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Catholic advocates critical of Trump's order to review Clean Power Plan

IMAGE: CNS photo/Carlos Barria, Reuters

By Dennis Sadowski

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Catholic environmental advocates decried President Donald Trump's executive order that would begin a review of his predecessor's Clean Power Plan, which set targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants.

The advocates said that reversing any effort that reduces greenhouse gas pollution endangers the planet and puts the world's most vulnerable people at risk because of climate change.

Citing the efforts by Pope Francis, Pope Benedict, St. John Paul II and the U.S. bishops to address the importance of protecting the environment, Dan Misleh, executive director of the Catholic Climate Covenant, said Trump's action "neither protects our common home nor promotes the common good."

"The administration claims that these new orders will create jobs and grow the economy," Misleh said in a statement March 28, the day Trump signed the order. "The fact is, however, that those who work in energy conservation and renewable energy are already experiencing an economic boom."

Misleh also called for bipartisan cooperation to reach solutions to climate change.

Trump, flanked by coal miners, signed the order, titled "Energy Independence." In his remarks at the EPA, the president said the country will still have clean water and clean air, but his order seeks to eliminate what he said are too many job-killing regulations.

The president said his goal was to drive energy independence and bring back coal-mining and manufacturing jobs while reducing the cost of electricity.

According to Patrick Carolan, executive director of the Franciscan Action Network, Trump's order indicates the administration "does not care about climate change" or protecting people of color and low-income and indigenous communities that are most likely to experience the effects of pollution.

"By cutting the Clean Power Plan, the administration is demonstrating that corporate polluters are more important than the health and prosperity of our common home," Carolan said in a statement.

Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, episcopal liaison to the Catholic Climate Covenant, did not refer specifically to the executive order during a March 28 conference call -- introduced as " President Trump's Dirty Energy Executive Order Conference Call" -- that was held shortly before Trump's executive order was issued.

But he cited three effects of climate change: the increasingly intense weather events that "we believe are an assault on God's creation" and which affect the world's poor more drastically than others; the support the U.S. bishops, as well as Catholic Charities and Catholic Relief Services, have given, in a letter to Congress, of the Clean Power Plan, vehicle fuel economy standards, the Green Climate Fund and the Paris climate agreement; and a growth in jobs from alternative energy efforts.

"Pope Francis could not be more strong on jobs," said Bishop Pates, who referred to the pope's 2015 encyclical "Laudato Si', on Care for Our Common Home."

"He believes that providing work is a moral imperative of every economy." In Iowa, he added, 35 percent of the state's energy comes from wind or solar power, and has created 17,300 jobs, and has been cited by Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, a Republican, as having been a source for "good, high-paying jobs, helping families grow."

Bishop Pates said the bishops and their allies would "work closely" with the White House, Congress and "everybody who's involved with this."

Others on the conference call with the bishop described other effects of the Trump order.

"The American Lung Association and its partners from coast to coast will push back," said Lyndsay Moseley Alexander, assistant vice president and director of its Healthy Air Campaign, citing the projected loss of 300,000 school and work days a year to 2030, and an estimated 3,600 "lives ended prematurely," if the Clean Power Plan is scuttled.

The executive order also would have deleterious effects on the military, according to Stephen Cheney, a retired Marine brigadier general who is CEO of the American Security Project. "On the domestic side, it certainly threatens our coastal military bases with sea-level rise, and increases the risk to our soldiers, sailors, Air Force and Marines," he said. Internationally, he added, "it also acts as a threat multiplier all over the world."

Shannon Baker-Branstetter, energy and environment policy counsel for Consumers Union, said the goal of short-term gain risks the Clean Power Plan's long-term benefits, pointing to an estimated $150 a year in annual savings per household on utility bills by 2030. Medical saving costs also would result from cleaner power, Baker-Branstetter added.

Reverting to old ways means a higher likelihood of weather-related crop failures, meaning higher food costs and insurance premiums. "They shift the cost away from polluting entities and onto families," she said. Baker-Branstetter also voiced concern that the executive order could " prohibit the government from quantifying the impact" of the changes ordered by Trump.

Gina McCarthy, a fellow at the Institute of Politics at Harvard's Kennedy School and former EPA administrator, charged in a statement that the Trump administration wants "us to travel back to when smokestacks damaged our health and polluted our air, instead of taking every opportunity to support clean jobs of the future."

"This is not just dangerous; it's embarrassing to us and our businesses on a global scale to be dismissing opportunities for new technologies, economic growth and U.S. leadership," said McCarthy, who is Catholic.

Thomas J. Donohue, U.S. Chamber of Commerce president, supported Trump's action to "make regulatory relief and energy security a top priority."

"These executive actions are a welcome departure from the previous administration's strategy of making energy more expensive through costly, job-killing regulations that choked our economy," he said in a statement released late March 27.

Beyond the Clean Power Plan, Trump's order prioritizes the development of domestic coal, oil and natural gas reserves over renewable energy sources and opens federal land to coal leases. The president's blueprint calls for dismantling many of the environmental initiatives of President Barack Obama that were meant to address what the vast majority of scientists have concluded is human-caused climate change.

The Trump administration has maintained that there can be a balance between the need for jobs and economic growth and protecting the environment.

Coal usage for electrical power generation has seen a decline in recent years as utility companies converted plants from coal to less costly natural gas during the past decade.

While Trump has ordered a review of the Obama's signature plan, it has been on hold, however, as a federal appeals court weighs a legal challenge from 27 states and 100 companies. The plan was Obama's primary tool to meet the country's emissions reductions goals under the 2015 Paris climate accord.

Meanwhile, the CEO of the nation's largest privately held coal company urged Trump to "temper his expectations" about mining industry jobs making a comeback.

Robert Murray, CEO of Murray Energy, told The Guardian newspaper March 27 that he supported the review of the Clean Power Plan, but that it was market forces, rather than government regulations, that largely affect employment in the U.S. coal industry.

Critics have described the Obama-era plan as an overreach by the EPA that exceeds the original intent of the Clean Air Act. Supporters have said the plan would lead to thousands of clean energy jobs, reduce illnesses caused by air pollution and slow climate change.

The plan called for reducing power plant emissions by 2030 by about 32 percent from 2005 levels. It set targets for each state to reach. Coal-fired power plants are the nation's largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.

The EPA introduced the Clean Power Plan in August 2015, 26 months after Obama outlined general principles for tighter limits on power plant emissions in a speech at Georgetown University. He also stressed then the importance of meeting the country's growing electrical demand through renewable energy sources and called for efficiency upgrades to the country's electrical grid.

The Dominican Sisters of Adrian, Michigan, said Trump's action "sends a dangerous signal to the rest of the world that the United States is reneging on its pledge to cut carbon emissions by 26 percent by 2025, putting the historic Paris agreement -- and the well-being of people and planet -- in jeopardy."

The Paris climate agreement has been ratified by 134 of the 197 countries that approved it in December 2015 under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. President Barack Obama ratified the agreement on his own, bypassing the U.S. Senate. The agreement went into force last October after enough countries ratified it.

The Dominicans' statement said Trump's order "will not put all coal miners to work (because) most mining is increasingly mechanized."

"It will give a green light to planet-warming carbon pollution, threatening to relegate our children to an irreversible future of extreme weather events, droughts, floods, and untold billions in costs to adapt to these harmful impacts," it said.

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Contributing to this report was Mark Pattison in Washington. Follow Sadowski and Pattison on Twitter: @DennisSadowski and @MeMarkPattison.

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Pope: God promises the 'impossible,' asks people hope against all hope

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Hope is not built on people's predictions, assurances or line of reasoning, Pope Francis said.

Real Christian hope "is not based on our word, but on God's Word" and promises of salvation and eternal life, the pope said during his general audience in St. Peter's Square March 29.

Continuing a series of reflections on how the Apostle Paul describes the nature of Christian hope, the pope looked at how Abraham's faith is held up as a model for everyone in the apostle's Letter to the Romans (4:16-25).

Despite all logic -- Abraham was old and his wife infertile -- Abraham "believed, hoping against hope that he would become 'the father of many nations,'" which shows how faith is so closely connected to hope, the pope said.

"Our hope is not based on human reasoning, predictions and assurances," he said; real hope arises "where there is no more hope, where there is nothing left to hope for."

True hope "is rooted in faith and, precisely for this reason, it is able to go beyond all hope" because it is built on faith in God and his promise, he said.

"This is the paradox and, at the same time, the strongest part," he said, because from a human point of view, that promise seems "unsure and unforeseeable."

Looking at the people gathered for the general audience, the pope asked them if they really believed in God's love for them and his promise of eternal life.

"There is only one price" to be paid for this, he said. "Opening your heart. Open your hearts and God's power will carry you forward. He will do miraculous things and he will teach you what hope is."

Just "open your heart to faith and he will do the rest," he added.

Mary, too, believed in the unbelievable when the angel told her she would become the mother of God, the pope said in remarks to pilgrims from Arabic-speaking countries, particularly Iraq.

Like Mary, they are called to embrace that which they do not understand God is doing, and to open their hearts and minds to him, so that his will may be done, he said.

He later launched an appeal for more to be done to protect civilians in Iraq, reaffirming his prayers for civilians trapped in parts of Mosul and those displaced by war.

The pope also greeted a delegation of Iraqi authorities representing Shiites and Sunnis, and one representing Christians and other religious minorities, who were accompanied by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

"The richness of the beloved Iraqi nation lies precisely in this mosaic that represents unity in diversity, the strength of union, prosperity in harmony," the pope said.

He encouraged them to continue their efforts and invited people to pray that "Iraq may find peace, unity and prosperity through reconciliation and harmony among its diverse ethnic and religious communities."

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Follow Glatz on Twitter: @CarolGlatz.

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Pope appeals for protection for Iraqi civilians trapped in war

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has appealed for a concerted effort to protect Iraqi civilians who are victims of the ongoing bloody war in their nation and he prayed in particular for those who are trapped in the embattled city of Mosul.

Iraqi forces backed by US-led coalition air strikes are fighting to clear Islamic State militants from Iraq's second city where the coalition allegedly had a role in a March bombing which killed over 200 people..

The Pope’s appeal came at the end of his catechesis during the General Audience in St. Peter’s Square.

Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni:

Expressing deep pain for the victims of the bloody conflict in Iraq, Pope Francis appealed to all to  make every possible effort to protect civilians, which he said is an  “imperative and urgent” obbligation. 

Encouraging the Iraqi people to pursue a path of unity within respect for diversity, the Pope also asked for prayers for reconciliation and harmony between the different ethnic groups that make up the population. 
    
In his catechesis the Pope encouraged Christians to always put their trust in God’s word, even at those times when hope seems humanly impossible.

Reflecting on St. Paul’s Letter to Romans in which he presents Abraham not only as our father in faith, but also as our father in hope, Francis said the reading helps us put the strong tie that exists between faith and hope into focus.

He said that hoping against hope, Abraham trusted in God’s promise that, despite his old age and that of Sarah his wife, he would become the father of many nations.  

“Great hope, he said, is rooted in faith”, that’s why it is able to go beyond all human expectations.

“We must all pray to God, open our hearts and He will teach us what hope is” he said. 

Reminding those present that  God promises to set us  free from sin and death by the power of Christ’s resurrection, Pope Francis urged the faithful to place their certainties not so much in their own capacities, but in the hope that derives from God’s promise of life.  

Faith, he said, teaches us, to hope against hope by putting our own trust in God’s word even at those times when hope seems humanly impossible.  

The Pope concluded urging believers to be confirmed in faith and hope during this Lenten journey to Easter, and to accept the promise of new life given us in the Lord’s resurrection.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope sends message to young people at Barcelona symposium

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis has sent a message to participants in the European Symposium on Young People, encouraging them to reflect “on the challenges of evangelization”.

The event, entitled “He walked by their side (Lk 24:15) - Accompanying young people to freely respond to Christ's call”, is taking place in Barcelona, Spain on 28-31 March.

In the message signed by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Pope Francis encouraged young people to “conduct a reflection on the challenges of evangelization and on the accompaniment of young people, so that – through dialogue and encounter and as living members of the family of Christ – young people may be enthusiastic bearers of the joy of the Gospel in all areas.”

The Holy Father invoked the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary upon the Symposium’s participants and imparted his Apostolic Blessing.

The Barcelona Symposium is promoted by the Council of European Catholic Bishops' Conferences (CCEE) in collaboration with the Spanish Catholic Bishops' Conference and the Archdiocese of Barcelona.

Among Church leaders taking part are Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, Archbishop Juan José Omella of Barcelona, and Archbishop Marek Jedraszewski of Krakow.

Young people will also have the opportunity to listen to the reflections and testimonies of several national directors along with those of other young people.

(from Vatican Radio)

General Audience: English Summary

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday encouraged Christians to always put their trust in God’s word, even at those times when hope seems humanly impossible.

The Pope was addressing pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the weekly General Audience.

Please find below the English synopsis on the Pope’s catechesis:

Dear Brothers and Sisters:  In the chapter from the Letter to Romans that opened today’s Audience, Saint Paul presents Abraham not only as our father in faith, but also as our father in hope.  Paul tells us that Abraham put his faith in the God who gives life to the dead, who calls all things into being.  Hoping against hope, he trusted in God’s promise that, despite his old age and that of Sarah his wife, he would become the father of many nations.  In Abraham, we see the close bond existing between faith and hope.  Abraham’s hope in God’s promises was fulfilled in the birth of his son Isaac, and, in the fullness of time, in the “many nations” gathered into a new humanity set free from sin and death by the power of Christ’s resurrection.  Faith teaches us, in fact, to hope against hope by putting our own trust in God’s word even at those times when hope seems humanly impossible.  In our Lenten journey to Easter, may we be confirmed in faith and hope, and show ourselves children of Abraham by accepting the promise of new life given us in the Lord’s resurrection.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pay close attention to pope's words and actions, papal nuncio says

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the papal nuncio to the United States, gets plenty of questions about Pope Francis.

A March 27 discussion at Georgetown University, sponsored by the university's Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life, was no exception. The nuncio, who sat onstage with John Carr, the initiative's director, was asked about the pope's key issues and his impact in the four years since his election.

Instead of emphasizing the pope's special qualities or accomplishments, Archbishop Pierre, who has been in the Vatican diplomatic corps for almost 40 years, stressed how Catholics are called to view the pope and essentially work with him in the mission of spreading the Gospel.

He told the audience, nearly filling a campus auditorium, that it is not a question of whether the pope is good or bad or if one agrees with him or not. The issue, for Catholics, is to discern what the Holy Spirit is saying through the pope.

"We have to pay a lot of attention to the person of the pope and to his message and to his testimony because the pope is not just words but he is also actions and actions that are powerful words," the nuncio said.

Archbishop Pierre, who was appointed to the U.S. post by Pope Francis last April, would not comment on the pope's approval ratings compared to politicians nor would he address the current political climate, but he stressed that one's personal faith can't be separated from daily life and that people need to use discernment even in civic duties like voting.

When asked about care for migrants in today's world, he said Christians should be the "soul of this country" and Catholics should follow the example of Pope Francis who goes out to the borders and reaches out to those who are broken and those who suffer.

"The church is in the business of evangelization," he added, saying this works best when the church "goes outside herself" to meet people where they are. And in a pointed statement to this country, he added: If America is the center of the world then it has "a huge responsibility to help others."

When the nuncio was joined on stage by other panelists, they reiterated the importance of the pope's message that has come across just as much from his actions as his words.

To sum up the pope's message to Catholics today, Ken Hackett, former U.S. ambassador to the Holy See and former president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, looks to the example of the pope's visit to the United States in 2015 where the pope's presence, in front of Congress and with the poor, and his words at each stop made Catholics proud of their faith.

Kim Daniels, a member of the Vatican's Secretariat for Communications, said the pope's message has resonated not just with Catholics but also with those who have heard him even through social media. She said he has made the call to live out one's faith "something that's concrete and not abstract" and something "we can do right here, right now, where we are."

For Maria Teresa Gaston, managing director of the Foundations of Christian Leadership Program at the Duke Divinity School in Durham, North Carolina, the pope has been clearest on his message of community, telling people, including "those who are undocumented: You are loved and valued."

She also points to his message to youths at World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro in 2013 as something that still resonates with her. He told the crowd "not to be afraid, to take risks and to be courageous" stressing they should prepare for "courageous and prophetic action in solidarity with the earth and with the poor."

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Mexican archdiocese: Companies that work on border wall are 'traitors'

IMAGE: CNS photo/Edgard Garrido, Reuters

By David Agren

CUERNAVACA, Mexico (CNS) -- An editorial in a publication of the Archdiocese of Mexico City condemned Mexican companies wishing to work on the proposed wall being built on the U.S.-Mexico border as "traitors."

"What's regrettable is that on this side of the border, there are Mexicans ready to collaborate with a fanatical project that annihilates the good relationship between two nations that share a common border," said the March 26 editorial in the archdiocesan publication Desde la Fe.

"Any company that plans to invest in the fanatic Trump's wall would be immoral, but above all, their shareholders and owner will be considered traitors to the homeland," the editorial continued. "Joining a project that is a grave affront to dignity is like shooting yourself in the foot."

President Donald Trump ran on a promise of constructing a wall between the United States and Mexico and has signed an executive order to begin building the barrier on the nearly 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border.

The Mexican government has repeatedly said it will not pay for any border wall. Security analysts say illegal merchandise mostly crosses through legal ports of entry and express doubts a wall would keep out drugs, as Trump insists. Catholics who work with migrants transiting the country en route to the United States express doubts, too, saying those crossing the frontier illegally mostly do so with the help of human smugglers, who presumably pay bribes on both sides of the border.

Some Mexican companies have mused about working on the wall, though others such as Cemex -- whose share prices surged on speculation it would provide cement for the wall -- told the Los Angeles Times that it would not participate in the building of a border barrier.

Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray Caso has urged company officials to use their conscience when considering work on the wall, though the archdiocesan editorial said, "What is most surprising is the timidity of the Mexican government's economic authorities, who have not moved firmly against these companies."

Desde la Fe has previously blasted Trump's proposed policies. In September 2015, it called Trump "ignorant" and a "clown" and blasted Mexican government passivity in defending its migrants as "unpardonable."

Father Hugo Valdemar, Archdiocese of Mexico City spokesman, told Catholic News Service some conservative Catholics in Mexico viewed Trump's positions on pro-life issues favorably and were still angry the U.S. ambassador to Mexico marched in the annual pride parade. But he said he knew of no one in Mexico that openly supported the U.S. president.

"What we see from him is an authentic threat and an unstable person," Father Valdemar said.

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Global peace, security demand an end to nuclear weapons, pope tells U.N.

IMAGE: CNS photo/Rick Bajornas, UN

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Today's threats to global peace and security must be countered through dialogue and development, not nuclear weapons, Pope Francis told the United Nations.

"How sustainable is a stability based on fear, when it actually increases fear and undermines relationships of trust between peoples," the pope asked in a letter sent to a U.N. meeting on nuclear arms.

"International peace and stability cannot be based on a false sense of security, on the threat of mutual destruction or total annihilation, or on simply maintaining a balance of power," he said in the message, released by the Vatican March 28. The message was read aloud at the U.N. by Msgr. Antoine Camilleri, Vatican undersecretary for relations with states.

The pope's message was sent to Elayne Whyte Gomez, president of the U.N. Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, Leading Towards Their Total Elimination. The conference was being held at the U.N. headquarters in New York March 27-31, with a follow-up meeting June 15-July 7.

A number of nations -- many of which already possess nuclear arms -- were boycotting the negotiations to ban such weapons. These included the United States, France, the United Kingdom and about 40 other nations. Some continue to support the Non-Proliferation Treaty to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology.

U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley told reporters in New York March 28 that it was the responsibility of leaders to keep their nations safe.

"There is nothing I want more for my family than a world with no nuclear weapons. But we have to be realistic," Haley said.

"In this day and time, we can't honestly say that we can protect our people by allowing the bad actors to have them and those of us that are good, trying to keep peace and safety, not to have them," she said.

However, Pope Francis said in his message that the strategy of nuclear deterrence was not an effective response to today's threats to peace and security: terrorism, cybersecurity, environmental problems and poverty.

"Peace must be built on justice, on integral human development, on respect for fundamental human rights, on the protection of creation, on the participation of all in public life, on trust between peoples, on the support of peaceful institutions, on access to education and health, on dialogue and solidarity," he said.

The world needs "to adopt forward-looking strategies to promote the goal of peace and stability and to avoid short-sighted approaches to the problems surrounding national and international security," he said.

The complete elimination of nuclear weapons is "a moral and humanitarian imperative" that should prompt people to reflect on "an ethics of peace and multilateral and cooperative security that goes beyond the fear and isolationism that prevail in many debates today."

Making a total global ban possible will demand more dialogue, trust and cooperation. "This trust can be built only through dialogue that is truly directed to the common good and not to the protection of veiled or particular interests," he added.

Humanity has the ability, freedom and intelligence to work together to "lead and direct technology, to place limits on our power, and to put all this at the service of another type of progress: one that is more human, social and integral," he said.

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Follow Glatz on Twitter: @CarolGlatz.

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Resentment, complaints are rooted in the sin of sloth, pope says

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- People should stop blaming and complaining so they can be filled with God's joy and rise up to life's challenges, Pope Francis said.

Forgetting what joy is and languishing in self-pity come with the sin of sloth, the pope said March 28 in his homily during morning Mass at Domus Sanctae Marthae.

"It's a terrible disease: 'Well, I'm comfortable as is, I've gotten used to it. Life, of course, has been unfair to me.' You see resentment, bitterness in that heart," he said.

The pope's homily was a reflection on the Gospel of St. John reading in which Jesus heals a lame man at the pool of Bethesda.

A large number of people who were ill, blind or crippled gathered at the pool because it was believed if a person immersed himself just when the waters were stirred by an angel, he would be healed. Jesus saw a lame man, who had been waiting by the poolside for 38 years, and asked him, "Do you want to be well?"

Pope Francis said, "This is beautiful; Jesus always asks us this: Do you want to be healed? Do you want to be happy? Do you want to make your life better? Do you want to be filled with the Holy Spirit?"

If Jesus had asked any of the other people there desperate for help, the pope said, "they would have said, 'Yes, Lord, yes.' But this was a strange man" because instead he started complaining about how he had no one to help him into the water and everyone else always managed to get in before him.

The man is like a tree planted near streams of water, but he cannot grow and prosper because his roots are dried up, "those roots don't reach the water, he couldn't take in the well-being of the water," the pope said.

"This is a terrible sin, the sin of sloth. This man was ill not so much from paralysis, but from sloth, which is worse than having a lukewarm heart," he said. "It is living, but only because I am alive and have no desire to go on, have no desire to do something in life, to have lost his memory" of what joy is.

But Jesus does not scold him, the pope said; he tells him to rise, take his sleeping mat and walk, which he does, disappearing into the crowd, without saying thank you or even asking Jesus his name.

"Sloth is a sin that paralyzes, makes us lame. It doesn't let us walk. Even today the Lord looks at each one of us, we have all sinned, we are all sinners," the pope said, but Jesus still looks and "tells us, 'Rise.'"

Everyone is asked to pick up his or her sleeping mat and walk, "take your life as it is, beautiful, terrible" whatever it's like and go, the pope said.

"It is your life, it is your joy," he said. The Lord is asking, "Do you want to be healed?" Do not be afraid to say "yes," ask for help and go toward the waters. "Quench your thirst with joy" because it is the joy of salvation, he said.

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Follow Glatz on Twitter: @CarolGlatz.

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Pope: 'to have faith is to live our lives with joy'

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis on Tuesday encouraged Christians to get on with things, living life with joy.

Speaking during the homily during Mass at the Casa Santa Marta, he urged them to avoid complaining and not to let themselves be paralyzed by the ugly sin of sloth.

Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni:

The Gospel story at the heart of Pope Francis’ reflection tells of a man who had been ill for thirty-eight years. He was lying at the side of a pool called Bethesda with a large number of ill, blind, lame and crippled who believed that when an angel came down and stirred up the waters the first to bathe in the pool would be healed. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him: “Do you want to be well?”

“It’s what Jesus repeatedly says to us as well” the Pope said: “do you want to be well? Do you want to be happy? Do you want to improve your life? Do you want to be filled with the Holy Spirit?”

When Jesus, the Pope pointed out, asked that strange man if he wanted to be well, instead of saying “yes” he complained there was on one to put him in the pool while the water is stirred up and that someone else always got there  before him. His answer, Francis said, was a complaint, he was  implying that life had been unjust with him. 

“This man, the Pope noted,  was like the tree planted along the bank of the rivers, mentioned in the first Reading, but it had arid roots, roots that did not reach the water, could not take nourishment from the water”.

The Pope said this is clear from his attitude of always complaining and trying to blame the other. 

“This is an ugly sin: the sin of sloth” he said.

Pope Francis said this man’s disease was not so much his paralysis but sloth, which is worse than having a lukewarm heart.

It causes one to live without the desire to move forward, to do something in life, it causes one to lose the memory of joy, he explained, saying the man had lost all of this.

Jesus, the Pope continued, did not rebuke him but said: “Take up your mat, and walk”.

The man was healed but since it was a Sabbath, the doctors of the law said it was not lawful to carry a mat on that day and they asked him who was the man who told him to do so.

The sick man, the Pope noted, had not even thanked Jesus or asked for his name: “he rose and walked with that slothful attitude “living his life because oxygen is free”, always looking to others “who are happier” and forgetting joy.

"Sloth, he said, is a sin that paralyzes us, stops us from walking”.

Even today, the Pope said, the Lord looks to each of us sinners - we are all sinners - and says “Rise”.

The Lord tells each of us, Pope Francis concluded, to take hold of our life, be it beautiful or difficult and move on: “Do not be afraid, go ahead carrying your mat” and remember to come to the waters and quench your thirst with joy and ask the Lord to help you get up and know the joy of salvation. 

(from Vatican Radio)