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Pope appeals for protection for Iraqi civilians trapped in war

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has appealed for a concerted effort to protect Iraqi civilians who are victims of the ongoing bloody war in their nation and he prayed in particular for those who are trapped in the embattled city of Mosul.

Iraqi forces backed by US-led coalition air strikes are fighting to clear Islamic State militants from Iraq's second city where the coalition allegedly had a role in a March bombing which killed over 200 people..

The Pope’s appeal came at the end of his catechesis during the General Audience in St. Peter’s Square.

Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni:

Expressing deep pain for the victims of the bloody conflict in Iraq, Pope Francis appealed to all to  make every possible effort to protect civilians, which he said is an  “imperative and urgent” obbligation. 

Encouraging the Iraqi people to pursue a path of unity within respect for diversity, the Pope also asked for prayers for reconciliation and harmony between the different ethnic groups that make up the population. 
    
In his catechesis the Pope encouraged Christians to always put their trust in God’s word, even at those times when hope seems humanly impossible.

Reflecting on St. Paul’s Letter to Romans in which he presents Abraham not only as our father in faith, but also as our father in hope, Francis said the reading helps us put the strong tie that exists between faith and hope into focus.

He said that hoping against hope, Abraham trusted in God’s promise that, despite his old age and that of Sarah his wife, he would become the father of many nations.  

“Great hope, he said, is rooted in faith”, that’s why it is able to go beyond all human expectations.

“We must all pray to God, open our hearts and He will teach us what hope is” he said. 

Reminding those present that  God promises to set us  free from sin and death by the power of Christ’s resurrection, Pope Francis urged the faithful to place their certainties not so much in their own capacities, but in the hope that derives from God’s promise of life.  

Faith, he said, teaches us, to hope against hope by putting our own trust in God’s word even at those times when hope seems humanly impossible.  

The Pope concluded urging believers to be confirmed in faith and hope during this Lenten journey to Easter, and to accept the promise of new life given us in the Lord’s resurrection.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope sends message to young people at Barcelona symposium

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis has sent a message to participants in the European Symposium on Young People, encouraging them to reflect “on the challenges of evangelization”.

The event, entitled “He walked by their side (Lk 24:15) - Accompanying young people to freely respond to Christ's call”, is taking place in Barcelona, Spain on 28-31 March.

In the message signed by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Pope Francis encouraged young people to “conduct a reflection on the challenges of evangelization and on the accompaniment of young people, so that – through dialogue and encounter and as living members of the family of Christ – young people may be enthusiastic bearers of the joy of the Gospel in all areas.”

The Holy Father invoked the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary upon the Symposium’s participants and imparted his Apostolic Blessing.

The Barcelona Symposium is promoted by the Council of European Catholic Bishops' Conferences (CCEE) in collaboration with the Spanish Catholic Bishops' Conference and the Archdiocese of Barcelona.

Among Church leaders taking part are Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, Archbishop Juan José Omella of Barcelona, and Archbishop Marek Jedraszewski of Krakow.

Young people will also have the opportunity to listen to the reflections and testimonies of several national directors along with those of other young people.

(from Vatican Radio)

General Audience: English Summary

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday encouraged Christians to always put their trust in God’s word, even at those times when hope seems humanly impossible.

The Pope was addressing pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the weekly General Audience.

Please find below the English synopsis on the Pope’s catechesis:

Dear Brothers and Sisters:  In the chapter from the Letter to Romans that opened today’s Audience, Saint Paul presents Abraham not only as our father in faith, but also as our father in hope.  Paul tells us that Abraham put his faith in the God who gives life to the dead, who calls all things into being.  Hoping against hope, he trusted in God’s promise that, despite his old age and that of Sarah his wife, he would become the father of many nations.  In Abraham, we see the close bond existing between faith and hope.  Abraham’s hope in God’s promises was fulfilled in the birth of his son Isaac, and, in the fullness of time, in the “many nations” gathered into a new humanity set free from sin and death by the power of Christ’s resurrection.  Faith teaches us, in fact, to hope against hope by putting our own trust in God’s word even at those times when hope seems humanly impossible.  In our Lenten journey to Easter, may we be confirmed in faith and hope, and show ourselves children of Abraham by accepting the promise of new life given us in the Lord’s resurrection.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope: 'to have faith is to live our lives with joy'

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis on Tuesday encouraged Christians to get on with things, living life with joy.

Speaking during the homily during Mass at the Casa Santa Marta, he urged them to avoid complaining and not to let themselves be paralyzed by the ugly sin of sloth.

Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni:

The Gospel story at the heart of Pope Francis’ reflection tells of a man who had been ill for thirty-eight years. He was lying at the side of a pool called Bethesda with a large number of ill, blind, lame and crippled who believed that when an angel came down and stirred up the waters the first to bathe in the pool would be healed. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him: “Do you want to be well?”

“It’s what Jesus repeatedly says to us as well” the Pope said: “do you want to be well? Do you want to be happy? Do you want to improve your life? Do you want to be filled with the Holy Spirit?”

When Jesus, the Pope pointed out, asked that strange man if he wanted to be well, instead of saying “yes” he complained there was on one to put him in the pool while the water is stirred up and that someone else always got there  before him. His answer, Francis said, was a complaint, he was  implying that life had been unjust with him. 

“This man, the Pope noted,  was like the tree planted along the bank of the rivers, mentioned in the first Reading, but it had arid roots, roots that did not reach the water, could not take nourishment from the water”.

The Pope said this is clear from his attitude of always complaining and trying to blame the other. 

“This is an ugly sin: the sin of sloth” he said.

Pope Francis said this man’s disease was not so much his paralysis but sloth, which is worse than having a lukewarm heart.

It causes one to live without the desire to move forward, to do something in life, it causes one to lose the memory of joy, he explained, saying the man had lost all of this.

Jesus, the Pope continued, did not rebuke him but said: “Take up your mat, and walk”.

The man was healed but since it was a Sabbath, the doctors of the law said it was not lawful to carry a mat on that day and they asked him who was the man who told him to do so.

The sick man, the Pope noted, had not even thanked Jesus or asked for his name: “he rose and walked with that slothful attitude “living his life because oxygen is free”, always looking to others “who are happier” and forgetting joy.

"Sloth, he said, is a sin that paralyzes us, stops us from walking”.

Even today, the Pope said, the Lord looks to each of us sinners - we are all sinners - and says “Rise”.

The Lord tells each of us, Pope Francis concluded, to take hold of our life, be it beautiful or difficult and move on: “Do not be afraid, go ahead carrying your mat” and remember to come to the waters and quench your thirst with joy and ask the Lord to help you get up and know the joy of salvation. 

(from Vatican Radio)