Pope Francis to Ethiopian Patriarch: Martyrs seed of Christian unity

2016-02-29 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis urged world leaders to “promote peaceful coexistence” in the face of “a devastating outbreak of violence against Christians” on Monday, when he received the Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, Pope Matthias I, in the Vatican.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church is the largest of the Oriental Orthodox Churches, which rejected the definitions of the Council of Chalcedon in AD 451.
Listen to our report: 
In his address, Pope Francis told Pope Matthias I “what unites us is greater than what divides us,” and added that “shared sufferings have enabled Christians, otherwise divided in so many ways, to grow closer to one another.”
“Just as in the early Church the shedding of the blood of martyrs became the seed of new Christians, so today the blood of the many martyrs of all the Churches has become the seed of Christian unity,” Pope Francis said. “The ecumenism of the martyrs is a summons to us, here and now, to advance on the path to ever greater unity.”
Pope Francis noted that “from the beginning” the Ethiopian Church has been a Church of martyrs.

“Today too, you are witnessing a devastating outbreak of violence against Christians and other minorities in the Middle East and in some parts of Africa,” Pope Francis said. “We cannot fail, yet again, to implore those who govern the world’s political and economic life to promote a peaceful coexistence based on reciprocal respect and reconciliation, mutual forgiveness and solidarity.”

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Taken from: http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-francis-to-ethiopian-patriarch-martyrs-seed-o

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Pope Francis: It’s never too late for conversion

By Ann Schneible

.- God’s patience towards sinners is without limit, yet the time for conversion is now, Pope Francis said during his Sunday Angelus address at the Vatican.

“It is never too late to convert, but it is urgent, it is now! Let us begin today,” said the Pope Feb. 28 to the crowds in St. Peter’s Square.

Delivering his remarks before leading those present in the Marian prayer, the Pope spoke on Jesus’ “invincible patience,” explaining how God’s “unyielding concern for sinners” should provoke impatience in ourselves.

“Have you thought of God’s patience? Have you even thought of his unyielding concern for sinners, how this should provoke impatience against ourselves?”

“It is never to late to convert! Never! Up until the last moment: The patience of God who waits for us.”

Pope Francis recounted the story from St. Therese of Lisieux, who prayed for the conversion of a criminal who had been condemned to death, and had refused interventions from the priest. It was not until his final moment that he took the Crucifix held by the priest and kissed it.

“The patience of God! And he does the same with us, with all of us!” the Pope said. “And this is his mercy.”

Reflecting on the day’s readings, Pope Francis remarked how everyday newspapers report on violence and catastrophes. He tied this to the Gospel reading which refers to two tragic events of the time: the Romans sacking the temple, and the collapse of the Siloam tower in Jerusalem which killed eighteen people.

The Pope says Jesus knows his listeners are “superstitious” in interpreting such events as punishment for sins.

“Jesus definitively refutes this point of view, because God does not permit tragedies to punish sins,” he said, but “asserts that those poor victims were no worse than others.”

Rather, Jesus uses these examples as warnings that sinners will perish as these victims did if they do not repent, the Pope added, citing the Gospel.

Even today, there is the temptation to blame disasters on the victims, “or even on God himself,” the pontiff said.

However, in order to take the path of the Gospel, Jesus “calls us to change our heart, to radically make an about turn in our life, abandoning our compromises with evil,” the Pope said, citing hypocrisy as an example. “I think we all have in us a little bit of hypocrisy,” he said in an off-the-cuff remark.

Stressing the need for conversion, the Pope warned against the temptation toward self-justification: “From what do we need to convert? Are we not all good people, believers, even sufficiently practicing?”

Despite being like the fig tree which fails to produce fruit, Jesus “with limitless patience” delays killing the tree for another year, Pope Francis observed.

He reflected on the Jubilee Year of Mercy as a year of grace, the period in the Church and our lives before Christ’s “glorious return,” and which is “punctuated by a certain number of Lents which offer us opportunities for repentance and salvation.”

The Jubilee of Mercy is an Extraordinary Holy Year which officially commenced December 8 – the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception – with the opening of the Holy Door in St. Peter’s Basilica. It will close Nov. 20, 2016 with the Solemnity of Christ the King.

After the recitation of the Angelus, Pope Francis reflected on the ongoing crisis of refugees fleeing from “war and other inhumane situations.”

He especially acknowledged Greece and other countries “on the front line” for their work in offering “generous assistance” to those crossing their borders, and called on the international community for a “unanimous response” in helping distribute the weight of the crisis.

“For this reason, we need to firmly and unreservedly focus on negotiations,” he said.

The pontiff went on to welcome “with hope” the current ceasefire in Syria involving government and rebel forces, which has entered its second day.

“I invite all to pray so that this window of opportunity can give relief to the suffering people, encouraging the necessary humanitarian aid, and open the way to dialogue and much desired peace,” he said.

Pope Francis went on to extend his “closeness” to the  people of Fiji, where tropical cyclone Winston killed more than 40 people and left tens of thousands more homeless.

“I pray for the victims and for those engaged with the relief efforts.”

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Taken from: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/pope-francis-its-never-too-late-for-conversion-70124/

Meeting of the Millennium: Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill

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Pope Francis (L) addresses the audience after signing agreements with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill in Havana, February 12, 2016. (REUTERS/Alejandro Ernesto/Pool)

Unity call as Pope Francis holds historic talks with Russian Orthodox Patriarch

Pope Francis (left) and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill exchange a joint declaration on religious unity at the Jose Marti International airport in Havana, Cuba (12 February 2016)Image copyrightAP
Image captionThe two leaders exchange a joint declaration on religious unity at Marti International airport in Havana
Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill have called for restored Christian unity between the two churches at historic talks in Cuba.
The meeting was the first between a Pope and a Russian Church head since the Western and Eastern branches of Christianity split in the 11th Century.
In a joint declaration, they also urged the world to protect Christians from persecution in the Middle East.
The Pope has now arrived in Mexico for a five-day visit.
A crowd of 300,000 braved the cold in Mexico City to welcome him to the country which has the world’s second largest Catholic population.
The Pope was greeted at the airport by President Enrique Pena Nieto.

‘Churches ravaged’

The two-hour talks on Friday between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill were held at Havana airport.
Patriarch Kirill goes on to Brazil and Paraguay.
The pair embraced and kissed each other at the start of their talks.

“I’m happy to greet you, dear brother,” the Russian Church leader said.

“Finally,” the pontiff said.
At a news conference after the meeting, Kirill said the discussions were “open” and “brotherly”, while Francis described them as “very sincere”.
“We hope our meeting contributes to the re-establishment of this unity wished for by God,” their joint declaration said.
The document called on the world community to defend Christians, saying that “in many countries of the Middle East and North Africa whole families, villages and cities of our brothers and sisters in Christ are being completely exterminated.”
“Their churches are being barbarously ravaged and looted, their sacred objects profaned, their monuments destroyed.”

At the scene: BBC’s Oleg Boldyrev

In the swirl of Vatican officials and security dressed in black, Pope Francis was a lone figure in white on the heated tarmac of Havana airport as he arrived to do his part in healing one of the longest religious disputes.
Russian Patriarch Kirill had arrived shortly before. The venue was a compromise – it would be impossible to have the first such meeting in the Vatican or Moscow, and Catholic Cuba is still in the Russian sphere of influence.
Back home the Patriarch has to overcome the anger of conservatives who still consider Catholicism a deviation from true Christianity. Clearly, this is a criticism he feels safe to ignore now.
Minutes later, the Pope and the black-robed Patriarch were holding each other by the shoulders and smiling warmly. Then the leaders of Catholics and Russian Orthodox Christians sat down. It was almost business as usual.

Russian state TV described the talks between the two men as the “meeting of the millennium”.
In purely symbolic terms, this is an extraordinary moment, but it is perhaps even more significant in terms of Church diplomacy, the BBC’s Will Grant in Havana says.
Patriarch Kirill has been the head of the Russian Orthodox Church since February 2009, while Pope Francis took up his role in March 2013.
The Roman Catholic Church has more than a billion members worldwide, while the Russian Orthodox Church numbers about 165 million.
The Russian Church is the largest and most powerful in the Orthodox faith, which is made up of a number of separate churches.
The encounter in Havana is not expected to lead to any immediate rapprochement between the Eastern and Western Churches.
Ahead of the meeting, the foreign policy chief of the Russian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Illarion, said there were still differences between the two churches, in particular on western Ukraine.
One particular issue is the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, which follows eastern church rites but answers to the Holy See.
The Russian Orthodox Church has considered western Ukraine its traditional territory, resenting papal influence there.

Sun rises above Orthodox Church (left) and Catholic Church (right) in Navahrudak, Belarus. Photo: January 2016Image copyrightAP

Uneasy relations

Key dates:
  • 1054 – Mutual excommunications by Western Church leader in Rome, Pope Leo IX, and Eastern Church leader in Constantinople, Patriarch Cerularius, lead to Great Schism
  • 1274 and 1439 – Attempts to re-unite the two Churches at Councils of Lyon and Florence fail
  • 1997 – Planned meeting between Pope John Paul II and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II cancelled
Why Cuba?
  • Reportedly chosen because it is far from Rome, Istanbul and Moscow with all their historical baggage of schism
  • Two leaders can focus on main issue: how to protect Christians – both Catholic and Orthodox – in Middle East and North Africa from persecution
Thorny issue
  • Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in western Ukraine, which follows Eastern Church rites but answers to Vatican
  • Russian Orthodox Church sees western Ukraine as its traditional territory, resenting papal influence
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Taken from: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-35565085

Joseph Fiennes’ Risen Converts Bible Movie Critics with Refreshed Gospel Story

Nashville-based producer Rich Peluso is hoping to start next year off right with Risen, a New Testament period film starring Joseph Fiennes (Shakespeare in LoveLuther) and Tom Felton (Harry Potter series). The Kevin Reynolds directed project tells the story of a high-ranking Roman tribune who’s tasked with tracking down Jesus’ body after rumors spread that he’s come back to life.
Though a departure from Affirm Films’ typical contemporary fare, Peluso jumped at the chance to help bring this unique perspective of the Gospel story to the silver screen.
“I absolutely fell in love with it,” recalls Peluso, thinking of the first time he read the script forRisen back in 2007. “It was just well-crafted, just strong writing. But more importantly was that it unabashedly told the story between the crucifixion into the full-on resurrection, into the ascension and traveled with Christ into Galilee with the disciples all the way to the ascension. No one really ever tackles that. The second thing that was completely fresh about it was that most stories of Christ are told through either an omniscient point of view… or it’s through a disciples’ point of view.”

A Roman Point of View

New Testatment-inspired movies usually follow Jesus’ storyline from his perspective or that of his followers, but Risen seeks to tell a different side of the story.
“We have to think about the fact that when Jesus rose, the grave was empty. There were Romans that were there to guard it,” Peluso says. “What on earth was happening on the other side of the room that we’re not paying attention to? Something had to happen. At some point, Caiaphas had to get the news that the tomb was empty, and at some point Caiaphas had to confront Pilate with it, who’d had him killed. Pilate, who had to have sanctioned the guards at the tomb had to have been embarrassed, because his military, who’s the greatest army in the world, just failed in their job. So there are all of these political, spiritual, social dominoes that are falling….”
Risen takes the point of view of Clavius, a skeptical Roman commander serving under the rule of Pontius Pilate. In Risen, Clavius (played by Fiennes) begrudgingly investigates the disappearance of Jesus’ corpse, hoping to root out answers, only to uncover more questions.
“It’s from his story, an unbelieving, pagan, Roman, powerful man who encounters these believers and who is thrust into really the most important event in human history,” Peluso explains.
“So [Clavius] goes in with a vengeance to shut this down,” he says. “But he’s also a fair man and a judicial man, so he’s weighing the evidence. It’s kind of this collision ofThe Passion of the Christ and the sequel with CSI.”
Having played German monk and reformer Martin Luther in the 2003 film, Luther, Fiennes is no novice when it comes to working on films about Christianity. According to Peluso, Fiennes’ talent for the dramatic lends well to the layered character of Clavius.
“He’s just a powerful force on camera. He emotes love and power. He’s just something to behold on screen. He does an amazing job as Clavius,” Peluso says.

Just Another Jesus Movie?

You may be shaking your head at this point, asking yourself, “Why another Jesus movie?” Well, Peluso has an answer. He knows without a doubt that Risen offers something different, something audiences, regardless of their faith or lack thereof,want to see.
“Because of the perspective of coming in this through the eyes of a nonbeliever, it feels very comfortable for nonbelievers to try this story on like a jacket,” he says. “And that’s not just assuming it; it’s through our testing.”
Having tested the film four times, thus far, in front of large audiences, Peluso has gotten the rave reviews he wanted.
“What we’re seeing from non-Christians and those who do not regularly attend church is that they do not feel preached to. They don’t feel kind of hit over the head with Jesus or the Bible. But, they are intrigued by this man and His followers. They are intrigued by the story of what happened, the birth of Christianity and the fact that the infrastructure of Judea, both the Sanhedrin and the Jewish leadership and the Roman leadership were all about crushing this man and crushing His followers. So that automatically lends them credibility.”
“Jesus is not talking at them heavily through this movie. It’s through Clavius’ interactions with Jesus and Clavius’ interactions with the disciples that we learn of Jesus’ teachings and we learn who He is as the Son of God. And again, it all feels just so easy to try on for the unchurched.”
From believers, there was one, unifying message Affirm Films received during the faith-based testing.
“They’re just relieved that it’s not like the two big Bible movies of last year, in that it didn’t take liberties beyond acceptable levels in their mind. So they were relieved,” Peluso says. “And we’re excited that Christians feel like they can embrace this story.”
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Taken from: http://www1.cbn.com/joseph-fiennes-risen-converts-bible-movie-critics-refreshed-gospel-story