By Pope Francis
Dear Brothers and Sisters! In the past few days, the Lord allowed me to visit Iraq, carrying out a project of Saint John Paul II. Never before has a pope been in the Land of Abraham. Providence willed that this should happen now as a sign of hope, after years of war and terrorism, and during a severe pandemic.
After this visit, my soul is filled with gratitude to God and to all who made it possible: the President and the Government of the Republic of Iraq; the country’s Patriarchs and Bishops, together with all of the ministers and the faithful members of the respective churches; and the religious authorities, beginning with the Grand Ayatollah Al-Sistani, with whom I had an unforgettable meeting at his residence in Najaf.
I strongly felt a penitential sense about this pilgrimage. I could not draw near to the tortured people of that martyred church without taking upon myself, in the name of the Catholic Church, the heavy cross that they have been carrying for years. I felt it particularly seeing the still-open wounds of destruction; and even more so when meeting and hearing the testimony of those who survived violence, persecution, and exile. At the same time, I saw around me the joy of welcoming Christ’s messenger. I saw the hope of being open to horizons of peace and fraternity, which are summarized in the words of Jesus that are the motto of the visit: “You are all brothers and sisters (Matthew 23:8)!”
I found this hope [for peace and fraternity] in the discourse of the President of the Republic [of Iraq]. I discovered it in the many meetings and testimonies; in the hymns and gestures of the people. I read it on the luminous faces of the young people and the vivacious eyes of the elderly. People stood waiting for me for many hours, even mothers with children in their arms. They all waited for me and there was real hope in their eyes!
The Iraqi people have the right to live in peace. They have the right to rediscover the dignity that belongs to them. Their religious and cultural roots go back thousands of years. Mesopotamia is the cradle of civilization. Historically, Baghdad is a city of primary importance. For centuries, it housed the richest library in the world. What destroyed it? War! War is always the monster that transforms itself with the change of epochs and continues to devour humanity.
The response to war is not another war. The response to weapons is not other weapons. I asked myself: who was selling the weapons to the terrorists? Who sells weapons today to the terrorists? It is a question that someone should answer! The response is not war. The response is fraternity. This is a challenge not only for Iraq. It is the challenge for many regions in conflict. Ultimately, the challenge for the entire world is fraternity. Will we be capable of creating fraternity among ourselves? Of building a culture as brothers and sisters? Or will we continue the logic that Cain began: war? No! Brothers and sisters all! Fraternity!
For this reason, we met and prayed with Christians and Muslims, and with representatives of other religions in this country where Abraham received God’s call about four thousand years ago. Abraham is our father in the faith because he listened to God’s voice that promised him a descendant…God is faithful to his promises and guides our steps toward peace even now. He guides the steps of those who journey on the earth with their grace turned toward heaven. In Ur [Southern Iraq], standing together under those same luminous heavens, the same heavens that Abraham saw, the idea that we are all brothers and sisters seemed to resound once again.
The Church in Iraq is a Martyr-Church. A message of fraternity came from the ecclesial encounter in the Syriac-Catholic Cathedral of Baghdad, where forty-eight people, including two priests, were killed during Mass in 2010. In this church, which bears an inscription in stone dedicated to the memory of the martyrs, joy resounded among the people. My amazement at being in their midst mingled with their joy at having the pope pray with them.
We launched a message of fraternity from Mosul and Qaraqosh, along the Tigris River, near the ancient ruins of Nineveh. The ISIS occupation caused thousands and thousands of inhabitants to flee. Among them were many Christians (of a variety of confessions) and other persecuted minorities. The ancient identity of these cities has been ruined. The people are now working hard to rebuild. The Muslims are inviting the Christians to return home; and together, they are rebuilding both churches and mosques. Fraternity is there! Let us continue to pray for them, our brothers and sisters, so that they might have the strength to start over.
Thinking about the many Iraqis who have emigrated, I say to them: You have left everything just like Abraham. Like him, keep the faith and hope in the future. Be weavers of friendship and fraternity wherever you are. And if you can, return home.
A message of fraternity also came from the two Eucharistic Celebrations. We celebrated one in the Chaldean Rite in Baghdad; and one in Erbil, the city in which I was received by the President of that region, its Prime Minister, and other government leaders. I thanked them for having come to welcome me; and I was also warmly welcomed by the people. Abraham’s hope, and the hope of his descendants, is fulfilled in the mysteries that we celebrated together. Jesus, the Son that the Father did not spare, but gave for our salvation through his death and resurrection, opened the way to the promised land, to a new life where tears are dried, wounds are healed, and brothers and sisters are reconciled.
Brothers and Sisters: Let us praise God for this historic visit. Let us continue to pray for Iraq and for the entire Middle East. In Iraq, despite the roar of destruction and weaponry, the palm, a symbol of the country and its hope, continues to grow and bear fruit. So it is for fraternity, too. Like the fruit of the palm, it does not make noise, but it remains fruitful and grows. May God, who is peace, bless the future with fraternity — in Iraq, the Middle East, and the entire world!
Season of Lent
Lent with Our Lady
Week IV: Reflecting on the Angelus (Part 2)
PRAYING FOR GOD’S MERCY, HEALING & PROTECTION
Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport’s twin goals have been to do whatever we can to protect the health and safety of our parishioners and to provide free and high quality spiritual nourishment online. We are grateful for your kind words of encouragement and support for our efforts during the past year.
As we journey through a second Lent under difficult circumstances, all are invited to join us for a series of daily and weekly spiritual exercises called Lent with Our Lady. All parishioners are encouraged to pray each day with two special prayers for the special intention of God’s mercy, healing, and protection from the coronavirus. Just click on the links below:
Daily Prayers for Lent
The Angelus Prayer is offered three times each day as a way to sanctify our work, our meals, and our rest. About this powerful prayer, Pope Francis writes: “The Angelus Prayer is a beautiful and popular expression of faith. It is a simple prayer, recited at three specific times a day. It thus punctuates the rhythm of our daily activities: in the morning, at midday, and at sunset. It is an important prayer that I encourage each one of you to recite.”
In addition to our daily prayers, Father Jim and Cliff are offering six weekly reflections on spiritual communion and the power and spirituality of the Blessed Mother and the Angelus Prayer. Last week, Cliff shared a new podcast that explores the spirituality of Mary’s vocation as Mother of God, a call that she answers in the scriptures and that we commemorate whenever we offer the Angelus Prayer. This podcast calls us to pray on the enormity of Mary’s vocation, beckons us to reflect on Mary’s role in our lives, and challenges us to discern again what God calls us to do with the one life that we are blessed to live.
This week, Father Jim continues his video reflections on the Angelus Prayer by beginning an exploration of the spirituality and scriptural origins of this powerful devotion. Ever fascinated by the scriptures and their meaning for our lives, our pastor offers a heartfelt and compelling look into the Gospel of Luke, with special attention to the Annunciation, especially Luke 1:28, 31, and 38. This video and all of our Lenten reflections are always free and always available by clicking the links below:
Weekly Reflections for Lent
- Week 1: Listen: Losing Linus: A Story of Spiritual Communion
- Week 1: Listen: The Litany of the Sacred Wounds
- Week 2: Watch: Reflecting on the Angelus with Father Jim
- Week 3: Listen: Mary, Mother of God
- Week 4: Watch: Reflecting on the Angelus with Father Jim (Part 2)
During Lent, when so many people are sick, suffering, and struggling, it is more important than ever that we join together in prayer for God’s mercy, healing, and protection — for our sake and for the sake of the whole world. Pope Francis says: “Have courage. Pray in every moment and every situation so that the Lord may come near to us. When we pray according to the heart of Jesus, we make miracles.” As our Lenten journey continues, let’s begin again: to love each other, pray for each other, and pray for God’s grace to make this a better world. In short, let’s make miracles — together!
Pilgrimage for Peace
A Catechesis on Peace
By Pope Francis
If God is the God of life,
for so he is,
then it is wrong for us
to kill our brothers and sisters in his Name.
If God is the God of peace,
for so he is,
then it is wrong for us
to wage war in his Name.
If God is the God of love,
for so he is,
then it is wrong for us
to hate our brothers and sisters.
Let us join in praying for the victims of war.
May Almighty God grant them
eternal life and unending peace,
and welcome them in his fatherly embrace.
Let us also pray for ourselves.
May all of us, whatever our religious tradition,
live in harmony and peace,
conscious that in the eyes of God,
we are all brothers and sisters.
Glory to the Father,
to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen.
Mary, Mother of God, pray for us!
Mary, Mother of the Church, pray for us!
Mary, Mother of All Peoples, pray for us!
Our Lady, Queen of Peace, pray for us!
Sharing God’s Love
Saint Vincent de Paul Society
Help Us Help Others!
The Saint Vincent de Paul Society is an international organization that is dedicated to responding to any request from any person or family in need. Here on Cape Ann, we work through Holy Family Parish, Our Lady of Good Voyage Parish, and the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport to serve the poor and needy. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, our food pantry and clothes closet remain closed. However, our service to those in need and the newly unemployed continues. Now more than ever, especially during the winter season, we need your support. Help us help others! Donations can be left at the parish office, dropped in the collection baskets at Sunday Mass, or mailed to the following address:
The Saint Vincent de Paul Society
74 Pleasant Street
Gloucester, Massachusetts 01930
For more information about the Saint Vincent de Paul Society and its good work in our parishes and hometowns, please contact Harry Miller at 978-281-8672 or Bob Weeks at email@example.com. If you or your family needs assistance, please contact us at 978-281-8672. Thank you for your generous support for the Saint Vincent de Paul Society! May God bless you and your family during these difficult times!
The Assisi Project
Founded in 2007 by Father Jim and Cliff Garvey during their first pilgrimage to Italy, the Assisi Project is a Fellowship of Franciscans in Spirit. Our mission is to help believers of all ages and backgrounds grow closer to Christ, closer to the Church, and closer to each other through the intercession, inspiration, and good example of Saint Francis and Saint Clare of Assisi. Members of the Assisi Project range in age from 12 to 95 and live in Holy Family Parish, Our Lady of Good Voyage Parish, throughout the Archdiocese of Boston, and all around the world. We pray daily for those who ask for our prayers. If you would like us to pray for you or your special intention, please contact Cliff at firstname.lastname@example.org. May the Lord give you peace!
Safe & Easy Electronic Giving
Electronic giving is available at both Holy Family Parish and Our Lady of Good Voyage Parish. It is safe and simple to make online donations to your home parish using a credit cared or debit card. Donations can be made on an ongoing or one-time-only basis. And it takes just a few minutes to set up a secure personal account. For assistance or more information about this important fundraising resource for the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport, please contact Father Jim at email@example.com. Thank you for your generous support for our parishes during these difficult times! Peace, blessings, and many thanks to all!
Established in 2014, the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport is a collaborative of two historic parishes: Holy Family Parish and Our Lady of Good Voyage Parish. Working together as a Roman Catholic community united in prayer, fellowship, and service, we are committed to living the Gospel of Christ, sharing God’s love and mercy with all people, and rebuilding the Church in Gloucester & Rockport. All are invited! All are welcome! Always!
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In Memory of Dr. Gerald Kochansky