On Pope Francis’ Birthday, Celebrating His Words and Wisdom

(CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Today, December 17, is Pope Francis’ birthday!

The USCCB Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development maintains a Pope Francis Quotes collection, which is updated several times each year.  It highlights the Holy Father’s words on poverty, care for creation, migration, and many other issues, in order to inspire us to live and act as missionary disciples.

To honor Pope Francis on his birthday, we’ve selected a few favorites: three from Evangelii Gaudium, Laudato Si’, and Amoris Laetitia, and three from recent months:

“Each individual Christian and every community is called to be an instrument of God for the liberation and promotion of the poor, and for enabling them to be fully a part of society” (Evangelii Gaudium, no. 187).

“A true ecological approach always becomes a social approach: it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor” (Laudato Si’, no. 49).

“Christian families should never forget that ‘faith does not remove us from the world, but draws us more deeply into it… Each of us, in fact, has a special role in preparing for the coming of God’s kingdom in our world.’ Families should not see themselves as a refuge from society, but instead go forth from their homes in a spirit of solidarity with others. In this way, they become a hub for integrating persons into society and a point of contact between the public and private spheres” (Amoris Laetitia, no. 181).

Hope is the force that drives the hearts of those who depart, leaving home, their homeland, at times their relatives and families — I am thinking of the migrants — in search of a better life which is worthier of them and their loved ones. And it is also the impulse in the heart of those who welcome: the desire to encounter, to get to know each other, to dialogue. . . . Hope is the force that drives us ‘to share the journey,’ because the journey is made jointly . . . . Christ himself asks us to welcome our brother and sister migrants and refugees with open arms, with arms wide open” (General Audience, Sept. 27, 2017).

“Poverty is not an inevitable misfortune: it has causes that must be recognized and removed, in order to honor the dignity of many brothers and sisters, after the example of the Saints” (Angelus, Oct. 15, 2017).

“The teaching of John XXIII remains ever valid.  In pointing to the goal of an integral disarmament, he stated: ‘Unless this process of disarmament be thoroughgoing and complete, and reach men’s very souls, it is impossible to stop the arms race, or to reduce armaments, or – and this is the main thing – ultimately to abolish them entirely’ (Pacem in Terris)” (Address, Nov. 10, 2017).

Let’s honor Pope Francis today by taking these words to heart, responding with prayer and action, and sharing them with others!

Going Deeper
To pray, reach out, learn and act together on these and other topics, visit WeAreSaltandLight.org.

10 Ways to Participate in Pope Francis’ US Visit

USCCB offers these tips for ways to participate in Pope Francis’ visit to the United States.

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to see Pope Francis when he visits the United States. Even if you are not among those who will see the Holy Father in person, you can still make his visit a time of spiritual renewal and evangelization by following the suggestions below.Logo: Love is our mission, Pope Francis 2015

  1. Take part in a “Virtual Pilgrimage” with these prayers as the Holy Father makes his way to more than a dozen different locations in Washington, DC, New York City, and Philadelphia.
  2. Learn more about the places Pope Francis will visit by following his journey on this interactive map.
  3. Become “Pope Francis literate” by reading his two encyclical letters: Lumen Fidei  and Laudato Si.
  4. Stay up-to-date and read insightful commentary by connecting with the only news source founded and supported by the US Bishops, Catholic News Service.
  5. Have a Papal Visit Watch Party!  All events will be live streamed in English with audio commentary here.  Select events will also be available for video on demand here.
  6. Take your faith and the latest papal visit news with you on the go by downloading the Catholic Church app for IOS at the iTunes store
    or for Android devices on Google Play.
  7. Respond to Pope Francis’s call to enounter by reaching out to those in need, supporting parish or community charitable efforts, acting to promote life, human dignity, families and religious freedom, and by caring for creation. Find ideas here.
  8. Invite a non-Catholic or non-practicing Catholic friend to Mass next weekend so they can experience the joy of the Gospel!
  9. Engage in social media: use our hash tags #PopeinUS and #PapaEnUSA.  Don’t forget to use some Pope emojis!
  10. Support the many people working to make Pope Francis’ historic US visit a success by praying for them to the Blessed Virgin under her title  Mary, Undoer of Knots (a favorite of Pope Francis). Include in your intentions: Vatican staff, the US Secret Service, the US Bishops, their staff and volunteers, the World Meeting of Families committee and volunteers, and the three host archdioceses and host cities.

Find more information about the Papal Visit, including links to top new stories, the Pope’s schedule in the United States, and text of all his speeches and homilies once they are given at USCCB’s website.

Find out more ways to respond to Pope Francis’ call during his visit to the United States! Sign up now for JPHD’s Papal Visit alerts on Sept. 22-28. The daily emails will include updates, resources, and ways you can act on the Holy Father’s call. The alerts will also highlight sharable content from JPHD Facebook and Twitter pages.

Pope Francis’ Prayer for Jubilee Year of Mercy

This week, Pope Francis released his prayer for the Jubilee Year of Mercy, which is December 8, 2015 through November 20, 2016.

The beautiful prayer is a call “to go forth,” transformed by the Father’s mercy and Jesus’ “loving gaze” as we encounter his “visible face in the world.”  Quoting Luke 4:18, Pope Francis prays for a Church which brings good news to people in poverty, liberty to those who are oppressed, and restoration of sight to those who are blind.

Read the full prayer on Vatican Radio’s website.

Anticipating Pope Francis’ Encyclical on the Environment

Cecilia Calvo, USCCB

Cecilia Calvo, USCCB Environmental Justice Progam

Last Friday, Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, was in Washington DC to join interfaith leaders at a Congressional briefing on climate change. He also published his thoughts in a piece in the Sun Sentinel, Pope Francis poised to weigh in on climate change.

In that piece, he suggests that before being a political, economic or technical issue, climate change is first a human and moral issue, one that will test the ethical resources of the world community. Climate change calls into question how we understand our relationship to the environment, how we structure our society and economic life, and how we respond to poverty. As he says:

We have to recognize the inter-relatedness of the various social, economic, political or environmental crises that confront the human family today. Fundamentally, these all are moral crises which require ‘new rules and forms of engagement;’ in other words, a rethinking of the path that we are traveling down together.

Pope Francis offers an apt x-ray of our current culture with a poignant metaphor: a culture of waste. This is an unsustainable culture, one that threatens to drain both our moral and natural resources, exploiting both persons and creation. To this culture of waste, Pope Francis asks us to consider building a culture of solidarity and encounter, one capable of addressing the great moral challenges of our time.

Cecilia Calvo is the coordinator of the USCCB Environmental Justice Program.

Sacred Rights to Land and Work

Samantha Opachan

Samantha Opachan

In Pope Francis’ Address to the Participants of the World Meeting of Popular Movements last year, he stated, “love for the poor is at the center of the Gospel. Land, housing and work, what you struggle for, are sacred rights. To make this claim is nothing unusual; it is the social teaching of the Church.” One increasingly common way rights can be disregarded is through unsustainable development practices that neglect both the environment and communities experiencing poverty.

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) supports communities throughout the United States in their efforts to address issues of sustainable development. Sustainable development meets the needs of the present without putting future generations at risk. It places a special emphasis on responsible stewardship of the environment, the needs of those living in poverty, and the development of individuals and communities.

The common good, the preservation of Creation, our rights and responsibilities, and the dignity of all people are interwoven. To promote the common good includes working towards a sustainable development that respects the dignity of all people. Our stewardship of creation and economic practices should not exploit precious resources or vulnerable communities.

CCHD empowers low-income groups to promote sustainable development in their communities through advocacy and economic initiatives. Since 2013, CCHD has invested nearly 2.5 million dollars and partnered with over 35 low-income community-based organizations and 31 dioceses in 22 states to support environmental justice.

One issue that CCHD funded groups are wrestling with is fracking. By rapidly converting rural and natural areas into industrial zones, the practice of fracking can negatively impact the environment and lead to adverse effects on public health and local economies. In New York, an ecumenical group receiving a CCHD grant, Moving in Congregations Acting in Hope (MICAH), recognized the negative effects fracking was having on their community’s farmland, livestock, public health, and water and air. MICAH supported poor and working families to mobilize resources, build relationships and take action. Their successful efforts helped protect their community from potential drill sites.

CCHD funded groups are also helping to create economic opportunities that protect the environment for low-income communities. Appalachia is a region of our nation devastated by lack of employment. Manufacturing substantially left many southern communities in the late 1990’s. Opportunity Threads, a worker-owned cut and sew cooperative in Western North Carolina, recognized that the textile industry needed to be innovative and predicated their business model on community centeredness and sustainability. Opportunity Threads works for positive environmental, economic and social impacts for both clients and workers. They exemplify an environmentally and economically sustainable model by focusing on production that uses organic cotton and reusable materials, as well as advancing the skills of workers and promoting fair labor. Opportunity Threads has grown into a strong business that will lead to lasting social, economic and environmental change in an Appalachia community that has traditionally struggled.

Our faith calls us to be good stewards of the environment. Sustainable practices support the protection of the both the environment and communities which are most vulnerable. For more information about the environmental justice work of CCHD groups and their communities, check out these Stories of Hope.

Samantha Opachan is an intern with the USCCB Catholic Campaign for Human Development and the Environmental Justice Program. She is a Master of Social Work student at The Catholic University of America.

Rethinking the Social Question

“The exclusive binary model of market-plus-state is corrosive of society…”
Pope Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate 39

Pope Paul VI pictured in undated portraitThe recent beatification of Blessed Pope Paul VI has reminded us of his deep commitment to justice and the role of the Church’s social doctrine in lifting up human dignity and promoting the common good in the political, economic and social order.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, in Caritas in Veritate (CIV), recalled that Paul VI urged the formation of an economy in which “all will be able to give and receive without one group making progress at the expense of the other” (Populorum Progessio 44).

As we approach another election, we are afforded the opportunity to exercise our right to participate in the political life of the country and our local communities. Yet it is arguable that our choices are often relegated to a narrow space between support for either bureaucratic state control or the pervasive laws of the market, to govern the totality of civil society. This false binary logic plays itself out in an increasingly hyper-partisan political culture pitting liberals against conservatives, free marketers against proponents of the welfare state, or other labels one decides to use. This overriding logic, according to Benedict XVI, has “accustomed us to think only in terms of the private business leader of a capitalistic bent on the one hand, and the State director on the other” (CIV 41). Perhaps it is time we reconsider the social question and how the political economy serves, or undermines, human life and dignity.

Church teaching calls for us all to be active participants in civic life. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) states, “It is necessary that all participate, each according to his position and role, in promoting the common good” (CCC 1913). This is also echoed in Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States (Faithful Citizenship 4). But the bishops also remark how Catholics often feel “politically disenfranchised”, given limited political options and how these compare to the breadth of the Catholic social teaching tradition.

This disenfranchisement, I believe, is traceable to the false binary logic that Benedict XVI describes. In CIV, building on the thought of both St. John Paul II and Blessed Paul VI, Benedict suggests we should think differently. He suggests that the social teaching of the Church has something more genuine to contribute to the social question than the current global order affords.

Benedict refers to an “economy of gratuitousness” (CIV 38) where both the political and economic life is oriented in the service of the person, promoting solidarity and human dignity. Ultimately, this is a political and economic order rooted in the values of love and gift, or reciprocity. A social order of this quality is better suited to the integral development of the human person in his or her material, social, political and spiritual being. Greater and more meaningful global participation in social life, especially by people on the margins of society, is possible than is reflected in our current economic and political arrangements.

Pope Francis has spoken many times of an economy that kills and excludes, where for many, “it is a struggle to live, and often, to live with precious little dignity (Evangelii Gaudium, #52). Such an economic and political order denies the “primacy of the human person” (EG #55), he argues, and lacks a truly humane purpose.

Paul VI and Benedict XVI challenged us to think imaginatively and consider the values that drive our global order.

How different would our world look if it were grounded on an ethic that placed the human person and the strength of families and communities first? Poverty, hunger, violence, the good of families and persons, political participation and other concerns, I suspect, would look radically different if the virtues of caritas, gift of self and love were the basis of our human interactions.

Perhaps it is time we rethink the social question anew.

Anthony J. Granado is a policy advisor at the USCCB’s Department of Justice, Peace & Human Development.

Social justice. Are we listening?

A word cloud from the social encyclical of Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate.

A word cloud from the social encyclical of Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate.

It seemed not long ago that Pope Francis set off a firestorm of controversy around the question of social justice. That seems to have died down now. Of course, he keeps speaking, but are we really listening?

If you weren’t paying attention, you may have missed a classic Pope Francis moment last week. Speaking on the anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI’s social encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, Francis called for “deep reforms” in our economic and public life.

One would have thought that after a speech in which he once again called for “redistribution of wealth” and “redistribution of sovereignty”, there would have been controversy to follow. Instead there was uncanny silence.

He also had harsh words for poverty and inequality, saying that inequality threatens to erode our democracies. He ended his speech with a heartfelt plea to “keep alive the concern for the poor and social justice”.

No doubt about it, Pope Francis keeps talking about social justice. But, are we receiving his teaching? Do we believe that social justice is a meaningful term, that it has something to offer in terms of shaping American society, the economy and public life?

Pope Francis clearly does. In the same speech, he defines social justice as the difference between a society based on exclusion and one founded on inclusion.

Groups supported by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development struggle on the border between inclusion and exclusion. They work to stretch the border of fairness and dignity to more and more communities. They certainly know what a society built on exclusion looks like. Unemployment. Anxiety. Job insecurity. Drugs. Stolen wages. Excluded immigrants. Environmental damage. Catch up with the bills. Not making rent. A criminal record that comes back to haunt. Expensive education. No time to think about family. No time to think about community.

These are the hard truths of social injustice. You only come to know them by living its harsh reality or by exercising solidarity with those who do.

But CCHD groups also appreciate the hard won truths of social justice. Community. Economic empowerment. Jobs. Participation in public life. Education. Health. Culture. Fairness. Justice. Raising a family with confidence. The power to change one’s life for the better.

For Pope Francis, social justice isn’t a detached, abstract discourse. As he says, it’s about “overcoming the structural causes of inequality and poverty.” It’s about putting the pieces of a broken society back together. It’s about building “an economy and a market that does not exclude people, and which are equitable.” The question of social justice is not a grandiloquent discourse on the theological conditions of the perfect society. It is about how to live and love in a broken world.

A word cloud from a speech of Pope Francis on the Church's social mission.

A word cloud from a speech of Pope Francis on the Church’s social mission.

Because we have put profit before people, competition before community, there are those who suffer exclusion from our markets and from our democracy.

The bishops of the United States define just what social justice looks like in their 1986 pastoral letter on the economy, Economic Justice for All. In their words:

“Basic justice demands the establishment of minimum levels of participation in the life of the human community for all persons.”

For the bishops, social justice requires society be molded so that all can participate in our economy and public life. Participation and inclusion are the yardsticks of social justice.

If that’s true, that might mean that we need to take Pope Francis’ call to redistribute wealth and sovereignty seriously. How do we make sure all can participate in an economy that guarantees dignified work and the ability to raise a family? How do we make sure that all voices are represented at the table of our democracy? Those aren’t abstract questions. As Pope Benedict XVI put it in Caritas in Veritate:

“Testimony to Christ’s charity, through works of justice, peace and development, is part and parcel of evangelization, because Jesus Christ, who loves us, is concerned with the whole person.”

Do we want a society based on inclusion or exclusion? Our commitment to love like Jesus demands we hear the question.

McCloud headshotRalph McCloud is the executive director of the USCCB’s Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

Go deeper:
Learn about poverty in the United States and what CCHD groups are doing to address it at PovertyUSA and PobrezaUSA.

Follow CCHD on Twitter.

Let us go forth, then…

 Let us go forth, then, let us go forth to offer everyone the life of Jesus Christ.

Pope Francis, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 49

No person ever walked away unchanged from a moment spent with Jesus. When he looked into the eyes of someone suffering, Jesus did not first see a problem or injustice, he saw a person. His encounter with them was always a personal one that left no doubt that the one before him was deeply loved. How often in the Gospel we see Jesus providing us an example of true encounter. Can we ignore that most of these encounters take place outside the temple, often with those who would never have been welcomed or interested in worshiping there?

“To go forth.”  We have chosen this title for our new blog with great intention. Our mission, taken from Jesus himself (Mt. 28:19), is to go forth to all who are in need, who while they are on the margins of our society, are in fact at the center of the heart of Christ. But when we go forth, we go forth the way Jesus did—to meet people, to encounter them.

Our present age encourages transactional relationships –in buying or selling, seeking greater levels of productivity and efficiency, running from meeting to meeting in endless activity, even in our charitable works.

And yet, we have all met at least one person in our lives who made us feel as if we were the only person that mattered in the world to them, even if for just a moment. No doubt every person who left an encounter with Jesus felt this, even if they were not ready to follow him. To encounter others means to be more than transactional about transmitting God’s love. If we end an encounter without knowing the other more deeply, have we encountered them at all? Pope Francis uses this word encounter repeatedly. It is always coupled with his exhortation to go to the margins. In a speech to the bishops of Brazil, Pope Francis asked the simple question: “When you give alms to someone do you look them in the eye or do you simply toss them some charity and walk away? If you do not touch them, you have not encountered them… We must build a culture of encounter.”

As difficult as it can be sometimes, we are called to truly engage with others every day of our lives. We must not miss God’s image and likeness in the person before us. Every person we meet is due a love and respect equal to their high dignity as a daughter or son of God.

We have many hopes for this new blog. This will be a forum that explores the Church’s teaching, while at the same time considering very practical issues that confront us as individuals and at the level of the greater common good. It will allow us to consider issues that affect U.S. concerns, but also to tackle ideas and challenges with global and international dimensions. Even with heavy doses of reality and challenge, we will try to achieve a balance with the hope that comes from sharing ideas, stories and inspiration. This blog will be the product of numerous voices, expanding our vision and creating conversation. But these goals all serve a higher purpose: it is our sincere desire that this blog will encourage all of us to go forth and to truly encounter the other; and, in encountering the other, to come to know and love Jesus himself in ever deeper ways.

Reyes photo GuadalupeDr. Jonathan Reyes is executive director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Department of Justice, Peace & Human Development.

Going Forth…

“In our day Jesus’ command to “go and make disciples” echoes in the changing scenarios and ever new challenges to the Church’s mission of evangelization, and all of us are called to take part in this new missionary “going forth”. Each Christian and every community must discern the path that the Lord points out, but all of us are asked to obey his call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the “peripheries” in need of the light of the Gospel.”

~Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium