Pope establishes World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis announced the establishment of a World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly as a reminder of the important role they play as a link between generations.

During his Sunday Angelus address Jan. 31, the pope said the day will be celebrated every year on the fourth Sunday of July to coincide with the feast of Sts. Joachim and Anne, Jesus’ grandparents. The first celebration of this day will be July 25.

“It is important for grandparents to meet their grandchildren and for grandchildren to meet their grandparents because — as the prophet Joel says — grandparents, before their grandchildren, will dream and have great desires, and young people — taking strength from their grandparents — will go forward and prophesy,” he said.

Highlighting the Feb. 2 feast of the Presentation of the Lord, the pope said the recognition of Christ as the Messiah by the elderly Simeon and Anna is a reminder that “the Holy Spirit still stirs up thoughts and words of wisdom in the elderly today.”

“Their voice is precious because it sings the praises of God and safeguards the roots of peoples,” he said. “They remind us that old age is a gift and that grandparents are the link between generations, passing on the experience of life and faith to the young.”

“Grandparents are often forgotten and we forget this wealth of preserving roots and passing on,” he added.

In a statement published shortly after the pope’s announcement, Cardinal Kevin J. Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life, said the yearly event was “a gift to the whole church” that emphasizes the pastoral care of the elderly as “a priority that can no longer be postponed by any Christian community.”

“In the encyclical, ‘Fratelli Tutti,’ the Holy Father reminds us that no one is saved alone. With this in mind, we must treasure the spiritual and human wealth that has been handed down from generation to generation,” he said.

Cardinal Farrell added that “today, more than ever, we are committed to making every effort to dismantle the throwaway culture and to enhance the charisms of grandparents and the elderly.”

The dicastery said Pope Francis will mark the first World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly July 25 with an evening Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. However, the Mass will be “subject to sanitary regulations in place at the time.”

“Closer to the world day, the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life will announce any further initiatives that will mark the event,” the statement said. “As of now, the dicastery is inviting parishes and dioceses around the world to celebrate this world day at the local level in ways that are suited to their pastoral context.”

Inspired by Gospel, Christians need to be active in society, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The mission of the church and of all Christians is to proclaim and live the Gospel in daily life, Pope Francis said.

“Each one of us, by virtue of baptism, is called to be an active presence in society, inspiring it with the Gospel and with the lifeblood of the Holy Spirit,” he said.

Before reciting the Angelus prayer Oct. 18, the pope reflected on the day’s Gospel reading (Mt 22:15-21) in which the Pharisees sought to trap Jesus with the question about whether it was lawful to pay a tax to Caesar, the leader of the Roman Empire, which had control over the Mediterranean region.

Aware of the Pharisees’ evil intentions, Jesus asked them to observe whose image was on the coin and because it was Caesar’s, he said, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

Pope Francis said this shows how Jesus not only avoided their trap but also describes “the criteria for the distinction between the political sphere and the religious sphere, and gives clear guidelines for the mission of all believers for all times, also for us today.”

“Paying taxes is a duty for all citizens, just as is complying with the just laws of a nation,” he said.

But at the same time, “it is necessary to affirm God’s primacy in human life and in history, respecting God’s right over that which belongs to him,” the pope said.

Christians are asked to be engaged in society “with humility and, at the same time, with courage, making their contribution to building the civilization of love, where justice and fraternity reign.”

The pope prayed Mary would help “all of us to flee from all hypocrisy and to be honest and constructive citizens. And may she sustain us, disciples of Christ, in the mission to bear witness that God is the center and the meaning of life.”

After the formal prayer, Pope Francis reminded everyone that the church was celebrating World Mission Sunday, a day on which Catholics are asked to show their support of missionaries around the world through prayer, reflection and material contributions.

He also expressed his joy and gratitude for the liberation of Father Pierluigi Maccalli, a member of the Society of African Missions, who had been kidnapped in Niger in 2018. He and three other hostages were released in Mali after being held captive for more than two years.

Pope Francis said, “Let us keep praying for missionaries and catechists and also for those who are persecuted or abducted in different parts of the world.”

Cologne cardinal warns German church’s Synodal Path could cause schism

German Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki of Cologne, pictured in a file photo, has praised small-group discussions in the Synodal Path process but warns some plans could lead to a “German national church.” CNS photo/Harald Oppitz, KNA

COLOGNE, Germany (CNS) — Cologne Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki warned that the Synodal Path reform project could lead to a “German national church.”

“The worst outcome would be if the Synodal Path leads to a schism … with the universal church,” Cardinal Woelki told Germany’s Catholic News Agency, KNA. “That would be the worst thing if something like a German national church were to be created here.”

KNA reported that Cardinal Woelki also praised the most recent discussions within the Synodal Path, held in five regional conferences due to the coronavirus pandemic. Smaller groups of participants permitted a better exchange of arguments than would have been possible in the originally planned Synodal Assembly, Cardinal Woelki said.

The Catholic Church in Germany launched the Synodal Path in 2019. Scheduled to run for two years, it is debating the issues of power, sexual morality, priestly existence and the role of women in the church. The aim is to restore trust lost in the clergy abuse scandal.

But the cardinal urged participants to avoid creating “unfulfillable hopes” regarding the ordination of women priests. This would cause frustration, he told KNA, because the issue had been decided by St. John Paul II.

“I cannot treat it as if the question were open,” the cardinal said. “In that case, the discussion takes place outside the teaching of the church.”

As pope, in 1994, St. John Paul reaffirmed that the church does not have the authority to confer priestly ordination on women and declared that this teaching is to be definitively held by all the faithful.

Cardinal Woelki criticized the theological standard of some of the working papers prepared for the Synodal Path and said, “The whole world is looking at the church in Germany and at this Synodal Path right now, so we can’t just permit ourselves to embarrass ourselves theologically through ineptitude.”

He urged theologians in and outside the Synodal Path talks to become more involved in the debate.

Cardinal Woelki also expressed the hope that the process would succeed in “initiating a true reform, which is definitely needed in the church.”

This reform, he said, must “correct all manifestations and realities that have led away from the nature of the church.” It was about understanding the church not as a “purely sociological entity,” but rather about understanding “that it is the work of God.” The goal of any reform of the church must be to move toward Christ and his message, he said.

Many Catholics no longer knew “who Christ is, what the church is, they no longer know what a sacrament is, what the sacramental structure of the church is,” the cardinal said.

The Catholic weekly newspaper Die Tagespost reported Sept. 17 that 53% of German Catholics said they were not interested in the Synodal Path. The lack of interest among Germans as a whole was greater at 63%, with 11% saying they were interested and 17% undecided.

More than 2,000 adults were interviewed for the survey from Sept. 11-14.

Central American bishops: ‘We all must get involved’ during pandemic

A child reacts before health workers take of a swab test for the coronavirus in San Jose, Costa Rica, June 26, 2020. CNS photo/Juan Carlos Ulate, Reuters

MEXICO CITY (CNS) — Central America’s bishops have urged their governments and people to join together to provide health care and protect lives as the COVID-19 pandemic heaps misery and economic consequences on one of the poorer parts of the hemisphere.

In a July 5 statement, the episcopal secretariat of Central America, known by its Spanish acronym as SEDAC, referenced Pope Francis’ admonishment, “We can only get out of this situation together as a whole humanity,” and added: “We’re all in the same boat. No one should be forgotten. We all must get involved. Governments and citizens must join together in a common effort in favor of health and people’s lives.”

“We all must comply with the health security measures to protect the lives of our brothers and sisters,” a reference to the calls for lifting quarantines and reopening churches, even as the pandemic continues claiming lives. The statement was signed by the secretariat’s president, Archbishop Jose Luis Escobar Alas, and its secretary-general, Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chavez — both of San Salvador, El Salvador.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused hardship in Central America, where poverty afflicts many and forced quarantines have denied millions a way to make ends meet. It’s also exposed shortcomings in underfunded and underequipped health systems, left unprepared by neglect and corruption.

Adding to the misery, Tropical Storm Amanda deluged El Salvador in June, claiming at least 27 lives, destroying an estimated 30,000 homes and wiping out crops.

“To the families affected by these tragedies” — the pandemic and tropical storm — “we express our closeness and solidarity,” the bishops said. “The church has worked to be present in order to help alleviate the pain and communicate hope.”

Pope Francis, the bishops continued, “has exhorted (us) to care for our common home. That’s to say, the environment in which we are developing our lives. Precisely, the pandemic that we are suffering has its roots in the ecological imbalance caused by the gravely irresponsible attitude of man.”

They also asked people to heed the pope’s call to reflect on his environmental encyclical, “Laudato Si’,” saying, “We are convinced that it is a priority to see the construction of a new model of development based in the dignity of each person and care of the environment.”

The pandemic has impacted each of the six Central American countries served by the secretariat differently, but often severely. In Costa Rica, which had been seen as a model in its initial pandemic response, community spread of the coronavirus has started, according to a July 3 statement from the Costa Rican bishops’ conference.

“We manifest the grave moral responsibility, derived from the faith, to care for our own health and the health of others … (and) faithfully observe the decrees and sanitary measures that the health authorities have told us from the start of the crisis,” the Costa Rican bishops said.

In Nicaragua, the Sandinista government had downplayed the seriousness of COVID-19 and even thwarted church-sponsored health initiatives.

“We express total solidarity with the Catholic Church in Nicaragua for its great concern and generous actions in favor of the health and the lives of the beloved Nicaraguan people,” the Central American bishops said.