The Church Speaks
The Church Speaks
The Pope's Prayer Intention for April
For Fundamental Rights
We pray for those who risk their lives while fighting for fundamental rights under dictatorships, authoritarian regimes and even in democracies in crisis.
FUNDAMENTAL HUMAN RIGHTS.
April, this year, is Resurrection Month. Everywhere, all the brothers and sisters of the human family, whether explicitly or not, are longing for new life, desperate for the deadly pandemic to end, for the fullness of life to free us from the terror of illness and death that has hung over us for over a year. We’ve seen so much selfless fraternity but we’ve also seen discord, violence and the spread of a harsh politics of hostility, even hate. It’s timely, then, that Pope Francis asks us, this month, to pray with him “for those who risk their lives while fighting for fundamental rights under dictatorship, authoritarian regimes and even in democracies in crisis”.
HUMAN PERSON, HUMAN DIGNITY
Praying with the Pope this month is associating ourselves with his frequent assertion that human rights cannot be ignored, because of the basic dignity of each human person. This month is not the first time he has raised this. When, in 2018, the world marked the seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Francis recognised that, with this landmark document, “the family of Nations wanted to recognise the equal dignity of every human person”. Human rights, which he described as “universal, indivisible, interdependent and interconnected”, derive from the nature of the human person, an “inseparable unity of body and soul”. We need to be particularly vigilant about the poor and dispossessed because, when they are denied these rights, they “see their dignity ignored, despised or trampled on and their most basic rights ignored or violated.” That dignity is, of course, God-given.
POPE FRANCIS IN IRAQ
Recently, Pope Francis has given us another example of combatting the virus of authoritarianism that has become a pandemic, even in democracies. His risky visit to Iraq included a historic meeting with the most revered Islamic Shi’ite cleric, the 94 year-old Ali al-Sistani. Their significant encounter came just when xenophobic nationalism, ugly populism and dangerous fissures in even democratic political systems are eroding fundamental rights worldwide. The Pope had spent time and prayed in ruined Christian places of worship, in solidarity with all those who had suffered – and been killed – by the forces of intolerance and hate. Both religious leaders thus promoted the rights of all oppressed religious and ethnic groups. But hard-liners within their own religions, and populist, authoritarian politicians, have opposed their peacebuilding efforts.
ST.OSCAR AND FR.RUTILIO
Many of those who risk their lives under authoritarian dictatorships, for the sake of fundamental rights, are killed. They know the risks yet do not keep quiet. In our epoch, Oscar Romero is a notable example. We celebrated his feast-day as a Saint of the Church just last month, on the 24th, that being the date of his assassination, while celebrating Mass, in March 1980. We recalled how this rather shy and bookish archbishop of San Salvador had been seen by the ruling elite as no threat to their oppressive dominance. These few rich families had the government and army in their pocket and were sure they had the prelate there too. There was no risk that he would ally with those priests who stood up for the trampled rights of the poor. Many brave clergy and religious did speak out; contemporary eyewitnesses reported graffiti slogans appearing on city buildings, declaiming, “Be a patriot – kill a priest”.
ASSASSINATED FOR JUSTICE & HUMAN RIGHTS
Things changed suddenly. Fr.Rutilio Grande, his close Jesuit friend, was murdered by the state’s death-squads because of his advocacy for oppressed communities. Romero, seeing the bullet-ridden body of his best friend by the roadside later that same day (beside the murdered corpses of two parishioners) knew what he had to do. He began to denounce injustice and state violence. Poor and exploited people in villages across El Salvador tuned into his weekly radio homilies. Many called him the voice of the voiceless—and he encouraged others to become advocates too. This was too much for the powerful elites. Archbishop Romero was assassinated while celebrating Mass in the cancer hospital where he lived simply. He spoke out rather than remain silent, following the example of his great friend Rutilio three years earlier – and of his leader, Christ the King. St.Oscar and Rutilio ask us now if we really can remain spectators, not speaking out.
Reflection from https://www.praywiththepope.net/april-2021/
Pope Francis urges the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics and all people of good will to take urgent action against the injustice of climate change and the ecological crisis, to protect the poor and future generations. His encyclical letter Laudato Si’ is a compelling call to care for our common home, Earth, building on a long history of Catholic teaching. We are building a vibrant movement to respond to Pope Francis’ call.
Become a Laudato Si animator. Receive in-depth online training and inspire your community to care for creation. Join the programme at:
Taken from Global Catholic Climate Movement
“In the past few days, the Lord allowed me to visit Iraq, carrying out a project of Saint John Paul II,” Pope Francis said. “Never before has a Pope been in the land of Abraham. Providence willed that this should happen now, as a sign of hope, after years of war and terrorism, and during a severe pandemic.”
Pope Francis focused his catechesis during Wednesday’s General Audience - the first after returning from his Apostolic Journey to Iraq – on his reflections on his four-day visit to the Middle Eastern nation from 5 - 8 March.
The Pope said his soul is filled with gratitude: first to God, and to all who made it possible – the president and government of Iraq, the Patriarchs and bishops of the country, as well as the ministers and the faithful of their respective churches.
He also acknowledged other religious authorities, beginning with the Grand Ayatollah Al-Sistani, with whom the Pope had an “unforgettable” meeting at his residence in Najaf.
A hopeful church in spite of trials
“I strongly felt a penitential sense regarding this pilgrimage,” said the Pope.
“I could not draw near to that tortured people, to that martyr-Church, without taking upon myself, in the name of the Catholic Church, the cross they have been carrying for years; a huge cross, like the one placed at the entrance of Qaraqosh.”
Pope Francis explained that he felt this sense in a special way when he saw the still open wounds of the destruction, and even more so, when he met with and listened to the witnesses who had survived the violence and persecution.
However, at the same time, the Pope noted that he saw all around him, the “joy of welcoming Christ’s message” and “the hope of being open to a horizon of peace and fraternity” which were summed up in Jesus’ words expressed in the motto of his Apostolic visit to Iraq: “You are all brothers” (Mt 23:8).
This hope, the Pope insisted, he saw in the discourse of the Iraqi president, in the many greetings and testimonies, in the songs and gestures of the people, and on the luminous faces of the young and in the vivacious eyes of the elderly.
War destroys peace
“The Iraqi people have the right to live in peace; they have the right to rediscover the dignity that belongs to them,” Pope Francis stated.
Recalling the country’s religious and cultural roots which are thousands of years old, the Holy Father noted that Mesopotamia is the cradle of civilization.
Historically, he added, Baghdad is a city of primary importance, "hosting for centuries the richest library in the world."
“And what destroyed it? War!” the Pope lamented.
War, he explained, “is always the monster that transforms itself with the change of epochs and continues to devour humanity.”
“But the response to war is not another war, the response to weapons is not other weapons... The response is fraternity,” Pope Francis affirmed.
This, he insisted, is the "challenge not only for Iraq but for many regions in conflict and, ultimately, for the whole world.”
You are all brothers
Recalling his meeting with religious leaders in Ur during his Apostolic journey, Pope Francis said that Christians, Muslims and representatives came together to pray in Ur, where Abraham received God’s call about four thousand years ago.
He further explained that Abraham is our father in faith because listening to God's voice promising him descendants, he left everything and departed. And at Ur, standing together under the same sky in which our father Abraham saw us, his descendants, the phrase “You are all brothers” seems to resound once again.
“God is faithful to his promises,” the Pope said. He “guides our steps toward peace still today. He guides the steps of those who journey on Earth with their gaze turned toward Heaven."
Messages of fraternity: Baghdad, Mosul, Qaraqosh and Erbil
Further emphasizing the importance of fraternity, Pope Francis noted that a message of fraternity came from the ecclesial meeting in the Syrian Catholic Cathedral of Baghdad where forty-eight people, including two priests were killed during the celebration of Holy Mass in 2010.
He said that in that temple which bears the names of those martyrs inscribed in stone, the joy of encounter resounded as his “amazement at being in their midst mingled with their joy at having the Pope among them.”
The Holy Father also launched another message of fraternity from Mosul and Qaraqosh, on the Tigris River, near the ruins of ancient Nineveh. There, the occupation of the so-called Islamic State caused several thousands to flee for their lives, including Christians and other persecuted minorities, in particular the Yazidis.
He noted that reconstruction efforts are underway and Muslims and Christians are working together to restore churches and mosques.
The Pope enjoined all to pray for them that “they may have the strength to start over.” He also remembered the many Iraqi emigrants and reminded them, who have left everything like Abraham, to “keep the faith and hope” and be weavers of friendship and fraternity where they are.
Another message of fraternity came from the two Eucharistic celebrations in Baghdad and Erbil.
Pope Francis explained that “Abraham’s hope, and that of his descendants is fulfilled in the mystery we celebrated, in Jesus, the Son that God the Father did not spare, but gave for everyone’s salvation: through His death and resurrection, He opened the way to the promised land, to that new life where tears dried, wounds are healed, brothers and sisters are reconciled.”
Prayers for Iraq, the Middle East
Concluding his remarks at the General Audience, the Pope praised God for the Apostolic Journey, and encouraged all to pray for Iraq and the Middle East where, in spite of the destruction and weapons, the palm trees, symbol of the country and its hope, have continued to grow and bear fruit.
“So it is for fraternity,” the Pope said. “It does not make noise, but is fruitful and makes us grow.”
March 10 2021, General Audience
by Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ, Vatican News.
Lord our God, grant Pope Francis health and safety to carry out successfully this eagerly awaited visit to the nation of Iraq. Bless his efforts to promote dialogue, enhance fraternal reconciliation, build confidence, and consolidate the values of peace and human dignity among the peoples of Iraq, and especially among those Iraqis who have lived through such painful times that have affected their lives so much.
Our Lord and Creator, enlighten the hearts of the people of Iraq with your light, so they may recognise movements towards goodness and peace, and give the people of this country the strength to promote these values in society.
Mother Mary, we entrust Pope Francis' visit to your maternal care so that the Lord may grant the people of Iraq the grace of living in national communion and inspire them to build a better future together for their country and their people.l
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