Pope Francis
Pope Francis's Address to the 13th Ordinary Council of the Secretariat General of the Synod of Bishops

VATICAN CITY, June 13, 2013  - Here is the translation of the prepared text of the Pope's address to the members of the 13th Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, gathered in assembly to reflect on the topic: “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Faith.” Pope Francis decided to forego his prepared comments and addressed the members informally.

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Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

I greet you very cordially, and I thank in particular Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, Secretary General, for the words he addressed to me. I extend, through you, my greeting to the particular Churches that are entrusted to your pastoral care. I am grateful for the help offered to the Bishop of Rome, in his office of President of the Synod of Bishops, for the elaboration and implementation of all that emerged in the 13th Ordinary General Assembly. It is a precious service to the universal Church that requires availability, commitment and sacrifice, also to face long trips. A sincere thank you to each one of you!

I would like to stress the importance of the Assembly: The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Faith. There is a close connection between these two elements: the transmission of the Christian faith is the object of the New Evangelization and of the whole evangelizing endeavor of the Church, which exists in fact for this. The expression “New Evangelization,” then, brings to light the ever clearer awareness that even in the countries of ancient Christian tradition a renewed proclamation of the Gospel is necessary, to lead back to an encounter with Christ that really transforms life and is not superficial, marked by routine. And this has consequences in pastoral action. As the Servant of God Paul VI observed, “the conditions of society oblige us to look again at the methods, to seek with every means of study how to take to modern man the Christian message, in which he can only find the answer to his questions and the strength for his endeavor of human solidarity” (Address to the Sacred College of Cardinals, June 22, 1973). In Evangelii nuntiandi, a very rich text that has lost none of its importance, the same Pontiff recalled how the commitment to proclaim the Gospel “is without a doubt a service rendered not only to the Christian community, but also to humanity” (n. 1). I would like to encourage the entire ecclesial community to be evangelizing, not to fear to “go out” of itself to proclaim, trusting above all in the merciful presence of God who guides us. The techniques are certainly important, but not even the most perfect can substitute the discreet but effective action of Him who is the principal agent of evangelization: the Holy Spirit (cf. Ibid., 75). We must allow ourselves to be led by Him, even if He leads us to new ways; we must allow ourselves to be transformed by Him so that our proclamation will take place with the word accompanied always by simplicity of life, the spirit of prayer, of charity to all, especially the little ones and the poor, of humility and of self-detachment, of holiness of life (cf. Ibid., 76). Only thus will it be truly fruitful!

A thought, also, on the Synod of Bishops. It was certainly one of the fruits of Vatican Council II. Thanks be to God, in these almost fifty years, we have experienced the benefits of this institution that, in a permanent way, is placed at the service of the mission and of the communion of the Church, as expression of collegiality. I can attest to it also on the basis of my personal experience, having taken part in several Synodal Assemblies. Open to the grace of the Holy Spirit, soul of the Church, let us be confident that the Synod of Bishops will experience further developments to foster increasing dialogue and collaboration between the Bishops and between them and the Bishop of Rome. Dear fellow Bishops, your meeting over these days in Rome has the object of helping me in the choice of the topic for the next Ordinary General Assembly. I am grateful for the proposals sent by the institutions with which the General Secretariat of the Synod is in correspondence: the Synods of the Catholic Eastern Churches sui iuris, the Episcopal Conferences, the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia, and the Presidency of the Union of Superiors General. I am certain that with discernment, accompanied by prayer, this work will bear abundant fruit for the whole Church that, faithful to the Lord, desires to proclaim Jesus Christ, with renewed courage, to the men and women of our time. He is “the Way, the Truth and the Life” (John 14:6) for each and for all.

Entrusting your ecclesial service to the maternal intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Star of the New Evangelization, I impart from my heart to you, to your collaborators and to your particular Churches the Apostolic Blessing.



Pope's Address to Bishops of Rwanda
"I assure you of my prayer for you, yourselves, for your communities often torn apart, for all the victims and their families, for all the Rwandan people without distinctions of religion, ethnic origins or political affiliations."

VATICAN CITY, April 03, 2014  - Pope Francis this morning received in audience the bishops of the episcopal conference of Rwanda, for their visit “ad Limina Apostolorum.” 

Here below is a translation of the Pope’s address to the prelates in the course of the meeting.


Dear Brother Bishops,

I wish to welcome you to Rome on the occasion of your visit ad limina Apostolorum. I hope with all my heart that, through the intercession of Saint Peter and Saint Paul and in the light of their witness, you will be able to renew in your hearts the faith and courage necessary for your exacting pastoral mission. I thank H.E. Monsignor Smaragde Mbonyintege, President of your Episcopal Conference, for the cordial message he addressed to me. Through you, I express my profound affection to the priests, to the men and women religious, to the lay faithful of your dioceses as well as to all the inhabitants of your country. 

In a few days Rwanda is going to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the outbreak of the dreadful genocide that caused so much suffering and wounds, which are still far from being healed. I associate myself profoundly to the national mourning, and I assure you of my prayer for you, yourselves, for your communities often torn apart, for all the victims and their families, for all the Rwandan people without distinctions of religion, ethnic origins or political affiliations. 

Twenty years after those tragic events, reconciliation and the healing of wounds remain, certainly, the priority of the Church in Rwanda. And I encourage you to persevere in this endeavor, which you have already assumed with numerous initiatives. The forgiveness of offenses and genuine reconciliation, which might seem impossible from a human view after so much suffering, are nevertheless a gift that it is possible to receive from Christ, with faith and prayer, even if the path is long and calls for patience, mutual respect and dialogue. Hence, the Church has her place in the reconstruction of a reconciled Rwandan society, with all the dynamism of your faith and of Christian hope. Therefore, go forward resolutely, rendering ceaseless witness to the truth. 

However, we must remember that it is only by being united in love that we can have the Gospel touch and convert hearts profoundly: “that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me” (John 17:23), Jesus says to us. Therefore, it is important that, going beyond prejudgments and ethnic divisions, the Church speak with one voice, manifest her unity and reaffirm her communion with the universal Church and with the Successor of Peter.

In this perspective of national reconciliation, it is also necessary to reinforce relations of trust between the Church and the State. May the celebration, this coming June 6, of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Rwanda and the Holy See, be the occasion to recall the beneficial fruits that all can expect from such relations, for the good of the Rwandan people. A constructive and genuine dialogue with the Authorities will be able to foster the common endeavor of reconciliation and reconstruction of the society around the values of human dignity, justice and peace. Be a Church “of output”, which is able to take the initiative (cf. Evangelii gaudium, n. 24) and establish trust. 

Do not be afraid to highlight the irreplaceable contribution of the Church to the common good. I know that the work accomplished, in particular in the areas of education and health, is considerable. And in this connection, I greet the perseverant work of the Religious Institutes that, with so many persons of good will, are dedicated to all those that the war wounded, in their soul or their body, in particular the widows and orphans, but also the elderly, the sick and children. The religious life, by the offering of its adoration and prayer, makes credible the witness that the Church renders to the Risen Christ and to his love for all men, in particular the poorest. 

The education of youth is the key of the future in a country where the population renews itself rapidly. “That youth is a gift and a treasure of God, of which the whole Church is grateful to the Master of life. That youth must be loved, esteemed and respected” (Africae munus, n. 60). It is also a duty of the Church to form children and young people in the evangelical values, which they will find, in particular, in familiarity with the Word of God, which will then be for them like a compass, indicating to them the route to follow. May they learn to be active and generous members of the society, because the future rests on them. To bring this about it is necessary to reinforce the pastoral at the University and in schools, Catholic and public, always seeking to link the educational mission and the explicit proclamation of the Gospel, which must not be separated (cf. Evangelii gaudium, nn. 132, 134). 

The laity has a primordial role in the task of evangelization and reconstruction to be accomplished. And I would like here first of all to warmly thank all the catechists for their generous and perseverant engagement. Lay faithful are intensely involved in the life of the grassroots Ecclesial Communities, in Movements, schools, charitable works, as well as in different areas of social life. Therefore, particular attention must be given to their formation and support, both in their spiritual life as well as in their human and intellectual formation which must be of great quality. In fact, their involvement in society will be credible in the measure that they are competent and honest. 

An altogether particular vigilance must be given to families, which are the vital cells of society and of the Church, now that today they find themselves greatly menaced by the process of secularization and that, in your country, so many families have been torn apart and reconstructed. They are in need of your solicitude, of your closeness and of your encouragement. It is first of all in the very heart of families that young people can experience the genuinely Christian values of integrity, fidelity, honesty, and the gift of self, which makes it possible to know true happiness according to the heart of God. 

Finally, I express my gratitude to the priests who give themselves generously in the ministry. Their task is that much heavier as they are not yet sufficient in number. I encourage you to perfect ceaselessly the human, intellectual and spiritual formation of seminarians. May they always have as formators  joyful models of priestly accomplishment. Be very attentive about being close to your priests, to listen to them and to be available for them. Their task is difficult and they have absolute need of your personal support  and encouragement. Do not neglect their permanent formation and I encourage you to multiply the occasions of encounter and fraternal contacts. 

Dear Brothers, I renew to you the assurance of my attachment to you yourselves, to your diocesan communities, to the whole of Rwanda, and I entrust you all to the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary. Jesus’ Mother wished to manifest herself in your country to children, reminding them of the efficacy of fasting and prayer, in particular the prayer of the Rosary. I have an ardent wish that you will be able to make the Shrine of Kibeho shine yet more Mary’s love for all her children, in particular for the poorest and most wounded, and that it be for the Church of Rwanda and beyond a call to return with confidence to “Our Lady of Sorrows,” that she may accompany each one in their path and obtain the gift of reconciliation and peace. I give you wholeheartedly the Apostolic Blessing.


Pope Francis' Address to Tanzanian Bishops

VATICAN CITY, April 07, 2014  - Here is the translation of the address given by the Holy Father to the Bishops of Tanzania, who are in Rome for their 'ad Limina Apostolorum' visit. 

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Dear Brother Bishops,

I offer you a warm fraternal welcome on the occasion of your visit ad Limina Apostolorum, which is an opportunity to strengthen the bonds of communion between the Church in Tanzania and the See of Peter. I thank Archbishop Ngalalekumtwa for his thoughtful words offered on your behalf and in the name of the priests, men and women religious, and all the lay faithful of your country. I would ask you kindly to assure them of my prayers and spiritual closeness.

The Church in Tanzania is blessed with many gifts for which we must all give thanks to God. I think, in the first place, of the impressive history of missionary work throughout the region. Arriving with a desire to make "the name above every other name" (Phil 2:9) known and loved, these Spirit-filled evangelizers laid a firm foundation for the Church which has inspired subsequent generations in their efforts to proclaim the Gospel and build up the Body of Christ. In our own day too, missionary outreach must be "paradigmatic for all the Church’s activity" (Evangelii Gaudium, 15). Building upon the zeal and sacrifices of the first evangelizers, you must always maintain and foster this missionary imperative, so that the Gospel may increasingly permeate every work of the apostolate and shed its light on all areas of Tanzanian society. In this way, a new and dynamic chapter in the great missionary and evangelical history of your country will be written.

The work of evangelization in Tanzania, then, is not merely a remarkable event of the past; no, it happens every day in the Church’s pastoral work in parishes, in the liturgy, in the reception of the sacraments, the educational apostolate, health care initiatives, catechesis, and in the lives of ordinary Christians. It is carried out whenever faithful believers stir up the minds and hearts of those who, for whatever reason, are weak in living out the grace of the Gospel. It happens above all – through words and through integrity of life – by proclaiming Jesus Christ crucified and risen to those who do not know the joy that comes from loving him and surrendering their lives to him. This is the great challenge facing God’s people in Tanzania in our day: to give a compelling witness to the loving redemption of humanity by Jesus Christ experienced and celebrated by the community of believers in the Church.

Here I think in a special way of the witness of missionary discipleship (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 119-120) given by workers in the Church’s healthcare apostolate, not least in caring for those suffering from HIV/AIDS, and by all who strive diligently to educate people in the area of sexual responsibility and chastity. I also think of all those who devote themselves to the integral development of the poor, and in particular, of destitute women and children. May the Holy Spirit who gave strength, wisdom and holiness to the first missionaries in Tanzania continue to inspire the entire local Church in this vital witness.

Because of the critical importance of their ministry of teaching, sanctifying and governing Christ’s flock, the need for holy, well-educated and zealous priests is always great. I join you in expressing gratitude and encouragement for the ministry of your priests. The sacrifices they make, known often only to God, are a source of much grace and holiness. It is your urgent responsibility, as their fathers and brothers in Christ, to ensure that priests receive an adequate human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral formation – not only in the seminary, but throughout their lives (cf. Pastores Dabo Vobis, 43-59). This will enable them to give themselves more fully to the priestly ministry in fidelity to the promises made at their ordination. This formation must be ongoing; only through daily conversion and growth in pastoral charity will they mature as effective agents of spiritual renewal and Christian unity in their parishes and, like Jesus, gather people together "from every tribe and tongue" (Rev 7:9) for the praise and glory of God the Father. As men of deep wisdom and genuine spiritual leaders, priests will be a source of inspiration for their flock, and draw many young men to respond generously to the Lord’s call to serve his people in the priesthood.

The indispensable role of the lay faithful in the ongoing evangelization of your country was clearly brought out by two recent ecclesial events: the National Eucharistic Congress of 2012 and the Seminar held to close the Year of Faith. I appreciate your efforts to promote events such as these, which contribute greatly to strengthening the faith among the People of God in Tanzania. A particularly outstanding exercise of the lay apostolate is that of the men and women catechists in your country who labour to pass on the Gospel and the fullness of the Christian life. In your service to the local Church, make every effort to provide catechists with a comprehensive understanding of the Church’s doctrine. This will equip them not only to counter the challenges of superstition, aggressive sects and secularism, but even more importantly, to share the beauty and richness of the Catholic faith with others, particularly the young. In fidelity to the mission received at baptism, each member of the Church will then be able to renew the Church and society as a leaven from within. As well-formed lay disciples, they will know how to "imbue culture and human works with a moral value" (Lumen Gentium, 36), something greatly needed in our own time.

Dear brothers, the work of evangelization begins in the home. The gift that healthy families represent is felt with particular vitality in Africa. Moreover, the Church’s love for, and pastoral solicitude towards the family is at the heart of the new evangelization. As you know, I have called a Synod devoted to the family later this year, the pastoral care of which was a central concern of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops in 2009. May our encounter today be an incentive to review your common response to that Synod’s call for a more energetic apostolate to the family, through uncompromising and selfless spiritual and material assistance (cf. Africae Munus, 43). By promoting prayer, marital fidelity, monogamy, purity and humble service of one another within families, the Church continues to make an invaluable contribution to the social welfare of Tanzania, one which, coupled with her educational and healthcare apostolates, will surely foster greater stability and progress in your country. There is scarcely a finer service which the Church can offer than to give witness to our conviction of the sanctity of God’s gift of life and to the essential role played by spiritual and stable families in preparing the younger generations to live virtuous lives and to face the challenges of the future with wisdom, courage and generosity.

I am particularly encouraged to know that Tanzania is committed to ensuring the freedom that followers of various religions enjoy to practice their faith. The ongoing protection and promotion of this fundamental human right strengthens society by enabling believers, in fidelity to the dictates of their conscience and in respect for the dignity and rights of all, to advance social unity, peace and the common good. I am grateful for your ongoing efforts to promote forgiveness, peace and dialogue as you shepherd your people in difficult situations of intolerance and, at times, of violence and persecution. Your prayerful and united leadership – which is already bearing fruit as you confront these challenges together – will continue to show the path to those entrusted to your pastoral care and to the wider society. I urge you also to work with government and civic institutions in this area so as to ensure that the rule of law prevails as an indispensable means for guaranteeing just and pacific social relations. I pray that your example, and that of the entire Church in your country, will continue to inspire all people of good will who long for peace.

With these thoughts, dear brother Bishops, I commend all of you to the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, and with great affection I impart my Apostolic Blessing, which I willingly extend to all the beloved priests, religious and lay faithful of your country.