Monsignor’s Message – Mother’s Day

Posted on May 10, 2017

This is a message from Msgr. Kieran Harrington, Vicar for Communications for the Diocese of Brooklyn that appears in The Tablet:

This Sunday is Mother’s Day. It is our parish custom to give a rose to all the women who are mothers or mother figures at the Masses. One year, we ran out of roses. Displayed prominently in the sanctuary was an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe and it was surrounded by bouquets of roses. I took some of the roses surrounding the image and gave them to the women who remained without a rose to take home. Mary would deny nothing to her daughters. The following year, we gave flowers to everyone entering the church. At the offertory, everyone was asked to bring up a rose and place it before Mary. On Mother’s Day, many mourn that they have never had the opportunity to be mothers; children mourn mothers who have died, and sadly it is sometimes mothers who mourn their lost children. Some people are angry due to their mothers’ shortcomings; all mothers consider the ways in which they may have failed. So this Mother’s Day, let us honor Mary, our heavenly mother and her daughters, for whom she would give everything – even her own Son.

May God bless you,
Monsignor Kieran Harrington, V.E.

Monsignor’s Message – The Month of Mary

Posted on May 3, 2017

This is a message from Msgr. Kieran Harrington, Vicar for Communications for the Diocese of Brooklyn that appears in The Tablet:

All humanity traces its origin to Eve. Saint John speaks of Mary as the new Eve. It was through Eve that we have life but through Mary’s offspring that we have life eternal. It is appropriate that this month of May be dedicated to Mary Mother of God. Mary is the moon who reflects the light of Christ, her sun. There would be no life without the Son and no Son without the mother. In the incarnation, the Almighty chose humility and became a creature. God becomes vulnerable to His creation and this reaches its climax when we chose to reject God’s Son by sinning and crucify Him. Yet the Lord is never undone in mercy, for even as He hung upon the cross, Christ bequeathed to you and me His most intimate relationships. We will share in His life. Mary becomes our Mother and we are called to honor her. For by His Cross and Resurrection He has redeemed His creation, and she who never betrayed her Creator reigns with Him in heaven as our Queen. May God bless you.

May God bless you,
Monsignor Kieran Harrington, V.E.

Papal Visit, and DeSales Coverage, Continues With Mass in Cairo

Posted on Apr 29, 2017

DeSales Media Group’s coverage of the papal visit to Egypt continued early this morning as Pope Francis celebrated Mass in a stadium in Cairo.

“Religiosity means nothing unless it is inspired by deep faith and charity,” Pope Francis said at the service, which drew about 15,000 people. “True faith is one that makes us more charitable, more merciful, more honest and more humane.”

DeSales coverage of the trip has included live video on NET TV with commentary by Ed Wilkinson, editor of The Tablet, and Liz Fabulas, host of Currents. Our journalists and outlets have been bringing real-time quotes and images to their audiences via social media.

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Pope Francis In Egypt: Homily At Sat AM Mass

Posted on Apr 29, 2017

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis was the principal celebrant and homilist at Mass for Egyptian Catholics in the “Air Defense Stadium” in Cairo on Saturday, April 29, 2017. Below, please find the full text of the Holy Father’s prepared remarks, in their official English translation from Vatican Radio.

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Homily of His Holiness Pope Francis
Holy Mass, Cairo
29 April 2017

As-salamu alaykum!   Peace be with you!

Today’s Gospel of the third Sunday of Easter speaks to us of the journey to Emmaus of the two disciples who set out from Jerusalem.  It can be summed up in three words: death, resurrection and life.

Death.  The two disciples are returning, full of despair and disappointment, to life as usual.  The Master is dead and thus it is pointless to hope.  They feel disappointment and despair.  Theirs is a journey of return, as they leave behind the painful experience of Jesus’ crucifixion.  The crisis of the cross, indeed the “scandal” and “foolishness” of the cross (cf. 1 Cor 1:18, 2:2), seems to have buried any hope they had.  The one on whom they had built their lives is dead; in his defeat, he brought all their aspirations with him to the tomb.

They could not believe that their Master and Saviour, who had raised others from the dead and healed the sick, would end up hanging on the cross of shame.  They could not understand why Almighty God had not saved him from such a disgraceful death.  The cross of Christ was the cross of their own ideas about God; the death of Christ was the death of what they thought God to be.  But in fact, it was they who were dead, buried in the tomb of their limited understanding.

How often do we paralyze ourselves by refusing to transcend our own ideas of God, a god created in the image and likeness of man!  How often do we despair by refusing to believe that God’s omnipotence is not one of power and authority, but rather of love, forgiveness and life!

The disciples recognized Jesus in the “breaking of the bread”, in the Eucharist.  Unless we tear apart the veil clouding our vision and shatter the hardness of our hearts and our prejudices, we will never be able to recognize the face of God.

Resurrection.  In the gloom of their darkest night, at the moment of their greatest despair, Jesus approaches the two disciples and walks at their side, to make them see that he is “the Way, and the Truth and the Life” (Jn 14:6).  Jesus turns their despair into life, for when human hope vanishes, divine hope begins to shine in its place.  “What is impossible with men is possible with God” (Lk 18:27; cf. 1:37).  When we reach the depths of failure and helplessness, when we rid ourselves of the illusion that we are the best, sufficient unto ourselves and the centre of our world, then God reaches out to us to turn our night into dawn, our affliction into joy, our death into resurrection.  He turns our steps back to Jerusalem, back to life and to the victory of the Cross (cf. Heb 11:34).

After meeting the Risen Lord, the two disciples returned filled with joy, confidence and enthusiasm, ready to bear witness.  The Risen One made them rise from the tomb of their unbelief and their sorrow.  Encountering the Lord, crucified and risen, they discovered the meaning and fulfilment of the whole of Scripture, the Law and the Prophets.  They discovered the meaning of the apparent defeat of the cross.

Those who do not pass from the experience of the cross to the truth of the resurrection condemn themselves to despair!  For we cannot encounter God without first crucifying our narrow notions of a god who reflects only our own understanding of omnipotence and power.

Life.  The encounter with the Risen Jesus transformed the lives of those two disciples because meeting the Risen One transforms every life, and makes fruitful what is barren (cf. BENEDICT XVI, General Audience, 11 April 2007).  Faith in the resurrection is not a product of the Church, but the Church herself is born of faith in the resurrection.  As Saint Paul says: “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Cor 15:14).

The Risen Lord vanished from the sight of the disciples in order to teach us that we cannot hold on to Jesus as he appeared in history: “Blessed are those who believe and yet have not seen” (Jn 21:29; cf. 20:17).  The Church needs to know and believe that Jesus lives within her and gives her life in the Eucharist, the scriptures and the sacraments.  The disciples on the way to Emmaus realized this, and returned to Jerusalem in order to share their experience with the others: “We have seen the Risen One… Yes, he is truly risen!” (cf. Lk 24:32).

The experience of the disciples on the way to Emmaus teaches us that it is of no use to fill our places of worship if our hearts are empty of the fear of God and of his presence.  It is of no use to pray if our prayer to God does not turn into love for our brothers and sisters.  All our religiosity means nothing unless it is inspired by deep faith and charity.  It is of no use to be concerned about our image, since God looks at the soul and the heart (cf. 1 Sam 16:7) and he detests hypocrisy (cf. Lk 11:37-54; Acts 5:3, 4)[1].  For God, it is better not to believe than to be a false believer, a hypocrite!

True faith is one that makes us more charitable, more merciful, more honest and more humane.  It moves our hearts to love everyone without counting the cost, without distinction and without preference.  It makes us see the other not as an enemy to be overcome, but a brother or sister to be loved, served and helped.  It spurs us on to spread, defend and live out the culture of encounter, dialogue, respect and fraternity.  It gives us the courage to forgive those who have wronged us, to extend a hand to the fallen, to clothe the naked, to feed the hungry, to visit the imprisoned, to help orphans, to give drink to those who thirst, and to come to the aid of the elderly and those in need (cf. Mt 25).  True faith leads us to protect the rights of others with the same zeal and enthusiasm with which we defend our own.  Indeed, the more we grow in faith and knowledge, the more we grow in humility and in the awareness of our littleness.

Dear brothers and sisters,

God is pleased only by a faith that is proclaimed by our lives, for the only fanaticism believers can have is that of charity!  Any other fanaticism does not come from God and is not pleasing to him!

So now, like the disciples of Emmaus, filled with joy, courage and faith, return to your own Jerusalem, that is, to your daily lives, your families, your work and your beloved country.  Do not be afraid to open your hearts to the light of the Risen Lord, and let him transform your uncertainty into a positive force for yourselves and for others.  Do not be afraid to love everyone, friends and enemies alike, because the strength and treasure of the believer lies in a life of love!

May Our Lady and the Holy Family, who dwelt in this venerable land of yours, enlighten our hearts and bless you and this beloved country of Egypt, which at the dawn of Christianity welcomed the preaching of Saint Mark, and throughout its history has brought forth so many martyrs and a great multitude of holy men and women.

Al Masih qam!  Bi-l-haqiqa qam!

Christ is risen!  He is truly risen!


[1] Saint Ephraim exclaims: “Just tear off the mask that covers the hypocrite and you will see only corruption” (Sermon). “Woe to them that are of a double heart”, says Ecclesiasticus (2:14, Vulg).

DeSales Delivers Live Coverage Across Platforms for Pope’s Visit to Egypt

Posted on Apr 28, 2017

Pope Francis began his two-day visit to Egypt on Friday, and DeSales Media Group was with him every step of the way.

In a powerful speech at an international peace conference organized by Egypt’s al-Azhar University, Sunni Islam’s highest institute of learning, Pope Francis called on Egyptians and Muslims everywhere to reject the violence of extremism.

“Peace alone, therefore, is holy, and no act of violence can be perpetrated in the name of God, for it would profane his name,” he said.

Pope Francis is just the second pope to visit Egypt, and his trip comes just weeks after 44 people were killed in suicide bombings at Coptic Christian churches there on Palm Sunday. DeSales coverage included live video on NET TV with commentary by Ed Wilkinson, editor of The Tablet, and Liz Fabulas, host of Currents.

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Pope Francis Visit to Pope Tawadros II

Posted on Apr 28, 2017

Pope Francis visited Pope Tawadros II, Patriarch of the Coptic-Orthodox Church of Alexandria on Friday, April 28, 2017. Below, find the full text of his prepared remarks:

The Lord is risen, he is truly risen! [Al Massih kam, bilhakika kam!]

Your Holiness,

Dear Brother,

Only a short time has passed since the great Solemnity of Easter, the heart of the Christian life, which we were blessed this year to celebrate on the same day. We thus joined in proclaiming the Easter message and, in a sense, relived the experience of the first disciples who together “rejoiced when they saw the Lord” that day (Jn 20:20). This paschal joy is today made all the more precious by the gift of our joining to worship the Risen One in prayer and by our renewed exchange, in his name, of the holy kiss and embrace of peace. For this, I am deeply grateful: in coming here as a pilgrim, I was sure of receiving the blessing of a brother who awaited me. I have eagerly looked forward to this new meeting, for I vividly recall the visit Your Holiness made to Rome shortly after my election, on 10 May 2013. That date has happily become the occasion for celebrating an annual Day of Friendship between Copts and Catholics.

As we joyfully progress on our ecumenical journey, I wish particularly to recall that milestone in relations between the Sees of Peter and Mark which is the Common Declaration signed by our predecessors more than forty years ago, on 10 May 1973. After “centuries of difficult history” marked by increasing “theological differences, nourished and widened by non-theological factors”, and growing mistrust, we were able that day, with God’s help, to acknowledge together that Christ is “perfect God with respect to his divinity and perfect man with respect to his humanity” (Common Declaration of Pope Paul VI and Pope Shenouda III, 10 May 1973). Yet equally important and timely are the words that immediately precede this statement, in which we acknowledge Jesus Christ as “our Lord and God and Saviour and King”. With these words, the See of Mark and the See of Peter proclaimed the lordship of Jesus: together we confessed that we belong to Jesus and that he is our all.

What is more, we realized that, because we belong to him, we can no longer think that each can go his own way, for that would betray his will that his disciples “all be one… so that the world may believe” (Jn 17:21). In the sight of God, who wishes us to be “perfectly one” (v. 23), it is no longer possible to take refuge behind the pretext of differing interpretations, much less of those centuries of history and traditions that estranged us one from the other. In the words of His Holiness John Paul II, “there is no time to lose in this regard! Our communion in the one Lord Jesus Christ, in the one Holy Spirit and in one baptism already represents a deep and fundamental reality” (Address at the Ecumenical Meeting, 25 February 2000). Consequently, not only is there an ecumenism of gestures, words and commitment, but an already effective communion that grows daily in living relation with the Lord Jesus, is rooted in the faith we profess and is truly grounded on our baptism and our being made a “new creation” (cf. 2 Cor 5:17) in him. In a word, there is “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Eph 4:5). Hence, we constantly set out anew, in order to hasten that eagerly awaited day when we will be in full and visible communion around the altar of the Lord.

In this exciting journey, which – like life itself – is not always easy and straightforward, but on which the Lord exhorts us to persevere, we are not alone. We are accompanied by a great host of saints and martyrs who, already fully one, impel us here below to be a living image of the  “Jerusalem above” (Gal 4:26). Among them, surely Peter and Mark in particular rejoice in our encounter today. Great is the bond uniting them. We need only think of the fact that Saint Mark put at the heart of his Gospel Peter’s profession of faith: “You are the Christ”. It was the answer to Jesus ever urgent question: “But who do you say that I am?” (Mk 8:29). Today too, many people cannot answer this question; there are even few people who can raise it, and above all few who can answer it with the joy of knowing Jesus, that same joy with which we have the grace of confessing him together.

Together, then, we are called to bear witness to him, to carry our faith to the world, especially in the way it is meant to be brought: by living it, so that Jesus’ presence can be communicated with life and speak the language of gratuitous and concrete love. As Coptic Orthodox and Catholics, we can always join in speaking this common language of charity: before undertaking a charitable work, we would do well to ask if we can do it together with our brothers and sisters who share our faith in Jesus. Thus, by building communion in the concreteness of a daily lived witness, the Spirit will surely open providential and unexpected paths to unity.

It is with this constructive apostolic spirit that Your Holiness continues to show a genuine and fraternal attention for the Coptic Catholic Church. I am most grateful for this closeness, which has found praiseworthy expression in the National Council of Christian Churches, which you have established so that believers in Jesus can work together more closely for the benefit of Egyptian society as a whole. I also greatly appreciated the generous hospitality offered to the thirteenth Meeting of the International Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches, which took place here last year at your invitation. It is a promising sign that the following meeting took place this year in Rome, as if to bespeak a particular continuity between the Sees of Mark and Peter.

In the sacred Scriptures, Peter seems in some way to reciprocate the affection of Mark by calling him “my son” (1 Pet 5:13). But the Evangelist and his apostolic activity are also fraternally associated with Saint Paul, who, before dying a martyr in Rome, mentions Mark’s great usefulness in his ministry (cf. 2 Tim 4:11) and speaks of him frequently (cf. Philem 24; Col 4:10). Fraternal charity and communion in mission: these are the messages that the word of God and our own origins have bequeathed to us. They are the evangelical seeds that we rejoice to water together and, with God’s help, to make grow (cf. 1 Cor 3:6-7).

The deepening progress of our ecumenical journey is also sustained, in mysterious and quite relevant way, by a genuine ecumenism of blood. Saint John tells us that Jesus came “with water and blood” (1 Jn 5:6); whoever believes in him thus “overcomes the world” (1 Jn 5:5). With water and blood: by living a new life in our common baptism, a life of love always and for all, even at the cost of the sacrifice of one’s life. How many martyrs in this land, from the first centuries of Christianity, have lived their faith heroically to the end, shedding their blood rather than denying the Lord and yielding to the enticements of evil, or merely to the temptation of repaying evil with evil! The venerable Martyrology of the Coptic Church bears eloquent witness to this. Even in recent days, tragically, the innocent blood of defenceless Christians was cruelly shed: their innocent blood unites us. Most dear brother, just as the heavenly Jerusalem is one, so too is our martyrology; your sufferings are also our sufferings. Strengthened by this witness, let us strive to oppose violence by preaching and sowing goodness, fostering concord and preserving unity, praying that all these sacrifices may open the way to a future of full communion between us and of peace for all.

The impressive history of holiness of this land is distinguished not only by the sacrifice of the martyrs. No sooner had the ancient persecutions ended, than a new and selfless form of life arose as a gift of the Lord: monasticism originated in the desert. Thus, the great signs that God had once worked in Egypt and at the Red Sea (cf. Ps 106:21-22) were followed by the miracle of a new life that made the desert blossom with sanctity. With veneration for this shared patrimony, I have come as a pilgrim to this land that the Lord himself loves to visit. For here, in his glory he came  down upon Mount Sinai (cf. Ex 24:16), and here, in his humility, he found refuge as a child (cf. Mt 2:14).

Your Holiness, dearest brother, may the same Lord today grant us to set out together as pilgrims of communion and messengers of peace. On this journey, may the Virgin Mary take us by the hand, she who brought Jesus here, and whom the great Egyptian theological tradition has from of old acclaimed as Theotokos, the Mother of God. In this title, humanity and divinity are joined, for in his Mother, God became forever man. May the Blessed Virgin, who constantly leads us to Jesus, the perfect symphony of divine and human, bring yet once more a bit of heaven to our earth.

Pope in Egypt: Address during Meeting with Political and Civil Authorities

Posted on Apr 28, 2017

Mr President,

Honourable Members of Government and Parliament,

Distinguished Ambassadors and Members of the Diplomatic Corps,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As-salamu alaykum! Peace be with you!

I thank you, Mr President, for your cordial words of greeting and for your kind invitation to visit your beloved country. I have vivid memories of your visit to Rome in November 2014, my fraternal meeting with his Holiness Pope Tawadros II in 2013, and my meeting last year with the Grand Imam of the University of Al-Azhar, Dr Ahmad Al-Tayyib.

I am happy to be here in Egypt, a land of ancient and noble civilization, whose vestiges we can admire even today; in their majestic splendour they appear to withstand the passing of time. This land is significant for the history of humanity and for the Church’s tradition, not only because of its prestigious past – that of Pharaohs, Copts and Muslims – but also because so many of the Patriarchs lived in Egypt or passed through it. Indeed, Egypt is often mentioned in the sacred Scriptures. In this land, God spoke and “revealed his name to Moses” (JOHN PAUL II, Welcome Ceremony, 24 February 2000: Insegnamenti XXIII, 1 [2000], 248), and on Mount Sinai he entrusted to his people and to all humanity the divine Commandments. On Egyptian soil the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph found refuge and hospitality.

The generous hospitality shown more than two thousand years ago remains in the collective memory of humanity and is a source of abundant blessings that continue to expand. As a result, Egypt is a land that in some sense we all feel to be our own! As you say, “Misr um al-dunya” – “Egypt is the mother of the world”. Today too, this land welcomes millions of refugees from  different countries, including Sudan, Eritrea, Syria and Iraq, refugees whom you make praiseworthy efforts to integrate into Egyptian society.

Thanks to its history and its particular geographical location, Egypt has a unique role to play in the Middle East and among those countries seeking solutions to pressing and complex problems that need to be faced now in order to avoid the spread of worse violence. I am speaking of the blind and brutal violence caused by different factors: sheer desire for power, the arms trade, grave social problems and that religious extremism which uses the Holy Name of God to carry out unprecedented atrocities and injustices.

This destiny and role of Egypt are also the reason that led the people to call for an Egypt where no one lacks bread, freedom and social justice. Certainly this aim will become a reality if all are willing, together, to turn words into actions, authentic aspirations into commitments, written laws into enforced laws, by drawing on the innate genius of the Egyptian people.

Egypt thus has a singular task, namely, to strengthen and consolidate regional peace even as it is assaulted on its own soil by senseless acts of violence. Such acts of violence have caused unjust suffering to so many families – some of them are present among us – who mourn their sons and daughters.

I think in a particular way of all those individuals who in recent years have given their lives to protect your country: young people, members of the armed forces and police, Coptic citizens and all those nameless victims of various forms of terrorist extremism. I think also of the murders and the threats that have led to an exodus of Christians from northern Sinai. I express my gratitude to the civil and religious authorities and to all those who have offered welcome and assistance to these persons who have suffered so greatly. I also think of the victims of the attacks on Coptic churches, both last December and more recently in Tanta and Alexandria. To the members of their families, and to all of Egypt, I offer my heartfelt condolences and my prayers that the Lord will grant speedy healing to the injured.

Mr President, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
I can only encourage the bold efforts being made to complete a number of national projects and the many initiatives of peacemaking, both within the country and beyond its borders, aimed at that development in prosperity and peace which its people desire and deserve.

Development, prosperity and peace are essential goods that merit every sacrifice. They are also goals that demand hard work, conviction and commitment, adequate planning and, above all, unconditional respect for inalienable human rights such as equality among all citizens, religious freedom and freedom of expression, without any distinction (cf. Universal Declaration of Human Rights; Egyptian Constitution of 2014, Chapter 3). Goals, too, that require special consideration for the role of women, young people, the poor and the sick. Ultimately, true development is measured by concern for human beings, who are the heart of all development: concern for their education, health and dignity. The greatness of any nation is revealed in its effective care of society’s most vulnerable members – women, children, the elderly, the sick, the disabled and minorities – lest any person or social group be excluded or marginalized.

In the fragile and complex situation of today’s world, which I have described as “a world war being fought piecemeal”, it needs to be clearly stated that no civilized society can be built without repudiating every ideology of evil, violence and extremism that presumes to suppress others and to annihilate diversity by manipulating and profaning the Sacred Name of God. Mr President, you have spoken of this often and on various occasions, with a clarity that merits attention and appreciation.
All of us have the duty to teach coming generations that God, the Creator of heaven and earth, does not need to be protected by men; indeed, it is he who protects them. He never desires the death of his children, but rather their life and happiness. He can neither demand nor justify violence; indeed, he detests and rejects violence (“God… hates the lover of violence”: Ps 11:5). The true God calls to unconditional love, gratuitous pardon, mercy, absolute respect for every life, and fraternity among his children, believers and nonbelievers alike.

It is our duty to proclaim together that history does not forgive those who preach justice, but then practice injustice. History does not forgive those who talk about equality, but then discard those who are different. It is our duty to unmask the peddlers of illusions about the afterlife, those who preach hatred in order to rob the simple of their present life and their right to live with dignity, and who exploit others by taking away their ability to choose freely and to believe responsibly. It is our duty to dismantle deadly ideas and extremist ideologies, while upholding the incompatibility of true faith and violence, of God and acts of murder.

History instead honours men and women of peace, who courageously and non-violently strive to build a better world: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Mt 5:9).

Egypt, in the days of Joseph, saved other peoples from famine (cf. Gen 47:57); today it is called to save this beloved region from a famine of love and fraternity. It is called to condemn and vanquish all violence and terrorism. It is called to pour out the grain of peace upon all hearts that hunger for peaceful coexistence, dignified employment and humane education. Egypt, in building peace and at the same time combatting terrorism, is called to give proof that “al-din lillah wal watan liljami” – religion belongs to God and the nation to all”, as the motto of the Revolution of 23 July 1952 states. Egypt is called to demonstrate that it is possible to believe and live in harmony with others, sharing with them fundamental human values and respecting the freedom and the faith of all (cf. Egyptian Constitution of 2014, Article 5). Egypt has a special role to play in this regard, so that this region, the cradle of the three great religions, can and indeed will awake from the long night of tribulation, and once more radiate the supreme values of justice and fraternity that are the solid foundation and the necessary path to peace (cf. Message for the 2014 World Day of Peace, 4). From great nations, one can expect no less!

This year marks the seventieth anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the Arab Republic of Egypt, which was one of the first Arab countries to establish such relations. Those relations have always been characterized by friendship, esteem and reciprocal cooperation. It is my hope that my Visit may help to consolidate and strengthen them.
Peace is a gift of God, but also the work of man. It is a good that must be built up and protected, respecting the principle that upholds the force of law and not the law of force (cf. Message for the 2017 World Day of Peace, 1). Peace for this beloved country! Peace for this whole region, and particularly for Palestine and Israel, for Syria, for Libya, Yemen, for Iraq, for South Sudan. Peace to all people of good will!

Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to greet with affection and a paternal embrace all the Egyptian people, who are symbolically present in this hall. I also greet my Christian sons and daughters, and brothers and sisters, who live in this country: Coptic Orthodox, Greek Byzantines, Armenian Orthodox, Protestants and Catholics. May Saint Mark, the evangelizer of this land, watch over you and help all of us to build and achieve the unity so greatly desired by our Lord (cf. Jn 17:20-23). Your presence in this, your country, is not new or accidental, but ancient and an inseparable part of the history of Egypt. You are an integral part of this country, and over the course of the centuries you have developed a sort of unique rapport, a particular symbiosis, which can serve as an example to other nations. You have shown, and continue to show, that it is possible to live together in mutual respect and fairness, finding in difference a source of richness and never a motive of conflict (cf. BENEDICT XVI, Post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Medio Oriente, 24 and 25).

Thank you for your warm welcome. I ask the Almighty and One God to fill all the Egyptian people with his divine blessings. May he grant peace and prosperity, progress and justice to Egypt, and bless all her children!
“Blessed be Egypt my people”, says the Lord in the Book of Isaiah (19:25). Shukran wa tahya misr! Thank you and long live Egypt!

Pope Francis Speech At Al-Azhar Cairo, Egypt

Posted on Apr 28, 2017

The Pope addressed the participants at the International Peace Conference at the Al-Azhar Conference Center in Ciaro, Egypt. Below is Pope Francis’ address to the International Peace Conference:

As-salamu alaykum! Peace be with you!

I consider it a great gift to be able to begin my Visit to Egypt here, and to address you in the context of this International Peace Conference. I thank the Grand Imam for having planned and organized this Conference, and for kindly inviting me to take part. I would like to offer you a few thoughts, drawing on the glorious history of this land, which over the ages has appeared to the world as a land of civilizations and a land of covenants.

A land of civilizations

From ancient times, the culture that arose along the banks of the Nile was synonymous with civilization. Egypt lifted the lamp of knowledge, giving birth to an inestimable cultural heritage, made up of wisdom and ingenuity, mathematical and astronomical discoveries, and remarkable forms of architecture and figurative art. The quest for knowledge and the value placed on education were the result of conscious decisions on the part of the ancient inhabitants of this land, and were to bear much fruit for the future. Similar decisions are needed for our own future, decisions of peace and for peace, for there will be no peace without the proper education of coming generations. Nor can young people today be properly educated unless the training they receive corresponds to the nature of man as an open and relational being.

Education indeed becomes wisdom for life if it is capable of “drawing out” of men and women the very best of themselves, in contact with the One who transcends them and with the world around them, fostering a sense of identity that is open and not self-enclosed. Wisdom seeks the other, overcoming temptations to rigidity and closed-mindedness; it is open and in motion, at once humble and inquisitive; it is able to value the past and set it in dialogue with the present, while employing a suitable hermeneutics. Wisdom prepares a future in which people do not attempt to push their own agenda but rather to include others as an integral part of themselves. Wisdom tirelessly seeks, even now, to identify opportunities for encounter and sharing; from the past, it learns that evil only gives rise to more evil, and violence to more violence, in a spiral that ends by imprisoning everyone. Wisdom, in rejecting the dishonesty and the abuse of power, is centred on human dignity, a dignity which is precious in God’s eyes, and on an ethics worthy of man, one that is unafraid of others and fearlessly employs those means of knowledge bestowed on us by the Creator.

Precisely in the field of dialogue, particularly interreligious dialogue, we are constantly called to walk together, in the conviction that the future also depends on the encounter of religions and cultures. In this regard, the work of the Mixed Committee for Dialogue between the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the Committee of Al-Azhar for Dialogue offers us a concrete and encouraging example. Three basic areas, if properly linked to one another, can assist in this dialogue: the duty to respect one’s own identity and that of others, the courage to accept differences, and sincerity of intentions.

The duty to respect one’s own identity and that of others, because true dialogue cannot be built on ambiguity or a willingness to sacrifice some good for the sake of pleasing others. The courage to accept differences, because those who are different, either culturally or religiously, should not be seen or treated as enemies, but rather welcomed as fellow-travellers, in the genuine conviction that the good of each resides in the good of all. Sincerity of intentions, because dialogue, as an authentic expression of our humanity, is not a strategy for achieving specific goals, but rather a path to truth, one that deserves to be undertaken patiently, in order to transform competition into cooperation.

An education in respectful openness and sincere dialogue with others, recognizing their rights and basic freedoms, particularly religious freedom, represents the best way to build the future together, to be builders of civility. For the only alternative to the civility of encounter is the incivility of conflict. To counter effectively the barbarity of those who foment hatred and violence, we need to accompany young people, helping them on the path to maturity and teaching them to respond to the incendiary logic of evil by patiently working for the growth of goodness. In this way, young people, like well-planted trees, can be firmly rooted in the soil of history, and, growing heavenward in one another’s company, can daily turn the polluted air of hatred into the oxygen of fraternity.

In facing this great cultural challenge, one that is both urgent and exciting, we, Christians, Muslims and all believers, are called to offer our specific contribution: “We live under the sun of the one merciful God… Thus, in a true sense, we can call one another brothers and sisters… since without God the life of man would be like the heavens without the sun”.2 May the sun of a renewed fraternity in the name of God rise in this sun-drenched land, to be the dawn of a civilization of peace and encounter. May Saint Francis of Assisi, who eight centuries ago came to Egypt and met Sultan Malik al Kamil, intercede for this intention.

A land of covenants

In Egypt, not only did the sun of wisdom rise, but also the variegated light of the religions shone in this land. Here, down the centuries, differences of religion constituted “a form of mutual enrichment in the service of the one national community”.3 Different faiths met and a variety of cultures blended without being confused, while acknowledging the importance of working together for the common good. Such “covenants” are urgently needed today. Here I would take as a symbol the “Mount of the Covenant” which rises up in this land. Sinai reminds us above all that authentic covenants on earth cannot ignore heaven, that human beings cannot attempt to encounter one another in peace by eliminating God from the horizon, nor can they climb the mountain to appropriate God for themselves (cf. Ex 19:12).

This is a timely reminder in the face of a dangerous paradox of the present moment. On the one hand, religion tends to be relegated to the private sphere, as if it were not an essential dimension for the human person and society. At the same time, the religious and political spheres are confused and not properly distinguished. Religion risks being absorbed into the administration of temporal affairs and tempted by the allure of worldly powers that in fact exploit it. Our world has seen the globalization of many useful technical instruments, but also a globalization of indifference and negligence, and it moves at a frenetic pace that is difficult to sustain. As a result, there is renewed interest in the great questions about the meaning of life. These are the questions that the religions bring to the fore, reminding us of our origins and ultimate calling. We are not meant to spend all our energies on the uncertain and shifting affairs of this world, but to journey towards the Absolute that is our goal. For all these reasons, especially today, religion is not a problem but a part of the solution: against the temptation to settle into a banal and uninspired life, where everything begins and ends here below, religion reminds us of the need to lift our hearts to the Most High in order to learn how to build the city of man.

To return to the image of Mount Sinai, I would like to mention the commandments that were promulgated there, even before they were sculpted on tablets of stone.4 At the centre of this “decalogue”, there resounds, addressed to each individual and to people of all ages, the commandment: “Thou shalt not kill” (Ex 20:13). God, the lover of life, never ceases to love man, and so he exhorts us to reject the way of violence as the necessary condition for every earthly “covenant”. Above all and especially in our day, the religions are called to respect this imperative, since, for all our need of the Absolute, it is essential that we reject any “absolutizing” that would justify violence. For violence is the negation of every authentic religious expression.

As religious leaders, we are called, therefore, to unmask the violence that masquerades as purported sanctity and is based more on the “absolutizing” of selfishness than on authentic openness to the Absolute. We have an obligation to denounce violations of human dignity and human rights, to expose attempts to justify every form of hatred in the name of religion, and to condemn these attempts as idolatrous caricatures of God: Holy is his name, he is the God of peace, God salaam. Peace alone, therefore, is holy and no act of violence can be perpetrated in the name of God, for it would profane his Name.

Together, in the land where heaven and earth meet, this land of covenants between peoples and believers, let us say once more a firm and clear “No!” to every form of violence, vengeance and hatred carried out in the name of religion or in the name of God. Together let us affirm the incompatibility of violence and faith, belief and hatred. Together let us declare the sacredness of every human life against every form of violence, whether physical, social, educational or psychological. Unless it is born of a sincere heart and authentic love towards the Merciful God, faith is no more than a conventional or social construct that does not liberate man, but crushes him. Let us say together: the more we grow in the love of God, the more we grow in the love of our neighbour.

Religion, however, is not meant only to unmask evil; it has an intrinsic vocation to promote peace, today perhaps more than ever.6 Without giving in to forms of facile syncretism, our task is  that of praying for one another, imploring from God the gift of peace, encountering one another, engaging in dialogue and promoting harmony in the spirit of cooperation and friendship. For our part, as Christians, “we cannot truly pray to God the Father of all if we treat any people as other than brothers and sisters, for all are created in God’s image”.8 Moreover, we know that, engaged in a constant battle against the evil that threatens a world which is no longer “a place of genuine fraternity”, God assures all those who trust in his love that “the way of love lies open to men and that the effort to establish universal brotherhood is not vain”.9 Rather, that effort is essential: it is of little or no use to raise our voices and run about to find weapons for our protection: what is needed today are peacemakers, not fomenters of conflict; firefighters and not arsonists; preachers of reconciliation and not instigators of destruction.

It is disconcerting to note that, as the concrete realities of people’s lives are increasingly ignored in favour of obscure machinations, demagogic forms of populism are on the rise. These certainly do not help to consolidate peace and stability: no incitement to violence will guarantee peace, and every unilateral action that does not promote constructive and shared processes is in reality a gift to the proponents of radicalism and violence.

In order to prevent conflicts and build peace, it is essential that we spare no effort in eliminating situations of poverty and exploitation where extremism more easily takes root, and in blocking the flow of money and weapons destined to those who provoke violence. Even more radically, an end must be put to the proliferation of arms; if they are produced and sold, sooner or later they will be used. Only by bringing into the light of day the murky maneuverings that feed the cancer of war can its real causes be prevented. National leaders, institutions and the media are obliged to undertake this urgent and grave task. So too are all of us who play a leading role in culture; each in his or her own area, we are charged by God, by history and by the future to initiate processes of peace, seeking to lay a solid basis for agreements between peoples and states. It is my hope that this noble and beloved land of Egypt, with God’s help, may continue to respond to the calling it has received to be a land of civilization and covenant, and thus to contribute to the development of processes of peace for its beloved people and for the entire region of the Middle East.

As-salamu alaykum! Peace be with you!

Monsignor’s Message – Papal Visit

Posted on Apr 27, 2017

This is a message from Msgr. Kieran Harrington, Vicar for Communications for the Diocese of Brooklyn that appears in The Tablet:

In the aftermath of the recent attack in France and the continuous violent persecution of Coptic Christians, the Pope is traveling to Egypt.  Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew will join Pope Tawadros II – Bishop of Alexandria, Patriarch of Egypt and All Africa – at a special peace conference in order to demonstrate a united Christian front against violence and fanaticism. Pontifex, an ancient title for the popes, means bridge-builder. The Holy Father is offering us a courageous lesson about the importance of building bridges within the Christian community and the broader religious world. Let’s all pray that the world may reap the fruits of peace that Pope Francis is sowing. May God bless you.

May God bless you,
Monsignor Kieran Harrington, V.E.

Pope Francis Message For Egypt Visit

Posted on Apr 25, 2017

Below is a Vatican-provided working translation of Pope Francis’ video message in preparation for his visit to Egypt, April 28-29, which was broadcasted this morning in Egypt.
Transcript via zenit.org

* * *

Dear people of Egypt! Al Salamò Alaikum! Peace be with you!

With a joyful and grateful heart I will come in a few days’ time to visit your dear homeland: cradle of civilization, gift of the Nile, land of sun and hospitality, where Patriarchs and Prophets lived and where God, Clement and Merciful, the One and Almighty, made His voice heard.

I am truly happy to come as a friend, as a messenger of peace and as a pilgrim to the Country that gave, more than two thousand years ago, refuge and hospitality to the Holy Family fleeing from the threats of King Herod (cfr. Mt 2:1-26). I am honoured to visit the land visited by the Holy Family!

I greet you cordially and thank you for having invited me to visit Egypt, which you call “Umm il Dugna” / Mother of the Universe!

I warmly thank Mr. President of the Republic, His Holiness the Patriarch Tawadros II, the Great Imam of Al-Azhar and the Coptic Catholic Patriarch who have invited me; and I thank each one of you, who make space for me in your hearts. I also thank all those people who have worked, and are working, to make this trip possible.

I hope that this visit will be an embrace of consolation and of encouragement to all Christians in the Middle East; a message of friendship and esteem to all inhabitants of Egypt and the region; a message of fraternity and reconciliation to all children of Abraham, particularly in the Islamic world, in which Egypt occupies a primary position. I hope that it may also offer a valid contribution to interreligious dialogue with the Islamic world, and to ecumenical dialogue with the venerated and beloved Coptic Orthodox Church.

Our world, torn by blind violence, which has also afflicted the heart of your dear land – needs peace, love and mercy; it needs workers for peace, free and liberating people, courageous people able to learn from the past to build a future without closing themselves up in prejudices; it needs builders of bridges of peace, dialogue, brotherhood, justice, and humanity.

Dear Egyptian brothers, young and elderly, women and men, Muslims and Christians, rich and poor … I embrace you warmly and ask God Almighty to bless you and protect your country from every evil.

Please, pray for me! Shukran wa Tahiaì Misr! / Thank you, and long live Egypt!

[Original text: Italian – working translation] [Vatican-provided working translation]