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Pope on interviews: Church must listen, respond to people's questions

IMAGE: CNS

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Replying to questions and giving interviews are a "pastoral risk" Pope Francis said he is prepared to take, because it is the best way to know and respond to people's real concerns.

"I know this can make me vulnerable, but it is a risk I want to take," the pope wrote in the introduction to a new book collecting transcripts of question-and-answer sessions he has held all over the world.

The collection in Italian, "Adesso Fate le Vostre Domande" ("Now, Ask Your Questions"), was edited by Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro and scheduled for release Oct. 19. The pope's introduction was published Oct. 17 in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

"I want a church that knows how to enter into people's conversations, that knows how to dialogue," Pope Francis wrote.

The model is the Gospel account of the risen Lord's meeting with the disciples on the road to Emmaus. "The Lord 'interviews' the disciples who are walking discouraged," he said. "For me, the interview is part of this conversation the church is having with men and women today."

The interviews and Q&A sessions "always have a pastoral value," Pope Francis said, and are an important part of his ministry, just like inviting a small group of people to his early morning Mass each day.

The chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where he lives, "is, let's say, my parish. I need that communication with people."

And, in interviews, the journalists often ask the questions that are on the minds of the faithful, he said.

The most regular appointment he has for responding to questions is on the flights back to Rome from his foreign trips when he holds a news conference with the journalists who travel with him.

"There, too, on those trips, I like to look people in the eye and respond to their questions sincerely," he wrote. "I know that I have to be prudent, and I hope I am. I always pray to the Holy Spirit before I start listening to the questions and responding."

His favorite interviews, he said, are with small, neighborhood newspapers and magazines. "There I feel even more at ease," the pope said. "In fact, in those cases I really am listening to the questions and concerns of common people. I try to respond spontaneously, in a conversation I hope is understandable, and not with rigid formulas."

"For me," he said, "interviews are a dialogue, not a lesson."

Even when the questions are submitted in advance, the pope said he does not prepare his answers. Watching the person ask the question and responding directly is important.

"Yes, I am afraid of being misinterpreted," he said. "But, I repeat, I want to run this pastoral risk."

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Catholic group will accept Scouts' decision to allow girls to join

IMAGE: CNS/Nancy Wiechec

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IRVING, Texas (CNS) -- The leaders of the National Catholic Committee on Scouting, which has its headquarters in the Dallas suburb of Irving, said they "accept and work with the new membership policy of the Boy Scouts of America" to admit girls.

"We were informed this morning" of the policy change, said an Oct. 11 statement by George Sparks, the national chairman of the group, and the committee's national chaplain, Father Kevin Smith, a priest of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York.

"Once we have had more time to review the policy and a chance to consult our national membership, we will be able to comment further about how this new policy will reflect changes in the makeup of Catholic-chartered units," they said.

Sparks told Catholic News Service in an Oct. 13 telephone interview that a member of the Scouts' executive board came to the Catholic Committee's meeting shortly after the board vote "and brought us up to speed on it."

Afterward, "we took an informal straw poll, and everybody at our meeting -- there were about 18 people at our meeting -- thought this was the right thing to do," Sparks said.

The Boy Scouts currently have 2.3 million members, less than half than the 5 million the organization had at is peak in the 1970s.

The vote to accept girls as members was unanimous, according to a spokeswoman for the Boy Scouts.

The Boy Scouts allowed gay members in 2015, gay troop leaders in 2015 and transgender members last January.

Admitting girls to the Scouts has "really been an issue that's been there, although it hasn't been on the top of the list because of the other membership-related issues the Boy Scouts of America has faced. But it was an issue that was definitely brought up at the Boy Scouts' executive meeting in May of 2017, and it was carried forth to this board meeting," Sparks said.

"It is the mission of the National Catholic Committee on Scouting to utilize and ensure the constructive use of the program of the Boy Scouts of America as a viable form of youth ministry with the Catholic youth of our nation," said the Oct. 11 statement from Sparks and Father Smith.

"The National Catholic Committee on Scouting seeks to sustain and strengthen the relationship between the Boy Scouts of America and the Catholic Church and to work cooperatively with the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry and various other groups involved in youth ministry in the United States."

Girl Scouts leaders expressed displeasure over the summer when the Boy Scouts sought advice from its 270 councils on whether to accept girls. Girl Scouts of the USA's president, Kathy Hopinkah Hannan, in a letter to her Boy Scouts counterpart, Randall Stephenson, said the Boy Scouts should stick to recruiting "the 90 percent of American boys not currently participating in Boy Scouts."

Joseph Carballo, 70, a member of St. Helena Parish in the Bronx, New York, has two grown sons who were both Eagle Scouts. "And we all have the same view: no girls," he told The New York Times Oct. 11.

"Boys and girls should have separate organizations for activities," Carballo added. "There is an organization for girls. It's called the Girl Scouts."

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Contributing to this story was Mark Pattison in Washington.

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Pope announces Synod of Bishops dedicated to people in Amazon

IMAGE: CNS photo/Fernando Bizerra Jr., EPA

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Addressing the challenges of evangelization in one of the world's most remote areas and the connection between faith and environmental concern, Pope Francis announced a special gathering of the Synod of Bishops to focus on the Amazon region.

"Accepting the wish of several episcopal conferences of Latin America as well as the voice of pastors and faithful from other parts of the world, I have decided to convene a special assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazonian region, which will take place in Rome in October 2019," Pope Francis announced Oct. 15.

Speaking at the end of a Mass in St. Peter's Square, the pope said the synod would seek to identify new paths of evangelization, especially for indigenous people who are "often forgotten and left without the prospect of a peaceful future, including because of the crisis of the Amazon forest," which plays a vital role in the environmental health of the entire planet.

The Amazon rainforest includes territory belonging to nine countries in South America and has experienced significant deforestation, negatively impacting the indigenous populations in the area and leading to a loss of biodiversity.

The pope prayed that the synod would highlight the beauty of creation so that "all the people of the earth may praise God, the Lord of the universe, and, enlightened by him, may walk along paths of justice and peace."

The pope had spoken about a possible synod with a variety of bishops from South America, who have been making their "ad limina" visits to Rome this year. The groups included the bishops of Peru; about 60 percent of the country is in the Amazon.

In an interview published May 16 in L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, Archbishop Salvador Pineiro Garcia-Calderon of Ayacucho, president of the Peruvian bishops' conference, said one of the primary challenges of evangelization in the Amazon is the difficulty in physically reaching the native populations.

For example, he said, although they are in the same church province, one bishop is five hours away and another is 17 hours away.

"It's easier to meet in Rome," he told L'Osservatore Romano. "It isn't an easy area and the pope is very concerned."

The church, he said, has been the only voice speaking out in defense of the indigenous people of the Amazon. In the early 1900s, St. Pius X strongly denounced the mistreatment of the native population in the rubber plantations of Peru, Archbishop Pineiro said.

A synod, he said, would expand that message and strengthen current efforts to evangelize.

"It is difficult to evangelize the native population," Archbishop Piniero said. "Recently, the seeds have begun to be sown. Some of my brother bishops who are in that area have learned to speak the native language in order to draw closer to the population."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Christian life is a love story with God, pope says at canonization

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Like the Catholic Church's newest saints, Christians are called to live their faith as a love story with God who wants a relationship that is "more than that of devoted subjects with their king," Pope Francis said.

Without a loving relationship with God, Christian life can become empty and "an impossible ethic, a collection of rules and laws to obey for no good reason," the pope said during Mass Oct. 15 in St. Peter's Square.

"This is the danger: a Christian life that becomes routine, content with 'normality,' without drive or enthusiasm, and with a short memory," he said during the Mass.

At the beginning of the Mass, Pope Francis proclaimed 35 new saints, including: the "Martyrs of Natal," Brazil, a group of 30 priests, laymen, women and children who were killed in 1645 during a wave of anti-Catholic persecution; and the "Child Martyrs of Tlaxcala," three children who were among Mexico's first native converts and were killed for refusing to renounce the faith.

Tapestries hung from the facade of St. Peter's Basilica bearing images of the martyrs as well as pictures of Sts. Angelo da Acri, an Italian Capuchin priest known for his defense of the poor, and Faustino Miguez, a Spanish priest who started an advanced school for girls at a time when such education was limited almost exclusively to boys.

An estimated 35,000 pilgrims -- many of them from the new saints' countries of origin -- attended the Mass, the Vatican said Oct. 15.

In his homily, Pope Francis reflected on the day's Gospel reading from St. Matthew in which Jesus recounts the parable of the wedding feast.

Noting Jesus' emphasis on the wedding guests, the pope said that God "wants us, he goes out to seek us and he invites us" to celebrate with him.

"For him, it is not enough that we should do our duty and obey his laws," Pope Francis said. "He desires a true communion of life with us, a relationship based on dialogue, trust and forgiveness."

However, he continued, Jesus also warns that "the invitation can be refused" as it was by those who "made light" of the invitation or were too caught up in their own affairs to consider attending the banquet.

"This is how love grows cold, not out of malice but out of preference for what is our own: our security, our self-affirmation, our comfort," the pope said.

Despite constant rejection and indifference, God does not cancel the wedding feast but continues to invite Christians to overcome "the whims of our peevish and lazy selves" and to imitate the church's new saints who, he said, not only said yes to God's invitation, but wore "the wedding garment" of God's love.

"The saints who were canonized today, and especially the many martyrs, point the way," Pope Francis said. "The robe they wore daily was the love of Jesus, that 'mad' love that loved us to the end and offered his forgiveness and his robe to those who crucified him."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

 

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To fight hunger and forced migration, end war, arms trade, pope says

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- It makes no sense to lament the problems of hunger and forced migration if one is unwilling to address their root causes, which are conflict and climate change, Pope Francis said.

"War and climate change lead to hunger; therefore, let's avoid presenting it as if it were an incurable disease," and instead implement laws, economic policies, lifestyle changes and attitudes that prevent the problems in the first place, he told world leaders at the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization.

Pope Francis received a standing ovation after he addressed the assembly at FAO's Rome headquarters to mark World Food Day Oct. 16, the date the organization was founded in 1945 to address the causes of poverty and hunger. The FAO was holding a conference on the theme "Changing the future of migration."

Food insecurity is linked to forced migration, the pope said, and the two can be addressed only "if we go to the root of the problem" -- conflict and climate change.

International law already has all the instruments and means in place to prevent and quickly end the conflicts that tear communities and countries apart, and trigger hunger, malnutrition and migration, he said.

"Goodwill and dialogue are needed to stop conflicts," he said, "and it is necessary to fully commit to gradual and systematic disarmament" as well as stop the "terrible plague of arms trafficking."

"What good is denouncing that millions of people are victims of hunger and malnutrition because of conflicts if one then does not effectively work for peace and disarmament?" he asked.

As for climate change, he said, scientists know what needs to be done and the international instruments -- like the Paris Agreement -- are already available.

Without specifying which nations, the pope said, unfortunately "some are backing away" from the agreement. U.S. President Donald Trump announced in June that the United States would withdraw from the accord as a way to help the U.S. economy.

"We cannot resign ourselves to saying, 'Someone else will do it,'" he said. Everyone is called to adopt and promote changes in lifestyle, in the way resources are used and in production and consumption -- particularly when it comes to food, which is increasingly wasted.

Some people believe reducing the number of mouths to feed would solve the problem of food insecurity, but, the pope said, this is "a false solution" given the enormous waste and overconsumption in the world.

"Cutting back is easy," he said, but "sharing requires conversion and this is demanding."

"We cannot act only if others are doing it or limit ourselves to having pity because pity doesn't go beyond emergency aid," the pope said.

International organizations, leaders and individuals need to act out of real love and mercy toward others -- particularly the most vulnerable -- in order to create a world based on true justice and solidarity.

Arriving at the FAO headquarters, Pope Francis presented a gift of a statue depicting the tragic death of Alan Kurdi (also known as Aylan), the 3-year-old Syrian boy whose body washed up on the shore of Turkey when a small inflatable boat holding a dozen refugees capsized in 2015. The statue, made of pure white Carrara marble, depicts a child-like angel weeping over the boy's lifeless body.

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.