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Pope Francis recognizes miracle attributed to WWII martyr Bl. Titus Brandsma’s intercession

Blessed Titus Brandsma, O.Carm. / public domain

Vatican City, Nov 25, 2021 / 04:32 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has recognized a miracle attributed to the intercession of Titus Brandsma, an outspoken opponent of Nazism martyred at Dachau concentration camp in 1942.

The pope authorized Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints, to issue a decree on Nov. 25 approving the miracle.

The decision paves the way for the Dutch Carmelite friar’s canonization.

Titus Brandsma, a priest, professor, and journalist, was born Anno Sjoerd Brandsma in Oegeklooster, in the province of Friesland, on Feb. 23, 1881. He entered the Carmelite novitiate in 1898, taking the religious name Titus. He was ordained a priest in 1905.

Following Germany’s invasion of the Netherlands in 1940, Brandsma defended the freedom of Catholic education and the Catholic press against Nazi pressures.

After he firmly opposed mandatory Nazi propaganda in Catholic newspapers, he was arrested in January 1942.

He was transferred to Dachau, once described as “the largest priest cemetery in the world,” on June 19 that year. He died on July 26, following a lethal injection.

He was beatified by Pope John Paul II on Nov. 3, 1985, as a martyr for the faith.

In his homily, the Polish pope praised Brandsma’s “constant vein of optimism.”

“It accompanied him even in the hell of the Nazi camp. Until the end, he remained a source of support and hope for the other prisoners: he had a smile for everyone, a word of understanding, a gesture of kindness,” he said.

“The same ‘nurse,’ who on July 26, 1942, injected him with deadly poison, later testified that she always kept vivid in her memory the face of that priest who ‘had compassion on me.’”

A Catholic priest in Florida told CNA in 2018 that he attributed his miraculous healing from cancer to Brandsma’s intercession.

Fr. Michael Driscoll, O. Carm, was diagnosed with advanced melanoma in 2004. Shortly afterward, someone gave him a small piece of Brandsma’s black suit, which the American priest applied to his head each day.

He underwent major surgery, with doctors removing 84 lymph nodes and a salivary gland. He then went through 35 days of radiation treatment.

Doctors said that his subsequent recovery from Stage 4 cancer was scientifically inexplicable.

Driscoll recalled that his doctor told him: “No need to come back, don’t waste your money on airfare in coming back here. You’re cured. I don't find any more cancer in you.”

A congress of theologians recognized the healing as a miracle on May 25 this year. A group of cardinals approved the canonization cause on Nov. 9, submitting their decision to Pope Francis.

Pope Francis advanced several other causes on Thursday.

He recognized a miracle attributed to the intercession of Bl. Carolina Santocanale (1852-1923), known as Maria of Jesus, the Italian founder of the Capuchin Sisters of Immaculate Mary of Lourdes. She was beatified in 2016 and will now be canonized.

The pope also acknowledged the martyrdom of Enrico Planchart, Ladislao Radigue, and three companions, priests killed in hatred of the faith on May 26, 1871, at the time of the Paris Commune, a revolutionary government in the French capital.

The pope also recognized the heroic virtues of the Italian Bishop Antonio Bello (1935-1993), who he recently described as “a prophet in the land of Puglia,” the region at the southeastern tip of the Italian Peninsula.

In addition, he approved the heroic virtues of:

— Juan de San Pedro y Ustarroz (1564-1615), known as John of Jesus Mary, a Spanish Discalced Carmelite.

Giorgio Guzzetta (1682-1756), an Italian Oratorian priest known as the Apostle of the Albanians of Sicily.

Natalina Bonardi (1864-1945), founder of the Suore di Santa Maria di Loreto, a religious congregation based in Vercelli, Italy.

Maria Dositea Bottani (1896-1970), superior general of the Institute of the Ursuline Sisters of the Immaculate Virgin Mary of Gandino, Italy.

Odette Vidal Cardoso (1931-1939), a Brazilian girl who died in Rio de Janeiro at the age of nine.

Pope Francis: Digital revolution forces us to rethink what it means to be human

Pope Francis takes a selfie with pilgrims at the April 1, 2015 general audience in St. Peter’s Square. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Nov 24, 2021 / 05:10 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has said that technological innovations have created the need for a renewed reflection on essential questions about what it means to be human, based on Scripture, the classical tradition, and wisdom from non-European cultures.

In a video message sent on Nov. 23 to the Pontifical Council for Culture, the pope said that “the new changes brought about by the digital revolution and the incredible developments in the sciences … force us to rethink what it is to be human.”

“Today, a revolution is underway — yes, a revolution — that is touching the essential nodes of human existence and requires a creative effort of thought and action. Both of them. There is a structural change in the way we understand generation, birth, and death,” Pope Francis said in the video.

“The specificity of the human being in the whole of creation, our uniqueness vis-à-vis other animals, and even our relationship with machines are being questioned.”

Pope Francis highlighted what he called the “fluidity of the contemporary cultural vision.”

“It is the age of liquidity,” he said.

He suggested that the current “fluidity” is a marked difference from the time of the Second Vatican Council, when a secular, immanentist, materialist humanism at least shared a common basis with Christian humanism “on some radical questions related to human nature.”

“However, the conciliar Constitution Gaudium et spes is still relevant in this respect. It reminds us, in fact, that the Church still has much to give to the world, and it obliges us to acknowledge and evaluate, with confidence and courage, the intellectual, spiritual, and material achievements that have emerged since then in various fields of human knowledge,” the pope commented.

The Pontifical Council for Culture held its plenary assembly this week with the theme “Rethinking Anthropology — Toward a New Humanism.” The council holds the assemblies every two or three years to reflect on major issues and cultural realities in contemporary societies.

In his video message, the pope said that questions about human identity are being posed in a decisive manner in the 21st century.

“What does it mean today to be a man or a woman as complementary persons called to relate to one another? What do the words ‘fatherhood’ and ‘motherhood’ mean?” he asked.

“And again, what is the specific condition of the human being, which makes us unique and unrepeatable compared to machines and even other animal species? What is our transcendent vocation? Where does our call to build social relationships with others come from?”

Pope Francis pointed out that the Bible offers “the essential coordinates to outline an anthropology of the human person in relation to God, in the complexity of the relations between men and women, and in the nexus with the time and the space in which we live.”

“Biblical humanism, in fruitful dialogue with the values of classical Greek and Latin thought, gave rise to a lofty vision of the human person, our origin and ultimate destiny, our way of living on this earth,” he said.

The pope added that, while this fusion of ancient and biblical wisdom remains “a fertile paradigm,” a new creative synthesis is also needed with “the contemporary humanistic tradition and that of other cultures.”

“I am thinking, for example, of the holistic vision of Asian cultures, in a search for inner harmony and harmony with creation. Or the solidarity of African cultures, to overcome the excessive individualism typical of Western culture. The anthropology of Latin American peoples is also important, with its lively sense of family and celebration; and also the cultures of Indigenous peoples all over the planet,” Francis said.

“In these different cultures, there are forms of humanism which, integrated into the European humanism inherited from Greco-Roman civilization and transformed by the Christian vision, are today the best means of addressing the disturbing questions about the future of humanity.”

Pope John Paul II founded the Pontifical Council of Culture in 1982 as a way of fostering dialogue between the Church and contemporary cultures. In 1993, he combined the council together with the Pontifical Council for Dialogue with Non-believers.

Today, the council is dedicated to creating a space for Catholic dialogue with the sciences, humanities, economics, digital culture and artificial intelligence, sports, cultural heritage, the arts, and music.

“Now more than ever the world needs to rediscover the meaning and value of the human being in relation to the challenges we face,” Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis: St. Joseph is protecting the Catholic Church

Pope Francis’ general audience in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican, Nov. 24, 2021. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Vatican City, Nov 24, 2021 / 04:00 am (CNA).

St. Joseph continues to protect the Catholic Church today, just like he protected the Virgin Mary and Child Jesus, Pope Francis said at his general audience on Wednesday.

“In the Gospel of Luke, Joseph appears as the guardian of Jesus and of Mary. And for this reason, he is also ‘the Guardian of the Church,’” the pope said Nov. 24 at the live-streamed gathering in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall.

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Quoting Patris corde, his 2020 apostolic letter on St. Joseph, he added: “If [Joseph] was the custodian of Jesus and Mary, now that he is in heaven, he works and continues to be the custodian, in this case, of the Church; ‘For the Church is the continuation of the Body of Christ in history, even as Mary’s motherhood is reflected in the motherhood of the Church. In his continued protection of the Church’ — please do not forget this: today Joseph protects the Church — ‘he continues to protect the child and his mother.’”

This was Pope Francis’ second week in a catechetical series on St. Joseph. He said that “although apparently marginal, discreet, and in the background,” the saint “is in fact a central element in the history of salvation.”

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

The pope’s message focused on the genealogy of Jesus as recounted in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, and what this can teach us about St. Joseph.

“Both Evangelists present Joseph not as the biological father, but, however, as fully the father of Jesus,” he said. “Through him, Jesus fulfills the history of the covenant and salvation between God and man.”

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

As seen in St. Luke’s genealogy, Joseph is a link between Adam, the first man, and Jesus, the pope said, showing Christians the importance of their own roots.

Referencing the Polish philosopher and sociologist Zygmunt Bauman, Francis explained that a “liquid” society has no consistency.

“I will correct that philosopher who coined this definition and say, more than liquid — gaseous, a properly gaseous society,” he added. “This liquid, gaseous society finds in the story of Joseph a clear indication of the importance of human bonds.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“Indeed, the Gospel tells us the genealogy of Jesus not only for a theological reason, but also to remind each one of us that our lives are made up of bonds that precede and accompany us,” he said. “The Son of God chose to come into the world by way of such bonds.”

Pope Francis noted that for those who struggle to find meaningful human bonds in their life, who feel alone, or lack strength or courage, St. Joseph is “an ally, a friend, and a support.”

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

He concluded his audience with a prayer to St. Joseph to help anyone who is feeling this way:

“St. Joseph,
you who guarded the bond with Mary and Jesus,
help us to care for the relationships in our lives.
May no one experience the sense of abandonment
that comes from loneliness.
Let each of us be reconciled with our own history,
with those who have gone before,
and recognize even in the mistakes committed
a way through which Providence has made a path,
and evil did not have the last word.
Show yourself to be a friend to those who struggle the most,
and as you supported Mary and Jesus in difficult times,
support us too on our journey. Amen.”

Hannah Brockhaus/CNA.
Hannah Brockhaus/CNA.

During the pope’s greetings at the end of the catechesis, a group of pilgrims from the United States sang the Apostles’ Creed while holding a banner with the words “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church.” The background of the banner depicted the U.S. flag, a metal fence, and an icon of the Virgin Mary.

A group from Neocatechumenal communities in the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey, had sung the Apostles’ Creed at the pope’s Nov. 10 audience. They held a banner that read: “Peter confirm our faith.”

As not everyone who wished to attend the audience could fit inside the Paul VI Hall on Nov. 24, Pope Francis went first to St. Peter’s Basilica to greet three large pilgrim groups: The John Paul II Association of Bisceglie, southern Italy; members of the Vincentian Family; and the Italian Association of Victims of Violence.

Hannah Brockhaus/CNA.
Hannah Brockhaus/CNA.

He thanked the association helping victims of violence for their support for the mistreated. “With your important activity, you contribute to building a more just and solidary society,” he said.

The pope encouraged the John Paul II group to imitate the example of the Polish pope, “and strive to understand and welcome the love of God, source and reason for our true joy.”

He thanked the Italian pilgrims from the Vincentian Family for bringing hope and God’s mercy to many people during the pandemic.

“You have given testimony to the way of the ‘Church which goes out,’ which reaches everyone, starting from the excluded and marginalized,” he said. “Continue on this road and open yourselves always more to the action of the Holy Spirit, who instills the strength to boldly announce the newness of the Gospel.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

After stopping briefly to pray in front of a statue of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, Pope Francis took time to personally greet people in the crowd before moving to the Paul VI Hall.

Pope Francis prays for Wisconsin parade victims

Pope Francis celebrates Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on the feast of Christ the King, Nov. 21, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Nov 23, 2021 / 06:38 am (CNA).

Pope Francis is praying for the people injured and killed by an SUV that plowed into marchers during a Christmas parade in the Milwaukee suburb of Waukesha, the Vatican press office said Tuesday.

A message sent to Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki of Milwaukee said that the pope was “asking the Lord to bestow upon everyone the spiritual strength which triumphs over violence and overcomes evil with good.”

“The Holy Father asks you kindly to convey the assurance of his spiritual closeness to all affected by the tragic incident that recently took place in Waukesha,” said the telegram, released on Nov. 23 and sent on the pope’s behalf by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

“He commends the souls of those who died to Almighty God’s loving mercy and implores the divine gifts of healing and consolation upon the injured and bereaved.”

Five people were killed in the SUV incident and nearly 50 injured, including a Catholic priest, multiple parishioners, and Catholic schoolchildren.

The incident involved a red SUV that barreled through barricades and into a crowd marching down the main street of Waukesha just before 4:40 p.m. on Nov. 21.

Videos posted on social media showed the vehicle racing down the parade route, with police in pursuit, past horrified onlookers moments before marchers were struck.

The Milwaukee Dancing Grannies, the Waukesha Xtreme Dance team, and a marching band were also hit by the vehicle, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Several of the dead were part of the dancing grandmothers’ group, while another was a Citizen Bank employee walking with a float.

The youngest to die was 52, while the oldest was 81. Among those hospitalized for their injuries were at least 18 children.

Also marching in the parade were individuals and institutions of the local Catholic community.

Waukesha has four Catholic parishes. In the wake of the incident, the city’s parishes provided social media live streams of the rosary and Eucharistic adoration.

Authorities named Darrell Brooks Jr. as the suspected driver, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Among other recommended charges, he could face five charges of first-degree intentional homicide, each of which has a sentence of mandatory life in prison.

Brooks, 39, was the subject of an ongoing domestic violence case. The Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office said on Nov. 22 that prosecutors had recommended an “inappropriately low” bail in the case and it is investigating the recommendation.

In the last two years, Brooks has faced three charges of recklessly endangering others’ safety. He jumped bail for a July 2020 incident for allegedly firing a handgun during an argument.

Most recently, in early November, he allegedly ran over a woman with his vehicle in the parking lot of a Milwaukee gas station. She was hospitalized for her injuries. Brooks was freed on $1,000 bail.

At a Monday afternoon press conference, Waukesha’s police chief confirmed that Brooks was involved in a “domestic disturbance” before he drove onto the parade route.

The archbishop of Milwaukee published a video on Nov. 22, calling on people to turn to God in the face of the tragedy.

“As the shepherd of the Catholic community of southeastern Wisconsin, I feel compelled to stand in solidarity with those who have been affected by this senseless act,” Listecki said.

“When confronted with the shock and the grief encountered by our brothers and sisters in Waukesha, it is now important for us to turn to our faith which offers us God’s loving presence and consolation.”

Pope Francis tells young adults to hold onto hope as Advent nears

Pope Francis met participants and organizers of a Christmas songwriting contest at the Vatican on Nov. 22, 2021 / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Nov 22, 2021 / 08:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis told young adults and teens participating in a Christmas songwriting contest to hold onto the hope, beauty, and love present in the season which celebrates Christ’s birth.

“I am happy to meet you, now at the doors of Advent, the period which every year introduces us to Christmas and its Mystery,” the pope said Nov. 22.

“This year too its lights will be subdued due to the consequences of the pandemic, which still weighs on our time,” he noted. “All the more reason we are called to examine ourselves and not to lose hope.”

“The feast of the Birth of Christ does not clash with the trial we are experiencing, because it is the feast of compassion, of tenderness par excellence. Its beauty is humble and full of human warmth,” Francis told the contestants and its organizers.

He added: “I like to repeat the words of Saint Paul VI: ‘This world in which we live needs beauty in order not to fall into despair.’ What kind of beauty? Not the false one made up of appearance and earthly wealth, which is empty and generates emptiness. No.”

“But that [beauty] of a God who became flesh, that of faces, of stories; that of the creatures who form our common home and who – as St. Francis teaches us – participate in the praise of the Most High,” he said.

Pope Francis met participants in a Christmas song contest initiative at the Vatican on Nov. 22, 2021. Vatican Media
Pope Francis met participants in a Christmas song contest initiative at the Vatican on Nov. 22, 2021. Vatican Media

Pope Francis addressed participants of the Christmas song competition and others involved in its organization, including its creators, the Pontifical Gravissimum Educationis Foundation and the non-profit Missioni Don Bosco, in a hall of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace.

The Pontifical Gravissimum Educationis Foundation was founded by Pope Francis in 2015. The foundation’s website says the Christmas Concert wants to enrich the repertoire of Christmas songs and carols known all over the world “through the creativity of young people, inviting them to produce new songs inspired by Christmas and its values: life, love, peace, light.”

The contest, which was open to young people ages 16-35, is divided into the categories of lyrics, music, and interpretation. The three best songs, as chosen by a jury, will be performed at the 29th edition of the Christmas Concert in the Vatican, a benefit for Scholas Occurrentes and Missioni Don Bosco.

The Dec. 16 concert will have a live audience after last year’s show was taped without spectators due to coronavirus restrictions.

The concert, which features international music artists, will air on Italian TV on Christmas Eve.

Pope Francis said “the beauty of Christmas shines through in the sharing of small gestures of concrete love. It is not alienating, is not superficial, is not evasive; on the contrary, it widens the heart, opens it to give freely – you artists know – opens it to the gift of self, and can also generate cultural, social and educational dynamics.”

Pope Francis: Christ is not like other kings, he is a King for others

Pope Francis speaks after delivering his Angelus address at the Vatican, Nov. 21, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Nov 21, 2021 / 06:50 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said on Sunday that Christ is “not like other kings, but he is a King for others.”

In his Angelus address on Nov. 21, the feast of Christ the King, the pope underlined that Jesus’ kingship is “completely different” than that of worldly rulers.

Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.
Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.

“His kingship is truly beyond human parameters. We could say that he is not like other kings, but he is a King for others,” he said.

The pope was giving his live-streamed address at a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square on the day that the Catholic Church celebrates World Youth Day. He was flanked by young people from the Diocese of Rome.

He dedicated the address to Sunday’s Gospel reading, in which Jesus acknowledges that he is a king before Pontius Pilate, governor of the Roman province of Judaea.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“Let us reflect on this: in front of Pilate, Christ says he is a king at the moment in which the crowd is against Him; but when the crowd was following and acclaiming him, he remained distant from this acclamation,” the pope observed.

“That is, Jesus is showing that he is sovereignly free from the desire of earthly fame and glory. And we — let us ask ourselves — do we know how to imitate him in this aspect? Do we know how to govern our tendency to be continuously sought after and approved, or do we do everything to be esteemed by others?”

“So, I ask: what matters? Is it applause or service that matters about what we do, particularly concerning our Christian commitment?”

Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.
Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.

The pope said that Jesus was a king who liberated his followers.

“Dear brothers and sisters, he frees us from being subject to evil. His Kingdom is liberating, there is nothing oppressive about it. He treats every disciple as a friend, not as a subject,” he said.

“Even while being above all sovereigns, he draws no dividing line between himself and others. Instead, he wants to have brothers and sisters with whom to share his joy.”

Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.
Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.

He went on: “We do not lose anything in following him — nothing is lost, no — but we acquire dignity because Christ does not want servility around him, but people who are free.”

The pope emphasized that truth is the bedrock of Christian freedom.

“Being with Jesus, we become true,” he said. “The life of a Christian is not a play in which you can don the mask that best suits you. For when Jesus reigns in the heart, he frees it from hypocrisy, he frees it from subterfuge, from duplicity.”

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

“The best proof that Christ is our king is detachment from what pollutes life, makes it ambiguous, opaque, sad. When life is ambiguous — a bit here and there — it is sad, very sad.”

Pope Francis noted that all Christians were sinners, but said that Christ’s kingship saved them from falling into corruption.

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

“But when we live under the lordship of Jesus, we do not become corrupt, we do not become false, inclined to cover up the truth. We do not live double lives,” he said.

“Remember this well: all of us are sinners, yes; corrupt, never, never. Sinners, yes; corrupt, never. May the Madonna help us to seek every day the truth of Jesus, King of the Universe, who liberates us from earthly slavery and teaches us to govern our vices.”

After praying the Angelus, Pope Francis said that Sunday marked the first time that World Youth Day was being celebrated in dioceses on the Solemnity of Christ the King. The annual event was previously observed on Palm Sunday.

He marked the occasion by celebrating a morning Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.

“I cordially greet the young boys and girls from our diocese, and I hope that all the young people in the world might feel that they are a living part of the Church, protagonists of her mission,” he said.

Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.
Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.

He invited the young people beside him to offer a greeting. After the young woman wished pilgrims a happy World Youth Day, the pope urged the young man to his left to “say something creative.”

The youngster responded by saying: “Let us testify that believing in Jesus is beautiful.”

“See that,” the pope exclaimed. “This is beautiful. Thank you.”

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

The pope then spoke about World Fisheries Day, which falls on Sunday.

“I greet all fishermen and I pray for those living in difficult conditions, unfortunately, sometimes in forced labor,” he said, offering encouragement to chaplains and volunteers of Stella Maris, a Catholic charity helping seafarers worldwide.

Noting that Nov. 21 is the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, the pope also called for prayers for those affected.

“I would also like to encourage the United Nations’ initiatives currently underway toward achieving greater control over the arms trade,” he added.

Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Before greeting pilgrims in the square below, including those from Poland and the United States, the pope asked for a round of applause for the Church’s newest blessed.

He said: “Yesterday in Katowice, in Poland, Jan Franciszek Macha was beatified, killed in hatred of the faith in 1941 within the context of the persecutions against the Church during the Nazi regime.”

“In the darkness of his prison, he found in God the strength and meekness to face that calvary. May his martyrdom be a fruitful seed of hope and peace.”

World Youth Day 2021: Pope Francis asks young Catholics to be ‘critical conscience of society’

Pope Francis celebrates Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on the feast of Christ the King, Nov. 21, 2021. / EWTN News/Daniel Ibáñez/Vatican Pool.

Vatican City, Nov 21, 2021 / 05:05 am (CNA).

Pope Francis urged young Catholics on Sunday to “be the critical conscience of society” as he celebrated a Mass marking the 36th World Youth Day.

Offering the Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on Nov. 21, the feast of Christ the King, the pope encouraged young people to swim against society’s current, but without turning into “perpetual victims and conspiracy theorists.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

He said: “Friends, we are not here to be enchanted by the sirens of the world, but to take our lives in hand, to ‘take a bite out of life,’ in order to live it to the full.”

“In this way, with the freedom of Jesus, we find the courage we need to swim against the current. I would like to emphasize this: swimming against the current, having the courage to swim against the current.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“Not the daily temptation to swim against other people, like those perpetual victims and conspiracy theorists who are always casting blame on others; but rather against the unhealthy current of our own selfishness, closed-mindedness, and rigidity that often seeks like-minded groups to survive.”

He exhorted young people to avoid “ambiguous compromises.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“Instead, be free and authentic, be the critical conscience of society,” he said. “Don’t be afraid to criticize! We need your criticism. Many of you, for example, are critical of environmental pollution. We need this! Be free in criticism.”

“Be passionate about truth, so that, with your dreams, you can say: ‘My life is not captive to the mindset of the world: I am free, because I reign with Jesus for justice, love and peace!’”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

The Catholic Church has celebrated World Youth Day (WYD) annually since the event was established by Pope John Paul II in 1985.

WYD is observed in local dioceses, but every two to three years there is a week-long international celebration, typically held in July or August, drawing hundreds of thousands of people. The next gathering will be in the Portuguese capital, Lisbon, in 2023.

Pope Francis announced in November 2020 that the local youth celebrations would take place on the Solemnity of Christ the King, starting in 2021. They were previously held on Palm Sunday.

EWTN News/Daniel Ibáñez/Vatican Pool.
EWTN News/Daniel Ibáñez/Vatican Pool.

The Vatican asked Church leaders in May to “give more importance to the diocesan celebration of WYD” when it released new pastoral guidelines on marking the event.

The pope described Sunday’s Mass, celebrated at the high altar beneath St. Peter’s Baldachin, as the start of the journey towards Lisbon.

He based his homily on two images drawn from the day’s readings: Jesus “coming amid the clouds” in the Book of Revelation and Christ standing before Pilate, declaring that he is a king.

The pope said that the first image evokes Christ’s coming at the end of time and “makes us realize that the final word on our life will belong to Jesus.”

Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.
Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.

He added that it shows that “God is indeed coming, that he is present and at work, guiding our history towards himself, towards all goodness.”

Pope Francis referred to his message for World Youth Day 2021, released on Sept. 27, in which he invited young Catholics to “arise and bear witness” to the Gospel.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

He said: “Lift your gaze from earth to heaven, not in order to flee but to resist the temptation to remain imprisoned by our fears, for there is always the danger that our fears will rule us. Do not remain closed in on ourselves and our complaints. Lift up your eyes! Get up!”

“This is the word of encouragement that the Lord speaks to us, the invitation to lift up our eyes, to get up, and I wanted to repeat it in my Message to you for this year of journeying together.”

“You have been entrusted with an exciting but also challenging task: to stand tall while everything around us seems to be collapsing; to be sentinels prepared to see the light in night visions; to be builders amid the many ruins of today’s world; to be capable of dreaming.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“This is crucial: a young person unable to dream has sadly become old before his time! To be capable of dreaming, because this is what people who dream do: they do not remain in the darkness, but light a candle, a flame of hope that announces the coming of the dawn. Dream, make haste, and look to the future with courage.”

The pope thanked young Catholics for their faith in Jesus, working to realize their dreams, and making the world “more beautiful and humane.”

“Thank you above all, because in a world that thinks only of present gain, that tends to stifle grand ideals, you have not lost the ability to dream in this world,” he said at the live-streamed Mass.

“Do not live your lives numbly or asleep. Instead, dream and live. This helps us adults, and the Church as well. Yes, as a Church too, we need to dream, we need youthful enthusiasm in order to be witnesses of the God who is always young.”

Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.
Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.

Pope Francis recalled that the Italian Jesuit Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, archbishop of Milan from 1979 to 2002, once said that the Church and society need “dreamers who remain ever open to the surprises of the Holy Spirit.”

“This is beautiful,” the pope commented. “I hope and pray that you will be one of these dreamers.”

EWTN News/Daniel Ibáñez/Vatican Pool.
EWTN News/Daniel Ibáñez/Vatican Pool.

Turning to the second image, of Christ before Pilate, he noted that Jesus did not hide his kingly identity.

He said: “Dear young people, Jesus’ freedom draws us in. Let us allow it to resonate within us, to challenge us, to awaken in us the courage born of truth.”

Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.
Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.

“Let us ask ourselves this: Were I in Pilate’s place, looking Jesus in the eye, what would I be ashamed of? Faced with the truth of Jesus, the truth that is Jesus, what are the ways I am deceitful or duplicitous, the ways I displease him?”

“Each of us will find such ways. Look for them, seek them out. We all have these duplicities, these compromises, this ‘arranging things’ so that the cross will go away.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“It is good to stand before Jesus, who is truth, in order to be set free from our illusions. It is good to worship Jesus, and as a result, to be inwardly free, to see life as it really is, and not be deceived by the fashions of the moment and the displays of consumerism that dazzle but also deaden.”

At the end of the Mass, the pope stood with four young people before an image of the Virgin and Child as the congregation sang the Salve Regina.

Pope Francis meets the ‘Pope’s Team’ ahead of friendly soccer match

Pope Francis with members of the ‘Pope’s Team - Fratelli tutti’ in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall, Nov. 20, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Nov 20, 2021 / 08:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis met with members of a soccer squad known as the “Pope’s Team - Fratelli tutti” ahead of a friendly match on Sunday.

Meeting the players and their opponents on Nov. 20, the pope said that he had joyfully welcomed a proposal for a game involving a papal team.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

The team, he joked, does not consist of cardinals — who range in age from 54 to 97. Instead, the players include Swiss Guards, priests working in the Roman Curia, and Vatican employees and their children.

The pope explained that the squad — which will sport soccer jerseys bearing the name of the pope’s most recent encyclical — also features a young player with Down syndrome, a participant in the Special Olympics, and three migrants.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

He said that the migrants were welcomed to Italy by the Community of Sant’Egidio after “a journey marked by abuse and violence, which saw them pass from the Greek camp of Lesbos,” where the pope will travel next month.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“Thank you all for accepting to be part of the ‘Pope’s Team,’” he said. “It is a team where there are no barriers and that makes inclusion a simple normality.”

Emphasizing the match’s friendly nature, he then turned to the team’s opponents, representing the World Rom Organization, which promotes the welfare of the Roma people.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

The Roma, also known as the Romani people, are a traditionally nomadic group originating from the Indian subcontinent. There are an estimated 12 million Roma in Europe, around two-thirds of whom live in central and eastern European countries.

“Dear Roma friends, I know well your history, your reality, your fears, and your hopes,” he said, looking forward to future events organized by the Diocese of Rome through a project called “A kick to exclusion.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“Last Sept. 14 in Košice, Slovakia, I visited the Roma community. I invited them to move from prejudice to dialogue, from isolation to integration,” he said.

“After listening to the testimonies of some members of the community — stories of pain, redemption, and hope — I reminded everyone that to be Church is ‘to live as a people called by God, each with his or her special role to play, all as members of the same team.’”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“I used precisely these expressions, taken from the language of soccer, which also fit very well with the meaning of your game.”

He went on: “Too many times, I told the Roma people of Košice, the Roma have ‘been the object of prejudice and harsh judgments, discriminatory stereotypes, defamatory words, and gestures. As a result, we are all poorer in humanity.’”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“For this reason, the sporting event to which you will give life has great significance: it indicates that the way to peaceful coexistence is integration. And the basis is the education of children.”

The soccer match, organized by the Pontifical Council for Culture, will be played on Nov. 21, in the town of Formello, 45 minutes north of Italy’s capital.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

The match, on the training grounds of Italy’s Lazio football club, will also raise funds for a Roma inclusion project organized by the Diocese of Rome.

In his address, the pope noted that the World Rom Organization, which has its headquarters in Zagreb, Croatia, runs inclusive sporting events with special attention to minorities and people with disabilities.

He described the group’s activities as a sign of hope.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“Children, all children, have the right to grow up together, without obstacles and without discrimination. And sports are a place of meeting and equality, and can build community through bridges of friendship,” he said.

Pope Francis to Swedish Academy: Social media promotes monologue instead of dialogue

Pope Francis meets members of the Swedish Academy at the Vatican's Hall of Popes, Nov. 19, 2021. / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Nov 19, 2021 / 09:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis spoke about dialogue, the search for truth, and the inalienable dignity of every human person in a meeting on Friday with the Swedish Academy, which awards the yearly Nobel Prize in Literature.

“The pervasive growth of social media risks replacing dialogue with a welter of monologues, often aggressive in tone,” the pope said Nov. 19 in the Vatican’s Hall of Popes.

He added that COVID-19 had tested the capacity to dialogue with others. He pointed to the long periods of confinement and the deep effect that the pandemic has had on people, even unconsciously.

“We find ourselves a little more distant from others, a little more reserved, perhaps more guarded, or simply less inclined to join with others, to work side by side, with the satisfaction and effort born of building something together,” he noted.

This situation, he said, “threatens each of us as persons, since it diminishes our capacity for relationships, and impoverishes society and the world around us.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Quoting from his 2020 encyclical Fratelli tutti, he said that “social dialogue, instead, ‘involves the ability to respect the other’s point of view’ with sincerity and without deceit.”

“I wish to share this theme of social dialogue as the royal road towards a new culture,” he told the academy members, who, he said, “have the pulse” of contemporary culture.

Vatican Media
Vatican Media

The Swedish Academy, founded in 1786 by King Gustav III, has 18 members, who are elected for life. It is considered the foremost authority on the Swedish language, and since 1901 has chosen the annual winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Vatican Media
Vatican Media

In 2018, the Nobel Prize was postponed to the following year due to a sexual harassment and corruption scandal involving some of the academy’s members. In the fallout, a number stood down. Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf then formally amended the statutes to make it possible for members to resign.

Pope Francis told the group that “dialogue is not synonymous with relativism.”

He said: “Indeed, society is all the more noble whenever it cultivates the search for truth and is rooted in fundamental truths, and especially when it acknowledges that ‘every human being possesses an inalienable dignity.’”

“Believers and nonbelievers alike can agree on this principle,” he said.

Pope Francis: Persistence of child labor is ‘shocking and disturbing’

Pope Francis meets participants in an international conference on eradicating child labor at the Vatican's Consistory Hall, Nov. 19, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Nov 19, 2021 / 08:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said on Friday that the persistence of child labor in 21st-century economies is “shocking and disturbing.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Addressing participants in an international conference on Nov. 19, the pope said that the coronavirus pandemic had worsened the plight of millions of children forced to work worldwide.

“It is shocking and disturbing that in today’s economies, whose productive activities rely on technological innovations, so much so that we talk about the ‘fourth industrial revolution,’ the employment of children in work activities persists in every part of the world,” he said.

“This endangers their health and their mental and physical well-being, and deprives them of the right to education and to live their childhood with joy and serenity. The pandemic has further aggravated the situation.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

The pope was speaking in the Vatican’s Consistory Hall to participants in a conference on “Eradicating child labor, building a better future,” hosted by the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, led by Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson.

It was the second time this month that the pope has highlighted the scourge. He called on Nov. 2 for renewed efforts to free children from “the brutal yoke of labor exploitation” in a message to a virtual forum hosted by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

In his latest address, he distinguished between child labor and “the small domestic tasks that children ... perform as part of family life, to help parents, siblings, grandparents or other members of the community.”

“Child labor is something else entirely,” he said. “It is the exploitation of children in the production processes of the globalized economy for the profit and gain of others.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“It is the denial of children’s rights to health, education and harmonious growth, including the possibility to play and dream. This is tragic.”

“A child who cannot dream, who cannot play, cannot grow up. It is robbing children of their future and therefore humanity itself. It is a violation of human dignity.”

The conference is taking place in the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labor, endorsed by the U.N. General Assembly and supported by the International Labour Organization (ILO).

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

The ILO estimates that 152 million children across the world are forced to work in exploitative conditions, although the global figure decreased by 38% between 2000 and 2016.

The FAO reports that 70% of child labor takes place in an agricultural setting, with 112 million children working in crop production, livestock, forestry, fisheries, or aquaculture.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“If we want to eradicate the scourge of child labor, we must work together to eradicate poverty, to correct the distortions in the current economic system, which centralizes wealth in the hands of a few,” the pope said.

“We must encourage states and business actors to create opportunities for decent work with fair wages that enable families to meet their needs without their children being forced to work.”

“We must combine our efforts to promote quality education that is free for all in every country, as well as a health system that is accessible to all without distinction.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“All social actors are called upon to combat child labor and its causes. The participation in this conference of representatives of international organizations, civil society, business, and the Church is a sign of great hope.”