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Pope in Bulgaria: Full text of address to Catholic community in Rakovski



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Pope Francis meets with the Catholic community in Rakovski, Bulgaria at the Church of St. Michael the Archangel. Here are the Pope’s prepared remarks:

Address of His Holiness Pope Francis

Meeting with the Catholic Community

Rakovski, Church of Saint Michael the Archangel

Monday, 6 May 2019

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Good afternoon!  Thank you for your warm welcome and for your dancing and testimonies.  It is always brings me joy to meet the Holy People of God with its myriad faces and charisms.

Bishop Iovcev asked me to help you to “see with eyes of faith and love”.  But first, I would like to thank you for helping me to see better and to understand a little more fully why this land was so dear and important to Saint John XXIII.  Here the Lord was preparing what would be an important step in our ecclesial journey.  Here he developed strong friendships with our Orthodox brothers and sisters, and this led him on a path that would help foster the longed-for, yet ever fragile sense of fraternity between individuals and communities.

To see with the eyes of faith.  I would like to recall something that “Good Pope John” once said.  His heart was so attuned to the Lord that he could register his disagreement with those around him who saw nothing but evil and to refer to them as “prophets of doom”.  He was convinced of the need to trust in God’s providence, which constantly accompanies us and even in the midst of adversity is capable of bringing about his deeper and unforeseeable plans (Opening Address of the Second Vatican Council, 11 October 1962).

God’s people learn to see, trust, discover and let themselves be guided by the power of the resurrection.  They recognize, of course, that there will always be painful times and unjust situations, yet they do not wring their hands, shrink back in fear or, even worse, create a climate of scepticism, discomfort or disruption, since this does nothing but harm the soul, causing hope to flag and hindering every possible solution.  Men and women of God have the courage to take the first step in finding creative ways of directly testifying that Love is not dead, but has triumphed over every obstacle.  They get involved because they have learned that, in Jesus, God himself gets involved.  He put his own flesh at stake so that no one will feel alone or abandoned.

I would like to share with you an experience I had a few hours ago.  This morning I visited the Vrazhdebna refugee camp and met asylum-seekers and refugees from various countries of the world who are looking for a better place to live than the one they left.  I also met the Caritas volunteers.  They told me that at the heart of the Centre’s life and work is the recognition that every person is a child of God, regardless of ethnicity or religious confession.  In order to love someone, there is no need to ask for a curriculum vitae; love precedes, it takes the first step.  Because it is gratuitous.  In that Caritas Centre are many Christians who have learned to see with God’s own eyes.  God is not worried about details, but seeks out and awaits each person with a Father’s eyes.  Seeing with the eyes of faith is a summons not to spend your life pinning labels, classifying those who are worthy of love and those who are not, but trying to create conditions in which every person can feel loved, especially those who feel forgotten by God because they are forgotten by their brothers and sisters.  Those who love do not waste time in self-pity, but always try to do something concrete.  In the Centre, they learn to see problems, to acknowledge them and to confront them; they let themselves be questioned and try to discern things with the eyes of the Lord.  As Pope John said: “I never met a pessimist who managed to do something good”.  The Lord is the first not to be pessimistic.  He constantly tries to open up paths of resurrection for all of us.  How marvellous it is when our communities become building-sites of hope!

On the other hand, to see things with the eyes of God, we need other people.  We need them to teach us to look and feel the way Jesus looks and feels, to let our heart beat with his own feelings.  This is why it pleased me when Mitko and Miroslava, with their little daughter Bilyana, told us that for them the parish has always been a second home, the place where they always found strength to carry on, amid community prayer and the support of loved ones.

The parish, in this way, becomes a home in the midst of homes.  It manages to make the Lord present there, where every family, every person tries to earn their daily bread.  There, at every street corner, is the Lord, who did not want to save us by decree, but came into our midst.  He wants to enter into the heart of our families and say to us, as he did to the disciples: “Peace be with you!”

I am happy that you like the “advice” I share with spouses: “Never go to bed angry, not even for one night”.  From what I see, it works for you!  It is a bit of advice that can also be helpful for all of us Christians.  It is true that, as you also said, we experience various trials; that is why we need to be on guard against anger, resentment or bitterness taking possession of our hearts.  We have to help each other in this, caring for one another, so that the fire that the Spirit has kindled in our hearts never goes out.

You appreciate, and are grateful, that your priests and religious sisters care for you.  As I was listening to you, I was struck by that priest who spoke not about how successful he had been during his years of ministry, but about all those people God placed in his path to help him become a good minister of God.

The People of God is grateful to its priests, and priests recognize that they learn how to be believers with the help of their people, their family, living in their midst.  A living community, one that supports, accompanies, integrates and enriches.  Never separated, but united, where everyone learns to be a sign and blessing of God for others.  A priest without his people loses his identity, and a people can grow apart without its priests.  The unity between the priest who supports and fights for his people, and the people who support and fight for their priest.  Each dedicates his or her life to the others.  None of us can live only for ourselves; we live for others.  The priestly people can say with its priests: “This is my body given up for you”.  That is how we learn to be a Church, a family and a community that welcomes, listens, accompanies, cares for others, revealing its true face, which is that of a mother.  A Church that is a mother – Mother Church – experiences and makes her children’s problems her own, not offering ready-made answers, but seeking together paths of life and reconciliation.  Trying to make present the Kingdom of God.  A Church, a family and a community that takes up the knotty problems of life, which are often like balls of tangled wool; before untangling them, it has to make them its own, taking them into its hands and loving them.

A family among families, open to bearing witness in today’s world, as our sister told us, open to faith, hope and love for the Lord and for those whom he has a preferential love.  A home with open doors.

In this sense, I have a “job” for you.  You are the children, in faith, of the great witnesses who testified by their lives to the love of the Lord in these lands.  The brothers Cyril and Methodius, holy men with great dreams, were convinced that the most authentic way to talk to God was in one’s own language.  This made them boldly decide to translate the Bible, so that no one would be without the Word of life.

Being a home with open doors, in the footsteps of Cyril and Methodius, means that today too, we need to be bold and creative.  We have to ask how we can translate the love God has for us into concrete and understandable language for the younger generation.  We know from experience that “young people frequently fail to find in our usual programmes a response to their concerns, their needs, their problems and issues” (Christus Vivit, 202).  And this requires of us new and imaginative efforts in our pastoral outreach.  Finding ways to touch their hearts, to learn about their expectations and to encourage their dreams, as a community-family that supports, accompanies and points to the future with hope.  A great temptation faced by young people is the lack of deep roots to support them; as a result, they feel uprooted and alone.  Our young people, when they feel called to express all the potential they possess, often give up half-way because of the frustrations or disappointments they experience, since they have no roots to rely on as they look to the future (cf. ibid. 179-186).  How much more so, when they are forced to leave behind their homes, their country and their family.

Let us not be afraid to meet new challenges, as long as we make every effort to ensure that our people never lack the light and consolation born of friendship with Jesus, a community of faith to support them, and ever new horizons that can give them meaning and a goal in life (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 49).  May we never forget that the most beautiful chapters in the life of the Church were written when God’s People set out with creativity to translate the love of God in their own time, with the challenges they gradually encountered.  It is good to know that you can count on a great living history, but it is even more beautiful to realize that you are being asked to write its next chapter.  Never tire of being a Church that continues to give birth, amid the contradictions, sorrows and poverty, to the sons and daughters that this land needs today, at the start of this twenty-first century.  Always listen with one ear to the Gospel and the other to the heart of your people.

I thank you for this very enjoyable meeting and, thinking of Pope John, I would like the blessing I now give you to be a caress of the Lord for each of you.


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Killing of Christians: Buhari lied to Trump – CAN fumes



Killing of Christians: Buhari lied to Trump - CAN fumes

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has reacted to President Muhammadu Buhari’s revelation of his conversation with United States President, Donald Trump, on the massacre of Christians in Nigeria, saying President Buhari was economical with the truth.

President Buhari had on Tuesday, revealed that at the heat of the bloody clashes between herdsmen and farmers in Nigeria, the United States President, Donald Trump, unequivocally accused him of killing Christians.

Buhari said these in his closing remarks at the two-day ministerial performance review retreat held at the Presidential Villa, Abuja on Tuesday.

At a point, the President digressed from his prepared speech and narrated his encounter with Trump on the bloody clashes.

He said he managed to explain to the American leader that the clashes were not about ethnicity or religion.

He said, “I believe I was about the only African among the less developed countries the President of United States invited.

“When I was in his office, only myself and himself, only God is my witness, he looked at me in the face, and asked, ‘Why are you killing Christians?’

“I wonder, if you were the person, how you will react. I hope what I was feeling inside did not betray my emotion, so I told him that the problem between the cattle rearers and farmers, I know is older than me not to talk of him. I think I am a couple of years older than him.

“With climate change and population growth and the culture of the cattle rearers, if you have 50 cows and they eat grass, any root, to your water point, then they will follow it. It doesn’t matter whose farm it is.

“The First Republic set of leadership was the most responsible leadership we ever had. I asked the Minister of Agriculture to get a gazette of the early 60s which delineated the cattle route where they used meager resources then to put earth dams, wind mills even sanitary department.

“So, any cattle rearers that allowed his cattle to go to somebody’s farm would be arrested, taken before the court. The farmer would be called to submit his bill and if he couldn’t pay, the cattle would be sold, but subsequent leaders, the VVIPs (very important persons) encroached on the cattle routes. They took over the cattle rearing areas.

“So, I tried and explained to him (Trump) that this has got nothing to do with ethnicity or religion. It is a cultural thing.”

However, CAN’s Vice President and Chairman of the association in Kaduna State, John Hayab, was not impressed with Buhari’s submission, saying “Buhari and his government will never stop from amusing us with their tales by moonlight because what is happening in Zamfara, Sokoto, Katsina, Birnin Gwari, Southern Kaduna, Taraba, Plateau and others cannot be described as a cultural thing.

He told Punch correspondent in an interview: “President Buhari’s weak story about his conversation with President Donald Trump further confirms why his government does not care about the killings in our country by calling them cultural things.

“Just this (Tuesday) evening, I received a report from the Kaduna Baptist Conference President about the number of their members that have been killed by bandits in Kaduna State from January 2020 to date to be 105 and our President will call it a cultural thing? All we can say is may God save our Nigeria.”

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Nuncio tasks clergy, laity on good stewardship



Nuncio tasks clergy, laity on good stewardship

The Apostolic Nuncio to Nigeria, Archbishop Antonio Guido Filipazzi, has urged the clergy, religious and lay faithful to be trustworthy, transparent, selfless and generous stewards in the discharge of their duties in the Church, following the way of Jesus.

Archbishop Filipazzi made the call during the opening ceremony of the maiden General Assembly of the Abuja Archdiocese, which was held on at Our Lady Queen of Nigeria Pro-Cathedral, Friday September 4.

The General Assembly, with the theme “Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja: Together in Evangelization,” saw Bishops, priests, religious men and women, and the laity gathered together to discuss means of strengthening the faith of God’s people amid the ongoing Covid-19 health crisis.

Addressing participants, Archbishop Filipazzi said that “an administrator is neither a master nor a slave who cannot decide anything, but one who is given a responsibility by the Master.” In this light, the faithful are called to be “true administrators of divine mystery” entrusted to them by Our Lord, according to their varying roles in the Church.

The Apostolic Nuncio also said “differences must not lead to division,” as everyone, though different, must strive for unity since there is no room for divisions in the body of Christ.

Archbishop Filipazzi, speaking on the upsurge in violence in northern Nigeria in a Vatican News interview on 29 August, had also called for shunning divisions along religious and ethnic lines.

Rather, he appealed for “general respect of the law and general intervention of the government” in the violent attacks which have claimed many lives and caused massive material damage.

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Assumpta CMO raises fund to roof “St Joseph’s Hall of Faith”



Assumpta CMO raises fund to roof “St. Joseph's Hall of Faith”

The Catholic Men Organization, CMO, Maria Assumpta Cathedral Parish Owerri, joined their counterparts in the Archdiocese to celebrate Father’s Day on Sunday, August 30.

The celebration earlier scheduled for May 10 this year was differed because of Covid-19 pandemic.

The occasion began with a Pontifical Mass presided over by His Grace, Most Rev. Anthony Obinna, Archbishop of Owerri cum Parish Priest of the Cathedral Parish.

In his homily, Archbishop Obinna called on Christians to live a life of witnessing to Christ at all times. He said that the zeal to preach the word of God is like a fire that burns inside the heart of a Christian and will not abate until one bears witness to Christ. This, he said, must be done in the course of our daily lives, in our places of work, in our families, among our friends, through living life that is Christ-like.

He congratulated the Christian fathers on the occasion and appealed for support to enable them complete their building project in no distant time. His Grace also appreciated the performance of the CMO choir during the Mass.

The theme for the parish celebration is: “Catholic Men As Spiritual Heads of the Domestic Church: Implications in the Family.”

The parish CMO used the celebration to raise fund for the roofing of their building project named: “St. Joseph’s Hall of Faith.”

In his brief remark at the occasion, the Parish CMO President, Arc. Anthony Emeka Ozoude said, “We have been able to complete the block work,” adding that, “the task before us now is to put a roof on the building.”

He therefore made a passionate appeal for generous donations from members and well wishers, assuring donors that every kobo donated will be prudently applied for the purpose.

Arc. Ozoude recalled that early this year, the parish CMO executive identified a three-prong programme of focus, namely: Membership revalidation, Debt recovery and Fund raising for the roofing.

He advised members not to sit on the fence anymore as there is so much to gain spiritually, morally and even intellectually from participating in the CMO activities both at the parish, stations and prayer groups levels.

“The committed members who attend our programmes regularly have discovered this and have remained resolute in their participation,” he said.

Activities marking this year’s celebration included Retreat, visit to ailing members in their homes, thanksgiving Mass blessing of the mini altars for the 5 prayer groups of CMO etc.

Arc. Ozoude thanked in a special way, Archbishop Obinna, the Cathedral Administrator and priests working in the Cathedral for their support. He also commended the various stations and prayer groups for their cooperation.

The CMO president acknowledged the good work and sacrifice of the Planning Committee, headed by Dr. Uche Ukozor and thanked them for a job well done.

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