Wednesday, July 31, 2013

GMO Part 2. - Myths and Truths


'GMO Myths and Truths' — Report released by genetic engineers

By Anne Sewell

Jul 5, 2012 in Health

In a groundbreaking report, two genetic engineers explain in detail why GMOs are not good for human health or the environment.

The new report has been released today, July 5, and is titled “GMO Myths and Truths”.

The report presents a large body of peer-reviewed scientific and other authoritative evidence of the hazards to health and the environment posed by genetically engineered crops and organisms (GMOs).

While there are many campaigners against GMOs in general, the initiative for this report came not from campaigners, but from two genetic engineers, who believe there are good scientific reasons to be wary of GM crops and food.

One of the genetic engineers involved in the report is Dr. Michael Antoniou of King’s College London School of Medicine in the U.K., which uses genetic engineering for medical applications but warns against its use in developing crops for human food and animal feed.

Dr Antoniou said: “GM crops are promoted on the basis of ambitious claims – that they are safe to eat, environmentally beneficial, increase yields, reduce reliance on pesticides, and can help solve world hunger."
“I felt what was needed was a collation of the evidence that addresses the technology from a scientific point of view."

“Research studies show that genetically modified crops have harmful effects on laboratory animals in feeding trials and on the environment during cultivation. They have increased the use of pesticides and have failed to increase yields. Our report concludes that there are safer and more effective alternatives to meeting the world’s food needs.”

The second author of the report is Dr. John Fagan, a former genetic engineer, who in 1994 returned $614,000 in grant money to the National Institutes of Health, due to concerns about the safety and ethics of the technology. Dr. Fagan then founded a GMO testing company.

He says, “Crop genetic engineering as practiced today is a crude, imprecise, and outmoded technology. It can create unexpected toxins or allergens in foods and affect their nutritional value. Recent advances point to better ways of using our knowledge of genomics to improve food crops, that do not involve GM."
“Over 75% of all GM crops are engineered to tolerate being sprayed with herbicide. This has led to the spread of herbicide-resistant super weeds and has resulted in massively increased exposure of farmers and communities to these toxic chemicals. Epidemiological studies suggest a link between herbicide use and birth defects and cancer."

“These findings fundamentally challenge the utility and safety of GM crops, but the biotech industry uses its influence to block research by independent scientists and uses its powerful PR machine to discredit independent scientists whose findings challenge this approach.”

The third author of the report is Claire Robinson, who is research director of Earth Open Source.

Robinson said, “The GM industry is trying to change our food supply in far-reaching and potentially dangerous ways. We all need to inform ourselves about what is going on and ensure that we – not biotechnology companies – keep control of our food system and crop seeds.

“We hope our report will contribute to a broader understanding of GM crops and the sustainable alternatives that are already working successfully for farmers and communities."

An extract from the report reads:

Genetically modified (GM) crops are promoted on the basis of a range of far-reaching claims from the GM crop industry and its supporters. They say that GM crops:

- Are an extension of natural breeding and do not pose different risks from naturally bred crops

- Are safe to eat and can be more nutritious than naturally bred crops

- Are strictly regulated for safety

- Increase crop yields

- Reduce pesticide use

- Benefit farmers and make their lives easier

- Bring economic benefits

- Benefit the environment

- Can help solve problems caused by climate change

- Reduce energy use

- Will help feed the world.
However, a large and growing body of scientific and other authoritative evidence shows that these claims are not true. On the contrary, evidence presented in this report indicates that GM crops:

- Are laboratory-made, using technology that is totally different from natural breeding methods, and pose different risks from non-GM crops

- Can be toxic, allergenic or less nutritious than their natural counterparts

- Are not adequately regulated to ensure safety

- Do not increase yield potential

- Do not reduce pesticide use but increase it

- Create serious problems for farmers, including herbicide-tolerant “superweeds”, compromised soil quality, and increased disease susceptibility in crops

- Have mixed economic effects

- Harm soil quality, disrupt ecosystems, and reduce biodiversity

- Do not offer effective solutions to climate change

- Are as energy-hungry as any other chemically-farmed crops

- Cannot solve the problem of world hunger but distract from its real causes – poverty, lack of access to food and, increasingly, lack of access to land to grow it on.

Based on the evidence presented in this report, there is no need to take risks with GM crops when effective, readily available, and sustainable solutions to the problems that GM technology is claimed to address already exist. Conventional plant breeding, in some cases helped by safe modern technologies like gene mapping and marker assisted selection, continues to outperform GM in producing high-yield, drought-tolerant, and pest- and disease-resistant crops that can meet our present and future food needs.

Food Price Watch


Food prices remain high even after prices of internationally traded food decreased between February and June 2013, the third consecutive quarterly decline.

Higher production, declining imports and increasing stocks pushed down export prices.
Uncertain weather conditions and domestic policy decisions still warrant close monitoring going forward.

Prices of internationally traded food declined for the third consecutive quarter since their historical peak in August of 2012. Increased production, declining imports and increasing stocks are exerting downward pressure on export prices, but international prices remain tight for maize.
Prices remain high and with recent price increases in May and June, uncertainties surrounding unstable weather conditions and domestic policy decisions among key food producers warrant close scrutiny.
Domestic policies worth watching include public procurement policies, but also consumer price subsidies, which, far from being a thing of the past, continue to be used – even though subsidies often bring meager benefits to the poor, high fiscal costs, corruption episodes and unproven nutritional effects.

Food Price Watch, July 2013
Mystery of the disappearing bees: Solved!


By Richard Schiffman

APRIL 9, 2012
If it were a novel, people would criticize the plot for being too far-fetched – thriving colonies disappear overnight without leaving a trace, the bodies of the victims are never found. Only in this case, it’s not fiction: It’s what’s happening to fully a third of commercial beehives, over a million colonies every year. Seemingly healthy communities fly off never to return. The queen bee and mother of the hive is abandoned to starve and die.
Thousands of scientific sleuths have been on this case for the last 15 years trying to determine why our honey bees are disappearing in such alarming numbers. “This is the biggest general threat to our food supply,” according to Kevin Hackett, the national program leader for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s bee and pollination program.
Until recently, the evidence was inconclusive on the cause of the mysterious “colony collapse disorder” (CCD) that threatens the future of beekeeping worldwide. But three new studies point an accusing finger at a culprit that many have suspected all along, a class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids.
In the U.S. alone, these pesticides, produced primarily by the German chemical giant Bayer and known as “neonics” for short, coat a massive 142 million acres of corn, wheat, soy and cotton seeds. They are also a common ingredient in home gardening products.
Research published last month in the prestigious journal Science shows that neonics are absorbed by the plants’ vascular system and contaminate the pollen and nectar that bees encounter on their rounds. They are a nerve poison that disorient their insect victims and appear to damage the homing ability of bees, which may help to account for their mysterious failure to make it back to the hive.
Another study published in the American Chemical Society’s Environmental Science and Technology journal implicated neonic-containing dust released into the air at planting time with “lethal effects compatible with colony losses phenomena observed by beekeepers.”
Purdue University entomologists observed bees at infected hives exhibiting tremors, uncoordinated movement and convulsions, all signs of acute insecticide poisoning. And yet another study conducted by scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health actually re-created colony collapse disorder in several honeybee hives simply by administering small doses of a popular neonic, imidacloprid.
But scientists believe that exposure to toxic pesticides is only one factor that has led to the decline of honey bees in recent years. The destruction and fragmentation of bee habitats, as a result of land development and the spread of monoculture agriculture, deprives pollinators of their diverse natural food supply. This has already led to the extinction of a number of wild bee species. The planting of genetically modified organism (GMO) crops – some of which now contain toxic insecticides within their genetic structure – may also be responsible for poisoning bees and weakening their immune systems.
Every spring millions of bee colonies are trucked to the Central Valley of California and other agricultural areas to replace the wild pollinators, which have all but disappeared in many parts of the country. These bees are routinely fed high-fructose corn syrup instead of their own nutritious honey. And in an effort to boost productivity, the queens are now artificially inseminated, which has led to a disturbing decline in bee genetic diversity. Bees are also dusted with chemical poisons to control mites and other pathogens that have flourished in the overcrowded commercial colonies.
In 1923, Rudolph Steiner, the German founder of biodynamic agriculture, a precursor of the modern organic movement, predicted that within a hundred years artificial industrial techniques used to breed honey bees would lead to the species’ collapse. His prophecy was right on target!
Honey bees have been likened to the canaries in the coal mine. Their vanishing is nature’s way of telling us that conditions have deteriorated in the world around us. Bees won’t survive for long if we don’t change our commercial breeding practices and remove deadly toxins from their environment. A massive pollinator die-off would imperil world food supplies and devastate ecosystems that depend on them. The loss of these creatures might rival climate change in its impact on life on earth.
Still, this is a disaster that does not need to happen. Germany and France have already banned pesticides that have been implicated in the deaths of bees. There is still time to save the bees by working with nature rather than against it, according to environmentalist and author Bill McKibben:
“Past a certain point, we can’t make nature conform to our industrial model. The collapse of beehives is a warning – and the cleverness of a few beekeepers in figuring out how to work with bees not as masters but as partners offers a clear-eyed kind of hope for many of our ecological dilemmas.”

GMO Part 1. - America's Health - Obama's Achilles Heel!


From Health Treatment to Food Supply
When it comes to long term health concerns in America and the world we are inundated with controversy over two principal issues, the health care system in America and the food production system in America.
The first was supposed to be resolved by passage of Obamacare yet nothing has been resolved to date as implementation of the massive federal law, after it was approved by Congress and signed by the president, has been, well, about as effective as Congress.
Far more activity took place in the food production business far from the front pages of newspapers and harking of political pundits.  Obama has clearly done a lot in this area but to date the principal beneficiary is not the public, or middle class, but the six giant agrichemical companies that control the growing of food in the world.
As Obama looks forward to his last 3 years in office perhaps he will be more concerned that his legacy is shaping up as a stark reminder of his abandonment of the very people he claimed to be championing.
Political talk has always been cheap.  Political action has always been lacking.  The Obama administration has given us more talk and less action on these issues than any president in recent history and his legacy may be as the first president to guarantee liberty and justice for some but certainly not all Americans.
These areas are complex, the players are muddled and the public interest is secondary to corporate greed and unfortunately the opposition is fragmented, prone to lack facts and figures, and far too easily seduced by the sensational when cold, hard facts tell us all we need to know.
World hunger drives the production of genetically engineered seeds.  The estimates for deaths from hunger each year are all over the place ranging from 1.5 million to 15 million children worldwide and maybe 5 million others.  While no deaths should be allowed, the extent of hunger is massive and millions surely die every year.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that nearly 870 million people, or one in eight people in the world, were suffering from chronic undernourishment in 2010-2012. Almost all the hungry people, 852 million, live in developing countries, representing 15 percent of the population of developing counties. There are 16 million people undernourished in developed countries.
The number of undernourished people decreased nearly 30 percent in Asia and the Pacific, from 739 million to 563 million, largely due to socio-economic progress in many countries in the region. The prevalence of undernourishment in the region decreased from 23.7 percent to 13.9 percent.
Latin America and the Caribbean also made progress, falling from 65 million hungry in 1990-1992 to 49 million in 2010-2012, while the prevalence of undernourishment dipped from 14.6 percent to 8.3 percent. But the rate of progress has slowed recently.
The number of hungry grew in Africa over the period, from 175 million to 239 million, with nearly 20 million added  in the last few years. Nearly one in four are  hungry. And in sub-Saharan Africa, the modest progress achieved in recent years up to 2007 was reversed, with hunger rising 2 percent per year since then.
In order to meet the vast and tragic food needs of the world we have the producers of genetically engineered seeds.
And this is where our president faces a quagmire with grave consequences because in March he signed an appropriations bill which included seemingly innocuous language regarding the Farmer Assurance Provision.
The "Monsanto Protection Act" is the name opponents of the Farmer Assurance Provision have given to this terrifying piece of policy, and it's a fitting moniker given its shocking content.
President Barack Obama signed a spending billHR 933, into law on March 26, 2013 that includes language that has food and consumer advocates and organic farmers up in arms over their contention that the so-called "Monsanto Protection Act" is a giveaway to corporations that was passed under the cover of darkness.
There's a lot being said about it, but here are five terrifying facts about the Farmer Assurance Provision -- Section 735 of the spending bill -- to get you acquainted with the reasons behind the ongoing uproar:
1.) The "Monsanto Protection Act" effectively bars federal courts from being able to halt the sale or planting of controversial genetically modified (aka GMO) or genetically engineered (GE) seeds, no matter what health issues may arise concerning GMOs in the future. The advent of genetically modified seeds -- which has been driven by the massive Monsanto Company -- and their exploding use in farms across America came on fast and has proved a huge boon for Monsanto's profits.
But many anti-GMO folks argue there have not been enough studies into the potential health risks of this new class of crop. Well, now it appears that even if those studies are completed and they end up revealing severe adverse health effects related to the consumption of genetically modified foods, the courts will have no ability to stop the spread of the seeds and the crops they bear.
2.) The provision's language was apparently written in collusion with Monsanto. Lawmakers and companies working together to craft legislation is by no means a rare occurrence in this day and age. But the fact that Sen. Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri, actually worked with Monsanto on a provision that in effect allows them to keep selling seeds, which can then go on to be planted, even if it is found to be harmful to consumers, is stunning. It's just another example of corporations bending Congress to their will, and it's one that could have dire risks for public health in America.
3.) Many members of Congress were apparently unaware that the "Monsanto Protection Act" even existed within the bill they were voting on. HR 933 was a spending bill aimed at averting a government shutdown and ensuring that the federal government would continue to be able to pay its bills. But the Center for Food Safety maintains that many Democrats in Congress were not even aware that the provision was in the legislation:
“In this hidden backroom deal, Sen. [Barbara] Mikulski turned her back on consumer, environmental and farmer protection in favor of corporate welfare for biotech companies such as Monsanto,” Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety, said in a statement. “This abuse of power is not the kind of leadership the public has come to expect from Sen. Mikulski or the Democrat Majority in the Senate.”
4.) The President did nothing to stop it, either. Obama signed HR 933 while the rest of the nation was fixated on gay marriage, as the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument concerning California's Proposition 8. But just because most of the nation and the media were paying attention to gay marriage doesn't mean that others were not doing their best to express their opposition to the "Monsanto Protection Act." In fact, more than 250,000 voters signed a petition opposing the provision He signed it anyway.
5.) It sets a terrible precedent. Though it will only remain in effect for six months until the government finds another way to fund its operations, the message it sends is that corporations can get around consumer safety protections if they get Congress on their side. Furthermore, it sets a precedent that suggests that court challenges are a privilege, not a right.
And this takes us to the role of agrichemical drug companies in our food production business.  Who are these companies and what do they do?  For one thing they hold a worldwide monopoly on seed production.
For the record those six agrichemical businesses are chemical giants Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow Agrosciences, BASF, Bayer, and Pioneer (DuPont).
In practically every case the company rose to become multi-billion dollar behemoths by supplying the pesticides used to fertilize our vast agricultural economy.  For decades these companies supplied the sometimes deadly chemicals used to control bugs, droughts, weeds and other obstacles to increased crop production.
But in the last 20 years, as it became more and more obvious that some of these very chemicals were causing dangerous side effects, the chemical companies began to take over the seed production and agricultural research businesses and used them to create seeds resistant to the very chemicals they supplied.
Now they were in a position to dominate both the seed production and chemical business.  For example, Monsanto is the world's largest seed company and 5th largest agrichemical company.  Syngenta is the world's third largest seed company and second largest agrichemical company.
Here is what they stand for!
Top Ten Seed Companies in World
1.  Monsanto     USA     $7.3 billion annual sales
2.  DuPont (Pioneer)     USA     $4.6 billion annual sales
3.  Syngenta     Switzerland     $2.6 billion annual sales
4.  Groupe Limagrain     France     $1.2 billion annual sales
5.  Land O' Lakes/Winfield Solutions     USA     $1.1 billion sales
6.  KWS AG    Germany     $997 million annual sales
7.  Bayer CropScience     Germany     $700 million annual sales
8.  Dow AgroSciences     USA     $635 million annual sales
9.  Sakata     Japan     $491 million annual sales
10. DLF-Trifolium A/S     Denmark     $385 million

The Big Six (agrichemical) companies generate $50 billion a year in sales of seeds and agrichemicals.

They spend $4.7 billion on agricultural research and development.

They cross license between each other to eliminate competition.

They control 76% of the world's private sector R & D spending for seeds and chemicals.

The top ten seed companies control 73% of the world's commercial seed market.

The top three companies control over 50% of the proprietary seed market and 75% of all patents issued between 1982 and 2007.

Of the $22.9 billion spent on seeds annually, $16.8 billion goes to chemical companies and $6.1 billion to farmer saved seeds.

1.4 billion people still depend on farmer saved seeds.

Part 2 of this series seeks the truth behind the myths for and against this type of activity.

Putin in Fishy Tales of Pikes and Pretzels


Apparently Russia is suffering from the same problem as America, there just isn't much good to talk about at the moment.  During times like these the ever-present news media are forced to turn their attention to the most trivial and meaningless of all possible stories, something they are quite adept at here in America.

The latest news from Russia is a fishy tale about some giant Pike caught by the fearless sportsman Vladimer Putin.  Here is how the story played in the American media after an international investigation of the facts.

By Leonid Bershidsky Jul 29, 2013 6:03 PM ET
Putin’s Big Fish Story Leaves Russians in Doubt
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s bizarre displays of machismo may get more laughs than his efforts at humor. That, at least, was the case with the giant pike that Putin supposedly hooked in the remote Siberian region of Tuva.
On July 26, the Kremlin released a video of Putin pulling a large pike out of a lake, lifting it by the gills and tenderly kissing it on the cheek. Presidential press secretary Dmitri Peskov had a whole story to tell the public about the catch.
According to Peskov, for a long time Putin had no luck at Lake Tokpak-Khol in a remote corner of Tuva, bordering on Mongolia. Then a gamekeeper suggested he use a locally made spoon lure called the Czar Fish, and it worked a small miracle.
The gamekeeper “said he had never seen anything like it,” Peskov said. “Putin caught a pike that weighed more than 21 kilograms. It took him 30 minutes to pull it out.” As Putin lifted his catch out of the water with a hoop net, the gamekeeper cautioned him that the pike could bite. “I’ll bite it myself,” Putin quipped, according to Peskov.
That may explain the kiss in the video. Peskov said the pike was made into a delicious meal.
The fish story is clearly aimed at bolstering Putin’s support in a country with an estimated 25 million fishing enthusiasts. It could also easily backfire.
Popular blogger Andrei Malgin published a mini-investigation of Putin’s fishing vacation. Pointing out that the trip wasn’t on the president’s official schedule, Malgin dug up old photographs from previous Putin trips to Tuva that he claimed looked remarkably similar to the newly released pictures.
“Doesn’t it look to you as if we are being fed canned food stored up some years ago?” Malgin asked his readers.
Others agreed, pointing out similar details of his outfit. “What if Putin has been dead for years and we don’t know?” one reader wrote in the comments. Other bloggers noted that Putin is wearing a watch that looks exactly like the one he gave to a gamekeeper during a previous vacation.
“The clothes are new, and the watch is exactly like the one he had back then,” Peskov responded. “He gave away the original watch and then bought exactly the same kind for himself because he is attached to it.”
On the clothing and the watch, it was Malgin’s word against Peskov’s: The press had not been invited for the unscheduled Tuva trip.
The giant pike was another matter. Experienced fishermen, even those sympathetic to Putin, simply could not believe it actually weighed 21 kilos -- about 46 pounds.
“Here’s what I think about the pike,” pro-Kremlin columnist Maxim Kononenko wrote in his blog. “Any fisherman can see that it simply cannot weigh 21 kilograms. For one thing, fish of that size are extremely rare. For another, it would be up to two meters (6’6”) long and you’d be able to fit a bucket in its mouth.” Kononenko suggested that the scale used to weigh the fish was marked in pounds rather than kilograms. If it read 21, that would mean the pike actually weighed about 9.5 kilograms.
Alfred Kokh, a deputy prime minister under President Boris Yeltsin, took a more scientific approach. “Putin’s height is 175 centimeters maximum,” he wrote on Facebook. “Approximating the pike to a cylinder with a diameter of 10 centimeters and a length of 120 centimeters -- a complimentary assumption -- we calculate the volume of the pike to be 9420 cubic centimeters, or roughly 10 liters.”
Kokh’s post received almost 1,500 likes. Again, Peskov had to defend the president. “I was especially amazed at blogger Kokh, who, if I am not mistaken, wrote that the fish could not have weighed 20 kilograms,” he told the Russian News Service. “I was personally present at the weighing, I saw the scale, and it really was over 20 kilos.”
By then, the fish’s size and the circumstances of its capture hardly mattered: The Kremlin was on the defensive. In 2013, Putin is no longer a recent underdog turned national leader. He is a dictator who has been in power for 13 years, and at least as many people mock him as admire him. He needs a change of public relations strategy no less than his country needs some change at the top.
(Leonid Bershidsky, an editor and novelist, is Moscow correspondent for World View.)
This is what we at the Coltons Point Times believe really happened.  It's true Putin was fishing.
Then he saw something off to his side and checked it out.
This is what he saw.
Thus the source of the monster pike.
Or perhaps it went something like this.  Putin decided to try out a new weapon as he is really in to weapons like Obama is in to golf.
He then took it for a ride.
He thought he saw a dangerous intruder to his water space and immediately armed the weapon and fired.
He blew away the Pike but to conceal the secret weapon he said he caught it.
Deep in the bowels of Russian Intelligence we found other photos of Putin catches to be used in future slow news days.



Then there is the Pretzel.
As for the Pretzel element of the story, just look at this rhythmic gymnast and tell us she does not remind you of a contorted pretzel.  Bodies are not meant to bend like this.  However, in this case the pictures are true and the body belongs to Russian gymnastic superstar Alina Kabayeva.

This rumour may just be true, that President Putin has found his match for a potential mate with the beautiful Alina Kabayeva, a 30 year old gymnast who is rumoured to have had an affair with the Prez.
In typical Russian fashion she has broken her silence to say she will not talk about her private life, in her first interview since the Russian president divorced his wife.  Only in Russia do you give an interview to tell the media you won't talk to them about what they want to talk about.
This 30 year old beauty seems to have the physical assets to keep up with our favorite Action Hero, the Russian president.  Kabayeva is Russia's second most successful rhythmic gymnast after Evgenia Kanaeva and is one of the most decorated gymnasts in the history of rhythmic gymnastics earning two Olympic medals, 14 world championship medals and 25 European championship medals.
We do not know if she is a fisherman however.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Rio de Janeiro Welcomes Papa Francesco & 3 million Youth to Copacabana Beach Mass


Under the ever watchful eye of the Christ the Redeemer statue looking down from the mountains surrounding Rio de Janeiro Papa Francesco, Pope Francis, ended World Youth Day with over 3 million of the faithful on the Copacabana Beach.
As far as the eye could see there was a mass of humanity, many who camped out on the beach overnight to share this moment with Papa.
Finally even the western media in the US had to cover the story, I mean three million peaceful people in one place is quite a story in this day and age.  The fact the vast majority were youth makes it a better story.
Here in America we get a daily dosage of money, murder, drugs and demons it seems but during his stay in Brazil the past few days  the Pope actually defined the false gods of today and told the youth they must work to stop edifying such idols of evil.
Pope Francis led his first large mass on Wednesday since returning to his native Latin America, decrying "ephemeral idols" like money and power at Brazil's most revered shrine.
"It is true that nowadays, to some extent, everyone, including our young people, feels attracted by the many idols which take the place of God and appear to offer hope: money, success, power, pleasure," he said at the Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida basilica.
"Often a growing sense of loneliness and emptiness in the hearts of many people leads them to seek satisfaction in these ephemeral idols," he said.
In a meeting with bishops and cardinals from South America he talked about the loss of Catholics in Brazil.

"At times we lose people because they don't understand what we are saying, because we have forgotten the language of simplicity and import an intellectualism foreign to our people," he said. "For ordinary people the mystery enters through the heart."

The pope also warned the bishops against assimilating fashionable values of secular culture.

"People today are attracted by things that are faster and faster: rapid Internet connections, speedy cars and planes, instant relationships," he asked. "Is the church herself caught up in the frantic pursuit of efficiency? Dear brothers, let us recover the calm to be able to walk at the same pace as our pilgrims, keeping alongside them, remaining close to them, enabling them to speak of the disappointments present in their hearts and to let us address them."

Among the pope's specific recommendations for the church in Brazil were deeper engagement by bishops in national debates on such "pressing concerns" as "education, health and social harmony"; and more attention to collegiality within the episcopate, downplaying "central bureaucracy" in favor of "local and regional elements."

He gave special attention to the needs of the Amazon basin, in terms of both ecological protection and the training of indigenous clergy to serve indigenous peoples there.

"'Pastoral care' is nothing other than the exercise of the church's motherhood," the pope said. "She gives birth, suckles, gives growth, corrects, nourishes and leads by the hand.

"So we need a church capable of rediscovering the maternal womb of mercy," he said. "Without mercy we have little chance nowadays of becoming part of a world of 'wounded' persons in need of understanding, forgiveness and love."
Pope Francis told leading Latin American bishops that all Catholics must renew the Church with a “missionary spirit,” acknowledging that he and other bishops are “lagging somewhat” in spiritual renewal.
“Bishops must be pastors, close to people, fathers and brothers, and gentle, patient and merciful. Men who love poverty,” the Pope said.
He praised bishops with “simplicity and austerity of life,” urging them not to act like “princes” or to be “ambitious” in seeking to lead another diocese.
Rather, bishops should be “pointing the way” for their people, preventing them from “being scattered” while “ensuring that no one is left behind.” They should be men capable of guarding and protecting their congregation while also instilling hope “so that light will shine in people’s hearts,” the Pope said July 28.
The Pope criticized pastoral plans that “clearly lack nearness, tenderness, a warm touch” and are incapable of sparking “an encounter with Jesus Christ” and with other people.
“Christ’s followers are not individuals caught up in a privatized spirituality, but persons in community, devoting themselves to others,” the Pope said.
Pope Francis focused on two challenges to missionary discipleship: the “inner renewal” of the Church and dialogue with the world. He noted the Second Vatican Council’s guidance in engaging modern life.
“Responding to the existential issues of people today, especially the young, listening to the language they speak, can lead to a fruitful change, which must take place with the help of the Gospel, the magisterium, and the Church’s social doctrine,” the Pope said.
He noted the need to engage the many subcultures of the modern city on their own terms.
“If we remain within the parameters of our ‘traditional culture,’ which was essentially rural, we will end up nullifying the power of the Holy Spirit,” he warned. “God is everywhere: we have to know how to find him in order to be able to proclaim him in the language of each and every culture; every reality, every language, has its own rhythm.”
Pope Francis praised the spread of Bible groups, ecclesial base communities and pastoral councils. He said these advance the responsibility of the laity and help overcome “clericalism.” He particularly praised expressions of popular piety as a “healthy thing” that shows greater lay autonomy.
He also warned against several temptations that are false visions of the missionary spirit.
He said clericalism, an excessive lay dependence on or privileging of priests, is “a temptation very present in Latin America.”
“The phenomenon of clericalism explains, in great part, the lack of maturity and Christian freedom in a good part of the Latin American laity,” he said.
Both laity and priests take refuge in clericalism “because it is easier,” he lamented. This causes some Catholics to fail to grow in Christian life or to take refuge in ideology.
The Pope warned against turning the message of the Gospel into an “ideology,” whether it is “market liberalism” or Marxism.
He said the psychology-focused tendencies of some spirituality courses and spiritual retreats reduce the encounter with Jesus Christ to “self-awareness,” a “self-centered approach” that “has nothing to do with the missionary spirit.” He mentioned the new age practice of the Enneagram as one example.
He criticized the “gnostic solution” of elite groups of “enlightened Catholics” who offer a “higher spirituality.” He said some advocates of ordaining nuns to the priesthood or of giving communion to the divorced and remarried fall into this error.
He also warned against the “Pelagian solution” that seeks a “purely disciplinary solution” through “the restoration of outdated manners and forms which, even on the cultural level, are no longer meaningful.”
Repeating his previous criticisms, he warned against reducing the Church to “the structure of an NGO” focused on quantifiable results, statistics, and a business-like organization. He said some bishops’ conferences open more and more departments that do not help the mission of Church.
Concerning the inner renewal of the Church, Pope Francis stressed the need for “pastoral conversion” focused on “Jesus Christ as the bearer of God’s Kingdom” and trust in the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
He posed many questions to the bishops for their own self-examination.
He said bishops should ask whether they and their priests are working to ensure that their work is “more pastoral than administrative” and whether they serve “the People of God as a whole” rather than “the Church as an organization.”
He asked the bishops to examine whether they “manipulate” or “infantilize” the laity.
“In practice, do we make the lay faithful sharers in the mission?” he asked.
He said bishops should not simply react to complex problems, but should promote opportunities to “manifest God’s mercy.”
The Pope concluded with an exhortation: “I beg that we take seriously our calling as servants of the holy and faithful people of God, for this is where authority is exercised and demonstrated: in the ability to serve.”
Pope Francis addressed the bishops hours after celebrating Sunday Mass for millions of World Youth Day pilgrims gathered on Rio’s Copacabana Beach.
In spite of security concerns Papa Francesco has safely returned to Rome.