Pope Francis' Talks November 2015

 

Pope’s Address to Christian Union of Italian Business Executives

Rome, November 02, 2015

Here is a translation of the Pope’s address Saturday when he received in audience the Christian Union of Business Executives (UCID)

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Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

My cordial greeting goes to you all, and I thank Cardinal De Giorgi and the national President for having introduced this meeting.

The Christian Union of Business Executives brings together Catholic businessmen who set themselves the objective to be architects of development for the common good. To do this, you give great importance to Christian formation, carried out above all through reflection on the social teaching of the Church. This formative commitment is the foundation of action, be it personal , in the way of living one’s profession, be it associated, in the apostolate of the environment. Therefore, I exhort you to continue enthusiastically in your formative activities, to be the ferment and stimulation, by word and example, in the business world.

In as much as this is an ecclesial association, recognized by the Bishops, you are called to live the evangelical counsels with fidelity and the Social Doctrine of the Church in the family, at work and in society. This witness is very important. Therefore, I encourage you to live your business vocation in the very spirit of the lay mission. The “work” of the businessman, in fact,is a “noble vocation, provided that those engaged in it see themselves challenged by a greater meaning in life; this will enable them truly to serve the common good by striving to increase the goods of this world and to make them more accessible to all” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 203).

The business and the executive office of firms can become places of sanctification, through each one’s commitment to build fraternal relations between businessmen, executives and workers, fostering co-responsibility and collaboration in the common interest. It is decisive to give special attention to the quality of the working life of dependents, who are the most precious resource of a business, in particular to foster harmonization between work and family. I am thinking in particular of the workers: the challenge is to watch over at the same time be it their right to work that is fully recognized, be it their vocation to maternity and presence in the family. How many times, how many times we have heard that a woman goes to the boss and says: “I must tell you I am pregnant.” “From the end of the month she doesn’t work more.” The woman must be protected, helped in this double endeavor: the right to work and the right to maternity. Qualifying also is the responsibility of businesses for the defense and care of creation and to engage in progress that is “healthier, more human, more social and more integral” (Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’, 112).

This call to be missionaries of the social dimension of the Gospel, in the difficult and complex world of work, of the economy and of business, also implies openness and evangelical closeness to the different situations of poverty and fragility. Here also it is about an attitude, a style with which to carry forward programs of promotion and assistance, enhancing the numerous and meritorious concrete works of sharing and solidarity that you support in various parts of Italy. This will also be a way proper to you to put into practice the grace of the Jubilee of Mercy. One of you might say to me: ”Ah, Father, to practice mercy ... we do some charity ...” It’s not enough to give assistance, it’s not enough to do some charity. This is not enough; this, perhaps, is the first step. It is necessary to orient economic activity in the evangelical sense, that is, at the service of the person and of the common good. In this perspective, you are called to make a business spirit of subsidiarity grow, to address at the same time ethical challenges and those of the market, first among all the challenges being to create good opportunities of work. Think of young people. I believe that 40% of young people here today are without work. In another neighboring country, 47%; in another neighboring country, more than 50%. Think of young people, but be creative in creating opportunities of work that go forward and give work, because he who does not have work not only does not bring bread home but loses his dignity! And contributing to trace this way are also the initiatives of encounter and study, which you carry out on the territory.

Business is a good of common interest, in as much as it is a good of property and of private management, by the simple fact that it pursues objectives of general interest and importance, such as, for instance, economic development, innovation and occupation, it should be protected in as much as a good in itself. Called to this work of protection in the first place are institutions, but also businessmen, economists, financial and banking agencies and all the subjects involved must not fail to act with competence, honesty and a sense of responsibility. The economy and business are in need of ethics for their correct functioning; not any sort of ethics, but rather an ethic that puts the person and the community at the center. Today I renew to you the mandate to commit yourselves together to this end; and you will bear fruits in the measure in which the Gospel is alive and present in your hearts, in your mind and in your actions.

I entrust you, your work, your families and your dependents to the protection of Saint Joseph the Worker, the great Saint Joseph. I invoke upon each of you the Lord’s Blessing. And I ask you, please, to pray for me: I give you this work also!

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Pope’s Homily at Cemetery on All Saints Day

Rome, November 02, 2015

At 4 pm on Sunday afternoon, Pope Francis celebrated Holy Mass at the entrance of Rome’s Verano Cemetery, which he followed with a prayer for the dead and blessing of the tombs.

Concelebrating with the Holy Father were the Cardinal Vicar of Rome, Agostino Vallini; Archbishop Filippo Iannone, Vice-Manager of the diocese of Rome; and the parish priest of Saint Lawrence Outside-the-Walls, Father Armando Ambrosi.

Here is a translation of the Pope’s homily.

* * *

We heard Jesus in the Gospel who teaches his disciples and the crowd gathered on the hill near Lake Galilee (cf. Matthew 5:1-12). The word of the risen and living Lord points out also to us today the way to reach true blessedness, the way that leads of Heaven. It is a difficult way to understand, because it goes against the current, but the Lord says to us that he who goes on this way is happy; sooner or later he becomes happy.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” We might ask ourselves how a person can be happy who is poor of heart, whose only treasure is the Kingdom of Heaven. But the reason is precisely this: that having a despoiled heart, free from so many worldly things, this person is “awaited” in the Kingdom of Heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” How can those who mourn be happy? And yet, he who in life has not experienced sadness, anguish, pain will never know the strength of consolation. Happy instead can be all those that have the capacity to be moved, the capacity to feel the pain that is in their life and in the life of others. These will be happy, because the tender hand of God the Father will console and caress them.

“Blessed are the meek.” And we, on the contrary, how often are we impatient, nervous, always ready to complain! We have so many demands on others, but when they touch us, we react by raising our voice, as if we were the owners of the world, while in reality we are all children of God. Let us think, rather, of those mothers and fathers that are so patient with their children, who “make them go mad.” This is the Lord’s way: the way of meekness and patience. Jesus followed this way: when he was little he endured persecution and exile; and then, as an adult, calumnies, traps, false accusation in court, and he endured everything with meekness. Out of love for us He also endured the cross.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be satisfied.” Yes, those who have a strong sense of justice, and not only towards others, but first of all towards themselves, they will be satisfied, because they are ready to receive the greatest justice, which only God can give.

And then, “blessed are the merciful, because they will obtain mercy.” Happy those who are able to forgive, who have mercy on others, who do not judge everything and everyone, but try to put themselves in others’ shoes. Forgiveness is the thing of which we are all in need, no one excluded. Therefore, at the beginning of the Mass we recognize ourselves for what we are, namely, sinners. And it’s not a way of saying, a formality: it’s an act of truth. “Lord, behold me here, have mercy on me.” And if we are able to give forgiveness to others that we ask for ourselves, we are blessed. As we say in the “Our Father”: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

“Blessed are the peacemakers, because they will be called sons of God.” We look at the face of those who go around sowing darnel: are they happy? Those who always seek occasions to embroil, to take advantage of others, are they happy? No, they cannot be happy. Instead those who every day, seek with patience to sow peace, are architects of peace, of reconciliation, these are blessed, because they are true children of our Father in Heaven, who always and only sows peace, to the point that He sent his Son into the world as seed of peace for humanity.

Dear brothers and sisters, this is the way of holiness, and it is the very way of happiness. It is the way that Jesus followed, rather, He himself is this Way: one who walks with Him and passes through Him enters into life, into eternal life. Let us ask the Lord for the grace to be simple and humble persons, the grace to be able to weep, the grace to be meek, the grace to work for justice and peace, and especially the grace to allow ourselves to be forgiven by God to become instruments of His mercy.

This is what all the Saints did, who have preceded us in the eternal homeland. They accompany us on our earthly pilgrimage; they encourage us to go forward. May their intercession help us to walk on the way of Jesus, and obtain eternal happiness for our deceased brothers and sisters, for whom we offer this Mass.

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Pope's Angelus Address

Vatican City, November 02, 2015

Below is a translation of Pope Francis' Angelus address Sunday at noon on the Feast of All Saints:

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Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning and happy feast!

In today’s celebration, the Feast of All Saints, we feel the reality of the Communion of Saints to be particularly alive, namely our great family, made up of all the members of the Church, be it those of us who are still pilgrims on earth, be it those – immensely more – who have already left it and have gone to Heaven. We are all united, and this is called “Communion of Saints,” namely the community of all the baptized.

In the liturgy, the Book of Revelation recalls an essential characteristic of the saints and says this: they are persons that belong totally to God. It presents them as a multitude of “elect,” clothed in white and marked by the "seal of God” (cf. 7:2-4.9-14). Through this last particular, underscored with allegorical language, [it says] that the saints belong to God in a full and exclusive way; they are His property. And what does it mean to bear the seal of God in one’s life and in one’s person? The Apostle John also says: it means that, in Jesus Christ, we have become truly children of God (cf. 1 John 3:1-3).

Are we aware of this great gift? We are all children of God! Do we remember that in Baptism we received the “seal” of our Heavenly Father and became His children? To say it simply: we bear God’s surname, our surname is God, because we are children of God. Here is the root of the vocation to holiness! And the saints we remember today are precisely those who lived in the grace of their Baptism, they kept the “seal” intact, behaving as children of God, seeking to imitate Jesus, and now they have reached their goal because they finally “see God as he really is.”

A second characteristic proper to the saints is that they are examples to imitate. Let's pay attention: not only those who are canonized, but, so to speak, the “next door” Saints who, with the grace of God made the effort to practice the Gospel in the ordinariness of their life. We have also met these Saints; perhaps we had one in our family, or among our friends and acquaintances. We must be thankful to them and above all we must be thankful to God who has given them to us, who has put them close to us, as living and infectious examples of the way of living and of dying in fidelity to the Lord Jesus and to His Gospel. How many good people we have known and know, and we say: “But this person is a Saint!,” we say it; it comes spontaneously. These are the next door Saints, those not canonized but who live with us.

To imitate their gestures of love and mercy is somewhat like perpetuating their presence in this world. And, in fact, those evangelical gestures are the only ones that resist the destruction of death: an act of tenderness, a generous help, time spent listening, a visit, a good word, a smile ...These gestures might seem insignificant to our eyes, but in God’s eyes they are eternal, because love and compassion are stronger than death.

May the Virgin Mary, Queen of All Saints, help us to trust more in God’s grace, to walk with speed on the way of holiness. We entrust to our Mother our daily endeavor, and we pray to her also for our dead in the profound hope of meeting again one day, all together, in the glorious communion of Heaven.

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Pope’s Homily at Mass for Cardinals, Bishops Who’ve Died This Year

Vatican City, November 03, 2015

At 11:30 this morning, Pope Francis presided over a Eucharistic Celebration at the Altar of the Chair of the Vatican Basilica, in suffrage for the Cardinals and Bishops deceased during the course of the year.

Here is a translation of the Pope’s homily.

* * * 

Today we remember the Brother Cardinals and Bishops deceased in the last year. On this earth they loved the Church, their Bride, and we pray that they might enjoy full joy in God in the Communion of Saints.

We also think again with gratitude of the vocation of these sacred Ministers: as the word indicates, it is first of all to minister or to serve. While we ask for them the reward promised to “good and faithful servants” (cf. Matthew 25:14-30), we are called to renew the choice to serve in the Church. The Lord asks this of us, who, like a servant, washed the feet of His closest disciples, so that we would also do as He did (cf. John 13:14-15). God was the first to serve us. Jesus’ minister, who comes to serve and not to be served (cf. Mark 10:45), cannot but be in turn a Pastor ready to give his life for his sheep. One who serves and gives, seems to be a loser in the eyes of the world. In reality, by losing one’s life one finds it again. Because a life that is despoiled of itself, losing itself in love, imitates Christ, overcomes death and gives life to the world. One who serves, saves. On the contrary, one who does not live to serve, is of no use to live.

The Gospel reminds us of this. “God so loved the world,” says Jesus (v. 16). It is, truly, about concrete love, so concrete that He took our death upon himself. To save us, He reached us where we had ended, alienating ourselves from God giver of life: in death, in a sepulcher without exit. This is the abasement that the Son of God underwent, bending down as a servant to us to assume all that is ours, to the point of opening wide the doors of life.

In the Gospel Christ compares himself to the “raised serpent.” The image refers to the episode of the poisonous serpents, which attacked the pilgrimaging people in the desert (cf. Numbers 21:4-9). The Israelites that were bitten by the serpents, did not die but stayed alive if they looked at the bronze serpent that Moses, by order of God, had raised on a pole. A serpent saved from serpents. The same logic is present in the cross, to which Christ refers speaking to Nicodemus. His death saves us from our death. In the desert serpents inflicted a painful death, preceded by fear and caused by venomous bites. In our eyes death also always seems dark and anguishing. As we experience it, it entered the world because of the devil’s envy, Scripture tells us (cf. Wisdom 2:24) Jesus, however, did not flee from it but took it fully upon himself with all its contradictions. Now we, looking at Him, believing in Him, are saved by Him. “He who believes in the Son has eternal life,” Jesus repeats twice in the brief passage of today’s Gospel (cf. VV. 15.16).

This style of God, which saves us by serving us and annihilating himself, has much to teach us. We would expect a triumphant divine victory; instead, Jesus shows us an extremely humble victory. Raised on the cross, he allows evil and death to rage against Him while He continues to love. It is difficult for us to accept this reality. It is a mystery, but the secret of this mystery, of this extraordinary humility is altogether in the strength of love. In Jesus’ Easter we see at the same time death and the remedy to death, and this is possible because of the great love with which God has loved us, because of the humble love that abases itself, because of the service that is able to assume the condition of the servant. Thus Jesus not only took away evil, but He transformed it into good, not in appearance, but in essence, not on the surface, but at the root. He made of the cross a bridge to life. We can also conquer with Him, if we choose helpful and humble love, which remains victorious for eternity. It is a love that does not cry out and does not impose itself, but is able to wait with trust and patience because -- as the Book of Lamentations reminded us -- “it is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord” (3:26).

“God so loved the world.” We are led to love what we feel we are in need of and desire. God, instead, loves the world to the end, namely us, as we are. In this Eucharist He also comes to serve us, to give us the life that saves from death and fills with hope. While we offer this Mass for our dear Brother Cardinals and Bishops, we ask for ourselves what the Apostle Paul exhorts us: “set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2); love of God and of our neighbor, more than of our needs. We must not be concerned about what we are lacking down here, but about the treasure up there; not for what is useful to us but what is really useful. May the Lord’s Easter be sufficient for us, to be free of the anxiety for ephemeral things, which pass and vanish into nothing. May He be enough, in whom are life, salvation, resurrection and joy. Then we will be servants according to His heart: not functionaries that serve, but loved children that give their life for the world.

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General Audience: On Giving and Receiving Forgiveness in the Family

Rome, November 04, 2015

Here is a translation of the address Pope Francis gave at this morning’s general audience in Saint Peter’s Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

The Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which ended a short while ago, reflected in depth on the vocation and mission of the family in the life of the Church and of contemporary society. It was an event of grace. At the end the Synodal Fathers gave me the text of their conclusions. I wanted this text to be published so that all would be participants in the work that has seen us committed together for two years. This is not the moment to examine those conclusions, on which I myself must meditate.

In the meantime, however, life does not stop, in particular the life of families does not stop! You, dear families, are always moving forward. And you already write continually, in the pages of concrete life, the beauty of the Gospel of the Family. In a world that at times becomes arid of life and love, you speak every day of the great gifts that marriage and the family are.

Today I would like to stress this aspect: that the family is a great training ground of gift and of mutual forgiveness, without which no love can last for long; without giving oneself and without forgiving one another love does not remain, it does not last! In the prayer that Jesus himself taught us – namely the Our Father – He has us ask the Father: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” And at the end He comments: “”For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:12.14-15). We cannot live without forgiving one another, or at least we cannot live well, especially in the family. Every day we wrong one another. We must take these mistakes into account, which are due to our fragility and our egoism.

What we are asked, however, is to heal immediately the wounds we cause, to reweave the threads that we break in the family. If we wait too long, everything becomes more difficult. And there is a simple secret to heal the wounds and to break off the accusations: not to let the day end without apologizing to one another, without making peace between husband and wife, between parents and children, between brothers and sisters ... between daughter-in-law and mother-in-law! If we learn to apologize immediately and to forgive one another, the wounds heal, the marriage is strengthened, and the family becomes an ever more solid home, which resist the knocks of our little and great spiteful acts. And for this, a great speech is not necessary; a caress is enough and everything begins again. But do not end the day in war!

If we learn to live thus in the family, we do so also outside, wherever we find ourselves. It is easy to be skeptical about this. Many – also among Christians – think that it is an exaggeration. It is said: yes, they are beautiful words, but it’s impossible to put them into practice. However, thank God, this isn’t so. In fact, it is precisely by receiving forgiveness from God that we are capable, in turn, to forgive others. Therefore Jesus has us repeat these words every time that we recite the prayer of the Our Father, namely every day. And it is indispensable that, in a society that is sometimes merciless, there are places, such as the family, where we can learn to forgive one another.

The Synod revived our hope also on this: the capacity to forgive and to forgive one another is part of the vocation and mission of the family. The practice of forgiveness not only saves families from division, but renders them capable of helping society to be less evil and less cruel. Yes, every gesture of forgiveness repairs the cracks of the home and consolidates its walls. Dear families, the Church is always by your side to help you to build your home on the rock of which Jesus spoke. And let us not forget these words that precede immediately the parable of the house: “Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of my Father.” And he adds: “On that day many will say to me , ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you’” (cf. Matthew 7:21-23).  It is a strong statement, no doubt, which has the purpose to shake us and to call us to conversion.

I assure you, dear families, that if you are capable of walking ever more decisively on the way of the Beatitudes, learning and teaching to forgive one another mutually, the capacity will grow, in the whole great family of the Church, to give witness of the renewing strength of God’s forgiveness. Otherwise, we might engage in very beautiful preaching, and perhaps even cast out a devil, but at the end the Lord will not recognize us as his disciples because we did not have the capacity to forgive and to be forgiven by others!

Truly Christian families can do much for today’s society, and also for the Church. Therefore I desire that, in the Jubilee of Mercy, families rediscover the treasure of mutual forgiveness. Let us pray that families will are increasingly capable of living and building concrete ways of reconciliation, where no one feels abandoned to the weight of his debts.

With this intention, we say together: “Our Father, forgive us our trespasses, as we also forgive those who trespass against us.”

 [Greeting in English:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters: Following the recent Assembly of the Synod of Bishops which reflected on the vocation and mission of the family, today we reflect on the importance of the family as the place where we learn the value of forgiveness. Each day, in the words of the Our Father , we ask God to forgive us and to grant us the grace to forgive others. As difficult as forgiveness may be, it is essential for our personal growth, our capacity to acknowledge our failures and to mend broken relationships. It is a virtue we learn first in the family. Forgiveness strengthens families in love and, through them, makes society as a whole more loving and humane. It is a solid rock on which to build our lives and an eloquent sign of our Christian discipleship and obedience to the Father’s will. May the coming Jubilee of Mercy encourage families everywhere to rediscover the power of forgiveness, and enable the great family of the Church to proclaim the power of God’s reconciling love at work in our world.

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Pope's Morning Homily: Christians Can't Be Cliquey

Rome, November 05, 2015

Christians shouldn't be cliquey, says Pope Francis, who in today's morning Mass warned against the Pharisees' tendency to exclude others.

Vatican Radio reported on the Pope's homily at the Casa Santa Marta, which he drew from today's readings from St. Paul and the Gospel of Luke.

In the Letter to the Romans, Saint Paul exhorts us not to judge and not to despise our brothers, because, the Pope said, this leads to excluding them from “our little group,” to being selective, "and this is not Christian.” Christ, in fact, “with His sacrifice on Calvary” unites and includes “all men in salvation.” In the Gospel, publicans and sinners draw near to Jesus – “that is, the excluded, all those that were outside,” – and “the Pharisees and the scribes complained”:

“The attitude of the Scribes and the Pharisees is the same, they exclude. [They say,] ‘We are the perfect, we follow the law. These people are sinners, they are publicans’; and the attitude of Jesus is to include. There are two paths in life: the path of exclusion of persons from our community and the path of inclusion. The first can be little but is the root of all wars: all calamities, all wars, begin with an exclusion. One is excluded from the international community, but also from families, from friends – How many fights there are! – and the path that makes us see Jesus and teaches us Jesus is quite another, it is contrary to the other: to include.”

“It is not easy to include people,” Pope Francis said, “because there is resistance, there is that selective attitude.” For this reason, Jesus tells two parables: the parable of the lost sheep, and the parable of the woman and the lost coin. Both the shepherd and the woman will do anything to find what they have lost, and when they find it, they are full of joy:

“They are full of joy because they have found what was lost and they go to their neighbours, their friends, because they are so happy: ‘I found, I included.’ This is the ‘including’ of God, against the exclusion of those who judge, who drive away people, persons: ‘No, no to this, no to that, no to that…’; and a little of circle of friends is created, which is their environment. It is a dialectic between exclusion and inclusion. God has included us all in salvation, all! This is the beginning. We with our weaknesses, with our sins, with our envy, jealousies, we all have this attitude of excluding which – as I said – can end in wars.”

Jesus, the Pope said, acts like His Father, Who sent Him to save us; “He seeks to include us,” “to be a family.”

“We think a little bit, and at least – at least! – we do our little part, we never judge: ‘But this one has acted in this way…’ But God knows: it is his life, but I don’t exclude him from my heart, from my prayer, from my greeting, from my smile, and if the occasion arises I say a good word to him. Never excluding, we have no right! And how Paul finishes the Letter: ‘We shall all stand before the judgment seat of God . . .  then each of us shall give an account of himself to God.’ If I exclude I will one day stand before the judgment seat of God, I will have to give an account of myself to God. Let us ask the grace of being men and women who always include, always, always! in the measure of healthy prudence, but always. Not closing the doors to anyone, always with an open heart: ‘It pleases me, it displeases me,’ but the heart is open. May the Lord grant us this grace.”

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Pope's Message to Cardinal Koch for Global Christian Forum Consultation

Rome, November 05, 2015

Here is the text of the Pope's message to Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, regarding the Global Christian Forum Consulation, which just concluded in Albania.

The Vatican released the message today.

* * *

His Eminence Cardinal Kurt Koch President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity

I extend greetings to you and all those participating in the Global Christian Forum Consultation, to be held in Tirana from 2 to 4 November 2015, as you reflect on the theme "Discrimination, persecution, martyrdom: following Christ together". In a particular way, I wish to greet our brothers and sisters of different Christian traditions who represent communities suffering for their profession of faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour.

I think with great sadness of the escalating discrimination and persecution against Christians in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and elsewhere throughout the world. Your gathering shows that, as Christians, we are not indifferent to our suffering brothers and sisters.

In various parts of the world, the witness to Christ, even to the shedding of blood, has become a shared experience of Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans, Protestants, Evangelicals and Pentecostals, which is deeper and stronger than the differences which still separate our Churches and Ecclesial Communities.

The communio martyrum is the greatest sign of our journeying together. At the same time, your gathering will give voice to the victims of such injustice and violence, and seek to show the path that will lead the human family out of this tragic situation.

With these sentiments, I assure you of my spiritual closeness. May the martyrs of today, belonging to many Christian traditions, help us to understand that all the baptised are members of the same Body of Christ, his Church (cf. I Cor 12:12-30). Let us see this profound truth as a call to persevere on our ecumenical journey towards full and visible communion, growing more and more in love and mutual understanding.

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Pope Gives Interview to Dutch Paper Published by Homeless

Rome, November 06, 2015

The Dutch newspaper “Straatnieuws”, published by the homeless, today published an interview granted by Pope Francis on 27 October. The article is also present in other dailies of the same type associated with the International Network of Street Papers (INSP), which has 113 members. This type of publication is sold directly by the homeless, thus providing them with a source of income.

The following are extensive extracts from the interview, especially with the theme of poverty. 

* * *

Interviewer: What is the Church's message for the homeless? What does Christian solidarity mean for them in practice?

Pope Francis: “Two things come to mind. Jesus came to the world homeless, and made Himself poor. Then, the Church wishes to embrace all and to say that it is a right to have a roof over your head. In popular movements they work according to the three Spanish 't's: trabajo (work), techo (casa) and tierra (earth). The Church teaches that every person has a right to all three”.

Interviewer: You often ask for attention to the poor and refugees. Do you not fear that in this way a sort of weariness in relation to this theme may be generated in the mass media or in society in general?

Pope Francis: “When we return to a theme that is not pleasant, because it is disagreeable to talk about it, we are all tempted to say. 'That's enough, I am tired of this'. I feel that this weariness exists, but I am not afraid of it. I must continue to speak the truth and say how these things are”.

Interviewer: Are you not afraid that your defence of solidarity and assistance for the homeless and other poor people may be exploited politically? How should the Church speak in order to be influential and at the same time remain external to political affiliations?

Pope Francis: “There are roads that lead to errors in this regard. I would like to underline two temptations. The Church must speak truthfully and also by her witness: the witness of poverty. If a believer speaks about poverty or the homeless and lives like a pharaoh, this is not good. This is the first temptation.

“The second temptation is to make agreements with governments. Agreements can be made but they must be clear and transparent. For example, we manage this building, but the accounts are all audited, in order to avoid corruption, as there is always the temptation to corruption in public life, both political and religious. … Once I asked a question to a minister in Argentina, an honest man – one who left his post because he could not reconcile himself with various obscure aspects. I asked him: when you give assistance in the form of meals, clothing or money to the poor and needy, what percentage of what you send arrives? And he answered, 35 per cent. That means that 65 per cent is lost. It is corruption: a cut for me, another cut for you”.

Interviewer: Your namesake St. Francis chose radical poverty and even sold his evangeliarium. As the Pope, and bishop of Rome, do you ever feel under pressure to sell the Church's treasures?

Pope Francis: “This is an easy question. They are not the treasures of the Church, they are treasures of humanity. For example, if tomorrow I decide to put Michelangelo's Pieta up for auction, I cannot do this, since it is not the property of the Church. It is kept in a church but it belongs to humanity. This is true of all the treasures of the Church. But we have started to sell gifts and other things that are given to me, and the proceeds from sales go to Msgr. Krajewski, who is my almoner. Then there is the lottery. There were cars that have all been sold or given away with a lottery and the proceeds are used for the poor. There are things that can be sold, and we sell these”.

Interviewer: Are you aware that the wealth of the Church can give rise to this type of expectation?

Pope Francis: “Yes, if we make a catalogue of the assets of the Church, it seems that the Church is very rich. But when the Concordat was made with Italy in 1929 on the Roman Question, the Italian government at the time offered to the Church a large park in Rome. And the then Pope Pius XI said no, I would like just half a square kilometre to guarantee the Church's independence. This principle still stands.

“Yes, the real estate of the Church is considerable, but we use it to maintain the structures of the Church and to maintain many works that are carried out in countries in need: hospitals and schools. Yesterday, for example, I asked for 50,000 euros to be sent to Congo to build three schools in poor villages, as education is important for children. They went to the competent administration, I made the request, and the money was sent”.

Interviewer: Holy Father, is it possible to imagine a world without the poor?

Pope Francis: “I would like a world without the poor. We must fight for this. But I am a believer and I know that sin is always within us. And there is always human greed, the lack of solidarity, the selfishness that creates poverty. Therefore, would seem difficult to me to imagine a world without the poor. If you think about children exploited for slave labour, or sexually abused children. And another form of exploitation: children killed for the trafficking of organs. Killing children to remove their organs is greed. Therefore, I do not know if we will be able to make a world without poverty, because sin is always there and leads to selfishness. But we must always fight, always ...”.

-------------------------------------------------------

Pope’s Address to Italian Pro-Life Movement

Rome, November 06, 2015

Here is a translation of the Pope’s address to participants in the 35th Italian National Congress of Centers of Aid to Life.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Pro-Life Movement!

You have come to Rome from all parts of Italy to take part in your National Congress and to renew once again your commitment to defend and promote human life. I greet you all cordially, beginning with your President, whom I thank for the words with which he introduced this meeting. I encourage you to continue your important work in favor of life from conception to its natural end, also taking into account the deeply-felt conditions that so many brothers and sisters must face and sometimes suffer.

In the existential dynamics everything is in relation, and one must nurture personal and social sensibility be it in the reception of a new life be it in those situations of poverty and exploitation that strike the weakest and most disadvantaged persons. If on one hand “How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, … if we fail to protect a human embryo,” (Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’, 120), on the other hand “human life is itself a gift which must be defended from various forms of debasement” (Ibid., 5). In fact, we witness with sorrow that many persons are tried by difficult conditions of life, which call for our attention and our solidaristic commitment.

Yours is not only a social service, although rightful and noble. For Christ’s disciples, to help wounded human life means to go and encounter persons in need, to put oneself at their side, to take charge of their fragility and pain, so that they can rise again. How many families are vulnerable because of poverty, sickness, lack of work and of a house! How many elderly endure the weight of suffering and of loneliness! How many young people are lost, menaced by dependences and other slaveries, and who wait to find confidence again in life! These persons, wounded in body and spirit, are icons of that man of the Gospel that, traveling on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, fell into the hands of brigands that robbed and beat him. He first felt the indifference of some and then the closeness of the Good Samaritan (cf. Luke 10:30-37).

On that road, which crosses the desert of life, in our time also there are so many wounded, because of today’s brigands, who strip them not only of their goods but also of their dignity. And in face of the pain and the needs of these vulnerable brothers of ours, some turn away and go on, while others stop and respond with generous dedication  to their cry for help. You, adherents of the Pro-Life Movement, have sought, in forty years of activity, to imitate the Good Samaritan. In face of various forms of menaces to human life, you have approached the fragility of your neighbor, and have worked so that those that live in precarious conditions are not excluded and discarded. Through the capillary endeavor of the “Centers of Aid to Life,” spread throughout Italy, you have been occasions of hope and rebirth for so many persons.

I thank you for the good you have done and do with so much love, and I encourage you to continue with confidence on this path, continuing to be Good Samaritans! Do not tire of working for the protection of the most vulnerable persons, who have the right to be born to life, as well as of all those that ask for a healthier and more fitting existence. In particular, there is need to work, at different levels and with perseverance, in the promotion and defense of the family, first resource of society, especially in reference to the gift of children and the affirmation of the dignity of woman. In this connection, I am pleased to stress that in your activity, you have always received everyone, regardless of their religion and nationality. The important number of women, especially immigrants, that turn to your Centers shows that when a concrete support is offered, a woman, notwithstanding her problems and conditionings, is able to have triumph within herself the meaning of love, of life and of maternity.

Dear brothers and sisters, I am certain that your activity, but even before that your spirituality, will receive a special benefit from the imminent Holy Year of Mercy. May it be for you a strong stimulus to interior renewal, to become “merciful as our Father is merciful” (cf. Luke 6:36). I entrust each one of you and all your projects of goodness to Mary, Mother of the living. I accompany you with my blessing and I ask you, please, to pray for me.

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Who Gives the Pope Joy?

Rome, November 06, 2015

In his morning homily today, Pope Francis reiterated one of his favorite points about the Church: that it must be a poor Church at the service of others.

The Pope spoke of poverty today at Casa Santa Marta, Vatican Radio reported, as the issue of poverty and finances is in Vatican news for two other reasons.

An interview the Pope gave to a Dutch newspaper produced by the homeless was published today, and this week in Rome, two books were released rehashing accusations of Vatican financial mismanagement.

In the Pope’s homily, he said there are people in the Church who “instead of serving, of thinking of others, of laying the foundations, are served by the Church: ‘climbers,’ those who are attached to money. And how many priests and Bishops like this have we seen? It’s sad to speak of it, isn’t it? The radical character of the Gospel, of the call of Jesus Christ: to serve, to be at the service [of others], of not stopping for oneself, going out to others always, being forgetful of oneself. 

“And the comfort of the state: I have reached a certain state and I live comfortably, without integrity, like those Pharisees Jesus spoke about, who go out into the public square to be seen by others.”

But, the Pope said that he is given great joy by meeting the many people in the Church who are dedicated to serving like Christ.

“I tell you how much joy I have,” Pope Francis said, “what moves me, when in this Mass some priests come up and greet me: ‘O Father, I have come here to find my own people, because for 40 years I have been a missionary in the Amazon.’ Or a sister who says, ‘I have worked for 30 years in a hospital in Africa.’ Or when I find a little sister who for 30, 40 years is working in the department of the hospital with the disabled, always smiling. This is called ‘serving,’ this is the joy of the Church: going out to others, always; going out to others and giving life. This is what Paul did: serving.”

Jesus, the Pope said, “makes us see this model in Paul,” this “Church that never stops” that “always goes forward and shows us the path.”

Saint Paul “boasts of serving Him, of being chosen, of having the strength of the Holy Spirit.”

He was the servant who served, the Pope said, “he ministered, laying the foundation, that is, announcing Jesus Christ” and “he never stopped to take advantage of his position, of his authority, of being served. He was a minister, a servant in order to serve, not to be served.”

 “Instead,” the Pope said, “when the Church is tepid, closed in on itself, businesslike, it cannot be said to be a Church that serves, that is at the service [of others], but rather [it must be said] that it is using others. May the Lord give us the grace He gave to Paul, that point of pride of always going forward, always, renouncing, time and again, its own comfort; and may He save us from temptations, from those temptations which at their base are temptations to a double life: I see myself as a minister, that is, as one who serves, but at the base I am served by others.”

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Angelus Address: On the Poor Widow's Offering

Rome, November 08, 2015

Here is a working translation of the address Pope Francis gave today in St. Peter's Square before and after praying the midday Angelus. The translation is provided by Basilian Fr. Thomas Rosica, English-language assistant for the Vatican press office.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning... on such a beautiful, sunny day!  

The Gospel passage of this Sunday is composed of two parts: one that describes how not to be followers of Christ; the other proposes an ideal model of a Christian. Let's start first: what not to do. In the first part, Jesus criticizes the scribes, teachers of the law, for three defects that occur in their lifestyle: pride, greed and hypocrisy. They like to "receive greetings in the marketplaces, have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets" (Mark 12:38-39). But under such solemn appearances they are hiding falsehood and injustice .

While strutting around in public, they use their authority – as Jesus says - to "devour widows' houses" (v.40), who were considered, along with orphans and foreigners, to be the people most vulnerable and least protected. Finally, Jesus says that the scribes, "pray for a long time to be seen" (v. 40). There is a risk that these attitudes exist even in our day. For example when prayer is separated from justice, because we cannot worship God and cause harm to the poor. Or when one claims to love God, and instead offers God one’s vainglory, to one’s own advantage.

The second part of the Gospel follows this line of thought. The scene is set in the temple of Jerusalem, precisely in the place where people threw coins as offerings. There are many rich people who pay a lot of money, and there is a poor woman - a widow - just contributing two mites, two small coins. Jesus observes the woman carefully and calls the attention of the disciples to this sharp, contrasting scene.

The rich have given with great show what for them was superfluous, while the widow, with discretion and humility, gave - Jesus says - "all she had to live" (v. 44); for this – Jesus says – she gave the most of all. Because of her extreme poverty, she could have offered a single coin for the temple and kept the other for herself. But she does not want to just give half to God; she deprived herself of everything. In her poverty she understood that having God, she has everything; she feels totally loved by Him and in turn loves Him totally. What a beautiful example this old woman offers us!   

Today Jesus also tells us that the measurement is not the quantity but the fullness. There is a difference. It is not a question of the wallet, but of the heart. There are heart diseases that lower the heart to the portfolio. To love God "with all your heart" means to trust Him, to trust in His providence, and to serve him in the poorest brothers and sisters without expecting anything in return. Faced with the needs of others, we are called to deprive ourselves of essential things, not only the superfluous; we are called to give the necessary time, not only what remains extra; we are called to give immediately and unconditionally some of our talent, not after using it for our own purposes or our own group.

Let us ask the Lord to admit us to the school of this poor widow, whom Jesus places in the teaching chair and presents as a teacher of the living Gospel even in the bewilderment of the disciples. Through the intercession of Mary, the poor woman who gave her life to God for us, ask for the gift of a poor heart, but rich in generosity that is happy and free.

[Praying of the Angelus:]

[Following the Angelus address, the Pope spoke these words about the recent leaking of documents:]

Dear brothers and Sisters,

I know that many of you have been upset by the news circulating in recent days concerning the Holy See’s confidential documents that were taken and published. For this reason I want to tell you, first of all, that stealing those documents was a crime. It’s a deplorable act that does not help. I personally had asked for that study to be carried out and both I and my advisers were well acquainted with (the contents of) those documents and steps have been taken that have started to bear fruit, some of them even visible.

Therefore I wish to reassure you that this sad event certainly does not deter me from the reform project that we are carrying out, together with my advisers and with the support of all of you.  Yes, with the support of the whole Church because the Church renews itself with prayer and the daily holiness of each baptized person.

I therefore thank you and ask you to continue to pray for the Pope and the Church, without getting upset or troubled but proceeding with faith and hope.

------------------------------------------- 

Pope’s Address to Social Security Institute

Rome, November 09, 2015

Here is a translation of the address Pope Francis gave Saturday to directors and dependents of the the National Institute of Social Security of Italy.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

With earnest cordiality I greet you, dependents and directors of the National Institute of Social Security, gathered here in audience for the first time in the secular history of the entity. Thank you so much! Thank you for your presence – you are really numerous! – and thank you to your President for his courteous words.

You carry out at several levels the task of protecting rights linked to the exercise of work; rights based on the nature itself of the human person and on his transcendent dignity. Entrusted in a particular way to your concern is, what I would like to describe as, the protection of the right to rest. I am referring not only to that rest that is upheld and legitimized by an ample series of social services (from the weekly day of rest to holidays – here every worker has a right: cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Laborem Exercens, 19) but also and above all to a dimension of the human being that is not lacking in spiritual roots and for which you also, on your part, are responsible.

God called man to rest (cf. Exodus 34:21; Deuteronomy 5:12.15) and He himself wants to be participant in the seventh day (cf. Exodus 31:17; Genesis 2:2). In the language of faith, therefore, rest is a human and divine dimension at the same time. But with a unique prerogative: that of not being a simple abstention of ordinary toil and commitment, but an occasion to live fully one’s creatureliness, raised to filial dignity by God himself. Therefore, the need to “sanctify” rest  (cf. Exodus 20:8) is linked to that re-proposed weekly by Sunday –  a time that enables one to take care of family, cultural, social and religious life (Second Ecumenical Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 67).

You are also, in a certain sense, collaborators of the just rest of God’s children. In the multiplicity of services that you render to society, both in terms of care and security, you contribute to lay the bases so that rest can be lived as a genuinely human dimension and, therefore, open to the possibility of a living encounter with God and others.

This, which is an honor, becomes at the same time a burden. In fact, you are called to face ever more complex challenges. They stem be it from today’s society, with the criticality of its balances and the fragility of its relations, be it from the world of work, plagued by occupational insufficiency and by the precariousness of the guarantees that it is able to offer. And if one lives like this, how can one rest? Rest is the right we all have when we have work; however, if the situation of unemployment, of social injustice, of black labor, of precariousness of work is so strong, how can one rest? What should we say? We can say it is shameful!. “Ah, you want to work?” – “Yes!” --. “Very good. Let’s come to an agreement: you begin to work in September but until July, and, after July, August and part of September you don’t eat and you don’t rest.” This is happening today! And it is happening today in the whole world. And here, it is also happening today in Rome! Rest, because there is work, otherwise, one cannot rest.

Common, rather, up to some time ago, was to associate the end of the pension to the reaching of the so-called third age, in which to enjoy a merited rest and offer wisdom and counsel to the new generations. The contemporary age has sensibly changed these rhythms. On one hand, the eventuality of rest has been anticipated, sometimes diluted in time, sometimes renegotiated to aberrant extremes, as that which succeeds in perverting the hypothesis itself of the cessation of work. On the other hand, the need of care remained, both for one who lost or never had work, as well as for one was constrained to interrupt it for different reasons. If one interrupts one’s work health care collapses ....

Your difficult task is to see that indispensable subventions are not lacking for the subsistence of unemployed workers and their families. Among your priorities, special care for feminine work must not be lacking, as well as maternity care, which must always protect nascent life and one who serves it daily. Protect women, the work of women! Insurance for old age, sickness, accidents linked to work must not be lacking. The right to a pension must not be lacking and I underline the right – a pension is a right! – as it is about this. Be conscious of the lofty dignity of each worker, to whose service your work is dedicated. By supporting their income during and after their time of work you contribute to the quality of their commitment as investment for a life to the measure of man.

Moreover, to work means to prolong God’s work in history, contributing to it in a personal, useful and creative way (cf. Ibid., 34). By supporting work you support this work itself. And, in addition, by guaranteeing a fitting subsistence to one who must leave work activity, you reaffirm the most profound reality: work, in fact, cannot be a mere gear in the perverse mechanism that grinds resources to obtain ever greater profits. Hence, work cannot be prolonged or reduced in function of the earnings of a few and of productive forms that sacrifice values, relations and principles. This is true for the economy in general, “can no longer turn to remedies that are a new poison, such as attempting to increase profits by reducing the work force and thereby adding to the ranks of the excluded” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 204). And it is true, analogously, for all social institutions, whose principle, subject and end is and must be the human person (cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 25). His dignity can never be harmed, not even when he ceases to be economically productive.

Some of you might think: “But how strange this Pope is: first he speaks of rest, and then he says all these things about the right to work!” They are connected things! True rest comes precisely from work! One can rest when one is sure of having a secure job, which gives one dignity, to oneself and to one’s family. And one can rest when in old age one is sure of having a pension, which is a right. Both are connected: true rest and work.

Man must not be forgotten: this is the imperative. Man must be loved and served with care, responsibility and availability. To work for one who works, and not the last who would like to do so but cannot. And to do so, not as a work of solidarity but as a duty of justice and subsidiarity. Support the weakest, so that no one lacks the dignity and freedom to live an authentically human life.

Thank you so much for this meeting. I invoke upon each of you and upon your families the Lord’s blessing. I assure you of my remembrance in prayer and I ask you, please, to pray for me.

--------------------------------------------

Angelus Address: On the Poor Widow's Offering

Rome, November 08, 2015

Here is a working translation of the address Pope Francis gave today in St. Peter's Square before and after praying the midday Angelus. The translation is provided by Basilian Fr. Thomas Rosica, English-language assistant for the Vatican press office.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning... on such a beautiful, sunny day!  

The Gospel passage of this Sunday is composed of two parts: one that describes how not to be followers of Christ; the other proposes an ideal model of a Christian. Let's start first: what not to do. In the first part, Jesus criticizes the scribes, teachers of the law, for three defects that occur in their lifestyle: pride, greed and hypocrisy. They like to "receive greetings in the marketplaces, have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets" (Mark 12:38-39). But under such solemn appearances they are hiding falsehood and injustice .

While strutting around in public, they use their authority – as Jesus says - to "devour widows' houses" (v.40), who were considered, along with orphans and foreigners, to be the people most vulnerable and least protected. Finally, Jesus says that the scribes, "pray for a long time to be seen" (v. 40). There is a risk that these attitudes exist even in our day. For example when prayer is separated from justice, because we cannot worship God and cause harm to the poor. Or when one claims to love God, and instead offers God one’s vainglory, to one’s own advantage.

The second part of the Gospel follows this line of thought. The scene is set in the temple of Jerusalem, precisely in the place where people threw coins as offerings. There are many rich people who pay a lot of money, and there is a poor woman - a widow - just contributing two mites, two small coins. Jesus observes the woman carefully and calls the attention of the disciples to this sharp, contrasting scene.

The rich have given with great show what for them was superfluous, while the widow, with discretion and humility, gave - Jesus says - "all she had to live" (v. 44); for this – Jesus says – she gave the most of all. Because of her extreme poverty, she could have offered a single coin for the temple and kept the other for herself. But she does not want to just give half to God; she deprived herself of everything. In her poverty she understood that having God, she has everything; she feels totally loved by Him and in turn loves Him totally. What a beautiful example this old woman offers us!   

Today Jesus also tells us that the measurement is not the quantity but the fullness. There is a difference. It is not a question of the wallet, but of the heart. There are heart diseases that lower the heart to the portfolio. To love God "with all your heart" means to trust Him, to trust in His providence, and to serve him in the poorest brothers and sisters without expecting anything in return. Faced with the needs of others, we are called to deprive ourselves of essential things, not only the superfluous; we are called to give the necessary time, not only what remains extra; we are called to give immediately and unconditionally some of our talent, not after using it for our own purposes or our own group.

Allow me to tell you a story that happened in my previous diocese. It is about a mother with her three children.  The father was at work and the family was at table eating veal cutlets alla Milanese.  Just then someone knocked at the door and one of the children - the young one who was five or six years old – the oldest was seven years old – came and said, “Mom, there’s a beggar at the door who is asking for some food.”  And the mother, a good Christian, said, “What should we do?”  “Give him some food” they said. “Ok.” She took the fork and knife and cut each person’s cutlet in half.  “Oh no, Mom! Not like this! Take something from the refrigerator!”  “No, we will make three sandwiches like this!” And thus the children learned that the meaning of true charity means that you give not from what is left over but from what we need. I am certain that that afternoon they were a bit hungry, but this is the way to do it.

Let us ask the Lord to admit us to the school of this poor widow, whom Jesus places in the teaching chair and presents as a teacher of the living Gospel even in the bewilderment of the disciples. Through the intercession of Mary, the poor woman who gave her life to God for us, ask for the gift of a poor heart, but rich in generosity that is happy and free.

[Praying of the Angelus:]

[Following the Angelus address, the Pope spoke these words about the recent leaking of documents:]

Dear brothers and Sisters,

I know that many of you have been upset by the news circulating in recent days concerning the Holy See’s confidential documents that were taken and published. For this reason I want to tell you, first of all, that stealing those documents was a crime. It’s a deplorable act that does not help. I personally had asked for that study to be carried out and both I and my advisers were well acquainted with (the contents of) those documents and steps have been taken that have started to bear fruit, some of them even visible.

Therefore I wish to reassure you that this sad event certainly does not deter me from the reform project that we are carrying out, together with my advisers and with the support of all of you.  Yes, with the support of the whole Church because the Church renews itself with prayer and the daily holiness of each baptized person.

I therefore thank you and ask you to continue to pray for the Pope and the Church, without getting upset or troubled but proceeding with faith and hope.

--------------------------------- 

Pope’s Homily in Florence

Italy, November 10, 2015

Here is a translation of Pope Francis’ homily from a Mass he celebrated on his day-trip to Florence today.

* * *

In today’s Gospel Jesus asks his disciples two questions. The first: “”Who do men say that the Son of Man is?” (Matthew 16:13). It is a question that shows how much Jesus’ heart and look are open to all. Jesus wants to know what the people think, not to content them but to communicate with them. Without knowing what people think, a disciple is isolated and begins to judge the people according to his own thoughts and his own convictions. The only way to be able to help, form and communicate with them is to maintain a healthy contact with the reality, with what the people live, with their tears and their joys. It is the only way to speak to people’s hearts, touching their daily experiences: work, family, health problems, traffic, school, health services. It is the only way to open their hearts to listen to God. In reality, when God wanted to speak with us He incarnated Himself. Jesus’ disciples must never forget from where they were chosen, that is, from among the people, and they must never fall into the temptation to assume detached attitudes, as if what the people think and live does not concern them and is not important for them.

This is true also for us. And the fact that today we are gathered to celebrate Holy Mass in a sports stadium reminds us of it. Like Jesus, the Church lives in the midst of the people and for the people. Therefore, in her whole history the Church has always borne in herself the same question: who is Jesus for the men and women of today?

The holy Pope Leo the Great, native of Tuscany, whose Memoria we celebrate today, also bore this question, this apostolic anxiety in his heart: that all might know Jesus, and to know Him for what He truly is, not a distorted image of him of the philosophies and ideologies of the time. Hence, it is necessary to mature a personal faith in Him. And here, now, is the second question that Jesus asks his disciples: “But who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15). A question that still resounds today in our conscience as His disciples, and it is decisive for our identity and our mission. Only if we acknowledge Jesus in His truth, will we be able to look at the truth of our human condition, and be able to make our contribution to the full humanization of society.

To keep and proclaim correct faith in Jesus Christ is the heart of our Christian identity, because in recognizing the mystery of the Son of God made man we will be able to penetrate the mystery of God and the mystery of man.

Simon answers Jesus’ question: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (v. 16). This answers encloses Peter’s whole mission and summarizes what will become the Petrine ministry for the Church, namely to guard and proclaim the truth of the faith; to defend and promote communion among all the Churches; to keep the discipline of the Church. In this mission Pope Leo was and remains an exemplary model, be it in his luminous teachings, be it in his gestures full of meekness, of compassion and the strength of God.

Also today, dear brothers and sisters, our joy is to share this faith and to respond together to the Lord Jesus: “For us you are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Our joy is also to go against the current and to surmount the current opinion that today, as then, is unable to see in Jesus more than a prophet or a teacher. Our joy is to recognize in him the presence of God, the One sent by the Father, the Son who came to make Himself instrument of salvation for humanity. This profession of faith that Simon Peter proclaimed remains also for us. It does not only represent the foundation of our salvation, but also the way through which it is accomplished and the end to which it tends.

In fact, at the root of the mystery of salvation is the will of a merciful God, who does not want to yield in face of the misunderstanding, the guilt and the misery of man, but He gives Himself to him to the point of making Himself man to meet every person in his/her concrete situation. This merciful love of God is what Simon Peter recognizes on Jesus’ face. The same face that we are called to recognize in the ways in which the Lord has assured us of his presence in our midst: in his Word, which illumines the darkness of our mind and of our heart; in his Sacraments, which regenerate us to new life from every death of ours; in the fraternal communion that the Holy Spirit generates among his disciples; in the boundless love, which makes itself generous and solicitous service to all; in the poor, which reminds us how Jesus wanted the supreme revelation of Himself and of the Father to have the image of the humiliated crucified One.

This truth of the faith is a truth that scandalizes, because it asks to believe in Jesus who, though being God, emptied himself, lowered himself to the condition of a servant, to the point of death on the cross, and therefore God made him Lord of the universe (cf. Philippians 2:6-11). It is the truth that again today scandalizes one who does not tolerate the mystery of God printed on the face of Christ. It is the truth that we cannot touch and embrace without – as Saint Paul says – entering in the mystery of Jesus Christ, and without making his sentiments our own (cf. Philippians 2:5). Only from Christ’s Heart can we understand, profess and live His truth.

In reality, communion between the divine and human, realized fully in Jesus, is our end, the point of arrival of human history according to the Father’s plan. It is the beatitude of the encounter between our weakness and His greatness, between our littleness and his mercy, which will fill our limit. However this end is not only the horizon that illumines our way but it is what attracts us with its gentle strength; it is what one begins to relish and to live, which is built day after day with every good that we sow around us. These are the seeds that contribute to create a new humanity, renewed, where no one is left on the margins or discarded; where the one who serves is the greatest; where the little and the poor are received and helped.

God and man are not two extremes of an opposition: they have always been seeking one another, because God recognizes in man His own image and man recognizes himself only by looking at God. This is true wisdom, which the Book of Sirach points out as the characteristic of one who adheres to the following of the Lord. It is the wisdom of Saint Leo the Great, fruit of the convergence of several elements: word, intelligence, prayer, teaching and memory. But Saint Leo reminds us also that there cannot be true wisdom except in the bond with Christ and in the service of the Church. This is the way on which we cross humanity and can encounter it with the spirit of the Good Samaritan. It is no accident that humanism, of which Florence was witness in its most creative moments, has always had the face of charity. May this legacy be fruitful of a new humanism for this city and for the whole of Italy.

-------------------------------------------------------------

Pope’s Address to People of Prato, Italy

Italy, November 10, 2015

The Holy Father Francis left the Vatican by helicopter at 7 o’clock this morning, to go to Prato and Florence, on the occasion of the 5th National Congress of the Church in Italy.

On his arrival at the Lungobisenzio sports field, the Pope was received by the Bishop, Franco Agostinelli; by the Prefect, Dr. Maria Laura Simonetti, and by the Mayor, Dr. Matteo Biffoni.

The Holy Father then went by car to the Cathedral, where he venerated the relic of the “Holy Sash” of Our Lady and greeted the Members of the Chapter, a group of sick persons, some elderly priests and some cloistered nuns.

Pope Francis then appeared on the exterior pulpit of the Cathedral for his meeting with the faithful gathered in the Square below and, after the greeting of the Bishop of Prato, H.E. Monsignor Franco Agostinelli, he gave the following address that we translate below.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

I thank your Bishop, Monsignor Agostinelli, for the very courteous words he addressed to me. I greet you all affectionately and those that cannot be physically present here, in particular sick and elderly persons and those detained in the district house.

I have come as a pilgrim, a pilgrim, passing through! -- not much, but at least there is the will -- to this city rich in history and beauty, which in the course of the centuries has merited the description “Mary’s city.” You are fortunate, because you are in good hands! They are maternal hands that always protect, open to receive. You are also privileged because you keep the relic of the “Holy Sash” of Our Lady, which I have just been able to visit.

This sign of blessing for your city suggests some thoughts to me, inspired also by the Word of God. The first refers us to the journey of salvation that the people of Israel undertook, from the slavery of Egypt to the Promised Land. Before liberating them, the Lord asked them to celebrate the Passover supper and to consume it in a particular way: “with their loins girded” (Exodus 12:11). To gird one’s loins means to be ready; to prepare to leave; to go out to start on the way. The Lord exhorts us to this also today, today more than ever: not to remain closed in indifference, but to open ourselves; to feel that we are, all of us, called and ready to leave something to reach someone, with whom to share the joy of having encountered the Lord and also the effort to walk on the way. We are asked to go out to get close to the men and women of our time. To go out certainly means to risk – to go out means to risk – but there is no faith without risk. A faith that thinks of itself and is closed at home is not faithful to the invitation of the Lord, who calls his own to take the initiative and involve themselves without fear. In face of the often dizzying transformations of these last years, there is the danger of suffering the whirlwind of events, losing the courage to seek the route. Then the refuge of a safe port is preferred and one refuses to put to sea on the word of Jesus. However the Lord, who wants to reach one who still does not love Him, prods us. He wants to have born in us a renewed missionary passion and He entrusts a great responsibility to us. He asks the Church His Bride to walk on the rough ways of today, to accompany one who has lost the way; to plant tents of hope, in which to receive one who is wounded and no longer expects anything from life. The Lord asks this of us.

He himself gives us the example, coming close to us. In fact, the Holy Sash also recalls the gesture made by Jesus during his Passover supper, when he <laid aside his garments, and girded himself with a towel>, as a servant, and washed the feet of his disciples (cf. John 13:4; Luke 12:37). So that, as He did, so also should we do. We were served by God who made Himself our neighbor, so that we, in turn, would serve one who is close to us. No neighbor can be distant for a disciple of Jesus. In fact, far-off persons do not exist who are too distant, but only close to be reached. I thank you for the constant efforts that your community makes to integrate every person, opposing the culture of indifference and of discarding.  In times marked by uncertainties and fear, your efforts are praiseworthy to support the weakest and families, that you are also committed to “adopt.” While you do your utmost in the search for the best concrete possibilities of inclusion, do not get discouraged in face of the difficulties. Do not be resigned in face of what seem to be difficult situations of coexistence; be animated always by the desire to establish true and proper “pacts of proximity.” There you are, proximity! You must get close to do this.

There is yet another suggestion that I would like to propose to you. Saint Paul invites Christians to put on a particular armor, that of God. He says, in fact, to be clothed with the necessary virtues to face our real enemies, who are never others, but “the spirits of evil.” Truth appears in the first place of this ideal armor: “having girded your loins with truth,” writes the Apostle (Ephesians 6:14). We must gird ourselves with truth. No good can be founded on the schemes of lies and the lack of transparency. To seek and choose truth is not always easy; however, it is a vital decision, which must mark profoundly each one’s existence and also that of society, so that it is more just, so that it is more honest. The sacredness of every human being calls for respect for every one, hospitality and fitting work. Fitting work! I permit myself here to recall the five men and two women of Chinese citizenship who died two years ago in a fire in the industrial area of Prato. They lived and slept inside the industrial shed itself in which they worked: a small dormitory was made in an area with cardboard and plaster cardboard with bunk beds to take advantage of the height of the structure. It is a tragedy of exploitation and of inhuman conditions of life. And this is not fitting work! The life of every community calls for combating in depth  the cancer of corruption., the cancer of human labor exploitation and the poison of illegality. Within ourselves and together with others, let us never tire of fighting for truth and justice. I encourage everyone, especially you young people  -- I was told that you, young people, held an all-night Prayer Vigil yesterday. Thank you, thank you! – and never yield to pessimism and to resignation. Mary is she who with prayer and with love, in active silence, transformed the Saturday of disappointment into the dawn of the Resurrection. If anyone feels exhausted and oppressed by the circumstances of life, count on our Mother, who is close and consoles because she is Mother! She always heartens us and invites us to put our trust again in God. Her Son will not betray our expectations and He will sow in our hearts a hope that does not disappoint. Thank you.

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GENERAL AUDIENCE: On Living and Being Together as a Family

Rome, November 11, 2015

Here is a translation of the address Pope Francis gave this morning at the general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

During these days the Church of Italy is holding its National Congress at Florence -- the Cardinals, Bishops, consecrated, and laymen all together. I invite you to pray a Hail Mary to Our Lady for them [Hail Mary].

Today we will reflect on a characteristic quality of family life, which is learned from the first years of life: fellowship, that is, the attitude of sharing the goods of life and of being happy to be able to do so. To share and to be able to share is a valuable virtue! Its symbol, its “icon” is the family gathered around the domestic table. The sharing of a meal -- and, therefore, in addition to food, also affections, the recounting of events –is a fundamental experience. When there is a celebration, a birthday, an anniversary, it finds us around the table. In some cultures it is typical to do this also when mourning, to be close to one in sorrow because of the loss of a relative.

Fellowship is a sure thermometer to measure the health of relations: if there is in the family something that is not well, or some hidden wound, at the table it is immediately understood. A family that almost never eats together, or that does not speak at the table, but watches television, or looks at smartphones, is a family that is “very little a family.” When children are attached to their computers at the table, to mobile phones, and do not listen to one another, this is not a family, it is a boarding house.

Christianity has a special vocation to fellowship; everyone knows it. The Lord Jesus gladly taught at the table, and sometimes represented the Kingdom of God as a festive invitation. Jesus chose the table also to give his disciples his spiritual testament – he did so at supper – condensed in the memorial gesture of His Sacrifice: gift of His Body and of His Blood as food and drink of salvation, which nourish true and lasting love.

In this perspective, we can well say that the family is “at home” at Mass, precisely because it brings to the Eucharist its own experience of fellowship and opens it to the grace of a universal fellowship, of the love of God for the world.

By participating in the Eucharist, the family is purified from the temptation to shut itself in on itself, fortified in love and fidelity, and stretches the limits of its fraternity according to Christ’s heart.

In this our time, marked by so many closures and too many walls, fellowship, generated by the family and dilated by the Eucharist, becomes a crucial opportunity. The Eucharist and the families nourished by it can surmount the closures and build bridges of hospitality and charity. Yes, the Eucharist of a Church of families, capable of restoring to the community the active leaven of fellowship and mutual hospitality, is a school of human inclusion that is not afraid of confrontations! There are no little ones, orphans, weak ones, vulnerable ones, wounded and disappointed ones, desperate and abandoned ones that the Eucharistic fellowship of families is not able to nourish, refresh, protect and host.

The memory of family virtues helps us to understand. We ourselves have known, and still know, what miracles can happen when a mother has eyes and attention, care giving and care for children other than her own. Up to yesterday, one mother was enough for all the children of the yard! And yet: we know well what strength a people acquire whose parents are ready to move to protect everyone’s children, because they regard children as a joint good, that they are happy and proud to protect.

Today many social contexts put obstacles to family fellowship. It’s true; today it’s not easy. We must find the way to recover it. One speaks at table, one listens at table. There is no silence, that silence that is not the silence of nuns but the silence of egoism, where every one makes do for himself, or there is the television or the computer ... and there is no talking. No, no silence. We must recover that family fellowship although adapting it to the times. It seems that fellowship has become something that is bought and sold, but then it’s something else. And nourishment is not always the symbol of a just sharing of goods, capable of reaching one who does not have bread or affections. In rich countries we are induced to spending for excessive nourishment, and then we are also induced to remedy the excess. And this foolish “business” takes away our attention from real hunger, of the body and of the soul. When there is no fellowship there is egoism, each one thinks of himself. So much so that advertising has reduced it to a weakness for snacks and a desire for sweets. While so many, too many brothers and sisters, remain outside the table. It is somewhat shameful!

Let us look at the mystery of the Eucharistic banquet. The Lord breaks His Body and sheds His Blood for all. Truly, there is no division that can resist this Sacrifice of communion: only a false attitude, of complicity with evil, can exclude from it. Every other distance cannot resist the vulnerable power of the broken bread and poured wine, Sacrament of the one Body of the Lord.

The living and vital alliance of the family, which precedes, supports and embraces, in the dynamism of its hospitality, the daily toils and joys, cooperates with the grace of the Eucharist, which is able to create ever new communion with the strength that includes and saves.

In fact a Christian family will show precisely in this way the breadth of its true horizon, which is the horizon of the Mother Church of all men, of all the abandoned and the excluded, in all peoples.

Let us pray that this family fellowship will be able to grow and mature in the time of grace of the forthcoming Jubilee of Mercy.

[Original text: Italian]

 [Greeting in English:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our continuing catechesis on the family, today we consider the importance of togetherness. Sitting at table for the family dinner, sharing our meal and the experiences of our day, is a fundamental image of togetherness and solidarity. Because Jesus gave us the Eucharist as a meal, there is a close relationship between families and the Mass. The togetherness we experience in our families is meant, in the family of the Church, to extend to all as a sign of God’s universal love. In this way the Eucharist becomes a school of inclusion, in which we learn to be attentive to the needs of everyone. Sadly, the family meal, this great symbol of togetherness, is disappearing in some societies. Food itself, the very sign of our sharing with other, is wantonly wasted in some places, while our brothers and sisters go hungry in others. The Eucharist reminds us that our bread is meant to be shared with all. May our families, and the entire Church, be signs of togetherness and solidarity for the good of the whole human family, especially during the coming Jubilee of Mercy.

I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, including those from the United Kingdom, Denmark, the Netherlands, Ghana, Japan, Korea and the United States of America. Upon you and your families I invoke the Lord’s blessings of joy and peace. God bless you all!

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Pope’s Message for Public Session of the Pontifical Academies

Rome, November 11, 2015

The 20th Public Session of the Pontifical Academies was held Tuesday on the theme: “Ad Limina Petri. Monumental Traces of Pilgrimage in the First Centuries of Christianity.”

The works were introduced by Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture, and by the Council for Coordination between the Pontifical Academies.

In the course of the Session, before awarding the Prize of the Pontifical Academies and the Medal of the Pontificate to this year’s winners, the Cardinal Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, read the Message sent by the Holy Father Francis.

Here is a translation of the text of the Message.

* * *

To the Venerable Brother,

The Lord Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi,

President of the Pontifical Council for Culture

and of the Council for Coordination between the Pontifical Academies

With earnest gratitude I give my cordial welcome to you, Lord Cardinal, and to the distinguished Members of the Pontifical Academies, on the occasion of the 20th Public Session. This manifestation reaches a first significant goal, for which I congratulate you and the Presidents of the Academies, who have shared the project of institutional renewal desired by my Predecessor, Saint John Paul II, and started in 1995, in fact, with the creation of the Council for Coordination between the seven Pontifical Academies that are part of it.

Outstanding certainly among the initiatives geared to appreciating this common path is the Prize destined annually to young scholars, artists and institutions that contributed in an important way, through their studies and works, to the various disciplinary ambits in which the Academies themselves work, to promote Christian humanism and the development of the religious sciences.

The Annual Session, an event that has now become traditional, is the propitious occasion be it to bring together all the academics and to proclaim the winner or winners of the Prize of the Pontifical Academies, be it for a common thematic reflection. Therefore, for all of you present at that ceremony, Cardinals, Bishops, Ambassadors, academics and friends, I express the hope that such Sessions always constitute moments of cultural and interior enrichment, of incitement to an ever more profund  personal and communal commitment, capable of arousing in the Church the desire for a renewed humanism, up to the challenges of our time.

Therefore, I rejoice with you, particularly with the Presidents of the two Pontifical Academies that organized the Session this year -- the Roman of Archaeology and the Cultorum Martyrum --, for the topic chosen, when we are now a few weeks from the opening of the Jubilee of Mercy.

Ad Limina Petri. Monumental Traces of Pilgrimage in the First Centuries of Christianity,” is the thought-provoking title of your meeting, which prepares us for the start of the Holy Year, recalling opportunely attention to pilgrimage as a constitutive element of the Jubilee. In the Bull of Proclamation Misericordiae Vultus, I stressed its importance, affirming that “The practice of pilgrimage has a special place in the Holy Year, because it represents the journey each of us makes in this life. Life itself is a pilgrimage, and the human being is a viator, a pilgrim travelling along the road, making his way to the desired destination. Similarly, to reach the Holy Door in Rome or in any other place in the world, everyone, each according to his or her ability, will have to make a pilgrimage. This will be a sign that mercy is also a goal to reach and requires dedication and sacrifice. May pilgrimage be an impetus to conversion: by crossing the threshold of the Holy Door, we will find the strength to embrace God’s mercy and dedicate ourselves to being merciful with others as the Father has been with us” (n. 14).

Hence, your reflection will contribute to deepen the meaning of the Christian pilgrimage, as evidenced by the ancient testimonies, by the traces left by pilgrims of Christian antiquity in the Roman shrines, to begin with, in fact, those documented at the tomb of Peter or the Memoria Apostolorum. From the first centuries of the Christian era the itineraries of pilgrims, be they ecclesiastical be they lay, are well documented by numerous sources, among which are the graffiti left in places visited, near the tombs of Martyrs. From these attestations, the genuine and generous faith emerges of one who starts to travel, with great courage and also with many sacrifices, to find, rather to touch with the hand, witnesses of the faith and their memory, so as to draw from them enthusiasm and interior strength to live one’s faith ever more profoundly and coherently.

A pilgrimage – as those who have followed on foot a stretch of the ancient itineraries, opportunely rediscovered and proposed again to our days – is also an experience of mercy, of sharing and of solidarity with one who travels the same road, as well as of hospitality and generosity on the part of the one who hosts and assists pilgrims. Outstanding among the works of corporal mercy, which I wished to propose again as one of the characteristic signs of the Holy Year, is in fact the reception of strangers. May a glance at Christian antiquity and at the traces left by pilgrims reminds us of the commitment to hospitality and sharing, which in the experience of pilgrimage becomes a conscious itinerary of conversion and joyful daily practices.

I earnestly hope that all those that come to Rome on the occasion of the Holy Year or live the experience of pilgrimage to the many goals proposed by the local Churches, will be able to feel, as the disciples of Emmaus, the Lord beside them as travel companion. Thus may they experience the joy of the encounter with Him, as well as with brothers and sisters in which He continues to be present and to interpellate: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me ... Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Matthew 25: 35.40).

Wishing now, to encourage and support all those committed to offer valid contributions to the historico-archaeological research and related to the cult of Martyrs, object of this edition of the Prize, I am happy to assign the Prize of the Pontifical Academies, ex aequo, to the Portuguese Association Campo Arqueologico di Mertola, referent Professor Virgilio Lopes, for the archaeological campaigns carried out in the last years and for the extraordinary results obtained; and to Dr. Matteo Braconi for his excellent doctoral thesis on “The Mosaic of the Apse of the Basilica of Saint Pudenziana at Rome. History,  Restorations, Interpretations,” discussed at the University of Studies Roma Tre. As a sign of encouragement for historical research in the religious realm, I then assign the Medal of the Pontificate to Dr. Almudena Alba Lopez, for the publication Political Theology and Anti-Arian controversy of the University of Salamanca.

Finally, wishing the academics and all those present a fruitful commitment in their respective fields of research, I entrust each and all of you to the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary, Mater Misericordiae, that she may assist us always in our daily pilgrimage. I impart to you from my heart the Apostolic Blessing and I ask you to pray for me.

From the Vatican, November 10, 2015

FRANCIS

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Text of Pope's Address in Florence on Humanism

Italy, November 11, 2015

Here is a translation of the Pope’s address Tuesday in Florence to the 5th National Ecclesial Congress for the Church in Italy.

His audience was the some 2,500 participants in the National Congress, which is underway through Friday on the subject “A New Humanism in Jesus Christ.”

After Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco’s greeting and some testimonies presented by Francesca Massarelli, a married woman and catechumen, by spouses Pierluigi and Gabriella Proietti, and by Father Bledar Xhuli, an Albanian immigrant who is today a priest of the Diocese of Florence, the Holy Father Francis delivered the address that we translate below.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Represented in the cupola of this most beautiful Cathedral is the Universal Judgment. Jesus, our light, is at the center. The inscription that one reads at the top of the fresco is “Ecce Homo.” Looking at this cupola we are attracted to the top, while we contemplate the transformation of the Christ judged by Pilate into the Christ seated on the throne of judges. An Angel brings Him the sword, but Jesus does not assume the symbols of judgment, in fact, He raises His right hand showing the signs of the Passion, because He “gave Himself as a ransom for all” (1 Timothy 2:6). “For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:17).

In the light of this Judge of mercy, our knees bend in adoration, and our hands and our feet are reinvigorated. We can speak of a humanism only from the centrality of Jesus, discovering in Him the features of man’ authentic face. It is the contemplation of the face of Jesus dead and risen that reconstructs our humanity, also that <humanity> fragmented by the toils of life or marked by sin. We must not tame the power of Christ’s face. His face is the image of His transcendence. It is the misericordiae vultus. Let us allow ourselves to be looked at by Him. Jesus is our humanism. Let us always be anxious about his question: “But who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15).

Looking at His face, what do we see? First of all <we see> the face of an “emptied” God, of a God that has assumed the condition of servant, humiliated and obedient unto death (cf. Philippians 2:7). Jesus’ face is similar to that of so many of our humiliated brothers, rendered slaves, emptied. God has assumed their face. And that face looks at us. God -- who is “the Being of whom one cannot think a greater,” as Saint Anselm said, or the always greater God of Saint Ignatius of Loyola – becomes ever greater than Himself by lowering Himself. If we do not lower ourselves we will not be able to see His face. We will not see any of His fullness if we do not accept that God emptied Himself. And, therefore, we will not understand anything of Christian humanism and our words will be beautiful, cultured, refine, but they will not be words of faith. They will be words that sound empty.

I do not wish to design here, in the abstract, a “new humanism,” a certain idea of man, but to present with simplicity some traits of Christian humanism, which is that of the “sentiments of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). They are not abstract provisional sensations of the spirit, but represent the warm interior strength that makes us capable of living and of taking decisions. What are these sentiments? I would like to present at least three to you today.

The first sentiment is humility. “In humility count others better than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3), says Saint Paul to the Philippians. Further on the Apostle speaks of the fact that Jesus does not consider His being like God a “privilege”  (Philippians 2:6). There is a precise message here. The obsession to keep one’s glory, one’s “dignity,” one’s influence must not be part of our sentiments. We must pursue God’s glory and this does not coincide with ours. God’s glory, which shines in the humility of the cave of Bethlehem and the dishonor of the cross of Christ always surprises us.

Another sentiment of Christ that gives shape to Christian humanism is unselfishness. “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4), Saint Paul asks again. Therefore, more than unselfishness, we must seek the happiness of the one beside us. A Christian’s humanity is always outgoing. It is not narcissistic, self-referential. When our heart is rich and is very self-satisfied, then there is no longer room for God. Please, let us avoid “shutting ourselves in structures that give us a false protection, in norms that are transformed in implacable judgments, in habits in which we feel tranquil” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 49).

Our duty is to work and struggle to make this world a better place. Our faith is revolutionary by an impulse that comes from the Holy Spirit. We must follow this impulse to come out of ourselves, to be men according to Jesus’ Gospel.  May  life be decided on the capacity to give oneself. It is there that it transcends itself, that it arrives at being fruitful.

A further sentiment of Christ Jesus is that of beatitude. A Christian is a blessed, if he has in himself the joy of the Gospel. The Lord points out the way to us in the Beatitudes. By following it we human beings can attain an authentically more human and divine happiness.  Jesus speaks of the happiness that we experience only when we are poor in spirit. For the great Saints beatitude has to do with humiliation and poverty. But there is also much of this beatitude in the humblest part of our people: it is the one that knows the richness of solidarity, of sharing even the little one has, the richness of the daily sacrifice of work, sometimes hard and badly paid, but carried out of love for dear persons, and also for one’s own miseries, which, however, lived in trust of the providence and mercy of God the Father, nourish a humble greatness.

The Beatitudes that we read in the Gospel begin with a blessing and end with a promise of consolation.  They introduce us on a way of possible greatness, that of the spirit, and when the spirit is ready all the rest comes on its own. Of course if we do not have our heart open to the Holy Spirit, it will seem baloney because it does not lead us to “success.” To be “blessed,” to relish the consolation of friendship with Jesus Christ, it is necessary to have an open heart. Beatitude is a laborious wager, made up of renunciations, listening and learning, whose fruits will be gathered in time, giving us an incomparable peace: “O taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:9)!

Humility, Unselfishness, Beatitude: these are the three traits that I wish to present today to your meditation on Christian humanism, which is born from the humanity of the Son of God. And these traits also say something to the Italian Church that is gathered today, to walk together as an example of solidarity. These traits tell us that we must not be obsessed by “power,” even when it takes the face of a useful and functional power for the social image of the Church. If the Church does not assume the sentiments of Jesus, she is disoriented; she loses the meaning. Instead, if she assumes them, she is able to live up to her mission.  Jesus’ sentiments tell us that a Church that thinks of herself and of her own interests will be sad. Finally, the Beatitudes are the mirror in which we should look at ourselves, which permits us to know if we are walking in the right way: it is a mirror that does not lie.

A Church that has these traits – humility, unselfishness, beatitude – is a Church that is able to recognize the Lord’s action in the world, in the culture, in the daily life of the people. I have said it more than once and I repeat it again to you today: I prefer a bumpy, wounded and soiled Church for having gone out through the streets, rather than a sick Church because she is closed in the comfortableness of holding on to her own certainties. I do not want a Church concerned to be at the center and that ends up enclosed in a tangle of obsessions and procedures” (Evangelii Gaudium, 49). However, we know that temptations exist; the temptations to be faced are so many. I will present at least two. Do not get frightened; this will not be a list of temptations!  -- as those fifteen that I said to the Curia!

The first of them is the Pelagian. It pushes the Church not to be humble, unselfish and blessed. And it does so with the appearance of a good. Pelagianism leads us to have trust in the structures, in the organizations, in the plans, which are perfect because abstract. Often it even leads us to assume a style of control, of hardness, of normativity. The norm gives to the Pelagian the security of feeling superior, of having a precise orientation. He finds his strength in this, not in the lightness of the Spirit’s breath. In face of evils or problems of the Church it is useless to seek solutions in conservatism and fundamentalism, in the restoration of surmounted conduct and forms that do not even have culturally the capacity to be significant. Christian Doctrine is not a closed system incapable of generating questions, doubts, questionings, but it is alive, it is able to disquiet, it is able to encourage. It does not have a rigid face; it has a body that moves and develops; it has tender flesh: Christian Doctrine is called Jesus Christ. The reform of the Church then – and the Church is always reforming – is alien to Pelagianism. It does not exhaust itself in an umpteenth plan to change the structures. It means, instead, to be grafted and rooted in Christ, allowing oneself to be led by the Spirit. Then everything will be possible with genius and creativity.

The Italian Church must let herself be led by her powerful breath and hence sometimes disquieting breath. She must always assume the spirit of her great explorers, who on ships were passionate about navigation in the open sea and not frightened by frontiers and tempests. May she be a free Church, open to the challenges of the present, never vulnerable out of fear of losing something. May she never be vulnerable out of fear of losing something. And encountering people along their streets, may she assume the resolution of Saint Paul. “To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22).

A second temptation to overcome is that of Gnosticism. It leads to trust in logical and clear reasoning, which, however, loses the tenderness of the brother’s flesh. The fascination of Gnosticism is that of “a faith closed in in subjectivism, where only a determined experience is of interest or a series of reasons  and knowledge that one believes can comfort and illuminate, but where the subject in the end remains closed in the immanence of his own reason and his sentiments” (Evangelii Gaudium, 94). Gnosticism cannot transcend. The difference between Christian transcendence and some form of Gnostic spiritualism lies in the mystery of the Incarnation. Not to put into practice, not to lead the Word to the reality, means to build on sand, to remain in a pure idea and to degenerate into intimism that does not give fruit, that renders its dynamism sterile.

The Italian Church has great Saints by whose example they can help her to live the faith with humility, unselfishness and gladness, from Francis of Assisi to Philip Neri. But we also think of the simplicity of invented personages, such as Don Camillo who teams up with Peppone. I am struck by how, in Guareschi’s stories, the prayer of a good parish priest is united to evident closeness with the people. Dom Camillo said of himself: “I am a poor country priest who knows his parishioners one by one, who loves them, who knows their sorrows and joys, who suffers and is able to laugh with them. “ Closeness to the people and prayer are the key to live a popular, humble, generous and happy Christian humanism. If we lose this contact with the people faithful to God we lose in humanity and go nowhere.

But then, what must we do, Father? – you might say. What is the Pope asking of us?

It is up to you to decide: people and Pastors together. Today I simply invite you to raise your head and contemplate once again the Ecce Homo that we have above our heads. Let us pause to contemplate the scene. We turn to Jesus who is represented here as Universal Judge. What will happen “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the Angels with Him, then He will sit on his glorious throne” (Matthew 25:34-36). There comes to mind the priest who received a very young priest who gave testimony.

However, He could also say: ”Depart from me, your cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his Angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me” (Matthew 25:41-43).

The Beatitudes and the words we have just read on the Universal Judgment help us to live the Christian life at the level of holiness. They are few, simple but practical words. Two pillars: the Beatitudes and the words of the Last Judgment. May the Lord give us the grace to understand this message of His! And we look once again at the features of Jesus’ face and at his gestures.  We see Jesus who eats and drinks with sinners (Mark 2:16; Matthew 11:19); let us contemplate Him while He speaks with the Samaritan woman (John 4:7-26); let us watch Him while He meets at night with Nicodemus (John 7:33); let us relish with affection the scene of Him who has his feet anointed by a prostitute (cf. Luke 7:36-50); let us feel His saliva on the tip of our tongue, which is thus loosed (Mark 7:33). Let us admire the attraction of all the people “that surround his disciples, namely us, and let us experience their “gladness and simplicity of heart” (Acts 2:46).

I ask the Bishops to be Pastors, nothing more: Pastors. May this be your joy: “I am a Pastor.” It will be the people, your flock that will sustain you. Recently I read about a Bishop who was in the Metro during the rush hour and there were so many people that he no longer knew where to put his hand to hold on. Pushed from right to left, he leaned on persons not to fall. And so he thought that, in addition to prayer, what makes a Bishop stand is his people.

May nothing and no one take from you the joy of being supported by your people. As Pastors, do not be preachers of complex doctrines, but heralds of Christ, dead and risen for us. Point to the essential, to the kerygma. There is nothing more solid, profound and certain than this proclamation. But may it be all the People of God that proclaim the Gospel, people and Pastors, I hope. I expressed this pastoral concern of mine in the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (cf. nn. 111-134).

I recommend to the whole Italian Church what I indicated in that Exhortation: the social inclusion of the poor, who have a privileged place in the People of God, and the capacity of encounter and dialogue to foster social friendship in your country, seeking the common good.

The option for the poor is a “special form of primacy in the exercise of Christian charity, attested by the whole Tradition of the Church” (John Paul II, Encyclical Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 42). This option  “is implicit in Christological faith in that God who made Himself poor for us, to enrich us through His poverty” (Benedict XVI, Address to the Opening Session of the 5th General Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Episcopate). The poor know well Christ Jesus’ sentiments because they know the suffering Christ by experience. “We are called to discover Christ in them, to loan them our voice in their causes, but also to be their friends, to listen to them, to understand them and to receive the mysterious wisdom that God wills to communicate to us through them” (Evangelii Gaudium, 198).

May God protect the Italian Church from every surrogate of power, of image, of money. Evangelical poverty is creative, receives, supports and is rich in hope. We are here in Florence, city of beauty. How much beauty in this city has been put at the service of charity! I am thinking of the Hospital of the Innocents, for instance. One of the first Renaissance architectures, it was created for the service of abandoned children and desperate mothers. Often these mothers left, together with the newborns, medals cut in half with which they hoped, when presenting the other half, to be able to recognize their own children in better times. See, we must imagine that our poor have a cut medal. We have the other half. Because Mother Church has in Italy half of the medal of all and she recognizes all her abandoned, oppressed, exhausted children. And this has always been one of your virtues, because you know well that the Lord shed his Blood not for some, or for a few or for many but for all.

In a special way, I also recommend to you the capacity to dialogue and to encounter. To dialogue is not to negotiate. To negotiate is to try to take one’s “slice” of the common cake. This is not what I mean, but it is to seek the common good for all. Discuss together, I dare say get angry together, think of the best solutions for all. Many times a meeting is involved in conflict. There is conflict in dialogue: it is logical and foreseeable that it be so. And we must not fear it or ignore it, but accept it. We must accept “to accept to endure the conflict, to resolve it and to transform it into a ring of connection of a new process” (Evangelii Gaudium, 227).

However, we must always remember that there is no genuine humanism that does not see love as a bond between human beings, be it of an inter-personal nature, profound, social, political or intellectual. Founded on this is the necessity of dialogue and of encounter to build the civil society together with others. We know that the best answer to the conflictive nature of the human being, of the famous homo homini lupus of Thomas Hobbes, is the “Ecce Homo” of Jesus who does not recriminate, but receives and, paying in person, saves.

Italian society is built when its diverse cultural riches can dialogue constructively: the popular, the academic, the youthful, the artistic, the technological, the economic, the political, the media ... May the Church be ferment of dialogue, of encounter and of unity. Moreover, our formulations of faith themselves are the fruit of dialogue and encounter between cultures, and different communities and entities. We must not be afraid of dialogue: in fact it is precisely confrontation and criticism that help us to keep theology from being transformed into ideology.

In addition, remember that the best way to dialogue is not to talk and argue, but to do something together, to build together, to make plans but not on our own, between Catholics, but together with all those who have good will – and without the fear of carrying out the necessary exodus to every genuine dialogue. Otherwise it is not possible to understand the other’s reasons, or to understand in depth that a brother counts more than the positions that we judge far from our own though genuine certainties. He is a brother.

But the Church must also be able to give a clear answer in face of the threats that arise within the public debate: this is one of the ways of the specific contribution of believers to the building of the common society. Believers are citizens. And I say it here, in Florence, where art, faith and citizenship have always been in a dynamic balance between denunciation and proposal. The nation is not a museum, but a collective work in permanent construction in which the things that differentiate one, including political and religious membership, are to be put in common.

I appeal above all “to you, young people, because you are strong,” said the Apostle John (1 John 2:14). Young people, overcome apathy. May no one scorn your youth, but learn to be models in speaking and acting (cf. 1 Timothy 4:12) I ask you to be builders of Italy, to get to work for a better Italy. Please, do not look at life from the balcony, but commit yourselves, immerse yourselves in the wide social and political dialogue. May the hands of your faith be raised to Heaven, but may they do so while building a city constructed on relations in which the love of God is the foundation. And thus you will be free to accept today’s challenges, to live the changes and the transformations.

It can be said that today we do not live in an age of change but in a change of age. Therefore, the situations we are living today pose new challenges, which, for us at times are difficult to understand. Our times require that we live problems as challenges and not as obstacles: the Lord is active and at work in the world. Therefore, you must go out to the streets and to the crossroads: call all those you find, exclude no one (cf. Matthew 22:9). Above all, accompany the one who remained at the side of the street, “the lame, the maimed, the blind, the dumb,” (Matthew 15:30). Wherever you are, never build walls or borders, but Squares and field hospitals.

* * *
I am pleased with a restless Italian Church, always closer to the abandoned, the forgotten, the imperfect. I desire a happy Church with the face of a mother, who understands, accompanies and caresses. You also dream of this Church; believe in her; innovate with freedom. The Christian humanism you are called to live affirms radically the dignity of every person as Son of God; it establishes between every human being an essential fraternity, it teaches to understand work, to inhabit Creation as a common home, it furnishes reasons for joy and humor, also in the midst of a life that is so often hard.

Although it is not for me to say how to realize this dream today, allow me to leave one indication with you for the forthcoming years: in every community, in every parish and institution, in every Diocese and circumscription, in every region seek to begin, in a synodal way, a deeper reflection on Evangvelii Gaudium, to draw practical criteria from it and to act on its dispositions, especially on the three or four priorities that you have singled out in this Congress. I am certain of your ability to get into a creative movement to concretize this study. I am sure of it because you are an adult Church, very ancient in the faith, solid in roots and ample in fruits. Therefore, be creative in expressing that genius that your greats, from Dante to Michelangelo, expressed in a matchless way. Believe in the genius of Italian Christianity, which is not the patrimony either of individuals or of an elite, but of the community, of the people of this extraordinary country.

I entrust you to Mary, who here in Florence is venerated as “Most Holy Annuziata.” In the fresco found in the Basilica with the same name – where I will go shortly --, the Angel is silent and Mary speaks saying: “Ecce ancilla Domini.” All of us are in those words. May the whole Italian Church speak them with Mary. Thank you.

[Original text: Italian]

At the end of his address, the Pope greeted some Representatives of the Congress. Then he left the Cathedral to go by car to the Basilica of the Most Holy Annunziata.

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Pope’s Address to Spiritual Family of St. Luigi Guanella

Rome, November 12, 2015

Today, Pope Francis received in audience the participants in the Pilgrimage of the spiritual family of St. Luigi Guanella.

Here is a translation of the Pope’s address to those present at the meeting.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

I thank you for the words you addressed to me. Not only did you present your work to me, but you also wished to receive me in some way in your Family. Today is an important Solemnity for you: you celebrate the Mother of Divine Providence, who is your Patroness, and above all, she is in fact for you the Mother of the Family, as Saint Luigi Guanella desired.

You have just celebrated the first centenary of his birth in Heaven. I am going to try to imagine what he would say to you to confirm you in faith, in hope and in charity. He would certainly do so with his sincere and genuine simplicity; and then I thought of three concrete verbs: to trust, to look and to hurry.

To trust. Don Guanella’s life had at the center the certainty that God is a merciful and provident Father. This was the heart of the faith for him: to know himself as an always loved son, whom the Father takes care of and, therefore, brother of all, called to infuse trust. God is Father and is unable not to love us, nor is He capable of being far from His children. If we are far from Him, we are awaited; when we come close to Him, we are embraced; if we fall, He lifts us up; if we are repentant, He forgives us. And He always desires to encounter us. Saint Luigi so believed in this concrete and provident love of the Father, that he often had the courage to surmount the limits of human prudence, to put the Gospel in practice. Providence, for him, was not “poetry” but reality. God takes care of us and wants us to trust Him.

I think the heavenly Father is very displeased when He sees that His children do not trust Him completely: perhaps they believe in a distant God more than in the merciful God. The doubt can arise in many that God, although Father, is also a master. Then it seems better not to trust Him completely, because He could ask for something that is too demanding or even send a trial. But this is a great deceit: it is the ancient deceit of the enemy of God and of man, who camouflages the reality and disguises evil as a good. It is the first temptation: to distance oneself from God, intimidated by the suspicion that His paternity is not truly provident and good. Instead, God is only love, pure provident love. He loves us more than we love ourselves and knows what our true good is. Therefore He desires that in the course of life we become what we are at the moment of Baptism: loved children, who are able to overcome fear and not fall into lament, because the Father takes care of us. Are you convinced of this?

The second verb is to look. The Creator Father also arouses creativity in those who live as His children. So they learn to look at the world with new eyes, made more luminous by love and hope. They are eyes that enable one to look within oneself with truth and to see far in charity. To this look, others do not seem like obstacles to surmount, but brothers and sisters to welcome. Thus, as Don Guanella said, one discovers that “love of neighbor is the comfort of life.”

Problems are never lacking in the world and, unfortunately, our time witnesses new poverties and many injustices. However, the greatest lack is that of charity: useful above all are persons with eyes renewed by love and looks that infuse hope. Because “love will enable one to find ways and discourses to comfort those that are weak,” said again your Founder. Sometimes our spiritual sight is myopic, because we are unable to look beyond our I. At other times we are long-sighted: we like to help someone who is far away, but we are not capable of bending over someone who is beside us. Sometimes, instead, we prefer to close our eyes, because we are tired, overwhelmed by pessimism. Don Guanella, who recommended that one look at Jesus from His heart, invites us to have the look of the Lord: a look that infuses hope and joy, capable at the same time of experiencing a “lively sense of compassion” in relating to those that suffer.

And, finally, to hurry. “The poor are the favorite children” of the Father, said Saint Luigi, who liked to repeat: “one who gives to the poor, loans to God.” As the Father is delicate and concrete in regard to His littlest and weakest children, so we also cannot have brothers and sister in difficulty waiting, because – these are still Don Guanella’s words – “misery cannot wait. And we cannot stop while there are poor to be helped!” Our Lady hurried to reach her cousin Elizabeth (cf. Luke 1:39). We also hear the Spirit’s invitation to go in haste to meet those in need of our care and our affection because, as Saint Luigi taught, “a Christian heart that believes and feels cannot pass before the indigence of the poor without helping them.”

Your Family springs from trust in the Father, under the gaze of Jesus and in the maternal hands of Mary. I thank you for the good you do and I encourage you to continue, without tiring. I bless you all affectionately and I ask you, please, to pray for me. Don’t forget!

Now I invite you to pray to Our Lady: Ave O Maria ...

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Pope’s Address to Slovak Bishops

Rome, November 12, 2015

Pope Francis received in audience today the Bishops of the Slovakian Episcopal Conference, on the occasion of their five-yearly ad limina visit.

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

* * *

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate!

I meet you with joy, Pastors of the Church in Slovakia, during this visit ad Limina, in which you go to the tombs of the Apostles, renewing faith in Christ Jesus and the bonds of communion with the Successor of Peter, deepening among other things, the sense of collegiality and of mutual collaboration among you. I wish to encourage you in the pastoral work you carry out, even though characterized, among the difficulties of the present moment, by rapid transformations in so many realms of human life and by the great challenge of globalization. Verified in it at times are threats for the less numerous nations, but also at the same time elements that can offer new opportunities. An opportunity, which has become a sign of the times, is the phenomenon of migrations, which requires being understood and addressed with sensibility and a sense of justice. The Church is called to proclaim and witness the reception of migrants in a spirit of charity and respect of the dignity of the human person, in the context of a necessary observance of legality.

In face of the prospect of an ever more extended multi-cultural environment, attitudes must be assumed of mutual respect to foster encounter. It is hoped that the Slovak people will retain their cultural identity and the patrimony of ethical and spiritual values, strongly connected to its Catholic tradition. Thus it will be able to open itself without fears to the confrontation in the widest continental and global horizon, contributing to a sincere and fruitful dialogue, also on subjects of vital importance, such as the dignity of human life and the essential function of the family. Today more than ever it is necessary to illumine peoples’ journey with Christian principles, taking the opportunities that the present situation offers to develop an evangelization that, with new language, renders Christ’s message more comprehensible. Therefore, it is important that the Church infuse hope, so that all the changes of the present moment are transformed into a renewed encounter with Christ, which pushes your people to genuine progress. The lay faithful, called to animate temporal realities with evangelical ferments, cannot excuse themselves from working as well within the political processes geared to the common good. To be joyful witnesses of the Gospel in every environment, they need to feel themselves a living part of the Church. It is your task to acknowledge their role in the life of the ecclesial communities, also in regard to the elaboration and realization of pastoral projects.

I appreciate very much what you are doing in favor of the family, which faces so many difficulties and which is subjected to so many snares. These efforts require to be accompanied by an integral family pastoral <program> at the diocesan and national level, which includes adequate support of families, also those that are not complete, especially if there are children. In the ambit of the pastoral <care> of the family, it is necessary to appreciate the young people, hope of the Church and of the society. Pulsating in them is a strong desire of service to their neighbor and of solidarity, which requires the orientation and confidence of Pastors, to be transformed into a living encounter with Christ, in a determined project of diffusion of the Gospel. In fact, despite the many enticements that invite to hedonism, to mediocrity and to immediate success, young people do not let themselves be easily intimidated by the difficulties and they are particularly sensitive to commitment without reservations, when the genuine meaning of life is presented to them. Therefore, they are in need of having from you clear doctrinal and moral indications, to build the city of God in the city of man.

Have great paternal solicitude towards the priests, your principal collaborators in the pastoral ministry. They are in need of well-articulated programs of permanent formation in the areas of theology, spirituality, pastoral care and the Social Doctrine of the Church, which will enable them to be competent evangelizers. In fact they are, for a great part of the People of God, the main channels through which the Gospel passes, and also the most immediate image through which they encounter the mystery of the Church. Therefore, their intellectual and doctrinal preparation must always be united to the witness of an exemplary life, to close communion with the Bishops, to fraternity with their brothers in the priesthood, to affability in relations with everyone, and to that type of spiritual peace and apostolic ardor that only constant contact with the divine Teacher can give. In order that the priests feel your presence close, it is of great importance that you be ready to listen to them and to relate to them with trust, showing attention to the difficulties that so often afflict them.

The Church, sign and instrument of men’s unity with God and among themselves, is called to be house and school of communion, in which one is able to appreciate and receive all that is positive in the other. This attitude is also very useful in reference to the good contacts that must be re-established in Slovakia between Pastors and consecrated persons, appreciating better the valid contribution of all the Religious in pastoral activity. At the same time, the Church that is in your country is called to take forward the pastoral care of the Rom, with an endeavor of vast evangelization that seeks to reach all these persons that, unfortunately, continue to live in a certain social separation.

I ask you to have the expression of my affection and my spiritual closeness reach your ecclesial communities; to offer my gratitude to the priests and to the masculine and feminine Religious Communities, which with so much generosity do their utmost to proclaim and witness the Gospel, as well as to the catechists and the other collaborators in the work of evangelization; and to communicate the Pope’s gratitude to the persons and institutions dedicated to charity and solidarity with the neediest. I entrust your pastoral concerns to the Virgin Addolorata, Patroness of Slovakia, and I invoke her maternal intercession so that the country prospers in peace and in conformity with the best values of its Christian tradition. And while I ask you to pray for me, to you and to the faithful of every one of the particular Churches over which you preside, I impart my heartfelt Apostolic Blessing.

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Pope’s Message on ‘Vocation and Mission of the Laity’

Rome, November 12, 2015

Here is a translation of the Message that the Holy Father Francis sent to the President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, on the occasion of the Day of Study organized by that Council, in collaboration with the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, on the topic: “The Vocation and Mission of the Laity, Fifty Years after the Decree ‘Aposolicam Actuositatem.’”

* * *

To the Venerable Brother

Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko

President of the Pontifical council for the Laity

I express my cordial greeting to you, Lord Cardinal, and to all the participants in the Day of Study organized by the Pontifical Council for the Laity, in collaboration with the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, on the topic “Vocation and Mission of the Laity, Fifty Years after the Decree ‘Apostolicam Actuositatem.’

Your Congress takes place in the framework of the 50th anniversary of the conclusion of Vatican II, that extraordinary event of grace that, as Blessed Paul VI affirmed, had “the character of an act of love; of a great and triple act of love: towards God, towards the Church, towards humanity: (Allocution at the Beginning of the Fourth Session, September 14, 1965: Insegnamenti, III [1965], 475). This renewed attitude of love that inspired the Conciliar Fathers led, also, among its many fruits, to a new way of looking at the vocation and mission of the laity in the Church and in the world, which found magnificent expression first of all in the two great Conciliar Constitutions Lumen Gentium and Gaudium et Spes. These fundamental documents of the Council consider the lay faithful in a whole vision of the People of God, to which they belong together with the members of Holy Orders and Religious, and in which they take part, in a way proper to them, in the priestly, prophetic, and royal function of Christ Himself. Hence, the Council did not see the laity as if they were members of a “second order,” at the service of the hierarchy and simple executors of higher orders, but as disciples of Christ that, by virtue of their Baptism and of their natural insertion “in the world,” are called to animate every environment, every activity, every human relation according to the spirit of the Gospel (cf. LG, 31), bringing light, hope, and the charity received from Christ to those places that otherwise would remain foreign to God’s action and abandoned to the misery of the human condition (cf. GS, 37). No one better than they can carry out the essential task of “inscribing the divine law in the life of the earthly city” (Ibid., 43).

Inserted in the wide background of this Conciliar Doctrine is the Decree Apostolicam Actuositatem, which addresses more closely the nature and the realms of the apostolate of the laity. This document reminded forcefully that “by its very nature the Christian vocation is also a vocation to the apostolate” (n.2), therefore the proclamation of the Gospel is not reserved to some “professionals of the mission,” but must be the profound yearning of all the lay faithful called, in virtue of their Baptism, not only to Christian animation of temporal realities, but also to works of explicit evangelization, of proclamation and of sanctification of men (cf. Ibid.).

It can be said that all this Conciliar teaching has made the formation of the laity grow in the Church, which up to now has already borne so many fruits. However, Vatican II, as every Council, calls up every generation of Pastors and laity, because it is an inestimable gift of the Holy Spirit, which is received with gratitude and a sense of responsibility: all that has been given to us by the Spirit and transmitted by Mother Church is always understood anew, assimilated and descends into the reality! To implement the Council, to take it to the daily life of every Christian community: this was the pastoral anxiety that always animated Saint John Paul II, as Bishop and as Pope.  During the Great Jubilee of 2000, he said: “A new season is dawning before our eyes:  it is time for deep reflection on the Council's teaching, time to harvest all that the Council Fathers sowed and the generation of recent years has tended and awaited. The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council was truly a prophetic message for the Church's life; it will continue to be so for many years in the third millennium which has just begun” (Address to the International Congress on the Accomplishment of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, February 27, 2000: Insegnamenti, XXIII, 1 [2000], 278).

I pray to the Lord, through the intercession of the Holy Virgin, that your Congress will be a stimulus for all – Pastors and lay faithful – to have in the heart the same anxiety to live and implement the Council and to bring the light of Christ to the world. I ask you, please, to pray for me and I bless you affectionately.

From the Vatican, October 22, 2015

Memoria of Saint John Paul II

FRANCISCUS

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Pope's Video Message to India's Eucharistic Congress

Rome, November 12, 2015

Here is the text of the video message that Pope Francis sent to the National Eucharistic Congress of India, which began today in Mumbai.

* * *

My dear Brother Beatitudine Cardinal Thottunkal Baselios Cleemis, President of the Bishops Conference, 
my dear Brother Cardinal Oswald Gracias, President of the Organizing committee of the National Eucharistic Congress, Beloved Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of India, dear priest brothers and religious men and women, believers in Jesus Christ and all people of good will in India.

It is with great joy that I greet you as you gather for the National Eucharistic Congress. The Eucharistic Congress has great significance as it marks the golden jubilee anniversary of the International Eucharistic Congress celebrated in Mumbai in 1964 and which was the first International Eucharistic congress to be personally presided over by a Pope. The National Eucharistic Congress also gains another special flavor because it will be celebrated just before the initiation of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy which I have so desired to have. The theme chosen for the Eucharistic Congress, Nourished by the Eucharist to nourish others is indeed very relevant and inspiring.

The Eucharistic Congress is God's gift not just for the Christians of the India but for the entire population of a country culturally so diverse yet spiritually so rich. Over thousands of years India has been permeated by the desire for truth, the search for the divine, the effort at goodness and kindness. As you celebrate this great event, the words of Pope Paul VI in his address to the members of the non-christian religions of the 3th December, 1964 come to mind: “The Eucharist is thecommemoration of Jesus Christ and his love for God the Father in heaven, and for all men, a love into death. This love of Jesus is not a matter of the past; it is meant to remain present and to live in every human heart. Christ is dear also to this country, not only to those who are Christians - they are a minority - but to the millions of people who have come to know and love Him as an inspiration of love and self-sacrifice”.

The Eucharist, as the theme chosen rightly points out, nourishes us. As I underlined in the homily of Corpus Domini, "the Eucharist actualizes the Covenant that sanctifies us, purifies us and unites us in the marvelous Communion with God. Thus we learn that the Eucharist is not only a reward for the good but also the strength for the weak and for sinners. It is forgiveness and sustenance which helps us on our journey" (4th June 2015).

Human beings all over the word today need nourishment. And this nourishment is not just to satisfy physical hunger. There are other hungers- for love, for immortality for life, for affection, for being cared, for forgiveness, for mercy. This hunger can be satiated only by the bread that comes from above. Jesus himself is the living bread that gives life to the world (cfJn6:51). His body offered for our sake on the cross, his blood shed for the pardon of the sins of humanity is made available to us in the bread and wine to the Eucharist transformed in the consecration.

But the Eucharist does not end with the partaking of the bread and blood of the Lord. It leads us to solidarity with others. The communion with the Lord is necessarily a communion with our fellow brothers and sistersAnd therefore the one who is fed and nourished by the very body and blood of Christ cannot remain unaffected when he sees his brothers suffering want and hunger. Those nourished by the Eucharist are called to bring the joy of the gospel to those who have not received it. Strengthened by the living Bread we are called to bring hope to those who live in darkness and in despair. “In the Eucharist the Lord makes us walk on his road, that of service, of sharing, of giving; and if it is shared, that little we have, that little we are, becomes riches, for the power of God — which is the power of love — comes down into poverty to transform it" (Homily for the Corpus Domini 2013).

May this Eucharistic Congress be beacon of light to the people of India, may it be the harbinger of great joy and happiness, may it be an occasion for my Indian brothers and sisters to come together in unity and love. May all those who participate in this Eucharistic Congress walk along with Mary our Mother singing the Magnificat for all that the Lord has done for us.

I bless all of you my dear brothers and sisters in India. May God be with each one of you and your great country.

(November 12, 2015) © 

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Pope’s Morning Homily: It’s Idolatry to Be Attached to the Here and Now

Rome, November 13, 2015

Pope Francis today warned against a certain “idolatry” that inordinately focuses on the beauties of this life, forgetting that earthly things are passing away and that, anyway, their Creator is so much more beautiful.

According to Vatican Radio, the Pope today in Casa Santa Marta considered the transitory nature of our earthly life and the glory of God, reflected in the psalm, “The heavens proclaim the Glory of God.” 

People are too often incapable of looking beyond the beauty of earthly things towards the transcendent, he said, describing this attitude as the idolatry of immanence.

“They are attached to this idolatry: they are astonished by the power and energy (of these things). They haven’t thought about how much greater is their Sovereign because He created them, He who is the origin and the author of this beauty.”

“It’s an idolatry to gaze at all these beautiful things without believing that they will fade away,” he said. 

“And,” he remarked, “the fading too has its beauty…”

Pope Francis said we all run the risk of “this idolatry of being attached to the beauty of the here and now, without (a sense of) the transcendence.”

“It’s the idolatry of immanence,” he said. “We believe that these things are almost gods and they will last forever. We forget about that fading away.”

The other trap or idolatry into which many people fall, warned the Pope, is that of our daily habits which make our hearts deaf. He said Jesus illustrated this when he described the men and women during the time of Noah or Sodom who ate and drank and got married without caring about anything else until the flood came or the Lord rained down burning sulphur. 

“Everything is according to habit. Life is like that: We live in this way, without thinking about the end of this way of living. This too is an idolatry: to be attached to our habits, without thinking that this will come to an end. But the Church makes us look at the end of these things. Even our habits can be thought of as gods. The idolatry? Life is like this and we go forward in this way… And just as this beauty will finish in another (kind of) beauty, our habits will finish in an eternity, in another (kind of) habit. But there is God!”

Pope Francis went on to urge his listeners to direct their gaze toward the one God who is beyond “the end of created things” so as not to repeat the fatal error of looking back, as Lot’s wife did. We must be certain, he stressed, that if life is beautiful then its end will be just as beautiful as well. 

“We believers are not people who look back, who yield, but people who always go forward.”  

“We must always go forward in this life,” the Holy Father said, “looking at the beautiful things and with the habits that we all have but without deifying them. They will end. Be they these small beauties, which reflect a bigger beauty, our own habits for surviving in the eternal song, contemplating the glory of God.”

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Pope’s Address to Romano Guardini Foundation

Rome, November 13, 2015

Today Pope Francis received in audience the participants in a Conference organized by the “Romano Guardini Foundation” of Berlin, on the occasion of the 130th anniversary of the philosopher’s birth.

Here is a translation of the Pope’s address to those present at the audience.

* * *

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Friends,

I am very happy to be able to greet you, members of the Romano Guardini Foundation, who have come to Rome to take part in the Congress organized by the Gregorian University, on the occasion of the 130th anniversary of Guardini’s birth. I thank Professor von Pufendorf for his kind words of greeting, and for having announced the imminent publication of an unpublished text. I am convinced that Guardini is a thinker who has much to say to the men of our time, and not only to Christians. You are carrying out this project with your foundation, making Guardini’s thought enter in a polyphonic dialogue today with the realms of politics, culture and science. I earnestly hope that this endeavor will be successful.

In his book “The Religious World of Dostoyevsky,” Guardini takes up, among other things, an episode of the novel “The Brothers Karamazov” (“The Religious World of Dostoyevsky,” Morcelliana, Brescia, pp. 24ff). It is the passage where the people go to staretz Zosima to present to him their concerns and difficulties, asking for his prayer and blessing. An emaciated peasant woman also approaches him to make her Confession. In a soft whisper she says she killed her husband who in the past had mistreated her very much. The staretz sees that the woman, in a desperate awareness of her guilt, is completely shut in on herself, and that any reflection, consolation or advice would run up against a wall. The woman is convinced she is condemned, but the priest shows her a way out: her existence has meaning, because God receives her at the moment of her repentance. Fear nothing, never fear, and do not be anguished -- says the staretz -- so that your repentance is not weakened, and then God will forgive everything. Moreover, there is not, and there cannot be in the whole earth a sin that God does not forgive if one repents sincerely. Nor can man commit such a great sin that it exhausts God’s infinite love (Ibid., p. 25). The woman was transformed in her Confession and received hope again.

In fact, the simplest persons understand what this is about. They are taken by the grandeur that shines in the wisdom and strength of the staretz’s love. They understand what holiness means, namely a life lived in faith, capable of seeing that God is close to men, that He has their life in His hands. In this connection, Guardini says: “Accepting with simplicity the existence of God’s hand, the personal will is transformed into the divine will and thus, without the creature ceasing to be only a creature and God truly God, their living unity is realized” (Ibid., p. 32). This is Guardini’s profound vision. It might have its foundation in his first metaphysical book “Der Gegensatz.”

For Guardini this “living unity” with God consists of persons’ concrete relation with the world and with those around them. The individual feels interwoven in a people, namely, in an “original union of men that by species, country and historical evolution in life and in their destinies are a unique whole” (“The Meaning of the Church,” Morcelliana, Brescia, 2007, p. 21-22). Guardini understands the concept of “people” by distinguishing it clearly from an Enlightenment rationalism that considers real only that which can be received by reason (cf. “The Religious World of Dostoyevsky,” p. 321) and that tends to isolate man, tearing him away from vital natural relations. Instead, the people means: the compendium of what is genuine, profound, essential in man (Ibid., p. 12). We can recognize in the people, as in a mirror, the “field of strength of the divine action.” The people -- Guardini continues -- “feel this operating everywhere and intuits the mystery, the restless presence” (Ibid., p. 15). Therefore, I like to say -- I am convinced of it -- that “people” is not a logical category, but a mystical category, for the reason that Guardini says.

Perhaps we can apply Guardini’s reflections to our time, seeking to discover God’s hand in present-day events. Then, perhaps, we will be able to recognize that God in His wisdom, has sent to us, in rich Europe, the hungry so that we will give him to eat, the thirsty so that we will give him to drink, the stranger so that we will receive him and the naked, so that we clothe him. History will then demonstrate: if we are a people, we will certainly receive him as our brother; if we are only a group of more or less organized individuals, we will be tempted to save our skin first of all, but we will not have continuity.

I thank you all once again for your presence. May your work with Guardini’s writings bring you to understand increasingly the meaning and value of the Christian foundations of culture and society. I bless you from my heart and I ask you, please, to pray for me.

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Angelus Address: On Today and the End Times

Rome, November 15, 2015

Here is a translation of the address Pope Francis gave today before and after praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square:

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters:

The Gospel of this second-to-last Sunday of the liturgical year proposes to us some of Jesus’ words about the last events of human history, oriented toward the complete fulfillment of the reign of God.

It is the preaching that Jesus gave in Jerusalem before his last Passover. It has certain apocalyptic elements, such as wars, famine, cosmic catastrophes. “The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.”

Still, these segments are not the essential part of the message. The central nucleus around which the words of Jesus turn is he himself, the mystery of his person, and of his death and resurrection, and his return at the end of time. Our final goal is an encounter with the Risen Lord.

I would like to ask how many of you think about this: “There will be a day in which I encounter the Lord face to face.” And this is our goal, our encounter. We do not await a time or a place; rather we are going to encounter a person: Jesus. Thus the problem is not “when” these premonitory signs of the last days will occur, but rather that we find ourselves prepared. It’s also not about knowing “how” these things will happen, but instead “how” we have to act today, in awaiting these things.

We are called to live the present building our future with serenity and trust in God. The parable of the fig tree that sprouts, as a sign of approaching summer, teaches that the perspective of the end doesn't distract us from the present life, but rather brings us to look toward our current days with an outlook of hope.

Hope: this virtue that is so hard to live. The smallest of the virtues, but the strongest. And our hope has a face: the face of the Risen Lord, who comes “with great power and glory,” and this will manifest his love, crucified and transfigured in the Resurrection. The triumph of Jesus at the end of time will be the triumph of the cross, the demonstration that the sacrifice of oneself for love of neighbor, in imitation of Christ, is the only victorious power, the only stable point in the midst of the upheavals of the world. 

The Lord Jesus is not only the destination point of our earthly pilgrimage, but also a constant presence in our lives. That’s why when we speak of the future and project ourselves toward it, it is always to lead us back to the present.

He counters the false prophets, the fortune-tellers who predict that the end of the world is near; he counters fatalism. He is at our side; he walks with us; he loves us so much.

He wants to direct his disciples of every age away from curiosity about dates, predictions, horoscopes, and concentrate their attention on the today of history. 

I would like to ask you — but don’t answer out loud; each one answer to himself — how many are there among us who read the horoscope every day? Each one answer, and when you feel like reading your horoscope, look to Jesus who is with us. That is better and will serve us better.

This presence of Jesus calls us, yes, to anticipation and vigilance that excludes both impatience and lethargy, [both] the escaping to the future and the becoming prisoners of the current moment and worldliness. In our days, too, there is no lack of natural and moral disasters, nor of adversities and difficulties of every type. Everything passes, the Lord reminds us. His word alone remains as light that looks upon and steadies our journey. He always forgives us because he is at our side. We only have to look at him and he changes our hearts. May the Virgin Mary help us to trust in Jesus, the firm foundation of our lives, and persevere with joy in his love.

[Angelus]

Dear brothers and sisters, I want to express my profound sorrow over the terrorist attacks that bloodied France on Friday night, resulting in numerous victims.

To the president of the Republic of France and all of its citizens, I express my deepest sorrow. I feel particularly close to the families of those who lost their lives and the wounded.

Such barbarity leaves us stunned and makes us question how the heart of man could come up with and carry out such horrific acts, which have shattered not only France, but the whole world.

In the face of such intolerable acts, we cannot cease condemning this unspeakable attack on the dignity of the human person. 

I want to vigorously reaffirm that the path of violence and hate does not resolve the problems of humanity. And that to use the name of God to justify this path is blasphemy. 

I invite you to join in my prayer: let us entrust the defenseless victims of this tragedy to the mercy of God. Virgin Mary, Mother of mercy, plant in the hearts of all thoughts of wisdom and resolutions of peace. 

We ask her to protect us and to watch over the beloved French nation, the eldest daughter of the Church, all of Europe and the whole world.

Let us pray in silence for a moment and then, a Hail Mary …

[Hail Mary]

Yesterday in Tres Puntas, in the state of Minas Gerais, in Brazil, Fr. Francisco de Paula Victor was beatified. He was a Brazilian priest of African origin, the son of a slave. A generous parish priest, dedicated to catechesis and administering the sacraments, he was particularly distinguished by his great humility.

May his extraordinary testimony be a model for so many priests, called to be humble servants of the people of God. 

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Pope's Morning Homily: Don't Auction Off Your Identity

Rome, November 16, 2015

Pope Francis today drew from the First Book of Maccabees to warn against worldliness and apostasy, saying that a Christian musn't put his identity up for auction, or do things just because everyone else is doing it. 

The Pope made this reflection during his morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta, according to Vatican Radio.

The First Reading of today's Mass speaks of King Antiochus Epiphanes, referring to him as a "sinful offshoot" or a root of evil, who imposes pagan customs on the Chosen People.

Pope Francis commented that, "the image of the root is under the ground." The "phenomenology of the root" is this: "What is not seen does not seem to do any harm, but then it grows and shows its true nature."

The Holy Father noted that it was a "rational root," pushing the Israelites to ally with neighboring nations for protection. 

“Let us go and make an alliance with the Gentiles all around us; since we separated from them, many evils have come upon us," the reading says.

The Pope explained this reading with three words: "Worldliness, apostasy, persecution."

Worldliness in life is to do what the world does. It’s saying: "We put up for auction our identity card; we are equal to everyone. " Thus, as the reading recounts, many Jews "disowned the faith and 'abandoned the holy covenant.'" And what "seemed so rational - 'we are like everyone else, we are normal' - became their destruction."

"Then the king recommended that his whole kingdom should be one people - the one thought; worldliness - and each abandoned their own customs. All peoples adapted themselves to the orders of the king; also many Jews accepted his worship: they sacrificed to idols and profaned the Sabbath. Apostasy. That is, worldliness that leads you to one unique thought, and to apostasy. No differences are permitted: all are equal. And in the history of the Church, the history we have seen, I think of a case, where religious feasts were renamed - the birth of the Lord has another name – in order to erase its identity."

In Israel the books of the law were burned "and if someone obeyed the law, the judgment of the king condemned him to death." That's "persecution," initiated by a "root of bitterness," Francis said.

"I have  always been struck," the Pope remarked, "that the Lord, at the Last Supper, in that long prayer, praying for unity [asks] the Father that he would deliver them from every spirit of the world, from all worldliness, because worldliness destroys identity; worldliness leads to the single thought."

"It starts from a root, but it is small, and ends up an abomination of desolation, in persecution. This is the deception of worldliness, and why Jesus asked the Father, at that Supper: 'Father, I do not ask you to remove them from the world, but keep them from the world,' this mentality, this humanism, which is to take the place of the true man, Jesus Christ, that comes to take away the Christian identity and brings us to the single thought: 'They all do it, why not us?' This, in these times, should make us think: what is my identity? Is it Christian or worldly? Or do I say to myself, 'Christian because I was baptized as a child or was born in a Christian country, where everyone is Christian?' Worldliness that comes slowly, it grows, it justifies itself and infects: it grows like the root, it defends itself - 'but, we do as others do, we are not so different' - always looking for a justification, and eventually it becomes contagious, and many evils come from there."

"The liturgy, in these last days of the liturgical year," said the Pope, exhorts us to beware of "poisonous roots" that "lead away from the Lord."

"And we pray to the Lord for the Church, that the Lord will guard it from all forms of worldliness. That the Church will always have the identity given to it by Jesus Christ; that we will all have the identity that we received in baptism. May the Lord give us the grace to maintain and preserve our Christian identity against the spirit of worldliness that always grows, justifies itself and is contagious. "

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Pope Tells Lutheran to 'Talk to the Lord' About Receiving the Eucharist

CTV

 

by Edward Pentin 11/16/2015 Comments

Pope Francis addressing Rome's Evangelical Lutheran Church

– CTV

Pope Francis has caused controversy by appearing to suggest that a Lutheran wife of a Catholic husband could receive holy Communion based on the fact that she is baptized and in accordance with her conscience.

During a question and answer session at an evening prayer service on Sunday in Rome’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Pope urged the Lutheran woman, Anke de Bernardinis,  to "talk to the Lord" about receiving holy Communion "and then go forward", but added that he "wouldn’t ever dare to allow this, because it’s not my competence."

The Pope was responding to de Bernardinis who asked him how she could finally achieve Eucharistic communion with her Catholic husband.

The Holy Father answered by firstly posing the question whether the Eucharist is the goal of walking together, or acts as the sustenance (viaticum) of such a path. The answer, he said, should be left to theologians.

He then went on to say that, when sharing, “there aren’t differences between us” and doctrine becomes the “same”. Doctrine, he said, is a “difficult word to understand — but I ask myself: don’t we have the same Baptism? If we have the same Baptism, shouldn’t we be walking together?”

He said Lutheran and Catholic language are “the same” when it comes to teaching children why Jesus came among us and what he did for mankind.

Moving on to the Lord’s Supper itself, the Pope said there are “questions that, only if one is sincere with oneself and with the little theological light one has, must be responded to on one’s own.”

He added: “See for yourself. This is my body. This is my blood. Do it in remembrance of me – this is a viaticum that helps us to journey on.”

Continuing with his answer, the Pope recalled a Protestant pastor-friend who once told him that they, too, believed that the Lord is present in the Eucharist and wondered what the difference was. “Life is bigger than explanations and interpretations," the Pope said. "Always refer back to your baptism. ‘One faith, one baptism, one Lord.’ This is what Paul tells us, and then take the consequences from there."

The Pope added: “I wouldn’t ever dare to allow this, because it’s not my competence. One baptism, one Lord, one faith. Talk to the Lord and then go forward. I don’t dare to say anything more.”

The Holy Father's words have been causing widespread concern in Rome, leading some to go as far as to describe them as an attack on the sacraments. “The Rubicon has been crossed,” said one source close to the Vatican. “The Pope said it in a charming way, but this is really about mocking doctrine. We have seven sacraments, not one.” 

The issue is particularly sensitive at the current time given the continuing pressure to allow remarried-divorcees to receive holy Communion within the "internal forum", guided by their confessor.  

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that, because ecclesial communities derived from the Reformation and separated from the Catholic Church "have not preserved the proper reality of the Eucharistic mystery in its fullness, especially because of the absence of the sacrament of Holy Orders," Eucharistic intercommunion with these communities "is not possible.”

However it adds that when they commemorate the Lord's death and resurrection in the Holy Supper, they "profess that it signifies life in communion with Christ and await his coming in glory." (No. 1400). More on canonical rules concerning intercommunion can be found here

Here below are the Pope’s comments in context (my working translation):

Question: My name is Anke de Bernardinis and, like many people in our community, I'm married to an Italian, who is a Roman Catholic Christian. We’ve lived happily together for many years, sharing joys and sorrows. And so we greatly regret being divided in faith and not being able to participate in the Lord's Supper together. What can we do to achieve, finally, communion on this point?

Pope Francis: The question on sharing the Lord’s Supper isn’t easy for me to respond to, above all in front of a theologian like Cardinal Kasper! I’m scared! 

I think of how the Lord told us when he gave us this command to “do this in memory of me,” and when we share the Lord’s Supper, we recall and we imitate the same as the Lord. And there will be the Lord’s Supper, there will be the eternal banquet in the new Jerusalem, but that will be the last one. In the meantime, I ask myself — and don’t know how to respond — what you’re asking me, I ask myself the question. To share the Lord’s banquet: is it the goal of the path or is it the viaticum [provisions] for walking together? I leave that question to the theologians and those who understand. 

It’s true that in a certain sense, to share means there aren’t differences between us, that we have the same doctrine – underscoring that word, a difficult word to understand — but I ask myself: but don’t we have the same Baptism? If we have the same Baptism, shouldn’t we be walking together? You’re a witness also of a profound journey, a journey of marriage: a journey really of the family and human love and of a shared faith, no? We have the same Baptism. 

When you feel yourself to be a sinner – and I feel more of a sinner – when your husband feels a sinner, you go to the Lord and ask forgiveness; your husband does the same and also goes to the priest and asks absolution. I’m healed to keep alive the Baptism. When you pray together, that Baptism grows, becomes stronger. When you teach your kids who Jesus is, why Jesus came, what Jesus did for us, you’re doing the same thing, whether in the Lutheran language or the Catholic one, but it’s the same. The question: and the [Lord’s] Supper? There are questions that, only if one is sincere with oneself and with the little theological light one has, must be responded to on one’s own. See for yourself. This is my body. This is my blood. Do it in remembrance of me – this is a viaticum that helps us to journey on. 

I once had a great friendship with an Episcopalian bishop who went a little wrong – he was 48 years old, married, two children. This was a discomfort to him – a Catholic wife, Catholic children, him a bishop. He accompanied his wife and children to Mass on Sunday, and then went to worship with his community. It was a step of participation in the Lord’s Supper. Then he went forward, the Lord called him, a just man. To your question, I can only respond with a question: what can I do with my husband, because the Lord’s Supper accompanies me on my path?

It’s a problem each must answer, but a pastor-friend once told me: “We believe that the Lord is present there, he is present. You all believe that the Lord is present. And so what's the difference?” — “Eh, there are explanations, interpretations.” Life is bigger than explanations and interpretations. Always refer back to your baptism. “One faith, one baptism, one Lord.” This is what Paul tells us, and then take the consequences from there. I wouldn’t ever dare to allow this, because it’s not my competence. One baptism, one Lord, one faith. Talk to the Lord and then go forward. I don’t dare to say anything more.

 


Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/edward-pentin/pope-tells-lutheran-to-talk-to-the-lord-about-receiving-eucharist/#ixzz3rmbk0qWI

 

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What Did The Pope Really Say… about Lutherans and Communion?

Posted on 16 November 2015 by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

15_11_16_screenshotHere we go again.

Pope Francis has offered some confusing observations about the possibility of Lutherans receiving Holy Communion in the Catholic Church.

I’m getting email… angry… alarmed… confused… sad… above all demoralized.

Edward Pentin has the best press breakdown I have seen so far. HERE  You can read the whole of the answer that the Pope gave to a Lutheran woman Anke de Bernardinis.  Here’s the video of the whole event in the original language, Italian.  The part under discussion here starts at 21:00:

Here below are the Pope’s comments in context (Pentin’s working translation):

Question: My name is Anke de Bernardinis and, like many people in our community, I’m married to an Italian, who is a Roman Catholic Christian. We’ve lived happily together for many years, sharing joys and sorrows. And so we greatly regret being divided in faith and not being able to participate in the Lord’s Supper together. What can we do to achieve, finally, communion on this point?

Pope Francis: The question on sharing the Lord’s Supper isn’t easy for me to respond to, above all in front of a theologian like Cardinal Kasper! I’m scared! [Meh. I wouldn’t worry about Kasper.]

I think of how the Lord told us when he gave us this command to “do this in memory of me,” and when we share the Lord’s Supper, we recall and we imitate the same as the Lord. And there will be the Lord’s Supper in the final banquet in the new Jerusalem will be there but that will be the last one. In the meantime, I ask myself — and don’t know how to respond — what you’re asking me, I ask myself the question. To share the Lord’s banquet: is it the goal of the path or is it the viaticum [provisions] for walking together? I leave that question to the theologians and those who understand. [Ummm… it’s not that hard.  It’s both.]

It’s true that in a certain sense, to share means there aren’t differences between us, that we have the same doctrine – underscoring that word, a difficult word to understand [“doctrine” is difficult to understand?  How about “That which is taught.  Christian doctrine ordinarily means that body of revealed and defined truth which a Catholic is bound to hold, but is often extended to include those teachings which are not of faith but are generally held and acted upon.  Occasionally the word indicates these last only, “the teachings of theologians,” as distinct from “the faith taught by the Church.” – The Catholic Dictionary – Is there more to say?  Sure.  But that’s a start.] — but I ask myself: but don’t we have the same Baptism? If we have the same Baptism, shouldn’t we be walking together? You’re a witness also of a profound journey, a journey of marriage: a journey really of the family and human love and of a shared faith, no? We have the same Baptism.  [Yes, we have the same baptism.  I was baptized in the Lutheran Church.  My baptism was valid.  However, in order to receive Communion in the Catholic Church, to be admitted to the Catholic Communion, I had to repudiate the errors of my Lutheran background and publicly state that I embraced and accepted everything that the Holy Catholic Church teaches.    HERE  (“Moreover, without hesitation I accept and profess all that has been handed down, defined, and declared by the sacred canons and by the general councils, especially by the Sacred Council of Trent and by the Vatican General Council, and in special manner all that concerns the primacy and infallibility of the Roman Pontiff. At the same time I condemn and reprove all that the Church has condemned and reproved.”) When I was ordained, I put my hand on Holy Writ and, publicly, said that I accepted what the Church teaches. Lutherans have valid baptism, but they do not believe in the effects of baptism in the same way that we Catholics in regard to justification and sanctification.  Furthermore, baptism, though foundational, is one sacrament. We have others, too.  But let’s go on.]

When you feel yourself to be a sinner – and I feel more of a sinner – when your husband feels a sinner, you go to the Lord and ask forgiveness; your husband does the same and also goes to the priest and asks absolution. [The Sacrament of Penance is the means given to us by Christ Himself, the means by which HE desires for us to seek forigivness and reconciliation.] I’m healed to keep alive the Baptism. When you pray together, that Baptism grows, becomes stronger. When you teach your kids who Jesus is, why Jesus came, what Jesus did for us, you’re doing the same thing, whether in the Lutheran language or the Catholic one, but it’s the same. [What Jesus did for us.. okay… but how we participate in what Jesus did for us is different.] The question: and the [Lord’s] Supper? There are questions that, only if one is sincere with oneself and with the little theological light one has, must be responded to on one’s own. See for yourself. This is my body. This is my blood. Do it in remembrance of me – this is a viaticum that helps us to journey on.

I once had a great friendship with an Episcopalian bishop who went a little wrong – he was 48 years old, married, two children. This was a discomfort to him – a Catholic wife, Catholic children, him a bishop. He accompanied his wife and children to Mass on Sunday, and then went to worship with his community. It was a step of participation in the Lord’s Supper. Then he went forward, [?!?] the Lord called him, a just man. To your question, I can only respond with a question: what can I do with my husband, because the Lord’s Supper accompanies me on my path?

It’s a problem each must answer, but a pastor-friend once told me: “We believe that the Lord is present there, he is present. You all believe that the Lord is present. And so what’s the difference?” [While I don’t think that, in this phrase, Pope Francis is implying that there are no differences between what Lutherans and Catholics believe, allow me to state for the record that there are HUGE differences between what Catholics and Lutherans believe about how the Lord is present in the Eucharist.] — “Eh, there are explanations, interpretations.” Life is bigger than explanations and interpretations. Always refer back to your baptism. [We have more than one sacrament.] “One faith, one baptism, one Lord.” This is what Paul tells us, and then take the consequences from there. [NB… really… Nota bene:] I wouldn’t ever dare to allow this, because it’s not my competence. [THAT’S RIGHT.  It is not his competence.] One baptism, one Lord, one faith. Talk to the Lord and then go forward. I don’t dare to say anything more.  [And THIS is where the confusion comes in.]

First, Pope Francis clearly states that he cannot officially say that Lutherans can be admitted to Communion.  He doesn’t have the competence.  This has been settled clearly from the Council of Trent onward.  The Pope knows that he can’t change this.

However, “Talk to the Lord and then go forward.”  This is confusing.   Let me try to untangle it.

On the one hand, that’s what people of good will do any way.  (There are people of bad will, too, but leave them out for now.) In the end, Catholics and non-Catholics alike make up their own minds at the moment of Communion at Holy Mass in Catholic Churches.  No one is monitoring their thoughts.  We can’t paralyze them in their pew and constrain them not to go forward when they should not.  A lot of people – never mind non-Catholics – a great many Catholics go to Communion when they should not.

If there is a case of a public sinner, a well-known person who should not go to Communion, then the bishop, priest or deacon is obliged not to give that person Communion.  Sure, that’s not the practice of all bishops and priests, but that’s not my fault.

What we need to do is catechize Catholics and teach clearly as a Church what we believe about the Eucharist and the proper disposition to receive the Eucharist in Communion.

If we don’t, then we priests and bishops are also guilty of profaning the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord.  We are responsible.

A lot of people become angry and confused about some things that Pope Francis says… and doesn’t say… and then says and doesn’t say at the same time.  It’s frustrating to try to figure him out.  For example, he tends to speak in derogatory terms about doctrine and law, as if they are not important.  BUT… BUT… he doesn’t actually say that they aren’t.

There is the tone with which he speaks and there are the words with which he speaks.  We are left to untangle the knot.

That said, for this issue the Pope made a clear statement:

I wouldn’t ever dare to allow this, because it’s not my competence.”

Before anyone gets out onto the ledge outside the window, read that again and repeat it to yourself.  The Pope is not saying that Lutherans can go to Communion.

The moderation queue is ON.

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Pope’s Morning Mass: “Lord, Keep Me From Pretending to Be a Christian”

Rome, November 17, 2015

Here is Vatican Radio’s report of Pope Francis’ homily from his morning Mass today:

The importance of safeguarding our Christian identity and not living double lives: that was the theme at the heart of Pope Francis’ homily at the Santa Marta Mass on Tuesday morning. The Pope based his words on the daily readings which focus on the need for coherence between our spiritual and our temporal lives.

Pope Francis began by reflecting on the elderly Jewish Rabbi Eleazar who chose to be martyred rather than submit to the unjust laws that we read about in the second book of Maccabees. The 90-year-old Eleazar refused to eat pork meat and rejected the offer of his “worldly” friends to compromise his integrity, choosing instead to die a martyr’s death.

Spiritual worldliness, Pope Francis said, tempts us towards an inconsistent lifestyle, in which we pretend to be one thing but live in another way. It may be difficult to recognize, he said, but just as woodworm slowly destroys things, so worldliness slowly leads us to lose our Christian identity.

Worldliness, he went on, leads to inconsistency between the things we say – “Oh, I’m a good Catholic Father, I go to Mass every Sunday” – and the things we do at work, such as offering or receiving bribes for example. This is not being consistent, the Pope said, rather it leads to a double life which distances us from God and destroys our Christian identity.

For this reason, Pope Francis continued, Jesus strongly pleads with his Father to save his disciples from such a worldly spirit. The Christian spirit, on the other hand, the Christian identity, he said, is never egoistic, but always tries to be consistent, avoiding scandal, helping others and showing a good example.

The Pope responded to objections such as, “It’s not easy Father, to live in this world where there are so many temptations and we are lured by the attractions of a double life every single day!” For us it is impossible, he said, and only God can help us avoid such worldliness, which is why we pray in the Psalms, “The Lord, upholds me.” He is our support against that spirit which destroys our Christian identity.

That is why we pray with humility, saying “Lord, I am a sinner — all of us are sinners — but I ask You to uphold me so that I don’t pretend to be a Christian while living like a pagan, worldly person.”

Pope Francis concluded by urging his listeners to pick up a Bible and read the story of Eleazar in chapter six of the book of Maccabees. It will do you good, he said, and give you courage to be an example to others. It will give you strength and support to uphold your Christian identity, without compromise and without leading a double life.

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GENERAL AUDIENCE: On the Door of Mercy

 

November 18, 2015

Here is a ZENIT translation of Pope Francis’ address at today’s general audience.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

With this reflection we have arrived at the threshold of the Jubilee, it is close. Before us is the door, but not only the Holy Door, the other – the great door of God’s Mercy, and it is a beautiful door! – which receives our repentance, offering the grace of His forgiveness. The door is generously open; a bit of courage is needed on our part to cross the threshold. Each one of us has within himself things that burden him. All of us. We are all sinners! Let us take advantage of this moment that is coming and cross the threshold of this mercy of God, who never tires of forgiving, never tires of waiting for us! He looks at us, He is always beside us. Courage! Let us go in through this door!

From the Synod of Bishops, which we held in the course of the month of October, all families and the entire Church received great encouragement to meet one another on the threshold of this open door. The Church was encouraged to open her doors, to go out with the Lord to encounter sons and daughters on the way, sometimes uncertain, sometimes lost, in these difficult times. Christian families in particular were encouraged to open the door to the Lord who waits to come in, bringing His blessing and His friendship. And if the door of God’s mercy is always open, the doors of our churches, of our communities, of our parishes, of our institutions, of our dioceses, must also be open, so that we can all go out to bring God’s mercy. The Jubilee signifies the great door of God’s mercy but also the small doors of our churches open to let the Lord come in – or many times to let the Lord go out – prisoner of our structures, of our egoism and of so many things.

The Lord never forces the door: He even asks permission to come in. The Book of Revelation says: ”Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (3:20). But let us imagine the Lord who knocks on the door of our heart! And, in the last great vision of this Book of Revelation, the City of God is prophesied thus: “its gates shall never be shut by day,” which means forever because “there shall be no night there” (21:25). There are places in the world where the doors are not locked, they still exist; but there are so many where armour-plated doors have become normal. We must not yield to the idea of having to apply this system to our whole life, to the life of the family, of the city, of the society, and even less so to the life of the Church. It would be terrible! An inhospitable Church, just as a family shut-in on itself, mortifies the Gospel and hardens the world. No armour-plated doors in the Church, none! Everything open!

The symbolic management of the “doors” – of the thresholds, of the passages, of the borders – has become crucial. A door must protect, certainly, but not push away. The door must not be forced, on the contrary, permission must be asked, because hospitality shines in the freedom of a welcome, and it is darkened in the arrogance of invasion. A door is often opened to see if someone is outside who is waiting, and perhaps does not have the courage -- perhaps not even the courage -- to knock. How many people have lost confidence, do not have the courage to knock on the door of our Christian heart, on the doors of our churches ... And they are there, they do not have the courage, we have taken away their confidence: please, let this not happen any more. The door says many things about a house, and also about the Church. The management of the door requires careful discernment and, at the same time, it must inspire great confidence. I would like to say a word of gratitude to all custodians of doors: of our condominiums, of civic institutions, of the churches themselves. Often the prudence and the kindness of the porter are capable of offering an image of humanity and welcome to the whole house, already from the entrance. We must learn from these men and women, who are custodians of places of encounter and welcome of the city of man! To all of you custodians of so many doors, be it doors of habitations, be it doors of churches, thank you so much! But always with a smile, always showing the hospitality of that house, of that church, thus the people feel happy and welcome in that place.

In truth, we know well that we ourselves are the custodians and servants of God’s Door, and how is God’s Door called? Jesus! He illumines us on all the doors of life, including those of our birth and of our death. He himself affirmed it: “I am the door; if any one enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9). Jesus is the door that makes us go in and out. Because God’s sheepfold is a shelter, it is not a prison! The House of God is a shelter, it is not a prison, and the door is called Jesus! And if the door is closed, we say: “Lord, open the door!” Jesus is the door and He makes us come in and go out. They are thieves who seek to avoid the door. It is curious, thieves always seek to enter another way, by the window, by the roof, but they avoid the door, because they have evil intentions, and they sneak into the sheepfold to deceive the sheep and to take advantage of them. We must pass through the door and listen to Jesus’ voice: if we hear His tone of voice, we are safe; we are saved. We can enter without fear and go out without danger. In this very beautiful discourse of Jesus, there is also talk of the guardian, who has the task to open to the Good Shepherd (cf. John 10:2). If the guardian hears the voice of the Shepherd, then he opens and has all the sheep enter that the Shepherd brings, all, including those lost in the woods, which the Good Shepherd went to bring back. The sheep are not chosen by the guardian, they are not chosen by the parish secretary or the parish’s secretariat; the sheep are all invited, they are chosen by the Good Shepherd. The guardian also obeys the voice of the Shepherd. See, we can well say that we must be like that guardian. The Church is the doorkeeper of the Lord’s House; she is not the proprietor of the Lord’s House.

The Holy Family of Nazareth knows well what it means to have an open or closed door, for one expecting a child, for one in need of shelter, for one who must escape from danger. May Christian families make the threshold of their home a small great sign of the Word of God’s Mercy and His welcome. It is in fact thus that the Church must be recognized, in every corner of the earth: as the custodian of a God that knocks, as the welcome of a God that does not close the door in your face, with the excuse that you are not of the house. We approach the Jubilee with this spirit: There will be the Holy Door, but it will be the door of God’s great mercy! May it also be the door of our heart for us all to receive God’s forgiveness and for us in turn to forgive, welcoming all those that knock on our door.

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[Appeals]

Observed day-after-tomorrow will be the World Day of Children’s Rights. It is a duty of everyone to protect children and to put their good before any other criteria, so that they are no longer subjected to forms of slavery and mistreatment and also forms of exploitation. I hope that the International Community will carefully look after the life conditions of children, especially where they are exposed to recruitment by armed groups; and that it may also help families and guarantee every boy and girl the right to school and education.

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On November 21, then, the Church recalls the Presentation of Mary Most Holy in the Temple. In this context, we thank the Lord for the gift of the vocation of men and women who, in monasteries and hermitages, have dedicated their lives to God. Let us not be lacking in spiritual and material closeness, so that cloistered communities can carry out their important mission in prayer and in active silence.

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[Summary in English:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters: As the extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy approaches, today we consider the great open door of God’s mercy, symbolized by the Holy Doors which will open in Churches throughout the world. The recent Synod of Bishops on the Family encouraged families in a particular way to enter this door of mercy and to open the doors of their hearts to others. Jesus tells us that he stands knocking at our door, asking that we open it to him (Rev 3:20). How important it is for us to be good doorkeepers, capable of opening our doors and making our homes places of encounter and welcome, especially to our brothers and sisters in need! Jesus also tells us that he himself is the door (Jn 10:9) which leads to salvation; if we pass through him, we will find lasting security and freedom. As guardians of that door, we in the Church are called to be welcoming to all who seek to enter the fold of the Good Shepherd. May the doors of our Christian homes be signs and symbols of the door of God’s mercy, a door ever open to all who knock and desire to meet Jesus.

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Pope’s Morning Mass November 19: Jesus Weeps Today Too, Because We’ve Chosen the Way of War

 Just as Jesus wept over Jerusalem, today too he is weeping over the world, because we have chosen the way of war, and have not understood peace.

This was the message Pope Francis gave this morning during his Mass at Casa Santa Marta, reported Vatican Radio.

Drawing from the Gospel reading, which recounts how Jesus wept at seeing Jerusalem, the Pope said: “Today Jesus weeps as well: because we have chosen the way of war, the way of hatred, the way of enmities.”

“We are close to Christmas: There will be lights, there will be parties, bright trees, even Nativity scenes – all decked out – while the world continues to wage war,” the Holy Father reflected. “The world has not understood the way of peace.”

Pope Francis went on to recall the recent commemorations of the Second World War and the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as his visit to Redipuglia last year on the anniversary of the Great War.

These conflicts were “useless slaughters,” the Pontiff said, repeating the words of Pope Benedict XV. “Everywhere there is war today, there is hatred.”

“What shall remain in the wake of this war, in the midst of which we are living now?” Francis asked. “What shall remain? Ruins, thousands of children without education, so many innocent victims: and lots of money in the pockets of arms dealers.”

The Holy Father reiterated something he has said on other occasions: that war is waged to bring economic gain to a few.

“Jesus once said: ‘You can not serve two masters:  either God or riches.’ War is the right choice for him who would serve wealth: 'Let us build weapons, so that the economy will right itself somewhat, and let us go forward in pursuit of our interests.’”

But those who choose money over human life face Jesus’ judgement, Francis warned. “There is an ugly word the Lord spoke: ‘Cursed!’ Because He said: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers!.’ The men who work war, who make war, are cursed, they are criminals.”

Just war?

The Pope also remarked: “A war can be justified – so to speak – with many, many reasons, but when all the world is as it is today, at war – piecemeal though that war may be – a little here, a little there, and everywhere – there is no justification – and God weeps. Jesus weeps.”

The Holy Father went on to say that, while the arms dealers go about their business, there are poor peacemakers who, in order to help others, spend themselves utterly, and even give their lives – as did Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

The cynical or worldly might ask, “But what did she ever accomplish? She wasted her life helping others on their way to death?” the Pope said, adding, “We do not understand the way of peace.” 

“It will do us well to ask the for the grace of tears, for this world that does not recognize the path of peace, this world that lives for war, and cynically says not to make it. Let us pray for conversion of heart. Here before the door of this Jubilee of Mercy, let us ask that our joy, our jubilation, be this grace: that the world discover the ability to weep for its crimes, for what the world does with war.”

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Pope’s Address to Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry

"In Evangelium Vitae we can trace the constitutive elements of the 'culture of salus': namely, hospitality, compassion, understanding and forgiveness"

November 19, 2015


Here is a translation of the address Pope Francis gave today when he received in audience the participants in the 30th International Conference, organized by the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry on the subject “The Culture of Salus and of Hospitality at the Service of Man and of the Planet” (Vatican, November 19-21, 2015).

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Thank you for your reception! I thank His Excellency Monsignor Zygmunt Zimowski for the courteous greeting he addressed to me on behalf of all those present, and I give my cordial welcome to you, organizers and participants of this 30th International Conference, dedicated to “The Culture of Salus and of Hospitality at the Service of Man and of the Planet.” A heartfelt thank you to all the collaborators of the Dicastery.

Many are the questions that will be addressed in this annual meeting, which marks the 30 years of activity of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry (for Health Pastoral Care), and which also coincides with the 20th anniversary of the publication of the Encyclical Letter Evangelium Vitae of Saint John Paul II.

In fact respect for the value of life and, even more so, love of it, finds irreplaceable accomplishment in making oneself close, in taking care of those that suffer in body and in spirit: all actions that characterize health care ministry. Actions and, even first, attitudes that the Church will highlight especially during the Jubilee of Mercy, which calls us all to be close to our most suffering brothers and sisters. In Evangelium Vitae we can trace the constitutive elements of the “culture of salus”: namely, hospitality, compassion, understanding and forgiveness. They are the habitual attitudes of Jesus in his relations with the multitude of needy persons that approached him every day: the sick of all sorts, public sinners, demoniacs, the marginalized, the poor, strangers ... And, curiously, in our throwaway culture, they are rejected, they are left to one side. They don’t count.  It’s curious ... what does this mean? That the throwaway culture is not of Jesus, it‘s not Christian.  

Such attitudes are those that the Encyclical calls “positive requirements” of the Commandment about the inviolability of life, which, with Jesus, are manifested in all their breadth and depth, and which again today can, better yet, must, distinguish health care ministry: they “range from caring for the life of one's brother (whether a blood brother, someone belonging to the same people, or a foreigner living in the land of Israel) to showing concern for the stranger, even to the point of loving one's enemy.” (n. 41).

This closeness to the other – true, not feigned closeness – to the point of regarding him as someone that belongs to me – an enemy also belongs to me as brother – surmounts every barrier of nationality, of social extraction, of religion ... as the “Good Samaritan” of the Gospel parable teaches us. It also surpasses that culture in a negative sense, according to which, be it in rich countries or in poor ones, human beings are accepted or rejected according to utilitarian criteria, in particular, social or economic utility. This mentality is parent of the so-called “medicine of desires”: an ever more widespread custom in rich countries, characterized by the quest at any cost of physical perfection, in the illusion of eternal youthfulness; a custom that in fact induces to discard or marginalize those that are not “efficient,” those who are regarded as a burden, a disturbance, or are simply ugly.

Likewise, “making oneself close” – as I reminded in my recent Encyclical Laudato Si’ – also implies assuming unbreakable responsibilities towards Creation and the “common home,” which belongs to all and is entrusted to the care of all, also for the coming generations.

The anxiety that the Church nourishes, in fact, is for the fate of the human family and of the whole of creation. It is about educating everyone to “look after” and to “administer” Creation as a whole, as a gift entrusted to the responsibility of every generation, so that it is handed all the more whole and humanly liveable to the coming generations. This conversion of the heart to the “Gospel of Creation” implies making our own and rendering ourselves interpreters of the cry for human dignity, which is raised above all by the poorest and excluded, as sick and suffering persons often are. In the now imminent Jubilee of Mercy, may this cry find a sincere echo in our hearts, so that in the exercise of works of mercy, corporal and spiritual, according to the different responsibilities entrusted to each one, we can also receive the gift of God’s grace, while we ourselves render ourselves “channels” and witnesses of mercy.

I hope that in these days of reflection and debate, in which you also consider the environmental factor in its aspects linked in the main to a person’s physical, psychic, spiritual and social health, you are able to contribute to a new development of the culture of salus, understood also in an integral sense. I encourage you, in this perspective, to always have present in your endeavors the reality of those populations, which in the main suffer the damages that stem from environmental degradation, grave damages, often permanent to health. And, speaking of these damages that stem form environmental degradation, it is a surprise for me to find – when I go to the Wednesday Audience or to parishes – so many sick people, especially children ... The parents say to me: “He has a rare illness! They don’t know what it is.” These rare illnesses are the consequence of the sickness that we inflict on the environment. And this is grave!

Let us ask Mary Most Holy, Health of the Sick, to accompany the works of your conference. We entrust to her the commitment that, daily, the different professional figures of the world of health carry out in favor of the suffering. I bless you all from my heart, your families, your communities, as well as all those you meet in hospitals and in nursing homes. I pray for you and you, please, pray for me. Thank you.

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Pope’s Morning Homily: ‘Worldly’ People Can’t Truly Celebrate

Rome, November 20, 2015

Just as we ready for a season of celebrations, Pope Francis is reminding that those who indulge in worldliness are unable to truly celebrate, since the best the spirit of the world can offer is mere amusement.

True joy comes from the Covenant, the Holy Father said this morning at Casa Santa Marta, reported Vatican Radio.

The Holy Father reflected on the reading from Maccabees (below), which tells of the people’s joy following the reconsecration of the Holy Temple, and the rekindling of their identity as a people.

In contrast, those “who indulge in worldliness do not know how to celebrate – they can’t celebrate!” the Pope said.

“At most, the worldly spirit can provide amusement; it can provoke excitement, but true joy can only come from faith in the Covenant,” he explained.

The Gospel reading from today (below) recounts the cleansing of the temple, with the attitudes of the money-changers in stark opposition to the rejoicing of the Maccabees.

“The Gospel says the chief priests and scribes had changed things,” the Pontiff said. “They had dishonored and compromised the Temple. They had dishonored the Temple!"

The Temple is a symbol of the Church, the Holy Father said, and the Church “will always – always! – be subject to the temptation of worldliness and power. Jesus did not say ‘No, do not do this inside. Go outside instead.’ He said ‘You have made it a den of thieves!’ And when the Church enters into such a state of decline, the end is bad. Very bad indeed.”

Pope Francis said the danger of corruption within the Church arises when “the Church, instead of being devoted to faith in Our Lord, in the Prince of Peace, in joy, in salvation, becomes dominated by money and power. This is exactly what happens here, in this Gospel reading. These priests, chief priests and scribes were driven by money, power and they ignored the Holy Spirit. And in order to be able to justify their actions, they poisoned the free spirit of the Lord with hypocrisy.”

The Pope said that in the 23rd chapter of St. Matthew, Jesus speaks of their hypocrisy: “These were people who had lost their sense of godliness, and even the ability to rejoice, to praise God. They did not know how to worship the Lord because they were too distracted by money and power, and by a form of worldiness.”

“Jesus did not chase the priests and scribes away from the Temple; he chased away those who were doing business there, the businessmen of the Temple. The chief priests and scribes were involved in their dealings: this is ‘holy bribery’! The Gospel is very clear. It says ‘The chief priests and scribes wanted to kill Jesus, along with the elders of the people’. The same thing happened under the rule of Judas Maccabeus.”

But where Jesus is, there is no room for worldliness, the Pope said. 

“There is no room for corruption! This is a challenge for each and every one of us; this is the struggle the Church has to face every day. We must always heed Jesus’ words;  we must never seek comfort from another master. Jesus told us that we cannot serve two masters. God or riches; God or power.”

The Pope concluded, saying “We ought to pray for the Church. We must hold in our hearts today’s martyrs, who suffer and die, so as not to be ensnared by worldly desires, by obsession, by apostasy. Today! Today, there are more martyrs of the Church than there ever were before. Let’s think about that. It does us good to think about them. And also to pray that we may never fall into the trap of worldliness, where we will be obsessed only by money and power.”

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Pope’s Address to German Bishops

Rome, November 20, 2015

Here is a translation of the address Pope Francis gave today to the German bishops, in Rome for their five-yearly ad limina visits.

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Dear Fellow Brothers,

I am happy to be able to greet you here in the Vatican, on the occasion of your Visit ad Limina. The pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles is an important moment in the life of every Bishop. It means a renewal of the bond with the universal Church, which proceeds through space and time as pilgrimaging People of God, bringing faithfully, in the course of the centuries, the patrimony of the faith to all peoples. My heartfelt thanks to the President of the German Episcopal Conference, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, for his courteous words of greeting. I express my gratitude to you all, because you help me to carry forward the Ministry of Peter through your prayer and your work in the particular Churches. I thank you especially for the great support that the Church in Germany offers to men in the whole world through many charitable works.

At present, we are living in an exceptional time. Hundreds of thousands of refugees have come to Europe or have begun to walk in search of refuge from war and persecution. The Christian Churches and many individual citizens of your country give enormous help to receive these persons, giving them assistance and human closeness. In the spirit of Christ, we wish to continue to address the challenge of the great number of needy. At the same time, we support all the humanitarian initiatives, so that the conditions of life in the countries of origin become more bearable.

The Catholic communities in Germany are very different between the East and West, but also between the North and South. Everywhere the Church is committed with professionalism in the social and charitable realms, and is also very active in the scholastic field. It is necessary to ensure that in these institutions the Catholic profile is looked after; in this way they are a positive factor, not to be undervalued, for the building of a liveable society. On the other hand, noted particularly in the regions of Catholic tradition is a very strong drop in participation at Sunday Mass, as well as in the sacramental life. Whereas in the 60s everywhere almost every member of the faithful still participated every Sunday in the Holy Mass, today it is often less than 10%. The Sacraments are increasingly less frequented.  The Sacrament of Penance has often disappeared. Ever fewer Catholics receive Confirmation or contract a Catholic marriage. The number of vocations to the priestly ministry and to consecrated life is clearly diminished. Considering these facts, one can truly speak of an erosion of the Catholic faith in Germany.

What can we do? First of all it is necessary to overcome the resignation that paralyzes. Certainly it is not possible to reconstruct from the wreckage the “good old days” that were yesterday. However, we can let ourselves be inspired by the life of the first Christians. Suffice it to think of Priscilla and Aquila, those faithful collaborators of Saint Paul. As a married couple they witnessed, with convincing words (cf. Acts 18:26), but especially with their life, that the truth, founded on the love of Christ for His Church, is truly worthy of faith. They opened their home for the proclamation of the Gospel and drew strength from the Word of God  for their mission. The example of these “volunteers” can make us reflect, given the tendency to growing institutionalization. Ever new structures are inaugurated, for which in the end faithful are lacking. It is a sort of new Pelagianism, which leads us to put faith in administrative structures, in perfect organizations. Excessive centralization, rather than helping, complicates the life of the Church and her missionary dynamic (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 32). The Church is not a closed system that revolves around the same questions and interrogatives. The Church is alive, she presents herself to men in their reality, she is able to disquiet, she is able to encourage. She does not have a rigid face; she has a body that moves, grows and has feelings: she is the Body of Jesus Christ.

The present imperative is pastoral conversion, that is, to make all the structures of the Church become “more mission-oriented, to make ordinary pastoral activity on every level more inclusive and open, to inspire in pastoral workers a constant desire to go forth and in this way to elicit a positive response from all those whom Jesus summons to friendship with himself” (Evangelii Gaudium, 27). The conditions in society today are certainly not altogether favorable. A certain worldliness prevails. This worldliness deforms souls, suffocates the consciousness of the reality: a worldly person lives in an artificial world, which he himself builds. He is surrounded as though by dark glass so as not to see outside. This certainly leads us, first of all, to prayer. Let us pray for the men and women of our cities, of our dioceses, and let us pray also for ourselves, that God will send us a ray of divine charity through our dark glass, touching hearts, so that they understand His message. We must be among people with the ardor of those who first received the Gospel. And “whenever we make the effort to return to the source and to recover the original freshness of the Gospel, new avenues arise, new paths of creativity open up, with different forms of expression, more eloquent signs and words with new meaning for today’s world. Every form of authentic evangelization is always ‘new’” (Evangelii Gaudium, 11). Thus new ways and forms of catechesis can open to help young people and families to a genuine and joyous rediscovery of the common faith of the Church.

In the context of the New Evangelization it is indispensable that the Bishop carry out diligently his task as teacher of the faith – of the faith transmitted and lived in the living communion of the universal Church – in the multiple fields of his pastoral ministry. As a solicitous father, the Prelate will support the Theological Faculties helping the docents to rediscover the great ecclesial importance of their mission. Fidelity to the Church and to the Magisterium does not contradict academic freedom, but exacts a humble attitude of service to God’s gifts. Sentire cum Ecclesia should distinguish, in a particular way, those that educate and form the new generations. Moreover, the presence of the Theological Faculties in State institutes of education is a great opportunity to have the dialogue with society advance. Also use well the Catholic University of Eichstatt with its Theological Faculty and its various scientific departments. Being the only Catholic University of your country, this Institute is of great value for the whole of Germany; therefore, an appropriate commitment of the whole Episcopal Conference would be desirable to reinforce its super-regional importance and to promote inter-disciplinary exchange on current and future questions according to the spirit of the Gospel.

Turning one’s look then on the parish communities, in which in the main the faith is experienced and lived, the sacramental life should be at the Bishop’s heart in a particular way. I would like to stress only two points: Confession and the Eucharist. The imminent Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy offers the opportunity to have the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation rediscovered. Confession is the place where one receives the gift of God’s forgiveness and mercy. In Confession the transformation begins of every single faithful and the reform of the Church. I trust that greater attention will be given to this Sacrament, so important for a spiritual renewal in the diocesan and parish pastoral plans during the Holy Year and also after. It is necessary, moreover, to evidence the profound nexus between the Eucharist and the Priesthood. Pastoral plans that do not attribute proper importance to priests in their ministry of governing, teaching and sanctifying with regard to the structure and the sacramental life of the Church, on the basis of experience, are destined to failure. The precious collaboration of the lay faithful, especially where vocations are lacking, cannot become a surrogate of the priestly ministry or make it seem, in fact, a simple “optional.” There is no Eucharist without a priest. And vocational pastoral ministry begins with the ardent desire in the hearts of the faithful to have priests. Finally, a task of the Bishop, which is never sufficiently appreciated, is the commitment to life. The Church must never tire of being the advocate of life and she must not take steps backwards in the proclamation that human life be protected unconditionally from the moment of conception to natural death. We can make no compromises here, without ourselves becoming guilty of the throwaway culture, unfortunately widespread. How great are the wounds that our society must suffer because of the discarding of the weakest and the most vulnerable. – unborn life as well as the elderly and the sick! In the end all of us will suffer the painful consequences.

Dear fellow brothers, I hope that the meetings with the Roman Curia in these days will illumine the way of your particular Churches in the coming years, helping you to rediscover ever better your great spiritual and pastoral patrimony. Thus you will be able to carry forward with trust your appreciated work in the mission of the universal Church. I ask you to continue to pray for me, so that with God’s help I can carry out my Petrine ministry. Likewise, I entrust you to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, of the Apostles Peter and Paul, as well as of all the Blesseds and Saints of your land. I impart my heartfelt Apostolic Blessing to you and to the faithful of your dioceses.

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ANGELUS ADDRESS: On Jesus as King

Rome, November 22, 2015

Here is a translation of the address Pope Francis gave today before and after praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square, on this solemnity of Christ the King and also the feast of St. Cecilia.

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Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

On this last Sunday of the liturgical year, we celebrate the solemnity of Christ the King. And the Gospel of today brings us to contemplate Jesus as he was presented before Pilate as the king of a kingdom that “is not of this world.” This doesn’t mean that Christ is the king of another world, but that he is a different kind of king; but he is king in this world. 

We have here a contraposition of two types of logic. The worldly logic bases itself on ambition, competition, combat with the weapons of fear, of bribery, of the manipulation of consciences. On the other hand, the logic of the Gospel, that is, the logic of Jesus, is expressed in humility and gratitude. It is affirmed silently but effectively with the force of truth. The kingdoms of this world sometimes are sustained by arrogance, rivalries, oppression; the reign of Christ is a “kingdom of justice, of love and of peace.”

Jesus has revealed himself as a king. When? In the event of the cross. One who looks at the cross cannot help but see the surprising gratuitousness of love. But someone could say, “But Father, that was a failure!” It is precisely in the failure of sin that sin is a failure. In the failure of human ambitions, there is the triumph of the cross, there is the gratuitousness of love. In the failure of the cross, love is seen. And a love that is gratuitous, that Jesus gives us. 

To speak of power and strength, for the Christian, means to make reference to the power of the cross, and the strength of Jesus’ love: a love that remains firm and complete, even when faced with rejection, and which is shown as the fulfillment of a life poured out in the total surrender of itself for the benefit of humanity. On Calvary, the passers-by and the leaders made fun of Jesus nailed to the cross and they challenged him: “Save yourself by coming down from the cross. Save yourself.”

But paradoxically the truth of Jesus is precisely that [challenge] hurled at him with irony by his adversaries: “He can’t save himself!” If Jesus would have come down from the cross, he would have given in to the temptations of the prince of the world. Instead, he cannot save himself precisely so as to be able to save the others, because in fact he has given his life for us, for each one of us. To say “Jesus has given his life for the world” is true. But it is more beautiful to say, “Jesus has given his life for me.” 

And today, in this Square, let each one of us say in his heart: “He has given his life for me, to be able to save each one of us from our sins.”

And who has understood this? One of the criminals who was crucified with him understood it well, the one called the “good thief,” who pleads with him, “remember me when you come into your kingdom.” But this was a criminal, a corrupt person, and he was there in fact, because he was condemned to death for all of the brutalities that he had committed in his life. But in Jesus’ way of behaving, in his meekness, he has seen love. The majesty of Jesus doesn’t oppress us, but rather frees us from our weaknesses and miseries, encouraging us to walk the path of the good, of reconciliation and of pardon. Let us look at the cross of Jesus, let us look at the “good thief,” and say together what the good thief said: Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. Together: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And to ask Jesus, when we feel that we are weak, that we are sinners, defeated, that he would look at us, and tell him: “You are there. Don’t forget me.”

Faced with so many lacerations in the world and too many wounds in the flesh of man, let us ask the Virgin Mary to sustain us in our commitment to imitate Jesus, our king, making his kingdom present with gestures of tenderness, of understanding, of mercy.

[Angelus]

Yesterday, in Barcelona, Federico de Berga and 25 companion martyrs were beatified. They were assassinated in Spain during the ferocious persecution against the Church in the century before this one. They were priests, professed youth awaiting ordination and lay brothers, belonging to the Capuchins. Let us entrust to their intercession the multitudes of our brothers and sisters who lamentably today, in various parts of the world, are persecuted because of their faith in Christ. 

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Pope’s Morning Homily: Widows Are an Image of the Church Seeking to Stay Faithful

Rome, November 23, 2015

The Church remains faithful if she keeps her eyes fixed on Jesus, but she becomes lukewarm and mediocre if she seeks comfort in worldly things. That was Pope Francis’ message today as he reflected on the Gospel reading at Mass in the Casa Santa Marta.

Pope Francis noted that the reading from St Luke’s Gospel tells the story of the widow who puts her two coins in the temple treasury box, while other wealthy worshippers make a great show of the money they're putting in. Jesus says that “this poor widow put in more than all the rest” because the others were giving away money from their surplus wealth, while she, in her poverty, “has offered her whole livelihood.”

In the Bible, Pope Francis said, the widow is the woman who is alone, who has no husband to look after her, who has to manage on her own, who survives on charity. The widow in this Gospel passage, he said, was “a widow who had placed her trust only in the Lord.” I like to look at the widows in the Gospel, he said, as an image of the “widowed” Church who is waiting for Jesus to return.

The Church is the bride of Christ, Pope Francis said, but her Lord has gone and her only treasure is in her Lord. If the Church remains faithful, then she leaves everything while waiting for her Lord to return. If she does not have so much faith in the love of her Lord, then she tries to get by in other ways, seeking security in things that are more of this world than of God.

The widows of the Gospels, the Pope continued, speak beautifully to us about Jesus and His Church. There is the widow of Nain who was crying as she accompanied her son to be buried outside the city gates. There is the widow who goes to the unjust judge in order to defend her sons, knocking on his door every day and bothering him continuously until he delivers a just sentence for her. This is the widowed Church who prays and intercedes for her children, Pope Francis explained. But the heart of the Church is always with Jesus, the Bridegroom in heaven.

According to the desert fathers, the Pope said, our souls also resemble the Church, and the closer our souls, our lives, are to Jesus, the more we are able to avoid worldly, useless things that lead us away from Christ. While the ‘widowed’ Church waits for Jesus, he said, she can be faithful, trusting that her husband will return, or she can be unfaithful to her widowhood, a lukewarm, mediocre, worldly Church seeking comfort in other things.

In these last days of the liturgical year, Pope Francis concluded, we would do well to ask ourselves if our souls are searching for the Lord, or if they’re looking for comfort in things which do not please the Lord. Let our souls say “Come Lord Jesus! Come!” And may we leave behind all those useless things which stop us from staying faithful.

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Pope's Message to Central African Republic

Rome, November 23, 2015

Here is a translation of the French-language message Pope Francis sent by video to the Central African Republic.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Central African Republic,

A few days before the voyage that will bring me among you, I wish to tell you the joy that dwells in me, and already to greet each one of you with the greatest affection, regardless of your ethnic group or religion. It is the first time in my life that I will come to the African Continent, so lovely and rich in its nature, its populations and its cultures, and I expect beautiful discoveries and enriching meetings. For too long your dear country has experienced a situation of violence and insecurity, of which many of you have been innocent victims. The purpose of my visit is, first of all, to bring you, in the name of Jesus, the comfort of consolation and of hope. I hope with all my heart that my visit can contribute, in one way or another, to soothe your wounds and to open a more serene future for Central Africa and all its inhabitants.

The theme of this voyage will be: let us pass to the other shore. It is a theme that invites your Christian communities to look ahead resolutely, and to encourage each one to renew his/her relation with God and with brothers and sisters to build a more just and more fraternal world. I will have the joy, notably, of opening for you – somewhat ahead of time – the Jubilee Year of Mercy, which will be for each one, I hope, the providential occasion of genuine forgiveness, to receive and to give, and of renewal in love.

It is as a messenger of peace that I come to you. I will have at heart to support interreligious dialogue and to encourage peaceful coexistence in your country. I know that this is possible, because we are all brothers.

I ask you to pray for me. I implore the help of the Virgin Mary and I say to you see you soon

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Pope's Video Message to Kenya, Uganda

Rome, November 23, 2015

Here is the text of a video message Pope Francis sent today to Kenya and Uganda, in the lead-up to his trip to these two nations. The Pope leaves for Kenya on Wednesday.

* * *

Dear Friends,

As I prepare to visit Kenya and Uganda later this month, I send a word of greeting and friendship to you and your families. I look forward to this time we will have together.

I am coming as a minister of the Gospel, to proclaim the love of Jesus Christ and his message of reconciliation, forgiveness and peace. My visit is meant to confirm the Catholic community in its worship of God and its witness to the Gospel, which teaches the dignity of every man and woman, and commands us to open our hearts to others, especially the poor and those in need.

At the same time I wish to encounter all the people of Kenya and Uganda, and to offer everyone a word of encouragement. We are living at a time when religious believers, and persons of good will everywhere, are called to foster mutual understanding and respect, and to support each other as members of our one human family. For all of us are God’s children. A highlight of my visit will be my meetings with young people, who are your greatest resource and our most promising hope for a future of solidarity, peace and progress.

I know that many people are working hard to prepare for my visit, and I thank them. I ask everyone to pray that my stay in Kenya and Uganda will be a source of hope and encouragement to all. Upon you and your families I invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace!

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Pope’s Q-and-A on the Challenges of Education

Rome, November 23, 2015  

On Saturday, the Holy Father received in audience participants in the World Congress “Education Today and Tomorrow: A Passion that Is Renewed” (Rome, November 18-21, 2015), organized by the Congregation for Catholic Education (of the Institutes of Studies) to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Gravissimum Educationis (Declaration of Vatican Council II on Christian Education) and the 25th of Ex Corde Ecclesiae (Apostolic Constitution on Catholic Universities).

Several testimonies were given during the course of the meeting by representatives of Catholic schools and universities of the world. Then the Holy Father answered off-the-cuff three questions addressed to him by a school Director, by a University Religious docent and by a woman Religious President of a Faculty.

Here is a translation of the transcription of the questions and of Pope Francis’ answers.

* * *

Professor Roberto Zappala, School Director of the Gonzaga Institute of Milan.

Catholic educational institutions are present in a great diversity of nations and contexts: richer nations, developing nations, in cities, in rural areas, in nations of a Catholic majority and in countries in which Catholics are a minority. In this great variety of situations, what, in your opinion, makes an institution truly Christian?

Pope Francis

We Christians are also a minority. And there comes to mind what a great thinker said: “To educate is to introduce in the totality of the truth.” One cannot speak of Catholic education without speaking of humanity, because, precisely, the Catholic identity is God who became man. To go forward in attitudes, in full human values, opens the door to the Christian seed. Then faith comes. To educate in a Christian way is not only to engage in catechesis: this is one part. It is not only engaging in proselytism – never proselytize in schools! Never! To educate in a Christian way is to lead young people, children, in human values in the whole of reality, and one of these realities is transcendence. Today there is the tendency to neo-positivism, that is, to educate in immanent things, to the value of immanent things, and this happens in countries of Christian tradition and in countries of pagan tradition. And this is not to introduce youngsters and children in the total reality: transcendence is lacking. For me, the greatest crisis of education, in the Christian perspective, is being closed to transcendence. We are closed to transcendence. It is necessary to prepare hearts for the Lord to manifest Himself, but totally, namely, in the totality of humanity, which also has this dimension of transcendence. To educate humanly but with open horizons. Any sort of closure is no good for education.

Father Juan Antonio Ojeda, Docent at the University of Malaga

[Question in Spanish]

Holy Father, in your addresses you refer to the break of the links between the school and the family and the other institutions of society. Moreover you, Your Holiness, often invite us to promote and live personally a culture of encounter. What does this mean for all individuals committed in the promotion of education?

Pope Francis

It is true that not only the educational links have been broken but education has become too selective and elitist. It seems that only people or persons who have <reached> a certain level or who have a certain capacity have a right to education, but certainly all children and all young people have a right to education. This is a global reality that makes us ashamed. It is a reality that leads us to a human selectivity, and that instead of bringing peoples closer, it distances them; it also distances the rich from the poor; it distances one culture from another ... But this also happens in a small way: the educational pact between the family and the school is broken! We must begin again. The educational pact between the family and the State is also broken. Unless there is an ideological State that wishes to take advantage of education to carry it ideology forward: such as those dictatorships that we saw in the last century. It’s awful. Educators are among the worst paid workers: what does this mean? This simply means that the State is not interested. If it was interested, things wouldn’t be the way they are. The educational pact is broken. And here comes our work: to find new ways.

The testimony of Senegal, of Father ... [he turns to him]  you, who spoke: try to do what Don Bosco did. At the time of the worst Masonry in Northern Italy, Don Bosco sought an “emergency education.” And today we have an “educational emergency,” we must push for “informal education,” because formal education has been impoverished by the legacy of positivism. It only conceives an intellectual technicality and the language of the head. Hence, it has been impoverished. This scheme must be broken. And there are experiences with art, with sport ... Art and sport educate! We must open ourselves to new horizons, create new models ... There are so many experiences: you know the one that was presented by you, Scholas occurrentes, which in fact seeks to open, to open the horizon to an education that is not only concepts in the head. There are three languages: the language of the head, the language of the heart and the language of the hands. Education must move in these three ways. To teach to think, to help to feel well and to accompany in doing, so that the three languages are in harmony; that the child, the youngster think about what he feels and does, feel what he thinks and does, and that he does what he thinks and feels. And thus education becomes inclusive, because everyone has a place – inclusive also humanly. The educational pact was broken by the phenomenon of exclusion. We find the best, the most selective – those that are the most intelligent, or those with the most money to pay the best school or university – and the others are left to one side. The world cannot go forward with a selective education, because there is no social pact that unites everyone. And this is a challenge: to seek ways of informal education – of art, of sport, so many, so many. A great Brazilian educator – are there Brazilians here? --, one of yours said that in the school – in the formal school – one must avoid falling solely into teaching concepts. A true school must teach concepts, habits and values, and when a school is incapable of doing this at the same time, that school is selective and exclusive and for a few.

I think the situation of a broken educational pact, such as that of today, is grave, it is grave, because it leads to the selection of “super-men,” but only with the criteria of the head and only with the criteria of interest. Behind this there is always the ghost of money – always! – which ruins true humanity. One thing that helps is a sure and healthy respectful informality; and this is good in education, because formality is confused with rigidity. And a go back to the first question: where there is rigidity there is no humanism, and where there is no humanism, Christ cannot enter! The doors are closed! The drama of closure begins in the roots of rigidity. And peoples want something else, and when I say “peoples” I mean people, all of us, families ... They want coexistence, they want dialogue – Cardinal Versaldi stressed this: they want dialogue. However, when the educational pact is broken and there is rigidity, there is no place for dialogue: I think my way, you think your way and there is no place for universality and for fraternity. In the two experiences I have had here, in the Vatican, speaking, connecting with students of five continents – which was organized by Scholas occurrents – I have seen the need for unity and today, the project that is offered is precisely the plan of separation, not of unity – also of selectivity.

What does this mean for individuals committed to the promotion of education? -- the question ended. It means to risk. An educator who is unable to risk is no good for education. A father or a mother who are unable to risk, do not educate their child well -- to risk in a reasonable way.  What does this mean? To teach how to walk. When you teach a child to walk, you teach him that one leg must stay put, on the pavement he knows, and with the other, he must try to go forward so that if he slips, he can defend himself. This is to educate. You are certain on this point, but this is not definitive. You must take another step. Perhaps you will slip. But you get up and go forward ... The true educator must be a teacher of risk, but of reasonable risk, one understands, as I have now tried to explain. I don’t know. I think I’ve answered the question ...

Sister Pina Del Core, President of the Faculty of Sciences of the Auxilium Education of Rome

Holy Father, what challenges open for educators at the time of the “third world war fought piecemeal,” to not close oneself in oneself but to be, and to become, patient peacemakers? What encouragement do you wish to give all educators who dedicate themselves passionately to such a delicate mission?

Pope Francis

First of all, I would like to give a testimony in the discussions of what the Mother General of the Congregation of Jesus and Mary just said. When I was Rector of the University, my secretary was a Sister of that Congregation – she is still alive, Mother Asuncion, quite elderly – but this Sister did the work of a secretary at the University and then, in the afternoon, she ate a bun, got the car and went to the periphery, to be Director of a school for the poor. The secretary of a University, of the Faculty of Theology, went to the poor. So many Congregations, like this one, have never lost this idea. Perhaps at times they have stressed more work among the elite of the city, but they have the vocation to go to the periphery, from where they were born ... And how many Founders, how many Founders of Religious Congregations were born to help girls, or how many Founders were born to help street children, poor youngsters! I spoke of Don Bosco ... The coincidence so happens that the Mother is here, and I would like to thank her Congregation publicly and all Congregations, male and female, which have never forgotten the streets of the periphery.

Someone might say: “But we, we must form leaders! We must form people that think, that do …” This is true, it must be done. However, when I went to Paraguay, a meeting of a few days was planned, I wouldn’t say of the street  youths but youths of the periphery, poor, without the essentials, and these youths, boys and girls between 14 and 16 years old, chose to talk about some subjects, some strong subjects. And I heard the discussion among themselves, and the conclusions on one of the subjects: adolescent pregnancy. I thought: how ever are these youths -- who live like this, who live on the bank of a river that comes and goes [often flooded], who have little to eat -- capable of thinking this way? -- because they had a method, a man or woman educator that took them by the hand. No one, no one can be excluded from the possibility of receiving values, no one! Hence, here is the first challenge I tell you: leave places where there are so many educators and go to the peripheries. Seek there, or at least leave half of them! Seek there the needy, the poor. And they have something that young people of the richer neighborhoods don’t have – not because of their fault, but it is a sociological reality: they have the experience of surviving, also of cruelty, also of hunger, also of injustices. They have a wounded humanity. And I think that our salvation comes from the wounds of a man wounded on the cross. Those, of those wounds, bring wisdom, if there is a good educator that leads them forward. It is not about going there to engage in charity, to teach to read, to give to eat ..., no! This is necessary, but it’s provisional. It’s the first step. The challenge – and I encourage you – is to go there to make them grow in humanity, in intelligence, in values, in habits, so that they can go forward and bring to others experiences that they don’t know.

In this same Hall, 15 days ago – I believe – we received, as today, 7,000 gypsies of the whole of Europe. Rom, and the presentation was made by one who had grown up in a Rom neighborhood and is now a Slovakian parliamentarian. And this can offer a different experience to those that do not know the peripheries. And the realities are understood better from the peripheries than from the center, because you are always covered by the center, you are always defended in the center ...

Broken educational pact, selectivity, exclusion, legacy of a selective positivism: these things must be resolved. And then go forward; go forward with this challenge. To a Congregation of Sisters, which has a special vocation in Argentina, in the South of Argentina, in Patagonia, I said: “Please, close half of the schools of the capital of Buenos Aires and send the Sisters <down> there, in that periphery of the homeland,” because new contributions, new values will come from there and also persons that are capable of renewing the world will come form there. Go to the periphery. However, I want to stress this: go to the periphery but not only to engage in charity. It lies in education, to lead by the hand on the path up to where they can <reach>. To the Salesians I said at Turin: “Do what Don Bosco did in that time, where there were so many street children, so many: emergency education, variegated education.”

Something else, because in the question the Sister asked, “what challenges are opening to educators at the time of the ‘third world war fought piecemeal.’” What is the greatest temptation of wars at this moment? The walls, to defend oneself with walls. The greatest failure an educator can have is to educate “within walls.” To educate within walls: the walls of a selective culture, the walls of a culture of security, the walls of a social sector that is well-off and does not go further.

I would like to end, in fact, on this question, inviting men and women educators to rethink  – it is a task to be done at home! – but to be done in community! – to rethink the works of mercy, the 14 works of mercy; to rethink how to do them, but in education. I won’t ask you to raise your hands – those who know them well, by heart, no. I did it once in this Hall: it was full .... And only some twenty raised their hand ... But think, in this Year of Mercy, is mercy only to give alms? –or, in education, how can I do the works of mercy? They are, namely, the works of the Love of the Father, the first word said by Cardinal Versaldi: the works of Love. How can I have this Love of the Father, which is especially stressed in this Year of Mercy, come to our educational endeavors?

And I thank you so much, men and women educators – badly paid -- I thank you for what you do. We must re-educate so many civilizations. We must re-educate Europe. A Jesuit Rector of a college was telling me how hard it is for him to change his mentality, to re-educate on the path that the Church wants today. And thus one can also reach those who don’t believe. And I also want to thank an educator who became an educator through the path of Canon Law – I don’t know how it can be done, but he has become so: Cardinal Grocholewski. He is present here. And he is an example that answers the first question: he has made agreements with universities around world, Catholic and non-Catholic. Why? Because the passion for education leads to this: to “humanize” people. And to him I also say publicly: thank you, Eminence.

I don’t know how the program continues ... Is it finished? Thank you so much for your work. And I hope you have a good lunch.

And now we pray together to Our Lady: Hail Mary.

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Pope’s Address on Mission, Formation of Priests

Rome, November 23, 2015

Here is a translation of the Pope’s address from Friday to participants in the Congress organized by the Congregation for the Clergy, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Conciliar Decrees Optatam Totius and Presbyterorum  Ordini

* * *

Lord Cardinals.

Dear Brother Bishops and Priests,

Brothers and Sisters,

I give each of you my cordial greeting and express my sincere gratitude to you, Cardinal Stella, and to the Congregation for the Clergy, for inviting me to take part in this Congress, fifty years after the promulgation of the Conciliar Decrees Optatam Totius and Presbyterorum Ordinis.

My apologies for having changed the first plan, which was that I should come to you, but you saw there was no time and I have also arrived here late!

This is not about a “historical recalling.” These two Decrees are a seed, which the Council sowed in the field of the life of the Church; in the course of these five decades they have grown, they have become a luxuriant plant, certainly with some dried leaves, but above all with so many flowers and fruits that embellish the Church today. Reviewing the path accomplished, this Congress has shown these fruits and has constituted an opportune ecclesial reflection on the work that remains to be done for the Church in this vital realm. There is still work to be done!

Optatam Totius and Presbyterorum Ordinis were recalled together, as the two halves of a single reality: the formation of priests, which we distinguish as initial and permanent, but which constitutes for them a unique experience of discipleship. It is no accident that in January of 2013 (Motu proprio Ministrorum Institutio) Pope Benedict gave a concrete, juridical form to this reality, attributing also to the Congregation for the Clergy competence over seminarians. In this way the Dicastery itself was able to begin to be concerned with the life and the ministry of presbyters from the moment of their entrance in the Seminary, working so that vocations are promoted and looked after, and can flower in the life of holy priests. A priest’s path of holiness begins in the Seminary!

From the moment that a vocation to the priesthood is a gift that God makes to some for the good of all, I would like to share some thoughts with you, beginning in fact from the relation between priests and other persons, following n. 3 of Presbyterorum Ordinis, in which is found something like a small compendium of theology of the priesthood, addressed in the Letter to the Hebrews: “Priests who are taken from among men and ordained for men in the things that belong to God in order to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins, nevertheless live on earth with other men as brothers.”

Let us consider these three moments: “taken from among men,” “ordained for men,” present “with other men.”

The priest is a man that is born in a certain human context. There he learns the first values, absorbs the spirituality of the people, gets used to relationships. Priests also have a history; they are not “mushrooms” that appear suddenly in the Cathedral on the day of their Ordination. It is important that formators and the priests themselves remember this and are able to take into account this personal history throughout the path of formation. On the day of Ordination I always say to priests, to new priests: remember from where you were taken, from the flock, do not forget your mother and your grandmother! Paul said this to Timothy, and I also say it today. This means that one cannot be a priest thinking that one was formed in a laboratory, no. It begins in the family with the “tradition” of the faith  and with all the experience of the family. The latter must be personalized, because it is the concrete person that is called to discipleship and to the priesthood, taking into account in every case that Christ is the only Teacher to follow and to whom one should configure oneself.

In this regard, I like to recall the fundamental “center of vocational pastoral <care>” that is the family, domestic Church and first and fundamental place of human formation, where the desire can germinate in youths of a life conceived as a vocational path, to follow with commitment and generosity.

In the family and in all other communitarian contexts – school, parish, associations, groups of friends – we learn to be in relation with concrete persons, we let ourselves be shaped by our relation with them, and we become what we are also thanks to them.

A good priest, therefore, is first of all a man with his own humanity, who knows his history, with its riches and its wounds, and who has learned to make peace with it, attaining in depth serenity, proper of a disciple of the Lord. Therefore, human formation is a necessity for priests, so that they learn not to let themselves be dominated by their limitations, but rather to put their talents to fruit.

A priest who is a tranquil man will be able to spread serenity around him, also in difficult moments, transmitting the beauty of the relation with the Lord. Instead, it is not normal for a priest to be often sad, nervous or hard of character, it is not good and does not do good, neither to the priest nor to his people. However, if you have an illness, if you are neurotic, go to the doctor! To the spiritual doctor and to the clinical doctor: they will give you pills that will do you good, both will! But please, let not the faithful pay for the neurosis of priests! Do not beat the faithful; have a heartfelt closeness to them.

We priests are apostles of joy, we proclaim the Gospel, namely, the “Good News” par excellence. It is certainly not us who give force to the Gospel – some believe this – but we can favor or set obstacles to the encounter between the Gospel and persons. Our humanity is the “clay vessel” in which we guard God’s treasure, a vessel that we must look after, to transmit well its precious content.

A priest cannot lose his roots; he always remains a man of the people and of the culture that generated him. Our roots help us to remember who we are and where Christ has called us. We priests do not fall from on high, but we are called, called by God, who takes us from “among men” to ordain us “for men.” Allow me an anecdote. In the diocese, years ago ... Not in the diocese, no, in the Society, there was a good priest, good, young, a priest for two years. He became confused, spoke with the Spiritual Father, with his Superiors, with doctors and said: “I’m going, I can’t anymore, I’m going.” And thinking of these things – I knew his mother, humble people – I said to him: “Why don’t you go to your mother and speak to her about this?” He went, spent the whole day with his mother, and returned changed. His mother gave him two spiritual “slaps,” told him three or four truths, put him in his place, and he went forward. Why? --because he went to the root. Therefore, it is important not to remove the root from where we come. One must engage in mental prayer in the Seminary ... Yes, certainly, this must be done, learn .... But first of all pray as your mother taught you, and then go ahead. But the root is always there, the root of the family, as you learned to pray as a child, also with the same words, begin to pray like that. Then you will go forward in prayer.

Here is the second passage: “for men.”

Here is a fundamental point of the life and ministry of presbyters. Responding to God’s vocation, we become priests to serve brothers and sisters. The images of Christ that we take as reference for the ministry of priests are clear: He is the “High Priest,” in the same way close to God and close to men. He is the “Servant” that washes the feet and makes himself close to the weakest. He is the “Good Shepherd” who always has as his end the care of the flock.

These are the three images we must look at, thinking of the ministry of priests, sent to serve men, to have them attain God’s mercy and to proclaim His Word of life. We are not priests for ourselves and our sanctification is closely connected to that of our people, our unction to their unction: you were anointed for your people.  To know and to remember that you are “ordained for the people” – holy people, People of God --  helps priests not to think of themselves, to be authoritative and not authoritarian, firm but not harsh, joyful but not superficial, in sum, Pastors not functionaries. Today in both Readings of the Mass one sees clearly the capacity to enjoy that the people have, when the Temple is repaired and purified and, instead, the incapacity for joy that the heads of the priests and the scribes have in face of the expulsion of the merchants from the Temple by Jesus. A priest must learn to rejoice, he must never lose, even better, the capacity for joy: if he loses it, there is something that is not right. And I tell you sincerely, I am afraid of stiffening, I am afraid. From rigid priests ... stay far away! They bite you! And there comes to mind that expression of Saint Ambrose, 4th century: “Where there is mercy there is the spirit of the Lord, where there is rigidity, there are only His ministers.” Without the Lord the minister becomes rigid, and this is a danger for the People of God – be Pastors, not functionaries.

The People of God and the whole of humanity are the recipients of the mission of priests, to which the whole work of formation tends. The human formation, the intellectual and spiritual formation come together naturally in that pastoral care, to which they furnish instruments and personal virtues and dispositions. When all this is harmonized and amalgamated with genuine missionary zeal, throughout the whole of life, the priest can fulfill the mission entrusted to him by Christ to His Church.

In fine, what is born of the people, with the people must remain; the priest is always “with other men,” he is not a professional of pastoral care or of evangelization, who arrives and does what he must – perhaps well, but as if it were a profession – and then goes to live a separate life. One becomes a priest by being in the midst of the people: closeness. And permit me, Brother Bishops, also our closeness as Bishops with our priests.  This is also true for us! How often do we hear the laments of priests: “But, I called the Bishop because I have a problem ... The <man> or <woman> secretary told me he was very busy, that he was going about, that he cannot receive me for three months ...” Two things. The first. A Bishop is always busy, thank God, but if you, Bishop, receive a call from a priest and you cannot receive him because you have too much work, at least pick up the telephone and ask him : “Is it urgent? It’s not urgent? When? Come that day ...”, thus he feels close. There are Bishops who seem to distance themselves from priests ... Closeness, at least a phone call! And this is the love of a father, fraternity. And the other thing. “No, I have a conference in that city and then I must make a trip to America, and then ...” But, listen, the decree of residence of Trent is still in force! And if you do not feel like staying in the diocese, resign, and go around the world doing another very good apostolate. However, if you are Bishop of that diocese – residence. These two things: closeness and residence. But this is for us, Bishops! One becomes a priest to be in the midst of the people.

The good that priests can do is born especially from their closeness and from a tender love for persons. They are not philanthropists or functionaries; priests are fathers and brothers. A priest’s paternity does so much good.

Closeness, depths of mercy, loving look: to make one experience the beauty of a life lived according to the Gospel and the love of God that makes itself concrete also through His ministers. God who never rejects. And here I think of the Confessional. Ways can always be found to give absolution. Receive well. However, sometimes one cannot absolve. There are priests that say: “No, I cannot absolve you of this, go away.” This is not the way. If you cannot give absolution, explain and say: “God loves you so much, God wishes you well. There are so many ways to come to God. I cannot give you absolution, I’ll give you a blessing. But come back, always come back here; every time you come back I will give you a blessing as a sign that God loves you.” And that man or that woman goes away full of joy because he/she has found the icon of the Father, who never rejects; in one way or another He has embraced him/her.

A good examination of conscience for a priest is also this: if the Lord returned today, where would He find me? “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21).  And, where is my heart? In the midst of the people, praying with and for the people, involved in their joys and sufferings, or instead in the midst of the things of the world, of earthly affairs, in my private “spaces”? A priest cannot have private spaces, because he is always either with the Lord or with the people. I think of those priests I have known in my city, when there was no telephone secretary, but they slept with the telephone on the night table, and at whatever time the people called, they got up to anoint: no one died without the Sacraments! Not even in rest did they have a private space. This is apostolic zeal. The answer to this question: where is my heart? This can help every priest to direct his life and ministry to the Lord.

The Council left “precious pearls” to the Church. As the merchant of Matthew’s Gospel (13:45), today we go in search of them, to bring new impetus and new instruments to the mission that the Lord entrusts to us.

One thing I would like to add to the text – forgive me! – is vocational discernment, admission to the Seminary. Look for the health of a boy, his spiritual health, material, physical and psychic health. Once, just appointed Novice Master, in the year ’72, I went to take to the psychologist the results of the personality tests, a simple test that was done as one of the elements of discernment. She was a good woman, and also a good doctor. She said to me: “This one has this problem but he can enter if he goes this way ...” She was also a good Christian, but in some cases she was inflexible: “This one can’t” – “But, Doctor, this boy is so good.” “Now he is good, but know that there are youths that know unconsciously, they are not that aware of it, but feel unconsciously that they are psychically sick and they look in their life for strong structures that will defend them, so that they can go forward. And they do all right until the moment they feel well established and then the problems begin” – “It seems a bit strange to me ...” And I shall never forget her answer, the same as that of the Lord to Ezekiel: “Father, have you never thought why there are so many police torturers? They enter young, seem to be healthy but when they feel secure, the illness begins to come out. These are the strong institutions that look for these unconscious sick: the police, the army, the clergy ... And then so many illnesses we know come out.” It’s curious. When I realize that a youth is too rigid, too fundamentalist, I have no confidence; there is something behind that he himself does not know. But when he feels secure ... Ezekiel 16, I don’t remember the verse but it is when the Lord says to His people all that He has done for it: found it when just born, and then clothed it, espoused it ... “ And then, when you felt secure, you prostituted yourself.” It is a rule, a rule of life. Open eyes on the mission in Seminaries. Open eyes.

I hope that the fruit of the works of this Congress – with so many authoritative relators – from different regions and cultures – will be able to be offered to the Church as a useful updating of the teachings of the Council, bringing a contribution to the formation of priests, those that are and those that the Lord will give us, so that, ever more configured to Him, they are good priests according to the Lord’s heart, not functionaries! And thank you for your patience.

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Pope Francis Arrives in Nairobi

Nairobi, November 25, 2015

The first Pope from the Americas has kicked off his first Apostolic Visit to Africa, the continent where the Church is growing most rapidly in the world.

Pope Francis' flight touched down early, about 4:30 p.m. local time, in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi, where he was welcomed by the nation’s President, Uhuru Kenyatta. The Holy Father received a warm welcome from local religious leaders and by crowds who were chanting, singing, and dancing. It was a very festive atmosphere.

The last Pope to visit Kenya was Pope John Paul II, who traveled to the country three times in 1980, 1985 and 1995.

Francis' predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, visited Africa in 2009, but he went to Angola and Cameroon.

Before being taken by car to the State House for an official welcome ceremony, Pope Francis signed a visitor’s book and met privately with President Kenyatta for a few minutes. 

After the welcome ceremony, the Pope will meet with the civil authorities of Kenya and with the diplomatic corps.

Tomorrow, the Pontiff will begin his day with an interreligious and ecumenical meeting at the apostolic nunciature in Nairobi, which will be followed by a Mass on the campus of the University of Nairobi. After the Mass, Francis will meet with clergy, religious men and women, and seminarians at the athletic field of St Mary’s School, before visiting the United Nations Office in Nairobi.

 

Friday morning, he will visit the poor neighborhood of Kangemi in Nairobi, meet with young people in Kasarani Stadium, and meet with the nation's bishops. Then, there will be the farewell ceremony at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport before he takes off for the second leg of his visit, to Uganda. After Uganda, the Pope will head to the Central African Republic, before his return to Rome on Monday.

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Pope's Address to Diplomatic Corps, Authorities

Nairobi, November 25, 2015

Below is the English-language discourse Pope Francis gave to authorities of the diplomatic corp of Kenya during his official welcome ceremony in the State House of Nairobi this evening:

***

Mr President,

Honourable Government and Civil Leaders,

Distinguished Members of the Diplomatic Corps,

My Brother Bishops,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am most grateful for your warm welcome on this, my first visit to Africa. I thank you, Mr President, for your kind words in the name of the Kenyan people, and I look forward to my stay among you. Kenya is a young and vibrant nation, a richly diverse society which plays a significant role in the region. In many ways your experience of shaping a democracy is one shared by many other African nations. Like Kenya, they too are working to build, on the solid foundations of mutual respect, dialogue and cooperation, a multiethnic society which is truly harmonious, just and inclusive.

Yours too is a nation of young people. In these days, I look forward to meeting many of them, speaking with them, and encouraging their hopes and aspirations for the future. The young are any nation’s most valuable resource. To protect them, to invest in them and to offer them a helping hand, is the best way we can ensure a future worthy of the wisdom and spiritual values dear to their elders, values which are the very heart and soul of a people.

Kenya has been blessed not only with immense beauty, in its mountains, rivers and lakes, its forests, savannahs and semi-deserts, but also by an abundance of natural resources. The Kenyan people have a strong appreciation of these God-given treasures and are known for a culture of conservation which does you honour. The grave environmental crisis facing our world demands an ever greater sensitivity to the relationship between human beings and nature. We have a responsibility to pass on the beauty of nature in its integrity to future generations, and an obligation to exercise a just stewardship of the gifts we have received. These values are deeply rooted in the African soul. In a world which continues to exploit rather than protect our common home, they must inspire the efforts of national leaders to promote responsible models of economic development.

In effect, there is a clear link between the protection of nature and the building of a just and equitable social order. There can be no renewal of our relationship with nature, without a renewal of humanity itself (cf. Laudato Si’, 118). To the extent that our societies experience divisions, whether ethnic, religious or economic, all men and women of good will are called to work for reconciliation and peace, forgiveness and healing. In the work of building a sound democratic order, strengthening cohesion and integration, tolerance and respect for others, the pursuit of the common good must be a primary goal. Experience shows that violence, conflict and terrorism feed on fear, mistrust, and the despair born of poverty and frustration. Ultimately, the struggle against these enemies of peace and prosperity must be carried on by men and women who fearlessly believe in, and bear honest witness to, the great spiritual and political values which inspired the birth of the nation.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the advancement and preservation of these great values is entrusted in a special way to you, the leaders of your country’s political, cultural and economic life. This is a great responsibility, a true calling, in the service of the entire Kenyan people. The Gospel tells us that from those to whom much has been given, much will be demanded (Lk 12:48). In that spirit, I encourage you to work with integrity and transparency for the common good, and to foster a spirit of solidarity at every level of society. I ask you in particular to show genuine concern for the needs of the poor, the aspirations of the young, and a just distribution of the natural and human resources with which the Creator has blessed your country. I assure you of the continued efforts of the Catholic community, through its educational and charitable works, to offer its specific contribution in these areas.

Dear friends, I am told that here in Kenya it is a tradition for young schoolchildren to plant trees for posterity. May this eloquent sign of hope in the future, and trust in the growth which God gives, sustain all of you in your efforts to cultivate a society of solidarity, justice and peace on the soil of this country and throughout the great African continent. I thank you once more for your warm welcome, and upon you and your families, and all the beloved Kenyan people, I invoke the Lord’s abundant blessings.

Mungu abariki Kenya!

God bless Kenya!

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FULL TEXT: Pope's Address at Interreligious, Ecumenical Meeting in Kenya

Nairobi, November 26, 2015

Below is a Vatican-provided translation of Pope Francis' address delivered at an interreligious and ecumenical meeting this morning in the apostolic nunciature in Nairobi:

***

Dear Friends,

I am grateful for your presence this morning and for the opportunity to share these moments of reflection with you.  In a particular way, I wish to thank Archbishop Wabukala and Professor El-Busaidy for their words of welcome offered on your behalf, and on behalf of their communities.  It is always important to me that, when I come to visit the Catholic faithful of a local Church, I have an occasion to meet the leaders of other Christian communities and religious traditions.  It is my hope that our time together may be a sign of the Church’s esteem for the followers of all religions; may it strengthen the bonds of friendship which we already enjoy.         

To be honest, this relationship is challenging; it makes demands of us.  Yet ecumenical and interreligious dialogue is not a luxury.  It is not something extra or optional, but essential, something which our world, wounded by conflict and division, increasingly needs.  

Indeed, religious beliefs and practice condition who we are and how we understand the world around us.  They are for us a source of enlightenment, wisdom and solidarity, and thus enrich the societies in which we live.  By caring for the spiritual growth of our communities, by forming minds and hearts in the truths and values taught by our religious traditions, we become a blessing to the communities in which our people live.  In democratic and pluralistic societies like Kenya, cooperation between religious leaders and communities becomes an important service to the common good.

In this light, and in an increasingly interdependent world, we see ever more clearly the need for interreligious understanding, friendship and collaboration in defending the God-given dignity of individuals and peoples, and their right to live in freedom and happiness.  By upholding respect for that dignity and those rights, the religions play an essential role in forming consciences, instilling in the young the profound spiritual values of our respective traditions, and training good citizens, capable of infusing civil society with honesty, integrity and a world view which values the human person over power and material gain.

Here I think of the importance of our common conviction that the God whom we seek to serve is a God of peace.  His holy Name must never be used to justify hatred and violence.  I know that the barbarous attacks on Westgate Mall, Garissa University College and Mandera are fresh in your minds.  All too often, young people are being radicalized in the name of religion to sow discord and fear, and to tear at the very fabric of our societies.  How important it is that we be seen as prophets of peace, peacemakers who invite others to live in peace, harmony and mutual respect!  May the Almighty touch the hearts of those who engage in this violence, and grant his peace to our families and communities.

Dear friends, this year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council, at which the Catholic Church committed herself to ecumenical and interreligious dialogue in the service of understanding and friendship.  I wish to reaffirm this commitment, which is born of our conviction of the universality of God’s love and the salvation which he offers to all.  The world rightly expects believers to work together with people of good will in facing the many problems affecting our human family.  As we look to the future, let us pray that all men and women will see themselves as brothers and sisters, peacefully united in and through our differences.  Let us pray for peace

I thank you for your attention, and I ask Almighty God to grant to you and your communities his abundant blessings.

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FULL TEXT: Pope's Homily During Mass at University of Nairobi's Campus

Nairobi, November 26, 2015

Below is the Vatican-provided translation of the homily Pope Francis gave during Mass this morning at the campus of the University of Nairobi:

***

God’s word speaks to us in the depths of our heart. Today God tells us that we belong to him. He made us, we are his family, and he will always be there for us. “Fear not”, he says to us, “I have chosen you and I promise to give you my blessing” (cf. Is44:2).

We hear this promise in today’s first reading. The Lord tells us that in the desert he will pour forth water on the thirsty land; he will cause the children of his people to flourish like grass and luxuriant willows. We know that this prophecy was fulfilled in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. But we also see it fulfilled wherever the Gospel is preached and new peoples become members of God’s family, the Church. Today we rejoice that it was fulfilled in this land. Through the preaching of the Gospel, we have all become part of the great Christian family.

Isaiah’s prophecy invites us to look to our own families, and to realize how important they are in God’s plan. Kenyan society has long been blessed with strong family life, a deep respect for the wisdom of the elderly and love for children. The health of any society always depends on the health of its families. For their sake, and for the good of society, our faith in God’s word calls us to support families in their mission in society, to accept children as a blessing for our world, and to defend the dignity of each man and woman, for all of us are brothers and sisters in the one human family.

In obedience to God’s word, we are also called to resist practices which foster arrogance in men, hurt or demean women, do not look after the elderly and threaten the life of the innocent unborn. We are called to respect and encourage one another, and to reach out to all those in need. Christian families have this special mission: to radiate God’s love, and to spread the life-giving waters of his Spirit. This is especially important today, for we are seeing the growth of new deserts created by a culture of materialism selfishness and indifference to others.

Here, in the heart of this University, where the minds and hearts of new generations are being shaped, I appeal in a special way to the young people of the nation. Let the great values of Africa’s traditions, the wisdom and truth of God’s word, and the generous idealism of your youth guide you in working to shape a society which is ever more just, inclusive and respectful of human dignity. May you always be concerned for the needs of the poor, and reject everything that leads to prejudice and discrimination, for these things, we know, are not of God.

All of us are familiar with Jesus’ parable about the man who built his house on sand, rather than rock. When the winds came, it fell with a mighty crash (cf. Mt 7:24-27). God is the rock on which we are called to build. He tells us this in the first reading, and he asks us: “Is there a God besides me?” (cf. Is 44:8).

When the Risen Jesus says, in today’s Gospel, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Mt 28:18), he is telling us that he, the Son of God, is himself the rock. There is none besides him. As the one Saviour of mankind, he wishes to draw men and women of every time and place to himself, so that he can bring them to the Father. He wants all of us to build our lives on the firm foundation of his word.

And that is the charge which the Lord gives to each of us. He asks us to be missionary disciples, men and women who radiate the truth, beauty and life-changing power of the Gospel. Men and women who are channels of God’s grace, who enable his mercy, kindness and truth to become the building blocks of a house that stands firm. A house which is a home, where brothers and sisters at last live in harmony and mutual respect, in obedience to the will of the true God, who has shown us, in Jesus, the way to that freedom and peace for which all hearts long.

May Jesus, the Good Shepherd, the rock on whom we build our lives, guide you and your families in the way of goodness and mercy all the days of your lives. May he bless all Kenyans with his peace.

“Stand strong in faith! Do not be afraid!” For you belong to the Lord.

Mungu awabariki! [God bless you!]

Mungu abariki Kenya! [God bless Kenya!]

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PREPARED TEXT: Pope's Address to Clergy, Religious, Seminarians, in Kenya

Nairobi, November 26, 2015

Below is the prepared text of Pope Francis' speech during his meeting with clergy, men and women religious, and seminarians, at the athletic field of St. Mary's School. He did not deliver this text, choosing instead to speak off-the-cuff.

***

V./ Tumsifu Yesu Kristu! (Praised be Jesus Christ!)

R./ (Milele na Milele. Amina.) (Now and forever. Amen.)

My Brother Priests,

Brothers and Sisters of Consecrated Life,

Dear Seminarians,

I am very happy to be with you, to see the joy on your faces and to listen to your words and your songs of happiness and hope. I thank Bishop Mukobo, Father Phiri and Sister Michael Marie for their words of welcome on your behalf. I also thank the Felician Sisters for their hospitality today.

Before all else, I thank you for the active contribution made to the Church and to Kenyan society by so many consecrated persons, and priests. I ask you to bring my affectionate greeting to your brothers and sisters who could not be with us today, and especially to the elderly and infirm of your communities.

“May God who began a good work in you bring it to completion at the day of Christ Jesus!” (Phil 1:6). This afternoon I would like to make my own this heartfelt prayer of the Apostle Paul, with gratitude for your faithful service to the Lord in the midst of his people.

Every day, moving in hospitals and at homes among the sick, the suffering, the poor and the marginalized, you proclaim the loving mercy and compassion of God. In parishes, schools and educational institutions, you work to educate the young as Christians and as upright citizens. These efforts are well spent. You help to build the spiritual and moral life of society on the strong foundations of honesty, justice, solidarity and the responsible use of freedom. In a special way, you serve as living signs of the Church’s communion, which embraces all people and languages, excludes no one, and seeks the salvation of all.

I ask all of you to cherish your vocation as a gift from God and to keep ever alive the flame of your zeal. This encouragement goes in a special way to the men and women religious and the consecrated persons present. Your young hearts were set afire by the beauty of a life lived in the footsteps of Christ, dedicated to God and to your neighbour. By daily renewing your “yes” to the Lord’s call to follow him in the evangelical chastity, poverty and obedience, you give him all that you have, all that you are. Although we live and exercise our apostolate in the world, our hearts must be centred on heaven. Let prayer, personal, liturgical and communal, be the heart of your day. Here I would like to thank the cloistered religious for their hidden apostolate which contributes so much to the fruitfulness of the Church’s mission in this country.

Dear brother priests, your own vocation calls you, in imitation of Christ the Good Shepherd, to go out to seek the poor, the sick, those in need of God’s mercy. This is the source of our joy, to be heralds and ministers of his compassion and love to all, without distinction. Amid the many duties and distractions of the pastoral ministry, prayer, priestly fraternity, union of mind and heart with your bishops, and frequent recourse to the grace of the sacrament of Penance, must be your source of strength and a bulwark against the subtle temptation of a spiritual worldliness. The Lord calls us to be ministers of his grace despite our limitations and weaknesses. As our eternal high priest, who was made perfect through suffering (Heb 2:10), he will strengthen your witness to the transforming power of his cross and the joy of his eternal victory.

Dear young seminarians, you too are very close to my heart! These years of preparation and discernment are a grace-filled time when you become convinced of God’s will for your lives. On your part, this calls for honesty, self-knowledge and purity of intention; it must also be sustained by personal prayer, inner freedom from self-seeking or undue attachments. Above all, this should be a time of spiritual joy, the joy which wells up in a heart which is open to God’s voice and humbly prepared to sacrifice everything for the service of his holy people.

Dear friends, the Gospel we preach and strive to live is not an easy path; it is narrow, but it fills the heart with untold joy. Once again I echo the Apostle in assuring you that “I pray always with joy for all of you” (Phil 1:4). I ask you to pray for me, and I commend you all to the surpassing love which we have known in Christ Jesus. To all of you, with great affection, I impart my blessing.

Mungu awabariki! (God bless you!)

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FULL TEXT: Pope's Address at UN Headquarters in Africa

Kenya, November 26, 2015

Here is a Vatican translation of the address Pope Francis gave this evening during his visit to the United Nations Office at Nairobi, the UN headquarters in Africa. This was the Pope's final address of today.

* * *

I would like to thank Madame Sahle-Work Zewde, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Nairobi, for her kind invitation and words of welcome, as well as Mr Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, and Mr. Joan Clos, Executive Director of UN-Habitat. I take this occasion to greet the personnel and all those associated with the institutions who are here present.

On my way to this hall, I was asked to plant a tree in the park of the United Nations Centre. I was happy to carry out this simple symbolic act, which is so meaningful in many cultures.

Planting a tree is first and foremost an invitation to continue the battle against phenomena like deforestation and desertification. It reminds us of the importance of safeguarding and responsibly administering those “richly biodiverse lungs of our planet”, which include, on this continent, “the Congo basins”, a place essential “for the entire earth and for the future of humanity”. It also points to the need to appreciate and encourage “the commitment of international agencies and civil society organizations which draw public attention to these issues and offer critical cooperation, employing legitimate means of pressure, to ensure that each government carries out its proper and inalienable responsibility to preserve its country’s environment and natural resources, without capitulating to spurious local or international interests” (Laudato Si’, 38).

Planting a tree is also an incentive to keep trusting, hoping, and above all working in practice to reverse all those situations of injustice and deterioration which we currently experience.

In a few days an important meeting on climate change will be held in Paris, where the international community as such will once again confront these issues. It would be sad, and I dare say even catastrophic, were particular interests to prevail over the common good and lead to manipulating information in order to protect their own plans and projects.

In this international context, we are confronted with a choice which cannot be ignored: either to improve or to destroy the environment. Every step we take, whether large or small, individual or collective, in caring for creation opens a sure path for that “generous and worthy creativity which brings out the best in human beings” (ibid., 211).

“The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all”; “climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods; it represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day” (ibid., 23 and 25). Our response to this challenge “needs to incorporate a social perspective which takes into account the fundamental rights of the poor and the underprivileged” (ibid., 93). For “the misuse and destruction of the environment are also accompanied by a relentless process of exclusion” (Address to the United Nations, 25 September 2015).

COP21 represents an important stage in the process of developing a new energy system which depends on a minimal use of fossil fuels, aims at energy efficiency and makes use of energy sources with little or no carbon content. We are faced with a great political and economic obligation to rethink and correct the dysfunctions and distortions of the current model of development.

The Paris Agreement can give a clear signal in this direction, provided that, as I stated before the UN General Assembly, we avoid “every temptation to fall into a declarationist nominalism which would assuage our consciences. We need to ensure that our institutions are truly effective” (ibid.). For this reason, I express my hope that COP21 will achieve a global and “transformational” agreement based on the principles of solidarity, justice, equality and participation; an agreement which targets three complex and interdependent goals: lessening the impact of climate change, fighting poverty and ensuring respect for human dignity.

For all the difficulties involved, there is a growing “conviction that our planet is a homeland and that humanity is one people living in a common home” (Laudato Si’, 164). No country “can act independently of a common responsibility. If we truly desire positive change, we have to humbly accept our interdependence” (Address to Popular Movements, 9 July 2015). The problem arises whenever we think of interdependence as a synonym for domination, or the subjection of some to the interests of others, of the powerless to the powerful.

What is needed is sincere and open dialogue, with responsible cooperation on the part of all: political authorities, the scientific community, the business world and civil society. Positive examples are not lacking; they demonstrate that a genuine cooperation between politics, science and business can achieve significant results.

At the same time we believe that “human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good and making a new start” (Laudato Si’, 205). This conviction leads us to hope that, whereas the post-industrial period may well be remembered as one of the most irresponsible in history, “humanity at the dawn of the twenty-first century will be remembered for having generously shouldered its grave responsibilities” (ibid., 165). If this is to happen, the economy and politics need to be placed at the service of peoples, with the result that “human beings, in harmony with nature, structure the entire system of production and distribution in such a way that the abilities and needs of each individual find suitable expression in social life”. Far from an idealistic utopia, this is a realistic prospect which makes the human person and human dignity the point of departure and the goal of everything (cf. Address to Popular Movements, 9 July 2015).

This much-needed change of course cannot take place without a substantial commitment to education and training. Nothing will happen unless political and technical solutions are accompanied by a process of education which proposes new ways of living. A new culture. This calls for an educational process which fosters in boys and girls, women and men, young people and adults, the adoption of a culture of care – care for oneself, care for others, care for the environment – in place of a culture of waste, a “throw-away culture” where people use and discard themselves, others and the environment. By promoting an “awareness of our common origin, of our mutual belonging, and of the future to be shared with everyone”, we will favour the development of new convictions, attitudes and lifestyles. “A great cultural, spiritual and educational challenge stands before us, and it will demand that we set out on the long path of renewal” (Laudato Si’, 202). We still have time.

Many are the faces, the stories and the evident effects on the lives of thousands of persons whom the culture of deterioration and waste has allowed to be sacrificed before the idols of profits and consumption. We need to be alert to one sad sign of the “globalization of indifference”: the fact that we are gradually growing accustomed to the suffering of others, as if it were something normal (cf. Message for World Food Day, 16 October 2013, 2), or even worse, becoming resigned to such extreme and scandalous kinds of “using and discarding” and social exclusion as new forms of slavery, human trafficking, forced labour, prostitution and trafficking in organs. “There has been a tragic rise in the number of migrants seeking to flee from the growing poverty aggravated by environmental degradation. They are not recognized by international conventions as refugees; they bear the loss of the lives they have left behind without enjoying any legal protection whatsoever” (Laudato Si’, 25). Many lives, many stories, many dreams have been shipwrecked in our day. We cannot remain indifferent in the face of this. We have no right.

Together with neglect of the environment, we have witnessed for some time now a rapid process of urbanization, which in many cases has unfortunately led to a “disproportionate and unruly growth of many cities which have become unhealthy to live in [and] inefficient” (ibid., 44). There we increasingly see the troubling symptoms of a social breakdown which spawns “increased violence and a rise in new forms of social aggression, drug trafficking, growing drug use by young people, loss of identity” (ibid., 46), a lack of rootedness and social anonymity (cf. ibid., 149).

Here I would offer a word of encouragement to all those working on the local and international levels to ensure that the process of urbanization becomes an effective means for development and integration. This means working to guarantee for everyone, especially those living in outlying neighbourhoods, the basic rights to dignified living conditions and to land, lodging and labour. There is a need to promote projects of city planning and maintenance of public areas which move in this direction and take into consideration the views of local residents; this will help to eliminate the many instances of inequality and pockets of urban poverty which are not simply economic but also, and above all, social and environmental. The forthcoming Habitat-III Conference, planned for Quito in October 2016, could be a significant occasion for identifying ways of responding to these issues.

In a few days, Nairobi will host the 10th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization. In 1967, my predecessor Pope Paul VI, contemplating an increasingly interdependent world and foreseeing the current reality of globalization, reflected on how commercial relationships between States could prove a fundamental element for the development of peoples or, on the other hand, a cause of extreme poverty and exclusion (Populorum Progressio, 56-62). While recognizing that much has been done in this area, it seems that we have yet to attain an international system of commerce which is equitable and completely at the service of the battle against poverty and exclusion. Commercial relationships between States, as an indispensable part of relations between peoples, can do as much to harm the environment as to renew it and preserve it for future generations.

It is my hope that the deliberations of the forthcoming Nairobi Conference will not be a simple balancing of conflicting interests, but a genuine service to care of our common home and the integral development of persons, especially those in greatest need. I would especially like to echo the concern of all those groups engaged in projects of development and health care – including those religious congregations which serve the poor and those most excluded – with regard to agreements on intellectual property and access to medicines and essential health care. Regional free trade treaties dealing with the protection of intellectual property, particularly in the areas of pharmaceutics and biotechnology, should not only maintain intact the powers already granted to States by multilateral agreements, but should also be a means for ensuring a minimum of health care and access to basic treatment for all. Multilateral discussions, for their part, should allow poorer countries the time, the flexibility and the exceptions needed for them to comply with trade regulations in an orderly and relatively smooth manner. Interdependence and the integration of economies should not bear the least detriment to existing systems of health care and social security; instead, they should promote their creation and good functioning. Certain health issues, like the elimination of malaria and tuberculosis, treatment of so-called orphan diseases, and neglected sectors of tropical medicine, require urgent political attention, above and beyond all other commercial or political interests.

Africa offers the world a beauty and natural richness which inspire praise of the Creator. This patrimony of Africa and of all mankind is constantly exposed to the risk of destruction caused by human selfishness of every type and by the abuse of situations of poverty and exclusion. In the context of economic relationships between States and between peoples, we cannot be silent about forms of illegal trafficking which arise in situations of poverty and in turn lead to greater poverty and exclusion. Illegal trade in diamonds and precious stones, rare metals or those of great strategic value, wood, biological material and animal products, such as ivory trafficking and the relative killing of elephants, fuels political instability, organized crime and terrorism. This situation too is a cry rising up from humanity and the earth itself, one which needs to be heard by the international community.

In my recent visit to the United Nations Headquarters in New York, I expressed the desire and hope that the work of the United Nations and of all its multilateral activities may be “the pledge of a secure and happy future for future generations. And so it will, if the representatives of the States can set aside partisan and ideological interests, and sincerely strive to serve the common good” (Address to the UN, 25 September 2015).

Once again I express the support of the Catholic community, and my own, to continue to pray and work that the fruits of regional cooperation, expressed today in the African Union and the many African agreements on commerce, cooperation and development, may be vigorously pursued and always take into account the common good of the sons and daughters of this land.

May the blessing of the Most High be with each of you and your peoples. Thank you. 

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FULL TEXT: Pope's Words to Journalists During Flight to Nairobi

Nairobi, November 26, 2015

Below is a translation of Pope Francis' words to journalists during his flight to Nairobi yesterday:

* * *

Father Lombardi: Holy Father, welcome in our midst. Thank you for giving us this moment of meeting and greeting, as usual, moreover, at the beginning of trips. The Holy Father has authorized me to give you two bits of information, before giving him the floor. The first is that, as usual, yesterday evening he went to pray to Our Lady at Santa Maria Maggiore, very privately, to ask for Mary’s protection during this trip. And the second is that, this morning, while he was leaving Saint Martha’s, as he has already been greeted at other times by a few homeless, this morning he was greeted by a group of eleven women and six children: they were women who were victims of family violence, of trafficking, of prostitution and who were there with their children, and they are now in a House of women Religious who are helping them to recover. They were Italian, Rom, Nigerian and Ukrainian. The Pope spoke with them and expressed his closeness to all persons that suffer violence and who are taking up hope again on their way.

This time there are 74 of us journalists accompanying you on the flight, of many different languages and nationalities, as always. I point out that among us are four Kenyans, who, therefore, represent the place to which we are going – Africa. Then I would like to point out a good group, this time French speaking, because –as we know – Africa is very important also for all Francophone journalism, and the visit to the Central African Republic sparks much attention. And then, of course, we have all the other languages and different media that are represented.

I give you the floor. Thank you for being with us.

Pope Francis: Thank you, Father. Good morning. I want to greet and thank you for your presence and your work on this trip. I go with joy to meet the Kenyans, Ugandans and brothers of the Central African Republic. I thank you for all that you will do so that this trip will give the best fruits, be they spiritual or material. And so, I would like to greet each one of you {He greets all the journalists]

Father Lombardi: Would you like to say something else?

Pope Francis: That the good trip continues, and that we meet again!

Father Lombardi: Thank you so much, Holiness, for this very friendly meeting, as always. We wish you a good trip and assure you that we will work like mad to try to help your service.

Pope Francis: Be careful of the mosquitos!

Father Lombardi: See, we will be protected from the mosquitos! Thank you.

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Pope's Address to Catechists, Teachers in Uganda

Uganda, November 27, 2015

Here is a Vatican translation of the address Pope Francis gave this evening to a meeting of catechists and teachers in Uganda. The meeting was held at the site of the first martyrdoms of the persecutions against the Church in Uganda. The Holy Father mostly followed the prepared text. Some of his off-the-cuff comments are included in brackets.

* * *

Dear Catechists and Teachers, Dear Friends,

I greet you with affection in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Teacher.

“Teacher!” What a beautiful name this is! Jesus is our first and greatest teacher. Saint Paul tells us that Jesus gave his Church not only apostles and pastors, but also teachers, to build up the whole body in faith and love. Together with the bishops, priests and deacons who are ordained to preach the Gospel and care for the Lord’s flock, you, as catechists, play an outstanding part in bringing the Good News to every village and homestead in your country. 

I wish before all else, to thank you for the sacrifices which you and your families make, and for the zeal and devotion with which you carry out your important task. You teach what Jesus taught, you instruct adults and help parents to raise their children in the faith, and you bring the joy and hope of eternal life to all. Thank you for your dedication, your example, your closeness to God’s people in their daily lives, and all the many ways you plant and nurture the seeds of faith throughout this vast land. Thank you especially for teaching our children and young people how to pray. [Because it’s so important to teach children how to pray!]

I know that your work, although rewarding, is not easy. So I encourage you to persevere, and I ask your bishops and priests to support you with a doctrinal, spiritual and pastoral formation capable of making you ever more effective in your outreach. Even when the task seems too much, the resources too few, the obstacles too great, it should never be forgotten that yours is a holy work. [And I really want to underline this.  Yours is a holy work.] The Holy Spirit is present wherever the name of Christ is proclaimed. He is in our midst whenever we lift up our hearts and minds to God in prayer. He will give you the light and strength you need! The message you bring will take root all the more firmly in people’s hearts if you are not only a teacher but also a witness. [And again I underline this, much more than a teacher, you should be a witness.] Your example should speak to everyone of the beauty of prayer, the power of mercy and forgiveness, the joy of sharing in the Eucharist with all our brothers and sisters.

The Christian community in Uganda grew strong through the witness of the martyrs. They testified to the truth which sets men free; they were willing to shed their blood to be faithful to what they knew was good and beautiful and true. We stand here today in Munyonyo at the place where King Mwanga determined to wipe out the followers of Christ. He failed in this, just as King Herod failed to kill Jesus. The light shone in the darkness, and the darkness could not overcome it (cf. Jn 1:5). After seeing the fearless testimony of Saint Andrew Kaggwa and his companions, Christians in Uganda became even more convinced of Christ’s promises.

May Saint Andrew, your patron, and all the Ugandan catechist martyrs, obtain for you the grace to be wise teachers, men and women whose every word is filled with grace, convincing witnesses to the splendour of God’s truth and the joy of the Gospel! [Witnesses of holiness.] Go forth without fear to every town and village in this country, to spread the good seed of God’s word, and trust in his promise that you will come back rejoicing, with sheaves full from the harvest.

[I ask all of you catechists to pray for me and to ask little children to pray for me.]

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Pope's Address to Ugandan Authorities

Uganda, November 27, 2015

Here is the text of the address Pope Francis gave in English this evening in Uganda, to the diplomatic corps and other officials, during the welcome ceremony at State House in Entebbe.

* * *

Mr President,
Honourable Members of Government, Distinguished Members of the Diplomatic Corps, My Brother Bishops,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I thank you for your gracious welcome, and I am happy to be in Uganda. My visit to your country is meant above all to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the canonization of the Uganda Martyrs by my predecessor, Pope Paul VI. But I hope that my presence here will also be seen as a sign of friendship, esteem and encouragement for all the people of this great nation.

The Martyrs, both Catholic and Anglican, are true national heroes. They bear witness to the guiding principles expressed in Uganda’s motto – For God and My Country. They remind us of the importance that faith, moral rectitude and commitment to the common good have played, and continue to play, in the cultural, economic and political life of this country. They also remind us that, despite our different beliefs and convictions, all of us are called to seek the truth, to work for justice and reconciliation, and to respect, protect and help one another as members of our one human family. These high ideals are particularly demanded of men and women like yourselves, who are charged with ensuring good and transparent governance, integral human development, a broad participation in national life, as well as a wise and just distribution of the goods which the Creator has so richly bestowed upon these lands.

My visit is also meant to draw attention to Africa as a whole, its promise, its hopes, its struggles and its achievements. The world looks to Africa as the continent of hope. Uganda has indeed been blessed by God with abundant natural resources, which you are challenged to administer as responsible stewards. But above all, the nation has been blessed in its people: its strong families, its young and its elderly. I look forward to my meeting tomorrow with the young, for whom I will have words of encouragement and challenge. How important it is that they be given hope, opportunities for education and gainful employment, and above all the opportunity to share fully in the life of society. But I also wish to mention the blessing which you have in the elderly. They are the living memory of every people. Their wisdom and experience should always be valued as a compass which can enable society to find the right direction in confronting the challenges of the present with integrity, wisdom and vision.

Here in East Africa, Uganda has shown outstanding concern for welcoming refugees, enabling them to rebuild their lives in security and to sense the dignity which comes from earning one’s livelihood through honest labour. Our world, caught up in wars, violence, and various forms of injustice, is witnessing an unprecedented movement of peoples. How we deal with them is a test of our humanity, our respect for human dignity, and above all our solidarity with our brothers and sisters in need.

Although my visit is brief, I hope to encourage the many quiet efforts being made to care for the poor, the sick and those in any kind of trouble. It is in these small signs that we see the true soul of a people. In so many ways, our world is growing closer; yet at the same time we see with concern the globalization of a “throwaway culture” which blinds us to spiritual values, hardens our hearts before the needs of the poor, and robs our young of hope.

As I look forward to meeting you and spending this time with you, I pray that you, and all the beloved Ugandan people, will always prove worthy of the values which have shaped the soul of your nation. Upon all of you I invoke the Lord’s richest blessings.

Mungu awabariki! God bless you! 

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Pope’s Off-the-Cuff Address to Kenyan Youth

Kenya, November 27, 2015

Here is a translation of the transcription of Pope Francis’ address to youth today in Kenya. He did not follow his prepared text and instead spoke in his native Spanish, with his words simultaneously translated to English.

* * *

Thank you so much for this Rosary that you said for me. I thank you for your enthusiastic presence. Thank you, Emmanuel and Linette, for your testimonies. There is a question at the base of all the questions that the two young people have asked me: Why do divisions, fights, war, death, fanaticism, destruction happen among young people? Why is there this desire for self-destruction?

In the first page of the Bible, in all those wonderful things that God made, a brother kills another brother, and the spirit of evil leads us to destruction. And the spirit of evil leads us to disunion, to tribalism, to corruption, to dependence on drugs. It leads us to destruction because of fanaticism. Emmanuel asked: What can be done so that ideological fanaticism does not rob us of a brother, a friend?

There is a word that might seem annoying, but I don’t want to avoid it, because you said it before me. You used it when you brought me the Rosaries that you prayed for me. The Bishop also used it when he introduced you and said that you prepared yourselves for this visit with prayer. The first thing I’ll answer is that a man loses the best of his being human when he forgets to pray, because he feels omnipotent, because he doesn’t feel the need to ask for help in face of so many tragedies.

Life is full of difficulties, but there are two ways of looking at difficulties: either a person looks at them as something that blocks him, destroys him, stops him, or he looks at them as an opportunity. It is for you to choose. For me, is a difficulty a way of destruction or it is an opportunity to surmount my whole situation, that of my family, of my communities, of my country? Boys and girls, we don’t live in Heaven, we live on earth.

And the earth is full of difficulties. The earth is full not only of difficulties but of invitations to deviate to evil. However, there is something that all of you young people have that lasts a time: the capacity to choose. What way do I want to choose? Which of these two things do I want to choose? To allow myself to be defeated by the difficulty or to consider the difficulty an opportunity, with which I can win?

Some of the difficulties you named are real challenges; therefore, first a question: do you want to surmount these challenges or allow yourselves to be defeated by the challenges? Are you like sportsmen who, when they come to play here in the Stadium, want to win or are you like those who have already sold the victory to others or have put the victory in their pocket? It is for you to choose.

A challenge, of which Linette spoke, is that of tribalism. Tribalism destroys a nation. Tribalism means to hide our hands behind us and to have a stone in each hand to throw it against the other. Tribalism is overcome only by listening with the heart and with the hand – with the ears. What is your culture? Why are you like this? Why does your tribe have this habit, this custom? Does your tribe feel superior or inferior?  -- with the heart. Once I have heard the answer with the ears then I open my heart and stretch out my hand to continue the dialogue. If you don’t dialogue and don’t listen to one another, then there will always be tribalism as a woodworm that corrupts the society.

A Day of Prayer and Reconciliation has been declared. I would now like to invite all of you young people -- Linette and Emmanuel come here --, that we all hold hands and stand up as a sign against tribalism. We are all a nation. Our heart should be like this. Tribalism is not only to raise one’s hand today. This is the desire, but it is a decision. But tribalism is a work of every day. To defeat tribalism is an endeavor of every day. An endeavor of the ear, an endeavor of the heart, of opening one’s heart to the other, and it is an endeavor of the hand: to shake hands with one another. And now shake hands among yourselves!

Another question, which Linette posed, regards corruption. I wonder: can corruption be justified? Because of the simple fact that all are sinning, that all act on the basis of corruption. How can we be Christians and combat the evil of corruption? I remember that in my homeland a youth of about 20 or 22 years old wanted to dedicate himself to politics. He studied, was enthusiastic, went from one side to another, and he found work in a Ministry. One day he had to decide what thing he should buy. And then he asked for three estimates. He examined them and chose the most economic, the most appropriate. Then he went to the boss’ office so that he would sign it. “Why did you choose this?” “Because the most appropriate one must be chosen for the country’s finances.” “No! You must choose those that give you the most to put in your pocket!” The youth answered his boss: “I came to engage in politics to help the homeland, to make it greater.” His boss answered him: “I engage in politics to steal.” This is just one example.

And this happens not only in politics, in all institutions -- including in the Vatican -- there are cases of corruption <everywhere>. Corruption is something that gets inside us. It’s like sugar, we like it, it’s easy and then we end badly, we come to an awful end. Because of so much sugar, we end up with diabetes or our country ends up being sick with diabetes. Every time we accept money that is extorted, that we accept a small envelope and put it in our pocket, we destroy our heart, our personality, our homeland. Please, don’t have a liking for this sugar, which is called corruption. “Father, but I see that everyone is corrupt. I see so many persons who sell themselves for a bit of money without being concerned about others’ lives. As in all things, one must begin. If you don’t want corruption in your heart, in your life, in your homeland, you must begin! If you don’t begin, neither will your neighbor. Corruption, moreover, robs us of joy; it robs us of peace. A corrupt person doesn’t live in peace. Once – and this is a historical fact -- a man died in my city who we all knew was a very corrupt person. Then, a few days later, I asked how the funeral was, and a lady, who had a great sense of humor, answered me: “Father, they were unable to close the coffin because he wanted to take away all the money he had stolen.” What you steal with corruption will remain here and someone else will use it, but also – and we must really register this in our heart -- men and women will also remain wounded by your example of corruption. The lack of good will remains that you could have done and didn’t do. It will remain in sick, starving children, because the money that was for them  -- because of your corruption -- you kept for yourself. Boys and girls, corruption is not a way of life but a way of death.

And there was also a question on how to use the media to spread Christ’s message of hope and to promote correct initiatives so that a difference is seen. The first means of communication is a word, a gesture, a smile. The first gesture of communication is closeness; it is to seek friendship. If you speak well among yourselves, if you smile, if you approach one another as brothers, if you are close to each other, even if you belong to different tribes, close also to those that are in need, the abandoned, the elderly that no one visits, if you are close to them, these gestures of communication are more infectious than any television network.

Well, all these questions ... I hope I’ve said something that can help. But ask Jesus, pray to the Lord to give you the strength to destroy tribalism, to all be brothers, that He give you, encourage you, not to let yourselves be corrupted. That He give you the delight of being able to communicate among yourselves as brothers, with a smile, with a good word, with a gesture of help and closeness.

Manuel also asked incisive questions. The first thing he said worries me: What can we do to impede the recruitment of persons who are dear to us? What can we do to make them come back? To answer this we must know why a youth full of illusions allows himself to be recruited, or goes to seek to be recruited, distances himself from his family, from his friends, from his tribe, from his homeland. He distances himself from life because he learns to kill. And this is a question that you must address to all the Authorities. If a youth, a boy or a girl, has no work, cannot study, what can he/she do? He can turn to delinquency or fall into a form of dependence, or commit suicide. The statistics on suicide are not published in Europe. Or he can enroll in some activity that demonstrates a goal in life but is, perhaps, seduced or deceived. The first thing we must do to avoid a youth being recruited, or that he go to be recruited, is education and work. If a youth doesn’t have work, what future is there for him?  From there comes the idea to let himself be recruited. If a youth doesn’t have the possibility of receiving an education, even an emergency education, small tasks, what can he do? And the danger is there. It is a social danger that goes beyond us, beyond countries, because it depends on an international system that’s unjust, which doesn’t have the person at the center of the economy but the god of money. What can I do to help him or to make him come back?

In the first place, pray, but intensely. God is stronger than any recruitment. And then speak to <the youth> with affection, with sympathy, with love and with patience. Invite him to see a soccer match, to go for a walk. Invite him to take part in your group, don’t leave him alone. This is what now comes to my mind. There is also your second question: there are behaviours that damage; behaviours in which fleeting happiness is sought that ends up damaging you. Well then, this is a question of a Professor of Theology. How can we understand that God is our Father? How can we see the hand of God in the tragedies of life? How can we find the peace of God? Men and women of the whole world ask this question and they don’t find a reason. But there are questions that no matter how much effort one makes to think about them, one is unable to find an explanation. How can I see God’s hand in a tragedy of life? There is only one answer – no, it isn’t an answer; there is only one way: to look at the Son of God. God sent him to save all of us. God himself made himself tragedy. God himself let himself be destroyed on the cross and when the moment comes that you don’t understand, when you are desperate and the world falls on top of you, look at the cross. There is God’s failure, God’s destruction, but there also is a challenge to our faith: hope, because history didn’t end in that failure, but there was the Resurrection that renewed all.

I will share a confidence with you. It’s 12 o’clock. Are you hungry?

I always keep two things in my pocket: a Rosary, to pray and something that seems strange ... what is it? It is the story of God’s failure. It’s a small Via Crucis. Just as Jesus suffered from the moment he was condemned to death to the moment he was buried. With these two things, I do my best. Thanks to these two things I don’t lose hope.

One last question of “theologian” Manuel. What words do you have for young people who have not experienced love in their own families? Is it possible to come out of this experience? There are abandoned children everywhere, either because they were abandoned at birth or because life, the family, the parents have abandoned them and they don’t feel the affection of the family.

This is why the family is so important; defend the family, defend it always. Not only are there abandoned children everywhere but also abandoned elderly who are alone, with no one visiting them; no one who loves them. How can one come out of this negative experience of estrangement and lack of love? There is only one remedy to come out of these experiences: to do what oneself has not received. If you haven’t received understanding, be understanding with others, if you haven’t received love, love others; if you have felt the pain of loneliness, approach those that are alone; flesh is healed with flesh and God became flesh to heal us. Therefore, we must do the same with others.

I think that before the referee whistles the end it’s time to finish. My heartfelt thanks to you for coming, and for allowing me to speak in my native tongue. I thank you for having prayed so many Rosaries for me. And please, I ask you to pray for me, because I also am in need of it, and much so. I count on your prayers and before going, I ask you all to stand up and to pray together to our Father in Heaven who has only one defect: He cannot stop being Father.

[Our Father ...]

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Pope's Address at Kangemi Slum in Nairobi

Nairobi, November 27, 2015

This is the address Pope Francis gave this morning when he visited Kangemi slum in Nairobi:

***

Thank you for welcoming me to your neighbourhood.  I thank Archbishop Kivuva and Father Pascal for their kind words.  I feel very much at home sharing these moments with brothers and sisters who, and I am not ashamed to say this, have a special place in my life and my decisions.  I am here because I want you to know that your joys and hopes, your troubles and your sorrows, are not indifferent to me.  I realize the difficulties which you experience daily!  How can I not denounce the injustices which you suffer?

First of all, though, I would like to speak about something which the language of exclusion often disregards or seems to ignore.  It is the wisdom found in poor neighbourhoods.  A wisdom which is born of the “stubborn resistance” of that which is authentic” (cf. Laudato Si’, 112), from Gospel values which an opulent society, anaesthetized by unbridled consumption, would seem to have forgotten.  You are able “to weave bonds of belonging and togetherness which convert overcrowding into an experience of community in which the walls of the ego are torn down and the barriers of selfishness overcome” (ibid., 149).

The culture of poor neighbourhoods, steeped in this particular wisdom, “has very positive traits, which can offer something to these times in which we live; it is expressed in values such as solidarity, giving one’s life for others, preferring birth to death, providing Christian burial to one’s dead; finding a place for the sick in one’s home, sharing bread with the hungry (for ‘there is always room for one more seat at the table’), showing patience and strength when faced with great adversity, and so on” (Equipo de Sacerdotes para las Villas de Emergencia, Argentina, Reflexiones sobre urbanización y la cultura villera, 2010).  Values grounded in the fact each human being is more important than the god of money.  Thank you for reminding us that another type of culture is possible.

I want in first place to uphold these values which you practice, values which are not quoted in the stock exchange, are not subject to speculation, and have no market price.  I congratulate you, I accompany you and I want you to know that the Lord never forgets you.  The path of Jesus began on the peripheries, it goes from the poor and with the poor, towards others.

To see these signs of good living that increase daily in your midst in no way entails a disregard for the dreadful injustice of urban exclusion.  These are wounds inflicted by minorities who cling to power and wealth, who selfishly squander while a growing majority is forced to flee to abandoned, filthy and run-down peripheries.

This becomes even worse when we see the unjust distribution of land (if not in this neighbourhood, certainly in others) which leads in many cases to entire families having to pay excessive and unfair rents for utterly unfit housing.  I am also aware of the serious problem posed by faceless “private developers” who hoard areas of land and even attempt to appropriate the playgrounds of your children’s schools.  This is what happens when we forget that “God gave the earth to the whole human race for the sustenance of all its members, without excluding or favouring anyone” (Centesimus Annus, 31).    

One very serious problem in this regard is the lack of access to infrastructures and basic services.  By this I mean toilets, sewers, drains, refuse collection, electricity, roads, as well as schools, hospitals, recreational and sport centres, studios and workshops for artists and craftsmen.  I refer in particular to access to drinking water.  “Access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights.  Our world has a grave social debt towards the poor who lack access to drinking water, because they are denied the right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity” (Laudato Si’, 30).    To deny a family water, under any bureaucratic pretext whatsoever, is a great injustice, especially when one profits from this need.

This situation of indifference and hostility experienced by poor  neighbourhoods is aggravated when violence spreads and criminal organizations, serving economic or political interests, use children and young people as “canon fodder” for their ruthless business affairs.  I also appreciate the struggles of those women who fight heroically to protect their sons and daughters from these dangers.  I ask God that that the authorities may embark, together with you, upon the path of social inclusion, education, sport, community action, and the protection of families, for this is the only guarantee of a peace that is just, authentic and enduring.

These realities which I have just mentioned are not a random combination of unrelated problems.  They are a consequence of new forms of colonialism which would make African countries “parts of a machine, cogs on a gigantic wheel” (Ecclesia in Africa, 52).  Indeed, countries are frequently pressured to adopt policies typical of the culture of waste, like those aimed at lowering the birth rate, which seek “to legitimize the present model of distribution, where a minority believes that it has the right to consume in a way which can never be universalized” (Laudato Si’, 50).      

In this regard, I would propose a renewed attention to the idea of a respectful urban integration, as opposed to elimination, paternalism, indifference or mere containment.  We need integrated cities which belong to everyone.  We need to go beyond the mere proclamation of rights which are not respected in practice, to implementing concrete and systematic initiatives capable of improving the overall living situation, and planning new urban developments of good quality for housing future generations.  The social and environmental debt owed to the poor of cities can be paid by respecting their sacred right to the “three Ls”: Land, Lodging, Labour.  This is not a question of philanthropy; rather it is a duty incumbent upon all of us.

I wish to call all Christians, and their pastors in particular, to renew their missionary zeal, to take initiative in the face of so many situations of injustice, to be involved in their neighbours’ problems, to accompany them in their struggles, to protect the fruits of their communitarian labour and to celebrate together each victory, large or small.  I realize that you are already doing much, but I ask to remember this is not just another task; it may instead be the most important task of all, because “the Gospel is addressed in a special way to the poor” (Benedict XVI, Address to the Bishops of Brazil, 11 May 2007, 3).          

Dear neighbours, dear brothers and sisters, let us together pray, work and commit ourselves to ensuring that every family has dignified housing, access to drinking water, a toilet, reliable sources of energy for lighting, cooking and improving their homes; that every neighbourhood has streets, squares, schools, hospitals, areas for sport, recreation and art; that basic services are provided to each of you; that your appeals and your pleas for greater opportunity can be heard; that all can enjoy the peace and security which they rightfully deserve on the basis of their infinite human dignity.

Mungu awabariki!   God bless you!

And I ask you, please, do not forget to pray for me.

[Original Text: Spanish]

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Pope’s Off-the-Cuff Address to Priests, Religious of Uganda

Uganda, November 28, 2015

Here is a transcription and translation of the address Pope Francis gave this evening off-the-cuff to priests and religious in Uganda.

* * *

There are three things I want to tell you. First of all, in the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses reminds his people: “Don’t forget.” And he repeats it in this book various times. To not forget. To not forget everything that God did for his people.

The first thing that I want to say to you is that you ask for the grace of memory, [of remembering.] As I said to the young people: In the blood of Ugandan Catholics is mixed the blood of martyrs. Do not forget the memory of this seed. So that in this way you continue to grow.

The main enemy of memory is forgetting. But this isn’t the most dangerous enemy. The most dangerous enemy of memory is becoming accustomed to inheriting the goods of those who’ve gone before. The Church in Uganda can never become accustomed to the distant memory of its martyrs. Martyr means witness. The Church in Uganda, to be faithful to this memory, must continue to be a witness. It can’t live “piggy-backing.” The glories of the past were the beginning but you have to make the glory of the future. And this is the task that the Church gives to you. Be witnesses, as the martyrs who gave their lives for the Gospel were witnesses. 

To be witnesses — the second word that I want to say to you — fidelity is necessary. Fidelity to memory. Fidelity to one’s vocation. Fidelity to apostolic zeal. Fidelity means to follow the way of holiness. Fidelity means to do what the witnesses of the past did: to be missionaries.

Perhaps here in Uganda there are dioceses that have many priests and dioceses that have few. Fidelity means offering oneself to the bishop to go to another diocese that needs missionaries. And this isn’t easy. Fidelity means persevering in the vocation. And here, I want to give thanks in a special way for the example of fidelity that the sisters from the House of Mercy gave me. Fidelity to the poor, to the ill, to the neediest. Because Christ is there. 

Uganda was watered with the blood of martyrs, of witnesses. Today it is necessary to continue watering it and for this, new challenges, new testimonies, new missions.

If not, you’re going to lose the great richness that you have. And the “pearl of Africa” will end up being on display in a museum. Because the devil attacks like that — little by little. And I’m speaking not only for the priests, but also to the religious.

For the priests, I did want to speak particularly about this issue of being missionaries: That the dioceses with a lot of priests offer themselves to those with fewer clergy.

Thus, Uganda will continue to be missionary.

Memory which means fidelity and fidelity that is only possible with prayer. If a man or woman religious, a priest, abandons prayer or prays only a little, because he says he has a lot of work, he has already begun to lose memory. And he has already begun to lose fidelity. 

Prayer, which also means humiliation. The humiliation of going regularly to your confessor and to say your own sins. You can’t limp with both feet. Men religious, women religious and priests cannot live a double life. If you are a sinner, ask for forgiveness. But don’t keep hidden what God doesn’t want. Don’t keep a lack of fidelity hidden away. Don’t shut memory up in a closet. Memory. New challenges, fidelity to memory. And prayer. Prayer always begins with recognizing oneself as a sinner. 

With these three columns, the pearl of Africa will continue to be a pearl and not just the word missionary.

May the martyrs who gave strength to this Church help us to go forward in memory, in fidelity and in prayer.

And please, I ask you to not forget to pray for me.

Now, I invite you to pray all together an Ave Maria to the Virgin.

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Pope's Prepared Address to Religious and Priests in Uganda

Uganda, November 28, 2015

Here is a Vatican translation of the address Pope Francis has prepared for his meeting this evening with priests and religious in Uganda. He did not give this address, and instead chose to speak off-the-cuff.

Dear Brother Priests, Religious and Seminarians,

I am happy to be with you, and I thank you for your cordial welcome. I especially thank the speakers for bearing witness to your hopes and concerns, and, above all, the joy which inspires you in your service to God’s people in Uganda.

I am pleased, too, that our meeting takes place on the eve of the First Sunday of Advent, a season which invites us to look to new beginnings. This Advent we are also preparing to cross the threshold of the extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy which I have called for the whole Church.

As we approach the Jubilee of Mercy, I would ask you two questions. First: who are you, as priests or future priests, and as consecrated persons? In one sense, the answer is an easy one: surely you are men and women whose lives have been shaped by a “personal encounter with Jesus Christ” (Evangelii Gaudium, 3). Jesus has touched your hearts, called you by name, and asked you to follow him with an undivided heart in the service of his holy people.

The Church in Uganda has been blessed, in its short yet venerable history, with a great cloud of witnesses – lay faithful, catechists, priests and religious – who forsook everything for the love of Jesus: homes, families, and, in the case of the martyrs, their own lives. In your own lives, whether in the priestly ministry or in your religious consecration, you are called to carry on this great legacy, above all with quiet acts of humble service. Jesus wants to use you to touch the hearts of yet other people: he wants to use your mouths to proclaim his saving word, your arms to embrace the poor whom he loves, your hands to build up communities of authentic missionary disciples. May we never forget that our “yes” to Jesus is a “yes” to his people. Our doors, the doors of our churches, but above all the doors of our hearts, must constantly be open to God’s people, our people. For that is who we are.

A second question I would ask you tonight is: What more are you called to do in living your specific vocation? Because there is always more that we can do, another mile to be walked on our journey.

God’s people, indeed all people, yearn for new life, forgiveness and peace. Sadly, there are many troubling situations in our world for which we must pray, beginning with realities closest to us. I pray especially for the beloved people of Burundi, that the Lord may awaken in their leaders and in society as a whole a commitment to dialogue and cooperation, reconciliation and peace. If we are to accompany those who suffer, then like the light passing through the stained glass windows of this Cathedral, we must let God’s power and healing pass through us. We must first let the waves of his mercy flow over us, purify us, and refresh us, so that we can bring that mercy to others, especially those on the peripheries.

All of us know well how difficult this can be. There is so much work to be done. At the same time, modern life also offers so many distractions which can dull our consciences, dissipate our zeal, and even lure us into that “spiritual worldliness” which eats away at the foundations of the Christian life. The work of conversion – that conversion which is the heart of the Gospel of Jesus (cf. Mk 1:15) – must be carried out each day, in the battle to recognize and overcome those habits and ways of thinking which can fuel spiritual complacency. We need to examine our consciences, as individuals and as communities.

As I mentioned, we are entering the season of Advent, which is a time of new beginnings. In the Church we like to say that Africa is the continent of hope, and with good reason. The Church in these lands is blessed with an abundant harvest of religious vocations. This evening I would offer a special word of encouragement to the young seminarians and religious present. The Lord’s call is a source of joy and a summons to serve. Jesus tells us that “it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks” (Lk 6:45). May the fire of the Holy Spirit purify your hearts, so that you can be joyful and convincing witnesses to the hope of the Gospel. You have a beautiful word to speak! May you always speak it, above all, by the integrity and conviction of your lives.

Dear brothers and sisters, my visit to Uganda is brief, and today was a very long day! But I consider our meeting tonight to be the crowning of this beautiful day when I was able to go as a pilgrim to the Shrine of the Uganda Martyrs at Namugongo, and to meet with the many young people who are the future of the nation and our Church. Truly I leave Africa with great hope in the harvest of grace which God is preparing in your midst! I ask all of you to pray for an outpouring of apostolic zeal, for joyful perseverance in the calling you have received, and, above all, for the gift of a pure heart ever open to the needs of all our brothers and sisters. In this way the Church in Uganda will truly prove worthy of its glorious heritage and face the challenges of the future with sure hope in Christ’s promises. I will remember all of you in my prayers, and I ask you, please, to pray for me!

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Pope’s Off-the-Cuff Address to Ugandan Youth

Uganda, November 28, 2015

Here is a transcription and translation of the address Pope Francis gave today off-the-cuff, in his native Spanish, to a meeting of youth in Uganda.

* * *

I listened with much sorrow in my heart to the testimonies of Winnie and Emmanuel. But as I was listening, I asked myself a question: Can a negative experience serve for something in life? Yes.

Both Winnie and Emmanuel have suffered negative experiences. Winnie thought she had no future. That the life before her was against a wall. But Jesus showed her little by little that he can make a great miracle in life. That he can transform a wall into a horizon. A horizon that opens to the future. In the face of a negative experience — as many of us who are here have had negative experiences — there is always the possibility of opening a horizon. Of opening it with the door of Jesus. Today, Winnie has transformed her depression, her bitterness into hope.

And this isn’t magic. This is the work of Jesus. Because Jesus is Lord. Jesus can do everything. And Jesus suffered the most negative experience in history. He was insulted, he was rejected, he was killed. And Jesus, by the power of God, rose again. He can do the same thing in each one of us with each negative experience. Because Jesus is Lord.

I can imagine — and all of us together, let us imagine — the suffering of Emmanuel. When he saw that his companions were tortured. When he saw that his companions were assassinated. Emmanuel was courageous. He took heart. He knew that if they found him, the day he escaped, they would kill him. He took a risk. He trusted in Jesus. And he escaped. And today we have him here, after 14 years, with a degree in administration sciences.

All is possible. Our life is like a seed; to live, we must die. And sometimes, it is to die physically, like Emmanuel’s companions. To die as Charles Lwanga and the martyrs of Uganda died. But through this death, there is life. A life for everyone. If I transform the negative into positive, I am triumphant. But this can only be done with the grace of Jesus.

Are you certain of this? I didn’t hear! Are you certain? Are you ready to transform all the negative things of life into positive things? Are you ready to transform hate into love? Are you ready to transform, to want to transform, war into peace?

You must be aware that you are a people of martyrs. Through your veins flows the blood of martyrs. And because of this, you have the faith and the life that you have now. And this life is so beautiful that it is called the pearl of Africa.

It seems that the microphone doesn’t work well. Sometimes we ourselves don’t work well. Yes or no?

And when we don’t work well, to whom do we have to ask help? I don’t hear you. Louder! 

We have to ask Jesus. Jesus can change your life. Jesus can break down all of the walls that you have before you. Jesus can make of your life a service for others. 

Some of you might ask me: For this, is there a magic wand? If you want Jesus to change your life, ask him. And this is called prayer. 

Did you understand? To pray. I ask you: Do you pray? Are you sure? Pray to Jesus because he is the savior. Never stop praying. Prayer is the strongest weapon that a youth has. 

Jesus loves us. I ask you: Does Jesus love some people and not others? Does Jesus love everyone? Does Jesus want to help everyone? Then open the doors of your heart and allow him to come in. 

Allow Jesus to enter into my life. And when Jesus comes into your life, he helps you to fight. To fight agains all of the problems that Winnie spoke of. Fight against depression, fight against AIDS, to ask help to rise above these situations. But always to fight. Fight with my desire, and fight with my prayer. Are you ready to fight? Are you ready to want the best for yourselves? Are you ready to pray, to ask Jesus to help you in the fight?

And a third thing that I want to tell you: All of us are in the Church, we belong to the Church, right? And the Church has a Mother. What’s her name? I can’t hear! Pray to our Mother. When a child falls, gets hurt, he starts to cry and goes to look for his mom. When we have a problem, the best thing we can do is go where our Mother is. And pray to Mary, our mother. Do you agree? Do you pray to the Virgin, our Mother?

Here I ask, do you pray to Jesus and to the Virgin, our Mother?

So three things: rise above difficulties, transform the negative into positive, and third, prayer. Prayer to Jesus who can do everything. That Jesus enters into our hearts. And changes our lives. Jesus, who came to save me and gave his life for me. Pray to Jesus because he is the only Lord. And since in the Church, we are not orphans, and we have a mother, to pray to our Mother. And what is the name of our Mother? Louder!

I thank you very much for having listened to me. I thank you a lot because you want to change the negative into positive. That you want to fight against evil with Jesus at your side, and above all I thank you because you have the desire to never abandon prayer. And now I invite you to pray together to our Mother, that she protects us. Agreed? Everyone together.

[Ave Maria]

[Blessing]

A last request: Pray for me. Pray for me. I need it. Don’t forget. Good-bye.

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Pope's Prepared Address to Ugandan Youth

Uganda, November 28, 2015

Here is a Vatican translation of the address Pope Francis has prepared for his meeting today with youth in Uganda. He did not give this address, and instead chose to speak off-the-cuff.

* * *

Holy Father: Omukama Mulungi! (God is good!)

Young people: Obudde bwonna! (For ever and ever!)

Dear Young Friends,

I am happy to be here and to share these moments with you. I greet my brother bishops and the civil authorities present, and I thank Bishop Paul Ssemogerere for his words of welcome. The testimonies of Winnie and Emmanuel confirm my impression that the Church in Uganda is alive with young people who want a better future. Today, if you will allow me, I want to confirm you in your faith, encourage you in your love, and in a special way, strengthen you in your hope.

Christian hope is not simply optimism; it is much more. It is rooted in the new life we have received in Jesus Christ. Saint Paul tells us that hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love was poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit at our baptism (cf. Rom 5:5). This hope enables us to trust in Christ’s promises, to trust in the power of his love, his forgiveness, his friendship. That love opens the door to new life. Whenever you experience a problem, a setback, a failure, you must anchor your heart in that love, for it has the power to turn death into life and to banish every evil.

So this afternoon I would invite you, first of all, to pray for this gift to grow within you, and for the grace to become messengers of hope. There are so many people around us who experience deep anxiety and even despair. Jesus lifts these clouds, if we allow him to.

I would also like to share with you a few thoughts about some of the obstacles which you may encounter on our journey of hope. All of you want a better future, employment, health and prosperity. This is good. You want to share your gifts, your aspirations and your enthusiasm with others, for the good of the nation and of the Church. This too is very good. But when you see poverty, when you experience lack of opportunity, when you experience failure in your lives, sometimes a feeling of despair can grow. You can be tempted to lose hope.

Have you ever seen a little child who stops in front of a dirty puddle on the path ahead of him? A puddle he cannot leap over or go around? He may try but then he stumbles and gets soaked. Then, after many attempts, he calls out to his father, who takes his hand and swings him over to the other side. We are like that child. Life presents us with many dirty puddles. But we don’t have to overcome all those problems and hurdles on our own. God is there to take our hand, if only we call on him.

What I am saying is that all of us have to be like that little child, even the Pope! For it is only when we are small and humble that we are not afraid to call out to our Father. If you have experienced his help, you know what I am speaking about. We need to learn to put our hope in him, knowing that he is always there for us. He gives us confidence and courage. But – and this is important – it would be wrong not to share this beautiful experience with others. It would be wrong for us not to become messengers of hope for others.

There is one particular puddle which can be frightening to young people who want to grow in their friendship with Christ. It is the fear of failing in our commitment to love, and above all, failing in that great and lofty ideal which is Christian marriage. You may be afraid of failing to be a good wife and mother, failing to be a good husband and father. If you are looking at that puddle, you may even see your weaknesses and fears reflected back to you. Please, don’t give in to them! Sometimes these fears come from the devil who does not want you to be happy. No! Call out to God, extend your hearts to him and he will lift you in his arms and show you how to love. I ask young couples in particular to trust that God wants to bless their love and their lives with his grace in the sacrament of marriage. God’s gift of love is at the heart of Christian marriage, not the costly parties which often obscure the deep spiritual meaning of this day of joyful celebration with family and friends.

Finally, one puddle that we all have to face is the fear of being different, of going against the grain in a society which puts increasing pressure on us to embrace models of gratification and consumption alien to the deepest values of African culture. Think about it! What would the Uganda martyrs say about the misuse of our modern means of communication, where young people are exposed to images and distorted views of sexuality that degrade human dignity, leading to sadness and emptiness? What would be the Uganda martyrs’ reaction to the growth of greed and corruption in our midst? Surely they would appeal to you to be model Christians, confident that your love of Christ, your fidelity to the Gospel, and your wise use of your God-given gifts can only enrich, purify and elevate the life of this country. They continue to show you the way. Do not be afraid to let the light of your faith shine in your families, your schools and your places of work. Do not be afraid to enter into dialogue humbly with others who may see things differently.

Dear young friends, when I look at your faces I am filled with hope: hope for you, hope for your country, and hope for the Church. I ask you to pray that the hope which you have received from the Holy Spirit will continue to inspire your efforts to grow in wisdom, generosity and goodness. Don’t forget to be messengers of that hope! And don’t forget that God will help you to cross whatever puddles you meet along the way!

Hope in Christ and he will enable you to find true happiness. And if you find it hard to pray, if you find it hard to hope, do not be afraid to turn to Mary, for she is our Mother, the Mother of Hope. Finally, please, do not forget to pray for me! God bless you all!

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Pope's Address at Nalukolongo House of Charity

Uganda, November 28, 2015

Here is a Vatican translation of the address Pope Francis gave today in Uganda at the Nalukolongo House of Charity. The Holy Father mostly followed his prepared text. Some of his off-the-cuff comments are included in brackets.

* * *

Dear Friends,

Thank you for your warm welcome. I wanted very much to visit this House of Charity, which Cardinal Nsubuga founded here in Nalukolongo. This is a place which has always been associated with the Church’s outreach to the poor, the handicapped, the sick. Here, in early times, slave children were ransomed and women received religious instruction. I greet the Good Samaritan Sisters who carry on this fine tradition, and I thank them for their years of quiet and joyful service in this apostolate.

I also greet the representatives of the many other apostolic groups who serve the needs of our brothers and sisters in Uganda. [I think in particular of the immense and productive efforts which have been made to assist people suffering with AIDS.] Above all, I greet the residents of this home and others like it, and all who benefit from these works of Christian charity. For this is a home. Here you can find love and care; here you can feel the presence of Jesus, our brother, who loves each of us with God’s own love.

Today, from this Home, I appeal to all parishes and communities in Uganda – and the rest of Africa – not to forget the poor. [Not to forget the poor!] The Gospel commands us to go out to the peripheries of society, and to find Christ in the suffering and those in need. The Lord tells us, in no uncertain terms, that is what he will judge us on! How sad it is when our societies allow the elderly to be rejected or neglected! How wrong it is when the young are exploited by the modern-day slavery of human trafficking! If we look closely at the world around us, it seems that, in many places, selfishness and indifference are spreading. How many of our brothers and sisters are victims of today’s throwaway culture, which breeds contempt above all towards the unborn, the young and the elderly!

As Christians, we cannot simply stand by. [And what do we mean by simply stand by? It means doing nothing.] Something must change! Our families need to become ever more evident signs of God’s patient and merciful love, not only for our children and elders, but for all those in need. Our parishes must not close their doors, or their ears, to the cry of the poor. This is the royal road of Christian discipleship. [The royal road.] In this way we bear witness to the Lord who came not to be served, but to serve. In this way we show that people count more than things, that who we are is more important than what we possess. For in those whom we serve, Christ daily reveals himself and prepares the welcome which we hope one day to receive in his eternal kingdom.

Dear friends, by simple gestures, by simple prayerful actions which honour Christ in the least of his brothers and sisters, we can bring the power of his love into our world, and truly change it. I thank you once more for your generosity and love. I will remember you in my prayers and I ask you, please, to pray for me. I commend all of you to the loving protection of Mary, our Mother, and I give you my blessing.

Omukama Abakuume! (God protect you!)

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Pope's Homily at Sanctuary of the Ugandan Martyrs at Namugongo

Uganda, November 28, 2015

Below is the Vatican-provided translation of Pope Francis’ homily for the Holy Mass at the Sanctuary of the Ugandan Martyrs at Namugongo:

***

“You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

From the age of the Apostles to our own day, a great cloud of witnesses has been raised up to proclaim Jesus and show forth the power of the Holy Spirit. Today, we recall with gratitude the sacrifice of the Uganda martyrs, whose witness of love for Christ and his Church has truly gone “to the end of the earth”. We remember also the Anglican martyrs whose deaths for Christ testify to the ecumenism of blood. All these witnesses nurtured the gift of the Holy Spirit in their lives and freely gave testimony of their faith in Jesus Christ, even at the cost of their lives, many at such a young age.

We too have received the gift of the Spirit, to make us sons and daughters of God, but also so that we may bear witness to Jesus and make him everywhere known and loved. We received the Spirit when we were reborn in Baptism, and we were strengthened by his gifts at our Confirmation. Every day we are called to deepen the Holy Spirit’s presence in our life, to “fan into flame” the gift of his divine love so that we may be a source of wisdom and strength to others.

The gift of the Holy Spirit is a gift which is meant to be shared. It unites us to one another as believers and living members of Christ’s mystical Body. We do not receive the gift of the Spirit for ourselves alone, but to build up one another in faith, hope and love. I think of Saints Joseph Mkasa and Charles Lwanga, who after being catechized by others, wanted to pass on the gift they had received. They did this in dangerous times. Not only were their lives threatened but so too were the lives of the younger boys under their care. Because they had tended to their faith and deepened their love of God, they were fearless in bringing Christ to others, even at the cost of their lives. Their faith became witness; today, venerated as martyrs, their example continues to inspire people throughout the world. They continue to proclaim Jesus Christ and the power of his Cross.

If, like the martyrs, we daily fan into flame the gift of the Spirit who dwells in our hearts, then we will surely become the missionary disciples which Christ calls us to be. To our families and friends certainly, but also to those whom we do not know, especially those who might be unfriendly, even hostile, to us. This openness to others begins first in the family, in our homes where charity and forgiveness are learned, and the mercy and love of God made known in our parents’ love. It finds expression too in our care for the elderly and the poor, the widowed and the orphaned.

The witness of the martyrs shows to all who have heard their story, then and now, that the worldly pleasures and earthly power do not bring lasting joy or peace. Rather, fidelity to God, honesty and integrity of life, and genuine concern for the good of others bring us that peace which the world cannot give. This does not diminish our concern for this world, as if we only look to the life to come. Instead, it gives purpose to our lives in this world, and helps us to reach out to those in need, to cooperate with others for the common good, and to build a more just society which promotes human dignity, defends God’s gift of life and protects the wonders of nature, his creation and our common home.

Dear brothers and sisters, this is the legacy which you have received from the Uganda martyrs – lives marked by the power of the Holy Spirit, lives which witness even now to the transforming power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This legacy is not served by an occasional remembrance, or by being enshrined in a museum as a precious jewel. Rather, we honour them, and all the saints, when we carry on their witness to Christ, in our homes and neighbourhoods, in our workplaces and civil society, whether we never leave our homes or we go to the farthest corner of the world.

May the Uganda martyrs, together with Mary, Mother of the Church, intercede for us, and may the Holy Spirit kindle within us the fire of his divine love!

Omukama Abawe Omukisa! (God bless you!)

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Pope's Address to Authorities, Diplomatic Corps in Bangui

Bangui, November 29, 2015

Below is the Vatican-provided translation of Pope Francis' address to authorities and the diplomatic corps this morning in Bangui:

*** 

Madam Interim Head of State,

Distinguished Authorities,

Members of the Diplomatic Corps,

Representatives of International Organizations,

My Brother Bishops,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am happy to be here with you.  I would first like to express my appreciation for your warm hospitality and to thank Madam Interim Head of State for her kind words of welcome.  In this place, which is in some sense the home of all Central Africans, I am pleased to express, through you and the other authorities of the country present, my affection and spiritual closeness to all your fellow citizens. I would like also to greet the members of the Diplomatic Corps and the representatives of the International Organizations, whose work recalls the ideal of solidarity and cooperation which needs to be cultivated between peoples and nations.

As the Central African Republic progressively moves, in spite of difficulties, towards the normalization of its social and political life, I come to this land for the first time, following my predecessor Saint John Paul II.  I come as a pilgrim of peace and an apostle of hope.  For this reason, I express my appreciation of the efforts made by the different national and international authorities, beginning with Madam Interim Head of State, to guide the country to this point.  It is my fervent wish that the various national consultations to be held in coming weeks will enable the country to embark serenely on new chapter of its history.

To brighten the horizon, there is the motto of the Central African Republic, which translates the hope of pioneers and the dream of the founding fathers: Unity-Dignity-Labour.  Today, more than ever, this trilogy expresses the aspirations of each Central African.  Consequently, it is a sure compass for the authorities called to guide the destiny of the country.  Unity, dignity, labour!  Three very significant words, each of which represents as much a building project as a unending programme, something to be ceaselessly crafted.

First unity.  This, we know, is a cardinal value for the harmony of peoples.  It is to be lived and built up on the basis of the marvellous diversity of our environment, avoiding the temptation of fear of others, of the unfamiliar, of what is not part of our ethnic group, our political views or our religious confession.  Unity, on the contrary, calls for creating and promoting a synthesis of the richness which each person has to offer.  Unity in diversity is a constant challenge, one which demands creativity, generosity, self-sacrifice and respect for others.

Then, dignity.  This moral value is rightly synonymous with the honesty, loyalty, graciousness and honour which characterize men and women conscious of their rights and duties, and which lead them to mutual respect.  Each person has dignity.  I was interested to learn that Central Africa is the country of the “Zo kwe zo”, the country where everbody is somebody.  Everything must be done to protect the status and dignity of the human person.  Those who have the means to enjoy a decent life, rather than being concerned with privileges, must seek to help those poorer than themselves to attain dignified living conditions, particularly through the development of their human, cultural, economic and social potential.  Consequently, access to education and to health care, the fight against malnutrition and efforts to ensure decent housing for everyone must be at the forefront of a development concerned for human dignity.  In effect, our human dignity is expressed by our working for the dignity of our fellow man.

Finally, labour.  It is by working that you are able to improve the lives of your families.  Saint Paul tells us that “children ought not to lay up for their parents, but parents for their children” (2 Cor 12:14).  The work of parents expresses their love for their children.  And you again, Central Africans, can improve this marvellous land by wisely exploiting its many resources.  Your country is located in a region considered to be one of the two lungs of mankind on account of its exceptionally rich biodiversity.  In this regard, echoing my Encyclical Laudato Si’, I would like particularly to draw the attention of everyone, citizens and national leaders, international partners and multinational societies, to their grave responsibility in making use of environmental resources, in development decisions and projects which in any way affect the entire planet.  The work of building a prosperous society must be a cooperative effort.  The wisdom of your people has long understood this truth, as seen in the proverb: “The ants are little, but since they are so many, they can bring their hoard home”.

It is no doubt superfluous to underline the capital importance of upright conduct and administration on the part of public authorities. They must be the first to embody consistently the values of unity, dignity and labour, serving as models for their compatriots.

The history of the evangelization of this land and the sociopolitical history of this country attest to the commitment of the Church in promoting the values of unity, dignity and labour.  In recalling the pioneers of evangelization in the Central African Republic, I greet my brother bishops, who now carry on this work.  With them, I express once more the readiness of the local Church to contribute even more to the promotion of the common good, particularly by working for peace and reconciliation.  I do not doubt that the Central African authorities, present and future, will work tirelessly to ensure that the Church enjoys favourable conditions for the fulfilment of her spiritual mission.  In this way she will be able to contribute increasingly to “promoting the good of every man and of the whole man” (Populorum Progressio, 14), to use the felicitous expression of my predecessor, Blessed Paul VI, who fifty years ago was the first Pope of modern times to come to Africa, to encourage and confirm the continent in goodness at the dawn of a new age.

For my part, I express my appreciation for the efforts made by the international community, represented here by the Diplomatic Corps and the members of the various Missions of the International Organizations.  I heartily encourage them to continue along the path of solidarity, in the hope that their commitment, together with the activity of the Central African authorities, will help the country to advance, especially in the areas of reconciliation, disarmament, peacekeeping, health care and the cultivation of a sound administration at all levels.

To conclude, I would like to express once more my joy to visit this marvellous country, located in the heart of Africa, home to a people profoundly religious and blessed with so such natural and cultural richness.  Here I see a country filled with God’s gifts!  May the Central African people, its leaders and its partners, always appreciate the value of these gifts by working ceaselessly for unity, human dignity and a peace based on justice.  May God bless you all!  Thank you.

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Pope's Off-the-Cuff Words at CAR Refugee Camp

Bangui, November 29, 2015

Below is a ZENIT translation of Pope Francis' off-the-cuff words at the St. Sauveur Refugee Camp in the Central African Republic's capital of Bangui:

***

I greet all of you here.

 

I tell you that I read what the children had written [on signs], "peace", "forgiveness", "unity" and so many things ... "love". We must work and pray and do everything for peace. But peace without love, without friendship, without tolerance, without forgiveness, is not possible. Each of us has to do something. I wish you, to you and to all Central Africans, peace, a great peace among you. May you live in peace regardless of your ethnicity, culture, religion, social status. But everyone in peace! Everyone! Because we are all brothers. I would like for us to say together: "We are all brothers." [The people repeat: "We are all brothers"] Another time! ["We are all brothers"]. And for this, because we are all brothers, we want peace.

 

And I give you the Lord's blessing. May the Lord bless you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. And pray for me! Pray for me, did you hear? ["Yes!"]

[Original Text: Italian]

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Pope's Address to Evangelical Community in CAR

Central African Republic, November 29, 2015

Here is a Vatican translation of Pope Francis' address for a meeting with Evangelical Communities gathered in the headquarters of the Evangelical Faculty of Theology of Bangui, Central African Republic.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am happy to be able to meet you in this Faculty of Evangelical Theology. I thank the Dean of the Faculty and the President of the Evangelical Alliance of Central Africa for their kind words of welcome With fraternal affection I greet each of you and, through you, all the members of your communities. All of us are here in the service of the risen Lord who assembles us today; and, by virtue of the common baptism we have received, we are sent to proclaim the joy of the Gospel to men and women of this beloved country of Central Africa.

For all too long, your people have experienced troubles and violence, resulting in great suffering. This makes the proclamation of the Gospel all the more necessary and urgent. For it is Christ’s own flesh which suffers in his dearest sons and daughters: the poorest of his people, the infirm, the elderly, the abandoned, children without parents or left to themselves without guidance and education. There are also those who have been scarred in soul or body by hatred and violence, those whom war has deprived of everything: work, home and loved ones.

God makes no distinctions between those who suffer. I have often called this the ecumenism of blood. All our communities suffer indiscriminately as a result of injustice and the blind hatred unleashed by the devil. Here I wish to express my closeness and solidarity to Pastor Nicholas, whose home was recently ransacked and set on fire, as was the meeting-place of his community. In these difficult circumstances, the Lord keeps asking us to demonstrate to everyone his tenderness, compassion and mercy. This shared suffering and shared mission are a providential opportunity for us to advance together on the path of unity; they are also an indispensable spiritual aid. How could the Father refuse the grace of unity, albeit still imperfect, to his children who suffer together and, in different situations, join in serving their brothers and sisters?

Dear friends, the lack of unity among Christians is a scandal, above all because it is contrary to God’s will. It is also a scandal when we consider the hatred and violence which are tearing humanity apart, and the many forms of opposition which the Gospel of Christ encounters. I appreciate the spirit of mutual respect and cooperation existing between the Christians of your country, and I encourage you to continue on this path of common service in charity. It is a witness to Christ which builds up unity.

With increasing intensity and courage, may you add to perseverance and charity, a commitment to prayer and common reflection, as you seek to achieve greater mutual understanding, trust and friendship in view of that full communion for which we firmly hope.

I assure you of my prayerful support along the path of fraternal charity, reconciliation and mercy, a path which is long, yet full of joy and hope.

May God bless you! May he bless your communities!

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Pope's Homily at Mass at Bangui Cathedral

Central African Republic, November 29, 2015

Here is a Vatican translation of the homily Pope Francis gave today when he celebrated Mass for the first Sunday of Advent at the cathedral of Bangui, Central African Republic. Immediately prior to the Mass, the Pontiff opened the Holy Door for the Jubilee of Mercy.

* * *

On this first Sunday of Advent, the liturgical season of joyful expectation of the Saviour and a symbol of Christian hope, God has brought me here among you, in this land, while the universal Church is preparing for the opening of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. I am especially pleased that my pastoral visit coincides with the opening of this Jubilee Year in your country. From this cathedral I reach out, in mind and heart, and with great affection, to all the priests, consecrated men and women, and pastoral workers of the nation, who are spiritually united with us at this moment. Through you, I would greet all the people of the Central African Republic: the sick, the elderly, those who have experienced life’s hurts. Some of them are perhaps despairing and listless, asking only for alms, the alms of bread, the alms of justice, the alms of attention and goodness.

But like the Apostles Peter and John on their way to the Temple, who had neither gold nor silver to give to the paralytic in need, I have come to offer God’s strength and power; for these bring us healing, set us on our feet and enable us to embark on a new life, to “go across to the other side” (cf. Lk 8:22).

Jesus does not make us cross to the other side alone; instead, he asks us to make the crossing with him, as each of us responds to his or her own specific vocation. We need to realize that making this crossing can only be done with him, by freeing ourselves of divisive notions of family and blood in order to build a Church which is God’s family, open to everyone, concerned for those most in need. This presupposes closeness to our brothers and sisters; it implies a spirit of communion. It is not primarily a question of financial means; it is enough just to share in the life of God’s people, in accounting for the hope which is in us (cf. 1 Pet 3:15), in testifying to the infinite mercy of God who, as the Responsorial Psalm of this Sunday’s liturgy makes clear, is “good [and] instructs sinners in the way” (Ps 24:8). Jesus teaches us that our heavenly Father “makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good” (Mt 5:45). Having experienced forgiveness ourselves, we must forgive others in turn. This is our fundamental vocation: “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48).

One of the essential characteristics of this vocation to perfection is the love of our enemies, which protects us from the temptation to seek revenge and from the spiral of endless retaliation. Jesus placed special emphasis on this aspect of the Christian testimony (cf. Mt 5:46-47). Those who evangelize must therefore be first and foremost practitioners of forgiveness, specialists in reconciliation, experts in mercy. This is how we can help our brothers and sisters to “cross to the other side” – by showing them the secret of our strength, our hope, and our joy, all of which have their source in God, for they are grounded in the certainty that he is in the boat with us. As he did with the apostles at the multiplication of the loaves, so too the Lord entrusts his gifts to us, so that we can go out and distribute them everywhere, proclaiming his reassuring words: “Behold, the days are coming when I will fulfil the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah” (Jer 33:14).

In the readings of this Sunday’s liturgy, we can see different aspects of this salvation proclaimed by God; they appear as signposts to guide us on our mission. First of all, the happiness promised by God is presented as justice. Advent is a time when we strive to open our hearts to receive the Saviour, who alone is just and the sole Judge able to give to each his or her due. Here as elsewhere, countless men and women thirst for respect, for justice, for equality, yet see no positive signs on the horizon. These are the ones to whom he comes to bring the gift of his justice (cf. Jer 33:15). He comes to enrich our personal and collective histories, our dashed hopes and our sterile yearnings. And he sends us to proclaim, especially to those oppressed by the powerful of this world or weighed down by the burden of their sins, that “Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it shall be called, ‘The Lord is our righteousness’” (Jer 33:16). Yes, God is righteousness; God is justice. This, then, is why we Christians are called in the world to work for a peace founded on justice.

The salvation of God which we await is also flavoured with love. In preparing for the mystery of Christmas, we relive the pilgrimage which prepared God’s people to receive the Son, who came to reveal that God is not only righteousness, but also and above all love (cf. 1 Jn 4:8). In every place, even and especially in those places where violence, hatred, injustice and persecution hold sway, Christians are called to give witness to this God who is love. In encouraging the priests, consecrated men and woman, and committed laity who, in this country live, at times heroically, the Christian virtues, I realize that the distance between this demanding ideal and our Christian witness is at times great. For this reason I echo the prayer of Saint Paul: “Brothers and sisters, may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all men and women” (1 Th 3:12). Thus what the pagans said of the early Christians will always remain before us like a beacon: “See how they love one another, how they truly love one another” (Tertullian, Apology, 39, 7).

Finally, the salvation proclaimed by God has an invincible power which will make it ultimately prevail. After announcing to his disciples the terrible signs that will precede his coming, Jesus concludes: “When these things begin to take place, look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Lk 21:28). If Saint Paul can speak of a love which “grows and overflows”, it is because Christian witness reflects that irresistible power spoken of in the Gospel. It is amid unprecedented devastation that Jesus wishes to show his great power, his incomparable glory (cf. Lk 21:27) and the power of that love which stops at nothing, even before the falling of the heavens, the conflagration of the world or the tumult of the seas. God is stronger than all else. This conviction gives to the believer serenity, courage and the strength to persevere in good amid the greatest hardships. Even when the powers of Hell are unleashed, Christians must rise to the summons, their heads held high, and be ready to brave blows in this battle over which God will have the last word. And that word will be love [and peace]!

To all those who make unjust use of the weapons of this world, I make this appeal: lay down these instruments of death! Arm yourselves instead with righteousness, with love and mercy, the authentic guarantors of peace. As followers of Christ, dear priests, religious and lay pastoral workers, here in this country, with its suggestive name, situated in the heart of Africa and called to discover the Lord as the true centre of all that is good, your vocation is to incarnate the very heart of God in the midst of your fellow citizens. May the Lord deign to “strengthen your hearts in holiness, that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints” (1 Th 3:13).  [Reconciliation. Forgiveness. Love. Peace.] Amen.

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Pope’s Off-the-Cuff Address at Prayer Vigil in Bangui

Central African Republic, November 29, 2015

Here is a ZENIT transcription and translation of the address Pope Francis gave this evening in Bangui, Central African Republic, at a prayer vigil outside of the cathedral. The Pope had just completed a ceremony to open the Holy Door of the Jubilee of Mercy and celebrated Mass.

* * *

I greet you with my deepest affection. This young person who has spoken in your name has said that the banana tree is your symbol. The banana is a symbol of life that grows, reproduces and gives its fruit with so much nutritional energy.

The banana is resistant; I think this clearly indicates the path that is set out in this difficult moment, of war, hate, division. The path of resistance.

This friend said that some of you want to leave. To flee from challenges is never a solution. Resistance is needed. To have the courage of resistance and of fighting for good. One who escapes doesn’t have the courage to give life.

The banana tree gives life and reproduces and gives more life because it stays in place. 

Some of you ask me: What can we do? What do we need to do to resist? I’ll give you two or three ideas that can be useful for this resistance.

First of all is prayer, because it is powerful. Prayer overcomes evil. Prayer brings one close to God who is All-Powerful. I ask you, do you pray? Don’t forget this.

Second, work for peace, and peace is not a document that is signed and then put up some place. Peace is made each day. Peace is a craft, a handiwork. It’s made with the hands. 

Someone could ask me, “Father, how can I be a craftsman of peace?”

Never hate. And if someone does evil, seek to forgive him. Nothing of hate. A lot of forgiveness. The two things go together: nothing of hate, a lot of forgiveness. If you don't have hate in your heart, if you forgive, you will be the victor, because you will be victors in the most difficult battle of life, victors in love. And through love comes peace.

Do you want to be losers or winners in life? Which do you want? (They respond, “Winners!”) You only win on the path of love, on the path of love. And is it possible to love an enemy? Yes. Can one who has done evil be forgiven? Yes. Like this, with love and with forgiveness, you will be victorious. You will be victors in life; love will never leave you defeated.

I wish the best for you. Think of the banana, of resistance when faced with difficulties. To flee, to escape isn’t the solution. You have to be courageous. Do you understand what it means to be courageous? Courageous in forgiveness, courageous in love, courageous in building peace. 

Do you agree? Let’s say it together: Courageous in forgiveness, in love, in peace. (The crowd responds).

Dear Central African youth, I am so pleased to meet with you. Today, we have opened this Door, [the Holy Door of the cathedral for the Jubilee of Mercy] it signifies the door of God’s mercy. Trust in God, because he is merciful. He is love. He is able to give us peace. And that’s why I said a bit ago that it is necessary to pray in order to resist, to love, to not hate, to be craftsmen of peace.

Thank you for being here. Now, I will go inside to hear the confessions of some of you. 

Are your hearts ready to resist? Yes or no? (The crowd responds.)

Are your hearts ready to fight for peace? (The crowd responds.) Are your hearts ready to forgive? (The crowd responds.) Are your hearts ready for reconciliation? (The crowd responds.) Are your hearts ready to love this beautiful homeland? (The crowd responds.) And I go back to the beginning, are your hearts ready to pray?

Now, I ask you as well that you pray for me, so that I can be a good bishop, so that I can be a good Pope. Will you promise me that you’ll pray for me? Now, I give you the blessing, to you and to your families, asking the Lord that he gives you love and peace.

[Blessing]

Good night and pray for me!

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Pope's Prepared Address at Prayer Vigil With Youth in CAR

Central African Republic, November 29, 2015

Here is a Vatican translation of the address Pope Francis had prepared for a meeting with youth outside the cathedral of Bangui, Central African Republic, following a Mass he celebrated there this evening. The Pope did not give this address, choosing instead to speak off-the-cuff.

* * *

Dear Young Friends,

Good evening! It is a great joy for me to be here with you this evening, as we enter upon a new liturgical year with the beginning of Advent. Is this not, for each one of us, an occasion to begin anew, a chance to “go across to the other side?” (cf. Lk 8:22).

During this, our meeting I will be able to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation with some of you. I encourage each of you to reflect on the grandeur of this sacrament, in which God comes to meet us personally. Whenever we ask, he comes to us and helps us to “go across to the other side”, to that side of our life where God forgives us and bathes us in his love which heals, soothes and raises up! The Jubilee of Mercy, which I just opened particularly for you, dear Central African and African friends, rightly reminds us that God is waiting for us, with arms wide open, as we see in the beautiful image of the Father who welcomes the prodigal son.

The forgiveness which we receive comforts us and enables us to make a new start, with trusting and serene hearts, better able to live in harmony with ourselves, with God and with others. The forgiveness which we receive enables us in turn to forgive others. There is always a need for this, especially in times of conflict and violence, as you know all too well. I renew my closeness to all those among you who are have experienced sorrow, separation and the wounds inflicted by hatred and war. In such situations, forgiving those who have done us harm is, humanly speaking, extremely difficult. But God offers us the strength and the courage to become those artisans of reconciliation and peace which your country greatly needs. The Christian, as a disciple of Christ, walks in the footsteps of his Master, who on the Cross asked his Father to forgive those who were crucifying him (cf. Lk 23:34). How far is this sentiment from those which too often reign in our hearts! Meditating on the attitude and the words of Jesus, “Father, forgive them”, can help to turn our gaze and convert our heart.

For many people, it is a scandal that God came to be one of us. It is a scandal that he died on a cross. Yes, it is scandalous: the scandal of the cross. The cross continues to scandalize. Yet it remains the one sure way: the way of the cross, the way of Jesus who came to share our life and to save us from sin (cf. Meeting with Young Argentineans, 25 July 2013). Dear friends, this cross speaks to us of the closeness of God: he is with us, he is with each one of you, in your joys and in your trials.

Dear young people, the most precious good which we can have in this life is our relationship with God. Are you convinced of this? Are you aware of the inestimable value that you have in God’s eyes? Do you know that you are loved and accepted by him, unconditionally, as you are? (cf. Message for the World Youth Day 2015, 2). Devoting time to prayer and the reading of Scripture, especially the Gospels, you will come to know him, and yourselves, ever better. Today too, Jesus’ counsels can illumine your feelings and your decisions. You are enthusiastic and generous, pursuing high ideals, searching for truth and beauty. I encourage you to maintain an alert and critical spirit in the face of every compromise which runs contrary to the Gospel message.

Thank you for your creative dynamism, which the Church greatly needs. Cultivate this! Be witnesses to the joy of meeting Jesus. May he transform you, strengthen your faith and help you to overcome every fear, so that you may embrace ever more fully God’s loving plan for you! God wills the happiness of every one of his children. Those who open themselves to his gaze are freed from sin, from sorrow, from inner emptiness and from isolation (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 1). Instead, they can see others as brothers or sisters, accepting their differences and recognizing that they are a gift for all of us.

It is in this way that peace is built, day by day. It calls for setting out on the path of service and humility, and being attentive to the needs of others. To embrace this mindset, we need to have a heart capable of bending low and sharing life with those most in need. That is where true charity is found. In this way solidarity grows, beginning with small gestures, and the seeds of division disappear. In this way dialogue among believers bears fruit, fraternity is lived day by day and it enlarges the heart by opening up a future. In this way, you will be able to do so much good for your country. I encourage you do so.

Dear young friends, the Lord is alive and he is walking at your side. When difficulties seem to abound, when pain and sadness seem to prevail all around you, he does not abandon you. He has left us the memorial of his love: the Eucharist and the sacraments, to aid our progress along the way and furnish the strength we need to daily move forward. This must be the source of your hope and your courage as you “go across to the other side” (cf. Lk 8:22), with Jesus, opening new paths for yourselves and your generation, for your families, for your country. I pray that you will be filled with this hope. May you be ever anchored in it, so that you can give it to others, to this world of ours so wounded by war and conflicts, by evil and sin. Never forget: the Lord is with you. He trusts you. He wants you to be missionary disciples, sustained in times of difficulty and trial by the prayers of the Virgin Mary and those of the entire Church. Dear young people of Central Africa, go forth! I am sending you out!

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Pope's Homily at Barthélémy Boganda Stadium in Bangui

Bangui, November 30, 2015

Below is the Vatican-provided translation of Pope Francis' homily during the Mass he celebrated this morning at the Barthélémy Boganda Stadium in Bangui:

***

We might be astonished, listening to this morning’s first reading, by the enthusiasm and missionary drive of Saint Paul. “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Rom 10:15). These words inspire us to give thanks for the gift of the faith which we have received. They also inspire us to reflect with amazement on the great missionary effort which – not long ago – first brought the joy of the Gospel to this beloved land of Central Africa. It is good, especially in times of difficulty, trials and suffering, when the future is uncertain and we feel weary and apprehensive, to come together before the Lord. To come together, as we do today, to rejoice in his presence and in the new life and the salvation which he offers us. For he invites us to cross over to another shore (cf. Lk 8:22).

This other shore is, of course, eternal life, heaven, which awaits us. Looking towards the world to come has always been a source of strength for Christians, of the poor, of the least, on their earthly pilgrimage. Eternal life is not an illusion; it is not a flight from the world. It is a powerful reality which calls out to us and challenges us to persevere in faith and love.

But the more immediate other shore, which we are trying to reach, this salvation secured by the faith of which Saint Paul speaks, is a reality which even now is transforming our lives and the world around us. “Faith in the heart leads to justification” (Rom 10:10). Those who believe receive the very life of Christ, which enables them to love God and their brothers and sisters in a new way and to bring to birth a world renewed by love.

Let us thank the Lord for his presence and for the strength which he gives us in our daily lives, at those times when we experience physical and spiritual suffering, pain, and grief. Let us thank him for the acts of solidarity and generosity which he inspires in us, for the joy and love with which he fills our families and our communities, despite the suffering and violence we sometimes experience, and our fears for the future. Let us thank him for his gift of courage, which inspires us to forge bonds of friendship, to dialogue with those who are different than ourselves, to forgive those who have wronged us, and to work to build a more just and fraternal society in which no one is abandoned. In all these things, the Risen Christ takes us by the hand and guides us. I join you in thanking the Lord in his mercy for all the beautiful, generous and courageous things he has enabled you to accomplish in your families and communities during these eventful years in the life of your country.

Yet the fact is that we have not yet reached our destination. In a certain sense we are in midstream, needing the courage to decide, with renewed missionary zeal, to pass to the other shore. All the baptized need to continually break with the remnants of the old Adam, the man of sin, ever ready to rise up again at the prompting of the devil. How often this happens in our world and in these times of conflict, hate and war! How easy it is to be led into selfishness, distrust, violence, destructiveness, vengeance, indifference to and exploitation of those who are most vulnerable…

We know that our Christian communities, called to holiness, still have a long way to go. Certainly we need to beg the Lord’s forgiveness for our all too frequent reluctance and hesitation in bearing witness to the Gospel. May the Jubilee Year of Mercy, which has just begun in your country, be an occasion to do so. Dear Central Africans, may you look to the future and, strengthened by the distance you have already come, resolutely determine to begin a new chapter in the Christian history of your country, to set out towards new horizons, to put out into the deep. The Apostle Andrew, with his brother Peter, did not hesitate to leave everything at Christ’s call: “Immediately they left their nets and followed him” (Mt 4:20). Once again, we are amazed at the great enthusiasm of the Apostles. Christ drew them so closely to himself, that they felt able to do everything and to risk everything with him.

Each of us, in his or her heart, can ask the crucial question of where we stand with Jesus, asking what we have already accepted – or refused to accept – in responding to his call to follow him more closely. The cry of “those who bring good news” resounds all the more in our ears, precisely when times are difficult; that cry which “goes out through all the earth... to the ends of the earth” (Rom 10:18; cf. Ps 19:4). And it resounds here, today, in this land of Central Africa. It resounds in our hearts, our families, our parishes, wherever we live. It invites us to persevere in enthusiasm for mission, for that mission which needs new “bearers of good news”, ever more numerous, generous, joyful and holy. We are all called to be, each of us, these messengers whom our brothers and sisters of every ethnic group, religion and culture, await, often without knowing it. For how can our brothers and sisters believe in Christ – Saint Paul asks – if the Word is neither proclaimed nor heard?

We too, like the Apostles, need to be full of hope and enthusiasm for the future. The other shore is at hand, and Jesus is crossing the river with us. He is risen from the dead; henceforth the trials and sufferings which we experience are always opportunities opening up to a new future, provided we are willing to follow him. Christians of Central Africa, each of you is called to be, through perseverance in faith and missionary commitment, artisans of the human and spiritual renewal of your country. I repeat, artisans of the human and spiritual renewal of your country.

May the Virgin Mary, who by sharing in the Passion of her Son, now shares in his perfect joy, protect you and encourage you on this path of hope. Amen.

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Pope's Address to Muslim Community in Bangui's Grand Mosque

Bangui, November 30, 2015

Below is the Vatican-provided translation of Pope Francis' address during his meeting with the Muslim community in the Grand Mosque of Koudoukou in the Central African Republic's capital of Bangui this morning:

***

Dear Muslim friends, leaders and followers of Islam,

It is a great joy for me to be with you and I thank you for your warm welcome.  In a particular way I thank Imam Tidiani Moussa Naibi for his kind words of greeting.  My Pastoral Visit to the Central African Republic would not be complete if it did not include this encounter with the Muslim community.

Christians and Muslims are brothers and sisters.  We must therefore consider ourselves and conduct ourselves as such. We are well aware that the recent events and acts of violence which have shaken your country were not grounded in properly religious motives.  Those who claim to believe in God must also be men and women of peace.  Christians, Muslims and members of the traditional religions have lived together in peace for many years.  They ought, therefore, to remain united in working for an end to every act which, from whatever side, disfigures the Face of God and whose ultimate aim is to defend particular interests by any and all means, to the detriment of the common good.  Together, we must say no to hatred, to revenge and to violence, particularly that violence which is perpetrated in the name of a religion or of God himself.  God is peace, salam.

In these dramatic times, Christian and Muslim leaders have sought to rise to the challenges of the moment.  They have played an important role in re-establishing harmony and fraternity among all.  I would like express my gratitude and appreciation for this.  We can also call to mind the many acts of solidarity which Christians and Muslims have shown with regard to their fellow citizens of other religious confessions, by welcoming them and defending them during this latest crisis in your country, as well as in other parts of the world.

We cannot fail to express hope that the forthcoming national consultations will provide the country with leaders capable of bringing Central Africans together, thus becoming symbols of national unity rather than merely representatives of one or another faction.  I strongly urge you to make your country a welcoming home for all its children, regardless of their ethnic origin, political affiliation or religious confession.  The Central African Republic, situated in the heart of Africa, with the cooperation of all her sons and daughters, will then prove a stimulus in this regard to the entire continent.  It will prove a positive influence and help extinguish the smouldering tensions which prevent Africans from benefitting from that development which they deserve and to which they have a right.

Dear friends, I invite you to pray and work for reconciliation, fraternity and solidarity among all people, without forgetting those who have suffered the most as a result of recent events.

May God bless you and protect you!

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Pope's Message to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I for Feast of St Andrew

Vatican City, November 30, 2015

Below is the Vatican-provided text of the message Pope Francis sent to Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, His Holiness Bartholomew I, for the Feast of St. Andrew:

***

To His Holiness Bartholomaios

Archbishop of Constantinople
Ecumenical Patriarch

Your Holiness, Beloved Brother in Christ,

A year has passed since we celebrated together, in the Patriarchal Church in the Phanar, the feast of Saint Andrew, the first-called Apostle and brother of Saint Peter. The occasion was a moment of grace which permitted me to renew and to deepen, in shared prayer and personal encounter, the bonds of friendship with you and with the Church over which you preside. It was with joy that I also experienced the vitality of a Church which unceasingly professes, celebrates and offers witness to faith in Jesus Christ, our one Lord and Saviour. I am pleased once again to send a delegation of the Holy See to the Patronal celebrations as a tangible sign of my fraternal affection and the spiritual closeness of the Church of Rome to Your Holiness, as well as to the members of the Holy Synod, the clergy, monks and all the faithful of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

In our profound communion of faith and charity, and grateful for all that God has accomplished for us, I recall the fiftieth anniversary on 7December 2015 of the Joint Catholic-Orthodox Declaration of Pope Paul VI and the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I which expressed the decision to remove from memory and from the midst of the Church the excommunications of 1054. The memory of the mutual sentences of excommunication, together with the offensive words, groundless reproaches, and reprehensible gestures on both sides, which accompanied the sad events of this period, represented for many centuries an obstacle to rapprochement in charity between Catholics and Orthodox. Attentive to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ, who prayed to the Father on the eve of his Passion that his disciples “may be one” (Jn17:21), Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras I consigned these painful memories to oblivion. Since then, the logic of antagonism, mistrust and hostility that had been symbolized by the mutual excommunications has been replaced by the logic of love and brotherhood, represented by our fraternal embrace.

While not all differences between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches were brought to an end, there now existed the conditions necessary to journey towards re-establishing the “full communion of faith, fraternal accord and sacramental life which existed among them during the first thousand years of the life of the Church” (Joint Catholic-Orthodox Declaration, 7 December 1965). Having restored a relationship of love and fraternity, in a spirit of mutual trust, respect and charity, there is no longer any impediment to Eucharistic communion which cannot be overcome through prayer, the purification of hearts, dialogue and the affirmation of truth. Indeed, where there is love in the life of the Church, its source and fulfilment is always to be found in Eucharistic love. So too the symbol of the fraternal embrace finds its most profound truth in the embrace of peace exchanged in the Eucharistic celebration.

In order to progress on our journey towards the full communion for which we long, we need continually to draw inspiration from the gesture of reconciliation and peace by our venerable predecessors Paul VI and Athenagoras I. At all levels and in every context of Church life, relations between Catholics and Orthodox must increasingly reflect the logic of love that leaves no room for the spirit of rivalry. Theological dialogue itself, sustained by mutual charity, must continue to examine carefully the questions which divide us, aiming always at deepening our shared understanding of revealed truth. Motivated by God’s love, we must together offer the world a credible and effective witness to Christ’s message of reconciliation and salvation.

The world today has great need of reconciliation, particularly in light of so much blood which has been shed in recent terrorist attacks. May we accompany the victims with our prayers, and renew our commitment to lasting peace by promoting dialogue between religious traditions, for “indifference and mutual ignorance can only lead to mistrust and unfortunately even conflict” (Common Declaration, Jerusalem 2014).

I wish to express my deep appreciation for Your Holiness’s fervent commitment to the critical issue of care for creation, for which your sensitivity and awareness is an exemplary witness for Catholics. I believe that it is a hopeful sign for Catholics and Orthodox that we now celebrate together an annual Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation on 1September, following the longstanding practice of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. In this regard, I assure you of my prayers for the important international meeting on the environment to be held in Paris at which you will participate.

Your Holiness, it is incumbent upon humanity to rediscover the mystery of mercy, “the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness” (Misericordiae Vultus, 2). For this reason I have called for an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, a favourable time to contemplate the Father’s mercy revealed fully in his Son, Jesus Christ, and to become ourselves an effective sign of God’s love through our mutual pardon and works of mercy. It is providential that the anniversary of that historic Joint Catholic-Orthodox Declaration concerning the removal of the excommunications of 1054 occurs on the eve of the Year of Mercy. Following Pope PaulVI and Patriarch AthenagorasI, Catholics and Orthodox today must ask pardon of God and one another for divisions that Christians have brought about in the Body of Christ. I ask you and all the faithful of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to pray that this Extraordinary Jubilee may bear the spiritual fruits for which we yearn. I willingly assure you of my prayers for the events that your Church will celebrate in the year to come, especially the Pan-Orthodox Great Synod. May this important occasion for all the Orthodox Churches be a source of abundant blessings for the life of the Church.

With fraternal affection in the Lord, I assure you of my spiritual closeness on the joyous feast of the Apostle Andrew, and I willingly exchange with Your Holiness an embrace of peace in the Lord Jesus.

From the Vatican, 30 November 2015

FRANCISCUS PP.

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Pope’s Press Conference on Return Flight From Africa

Rome, December 01, 2015

At the end of his Apostolic Journey to Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic, Pope Francis met with journalists for a press conference on board the plane, during the return flight from Bangui to Rome.

Here is a translation of the Vatican transcription of the Pontiff’s conversation with the journalists.

* * *

Father Lombardi

Holy Father, welcome among us for this meeting, which now is a tradition that we all expect. We are very grateful that, after such an intense trip, you still find time for us, and therefore we understand very well how willing you are to help us.

However, before beginning with the series of questions I would like also, in the name of colleagues, to thank the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which organized the live <transmissions> from Central Africa. The live television transmissions that went around the world from Central Africa were able to be made thanks to the European Broadcasting Union, and we have Elena Pinardi here. We thank her on behalf of all. The EBU is observing the 65th year of its activity, and we see that it still helps and, therefore, we are very grateful to you.

So now, as usual, we thought we would begin with our guests from the countries to which we went. As we have four Kenyans, two questions come now, at the beginning, from Kenya. The first is of Bernard Namuname, who is of the “Kenya Daily Nation.”

Barnard Namuname, Kenya Daily Nation

I greet you, Holiness. In Kenya you met with the poor families of Kangemi. You heard their stories of exclusion from fundamental human rights, such as the lack of access to potable water. On the same day, you went to the Kasarani Stadium where you met with young people. They also told you their stories of exclusion, due to the avarice of men and their corruption. What did you feel as you heard their stories? And what must be done to put an end to the injustices? Thank you.

Pope Francis

I have spoken at least three times strongly about this problem. In the first meeting of Popular Movements in the Vatican; in the second meeting of Popular Movements at Santa Cruz de la Sierra in Bolivia; and then two, two others: in Evangelium Gaudium, a bit, and then clearly and strongly in Laudato Si’.

I don’t remember the statistics and therefore I ask you not to publish the statistics I’ll give, because I don’t know if they are true, but I’ve heard ... I believe that 80% of the world’s wealth is in the hands of 17% of the population. I don’t know if it’s true, but if it isn’t true it is striking, because things are this way. Do any of you know this statistic, I ask you to say it to be correct?

It is an economic system where money is at the center, the god money. I remember I once met a great ambassador, he spoke French, and he said this phrase to me -- he wasn’t a Catholic --: “We have fallen into the idolatry of money.” And if things continue this way, the world will continue this way.

You asked me how I felt about the testimonies of young people and at Kangemi, where I also spoke clearly of rights. I felt pain. And I think of how the people aren’t aware of it ... A great pain. Yesterday, for instance, I went to the paediatric hospital: the only one of Bangui and of the country! And in intensive care, they don’t have the instruments for oxygen. There were so many malnourished children, so many. And the doctor said to me: The majority of these will die, because they have malaria, a strong <case of it>, and they are malnourished.

The Lord – but I don’t want to preach a homily! --  the Lord always rebuked, the people of Israel – but it’s a word we always accept and adore, because it is the Word of God – idolatry. And idolatry is when a man or a woman loses the “identity card,” of his/her being a child of God, and prefers to find a god to his/her own measure. This is the beginning. Beginning from there, if humanity doesn’t change, the miseries, the tragedies, the wars will continue and children dying of hunger, of injustice ... What does this percentage think that has in its hands 80% of the world’s wealth? And this isn’t Communism, it’s truth. And it’s not easy to see the truth. I thank you for having asked this question, because it’s life ....

Father Lombardi

And now, the second question is also of another colleague of Kenya, Mumo Makau, who is of “Capital Radio” of Kenya. He is also asking his question in English and Matthew is translating.

Mumo Makau, Capital Radio of Kenya

Thank you so much for this opportunity, Holy Father. I would like to know what was the most memorable moment for you of this trip to Africa. Will you come back soon to this Continent? And what is your next goal?

Pope Francis

We begin from the end: if things go well, I think the next trip will be to Mexico. The dates are not certain yet. Second: will I go back to Africa? But, I don’t know ... I’m elderly, and trips are tiring ... And the first question: which was the moment [that struck me particularly] ... I think of that crowd, the joy, the capacity to celebrate, to celebrate with an empty stomach. Africa was a surprise for me. I thought: God surprises us, but Africa also surprises us! So many moments ... The crowd, the crowd. They feel visited. They have a sense of hospitality, because they were happy to be visited. Then, every country has its identity. Kenya is a bit more modern, developed. Uganda has the identity of martyrs: the Ugandan people, whether Catholic or Anglican, venerate the martyrs. I was in the two Shrines, the Anglican, first, and then the Catholic; and the memory of the martyrs is its identity card -- the courage to give one’s life for an ideal. And in the Central African Republic: the desire for peace, for reconciliation, for forgiveness. Up to four years ago, Catholics, Protestants, Muslims lived like brothers. Yesterday I went to the Evangelicals, who work so well, and then I came for the Mass, in the evening. Today I went to the mosque; I prayed in the mosque; the Imam also got into the popemobile to go around the small Stadium ... It’s this: the little gestures, this is what they want, because there is a small group that, I believe, is Christian or says it’s Christian, which is very violent. I didn’t understand this well ... but it isn’t ISIS, it’s something else. And they want peace. Now, elections will be held; they have chosen a State of transition, they have chosen the Mayor [of Bangui], this lady as President of the Transition State, and she will hold elections, but they seek peace among themselves, reconciliation, no hatred.

Father Lombardi

Now we give the floor to Philip Pullella, who is a colleague of ours of Reuters, that we all know.

Philip Pullella, Reuters

Holiness, today there is much talk of “Vatileaks.” Without entering into the merit of the process underway, I would like to ask you this question. In Uganda you spoke off-the-cuff and said that corruption exists everywhere, and also in the Vatican. Now, my question is this: what is the importance of the free and secular press in the eradication of this corruption, wherever it’s found?

Pope Francis

The free, secular and also confessional press, but professional – because the professionalism of the press can be secular or confessional; what is important is that they are truly professionals, that the news is not manipulated – it’s important for me, because the denunciation of injustices, of corruption, is a good endeavor because it states: “there is corruption there.” And then the one in charge must do something, make a judgment, set up a court. But the professional press must say everything, without falling into the three most common sins: disinformation – to say half and not say the other half --; calumny – the non-professional press: where there isn’t professionalism, the other is spoiled with or without truth --; and defamation, which is to say things that take away a person’s reputation, things that at this moment don’t harm, don’t add anything, perhaps things of the past ... And these are the three defects that attempt against the professionalism of the press. But we are in need of professionalism. The right thing: the thing is thus, thus and thus. And on corruption, to study well the data and to say: yes, there is corruption here, because of this, this and this ... Then, a journalist, who is a true professional, makes a mistake and apologizes: I thought, but then I realized it was not so. And thus things go very well. It’s very important.

Father Lombardi

Now, then, we give the floor to Philippine de Saint-Pierre, who is in charge of French Catholic television: so we go to France, to Paris. We are all very close to France at this time.

Philippine de Saint-Pierre, KTO

Holy Father, good evening. You paid tribute to the platform created by the Archbishop, the Imam and the Pastor of Bangui and today, more than ever, we know that religious fundamentalism threatens the whole planet: we saw this also in Paris. So, in face of this danger, do you think that religious dignitaries should intervene more in the political field?

Pope Francis

To intervene in the political field: if you mean to “engage in politics,” <the answer is> no. He must be a priest, Imam, Rabbi: this is his vocation. However, politics is engaged in indirectly by preaching values, true values, and one of the greatest values is fraternity among ourselves. We are all children of God; we have the same Father. And, in this connection, there must be a politics of unity, of reconciliation,  ... – and a word I don’t like, but which I must use – tolerance, but not only tolerance, but also coexistence and friendship! It’s this way. Fundamentalism is a sickness that is in all religions. We Catholics have some, not some,  many, who believe they have the absolute truth and go around soiling the others with calumnies, defamation, and they do harm, they do harm. And I say this because it is my Church, we too, all of us! And it must be combated. Religious fundamentalism isn’t religious. Why? Because God is lacking. It’s idolatrous, just as money is idolatrous. To engage in politics in the sense of convincing these people that have this tendency, is a politics that we, religious leaders, must engage in. However, fundamentalism that always ends in tragedy or in offenses is a bad thing, but there is a bit of it in all religions.

Father Lombardi

Now we give the floor to Cristiana Caricato, who represents Tv2000, the Italian Catholic Television <channel>of the Bishops.

Cristiana Caricato, Tv2000

Holy Father, while we were in Bangui this morning, a new hearing was being held in Rome at the trial of Monsignor Vallejo Balda, of Chaouqui and of two journalists.. I ask you the question that has been posed to you by many persons: why <were> these two appointments <made>? How was it possible that in the process of reform that you got underway, two persons of this sort were able to enter a Commission, the COSEA? Do you think you made a mistake?

Pope Francis

I think a mistake was made. Monsignor Vallejo Balda entered because of the office he held, which he had up to now. He was Secretary of the Prefecture of Economic Affairs, and he entered <the Commission> And then, as to how she entered, I’m not sure, but I don’t think I’m mistaken if I say – but I’m not sure – that it was he who introduced her as a woman who knew the world of commercial relations.... They worked, and when the work was finished the members of that Commission, which was called COSEA, remained in some posts in the Vatican. Vallejo Balda also did. And Mrs. Chaouqui did not stay in the Vatican because she entered through the Commission and then did not stay. Some said she was angry about this, but the judges will tell us the truth about the intentions, as they have done ... For me [what came out] was not a surprise; it didn’t take away my sleep, because in fact they made one see the work that was begun with the Commission of Cardinals – the “C9” – to seek out corruption and things that weren’t right. And I want to say something here – it has not to do with Vallejo Balda and Chaouqui, but in general, and then, if you wish, I will go back --: the word “corruption” – One of the two Kenyans said it – thirteen days before the death of Saint John Paul II, in that Via Crucis, the then Cardinal Ratzinger, who was leading the Via Crucis, spoke of the “filth of the Church”: he denounced this, first! Then the Pope died in the octave of Easter – this was Good Friday --, Pope John Paul died and he became Pope. However, in the Mass “pro eligendo Pontifice”  -- he was Dean – he spoke of the same thing, and we elected him because of his liberty to say things. It’s from that time that there is in the air of the Vatican, that there is corruption there, there is corruption. On this judgment, I have given the judges the concrete accusations, because what is important, for the defense, is the formulation of the accusations. I haven’t read them; <they are> concrete, technical accusations. I would have liked this to end before December 8 for the Year of Mercy, but I don’t think it can be done, because I want all the lawyers that defend to have the time to defend, that there be the whole freedom of defense. It’s like this: how they were selected and the whole story. But the corruption comes from long ago.

Cristiana Caricato

But what do you intend to do, how do you intend to proceed, as these episodes can no longer be verified?

Pope Francis

Ah, I thank God that there is no Lucretia Borgia! [They laugh} I don’t know, I will continue with the Cardinals, with the cleansing Commission ... Thank you.

Father Lombardi

Thank you. So now it’s Nestor Ponguta’s turn. Nestor Ponguta is a Colombian. He works for “W Radio Colombia” and, I believe, also for “Caracol,” in any case, he is a dear friend ...

Nestor Ponguta, W Radio Colombia

Holiness, first of all, thank you for all you have said in favor of peace in my country, Colombia, and for all that you have done in the world. However, on this occasion I would like to ask you a particular question. It’s a specific argument that has to do with political change in Latin America, including Argentina, your country, in which Mr. Macri is now there after 12 years of “Kirchnerism,” it’s changing somewhat ... What do you think of these changes, of how Latin American politics, <the politics> of the Continent of which you yourself come, is taking a new direction?

Pope Francis

I have heard some opinions, but truly of this geo-politics, I don’t know what to say at this moment, truly. I truly don’t know, because there are problems in similar countries on this line, but I truly don’t know, why or how it began, I don’t know why. Truly. That there are similar Latin American countries in this situation is somewhat of a change, this is true, but I don’t know how to explain it.

Father Lombardi

Now we give the floor to Jurgen Baetz of the DPA, who works in South Africa.

Jurgen Baetz, DPS of South Africa

Holiness, AIDS is devastating Africa. Care helps many today to live a bit longer. However, the epidemic continues. Last year, in Uganda alone, there were 135,000 new infections of AIDS. In Kenya the situation is in fact worse. AIDS is the first cause of death among African young people. Holiness, you met HIV-positive children and heard a moving testimony in Uganda. Yet, you said very little on this issue. We know that prevention is fundamental. We also know that condoms are not the only means to halt the epidemic. We know, however, that it’s an important part of the answer. Isn’t it time, perhaps, to change the position of the Church for this purpose? To agree to the use of condoms in order to prevent further infections?

Pope Francis

The question seems to me too narrow and it also seems a partial question. Yes, it is one of the methods; I think that the morality of the Church finds itself on this point before a perplexity: is it the fifth or the sixth Commandment? To defend life, or that the sexual relation be open to life? But this isn’t the problem. The problem is greater. This question makes me think of that which was posed to Jesus once: “Tell me, Teacher, is it licit to cure on the Sabbath?” It’s obligatory to cure! This question, if it’s licit to cure ... But malnutrition, the exploitation of persons, slave labor, the lack of potable water: these are the problems. Let us not ask ourselves if this or that band-aid can be used for a small wound. The great wound is social injustice, environmental injustice, the injustice I’ve mentioned of exploitation, and malnutrition. This exists. I don’t like to descend to such casuistic reflections, when people are dying from lack of water and from hunger, from <lack of> a dwelling ... When all are cured, or when there are no longer these tragic sicknesses caused by man, be it because of social injustice, be it to earn more money – think of the arms trade! – when these problems no longer exist, I believe the question can be asked: “Is it licit to cure on the Sabbath?” Why do arms continue to be produced and traded? The wars are the greatest cause of mortality ... I would say forget about thinking if it’s licit or illicit to cure on the Sabbath. I would say to humanity: do justice, and when all are cured, when there is no longer injustice in this world, then we can speak of the Sabbath.

Father Lombardi

Marco Ansaldo of “La Repubblica,” is here, for the Italian group, who asks his question.

Marco Ansaldo, La Repubblica

Yes, Holiness, I want to ask you a question of this type, because in last week’s  newspapers there were two great events on which the media focused. One was your trip to Africa – and we are all obviously happy that it ended with great success, from every point of view. The other was a crisis, at the international level, which was verified between Russia and Turkey, with Turkey that shot down a Russian plane for a border violation of Turkish air space during 17 seconds; with accusations, apologies lacking on one side and the other, triggering a crisis of which frankly the need wasn’t felt, in this “third world <war> in fragments,” of which you speak, in our world. Now my question is: what is the Vatican’s position on this? However, I would also like to go beyond and ask you if, per chance, you have thought of going for the 101 years of the events in Armenia. Which will be held in April of next year, as you did last year in Turkey ...

Pope Francis

Last year I promised three [Armenian] Patriarchs that I would go: the promises existed. I don’t know if this will be able to be done, but the promise exists. Then, the wars: wars come because of ambitions, wars – I speak of wars, not to defend oneself justly from an unjust aggressor --, but wars, wars are an “industry”!

We have seen in history so many times that a country, if the balance-sheet isn’t right ... <says>, “let’s start a war!” and the “unbalance” ends. War is an affair, an affair of arms. Do terrorists make arms? Yes, perhaps some small ones. Who gives them the arms to engage in war? There is a whole network of interests, where behind there is money, or power: imperial power, or economic power. However, we have been at war for years, and every time more: the “fragments” are less fragments and become greater ...And what do I think? I don’t know what the Vatican thinks, but what do I think? That wars are a sin and are against humanity, they destroy humanity, they are the cause of exploitations, of the traffic of persons, of so many things ... It must stop. I have said this word twice to the United Nations, both here in Kenya and in New York: may your work not be a declaring nominalism, may it be effective: may peace be made. They do so many things: here in Africa, I have seen how the Blue Helmets work ... But this isn’t enough. Wars are not of God. God is the God of peace. God made the world, He made everything beautiful, everything beautiful and then, according to the biblical account, a brother murdered another brother: the first war, the first world war, between brothers. I don’t know. This is how I think of it. And I say it with much sorrow ... Thank you.

Father Lombardi

Now then we give the floor to Beaudonnet, who represents France Televisions: we are in France again.

Francois Beaudonnet, FranceTelevisions

Holy Father, today the Conference on Climate Change begins in Paris. You have already made a great effort so that all will go well. However, we expect more, from this world summit. Are we sure that the Cop21 will be the beginning of the solution? Thank you so much.

Pope Francis

I’m not sure, but I can say to you that it is either now or never! From the first, which I believe was in Tokyo, up to now, little has been done, and every year the problems are graver. Speaking at a meeting of University <students> on what sort of world we want to leave our children, someone said: “But are you sure that there will be children of this generation?” we are at the limit! We are at the limit of a suicide, to use a strong word. And I am sure that almost the totality of those who are in Paris at the Cop21, have this awareness and want to do something. The other day I read that in Greenland thousands of tons of ice have been lost. In the Pacific, there is a country that is buying land from another country to relocate the country, because in 20 years that country will no longer exist ... No, I have confidence. I have confidence in these people, who will do something because, I would say, I’m sure that they have the good will to do so, and I hope that this is so. And I pray for this.

Father Lombardi

Thank you for this note of optimism. And now, the floor goes to Delia Gallagher of CNN.

Delia Gallagher, CNN

Thank you. You have carried out many gestures of respect and friendship in regard to Muslims. I wonder: what does Islam and the teachings of the prophet Mohammad have to say to today’s world?

Pope Francis

I don’t quite understand the question ... One can dialogue; they have values, so many values. They have so many values, and these values are constructive. And I also have the experience of friendship – “friendship” is a strong word – with a Muslim: he is a world leader ... We can speak: he has his values and I have mine. He prays, I pray. So many values ... Prayer, for instance, fasting, religious values and also other values. A religion can’t be cancelled because there are some groups – or many groups – in a certain moment of history, of fundamentalists. It’s true, in history, there have always been wars between religions, always. We must also ask for forgiveness. Catherine of Medici wasn’t a saint! And the Thirty Years War, and Saint Bartholomew’s night ... We must also ask for forgiveness from extremist fundamentalists for the wars of religion. However, they have values, one can dialogue with them. Today I was in a mosque; I prayed. The Imam also wanted to come with me to do a little tour of the Stadium where there were so many who were unable to come in ... And the Pope and the Imam were in the popemobile. One could speak. As <is true> everywhere, there are people with values, religious [people], and there are people who aren’t like this ... But how many wars, not only of religion, have we Christians engaged in? The sacking of Rome wasn’t done by Muslims! They have values; they have values.

Father Lombardi

Thank you. Now, then, we invite Marta Calderon of the Catholic News Agency.

Marta Calderon, Catholic News Agency

Holiness, we know you will go to Mexico. We would like to know something more about this trip and also if within this line of visiting countries that have problems, you are thinking of visiting Colombia or, in the future, other countries of Latin America, such as Peru ...?

Pope Francis

You know, at my age, trips don’t do one good. One can undertake them, but they leave a mark ... Nevertheless, I shall go to Mexico -- first of all, to visit Our Lady, because she is the Mother of America. This is why I’m going to Mexico City. If it wasn’t for the Virgin of Guadalupe, I wouldn’t go to Mexico City, given the criteria of the trip: to visit three or four cities that have never been visited by Popes. But I will go to Mexico, because of Our Lady. Then I will go to Chiapas, in the South, on the border with Guatemala; then I will go to Morelia and, almost certainly, on the way back to Rome I will stop for a day or less at Ciudad Juarez.

In regard to a visit to other Latin American countries: I have been invited to go in ’17 to Aparecida, the other Patroness of Portuguese-speaking America – because there are two – and from there another country could be visited, have the Mass at Aparecida and then ... But I don’t know, there are no plans ... Thank you.

Father Lombardi

Now we turn to Kenya, with another of our colleagues who came to travel with us to Kenya: his name is Mark Masai and he is of Kenya’s National Media.

Mark Masai, National Media Group of Kenya

First of all, thank you for visiting Kenya and Africa, and we expect you again in Kenya, but to rest, not to work. Now, this was your first visit and everyone was worried about security. What do you say to the world that thinks that Africa is only lacerated by wars and full of destruction?

Pope Francis

Africa is a victim. Africa has always been exploited by other powers. From Africa, slaves were sold that came to America. There are powers that seek only to take away the great riches of Africa. I don’t know; it’s the richest continent, perhaps ... But they don’t think of helping the country to grow, that <the people> be able to work, that everyone have work ... Exploitation! Africa is a martyr. It is a martyr in history of exploitation. Those who say that all the calamities and all the wars come from Africa, don’t understand well, perhaps, the damage that certain forms of development do to humanity. This is why I love Africa, because Africa was the victim of other powers.

Father Lombardi

Good. I think we have practically reached an hour; hence, we end the questions here.

There was a gift they wanted to make to you, on the occasion  -- now – of the Cop21: it is a book produced by Paris Match for the Heads of State. It is a book of photographs made for Heads of State on problems of the environment.

Caroline Pigozzi, Paris Match

1,500 professional and non-professional photographs, chosen for this book of photographs. All Heads of State are receiving it today, you also, Holiness.

Father Lombardi

Well, thank you, Holy Father, for the time you have given us despite the exhaustion of the trip. We wish you a happy return to Rome and a happy taking up of your normal activities.

Pope Francis

I thank you for the work. Now comes lunch, but they say that you are fasting today, that you have to work on this interview! Thank you so much for your work and for your questions, for your interest. I say to you that I answer only what I know, and what I don’t know I don’t discuss, because I don’t know it. I don’t invent. Thank you so much. Thank you.

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GENERAL AUDIENCE: On Apostolic Visit to Africa

Vatican City, December 02, 2015

Here is a ZENIT translation of the Holy Father's address during his Wednesday General Audience today in St. Peter's Square.

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THE HOLY FATHER’S CATECHESIS:

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

In the past days, I undertook my first Apostolic Visit to Africa. Africa is beautiful! I thank the Lord for this great gift of His, which enabled me to visit three countries: first Kenya, then Uganda and finally the Central African Republic. I express again my gratitude to the civil authorities and to bishops of these nations for having received me, and I thank all those who collaborated in so many ways. I send you my heartfelt thank you!

Kenya is a country that represents well the global challenge of our time: to protect Creation by reforming the development model, so that it is fair, inclusive and sustainable. All this finds confirmation in Nairobi, the largest city of East Africa: [It also finds confirmation] here and everywhere. The coexistence between wealth and misery is a scandal; it is an embarrassment for humanity. In Nairobi, in fact, there is the headquarters of the United Nations Office for the Environment, which I visited. In Kenya, I met the authorities and diplomats, and also the inhabitants of a populous district. I met with leaders of the different Christian denominations and of other religions, priests and consecrated persons, and also with young people. So many young people! In every occasion I encouraged them to treasure the great richness of the country: natural and spiritual richness, constituted by resources of the earth, by the new generations and by the values that make up the wisdom of the people. In this context, so dramatically important today, I had the joy of bringing Jesus’ word of hope: “Be strong in the faith, be not afraid.”  This was the motto of the visit. A word that is lived every day by so many humble and simple persons, with noble dignity; a word witnessed tragically and heroically by the young people of the University of Garissa, killed last April 2nd because they were Christians. Their blood is the seed of peace and fraternity for Kenya, for Africa and for the whole world.

Then, in Uganda my visit happened in the sign of the martyrs of that country, 50 years after their historic canonization by Blessed Paul VI. Therefore, the motto was: “You will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8). A motto that presupposes the immediately preceding words: “You will have the strength of the Holy Spirit,” because it is the Spirit that animates the heart and hands of missionary disciples. And the whole visit in Uganda unfolded in the fervor of the witness animated by the Holy Spirit. Witness, in an explicit sense, is the service of catechists, whom I thanked and encouraged in their commitment, which often involves their families, too. A witness of charity, which touched me in the House of Nalukilongo, but which many communities and associations give, too, as they serve the poorest, disabled and sick. The witness of young people who, despite the difficulties, guard the gift of hope and seek to live according to the Gospel, not according to the world, but going against the current. Witnesses are the priests, the consecrated men and women who renew day after day their total “yes” to Christ and dedicate themselves joyfully to the service of the Holy People of God. And there is another group of witnesses, but I will speak about them later. All this manifold witness, animated by the Holy Spirit Himself, is leaven for the whole society, as the effective work carried out in Uganda demonstrates in the fight against AIDS and the reception of refugees.

The third stage of the trip was in the Central African Republic, in the geographic heart of the Continent; it is, in fact, the heart of Africa. This visit was truly my first intention, because that country is attempting to come out of a very difficult period of violent conflicts and much suffering in the population. Therefore, I wished to open precisely there, at Bangui, a week ahead of time, the first Holy Door of the Jubilee of Mercy, as a sign of faith and hope for those people, and, symbolically, for all the African populations, most in need of liberation and comfort. Jesus’ invitation to the disciples: “Let us go across to the other side” (Luke 8:22) was the motto for Central Africa. “To go to the other side” means, in the civil sense, to leave behind war, divisions, and misery and to choose peace, reconciliation and development. However, this presupposes a “passage” that happens in the consciences, in the attitudes and in the intentions of persons. And, decisive at this level is the contribution of the religious communities. Therefore, I met with the Evangelical and Muslim Communities, sharing prayer and the commitment to peace. With priests and consecrated persons, but also with young people, we shared the joy of feeling that the Risen Lord is with us 'in the boat,' and it is He who guides it to the other side. And finally, in the last Mass at the Bangui Stadium, on the feast of the Apostle Andrew, we renewed our commitment to follow Jesus, our hope, our peace, and Face of Divine Mercy. That last Mass was wonderful: it was full of young people, a stadium of young people! However, more than half of the population of the Central African Republic are minors. They are less than 18 years old: a promise to go forward!

I would like to say a word about the missionaries. Men and women who have left their homeland, everything ... They went there as youths, leading a life of so much, so much work, sometimes sleeping on the ground. At a certain moment, I met a Sister at Bangui who was Italian. One could see she was elderly: “How old are you?” I asked. “81” – “But not so much, two [years] older than me.” This sister was there since she was 23-24 years old: her whole life! And, like her, so many others. She was with a little girl. And the girl said to her in Italian: “Grandmother.” And the sister said to me: “But I, in fact, am not from here, but from the neighboring country, Congo, but I came in a canoe with this girl.” So the missionaries are courageous. “And what do you do, Sister?” “I am a nurse, but then I studied a bit here and became an obstetrician and I made 3,280 children be born,” she said to me. A whole life for life, for the life of others. And there are so many, so many like this sister: so many sisters, so many priests, so many religious who consume their life to proclaim Jesus Christ. It’s beautiful to see this; it’s beautiful.

I would like to say a word to young people. But, there are few, because birth seems to be a luxury in Europe: zero birth rate, 1% birth rate. But I address young people: think what you are doing with your life. Think of this sister and so many like her, who have given their life, and so many have died there. Missionary work is not to engage in proselyticism: this sister said to me that Muslim women go to them because they know that the sisters are good nurses and that they look after one well, and they do not engage in catechesis to convert them! They give witness then, they catechize anyone who so wishes. But witness: this is the great heroic missionary work of the Church. To proclaim Jesus Christ with one’s life!  I turn to young people: think of what you want to do with your life. It is the moment to think and to ask the Lord to make you hear His will. However, please don’t exclude this possibility of becoming a missionary, to bring love, humanity and faith to other countries. Do not engage in proselytism: no. Those who seek something else do so. The faith is preached first with witness and then with the word, slowly.

Let us praise the Lord together for this pilgrimage in the land of Africa and let us allow ourselves to be guided by his key-words: “Be strong in the faith, be not afraid”; “You will be my witnesses”; Let us go across to the other side.”

[Original text: Italian]

Greeting in English:

Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: My recent Apostolic Journey to Africa brought me to Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic with a message of hope in the Risen Jesus. In Kenya, a country blessed with great human and natural resources, I spoke of the worldwide challenge of protecting the environment and creating equitable, inclusive and sustainable models of development, and the need to form our young in the ways of peace and fraternity. In Uganda, the land of the Martyrs, I encouraged the Christian community to persevere in its witness of faith and charity, and thus to be a leaven of hope for society as a whole. In the Central African Republic, a country experiencing internal conflicts and great suffering, I opened the first Holy Door of the Jubilee of Mercy as a sign of hope and strength for its people and for all our brothers and sisters in Africa. I ask you to join me in commending them and all their aspirations to Jesus, our peace, who is himself the door which opens wide to the merciful love of our heavenly Father.

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'I Believe This is the Time for Mercy,' Pope Tells Italian Magazine

Vatican City, December 02, 2015

Less than a week from the start of Jubilee Year in the Vatican, Pope Francis has said he believes this is the time for mercy and the Church needs to remember its role as field hospital to those who are 'wounded' and excluded. 

In an interview published today by the Holy Italian magazine “Credere,” ahead of the imminent opening of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, the Holy Father made this reflection, as he explained motives and expectations of this convocation. 

The following are extensive extracts from the interview, provided by Vatican Information Service.

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Time for Mercy

“The theme of mercy has been strongly accentuated in the life of the Church, starting with Pope Paul VI. John Paul II underlined it firmly with Dives in Misericordia, the canonisation of St. Faustina and the institution of the feast of Divine Mercy on the Octave of Easter. In line with this, I felt that it was as if it was the Lord's wish to show His mercy to humanity. It was not something that came to my mind, but rather the relatively recent renewal of a tradition that has however always existed. … It is obvious that today's world is in need of mercy and compassion, or rather of the capacity for empathy. We are accustomed to bad news, cruel news and the worst atrocities that offend the name and the life of God. 

"The world needs to discover that God is the Father, that there is mercy, that cruelty is not the way, that condemnation is not the way, because it is the Church herself who at times takes a hard line, and falls into the temptation to follow a hard line and to underline moral rules only; many people are excluded. The image of the Church as a field hospital after a battle comes to mind here: it is the truth, so many people are injured and destroyed! … I believe that this is the time for mercy. We are all sinners, all of us carry inner burdens. I felt that Jesus wanted to open the door to His heart, that the Father wants to show us his innate mercy, and for this reason he sends us the Spirit. … It is the year of reconciliation. On the one hand we see the weapons trade … the murder of innocent people in the cruelest ways possible, the exploitation of people, of children. There is currently a form of sacrilege against humanity, because man is sacred, he is the image of the living God. And the Father says, 'stop and come to me'”.

Personal divine mercy

In response to a second question on the importance of divine mercy in the life of Pope Francis, who has repeatedly affirmed his awareness of being a sinner, he said: 

“I am a sinner … I am sure of this. I am a sinner whom the Lord looked upon with mercy. I am, as I said to detainees in Bolivia, a forgiven man. … I still make mistakes and commit sins, and I confess every fifteen or twenty days. And if I confess it is because I need to feel that God's mercy is still upon me”. Francis recalled that he felt this sensation in a particular way on 21 September 1953, when he felt the need to enter a church and confess to a priest he did not know, and from then his life was changed; he decided to become a priest and his confessor, who was suffering from leukemia, accompanied him for a year. “He died the following year”, said the Pope. “After the funeral I cried bitterly, I felt totally lost, as if with the fear that God had abandoned me. This was the moment in which I came across God's mercy, and it is closely linked to my episcopal motto: 21 September is the feast day of St. Matthew, and the Venerable Bede, when speaking of the conversion of St. Matthew, says that Jesus looked at him 'miserando atque eligendo'. … The literal translation would be 'pitying and choosing'”. 

God's 'Maternity'

The third question was: “Can the Jubilee of Mercy be an opportunity to rediscover God's 'maternity'? Is there an almost 'feminine' aspect of the Church that must be valued?”  

“Yes”, the Holy Father replies. “God Himself affirms this when He says in the Book of Isaiah that a mother could perhaps forget her child, even a mother can forget, but 'I will never forsake you'. Here we see the maternal dimension of God. Not everyone understands when we speak about God's maternity, it is not part of 'popular' language – in the good sense of the word – and may seem rather elitist; for this reason I prefer to speak about the tenderness, typical of a mother, God's tenderness that comes from his innate paternity. God is both father and mother”. 

In response to a question on whether the discovery of a more merciful and emotional God, Who is moved to tenderness for mankind, should lead to a change of attitude towards others, Francis says: “Discovering this leads us to have a more tolerant, more patient, more tender attitude. In 1994 during the Synod, in a group meeting, I said that it was necessary to begin a revolution of tenderness … and I continue to say that today the revolution is that of tenderness, because justice derives from this. … The revolution of tenderness is what we must cultivate today as the fruit of this year of mercy: God's tenderness towards each one of us. Each one of us must say, 'I am a wretch, but God loves me as I am; so, I must love others in the same way'”. 

The journalist recalls St. John XXIII's famous “Sermon to the moon”, in which greeting the faithful one night, he told them to give a caress to their children. “This image became an image of the Church's tenderness. In what way does the theme of mercy help our Christian communities to convert and renew themselves?” 

“When I see the sick, the elderly, the caress comes to me spontaneously. … The caress is a gesture that can be interpreted ambiguously, but it the first gesture that a mother and father offer a newborn child, this gesture that says 'I love you, I wish well to you'”.

Gesture

Finally, “Is there a gesture you intend to make during the Jubilee to show God's mercy?” 

There will be many gestures, but one Friday each month I will make a different gesture”, the Holy Father concluded. 

[Excerpts courtesy of Vatican Information Service] 

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