Pope Francis' Talks  January 2016

 

On New Year’s Eve, Pope Francis received in audience the participants in the 40th International Congress of the Pueri Cantores, which was held in Rome, Dec. 28 - Jan. 1.

Here is a translation of the transcription of the Pope’s conversation with the young choristers in the course of the meeting.

* * *

First question: What do you think of our singing? Do you like to sing?

Pope Francis: “What do you think of our singing? Do you like to sing?” ... I would like to hear you sing more! I heard only one song; I hope you sing others ... I like to hear singing but, if I sang, I would be like a donkey, because I don’t know how to sing. I can’t even speak well, because I have a defect in my way of speaking, in phonetics ... But I very much like to hear singing. And I will tell you an anecdote.. When I was a child -- we were five brothers – when we were children, at 2 o’clock in the afternoon on Saturdays our mother made us sit in front of the radio to listen. And to what were we listening? Every Saturday a [lyrical] opera was broadcast. And mother taught us about that opera. She would explain: “listen how he does this ...” And  as a child I experienced the pleasure of hearing singing. However, I was never able to sing. As well, one of my grandparents, who was a carpenter, always sang while he worked -- always. I learnt the pleasure of hearing singing as a child. I so like music and singing. And what do I think of your singing? I hope to hear others. All right? Is it possible?

I’ll tell you something: singing educates the soul; singing does good to the soul. For instance, when a mother wants to have her child fall asleep, she does not say to him: “one, two, three, four" ... She sings a lullaby ... she sings it ... and it does good to the soul, and the child becomes peaceful and falls asleep. Saint Augustine said a very beautiful phrase. Each one of you must learn it in his own language. Speaking of the Christian life, of the joy of Christian life, he said this: “Sing and walk.” Christian life is a way, but it isn’t a sad way; it is a joyful way, so he sings. Sing and walk, don’t forget! Each one must say it in his own language: sing and walk! [They repeat: “Sing and walk!”] I haven’t quite heard it ... [“Sing and walk!”] There. Remember this: sing and walk, and so your soul will enjoy more the joy of the Gospel.

Second question: How is it that you are always so good? Do you ever get angry? What are your good resolutions for the New Year?

Pope Francis: Jesus once approached a boy who said a word similar to yours. He said: "Jesus, good Teacher.” And Jesus looked at him and said: “No, God alone is good.” God alone is good, Jesus said. And we? Are we evil? No, <we are> half and half, we have a bit of everything ... We always have that wound of original sin that leads us not to be so good always ... But always remember: God alone is good and, if you want to find goodness, go to the Lord. He is all goodness, all love, all mercy. And do you know what I do to be somewhat good? I come close to the Lord. And I ask the Lord: “Lord, may I not be such a sinner, may I not be so bad, may I not do evil things to anyone; may I not have jealousies, envies, may I not get roped in, in so many ways ...” -- and all these things. Ask for the grace to be good, because God alone is good. You must also learn this. Shall we say it all together? Each one in his own language: “God alone is good.” [They repeat: “God alone is good”]. Once again. [God alone is good”]. Remember that advice of Saint Augustine, which you all repeated together. What was it? [They answer: “Sing and walk!”] God alone is good. Remember this well.

But, yes, there are good persons, who come close to the Lord, the Saints! <There are> so many hidden Saints in daily life, in our life, so many persons that suffer and offer their sufferings for the conversion of sinners. <There are> so many, so many people that come close to God’s goodness; they are the Saints. But who alone is good? [They answer: “God”]. God alone is good.

The other question: “Do you ever get angry?” Yes, I get angry, but I don’t bite! Sometimes I get angry, when someone does something that’s not right, I get a bit ... But it helps me to stop and think of the times in which I’ve made others get angry. And I think and ask myself: Have I made someone else get angry? O yes, many times. Then I don’t have a right to get angry. But he has done ... Yes, if he has done a bad thing, which is not good, call him and talk to him as a brother, speak to him as a brother and sister, speak, speak, but without getting angry, because anger is poisonous, it poisons your soul. Many times I have seen children and youngsters scared. Why? Because parents shout at them, or they are shouted at in school. And when one is angry and shouts, it does harm, it wounds: to shout at another is like stabbing the soul; it doesn’t do good. Have you understood this well?

I get angry, yes, sometimes I get angry, but it helps me to think of the times in which I have made others get angry, this calms me somewhat, it makes me more tranquil. To get angry is something that not only harms the other person, but it harms oneself, it poisons one. And there are people, whom you undoubtedly know, that have a bitter spirit, who are always bitter, who live angrily. It seems that every morning they brush their teeth with vinegar to be so angry! People who are like this ...: it’s a sickness. We understand that if there is something that doesn’t please one, one gets a bit angry. However, the habit of getting angry, the habit of shouting, the habit of chiding others, this is a poison! I ask you, and each one answer in his own language: how was Jesus’ spirit, gentle or bitter? [They answer: “Gentle!”]. Why was He gentle? Because when He got angry it did not reach His soul. It was only to correct, and then he returned to peace.

“What are your good resolutions for the New Year?” I made one these days, in which I took some time to make a spiritual retreat: to pray more. Because I am aware that Bishops and priests – I am a Bishop – must govern the People of God first of all with prayer; it is the first service. I’ll tell you a story. At the beginning of Christianity there was so much work to do because so many people were converting and the Apostles didn’t have time. And some came to complain that they didn’t take good care of the widows and orphans. It was true, but they didn’t have the time to do everything. And they held a council among themselves and decided to charge some men solely with serving the people. It was the moment of the creation of deacons, so deacons were born. You can see this in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. And what does Peter say, Saint Peter, the first Pope? What does he say? “They will do this, and we, the Apostles, will engage in only two things: prayer and the proclamation of the Gospel, preaching.” That is, the first task of a Bishop, the first task is prayer: one can’t be a Bishop in the Church without having prayer in the first place -- and then, the proclamation of the Gospel. Responding to your question, in these days I’ve thought that a good resolution for the coming year would be this, to pray a bit more. OK? I also ask you: do you think that this would be a good resolution for you also? [They answer: “Yes!”] To pray a bit more, as the Church goes forward with the prayer of the Saints. Pray for the Church!

Third question: When you were little, what did you dream of becoming? In the evening, when I watch television with my family, I see so many sad and tragic stories: will the world always be like this, also when I grow up?

Pope Francis: If I were to say the truth on the first question, I would make you laugh... But I will say the truth. The question was: “When you were little, what did you dream of becoming?” When I was small, I often went with my grandmother, but also with my mother, to do the shopping. At that time, there were no supermarkets, no television, there was nothing ... The market was on the street, and there were places for the vegetables, the fruit, the meat, for the fish and everything was bought there. One day, at home, I was asked at table: what would you like to be when you grow up? Do you know what I said? A “butcher.” Why? Because the butcher that was at the market – there were three or four places for meat – he took the knife, cut <the meat> in pieces ... it’s an art, and I liked to look at it, I enjoy it. Now, obviously, the idea has changed; however, responding to your question, when I was small I thought of becoming a butcher. It would have pleased me.

Then, the second question – this one is serious! --: “In the evening, when I am at dinner with my family, watching television, I always hear talk of sad and tragic news ... But, when I grow up, will the world always be like this?” What you say is true. There are so many people suffering in the world today. There are wars. But how many wars are there? Think of how many wars there are in Africa. In the Middle East, where Jesus was born, everything is at war – war in Ukraine, in so many places. There are wars in Latin America. They are awful things! And what do wars do? They create poverty, cause sorrow and harm. Only sad things ... Think of the children. You, boys and girls, little boys and little girls, have God’s gift to be able to sing, to be happy, to live the Christian life as Saint Augustine said – what was it that Augustine said? [They answer: “Sing and walk!”] --, but there are children in the world who have nothing to eat; there are children that can’t go to school because there is war, poverty, and no schools; there are children that, when they get sick, have no possibility to go to a hospital. Pray for these children. Pray!

But will the world always be like this? The world can improve. But there is something that it’s not nice to talk about, but of which one must speak: there is the fight between good and evil in the world – say the philosophers -- the fight between the devil and God. This still exists. When the desire comes to each one of us to do a bad thing, that little evil is an inspiration of the devil that, through the weakness that original sin has left in us, leads us to this. Evil is done in small as well as in big things; in wars as well as, for instance, when a boy or a girl lies: it’s a war against the truth of God, against the truth of life, against joy. This is clear, no? Have you understood this? It’s clear.

We all have a battlefield within us. We all struggle between good and evil. We have graces and temptations, and we must speak with the parish priest, with the catechist, about these things to get to know them well. This is the first. The second: there are so many good things in the world, and I wonder: why aren’t these good things publicized? Why does it seem that people like to see bad things more and hear awful news. We think of Africa: so many evil things, so many wars – as I’ve said – but there are missionaries, priests and sisters, who often have spent their whole life there, preaching the Gospel, in poverty ... When I went to Africa last month, I met some little Sisters .,.. I am thinking of one who was 83, she was Italian, and she said to me: ”I have been here since I was 26.” And there are so many holy families, so many parents that educate their children well. Why don’t we see on television a family that educates well, which educates a child well? We don’t see it! Because there is this attraction to evil: it seems that it’s more pleasing to look at bad things than at good things, than at great things. The devil does his part -- this is true --, but God also does His part: there are so many holy people! Not only in the missions but in the world, in work, in families; so many parents, so many grandfathers and grandmothers that endure sickness, problems and this isn’t seen on television. Why? Because this has no rating, no advertising ... Here, in Italy, I’ve discovered so many associations, men and women, who give part of their time to care for, to accompany, to look after the sick. This is good, but this isn’t seen in the advertising. Is this true or not? If one wants to have rating—whether of journalism, television, or whatever one wishes – you must show only bad things; people are bored with good things, or they don’t know how to present and do things well, to have good things seen well.

When you [he turns to the girl that asked the question] watch television, in your home, remember these two things: there is a fight in the world between good and evil; there are so many children that suffer; there are wars, there are evil things, because the fight is between God and the devil; but also think of the many people, the many holy people, the many people who give their life to help others, to pray for others. But why are cloistered nuns, who spend their life praying for all, not seen on television? This doesn’t interest ... More interesting perhaps are the jewels of an important firm, made to be seen ... things that cause vanities. We must not let ourselves be deceived! There are awful, awful, awful things in the world, and this is the devil’s work against God; but there are holy things, holy things, great things that are the work of God. There are hidden Saints. Let us not forget this word: the hidden Saints, those that we don’t see. OK?

I thank you for all this. However, I would like to hear another song to say if I like or don’t like the way you sing ... And something else: I would like to hear repeated how Christian life was according to Saint Augustine? What must one do?  [They answer: “Sing and walk!”]. Sing and walk! Second: who is good? [“God alone is good”].

There. And now I expect a beautiful song ... Thank you!

[Song]

Pope Francis: Now I can answer: you sing very well! Thank you!

I give you my blessing and also my good wishes for the New Year. And tomorrow we will see one another in the Basilica; it will be a pleasure.

Let us pray to Our Lady, each one in his own language. [Hail Mary]

[Blessing]

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

Below is Pope Francis' homily on New Year's Day evening, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, at Santa Maria Maggiore, where he opened the Door of Mercy:

***

Salve, Mater Misericordiae!

With this invocation we turn to the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Roman Basilica dedicated to her under the title of Mother of God. It is the first line of an ancient hymn which we will sing at the conclusion of this Holy Eucharist. Composed by an unknown author, it has come down to us as a heartfelt prayer spontaneously rising up from the hearts of the faithful: “Hail Mother of mercy, Mother of God, Mother of forgiveness, Mother of hope, Mother of grace and Mother full of holy gladness”. In these few words we find a summary of the faith of generations of men and women who, with their eyes fixed firmly on the icon of the Blessed Virgin, have sought her intercession and consolation.

It is most fitting that on this day we invoke the Blessed Virgin Mary above all as Mother of mercy. The door we have opened is, in fact, a Door of Mercy. Those who cross its threshold are called to enter into the merciful love of the Father with complete trust and freedom from fear; they can leave this Basilica knowing – truly knowing – that Mary is ever at their side. She is the Mother of mercy, because she bore in her womb the very Face of divine mercy, Jesus, Emmanuel, the Expectation of the nations, the “Prince of Peace” (Is 9:5). The Son of God, made incarnate for our salvation, has given us his Mother, who joins us on our pilgrimage through this life, so that we may never be left alone, especially at times of trouble and uncertainty.

Mary is the Mother of God, she is the Mother of God who forgives, who bestows forgiveness, and so we can rightly call her Mother of forgiveness. This word – “forgiveness” – so misunderstood in today’s world, points to the new and original fruit of Christian faith. A person unable to forgive has not yet known the fullness of love. Only one who truly loves is able to forgive and forget. At the foot of the Cross, Mary sees her Son offer himself totally, showing us what it means to love as God loves. At that moment she heard Jesus utter words which probably reflected what he had learned from her as a child: “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Lk 23:24). At that moment, Mary became for all of us the Mother of forgiveness. Following Jesus’ example and by his grace, she herself could forgive those who killed her innocent Son.

For us, Mary is an icon of how the Church must offer forgiveness to those who seek it. The Mother of forgiveness teaches the Church that the forgiveness granted on Golgotha knows no limits. Neither the law with its quibbles, nor the wisdom of this world with its distinctions, can hold it back. The Church’s forgiveness must be every bit as broad as that offered by Jesus on the Cross and by Mary at his feet. There is no other way. It is for this purpose that the Holy Spirit made the Apostles the effective ministers of forgiveness, so what was obtained by the death of Jesus may reach all men and women in every age (cf.Jn 20:19-23).

The Marian hymn continues: “Mother of hope and Mother of grace, Mother of holy gladness”. Hope, grace and holy gladness are all sisters: they are the gift of Christ; indeed, they are so many names written on his body. The gift that Mary bestows in offering us Jesus is the forgiveness which renews life, enables us once more to do God’s will and fills us with true happiness. This grace frees the heart to look to the future with the joy born of hope. This is the teaching of the Psalm: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. […] Restore to me the joy of your salvation” (51:10,12). The power of forgiveness is the true antidote to the sadness caused by resentment and vengeance. Forgiveness leads to joy and serenity because it frees the heart from thoughts of death, whereas resentment and vengeance trouble the mind and wound the heart, robbing it of rest and peace. What horrible things are resentment and vengeance.

Let us, then, pass through the Holy Door of Mercy knowing that at our side is the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Mother of God, who intercedes for us. Let us allow her to lead us to the rediscovery of the beauty of an encounter with her Son Jesus. Let us open wide the doors of our heart to the joy of forgiveness, conscious that we have been given new confidence and hope, and thus make our daily lives a humble instrument of God’s love.

And with the love and affection of children, let us cry out to Our Lady as did the faithful people of God in Ephesus during the historic Council: “Holy Mother of God!” I invite you to repeat together this acclamation three times, aloud and with all your heart and with all your love: “Holy Mother of God! Holy Mother of God! Holy Mother of God!”

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

Below is Pope Francis' homily in St. Peter's Basilica the morning of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, on New Year's Day, which also marked the World Day of Peace:

***

We have heard the words of the Apostle Paul: “When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman” (Gal4:4).

What does it mean to say that Jesus was born in “the fullness of time”? If we consider that particular moment of history, we might quickly be deluded. Rome had subjugated a great part of the known world by her military might. The Emperor Augustus had come to power after five civil wars. Israel itself had been conquered by the Roman Empire and the Chosen People had lost their freedom. For Jesus’ contemporaries, it was certainly not the best of times. To define the fullness of time, then, we should not look to the geopolitical sphere.

Another interpretation is needed, one which views that fullness from God’s standpoint. It is when God decided that the time had come to fulfil his promise, that the fullness of time came for humanity. History does not determine the birth of Christ; rather, his coming into the world enables history to attain its fullness. For this reason, the birth of the Son of God inaugurates a new era, a new computation of time, the era which witnesses the fulfilment of the ancient promise. As the author of the Letter to the Hebrews writes: “God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the world. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word” (1:1-3). The fullness of time, then, is the presence of God himself in our history. Now we can see his glory, which shines forth in the poverty of a stable; we can be encouraged and sustained by his Word, made “little” in a baby. Thanks to him, our time can find its fullness. The use of our personal time can also find its fullness in the encounter with Jesus Christ, God made man.

Nonetheless, this mystery constantly clashes with the dramatic experience of human history. Each day, as we seek to be sustained by the signs of God’s presence, we encounter new signs to the contrary, negative signs which tend to make us think instead that he is absent. The fullness of time seems to fade before the countless forms of injustice and violence which daily wound our human family. Sometimes we ask ourselves how it is possible that human injustice persists unabated, and that the arrogance of the powerful continues to demean the weak, relegating them to the most squalid outskirts of our world. We ask how long human evil will continue to sow violence and hatred in our world, reaping innocent victims. How can the fullness of time have come when we are witnessing hordes of men, women and children fleeing war, hunger and persecution, ready to risk their lives simply to encounter respect for their fundamental rights? A torrent of misery, swollen by sin, seems to contradict the fullness of time brought by Christ. Remember, dear pueri cantores, this was the third question you asked me yesterday: how do we explain this… even children are aware of this.

And yet this swollen torrent is powerless before the ocean of mercy which floods our world. All of us are called to immerse ourselves in this ocean, to let ourselves be reborn, to overcome the indifference which blocks solidarity, and to leave behind the false neutrality which prevents sharing. The grace of Christ, which brings our hope of salvation to fulfilment, leads us to cooperate with him in building an ever more just and fraternal world, a world in which every person and every creature can dwell in peace, in the harmony of God’s original creation.

At the beginning of a new year, the Church invites us to contemplate Mary’s divine maternity as an icon of peace. The ancient promise finds fulfilment in her person. She believed in the words of the angel, conceived her Son and thus became the Mother of the Lord. Through her, through her “yes”, the fullness of time came about. The Gospel we have just heard tells us that the Virgin Mary “treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart” (Lk 2:19). She appears to us as a vessel filled to the brim with the memory of Jesus, as the Seat of Wisdom to whom we can have recourse to understand his teaching aright. Today Mary makes it possible for us to grasp the meaning of events which affect us personally, events which also affect our families, our countries and the entire world. Where philosophical reason and political negotiation cannot arrive, there the power of faith, which brings the grace of Christ’s Gospel, can arrive, opening ever new pathways to reason and to negotiation.

Blessed are you, Mary, for you gave the Son of God to our world. But even more blessed are you for having believed in him. Full of faith, you conceived Jesus first in your heart and then in your womb, and thus became the Mother of all believers (cf. Saint Augustine, Sermo 215,4). Send us, O Mother, your blessing on this day consecrated to your honour. Show us the face of Jesus your Son, who bestows upon the entire world mercy and peace. Amen.

[Original text: Italian]

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

Below is Pope Francis’ homily during the celebration in St. Peter's Basilica, Jan. 31, of the First Vespers of the Solemnity of Mary Most Holy, Mother of God

* * *
How meaningful it is to be gathered together to praise the Lord at the end of this year!

On many occasions, the Church feels the joy and duty to raise her song to God with these words of praise, which since the fourth century accompany prayer in important moments of Her earthly pilgrimage. It is the joy of thanksgiving that emanates almost spontaneously from our prayer, to recognize the loving presence of God in the events of our history. As often happens, however, we feel that our voice is not enough in prayer. It is in need of reinforcement with the company of the whole People of God, which makes its song of thanksgiving heard in unison. Therefore, in the Te Deum we ask for the help of the angels, of the prophets and of the whole of creation to praise the Lord. With this hymn, we go over the history of salvation where, by God’s mysterious design, the different events of our life of this past year find a place and synthesis.

The last words of the hymn of the Church assume a special resonance in this Jubilee Year: “Let thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, for we have hoped in Thee.” The company of mercy is light to understand better all that we have lived, and hope that accompanies us at the beginning of a new year.

To go over the days of the past year can be either a recalling of facts and events that refer to moments of joy or sorrow, or an endeavor to understand if we have perceived the presence of God who renews and sustains everything with His help. We are called to verify if the events of the world took place according to the Will of God, or if we have listened primarily to men’s plans, often charged with private interests, insatiable thirst for power and gratuitous violence.

And yet, today our eyes are in need of focusing in a particular way on the signs that God has given us, to touch with our hand the strength of His merciful love. We cannot forget that many days were marked by violence, by death, by the unspeakable suffering of so many innocents, of refugees constrained to leave their homeland, of men, women and children without a stable dwelling, food and support. Yet how many gestures of kindness, of love and solidarity have filled the days of this year, even if they did not make television news. Good things do not make news. These signs of love cannot and must not be obscured by the arrogance of evil. Good always conquers, even if at some moments it might seem weaker and hidden.

Our city of Rome is not a stranger to this condition of the whole world. I would like the sincere invitation, to reach all its inhabitants, to go beyond the difficulties of the present moment. May the commitment to recover the fundamental values of service, honesty and solidarity enable us to overcome the grave uncertainties that have dominated the scene this year, and which are symptoms of a scarce sense of dedication to the common good. May the positive contribution of Christian witness never be lacking, to enable Rome, in keeping with its history and with the maternal intercession of Mary Salus Populi Romani, to be the privileged interpreter of faith, of hospitality, of fraternity and of peace.

“We praise you, O God. [...] In you, Lord, we put our trust: we shall not be put to shame.”

[Original text: Italian]

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

January 3: Below is Pope Francis' Angelus address to the faithful in St. Peter's Square: 

****

Dear brothers and sisters, happy Sunday!

The liturgy of today, the second Sunday after Christmas, presents to us the Prologue of the Gospel of Saint John, in which is proclaimed that “the Word” – that is, the creative Word of God – “was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14). That Word, which dwells in heaven, that is, in the dimension of God, came to earth so that we might listen and be able to know and touch with our hand the love of the Father. The Word of God is Himself the Only-begotten Son, made man, full of love and of faithfulness (cfr. Jn 1:14), Jesus Himself.

The Evangelist does not hide the dramatic nature of the Incarnation of the Son of God, emphasizing that the gift of the love of God is matched with the non-reception on the part of men. The Word is the light, and yet men have preferred the darkness; the Word came unto His own, but they did not receive Him (cfr. vv. 9-10); they closed the door in the face of the Son of God. It is the mystery of evil that insinuates [itself] into our lives, too, and that demands vigilance and care on our part so that it will not prevail. The book of Genesis says – in a good phrase that makes us understand this – it says that evil “lies in wait at our door” (cfr. Gn 4:7). Woe to us if we allow it to enter; it would then close our door to anyone else. Instead we are called to throw open the door of our heart to the Word of God, to Jesus, in order thus to become His children.

This solemn beginning of the Gospel was already proclaimed on: Christmas today; today it is proposed to us once more. It is the invitation of Holy Mother Church to welcome this Word of salvation, this mystery of light. If we welcome Him, if we welcome Jesus, we will grow in understanding and in the love of the Lord, we will learn to be merciful as He is. Especially in this Holy Year of Mercy, let us make sure that the Gospel becomes ever more incarnate in our own lives too. Drawing near to the Gospel, meditating on it and incarnating it in daily life is the best way to understand Jesus and bring Him to others. This is the vocation and the joy of every baptized person: showing Jesus and giving Him to others; but to do that we have to know Him and have Him within us, as the Lord of our life. And He will defend us from evil, from the devil. He is always lying in wait by our door, and wants to enter.

With a renewed burst of filial abandonment, let us entrust ourselves once again to Mary: Let us contemplate the sweet image of the mother of Jesus and our mother in these days of the manger.

[Original Text: Italian]

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

Pope Francis' homily at the Mass for the Solemnity of the Epiphany in St. Peter's Basilica:

***

The words of the Prophet Isaiah – addressed to the Holy City of Jerusalem – are also meant for us. They call us to rise and go forth, to leave behind all that keeps us self-enclosed, to go out from ourselves and to recognize the splendour of the light which illumines our lives: “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you” (60:1). That “light” is the glory of the Lord. The Church cannot illude herself into thinking that she shines with her own light. Saint Ambrose expresses this nicely by presenting the moon as a metaphor for the Church: “The moon is in fact the Church… [she] shines not with her own light, but with the light of Christ. She draws her brightness from the Sun of Justice, and so she can say: ‘It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me’” (Hexaemeron, IV, 8, 32). Christ is the true light shining in the darkness. To the extent that the Church remains anchored in him, to the extent that she lets herself be illumined by him, she is able to bring light into the lives of individuals and peoples. For this reason the Fathers of the Church saw in her the mysterium lunae.

We need this light from on high if we are to respond in a way worthy of the vocation we have received. To proclaim the Gospel of Christ is not simply one option among many, nor is it a profession. For the Church, to be missionary does not mean to proselytize: for the Church to be missionary means to give expression to her very nature, which is to receive God’s light and then to reflect it. This is her service. There is no other way. Mission is her vocation; to shine Christ’s light is her service. How many people look to us for this missionary commitment, because they need Christ. They need to know the face of the Father.

The Magi mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew are a living witness to the fact that the seeds of truth are present everywhere, for they are the gift of the Creator, who calls all people to acknowledge him as good and faithful Father. The Magi represent the men and woman throughout the world who are welcomed into the house of God. Before Jesus, all divisions of race, language and culture disappear: in that Child, all humanity discovers its unity. The Church has the task of seeing and showing ever more clearly the desire for God which is present in the heart of every man and woman. This is the service of the Church, with the light that she reflects: to draw out the desire for God present in every heart. Like the Magi, countless people, in our own day, have a “restless heart” which continues to seek without finding sure answers – it is the restlessness of the Holy Spirit that stirs in hearts. They too are looking for a star to show them the path to Bethlehem.

How many stars there are in the sky! And yet the Magi followed a new and different star, which for them shone all the more brightly. They had long peered into the great book of the heavens, seeking an answer to their questions – they had restless hearts –, and at long last the light appeared. That star changed them. It made them leave their daily concerns behind and set out immediately on a journey. They listened to a voice deep within, which led them to follow that light. It was the voice of the Holy Spirit, who works in all people. The star guided them, until they found the King of the Jews in a humble dwelling in Bethlehem.

All this has something to say to us today. We do well to repeat the question asked by the Magi: “Where is the child who has been born the King of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage” (Mt 2:2). We are impelled, especially in an age like our own, to seek the signs which God offers us, realizing that great effort is needed to interpret them and thus to understand his will. We are challenged to go to Bethlehem, to find the Child and his Mother. Let us follow the light which God offers us – that tiny light. The hymn in the breviary poetically tells us that the Magi lumen requirunt lumine – that tiny light. The light which streams from the face of Christ, full of mercy and fidelity. And once we have found him, let us worship him with all our heart, and present him with our gifts: our freedom, our understanding and our love. True wisdom lies concealed in the face of this Child. It is here, in the simplicity of Bethlehem, that the life of the Church is summed up. For here is the wellspring of that light which draws to itself every individual in the world and guides the journey of the peoples along the path of peace.

Original Text: Italian]

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

Pope Francis' Angelus Address in St. Peter's Square on the Solemnity of the Epiphany 2016:

* * *

Before the Angelus:

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

In today’s Gospel, the story of the Magi, who came from the East to Bethlehem to adore the Messiah, confers on the feast of the Epiphany a universal breadth. And this is the breadth of the Church, which desires that all the peoples of the earth be able to meet Jesus, to experience His merciful love. This is the desire of the Church: that they find the mercy of Jesus, His love.

Jesus has just been born, He still does not know how to speak, and all peoples – represented by the Magi – can already meet Him, recognize Him and adore Him. The Magi say: “We have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him” (Matthew 2:2). Herod heard this as soon as the Magi arrived in Jerusalem. These Magi were prestigious men, of distant regions and different cultures, and they started towards the land of Israel to adore the King that was born. The Church has always seen in them the image of the whole of humanity, and with today’s celebration of the feast of the Epiphany, she wishes to indicate respectfully, to every man and woman of this world, the Child that was born for the salvation of all.

On Christmas Eve Jesus manifested Himself to the shepherds, humble men held in contempt – some say brigands --; they were the first to bring some warmth to that cold cave of Bethlehem. Now the Magi arrive from distant lands, also attracted mysteriously by that Child. The shepherds and the Magi are very different from one another; however, they have one thing in common: the heavens. The shepherds of Bethlehem went immediately to see Jesus, not because they were particularly good, but because they were watching in the night and, raising their eyes to the heavens, they saw a sign, they listened to its message and followed it. So, also, did the Magi: they scrutinized the heavens, they saw a new star, they interpreted the sign, and started out from afar. The shepherds and the Magi teach us that to meet Jesus it is necessary to be able to raise one’s gaze to the heavens, not to be withdrawn in oneself, in one’s egoism, but to have the heart and mind open to the horizon of God, who always surprises us, to be able to receive His messages, and to answer with promptness and generosity.

The Gospel says that, “on seeing the star” the Magi “rejoiced exceedingly with great joy” (Matthew 2:10). It is a great consolation for us also to see the star, that is, to feel guided and not abandoned to our fate. And the star is the Gospel, the Word of the Lord, as the Psalm says: “Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (119:105). This light leads us to Christ. Without listening to the Gospel, it is impossible to meet Him! In fact, the Magi, following the star, reached the place where Jesus was. And there “they saw the child with Mary his Mother, and they fell down and worshipped him.” (Matthew 2:11). The Magi’s experience exhorts us not to be content with mediocrity, not to “get by” somehow, but to seek the meaning of things, to scrutinize passionately the great mystery of life. And it teaches us not to be scandalized by littleness and poverty, but to recognize the majesty of humility, and to be able to kneel before it.

May the Virgin Mary, who received the Magi at Bethlehem, help us to raise our gaze from ourselves, to let ourselves be guided by the star of the Gospel to meet Jesus, and to be able to abase ourselves to adore Him. Thus we will be able to take to others a ray of His light, and to share with them the joy of the way.

[Original text: Italian]

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

Pope Francis' Angelus address at noon on January 10 (Feast of the Baptism of the Lord) to the faithful in St. Peter's Square: 

****

Before the Angelus:

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

On this Sunday after the Epiphany, we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus, and we thankfully remember our Baptism. In this context, this morning, I baptized 26 newborns: let's pray for them!

The Gospel presents Jesus in the waters of the Jordan River, in the midst of a marvelous, divine revelation. St. Luke writes: "After all the people had been baptized 
and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, 'You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased”' (Lk 3: 21-22). In this way, Jesus is consecrated and manifested by the Father as Messiah, Savior, and liberator.

In this event - attested to by all four Gospels - the transition from the baptism of John the Baptist, based on the symbol of water, to the baptism of Jesus happens "in the Holy Spirit and fire" (Lk 3:16). The Holy Spirit, in fact, in the Christian Baptism is the principal architect: it is He who burns and destroys Original Sin, restoring to the baptized the beauty of divine grace; It is He who delivers us from the dominion of darkness, that is to say, of sin, and transfers us into the realm of light, that to say of love, truth and peace: this is the realm of light. Think of to what dignity Baptism elevates us! "See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are!" (1 Jn 3:1), says the Apostle John. This stupendous reality of being children of God involves a responsibility of following Jesus, the obedient Servant, and reproduce in ourselves His features: that meekness, humility, tenderness. And this is not easy, especially when all around us there is so much intolerance, arrogance, harshness. But with the strength that comes from the Holy Spirit, it is possible!

The Holy Spirit, received for the first time on the day of our Baptism, opens our hearts to the truth, the whole truth. The Spirit pushes our life down a demanding path, but one joyous in charity and solidarity toward our brothers. The Spirit gives us the tenderness of God's forgiveness and pervades us with the invincible power of the Father's mercy. Do not forget that the Holy Spirit is a living presence and is life-giving in those who welcome Him, and prays in us and fills us with spiritual joy.

Today, the feast of the Baptism of Jesus, we think of the day of our Baptism. All of us were baptized, thank you for this gift. And I make you a question: Which of you knows the date of your baptism? Certainly, not all of you. Therefore, I invite you to go and search for the date, asking, for example, your parents, your grandparents, your godparents, or going into the parish. It is very important to know, because it is a date to celebrate: it is the date of our rebirth as children of God. For this, homework for this week: go look for the date of my baptism. Celebrating that day means and reaffirms our attachment to Jesus, with the commitment to live as Christians, members of the Church and new humanity, in which all are brothers.

The Virgin Mary, the first disciple of her Son, Jesus, helps us to live our Baptism with joy and apostolic zeal, receiving, every day, the gift of the Holy Spirit, Who makes us children of God.

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

Pope Francis' homily this morning during the Mass he celebrated for the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord in the Sistine Chapel, where he baptized 26 babies:

**

Forty days after His birth, Jesus was taken to the Temple. Mary and Joseph took him to present Him to God. Today, on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, you, parents, bring your children to be baptized, to receive that which you asked for in the beginning, when I have asked you all the first question: "The faith. I want the faith for my child." And so, the faith is transmitted from generation to generation, like a chain, in the course of time.

These baby boys and girls, over the years, will take your place with another child - your grandchildren - and they'll ask the same thing: the faith. The faith that Baptism gives us. The faith that the Holy Spirit bears in the heart, soul, and in the life of your children.

You asked [for] the faith. The Church, when you hand over the lighted candle, will tell you to keep the faith in these children. And, finally, do not forget that the greatest inheritance that you can give your children is faith. Be careful that this is not lost,  so it can grow and leave as a legacy.

Today, I wish, that in this joyous day for you all: I wish you are able to make these children grow in faith, and that the greatest inheritance they receive from you, really, is the faith.

And only a warning: When a baby cries because he or she is hungry, to the mommies, I say: if your child is hungry, feed them here, with complete freedom.

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

Pope Francis' prepared address to the Corps of Diplomats Accredited to the Holy See this morning, January 11, in the Vatican's Apostolic Palace, during the course of his traditional exchange of New Year's greetings with the diplomats:

***

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I offer you a cordial welcome to this annual gathering. It allows me to offer you my best wishes for the New Year and to reflect with you on the state of our world, so loved and blessed by God, and yet fraught with so many ills. I thank your new Dean, His Excellency Armindo Fernandes do Espírito Santo Veira, the Ambassador of Angola, for his kind greeting in the name of the entire Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See. In a special way, I would also like to remember the late Ambassadors of Cuba, Rodney Alejandro López Clemente, and Liberia, Rudolf P. von Ballmoos, both of whom left us in this past month.

This occasion also allows me to offer a particular word of welcome to those of you who join us for the first time. I note with satisfaction that the number of resident Ambassadors in Rome has increased over the past year. This is an important sign of the interest with which the international community follows the diplomatic activity of the Holy See, as for that matter are the international agreements signed or ratified in the course of this last year. Here I would mention the specific fiscal agreements reached with Italy and the United States of America, reflecting the increased commitment of the Holy See to greater transparency in economic matters. No less important are the more general agreements aimed at regulating essential aspects of the Church’s life and activity in different countries, such as the agreement sealed in Dili with the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste.

At the same time, I would like to mention the exchange of instruments of ratification of the agreement with Chad on the juridical status of the Catholic Church in that country, as well as the agreement signed and ratified with Palestine. These two agreements, together with the Memorandum of Understanding between the Secretariat of State and the Foreign Affairs Minister of Kuwait, demonstrate, among other things, how peaceful co-existence between the followers of different religions is possible when religious freedom is recognized and practical cooperation in the pursuit of the common good, in a spirit of respect for the cultural identity of all parties, is effectively guaranteed.

For that matter, every authentic practice of religion cannot fail to promote peace. Our recent celebration of Christmas reminds us of this: we contemplated the birth of a vulnerable child who is “named Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace” (cf. Is 9:5). The mystery of the Incarnation shows us the real face of God, for whom power does not mean force or destruction but love, and for whom justice is not vengeance but mercy. It is in light of this that I wished to proclaim the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, exceptionally inaugurated in Bangui during my Apostolic Journey in Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic. In a country sorely tried by hunger, poverty and conflict, where fratricidal violence in recent years has left deep wounds, rending the nation and creating material and moral destitution, the opening of the Holy Door of Bangui Cathedral was meant as a sign of encouragement to look ahead, to set out anew and resume dialogue. There, where God’s name has been misused to perpetrate injustice, I wanted to reaffirm, together with the Muslim community of the Central African Republic, that “those who claim to believe in God must also be men and women of peace” and consequently of mercy, for one may never kill in the name of God. Only a distorted ideological form of religion can think that justice is done in the name of the Almighty by deliberately slaughtering defenceless persons, as in the brutal terrorist attacks which occurred in recent months in Africa, Europe and the Middle East.

Mercy was the common thread linking my Apostolic Journeys in the course of the past year. This was the case above all with my visit to Sarajevo, a city deeply scarred by the war in the Balkans and the capital of a country, Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is uniquely significant for Europe and the entire world. As a crossroads of cultures, nations and religions, it is working successfully to build new bridges, to encourage those things which unite, and to see differences as opportunities for growth in respect for all. This is possible thanks to a patient and trusting dialogue capable of embracing the values of each culture and accepting the good which comes from the experience of others.

I think too of my Journey to Bolivia, Ecuador and Paraguay, where I encountered peoples who have not given up in the face of difficulties, and who are facing with courage, determination and solidarity their many challenges, beginning with widespread poverty and social inequality. During my Journey to Cuba and the United States of America, I was able to embrace two countries which were long divided and which have decided to write a new page of history, embarking on the path of closer ties and reconciliation.

In Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families, during my Journey to Sri Lanka and to the Philippines, and more recently with the Synod of Bishops, I reaffirmed the centrality of the family, which is the first and most important school of mercy, in which we learn to see God’s loving face and to mature and develop as human beings. Sadly, we recognize the numerous challenges presently facing families, “threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage by relativism, by the culture of the ephemeral, by a lack of openness to life”. Today there is a widespread fear of the definitive commitment demanded by the family; those who pay the price are the young, who are often vulnerable and uncertain, and the elderly, who end up being neglected and abandoned. On the contrary, “out of the family’s experience of fraternity is born solidarity in society”, which instils in us a sense of responsibility for others. This is possible only if, in our homes and our societies, we refuse to allow weariness and resentment to take root, but instead make way for dialogue, which is the best antidote to the widespread individualism of today’s culture.

Dear Ambassadors,

An individualistic spirit is fertile soil for the growth of that kind of indifference towards our neighbours which leads to viewing them in purely economic terms, to a lack of concern for their humanity, and ultimately to feelings of fear and cynicism. Are these not the attitudes we often adopt towards the poor, the marginalized and the “least” of society? And how many of these “least” do we have in our societies! Among them I think primarily of migrants, with their burden of hardship and suffering, as they seek daily, often in desperation, a place to live in peace and dignity.

Today, then, I would like to reflect with you on the grave crisis of migration which we are facing, in order to discern its causes, to consider possible solutions, and to overcome the inevitable fears associated with this massive and formidable phenomenon, which in 2015 has mainly concerned Europe, but also various regions of Asia and North and Central America.

“Be not frightened, neither be dismayed; for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Jos 1:9). This is the promise which God makes to Joshua, revealing his concern for every person, but particularly those in precarious situations such as people seeking refuge in a foreign country. The Bible as a whole recounts the history of a humanity on the move, for mobility is part of our human nature. Human history is made up of countless migrations, sometimes out of an awareness of the right to choose freely, and often dictated by external circumstances. From the banishment from Eden to Abraham’s journey to the promised land, from the Exodus story to the deportation to Babylon, sacred Scripture describes the struggles and sufferings, the desires and hopes, which are shared by the hundreds of thousands of persons on the move today, possessed of the same determination which Moses had to reach a land flowing with “milk and honey” (cf. Ex 3:17), a land of freedom and peace.

Now as then, we hear Rachel weeping for her children who are no more (cf. Jer 31:15; Mt 2:18). Hers is the plea of thousands of people who weep as they flee horrific wars, persecutions and human rights violations, or political or social instability, which often make it impossible for them to live in their native lands. It is the outcry of those forced to flee in order to escape unspeakable acts of cruelty towards vulnerable persons, such as children and the disabled, or martyrdom solely on account of their religion.

Now as then, we hear Jacob saying to his sons: “Go down and buy grain for us there, that we may live and not die” (Gen 42:2). His is the voice of all those who flee extreme poverty, inability to feed their families or to receive medical care and education, hopeless squalor or the effects of climate change and extreme weather conditions. Sadly, we know that hunger continues to be one of the gravest banes of our world, leading to the death of millions of children every year. It is painful to realize, however, that often these migrants are not included in international systems of protection based on international agreements.

How can we not see in all this the effects of that “culture of waste” which endangers the human person, sacrificing men and women before the idols of profit and consumption? It is a grievous fact that we grow so inured to such situations of poverty and need, to these tragedies affecting so many lives, that they appear “normal”. Persons are no longer seen as a paramount value to be cared for and respected, especially when poor or disabled, or “not yet useful” – like the unborn, or “no longer needed” – like the elderly. We have grown indifferent to all sorts of waste, starting with the waste of food, which is all the more deplorable when so many individuals and families suffer hunger and malnutrition.

The Holy See trusts that, amid today’s sad context of conflicts and disasters, the First World Humanitarian Summit, convened by the United Nations for May 2016, will succeed in its goal of placing the person and human dignity at the heart of every humanitarian response. What is needed is a common commitment which can decisively turn around the culture of waste and lack of respect for human life, so that no one will feel neglected or forgotten, and that no further lives will be sacrificed due to the lack of resources and, above all, of political will.

Sadly, now as then, we hear the voice of Judah who counsels selling his own brother (cf. Gen 37:26-27). His is the arrogance of the powerful who exploit the weak, reducing them to means for their own ends or for strategic and political schemes. Where regular migration is impossible, migrants are often forced to turn to human traffickers or smugglers, even though they are aware that in the course of their journey they may well lose their possessions, their dignity and even their lives. In this context I once more appeal for an end to trafficking in persons, which turns human beings, especially the weakest and most defenceless, into commodities. The image of all those children who died at sea, victims of human callousness and harsh weather, will remain forever imprinted on our minds and hearts. Those who survive and reach a country which accepts them bear the deep and indelible scars of these experiences, in addition to those left by the atrocities which always accompany wars and violence.

Now as then, we hear the angel say: “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you” (Mt2:13). His is the voice heard by many migrants who would never have left their homeland had they not been forced to. Among these are many Christians who in great numbers have abandoned their native lands these past years, despite the fact that they have dwelt there from the earliest days of Christianity.

Finally, we also hear today the voice of the Psalmist: “By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion” (Ps 137:1). His is the cry of those who would readily return to their own country, if only there they could find adequate conditions of security and sustenance. Here too my thoughts turn to the Christians of the Middle East, who desire to contribute fully as citizens to the spiritual and material well-being of their respective nations.

Many of the causes of migration could have been addressed some time ago. So many disasters could have been prevented, or at least their harshest effects mitigated. Today too, before it is too late, much could be done to end these tragedies and to build peace. But that would mean rethinking entrenched habits and practices, beginning with issues involving the arms trade, the provision of raw materials and energy, investment, policies of financing and sustainable development, and even the grave scourge of corruption. We all know, too, that with regard to migration there is a need for mid-term and long-term planning which is not limited to emergency responses. Such planning should include effective assistance for integrating migrants in their receiving countries, while also promoting the development of their countries of origin through policies inspired by solidarity, yet not linking assistance to ideological strategies and practices alien or contrary to the cultures of the peoples being assisted.

Without overlooking other dramatic situations – in this regard, I think particularly of the border between Mexico and the United States of America, which I will be near when I visit Ciudad Juárez next month – my thoughts turn in a special way to Europe. Over the past year Europe has witnessed a great wave of refugees – many of whom died in the attempt – a wave unprecedented in recent history, not even after the end of the Second World War. Many migrants from Asia and Africa see in Europe a beacon for principles such as equality before the law and for values inherent in human nature, including the inviolable dignity and equality of every person, love of neighbour regardless of origin or affiliation, freedom of conscience and solidarity towards our fellow men and women.

All the same, the massive number of arrivals on the shores of Europe appear to be overburdening the system of reception painstakingly built on the ashes of the Second World War, a system that is still an acknowledged beacon of humanity. Given the immense influx and the inevitable problems it creates, a number of questions have be raised about the real possibilities for accepting and accommodating people, about changes in the cultural and social structures of the receiving countries, and about the reshaping of certain regional geopolitical balances. Equally significant are fears about security, further exacerbated by the growing threat of international terrorism. The present wave of migration seems to be undermining the foundations of that “humanistic spirit” which Europe has always loved and defended. Yet there should be no loss of the values and principles of humanity, respect for the dignity of every person, mutual subsidiarity and solidarity, however much they may prove, in some moments of history, a burden difficult to bear. I wish, then, to reaffirm my conviction that Europe, aided by its great cultural and religious heritage, has the means to defend the centrality of the human person and to find the right balance between its twofold moral responsibility to protect the rights of its citizens and to ensure assistance and acceptance to migrants.

Here I likewise feel obliged to express gratitude for all initiatives aimed at providing a dignified reception to these persons; I think, for example, of the Migrant and Refugee Fund of the Council of Europe Development Bank, and the generous solidarity shown by a number of countries. I also have in mind the nations neighbouring Syria, which have responded immediately with help and acceptance, especially Lebanon, where refugees make up a fourth of the total population, and Jordan, which has not closed its borders despite the fact that it already harbours hundreds of thousands of refugees. Nor should we overlook the efforts made by other countries in the front lines, especially Turkey and Greece. I wish to express particular gratitude to Italy, whose decisive commitment has saved many lives in the Mediterranean, and which continues to accept responsibility on its territory for a massive number of refugees. It is my hope that the traditional sense of hospitality and solidarity which distinguishes the Italian people will not be weakened by the inevitable difficulties of the moment, but that, in light of its age-old tradition, the nation may prove capable of accepting and integrating the social, economic and cultural contribution which migrants can offer.

It is important that nations in the forefront of meeting the present emergency not be left alone, and it is also essential to initiate a frank and respectful dialogue among all the countries involved in the problem – countries of origin, transit, or reception - so that, with greater boldness and creativity, new and sustainable solutions can be sought. As things presently stand, there is no place for autonomous solutions pursued by individual states, since the consequences of the decisions made by each inevitably have repercussions on the entire international community. Indeed, migrations, more then ever before, will play a pivotal role in the future of our world, and our response can only be the fruit of a common effort respectful of human dignity and the rights of persons. The Development Agenda adopted last September by the United Nations for the next fifteen years, which deals with many of the problems causing migration, and other documents of the international community on handling the issue of migration, will be able to find application consistent with expectations if they are able to put the person at the centre of political decisions at every level, seeing humanity as one family, and all people as brothers and sisters, with respect for mutual differences and convictions of conscience.

In facing the issue of migrations, one cannot overlook its cultural implications, beginning with those linked to religious affiliation. Extremism and fundamentalism find fertile soil not only in the exploitation of religion for purposes of power, but also in the vacuum of ideals and the loss of identity – including religious identity – which dramatically marks the so-called West. This vacuum gives rise to the fear which leads to seeing the other as a threat and an enemy, to closed-mindedness and intransigence in defending preconceived notions. The phenomenon of migration raises a serious cultural issue which necessarily demands a response. The acceptance of migrants can thus prove a good opportunity for new understanding and broader horizons, both on the part of those accepted, who have the responsibility to respect the values, traditions and laws of the community which takes them in, and on the part of the latter, who are called to acknowledge the beneficial contribution which each immigrant can make to the whole community. In this context, the Holy See reaffirms its commitment in the ecumenical and interreligious sectors to inaugurating a sincere and respectful dialogue which, by valuing the distinctness and identity of each individual, can foster a harmonious coexistence among all the members of society.

Distinguished Members of the Diplomatic Corps,

2015 witnessed the conclusion of important international agreements, which give solid hope for the future. I think first of the so-called Iran nuclear deal, which I hope will contribute to creating a climate of détente in the region, as well as the reaching of the long-awaited agreement on climate at the Paris Conference. This significant accord represents for the entire international community an important achievement; it reflects a powerful collective realization of the grave responsibility incumbent on individuals and nations to protect creation, to promote a “culture of care which permeates all of society”. It is now essential that those commitments prove more than simply a good intention, but rather a genuine duty incumbent on all states to do whatever is needed to safeguard our beloved earth for the sake of all mankind, especially generations yet to come.

For its part, the year which has just begun promises to be full of challenges and more than a few tensions have already appeared on the horizon. I think above all of the serious disagreements which have arisen in the Persian Gulf region, as well as the disturbing military test conducted on the Korean peninsula. It is my hope that these conflicts will be open to the voice of peace and a readiness to seek agreements. Here I note with satisfaction of certain significant and particularly encouraging gestures. I think especially of the climate of peaceful coexistence in which the recent elections in the Central African Republic were held; these are a positive sign of the will to persevere on the path to full national reconciliation. I also think of the new initiatives under way in Cyprus to heal a long-standing division, and to the efforts being made by the Colombian people to leave behind past conflicts and to attain the long-awaited peace. All of us look with hope to the important steps made by the international community to achieve a political and diplomatic solution of the crisis in Syria, one which can put a long overdue end to the sufferings of the population. The signals coming from Libya are likewise encouraging and offer the hope of a renewed commitment to ending violence and reestablishing the country’s unity. On the other hand, it appears increasingly evident that only a common and agreed political action will prove able to stem the spread of extremism and fundamentalism, which spawn terrorist acts which reap countless victims, not only in Syria and Libya, but in other countries like Iraq and Yemen.

May this Holy Year of Mercy also be the occasion of dialogue and reconciliation aimed at consolidating the common good in Burundi, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and in South Sudan. Above all, may it be a favourable time for definitively ending the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Of fundamental importance is the support which the international community, individual states and humanitarian organizations can offer the country from a number of standpoints, in order to surmount the present crisis.

Yet the greatest challenge we face is that of overcoming indifference and working together for peace, which remains a good which must constantly be sought. Sadly, among the many parts of our beloved world which long fervently for peace, there is the land for which God showed a particular love and chose to show to all the face of his mercy. I pray that this new year can heal the deep wounds dividing Israelis and Palestinians, and enable the peaceful coexistence of two peoples who – of this I am sure – in the depths of their heart ask only for peace!

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

On the diplomatic level, the Holy See will never cease its efforts to enable the message of peace to be heard to the ends of the earth. I thus reiterate the complete readiness of the Secretariat of State to cooperate with you in favouring constant dialogue between the Apostolic See and the countries which you represent, for the benefit of the entire international community. I am certain that this Jubilee year will be a favourable occasion for the cold indifference of so many hearts to be won over by the warmth of mercy, that precious gift of God which turns fear into love and makes us artisans of peace. With these sentiments I renew to each of you, to your families and your countries, my heartfelt good wishes for a blessed New Year.

Thank you.

______________________

[1] Meeting with the Muslim Community, Bangui, 30 November 2015.

2 Cf. Meeting with Authorities, Sarajevo, 6 June 2015.

Meeting with Families, Manila, 16 January 2015.

4Meeting with Political, Economic and Civic Leaders, Quito, 7 July 2015.

5 Cf. General Audience, 5 June 2013.

6 Cf. Address to the European Parliament, Strasburg, 25 November 2015.

7 Ibid.

8 Encyclical Laudato Si’, 231.

9 Cf. Overcome Indifference and Win Peace, Message for the 2015 World Day of Peace (8 December 2015).

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

January 13: Below is Pope Francis' address at this morning's weekly General Audience held in Paul VI Hall:

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

Today we begin catecheses on mercy according to the biblical perspective, in order to learn mercy by listening to what God Himself teaches us with His Word. We begin from the Old Testament, which prepares and leads us to the full revelation of Jesus Christ who, in an accomplished way, reveals the Father’s mercy.

The Lord is presented in Sacred Scriptures as “merciful God.” And this is His name, through which He reveals to us, so to speak, His face and His heart. He Himself, as narrated in the Book of Exodus, on revealing Himself to Moses describes Himself thus: “The Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (34:6). We find this formula also in other texts, with some variation, but always the stress is put on mercy and on the love of God who never tires of forgiving (cf. Jonah 4:2; Joel 2:13; Psalm 86:15; 103:8; Nehemiah 9:17). Let us look together, one by one, at these words of Sacred Scripture that speak to us of God.

The Lord is “merciful”: this word evokes an attitude of tenderness as that of a mother in dealing with her child. In fact, the Hebrew term used by the Bible makes one think of the insides or even the maternal womb. Therefore, the image it suggests it that of a God that is moved and becomes tender for us as a mother when she takes her child in her arms, desirous only of loving, protecting, and helping, ready to give everything, even herself. This is the image that this term suggests. A love, therefore, that can be described as “visceral” in the good sense.

Written then is that the Lord is “gracious,” in the sense that He gives grace, has compassion and, in His greatness, bends over one who is weak and poor, always ready to receive, to understand, to forgive. He is like the father of the parable reported in Luke’s Gospel (cf. Luke 15:11-32): a father who does not shut himself in resentment because of the younger son’s abandonment but, on the contrary, continues to wait for him -- he has generated him. And then he runs to meet and embrace him, he does not even let him finish his confession -- as if he covered his mouth -- so great is his love and joy for having found him again. And then he also goes to call his older son, who is angry and does not want to celebrate, and yet the father bends over him and invites him to come in, he tries to open his heart to love, so that no one remains excluded from the celebration of mercy. Mercy is a celebration!

Said also of this merciful God is that He is “slow to anger,” literally, “in the long term,” that is wide-ranging in long suffering and the capacity to endure.  God is able to wait, and His times are not the impatient ones of men. He is like the wise farmer that is able to wait, gives time to the good seed to grow, despite the darnel (cf. Matthew 13:24-30).

And, finally, the Lord proclaims Himself “abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness." How lovely is this description of God! Everything is here, because God is great and powerful, but His greatness and power are displayed in loving us, we who are so little, so incapable. The word “love” used here indicates affection, grace and goodness. It is not the love of soap operas ... It is love that takes the first step, which does not depend on human merits but is of immense gratuitousness. It is the divine solicitude that nothing can stop, not even sin, because it is able to go beyond sin, to overcome evil and forgive it.

A “faithfulness” without limits: here is the last word of God’s revelation to Moses. God’s faithfulness never fails. Because the Lord is the Guardian that, as the Psalm says, does not fall asleep but watches constantly over us to lead us to life:

“He will not allow your foot to slip;

or your guardian to sleep.

Behold, the guardian of Israel

never slumbers nor sleeps.

The LORD will guard you from all evil;

he will guard your soul.

The LORD will guard your coming and going

both now and forever.” (121:3-4.7-8).

And this merciful God is faithful in His mercy and Saint Paul says a lovely thing: if you are not faithful to Him, He will remain faithful because he cannot deny Himself. Faithfulness in mercy is proper to God’s being. And therefore God is totally and always trustworthy -- a solid and stable presence. This is the certainty of our faith. And then, in this Jubilee of Mercy, we entrust ourselves totally to Him, and experience the joy of being loved by this “God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”

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

Below is the English-speaking summary of today's General Audience:

***

Dear Brothers and Sisters:  In this Jubilee Year, our weekly catechesis will explore the mystery of divine mercy.  In the Book of Exodus, God defines himself as the God of mercy.  In words which echo throughout the Old Testament, he tells Moses that he is “the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ex 34:6).  The Hebrew word for mercy evokes the tender and visceral love of a mother for her child.  The God of mercy is also gracious, ever ready to understand and forgive.  He is slow to anger, prepared to wait patiently, like a wise farmer, for the seeds of repentance to grow in our hearts.  Likewise, he abounds in steadfast love and faithfulness.  God’s love, freely given, precedes any merit on our part; his faithfulness, like that of the father in the parable of the prodigal son, has no limits.  He waits for us, ever ready to forgive our sins and to welcome us back to a right relationship with him.  In this Year of Mercy, may we turn to God with all our heart, trusting in his mercy and grace, his infinite faithfulness and love.

I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, including the pilgrimage groups from Ireland, Finland and the United States of America.  With prayerful good wishes that the the Church’s celebration of the Jubilee of Mercy will be a moment of grace and spiritual renewal for all, I invoke upon you and your families an abundance of joy and peace in the Lord.  God bless you all!

----------------------------- 

Pope Francis’ Angelus address today, January 17, at noon in St. Peter’s Square:

***

Dear brothers and sisters, Good morning!

This Sunday’s Gospel presents the miraculous event which took place in Cana, a village in Galilee, during a wedding party in which also Mary, Jesus, and His first disciples were present (cf. Jn 2,1-11). The mother, Mary, makes her Son notice that the wine ran out, and Jesus, after having said to her that His hour has not yet come, however, grants her request and gives the spouses the best wine of the entire celebration. The Evangelist notes that, “Jesus did this as the beginning of His signs at Cana in Galilee and so revealed His glory, and His disciples began to believe in Him”(v. 11).

Miracles, then, are extraordinary signs that accompany the preaching of the Good News, and are intended to arouse or strengthen the faith in Jesus. In the miracle at Cana, we can see an act of kindness on the part of Jesus to the newlyweds, a sign of God’s blessing on the marriage. The love between man and woman is therefore a good way to live the Gospel, that is, to go on with joy on the path of holiness.

But the miracle of Cana is not just about the bride and groom. Every human person is called to meet the Lord as the Bridegroom of his life. The Christian faith is a gift we receive in Baptism, which allows us to meet God. The faith [undergoes] times of joy and sorrow, light and darkness, as in any authentic experience of love. The story of the wedding at Cana invites us to rediscover that Jesus does not come to us as a judge ready to condemn our sins, nor as a commander that requires us to blindly follow His orders; He appears as the Savior of humanity, as brother, as our big brother, Son of the Father: as the One who responds to the expectations and promises of joy that dwell in the heart of each of us.

Therefore, we can ask ourselves: Do I really know the Lord like this? Do I feel Him next to me, in my life? Am I responding on the wavelength of that spousal love that He shows to all, to each human being? It is in realizing that Jesus searches us and invites us to make room for Him deep in our heart. And in this journey of faith, with Him, we are not left alone: ​​we have received the gift of the Blood of Christ. The large stone jars that Jesus filled with water to transform it into wine (v. 7) are a sign of the passage from the Old to the New Covenant: instead of water used for the purification ritual, we received the Blood of Jesus, poured in a sacramental way in the Eucharist and in a bloody way in the Passion and the Cross. The Sacraments, which flow from the Paschal Mystery, instill in us supernatural strength and allow us to enjoy the infinite mercy of God.

May the Virgin Mary, model of meditation on the words and gestures of the Lord, help us to rediscover faith with the beauty and richness of the Eucharist and the other sacraments, which makes present ever more the faithful love of God for us. So let us fall more and more in love with the Lord Jesus, our Spouse, and meet Him with lamps lit up with our joyous faith, and become ever more His witnesses in the world.

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

January 22, 2016: Pope Francis’ address to the tribunal of the Roman Rota this morning in the Vatican:

* * *

Dear Brothers,

I give you my cordial welcome and thank the Dean for the words with which he introduced our meeting.

The ministry of the Apostolic Tribunal of the Roman Rota has always been to help the Successor of Peter, so that the Church, inseparably connected with the family, will continue to proclaim the plan of God the Creator and Redeemer on the sacredness and beauty of the family institute — a mission that is always timely, but which acquires particular importance in our time.

In addition to the definition of the Roman Rota as Tribunal of the family,[1] I would like to highlight another prerogative, namely, that it is the Tribunal of the truth of the sacred bond. And these two aspects are complementary.

The Church, in fact, can show the indefectible merciful love of God to families, in particular those wounded by sin and by the trials of life and, at the same time, proclaim the inalienable truth of marriage according to God’s plan. This service is entrusted primarily to the Pope and to the Bishops.

In the Synodal sessions on the subject of the family, which the Lord granted us to carry out in the last two years, we were able to acquire, in a spirit and style of effective collegiality, a profound and wise discernment, thanks to which the Church has — among other things — indicated to the world that there cannot be confusion between the family willed by God and all other types of union.

With this same spiritual and pastoral attitude, your activity — be it in judging be it in contributing to permanent formation –, assists and promotes the opus veritatis. When the Church, through your service, decides to declare the truth about marriage in a concrete case, for the good of the faithful, she has present at the same time those who by free choice and unhappy circumstances of life,[2] live in an objective state of error, <but> continue to be the object of the merciful love of Christ and therefore of the Church herself.

The family, founded on indissoluble, unitive and procreative marriage, belongs to God’s ”dream” and that of His Church for the salvation of humanity.[3]

As Blessed Paul VI affirmed, the Church has always addressed ”a particular look, full of solicitude and love, to the family and its problems. Through the means of marriage and the family, God has wisely united two of the greatest human realities: the mission to transmit life and the mutual and legitimate love of man and woman, by which they are called to complete one another in a mutual donation which is not only physical but above all spiritual. Or to say it better: God willed to render spouses participants of His love: of the personal love that He has for each one of them and by which He calls them to help one another and to give themselves to each other to reach the fullness of their personal life; and of the love that He brings to humanity and to all His children, by which He desires to multiply the children of men to render them participants of His Life and His eternal felicity.”[4]

The family and the Church, concur on different planes, to support the human being to the end of his existence. And they do so, certainly, with the teachings they transmit, but also with their nature itself as community of love and life. In fact, if one can well say that the family is the “domestic Church,” applied to the Church rightly is the title “family of God.” Therefore, “the family spirit” is a constitutional charter for the Church: Christianity must appear so and be so. It is written in clear letters: “you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19). “The Church is and must be the family of God.”[5]

It is precisely because she is Mother and Teacher that the Church knows that, among Christians, some have a strong faith, formed by charity and reinforced by good catechesis and nourished by prayer and the sacramental life, while others have a weak faith, neglected, not formed, little educated or forgotten.

It is good to state clearly that the quality of the faith is not an essential condition for marital consensus, which, according to the everlasting doctrine, can be undermined only at the natural level (Cf. CIC, can. 1055, paragraphs 1 and 2). In fact, the habitus fidei is infused at the moment of Baptism and continues to have a mysterious influence on the soul, even when the faith has not been developed and, psychologically, seems to be absent. It is not rare that the parties contracting marriage, driven to true marriage by the instinctus naturae, have, at the moment of the celebration, a limited awareness of the fullness of God’s plan, and only later, in family life, they discover all that God the Creator and Redeemer has established for them. The lack of formation in the faith and also the error about unity, indissolubility and the sacramental dignity of marriage vitiate the marital consensus only if they determine the will (Cf. CIC, can 1099). Precisely because of this, errors that regard the sacredness of marriage must be assessed very carefully. Therefore, with a renewed sense of responsibility, the Church continues to propose marriage in its essential elements – offspring, the good of the spouses, unity, indissolubility, sacredness[6] –, not as an ideal for a few, despite modern models centered on the ephemeral and the transitory, but as a reality that, with the grace of Christ, can be lived by all the baptized faithful. And therefore, there is greater reason for the pastoral urgency, which involves all the structures of the Church, drives to converge towards a common attempt ordered to appropriate preparation for marriage, in a sort of new catechumenate — I stress this: in a sort of new catechumenate — so desired by some Synodal Fathers.[7]

Dear Brothers, the time we are living is very demanding, be it for the families, be it for us Pastors who are called to support them. With this awareness, I wish you good work for the New Year that the Lord gives us. I assure you of my prayer and I also count on yours. May Our Lady and Saint Joseph obtain for the Church to grow in the spirit of the family and to families to feel increasingly a living and active part of the People of God. Thank you.

[Original text: Italian]

[1] Pius XII, Allocution to the Roman Rota on October 1, 1940: L’Osservatore Romano, October 2, 1940, p. 1.

[2] “Perhaps all this scourge has an extremely generic name, but in this case tragically true, and it is egoism. If egoism governs the realm of human love, which is in fact the family, it dishonors, languishes, and dissolves it. The art of loving is not as easy as commonly believed. Instinct is not enough to teach it, and passion even less so, nor pleasure” (G.B. Montini, Pastoral Letter to the Ambrosian Dioceses at the Beginning of Lent of 1960).

[3] Cf. Pius XI, Encyclical Letter Casti Connubi, December 31, 1939: AAS 22 (1930), 541.

[4] Paul VI, Address to the Participants in the 13th National Congress of the Italian Women’s Center, February 12, 1966: AAS 58 (1966), 219. In his Letter to Families, Saint John Paul II affirmed that the family is the way of the Church: “the first and the most important” (Gratissiman Sane, February 2, 1994, 2: AAS 86 [1994], 868).

[5] Catechesis in the General Audience of October 7, 2015.

[6] Cf. Augustinus, De Bono Coniugali, 24, 32: De Genesi ad Litteram, 9, 7, 12.

[7] “This preparation for marriage, we think, will be made easy, if the formation of a family is presented to youth, and if it includes those that intend to found their own family as a vocation, as a mission, as a great duty, which gives life a very lofty purpose, and fills it with its gifts and virtues. This presentation does not deform or exaggerate the reality” (G.B. Montini, Pastoral Letter to the Ambrosian Archdiocese, cit.).

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

January 22, 2016

Pope Francis’ message for the 50th World Day of Social Communications released this morning, entitled  ‘Communication and Mercy: A Fruitful Encounter:’

***

Communication and Mercy: A Fruitful Encounter

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Holy Year of Mercy invites all of us to reflect on the relationship between communication and mercy. The Church, in union with Christ, the living incarnation of the Father of Mercies, is called to practise mercy as the distinctive trait of all that she is and does. What we say and how we say it, our every word and gesture, ought to express God’s compassion, tenderness and forgiveness for all. Love, by its nature, is communication; it leads to openness and sharing. If our hearts and actions are inspired by charity, by divine love, then our communication will be touched by God’s own power.

As sons and daughters of God, we are called to communicate with everyone, without exception. In a particular way, the Church’s words and actions are all meant to convey mercy, to touch people’s hearts and to sustain them on their journey to that fullness of life which Jesus Christ was sent by the Father to bring to all. This means that we ourselves must be willing to accept the warmth of Mother Church and to share that warmth with others, so that Jesus may be known and loved. That warmth is what gives substance to the word of faith; by our preaching and witness, it ignites the “spark” which gives them life.

Communication has the power to build bridges, to enable encounter and inclusion, and thus to enrich society. How beautiful it is when people select their words and actions with care, in the effort to avoid misunderstandings, to heal wounded memories and to build peace and harmony. Words can build bridges between individuals and within families, social groups and peoples. This is possible both in the material world and the digital world. Our words and actions should be such as to help us all escape the vicious circles of condemnation and vengeance which continue to ensnare individuals and nations, encouraging expressions of hatred. The words of Christians ought to be a constant encouragement to communion and, even in those cases where they must firmly condemn evil, they should never try to rupture relationships and communication.

For this reason, I would like to invite all people of good will to rediscover the power of mercy to heal wounded relationships and to restore peace and harmony to families and communities. All of us know how many ways ancient wounds and lingering resentments can entrap individuals and stand in the way of communication and reconciliation. The same holds true for relationships between peoples. In every case, mercy is able to create a new kind of speech and dialogue. Shakespeare put it eloquently when he said: “The quality of mercy is not strained. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath. It is twice blessed: it blesseth him that gives and him that takes” (The Merchant of Venice, Act IV, Scene I).

Our political and diplomatic language would do well to be inspired by mercy, which never loses hope. I ask those with institutional and political responsibility, and those charged with forming public opinion, to remain especially attentive to the way they speak of those who think or act differently or those who may have made mistakes. It is easy to yield to the temptation to exploit such situations to stoke the flames of mistrust, fear and hatred. Instead, courage is needed to guide people towards processes of reconciliation. It is precisely such positive and creative boldness which offers real solutions to ancient conflicts and the opportunity to build lasting peace. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Mt 5:7-9)

How I wish that our own way of communicating, as well as our service as pastors of the Church, may never suggest a prideful and triumphant superiority over an enemy, or demean those whom the world considers lost and easily discarded. Mercy can help mitigate life’s troubles and offer warmth to those who have known only the coldness of judgment. May our way of communicating help to overcome the mindset that neatly separates sinners from the righteous. We can and we must judge situations of sin – such as violence, corruption and exploitation – but we may not judge individuals, since only God can see into the depths of their hearts. It is our task to admonish those who err and to denounce the evil and injustice of certain ways of acting, for the sake of setting victims free and raising up those who have fallen. The Gospel of John tells us that “the truth will make you free” (Jn 8:32). The truth is ultimately Christ himself, whose gentle mercy is the yardstick for measuring the way we proclaim the truth and condemn injustice. Our primary task is to uphold the truth with love (cf. Eph 4:15). Only words spoken with love and accompanied by meekness and mercy can touch our sinful hearts. Harsh and moralistic words and actions risk further alienating those whom we wish to lead to conversion and freedom, reinforcing their sense of rejection and defensiveness.

Some feel that a vision of society rooted in mercy is hopelessly idealistic or excessively indulgent. But let us try and recall our first experience of relationships, within our families. Our parents loved us and valued us for who we are more than for our abilities and achievements. Parents naturally want the best for their children, but that love is never dependent on their meeting certain conditions. The family home is one place where we are always welcome (cf. Lk 15:11-32). I would like to encourage everyone to see society not as a forum where strangers compete and try to come out on top, but above all as a home or a family, where the door is always open and where everyone feels welcome.

For this to happen, we must first listen. Communicating means sharing, and sharing demands listening and acceptance. Listening is much more than simply hearing. Hearing is about receiving information, while listening is about communication, and calls for closeness. Listening allows us to get things right, and not simply to be passive onlookers, users or consumers. Listening also means being able to share questions and doubts, to journey side by side, to banish all claims to absolute power and to put our abilities and gifts at the service of the common good.

Listening is never easy. Many times it is easier to play deaf. Listening means paying attention, wanting to understand, to value, to respect and to ponder what the other person says. It involves a sort of martyrdom or self-sacrifice, as we try to imitate Moses before the burning bush: we have to remove our sandals when standing on the “holy ground” of our encounter with the one who speaks to me (cf. Ex 3:5). Knowing how to listen is an immense grace, it is a gift which we need to ask for and then make every effort to practice.

Emails, text messages, social networks and chats can also be fully human forms of communication. It is not technology which determines whether or not communication is authentic, but rather the human heart and our capacity to use wisely the means at our disposal. Social networks can facilitate relationships and promote the good of society, but they can also lead to further polarization and division between individuals and groups. The digital world is a public square, a meeting-place where we can either encourage or demean one another, engage in a meaningful discussion or unfair attacks. I pray that this Jubilee Year, lived in mercy, “may open us to even more fervent dialogue so that we might know and understand one another better; and that it may eliminate every form of closed-mindedness and disrespect, and drive out every form of violence and discrimination” (Misericordiae Vultus, 23). The internet can help us to be better citizens. Access to digital networks entails a responsibility for our neighbour whom we do not see but who is nonetheless real and has a dignity which must be respected. The internet can be used wisely to build a society which is healthy and open to sharing.

Communication, wherever and however it takes place, has opened up broader horizons for many people. This is a gift of God which involves a great responsibility. I like to refer to this power of communication as “closeness”. The encounter between communication and mercy will be fruitful to the degree that it generates a closeness which cares, comforts, heals, accompanies and celebrates. In a broken, fragmented and polarized world, to communicate with mercy means to help create a healthy, free and fraternal closeness between the children of God and all our brothers and sisters in the one human family.

From the Vatican, 24 January 2016

FRANCISCUS

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

January 24, 2016   Pope Francis’ Angelus address today  at noon in St. Peter’s Square:

***

Dear brothers and sisters, good day!

In the Gospel of today, Luke the evangelist, before presenting the programmatic discourse of Jesus at Nazareth, briefly summarizes the work of evangelization. It is a work that He accomplishes with the power of the Holy Spirit: His word is original, because it reveals the sense of the Scripture; it is an authoritative word, because He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey (cf. Mk 1:27). Jesus is different from the teachers of His time. For example, Jesus didn’t open a school for the study of the Law, but went about everywhere to preach and teach: in the synagogues, in the streets, in the houses. Jesus also differs from John the Baptist, who proclaims the imminent judgement of God, while Jesus proclaims the forgiveness of God.

And now we enter, we imagine, into the synagogue of Nazareth, the village where Jesus lived until He was about thirty years old. What happened there is an important event, which delineates the mission of Jesus. He stood up to read the Holy Scripture. He opens the scroll of the prophet Isaiah and takes the passage where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor.” Then, after a moment of silence full of expectation on the part of everyone, He says, to general amazement: “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”

To evangelize the poor: This is the mission of Jesus, according to what He Himself says; this is also the mission of the Church, and of every person baptized in the Church. To be Christian and to be a missionary is the same thing. To proclaim the Gospel, with words, and, even before that, with one’s life, is the principle end of the Christian community and of each of its members.

It is known that Jesus addresses the Good News to everyone, without excluding anyone; and yet, He privileges those who are furthest away, the suffering, the sick, those discarded by society.

But let us ask ourselves a question. What does it mean to evangelize the poor? It means above all being close to them, having the joy of serving them, freeing them from oppression, and all this in the name of and with the Spirit of Christ, because He is the Gospel of God, He is the Mercy of God, He is the liberation of God. It is He Who was made poor in order to enrich us with His poverty. The text of Isaiah, reinforced by some small adaptations introduced by Jesus, indicates that the messianic proclamation of the Kingdom of God that has come amongst us is addressed in a preferential way to the marginalized, to prisoners, to the oppressed.

Probably in the time of Jesus these people were not at the centre of the community of faith. And we can ask ourselves: today, in our parish communities, in the associations, in the movements, are we faithful to the program of Christ? Is the evangelization of the poor, bringing to them the good news, the priority? Be attentive: this isn’t about giving social assistance, much less about political activity. It has to do with the strength of the Gospel of God, Who converts hearts, heals the wounded, transforms human and social relationships according to the logic of love. The poor, in fact, are at the center of the Gospel.

May the Virgin Mary, Mother of evangelizers, help us to feel strongly the hunger and thirst for the Gospel that exists in the world, especially in the heart and the flesh of the poor – and obtain for each and every one of us, the whole Christian community, to bear concrete witness to the mercy that Christ has given to us.

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

Angelus  January 31, 2016    The address Pope Francis gave today before and after praying the midday Angelus in St. Peter’s Square:

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

The account of today’s Gospel brings us again, like last Sunday, to the synagogue of Nazareth, the town in Galilee where Jesus grew up as part of a family and where everyone knew him. He has returned for the first time after having gone out to begin his public life shortly before this, and he presents himself to the community, which is gathered together in the synagogue on the Sabbath.

He reads that passage from the Prophet Isaiah that speaks of the future Messiah, and at the end he declares, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk 4:21).

His fellow townspeople, at first surprised and admiring, afterward begin to question and to gossip among themselves and to say, why does this man who claims to be the Consecrated of the Lord not repeat here the works and miracles that he did in Capernaum and the other nearby towns? And Jesus then declares, “no prophet is accepted in his own native place” (v 24) and recalls the great prophets of the past, Elijah and Elisha, who worked miracles for the pagans in order to denounce the lack of faith of their people.

At this point, those present feel offended, they rise in indignation, drive Jesus out of the town and want to thrown him over a precipice. But Jesus, with the strength of his peace, “passed through the midst of them and went away” (v 30). His hour had not yet come.

This account of the Evangelist Luke is not simply the story of a fight within a community, like can sometimes happen in our neighborhoods, caused by envy and jealousies. Rather it brings to light a temptation that a religious person is always vulnerable to — all of us are vulnerable to it — and which we must decidedly avoid. What is this temptation? It is the temptation to think of religion as a human investment and consequently, to begin to “negotiate” with God, seeking our own interests. Instead, the true religion is about receiving the revelation of a God who is Father and who is concerned with each one of his creatures, also with the smallest and most significant in the eyes of man.

This is precisely what Jesus’ prophetic ministry consists of: announcing that no human condition can be a motive for exclusion — no human condition can be a motive for exclusion — from the heart of the Father, and that the only privilege in the eyes of God is that of not having privileges. The only privilege in the eyes of God is that of not having privileges, of not having protectors, of abandoning oneself in his hands.

“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). The “today” proclaimed by Christ that day applies to every day; it resounds as well for us in this Square, reminding us of the present-day importance and necessity of the salvation brought by Jesus to humanity. God goes out to meet the men and women of all times and places in the concrete situations in which they find themselves. He also comes out to meet us. He is always the one who takes the first step. He comes to visit us with his mercy, to lift us from the dust of our sin. He comes to reach out his hand to lift us from the abyss in which we’ve fallen with our pride and he invites us to welcome the consoling truth of the Gospel and to walk along the paths of righteousness. He always comes to find us, to seek us.

Let’s go back to the synagogue. Certainly that day in the Nazareth synagogue, Mary, the Mother, was also there. We can imagine her heart pounding, a small anticipation of that which she would suffer beneath the Cross, seeing Jesus, there in the synagogue, first admired and then challenged, then insulted and later threatened with death. In her faith-filled heart, she guarded each thing. May she help us to turn from a god of miracles to the miracle of God, which is Jesus Christ.

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

January 25, 2016  

At 5:30 pm today, Pope Francis presided over the celebration of the Second Vespers of the Solemnity of the Conversion of Saint Paul the Apostle, in the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside-the-Walls, at the conclusion of the 49th Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, on the theme: “Called to Declare the Wonderful Deeds of God” (Cf. 1 Peter 2:9).

Taking part in the celebration were representatives of the other Churches and Ecclesial Communities in Rome.

At the end of Vespers, and before the Apostolic Blessing, Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, addressed a greeting to the Holy Father.

Here is a translation of the text of Pope Francis’ homily:

* * *

“I am the least of the Apostles, because I persecuted the Church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:9-10). Thus the Apostle Paul summarizes the meaning of his conversion. It — which happened after his dazzling encounter with the Risen Jesus (Cf. 1 Corinthians 9:1) on the road from Jerusalem to Damascus — was not first of all a moral change, but a transforming experience of the grace of Christ and, at the same time, a call to a new mission, that of proclaiming to all that Jesus which he first persecuted, persecuting His disciples. At that moment, in fact, Paul understood that there is a real and transcendent union between the living Christ in eternity and His followers: Jesus lives and is present in them and they live in Him. The vocation to be an Apostle was not founded on the human merits of Paul, who considered himself “least” and “unworthy,” but on the infinite goodness of God, who chose him and entrusted the ministry to him.

A similar understanding of what happened on the road to Damascus is also testified by Saint Paul in the First Letter to Timothy: “I thank Him who has given me strength for this, Christ Jesus our Lord, because He judged me faithful by appointing me to this service, though I formerly blasphemed and persecuted and insulted Him; but I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” (1:12-14). God’s superabundant mercy is the only reason on which Paul’s ministry is founded and it is, at the same time, what the Apostle must proclaim to all.

Saint Paul’s experience is similar to that of the communities to which the Apostle Paul addressed his First Letter. Saint Peter addressed members of small and fragile communities, exposed to the threat of persecutions, and he applied to them the glorious titles attributed to the holy People of God: “you are a chosen race, a royal people, a holy nation, God’s own People” (1 Peter 2:9). For those first Christians, as it is today for us, baptized, it is a reason of comfort and of constant astonishment to know that we have been chosen to be part of God’s plan of salvation, carried out in Jesus Christ and in the Church. “Why, Lord, me precisely?” “Why us precisely?” We draw here the mystery of God’s mercy and choice: the Father loves all and wants to save all, and, therefore, He calls some, “overcoming” them with His grace, so that through them His love can reach all. The mission of the whole People of God is to proclaim the wonderful works of the Lord, first among all the Paschal Mystery of Christ, through which we passed from the darkness of sin and death to the splendor of His new and eternal life (Cf. 1 Peter 2:10).

In the light of the Word of God that we heard, and which has guided us during this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, we can truly say that all of us, believers in Christ, are “called to declare the wonderful deeds of God” (Cf. 1 Peter 2:9). Beyond the differences that still separate us, we acknowledge with joy that at the origin of Christian life there is always a call whose author is God Himself. We can progress on the path of full visible communion between Christians not only when we approach one another, but above all in the measure in which we are converted to the Lord, who by His grace chooses and calls us to be His disciples. And to be converted means to let the Lord live and operate in us. Therefore, when Christians of different Churches listen to the Word of God together and seek to put it into practice, they truly take important steps towards unity. And it is not only the call that unites us; the mission itself also brings us together: to declare to all the wonderful deeds of God. Like Saint Paul, and like the faithful to whom Saint Peter writes, we too cannot but proclaim the merciful love that has conquered and transformed us. While we are on the way to full communion between us, we can now develop many forms of collaboration to foster the spread of the Gospel. And by walking and working together, we realize that we are already united in the Lord’s name. In this Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, we have very present that there cannot be a genuine quest for Christian unity without entrusting ourselves fully to the Father’s mercy. Let us ask first of all for forgiveness for the sin of our divisions, which are an open wound in the Body of Christ. As Bishop of Rome and Pastor of the Catholic Church, I want to invoke mercy and forgiveness for the non-evangelical behaviours of Catholics in their relations with Christians of other Churches. At the same time, I invite all Catholic brothers and sisters to forgive if, today or in the past, they suffered offenses by other Christians. We cannot cancel what was, but we do not want  the weight of the faults of the past to continue to pollute our relations. God’s mercy will renew our relations.

In this atmosphere of intense prayer, I greet fraternally His Eminence the Metropolitan Gennadios, representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate; His Grace David Moxon, personal representative in Rome of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and all the representatives of the different Churches and Ecclesial Communities of Rome, gathered here this evening. With them we crossed the Holy Door of this Basilica, to remember that the only door that leads to salvation is Jesus Christ our Lord, the merciful face of the Father.

I express a cordial greeting also to the Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox young people studying here in Rome with the support of the Committee of Cultural Collaboration with the Orthodox Churches, which works with the Council for Promoting Christian Unity, as well as the students of the Bossey Ecumencial Institute, on a visit here in Rome to deepen their knowledge of the Catholic Church.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us unite ourselves to the prayer that Jesus Christ addressed to the Father: “that they may all be one […] so that the world may believe” (John 17:21). Unity is a gift of the mercy of God. Here before the tomb of Saint Paul, Apostle and martyr, cherished in this splendid Basilica, we feel that our humble request is supported by the intercession of the multitude of Christian martyrs of yesterday and of today. They responded with generosity to the Lord’s call, they gave faithful witness with their life of the wonderful deeds that God has done for us, and they now experience full communion in the presence of God the Father. Supported by their example and comforted by their intercession, we address our humble prayer to God.

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

January 25, 2016    Today, Pope Francis received in audience the community of the Pontifical Lombard Seminary in Rome. Here is a translation of his address:

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I greet you affectionately and I thank Cardinal Scola for his courteous words. I am happy to meet with you on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of this institution: so, you also celebrate in the Holy Year of Mercy a Jubilee of Thanksgiving to God, rock on which life is founded, because “His faithfulness endures for ever” (Cf. Psalm 117:2). Do not forget this: God is faithful.

Blessed Paul VI blessed the Lombard Seminary on November 11, 1965, so that this house would be inhabited at the end of Vatican Council II, in which the Fathers perceived strongly that, “the walls having been pulled down, which for too much time had shut the Church in a privileged citadel, the time had arrived to proclaim the Gospel in a new way” (Misericordiae Vultus, 4). Thus, in the “Roman years,” which are not only of study, but of true and proper priestly formation, you also are preparing yourselves to follow the impulse of the Spirit, to be the “future of the Church” according to God’s heart; not according to the preferences of each one or the fashions of the moment, but as the proclamation of the Gospel requires. To prepare oneself well one must work in depth, but above all one must undergo an interior conversion, which daily roots the ministry in Jesus’ first call, and revives it in a personal relation with Him, as the Apostle Paul did, whose conversion, in fact, we recall today.

In this connection, I would like to draw your attention to a model you already know well: Saint Charles Borromeo. Father de Certeau has presented his life as a constant “movement of conversion,” tending to reflect the image of the Pastor: “He identified himself with this image, nourished it with his life, knowing that the discourse passes in reality through the price of blood: sanguinis ministri, were the true priests for him. Therefore, he realized the image by losing himself. He put all his ‘passion’ into reproducing it” (Dizionario biografico degli italiani, XX, 1977, p. 263). Thus, holy Pastors, such as Borromeo, carried out the great work of the time, which culminated in the holding of the Council of Trent. Dear friends, you are heirs and witnesses of a great history of sanctity, which sinks its roots in your patrons, the Bishops Ambrose and Charles, and in most recent times has had among its pupils, three Blesseds and three Servants of God. This is the goal to which you should strive!

However, a temptation appears on the way that must be rejected: that of “normality,” of a Pastor for whom a “normal” life is enough. Thus this priest begins to be contented with some attention received, he judges the ministry on the basis of his successes and he abandons himself to research of what pleases him, becoming tepid and without a real interest in others. Instead, for us “normality” is pastoral holiness, the gift of life. If a priest chooses to be only a normal person, he will be a mediocre priest or worse.

Saint Charles wanted Pastors that were servants of God and fathers of the people, especially of the poor. But — it always does us good to remember this – he can only proclaim the words of life who makes of his own life a constant dialogue with the Word of God, or, better, with God who speaks to us. Entrusted to you during these years is the mission to train yourselves in this dialogue of life: knowledge of the various disciplines that you study is not an end in itself, but is concretized in the colloquy of prayer and in a real encounter with persons. It does no good to be formed “in watertight compartments”; prayer, education and pastoral care are bearer stones of one building: they must always be solidly united to support one another, well cemented between them, so that the priests of today and tomorrow are spiritual men and merciful pastors, interiorly unified by the love of the Lord and able to spread the joy of the Gospel in the simplicity of life. In fact, evangelization, today, seems called to follow again the way of simplicity. Simplicity of life, which avoids every form of duplicity and worldliness, to which genuine communion with the Lord and with brothers suffices; simplicity of language: not preachers of complex doctrines, but heralds of Christ, dead and risen for us.

Another essential aspect that I would like to stress, to be a good priest, is the necessity of contact and closeness with the Bishop. The characteristic of the diocesan priest is in fact <the diocese itself>, and the <diocesan itself> is his corner stone in his frequent relation with the Bishop, in dialogue and discernment with him. A priest who does not have an assiduous relation with his Bishop isolates himself slowly from the diocesan body and his fruitfulness diminishes, precisely because he does not engage in dialogue with the Father of the Diocese.

Finally, I would like to tell you that I rejoice not only because of your profitable commitment in your studies, but also because of the international dimension of your community: you come from various regions of Italy, of Africa, of Latin America, of Asia and of other European countries. I hope you will cultivate the beauty of friendship and the art of establishing relations, to create a priestly fraternity that is stronger than the particular differences. Thus you will always render this house welcoming and enriching! Henceforth, when I go to the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, I will think of this meeting and I will remember you before the Virgin Mother. But you also, I recommend, do the same for me! Thank you.

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

Pope’s Message for Lent 2016

“I desire mercy, and not sacrifice”: The works of mercy on the Jubilee path

Following is the full text of the Pope’s Message: 

“I desire mercy, and not sacrifice” (Mt 9:13).

The works of mercy on the road of the Jubilee 

1. Mary, the image of a Church which evangelizes because she is evangelized

In the Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, I asked that “the season of Lent in this Jubilee Year be lived more intensely as a privileged moment to celebrate and experience God’s mercy” ( Misericordiae Vultus , 17). By calling for an attentive listening to the word of God and encouraging the initiative “24 Hours for the Lord”, I sought to stress the primacy of prayerful listening to God’s word, especially his prophetic word. The mercy of God is a proclamation made to the world, a proclamation which each Christian is called to experience at first hand. For this reason, during the season of Lent I will send out Missionaries of Mercy as a concrete sign to everyone of God’s closeness and forgiveness.
After receiving the Good News told to her by the Archangel Gabriel, Mary, in her Magnificat , prophetically sings of the mercy whereby God chose her. The Virgin of Nazareth, betrothed to Joseph, thus becomes the perfect icon of the Church which evangelizes, for she was, and continues to be, evangelized by the Holy Spirit, who made her virginal womb fruitful. In the prophetic tradition, mercy is strictly related – even on the etymological level – to the maternal womb ( rahamim ) and to a generous, faithful and compassionate goodness ( hesed ) shown within marriage and family relationships. 

2. God’s covenant with humanity: a history of mercy

The mystery of divine mercy is revealed in the history of the covenant between God and his people Israel. God shows himself ever rich in mercy, ever ready to treat his people with deep tenderness and compassion, especially at those tragic moments when infidelity ruptures the bond of the covenant, which then needs to be ratified more firmly in justice and truth. Here is a true love story, in which God plays the role of the betrayed father and husband, while Israel plays the unfaithful child and bride. These domestic images – as in the case of Hosea (cf. Hos 1-2) – show to what extent God wishes to bind himself to his people.
This love story culminates in the incarnation of God’s Son. In Christ, the Father pours forth his boundless mercy even to making him “mercy incarnate” ( Misericordiae Vultus , 8). As a man, Jesus of Nazareth is a true son of Israel; he embodies that perfect hearing required of every Jew by the Shema , which today too is the heart of God’s covenant with Israel: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might” ( Dt 6:4-5). As the Son of God, he is the Bridegroom who does everything to win over the love of his bride, to whom he is bound by an unconditional love which becomes visible in the eternal wedding feast.

This is the very heart of the apostolic kerygma , in which divine mercy holds a central and fundamental place. It is “the beauty of the saving love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ who died and rose from the dead” ( Evangelii Gaudium , 36), that first proclamation which “we must hear again and again in different ways, the one which we must announce one way or another throughout the process of catechesis, at every level and moment” ( ibid ., 164). Mercy “expresses God’s way of reaching out to the sinner, offering him a new chance to look at himself, convert, and believe” ( Misericordiae Vultus , 21), thus restoring his relationship with him. In Jesus crucified, God shows his desire to draw near to sinners, however far they may have strayed from him. In this way he hopes to soften the hardened heart of his Bride. 

3. The works of mercy

God’s mercy transforms human hearts; it enables us, through the experience of a faithful love, to become merciful in turn. In an ever new miracle, divine mercy shines forth in our lives, inspiring each of us to love our neighbour and to devote ourselves to what the Church’s tradition calls the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. These works remind us that faith finds expression in concrete everyday actions meant to help our neighbours in body and spirit: by feeding, visiting, comforting and instructing them. On such things will we be judged. For this reason, I expressed my hope that “the Christian people may reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy; this will be a way to reawaken our conscience, too often grown dull in the face of poverty, and to enter more deeply into the heart of the Gospel where the poor have a special experience of God’s mercy” ( ibid. , 15). For in the poor, the flesh of Christ “becomes visible in the flesh of the tortured, the crushed, the scourged, the malnourished, and the exiled… to be acknowledged, touched, and cared for by us” ( ibid. ). It is the unprecedented and scandalous mystery of the extension in time of the suffering of the Innocent Lamb, the burning bush of gratuitous love. Before this love, we can, like Moses, take off our sandals (cf. Ex 3:5), especially when the poor are our brothers or sisters in Christ who are suffering for their faith.

In the light of this love, which is strong as death (cf. Song 8:6), the real poor are revealed as those who refuse to see themselves as such. They consider themselves rich, but they are actually the poorest of the poor. This is because they are slaves to sin, which leads them to use wealth and power not for the service of God and others, but to stifle within their hearts the profound sense that they too are only poor beggars. The greater their power and wealth, the more this blindness and deception can grow. It can even reach the point of being blind to Lazarus begging at their doorstep (cf. Lk 16:20-21). Lazarus, the poor man, is a figure of Christ, who through the poor pleads for our conversion. As such, he represents the possibility of conversion which God offers us and which we may well fail to see. Such blindness is often accompanied by the proud illusion of our own omnipotence, which reflects in a sinister way the diabolical “you will be like God” ( Gen 3:5) which is the root of all sin. This illusion can likewise take social and political forms, as shown by the totalitarian systems of the twentieth century, and, in our own day, by the ideologies of monopolizing thought and technoscience, which would make God irrelevant and reduce man to raw material to be exploited. This illusion can also be seen in the sinful structures linked to a model of false development based on the idolatry of money, which leads to lack of concern for the fate of the poor on the part of wealthier individuals and societies; they close their doors, refusing even to see the poor.

For all of us, then, the season of Lent in this Jubilee Year is a favourable time to overcome our existential alienation by listening to God’s word and by practising the works of mercy. In the corporal works of mercy we touch the flesh of Christ in our brothers and sisters who need to be fed, clothed, sheltered, visited; in the spiritual works of mercy – counsel, instruction, forgiveness, admonishment and prayer – we touch more directly our own sinfulness. The corporal and spiritual works of mercy must never be separated. By touching the flesh of the crucified Jesus in the suffering, sinners can receive the gift of realizing that they too are poor and in need. By taking this path, the “proud”, the “powerful” and the “wealthy” spoken of in the Magnificat can also be embraced and undeservedly loved by the crucified Lord who died and rose for them. This love alone is the answer to that yearning for infinite happiness and love that we think we can satisfy with the idols of knowledge, power and riches. Yet the danger always remains that by a constant refusal to open the doors of their hearts to Christ who knocks on them in the poor, the proud, rich and powerful will end up condemning themselves and plunging into the eternal abyss of solitude which is Hell. The pointed words of Abraham apply to them and to all of us: “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them” ( Lk 16:29). Such attentive listening will best prepare us to celebrate the final victory over sin and death of the Bridegroom, now risen, who desires to purify his Betrothed in expectation of his coming.

Let us not waste this season of Lent, so favourable a time for conversion! We ask this through the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary, who, encountering the greatness of God’s mercy freely bestowed upon her, was the first to acknowledge her lowliness (cf. Lk 1:48) and to call herself the Lord’s humble servant (cf. Lk 1:38).

From the Vatican, 4 October 2015
Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi

FRANCISCUS

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

Pope’s Homily at Vespers to Conclude Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

January 25, 2016

At 5:30 pm today, Pope Francis presided over the celebration of the Second Vespers of the Solemnity of the Conversion of Saint Paul the Apostle, in the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside-the-Walls, at the conclusion of the 49th Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, on the theme: “Called to Declare the Wonderful Deeds of God” (Cf. 1 Peter 2:9).

Taking part in the celebration were representatives of the other Churches and Ecclesial Communities in Rome.

At the end of Vespers, and before the Apostolic Blessing, Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, addressed a greeting to the Holy Father.

Here is a translation of the text of Pope Francis’ homily:

* * *

“I am the least of the Apostles, because I persecuted the Church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:9-10). Thus the Apostle Paul summarizes the meaning of his conversion. It — which happened after his dazzling encounter with the Risen Jesus (Cf. 1 Corinthians 9:1) on the road from Jerusalem to Damascus — was not first of all a moral change, but a transforming experience of the grace of Christ and, at the same time, a call to a new mission, that of proclaiming to all that Jesus which he first persecuted, persecuting His disciples. At that moment, in fact, Paul understood that there is a real and transcendent union between the living Christ in eternity and His followers: Jesus lives and is present in them and they live in Him. The vocation to be an Apostle was not founded on the human merits of Paul, who considered himself “least” and “unworthy,” but on the infinite goodness of God, who chose him and entrusted the ministry to him.

A similar understanding of what happened on the road to Damascus is also testified by Saint Paul in the First Letter to Timothy: “I thank Him who has given me strength for this, Christ Jesus our Lord, because He judged me faithful by appointing me to this service, though I formerly blasphemed and persecuted and insulted Him; but I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” (1:12-14). God’s superabundant mercy is the only reason on which Paul’s ministry is founded and it is, at the same time, what the Apostle must proclaim to all.

Saint Paul’s experience is similar to that of the communities to which the Apostle Paul addressed his First Letter. Saint Peter addressed members of small and fragile communities, exposed to the threat of persecutions, and he applied to them the glorious titles attributed to the holy People of God: “you are a chosen race, a royal people, a holy nation, God’s own People” (1 Peter 2:9). For those first Christians, as it is today for us, baptized, it is a reason of comfort and of constant astonishment to know that we have been chosen to be part of God’s plan of salvation, carried out in Jesus Christ and in the Church. “Why, Lord, me precisely?” “Why us precisely?” We draw here the mystery of God’s mercy and choice: the Father loves all and wants to save all, and, therefore, He calls some, “overcoming” them with His grace, so that through them His love can reach all. The mission of the whole People of God is to proclaim the wonderful works of the Lord, first among all the Paschal Mystery of Christ, through which we passed from the darkness of sin and death to the splendor of His new and eternal life (Cf. 1 Peter 2:10).

In the light of the Word of God that we heard, and which has guided us during this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, we can truly say that all of us, believers in Christ, are “called to declare the wonderful deeds of God” (Cf. 1 Peter 2:9). Beyond the differences that still separate us, we acknowledge with joy that at the origin of Christian life there is always a call whose author is God Himself. We can progress on the path of full visible communion between Christians not only when we approach one another, but above all in the measure in which we are converted to the Lord, who by His grace chooses and calls us to be His disciples. And to be converted means to let the Lord live and operate in us. Therefore, when Christians of different Churches listen to the Word of God together and seek to put it into practice, they truly take important steps towards unity. And it is not only the call that unites us; the mission itself also brings us together: to declare to all the wonderful deeds of God. Like Saint Paul, and like the faithful to whom Saint Peter writes, we too cannot but proclaim the merciful love that has conquered and transformed us. While we are on the way to full communion between us, we can now develop many forms of collaboration to foster the spread of the Gospel. And by walking and working together, we realize that we are already united in the Lord’s name. In this Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, we have very present that there cannot be a genuine quest for Christian unity without entrusting ourselves fully to the Father’s mercy. Let us ask first of all for forgiveness for the sin of our divisions, which are an open wound in the Body of Christ. As Bishop of Rome and Pastor of the Catholic Church, I want to invoke mercy and forgiveness for the non-evangelical behaviours of Catholics in their relations with Christians of other Churches. At the same time, I invite all Catholic brothers and sisters to forgive if, today or in the past, they suffered offenses by other Christians. We cannot cancel what was, but we do not want  the weight of the faults of the past to continue to pollute our relations. God’s mercy will renew our relations.

In this atmosphere of intense prayer, I greet fraternally His Eminence the Metropolitan Gennadios, representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate; His Grace David Moxon, personal representative in Rome of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and all the representatives of the different Churches and Ecclesial Communities of Rome, gathered here this evening. With them we crossed the Holy Door of this Basilica, to remember that the only door that leads to salvation is Jesus Christ our Lord, the merciful face of the Father.

I express a cordial greeting also to the Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox young people studying here in Rome with the support of the Committee of Cultural Collaboration with the Orthodox Churches, which works with the Council for Promoting Christian Unity, as well as the students of the Bossey Ecumencial Institute, on a visit here in Rome to deepen their knowledge of the Catholic Church.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us unite ourselves to the prayer that Jesus Christ addressed to the Father: “that they may all be one […] so that the world may believe” (John 17:21). Unity is a gift of the mercy of God. Here before the tomb of Saint Paul, Apostle and martyr, cherished in this splendid Basilica, we feel that our humble request is supported by the intercession of the multitude of Christian martyrs of yesterday and of today. They responded with generosity to the Lord’s call, they gave faithful witness with their life of the wonderful deeds that God has done for us, and they now experience full communion in the presence of God the Father. Supported by their example and comforted by their intercession, we address our humble prayer to God.

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

January 18, 2016    Here is the address Pope Francis gave today to Functionaries and Agents of the Inspectorate of Public Security at the Vatican, for the exchange of New Year’s greetings.

* * *

Lady Directress,

Gentlemen Functionaries,

Dear Agents of Public Security!

I am happy to meet with you, also this year, to express to you my gratitude for your valuable service to the Apostolic See and to Vatican City. I greet you all cordially, beginning with Dr. Maria Rosa Maiorino, whom I thank for her courteous words. To each one of you, who form part of the Inspectorate of Public Security at the Vatican, I renew the expression of my appreciation for the work you do with professionalism and a sense of duty. And I am also grateful for your presence during the pastoral visits I undertake in Italy. I greet, and thank for their presence, the Prefect, Alessandro Pansa, Head of the Italian Police; the Vice Heads; the Quaestor of Rome, Dr. Nicolo D’Angelo, and the other representatives of the State Police.

Our meeting today is also more significant because it is held in the context of the Holy Year of Mercy, this event of spiritual importance, which has already seen flocking to Rome in these first days, many pilgrims from all over the world. You Directors, Functionaries and Agents of Public Security are also called to a greater commitment so that the celebrations and events connected with the Extraordinary Jubilee unfold in a regular and profitable way. The external order, over which you watch with attentive concern, will not fail to favor the interior order, permeated of serenity and peace.

Christmastide has just ended, but in many places – such as here in Saint Peter’s Square – the Crib is still exhibited, which invites us to keep within ourselves, following the example of Our Lady, the mystery we have celebrated. Mary has offered us Jesus as the beginning of a new life. That Child is the true consoler of hearts, the true light that illuminates our life, overcoming the darkness of sin. In Him we contemplated the merciful face of God the Father, and we received the renewed invitation to be converted to love and to forgiveness. May this spiritual experience accompany us during the whole of the Holy Year. May the Jubilee of Mercy be for all an intense time of the spirit, time of reconciliation with God and with brothers. We are all in need of being reconciled, all of us. We all have some issue with a brother, in the family, with a friend … And this is the time of reconciliation, to make peace. In this perspective, I also wish each one of you to live in the best way possible the forthcoming months, receiving the gifts of grace that this event of salvation offers. I hope you will experience the interior consolation, which the shepherds of Bethlehem experienced.

Dear brothers and sisters, may the Lord protect you in the fulfilment of the task you carry out in collaboration with the other Security Forces. May Mary Most Holy, Mother of Jesus and our Mother, be always at your side. May she obtain the divine blessing on your aspirations and plans, and help you, with her maternal assistance, to walk in the footsteps of her Son Jesus. From my part, I assure of a constant remembrance in prayer. And this is true. When I go out to the Square, when I go out and see you, I pray for you, and I do so from my heart. And I ask you, please, to pray for me, because this isn’t easy work! Pray for me, this is what I ask of you. I wish you and your families a Happy New Year and I bless you from my heart.

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

January 18, 2016   On Saturday, Pope Francis received the Christian Workers Movement in audience. Here is his address:

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

It is a pleasure to receive you and I thank the President for the words he addressed to me. I give a cordial welcome to the Pastors who wished to be present with you, some of whom have come from far away. I greet you all and I thank the two representatives, Maria and Giovanni, for the testimonies they have written.

In her testimony, Maria referred to your vocation, speaking of the “vocation of work.” It is true: work is a vocation, because it is born from a call that God has made to man from the beginning, to “till and keep” our common home (cf. Genesis 2:15). Thus, despite the evil that has corrupted the world and also human activity, “in free, creative, participatory and solidaristic work the human being expresses and enhances the dignity of his life” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 192). How can we respond well to this vocation, which calls us to imitate actively the tireless work of the Father and of Jesus who, says the Gospel, are “working still” (cf. John 5:17)?

I would like to suggest three words to you, which can help you. The first is education. To educate means to “bring out.” It is the capacity to draw the best from one’s heart. It is not only to teach some technique or to impart ideas, but to render ourselves and the reality that surrounds us more human. And this is true in a particular way for work: it is necessary to form a new “humanism of work,” because we live in a time of exploitation of workers; in a time when work is not in fact at the service of the person’s dignity, but it is slave labor. We must form, and educate to a new humanism of work, where man, not profit, is at the center; where the economy serves man and does not use man.

Another aspect is important: to educate helps one not to yield to the deceits of those who want one to believe that work, the daily commitment, the gift of oneself and study have no value. I will add that today — in the world of work but in every environment — it is urgent to educate to follow the luminous and demanding way of honesty, fleeing from the short cuts of favouritisms and recommendations. Underneath this is corruption. These temptations, small or great, are always there, but it is always a question of “moral trades,” unworthy of man: they must be rejected, habituating the heart to remain free. Otherwise they will engender a false and harmful mentality, which must be combated: that of illegality, which leads to the corruption of the person and of the society. Illegality is like a leech that is not seen: it is hidden, submerged, but it grips and poisons with its tentacles, polluting and doing so much harm. To educate is a great vocation: as Saint Joseph trained Jesus in the art of the carpenter, you are also called to help the young generations to discover the beauty of truly human work.

The second word that I would like to say to you is sharing. Work is not only the vocation of the individual person, but it is an opportunity to enter into relation with others: “any form of work presupposes an idea on the relation that the human being can or must establish with someone other than himself” (Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’, 125). Work should unite persons, not separate them, rendering them closed and distant. Taking up so many hours of the day, it also offers us the occasion to share the everyday, to be concerned about the one who is beside us, to receive the presence of others as a gift and a responsibility.

In his written testimony, Giovanni talked about a way of sharing that is carried out in your Movement: the “projects of Civil Service, which enable you to approach new persons and contexts, making your own their problems and hopes. It is important that others are not only recipients of some attention, but of true and proper projects. Everyone makes plans for himself, but to plan for others enables one to take a step forward: it puts the intelligence at the service of love, rendering the person more integral and life happier, because one is capable of giving.

The last word I would like to give you is witness. The Apostle Paul encouraged witnessing the faith also through activity, overcoming sloth and indolence; and he gave a very strong and clear rule: “If any one will not work, let him not eat” (Thessalonians 3:10). At that time there were also those who made others work, so that they could eat. Today, instead, there are persons who would like to work, but cannot, and they have a hard time even to eat. You meet so many young people that do not work: truly, as you said, they are “the new excluded of our time.” Think that in some countries of Europe, of this our Europe, so cultured, youth unemployment reaches 40%, 47% in other countries, and 50% in others. But what does a youth do who does not work? Where does he end up?  — in dependencies, psychological illnesses, suicides. And the statistics on youth suicides are not always published. This is a tragedy: it is the tragedy of the new excluded of our time. And they are deprived of their dignity. Human justice calls for work for all. Divine mercy also interpellates us: in face of persons in difficulty and arduous situations — I am thinking of young people for whom to get married or to have children is a problem because they do not have sufficiently stable employment or a house — preaching is of no use. Instead, one must transmit hope, comfort with one’s presence, and support with concrete help.

I encourage you to witness, beginning with your personal and associative style of life, to witness gratuitousness, solidarity, and a spirit of service. When Christ’s disciple is transparent in his heart and sensitive in life, he takes the light of the Lord to places where he lives and works. I wish this for you, while I apologize for being late: you are patient! But the audiences [of the morning] took longer. And I bless all of you, your families and your commitment. Please, do not forget to pray for me. Thank you.

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

January 18, 2016   Pope Francis’ words today to the ecumenical delegation from Finland:

***

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Your Eminence,

I offer you a cordial welcome, as once again this year you visit the Bishop of Rome in the course of your traditional pilgrimage for the feast of St. Henrik. I thank the Lutheran Bishop of Helsinki, Irja Askola, for her kind greeting on your behalf.

Your ecumenical pilgrimage is an eloquent sign of the fact that, as Lutherans, Orthodox and Catholics, you have recognized what unites you and together you wish to bear witness to Jesus Christ, who is the foundation of unity.

In a special way, we can thank the Lord for the fruits of the dialogue between Lutherans and Catholics. Here I think in particular of the common document on Justification in the Life of the Church. Building on these foundations, your dialogue is making promising progress towards a shared understanding, on the sacramental level, of Church, Eucharist and Ministry. These steps forward, made together, lay a solid basis for a growing communion of life in faith and spirituality, as your relations develop in a spirit of serene discussion and fraternal sharing.

The common calling of all Christians is brought out well by the biblical text for this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which begins today: “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Pet 2:9).

In our dialogue, differences still remain in doctrine and in practice. This must not discourage us, but instead spur us along our journey towards ever greater unity, not least by working to overcome old ideas and suspicions. In a world frequently torn by conflict and marked by secularism and indifference, we are called to join in professing our faith in Jesus Christ, and thus to become ever more credible witnesses of unity and promoters of peace and reconciliation.

Dear brothers and sisters, I am also appreciative of your shared commitment to the care of creation, and I thank you for the symbolic sign of hospitality which you have offered me in the name of Finnish people.

In the hope that this visit will strengthen ever greater cooperation between your respective communities, I invoke upon all of you God’s abundant graces and I cordially offer you my fraternal blessing.

I invite you to recite the Lord’s Prayer together …

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

January 18, 2016

Below is a Vatican Radio-provided translation of Pope Francis’ address during his visit to Rome’s Synagogue yesterday:

***

I’m happy to be here today with you in this Synagogue. I thank Dr. Di Segni, Mrs  Durighello and Mr Gattegna for their kind words. And  I thank you all for your warm welcome, thank you! Tada Toda Rabba, thank you!

During my first visit to this synagogue as Bishop of Rome, I wish to express to you and to extend to all Jewish communities, the fraternal greetings of peace of the whole Catholic Church.

Our relations are very close to my heart. When in Buenos Aires I used to go to the synagogues and meet the communities gathered there, I used to follow Jewish festivities and commemorations and give thanks to the Lord who gives us life and accompanies us on the path of history. Over time, a spiritual bond has been created which has favoured the birth of a genuine friendship and given life to a shared commitment. In interreligious dialogue it is essential that we meet as brothers and sisters before our Creator and to Him give praise, that we respect and appreciate each other and try to collaborate. In Jewish-Christian dialogue there is a unique and special bond thanks to the Jewish roots of Christianity: Jews and Christians must therefore feel as brothers, united by the same God and by a rich common spiritual patrimony (cf. Declaration. Nostra Aetate, 4 ), upon which to build the future.

With this visit I follow in the footsteps of my predecessors. Pope John Paul II came here thirty years ago, on 13 April 1986; and Pope Benedict XVI was amongt you six years ago. On that occasion John Paul II coined the beautiful description “elder brothers”, and in fact you are our brothers and sisters in the faith. We all belong to one family, the family of God, who accompanies and protects us, His people. Together, as Jews and as Catholics, we are called to take on our responsibilities towards this city, giving first of all a spiritual contribution, and favouring the resolution of various current problems. It is my hope that closeness, mutual understanding and respect between our two  communities continue to grow. Thus, it is significant that I have come among you today, on January 17, the day when the Italian Episcopal Conference celebrates the “Day of dialogue between Catholics and Jews.”

We have just commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration “Nostra Aetate” which made possible the systematic dialogue between the Catholic Church and Judaism. On 28 October last, in St. Peter’s Square, I was able to greet a large number of Jewish representatives to whom I said “Deserving of special gratitude to God is the veritable transformation of Christian-Jewish relations in these 50 years. Indifference and opposition have changed into cooperation and benevolence. From enemies and strangers we have become friends and brothers. The Council, with the Declaration Nostra Aetate, has indicated the way: “yes” to rediscovering Christianity’s Jewish roots; “no” to every form of anti-Semitism and blame for every wrong, discrimination and persecution deriving from it.” Nostra Aetate explicitly defined theologically for the first time the Catholic Church’s relations with Judaism. Of course it did not solve all the theological issues that affect us, but we it provided an important stimulus for further necessary reflections. In this regard, on 10 December 2015, the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews published a new document that addresses theological issues that have emerged in recent decades since the promulgation of “Nostra Aetate”. In fact, the theological dimension of Jewish-Catholic dialogue deserves to be more thorough, and I wish to encourage all those involved in this dialogue to continue in this direction, with discernment and perseverance. From a theological point of view, it is clear there is an inseparable bond between Christians and Jews. Christians, to be able to understand themselves, cannot not refer to their Jewish roots, and the Church, while professing salvation through faith in Christ, recognizes the irrevocability of the Covenant and God’s constant and faithful love for Israel .

Along with theological issues, we must not lose sight of the big challenges facing the world today.  That of an integral ecology is now a priority, and us Christians and Jews can and must offer humanity the message of the Bible regarding the care of creation. Conflicts, wars, violence and injustices open deep wounds in humanity and call us to strengthen a commitment for peace and justice. Violence by man against man is in contradiction with any religion worthy of that name, and in particular with the three great monotheistic religions. Life is sacred, a gift of God. The fifth commandment of the Decalogue says: “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13). God is the God of life, and always wants to promote and defend it; and we, created in his image and likeness, are called upon to do the same. Every human being, as a creature of God, is our brother, regardless of his or her origin or religious affiliation. Each person must be viewed with favour, just as God does, who offers his merciful hand to all, regardless of their faith and of their belonging, and who cares for those who most need him: the poor, the sick, the marginalized , the helpless. Where life is in danger, we are called even more to protect it. Neither violence nor death will have the last word before God,  the God of love and life. We must pray with insistence to help us put into practice the logic of peace, of reconciliation, of forgiveness, of life, in Europe, in the Holy Land, in the Middle East, in Africa and elsewhere in the world.

In its history, the Jewish people has had to experience violence and persecution, to the point of  extermination of European Jews during the Holocaust. Six million people, just because they belonged to the Jewish people, were victims of the most inhumane barbarity perpetrated in the name of an ideology that wanted to replace God with man. On October 16, 1943, over a thousand men, women and children Rome’s Jewish community were deported to Auschwitz. Today I wish to remember them in a special way: their suffering, their fear, their tears must never be forgotten. And the past must serve as a lesson for the present and for the future. The Holocaust teaches us that utmost vigilance is always needed to be able to take prompt action in defense of human dignity and peace. I would like to express my closeness to every witness of the Holocaust who is still living; and I address a special greeting to those who are present here today.

Dear brothers, we really have to be thankful for all that has been realized in the last fifty years, because between us mutual understanding, mutual trust and friendship have grown and deepened. Let us pray together to the Lord, to lead the way to a better future. God has plans of salvation for us, as the prophet Jeremiah says: “I know well the plans I have in mind for you—oracle of the Lord – plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope” (Jer 29 , 11). “The LORD bless you and keep you! The LORD let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you! The LORD look upon you kindly and give you peace!  (cf. 6.24 to 26 Nm). Shalom Alechem!

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

January 20, 2016

Pope Francis’ General Audience address this morning in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall:

***

Holy Father’s Catechesis:

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

We have heard the biblical text that, this year, guides the reflection during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which is going on this week, from January 18th to 25th. The passage from the First Letter of Saint Peter was chosen by an ecumenical group of Latvia, requested by the Ecumenical Council of Churches and by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

At the center of the Lutheran Cathedral of Riga, there is a baptismal font that dates back to the 12th Century, to the time when Latvia was evangelized by Saint Maynard. That font is an eloquent sign of an origin of faith recognized by all Christians of Latvia — Catholics, Lutherans and Orthodox. This origin is our common Baptism. The Second Vatican Council affirmed: “Baptism constitutes the sacramental bond of the unity in force among all those that have been regenerated through it” (Unitatis Redintegratio, 22). The First Letter of Peter is addressed to the first generation of Christians, to make them aware of the gift received in Baptism and of the demands that it entails. In this Week of Prayer, we are also invited to rediscover all this, and to do so together, going beyond our divisions.

First of all, to share in Baptism, means that we are all sinners and are in need of being saved, redeemed, liberated from evil. This is the negative aspect, which the First Letter of Peter calls “darkness” when he says, “[God] has called you out of darkness to lead you into His marvelous light.” This is the experience of death, which Christ made His own, and which is symbolized in Baptism. We affirm that all of us — Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox — share the experience of being called from the merciless and alienating darkness to the encounter with the living God, full of mercy. All of us, unfortunately, experience egoism, which generates division, closure and contempt. To begin again from Baptism means to rediscover the font of mercy, font of hope for all, because no one is excluded from God’s mercy.

The sharing of this grace creates an indissoluble bond among us Christians, so that, in virtue of Baptism, we can really consider ourselves brothers. We are really the holy People of God, even if, because of our sins, we are yet not a fully united people. God’s mercy, which operates in Baptism, is stronger than our divisions. In the measure in which we receive the grace of mercy, we become ever more fully People of God, and we also become capable to proclaim to all His wonderful works, beginning, in fact, from a simple and fraternal witness of unity. We Christians can proclaim to all the strength of the Gospel, committing ourselves to share the works of corporal and spiritual mercy. And this is a concrete witness of unity among us Christians: Protestants, Orthodox and Catholics.

In conclusion, dear brothers and sisters, all of us Christians, through the grace of Baptism, have obtained mercy from God and have been received in His People. All of us, Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants form a royal priesthood and a holy nation. This means that we have a common mission, which is to transmit the mercy [we’ve] received to others, beginning with the poorest and most abandoned. During the Week of Prayer, we pray that all of us, disciples of Christ, will find the way to collaborate together to bring the Father’s mercy to all parts of the world.

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

Morning Homily January 8: Even if we can't count our sins, God is waiting for us to open the doors of our hearts to Him. Even if we don't feel we deserve it yet, He wishes to embrace us as we are.

Pope Francis stressed this during his daily morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta, as he drew inspiration from John's Gospel reading and reflected on various meanings of the word 'love,' reported Vatican Radio.

“This word ‘love’ is a word that is used so many times and when we use it we don’t know exactly what it means. What is love? Sometimes we can think of the love in the soap operas, but that doesn’t appear to be love. Or else love can seem like having a crush on a person, but then it fades away. Where does true love come from? Whoever loves has been created by God because God is love. Don’t say: ‘Every love is God,’ No, God is love.”

The Apostle John, the Pope stressed, underscores how God loves us first, without limits, and there are many examples of this in the Gospel, including the parable of the prodigal son and the multiplication of the loaves of bread by Jesus.

Not all love, Francis warned, comes from God, but He is the true love. He also directed those gathered to remember the two most important commandments for a Christian, namely loving God and our neighbour.

“When we have something on our mind and we want to ask God to forgive us, it’s He who is waiting for us – to forgive us," Francis said. 

The Pontiff also asserted that this Jubilee Year of Mercy, to some extent, is also about us realizing that the Lord is waiting for us, each one of us.

"Why?" he asked, "To embrace us.  Nothing more.  To say to us: son, daughter, I love you. I let my Son be crucified for you: this is the price of my love, this is the gift of my love.”

Francis continued, stressing, “The Lord is waiting for me, the Lord wants me to open the door of my heart” and that we are to realize God waits for us as we are now, not just as we are to be.

“We must go to the Lord and say: ‘You know Lord how much I love you.’ Or, if you don’t feel able to say it in that way: ‘You know Lord that I would like to love you but I am such a bad sinner,’ Francis said.

Pope Francis concluded, stressing that God then will do the same for his people as the father in the prodigal son: "He won’t let you finish your speech and with an embrace will silence you. The embrace of God’s love.”

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

January 12: At his morning Mass today in the Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis assured that prayer does bring miracles and that it keeps hearts from growing hard.

“It’s the prayer of the faithful that brings change to the Church,” the Pope said, as reported by Vatican Radio. “It’s not us popes, bishops or priests who carry the Church forward, but the saints.”

The Pope focused his homily on the First Reading, which relates the story of Hannah as she prays to God about her infertility and Eli, who assumes she is drunk.

“Hannah was praying silently, her lips moved but her voice was not heard. Hers is the courage of a woman of faith who is weeping and grieving and asks the Lord for his grace,” the Pope explained.

He continued, “There are many good women in the Church, many! They place all their trust in prayer... Let us think of one of them, Saint Monica, who was able with her tears to be granted the grace of conversion for her son, Saint Augustine. There are so many!”

So easy to judge

Meanwhile, the Holy Father described Eli as a poor man, with whom he said he feels a “certain sympathy” because, he explained, “I find faults in myself that allow me to understand him well and feel close to him.” 

“How easily do we judge people and lack the respect to say: 'I wonder what he has in his heart? I do not know, but I will say nothing,’” the Pope reflected. “When the heart lacks compassion one always thinks evil" and does not understand those who pray “with pain and anguish” and “entrust that pain and anguish to the Lord.”

“Jesus knows this kind of prayer. When he was in Gethsemane and was so anguished and hurt he sweated blood; He did not accuse the Father,” Francis reflected, drawing a parallel between Jesus’ response and that of Hannah, since both prayed with meekness.

“Sometimes, we pray, we ask things of God, but often we do not know how to engage with the Lord, to ask for grace,” he added.

Daring to believe

The Pope also recalled the story of a man in Buenos Aires whose 9-year-old-daughter was dying. He said he spent the night at the shrine of the Virgin of Luján clinging to the gate and praying for the grace of healing. The next morning, when he returned to the hospital, his daughter was healed:

“Prayer works miracles; it works miracles for Christians, whether they be faithful laypeople, priests, bishops who have lost compassion. The prayers of the faithful change the Church: It’s not us popes, bishops, priests or nuns who carry the Church forward, but saints,” the Pontiff concluded. “Saints are those who dare to believe that God is the Lord and that He can do everything.”

—----------------

January  2016

During his daily morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis stressed that those who have this mentality of–‘but this is how it’s always been done’–deprive themselves of having meaningful lives and close themselves to the Holy Spirit’s surprises, reported Vatican Radio.

The sin, he said, “is a closed heart,” that “does not hear the voice of the Lord, that is not open to the newness of the Lord, to the Spirit that always surprises us.”

“It’s always been done this way’ is a closed heart, and Jesus tells us, ‘I will send you the Holy Spirit and He will lead you into the fullness of truth.”

The Pontiff drew inspiration from today’s reading in which Saul was rejected by God as King of Israel because he disobeyed, preferring to listen to the people rather than the will of God. After winning a battle, the people wanted to offer a sacrifice of the best animals to God, because, he said, “it’s always been done that way.” But God, this time, did not want that.

Also in the Gospel, the Pope added, Jesus teaches us the same thing. When the doctors of the law criticized Him because His disciples did not fast “as had always been done,” Jesus responded with examples from daily life which illustrated that to continue certain habits doesn’t make sense.

Francis clarified that this is not Jesus changing the law, and that man must have an open heart because the law is at the service of man, who is at the service of God.

If you have a heart closed to the newness of the Spirit, you will never reach the full truth, and this was Saul’s sin, the Pope stressed.

Being Stubborn = Sin of Idolizing Self

The Prophet Samuel, the Pope highlighted, calls this rebellion of a closed heart, “the sin of divination,” and obstinacy, “the sin of idolatry.”

“Christians who obstinately maintain ‘it’s always been done this way,’ this is the path, this is the street—they sin: the sin of divination,” he said.

“It’s as if they went about by guessing: ‘What has been said and what doesn’t change is what’s important; what I hear—from myself and my closed heart—more than the Word of the Lord.’ Obstinacy is also the sin of idolatry: the Christian who is obstinate sins! The sin of idolatry.”

‘And what is the way, Father?’ Open the heart to the Holy Spirit, discern what is the will of God.”

Habits Must Be Renewed

Given this, an “open heart” is what is needed, “a heart that will not stubbornly remain in the sin of idolatry of oneself,” imagining that my own opinion is more important than the surprise of the Holy Spirit.

“This is the message the Church gives us today. This is what Jesus says so forcefully: ‘New wine in new wineskins.’ Habits must be renewed in the newness of the Spirit, in the surprises of God.”

Pope Francis concluded, praying that the Lord grant us the grace of an open heart, “of a heart open to the voice of the Spirit, which knows how to discern what should not change, because it is fundamental, from what should change in order to be able to receive the newness of the Spirit.”

---------------------------------- 

January 18: Morning Homily:   In order to understand Jesus, we cannot have closed hearts, but rather need those that are courageous and forward-looking.

Pope Francis stressed this during his daily morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta as he asked those gathered to ask themselves to consider their own faith in Christ, reported Vatican Radio.

“How is my faith in Jesus Christ?” he urged them to reflect, as he reflected on today’s readings.

Recalling today’s Gospel from St. Mark, which recounted the miraculous healing of a paralytic in Capernaum, Francis stressed that ‘no one can buy faith,’ for it is ‘a gift that changes our life.’

Must Open Our Hearts

In order to really understand Jesus, he underscored, we cannot have a “closed heart,” and rather, need to follow the path of forgiveness and humiliation.

To illustrate what it means to really have faith, the Pope turned to the people of Capernaum, who were ready to do anything to get closer to Jesus, taking whatever risks may have come their way. So confident they were in Him and His healing, they overcrowded and surrounded the home where the Lord would heal. He also reminded them that the roof had to be opened for the paralyzed man to be lowered into the home.

Need for Courageous, Forward-looking Hearts

“They had faith,” the Pope exclaimed, “the same faith as that lady who, also in a crowd, arranged to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment, Jesus’ robe, when He was going to the house of Jairus, that she too might be healed.” He observed this was the same faith of the centurion, who wished for his servant to be healed.

“Strong faith, courageous, forward – looking,” the Holy Father said, “hearts to faith.”

Closed Hearts Cannot Understand Jesus

In the paralytic’s story, the Jesuit Pope said, “Jesus goes a step further,” of not just healing, but forgiving.

“There were those there who had their hearts closed, but accepted – up to a point – that Jesus was a healer – but forgiving sins is strong! This man is over the top! He has no right to say this, because only God can forgive sins.”

Only Jesus knew what they were thinking, the Pope reflected, and said: ‘I am God’? – No, He did not say that. [He said,] ‘Why are you thinking these things? Because you know that the Son of Man has the power – this is what makes him special [It. è il passo avanti] – to forgive sins: ‘Arise, take up your mat and be healed.’”

The Holy Father observed that here, “Jesus begins to speak the language that at some point will discourage people, some of disciples who followed him – for, hard is this language, when he speaks of eating his body as a way of salvation.”

All doubt: but are you a disciple that stays, or goes away?

He urged those gathered to reflect whether Jesus does, really, change their lives.

When Jesus shows up with a power greater than that of a man, “To give that forgiveness, to give life, to recreate humanity, even His disciples doubt, and [some of them] go away.” Jesus asked a small group, ‘Do you also want to go away?’”

“Faith in Jesus Christ: how is my faith in Jesus Christ? Do I believe that Jesus Christ is God, the Son of God? And has this faith been life-changing? Does my faith make this year of grace begin in my heart, this year of pardon, this year of growing in nearness to the Lord?”

No One Deserves Faith

Faith is a gift, the Pope stressed, noting, No one ‘deserves’ faith nor can buy it. Therefore, we are to always be humble, repent and pray: ‘Forgive me, Lord. You are God. You ‘can’ forgive my sins.”

The Pontiff prayed that the Lord “make us grow in faith.”

The people, he noted, “sought Jesus in order that they might hear Him, because he spoke “with authority, not as the scribes speak.”

Also, he added, they followed Him because He healed people, because he performed miracles – but in the end, “these people, after seeing this, went away and they were all amazed, and glorified God.”

Praise

“Praise: the proof that I believe that Jesus Christ is God in my life, that He was sent to me to ‘forgive me,’ is praise; if I have the ability to praise God. Praise the Lord. This is free – praise is gratis.”

He noted the Holy Spirit gives us this feeling and ability to express this, bringing us to say: ‘You are the only God.’

The Pontiff concluded, praying that the Lord “makes us grow in our faith in Jesus Christ, God, who forgives us, who gives us a year of grace – and this faith leads us to praise.”

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

January 19, 2016

Pope Francis offered this reflection during his morning homily today in Casa Santa Marta, Vatican Radio reported.

The Pope drew his homily from the reading from 1 Samuel, which recounts God instructing the prophet to choose David, the youngest of Jesse’s sons.

The Pope pointed out that God did not choose according to human standards, since David was only a youth.

But the Lord made it clear to the prophet Samuel that he looks beyond appearances: “The Lord looks into the heart.”

“We are often the slaves of appearances and allow ourselves to pursue appearances: ‘But God knows the truth.’ And that is so in this story,” the Holy Father said. “Jesse’s seven sons are presented and the Lord does not choose any of them, he lets them pass by. Samuel is in a bit of difficulty and says to Jesse: ‘The Lord has not chosen any of them, are these all the sons you have? And Jesse replied that there was still the youngest, who is tending the sheep’. To the eyes of man this boy did not count.”

Nevertheless, David was God’s chosen one and the “Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David” and from that day on “the whole of David’s life was the life of a man anointed by the Lord, chosen by the Lord,” the Pope said.

Life’s journey

But did this mean that God immediately made David a saint, the Pope asked.

No, he answered. “King David is saint King David, this is true, but he became a saint after living a long life” a life during which he sinned:

“A saint and a sinner. A man who managed to unite the Kingdom; he was able to lead the people of Israel. But he fell into temptation … he committed sins: he was also a murderer. To cover up his lust, the sin of adultery… he commissioned a murder. He did! Did saint King David commit murder? When God sent the prophet Nathan to point this reality out to him, because he was not aware of the barbarity he had ordered, he acknowledged his sin and asked for forgiveness.”

The Holy Father noted how David’s life continued with suffering over the betrayal of his son, but how he “never used God for his own purpose.” When he was insulted, the Pope pointed out, David would say to himself: “It’s what I deserve.”

And then, Francis noted, “he was magnanimous”: he could have killed Saul “but he did not do so.” Saint King David, a great sinner, but a repentant one.

“The life of this man moves me,” the Pope said.

“We have all been chosen by the Lord to be baptized, to be part of His people, to be saints; we have been consecrated by the Lord on the path towards sainthood. Reading about this life, the life of a child – no… not a child, he was a boy – from boyhood to old age, during which he did many good things and others that were not so good. It makes me think that during the Christian journey, the journey the Lord has invited us to undertake, there is no saint without a past and no sinner without a future.”

—-------------------------------------------  

January 22, 2016

This morning during his daily morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis reminded those gathered of the bishop’s two required jobs: praying and proclaiming the Gospel, and warned that if these tasks are neglected, God’s people suffer.

According to Vatican Radio, the Pontiff drew inspiration from today’s Gospel of Mark which recalls Jesus’ choosing the 12 Apostles, and how, today, the “bishops are pillars of the Church,” called to be witnesses of the Resurrection of Jesus.

“We bishops have this responsibility to be witnesses: witnesses to the fact that the Lord Jesus is alive, that the Lord Jesus is risen, that the Lord Jesus walks with us, that the Lord Jesus saves us, that the Lord Jesus gave his life for us, that the Lord Jesus is our hope, that the Lord Jesus always welcomes us and forgives us. Giving witness. Our life must be this: a testimony. True witness to the Resurrection of Christ.”

2 Jobs of a Bishop

The first task of a bishop, the Pontiff stressed, is to be with Jesus in prayer, “not to prepare pastoral plans … no, no!   Prayer: this is the first task.”

The second task, he continued, is to be a witness, which means preaching the salvation that the Lord Jesus has brought.

“Two tasks that are not easy, but it is precisely these two tasks that are the strong pillars of the Church. If these columns are weakened because the bishop does not pray or prays little, forgets to pray; or because the bishop does not announce the Gospel and instead takes care of other things, the Church also weakens; it suffers. God’s people suffer. Because the columns are weak. ”

“The Church without the bishop doesn’t work,” said the Pope.  Therefore, we must all pray for our bishops, he concluded, as an “obligation of love, an obligation of children in reverence to the Father, an obligation of brothers so that the family remains united in its witness to Jesus Christ, living and risen.”

With your heart, pray for your bishop

The Holy Father went on to invite faithful to pray for “us bishops, because we too are sinners;  we too have weaknesses.”

“In every Mass, we pray for the bishops,” the Pope recalled. “We pray for Peter, the head of the college of bishops, and we pray for our local bishop. But this is not enough:  we say the name, and many times we say it out of habit, and then we go on. Pray for the bishop with your heart!”

Pope Francis concluded, saying,”Ask the Lord: Lord, take care of my bishop; take care of all the bishops, and send us bishops who are true witnesses – bishops who pray and bishops who help us through their preaching to understand the Gospel, so that we may trust that you, Lord, are alive and that you’re with us.”

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

January 21, 2016

The Pope said this today during morning Mass in the Casa Santa Marta, on the Feast of St. Agnes.

Drawing from the 1st Reading, which tells of Saul’s jealousy of David, the Pope noted: “How ugly envy is! It is an attitude, it is an ugly sin. And jealousy or envy grows in the heart like a weed: it grows, but it doesn’t allow good plants to grow. It harms everything that its shadow seems to fall upon.”

The Holy Father reflected that an envious person can never feel peace: “There is no peace! It is a tormented heart, it is an ugly heart!”

What’s more, the Pontiff continued, envy leads to killing, to death. “And Scripture says clearly: through the envy of the devil, death entered the world.”

“Envy kills,” the Pope explained. “It does not tolerate others having something that I do not have. And it always suffers, because the heart of an envious or jealous person suffers. It is a suffering heart!”

It is a suffering that desires “the death of others.”

“But how many times,” he asked, “in our communities – and we don’t have to look too far to see this – are people killed, through jealousy, with the tongue? Someone is envious of this, of the other, and they begin to gossip – and gossip kills”:

“I too, thinking and reflecting on this passage, invite myself – and everyone – to see if, in my heart, there is any jealousy, any envy, which always leads to death and doesn’t make me happy; because this sickness always leads us to regard the good others possess as if it were against us. And this is an ugly sin. It is the beginning of many, many crimes. Let us ask the Lord to give us the grace not to open the heart to jealousy, not to open the heart to envy, because these things always lead to death.”

Jesus handed over out of envy 

Pope Francis concluded by noting that Jesus was handed over to Pontius Pilate because of the envy of the chief priests and the scribes:

“According to the interpretation of Pilate – who was very intelligent, but a coward – envy was what lead to the death of Jesus: the instrument, the ultimate instrument. They handed him over out of envy. Let us also ask the Lord the grace never, because of envy, to hand over to death a brother, a sister of the parish, of the community, or even someone in our neighbourhood. Everyone has their sins, everyone has their virtues. They are specific to each individual. Look at the good, and do not kill with gossip through envy or jealousy.”

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

January 28, 2016   Pope Francis noted today that a true Christian must give witness to Christ since giving testimony is one of the peculiarities of Christian behavior.

The Pope said this during his morning homily today at the Casa Santa Marta, according to Vatican Radio.

Part of the congregation was made up of a number of priests who celebrated with the Pope their 50th year of ordination.

“The mystery of God is light,” the Pope said, drawing from today’s Gospel.

“And this is one of the traits of a Christian who has received the light in Baptism and must give it. That is, the Christian is a witness. Testimony. One of the peculiarities of Christian behavior. A Christian who brings this light, must show it because he is a witness.”

A Christian who does not give witness to Christ isn’t a true Christian, Francis continued.

“When a Christian would prefer not to show the light of God but prefers his own darkness, this enters his heart because he is afraid of the light. And the idols, which are dark, he likes best. So he lacks: he’s missing something and is not a true Christian. Witness: a Christian is a witness. Of Jesus Christ, the Light of God. He has to put that light on the lampstand of his life.”

The Bishop of Rome also considered the phrase from the Gospel, “The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.”

“Another trait of the Christian,”  he reflected, “is magnanimity, because he is the child of a magnanimous father, of great heart.”

“The Christian heart is magnanimous.  It is open, always. It is not a heart that is closed in on its own selfishness. Or one that’s calculating: ‘up to this point, up to here.’ When you enter this light of Jesus, when you enter into Jesus’ friendship, when you let yourself be guided by the Holy Spirit, the heart becomes open, magnanimous… The Christian, then, does not gain, but loses. But he loses to gain something else, and in this — quote — ‘defeat’ of interests, he gains Jesus; he gains by becoming Jesus’ witness.”

Pope Francis then addressed those present who are celebrating 50 years of service in the priesthood:

“For me it is a joy to celebrate with you today, as you mark the 50th anniversary of your priesthood: 50 years on the path of light and giving witness, 50 years of trying to be better, trying to bring light to the lampstand.  Sometimes we fall, but we get up again, always with the desire to give light, generously, that is, with a magnanimous heart. Only God and your own memory know how many people you have received generously with the kindness of fathers, of brothers … to how many people whose heart was a bit ‘dark’ have you given light, the light of Jesus. Thank you. Thank you for what you have done in the Church, for the Church and for Jesus.”

“May the Lord give you joy, this great joy,” the Pope concluded, “of having sown well,  of ---having shown light well and of having opened your arms to receive all with magnanimity.”

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

January 29, 2016

Even if one sins often, whenever one returns to God seeking forgiveness, he never needs to doubt he will be forgiven.

Pope Francis made this point during his daily morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta this morning, as he distinguished sinners from the corrupt, who “no longer see the need to be forgiven” and “don’t feel they need God,” reported Vatican Radio.

The Pontiff drew his inspiration from today’s first reading, which raccounted the story of David and Bathsheba. David committed adultery with Bathsheba, and when he learned she was pregnant, he tried to cover it up, including having arranged the death of Basheba’s husband, an army officer and good man, in battle.

“David is a saint, but also a sinner,” the Pope stressed, who fell on account of lust, but who God still loves him very much.

However, he pointed, we observe that when he arranges this murder, we see “a moment through which we all can pass in our life: it is the passage from sin to corruption.”

Corruption, the Pope acknowledged, “is a very easy sin for all of us who have some power, whether it be ecclesiastical, religious, economic, political… Because the devil makes us feel certain: ‘I can do it.’”

The Holy Father went on to warn against this moment in which the “attitude of sin, or a moment where our situation is so secure and we see well and we have so much power’ that sin ‘stops’ and becomes ‘corruption.’”

“One of the ugliest things” about corruption, the Pontiff underscored, is that the one who becomes corrupt thinks he has “no need for forgiveness.”

“Today, let us offer a prayer for the Church, beginning with ourselves, for the Pope, for the Bishops, for the priests, for consecrated men and women, for the lay faithful: ‘Lord, save us, save us from corruption.”

Pope Francis concluded, saying, “We are sinners, yes, O Lord, all of us, but [let us] never [become] corrupt!’ Let us ask for this grace.”

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

January 28, 2016

Pope Francis noted today that a true Christian must give witness to Christ since giving testimony is one of the peculiarities of Christian behavior.

The Pope said this during his morning homily today at the Casa Santa Marta, according to Vatican Radio.

Part of the congregation was made up of a number of priests who celebrated with the Pope their 50th year of ordination.

“The mystery of God is light,” the Pope said, drawing from today’s Gospel.

“And this is one of the traits of a Christian who has received the light in Baptism and must give it. That is, the Christian is a witness. Testimony. One of the peculiarities of Christian behavior. A Christian who brings this light, must show it because he is a witness.”

A Christian who does not give witness to Christ isn’t a true Christian, Francis continued.

“When a Christian would prefer not to show the light of God but prefers his own darkness, this enters his heart because he is afraid of the light. And the idols, which are dark, he likes best. So he lacks: he’s missing something and is not a true Christian. Witness: a Christian is a witness. Of Jesus Christ, the Light of God. He has to put that light on the lampstand of his life.”

The Bishop of Rome also considered the phrase from the Gospel, “The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.”

“Another trait of the Christian,”  he reflected, “is magnanimity, because he is the child of a magnanimous father, of great heart.”

“The Christian heart is magnanimous.  It is open, always. It is not a heart that is closed in on its own selfishness. Or one that’s calculating: ‘up to this point, up to here.’ When you enter this light of Jesus, when you enter into Jesus’ friendship, when you let yourself be guided by the Holy Spirit, the heart becomes open, magnanimous… The Christian, then, does not gain, but loses. But he loses to gain something else, and in this — quote — ‘defeat’ of interests, he gains Jesus; he gains by becoming Jesus’ witness.”

Pope Francis then addressed those present who are celebrating 50 years of service in the priesthood:

“For me it is a joy to celebrate with you today, as you mark the 50th anniversary of your priesthood: 50 years on the path of light and giving witness, 50 years of trying to be better, trying to bring light to the lampstand.  Sometimes we fall, but we get up again, always with the desire to give light, generously, that is, with a magnanimous heart. Only God and your own memory know how many people you have received generously with the kindness of fathers, of brothers … to how many people whose heart was a bit ‘dark’ have you given light, the light of Jesus. Thank you. Thank you for what you have done in the Church, for the Church and for Jesus.”

“May the Lord give you joy, this great joy,” the Pope concluded, “of having sown well,  of having shown light well and of having opened your arms to receive all with magnanimity.”

—-------------------  

January 21, 2016 

Today, Pope Francis received in audience participants in the International Meeting of pilgrimage organizers and rectors of shrines, celebrating their Jubilee in Rome from January 19-21.

Here is a translation of the Holy Father’s address:

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

I welcome you all cordially, operators of pilgrimages to shrines. To go on pilgrimage to shrines is one of the most eloquent expressions of the faith of the People of God, and it manifests the piety of generations of persons, who believed with simplicity and entrusted themselves to the intercession of the Virgin Mary and of the Saints. This popular religiosity is a genuine form of evangelization, which must always be promoted and appreciated, without minimizing its importance. It is curious: in Evangelii Nuntiandi, Blessed Paul VI speaks of popular religiosity, but he says that it is better to call it “popular piety.” And then, in the Document of Aparecida, the Latin American Episcopate takes a further step and speaks of “popular spirituality.” All three concepts are valid, but together. In the shrines, in fact, our people live their profound spirituality, that piety that for centuries has shaped their faith with simple but very significant devotions. We think of how, in some of these places, the prayer to Christ Crucified is understood, or that of the Rosary, or the Via Crucis.

It would be an error to hold that one who goes on pilgrimage lives not a personal but a “mass” spirituality. In reality, the pilgrim bears within him his history, his faith, the lights and shadows of his life. Everyone has in his heart a special desire and a particular prayer. One who enters a shrine feels immediately at home, welcomed, understood and supported. I very much like the biblical figure of Anna, mother of the prophet Samuel. With her heart full of sadness, she prayed in the Temple of Silo to the Lord for a child. Eli, the priest, thought instead that she was drunk and wanted to throw her out (cf. 1 Samuel 1:12-14). Anna represents well many persons that we can find in our shrines — with eyes fixed on the Crucifix or on an image of Our Lady, in a prayer full of trust made with tears in their eyes. A shrine is really a privileged place to encounter the Lord and to touch His mercy with the hand. To go to confession in a shrine is to have the experience of touching God’s mercy with the hand.

Therefore, the key word that I want to stress today together with you is welcome: to welcome pilgrims. With welcome, so to speak, we stake all — an affectionate, festive, cordial and patient welcome. Patience is also necessary! The Gospels present Jesus to us always welcoming those who approach Him, especially the sick, the sinners and the marginalized. And we recall His expression: “He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me” (Matthew 10:40). Jesus spoke of welcome, but above all He practiced it. When we are told that sinners – for instance Matthew or Zaccheus – received Jesus in their home or at their table, it was because, first of all, they felt welcomed by Jesus, and this changed their life. It is interesting that the Book of the Acts of the Apostles ends with the scene of Saint Paul who, here in Rome, “welcomed all who came to him” (Acts 28:30). His house, where he dwelt as a prisoner, was the place where he proclaimed the Gospel. Welcome is truly determinant for evangelization. Sometimes a word, a smile simply suffices to make a person feel welcome and liked.

The pilgrim who arrives at a shrine is often tired, hungry and thirsty. And often this physical condition reflects also his interior condition. Therefore, this person is in need of being received well, both on the material as well as the spiritual plane. It is important that the pilgrim who crosses the threshold of a shrine feels that he is treated rather than a guest, as a member of the family. He must feel at home, awaited, loved and looked at with eyes of mercy. Whoever he is, young or old, rich or poor, sick and troubled, or a curious tourist, must be able to find due welcome, because in each one there is a heart that seeks God, sometimes without fully realizing it. We should act in such a way that every pilgrim has the joy of finally being understood and loved. Thus, on returning home, he will feel nostalgia for all that he experienced and will want to return, but above all he will want to continue the journey of faith in his ordinary life.

An altogether particular welcome is that offered by ministers of God’s forgiveness. A shrine is a house of forgiveness, where everyone encounters the Father’s mercy, who has mercy for all, no one excluded. He who approaches a confessional does so because he is repentant, he is repentant of his sin. He feels the need to go there. He perceives clearly that God does not condemn him, but receives and embraces him, as the Father of the Prodigal Son, to restore his filial dignity to him (cf. Luke 15:20-24).  Priests who carry out a ministry in shrines must have their heart permeated with mercy. Their attitude must be that of a father.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us live this Jubilee with faith and joy: let us live it as a unique great pilgrimage. You live your service, in a special way, as a work of corporal and spiritual mercy. I assure you of my prayer for this, through the intercession of Mary our Mother. And you, please, accompany me also on my pilgrimage with your prayer. Thank you.

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

January 20, 2016

The Vatican today released a letter of Pope Francis to the World Economic Forum in Davos-Klosters, dated Dec. 30, 2015. Here is the text:

* * *

To Professor Klaus Schwab

Executive President of the World Economic Forum

Before all else, I would like to thank you for your gracious invitation to address the annual gathering of the World Economic Forum in Davos-Klosters at the end of January on the theme: “Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution”. I offer you my cordial good wishes for the fruitfulness of this meeting, which seeks to encourage continuing social and environmental responsibility through a constructive dialogue on the part of government, business and civic leaders, as well as distinguished representatives of the political, financial and cultural sectors.

The dawn of the so-called “fourth industrial revolution” has been accompanied by a growing sense of the inevitability of a drastic reduction in the number of jobs. The latest studies conducted by the International Labour Organization indicate that unemployment presently affects hundreds of millions of people. The financialization and technologization of national and global economies have produced far-reaching changes in the field of labour. Diminished opportunities for useful and dignified employment, combined with a reduction in social security, are causing a disturbing rise in inequality and poverty in different countries. Clearly there is a need to create new models of doing business which, while promoting the development of advanced technologies, are also capable of using them to create dignified work for all, to uphold and consolidate social rights, and to protect the environment. Man must guide technological development, without letting himself be dominated by it!

To all of you I appeal once more: “Do not forget the poor!” This is the primary challenge before you as leaders in the business world. “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” (Address to Civic and Business Leaders and the Diplomatic Corps, Bangui, 29 November 2015).

We must never allow the culture of prosperity to deaden us, to make us incapable of “feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and sensing the need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own” (Evangelii Gaudium, 54).

Weeping for other people’s pain does not only mean sharing in their sufferings, but also and above all realizing that our own actions are a cause of injustice and inequality. “Let us open our eyes, then, and see the misery of the world, the wounds of our brothers and sisters who are denied their dignity, and let us recognize that we are compelled to heed their cry for help! May we reach out to them and support them so they can feel the warmth of our presence, our friendship, and our fraternity! May their cry become our own, and together may we break down the barriers of indifference that too often reign supreme and mask our hypocrisy and egoism!” (Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, Misericordiae Vultus, 15).

Once we realize this, we become more fully human, since responsibility for our brothers and sisters is an essential part of our common humanity. Do not be afraid to open your minds and hearts to the poor. In this way, you will give free rein to your economic and technical talents, and discover the happiness of a full life, which consumerism of itself cannot provide.

In the face of profound and epochal changes, world leaders are challenged to ensure that the coming “fourth industrial revolution”, the result of robotics and scientific and technological innovations, does not lead to the destruction of the human person – to be replaced by a soulless machine – or to the transformation of our planet into an empty garden for the enjoyment of a chosen few.

On the contrary, the present moment offers a precious opportunity to guide and govern the processes now under way, and to build inclusive societies based on respect for human dignity, tolerance, compassion and mercy. I urge you, then, to take up anew your conversation on how to build the future of the planet, “our common home”, and I ask you to make a united effort to pursue a sustainable and integral development.

As I have often said, and now willingly reiterate, business is “a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving our world”, especially “if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good” (Laudato Si’, 129). As such, it has a responsibility to help overcome the complex crisis of society and the environment, and to fight poverty. This will make it possible to improve the precarious living conditions of millions of people and bridge the social gap which gives rise to numerous injustices and erodes fundamental values of society, including equality, justice and solidarity.

In this way, through the preferred means of dialogue, the World Economic Forum can become a platform for the defence and protection of creation and for the achievement of a progress which is “healthier, more human, more social, more integral” (Laudato Si’, 112), with due regard also for environmental goals and the need to maximize efforts to eradicate poverty as set forth in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and in the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Mr President, with renewed good wishes for the success of the forthcoming meeting in Davos, I invoke upon you and upon all taking part in the Forum, together with your families, God’s abundant blessings.

From the Vatican, 30 December 2015

FRANCISCUS

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

January 28, 2016

This morning, Pope Francis received in audience members of the Italian National Committee for Bioethics.

Here is a translation of the Pope’s address.

* * *

Distinguished Gentlemen and Ladies,

I give my cordial welcome to each one of you, and I thank the President, Professor Casavola, for the courteous words with which he introduced our meeting.

I am happy to be able to express the Church’s appreciation for the fact that the National Committee for Bioethics has been instituted for the past 25 years in the Presidency of the Council of Ministers.  Noted by all is how sensitive the Church is to ethical subjects, but perhaps it is not as clear to all that the Church does not claim any privileged space in this field, rather, she is satisfied when the civil conscience is able to reflect, discern and work, at various levels, on the basis of free and open rationality and of the constitutive values of the person and of society. In fact, this responsible civil maturity is precisely the sign that the sowing of the Gospel — this yes, revealed and entrusted to the Church — has borne fruit, succeeding in promoting research of the true, the good and the beautiful in the complex human and ethical questions. In essence, it is about serving man, the whole man, all men and women, with particular attention and care – as was recalled – for the weakest and most disadvantaged subjects, that with difficulty try to make their voice heard, or still cannot or no longer can have it heard. The ecclesial and the civil community meet in this area and are called to collaborate, according to their respective various competencies.  Many times that Committee has addressed respect for the integrity of the human being and the protection of health from conception to natural death, considering the person in his singularity, always as an end and never simply as a means. This ethical principle is also fundamental in regard to the bio-technological applications in the medical field, which can never be used in a way that is harmful to human dignity, and even less be guided by industrial and commercial ends alone.

Bioethics was born to confront, through a critical effort, the reasons and conditions required by the dignity of the human person with the developments of the sciences and of the biological and medical technologies, which, in their accelerated rhythm, risk losing every reference that is not useful and profitable.

How arduous it is sometimes to single out such reasons and in how many different ways attempts are made to argue them, evidenced by the opinions formulated by the National Committee for Bioethics. And therefore the demanding work of research of the ethical truth is ascribed to the merit of all those who have done so, all the more so in a context marked by relativism and not very trustworthy in the capacities of the human reason. You are aware that such research on complex bioethical problems is not easy and does not always reach speedily a harmonious conclusion; that it always requires humility and realism, and does not fear confrontation with different positions and that, finally, the witness given to truth contributes to the maturation of the conscience.

I would like to encourage your work, in particular, in some realms that I will briefly recall.

1.The inter-disciplinary analysis of the causes of environmental degradation. I hope that the Committee will be able to formulate guidelines in the fields that concern the biological sciences, to stimulate interventions of conservation, preservation and care of the environment. In this ambit, a comparison is opportune between the bio-centric and anthropocentric theories, in search of ways that recognize the correct centrality of man in respect of other living beings and of the whole environment, also to help define the inalienable conditions for the protection of the future generations. Once when I said this about protection of the future generations, a somewhat saddened and skeptical scientist answered me: “Tell me, Father, will there be any? “

2. The subject of the disability and marginalization of vulnerable subjects in a society inclined to competition, to the acceleration of progress. It is the challenge of opposing the throwaway culture, which has so many expressions today, among which is treating human embryos as disposable material, and also sick and elderly persons approaching death.

3. An ever greater effort towards an international confrontation in view of a possible and desirable, even if complex, harmonization of the standard and rules of biological and medical activities, rules that recognize fundamental values and rights.

Finally, I express my appreciation given that your Committee has sought to identify strategies of sensitization of public opinion, beginning with schools, on bioethical questions, for instance, for understanding biotechnological progresses.

Distinguished Gentlemen and Ladies, I thank you for your visit and for this moment of reflection and encounter. May the Lord bless each one of you and your valuable work. I assure you of my sympathy and my remembrance in prayer, and I trust that you will also do so for me. Thank you.

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

January 29, 2016     Pope Francis’ address to the participants in the plenary session of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

 this morning in the Vatican:

***

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I meet with you at the end of the works of your plenary session. I greet you cordially and I thank the Cardinal Prefect for his courteous words.

We are in the Holy Year of Mercy. I hope that in this Jubilee all the members of the Church will renew their faith in Jesus Christ, who is the face of the Father’s mercy, the way that unites God and man. Therefore, mercy constitutes the architrave that supports the life of the Church: the first truth of the Church, in fact, is the love of Christ.  How can we not desire, then, that the whole Christian people — pastors and faithful — rediscover and put at the center, during the Jubilee, the corporal and spiritual works of mercy? And, when in the evening of life, we are asked if we fed the hungry and gave drink to the thirsty, we will also be asked if we helped persons come out of doubt, if we were committed to receive sinners, admonishing and correcting them, if we were capable of combatting ignorance, especially that concerning the Christian faith and the good life. This attention to the works of mercy is important: they are not a devotion. It is the concreteness of how Christians must carry forward the spirit of mercy. Once in these years, I received an important Movement in Paul VI Hall; it was full. And I touched on the subject of the works of mercy. I paused and I asked the question: “Which one of you remembers well what are the spiritual and corporal works of mercy? Whoever remembers them, raise his hand.” There were no more than 20 in a Hall of 7,000. We must teach this to the faithful again, which is so important.

There is a cognitive and unifying relation in faith and in charity with the mystery of Love, which is God Himself. And, although God remains a mystery in Himself, God’s effective mercy became in Jesus affective mercy, He having made Himself man for the salvation of men. The task entrusted to your dicastery finds here its ultimate foundation and it proper justification. The Christian faith, in fact, is not only knowledge to be kept in the memory, but truth to live in love. Therefore, together with the Doctrine of the Faith, it is necessary also to protect the integrity of customs, particularly in the most delicate realms of life. The adherence of faith to the person of Christ implies both an act of reason as well as a moral answer to His gift. In this regard, I thank you for all the commitment and responsibility you exercise in treating cases of abuse of minors by clergymen.

Care for the integrity of the faith and of customs is a delicate task. A collegial commitment is important to carry out this mission well. Your congregation appreciates very much the contribution of consultors and commissioners, whom I would like to thank for their precious and humble work; and I encourage you to continue in your practice of treating questions in your weekly congress and those that are more important in the ordinary or plenary session. Correct synodality must be promoted at all levels of ecclesial life. In this connection, last year you organized a timely meeting — with the representatives of the Doctrinal Commissions of the European Episcopal Conferences –, to address collegially some doctrinal and pastoral challenges. Thus, you contributed to awaken in the faithful a new missionary impetus and greater opening to the transcendent dimension of life, without which Europe risks losing that humanistic spirit that it loves and defends. I invite you to continue and to intensify the collaboration with such advisory organs, which help episcopal conferences and individual bishops in their solicitude for the holy Doctrine, at a time of rapid changes and growing complexity of the problems.

Another important contribution of yours to the renewal of ecclesial life is the study on the complementarity between hierarchical and charismatic gifts. According to the logic of unity in legitimate difference — logic that characterizes every authentic form of communion in the People of God –, hierarchical and charismatic gifts are called to collaborate in synergy for the good of the Church and of the world. The testimony of this complementarity is all the more urgent today and it represents an eloquent expression of that ordered pluri-formity that connotes all ecclesial fabric, as reflection of the harmonious communion that it lives in the heart of God, One and Triune. The relation between hierarchical and charismatic gifts, in fact, refers back to its Trinitarian root, in the bond between the Divine Incarnate Logos and the Holy Spirit, who is always gift of the Father and of the Son. In fact, if this root is recognized and received with humility, it enables the Church to allow herself to be renewed at all times as “a people that derives its unity from the unity of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” according to the expression of Saint Cyprian (De Oratione Dominica, 23). Unity and pluri-formity are the seal of a Church that, moved by the Spirit, is able to set out with a sure and faithful step towards those ends that the Risen Lord indicates to her in the course of history. Here one sees well how the Synodal dynamic, if correctly understood, is born of communion and leads to an ever more realized, deepened and dilated communion at the service of the life and mission of the People of God.

Dear brothers and sisters, I assure you of my remembrance in prayer and trust in yours for me. May the Lord bless you and Our Lady protect you.

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

January 31, 2016  the video message Pope Francis sent at the conclusion of the Eucharistic Congress held in the Philippines, which ended today.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I greet all of you gathered in Cebu for the Fifty-first International Eucharistic Congress. I thank Cardinal Bo, who is my representative among you, and I offer a special greeting to Cardinal Vidal, Archbishop Palma and the bishops, priests and faithful in Cebu. I also greet Cardinal Tagle and all the Catholics of the Philippines. I am particularly happy that this Congress has brought together so many people from the vast continent of Asia and from throughout the world.
Just one year ago, I visited the Philippines in the wake of Typhoon Yolanda. I was able to witness at first hand the deep faith and resilience of its people. Under the protection of Santo Niño, the Filipino people received the Gospel of Jesus Christ some five hundred years ago. Ever since, they have given the world an example of fidelity and deep devotion to the Lord and his Church. They have also been a people of missionaries, speading the light of the Gospel in Asia and to the ends of the earth.

The theme of the Eucharistic Congress – Christ in You, Our Hope of Glory – is very timely. It reminds us that the risen Jesus is always alive and present in his Church, above all in the Eucharist, the sacrament of his Body and Blood. Christ’s presence among us is not only a consolation, but also a promise and a summons. It is a promise that everlasting joy and peace will one day be ours in the fullness of his Kingdom. But it is also a summons to go forth, as missionaries, to bring the message of the Father’s tenderness, forgiveness and mercy to every man, woman and child.

How much our world needs this message! When we think of the conflicts, the injustices and the urgent humanitarian crises which mark our time, we realize how important it is for every Christian to be a true missionary disciple, bringing the good news of Christ’s redemptive love to a world in such need of reconciliation, justice and peace.

So it is fitting that this Congress has been celebrated in the Year of Mercy, in which the whole Church is invited to concentrate on the heart of the Gospel: Mercy. We are called to bring the balm of God’s merciful love to the whole human family, binding up wounds, bringing hope where despair so often seems to have the upper hand.

As you now prepare to “go forth” at the end of this Eucharistic Congress, there are two gestures of Jesus at the Last Supper which I would ask you to reflect on. Both have to do with the missionary dimension of the Eucharist. They are table fellowship and the washing of feet.

We know how important it was for Jesus to share meals with his disciples, but also, and especially, with sinners and the outcast. Sitting at table, Jesus was able to listen to others, to hear their stories, to appreciate their hopes and aspirations, and to speak to them of the Father’s love. At each Eucharist, the table of the Lord’s Supper, we should be inspired to follow his example, by reaching out to others, in a spirit of respect and openness, in order to share with them the gift we ourselves have received.

In Asia, where the Church is committed to respectful dialogue with the followers of other religions, this prophetic witness most often takes place, as we know, through the dialogue of life. Through the testimony of lives transformed by God’s love, we best proclaim the Kingdom’s promise of reconciliation, justice and unity for the human family. Our example can open hearts to the grace of the Holy Spirit, who leads them to Christ the Savior.

The other image which the Lord offers us at the Last Supper is the washing of feet. On the eve of his passion, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples as a sign of humble service, of the unconditional love with which he gave his life on the Cross for the salvation of the world. The Eucharist is a school of humble service. It teaches us readiness to be there for others. This too is at the heart of missionary discipleship.

Here I think of the aftermath of the typhoon. It brought immense devastation to the Philippines, yet it also brought in its wake an immense outpouring of solidarity, generosity and goodness. People set about rebuilding not just homes, but lives. The Eucharist speaks to us of that power, which flows from the Cross and constantly brings new life. It changes hearts. It enables us to be caring, to protect the poor and the vulnerable, and to be sensitive to the cry of our brothers and sisters in need. It teaches us to act with integrity and to reject the injustice and corruption which poison the roots of society.

Dear friends, may this Eucharistic Congress strengthen you in your love of Christ present in the Eucharist. May it enable you, as missionary disciples, to bring this great experience of ecclesial communion and missionary outreach to your families, your parishes and communities, and your local Churches. May it be a leaven of reconciliation and peace for the entire world.

Now, at the end of the Congress, I am happy to announce that the next International Eucharistic Congress will take place in 2020 in Budapest, Hungary. I ask all of you to join me in praying for its spiritual fruitfulness and for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon all engaged in its preparation. As you return to your homes renewed in faith, I gladly impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and your families as a pledge of abiding joy and peace in the Lord.
God Bless you: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

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

January 27, 2016    Pope Francis’ address at this morning’s General Audience in St. Peter’s Square:

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

In Sacred Scripture, God’s mercy is present throughout the history of the people of Israel.

The Lord accompanies, with His mercy, the path of the Patriarchs; He gives them children despite the condition of sterility, He leads them by ways of grace and reconciliation, as the story of Joseph and his brothers shows (Cf. Genesis 37-50). And I think of how many brothers who have estranged themselves from their family and do not speak to one another. But this Year of Mercy is a good occasion to meet again, to embrace and forgive one another and to forget the bad things. However, as we know, life in Egypt became hard for the people. And it was in fact, when the Israelites were about to succumb, that the Lord intervened and brought about salvation.

In the Book of Exodus, one reads: “A long time passed, during which the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned under their bondage and cried out, and from their bondage their cry for help went up to God.

God heard their moaning and God was mindful of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God saw the Israelites, and God knew….” (2:23-25). Mercy cannot remain indifferent in face of the suffering of the oppressed, of the cry of one subjected to violence, reduced to slavery, condemned to death. It is a painful reality that afflicts every age, including our own, and which often makes us feel impotent, tempted to harden our heart and think of something else. God, instead, “is not indifferent” (Message for the Day of Peace 2016, 1), He never looks away from human pain. The God of mercy responds and takes care of the poor, of those who cry their desperation. God listens and intervenes to save, inspiring men capable of hearing the groan of suffering and of working in favor of the oppressed.

This is how the story of Moses begins, as mediator of liberation for the people. He confronts the Pharaoh to persuade him to let Israel leave; and then he guides the people, through the Red Sea and the desert, to freedom. Moses, whom Divine Mercy saved from death in the waters of the Nile when he was newly born, becomes the mediator of that same mercy, enabling the people to be born to freedom, saved from the waters of the Red Sea. And in this Year of Mercy, we can also do the work of being mediators of mercy with works of mercy to come close, to give relief, to create unity. So many good things can be done.

God’s mercy acts always to save. It is the opposite of the work of those who always act to kill: for instance, those who make wars. Through his servant Moses, the Lord guided Israel in the desert as if it were a child; He educated it to faith and made covenant with it, creating a very strong bond of love, as that of a father with a son and of a husband with a wife.

Divine mercy reaches that much. God proposes a particular, exclusive and privileged relation of love. When He gives Moses instructions regarding the covenant, He says: “Now, if you obey me completely and keep my covenant,* you will be my treasured possession among all peoples, though all the earth is mine. You will be to me a kingdom of priests, a holy nation.”(Exodus 19:5-6).

God certainly already possesses the whole earth, as He created it, but the people become for Him a different, special possession: His personal “reserve of gold and silver,” as that which King David affirmed he gave for the construction of the Temple.

Well, we become so for God by receiving His covenant and letting ourselves be saved by Him. The Lord’s mercy renders man precious, as a personal richness that belongs to Him, which He guards and with which He is pleased.

These are the wonders of Divine Mercy, which reaches fulfilment in the Lord Jesus, in that “new and eternal covenant” consummated in His Blood, which with forgiveness destroys our sin and renders us definitively children of God (Cf. 1 John 3:1), precious jewels in the hands of the good and merciful Father. And if we are children of God and have the possibility of having this inheritance – that of goodness and mercy – in our dealings with others, let us ask the Lord that in this Year of Mercy we also do things of mercy; open our heart to reach everyone with works of mercy. the merciful inheritance that God the Father has given us.

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

January 30, 2016     On Saturday, Pope Francis held the first of his “Jubilee audiences” — a general audience that during this Year of Mercy will be held one Saturday a month.

Here is the English-language summary of his address:

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters: Today I wish to speak to you about the close relationship between mercy and mission . Saint John Paul II reminded us that the Church lives an authentic life when she professes and proclaims mercy, and leads people to the source of mercy. As Christians, we are called to be missionaries of the Gospel. Just as we naturally seek to share with others the beautiful moments of our lives, we are called also and especially to share the joy of encountering Jesus Christ. This was the experience of the disciples from the very beginning. After meeting the Lord, Andrew went directly to his brother Peter, and Philip sought out Nathanael, to tell them whom they had met. To encounter Jesus is to experience his love, which transforms us and compels us, in turn, to share this love. We are called to be “bearers of Christ”! For the mercy we receive from the Father is not given solely for our benefit, but for the good of all, by transforming us into instruments, missionaries of mercy. By being such missionaries, we come to experience more deeply the gift of mercy in our own lives. May we take seriously our call to be Christians, to live as believers, so that the Gospel may touch the hearts of all people and open them to the gift of God’s love.

Speaker:
I offer an affectionate greeting to all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Audience. May your stay in the Eternal City confirm you in love for our Lord, and may he make you his missionaries of mercy, especially for all those who feel distant from God. May God bless you all!

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

 Holy Thursday Washing of the Feet

·  Congregatio de Cultu Divino et Disciplina Sacramentorum

Prot. N. 87/15

DECREE

The restoration of Holy Week, with the decree Maxima Redemptionis

nostrae mysteria (30 November 1955), granted the faculty for the washing of feet

of twelve men during the Mass of the Lord’s Supper after the reading of the

Gospel according to John, where a pastoral reason recommended it, in order to

demonstrate in an almost representative way the humility and charity of Christ

towards his disciples.

In the Roman Liturgy this rite was handed down with the name of the

Mandatum of the Lord concerning fraternal charity from the words of Jesus (cf

Jhn 13:34), which are sung in an Antiphon during the celebration.

In preforming this rite Bishops and priests are invited to intimately

conform themselves to Christ who «came not to be served but to serve» (Mt

20:28) and, compelled by charity «to the end» (Jhn 13:1), to give his life for the

salvation of the whole human race.

In order that the full meaning of this rite might be expressed to those who

participate it seemed good to the Supreme Pontiff Pope Francis to vary the norm

which is found in the rubrics of the Missale Romanum (p. 300 n. 11): «The men

who have been chosen are led by the ministers…», which therefore must be

changed as follows: «Those who are chosen from amongst the people of God are

led by the ministers…» (and consequently in the Caeremoniali Episcoporum n.

301 and n. 299b: «seats for those chosen»), so that pastors may select a small

group of the faithful to represent the variety and the unity of each part of the

people of God. Such small groups can be made up of men and women, and it is

appropriate that they consist of people young and old, healthy and sick, clerics,

consecrated men and women and laity.

This Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the

Sacraments, in virtue of the faculties granted by the Supreme Pontiff, introduces

this innovation into the liturgical books of the Roman Rite, reminding pastors of

their responsibility to adequately instruct both the chosen faithful as well as all

others so that they may participate consciously, actively and fruitfully in the rite.

Anything to the contrary notwithstanding.

From the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the

Sacraments, 6 January 2016, Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord.

Robert Card. Sarah

Prefect

X Arthur Roche

Archbishop Secretary

 

 

  I HAVE GIVEN YOU AN EXAMPLE

With the decree In Missa in cena Domini the Congregation for Divine Worship and the

Discipline of the Sacraments, at the request of the Holy Father, has readjusted the rubric of the

Missale Romanum regarding the washing of feet (p. 300 n. 11), variously linked down the centuries

with Holy Thursday and which, from the reform of Holy Week in 1955, could also take place

during the evening Mass that begins the Paschal Triduum.

Illuminated by the gospel of John the rite carries a double significance: an imitation of what

Christ did in the Upper Room washing the feet of the Apostles and an expression of the self-gift

signified by this gesture of service. It is not by accident this is called the Mandatum from the incipit

of the antiphon which accompanied the action: «Mandatum novum do vobis, ut diligatis invicem,

sicut dilexi vos, dicit Dominus» (Jhn 13:14). In fact the commandment to fraternal love binds all

the disciples of Jesus without any distinction or exception.

Already in an old ordo of the 7

th

century we find the following: «Pontifex suis cubicularibus

pedes lavat et unusquisque clericorum in domo sua». Applied differently in the various dioceses

and abbeys it is also found in the Roman Pontifical of the 12

th

century after Vespers on Holy

Thursday and in the Pontifical of the Roman Curia of the 13

th

century («facit mandatum duodecim

subdiaconos»). The Mandatum is described as follows in the Missale Romanum of Pope Saint Pius

V (1570): «Post denudationem altarium, hora competenti, facto signo cum tabula, conveniunt clerici

ad faciendum mandatum. Maior abluit pedes minoribus: tergit et osculatur». It takes place during

the singing of antiphons, the last of which is Ubi caritas and is concluded by the Pater noster and a

prayer which links the commandment of service with purification from sins: «Adesto Domine,

quaesumus, officio servitutis nostrae: et quia tu discipulis tuis pedes lavare dignatus es, ne despicias

opera manuum tuarum, quae nobis retinenda mandasti: ut sicut hic nobis, et a nobis exterioria

abluuntur inquinamenta; sic a te omnium nostrum interiora laventur peccata. Quod ipse praestare

digneris, qui vivis et regnas, Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum». Enlightened by the gospel

which has been heard during the morning Mass, the carrying out of this action is reserved to the

clergy («conveniunt clerici») and the absence of an instruction to have “twelve” would seem to

indicate that what counts isn’t just imitating what Jesus did in the Upper Room but rather putting

the exemplary value of what Jesus did into practice, which is expected of all his disciples.

The description of the «De Mandato seu lotione pedum» in the Caeremoniale Episcoporum

of 1600 is more detailed. It mentions the custom (after Vespers or at lunchtime, in a church, a

chapter room or a suitable place) of the Bishop washing, drying and kissing the feet of “thirteen”

poor people after having dressed them, fed them and given them a charitable donation. Likewise

this could be done to thirteen canons, according to the local custom and wishes of the Bishop, who

might choose poor people even where it is the practice that they be canons: «videtur enim eo pacto

maiorem humilitatem, et charitatem prae se ferre, quam lavare pedes Canonicis». This meaningful

gesture of the washing of feet, although not applied to the entirety of the people of God and

reserved to the clergy, did not exclude local customs which take into account the poor or young

people (e.g. the Missale Parisiense). The Caeremoniale Episcoporum expressly prescribed the

Mandatum for cathedrals and collegiate churches.

With the reform of Pius XII which once more moved the Missa in cena Domini to the

evening, the washing of feet could take place, for pastoral reasons, during the Mass, after the

homily for «duodecim viros selectos», placed «in medio presbyterii vel in ipsa aula ecclesiae»; the

celebrant washes and dries their feet (the kiss is no longer mentioned). This now goes beyond the

rather clerical and reserved sense, taking place in the public assembly with the direction for «twelve

men» which makes it more explicitly an imitative sign, almost a sacred representation, that

facilitates what Jesus did and had in mind on the first Holy Thursday.

The Missale Romanum of 1970 retained the recently reformed rite, simplifying some

elements: the number «twelve» is omitted; it takes place «in loco apto»; it omits one antiphon and

simplifies the others; Ubi caritas is assigned to the presentation of gifts; the concluding part is

  omitted (Pater noster, verses and prayer), as this formerly took place outside of the Mass. The

reservation solely to «viri» however remained for mimetic value.

The current change foresees that individuals may be chosen from amongst all the members

of the people of God. The significance does not now relate so much to the exterior imitation of

what Jesus has done, rather as to the meaning of what he has accomplished which has a universal

importance, namely the giving of himself «to the end» for the salvation of the human race, his

charity which embraces all people and which makes all people brothers and sisters by following his

example. In fact, the exemplum that he has given to us so that we might do as he has done goes

beyond the physical washing of the feet of others to embrace everything that such a gesture

expresses in service of the tangible love of our neighbour. All the antiphons proposed in the

Missale during the washing of feet recall and illustrate the meaning of this gesture both for those

who carry it out and for those who receive it as well as for those who look on and interiorise it

through the chant.

The washing of feet is not obligatory in the Missa in cena Domini. It is for pastors to

evaluate its desirability, according to the pastoral considerations and circumstances which exist, in

such a way that it does not become something automatic or artificial, deprived of meaning and

reduced to a staged event. Nor must it become so important as to grab all the attention during the

Mass of the Lord’s Supper, celebrated on «the most sacred day on which our Lord Jesus Christ was

handed over for our sake» (i.e. Communicantes of the Roman Canon for this Mass). In the

directions for the homily we are reminded of the distinctiveness of this Mass which commemorates

the institution of the Eucharist, of the priestly Order and of the new commandment concerning

fraternal charity, the supreme law for all and towards all in the Church.

It is for pastors to choose a small group of persons who are representative of the entire

people of God – lay, ordained ministers, married, single, religious, healthy, sick, children, young

people and the elderly – and not just one category or condition. Those chosen should offer

themselves willingly. Lastly, it is for those who plan and organise the liturgical celebrations to

prepare and dispose everything so that all may be helped to fruitfully participate in this moment: the

anamnesis of the “new commandment” heard in the gospel which is the life of every disciple of the

Lord.

X Arthur Roche

Archbishop Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments

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

January 21, 2016 

Today, Pope Francis received in audience participants in the International Meeting of pilgrimage organizers and rectors of shrines, celebrating their Jubilee in Rome from January 19-21.

Here is a translation of the Holy Father’s address:

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

I welcome you all cordially, operators of pilgrimages to shrines. To go on pilgrimage to shrines is one of the most eloquent expressions of the faith of the People of God, and it manifests the piety of generations of persons, who believed with simplicity and entrusted themselves to the intercession of the Virgin Mary and of the Saints. This popular religiosity is a genuine form of evangelization, which must always be promoted and appreciated, without minimizing its importance. It is curious: in Evangelii Nuntiandi, Blessed Paul VI speaks of popular religiosity, but he says that it is better to call it “popular piety.” And then, in the Document of Aparecida, the Latin American Episcopate takes a further step and speaks of “popular spirituality.” All three concepts are valid, but together. In the shrines, in fact, our people live their profound spirituality, that piety that for centuries has shaped their faith with simple but very significant devotions. We think of how, in some of these places, the prayer to Christ Crucified is understood, or that of the Rosary, or the Via Crucis.

It would be an error to hold that one who goes on pilgrimage lives not a personal but a “mass” spirituality. In reality, the pilgrim bears within him his history, his faith, the lights and shadows of his life. Everyone has in his heart a special desire and a particular prayer. One who enters a shrine feels immediately at home, welcomed, understood and supported. I very much like the biblical figure of Anna, mother of the prophet Samuel. With her heart full of sadness, she prayed in the Temple of Silo to the Lord for a child. Eli, the priest, thought instead that she was drunk and wanted to throw her out (cf. 1 Samuel 1:12-14). Anna represents well many persons that we can find in our shrines — with eyes fixed on the Crucifix or on an image of Our Lady, in a prayer full of trust made with tears in their eyes. A shrine is really a privileged place to encounter the Lord and to touch His mercy with the hand. To go to confession in a shrine is to have the experience of touching God’s mercy with the hand.

Therefore, the key word that I want to stress today together with you is welcome: to welcome pilgrims. With welcome, so to speak, we stake all — an affectionate, festive, cordial and patient welcome. Patience is also necessary! The Gospels present Jesus to us always welcoming those who approach Him, especially the sick, the sinners and the marginalized. And we recall His expression: “He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me” (Matthew 10:40). Jesus spoke of welcome, but above all He practiced it. When we are told that sinners – for instance Matthew or Zaccheus – received Jesus in their home or at their table, it was because, first of all, they felt welcomed by Jesus, and this changed their life. It is interesting that the Book of the Acts of the Apostles ends with the scene of Saint Paul who, here in Rome, “welcomed all who came to him” (Acts 28:30). His house, where he dwelt as a prisoner, was the place where he proclaimed the Gospel. Welcome is truly determinant for evangelization. Sometimes a word, a smile simply suffices to make a person feel welcome and liked.

The pilgrim who arrives at a shrine is often tired, hungry and thirsty. And often this physical condition reflects also his interior condition. Therefore, this person is in need of being received well, both on the material as well as the spiritual plane. It is important that the pilgrim who crosses the threshold of a shrine feels that he is treated rather than a guest, as a member of the family. He must feel at home, awaited, loved and looked at with eyes of mercy. Whoever he is, young or old, rich or poor, sick and troubled, or a curious tourist, must be able to find due welcome, because in each one there is a heart that seeks God, sometimes without fully realizing it. We should act in such a way that every pilgrim has the joy of finally being understood and loved. Thus, on returning home, he will feel nostalgia for all that he experienced and will want to return, but above all he will want to continue the journey of faith in his ordinary life.

An altogether particular welcome is that offered by ministers of God’s forgiveness. A shrine is a house of forgiveness, where everyone encounters the Father’s mercy, who has mercy for all, no one excluded. He who approaches a confessional does so because he is repentant, he is repentant of his sin. He feels the need to go there. He perceives clearly that God does not condemn him, but receives and embraces him, as the Father of the Prodigal Son, to restore his filial dignity to him (cf. Luke 15:20-24).  Priests who carry out a ministry in shrines must have their heart permeated with mercy. Their attitude must be that of a father.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us live this Jubilee with faith and joy: let us live it as a unique great pilgrimage. You live your service, in a special way, as a work of corporal and spiritual mercy. I assure you of my prayer for this, through the intercession of Mary our Mother. And you, please, accompany me also on my pilgrimage with your prayer. Thank you.

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

January 20, 2016

The Vatican today released a letter of Pope Francis to the World Economic Forum in Davos-Klosters, dated Dec. 30, 2015. Here is the text:

* * *

To Professor Klaus Schwab

Executive President of the World Economic Forum

Before all else, I would like to thank you for your gracious invitation to address the annual gathering of the World Economic Forum in Davos-Klosters at the end of January on the theme: “Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution”. I offer you my cordial good wishes for the fruitfulness of this meeting, which seeks to encourage continuing social and environmental responsibility through a constructive dialogue on the part of government, business and civic leaders, as well as distinguished representatives of the political, financial and cultural sectors.

The dawn of the so-called “fourth industrial revolution” has been accompanied by a growing sense of the inevitability of a drastic reduction in the number of jobs. The latest studies conducted by the International Labour Organization indicate that unemployment presently affects hundreds of millions of people. The financialization and technologization of national and global economies have produced far-reaching changes in the field of labour. Diminished opportunities for useful and dignified employment, combined with a reduction in social security, are causing a disturbing rise in inequality and poverty in different countries. Clearly there is a need to create new models of doing business which, while promoting the development of advanced technologies, are also capable of using them to create dignified work for all, to uphold and consolidate social rights, and to protect the environment. Man must guide technological development, without letting himself be dominated by it!

To all of you I appeal once more: “Do not forget the poor!” This is the primary challenge before you as leaders in the business world. “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” (Address to Civic and Business Leaders and the Diplomatic Corps, Bangui, 29 November 2015).

We must never allow the culture of prosperity to deaden us, to make us incapable of “feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and sensing the need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own” (Evangelii Gaudium, 54).

Weeping for other people’s pain does not only mean sharing in their sufferings, but also and above all realizing that our own actions are a cause of injustice and inequality. “Let us open our eyes, then, and see the misery of the world, the wounds of our brothers and sisters who are denied their dignity, and let us recognize that we are compelled to heed their cry for help! May we reach out to them and support them so they can feel the warmth of our presence, our friendship, and our fraternity! May their cry become our own, and together may we break down the barriers of indifference that too often reign supreme and mask our hypocrisy and egoism!” (Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, Misericordiae Vultus, 15).

Once we realize this, we become more fully human, since responsibility for our brothers and sisters is an essential part of our common humanity. Do not be afraid to open your minds and hearts to the poor. In this way, you will give free rein to your economic and technical talents, and discover the happiness of a full life, which consumerism of itself cannot provide.

In the face of profound and epochal changes, world leaders are challenged to ensure that the coming “fourth industrial revolution”, the result of robotics and scientific and technological innovations, does not lead to the destruction of the human person – to be replaced by a soulless machine – or to the transformation of our planet into an empty garden for the enjoyment of a chosen few.

On the contrary, the present moment offers a precious opportunity to guide and govern the processes now under way, and to build inclusive societies based on respect for human dignity, tolerance, compassion and mercy. I urge you, then, to take up anew your conversation on how to build the future of the planet, “our common home”, and I ask you to make a united effort to pursue a sustainable and integral development.

As I have often said, and now willingly reiterate, business is “a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving our world”, especially “if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good” (Laudato Si’, 129). As such, it has a responsibility to help overcome the complex crisis of society and the environment, and to fight poverty. This will make it possible to improve the precarious living conditions of millions of people and bridge the social gap which gives rise to numerous injustices and erodes fundamental values of society, including equality, justice and solidarity.

In this way, through the preferred means of dialogue, the World Economic Forum can become a platform for the defence and protection of creation and for the achievement of a progress which is “healthier, more human, more social, more integral” (Laudato Si’, 112), with due regard also for environmental goals and the need to maximize efforts to eradicate poverty as set forth in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and in the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Mr President, with renewed good wishes for the success of the forthcoming meeting in Davos, I invoke upon you and upon all taking part in the Forum, together with your families, God’s abundant blessings.

From the Vatican, 30 December 2015

FRANCISCUS

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