Pope Francis’ powerful signal to the poor

Raul A. Reyes is an attorney and member of the USA Today board of contributors. Follow him on Twitter @RaulAReyes. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN)On Saturday, thousands gathered in El Salvador to celebrate a jubilant moment in their country’s history. In a special ceremony held in the capital city of San Salvador, former Archbishop Oscar Romero was beatified, putting him one step closer to sainthood.

 Raul Reyes

 Raul Reyes

The beatification of Romero is welcome news for El Salvador, Latin America and the Roman Catholic Church. It is overdue recognition of a humble man who was not afraid to speak out on behalf of oppressed people. Plus, it is further evidence of Pope Francis’ commitment to reforming the church.

Romero was an unlikely social crusader. He had a middle-class upbringing and was regarded as conservative when he became archbishop. But after a Jesuit colleague was killed by a death squad in 1977, Romero became outspoken against the country’s repressive regime.

He often ended his homilies, which were broadcast on the radio, with a recitation of the week’s disappearances, decapitations and murders. One month before he was killed, Romero wrote to then-President Jimmy Carter and asked him to stop supporting El Salvador’s government. On the day before he was killed, he appealed to Salvadoran soldiers to stop killing their fellow citizens.

Such acts led the political establishment to unfairly label Romero as a revolutionary and a radical. Then on March 24, 1980, he was murdered. His death helped propel the country into a civil war that lasted for 12 years and claimed the lives of over 75,000 civilians.

Now Romero’s beatification serves as a rebuke to charges by El Salvador’s elites that that he was a subversive, a communist or a Marxist.

Romero was none of these things. He was a man who lived his conscience by speaking out against injustice. His impassioned calls for peace are still relevant in the age of ISIS and Boko Haram. And his activism could serve as an inspiration to people of all faiths who are fighting for human rights, whether they are in Central America, Ferguson or Baltimore.

The fact that Pope Francis facilitated Romero’s beatification is notable.

In the Roman Catholic Church, a person was traditionally declared a martyr if they died for refusing to renounce their faith. But earlier this year, Francis declared Romero a martyr for dying “in hatred of the faith.” The Pope said, in effect, that a person could become a martyr for dying because of others’ hatred for their Gospel-inspired work. This move cements Romero’s legacy as a spiritual — rather than political — figure.

Romero’s beatification also reflects Francis’ interest in creating “a church that is poor and for the poor.” Consider that he has revived interest in “liberation theology,” a Latin American movement that places special emphasis on serving the poor. Or that the beatification process has started for Latin Americans such as Father Rutilio Grande, whose killing inspired Romero’s social justice work, and Bishop Enrique Angelelli, who died in a suspicious car crash in Argentina.


Holy Profits: It turns out Pope Francis is an ace at financial turnarounds


Pope Francis has brought the Vatican Bank back to life.

Profits have skyrocketed at the overseer of the Vatican’s vast finances, as the holy bank recovers from a series of financial scandals that spurred a complete overhaul of the bank.

Formally known as the Institute for the Works of Religion, the bank oversees more than €6 billion  ($6.5 billion) of assets from Catholic institutions, employees and pensioners of the Vatican, and other purveyors of charitable works. It said Monday (May 25) its net profit shot up to €69 million ($76 million) in 2014 from just €2.9 million ($3.2 million) the year before. 

The profits mark a turning point for the beleaguered bank.

When Pope Francis took over leadership of the bank (which is run by 6 cardinals and other governing board members that report to the Pope), it was beset by a series of scandals that included money laundering, fraud, and criminal activity involving major Italian companies, and resulted in the resignation of the bank’s director and other top officials. While many Vatican leaders have attempted to right the financial ship over the years, Francis has proved the most aggressive.

Under his leadership, the bank has restructured the financial office. It named new directors and began implementing new international accounting standards. It tightened criteria around who could use the bank, shutting down shady accounts and screening the people it served to comply with global anti-money laundering policies.

While the Pope finally seems to be getting the Vatican’s financial house in order, it’ll be up to his holiness to keep the efforts toward more accountability, honesty, and transparency in high gear.


Taken from: http://qz.com/412142/it-turns-out-pope-francis-is-an-ace-at-financial-turnarounds/

Pope Francis: let Jesus’ gaze change our hearts

Image result for gaze of Jesus

Pope Mass – OSS_ROM

22/05/2015 12:42


Taking his inspiration from the day’s readings, Pope Francis’ homily was a reflection on the three different types of looks which Jesus gave to the Apostle Peter. He said these three different looks were one of choosing, one of forgiveness and one of mission.
The Pope recalled how according to the gospel reading the apostle Andrew told his brother Peter that they had found the Messiah and took him to see Jesus. Christ looked at him and said “You are Simon, son of John. You will be called Peter (Cephas) which means Rock.” He said Peter was enthusiastic after that first look from Jesus and wanted to follow our Lord.

Moving ahead to the night before Jesus’ crucifixion, Pope Francis recalled how Peter disowned him three times and when Jesus turned and looked straight at him after that third denial, Peter wept.
“The gospel of Luke says: ‘He wept bitterly.’ That earlier enthusiasm about following Jesus had turned to grief, because he had sinned: He denied that he knew Jesus.That look (by Jesus) changed Peter’s heart, more than before. The first change was being given a new name and a new vocation.
That second look was a gaze that changed his heart and it’s a change of conversion to love.”
The Pope said the third look that Jesus gave Peter was one of mission when he asked three times for a confirmation that Peter loved him and urged him to feed his sheep. He noted how the gospel recounts that Peter was hurt when Jesus asked him that question a third time.
“Hurt because Jesus asked him for the third time ‘Do you love me?’ and he said: ‘Lord, You know everything: You know I love you.’ Jesus replied: ‘Feed my sheep.’ This was the third look, a look of mission.  The first, a look of choosing, with the enthusiasm of following Jesus: the second, a look of repentance at the time of that very grave sin of having disowned Jesus: the three look is one of mission: ‘Feed my lambs,’ ‘Look after my sheep,’ ‘Feed my sheep.’”
Pope Francis urged his listeners to re-read that dialogue with the Lord and think about Jesus’ gaze on us.
“We too can reflect: what look is Jesus giving me today?  How is Jesus looking at me?  With a call? With a pardon? With a mission? But on the path He created, all of us are being looked at by Jesus.
He always looks at us with love.  He asks us something, he forgives us for something and he gives us a mission.  Jesus is now coming on the altar.  May each one of us think: ‘Lord, You are here, among us.  Fix your gaze on me and tell me what I must do: how I must repent for my mistakes, my sins; what courage do I need to go forward on the path that You first created.”
Listen to this report by Susy Hodges: 

Pope Francis calls Palestinians’ Abbas ‘angel of peace’

Pope Francis with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. 16 May 2015

Pope Francis has met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the Vatican, calling him “an angel of peace”.
The Pope made the remark as he presented the Palestinian leader with a medallion.
President Abbas is visiting the Vatican for the canonisation of two 19th-Century Palestinian nuns on Sunday.
His visit came days after the Vatican said it would formally recognise Palestinian statehood in a treaty.
The treaty states that the Holy See favours a two-state solution to the conflict with Israel and allows the Vatican to oversee aspects of Roman Catholic life in the areas President Abbas controls.
Israel expressed disappointment with the treaty, which uses the term “Palestinian state”.

Civil rights

The BBC’s David Willey in Rome says that after 20 minutes of private talks, Pope Francis gave Mr Abbas the medallion depicting an angel of peace adding: “It is appropriate because you are an angel of peace.”Image result for angel of peace fatima
Correspondents say the Vatican is keen to protect the property and civil rights of the Catholic Church in the Palestinian territories.
The Vatican’s move also comes amid growing momentum to recognise Palestinian statehood.
Over the past year the European Parliament as well as the UK, Republic of Ireland, Spain and France have all passed non-binding motions in favour.
Sweden has gone further, officially recognising Palestine as a state.
The moves have been criticised by Israel, which says recognition of statehood in this way discourages Palestinians from resuming talks on a final status agreement.
Taken from: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-32769752