to be followed had been identified.

One of the great teachers who had lived a few years before, Rabbi Shammai, had refused to say what he thought was the chief commandment. Others instead, as Jesus also did, focused on the central place of love. Rabbi Hillel, for example, affirmed: ‘Do not do to your neighbor anything that is hateful to yourself: this is the whole of the Law. The rest is commentary.’[1]

Jesus is not the only one to take up the teaching about the central place of love, but he put together, as a single commandment, the love of God (see Dt 6:4) and the love of neighbor (see Lev 19:18). The reply he gives to the scribe who is questioning him is in fact: ‘The first [commandment] is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’

‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’

The second part of the single commandment is the expression of the first, love for God. Every one of God’s creatures is so close to his heart that to give him glory, to show him in action the love we have for him, there is no other way than to be the expression of his love for all. As parents are happy when they see their children getting on with each other, helping each other, staying united, so also God – who for us is like a father and a mother – is happy when he sees we love our neighbor as ourselves, and so contribute to bringing about the unity of the human family.

For centuries Prophets had already been explaining to the People of Israel that God wants love and not sacrifices and holocausts (see Hosea 6:6). Jesus himself recalled their teaching when he said: ‘Go and learn what this means, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners’ (Mt 9:13). How indeed can we love God who we cannot see, if we don’t love our brother or sister (see 1 Jn 4:20)? We love them, we serve them, we honor them to the measure that we love, serve, honor every person, both the friend and the unknown, from our own or from another people, above all the ‘small’, those most in need.

This is the invitation to the Christian in today’s world: to translate worship into life, to go forth from the churches, where we adore, love, praise God, so that we go to meet others, in such a way as to practice what we have just learnt in prayer and communion with God.

‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’

How then can we live this command of the Lord’s?

Let’s remind ourselves that it is part of an inseparable pair that includes love for God. We have to give ourselves time to get to know what love is and how we can love, and so we need to give space to moments of prayer, of ‘contemplation’, of dialogue with him. We learn love from God, who is Love. We don’t steal any time from our neighbor when we stay with God, indeed we prepare ourselves to love in a way that is increasingly generous and appropriate. At the same time, when we come back to God having loved other people, our prayer is more genuine, more true, and is filled with all the persons we have met, who we bring back to him.

To love our neighbors as ourselves we need, then, to get to know them as they know themselves. We ought to reach the point of loving as the other wants to be loved and not as we would like to love. Now that our societies are becoming always more multicultural, with the presence of people from a huge variety of backgrounds, the challenge is even greater. Someone who goes to a new country has to learn its traditions and values; only in this way can they understand and love the people who live there. The same thing is true for those who receive new immigrants, who are often bewildered, struggling with a new language, and finding it difficult to fit in.

Differences are present within the same family, in the workplace or in the locality, even when they are made up of persons who belong to the same culture. Would we like to find someone who’s ready to set aside time to listen to us, to help us revise for an exam, to find a job, to tidy our house? Perhaps the other person has similar needs. We have to know how to intuit them, being attentive to the other, adopting a sincere attitude of listening, putting ourselves in the other’s shoes.

The quality of our love also matters. The apostle Paul, in his celebrated hymn to charity, lists some of its characteristics, which it could be useful to remember: it is patient, kind, not envious, not boastful or arrogant, does not insist on its own way, is not irritable, keeps no score of wrongs, but bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (see 1 Cor 13:4-7).

How many chances and how many nuances there are to living:

‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’!

In conclusion we can recall that this principal for human existence is at the basis of the well-known ‘golden rule’ that we find in all religions and in all the great teachers of ‘secular’ culture. We could try to find, at the origins of our own cultural tradition or religious belief, similar invitations to love our neighbor and then help one another to live them together: Hindus and Muslims, Buddhists and followers of traditional religions, Christians and men and women of good will.

We have to work together to create a new mentality that gives value to the other, that instils and encourages respect for the person, that cares and protects minorities, that is attentive to the weakest, that sets aside one’s own interests to put those of the other into the first place.

If we were all truly aware of having to love our neighbor as ourselves, to the point of not doing to the other what we do not wish to be done to us and that we should do to the other what we wish the other would do for us, wars would cease, corruption would disappear, universal fraternity would be no utopia and the civilization of love would soon become a reality.

Fabio Ciardi

[1] Babylonian Talmud, Shabbath Folio 31a.

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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 – September 2015 Mon, 31 Aug 2015 16:25:37 +0000 ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’! (Mk 12:31)]]> ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’! (Mk 12:31)]]> 0 VIII World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia Sun, 23 Aug 2015 23:30:01 +0000

Love is our mission: This is the title of the 8th World Meeting of Families (WMOF), which will begin with a Congress (from September 22nd to 25th) held by experts from all over the world and which will take place at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, a structure which can hold up to 50,000 people.

In the meantime, Pope Francis will travel to the headquarters of the UN in New York City and to that of the U.S. Congress in Washington, D.C., having been invited, for the first time in his pontificate, to speak in such important civil locations.

wmf feat

The Holy Father will arrive on the stage of the WMOF, which will be set up on the spectacular stairs of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, on Saturday, September 26th. With this evocative backdrop, he will meet with families from all over the world, in a sequence of life experiences interposed with performances by international artists: a Festival-Testimonial which will be shown on TV worldwide and will culminate with the words of the Pope.

The WMOF will conclude the following day, Sunday September 27th, with the solemn Eucharistic celebration, at which the pope will preside. More than one million people are expected to participate.

Besides the numerous families of the Focolare from all over America, Marly and Hans-Peter Stasch from the International Office of New Families, and Anna and Alberto Friso, members of the Pontifical Council for the Family, will participate at the event.

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Economy of Communion – new website Thu, 20 Aug 2015 03:24:22 +0000 North American Association]]> North American Association]]> 0 Gen Verde – new CD coming soon! Thu, 20 Aug 2015 03:20:39 +0000 On The Other Side]]> On The Other Side]]> 0 World Meeting of Families Wed, 12 Aug 2015 02:37:08 +0000 Philadelphia 2015]]> Philadelphia 2015]]> 0 Teens Word of Life – August 2015 Tue, 11 Aug 2015 14:22:15 +0000 2015-05-wol-teens-featured

“Live in love.”  (Eph 5:2)

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