Cardinal Bergoglio is the 267th Successor of St. Peter
1st South American, 1st Jesuit, and 1st to Take Name Francis

VATICAN CITY, March 13, 2013 - The bells of St. Peter's started ringing and the crowds began cheering just moments after 7 p.m. local time, as white smoke from the Sistine Chapel indicated "Habemus Papam." We have a Pope!

Just over an hour later, the 267th Successor of St. Peter has been announced by the senior cardinal deacon: It is Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, 76, who had been serving as the archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina.

He takes the name Francis.

The crowds in St. Peter's Square near immediately began chanting "Francesco" as they await his arrival on the central balcony for his first "urbi et orbi" blessing.

 
Pope Francis' 1st Words

VATICAN CITY, March 13, 2013 - Here is a translation of the brief greeting Pope Francis gave from the central balcony of St. Peter's Square following his election as the Successor of St. Peter.

* * *

Brothers and sisters, good evening!

You know that the duty of the Conclave was to give a bishop to Rome. It seems as though my brother cardinals went almost to the end of the world to get him. But here we are. I thank you for your welcome. The diocesan community of Rome has a bishop. Thank you!

Before all else, I would like to say a prayer for our Bishop Emeritus Benedict XVI. Let us all pray together for him, that the Lord may bless him and that Our Lady may watch over him …

[Our Father … Hail Mary … Glory be]

And now let us begin this journey, [together] as bishop and people. This journey of the Church of Rome, which is to preside over all the Churches in charity. It is a journey of fraternity, of love, of trust between us. Let us always pray for one another. Let us pray for the world, so that a great brotherhood may be created. I hope that this journey of the Church, which we begin today and in which my Cardinal Vicar who is present here will assist me, will be fruitful for the Evangelization of this beautiful city.

And now I would like to give you my blessing. But before I do, I would like to ask you a favor: before the bishop blesses the people, I ask you to pray to the Lord that He bless me…. the prayer of the people for a blessing upon their bishop. Let us take a moment of silence for you to offer your prayer for me.”

[Silence … the Holy Father bows]

[Cardinal N. says … “The Holy Father, Francesco …”]

“Now I will give you my blessing and to the whole world, to all men and women of good will.”

[Pope’s blessing]

Brothers and Sisters,

I leave you now. Thank you for your welcome. Pray for me. And we’ll see one another again soon. Tomorrow I want to go and pray to Our Lady, asking her to watch over Rome. Good night and have a good rest.

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Francis Has Spoken With Pope Emeritus
And Journalists to Be Among First to Have Papal Audience

VATICAN CITY, March 13, 2013 - According to the director of the Vatican press office, Pope Francis has spoken with his predecessor and they hope to meet in the coming days.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi briefed journalists within an hour after Francis gave his first apostolic blessing to the faithful.

Among the information given by Father Lombardi was the news that the Pope had spoken with Benedict XVI and that the two hope to meet in the next few days.

Fr. Lombardi also announced that Francis will meet with the cardinals (electors and non-electors) on Friday morning.

The next day, Saturday morning, he will meet with journalists.

The Mass for the inauguration of his pontificate is scheduled for March 19, next Tuesday, the feast of St. Joseph.



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JORGE MARIO BERGOGLIO?

Vatican City, 13 March 2013 (VIS) – Following is the official biography of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, S.J.

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, S.J., Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, Ordinary for Eastern-rite faithful in Argentina who lack an Ordinary of their own rite, was born on 17 December 1936 in Buenos Aires. He studied as and holds a degree as a chemical technician, but then chose the priesthood and entered the seminary of Villa Devoto. On 11 March 1958 he moved to the novitiate of the Company of Jesus where he finished studies in the humanities in Chile. In 1963, on returning to Buenos Aires, he obtained a degree in philosophy at the St. Joseph major seminary of San Miguel.

Between 1964 and 1965 he taught literature and psychology at the Immacolata College in Santa Fe and then in 1966 he taught the same subjects at the University of El Salvador, in Buenos Aires.

From 1967 to 1970 he studied theology at the St. Joseph major seminary of San Miguel where he obtained a degree. On 13 December 1969 he was ordained a priest. From 1970 to 1971 he completed the third probation at Alcala de Henares, Spain, and on 22 April 1973, pronounced his perpetual vows.

He was novice master at Villa Varilari in San Miguel from 1972 to 1973, where he also taught theology. On 31 July 1973 he was elected as Provincial for Argentina, a role he served as for six years.

From 1980 to 1986 he was rector of the Philosophical and Theological Faculty of San Miguel as well as pastor of the Patriarca San Jose parish in the Diocese of San Miguel. In March of 1986 he went to Germany to finish his doctoral thesis. The superiors then sent him to the University of El Salvador and then to Cordoba where he served as a confessor and spiritual director.

On 20 May 1992, John Paul II appointed him titular Bishop of Auca and Auxiliary of Buenos Aires, He received episcopal consecration in the Cathedral of Buenos Aires from Cardinal Antonio Quarracino, Apostolic Nunzio Ubaldo Calabresi, and Bishop Emilio Ognenovich. of Mercedes-Lujan on 27 June of that year.

On 3 June 1997 he was appointed Coadjutor Archbishop of Buenos Aires and succeeded Cardinal Antonio Quarracino on 28 February 1998.

He was Adjunct Relator General of the 10th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, October 2001.

He served as President of the Bishops' Conference of Argentina from 8 November 2005 until 8 November 2011.

He was created and proclaimed Cardinal by Blessed John Paul II in the consistory of 21 February 2001, of the Title of S. Roberto Bellarmino (St. Robert Bellarmine).

He was a member of:

The Congregations for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments; for the Clergy; and for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life; the Pontifical Council for the Family; and the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.

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Fifteen Days in Rome: How the Pope Was Picked

By STACY MEICHTRY and ALESSANDRA GALLONI

Though the public paid little notice to Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, his name had made the rounds among a small group of cardinals who had descended upon Rome from different parts of the globe to choose a new pope.

.On Feb. 27, a mild, dewy morning, Alitalia Flight 681 landed at Leonardo da Vinci airport in Rome after 13 hours in the air. A balding man with gray-white wisps of thin hair stepped out of coach class. He wore thick-rimmed brown glasses, black orthopedic shoes and a dark overcoat. He had a slight limp, and his back was stiff from the long flight. His belly was a bit swollen, due to many decades of cortisone treatments to help him breathe after he had lost part of a lung as a young man. No one could see the silver pectoral cross he wore under his coat, though it was the symbol of his authority.

Back home in Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was a prominent figure, the highest-ranking Catholic prelate in his country and to many a beloved figure known especially for his work in the city's teeming slums. Here he was one of 115 cardinals converging on Vatican City for important business: the election of a new leader for the Catholic Church.

Two weeks earlier, Pope Benedict XVI had suddenly announced his resignation from office, becoming the first pontiff in 600 years to renounce a job traditionally held until death. In church teaching, the position had been handed down for two millennia, starting when Jesus said to St. Peter, "On this rock I will build my church."

Cardinal Bergoglio expected his trip to be brief. He was already carrying in his black leather briefcase the airplane ticket that would return him home in time for Holy Week, the most important week of the year for a Catholic prelate. His Easter Sunday homily was already written too, and in the hands of parishioners back home.

The Argentine prelate checked into the Domus Internationalis Paulus VI hotel for priests. Named after Catholicism's 1960s "pilgrim pope" and housed in a 17th- and 18th-century stone palazzo that once served as a Jesuit college, the Domus is a modest affair. The floors are made of marble, but the rooms are sparsely furnished. Meals are served in a cafeteria-style hall decorated with large paintings of Biblical scenes.

What drew Cardinal Bergoglio to the Domus was its location. Positioned right in the heart of Rome, near its busiest byways and cafes, the hotel is across the Tiber River and quite a distance from Vatican City. That allowed for long walks over cobblestone piazzas and bridges, past peddlers, street performers and throngs of tourists, as he commuted to the General Congregation, the secret deliberations being held inside Vatican City in the days before the conclave began on March 12. In his dark overcoat covering his pectoral cross, he blended in with the crowd. He didn't wear his red cardinal's hat, instead letting his wispy white hair flutter in the wind and rain.

What goes on behind the scenes when the cardinals convene to pick a new pope? WSJ’s Stacy Meichtry discusses the events that led to the election of Pope Francis with Weekend Review editor Gary Rosen.

Though the public paid little notice to Cardinal Bergoglio, his name had made the rounds among a small group of cardinals who had descended upon Rome from different parts of the globe to choose a new pope. Though he had drawn support in 2005, in 2013 he was definitely a dark-horse candidate. There were a dozen or so more high-profile cardinals regarded as papabili, or "popeables," being touted in headlines world-wide as possible successors to Pope Benedict. These men, who included Cardinals Timothy Dolan of New York and Angelo Scola of Milan, were accompanied by assistants and journalists. They quickly became the toast of the town, attending sumptuous private dinners with fellow cardinals and kissing babies at Mass before batteries of TV cameras. Their crimson vestments, golden pectoral crosses and sizable entourages stood out.

The Italian cardinals were chauffeured to and from the walled confines of Vatican City in jet black Mercedes marked with Holy See license plates. They were greeted as "Your Eminence" whenever they set foot inside the city's best trattorias. The Americans tooled around Rome in white minivans and lodged at the sprawling Pontifical North American College, a seminary nestled on a hill just above the Vatican.

Inside the Synod Hall of the General Congregation, however, the cardinals blended into one red-hued assembly. Erected in the postwar era, the space is distinguished among Vatican architecture for its lack of majesty. Its uniformly beige interior is as sterile as a community college lecture hall. Eight years earlier, when they gathered in the same room after the death of John Paul II, the princes of the church had mainly looked for a candidate who could guarantee doctrinal continuity with the late Polish pope. But Pope Benedict's resignation had opened the door to a flurry of unusually frank discussions. This time, cardinals had no pope to mourn, and they spent little time worrying about how to preserve his legacy.

Instead the deliberations swiftly turned to the biggest challenges facing the church—the rise of secular trends in Europe and the U.S., the need to address a shift in Catholicism's demographics toward the Southern Hemisphere and the dysfunction of a Vatican bureaucracy that had become too mired in scandal to do anything about these problems.

Veteran cardinals who had cast ballots for Cardinal Bergoglio in 2005 saw a chance to float his candidacy again. His earliest supporters—a coalition of cardinals from Latin America, as well as Africa and Europe—viewed him as a consummate outsider. He had never worked in the Roman Curia, the Vatican's governing body, and he was critical of Rome's apparent disconnect with far-flung dioceses. The challenge was getting Cardinal Bergoglio the 77 votes he needed, representing two-thirds of the conclave, to become pope. He would need support from many different circles, including the so-called Ratzingerian bloc—men who were already lining up behind two candidates closely associated with the German pope emeritus.

In the years leading up to Pope Benedict's resignation, the pontiff had positioned two princes of the church as possible successors. In June 2010, he transferred Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet from the Archdiocese of Quebec to the Vatican in order to run the Congregation for Bishops, the Curia office that vets and advises the pope on bishop appointments world-wide. The naming of bishops is among a pope's most important administrative powers. Bishops are his bridge to the rest of the world, tending to local flocks and implementing directives from Rome. Cardinal Ouellet's move, therefore, ensured that cardinals from every corner of the planet would be vying for his attention. 

A year later, Pope Benedict appointed Cardinal Angelo Scola as archbishop of Milan. Not only was Milan among the biggest archdioceses in Catholicism, it had a centuries-old reputation as a way station to the papacy. Cardinal Scola's predecessors in Milan ranged from Cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini, who became Paul VI in 1963, to Cardinal Giuliano Angelo Medici, who was elected as Pope Pius IV in 1559.

U.S. Cardinals Francis George, Donald Wuerl and Daniel DiNardo on March 5. As a potential bloc of votes inside the conclave, the Americans were powerful, outnumbered only by the Italians. They were initially divided over papal contenders.

Both men were adherents of Pope Benedict's school of thought. As young priests, each had worked on "Communio," the theological journal co-founded by Rev. Joseph Ratzinger, as Benedict XVI was then known, as a reaction to the liberalizing forces unleashed by the Second Vatican Council. As alumni of "Communio," they were seen as standing firmly in opposition to secular trends rather than trying to adapt church teaching to modern life.

Cardinals Scola and Ouellet were among the names frequently discussed over private dinners among cardinals. Such meals had become a staple for cardinals seeking an intimate setting to sound out their colleagues ahead of the conclave. All cardinals entering the General Congregation are required to swear an oath never to reveal its proceedings. Even then, cardinals did not consider the Congregation a place to let their guard down. The atmosphere inside the Synod assembly hall was fine for broad debate over the future of the church. But the forum was too formal—and porous—for the delicate matter of discussing actual candidates. When cardinals vote on a potential pope, they are backing a man they think is best-suited to serve as a spiritual pastor to 1.2 billion Catholics. But they are also picking their next boss. That is partly why cardinals vote anonymously in the Sistine Chapel, masking their handwriting and burning the ballots. Cardinals do not want to be on record voting against a future pope.

The private dinners, therefore, are regarded as the conclave within the conclave, an ostensibly casual setting that serves in fact as a high-stakes testing ground for candidacies. "Every night it's something different," said Chicago's Cardinal Francis George. "So there are different conversations going on."

At age 76, Cardinal George walks with a pronounced limp and has shed most of his hair. Yet the Chicagoan has a keen eye for the art of politics. His knowledge of Italy's intrigue-laden political system, from the machinations of the postwar Christian Democrats to the more recent antics of Silvio Berlusconi, runs deep. Going into the 2013 conclave, Cardinal George's second, he was widely regarded by his colleagues as one of a handful of cardinals who would play the role of kingmaker. As such, he remained tight-lipped about his dinnertime whereabouts. In the case of one meal in particular, he claimed to have no memory of the evening at all.

On March 5, after a long day of speeches at the Congregation, a group of cardinals arrived at the Pontifical North American College under the cover of night and were directed through long quiet corridors to a pair of double doors, upholstered in crimson leather. On the other side was the Red Room.

Named after a Vatican drawing room where prelates of past centuries once waited for news of whether they had been named a cardinal, the Red Room of the college offered a splendorous showcase of American Catholicism to the dinner guests. A shimmering chandelier lighted a salon trimmed with red marble pilasters and oil paintings depicting late eminences such as Richard J. Cushing of Boston and John F. O'Hara of Philadelphia—cardinals who dominated the church in post-World War II America.

Before those portraits, some of the most powerful churchmen in the English-speaking world lounged on velvet settees. They ranged from Cardinals George Pell of Sydney and Thomas Collins of Toronto to Americans such as cardinals Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and Cardinal Dolan of New York, once the North American College's rector.

.American cardinals are an important group in papal elections. They run archdioceses that are among the biggest donors to the Catholic Church and to the papacy. And as a potential bloc of votes inside the conclave, the Americans are very powerful because they're outnumbered only by cardinals from Italy, said British Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, who attended the dinner. Often they're even more influential because the Italians are characteristically divided over whom to support.

Sitting down at a long banquet table, the cardinals began to discuss a half-dozen papal candidates. Saucers of soup were served. The candidacies of Cardinals Ouellet and Scola were weighed. Then someone dropped Cardinal Bergoglio's name into the conversation. "His name began to be thrown into the ring: Maybe this is the man?" recalls Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor.

The name didn't generate much buzz among the Americans and their guests. As the evening wore on, and glasses of red and white wine began to flow, it became clear that, this time around, the Americans were not united in their thinking about papal contenders. "I thought the American cardinals were quite divided about where to go," said Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor, who didn't enter the conclave because he is above the voting-age limit of 80 years.

Some princes of the church believed Cardinal Bergoglio, at 76, was probably too old to become pope, especially after Benedict XVI had specifically cited his age and frailty as reasons for his resignation. "We came into this whole process thinking: The next pope has to be vigorous and therefore probably younger," said Cardinal George. "So there you have a man who isn't young. He's 76 years old. The question is: Does he still have vigor?"

Two days after the dinner, however, something clicked. And it happened in the span of four minutes—the length of Cardinal Bergoglio's speech when it was his turn to address the General Congregation. On March 7, the Argentine took out a sheet of white paper bearing notes written in tiny tight script. They were bullet-pointed.

Many cardinals had focused their speeches on specific issues, whether it was strategies for evangelization or progress reports on Vatican finances. Cardinal Bergoglio, however, wanted to talk about the elephant in the room: the long-term future of the church and its recent history of failure. From its start, Pope Benedict's papacy had been focused on reinforcing Catholicism's identity, particularly in Europe, its historic home. Amid a collapse of the church's influence and following in Europe, the German pontiff had called on Catholics to hunker down and cultivate a "creative minority" whose embrace of doctrine was sound enough to resist the pull of secular trends across the continent. That message, however, had been overshadowed by the explosion of sexual-abuse allegations across Europe and rampant infighting in the Vatican ranks.

The notes on Cardinal Bergoglio's sheet were written in his native Spanish. And he could easily have delivered the remarks in Spanish—19 of the cardinals voting in the conclave came from Spanish-speaking countries and a team of Vatican translators was on hand to provide simultaneous translations in at least four other languages.

But he spoke in Italian, the language cardinals most commonly use inside Vatican City and the native tongue of Italy's 28 voting-age cardinals, the most of any single nation. He wanted to be understood, loud and clear. The leaders of the Catholic Church, our very selves, Cardinal Bergoglio warned, had become too focused on its inner life. The church was navel-gazing. The church was too self-referential.

"When the church is self-referential," he said, "inadvertently, she believes she has her own light; she ceases to be the mysterium lunae and gives way to that very serious evil, spiritual worldliness."

Roman Catholicism, he said, needed to shift its focus outward, to the world beyond Vatican City walls, to the outside. The new pope "must be a man who, from the contemplation and adoration of Jesus Christ, helps the church to go out to the existential peripheries, that helps her to be the fruitful mother, who gains life from the sweet and comforting joy of evangelizing."

The word he used, periferia in Italian, literally translates into "the periphery" or "the edge." But to Italian ears, periferia is also a term loaded with heavy socioeconomic connotations. It is on the periphery of Italian cities, and most European ones, that the working-class poor live, many of them immigrants. The core mission of the church wasn't self-examination, the cardinal said. It was getting in touch with the everyday problems of a global flock, most of whom were battling poverty and the indignities of socioeconomic injustice.

German Cardinals Reinhard Marx of Munich and Walter Kasper, an old Vatican hand, perked up. So did Cardinals Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne of Lima and Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino of Havana, who promptly asked the pope for the notes of his address. For days they had heard speeches about "new evangelization," a term from past popes that many cardinals used to honor their memory while disagreeing over what it meant. Suddenly, they were hearing someone speak about justice, human dignity. And it was simple, clear, refreshing.

"He speaks in a very straightforward way," said Cardinal George. "And so perhaps—more than the content—it was simply a reminder that here is someone who has authenticity in such a way that he's a wonderful witness to the discipleship."

To Cardinal Cipriani Thorne of Lima, Peru, the address was vintage Bergoglio. For years, the Peruvian had heard his fellow Latin American cardinal deliver similar remarks. And like those earlier speeches, his message to the General Congregation walked a very fine line. Many cardinals, including Cipriani Thorne, were stern opponents of any rhetoric that appeared to invite class warfare. Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI had reined in liberation theology, the teachings of Latin American priests who embraced Marxism, and churchmen like Cipriani Thorne had supported the crackdown. But Cardinal Bergoglio's message to cardinals deftly sidestepped those ideological pitfalls by grounding his message in a call to model the modern church on the humility of its origins.

"He's not relating this to ideology, to let's say, rich against poor," Cardinal Cipriani Thorne said. "No, no, nothing like that. He's saying that Jesus himself brought us to this world to be poor—to not have this excessive consumerism, this great difference between rich and poor."

What many thought Cardinal Bergoglio was offering the church—after a decade of struggling to overcome the sexual-abuse crisis and years of internal bickering over issues like the liturgy—was a new narrative. He was telling a story of modern Catholicism that focused less on its complex inner workings and more on its outreach to those most in need.

"We've been arguing intra-ecclesia," Cardinal Cipriani Thorne said. Cardinal Bergoglio's speech was a call to stop "messing around" and "get to the point: It's Jesus."

By Sunday, March 10, two days before the start of the conclave, a new narrative was taking hold among the cardinals. Cardinal Bergoglio was now a contender, and even the Argentine was starting to feel the pressure of being papabile.

Late that night, the Rev. Thomas Rosica, a Canadian priest, was walking along the edge of Rome's Piazza Navona when he ran into Cardinal Bergoglio making his way back to the Domus hotel. Streetlamps illuminated the contorted stone figures of Gian Lorenzo Bernini's 17th-century Fountain of Four Rivers. The sound of trickling water accompanied the clerics.

"Pray for me," Cardinal Bergoglio said, grasping the priest's hands.

"Are you nervous?" Father Rosica asked.

"A little bit," the cardinal said.

—Excerpted from The Wall Street Journal's new e-book "Pope Francis: From the End of the Earth to Rome," available at PopeFrancisTheBook.com.

 A version of this article appeared April 13, 2013, on page C1 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Fifteen Days in Rome How the Pope as Picked.

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15 May, 2013:   Cardinal Schönborn says the Argentinean cardinal’s election was the result of a series of “supernatural signs” which appeared prior to the Conclave and later on in the Sistine Chapel

 Andrea Tornielli

The Archbishop of Vienna, Christoph Schönborn, said that in the run up to the papal election, he had personally had two “strong signs” that the Argentinean candidate, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, was “the chosen one”. 

 The Austrian cardinal is a former pupil of Joseph Ratzinger’s and was one of the favourites to succeed Benedict XVI in the last Conclave, spoke about Francis’ election at a conference held in the Royal Albert Hall in London. Five thousand people attended the conference organised by the Anglican church of Holy Trinity Brompton.

 According to British daily The Telegraph, Schönborn said “only divine intervention could explain the speed with which the Argentine Cardinal - who did not feature on any of the main lists of likely candidates compiled by Vatican experts - was elected.”

The Archbishop of Vienna explained that on the evening of 12 March when the Conclave began, none of the cardinals knew who was going to be chosen: “It was a tremendous experience of the Holy Spirit ... We were driven by the Holy Spirit to this man – he was sitting in the last corner of the Sistine Chapel: This man he is the chosen one.”

 Schönborn added “I received at least two strong signs: one I can tell, the other was in the Conclave I can’t speak about – but real signs of the Lord giving me indication ‘he is the one’.” The cardinal explained that straight after the “pro eligendo Pontifice” Mass, or the Mass for the Election of the Roman Pontiff, celebrated by cardinals on the morning of 12 March in St. Peter’s Square, he bumped into a Latin American couple who are friends of his.

Cardinal Schönborn said:  “I met them outside the Basilica and I asked: ‘You have the Holy Spirit, can you give me advice for the Conclave that will start in a few hours?’ And the woman whispered in my ear ‘Bergoglio’, and it hit me really: if these people say Bergoglio, that’s an indication of the Holy Spirit.”

The cardinal also received a second sign during the Conclave which concluded in the late afternoon the following day, on 13 March. “I’m sure many of us received similar signs during the Conclave, it wouldn’t have been possible to have this election so soon and so rapidly,” the cardinal said.

The comments made by Vienna’s archbishop give some idea of the dynamics of what went on in the Sistine Chapel. Given his educational background (he is a member of the Communio group) and his friendship with the men in question, it was widely believed Schönborn would vote for one of the candidates tipped as possible successors to Benedict XVI, i.e. the Archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Angelo Scola and the Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, Marc Ouellet. But his latest statements seem to indicate this was not the case at all and that he had in fact intended to vote for the Argentinean candidate right from the start.

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Momentous Transitions and Awesome Joy

By Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB

ROME, May 06, 2013  - February 11, 2013, did not only shift the plates of the earth for the church, but marked a seismic shift in my life. Early that morning in Rome, the pope resigned and caught the world and the church off guard. When my colleague and friend, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, phoned and asked me to come quickly to Rome to assist him, I understood that help was needed in dealing with a deluge of media requests in the aftermath of the pope’s surprise resignation.

Having run World Youth Day in Canada in 2002, founded and led Salt and Light Catholic Television Network in Canada since 2003, and served as the Vatican-appointed media attaché at two world Synods of Bishops in 2008 and 2012, I had some idea of media work for the church. But nothing came close to the daunting experience of serving as a Vatican spokesperson during Lent 2013. The adventure included a papal resignation, the sede vacante (or interregnum), a conclave taking place without the atmosphere of a papal funeral, and the surprise election of the first pope from the Americas — not just any pope, but a Jesuit pope — the first modern pope to have been ordained to the priesthood after the Second Vatican Council.

Over the next month, I experienced not a deluge but a tsunami of images, stories, encounters, people and opportunities that would change the life and direction of the church! Thank God I was accompanied by one of the young producers from Salt and Light Television in Canada, Sebastian Gomes. Together we worked day and night, and Sebastian kept me steady through the experience.

The resignation

Pope Benedict’s resignation may have shocked many in the church and in the world, but personally, I was not surprised. The pope had been alluding to a possible resignation for the past few years. With the announcement of his resignation, a brilliant theologian and teacher who had been the champion of tradition and was labeled “conservative” left us with one of the most progressive gestures made by any pope. Acknowledging what he called his “incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me,” this eminently shy man known for exquisite kindness, charity, gentleness and humility offered a final, provocative teaching moment that shook the world. We had no playbook, script or notes left behind by Pope Celestine V, (Pietro del Morrone, a Benedictine monk) who, overwhelmed by the demands of the office, stepped down after five months as pope in 1294.

If Blessed John Paul II taught us the important lesson of suffering and death with dignity, Joseph Ratzinger taught us the meaning of sweet surrender — of not clinging to power and the throne, to prestige, tradition and privilege for their own sakes. He truly was for us, Joseph, our brother — the one many refused to accept in the beginning, but in the end, recognized and embraced as a beloved brother.

One of the most poignant moments of my Roman sojourn took place on Feb. 28, the last day of Benedict’s pontificate. His departure from the Apostolic Palace and the Vatican captured the heart and mind of the world. The farewell from his coworkers on that crisp, Italian afternoon, the brief helicopter flight to Castel Gandolfo, his final words as pope, reminding us that he would become “a pilgrim” in this final stage of his life, touched us deeply. There were no dry eyes in Rome that night. The whole departure reminded me of that emotional moment in the Acts of the Apostles (chapter 20) when Paul took leave of the elders at Ephesus.

Sede vacante

Once the pontificate ended, our work multiplied in spades! Together with Father Lombardi and Father Gil Tamayo from Spain, we led the daily press briefings for hundreds of accredited journalists from every corner of the globe. Our colleagues nicknamed us “the Trinity.” More than 6,000 journalists descended upon Rome, and they were hungry for information. We had to make choices: either contribute to a media vacuum that would soon be filled with all the wrong elements, or provide a media buffet of information that would assist our colleagues in telling the world a great story unfolding before our eyes.

The Vatican strategy of spreading the table began to bear fruit. As cardinals gathered in Rome and met in secret sessions to assess the state of the church and come up with a profile for the next pope, we answered countless hundreds of media questions on a daily basis. I was asked to handle requests in English and thus worked 18-hour days with television, print and radio media from every corner of the globe. I lost count after doing 165 television and radio interviews with every possible network you can imagine — first in English, then French, Spanish, Italian and German.

Questions coming to us at press conferences and briefings revealed an immense interest in things church! From the color of the retired pontiff’s shoes, to the seals that would be put on the papal apartments, to the destruction of the ring of the fisherman and papal seals, to modified, detailed rules and regulations for conclave behavior, to the chemical products that would be used to produce the smoke — the world was watching and listening. I chucked several times thinking that the church had made great strides these past years in social communications, but that for such a major event as a conclave, we still relied on smoke signals.

The issues addressed by the cardinals during their intense pre-conclave meetings were wide-ranging: from the state of affairs of the church, to major challenges of evangelization; the relationship of the Roman Curia to local churches; from the “Vatileaks” that had plagued Pope Benedict’s pontificate to fallout from the sex-abuse scandals throughout the world and administrative and communication challenges occurring at church’s highest level — all of these were topics of discussion during the interregnum. And through it all, the question intensified each day: “Who is the man that can handle this?”

The conclave

When the College of Cardinals finally entered into conclave on Tuesday, March 12, the excitement and expectation was palpable. I was invited to be inside the Sistine Chapel during the opening rites of the conclave for the majestic procession, solemn ritual, prayer and oath taking of the cardinals. When we entered, several things struck me in that hallowed space. When I was a boy, I used to watch movies on TV about everything that happened here. Yet on that day, watching cardinals processing slowly up the specially constructed ramp, I realized that this was not a movie or a political campaign, but a deeply moving, spiritual experience. I had chills going up my spine as I heard the Sistine Choir chanting the Litany of the Saints and the “Veni Creator.”

I looked at the solemn faces of those cardinals, many of whom I knew, and saw not just men in scarlet robes but also their countries — and I imagined their people back home praying for them. I heard their voices resound in the chapel as each cardinal placed his hand on the book of the Gospel and pronounced the oath in accented Latin, standing before Michaelangelo’s stunning wall of redemption and under the story of creation on the Sistine ceiling. One of their lives would be radically changed in that room. And the words Extra omnes had a direct impact on me, since I was one of the last people to be ushered out of the Sistine Chapel before the voting began.

An early Easter

If one relied only on reports in the Italian media during those days, one would think we were at the horse races. As much as Italy tried to dominate the whole process — and delight in the “Vatileaks” that continued to flow during the pre-conclave meetings — they got it all wrong, as did many others throughout the world who stared in utter amazement when the white smoke finally billowed out of that watched chimney.

I will never forget the experience of that Wednesday evening when the white smoke appeared. It was a cold, rainy evening, and thousands of people ran to St. Peter’s Square. Though deep into Lent, it was like Holy Saturday night, with everyone awaiting something unexpected and new. With the words Habemus Papam came the name of a stranger, an outsider, who instantly won over the crowd in the piazza and the entire world with the words, Fratelli e Sorelle, buona sera! (Brothers and sisters, good evening!) Who would believe a pontificate beginning with those simple, common words?

And never in my wildest imaginings did I expect a pope to be called Francis! Nor could I comprehend the scene of several hundred thousand cheering people suddenly become still and silent as Papa Franceso bowed and asked them to pray for him and pray over him. It was the most moving moment I have ever experienced at a Vatican celebration. His words “Pray for me” still resound in my ears. They were words Cardinal Bergoglio had spoken to me twice during the week before the conclave as we met on the streets of Rome together!

From the very first moments, Francis stressed his role with the ancient title of “Bishop of Rome” who presides in charity, echoing the famous statement of Ignatius of Antioch. We cannot underestimate his repeated use of this term, which is of great significance not only for the continuation of ecumenical dialogue — above all with Orthodox churches — but also within the Catholic Church itself.
If Blessed John Paul II was the pilgrim pope and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI the great, intellectual pope, Pope Francis is the pastoral pope, who is very close to the people, and a shepherd who does not exclude anyone, but who emphasizes and loves what Christ emphasized and loved — the poor, the sick, the marginal. Pope Francis, in continuity with his predecessors and with simple gestures and words, has shown us how to express and communicate the joy of being human. He has called on priests to bring the healing power of God’s grace to everyone in need, to stay close to the marginalized and to be “shepherds living with the smell of the sheep.”

His gestures and simple words flow from his episcopal and now papal motto: miserando et eligendo. Jesus’ gaze of merciful tenderness (miserando), shows this patience of God which — according to an ancient insight expressed in our day is his response to human weakness. Taken from St. Bede’s commentary on the call of Matthew, these words express Jesus’ whole approach to people — having mercy on others and inviting them (eligendo) to follow him. These are the bare essentials of the Christian faith.

Remembering Lent 2013

Many close friends, colleagues and confreres asked me during my Roman Lenten journey: “How did you survive in the midst of chaos at the Vatican, a resigned pope, intrigue among cardinals, scandals and back-room skullduggery going on inside the Vatican?” I smiled, because I experienced none of these things. Rather, I encountered a warm welcome from the Roman Curia, an incredible interest in all things church from many of the 6,000-plus journalists accredited to those momentous events. I celebrated Mass early each morning with my colleague Sebastian, either in the Jesuit Generalate on Borgo Santo Spirito, or at a side altar in St. Peter’s Basilica or in the Vatican crypt. Then we went to work.

For four solid weeks this past Lent, we had a golden opportunity to teach, catechize and evangelize the nations and put into practice last fall’s Synod on the New Evangelization. I came away from the whole experience with a renewed sense of wonder and awe, profound gratitude and rekindled joy. This reality we call Catholicism has weathered many storms and withstood the fury of the gates of hell. It is a story about real people, real things and seismic changes that happened to them. These real people staked their lives, and continue to do so, not on fables and fantasies, but on what they came to understand as the truth, the bedrock for shepherds named Angelo Roncalli, Giovanni Battista Montini, Albino Luciani, Karol Wojtyla, Joseph Ratzinger and Jorge Mario Bergoglio — the popes of my lifetime, whose lives and names were radically changed in the Sistine Chapel. It is that same truth that we tried to serve those unforgettable Lenten days as we told the world an ancient, at times incredible story that continues to excite and entice the whole world.\

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Fr. Thomas Rosica is the CEO of Canada's Salt and Light Television

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Cardinal Joge Bergoglio: an Anthology
What Can We Learn About Francis From His Earlier Teachings?

BUENOS AIRES, April 11, 2013 - What does Pope Francis think about subjects such as bioethics, the family, education, youth, political power, human trafficking, social justice, and other themes?

The archbishopric of Buenos Aires shared a number of texts that are very enlightening on these and other issues, drawn from from the teaching of Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio.

Provided below are ZENIT translations of the excerpts:

Abortion

Abortion is never a solution. On our part, we must listen, support and understand in order to save two lives: respect the smallest, defenseless human being, adopt measures that can preserve his life, allow his birth and then be creative in seeking ways that will lead to his full development (September 16, 2012).

Defense of Life

To those who were scandalized when Jesus dined with sinners, with publicans, He said: "publicans and prostitutes will precede you," they were the worst at the time. Jesus doesn't put up with. They are the ones who have clericalized -- to use a word that is understood -- the Lord's Church. They fill her with precepts, and I say it with sorrow, and if it seems like a criticism or an offense, forgive me, but in our ecclesiastical region there are priests who don't baptize the children of unmarried mothers because they weren't conceived in the holiness of matrimony. These are today's hypocrites. Those who have clericalized the Church. Those who take the people of God away from salvation. And that poor girl, who could have aborted her child, had the courage to bring him into the world, and goes from parish to parish seeking someone who will baptize him (September 2, 2012).

Education

When I saw the text before the Mass, I began to think of the way those first communities lived and today's Mass. And I wondered if our educational endeavor shouldn't be directed to achieving harmony: harmony in all boys and girls who have been entrusted to us, inner harmony, harmony of their personality. It is by working as a potter, imitating God, shaping the life of these children, that we will be able to achieve harmony, and rescue them from the dissonances that are always dark. Instead, harmony is luminous, clear, it is light. The harmony of a growing heart, which we support in this educational endeavor, is the one that must be achieved. (…) I often think, when I see this very relative existentialism that is proposed to youngsters everywhere and which has no point of reference, of our Buenos Aires prophet: "Give him anything … everything is the same, after all we will meet in the furnace." Then these youngsters, who have no idea of limits and are hurtling toward the future, are in the furnace! Now! And we are going to meet in the furnace! And in the future we'll have men and women in the furnace! (April 18, 2012).

Human Trafficking

Today in this city we want the cry heard, God's question: Where is your brother? May that question of God run through all the city's neighborhoods, run through our hearts, and above all may it also enter the hearts of the modern "Cains." Perhaps someone will ask: What brother? Where is your slave brother, the one whom you are killing every day in the clandestine workshop, in the network of prostitution, in the huts of youngsters that you use for mendacity, as a "bell" for the distribution of drugs, for robbery, prostituting them? Where is your brother who, as homeless, has to work in secret because he is yet to be formalized. Where is your brother? And, in face of this question, we can behave as the priest did who passed by the one who was wounded, we can pretend we are distracted, as the Levite did, looking away because the question is not directed to me but to someone else. The question is for everyone! Because, established in this city is the trade of persons, that aberrant crime of the Mafia (as it was so rightly described a few days ago by an official): Mafia and aberrant crime! (September 25, 2012).

Social Issue

Little by little we get used to hearing and seeing through the media the black chronicle of contemporary society, presented almost with perverse rejoicing, and we also get used to touching it and feeling it around us and in our own flesh. The drama is on the street, in the neighborhood, in our home, and why not say it, in our heart. We coexist with violence that kills, which destroys families, fuels wars and conflicts in so many countries worldwide. We coexist with envy, hatred, calumny, worldliness in our heart. The suffering of the innocent and peaceful does not cease to strike us, contempt for the rights of the most fragile persons and peoples who are not that far from us, the reign of money with its demonic effects, such as drugs, corruption, the trade of persons, including children, together with material and moral poverty are the current currency. The destruction of fitting work, painful emigrations and the lack of a future are also added to this symphony. Our errors and sins as Church are not excluded from this great picture. The most personal egoisms are justified and not because of this are they lesser, the lack of ethical values in a society that metastasizes in families, which in the coexistence of neighborhoods, towns and cities speak to us of our limitation, of our weakness, and of our inability to transform this numberless list of destructive realities.

Evangelization

It is not enough that our truth is orthodox and our pastoral action effective. Without the joy of beauty, truth becomes cold and even displaced and arrogant, as we see happens in the speech of many bitter fundamentalists. It seems they chew ashes instead of tasting the glorious sweetness of the Truth of Christ, who illumines with meek light the whole of reality, assuming it as it is every day. Without the joy of beauty, the work for good becomes somber efficiency, as we see happening in the action of many activists who are carried away. It would seem that they are cloaking reality with statistical mourning, instead of anointing it with the interior oil of joy which transforms hearts, one by one, from within (April 22, 2011).

Defense of Marriage

At stake is the identity and survival of the family: father, mother and children. At stake is the life of so many children who will be discriminated in advance, depriving them of the human maturation that God wills to happen with a father and a mother. At stake is a frontal rejection of God's law, imprinted, moreover, in our hearts. Let us not be naïve: it is not about a simple political struggle, it is the pretension to destroy God's plan. It is not a question of a mere legislative project (the latter is only the instrument) but of a "move" of the father of lies who tries to confuse and deceive the children of God (July 8, 2010).

Social Justice

It is justice that rejoices the heart: when there is enough for everyone, when one sees that there is equality, equity, and each one has what he needs. When one sees that there is enough for all, if one is a good person, one feels a special joy in the heart. Each one's heart is enlarged and is fused with that of others and it makes us love the homeland. The homeland flourishes when we see "noble equality on the throne," as our national anthem well states. Injustice, instead, darkens everything. How sad it is when one sees that there is enough for all and yet this is not achieved (…) To say "all the youngsters" is to say all the future. To say "all the retired" is to recount our whole history." Our people know that the whole is greater than the parts, and that is why we ask for "bread and work for all." How contemptible, instead, is the one who hoards only for his today, the one who has a small, egotistical heart and thinks only of fingering a slice that he won't take with him when he dies. Because no one takes anything. I have never seen a mving truck following a funeral cortege. My grandmother used to say to us: "the shroud has no pockets" (August 7, 2012).

Faith

The experience of faith places us in the experience of the Spirit, marked by the capacity to begin our journey. There is nothing more opposed to the Spirit than to install oneself, to be shut-in on oneself. When one does not pass through the door of Faith, the door closes, the Church closes, the heart withdraws into itself and fear and the evil spirit sour the Good News. When the chrism of faith dries and becomes rancid the evangelizer no longer infects but loses his fragrance, constituting himself often a source of scandal and alienation for many.

He who believes is the recipient of the Beatitude that runs through the Gospel, and that resonates throughout history, on Elizabeth's lips: "happy are you for you believed," or addressed by Jesus himself to Thomas: "Happy are those who believe without seeing!" (June 9, 2012)

Political Power

The "madness" of the commandment to love, which the Lord proposes and defends in our being, also dispels the other daily "madnesses," which deceive and harm, and end up by impeding the realization of the nation's project. They are relativism and power as the sole ideology. Relativism that, with the excuse of respect for differences, homogenizes by transgression and demagogy, allowing everything so as not to assume the vexation which calls for mature courage to support values and principles. Curiously, relativism is absolutist and totalitarian, it does not allow anyone to differ from relativism itself, in no way does it differ from "be quiet" or "don't get involved." Power as sole ideology is another lie. If ideological prejudices deform the way one sees one's neighbor and society, given one's own certainties and fears, power as the sole ideology accentuates the persecuting and prejudiced focus that "all positions are power schemes" and "all seek to dominate others." Thus social trust is eroded that, as I pointed out, is the root and fruit of love (May 25, 2012).

Crisis

The symptoms of disenchantment are varied, but perhaps the clearest are the "custom-made" enchantments: the enchantment of technology which always promises better things; the enchantment of an economy, which offers almost unlimited possibilities in all aspects of life, to those who succeed in being included in the system; the enchantment of minor religious proposals, according to the need. Disenchantment has an eschatological dimension. It attacks indirectly, putting a stop to any definitive attitude and, in its place, suggests those little enchantments that are like "islands" or "truces" in face of the lack of hope, given the pace of the world in general. Hence, the only human attitude to break the spell of enchantments and disenchantments is to place ourselves before ultimate things and ask ourselves in hope: Are we ascending from good to better or descending from bad to worse? Then doubt arises. Can we answer? As Christians, do we have the word and the gestures that indicate the way of hope for our world? Are we, like the disciples of Emmaus and those who stayed in the Cenacle, the first to need help? (May 8, 2011).

Humility

The Gospel passage speaks to us of humility. Humility reveals to human self-conscious littleness the potentials it has in itself. In fact, the more conscious we are of our gifts and limitations, both together, the freer we will be from the blindness of arrogance. And just as Jesus praises the Father for this revelation to the little ones, we should also praise the Father for having May's sun shine on those who trusted in the gift of liberty, liberty that sprouted in the heart of a nation that wagered on greatness without losing sight of its littleness (May 25, 2011).

Simple People

The wisdom of thousands of women and men who queue to travel and to work honestly, to bring daily bread to the table, to save and, little by little, buy bricks to improve their home … Thousands upon thousands of children with their pinafores go through passages and streets coming and going from home to school, and from school to home. Meanwhile the grandparents who accumulate popular wisdom, get together to share and recount anecdotes. The crises and manipulations will pass; the contempt of the powerful will corner them in misery, they will be offered the suicide of drugs, of lack of control and violence; they will be tempted by the hatred of vengeful resentment. But the humble, no matter what their position or social condition, will appeal to the wisdom of the one who feels himself a child of a God who is not distant, who accompanies them with the Cross and encourages them with the Resurrection in those miracles, the daily achievements, which encourage them to rejoice in sharing and celebrating (May 25, 2011).

New Evangelization

God lives in the city and the Church lives in the city. The mission is not opposed to learning from the city – from its cultures and changes – while we go out to preach the Gospel. And this is fruit of the Gospel itself, which interacts with the earth on which the seed falls. Not only is the modern city a challenge but the whole city, every culture, every mentality and every human heart has been, is and will be a challenge. Contemplation of the Incarnation, which Saint Ignatius presents in the Spiritual Exercises, is a good example of the attitude we propose here. An attitude that is not bogged down in a dualism, which constantly comes and goes, of diagnostics for planning, but is dramatically involved in the reality of the city and is committed to it in action. The Gospel is an accepted kerygma that compels to be transmitted. Mediations are elaborated while we live and coexist (August 25, 2011).

Mary

God was lacking something to be able to enter humanly in our history: He needed a mother, and He asked us for her. She is the Mother whom we look to today, the daughter of our people, the handmaid, the pure one, the only one of God; the discreet one who makes room for her Son to fulfill the sign, the one who is always making possible this reality but not as owner or as protagonist, but as handmaid, the star that is able to go out so that the Sun can manifest itself. So is Mary's mediation to which we refer today. Mediation of the woman who did not renege her maternity, she assumed it from the beginning; a maternity with a double birth, one in Bethlehem and the other on Calvary; a maternity that contains and supports her Son's friends, He who is the only reference until the end of time. And so Mary continues among us, "situated in the very center of that 'enmity' of the proto-Gospel, of that struggle that accompanies the history of humanity" (Cf. Redempt. Mater 11). A Mother who makes spaces possible for Grace to come. Grace that revolutionizes and transforms our existence and our identity: the Holy Spirit who makes us adoptive children, frees us from all slavery and, in a real and mystical possession, gives us the gift of liberty and cries out, from within us, the invocation of the new belonging: Father! (November 7, 2011).

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Retired Teacher Remembers Young Jorge Bergoglio
Jesuit Taught Greek to Future Pontiff

ROME, April 25, 2013 - Jesuit Father Juan Carlos Scannone was teaching Greek and literature in 1957, when a young Jorge Bergoglio was among his students.

Father Scannone is today retired from the philosophy faculty at the Faculty of Philosophy of San Miguel, where the future Pope studied. He now heads the Institute of Philosophical Research, as well as being an adviser of the Justice and Solidarity office of Latin American bishops' council (CELAM).

Father Scannone recalled his former student in this email interview with ZENIT.

ZENIT: When did you meet Jorge Mario Bergoglio and what relation have you had with him?

Father Scannone: I have known Pope Francis since he was a seminarian of the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires, I believe since 1957, before he entered the Jesuit novitiate. I was then his professor of Greek and Literature, because Jorge Mario already had his Bachelor’s degree, but he had to spend two years in the Minor Seminary to study Latin, forming part of the “Latinists,” young men who had already finished secondary school but had not studied Classic Humanities.

Later, on my return from studying in Europe, in 1967, I met him again as a student of Theology at the Faculty of Theology. We were living in the same religious House, the Colegio Maximo de San Jose. When I was Novice Master, although he lived in another House, I gave him spiritual direction. Later, we lived in the same Colegio Maximo, for most of his six years as Provincial (1973-1979) and his six additional years as Rector both of the said Colegio as well as of the Faculties of Philosophy and Theology of San Miguel (1979-1985). He was professor of Pastoral Theology at the Faculty of Theology, and I was professor of Philosophical Theology at the Faculty of Philosophy. We had a daily and very cordial relation.

ZENIT: How did Jorge Bergoglio direct the Church in Buenos Aires? What were his principal virtues?

Father Scannone: Although San Miguel is a different diocese from that of Buenos Aires, from the testimonies of others and the public at large I can say that his governance was, on one hand, very pastoral, with special care for what he calls the “faithful people” and their popular piety, especially the poor. And on the other hand, his was a spiritual governance that impressed the young priests. He openly supported the “slum priests,” those who worked in the slums or favelas, and he visited them frequently. He promoted “pastoral conversion,” of which the Document of Aparecida talks, trying to put the Church in a state of mission, encouraging the pastoral agents and pastors not to wait for the faithful in the churches, but to go out to the streets and squares, seeking everyone, especially the most excluded. He strongly promoted interreligious dialogue with Judaism and Islam, Argentina being one of the places where, thanks to the mediation of the Catholic Church, Islam and Judaism are in fruitful dialogue. His style was always spiritual, simple and austere, with unexpected gestures of personal charity, paying attention at the same time to the public and political realm, and to specific persons.

ZENIT: How are the Jesuits of Buenos Aires living these first days of the Argentine Pope’s pontificate?

Father Scannone: There is great joy among the Argentine Jesuits and much hope, especially on seeing the symbolic gestures that the new Pope is making, and his first decisions. Moreover, the very fact that he is Latin American is a sort of revolution in the Church and a real sign of the times and of the present transformations.

ZENIT: Do you have a special memory of Jorge Bergoglio as cardinal?

Father Scannone: I have many memories, but I wish to give the testimony of a friend of mine, who was an expert at Aparecida. When, before the Conference, the latter asked the cardinal on what it should necessarily be centered, the cardinal answered “Christ and the poor.” I think this is an apt picture of him.

ZENIT: Of all the struggles the Pope had to face as cardinal in Argentina, which was the principal one in your opinion?

Father Scannone: It’s not easy to answer this question. At least it can be said that, among the principal struggles he had to face, there were two that are related to the present mission of the Society of Jesus according to the General Congregations, namely, “the service of the faith and the promotion of justice.” He had to struggle very much against unjust poverty and anxiety in his diocese, in the country and in Latin America, practising pastorally and publicly the preferential option for the poor, as well as fighting in favor of evangelization, especially of young people. He was worried about the rupture in the transmission of the faith in the family, between the generations, as before the transmission of the faith was almost spontaneous, but now it’s being lost.

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Cardinal Bergoglio's Dialogues With Rabbi Released in Book Form
"On Heaven and Earth" Gives Taste of Pope's Thought on Variety of Subjects

By Edward Pentin

ROME, April 18, 2013 - Unlike his immediate predecessor, Pope Francis' ideas and opinions are not well known outside his home archdiocese, also because before he was elected Pope he had written very little and given few interviews to the media.

So when the English translation of "On Heaven and Earth" – a 2010 dialogue between Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio and Argentine Rabbi Abraham Skorka – hits bookstores on Friday, one can expect sales to be brisk.

Published by Image Books with the subtitle: "Pope Francis on Faith, Family and the Church in the 21st Century," it offers precious insights into Pope Francis’ thoughts on a wide variety of issues, from abortion and same-sex "marriage" to euthanasia and capitalism.

The Pope begins by underlining the importance of dialogue which, he stresses, “is born from a respectful attitude toward the other person, from a conviction that the other person has something good to say.” He and the rabbi then embark on a civilized and frank discussion, each sharing their own perspectives.

Divided into 29 chapters according to topic, an early theme concerns the Devil. One trait many have noticed and praised in Pope Francis is his readiness to single out the Devil’s works in his homilies, and in “On Heaven and Earth” he offers an explanation.

“Maybe his [the Devil’s] greatest achievement in these times has been to make us believe that he does not exist, and that all can be fixed on a purely human level,” he says, adding: “Man’s life on Earth is warfare; Job says it, meaning that people are constantly put to the test; that is to say, a test to overcome a situation and overcome oneself.”

On the subject of paedophilia, Bergoglio is forthright, strongly opposing moving guilty priests from one parish (he describes it as “stupid”) and admiring Benedict XVI’s “courage and straightforwardness” in enforcing zero tolerance for such a crime.

Cardinal Bergoglio frequently stresses the importance of free will in the book, and opposes any forms of clericalism and fundamentalism. A priest should never impose the faith but simply present and defend Church teaching with clarity, he frequently says.

“The priest who adopts an attitude of only being a boss, like in fundamentalist groups, nullifies and emasculates those who are searching for God,” he says. “The priest, in his role as teacher, instructs, proposes the truth as it is revealed, and accompanies.”

Without specifying, he refers to “restorationist factions” that have “continued to multiply” and which he considers fundamentalists. For young people, he says such rigid religiosity, which tells them “do this, do that”, can lead to poor preparation for life, an inability to handle crises and the shortcomings of others. It results in preventing them from knowing and understanding the mercy of God, he argues.

“This type of religiosity is disguised with doctrines that claim to give justifications, but in reality deprive people of their freedom and do not allow them to grow as persons,” Cardinal Bergoglio says. “A large number end up living a double life.”

He goes on to say that such fundamentalism is an “opiate” because it takes people away from the living God and reduces the Divine “to a being you can manage with prescriptions.” It is a form of “buying comfort, well-being, fortune and happiness,” he says, “but it leaves behind the living God, He that accompanies you along the way.”

On euthanasia, the future Pope says he believes a kind of “covert euthanasia” is taking place: “Our social security pays up until a certain amount of treatment and then says 'may God help you.' The elderly are not taken care of as they should be, but rather they are treated as discarded material.”

Turning to abortion, Cardinal Bergoglio puts religion aside in order to stress that from a scientific view, the genetic code of a person is present at the moment of conception, already making him a human being. “Abortion is killing someone that cannot defend himself,” he says simply.

He goes on to discuss with Rabbi Skorka the issue of same-sex "marriage" which he describes as an “anti-value”, and “anthropologic regression”. It is a weakening of the institution of marriage, an institution that has existed for thousands of years and is “forged according to nature and anthropology.”

But again, the cardinal stresses the importance of free will – including the freedom to sin. Although a priest has the right to give an opinion if it is in service to the people, he “does not have the right to force anything on anyone’s private life,” Bergoglio says. “If God, in creation, ran the risk of making us free, who am I to get involved?”. He says “one has to speak very clearly about values, limits, commandments, but spiritual and pastoral harassment is not allowed.”

On humility, Cardinal Bergoglio says it is a virtue that “gives assurance that the Lord is there.” But when someone is “self-sufficient, when he has all the answers to every question, it is proof that God is not with him.” Self-sufficiency, he adds, “is evident in every false prophet, in the misguided religious leaders that use religion for their own ego.”

When discussing politics, the future pontiff says the preaching of human and religious values has a political consequence “whether we like it or not," but the challenge is to propose values “without interfering” in “partisan politics.” And he criticises the press for reducing what he says to “whatever is opportune.” “Today, from two or three facts, the media spins something different: they misinform,” Cardinal Bergoglio says.

Later, he says religious leaders have the obligation to defend values but not to preach “against so and so.”

“We do not preach against anyone,” he says. “We refer to the value that is in danger and that must be safeguarded.” And again, he chastises the media, which he says is “sometimes infected with hepatitis” because of “their yellow colour” and tendency to “jump out and say 'Harsh rebuke to so and so.'"

Bergoglio is characteristically strident when it comes to discussing capitalism and communism. Capitalism, he says, “has its own spiritual perversion” by taming religion, so that it doesn’t bother capitalism too much, thereby giving it a “certain transcendence, but only a little bit.” Communism’s spiritual perversion is to reject the transcendent because it believes it “paralyzes man” and does not allow him to progress. Both perversions, he says, are manifestations of worldliness.

Regarding care for the poor, the cardinal differentiates between genuine works of charity and “social-conscience calming activities” carried out in order that a person “feel good about oneself.” But love, he says, “requires a person to go out from himself, to truly give oneself to others.” He then gives as an example a Church charity auction in which a gold Rolex was auctioned off. “What a disgrace [and] bad use of charity,” he says. “It sought a person who would use this watch for vanity in order to feed the poor.”

What the poor need most, he says, is a job to give him dignity, and he must not be looked upon with disgust. “He must be looked at in the eyes,” he says, and later repeats. The great danger when aiding the poor is falling into an attitude of “protective paternalism” that doesn’t allow them to grow.

A characteristic Pope Francis’ most admires is meekness, but he stresses it is not synonymous with weakness. “A religious leader can be very strong, very firm, but without exercising aggression,” he contends, and, as he has often said since his election, the true power of religious leadership comes from service.

He sounds a hopeful note, arguing that the “religious search” for God among most people “continues to be strong, though somewhat disorientated outside institutional structures.” He says “evangelizations is essential, but not proselytism,” which, “today – thanks be to God – is crossed out of the pastoral dictionary.” Quoting Benedict XVI - “the Church is a proposal that is reached by attraction, not by proselytism” – Cardinal Bergoglio says the faith is about “attraction through testimony.”

There is plenty more in this book, including discussions about science, globalization, divorce, education, the Holocaust and women. The conversations on each subject are mostly short, merely giving a taste of the Pope’s thoughts, but with so little known about the new Holy Father, even the shortest passages make welcome reading.

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Cardinal Bergoglio's October 2012 Pastoral Letter for the Year of Faith
"Among the most striking experiences of the last decades is finding doors closed"

ROME, March 22, 2013  - Here is a translation of the pastoral letter Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio (now Pope Francis) wrote in October 2012 regarding the Year of Faith.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Among the most striking experiences of the last decades is finding doors closed. Little by little increasing insecurity has made us bolt doors, employ means of vigilance, install security cameras and mistrust strangers who call at our door.

None the less in some places there are doors that are still open. The closed door is really a symbol of our today. It is something more than a simple sociological fact; it is an existential reality that is imposing itself as a way of life, a way of confronting reality, others and the future.

The bolted door of my house, the place of my intimate life, my dreams, hopes, sufferings and moments of happiness, is locked against others. And it is not simply a matter of the
physical house; it is also the whole area of my life, of my heart. All the time there are fewer who can cross that threshold. The security of reinforced doors protects the insecurity of a life which is becoming more fragile and less open to the riches of the life and the love of others.

The image of an open door has always been a symbol of light, friendship, happiness, liberty and trust. How we need to recover them. The closed door does us harm, reduces and
separates us.

We begin the Year of Faith and, paradoxically, the image that the Pope proposes is that of a door, a door through which we must pass to be able to find what we need so much.

The Church, through the voice and heart of its Pastor, Benedict XVI, invites us to cross the threshold, to take an interior and free step: to animate ourselves to enter a new life.

The phrase "door to faith" brings us back to the Acts of the Apostles: "On arriving, they gathered the Church together and told them what God had done through them and how He had
opened the door of faith to the Gentiles" (Acts. 14.27).

God always takes the initiative and He does not want anyone to be excluded. God calls at the door of our hearts: Look, I am at the door, calling: if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I shall enter his house and dine with him and him with me (Rev.3.20).

Faith is a grace, a gift of God.

"Only by believing does faith grow and be strengthened: in a continual abandon into the hands of a love which is always felt as greater because it has its origin in God"

Crossing through that door presupposes the beginning of a way or journey that lasts a lifetime, as we pass in front of so many doors which open to us today, many of them false doors, doors that invite us in a very attractive but lying manner to go down that road, promising an empty narcissistic happiness which has an expiry dated: doors that lead to cross-roads where, no matter which option we follow, will, sooner or later, cause suffering and confusion, doors focused on self which wear out and have no guarantee for the future.

While the doors of the houses are closed, the doors of the shopping malls are always open. One passes through the door of faith, one crosses that threshold, when the Word of God is announced and the heart allows itself to be shaped by that grace which transforms. A grace which has a concrete name, and that name is Jesus. Jesus is the door. (Jn. 10:9). He, and only He, is and will always be the door. No one goes to the Father except through Him. (Jn.14.6). If there is no Christ, there is no way to God. As the door, He opens the way to God and as Good Shepherd he is the Only One who looks after us at the price of his own life.

Jesus is the door and he knocks on our door so that we allow him to cross the threshold of our lives. "Don't be afraid . open the doors wide for Christ", Blessed John Paul II told us at the beginning of his papacy. To open the doors of our hearts as the disciples of Emmaus did, asking him to stay with us so that we may pass through the doors of faith and that the Lord himself bring us to understand the reasons why we believe, so that we may then go out to announce it. Faith presumes that we decide to be with the Lord, to live with him and share this with our brothers and sisters.

We give thanks to God for this opportunity to realise the value of our lives as children of God through this journey of faith which began in our lives with the waters of baptism, that unending and fruitful dew which makes us children of God and brothers and sisters in the Church.

The purpose, the objective (of this year of Faith) is that we meet with God with whom we have already entered into communion and who wishes to restore us, purify us, raise us up and sanctify us, and give us the happiness that our hearts crave.

To begin this year of faith is a call to us to deepen in our lives that faith we have already received. To profess our faith with our mouth implies living it in our hearts and showing it in what we do: it is a testimony and public commitment. The disciple of Christ, a child of the Church, can never think that believing is a private matter. It is an important and strong challenge for every day, convinced that he who began the good work in you will continue to perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6).Looking at our reality, as disciples who are missionaries, we ask ourselves what challenge this crossing the threshold of the faith has for us?

Crossing the Threshold of Faith

Crossing this threshold of the faith challenges us to discover that, even though it would
seem that death reigns in its various forms and that our history is governed by the law of the strongest or the most astute and that hate and ambition are the driving forces of so many human struggles, we are also absolutely convinced that this sad reality can and should change decisively, because 'if God is with us, who can overcome us?' (Rom. 8: 31, 37).

Crossing this threshold of the faith supposes that we'll not be ashamed to have the heart of a child who, because he still believes in impossible things, can still live in hope, which is the only thing capable of giving sense to and transforming history. It means asking unceasingly, praying without weakening and adoring so that our vision may be transfigured.

Crossing the threshold of the faith brings us to beg for everyone "the same sentiments that Christ had" (Phil. 2-5), so that each discover a new way of thinking, of communicating with one another, of looking at others, of respecting one another, of being in family together, of planning our futures, of living out love and our vocation.

Crossing the threshold of the faith is to be active, trusting in the power of the Holy Spirit present in the Church and who is also seen in the signs of the times. It is to join in the constant movement of life and of history without falling into the paralyzing defeatism that everything in the past was better. It is an urgency to think in new ways, to offer new suggestions, a new creativity, kneading life with "the new leaven of justice and holiness" (1 Cor. 5:8).

Crossing the threshold of the faith implies that we have eyes to wonder and a heart that is not lazily accustomed, that is able to recognize that every time a woman gives birth it is another bet placed for life and the future; that, when we watch out for the innocence of children we are guaranteeing the truth of a tomorrow and when we treat gently the dedicated life of an elderly person we are acting justly and caressing our own roots.

Crossing the threshold of the faith means work lived with dignity and with a vocation to serve with the self-denial of one who comes back time and time again to begin without weakening, as if everything done so far were only one step in the journey towards the Kingdom, the fullness of life.

It is the quiet wait after the daily planting: it is the contemplation of the collected harvest, giving thanks to the Lord because he is good, asking that he not abandon the work of his hands (Psalm 137).

Crossing the threshold of the faith demands that we struggle for liberty and life together with others even when the ambient drags its feet, in the certainty that the Lord asks of us to live justly, love goodness and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8).

Crossing the threshold of the faith bears deeply within it the continued conversion of our
attitudes, modes and tones with which we live. It demands a reformulation, not a patching up or a varnishing. It means accepting the new form that Jesus Christ prints on him who is touched by His hand and his Gospel of life.

It means doing something totally new for society and the Church; because "He who is in Christ is a new creature" (2 Cor 5, 17-21)

Crossing the threshold of the faith leads us to forgiving and to know how to break into a
smile. It means approaching every person who lives on the edge of existence and to call him by name. It is taking care of the fragility of the weakest and supports his trembling knees in the certainty that in what we do for the smallest of our brothers it is to Jesus himself that we are doing it (Mt. 25. 40).

Crossing the threshold of the Faith demands that we celebrate life. That we let ourselves be transformed because we have been made one with Jesus at the table of the Eucharist celebrated in community and from there our hands and heart be busy working in the great project of the Kingdom: all the rest will be given us in addition (Mt. 6.33).

Crossing the threshold of the faith means living in the spirit of the Vatican Council and of Aparecida (the latest meeting of the Latin American and Caribbean bishops), a Church of open doors, not just to receive in but fundamentally to go out and fill the street and the people of our times with the Good News.

Crossing the threshold of the faith, in our Archdiocesan Church, presupposes that we be
convinced of the Mission to be a church that lives, prays and works with a missionary orientation.

Crossing the threshold of the faith is, definitively, the acceptance of the newness of the life of the Risen Christ, raised in our poor flesh to make it a sign of the new life.

Meditating all these things, we look at Mary. May she, the Virgin Mother, accompany us in our crossing the threshold of the faith and bring the Holy Spirit over our Church, as in Nazareth, so that just like her we may adore the Lord and go out to announce the marvels he has done in us.

Cardenal Jorge Bergoglio
Buenos Aires
October of 2012

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Insights Into Pope Francis
Books Provide Insights Into Pontiff's Background

By Father John Flynn, LC

ROME, May 31, 2013 - Since the election of Pope Francis publishing houses have rushed to print with books about the new head of the Catholic Church.

In “Francis: Pope of a New World,” (Ignatius Press), Andrea Tornielli, the Vatican expert for the Italian newspaper La Stampa, starts by describing the announcement of the new pope and then goes on in a couple of retrospective chapters to describe Benedict XVI’s papacy and the arrival of the cardinals for the conclave that elected Pope Francis.

Tornielli dedicated the largest part of the book to describing the life led by the new pope in Argentina, starting with the emigration of his grandparents from Italy.

For Jorge Mario Bergoglio the definitive moment in the discovery of his priestly vocation came when he was seventeen years old, while he was making his confession at his parish church.

After ordination the future pope was engaged in a variety of academic and pastoral activities. Regarding the period of military dictatorship in Argentina Tornielli noted that the accusations made against Bergoglio, that he did not sufficiently protect two Jesuit priests from the military and that he collaborated with the regime, were “trumped-up charges” and “a tissue of hearsay statements.”

By means of a number of anecdotes about experiences in the life of Bergoglio Tornielli described him as someone very close to people and concerned about their problems. He comes across as a kind, simple and wise priest, and later bishop.

His closeness to the people, especially the poor and the sick was a distinctive feature of his time as archbishop of Buenos Aires, according to Tornielli.

Conversations

Among other books recently published are a couple of translations from Spanish of conversations. “On Heaven and Earth,” (Image) records a series of dialogs between the then Archbishop of Buenos Aires and Rabbi Abraham Skorka, originally published in Argentina in 2010

A number of topics in the conversations have since surfaced in more recent times in comments by Pope Frances. For example, the Devil was among the many subjects examined, a topic that has come up with certain frequency in the new pope’s addresses.

The Devil is real, the future pontiff said a few years ago, but “Maybe his greatest achievement in these times has been to make us believe that he does not exist.”

“To kill in the name of God is blasphemy,” he said in the 2010 book, a phrase he recently repeated as pope. In the book it came in the context of understanding other religions.

Killing in the name of God, he explained, turns the religious experience into something ideological.

Cardinal Bergoglio also rejected what he termed as “the liberal conception of religion” as something only allowed in places of worship and the elimination of religion outside of these places. The integral religious man, he explained, is just, and religious justice creates culture.

“The culture made by a woman or a man that worships the living God is not the same culture made by the idolater,” he affirmed.

Later on, in a section on education, Cardinal Bergoglio returned to the theme of culture and commented that schools need to include the religious worldview in what they teach, or otherwise they deprive their students of a cultural and religious inheritance.

Another book that sheds light on the current pope’s background is “Pope Francis: Conversations with Jorge Bergoglio,” by journalists Sergio Rubin and Francesca Ambrogetti, (G.P. Putnam’s Sons).

After the initial chapters about his family and early life the conversations center on topics about the Church and the situation in Argentina.

Being pastors

In a chapter on the challenge of evangelization Cardinal Bergoglio warned against priests becoming administrators and not pastors. Both priests and Catholics in general need to go out and seek people and not remain shut up in their community, he insisted.

He also warned against a clericalization of the Church, observing that the laity has a potential that is not always fully taken advantage of.

The journalists asked him if the Church asks too much of people, particularly in relation to matters of sexual morality. The Church preaches, he replied, what is best for people and will make them complete and happy.

In any case, he continued, sexual morality is not the central Christian message, which is rather the fact that God took flesh, he lived, suffered, died and came back to life.

In one of the concluding chapters that examine the political and social problems in Argentina the future pope talked about the need for forgiveness, following the political turmoil in the country.

He noted that it is very difficult to forgive without reference to God, “because people have the capacity to forgive only if they have the personal experience of being forgiven.”

These and other books depict someone with a deep spiritual life, who manages to combine wisdom, a great sensitivity to people’s needs, simplicity and humility. Qualities that have become amply evident in the short time since his election.

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POPE FRANCIS' FIRST ACTIVITIES

Vatican City, 14 March 2013 (VIS) – During the course of this afternoon's press conference, Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., director of the Holy See Press Office, repeated the information for the upcoming papal events after this afternoon's Mass in the Sistine Chapel with the Cardinal electors.

On Friday, 15 March, at 11:00am in the Clementine Hall he will meet with the full College of Cardinals, electors and non-electors, in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace. As the Holy See Press Office spokesman noted, this will be a familial gathering, with the Pope personally greeting each of the cardinals.

On Saturday at 11:00am in the Paul VI Hall, the Pope will hold an audience with accredited journalists (permanent and temporary) and those who work in the media.

On Sunday, 17 March at 12:00pm, he will recite the first Angelus of his papacy from the papal apartments overlooking St. Peter's Square, as is customary.

On Tuesday, 19 March—the Feast of St. Joseph, patron of the Church—the Mass to inaugurate the new papacy will be held at 9:30am in St. Peter's Square. No tickets will be issued for that Mass. All who wish may attend.

On Wednesday, 20 March, he will hold an audience with fraternal delegates representing the heads of the various Eastern rite Churches so there will not be a General Audience.

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ACTIVITIES OF THE HOLY FATHER

Vatican City, 16 March 2013 (VIS) – Following is a list of the upcoming activities of the Holy Father scheduled between 17 and 24 March.

17 March, Sunday:10:00am, private Mass in the Vatican parish of Santa Ana.
12:00pm, Angelus from the window of his private study overlooking St. Peter's Square.

18 March, Monday:12:50pm, meeting with the President of the Republic of Argentina at the Domus Sancthae Marthae.

19 March, Tuesday:9:30am, Eucharistic celebration to inaugurate the Petrine ministry in St. Peter's Square (Entrance into the square will be permitted beginning at 6:30am. No tickets will be issued for that Mass. All who wish may attend.) Afterwards, before the Altar of the Confession in the Basilica, he will receive the greetings of heads of official delegations and later will return to the Domus Sancthae Marthae for lunch.

20 March, Wednesday: 11:00am, audience with fraternal delegates in the Clementine Hall of the Vatican Apostolic Palace.

22 March, Friday: 11:00am, audience with members of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See in the Sala Regia of the Vatican Apostolic Palace.

23 March, Saturday: 12:00pm, departure in helicopter from the Vatican heliport. At 12:15pm he will meet and lunch with Pope emeritus Benedict XVI at Castel Gandolfo and will then return to the Vatican.

24 March, Sunday:9:30am, Palm Sunday Eucharistic celebration in St. Peter's Square.
12:00pm, Angelus.

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Pope's Schedule for April-May
On Sunday, Francis Will Take Possession of Cathedral as Bishop of Rome

VATICAN CITY, April 03, 2013  - The Vatican released the calendar of celebrations scheduled to be presided over by the Holy Father in the months of April and May:

APRIL

7 April, Second Sunday of Easter, or Divine Mercy Sunday: 5:30pm, Mass in the Basilica of St. John Lateran for the Bishop of Rome to take possession of the Roman cathedra.

14 April, Sunday:5:30pm, Mass in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls

21 April, Sunday:9:30am, Mass and priestly ordinations in St. Peter's Basilica.

28 April, Sunday:10:00am, Mass and confirmations in St. Peter's Square.

MAY

4 May, Saturday:6:00pm, Recitation of the Rosary in the Basilica of St. Mary Major.

5 May, Sunday:10:00am, Mass for Confraternities in St. Peter's Square.

12 May, Sunday:9:30am, Mass and canonizations of Blesseds Antonio Primaldo and Companions; Laura di Santa Caterina da Siena Montoya y Upegui; and Maria Guadalupe Garcia Zavala.

18 May, Saturday:6:00pm, Pentecost Vigil in St. Peter's Square with the participation of ecclesial movements.

19 May, Pentecost Sunday: 10:00am, Mass in St. Peter's Square with the participation of ecclesial movements.

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Pope Francis' 1st Homily  

"When we journey without the cross ... and when we confess a Christ without the cross, we are not disciples of the Lord"

VATICAN CITY, March 14, 2013 - Here is a translation of the homily Francis gave this morning at Mass with the cardinals in the Sistine Chapel. He spoke in Italian without a text.

* * *

There is something that I see that these three readings have in common: movement. In the first reading it is the movement of a journey; in the second reading it is the movement in building the Church; in the third, the Gospel, it is the movement of confession. Journeying, building, confessing.

Journeying. “House of Jacob, come, let us walk together in the light of the Lord” (Isaiah 2:5). This is the first thing that God said to Abraham: Walk in my presence and you will be blameless. Journey: our life is a journey and when we stop it does not go on. Journey always in the presence of the Lord, in the light of the Lord, seeking to live with that blamelessness that God asked of Abraham in his promise.

Building. Building the Church. Stones are spoken of: the stones have a consistency, but they are the living stones, stones anointed by the Spirit. Building the Church, the Bride of Christ, upon that cornerstone that is the Lord himself. Building is another form of movement in our life.

Third, confessing. We can journey as much as we want, we can build many things, but if we do not confess Jesus Christ, the thing does not work. We will become a welfare NGO but not the Church, the Bride of Christ. When we do not journey, we stop. When we do not build upon the stones, what happens? Everything collapses, loses its consistency, like the sandcastles that children build on the beach. When we do not confess Jesus Christ, I am reminded of the words of Léon Bloy: “Whoever does not pray to the Lord, prays to the devil.” When we do not confess Jesus Christ, we confess the worldliness of the devil, the worldliness of the demon.

Journeying, building-constructing, confessing. But it is not that easy, because in journeying, in constructing, in confessing, there are problems, there are movements antithetical to the journey: they are movements that take us backward.

This Gospel continues with an important moment. The same Peter who had confessed Jesus Christ said to him: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. I will follow you, but let’s not talk about the cross. This is not a part of it. I will follow you in other directions, but not to the cross. When we journey without the cross, when we build without the cross and when we confess a Christ without the cross, we are not disciples of the Lord: we are worldly, we are bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but not disciples of the Lord.

I would like for us all, after these days of grace, to have courage, precisely the courage, to walk in the Lord’s presence, with the cross of the Lord; to build the Church upon the blood of the Lord, which was poured out on the cross; and to confess the only glory there is: Christ crucified. And in this way the Church will go forward.

It is my wish for all of us that the Holy Spirit – through the prayer of Our Lady, our Mother – bestow upon us the grace of journeying, building, confessing Jesus Christ crucified. Amen.

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World Leaders' Statements on Pope Francis' Election

ROME, March 14, 2013  - Here are the statements of world leaders regarding the election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, as Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church.

* * *

President of the United States, Barack Obama

"On behalf of the American people, Michelle and I offer our warm wishes to His Holiness Pope Francis as he ascends to the Chair of Saint Peter and begins his papacy.

As a champion of the poor and the most vulnerable among us, he carries forth the message of love and compassion that has inspired the world for more than two thousand years-that in each other we see the face of God.

As the first pope from the Americas, his selection also speaks to the strength and vitality of a region that is increasingly shaping our world, and alongside millions of Hispanic Americans, those of us in the United States share the joy of this historic day.

Just as I appreciated our work with Pope Benedict XVI, I look forward to working with His Holiness to advance peace, security and dignity for our fellow human beings, regardless of their faith. We join with people around the world in offering our prayers for the Holy Father as he begins the sacred work of leading the Catholic Church in our modern world."

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon

"I offer my heartfelt congratulations [to the new Pope]... I look forward to continuing cooperation between the United Nations and the Holy See, under the wise leadership of His Holiness Pope Francis.

We share many common goals - from the promotion of peace, social justice and human rights, to the eradication of poverty and hunger - all core elements of sustainable development.

I am certain that His Holiness will continue to build on the legacy of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, in the promotion of interfaith dialogue which is at the heart of the Alliance of Civilisations initiative."

Russian President Vladimir Putin

"I am confident that the constructive partnership between Russia and the Vatican will continue, and will further develop on the basis of the Christian values that unite us. Your Holiness, I wish you good health, well-being and productive work in strengthening peace and in furthering dialogue between civilisations and religions."

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying

"We hope that under the leadership of the new Pope the Vatican will adopt a practical and flexible attitude and create conditions for the improvement of China-Vatican relations."

Al-Azhar (Sunni Islam's highest seat of learning) spokesman Mahmud Azab

"We are hoping for better relations with the Vatican after the election of the new Pope."

Argentine President Cristina Kirchner

"We wish him, as he takes the reins of the Church, a fruitful pastoral mission, with such tremendous responsibility on his shoulders, seeking justice, equality, brotherhood and peace among mankind."

UK Prime Minister David Cameron

"A momentous day for the 1.2 billion Catholics around the world as His Holiness Pope Francis I is appointed the 266th Bishop of Rome."

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Statement From Jesuit General Director on Election of Pope Francis

ROME, March 14, 2013 - Here is a statement from the superior-general of the Society of Jesus, Fr. Adolfo Nicolas, on the election of Pope Francis.

* * *

In the name of the Society of Jesus, I give thanks to God for the election of our new Pope, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, S.J., which opens for the Church a path full of hope.

All of us Jesuits accompany with our prayers our brother and we thank him for his generosity in accepting the responsibility of guiding the Church at this crucial time. The name of "Francis" by which we shall now know him evokes for us the Holy Father’s evangelical spirit of closeness to the poor, his identification with simple people, and his commitment to the renewal of the Church. From the very first moment in which he appeared before the people of God, he gave visible witness to his simplicity, his humility, his pastoral experience and his spiritual depth.

“The distinguishing mark of our Society is that it is ... a companionship ... bound to the Roman Pontiff by a special bond of love and service.” (Complementary Norms, No. 2, § 2)

Thus, we share the joy of the whole Church, and at the same time, wish to express our renewed availability to be sent into the vineyard of the Lord, according to the spirit of our special vow of obedience, which unites us in a special way to the Holy Father (General Congregation 35, Decree 1, No. 17).

Rome, 14 March 2013


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POPE FRANCIS TO CARDINALS:

Brother Cardinals,

This period of the Conclave has been filled with meaning not just for the College of Cardinals but also for all the faithful. During these days we have felt almost palpably the affection and solidarity of the universal Church, as well as the attention of many people who, even if not sharing our faith, look upon the Church and the Holy See with respect and admiration.

From every corner of the earth a heart-felt chorus of prayer was raised by Christian peoples for the new Pope, and my first encounter with the crowds filling St. Peter’s Square was an emotional one. With that eloquent image of a praying and joyful populace still fixed in my mind, I would like to manifest my sincere gratitude to the Bishops, priests, consecrated persons, young people, families, and to the aged for their spiritual closeness which is so touching and sincere.

I feel the need to express my deepest gratitude to all of you, venerable and dear Brother Cardinals, for your collaboration in running the Church during the Sede Vacante. I greet, to begin with, the Dean of the College of Cardinals, Angelo Sodano, who I thank with expressions of devotion for the kind wishes he extended to me in your name. With him I thank Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church, for his fine work during this delicate transition phase, and also Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, who led us in the Conclave. Many thanks! I think with particular affection of the venerable Cardinals who, because of age or illness, assured us of their participation and love for the Church by offering their suffering and prayers. And I would like to inform them that, the day before yesterday, Cardinal Mejia had a heart attack and is in hospital. I believe he is in stable condition and he has sent us his greetings.

I cannot forget to thank all those, who in so many ways, worked to prepare and conduct the Conclave, ensuring the safety and tranquillity of the Cardinals during this very important time in the life of the Church.

I extend an especially affectionate thought, filled with gratitude, to my venerable predecessor, Benedict XVI, who, during the years of his pontificate enriched and invigorated the Church with his teaching, his goodness, guidance, faith, humility, and his meekness, which will remain the spiritual patrimony of all. The Petrine ministry, lived with total dedication, found in him a wise and humble interpreter with his gaze always fixed on Christ, the Risen Christ, present and alive in the Eucharist. Our fervent prayer will always accompany him, our eternal memory, and affectionate gratitude. We feel that Benedict XVI lit a flame in the depth of our hearts, a flame that continues to burn because it will be fanned by his prayers that will continue to sustain the Church on its spiritual and missionary journey.

Dear Brother Cardinals, this meeting of ours is meant to be the continuation of that intense ecclesial communion we experienced during this period. Animated by a profound sense of responsibility and sustained by a great love for Christ and for the Church, we prayed together, fraternally sharing our feelings, our experiences and reflections. In this very cordial atmosphere our reciprocal knowledge of one another and mutual openness to one another, grew. And this is good because we are brothers. As someone told me: the Cardinals are the Holy Father’s priests. But we are that community, that friendship, that closeness, that will do good for every one of us. That mutual knowledge and openness to one another helped us to be open to the action of Holy Spirit. He, the Paraclete, is the supreme protagonist of every initiative and manifestation of faith. It’s interesting and it makes me think. The Paraclete creates all the differences in the Church and seems like an apostle of Babel. On the other hand, the Paraclete unifies all these differences – not making them equal – but in harmony with one another. I remember a Church father who described it like this: “Ipse harmonia est.” The Paraclete gives each one of us a different charism, and unites us in this community of the Church that adores the Father, the Son, and Him – the Holy Spirit.

Starting from the authentic collegial affection that united the College of Cardinals, I express my desire to serve the Gospel with renewed love, helping the Church to become ever more in Christ and with Christ, the fruitful life of the Lord. Stimulated by the Year of Faith, all together, pastors and faithful, we will make an effort to respond faithfully to the eternal mission: to bring Jesus Christ to humanity, and to lead humanity to an encounter with Jesus Christ: the Way, the Truth and the Life, truly present in the Church and, at the same time, in every person. This encounter makes us become new men in the mystery of Grace, provoking in our hearts the Christian joy that is a hundredfold that given us by Christ to those who welcome Him into their lives.

As Pope Benedict XVI reminded us so many times in his teachings and, finally, with that courageous and humble gesture, it is Christ who guides the Church through His Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the soul of the Church, with His life-giving and unifying strength. Of many He makes a single body – the mystical Body of Christ. Let us never give in to pessimism, to that bitterness that the devil tempts us with every day. Let us not give into pessimism and let us not be discouraged. We have the certainty that the Holy Spirit gives His Church, with His powerful breath, the courage to persevere, the courage to persevere and to search for new ways to evangelise, to bring the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Christian truth is attractive and convincing because it responds to the deep need of human existence, announcing in a convincing way that Christ is the one Saviour of the whole of man and of all men. This announcement is as valid today as it was at the beginning of Christianity when the Church worked for the great missionary expansion of the Gospel.

Dear Brothers, have courage! Half of us are old: I like to think of old age as the seat of wisdom in life. Old people have wisdom because they know they have journeyed through life – like the aged Simeon and Anna in the Temple. It was that wisdom that allowed them to recognise Jesus. We must give this wisdom to young people: like good wine that improves with age, let us give young people this life’s wisdom. I’m reminded of what a German poet said about aging: “Es ist ruhig, das Alter, und fromm” – “age is the time of peace and prayer”. We need to give young people this wisdom.

You are returning to your respective Sees to continue your ministry, enriched by these days so filled with faith and ecclesial communion. This unique and incomparable experience has allowed us to capture all the beauty of the ecclesial reality, which is a refection of the light of the Risen Christ: one day we shall gaze upon the beautiful face of that Risen Christ.

I commit my ministry, and your ministry, to the powerful intercession of Mary, our Mother, Mother of the Church. Beneath her maternal gaze, may each one of us walk and listen to the voice of her divine Son, strengthening unity, persevering together in prayer and giving witness to the true faith in the continual presence of the Lord. With these sentiments, sincere sentiments, I impart my Apostolic Blessing, which I extend to your collaborators and to the people under your pastoral care.

 

© Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2013  

On finishing his address, the Pope greeted, one by one, all the cardinals present in the Clementine Hall personally. 

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RESPONSE TO ACCUSATIONS AGAINST BERGOGLIO IN ARGENTINA  

Vatican City, 15 March 2013 (VIS) – At this afternoon's press conference, Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., director of the Holy See Press Office read a statement responding to allegations made against Cardinal Bergoglio in Argentina. It states: 

“The campaign against Bergoglio is well-known and dates back to many years ago. It has been carried out by a publication specializing in sometimes slanderous and defamatory campaigns. The anticlerical cast of this campaign and of other accusations against Bergoglio is well-known and obvious.” 

“The charges refer to the time before Bergoglio became bishop [of Buenos Aires], when he was Provincial Superior of the Jesuits in Argentina and accuse him of not having protected two priests who were kidnapped.” 

“This was never a concrete or credible accusation in his regard. He was questioned by an Argentinian court as someone aware of the situation but never as a defendant. He has, in documented form, denied any accusations.” 

“Instead, there have been many declarations demonstrating how much Bergoglio did to protect many persons at the time of the military dictatorship. Bergoglio's role, once he became bishop, in promoting a request for forgiveness of the Church in Argentina for not having done enough at the time of the dictatorship is also well-known.” 

“The accusations pertain to a use of historical-sociological analysis of the dictatorship period made years ago by left-wing anticlerical elements to attack the Church. They must be firmly rejected.” 

“Regarding “Liberation Theology”: Bergoglio has always referred to the Instructions of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He has always rejected violence saying that its price is always paid by the weakest.” 

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POPE FRANCIS TO RABBI OF ROME:

Vatican City, 15 March 2013 (VIS) – The Holy Father has sent a message to Dr. Riccardo Di Segni, the Chief Rabbi of Rome, the oldest Jewish community of the diaspora. “On this day of my election as Bishop of Rome and Pastor of the Universal Church,” reads the text, “I send you my cordial greetings, informing you that the solemn inauguration of my pontificate will take place on Tuesday, 19 March.” 

“Trusting in the protection of the Most High,” the Pope continues, “I strongly hope to be able to contribute to the progress of the relations that have existed between Jews and Catholics since Vatican Council II in a spirit of renewed collaboration and in service of a world that may always be more in harmony with the Creator's will.” 

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Unprecedented ecumenical gesture: Patriarch of Constantinople will attend Pope's inauguration

Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople has announced that he plans to attend the inaugural Mass of Pope Frances on March 19.

The appearance by the Ecumenical Patriarch--the "first among equals" of all the world's Orthodox leaders--is an unprecedented gesture. The Patriarch of Constantinople has not attended a papal installation since 1054, when Constantinople split from Rome.

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Patriarch Kirill's Message to Pope Francis
"We need to labour together for the affirmation of traditional moral values ​​in modern secular societies"

MOSCOW, March 15, 2013  - To His Holiness Francis, Pope of Rome

Your Holiness:

I congratulate you on your election to the eminent and responsible position of being the First Hierarch of the Roman Catholic Church.

Under your predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, the relationships between our churches received a new momentum and were characterized by a positive dynamism. I sincerely hope that Your Holiness would promote co-operation between our two churches in the spirit of brotherly love and mutual understanding.

At your accession to the papacy you chose the name Francis, which recalls famous Catholic saints who have served as an example of sacrificial devotion to alleviating people’s suffering and zealous preaching of the Gospel. In your choice one can see your desire to continue to care for the poor and the afflicted, which you showed in compassion and love over the many years of your service in Argentina, carrying the message of Christ crucified and risen to the modern world.

This same mission is now a priority for the Russian Orthodox Church, opening the possibility for co-operation and interaction with the Roman Catholic Church.

Orthodox and Catholics should be determined to combine their efforts to protect harassed and persecuted Christians in various parts of the world, as these people need our support and aid. We need to labour together for the affirmation of traditional moral values ​​in modern secular societies.

Please accept, Your Holiness, my best wishes for peace, spiritual strength and physical vigour, so that the generous support of God would come to you in the carrying out of your responsible ministry.

With fraternal affection in the Lord,

+ KIRILL

Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia

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POPE FRANCIS: “OH, HOW I WISH FOR A CHURCH THAT IS POOR AND FOR THE POOR!”

Vatican City, 16 March 2013 (VIS) – This morning in the the Paul VI Audience Hall, the Holy Father greeted over 6,000 journalists and those working in the media as well as for the Holy See, accredited either permanently or temporarily, to cover the events related to the Conclave. He addressed them with the following words:

“Dear friends, I am pleased, at the beginning of my ministry in the See of Peter, to meet with you who have worked here in Rome at this very intense period that began with the surprising announcement of my venerated predecessor Benedict XVI, this past 11 February. I warmly greet each of you.”

“The role of the mass media has been continuously growing in recent times,” he said, “so much so that it has become essential to narrate the events of contemporary history to the world. I therefore especially thank you for your distinguished service these past few days—you have had a bit of work to do, haven't you?—when the eyes of the Catholic world, and not only, were turned toward the Eternal City, in particular to this area that has St. Peter's tomb as its focal point. In these past few weeks you've gotten a chance to talk about the Holy See, the Church, her rites and traditions, her faith, and, in particular, the role of the Pope and his ministry.”

“A particularly heart-felt thanks goes to those who have been able to observe and present these events in the Church's history while keeping in mind the most just perspective in which they must be read, that of faith. Historical events almost always require a complex reading that, at times, can also include the dimension of faith. Ecclesial events are certainly not more complicated than political or economic ones. But they have one particularly fundamental characteristic: they answer to a logic that is not mainly that of, so to speak, worldly categories, and this is precisely why it is not easy to interpret and communicate them to a wide and varied audience. In fact, the Church, although it is certainly also a human, historical institution with all that that entails, does not have a political nature but is essentially spiritual: it is the people of God, the holy people of God who walk toward the encounter with Jesus Christ. Only by putting oneself in this perspective can one fully explain how the Catholic Church works.”

“Christ is the Church's Shepherd, but His presence in history moves through human freedom. Among these, one is chosen to serve as his Vicar, Successor of the Apostle Peter, but Christ is the centre, the fundamental reference, the heart of the Church! Without Him, neither Peter nor the Church would exist or have a reason for being. As Benedict XVI repeated often, Christ is present and leads His Church. In everything that has happened, the protagonist is, ultimately, the Holy Spirit. He has inspired Benedict XVI's decision for the good of the Church; He has guided the cardinals in their prayers and in their election. Dear friends, it is important to take due account of this interpretive horizon, this hermeneutic, to bring the heart of the events of these days into focus.”

“From this is born, above all, a renewed and sincere thanks for your efforts in these particularly challenging days, but also an invitation to always seek to know more the Church's true nature and the spiritual motivations that guide her and that are the most authentic for understanding her. Rest assured that the Church, for her part, is very attentive to your precious work. You have the ability to gather and express the expectations and needs of our times, to provide the elements necessary to read reality. Like many other professions, your job requires study, sensitivity, and experience but it bears with it a particular attention to truth, goodness, and beauty. This makes us particularly close because the Church exists to communicate Truth, Goodness, and Beauty 'in person'. It should be clear that we are all called, not to communicate ourselves, but rather this existential triad that shapes truth, goodness, and beauty.”

“Some people didn't know why the Bishop of Rome wanted to call himself 'Francis'. Some though of Francis Xavier, Francis de Sales, even Francis of Assisi. I will tell you the story. At the election I had the archbishop emeritus of Sao Paulo next to me. He is also prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Claudio Hummes [O.F.M.]: a dear, dear friend. When things were getting a little 'dangerous', he comforted me. And then, when the votes reached the two-thirds, there was the usual applause because the Pope had been elected. He hugged me and said: 'Do not forget the poor.' And that word stuck here [tapping his forehead]; the poor, the poor. Then, immediately in relation to the poor I thought of Francis of Assisi. Then I thought of war, while the voting continued, until all the votes [were counted]. And so the name came to my heart:: Francis of Assisi. For me he is the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who love and safeguards Creation. In this moment when our relationship with Creation is not so good—right?—He is the man who gives us this spirit of peace, the poor man … Oh, how I wish for a Church that is poor and for the poor!”

“I wish the best for you, I thank you for everything that you have done. And I think of your work: I wish you to work fruitfully and with serenity and to always know better the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the reality of the Church. I entrust you to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Star of evangelization. I I wish the best for you and your families, for each of your families, and I wholeheartedly impart to all of you the blessing.”

After personally greeting some of the journalists present, Pope Francis, in Spanish, concluded: “I told you I wholeheartedly imparted my blessing. Many of you don't belong to the Catholic Church, others are not believers. From my heart I impart this blessing, in silence, to each of you, respecting the conscience of each one, but knowing that each of you is a child of God: May God bless you.”

 

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Pope Francis: Mass at Vatican parish and Angelus

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis celebrated Mass on Sunday in the parish church of Vatican City, dedicated to St. Anne, the mother of Our Lady. The choir intoned the Attende, Domine! at the entrance, and the readings were those of the fifth Sunday of Lent: from the prophet, Isaiah; Psalm 126 – the Lord has done great things for us; the Letter of St Paul the Apostle to the Philippians; and a reading from the Gospel according to St John, in which the woman caught in adultery and subject under law to death by stoning, is presented to Jesus for judgment, and he says, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to cast his stone.

VATICAN CITY, March 18, 2013 - Here is the translation of the homily Pope Francis gave at the parish of St. Ann's in Vatican City on Sunday.

* * *

This is beautiful: first Jesus alone on the mountain praying. He prayed alone (cf. John 8:1). Then he went again to the Temple, and all the people went to him (cf. 8:2). Jesus among the people. And then, at the end, they left him alone with the woman (cf. 8:9). That solitude of Jesus! But it is a fruitful solitude: it is that of prayer with the Father and that other, which is so beautiful, which is precisely the Church’s message today, the [fruitful solitude] of his mercy with this woman.

There is also a difference among the people: there are the people who went with him; he sat down and began to teach them: the people who wanted to hear Jesus’ words, the people with open hearts, in need of the Word of God. There were others, who heard nothing, they could not hear; and they are those who brought the woman: Listen, Master, here is one, and one that ... We must do to her what Moses commanded us to do to these women (cf. 8:4-5). 

We too believe that we are these people, who, on the one hand wants to listen to Jesus, but, on the other hand, we like to cudgel others, to condemn others. And Jesus’ message is: mercy. For me, I say this humbly, it is the strongest message of the Lord: mercy. But he himself said it: I have not come for the just; the just justify themselves. Go ahead, blessed Lord, if you can do it, I cannot! But they think that they can do it. I have come for sinners (cf. Mark 2:17).

Think about that complaining after the calling of Matthew: But he goes around with sinners! (cf. Matthew 2:16). And he has come for us when we recognize that we are sinners. But if we are like that Pharisee at the altar – I thank you, Lord, that I am not like all the others, and that I am not like the man at the gate, like that publican (cf. Luke 18:11-12) – then we do not know the Lord’s heart, and we will never have the joy to experience this mercy! It is not easy to entrust oneself to God’s mercy, because it is an inscrutable abyss. But we must do it! “Oh, father, if you knew my life, you would not speak this way!” “Why, what have you done?” “Oh, I have done terrible things!” “All the better! Go to Jesus: he would be happy if you told him these things!” He forgets, he has a special capacity to forget. He forgets, he kisses you, he embraces you and he says to you: “Neither do I condemn you; go and from now on sin no more” (John 8:11). That is the only counsel he gives you. After a month, we are in the same situation ... Let us return to the Lord. The Lord never wearies of forgiving: never! We are the ones who grow weary of asking forgiveness. And let us ask for the grace to never weary of asking forgiveness because he never wearies of forgiving. Let us ask for this grace.

[At the conclusion of the Eucharistic Celebration, the pastor priest of Sant’Anna in the Vatican, Father Bruno Silvestrini, O.S.A., and the vicar general of His Holiness for Vatican City, Cardinal Angelo Comastri, offered their greetings to Pope Francis. Then the Holy Father concluded with these words:]

There are a few people here who are not parishioners: these Argentine priests, one is my auxiliary bishop, but today they are parishioners. But I would like to introduce you to a priest who comes from a great distance, who came, a priest who for a long time has been working with street kids, with drug addicts. He opened a school for them, he has done a lot of things to help them to know Jesus, and today all of these young people from the street, because of the studies they undertook, are working, they are able to work, they believe in and love Jesus. I would like to ask you, Gonzalo, come and greet the people: pray for him. He works in Uruguay, he is the founder of the Liceo Jubilar Juan Pablo II, he does this work. I don’t know how he came here today. But I will find out! Thank you. Pray for him.

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 Following the Mass, just like a local parish priest, Pope Francis greeted parishioners at the church door, before going briefly to the crowd gathered outside the St Anne’s Gate.

After returning into the church to take off his liturgical vestments, Pope Francis again greeted the faithful outside, before making his way to his study and the window overlooking St Peter’s Square, below which was gathered a crowd 300 thousand-strong, more than rivalling the throng of people who braved cold, rain and dark to meet the Pope on Wednesday – the night of his election - and receive his blessing for the first time. Dozens of national flags were visible in the packed Square, and a deafening cheer went up when, at last, Pope Francis appeared. Mercy was once again the cornerstone of his reflections ahead of the traditional prayer of Marian devotion.

He told a story, of an elderly widow he encountered during a Mass for the sick celebrated in connection with a visit of the image of Our Lady of Fatima. “I went to confession during the Mass,” he said, “and near the end – I had to go to do confirmations afterward, and an elderly lady approached me – humble [she was] so very humble, more than eighty years old. I looked at her, and said, ‘Grandmother,’ – where I come from, we call elderly people grandmother and grandfather – ‘would you like to make your confession?’ ‘Yes,’ she said – and I said, ‘but, if you have not sinned…’ and she said, ‘we all have sinned.’ [I replied], ‘if perhaps He should not forgive [you]?’ and, sure, she replied, ‘The Lord forgives everything.’ I asked, ‘How do you know this for sure, madam?’ and she replied, ‘If the Lord hadn’t forgiven all, then the world wouldn’t [still] be here.’ And, I wanted to ask her, ‘Madam, did you study at the Gregorian (the Pontifical Gregorian University, founded in 1551 by St Ignatius Loyola, the oldest Jesuit university in the world)?’ – because that is wisdom, which the Holy Spirit gives – interior wisdom regarding the mercy of God. Let us not forget this word: God never tires of forgiving us,” he repeated, “but we sometimes tire of asking Him to forgive us.” Pope Francis went on to say, “Let us never tire of asking God’s forgiveness.”

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On Forgiveness  (Angelus)

VATICAN CITY, March 17, 2013   

Here is the translation of Pope Francis' Angelus address given today at St. Peter's Square. * * *  

Brothers and sisters, hello! After the first meeting last Wednesday, today I can again offer my greeting to everyone! And I am glad to do it on Sunday, the Lords day! This is beautiful and important for us Christians: coming together on Sunday, greeting each other, talking with each other like we are doing now here in the piazza; a piazza that, thanks to the media, has the dimensions of the world. On this fifth Sunday of Lent, the Gospel presents us with the episode of the adulterous woman (cf. John 8:1-11), who Jesus saves from the death sentence. Jesus attitude is striking: we do not hear words of scorn, we do not hear words of condemnation, but only words of love, of mercy, that invite us to conversion. Neither do I condemn you: go and sin no more! (8:11). Well, brothers and sisters, the face of God is that of a merciful father, who always has patience. Have you thought about Gods patience, the patience that he has for each of us? That is his mercy. He always has patience, patience with us, he understands us, he waits for us, he does not weary of forgiving us if we know how to return to him with a contrite heart. Great is the mercy of the Lord, the Psalm says. These last several days I have been able to read a book by a cardinal Cardinal Kasper, a smart theologian, a good theologian on mercy. And it did me much good that book, but dont think that I am advertising the books of my cardinals! It is not that way! But it did me much good, much good... Cardinal Kasper said that hearing the word mercy, this word changes everything. It is the best word we can hear: it changes the world. A little mercy makes the world less cold and more just. We need to rightly understand this mercy of God, this merciful Father, who has a lot of patience ... Let us remember the prophet Isaiah, who says that even if our sins are bright red, Gods mercy can make them white as snow. Mercy is beautiful! I remember, when I had just become a bishop, in the year 1992, Our Lady of Fatima had just arrived in Buenos Aires and there was a big Mass for the sick. I went to hear confessions at that Mass. And near the end of the Mass I got up, because I had to administer holy oil. An old lady came to me, a humble lady, very humble, over 80 years old/ I looked at her and I said to her: Grandma, because in our country this is what we call old people: Grandma do you want to go to confession? Yes, she said to me. But if you havent sinned..., [I said]. And she said to me: We have all sinned... . But maybe the Lord does not forgive them... [I replied]. The Lord forgives everything, she told me, certain of what she was saying. But how do you know that, madam? If the Lord did not forgive everything, [she said], the world wouldnt exist. I felt like asking her, Tell me, madam, did you study at the Gregorian? because thats the wisdom that the Holy Spirit gives: interior wisdom about the mercy of God. Let us not forget this: God never wearies of forgiving us, never! So, father, whats the problem? Well, the problem is that we grow weary, we do not want to, we tire of asking for forgiveness. He never tires of forgiving, but we, at times, we tire of aski ng forgiveness. Let us never tire, let us never tire! He is the loving Father, who always forgives, who has that heart of mercy for all of us. And we too learn to be merciful with everyone. We invoke the intercession of Our Lady who held in her arms the Mercy of God made man. Now let us all together pray the Angelus. [Following the recitation of the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted those present in Italian.] I offer a cordial greeting to all the pilgrims. Thanks for your welcome and for your prayers. I ask you to pray for me. I renew my embrace of the faithful of Rome and I extend it to all of you, who come from various parts of Italy and of the world, and to those who are joining through different media. I chose the name of the Patron of Italy, St. Francis of Assisi, and that reinforces my spiritual bond with this land, where as you know my family has its origins. But Jesus has called us to be part of a new family: his Church, this family of God, walking together along the way of the Gospel. May the Lord bless you, may Our Lady protect you. Do not forget this: the Lord never wearies of forgiving! We are the ones who weary of asking for forgiveness. Have a good Sunday and a good lunch!

 

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Preparations Under Way for Pope Francis' Inaugural Mass

Delegations Representing 132 Countries Expected to Attend    By H. Sergio Mora

VATICAN CITY, March 18, 2013 (Zenit.org) - Tomorrow morning, Pope Francis will mark start of his pontificate with the Inaugural Mass of the “Beginning of the Petrine Ministry of the Bishop of Rome” in St. Peter’s Square.

“In the past it was called the Pope’s enthronement, which might have been alright then, but not now, as he is not a king,” said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office. Fr. Lombardi, who held a briefing today at the Holy See’s Media Center, was accompanied by Msgr. Jose Maria Gil Tamayo, the Spanish-speaking spokesman, and Fr. Thomas Rosica, the English and French-speaking spokesman.

As of now, delegations representing 132 countries will be present at the mass. Father Lombardi stressed “that the Holy See does not issue invitations, and anyone who wishes to attend can do so.” If a Head of States wishes to come he can do so.”

After the Mass, the leaders of the delegations will have the opportunity to greet Pope Francis in front of the main altar.

Prior to the Mass, the Holy Father will leave Domus Sanctae Marthae in the morning  and will greet pilgrims either in the popemobile or a vehicle of his choice. Then, at 9:15 am he will go to the sacristy,which is near the statue Michelangelo's Pieta, to prepare for the Mass there which will begin at 9:30 am.

The ceremony will begin at Saint Peter’s tomb, under the main altar, and will take place in the Square which, according to tradition, is where Saint Peter was martyred in what was then Nero’s Circus.

“From the sacristy, the Pope will go to Saint Peter’s tomb. Then he will go to the crypt under the altar accompanied by patriarchs, and some ten heads of Catholic Eastern Churches, four of whom are cardinals,” Fr. Lombardi said.

In the crypt will be the symbols the Holy Father will receive during the Mass: the ring of the Fisherman, the pallium and the book of the Gospels. They will then go up in procession to the door of the Basilica and go out to the square where the Mass will be celebrated.

At this time the “laudes Reges” litanies will be sung. “An interesting aspect is that many saints will be invoked, in particular saints who were Popes; the litanies end with Saint Pius X. Not invoked are the Blessed, who are so many,” Fr. Lombardi said.

“The pallium is the lamb’s wool that is placed around the chest and back. It signifies the Good Shepherd who seeks the lost sheep. It has red crosses because he gives his life for them, and they recall Christ’s wounds. The metropolitan archbishops also have the pallium, but with black crosses,” added Msgr. Gil Tamayo.

 The Cardinal proto-deacon, Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran, who announced “habemus papam” last Wednesday, will invest the pallium on the Holy Father. It is identical to Benedict XVI’s. This will be followed by a prayer. The dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, will then give Pope Francis the ring.

Also known as the Ring of the Fisherman, it is called thus “because Saint Peter was a fisherman; it recalls the biblical text of the miraculous catch when Jesus made him fisher of men. It will have the figure of Peter with the keys of the fisherman. It is the work of a famous Italian artist, Enrico Manfrini. It is made of silver plate,” Fr. Lombardi said.

The concelebrants will include all the cardinals who are in Rome, the Eastern patriarchs and archbishops who are not cardinals, the secretary of the College of Cardinals, two priests, and the generals of the Franciscans and the Jesuits. There will be no other concelebrants.

The ceremony will end with the promise of obedience, which will be made by six cardinals, one of each Order, although they already made this promise no sooner the Pope was elected. There will be no representatives from other ranks of the clergy, who instead will make the promise in “Saint John Lateran,” the Cathedral of Rome.

After these rites, the Mass will celebrate the feast of Saint Joseph, patron of the Church. There will be no readings related to the new Pope or the government of the Church.

On this occasion the Gospel will be proclaimed only in Greek. At Easter, for instance, the singing is in Latin and Greek, which represent the two dimensions of the life of the Church.

The offerings will not be taken in solemn procession, and the Pope will not distribute Communion personally. This will be done by deacons and 500 priests in Saint Peter’s Square. “Aspects of simplicity mean that the Mass will not be too long – some two hours, perhaps,” The Holy See Press Office director specified.

The singing will be done by the choir of the Pontifical Sistine Chapel, under Maestro Massimo Palombella, and by the Pontifical Academy of Sacred Music. Maestro Palombella pointed out that during the Offertory there will be music composed by Pierluigi de Palestrina for the occasion of a new pontificate. And it is called “Tu es pastor ovium,” you are the shepherd of the sheep. The Mass will end with the singing of the “Te Deum,” part in Gregorian and part polyphonic. There will be no Angelus as on Sundays.

On Wednesday, the Pope will receive the Christian delegations in the Clementine Hall. Among them will be top level representatives, such as patriarch Bartholomew, Catholic Armenian Karekin II and metropolitan Hilarion of the patriarchate of Moscow.

Attending the Mass also will be 16 members of the Jewish communities, including of the Rabbi of Israel, as well as a Muslim delegation, Buddhists and other creeds.

Pope Francis’ coat of arms will be the same episcopal coat of arms he had as archbishop of Buenos Aires.

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Pope's Motto: 'Miserando Atque Eligendo'  and Coat of Arms Released Today

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY, March 18, 2013 (Zenit.org) - Pope Francis has chosen to remain with his episcopal seal and motto. Added to the original papal seal are a blue background along with a miter with cross keys of gold and silver along with a red cord, symbol of his pontifical office.

The emblem of the Society of Jesus, the order which Pope Francis belongs to, is placed above on the shield. The emblem is an image of a radiant sun with the letters “IHS” the monogram of the name of Christ. A cross is placed above the letter H of the monogram while three nails are placed below it.

On the bottom left hand side of the shield is an image of a star, which according  to heraldic tradition, symbolizes  the Virgin Mary, mother of Christ and of the Church. To the right of the star is the image of the spikenard, an aromatic plant, meant to symbolize St. Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church. According to spanish iconographic tradition, St. Joseph is depicted holding a branch of spikenard in his hand.

By placing these two symbols on his coat of arms, Pope Francis wished to express his particular devotion to the Virgin Mary and Saint. Joseph.

The Holy Father’s motto, “Miserando Atque Eligendo”, (Because he saw him through the eyes of mercy and chose him) is taken from a homily by Saint Bede the Venerable regarding the calling of St. Matthew by Jesus.

Saint Bede’s homily, which is read on the feast of St. Matthew, is a homage to the divine mercy of Christ, and is of significance to the Holy Father in his spiritual itinerary. According to a communique explaining the Papal coat of arms, at the age of 17, the young Jorge Bergoglio experienced in a particular way, the loving presence of God in his life.

“Following confession, his heart was touched but the descent of the mercy of God, who with tender love called him to the religious life, following the example of Saint Ignatius of Loyola,” the communique stated.

“Upon being chosen as bishop, Bishop Bergoglio, in remembrance of that event that began his total consecration to God in the Church, decides to choose as motto and program of his life, the phrase by Saint Bede miserando atque eligendo which he has chosen to reproduce on his own pontifical coat of arms.”

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 3.4M Following Papal Twitter Account

VATICAN CITY, March 18, 2013 (Zenit.org) - Francis sent his first tweet on Sunday.

"Dear Friends, I offer my heartfelt thanks and ask you to continue to pray for me," it read.

The first tweet of the new Pontiff was sent after Sunday's midday Angelus and address.

The twitter account @ponitfex, in nine languages, has been reactivated and already has 3,400,000 followers.

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Pope Francis' Homily at Inauguration of Petrine Ministry Mass

VATICAN CITY, March 19, 2013  - Here is the translation of Pope Francis' homily at the Inauguration of the Petrine Ministry Mass, held in St. Peter's Square this morning.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I thank the Lord that I can celebrate this Holy Mass for the inauguration of my Petrine ministry on the solemnity of Saint Joseph, the spouse of the Virgin Mary and the patron of the universal Church.  It is a significant coincidence, and it is also the name-day of my venerable predecessor: we are close to him with our prayers, full of affection and gratitude.

I offer a warm greeting to my brother cardinals and bishops, the priests, deacons, men and women religious, and all the lay faithful.  I thank the representatives of the other Churches and ecclesial Communities, as well as the representatives of the Jewish community and the other religious communities, for their presence.  My cordial greetings go to the Heads of State and Government, the members of the official Delegations from many countries throughout the world, and the Diplomatic Corps.

In the Gospel we heard that “Joseph did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took Mary as his wife” (Mt 1:24).  These words already point to the mission which God entrusts to Joseph: he is to be the custos, the protector.  The protector of whom?  Of Mary and Jesus; but this protection is then extended to the Church, as Blessed John Paul II pointed out: “Just as Saint Joseph took loving care of Mary and gladly dedicated himself to Jesus Christ’s upbringing, he likewise watches over and protects Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church, of which the Virgin Mary is the exemplar and model” (Redemptoris Custos, 1).

How does Joseph exercise his role as protector?  Discreetly, humbly and silently, but with an unfailing presence and utter fidelity, even when he finds it hard to understand.  From the time of his betrothal to Mary until the finding of the twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem, he is there at every moment with loving care.  As the spouse of Mary, he is at her side in good times and bad, on the journey to Bethlehem for the census and in the anxious and joyful hours when she gave birth; amid the drama of the flight into Egypt and during the frantic search for their child in the Temple; and later in the day-to-day life of the home of Nazareth, in the workshop where he taught his trade to Jesus.

How does Joseph respond to his calling to be the protector of Mary, Jesus and the Church?  By being constantly attentive to God, open to the signs of God’s presence and receptive to God’s plans, and not simply to his own.  This is what God asked of David, as we heard in the first reading.  God does not want a house built by men, but faithfulness to his word, to his plan.  It is God himself who builds the house, but from living stones sealed by his Spirit.  Joseph is a “protector” because he is able to hear God’s voice and be guided by his will; and for this reason he is all the more sensitive to the persons entrusted to his safekeeping. He can look at things realistically, he is in touch with his surroundings, he can make truly wise decisions.  In him, dear friends, we learn how to respond to God’s call, readily and willingly, but we also see the core of the Christian vocation, which is Christ!  Let us protect Christ in our lives, so that we can protect others, so that we can protect creation!

The vocation of being a “protector”, however, is not just something involving us Christians alone; it also has a prior dimension which is simply human, involving everyone.  It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world, as the Book of Genesis tells us and as Saint Francis of Assisi showed us.  It means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live. It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about.  It means caring for one another in our families: husbands and wives first protect one another, and then, as parents, they care for their children, and children themselves, in time, protect their parents.  It means building sincere friendships in which we protect one another in trust, respect, and goodness.  In the end, everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it.  Be protectors of God’s gifts!

Whenever human beings fail to live up to this responsibility, whenever we fail to care for creation and for our brothers and sisters, the way is opened to destruction and hearts are hardened.   Tragically, in every period of history there are “Herods” who plot death, wreak havoc, and mar the countenance of men and women.

Please, I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill: let us be “protectors” of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment.  Let us not allow omens of destruction and death to accompany the advance of this world!  But to be “protectors”, we also have to keep watch over ourselves!  Let us not forget that hatred, envy and pride defile our lives!  Being protectors, then, also means keeping watch over our emotions, over our hearts, because they are the seat of good and evil intentions: intentions that build up and tear down!  We must not be afraid of goodness or even tenderness!

Here I would add one more thing: caring, protecting, demands goodness, it calls for a certain tenderness.  In the Gospels, Saint Joseph appears as a strong and courageous man, a working man, yet in his heart we see great tenderness, which is not the virtue of the weak but rather a sign of strength of spirit and a capacity for concern, for compassion, for genuine openness to others, for love.  We must not be afraid of goodness, of tenderness!

Today, together with the feast of Saint Joseph, we are celebrating the beginning of the ministry of the new Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter, which also involves a certain power.  Certainly, Jesus Christ conferred power upon Peter, but what sort of power was it?  Jesus’ three questions to Peter about love are followed by three commands: feed my lambs, feed my sheep.  Let us never forget that authentic power is service, and that the Pope too, when exercising power, must enter ever more fully into that service which has its radiant culmination on the Cross.  He must be inspired by the lowly, concrete and faithful service which marked Saint Joseph and, like him, he must open his arms to protect all of God’s people and embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important, those whom Matthew lists in the final judgment on love: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison (cf. Mt 25:31-46).  Only those who serve with love are able to protect!

In the second reading, Saint Paul speaks of Abraham, who, “hoping against hope, believed” (Rom 4:18).  Hoping against hope!  Today too, amid so much darkness, we need to see the light of hope and to be men and women who bring hope to others.  To protect creation, to protect every man and every woman, to look upon them with tenderness and love, is to open up a horizon of hope; it is to let a shaft of light break through the heavy clouds; it is to bring the warmth of hope!  For believers, for us Christians, like Abraham, like Saint Joseph, the hope that we bring is set against the horizon of God, which has opened up before us in Christ.  It is a hope built on the rock which is God.

To protect Jesus with Mary, to protect the whole of creation, to protect each person, especially the poorest, to protect ourselves: this is a service that the Bishop of Rome is called to carry out, yet one to which all of us are called, so that the star of hope will shine brightly.  Let us protect with love all that God has given us!

I implore the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, Saints Peter and Paul, and Saint Francis, that the Holy Spirit may accompany my ministry, and I ask all of you to pray for me!  Amen.

 

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Pope Francis' Address to Argentines Gathered in Plaza De Mayo

VATICAN CITY, March 19, 2013  - Here is the translation of Pope Francis' address to his fellow Argentines gathered in Plaza De Mayo prior to the Inauguration of the Petrine Ministry Mass held in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear children, I know you are in the square. I know you are praying and saying prayers, I need them very much. It is so beautiful to pray. Thank you for that.

I want to ask you a favor. I want to ask that we all walk together, to take care of one for the other, take care of each other, do not hurt each other, take care of yourselves, take care of your lives. Take care of the family, take care of nature, take care of children, take care of the elderly; that there may be no hate, no fights, leave aside envy, do not speak ill of anybody. Dialogue amongst each other, so that in all of you may live the desire to care for one another.

That your hearts may grow and come close to God. God is good, He always forgives, understands, do not be afraid of Him; He is Father, be close to Him. May the Virgin bless you, do not forget this bishop who is far but loves you very much. Pray for me.

 

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Statement by Cardinal Seán Brady for Francis' Inauguration Mass

"Pope Francis has reminded us that Jesus Christ is everything"

DUBLIN, March 19, 2013 - Here is the statement made by Cardinal Seán Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland regarding the Inauguration of the Petrine Ministry Mass of Pope Francis, held today in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Today on the feast of Saint Joseph - patron saint of the universal Church - I, along with other cardinals, bishops and priests, had the honour to concelebrate Mass with Pope Francis as he began his Petrine Ministry as the Bishop of Rome.  The Mass included the imposition of the Pallium and the bestowal of the Fisherman's Ring.

At today's special Mass in Saint Peter's Square, Rome, the Holy Father asked us to "protect with love all that God has given us!"  Let us take his important request to heart.  Pope Francis has advised us how best we can do this:

Since his election last Wednesday 13 March, Pope Francis has reminded us that Jesus Christ is everything.  The Holy Father has said that we should all seek to know Jesus Christ and to live our lives in the presence of Jesus.  It is all about walking the Journey of Life in the presence of Jesus.

Pope Francis has often worried in the past about the danger of what he calls spiritual worldliness.  By that he means that we can be so obsessed about ourselves that we have no interest or no time for anyone else.  We can be so sure that we are alright that we do not need Jesus and that we can pass judgement on everyone else. 

The motto Pope Francis has chosen as pope is the same motto he used as archbishop and it bears a teaching message for all of us.  In his motto Pope Francis shows his love for the mercy of God – it says that we are saved by the mercy and choice of God.  We are not, and never can be, saved by our efforts alone.  We would love to think that we can save ourselves and so we would not have to depend on and need God.  But the fact is that we all need God’s mercy.

We are here on this earth to walk the Journey of Life in the presence of God.  We are invited to get to know Jesus and be his friend and to sing his praises.  We are called to realise that we have all sinned and need God’s mercy which is available to each and every one of us.

I offer Pope Francis every blessing in his new role as Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church.  I ask the faithful of Ireland to join with me and to pray every success for the Holy Father as he turns to face the many challenges of his ministry.

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Latin American Bishops' Council on Francis' Election

"This event has filled us with profound joy and thanksgiving to God"

ROME, March 19, 2013 (Zenit.org) - The leaders of the Latin American bishops' council (CELAM) sent a letter to His Holiness Francis, congratulating him on his election as Bishop of Rome and Successor of Peter.

* * *

Holy Father:

Gathered in Bogota at the meeting of the Presidency and Directors of CELAM with the Secretaries General of the 22 Episcopal Conferences of Latin America and the Caribbean, we wish to express to you, in this Year of Faith, our sincere affection in the Lord, our adherence and loyalty.

We have lived the experience of your election as Bishop of Rome and Successor of Peter, in an atmosphere of episcopal collegiality. This event has filled us with profound joy and thanksgiving to God because of what it represents for the universal Church and, in a special way, for the Churches journeying in Latin America and the Caribbean.

In this context your words, spoken in an interview on leaving the presidency of the Argentine Episcopal Conference, acquire for all of us a special and significant connotation: “CELAM has been transformed into something inspiring. The last Conference of the Episcopate in Aparecida is leaven of inspiration, it is a call to creativity, draws lines of missionary action. It does not end with a document as the previous conferences but culminates with a mission. This is very important.”

We wish to express to you, Holy Father, that we identify fully with your first message when you said: “And now we begin our journey: Bishop and people, the journey of the Church of Rome which presides in charity over all the Churches. A journey of brotherhood, of love, of trust among ourselves. Let us always pray for ourselves, for one another. Let us pray for the whole world, so that there will be great brotherhood.”

We place your Petrine ministry in Mary’s hands, Mother of the Church and Star of the New Evangelization, so that she will put in your heart the spirit of her Son Jesus, poor and humble, our Good Shepherd.

With humility, we implore your Apostolic Blessing for the Church of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Bogota, March 14, 2013

+Carlos Aguiar Retes   Archbishop of Tlalnepantla, Mexico

President of CELAM

+Dimas Lara Barbosa  Archbishop of Campo Grande, Brazil

 

Second Vice-President of CELAM

+Santiago Silva Retamales  Auxiliary Bishop of Valparaiso, Chile

Secretary General of CELAM

+Carlos Maria Collazzi, SDB   Bishop of Mercedes, Uruguay

President of the Executive Committee of CELAM

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Pope Francis Congratulates Benedict for Feast of St. Joseph

Holy Father Calls Pope Emeritus for His Name Day

VATICAN CITY, March 20, 2013  - The Vatican reported Tuesday afternoon that Pope Francis called his predecessor to congratulate him for the feast of St. Joseph, his name day.

As he was baptized Joseph Ratzinger, Benedict XVI's patron is St. Joseph.

The Vatican statement reports: "This afternoon, shortly after 5:00 pm, Pope Francis called Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI on the telephone, to give him his best wishes on the occasion of the feast of Saint Joseph, his name day, and to express his gratitude and that of the Church for his service. The conversation was lengthy and cordial. The Pope Emeritus has followed intensely the events of these days and, in particular, this morning’s celebration, and assured his Successor of his continuous closeness in prayer."

With a Mass on Tuesday morning in St. Peter's Square, the pontificate of Francis was officially inaugurated.

 

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Pope's Address to Representatives of the Churches, Ecclesial Communities and Other Religions

VATICAN CITY, March 20, 2013 - Here is the translation of the address given today by Pope Francis, when he received in audience the fraternal delegates of churches, ecclesial communities and international ecumenical bodies, representatives of the Jewish people and of non-Christian religions, gathered in Rome for the celebration of the official start of his ministry as Bishop of Rome.

The Holy Father delivered his address after His Holiness Bartholomew I, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, greeted him.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

First of all I thank my Brother Andrew [Bartholomew I] very much for what he said. Thank you very much! Thank you!

It is a cause for particular joy to meet today with you, delegates of the Orthodox churches, the Oriental Orthodox churches and ecclesial communities of the West. Thank you for having wanted to take part in the celebration that has marked the beginning of my Ministry as Bishop of Rome and successor of Peter.

Yesterday morning, during Holy Mass, through your persons I recognized as spiritually present the communities that you represent. In this manifestation of faith, I seemed to experience in an even more urgent way the prayer for unity among believers in Christ and together to see somehow foreshadowed that full realization, which depends on the plan of God and on our loyal collaboration.

I begin my Apostolic Ministry in this year which my venerable predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, with truly inspired insight, proclaimed the Year of Faith for the Catholic Church. With this initiative, which I want to continue and hope is a stimulus for the faith journey of all, he wished to mark the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Second Vatican Council, proposing a sort of pilgrimage towards that which is most essential for every Christian: the personal and transforming relationship with Jesus Christ, Son of God, who died and rose for our salvation. The heart of the Council's message resides precisely in the desire to announce this perennially valid treasure of faith to the men of our time.

Together with you I cannot forget how much that Council has meant for the road of ecumenism. I would like to recall the words of Blessed John XXIII, the 50th anniversary of whose death we will soon commemorate, which he pronounced in his memorable inauguration speech: "the Catholic Church considers it her duty to actively seek to fulfill the great mystery of that unity which Jesus Christ with most ardent prayers beseeched the Heavenly Father in the imminence of his sacrifice; It enjoys delightful peace, knowing itself to be intimately United with Christ in those prayers» (AAS 54 [1962], 793). This is Pope John.

Yes, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all feel intimately united to the prayer of our Savior in the Last Supper, to his invocation: ut unum sint. Let us ask the merciful Father to live in fullness that faith that we received as a gift on the day of our baptism, and to be able to bear free, courageous and joyful testimony to it. This will be our best service to the cause of unity among Christians, a service of hope to a world still marked by divisions, by contrast and rivalry. The more we are faithful to His will, in our thoughts, words and deeds, the more we will actually and substantially walk towards unity.

For my part, I wish to assure you, in the wake of my predecessors, of my determination to continue on the path of ecumenical dialogue and I would like to thank in advance the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, for the help that it will continue to offer, in my name, for this noble cause. I ask you, dear brothers and sisters, to bring my cordial greeting and the assurance of my remembrance in the Lord Jesus to the churches and Christian communities here represented, and request of you the charity of a special prayer for my person, to be a pastor according to the heart of Christ.

And now I turn to you distinguished representatives of the Jewish people, to which we are joined in a very special spiritual bond, since, as the Second Vatican Council affirms, the Church of Christ acknowledges that “the beginnings of her faith and her election are already, according to the divine mystery of salvation, in the Patriarchs, Moses, and the prophets” (Declar. Nostra aetate, 4). Thank you for your presence and I am confident that, with the help of the Almighty, we will be able to continue profitably that fraternal dialogue that the Council advocated (cf. ibid.) and that has actually been accomplished, bringing many fruits, especially in recent decades.

I then greet and cordially thank you all, dear friends belonging to other religious traditions; first of all the Muslims, who worship the one God, living and merciful, and call upon Him in prayer, and all of you. I really appreciate your presence: in it I see a tangible sign of the will to grow in mutual esteem and cooperation for the common good of humanity.

The Catholic Church is aware of the importance of promoting friendship and respect between men and women of different religious traditions - I wish to repeat this: promoting friendship and respect between men and women of different religious traditions - it also attests the valuable work that the Pontifical Council for interreligious dialogue performs. It is equally aware of the responsibility that we all have towards this world of ours, towards all of Creation, that we should love and protect. And we can do much for the sake of the poorest, those who are weak and who suffer, to promote justice, to promote reconciliation and to build peace. But, above all, we need to keep alive in the world the thirst for the absolute, not allowing to prevail a one-dimensional vision of the human person, according to which man is reduced to what he produces and consumes: this is this one of the most dangerous pitfalls for our time.

We know how much violence has been produced in recent history by the attempt to eliminate God and the divine from the horizon of humanity, and we experience the value of witnessing in our societies to the original opening to transcendence that is inherent in the human heart. In this, we feel close even to all those men and women who, whilst not recognising themselves belonging to any religious tradition, feel themselves nevertheless to be in search of truth, goodness and beauty, this truth, goodness and beauty of God, and who are our precious allies in efforts to defend the dignity of man, in building a peaceful coexistence among peoples and in guarding Creation carefully.

Dear friends, thank you again for your presence. To everyone I extend my cordial and fraternal greeting.

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Pope Francis' Message to Archbishop Justin Welby

VATICAN CITY, March 21, 2013  - Here is the message sent today by Pope Francis to His Grace Justin Welby on the occasion of his enthronement as Archbishop of Canterbury and primate of the Anglican Communion.

* * *

To the Most Reverend and Right Honourable Justin Welby

Archbishop of Canterbury

"May grace and peace be multiplied to you" (1 Pet 1:2b)

I thank you for the kind words contained in your message to me at my election, and I wish in turn to offer my greetings and best wishes on the occasion of your Enthronement at Canterbury Cathedral.

The pastoral ministry is a call to walk in fidelity to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Please be assured of my prayers as you take up your new responsibilities, and I ask you to pray for me as I respond to the new call that the Lord has addressed to me.

I look forward to meeting you in the near future, and to continuing the warm fraternal relations that our predecessors enjoyed.

From the Vatican, 18 March 2013

FRANCIS

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Benedict XVI's Message to Archbishop Justin Welby

VATICAN CITY, March 21, 2013  - Here is the message sent by Pope Benedict XVI, prior to his resignation from the Petrine Ministry, to Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby on the occasion of his Confirmation of Election, held in the Cathedral of St. Paul in London on February 4th.

* * *

To the Most Reverend and Right Honourable

Justin Welby

Archbishop of Canterbury

“In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.” (Col 1:3)

With these words of Saint Paul, I greet you joyfully in the name of the Lord Jesus, "whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption" (1 Cor 1:30), and I offer you my prayerful good wishes on the occasion of your installation as Archbishop of Canterbury.

You take up your office at a time when the Christian faith is being called into question in many parts of the Western world by those who claim that religion is a private matter, with no contribution to offer to public debate. Ministers of the Gospel today have to respond to a widespread deafness to the music of faith, and a general weariness that shuns the demands of discipleship. Yet the hunger for God, even if unrecognized, is ever-present in our society, and the preacher's task, as a messenger of hope, is to speak the truth with love, shedding the light of Christ into the darkness of people's lives. May your apostolate yield a rich harvest and may it open the eyes and ears of many to the life-giving message of the Gospel.

Let us give thanks to God that the bonds of affection between Catholics and Anglicans have become firmly established in recent decades, through dialogue and collaboration, as well as personal meetings between our respective predecessors. It is greatly to be hoped that we will continue to build upon that important legacy. The disappointments that have been encountered and the challenges that remain on our journey towards full communion are well known, but there have also been signs of hope. Recognizing that our unity will arise only as a gift from the Lord, let us entrust ourselves to his Holy Spirit, as we renew our determination to seek genuine unity in faith and to engage more profoundly in common witness and mission.

With sentiments of fraternal regard, I assure you of my prayers as you take up your new responsibilities. Whatever challenges you encounter, may the Lord grant you strength and wisdom, and may the Holy Spirit guide you in all that you undertake in his name.

From the Vatican, 4 February 2013

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

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Francis' Address to Diplomatic Corps
"Fighting poverty, both material and spiritual, building peace and constructing bridges"

VATICAN CITY, March 22, 2013   - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Francis gave this morning to the diplomatic corps acredited to the Holy See.

* * *

Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Heartfelt thanks to your Dean, Ambassador Jean-Claude Michel, for the kind words that he has addressed to me in the name of everyone present. It gives me joy to welcome you for this exchange of greetings: a simple yet deeply felt ceremony, that somehow seeks to express the Pope’s embrace of the world. Through you, indeed, I encounter your peoples, and thus in a sense I can reach out to every one of your fellow citizens, with their joys, their troubles, their expectations, their desires.

Your presence here in such numbers is a sign that the relations between your countries and the Holy See are fruitful, that they are truly a source of benefit to mankind. That, indeed, is what matters to the Holy See: the good of every person upon this earth! And it is with this understanding that the Bishop of Rome embarks upon his ministry, in the knowledge that he can count on the friendship and affection of the countries you represent, and in the certainty that you share this objective. At the same time, I hope that it will also be an opportunity to begin a journey with those few countries that do not yet have diplomatic relations with the Holy See, some of which were present at the Mass for the beginning of my ministry, or sent messages as a sign of their closeness – for which I am truly grateful.

As you know, there are various reasons why I chose the name of Francis of Assisi, a familiar figure far beyond the borders of Italy and Europe, even among those who do not profess the Catholic faith. One of the first reasons was Francis’ love for the poor. How many poor people there still are in the world! And what great suffering they have to endure! After the example of Francis of Assisi, the Church in every corner of the globe has always tried to care for and look after those who suffer from want, and I think that in many of your countries you can attest to the generous activity of Christians who dedicate themselves to helping the sick, orphans, the homeless and all the marginalized, thus striving to make society more humane and more just.

But there is another form of poverty! It is the spiritual poverty of our time, which afflicts the so-called richer countries particularly seriously. It is what my much-loved predecessor, Benedict XVI, called the "tyranny of relativism", which makes everyone his own criterion and endangers the coexistence of peoples. And that brings me to a second reason for my name. Francis of Assisi tells us we should work to build peace. But there is no true peace without truth! There cannot be true peace if everyone is his own criterion, if everyone can always claim exclusively his own rights, without at the same time caring for the good of others, of everyone, on the basis of the nature that unites every human being on this earth.

One of the titles of the Bishop of Rome is Pontiff, that is, a builder of bridges with God and between people. My wish is that the dialogue between us should help to build bridges connecting all people, in such a way that everyone can see in the other not an enemy, not a rival, but a brother or sister to be welcomed and embraced! My own origins impel me to work for the building of bridges. As you know, my family is of Italian origin; and so this dialogue between places and cultures a great distance apart matters greatly to me, this dialogue between one end of the world and the other, which today are growing ever closer, more interdependent, more in need of opportunities to meet and to create real spaces of authentic fraternity.

In this work, the role of religion is fundamental. It is not possible to build bridges between people while forgetting God. But the converse is also true: it is not possible to establish true links with God, while ignoring other people. Hence it is important to intensify dialogue among the various religions, and I am thinking particularly of dialogue with Islam. At the Mass marking the beginning of my ministry, I greatly appreciated the presence of so many civil and religious leaders from the Islamic world. And it is also important to intensify outreach to non-believers, so that the differences which divide and hurt us may never prevail, but rather the desire to build true links of friendship between all peoples, despite their diversity.

Fighting poverty, both material and spiritual, building peace and constructing bridges: these, as it were, are the reference points for a journey that I want to invite each of the countries here represented to take up. But it is a difficult journey, if we do not learn to grow in love for this world of ours. Here too, it helps me to think of the name of Francis, who teaches us profound respect for the whole of creation and the protection of our environment, which all too often, instead of using for the good, we exploit greedily, to one another’s detriment.

Dear Ambassadors,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you again for all the work that you do, alongside the Secretariat of State, to build peace and construct bridges of friendship and fraternity. Through you, I would like to renew to your Governments my thanks for their participation in the celebrations on the occasion of my election, and my heartfelt desire for a fruitful common endeavour. May Almighty God pour out his gifts on each one of you, on your families and on the peoples that you represent. Thank you!

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Francis' Letter to Superior-General of Jesuits
Pope Praying for All Jesuits, That They May Be "Evangelical Leaven in the World"

VATICAN CITY, March 22, 2013  - The Vatican made available the text of a letter Francis sent to Fr. Adolfo Nicolás, superior-general of the Society of Jesus, in response to Fr. Adolfo's letter of congratulations upon his election as Pope. The two men have since met.

* * *

Dear Father Nicolás,

I received with great joy the kind letter you sent me, in your name and that of the Society of Jesus, on the occasion of my election to the See of Peter, in which you assure me of your prayers for me and my apostolic ministry as well as your full disposition to continue serving - unconditionally - the Church and the Vicar of Christ according to the teachings of St. Ignatius Loyola.
My heartfelt thanks for this sign of affection and closeness, which I am happy to reciprocate, asking the Lord to illuminate and accompany all Jesuits, so that faithful to the charism received and following in the footsteps of the saints of our beloved Order, they may be evangelical leaven in the world in their pastoral action, but above all in the witness of a life totally dedicated to the service of the Church, the Spouse of Christ, seeking unceasingly the glory of God and the good of souls.
With these sentiments, I ask all Jesuits to pray for me and to entrust me to the loving protection of the Virgin Mary, our Mother in heaven, while as a sign of God's abundant graces, I give you the Apostolic Blessing with special affection, which I also extend to all those who cooperate with the Society of Jesus in her activities, those who benefit from her good deeds and participate in her spirituality.
Francis
Vatican, 16 March 2013

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On Holy Week  (Angelus)

VATICAN CITY, March 24, 2013  - Here is the translation of the address Pope Francis' delivered prior to the recitation of the Angelus at the end of today's Palm Sunday Mass at St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters,

At the end of this celebration, we invoke the intercession of the Virgin Mary that she might accompany us during Holy Week. May she who followed her Son to Calvary help us to follow him, carrying his cross with serenity and love, to reach the joy of Easter. May the Virgin of Sorrows especially comfort those who are facing the most difficult situations. A thought goes out to those who suffer from tuberculosis since today is the World Tuberculosis Day. To Mary I entrust you in particular, dear young people, and your journey toward Rio de Janeiro.

See you in Rio in July! Prepare your heart spiritually.

Buon cammino a tutti!

Bonne route à tous !

I wish you all much joy on your journey.

Alles Gute für euren Weg auf Ostern hin und nach Rio!

¡Buen camino para todos!

Um bom caminho a todos!

Dóbrey drógui!

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Pope Francis' Palm Sunday Homily

VATICAN CITY, March 24, 2013 - Here is the translation of Pope Francis' homily for Palm Sunday which was held at St. Peter's Square earlier today.

* * *

1. Jesus enters into Jerusalem. The crowd of disciples accompanies him in celebration, cloaks are placed on the road before him, his miracles are spoken of, a shout of praise goes up: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, the king. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heaven” (Luke 19:38).

Crowd, celebration, praise, blessing, peace: it is a climate of joy that is being experienced. Jesus has reawakened many hopes of the heart, above all in the humble people, the simple, poor, forgotten, those who do not count in the eyes of the world. He understood human misery, he manifested the face of God’s mercy and deigned to heal the body and soul.

This is Jesus. This is his heart that looks upon all of us, that looks upon all of our afflictions, our sins. Jesus’ love is great. And so he enters into Jerusalem with this love, and looks upon all of us. It is a beautiful scene: full of light – the light of Jesus’ love, the light of his heart – of joy, of celebrating.

At the beginning of Mass we too repeated this. We waved our palms. We too welcomed Jesus; we too expressed the joy of accompanying him, of knowing that he is near, present in us and among us, as a friend, as a brother, and as king, that is, like a glowing beacon in our life. Jesus is God but he lowered himself to walk with us. He is our friend, our brother. Here he lights our way. And in this way we have welcomed him today. And this is the first word that I want to say to you: joy! Never be sad men and women: a Christian can never be! Never give in to discouragement! Ours is not a joy that arises from possessing many things, rather it comes from having met a Person: Jesus, who is among us; it comes from knowing that with him we are never alone, even in difficult moments, even when the journey of life collides with problems and obstacles that seem insurmountable, and there are many! And it is in this moment that the enemy comes, the devil comes, many times disguised as an angel, and he speaks to us deceitfully. Do not listen to him! We follow Jesus! We accompany, we follow Jesus, but above all we know that he accompanies us and he carries us: here is where our joy lies, the hope that we, in this world of ours, must have. And, please, do not let hope be stolen from you! Do not let your hope be stolen! The hope that Jesus gives us.

2. But we ask ourselves – here we approach to the second word – Why does Jesus come to Jerusalem? Or perhaps better: How does Jesus enter into Jerusalem? The crowd acclaims him King. And he does not oppose this, he does not silence them (cf. Luke 19:39-40). But what kind of King is Jesus? Let us see: he rides a colt, he does not have a court that follows him, he is not surrounded by an army that would symbolize power. Those who welcome him are humble, simple people, who have the sense to see in Jesus something more; they have that sense of faith, which says: this is the Savior. Jesus does not enter the Holy City to receive the honors reserved for earthly kings, to those who have power, to those who dominate; he enters to be beaten, insulted and reviled, as Isaiah foretold in the first reading (cf. Isaiah 50:6); he enters to receive a crown of thorns, a reed, a purple cloak, his royalty will be an object of scorn; he enters to climb Calvary, carrying a tree. And this is the second word: cross. Jesus enters Jerusalem to die on the cross. And it is exactly here that his being a king, as God, is manifested: the royal throne is the wood of the cross! I think of what Benedict XVI said to the cardinals: you are princes but of a crucified King. That is Jesus’ throne. Jesus takes it upon himself… Why the cross? Because Jesus takes upon himself evil, filth, the sin of the world, even our sin, the sins of all of us, and he washes them away with his blood, with mercy, with God’s love. Let us look around: how greatly does evil wound humanity! War, violence, economic conflicts that harm the weakest, desire for money, which no one can take with them, it must be left behind. My grandmother said to us children: the shroud that they bury you in won’t have pockets. Love of money, power, corruption, divisions, crimes against human life and against creation! And – we all know – there are our own sins: lack of love and respect for God, for our neighbor, for the whole of creation. And Jesus on the cross feels the whole weight of evil and with the power of God’s love conquers it, he defeats it in his resurrection. This is the good that Jesus does for all of us upon the cross. The cross of Christ, embraced with love, never brings sadness with it, but joy, the joy of being saved and of doing a little of what he did on the day of his death.

3. Today there are many young people in this piazza: for 28 years Palm Sunday has been the Day of Young People! This is the third word: youth! Dear young people, I saw you in the procession, when you came in; I imagine you celebrating around Jesus, shaking the olive branches; I imagine you as you shout his name and express your joy at being with him! You have an important part in the feast of faith! You bring us the joy of faith and you tell us that we must live the faith with a young heart, always, a young heart even at 70 or 80! Young heart! With Christ the heart never grows old! But we all know that the King that we follow and who accompanies us is very special: he is a King who loves even to the cross and that teaches us to serve, to love. And you are not ashamed of the cross! On the contrary, you embrace it, because you have understood that it is in the gift of self, in going out of yourself that you have true joy and that with God’s love he conquered evil. You carry the Pilgrim Cross across all the continents, down the roads of the world! You carry it responding to Jesus’ invitation, “Go and make disciples of all nations” (cf. Matthew 28:19), which is the theme of World Youth Day this year. You carry it to say to everyone that on the cross Jesus broke down the wall of enmity that separates men and peoples, and brought reconciliation and peace. Dear friends, I too journey with you, starting today, in the footsteps of John Paul II and of Benedict XVI. We are already near this next stage on this great pilgrimage of the cross. Look with joy to July, to Rio de Janeiro! I have an appointment with you in that great city in Brazil! Prepare yourselves well, above all spiritually in your communities, so that meeting will be a sign of faith for the whole world. The young people must say to the world: it is good to follow Jesus; it is good to go with Jesus; Jesus’ message is good; it is good to go out of yourself to the ends of the earth and existence to bring Jesus! Three words: joy, cross, youth.

Let us ask the intercession of the Virgin Mary. She teaches us the joy of the encounter with Christ, the love with which we, at the foot of the cross, must look upon him, the enthusiasm of the young heart with which we must follow him this Holy Week and our whole life. Amen.

 

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Pope's Note to Chief Rabbi of Rome for Feast of Passover

VATICAN CITY, March 25, 2013  - Here is a translation of the note that Pope Francis sent to the Chief Rabbi of Rome, Riccardo di Segni, for the feast of Passover, which starts today at sundown.

The Holy Father met Rabbi di Segni on March 20, during his audience with delegations from other Christian confessions and non-Christian religions.

* * *

A few days on from our meeting, and with renewed gratitude for your having desired to honor the celebration of the beginning of my ministry with your presence and that of other distinguished members of the Jewish community, I take great pleasure in extending my warmest best wishes to you and Rome's entire Jewish community on the occasion of the Great Feast of Pesach. May the Almighty, who freed His people from slavery in Egypt to guide them to the Promised Land, continue to deliver you from all evil and to accompany you with His blessing. I ask you to pray for me, as I assure you of my prayers for you, confident that we can deepen [our] ties of mutual esteem and friendship. - FRANCIS

 

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Havana Prelate Shares Notes From Cardinal Bergoglio's Pre-Conclave Speech
Argentine Archbishop Warned Against a 'Worldly Church'

HAVANA, CUBA, March 26, 2013  - The archbishop of Havana says that a speech given by Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio (now Pope Francis) during the cardinals' pre-conclave meetings was "masterful" and "clear."

Cardinal Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino spoke of Cardinal Bergoglio's speech at a Mass on Saturday in Cuba, having returned home from his trip to Rome to bid farewell to Benedict, participate in the conclave, and welcome Francis.

Cardinal Ortega said that Cardinal Bergoglio gave him the handwritten notes of the speech, and the permission to share the contents.

"Allow me to let you know, almost as an absolute first fruit, the thought of the Holy Father Francis on the mission of the Church," Cardinal Ortega said.

During Saturday's Mass, Havana's archbishop spoke of the address as "masterful, enlightening, calling for a commitment, and true," the spokesman of the archbishopric of Havana, Orlando Marquez, told ZENIT.

Then he read the full text that the future Pope gave him, in which he summarizes in four points the thoughts he wished to share with his brother cardinals and which express his personal vision of the Church in the present time.

The first of these points is on evangelization, and he says that "the Church must come out of herself and go to the peripheries" not only in a geographic sense, but also the existential, manifested in the mystery of sin, pain, injustice and ignorance, among others.

The second point is a criticism of the "self-referent" Church, which looks to herself in a sort of "theological narcissism," which separates her from the world and "keeps Jesus Christ within herself and does not allow Him to go out."

As a consequence of this, there are two images of the Church according to point three of Cardinal Bergoglio's address: one is the "evangelizing Church that comes out of herself" and another is "the worldly Church that lives in herself, of herself, for herself." And this twofold consideration must "give light to the possible changes and reforms that must be made" in the Church.

In his last point, Cardinal Bergoglio spoke to the cardinals about what he expected from the one who would be elected to lead the Church: "a man who, from contemplation of Jesus Christ ... will help the Church to come out of herself toward the existential peripheries."

The archbishop of Havana explained in his homily that, because he agreed with that outline of the Church, he had asked Cardinal Bergoglio if he had a written text of the address, as he wished to keep it. Cardinal Bergoglio answered that he did not.

However, Cardinal Ortega continued, the following morning, "with supreme thoughtfulness," Cardinal Bergoglio gave him a handwritten text of his address exactly as he remembered it.

At that time, Cardinal Ortega requested and received Cardinal Bergoglio's authorization to share those thoughts on the Church.

After Francis' election, Cardinal Ortega again asked permission to share the text, and Francis again agreed. Cardinal Ortega reported that he is keeping the original as a special treasure of the Church and a privileged memento of the present Supreme Pontiff of the Church.

Palabra Nueva, the magazine of the Archbishopric of Havana directed by Orlando Marquez, published the notes that Cardinal Bergoglio gave to Cardinal Ortega.

The Sweet and Comforting Joy of Evangelizing

Reference was made to evangelization. It is the raison d'etre of the Church -- "the sweet and comforting joy of evangelizing" (Paul VI). It is Jesus Christ himself who impels us from within.

1. - To evangelize implies apostolic zeal. To evangelize implies a desire in the Church to come out of herself. The Church is called to come out of herself and to go to the peripheries not only in the geographic sense but also the existential peripheries: those of the mystery of sin, of pain, of injustice, of ignorance, of doing without religion, of thought and of all misery.

2. - When the Church does not come out of herself to evangelize, she becomes self-referent and then she gets sick. (cf. The hunchback woman of the Gospel). The evils that over the course of time happen in ecclesial institutions have their root in a self-reference and a sort of theological narcissism. In Revelation, Jesus says that he is at the door and knocks. Evidently the text refers to his knocking from outside in order to enter but I think of the times in which Jesus knocks from within so that we will let him come out. The self-referent Church keeps Jesus Christ within herself and does not let him come out.

3. - When the Church is self-referent without realizing it, she believes she has her own light. She ceases to be the mysterium lunae and gives way to that very great evil which is spiritual worldliness (according to De Lubac, it is the worst evil that can come upon the Church). The self-referent Church lives to give glory only to one another. In simple terms, there are two images of the Church: the evangelizing Church that comes out of herself; the Dei Verbum religiose audiens et fidente proclamans, and the worldly Church that lives within herself, of herself, for herself. This must give light to the possible changes and reforms which must be made for the salvation of souls.

4. - Thinking of the next Pope, he must be a man that from the contemplation and adoration of Jesus Christ, helps the Church to come out to the existential peripheries, that helps her to be the fruitful mother who lives from the sweet and comforting joy of evangelizing.

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General Audience, Wednesday March 27, 2013  

Beginning again with what's become his trademark "buon giorno!" and interrupted by several rounds of applause as he spoke, here's the Vatican Radio translation of the Pope's talk today – emphases added per original delivery:

Brothers and sisters, good morning!

I am pleased to welcome you to my first general audience. With deep gratitude and veneration I am taking up the "witness" from the hands of my beloved predecessor, Benedict XVI. After Easter we will resume the catechesis on the Year of Faith. Today I would like to focus a little on Holy Week. With Palm Sunday we began this week - the center of the whole liturgical year - in which we accompany Jesus in His Passion, Death and Resurrection.


But what does it mean for us to live Holy Week? What does it means to follow Jesus on His way to the Cross on Calvary and the Resurrection? In His earthly mission, Jesus walked the streets of the Holy Land; He called twelve simple people to remain with Him, to share His journey and continue His mission; He chose them among the people full of faith in the promises of God. He spoke to everyone, without distinction, to the great and the lowly; to the rich young man and the poor widow, the powerful and the weak; He brought the mercy and forgiveness of God to all; He healed, comforted, understood, gave hope, He led all to the presence of God, who is interested in every man and woman, like a good father and a good mother is interested in each child.
God did not wait for us to go to Him, but He moved towards us, without calculation, without measures. This is how God is: He is always the first, He moves towards us. Jesus lived the daily realities of most ordinary people: He was moved by the crowd that seemed like a flock without a shepherd, and He cried in front of the suffering of Martha and Mary on the death of their brother Lazarus; He called a tax collector to be His disciple and also suffered the betrayal of a friend. In Christ, God has given us the assurance that He is with us, in our midst. "Foxes", Jesus said, "have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest His head" (Mt 8:20). Jesus did not have a home because His house is the people -- that is, us; His mission is to open all God’s doors, to be the loving presence of God.

In Holy Week we live the highest point of this journey, this loving plan that runs throughout the entire history of the relationship between God and humanity. Jesus enters Jerusalem to take the final step, in which His whole existence is summarized: He gives Himself totally, He keeps nothing for Himself, not even His life. At the Last Supper, with His friends, He shares the bread and distributes the chalice "for us." The Son of God is offered to us, He consigns His Body and his Blood into our hands to be with us always, to dwell among us. And on the Mount of Olives, as in the trial before Pilate, He puts up no resistance, He gifts Himself: He is the Suffering Servant foretold by Isaiah, who stripped himself unto death (cf. Is 53:12).


Jesus does not live this love that leads to sacrifice passively or as a fatal destiny; certainly He does not hide His deep human commotion in the face of a violent death, but He entrusts Himself with full confidence to the Father. Jesus voluntarily consigned Himself to death to respond to the love of God the Father, in perfect union with His will, to demonstrate His love for us. On the Cross, Jesus "loved me and gave Himself for me" (Gal 2:20). Each of us can say, "He loved me and gave Himself for me." Everyone can say that "for me"!


What does this mean for us? It means that this is my, your, our path. Living Holy Week following Jesus not only with the emotions of the heart; living Holy Week following Jesus means learning how to go beyond ourselves - as I said on Sunday - to reach out to others, to go to the outskirts of existence, to be the first to move towards our brothers and sisters, especially those who are most distant, those who are forgotten, those who are most in need of understanding, consolation and help. There is so much need to bring the living presence of Jesus, merciful and full of love!

Living Holy Week means increasingly entering into God's logic, the logic of the Cross, which is not first of all that of pain and death, but of love and of self-giving that brings life. It means entering into the logic of the Gospel. Following, accompanying Christ, remaining with Him requires a "stepping outside," a stepping beyond. Stepping outside of ourselves, of a tired and routine way of living the faith, of the temptation to withdraw into pre-established patterns that end up closing our horizon to the creative action of God. God stepped outside of Himself to come among us, He pitched His tent among us to bring the mercy of God that saves and gives hope. Even if we want to follow Him and stay with Him, we must not be content to remain in the enclosure of the ninety-nine sheep, we have to "step outside", to search for the lost sheep together with Him, the one furthest away. Remember well: stepping outside of ourselves, like Jesus, like God has stepped outside of Himself in Jesus and Jesus stepped outside of Himself for all of us.

Some might say to me, "But, Father, I have no time", "I have so many things to do", "it is difficult", "what can I do with my little strength?", with my sin, with so many things? Often we settle for a few prayers, a distracted and inconsistent presence at Sunday Mass, a random act of charity, but we lack this courage to "step outside" to bring Christ. We are a bit like St. Peter. As soon as Jesus speaks of the Passion, Death and Resurrection, of self-giving, of love for all, the Apostle takes him aside and rebukes him. What Jesus says upsets his plans, seems unacceptable, undermines the sense of security that he had built up, his idea of ​​the Messiah. And Jesus looks at the disciples and addresses Peter with perhaps one of the strongest words of the Gospel: "Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do"(Mk 8:33).
God always thinks with mercy: do not forget this. God always thinks with mercy: our merciful Father. God thinks like a father who awaits the return of his child and goes to meet him, sees him coming when he is still far away ... What does this mean? That each and every day he went out to see if his son was coming home. This is our merciful Father. It is the sign that he was waiting for him from the terrace of his house; God thinks like the Samaritan that does not approach the victim to commiserate with him, or look the other way, but to rescue him without asking for anything in return, without asking if he was Jew, if he was pagan, a Samaritan, rich or poor: he does not ask anything – he does not ask these things, he asks for nothing. He goes to his aid: This is how God thinks. God thinks like the shepherd who gives his life to defend and save his sheep.

Holy Week is a time of grace which the Lord gifts us to open the doors of our hearts, our lives, our parishes - what a pity, so many parishes are closed! - in our parishes, movements, associations, and to "step outside" towards others, to draw close to them so we can bring the light and joy of our faith. Always step outside yourself! And with the love and tenderness of God, with respect and patience, knowing that we put our hands, our feet, our hearts, but then it is God who guides them and makes all our actions fruitful.


May you all live these days well, following the Lord with courage, and carrying within ourselves a ray of His love for all those whom we meet.

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Pope Francis' Chrism Mass Homily

VATICAN CITY, March 28, 2013 - Here is the translation of the homily given today by Pope Francis during the Chrism Mass held in St. Peter’s Basilica.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This morning I have the joy of celebrating my first Chrism Mass as the Bishop of Rome. I greet all of you with affection, especially you, dear priests, who, like myself, today recall the day of your ordination.

The readings of our Mass speak of God's anointed ones: the suffering Servant of Isaiah, King David and Jesus our Lord. All three have this in common: the anointing that they receive is meant in turn to anoint God's faithful people, whose servants they are; they are anointed for the poor, for prisoners, for the oppressed A fine image of this being for others can be found in the Psalm: It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down upon the collar of his robe (Ps 133:2). The image of spreading oil, flowing down from the beard of Aaron upon the collar of his sacred robe, is an image of the priestly anointing which, through Christ, the Anointed One, reaches the ends of the earth, represented by the robe.

The sacred robes of the High Priest are rich in symbolism. One such symbol is that the names of the children of Israel were engraved on the onyx stones mounted on the shoulder-pieces of the ephod, the ancestor of our present-day chasuble: six on the stone of the right shoulder-piece and six on that of the left (cf. Ex 28:6-14). The names of the twelve tribes of Israel were also engraved on the breastplate (cf. Es 28:21). This means that the priest celebrates by carrying on his shoulders the people entrusted to his care and bearing their names written in his heart. When we put on our simple chasuble, it might well make us feel, upon our shoulders and in our hearts, the burdens and the faces of our faithful people, our saints and martyrs of whom there are many in these times

From the beauty of all these liturgical things, which is not so much about trappings and fine fabrics than about the glory of our God resplendent in his people, alive and strengthened, we turn to a consideration of activity, action. The precious oil which anoints the head of Aaron does more than simply lend fragrance to his person; it overflows down to the edges. The Lord will say this clearly: his anointing is meant for the poor, prisoners and the sick, for those who are sorrowing and alone. The ointment is not intended just to make us fragrant, much less to be kept in a jar, for then it would become rancid and the heart bitter.

A good priest can be recognized by the way his people are anointed. This is a clear test. When our people are anointed with the oil of gladness, it is obvious: for example, when they leave Mass looking as if they have heard good news. Our people like to hear the Gospel preached with unction, they like it when the Gospel we preach touches their daily lives, when it runs down like the oil of Aaron to the edges of reality, when it brings light to moments of extreme darkness, to the outskirts where people of faith are most exposed to the onslaught of those who want to tear down their faith. People thank us because they feel that we have prayed over the realities of their everyday lives, their troubles, their joys, their burdens and their hopes. And when they feel that the fragrance of the Anointed One, of Christ, has come to them through us, they feel encouraged to entrust to us everything they want to bring before the Lord: Pray for me, Father, because I have this problem, Bless me, Pray for me these words are the sign that the anointing has flowed down to the edges of the robe, for it has turned into prayer.

The prayers of the people of God. When we have this relationship with God and with his people, and grace passes through us, then we are priests, mediators between God and men. What I want to emphasize is that we need constantly to stir up God's grace and perceive in every request, even those requests that are inconvenient and at times purely material or downright banal but only apparently so the desire of our people to be anointed with fragrant oil, since they know that we have it. To perceive and to sense, even as the Lord sensed the hope-filled anguish of the woman suffering from hemorrhages when she touched the hem of his garment. At that moment, Jesus, surrounded by people on every side, embodies all the beauty of Aaron vested in priestly raiment, with the oil running down upon his robes. It is a hidden beauty, one which shines forth only for those faith-filled eyes of the woman troubled with an issue of blood. But not even the disciples future priests see or understand: on the existential outskirts, they see only what is on the surface: the crowd pressing in on Jesus from all sides (cf. Lk 8:42). The Lord, on the other hand, feels the power of the divine anointing which runs down to the edge of his cloak.

We need to go out, then, in order to experience our own anointing, its power and its redemptive efficacy: to the outskirts where there is suffering, bloodshed, blindness that longs for sight, and prisoners in thrall to many evil masters. It is not in soul-searching or constant introspection that we encounter the Lord: self-help courses can be useful in life, but to live by going from one course to another, from one method to another, leads us to become pelagians and to minimize the power of grace, which comes alive and flourishes to the extent that we, in faith, go out and give ourselves and the Gospel to others, giving what little ointment we have to those who have nothing, nothing at all.

A priest who seldom goes out of himself, who anoints little I won't say not at all because, thank God, our people take our oil from us anyway misses out on the best of our people, on what can stir the depths of his priestly heart. Those who do not go out of themselves, instead of being mediators, gradually become intermediaries, managers. We know the difference: the intermediary, the manager, has already received his reward, and since he doesn't put his own skin and his own heart on the line, he never hears a warm, heartfelt word of thanks. This is precisely the reason why some priests grow dissatisfied, become sad priests, lose heart and become in some sense collectors of antiques or novelties instead of being shepherds living with the smell of the sheep, shepherds in the midst of their flock, fishers of men. True enough, the so-called crisis of priestly identity threatens us all and adds to the broader cultural crisis; but if we can resist its onslaught, we will be able to put out in the name of the Lord and cast our nets. It is not a bad thing that reality itself forces us to put out into the deep, where what we are by grace is clearly seen as pure grace, out into the deep of the contemporary world, where the only thing that counts is unction not function and the nets which overflow with fish are those cast solely in the name of the One in whom we have put our trust: Jesus.

Dear lay faithful, be close to your priests with affection and with your prayers, that they may always be shepherds according to God's heart.

Dear priests, may God the Father renew in us the Spirit of holiness with whom we have been anointed. May he renew his Spirit in our hearts, that this anointing may spread to everyone, even to those outskirts where our faithful people most look for it and most appreciate it. May our people sense that we are the Lord's disciples; may they feel that their names are written upon our priestly vestments and that we seek no other identity; and may they receive through our words and deeds the oil of gladness which Jesus, the Anointed One, came to bring us. Amen.

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Francis' Words at End of Via Crucis
"Christians must respond to evil with good, taking the Cross upon themselves as Jesus did"

ROME, March 29, 2013 - Here is a Vatican translation of the brief address Pope Francis gave tonight at the end of the Via Crucis held in the Colosseum.

* * *

Dear Brother and Sisters,

Thank you for having taken part in these moments of deep prayer. I also thank those who have accompanied us through the media, especially the sick and elderly.

I do not wish to add too many words. One word should suffice this evening, that is the Cross itself. The Cross is the word through which God has responded to evil in the world. Sometimes it may seem as though God does not react to evil, as if he is silent. And yet, God has spoken, he has replied, and his answer is the Cross of Christ: a word which is love, mercy, forgiveness. It is also reveals a judgment, namely that God, in judging us, loves us. In judging us, he loves us. If I embrace his love then I am saved, if I refuse it, then I am condemned, not by him, but my own self, because God never condemns, he only loves and saves.

Dear brothers and sisters, the word of the Cross is also the answer which Christians offer in the face of evil, the evil that continues to work in us and around us. Christians must respond to evil with good, taking the Cross upon themselves as Jesus did. This evening we have heard the witness given by our Lebanese brothers and sisters: they composed these beautiful prayers and meditations. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to them for this work and for the witness they offer. We were able to see this when Pope Benedict visited Lebanon: we saw the beauty and the strong bond of communion joining Christians together in that land and the friendship of our Muslim brothers and sisters and so many others. That occasion was a sign to the Middle East and to the whole world: a sign of hope.

We now continue this Via Crucis in our daily lives. Let us walk together along the Way of the Cross and let us do so carrying in our hearts this word of love and forgiveness. Let us go forward waiting for the Resurrection of Jesus, who loves us so much. Who is all love.

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Pope Francis' Holy Thursday Homily at Casal del Marmo Juvenile Detention Center

ROME, March 29, 2013  - Here is the translation of Pope' Francis homily for the "In Coena Domini" Mass celebrated at the Casal del Marmo Juvenile Detention Center.

* * *

This is moving, Jesus washes the feet of his disciples. Peter understands nothing. He refuses but Jesus explains to him. Jesus, God did this, and He Himself explains it to the disciples.. Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me teacher and master, and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one anothers feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.

It is the example set by Our Lord, its important for Him to wash their feet, because among us the one who is highest up must be at the service of others. This is a symbol, it is a sign washing your feet means I am at your service. And we are too, among each other, but we dont have to wash each others feet each day. So what does this mean? That we have to help each othersometimes I would get angry with one someone, but we must let it go and if they ask a favor of do it!

Help one another. This is what Jesus teaches us. This is what I do. And I do it with my heart. I do this with my heart because it is my duty, as a priest and bishop I must be at your service. But it is a duty that comes from my heart and a duty I love. I love doing it because this is what the Lord has taught me. But you too must help us and help each other, always. And thus in helping each other we will do good for each other.

Now we will perform the ceremony of the Washing of the Feet and we must each one of us think, Am I really willing to help others? Just think of that. Think that this sign is Christs caress, because Jesus came just for this, to serve us, to help us.

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Francis' Address to Youth of Casal del Marmo After Holy Thursday Mass
"The matters of the heart do not have an explanation"

ROME, March 29, 2013  - At the end of the Holy Mass, before returning to the Vatican, Pope Francis met in the gymnasium of the “Famiglia dell’Istituto” penitentiary with, among others, the Minister of Justice, the Honorable Paola Severino; the Head of the Department of Juvenile Justice, Catherine Chinnici; the Commander of the Penitentiary Police of Casal del Marmo, Saul Patrizi; and Director of Casal del Marmo, Liana Giambartolomei. The youth of the penitentiary gave the a Pope a wooden cross and a kneeler, also made of wood, which was made by them at the workshop of the Institute.

During the meeting, responding first to the greeting by the Hon. Severino and then responding to a question by one of the young prisoners, the Holy Father said the following words:

* * *

I thank the Minister for words, I thank the authorities for their welcome and thank you boys and girls, for your welcome today I am happy to be with you. Go forward, alright? And do not let yourselves be robbed of hope, do not let yourselves be robbed of hope! Understood? Always with hope,

Go forward! Thank you.

* * *

Question from young man:

Thank you for coming today Father. But I would like to know one thing: why did you come today to Casal del Marmo?

It is a feeling that came from the heart, that is what I heard. Where there are those that maybe will help me more to be humble, to be a servant as a bishop should be. And I thought, I asked: "Where are those who would like a visit?" And they said, "Casal del Marmo, maybe." And when they told me, I came here. But it only came from the heart. The matters of the heart do not have an explanation, they just come. Thank you!

Final greetings:

Now I leave. Thank you so much for your welcome. Pray for me and do not let yourselves be robbed of hope. Always go forward! Thank you so much!

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Vatican Spokesman on Participation of 2 Women in Foot Washing Ceremony
"The very beautiful and simple gesture of a father who desired to embrace those who were on the fringes of society"

VATICAN CITY, March 29, 2013  - Here is a press release Fr. Thomas Rosica, CEO of Salt & Light and Assistant to the Director of the Vatican Press Office, sent today to journalists regarding Thursday's Mass celebrated by Francis at the Juvenile Detention Center, "Casal del Marmo".

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In response to the many questions and concerns raised over Pope Francis washing the feet of 12 young people at the Roman Juvenile Detention Centre on Holy Thursday evening, especially that two were young women, Fr. Lombardi has sent me the following information to be shared with you.

One can easily understand that in a great celebration, men would be chosen for the foot washing because Jesus, himself washing the feet of the twelve apostles who were male. However the ritual of the washing of the feet on Holy Thursday evening in the Juvenile Detention Centre in Rome took place in a particular, small community that included young women. When Jesus washed the feet of those who were with him on the first Holy Thursday, he desired to teach all a lesson about the meaning of service, using a gesture that included all members of the community.

We are aware of the photos that show Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, then-Archbishop of Buenos Aires, who in various pastoral settings washed the feet of young men and women. To have excluded the young women from the ritual washing of feet on Holy Thursday night in this Roman prison, would have detracted our attention from the essence of the Holy Thursday Gospel, and the very beautiful and simple gesture of a father who desired to embrace those who were on the fringes of society; those who were not refined experts of liturgical rules.

That the Holy Father, Francis, washed the feet of young men and women on his first Holy Thursday as Pope, should call our minds and hearts to the simple and spontaneous gesture of love, affection, forgiveness and mercy of the Bishop of Rome, more than to legalistic, liturgical or canonical discussions.

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POPE FRANCIS: ON THIS NIGHT ONE WORD SHOULD SUFFICE, THE CROSS ITSELF

Vatican City, 30 March 2013 (VIS) – At 5:00pm in St. Peter's Basilica yesterday, Good Friday, the Holy Father presided over the celebration of the Lord's Passion. After the Liturgy of the Word—in which we heard the account of the Passion according to St. John—and the homily, the universal prayers were recited. The rite continued with the adoration of the Cross and ended with communion.

Hours later, at 9:15pm, Pope Francis presided for the first time over the Way of the Cross at Rome's Colosseum. This year, the meditations and prayers accompanying the stations were written by young Lebanese Catholics, guided by Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai, O.M.M., Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites, Lebanon. The images in the booklet reproduced 19th century illustrations of the Way of the Cross made by an unknown Franciscan in Bethlehem. Over a hundred thousand people, many of them youth as well as a large group of Lebanese pilgrims, attended the event.

The Holy Father followed the ceremony, which was broadcast by Vatican Television, from a small platform on the side of the Palatine hill. Two young persons from the diocese of Rome and two Lebanese youth carried the torches alongside the cross, which was carried—for the first and last station—by Cardinal Agostino Vallini, vicar general of Rome, then an Italian and an Indian family, then a woman in a wheelchair, then by two Chinese seminarians, then two Franciscan friars of the Custody of the Holy Land, then two Nigerian sisters, then two Lebanese sisters, and then two Brazilian youth. At the end of the Way of the Cross the Pope spoke the following words: 

“Dear Brother and Sisters,

Thank you for having taken part in these moments of deep prayer. I also thank those who have accompanied us through the media, especially the sick and elderly. I do not wish to add too many words. One word should suffice this evening, that is the Cross itself. Jesus' Cross is the word through which God has responded to evil in the world.

Sometimes it may seem as though God does not react to evil, as if He is silent. And yet, God has spoken. He has replied and his answer is the Cross of Christ: a word which is love, mercy, and forgiveness. It is also a judgement, namely that God, in judging us, loves us. Let us remember this: in judging us, God loves us. If I embrace his love then I am saved, if I refuse it, then I am condemned. Not by him, but my own self, because God never condemns; He only loves and saves.

“Dear brothers and sisters, the word of the Cross is also the answer which Christians offer in the face of evil, the evil that continues to work in us and around us. Christians must respond to evil with good, taking the Cross upon themselves as Jesus did. This evening we have heard the witness given by our Lebanese brothers and sisters. They are the ones who composed these beautiful prayers and meditations. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to them for this work and above all for the witness they offer. We were able to see this when Pope Benedict visited Lebanon. We saw the beauty and the strong bond of communion joining Christians together in that land and the friendship of our Muslim brothers and sisters and so many others. That occasion was a sign to the Middle East and to the whole world: a sign of hope.

Now let us continue this “Via Crucis” in our daily lives. Let us walk together along the Way of the Cross and let us do so carrying in our hearts this Word of love and forgiveness. Let us walk forward waiting for the Resurrection of Jesus who loves us so much. He is all love!”

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POPE: I JOIN ALL OF YOU GATHERED BEFORE THE HOLY SHROUD  

Vatican City, 30 March 2013 (VIS) – From 5:15pm until 6:40 this afternoon, there will be an extraordinary exposition of the Holy Shroud in the Cathedral of Turin, Italy. The initiative is part of the Year of Faith that was proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI and will be broadcast by the Italian television channel, RAI1.

For the occasion, Pope Francis recorded a video message, the text of which we offer below.

“Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I join all of you gathered before the Holy Shroud, and I thank the Lord who, through modern technology, offers us this possibility.

Even if it takes place in this way, our gaze is not a mere 'observing', but rather a veneration. It is a prayerful gaze. I would go further: It is a letting ourselves be looked upon. This Face has eyes that are closed. It is the face of one who is dead and yet, mysteriously, He is watching us and in silence He speaks to us. How is this possible? How is it that the faithful, like you, pause before this Icon of a man who has been scourged and crucified? It is because the Man of the Shroud invites us to contemplate Jesus of Nazareth. This image, impressed upon the cloth, speaks to our hearts and moves us to climb the hill of Calvary, to look upon the wood of the Cross, and to immerse ourselves in the eloquent silence of love.”

“Let us therefore allow ourselves to be reached by this gaze, which is directed not to our eyes but to our hearts. In silence, let us listen to what He has to say to us from beyond death itself. By means of the Holy Shroud, the unique and supreme Word of God comes to us: Love made man, incarnate in our history; the merciful Love of God who has taken upon himself all the evil of the world in order to free us from its power. This disfigured Face resembles all those faces of men and women marred by a life that does not respect their dignity, by war and the violence that afflict the weakest… And yet, the Face of the Shroud conveys a great peace. This tortured body expresses a sovereign majesty. It is as if it let a restrained but powerful energy within it shine through, as if to tell us: have faith; do not lose hope; the power of God's love, the power of the Risen One, conquers all.”

“So, looking upon the Man of the Shroud, I make Saint Francis of Assisi's prayer before the Crucifix my own: 'Most High and glorious God, enlighten the darkness of my heart, and grant me true faith, certain hope, and perfect charity, sense and understanding, Lord, so that I may carry out your holy and true command. Amen.'”

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Pope's Easter Vigil Homily

VATICAN CITY, March 31, 2013 - Here is the translation of Pope Francis’  homily  at yesterday ‘s Easter Vigil , held in St. Peter’s Basilica.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. In the Gospel of this radiant night of the Easter Vigil, we first meet the women who go the tomb of Jesus with spices to anoint his body (cf. Lk 24:1-3). They go to perform an act of compassion, a traditional act of affection and love for a dear departed person, just as we would. They had followed Jesus, they had listened to his words, they had felt understood by him in their dignity and they had accompanied him to the very end, to Calvary and to the moment when he was taken down from the cross. We can imagine their feelings as they make their way to the tomb: a certain sadness, sorrow that Jesus had left them, he had died, his life had come to an end. Life would now go on as before. Yet the women continued to feel love, the love for Jesus which now led them to his tomb. But at this point, something completely new and unexpected happens, something which upsets their hearts and their plans, something which will upset their whole life: they see the stone removed from before the tomb, they draw near and they do not find the Lord’s body. It is an event which leaves them perplexed, hesitant, full of questions: "What happened?", "What is the meaning of all this?" (cf. Lk 24:4). Doesn’t the same thing also happen to us when something completely new occurs in our everyday life? We stop short, we don’t understand, we don’t know what to do. Newness often makes us fearful, including the newness which God brings us, the newness which God asks of us. We are like the Apostles in the Gospel: often we would prefer to hold on to our own security, to stand in front of a tomb, to think about someone who has died, someone who ultimately lives on only as a memory, like the great historical figures from the past. We are afraid of God’s surprises. Dear brothers and sisters, we are afraid of God’s surprises! He always surprises us! The Lord is like that.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us not be closed to the newness that God wants to bring into our lives! Are we often weary, disheartened and sad? Do we feel weighed down by our sins? Do we think that we won’t be able to cope? Let us not close our hearts, let us not lose confidence, let us never give up: there are no situations which God cannot change, there is no sin which he cannot forgive if only we open ourselves to him.

2. But let us return to the Gospel, to the women, and take one step further. They find the tomb empty, the body of Jesus is not there, something new has happened, but all this still doesn’t tell them anything certain: it raises questions; it leaves them confused, without offering an answer. And suddenly there are two men in dazzling clothes who say: "Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; but has risen" (Lk 24:5-6). What was a simple act, done surely out of love – going to the tomb – has now turned into an event, a truly life-changing event. Nothing remains as it was before, not only in the lives of those women, but also in our own lives and in the history of mankind. Jesus is not dead, he has risen, he is alive! He does not simply return to life; rather, he is life itself, because he is the Son of God, the living God (cf. Num 14:21-28; Deut 5:26; Josh 3:10). Jesus no longer belongs to the past, but lives in the present and is projected towards the future; Jesus is the everlasting "today" of God. This is how the newness of God appears to the women, the disciples and all of us: as victory over sin, evil and death, over everything that crushes life and makes it seem less human. And this is a message meant for me and for you dear sister, for you dear brother. How often does Love have to tell us: Why do you look for the living among the dead? Our daily problems and worries can wrap us up in ourselves, in sadness and bitterness... and that is where death is. That is not the place to look for the One who is alive!

Let the risen Jesus enter your life, welcome him as a friend, with trust: he is life! If up till now you have kept him at a distance, step forward. He will receive you with open arms. If you have been indifferent, take a risk: you won’t be disappointed. If following him seems difficult, don’t be afraid, trust him, be confident that he is close to you, he is with you and he will give you the peace you are looking for and the strength to live as he would have you do.

3. There is one last little element that I would like to emphasize in the Gospel for this Easter Vigil. The women encounter the newness of God. Jesus has risen, he is alive! But faced with empty tomb and the two men in brilliant clothes, their first reaction is one of fear: "they were terrified and bowed their faced to the ground", Saint Luke tells us – they didn’t even have courage to look. But when they hear the message of the Resurrection, they accept it in faith. And the two men in dazzling clothes tell them something of crucial importance: remember. "Remember what he told you when he was still in Galilee… And they remembered his words" (Lk 24:6,8). This is the invitation to remember their encounter with Jesus, to remember his words, his actions, his life; and it is precisely this loving remembrance of their experience with the Master that enables the women to master their fear and to bring the message of the Resurrection to the Apostles and all the others (cf. Lk 24:9). To remember what God has done and continues to do for me, for us, to remember the road we have travelled; this is what opens our hearts to hope for the future. May we learn to remember everything that God has done in our lives.

On this radiant night, let us invoke the intercession of the Virgin Mary, who treasured all these events in her heart (cf. Lk 2:19,51) and ask the Lord to give us a share in his Resurrection. May he open us to the newness that transforms, to the beautiful surprises of God. May he make us men and women capable of remembering all that he has done in our own lives and in the history of our world. May he help us to feel his presence as the one who is alive and at work in our midst. And may he teach us each day, dear brothers and sisters, not to look among the dead for the Living One. Amen.

 

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Pope Francis' "Urbi et Orbi" Blessing

VATICAN CITY, March 31, 2013 - Here is the translation of Pope Francis’ “Urbi et Orbi” (to the City and to the World) Blessing given to the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square this morning.

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Dear brothers and sisters in Rome and throughout the world, Happy Easter! Happy Easter! What a joy it is for me to announce this message: Christ is risen! I would like it to go out to every house and every family, especially where the suffering is greatest, in hospitals, in prisons…

Most of all, I would like it to enter every heart, for it is there that God wants to sow this Good News: Jesus is risen, there is hope for you, you are no longer in the power of sin, of evil!

Love has triumphed, mercy has been victorious! The mercy of God always triumphs! We too, like the women who were Jesus’ disciples, who went to the tomb and found it empty, may wonder what this event means (cf. Lk 24:4). What does it mean that Jesus is risen?

It means that the love of God is stronger than evil and death itself; it means that the love of God can transform our lives and let those desert places in our hearts bloom. The love God can do this!

This same love for which the Son of God became man and followed the way of humility and self-giving to the very end, down to hell - to the abyss of separation from God - this same merciful love has flooded with light the dead body of Jesus, has transfigured it, has made it pass into eternal life. Jesus did not return to his former life, to earthly life, but entered into the glorious life of God and he entered there with our humanity, opening us to a future of hope.

This is what Easter is: it is the exodus, the passage of human beings from slavery to sin and evil to the freedom of love and goodness. Because God is life, life alone, and we are his glory: the living man (cf. Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses, 4,20,5-7).

Dear brothers and sisters, Christ died and rose once for all, and for everyone, but the power of the Resurrection, this passover from slavery to evil to the freedom of goodness, must be accomplished in every age, in our concrete existence, in our everyday lives. How many deserts, even today, do human beings need to cross! Above all, the desert within, when we have no love for God or neighbour, when we fail to realize that we are guardians of all that the Creator has given us and continues to give us. God’s mercy can make even the driest land become a garden, can restore life to dry bones (cf. Ez 37:1-14).

So this is the invitation which I address to everyone: Let us accept the grace of Christ’s Resurrection! Let us be renewed by God’s mercy, let us be loved by Jesus, let us enable the power of his love to transform our lives too; and let us become agents of this mercy, channels through which God can water the earth, protect all creation and make justice and peace flourish. And so we ask the risen Jesus, who turns death into life, to change hatred into love, vengeance into forgiveness, war into peace. Yes, Christ is our peace, and through him we implore peace for all the world.

Peace for the Middle East, and particularly between Israelis and Palestinians, who struggle to find the road of agreement, that they may willingly and courageously resume negotiations to end a conflict that has lasted all too long. Peace in Iraq, that every act of violence may end, and above all for dear Syria, for its people torn by conflict and for the many refugees who await help and comfort. How much blood has been shed! And how much suffering must there still be before a political solution to the crisis will be found?

Peace for Africa, still the scene of violent conflicts. In Mali, may unity and stability be restored; in Nigeria, where attacks sadly continue, gravely threatening the lives of many innocent people, and where great numbers of persons, including children, are held hostage by terrorist groups. Peace in the East of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and in the Central African Republic, where many have been forced to leave their homes and continue to live in fear.

Peace in Asia, above all on the Korean peninsula: may disagreements be overcome and a renewed spirit of reconciliation grow.

Peace in the whole world, still divided by greed looking for easy gain, wounded by the selfishness which threatens human life and the family, selfishness that continues in human trafficking, the most extensive form of slavery in this twenty-first century; human trafficking is the most extensive form of slavery in this twenty-first century! Peace to the whole world, torn apart by violence linked to drug trafficking and by the iniquitous exploitation of natural resources! Peace to this our Earth! Made the risen Jesus bring comfort to the victims of natural disasters and make us responsible guardians of creation.

Dear brothers and sisters, to all of you who are listening to me, from Rome and from all over of the world, I address the invitation of the Psalm: “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; for his steadfast love endures for ever. Let Israel say: ‘His steadfast love endures for ever’” (Ps 117:1-2).

Greeting

Dear Brothers and Sisters, to you who have come from all over the world to this Square at the heart of Christianity, and to you linked by modern technology, I repeat my greeting: Happy Easter!

Bear in your families and in your countries the message of joy, hope and peace which every year, on this day, is powerfully renewed.

May the risen Lord, the conqueror of sin and death, be a support to you all, especially to the weakest and neediest. Thank you for your presence and for the witness of your faith. A thought and a special thank-you for the beautiful flowers, which come from the Netherlands. To all of you I affectionately say again: may the risen Christ guide all of you and the whole of humanity on the paths of justice, love and peace.

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On Christ's Victory in My Life
Francis' Address for Easter Monday

VATICAN CITY, April 02, 2013  - Here is Vatican Radio's translation of the address Francis gave Monday before and after praying the midday Regina Caeli with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Happy Easter to you all! Thank you for coming today, in such large numbers, to share the joy of Easter, the central mystery of our faith. Let us pray that the power of the resurrection of Christ might reach everyone - especially those who suffer - and every place that is in need of trust and hope.
Christ has conquered evil fully and finally, but it is up to us, to people in every age, to embrace this victory in our lives and in the realities of history and society. For this reason it seems important to point out that today we ask God in the liturgy: “O God, who give constant increase to your Church by new offspring, grant that your servants may hold fast in their lives to the Sacrament they have received in faith.” (Collect for Monday in the Octave of Easter).
Indeed, the Baptism that makes us children of God, and the Eucharist that unites us to Christ, must become life. That is to say: they must be reflected in attitudes, behaviors, actions and choices. The grace contained in the Easter Sacraments is an enormous source of strength for renewal in personal and family life, as well as for social relations. Nevertheless, everything passes through the human heart: if I allow myself to be reached by the grace of the risen Christ, if I let that grace change for the better whatever is not good in me, [to change whatever] might do harm to me and to others, then I allow the victory of Christ to affirm itself in in my life, to broaden its beneficial action. This is the power of grace! Without grace we can do nothing – without grace we can do nothing! And with the grace of Baptism and Holy Communion, we can become an instrument of God's mercy – that beautiful mercy of God.
To Express in our lives the sacrament we have received: behold, dear brothers and sisters, our daily work – and, I would say, our daily joy! The joy of being instruments of the grace of Christ, as branches of the vine which is Christ himself, inspired by the sustaining presence of His Spirit! We pray together, in the name of the dead and risen Lord, and through the intercession of Mary Most Holy, that the Paschal mystery might work deeply in us and in our time, in order that hatred give way to love, lies to the truth, revenge to forgiveness, sadness to joy.

 

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Francis' Message for Shroud of Turin Broadcast
"Yet mysteriously he is watching us, and in silence he speaks to us"

VATICAN CITY, April 02, 2013  - Here is the text of a videomessage from Pope Francis for the Holy Saturday live broadcast of the Shroud of Turin on Italian television.

The shroud was broadcast on Saturday from 5:10 p.m. to 6:40 p.m. local time and streamed live on RAI’s Web site and on www.sindone.org.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I join all of you gathered before the Holy Shroud, and I thank the Lord who, through modern technology, offers us this possibility.
Even if it takes place in this way, we do not merely "look", but rather we venerate by a prayerful gaze. I would go further: we are in fact looked upon ourselves. This face has eyes that are closed, it is the face of one who is dead, and yet mysteriously he is watching us, and in silence he speaks to us. How is this possible? How is it that the faithful, like you, pause before this icon of a man scourged and crucified? It is because the Man of the Shroud invites us to contemplate Jesus of Nazareth. This image, impressed upon the cloth, speaks to our heart and moves us to climb the hill of Calvary, to look upon the wood of the Cross, and to immerse ourselves in the eloquent silence of love.
Let us therefore allow ourselves to be reached by this look, which is directed not to our eyes but to our heart. In silence, let us listen to what he has to say to us from beyond death itself. By means of the Holy Shroud, the unique and supreme Word of God comes to us: Love made man, incarnate in our history; the merciful love of God who has taken upon himself all the evil of the world to free us from its power. This disfigured face resembles all those faces of men and women marred by a life which does not respect their dignity, by war and violence which afflict the weakest… And yet, at the same time, the face in the Shroud conveys a great peace; this tortured body expresses a sovereign majesty. It is as if it let a restrained but powerful energy within it shine through, as if to say: have faith, do not lose hope; the power of the love of God, the power of the Risen One overcomes all things.
So, looking upon the Man of the Shroud, I make my own the prayer which Saint Francis of Assisi prayed before the Crucifix:

Most High, glorious God,
enlighten the shadows of my heart,
and grant me a right faith, a certain hope and perfect charity,
sense and understanding, Lord,
so that I may accomplish your holy and true command. Amen.

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On Faith in the Resurrection (Year of Faith)
"The death and resurrection of Jesus are the heart of our hope"

VATICAN CITY, April 03, 2013  - Here is a translation of the address Francis gave this morning during the general audience held in St. Peter's Square. He took up again the cycle of catechesis dedicated to the Year of Faith.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

Good morning.

Today we continue the Catechesis of the Year of Faith. In the Creed we repeat this phrase: "On the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures." This is the event we are celebrating: the Resurrection of Jesus, the center of the Christian message, which has echoed right from the very start and has been passed on so that it might reach us. St. Paul writes to the Christians of Corinth: "For I handed on to you as of first importance what I, in turn, had received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he rose from the dead on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve"(1 Cor 15:3-5). This short confession of faith announces the Paschal mystery, with the first appearances of the Risen Christ to Peter and the twelve: the death and resurrection of Jesus are the heart of our hope. Without this faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus our hope would be weak, it would not even be hope, and precisely the death and resurrection of Jesus are the heart of our hope. The Apostle affirms: "If Christ is not risen, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins" (v. 17). Unfortunately, often attempts have been made to obscure the faith in the resurrection of Jesus, and even among the believers themselves, doubts have crept in. A bit of that “watered down” faith, as we say; it is not the strong faith. This is on account of superficiality, or sometimes because of indifference, occupied as one is with a thousand things deemed more important than the faith, or because of a merely horizontal vision of life. But it is the resurrection that opens us up to a greater hope, because it opens our lives and the life of the world to God's eternal future, to full happiness, to the certainty that evil, sin, death can be defeated. And this leads to live the daily realities with more confidence, to face them with courage and commitment. The resurrection of Christ illumines these daily realities with a new light. The Resurrection of Christ is our strength!

But how has the truth of faith in the resurrection of Christ been transmitted to us? There are two types of testimony in the New Testament: some are in the form of a profession of faith, namely, synthetic formulas that indicate the center of the faith; others are in the form of the story of the resurrection and of the events related to it. The first: the form of the profession of faith, for example, is that which we have just heard, or that of the Epistle to the Romans where Paul writes: "Because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe with your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved"(10:9). Since the first steps of the Church, faith in the mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus has been very firm and clear. Today, however, I would like to dwell on the second form, on testimony in the form of narrative, which we find in the Gospels. First, we notice that the first witnesses of this event were women. At dawn, they went to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus, and find the first sign: the empty tomb (cf. Mk 16:1). Then follows an encounter with a Messenger of God who proclaims: Jesus of Nazareth, the Crucified One, is not here, he is risen (cf. vv. 5-6). Women are driven by love and know how to welcome this announcement with faith: they believe, and immediately they transmit it, they do not keep it to themselves. The joy of knowing that Jesus is alive, the hope that fills our hearts, cannot be contained. This should occur also in our lives. Let us feel the joy of being Christians! We believe in a Risen Lord who has defeated evil and death! Let us have the courage to "come out" to bring this joy and this light into all the places of our lives! The resurrection of Christ is our greatest certainty; it is our most precious treasure! How can we not share with others this treasure, this certainty? It is not only for us, it is to be communicated, to be given to others, to be shared with others. This is precisely our testimony.

Another element. In the professions of faith of the New Testament, only the men, the Apostles, are remembered as witnesses of the resurrection, but not the women. This is because, according to the Jewish law of that time, women and children could not give a reliable, credible testimony. In the Gospels, however, women have a primary, fundamental role. Here we can grasp an element in favour of the historicity of the resurrection: if it were a made-up event, in the context of that time it would not have been tied to the women's testimony. Instead the evangelists simply narrate what happened: women are the first witnesses. This says that God does not choose according to human criteria: the first witnesses of the birth of Jesus are the shepherds, simple and humble people; the first witnesses of the resurrection were women. And this is beautiful. And this is to some degree the mission of women: of the mothers, of women! To give witness to their children, their grandchildren, that Jesus is alive, he is the Living One, he is risen. Mothers and women, go forward with this testimony! For God the heart counts, how open we are to Him, if we are like children who trust. But this makes us reflect also on how women in the Church and in the journey of faith, have had and now have a particular role in opening the doors to the Lord, in following him and communicating his face, because the gaze of faith always needs the simple and profound gaze of love. The Apostles and disciples find it harder to believe in the risen Christ. The women don’t. Peter runs to the tomb, but stops at the empty tomb; Thomas must touch with his hands the wounds of the body of Jesus. Also in our faith journey, it is important to know and feel that God loves us, don't be afraid to love Him: faith is professed with the mouth and the heart, with words and with love.

After the appearances to the women, others follow: Jesus makes himself present in a new way: he is the Crucified One, but his body is glorious; he has not come back to earthly life, but has returned in a new condition. At the beginning they do not recognize him, and only through his words and gestures are their eyes opened: the encounter with the Risen One tranforms, gives a new force to the faith, an unshakeable foundation. For us too there are many signs in which the Risen One makes himself recognized: Sacred Scripture, the Eucharist, the other sacraments, charity, those gestures of love that bring a ray of the Risen Lord. Let us allow ourselves to be enlightened by the resurrection of Christ, let us allow ourselves to be transformed by his strength, so that also through us in the world, the signs of death may give way to signs of life. I have seen that there are many young people in the Square. There they are! To you I say: bring forward this certainty: the Lord is alive and he walks side by side with us in life. This is your mission! Bring forward this hope. Be anchored to this hope: this anchor that is in heaven; hold firm to the chain, be anchored and bring forward hope. You, witnesses of Jesus, bring forward the testimony that Jesus is alive and this will give us hope, it will give hope to this world that has somewhat grown old on account of the wars, evil, sin. Go forward, young people!

 

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On Christ's Resurrection (Year of Faith)

VATICAN CITY, April 10, 2013 - Here is a translation of the address Pope Francis gave this morning during the general audience held in St. Peter's Square. He took up again the cycle of catechesis dedicated to the Year of Faith.

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Dear brothers and sisters, good morning! In the last Catechesis we focused on the event of the resurrection of Jesus, in which women played a special role. Today I would like to reflect on the event's salvific significance. What does the resurrection mean for our lives? And why is our faith in vain without it?

Our faith is based on the death and resurrection of Christ, just as a house rests on foundations: if these give way, the whole house collapses. On the cross, Jesus offered himself, taking upon himself our sins and descending into the abyss of death, and in the Resurrection he conquers, he takes [our sins] away and opens the path for us to be reborn to a new life. St. Peter expresses this succinctly at the beginning of his First Letter, as we heard: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading" (1:3-4).

The Apostle tells us that with the resurrection of Jesus, something absolutely new happens: we are freed from the slavery of sin and become God's children, we are generated, thus, to a new life. When is this realized for us? In the sacrament of Baptism. In ancient times, it was usually performed by immersion. The person to be baptized descended into the large basin in the baptistery, taking off his clothes, and the bishop or priest poured water three times over his head, baptizing him in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Then the baptized person came out of the baptismal font and put on the new, white garment: this signified that he was born to a new life, by immersing himself in the death and resurrection of Christ. He had become a son of God. St. Paul in his Letter to the Romans writes: you have received a spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, “Abba! Father!”(Rom 8:15). It is the Spirit that we have received in baptism that teaches us, it urges us, to say to God: “Father”, or better, “Abba!”, which means “dad”. This is our God: He is a dad for us. The Holy Spirit produces in us this new condition of being sons of God. And this is the greatest gift that we receive from the Paschal mystery of Jesus. And God treats us as children, He understands us, forgives us, embraces us and loves us even when we make mistakes. Already in the Old Testament, the prophet Isaiah said that even if a mother could forget her child, God never forgets us, ever (cf. 49:15). And this is beautiful!

However, this filial relationship with God is not like a treasure that we store in a corner of our lives, but has to grow, it must be fed every day by listening to the Word of God, praying and participating in the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Reconciliation, and through charity. We can live as children! And this is our dignity – we have the dignity of children -. To behave as true children! This means that every day we must let Christ transform us and make us like him; it means trying to live as Christians, trying to follow him, even if we see our limitations and weaknesses. The temptation is always there to leave God aside in order put to ourselves at the center and the experience of sin wounds our Christian life, our being sons of God. For this we must have the courage of faith, and not allow ourselves to be guided by that mentality that says to us: "God is useless, he's not important for you". It is the exact opposite: it is only by acting like sons of God, without getting discouraged because of our falls, because of our sins, feeling loved by Him, that our lives will be new, animated by serenity and joy. God is our strength! God is our hope!

Dear brothers and sisters, we, before all others, need to have this hope firmly rooted and need to be a visible sign of it, bright and clear for everyone. The risen Lord is the hope that never diminishes, that never disappoints (cf. Rom 5:5). Hope never deludes. That hope that comes from the Lord! How often in our lives do our hopes vanish, how often do the expectations we nourish in our hearts not come about! Our hope as Christians is strong, secure, solid in this land, where God has called us to walk, and is open to eternity, because it is founded on God, who is always faithful. We must not forget: God is faithful; God is always faithful with us. Being risen with Christ through baptism, by the gift of faith, to an inheritance that does not corrupt, leads us to seek the things of God, to think of Him more often, to pray to Him more. Being a Christian isn't just following the commandments, but means being in Christ, thinking like him, acting like him, loving like him; it means letting him take possession of our lives and change them, transform them, free them from the darkness of evil and sin.

Dear brothers and sisters, to those who ask us an account of the hope that is in us (cf. 1 Pt 3:15), let us point out the risen Christ. Let us point him out by announcing the Word, but especially by our risen life. Let us manifest the joy of being children of God, the freedom that living in Christ gives, he who is the true freedom, freedom from the slavery of evil, sin and death! Let us look to our heavenly homeland, we will have a new light and strength also in our work and in our daily toil. It is a valuable service that we must render to our world, which often can no longer lift its gaze upward, it no longer manages to lift its gaze towards God.

Speaker:

In our continuing catechesis on the Creed during the Year of Faith we now consider the meaning of Christ’s resurrection for us and for our salvation. The Lord’s death and resurrection are the foundation of our faith; by his triumph over sin and death, Christ has opened for us the way to new life. Reborn in Baptism, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and become God’s adoptive sons and daughters. God is now our Father: he treats us as his beloved children; he understands us, forgives us, embraces us, and loves us even when we go astray. Christianity is not simply a matter of following commandments; it is about living a new life, being in Christ, thinking and acting like Christ, and being transformed by the love of Christ! But this new life needs to be nourished daily by hearing God’s word, prayer, sharing in the sacraments, especially Penance and the Eucharist, and the exercise of charity. God must be the centre of our lives! By our daily witness to the freedom, joy and hope born of Christ’s victory over sin and death, we also offer a precious service to our world, helping our brothers and sisters to lift their gaze heavenward to the God of our salvation.

 

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17th April, 2013

General Audience: Jesus, the only and eternal Priest (Year of Faith) 

Dear brothers and sisters,

In the Creed, we find the affirmation that Jesus "ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father." The earthly life of Jesus culminates in the event of the Ascension, that is, when he passes from this world to the Father, and is lifted up to His right hand side. What is the significance of this event? What are the consequences for our lives? What does it mean to contemplate Jesus sitting at the right hand of the Father? Let us be guided by the Evangelist Luke.

We begin from the moment Jesus decides to embark on his last pilgrimage to Jerusalem. St. Luke notes: " When the days for his being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem" (Lk 9:51). While he "ascends" to the Holy City, where his "exodus" from this life will be accomplished, Jesus already sees the goal, Heaven, but he knows that the path that brings him back to the glory of God passes through the Cross, through obedience to the divine plan of love for humanity. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that " the lifting up of Jesus on the cross signifies and announces his lifting up by his Ascension into heaven, and indeed begins it" (n. 661). We too must be clear in our Christian life, that to enter into the glory of God requires daily fidelity to His will, even when it requires sacrifice, when at times it requires us to change our plans. The Ascension of Jesus actually happened on the Mount of Olives, near the place where he had retired in prayer before his passion to be in profound union with the Father; once again we see that prayer gives us the grace to faithfully live out God's project for us.

At the end of his Gospel, St. Luke narrates the event of the Ascension in a very synthetic way. Jesus led the disciples "[out] as far as Bethany, raised his hands, and blessed them. As he blessed them he parted from them and was taken up to heaven. They did him homage and then returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and they were continually in the temple praising God "(24.50 to 53). I would like to note two elements of the passage. First, during the Ascension Jesus fulfilled the priestly gesture of blessing and certainly the disciples express their faith with prostration, they kneel and bow their heads. This is a first important point: Jesus is the only and eternal Priest, who with his passed through death and the tomb and rose again and ascended into Heaven; He is with God the Father, where he always intercedes in our favor (cf. Heb 9:24). As St John writes in his First Letter, He is our advocate, our advocate with the Father (cf. 2:1-2). It’s nice to hear this. The first thing we do when we are called by a judge or are called to trial, the first thing we do is look for an advocate to defend us. We have One who always defends us. He defends us from the insidiousness of the Devil, He defends us from ourselves, from our sins. But, dear brothers and sisters, we have this advocate. We must not be afraid to turn to Him, to turn to him with our fears, to ask for his blessing and mercy. He always forgives us, He is our advocate, He always defends us. We must never forget this. The Ascension of Jesus into heaven then reveals to us this reality that is so comforting for our journey: in Christ, true God and true man, our humanity was brought to God; He has opened the passage up for us, He is like a leader at the head of the rope when you scale a mountain, who has reached the summit and draws us up to him leading us to God . If we entrust our lives to Him, if we let ourselves be guided by Him we are sure to be in safe hands. In the hands of our Savoir, our advocate.

A second element: St Luke mentions that the apostles, after seeing Jesus ascending to heaven, returned to Jerusalem "with great joy." This seems a bit strange. Typically when we are separated from our families, our friends, in a lasting separation, above all because of death, we are naturally sad, because we will no longer see their face, or hear their voice, we will no longer be able to enjoy their affection, their presence. Instead, the evangelist emphasizes the profound joy of the Apostles. How come? Because, with the eyes of faith, they understand that although subtracted from their eyes, Jesus remains with them forever, He is not abandoning them, and in the glory of the Father, supports them, guides them and intercedes for them.

St. Luke narrates the fact of the Ascension in the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles, to emphasize that this event is like the ring that engages and connects the earthly life of Jesus to that of the Church. Here St. Luke also mentions the cloud that took Jesus out of sight of the disciples, who remain to contemplate Christ ascending to God (cf. Acts 1:9-10). Then two men in white robes intervene, urging them not to remain looking at the sky, but to nourish their lives and their witness from the certainty that Jesus will return in the same way they saw him ascend into heaven (Acts 1: 10-11). It is an invitation to begin from the contemplation of the Lordship of Jesus, to receive from him the strength to carry and bear witness to the Gospel in everyday life: contemplation and action, ora et labora St. Benedict teaches, are both necessary in our lives as Christians

Dear brothers and sisters, the Ascension does not indicate the absence of Jesus, but tells us that He is alive among us in a new way; He is no longer in a definite place in the world as He was before the Ascension; He is now in the lordship of God, present in all space and time, next to each of us. We are never alone in our lives: We have this advocate who waits for us, we are never alone, ​​the Crucified and Risen Lord guides us, and with us there are many brothers and sisters who in silence and obscurity, in their family life and work, in their problems and difficulties, their joys and hopes, live their faith every day and, together with us, bring to the world the lordship of God's love.

Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our catechesis on the Creed during this Year of Faith, we now consider the article which deals with Christ’s Ascension: "He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father". Saint Luke invites us to contemplate the mystery of the Ascension in the light of the Lord’s entire life, and particularly his decision to "ascend" to Jerusalem to embrace his saving passion and death in obedience to the Father’s will (cf. Lk 9:51). Two aspects of Luke’s account are significant. First, before returning to the glory of the Father, the risen Jesus blesses his disciples (Lk 24:50). Jesus thus appears as our eternal Priest. True God and true man, he now for ever intercedes for us before the Father. Second, Luke tells us that the Apostles returned to Jerusalem "with great joy" (Lk 24:51). They realize that the risen Lord, though no longer physically present, will always be with them, guiding the life of the Church until he returns in glory. As we contemplate the mystery of the Ascension, may we too bear joyful witness to the Lord’s resurrection, his loving presence in our midst, and the triumph of his Kingdom of life, holiness and love.

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On Christ's Second Coming (Year of Faith - General Audience, April 24)

VATICAN CITY, April 24, 2013  - Here is the translation of the Holy Father’s weekly General Audience address in St. Peter’s Square where he continued the cycle of catechesis dedicated to the Year of Faith.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

Good morning!

In the Creed we profess that Jesus "will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead." Human history begins with the creation of man and woman in the image and likeness of God and ends with the final judgment of Christ. Often these two poles of history are forgotten, and, above all, faith in the return of Christ and the last judgment sometimes is not so clear and steadfast in the hearts of Christians. Jesus, during his public life, often focused on the reality of his last coming. Today I would like to reflect on three Evangelical texts that help us enter this mystery: that of the ten virgins, the talents and the final judgment. All three are part of the Jesus' discourse on the end of times, in the Gospel of St. Matthew.

First of all remember that, with the Ascension, the son of God brought to the Father our humanity that he took on and he wants to draw all men to himself, to call the whole world to be welcomed into the open arms of God, so that, at the end of history, all of reality will be handed over to the Father. There is, though, this "intermediate time" between the first coming of Christ and the last, which is precisely the time that we are living. The parable of the ten virgins is placed within this context (cf. Mt 25:1-13). It involves ten girls who are waiting for the arrival of the bridegroom, but he delays and they fall asleep. At the sudden announcement that the bridegroom is coming, all prepare to welcome him, but while five of them, who were wise, have oil to trim their lamps, the others, who are foolish, are left with unlit lamps because they have no oil; and while they go out to find some, the groom arrives and the foolish virgins find the door closed that leads to the bridal feast. They knocking persistently, but it is too late, the groom replies: I do not know you. The groom is the Lord, and the waiting time of arrival is the time He gives us, all of us with mercy and patience, before his final coming, it is a time to be vigilant; a time in which we need to keep lit the lamps of the faith, hope and charity, a time in which to keep the heart open to the good, to beauty and to the truth; a time to live according to God, because we know neither the day nor the hour of Christ's return. What is asked of us is to be prepared for this encounter – prepared for an encounter, for a beautiful encounter, the encounter with Jesus - which means being able to see the signs of his presence, to keep alive our faith through prayer, with the sacraments, to be vigilant in order not to sleep, not to forget God. The Christian life asleep is a sad life, it isn’t a happy life. The Christian must be happy, have the joy of Jesus. Let’s not fall asleep!

The second parable, that of the talents, makes us reflect on the relationship between how we use the gifts received from God and his return, when he will ask how we used them (cf. Mt 25:14-30). We know the parable: before departure, the master gives each servant some talents, to use well during his absence. To the first he gives five, to the second, two, and to the third, one. During the period of his absence, the first two servants multiply their talents - ancient coins -, while the third prefers to bury his and deliver it intact to the master. Upon his return, the master judges their work: he commends the first two, while the third is kicked out into the darkness, because he kept his talent hidden out of fear, closing in on himself. A Christian who closes in on himself, who hides everything that the Lord has given him as a Christian that is…he isn’t a Christian! He is a Christian that does not thank God for all that he has given him! This tells us that the time of waiting for the Lord's return is the time of action, - we are in the time of action - the time in which to put to use the gifts of God not for ourselves, but for Him, for the Church, for others, the time during which always to try to increase the good in the world. And especially now, in this time of crisis, it is important not to close in upon oneself, burying one's talent, one’s own spiritual, intellectual, material riches, everything that the Lord has given us, but to open oneself, to be in solidarity, to be attentive to the other. In the square, I saw today there are many young people. Is it so? Are there very many young people? Where are they? To you, who are at the beginning of the journey of life, I ask: have you thought about the talents that God has given you? Have you thought about how you can put them at the service of others? Don't bury your talents! Bet on big ideals, those ideals that enlarge the heart, those ideals that will make your talents fruitful. Life is not given to us so that we can keep it jealously for ourselves, but is given to us so that we may donate it. Dear young people, have a great soul! Don't be afraid to dream great things!

Finally, a word on the passage of the final judgement, that describes the second coming of the Lord, when He will judge all humans, living and dead (cf. Mt 25:31-46). The image used by the Evangelist is that of the Shepherd separating sheep from goats. On the right are those who acted according to the will of God, helping their neighbor who was hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick, imprisoned, thus following the Lord himself; while on the left are those who haven't come to the aid of their neighbour. This tells us that we will be judged by God on charity, on how we loved him in our brothers, especially the weakest and neediest. Of course, we must always keep in mind that we are justified, we are saved by grace, by an act of God's gratuitous love which always precedes us; we alone can do nothing. Faith is first of all a gift that we have received. But to bear fruit, God's grace always requires our openness, our free and concrete response. Christ comes to bring us the mercy of God who saves. We are asked to trust him, to match the gift of his love with a good life, with actions animated by faith and love.

Dear brothers and sisters, may we never be afraid to look to the final judgment; may it push us rather to live better lives. God gives us with mercy and patience this time so that we may learn every day to recognize him in the poor and in the little ones, may we strive for good and we are vigilant in prayer and love. May the Lord, at the end of our existence and history, may recognize us as good and faithful servants. Thank you!

 

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Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our continuing catechesis on the Creed, we now consider the article which deals with Christ’s second coming: "He will come again in glory, to judge the living and the dead". Just as human history began with the creation of man and woman in the image of God, so it will end with Christ’s return and the final judgment. The parables of Jesus help us to understand our responsibility before God and one another in this present age. The parable of the wise and foolish virgins reminds us that we must be spiritually prepared to meet the Lord when he comes. The parable of the talents emphasizes our responsibility to use wisely God’s gifts, making them bear abundant fruit. Here I would ask the many young people present to be generous with their God-given talents for the good of others, the Church and our world. Finally, the parable of the final judgement reminds us that, in the end, we will be judged on our love for others and especially for those in need. Through these parables, our Lord teaches us to await his coming with fear but confident trust, ever watchful for the signs of his presence and faithful in prayer and works of charity, so that when he comes he will find us his good and faithful servants.

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On the Blessed Trinity  (Year of Faith)

VATICAN CITY, May 08, 2013  - Here is the translation of the Holy Father’s weekly General Audience address in St. Peter’s Square where he continued the cycle of catechesis dedicated to the Year of Faith.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

Good morning! The Easter season that we are living with joy, guided by the Church's liturgy, is par excellence the time of the Holy Spirit, given "without measure" (cf. Jn 3:34) by Jesus, crucified and risen. This time of grace ends with the feast of Pentecost, in which the Church relives the outpouring of the Spirit upon Mary and the Apostles gathered in prayer in the Cenacle.

But who is the Holy Spirit? In the Creed we profess with faith: "I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life". The first truth to which we adhere in the Creed is that the Holy Spirit is Kýrios, Lord. This means that he is truly God, as the Father and Son are, the object, for our part, of the same act of adoration and glorification that we address to the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Blessed Trinity; he is the great gift of the risen Christ that opens our minds and our hearts to faith in Jesus as the Son sent by the Father and that leads us to friendship, to communion with God.

But I would like to dwell in particular on the fact that the Holy Spirit is the inexhaustible source of the life of God in us. Men of all times and all places want a life that is full and beautiful, just and good, a life that is not threatened by death, but that can mature and grow to its fullness. Man is like a wanderer who, crossing the deserts of life, thirsts for a living water, gushing and fresh, able to quench deeply his profound desire for light, love, beauty and peace. We all feel this desire! And Jesus gives us this living water: it is the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father, and that Jesus pours out into our hearts. "I came that they might have life and have it in abundance», Jesus tells us (Jn 10:10).

Jesus promises the Samaritan woman that he will give a "living water", superabundantly and forever, to all those who recognize him as the Son sent by the Father to save us (cf. Jn 4:5-26, 3:17). Jesus came to give us this "living water" that is the Holy Spirit, so that our life may be guided by God, animated by God, and nourished by God. When we say that the Christian is a spiritual man, we mean just that: a Christian is a person who thinks and acts according to God, according to the Holy Spirit. But I ask: and we, do we think according to God? Do we act according to God? Or do we let ourselves be guided by so many other things that are not exactly God? Each one must answer this in the depths of his heart.

At this point we can ask ourselves: why is it that this water can slake the very depths of our thirst? We know that water is essential for life; without water you die; it quenches thirst, washes, makes the land fertile. In the Letter to the Romans we find this expression: "God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us" (5:5). The "living water", the Holy Spirit, the gift of the risen Lord who makes its home in us, purifies us, enlightens us, renews us, transforms us because it makes us partakers of the very life of God who is Love. For this reason, the Apostle Paul says that the Christian life is animated by the Spirit and its fruits, which are "love, joy, peace, generosity, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Gal 5:22-23). The Holy Spirit inserts us into the divine life as "sons in the Only-begotten Son". In another passage of the Epistle to the Romans, which we have mentioned several times, St. Paul summarises it with these words: "all those who are led by the spirit of God, are sons of God. And you... have received the Spirit that makes us adoptive children, whereby we cry, "Abba! Father!" The Spirit itself, together with our spirit, attests that we are children of God. And if we are children, we are also heirs: heirs of God, joint-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order to participate in his glory» (8:14-17). This is the precious gift that the Holy Spirit places in our hearts: the very life of God, life as true sons, a relationship of confidence, freedom and trust in the love and mercy of God, which has as an effect also a new gaze towards others, near and far, always seen as brothers and sisters in Jesus to be respected and loved. The Holy Spirit teaches us to look with the eyes of Christ, to live life as Christ lived it, to understand life as Christ understood it. That's why the living water that is the Holy Spirit quenches the thirst of our lives, because it tells us that we are loved by God as children, that we can love God as his children and by his grace we can live as children of God, like Jesus. And we, we listen to the Holy Spirit? What does the Holy Spirit tell us? God loves you. It tells us this. God loves you, He desires your good. Do we really love God and others, like Jesus does? Let us allow ourselves to be guided by the Holy Spirit, let us allow Him to speak to our hearts and tell us this: that God is love, that He is waiting for us, that God is the Father, he loves us as a true Father [Papà], he truly loves us and only the Holy Spirit alone says this to our hearts. Let us hear the Holy Spirit, let us listen to the Holy Spirit and let us go forward on this road of love, of mercy and of forgiveness. Thank you.

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Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

In our continuing catechesis on the Creed, we now consider the article which deals with the Holy Spirit: "I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life". The Creed tells us that the Spirit is "Lord", fully God, the third person of the Blessed Trinity. He is the gift of the Risen Christ, who draws us, through faith, into communion with the Triune God. The Creed also tells us that the Spirit is the "Giver of Life". How greatly we desire true life and the fullness of beauty, love and peace! The Holy Spirit, dwelling in our hearts, is the pure source of "living water, springing up to eternal life" which Jesus promised to the Samaritan woman. Sent by Jesus from the Father, the Spirit purifies, renews and transforms us; he grants us his sevenfold gifts and makes us children of God our Father. Even now the Holy Spirit invites us to see all things with the eyes of Christ, to recognize God’s immense love for us, and to share that love with all our brothers and sisters.

Pope Francis (in italian):

I am pleased to greet the many English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Audience, including those from England, Scotland, Wales, Denmark, Sweden, Malta, Iran, Australia, China, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Canada and the United States. Upon you and your families I invoke an outpouring of the Holy Spirit’s gifts of wisdom, joy and peace!

© Copyright 2012 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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On the Work of the Holy Spirit  (Year of Faith)

VATICAN CITY, May 15, 2013

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Dear brothers and sisters,

Good morning! Today I would like to dwell on the action that the Holy Spirit performs in guiding the Church and each of us to the Truth. Jesus himself says to his disciples: the Holy Spirit "will guide you into all the truth" (Jn 16:13), being He himself "the Spirit of Truth (cf. Jn 14:17; 15:26; 16:13).
We live in an age in which people are rather sceptical towards the truth. Benedict XVI has spoken many times of relativism, of the tendency, that is, to believe that there is nothing definitive and to think that the truth comes from consent or from what we want. The question arises: does "the" truth really exist? What is "the" truth? Can we know it? Can we find it? Here I am reminded of the question of the Roman Procurator Pontius Pilate when Jesus reveals to him the profound meaning of his mission: "What is truth?" (Jn 18:37.38). Pilate fails to understand that "the" Truth is in front of him, he fails to see in Jesus the face of truth, which is the face of God. Yet, Jesus is just that: the Truth that, in the fullness of time, "became flesh" (Jn 1:1.14), that came among us so that we might we know it. The truth cannot be grasped like an object, the truth has to be encountered. It is not a possession; it is an encounter with a Person.

But who will allow us to recognize that Jesus is "the" Word of truth, the only begotten Son of God the Father? St. Paul teaches that "no one can say: 'Jesus is Lord!' except by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:3). It is the Holy Spirit, the gift of the risen Christ, who makes us recognize the Truth. Jesus calls him the "Paraclete", i.e., "he who comes to help," who is on our side to support us on this journey of knowledge; and, during the Last Supper, Jesus assures his disciples that the Holy Spirit will teach them all things, reminding them of his words (cf. Jn 14:26).

What is then the action of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in the life of the Church to lead us to the truth? First of all, he reminds believers and imprints in their hearts the words that Jesus said, and, precisely through these words, God's law – as the prophets of the Old Testament had announced – is inscribed in our hearts and becomes in us a principle for evaluating our choices and a guide in daily actions, it becomes the principle of life. The great prophecy of Ezekiel is fulfilled: "I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols, I will give you a new heart, I will put within you a new spirit ... I will put my spirit within you and I will make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances"(36:25-27). In fact, it is from the depths of ourselves that our actions are born: it is the heart that must convert to God, and the Holy Spirit transforms it if we open ourselves to Him.

The Holy Spirit, then, as Jesus promised, guides us "into all the truth" (Jn 16:13); he helps us not only to encounter Jesus, the fullness of Truth, but also guides us "into" the Truth, makes us enter into an ever more profound communion with Jesus himself, giving us understanding of the things of God. And we cannot achieve this by our own strength. If God does not enlighten us inwardly, our being Christians will be superficial. The Tradition of the Church states that the Spirit of truth acts in our hearts by arousing that "sense of the faith (sensus fidei) through which, as the Second Vatican Council affirms, the People of God, under the guidance of the Magisterium, adheres indefectibly to the faith transmitted, deepens it with right judgment and applies it more fully in life (cf. Const. Dogm. Lumen Gentium, 12). Let us ask ourselves: am I open to the action of the Holy Spirit, do I pray for it to give me light, to make me more sensitive to the things of God? This is a prayer we must make every day: “Holy Spirit, make my heart be open to the Word of God, that my heart be open to good, that my heart be open to the beauty of God everyday”. I would like to ask you a question: how many of you pray to the Holy Spirit every day? Probably few, but we must satisfy this desire of Jesus and pray every day to the Holy Spirit, so that he opens our heart towards Jesus.

Let us think of Mary, who "kept all these things and pondered them in her heart "(Lk 2:19.51). The welcoming of the words and truths of faith in order that they may become life, happens and grows under the action of the Holy Spirit. In this sense we must learn from Mary, reliving her "Yes," her total willingness to receive the Son of God in her life, which from that moment onwards is transformed. Through the Holy Spirit, the Father and the Son come to dwell in us: we live in God and of God. But is our life truly inspired by God? How many things do I put before God?

Dear brothers and sisters,

We need to allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by the light of the Holy Spirit, so that he may bring us into the Truth of God, who is the only Lord of our lives. In this Year of Faith let us ask ourselves if we have taken any concrete steps to know more about Christ and the truth of the faith, by reading and meditating on the Scripture, studying the Catechism, approaching the Sacraments with constancy. But let us ask ourselves at the same time, what steps are we taking so that faith may guide all our existence. One isn't a Christian "part time", at certain moments, in certain circumstances, in some choices. One cannot be a Christian like this. One is a Christian at all times! Totally! The truth of Christ, which the Holy Spirit teaches us and gives us, forever and totally affects our daily lives. Let us invoke him more often so that he may guide us on the road of the disciples of Christ. Let us invoke him every day. I make this proposal to you: let us invoke the Holy Spirit every day, thus Holy Spirit will draw us close to Jesus Christ. Thank you!

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Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

In our catechesis on the Creed, we have been considering the person and work of the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus calls "the Spirit of Truth" (cf. Jn 16:13). In an age skeptical of truth, we believe not only that truth exists, but that it is found through faith in Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God. The Holy Spirit brings us to Jesus; he guides the whole Church into the fullness of truth. As the "Paraclete", the Helper sent by the Risen Lord, he reminds us of Christ’s words and convinces us of their saving truth. As the source of our new life in Christ, he awakens in our hearts that supernatural "sense of the faith" by which we hold fast to God’s word, come to a deeper understanding of its meaning, and apply it in our daily lives. Let us ask ourselves: am I truly open, like the Virgin Mary, to the power of the Holy Spirit? Even now, with the Father and the Son, the Spirit dwells in our hearts. Let us ask him to guide us into all truth and to help us grow in friendship with Christ through daily prayer, reading of the Scriptures and the celebration of the sacraments.

© Copyright 2012 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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 General Audience catechesis, Wednesday, May 22, 2013.  (Year of Faith)

Dear brothers and sisters, good day!

In the Creed, after having professed faith in the Holy Spirit, we say: "We believe in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church." There is a deep connection between these two realities of faith: the Holy Spirit gives life to the Church, guides Her steps. Without the presence and the incessant action of the Holy Spirit, the Church could not live and could not accomplish the task that the Risen Jesus has entrusted her; to go and make disciples of all nations (cf. Mt 28:18). Evangelization is the mission of the Church, not just of a few, but my, your, our mission. The Apostle Paul exclaimed: "Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel" (1 Cor 9:16). Everyone must be evangelizers, especially through with their life! Paul VI pointed out that "... evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize,"(Apostolic Exhortation. Evangelii Nuntiandi, 14).

Who is the real engine of evangelization in our lives and in the Church? Paul VI wrote with clarity: "It is the Holy Spirit who, today just as at the beginning of the Church, acts in every evangelizer who allows himself to be possessed and led by Him. The Holy Spirit places on his lips the words which he could not find by himself, and at the same time the Holy Spirit predisposes the soul of the hearer to be open and receptive to the Good News and to the kingdom being proclaimed."(ibid., 75). To evangelize, then, we must be open to the action of the Spirit of God, without fear of what He asks us or where He leads us. Let us entrust ourselves to Him! He enables us to live and bear witness to our faith, and enlighten the hearts of those we meet. This was the Pentecost experience of the Apostles gathered with Mary in the Upper Room, " Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim"(Acts 2:3-4). The Holy Spirit descending upon the Apostles, compels them to leave the room in which they had locked themselves in fear, makes them come out of themselves, and turns them into heralds and witnesses of the "mighty works of God" (v. 11). And this transformation wrought by the Holy Spirit is reflected in the crowd that rushed to the scene and which came "from every nation under heaven" (v. 5), so that everyone hears the words of the Apostles as if they were spoken in their own language (v. 6 ).

Here is a first important effect of the Holy Spirit that guides and inspires the proclamation of the Gospel: unity, communion. At Babel, according to the Bible, the dispersion of peoples and the confusion of tongues began, the result of man’s act of arrogance and pride in wanting to build on his own strength, and without God, "a city and a tower whose top may reach unto heaven "(Gen 11:4). At Pentecost, these divisions are overcome. There is no longer more pride toward God, nor closure towards one another, but there is openness to God, to going out to announce His Word: a new language, that of love that the Holy Spirit pours into our hearts (cf. Rom 5:5), a language that everyone can understand and which, when welcomed, can be expressed in every life and in every culture. The language of the Spirit, the language of the Gospel is the language of communion, which invites us to overcome closure and indifference, division and conflict. We should all ask ourselves: how do I let myself be guided by the Holy Spirit so that my witness of faith is one of unity and communion? Do I bring the message of reconciliation and love that is the Gospel to the places where I live? Sometimes it seems that what happened at Babel is repeated today; divisions, the inability to understand each other, rivalry, envy, selfishness. What do I do with my life? Do I bring unity? Or do I divide with gossip and envy? Let us ask ourselves this. Bringing the Gospel means we in the first place must live reconciliation, forgiveness, peace, unity, love that the Holy Spirit gives us. Let us remember the words of Jesus: "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:34-35).

A second element: on the day of Pentecost, Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, stands up "with the eleven" and "raided his voice" (Acts 2:14); "proclaimed" (v. 29) the good news of Jesus, who gave His life for our salvation and who God raised from the dead. Here is another effect of the Holy Spirit: Courage! the courage to proclaim the newness of the Gospel of Jesus to all, with self-confidence (parrhesia), in a loud voice, in every time and in every place. And this happens even today for the Church and for each of us: from the fire of Pentecost, from the action of the Holy Spirit, ever new missionary energies are released, new ways in which to proclaim the message of salvation, new courage to evangelize. Never be closed to this action! May we live the Gospel with humility and courage! May we witness the novelty, the hope, the joy that the Lord brings to life. Let us feel within us "the delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing" (Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation. Ap. Evangelii nuntiandi, 80) Because evangelizing, announcing Jesus, evangelizing brings us joy! It energizes us. Being closed up within ourselves brings bitterness. Proclaiming the joy and hope that the Lord brings to world lifts us up!

I will only mention a third element, but it is particularly important: a new evangelization, a Church that evangelizes must always start from prayer, from asking, like the Apostles in the Upper Room, for the fire of the Holy Spirit. Only a faithful and intense relationship with God allows us to leave our enclosures and announce the Gospel with parrhesia. Without prayer our actions become empty and our proclamation soulless, it is not animated by the Spirit.

Dear friends, as said Benedict XVI, the Church today " especially feels the wind of the Holy Spirit that helps us, shows us the right path, and so, with new enthusiasm, we are on our journey and we thank the Lord" (Address to Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, October 27, 2012). Let us renew our trust in the Holy Spirit every day. The trust that He enacts in us, He is in us, He gives us courage, confidence and peace! Let us be guided by Him, men and women of prayer, witnessing the Gospel with courage, becoming instruments in our world of God’s unity and communion.

 

Thank you.

 

English summary:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our catechesis on the Creed, we now pass from the article on the Holy Spirit to that on the Church, “one, holy, catholic and apostolic”. The Holy Spirit and the Church are in fact inseparable. The Spirit enlivens and guides the Church, and each of us within the Church, to carry out Christ’s mandate to make disciples of all peoples. He opens minds and hearts to the beauty and truth of the Gospel. The Spirit overcomes selfishness and division, creating unity, communion, reconciliation and love. The Spirit also instils the strength needed to bear courageous witness to the Risen Christ; he is the spirit of mission and evangelization. The fire of the Holy Spirit was sent down upon the Apostles at Pentecost in answer to their fervent prayer; ardent prayer in the Spirit must always be the soul of new evangelization and the heart of our lives as Christians. Let us renew each day our trust in the working of the Holy Spirit, open our hearts to his inspiration and gifts, and strive to be signs of unity and communion with God in the midst of our human family.

 

I extend my cordial welcome to the Italian-speaking pilgrims. In particular, I salute the Congregation of the Holy Family and the Daughters of Jesus who are celebrating their general chapter; the faithful of the Eparchy of Lungro, with Bishop Mons. Olivero, gathered at the Tomb of Peter on the occasion of the Year of Faith; the young people of the Focolare Movement gathered in the "Gen 3" International Congress, who, led by the motto "a heart in action", this year have followed the practice of performing the works of mercy. I greet the priests, the women religious - in particular the group of the Daughters of Charity -, the seminarians, the parochial groups and the numerous schoolchildren. I encourage everyone to listen in their conscience to the voice of the Holy Spirit and to make it operational in your lives in doing good and with charity, to be authentic disciples of Jesus!

Finally, an affectionate thought to the young people, the sick and newlyweds. May the Virgin Mary, dear young people, be a teacher of tenderness and love; may she sustain you, dear sick ones, especially the thalassemici italiani di Roma [the Rome chapter of an Italian association for the care of persons suffering from Talassemia, -ed.], in the hardest moments of solitude and suffering; and may she be an example for you, dear newlyweds, to live your marital relationship in unity and harmony.

APPEAL OF THE HOLY FATHER

Friday, May 24 is the day dedicated to the liturgical Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, help of Christians, worshipped with great devotion at the shrine of Sheshan in Shanghai.

I invite all Catholics around the world to join in prayer with brothers and sisters who are in China to implore from God the grace to announce with humility and joy Christ who died and is risen, to be faithful to his Church and to the successor of Peter and to live daily life in service to their country and their fellow citizens in a manner consistent with the faith they profess.

Making our words of prayer to our Lady of Sheshan, I along with you invoke Mary thus: "Our Lady of Sheshan, sustain the commitment of those who in China, amid their daily labors, continue to believe, to hope, to love, so that they may never be afraid to speak of Jesus to the world and the world to Jesus".

May Mary, the faithful Virgin, support the Chinese Catholics, making their difficult commitments increasingly precious in the sight of the Lord, and increase the Church in China's affection for and participation in the journey of the universal Church.

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On the Church as the Family of God (Year of Faith)

VATICAN CITY, May 29, 2013  - Here is the translation of the Holy Father’s weekly General Audience address in St. Peter’s Square where he began a new cycle of catecheses on the mystery of the Church.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Last Wednesday I underlined the deep bond between the Holy Spirit and the Church. Today I would like to start some catecheses on the mystery of the Church, a mystery that we all live in and of which we are part. I would like to do this with some well-known expressions of the texts of Vatican II.

First: the Church as the family of God.

In recent months, more than once I made reference to the parable of the prodigal son, or rather of the merciful father (cf. Lk 15:11-32). His youngest son leaves his father's house, squanders everything and decides to return because he realizes that he has made a mistake, but no longer considers himself worthy of being a son, and thinks that he might be readmitted as a servant. The father instead runs to meet him, hugs him, restores him to the dignity of a son and throws a feast. This parable, as others in the Gospel, well describes God's plan for humanity.

What is this plan? It's to make of all of us the one family of his children, in which each will feel close and feel loved by Him, as in the Gospel parable, that each may feel the warmth of being the family of God. In this great design, the Church finds its roots; the Church is not an organization born out of an agreement made by some people, but - as Pope Benedict XVI has reminded us many times - it's God's work, it is born from this plan of love that takes place progressively in history. The Church was born from the desire of God to call all people to communion with Him, to His friendship, and indeed to participate as his sons of his own divine life. The very word "Church", from the Greek word ekklesia, means "convocation": God summons us, he urges us to come out of our individualism, of our tendency to close in upon ourselves and calls us to be his family. And this call has its origin in creation itself. God created us to live in a deep friendship with him, and even when sin broke this relationship with him, with others and with creation, God did not abandon us. The whole history of salvation is the story of God seeking man, offering him His love, welcoming him. He called Abraham to be the father of a multitude, he chose the people of Israel to forge a covenant that embraces all people, and sent, in the fullness of time, his Son so that his plan of love and salvation might come true in a new and everlasting covenant with all humanity. When we read the Gospels, we see that Jesus gathers around him a small community that welcomes his word, follows him, shares his journey, becomes his family, and with this community He prepares and builds his Church.

Where is the Church born? It is born from the supreme act of love of the cross, from the open side of Jesus from which flow blood and water, symbol of the sacraments of the Eucharist and baptism. In the family of God, in the Church, the lifeblood is the love of God that is expressed in loving Him and others, all without distinctions and without measure. The Church is a family in which one loves and is loved.

When does the Church become manifest? We celebrated this two Sundays ago: it is manifested when the indwelling of the Holy Spirit fills the heart of the Apostles and drives them to go out and start the journey to proclaim the Gospel, to spread the love of God.

Still today someone says: "Christ yes, the Church no." Like those who say, “I believe in God but not in priests”. But it is precisely the Church that brings us Christ and leads us to God; the Church is the great family of God's children. Of course it also has human aspects; in those who compose it, pastors and faithful, there are flaws, imperfections, sins, even the Pope has them, and he has many, but the beautiful thing is that when we realize that we are sinners, we find the mercy of God, which always forgives. Don’t forget it: God always forgives and receives us in his forgiving and merciful love. Some say sin is an offence against God, but it is also an opportunity to be humbled, to realize that there’s something more beautiful: the mercy of God. Let us think of this.

Let us ask ourselves today: how much do I love the Church? Do I pray for her? Do I feel part of the family of the Church? What do I do so that it may be a community where everyone feels welcomed and understood, feels the mercy and love of God that renews life? Faith is a gift and an act that affects us personally, but God calls us to live our faith together, as a family, like the Church.

Let us ask the Lord, in a special way in this Year of Faith that our communities, the whole Church, may increasingly be true families living and bearing within them the warmth of God. Thank you.

[Translation by Peter Waymel]

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Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: In today’s Audience I would like to speak of the Church as God’s family. Like the merciful father in the parable of the prodigal son, God wants all of us to live in his love and to share in his life. The Church is an essential part of this divine plan; we were made to know and love God and, despite our sins, he continues to call us to return to him. In the fullness of time, he sent his Son into our world to inaugurate the new and eternal covenant with humanity through his sacrifice on the cross. The Church was born of this supreme act of reconciling love, in the water and blood which flowed from Christ’s pierced side. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit sent the Apostles to proclaim the Gospel of God’s love to the ends of the earth. Christ can never be separated from his Church, which he has made the great family of God’s children. Today, let us pledge ourselves to renewing our love for the Church and to letting her be God’s true family, where everyone feels welcomed, understood and loved.

Holy Father (in Italian):

I offer a cordial welcome to all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Audience, including those from England, Scotland, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Canada and the United States. May you always grow in love for Christ and for God’s family which is the Church. God bless you all!

© Copyright 2012 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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I greet now the many Italian-speaking pilgrims: parishes, associations, institutions and schools. In particular, my affectionate thought goes out to the faithful of the Diocesan Community of L'Aquila, Vallo della Lucania, Molfetta-Ruvo-Giovinazzo-Terlizzi, accompanied by their respective pastors. May your pilgrimage in this Year of Faith help each of you to participate more fully in Christ and to bear witness to him with joy and courage. I greet the participants in the meeting sponsored by Caritas Italiana, with the Presiding Bishop Mons. Giuseppe Merisi; as well as those who take part in the meeting of the Foundation "Communità di Gesù"; the seminarians and students of the Pontifical Faculty of Southern Italy and the pilgrimage sponsored by the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of Genoa.

I turn, finally, to you, dear young people, the sick and newlyweds. In this last audience of the month of May, my thoughts go spontaneously to Mary, bright star of our Christian walk. May we make constant reference to her to find in her intercession and in the examples of her life inspiration and sure guidance in our daily pilgrimage of faith.

Tomorrow, the feast of Corpus Domini, as every year, we will be celebrating Holy Mass in St. John Lateran at 7:00 p.m. At the end, a solemn procession will follow that will end at St. Mary’s Major Basilica. I invite the faithful of Rome and pilgrims to join in this act of faith in the Eucharist, which is the most precious treasure of the Church and of humanity.

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On St. Joseph the Worker

VATICAN CITY, May 01, 2013 - Here is the translation of the Holy Father’s weekly General Audience address in St. Peter’s Square today.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, the 1st of May, we celebrate St. Joseph the Worker and begin the month traditionally dedicated to the Virgin Mary. During this encounter, I would thus like to reflect on these two important figures in the life of Jesus, of the Church and in our lives, with two brief thoughts: the first regarding work, the second on the contemplation of Jesus.

1. In the Gospel of St. Matthew, one of the times when Jesus returns to his native region, to Nazareth, and speaks in the synagogue, the Gospel underlines his fellow villagers' astonishment at his wisdom, and the question they ask one another: is not this the Carpenter's son?" (13:55). Jesus enters into our history, he comes into our midst, being born of Mary by the work of God, but with the presence of St. Joseph, the legal father who guards him and even teaches him his trade. Jesus was born and lived in a family, in the Holy Family, learning from St. Joseph the carpenter's trade, in the workshop of Nazareth, sharing with him his commitment, hard work and satisfaction, as well as each day's difficulties.

This calls to mind for us the dignity and importance of work. The Book of Genesis tells us that God created man and woman by entrusting to them the task of populating the Earth and subjugating it, which does not mean to exploit it, but to cultivate and guard it, to care for it with their own labour (cf. Gen 1:28; 2:15). The work is part of the plan of God's love; we are called to cultivate and safeguard all the goods of creation and in this way we participate in the work of creation! The work is fundamental to the dignity of a person. Work, to use an image, "anoints" us with dignity, it fills us with dignity; it makes us similar to God, who has worked and works still, He is always acting (cf. Jn 5:17); it gives the ability to maintain oneself, one's family, to contribute to the growth of one's nation. And here I am thinking of the difficulties which, in different countries, today's world of work and enterprise are facing; I think about how many people, and not just young people, are unemployed, often because of an economic conception of society, which seeks selfish gain, outside of the parameters of social justice.

I would like to invite everyone to solidarity, and wish to encourage those those in charge of public affairs to make every effort to give new impetus to employment; this means caring for the dignity of the person; but mostly I would say not to lose hope. St. Joseph also had difficult moments, but never lost confidence and was able to overcome them, in the certainty that God does not abandons us. And then I would like to address specifically the adolescents and you young people: get involved in your daily duty, in study, in work, in friendships, in helping others; your future depends also on your wisdom in living these precious years of life. Don't be afraid of effort, of sacrifice and don't look to the future with fear; keep hope alive: there's always a light on the horizon.

I add a word about another particular work situation that bothers me: I am referring to what could be defined as "slave labor", work that enslaves. How many people, worldwide, are victims of this kind of slavery, where the person is at the service of work, when it must be work that offers a service to persons so that they may have dignity. I would ask my brothers and sisters in faith and all men and women of good will to make a decisive choice against the trafficking of persons, within which falls the category of "slave labor".

2. The second thought: in the silence of his daily activity, St. Joseph shared with Mary a single, common focal point of attention: Jesus. They accompany and guard, with dedication and tenderness, the growth of the Son of God made man for us, reflecting on everything that happens. In the Gospels, Luke points out twice the attitude of Mary, which is also that of St. Joseph: "She treasured all these things, and pondered them in her heart" (2:19.51).

To listen to the Lord, we must learn to contemplate, to perceive His constant presence in our lives; we have to stop and talk to Him, give Him space with prayer. Every one of us, even you adolescent boys and girls, and young people, so numuerous here this morning, should ask yourselves: how much space do I give the Lord? Do I stop to dialogue with Him? Ever since we were little, our parents have accustomed us to begin and end the day with a prayer, to teach us to feel that the friendship and the love of God accompany us. Let us remember the Lord more often in our days!

And in this month of May, I would like to recall the importance and the beauty of the prayer of the Holy Rosary. Reciting the Hail Mary, we are led to contemplate the mysteries of Jesus, to reflect, that is, on the central moments of his life, so that, as for Mary and for St. Joseph, He may be the center of our thoughts, our attention and our actions. It would be nice if, especially in this month of May, you would pray together as a family, with your friends, in the parish, the Holy Rosary or some prayer to Jesus and the Virgin Mary! Praying together is a precious moment for making family life and friendship even more stable! Let us learn to pray more in the family and as a family!

Dear brothers and sisters, let us ask St. Joseph and the Virgin Mary to teach us to be faithful to our daily commitments, to live our faith in everyday actions and to give more space to the Lord in our lives, to stop to contemplate his face.

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Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

On this first day of May, Mary’s month, we celebrate the feast of Saint Joseph the Worker. Joseph, the carpenter of Nazareth, reminds us of the dignity and importance of labour. Work is part of God’s plan for the world; by responsibly cultivating the goods of creation, we grow in dignity as men and women made in God’s image. For this reason, the problem of unemployment urgently demands greater social solidarity and wise and just policies. I also encourage the many young people present to look to the future with hope, and to invest themselves fully in their studies, their work and their relationships with others. Saint Joseph, as a model of quiet prayer and closeness to Jesus, also invites us to think about the time we devote to prayer each day. In this month of May, the Rosary naturally comes to mind as a way to contemplate the mysteries of Christ’s life. May Saint Joseph and the Virgin Mary help us to be faithful in our daily work and to lift up our minds and hearts to Jesus in prayer.

Pope Francis (in italian):

I am pleased to greet the many pilgrimage groups present at today’s Audience, including those from the Archdiocese of Gwangju in South Korea. Upon all the English-speaking visitors, including those from England, Scotland, Denmark, Canada and the United States, I invoke the joy and peace of the Risen Lord.

© Copyright 2012 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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On Easter Faith
"We must not be afraid to be Christians and to live as Christians!"

VATICAN CITY, April 08, 2013  - Here is a translation of the address Pope Francis gave Sunday before and after praying the midday Regina Caeli with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters! Buon giorno!

On this Sunday that concludes the Octave of Easter I renew Easter greetings to everyone with the words of the risen Jesus himself: “Peace to you!” (John 20:19, 21, 26). It is not salutation nor a simple greeting: it is a gift, indeed, the precious gift that Christ offers to his disciples after having passed through death and the netherworld (“inferi”). He gives peace as he promised: “I leave you peace, my peace I give you. Not as the world gives it do I give it to you” (John 14:27). This peace is the fruit of the victory of God’s love over evil, it is the fruit of forgiveness. And this is exactly how it is: true peace, profound peace, comes from the experience of the mercy of God. Today is Divine Mercy Sunday, established according to the wishes of Blessed John Paul II, who died on the very eve of this celebration.

The Gospel of John tells us that Jesus appeared twice to the Apostles who had locked themselves inside the upper room: the first was on the very evening of the Resurrection, and Thomas was not there, Thomas, who said: if I do not see and do not touch I will not believe. The second time, eight days later, Thomas was present. And Jesus addressed himself precisely to him, inviting him to look at the wounds and to touch them; and Thomas exclaimed: “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). Then Jesus said: “Because you saw me you believed; blessed are those who have not seen and have believed!” (20:29). And who are these others who believed without seeing? Other disciples, other men and women of Jerusalem who, although they had not encountered the risen Jesus, believed on the testimony of the Apostles and the women. This is a very important consideration with respect to the faith, we might call it the beatitude of faith. Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed: this is the beatitude of faith! In every time and in every place those people are blessed who, through the Word of God, proclaimed by the Church and witnessed to by Christians, believe that Jesus Christ is the love of God incarnate, Mercy incarnate. And this is true for all of us!

Together with his peace, Jesus granted his Apostles the Holy Spirit, so that they could bring the forgiveness of sins into the world, that forgiveness that only God can give and whose cost was the Blood of his Son (cf. John 20:21-23). The Church is sent by the risen Christ to transmit the remission of sins to men, and in this way to make the Kingdom of love grow, to sow peace in hearts, so that peace also be affirmed in relationships, in societies, in institutions. And the Spirit of the risen Christ drives fear out of the Apostles’ hearts and drives them out of the upper room to spread the Gospel. We too have more courage to witness to the faith in the risen Christ! We must not be afraid to be Christians and to live as Christians! We must have this courage to go proclaim Christ risen because he is our peace, he made peace with his love, with his forgiveness, with his blood, with his mercy.

Dear friends, this afternoon I will celebrate the Eucharist in the Basilica of St. John Lateran, which is the cathedral of the Bishop of Rome. Let us pray to the Virgin Mary that she help us, bishop and people, to walk together in faith and charity, always confident in the mercy of the Lord: He always waits for us, he loves us, he forgave us with is blood and he forgives us every time we go to him to ask forgiveness. Let us have faith in his mercy!

[Following the recitation of the “Regina Caeli” the Holy Father greeted those present. Here are some of his greetings:]

I offer a cordial greeting to the pilgrims who participated in the holy Mass celebrated by the cardinal vicar of Rome in the church of Santo Spirito in Sassia, the center of devotion to Divine Mercy. Dear bothers and sisters, be messengers and witnesses of God’s mercy!

I am happy to greet the numerous members of the movements and associations that are present for our time of prayer together, especially the Neocatechumenal communities of Rome, who begin today a special mission in the piazzas of the city. I invite everyone to bring the Glad Tidings to every sphere of life, “with sweetness and respect”! (1 Peter 3:16). Go into the public places and proclaim Jesus Christ, our Savior.

[In conclusion the Holy Father said:]

May the Lord bless you, and have a good lunch!

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Francis' Homily at Cathedral of St. John Lateran
"We hear many offers from the world around us; but let us take up God's offer instead: his is a caress of love"

ROME, April 08, 2013  - Here is a Vatican translation of the homily given by Pope Francis on Sunday, as he celebrated Mass at the cathedral of St. John Lateran, marking his enthronement as Bishop of Rome.

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It is with joy that I am celebrating the Eucharist for the first time in this Lateran Basilica, the Cathedral of the Bishop of Rome. I greet all of you with great affection: my very dear Cardinal Vicar, the auxiliary bishops, the diocesan presbyterate, the deacons, the men and women religious, and all the lay faithful. I also greet the Mayor, his wife and all the authorities present. Together let us walk in the light of the risen Lord.

Today we are celebrating the Second Sunday of Easter, also known as "Divine Mercy Sunday". What a beautiful truth of faith this is for our lives: the mercy of God! God’s love for us is so great, so deep; it is an unfailing love, one which always takes us by the hand and supports us, lifts us up and leads us on.

In today’s Gospel, the Apostle Thomas personally experiences this mercy of God, which has a concrete face, the face of Jesus, the risen Jesus. Thomas does not believe it when the other Apostles tell him: "We have seen the Lord". It isn’t enough for him that Jesus had foretold it, promised it: "On the third day I will rise". He wants to see, he wants to put his hand in the place of the nails and in Jesus’ side. And how does Jesus react? With patience: Jesus does not abandon Thomas in his stubborn unbelief; he gives him a week’s time, he does not close the door, he waits. And Thomas acknowledges his own poverty, his little faith. "My Lord and my God!": with this simple yet faith-filled invocation, he responds to Jesus’ patience. He lets himself be enveloped by divine mercy; he sees it before his eyes, in the wounds of Christ’s hands and feet and in his open side, and he discovers trust: he is a new man, no longer an unbeliever, but a believer.

Let us also remember Peter: three times he denied Jesus, precisely when he should have been closest to him; and when he hits bottom he meets the gaze of Jesus who patiently, wordlessly, says to him: "Peter, don’t be afraid of your weakness, trust in me". Peter understands, he feels the loving gaze of Jesus, and he weeps. How beautiful is this gaze of Jesus – how much tenderness is there! Brothers and sisters, let us never lose trust in the patience and mercy of God!

Let us think too of the two disciples on the way to Emmaus: their sad faces, their barren journey, their despair. But Jesus does not abandon them: he walks beside them, and not only that! Patiently he explains the Scriptures which spoke of him, and he stays to share a meal with them. This is God’s way of doing things: he is not impatient like us, who often want everything all at once, even in our dealings with other people. God is patient with us because he loves us, and those who love are able to understand, to hope, to inspire confidence; they do not give up, they do not burn bridges, they are able to forgive. Let us remember this in our lives as Christians: God always waits for us, even when we have left him behind! He is never far from us, and if we return to him, he is ready to embrace us.

I am always struck when I reread the parable of the merciful Father; it impresses me because it always gives me great hope. Think of that younger son who was in the Father’s house, who was loved; and yet he wants his part of the inheritance; he goes off, spends everything, hits rock bottom, where he could not be more distant from the Father, yet when he is at his lowest, he misses the warmth of the Father’s house and he goes back. And the Father? Had he forgotten the son? No, never. He is there, he sees the son from afar, he was waiting for him every hour of every day, the son was always in his father’s heart, even though he had left him, even though he had squandered his whole inheritance, his freedom. The Father, with patience, love, hope and mercy, had never for a second stopped thinking about him, and as soon as he sees him still far off, he runs out to meet him and embraces him with tenderness, the tenderness of God, without a word of reproach: he has returned! And that is the joy of the Father. In that embrace for his son is all this joy: he has returned! God is always waiting for us, he never grows tired. Jesus shows us this merciful patience of God so that we can regain confidence, hope – always! A great German theologian, Romano Guardini, said that God responds to our weakness by his patience, and this is the reason for our confidence, our hope (cf. Glaubenserkenntnis, Würzburg, 1949, p. 28). It is like a dialogue between our weakness and the patience of God, it is a dialogue that, if we do it, will grant us hope.

I would like to emphasize one other thing: God’s patience has to call forth in us the courage to return to him, however many mistakes and sins there may be in our life. Jesus tells Thomas to put his hand in the wounds of his hands and his feet, and in his side. We too can enter into the wounds of Jesus, we can actually touch him. This happens every time that we receive the sacraments with faith. Saint Bernard, in a fine homily, says: "Through the wounds of Jesus I can suck honey from the rock and oil from the flinty rock (cf. Deut 32:13), I can taste and see the goodness of the Lord" (On the Song of Songs, 61:4). It is there, in the wounds of Jesus, that we are truly secure; there we encounter the boundless love of his heart. Thomas understood this. Saint Bernard goes on to ask: But what can I count on? My own merits? No, "My merit is God’s mercy. I am by no means lacking merits as long as he is rich in mercy. If the mercies of the Lord are manifold, I too will abound in merits" (ibid., 5). This is important: the courage to trust in Jesus’ mercy, to trust in his patience, to seek refuge always in the wounds of his love. Saint Bernard even states: "So what if my conscience gnaws at me for my many sins? ‘Where sin has abounded, there grace has abounded all the more’ (Rom 5:20)" (ibid.). Maybe someone among us here is thinking: my sin is so great, I am as far from God as the younger son in the parable, my unbelief is like that of Thomas; I don’t have the courage to go back, to believe that God can welcome me and that he is waiting for me, of all people. But God is indeed waiting for you; he asks of you only the courage to go to him. How many times in my pastoral ministry have I heard it said: "Father, I have many sins"; and I have always pleaded: "Don’t be afraid, go to him, he is waiting for you, he will take care of everything". We hear many offers from the world around us; but let us take up God’s offer instead: his is a caress of love. For God, we are not numbers, we are important, indeed we are the most important thing to him; even if we are sinners, we are what is closest to his heart.

Adam, after his sin, experiences shame, he feels naked, he senses the weight of what he has done; and yet God does not abandon him: if that moment of sin marks the beginning of his exile from God, there is already a promise of return, a possibility of return. God immediately asks: "Adam, where are you?" He seeks him out. Jesus took on our nakedness, he took upon himself the shame of Adam, the nakedness of his sin, in order to wash away our sin: by his wounds we have been healed. Remember what Saint Paul says: "What shall I boast of, if not my weakness, my poverty?" Precisely in feeling my sinfulness, in looking at my sins, I can see and encounter God’s mercy, his love, and go to him to receive forgiveness.

In my own life, I have so often seen God’s merciful countenance, his patience; I have also seen so many people find the courage to enter the wounds of Jesus by saying to him: Lord, I am here, accept my poverty, hide my sin in your wounds, wash it away with your blood. And I have always seen that God did just this – he accepted them, consoled them, cleansed them, loved them.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us be enveloped by the mercy of God; let us trust in his patience, which always gives us more time. Let us find the courage to return to his house, to dwell in his loving wounds, allowing ourselves be loved by him and to encounter his mercy in the sacraments. We will feel his wonderful tenderness, we will feel his embrace, and we too will become more capable of mercy, patience, forgiveness and love.

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Francis Praying for Flood Victims in His Homeland

VATICAN CITY, April 04, 2013  - Pope Francis is praying for victims of a natural disaster that hit his homeland, as a rain storm Tuesday night caused flash floods in Buenos Aires and La Plata, causing more than 50 deaths.

In a note signed by the Pope's secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Holy Father promises "prayers to the Lord for the eternal rest of those who died, at the same time wanting to express his paternal, spiritual closeness to all those affected and their families."

Some 16 inches of rain fell on the city of La Plata in the space of two hours late on Tuesday night. About that same amount fell earlier on Buenos Aires.

The papal note continued: "[T]he Holy Father encourages civil and ecclesiastical institutions, as well as all people of good will, to provide in a spirit of charity and Christian solidarity the necessary help those who have lost their homes or personal belongings."

"With these sentiments, the Supreme Pontiff imparts to those affected and those who come to their assistance the comfort of his Apostolic Blessing, as a sign of his closeness to the dear people of Argentina," the message concluded.

The message was directed to Mario Aurelio Poli, the new archbishop of Buenos Aires. Francis appointed him March 28, thereby filling the vacancy left by his election to the See of Peter.

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A Christian Should Live in Perpetual Peace, Says Francis
At Thursday's Morning Mass, Reflects on Wonder, Consolation

VATICAN CITY, April 04, 2013 - Francis celebrated his usual morning Mass today at Domus Sanctae Marthae, drawing from the Gospel passage from Luke to reflect on peace, which he said is a gift that "is not sold and we do not buy."

Drawing from the first reading, he said that the disciples who were witnesses of the lame man's healing and now see Jesus, “are a bit out of themselves, but not because of some mental illness: outside themselves because of their awe."

But what is this awe? “It is something," said the Holy Father, “that drives us out of ourselves, for joy: this is great, it is very great. This is not mere enthusiasm: even fans in a stadium are enthusiastic when their team wins, right? No, this is not some enthusiasm, it is something more profound: it is the wonder that comes when we find ourselves with Jesus."

This astonishment, the Holy Father explained, is the beginning “of the habitual state of the Christian." Certainly, he noted, we cannot live forever in wonder, but this is condition is the beginning which allows a “mark to be left on the soul and spiritual consolation." Actually, the condition of being a Christian should be one of spiritual consolation, notwithstanding problems, pains, sickness.

"The last step of consolation," the Pontiff said, “is peace: one begins with awe, and the minor tone of this wonder, of this consolation, is peace." The Christian, even in the most painful trials, never loses “the peace and the presence of Jesus” and with “a little courage," we are able to say to the Lord: “Lord, give me this grace that is the sign of the encounter with you: spiritual consolation”; and, above all, he emphasized, “never lose peace." We look to the Lord, who “suffered so upon the Cross, but he never lost peace. Peace, this peace, is not our own: it is not sold and we do not buy it." It is a gift of God for which we must beg.

Peace is like “the final step of this spiritual consolation, which begins with a joyful wonder." Wherefore, we must not “trick ourselves with our or others' fantasies, which lead us to believe that these fantasies are reality." In truth, it is more Christian “to believe that reality may not be so pretty."

The Pope ended by asking for the grace of spiritual consolation and of peace, which “begins with this joyful wonder in the encounter with Jesus Christ."

The first reading for today's Mass is Acts 3:11-26, which begins: As the crippled man who had been cured clung to Peter and John, all the people hurried in amazement toward them in the portico called “Solomon’s Portico.” When Peter saw this, he addressed the people, “You children of Israel, why are you amazed at this, and why do you look so intently at us as if we had made him walk by our own power or piety?

The Gospel for today's Mass is Luke 24:35-48, which includes: While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost. Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.” And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them.

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Pope Francis: Sometimes We Need Tears

VATICAN CITY, April 04, 2013 - During the Wednesday morning Mass at Domus Sanctae Marthae, Pope Francis reflected on tears as "glasses to see Jesus."

A group of policemen of the Vatican gendarmerie was among the congregation for the early morning Mass.

During the homily, the Holy Father referred to the day's Gospel, which recounts Mary Magdalene’s meeting with the Risen One. The Pope mentioned her previous condition of “sinful woman,” who is redeemed by anointing Jesus’ feet and drying them with her hair.

Mary Magdalene is the emblem of an “abused woman also held in contempt by those who thought themselves just," before Jesus forgave her many sins, as she “loved much.”

The new object of love of the repentant sinner is Jesus himself, whose death dismayed her as it meant "the failure of all her hopes.” Thus she bursts out crying, as is normal for one who mourns.

“Sometimes in our life tears are the glasses to see Jesus,” said Pope Francis. And it was in fact with her weeping, then, that Mary Magdalene transmitted this message: “I have seen the Lord.”

The grief of this woman, whose life was changed by her personal encounter with Jesus, is the grief of us all, in our “darkest moments.”

Hence it is right, the Pope said, to ask ourselves: “Have we had that goodness of tears that prepare our eyes to look at, to see the Lord?"

One can weep for many reasons, he continued: “out of goodness, for our sins, for graces, out of joy” and, like Magdalene, we can also ask the Lord for the “beautiful grace” of tears to prepare ourselves to see Him.

To see the Lord, does not mean to perceive Him with our sight but “within our heart,” explained the Holy Father. Only in this way can we give the witness of our life: “I live this way because I have seen the Lord."

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Pope: If We Can Resist Gossip, We Make Big Step Forward
Francis Preaches Today on Building New Life of Baptism

VATICAN CITY, April 09, 2013  - At morning Mass today in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, Francis said one way to make a step forward in developing the new life of baptism is by rejecting the temptation to gossip.

The Holy Father's customary morning Mass today was attended by staff from the Vatican medical services and office staff of the Vatican City Government.

"The first Christian community is a timeless model for the Christian community of today, because they were of one heart and one soul, through the Holy Spirit who had brought them into a 'new life,'" the Pontiff said, as reported by Vatican Radio.

In his homily Pope Francis reflected on the Gospel passage that recounts the dialogue between Jesus and Nicodemus, who did not immediately grasp how a man can be "born again." Through the Holy Spirit, the Pope said, we are born into the new life we have received in Baptism. However, he added, this is a life that has to be developed; it does not come automatically.

"We have to do all we can to ensure that our life develops into new life," the Pope said, acknowledging that this can be "a laborious journey," but reminding that it depends chiefly on the Holy Spirit, as well as our ability to be "open to his breath."

And this, the Pope pointed out, is exactly what happened to the early Christians. They had "new life," which was expressed in their living with one heart and one soul. They had, he said, "that unity, that unanimity, that harmony of feeling of love, mutual love."

Francis said that this needs to be rediscovered today, observing, for example, that the aspect of "meekness in the community," is a somewhat forgotten virtue. Meekness is stigmatized, it has "many enemies," the first of which is gossip.

"When we prefer to gossip, gossip about others, criticize others -- these are everyday things that happen to everyone, including me -- these are the temptations of the evil one who does not want the Spirit to come to us and bring about peace and meekness in the Christian community."

"These struggles always exist," the Pope warned, "in the parish, in the family, in the neighborhood, among friends." But it is the Spirit who brings us into new life, making us meek and charitable.

The Holy Father then outlined the correct behavior for a Christian.

First, "do not judge anyone" because "the only Judge is the Lord." Then "keep quiet" and if you have something to say, say it to the people involved, to those "who can remedy the situation," but "not to the entire neighborhood."

"If, by the grace of the Holy Spirit," concluded Pope Francis, "we succeed in never gossiping, it will be a great step forward" and "will do us all good."

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Francis: We Don't Save Ourselves
Pope at Morning Mass Warns Against False Securities

VATICAN CITY, April 10, 2013  - Pope Francis spoke today at morning Mass about salvation that comes from God alone.

As customary, the Holy Father celebrated morning Mass at the Domus Sanctae Marthae. Today, Cardinals Angelo Sodano and Angelo Comastri concelebrated.

"The Lord saves us by His love: not with a letter, nor with a decree, but with his love," the Pope said in the homily, as reported by Vatican Radio. And salvation, is "the recovery of that dignity, which we have lost,” the dignity of being children of God.

This is a dignity that grows, said Pope Francis, “until our final encounter with Him,” adding, “this is the way of salvation, and this is beautiful."

The Pontiff said that "we are men and women of hope," people who have been "saved by love."

The problem, he explained, is that sometimes we want to save ourselves, “and we believe we can do it,” for example basing our security on money -- and we think: “I have money, I am secure, [I have it] all, there are no worries, I have dignity: the dignity of a rich person.”

"This,” said Pope Francis, “is not enough."

"Think of the parable of the Gospel, of the man who had the full granary, who said, ‘I’ll make another to get more, and then I’ll sleep soundly,’ and the Lord says, 'You fool! This evening you will die.' That salvation is wrong, it is a temporary salvation, it is also apparent salvation.”

The Holy Father went on to say that, at other times, “We think we save ourselves with vanity, with pride,” that, “We believe ourselves powerful ...,” and that “we mask our poverty, our sins, with vanity, with pride ... Even that ends,” he said.

"True salvation is in the dignity that God gives back to us in the hope that Christ has given us at Easter," he affirmed.

“Let's make today an act of faith,” said Pope Francis, “[Let us say]: Lord, I believe. I believe in Your love. I believe that Your love has saved me. I believe that Your love has given me the dignity that I had not. I believe that Your love gives me hope.”

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Freedom Is in Obedience, Says Francis
Reflects at This Morning's Mass on Discernment

VATICAN CITY, April 11, 2013 - Obedience is the path to freedom, Francis said in his homily at this morning's Mass.

In the customary early morning Mass celebrated at his residence, Domus Sanctae Marthae, Francis today spoke of obeying God and discerning his will, Vatican Radio reported.

"To obey God,” said Pope Francis, “is to listen to Him, to have an open heart, to go on the road that God shows us.”

"This is what makes us free," he added.

Francis also spoke of the difficulties that often accompany our efforts to discern the true voice of God speaking to us. He said, “In our lives we hear things that do not come from Jesus,” adding, “our weaknesses at times lead us on [the wrong] road.”

Nevertheless, God does not leave us to our devices. He does not abandon us to our weakness and sinfulness. “It is precisely the Holy Spirit,” he said, “who gives us the strength to go forward.”

"He sends His spirit without measure, [in order that we might] hear Jesus,” and walk in His way," Francis reflected.

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Francis: 'Give Time to Time'
Says God Works in History, Not With a Magic Wand

VATICAN CITY, April 12, 2013 - Drawing from the advice given to the Sanhedrin by the Pharisee Gamaliel, Pope Francis said today that it is a good idea to "give time to time."

The Pope celebrated his customary early morning Mass in Domus Sanctae Marthae today, reflecting on the passage from the First Reading, Acts 5:34-42.

In that reading, Gamaliel advises the chief priests and Sanhedrin to allow the works of the first Christians to run their course: "So now I tell you, have nothing to do with these men [the Apostles], and let them go. For if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself. But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them; you may even find yourselves fighting against God."

In his homily, Pope Francis observed that "give time to time” is “wise advice also for our life, because time is God’s messenger. God saves us in time, not in the moment.”

"The Lord saves us in history, in our own personal history," he continued, as reported by the Vatican Publishing House, whose staff attended the Mass. "The Lord does not work as a fairy with a magic wand.”

The Pontiff then described “triumphalism” as “a great temptation in Christian life, of which not even the Apostles were immune."

"Triumphalism is not of the Lord,” who lived “humbly," the Pope said. "The Lord teaches us that in life everything is not magic, that triumphalism is not Christian.”

Instead, the Pope spoke of a “grace that we must ask for,” which “is that of perseverance: to persevere in the way of the Lord, to the end, every day.”

One proceeds on the way “with difficulty, with effort, with so much joy.” Hence the invocation is "that the Lord save us from triumphalist fantasies.”

The homily ended with this phrase: to walk every day “in the presence of God: that is the way of the Lord. Let’s go on that one!”

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Francis Condemns Calumny as Work of Satan
At Morning Mass, Pope Remembers Martyrs

By Staff

VATICAN CITY, April 15, 2013  - Drawing from the First Reading account of Stephen, the first martyr, being dragged before the Sanhedrin, Pope Francis today strongly condemned the sin of calumny.

At his customary morning Mass in Domus Sanctae Marthae, the Holy Father noted that Stephen was accused of "false witness," and that his enemies chose "the path of calumny."

Vatican Radio reported on the Holy Father's homily, noting that Francis described calumny as worse than sin and a direct expression of Satan.

"We are all sinners; all of us. We all commit sins. But calumny is something else. It is of course a sin, too, but it is something more. Calumny aims to destroy the work of God, and calumny comes from a very evil thing: it is born of hatred. And hate is the work of Satan. Calumny destroys the work of God in people, in their souls. Calumny uses lies to get ahead. And let us be in no doubt, eh?: Where there is calumny, there is Satan himself," he said.

The Holy Father then noted the contrast of Stephen's behavior, who did not return falsehood with falsehood.

"He does not want to go that way to save himself. He looks to the Lord and obeys the law," being in the peace and truth of Christ. And that, Pope Francis said, “is what happens in the history of the Church."

"But the age of martyrs is not yet over, even today we can say, in truth, that the Church has more martyrs now than during the first centuries," he continued. "The Church has many men and women who are maligned through calumny, who are persecuted, who are killed in hatred of Jesus, in hatred of the faith: some are killed because they teach the catechism, others are killed because they wear the cross ... Today, in many countries, they are maligned, they are persecuted ... they are our brothers and sisters who are suffering today, in this age of the martyrs."

And again Pope Francis repeated, “The age of martyrs is not yet over, the Church has more martyrs now than during the first centuries."

He said this age of “such great spiritual turmoil” reminds him of an ancient Russian icon that depicts Our Lady covering the people of God with her mantle: "We pray to Our Lady to protect us, and in times of spiritual turbulence the safest place is under the mantle of Our Lady. She is the mother who takes care of the Church. And in this time of martyrs, she is the protagonist, the protagonist of protection: She is the Mother. (...) Let us state with faith: Mother, the Church is under your protection: Care for the Church."

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Francis: We Must Submit to the Holy Spirit
Pope at Daily Mass Encourages Individuals, Whole Church

VATICAN CITY, April 17, 2013  - Francis says there is still much of the Second Vatican Council awaiting to be assimilated because there is a desire to "tame the Holy Spirit."

The Pope said this Tuesday during his homily at morning Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, as Vatican Radio reported.

The Pontiff's reflections were drawn from the First Reading, which related Stephen's accusation that his persecutors were resisting the Holy Spirit.

"The Holy Spirit upsets us because it moves us, it makes us walk, it pushes the Church forward," Francis said.

He warned that we want "to calm down the Holy Spirit, we want to tame it and this is wrong.”

"That’s because the Holy Spirit is the strength of God, it’s what gives us the strength to go forward” but many find this upsetting and prefer the comfort of the familiar," Francis reflected.

The Pope said there is still a temptation to resist the Holy Spirit, even as adoration of the Third Person of the Trinity has increased.

He suggested one example of this temptation to resist the Spirit is the incomplete reception of Vatican II, a council which was "a beautiful work of the Holy Spirit."

Fifty years later, “have we done everything the Holy Spirit was asking us to do during the Council,” he asked.

The answer is “no,” said Pope Francis. “We celebrate this anniversary, we put up a monument but we don’t want it to upset us. We don’t want to change and what’s more there are those who wish to turn the clock back.” This, he went on, “is called stubbornness and wanting to tame the Holy Spirit.”

The Pope said the same thing happens in our personal lives. “The Spirit pushes us to take a more evangelical path but we resist this.”

"Submit to the Holy Spirit,” he exhorted, “which comes from within us and makes go forward along the path of holiness.”

Babysitter

In today's homily, Francis spoke about evangelization, as L'Osservatore Romano reported.

Already known for his use of imagery in preaching, the Pope offered an image this morning of a Church as a "babysitter."

The Church cannot be merely “a babysitter who takes care of the child just to get him to sleep." That would make her a "slumbering Church," he said.

Instead, the members of the Church, the baptized, must evangelize.

"When we do this the Church becomes a mother who generates children," he said, capable of bring Christ to the world.

"Let us ask the Lord,” he concluded, “for the grace to become baptized persons who are brave and sure that the Holy Spirit who is in us, received at baptism, always moves us to proclaim Jesus Christ with our life, our testimony and even with our words."

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Preaching the Gospel with 'Magnanimity and Humility'
Pontiff Reflects on the Evangelization During Daily Mass Homily

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY, April 25, 2013  - Pope Francis celebrated the Feast of St. Mark during his daily Morning Mass at the Casa Sanctae Marthae, emphasizing on the need for Christians to proclaim the Gospel as commanded by Christ.

According to Vatican Radio, members of the Secretariate of the Synod of Bishops, who were accompanied by the Secretary General, Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, were present at the liturgy. Also present were a group of police from the Vatican Gendarmerie.

Referring to the Gospel of St. Mark that describes the Ascension of Christ, Pope Francis spoke on the command given to the disciples to preach the Gospel “to the end of the world.”

“Go all over the world. The horizon ... great horizon... And as you can see, this is the mission of the Church. The Church continues to preach this to everyone, all over the world. But she does not go forth alone: she goes forth with Jesus,” the Pope said.

“So they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord acted with them'. The Lord works with all those who preach the Gospel. This is the magnanimity that Christians should have. A pusillanimous Christian is incomprehensible: this magnanimity is part of the Christian vocation: always more and more, more and more, more and more, always onwards!"

The Holy Father also focused on the First Letter of St. Peter, which he said “defines the style of Christian preaching as one of humility.”

"The style of evangelical preaching should have this attitude: humility, service, charity, brotherly love. 'But ... Lord, we must conquer the world!'. That word, conquer, doesn't work. We must preach in the world. The Christian must not be like soldiers who when they win the battle make a clean sweep of everything.”

The Christian, the Pope continued, "proclaims the Gospel with his witness, rather than with words. And with a dual disposition, as St. Thomas Aquinas says: a great soul that is not afraid of great things, that moves forward towards infinite horizons, and the humility to take into account the small things.”

Pope Francis said that this dual disposition between great and small things is the path proceeded by Christian missionary activity.

The Holy Father concluded his homily but encouraging those present to “go forth with this magnanimity and humility” which accompanied the disciples during their mission in preaching the Gospel.

“The triumph of the Church is the Resurrection of Jesus,” the Pope said. “But there is first the Cross. Today we ask the Lord to become missionaries in the Church, apostles in the Church but in this spirit: a great magnanimity and also a great humility.”

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Pope Francis: Prepare Your Hearts For the Heavenly Homeland
Pontiff Reflects on Christs Words to Disciples During Morning Mass

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY, April 26, 2013  - Staff members from the Vatican Typography, the Vatican Labor Office and Vatican State Police attended the daily Mass celebrated by Pope Francis this morning at Domus Sanctae Marthae. During his homily, the Holy Father spoke on the St. John’s Gospel of Jesus’ words to his disciples: “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”

Pope Francis reflected on the beauty of Christ’s words of farewell which he said were “really from the heart.”

“He knows that his disciples are sad, because they realize that things are not going well,” the Pope said. “He says: Do not let your hearts be troubled. And he starts to talk like that, just like a friend, even with the attitude of a pastor. I say, the music in the words of Jesus is how the pastor should behave, like a shepherd with his sheep, right?”

The Holy Father also reflected on the meaning Jesus’s promise to prepare a dwelling place for the disciples in Heaven, “the definitive homeland.”. To prepare a place, the Pope said, “means preparing our ability to enjoy the chance - our chance - to see, to feel, to understand the beauty of what lies ahead, of that homeland towards which we walk.”

The Eyes of the Soul

Pope Francis stated that Christ not only wishes to prepare a place, but also to prepare our eyes to be able to see the world around us through what he described as “the eyes of the soul”

“Our eyes, the eyes of our soul they need, they have to be prepared to contemplate the beautiful face of Jesus,” the Pope said. “Our hearing must be prepared in order to hear the beautiful things, the beautiful words. Above all our hearts must be prepared: prepared for love, to love more.”

To prepare us for this new vision, he continued, the Lord prepares our hearts “with trials, with consolations, with tribulations, with good things.”

"The whole journey of life is a journey of preparation,” the Pope said. “Sometimes the Lord has to do it quickly, as he did with the good thief. He only had a few minutes to prepare him and he did it. But the normal run of things goes this way, no? In preparing our heart, eyes, hearing to arrive in this homeland. Because that is our homeland.”

Concluding his homily, Pope Francis called on those attending the Mass to not look at this preparation for Heaven as an alienation but as an opportunity to prepare our hearts for the unfathomable beauty that awaits all.

"Preparing for heaven means beginning to greet him from afar. This is not alienation: this is the truth, this is allowing Jesus to prepare our hearts, our eyes for the beauty that is so great. It is the path of beauty and the path to the homeland. "

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Pope Francis: A Worldly Church Is A Weak Church
Pontiff Emphasizes Importance of Constant Prayer In Overcoming Evil

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY, April 30, 2013  - During morning Mass today, Pope Francis emphasized the importance of entrusting the Church to God through constant prayer. The Holy Father celebrated Mass with staff from the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See.

The Pope said that while with our work we can safeguard the Church, what the Lord Lord does is much more important. “He is the only One who can look into the face of evil and overcome it.,” the Pope said. “If we do not want the prince of this world to take the Church into his hands, we must entrust it to the One who can defeat the prince of this world.”

“Here the question arises: do we pray for the Church, for the entire Church? For our brothers and sisters whom we do not know, everywhere in the world? It is the Lord's Church and in our prayer we say to the Lord: Lord, look at your Church. It' s yours. Your Church is [made up of] our brothers and sisters. This is a prayer that must come from our heart.”

While it is easy to pray to the Lord when we need something, Pope Francis said that it is fundamental that we pray for all who have “received the same Baptism.”

"Entrust the Church to the Lord is a prayer that makes the Church grow. It is also an act of faith. We can do nothing, we are poor servants - all of us - of the Church,” Pope Francis said. “It is He who keeps her going and holds her and makes her grow , makes her holy, defends and protects her from the prince of this world and what he wants the Church to become, in short more and more worldly. This is the greatest danger!”

The 76 year old Pontiff warned that a worldly Church, with the spirit of the world within herself, the Church becomes weak, “a defeated Church, unable to transmit the Gospel, the message of the Cross, the scandal of the Cross. She cannot transmit this if she is worldly.”

The Holy Father called on the faithful to entrust the Church, the elderly, the sick, the children and the youth to God in the midst of tribulations. Doing so, he continued, “He will give us, in the midst of tribulations, the peace that only He can give.”

“This peace which the world cannot give, that peace that cannot be bought, that peace which is a true gift of the presence of Jesus in the midst of his Church,” the Holy Father said. “Entrust all this to the Lord, guard your Church in tribulation, so she does not lose faith, so she does not lose hope.”

Pope Francis concluded his homily asking the Lord to give all faithful the strength to not lose faith and hope. “Entrusting the Church to the Lord,” he said, “will do us and the Church good. It will give us great peace [and although] it will not rid us of our tribulations, it will make us stronger in our sufferings.”

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Pope: 'The Church Must Be Courageous'
Emphasizes Importance of Transmitting the Faith During Mass With Swiss Guard

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY, May 03, 2013  - During his daily morning Mass today, Pope Francis reflected on the duty of all Christians to pass on the faith. The Mass was attended by the Pontifical Swiss Guard along with their commander, Daniel Rudolf Anrig. Concelebrating with the Pope was Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.

Addressing the Swiss Guard, Pope Francis greeted them and thanking them for their service which he called “a beautiful testimony of fidelity to the Church and love for the Pope.” The Swiss Guard will be commemorate the Last Stand of 1527 on May 6th where they will also swear in new recruits. The celebration will remember the countless Swiss Guards who died protecting Pope Clement during the Sacking of Rome.

Contemplating on the readings of the day, the Holy Father emphasized the importance of passing on the gift of faith by all Christians with their lives. The fundamental faith, he said, “is faith in the Risen Jesus, in Jesus who has forgiven our sins through His death and reconciled us with the Father.”

"Transmitting this requires us to be courageous: the courage of transmitting the faith. A sometimes simple courage,” the Pope said.

“I remember - excuse me - a personal story: as a child every Good Friday my grandmother took us to the Procession of Candles and at the end of the procession came the recumbent Christ and my grandmother made us kneel down and told us children, 'Look he is dead, but tomorrow he will be Risen! '. That is how the faith entered: faith in Christ Crucified and Risen. In the history of the Church there have been many, many people who have wanted to blur this strong certainty and speak of a spiritual resurrection. No, Christ is alive.”

The Holy Father went on to say that Christ asks of us the courage to not only proclaim His Resurrection, but also the courage to pray and ask Christ when we are in need.

“We must have the courage to go to Jesus and ask him: 'But you said this, do it! Make the faith grow, make evangelization move forward, help me to solve this problem,” the Pope said. “Do we have this courage in prayer? Or do we pray a little, when we can, spending a bit' of time in prayer? But that courage, that parresia (boldness) even in prayer.”

Drawing the examples of Abraham and Moses who had the courage to negotiate on behalf of others, the Holy Father said that such courage was needed in the Church today.

"When the Church loses courage, the Church enters into a lukewarm atmosphere. The lukewarm, lukewarm Christians, without courage,” he said. “That hurts the Church so much, because this tepid atmosphere draws you inside, and problems arise among us; we no longer have the [...] courage to pray towards heaven, or the courage to proclaim the Gospel. We are lukewarm.”

Pope Francis concluded his homily saying that despite the fact that we may have courage to be involved in our jealousies, envy, careers in order to selfishly move forward, such courage is not good for the Church.

The Church, he said, “must be courageous! We all have to be courageous in prayer, in challenging Jesus!.”

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Pontiff Celebrates Mass With Argentine Journalists
Invites Faithful to See the Wounds of Jesus in Those Less Fortunate

By H. Sergio Mora

VATICAN CITY, May 13, 2013  - On Saturday, Pope Francis celebrated his daily Mass in Saint Martha’s residence. At the end of the celebration, he greeted 11 Argentine journalists and their families, all residents in Rome, as correspondents of local newspaper offices , among them ANSA, Clarin, CNN, La Nacion, La7, Notimex and ZENIT.

Also in attendance was the Argentine ambassador to the Holy See, Juan Pablo Cafiero and his wife. Father Antonio Pelayo, correspondent of an Argentine publication and former director of the Foreign Press Association of Italy, concelebrated with the Holy Father.

Journalist Cristina Tacchini of ANSA gave the Pope a poncho from his native Argentina. The children of correspondent Elisabetta Pique showed the Pontiff drawings they made of his person, which accentuated the Pope’s affection. In fact, the presence of journalists’ children was also felt during the Mass, when at the beginning of Mass a little girl stammered “Francis, Francis.”

After greeting the journalists and their families, and saying a few words to them, the Pontiff kept repeating: “Pray for me.”

Pope Francis was also given a book of photographs of northern Italy, where his parents came from, a letter asking for prayers for Uruguayan Father Mauricio Silva, who disappeared in 1977, and a list of sick people in need of prayers. He was also given a huge soccer boot with the signatures of Brazilian players.

In his homily, always serene and conversational, Francis invited those attending to come out of themselves, and to do so by remembering Jesus’ wounds and by recognizing them in needy brothers, the sick, the ignorant, the poor and the exploited.

He quoted the Gospel of the day that invites to “pray to the Father in Jesus’ name.” He said that the prayer that may sometimes bore us “is always inside us, as a thought that comes and goes.” “True prayer,” he said, “is to go out to the Father in the name of Jesus, an exodus from ourselves,” which occurs “with the intercession of Jesus who shows His wounds to the Father. “

The Holy Father added that of all the lacerations that Jesus suffered in the Passion, He only took his wounds with Him. “Which is the school where one learns to know Jesus’ wounds, His priestly wounds of intercession?” He answered indicating: “If we do not come out of ourselves and go to those wounds, we will never learn the freedom that takes us to the other exit from ourselves.”

Because there are two ways to go out. “The first to Jesus’ wounds and the second to the wounds of our brothers and sisters.” Words that are confirmed in John’s Gospel. “Truly, truly I say to you, that whatever you ask the Father in my name, He will give to you.”

“The door is open: in going to the Father, Jesus left the door open. Not because He “forgot to close it” but because “He Himself is the door.”

Pope Francis asked for prayer “with the courage of the one who makes us know that Jesus is before the Father,” and with the “humility to recognize and see the wounds of Jesus in needy brothers.”

“May the Lord give us the freedom to enter into the sanctuary where He is priest and intercedes for us, and what we ask the Father in His name, will be given to us. But we also pray that He will give us the courage to go to that other sanctuary, which are the wounds of our needy brothers and sisters, who suffer, who carry the cross and who have yet to conquer, as Jesus conquered,” concluded the Pope.

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2013-05-15

Pope Francis at Mass: bishops and priests need prayers of faithful

Pray for priests and bishops, that they might not give in to the temptations of money and vanity, but serve the people of God. This was Pope Francis’ exhortation to the faithful at Mass this morning in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae residence in the Vatican, at which there was a group of Vatican Radio staff. Listen: 

Pope Francis’ homily took its starting point from the passage in the Acts of the Apostles, in which Paul exhorts the elders of the Church of Ephesus to watch over themselves and all the flock, to be attentive shepherds, and guard against the “ravenous wolves” that would feed on the fold. “One of the ‘most beautiful pages of the New Testament’,” said Pope Francis, “[the episode] is full of tenderness, of pastoral love,” from which emerges a picture, “[of] the beautiful relationship of the bishop with his people.” Bishops and priests, he explained, are at the service of others, to preserve, build and defend the people of God. Theirs is, “a relationship of protection and love between God and the pastor and the pastor and the people”:

"In the [final analysis], a bishop is not a bishop for himself. He is for the people, and a priest is not a priest for himself. He, [too], is for the people: to serve [them], to nurture them, to shepherd them, that are his flock – in order to defend them from the wolves. It is beautiful to think this! When the bishop does this, there is a good relationship with the people, such as Paul the bishop did with his people, no? And when the priest [builds] that good relationship with the people, it gives us a love: a love [unites] them, a true love, and the Church becomes united.”

Pope Francis went on to describe the relationship of the bishop and the priest with the people as a existential and sacramental. “We [bishops and priests] need your prayers,” he said, “for, even the bishop and the priest may be tempted.” Bishops and priests should pray much, proclaim Jesus Christ Risen, and “boldly preach the message of salvation.” However, he said, “We are men and we are sinners,” and, “we are tempted.”:

"St. Augustine, commenting on the prophet Ezekiel, speaks of two [temptations]: wealth, which can become greed, and vanity. He says, ‘When the bishop, the priest takes advantage of the sheep for himself, the dynamic changes: it is not the priest, the bishop, for the people - but the priest and the bishop who take from the people.’ St. Augustine says, ‘He takes the meat from the sheep to eat [it], he takes advantage; he makes deals and is attached to money; he becomes greedy and even sometimes practices simony. Perhaps he takes advantage of the wool for vanity, in order to vaunt himself.’”

So , the Pope observes, “when a priest, a bishop goes after money, the people do not love him – and that's a sign. But he ends badly.” St. Paul reminds us that he worked with his hands. “He did not have a bank account, he worked, and when a bishop, a priest goes on the road to vanity, he enters into the spirit of careerism – and this hurts the Church very much – [and] ends up being ridiculous: he boasts, he is pleased to be seen, all powerful – and the people do not like that!” “Pray for us,” the Pope repeated, “that we might be poor, that we might be humble, meek, in the service of the people.” Finally, he suggested to the faithful that they read Acts 20:28-30, where Paul says, “Take heed to yourselves, and to the whole flock, wherein the Holy Ghost hath placed you bishops, to rule the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. I know that, after my departure, ravening wolves will enter in among you, not sparing the flock. And of your own selves shall arise men speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.":

“Read this fine passage, and while reading it, pray, pray for us bishops and priests. We have such need in order to stay faithful, to be men who watch over the flock and also over ourselves, who make the vigil their own, that their heart be always turned to [the Lord’s] flock. [Pray] also that the Lord might defend us from temptation, because if we go on the road to riches, if we go on the road to vanity, we become wolves and not shepherds. Pray for this, read this and pray. So be it.”

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2013-05-16

Pope at Mass: An Apostolic nuisance

(Vatican Radio) Saint Paul was the focus of Pope Francis’ homily at Mass Thursday morning, and in particular his talent at ‘being a nuisance’, at unsettling people who had grown too comfortable in their faith and imbuing them with that Apostolic zeal that is necessary for the Church to move forward. Emer McCarthy reports:

Pope Francis said that Apostolic zeal, implies "an element of madness, but of spiritual madness, of healthy madness” and proclaiming Christ has its consequences, which can often result in persecution. Nonetheless, stated the Pope, we must not be ‘backseat Christians’ cozy in our comfort zones.

Drawing inspiration from the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 22, where Paul was brought before the Sanhedrin, Pope Francis pointed out that the life of the Apostle to the Gentiles was one of "persecution", but that this did not discourage him. The fate of Paul, he stressed, "is a fate with many crosses, but he keeps going, he looks to the Lord and keeps going":

"Paul is a nuisance: he is a man who, with his preaching, his work, his attitude irritates others, because testifying to Jesus Christ and the proclamation of Jesus Christ makes us uncomfortable, it threatens our comfort zones – even Christian comfort zones, right? It irritates us. The Lord always wants us to move forward, forward, forward ... not to take refuge in a quiet life or in cozy structures, no?... And Paul, in preaching of the Lord, was a nuisance. But he had deep within him that most Christian of attitudes: Apostolic zeal. He had its apostolic zeal. He was not a man of compromise. No! The truth: forward! The proclamation of Jesus Christ, forward! ".

Pope Francis noted that St. Paul was a "fiery" individual, but this fire was not limited to his character. It was the fire of his zeal for the Lord, who accompanied the Saint in his ‘pitched battles’. Indeed, continued the Pope, it was the Lord who led him "onwards," to bear witness in Jerusalem and in Rome:

"By the way, I like the fact that the Lord has cared for this diocese, even since then ... We are privileged! And Apostolic zeal is not an enthusiasm for power, for possession. It is something that comes from within, that the Lord wants from us: Christian with Apostolic Zeal. And where does this Apostolic Zeal come from? It comes from knowing Jesus Christ. Paul found Jesus Christ, he encountered Jesus Christ, but not with an intellectual, scientific knowledge – which is important, because it helps us - but with that first knowledge, that of the heart, of a personal encounter. "

Pope Francis continued, this is what pushes Paul to keep going, "to always proclaim Jesus". "He was always in trouble, not in trouble for troubles’ sake, but for Jesus, proclaiming Jesus "this is the consequence". Apostolic zeal, the Pope stressed, can only be understood "in an atmosphere of love." Apostolic zeal, implies "an element of madness, but of spiritual madness, of healthy madness”. Paul "had this healthy madness."

The Pope invited all those present to pray to the Holy Spirit for this Apostolic zeal that is not only the preserve of missionaries. Even in the Church, he warned, there are "lukewarm Christians" who "do not feel like moving forward":

"There are backseat Christians, right? Those who are well mannered, who do everything well, but are unable to bring people to the Church through proclamation and Apostolic zeal. Today we can ask the Holy Spirit to give us all this Apostolic fervor and to give us the grace to be annoying when thin are too quiet in the Church the grace to go out to the outskirts of life. The Church has so much need of this! Not only in distant lands, in the young churches, among people who do not know Jesus Christ, but here in the cities, in our cities, they need this proclamation of Jesus Christ. So let us ask the Holy Spirit for this grace of Apostolic zeal, let’s be Christians with apostolic zeal. And if we annoy people, blessed be the Lord. Onwards, as the Lord says to Paul, ‘take courage!'

 Thursday Mass was concelebrated by Cardinal Peter Turkson and Bishop Mario Toso, president and secretary of the Vatican Council for Justice and Peace. It was attended by Council staff and staff from Vatican Radio.

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Reflects on the Life and Humility of St. Peter During Morning Mass

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY, May 17, 2013  - In his homily during Mass at Domus Sanctae Marthae this morning, Pope Francis reflected on the love of Christ and the power it has in redeeming one’s sins. Among those attending the Mass were employees of the Vatican Museums.

The Holy Father spoke on the Gospel which relates the encounter Christ had with Peter, asking him three times if Peter loved Him.

“It is a dialogue of love between the Lord and his disciple, one that retraces the whole history of Peter’s meetings with Jesus, from Peter’s first calling and invitation to follow the Lord, to his receiving the name of Cephas the Rock and with the name, his peculiar mission, which was there, even if Peter understood nothing of it [at the time],” Pope Francis said.

Continuing to speak on the various encounters Peter had with Jesus during his ministry, the Holy Father said that Christ was maturing Peter’s heart and soul while “helping Peter to grow in love.”

“So Peter, when he heard Jesus three times ask him, Simon, son of John, do you love me? was ashamed, because he remembered the time when, three times, he said he did not know the Lord,” the Holy Father said.

“Peter was saddened that, for a third time, Jesus asked him, Do you love me? This pain, this shame, great man, this Peter [and] a sinner, a sinner. The Lord makes him feel that he is a sinner makes us all feel that we are sinners. The problem is not that we are sinners: the problem is not repenting of sin, not being ashamed of what we have done. That's the problem. And Peter has this shame, this humility, no? The sin, the sin of Peter, is a fact that, with a heart as great as the heart Peter had, brings him to a new encounter with Jesus: to the joy of forgiveness.”

The 76 year old Pontiff went on to say that Christ, in asking St. Peter to feed His sheep, kept His promise of establishing Peter as the rock where he built His Church. Despite Peter being a sinner, he was not corrupt.

“I once knew of a priest,” Pope Francis recalled, “a good parish pastor who worked well. He was appointed bishop, and he was ashamed because he did not feel worthy, he had a spiritual torment. And he went to the confessor. The confessor heard him and said, But do not worry. If after the [mess Peter made of things], they made him Pope, then you go ahead! . The point is that this is how the Lord is. Thats the way He is. The Lord makes us mature with many meetings with Him, even with our weaknesses, when we recognize [them], with our sins.”

Pope Francis went on to say that St. Peter, in allowing himself to be shaped by his encounters with Christ, had given a model for all Christians to follow. Peter, the Pope said, “ is great, not because he is good, but because he has a nobility of heart, which brings him to tears, leads him to this pain, this shame - and also to take up his work of shepherding the flock.”

Concluding his homily, the Holy Father invited those present at the Mass to follow the example of St. Peter, who allowed himself to be purified and matured through his encounters with Christ.

“More than this, it is important that we let ourselves encounter the Lord: He always seeks us, He is always near us. Many times, though, we look the other way because we do not want to talk with the Lord or allow ourselves to encounter the Lord. Meeting the Lord [is important], but more importantly, let us be met by the Lord: this is a grace. This is the grace that Peter teaches us,” the Pope said.

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Posted on Wed, May 22, 2013    At this morning’s morning Mass in the Vatican guest house, the pope elaborated on that theme, saying that “doing good” is a principle that provides a meeting ground between Christians and non-Christians – even atheists.

"The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class!” the pope said.

His words should challenge all Catholics, but especially those who want to use identity politics to rule out cooperation and communication with those who do not share the church’s beliefs.

Pope Francis began his reflection with the Gospel account of Christ’s disciples trying to stop a man from outside their group from doing good. Vatican Radio reports on what the pope went on to say:

“They complain … ‘If he is not one of us, he cannot do good. If he is not of our party, he cannot do good.’ And Jesus corrects them: ‘Do not hinder him, he says, let him do good.’”

The disciples, Pope Francis explained, “were a little intolerant,” closed off by the idea of possessing the truth, convinced that “those who do not have the truth, cannot do good.”

“This was wrong . . . Jesus broadens the horizon. The root of this possibility of doing good – that we all have – is in creation.”

"The Lord created us in His image and likeness, and we are the image of the Lord, and He does good and all of us have this commandment at heart: do good and do not do evil. All of us. ‘But, Father, this person is not Catholic! He cannot do good.’ Yes, he can. He must. Not can: must! Because he has this commandment within him.”

“Instead, this ‘closing off’ that imagines that those outside, everyone, cannot do good is a wall that leads to war and also to what some people throughout history have conceived of: killing in the name of God. That we can kill in the name of God. And that, simply, is blasphemy. To say that you can kill in the name of God is blasphemy.”

“The Lord has created us in His image and likeness, and has given us this commandment in the depths of our heart: do good and do not do evil”:

"The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class! We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all! And we all have a duty to do good. And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.”

“Doing good” the pope said, is not a matter of faith. “It is a duty, it is an identity card that our Father has given to all of us, because He has made us in His image and likeness. And He does good, always.”

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Explanatory Note on the Meaning of 'Salvation' in Francis' Daily Homily of May 22
Reflections on Atheists, Christians, and Who Will Be Saved

By Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB

TORONTO, May 23, 2013 - I have received numerous calls and messages throughout the day yesterday and again today regarding Pope Francis’ daily homily in the Chapel of Domus Sanctae Marthae on Wednesday May 22, 2013. The homily was inspired by the passage in the Gospel of Mark (9:38-40) in which the disciples tell Jesus that they tried to stop someone from driving out demons because he was not one of their party. Jesus rebukes them saying: “There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me. For whoever is not against us is for us.”


In one section of his homily, Pope Francis stated: "The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class! We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all! And we all have a duty to do good. And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.”

Your questions can be summed up under three categories:

1) How can atheists be saved?

2) Is Pope Francis describing some kind of “anonymous Christianity” at work in the world today?

3) What are the implications of the Pope’s homily for daily living?

I have prepared some brief thoughts and responses to these questions. They flow from my own theological studies, from five years living in the Middle East, in a Christian minority in Israel, Palestine, Jordan and Egypt as well as working in Interreligious dialogue with Jews and Muslims for many years. I have also had much to do with atheists and agnostics on secular university campuses in Canada.

1) Always keep in mind the audience and context of Pope Francis’ daily homilies. He is first and foremost a seasoned pastor and preacher who has much experience in reaching people. His words are not spoken in the context of a theological faculty or academy nor in interreligious dialogue or debate. He speaks in the context of the Mass, offering reflections on the Word of God. He is speaking to other Catholics and religious leaders. His knowledge, rooted in deep, Catholic theology and tradition are able to be expressed in a language that everyone can understand and appropriate. This is not a gift given to every pastor and theologian! Is it any wonder why so many people are drawn to Pope Francis’ words? Is it any wonder why so many ... read daily homilies of a Pope, discuss them and raise questions about what they read?

2) Pope Francis has no intention of provoking a theological debate on the nature of salvation through his homily or scriptural reflection when he stated that “God has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone!” Consider these sections of the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church that offer the Church’s teaching on who will be “saved” and how.

135. How will Christ judge the living and the dead?

Christ will judge with the power he has gained as the Redeemer of the world who came to bring salvation to all. The secrets of hearts will be brought to light as well as the conduct of each one toward God and toward his neighbor. Everyone, according to how he has lived, will either be filled with life or damned for eternity. In this way, “the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13) will come about in which “God will be all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28).

152. What does it mean to say that the Church is the universal sacrament of salvation?

This means that she is the sign and instrument both of the reconciliation and communion of all of humanity with God and of the unity of the entire human race.

162. Where does the one Church of Christ subsist?

The one Church of Christ, as a society constituted and organized in the world, subsists in (subsistit in) the Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and the bishops in communion with him. Only through this Church can one obtain the fullness of the means of salvation since the Lord has entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant to the apostolic college alone whose head is Peter.

166. Why is the Church called “Catholic”?

The Church is catholic, that is universal, insofar as Christ is present in her: “Where there is Christ Jesus, there is the Catholic Church” (Saint Ignatius of Antioch). The Church proclaims the fullness and the totality of the faith; she bears and administers the fullness of the means of salvation; she is sent out by Christ on a mission to the whole of the human race.

171. What is the meaning of the affirmation “Outside the Church there is no salvation”?

This means that all salvation comes from Christ, the Head, through the Church which is his body. Hence they cannot be saved who, knowing the Church as founded by Christ and necessary for salvation, would refuse to enter her or remain in her. At the same time, thanks to Christ and to his Church, those who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ and his Church but sincerely seek God and, moved by grace, try to do his will as it is known through the dictates of conscience can attain eternal salvation.

3) The scriptures tell us expressly that God wants everyone to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4); the covenant of peace which God made with Noah after the flood has never been abrogated: on the contrary, the Son of God himself has sealed it with the authority of his self-sacrificing love embracing all people. Pope Francis warns Catholics not to demonize those who are not members of the church, and he specifically defended atheists, saying that building walls against non-Catholics leads to “killing in the name of God.

4) The great German Jesuit theolgian, Fr. Karl Rahner introduced the idea of “anonymous Christian” into theological reflection. Through this concept, offered to Christians, Rahner said that God desires all people to be saved, and cannot possibly consign all non-Christians to hell. Secondly, Jesus Christ is God’s only means of salvation. This must mean that the non-Christians who end up in heaven must have received the grace of Christ without their realising it. Hence the term – ‘anonymous Christian’.

What is meant by this thesis of the anonymous Christian is also taught in “Lumen Gentium,” the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of Vatican II (no.16). According to this document those who have not yet received the gospel and this without any fault of their own are given the possibility of eternal salvation...God ‘in the unknown ways’ of his grace can give the faith without which there is no salvation even to those who have not yet heard the preaching of the gospel

Catholics do not adopt the attitude of religious relativism which regards all religions as on the whole equally justifiable, and the confusion and disorder among them as relatively unimportant. God truly and effectively wills all people to be saved. Catholics believe that it is only in Jesus Christ that this salvation is conferred, and through Christianity and the one Church that it must be mediated to all people.

5) There is always a risk in interreligious dialogue or dialogue with atheists and agnostics today that reduces all discussions to mere politeness and irrelevance. Dialogue does not mean compromise. There can and must be dialogue today: dialogue in genuine freedom and not merely in that ‘toleration’ and co-existence where one puts up with one’s opponent merely because one does not have the power to destroy him. This dialogue must of course be conducted with a loving attitude. The Christian knows that love alone is the highest light of knowledge and that what St Paul says about love must therefore be valid of dialogue.

6) A non-Christian may reject a Christian’s presentation of the gospel of Christ. That however, does not necessarily mean that the person has truly rejected Christ and God. Rejection of Christianity may not mean the rejection of Christ. For if a given individual rejects the Christianity brought to him through the Church’s preaching, even then we are still never in any position to decide whether this rejection as it exists in the concrete signifies a grave fault or an act of faithfulness to one’s own conscience. We can never say with ultimate certainty whether a non-Christian who has rejected Christianity and who, in spite of a certain encounter with Christianity, does not become a Christian, is still following the temporary path mapped out for his own salvation which is leading him to an encounter with God, or whether he has now entered upon the way of perdition.

8) The Scriptures teach that God regards the love shown to a neighbor as love shown to Himself. Therefore the loving relationship between a person and his or her neighbor indicates a loving relationship between that person and God. This is not to say that the non-Christian is able to perform these acts of neighborly love without the help of God. Rather these acts of love are in fact evidence of God’s activity in the person.

9) As Christians, we believe that God is always reaching out to humanity in love. This means that every man or woman, whatever their situation, can be saved. Even non-Christians can respond to this saving action of the Spirit. No person is excluded from salvation simply because of so-called original sin; one can only lose their salvation through serious personal sin of their own account.

In the mind of Pope Francis, especially expressed in his homily of May 22, “Doing good” is a principle that unites all humanity, beyond the diversity of ideologies and religions, and creates the “culture of encounter” that is the foundation of peace.

Finally, I encourage you to read the final section of Pope John Paul II’s masterful address to the 50thGeneral Assembly of the United Nations Organization in New York City on October 5, 1995.

17. As a Christian, my hope and trust are centered on Jesus Christ, the two thousandth anniversary of whose birth will be celebrated at the coming of the new millennium. We Christians believe that in his Death and Resurrection were fully revealed God's love and his care for all creation. Jesus Christ is for us God made man, and made a part of the history of humanity. Precisely for this reason, Christian hope for the world and its future extends to every human person. Because of the radiant humanity of Christ, nothing genuinely human fails to touch the hearts of Christians. Faith in Christ does not impel us to intolerance. On the contrary, it obliges us to engage others in a respectful dialogue. Love of Christ does not distract us from interest in others, but rather invites us to responsibility for them, to the exclusion of no one and indeed, if anything, with a special concern for the weakest and the suffering. Thus, as we approach the two thousandth anniversary of the birth of Christ, the Church asks only to be able to propose respectfully this message of salvation, and to be able to promote, in charity and service, the solidarity of the entire human family.

Ladies and Gentlemen! I come before you, as did my predecessor Pope Paul VI exactly thirty years ago, not as one who exercises temporal power — these are his words — nor as a religious leader seeking special privileges for his community. I come before you as a witness: a witness to human dignity, a witness to hope, a witness to the conviction that the destiny of all nations lies in the hands of a merciful Providence.

18. We must overcome our fear of the future. But we will not be able to overcome it completely unless we do so together. The "answer" to that fear is neither coercion nor repression, nor the imposition of one social "model" on the entire world. The answer to the fear which darkens human existence at the end of the twentieth century is the common effort to build the civilization of love, founded on the universal values of peace, solidarity, justice, and liberty. And the "soul" of the civilization of love is the culture of freedom: the freedom of individuals and the freedom of nations, lived in self-giving solidarity and responsibility.

We must not be afraid of the future. We must not be afraid of man. It is no accident that we are here. Each and every human person has been created in the "image and likeness" of the One who is the origin of all that is. We have within us the capacities for wisdom and virtue. With these gifts, and with the help of God's grace, we can build in the next century and the next millennium a civilization worthy of the human person, a true culture of freedom. We can and must do so! And in doing so, we shall see that the tears of this century have prepared the ground for a new springtime of the human spirit.

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May 24, 2013.  During Friday's morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta Chapel, the Pope explained that Christians need to be patient when faced with difficulties. He encouraged them to respond with love and forgiveness even when it's challenging.


POPE FRANCIS
“To suffer is to accept life's difficulties and carry them with strength. That way the difficulty does not drag us down. To carry it with strength: this is a Christian virtue! Saint Paul says several times: Suffer, endure. This means do not let yourselves be overcome by difficulties. This means that a Christian has the strength to not give up, to carry difficulties with strength. Carry them, but carry them with strength. It is not easy, because discouragement comes, and one has the urge to give up and say, ‘Well, come on, we’ll do what we can but no more.’ But no, it is a grace to suffer. In difficulties, we must ask for this grace, in difficulty.”

Since it was the Day of Prayer for the Church in China, Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-Fai, Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, and a group from China also attended the Mass.

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Pope at Mass: Following Christ is not a career, it is the way of the Cross

2013-05-28

We should not reduce the proclamation of Jesus to being a mere cultural ‘gloss’ or ‘veneer’, it must go ‘straight to the heart’ and change us. Moreover, following Jesus ‘does not mean more power’, it is not a ‘career’ because His way is that of the Cross. This was the focus of Pope Francis’ homily at morning Mass Tuesday in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta residence. Emer McCarthy reports:

What is our reward in following you? Pope Francis began with the question Peter puts to Jesus. A question, he said, which in the end concerns the life of every Christian. Jesus says that those who follow Him will have "many good things" but "with persecution." The path of the Lord, he continued, "is a road of humility, a road that ends in the Cross." That is why, he added, "there will always be difficulties," "persecution." There will always be, "because He travelled this road before" us. The Pope warned that "when a Christian has no difficulties in life – when everything is fine, everything is beautiful - something is wrong." It leads us to think that he or she is "a great friend of the spirit of the world, of worldliness." The Pope noted this "is a temptation particular to Christians":

"Following Jesus, yes, but up to a certain point: following Jesus because of culture: I am a Christian, I have this culture ... But without the necessity of true discipleship of Jesus, the necessity to travel this His road. If you follow Jesus as a cultural proposal, then you are using this road to get higher up, to have more power. And the history of the Church is full of this, starting with some emperors and then many rulers and many people, no? And even some - I will not say a lot, but some - priests, bishops, no? Some say that there are many ... but they are those who think that following Jesus is a career. "

The Pope recalled that at one time, "in the literature of two centuries ago," it would sometimes be stated that someone "from the time he was a child wanted a career in the church." Here the Pope reiterated that "many Christians, tempted by the spirit of the world, think that following Jesus is good because it can become a career, they can get ahead." But this "is not the spirit". Instead it is Peter’s attitude when he speaks to Jesus about careers and Jesus answers: "Yes, I will give everything with persecution." "You cannot remove the Cross from the path of Jesus, it is always there." Yet, Pope Francis warned, this does not mean that Christians must hurt themselves. The Christian "follows Jesus out of love and when you follow Jesus out of love, the devil’s envy does many things." The "spirit of the world will not tolerate this, does not tolerate this witness":

"Think of Mother Teresa: what does the spirit of the world say of Mother Teresa? 'Ah, Blessed Teresa is a beautiful woman, she did a lot of good things for others ...'. The spirit of the world never says that the Blessed Teresa spent, every day, many hours, in adoration ... Never! It reduces Christian activity to doing social good. As if Christian life was a gloss, a veneer of Christianity. The proclamation of Jesus is not a veneer: the proclamation of Jesus goes straight to the bones, heart, goes deep within and change us. And the spirit of the world does not tolerate it, will not tolerate it, and therefore, there is persecution. "

Pope Francis said those who leave their home, their family to follow Jesus, receive a hundred times as much "already now in this age." A hundred times together with persecution. And this should not be forgotten:

"Following Jesus is just that: going with Him out of love, behind Him: on the same journey, the same path. And the spirit of the world will not tolerate this and what will make us suffer, but suffering as Jesus did. Let us ask for this grace: to follow Jesus in the way that He has revealed to us and that He has taught us. This is beautiful, because he never leaves us alone. Never! He is always with us. So be it".

Mass was concelebrated by Archbishop Rino Fisichella and Msgr. José Octavio Ruiz Arenas, president and secretary of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization. It was attended by a group of priests from the Council and staff from the Vatican Power Station and Technical Laboratory of the Governorate of Vatican carpentry, accompanied by Engineer Pier Carlo Cuscianna, Director of Technical Services of the Governorate.

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May 29, 2013. During his daily morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta chapel, Pope Francis warned about the dangers of having a Church that only seeks success or triumphs.  He said following the Cross, which to society may appear to be a failure, is actually the true path of love. He said:

 “Triumphalism in the Church, impedes the Church. Triumphalism among Christians, impedes Christians. A triumphalist, half-way Church that is a Church that is content with what it is or has, well sorted , well organized with all its offices, everything in order, everything perfect no? Efficient. But a Church that denies its martyrs, because it does not know that martyrs are needed for the journey towards the Cross. A Church that only thinks about triumphs, successes, does not know the rule of Jesus: the rule of triumph through failure, human failure, the failure of the Cross. And this is a temptation that we all have.”

“I remember once, I was in a dark moment in my spiritual life and I asked a favor from the Lord. Then I went to preach the annual spiritual retreat to nuns and on the last day they made their confession. One elderly nun, over 80 years of age, but with clear, bright eyes came to confession: she was a woman of God. In the end I saw that she really was a woman of God so I said ‘ Sister, as penance, pray for me, because I need a grace, OK? If you ask the Lord for this grace on my behalf, I am sure to receive it'. She stopped for a moment, as if in prayer, and said, 'Of course the Lord will grant you this grace, but do not be deceived: in His own divine manner’. This did me a lot of good. To hear that the Lord always gives us what we ask for, but in His own divine way. And this is the divine way to the very end. The divine way involves the Cross, not out of masochism: no, no! Out of love. For love, to the very end.”

“Let us ask the Lord for the grace that we may not be a half-way Church, a triumphalist Church, of great successes, but a humble Church, that walks with decision, just like Jesus. Forward, forward, forward. With a heart open to the will of the Father, just like Jesus. We ask for this grace”.

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May 31, 2013During his daily Mass at the Vatican's Casa Santa Marta, the Pope invited Christians to embrace happiness and to not live life with a 'funeral face.' The Pope explained that the Holy Spirit brings Christians a special joy that should lead them to praise God. 

POPE FRANCIS

“It is precisely the Holy Spirit who guides us: He is the author of joy. And it's this joy in the Spirit that gives us true Christian freedom. Without joy, Christians can't be free. We become slaves of our sadness. The great Paul VI said that you can't transmit the Gospel, with sad, distrustful, or pessimistic Christians.  You cannot! You can't have that type of attitude. Sometimes it seems like Christians are going to a funeral procession instead praising God. This joy comes from praise, a praise of Mary, that praise that  Zephaniah spoke of. That same praise of Simon and of Ana: Praise God!

He went on to explain that to truly find meaning in prayer, one must be willing to invest one's time  praying and praising God, even if it seems like one's wasting time.

POPE FRANCIS

“Here at Mass, I ask you: do you praise God or do you simply ask of Him and give thanks. Do you truly praise God? This is something new, it's new to our spiritual life. It's about praising God, about going out of ourselves and getting lost in time praising God. Some will say 'but Mass is so long.' If you don't praise God, you don't understand the joyful attitude that comes with praise, even if you're wasting time, praising Him in that long Mass. But if you welcome the attitude of praise, it's beautiful! Eternity will be about Praising God! It won't be boring, it will be beautiful! This joy makes us free.”

The Mass was attended by a group of employees from the Vatican's economic department and from the Swiss Guard.

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Fr. Lombardi's Statement on Questions Regarding Pope's Daily Homilies

By Fr. Federico Lombardi

VATICAN CITY, May 29, 2013  - The very great interest aroused by the Pope’s brief homilies in the course of the Masses celebrated every morning in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta, poses and continues to pose often the question from different parts on the possibility to access such celebrations or such homilies fully and not through the syntheses published every day by Vatican Radio and L’Osservatore Romano.

The question is understandable and has been taken several times into consideration and made the object of profound reflection, and merits a clear answer. First of all, it is necessary to keep in mind the character that the Holy Father himself attributes to the morning celebration of the Mass at Saint Martha’s.

It is a Mass with the presence of not a small group of faithful (generally more than 50 people) but whose character of familiarity the Pope intends to preserve. Because of this, despite the requests received, he has asked explicitly that it not be transmitted live on video or audio.

As regards to the homilies, they are not given on the basis of a written text, but spontaneously, in Italian, a language the Pope knows very well, but it isn’t his mother tongue. Hence, an “integral” publication would necessarily entail a transcription and a rewriting of the text on several points, given that the written form is different from the oral, which in this case is the original form chosen intentionally by the Holy Father. In short, there would have to be a revision by the Holy Father himself, but the result would be clearly “something else,” which is not what the Holy Father intends to do every morning.

After careful reflection, therefore, it was decided that the best way to make the richness of the Pope’s homilies accessible to a wider public, without altering their nature, is to publish an ample synthesis, rich also in original quoted phrases that reflect the genuine flavor of the Pope’s expressions. It is what L’Osservatore Romano is committed to doing every day, whereas Vatican Radio, on the basis of its characteristic nature, offers a briefer synthesis, but accompanied also with some passages of the original recorded audio, as well as CTV which offers a video-clip corresponding to one of the inserted audios published by Vatican Radio.

It is necessary to insist on the fact that, in the whole of the Pope’s activity, the difference is carefully preserved between the various situations and celebrations, as well as the different levels of commitment of his pronouncements. Thus, on the occasion of public celebrations or activities of the Pope, broadcast live on television or radio, the homilies or addresses are transcribed and published in full. On the occasion of more familiar and private celebrations, the specific character of the situation is respected, of the spontaneity and familiarity of the Holy Father’s expressions. Hence the chosen solution respects first of all the will of the Pope and the nature of the morning celebration and at the same time it enables a wide public to access the principal messages that the Holy Father offers the faithful also in this circumstance.

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Pope Francis' Condolence Telegram For the Death of Cardinal Lorenzo Antonetti

VATICAN CITY, April 10, 2013 - Cardinal Lorenzo Antonetti passed away at dawn this morning. The Cardinal-deacon was titular pastor of the church of S. Agnese in Agone (Rome), President Emeritus of Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, and Pontifical delegate for the Patriarchal Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi.

Here is the translation of the condolence telegram for the Cardinal's death, sent by the Holy Father, Pope Francis, to the Bishop Franco Giulio Brambilla of Novara:

* * *

To His Most Reverend Excellency

Bishop Franco Giulio Brambilla,

Bishop of Novara

Upon learning with sadness of the death of the revered Cardinal Lorenzo Antonetti, I wish to express my feelings of heartfelt sympathy to this diocesan community, which counts him among its most illustrious sons, as well as to his nephew Mario, his other nephews and nieces and respective relatives and to all those who have known and esteemed him.

I recall how the Cardinal, whose passing we grieve, was a zealous collaborator with the Holy See for many years, particularly as the papal representative in several countries, in the Secretariat of State, then as President of Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See and finally, as Pontifical Delegate for the Papal Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi: everywhere, he rendered a much-appreciated witness of fervent priestly zeal and faithfulness to the Gospel. While I raise fervent prayers to the Lord Jesus that, with the intercession of the Virgin Mary, he may deign to grant the deceased Cardinal the eternal reward promised to his faithful disciples, I send your Excellency, the entire presbyterate and all those who share in the sorrow for his passing, a comforting special Apostolic blessing.

FRANCISCUS PP.

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Pope Appoints Group of Cardinals to Advise on Church Governance
Will Also Study Plan for Revising Apostolic Constitution on Roman Curia

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY, April 15, 2013  - In a communique released by the Vatican Secretariat of State, Pope Francis has established a group of 8 cardinals from around the world to advise him in the government of the Universal Church, as well as “to study a plan for revising the Apostolic Constitution on the Roman Curia, “Pastor Bonus”.

The establishment of the group follows a suggestion that was made during the General Congregations prior to the conclave that elected Pope Francis as Supreme Pontiff.

The group of Cardinals consists of Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, President of the Governorate of Vatican City State; Cardinal Francisco Javier Errázuriz Ossa, Archbishop emeritus of Santiago de Chile, Chile; Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay, India; Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Archbishop of Munich and Freising, Germany; Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, Archbishop of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo; Cardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley O.F.M. Cap., Archbishop of Boston, USA; Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, Australia; Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, S.D.B., Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, who will serve as coordinator; and Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Albano, Italy, who will serve as secretary.

Following the communique, the Holy See Press Office stated that the announcement shows Holy Father’s attentiveness to the suggestions made by the College of Cardinals, “his closest collaborators.”

“It is a group, not a commission, committee, or council. The Group has no legislative power and its main function is to advise the Pope. The Group will not in any way interfere in the normal functions of the Roman Curia, which helps the Pope in the daily governance of the Church,” the statement by the Holy See Press Office said.

The Holy See Press Office also stated that although the group will also assist in revisions to the Apostolic Constitution, “Pastor Bonus”, which relates to the Roman Curia, the Holy Father showed and expressed his “deep gratitude for their hard work, especially over the past two months.”

According to the Secretariat of State’s communique, the group's first meeting has been scheduled for 1-3 October 2013. “His Holiness is, however, currently in contact with the aforementioned cardinals,” the communique concluded.

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Pope Francis Makes Telephone Call to Italian President

Expresses Gratitude and Admiration to Newly Re-elected Head of State

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY, April 25, 2013 - The Holy Father made a telephone call yesterday to Giorgio Napolitano, the newly re-elected president of the Italian Republic. Napolitano had recently sent a telegram to Pope Francis, wishing him well during the Feast of St. George on Tuesday.

St. George is the namesake of the Holy Father, whose name is Jorge Mario Bergoglio.

According to a communique released by the Holy See Press Office, the Pope expressed his gratitude and his admiration for the Italian president.

“Mr. President, I called to thank you for your example,” Pope Francis told the president. “You have been an example for me. With your conduct, you have brought to life the fundamental principle of coexistence: that unity is greater than conflict. I am touched by your decision.”

On Monday, Napolitano became the first Italian president to be re-elected to a second term. The 87 year old head of state accepted his election due to the inconclusive general elections in February that has caused a major institutional crisis in the country

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Pope Francis' Address to Members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission

VATICAN CITY, April 12, 2013  - Here is the translation of the address delivered by Pope Francis to the members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission earlier today. The commission concluded their Plenary Assembly under the theme: “Inspiration and Truth of the Bible.”

* * *

Venerable Brother,

Dear Members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission,

I am happy to welcome you at the end of your annual Plenary Assembly. I thank the president, Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Muller, for his greeting and his concise exposition of the topic which was the object of attentive reflection in the course of your works. You came together again to reflect on a very important argument: the inspiration and truth of the Bible. It is a topic that concerns not only the individual believer, but the whole Church, because the life and mission of the Church are founded on the Word of God, which is the soul of theology and, at the same time, the inspiration of all Christian existence.

As we know, the Sacred Scriptures are the written testimony of the Divine Word, the canonical memorial that awaits the event of Revelation. Hence the Word of God precedes and exceeds the Bible. It is because of this that our faith does not only have a book at the center, but a history of salvation and above all a Person, Jesus Christ., Word of God made flesh. Precisely because the horizon of the Divine Word embraces and extends beyond Scripture, to understand it adequately the constant presence of the Holy Spirit is necessary, who “guides all to the truth” (John 16:13). We must place ourselves in the current of the great Tradition that, under the assistance of the Holy Spirit and the guidance of the Magisterium, has recognized the canonical writings as Word addressed by God to his people and has never ceased to meditate on them and discover in them inexhaustible riches. The Second Vatican Council confirmed this with great clarity in the Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum: “For all of what has been said about the way of interpreting Scripture is subject finally to the judgment of the Church, which carries out the divine commission and ministry of guarding and interpreting the word of God.” (n. 12).

As the aforementioned Constitution reminds us, there is an indissoluble unity between Sacred Scripture and Tradition, because both come from the same source: “There exists a close connection and communication between Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture. For both of them, flowing from the same divine wellspring, in a certain way merge into a unity and tend toward the same end. For Sacred Scripture is the word of God inasmuch as it is consigned to writing under the inspiration of the divine Spirit, while sacred tradition takes the word of God entrusted by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, and hands it on to their successors in its full purity, so that led by the light of the Spirit of truth, they may in proclaiming it preserve this word of God faithfully, explain it, and make it more widely known. Consequently it is not from Sacred Scripture alone that the Church draws her certainty about everything which has been revealed. Therefore both sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture are to be accepted and venerated with the same sense of loyalty and reverence.” (Ibid., 9).

Hence the exegete must be attentive to perceiving the Word of God present in the biblical texts, placing them within the faith itself of the Church. The interpretation of the Sacred Scriptures cannot be only an individual scientific effort, but must always be compared, inserted and authenticated by the living tradition of the Church. This norm is decisive in specifying the correct and reciprocal relation of exegesis and the Magisterium of the Church. The texts inspired by God have been entrusted to the community of believers, to the Church of Christ, to nourish the faith and guide the life of charity. Respect for this profound nature of the Scriptures conditions the very validity and efficacy of the biblical hermeneutic. This highlights the insufficiency of every subjective interpretation or simply limited analysis incapable of receiving in itself that global sense that in the course of the centuries has constituted the Tradition of the whole People of God, which “in credendo falli nequit” (Conc. Ecum. Vat. II, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 12).

Dear Brothers, I wish to end my address expressing to you all my gratitude, encouraging you in your precious work. May the Lord Jesus Christ, Word of God Incarnate and Divine Teacher, who opened the mind and heart of his disciples to the intelligence of the Scriptures (cf. Luke 24:45), always guide and sustain your activity. May the Virgin Mary, model of docility and obedience to the Word of God, teach you to receive fully the inexhaustible richness of Sacred Scripture not only through intellectual research, but in prayer and in all your life of believers, above all in this Year of Faith, so that your work contributes to make the light of Sacred Scripture shine in the heart of the faithful. Wishing you a fruitful continuation of your activities, I invoke upon you the light of the Holy Spirit and I impart to all my Apostolic Blessing.

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Pope's Address to the Papal Foundation

VATICAN CITY, April 12, 2013  - Here is the text of Pope Francis' address yesterday to the members of the Papal Foundation on their annual pilgrimage to Rome.

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Dear Friends,
I am pleased to meet the members of The Papal Foundation during your pilgrimage to Rome, and I thank Cardinal Wuerl for his kind words. I very much appreciate your prayers as I begin my ministry as the Bishop of Rome and pastor of the universal Church. In the twenty-five years that have passed since the Foundation was established, you and your associates have helped the Successor of Saint Peter by supporting a number of apostolates and charities especially close to his heart. In these years, you have contributed significantly to the growth of local Churches in developing countries by supporting, among other things, the continuing formation of their clergy and religious, the provision of shelter, medical assistance and care to the poor and needy, and the creation of much-needed educational and employment opportunities.

For all of this, I am deeply grateful. The needs of God’s people throughout the world are great, and your efforts to advance the Church’s mission are helping to fight the many forms of material and spiritual poverty present in our human family, and to contribute to the growth of fraternity and peace. May the fiftieth anniversary of the Encyclical Pacem in Terris, which falls today, serve as an incentive for your commitment to promoting reconciliation and peace at every level. During this Easter season, when the Church invites us to give thanks for God’s mercy and the new life we have received from the risen Christ, I pray that you will experience the joy born of gratitude for the Lord’s many gifts, and seek to serve him in the least of his brothers and sisters.

The work of The Papal Foundation is above all one of spiritual solidarity with the Successor of Peter. I ask you, then, to continue to pray for my ministry, for the needs of the Church, and in a particular way for the conversion of minds and hearts to the beauty, goodness and truth of the Gospel. With great affection I commend you and your families to the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, and cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of joy and peace in the Risen Lord.

[Original text: English]

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On Bearing Witness

VATICAN CITY, April 15, 2013 - Here is a translation of the address delivered by Pope Francis before and after the recitation of the Regina Caeli yesterday to the faithful gathered at St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters, hello!

I would like to reflect briefly on the passage from the Acts of the Apostles that is read in the liturgy of this third Sunday of Easter. This text reports that the first preaching of the Apostles in Jerusalem filled the city with the news that Jesus was truly risen, according to the Scriptures, and that he was the Messiah proclaimed by the prophets. The high priests and the leaders of the city tried to destroy the community of believers in Christ at its birth and had the Apostles imprisoned, ordering them not to stop teaching in his name. But Peter and the other 11 answered: “God must be obeyed rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus ... God exalted him at his right hand as leader and savior ... and we are the witnesses of these things together with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 5:29-32). So, they had the Apostles flogged and ordered them again to stop speaking in the name of Jesus. And they went away, the Scripture says, “rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name of Jesus” (5:41).

I ask myself: Where did the first disciples find the power for this witness of theirs? And, moreover: Where did their joy and courage to preach despite the obstacles and violence come from? Let us not forget that the Apostles were simple people; they were not scribes, doctors of the law, nor did they belong to the priestly class. How were they able, with their limits and adversaries among the authorities, to fill Jerusalem with their teaching (cf. Acts 5:28)? It is clear that only the presence of the risen Lord with them and the action of the Holy Spirit can explain this fact. The Lord who was with them and the Spirit who moved them to preach explain this extraordinary fact. Their faith was based upon an experience of the dead and risen Christ that was so powerful and personal that they were not afraid of anyone or anything, and indeed they saw persecutions as a badge of honor that allowed them to follow in Jesus’ footsteps and to be like him, bearing witness with their life.

This story about the first Christian community tells us something very important, which is relevant for the Church in every age and for us too: when a person truly knows Jesus Christ and believes in him, he experiences his presence in life and the power of his Resurrection and he cannot do anything but communicate this experience. And if this person meets with misunderstanding or adversity, he conducts himself as Jesus did in his Passion: he responds with love and with the power of truth.

Praying the “Regina Caeli” together, asking for the help of Mary Most Holy that the Church might proclaim the Resurrection of the Lord with boldness and courage in all the world and bear it valid witness with signs of fraternal love. Fraternal love is the nearest testimony that we can give that Jesus is alive among us, the risen Jesus. Let us pray in a special way for persecuted Christians; in this time there are many Christians who suffer persecution, many, many, in many countries: let us pray for them, with love, from our heart. May they feel the living and comforting presence of the risen Lord.

[Following the recitation of the “Regina Caeli” the Holy Father greeted those present:]

Yesterday in Venice Don Luca Passi, a priest of Bergamo who lived in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and founded the Lay Work of Santa Dorotea and the Institute of the Sister Teachers of Santa Dorotea, was proclaimed blessed. Let us thank God for the witness of this holy man!

Today in Italy we celebrate the Day of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart. This year the theme is “The new generations beyond the crisis.” This institution, born from the mind and heart of Fr. Agostino Gemelli, and with much popular support, has prepared thousands and thousands of young people to be competent and responsible citizens, builders of the common good. I invite you always to support this institution so that it continue to offer an optimal formation to new generations to face the challenges of the present.

[...]

I wish everyone a good Sunday and a good lunch!

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Pope Francis' Homily at St. Paul Outside the Walls

VATICAN CITY, April 15, 2013  - Here is the full text of Pope Francis' homily at yesterday's mass in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome. Proclamation, witness, and worship were the three key ideas on which Pope Francis focused in his homily, with especial emphasis on those who suffer for their witness to the Faith.

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

It is a joy for me to celebrate Mass with you in this Basilica. I greet the Archpriest, Cardinal James Harvey, and I thank him for the words that he has addressed to me. Along with him, I greet and thank the various institutions that form part of this Basilica, and all of you. We are at the tomb of Saint Paul, a great yet humble Apostle of the Lord, who proclaimed him by word, bore witness to him by martyrdom and worshipped him with all his heart. These are the three key ideas on which I would like to reflect in the light of the word of God that we have heard: proclamation, witness, worship.

In the First Reading, what strikes us is the strength of Peter and the other Apostles. In response to the order to be silent, no longer to teach in the name of Jesus, no longer to proclaim his message, they respond clearly: We must obey God, rather than men. And they remain undeterred even when flogged, ill-treated and imprisoned. Peter and the Apostles proclaim courageously, fearlessly, what they have received: the Gospel of Jesus. And we? Are we capable of bringing the word of God into the environment in which we live? Do we know how to speak of Christ, of what he represents for us, in our families, among the people who form part of our daily lives? Faith is born from listening, and is strengthened by proclamation.

But let us take a further step: the proclamation made by Peter and the Apostles does not merely consist of words: fidelity to Christ affects their whole lives, which are changed, given a new direction, and it is through their lives that they bear witness to the faith and to the proclamation of Christ. In todays Gospel, Jesus asks Peter three times to feed his flock, to feed it with his love, and he prophesies to him: When you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go (Jn 21:18). These words are addressed first and foremost to those of us who are pastors: we cannot feed Gods flock unless we let ourselves be carried by Gods will even where we would rather not go, unless we are prepared to bear witness to Christ with the gift of ourselves, unreservedly, not in a calculating way, sometimes even at the cost of our lives. But this also applies to everyone: we all have to proclaim and bear witness to the Gospel. We should all ask ourselves: How do I bear witness to Christ through my faith? Do I have the courage of Peter and the other Apostles, to think, to choose and to live as a Christian, obedient to God? To be sure, the testimony of faith comes in very many forms, just as in a great fresco, there is a variety of colours and shades; yet they are all important, even those which do not stand out. In Gods great plan, every detail is important, even yours, even my humble little witness, even the hidden witness of those who live their faith with simplicity in everyday family relationships, work relationships, friendships. There are the saints of every day, the hidden saints, a sort of middle class of holiness to which we can all belong. But in different parts of the world, there are also those who suffer, like Peter and the Apostles, on account of the Gospel; there are those who give their lives in order to remain faithful to Christ by means of a witness marked by the shedding of their blood. Let us all remember this: one cannot proclaim the Gospel of Jesus without the tangible witness of ones life. Those who listen to us and observe us must be able to see in our actions what they hear from our lips, and so give glory to God! Inconsistency on the part of pastors and the faithful between what they say and what they do, between word and manner of life, is undermining the Churchs credibility.

But all this is possible only if we recognize Jesus Christ, because it is he who has called us, he who has invited us to travel his path, he who has chosen us. Proclamation and witness are only possible if we are close to him, just as Peter, John and the other disciples in todays Gospel passage were gathered around the Risen Jesus; there is a daily closeness to him: they know very well who he is, they know him. The Evangelist stresses the fact that no one dared ask him: Who are you? they knew it was the Lord (Jn 21:12). This is important for us: living an intense relationship with Jesus, an intimacy of dialogue and of life, in such a way as to recognize him as the Lord, and to worship him. The passage that we heard from the Book of Revelation speaks to us of worship: the myriads of angels, all creatures, the living beings, the elders, prostrate themselves before the Throne of God and of the Lamb that was slain, namely Christ, to whom be praise, honour and glory (cf. Rev 5:11-14). I would like all of us to ask ourselves this question: You, I, do we worship the Lord? Do we turn to God only to ask him for things, to thank him, or do we also turn to him to worship him? What does it mean, then, to worship God? It means learning to be with him, it means that we stop trying to dialogue with him, and it means sensing that his presence is the most true, the most good, the most important thing of all. All of us, in our own lives, consciously and perhaps sometimes unconsciously, have a very clear order of priority concerning the things we consider important. Worshipping the Lord means giving him the place that he must have; worshipping the Lord means stating, believing not only by our words that he alone truly guides our lives; worshipping the Lord means that we are convinced before him that he is the only God, the God of our lives, the God of our history.

This has a consequence in our lives: we have to empty ourselves of the many small or great idols that we have and in which we take refuge, on which we often seek to base our security. They are idols that we sometimes keep well hidden; they can be ambition, a taste for success, placing ourselves at the centre, the tendency to dominate others, the claim to be the sole masters of our lives, some sins to which we are bound, and many others. This evening I would like a question to resound in the heart of each one of you, and I would like you to answer it honestly: Have I considered which idol lies hidden in my life that prevents me from worshipping the Lord? Worshipping is stripping ourselves of our idols, even the most hidden ones, and choosing the Lord as the centre, as the highway of our lives.

Dear brothers and sisters, each day the Lord calls us to follow him with courage and fidelity; he has made us the great gift of choosing us as his disciples; he sends us to proclaim him with joy as the Risen one, but he asks us to do so by word and by the witness of our lives, in daily life. The Lord is the only God of our lives, and he invites us to strip ourselves of our many idols and to worship him alone. May the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Paul help us on this journey and intercede for us.

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Francis' Letter to Argentine Bishops' Assembly
"We must come out of ourselves ... and grow in boldness"

VATICAN CITY, April 18, 2013  - Here is a translation of the letter Pope Francis sent to the 105th plenary assembly of the Argentine episcopal conference. The letter is dated March 25 and was posted by the episcopal conference Wednesday. The plenary assembly is under way through Saturday.

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Dear Brothers:

I am sending these lines of greeting and also to excuse myself for being unable to attend due to "commitments assumed recently" (sounds good?). I am spiritually with you and ask the Lord to accompany you very much during these days.

I express to you a desire. I would like the Assembly’s works to have as a frame of reference the Document of Aparecida and “Go into the Deep.” The guidelines are there that we need for this moment of history. Above all I ask you to have the special concern to grow in the continental mission in all its aspects: programmatic mission and paradigmatic mission. May the whole of ministry be in a missionary key. We must come out of ourselves to all the existential peripheries and grow in boldness.

A Church that does not go out, sooner or later gets sick in the vitiated atmosphere of her enclosure. It is true also that to a Church that goes out something can happen, as it can to any person who goes out to the street: to have an accident. Given this alternative, I wish to say to you frankly that I prefer a thousand times an injured Church than a sick Church. The typical illness of the shut-in Church is self-reference; to look at herself, to be bent over herself like the woman in the Gospel. It is a kind of narcissism that leads us to spiritual worldliness and to sophisticated clericalism, and then it impedes our experiencing “the sweet and comforting joy of evangelizing.”

I wish all of you this joy, which so many times is united to the Cross, but which saves us from resentment, sadness and clerical [solitude]. This joy helps us to be each day more fruitful, spending ourselves and unraveling ourselves in the service of the holy faithful people of God. This joy will grow increasingly to the degree that we take seriously the pastoral conversion that the Church asks of us.

Thank you for all that you do and for all that you are going to do. May the Lord free us from making up our episcopate with the tinsel of worldliness, of money and of “market clericalism.” The Virgin will show us the way of humility and that silent and courageous work that carries apostolic zeal forward.

I ask you, please, to pray for me, [so that I won’t be puffed up] and so that I will be able to hear what God wants and not what I want. I pray for you.

A brother’s embrace and a special greeting to the faithful people of God that you have in your care. I wish you a holy and happy Eastertide.

May Jesus bless you and the Holy Virgin look after you.

Fraternally,

Vatican, March 25, 2013

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On the Good Sheperd

VATICAN CITY, April 21, 2013  - Here is the translation of the Holy Father's address to the faithful gathered at St. Peter's Square before and after the recitation of the Regina Caeli today.

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Dear brothers and sisters, hello!

The fourth Sunday of the Easter Season is characterized by the Gospel of the Good Shepherd that we read every year. Today’s passage cites these words of Jesus: “My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they know me and follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one” (John 10:27-30). These 4 verses contain Jesus’ whole message, the central nucleus of his Gospel: he calls us to participate in his relationship with the Father, and this is eternal life.

Jesus wants to establish a relationship with his friends that is the reflection of the one he himself has with the Father: a relation of mutual belonging in total confidence, in intimate communion. Jesus uses the image of the shepherd and his sheep to express this profound shared understanding, this relationship of friendship. The shepherd calls his sheep and they recognize his voice, they respond to his call and follow him. This is a beautiful parable! The mystery of the voice is suggestive: we think about how from our mother’s womb we learn to recognize her voice and our father’s voice; from the tone of someone’s voice we can perceive love or scorn, affection or coldness. Jesus’s voice is unique! If we learn to distinguish it from others, he will lead us along the path of life, a path that stretches even beyond death.

But Jesus at a certain point says, referring to his sheep: “My Father, who gave them to me...” (John 10:29). This is very important, it is a profound mystery, it is not easy to understand: if I feel attracted by Jesus, if his voice warms my heart, it is thanks to God the Father, who has placed in me the desire for love, for truth, for life, for beauty... and Jesus is all of this in its fullness! This helps us to understand the mystery of vocation, especially of calls to a special consecration. Sometimes Jesus calls us, invites us to follow him, but perhaps it occurs that we do not realize that it is him, as happened to the young Samuel. There are many young people here today in the piazza. There are a lot of you, no? We see... Aha! There are many young people here today in the piazza. I would like to ask you: Have you heard the Lord’s voice at some time in a desire, in upheaval, invite you to follow him more closely? Have you heard it? I can’t hear you. Okay... Have you wanted to be apostles of Jesus? Youth must be placed at the service of great ideals. Do you think so? Do you agree? Ask Jesus what he wants of you and be courageous! Be courageous! Ask him! Behind and prior to every vocation to the priesthood or the consecrated life there is always someone’s powerful and intense prayer: a grandmother’s, a grandfather’s, a mother’s, a father’s, a community’s... This is why Jesus said: “Pray to the Lord of the harvest,” that is, God the Father, “that he might send workers for the harvest!” (Matthew 9:38). Vocations are born in prayer and from prayer; and only in prayer can they persevere and bear fruit. I would like to underscore this today, which is the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. Let us pray in particular for the new priests of the Diocese of Rome, whom I had the joy to ordain this morning. And let us invoke Mary’s intercession. Today there were 10 young men who said “Yes” to Jesus and were ordained priests this morning... This is beautiful! Let us invoke Mary’s intercession, she who is the Woman of “Yes.” Mary said “Yes” her whole life! She learned to recognize Jesus’ voice from the time she carried him in her womb. Mary our Mother, help us to recognize Jesus’ voice always better and to follow it to walk along the path of life! Thank you.

Thanks so much for the greeting, but greet Jesus too. Cry out “Jesus,” loudly... Let us all pray together to Our Lady.

[Following the recitation of the Regina Caeli the Holy Father made the following remarks:]

I am attentively following the events unfolding in Venezuela. I follow them with much concern, with intense prayer and with the hope that just and peaceful means are sought to get through this time of grave difficulty that the country is experiencing. I invite the dear Venezuelan people, in a special way institutional leaders and politicians, firmly to reject any sort of violence and to establish dialogue based upon truth in mutual respect, in pursuit of the common good and in love for the nation. I call upon believers to pray and to work for reconciliation and peace. Let us join together in a prayer full of hope for Venezuela, placing her in the hands of Our Lady of Coromoto.

My thoughts also go out to those affected by the earthquake in southwest continental China. Let us pray for the victims and for those who are suffering because of this violent quake.

This afternoon in Sondrio, Italy Don Nicolò Rusca will be proclaimed blessed. He was a Valtellinese priest who lived sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. He was an exemplary parish priest in Sondrio and was killed during the political and religious struggles of that tormented Europe at that time. Let us praise the Lord for his witness!

[Concluding, the Holy Father said:]

Have a good Sunday and a good lunch!

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Pope's Telegram to Italian President Giorgio Napolitano

VATICAN CITY, April 21, 2013 - Here is a translation of the telegram sent by Pope Francis to the President of the Italian Republic, Giorgio Napolitano, congratulating him on the occasion of his reelection.

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To his Excellency

the Honorable Giorgio Napolitano

President of the Italian Republic

Quirinal Palace

On the occasion in which you have again accepted, with great openness and a spirit of sacrifice, the supreme magistrature of the Italian state as president of the Republic, I would like to offer to you the most sincere and cordial congratulatory expressions and, as I wish for you to continue your enlightened and wise work supported by everyone’s responsible cooperation, I invoke constant divine assistance on your behalf and for your great service to the country and from my heart I convey to you and to the beloved Italian nation the apostolic blessing as an encouragement to build a future of concord, of solidarity and of hope.

Franciscus PP

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Pope's Telegram to Victims of Explosion in Texas

VATICAN CITY, April 22, 2013  - Here is the text of the telegram sent by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State, on behalf of the Holy Father, to Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas regarding the explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas last Wednesday. The explosion caused 14 deaths and hundreds wounded.

* * *

Saddened by news of the destruction caused by the explosion in West, the Holy Father asks you kindly to convey his heartfelt condolences to the civil authorities and the afflicted families. He prays for the eternal rest of the victims and implores God’s blessings of consolation and peace upon those who mourn and all who generously aid in the continuing work of relief.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone

Secretary of State

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Pope's Message to IV National Eucharistic Congress in Costa Rica

VATICAN CITY, April 22, 2013  - Here is a translation of the message that Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, sent in the name of the Holy Father Francis, to the participants in the 4th National Eucharistic Congress in Costa Rica (Cartago, April 14-21, 2013) on the topic: “The Eucharist: Bread of Life for Our People.” The message was read by the Pope’s envoy, Archbishop Piero Marini, president of the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses.

* * *

The Holy Father Francis is pleased to send his cordial greetings to the organizers and participants of the National Eucharistic Congress, convened under the theme: “The Eucharist: Bread of Life For Our People.”

In this moment, His Holiness invites all to intensify their life of prayer, making the Eucharist the true center of Christian communities, where prayer and thanksgiving stimulate a renewed evangelizing commitment of ecclesial communion. May all baptized draw from the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar copious spiritual energies to build an ever more just and reconciled world, in keeping with the message of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

With these regards, the Supreme Pontiff entrusts to the loving protection of Our Lady of the Angels, the pastors and faithful who have made the pilgrimage to the House of the Father in Costa Rica. As a sign of abundant heavenly gifts, he affectionately imparts to them the besought Apostolic Blessing.

CARDINAL TARCISIO BERTONE

SECRETARY OF STATE OF HIS HOLINESS

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Pope Francis' Homily at Ordination Mass

VATICAN CITY, April 22, 2013  - Here is the translation of the homily given by Pope Francis yesterday at the Ordination to the Priesthood Mass held in St. Peter's Basilica.

* * *

Beloved brothers and sisters:

because these our sons, who are your relatives and friends, are now to be advanced to the Order of priests, consider carefully the nature of the rank in the Church to which they are about to be raised.

It is true that God has made his entire holy people a royal priesthood in Christ. Nevertheless, our great Priest himself, Jesus Christ, chose certain disciples to carry out publicly in his name, and on behalf of mankind, a priestly office in the Church. For Christ was sent by the Father and he in turn sent the Apostles into the world, so that through them and their successors, the Bishops, he might continue to exercise his office of Teacher, Priest, and Shepherd. Indeed, priests are established co-workers of the Order of Bishops, with whom they are joined in the priestly office and with whom they are called to the service of the people of God.

After mature deliberation and prayer, these, our brothers, are now to be ordained to the priesthood in the Order of the presbyterate so as to serve Christ the Teacher, Priest, and Shepherd, by whose ministry his body, that is, the Church, is built and grows into the people of God, a holy temple.

In being configured to Christ the eternal High Priest and joined to the priesthood of the Bishops, they will be consecrated as true priests of the New Testament, to preach the Gospel, to shepherd Gods people, and to celebrate the sacred Liturgy, especially the Lords sacrifice.

Now, my dear brothers and sons, you are to be raised to the Order of the Priesthood. For your part you will exercise the sacred duty of teaching in the name of Christ the Teacher. Impart to everyone the word of God which you have received with joy. Remember your mothers, your grandmothers, your catechists, who gave you the word of God, the faith ... the gift of faith! They transmitted to you this gift of faith. Meditating on the law of the Lord, see that you believe what you read, that you teach what you believe, and that you practise what you teach.

Remember too that the word of God is not your property: it is the word of God. And the Church is the custodian of the word of God.
In this way, let what you teach be nourishment for the people of God. Let the holiness of your lives be a delightful fragrance to Christs faithful, so that by word and example you may build up the house which is Gods Church.

Likewise you will exercise in Christ the office of sanctifying. For by your ministry the spiritual sacrifice of the faithful will be made perfect, being united to the sacrifice of Christ, which will be offered through your hands in an unbloody way on the altar, in union with the faithful, in the celebration of the sacraments. Understand, therefore, what you do and imitate what you celebrate. As celebrants of the mystery of the Lords death and resurrection, strive to put to death whatever in your members is sinful and to walk in newness of life.

You will gather others into the people of God through Baptism, and you will forgive sins in the name of Christ and the Church in the sacrament of Penance. Today I ask you in the name of Christ and the Church, never tire of being merciful. You will comfort the sick and the elderly with holy oil: do not hesitate to show tenderness towards the elderly. When you celebrate the sacred rites, when you offer prayers of praise and thanks to God throughout the hours of the day, not only for the people of God but for the worldremember then that you are taken from among men and appointed on their behalf for those things that pertain to God.

Therefore, carry out the ministry of Christ the Priest with constant joy and genuine love, attending not to your own concerns but to those of Jesus Christ. You are pastors, not functionaries. Be mediators, not intermediaries.

Finally, dear sons, exercising for your part the office of Christ, Head and Shepherd, while united with the Bishop and subject to him, strive to bring the faithful together into one family, so that you may lead them to God the Father through Christ in the Holy Spirit. Keep always before your eyes the example of the Good Shepherd who came not to be served but to serve, and who came to seek out and save what was lost.

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Pope's Homily on Feast of St. George

VATICAN CITY, April 23, 2013  - Here is the translation of Pope Francis' homily during Mass with the Cardinals present in Rome at the Pauline Chapel for the Feast of Saint George.

* * *

I thank His Eminence, the Cardinal Dean, (Cardinal Angelo Sodano) for his words: thank you very much, Your Eminence, thank you.

I also thank all of you who wanted to come today: Thank you. Because I feel welcomed by you. Thank you. I feel good with you, and I like that.

The [first] reading today makes me think that the missionary expansion of the Church began precisely at a time of persecution, and these Christians went as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, and proclaimed the Word. They had this apostolic fervor within them, and that is how the faith spread! Some, people of Cyprus and Cyrene - not these, but others who had become Christians - went to Antioch and began to speak to the Greeks too. It was a further step. And this is how the Church moved forward. Whose was this initiative to speak to the Greeks? This was not clear to anyone but the Jews. But ... it was the Holy Spirit, the One who prompted them ever forward ... But some in Jerusalem, when they heard this, became 'nervous and sent Barnabas on an "apostolic visitation": perhaps, with a little sense of humor we could say that this was the theological beginning of the Doctrine of the Faith: this apostolic visit by Barnabas. He saw, and he saw that things were going well.

And so the Church was a Mother, the Mother of more children, of many children. It became more and more of a Mother. A Mother who gives us the faith, a Mother who gives us an identity. But the Christian identity is not an identity card: Christian identity is belonging to the Church, because all of these belonged to the Church, the Mother Church. Because it is not possible to find Jesus outside the Church. The great Paul VI said: "Wanting to live with Jesus without the Church, following Jesus outside of the Church, loving Jesus without the Church is an absurd dichotomy." And the Mother Church that gives us Jesus gives us our identity that is not only a seal, it is a belonging. Identity means belonging. This belonging to the Church is beautiful.

And the third idea comes to my mind - the first was the explosion of missionary activity; the second, the Mother Church - and the third, that when Barnabas saw that crowd - the text says: " And a large number of people was added to the Lord" - when he saw those crowds, he experienced joy. " When he arrived and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced ": his is the joy of the evangelizer. It was, as Paul VI said, "the sweet and comforting joy of evangelizing." And this joy begins with a persecution, with great sadness, and ends with joy. And so the Church goes forward, as one Saint says - I do not remember which one, here - "amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of the Lord." And thus is the life of the Church. If we want to travel a little along the road of worldliness, negotiating with the world - as did the Maccabees, who were tempted, at that time - we will never have the consolation of the Lord. And if we seek only consolation, it will be a superficial consolation, not that of the Lord: a human consolation. The Church's journey always takes place between the Cross and the Resurrection, amid the persecutions and the consolations of the Lord. And this is the path: those who go down this road are not mistaken.

Let us think today about the missionary activity of the Church: these [people] came out of themselves to go forth. Even those who had the courage to proclaim Jesus to the Greeks, an almost scandalous thing at that time. Think of this Mother Church that grows, grows with new children to whom She gives the identity of the faith, because you cannot believe in Jesus without the Church. Jesus Himself says in the Gospel: " But you do not believe, because you are not among my sheep." If we are not "sheep of Jesus," faith does not come to us. It is a rosewater faith, a faith without substance. And let us think of the consolation that Barnabas felt, which is "the sweet and comforting joy of evangelizing." And let us ask the Lord for this "parresia", this apostolic fervor that impels us to move forward, as brothers, all of us forward! Forward, bringing the name of Jesus in the bosom of Holy Mother Church, and, as St. Ignatius said, "hierarchical and Catholic." So be it.

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Statement by Holy See on Kidnapping of Bishops in Syria

VATICAN CITY, April 23, 2013  - Here is the translation of the statement released by Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office on the recent kidnapping of two Metropolitan bishops in Syria yesterday.

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"The kidnapping of the two Metropolitan bishops of Aleppo, Mar Gregorios Ibrahim of the Syriac Orthodox Church, and Paul Yazigi of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch, and the killing of their driver whilst they were carrying out a humanitarian mission, is a dramatic confirmation of the tragic situation in which the Syrian population and the Christian communities in Syria are living. The Holy Father has been informed of this recent, extremely grave act, which comes on top of the increasing violence of the past days and a humanitarian emergency of enormous proportions. Pope Francis is following the events with deep participation and he is praying for the health and the liberation of the two kidnapped bishops. He is also praying so that, with the support and prayers of all, the Syrian people may finally see tangible responses to the humanitarian drama and real hopes of peace and reconciliation rise on the horizon."

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Pope Francis Homily at Day of Confirmands Mass

VATICAN CITY, April 28, 2013 - Here is the translation of the Holy Father’s homily during the Mass for the Day of Confirmands celebrated at St. Peter’s Basilica today.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Dear Confirmands,

I would like to offer three short and simple thoughts for your reflection.

1. In the second reading, we listened to the beautiful vision of Saint John: new heavens and a new earth, and then the Holy City coming down from God. All is new, changed into good, beauty and truth; there are no more tears or mourning… This is the work of the Holy Spirit: he brings us the new things of God. He comes to us and makes all things new; he changes us. The Spirit changes us! And Saint John’s vision reminds us that all of us are journeying towards the heavenly Jerusalem, the ultimate newness which awaits us and all reality, the happy day when we will see the Lord’s face – that marvelous face, the most beautiful face of the Lord Jesus - and be with him for ever, in his love.

You see, the new things of God are not like the novelties of this world, all of which are temporary; they come and go, and we keep looking for more. The new things which God gives to our lives are lasting, not only in the future, when we will be with him, but today as well. God is even now making all things new; the Holy Spirit is truly transforming us, and through us he also wants to transform the world in which we live. Let us open the doors to the Spirit, let ourselves be guided by him, and allow God’s constant help to make us new men and women, inspired by the love of God which the Holy Spirit bestows on us! How beautiful it would be if each of you, every evening, could say: Today at school, at home, at work, guided by God, I showed a sign of love towards one of my friends, my parents, an older person! How beautiful!

2. A second thought. In the first reading Paul and Barnabas say that "we must undergo many trials if we are to enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22). The journey of the Church, and our own personal journeys as Christians, are not always easy; they meet with difficulties and trials. To follow the Lord, to let his Spirit transform the shadowy parts of our lives, our ungodly ways of acting, and cleanse us of our sins, is to set out on a path with many obstacles, both in the world around us but also within us, in the heart. But difficulties and trials are part of the path that leads to God’s glory, just as they were for Jesus, who was glorified on the cross; we will always encounter them in life! Do not be discouraged! We have the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome these trials!

3. And here I come to my last point. It is an invitation which I make to you, young confirmandi, and to all present. Remain steadfast in the journey of faith, with firm hope in the Lord. This is the secret of our journey! He gives us the courage to swim against the tide. Pay attention, my young friends: to go against the current; this is good for the heart, but we need courage to swim against the tide. Jesus gives us this courage! There are no difficulties, trials or misunderstandings to fear, provided we remain united to God as branches to the vine, provided we do not lose our friendship with him, provided we make ever more room for him in our lives. This is especially so whenever we feel poor, weak and sinful, because God grants strength to our weakness, riches to our poverty, conversion and forgiveness to our sinfulness. The Lord is so rich in mercy: every time, if we go to him, he forgives us. Let us trust in God’s work! With him we can do great things; he will give us the joy of being his disciples, his witnesses. Commit yourselves to great ideals, to the most important things. We Christians were not chosen by the Lord for little things; push onwards toward the highest principles. Stake your lives on noble ideals, my dear young people!

The new things of God, the trials of life, remaining steadfast in the Lord. Dear friends, let us open wide the door of our lives to the new things of God which the Holy Spirit gives us. May he transform us, confirm us in our trials, strengthen our union with the Lord, our steadfastness in him: this is a true joy! So may it be.

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On the Gift of the Spirit

VATICAN CITY, April 28, 2013 - Here is the translation of the address given by Pope Francis prior to the recitation of the Regina Caeli at the conclusion of the Day of Confirmands Massa in St. Peter’s Square today.

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Before concluding this celebration I would like to entrust the confirmandi and all of you to Our Lady. The Virgin Mary teaches us what it means to live in the Holy Spirit and what it means to welcome the newness of God in our life. She conceived Jesus by the work of the Spirit, and every Christian, each one of us, is called to welcome the Word of God, to welcome Jesus in ourselves and then bring him to everyone. Mary invoked the Spirit with the Apostles in the upper room: every time that we come together in prayer, we are supported by the spiritual presence of the Mother of Jesus, to receive the gift of the Spirit and to have the ability to bear witness to the risen Jesus. I say this in a special way to you who have received Confirmation today: may Mary help you to be attentive to that which the Lord asks of you, and always to live and to walk according to the Holy Spirit!

I would like to extend my affectionate greeting to all of the pilgrims who have come from many countries. In particular I greet the young people who are preparing for Confirmation, the large group led by the Sisters of Charity, the parish groups from Poland and Bisignano, as well as the Katholische akademische Verbindung Capitolina.

At this time I, a special time, I would like to offer a prayer for the numerous victims of the tragic collapse of a factory in Bangladesh. I express my solidarity and profound closeness to the families who weep for their loved ones and from the depths of my heart I sincerely call for the protection of the dignity and security of the worker.

Now in the Easter light, fruit of the Spirit, we turn together to the Mother of the Lord.

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Francis Invites Faithful to Live According to the Holy Spirit

Vatican City,

Before the final blessing at yesterday’s Mass in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis entrusted the youth who received the Sacrament of Confirmation to the Virgin Mary. The Holy Father ended the Mass reciting the Regina Caeli, which is recited every Sunday during the Easter season.

“The Virgin Mary teaches us what it means to live in the Holy Spirit and what it means to welcome the newness of God in our life,” the Pope said. “She conceived Jesus by the work of the Spirit, and every Christian, each one of us, is called to welcome the Word of God, to welcome Jesus in ourselves and then bring him to everyone.”

The Pope went on to say that the Blessed Mother is present in every instance that “we come together in prayer” in order to receive the gift of the Spirit and the courage to announce the risen Christ.

“I say this in a special way to you who have received Confirmation today: may Mary help you to be attentive to that which the Lord asks of you, and always to live and to walk according to the Holy Spirit!,” the Holy Father exclaimed.

The Holy Father concluded by offering prayers for the victims of the recent collapse of a garment factory in Bangladesh. Roughly 400 people have died from the tragedy while countless others are still buried under the rubble.

“I express my solidarity and profound closeness to the families who weep for their loved ones and from the depths of my heart I sincerely call for the protection of the dignity and security of the worker,” Pope Francis said.

(April 29, 2013)

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A Hopeful Path Towards Theological Dialogue
Coptic Bishop Hopes Upcoming Meeting Between Pope Francis and Tawadros II

ROME, April 30, 2013  - The newly appointed head of the Coptic Catholic Eparchy in Minya in Egypt stated that the upcoming meeting between Pope Francis and Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II in May “could have important and positive results.”

In an interview with Fides News Agency, Coptic Catholic Bishop Botros Fahim Awad Hanna also express is hope that a theological dialogue to begin the path towards full communion would resume. The meeting between the Holy Father and the Coptic Patriarch is set for May 11th, 2013

The last meeting that occurred between a Coptic Patriarch and a Pope took place nearly 40 years ago when Shenouda III met with Pope Paul VI in Rome. Due to that historical meeting, an agreement between the two Churches signed in 1988 put an end to centuries of misunderstanding and mistrust. The

“In the Common Christological Declaration, the Catholic Church and the Coptic Orthodox confess to share the same faith in "Our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word" that "is perfect in its Divinity and perfect in its Humanity."

“Since then, though, that common Christological Declaration has not had practical effects,” Bishop Fahim Hann said.

“I hope that with the visit of the new Coptic Orthodox Patriarch to the new Bishop of Rome, recent approaches on the spiritual and pastoral can be deepened at a theological and doctrinal level and provide a chance to re-start a thorough theological and respectful dialogue, to embark on a journey that could one day lead us back to full sacramental union".

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On the Journey of Faith

VATICAN CITY, May 05, 2013 - Here is the translation of the Holy Father's address prior to reciting the Regina Caeli at the conclusion of the Mass for the Day of Confraternities held in St. Peter's Square.

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In this moment of profound communion in Christ we also feel the presence of the Virgin Mary living among us. It is a maternal, familiar presence, especially for you who belong to the confraternaties. Love for the Madonna is one of the characteristics of popular piety, which must be valued and directed. For this reason I invite you to meditate on the last chapter of the second Vatican Council’s constitution on the Church, “Lumen gentium,” which speaks precisely of Mary in the mystery of Christ and the Church. There it is stated that Mary “advanced in the pilgrimage of faith” (58). Dear friends, in the Year of Faith I present this portrait of Mary the pilgrim, who follows the Son Jesus and precedes all of us in the journey of faith.

Today the Eastern Churches, which follow the Julian Calendar, celebrate the feast of Easter. I would like to send these brothers and sisters a special greeting, uniting with them with my whole heart in proclaiming the glad tidings: Christ is risen! Recollected in prayer around Mary, we ask God for the gift the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, that he might console and comfort all Christians – especially those who celebrate Easter amidst trials and suffering – and guide them in the path of reconciliation and peace.

Yesterday in Brazil Francisca de Paula De Jesus, called “NháChica,” was proclaimed blessed. Her simple life was dedicated wholly to God and to charity, so much so that she was called “mother of the poor.” I share the joy of the Church in Brazil over this luminous disciple of the Lord.

I greet with affection all of the confraternities that have come here from many countries. Thank you for your testimony of faith! I greet also the parish and family groups along with the parade of various musical bands and associations of Schützen who have come from Germany.

I offer a special greeting today to the “Meter” Association on this special day remembering children who are victims of violence. And this provides me with the occasion to direct a thought to those who have suffered and sufffer from abuse. I would like to to assure them that you are present in my prayer, and I would also like firmly to say that we must all cleary and courageously work that every human person, especially children, who are among the most vulnerable, might be defended and protected.

I also encourage those afflicted with pulmonary hypertension.

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Pope Francis' Meditation at Basilica of St. Mary Major

VATICAN CITY, May 05, 2013  - Here is the translation of Pope Francis' meditation after the recitation of the rosary in the Papal Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome yesterday.

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I thank the most eminent lord archpriest of this basilica for the words he spoke at the beginning. I thank you, brother and friend – a friendship that began in those countries at the end of the world! Thank you so much. I am grateful for the presence of the lord cardinal vicar, the other lord cardinals, the bishops, the priests. And I thank you, brothers and sisters, who have come today to pray to Our Lady, the mother, the “Salus Populi Romani” (Salvation/Health of the Roman People). Because tonight we are here before Mary. We have prayed under her maternal guidance that she might direct us to be ever more united with her Son Jesus; we have brought her our joys and our sufferings, our hopes and our problems; we have invoked her with the title “Salus Populi Romani,” asking for all of us, for Rome, for the world that she might give us health. Mary gives us health, she is our health.

Jesus Christ, with his passion, death, and resurrection, brings us salvation, gives us the grace and joy to be sons of God, truly to call him with the name “Father.” Mary is mother, and a mother concerns herself above all with the health of her children, she knows how to care for it with great and tender love. Our Lady protects our health. What does it mean to say that the Our Lady protects our health? I think above all of 3 aspects: she helps us to grow, face life, to be free.

A mother helps her children to grow and wants them to grow well; for this she educates them not to fall into laziness – which derives from a certain well-being – not to settle into a comfortable life that contents itself only with having things. The mother cares for the children so that they grow more, they grow strong, able to take responsibility, to commit themselves in life, to pursue grand ideals. In the Gospel St. Luke tells us that, in the family of Nazareth, Jesus “grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favour of God was upon him” (Luke 2:40). Our Lady does the same thing in us, she helps us to grow as human beings and in the faith, to be strong and not to give in to the temptation to be human and Christian in a superficial way, but to live with responsibility, to aim ever higher.

A mother also thinks of her children’s health when she educates them to face the problem of life. She does not educate them, she does not care for their health by allowing them to avoid problems, as life were a highway without obstacles. The mother helps her children to look upon life’s problems with realism and to not get lost in them, but to face them with courage, not to be weak, and to know how to overcome them with a sane balance that a mother “senses” between areas of safety and those of risk. And a mother knows how to do this! She does not always let her child take the easy, safe way because in this way the child cannot grow, but neither does she leave the child on the road of risk since it is dangerous. A mother knows how to balance things. A life without challenges does not exist, and a boy or girl who does not know how to deal with them is a boy or girl without a spine! Let us recall the parable of the good Samaritan. Jesus does not recommend the conduct of the priest or the Levite, who avoid helping the man who ran into robbers. He points to the Samaritan, who saw the man’s situation and deals with it in a concrete way and takes risks. Mary experienced many difficult moments in her life, from the birth of Jesus when there was “no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7), to Calvary (cf. 19:25). And like a good mother she is close to us so that we never lose courage in facing the adversity of life, in facing our weakness, our sins: she gives us strength, she indicates the path of her Son. From the cross Jesus says to Mary, referring to John: “Woman behold your son!” (Cf. John 19:26-27). That disciple represents all of us: the Lord entrusts us to the Mother’s hands, full of love and tenderness, so that we feel her support in dealing with and overcoming the problems along our human and Christian journey. Do not be afraid of difficulties, face them with the help of the mother.

A final aspect: a good mother does not only accompany her children as they grow, not avoiding the problems, the challenges of life; a good mother also helps us to make definitive decisions freely. This is not easy but a mother knows how to do it. But what is freedom? It is certainly not doing whatever you want, letting yourself be dominated by your passions, passing from one experience to the next without discernment, following the fashions of the time; freedom does not mean, so to speak, throwing everything you do not like out the window. No, that is not freedom! Freedom is given to us so that we know how to make good choices in life! Mary, like a good mother, teaches us to be, like her, capable of making definitive decisions, definitive decisions in this moment in which their reigns, so to say, the philosophy of the provisional. It is so difficult to commit oneself definitively in life. And she helps us to make definitive decisions with that complete freedom with which she answered “yes” to God’s plan for her life (cf. Luke 1:38).

Dear brothers and sisters, how hard it is in our time to make definitive decisions. The provisional seduces us. We are the victims of a tendency that drives us toward the temporary… as if we wished to remain adolescents. It is rather fashionable now to remain an adolescent, and to stay this way all one’s life! Let us not be afraid of definitive commitments, of commitments that involve and interest our whole life! In this way life will be fruitful! And this is freedom: to have the courage to make these decisions with greatness.

Mary’s entire existence is a hymn to life, a hymn of love to life: she gave birth to Jesus in the flesh and was there at the birth of the Church on Calvary and in the upper room. The “Salus Populi Romani” is the mother who gives us health as we grow, she gives us the health to face and overcome problems, she gives us the health that makes us free for definitive decisions; the mother who teaches us to be fruitful, to be open to life and always to be fruitful in the good, fruitful in joy, fruitful in hope, never to lose hope, to give life to others, physical and spiritual life.

This we ask of you this evening, O Mary, “Salus Populi Romani,” for the people of Rome, for all of us: grant us the health that alone can give us, to be always signs and instruments of life. Amen.

[After leaving the basilica the Holy Father addressed these words to the many faithful gathered in the piazza:]

Brothers and sisters,

Good evening! Thank you for your presence in the house of the mother of Rome, our Mother. Hurrah (viva) the “Salus Populi Romani.” Hurrah for Our Lady. She is our Mother. Let us entrust ourselves to her because she protects us like a good mother. I will pray for you, but I ask you to pray for me, because I need it. Three “Ave’s” for me. I wish you a good Sunday tomorrow. Goodbye. Now I will give you the blessing – to you and to all your families. May the almighty Father bless you. Have a good Sunday.

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Pope Francis'Homily at Sunday Mass for Day of Confraternities

VATICAN CITY, May 05, 2013  - Here is the translation of the homily given by Pope Francis as part of the Year of Faith Mass for the Day of Confraternities celebrated at St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,


It is brave of you to come here in this rain … May the Lord bless you abundantly!
As part of the journey of the Year of Faith, I am happy to celebrate this Eucharist dedicated in a special way to confraternities: a traditional reality in the Church, which in recent times has experienced renewal and rediscovery. I greet all of you with affection, particularly the confraternities which have come here from all over the world! Thank you for your presence and your witness!

In the Gospel we heard a passage from the farewell discourses of Jesus, as related by the evangelist John in the context of the Last Supper. Jesus entrusts his last thoughts, as a spiritual testament, to the apostles before he leaves them. Today’s text makes it clear that Christian faith is completely centred on the relationship between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Whoever loves the Lord Jesus welcomes him and his Father interiorly, and thanks to the Holy Spirit receives the Gospel in his or her heart and life. Here we are shown the centre from which everything must go forth and to which everything must lead: loving God and being Christ’s disciples by living the Gospel. When Benedict XVI spoke to you, he used this expression: evangelical spirit. Dear confraternities, the popular piety of which you are an important sign is a treasure possessed by the Church, which the bishops of Latin America defined, significantly, as a spirituality, a form of mysticism, which is "a place of encounter with Jesus Christ". Draw always from Christ, the inexhaustible wellspring; strengthen your faith by attending to your spiritual formation, to personal and communitarian prayer, and to the liturgy. Down the centuries confraternities have been crucibles of holiness for countless people who have lived in utter simplicity an intense relationship with the Lord. Advance with determination along the path of holiness; do not rest content with a mediocre Christian life, but let your affiliation serve as a stimulus, above all for you yourselves, to an ever greater love of Jesus Christ.

The passage of the Acts of the Apostles which we heard also speaks to us about what is essential. In the early Church there was immediately a need to discern what was essential about being a Christian, about following Christ, and what was not. The apostles and the other elders held an important meeting in Jerusalem, a first "council", on this theme, to discuss the problems which arose after the Gospel had been preached to the pagans, to non-Jews. It was a providential opportunity for better understanding what is essential, namely, belief in Jesus Christ who died and rose for our sins, and loving him as he loved us. But note how the difficulties were overcome: not from without, but from within the Church. And this brings up a second element which I want to remind you of, as Benedict XVI did, namely: ecclesial spirit. Popular piety is a road which leads to what is essential, if it is lived in the Church in profound communion with your pastors. Dear brothers and sisters, the Church loves you! Be an active presence in the community, as living cells, as living stones. The Latin American Bishops wrote that the popular piety which you reflect is "a legitimate way of living the faith, a way of feeling that we are part of the Church" (Aparecida Document, 264). This is wonderful! A legitimate way of living the faith, a way of feeling that we are part of the Church. Love the Church! Let yourselves be guided by her! In your parishes, in your dioceses, be a true "lung" of faith and Christian life, a breath of fresh air! In this Square I see a great variety: earlier on it was a variety of umbrellas, and now of colours and signs. This is also the case with the Church: a great wealth and variety of expressions in which everything leads back to unity; the variety leads back to unity, and unity is the encounter with Christ.

I would like to add a third expression which must distinguish you: missionary spirit. You have a specific and important mission, that of keeping alive the relationship between the faith and the cultures of the peoples to whom you belong. You do this through popular piety. When, for example, you carry the crucifix in procession with such great veneration and love for the Lord, you are not performing a simple outward act; you are pointing to the centrality of the Lord’s paschal mystery, his passion, death and resurrection which have redeemed us, and you are reminding yourselves first, as well as the community, that we have to follow Christ along the concrete path of our daily lives so that he can transform us. Likewise, when you express profound devotion for the Virgin Mary, you are pointing to the highest realization of the Christian life, the one who by her faith and obedience to God’s will, and by her meditation on the words and deeds of Jesus, is the Lord’s perfect disciple (cf. Lumen Gentium, 53). You express this faith, born of hearing the word of God, in ways that engage the senses, the emotions and the symbols of the different cultures … In doing so you help to transmit it to others, and especially the simple persons whom, in the Gospels, Jesus calls "the little ones". In effect, "journeying together towards shrines, and participating in other demonstrations of popular piety, bringing along your children and engaging other people, is itself a work of evangelization" (Aparecida Document, 264). When you visit shrines, when you bring your family, your children, you are engaged in a real work of evangelization. This needs to continue. May you also be true evangelizers! May your initiatives be "bridges", means of bringing others to Christ, so as to journey together with him. And in this spirit may you always be attentive to charity. Each individual Christian and every community is missionary to the extent that they bring to others and live the Gospel, and testify to God’s love for all, especially those experiencing difficulties. Be missionaries of God’s love and tenderness! Be missionaries of God’s mercy, which always forgives us, always awaits us and loves us dearly.

Evangelical spirit, ecclesial spirit, missionary spirit. Three themes! Do not forget them! Evangelical spirit, ecclesial spirit, missionary spirit. Let us ask the Lord always to direct our minds and hearts to him, as living stones of the Church, so that all that we do, our whole Christian life, may be a luminous witness to his mercy and love. In this way we will make our way towards the goal of our earthly pilgrimage, towards that extremely beautiful shrine, the heavenly Jerusalem. There, there is no longer any temple: God himself and the lamb are its temple; and the light of the sun and the moon give way to the glory of the Most High. Amen.

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Pope's Address to Pontifical Swiss Guards

VATICAN CITY, May 06, 2013  - Here is the translation of the Holy Father's address to the Pontifical Swiss Guards on the occasion of the taking of oath of new recruits who were accompanied by family members.

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Dear friends of the Swiss Guard!

I am pleased to welcome you and extend my cordial greeting to each of you, your family, your friends, to the authorities and to all who have wanted to take part in these days of celebration. To all of you, dear guards, I renew most sincere thanks for your valuable and generous service to the Pope and the Church. Every day I am able to experience the dedication, professionalism and love with which you conduct your service. And for this I thank you! In particular, I would like to thank your families, who have graciously accepted your choice to live this service at the Vatican and support you with their affection and their prayers.

On this date you memorialize the sacrifice of the Swiss guards engaged in fierce defense of the Pope during the "sack of Rome". Today, you are not called to this heroic gesture, but to another form of sacrifice, also demanding: to put your youthful energies at the service of the Church and the Pope. And to do this you must be strong, animated by love and sustained by faith in Christ. This year your celebration fits in the context of the Year of Faith, that the Church is living all over the world. I am sure that the decision to put years of your life at the service of the Pope is not extraneous to your faith. Indeed, the deeper motivations that have driven you here to Rome have their source in your faith. A faith that you have learned in your families, cultivated in your parishes, and which also manifests the commitment of Swiss Catholics to the Church. Remember well: the faith that God has given you on the day of your Baptism is the most valuable treasure that you have! And even your mission at the service of the Pope and the Church finds its source there: in faith.

During your stay in Rome, you are called to bear witness to your faith with joy and delicacy. How important this is for many people who pass through Vatican City! But it is also important for those who work here for the Holy See, and it is also for me! Your presence is a sign of the strength and beauty of the Gospel, which in every age calls young people to follow it. And I would also like to invite you to live out the time that you spend in the "Eternal city" in a spirit of sincere friendship, helping each other to lead a good Christian life, which corresponds to your faith and your mission in the Church. May you know how be attentive to each other, to recognize when someone of you may be having a moment of difficulty. Be ready to listen, to be close to him. Pray for each other, and put into practice in your mutual help that communion you draw from Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.

Your specific ecclesial experience in the body of the Swiss Guard represents a prime opportunity to deepen your knowledge of Christ and his Gospel and to walk in following it, almost breathing, here in Rome, the catholicity of the Church. When some of you today will swear faithfully to carry out the service in the guard and the others renew this oath in their hearts, think that your service, too, is a testimony to Christ, who is calling you to be authentic and true Christians, the protagonists of your existence. Deeply united to Him, you will know how to face with maturity the obstacles and the challenges of life, in the firm conviction that, as the Liturgy of the Paschal vigil reminds us, the risen Lord is “the eternal King who has overcome the darkness of the world”. He alone is the Truth, the Way and the Life.

Dear Swiss Guards, don't forget that the Lord walks with you. This is a good thought that does good to the soul: don't forget that the Lord always work with us, is always at your side to sustain you, especially in times of difficulty and trial. I wish deeply that you may always feel the joy and comfort of his luminous and merciful presence.

I commend each of you and your valuable service to the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary and your patron saints; and I impart to you, to your family and to all my heartfelt Blessing as a sign of great affection and special gratitude.

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Pope's Address to Women Religious Superiors
"What would the Church be without you? She would lack maternity, affection, tenderness!"

VATICAN CITY, May 08, 2013 - Here is a translation of Francis' address today to the International Union of Superiors General (UISG)

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Lord Cardinal,

Venerable and Dear Brother in the Episcopate,

Dear Sisters!

I am happy to meet with you today and I wish to greet each one of you, thanking you for all that you do, so that consecrated life will always be a light on the path of the Church. Dear Sisters, first of all I thank dear Brother Cardinal João Bráz de Aviz, for the words he addressed to me. I am also pleased by the presence of the Secretary of the Congregation. The subject of your congress seems to me particularly important for the task that has been entrusted to you: “The service of authority according to the Gospel.” In the light of this expression, I would like to suggest three simple thoughts, which I leave with you for your further personal and communal reflection.

In the Last Supper, Jesus addressed these words to the Apostles: “You did not choose me, but I chose you” (John 15:16), which reminds all, not just us priests, that a vocation is always an initiative of God. It is Christ who has called you to follow him in the consecrated life and this means to continually engage in an “exodus” from yourselves to center your existence on Christ and on his Gospel, on the will of God, divesting yourselves of your plans, to be able to say with Saint Paul: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). This “exodus” from oneself is to put oneself on a path of adoration and service. An exodus that leads us to a path of adoration of the Lord and of service to Him in our brothers and sisters. To adore and to serve: two attitudes that cannot be separated, but which must always go together. To adore the Lord and to serve others, not holding anything for oneself: this is the “divestment” of one who exercises authority. Live and recall always the centrality of Christ, the evangelical identity of consecrated life. Help your communities to live the “exodus” from themselves on a path of adoration and service, first of all, through the three foundations of your existence.

Obedience as listening to the will of God in the interior motion of the Holy Spirit, authenticated by the Church, accepting that obedience passes also through human mediations. Remember that the authority-obedience relation is placed in the wider context of the mystery of the Church and constitutes a particular accomplishment of her mediating function (cf. Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, The Service of Authority and Obedience, 12.)

Poverty as the overcoming of all egoism in the logic of the Gospel, which teaches us to trust in the Providence of God. Poverty as an indication to the whole Church that we are not the ones who build the Kingdom of God; it is not human means that make it grow, but primarily the power, the grace of the Lord, who works through our weakness. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,” states the Apostle to the Gentiles (2 Corinthians 12:9). Poverty that teaches solidarity, sharing and charity, and which is also expressed in a sobriety and joy in the essential, to be on guard against material idols that obfuscate the authentic meaning of life. Poverty that is learned with the humble, the poor, the sick and all those who are on the existential peripheries of life. Theoretical poverty is of no use to us. Poverty is learned by touching the flesh of the poor Christ, in the humble, the poor, the sick, in children.

And then chastity as a precious charism, which widens the freedom of the gift to God and to others, with the tenderness, the mercy, the closeness of Christ. Chastity for the Kingdom of Heaven shows how affectivity has its place in mature freedom and becomes a sign of the future world, to make God’s primacy shine always. But, please, a “fecund” chastity, a chastity that generates spiritual children in the Church. The consecrated woman is mother, she must be a mother and not a “spinster!” Excuse me if I speak this way, but this maternity, this fecundity of consecrated life is important! May this joy of spiritual fecundity animate your existence. Be mothers, as the figure of Mother Mary and of the Mother Church. Mary cannot be understood without her maternity; the Church cannot be understood without her maternity and you are icons of Mary and of the Church.

A second element that I would like to stress in the service of authority is service. We must not forget that true power, at whatever level, is service, which has its luminous summit on the Cross. With great wisdom Benedict XVI reminded the Church many times that for man, authority is often synonymous with possession, dominion, success. For God authority is always synonymous with service, humility, love. It means to enter into Jesus’ logic, who bends down to wash the feet of the Apostles (cf. Angelus, January 29, 2012), and who says to his disciples: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them …. it shall not be so among you; in fact, the motto of your assembly, no? ‘it shall not be so among you’; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave” (Matthew 20:25-27). We think of the harm inflicted on the People of God by men and women of the Church who are careerists, social climbers, who “use” the people, the Church, brothers and sisters – those they should serve -- as trampolines for their own personal interests and ambitions. But these do great harm to the Church.

Know always how to exercise authority by accompanying, understanding, helping, loving, embracing all men and women, especially persons who feel alone, excluded, arid -- the existential peripheries of the human heart. Let us keep our sight fixed on the Cross: placed there is all authority in the Church, where He who is the Lord makes himself a servant to the point of total gift of himself.

Finally ecclesiality as one of the constitutive dimensions of consecrated life, a dimension that must constantly be taken up and deepened in life. Your vocation is an essential charism for the journey of the Church, and it is not possible that a consecrated woman and a consecrated man not “feel” along with the Church. A “feeling” along with the Church which was generated in us in our Baptism; a “feeling” with the Church which finds its filial expression in fidelity to the Magisterium, in communion with the pastors and the Successor of Peter, Bishop of Rome, the visible sign of unity. For every Christian, the proclamation and witnessing of the Gospel are never an isolated act. This is important. For every Christian the proclamation and witnessing of the Gospel are never an isolated or group act, and no evangelizers acts, as Paul VI reminded very well, "on the strength of a personal inspiration, but in union with the mission of the Church and in her name” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, 80). And Paul VI continued: It is an absurd dichotomy to think of living with Jesus without the Church, of following Jesus outside of the Church, of loving Jesus without loving the Church (cf. Ibid., 16). Feel the responsibility you have to take care of the formation of your Institutes in the healthy doctrine of the Church, in love of the Church and in the ecclesial spirit.

In sum, centrality of Christ and of his Gospel, authority as service of love, “to feel” in and with the Mother Church: three pointers I wish to leave with you, to which I now add once again gratitude for your work, which is not always easy. What would the Church be without you? She would lack maternity, affection, tenderness! A Mother’s intuition.

Dear Sisters, be certain that I follow you with affection. I pray for you, but you also pray for me. Greet your communities on my behalf, especially the sick and young Sisters. I send all my encouragement to follow with parresia and joy the Gospel of Christ. Be joyful, because it is beautiful to follow Jesus, it is beautiful to become living icons of Our Lady and of our hierarchic Holy Mother Church. Thank you.

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Pope Francis' Address to Coptic Pope Tawadros II

VATICAN CITY, May 10, 2013  - Here is the text of the Holy Father's address to Coptic Pope Tawadros II, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of Saint Mark today during his visit.

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Your Holiness,

Dear Brothers in Christ,

For me it is a great joy and a truly graced moment to be able to receive all of you here, at the tomb of Saint Peter, as we recall that historic meeting forty years ago between our predecessors, Pope Paul VI and the late Pope Shenouda III, in an embrace of peace and fraternity, after centuries in which there was a certain distance between us. So it is with deep affection that I welcome Your Holiness and the distinguished members of your delegation, and I thank you for your words. Through you, I extend my cordial greetings in the Lord to the bishops, the clergy, the monks and the whole Coptic Orthodox Church.

Today’s visit strengthens the bonds of friendship and brotherhood that already exist between the See of Peter and the See of Mark, heir to an inestimable heritage of martyrs, theologians, holy monks and faithful disciples of Christ, who have borne witness to the Gospel from generation to generation, often in situations of great adversity.

Forty years ago the Common Declaration of our predecessors represented a milestone on the ecumenical journey, and from it emerged a Commission for Theological Dialogue between our Churches, which has yielded good results and has prepared the ground for a broader dialogue between the Catholic Church and the entire family of Oriental Orthodox Churches, a dialogue that continues to bear fruit to this day. In that solemn Declaration, our Churches acknowledged that, in line with the apostolic traditions, they profess "one faith in the One Triune God" and "the divinity of the Only-begotten Son of God ... perfect God with respect to his divinity, perfect man with respect to his humanity". They acknowledged that divine life is given to us and nourished through the seven sacraments and they recognized a mutual bond in their common devotion to the Mother of God.

We are glad to be able to confirm today what our illustrious predecessors solemnly declared, we are glad to recognize that we are united by one Baptism, of which our common prayer is a special expression, and we long for the day when, in fulfilment of the Lord’s desire, we will be able to communicate from the one chalice.

Of course we are well aware that the path ahead may still prove to be long, but we do not want to forget the considerable distance already travelled, which has taken tangible form in radiant moments of communion, among which I am pleased to recall the meeting in February 2000 in Cairo between Pope Shenouda III and Blessed John Paul II, who went as a pilgrim, during the Great Jubilee, to the places of origin of our faith. I am convinced that – under the guidance of the Holy Spirit – our persevering prayer, our dialogue and the will to build communion day by day in mutual love will allow us to take important further steps towards full unity.

Your Holiness, I am aware of the many marks of attention and fraternal charity that you have shown, since the early days of your ministry, to the Catholic Coptic Church, to its Pastor, Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak and to his predecessor, Cardinal Antonios Naguib. The institution of a "National Council of Christian Churches", which you strongly desired, represents an important sign of the will of all believers in Christ to develop relations in daily life that are increasingly fraternal and to put themselves at the service of the whole of Egyptian society, of which they form an integral part. Let me assure Your Holiness that your efforts to build communion among believers in Christ, and your lively interest in the future of your country and the role of the Christian communities within Egyptian society find a deep echo in the heart of the Successor of Peter and of the entire Catholic community.

"If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together" (1 Cor 12:26). This is a law of the Christian life, and in this sense we can say that there is also an ecumenism of suffering: just as the blood of the martyrs was a seed of strength and fertility for the Church, so too the sharing of daily sufferings can become an effective instrument of unity. And this also applies, in a certain sense, to the broader context of society and relations between Christians and non-Christians: from shared suffering can blossom forth forgiveness, reconciliation and peace, with God’s help.

Your Holiness, in sincerely assuring you of my prayers that the whole flock entrusted to your pastoral care may be ever faithful to the Lord’s call, I invoke the protection of both Saint Peter and Saint Mark: may they who during their lifetime worked together in practical ways for the spread of the Gospel, intercede for us and accompany the journey of our Churches

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On the Newly Canonized Saints

VATICAN CITY, May 12, 2013 - Here is the address given by Pope Francis prior to the recitation of the Regina Caeli at the end of the Canonization Mass celebrated in St. Peter's Square today.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

At the end of this celebration, I would like to greet all of you who have come to pay homage to the new saints, in a special way I greet the official delegations from Italy, Colombia and Mexico.

May the martyrs of Otranto help the dear Italian people to look to the future with hope, trusting the nearness of God, who never abandons us even in difficult moments.

Through the intercession of Mother Laura Montoya may the Lord grant a new missionary and evangelizing impulse to the Church and, inspired by this new saint’s example of peace and reconciliation, may the beloved sons and daughters of Colombia continue to work for peace and the just development of their homeland.

In the hands of St. Guadalupe García Zavala we place all the poor, the sick and those who assist them, and we commend to her intercession the noble Mexican nation, that all violence and insecurity be banished from that land, and that in every case the way of solidarity and fraternal coexistence be advanced.

I am also happy to note that yesterday in Rome Father Luigi Novarese, founder of the Center for the Volunteers of Suffering (Centro volontari della Sofferenza) and the Silent Workers of the Cross (Silenziosi Operai della Croce) was beatified. I join in the thanksgiving for this exemplary priest, who understood how to renew pastoral work with the sick, making them active participants in the Church.

I greet the participants in the “March for Life,” which took place this morning in Rome and I invite all to continue to be attentive to this very important issue of respect for human life from the moment of conception. In this regard I would like also to mention the gathering of signatures that is taking place today in Italian parishes to support the “One of Us” initiative in Europe to guarantee legal protection of the embryo, protecting every human being from the first instant of his existence. “‘Evangelium Vitae’ Day” will be a special, which will take place here at the Vatican June 15-16, in the context of the Year of Faith, will be a special moment for those who take seriously the defense of the sacredness of human life.

I greet with affection all the parish groups, families, schools and young people present. With filial love we turn now to the Virgin Mary, mother and model of all Christians.

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Pope's Homily on Canonization of Saints

VATICAN CITY, May 12, 2013 - Here is the translation of the homily delivered by Pope Francis during the Canonization Mass held in St. Peter's Square this morning.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

On this seventh Sunday of Easter we are gathered together with joy to celebrate a feast of sanctity. Let us give thanks to God, who made his glory, the glory of Love, shine in the Martyrs of Otranto, in Mother Laura Montoya and in Mother María Guadalupe García Zavala. I greet all of you who have come for this feast – from Italy, from Colombia, from Mexico, from other countries – and I thank you!

I would like to consider the new saints in the light of the Word of God that has been proclaimed. This is a Word that has invited us to fidelity to Christ, even unto death; it has called us to recognize the urgency and the beauty of bringing Christ and his Gospel to all; and it has spoken to us of the witness of charity, without which even martyrdom and missionary work lose their Christian character. The Acts of the Apostles, when they speak to us of the deacon Stephen, the first Christian martyr, insist on saying that he was a man “full of the Holy Spirit” (6:5, 7:55). What does this mean? It means that he was full of the Love of God, that is whole person, his whole life was animated by the Spirit of the Risen Christ, so much so that it led him to follow Christ in total fidelity, to the point of the gift of self.

Today the Church proposes for our veneration a group of martyrs who were called together to the supreme witness to the Gospel in 1480. About 800 people, who survived the siege and invasion of Otranto, Italy, were decapitated on the outskirts of that city. They refused to deny their faith and they died confessing the risen Christ. Where did they find the strength to remain faithful? Precisely in faith, which permits us to see beyond the limits of our human vision, beyond the confines of earthly life, it permits us to contemplate “the heavens opened up,” as St. Stephen says, and the living Christ at the Father’s right hand. Dear friends, let us maintain the faith that we have received and that is our treasure, let us renew our fidelity to the Lord, even in the midst of obstacles and misunderstandings; God will never let us lack strength and serenity.

As we venerate the Martyrs of Otranto, let us ask God to sustain many Christians who, in our own time and in many parts of the world, now still suffer from violence, and to give them the courage of fidelity and to answer evil with good.

The second thought we can draw from the words of Jesus that we have heard in the Gospel: “I pray for those who believe in me through their word: that all may be one; as you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us” (John 17:20). St. Maria Laura Montoya was an instrument of evangelization first as a teacher and then as a spiritual mother of the indigenous people, to whom she gave hope, welcoming them with God’s love and bringing them to him through an effective pedagogy that respected their culture and did not oppose it. In her work of evangelization Mother Laura truly made herself all things to all men, according to the expression of St. Paul (cf. 1 Cor. 9:22). Today too her spiritual daughters live and bring the Gospel to the most obscure and needy places, as a kind of vanguard of the Church.

This first saint, born in the beautiful country of Colombia, teaches us to be generous with God, not to live our faith alone – as if it were possible to live the faith in an isolate way – but to communicate it, to convey the joy of the Gospel with words and the witness of life in every place in which we find ourselves. Wherever we live let us let this light of the Gospel shine! She teaches us to see the face of Jesus reflected in the other, to overcome indifference and individualism, which corrode Christian communities and corrode our heart, and she teaches us to welcome all without prejudice, without discrimination, without reticence, with sincere love, giving them the best of ourselves and above all sharing with them what is most precious to us, which is not our works or our organizations, no! Our most precious possession is Christ and his Gospel.

Lastly, a third thought. In today’s Gospel, Jesus prays to the Father with these words: “I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them” (John 17:26). The fidelity of martyrs unto death and the proclamation of the Gospel to everyone are rooted in, have their roots in the love of God poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (cf. Romans 5:5), and in the testimony that we must give of this love in our daily life. St. María Guadalupe García Zavala knew this well. Giving up a comfortable life – how much damage is done by a comfortable life, well-being; the “bourgeoisification” of the heart paralyzes us. Giving up a comfortable life to follow Jesus’ call, she taught the love of poverty, which permitted a greater love of the poor and infirm. Mother Lupita knelt on the floor in the hospital before the sick and abandoned to serve them with tenderness and compassion. And this is called “touching the flesh of Christ.” The poor, the abandoned, the sick, the marginalized are the flesh of Christ. And Mother Lupita touched the flesh of Christ and taught us this way of acting: do not be ashamed, do not be afraid, do not be repulsed by “touching the flesh of Christ.” Mother Lupita understood what this “touching the flesh of Christ” meant. Today her spiritual daughters continue to seek to reflect God’s love in works of charity, without avoiding sacrifice and facing all obstacles with meekness, with apostolic perseverance (hypomonē), enduring them with courage.

This new Mexican saint invites us to love as Jesus did, and this means not bring shut up in ourselves, in our own problems, our own ideas, our own interests, in this little world that does so much damage to us, but going out and caring for those who need attention, understanding, help, to being them the warmth and nearness of God’s love, through delicate gestures of sincere affection and love.

Fidelity to Christ and to his Gospel, to proclaim it with our words and lives, witnessing to God’s love with our love, with our charity to all: these are the luminous examples and teachings the saints who are proclaimed today. But they also pose questions for our Christian life: How am I faithful to Christ? We bring this question with us to reflect on during the day: How am I faithful to Christ? Am I able to manifest my faith with respect but also with courage? Am I attentive to others, do I recognize those in need, do I see everyone as a brother or sister to love? Let us ask for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the new saints, that the Lord fill our lives with the joy of his love. Amen.

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Text of Prayer Consecrating Francis' Pontificate to Our Lady
"Fill his heart with the tenderness of God, which you felt like no one else"

ROME, May 14, 2013 - Here is a translation of the prayer by which Cardinal José da Cruz Policarpo, patriarch of Lisbon, Portugal, consecrated to Our Lady of Fatima the pontificate of Pope Francis.

Monday was the feast day of Our Lady of Fatima. The consecration was made at the end of Mass for the feast at the Fatima shrine.

* * *

The bishops of Portugal and this multitude of pilgrims are at your feet, on the 96th anniversary of your apparition to the little shepherds in Cova de Iria, to fulfill Pope Francis’ clearly expressed wish, that we consecrate to you, Virgin of Fatima, his ministry as Bishop of Rome and universal shepherd.

Thus we consecrate to you, Lady, who are Mother of the Church, the ministry of the new Pope. Fill his heart with the tenderness of God, which you felt like no one else, so that he will be able to embrace all the men and women of this time with the love of your Son Jesus Christ. Contemporary humanity needs to feel that it is loved by God and by the Church. Only by feeling loved will it overcome the temptation to violence, materialism, forgetfulness of God, the loss of its way. And it will be led by you to a new world where love will reign.

Give him the gift of discernment, to be able to identify the paths for the renewal of the Church. Give him the courage not to hesitate in following the paths suggested by the Holy Spirit. Shelter him in the harsh hours of suffering, to overcome in charity the trials that the renewal of the Church will bring. Be always by his side, saying with him those words you know well: “I am the Handmaid of the Lord, let it be done unto me according to Thy word.”

The paths of the renewal of the Church lead us to discover the timeliness of the message that you gave the little shepherds: the exigency of conversion to God who has been offended, because He is so forgotten. Conversion is always a return to the love of God. God forgives because He loves us. This is why His love is called mercy. The Church, protected by your maternal solicitude and guided by this shepherd, must assert herself increasingly as the place of conversion and forgiveness, because in her, truth is always expressed in charity.

You indicated prayer as the decisive path of conversion. Teach the Church of which you are a member and model, so that we will be increasingly a people at prayer, in communion with the Holy Father, the first of this people who prays, and also in silent communion with the previous Pope, His Holiness Benedict XVI, who chose the path of the silent man of prayer, taking the Church more profoundly into the paths of prayer.

In your message to the little shepherds, here in Cova de Iria, you highlighted the Pope’s ministry, “the man dressed in white.” Three of the last Popes were pilgrims to your shrine. Only you, Lady, in your maternal love for the whole Church, can put in Pope Francis’ heart the desire to be a pilgrim to this shrine. It is not something we can ask him for other reasons. Only the silent collaboration between you and him will attract him to this pilgrimage, in the certainty that he will be supported by millions of believers, willing to hear your message again.

Here at this altar of the world, he will be able to bless humanity, to make today’s world feel that God loves all men and women of our time, that the Church loves them and that you, Mother of the Redeemer, lead them with tenderness on the paths of salvation.

+JOSE, cardinal patriarch

President of the Portuguese Episcopal Conference

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Pope Francis' Message to Cardinal Scola on 17th Centenary of the Edict of Milan

VATICAN CITY, May 15, 2013  - Here is the translation of the telegram sent by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican Secretary of State, on behalf of the Pope to Cardinal Angelo Scola, Archbishop of Milan, on the occasion of the 1700th anniversary of the signing of the Edict of Milan.

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TO HIS MOST REVEREND EXCELLENCY

THE LORD CARDINAL ANGELO SCOLA

ARCHBISHOP OF MILAN

Informed of the visit in that city of the Ecumenical Patriarch, on the occasion of the solemn celebrations for the 17th centenary of the Constantinian Edict, the Supreme Pontiff sends his fraternal greeting to his His Holiness Bartholomew I, and sends a thought of welcome to the other illustrious guests gathered for the happy circumstance and rejoices with the beloved Ambrosian Church, with the civil authorities and with the whole city of Milan, for the importance given to the memory of the historic decision that, decreeing religious freedom for Christians, opened new paths to the Gospel and contributed decisively to the birth of European civilization.

Pope Francis hopes that today, as then, the common witness of Christians of the East and West, supported by the spirit of the Risen One, will agree to the diffusion of the message of salvation in Europe and in the whole world and that, thanks to the forsight of the civil authorities, the right of public expression of one’s faith will be respected everywhere, and that the contribution that Christianity continues to offer to the culture and society of our time will be received without prejudices. With these sentiments, the Holy Father, while renewing his greeting, assures all those present of his closeness in prayer and sends to you, Your Eminence, and to the whole flock entrusted to your pastoral care, a special heartfelt Apostolic Blessing, in pledge of copious heavenly graces.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone

Secretary of State

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Francis' Address to New Ambassadors
"There is a need for financial reform along ethical lines that would produce in its turn an economic reform to benefit everyone"

VATICAN CITY, May 16, 2013  - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Francis gave today to four new ambassadors to the Holy See: Bolot Iskovich Otunbaev from Kyrgyzstan; David Shoul from Antigua and Barbuda; Jean-Paul Senninger from Luxembourg; and Lameck Nthekela from Botswana.

* * *

Your Excellencies,

I am pleased to receive you for the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassadors Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Holy See on the part of your respective countries: Kyrgyzstan, Antigua and Barbuda, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and Botswana. The gracious words which you have addressed to me, for which I thank you heartily, have testified that the Heads of State of your countries are concerned to develop relations of respect and cooperation with the Holy See. I would ask you kindly to convey to them my sentiments of gratitude and esteem, together with the assurance of my prayers for them and their fellow citizens.

Ladies and Gentlemen, our human family is presently experiencing something of a turning point in its own history, if we consider the advances made in various areas. We can only praise the positive achievements which contribute to the authentic welfare of mankind, in fields such as those of health, education and communications. At the same time, we must also acknowledge that the majority of the men and women of our time continue to live daily in situations of insecurity, with dire consequences. Certain pathologies are increasing, with their psychological consequences; fear and desperation grip the hearts of many people, even in the so-called rich countries; the joy of life is diminishing; indecency and violence are on the rise; poverty is becoming more and more evident. People have to struggle to live and, frequently, to live in an undignified way. One cause of this situation, in my opinion, is in the our relationship with money, and our acceptance of its power over ourselves and our society. Consequently the financial crisis which we are experiencing makes us forget that its ultimate origin is to be found in a profound human crisis. In the denial of the primacy of human beings! We have created new idols. The worship of the golden calf of old (cf. Ex 32:15-34) has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly humane goal.

The worldwide financial and economic crisis seems to highlight their distortions and above all the gravely deficient human perspective, which reduces man to one of his needs alone, namely, consumption. Worse yet, human beings themselves are nowadays considered as consumer goods which can be used and thrown away. We have started a throw-away culture. This tendency is seen on the level of individuals and whole societies; and it is being promoted! In circumstances like these, solidarity, which is the treasure of the poor, is often considered counterproductive, opposed to the logic of finance and the economy. While the income of a minority is increasing exponentially, that of the majority is crumbling. This imbalance results from ideologies which uphold the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation, and thus deny the right of control to States, which are themselves charged with providing for the common good. A new, invisible and at times virtual, tyranny is established, one which unilaterally and irremediably imposes its own laws and rules. Moreover, indebtedness and credit distance countries from their real economy and citizens from their real buying power. Added to this, as if it were needed, is widespread corruption and selfish fiscal evasion which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The will to power and of possession has become limitless.

Concealed behind this attitude is a rejection of ethics, a rejection of God. Ethics, like solidarity, is a nuisance! It is regarded as counterproductive: as something too human, because it relativizes money and power; as a threat, because it rejects manipulation and subjection of people: because ethics leads to God, who is situated outside the categories of the market. God is thought to be unmanageable by these financiers, economists and politicians, God is unmanageable, even dangerous, because he calls man to his full realization and to independence from any kind of slavery. Ethics – naturally, not the ethics of ideology – makes it possible, in my view, to create a balanced social order that is more humane. In this sense, I encourage the financial experts and the political leaders of your countries to consider the words of Saint John Chrysostom: "Not to share one’s goods with the poor is to rob them and to deprive them of life. It is not our goods that we possess, but theirs" (Homily on Lazarus, 1:6 – PG 48, 992D).

Dear Ambassadors, there is a need for financial reform along ethical lines that would produce in its turn an economic reform to benefit everyone. This would nevertheless require a courageous change of attitude on the part of political leaders. I urge them to face this challenge with determination and farsightedness, taking account, naturally, of their particular situations. Money has to serve, not to rule! The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but the Pope has the duty, in Christ’s name, to remind the rich to help the poor, to respect them, to promote them. The Pope appeals for disinterested solidarity and for a return to person-centred ethics in the world of finance and economics.

For her part, the Church always works for the integral development of every person. In this sense, she reiterates that the common good should not be simply an extra, simply a conceptual scheme of inferior quality tacked onto political programmes. The Church encourages those in power to be truly at the service of the common good of their peoples. She urges financial leaders to take account of ethics and solidarity. And why should they not turn to God to draw inspiration from his designs? In this way, a new political and economic mindset would arise that would help to transform the absolute dichotomy between the economic and social spheres into a healthy symbiosis.

Finally, through you, I greet with affection the Pastors and the faithful of the Catholic communities present in your countries. I urge them to continue their courageous and joyful witness of faith and fraternal love in accordance with Christ’s teaching. Let them not be afraid to offer their contribution to the development of their countries, through initiatives and attitudes inspired by the Sacred Scriptures! And as you inaugurate your mission, I extend to you, dear Ambassadors, my very best wishes, assuring you of the assistance of the Roman Curia for the fulfilment of your duties. To this end, upon you and your families, and also upon your Embassy staff, I willingly invoke abundant divine blessings. Thank you.

 

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On Pentecost

VATICAN CITY, May 19, 2013 - Here is the translation of the Holy Father's address prior to the recitation of the Regina Caeli at the conclusion of the Mass for the Solemnity of Pentecost.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

This feast of faith, which began yesterday with the vigil and culminated this morning with the Eucharist, is about to conclude, a renewed Pentecost that transformed St. Peter’s Square in a cenacle opened to heaven. We relived the experience of the nascent Church, united in prayer with Mary, the Mother of Jesus (cf. Acts 1:14). We too, in the variety of charisms, have experienced the beauty of unity, of being one. And this is the work of the Holy Spirit, who continually creates the unity of the Church.

I would like to thank the movements, the associations, the communities, the ecclesial groups. You are a gift and part of the riches of the Church! This is what you are! I thank in a special way all of you who have come from Rome and from many corners of the globe. Bring the power of the Gospel wherever you go! Do not be afraid! Always rejoice and be passionate about the communion of the Church! May the risen Lord always be with you and Our Lady protect you! Let us remember in prayer the people of the Region of Emilia Romagna in Italy who experienced an earthquake last year on May 20. I also pray for the Italian Federation of Oncology Volunteer Associations.

[After reciting the ReginaCaeli with those present the Holy Father concluded with these words:]

Brothers and sisters, thank you so much for your love for the Church! Have a goodSunday, happy Feast of Pentecost and have a good lunch!

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Pope Francis' Homily at Pentecost Mass

VATICAN CITY, May 19, 2013 - Here is the translation of Pope Francis' homily at Mass for the Solemnity of Pentecost which was celebrated this morning at St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today we contemplate and re-live in the liturgy the outpouring of the Holy Spirit sent by the risen Christ upon his Church; an event of grace which filled the Upper Room in Jerusalem and then spread throughout the world.

But what happened on that day, so distant from us and yet so close as to touch the very depths of our hearts? Luke gives us the answer in the passage of the Acts of the Apostles which we have heard (2:1-11). The evangelist brings us back to Jerusalem, to the Upper Room where the apostles were gathered. The first element which draws our attention is the sound which suddenly came from heaven like the rush of a violent wind, and filled the house; then the tongues as of fire which divided and came to rest on each of the apostles. Sound and tongues of fire: these are clear, concrete signs which touch the apostles not only from without but also within: deep in their minds and hearts. As a result, all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit, who unleashed his irresistible power with amazing consequences: they all began to speak in different languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. A completely unexpected scene opens up before our eyes: a great crowd gathers, astonished because each one heard the apostles speaking in his own language. They all experience something new, something which had never happened before: We hear them, each of us, speaking our own language. And what is it that they are they speaking about? Gods deeds of power.

In the light of this passage from Acts, I would like to reflect on three words linked to the working of the Holy Spirit: newness, harmony and mission.

1. Newness always makes us a bit fearful, because we feel more secure if we have everything under control, if we are the ones who build, programme and plan our lives in accordance with our own ideas, our own comfort, our own preferences. This is also the case when it comes to God. Often we follow him, we accept him, but only up to a certain point. It is hard to abandon ourselves to him with complete trust, allowing the Holy Spirit to be the soul and guide of our lives in our every decision. We fear that God may force us to strike out on new paths and leave behind our all too narrow, closed and selfish horizons in order to become open to his own. Yet throughout the history of salvation, whenever God reveals himself, he brings newness and change, and demands our complete trust: Noah, mocked by all, builds an ark and is saved; Abram leaves his land with only a promise in hand; Moses stands up to the might of Pharaoh and leads his people to freedom; the apostles, huddled fearfully in the Upper Room, go forth with courage to proclaim the Gospel. This is not a question of novelty for noveltys sake, the search for something new to relieve our boredom, as is so often the case in our own day. The newness which God brings into our life is something that actually brings fulfilment, that gives true joy, true serenity, because God loves us and desires only our good. Let us ask ourselves: Are we open to Gods surprises? Or are we closed and fearful before the newness of the Holy Spirit? Do we have the courage to strike out along the new paths which Gods newness sets before us, or do we resist, barricaded in transient structures which have lost their capacity for openness to what is new?

2. A second thought: the Holy Spirit would appear to create disorder in the Church, since he brings the diversity of charisms and gifts; yet all this, by his working, is a great source of wealth, for the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of unity, which does not mean uniformity, but which leads everything back to harmony. In the Church, it is the Holy Spirit who creates harmony. One of Fathers of the Church has an expression which I love: the Holy Spirit himself is harmony Ipse harmonia est. Only the Spirit can awaken diversity, plurality and multiplicity, while at the same time building unity. Here too, when we are the ones who try to create diversity and close ourselves up in what makes us different and other, we bring division. When we are the ones who want to build unity in accordance with our human plans, we end up creating uniformity, standardization. But if instead we let ourselve be guided by the Spirit, richness, variety and diversity never become a source of conflict, because he impels us to experience variety within the communion of the Church. Journeying together in the Church, under the guidance of her pastors who possess a special charism and ministry, is a sign of the working of the Holy Spirit. Having a sense of the Church is something fundamental for every Christian, every community and every movement. It is the Church which brings Christ to me, and me to Christ; parallel journeys are dangerous! When we venture beyond (proagon) the Churchs teaching and community, and do not remain in them, we are not one with the God of Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Jn 9). So let us ask ourselves: Am I open to the harmony of the Holy Spirit, overcoming every form of exclusivity? Do I let myself be guided by him, living in the Church and with the Church?

3. A final point. The older theologians used to say that the soul is a kind of sailboat, the Holy Spirit is the wind which fills its sails and drives it forward, and the gusts of wind are the gifts of the Spirit. Lacking his impulse and his grace, we do not go forward. The Holy Spirit draws us into the mystery of the living God and saves us from the threat of a Church which is gnostic and self-referential, closed in on herself; he impels us to open the doors and go forth to proclaim and bear witness to the good news of the Gospel, to communicate the joy of faith, the encounter with Christ. The Holy Spirit is the soul of mission. The events that took place in Jerusalem almost two thousand years ago are not something far removed from us; they are events which affect us and become a lived experience in each of us. The Pentecost of the Upper Room in Jerusalem is the beginning, a beginning which endures. The Holy Spirit is the supreme gift of the risen Christ to his apostles, yet he wants that gift to reach everyone. As we heard in the Gospel, Jesus says: I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to remain with you forever (Jn 14:16). It is the Paraclete Spirit, the Comforter, who grants us the courage to take to the streets of the world, bringing the Gospel! The Holy Spirit makes us look to the horizon and drive us to the very outskirts of existence in order to proclaim life in Jesus Christ. Let us ask ourselves: do we tend to stay closed in on ourselves, on our group, or do we let the Holy Spirit open us to mission?

Todays liturgy is a great prayer which the Church, in union with Jesus, raises up to the Father, asking him to renew the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. May each of us, and every group and movement, in the harmony of the Church, cry out to the Father and implore this gift. Today too, as at her origins, the Church, in union with Mary, cries out:Veni, Sancte Spiritus! Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of your love! Amen.

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 Pope Francis' Q-and-A at Vigil With Movements

QUESTIONS ADDRESSED TO THE POPE

"Christian truth is attractive and persuasive because it answers the profound need of human existence, proclaiming in a convincing way that Christ is the only Savior of the whole man and of all men." Holy Father, these words of yours have had a profound effect on us: they express in a direct and radical way the experience that each of us wishes to live above all in the Year of Faith and in this pilgrimage that has brought us here this evening. We are before you to renew our faith, to confirm it and to reinforce it. We know that the faith cannot be <confessed> once and for all. As Benedict XVI said in Porta fidei: faith is not an obvious presupposition. This statement does not relate only to the world, others, the tradition from which we come: this statement relates first of all to each one of us. Too often we realize that the faith is a new bud, the beginning of change, but difficult to invest in it the totality of life. It does not become the origin of all that we know and do.

Holiness, in your life, how were you able to arrive at certainty about the faith?

And what path do you indicate to us so that each one of us can overcome the fragility of our faith?

[Next question]

Holy Father, mine is the experience of daily life as that of so many. I try to live the faith in the realm of work, in contact with others, as a sincere testimony of the good received in my encounter with the Lord. I am, we are "thoughts of God," invested with a mysterious Love that has given us life. I teach in a school, and this awareness gives me the motive to be attentive to my youngsters and also my colleagues. I often see that many seek happiness in so many individual ways in which life and its great demands are often reduced to the materialism of the one who wants to have everything and is always dissatisfied, or to nihilism in the one for whom nothing makes sense. I wonder how the proposal of the faith, which is that of a personal encounter, of a community, of a people, can reach the heart of the man and woman of our time. We are made for the infinite -- bet your life for great things! -- you said recently, and yet everything around us and around our young people seems to say that we must be content with immediate, mediocre answers, and that man must adapt himself to the finite without seeking anything else.

Sometimes we are intimidated, as the disciples on the eve of Pentecost.

The Church invites us to the New Evangelization. I think that all of us here feel this challenge strongly, which is at the heart of our experiences. Because of this, I would like to ask you, Holy Father, to help me and all of us to understand how we should live this challenge in our time. What is, for you, the most important things that all our Movements, Associations and Communities must look at to carry out the task to which we have been called? How can we communicate the faith in an effective way today?

[Third question]

Holy Father, I listened with emotion to the words you said at the audience with journalists after your election: "How much I would like a poor Church for the poor." Many of us are engaged in works of charity and justice: we are an active part of that presence of the Church where man suffers. I am committed, I have my family and, to the degree that I can, I involve myself personally in closeness and help to the poor. But I don't feel good because of this. I would like to say with Mother Teresa: everything is for Christ. The great help in living this experience are the brothers and sisters of my community who are committed to the same purpose. And in this commitment we are sustained by faith and prayer. The need is great. You have reminded us of it: "How many poor there are still in the world and how much suffering these persons have." And the crisis has aggravated everything. I think of the poverty that afflicts so many countries -- which has also appeared in the well-off world -- of the lack of work, of mass migratory movements, new slaveries, the abandonment and loneliness of so many families, of so many elderly and of so many persons that have no home or work.

I would like to ask you, Holy Father, how I and all of us can live a poor Church for the poor? In what way is a suffering man a question for our faith? All of us, as lay Movements and Associations, what concrete and effective contribution can we make to the Church and to society to address this grave crisis that touches public ethics, the model of development, politics, in sum a new way of being men and women?

[Fourth question]

Walk, build, confess. This is you "program" for a Church-movement, at least this is how I understood it on hearing one of your homilies at the beginning of the Pontificate, you comforted and motivated us. Comforted us because we find ourselves in a profound unity with friends of the Christian community and with the whole universal Church. Motivated, because in a certain sense you have exhorted us to remove the dust of time and of the superficiality of our adherence to Christ. But I must say that I am unable to overcome the sense of disturbance that one of these words causes me: confess. Confess, that is, witness the faith. We think of so many of our brothers who suffer because of [the faith], as we heard a short while ago. One who on Sunday morning must decide to go to Mass because he knows that by going to Mass he risks his life. One who feels fenced in and discriminated because of his Christian faith in so many, in too many parts of the world. In face of these situations, it seems that my confession -- our witness -- is timid and hindered. We want to do more, but what? And how can we help these, our brothers? How can we alleviate their suffering without being able to do anything, or very little, to change their political and social context?

THE HOLY FATHER'S ANSWERS

Good evening to you all!

I am happy to meet with you and that we are all meeting in this Square to pray, to be united and to await the gift of the Spirit. I know your questions and I have thought of you – this, then, is not without knowledge! First, the truth. I have them here, written.

The first – "in your life, how have you been able to arrive at certainty about the faith; and what way do you indicate so that each one of us will be able to overcome the fragility of our faith?" – It is an historical question because it relates to my history, to the story of my life!

I had the grace to grow up in a family in which the faith was lived in a simple and concrete way; but it was above all my grandmother, my father's mother, who marked my way of faith. She was a woman who explained to us, who spoke to us of Jesus, who taught us the Catechism. I remember that on Good Friday she would take us to the candle procession and, at the end of this procession, the "dead Christ" would arrive, and our grandmother would have us children kneel and said to us: "Look , He is dead, but tomorrow He will rise." I received the first Christian proclamation from this woman, from my grandmother! And this is most beautiful! The first proclamation at home, with the family! And this makes me think of the love of so many mothers and so many grandmothers in the transmission of the faith. They are the ones who transmit the faith. This happened also in the first times, because Saint Paul said to Timothy: "I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother" (cf. 2 Timothy 1:5). All mothers who are here, all grandmothers, think of this! To transmit the faith, because God puts us next to persons that help us on our journey of faith. We don't find faith in the abstract. No! It is always a person who preaches, who tells us who Jesus is, who transmits the faith to us, who gives us the first proclamation. And thus was the first experience of faith that I had.

However, there is a day that was very important for me: Sept. 21, 1953. I was almost 17. It was the "Day of the Student," for us the day of Spring – for you the day of Autumn. Before going to the party, I went to the parish I frequented, I met a priest whom I did not know, and felt the need to go to Confession. This was for me an experience of encounter: I found that someone was waiting for me. But I don't know what happened, I don't remember, I don't know in fact why that priest was there, whom I didn't know, why I felt this desire to go to Confession, but the truth is that someone was waiting for me. He had been waiting for me for some time. After Confession, I felt something had changed. I wasn't the same. In fact I heard something like a voice, a call: I was convinced I had to become a priest. This experience in faith is important. We say that we must seek God, go to Him to ask Him for forgiveness, but when we go, He is waiting for us, He is first! In Spanish we have a word that explains this well: "The Lord always 'primerea' us," is first, is waiting for us! And this is, in fact, a great grace: to find someone who is waiting for you. You go as a sinner, but He is waiting for you to forgive you. This is the experience that the Prophets of Israel described saying that the Lord is like the flower of the almond tree, the first flower of Spring (cf. Jeremiah 1:11-12). He is there, before the other flowers come out. He who waits. The Lord waits for us. And when we seek Him, we find this reality: that He is waiting for us to receive us, to give us His love. And this brings to your heart such astonishment that you don't believe it, and so faith grows! -- with the encounter with a person, with the encounter with the Lord. Someone will say: "No, I prefer to study the faith in books!" It's important to study it but look, this alone is not enough!

The important thing is the encounter with Jesus, the encounter with Him, and this gives you faith, because it is precisely He who gives it to you! You also spoke of the fragility of faith, what can be done to overcome it. The enemy that is greater than fragility – it's curious, no? – is fear. But don't be afraid! We are fragile, and we know it. But He is stronger! If you go with Him, there's no problem! A child is very fragile – I have seen so many today -- but he is with his father, with his mother, he is safe! We are safe with the Lord. Faith grows with the Lord, in fact, from the hand of the Lord; this makes us grow and makes us strong. But if we think we can arrange ourselves on our own … Let us think what happened to Peter: "Lord, I will never fall away!" (cf. Matthew 26:33-35); and then the cock crowed and he had denied Him three times! (cf. vv. 69-75). Let us think: when we have too much confidence in ourselves, we are more fragile, more fragile. Always with the Lord! And to say with the Lord means to say with the Eucharist, with the Bible, with prayer … but also in the family, also with our mother, also with her, because she is the one who takes us to the Lord; it is the mother, the one who knows everything. Hence pray also to Our Lady and ask her that, as Mother, she make me strong. This is what I think about fragility, at least it's my experience. One thing that makes me strong every day is to pray the Rosary to Our Lady. I feel such great strength because I go to her and I feel strong.

Let's go to the second question.

"I think that all of us here present feel the challenge strongly, the challenge of evangelization, which is at the heart of our experiences. Because of this I would like to ask you, Holy Father, to help me and all of us to understand how we must live this challenge in our time, what do you think is the most important thing that all our Movements, Associations and Communities must look at to do the task to which we have been called. How can we communicate the faith today in an effective way?"

I will say only three words.

The first: Jesus. What is the most important thing? Jesus. If we go ahead with organization, with other things, with beautiful things but without Jesus, we don't go forward, it doesn't work. Jesus is most important. Now I would like to make a small reproach, but fraternally, among us. All of you cried out in the Square: "Francis, Francis, Pope Francis." But, where was Jesus? I would have liked you to shout: "Jesus, Jesus is the Lord, and He is in fact in our midst! Henceforth, no "Francis" but "Jesus"!

The second word is: prayer. To look at God's face but, above all – and this is linked to what I said first – to feel oneself looked upon. The Lord looks at us: He looks at us first. My experience is what I experience before the Tabernacle when I go to pray, in the evening, before the Lord. Sometimes I fall asleep a little; this is true, because the exhaustion of the day makes you fall asleep a bit. But He understands me. And I feel so much comfort when I think He is looking at me. We think that we must pray, talk, talk, talk … No! Let the Lord look at you. When He looks at us, He gives us strength and helps us to witness Him – because the question was about witnessing the faith, no? First "Jesus," then "prayer" – we feel God is holding us by the hand. I stress now the importance of this: let yourself be guided by Him. This is more important than any calculation. We are true evangelizers by allowing ourselves to be guided by Him. We think of Peter; perhaps he was having a siesta, after lunch, and had a vision, the vision of the sheet with all the animals, and he felt that Jesus was saying something to him, but he didn't understand. At that moment, some non-Jews came to call him to go to a house, and he saw how the Holy Spirit was over there. Peter allowed himself to be guided by Jesus to achieve that first evangelization to the Gentiles, who were not Jews: something unimaginable at that time (cf. Acts 10:9-33). And so, the whole story, the whole story! -- to allow oneself to be guided by Jesus. He is in fact the leader; Jesus is our leader.

The third: witness. Jesus, prayer – pray, allowing oneself to be guided by Him – and then witness. But I would like to add something. This allowing of oneself to be guided by Jesus leads you to Jesus' surprises. One can think that we must plan evangelization at the table, thinking of strategies, making plans. But these are instruments, small instruments. What is important is Jesus and allowing oneself to be guided by Him. Then we can do the strategies, but this is secondary.

In fine, witness: communication of the faith can only be done with witness, and this is love. Not with our ideas, but with the Gospel lived in one's own life and which the Holy Spirit makes us live within ourselves. It is like a synergy between us and the Holy Spirit, and this leads to witness. The church is taken forward by the Saints, who are, in fact, those who give this witness. As John Paul II and also Benedict XVI said, the world today has such need of witnesses. Not so much of teachers but of witnesses -- not so much talking but to speak with one's whole life: consistency of life, in fact, consistency of life! A consistency of life which is to live Christianity as an encounter with Jesus, who takes me to others, and not as a social event. We are so socially, we are Christians, shut in on ourselves. No, not this! Witness!

The third question: "I would like to ask, Holy Father, how I and all of us can live a poor Church for the poor. In what way is the suffering man a question for our faith? All of us, as Movements, as lay Associations, what concrete and effective contribution can we make to the Church and to society to address this grave crisis that touches public ethics" – this is important! – the model of development, politics, in sum a new way of being men and women?

I take up witness again. First of all, the main contribution we can give is to live the Gospel. The Church is not a political movement, or a well-organized structure: she isn't this. We're not an NGO, and when the Church becomes an NGO she loses salt, has no flavor, is only an empty organization. And in this you must be shrewd, because the devil deceives us, because there is the danger of efficiency. It is one thing to preach Jesus, and another to be efficient. No, that is another value. The Church is salt of the earth, she is light of the world, she is called to render present in society the leaven of the Kingdom of God and she does so first of all with her testimony, the testimony of fraternal love, of solidarity, of sharing. When we hear some say that solidarity isn't a value, but that it is a "primary attitude" that must disappear … this is not on! They are thinking only of a worldly effectiveness. The moments of crisis, such as the ones we are living – but you said before that "we are in a world of lies" -- this moment of crisis, let's pay attention, does not consist solely of an economic crisis; no, it's a cultural crisis. It's a crisis of man: what is in crisis is man! And what can be destroyed is man! But man is the image of God! Because of this it is a profound crisis! In this moment of crisis we can't be concerned only about ourselves, shut ourselves in solitude, in discouragement, in the sense of impotence in face of the problems. Don't shut yourselves in, please! This is a danger: if we shut ourselves in in the parish, with friends, in the movement, with those with whom we think the same things … do you know what happens? When the Church becomes closed, she gets sick, she gets sick. Think of a closed room for a year; when you go in, there's a smell of dampness, there are so many things that are not on. A closed Church is the same thing: it is a sick Church. The Church must come out of herself. Where? To the existential peripheries, whatever they are, but go out. Jesus says to us: "Go into all the world! Go! Preach! Give witness of the Gospel!" (cf. Mark 16:15). But what happens when one comes out of oneself? What can happen is what might happen to all those who leave home and go out to the street: an accident. But I say to you: I prefer a thousand times an 'incidentata' Church, involved in an accident, than a sick Church because she is closed! Go outside, go out! Think also of what Revelation says. It says a beautiful thing: that Jesus is at the door and knocks, he knocks to come in to our heart (cf. Revelation 3:20). This is the meaning of Revelation. But ask yourselves this question: how many times is Jesus inside and knocks on the door to go out, to go outside, and we don't let Him go out, because of our securities, because so many times we are in obsolete structures, which only serve to make us slaves, and not free children of God? In this "exit" it is important to go to the encounter; this word is very important for me: encounter with others. Why? Because the faith is an encounter with Jesus, and we must do the same thing that Jesus does: encounter others. We live a culture of clash, a culture of fragmentation, a culture in which what isn't of use to me I throw away, the culture of rejection! But we should go to an encounter and with our faith we must create a "culture of encounter," a culture of friendship, a culture where we find brothers, where we can speak also with those who don't think like we do, also with those who have another faith, who don't have the same faith. All have something in common with us: they are images of God, they are children of God. We must go out to meet everyone, without negotiating our membership.

And another point is important: with the poor. If we come out of ourselves, we find poverty. Today – it pains the heart to say it – today, to find a homeless person dead from cold isn't news. Today news, perhaps, is a scandal. A scandal: ah, that is news! Today, to think that so many children have nothing to eat isn't news. This is grave, this is grave! We cannot remain calm! But … things are like this. We cannot become stiff Christians, those Christians who are too educated, who speak of theological things while having tea, calm Christians. No! We must become courageous Christians and go to seek those who are in fact Christ's flesh, those who are the flesh of Christ! When I go to hear confessions – now I can't because to go out to hear confessions … one cannot go out of here, but this is another problem – when I went to hear confessions in my previous diocese, some came and I always asked this question: "But do you give alms?" – "Yes, Father!" "Ah, good, good." And then I would ask two more: "Tell me, when you give alms do you look into the eyes of the man or woman to whom you give alms?" "Ah, I don't know, I don't remember." Second question: "And when you give alms, do you touch the hand of the one to whom you give alms, or do you toss the coin?" This is the problem -- Christ's flesh, to touch the flesh of Christ, to take on ourselves this pain for the poor. For us Christians, poverty is not a sociological, philosophical or cultural category. No, it is a theological category. I would say, perhaps the first category, because God, the Son of God, abased Himself, made Himself poor to walk with us on the road. And this is our poverty: the poverty of the flesh of Christ, the poverty that the Son of God brought us with His Incarnation. A poor Church for the poor begins by going to the flesh of Christ. If we go to the flesh of Christ, we begin to understand something, to understand what this poverty is, the poverty of the Lord. And this isn't easy. But there is a problem that does no good to Christians: the spirit of the world, the worldly spirit, spiritual worldliness. This leads us to a sufficiency, to live the spirit of the world and not that of Jesus. The question you asked: how should one live to address this crisis that touches public ethics, the model of development, politics. As this is a crisis of man, a crisis that destroys man, it is a crisis that robs man of ethics.

If there is no ethics in public life, in political life, an ethics of reference, everything is possible and everything can be done. And when we read the newspapers we see how the lack of ethics in public life does so much harm to the whole of humanity.

I would like to tell you a story. I've done so twice already this week, but I'll do it a third time with you. It is the story told by a biblical midrash of a Rabbi of the 12th century. He tells the story of the building of the Tower of Babel and says that to build the tower of Babel it was necessary to make bricks. What does this mean? To go, to knead the mud, to carry the straw, do everything … then, to the oven. And when the brick was made, it had to be taken up, for the construction of the Tower of Babel. A brick was a treasure, for all the work entailed to make it. When a brick fell, it was a national tragedy and the guilty worker was punished; a brick was so precious that if it fell it was a tragedy. However, if a worker fell, nothing happened, it was something else. This happens today: if investments in the banks fall somewhat … tragedy … what to do? But if people die of hunger, if they have nothing to eat, if they don't have health, it doesn't matter! This is our crisis of today! And the testimony of a poor Church for the poor goes against this mentality.

The fourth question: "In face of these situations, it seems to me that my confession, my witness is timid and hindered. I would like to do more, but what? And how should we help these our brothers, how should we alleviate their suffering, not being able to do anything or very little to change their political-social context?"

Two virtues are necessary to proclaim the Gospel: courage and patience. They [Christians who suffer] are in the Church of patience. They suffer and there are more martyrs today than in the first centuries of the Church – more martyrs! -- brothers and sisters of ours. They suffer! They lead their faith to the point of martyrdom. But martyrdom is never a defeat; martyrdom is the highest degree of witness that we must give. We are on the way to martyrdom, of little martyrs: to renounce this, to do this … but we are on the way. And they, poor little ones, give their life, but they give it – as we heard the situation in Pakistan – for love of Jesus, witnessing to Jesus. A Christian must always have this attitude of meekness, of humility, in fact the attitude they have, trusting in Jesus, entrusting themselves to Jesus. It is necessary to specify that so many times these conflicts do not have a religious origin; often there are other causes, of a social or political type and, unfortunately, religious membership is used as fuel on the fire. A Christian must always be able to respond to evil with goodness, even if often it is difficult. We try to make these, our brothers and sisters, feel that we are profoundly united with them – profoundly united! – with their situation; that we know they are Christians who have "entered into patience." When Jesus goes to meet His Passion, he enters into patience. They have entered into patience: make them know this, but also make it known to the Lord. I ask the question: do you pray for these brothers and sisters? Do you pray for them In your everyday prayer? I won't ask the one who prays to raise his hand now: no. I will not ask him now. But think about it. In our prayer every day we say to Jesus: "Lord, look at this brother, look at this sister who suffers so much, who suffers so much! They experience the limit, in fact the limit between life and death. And for us also, this experience should lead us to promote religious freedom for all, for all! Every man and every woman must be free in his/her religious confession, no matter what it is. Why? Because that man and that woman are children of God.

And so, I believe I said something on your questions; I am sorry if I was too long. Thank you so much! Thank you, and don't forget: never a closed Church, but a Church that goes out, to the peripheries of existence. May the Lord guide us down here. Thank you.

[Original text: Italian]

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VATICAN CITY, May 21, 2013  - Here is the telegram sent by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican Secretary of State, to Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City expressing Pope Francis' sympathy for the victims of the tragic tornado that struck Oklahoma City yesterday.

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The Holy Father has followed with deep concern the aftermath of the devastating tornado which has struck Oklahoma and he asks you convey to the entire community the assurance of his solidarity and closeness in prayer. Conscious of the tragic loss of life and the immensity of the work of rebuilding that lies ahead, he asks Almighty God to grant eternal rest to the departed, comfort to the afflicted, and strength and hope to the homeless and the injured. In a particular way he commends to the Father of mercies the many young children among the victims and their grieving families. Upon the local civil and religious leaders, and upon all involved in the relief efforts, His Holiness invokes the Risen Lord’s gifts of consolation, strength and perseverance in every good.


Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone

Secretary of State

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Pope's Address to Directors of Pontifical Missionary Societies

VATICAN CITY, May 17, 2013  - Here is the translation of Pope Francis' address to the directors of the Pontifical Missionary Societies who are in Rome for their annual General Assembly.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am particularly pleased to meet for the first time with you, national directors of the Pontifical Mission societies from around the world. I cordially greet Cardinal Fernando Filoni, and thank him for the service that he performs as Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of the Peoples, as well as for the words he addressed to me on your behalf. I extend my greetings to the Secretary, Msgr. Savio Hon Tai-Fai, to the Under-Secretary Protase Rugambwa, and to all collaborators of the Department and of the Pontifical Mission societies, priests, religious, and laypeople.

1. I would like to tell you that you are especially dear to me because you help me keep alive the activity of evangelisation, the paradigm of every work of the Church. In fact, the Bishop of Rome is called to be the Pastor not only of his particular Church, but also of all the churches, so that the Gospel may be announced to the ends of the earth. And in this task, the Pontifical Mission societies are a privileged instrument in the hands of the Pope, who is the principle and sign of the unity and universality of the Church (cf. Vatican Council II, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 23). They're called "Pontifical" because they are at the direct disposal of the Bishop of Rome, with the specific purpose of acting so that the precious gift of the Gospel may be offered to all. They are still necessary today - indeed, they are of the greatest moment - because there are so many people who have not yet known and met Christ, and it is urgent to find new forms and new ways for God's grace to touch the heart of every man and every woman and bring them to Him. We all are simple tools, but important ones; we have received the gift of faith not to keep it hidden, but to spread it, so that it can illuminate the path of so many brothers and sisters.

2. Sure, it's a difficult mission that lies ahead, but with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, it becomes an exciting mission. We all experience our poverty, our weakness in bringing to the world the precious treasure of the Gospel, but we must continually repeat the words of St. Paul: "We ... carry this treasure in jars of clay to show that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us" (2 Corinthians 4:7). This is what must always give us courage: to know that the strength of the evangelization comes from God, belongs to Him. We are called to become even more open to the action of the Holy Spirit, to offer all of our willingness to be instruments of God's mercy, his tenderness, his love for every man and every woman, especially for the poor, the excluded, the far off. And this, for every Christian, for the whole Church, is not an optional mission, but an essential one. As St. Paul said: "Proclaiming the Gospel is not for me a boast, but a duty: woe to me if I do not announce the Gospel!" (1 Cor 9:16). The salvation of God is for everyone!

3. To you, dear national directors, I repeat the call that Paul VI addressed to you, almost fifty years ago, to guard jealously the universal scope of the Missionary Works, "who have the honor, the responsibility, the duty to support the mission [to announce the Gospel], to administer the necessary aid» (Address to the Pontifical Mission societies, May 14, 1965: AAS 57 1965, 520). Do not tire of educating every Christian, from childhood, in a truly universal missionary spirit, and to sensitize the entire community to support and assist the missions according to the need of each (cf. Vatican Council II, Decr. Ad gentes, 38). Make sure that the Pontifical Mission societies continue, in the wake of their secular tradition, to animate and form Churches, opening them to a wide dimension of the mission to evangelize. Rightly are the Pontifical Mission societies placed under the care of bishops, to be "rooted in the life of the particular churches" (Statute of the Pontifical Mission societies, no. 17); but they have actually become a privileged instrument for educating individuals in the universal missionary spirit and in an ever-greater communion and collaboration among Churches for the proclamation of the Gospel to the world. Faced with the temptation of communities to close in on themselves, worried about their own problems, your job is to invoke the "missio ad gentes", to testify prophetically that the life of the Church and of the Churches is the mission, and is the universal mission. The episcopal ministry and all the ministries are certainly for the growth of the Christian community, but they are also placed at the service of communion among the Churches for the mission of evangelization. In this context, I invite you to have a particular focus on the young Churches, which often operate in an atmosphere of difficulty, discrimination and persecution, so that they be supported and helped in witnessing with word and deed to the Gospels.

Dear brothers and sisters, in renewing my thanks to everyone, I encourage you to continue your commitment so that the local Churches, in an increasingly generous way, may assume their share of responsibility in the Church's universal mission. Invoking Mary, Star of the Evangelization, I make my own the words of Pope Paul VI: "may the world of our time, which seeks now in anguish, now in hope, to receive the Good News not from sad and discouraged evangelizers, impatient and anxious, but from ministers of the Gospel, whose lives radiate fervor, who have first received in themselves the joy of Christ, and accept to put their own lives at stake so that the Kingdom may be preached and the Church be implanted in the heart of world» (Apost. exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, 80).

 

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Pope's Address to Pontifical Council for Migrants
"In a world where there is so much talk of rights, it seems the only one that has them is money"

VATICAN CITY, May 24, 2013  - Here is a translation of the Pope's address to participants in the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Travelers. He reflected on the topic “The Pastoral Concern of the Church in the Context of Forced Migrations.”

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Lord Cardinals,

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

I am happy to welcome you on the occasion of the Plenary Session of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People: the 20th since 25 years ago Blessed John Paul II elevated to Pontifical Council the former Pontifical Commission. I rejoice with you over this achievement and I thank the Lord for all that He has allowed to be accomplished. I greet with affection the President, Cardinal Antonio Maria Veglio, and I am grateful to him for having made himself the spokesman of the sentiments of all. I greet the Secretary, Members, Consultors and Officials of the dicastery. You, dear Cardinal, made reference to Syria and the Near East, which are always present in my prayer.

The theme of your meeting is “The Pastoral Concern of the Church in the Context of Forced Migrations,” in coincidence with the publication of the Dicastery’s Document titled To Receive Christ in the Refugees and in Persons Forcefully Uprooted. The Document calls attention to the millions of refugees, dispersed and stateless, touching also the wound of the traffic of human beings, which increasingly affects children, involved in the worst forms of exploitation and also recruited for armed conflicts. I confirm that the “traffic of persons” is an ignoble activity, a disgrace for our societies that call themselves civilized! Exploiters and clients at all levels should make a serious examination of conscience before themselves and before God! The Church renews today her strong appeal for the protection of the dignity and centrality of every person, respecting his fundamental rights, as her Social Doctrine stresses, rights that she requests be really extended where they are not recognized to millions of men and women in every Continent. In a world where there is much talk of rights, how many times human dignity is trampled. In a world where there is so much talk of rights, it seems the only one that has them is money. Dear brothers and sisters, we live in a world where money commands. We live in a world, in a culture where the fetishism of money reigns.

You justly took to heart the situations in which the family of nations is called to intervene, in a spirit of fraternal solidarity, with programs of protection, often on a background of tragic events, which strike almost daily the life of so many persons. I express to you my appreciation and gratitude, and I encourage you to continue on the path of service to the poorest and marginalized brothers. We recall the words of Paul VI: “For the Catholic Church no one is a stranger, no one is excluded, no one is far away” (Homily for the Closing of Vatican Council II, December 8, 1965). We are in fact only one human family that, in the multiplicity of its differences, walks towards unity, valuing solidarity and dialogue between peoples.

The Church is Mother and her maternal attention is manifested with particular tenderness and closeness to one who is constrained to flee from his own country and who lives between uprootedness and integration. This tension destroys persons. Christian compassion – “suffering with,” com-passion – is expressed first of all in the commitment to know the events that push one to leave forcefully his homeland, and where it is necessary to give voice to one who is unable to have his cry of pain and oppression heard. In this you carry out an important task also in rendering Christian communities sensitive to the many brothers marked by wounds that affect their existence: violence, abuse of power, distance from family affection, traumatic events, flight from home and uncertainty about the future in refugee camps. They are all elements that dehumanize and must push every Christian and the whole community to concrete attention.

Today, however, dear friends, I would like to invite all to receive in their eyes and heart the refugees and persons forcefully uprooted and to give them the light of hope. Hope that is expressed in expectations for the future, in the desire for friendly relations, in the desire to participate in the society that receives them, also through learning the language, access to work and education for the littlest ones. I admire the courage of the one who waits to be able to take up again, gradually, a normal life, in the hope that joy and love will make glad his existence. We all can and must nourish this hope!

Above all I invite political leaders and lawmakers and the entire International Community to consider the reality of persons forcefully uprooted with effective initiatives and new approaches to protect their dignity, to improve the quality of their life and to address the challenges that emerge in modern forms of persecution, oppression and slavery. It is, I stress, about human persons, who appeal to solidarity and assistance, who are in need of urgent interventions, but also and above all of understanding and goodness. God is good; let us imitate God. Their condition cannot leave us indifferent. And we, as Church, recall that by curing the wounds of refugees, of the dispersed and of victims of trafficking we put into practice the commandment of charity that Jesus left us, when He identified Himself with the foreigner, with one who suffers, with all innocent victims of violence and exploitation. We should reread more often Chapter 25 of the Gospel according to Matthew, where he speaks of the Last Judgment (cf. 31-46). And here I would also like to appeal for attention, which every pastor and Christian Community must have, for the journey of faith of Christian refugees and those forcefully uprooted from their reality, as well as of Christian emigrants. They require particular pastoral care which respects their traditions and accompanies them in a harmonious integration in the ecclesial realities in which they are living. May our Christian communities be truly places of hospitality, listening and communion!

Dear friends, do not forget the flesh of Christ that is the flesh of the refugees: their flesh is the flesh of Christ. It is for you to orientate all organizations committed in the field of forced migrations to new forms of responsibility. Unfortunately, it is a phenomenon in constant expansion; hence, your task is ever more demanding, to foster concrete answers of closeness and support of persons, taking into account the different local situations.

I invoke upon each of you the maternal protection of Mary Most Holy, may she illumine your reflection and your action. On my part, I assure you of my prayer, closeness and also my admiration for all that you do in this field, blessing you from my heart. Thank you.

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Pope's Address to Italian Bishops Conference

VATICAN CITY, May 24, 2013 - Here is the translation of the Holy Father's meditation during the Profession of Faith of the Italian Bishops Conference who are gathered for their 65th General Assembly.

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Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

The readings we have heard make us think. They have made me think a great deal. I have made something like a meditation. For us bishops, and first of all for me, a bishop like you, I share it with you.

It is significant - and I am particularly happy - that our first meeting should be held right here in the place that preserves not only the tomb of Peter, but also the living memory of his witness of faith, of his service to the truth, and of the gift he gave of himself to the point of martyrdom for the Gospel and for the Church.

This evening this altar of the Confession becomes our Lake of Tiberias, on the shores of which we listen to the wonderful dialogue between Jesus and Peter, with the question addressed to the Apostle, but which should resound in our own hearts, the hearts of bishops.

Do you love me?; Are you my friend? (Cf. Jn 21:15 ff)

The question is addressed to a man who, despite his solemn declaration, was overcome by fear and went back on his word.

Do you love me?; Are you my friend?

The question is addressed to me and to each one of you, to all of us: if we avoid reacting too hastily and superficially, it encourages us to look within, to enter into ourselves.

Do you love me?; Are you my friend?

He who searches hearts (cf. Rom 8:27) makes himself a beggar of love, and questions us on the only really essential question, the premise and condition for pastoring his sheep, his lambs, his Church. Every ministry is based on this intimacy with the Lord; to live in him is the measure of our ecclesial service, which is expressed in an openness to obedience, to emptying of self, as we heard in the Letter to the Philippians, to total giving (cf. Phil 2:6-11).

Moreover, the consequence of loving the Lord is giving everything - absolutely everything, even ones very life - for Him: this is what must distinguish our pastoral ministry; it is the litmus test that shows how profoundly we have embraced the gift received in response to the call of Jesus, and how we are joined to the people and the communities that have been entrusted to us. We are not expressions of a structure or an organizational need: even with the service of our authority we are called to be a sign of the presence and action of the Risen Lord, and so, to build up the community in fraternal charity.

Not that this is taken for granted: even the greatest love, in fact, when it is not continuously fed, fades and goes out. Not without reason the Apostle Paul warns: Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the Church of God which he obtained with the blood of his own Son(Acts 20:28).

The lack of vigilance - we know makes the Pastor lukewarm; he becomes distracted, forgetful and even impatient; it seduces him with the prospect of a career, the lure of money, and the compromises with the spirit of the world; it makes him lazy, turning him into a functionary, a cleric worried more about himself, about organizations and structures, than about the true good of the People of God. He runs the risk, then, like the Apostle Peter, of denying the Lord, even if he is present to us and speaks in His name; the holiness of the hierarchy of Mother Church is obscured, making it less fertile.

Who are we, Brothers, before God? What are our challenges? We all have so many, each one of us knows his own. What is God saying to us through them? What are we relying on to overcome them?

As it was for Peter, the insistent and heartfelt question of Jesus can leave us saddened and may leave us more aware of the weakness of our freedom, beset as it is by a thousand internal and external constraints, which often cause confusion, frustration, even disbelief.

These are certainly not the feelings and attitudes that the Lord intends to arouse; rather, the Enemy, the Devil, takes advantage of them to isolate us in bitterness, in complaints, and in discouragement.

Jesus, the Good Shepherd, does not humiliate us or abandon us to remorse: in Him, the tenderness of the Father speaks, He who comforts and raises up; He who makes us pass from the disintegration of shame because shame surely causes us to disintegrate to the fabric of trust; who restores courage, recommits responsibility, and consigns us to the mission.

Peter, purified by the fire of forgiveness, can humbly say, Lord, you know everything, you know that I love you (Jn 21:17). I am sure we can all say this from the heart. In this Peter, purified, in his first letter exhorts us to feed the flock of God that is your charge, not by constraint but willingly, not for shameful gain but eagerly, not as domineering over those in your charge but being examples to the flock(1 Peter 5,2-3).

Yes, to be pastors means to believe every day in the grace and strength that comes to us from the Lord, despite our weakness, and to fully assume the responsibility of walking in front of the flock, freed from the burdens that hinder a healthy apostolic swiftness, and without hesitation in leading, to make our voice recognizable both to those who have embraced the faith, but also to those who are not of this fold (John 10:16): we are called to make our own the dream of God, whose house knows no exclusion of persons or nations, as Isaiah prophetically announced in the First Reading (cf. Is 2:2-5).

Therefore, being pastors also means to be ready to walk in the midst of and behind the flock: capable of listening to the silent story of the suffering and bearing up the steps of those who are afraid of not succeeding; careful to raise up, to reassure, and inspire hope. By sharing with the humble our faith always comes out strengthened: let us put aside, therefore, any form of arrogance, to incline ourselves toward those the Lord has entrusted to our care. Among these, a special place is reserved for our priests: especially for them, our hearts, our hands, and our doors remain open at all times. They are the first faithful we bishops have, our priests. Let us love them! Let us love them from the heart! They are our sons and our brothers.

Dear brothers, the profession of faith that we now renew together is not a formal act, but is a renewal of our response to the Follow Me with which the Gospel of John concludes (21:19): allow your own life to unfold according to the project of God, committing your whole self to the Lord Jesus. From here springs that discernment that recognises and takes on the thoughts, the expectations, and the needs of the men of our time.

With this in mind, I sincerely thank each of you for your service, for your love for the Church and the Mother, and here, I place you, and I place myself, too, under the mantle of Mary, Our Mother.

Mother of the silence that preserves the mystery of God, deliver us from the idolatry of the present, to which those who forget are condemned. Purify the eyes of pastors with the balm of memory: that we might return to the freshness of the beginning, for a praying and penitent Church.

Mother of the beauty that blossoms from fidelity to daily work, remove us from the torpor of laziness, of pettiness, and defeatism. Cloak Pastors with that compassion that unifies and integrates: that we might discover the joy of a humble and fraternal servant Church.

Mother of the tenderness which enfolds in patience and mercy, help us burn away the sadness, impatience, and rigidity of those who have not known what it means to belong.
Intercede with your Son that our hands, our feet and our hearts may be swift: that we may build the Church with the truth in charity.

Mother, we will be the People of God, on pilgrimage towards the Kingdom. Amen.

 

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On the Most Holy Trinity

VATICAN CITY, May 26, 2013 - Here is the Holy Father's address before and after the recitation of the Angelus today to the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

Hello! This morning I made my first pastoral visit to a parish of the Diocese of Rome. I thank the Lord and I ask you to pray for my pastoral service and this Church of Rome, which has the mission of presiding in universal charity.

Today is Trinity Sunday. The light of Easter renews in us every year the joy and stupor of the faith: let us understand that God is not something vague, our God is not something vaporous, he is concrete, he is not an abstraction, but has a name: “God is love.” It is not a sentimental or emotive love, but the love of the Father that is the origin of every life, the love of the Son who dies on the cross and rises, the love of the Spirit, who renews man and the world. Understanding that God is love does us a lot of good, because it teaches us to love, to give ourselves to others as Jesus gave himself to us, to walk with us. Jesus walks with us along the road of life.

The Most Holy Trinity is not the product of human reasoning; it is the face with which God himself revealed himself, not from the height of a cathedra, but walking with humanity. It is precisely Jesus who revealed the Father and promised us the Holy Spirit. God walked with his people in the history of the people of Israel and Jesus always walked with us and promised us the Holy Spirit, who is fire, who teaches us all the things that we do not know, who guides us from within, he gives us the good ideas and the good inspirations.

Today we praise God not for a particular mystery but for himself, “for his great glory,” as the liturgical hymn says. We praise him and we thank him because he is Love, and because he calls us to enter into the embrace of his communion, which is eternal life.

Let us place our praises in the hands of the Virgin Mary. She, the most humble of creatures, through Christ has already arrived at the goal of the earthly pilgrimage: she is already in the glory of the Trinity. Because of this Mary our Mother, Our Lady, shines for us as a sign of sure hope. She is the Mother of hope; on our journey, on our road, she is the Mother of hope. She is also the Mother who consoles us, the Mother of consolation and the Mother who is with us on the journey. Now we all pray to Our Lady together, our Mother who accompanies us on the journey.

[Following the recitation of the Angelus the Holy Father made the following remarks:]

Dear brothers and sisters,

Yesterday, in Palermo, Don Giuseppe Puglisi, priest and martyr, killed by the mafia in 1993, was beatified. Don Puglisi was an exemplary priest, especially dedicated to pastoral work with young people. Teaching them according to the Gospel, he snatched them out of the hands of organized crime, and so they tried to defeat him by killing him. In fact, however, he is the one who won, with the risen Christ. I think of the many sufferings of men and women, and of children, who are exploited by the mafia, who exploit them by forcing them into work that makes them slaves, with prostitution, with many social pressures. The mafia is behind this exploitation and slavery. Let us pray to the Lord that he convert the hearts of these people. They cannot do this! They cannot make us, their brothers, slaves! We must pray to the Lord! Let us pray that these mafiosi convert to God and praise God through the shining witness of Don Giuseppe Puglisi, and let us treasure his example!

I greet with affection all of the pilgrims present, the families, the parish groups, who have come from Italy, Spain, France and many other countries. I greet in particular the Associazione Nazionale San Paolo degli Oratori e dei Circoli Giovanili (National Association of St. Paul of Oratories and Youth Groups). Dear friends, may St. Philip Neri, whom we remember today, and Bl. Giuseppe Puglisi assist you in your efforts. I greet the group of Chinese Catholics who are present, who have gathered in Rome to pray for the Church in China, invoking the intercession of Mary Our Help.

My thoughts go out to those who promote the “Giornate del Sollievo” (Day of Relief) for the sick who are close to the end of their earthly journey; and to the Associazione Italiana Sclerosi Multipla (Italian Multiple Sclerosis Association). Thank you for your work! I greet the Associazione Nazionale Arma di Cavalleria (National Calvary Corps Association), and the faithful of Fiumicello, near Padova.

I wish everyone a good Sunday and a good lunch!

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Pope Francis' Homily for the Solemnity of Corpus Christi

ROME, May 31, 2013 - Here is the text of the Holy Father’s homily for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) which took place in the square in front of the Basilica of St. John Lateran. After the Mass, Pope Francis presided over the Eucharistic Procession that lead to the Papal basilica of St. Mary Major.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

in the Gospel we heard, there is an expression of Jesus' that always strikes me: «You give them something to eat "(Lk 9:13). Starting from this sentence, I will allow myself be guided by three words: discipleship, communion, sharing.

1. First of all: who are those to be fed? The answer is found at the beginning of the Gospel: the crowds, the multitude. Jesus is in the midst of people, he welcomes them, speaks to them, cures them, he shows them the mercy of God; from among them he chooses Twelve Apostles to be with Him and immerse themselves, like Him, in the concrete situations of the world. And the people follow Him, they listen to Him, because Jesus speaks and acts in a new way, with the authority of someone who is genuine and consistent, who speaks and acts with truth, who gives the hope that comes from God, who is the revelation of the Face of a God who is love. And the people joyfully bless God.

Tonight we are the crowd of the Gospel, we seek to follow Jesus to listen to him, to enter into communion with him in the Eucharist, to accompany him and so that he may accompany us. Let us ask ourselves: how do I follow I Jesus? Jesus speaks in silence in the mystery of the Eucharist and each time reminds us that following him means coming out of ourselves and making our life not our own, but a gift to him and to the others.

2. Let's go further: where does Jesus' invitation come from, for the disciples themselves to feed the multitude? It stems from two factors: first of all from the crowd that, following Jesus, finds itself outdoors, away from the towns, while evening is approaching, and then from the disciples' concern to ask Jesus to dismiss the crowd so that they can go into the neighboring territories to find food and lodging (cf. Lk 9:12). Faced with the needs of the crowd, this is the disciples' solution: every man for himself; dismiss the crowd! Every man for himself; dismiss the crowd! How often do we Christians have this temptation! We do not care about other's needs, and dismiss them with a pitiful: "May God help you", or with a not so pitiful: "Good luck", and if I don't see you anymore ... But Jesus' solution goes in another direction, one that surprises his disciples: "You yourselves give them something to eat." But how can we feed a multitude? "We only have five loaves and two fish, unless we go and buy food for all these people» (Lk 9:13). But Jesus is not discouraged: he asks the disciples to make the people sit in communities of fifty people, raises his eyes to heaven, recites the blessing, breaks the loaves and gives them to the disciples to distribute them (cf. Lk 9:16).

It is a moment of profound communion: the crowd, quenched by the word of the Lord, is now nourished by his bread of life. And all of them were filled, notes the Evangelist (cf. Lk 9:17). This evening, we too are around the Lord's table, the table of the Eucharistic sacrifice, in which he gives us once again his body, he makes present the one sacrifice of the cross. It is in listening to his Word, in nourishing ourselves on his body and his blood, that he makes us go from a multitude to being a community, from anonymity to communion. The Eucharist is the sacrament of communion, that makes us come out from our individualism to live together our discipleship, our faith in him. Then we should all ask ourselves before the Lord: how do I live the Eucharist? Do I live it anonymously or as a moment of true communion with the Lord, but also with all our brothers and sisters who share this same table? What are our Eucharistic celebrations like?

3. One last element: what generates the multiplication of the loaves? The answer lies in Jesus' invitation to the disciples "You give... ", "give ", share. What do the disciples share? What little they have: five loaves and two fishes. But it is precisely those loaves and fishes in the hands of the Lord that feed the whole crowd. And it is precisely these disciples, distressed when faced with the inability of their means, the poverty of what they can offer, who get the people to sit down and who distribute – trusting Jesus' word - the loaves and fishes that feed the crowd. And this tells us that in the Church, but also in society, one keyword that we must not fear is 'solidarity', i.e. to put at God's disposal what we have, our humble capacities, because only in sharing, in the gift, will our lives be fruitful, will they bear fruit. Solidarity: a word frowned upon by the worldly spirit!

Tonight, once again, the Lord distributes for us the bread which is his Body, he makes himself gift. And we, too, experience the "solidarity of God" with man, a solidarity that never runs out, a solidarity that never ceases to amaze us: God is near us, in the sacrifice of the cross he stoops to enter into the darkness of death to give us his life, defeating evil, selfishness and death. Jesus also this evening gives himself to us in the Eucharist, he shares our same journey, indeed, he makes himself food, the real food that sustains our lives even in times when the road becomes tough, the obstacles slow our steps. And in the Eucharist, the Lord makes us travel his path, that of service, of sharing, of gift, and what little we have, what little we are, if shared, becomes wealth, because the power of God, which is that of love, descends into our poverty to transform it.

Let us ask ourselves then this evening, worshiping Christ really present in the Eucharist: do I let myself be transformed by Him? Do I let the Lord who gives himself to me, guide me to come out more and more from behind my little fence, to go out and not be afraid to give, to share, to love him and others?

Brothers and sisters: discipleship, communion, sharing. Let us pray that the participation in the Eucharist leads us to always follow the Lord every day, to be instruments of communion, to share what we are with him and with our neighbor. Then our lives will be truly fruitful. Amen.

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Pope's Homily During Mass at Sts. Elizabeth and Zechariah Parish in Rome

ROME, May 26, 2013  - Here is the translation of Pope Francis' homily during Sunday Mass at the parish of Sts. Elizabeth and Zechariah in Rome today.

The Holy Father’s homily was especially directed toward children at the parish who were making their first communion. He also engages in a dialogue with them.

Dear brothers and sisters,

The pastor’s words made me think of a beautiful thing about Our Lady. When Our Lady, just having received the announcement that she would be the mother of Jesus, and the announcement that her cousin Elizabeth was expecting, the Gospel says, she set out in haste; she did not wait. She did not say to herself, “But I’m pregnant now, so I had better look after my health. My cousin will have friends who perhaps will help her.” She heard something and she “set out in haste.” It is lovely to think about these actions of Our Lady, our Mother, who sets out in haste, because it tells us about helping. She goes to help, she does not go to boast and say to her cousin: “Now listen, I’m in charge now because I am God’s mamma!” No she did not do that. She went to help! And Our Lady is always like this. She is our Mother, who always comes in haste when we need help. It would be nice to add to the litanies of Our Lady one that says “Lady who sets out in haste, pray for us!” This is beautiful, isn’t it? Because she always goes in haste she does not forget her children. And when her children are in difficulty, have a need and they call upon her, she goes in haste. And this makes us safe, the safety of always having our mother near, at our side. We go, we travel better in life when we have our mamma near. Let us think about this grace of Our Lady, this grace that she gives us: of being with us, but without making us wait. Always! She is – we have confidence in this – there to help us. Our Lady who always goes in haste, for us.

Our Lady also helps us to understand God well, Jesus, to understand the life of Jesus, the life of God, to understand well what the Lord is, how the Lord is, who is God. I ask you, children: “Who knows who God is?” Raise your hand, tell me. Okay! Creator of the earth. And how many Gods are there? 1? But they told me that there are 3: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit! How do we explain this? Is there 1 or is there 3? 1? 1? And how do we explain that one is the Father, the other the Son and the other Holy Spirit? Louder, louder! Good answer. They are 3 in 1, 3 persons in 1. And what does the Father do? The Father is the origin, the Father, who created everything, created us. What does the Son do? What does Jesus do? Who knows how to say what Jesus does? He loves us? And what else? What did Jesus do on the earth? He saved us! And Jesus came to give his life for us. The Father creates the world; Jesus saves us. And the Holy Spirit, what does he do? He loves us! He gives you love! All the children together: the Father creates everything, he creates the world, Jesus saves us; and the Holy Spirit? He loves us! And this is the Christian life: talking to the Father, talking to the Son, talking to the Holy Spirit. Jesus saved us, but he also walks with us in life. Is this true? And how does he walk? What does he do when he walks with us in life? This is hard. The one who answers it wins! What does Jesus do when he walks with us? Louder! The first one: he helps us. He guides us! Very good! He walks with us, he helps us, he guides us and he teaches us how to go forward. And Jesus also gives us the strength to walk. Is that right? He supports us! Good! In difficulties, right? And even in school work! He supports us, he helps us, he guides us, he supports us. Okay! Jesus is always with us. Good. But listen, Jesus gives us strength. How does Jesus give us strength? You know how he gives us strength! Louder, I can’t hear you! In Communion he gives us strength, the way he helps us is by giving us strength. He comes to us. But when you say “He gives us Communion,” a piece of bread gives you so much strength? It’s not bread? It’s bread? This is bread but what is on the altar, is it bread or not? It looks like bread! It’s not really bread. What is it? It is the body of Jesus. Jesus comes into our heart. Well, let’s all think about this: the Father gave us life; Jesus gave us salvation, he accompanies us, he guides us, he supports us, he teaches us; and the Holy Spirit? What does the Holy Spirit give us? He loves us! He gives us love. Let us think about God like this and ask Our Lady, Our Lady who is our Mother, always quick to help us, that she help us always to understand well how God is: how the Father is, how the Son is and how the Holy Spirit is. Amen.

 

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Pope Francis Writes to Parish Priest Friend in Argentina
States He Lives in Domus Sanctae Marthae To Avoid Being Isolated

By Staff

VATICAN CITY, May 29, 2013 - “Dear Quique,

Today I received your letter of May 1. It gave me much joy. The account of the patronal feast brought me fresh air. I am well and have not lost my peace in face of a totally astonishing event, which I hold as a gift of God. I try to maintain the same way of being and of acting that I had in Buenos Aires, because if I were to change at my age it would certainly be ridiculous.”

It is the beginning of a normal letter between two distant friends, linked by strong affection. A letter that becomes extraordinary, however, when one learns the name of the sender: Jorge Mario Bergoglio. The Argentine daily “El Clarin” published the message of response today, which Pope Francis sent last May 15 to a priest friend, parish priest in the province of La Rioja, Father Enrique Rodriguez, whom the Holy Father affectionately calls “Quique.”

Recounting his life at Rome, the Pontiff writes: “I didn’t want to live in the Apostolic Palace. I go there only to work and for audiences. I live in Saint Martha’s House, which is a boarding house, where we were guests during the Conclave. It houses bishops, priests and laymen. I am visible to people and I lead a normal life. A public Mass in the morning, I eat at table with everyone, etc.”

“All this does me much good and avoids my being isolated,” adds the Pope. “

“Quique, affectionate greetings to your parishioners. I ask you please to pray for me and have others pray for me. Greetings to Carlos and Miguel. May Jesus bless you and the Holy Virgin look after you,” he concludes.

“Fraternally,

Francis”

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