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 Catholic News 

Vatican City, Oct 1, 2014 / 12:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his first meeting as Pope with the Focolare movement, Pope Francis on Friday encouraged them in their effort for unity, as the movement has started a process of internal renewal which has brought to a change of more than 70 percent of their previous board.

Pope Francis received the 473 members of the Focolare movement general assembly Sept. 26, a few days after the assembly had re-elected Maria Voce as president of the movement and at the same time had elected a new co-president, Fr. Jesùs Moràn Cepedano, and changed three-fourths of the council that is called to assist and support the work of the president.

“The average age of the new council is 16 years younger than that of the previous council; the 30 members comes from 20 different countries” said Michele Zanzucchi, director of the Focolare movement's Italian magazine Città Nuova, in a press conference held Sept. 26.

The president, co-president, and counselors have been entrusted with a six-year mandate.

Meeting the delegates, Pope Francis acknowledged that “the Work of Mary, that everyone knows as the Focolare movement, was a little seed in the Catholic Church’s womb, that in the course of the years has brought to life a tree which now extends its branches in all the expressions of the Christian family and also among members of different religions and among many who cultivate justice and solidarity together with the search for truth.”

Pope Francis entrusted the members of Focolare movement and all those who share the spirit and the ideal of the movement with three key words: contemplation; going out to engage in dialogue; and formation of youth.

Pope Francis stressed first of all that “we need to contemplate God and the beauty of his love,” keeping in mind that “to contemplate means to live together with brothers and sisters, breaking with them the bread of communion and fraternity,” since “contemplation that leaves people outside is a lie, it is narcissism.”

Pope Francis then said that “going out is the movement of evangelization.”

“Going out as Jesus went out of the Father to announce the word of love to everyone, to the point of giving all of himself on the cross.”

The Roman Pontiff underscored that “we have to learn from Jesus the dynamics of exodus and gift, of going out from ourselves, walking and always seeding again, in order to generously communicate to everybody the love of God.”

The third key word is “being a school,” because “we need to educate, as the Gospel asks, new men and women, and this is the reason why a school of humanity based on Jesus’ humanity is needed.”

Education is a key focus of the Focolare movement, especially in view of the synod for the family.

“A synod is not needed to solve disciplinary matters,” commented Jesùs Moràn, the movement's new co-president. “It must go in-depth to the potential the family has at present, and at the same time be able to welcome the sufferings of the family.”

Maria Voce added that “re-discovering the family’s identity means being aware of the huge potential of the testimony of the conjugal life.”

After the meeting with Pope Francis, Voce commented that “Pope is right, dialogue is not an easy task,” but “we can afford it, if we start from our very hearts.”

The general assembly lasted almost one month, but it was preceded by a series of around 3,000 proposals collected all over the world that had been food for the assembly’s discussion.

“That they all may be one” is the passage which the assembly chose as the Focolare movement’s guideline for the next six years.

Vatican City, Sep 30, 2014 / 12:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Holy See has rejected the United Nations' Committee on the Rights of the Child's call for changes to canon law, and has formally criticized the group for a “grave misunderstanding” of the Holy See's sovereignty.

In a response released Sept. 26, the Holy See delivered its comments on the Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of Child.

In January, the Committee had discussed the written report on the Convention on the Rights of the Child submitted by the Holy See as one of the states that had signed the convention.

After a hearing held Jan. 16, the UN committee issued a report to which the Holy See responded in its Sept. 26 statement. The Holy See maintained that its treaty obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child apply to Vatican City State, and that its obligations do not touch on its relation with dioceses and religious orders throughout the world.

“The Holy See, in accordance with the rules of international law, is aware that attempting to implement the CRC in the territory of other states could constitute a violation of the principle of noninterference in the internal affairs of States,” the response read.

The response also underscored that “the Holy See does not ratify a treaty on behalf of every Catholic in the world, and therefore, does not have obligations to implement the convention within the territories of other states parties on behalf of Catholics.”

The Holy See also criticized the fact that “the treaty body has plunged into canon law, which is a juridical system, however, not equivalent to that of States.”

The committee's observations were published Feb. 7, and seemed meant to pressure the Church to change its teaching on human sexuality.

For instance, the committee wrote with “regret that the Holy See continues to place emphasis on the promotion of complementarity and equality in dignity” of men and women; asked “the Holy See to review its position on abortion … identifying circumstances under which access to abortion services can be permitted;” urged the Holy See to “remove gender stereotypes from Catholic school textbooks … which may limit the development of the talents and abilities of boys and girls and undermine their educational and life opportunities.”

The committee also expressed “concern about the Holy See's past statements and declarations on homosexuality which contribute to the social stigmatization of and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adolescents and children raised by same sex couples.”

The Holy See said that all of these pressures are beyond the text of the convention, and noted that it is “concerned about a lack of respect for the text of a treaty, which has been carefully drafted by States Parties, including the Holy See itself.”

According to the Holy See, the committee has put into action “a clear and open violation” of the ordinary meaning of the terms of the convention when the concluding observations “advocate for abortion.”

The response also addressed the committee’s promotion of “diverse forms of family” as a matter of principle, while “this expression is not found in the Convention nor it is defined.”

Nor is the word “gender” contained in the text of the convention, and it is “apparently employed to incorporate a larger ideological platform,” the Holy See noted.

The Holy See finally underscored that many of the recommendations “may also be viewed through the prism of religious freedom, in particular regard to the autonomy of religious communities to express their doctrine, manifest their faith and worship.”

The response delivered Sept. 26 insisted that the understanding and documentation provided by the Holy See had been biased by the committee, and that the “concluding observations include inaccurate statements that have no evidentiary foundation,” while “many materials presented by the Holy See, especially regarding child protection, were dismissed and ignored.”

Vatican City, Sep 30, 2014 / 09:13 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his homily on Tuesday Pope Francis said complaining to God in times of suffering can be a prayer, but cautioned not to exaggerate our difficulties in front of those undergoing major tragedies.

“Our life is too easy, our complaints are overdramatized,” the pontiff told those in the Vatican’s Saint Martha house in his Sept. 30 daily Mass.

“Faced with the complaints of so many people, of so many brothers and sisters who are in the dark, who have almost lost all memory, almost lost all hope – who are experiencing this exile from themselves, who are exiled, even from themselves, (our complaints are) nothing!”

The Holy Father noted how Job's prayer in the first reading seems to be a curse after having lost everything, and “his body had become a plague, a disgusting plague.”

“He had lost all patience and he says these things. They are ugly! But he was always accustomed to speak the truth and this is the truth that he feels at that moment,” the pontiff said, noting how the prophet Jeremiah also cursed the day in which he was born.

“But is this man blaspheming? This is my question: Is this man who is so very alone, blaspheming? Is it blasphemy when Jesus complains – 'Father, why have You forsaken me?’ This is the mystery.”

Pope Francis then said he has listened to many “who are experiencing difficult and painful situations, who have lost a great deal or feel lonely and abandoned and they come to complain and ask these questions: Why? Why?”

When he encounters these people, who often rebel against God, Pope Francis said he tells them: “Continue to pray just like this, because this is a prayer. It was a prayer when Jesus said to his father: 'Why have You forsaken me!'"

Prayer means being truthful before God, he said, adding that we should all “pray with reality” because “true prayer comes from the heart, from the moment that we are living in.”

The pope observed how many are in the same situation as Job who “do not understand what has happened to them, or why”, and there are “many brothers and sisters who have no hope.”

“Just think of the tragedies, the great tragedies, for example, of these brothers and sisters of ours who because they are Christians were driven out of their homes and left with nothing: ‘But, Lord, I have believed in you. Why? Is believing in you a curse, Lord?’”

Pope Francis also drew attention to the elderly, the sick and the many lonely people in hospitals, assuring that the Church constantly offers prayers all who walk in darkness.

“The Church prays! She takes this pain upon herself and prays,” he said.

There are even some who are angry with God who refuse to go to Mass over some trifling complaint with the Lord, the pope noted. 

Pope Francis compared these difficulties in prayer to those had by Saint Therese of Lisieux, who celebrates her feast day on Oct. 1. Sick with tuberculosis at the end of her life, the saint struggled to keep her thoughts on God despite serious doubts that emerged in her heart. 

“We all go through this situation, we experience this situation. There are so many people who think it all ends in nothing. Yet Saint Therese prayed and asked for strength to persevere in the dark. This is called entering into patience.”

Bringing to mind the many who have lost everything or live in exile, the Pope explained that “Jesus walked this path: from sunset on the Mount of Olives to the last word from the Cross: 'Father, why have you forsaken me!”

Pope Francis concluded his homily by giving two suggestions which can help us in moments of darkness, the first being “to prepare ourselves for when the darkness comes.”

Secondly, we should “Pray, pray as the Church prays; pray with the Church for so many brothers and sisters who suffer exile from themselves, who are in darkness and suffering, without hope at hand.”

This, he said, “is the prayer of the Church for these Suffering Jesus’ who are everywhere.”

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