God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Exhortation “Amoris Laetitia”

Long awaited and finally out – and already there is a flood of comments from all sides of the church spectrum and beyond. So I want to  add my two cents to the growing number of comments and I will do it brief and up the point.
Firstly I am not disappointed and I am not surprised neither, as the exhortation is the continuation of a sincere approach of Pope Francis to move the church in the right direction, but also bearing in mind that he is coming from South America with its specifics.
Style, tone and content is indeed refreshing and I never thought that in parts – when it comes to discernment and the conclusion that nothing in this world is either black or white – a pope confirms what my pastoral approach is since I was ordained a priest. It is indeed with great joy that I read those parts and I feel strengthened. It almost feels like common sense has prevailed and for me personal, I feel much more home again in this church. Even if nobody dares to spell it out: we have had other times in our church where all was only seemingly black and white and whoever was stepping aside was already seen as an outsider in the church or even worse, outside the church. This church is changing under his leadership and guidance.
“Wonderful complicated”, is the description of Pope Francis for this world, for all the different family situations and we as clergy are encouraged to embracing God’s grace at work in the difficult and sometimes unconventional situations families and marriages face — even at risk of obscuring doctrinal norms. Accepting conscience instead of replacing conscience – it really warms my heart to hear such words from the top of our hierarchy.

And yes, there are parts I still think are missing, for example the word “intrinsic evil” in connection with my brothers and sisters belonging to the LGBTI community should have been officially withdrawn and banned, but I guess, being asked to not discriminate means that the use of those words are not allowed anymore. Another contentious issue is the question of artificial contraception where I hoped for some development.

“We need a healthy dose of self-criticism,” so the pope, and with his writings he certainly opens the church up for such reflection. And not only for such reflections but also for a new chapter of being a church not only for the people but walking with the people and seeing and pointing out all the grace being present in the chaos of our lives, our families, our situations.
I think there is so much food for thoughts in this exhortation, starting by seeing grace in imperfection and following through with discovering the lively spirit of God in all human situations. This will keep us busy and if done sincere as a church getting “soiled by the mud of the street” in the process  will look good in the eyes of God.
Let’s hope that the humble and honest reflection of Pope Francis really filters through all the church officials and that we all, being either labelled “progressive” or “conservative” just hold in and reflect ourselves on the rich input the pope is giving with “Amore Laetitia”.

And here the full text in the official translation:
http://w2.vatican.va/content/dam/francesco/pdf/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20160319_amoris-laetitia_en.pdf

Filed under: Catholic Church, Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Virgil on the eve of the Synod

Pope Francis delivered a homily on the eve of commencing the Synod of the Family which you can read here in full. The Synod of the family is not only purely about family values. It is a Synod dealing with the open questions of how to see divorced-remarried couples, how to deal with same-sex marriages and partnerships, with polygamy, sexuality as such, birth control and so much more. It is the second meeting of the Synod – unprecedented in the Roman-Catholic Church with 1.2 billion members.It has indeed an impact also on how to deal with HIV and AIDS as all this is interconnected. The fight between those wanting to keep all as it is and those who are willing to develop the teaching and acknowledging that the church is not standing still but is in a dynamic relationship with God and his people has reached unprecedented highs. So called right-winger are almost threatening to destroy the unity of the church in stating that any change would be against God’s will and Jesus teaching. A pivotal moment in the history of the church and to be compared with 1968 and the encyclical writing “Humane Vitae”. The disappointment and lack of sensus fidelium regarding this papal writing is felt in the church until today.One can only hope that 2015 will be a year of renewal and the renewed discovery of unconditional love and mercy for the church. Here the pope’s homily providing a framework for the following weeks of discernment.

Dear Families,
Good evening! What good is it to light a little candle in the darkness? Isn’t there a better way to dispel the darkness? Can the darkness even be overcome?
At some points in life – this life so full of amazing resources – such questions have to be asked. When life proves difficult and demanding, we can be tempted to step back, turn away and withdraw, perhaps even in the name of prudence and realism, and thus flee the responsibility of doing our part as best we can.
Do you remember what happened to Elijah? From a human point of view, the prophet was afraid and tried to run away. “Elijah was afraid; he got up and fled for his life… He walked for forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mountain of God. At that place he came to a cave and spent the night there. Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying: ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’” (1 Kg 19:3,8-9). On Horeb, he would get his answer not in the great wind which shatters the rocks, nor in the earthquake nor even in the fire. God’s grace does not shout out; it is a whisper which reaches all those who are ready to hear its still, small voice. It urges them to go forth, to return to the world, to be witnesses to God’s love for mankind, so that the world may believe.
In this vein, just a year ago, in this same Square, we invoked the Holy Spirit and asked that – in discussing the theme of the family – the Synod Fathers might listen attentively to one another, with their gaze fixed on Jesus, the definitive Word of the Father and the criterion by which everything is to be measured.
This evening, our prayer cannot be otherwise. For as Patriarch Athenagoras reminded us, without the Holy Spirit God is far off, Christ remains in the past, the Church becomes a mere organization, authority becomes domination, mission becomes propaganda, worship becomes mystique, Christian life the morality of slaves.
So let us pray that the Synod which opens tomorrow will show how the experience of marriage and family is rich and humanly fulfilling. May the Synod acknowledge, esteem, and proclaim all that is beautiful, good and holy about that experience. May it embrace situations of vulnerability and hardship: war, illness, grief, wounded relationships and brokenness, which create distress, resentment and separation. May it remind these families, and every family, that the Gospel is always “good news” which enables us to start over. From the treasury of the Church’s living tradition may the Fathers draw words of comfort and hope for families called in our own day to build the future of the ecclesial community and the city of man.
Every family is always a light, however faint, amid the darkness of this world.
Jesus’ own human experience took shape in the heart of a family, where he lived for thirty years. His family was like any number of others, living in an obscure village on the outskirts of the Empire.
Charles de Foucauld, perhaps like few others, grasped the import of the spirituality which radiates from Nazareth. This great explorer hastily abandoned his military career, attracted by the mystery of the Holy Family, the mystery of Jesus’ daily relationship with his parents and neighbors, his quiet labor, his humble prayer. Contemplating the Family of Nazareth, Brother Charles realized how empty the desire for wealth and power really is. Through his apostolate of charity, he became everything to everyone. Attracted by the life of a hermit, he came to understand that we do not grow in the love of God by avoiding the entanglement of human relations. For in loving others, we learn to love God, in stooping down to help our neighbor, we are lifted up to God. Through his fraternal closeness and his solidarity with the poor and the abandoned, he came to understand that it is they who evangelize us, they who help us to grow in humanity.
To understand the family today, we too need to enter – like Charles de Foucauld – into the mystery of the family of Nazareth, into its quiet daily life, not unlike that of most families, with their problems and their simple joys, a life marked by serene patience amid adversity, respect for others, a humility which is freeing and which flowers in service, a life of fraternity rooted in the sense that we are all members of one body.
The family is a place where evangelical holiness is lived out in the most ordinary conditions. There we are formed by the memory of past generations and we put down roots which enable us to go far. The family is a place of discernment, where we learn to recognize God’s plan for our lives and to embrace it with trust. It is a place of gratuitousness. Of discreet fraternal presence and solidarity, a place where we learn to step out of ourselves and accept others, to forgive and to be forgiven.
Let us set out once more from Nazareth for a Synod which, more than speaking about the family, can learn from the family, readily acknowledging its dignity, its strength and its value, despite all its problems and difficulties.
In the “Galilee of the nations” of our own time, we will rediscover the richness and strength of a Church which is a mother, ever capable of giving and nourishing life, accompanying it with devotion, tenderness, and moral strength. For unless we can unite compassion with justice, we will end up being needlessly severe and deeply unjust.
A Church which is family is also able to show the closeness and love of a father, a responsible guardian who protects without confining, who corrects without demeaning, who trains by example and patience, sometimes simply by a silence which bespeaks prayerful and trusting expectation.
Above all, a Church of children who see themselves as brothers and sisters, will never end up considering anyone simply as a burden, a problem, an expense, a concern or a risk. Other persons are essentially a gift, and always remain so, even when they walk different paths.
The Church is an open house, far from outward pomp, hospitable in the simplicity of her members. That is why she can appeal to the longing for peace present in every man and woman, including those who – amid life’s trials – have wounded and suffering hearts.
This Church can indeed light up the darkness felt by so many men and women. She can credibly point them towards the goal and walk at their side, precisely because she herself first experienced what it is to be endlessly reborn in the merciful heart of the Father.

Filed under: Catholic Church, General, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

21.08.2009 Judging people…

With the elevation of the Pius brotherhood through Benedikt XVI into the public eye we all can see and sense a new dawn of those, who are living in the past of the RC church and have refused to develop their faith. This in itself isn’t worrying. If people feel fine with the good old days and they want to keep them until they die – why not, if they apply it only to themselves. The danger is that with all the discussion now in the public forum, the old pictures from judgement, from evil, hell and condemnation, from a God acting like a policeman or a bookkeeper emerge again and that is the scary part. Reading about a priest in Austria starting to scare First Communion kids with hell and eternal condemnation – such teaching is surely encouraged through all the debate about the Pius brotherhood.

To spell it out again and again – and you can ask my community in Cape Town, they know it meanwhile and dream of it and can memorize it: God is love – unconditional love – and nothing ever can make us say that somebody has fallen out of the grace and mercy of God. Nobody! All those nevertheless doing it, denying that God is so much greater than all our thinking and understanding.

And this non judgemental unconditional love applies especially when it comes to such tricky topics like HIV and AIDS. There are no innocent babies and no not so innocent adults. There are only brothers and sisters with a certain condition. Point. No “Moralin”, no “Gardinenpredigt” – just acknowledgement, embracing of the condition and then the question, how to deal with it in a way beneficial to the person and his or her environment. Changing the stigma to a tool of compassion and mercy, self-knowledge and maturity.

I guess, if there is anything people living with the virus need besides good treatment and good friends it is people fighting like hell the stigma in our societies, fighting the travel bans, the discrimination, the human rights violations and fighting those who point fingers. And I have learned in my life: The more hostile people point fingers, the more they have to hide…

Filed under: HIV and AIDS, Reflection, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

22.07.2009 Pius brotherhood

With amazement I am reading today the statement of Alfonso de Galaretta, one of the according to the Roman Catholic Church unlawful ordained bishops. His statement echoes the unbelievable arrogance and ignorance, with which the Pius brotherhood still maintains to be the guardian of the Roman Catholic Church and that there is no salvation outside this church. He further claims that the excommunication was indeed never valid – the only reason to ask for the lifting was to get public opinion right.
It is indeed a more and more dangerous game, our church is getting into in engaging with those, who never excepted that being a church means always to be on a way towards more understanding of God. Nothing is set in stone when it comes to God,  we always must be open to discover more and more the magnificent scope of his love, his plans, his grace and his mercy.
The debate with the Pius brother leads in the wrong direction – it gives right wingers and people with a tendency to religious fascism a platform to advertise themselves and to disturb the development of our church. Unity is important, I agree, and I am sure for most people involved in the lifting of the excommunication there was a good intention. But it turns out to  be counterproductive for the life of the church, it damages our reputation and it will lead to deeper rifts between the fractions. It shows that good intention not always produce a positive result.

Lets hope that there will be a stop sign to all of that – and if a couple of hundred thousand believe that only their faith will bring them to salvation and that they have to convert the Jews – let them live and die in their believe – also they will fall into the merciful hand of God.

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , ,

14th HOPE Gala Dresden

HOPE Gala Dresden - the event to be in DresdenNovember 16th, 2019
88 days to go.

Ball of HOPE 2020

Join us @ The Westin in Cape TownMay 23rd, 2020
9 months to go.
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