Grace upon grace…

Grace upon grace...

The beginning of the month of October was very intense in Rome. Launching of the extraordinary missionary month on the 1st of October , commemorating and reviving the very strong missionary appeal made by Benedict XV in his Apostolic Letter “Maximum Illud” a hundred years ago. 

“Baptised and sent: the Church of Christ on mission in the world.” To speak today of the ones baptised and sent means that each baptised person, at his or her level, can be a missionary, can be the instrument of the proposal that God wants to make to Man, through his or her personal witness, prayer and offering.

Three days later, on the feast of St. Francis, the Pope took part, in the Vatican gardens, in a cultural event to celebrate the end of the Season of Creation 2019 and to consecrate the forthcoming Synod on Amazonia. 

But even nearer to our heart and identity was certainly the creation of 13 new Cardinals taken for a great part from missionary institutes, among whom our confrere Michael Fitzgerald. A lot has been written about the event. The General House was full of guests, between the 25 family members and friends of Michael Fitzgerald and a few of the Congolese Bishops who had come to celebrate the creation of Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo Besungu of Kinshasa. 

The Pope had called a Constistory for Saturday the 5th of October at 16 hours to elevate the 13 new Cardinals. For that occasion, all the Cardinals of Rome were present to welcome their new brothers. A few minutes before 3 in the afternoon, “Cardinal Fitzgerald to be” appeared in his scarlet cassock but without the scarlet zuchetta and biretta, both of which he would receive from the hands of the Pope himself during the ceremony. You will recognize on the left side of the photo our confreres, Bishop Willy Ngumbi, and Martin Wullobayi, professor at the Pisai, chose by the new Cardinal as his personal secretary for the ceremony.

The following video is the part of the consistory when the Pope is inviting the “Cardinals to be” to profess their faith, when he wears them with the scarlet zuchetta and biretta and when the new Cardinals are welcomed and congratulated by the College of Cardinals present. This extract of the ceremony just lasts 24 minutes. If you want to see the full video (1h15), follow this link.

After the ceremony, each of the new Cardinals were given a space where they could be met and congratulated by their family members and friends. Back to the house around supper time, Cardinal Michael Fitzgerald still founds the energy to come and share a bit of the evening time with the confrères of the Services and a few others. This shows how simple and fraternal Michael is with his “family”. 

On Sunday, the new Cardinals were concelebrating with the Pope the morning mass on St. Peter’s Square for the big celebration inaugurating the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region.

At one o’clock in the afternoon, all the ceremonies and liturgies were finished. It was then time for celebration. In his congratulating speech, Father Stan Lubungo, superior general, commented on the “Coincidence” of this honour given to Michael but also to all of us and remembering the beatification of our 4 confreres martyred in Algeria and the proclamation of an extraordinary missionary month this October, all occurring within our Jubilee Year, he preferred speaking of a “wink” of God… as we are harvesting “Grace Upon Grace”!

Bp. Michael Fitzgerald… in La Croix International

Cardinal-designate Michael Fitzgerald, a man devoted to dialogue

Anne-Bénédicte Hoffner

Pope Francis shows us how to support those involved in Muslim-Christian dialogue, says the former apostolic nuncio to Egypt who is to be made a cardinal Oct. 5

In his office in Egypt. Arnaud du Boistesselin/Ciric

Cardinal-designate Michael Fitzgerald, former apostolic nuncio to Egypt who at one time was also president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, ambles through the living room of his rectory in Liverpool, northwestern England and produces two letters of congratulations.

He has a chuckle: “The message is very kind but there is a mistake,” he says. “I am not the second English cardinal, I am British. You won’t find a drop of English blood in my veins!”

In any case, it is not for his nationality or his episcopal seat that Pope Francis asked this priest of the Society of Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers) to join the circle of his closest advisors.
“It is an act of justice,” the pope replied to a journalist who was asking him on the flight back to Rome from Madagascar in early September.

“I have never wanted or sought honors,” says Cardinal-designate Fitzgerald. “And then, at 82, will I really advise the pope?”

He looks at the interpretations he reads here and there dispassionately: is it a question of the pope “strengthening his team”, with one eye on the election of his successor?

Or rather, through his appointment, as well as that of the current President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Bishop Miguel Ayuso Guixot, and the Archbishop of Rabat, Bishop Cristobal Lopez Romero, is it a desire to place interreligious dialogue at the heart of the service of the Church and the Gospel?

Archbishop Fitzgerald himself is careful not to make a decision and prefers to speak of “recognition.”
In fact, he perfectly embodies these new Francis-style cardinals, at the opposite end of the spectrum from the “princes of the Church.”

A ‘White Father’ from a young age

From the permission obtained from his parents, both Irish, to let him join the minor seminary of the White Fathers in Scot land at the age of 12, to his appointment in 2002 as head of the dicastery in charge of interreligious dialogue, he considers each of his appointments in Rome, Uganda and Sudan as a coincidence… or act of providence.

All of them have oriented him a little more toward the study of Islam and meeting Muslims. Each time, he bowed to the will of his superiors… and is surprised that we are surprised.

“It’s part of our oath of obedience: you can always refuse, but you need good reasons to do it,” he says.
He directed the Pontifical Institute for Arab Studies and Islamology (Pisai), founded by the White Fathers from 1972 to 1978 and had a number of students, including Brother Christ ian de Chergé, the future Prior of Tibhirine.

Still “without having sought it out”, he accepted in 1987 the post of secretary of what is still called the “Secretariat for non-Christians”.

John Paul II, anxious to develop relations between believers, later transformed it into a Pontifical Council. For 15 years, he faithfully assisted Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze in his efforts to put dialogue at the service of peace, before one day learning of his appointment as president of this dicastery.

The election of Joseph Ratzinger, under the name of Benedict XVI, in 2005, marked a turning point in his career. The new pope’s lack of interest in bringing religions closer together is well documented.

The following year, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue was entrusted to Cardinal Paul Poupard, already in charge of culture, with Archbishop Fitzgerald being appointed nuncio in Egypt.

“Perhaps the intention was to merge interreligious dialogue into intercultural dialogue?” he wonders out loud, remaining faithful to his extreme discretion on the subject.

A few months later, after a speech in Regensburg, Germany, which caused a vigorous uproar in the Muslim world, Benedict XVI reversed his position and restored his independence to the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, placing at its head a seasoned diplomat, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran.

From Jerusalem, where he retired seven years ago, Cardinal-designate Michael Fitzgerald received some signs of Pope Francis’ affection for him: he was entrusted with “a mission in Lebanon.”

“But I didn’t think I would be created a cardinal during Benedict XVI’s lifetime,” he acknowledges.

Surprisingly, despite the years that have passed, we can feel some Roman reflexes, when he is surprised, for example, by these appointments that “do not respect tradition.”

“I will not force the next pope to live in Sainte-Marthe,” he also announces with a smile on his face, referring to Pope Francis’ choice to renounce the papal apartments.

Outside the talk of schisms

In the meantime, and while Vatican rumors swirls about “schism” and sexual scandals, Cardinal-designate Fitzgerald is pleased to be “outside all this.”

His concern today is very different, as he has just returned to his native England, more than 50 years after leaving it. Together with three priests from his institute, he took over an almost abandoned parish in Liverpool.

In agreement with the diocese, the European province of the White Fat hers wanted this “integration” in England to have a double mission: the service of migrants and dialogue with Muslims.

They must therefore find a way to establish contact with the inhabitants: Chinatown on one side and the “Baltic triangle” on the other, named after the former sailors who used to land there.

“In the past, Liverpool was best known for the Beatles. Today, it seems that its main religion is football,” says Fitzgerald who is to be made a cardinal on Oct. 5, buying his bread in front of a huge graffiti representing the coach of the Liverpool Football Club, winner of the Champions League last season.

He also said he was ready to “give support” to the actors of Islamic-Christian dialogue in the United Kingdom.

It is on this lifelong struggle that he is most vocal: “In Al-Azhar, Abu Dhabi or Jerusalem, Pope Francis shows us how to do it: through direct contact and without being locked in prescriptions or barriers,” he exclaimed. “He’s a free man, and we need free men!”

When it comes to electing a successor to the Bishop of Rome one day, the soon-to-be Cardinal Fitzgerald, because he is over 80 years old, will not vote. But he will participate “in the discussions” and “will be happy to support the direction taken by Francis.”

Baptised and sent

Today, a new impulse to the Church’s missionary activity is needed to face the challenge of proclaiming Jesus and his death and resurrection. Reaching the peripheries—the human, cultural, and religious settings still foreign to the Gospel: this is what we call the missio ad gentes.  We must also remember that the heart of the Church’s mission is prayer. In this Extraordinary Missionary Month, let us pray that the Holy Spirit may engender a new missionary “spring” for all those baptized and sent by Christ’s Church.

Talitha Kum General Assembly

Talitha Kum General Assembly

The General Assembly of TALITHA KUM began in Rome on Saturday, 21st of September 2019.

Many guests came for the opening ceremony. On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of Talitha Kum, the Eucharistic celebration of thanksgiving took place in St. Peter’s Basilica and was presided over by H.E. Card. Peter Turkson.

To mark the support of the Missionaries of Africa, Fathers Martin Grenier and Andreas Göpfert participated.

We share the common commitment against human trafficking. We are concerned to promote collaboration and the exchange of information and to set up effective structures in the various African countries.

National networks are already operational in several countries: South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Tunisia,… while other networks are being created, for example in Tanzania.

For more information, please visit Talitha Kum’s official page:

https://www.talithakum.info/

The eucharistic celebration is presided by H.E. Cardinal Turkson and concelebrated by... Martin Grenier

World’s Day of Migrants and Refugees (6)

World's Day of Migrants and Refugees (6)

IT IS NOT JUST ABOUT MIGRANTS… The 29th of September is World’s Day of Migrants and Refugees. An opportunity to change our hearts, our ways of thinking… and to enter into the logic of God. NOT JUST ABOUT THE MIGRANTS… IT’S ABOUT THE WHOLE PERSON AND ABOUT ALL PEOPLE.

“The humanism that Catholic educational institutions are called to build is that which advocates a vision of society centred on the human person and his or her inalienable rights, on the values of justice and peace, on a correct relationship between individuals, society and the State, in the logic of solidarity and subsidiarity. It is a humanism capable of giving a soul to economic progress itself, so that it may be directed to the promotion of each individual and of the whole person.

Rebuilding humanism also means orienting educational work toward the peripheries, the social peripheries and the existential peripheries. Through service, meeting and welcoming, opportunities are offered to the weakest and most vulnerable. In this way we grow together and we mature, understanding the needs of others.”

Pope Francis

The Church has been celebrating World’s Day of Migrants and Refugees ever since 1914. It is always an opportunity for her to express concern for the most vulnerable people, who have to move for one reason or another; it is also an opportunity to pray for the challenges of migration and to raise awareness of the opportunities it offers.

For 2019, Pope Francis has chosen the theme “It is not only about migrants” to help remove our blinders and to ensure that no one is excluded from society, whether they are long-term residents or newcomers.

IT IS NOT JUST ABOUT MIGRANTS

World’s Day of Migrants and Refugees (5)

World's Day of Migrants and Refugees (5)

IT IS NOT JUST ABOUT MIGRANTS… The 29th of September is World’s Day of Migrants and Refugees. An opportunity to change our hearts, our ways of thinking… and to enter into the logic of God. NOT JUST ABOUT THE MIGRANTS… IT’S  ABOUT PUTTING THE LAST AND LEAST IN FIRST PLACE.

“On this sixth anniversary of the visit to Lampedusa, my thoughts go out to those “least ones” who daily cry out to the Lord, asking to be freed from the evils that afflict them. These least ones are abandoned and cheated into dying in the desert; these least ones are tortured, abused and violated in detention camps; these least ones face the waves of an unforgiving sea; these least ones are left in reception camps too long for them to be called temporary.

In the spirit of the Beatitudes we are called to comfort them in their affliction and offer them mercy; to sate their hunger and thirst for justice; to let them experience God’s caring fatherliness; to show them the way to the Kingdom of Heaven. They are persons; these are not mere social or migrant issues! This is not just about migrants.”

Pope Francis

The Church has been celebrating World’s Day of Migrants and Refugees ever since 1914. It is always an opportunity for her to express concern for the most vulnerable people, who have to move for one reason or another; it is also an opportunity to pray for the challenges of migration and to raise awareness of the opportunities it offers.

For 2019, Pope Francis has chosen the theme “It is not only about migrants” to help remove our blinders and to ensure that no one is excluded from society, whether they are long-term residents or newcomers.

IT IS NOT JUST ABOUT MIGRANTS

World’s Day of Migrants and Refugees (4)

World's Day of Migrants and Refugees (4)

IT IS NOT JUST ABOUT MIGRANTS… The 29th of September is World’s Day of Migrants and Refugees. An opportunity to change our hearts, our ways of thinking… and to enter into the logic of God. NOT JUST ABOUT THE MIGRANTS… IT’S ALSO ABOUT NOT EXCLUDING ANYONE.

“Today’s world is increasingly becoming more elitist and cruel towards the excluded. Developing countries continue to be drained of their best natural and human resources for the benefit of a few privileged markets. Wars only affect some regions of the world, yet weapons of war are produced and sold in other regions which then refuse to accept the refugees produced by these conflicts, are unwilling to take them in.

Those who pay the price are always the little ones, the poor, the most vulnerable, who are prevented from sitting at the table and are left with the “crumbs” of the banquet.

The Church which “goes forth” can move forward, boldly take the initiative, go out to others, seek those who have fallen away, stand at the crossroads and welcome the outcast whom we ourselves as a society are excluding. Real development is fruitful and inclusive, oriented towards the future.”

Pope Francis

The Church has been celebrating World’s Day of Migrants and Refugees ever since 1914. It is always an opportunity for her to express concern for the most vulnerable people, who have to move for one reason or another; it is also an opportunity to pray for the challenges of migration and to raise awareness of the opportunities it offers.

For 2019, Pope Francis has chosen the theme “It is not only about migrants” to help remove our blinders and to ensure that no one is excluded from society, whether they are long-term residents or newcomers.

IT IS NOT JUST ABOUT MIGRANTS

World’s Day of Migrants and Refugees (3)

World's Day of Migrants and Refugees (3)

IT IS NOT JUST ABOUT MIGRANTS… The 29th of September is World’s Day of Migrants and Refugees. An opportunity to change our hearts, our ways of thinking… and to enter into the logic of God. NOT JUST ABOUT THE MIGRANTS… IT’S ALSO ABOUT OUR HUMANITY.

“Slavery is not something from other times. This practice has deep roots and it continues today in many forms: they include human trafficking, debt bondage, exploitation of children, sexual exploitation and forced domestic work. No one can wash their hands of these tragic realities without being, in some way, an accomplice in this crime against humanity.

The first thing we must do is to create greater awareness of the subject, to break through the veil of indifference that hangs over this segment of humanity who suffer, who continue to suffer.

The second great task is to act on behalf of those who have been turned into slaves.

All of us Christians are called to work together, in ever greater collaboration, to overcome all forms of inequality, every type of discrimination.”

Pope Francis

The Church has been celebrating World’s Day of Migrants and Refugees ever since 1914. It is always an opportunity for her to express concern for the most vulnerable people, who have to move for one reason or another; it is also an opportunity to pray for the challenges of migration and to raise awareness of the opportunities it offers.

For 2019, Pope Francis has chosen the theme “It is not only about migrants” to help remove our blinders and to ensure that no one is excluded from society, whether they are long-term residents or newcomers.

IT IS NOT JUST ABOUT MIGRANTS

World’s Day of Migrants and Refugees (2)

World's Day of Migrants and Refugees (2)

IT IS NOT JUST ABOUT MIGRANTS… The 29th of September is World’s Day of Migrants and Refugees. An opportunity to change our hearts, our ways of thinking… and to enter into the logic of God. NOT JUST ABOUT THE MIGRANTS… IT’S ALSO ABOUT CHARITY.

“Charity cannot be neutral, antiseptic, indifferent, lukewarm or impartial! Charity is infectious, it excites, it risks and it engages! For true charity is always unmerited, unconditional and gratuitous! It is also about the face we want to give to our society and about the value of each human life. Many positive steps have been taken in different areas, especially in the developed countries, yet we cannot forget that the progress of our peoples cannot be measured by technological or economic advances alone. It depends above all on our openness to being touched and moved by those who knock at our door. Their faces debunk and shatter all those false idols that can take over and enslave our lives, idols blind to the lives and sufferings of others, idols that promise an illusory and fleeting happiness. How arid and inhospitable a city becomes, once it loses the capacity for compassion! A heartless society… a barren mother. You are not the marginalized; you are at the centre of the heart of the Church.”

Pope Francis

The Church has been celebrating World’s Day of Migrants and Refugees ever since 1914. It is always an opportunity for her to express concern for the most vulnerable people, who have to move for one reason or another; it is also an opportunity to pray for the challenges of migration and to raise awareness of the opportunities it offers.

For 2019, Pope Francis has chosen the theme “It is not only about migrants” to help remove our blinders and to ensure that no one is excluded from society, whether they are long-term residents or newcomers.

IT IS NOT JUST ABOUT MIGRANTS

World’s Day of Migrants and Refugees (1)

World's Day of Migrants and Refugees (1)

IT IS NOT JUST ABOUT MIGRANTS… The 29th of September is World’s Day of Migrants and Refugees. An opportunity to change our hearts, our ways of thinking… and to enter into the logic of God. NOT JUST ABOUT THE MIGRANTS… IT’S ALSO ABOUT OUR FEARS.

Credit Photos : A Gichigi

“The ugly cruelty of our time tempts us to abandon any dream of freedom. And so we close in on ourselves, within our fragile certainty and security, inside the circle of people we like, in our safe routine.

Withdrawing into ourselves is a sign of defeat, and it increases our fear of “others”, strangers, outsiders, foreigners especially today, when migrants and refugees arrive to knock at our door in search of protection, security, and a better future.

It is not easy to enter into someone else’s culture, to put on the shoes of people who are so different from us and understand their thoughts and experiences. And so we often refuse to encounter others and raise barriers to protect ourselves. Instead of this, we are called to overcome fear and open up to encounter.” 

Pope Francis

The Church has been celebrating World’s Day of Migrants and Refugees ever since 1914. It is always an opportunity for her to express concern for the most vulnerable people, who have to move for one reason or another; it is also an opportunity to pray for the challenges of migration and to raise awareness of the opportunities it offers.

For 2019, Pope Francis has chosen the theme “It is not only about migrants” to help remove our blinders and to ensure that no one is excluded from society, whether they are long-term residents or newcomers.

IT IS NOT JUST ABOUT MIGRANTS