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At Lima Mass for 1.3 million, Pope Francis preaches message of hope

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Barbara J. Fraser

LIMA, Peru (CNS) -- Pope Francis took his message of hope to this sprawling, dusty capital of Peru, celebrating Mass within view of the rocky, waterless Andean slopes where most of the city's poorest residents live.

The day's Scripture readings, in which Jonah was sent to Nineveh and Jesus set out toward Galilee, "reveal a God who turns his gaze toward cities, past and present," the pope said in his homily.

Crowds lined the pope's route to the Las Palmas military base, where thousands of people arrived during the night and throughout the morning to participate in the Mass.

Lima's heat and blazing sun did not wither the spirits of the estimated 1.3 million Mass attendees, who chanted and sang as they waited for the liturgy to begin.

Mariana Costa of Lima felt fortunate. She had missed a chance to see Pope Francis in Poland, she said, "and now I have the opportunity to see him in my own country."

As a young adult, she was touched by his words to youth.

"Ultimately, we're the ones who have to work to make sure this faith is not lost," she said.

Sister Maria Lucero of Lima was struck by three messages the pope had for the priests, religious and seminarians with whom he met in Trujillo the day before.

"He said to remember what we are (and spoke of) joy and gratitude to God for everything we have and do not deserve," she said.

His words kindled a desire to renew her efforts, "because the people here need it," she said.

The scores of concelebrants included Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, who was in Lima to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Boston-based Missionary Society of St. James the Apostle, whose priests have worked in many Latin American countries, including Peru. Cardinal O'Malley had spoken out Jan. 20 about Pope Francis' defense of a Chilean bishop accused of covering up sexual abuse. The cardinal said he understood why victims were hurt by the pope's words.

The place where Pope Francis presided at the liturgy is not far from the vast neighborhood of Villa El Salvador, where Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass in 1985, when it was a dusty shantytown in which community leaders, many of whom were active in parishes, were threatened by terrorist violence.

The poorest neighborhoods form rings around Lima and other Latin American cities, as people migrate from other parts of the country in search of opportunities.

Most build their own houses bit by bit, sometimes in hazardous areas vulnerable to disasters, like the unusual rains in early 2017 that left thousands homeless on the east side of Lima and in cities such as Trujillo, which the pope visited Jan. 20.

The majority also work in the informal economy, eking out a living with day labor, selling goods in markets or working in small, family-run businesses with no health insurance, pension or vacation time.

The pope spoke to them when he talked of "our cities, with their daily situations of pain and injustice," which "can leave us tempted to flee, to hide, to run away."

While some people can to build their lives, others are left "living on the fringes of our cities and lacking the conditions needed for a dignified existence," he said. "It is painful to realize that among these 'urban remnants' all too often we see the faces of children and adolescents. We look at the face of the future."

Seeing those things, people may be tempted to become "indifferent, anonymous and deaf to others, cold and hard of heart," he said.

Jesus, who entered Galilee upon hearing of John the Baptist's arrest, and shows a different way to respond, he said.

Jesus "began to sow the seed of a great hope," and the rippling effect of that joy and good news has been passed down through the apostles and saints, including St. Rose of Lima and St. Martin of Porres, whose relics he venerated in the morning, Pope Francis said.

"It has come to us as a timely antidote to the globalization of indifference," he said. "In the face of that love, one cannot remain indifferent."

Walking through the city with his disciples, Jesus saw people who had "given up in the face of indifference, laid low by the grave sin of corruption," Pope Francis said. "He begins to bring light to many situations that had killed the hope of his people and to awaken a new hope."

Jesus taught his disciples to see things they had overlooked before and to notice new needs, he said.

"The kingdom of heaven means finding in Jesus a God who gets involved with the lives of his people."

His words rang especially true after six days in which he raised issues such as corruption, rapacious consumerism, environmental devastation, organized crime, violence against women and industrial activities such as mining and industrial agriculture, which strip indigenous peoples of their lands and livelihoods.

As he often does, the pope challenged bishops and clergy to avoid clericalism and walk closely with the people. He called on government officials to listen to and respond to the needs of native peoples, youth, the elderly and children.

Jesus "continues to walk on our streets. He knocks today, as he did yesterday, on our doors and hearts, in order to rekindle the flame of hope," the pope told the throng of Mass-goers.

"Today the Lord calls each of you to walk with him in the city, in your city. He invites you to become his missionary disciple, so you can become part of that great whisper that wants to keep echoing in the different corners of our lives: Rejoice, the Lord is with you!"

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Follow Fraser on Twitter: @Barbara_Fraser.

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at

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Update: Pope meets Chilean abuse victims; controversy over bishop continues

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

SANTIAGO, Chile (CNS) -- Pope Francis met in private Jan. 16 with survivors of sexual abuse by Chilean clergy, a Vatican spokesman said, but his actions threatened to be overshadowed by controversy over a Chilean bishop.

Greg Burke, the spokesman, said the pope met with "a small group of victims of sexual abuse by priests" at the apostolic nunciature in Santiago, Chile.

"The meeting took place in a strictly private way, and no one else was present: only the pope and the victims," Burke told journalists that evening.

The private setting, he added, allowed the group to speak freely with the pope "and recount their sufferings.

Pope Francis "listened, prayed and cried with them," Burke said.

Also present at the press conference was Auxiliary Bishop Fernando Ramos Perez of Santiago, secretary-general of the Chilean bishops' conference.

Bishop Ramos addressed criticism regarding the presence of Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno at several papal events, including the pope's meetings with the country's clergy as well as the bishops of Chile.

Bishop Barros' appointment as bishop by the pope in 2015 drew outrage and protests due to his connection to Father Fernando Karadima, his former mentor. Father Karadima was sentenced to a life of prayer and penance by the Vatican after he was found guilty of sexually abusing boys.

"Bishop Barros is bishop of Osorno and was named by the pope. All bishops have the right and responsibility to participate at the events. That was the only reason why" he was present, Bishop Ramos said.

Arriving in Iquique Jan. 18 at the site of his final Mass in Chile, Pope Francis was asked by local journalists about his support for Bishop Barros.

The pope reiterated that he has yet to see any evidence that Bishop Barros knew or witnessed the abuses committed by his former mentor.

"The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, I will speak. There is not one piece of evidence against him. It is calumny. Is that clear?" the pope told the journalists.

On Jan. 20, Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, "It is understandable that Pope Francis' statements yesterday in Santiago, Chile, were a source of great pain for survivors of sexual abuse by clergy or any other perpetrator. Words that convey the message 'If you cannot prove your claims then you will not be believed' abandon those who have suffered reprehensible criminal violations of their human dignity and relegate survivors to discredited exile.

"Not having been personally involved in the cases that were the subject of yesterday's interview, I cannot address why the Holy Father chose the particular words he used at that time. What I do know, however, is that Pope Francis fully recognizes the egregious failures of the church and its clergy who abused children and the devastating impact those crimes have had on survivors and their loved ones," Cardinal O'Malley said.

Cardinal O'Malley was traveling to Peru on a previously scheduled trip. A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Boston said the trip was not related to his statement on Bishop Barros, but that he expected the cardinal would "be with the Holy Father at some point, as he normally is when he accompanies him on a papal trip."

Pope Francis named Cardinal O'Malley president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors when he established the body in 2014. The initial members' terms of office expired in December and, as of mid-January, the Vatican had not announced new members.

Earlier Jan. 16, the pope asked forgiveness from the victims of sexual abuse during an address to government authorities and members of Chile's diplomatic corps, expressing his "pain and shame at the irreparable damage caused to children by some ministers of the church."

Burke said it was significant the pope addressed the issue of clergy sex abuse during his meeting with government authorities "because normally he speaks about it when meeting with bishops or priests."

"The fact that he spoke there means that it is an evil not only for the church but for society," Burke said.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at

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"As Chairman of the United States Bishops' Committee, I offer gratitude and praise to the House of Representatives for passing the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act (H.R. 4712). This common-sense legislation offers a simple and widely supported proposition: a child born alive following an abortion should receive the same degree of care to preserve her life and health as would be given to any other child born alive at the same gestational age. I call on the Senate to pass this bill as well and ensure that the lethal mentality of Roe does not claim new victims – vulnerable human beings struggling for their lives outside the womb."

Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, Committee on Pro-Life Activities, Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protections Act, House of Representatives, abortion, preservation of life and health, vulnerable human beings


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