Tag Archives: Catholic News Agency

Greece in crisis – and what Catholics are doing to help : Catholic News Agency (CNA)


By Elise Harris

Athens, Greece, Aug 6, 2015 / 04:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As Greece’s financial and political situation reaches a fever pitch in complexity, Caritas has stepped up and is offering help to the growing number of poor and migrants inhabiting the country.

“Here everything is blocked, everything is difficult. There isn’t work, there isn’t anything. Also Greeks are looking for work, everyone is. It’s a very, very difficult situation,” Father Andrea Voutsinos told CNA Aug. 5.

Fr. Voutsinos is the director of Caritas Greece, which is part of the regional Caritas Europe branch and the wider, all-encompassing Caritas Internationalis.

In a July 5 referendum Greek citizens voted heavily against Europe’s latest bailout offer after the country failed to repay their creditors large amounts of their more than $300 billion debt. The vote raised concerns that the country could suffer a worse economic disaster and lose its place in the eurozone.

Greece has been in financial crisis for years. Economically the weakest nation in the eurozone, it was hit hard during the 2008 global financial crisis. Beginning in 2010, it began receiving financial bailouts, on the condition that it adopt austerity measures such as pension cuts, tax hikes and public sector layoffs.

These austerity measures were a primary motivation in the negative referendum vote, which has left Greece with an increasingly uncertain future.

Unemployment in Greece is currently 25 percent, and individuals are unable to withdraw more than $70 a day from ATMs.

Amid the country’s ongoing dilemma, including a rising number of needy families and a growing number of refugees flooding in from the Middle East, Caritas Greece has been expanding their initiatives to assist more people.

The organization recently launched a new program called “Estia,” aimed at reaching out to families who have nothing, Fr. Voutsinos explained.

In addition to helping families with basic food needs, Caritas also offers assistance in paying for bills and medical insurance, since in Greece you can’t be admitted to the hospital unless you pay, the priest said.

“If they don’t have any work, they can’t bring anything home to live on. We are sending help daily,” he noted, including funds for electric, gas and water bills.

Caritas Greece also runs a large daily soup kitchen, this year feeding nearly 300 extra mouths, including several who are elderly.

However, the country’s growing number of poor is “only half the concern,” Fr. Voutsinos said, explaining that there is also an increasing worry over what to do with the number of refugees who enter into Greece’s southeastern islands from Turkey, making their way to Athens and beyond.

More than 90,000 refugees have entered Greece from the so far this year, most of them from the Middle East, the priest said, and he expects to see even more of an increase before the end of the year. Among those who come are many from Syria, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“Every day more arrive from Turkey because it’s so close,” he said. With nowhere to go the refugees often make their way to Athens and sleep on the streets or in parks.

“There is great poverty, because the people don’t have the possibility to buy what’s necessary to eat.” So Caritas tries to help feed them, he said.

In addition to their other initiatives, the charitable organization also has a special project for Syrians who come to Greece, helping them in integrate as well as offering meals through their soup kitchen, assisted by the Missionaries of Charity.

The refugees who come “are looking for a better world,” the priest said, “but when they enter it’s not a better world.”

Despite the various projects Caritas is involved in, Catholics in Greece are a minority, making it difficult to raise the necessary funds in order to meet the country’s rising needs.

With the dominating religion being the Greek Orthodox practice, only 200-300,000 Catholics live in the country, “but by now also the Greek Catholics have lost work. They also ask us for help, but we don’t always have the money because we also have to sustain the parishes,” Fr. Voutsinos said.

As a result, the Caritas branches of Europe, Italy, Latin America and North America have all donated to the Greek branch in order to ensure they have enough funds to continue assisting their needy community.

Pope Francis recently offered his solidarity with Greece ahead of the country’s July referendum, calling for prayer and an attention to human dignity when entering into political debate.

“The news from Greece regarding the economic and social situation of the country is worrying,” Vatican press director Fr. Federico Lombardi said in a July 1 statement on behalf of Pope Francis. The Pope, he said, “invites all the faithful to unite in prayer for the good of the beloved Greek people.”

Fr. Voutsinos said that the Pope’s words were a consolation for them, but that difficulty remains, and “everyone is a little afraid for the future.”

Tags: Economic crisis, Greece, Caritas Internationalis

via Greece in crisis – and what Catholics are doing to help :: Catholic News Agency (CNA).

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War is the mother of poverty, Pope Francis says :: Catholic News Agency (CNA)


By Ann Schneible

Vatican City, Jun 3, 2015 / 03:30 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In his weekly general audience, Pope Francis lamented the suffering inflicted on families already struggling from poverty in countries torn by the “great predator” of war.

“Truly, war is the ‘mother of all poverty,’ the pontiff said Wednesday, addressing the crowds in Saint Peter’s Square.

“War impoverishes the family,” he said. It is “a great predator of lives, of souls, and of the most sacred and precious loved ones.”

Since late last year, Pope Francis has been centering his Wednesday catechesis on the theme of family as part of the lead-up to the World Day of Families in September, as well as October’s Synod of Bishops on the Family.

Continuing with his June 3 catechesis, the Pope centered his address around the particular difficulties which many families face, especially with regard to poverty.

He lamented the “misery” and “degradation” experienced by poor families inflicted by war, as well as those living in the peripheries.

via War is the mother of poverty, Pope Francis says :: Catholic News Agency (CNA).

Pope Francis: Fear and joylessness are signs of bad spiritual health :: Catholic News Agency (CNA)


By Ann Schneible

PHOTO:  Pope Francis at the papal ordination of priests in St. Peter’s Basilica on April 26, 2015. Credit: Bohumil Petrik/CNA.

Vatican City, May 15, 2015 / 11:40 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his daily homily on Friday Pope Francis said that Christian communities become “sick” when they live in fear and fail to be joyful – even when times are difficult.

“When the Church is fearful and when the Church does not receive the joy of the Holy Spirit, the Church is sick, the communities are sick, the faithful are sick,” the Pope said during Mass at the Santa Marta residence May 15.

He added that the Christian community grows “sick with worldliness” when “it does not have the joy of Christ.”

“A Christian without joy is not Christian. A Christian who continually lives in sadness is not Christian. And a Christian who, in the moment of trial, of illness, of so many difficulties, loses peace – something is lacking in him.”

These two words – “fear” and “joy” – and what each means for the Christian community, were at the center of the Holy Father’s homily.

Speaking first on fear, Pope Francis explained: “A fearful Christian is a person who has not understood the message of Jesus.”

This kind of fear provokes a self-centered selfishness which leads to a sort of paralysis. It “harms us. It weakens us, it diminishes us. It even paralyzes us,” the Pope said.

Recalling how Jesus told Saint Paul to speak and not be afraid, he said: Fear is not a Christian attitude.”

Rather, it is an attitude of a “caged animal” who lacks the freedom to look forward, create, and do good, being prevented by a sense of danger.

“This fear is a vice,” he added.

Pope Francis said this fear and lack of courage jeopardizes the health of those communities which to forbid everything in an effort to always be safe.

“It seems they have written on the gateway: ‘Forbidden,’” he said. “And you enter into this community and the air is stale, because it is a sick community.”

MORE: via Pope Francis: Fear and joylessness are signs of bad spiritual health :: Catholic News Agency (CNA).

When was the last time you said ‘thank you’ and ‘I’m sorry?’ Pope asks :: Catholic News Agency (CNA)


 

 

By Elise Harris

By Elise Harris

Vatican City, May 13, 2015 / 09:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his general audience Pope Francis focused on the concrete challenges families face in daily life, and said that simply remembering to be grateful and to apologize can go a long way in avoiding conflict.

“Dear brothers and sisters, today’s catechesis is the opening of the door to a series of reflections on family life, real life, daily life,” the Pope told pilgrims present in St. Peter’s Square May 13.

“Above this door are written three words that we have already used other times: May I, thank you, and I’m sorry. They are words linked to good manners, (and) in their genuine sense of respect and desire for good, (they are) far away from any hypocrisy and duplicity,” he said.

Francis’ address was a continuation of his ongoing catechesis on the family, which he began at the end of last year as part of the lead-up to the World Day of Families in September, as well as October’s Synod of Bishops on the Family.

Although the words ’May I,’ ‘thank you’ and ‘I’m sorry’ can be hard to say or put into practice, their absence “can cause cracks in the foundation of the family, which can lead to its collapse,” the Pope said.

However, if families make a habit of including the phrases in their daily lives as a sign of love for one another rather than just a formal expression of good manners, they can strengthen a happy family life, he continued.

The word ‘May I’ is a reminder that we should be “delicate, respectful and patient with others,” he said. Even if we feel like we have the right to something, “when we speak to our spouse or family member with kindness we create space for a true spirit of marital and familial common life.”

Kindness helps to renew trust and respect, and reveals the love we have for others, the Pope noted, saying that we should always imitate Jesus, who stands at the door of our hearts and knocks, waiting for us to open it to him.

He then turned to the second word, noting that to say ‘thank you’ can seem like a contradiction in a distrustful society, which tends to view this attitude as weakness.

Despite this perception, it is through an “education in gratitude” that that social justice and the dignity of persons are upheld, he said.

Gratitude Francis continued, “is a virtue that for believers is born from the same heart of their faith… (it) is also the language of God, to whom above all we must express our gratitude.”

via When was the last time you said ‘thank you’ and ‘I’m sorry?’ Pope asks :: Catholic News Agency (CNA).

Rome prepares for Holy Year of Mercy – with ice cream :: Catholic News Agency (CNA)


 

By Marta Jimenez

Rome, Italy, May 7, 2015 / 06:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pilgrims and tourists strolling down the streets of Rome in the coming months may come across an unexpected treat – a special “Jubilee of Mercy Ice Cream,” created in honor of the upcoming Holy Year.

Pope Francis has proclaimed the special Holy Year of Mercy, which is to last from Dec. 8, 2015, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, to Nov. 20, 2016, the Solemnity of Christ the King.

The special Jubilee ice cream can be sampled at the Hedera ice cream shop, situated on the legendary Borgo Pio, one of the streets most traveled by Rome’s tourists.

Hedera stands out from among the other restaurants and souvenir shops because of the sprawling ivy vines that completely cover the building and the adjacent old drinking fountain with a papal crest that slakes the thirst of passersby.

The sweet treat created for the Jubilee features the colors of the Vatican flag – yellow and white. It is made of milk, cream and limoncello, a lemon liqueur popular in Italy.

“We have tradition and innovation in our DNA. The idea came to us thinking about a product inspired by the Jubilee, something very significant,” said business owner Francesco Ceravolo.

“We didn’t want to make a product just to advertise, but an excellent product. We used the best milk available in the area, the best cream and limoncello, he explained, adding, “We lowered the alcohol in it so everyone could have it: children, adults, the elderly.”

Ceravolo is a big admirer of Pope Francis and a descendant of master ice cream makers. He said that the idea was to create a unique flavor that would represent penance. The lemon liqueur was therefore chosen to symbolize purification.

Hedera prides itself on high-quality products, all sourced from Italy and without preservatives.

The “Jubilee ice cream” is just one example of how the people of Rome are preparing to welcome the thousands of pilgrims that will visit the city for the Jubilee of Mercy that the Pope has declared.

Mercy is a theme that is dear to Pope Francis, and is the central topic of his episcopal motto “miserando atque eligendo,” which he chose when ordained a bishop in 1992.

In speaking about the upcoming Holy Year of Mercy, the Pope has emphasized that mercy is inseparable from the life and mission of the Church, as well as the role of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Upon making the public proclamation of the Holy Year, Pope Francis explained that he had declared this Jubilee of mercy because we are living at a “time of great historical change” which calls the Church “to offer more evident signs of God’s presence and closeness.”

This period in history is a time where the faithful “need to be vigilant and to reawaken in ourselves the capacity to see what is essential,” he said.

“This is the time for mercy.”

The aim of Jubilee Year of Mercy is to encourage the faithful to “welcome the numerous signs of the tenderness which God offers to the whole world,” the Pope stressed.

Tags: Holy Year of Mercy

emblem of the Papacy: Triple tiara and keys Fr...

emblem of the Papacy: Triple tiara and keys Français : emblème pontifical Italiano: emblema del Papato Português: Emblema papal. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

via Rome prepares for Holy Year of Mercy – with ice cream :: Catholic News Agency (CNA).

 

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