‘The Word is a gift. Other persons are a gift’ Pope’s Message for Lent 2017

papa formatori

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Lent is a new beginning, a path leading to the certain goal of Easter, Christ’s victory over death. This season urgently calls us to conversion. Christians are asked to return to God “with all their hearts” (Joel 2:12), to refuse to settle for mediocrity and to grow in friendship with the Lord. Jesus is the faithful friend who never abandons us. Even when we sin, he patiently awaits our return; by that patient expectation, he shows us his readiness to forgive (cf. Homily, 8 January 2016).

Lent is a favorable season for deepening our spiritual life through the means of sanctification offered us by the Church: fasting, prayer and almsgiving. At the basis of everything is the word of God, which during this season we are invited to hear and ponder more deeply. I would now like to consider the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (cf. Lk 16:19-31). Let us find inspiration in this meaningful story, for it provides a key to understanding what we need to do in order to attain true happiness and eternal life. It exhorts us to sincere conversion.

1. The other person is a gift

The parable begins by presenting its two main characters. The poor man is described in greater detail: he is wretched and lacks the strength even to stand. Lying before the door of the rich man, he fed on the crumbs falling from his table. His body is full of sores and dogs come to lick his wounds (cf. vv. 20-21). The picture is one of great misery; it portrays a man disgraced and pitiful.

The scene is even more dramatic if we consider that the poor man is called Lazarus: a name full of promise, which literally means “God helps”. This character is not anonymous. His features are clearly delineated and he appears as an individual with his own story. While practically invisible to the rich man, we see and know him as someone familiar. He becomes a face, and as such, a gift, a priceless treasure, a human being whom God loves and cares for, despite his concrete condition as an outcast (cf. Homily, 8 January 2016).

Lazarus teaches us that other persons are a gift. A right relationship with people consists in gratefully recognizing their value. Even the poor person at the door of the rich is not a nuisance, but a summons to conversion and to change. The parable first invites us to open the doors of our heart to others because each person is a gift, whether it be our neighbor or an anonymous pauper. Lent is a favorable season for opening the doors to all those in need and recognizing in them the face of Christ. Each of us meets people like this every day. Each life that we encounter is a gift deserving acceptance, respect and love. The word of God helps us to open our eyes to welcome and love life, especially when it is weak and vulnerable. But in order to do this, we have to take seriously what the Gospel tells us about the rich man.

2. Sin blinds us

The parable is unsparing in its description of the contradictions associated with the rich man (cf. v. 19). Unlike poor Lazarus, he does not have a name; he is simply called “a rich man”. His opulence was seen in his extravagant and expensive robes. Purple cloth was even more precious than silver and gold, and was thus reserved to divinities (cf. Jer 10:9) and kings (cf. Jg 8:26), while fine linen gave one an almost sacred character. The man was clearly ostentatious about his wealth, and in the habit of displaying it daily: “He feasted sumptuously every day” (v. 19). In him we can catch a dramatic glimpse of the corruption of sin, which progresses in three successive stages: love of money, vanity and pride (cf. Homily, 20 September 2013).

The Apostle Paul tells us that “the love of money is the root of all evils” (1 Tim 6:10). It is the main cause of corruption and a source of envy, strife and suspicion. Money can come to dominate us, even to the point of becoming a tyrannical idol (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 55). Instead of being an instrument at our service for doing good and showing solidarity towards others, money can chain us and the entire world to a selfish logic that leaves no room for love and hinders peace.

The parable then shows that the rich man’s greed makes him vain. His personality finds expression in appearances, in showing others what he can do. But his appearance masks an interior emptiness. His life is a prisoner to outward appearances, to the most superficial and fleeting aspects of existence (cf. ibid., 62).

The lowest rung of this moral degradation is pride. The rich man dresses like a king and acts like a god, forgetting that he is merely mortal. For those corrupted by love of riches, nothing exists beyond their own ego. Those around them do not come into their line of sight. The result of attachment to money is a sort of blindness. The rich man does not see the poor man who is starving, hurting, lying at his door.

Looking at this character, we can understand why the Gospel so bluntly condemns the love of money: “No one can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or be attached to the first and despise the second. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money” (Mt 6:24).

3. The Word is a gift

The Gospel of the rich man and Lazarus helps us to make a good preparation for the approach of Easter. The liturgy of Ash Wednesday invites us to an experience quite similar to that of the rich man. When the priest imposes the ashes on our heads, he repeats the words: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return”. As it turned out, the rich man and the poor man both died, and the greater part of the parable takes place in the afterlife. The two characters suddenly discover that “we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it” (1 Tim 6:7).

We too see what happens in the afterlife. There the rich man speaks at length with Abraham, whom he calls “father” (Lk 16:24.27), as a sign that he belongs to God’s people. This detail makes his life appear all the more contradictory, for until this moment there had been no mention of his relation to God. In fact, there was no place for God in his life. His only god was himself.

The rich man recognizes Lazarus only amid the torments of the afterlife. He wants the poor man to alleviate his suffering with a drop of water. What he asks of Lazarus is similar to what he could have done but never did. Abraham tells him: “During your life you had your fill of good things, just as Lazarus had his fill of bad. Now he is being comforted here while you are in agony” (v. 25). In the afterlife, a kind of fairness is restored and life’s evils are balanced by good.

The parable goes on to offer a message for all Christians. The rich man asks Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his brothers, who are still alive. But Abraham answers: “They have Moses and the prophets, let them listen to them” (v. 29). Countering the rich man’s objections, he adds: “If they will not listen either to Moses or to the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead” (v. 31).

The rich man’s real problem thus comes to the fore. At the root of all his ills was the failure to heed God’s word. As a result, he no longer loved God and grew to despise his neighbor. The word of God is alive and powerful, capable of converting hearts and leading them back to God. When we close our heart to the gift of God’s word, we end up closing our heart to the gift of our brothers and sisters.

Dear friends, Lent is the favorable season for renewing our encounter with Christ, living in his word, in the sacraments and in our neighbor. The Lord, who overcame the deceptions of the Tempter during the forty days in the desert, shows us the path we must take. May the Holy Spirit lead us on a true journey of conversion, so that we can rediscover the gift of God’s word, be purified of the sin that blinds us, and serve Christ present in our brothers and sisters in need. I encourage all the faithful to express this spiritual renewal also by sharing in the Lenten Campaigns promoted by many Church organizations in different parts of the world, and thus to favor the culture of encounter in our one human family. Let us pray for one another so that, by sharing in the victory of Christ, we may open our doors to the weak and poor. Then we will be able to experience and share to the full the joy of Easter.

From the Vatican, 18 October 2016,
Feast of Saint Luke the Evangelist

FRANCIS

Original text: English]

© Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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“Preventing conflict and sustaining peace through decent work” Social Justice Day Theme for 2017

Social justice is an underlying principle for peaceful and prosperous coexistence within and among nations. We uphold the principles of social justice when we promote gender equality or the rights of indigenous peoples and migrants. We advance social justice when we remove barriers that people face because of gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion, culture or disability.

For the United Nations, the pursuit of social justice for all is at the core of our global mission to promote development and human dignity. The adoption by the International Labour Organization of the Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization is just one recent example of the UN system’s commitment to social justice. The Declaration focuses on guaranteeing fair outcomes for all through employment, social protection, social dialogue, and fundamental principles and rights at work.

The General Assembly proclaimed 20 February as World Day of Social Justice in 2007, inviting Member States to devote the day to promoting national activities in accordance with the objectives and goals of the World Summit for Social Development and the twenty-fourth session of the General Assembly. Observance of World Day of Social Justice should support efforts of the international community in poverty eradication, the promotion of full employment and decent work, gender equity and access to social well-being and justice for all.

http://www.un.org/en/events/socialjusticeday/

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E-News (English and Spanish) 10th February, 2017

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We continue to keep all of the complex world situations in our prayers. We lift our voices in supplication for those in need of our compassionate presence. We are thankful for all the good being done by so many people who are instruments of loving service and advocates for the common good.

Also remember in your prayers:

11th February—25th anniversary of the World Day of the Sick. The theme for this year is Amazement at what God has accomplished: “The Almighty has done great things for me…”(LK 1:49). For the message from Pope Francis Pope Francesco/malato.html .

20 February—World Day of Social Justice which supports efforts of the international community in poverty eradication, the promotion of full employment and decent work, gender equity and access to social well-being and justice for all. http:// www.un.org/en/events/ socialjusticeday/ For a listing of days of the international days of the year go to international-days.

DRC Workshop: Information was emailed regarding the DRC Project: A Pastoral, Compassionate and Spiritual Response to the Challenges of Victims Suffering from Sexual Abuse in Conflict. Please promote participation in this workshop if you have eligible religious in the Eastern Congo. The workshop will be conducted entirely in French. For more information, please contact jpicroma@gmail.com.

JPIC Promoters Meetings:

14 February—Anti-Trafficking Working Group from 3 pm to 5 pm at the Fratelliƒ

15 February—English Speaking Promoters Meeting 9 am to12 pm at UISG hosted by the Refugees and Migrants Working Group. Theme: “LOOKING AHEAD TO THE NEXT STEP IN OUR RESPONSE TO THE MIGRATION CRISIS”. Many of our Congregations have responded in some way to the needs of migrants in their communities and countries. UISG, with the support of international congregations, has responded with the Sicily Migrants’ Project. At this session we will update all of this and then look toward the next phase of our response to the issue of migration. This is a growing concern in our world and it needs our reflection and action.

16 February—Refugees and Migrants Working Group (RMWG) 3 pm to 5 pm at the Fratelli

17th February: Insights on Running and Funding Orphanages 10:00 am to 12:00 pm in the JPIC Meeting Room at the Fratelli. Sr. Isabela, a Salesian Sister, is successfully running 2 orphanages. She has wonderful insight to share on how it is possible to have sustainable and quality funded orphanages. She is accompanied by Caroline Boudreaux the founder of the Miracle Foundation at www.MiracleFoundation.org Please emailjpicroma@gmail.com, if you plan to participate.

21 February: “Can two sides find common ground?” 10:00 am to 12:00 pm in the JPIC Meeting Room at the Fratelli. Let us have a conversation about how to engage “progressives” and “conservatives” around values related to common concerns. To stimulate discussions, the use of TED Talks videos addressing issues such as the environment and employment will be used. Please email jpicroma@gmail.com, if you plan to participate.

23 February—Collaboration of Women and Men Working Group (CWG) from 3 pm to 5 pm at UISG ƒ

24 February—Africa Working Group (AFW) 3:30 pm to 5:30 pmat the Missionaries of Africa Curia ƒ

24 February—Prayer “Nonviolence and Forced Displacement” from 7 pm to 8 pm at San Marcello ƒ

27 February—ICR at FAO Office at the Passionists from 3 pm to 5 pm

18 March–the JPIC Commission of the USG and UISG will sponsor a seminar on Promoting “Nonviolence: a Style of Politics for Peace” from 9 am to 12 pm at the Gregorian University. Dr. Maryann Cusimano Love will challenge and inspire us to explore the implications of the message from Pope Francis for our daily lives and the world. She is an Associate Professor of International Relations in Politics at the Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C.

E-Noticias — 10 de febrero de 2017

Seguimos orando por las complejas situaciones mundiales. Elevamos nuestras súplicas por todos los que necesitan nuestra presencia compasiva. Agradecemos el bien realizado por tantas personas que son instrumentos de un amor servicial y promotores del bien común.

Recordemos también en nuestras oraciones las siguientes fechas:

11 de febrero—25° aniversario de la Jornada Mundial del Enfermo. El tema de este año es: El Asombro ante las obras que Dios realiza: “El Poderoso ha hecho obras grandes por mí…” (Lc 1,49). Véase el mensaje del Papa Francisco en el sitio web:https://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/sick/ documents/papa-francesco_20161208_giornata-malato.html.

20 de febrero—Día Mundial de la Justicia Social. Su celebración debe apoyar la labor de la comunidad internacional encaminada a erradicar la pobreza y promover el empleo pleno y el trabajo decente, la igualdad entre los sexos y el acceso al bienestar social y la justicia social para todos ( http://www.un.org/en/events/socialjusticeday/). Para conocer la lista de las Jornadas Internacionales, véase el sitio web:http://www.un.org/en/sections/observances/international-days/

Información sobre el Proyecto de la RDC: Pastoral de las víctimas de abusos sexuales en situaciones de conflicto. Promovamos la participación en este taller entre los religiosos/as que trabajan en el Congo oriental. El taller se hará en francés. Para más información, sírvanse comunicarse conjpicroma@gmail.com.

Reuniones de Promotores JPIC:

14 de febrero—Reunión del grupo de trabajo sobre la trata de seres humanos, de 15 a 17 horas en los Hermanos ƒ

15 de febrero—Reunión de Promotores de habla inglesa, de 9 a 12 hs. en la UISG, organizada por el grupo de trabajo sobre refugiados y emigrantes. Tema: “PRÓXIMOS PASOS ANTE LA CRISIS DE LAS MIGRACIONES”. Muchas de nuestras Congregaciones han respondido de alguna manera a las necesidades de los migrantes en sus comunidades y países. La UISG, con el apoyo de congregaciones internacionales, ha respondido con el Proyecto Inmigrantes/Sicilia. En esta reunión nos actualizaremos al respecto, y reflexionaremos sobre la fase siguiente. El tema de las migraciones constituye una preocupación cada vez mayor en nuestro mundo y requiere nuestra reflexión y acción.

16 de febrero—Reunión del grupo de trabajo sobre Refugiados y Migrantes, de 15 a 17 horas en los Hermanos

17 de febrero__Ideas sobre dirección y financiación de orfanatos, de 10 a 12 horas en la Sala de reuniones de JPIC en los Hermanos. La Hna. Isabel, Salesiana, dirige con éxito 2 orfanatos y tiene muy buenas ideas sobre cómo llevar adelante orfanatos sostenibles de calidad. La acompaña Caroline Boudreaux, fundadora de la Fundación Miracle. Véase www.MiracleFoundation.org. Si desea participar, sírvase comunicarse conjpicroma@gmail.com.

21 de febrero: “¿Pueden dos lados opuestos encontrar un terreno común?”, de 10 a 12 horas en la Sala de reuniones de JPIC, en los Hermanos. Dialoguemos sobre cómo hacer que “progresistas” y “conservadores” puedan conversar sobre valores que comparten. Para animar los debates se utilizarán videos con las charlas TED sobre el medio ambiente y el empleo. Si desea participar, sírvase comunicarse con jpicroma@gmail.com.

23 de febrero—Reunión del grupo de trabajo sobre Colaboración entre hombres y mujeres, de 15 a 17 horas en la UISG ƒ

24 de febrero—Reunión del grupo de trabajo sobre África, de 15.30 a 17.30 horas en la Curia de los Misioneros de África ƒ

24 de febrero—Encuentro de oración sobre el tema “La no violencia y los desplazamientos forzosos”, de 19 a 20 horas en San Marcello ƒ

27 de febrero—CIR/FAO, de 15 a 17 horas en los Pasionistas

18 de marzo—La Comisión de JPIC de la USG y la UISG patrocinarán un seminario sobre “La no violencia: un estilo de política para la paz”, que tendrá lugar de 9 a 12 horas en la Universidad Gregoriana. La Dra. Maryann Cusimano Love nos ayudará a profundizar el mensaje del Papa Francisco y sus implicaciones para nuestras vidas y para el mundo. Ella es Profesora Asociada de Relaciones Internacionales en Política, en la Universidad Católica de América, Washington, D.C.

 

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I vescovi filippini denunciano “un regno di terrore”

A cura di Paolo Ondarza – Radio Vaticano

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In una lettera pastorale diffusa ieri, domenica 5 febbraio, in tutte le chiese delle Filippine, i vescovi del Paese denunciano il “regno di terrore” nel quale vivono molte persone, dovuto alle esecuzioni senza processo promosse dal governo all’interno della Campagna di lotta al narcotraffico promossa dal Presidente Rodrigo Duterte.

Si stima che oltre 7mila persone siano state uccise negli ultimi sei mesi nelle Filippine nell’ambito della lotta del governo contro il traffico di droga. Varie organizzazioni impegnate a difesa dei diritti umani accusano il Presidente di promuovere uccisioni mirate e denunciano che la sua lotta al narcotraffico ha consentito alla polizia locale numerosi abusi come estorsioni, sequestri, furti e uccisioni. Solo lo scorso 2 febbraio Duterte aveva dato l’annuncio di aver ingaggiato le Forze armate delle Filippine nella lotta contro il traffico di droga, precisando che il tema costituisce una “minaccia alla sicurezza nazionale”.

Appello dei vescovi: tacere di fronte al male, vuol dire esserne complici

Nel messaggio diffuso ieri, la Conferenza episcopale delle Filippine, ha avvertito i fedeli che “consentire il male e tacere di fronte ad esso vuol dire esserne complici”. “Non permettiamo che la paura regni e ci chiuda la bocca;” – hanno esortato i vescovi – “se permettiamo l’uccisione di presunti tossicodipendenti, siamo anche responsabili della loro morte”.

La Chiesa denuncia il male e non teme la persecuzione
I presuli assicurano che la Chiesa continuerà a denunciare il male in un Paese “avvolto dall’oscurità del vizio e della morte”. “Proseguiremo – precisano – anche a costo della persecuzione, perché siamo tutti fratelli e sorelle responsabili gli uni degli altri”. I vescovi dichiarano di essere d’accordo con il governo sul fatto che il traffico di droga debba essere combattuto, ma che l’uccisione di uomini sospettati di vendere o consumare droga non rappresenta la soluzione del problema.

I vescovi denunciano “un regno di terrore”
Inoltre la Conferenza episcopale delle Filippine si dice preoccupata dall’instaurarsi di un vero e proprio “regno del terrore” in molti luoghi in cui vivono persone povere dove molte persone innocenti vengono uccise e i veri responsabili del traffico di droga restano impuniti. Chiare le parole dei vescovi: “ ad eccezione della legittima difesa, uccidere è un peccato grave: non possiamo correggere il male facendo altro male e un buon fine non giustifica mezzi cattivi. E’ cosa buona eliminare il problema della droga, ma uccidere per ottenere questo obbiettivo è un male”.

Appello a combattere la corruzione nelle istituzioni
I presuli esortano inoltre il governo a combattere la corruzione nelle istituzioni: “Occorre dare priorità nel rimuovere poliziotti disonesti e giudici corrotti. La lentezza eccessiva dei processi è una delle cause principali del propagarsi della criminalità”. L’episcopato filippino infine chiede “ai politici eletti di servire il bene comune del popolo e non gli interessi personali. Dobbiamo lavorare insieme per risolvere il problema della droga e favorire la riabilitazione dei tossicodipendenti”.

 

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CBCP pastoral letter on rampant deaths, drug killings

For I find no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies – oracle of the Lord God 

(Ezekiel 18:32)

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Beloved People of God

We, your bishops, are deeply concerned due to many deaths and killings in the campaign against prohibited drugs.  This traffic in illegal drugs needs to be stopped and overcome.  But the solution does not lie in the killing of suspected drug users and pushers.  We are concerned not only for those who have been killed.  The situation of the families of those killed is also cause for concern.  Their lives have only become worse.  An Additional cause of concern is the reign of terror in many places of the poor.  Many are killed not because of drugs.  Those who kill them are not brought to account.  An even greater cause of concern is the indifference of many to this kind of wrong.  It is considered as normal, and, even worse, something that (according to them) needs to be done.

We are one with many of our countrymen who want change.  But change must be guided by truth and justice.

We stand for some basic teachings.  These teachings are rooted in our being human, our being Filipino, and our being Christian.

  1. The life of every person comes from God.  It is he who gives it, and it is he alone who can take it back.  Not even the government has a right to kill life because it is only God’s steward and not the owner of life.
  2. The opportunity to change is never lost in every person.  This is because God is merciful, as our Holy Father Pope Francis repeatedly teaches.  We just finished celebrating the Jubilee Year of Mercy, and the World Apostolic Congress on Mercy.  These events deepened our awareness that the Lord Jesus Christ offered his own life for sinners, to redeem them and give them a new future.
  3. To destroy one’s own life and the life of another, is a grave sin and does evil to society.  The use of drugs is a sign that a person no longer values his own life, and endangers the lives of others.  We must all work together to solve the drug problem and work for the rehabilitation of drug addicts.
  4. Every person has a right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.  Society has ways and processes to catch, prove guilty and punish perpetrators of crimes.  This process must be followed, especially by agents of the law.
  5. Any action that harms another (seriously) is a grave sin.  To push drugs is a grave sin as is killing (except in self-defense).  We cannot correct a wrong by doing another wrong.  A good purpose is not a justification for using evil means.  It is good to remove the drug problem, but to kill in order to achieve this is also wrong.
  6. The deep root of the drug problem and criminality is the poverty of the majority, the destruction of the family and corruption in society.  The step we have to take is to overcome poverty, especially through the giving of permanent work and sufficient wages to workers.  Let us strengthen and carry forward the unity and love of the family members.  Let us not allow any law that destroys the unity of families.  We must also give priority to reforming rogue policemen and corrupt judges.  The excessively slow adjudication of court cases is one big reason for the spread of criminality.  Often it is the poor who suffer from this system.  We also call upon elected politicians to serve the common good of the people and not their own interests.
  7. To consent and to keep silent in front of evil is to be an accomplice to it.  If we neglect the drug addicts and pushers we have become part of the drug problem.  If we consent or allow the killing of suspected drug addicts, we shall also be responsible for their deaths.

We in the Church will continue to speak against evil even as we acknowledge and repent of our own shortcomings.  We will do this even if it will bring persecution upon us because we are all brothers and sisters responsible for each other.  We will help drug addicts so that they may be healed and start a new life.  We will stand in solidarity and care for those left behind by those who have been killed and for the victims of drug addicts.  Let us renew our efforts to strengthen families.

Those of us who are leaders in the Church should strive to push forward or continue programs that will uplift the poor, like livelihood, education and health programs.  Above all we will live up to — we all will live up to — becoming a Church of the Poor.

Let us not allow fear to reign and keep us silent.  Let us put into practice not only our native inner strength but the strength that comes from our Christian faith.  Our Lord Jesus promised us: “You will have affliction in this world, but take courage, I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33).

“What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword?  No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us.” (Rom. 8:35,37)  Yes, indeed, “For the Spirit that is in you is more powerful than the spirit in those who belong in the world.” (1 Jn. 4:4)

As we commemorate the 100th year of the apparition of Our Lady of Fatima, let us respond to her call for prayer and repentance for the peace of our communities and of our country shrouded in the darkness of vice and death.

Mary, Mother of Perpetual Help, Pray for us.

 

For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines

 

+ ARCHBISHOP SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS, D.D.

Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan

President, CBCP

January 30, 2017

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SETTIMANA DI PREGHIERA PER L’UNITÀ DEI CRISTIANI

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La Settimana di preghiera per l’unità dei cristiani è un’iniziativa ecumenica di preghiera nel quale tutte le confessioni cristiane pregano insieme per il raggiungimento della piena unità che è il volere di Cristo stesso. Questa iniziativa è nata in ambito protestante nel 1908 e nel 2008 ha festeggiato il centenario. Dal 1968 il tema e i testi per la preghiera sono elaborati congiuntamente dalla commissione Fede e Costituzione del Consiglio Ecumenico delle Chiese, per protestanti e ortodossi, e dal Pontificio Consiglio per la Promozione dell’Unità dei Cristiani, per i cattolici.

 

PERCHÉ SI CELEBRA DAL 18 AL 25 GENNAIO?

La data tradizionale nell’emisfero nord, va dal 18 al 25 gennaio, data proposta nel 1908 da padre Paul Wattson, perché compresa tra la festa della cattedra di san Pietro e quella della conversione di san Paolo; assume quindi un significato simbolico. Nell’emisfero sud, in cui gennaio è periodo di vacanza, le chiese celebrano la Settimana di preghiera in altre date, per esempio nel tempo di Pentecoste (come suggerito dal movimento Fede e Costituzione nel 1926), periodo altrettanto simbolico per l’unità della Chiesa.

 

QUANDO NASCE?

In realtà, la prima ipotesi di una preghiera per l’unità delle Chiese, antenata dell’odierna Settimana di preghiera, nasce in ambito protestante alla fine del XVIII secolo; e nella seconda metà dell’Ottocento comincia a diffondersi un’Unione di preghiera per l’unità sostenuta sia dalla prima Assemblea dei vescovi anglicani a Lambeth (1867) sia da papa Leone XIII (1894), che invita a inserirla nel contesto della festa di Pentecoste. Agli inizi del Novecento, poi, il Patriarca ecumenico di Costantinopoli Joachim III scrive l’enciclica patriarcale e sinodale Lettera irenica (1902), in cui invita a pregare per l’unione dei credenti in Cristo. Sarà infine il reverendo Paul Wattson a proporre definitivamente la celebrazione dell’Ottavario che lo celebra per la prima volta a Graymoor (New York), dal 18 al 25 gennaio, auspicando che divenga pratica comune.

Nel 1926 Il movimento Fede e Costituzione dà avvio alla pubblicazione dei Suggerimenti per l’Ottavario di preghiera per l’unità dei cristiani (Suggestions for an Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity), mentre nel 1935 l’abate Paul Couturier, in Francia, promuove la Settimana universale di preghiera per l’unità dei cristiani, basata sulla preghiera per «l’unità voluta da Cristo, con i mezzi voluti da lui». Nel 1958 Il Centre Oecuménique Unité Chrétienne di Lione (Francia) inizia la preparazione del materiale per la Settimana di preghiera in collaborazione con la commissione Fede e Costituzione del Consiglio Ecumenico delle Chiese.

Nel 2008 viene celebrato solennemente, in tutto il mondo, con vari eventi, il primo centenario della Settimana di preghiera, il cui tema «Pregate continuamente!» (1Ts 5,17) manifestava la gioia per i cento anni di comune preghiera e per i risultati raggiunti.

 

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Linking Faith, Action and Social Issues

Social Analysis—Linking Faith and Justice. Joseph Holland and Peter Henriot. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1980)

 

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What leads people to apply their faith to social issues? First, they need to be connected—they need to be personally impacted by the issue, or at least feel how it effects others. Second, they need to understand the issue well enough to believe that their response will make a difference. Third, they need a sense of direction and hope, a sense that as large as a problem may be, it can be whittled down to size when people of faith work on it together. The four-step process developed by Peter Henriot and Joseph Holland offers a framework for helping families apply their faith to social issues. The process begins with insertion—our experience with an issue/injustice, moves to social analysis and theological reflection on the issue/injustice, and culminates in action—working for social change and serving those in need.

 

Insertion

The first step in the process—and the basis for any action—is Insertion. Through Insertion we identify our experience of social issues in our family, community, and world. We try to feel and understand how the social issues affect our family and touch the lives of others who are affected. Getting in touch with what people are feeling, what they are undergoing, and how they are responding to the situations they find themselves in—these are some of the experiences that constitute Insertion. The entry point for analyzing and acting on an issue may be 1) an event—an experience of injustice; 2) an issue—hunger, poverty, environment, the arms race; 3) a set of problems—economic deterioration of a neighborhood, pollution; or 4) a question—why does poverty persist in the richest country in the world? Sometimes we begin naturally with the experience of the family on a particular issue, providing them with the opportunity to express their feelings and thoughts about their experience. In other cases we will need to provide activities that connect families with the issue to be explored. This will mean simulating the experience of injustice, helping families “feel” the issue being analyzed, or expose families to what is happening in the local community, helping them to “hear” and “think” from a broader perspective. Once families are connected with an issue, they are ready to move to analysis, to ask the” why” questions from a first-hand perspective.

Questions to help people surface their experience:

  1. What is our personal experience of this issue or concern? Have any of our family or friends experienced it? What was the experience like? How did it impact how they felt about themselves? How did it impact how they felt about others?
  2. If we haven’t personally experienced this need, where do our information and feelings come

from? Can you point to any specific article, story, song or video about the issue that struck

you? What do we know, as a group, about this issue? What questions do we have?

  1. What feelings do we connect with the issue? Why do people experience this injustice or

issue? Could it happen to you? Why or why not? What does it do to people? How does it

make them feel? How does it make us feel?

  1. What are we doing personally to change this situation? Are there ways we are already

involved around this issue? How? Where?

  1. How do we see the issue being dealt with in our local community? Does the issue touch us

at all? How? Where?

  1. What are the thoughts and feelings of the people in our local community, state or nation

about this issue? How are these thoughts and feelings shared? Do they have any impact on

what we think or feel? Why or why not?

  1. What is being done in our local community, state, or country to change this situation? Is it

enough? Too much? Why?

Analysis

Analysis is a means of widening our reflection on our experience to search out the relationships

between values, events, structures, systems, ideologies. It goes beyond our immediate experience to probe the historical roots and future implications of events and issues and systems. The task of analysis is to examine causes, probe consequences, and delineate linkages rooted in the structural realities which condition our experience and limit or expand our freedom of choice. Analysis helps us become persons who habitually ask why in the face of human suffering and injustice. We learn to look for causes, relationships, structural realities in order to understand a plan for effective action for change.

Questions to help people analyze an issue:

  1. History: How long has the problem, issue or injustice been with us? How has it changed

through the years? Does anyone benefit from the present situation? Who suffers?

  1. Economics: What influence does economics have on this issue? Who controls the resources

(natural and human resources, manufactured goods and money) involved? Who benefits

economically from this situation? Who suffers?

  1. Politics: What influence does politics have on this issue? Who has the critical decisionmaking

power in this situation? Who benefits? Who suffers?

  1. Culture and Values: What values are at work, or absent in this situation? Who benefits from

these values? Who suffers?

  1. Connections: Are there any links between the economic, political and cultural structures?

Does money have any influence on how political decisions are made? Do any existing

cultural values or beliefs work against change in this situation?

Reflection

Reflection engages families in exploring the issue from the perspective of faith—the Bible, the social teachings of a denomination, the resources of the Christian tradition, and the lived faith of the church community. This step involves people in exploring what faith says about particular social issues. It involves them likewise in exploring what the faith community is doing about social issues and what motivates its response. Reflection should call forth not just an intellectual assent to faith, but a commitment to incorporate it within one’s life. The witness of committed individuals can go a long way toward making reflection real. The Word of God brought to bear upon the situation challenges old ways of thinking and responding by raising new questions, suggesting new insights, and opening people up to new action possibilities.

 

Questions to help people reflect an issue:

  1. Religious Values: What are the religious beliefs and values that seem to be at stake in this

problem, issue or injustice? What beliefs and values lead you to say, “Things shouldn’t be

this way!”

  1. Scripture: How have the values you identified been reflected in the Bible? How has God’s

Word of justice been revealed in the history of the Hebrew people? How was this issue

approached by the teachers, prophets or psalmists of the Hebrew Scriptures? What did Jesus

say or do when confronted by the same or similar instances of injustice? What can be

learned from the life of the early Christian community as it tried to fashion a new

community around Jesus’ teachings and lifestyle?

  1. Church History and Tradition: The Christian Church’s understanding of God’s justice

continues to grow and develop through time. In the course of its long history, has the

church community been faced before with the challenges raised by this issue? When? How

did the church respond? What principles or approaches are set forth in the social teachings

of your denomination?

  1. The Church in Action: Like Jesus, the Christian community speaks not just through what it

says, but by how it embodies its words in action. What is the Church doing locally,

nationally, and internationally to respond to the short or long term problems created by this

social issue or injustice? Why do Christians work to relieve the problems caused by this

issue or injustice?

Action

New experiences and ways of thinking lead naturally to new ways of living and acting. It is these new ways of living and acting that the fourth movement of the process is all about. Action means helping people survive their present crisis or need and addressing the root causes of the problems. Working at a soup kitchen or food center, visiting the elderly or sick, and tutoring children are common examples of direct service. Direct service needs to be coupled with actions aimed at removing the causes of the problems that direct service is addressing. Legislative advocacy, community organizing, and working with organizations that are changing the structures that promote injustice are examples of social change actions. For example, families who are working at the homeless shelter and soup kitchen could also be involved with the local coalition for the homeless which is working to create housing, employment, and just policies for the homeless. In this way families will experience the benefits of working directly with the homeless and learn to change the system which keeps people homeless. Real change will come about only when we work together to alleviate the present suffering caused by an issue/injustice and organize our energies to eradicate the causes of hunger and poverty. Action on particular problem, issue or injustice brings about new experiences—insertion—which call, in turn, for further analysis, reflection, and action—each time building on and extending previous insights and experience. The process is more like a “spiral” than a “circle” – leading individuals and communities deeper into applying their faith to social issues.

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