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If you have never been to a Catholic church, or if you are new to our area of Kansas City, welcome!

If you and your family have been away from the Catholic Church for some time, welcome back! If you are an active member of our family at St. John Francis Regis, welcome! In short, we are glad you are here.

Come and join us for Holy Mass and be transformed by God’s grace. Participate, go out “into the deep”— get involved. We are truly blessed to have such a Christ-centered, faith-filled community. We invite you to join us and experience this great gift of God. Learn ways you can get involved at St. John Francis Regis by browsing our site, our bulletin, or our Facebook page. Take advantage of the various links and videos and contemplate anew the splendor of our faith alive in our age.

I invite you to consider becoming a registered member of our parish so you can grow in abundant love of God and neighbor. We look forward to seeing you, and may God richly bless you!

In Christ,
Fr. McCaffery

Saint of the day

  • St. Andrew Dung-Lac and companions

    November 24, 2017 - 2:21pm
    On June 19, 1988, Pope John Paul II canonized a group of 117 martyrs who died for the Roman Catholic Faith in Vietnam during the nineteenth century. The group was made up of ninety-six Vietnamese, eleven Spaniards, and ten French. Eight of the group were bishops, fifty were priests and fifty-nine were lay Catholics. Some of the priests were Dominicans, others were diocesan priests who belonged to the Paris Mission Society. One such diocesan priest was St. Theophane Venard. (His feast day is November 6.) St. Andrew Dung-Lac, who represents this group of heroes, was a Vietnamese diocesan priest. He came from a poor, non-Christian family and was taught by a Christian lay catechist. He worked in the missions with the priests of the Foreign Mission Society of Paris. He was imprisoned and repeatedly tortured during the persecutions of Minh-Meng, the emperor of Vietnam between 1820 and 1840 who was famed for his persecutions of the Christians. Among the many Vietnamese and international martyrs who died alongside St. Andrew Dung-Lac was Saint Peter Thi. This feast day, and the witnesses of the lives of the martyrs, give testament to the sufferings inflicted on the Vietnamese Church, which are among the most terrible in the long history of Christian martyrdom
  • St. Columbanus

    November 23, 2017 - 12:21pm
    An originator of Ireland's unique monastic tradition, who went on to serve as a missionary to continental Europe during the early Middle Ages, the abbot Saint Columbanus – also known as St. Columban – is honored by the Catholic Church on Nov. 23. Despite their similar names and biographies, St. Columbanus is not the same person as Saint Columba of Iona, another monk from Ireland who spread the faith abroad and lived during the same time period. In a June 2008 general audience on St. Columbanus, Pope Benedict XVI said he was “a man of great cultureâ€� who also “proved rich in gifts of grace.â€� The Pope recalled him as “a tireless builder of monasteries as well as an intransigent penitential preacher who spent every ounce of his energy on nurturing the Christian roots of Europe which was coming into existence.â€� “With his spiritual energy, with his faith, with his love for God and neighbor,â€� St. Columbanus “truly became one of the Fathers of Europe.â€� According to Pope Benedict, the course of the Irish monk's life “shows us even today the roots from which our Europe can be reborn.â€� Born during 543 in the southeastern Irish region of Leinster, Columbanus was well-educated from his early years. Handsome in appearance, he was tempted by women and was eventually advised by a nun to follow her example and flee from temptation by embracing monasticism. His mother disapproved of this intention, but his will prevailed even when she tried to prevent him from leaving home. The aspiring monk studied initially with Abbot Sinell of Cluaninis, before moving on to a monastery headed by the abbot later canonized as Saint Comgall. It was under his direction, in the Abbey of Bangor in County Down, that Columbanus formally embraced the monastic calling, as one of a growing number of monks drawn to the Bangor community's ascetic rigor and intellectual vitality.   Though Columbanus was known as a dedicated monk and scholar, around the year 583 he felt called to undertake foreign missionary work. Initially denied permission by the abbot, he was eventually allowed to depart with a band of twelve men, with whom he sailed to Britain before reaching France around 585. There, they found the Church suffering from barbarian invasions and internal corruption. Received with favor by King Gontram of Burgundy, Columbanus and his companions founded a monastery in an abandoned Roman fortress. Despite its remote location in the mountains, the community became a popular pilgrimage site, and also attracted so many monastic vocations that two new monasteries had to be formed to accommodate them. These monastic communities remained under Columbanus' authority, and their rules of life reflected the Irish tradition in which he had been formed. Meanwhile, as they expanded, the abbot himself sought greater solitude, spending periods of time in a hermitage and communicating with the monks through an intermediary. As heirs to the Irish monastic tradition, Columbanus and his monks ran into differences with the bishops in France, partly over the calculation of the date of Easter. He also met with opposition from within the French royal family, because of his insistence that King Thierry should not live with a woman outside of wedlock. He had been urged to do so by his grandmother Queen Brunehild, who thought a royal marriage would threaten her own power. Columbanus' moral stand for marriage led first to his imprisonment, from which he escaped. But the king and his grandmother had him driven out of France by force, and they separated him from his monks by insisting that only those from Ireland could accompany him into exile. This group traveled and evangelized in present-day Germany, though political circumstances eventually forced them to cross the Alps into northern Italy. Welcomed by the ruling Lombards, Columbanus nonetheless found the Italian Church troubled by heresy and schism. The monk wrote against the Arian heresy (which claimed that Christ was not God but only a highly exalted creature), and asked Pope Saint Boniface IV to help restore the unity of the Church in the region. Columbanus himself was involved in a theological dispute with Pope Boniface, but he remained “bound to the Chair of Peterâ€� and acknowledged the Pope's authority. Having received a grant of land from the Lombard king, Columbanus founded his last monastery in the town of Bobbio during 614. Although St. Columbanus died on Nov. 23 of the following year, the abbey at Bobbio remained a center of theological orthodoxy and cultural preservation for centuries afterward.
  • St. Cecilia

    November 22, 2017 - 11:21am
    St. Cecilia's family was one of the principle families of Rome. According to the cultural custom of the time, Cecilia's family betrothed her to a young man named Valerius. On their wedding night, Cecilia told Valerius that she had sworn to remain a virgin before God and that an angel guarded her body, protecting her virginity from violation. She told Valerius that he would be able to see this angel if he went to a certain milestone along the road. Valerius went  to the milestone as Cecilia had instructed, and there encountered Pope Urbanus, who instructed the young man and baptized him.During that era, it was forbidden for anyone to bury the bodies of Christians, so Valerius and his brother dedicated themselves to burying the bodies of all the Christians they found. For this, they were arrested and brought before a judge who ordered them to worship the Roman god Jupiter, and were martyred when they refused to deny thier Christian faith.The police then came for Cecilia and strongly advised her to renounce her faith. In reply, she told them that she would prefer to die than to denounce the true faith. Upon hearing her response, they brought her to a large oven with the intention of suffocating her with the hot and toxic gasses it emitted. However, instead of choking, Cecilia began to sing, which is perhaps why she is considered the patron of musicians. Infuriated, her persecutors attempted to behead her, but after three strokes of the sword, Cecilia was still alive and her head was not severed. The soldiers then left her covered in blood in her own home, where she remained for three days before she died.
  • Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

    November 21, 2017 - 10:12am
    The feast of tday, November 21, commemorates the presentation of the Blessed Virgin as a child in the Temple. Tradition holds that all young Jewish girls were left in the care of the temple for a period of time, during which they were educated.The feast originated in the Orient probably about the 7th century, and is found in the constitution of Manuel Comnenus (1166) as a recognized festival. It was introduced into the Western Church in the 14th century. Pope Pius V then struck it from the calendar. Pope Sixtus V later reestablished the feast in 1585.
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Upcoming Events

Sharing Christ

3rd in the ChristLife program
November 28, 2017 - 6:30pm
Mary's Room
Sharing Christ is the third series of sessions in the ChristLife program. We've "discovered" Christ and learned to "follow" Christ; now it's time to... Read more

First Friday Adoration

December 1, 2017 - 9:00am
Adoration Chapel
First Fridays we have 12 hour Adoration in the Adoration Chapel from 9:00am to 9:00pmRead more

Sharing Christ

3rd in the ChristLife program
December 5, 2017 - 6:30pm
Mary's Room
Sharing Christ is the third series of sessions in the ChristLife program. We've "discovered" Christ and learned to "follow" Christ; now it's time to... Read more
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Daily Readings

November 24, 2017 - 1:00am
36 Then said Judas and his brothers, "Behold, our enemies are crushed; let us go up to cleanse the sanctuary and dedicate it."
37 So all the army assembled and they went up to Mount Zion.
52 Early in the morning on the twenty-fifth day of the ninth month, which is the month of Chislev, in the one hundred and forty-eighth year,
53 they rose and offered sacrifice, as the law directs, on the new altar of burnt offering which they had built.
54 At the very season and on the very day that the Gentiles had profaned it, it was dedicated with songs and harps and lutes and cymbals.
55 All the people fell on their faces and worshiped and blessed Heaven, who had prospered them.
56 So they celebrated the dedication of the altar for eight days, and offered burnt offerings with gladness; they offered a sacrifice of deliverance and praise.
57 They decorated the front of the temple with golden crowns and small shields; they restored the gates and the chambers for the priests, and furnished them with doors.
58 There was very great gladness among the people, and the reproach of the Gentiles was removed.
59 Then Judas and his brothers and all the assembly of Israel determined that every year at that season the days of dedication of the altar should be observed with gladness and joy for eight days, beginning with the twenty-fifth day of the month of Chislev.
November 24, 2017 - 1:00am
10 Therefore David blessed the LORD in the presence of all the assembly; and David said: "Blessed art thou, O LORD, the God of Israel our father, for ever and ever.
11 Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all.
12 Both riches and honor come from thee, and thou rulest over all. In thy hand are power and might; and in thy hand it is to make great and to give strength to all.
November 24, 2017 - 1:00am
45 And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold,
46 saying to them, "It is written, `My house shall be a house of prayer'; but you have made it a den of robbers."
47 And he was teaching daily in the temple. The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people sought to destroy him;
48 but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people hung upon his words.
November 23, 2017 - 1:00am
22 And now bless the God of all, who in every way does great things; who exalts our days from birth, and deals with us according to his mercy.
23 May he give us gladness of heart, and grant that peace may be in our days in Israel, as in the days of old.
24 May he entrust to us his mercy! And let him deliver us in our days!
November 23, 2017 - 1:00am
1 I give thee thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing thy praise;
2 I bow down toward thy holy temple and give thanks to thy name for thy steadfast love and thy faithfulness; for thou hast exalted above everything thy name and thy word.
3 On the day I called, thou didst answer me, my strength of soul thou didst increase.
4 All the kings of the earth shall praise thee, O LORD, for they have heard the words of thy mouth;
5 and they shall sing of the ways of the LORD, for great is the glory of the LORD.
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Mass Times

Weekend Mass

Saturday 4:30 p.m.

Sunday 8:30 a.m. & 10:30 a.m.

Confession Times

Wednesday 6:00 p.m.

Saturday 3:30 p.m.

Or by appointment.

Eucharistic Adoration

Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament occurs every Wednesday evening from 6:00 – 7:00 p.m. with confession and benediction.

Daily Mass

Monday 7:00 a.m.

Tuesday 8:30 a.m.

Wednesday 8:30 a.m.

Thursday 6:15 a.m. & 8:30 a.m.

Friday 8:30 a.m.

First Friday Adoration

24-hour exposition of the Blessed Sacrament occurs every first Friday of the month from 9:00 a.m. Friday to 9:00 a.m. Saturday.

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St. Regis is located at 8941 James A Reed Road in Kansas City, MO.

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Catholic News

November 24, 2017 - 4:42pm

Naypyitaw, Burma, Nov 24, 2017 / 03:42 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- When Pope Francis visits Burma, also known as Myanmar, later this month, his visit will come at one of the most contentious periods of the country’s history.

In recent months, state-supported violence against Burma’s Rohingya Muslim community – an ethnic and religious minority– has reached staggering levels, causing the United Nations to declare the situation “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

“The scope of the humanitarian crisis is enormous and it’s ongoing,” said Daniel Mark, Chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, in an interview with CNA at the end of September. “Once again we unfortunately have another terrible crisis that’s focusing people’s attention on something that’s already a terrible situation.”

“This is a deep and longstanding problem that we’ve been trying to call attention to for a long time, but it’s going to need an extremely long and concerted effort to address,” Mark told CNA. “Even addressing the immediate humanitarian crisis is not going to solve this profound underlying issue of the Rohingya Muslims in Burma.”

For years, the Rohingya, an ethnic group whose main religion is Islam, have faced grave persecution in the Burmese state of Rakhine, where the majority of them live. An estimated 1.1 million Rohingya live within the majority-Buddhist country. Members of the group have been denied citizenship since the foundation of Burma in 1948, and have suffered violence, and lack the freedom to move or access clean water since a military coup d’etat in 1962.

After a different military regime took control in 1988, with even harsher military crackdowns throughout the country, the country has been referred to as Myanmar.

Pope Francis will visit the country at the end of November, following stories of horrifying human rights abuses and a mass exodus of Rohingya civilians from Burma.

The most recent wave of violence began on Aug. 25, 2017, after which the Burmese military and local Buddhist vigilantes enacted a campaign of burning Rohingya villages and massacring the civilians within them. It is still unclear exactly how many people have been killed in the violence, but aid agencies estimate that thousands are dead and more than 600,000 people have been displaced since late August. Neighboring Bangladesh has accepted the majority of those refugees, and more people have been internally displaced within the country.

The military claims the violence is a response to attacks by a small group of Rohingya against border agents in the Rakhine province, which left 12 officers dead. However, the violence – which includes arson, sexual violence, and internal displacement – long precedes those attacks, and other demonstrations within Rohingya communities, said Olivia Enos, a policy analyst in the Asian Studies Center at The Heritage Foundation, who specializes in human rights.

“Maybe some individual Rohingya are acting out in self-defense, but to place blame on Rohingya is misleading,” Enos said. 

“The military has a long, long history of burning homes and villages, raping women and children. The track record is so long that to place the blame on any kind of radical agents within the Rohingya would be really inaccurate.”

While violence and discrimination against the Rohingya people at the hands of Burmese authorities has been ongoing since the 1960s, with increases in persecution in 2012 and 2015, the current crisis is of particular concern, Enos said.  She explained that the high levels of displacement and increased incidents of violence and destruction set this conflict apart from the ones that have come before.

Also concerning, she said, is the fact this conflict is occurring after democratic reforms which took place between 2011-2015. While the nation is becoming more democratic, she said, military still maintains significant control within Burma. Furthermore, the country’s leader - Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi– has remained silent when asked about the persecution of the group within her country.

To add to the worries, Enos fears that by focusing on the ethnic element of the conflict, Western leaders may overlook its religious aspect. “The vast majority of people in Burma are Buddhist and they view the Muslim minority group Rohingya as a threat to the native Burman society,” she said. “It’s a religious conflict.”

Mark stated that the religious element of the conflict has been a concern of the Commission since its founding in 1998.  “As a result of this, we’ve been following this very, very carefully and for a long time,” he said We’ve recommended Burma be designated as a Country of Particular Concern every year,” a recommendation the U.S. Department of State has followed each year it’s made such designations.

The long history of the conflict means that while there are immediate steps that need to be taken to address the humanitarian situation, work to end the conflict will need to look at long-term solution.

“This is all a result of the systematic exclusion of these people from Burmese society,” Mark explained. “All the things we’re saying now about the treatment of Rohingya Muslims going forward are thing that we have been saying all along,” he continued.

“It’s been a tinderbox and that needs to be addressed.”

In the short term, Mark advocated for immediate humanitarian aid and assurance that humanitarian goods will get to those in need of them. He also called for accountability for human rights violations and a cessation of violence.

He noted the need for the international community to help support Bangladesh as it takes in tens of thousands of people a day, so a secondary crisis is not created there.

“Attacks need to stop and aid needs to start.”

 

An earlier version of this article was published Sept. 28, 2017.

November 24, 2017 - 12:46pm

Vatican City, Nov 24, 2017 / 11:46 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a letter for the conclusion of a conference on labor on Friday, Pope Francis said work is about more than just doing something for money, but about cooperating with Christ’s work of redemption in how we care for others and the earth.

“According to Christian tradition, (work) is more than a mere doing; it is, above all, a mission,” the Pope said Nov. 24.

“We collaborate with the creative work of God when, through our work, we cultivate and preserve creation; we participate, in the Spirit of Jesus, in his redemptive mission, when by our activity we give sustenance to our families and respond to the needs of our neighbor.”

Jesus of Nazareth, who spent most of his life working as a carpenter, “invites us to follow in his footsteps through work,” he continued. This way, in the words of St. Ambrose, “every worker is the hand of Christ who continues to create and to do good.”

Pope Francis sent the letter for the conclusion of a Nov. 23-24 international conference at the Vatican on work and worker’s movements, and how these are at the heart of sustainable and integral human development.

At the same time that we consider the value of work, the Pope stressed the importance of not exaggerating the “mystical” side of work, as observed by Pope Paul VI. The person “is not just work,” Francis said. “There are other human needs that we must cultivate and consider, such as family, friends, and rest.”

This is why, he stated, it is important to remember that work must always serve the human person, and not the other way around. Therefore, “we must question the structures that damage or exploit people, families, the companies and our mother earth,” he said.

In the letter, the Pope decried the utilitarian attitude faced by many workers, who in their struggle for just work, have been forced to accept the presence of a utilitarian mentality which does not care if there is excess waste, “social and environmental degradation,” forced child labor, or pollution.

“Everything is justified by the money god,” Francis said, noting however that many of the people who participated in the conference have contributed to the fight against utilitarianism in the past and are “well positioned to correct it in the future.”

“Please address this difficult subject and show us, according to your prophetic and creative mission, that a culture of encounter and care is possible,” he said.

Drawing a connection between the three topics of time, work and technology, the Pope criticized the constant intensification of a rapid pace of both work and life, saying it is unfavorable for sustainable development.

Technology as well, which we receive many benefits and opportunities from, can also hinder sustainable development when “it is associated with a paradigm of power, dominance, and manipulation,” he said.

To talk about development in a fruitful way, we must start from what we have in common, he said, which is: our origin, our belonging and our destination. “On this basis, we can renew the universal solidarity of all people, including solidarity with the people of tomorrow.”

“We will also be able to find a way out of a marketplace and monetary economy that does not give work the value it is due, and move it towards another in which human activity is the center.”

November 24, 2017 - 12:25pm

Ismailia, Egypt, Nov 24, 2017 / 11:25 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Terrorists attacked a mosque on Egypt's Sinai peninsula during Friday prayers, killing 235 people. The incident has been condemned by both Pope Francis and Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the US bishops' conference.

No one has yet claimed responsibility for the Nov. 24 attack on al-Rawda mosque in Bir al-Abed, located about 75 miles northeast of Ismailia.

The Holy See issued a statement indicating Pope Francis “was profoundly grieved to learn of the great loss of life” in the attack. “In expressing his solidarity with the Egyptian people … he commends the victims to the mercy of the Most High God and invokes divine blessings of consolation and peace upon their families.”

“In renewing his firm condemnation of this wanton act of brutality directed at innocent civilians gathered in prayer, His Holiness joins all people of good will in imploring that hearts hardened by hatred will learn to renounce the way of violence that leads to such great suffering, and embrace the way of peace.”

Cardinal DiNardo stated that “I join with my brother bishops in unequivocally condemning the monstrous terrorist attack on innocent people at prayer in Egypt. Terrorist acts can never be justified in the name of God or any political ideology, and the fact this attack took place at a Mosque, a place of worship, is especially offensive to God.”

The Church in the US “mourns with the people of Egypt at this time of tragedy, and assures them of our prayerful solidarity,” he added.

“We join with all those of good will in prayer that these acts of terror and mass killings – these acts of grave evil – will end and will be replaced with genuine and mutual respect for the dignity of each and every person.”

The mosque, associated with Sufis – followers of a form of Islamic mysticism – was bombed and hit with gunfire. Hundreds more were wounded in the attack.

The Sinai peninsula has been the site of an Islamist insurgency since 2013, when the Egyptian military ousted President Mohamed Morsi, who was backed by the Muslim Brotherhood.

November 24, 2017 - 10:26am

Vatican City, Nov 24, 2017 / 09:26 am (CNA/EWTN News).- One of the Vatican's top diplomatic voices has criticized U.S. President Donald Trump's recent decision to end the Temporary Protected Status of thousands of Haitians taking refuge in the U.S., saying the country isn't yet ready for the influx after a slew of natural disasters devastated the island nation.

“That's a sad decision, because the Haitian population in the U.S. that arrived after the earthquake and after the storm that destroyed half of the island, cannot go back to a situation that still is very difficult,” Archbishop Silvano Tomasi told CNA Nov. 24.

Reconstruction in Haiti following the brutal 2010 earthquake that left hundreds of thousands dead before Hurricane Matthew struck in 2016, causing further devastation, “is not well-advanced,” Tomasi said, “because there are not enough resources for the people  of Haiti.”

“We hope in the months ahead that there will still be some space to negotiate and delay, and continue the protection of status for Haitians in the United States.”

Archbishop Tomasi was formerly the Holy See's Permanent Observer to the United Nations in Geneva, and is now Counselor for the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

He spoke during the Nov. 24 presentation of Pope Francis' message for the 2018 World Day of Peace, titled “Migrants and Refugees: men and women in search of peace,” and dedicated entirely to the issue of migration.

The message comes just four days after Trump administration announced it will be ending protected legal residency for an estimated 60,000 Haitians living in the U.S., giving them until July 2019 to return to their country.

Thousands of Haitians flocked to the United States in 2010 following a catastrophic earthquake that measured at 7.0 on the Richter scale and which killed more than 200,000, displaced more than 1 million, and destroyed thousands of homes and businesses in and around the country’s capital, Port-au-Prince.

The Department of Homeland Security announced Monday that the “extraordinary conditions” necessitating TPS for Haitians in the United States “no longer exists.”

TPS, a policy begun in 1990, allows people who are unable safely to return to their home nations because of armed conflict, other violence, natural disasters, or other extraordinary and temporary circumstances to remain in the United States while the situation in their home country resolves.

However, the Trump administration's decision Monday has raised the question for many as to whether Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, will be able to support an influx of 60,000 people returning home after seven years.

As far as the Holy See is concerned, Tomasi said they are working with local bishops conferences and the apostolic nunciature in Washington D.C. “to sensitize...public opinion” on the issue, and to “deal with politically irresponsible people.”

They are also hoping to illustrate “the fact that we need not only to be compassionate, but to be attentive to the need of these populations, which is a fact that is of benefit also to the United States because it will create an area of peace and cooperation not only in the Caribbean, but in the region.”

When it comes to the migration issue, Tomasi said it's important to go beyond polemics and heated rhetoric.

Looking to what the reaction of many European countries has been to the arrival of refugees or asylum seekers, he said “there has been a multiplication of political parties where xenophobia dominates the goal of these organizations.”

“The solution is not to emphasize only security and control,” he said, but also involves thinking about how to welcome incoming migrants and refugees while taking into account “that the common good demands that both the necessity of the people arriving be taken into account, but also the limits that local communities welcoming them, accepting them, objectively have.”

“The important consideration I think is not to be too selfish, but to be open, to have a heart that is understanding and compassionate,” he said, adding that “we need to be men and women of compassion and empathy with the needs of others.”

November 24, 2017 - 8:38am

Vatican City, Nov 24, 2017 / 07:38 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Friday encouraged Eastern Christians in the Middle East, who are experiencing persecution and violence, to take hope in the cross, where Christ sacrificed himself not to eliminate wounds, but to transform them.

“In all of this, the constant repetition of the sign of the cross is a reminder that the Lord of mercy never abandons his brothers and sisters, but embraces their wounds within his own,” the Pope said Nov. 24.

“By making the sign of the cross we recall Christ’s wounds, which the Resurrection did not eliminate but rather filled with light.”

“So too the wounds of Christians, including those still open, become radiant when they are filled with the living presence of Jesus and his love,” he continued, “and thus become signs of Easter light in a world enveloped by so much darkness.”

Pope Francis’ message was given to members of the Mixed Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East.

The commission is sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East, which is an Eastern Christian Church found primarily in Iraq, Iran, Syria and Lebanon. The commission meets periodically to study and discuss points of theological difference.

In his message, Francis asked the Lord to bless the future work of the commission, that one day both Churches may celebrate “full communion in Christ’s Church.” He also emphasized an aspect of their new Joint Declaration, which refers to the sign of the cross as “an explicit symbol of unity among all sacramental celebrations.”

This is a beautiful reflection, he said, because “hope and peace” come from Christ’s glorious cross, “and from the cross flows the unity of the sacred mysteries we celebrate, as well as our own unity, for we were baptized into the same death and resurrection of the Lord.”

Pope Francis noted that when we make the sign of the cross, or when we look at a crucifix, it is an invitation to think of those who have endured great sacrifices by uniting their suffering to Christ’s. It also reminds us to remember those who “today bear a heavy cross upon their shoulders.”

The Assyrian Church of the East, and other Churches in the Middle East, are afflicted by grave persecution and are witness to “brutal acts of violence,” he stated. This suffering was recently “exacerbated” by the tragedy of the Nov. 13 earthquake that hit the border between Iraq and Iran, killing at least 500 people and injuring thousands of others.

Those who have died from tragedy and from persecution – giving their lives “in following the Crucified Christ” – are the “heralds and patrons” in heaven of our visible communion on earth, he exclaimed, encouraging them to trust in the intercession of the saints as they continue to patiently rebuild their devastated land.

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