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Pope and Trump discuss peace, dialogue, support for immigrants

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis and U.S. President Donald Trump met in the Vatican on Wednesday, discussing issues of peace, interfaith dialogue and religious freedom, as well as the role of the American Church in education, healthcare and support for immigrants.

Listen to Philippa Hitchen's report:

The American leader spent half an hour in conversation with the Pope behind closed doors in the Apostolic Palace, before meeting with Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States or foreign minister.

Press office statement

A statement from the Vatican press office said during the course of the cordial encounter, the two men discussed the good bilateral relations that exist between the U.S. and the Holy See. They also spoke of their “joint commitment in favour of life, religious liberty and freedom of conscience”.

The statement expressed the hope for a “serene cooperation between the State and the Catholic Church in the United States", which is engaged in service to people "in the fields of health care, education and assistance to immigrants".

Dialogue and negotiations

It said the Pope and the President also exchanged views on international affairs and on the promotion of peace through political negotiations and interfaith dialogue, mentioning especially the situation in the Middle East and the protection of Christian communities.

Trump, who was accompanied by his wife Melania, as well as his daughter and son-in-law, is on the third leg of a nine day presidential tour that has already taken him to Saudi Arabia, Israel and Palestine.

Sistine chapel visit

After the papal audience, Trump was taken on a tour of St Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel, before meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella and with Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni.

Melania Trump, meanwhile, visited Rome’s 'Bambin Gesù' Children’s Hospital, while the president's daughter, Ivanka, was scheduled to meet with victims of trafficking together with members of Rome's Sant’Egidio lay Catholic community.

Please find below the full statement from the Holy See press office:

This morning, Wednesday 24 May 2017, the Honorable Donald Trump, President of the United States of America, was received in Audience by the Holy Father Francis and subsequently met with His Eminence Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, accompanied by His Excellency Msgr. Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States.

During the cordial discussions, satisfaction was expressed for the good existing bilateral relations between the Holy See and the United States of America, as well as the joint commitment in favour of life, and freedom of worship and conscience. It is hoped that there may be serene collaboration between the State and the Catholic Church in the United States, engaged in service to the people in the fields of healthcare, education and assistance to immigrants.

 The discussions then enabled an exchange of views on various themes relating to international affairs and the promotion of peace in the world through political negotiation and interreligious dialogue, with particular reference to the situation in the Middle East and the protection of Christian communities.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope General Audience: English-language summary

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday focused once again on the theme of Christian Hope at his General Audience.

The Holy Father based his reflections on the Gospel account of the two disciples who met the Risen Lord on the way to Emmaus:

Luke 24:28-32: As they approached the village to which they were going, he gave the impression that he was going on farther. But they urged him, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight.

Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning [within us] while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?”

Below please find the English-language summary of the Pope’s catechesis at the Wednesday General Audience:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our continuing catechesis on Christian hope, we now consider the Risen Jesus’ encounter with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Unrecognized, the Lord walks with them and listens as they tell of how their hopes were shattered by the tragedy of the cross. Jesus then slowly opens their hearts to a new and greater hope by explaining how the Scriptures were fulfilled in the suffering and death of the Messiah. Only later, in the breaking of the bread, is he revealed as the Risen Lord, present in their midst. He then disappears and the disciples return to Jerusalem to bring back the good news. The Emmaus account shows us Jesus’ “therapy of hope”, based on a patient accompaniment that gradually opens us to trust in God’s promises. It also shows us the importance of the Eucharist, in which, like bread, Jesus “breaks” our lives and offers them to others. Like the disciples, we too are sent forth to encounter others, to hear their joys and sorrows, and to offer them words of life and hope based on God’s unfailing love, which accompanies us at every step of life’s journey.


I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, particularly the groups from England, Hong Kong, India, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Guam, Zimbabwe, Canada and the United States of America. In the joy of the Risen Christ, I invoke upon you and your families the loving mercy of our Father. Today I would like to greet especially the pilgrims from Hong Kong on the day of the Madonna of Sheshan. May the Lord bless you all!


(from Vatican Radio)

Card Nichols expresses "shock and dismay" Manchester attack

(CBCEW) The President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster, has expressed his "shock and dismay" at the horrific attack at Manchester Arena on Monday, 22 May 2017.

Cardinal Nichols' statement, below, was posted on Twitter


"My shock and dismay at the horrendous killing of young and innocent people in the Manchester Arena, last night, is I know, shared by all people of good will.

"I know too that Catholics and many others will be praying earnestly for those who have been killed, for the bereaved and for grieving loved ones.

"We pray in support of all those working so hard in response to this tragedy; the police and security forces, hospital staff, neighbours and friends and for all the people of Manchester.

"May God, in His mercy, strengthen and sustain us and keep us firmly united in the face of all evil."


HE Cardinal Vincent Nichols
Archbishop of Westminster

Pope and U.S. President: vital role of soft power diplomacy

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday morning meets with U.S. leader Donald Trump, the third leg of a presidential tour that has already taken him to Saudi Arabia, Israel and Palestine.

Commenting on the highly anticipated meeting, the Pope said recently that it was important to “to talk about things we have in common and go forward, step by step".

Following the papal audience, Trump will meet with Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, together with Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States or foreign minister.

The president and his wife Melania will then be given a tour of St Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel, after which the first lady will also visit Rome’s Bambin Gesù Children’s Hospital.

The U.S. has enjoyed full diplomatic relations with the Vatican since 1984 under the presidency of Ronald Reagan. To find out more about the issues at stake today for that diplomatic relationship, Philippa Hitchen spoke to Massimo Faggioli, author and professor of theology and religious studies at Villanova University in the United States.


Professor Faggioli says the meeting is a very important acknowledgement on both sides of “a certain pragmatism” that has a role in diplomacy and international relations. The White House, he says, has much more to learn from this meeting than the Vatican, which is “more informed about the White house and the US, than vice versa”.

Among the lessons that he believes the U.S. administration can learn from the encounter is firstly, the way that “anti-immigrants language in American history” has been, for the past century at least, “an anti-Catholic language”.

Secondly, he says the president can learn how different the Catholic Church is from the Evangelical Churches, with different pastors wielding various degrees of influence.

Importance of soft power diplomacy

The third important lesson he points to is the fact that “there is a soft power in international relations that is very important because not all issues can be solved with hard power”.Professor Faggioli also notes that President Trump may receive input from his daughter and other family members who will meet with the St Egidio community, and visit the children’s hospital.  

He says the visit is the signal that “there is a fundamental trust between two global entities that will not be undermined by the last 16 or 17 months of tense relations”.

Searching for a common narrative

Among the issues that may feature high on the agenda, he says the two leaders are likely to discuss peace, “especially in areas of crisis”, but also the issue of migrants and refugees “because the Catholic Church knows there are crises that cannot be walled out”. Others questions that may feature during the conversation, he adds, are the persecution of Christians, as well as climate change and the environment.

After the encounter, he says it will be interesting to see what statements will emerge and whether there will be “a common narrative, or if there will be partisan narratives, especially within American Catholics where you have quite different takes about Pope Francis”.

Cardinal Turkson to speak at conference on suffering

An ecumenical conference with a difference is taking place in Rome.

Titled “Deepening and Dialogue” the conferences draw together Catholic and Protestant intellectuals, ministers and laity. It is being held at Rome’s Camillianum university from 24th-25th May. Among the guests are Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the new Vatican Dicastery for  promoting Integral Human Development. Various Methodist, Baptist and Valdese theologians, ethicists and other intellectuals are also attending. One noted speaker is Beppino Englaro, who will speak about the choices he faced regarding the medical condition of his daughter, who spent nearly a year in a vegetative state following a road accident.

The aim of the conference is the “Deepening of theological and pastoral dialogue, open to listening to both theoretical and concrete choices by different Christian churches.” The conference organizers point out that in illness and suffering, the churches all draw closer together.

 The subject of the conference falls well within the competence of the University, which is specializes in examining the themes of health and suffering in many aspects of human life.

The Moderator of the conference, Professor Palma Sgreccia said the conference hopes to “Offer the Camillianum’s specific approach to ecumenism in an existential way, drawing special strength in the living experience of suffering , sickness and poverty.”

Drawing on Pope Francis encyclical letter “Lumen Fidei” Professor Sgreccia said she  hopes that, as a result of the conference there would be “An awareness that the truth emerges from encounter. The conference hopes to clarify problematic theories and promote common paths so as not leave behind anyone who must suffer in the silence of solitude.”

Pope: ‘a Church without martyrs breeds distrust’

(Vatican Radio) On the second anniversary of the beatification of Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was killed in 1980 by military squadrons linked to the Regime in San Salvador as he defended the poor, Pope Francis recalled Romero’s religious fervor and passion for justice while warning the faithful against a ‘lukewarm’ Church. 

The Pope was speaking during Mass at the Casa Santa Marta.

Listen to Linda Bordoni's report: 

Pope Francis exhorted believers to leave comfort to the side and embrace an energetic lifestyle proclaiming Jesus with joy. 

He reflected on the liturgical reading of the day which tells the story of Paul and Silas in Philippi where they were followed by a slave girl with an oracular spirit who was shouting “These people are slaves of the Most High God”. This seemed like praise, the Pope said, but Paul became annoyed and cast out the spirit.  Paul understood, the Pope explained, that that was not the path to conversion of that city; it was not the Church of Christ. Everyone there accepted the doctrine, there were no conversions.

Similar situations, the Pope continued, have been repeated in the history of salvation: when the people of God are quiet, they do not take risks, but are servants of ‘worldliness’.

Then the Lord, he said, sent the prophets who – like Paul - were persecuted "because they made people uncomfortable." 

“In the Church when someone cries out against the many ways of worldliness, they are given ‘the crooked eye’ as if something were wrong with them, and then they are distanced” he said.

Francis spoke of personal memories from his own homeland recalling many men and women, whom he said, were not supporters of an ideology but  “were good consecrated people” who spoke out saying “No, the Church of Jesus is like this....: they were branded as communists and persecuted” he said.

“Think of the Blessed Romero.What happened to him for having told the truth? And so many others in the history of the Church, even here in Europe. Why? Because the evil spirit prefers a tranquil, risk-free Church, a business-like Church, a comfortable and lukewarm Church” he said.

In chapter 16 of the Acts it is also said that the slaves of the slave were angry: they had lost their hope of earning money because the slave could no longer divine. 

"The evil one, the Pope warned, always starts from the pocket. When the Church is lukewarm, quiet, organized, when there are no problems, look to where business is to be made" he said.

Pope Francis also focused his homily, on joy. In fact, he told of how Paul and Silas were dragged by the slaves to the magistrates who ordered them to be beaten and then thrown into jail. The jailer threw them into the innermost part of the jail where the two men broke into song. Towards midnight a tremendous earthquake flung all the gates of the prison open.  The jailer was about to take his life because he would have been killed if the prisoners had escaped but Paul urged him not to do so because, he said, “we are all here”. Then the jailer asked for explanations and converted. He washed their sores, was baptized, and “was filled with joy”. 

This, the Pope said, is the path of our daily conversion: “to move from a worldly, tranquil, safe, Catholic” lukewarm yes, to the true proclamation of Jesus Christ; to the joy of ' Christ's announcement. We must move, he said, from a religion that looks too much to earnings, to faith and to the proclamation that ‘Jesus is the Lord'.

This, Francis continued, is the miracle performed by the Holy Spirit, and he invited the faithful to read Chapter 16 of the Acts in order to see how the Lord “together with his martyrs” makes the Church move forward.

The Pope concluded his homily saying that a Church without martyrs breeds distrust; a Church that doesn’t take risks breeds distrust; a Church that is afraid of proclaiming Jesus Christ and of chasing out demons, idols and the lord of money is not Christ’s Church.

“Let us ask the Lord for the grace for renewed vigor in faith and conversion from a lukewarm way of life so we are able to make the joyful proclamation that Jesus is the Lord” he said.  

(from Vatican Radio)

Abp Martin: condolences to victims of Manchester attack

(Vatican Radio) The Primate of All Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh, has issued a statement offering condolences to the victims of Monday evening's terror attack in Manchester, England, and condemning the act of violence in which at least 22 people were killed and 59 others wounded. Please find the full text of Archbishop Martin's statement, below...


Archbishop Eamon Martin offers prayers for those killed and injured in the Manchester bombing

“I have sent a message this morning to Bishop John Arnold, Bishop of Salford, to express our shock and sorrow at the horrific bombing in Manchester last night.  Such a violent and brutal attack inflicts terror and long-lasting trauma on children and families and leaves a wound that can only be healed by compassion, love and solidarity.

“We are praying for the dead, the injured and for all affected by the bombing.  Such an awful attack challenges us all to resolve personally to build peace, solidarity and hope everywhere.  Only in this way can the hearts of those who plan and perpetrate such violent and pointless attacks be changed.

“I will remember the victims of this attack and their families in my Masses and prayers, and I know that the prayerful solidarity of people across Ireland goes to the people of Manchester at this sad time.”

+Eamon Martin
Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland

Pope appoints new bishop in Kottar, India

Pope Francis on Saturday appointed a new bishop to the diocese of Kottar in southern India’s Tamil Nadu state.  Fr. Nazarene Soosai, the parish priest of Our Lady of Ransom parish of Kanyakumari is the new Bishop of Kottar.   He was appointed soon after the Pope accepted the resignation of Bishop Peter Remigius who stepped down on his 78th birthday, 3 years after reaching the retirement age of 75.

Fr. Soosai was born in Rajakkalamngalamthurai in the diocese of Kottar on 13 April 1963.  He studied at the St. Aloysius’ minor seminary of Nagercoil, concluding his philosophical and theological studies at the Sacred Heart Seminary in Poonamallee, Chennai. He obtained a licentiate in theology from the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium, and a doctorate from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He also holds a master’s degree in political sciences from the University of Madurai.

Following his priestly ordination on 2 April 1989, the 54-year old bishop designate of Kottar was assigned the following responsibilities:

* Assistant parish priest of Our Lady of Presentation church in Colachel (1989-1990)
* Prefect of studies at the Tamil Nadu Xavier Mission Home in Nagercoil (1990-1992); secretary secretary of the diocesan Commission for vocations
* Parish priest of St. Helen’s parish in Enayam, and ecclesiastical assistant of the Christian Life Community and secretary of the Diocesan Priests Personal Board (1992-1998)
* Did specialized studies in theology in Leuven, Belgium (1998-2000)
* Studied for a doctorate in Rome (2000-2003)
* Dean and professor of theology at the Sacred Heart seminary in Poonamallee, Chennai (2003-2011)
* Since March 2012, parish priest of the Shrine of Our Lady of Ransom in Kanyakumari and vicar forane of the vicariate of Kanyakumari, and at the same time visiting professor at the Sacred Heart seminary in Poonamallee, Chennai, and at various other universities and institutes (Madras University, Chennai; CRI Theological Institute, Bangalore; Sason Sambalpur, Odisha; Salesian Theological Institute, Chennai; St. Paul’s seminary, Tiruchirapalli; Arul Kadal, Chennai).

Pope appoints a new bishop in Batanes, the Philippines

Pope Francis has appointed a new bishop to the Diocese of Batanes in the Philippines.   Fr. Danilo B. Ulep, of the Archdiocese of Tuguegarao, currently parish priest of the archdiocesan shrine of the Santo Niño, is the new Bishop of Batanes.  He succeeds Bishop Camilo D. Gregorio, who has stepped down at the age of 77, well past a bishop’s retirement age of 75.  

Fr. Ulep was born in Tuguegarao City, Cagayan, on 24 June 1962.  He studied philosophy and theology at the Santo Tomas University in Manila, where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, theology and canon law, and a licentiate in philosophy. 

After his priestly ordination on 10 April 1987, Fr. Ulep was entrusted with the following commitments:

*  Vicar of the parish of San Vincenzo Ferrer, Solana, Cagayan (1987-1992)
*  Administrator of the same parish (1992-1993)
*  Parish priest of the Holy Guardian Angels parish, Tuao, Cagayan (1993-1999)
*  Rector of the San Jacinto minor seminary of Alimannao, Cagayan and director of the Commission for vocations and seminaries (1999-2005)
*  Parish priest of St. Joseph the Worker parish of San José, Baggao, and episcopal vicar of Alcala (2005-2011)
*  Since 2011 he has been parish priest and rector of Santo Niño parish and shrine in San Gabriel, Tuguegarao City, Cagayan; director of the biblical apostolate and president of the priests’ assembly of the Archdiocese of Tuguegarao.





Philippine bishop condemns felling of century-old trees

The cutting of thousands of century-old trees by a mining company in Palawan, Philippines  has drawn the ire of a Catholic bishop who urged for action so that it won’t happen again.

Bishop Socrates Mesiona emphasized the importance of protecting the province’s environment and its remaining natural resources and described it as the country’s “last ecological frontier” because of its unique biodiversity,

“This is a tragedy because Palawan is the last frontier so we hope that our environment will be protected, especially the century-old trees,” Mesiona said over Manila archdiocese-run Radio Veritas.

Thousands of trees in Brooke’s Point town were cut just days after former Environment Secretary Gina Lopez was rejected by the Commission on Appointments. Lopez, who took to Facebook in exposing the “massacre”, accused the Ipilan Nickel Corp. of cutting trees “without a permit and protected area clearance”.

The former Cabinet official said the cutting of trees will affect 3,000 hectares of agricultural land and 30,000 people in at least five barangays.

The prelate then lauded the unity among the people and local officials who fought to protect the environment. “It’s a good thing that the people themselves who led the fight because they realized that the environment is really important,” he said.

“My instruction to our Social Action Director is to do whatever we can to help the people because we see the initiative that’s really coming from the public,” he added.

Local officials are also planning to sue the mining company and demand for the cancellation of the firm’s environmental plan permit and a mineral sharing agreement with the government.

The once spectacular primary forests of the Philippines are now a relic of a bygone era. What little primary forest did remain existed on the island of Palawan, the last sanctuary for the Palawan eagle which is now being destroyed.   Between 1990 and 2005 the Philippines lost a third of its forest cover, according to FAO estimates, but the country's deforestation was down since its peak in the 1980s and 1990s. 

Widespread logging was responsible for much of the historical forest loss in the Philippines. Despite government bans on timber harvesting following severe flooding in the late 1980s and early 1990s, illegal logging continued. 

After temporarily lifting the log export ban in the late 1990s, the government had increasingly tried to crack down on timber smuggling and forest degradation. Additional threats to Philippine forests came from legal and illegal mining operations — which also caused pollution and had been linked to violent conflict — agricultural fires, collection of fuelwood, and rural population expansion. In recent years, deforestation had been increasingly blamed for soil erosion, river siltation, flooding, and drought; environmental awareness was rising in the country. (CBCPNews)