Pope Francis: Without Fraternity, Efforts for a More Just World Fall Short

via the Vatican:

What is the universal message of Christmas? It is that God is a good Father and we are all brothers and sisters.

This truth is the basis of the Christian vision of humanity. Without the fraternity that Jesus Christ has bestowed on us, our efforts for a more just world fall short, and even our best plans and projects risk being soulless and empty.

For this reason, my wish for a happy Christmas is a wish for fraternity.

Fraternity among individuals of every nation and culture.

Fraternity among people with different ideas, yet capable of respecting and listening to one another.

Fraternity among persons of different religions. Jesus came to reveal the face of God to all those who seek him….

The experience of families teaches us this: as brothers and sisters, we are all different from each other. We do not always agree, but there is an unbreakable bond uniting us, and the love of our parents helps us to love one another. The same is true for the larger human family, but here, God is our “parent”, the foundation and strength of our fraternity.

Pope Francis on Greed and Hunger

via the AP:

During his homily Monday, Francis lamented that many people find their life’s meaning in possessions when the biblical story of Christ’s birth emphasizes that God appeared to people who were poor when it came to earthly possessions, but faithful.

“Standing before the manger, we understand that the food of life is not material riches but love, not gluttony but charity, not ostentation but simplicity,” Francis said, dressed in simple white vestments.

“An insatiable greed marks all human history, even today, when paradoxically a few dine luxuriantly while all too many go without the daily bread needed to survive,” he said.

Assad Regime Using Mass Murder to Empty Prisons of Political Opponents

via the Washington Post:

As Syria’s government consolidates control after years of civil war, President Bashar al-Assad’s army is doubling down on executions of political prisoners, with military judges accelerating the pace they issue death sentences, according to survivors of the country’s most notorious prison.

In interviews, more than two dozen Syrians recently released from the Sednaya military prison in Damascus described a government campaign to clear the decks of political detainees. The former inmates said prisoners are being transferred from jails across Syria to join death-row detainees in Sednaya’s basement and then be executed in pre-dawn hangings.

Yet despite these transfers, the population of Sednaya’s once-packed cells — which at their peak held an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 inmates — has dwindled largely because of the unyielding executions, and at least one section of the prison is almost entirely empty, the former detainees said.

Why Dioceses Should Support Struggling Latino Churches

Nichole Flores writes:

While Latino Catholics have always been a vital presence in the American church, burgeoning populations of migrants and young people have helped bolster their numbers. And even as growing numbers of Latinos have shifted the geographic center of Catholicism from the Northeast to the Southwest, signs of Latino Catholicism are becoming ubiquitous in U.S. Catholicism, promising to transform every corner of the church’s life.

But promising demographic data can easily be interpreted in a way that overlooks the textured history of Latino Catholics in the United States. This history is not a romantic account of gradual awareness, acceptance and celebration by the larger U.S. Catholic Church. It has often been a painful past, one in which the very existence of Latino church communities has often come under threat. As “The Miracle at Tepyác” discloses, Latino Catholics and their institutions have often been treated as pastoral afterthoughts by the broader church, and have even been the subject of neglect and abandonment….

Declining numbers of vocations to the priesthood, contracting parish enrollments and shrinking budgets have caused dioceses across the United States to consolidate parishes, resulting in the closure of spiritual homes in many communities. Dioceses search for mechanisms to cut costs while still serving their diverse constituencies. There is a pattern, however, of the collateral damage from parish consolidation and closure falling upon communities with the least power in these processes, including Latino Catholics and other Catholic communities of color.

While Latinos help the number of Catholics flourish in the southern and western United States, the dynamics of Catholicism in this region—especially in relation to race, ethnicity, culture and class—are still largely ignored or misunderstood. This history puts a wrinkle in the narrative of the growth of Latino Catholicism in the United States and the progressive incorporation of Latinos into the life of the church. Confronting this history presents an opportunity to grapple with dynamics of erasure, resistance and survival that have characterized Latino Catholic life. Further, understanding this history offers a new perspective on the current state of Latinos in the church.

Can Catholic Social Teaching Reduce Polarization?

Robert Christian writes:

Polarization in the United States has increased dramatically in recent decades. At a Georgetown University event on polarization in a “broken Church and nation,” John Carr, the director of the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life, described the grim landscape of American politics. He argued that Americans are more divided than united and that fear, cynicism and anger are leading to tribalism, resulting in the nation’s capital failing to do even basic tasks like fund the government. This division has created fault lines that run through the Church, not just the government and culture. Many Catholics feel “politically homeless,” while others have become polarized, mirroring the values and behavior of others in their political party.

The event featured four panelists who brought unique perspectives and insights on polarization and its impact….

Gehring said that now is the time to reclaim Catholic social teaching. He noted that we are a “both/and” Church that has the resources and worldview to transcend some of the deep divisions in American society. He urged a revival of the consistent ethic of life, an approach that challenges the reigning ideologies on the right and left in the U.S….

Elise Italiano, the founding executive director of The GIVEN Institute, also pointed to the value of the consistent life ethic and the importance of fully embracing Catholic social teaching. She noted that many young Catholics are showing a commitment to this approach in their activism, prayer life and on social media. However, Italiano pointed to high rates of stress, isolation and depression that millennials face. Many young leaders do not know to whom they should turn for advice or to emulate in their search for the best way forward. She closed by saying we can help each other and live as real neighbors, even if we disagree on certain matters.

Holy See Backs More Ambitious Climate Agenda

via Vatican:

The consensus on the final document, rather complex and technically detailed, represents a confirmation of the commitments made three years ago in Paris and of the significance of multilateralism.

Unfortunately, we must also note that the rulebook does not adequately reflect the urgency necessary to tackle climate change, which “represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day” (LS, 25). Moreover, the rulebook seems to downplay human rights, critical in reflecting the human face of climate change, which affects the most vulnerable people on earth. Their cry and that of the earth demand more ambition and greater urgency.

The Holy See Delegation, led by the Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, explained that advancing the dignity of the human person, alleviating poverty by the promotion of integral human development, and easing the impact of climate change through responsible mitigation and adaptation measures go hand in hand. We need a just transition period with all parties assuming their respective responsibilities according to the principle of equity.

As the IPCC Special Report issued in October 2018 distressingly indicated, we are called to limit responsibly the average global temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

Therefore, we encourage much greater ambition in delivering Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and stronger mechanisms toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions, managing the decarbonisation of the current fossil fuel-based economy, transparently sharing the way each nation implements its commitments, addressing the issue of loss and damage, ensuring solid financial commitments, and promoting education in sustainability, responsible awareness, and lifestyle changes.