Friday, March 7, 2014


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis and the general secretary of the World Council of Churches, Rev Olav Fykse Tveit, have discussed “new opportunities for Christian unity today”, focused on working together for peace, justice and environmental protection. At a meeting in the Vatican on Friday, the two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the path of “full and visible communion” among Christians of different denominations. They also talked about peace in the Middle East and on the Korean peninsula, about economic justice and about an upcoming summit of religious leaders to press for urgent action on climate change. 

The Geneva based World Council of Churches is a fellowship of 345 member churches from over 110 different countries. In his words to the general secretary Pope Francis thanked the organisation for its work over the past half century in “overcoming mutual misunderstanding” and promoting “sincere ecumenical cooperation”. If Christians ignore the call to unity which comes from the Lord, he said, “they risk ignoring the Lord himself.” Though the road to unity is still an uphill struggle, he said, the Spirit encourages us to move forward in trust. 

Just after the audience, Philippa Hitchen spoke to Rev Fykse Tveit to find out more about their conversation and about their shared vision for the future of the ecumenical movement…..

Listen: RealAudioMP3 

“It was a very good conversation….I responded to what we understand is his vision of how the Church shall serve the needs of the world, sharing the Gospel, being together in doing this, but also how we shall address the issues of justice and peace in the world together…..I shared our vision as WCC and also my personal understanding and commitment to what it means to work for justice and peace as a Christian…..we recognize that we have, in many ways, the same perspectives but also the same spirit….

There is no doubt about his commitment to unity….what he said and what I said is that there are new opportunities for Christian unity today, particularly how we serve the world together and we should focus on how we can do that…..he was interested in particular issues I raised with him about the Middle East, about peace in Korea, our work for economic justice and for the environment….

[on Korean reconciliation]We are working on another meeting between participants from North and South Korea, to happen in Geneva before the summer…..I’m going to visit South Korea in April to discuss this…’s very important for us to see how the Churches can bring another vision on how things can change….the expectations from the Korean Churches are quite significant….

[on 10th Assembly in Busan] I think we realized we cannot divide the ecumenical movement into those who are evangelicals, those who are ecumenical, those who work for unity, those who work for mission, those who work for justice….it belongs together in a very strong way…and this was what we confirmed in the conversation today with his Holiness….

[on climate change] I referred to the call of UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon at the World Economic Forum in January this year when he called governments, the business sector and the civil sector – including religious leaders – to bring something new, to really make changes in how we give priority to the environment…..we believe it’s time to call other religious leaders to a summit, the day before the summit that Ban Ki-moon has called for heads of state in September in New York, and the Pope was apparently supporting this idea very strongly…”

Text from Vatican Radio website 


(Vatican Radio) Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI has granted a lengthy interview on the topic of his years with Blessed John Paul II. The interview appears as the first in an Italian-language collection titled: Accanto a Giovanni Paolo II. Gli amici & I collaborator raccontano. Published by the Italian Edizioni Ares press, and in stores now, the volume features recollections by more than a dozen of the soon-to-be canonized Pope’s friends and closest collaborators, including: Bl. John Paul II’s secretaries, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, Archbishop Emery Kabongo and Archbishop Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki; the former Director of the Press Office of the Holy See, Joaquin Navarro-Valls; the Blessed Pope’s life-long friend, Wanda Poltawska; the postulator of his Cause for Sainthood, Fr. Slawomir Oder; and many others. 

It was in November of 2013 that Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI agreed to answer Polish journalist Wlodzimierz Redzioch’s questions in writing, which he did by January of this year. The Pope-emeritus also personally verified the Italian translation of the original German text of his answers. 

Among the topics covered in the interview are: the work Bl. John Paul II and then-Cardinal Ratzinger did to respond to liberation theology; their work on the Catechism of the Catholic Church; the most important aspects of Bl, John Paul II’s spirituality; the decision of the Pope-emeritus to open his predecessor’s Cause; the spirit of gratitude that pervades his memory of the man he served and succeeded.

The Italian dailies, Avvenire and Corriere della sera, ran lengthy excerpts from the interview in their Friday, March 7th editions, which included the Pope-emeritus’s recollection of the great faithfulness and support Bl. John Paul II showed him, even and especially in the most trying of circumstances. “Often he would have [had] sufficient reasons to blame me or to put an end to my [tenure as] Prefect [of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith],” said Benedict. “Nevertheless,” he continued, “[Bl. John Paul II] supported me with fidelity and absolutely incomprehensible goodness.” 

The Pope-emeritus went on to recount how, in the face of the storm that had developed around the declaration, Dominus Iesus [On the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church], then-Pope John Paul II told the then-Cardinal of his plans to use his remarks at the upcoming Sunday Angelus to defend the document unequivocally. “[The Pope] invited me to write a text for the Angelus that was, so to speak, watertight, [one that would] not allow for any other interpretation.” Explaining that John Paul wanted his unconditional and unqualified approval of the document to be unmistakably clear, the Pope-emeritus added, “I prepared a little speech. I did not, however, desire to be overly brusque, and so I tried to express myself with clarity but without harshness. After reading it, the Pope asked me again, ‘But, is it really clear enough?. I said ‘yes’. Anyone who knows theologians will not be shocked, though, [to learn that], nevertheless, there were those who argued that the Pope had prudently distanced himself from that text.”

Text from  Vatican Radio website 

Please continue to PRAY for the UKRAINE as Russian military threaten the region

ASIA NEWS REPORT: A referendum date has been set for 16 March in violation of Ukraine's constitution, which provides for a pan-Ukrainian referendum. Christian leaders are united to defend the territorial integrity of the country, including Metropolitan Onufry, who has ties with the Moscow Patriarchate.

Kyiv (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Crimea's parliament has asked Moscow to become part of the Russian Federation. If there is a positive response from Moscow, Crimea will hold a referendum on 16 March. The proposal was adopted by a vote of 78 in favour and 8 abstentions.
In Kyiv, the government said that according to the Constitution of Ukraine "alterations to the territory of Ukraine shall be resolved exclusively by an all-Ukrainian referendum".
The Crimean Peninsula has been at the centre of recent tensions. With an ethnic Russian majority (57 per cent), it has resisted the new Ukrainian government's shift towards Europe.
Russian and pro-Russian military have isolated the region and forced Ukrainian forces to stay in their barracks.
In case of a referendum under the current constitution, it is almost certain that a pro-Russia vote would fail since ethnic Russians are only 17 per cent of the overall Ukrainian population.
In recent days, Ukraine's religious leaders have come out openly in favour of a solution through peaceful talks to preserve national unity, including Metropolitan Onufry, locum tenens (pro tem head) of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is tied to the Moscow Patriarchate

In an appeal to Kirill, Onufry asked the Orthodox Patriarch in Moscow "to lift your voice about the preservation of the territorial integrity of the Ukrainian state" and "prevent bloodshed on the territory of Ukraine.


Friday after Ash Wednesday
Lectionary: 221

Reading 1           IS 58:1-9A

Thus says the Lord GOD:
Cry out full-throated and unsparingly,
lift up your voice like a trumpet blast;
Tell my people their wickedness,
and the house of Jacob their sins.
They seek me day after day,
and desire to know my ways,
Like a nation that has done what is just
and not abandoned the law of their God;
They ask me to declare what is due them,
pleased to gain access to God.
“Why do we fast, and you do not see it?
afflict ourselves, and you take no note of it?”

Lo, on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits,
and drive all your laborers.
Yes, your fast ends in quarreling and fighting,
striking with wicked claw.
Would that today you might fast
so as to make your voice heard on high!
Is this the manner of fasting I wish,
of keeping a day of penance:
That a man bow his head like a reed
and lie in sackcloth and ashes?
Do you call this a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD?
This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking every yoke;
Sharing your bread with the hungry,
sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own.
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed;
Your vindication shall go before you,
and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer,
you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am!

Responsorial Psalm                PS 51:3-4, 5-6AB, 18-19

R. (19b) A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
and of my sin cleanse me.
R. A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
For I acknowledge my offense,
and my sin is before me always:
“Against you only have I sinned,
and done what is evil in your sight.”
R. A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
For you are not pleased with sacrifices;
should I offer a burnt offering, you would not accept it.
My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit;
a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
R. A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.

Gospel                 MT 9:14-15

The disciples of John approached Jesus and said,
“Why do we and the Pharisees fast much,
but your disciples do not fast?”
Jesus answered them, “Can the wedding guests mourn
as long as the bridegroom is with them?
The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them,
and then they will fast.”


Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese REPORT
5 Mar 2014

40 Days for Life Lenten Vigil's candlelight procession was led by Bishop Brady
The past week of rain and drizzle cleared in time for last night's 40 Days for Life candlelight procession led by Bishop Terry Brady from St Peter's Catholic Church in Surry Hills to the Preterm Abortion Clinic at the corner of Randle and Elizabeth Streets.
For the fifth year in succession, pro-life supporters and Sydney's faithful, will join in a daily prayer vigil from 6 am until 8pm opposite Sydney's oldest and best-known abortion clinic in Surry Hills. From 8 pm until 6 am the next day the vigil will continue at St Peter's Catholic Church.
"Each year more and more people join the vigil giving half an hour to several hours each day to pray for the unborn, raise awareness about abortion and to help bring an end to the loss of more than 100,000 precious lives in Australia each year," says Paul Hanrahan, Director of Family Life International which organises Sydney's annual Lenten 40 Days for Life prayer vigil.
Launched each year on Shrove Tuesday on the eve of Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent, Paul estimates at least 1000 men and women of all ages will take part in the vigil in a bid to "change minds and save lives."
They will also spend the 40 Days for Life vigil in peaceful prayer, fasting and outreach, offering emotional as well as financial support if this is also needed, to women who may be considering abortion.

Many hundreds joined in prayer at the start of the Vigil
"The majority of women who seek abortions are coerced into this by relatives, their boyfriends and even their parents, and mistakenly believing they have no one and nowhere to turn, and have no support, they decide ending their pregnancy is the only option," Paul says.
By holding the vigil outside the Preterm Clinic many desperate and confused young women are given a chance to discover alternatives to killing their unborn child. Each day trained and experienced counsellors take part in the vigil and are on hand to help comfort and advise women who may be contemplating an abortion and asks one of those participating in the vigil for help.
"We don't approach women entering or coming out of the Preterm clinic. Instead we pray and wait for them to approach us. Once they do, we talk to them and if they need support and counsel, we refer them to our psychologists and Family Life International counsellors who can offer a wide range of services and support," Paul says.

Most Rev Julian Porteous was patron of Family Life International Sydney before becoming Archbishop of Hobart
Often volunteers from FLI will step in to help with baby sitting the younger children of the mother who may have seen abortion as her only option in a situation where money is tight, a husband has lost his job or she has just moved to Sydney and has no friends and back up.
"We will help out so she can meet her medical appointments and take much of the stress of that way," says Paul. "Everyone we talk to is different and every story is different. But what comes through loud and clear is that when people have someone to confide in and the name and telephone number of someone they trust whom they know will do whatever they can to help them, their whole attitude changes. Almost always the women don't need much more than someone to listen, resassure and let them know there is backup and support if and when they need it."
Thanks to FFI,  a young Australian-born young woman whose parents migrated here from Africa, is awaiting the birth of twins.
"She went to Africa on a visit to her parents family and was reunited with a former boyfriend and fell in love. They want to marry but he cannot get a visa and we are working to try to change this, and looking after her in the meantime," says Paul.
Another young woman he is talking to regularly at present is confused and desperate. She is in her 30s and being pressured to abort her unborn baby by her family.

Priests and Religious join young Catholics to participate in 40 Days for Life Prayer Vigil
"Family can exert a lot of pressure and boyfriends can use blackmail, saying they will break up with the woman unless she has an abortion," Paul says.
But of the more than 100 women he and FFI have been able to help over the past decade who have decided not to abort their baby but continue with their pregnancies, not one has expressed regret at continuing her pregnancy.
"We stay in touch and give help and support throughout the first six to 12 months of the baby's life, but in virtually every case once the tiny newborn is in her arms, the problems that overwhelmed her during her pregnancy no longer seem important," Paul says.
As Sydney begins its own 40 Days for Life prayer vigil similar vigils are being held across Australia as well as in 21 countries and 522 cities worldwide. In the USA where the vigil first began, 253 communities are now committed to observing the 40 Days for Life Vigil while in Australia vigils are now held in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra, Perth, Tweed Heads and Albury.

Paul Hanrahan of Family Life International holds an icon of Our Lady
Vigils also take place daily throughout Lent in towns and cities in Canada, Croatia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Britain, New Zealand, Nigeria, Russia, South Africa, Poland and Spain.
But in Tasmania where the Most Rev Julian Porteous who was patron of 40 Days for Life for the past four years is now Archbishop of Hobart there will be no vigils or peaceful demonstrations against abortion.
"That's because Tasmania's coalition government of Greens and Labor introduced laws last year that make it illegal to hold a prayer vigil or gather outside an abortion clinic. If you are closer than 150 yards you get arrested and if convicted face a fine of $9750 as well as 12 months in gaol," Paul says and recalls Archbishop Porteous' pivotal role and strong support of Family Life International during his years as the Archdiocese of Sydney's Vicar for Evangelisation and Renewal.
"Archbishop Porteous was a champion of the unborn and an outspoken fearless critic of abortion throughout his many years in Sydney, and we will miss him very much," Paul says.
To take part in the 40 Days for Life Sydney prayer vigil logon to

POPE FRANCIS "“This is the charity or fasting that our Lord wants! Fasting that is concerned about the life of our brother..."

(Vatican Radio) Are we ashamed to touch the flesh of our wounded or suffering brothers and sisters? This was one of the key questions posed by Pope Francis during his homily at the morning Mass on Friday at the Santa Marta residence. The Pope stressed that our life of faith is closely linked to a life of charity and Christians who do not practice the latter are hypocrites.

Pope Francis used his homily to reflect on the essential role of charity in the life of every Christian. He said Christianity is not a repository of formal observances for people who put on a hypocritical good appearance to conceal their hearts empty of any charity. Christianity is showing the flesh of Jesus who bends down without shame in front of whoever is suffering. This contrasts with the Pharisees who criticized Jesus and the disciples for not practicing the commandment to fast and who as Doctors of the Law transformed the observance of these commandments into a formality and transformed religious life into an ethic. 

“Receiving from our Lord the love of a Father, receiving from our Lord the identity of a people and then transforming it into an ethic means we are refusing that gift of love. These hypocritical people are good persons. They do all they should do. They seem good. But they are ethicists without goodness because they have lost the sense of belonging to a people! Our Lord gives us salvation through belonging to a people.” 

But as the Pope went on to remind, true charity or fasting means breaking the chains of evil, freeing the oppressed, sharing our bread with the hungry, opening our houses to the homeless and clothing the naked. 

“This is the charity or fasting that our Lord wants! Fasting that is concerned about the life of our brother, that is not ashamed – Isaiah said it himself – of the flesh of our brother. Our perfection, our holiness is linked with our people where we are chosen and become part. Our greatest act of holiness relates to the flesh of our brother and the flesh of Jesus Christ. Our act of holiness today, here at the altar is not a hypocritical fasting: instead it means not being ashamed of the flesh of Christ which comes here today! This is the mystery of the Body and Blood of Christ. It means going to share our bread with the hungry, taking care of the sick, the elderly, those who can’t give us anything in return: this is not being ashamed of the flesh!”
He said the most difficult charity (or fasting) is the sacrifice of goodness such as that practiced by the Good Samaritan who bent over the wounded man unlike the priest who hurried past, maybe out of fear of becoming infected. And this is the question posed by the Church today: “Am I ashamed of the flesh of my brother and sister”

“When I give alms, do I drop the coin without touching the hand (of the poor person, beggar)? And if by chance I do touch it, do I immediately withdraw it? When I give alms, do I look into the eyes of my brother, my sister? When I know a person is ill, do I go and visit that person? Do I greet him or her with affection? There’s a sign that possibly may help us, it’s a question: Am I capable of giving a caress or a hug to the sick, the elderly, the children, or have I lost sight of the meaning of a caress? These hypocrites were unable to give a caress. They had forgotten how to do it….. Don’t be ashamed of the flesh of our brother, it’s our flesh! We will be judged by the way we behave towards this brother, this sister.”

Text from Vatican Radio website