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(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a letter to the residents of the town of Beslan in Russia which is commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Beslan school hostage crisis this week.

Listen to this report by Lydia O’Kane.

This week 10 years ago the lives of hundreds of Russian students, their parents and teachers changed forever when Chechen terrorists entered former school number 1 in the town of Beslan in Russia’s North Ossetia region taking over 1,000 people hostage.

The terrorists were demanding recognition of the independence of Chechnya at the UN and Russian withdrawal from the area.

On the third day of the hostage crisis Russian security forces entered the school building using heavy weapons.

The siege was resolved but the lives of over 300 people including 186 children were claimed.

Ten years on from the horrific events of the 1st to the 3rd of September of 2004 commemorations are taking place across Russia to remember the victims of the massacre.

One of those who is marking the siege is Amina who was a pupil at the school and was taken hostage by the terrorists. She returned this week to the building where it happened and spoke to Russia Today about her memories of the terrible events.

“I saw people around me running. I think I could have easily ended up trampled to death. And then all of a sudden, somebody’s hand grabbed me and their hand was holding many other little hands. This was our teacher.”

As Russia and Beslan itself mark this anniversary Pope Francis has written a letter to the residents of the North Ossetian town.

The letter, the contents of which are not known, is being delivered by Abbot Paolo De Carli who gave shelter to over 60 Beslan residents for two months at his monastery in the Trentino province in Italy following the hostage crisis.


(From archive of Vatican Radio)

(Vatican Radio) A Christian’s authority comes from the Holy Spirit, not from human wisdom or degrees in theology, said Pope Francis at morning Mass Tuesday, as he explained that Christian identity is having the Spirit of Christ, not the "spirit of the world”.

Emer McCarthy reports Listen: 

The people were astonished at Christ’s teaching because he spoke with authority. Inspired by the passage from the Gospel Pope dwelt on the nature of Our Lord’s authority and, as a consequence that of the Christian. He said that Jesus was “not a common preacher," because his "authority" comes from the '"special anointing of the Holy Spirit." Jesus, he said, is "the Son of God, anointed and sent" to "bring salvation, to bring freedom." And some, he noted, "were scandalized" by this style that belonged to Jesus, by its identity and freedom:

"We too can ask ourselves, what is our identity as Christians? Paul puts it very well today when he says: ‘And we speak about them not with words taught by human wisdom'. Paul's preaching is not the result of a course at the Lateran, or the Gregorian [Pontifical Universities - ed]... No, no, no! Not human wisdom, no! But taught by the Spirit: Paul preached with the anointing of the Spirit, expressing spiritual things of the Spirit in spiritual terms. Man cannot understand the things of the Spirit of God by his own strength: Man alone cannot understand this!”.

The Pope continued that this is why "if we Christians do not fully understand the things of the Spirit, if we do not give or offer witness then we have no identity". For some, he said, "these things of the Spirit are foolishness, they are not able to understand them". The man moved by the Spirit, however, "judges everything: He is free and cannot be judged by anyone".

“Now, we have the thought of Christ and that is the Spirit of Christ. This is the Christian identity. Not having the spirit of the world, that way of thinking, that way of judging ... You can have five degrees in theology, but not have the Spirit of God! Maybe you'll be a great theologian, but you are not a Christian because you do not have the Spirit of God! That which gives authority, that which gives identity is the Holy Spirit, the anointing of the Holy Spirit”.

Pope Francis said that this is why "the people did not love those preachers, those teachers of the law, because they only spoke of theology, they did not speak to hearts, they gave no freedom". These, he added, "were unable to help the people find their own identity, because they were not anointed by the Holy Spirit".

"The authority of Jesus - and the authority of the Christian – comes from this ability to understand the things of the Spirit, to speak the language of the Spirit. It is from this anointing of the Holy Spirit. Often, so often, we find among our faithful, simple old women who perhaps didn’t even finish elementary school, but who can speak to us of things better than any theologian, because they have the Spirit of Christ. Exactly like St. Paul. We all need to ask for this. Lord grant us Christian identity, which You had. Grant us Your Spirit. Grant us Your way of thinking, feeling, speaking: May the Lord grant us the anointing of the Holy Spirit. "


(From archive of Vatican Radio)

(Vatican Radio) At the General Audience Wednesday, Pope Francis told Arabic speaking pilgrims and “particularly those from Iraq,” that “like all mothers,” the Church accompanies her needy children.  She “raises up the fallen child, heals his wounds, seeks the lost… and defends those who are defenseless and persecuted.”  The Pope assured “especially these last of you, the defenseless and persecuted, that you are in the heart of the Church; the Church suffers with you and is proud of you; you are her strength and the concrete and authentic witness of her message of salvation, of forgiveness and love.  I embrace all of you, all of you.  May the Lord bless you and protect you!”

(From archive of Vatican Radio)

(Vatican Radio)  Tens of thousands gathered on a bright sunny day in St. Peter’s square for the weekly General Audience to hear Pope Francis reflect on the maternal nature of the Church.  He called her “a mother” who gives us “life in Christ,” and reminded the faithful she will never leave them “orphaned.”

Pope Francis was continuing his series of reflections on how one does not become Christian autonomously, by oneself.  We are created and grow in the faith, he said, in this “great body which is the Church.”

Below, please find the official English summary of the Pope’s remarks:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our catecheses, we have often noted that we do not become a Christian on our own, but by being born and nurtured in the faith in the midst of the People of God, that is the Church.  She is a true mother who gives us life in Christ and, in the communion of the Holy Spirit, brings us into a common life with our brothers and sisters.  The model of motherhood for the Church is the Blessed Virgin Mary, who in the fullness of time conceived through the Holy Spirit and gave birth to the Son of God.  Her motherhood continues through the Church, who brings forth sons and daughters through baptism, whom she nourishes through the Word of God.  In fact, Jesus gave the Gospel to the Church to bring forth new life by generously proclaiming his word and winning other sons and daughters for God our Father.  As a mother, the Church nurtures us throughout life by illuminating our path with the light of the Gospel and by sustaining us with the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist.  With this nourishment, we are able to choose the good and be vigilant against evil and deceit, and overcome the difficult moments of life with courage and hope.  This is the Church: a mother who has at heart the good of her children.  And since we are the Church, we are called to live this same spiritual, maternal attitude towards our brothers and sisters, by welcoming, forgiving and inspiring trust and hope.

I offer an affectionate greeting to all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Audience, including those from England, Ireland, Malta, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Canada and the United States.  May your stay in the Eternal City confirm you in love for our Lord and his Church.  May God bless you all!  

(From archive of Vatican Radio)

(Vatican Radio) In remarks to Polish pilgrims participating at his General Audience Wednesday 3 September, Pope Francis recalled the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Second World War.  He noted that many Polish cities in these days are holding events to remember this occasion and prayed for God’s mercy “on those who lost their lives for their love of country and of brothers.” “We invoke the gift of peace for all the nations of Europe and the world, through the intercession of Mary, Queen of Peace,” he prayed.

(From archive of Vatican Radio)
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