Pope: Unity is first sign of true Christian witness

The Catholic Church gives an authentic witness of God’s love for all men and women only when it fosters the grace of unity and communion, Pope Francis said.

Unity is part of “the DNA of the Christian community,” the pope said June 12 during his weekly general audience. The gift of unity, he said, “allows us not to fear diversity, not to attach ourselves to things and gifts,” but “to become martyrs, luminous witnesses of God who lives and works in history.”

“We, too, need to rediscover the beauty of giving witness to the Risen Lord, going beyond self-referential attitudes, renouncing the desire to stifle God’s gifts and not yielding to mediocrity,” he said.

In his main talk, the pope continued his new series on the Acts of the Apostles, looking specifically at the apostles who, after the Resurrection, “prepare to receive God’s power – not passively but by consolidating communion between them.”

Before ultimately taking his own life, Judas’ separation from Christ and the apostles began with his attachment to money and losing sight of the importance of self-giving “until he allowed the virus of pride to infect his mind and heart, transforming him from a friend into an enemy.”

Judas “stopped belonging to the heart to Jesus and placed himself outside of communion with him and his companions. He stopped being a disciple and placed himself above the master,” the pope explained.

Nevertheless, unlike Judas who “preferred death to life” and created a “wound in the body of the community,” the 11 apostles chose “life and blessing.”

Pope Francis said that by discerning together to find a suitable replacement, the apostles gave “a sign that communion overcomes divisions, isolation and the mentality that absolutizes the private space.”

– VATICAN CITY (CNS)

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Pope advances sainthood cause for U.S. priest

Pope Francis advanced the sainthood cause of Father Augustus Tolton, the first African American diocesan priest in the United States and founder of the first black Catholic parish in Chicago.

The decree for Father Tolton’s cause, announced June 11, recognizes that he lived a life of heroic virtue.

Father Tolton had been born into slavery in 1854 on a plantation near Brush Creek, Missouri. After his father left to try to join the Union Army during the Civil War, his mother fled with her three children by rowing them across the Mississippi River and settling in Quincy, in the free state of Illinois.

There, he was encouraged to discern his vocation to the priesthood by the Franciscan priests who taught him at St. Francis College, now Quincy University. However, he was denied access to seminaries in the United States after repeated requests, so he pursued his education in Rome at what is now the Pontifical Urbanian University.

He was ordained for the Propaganda Fidei Congregation in 1886, expecting to become a missionary in Africa. Instead, he was sent to be a missionary in his own country and returned to Quincy, where he served for three years before going to the Archdiocese of Chicago in 1889.

Despite rampant racism and discrimination, he became one of the city’s most popular pastors, attracting members of both white and black Catholic communities. He spearheaded the building of St. Monica Church for black Catholics and worked tirelessly for his congregation in Chicago, even to the point of exhaustion. On July 9, 1897, he died of heatstroke on a Chicago street at the age of 43.

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