Tag Archives: Pope Francis

Pope Francis in St Francis’ birthplace

Pope Francis in Assisi on St Francis' feast day.

Pope Francis in Assisi on St Francis’ feast day.

The feast day of St Francis of Assisi is 4th October. It’s the day Pope Francis has chosen to visit his namesake’s hometown to pay homage to him. St Francis was famous for giving up his riches and dedicating himself to the poor.

Pope Francis met with the poor assisted by Caritas on the morning of his visit and then ate with them in the Caritas soup kitchen of Assisi in the afternoon.

In his speech to those helped by Caritas, the Pope referred several times of the need to “strip ourselves” of our worldliness, as did St Francis, and have an encounter with the poor.

Here are some of the things he said:

1.       “We’re all called to be poor, to lay ourselves bare. For this reason we must learn how to be with the poor, to share with those who don’t have basic necessities, to touch the flesh of Christ!”

2.       “This is a good opportunity to ask the Church to lay itself bare. But the Church is all of us! From when we’re baptised we’re all the Church and we must follow the path of Christ.”

3.       “When the media talks about the Church, they believe that the Church is priests, nuns, bishops, cardinals and the Pope. But the Church is all of us, as I said. All of us must divest ourselves from this worldliness: the spirit contrary to the spirit of the beatitudes, the spirit contrary to the spirit of Jesus.”

4.       “Many of you have been stripped by this world, which doesn’t help people, which doesn’t care if there are children who die of hunger, which doesn’t care if many families don’t have enough to eat, or if people have to flee from slavery and hunger, flee in search of freedom.

5.       “Spiritual worldliness kills! It kills the soul! It kills the Church!”

6.       “Let the Lord give all of us the courage to divest ourselves of worldliness, which is the leprosy and the cancer of society. It is the cancer of the revelation of Christ. Worldliness is the enemy of Jesus!”

7.       “For everyone, for our society which gives signs of growing tired, if we want to save ourselves from the shipwreck, we need to follow the path of poverty and sharing and being in solidarity with the most needy.”

8.       “I want to pray that every Christian, the Church, every man and woman of good will, learn to strip themselves of all that isn’t essential so they can have an encounter with the poor and ask to be loved.”

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Filed under Conflicts and Disasters, Peacebuilding

The Pope, the Cardinal and YOU!

Caritas president, Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, recording a message against hunger for Caritas. Copyright: Caritas/Michelle Hough

Caritas president, Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, recording a message against hunger for Caritas. Copyright: Caritas/Michelle Hough

By Michelle Hough, communications officer with Caritas Internationalis

Our Cardinal is a busy man. Last week he was in Canada, next week he’ll be in New Zealand and Australia, but this week he’s up at the Vatican coordinating Pope Francis’s “council of cardinals” on Vatican reform.

I’m of course talking about Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, president of Caritas Internationalis. Yesterday, I went to meet him at Santa Marta, the residence where Pope Francis lives behind St Peter’s basilica, to film a message for Caritas’ hunger campaign: One human family, food for all.

Wednesday morning is not a good time to try and get into the Vatican. Pope Francis holds an audience with pilgrims at 10am in St Peter’s square. Driving up via della Conciliazione (the broad avenue leading up to the square) at 9.45am with campaign coordinator, Alfonso Apicella and filmmaker Stephen Natanson, I had to contend with tens of thousands of pilgrims and Rome’s fierce traffic police.


Michelle Hough, Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga and Alfonso Apicella. Copyright: Caritas/Stephen Natanson

As we pulled up outside Santa Marta, I was really hoping we could see Pope Francis before he left for his audience but he’d already gone. Pope Francis, like Cardinal Rodriguez, is always busy. I can’t even keep track of all he’s said and done in the seven months since his election because he never rests.

Tracking down the Cardinal can be tricky. He doesn’t have a secretary (although someone once told me his sister sometimes helps him) or an entourage of any sort. He answers his own phone and email. He’s not only the head of Caritas, but also the Archbishop of Tegucigalpa in Honduras, coordinator of the Pope’s commission, as I said earlier, a member of numerous other commissions and an active member of the Salesians.

Cardinal Rodriguez arrived promptly at 10.30am for filming. What always amazes me is how humble and down-to-earth he is. He arrives, says ‘tell me what I need to do’ and gets on with the job.

I’d provided a chair for the Cardinal to sit on while he recorded his message but he said that he’d rather stand, explaining “You can’t have a Church that is sitting down!”

The Cardinal’s message will be part of the launch of the Caritas confederation’s hunger campaign on 10th December. This is World Human Rights day and Caritas is urging governments and people of good will to put their energies behind implementing the right to food in national law.

“As Caritas we are one human family and we cannot let one member of that family go hungry,” said Cardinal Rodriguez in his message.

“There is enough food to feed the planet. We believe that with your help, we can end hunger by 2025.”

After he’d recorded his message, Cardinal Rodriguez spoke to me about the message Pope Francis will give to support our campaign. We’re hoping that the word will spread and that many other people will find some time in their busy lives to do something to contribute our campaign to end hunger.

It’s a question of whether you want to live in a world where there’s enough food for everyone and yet children, women and men still die because of a lack of nutritious food, or not. The Pope and the Cardinal can find time, can you?


Filed under Advocacy, Development, Food, MDG, Poverty Elimination

“Is this really the world that I desire?”

foto Peace in Siria

St. Peter’s Square during prayer for peace in Syria on 7th September, Credit photo: Daniel Alejandro Pinilla.

Syria vigil and fast

By Michelle Hough, communications officer with Caritas Internationalis

The first time I ever heard of Damascus was in the story of the conversion of Saint Paul. It’s a story that speaks of the possibility of change and forgiveness; where dark hearts are flooded with light and those who persecute can go on to do good.

I was in St Peter’s Square on Saturday night along with around 100,000 people, leaders of other faiths, prelates, Caritas colleagues (thanks to Alfonso for saving me a seat!), Italian politicians and of course Pope Francis to pray for such a change of heart regarding Syria.

As dusk descended over Saint Peter’s Square, Pope Francis said, “God’s world is a world where everyone feels responsible for the other, for the good of the other. This evening, in reflection, fasting and prayer, each of us deep down should ask ourselves: Is this really the world that I desire?”

Pope Francis was in a reflective mood. No tour of the piazza, no waving nor smiling. He came out and sat next to the altar in front of the basilica and followed a recital of the rosary and the joyful mysteries. He then gave a meditation, which was followed by the adoration of the Eucharist.

“In the silence of the Cross, the uproar of weapons ceases and the language of reconciliation, forgiveness, dialogue, and peace is spoken,” said Pope Francis during his meditation.


Pope Francis during the rosary recital, Credit photo: Michelle Hough.

“This evening, I ask the Lord that we Christians, and our brothers and sisters of other religions, and every man and woman of good will, cry out forcefully: violence and war are never the way to peace!

Let everyone be moved to look into the depths of his or her conscience and listen to that word which says: Leave behind the self-interest that hardens your heart, overcome the indifference that makes your heart insensitive towards others, conquer your deadly reasoning, and open yourself to dialogue and reconciliation.”

It’s hard to digest the enormity of the horror of the conflict in Syria. The more news and images we get, the less we seem to want to know about it. The most read story on the BBC website this morning was actually a Syria story: “Assad says US has no chemical proof”, but then the most shared story was “’Baby-faced’ people live longer”.

Caritas tries to put names and faces to the suffering. It’s often small details which resonate with people. For example, I spoke to a colleague in Caritas Lebanon about the refugees pouring over the border from Syria last winter.
“They come to Lebanon with nothing. Some don’t even have shoes. They walk through the snow without shoes. Often, they’re women and children,” she told me.

I held this thought close to me on Saturday night. I also thought about our former Caritas Iraq colleague Khawla, who fled Iraq a few years ago because of violence against her family (they are Christian). She went and settled in Syria but then war broke out and she had to flee once more. She’s now in Canada with her family. She’s safe but she misses her homeland and struggles. How many Syrians will still be far from home years after this war is over?

I also thought about the image I’d seen of someone washing down the near lifeless body of a man following a suspected chemical attack, trying to clean away the poison. I wondered if that man would survive the war, even if he did manage to survive that attack.


Pilgrims praying in St. Peter’s Square, Credit photo: Michelle Hough.

Caritas secretary general, Michel Roy, was in St Peter’s for the vigil and fast. He said, “This is a clear and powerful initiative to mobilise spiritual leaders to find another way out. Politics has so far failed. Now we need a peaceful solution so there is no more violence and no more deaths.”

As we all sat in front of the magnificence of St Peter’s, reflecting on the mysteries of the rosary and listening to the choir and the lone harpist playing just inside the basilica, it seemed impossible that there was war anywhere. You could feel the power of tens of thousands of people in prayer. It was a feeling that defies words.

As the vigil ended, one pilgrim told me, “The vigil has given me a glimpse of communion and of sharing. We were all there praying and I could feel a sense of togetherness.

“On a more personal level, I kept asking myself throughout the vigil what all of this has got to do with my daily life at thousands of miles away from Syria. It’s got me to think that peace starts at home: deep down I know that I can’t call for peace elsewhere if I don’t live peacefully with those closest to me first.”

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Filed under Advocacy, Catholic Teaching, Conflicts and Disasters, Emergencies, Emergencies in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Middle East & North Africa, Peacebuilding, Syria

A reflection on first encyclical of Pope Francis

By Rev. Msgr. Robert J. Vitillo

This first encyclical of Pope Francis offers a profound and comprehensive meditation on the role of faith in the lives of individual Catholics and on its influence in the work of Catholic-inspired organizations such as Caritas Internationalis. Prior to the publication date, on 05 July 2013, the Holy Father himself publicly acknowledged this document as the “work of four hands” since it represents both the writing by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI before his retirement as well as further refinement and original additions by his successor.

Some highlights of the encyclical are presented in this brief summary. It must be acknowledged, however, that the encyclical is so rich with Scriptural and other doctrinal citations, as well as with the deep insights of the Holy Father himself, that one cannot even pretend to offer an all-inclusive summary. Thus the reader is strongly encouraged to go to the source itself by reading carefully and reflecting deeply on the document.

Reflection Lumen Fidei English

Réflexion sur Lumen Fidei Francais

Reflection Lumen Fidei Espanol

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Un desafío para la Juventud de Caritas


Cardenal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, Presidente de Caritas Internationalis; Pierre Dumas, presidente de Caritas Haiti; Cristina dos Anjos, directora ejecutiva de Caritas Brasil, con los Jóvenes de Caritas en el I Encuentro Internacional de Jóvenes de Caritas, Credit: Caritas Brasil.

Por Daniel Alejandro Pinilla, Caritas Internationalis

Hemos llegado como desconocidos de distintos países y hoy nos sentimos como verdaderos hermanos, compañeros del mismo sueño de un mundo sin hambre y sin pobreza, con la certeza de que somos Cáritas y de que “no seríamos nada sin la caridad”. Así inicia la carta de más de 80 jóvenes de diferentes países leída ante el Cardenal Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Madariaga, presidente de Caritas Internationalis, para ser entregada al Papa Francisco durante la Jornada Mundial de la Juventud (JMJ).

El I Encuentro Internacional de Jóvenes de Caritas, realizado en Belo Horizonte, Brasil, abrió los temas de debate y preocupación de la juventud. Los jóvenes reunidos desde el 13 al 16 de julio fueron directos en su participación. “Compartimos la indignación de una multitud de jóvenes poco preparados que tienen un horizonte privado de grandes sueños desde muy temprana edad. La mayor parte de la población carcelaria de nuestros países está compuesta por estas personas, y no es una casualidad”, escriben en la carta. (Lea la carta completa acá http://www.caritasuruguaya.org.uy/novedad.php?id=189 )

La redacción del texto se hizo para presentar ante el Papa Francisco, la visión que tienen los jóvenes de Brasil y del mundo, sobre los problema y las necesidades que aquejan a América latina, como lo es la pobreza, la educación y el hambre. Los jóvenes sustentan en la carta “Formamos parte de una sociedad y de una Iglesia que nos recibe con sus brazos abiertos pero que teme luego que soltemos esos brazos como corresponde. El cambio debe tener una voz, un lugar y un tiempo, y nosotros debemos aprender juntos a tirar nuestras redes en las aguas más profundas”.

“No queremos despreciar la experiencia de los adultos pero sí ser escuchados cuando sentimos que tenemos algo fundamental para decir y para sentirnos valorizados. Si vamos a estar en el mismo barco, debemos poder ayudar a decidir qué dirección tomaremos. Queremos ser voluntarios pero queremos también estar presentes en las tomas de decisiones y en los procesos de gestión”, agregan.

Los jóvenes dejaron escrito el aporte para ellos durante este primer encuentro. “Sentimos que la riqueza de un intercambio de conocimientos, como lo que hemos vivido aquí, debe ser compartida en todas estas instancias de manera permanente y consecuente, con la organización de encuentros de diócesis regionales y nacionales que culminen en otras regiones latinoamericanas y que podrían incluso llegar a nivel intercontinental”.

El Encuentro terminó con un almuerzo en el que participaron varias personas como el obispo Pierre Dumas, presidente de Caritas Haití,  la directora ejecutiva de Caritas Brasil, Cristina dos Anjos, y el cardenal Rodríguez Madariaga. Los jóvenes ahora participan activamente de JMJ en Rio. Todos firmaron la carta animando a los jóvenes de otras partes del mundo a vivir la vida y dejando como ejemplo su intervención a voz de la sueños de la juventud. “Muchos de nosotros iremos al encuentro de la JMJ con la certeza del gran desafío que tenemos delante”.

*Este es el mensaje que grabó el Cardenal Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga a los jóvenes de Caritas. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wkzHg2Prq5g&list=UUUWEBuK8rV-R16A-hn18KGQ

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Filed under Brazil, Catholic Teaching, Español, Latin America

“Go, do not be afraid, and serve”

Dozens of bishops and millions of pilgrims take part in a flash mob on the evening of the WYD vigil. Copyright: WYD 2013

Dozens of bishops and millions of pilgrims take part in a flash mob on the evening of the WYD vigil. Copyright: WYD 2013

Read in French

By Michelle Hough, Caritas Internationalis communications officer in Rio de Janeiro

It has been confirmed to me that Pope Francis is bigger than the Rolling Stones. Well, a woman in a shop told me so earlier and Fr Lombardi (the Pope’s spokesperson) said that the people in his hotel had said the same. Phew, what a relief.

An estimated three million people turned up for today’s World Youth Day closing mass on Copacobana beach (yes, more than when the Rolling Stones played a few years back). But is it really about numbers? No, said Fr Lombardi this afternoon. What really matters is how deeply the message of WYD penetrates.

In case anyone had forgotten the message over four very busy days, Pope Francis touched upon it during his homily at this morning’s mass “Go, do not be afraid and serve.” Continue reading

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Filed under Brazil, Catholic Teaching, Español, Français, Latin America

The most huggable Pope ever

Pope Francis greeting pilgrims along the Copacobana waterfront. Copyright: Caritas Brazil/Nando Zamban

Pope Francis greeting pilgrims along the Copacobana waterfront. Copyright: Caritas Brazil/Nando Zamban

By Michelle Hough, Caritas Internationalis communications officer in Rio de Janeiro

The Pope’s landing with his helicopter outside so I’m locked in the press centre in the military fort at the end of Copacabana beach. Meanwhile the Atlantic is looking pretty ferocious out of the window here and something like one million people are waiting on the beach, which is guarded by four battleships. Just your average day at work really.

The start to the day was much more mundane. During a failed attempt to find our president, Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, doing a catechesis out in the vast suburbs of Rio (the venue had been changed at the last minute), I bumped in Shelley Bourgoyne from Development and Peace (Caritas Canada).

This turned out to be a very fortuitous meeting because we were able to discuss how to use social media in the confederation’s upcoming anti-poverty campaign. Continue reading

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Filed under Brazil, Catholic Teaching, Latin America