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Monday, May 4, 2015

To the bishops of the Congo: build fraternity rooted in forgiveness and solidarity


Vatican City, 4 May 2015 (VIS) – The bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Congo were received in audience by Pope Francis this morning, at the end of their “ad Limina” visit. The Holy Father handed them a written discourse in which he emphasises the vitality of the Catholic Church in this country, which has led to the creation of three new dioceses, and the work of pastors in the work of evangelisation, as well as the Church's contribution in the education and healthcare sectors and her role in national reconciliation following the grave crisis of the 1990s.

Francis praises the work of the Episcopal Conference with regard to the mission of the laity in the Church and society, and mentioned the importance of forming and accompanying laypeople to offer Christian witness in socio-political sectors, which constitute a specific sector for the apostolate. “Family pastoral ministry is an integral part of this accompaniment. The reluctance of the faithful to embark on Christian marriage reveals the need for profound evangelisation, which involves not only the inculturation of faith, but also the evangelisation of local traditions and culture”.

In these sectors, as in many others, priests are the bishops' first collaborators and as a result, their living conditions and sanctification must be central to their concerns. “The immense pastoral needs of the local Church require rigorous discernment, so that the People of God are able to count on zealous pastors who edify the faithful through their testimony of life, especially in relation to celibacy and the spirit of evangelical poverty”. The Pope also remarks that in some dioceses there are great difficulties due to the lack of available financial and material resources.

“I am aware of the magnitude of the problems and the worries related to this situation in the heart of a pastor. Therefore, I encourage you to resolutely engage your dioceses in embarking on the path of autonomy, a gradual takeover of control and solidarity between the particular Churches in your country, following a tradition that dates back to the first Christian communities. In this respect, you must be careful to ensure that economic aid to your particular Churches in support of your specific mission does not limit your freedom as pastors or obstruct the freedom of the Church, which must have a free hand to proclaim the Gospel in a credible way. … With regard to mutual aid and solidarity between local Churches, this must also be reflected in the promotion of the missionary spirit first within Africa”, affirmed Francis, quoting Paul VI in his 1969 discourse in Kampala: “By now, you Africans are missionaries to yourselves”.

In-depth evangelisation is another great challenge for the bishops, and one which requires “special attention to the concrete conditions of life for the populations; that is, ultimately, to the development of the human person. Again here the commitment of the Catholic Church in the Congo is important: in the fields of education, healthcare, and aid to the various categories of people in need, including refugees from neighbouring countries, your diocese contribute in a significant way. As pastors, continue to ensure that your social ministry is increasingly carried out in the spirit of the Gospel and perceived as a work of evangelisation, and not as the action of a non-governmental organisation”.

The Pope concludes by noting that in certain sectors of society, the wounds caused by the grave crisis that affected the Congo at the end of the 1990s have left deep scars that have not yet fully healed. “In this respect, in particular, the Church, strong in the Gospel of Jesus, has received the mission of building new fraternity anchored in forgiveness and solidarity. You, pastors, continue to be models and prophets in this sense!”.

Catholics and Lutherans are brothers in faith, not adversaries


Vatican City, 4 May 2015 (VIS) – This morning the Pope received in audience the Lutheran archbishop of Uppsala, Sweden, Antje Jackelen, who led a delegation to the Vatican from the Evangelical-Lutheran Church. Francis greeted them cordially and commented that last year was the fiftieth anniversary of the Vatican Council II decree on ecumenism, “Unitatis Redintegratio”, which continues to be the key point of reference for the ecumenical efforts of the Catholic Church. “This document is an invitation to all Catholics to undertake the path of unity to overcome division between Christians, which is “not only openly opposed to the will of Christ, but is also a scandal to the world and damages the holiest of causes: the preaching of the Gospel to every creature”.

The decree “expresses a profound respect and appreciation for those brothers and sisters separated from us, to whom in daily coexistence we at times risk giving little consideration. In reality, they are not perceived as adversaries or as competitors, but instead acknowledged for what they are: brothers and sisters in faith. Catholics and Lutherans must seek and promote unity in dioceses, in parishes, in communities throughout the world”, the Pope emphasised, mentioning the recent document “From conflict to communion. The Lutheran-Catholic Common Commemoration of the Reformation in 2017”, published by the Lutheran-Catholic Commission for Unity. “We sincerely hope that this initiative may encourage, with God's help and collaboration between Him and among us, the achievement of further steps on the path of unity”.

The call to unity also implies “a pressing exhortation to joint commitment at the charitable level, in favour of all those who suffer in the world as a result of poverty and violence, and have a special need for our mercy; the witness of our persecuted brothers and sisters in particular drives us to grow in fraternal communion. The question of the dignity of human life, always to be respected, is of urgent relevance, as are issues regarding the family, marriage and sexuality, that may not be set aside or ignored for fear of jeopardising the ecumenical consensus already received. It would be a pity if new confessional differences were to be consolidated with regard to these important questions”.

Francis concluded his address by giving thanks first to the Swedish Lutheran Church, “for the welcome given to so many South American migrants in the times of the dictatorships, a fraternal welcome that has enabled families to grow”, and secondly, to Jackelen, “for the delicacy that you, dear sister, have had in appointing my dear friend, the pastor Anders Root: I have shared with him the chair in spiritual theology and he has helped me greatly in spiritual life”.


The Holy Father thanks the Pontifical Swiss Guard for their hard work


Vatican City, 4 May 2015 (VIS) - “'Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends'. In the history of the Church, many men and women have heeded the call of this great love. The Swiss Guards who fought during the Sack of Rome and who gave their lives in defence of the Pope responded to this call. And answering this call with devotion means following Christ”, said the Holy Father as he received in audience the new recruits to the Pontifical Swiss Guard who will take their oath of loyalty tomorrow, 6 May.

“In the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius of Loyola, who in his youth was a soldier, spoke of the 'call of the Christ the King', who wishes to build His Kingdom and choose his collaborators. The Lord wishes to build His Kingdom with the collaboration of men. He needs decisive and courageous people. … At the same time, Ignatius compares the world to two military camps, one with the standard of Christ, the other under the flag of Satan. There are only these two camps. For the Christian the choice is clear: he follows Christ's standard”.

“Christ is the true King. He Himself goes ahead and His friends follow Him. One of Christ's soldiers participates in the life of His Lord. This is also the call that is addressed to you: to take on the concerns of Christ, to be His companions. In this way you learn, day by day, to 'feel' with Christ and with the Church. A Swiss Guard is a person who truly seeks to follow the Lord Jesus and who loves the Church in a special way; he is a Christian with genuine faith”, emphasised the Pontiff. “You too, like every Christian, must live all this through the Sacraments of the Church: with diligent participation in Mass and frequent Confession. You can live this by reading the Gospel every day. What I say to all, I repeat to you: keep a pocket-sized Gospel close to hand, so you can read it whenever you have a free moment. Your personal prayer, especially the Rosary, will also help you, during your guards of honour. And it will help you in your service to the poor, the sick, to those in need of a good word”.

The Pope remarked that when the Swiss Guards meet people and pilgrims they transmit to them, with their “kindness and competence”, this “great love” that comes from their friendship with Christ. Indeed”, he exclaimed, “you are a banner for the Holy See! I thank you and encourage you in your work”.

“I know that your service is demanding. When there is extra work to be done, we are always able to count on the Swiss Guard. I thank you with affection and express my great appreciation for all that you do for the Church and for me, as the Successor of Peter”, he concluded.


Pope's message for the 750th anniversary of the birth of Dante


Vatican City, 4 May 2015 (VIS) – This morning, with the commemoration in the Senate, there began the events with which all Italy will celebrate the birth of Dante Alighieri (Florence 1265 – Ravenna 1321), the author of “The Divine Comedy”. The Pope participated with a message to Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, also present at the ceremony presided over by the President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella, and attended by the minister for Culture Dario Franceschini and the actor Roberto Benigni, who read Canto XXXIII of Paradise.

“With this message, I wish to join the chorus of those who consider Dante Alighieri to be an artist of the highest universal value, who still has much to say and to offer, through his immortal works, to those who wish to follow the route of true knowledge, of the authentic discovery of the self, of the world, of the profound and transcendent meaning of existence”, writes the Pope.

He notes that many of his predecessors celebrated the anniversaries of Dante with documents of great importance, in which the figure of Dante Alighieri is presented precisely for his continuing relevance and his greatness, not only artistic but also theological and cultural. He cites, among these, Benedict XV who dedicated his encyclical “In praeclara summorum” (1921) to Dante on the sixth centenary of his death, affirming and highlighting “the intimate union of Dante with the See of Peter”. Blessed Paul VI dedicated the Apostolic Letter “Altissimi cantus”, at the closure of Vatican Council II, to Dante, affirming that “Dante is ours! Ours, as in of Catholic faith”. St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI also often referred to the works of the great poet and mentioned him on numerous occasions. Pope Francis added that in his first encyclical, “Lumen Fidei”, he drew upon the “immense patrimony of images, symbols and values that constitute Dante's work”.

On the eve of the extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, the Holy Father expresses his hope that during this year the figure of Dante and his work will also accompany us on this personal and community path. “Indeed”, he remarks, “the Comedy may be read as a great itinerary, or rather as a true pilgrimage, both personal and interior, and communal, ecclesial, social and historical. It represents the paradigm of every authentic journey in which humanity is called upon to leave what Dante defines as 'the threshing-floor that makes us so ferocious' to attain a new condition, marked by harmony, peace and happiness. And this is the horizon of every true humanism”.

“Dante is, therefore, a prophet of hope, herald of the possibility of redemption, of liberation, of the profound transformation of every man and woman, of all humanity. He continues to invite us to rediscover the lost or obscured meaning of our human path and to hope to see again the shining horizon on which there shines in all its fullness the dignity of the human person. Honouring Dante Alighieri, as Paul VI has already invited us to do, we are able to enrich ourselves with his experience in order to cross the many dark forests still scattered on our earth and to happily complete our pilgrimage in history, to reach the destination dreamed of and wished for by every man: 'the love that moves the sun in heaven and all the stars'”.


Visit to the Roman parish of Santa Maria Regina Pacis


Vatican City, 4 May 2015 (VIS) – Yesterday afternoon Pope Francis visited another parish in his diocese – Santa Maria Regina Pacis at the Ostia Lido. Before celebrating Mass, the bishop of Rome visited the community of the Little Sisters of Jesus, of Charles de Foucauld, also known as the “Luna Park Fraternity” since they live in caravans, and met with the elderly, the sick, and young scouts from the parish, as well as parents who have baptised their children this year.

The Pope greeted the elderly, emphasising that they possess the wisdom of life, experience, pain and patience, as well as the memory of the people and the family. He remarked that the sick “resemble Jesus: they suffer like Jesus and bear the cross like Jesus”, and praised the parish community for lovingly caring for the sick and the elderly, since “when they are not cared for by the community, that community does not function; it lacks something”.

To the scouts, he commented that “in the art of climbing, the important thing is not that you do not fall, but rather that you do not stay on the ground”. He continued, “We all fall, we all make mistakes, even sins, all of us. But what is witness? It is getting up again with God's grace. … This is what the world needs from you, the witness of going ever onwards; although weak, we must go ahead”. He also encouraged the young to transmit their faith with joy and, in difficult moments when joy is obscured, to “overcome those moments with dignity, in the hope that the Holy Spirit gives us strength … and consolation … until our joy returns”.

Finally, he reminded the parents of recently baptised children that baptism is not an isolated event, and invited them to walk with their children along the new path of faith, staying close to the parish community.

In the Pope's homily, in which he commented on the Gospel reading of the vine and the branches, he insisted on the importance of remaining united with Christ, which also means “wanting to be forgiven by Him, but also to be 'pruned', so as to bear more fruit”. He added, “abiding with Jesus means doing the same as He did: doing good, helping others, praying to the Father, healing the sick, helping the poor, having the joy of the Holy Spirit”.

“There are also other branches, to which Jesus does not refer here, but He does so elsewhere; those that present themselves as Jesus' disciples, but do the opposite of what a disciple does, and these branches are hypocrites. Perhaps they go to Mass every Sunday, perhaps they show themselves to be saintly and pious, but then they live as if they were pagans. And Jesus, in the Gospel, calls them hypocrites. Jesus is good, he invites us to abide in Him. He gives us strength, and so if we slide into sinfulness – and we are all sinners – He forgives us, because He is merciful. But He wants two things – that we abide in Him and that we are not hypocrites. And this is how Christian lives go onwards”.


Regina Coeli: true Christians who do good for society


Vatican City, 3 May 2015 (VIS) – The union of Jesus with those who follow Him, explained through the image of the vine and the branches that Christ presents to the disciples at the Last Supper, was the central theme considered by the Pope during this Sunday's Regina Coeli.

“We can all be joined to Jesus in a new way. If, on the contrary, one loses this union with Him, he becomes sterile, indeed harmful to the community. And to express this reality, Jesus uses the image of the vine and the branches, and says: 'As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches'”. … Through Him – like the sap in a tree – the love of God Himself, the Holy Spirit, passes to the branches; through this parable Jesus enables us to understand the importance of remaining united with Him. The branches are not self-sufficient, but depend totally on the vine, the source of their life”.

“The same is true for us as Christians. Grafted to Christ through Baptism, we have received from Him the freely-given gift of new life; we can stay in vital communion with Christ”. However, the Pontiff emphasised, “it is necessary to stay faithful to Baptism, and to grow in friendship with the Lord through prayer, the prayer of every day, through listening and obedience to His Word – read the Gospel – and participation in the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation”, as “if one is intimately joined to Jesus, he or she receives the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which – as St. Paul tells us – are 'love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control'. As a consequence, a Christian brings great good to his neighbour and to society. Indeed, from these characteristics, it is possible to recognise who is a true Christian, just as we can recognise a tree from its fruits. The fruits of this deep union with Jesus are wonderful. … We receive a new way of being, the life of Christ becomes our own; we can think like Him, act like Him, see the world and other things through Jesus' eyes. As a consequence, we are able to love our brothers, beginning with the poorest and the suffering … and thus bring into the world the fruits of goodness, charity and peace. … Let us trust in the intercession of Our Lady, so that we too may be living branches in the Church and give coherent witness of our faith, consistency between life and thought, life and faith – aware that we all, according to our specific vocations, participate in the sole salvific mission of Christ”.

Following the Regina Coeli the Pope mentioned that yesterday in Turin the Italian Luigi Bordino was proclaimed blessed. A consecrated layman of the Priestly Society of St. Joseph Benedict Cottolengo, the new blessed “devoted his life to the sick and those who suffer, and dedicated himself tirelessly to the poorest, curing and cleansing their wounds”.


The Pope presides at the Mass and day of reflection dedicated to Friar Junipero Serra


Vatican City, 2 May 2015 (VIS) – Today the Pontifical North American College holds a day of reflection dedicated to “Friar Junipero Serra, apostle of California, witness of holiness”, with the aim of spreading knowledge of the life, mission and witness of holiness of this blessed who will be canonised in Washington on 23 September during the Holy Father's apostolic journey to the United States. The day, organised by the Pontifical Commission for Latin America and the Pontifical North American College, with the sponsorship of the archdiocese of Los Angeles, culminated with the celebration of a Holy Mass at the college at midday, at which Pope Francis officiated.

In his homily, the Pope emphasised three aspects of the life of the future saint: his missionary impulse, his Marian devotion and his witness of holiness.

“First of all, he was a tireless missionary”, the Pontiff affirmed. “What made Friar Junipero leave his home and country, his family, university chair and Franciscan community in Mallorca to go to the ends of the earth? Certainly, it was the desire to proclaim the Gospel ad gentes, that heartfelt impulse which seeks to share with those farthest away the gift of encountering Christ: a gift that he had first received and experienced in all its truth and beauty. Like Paul and Barnabas, like the disciples in Antioch and in all of Judea. … These missionary disciples who have encountered Jesus, the Son of God, who have come to know him through his merciful Father, moved by the grace of the Holy Spirit, went out to all the geographical, social and existential peripheries, to bear witness to charity. They challenge us! Sometimes we stop and thoughtfully examine their strengths and, above all, their weaknesses and their shortcomings. But I wonder if today we are able to respond with the same generosity and courage to the call of God, who invites us to leave everything in order to worship him, to follow him, to rediscover him in the face of the poor, to proclaim him to those who have not known Christ and, therefore, have not experienced the embrace of his mercy. Friar Junipero’s witness calls upon us to get involved, personally, in the mission to the whole continent, which finds its roots in Evangelii Gaudium”.

Secondly, “Friar Junipero entrusted his missionary activity to the Blessed Virgin Mary. We know that before leaving for California, he wanted to consecrate his life to Our Lady of Guadalupe and to ask her for the grace to open the hearts of the colonizers and indigenous peoples, for the mission he was about to begin. … Since then, Our Lady of Guadalupe has become, in fact, the Patroness of the whole American continent. You cannot separate her from the hearts of the American people. She represents our shared roots in this land. Indeed, today's mission to the continent is entrusted to her, the first, holy missionary disciple, a constant presence and companion, our source of comfort and hope. For she always hears and protects her American children”.

Thirdly, the Pope invited those present to contemplate the witness of holiness given by Friar Junipero, “one of the founding fathers of the United States, a saintly example of the Church’s universality and special patron of the Hispanic people of the country. In this way may all Americans rediscover their own dignity, and unite themselves ever more closely to Christ and his Church”. He went on to cite the example of many American saints, who have distinguished themselves through their various charisms: contemplatives like Rose of Lima, Mariana of Quito and Teresita de los Andes; pastors who bear the scent of Christ and of his sheep, such as Toribio de Mogrovejo, Francois de Laval, and Rafael Guizar Valencia; humble workers in the vineyard of the Lord, like Juan Diego and Kateri Tekakwitha; servants of the suffering and the marginalised, like Peter Claver, Martin de Porres, Damian of Molokai, Alberto Hurtado and Rose Philippine Duchesne; founders of communities consecrated to the service of God and of the poorest, like Frances Cabrini, Elizabeth Ann Seton and Katharine Drexel; tireless missionaries, such as Friar Francisco Solano, José de Anchieta, Alonso de Barzana, Maria Antonia de Paz y Figueroa and Jose Gabriel del Rosario Brochero; martyrs like Roque Gonzalez, Miguel Pro and Oscar Arnulfo Romero, and so many other saints and martyrs, whom I do not mention here, but who pray before the Lord for their brothers and sisters who are still pilgrims in those lands. There ha been so much holiness in America, so much holiness sown”.

“May a powerful gust of holiness sweep through all the Americas during the coming Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy!” exclaimed the Holy Father. “Confident in Jesus’ promise, which we heard today in the Gospel, we ask God for this special outpouring of the Holy Spirit. We ask the Risen Jesus, Lord of all ages, that the life of our American continent may be rooted ever more deeply in the Gospel it has received; that Christ may be ever more present in the lives of individuals, families, peoples and nations, for the greater glory of God. We pray too that this glory may be manifested in the culture of life, brotherhood, solidarity, peace and justice, with a preferential and concrete love for the poor, through the witness of Christians of various confessions and communities, together with believers of other religious traditions, and people of upright conscience and good will. Lord Jesus, we are merely your missionary disciples, your humble co-workers so that your Kingdom may come!”

“With this heartfelt prayer”, he concluded, “I ask Our Lady of Guadalupe, Friar Junipero and all the American saints to lead me and guide me during my approaching apostolic journeys to South America and North America. I ask all of you to keep this intention in your prayers, and to continue to pray for me”.


Francis to the faithful of Molise and Abruzzo: job creation cannot be postponed


Vatican City, 2 May 2015 (VIS) – More than seven thousand faithful of the diocese of Isernia-Venafro, which the Pope visited in July last year, were received in audience in the Vatican by the Holy Father this morning. Francis thanked them for the warmth and joy with which they welcomed him, without neglecting to mention the serious difficulties that continue to afflict the area, which he spoke about during his visit.

The Pontiff mentioned first of all the chronic unemployment that especially affects the youngest generations, who increasingly leave the area for other countries, and he also underlined that lack of adequate services to respond to the effective needs of the population. “Faced with this worrying scenario, a general mobilisation is necessary, to unite the strengths of the population, the institutions, private entities and various civil bodies”, he affirmed. “It is not possible to defer the concrete steps that need to be taken to favour the creation of new jobs, thus offering the young the possibility of realising their potential through honest work”.

The diocese is celebrating, on the other hand, a jubilee year dedicated to Pope Celestine V, originally from the region, which offers the opportunity for a new missionary impulse in order to go “beyond a static religious reality” and to “return to Christ, to the Gospel; to be reconciled with God and neighbour. And thus there is reborn the desire to bring His love to all, especially those who are alone, marginalised, humiliated by suffering and by social injustice; to the many who, tired of human words, feel a profound nostalgia for God”. The jubilee year will also provide a preparatory stage for the extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, and the parishes, where “ecclesial communion finds its most immediate and visible expression”, is called upon to be the “privileged place for listening to and announcing the Gospel; a house of prayer around the Eucharist; a true school of communion, where the ardour of charity prevails over the temptation to a superficial and arid religiosity”.

“When difficulties seem to obscure the prospects for a better future, when we experience failure and emptiness around us, it is the moment of Christian hope, based in the Risen Lord and accompanied by charitable strength towards those most in need. This is how your diocesan path, already admirably orientated to this way of charity, can involve more people and more social and institutional bodies in assisting those who are homeless or jobless, as well as those who are affected by forms of poverty both old and new, not only in order to take care of their urgent needs but also to build alongside them a more welcoming society, more respectful of diversity, more just and fraternal. … Problems can be overcome with solidarity. I encourage you, therefore, to be witnesses of solidarity in your cities and towns, at work, at school, in your families, and in the places where you meet”.

Finally, Francis commended all those present to Our Lady and the saints of Molise and Abruzzo, so they might be “supported by these powerful intercessors”, in order to look “without fear and with hope to your future and that of your land”.


Globalising solidarity: the Pope's message for the inauguration of the Milan Universal Exposition


Vatican City, 1 May 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father spoke at the inauguration of the Universal Exposition of Milan (1 May – 31 October 2015), on the theme “Feeding the planet, energy for life” via a video message transmitted life, in which he emphasises the importance of the event for giving a voice to the poor, globalising solidarity and defending the environment.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to unite my voice to those of you gathered here for this inauguration. It is the voice of the bishop of Rome, who speaks on behalf of the pilgrim People of God throughout the whole world; it is the voice of the many poor who form part of this people and with dignity seek to earn bread through their labours. I would like to be the spokesman for all these brothers and sisters of ours, Christians and also non-Christians, whom God loves as His sons and for whom he gave his life, breaking the brad that is the flesh of His Son made man. He teaches us to ask God the Father: 'Give us this day our daily bread'. EXPO is an opportune occasion to globalise solidarity”.

Recalling the importance of the theme of the EXPO, Francis emphasises that an issue so important and so essential cannot remain merely as a theme for the event, but must instead be accompanied by “an awareness of the faces of the millions of people who are hungry today, who will not eat today in a way worthy of a human being. I would like every person who comes to visit the EXPO of Milan, from today onwards, passing through those wonderful pavilions, to be able to perceive the presence of those faces. A hidden presence, but which ought in reality to be the true protagonist of the event; the faces of the men and women who are hungry, who become ill or even die as a result of inadequate or harmful diet”.

The “paradox of abundance” an expression used by St. John Paul II in his address to the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation) during the first Conference on Nutrition in 1992 “still persists, in spite of the efforts made and some good results. Even EXPO, in some respects, forms part of this paradox of abundance, if it conforms to the throwaway culture of waste, and does not contribute to an equitable and sustainable model of development. Therefore, let us ensure that EXPO provides the opportunity for a change of mentality, so that we stop thinking that our daily actions – at every level of responsibility – do not have an impact on the life of those, near and far, who suffer from hunger”.

The Pope comments also on the other 'faces' who play an important role in the Universal Exposition – those of the many workers and researchers in the food and agriculture sector. “May the Lord grant wisdom and courage to every one of them, as their responsibility is great”, he says, expressing his hope that all those who work in this field be “involved in a great project for solidarity: that of feeding the planet with respect for every man and woman who inhabit it, and with respect for the natural environment”. It is, he adds, “the great challenge that God presents to humanity in the twenty-first century: to finally stop abusing the garden God has entrusted to us, so that all may eat its fruits”.

“However, everything begins here: from a perception of those faces”, he concludes, “especially the most anonymous, the most hidden, that thanks to EXPO have earned bread to take home. May no-one be deprived of this dignity! And may no bread be the fruit of work unworthy of mankind! The Lord … is the true 'energy for life': the love to share bread, 'our daily bread', in peace and fraternity. And may no man or woman lack bread and the dignity of work”.


To the Cursillos in Christianity: take your charism to the existential peripheries


Vatican City, 1 May 2015 (VIS) – The participants in the third “Ultreya Europea” organised by the Cursillos in Christianity were received in audience by Pope Francis yesterday afternoon. Citing the theme of the encounter, “Ultreya” (“ever onward”, the ancient greeting of the pilgrims of Santiago de Compostela), he invited them always to continue and to go forward, inspired by the missionary but not proselytising spirit of their founders, the Spanish Eduardo Bonnin Aguilo and the then-bishop of Mallorca, Juan Hervas y Benet. As the Pope remarked, they and other young laypeople, perceived the need to reach out to their peers, glimpsing the desire for truth and love present in their hearts.

“Those pioneers … went towards the people, involving them with warmth and accompanying them on their path of faith with respect and love. This is important: friendliness and company. … I would like to say to your movement: you have not engaged in proselytism! And this is a virtue. The Church grows not by proselytism but by witness, as Pope Benedict said. And it is true. … Today you too wish to announce the Good News of God's love, making yourself close to others … so that they can have a personal experience of Christ's infinite love that frees and transforms life”.

During the meeting, which had a spontaneous nature, the Pope answered some questions from the participants in the Ultreya, suggesting to them how to make their charism fruitful, and beginnning by explaining that to help others grow in faith, first of all it is necessary to experience first-hand God's goodness and tenderness to then communicate it with benevolence and mercy. “This is the amicable witness of dialogue between friends.

“The method of evangelisation of the Cursillos is born precisely of this ardent wish for friendship with God, Who is the source of our friendship with our brothers”, he continued. “From the beginning it was understood that only within a relationship of authentic friendship was it possible to prepare and accompany people on their path, a path that begins with conversion, passes through the discovery of the beauty of a life lived in the grace of God, finally reaching the joy of becoming apostles in daily life. And in this way, since then, thousands of people throughout the world have been helped to grow in the life of faith. In today's context of anonymity and isolation typical of our cities, the dimension of family welcome, on a human scale, that you offer in your group meetings is of great importance”.

It is also important that these small group meetings are accompanied by “moments that favour openness to a larger social and ecclesial dimension, also involving those who come into contact with your charism but do not habitually participate in the group. … Effectively, the Church is an 'open-hearted mother' who invites us at times to 'slow down' and 'stop rushing to remain with someone who has faltered along the way'”.

Francis concluded by renewing his invitation to “go ever onwards”, faithful to their charism, and to “keep alive the zeal and the flame of the Spirit that always drives Christ's disciples to reach those who are distant, without proselytism, to leave their comfort zone and to have the courage to reach out to those peripheries in need of the light of the Gospel. … Every charism is called upon to grown as it carries the Holy Spirit inside, and the Holy Spirit makes it grow. Every charism must take account of different cultures, with different ways of thinking and different values … letting itself be guided by the Spirit”.



Four cardinals to take possession of titles and diaconates


Vatican City, 4 May 2015 (VIS) – According to a note released today by the Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff, the following cardinals will take possession of their titles or diaconates in the coming days:

Cardinal Luis Hector Villalba, archbishop emeritus of Tucuman, Argentina, will take possession of the title of San Girolamo a Corviale in Via dei Buonvisi 3, Rome, at 6 p.m. on Saturday 9 May.

Cardinal Arlindo Gomes Furtado, bishop of Santiago de Cabo Verde, will take possession of the title of San Timoteo in Via Apelle 1, Rome, at 10 a.m. on Sunday 10 May.

Cardinal Julio Duarte Langa, bishop emeritus of Xai-Xai, Mozambique, will take possession of the title of San Gabriele dell'Addolorata in Via Ponzio Cominio 93-95, Rome, at 11 a.m. on Sunday 10 May.

Cardinal Dominique Mamberti, prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, will take possession of the diaconate of Santo Spirito in Sassia, in Via dei Penitenzieri 12, Rome, at 6 p.m. on Sunday 10 May.

Audiences


Vatican City, 4 May 2015 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father received in audience:

- Archbishop Jose Horacio Gomez of Los Angeles, U.S.A.;

- Dr. Antje Jackelen, archbishop of Uppsala, of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Sweden, and entourage;

- Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity;

- Eleven prelates of the Episcopal Conference of the Republic of the Congo, on their “ad Limina” visit:

- Archbishop Anatole Milandou of Brazzaville;

- Bishop Bienvenu Manamika Bafouakouahou of Dolisie;

- Bishop Urbain Ngassongo of Gamboma;

- Bishop Jean Gardin, C.S.Sp., of Impfondo;

- Bishop Louis Portella Mbuyu of Kinkala;

- Bishop Daniel Mizonzo of Nkayi, with Bishop emeritus Bernard Nsayi;

- Bishop Yves-Marie Monot, C.S.Sp., of Ouesso, with Bishop emeritus Herve Itoua;

- Bishop Victor Abagna Mossa of Owando; and

- Bishop Miguel Angel Olaverri Arroniz, S.D.B., of Pointe-Noire.


On Saturday, 2 May, the Holy Father received in audience Cardinal Marc Ouellet, P.S.S., prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.


Other Pontifical Acts


Vatican City, 4 May 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed:

- Bishop Denis Groudin, auxiliary of Quebec, Canada, as metropolitan archbishop of Rimouski (area 20,225, population 147,352, Catholics 143,960, priests 85, permanent deacons 16, religious 517), Canada.

On Saturday, 2 May the Holy Father appointed Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, archbishop emeritus of Prague, Czech Republic, as his special envoy to the celebrations for the 600th anniversary of the death of Jan Hus, to take place in the city of Prague on 5 and 6 July 2015.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Pope receives the president of the Republic of the Seychelles


Vatican City, 30 April 2015 (VIS) – This morning in the Vatican Apostolic Palace the Holy Father Francis received in audience the president of the Republic of the Seychelles, James Alix Michel, who subsequently met with Cardinal secretary of State Pietro Parolin, accompanied by Msgr. Antoine Camilleri, under secretary for Relations with States.

During the cordial discussions, satisfaction was expressed for the good relations existing between the Holy See and the Republic of the Seychelles. Mention was made of the Catholic Church’s contribution to the service of society, especially in the fields of welfare and education, and themes of common interest were considered, such as the dignity and full development of the human person and the protection of the environment.

Finally, there was an exchange of opinions on the socio-political situation in the country and in the region.

To the Anglican-Catholic Commission: the cause of unity is not an optional undertaking


Vatican City, 30 April 2015 (VIS) – This morning Pope Francis received in audience twenty members of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, meeting in these days in order to study the relationship between the universal Church and the local Church, with particular reference to processes for discussions and decision making regarding moral and ethical questions. The Commission was created as a result of the historic meeting in 1966 between Pope Paul VI and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Arthur Michael Ramsey, who signed a joint declaration to establish dialogue based on the Gospel and the common tradition in the hope of leading to the unity in truth for which Christ prayed.

Although that goal has not yet been reached, the Commission's visit to the Pope shows how “the shared tradition of faith and history between Anglicans and Catholics can inspire and sustain our efforts to overcome the obstacles to full communion”. Furthermore, the commission will shortly publish five jointly agreed statements from the second phase of the Anglican-Catholic dialogue, a reminder that ecumenical relations and dialogue are not secondary elements of the life of the Churches. “The cause of unity is not an optional undertaking and the differences which divide us must not be seen as inevitable”, said the Holy Father.

“There is a strong bond that already unites us which goes beyond all divisions”, underlined Francis. “It is the testimony of Christians from different Churches and traditions, victims of persecution and violence simply because of the faith they profess. And not only now, that there are many of them; I think also of the martyrs of Uganda, half Catholics and half Anglicans. The blood of these martyrs will nourish a new era of ecumenical commitment, a fervent desire to fulfil the last will and testament of the Lord: that all may be one. The witness by these our brothers and sisters demands that we live in harmony with the Gospel and that we strive with determination to fulfil the Lord's will for his Church. Today the world urgently needs the common, joyful witness of Christians, from the defence of life and human dignity to the promotion of justice and peace. Together let us invoke the gifts of the Holy Spirit in order to be able to respond courageously to the 'signs of the times' which are calling all Christians to unity and common witness”.

To the Community of Christian Life: reach out to the neediest frontiers of humanity


Vatican City, 30 April 2015 (VIS) – This morning Pope Francis received in audience the Community of Christian Life (CVX) and the Student Missionary League, for the inauguration of the National Conference of the two Italian groups, exponents of Ignatian spirituality, to be held in Frascati, Italy, from today until 3 May, on the theme “Beyond Walls”. The Holy Father handed them a written discourse in which he indicates various priorities to be taken into account on their spiritual and community path.

First, he mentions the challenge of promoting a culture of justice and peace. “Faced with a culture of illegality, corruption and confrontation, you are called to devote yourselves to the common good, also through service to those linked to politics. If Christians dissociate themselves from direct involvement in politics, it would be a betrayal of the mission of the lay faithful, who are called upon to be salt and light in the world, also through this form of presence”.

He focuses on family pastoral ministry, following the last Synod of Bishops, as a second apostolic priority, and encouraged them to help diocesan communities in their care for families, the vital cell of society, an in accompanying couples as they prepare for marriage. He also emphasises the importance of working with those who have “drifted away” from the Church: among them there are many separated couples, “who suffer as a result of the failure of their plans for married life”, and also other difficult family situations.

Finally, he turns his attention to missionary life, and encourages them to maintain their capacity to “go out towards the frontiers of humanity at its neediest”. The Pope mentions the members of communities present in Syria, Lebanon and plans for the reception of immigrants in Sicily, and reminds them that, “in this luminous and fruitful apostolic style, you too can be active in inspiring the various educational institutions in Italy, Catholic and state-managed, as in other parts of the world”.

Telegram for the death of Cardinal Giovanni Canestri: a wise pastor, attentive to the needs of others


Vatican City, 30 April 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has sent a telegram of condolences to Cardinal Agostino Vallini, his vicar for the diocese of Rome, for the death at the age of 97 of Cardinal Giovanni Canestri, who was archbishop of Genoa, Italy from 1987 to 1995. Originally from the diocese of Alessandria, the late cardinal belonged to the clergy of Rome.

“The passing of the venerated cardinal elicits in my heart profound emotion and sincere admiration for an esteemed man of the Church who lived with humility and devotion his long and fruitful priesthood and episcopate in the service of the Gospel and of the souls entrusted to him. I recall with gratitude his fervent ministry, first as a deputy priest during the difficult war years in the outskirts of Rome, areas affected by suffering and poverty; then as a parish priest in two populous suburbs, intent on educating the young in particular in the joy of faith. Upon being appointed as auxiliary bishop of Rome, he devoted himself with apostolic intensity to the spiritual and material needs of the people, while participating diligently in the work of Vatican Council II. In his episcopal ministry in Tortona, then as vicegerent and subsequently archbishop of Cagliari, and finally Genoa-Bobbio, he demonstrated pastoral wisdom and generous attention to the needs of others, reaching out to all with goodness and gentleness. I raise fervent prayers that the Lord receive the late cardinal in eternal joy and peace, and I bestow upon you and those who share in sorrow the comfort of my apostolic blessing, with a special thought for the Apostolic Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, who lovingly cared for him especially in these last years of his infirmity”.

Pope Francis' prayer intentions for May


Vatican City, 30 April 2015 (VIS) - The Holy Father's universal prayer intention for May is: “That, rejecting the culture of indifference, we may care for our neighbours who suffer, especially the sick and the poor”.

His intention for evangelisation is: “That Mary's intercession may help Christians in secularised cultures be open to proclaiming Jesus”.

Presentation of the concert for Papal works of charity


Vatican City, 30 April 2015 (VIS) – This morning a press conference was held in the Holy See Press Office to present the concert organised to support the Pope's charitable work, which will take place on 14 May, solemnity of the Ascension, at 6 p.m. in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall. The concert, to be conducted by Maestro Daniel Oren and performed by the Philarmonic Orchestra of Salerno, Italy and the choir of the diocese of Rome led by Msgr. Marco Frisina, is sponsored by the Papal Almoner, the Pontifical Council for Culture, the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelisation, and the St. Matthew Foundation, in memory of Cardinal Van-Thuan, and unites culture with charitable concerns. For the occasion, the donations gathered will be entirely devolved to the office of the Apostolic Almoner, the dicastery responsible for the Pope's charity.

The protagonists of the event are the most needy, the poor and sick, who will occupy the front rows and have been invited through charitable and voluntary associations: the Great Priory of Rome and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, the Circle of St. Peter, diocesan Caritas, the Sant'Egidio Community and the Centro Astalli, which assists migrants and refugees, the Daughters of Charity and other associations present in the diocese of Rome. The event will also be attended by detainees from the Rebibbia prison and various inhabitants of camps for nomadic peoples. Elderly people, families and young people from the Roman parishes have also been invited, especially those from the quarters afflicted by material and spiritual difficulties.

An invitation is required to attend the concert. These are entirely free and may be obtained online before 8 May by compiling the form on the website of the Choir of the Diocese of Rome, at http://www.corodiocesidiroma.com/concerto-aula-paolo-vi.html.

During the press conference, Msgr. Diego Ravelli, head of the office of the Apostolic Almoner, explained that this will be a concert not only “with” the poor but rather “for” the poor, as the donations made by the sponsors and all those who wish to offer an economic contribution will be destined for Pope Francis' charitable works. This task is entrusted to the Apostolic Almoner, whose mission is explained below, and which receives every day a great number of letters from needy people and families, a number that has increased along with the economic crisis, rising unemployment and the phenomenon of immigration. All these letters are authenticated by parish priests and other ecclesiastical authorities, to whom as guarantors the economic assistance will be given, to be devolved to the people concerned, “as it is important for the Pope's concrete gesture to be integrated with the solidarity of the local Church and Christian parish community”.

“Aid will be modest as it is hoped it will reach the largest possible number of people”, he continued. “The Almoner's Office also supports associations devoted to alleviating the suffering of different groups of people in difficulties, such as the homeless, political refugees, prisoners, overseas university students, hospital inpatients, the elderly, single mothers and orphaned or abandoned children. Similarly, again with modest subsidies, it also intervenes outside Italy, especially in the poorest countries, to support initiatives of a charitable nature promoted by bishops and diocesan or religious priests. Particular attention is also given to cloistered women religious, who often lack sufficient economic resources for everyday needs or to face extraordinary or unexpected maintenance work on community buildings”.

“In total, the sum that the Apostolic Almoner distributed in 2014 exceeded one and a half million Euros”, said Msgr. Rivelli, who went on to remark that when Pope Francis appointed Archbishop Konrad Krajewski in 2013 he instructed him to reach out to the poor, not to wait for them to ask for help, and to “leave his desk to go in search of them beyond the office walls”.

“All this is possible thanks to the charity fund available to the Almoner, made up of donations from private individuals and groups or bodies, or collections organised for the purpose, and offers directly from the hands of the Holy Father, who receives contributions for his charity during the general audiences and from meetings with pilgrims. The majority of the funds, however, come from the faculty, delegated to the Almoner by Pope Leo XIII, to grant apostolic blessings in the form of documents on parchment to the faithful who request them for certain occasions”.




New commission for Vatican communications


Vatican City, 30 April 2015 (VIS) – During the last meeting of the Council of Cardinals to assist the Holy Father in the governance of the universal Church and to draw up a plan for the revision of the apostolic constitution “Pastor bonus” on the Roman Curia (13-15 April 2015), the final report of the committee charged with proposing reform of Vatican communications, the so-called Vatican Media Committee (VMC), was examined.

The Council of Cardinals subsequently proposed to His Holiness the institution of a commission to study this final report and to suggest feasible approaches to its implementation. The proposal was favourably accepted by the Holy Father, who on 23 April decided to institute the commission and to appoint its members.

The new commission will be chaired by Msgr. Dario Edoardo Vigano, director of the Vatican Television Centre, and its members will be: Paolo Nusiner, director general of the daily newspaper “Avvenire”, Nuova Editoriale Italiana, Milan; Msgr. Lucio Adrian Ruiz, head of the Vatican Internet Service, directorate of Telecommunications of the Governorate of Vatican City State; Fr. Antonio Spadaro, S.J., director of “La Civiltà Cattolica”; and Msgr. Paul Tighe, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.

The international community must not resign itself to the tragedy of Christians in the Middle East


Vatican City, 30 April 2015 (VIS) – Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, spoke yesterday at the opening of the Symposium “Christians in the Middle East: what future?”, organised by the Sant'Egidio Community and the archdiocese of Bari-Bitonto, Italy.

In his address, the cardinal remarked that many Christians in the East, hearing just a few days ago the story of Pilate's famous gesture of washing his hands, “may have thought of the indifference and inaction to which the international community appears to have resigned itself before the tragedies that have for some years now been wearing away at Syria and Iraq”. He added, “it is also saddening to see the incapacity of leaders in Lebanon, even those who are Christians, to arrive at consensus on the new president on the basis of a line of conduct due less to conscience than to the weighty influences of the forces that compete for supremacy in the area”.

“We trust, however, that in the heart of all people, both in the West and in the East, the governor Pilate's poignant question remains alive: 'Quid est veritas?', 'What is truth?', followed by his search and service to it. The truth is first and foremost an act of removing every veil and covering from reality. It cannot be denied that if a solution has not yet been found it is certainly because the problems are many and complex, and also touch upon the internal relations between the different groups of Muslim faithful and between them and other religions present in the region, including Christians. But it is also legitimate to think that there are interests and balances of power and wealth that go before – seemingly without conceding a step – the mere survival, rather than the well-being, of the populations. And this is a scandal: let us remember what the Lord says, still today, to all the Cains on earth: 'What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground'.

Cardinal Sandri went on to mention that every year he launches an appeal, on behalf of the Holy Father, for support and aid to Christians in the Holy Land, a term that designates not only those who live within the borders of the State of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, but also all the places linked to salvation history, the area of Mesopotamia and Persia, where the apostles preached, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt, where the Holy Family sought refuge.

“But mentioning a presence thus configured must be an indication of a method also for discussion at other levels”, he added. “It is not possible to speak of stability in the Middle East without reference to the age-old question of Israel and Palestine, accepting that Christians are permitted to live relatively peacefully in both territories. On the other hand, there must be no doubt regarding the need for all States, including Israel, to exist and be protected, not threatened. It is the task of Christian pastors throughout the Middle East to help their faithful to grow in this knowledge, pouring abundant oil of consolation, forgiveness and mercy on the wounds of the recent past. If we do not move in this direction, there is no doubt that power-crazed groups such as ISIS will multiply, especially as they are supported with arms and resources by various interested parties”.

“The West appears to have lost, over the centuries, the capacity for conceiving of itself within a healthy religious framework of reference, and increasingly favours an exasperated secular model, if not indeed a true 'eclipse of God'. The destruction and horrors of the Middle East – which some wish to attribute exclusively to the religious factors – must not become an excuse to confirm this partial and mistaken vision, but rather a stimulus for rethinking the coexistence of and collaboration between different sectors of society for the full development of humanity”, concluded the prefect.

The participants in the symposium subsequently attended the Basilica of St. Nicholas, patron of Bari, where they prayed for the saint's intercession to bring an end to the suffering of Christians in the Middle East and to accompany the work of the Pan-Orthodox Council, to be held in Turkey in 2016.


Audiences


Vatican City, 30 April 2015 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father received in audience Bishop Robert Francis Provost, apostolic administrator of Chiclayo, Peru.


Notice


Vatican City, 30 April 2015 (VIS) – We inform our readers that tomorrow, Friday 1 May, feast of St. Joseph the Worker and a holiday in the Vatican, the Vatican Information Service bulletin will not be transmitted. Service will resume on Monday, 4 May.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

General audience: the dignity of marriage


Vatican City, 29 April 2015 (VIS) – Following last Wednesday's catechesis on God's original plan for man and woman as a couple, the Pope spoke at today's general audience about marriage, recalling that Jesus' first miracle took place during the wedding at Cana, when He transformed water into wine and thus ensured that the celebrations could take place. “This fact reminds us of Genesis, when God completed His creation with his masterpiece: man and woman”, he said. “And Jesus began His miracles with this masterpiece, in marriage. … Thus Jesus teaches us that the masterpiece of society is the family: the man and the woman who love each other. ... Since that time, many things have changed but that 'sign' of Christ contains a message that remains valid”.

“Nowadays it does not seem easy to describe marriage as a celebration that is renewed over time, in the different seasons in the entire life of spouses. It is a fact that fewer people marry. Instead, in many countries the number of separations is increasing, while the number of children is in decline. The difficulty of staying together – both as a couple and as a family – leads to bonds being broken with increasing frequency and rapidity. … In effect, many young people are led to give up the plan of an irrevocable bond and a lasting family. There is a kind of culture of the provisional: everything is temporary, and it seems that nothing is permanent”.

For this reason, the Pope continued, one of the questions we must face nowadays is why young people do not choose to get married, and seem to have little confidence in marriage and in the family. “The difficulties are not only of an economic nature, although these are very important”, he observed. “Many people believe that the change that has taken place in recent decades was set in motion by the emancipation of women. But this argument is not valid either. It is an insult, a form of misogyny that seeks to subjugate women. If men behave in this way, we are like Adam, when God asked him who had eaten the fruit of the tree, and he said that the woman gave it to him”.

“In reality, almost all men and women would prefer emotional security in the form of a solid marriage and a happy family … but, for fear of failure, many do not even want to think about it. … Perhaps it is precisely that fear of failure that is the greatest obstacle to receiving the word of Christ, Who promises His grace to the matrimonial union and to the family”. However, “marriage consecrated by God preserves that bond between man and woman that God has blessed ever since the creation of the world; and it is a source of peace and good for all married and family life. For example, in the early times of Christianity, this great dignity of the bond between man and woman defeated an abuse considered to be entirely normal in those times, that is, the right of husbands to repudiate their wives, even for the most specious and humiliating reasons. The Gospel, the Gospel that announces this sacrament, ended this culture of habitual repudiation”.

“The Christian seed of radical equality between spouses must bear new fruit today”, emphasised the Holy Father. “The witness of the social dignity of marriage will become persuasive, the witness of reciprocity between husband and wife, of complementarity. .. And as Christians we must become more demanding in this respect. For example, in decisively supporting equal pay for equal work: inequality is a scandal. Why is it taken for granted that women should earn less than men? No! They have the same rights. At the same time, the maternity of women and the paternity of men should be recognised as a richness that remains valid, especially for the benefit of children. Equally, the virtue of hospitality in Christian families today retains a crucial importance, especially in situations of poverty, degradation and domestic violence”.

“Do not be afraid of inviting Jesus to the wedding celebrations! And also His Mother Mary!” exclaimed Pope Francis. “Christians, when they marry 'in the Lord', are transformed into an effective sign of God's love. Christians do not marry only for themselves: they marry in the Lord in favour of all the community, of society as a whole”.

The Pope sends a video message to guests at the Caritas centres


Vatican City, 29 April 2015 (VIS) – Yesterday evening in the Brancaccio theatre, Rome, the guests of the Caritas reception centre were the protagonists of the play “Se non fosse per te” (“If it were not for you”), directed by Carlo Del Giudice, which narrates their life stories. It recounts stories of love, disappointment and abandonment, but also of mutual love for children, parents, life and God. It offers a unique opportunity for dialogue between Rome and her most vulnerable citizens, in which Pope Francis wished to participate by sending a video message to the actors.

“The way in which you speak to the city offers a meaningful opportunity for dialogue and exchange. Between you, on the stage, displaying your hidden talents, assisted by expert professionals who have guided you as actors to enable your resources and potential to flourish – and those who are listen, surely amazed by the richness you offer. Whoever thought that a homeless person could be someone we can learn from? Whoever thought they could be a saint? Instead, this evening you transmit to us from the stage valuable teachings on love, on the needs of others, on solidarity, and on how to find, amid difficulties, the love of the Father”.

“Poverty is the great teaching that Jesus gave to us when he descended into the waters of the Jordan to be baptised by John the Baptist. He did not do so out of a need for penance, for conversion; He did so in order to be among the people, people in need of forgiveness, in the midst of us, sinners, in order to bear the burden of our sins. And this is the path He chose so as to console us, save us, liberate us from our misery. That which gives us true freedom, true salvation and true happiness is His love of compassion, tenderness and sharing. The Good Samaritan who lifts us up, beaten by robbers”.

“St. Gregory of Nyssa, a great theologian of antiquity, writes: 'Consider well who are the poor in the Gospel and discover their dignity; they wear the face of the Lord. In His mercy He has given them His own face'. And St. Augustine said, 'On earth Christ is hungry in the poor. You must fear Christ in heaven and recognise Him on earth; on earth He is poor, in heaven He is rich'”.

“I too wish to make these words my own. You are not a burden to us. You are the wealth without which our attempts to discover the face of the Lord are in vain. A few days after my election, I received from you a letter of well wishes and offers of prayer. I remember replying immediately, to tell you that I hold you in my heart and am at your disposal. I confirm those words. On that occasion I asked you to pray for me. I reiterate my request, as I am truly in need of your prayers”.

The Pope went on to thank all the workers of Caritas Rome. “I think of them as my hands, the hands of the bishop, in touching the Body of Christ. I also thank the many volunteers from the parishes of Rome and other parts of Italy. In this way they discover a world that requires attention and solidarity; men and women who seek affection, relationships, dignity, and with whom we can experience charity by learning to welcome, listen and give of ourselves”.

The Pope remarked that the city of Rome has in all times been distinguished by persons filled with God's love. “Let us think of St. Lawrence (his jewels were the poor) and St. Pammachius (a Roman senator who converted and devoted himself exclusively to the service of the least among us), St. Fabiola (the first to build a hostel for the poor in Porto), St. Philip Neri, Blessed Angelo Paoli, St. Joseph Labre (the 'beggar saint'), and Don Luigi di Liegro, founder of Caritas Rome. How I would like Rome to shine with 'pietas' for those who suffer, with welcome for those who flee from war and death, with willingness, smiles and magnanimity for those who have lost hope. How I would like the Church of Rome always to show herself to be an ever more attentive and caring mother to the weak. We all have weaknesses, all of us; everyone has their own. How I would like the parish communities in prayer, as a poor person enters the Church, to kneel in veneration as they do when the Lord enters! How I would like the flesh of Christ to be touched in the needy of this city”.

The Pope concluded his message by expressing his hope of meeting the actors personally, as occurred recently with the homeless in the Sistine Chapel, and he bestowed on them his blessing.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Pope greets UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences


Vatican City, 28 April 2015 (VIS) - Shortly after 9 a.m. this morning in the Casina Pio IV, seat of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the Holy Father briefly met with the United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon, present at the Academy for the subsequent opening presentation of the international workshop “Protect the Earth, dignify humanity. The moral dimensions of climate change and sustainable development”.

During the private audience the secretary of the United Nations, as he explained in the following press conference, expressed to the Pope his gratitude for having agreed to address the Assembly of the United Nations this coming 25 September and remarked that he was looking forward to the Holy Father’s discourse on the occasion and to his forthcoming encyclical. He also illustrated various aspects of the United Nations’ current commitment not only to environmental issues, but also to migrants and the dramatic humanitarian situations in the areas of the world affected by conflicts.

“Cor Unum” to send 100,000 dollars to earthquake-stricken Nepal


Vatican City, 28 April 2015 (VIS) – Following the earthquake that struck the territory of Nepal with extraordinary vehemence last weekend, the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” has undertaken to send a first contribution of 100 thousand dollars for aid to the population on behalf of the Holy Father.

This sum, which will be sent to the local Church, will be used to support aid operations for the displaced and other affected persons, and is intended as a first and immediate concrete expression of Pope Francis' “spiritual closeness and paternal encouragement” towards those afflicted, as he assured during the Regina Coeli of Sunday 26 April. Episcopal conferences and Catholic charitable entities are already extensively involved in humanitarian works.

According to the data currently available but not yet definitive, there have been more than 4,300 victims so far and approximately 7 million affected in 34 districts of Nepal, a million homeless, and around 2 million children in need of assistance. Numerous villages are isolated and aid has not yet reached them. The government has estimated that roughly 400 thousand buildings have been destroyed.

Audiences


Vatican City, 28 April 2015 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father received in private audience Rafael Correa Delgado, president of the Republic of Ecuador, and entourage.


Other Pontifical Acts


Vatican City, 28 April 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed:

- Rev. Fr. Edward Mapunda as bishop of Singida (area 49,341, population 1,500,000, Catholics 238,307, priests 67, religious 437), Tanzania. The bishop-elect was born in Mango, Tanzania in 1964, and was ordained a priest in 1997. He holds a Master's degree in education from the University of Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania and has served as formator and subsequently vice-rector of the minor seminary of Singida. He is currently bursar and diocesan delegate for health.

- Cardinal Dominique Mamberti, prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, as president of the Commission for Lawyers.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Queen Silvia of Sweden and her family visit the Pope


Vatican City, 27 April 2015 (VIS) – At 10 a.m. today, in the private Library of the Apostolic Palace, the Holy Father received in private audience Her Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden, accompanied by various family members and her entourage.

This afternoon, Her Majesty will participate in a workshop at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences organised by the Embassy of Sweden to the Holy See and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences on the theme of the fight against human trafficking, with particular attention to children. She will subsequently visit the Vatican Apostolic Library for the inauguration of the “distribution desk” realised with the contribution of the King Gustaf VI Adolf Foundation.

During the conversation, which took place mostly in Spanish, a language the Queen knows well, she informed the Pope of the activities she promotes in Sweden, especially for the benefit of children, and the Pope took the opportunity the express his gratitude for the welcome extended by Sweden to refugees and displaced persons. Among the gifts from Queen Silvia, the Pope received three small Swedish prayer books, also adapted for children. The religious education of her children has been particularly close to the sovereign's heart, and the Pope expressed his lively appreciation.

Princess Madeleine, with her husband and one year-old daughter Leonore, were also present in the Queen’s entourage, and the Pope therefore received the young family with particular affection.


The Pope praises the dynamism of the Church in Benin


Vatican City, 27 April 2015 (VIS) – The vitality of the Church, the pastoral ministry of the family, attention to priests and persons religious, and relations with the civil authorities are the central themes of the written discourse that the Pope handed to the bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Benin this morning, at the end of their “ad Limina” visit.

The Holy Father begins by praising the dynamism of parish life, the extensive participation of the faithful in ceremonies and the increase of vocations to the priesthood, but he also echoed the prelates' reports that it is at times superficial and lacking in solidity and strength. “Therefore, it is important that the desire for a profound knowledge of the Christian mystery not be the prerogative of an elite, but instead must inspire all faithful, as everyone is called to holiness. It is imperative that the Church in Benin resists and defeats the winds to the contrary that are rising throughout the world and do not fail to blow upon you too. I know that you are vigilant in the face of numerous ideological and media attacks. The spirit of secularisation is at work in your country too, although it is not yet very visible. Only a faith profoundly rooted in the heart of the faithful, and lived in a concrete way, will enable you to face this”.

One of the challenges to the Church in Benin is family pastoral ministry, to which the upcoming Synod will seek to respond. The Pope thanks the prelates of Benin for their prayers for this assembly, and for their mobilisation of the dioceses to participate in such important event. “I can only encourage you to continue with determination in the efforts you have undertaken to support families, both in their faith and in their daily life. I know that the pastoral ministry of marriage remains difficult, considering the real social and cultural situation of the people. However, do not be discouraged, but persevere tirelessly as the family in defence of the Catholic Church is a reality willed by God; it is a gift of God that brings joy, stability and happiness to people and to societies. It is an important challenge since the family, as the basic unit of both society and of the Church, is the place where authentic human and Gospel values are transmitted”.

The bishop of Rome then turns to the theme of the education of the younger generations, who must bring solidarity, justice and mutual respect to the society of the future. “It is necessary to promote in your country – without of course renouncing any of the Truth as revealed by the Lord – the encounter between cultures and dialogue between religions, especially with Islam. It is well known that Benin offers an example of harmony between the religions present in her territory. It is however wise to be vigilant, considering the current world climate, in order to conserve this fragile heritage. I am particularly pleased that an international colloquium on interreligious dialogue has been held, under the presidency of Cardinal Tauran, which was widely appreciated”.

“Your local Churches have a key role in promoting harmony and justice in the progress of the country”, Pope Francis observes. “But it is a role they also play in healthcare and human development. How much work is carried out in the name of the Gospel in your dioceses! While the global crisis is affecting many countries, it is necessary to go against the grain with courage, fighting against the throwaway culture that reaches everywhere and spreading the Gospel values of hospitality and encounter. The service of charity is a constitutive dimension of the mission of the Church, and it is an expression of her essence. However, it should be borne in mind that the spirit of the works accomplished by the Church has a specific nature that must be clearly identified: she never acts as a form of simple social aid, but rather as the manifestation of the tenderness and mercy of Jesus Himself, who tends to the wounds and weaknesses of His brothers. The joy of the Gospel is thus announced to humanity in the most effective way”.

The Pope thanks the priests of Benin for their generous service into the Gospel and mentions again the great number of vocations, a blessing from the Lord, and encourages the Church in Benin to share her resources with the Churches of other regions which are lacking. However, he writes, “when you send your priests to study or on missions elsewhere, do so with judgement, without forgetting the needs of your own Churches”.

The final paragraphs of the text are dedicated to the good relationship between the Church and the civil authorities in the country. “The voice of the Church is listened to and her action is appreciated. I invite you to continue to take your place fully in the public life of the country, especially in these times. I know you are engaged in constant work to encourage relations between the different components of society. I invite you to continue along this path, taking care not to enter directly into the political arena or party disputes. The conduct of public affairs remains the duty of the laity, whom you have the important duty of ceaselessly educating and encouraging”.



Ordination of nineteen new priests: imitate the Father, who never tires of forgiving


Vatican City, 26 April 2015 (VIS) – On the 52nd World Day of Prayer for Vocations, Pope Francis conferred priestly ordination to nineteen deacons: thirteen from the Roman diocesan seminaries (Pontifical Roman Major Seminary, “Redemptoris Mater” Diocesan College, Seminary of Our Lady of Divine Love) and six from other colleges. The Mass was concelebrated by the Holy Father and Cardinal Agostino Vallini, vicar general for the diocese of Rome, Archbishop Filippo Iannone, vicegerent, the auxiliary bishops, the superiors of the seminaries involved, and the deacons' parish priests.

During the liturgy of ordination, the Pope pronounced the homily for this rite, improvising some paragraphs. “These sons of ours are called to the order of the presbytery. It is good for us to reflect a little on the ministry to which they will be elevated within the Church. As you well know, the Lord Jesus is the sole Supreme Priest of the New Testament, but in Him also all the holy people of God is constituted as a priestly people. All of us! Nonetheless, among all His disciples, Jesus wishes to choose some in particular to publicly exercise priestly office on behalf of all mankind, thus continuing His personal mission as teacher, priest and pastor. … They have reflected on this, their vocation, and now they are to receive the ordination to the priesthood. And the bishop risks – risks! - and chooses them, just as the Father risked for each one of us”.

“And to you, who are about to be raised to the order of the presbytery, consider that by exercising the ministry of the Holy Doctrine you will participate in the mission of Christ, the sole master. Dispense to all that Word of God, that you yourselves have received with joy. Read and meditate diligently on the Word of the Lord so as to believe in what you have read, to teach what you have learnt in faith, to live what you have taught. And may this be the nourishment of the People of God; may your homilies never be dull; may your homilies arrive straight to the heart of the people as they come from your heart: what you say to them is what you have in your heart. In this way one offers the Word of the Lord, and in this way your doctrine will be joy and sustenance to Christ's faithful; the aroma of your life will be witness, as example edifies, whereas words without example are empty. They are ideas that never reach the heart and may even do harm; they do not do good”.

“When you celebrate Mass, acknowledge then what you are doing. Do not be hasty! Imitate what you celebrate – it is not an artificial rite. … With Baptism, you will add new faithful to the People of God. You must never refuse Baptism to those who ask for it. With the Sacrament of Penance you will forgive sins in the name of Christ and of the Church. And I, in the name of the Jesus Christ, the Lord, and His spouse, the Holy Church, I ask you never to tire of being merciful. You will be in the confessional to forgive, not to condemn! Imitate the Father, Who never tires of forgiving. With the holy oils you will bring relief to the sick. By celebrating the holy rites and raise at the different times of the day the prayers of praise and supplication, you will become the voice of the People of God and of the whole of humanity. Aware of having been chosen among men and constituted for their benefit to attend to matters of God, exercise Christ's priestly work with joy and sincere charity, intent solely on pleasing God and not yourselves. A priest who lives to please himself, who acts like a peacock, is unpleasant”.

“Finally, participating in Christ's mission as Head and Pastor in filial communion with your bishop, make efforts to unite the faithful in a single family – you are ministers of unity in the Church and in the family – to lead them to God the Father by means of Christ in the Holy Spirit”, he concluded, adding. “and always keep before your eyes the example of the Good Shepherd, Who did not come to be served, but to serve; not to remain in comfort, but to reach out to seek and save what was lost”.


Regina Coeli: contemplation and thanksgiving are not enough – we must follow the Good Shepherd


Vatican City, 26 April 2015 (VIS) – At the end of the celebration of Holy Mass for new vocations, Pope Francis appeared at the window of his study in the Vatican Apostolic Palace to pray this Sunday's Regina Coeli with the faithful gathered in the square. Beforehand the Holy Father spoke about the figure of Jesus, the Good Shepherd in Whom we contemplate God's Providence.

“The Father gave us the greatest and most precious gift He could give. It is the highest and purest love, as it is not motivated by any need, it is not conditioned by any calculation, it is not attracted by any interest to receive in exchange. Before this love of God, we experience immense joy and open ourselves up to the the acknowledgement of what we have freely received. But contemplating and giving thanks are not enough. We must also follow the Good Shepherd. In particular, those who have the mission of guides in the Church – priests, bishops, popes – are called upon to assume not the mentality of a manager but rather that of a servant, in imitation of Jesus Who, despoiling Himself, saved us with His mercy. The new priests of the diocese of Rome, whom I have had the joy of ordaining this morning in St. Peter's Basilica, are also called to this style of pastoral life”.

The Pope invited two of the newly ordained priests to appear at the window to greet the people and to thank the faithful for their ordination, and he asked that Our Lady might obtain for him, for the bishops and the priests of all the world the grace of serving the holy people of God through the joyful preaching of the Gospel, heartfelt celebration of the Sacraments and patient and gentle pastoral guidance”.

Following the Marian prayer, the Pope assured his closeness to those affected by the powerful earthquake in Nepal and neighbouring countries. “I pray for the victims, for the injured, and for all those who suffer as a result of this disaster”, he said. “May they have the support of fraternal solidarity. And let us pray to Our Lady to be close to them”.



Telegram for the earthquake in Nepal


Vatican City, 26 April 2015 (VIS) – Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin has sent a telegram of condolences on behalf of the Holy Father to Bishop Paul Simick, of the apostolic vicariate of Nepal, for the victims of the earthquake that struck the country and neighbouring India, Tibet and Bangladesh.

“His Holiness Pope Francis was deeply saddened to learn of the earthquake and the resultant loss of many hundreds of lives in Nepal, as well as in neighbouring countries. He expresses his solidarity with all affected by this disaster and assures those who grieve for deceased family members of his closeness in prayer. His Holiness commends the souls of the victims to the loving mercy of the Almighty and he offers encouragement to the civil authorities and emergency personnel as they continue their rescue efforts and assistance to those touched by this tragedy. Upon them all he invokes the blessings of the Almighty as a pledge of healing and consolation”.

To the John Paul II Foundation: nurture solidarity with Christian fraternity


Vatican City, 25 April 2015 (VIS) - “The canonisation of John Paul II has given a new impulse to your work in the service of the Church and evangelisation. It has rendered it, if possible, even more universal. And you offer a valuable contribution to ensuring that the spiritual legacy of this Pope saint may continue to make fertile the great field of the Church and to support her path through history”, said the Pope this morning to the members of the John Paul II Foundation, whom he received in audience in the Sala Clementina of the Apostolic Palace.

Francis thanked them for their initiatives in the educational field, recalling John Paul II's great love for the young. “You contribute to ensuring that his charism and his paternity continue to bear fruit”, he remarked, also emphasising the valuable opportunities they offer to priests and laypeople to enhance their formation, to be better prepared and to accompany communities in facing the cultural and pastoral challenges of our times.

“It is enough to think of one of the key words of his teaching, 'solidarity': a word that some people thought ought to become obsolete, but which in reality still retains all its prophetic force”, he continued. “Therefore, it is important that you, first of all, in your 'network' of the Circles of Friends of the Foundation, live this solidarity among yourselves, nurturing it continually with Christian fraternity, inspired in turn by prayer and obedience to the Word of God”.


Audiences


Vatican City, 27 April 2015 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father received in audience:

- Professor Riccardo Di Segni, Chief Rabbi of Rome;

- Archbishop Bruno Musaro, apostolic nuncio to the Arab Republic of Egypt and Holy See delegate at the League of Arab States;

- Archbishop Giorgio Lingua, apostolic nuncio to Cuba;

- Ten prelates of the Episcopal Conference of Benin, on their “ad Limina” visit:

- Archbishop Antoine Ganye of Cotonou;

- Bishop Eugene Cyrille Houndekon of Abomey;

- Bishop Francois Gnonhossou, S.M.A., of Dassa-Zoume;

- Bishop Victor Agbanou of Lokossa;

- Archbishop Pascal N'Koue of Parakou;

- Bishop Paul Kouassivi Vieira of Djougou;

- Bishop Clet Feliho of Kandi;

- Bishop Antoine Sabi Bio of Natitingou;

- Bishop Martin Adjou Moumouni of N'Dali;

- Rev. Jean-Benoit Gnambode, diocesan administrator of Porto Novo.


On Saturday, 25 April, the Holy Father received in audience:

- Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops;

- Guillermo Leon Escobar Herran, new ambassador of Colombia to the Holy See, presenting his letters of credence;

- Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto, apostolic nuncio to the Philippines;

- Msgr. Fernando Chica Arellano, Holy See permanent observer at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (F.A.O.), International Fund for Agricultural Development (I.F.A.D.), and World Food Programme (W.F.P.);

- Bishop Antonio Augusto dos Santos Marto of Leiria-Fatima, Portugal.


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