National Minister: For the Feast of St Francis

MEA CULPA! Paula asked me to post this on 29th September but I overlooked it! Apologies to all.

Here is a link to the General Audience of Pope John Paul II that Paula mentions in her text.

Roger

From Paula Pearce, our National Minister: Some Thoughts for the Feast of St Francis

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The Trump Travel Ban and the challenge of the UK Community Sponsorship Scheme

Mindful that they are bearers of peace which must be built up unceasingly, they should seek out ways of unity and fraternal harmony through dialogue, trusting in the presence of the divine seed in everyone and in the transforming power of love and pardon.” (OFS Rule, Art. 19)

 
As you will know US President Donald Trump recently issued an Executive Order banning travel to the USA from seven Muslim-majority countries. Enforcement of this order has been suspended since a federal district judge in Seattle issued a temporary restraining order against it. That injunction was upheld by the ninth circuit court of appeals in a 9 February ruling.
Now, according to various news sources, such as Reuters and The Wall Street Journal, President Trump plans to rescind his executive order and replace it with a new one. “Rather than continuing this litigation, the President intends in the near future to rescind the Order and replace it with a new, substantially revised Executive Order to eliminate what the panel erroneously thought were constitutional concerns,” the justice department writes in a brief to the ninth circuit court of appeals. A draft of President Donald Trump’s revised immigration ban targets the same seven countries listed in his original executive order (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, and Libya), and exempts travelers who already have a visa to travel to the U.S., even if they haven’t used it yet.
 
It is good to see the Franciscans of the United States have taken a stand on this issue in prayer for and solidarity with our refugee and immigrant brothers and sisters. The Franciscan Friars of the United States have issued this statement signed by the Provincials of the seven OFM provinces in the USA. And Carolyn Townes, the OFS National Animator for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) in the United States has said that “The U.S. Seculars will stand with and support our brother Friars as well as our Bishops.” She says: “Let us come together in prayer and solidarity for our refugee and immigrant brothers and sisters!” And she offers this “Prayer for Migrants” from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:

Merciful and loving Father,
We beseech you, open our hearts so that we may provide hospitality and refuge to migrants who are lonely, afraid, and far from their homes. Give us the courage to welcome every stranger as Christ in our midst, to invite them into our communities as a demonstration of Christ’s love for us. We pray that when we encounter the other, we see in her the face of your Son, when we meet a stranger, that we take his hand in welcome. Help us to live in solidarity with one another, to seek justice for those who are persecuted and comfort for those who are suffering. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.  (The Prayer for Migrants, USCCB)

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website also has these reflections on Catholic Social Teaching on Immigration.
 
May we in the Secular Franciscan Order in Great Britain stand together with our sisters and brothers in the USA. And may we, as communities, respond to the challenge of the UK Community Sponsorship Scheme that Cardinal Vincent Nichols outlined to us when he spoke recently on the BBC Radio 4 Westminster Hour. The Cardinal spoke about President Trump’s executive order, and he also spoke in praise of the The UK Community Sponsorship Scheme, a UK government-backed initiative that enables community groups – including the Catholic Church, its agencies and charities – to take on the role of welcoming and supporting resettled refugees in the UK.

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In the interview, the Cardinal explained that safety ‘is not secured by fear, it is secured by improving relationships…by opening up things not shutting them down.’ He also expressed concern that the executive order ‘increases the risk faced by Christian communities in the Middle East because it implicitly backs a false notion that this conflict is between Christians and Muslims. It increases the image of Christianity as a Western phenomenon.’
Reflecting on political leaders’ duty of care, Cardinal Vincent emphasised that this is ‘a question of how you exercise that duty’. The Cardinal expressed his concern that the executive order would not help. ‘Safety can never be the overall and ultimate aim, because if we try and live safely by simplifying, identifying others as our enemies, then we live in an increasingly enclosed mentality and an enclosed environment and that is not the best way for people to live.’

Speaking then in praise and encouragement of the The UK Community Sponsorship Scheme he said ‘The challenge is not only to the government, but to the communities in this country who often speak about their generosity, to really take up this opportunity. Then, I would hope, that programme can be speeded up and expanded.’

Cardinal Vincent acknowledged the difficulty in making decisions regarding acceptance of more refugees, but emphasised that ‘the intention that we play a concerted effort to solve this dramatic crisis of our time is very important because otherwise it is the extreme voices that win, whether they’re the extreme terrorist voices or the populist voices. I don’t believe that any form of leadership is best exercised by using fear.’
The full BBC Radio 4 Westminster Hour interview is available to listen to here.

Do let us know of any initiatives drawn from the Community Sponsorship Scheme (or similar projects) that your fraternities, your regions or your parishes are engaging in or planning to engage in. An excellent Presence in the World project.

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Cardinal Ernest Simoni

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Photo: Fr. Simoni with Francis during the Pope’s visit to Albania in September 2014 (photo courtesy of CTV).

The Pope has named seventeen new Cardinals. The only one who is not an Archbishop or a Bishop is Fr. Ernest Simoni, an 84 year old priest from Albania who in 2014, on the Pope’s visit, in the cathedral of Tirana, told the story of his twenty seven years of torture, imprisonment and forced labour under the brutal regime of Enver Hoxha. He said of his captors at the time that Christ had taught us to love our enemies and to forgive them and that we should strive to seek the good of the people. While in prison, he continued to celebrate Mass from memory in Latin, to distribute communion secretly and to hear confessions.
In America Magazine Gerard O’Connell wrote of that day at Tirana in 2014: “I have been on many papal trips to foreign countries over the past thirty years and have experienced some profoundly moving and faith-filled moments on several of them but I had never before seen a Pope so overcome with emotion that he wept. But that is what I witnessed on Sunday evening, September 21, in the cathedral of Tirana.”
After he finished speaking that day Fr Simoni turned to the Pope and told him, “I pray through the Most Holy Mother of Christ that the Lord will give you life, health and strength in guiding the great flock that is the Church of Christ.” He then went towards the Pope and went down on one knee before him. Francis pulled him up, kissed his hand and embraced him for a long time, and then put his head against his and wept. The Pope turned to the altar, took off his glasses and wiped his eyes with a handkerchief.
Pope Francis said later that before going to Tirana he had spent two months studying the history of the persecution in Albania, “but I had not realized that this people had suffered so, so much. It was a surprise for me,” he confessed.

The two met again at the Pope’s General Audience on 20th April this year. In a
brief but emotionally-charged encounter Pope Francis was again seen to be visibly moved and said: “This is an Albanian martyr,” when he saw Fr Simoni. And once again, he pressed his forehead to the forehead of the living martyr. Fr Simoni gave Francis a copy of a book that was to be launched that same afternoon in which he talks about his life story.
The book, taking Fr. Simoni’s meeting with the Pope in Tirana in 2014 as his point of departure, is by journalist Mimmo Muolo and entitled: Fr. Ernest Simoni: From Forced Labor to a Meeting with Francis.

When asked how he managed to endure such persecution without giving up, Fr. Ernest smiled before saying: “I didn’t do anything extraordinary really, I always prayed to Jesus, I always talked to Jesus.”

The priest described what moved him about this second encounter with the Pope: “Everyone sees and knows that the Holy Father, as Jesus said, is perfectly rooted in the word of God.” Father Ernest said that from his two encounters with the Pope, what struck him is that Francis is a “father of everyone who has difficulties.” He paused and added that he is fundamentally a man of Jesus. And this translates to “loving and forgiving every day, and spiritually and materially aiding the orphans and the poor.”

Fr Simoni is said by many sources including the Tablet and America Magazine to be a Franciscan.

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