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Survey: Americans overwhelmingly favor limits on abortion

Washington D.C., Jan 18, 2018 / 09:12 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Most Americans, including those who identify as “pro-choice,” support limiting abortion to the first trimester of pregnancy, at most, a new survey says.

“It is hardly surprising that after 50 million abortions in this country, an overwhelming majority of the American people want substantial limits,” Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, said Jan. 17.

“This survey shows clearly that the ‘pro-choice’ label can no longer be assumed to mean support for abortion on demand,” Anderson added. “Nor can abortion be thought of as a partisan issue since majorities of Democrats, Independents and Republicans all agree that it should be substantially restricted. It is high time that our political debates reflected this national consensus and used it as a starting point.”

The survey found that 76 percent of Americans support limiting abortion to no more than the first trimester of pregnancy, with 92 percent of Republicans, 78 percent of independents, and 61 percent of Democrats agreeing. About 60 percent of self-described “pro-choice” respondents supported such limits.

Only 12 percent of Americans said the procedure should be available at any point in a woman’s pregnancy, while 11 percent supported abortion up to six months into pregnancy.

Restrictions on abortion face legal hurdles due to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Jan. 22, 1973 ruling in the Roe v. Wade decision, which required permissive abortion laws nationwide.

The data drew on a Dec. 4-7 survey of 1,267 adults in the continental U.S. and another of 1,350 adults Jan. 8-10. The surveys were conducted by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion and sponsored by the Knights of Columbus fraternal Catholic society. They respectively claim a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 and 2.7 points.

About 52 percent of respondents agreed that abortion does more harm to a woman than good in the long run, compared to 29 percent who said it improves a woman’s life. The belief that life begins at conception was professed by 47 percent.

Abortion is “morally wrong” according to about 56 percent of respondents. Moreover, 64 percent said it is wrong for abortions to be sought because the unborn child has genetic conditions such as like Down syndrome.

The study also found that abortion plays a role in elections, with about 40 percent saying the issue is a “major factor” in their choice of candidates. Nearly 76 percent of Republicans identified as “pro-life,” compared to 41 percent of independents and just 25 percent of Democrats.

A majority of respondents said that medical professionals and organizations with moral objections should not be forced to perform abortions or provide insurance coverage for the procedure. About 60 percent opposed using tax dollars to pay for abortion.

Nearly 80 percent of Americans say laws can protect both a mother and her unborn child, a figure that has held steady in Marist survey results since 2009.  

 

Pope Francis in Chile: Don’t water down the joy of faith

Iquique, Chile, Jan 18, 2018 / 07:37 am (CNA/EWTN News).- At Mass in Iquique Thursday morning, Pope Francis drew attention to the care Mary shows at the Wedding at Cana, pointing to her as an example of how we can help others share in the joy and celebration found in the Gospel.

“The Gospel message is a wellspring of joy… A joy that is contagious, passing from generation to generation, a joy that we have inherited,” the Pope said Jan. 18.

“Like Mary at Cana, let us make an effort to be more attentive in our squares and towns, to notice those whose lives have been ‘watered down,’ who have lost – or have been robbed of – reasons for celebrating.”

“Let us be attentive, then, to all situations of injustice and to new forms of exploitation that risk making so many of our brothers and sisters miss the joy of the party.”

Pope Francis celebrated Mass on the morning of his last day in Chile, before flying to Peru to begin the second part of his Jan. 15-22 trip to the two South American countries.

The Mass was held on the Lobito beach in the northern Chilean town of Iquique, which is bordered by the Atacama Desert to the east, and the Pacific Ocean to the west.

In his homily, Francis reflected on the story of the Wedding at Cana, relating the festivity of that occasion to the “festive spirit” with which northern Chileans live out their faith.

“I have come as a pilgrim to join you in celebrating this beautiful way of living the faith,” he said. “Your patronal feasts, your religious dances – which at times go on for a week – your music, your dress, all make this region a shrine of popular piety.”

He also pointed out how the party doesn’t remain inside the Church, but that they turn “the whole town into a party.”

Quoting Pope Paul VI’s encyclical on evangelization, Evangelii Nuntiandi, Francis praised their ways of celebrating the faith and God through song and dance, which creates “interior attitudes rarely observed to the same degree elsewhere: patience, the sign of the cross in daily life, detachment, openness to others, devotion.”

To continue this joyful atmosphere, we can take a lesson from the actions of Mary at the wedding feast, he said. Mary, “like a good mother,” is attentive to everything going on around her and “doesn’t sit still.”

Noticing that something threatens to hamper the celebration or “water it down,” Francis said, “she approaches her Son and tells him simply: ‘They have no wine.’”

“In the same way, Mary passes through our towns, our streets, our squares, our homes and our
Hospitals… She notices all those problems that burden our hearts, then whispers into Jesus’ ear and says: Look, ‘they have no wine.’”

The Pope explained that we allow Jesus to continue this miracle when we turn our communities and hearts “into living signs of his presence, which is joyful and festive because we have experienced that God is with us, because we have learned to make room for him in our midst.”

This experience is a “contagious joy and festivity that lead us to exclude no one from the proclamation of this Good News,” he stated.

It’s also a “festive hospitality, he underlined, “for we know very well that there is no Christian joy when doors are closed; there is no Christian joy when others are made to feel unwanted, when there is no room for them in our midst.”

Love is in the air: Pope marries couple mid-flight during Chile visit

Aboard the papal plane, Jan 18, 2018 / 07:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his five years in office, Pope Francis gained a reputation for tossing protocol and embracing spontaneity. Today, he did it again with another papal first: marrying two flight attendants on board his flight from Santiago to Iquique.

According to journalists traveling with the Pope, the couple – Paula Podesta and Carlos Ciuffardi – went to the Pope during the Jan. 18 flight to ask for his blessing.

The couple told Francis they had been civilly married, but had not been able to get married in the Church because their parish was destroyed in the massive 8.8 earthquake that rocked Santiago in 2010.

In response, the Pope offered to marry them on the spot. Ignacio Cueto, owner of the airline company, LATAM, was a witness in the ceremony.

According to Ciuffardi, who spoke briefly with journalists after the ceremony, the Pope asked the couple if they were married yet, and when they explained why they hadn't been married in the Church, he said “do you want to get married?”

The Pope, Ciuffardi said, asked them “Are you sure, absolutely sure?” They said yes, gave the Pope thier rings and asked Cueto if he would be a witness. The Pope then blessed the rings, placed their hands together, offered some brief reflections and pronounced them man and wife.

The Holy Father celebrated the marriage of 39-year-old Paola Podestà Ruiz and 41-year-old Carlos Ciuffando Elorriaga, during the LATAM 1252 transfer flight from Santiago to Iquique. ????Credit: Vatican Media/CNA #FranciscoEnChile Read the full story here: https://t.co/XOOr9rR9mT pic.twitter.com/ORtfTN1TpL

— Catholic News Agency (@cnalive) January 18, 2018 According to Ciuffardi, Francis told them what happened “was historic,” because “never has a Pope married a couple on a plane.”

Referring to the rings, Francis jested that they shouldn’t be too tight, because “they would be a torture,” nor too loose, because they might lose them.

Since they didn't have an official marriage certificate to sign, Pope Francis asked the cardinals with him to draft one, so they grabbed a piece of blank copy paper and each signed their names and what role they played in the ceremony. One of the cardinals also signed as a witness.

#PopeFrancis married these flight attendants aboard the papal plane flying to Iquique, #Chile this morning.

Their wedding was canceled when an earthquake destroyed their church in Santiago in 2010.

Join us in congratulating the happy couple! #FranciscoEnChile pic.twitter.com/3pQ64oy7nP

— Catholic News Agency (@cnalive) January 18, 2018 The Pope gave the couple two rosaries, Podesta received a white rosary and Ciuffardi a black one.

The couple – who have two children, Rafaela, 6, and Isabela, 3 – said they will be traveling with the Pope to Iquique, and from there will take a different flight to another destination, and will celebrate after.  

“It was something historic, really. Very exciting. What he told us was very important: he told us 'this is the sacrament that the world needs, the sacrament of marriage. Hopefully, this will motivate couples around the world to get married’,” Ciuffardi said.

Pope marries couple on flight during Chilean trip

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT TO IQUIQUE, Chile (CNS) -- Love was literally in the air as Pope Francis performed an impromptu wedding ceremony at 36,000 feet aboard his flight in Chile.

During his flight to Iquique Jan. 18, the pope was approached by LatAm flight steward Carlos Ciuffardi Elorriaga and asked for a blessing for him and his wife, stewardess Paula Podest Ruiz.

The couple were supposed to be married in their home parish in Santiago Feb. 27, 2010. However, tragedy struck when an earthquake destroyed the church. Eight years later, they remained only civilly married.

Ciuffardi told journalists aboard the flight that, after he explained their story, he asked the pope for their blessing.

At that moment, the pope surprised the couple with offering to marry them right there on the plane.

Ciuffardi said he asked his boss and owner of LatAm airline, Ignacio Cueto, to be his best man.

The pope was on his way from Santiago, Chile, to Iquique before heading to Peru later in the day.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Pro-life Canadians concerned by Trudeau's abortion ideology litmus test

Ottawa, Canada, Jan 18, 2018 / 03:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A litmus test on abortion and recent comments from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have been slammed by Catholic and conservative critics, and raise new and troubling questions for pro-life Canadians about the state of religious freedom in their country.

In a speech last week, Trudeau defended a policy requiring grant applicants to state their support of abortion. He said that while individuals are free privately to hold pro-life beliefs, there is a difference between freedom of expression and freedom of action.

“Defending rights and freedoms is at the core of who I am and is the core of what Canada is,” he said. “At the same time, we need to know there is a difference between freedom of expression and acting on those freedoms.”

Furthermore, Trudeau added that pro-life groups which explicitly oppose abortion are “not in line with where we are as a government and, quite frankly, where we are at as a society.”

Trudeau was defending new guidelines of application for a government grant that funds around 70,000 non-profit and for-profit summer jobs, such as camp counseling or landscaping.

Among the new requirements for employers applying for the grants is an “attestation” that the employer is “consistent with individual human rights in Canada, Charter rights and case law, and the Government of Canada’s commitment to human rights, which include women’s rights and women’s reproductive rights, and the rights of gender-diverse and transgender Canadians.”

The requirement has been criticized by Catholics and conservatives in the country as a litmus test for Liberal party ideology that would unfairly and unnecessarily exclude pro-life groups from participating in the grant program, which is not directly related to abortion or reproductive services.

Sara Francis, a Catholic wife and mother from Calgary, told CNA she was “very disappointed with our prime minister and his comments.”

“I think if you were to talk to everyday Canadians on the street, the majority would be uncomfortable with abortion at some point in the nine-month gestation. I don’t think that his comments represent the majority, I think he’s the one that’s out of touch with Canadian values,” she said.

For Francis, the policy could directly impact the Catholic summer camp to which she sends her children, by disqualifying the group from funding for their summer staff.

In a statement released last week, the Canadian bishops blasted the attestation on abortion and transgender issues as an “obvious and regrettable infringement of freedom of conscience and religion” for the groups applying for the grant.

“Faith communities consider abortion, sexual orientation, and gender identity or expression as major questions with ethical, moral, social and personal bearing which determine our understanding of human dignity and thus appreciation for the meaning and significance of each and every human life,” the bishops said.

“This new policy conflicts directly with the right to freedom of religion and conscience which too are enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as in associated case law. It seriously undermines the right to religious freedom since the Government of Canada is directly limiting the right of religious traditions to hold, teach and practise their principles and values in public,” they added.

Neil MacCarthy, director of communications for the Diocese of Toronto, said everyone should be included in a pluralistic society and not discriminated against because of their views.

“We certainly believe that core values of our faith, including the sanctity of life, should not preclude us from discussion and engagement in the public square. We must do so respectfully and thoughtfully but certainly, ours is a country with citizens holding a variety of views on a number of different topics,” he told CNA.

“We need to be part of the dialogue. It is difficult to see how caring for the most vulnerable among us at every stage of life would clash with Canadian society and values,” he added.

In an opinion column for the National Post, Father Raymond J. de Souza further noted that the policy is a deliberate act of discrimination by the government, which tried and failed to block pro-life groups from the grant last year only to double down this year.

“Last year the federal Liberals denied the applications of several pro-life groups because, well, the Liberal Party bans pro-life Canadians for running for office under its banner and concluded that if you can’t be a good Liberal then obviously you should be disqualified from public programs,” de Souza wrote.

But because there was nothing in the program guidelines requiring applicants to support abortion, the discriminated groups took the government to court and won, de Souza noted.

Demanding “coerced” assent to certain positions is “the hallmark of a totalitarian government,” de Souza added.

“Demand public displays of ideological loyalty, even from those who everyone knows do not really believe it. That the totalitarian ethos, a cabinet minister who advises pastors to make false statements to qualify for programs their own parishioners pay taxes to fund,” he said.

The Toronto Right to Life Association, a pro-life group which has received funding from the grant in the past, is suing over the new policy.

The Catholic Civil Rights League noted in a statement that as the policy currently stands, no Catholic group could in good conscience apply for the grant, and called for change.

“Any Catholic individual or organization, which professes fidelity to the teachings of the Church, cannot make this affirmation, and is thereby excluded from a program which should be open to all law-abiding organizations,” the statement said.

“We call upon the government to revoke this unconstitutional and deeply offensive provision immediately,” said the League. “Canadians of all faiths must recognize what is at stake.”

The Catholic Register in Canada reported that numerous Christian groups have joined Catholic groups in voicing opposition to the measure. The Catholic bishops have advised groups applying for the grant to do so by paper application, in order to avoid automated exclusion from the program, and to explain their pro-life position in writing.

Venezuelan bishops accused of “hate crimes”

Caracas, Venezuela, Jan 18, 2018 / 12:00 am (CNA).- The President of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, called for an investigation of two bishops accused of committing “hate crimes” in homilies they gave on the Feast of the Divine Shepherdess, Jan. 14, a popular Marian feast day in the country.

On Monday, the Venezuelan president gave a speech before the Constitutional Assembly asking the Supreme Court of Justice, the Comptroller's Office and the Public Prosecutor's Office to investigate the Archbishop of Barquisimeto, Antonio López Castillo; and the Bishop of San Felipe, Víctor Hugo Basabe.

Venezuela’s El Nacional reports that the bishops “cried out for the end of hunger and corruption” in their homilies. Bishop Basabe made reference to a “corrupt plague” causing starvation in the country, and Archbishop Castillo prayed the country would be saved from corruption, according to the report.

In his speech, Maduro said that “a devil comes in a cassock to call for violent confrontations, to call for civil war…and I thank the people of the state of Lara who alerted me to this filth, because I really don't listen to [the bishops]. We don't listen to those bandits.”

Maduro’s allegations came just days after the Venezuelan bishops’ conference called for international monitors to oversee the country’s 2018 presidential elections, calling the Constitutional Assembly controlled by Maduro “unconstitutional and illegitimate.”

Archbishop Castillo told reporters Tuesday that he had received a phone call of support from Pope Francis, according to a report from El Impulso.

“We received Pope Francis' message and he supports us as well as the people of Venezuela,” he said.

Bishop Basabe responded to Maduro's accusations through a letter obtained by ACI Prensa--CNA's Spanish language sister agency. Basabe stated that his “conscience in no way reproaches him” because his “only crime seems to be serving the truth.”

“Mr. Maduro has put in my mouth words I never said. How sad it is  that a national public official would so scandalously lie in front of the whole country on National Teacher's Day. What's worse is he accuses me committing a crime while he commits one himself,” the bishop said.

“I knew that my words would upset those who deep down in their consciences know they are responsible for the tragedy that this people whom I love is going through,” Basabe added.

“Here I am in my own church with my only weapons: my faith in Christ and the certainty that my life is in his hands. [My fate] is up to those who will not be pardoned by conscience or history,” he concluded.

Bishop Mario Moronta Rodriguez, vice-president of the Venezuelan bishops' conference, also repudiated Maduro's accusations. On Jan. 16, he appeared on the television program Circuito Éxitos, arguing that the accusations made against Lopez and Castillo are accusations “against the entire episcopate and the entire Catholic Church.”

“What they did was to simply make a statement reflecting everything we have been saying for a long time and it touches on a wound or sore,” he added.

Finally, he said that “when the bishops are called ‘devils in a cassock,' [Maduro] is also inciting hatred.”

“There are a lot of people going hungry. If that's calling for hatred then the dramatic nature of that law has to be changed,” he concluded.

In a Jan 16 press release, the Venezuelan bishops' conference expressed their solidarity with Lopez and Basabe, and said that President Maduro, “totally twisted the message” given by both of them, “with the purpose of claiming the bishops were committing a crime.”

“The truth about what is happening in the country was evidenced in the homilies given that day. The gestures of the thousands of parishioners present at the Mass on Venezuela Avenue showed they agreed with what they were hearing,” the statement added.

Venezuela’s hate crime law “criminalizes any demonstrations” against the government, the bishops noted.

“We exhort all the parishioners of the Archdiocese of Barquisimeto and the Diocese of San Felipe to care for your pastors, to be alert to any move against them, which could attack their human dignity,” the statement added.

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA

Knights of Columbus praise increased US aid for persecuted Iraqis

Washington D.C., Jan 17, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The federal government has pledged $55 million in aid for religious and ethnic groups that have faced ISIS persecution in Iraq’s Ninewa Province, drawing praise from the Knights of Columbus, a supporter of humanitarian efforts in the region.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced last week that the government will provide $75 million to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for aid to Iraq, including the $55 million earmarked for communities of Christians and other ethnic and religious minorities. Future contributions from USAID will depend on the success of new accountability and transparency measures at the UN, according to the announcement.

The earmarked funds will help to rebuild communities in areas of Ninewa Province previously controlled by ISIS. According to USAID, the money will be used to restore basic services, like water, sewage, and electricity, as displaced religious minorities return to the region. Most of Ninewa’s religious minorities, including the majority of its Christian population, fled Mosul over the last decade. The Yazidi population had been persecuted by ISIS, and many Yazidi women were sold into sex slavery or killed.

The province, located in the northern part of Iraq, contains the city of Mosul, an ISIS stronghold until July of 2017, when it was decimated in the Battle of Mosul, which ousted ISIS and liberated the city.  Mosul has still not recovered from the battle, which lasted for more than nine months.

Last year, speaking at the In Defense of Christians summit, Vice President Mike Pence promised to provide assistance for Christian communities in the Middle East that were at risk of being wiped out.

Carl Anderson, CEO of the Knights of Columbus issued a statement Wednesday saying that the group is “grateful” for the increased funding, and that they look forward to continue collaboration with NGOs and government agencies to support Christians and other groups persecuted by ISIS.

“We are grateful for the actions of the American government in this regard, and look forward to continuing to work with our government and those affected by the genocide to ensure that needed relief reaches those most in need, and that these communities survive for generations to come,” the statement read.

The Knights also praised the funding increase, saying that the United States is now treating the genocide of Christians in the Middle East in a manner similar to other genocides, and will help to continue to weaken ISIS’ influence in the area.

“In addition, the U.S. government's actions bring America's foreign aid into line with our country's response to previous genocides and will also help defeat ISIS' overall strategy of eliminating minorities from the Middle East,” Anderson said.

In August 2017, the Knights of Columbus pledged more than $2 million to rebuild the Christian town of Karamdes, which was decimated by ISIS.  The group has raised more than $11 million to support Christian refugees, especially in Iraq and Syria.  In 2016, the Knights, in partnership with In Defense of Christians, led a successful effort to persuade the US government to designate ISIS persecution of Christians and other minorities a genocide.
 

 

New Los Angeles ministry aims to help families of the imprisoned

Los Angeles, Calif., Jan 17, 2018 / 04:49 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Families with loved ones in prison are feeling isolated, and a new initiative of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles is setting out to change that.

Deacon Paulino Juarez and Deacon Louis Roche, both of the archdiocese, have headed up a new ministry that reaches out to families of the incarcerated and raises awareness in local communities of the suffering and challenges that these families face.

“I was a chaplain for 19 years, and during this time I saw all of these troubles of the inmates and their families, too, because sometimes they really don’t have any support – not just from official agencies and offices in the county, but also sometimes from the Church and their communities,” Deacon Juarez told CNA.

“They are isolated and rejected. After all of these years, we decided to do something to support these families and create a place where they feel welcomed,” Juarez continued.

The new program, which is part of the Archdiocese’s Office of Life, Justice and Peace, was launched Jan. 12 with a blessing which took place at the pastoral center of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in North Hollywood.

The parish’s associate pastor, Fr. Jeff Baker, led the blessing and opening ceremony for the Ministry of Assistance to the Families of the Incarcerated. The program reaches out to families in the counties of Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and Ventura.

According to Deacon Roche, the ministry takes place every Friday, where families of the incarcerated are welcome to seek any kind of aid. Usually, these families are referred to the ministry from other parishes or chaplains, but they do not have to be Catholic to participate in the program.

“We provide these families with food, clothes, resources as far as getting them identification cards and getting them medical help. Some people need help with substance abuse, so we are trying to pair these families with resources that they need,” Deacon Roche said.

“We are seeing these people face-to-face and aren’t just giving them a number to call. We are trying to take people from beginning to end and making sure we see results. It’s not about quantity, it’s about quality, and getting these people what they really need,” Roche continued.

In addition, Juarez said that part of their goal is to “break the cycle.” Because some of the inmates have children, the ministry is also trying to put the kids through school, so they have better opportunities in the future.

Both deacons have found that the majority of these families suffer greatly from isolation and rejection, and are really looking for a community of support.

“The day that we did the opening, one of the mothers of a man who had just been sentenced to the death penalty shared with me her experience of going to his church with her daughters. When people realized who she was, they moved from the pews,” Juarez said.

“They really feel not welcomed, and this was the kind of experience that they had on a daily basis. We want to stop that – we want to create consciousness within the community that these people are suffering, too.”

Roche stated he believes that “It’s part of our responsibility to take the needs of the people to church. We want to make progress and to make sure these people are getting what they need,” Roche said.

People of faith, especially Catholics, have the responsibility to put their faith into action, Juarez noted. When suffering people in the church community feel like outsiders, then he said it becomes the Christian’s duty to help them.

“The Gospel – the Good News – is for everyone. This is what Jesus did – he looked for people on the outside,” Juarez said.

While the LA ministry has only been running for a short time, the deacons have seen an overwhelming response, saying there is a universal need for this particular service.

“We would like to invite more dioceses into this ministry. We just started, but we already know that in every parish there are families who are in this situation,” Juarez said.

“There really is a need for this ministry and to take sensibility to the community that these people exist, that they are suffering, that they are our brothers and sisters, and we should do something for them.”

Christ statue in Peru suffers smoke damage

Lima, Peru, Jan 17, 2018 / 04:38 pm (ACI Prensa).- Last weekend, just days before Pope Francis' visit to Peru, a fire was set that damaged part of Cristo del Pacifico, a 120 foot tall statue located in Lima, the nation's capital.

According to RPP News, five fire department units responded and put out the fire Jan. 13, which caused noticeable smoke damage to the back part the the statue.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="es" dir="ltr">Incendiaron el Cristo del Pacífico o “Cristo de lo Robado”, no sufrió daños de consideración. <a href="https://t.co/85fqMbN0nf">pic.twitter.com/85fqMbN0nf</a></p>&mdash; Mona Paredes (@monaparedes) <a href="https://twitter.com/monaparedes/status/952148963485978624?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">January 13, 2018</a></blockquote>
<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

“So far the motive leading to the incident is unknown; but the theory has come up that this may have been done  because of Pope Francis's upcoming visit,” RPP stated.

Cristo del Pacifico is a 70 feet tall sculpture set on a 50 foot base and can be seen from several areas of the capital. It was dedicated June 29, 2011.

 

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Peace and progress start with education, Francis says at Chilean university

Santiago, Chile, Jan 17, 2018 / 03:31 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Speaking to Chilean university students and academics Wednesday, Pope Francis said Catholic educational institutions play a prophetic role in helping future generations tackle problems with an integrated, inclusive approach.

“In our day, the mission entrusted to you is prophetic,” the Pope said Jan. 17 to a crowd of  some 2,400 students and academics at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile in Santiago. “You are challenged to generate processes that enlighten contemporary culture by proposing a renewed humanism that eschews every form of reductionism.”

This prophetic role on the part of Catholic universities is a key motive in seeking out “ever new spaces for dialogue rather than confrontation,” he said.

These spaces, he added, must be occasions “of encounter rather than division, paths of friendly disagreement that allow for respectful differences between persons joined in a sincere effort to advance as a community towards a renewed national coexistence.”

The meeting marks the last event for the day, and is part of his Jan. 15-18 visit to Chile, after which he will visit Peru Jan. 18-21.

In his speech, the Pope said Chilean Saint Alberto Hurtado, SJ, who studied at the university, is a prime example of how “intelligence, academic excellence and professionalism, when joined to faith, justice and charity, far from weakening, attain a prophetic power capable of opening horizons and pointing the way, especially for those on the margins of society.”

He then noted how the rector of the university, Dr Ignacio Sánchez, had said there are “important challenges” in Chile which deal with “peaceful coexistence as a nation and the ability to progress as a community.”

On the topic of peaceful coexistence as a nation, Pope Francis said even speaking of challenges is a sign that certain situations “need to be rethought.”

“The accelerated pace and a sense of disorientation before new processes and changes in our societies call for a serene but urgent reflection that is neither naïve nor utopian, much less arbitrary,” he said.

Peace as a nation is possible to the extent that educational processes are transformative, inclusive, and favor coexistence, the Pope maintained.

This doesn't mean simply attaching values to educational work, but rather implies means “establishing a dynamic of coexistence internal to the very system of education itself. It is not so much a question of content but of teaching how to think and reason in an integrated way.”

For this “mental formation” to happen, Francis said an “integrating literacy” is needed which can help students process the rapid changes happening in society.

This literacy, he said, must integrate know how to integrate and harmonize the various “languages” which “constitute us as persons”: the “intellect (the head), affections (the heart) and activity (the hands).”

Following this approach will allow students to grow not only on a personal level, but also at the level of society, he said, which is important since “we urgently need to create spaces where fragmentation is not the guiding principle, even for thinking. To do this, it is necessary to teach how to reflect on what we are feeling and doing; to feel what we are thinking and doing; to do what we are thinking and feeling. An interplay of capacities at the service of the person and society.”

The Pope noted the importance of the unity of knowledge against the fragmentation of fields, saying, “The 'divorce' of fields of learning from languages, and illiteracy with regard to integrating the distinct dimensions of life, bring only fragmentation and social breakdown.”

He noted that in our “liquid” society, borrowing a phrase from the late Polish sociologist and philosopher Zygmunt Bauman, “those points of reference that people use to build themselves individually and socially are disappearing.”

“It seems that the new meeting place of today is the 'cloud', which is characterized by instability since everything evaporates and thus loses consistency,” he said.

The Pope said that “This lack of consistency may be one of the reasons for the loss of a consciousness of the importance of public life, which requires a minimum ability to transcend private interests (living longer and better) in order to build upon foundations that reveal that crucial dimension of our life which is 'us'.”

“Without that consciousness, but especially without that feeling and consequently without that experience, it is very difficult to build the nation. As a result, the only thing that appears to be important and valid is what pertains to the individual, and all else becomes irrelevant. A culture of this sort has lost its memory, lost the bonds that support it and make its life possible,” he said.

“Without the 'us' of a people, of a family and of a nation, but also the 'us' of the future, of our children and of tomorrow, without the 'us' of a city that transcends 'me' and is richer than individual interests, life will be not only increasingly fragmented, but also more conflictual and violent.”

“The university, in this context, is challenged to generate within its own precincts new processes that can overcome every fragmentation of knowledge and stimulate a true universitas.”

On progressing as a community, the Pope pointed to the university's chaplaincy program, which he said is a sign of “a young, lively Church that 'goes forth'.”

This same mentality has to be present in universities, he said, noting that classic forms of research are now “experiencing certain limits,” which means modern-day culture requires new forms that are more inclusive “of all those who make up social and hence educational realities.”

A great challenge for the university's community, then, “is to not isolate itself from modes of knowledge, or, for that matter, to develop a body of knowledge with minimal concern about those for whom it is intended.”

Rather, “it is vital that the acquisition of knowledge lead to an interplay between the university classroom and the wisdom of the peoples who make up this richly blessed land,” Francis said, adding that education has to extend beyond the classroom and to “be continually challenged to participation.”

Francis then pointed to the need for an education that emphasizes both quality and integration, saying the service that universities offer must always aim for excellence when it comes to national coexistence.

“In this way, we could say that the university becomes a laboratory for the future of the country, insofar as it succeeds in embodying the life and progress of the people, and can overcome every antagonistic and elitist approach to learning.”

The Pope warned against a kind of knowledge that seeks to subject nature to its own “designs and desires,” citing a warning against this from the 20th century kabbalist Gershom Scholem. He said that “to reduce creation to certain interpretative models that deprive it of the very Mystery that has moved whole generations to seek what is just, good, beautiful and true” will “will always be a subtle temptation in every academic setting.”

“Whenever a 'professor', by virtue of his wisdom, becomes a 'teacher', he is then capable of awakening wonderment in our students,” Pope Francis said. “Wonderment at the world and at an entire universe waiting to be discovered!”

The mission entrusted to the university, then, is prophetic, he said, and closed his speech asking the Holy Spirit to guide the steps of everyone present, so that the university is able continue “to bear fruit for the good of the Chilean people and for the glory of God.”