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Serve, care for each other, pope tells families at closing Mass in Philadelphia

Pope Francis in Philadelphia celebrating Mass on Sept. 27,2015
Pope Francis in Philadelphia celebrating Mass on Sept. 27,2015

By Dennis Sadowski
Catholic News Service

PHILADELPHIA (CNS) — Pope Francis urged the hundreds of thousands of people gathered for the closing Mass of the World Meeting of Families to serve and care for each other as freely as God loves the human family.

The pope called upon the faithful to embrace signs that the Holy Spirit can work through everyone. He referred to the readings in the multilingual Mass — from the Book of Numbers and the Gospel of Mark — in which members of the faith community questioned the work of those not part of their group and for prophesying in the name of God.

“To raise doubts about the working of the Spirit, to give the impression that it cannot take place in those who are not ‘part of our group,’ who are not ‘like us,’ is a dangerous temptation,” the pope said. “Not only does it block conversion to the faith; it is a perversion of faith. Faith opens a window to the presence and working of the Spirit. It shows us that, like happiness, holiness is always tied to little gestures.”

Illustrating his point before the Mass, Pope Francis engaged in “little gestures” himself along the papal parade route to the Mass, kissing and blessing many babies brought to him from the sidewalk throngs by Secret Service agents, who themselves managed to cracked smiles after days of maintaining a stern demeanor as they guarded the pontiff.

Pope Francis recalled that Jesus encountered “hostility from people who did not accept what he said and did,” saying they thought it intolerable that Christ was open to honest and sincere faith from men and women who were not part of God’s chosen people.

“The disciples, for their part, acted in good faith. But the temptation to be scandalized by the freedom of God, who sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous alike, bypassing bureaucracy, officialdom and inner circles, threatens the authenticity of faith. Hence it must be vigorously rejected,” he said.

“Once we realize this, we can understand why Jesus’ words about causing ‘scandal’ are so harsh. For Jesus, the truly ‘intolerable’ scandal consists in everything that breaks down and destroys our trust in the working of the Spirit,” he continued.

Pope Francis held up the family as vital to building the church for the future. He said love must be freely shared for faith to grow.

“That is why our families, our homes, are true domestic churches. They are the right place for faith to become life, and life to become faith,” he said.

“Little gestures” of love exist daily in the lives of family and serve to carry on God’s love as well, Pope Francis explained.

“These little gestures are those we learn at home, in the family. They get lost amid all the other things we do, yet they do make each day different. They are the quiet things done by mothers and grandmothers, by fathers and grandfathers, by children. They are little signs of tenderness, affection and compassion,” he said.

“Like the warm supper we look forward to at night, the early lunch awaiting someone who gets up early to go to work. Homely gestures. Like a blessing before we go to bed, or a hug after we return from a hard day’s work. Love is shown by little things, by attention to small daily signs which make us feel at home.”

Pope Francis asked the worshipers to consider how they share God’s love with people in their families and in the world around them.

“What kind of world do we want to leave to our children?” he asked, referencing a line in his encyclical “Laudato Si’, On Care for Our Common Home.”

“Our common house can no longer tolerate sterile divisions,” he continued. “The urgent challenge of protecting our home includes the effort to bring the entire human family together in the pursuit of a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change.”

The pope asked the congregation to consider how they treat each other in their own home. “Do we shout or do we speak to each other with love and tenderness? That’s a good way of measuring our love.”

Calling the church to renew faith in the word of God, the pope said people can live prophetic lives as a “kind of miracle in today’s world.”

“Would that we could all be prophets. Would that all of us could be open to miracles of love for the sake of all the families of the world, and thus overcome the scandal of a narrow, petty love, closed in on itself, impatient of others,” he said.

As the Mass concluded, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, who also was lead Vatican organizer of the World Meeting of Families, announced the next meeting will take place in Dublin, in 2018.

Six families, representing five continents, received copies of the Gospel of Luke. Families from Syria, Vietnam, France, Australia, Congo and Cuba were chosen for their church involvement and faith life. The Vatican also planned to distribute 100,000 copies of Luke’s Gospel in the families’ home countries.

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Visiting prison, pope says all people need forgiveness, cleansing

Pope Francis blesses a prisoner as he visits the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Philadelphia Sept. 27. (CNS/Paul Haring)
Pope Francis blesses a prisoner as he visits the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Philadelphia Sept. 27. (CNS/Paul Haring)

PHILADELPHIA (CNS) — While pilgrims in Philadelphia put up with a long weekend of lines and security checks at the papal venues, the pope reached out to a group of people whose lives are lines and security checks for years at a time.

Pope Francis spent about an hour at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility. He entered the gymnasium from behind a blue curtain, walking up on to the small stage and carefully inspecting the large chair the inmates had made for him. He turned, with a big smile across his face, and gave the inmates a sincere Pope Francis thumbs up.

As the U.S. debates the need for penal reform, Pope Francis said prisons must focus on rehabilitation, and he insisted that no one is perfect and without need of forgiveness. While his speech was addressed primarily to the inmates, a small group of their family members, prison officials, state legislators and city officials, including Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, also attended.

About 20 minutes before the pope arrived — ahead of schedule — Nutter greeted each of the inmates, who were wearing dark slacks and light blue scrubs, as they were led into the gym. Michele Farrell, prison warden, later told Catholic News Service that the pope “threw us a curveball by showing up early.”

The inmates were told to stay seated, and reporters, who were behind them, were told they could not speak to the inmates until after the pope left.

Deacon Ed Dymek, who ministers at the prison, told CNS, “There’s pope hope.”

The prisoners, who were chosen from among those with records for the best behavior, “are as excited as can be,” Deacon Dymek said. “This visit is hopefully inspiration for them to lead better lives.”

Pope Francis addressed the inmates in Spanish, “not English because I do not speak it well.” However, he said, his aide, Msgr. Mark Miles from the Vatican Secretariat of State, “does” speak well.

The pope also told the inmates he was visiting as a pastor, “but mostly as a brother.”

Serving time in prison is a painful time, said the pope, who continues to speak on the telephone with inmates he used to visit in Buenos Aires, Argentina. “Any society, any family, which cannot share or take seriously the pain of its children and views that pain as something normal or to be expected, is a society ‘condemned’ to remain a hostage to itself, prey to the very things which cause that pain.”

Pope Francis insisted Jesus “teaches us to see the world through his eyes — eyes which are not scandalized by the dust picked up along the way, but want to cleanse, heal and restore. He asks us to create new opportunities: for inmates, for their families, for correctional authorities, and for society as a whole.”

The pope spoke to the inmates about Jesus washing his disciples’ feet, explaining that back in those days, people wore sandals and the roads were dusty. Everyone needed to have his or her feet cleaned. Often there were pebbles and stones, too, which hurt.

“Life is a journey, along different roads, different paths, which leave their mark on us,” the pope said. “We know in faith that Jesus seeks us out. He wants to heal our wounds, to soothe our feet, which hurt from traveling alone, to wash each of us clean of the dust from our journey.”

Jesus, the pope said, “doesn’t ask us where we have been, he doesn’t question us what about we have done.” Instead, Jesus washes peoples’ feet and gives them life.

“The Lord goes in search of us; to all of us he stretches out a helping hand,” the pope said. “It is painful when we see prison systems which are not concerned to care for wounds, to soothe pain, to offer new possibilities.

“It is painful when we see people who think that only others need to be cleansed, purified, and do not recognize that their weariness, pain and wounds are also the weariness, pain and wounds of society,” Pope Francis continued.

The pope urged the prisoners to dedicate their time in prison to “getting back on the right road” and preparing to rejoin society.

After the pope left, Heriberto Mejia, a prisoner who uses a wheelchair, told CNS he asked the pope to pray for him.

“I feel so good. God has changed my heart,” said Mejia, who is awaiting trial on drug charges. “After this visit, we have to have to do better. … We can’t go back to doing things the same way.”

Dechon Adams, who was charged with a weapons offense, called it “beautiful” that the pope took the time to greet each prisoner — 11 women and close to 60 men — and offer his blessing.

Adams, who identified himself as Christian, agreed with Pope Francis’ explanation of Jesus’ washing the disciples’ feet.

“We all need cleansing,” Adams said.

After 19 months in prison, the 23-year-old said the experience has been tough on both him and his family, though he’s found solace in faith.

“It’s harder for my family than me. It’s hard for them to see me like this,” he said.

“This is the most time that I’ve had to reflect and pray … get close to Jesus,” Adams said. “That’s all you can do.”

By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service
Contributing to this story was David Agren.

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Sunday school Sangamam 2015 to be held on Sept. 26, at Bristol, U K

BRISTOL: The 2nd Sunday School Sangamam and 3rd Diocesan Talent Competition of the UK, Europe and Africa Diocese will be held on Saturday, 26th September 2015 at Bristol.

Diocesan Metropolitan Dr. Mathews Mar Themotheos will preside over the function. . Alexios Mar Eusebios, President of Outside India Region (OSSAE-OIR) and Diocesan Metropolitan of Southwest America will be the chief guest on the occasion.

The event will be conducted at Greenway Community Centre Auditorium hosted by St. Mary’s Orthodox Church, Bristol.
The Sunday school children with first and second places at North, Central and South zones will be participating at Solo song, Group song and Elocution competitions which will begins in the morning. The Diocesan level competition will be the culmination of Talent Competitions of 2015.

Sunday School Sangamam will be held in the afternoon which will be attended by all priests, Sunday school teachers, and Sunday school children with their parents from 23 Churches and Congregations across United Kingdom. The event will be a historic gathering attended by around 600 people across the length and breadth of UK.
During the public meeting, senior Sunday school teachers over 60 years will be felicitated and honored. Later, cultural program will be performed by various Sunday school children followed by prize distribution. The individual Church which achieves maximum points at the talent competition will be awarded with Mar Makarios Memorial Ever-rolling Trophy.

A central committee of the Sunday School of UK region led by Fr. Varghese Mathew, Vice President of OSSAE-UK, Dr. Susil George Stephen, Director of OSSAE-UK, Simon Chacko, Secretary of OSSAE-UK, Baiju John, Treasurer of OSSAE-UK, Viji Syria, Talent Competition Co-ordinator of OSSAE-UK, Sunil Koshy, North District Inspector, Omana Varghese, Central District Inspector, Shini Joseph, South District Inspector and a local committee under the leadership of Fr. Mathew Abraham, Vicar of St. Mary’s Orthodox Church, Bristol, Dilip Thomas, Head Teacher of St. Mary’s Orthodox Church Bristol along with Managing Committee and various Church members of St. Mary’s Indian Orthodox Church work as team for the success of the event.


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Papal Visit to the US- as it happened

Washington: In a rare departure from protocol, the president, vice-president and their families turned up to greet the pontiff, underlining the huge expectations for a historic visit which will include talks at the White House and addresses to Congress, the United Nations and vast crowds in Washington, New York and Philadelphia.

The US and Vatican flags fluttered from the cockpit as the papal plane taxied to a halt where an honour guard, dignitaries, clerics and schoolchildren waited. A high school band had set the mood earlier with a rendition of Pharrell Williams’ Happy.

The 78-year-old Catholic leader smiled broadly as he touched US soil for the first time – and promptly received his first taste of US informality in the form of chants of “Francisco” and “Hey hey, ho ho, welcome to the USA!” (Rory Carroll- The Guardian)

Pope arrives in the US-photo by Fr.Alexander J Kurien
Pope arrives in the US-photo by Fr.Alexander J Kurien

Pope Francis will visit Philadelphia this weekend after stops in New York City and Washington, D.C.

The World Meeting of Families will start on Tuesday, September 22nd. Pope Francis will visit on Saturday, September 26th and Sunday, September 27th.

The itinerary for the pope includes eight public events in the city, including his arrival and departure from Atlantic Aviation.

He’ll visit the Independence Mall, the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary, the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility, and of course, the Ben Franklin Parkway.

The archdiocese is expecting a million and a half people to crowd the Parkway as the pope celebrates an open air mass at 4 p.m. Sunday.

Earlier in the day he will celebrate mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul. That will be an invitation only event with tickets issued to just 1,600 people.

The pope will be staying at St. Charles Boromeo Seminary on City Avenue. He will greet the seminarians there when he arrives Saturday.

Sunday morning at the seminary he will address the cardinals and bishops who will be in town for the World Meeting of Families. He will then head to Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Northeast Philadelphia where he will meet with prisoners and select families.

The pontiff’s itinerary for his visit to the United States.


4:00 p.m. Arrival from Cuba at Joint Base Andrews


9:15 a.m. Welcome ceremony and meeting with President Obama at the White House
11:00 a.m. Papal Parade along the Ellipse and the National Mall (time approximate)
11:30 a.m. Midday Prayer with the bishops of the United States, St. Matthew’s Cathedral
4:15 p.m. Mass of Canonization of Junipero Serra, Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception


9:20 a.m. Address to Joint Meeting of the United States Congress
11:15 a.m. Visit to St. Patrick in the City and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington
4:00 p.m. Depart from Joint Base Andrews
5:00 p.m. Arrival at John F. Kennedy International Airport
6:45 p.m. Evening Prayer (Vespers) at St. Patrick’s Cathedral


8:30 a.m. Visit to the United Nations and Address to the United Nations General Assembly
11:30 a.m. Multi-religious service at 9/11 Memorial and Museum, World Trade Center
4:00 p.m. Visit to Our Lady Queen of Angels School, East Harlem
5:00 p.m. Procession through Central Park (time approximate)
6:00 p.m. Mass at Madison Square Garden


9:30 a.m. Arrival at Atlantic Aviation
10:30 a.m. Mass at Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul
4:45 p.m. Independence Mall Address (This event is open to the public.)
7:30 p.m. Festival of Families on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway (This event is open to the public.)


9:15 a.m. Meeting with Bishops at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary
11:00 a.m. Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility Visit
4:00 p.m. Papal Mass on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway (This event is open to the public.)
8:00 p.m. Departure from Atlantic Aviation.