Pope Francis' visit to Cuba and United States  September 2015

 

GENERAL AUDIENCE: On the Apostolic Visit to Cuba and the United States (after the visit)

“God always wants to build bridges; we are the ones that build walls! And walls collapse, always.”

By Staff Reporter

Vatican City, September 30, 2015

Here is a translation of the Holy Father's address during his Wednesday General Audience in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

Today’s Audience will be in two places: here in the Square and also in Paul VI Hall, where many sick are, who are following the Audience on a large screen. As the weather is not very good, we decided they should be there covered and more tranquil. Let us join one another and greet one another.

Recently, I carried out the apostolic journey to Cuba and the United States of America. This was born from my desire to take part in the 8th World Meeting of Families, planned some time ago at Philadelphia. This “original nucleus” was extended to a visit to the United States of America and to the main headquarters of the United Nations, and then also to Cuba, which was the first stage of the itinerary. I express again my gratitude to President Castro, to President Obama and to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for their hospitality to me. I thank from my heart the Bishops and all the collaborators for the great work undertaken and for the love of the Church that animated it.

“Missionary of Mercy” is how I presented myself in Cuba, a land rich in natural beauty, culture and faith. God’s mercy is greater than any wound, any conflict, any ideology, and with this look of mercy I was able to embrace all the Cuban people, in the homeland and abroad, beyond any division. Symbol of this profound unity of the Cuban spirit is the Virgin of Charity of Cobre, who in fact one hundred years ago was proclaimed Patroness of Cuba. I went as a pilgrim to the Shrine of this Mother of Hope, Mother that guides on the path of justice, peace, freedom and reconciliation.

I was able to share with the Cuban people the hope of the fulfilment of Saint John Paul II’s prophecy: that Cuba open itself to the world and the world open to Cuba. No more closure, no more exploitation of poverty, but freedom in dignity. This is the way that makes the heart vibrate of many Cuban young people: not a way of evasion, of easy earnings, but of responsibility, of service to one’s neighbor, of care of fragility. A way that draws strength from the Christian roots of that people, which has suffered so much -- a way in which I encouraged particularly the priests and all the consecrated, the students and the families. May the Holy Spirit, with the intercession of Mary Most Holy, make the seeds grow that we sowed.

From Cuba to the United States of America: it was an emblematic passage, a bridge that, thanks be to God, is being rebuilt. God always wants to build bridges; we are the ones that build walls! And walls collapse, always.

And in the United States I fulfilled three stages: Washington, New York and Philadelphia.

At Washington I met the political authorities, ordinary people, Bishops, priests and consecrated, the poorest and the marginalized. I recalled that the greatest richness of that country and of its people is in the spiritual and ethical patrimony. And thus I wished to encourage that social building be carried forward in fidelity to its fundamental principles, namely that all men are created equal by God and endowed with inalienable rights, such as life, freedom and the pursuit of happiness. These values, shared by all, find in the Gospel their complete fulfilment, as the canonization well evidenced of Father Junipero Serra, Franciscan, great evangelizer of California. Saint Junipero shows the way of joy: to go and share with others the love of Christ. This is the way of the Christian, but also of every man that has known love: not to keep it for himself but to share it with others. The United States of America was born and grew on this religious and moral basis, and on this basis it can continue to be a land of freedom and hospitality and cooperate towards a more just and fraternal world.

At New York I was able to visit the headquarters of the United Nations and to greet the personnel that works there. I had conversations with the Secretary General and the Presidents of the last General Assemblies and of the Security Council. Speaking to the Representatives of the Nations, in the wake of my Predecessors, I renewed the Catholic Church’s encouragement to that Institution and to its role in the promotion of development and peace, recalling in particular the necessity of agreed and active commitment to the care of Creation. I also confirmed the appeal to halt and prevent violence against ethnic and religious minorities and against civilian populations.

We prayed for peace and fraternity at the Ground Zero Memorial, together with representatives of the religions, the relatives of so many who fell and the people of New York, so rich in cultural variety. And I celebrated the Eucharist in Madison Square Garden for peace and justice.

In both Washington and New York I was able to meet some charitable and educational realities, emblematic of the enormous service that Catholic communities – priests, men and women Religious, laity – offer in these fields.

The climax of the trip was the Meeting with Families at Philadelphia, where the horizon extended to the whole world through the “prism”, so to speak, of the family. The family, namely the fruitful bond between man and woman, is the answer to the great challenge of our world, which is a double challenge: fragmentation and massification, two extremes that coexist and sustain one another, and together they sustain the consumerist economic model. The family is the answer because it is the cell of a society that balances the personal and the communal dimension, and which at the same time can be the model of a sustainable management of the goods and resources of Creation. The family is the leading subject of an integral ecology, because it is the primary social subject, which contains within itself the two basic principles of human civilization on earth: the principle of communion and the principle of fecundity. Biblical humanism presents this icon to us: the human couple, united and fecund, placed by God in he garden of the world, to cultivate and protect it.

I wish to express fraternal and warm gratitude to Monsignor Chaput, Archbishop of Philadelphia, for his commitment, his piety, his enthusiasm and his great love of the family in the organization of this event. Looking at it more closely, it was not an accident but providential that the message, in fact the testimony of the World Meeting of Families, took place at this time in the United States of America, namely, the country that in the last century reached the highest economic and technical development without denying its religious roots. Now these roots themselves ask to begin again from the family to rethink and change the model of development, for the good of the entire human family. Thank you.

* * *

Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters:  My recent apostolic journey to Cuba and the United States of America was centred on the Eighth World Meeting of Families.  In Cuba, I wished to embrace all Cubans without exception, to proclaim the transforming power of God’s mercy, and to renew the hope expressed by Saint John Paul II that Cuba will open itself to the world and the world to Cuba.  As a sign of hope and building new bridges, I then travelled to Washington, where, in addressing the nation’s leaders, I recalled the contribution which America’s tradition of religious freedom has made to the life of the nation.  Before the United Nations in New York, I renewed the Church’s encouragement for its efforts to promote peace, justice, integral human development and care for creation.  My visit culminated in the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.  There we celebrated the beauty of God’s plan for the family, which, as the fruitful covenant between a man and a woman, is the key to a future of authentic prosperity and solidarity for our world.

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Pope's Address Upon Arrival to Cuba

"we have witnessed an event which fills us with hope: the process of normalizing relations between two peoples following years of estrangement. It is a sign of the victory of the culture of encounter and dialogue, 'the system of universal growth' over 'the forever-dead system of groups and dynasties'"

By Staff Reporter

Cuba, September 19, 2015

Here is a Vatican translation of the address Pope Francis gave today upon his arrival in Cuba.

* * *

Mr President, 

Distinguished Authorities, 

Brother Bishops, 

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

I thank you, Mr President, for your greeting and your kind words of welcome in the name of the government and the entire Cuban people. I also greet the authorities and the members of the diplomatic corps present at this ceremony. 

My gratitude also goes to Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino, Archbishop of Havana, the Most Reverend Dionisio Guillermo García Ibáñez, Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba and President of the Episcopal Conference, the other bishops and all the Cuban people, for their warm welcome. 

I thank, too, all those who worked to prepare for this Pastoral Visit. Mr President, I would ask you to convey my sentiments of particular respect and consideration to your brother Fidel. I would like my greeting to embrace especially all those who, for various reasons, I will not be able to meet, and to Cubans throughout the world. 

[As you mentioned, Mr. President,] this year of 2015 marks the eightieth anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Republic of Cuba and the Holy See. Providence today enables me to come to this beloved nation, following the indelible path opened by the unforgettable apostolic journeys which my two predecessors, Saint John Paul II and Benedict XVI, made to this island. I know that the memory of those visits awakens gratitude and affection in the people and leaders of Cuba. Today we renew those bonds of cooperation and friendship, so that the Church can continue to support and encourage the Cuban people in its hopes and concerns, with the freedom, the means and the space needed to bring the proclamation of the Kingdom to the existential peripheries of society. 

This Apostolic Journey also coincides with the first centenary of Pope Benedict XV’s declaration of our Lady of Charity of El Cobre as Patroness of Cuba. It was the veterans of the War of Independence who, moved by sentiments of faith and patriotism, wanted the Virgen mambisa to be the patroness of Cuba as a free and sovereign nation. Since that time she has accompanied the history of the Cuban people, sustaining the hope which preserves people’s dignity in the most difficult situations and championing the promotion of all that gives dignity to the human person. The growing devotion to the Virgin is a visible testimony of her presence in the soul of the Cuban people. In these days I will have occasion to go to El Cobre, as a son and pilgrim, to pray to our Mother for all her Cuban children and for this beloved nation, that it may travel the paths of justice, peace, liberty and reconciliation. 

Geographically, Cuba is an archipelago, facing all directions, with an extraordinary value as a “key” between north and south, east and west. Its natural vocation is to be a point of encounter for all peoples to join in friendship, as José Martí dreamed, “regardless of the languages of isthmuses and the barriers of oceans” (La Conferencia Monetaria de las Repúblicas de América, in Obras escogidas II, La Habana, 1992, 505). Such was also the desire of Saint John Paul II, with his ardent appeal: “May Cuba, with all its magnificent potential, open itself to the world, and may the world open itself to Cuba” (Arrival Ceremony, 21 January 1998, 5). 

For some months now, we have witnessed an event which fills us with hope: the process of normalizing relations between two peoples following years of estrangement. [It is a process.] It is a sign of the victory of the culture of encounter and dialogue, “the system of universal growth” over “the forever-dead system of groups and dynasties” (José Martí, loc. cit.). I urge political leaders to persevere on this path and to develop all its potentialities as a proof of the high service which they are called to carry out on behalf of the peace and well-being of their peoples, of all America, and as an example of reconciliation for the entire world. [The world needs reconciliation. In this atmosphere of a Third World War in pieces, that we are living.]

I place these days under the protection of our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, Blessed Olallo Valdés and Blessed José López Pietreira, and Venerable Félix Varela, the great promoter of love between Cubans and all peoples, so that our bonds of peace, solidarity and mutual respect may ever increase. 

Once again, thank you, Mr. President.

© Copyright 2015 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Pope’s Off-the-Cuff Address to Youth

"Hope endures suffering, it’s hardworking, it’s fruitful, it gives us work and it saves us from the throwaway culture"

By Staff Reporter

Cuba, September 20, 2015

Here is a transcription and translation of the address Pope Francis gave this evening in his meeting with young people in Cuba.

* * *

You are standing up and I am sitting. How unmannerly. But you know why I sit down? It’s because I took some notes of some things that our companion here said, and what I want to say is based on these.

One word that struck a chord is "dream." A Latin American writer has said that people have two eyes: one of flesh and another of glass. With the eye of flesh, we see what is before us and with the eye of glass, we see what we dream of. It’s nice, no? In the objectivity of life, the capacity of dreaming has to enter in. A young person who is not capable of dreaming is cloistered in himself, he’s closed in on himself. Sure, a person sometimes dreams of things that are never going to happen. But dream them. Desire them. Seek the horizon. Open yourselves to great things.

I’m not sure if in Cuba they use this word, but in Argentina, we say, Don’t be wimpy. Open yourselves and dream. Dream that the world with you can be different. Dream that if you give the best of yourself, you are going to help this world be different. Don’t forget. Dream. If you get carried away and dream too much and life cuts you off, don't worry. Dream and share your dreams. Speak about the great things that you want, because inasmuch as your capacity to dream is greater, when life leaves you only half way, you will have gone farther. So, first dream.

You said a phrase that I underlined and took note of: "that we might know how to welcome and accept the one who thinks differently than us." Truly, sometimes we are closed in. We shut ourselves in our little world: "This is either the way that I want it or we’re not doing it." And you went even further, "that we don’t close ourselves into the 'little convents' of ideologies or in the 'little convents' of religions. That we might grow in the face of individualism."

When a religion becomes a "little convent" it loses the best that it has, it loses its reality of adoring God, of believing in God. It’s a little convent of words, of prayers, of "I’m good and you’re bad,’ of moral regulations. I have my ideology, my way of thinking and you have yours; I close myself in this "little convent" of ideology. 

Open hearts. Open minds. If you are different than me, why don’t we talk? Why do we always throw rocks at that which separates us? At that in which we are differing? Why don’t we hold hands in that which we have in common? Motivate ourselves to speak about what we have in common, and then we can talk about the differences we have. But I said, talk, I didn’t say fight. I didn’t say close ourselves in. I don’t say "shut ourselves into our little convent," to use the word you used. But this is possible only when I have the capacity to speak of that which I have in common with the other, of that by which we are able to work together.

In Buenos Aires, in a new parish, in a very, very poor region, a group of university students was building some rooms for the parish. And the parish priest told me, "Why don’t you come some Sunday and I’ll introduce them to you." They worked on Saturdays and Sundays on this construction. They were young men and women of the university. So I arrived, I saw them and they were introduced to me. "This is the architect. He’s Jewish. This one is Communist. This one is a practicing Catholic." All of them were different, but they were all working together for the common good.

This is called social friendship: to seek the common good. Social enmity destroys. A family is destroyed by enmity. A country is destroyed by enmity. The world is destroyed by enmity. And the biggest enmity is war. And today we see that the world is destroying itself with war because people are incapable of sitting down and talking. OK, let’s negotiate. What can we do in common? In what things are we not going to give in? But let’s not kill more people. When there is division, there is death, death in the soul because we are killing the capacity to unite. We are killing social friendship. And that’s what I ask of you today: be capable of creating social friendship.

There was another word that you said, the word hope. Youth are the hope of a people; we hear this everywhere. But what is hope? Is it to be optimistic? No. Optimism is a mood. Tomorrow, you wake up with an upset stomach and you’re not optimistic, you see everything in a negative light. Hope is something more. Hope is something that endures through suffering. Hope knows how to suffer to bring forward a project. It knows how to make sacrifices. Are you capable of making sacrifices for a future or do you only want to live today and leave what comes to those who come after? Hope is fruitful. Hope gives life. Are you capable of giving life? Or are you going to be a spiritually sterile young man or young woman, without the capacity to create life in others, without the capacity to create social friendship, without the capacity to create a homeland, without the capacity to create greatness?

Hope is fruitful. Hope is given in work, and here I want to mention a very grave problem that is being experienced in Europe: the number of youth who don’t have work. There are countries in Europe where as many as 40% of youth 25 years old and younger live unemployed. I am thinking of one country. In another country, it’s 47% and in another 50%.

Evidently, when a people is not concerned with giving work to youth — and when I say "people," I don’t mean government, I mean the entire people — it doesn’t have a future.

The youth become part of the throwaway culture and all of us know that today, in this empire of the god money, things are thrown away and people are thrown away, children are thrown away, because they are unwanted, because they kill them before they are born, the elderly are thrown away — I’m speaking of the world in general — because they don’t produce anymore. In some countries, there is legal euthanasia, but in so many others there is a hidden, covered up euthanasia. Youth are thrown away because they are not given work. So then? What is left for a young person who doesn't have work? A country that doesn’t invent, a people that doesn’t invent employment opportunities for its youth, what’s left for this youth are addictions, or suicide, or to go around looking for armies of destruction to create wars. 

This throwaway culture is doing damage to all of us; it takes away hope, and this is what you asked for the youth: "We want hope." Hope endures suffering, it’s hardworking, it’s fruitful, it gives us work and it saves us from the throwaway culture. Hope that brings together, brings everyone together, because a people that knows how to bring itself together to look toward the future and build social friendship, as I said, despite thinking differently, this people has hope.

And if I find a young person without hope, I've said this before, "a young retired person." There are young people who seem to have retired at 22 years old. They are young people with existential sadness, they are young people who have committed their lives to a basic defeatism. They are young people who lament. They are young people who flee from life. The journey of hope is not easy. And it can’t be made alone. There is an African proverb that says, "If you want to go quickly, walk alone, but if you want to go far, walk together."

And I, Cuban young people, though you think differently from each other, though you have your own points of view, I want you to go along accompanying each other, together, seeking hope, seeking the future and the nobility of your homeland. We began with the word hope and I want to conclude with another word that you said and that I tend to use a lot: the culture of encounter. Please, let us not have "un-encounter" among us. Let us go accompanying each other, in encounter, even though we think differently, even though we feel differently, but there is something bigger than us, which is the greatness of our people, which is the greatness of our homeland, which is this beauty, this sweet hope for the homeland to which we have to arrive.

I take leave wishing you the best, wishing you all of this that I have said, this I wish for you. I am going to pray for you. And I ask you to pray for me. And if one of you is a non-believer and cannot pray because he doesn’t believe, may he at least wish the best for me. May God bless you and bring you to walk along this path of hope, toward the culture of encounter, avoiding these "little convents" that our companion spoke about. May God bless all of you.

 


Pope’s Off-the-Cuff Homily at Vespers

"May the Lord give us these graces … Poverty and mercy, because that is where Jesus is"

By Staff Reporter

Cuba, September 20, 2015

Here is a ZENIT transcription and translation of the address Pope Francis gave off the cuff this evening when he presided at vespers with the bishops, priests, seminarians and religious of Cuba.

* * *

Cardinal Jaime spoke to us about poverty and Sister Yaileny spoke to us about the smallest, about the smallest. They are all children. I had a homily prepared to give now, based on the biblical texts, but when the prophets speak — and every priest is a prophet, all the baptized are prophets, every consecrated person is a prophet — we are going to pay attention to them. So I’m going to give the homily to Cardinal Jaime so that he sends it to you and publishes it and afterward you can meditate on it. And now let us talk a bit about what these two prophets said.

It occurred to Cardinal Jaime to speak a very uncomfortable word, extremely uncomfortable, that even goes against the cultural structure, so to speak, of the world. He said poverty. And he repeated it various times. I think that the Lord wanted us to hear it various times and to receive it in our hearts. The spirit of the world doesn’t know this word, doesn’t like it, hides it — not out of purity, but out of disdain. And if one has to sin and offend God so that one isn’t hit by poverty, he does it. The spirit of the world doesn’t love the path of the Son of God, who emptied himself, made himself poor, made himself nothing, humiliated himself to be one of us.

The poverty that frightened that young man who was so generous, who had fulfilled all the commandments. And when Jesus told him to sell all that he had and give it to the poor, he got sad. He was scared of poverty. We always try to conceal poverty, perhaps because of good reasons, but I’m speaking of concealing it at the heart. One has to know how to administer his resources; this is an obligation. Resources are a good from God. But when these resources enter into the heart and begin to direct your life, then you’re lost. You’re no longer like Jesus. You have your securities placed where the sad young man had them, the one who went away sad.

Priests, men and women consecrated, I think that what St. Ignatius said could be of use to you. And this isn’t publicity propaganda of the family. He said that poverty was the wall and the mother of consecrated life. It is the mother because it gives life to a greater confidence in God. And it is the wall because it protects from all worldliness. How many destroyed souls there are, generous souls like that of the sad young man, who began well, and then gradually they became attached to the love of this rich worldliness and they ended badly. That is, mediocre.

They ended up without love because riches make us paupers. But they make us paupers in a bad way. They take away the best that we have and make us poor in the only richness that is worthwhile, so as to put our securities in the other one.

The spirit of poverty, the spirit of detachment, the spirit of leaving everything to follow Jesus. This leaving everything is not something I made up. It’s found various times in the Gospel. In the call of the first ones, who left their boat, their nets and followed him. Those who left everything to follow Jesus.

Once an old wise priest told me, speaking of when the spirit of richness, of rich worldliness enters into the heart of a consecrated person or a priest or a bishop, or a pope, or whoever. When one begins to save up money and to ensure his future — isn’t it true? — then his future is not in Jesus, it’s in a type of spiritual insurance company that I manage, no? When, for example, a religious congregation, to give an example as he said, begins to gather money and save, God is so good that he sends them a terrible financier who brings them to bankruptcy. These are among the greatest blessings of God for his Church. Disastrous financiers, because they make the person free, they make him poor. Our Holy Mother Church is poor. God wants her poor as he wanted our Mother Mary poor.

Love poverty as a mother. I simply suggest to you, if one of you would like to ask himself, "How is my spirit of poverty? How is my interior detachment?" I think this can be good for our consecrated life, our priestly life. 

After all, let us not forget that it is the first of the Beatitudes. Happy are the poor in spirit, those who are not attached to riches, to the powers of this world.

And the Sister spoke to us of the last ones, of the smallest ones. Who, though they are already old, they end up treating them as children because they act like children. The least ones. This is a phrase of Jesus. A phrase that is in the criteria on which we will be judged. What you did to the least of these brothers, you did to me. There are pastoral services that can be more gratifying, from the human point of view, without being bad or worldly. But when one seeks in his interior preferences the smallest, the most abandoned, the sickest, the one no one pays attention to, who no one loves, the smallest one, and serves the smallest one, he is serving Jesus in a superlative manner.

You were sent where you didn’t want to go, and you cried. You cried because you didn’t like it — which doesn’t mean that you are a "crybaby nun." God free us from crybaby nuns who are alway lamenting. This phrase isn’t mine. St. Theresa said this to her nuns. It’s a phrase of hers. Woe to that nun who goes about all day lamenting because I suffered an injustice. In the Spanish of the day, she said, guai to the nun who goes about saying that they treated me unjustly. 

You cried because you are young, you had other dreams, perhaps you thought that in a school you could do more, that you could organize a future for the youth. And they sent you there, to the house of mercy, where the tenderness and the mercy of God are made more visible. Where the tenderness and the mercy of God become a caress. How many women and men religious consume — and I repeat the verb, consume — their lives caressing 'rubbish,' caressing those that the world throws away, that the world despises, that the world wishes didn’t exist, those who the world today — with methods and new analyses that we have, when it’s foreseen that one can come with a degenerative illness, it’s proposed to 'send them back' before they’re born. The smallest.

And a young woman full of dreams begins her consecrated life giving life to the tenderness of God, to his mercy. Sometimes they don’t understand, they don’t realize, but, how wonderful it is for God, and how much good it does to a person, for example the smile of someone with muscle spasms who doesn’t know how to do it. Or when they want to kiss you and they slobber on your face. This is the tenderness of God. This is the mercy of God. Or when they are mad and they strike you. Consume my life like this? With this "rubbish" in the eyes of the world. This speaks to us only of one person. It speaks to us of Jesus, who because of the pure mercy of the Father made himself nothing. He emptied himself, says Philippians, chapter 2. He made himself nothing. And these people to whom you dedicate your life imitate Jesus, not because they wanted to, but because the world brought them here like this. They are nothing. And they hide them and they don’t show them or they don’t visit them. And if they can and there’s still time, they "send them back."

Thank you for what you do and in you, thank you to all the women and all the women consecrated to the service of the useless, because with them you can’t start a business, you can’t make money, absolutely nothing constructive is brought forward, so to speak, with these brothers and sisters of ours, with these least ones, with the smallest. There Jesus shines forth and there my decision for Jesus shines forth. Thank you and thank you to all men and women consecrated who do this.

Father, I’m not a nun. I don’t take care of sick people. I’m a priest. And I have a parish, or I help the pastor of a parish. Which one is my Jesus of predilection? Which one is the least one? Which one most shows me the mercy of the Father? Where do I have to find him? 

Obviously I continue following the protocol of Matthew 25, there you have all of them: the hungry, the imprisoned, the sick, there you will find them. But there is a privileged place for the priest where this last one, this least one, this smallest one is found — and it is the confessional. And there, when this man or this woman shows you his misery — careful because it’s the same misery that you have and from which God saved you, eh? from getting to that point. When he or she shows you his misery, please, don’t scold him. Don’t scold him, don’t punish him. If you don’t have sin, throw the first stone. But only under that condition. If not, think of your sins and think that you could be that person and think that you could potentially fall even lower, and think that you in this moment have in your hands a treasure, which is the mercy of the Father. Please, priests, don’t get tired of forgiving. Be forgivers. Don’t get tired of forgiving, like Jesus did. Don’t hide in fears or in rigidities. Just like this nun and all of those who are in the same ministry as she is, they don’t get furious when they find a sick person who is dirty, but instead serve him, clean him, take care of him. Just like this, you, when a penitent comes, don’t react badly, don’t get neurotic, don’t cast him out of the confessional, don’t scold him. Jesus embraced them. Jesus loved them. Tomorrow, we celebrate St. Matthew. He was a thief and beyond that, betrayed his people. And the Gospel says that at night, Jesus went to dine with him and others like him. St. Ambrose has a phrase that moves me a lot: "where there is mercy, the Spirit of Jesus is there; where there is rigidity, merely his ministers are there." 

Brother priest, brother bishop, do not be afraid of mercy, allow it to flow out of your hands and through your embrace of forgiveness. Because this person or that person who is there are the least ones, and therefore it is Jesus.

This is what occurred to me to say after having heard these two prophets. May the Lord give us these graces that the two of them have sown in our hearts. Poverty and mercy, because that is where Jesus is.

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Prepared Text for Pope's Meeting With Youth

"Hope is bold; it can look beyond personal convenience, the petty securities and compensations which limit our horizon, and can open us up to grand ideals which make life more beautiful and worthwhile"

By Staff Reporter

Cuba, September 20, 2015

Here is the text that Pope Francis had prepared for his meeting this evening with youth in Cuba. He did not read this text and instead responded to some ideas proposed by the young man who welcomed him to the meeting, though he presented some of the same themes found here.

* * *

Dear Friends,  

I am very happy to be with you here in this Cultural Center which is so important for Cuban history.  I thank God for this opportunity to meet so many young people who, by their work, studies and training, are dreaming of, and already making real, the future of Cuba. 

I thank Leonardo for his words of welcome, and particularly because, although he could have spoken about so many other important and concrete things such as our difficulties, fears, and doubts – as real and human as they are – he spoke to us about hope.  He talked to us about those dreams and aspirations so firmly planted in the heart of young Cubans, transcending all their differences in education, culture, beliefs or ideas.  Thank you, Leonardo, because, when I look at all of you, the first thing that comes into my mind and heart, too, is the word “hope”.  I cannot imagine a young person who is listless, without dreams or ideals, without a longing for something greater. 

But what kind of hope does a young Cuban have at this moment of history?  Nothing more or less than that of any other young person in any other part of the world.  Because hope speaks to us of something deeply rooted in every human heart, independently of our concrete circumstances and historical conditioning.  Hope speaks to us of a thirst, an aspiration, a longing for a life of fulfillment, a desire to achieve great things, things which fill our heart and lift our spirit to lofty realities like truth, goodness and beauty, justice and love.  But it also involves taking risks.  It means being ready not to be seduced by what is fleeting, by false promises of happiness, by immediate and selfish pleasures, by a life of mediocrity and self-centeredness, which only fills the heart with sadness and bitterness.  No, hope is bold; it can look beyond personal convenience, the petty securities and compensations which limit our horizon, and can open us up to grand ideals which make life more beautiful and worthwhile.  I would ask each one of you: What is it that shapes your life?  What lies deep in your heart?  Where do your hopes and aspirations lie?  Are you ready to put yourself on the line for the sake of something even greater? 

Perhaps you may say: “Yes, Father, I am strongly attracted to those ideals.  I feel their call, their beauty, their light shining in my heart.  But I feel too weak, I am not ready to decide to take the path of hope.  The goal is lofty and my strength is all too little.  It is better to be content with small things, less grand but more realistic, more within my reach”.  I can understand that reaction; it is normal to feel weighed down by difficult and demanding things.  But take care not to yield to the temptation of a disenchantment which paralyzes the intellect and the will, or that apathy which is a radical form of pessimism about the future.  These attitudes end either in a flight from reality towards vain utopias, or else in selfish isolation and a cynicism deaf to the cry for justice, truth and humanity which rises up around us and within us. 

But what are we to do?  How do we find paths of hope in the situations in which we live?  How do we make those hopes for fulfillment, authenticity, justice and truth, become a reality in our personal lives, in our country and our world?  I think that there are three ideas which can help to keep our hope alive: 

Hope is a path made of memory and discernment.  Hope is the virtue which goes places.  It isn’t simply a path we take for the pleasure of it, but it has an end, a goal which is practical and lights up our way.  Hope is also nourished by memory; it looks not only to the future but also to the past and present.  To keep moving forward in life, in addition to knowing where we want to go, we also need to know who we are and where we come from.  Individuals or peoples who have no memory and erase their past risk losing their identity and destroying their future.  So we need to remember who we are, and in what our spiritual and moral heritage consists.  This, I believe, was the experience and the insight of that great Cuban, Father Félix Varela.  Discernment is also needed, because it is essential to be open to reality and to be able to interpret it without fear or prejudice.  Partial and ideological interpretations are useless; they only disfigure reality by trying to fit it into our preconceived schemas, and they always cause disappointment and despair.  We need discernment and memory, because discernment is not blind; it is built on solid ethical and moral criteria which help us to see what is good and just. 

Hope is a path taken with others.  An African proverb says: “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go with others”.  Isolation and aloofness never generate hope; but closeness to others and encounter do.  Left to ourselves, we will go nowhere.  Nor by exclusion will we be able to build a future for anyone, even ourselves.  A path of hope calls for a culture of encounter, dialogue, which can overcome conflict and sterile confrontation.  To create that culture, it is vital to see different ways of thinking not in terms of risk, but of richness and growth.  The world needs this culture of encounter. It needs young people who seek to know and love one another, to journey together in building a country like that which José Martí dreamed of: “With all, and for the good of all”. 

Hope is a path of solidarity.  The culture of encounter should naturally lead to a culture of solidarity.  I was struck by what Leonardo said at the beginning, when he spoke of solidarity as a source of strength for overcoming all obstacles.  Without solidarity, no country has a future.  Beyond all other considerations or interests, there has to be concern for that person who may be my friend, my companion, but also someone who may think differently than I do, someone with his own ideas yet just as human and just as Cuban as I am.  Simple tolerance is not enough; we have to go well beyond that, passing from a suspicious and defensive attitude to one of acceptance, cooperation, concrete service and effective assistance.  Do not be afraid of solidarity, service and offering a helping hand, so that no one is excluded from the path. 

This path of life is lit up by a higher hope: the hope born of our faith in Christ.  He made himself our companion along the way.  Not only does he encourage us, he also accompanies us; he is at our side and he extends a friendly hand to us.  The Son of God, he wanted to become someone like us, to accompany us on our way.  Faith in his presence, in his friendship and love, lights up all our hopes and dreams.  With him at our side, we learn to discern what is real, to encounter and serve others, and to walk the path of solidarity. 

Dear young people of Cuba, if God himself entered our history and became flesh in Jesus, if he shouldered our weakness and sin, then you need not be afraid of hope, or of the future, because God is on your side.  He believes in you, and he hopes in you. 

Dear friends, thank you for this meeting.  May hope in Christ, your friend, always guide you along your path in life.  And, please, remember to pray for me.  May the Lord bless all of you.


Prepared Text for Pope's Homily at Vespers With Cuba's Priests, Religious

"Jesus prays that all of us may be one"

By Staff Reporter

Cuba, September 20, 2015

Here is a Vatican translation of the homily Pope Francis had prepared for this evening in Cuba as he presided over vespers with the nations bishops, priests, seminarians and religious. The Pope did not read this text, instead speaking off-the-cuff, and encouraging the religious to meditate upon this address at a later time.

* * *

We are gathered in this historic Cathedral of Havana to sing with psalms the faithfulness of God towards his people, with thanksgiving for his presence and his infinite mercy. A faithfulness and mercy not only commemorated by this building, but also by the living memory of some of the elderly among us, who know from experience that “his mercy endures forever and his faithfulness throughout the ages”. For this, brothers and sisters, let us together give thanks. 

Let us give thanks for the Spirit’s presence in the rich and diverse charisms of all those missionaries who came to this land and became Cubans among Cubans, a sign that God’s mercy is eternal.

The Gospel presents Jesus in dialogue with his Father. It brings us to the heart of the prayerful intimacy between the Father and the Son. As his hour drew near, Jesus prayed for his disciples, for those with him and for those who were yet to come (cf. Jn 17:20). We do well to remember that, in that crucial moment, Jesus made the lives of his disciples, our lives, a part of his prayer. He asked his Father to keep them united and joyful. Jesus knew full well the hearts of his disciples, and he knows full well our own. And so he prays to the Father to save them from a spirit of isolation, of finding refuge in their own certainties and comfort zones, of indifference to others and division into “cliques” which disfigure the richly diverse face of the Church. These are situations which lead to a kind of isolation and ennui, a sadness that slowly gives rise to resentment, to constant complaint, to boredom; this “is not God’s will for us, nor is it the life in the Spirit” (Evangelii Gaudium, 2) to which he invited them, to which he has invited us. That is why Jesus prays that sadness and isolation will not prevail in our hearts. We want to do the same, we want to join in Jesus’ prayer, in his words, so that we can say together: “Father, keep them in your name… that they may be one, even as we are one” (Jn 17:11), “that your joy may be complete” (Jn 15:11). 

Jesus prays and he invites us to pray, because he knows that some things can only be received as gifts; some things can only be experienced as gifts. Unity is a grace which can be bestowed upon us only by the Holy Spirit; we have to ask for this grace and do our best to be transformed by that gift. 

Unity is often confused with uniformity; with actions, feelings and words which are all identical. This is not unity, it is conformity. It kills the life of the Spirit; it kills the charisms which God has bestowed for the good of his people. Unity is threatened whenever we try to turn others into our own image and likeness. Unity is a gift, not something to be imposed by force or by decree. I am delighted to see you here, men and women of different generations, backgrounds and experiences, all united by our common prayer. Let us ask God to increase our desire to be close to one another. To be neighbors, always there for one another, with all our many differences, interests and ways of seeing things. To speak straightforwardly, despite our disagreements and disputes, and not behind each other’s backs. May we be shepherds who are close to our people, open to their questions and problems. Conflicts and disagreements in the Church are to be expected and, I would even say, needed. They are a sign that the Church is alive and that the Spirit is still acting, still enlivening her. Woe to those communities without a “yes” and a “no”! They are like married couples who no longer argue, because they have lost interest, they have lost their love. 

The Lord prays also that we may be filled with his own “complete joy” (cf. Jn 17:13). The joy of Christians, and especially of consecrated men and women, is a very clear sign of Christ’s presence in their lives. When we see sad faces, it is a warning that something is wrong. Significantly, this is the request which Jesus makes of the Father just before he goes out to the Garden to renew his own “fiat”. I am certain that all of you have had to bear many sacrifices and, for some of you, for several decades now, these sacrifices have proved difficult. Jesus prays, at the moment of his own sacrifice, that we will never lose the joy of knowing that he overcomes the world. This certainty is what inspires us, morning after morning, to renew our faith. “With a tenderness which never disappoints, but is always capable of restoring our joy” – by his prayer, and in the faces of our people – Christ “makes it possible for us to lift up our heads and to start anew” (Evangelii Gaudium, 3). 

How important, how valuable for the life of the Cuban people, is this witness which always and everywhere radiates such joy, despite our weariness, our misgivings and even our despair, that dangerous temptation which eats away at our soul! 

Dear brothers and sisters, Jesus prays that all of us may be one, and that his joy may abide within us. May we do likewise, as we unite ourselves to one another in prayer. 


Pope Francis’ Homily at Mass in Havana’s Plaza de la Revolución

“Service is never ideological, for we do not serve ideas, we serve people.”

By Junno Arocho Esteves

Rome, September 20, 2015

Here is a Vatican translation of the Holy Father’s homily during his first Mass at the Plaza de la Revolucion in Havana, Cuba.

* * *

The Gospel shows us Jesus asking a seemingly indiscreet question of his disciples: “What were you discussing along the way?” It is a question which he could also ask each of us today: “What do you talk about every day?” “What are your aspirations?” The Gospel tells us that the disciples “did not answer because on the way they had been arguing about who was the most important”. The disciples were ashamed to tell Jesus what they were talking about. As with the disciples then, we too can be caught up in these same arguments: who is the most important?

Jesus does not press the question. He does not force them to tell him what they were talking about on the way. But the question lingers, not only in the minds of the disciples, but also in their hearts.

Who is the most important? This is a life-long question to which, at different times, we must give an answer. We cannot escape the question; it is written on our hearts. I remember more than once, at family gatherings, children being asked: “Who do you love more, Mommy or Daddy”? It’s like asking them: “Who is the most important for you?” But is this only a game we play with children? The history of humanity has been marked by the way this question is answered.

Jesus is not afraid of people’s questions; he is not afraid of our humanity or the different things we are looking for. On the contrary, he knows the “twists and turns” of the human heart, and, as a good teacher, he is always ready to encourage and support us. As usual, he takes up our searching, our aspirations, and he gives them a new horizon. As usual, he somehow finds an the answer which can pose a new challenge, setting aside the “right answers”, the standard replies we are expected to give. As usual, Jesus sets before us the “logic” of love. A mindset, an approach to life, which is capable of being lived out by all, because it is meant for all.

Far from any kind of elitism, the horizon to which Jesus points us is not for those few privileged souls capable of attaining the heights of knowledge or different levels of spirituality. The horizon to which Jesus points us always has to do with daily life, also here on “our island”, something which can season our daily lives with eternity.

Who is the most important? Jesus is straightforward in his reply: “Whoever wishes to be the first among you must be the last of all, and the servant of all”. Whatever wishes to be great must serve others, not be served by others.

Here lies the great paradox of Jesus. The disciples were arguing about who would have the highest place, who would be chosen for privileges, who would be above the common law, the general norm, in order to stand out in the quest for superiority over others. Who would climb the ladder most quickly to take the jobs which carry certain benefits.

Jesus upsets their “logic”, their mindset, simply by telling them that life is lived authentically in a concrete commitment to our neighbor, that is to say, by serving.

The call to serve involves something special, to which we must be attentive. Serving others chiefly means caring for their vulnerability. Caring for the vulnerable of our families, our society, our people. Theirs are the suffering, fragile and downcast faces which Jesus tells us specifically to look at and which he asks us to love. With a love which takes shape in our actions and decisions. With a love which finds expression in whatever tasks we, as citizens, are called to perform. People of flesh and blood, people with individual lives and stories, and with all their frailty: these are those whom Jesus asks us to protect, to care for, to serve. Being a Christian entails promoting the dignity of our brothers and sisters, fighting for it, living for it. That is why Christians are constantly called to set aside their own wishes and desires, their pursuit of power, and to look instead to those who are most vulnerable.

There is a kind of “service” which truly “serves”, yet we need to be careful not to be tempted by another kind of service, a “service” which is “self-serving”. There is a way to go about serving which is interested in only helping “my people”, “our people”. This service always leaves “your people” outside, and gives rise to a process of exclusion.

All of us are called by virtue of our Christian vocation to that service which truly serves, and to help one another not to be tempted by a “service” which is really “self-serving”. All of us are asked, indeed urged, by Jesus to care for one another out of love. Without looking to one side or the other to see what our neighbor is doing or not doing. Jesus tells us: Whoever would be first among you must be the last, and the servant of all”. He does not say: if your neighbor wants to be first, let him be the servant! We have to be careful to avoid judgmental looks and renew our belief in the transforming look to which Jesus invites us.

This caring for others out of love is not about being servile. Rather, it means putting our brothers and sisters at the center. Service always looks to their faces, touches their flesh, senses their closeness and even, in some cases, “suffers” in trying to help. Service is never ideological, for we do not serve ideas, we serve people.

God’s holy and faithful people in Cuba is a people with a taste for parties, for friendship, for beautiful things. It is a people which marches with songs of praise. It is a people which has its wounds, like every other people, yet knows how to stand up with open arms, to keep walking in hope, because it has a vocation of grandeur. Today I ask you to care for this vocation of yours, to care for these gifts which God has given you, but above all I invite you to care for and be at the service of the frailty of your brothers and sisters. Do not neglect them for plans which can be seductive, but are unconcerned about the face of the person beside you. We know, we are witnesses of the incomparable power of the resurrection, which “everywhere calls forth the seeds of a new world” (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 276, 278).

Let us not forget the Good News we have heard today: the importance of a people, a nation, and the importance of individuals, which is always based on how they seek to serve their vulnerable brothers and sisters. Here we encounter one of the fruits of a true humanity.

“Whoever does not live to serve, does not ‘serve’ to live”


ANGELUS: On Peace and Reconciliation

“We do not have the right to allow ourselves yet another failure on this path of peace and reconciliation.”

By Staff Reporter

Havana, Cuba, September 20, 2015

Here is the Vatican translation of the Pope’s address prior to the recitation of the Angelus prayer at the conclusion of Mass in Havana’s Plaza de la Revolucion.

* * *

I thank Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino, Archbishop of Havana, for his kind words, and I greet all my brother bishops, priests, religious and lay faithful. I also greet the President and all the authorities present.

We have heard in the Gospel how the disciples were afraid to question Jesus when he spoke to them about his passion and death. He frightened them, and they could not grasp the idea of seeing Jesus suffer on the cross. We too are tempted to flee from our own crosses and those of others, to withdraw from those who suffer. In concluding this Holy Mass, in which Jesus has once more given himself to us in his body and blood, let us now lift our gaze to the Virgin Mary, our Mother. We ask her to teach us to stand beside the cross of our brothers and sisters who suffer. To learn to see Jesus in every person bent low on the path of life, in all our brothers and sisters who hunger or thirst, who are naked or in prison or sick. With Mary our Mother, on the cross we can see who is truly “the greatest” and what it means to stand beside the Lord and to share in his glory.

Let us learn from Mary to keep our hearts awake and attentive to the needs of others. As the wedding feast of Cana teaches us, let us be concerned for the little details of life, and let us not tire of praying for one another, so that no one will lack the new wine of love, the joy which Jesus brings us.

At this time I feel bound to direct my thoughts to the beloved land of Colombia, “conscious of the crucial importance of the present moment when, with renewed effort and inspired by hope, its sons and daughters are seeking to build a peaceful society”. May the blood shed by thousands of innocent people during long decades of armed conflict, united to that of the Lord Jesus Christ crucified, sustain all the efforts being made, including those on this beautiful island, to achieve definitive reconciliation. Thus may the long night of pain and violence can, with the support of all Colombians, become an unending day of harmony, justice, fraternity and love, in respect for institutions and for national and international law, so that there may be lasting peace. Please, we do not have the right to allow ourselves yet another failure on this path of peace and reconciliation.

Thank you Mr. President for all that you do in order to obtain this reconciliation.

I ask you now to join with me in praying to Mary, that we may place all our concerns and hopes before the heart of Christ. We pray to her in a special way for those who have lost hope and find no reasons to keep fighting, and for those who suffer from injustice, abandonment and loneliness. We pray for the elderly, the infirm, children and young people, for all families experiencing difficulty, that Mary may dry their tears, comfort them with a mother’s love, and restore their hope and joy. Holy Mother, I commend to you these your sons and daughters in Cuba. May you never abandon them!

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Pope’s Homily at Mass in Holguín

“Jesus’ love goes before us, his look anticipates our needs.”

By Staff Reporter

Holguín, September 21, 2015

Here is the Vatican translation of Pope Francis’ homily at the Plaza de la Revolución “Calixto García Iñíguez” in Holguín, Cuba.

* * *

We are celebrating the feast of the apostle and evangelist Saint Matthew. We are celebrating the story of a conversion. Matthew himself, in his Gospel, tell us what it was like, this encounter which changed his life. He shows us an “exchange of glances” capable of changing history.

On a day like any other, as Matthew, the tax collector, was seated at his table, Jesus passed by, saw him, came up to him and said: “Follow me”. Matthew got up and followed him.

Jesus looked at him. How strong was the love in that look of Jesus, which moved Matthew to do what he did! What power must have been in his eyes to make Matthew get up from his table! We know that Matthew was a publican: he collected taxes from the Jews to give to the Romans. Publicans were looked down upon and considered sinners; as such, they lived apart and were despised by others. One could hardly eat, speak or pray with the likes of these. For the people, they were traitors: they extorted from their own to give to others. Publicans belonged to this social class.

Jesus, on the other hand, stopped; he did not quickly take his distance. He looked at Matthew calmly, peacefully. He looked at him with eyes of mercy; he looked at him as no one had ever looked at him before. And this look unlocked Matthew’s heart; it set him free, it healed him, it gave him hope, a new life, as it did to Zacchaeus, to Bartimaeus, to Mary Magdalene, to Peter, and to each of us. Even if we do not dare raise our eyes to the Lord, he looks at us first. This is our story, and it is like that of so many others. Each of us can say: “I, too, am a sinner, whom Jesus has looked upon”. I ask you, in your homes or in the Church, to be still for a moment and to recall with gratitude and happiness those situations, that moment, when the merciful gaze of God was felt in our lives.

Jesus’ love goes before us, his look anticipates our needs. He can see beyond appearances, beyond sin, beyond failures and unworthiness. He sees beyond our rank in society. He sees beyond this, to our dignity as sons and daughters, a dignity at times sullied by sin, but one which endures in the depth of our soul. He came precisely to seek out all those who feel unworthy of God, unworthy of others. Let us allow Jesus to look at us. Let us allow his gaze to run over our streets. Let us allow that look to become our joy, our hope.

After the Lord looked upon him with mercy, he said to Matthew: “Follow me.” Matthew got up and followed him. After the look, a word. After love, the mission. Matthew is no longer the same; he is changed inside. The encounter with Jesus and his loving mercy has transformed him. He leaves behind his table, his money, his exclusion. Before, he had sat waiting to collect his taxes, to take from others; now, with Jesus he must get up and give, give himself to others. Jesus looks at him and Matthew encounters the joy of service. For Matthew and for all who have felt the gaze of Jesus, other people are no longer to be “lived off”, used and abused. The gaze of Jesus gives rise to missionary activity, service, self-giving. Jesus’ love heals our short-sightedness and pushes us to look beyond, not to be satisfied with appearances or with what is politically correct.

Jesus goes before us, he precedes us; he opens the way and invites us to follow him. He invites us slowly to overcome our preconceptions and our reluctance to think that others, much less ourselves, can change. He challenges us daily with the question: “Do you believe? Do you believe it is possible that a tax collector can become a servant? Do you believe it is possible that a traitor can become a friend? Do you believe is possible that the son of a carpenter can be the Son of God?” His gaze transforms our way of seeing things, his heart transforms our hearts. God is a Father who seeks the salvation of each of his sons and daughters.

Let us gaze upon the Lord in prayer, in the Eucharist, in Confession, in our brothers and sisters, especially those who feel excluded or abandoned. May we learn to see them as Jesus sees us. Let us share his tenderness and mercy with the sick, prisoners, the elderly and families in difficulty. Again and again we are called to learn from Jesus, who always sees what is most authentic in every person, which is the image of his Father.

I know the efforts and the sacrifices being made by the Church in Cuba to bring Christ’s word and presence to all, even in the most remote areas. Here I would mention especially the “mission houses” which, given the shortage of churches and priests, provide for many people a place for prayer, for listening to the word of God, for catechesis and community life. They are small signs of God’s presence in our neighborhoods and a daily aid in our effort to respond to the plea of the apostle Paul: “I beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (cf. Eph 4:1-3).

I now turn my eyes to the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, whom Cuba embraced and to whom it opened its doors forever. I ask Our Lady to look with maternal love on all her children in this noble country. May her “eyes of mercy” ever keep watch over each of you, your homes, your families, and all those who feel that they have no place. In her love, may she protect us all as she once cared for Jesus.


© Copyright 2015 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pope Asks Journalists to Build Bridges of Peace

Greeted Each of the 76 Journalists on Papal Flight en Route to Cuba: "I thank you for all that you do in your work to build bridges: small bridges, but bridges nonetheless, that together all form the great bridge of peace"

By Staff Reporter

Rome, September 21, 2015

Shortly after beginning his trip from Rome to Havana, the Pope greeted the 76 journalists accompanying him on the flight. As indicated by the Director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., the media coverage of this trip will be more intense than usual. In a very cordial atmosphere, the Holy Father enquired about the journalists' families and received various edible gifts, including dulce de leche and an empanada, a typical Argentinian pastry, that he offered to all those present.

“Thank you for the welcome,” he said. “I wish you a good journey. If I am not mistaken, I think this is the longest trip I have made. … Fr. Lombardi mentioned peace. Today's world thirsts for peace. There are wars, immigrants who flee, this wave of immigration as a result of war, to escape from death and in search of life. Today I am happy as I was greeted at the door of St. Anna by one of the two families residing in the Vatican, in the parish of the same name. They are Syrian refugees. You can see the suffering in their faces. … This word: peace. I thank you for all that you do in your work to build bridges: small bridges, but bridges nonetheless, that together all form the great bridge of peace. I wish you a good trip and good work. Pray for me. Thank you”.

He also offered a greeting to all the journalists' colleagues working in their offices.

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Pope’s Homily at Shrine of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre

“We are asked to live the revolution of tenderness as Mary, our Mother of Charity, did.”

By Staff Reporter

Santiago de Cuba, September 22, 2015

Here is the Vatican translation of the Pope’s homily at the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre in Santiago de Cuba.

* * *

The Gospel we have just heard tells us about something the Lord does every time he visits us: he calls us out of our house. These are images which we are asked to contemplate over and over again. God’s presence in our lives never leaves us tranquil: it always pushes to do something. When God comes, he always calls us out of our house. We are visited so that we can visit others; we are encountered so as to encounter others; we receive love in order to give love.

In the Gospel we see Mary, the first disciple. A young woman of perhaps between fifteen and seventeen years of age who, in a small village of Palestine, was visited by the Lord, who told her that she was to be the mother of the Savior. Mary was far from “thinking it was all about her”, or thinking that everyone had to come and wait upon her; she left her house and went out to serve. First she goes to help her cousin Elizabeth. The joy which blossoms when we know that God is with us, with our people, gets our heart beating, gets our legs moving and “draws us out of ourselves”. It leads us to take the joy we have received and to share it in service, in those “embarrassing” situations which our neighbors or families may be experiencing. The Gospel tells us that Mary went in haste, slowly but surely, with a steady pace, neither too fast nor so slow as never to get there. Neither anxious nor distracted, Mary goes with haste to accompany her cousin who conceived in her old age. Henceforth this was always to be her way. She has always been the woman who visits men and women, children, the elderly and the young. She has visited and accompanied many of our peoples in the drama of their birth; she has watched over the struggles of those who fought to defend the rights of their children. And now, she continues to bring us the Word of Life, her Son, our Lord.

These lands have also been visited by her maternal presence. The Cuban homeland was born and grew, warmed by devotion to Our Lady of Charity. As the bishops of this country have written: “In a special and unique way she has molded the Cuban soul, inspiring the highest ideals of love of God, the family and the nation in the heart of the Cuban people”.

This was what your fellow citizens also stated a hundred years ago, when they asked Pope Benedict XV to declare Our Lady of Charity the Patroness of Cuba. They wrote that “neither disgrace nor poverty were ever able to crush the faith and the love which our Catholic people profess for the Virgin of Charity, for whom, in all their trials, when death was imminent or desperation was at the door, there arose, like a light scattering the darkness of every peril, like a comforting dew…, the vision of that Blessed Virgin, utterly Cuban and loved as such by our cherished mothers, blessed as such by our wives.”

In this shrine, which keeps alive the memory of God’s holy and faithful pilgrim people in Cuba, Mary is venerated as the Mother of Charity. From here she protects our roots, our identity, so that we may never stray to paths of despair. The soul of the Cuban people, as we have just heard, was forged amid suffering and privation which could not suppress the faith, that faith which was kept alive thanks to all those grandmothers who fostered, in the daily life of their homes, the living presence of God, the presence of the Father who liberates, strengthens, heals, grants courage and serves as a sure refuge and the sign of a new resurrection. Grandmothers, mothers, and so many others who with tenderness and love were signs of visitation, valor and faith for their grandchildren, in their families. They kept open a tiny space, small as a mustard seed, through which the Holy Spirit continued to accompany the heartbeat of this people.

“Whenever we look to Mary, we come to believe once again in the revolutionary nature of love and tenderness” (Evangelii Gaudium, 288).

Generation after generation, day after day, we are asked to renew our faith. We are asked to live the revolution of tenderness as Mary, our Mother of Charity, did. We are invited to “leave home” and to open our eyes and hearts to others. Our revolution comes about through tenderness, through the joy which always becomes closeness and compassion, and leads us to get involved in, and to serve, the life of others. Our faith makes us leave our homes and go forth to encounter others, to share their joys, their hopes and their frustrations. Our faith, “calls us out of our house”, to visit the sick, the prisoner and to those who mourn. It makes us able to laugh with those who laugh, and rejoice with our neighbors who rejoice. Like Mary, we want to be a Church which serves, which leaves home and goes forth, which goes forth from its chapels, its sacristies, in order to accompany life, to sustain hope, to be a sign of unity. Like Mary, Mother of Charity, we want to be a Church which goes forth to build bridges, to break down walls, to sow seeds of reconciliation. Like Mary, we want to be a Church which can accompany all those “embarrassing” situations of our people, committed to life, to culture, to society, not washing our hands but rather walking with our brothers and sisters. Everyone together, everyone together. Everyone sons of God, sons of Mary, sons of this noble Cuban land.

This is our most valuable treasure (cobre), this is our greatest wealth and the best legacy we can give: to learn like Mary to leave home and set out on the path of visitation. And to learn to pray with Mary, for her prayer is one of remembrance and gratitude; it is the canticle of the People of God on their pilgrimage through history. It is the living reminder that God passes through our midst; the perennial memory that God has looked upon the lowliness of his people, he has come the aid of his servant, even as promised to our forebears and their children forever.


Pope's Address to Families in Cuba

"Amid all the difficulties troubling our families of the world today, please, never forget one thing: families are not a problem, they are first and foremost an opportunity. An opportunity which we have to care for, protect and support"

By Staff Reporter

Cuba, September 22, 2015

Here is a Vatican translation of the address Pope Francis gave this morning in his meeting with families. The Holy Father largely followed his prepared text, but ZENIT has transcribed and translated the various remarks he added off-the-cuff. Those are found in brackets.

* * *

We are here as a family! And whenever we come together as a family, we feel at home. Thank you, Cuban families. Thank you, Cubans, for making me feel part of a family, for making me feel at home, in these days. [Thank you.] This meeting is like “the cherry on the cake”. To conclude my visit with this family gathering is a reason to thank God for the “warmth” spread by people who know how to welcome and accept someone, to make him feel at home. Thank you [to all the Cuban people!]

I am grateful to Archbishop Dionisio García of Santiago for his greetings in the name of all present, and to the married couple who were not afraid to share with all of us their hopes and struggles in trying to make their home a “domestic church”. 

John’s Gospel tells us that Jesus worked his first miracle at the wedding feast of Cana, at a family party. There he was, with Mary, his Mother, and some of his disciples, taking part in a family celebration. 

Weddings are special times in many people’s lives. For the “older folks”, parents and grandparents, it is an opportunity to reap the fruits of what they have sown. Our hearts rejoice when we see children grow up and make a home of their own. For a moment, we see that everything we worked for was worth the effort. To raise children, to support and encourage them, to help them want to make a life for themselves and form a family: this is a great challenge for all parents. Weddings, too, show us the joy of young spouses. The future is open before them, and everything “smacks” of new possibilities, of hope. Weddings always bring together the past which we inherit and the future in which we put our hope. [There is memory and hope.] They are an opportunity to be grateful for everything which has brought us to this day, with the same love which we have received. 

Jesus begins his public life, [in fact,] at a wedding. He enters into that history of sowing and reaping, of dreams and quests, of efforts and commitments, of hard work which tills the land so that it can yield fruit. Jesus began his life [precisely] within a family, within a home. And he continues to enter into, and become a part of, our homes. [He likes to place himself within the family.]

It is interesting to see how Jesus also shows up at meals, at dinners. Eating with different people, visiting different homes, was a special way for him to make known God’s plan. He goes to the home of his friends, Martha and Mary, but he is not choosy; it makes no difference to him if they are publicans or sinners, like Zacchaeus. He didn’t just act this way himself; when he sent his disciples out to proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God he told them: Stay in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide (Lk 10:7). Weddings, visits to people’s homes, dinners: those moments in people’s lives become “special” because Jesus chose to be part of them. 

I remember in my former diocese how many families told me that almost the only time they came together was at dinner, in the evening after work, when the children had finished their homework. These were special times in the life of the family. They talked about what happened that day and what each of them had done; they tidied the house, put things away and organized their chores for the next few days. [The kids fought, but it was the moment.] These were also times when someone might come home tired, or when arguments or bickering might break out [between the husband and wife. But there's no reason to be afraid of this. I am more afraid of the couples who've never, ever had a fight. That's odd.] Jesus chooses all those times to show us the love of God. He chooses those moments to enter into our hearts and to help us to discover the Spirit of life at work in our daily affairs. It is in the home that we learn fraternity, [that we learn] solidarity, [that we learn] not to be overbearing. It is in the home that we learn to receive, to appreciate life as a blessing and to realize that we need one another to move forward. It is in the home that we experience forgiveness, that we are continually asked to forgive and to grow. [It's interesting,] in the home there is no room for “putting on masks”: we are who we are, and in one way or another we are called to do our best for others. 

That is why the Christian community calls families “domestic churches”. It is in the warmth of the home that faith fills every corner, lights up every space, builds community. At those moments, people learn to discover God’s love present and at work. 

In many cultures today, these spaces are shrinking, these experiences of family are disappearing, and everything is slowly breaking up, growing apart. We have fewer moments in common, to stay together, to stay at home as a family. As a result, we don’t know how to be patient, we don’t know how to ask permission or [we don't know how to ask] forgiveness, or even [we don't know how] to say “thank you”, because our homes are growing empty. [Not empty of people.] Empty of relationships, empty of contacts, empty of encounters. [Of parents, children, grandparents, grandchildren, siblings.] Not long ago, someone who works with me told me that his wife and children had gone off on vacation, while he remained home alone [because he had to work]. The first day, the house is completely quiet, “at peace”, [he was happy] and nothing was out of place. On the third day, when I asked him how things were going, he told me: I wish they would all come back soon, [return home]. He felt he couldn’t live without his wife and children. [And this is beautiful.]

Without family, without the warmth of home, life grows empty, there is a weakening of the networks which sustain us in adversity, nurture us in daily living and motivate us to build a better future. The family saves us from two present-day phenomena, [two things that happen]: fragmentation (division) and uniformity. In both cases, people turn into isolated individuals, easy to manipulate and to rule. [And then we find in the world] societies which are divided, broken, separated or rigidly uniform are a result of the breakup of family bonds, the loss of those relationships which make us who we are, which teach us to be persons. [One forgets how to say dad, mom, son, daughter, grandpa, grandma. They go along as if forgetting these relationships, which are the foundation.]

The family is a school of humanity, [a school] which teaches us to open our hearts to others’ needs, to be attentive to their lives. [When we live well as a family, egotism grows small. It exists, because all of us are a little egotistical. But when one doesn't live family life, these personalities start taking shape that we could refer to like this: I, mine, me, with me, for me -- totally centered in oneself, unaware of solidarity, fraternity, teamwork, love, arguments among siblings -- they don't know of this.]

Amid all the difficulties troubling our families [of the world] today, please, never forget one thing: families are not a problem, they are first and foremost an opportunity. An opportunity which we have to care for, protect and support. [That is a way of saying that they are a blessing. When you begin to live as if the family is a problem, you get stuck, you don't go forward. You are very centered in yourself.]

We talk a lot about the future, about the kind of world we want to leave to our children, the kind of society we want for them. I believe that one possible answer lies in looking at yourselves: [this family that I spoke of to each one of you.] Let us leave behind a world with families. [This is the best inheritance. Let us leave behind a world with families.] No doubt about it: the perfect family does not exist; there are no perfect husbands and wives, perfect parents, perfect children -- [and if I can dare to say it, there is no perfect mother-in-law] -- but this does not prevent families from being the answer for the future. God inspires us to love, and love always engages with the persons it loves. [Love always engages with the persons it loves.] So let us care for our families, true schools for the future. Let us care for our families, true spaces of freedom. Let us care for families, true centers of humanity. 

[And here, an image comes to me. During the Wednesday audiences, when I pass by to greet the people, so many women gesture to their belly and tell me, "Father will you bless him or her?" I am going to suggest something: All you women who are pregnant with hope -- because a child is hope -- in this moment, place your hand on your belly. If there are pregnant women here, you do it, and those who are listening through radio or television. And to each of these women, to each boy or girl who is there inside waiting, I give my blessing. So each one, touch your belly, and I give you the blessing, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. And I hope that he or she arrives healthy, that he or she grows up well, that you can raise him or her. Give a caress to the child that you are awaiting.]

I do not want to end without mentioning the Eucharist. All of you know very well that Jesus chose a meal to the setting for his memorial. He chose a specific moment of family life as the “place” of his presence among us. A moment which we have all experienced, a moment we all understand: a meal. 

The Eucharist is the meal of Jesus’ family, which the world over gathers to hear his word and to be fed by his body. Jesus is the Bread of Life for our families. He wants to be ever present, nourishing us by his love, sustaining us in faith, helping us to walk in hope, so that in every situation we can experience the true Bread of Heaven. 

In a few days I will join families from across the globe in the World Meeting of Families and, in less than a month, in the Synod of Bishops devoted to the family. I ask you to pray in a particular way for these two events, so that together we can find ways to help one another and to care for the family, so that we can continue to discover Emmanuel, the God who dwells in the midst of his people, and makes his home in [each family and in every family. I count on your prayers.]

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Pope's Homily at Canonization Mass of Junípero Serra

"He kept moving forward, because the Lord was waiting. He kept going, because his brothers and sisters were waiting. He kept going forward to the end of his life. Today, like him, may we be able to say: Forward!"

By Staff Reporter

United States of America, September 23, 2015

Here is a Vatican translation of the homily Pope Francis gave at today's Mass for the canonization of Junípero Serra in Washington, D.C.

* * *

Rejoice in the Lord always! I say it again, rejoice! These are striking words, words which impact our lives. Paul tells us to rejoice; he practically orders us to rejoice. This command resonates with the desire we all have for a fulfilling life, a meaningful life, a joyful life. It is as if Paul could hear what each one of us is thinking in his or her heart and to voice what we are feeling, what we are experiencing. Something deep within us invites us to rejoice and tells us not to settle for placebos which simply keep us comfortable. 

At the same time, though, we all know the struggles of everyday life. So much seems to stand in the way of this invitation to rejoice. Our daily routine can often lead us to a kind of glum apathy which gradually becomes a habit, with a fatal consequence: our hearts grow numb. 

We don’t want apathy to guide our lives… or do we? We don’t want the force of habit to rule our life… or do we? So we ought to ask ourselves: What can we do to keep our heart from growing numb, becoming anesthetized? How do we make the joy of the Gospel increase and take deeper root in our lives?

Jesus gives the answer. He said to his disciples then and he says it to us now: Go forth! Proclaim! The joy of the Gospel is something to be experienced, something to be known and lived only through giving it away, through giving ourselves away. 

The spirit of the world tells us to be like everyone else, to settle for what comes easy. Faced with this human way of thinking, “we must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and for the world” (Laudato Si’, 229). It is the responsibility to proclaim the message of Jesus. For the source of our joy is “an endless desire to show mercy, the fruit of our own experience of the power of the Father’s infinite mercy” (Evangelii Gaudium, 24). Go out to all, proclaim by anointing and anoint by proclaiming. This is what the Lord tells us today. He tells us: 

A Christian finds joy in mission: Go out to people of every nation! 

A Christian experiences joy in following a command: Go forth and proclaim the good news! 

A Christian finds ever new joy in answering a call: Go forth and anoint! 

Jesus sends his disciples out to all nations. To every people. [To all.] We too were part of all those people of two thousand years ago. Jesus did not provide a short list of who is, or is not, worthy of receiving his message, his presence. Instead, he always embraced life as he saw it. In faces of pain, hunger, sickness and sin. In faces of wounds, of thirst, of weariness, doubt and pity. Far from expecting a pretty life, smartly-dressed and neatly groomed, he embraced life as he found it. It made no difference whether it was dirty, unkempt, broken. Jesus said: Go out and tell the good news to everyone. Go out and in my name embrace life as it is, and not as you think it should be. Go out to the highways and byways, go out to tell the good news fearlessly, without prejudice, without superiority, without condescension, to all those who have lost the joy of living. Go out to proclaim the merciful embrace of the Father. Go out to those who are burdened by pain and failure, who feel that their lives are empty, and proclaim the folly of a loving Father who wants to anoint them with the oil of hope, the oil of salvation. Go out to proclaim the good news that error, deceitful illusions and falsehoods do not have the last word in a person’s life. Go out with the ointment which soothes wounds and heals hearts. 

Mission is never the fruit of a perfectly planned program or a well-organized manual. Mission is always the fruit of a life which knows what it is to be found and healed, encountered and forgiven. Mission is born of a constant experience of God’s merciful anointing. 

The Church, the holy People of God, treads the dust-laden paths of history, so often traversed by conflict, injustice and violence, in order to encounter her children, our brothers and sisters. The holy and faithful People of God are not afraid of losing their way; they are afraid of becoming self-enclosed, frozen into élites, clinging to their own security. They know that self-enclosure, in all the many forms it takes, is the cause of so much apathy. 

So let us go out, let us go forth to offer everyone the life of Jesus Christ (Evangelii Gaudium, 49). The People of God can embrace everyone because we are the disciples of the One who knelt before his own to wash their feet (ibid., 24). 

The reason we are here today [that we can be here today,] is that many other people wanted to respond to that call. They believed that “life grows by being given away, and it weakens in isolation and comfort” (Aparecida Document, 360). We are heirs to the bold missionary spirit of so many men and women who preferred not to be “shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security… within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door people are starving” (Evangelii Gaudium, 49). We are indebted to a tradition, a chain of witnesses who have made it possible for the good news of the Gospel to be, in every generation, both “good” and “news”. 

Today we remember one of those witnesses who testified to the joy of the Gospel in these lands, Father Junípero Serra. He was the embodiment of “a Church which goes forth”, a Church which sets out to bring everywhere the reconciling tenderness of God. Junípero Serra left his native land and its way of life. He was excited about blazing trails, going forth to meet many people, learning and valuing their particular customs and ways of life. He learned how to bring to birth and nurture God’s life in the faces of everyone he met; he made them his brothers and sisters. Junípero sought to defend the dignity of the native community, to protect it from those who had mistreated and abused it. Mistreatment and wrongs which today still trouble us, especially because of the hurt which they cause in the lives of many people. 

Father Serra had a motto which inspired his life and work, a saying [that above all] he lived his life by: siempre adelante! Keep moving forward! For him, this was the way to continue experiencing the joy of the Gospel, to keep his heart from growing numb, from being anesthetized. He kept moving forward, because the Lord was waiting. He kept going, because his brothers and sisters were waiting. He kept going forward to the end of his life. Today, like him, may we be able to say: Forward! Let’s keep moving forward!


President Obama's Remarks at Today's Welcoming Ceremony

"the size and spirit of today’s gathering is just a small reflection of the deep devotion of some 70 million American Catholics"

By Staff Reporter

Washington, D.C., September 23, 2015

Here are the remarks made this morning by President Barack Obama in welcoming Pope Francis at the Arrival Ceremony held at the White House. They are provided Couresty of the White House Press Office.

* * *

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Good morning.  

AUDIENCE:  Good morning!  (Applause.)  

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  What a beautiful day the Lord has made.  Holy Father, on behalf of Michelle and myself, welcome to the White House.  (Applause.)  I should explain that our backyard is not typically this crowded -- (laughter) -- but the size and spirit of today’s gathering is just a small reflection of the deep devotion of some 70 million American Catholics.  (Applause.)  It reflects, as well, the way that your message of love and hope has inspired so many people across our nation and around the world.  So on behalf of the American people, it is my great honor and privilege to welcome you to the United States of America.  (Applause.)   

Today, we mark many firsts.  Your Holiness, you have been celebrated as the first Pope from the Americas.  (Applause.) This is your first visit to the United States.  (Applause.)  And you are also the first pontiff to share an encyclical through a Twitter account.  (Laughter.)    

Holy Father, your visit not only allows us, in some small way, to reciprocate the extraordinary hospitality that you extended to me at the Vatican last year.  It also reveals how much all Americans, from every background and every faith, value the role that the Catholic Church plays in strengthening America.  (Applause.)  From my time working in impoverished neighborhoods with the Catholic Church in Chicago, to my travels as President, I’ve seen firsthand how, every single day, Catholic communities, priests, nuns, laity are feeding the hungry, healing the sick, sheltering the homeless, educating our children, and fortifying the faith that sustains so many.  

And what is true in America is true around the world.  From the busy streets of Buenos Aires to the remote villages in Kenya, Catholic organizations serve the poor, minister to prisoners, build schools, build homes, operate orphanages and hospitals.  And just as the Church has stood with those struggling to break the chains of poverty, the Church so often has given voice and hope to those seeking to break the chains of violence and oppression.  

And yet, I believe the excitement around your visit, Holy Father, must be attributed not only to your role as Pope, but to your unique qualities as a person.  (Applause.)  In your humility, your embrace of simplicity, in the gentleness of your words and the generosity of your spirit, we see a living example of Jesus’ teachings, a leader whose moral authority comes not just through words but also through deeds.  (Applause.)   

You call on all of us, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, to put the “least of these” at the center of our concerns.  You remind us that in the eyes of God our measure as individuals, and our measure as a society, is not determined by wealth or power or station or celebrity, but by how well we hew to Scripture’s call to lift up the poor and the marginalized -- (applause) -- to stand up for justice and against inequality, and to ensure that every human being is able to live in dignity –- because we are all made in the image of God.  (Applause.)  

You remind us that “the Lord’s most powerful message” is mercy.  And that means welcoming the stranger with empathy and a truly open heart –- (applause) -- from the refugee who flees war-torn lands to the immigrant who leaves home in search of a better life.  (Applause.)  It means showing compassion and love for the marginalized and the outcast, to those who have suffered, and those who have caused suffering and seek redemption.  You remind us of the costs of war, particularly on the powerless and defenseless, and urge us toward the imperative of peace.  (Applause.)  

Holy Father, we are grateful for your invaluable support of our new beginning with the Cuban people -- (applause) -- which holds out the promise of better relations between our countries, greater cooperation across our hemisphere, and a better life for the Cuban people.  We thank you for your passionate voice against the deadly conflicts that ravage the lives of so many men, women and children, and your call for nations to resist the sirens of war and resolve disputes through diplomacy. 

You remind us that people are only truly free when they can practice their faith freely.  (Applause.)  Here in the United States, we cherish religious liberty.  It was the basis for so much of what brought us together.  And here in the United States, we cherish our religious liberty, but around the world, at this very moment, children of God, including Christians, are targeted and even killed because of their faith.  Believers are prevented from gathering at their places of worship.  The faithful are imprisoned, and churches are destroyed.  So we stand with you in defense of religious freedom and interfaith dialogue, knowing that people everywhere must be able to live out their faith free from fear and free from intimidation.  (Applause.)  

And, Holy Father, you remind us that we have a sacred obligation to protect our planet, God’s magnificent gift to us.  (Applause.)  We support your call to all world leaders to support the communities most vulnerable to changing climate, and to come together to preserve our precious world for future generations.  (Applause.)

Your Holiness, in your words and deeds, you set a profound moral example.  And in these gentle but firm reminders of our obligations to God and to one another, you are shaking us out of complacency.  All of us may, at times, experience discomfort when we contemplate the distance between how we lead our daily lives and what we know to be true, what we know to be right.  But I believe such discomfort is a blessing, for it points to something better.  You shake our conscience from slumber; you call on us to rejoice in Good News, and give us confidence that we can come together in humility and service, and pursue a world that is more loving, more just, and more free.  Here at home and around the world, may our generation heed your call to “never remain on the sidelines of this march of living hope.”

For that great gift of hope, Holy Father, we thank you, and welcome you, with joy and gratitude, to the United States of America.  (Applause.)


Excerpts From Press Conference on Flight to US From Cuba

"I am sure that I have not said anything that is not present in the social Doctrine of the Church"

By Staff Reporter

Cuba, September 23, 2015

The Vatican Information Service provided a lengthy report on the press conference that Pope Francis gave during the flight from Cuba to the United States. Pope Francis spoke with journalists and answered their questions on a number of issues including the trade embargo against Cuba, his critique of liberal capitalism and the future role of the Church on the island.

The first question related to the Pope's opinion on the trade embargo against Cuba, and whether he intends to refer to this theme in his address to the United States Congress.

“The question of the trade embargo is part of the negotiations”, replied Francis. “This is public: both presidents have referred to it. So, it is a public matter, that leads in the direction of the good relations that are being constructed. My hope is that an agreement satisfying both parties may be reached. … With regard to the position of the Holy See on the embargoes, previous Popes have spoken not only about this case, but also on other cases of embargoes. On this matter I refer to the social doctrine of the Church, which is precise and just. With regard to the United States Congress … I am thinking about what I would like to say in this respect; but not specifically on this theme, but rather in general on the issue of bilateral and multilateral agreements, as a sign of progress in co-existence. But this theme in a concrete sense is not mentioned, I am almost sure of this”.

“We have heard that more than fifty dissidents were arrested outside the nunciature because they were trying to obtain a meeting with you. Would you like to meet the dissidents? And if such a meeting took place, what would you say to them?”

“Firstly, I am not aware that this happened. … Directly, I do not know. Your two questions concern the future. I would like this to happen. I like meeting all people. First of all because I believe that all people are sons and daughters of God, and secondly, an encounter with any person is enriching. Yes, I would like to meet them. If you would like me to continue to speak about the dissidents, I have something very concrete to say. First of all, it was very clear that I would not have given any audience, as I was asked for an audience not only with the dissidents, but also with people from other sectors, including various heads of State. … Audiences were planned neither with dissidents, nor with others. Secondly, from the nunciature there were telephone calls with various people who form part of this group of dissidents. The task of the nuncio was to communicate to them that with pleasure, upon my arrival at the cathedral for the meeting with consecrated persons, I would have greeted those who were there. A greeting, this is true. But given that nobody presented themselves for the greeting, I do not know if they were there or not. I greeted all those who were there. Above all I greeted the sick, those who were in wheelchairs. But nobody presented him- or herself as a dissident. From the nunciature calls were made to invite them for a passing greeting”.

The third question was on the suffering of the Cuban Catholic Church under Fidel Castro, and whether during his meeting with the Commander, the Pope thought he had repented to any degree.

“Repentance is something very intimate, it is a matter of conscience”, said the Holy Father. “In the encounter with Fidel I spoke with him about the Jesuits he knew, as one of the gifts I took was a book by Fr. Llorente, a close friend of his and a Jesuit, and another by Fr. Pronzato which he will certainly appreciate. We spoke about these things. We spoke at length about 'Laudato si'', as he is very interested in environmental issues. It was an informal and spontaneous meeting. We spoke about the encyclical as he is very concerned about this matter, but we did not talk about the past”.

“Given that the Pope has denounced the current economic system, some sectors of American society have asked whether the Pope is communist and others, indeed, whether he is Catholic. What does Francis think about this?”

“I am sure that I have not said anything that is not present in the social Doctrine of the Church”, responded the Holy Father. “On another flight a journalist asked me if, when I went to speak to the Popular Movements, if the Church was following me, and I answered that I follow the Church, as in this way I don't think I can make a mistake. I don't believe I have said anything that is not in the social Doctrine of the Church. These things can be explained. Perhaps an explanation gave the impression that I tended a little to the left, but it would be an error of explanation. No. My doctrine, on all of this, on 'Laudato si'', on economic imperialism and all of this, it is that of the social doctrine of the Church. And if it is necessary for me to recite the Creed, I am willing to do so!”

Another journalist recalled that during his last apostolic trip to Latin America the Pope harshly criticised the liberal capitalist system while in Cuba his criticism of the Communist system was less severe. “What is the reason for this difference?”

“In the addresses I gave in Cuba, I always mentioned the social Doctrine of the Church”, explained Francis. “The things that need to be corrected I have mentioned clearly. … I have not said anything more than what I have written in the encyclical and in 'Evangelii Gaudium' on unfettered or liberal capitalism. … But here in Cuba … it has been a very pastoral trip, with the Catholic community, with Christians, and also with those people of good will and so my discourses have been homilies. … Even with the young – whether or not they were young believers and, among the believers, of different religions – it was a discourse of hope to encourage dialogue between them, to seek the things they have in common and not those that divide them, to build bridges. … It was a more pastoral language. Instead, in the encyclical it was necessary to tackle more technical issues”.

The penultimate question was whether or not the Catholic Church will assume any role in encouraging openness to political freedom in Cuba, considering the role the Holy See has already played in re-establishing relations between Cuba and the United States.

“The Church in Cuba has drawn up a list of prisoners to be pardoned”, revealed the Pope. “Amnesty has been granted to 3,500 of them, according to the president of the Episcopal Conference. And there are still cases under consideration. And the Church here in Cuba is working for further amnesty. For example, some people tell me it would be good to do away with life imprisonment. Speaking plainly, life imprisonment is almost a form of hidden death sentence. I have said this publicly in an address to European jurists. You stay there, dying every day without hope of freedom. It is a hypothesis. Another hypothesis is that there be general amnesties every year or two. But the Church is working, has worked on this. I am not saying that these three thousand were freed because of the Church lists, no. The Church has made a list, has officially requested amnesty, and will continue to do so”.

Finally, a reporter asked if the fact that three Popes have visited Cuba in twenty years may be interpreted as indicating that the island is in some way afflicted, inasmuch as a doctor visits a sick patient rather than a person in good health.

“No, no”, he replied. “The first was John Paul II, the first historic visit”, he affirmed. “But it was normal – he visited many countries, including those that were hostile towards the Church. The second was Pope Benedict XVI. … Initially my idea was to enter the United States via Mexico, but to visit Mexico without visiting Our Lady of Guadalupe would not have been good. Then, with the announcement of 17 December last year, when the talks that had been taking place for almost a year were made public, I said that I would like to visit the United States via Cuba. And I chose to do so for this reason. But Cuba does not have any particular affliction that other countries do not have”.


Pope's Address to US Bishops

"The innocent victim of abortion, children who die of hunger or from bombings, immigrants who drown in the search for a better tomorrow, the elderly or the sick who are considered a burden, the victims of terrorism, wars, violence and drug trafficking, the environment devastated by man’s predatory relationship with nature – at stake in all of this is the gift of God, of which we are noble stewards but not masters"

By Staff Reporter

Washington, D.C., September 23, 2015

Here is a Vatican translation of the address Pope Francis gave this morning in Washington, D.C., during his meeting with the nation's bishops. He followed the text almost entirely, after beginning with a greeting to the Jewish people for Yom Kippur.

* * *

Dear Brother Bishops,

I am pleased that we can meet at this point in the apostolic mission which has brought me to your country. I thank Cardinal Wuerl and Archbishop Kurtz for their kind words in your name. I am very appreciative of your welcome and the generous efforts made to help plan and organize my stay.

As I look out with affection at you, their pastors, I would like to embrace all the local Churches over which you exercise loving responsibility. I would ask you to share my affection and spiritual closeness with the People of God throughout this vast land.

The heart of the Pope expands to include everyone. To testify to the immensity of God’s love is the heart of the mission entrusted to the Successor of Peter, the Vicar of the One who on the cross embraced the whole of mankind. May no member of Christ’s Body and the American people feel excluded from the Pope’s embrace. Wherever the name of Jesus is spoken, may the Pope’s voice also be heard to affirm that: “He is the Savior”! From your great coastal cities to the plains of the Midwest, from the deep South to the far reaches of the West, wherever your people gather in the Eucharistic assembly, may the Pope be not simply a name but a felt presence, sustaining the fervent plea of the Bride: “Come, Lord!”

Whenever a hand reaches out to do good or to show the love of Christ, to dry a tear or bring comfort to the lonely, to show the way to one who is lost or to console a broken heart, to help the fallen or to teach those thirsting for truth, to forgive or to offer a new start in God… know that the Pope is at your side and supports you. He puts his hand on your own, a hand wrinkled with age, but by God’s grace still able to support and encourage.

My first word to you is one of thanksgiving to God for the power of the Gospel which has brought about remarkable growth of Christ’s Church in these lands and enabled its generous contribution, past and present, to American society and to the world. I thank you most heartily for your generous solidarity with the Apostolic See and the support you give to the spread of the Gospel in many suffering areas of our world. I appreciate the unfailing commitment of the Church in America to the cause of life and that of the family, which is the primary reason for my present visit. I am well aware of the immense efforts you have made to welcome and integrate those immigrants who continue to look to America, like so many others before them, in the hope of enjoying its blessings of freedom and prosperity. I also appreciate the efforts which you are making to fulfill the Church’s mission of education in schools at every level and in the charitable services offered by your numerous institutions. These works are often carried out without appreciation or support, often with heroic sacrifice, out of obedience to a divine mandate which we may not disobey.

I am also conscious of the courage with which you have faced difficult moments in the recent history of the Church in this country without fear of self-criticism and at the cost of mortification and great sacrifice. Nor have you been afraid to divest whatever is unessential in order to regain the authority and trust which is demanded of ministers of Christ and rightly expected by the faithful. I realize how much the pain of recent years has weighed upon you and I have supported your generous commitment to bring healing to victims – in the knowledge that in healing we too are healed – and to work to ensure that such crimes will never be repeated.

I speak to you as the Bishop of Rome, called by God in old age, and from a land which is also American, to watch over the unity of the universal Church and to encourage in charity the journey of all the particular Churches toward ever greater knowledge, faith and love of Christ. Reading over your names, looking at your faces, knowing the extent of your churchmanship and conscious of the devotion which you have always shown for the Successor of Peter, I must tell you that I do not feel a stranger in your midst. I am a native of a land which is also vast, with great open ranges, a land which, like your own, received the faith from itinerant missionaries. I too know how hard it is to sow the Gospel among people from different worlds, with hearts often hardened by the trials of a lengthy journey. Nor am I unaware of the efforts made over the years to build up the Church amid the prairies, mountains, cities and suburbs of a frequently inhospitable land, where frontiers are always provisional and easy answers do not always work. What does work is the combination of the epic struggle of the pioneers and the homely wisdom and endurance of the settlers. As one of your poets has put it, “strong and tireless wings” combined with the wisdom of one who “knows the mountains”.1

I do not speak to you with my voice alone, but in continuity with the words of my predecessors. From the birth of this nation, when, following the American Revolution, the first diocese was erected in Baltimore, the Church of Rome has always been close to you; you have never lacked its constant assistance and encouragement. In recent decades, three Popes have visited you and left behind a remarkable legacy of teaching. Their words remain timely and have helped to inspire the long-term goals which you have set for the Church in this country.

It is not my intention to offer a plan or to devise a strategy. I have not come to judge you or to lecture you. I trust completely in the voice of the One who “teaches all things” (Jn 14:26). Allow me only, in the freedom of love, to speak to you as a brother among brothers. I have no wish to tell you what to do, because we all know what it is that the Lord asks of us. Instead, I would turn once again to the demanding task – ancient yet never new – of seeking out the paths we need to take and the spirit with which we need to work. Without claiming to be exhaustive, I would share with you some reflections which I consider helpful for our mission.

We are bishops of the Church, shepherds appointed by God to feed his flock. Our greatest joy is to be shepherds, and only shepherds, pastors with undivided hearts and selfless devotion. We need to preserve this joy and never let ourselves be robbed of it. The evil one roars like a lion, anxious to devour it, wearing us down in our resolve to be all that we are called to be, not for ourselves but in gift and service to the “Shepherd of our souls” (1 Pet 2:25).

The heart of our identity is to be sought in constant prayer, in preaching (Acts 6:4) and in shepherding the flock entrusted to our care (Jn 21:15-17; Acts 20:28-31).

Ours must not be just any kind of prayer, but familiar union with Christ, in which we daily encounter his gaze and sense that he is asking us the question: “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” (Mk 3:31-34). One in which we can calmly reply: “Lord, here is your mother, here are your brothers! I hand them over to you; they are the ones whom you entrusted to me”. Such trusting union with Christ is what nourishes the life of a pastor.

It is not about preaching complicated doctrines, but joyfully proclaiming Christ who died and rose for our sake. The “style” of our mission should make our hearers feel that the message we preach is meant “for us”. May the word of God grant meaning and fullness to every aspect of their lives; may the sacraments nourish them with that food which they cannot procure for themselves; may the closeness of the shepherd make them them long once again for the Father’s embrace. Be vigilant that the flock may always encounter in the heart of their pastor that “taste of eternity” which they seek in vain in the things of this world. May they always hear from you a word of appreciation for their efforts to confirm in liberty and justice the prosperity in which this land abounds. At the same time, may you never lack the serene courage to proclaim that “we must work not for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures for eternal life” (Jn 6:27).

Shepherds who do not pasture themselves but are able to step back, away from the center, to “decrease”, in order to feed God’s family with Christ. Who keep constant watch, standing on the heights to look out with God’s eyes on the flock which is his alone. Who ascend to the height of the cross of God’s Son, the sole standpoint which opens to the shepherd the heart of his flock.

Shepherds who do not lower our gaze, concerned only with our concerns, but raise it constantly toward the horizons which God opens before us and which surpass all that we ourselves can foresee or plan. Who also watch over ourselves, so as to flee the temptation of narcissism, which blinds the eyes of the shepherd, makes his voice unrecognizable and his actions fruitless. In the countless paths which lie open to your pastoral concern, remember to keep focused on the core which unifies everything: “You did it unto me” (Mt 25:31-45).

Certainly it is helpful for a bishop to have the farsightedness of a leader and the shrewdness of an administrator, but we fall into hopeless decline whenever we confuse the power of strength with the strength of that powerlessness with which God has redeemed us. Bishops need to be lucidly aware of the battle between light and darkness being fought in this world. Woe to us, however, if we make of the cross a banner of worldly struggles and fail to realize that the price of lasting victory is allowing ourselves to be wounded and consumed (Phil 2:1-11).

We all know the anguish felt by the first Eleven, huddled together, assailed and overwhelmed by the fear of sheep scattered because the shepherd had been struck. But we also know that we have been given a spirit of courage and not of timidity. So we cannot let ourselves be paralyzed by fear.

I know that you face many challenges, that the field in which you sow is unyielding and that there is always the temptation to give in to fear, to lick one’s wounds, to think back on bygone times and to devise harsh responses to fierce opposition.

And yet we are promoters of the culture of encounter. We are living sacraments of the embrace between God’s riches and our poverty. We are witnesses of the abasement and the condescension of God who anticipates in love our every response.

Dialogue is our method, not as a shrewd strategy but out of fidelity to the One who never wearies of visiting the marketplace, even at the eleventh hour, to propose his offer of love (Mt 20:1-16).

The path ahead, then, is dialogue among yourselves, dialogue in your presbyterates, dialogue with lay persons, dialogue with families, dialogue with society. I cannot ever tire of encouraging you to dialogue fearlessly. The richer the heritage which you are called to share with parrhesia, the more eloquent should be the humility with which you should offer it. Do not be afraid to set out on that “exodus” which is necessary for all authentic dialogue. Otherwise, we fail to understand the thinking of others, or to realize deep down that the brother or sister we wish to reach and redeem, with the power and the closeness of love, counts more than their positions, distant as they may be from what we hold as true and certain. Harsh and divisive language does not befit the tongue of a pastor, it has no place in his heart; although it may momentarily seem to win the day, only the enduring allure of goodness and love remains truly convincing.

We need to let the Lord’s words echo constantly in our hearts: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, who am meek and humble of heart, and you will find refreshment for your souls” (Mt 11:28-30). Jesus’ yoke is a yoke of love and thus a pledge of refreshment. At times in our work we can be burdened by a sense of loneliness, and so feel the heaviness of the yoke that we forget that we have received it from the Lord. It seems to be ours alone, and so we drag it like weary oxen working a dry field, troubled by the thought that we are laboring in vain. We can forget the profound refreshment which is indissolubly linked to the One who has made us the promise.

We need to learn from Jesus, or better to learn Jesus, meek and humble; to enter into his meekness and his humility by contemplating his way of acting; to lead our Churches and our people – not infrequently burdened by the stress of everyday life – to the ease of the Lord’s yoke. And to remember that Jesus’ Church is kept whole not by “consuming fire from heaven” (Lk 9:54), but by the secret warmth of the Spirit, who “heals what is wounded, bends what is rigid, straightens what is crooked”.

The great mission which the Lord gives us is one which we carry out in communion, collegially. The world is already so torn and divided, brokenness is now everywhere. Consequently, the Church, “the seamless garment of the Lord” cannot allow herself to be rent, broken or fought over.

Our mission as bishops is first and foremost to solidify unity, a unity whose content is defined by the Word of God and the one Bread of Heaven. With these two realities each of the Churches entrusted to us remains Catholic, because open to, and in communion with, all the particular Churches and with the Church of Rome which “presides in charity”. It is imperative, therefore, to watch over that unity, to safeguard it, to promote it and to bear witness to it as a sign and instrument which, beyond every barrier, unites nations, races, classes and generations.

May the forthcoming Holy Year of Mercy, by drawing us into the fathomless depths of God’s heart in which no division dwells, be for all of you a privileged moment for strengthening communion, perfecting unity, reconciling differences, forgiving one another and healing every rift, that your light may shine forth like “a city built on a hill” (Mt 5:14).

This service to unity is particularly important for this nation, whose vast material and spiritual, cultural and political, historical and human, scientific and technological resources impose significant moral responsibilities in a world which is seeking, confusedly and laboriously, new balances of peace, prosperity and integration. It is an essential part of your mission to offer to the United States of America the humble yet powerful leaven of communion. May all mankind know that the presence in its midst of the “sacrament of unity” (Lumen Gentium, 1) is a guarantee that its fate is not decay and dispersion.

This kind of witness is a beacon whose light can reassure men and women sailing through the dark clouds of life that a sure haven awaits them, that they will not crash on the reefs or be overwhelmed by the waves. I encourage you, then, to confront the challenging issues of our time. Ever present within each of them is life as gift and responsibility. The future freedom and dignity of our societies depends on how we face these challenges.

The innocent victim of abortion, children who die of hunger or from bombings, immigrants who drown in the search for a better tomorrow, the elderly or the sick who are considered a burden, the victims of terrorism, wars, violence and drug trafficking, the environment devastated by man’s predatory relationship with nature – at stake in all of this is the gift of God, of which we are noble stewards but not masters. It is wrong, then, to look the other way or to remain silent. No less important is the Gospel of the Family, which in the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia I will emphatically proclaim together with you and the entire Church.

These essential aspects of the Church’s mission belong to the core of what we have received from the Lord. It is our duty to preserve and communicate them, even when the tenor of the times becomes resistent and even hostile to that message (Evangelii Gaudium, 34-39). I urge you to offer this witness, with the means and creativity born of love, and with the humility of truth. It needs to be preached and proclaimed to those without, but also to find room in people’s hearts and in the conscience of society.

To this end, it is important that the Church in the United States also be a humble home, a family fire which attracts men and women through the attractive light and warmth of love. As pastors, we know well how much darkness and cold there is in this world; we know the loneliness and the neglect experienced by many people, even amid great resources of communication and material wealth. We see their fear in the face of life, their despair and the many forms of escapism to which it gives rise.

Consequently, only a Church which can gather around the family fire remains able to attract others. And not any fire, but the one which blazed forth on Easter morn. The risen Lord continues to challenge the Church’s pastors through the quiet plea of so many of our brothers and sisters: “Have you something to eat?” We need to recognize the Lord’s voice, as the apostles did on the shore of the lake of Tiberius (Jn 21:4-12). It becomes even more urgent to grow in the certainty that the embers of his presence, kindled in the fire of his passion, precede us and will never die out. Whenever this certainty weakens, we end up being caretakers of ash, and not guardians and dispensers of the true light and the warmth which causes our hearts to burn within us (Lk 24:32).

Before concluding these reflections, allow me to offer two recommendations which are close to my heart. The first refers to your fatherhood as bishops. Be pastors close to people, pastors who are neighbors and servants. Let this closeness be expressed in a special way towards your priests. Support them, so that they can continue to serve Christ with an undivided heart, for this alone can bring fulfillment to ministers of Christ. I urge you, then, not to let them be content with half-measures. Find ways to encourage their spiritual growth, lest they yield to the temptation to become notaries and bureaucrats, but instead reflect the motherhood of the Church, which gives birth to and raises her sons and daughters. Be vigilant lest they tire of getting up to answer those who knock on their door by night, just when they feel entitled to rest (Lk 11:5-8). Train them to be ready to stop, care for, soothe, lift up and assist those who, “by chance” find themselves stripped of all they thought they had (Lk 10:29-37).

My second recommendation has to do with immigrants. I ask you to excuse me if in some way I am pleading my own case. The Church in the United States knows like few others the hopes present in the hearts of these “pilgrims”. From the beginning you have learned their languages, promoted their cause, made their contributions your own, defended their rights, helped them to prosper, and kept alive the flame of their faith. Even today, no American institution does more for immigrants than your Christian communities. Now you are facing this stream of Latin immigration which affects many of your dioceses. Not only as the Bishop of Rome, but also as a pastor from the South, I feel the need to thank and encourage you. Perhaps it will not be easy for you to look into their soul; perhaps you will be challenged by their diversity. But know that they also possess resources meant to be shared. So do not be afraid to welcome them. Offer them the warmth of the love of Christ and you will unlock the mystery of their heart. I am certain that, as so often in the past, these people will enrich America and its Church.

May God bless you and Our Lady watch over you!

___________________

1 “In youth my wings were strong and tireless, / But I did not know the mountains. / In age I know the mountains / But my weary wings could not follow my vision – / Genius is wisdom and youth.” (Edgar Lee Masters, Spoon River Anthology, “Alexander Throckmorton”).

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Pope Francis’ Address During Welcoming Ceremony at White House

“American Catholics are committed to building a society which is truly tolerant and inclusive, to safeguarding the rights of individuals and communities, and to rejecting every form of unjust discrimination.”

By Staff Reporter

Washington, D.C., September 23, 2015

Here is the address delivered by Pope Francis during the Welcoming Ceremony held on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C.

* * *

Mr President,

I am deeply grateful for your welcome in the name of all Americans. As the son of an immigrant family, I am happy to be a guest in this country, which was largely built by such families. I look forward to these days of encounter and dialogue, in which I hope to listen to, and share, many of the hopes and dreams of the American people.

During my visit I will have the honor of addressing Congress, where I hope, as a brother of this country, to offer words of encouragement to those called to guide the nation’s political future in fidelity to its founding principles. I will also travel to Philadelphia for the Eighth World Meeting of Families, to celebrate and support the institutions of marriage and the family at this, a critical moment in the history of our civilization.

Mr. President, together with their fellow citizens, American Catholics are committed to building a society which is truly tolerant and inclusive, to safeguarding the rights of individuals and communities, and to rejecting every form of unjust discrimination. With countless other people of good will, they are likewise concerned that efforts to build a just and wisely ordered society respect their deepest concerns and their right to religious liberty. That freedom remains one of America’s most precious possessions. And, as my brothers, the United States Bishops, have reminded us, all are called to be vigilant, precisely as good citizens, to preserve and defend that freedom from everything that would threaten or compromise it.

Mr. President, I find it encouraging that you are proposing an initiative for reducing air pollution. Accepting the urgency, it seems clear to me also that climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to a future generation. When it comes to the care of our “common home”, we are living at a critical moment of history. We still have time to make the changes needed to bring about “a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change” (Laudato Si’, 13). Such change demands on our part a serious and responsible recognition not only of the kind of world we may be leaving to our children, but also to the millions of people living under a system which has overlooked them. Our common home has been part of this group of the excluded which cries out to heaven and which today powerfully strikes our homes, our cities and our societies. To use a telling phrase of the Reverend Martin Luther King, we can say that we have defaulted on a promissory note and now is the time to honor it.

We know by faith that “the Creator does not abandon us; he never forsakes his loving plan or repents of having created us. Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home” (Laudato Si’, 13). As Christians inspired by this certainty, we wish to commit ourselves to the conscious and responsible care of our common home.

The efforts which were recently made to mend broken relationships and to open new doors to cooperation within our human family represent positive steps along the path of reconciliation, justice and freedom. I would like all men and women of good will in this great nation to support the efforts of the international community to protect the vulnerable in our world and to stimulate integral and inclusive models of development, so that our brothers and sisters everywhere may know the blessings of peace and prosperity which God wills for all his children.

Mr President, once again I thank you for your welcome, and I look forward to these days in your country. God bless America!

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Pope Francis´ speech before the UN General Assembly   2015-09-25

  Mr President,   Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for your kind words. Once again, following a tradition by which I feel honored, the Secretary General of the United Nations has invited the Pope to address this distinguished assembly of nations. In my own name, and that of the entire Catholic community, I wish to express to you, Mr Ban Ki-moon, my heartfelt gratitude. I greet the Heads of State and Heads of Government present, as well as the ambassadors, diplomats and political and technical officials accompanying them, the personnel of the United Nations engaged in this 70th Session of the General Assembly, the personnel of the various programs and agencies of the United Nations family, and all those who, in one way or another, take part in this meeting. Through you, I also greet the citizens of all the nations represented in this hall. I thank you, each and all, for your efforts in the service of mankind.

This is the fifth time that a Pope has visited the United Nations. I follow in the footsteps of my predecessors Paul VI, in1965, John Paul II, in 1979 and 1995, and my most recent predecessor, now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, in 2008. All of them expressed their great esteem for the Organization, which they considered the appropriate juridical and political response to this present moment of history, marked by our technical ability to overcome distances and frontiers and, apparently, to overcome all natural limits to the exercise of power. An essential response, inasmuch as technological power, in the hands of nationalistic or falsely universalist ideologies, is capable of perpetrating tremendous atrocities. I can only reiterate the appreciation expressed by my predecessors, in reaffirming the importance which the Catholic Church attaches to this Institution and the hope which she places in its activities.

 The United Nations is presently celebrating its seventieth anniversary. The history of this organized community of states is one of important common achievements over a period of unusually fast-paced changes. Without claiming to be exhaustive, we can mention the codification and development of international law, the establishment of international norms regarding human rights, advances in humanitarian law, the resolution of numerous conflicts, operations of peace-keeping and reconciliation, and any number of other accomplishments in every area of international activity and endeavour. All these achievements are lights which help to dispel the darkness of the disorder caused by unrestrained ambitions and collective forms of selfishness. Certainly, many grave problems remain to be resolved, yet it is clear that, without all those interventions on the international level, mankind would not have been able to survive the unchecked use of its own possibilities. Every one of these political, juridical and technical advances is a path towards attaining the ideal of human fraternity and a means for its greater realization.

 For this reason I pay homage to all those men and women whose loyalty and self-sacrifice have benefitted humanity as a whole in these past seventy years. In particular, I would recall today those who gave their lives for peace and reconciliation among peoples, from Dag Hammarskjöld to the many United Nations officials at every level who have been killed in the course of humanitarian missions, and missions of peace and reconciliation.

 Beyond these achievements, the experience of the past seventy years has made it clear that reform and adaptation to the times is always necessary in the pursuit of the ultimate goal of granting all countries, without exception, a share in, and a genuine and equitable influence on, decision-making processes. The need for greater equity is especially true in the case of those bodies with effective executive capability, such as the Security Council, the Financial Agencies and the groups or mechanisms specifically created to deal with economic crises. This will help limit every kind of abuse or usury, especially where developing countries are concerned. The International Financial Agencies are should care for the sustainable development of countries and should ensure that they are not subjected to oppressive lending systems which, far from promoting progress, subject people to mechanisms which generate greater poverty, exclusion and dependence.

 The work of the United Nations, according to the principles set forth in the Preamble and the first Articles of its founding Charter, can be seen as the development and promotion of the rule of law, based on the realization that justice is an essential condition for achieving the ideal of universal fraternity. In this context, it is helpful to recall that the limitation of power is an idea implicit in the concept of law itself. To give to each his own, to cite the classic definition of justice, means that no human individual or group can consider itself absolute, permitted to bypass the dignity and the rights of other individuals or their social groupings. The effective distribution of power (political, economic, defense-related, technological, etc.) among a plurality of subjects, and the creation of a juridical system for regulating claims and interests, are one concrete way of limiting power. Yet today’s world presents us with many false rights and – at the same time – broad sectors which are vulnerable, victims of power badly exercised: for example, the natural environment and the vast ranks of the excluded. These sectors are closely interconnected and made increasingly fragile by dominant political and economic relationships. That is why their rights must be forcefully affirmed, by working to protect the environment and by putting an end to exclusion.

 First, it must be stated that a true "right of the environment” does exist, for two reasons. First, because we human beings are part of the environment. We live in communion with it, since the environment itself entails ethical limits which human activity must acknowledge and respect. Man, for all his remarkable gifts, which "are signs of a uniqueness which transcends the spheres of physics and biology” (Laudato Si’, 81), is at the same time a part of these spheres. He possesses a body shaped by physical, chemical and biological elements, and can only survive and develop if the ecological environment is favourable. Any harm done to the environment, therefore, is harm done to humanity. Second, because every creature, particularly a living creature, has an intrinsic value, in its existence, its life, its beauty and its interdependence with other creatures. We Christians, together with the other monotheistic religions, believe that the universe is the fruit of a loving decision by the Creator, who permits man respectfully to use creation for the good of his fellow men and for the glory of the Creator; he is not authorized to abuse it, much less to destroy it. In all religions, the environment is a fundamental good (cf. ibid.).

 The misuse and destruction of the environment are also accompanied by a relentless process of exclusion. In effect, a selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity leads both to the misuse of available natural resources and to the exclusion of the weak and disadvantaged, either because they are differently abled (handicapped), or because they lack adequate information and technical expertise, or are incapable of decisive political action. Economic and social exclusion is a complete denial of human fraternity and a grave offense against human rights and the environment. The poorest are those who suffer most from such offenses, for three serious reasons: they are cast off by society, forced to live off what is discarded and suffer unjustly from the abuse of the environment. They are part of today’s widespread and quietly growing "culture of waste”.

 The dramatic reality this whole situation of exclusion and inequality, with its evident effects, has led me, in union with the entire Christian people and many others, to take stock of my grave responsibility in this regard and to speak out, together with all those who are seeking urgently-needed and effective solutions. The adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the World Summit, which opens today, is an important sign of hope. I am similarly confident that the Paris Conference on Climatic Change will secure fundamental and effective agreements.

 Solemn commitments, however, are not enough, even though they are a necessary step toward solutions. The classic definition of justice which I mentioned earlier contains as one of its essential elements a constant and perpetual will: Iustitia est constans et perpetua voluntas ius sum cuique tribuendi. Our world demands of all government leaders a will which is effective, practical and constant, concrete steps and immediate measures for preserving and improving the natural environment and thus putting an end as quickly as possible to the phenomenon of social and economic exclusion, with its baneful consequences: human trafficking, the marketing of human organs and tissues, the sexual exploitation of boys and girls, slave labour, including prostitution, the drug and weapons trade, terrorism and international organized crime. Such is the magnitude of these situations and their toll in innocent lives, that we must avoid every temptation to fall into a declarationist nominalism which would assuage our consciences. We need to ensure that our institutions are truly effective in the struggle against all these scourges.

 The number and complexity of the problems require that we possess technical instruments of verification. But this involves two risks. We can rest content with the bureaucratic exercise of drawing up long lists of good proposals – goals, objectives and statistical indicators – or we can think that a single theoretical and aprioristic solution will provide an answer to all the challenges. It must never be forgotten that political and economic activity is only effective when it is understood as a prudential activity, guided by a perennial concept of justice and constantly conscious of the fact that, above and beyond our plans and programmes, we are dealing with real men and women who live, struggle and suffer, and are often forced to live in great poverty, deprived of all rights.

 To enable these real men and women to escape from extreme poverty, we must allow them to be dignified agents of their own destiny. Integral human development and the full exercise of human dignity cannot be imposed. They must be built up and allowed to unfold for each individual, for every family, in communion with others, and in a right relationship with all those areas in which human social life develops – friends, communities, towns and cities, schools, businesses and unions, provinces, nations, etc. This presupposes and requires the right to education – also for girls (excluded in certain places) – which is ensured first and foremost by respecting and reinforcing the primary right of the family to educate its children, as well as the right of churches and social groups to support and assist families in the education of their children. Education conceived in this way is the basis for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and for reclaiming the environment.

 At the same time, government leaders must do everything possible to ensure that all can have the minimum spiritual and material means needed to live in dignity and to create and support a family, which is the primary cell of any social development. In practical terms, this absolute minimum has three names: lodging, labour, and land; and one spiritual name: spiritual freedom, which includes religious freedom, the right to education and other civil rights.

 For all this, the simplest and best measure and indicator of the implementation of the new Agenda for development will be effective, practical and immediate access, on the part of all, to essential material and spiritual goods: housing, dignified and properly remunerated employment, adequate food and drinking water; religious freedom and, more generally, spiritual freedom and education. These pillars of integral human development have a common foundation, which is the right to life and, more generally, what we could call the right to existence of human nature itself.

 The ecological crisis, and the large-scale destruction of biodiversity, can threaten the very existence of the human species. The baneful consequences of an irresponsible mismanagement of the global economy, guided only by ambition for wealth and power, must serve as a summons to a forthright reflection on man: "man is not only a freedom which he creates for himself. Man does not create himself. He is spirit and will, but also nature” (BENEDICT XVI, Address to the Bundestag, 22 September 2011, cited in Laudato Si’, 6). Creation is compromised "where we ourselves have the final word… The misuse of creation begins when we no longer recognize any instance above ourselves, when we see nothing else but ourselves” (ID. Address to the Clergy of the Diocese of Bolzano-Bressanone, 6 August 2008, cited ibid.). Consequently, the defence of the environment and the fight against exclusion demand that we recognize a moral law written into human nature itself, one which includes the natural difference between man and woman (cf. Laudato Si’, 155), and absolute respect for life in all its stages and dimensions (cf. ibid., 123, 136).

 Without the recognition of certain incontestable natural ethical limits and without the immediate implementation of those pillars of integral human development, the ideal of "saving succeeding generations from the scourge of war” (Charter of the United Nations, Preamble), and "promoting social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom” (ibid.), risks becoming an unattainable illusion, or, even worse, idle chatter which serves as a cover for all kinds of abuse and corruption, or for carrying out an ideological colonization by the imposition of anomalous models and lifestyles which are alien to people’s identity and, in the end, irresponsible.

 War is the negation of all rights and a dramatic assault on the environment. If we want true integral human development for all, we must work tirelessly to avoid war between nations and between peoples.

 To this end, there is a need to ensure the uncontested rule of law and tireless recourse to negotiation, mediation and arbitration, as proposed by the Charter of the United Nations, which constitutes truly a fundamental juridical norm. The experience of these seventy years since the founding of the United Nations in general, and in particular the experience of these first fifteen years of the third millennium, reveal both the effectiveness of the full application of international norms and the ineffectiveness of their lack of enforcement. When the Charter of the United Nations is respected and applied with transparency and sincerity, and without ulterior motives, as an obligatory reference point of justice and not as a means of masking spurious intentions, peaceful results will be obtained. When, on the other hand, the norm is considered simply as an instrument to be used whenever it proves favourable, and to be avoided when it is not, a true Pandora’s box is opened, releasing uncontrollable forces which gravely harm defenseless populations, the cultural milieu and even the biological environment.

 The Preamble and the first Article of the Charter of the United Nations set forth the foundations of the international juridical framework: peace, the pacific solution of disputes and the development of friendly relations between the nations. Strongly opposed to such statements, and in practice denying them, is the constant tendency to the proliferation of arms, especially weapons of mass distraction, such as nuclear weapons. An ethics and a law based on the threat of mutual destruction – and possibly the destruction of all mankind – are self-contradictory and an affront to the entire framework of the United Nations, which would end up as "nations united by fear and distrust”. There is urgent need to work for a world free of nuclear weapons, in full application of the non-proliferation Treaty, in letter and spirit, with the goal of a complete prohibition of these weapons.

The recent agreement reached on the nuclear question in a sensitive region of Asia and the Middle East is proof of the potential of political good will and of law, exercised with sincerity, patience and constancy. I express my hope that this agreement will be lasting and efficacious, and bring forth the desired fruits with the cooperation of all the parties involved.

 In this sense, hard evidence is not lacking of the negative effects of military and political interventions which are not coordinated between members of the international community. For this reason, while regretting to have to do so, I must renew my repeated appeals regarding to the painful situation of the entire Middle East, North Africa and other African countries, where Christians, together with other cultural or ethnic groups, and even members of the majority religion who have no desire to be caught up in hatred and folly, have been forced to witness the destruction of their places of worship, their cultural and religious heritage, their houses and property, and have faced the alternative either of fleeing or of paying for their adhesion to good and to peace by their own lives, or by enslavement.

 These realities should serve as a grave summons to an examination of conscience on the part of those charged with the conduct of international affairs. Not only in cases of religious or cultural persecution, but in every situation of conflict, as in Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, Libya, South Sudan and the Great Lakes region, real human beings take precedence over partisan interests, however legitimate the latter may be. In wars and conflicts there are individual persons, our brothers and sisters, men and women, young and old, boys and girls who weep, suffer and die. Human beings who are easily discarded when our only response is to draw up lists of problems, strategies and disagreements.

 As I wrote in my letter to the Secretary-General of the United Nations on 9 August 2014, "the most basic understanding of human dignity compels the international community, particularly through the norms and mechanisms of international law, to do all that it can to stop and to prevent further systematic violence against ethnic and religious minorities” and to protect innocent peoples.

Along the same lines I would mention another kind of conflict which is not always so open, yet is silently killing millions of people. Another kind of war experienced by many of our societies as a result of the narcotics trade. A war which is taken for granted and poorly fought. Drug trafficking is by its very nature accompanied by trafficking in persons, money laundering, the arms trade, child exploitation and other forms of corruption. A corruption which has penetrated to different levels of social, political, military, artistic and religious life, and, in many cases, has given rise to a parallel structure which threatens the credibility of our institutions.

 I began this speech recalling the visits of my predecessors. I would hope that my words will be taken above all as a continuation of the final words of the address of Pope Paul VI; although spoken almost exactly fifty years ago, they remain ever timely. "The hour has come when a pause, a moment of recollection, reflection, even of prayer, is absolutely needed so that we may think back over our common origin, our history, our common destiny. The appeal to the moral conscience of man has never been as necessary as it is today… For the danger comes neither from progress nor from science; if these are used well, they can help to solve a great number of the serious problems besetting mankind (Address to the United Nations Organization, 4 October 1965). Among other things, human genius, well applied, will surely help to meet the grave challenges of ecological deterioration and of exclusion. As Paul VI said: "The real danger comes from man, who has at his disposal ever more powerful instruments that are as well fitted to bring about ruin as they are to achieve lofty conquests” (ibid.).

 The common home of all men and women must continue to rise on the foundations of a right understanding of universal fraternity and respect for the sacredness of every human life, of every man and every woman, the poor, the elderly, children, the infirm, the unborn, the unemployed, the abandoned, those considered disposable because they are only considered as part of a statistic. This common home of all men and women must also be built on the understanding of a certain sacredness of created nature.

 Such understanding and respect call for a higher degree of wisdom, one which accepts transcendence, rejects the creation of an all-powerful élite, and recognizes that the full meaning of individual and collective life is found in selfless service to others and in the sage and respectful use of creation for the common good. To repeat the words of Paul VI, "the edifice of modern civilization has to be built on spiritual principles, for they are the only ones capable not only of supporting it, but of shedding light on it” (ibid.).

 El Gaucho Martín Fierro, a classic of literature in my native land, says: "Brothers should stand by each other, because this is the first law; keep a true bond between you always, at every time – because if you fight among yourselves, you’ll be devoured by those outside”.

 The contemporary world, so apparently connected, is experiencing a growing and steady social fragmentation, which places at risk "the foundations of social life” and consequently leads to "battles over conflicting interests” (Laudato Si’, 229).

The present time invites us to give priority to actions which generate new processes in society, so as to bear fruit in significant and positive historical events (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 223). We cannot permit ourselves to postpone "certain agendas” for the future. The future demands of us critical and global decisions in the face of world-wide conflicts which increase the number of the excluded and those in need.

 The praiseworthy international juridical framework of the United Nations Organization and of all its activities, like any other human endeavour, can be improved, yet it remains necessary; at the same time it can be the pledge of a secure and happy future for future generations. And so it will, if the representatives of the States can set aside partisan and ideological interests, and sincerely strive to serve the common good. I pray to Almighty God that this will be the case, and I assure you of my support and my prayers, and the support and prayers of all the faithful of the Catholic Church, that this Institution, all its member States, and each of its officials, will always render an effective service to mankind, a service respectful of diversity and capable of bringing out, for sake of the common good, the best in each people and in every individual.

 Upon all of you, and the peoples you represent, I invoke the blessing of the Most High, and all peace and prosperity. Thank you. 

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Pope's Address at Vespers in New York

"The joy of men and women who love God attracts others to him"

By Staff Reporter

New York, September 24, 2015

Here is a Vatican translation of the address Pope Francis gave this evening at Vespers with clergy and religious in New York. A translation of the few remarks he added off-text are included in brackets.

* * *

[I have today two sentiments for my Muslim brothers and sisters. Firstly, my greetings as they celebrate today the Feast of Sacrifice. I would have wished my greeting to be warmer. The second sentiment is my closeness, my closeness due to the tragedy that your people has suffered today in Mecca. In these moments of prayer, I unite myself and we unite ourselves in prayer to God, our Father, all Powerful and Merciful.]

[Let us listen to the Apostle]: “There is a cause for rejoicing here”, although “you may for a time have to suffer the distress of many trials” (1 Pet 1:6). These words remind us of something essential. Our vocation is to be lived in joy. 

This beautiful Cathedral of Saint Patrick, built up over many years through the sacrifices of many men and women, can serve as a symbol of the work of generations of American priests and religious, and lay faithful who helped build up the Church in the United States. In the field of education alone, how many priests and religious in this country played a central role, assisting parents in handing on to their children the food that nourishes them for life! Many did so at the cost of extraordinary sacrifice and with heroic charity. I think for example of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, who founded the first free Catholic school for girls in America, or Saint John Neumann, the founder of the first system of Catholic education in the United States. 

This evening, my brothers and sisters, I have come to join you in prayer that our vocations will continue to build up the great edifice of God’s Kingdom in this country. I know that, as a presbyterate in the midst of God’s people, you suffered greatly in the not distant past by having to bear the shame of some of your brothers who harmed and scandalized the Church in the most vulnerable of her members… In the words of the Book of Revelation, I know well that you “have come forth from the great tribulation” (Rev 7:14). I accompany you at this time of pain and difficulty, and I thank God for your faithful service to his people. In the hope of helping you to persevere on the path of fidelity to Jesus Christ, I would like to offer two brief reflections. 

The first concerns the spirit of gratitude. The joy of men and women who love God attracts others to him; priests and religious are called to find and radiate lasting satisfaction in their vocation. Joy springs from a grateful heart. Truly, we have received much, so many graces, so many blessings, and we rejoice in this. It will do us good to think back on our lives with the grace of remembrance. Remembrance of when we were first called, remembrance of the road travelled, remembrance of graces received… and, above all, remembrance of our encounter with Jesus Christ so often along the way. Remembrance of the amazement which our encounter with Jesus Christ awakens in our hearts. [Brothers and sisters, consecrated and priests,] to seek the grace of remembrance so as to grow in the spirit of gratitude. Perhaps we need to ask ourselves: are we good at counting our blessings? [Or have I forgotten them?]

A second area is the spirit of hard work. A grateful heart is spontaneously impelled to serve the Lord and to find expression in a life of commitment to our work. Once we come to realize how much God has given us, a life of self-sacrifice, of working for him and for others, becomes a privileged way of responding to his great love. 

Yet, if we are honest, we know how easily this spirit of generous self-sacrifice can be dampened. There are a couple of ways that this can happen; both are examples of that “spiritual worldliness” which weakens our commitment [as women and men consecrated] to serve and diminishes the wonder, [the awe], of our first encounter with Christ. 

We can get caught up measuring the value of our apostolic works by the standards of efficiency, good management and outward success which govern the business world. Not that these things are unimportant! We have been entrusted with a great responsibility, and God’s people rightly expect accountability from us. But the true worth of our apostolate is measured by the value it has in God’s eyes. To see and evaluate things from God’s perspective calls for constant conversion in the first days and years of our vocation and, need I say, great humility. The cross shows us a different way of measuring success. Ours is to plant the seeds: God sees to the fruits of our labors. And if at times our efforts and works seem to fail and produce no fruit, we need to remember that we are followers of Jesus… and his life, humanly speaking, ended in failure, the failure of the cross 

Another danger comes when we become jealous of our free time, when we think that surrounding ourselves with worldly comforts will help us serve better. The problem with this reasoning is that it can blunt the power of God’s daily call to conversion, to encounter with him. Slowly but surely, it diminishes our spirit of sacrifice, renunciation and hard work. It also alienates people who suffer material poverty and are forced to make greater sacrifices than ourselves. Rest is needed, as are moments of leisure and self-enrichment, but we need to learn how to rest in a way that deepens our desire to serve with generosity. Closeness to the poor, the refugee, the immigrant, the sick, the exploited, the elderly living alone, prisoners and all God’s other poor, will teach us a different way of resting, one which is more Christian and generous. 

Gratitude and hard work: these are two pillars of the spiritual life which I have wanted to share with you this evening. I thank you for prayers and work, and the daily sacrifices you make in the various areas of your apostolate. Many of these are known only to God, but they bear rich fruit for the life of the Church. In a special way I would like to express my esteem and gratitude to the religious women of the United States. What would the Church be without you? Women of strength, fighters, with that spirit of courage which puts you in the front lines in the proclamation of the Gospel. To you, religious women, sisters and mothers of this people, I wish to say “thank you”, a big thank you… and to tell you that I love you very much. 

I know that many of you are in the front lines in meeting the challenges of adapting to an evolving pastoral landscape. Whatever difficulties and trials you face, I ask you, like Saint Peter, to be at peace and to respond to them as Christ did: he thanked the Father, took up his cross and looked forward! 

Dear brothers and sisters, in a few moments we will sing the Magnificat. Let us commend to Our Lady the work we have been entrusted to do; let us join her in thanking God for the great things he has done, and for the great things he will continue to do in us and in those whom we have the privilege to serve. [Amen.]

[Original text: Spanish]

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Pope's Address to People Gathered at the National Mall

"I ask all of you to please pray for me."

By Staff Reporter

Washington, D.C., September 24, 2015

Following his address to the U.S. Congress, Pope Francis, along with Vice President Joe Biden, Speaker of the House John Boehner and members of Congress, greeted thousands gathered at the National Mall. The following is a translation of the Pope's words:

Good morning everyone. I thank you all for your welcome and your presence. I thank the most important people who are here: the children. I want to ask God to bless you. Lord, Father of all, bless this people, bless each one of them, bless their families, give them what they need. I ask all of you to please pray for me. And if there is someone among you who does not believe or cannot pray, I ask you to wish me well. Thank you very much. God Bless America.

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Pope's Address to Homeless, Poor of DC

"In prayer, there are no rich and poor people, there are sons and daughters, sisters and brothers"

By Staff Reporter

Washington, D.C., September 24, 2015

Here is a Vatican translation of the address Pope Francis gave today at a meeting at St. Patrick's Church in Washington, D.C., with poor and homeless of the city. The address was translated simultaneously and the Holy Father largely followed the text. In brackets, there is a ZENIT tranlsation of the few remarks the Pope added.

* * *

Dear Friends,

[It's a pleasure to be here. Good morning. You are going to hear two statements, one in Spanish and one in English.]

The first word I wish to say to you is “Thank you”. Thank you for welcoming me and for your efforts to make this meeting possible.

Here I think of a person whom I love [a lot], someone who is, and has been, very important throughout my life. He has been a support and an inspiration. He is the one I go to whenever I am “in a fix”. You make me think of Saint Joseph. Your faces remind me of his.

Joseph had to face some difficult situations in his life. One of them was the time when Mary was about to give birth, to have Jesus. The Bible tells us that, “while they were [in Bethlehem], the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn” (Lk 2:6-7).

The Bible is very clear about this: there was no room for them. I can imagine Joseph, with his wife about to have a child, with no shelter, no home, no place to stay. The Son of God came into this world as a homeless person. [The Son of God came into this world as a 'homeless.'] The Son of God knew what it was to start life without a roof over his head. We can imagine what Joseph must have been thinking. How is it that the Son of God has no home? Why are we homeless, why don’t we have housing? These are questions which many of you may ask daily. [And you do.] Like Saint Joseph, you may ask: Why are we homeless, without a place to live? [Those of us who have a roof and a home would also be served by these questions]: Why do these, our brothers and sisters, have no place to live? Why are these brothers and sisters of ours homeless?

Joseph’s questions are timely even today; they accompany all those who throughout history have been, and are, homeless.

Joseph was someone who asked questions. But first and foremost, he was a man of faith. Faith gave Joseph the power to find light just at the moment when everything seemed dark. Faith sustained him amid the troubles of life. Thanks to faith, Joseph was able to press forward when everything seemed to be holding him back.

In the face of unjust and painful situations, faith brings us the light which scatters the darkness. As it did for Joseph, faith makes us open to the quiet presence of God at every moment of our lives, in every person and in every situation. God is present in every one of you, in each one of us.

[I want to be very clear: there is no possible] social or moral justification, no justification whatsoever, for lack of housing. There are many unjust situations, but we know that God is suffering with us, experiencing them at our side. He does not abandon us.

We know that Jesus wanted to show solidarity with every person. He wanted everyone to experience his companionship, his help, his love. He identified with all those who suffer, who weep, who suffer any kind of injustice. He tells us this clearly: “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Mt 25:35).

Faith makes us know that God is at our side, that God is in our midst and his presence spurs us to charity. Charity is born of the call of a God who continues to knock on our door, the door of all people, to invite us to love, to compassion, to service of one another.

Jesus keeps knocking on our doors, the doors of our lives. He doesn’t do this by magic, with special effects, with flashing lights and fireworks. Jesus keeps knocking on our door in the faces of our brothers and sisters, in the faces of our neighbors, in the faces of those at our side.

Dear friends, one of the most effective ways we have to help is that of prayer. Prayer unites us; it makes us brothers and sisters. It opens our hearts and reminds us of a beautiful truth which we sometimes forget. In prayer, we all learn to say “Father”, “Dad”. [When we say "Father," "Dad,"] we learn to see one another as brothers and sisters. In prayer, there are no rich and poor people, there are sons and daughters, sisters and brothers. In prayer, there is no first or second class, there is brotherhood.

It is in prayer that our hearts find the strength not to be cold and insensitive in the face of injustice. In prayer, God keeps calling us, opening our hearts to charity.

How good it is for us to pray together. How good it is to encounter one another in this place where we see one another as brothers and sisters, where we realize that we need one another. Today [I want to pray with you.] I want to be one with you. I need your support, your closeness. I would like to invite you to pray together, for one another, with one another. That way we can keep helping one another to experience the joy of knowing that Jesus is in our midst [and that Jesus helps us to find a solution to the injustices, which he experienced firsthand, of not having a house]. Are you ready? [I'll start in Spanish and you follow in English.]

Our Father, who art in heaven…

Before leaving you, I would like to give you God’s blessing:

The Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;

the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace (Num 6:24-26).

And, please, don’t forget to pray for me.

[Original text: Spanish]

© Copyright 2015 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Pope Francis’ Address to the US Congress

“It is important that today, as in the past, the voice of faith continue to be heard, for it is a voice of fraternity and love, which tries to bring out the best in each person and in each society.”

By Staff Reporter

Washington, D.C., September 24, 2015

Here is the text of Pope Francis’ address to a Joint Session of the United States Congress at the Capitol in Washington, D.C.

* * *

Mr. Vice-President,

Mr. Speaker,

Honorable Members of Congress,

Dear Friends,

I am most grateful for your invitation to address this Joint Session of Congress in “the land of the free and the home of the brave”. I would like to think that the reason for this is that I too am a son of this great continent, from which we have all received so much and toward which we share a common responsibility.

Each son or daughter of a given country has a mission, a personal and social responsibility. Your own responsibility as members of Congress is to enable this country, by your legislative activity, to grow as a nation. You are the face of its people, their representatives. You are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good, for this is the chief aim of all politics. A political society endures when it seeks, as a vocation, to satisfy common needs by stimulating the growth of all its members, especially those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk. Legislative activity is always based on care for the people. To this you have been invited, called and convened by those who elected you.

Yours is a work which makes me reflect in two ways on the figure of Moses. On the one hand, the patriarch and lawgiver of the people of Israel symbolizes the need of peoples to keep alive their sense of unity by means of just legislation. On the other, the figure of Moses leads us directly to God and thus to the transcendent dignity of the human being. (APPLAUSE)

Moses provides us with a good synthesis of your work: you are asked to protect, by means of the law, the image and likeness fashioned by God on every human face.

Today I would like not only to address you, but through you the entire people of the United States. Here, together with their representatives, I would like to take this opportunity to dialogue with the many thousands of men and women who strive each day to do an honest day’s work, to bring home their daily bread, to save money and –one step at a time – to build a better life for their families. These are men and women who are not concerned simply with paying their taxes, but in their own quiet way sustain the life of society. (APPLAUSE)

They generate solidarity by their actions, and they create organizations which offer a helping hand to those most in need.

I would also like to enter into dialogue with the many elderly persons who are a storehouse of wisdom forged by experience, and who seek in many ways, especially through volunteer work, to share their stories and their insights. I know that many of them are retired, but still active; they keep working to build up this land. I also want to dialogue with all those young people who are working to realize their great and noble aspirations, who are not led astray by facile proposals, and who face difficult situations, often as a result of immaturity on the part of many adults. I wish to dialogue with all of you, and I would like to do so through the historical memory of your people.

My visit takes place at a time when men and women of goodwill are marking the anniversaries of several great Americans. The complexities of history and the reality of human weakness notwithstanding, these men and women, for all their many differences and limitations, were able by hard work and self-sacrifice – some at the cost of their lives – to build a better future. They shaped fundamental values which will endure forever in the spirit of the American people. A people with this spirit can live through many crises, tensions and conflicts, while always finding the resources to move forward, and to do so with dignity. These men and women offer us a way of seeing and interpreting reality. In honoring their memory, we are inspired, even amid conflicts, and in the here and now of each day, to draw upon our deepest cultural reserves.

I would like to mention four of these Americans: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton. (APPLAUSE)

This year marks the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, the guardian of liberty, who labored tirelessly that “this nation, under God, [might] have a new birth of freedom”. Building a future of freedom requires love of the common good and cooperation in a spirit of subsidiarity and solidarity.

All of us are quite aware of, and deeply worried by, the disturbing social and political situation of the world today. Our world is increasingly a place of violent conflict, hatred and brutal atrocities, committed even in the name of God and of religion. We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism. This means that we must be especially attentive to every type of fundamentalism, whether religious or of any other kind. A delicate balance is required to combat violence perpetrated in the name of a religion, an ideology or an economic system, while also safeguarding religious freedom, intellectual freedom and individual freedoms. (APPLAUSE)

But there is another temptation which we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners. The contemporary world, with its open wounds which affect so many of our brothers and sisters, demands that we confront every form of polarization which would divide it into these two camps. We know that in the attempt to be freed of the enemy without, we can be tempted to feed the enemy within. To imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place. That is something which you, as a people, reject. (APPLAUSE)

Our response must instead be one of hope and healing, of peace and justice. We are asked to summon the courage and the intelligence to resolve today’s many geopolitical and economic crises. Even in the developed world, the effects of unjust structures and actions are all too apparent. Our efforts must aim at restoring hope, righting wrongs, maintaining commitments, and thus promoting the well-being of individuals and of peoples. We must move forward together, as one, in a renewed spirit of fraternity and solidarity, cooperating generously for the common good. (APPLAUSE)

The challenges facing us today call for a renewal of that spirit of cooperation, which has accomplished so much good throughout the history of the United States. The complexity, the gravity and the urgency of these challenges demand that we pool our resources and talents, and resolve to support one another, with respect for our differences and our convictions of conscience.

In this land, the various religious denominations have greatly contributed to building and strengthening society. It is important that today, as in the past, the voice of faith continue to be heard, for it is a voice of fraternity and love, which tries to bring out the best in each person and in each society. Such cooperation is a powerful resource in the battle to eliminate new global forms of slavery, born of grave injustices which can be overcome only through new policies and new forms of social consensus.

Politics is, instead, an expression of our compelling need to live as one, in order to build as one the greatest common good: that of a community which sacrifices particular interests in order to share, in justice and peace, its goods, its interests, its social life. I do not underestimate the difficulty that this involves, but I encourage you in this effort. (APPLAUSE)

Here too I think of the march which Martin Luther King led from Selma to Montgomery fifty years ago as part of the campaign to fulfill his “dream” of full civil and political rights for African Americans.(APPLAUSE)

That dream continues to inspire us all. I am happy that America continues to be, for many, a land of “dreams”.  (APPLAUSE)

Dreams which lead to action, to participation, to commitment. Dreams which awaken what is deepest and truest in the life of a people.

In recent centuries, millions of people came to this land to pursue their dream of building a future in freedom. We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners. (APPLAUSE)

I say this to you as the son of immigrants, knowing that so many of you are also descended from immigrants. (APPLAUSE)

Tragically, the rights of those who were here long before us were not always respected. For those peoples and their nations, from the heart of American democracy, I wish to reaffirm my highest esteem and appreciation. Those first contacts were often turbulent and violent, but we know it is very difficult to judge the past by the criteria of the present.

(APPLAUSE)

Nonetheless, when the stranger in our midst appeals to us, we must not repeat the sins and the errors of the past.

(APPLAUSE)

We must resolve now to live as nobly and as justly as possible, as we educate new generations not to turn their back on our “neighbors” and everything around us. Building a nation calls us to recognize that we must constantly relate to others, rejecting a mindset of hostility in order to adopt one of reciprocal subsidiarity, in a constant effort to do our best. I am confident that we can do this.

Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War. This presents us with great challenges and many hard decisions. On this continent, too, thousands of persons are led to travel north in search of a better life for themselves and for their loved ones, in search of greater opportunities. Is this not what we want for our own children? (APPLAUSE)

We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation. To respond in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal. We need to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome. Let us remember the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you (APPLAUSE) would have them do unto you” (Mt 7:12).

This Rule points us in a clear direction. Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated. Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves. Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves. In a word, if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities. The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us. (APPLAUSE)

The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development. (APPLAUSE)

This conviction has led me, from the beginning of my ministry, to advocate at different levels for the global abolition of the death penalty. (APPLAUSE)

I am convinced that this way is the best, since every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes. Recently my brother bishops here in the United States renewed their call for the abolition of the death penalty. Not only do I support them, but I also offer encouragement to all those who are convinced that a just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation. (APPLAUSE)

In these times when social concerns are so important, I cannot fail to mention the Servant of God Dorothy Day, who founded the Catholic Worker Movement. Her social activism, her passion for justice and for the cause of the oppressed, were inspired by the Gospel, her faith, and the example of the saints.

How much progress has been made in this area in so many parts of the world! How much has been done in these first years of the third millennium to raise people out of extreme poverty! I know that you share my conviction that much more still needs to be done, and that in times of crisis and economic hardship a spirit of global solidarity must not be lost. At the same time I would encourage you to keep in mind all those people around us who are trapped in a cycle of poverty. They too need to be given hope. The fight against poverty and hunger must be fought constantly and on many fronts, especially in its causes. I know that many Americans today, as in the past, are working to deal with this problem.

It goes without saying that part of this great effort is the creation and distribution of wealth. The right use of natural resources, the proper application of technology and the harnessing of the spirit of enterprise are essential elements of an economy which seeks to be modern, inclusive and sustainable. “Business is a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving the world. It can be a fruitful source of prosperity for the area in which it operates, especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good” (Laudato Si’, 129). (APPLAUSE)

This common good also includes the earth, a central theme of the encyclical which I recently wrote in order to “enter into dialogue with all people about our common home” (ibid., 3). “We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all” (ibid., 14).

In Laudato Si’, I call for a courageous and responsible effort to “redirect our steps” (ibid., 61), and to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity. I am convinced that we can make a difference, I am sure. (APPLAUSE)

And I have no doubt that the United States – and this Congress – have an important role to play. Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a “culture of care” (ibid., 231) and “an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature” (ibid., 139). (APPLAUSE)

“We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology” (ibid., 112); “to devise intelligent ways of… developing and limiting our power” (ibid., 78); and to put technology “at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral” (ibid., 112). In this regard, I am confident that America’s outstanding academic and research institutions can make a vital contribution in the years ahead.

(APPLAUSE)

A century ago, at the beginning of the Great War, which Pope Benedict XV termed a “pointless slaughter”, another notable American was born: the Cistercian monk Thomas Merton. He remains a source of spiritual inspiration and a guide for many people. In his autobiography he wrote: “I came into the world. Free by nature, in the image of God, I was nevertheless the prisoner of my own violence and my own selfishness, in the image of the world into which I was born. That world was the picture of Hell, full of men like myself, loving God, and yet hating him; born to love him, living instead in fear of hopeless self-contradictory hungers”. Merton was above all a man of prayer, a thinker who challenged the certitudes of his time and opened new horizons for souls and for the Church. He was also a man of dialogue, a promoter of peace between peoples and religions.

From this perspective of dialogue, I would like to recognize the efforts made in recent months to help overcome historic differences linked to painful episodes of the past. It is my duty to build bridges and to help all men and women, in any way possible, to do the same. When countries which have been at odds resume the path of dialogue – a dialogue which may have been interrupted for the most legitimate of reasons – new opportunities open up for all. This has required, and requires, courage and daring, which is not the same as irresponsibility. A good political leader is one who, with the interests of all in mind, seizes the moment in a spirit of openness and pragmatism. A good political leader always opts to initiate processes rather than possessing spaces (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 222-223). (APPLAUSE)

Being at the service of dialogue and peace also means being truly determined to minimize and, in the long term, to end the many armed conflicts throughout our world. (APPLAUSE)

Here we have to ask ourselves: Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade. (APPLAUSE)

Three sons and a daughter of this land, four individuals and four dreams: Lincoln, liberty; Martin Luther King, liberty in plurality and non-exclusion; Dorothy Day, social justice and the rights of persons; and Thomas Merton, the capacity for dialogue and openness to God.

Four representatives of the American people.

I will end my visit to your country in Philadelphia, where I will take part in the World Meeting of Families. It is my wish that throughout my visit the family should be a recurrent theme. How essential the family has been to the building of this country! (APPLAUSE)

And how worthy it remains of our support and encouragement! Yet I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without. Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family. I can only reiterate the importance and, above all, the richness and the beauty of family life. (APPLAUSE)

In particular, I would like to call attention to those family members who are the most vulnerable, the young. For many of them, a future filled with countless possibilities beckons, yet so many others seem disoriented and aimless, trapped in a hopeless maze of violence, abuse and despair. Their problems are our problems. (APPLAUSE)

We cannot avoid them. We need to face them together, to talk about them and to seek effective solutions rather than getting bogged down in discussions. At the risk of oversimplifying, we might say that we live in a culture which pressures young people not to start a family, because they lack possibilities for the future. Yet this same culture presents others with so many options that they too are dissuaded from starting a family.

A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as Lincoln did, when it fosters a culture which enables people to “dream” of full rights for all their brothers and sisters, as Martin Luther King sought to do; when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed, as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work, the fruit of a faith which becomes dialogue and sows peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton.

In these remarks I have sought to present some of the richness of your cultural heritage, of the spirit of the American people. It is my desire that this spirit continue to develop and grow, so that as many young people as possible can inherit and dwell in a land which has inspired so many people to dream.

God bless America! (APPLAUSE)

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Pope's Homily at Mass in Madison Square Garden

"God is living in our cities. The Church is living in our cities, and she wants to be like yeast in the dough. She wants to relate to everyone, to stand at everyone’s side, as she proclaims the marvels of the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Eternal Father, the Prince of Peace"

By Staff Reporter

New York City, September 25, 2015

Here is a Vatican translation of the homily Pope Francis gave this evening at Mass in Madison Square Garden. The phrases in brackets are a transcription and translation of the very few remarks the Pope added apart from his text.

* * *

We are in Madison Square Garden, a place synonymous with this city. This is the site of important athletic, artistic and musical events attracting people not only from this city, but from the whole world. In this place, which represents both the variety and the common interests of so many different people, we have listened to the words: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Is 9:1).

The people who walked – caught up in their activities and routines, amid their successes and failures, their worries and expectations – have seen a great light. The people who walked – with all their joys and hopes, their disappointments and regrets – have seen a great light.

In every age, the People of God are called to contemplate this light. A light for the nations, as the elderly Simeon joyfully expressed it. A light meant to shine on every corner of this city, on our fellow citizens, on every part of our lives.

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light”. One special quality of God’s people is their ability to see, to contemplate, even in “moments of darkness”, the light which Christ brings. God’s faithful people can see, discern and contemplate his living presence in the midst of life, in the midst of the city. Together with the prophet Isaiah, we can say: The people who walk, breathe and live in the midst of smog, have seen a great light, have experienced a breath of fresh air.

Living in a big city is not always easy. A multicultural context presents many complex challenges. Yet big cities are a reminder of the hidden riches present in our world: in the diversity of its cultures, traditions and historical experiences. In the variety of its languages, costumes and cuisine. Big cities bring together all the different ways which we human beings have discovered to express the meaning of life, wherever we may be.

But big cities also conceal the faces of all those people who don’t appear to belong, or are second-class citizens. In big cities, beneath the roar of traffic, beneath “the rapid pace of change”, so many faces pass by unnoticed because they have no “right” to be there, no right to be part of the city. They are the foreigners, the children who go without schooling, those deprived of medical insurance, the homeless, the forgotten elderly. These people stand at the edges of our great avenues, in our streets, in deafening anonymity. They become part of an urban landscape which is more and more taken for granted, in our eyes, and especially in our hearts.

Knowing that Jesus still walks our streets, that he is part of the lives of his people, that he is involved with us in one vast history of salvation, fills us with hope. A hope which liberates us from the forces pushing us to isolation and lack of concern for the lives of others, for the life of our city.

A hope which frees us from empty “connections”, from abstract analyses, or sensationalist routines. A hope which is unafraid of involvement, which acts as a leaven wherever we happen to live and work. A hope which makes us see, even in the midst of smog, the presence of God as he continues to walk the streets of our city. [Because God is in the city.]

What is it like, this light travelling through our streets? How do we encounter God, who lives with us amid the smog of our cities? How do we encounter Jesus, alive and at work in the daily life of our multicultural cities?

The prophet Isaiah can guide us in this process of “learning to see”. [He spoke of this light that is Jesus and now] He presents Jesus to us as “Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace”. In this way, he introduces us to the life of the Son, so that his life can be our life.

Wonderful Counselor. The Gospels tell us how many people came up to Jesus to ask: “Master, what must we do?” The first thing that Jesus does in response is to propose, to encourage, to motivate. He keeps telling his disciples to go, to go out. He urges them to go out and meet others where they really are, not where we think they should be. Go out, again and again, go out without fear, without hesitation. Go out and proclaim this joy which is for all the people.

The Mighty God. In Jesus, God himself became Emmanuel, God-with-us, the God who walks alongside us, who gets involved in our lives, in our homes, in the midst of our “pots and pans”, as Saint Teresa of Jesus liked to say.

The Everlasting Father. No one or anything can separate us from his Love. Go out and proclaim, go out and show that God is in your midst as a merciful Father who himself goes out, morning and evening, to see if his son has returned home and, as soon as he sees him coming, runs out to embrace him. An embrace which wants to take up, purify and elevate the dignity of his children. A Father who, in his embrace, is “glad tidings to the poor, healing to the afflicted, liberty to captives, comfort to those who mourn” (Is 61:1-2).

Prince of Peace. Go out to others and share the good news that God, our Father, walks at our side. He frees us from anonymity, from a life of emptiness and selfishness, and brings us to the school of encounter. He removes us from the fray of competition and self-absorption, and he opens before us the path of peace. That peace which is born of accepting others, that peace which fills our hearts whenever we look upon those in need as our brothers and sisters.

God is living in our cities. The Church is living in our cities, and [God and the Church that are living in our cities] want to be like yeast in the dough. She wants to relate to everyone, to stand at everyone’s side, as she proclaims the marvels of the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Eternal Father, the Prince of Peace.

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light”. And we ourselves, [Christians,] are witnesses of that light.


Pope's Address at Visit to School, With Immigrants

"It is beautiful to have dreams and it is beautiful to be able to fight for them"

By Staff Reporter

New York City, September 25, 2015

Here is a Vatican translation of the brief remarks Pope Francis made this afternoon as he visited a Catholic school in New York. The comments Pope Francis made off-the-cuff have been transcribed and translated by ZENIT; they are in brackets.

 

Dear [brothers and sisters, good afternoon],

I am very happy to be with you today, along with this big family which surrounds you. I see your teachers, your parents and your family members. Thank you for letting me come, and I ask pardon from your teachers for “stealing” a few minutes of their class time. [They are all happy about it, I know.]

They tell me that one of the nice things about this school [and this work] is that some of its students, [some of you], come from other places, [and many,] even from other countries. That is nice! Even though I know that it is not easy to have to move and find a new home, new neighbors and new friends. It is not easy. [But one must get started.] At the beginning it can be hard, right? Often you have to learn a new language, adjust to a new culture, even a new climate. There is so much to learn! And not just at school [but so many things, even how to play ball.]

The good thing is that we also make new friends. [The new friends we find.] We meet people who open doors for us, who are kind to us. They offer us friendship and understanding, and they try to help us not to feel like strangers, [foreigners. All the effort of people who help us to feel at home. Even though sometimes our imaginations return to our homelands, but we find good people who help us to feel at home.] How nice it is to feel that school, [the places we gather] are a second home. This is not only important for you, but also for your families. School then ends up being one big family. One where, together with our mothers and fathers, our grandparents, our teachers and friends, we learn to help one another, to share our good qualities, to give the best of ourselves, to work as a team, [to play as a team, which is so important] and to pursue our dreams.

Very near here is a very important street named after a man who did a lot for other people. I want to talk a little bit about him. He was the Reverend Martin Luther King. One day he said, “I have a dream”. His dream was that many children, many people could have equal opportunities. His dream was that many children like you could get an education. [He dreamed that many men and women like you could hold their heads high, with the dignity of one who can support himself.] It is beautiful to have dreams and [it is beautiful] to be able to fight for them. [Don't forget this.]

Today we want to keep dreaming. We celebrate all the opportunities which enable you, and us adults, not to lose the hope of a better world with greater possibilities. [And so many people that I have greeted and that have introduced themselves to me, also dream with you. They dream of this and because of this, they have gotten involved in this work. They have gotten involved in your lives to accompany you on this path. We all dream.] I know that one of the dreams of your parents and teachers, [and all those who help you -- and also Cardinal Dolan, eh? He is a very good man --] is that you can grow up and [can live with happiness.] It is always good to see children smiling. Here I see you smiling. Keep smiling and help bring joy to everyone you meet. [It's not always easy. In every home, there are problems, there are difficult situations, there are illnesses. But don't quit dreaming that you can live with joy.]

[All of you who are here, children and adults,] you have a right to dream and I am very happy that here, [whether in this school, or here,] in your friends and your teachers, [in all those who come to help] you can find the support you need. Wherever there are dreams, there is joy, Jesus is always present. [Always. On the other hand, who is the one who sows sadness, doubt, the one who sows envy, the one who sows bad desires. What's his name? The devil! The devil! The devil always sows sadness because he doesn't want us happy; he doesn't want us dreaming.] [Where there is joy, there is always Jesus] Because Jesus is joy, and he wants to help us to feel that joy every day of our lives.

Before going, I want to give you some homework. Can I? It is just a little request, but a very important one. Please don’t forget to pray for me, so that I can share with many people the joy of Jesus. And let us also pray so that many other people can share the joy like yours [when you feel that you are accompanied, helped, counseled, even though there can be problems, but there is this peace in your heart from knowing that Jesus never abandons us.]

May God bless [each and every one of you] today and Our Lady protect you. [Thank you.]


Pope's Address at Ground Zero

"This flowing water reminds us of yesterday’s tears, but also of all the tears still being shed today"

By Staff Reporter

New York City, September 25, 2015 

Here is a Vatican translation of the address Pope Francis gave today at an interreligious ceremony at Ground Zero. He began the Spanish-language address apologizing for being unable to give it in English.

* * *

Dear Friends,

I feel many different emotions standing here at Ground Zero, where thousands of lives were taken in a senseless act of destruction. Here grief is palpable. The water we see flowing towards that empty pit reminds us of all those lives which fell prey to those who think that destruction, tearing down, is the only way to settle conflicts. It is the silent cry of those who were victims of a mindset which knows only violence, hatred and revenge. A mindset which can only cause pain, suffering, destruction and tears.

The flowing water is also a symbol of our tears. Tears at so much devastation and ruin, past and present. This is a place where we shed tears, we weep out of a sense of helplessness in the face of injustice, murder, and the failure to settle conflicts through dialogue. Here we mourn the wrongful and senseless loss of innocent lives because of the inability to find solutions which respect the common good. This flowing water reminds us of yesterday’s tears, but also of all the tears still being shed today.

A few moments ago I met some of the families of the fallen first responders. Meeting them made me see once again how acts of destruction are never impersonal, abstract or merely material. They always have a face, a concrete story, names. In those family members, we see the face of pain, a pain which still touches us and cries out to heaven.

At the same time, those family members showed me the other face of this attack, the other face of their grief: the power of love and remembrance. A remembrance that does not leave us empty and withdrawn. The name of so many loved ones are written around the towers’ footprints. We can see them, we can touch them, and we can never forget them.

Here, amid pain and grief, we also have a palpable sense of the heroic goodness which people are capable of, those hidden reserves of strength from which we can draw. In the depths of pain and suffering, you also witnessed the heights of generosity and service. Hands reached out, lives were given. In a metropolis which might seem impersonal, faceless, lonely, you demonstrated the powerful solidarity born of mutual support, love and self-sacrifice. No one thought about race, nationality, neighborhoods, religion or politics. It was all about solidarity, meeting immediate needs, brotherhood. It was about being brothers and sisters. New York City firemen walked into the crumbling towers, with no concern for their own wellbeing. Many succumbed; their sacrifice enabled great numbers to be saved.

This place of death became a place of life too, a place of saved lives, a hymn to the triumph of life over the prophets of destruction and death, to goodness over evil, to reconciliation and unity over hatred and division.

It is a source of great hope that in this place of sorrow and remembrance I can join with leaders representing the many religious traditions which enrich the life of this great city. I trust that our presence together will be a powerful sign of our shared desire to be a force for reconciliation, peace and justice in this community and throughout the world. For all our differences and disagreements, we can live in a world of peace. In opposing every attempt to create a rigid uniformity, we can and must build unity on the basis of our diversity of languages, cultures and religions, and lift our voices against everything which would stand in the way of such unity. Together we are called to say “no” to every attempt to impose uniformity and “yes” to a diversity accepted and reconciled.

This can only happen if we uproot from our hearts all feelings of hatred, vengeance and resentment. We know that that is only possible as a gift from heaven. Here, in this place of remembrance, I would ask everyone together, each in his or her own way, to spend a moment in silence and prayer. Let us implore from on high the gift of commitment to the cause of peace. Peace in our homes, our families, our schools and our communities. Peace in all those places where war never seems to end. Peace for those faces which have known nothing but pain. Peace throughout this world which God has given us as the home of all and a home for all. Simply PEACE.

In this way, the lives of our dear ones will not be lives which will one day be forgotten. Instead, they will be present whenever we strive to be prophets not of tearing down but of building up, prophets of reconciliation, prophets of peace.


Pope’s Address to the United Nations General Assembly

“Consequently, the defence of the environment and the fight against exclusion demand that we recognize a moral law written into human nature itself, one which includes the natural difference between man and woman, and absolute respect for life in all its stages and dimensions."

By Staff Reporter

New York City, September 25, 2015

Here is the text of the Holy Father’s address to the 70th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

* * *

Mr President,

Ladies and Gentlemen, Good Morning.

Thank you for your kind words. Once again, following a tradition by which I feel honored, the Secretary General of the United Nations has invited the Pope to address this distinguished assembly of nations. In my own name, and that of the entire Catholic community, I wish to express to you, Mr Ban Ki-moon, my heartfelt gratitude. I also thank you for his kind words. I greet the Heads of State and Heads of Government present, as well as the ambassadors, diplomats and political and technical officials accompanying them, the personnel of the United Nations engaged in this 70th Session of the General Assembly, the personnel of the various programs and agencies of the United Nations family, and all those who, in one way or another, take part in this meeting. Through you, I also greet the citizens of all the nations represented in this hall. I thank you, each and all, for your efforts in the service of mankind.

This is the fifth time that a Pope has visited the United Nations. I follow in the footsteps of my predecessors Paul VI, in1965, John Paul II, in 1979 and 1995, and my most recent predecessor, now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, in 2008. All of them expressed their great esteem for the Organization, which they considered the appropriate juridical and political response to this present moment of history, marked by our technical ability to overcome distances and frontiers and, apparently, to overcome all natural limits to the exercise of power. An essential response, inasmuch as technological power, in the hands of nationalistic or falsely universalist ideologies, is capable of perpetrating tremendous atrocities. I can only reiterate the appreciation expressed by my predecessors, in reaffirming the importance which the Catholic Church attaches to this Institution and the hope which she places in its activities.

The United Nations is presently celebrating its seventieth anniversary. The history of this organized community of states is one of important common achievements over a period of unusually fast-paced changes. Without claiming to be exhaustive, we can mention the codification and development of international law, the establishment of international norms regarding human rights, advances in humanitarian law, the resolution of numerous conflicts, operations of peace-keeping and reconciliation, and any number of other accomplishments in every area of international activity and endeavour. All these achievements are lights which help to dispel the darkness of the disorder caused by unrestrained ambitions and collective forms of selfishness. Certainly, many grave problems remain to be resolved, yet it is clear that, without all those interventions on the international level, mankind would not have been able to survive the unchecked use of its own possibilities. Every one of these political, juridical and technical advances is a path towards attaining the ideal of human fraternity and a means for its greater realization.

For this reason I pay homage to all those men and women whose loyalty and self-sacrifice have benefitted humanity as a whole in these past seventy years. In particular, I would recall today those who gave their lives for peace and reconciliation among peoples, from Dag Hammarskjöld to the many United Nations officials at every level who have been killed in the course of humanitarian missions, and missions of peace and reconciliation.

Beyond these achievements, the experience of the past seventy years has made it clear that reform and adaptation to the times is always necessary in the pursuit of the ultimate goal of granting all countries, without exception, a share in, and a genuine and equitable influence on, decision-making processes. The need for greater equity is especially true in the case of those bodies with effective executive capability, such as the Security Council, the Financial Agencies and the groups or mechanisms specifically created to deal with economic crises. This will help limit every kind of abuse or usury, especially where developing countries are concerned. The International Financial Agencies are should care for the sustainable development of countries and should ensure that they are not subjected to oppressive lending systems which, far from promoting progress, subject people to mechanisms which generate greater poverty, exclusion and dependence.

The work of the United Nations, according to the principles set forth in the Preamble and the first Articles of its founding Charter, can be seen as the development and promotion of the rule of law, based on the realization that justice is an essential condition for achieving the ideal of universal fraternity. In this context, it is helpful to recall that the limitation of power is an idea implicit in the concept of law itself. To give to each his own, to cite the classic definition of justice, means that no human individual or group can consider itself absolute, permitted to bypass the dignity and the rights of other individuals or their social groupings. The effective distribution of power (political, economic, defense-related, technological, etc.) among a plurality of subjects, and the creation of a juridical system for regulating claims and interests, are one concrete way of limiting power. Yet today’s world presents us with many false rights and – at the same time – broad sectors which are vulnerable, victims of power badly exercised: for example, the natural environment and the vast ranks of excluded men and women. These sectors are closely interconnected and made increasingly fragile by dominant political and economic relationships. That is why their rights must be forcefully affirmed, by working to protect the environment and by putting an end to exclusion.

First, it must be stated that a true “right of the environment” does exist, for two reasons. First, because we human beings are part of the environment. We live in communion with it, since the environment itself entails ethical limits which human activity must acknowledge and respect. Man, for all his remarkable gifts, which “are signs of a uniqueness which transcends the spheres of physics and biology” (Laudato Si’, 81), is at the same time a part of these spheres. He possesses a body shaped by physical, chemical and biological elements, and can only survive and develop if the ecological environment is favourable. Any harm done to the environment, therefore, is harm done to humanity. Second, because every creature, particularly a living creature, has an intrinsic value, in its existence, its life, its beauty and its interdependence with other creatures. We Christians, together with the other monotheistic religions, believe that the universe is the fruit of a loving decision by the Creator, who permits man respectfully to use creation for the good of his fellow men and for the glory of the Creator; he is not authorized to abuse it, much less to destroy it. In all religions, the environment is a fundamental good (cf. ibid.).

The misuse and destruction of the environment are also accompanied by a relentless process of exclusion. In effect, a selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity leads both to the misuse of available natural resources and to the exclusion of the weak and disadvantaged, either because they are differently abled (handicapped), or because they lack adequate information and technical expertise, or are incapable of decisive political action. Economic and social exclusion is a complete denial of human fraternity and a grave offense against human rights and the environment. The poorest are those who suffer most from such offenses, for three serious reasons: they are cast off by society, forced to live off what is discarded and suffer unjustly from the abuse of the environment. They are part of today’s widespread and quietly growing “culture of waste”.

The dramatic reality this whole situation of exclusion and inequality, with its evident effects, has led me, in union with the entire Christian people and many others, to take stock of my grave responsibility in this regard and to speak out, together with all those who are seeking urgently-needed and effective solutions. The adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the World Summit, which opens today, is an important sign of hope. I am similarly confident that the Paris Conference on Climatic Change will secure fundamental and effective agreements.

Solemn commitments, however, are not enough, even though they are a necessary step toward solutions. The classic definition of justice which I mentioned earlier contains as one of its essential elements a constant and perpetual will: Iustitia est constans et perpetua voluntas ius sum cuique tribuendi. Our world demands of all government leaders a will which is effective, practical and constant, concrete steps and immediate measures for preserving and improving the natural environment and thus putting an end as quickly as possible to the phenomenon of social and economic exclusion, with its baneful consequences: human trafficking, the marketing of human organs and tissues, the sexual exploitation of boys and girls, slave labour, including prostitution, the drug and weapons trade, terrorism and international organized crime. Such is the magnitude of these situations and their toll in innocent lives, that we must avoid every temptation to fall into a declarationist nominalism which would assuage our consciences. We need to ensure that our institutions are truly effective in the struggle against all these scourges.

The number and complexity of the problems require that we possess technical instruments of verification. But this involves two risks. We can rest content with the bureaucratic exercise of drawing up long lists of good proposals – goals, objectives and statistical indicators – or we can think that a single theoretical and aprioristic solution will provide an answer to all the challenges. It must never be forgotten that political and economic activity is only effective when it is understood as a prudential activity, guided by a perennial concept of justice and constantly conscious of the fact that, above and beyond our plans and programmes, we are dealing with real men and women who live, struggle and suffer, and are often forced to live in great poverty, deprived of all rights.

To enable these real men and women to escape from extreme poverty, we must allow them to be dignified agents of their own destiny. Integral human development and the full exercise of human dignity cannot be imposed. They must be built up and allowed to unfold for each individual, for every family, in communion with others, and in a right relationship with all those areas in which human social life develops – friends, communities, towns and cities, schools, businesses and unions, provinces, nations, etc. This presupposes and requires the right to education – also for girls (excluded in certain places) – which is ensured first and foremost by respecting and reinforcing the primary right of the family to educate its children, as well as the right of churches and social groups to support and assist families in the education of their children. Education conceived in this way is the basis for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and for reclaiming the environment.

At the same time, government leaders must do everything possible to ensure that all can have the minimum spiritual and material means needed to live in dignity and to create and support a family, which is the primary cell of any social development. In practical terms, this absolute minimum has three names: lodging, labour, and land; and one spiritual name: spiritual freedom, which includes religious freedom, the right to education and other civil rights.

For all this, the simplest and best measure and indicator of the implementation of the new Agenda for development will be effective, practical and immediate access, on the part of all, to essential material and spiritual goods: housing, dignified and properly remunerated employment, adequate food and drinking water; religious freedom and, more generally, spiritual freedom and education. These pillars of integral human development have a common foundation, which is the right to life and, more generally, what we could call the right to existence of human nature itself.

The ecological crisis, and the large-scale destruction of biodiversity, can threaten the very existence of the human species. The baneful consequences of an irresponsible mismanagement of the global economy, guided only by ambition for wealth and power, must serve as a summons to a forthright reflection on man: “man is not only a freedom which he creates for himself. Man does not create himself. He is spirit and will, but also nature” (BENEDICT XVI, Address to the Bundestag, 22 September 2011, cited in Laudato Si’, 6). Creation is compromised “where we ourselves have the final word… The misuse of creation begins when we no longer recognize any instance above ourselves, when we see nothing else but ourselves” (ID. Address to the Clergy of the Diocese of Bolzano-Bressanone, 6 August 2008, cited ibid.). Consequently, the defence of the environment and the fight against exclusion demand that we recognize a moral law written into human nature itself, one which includes the natural difference between man and woman (cf. Laudato Si’, 155), and absolute respect for life in all its stages and dimensions (cf. ibid., 123, 136).

Without the recognition of certain incontestable natural ethical limits and without the immediate implementation of those pillars of integral human development, the ideal of “saving succeeding generations from the scourge of war” (Charter of the United Nations, Preamble), and “promoting social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom” (ibid.), risks becoming an unattainable illusion, or, even worse, idle chatter which serves as a cover for all kinds of abuse and corruption, or for carrying out an ideological colonization by the imposition of anomalous models and lifestyles which are alien to people’s identity and, in the end, irresponsible.

War is the negation of all rights and a dramatic assault on the environment. If we want true integral human development for all, we must work tirelessly to avoid war between nations and between peoples.

To this end, there is a need to ensure the uncontested rule of law and tireless recourse to negotiation, mediation and arbitration, as proposed by the Charter of the United Nations, which constitutes truly a fundamental juridical norm. The experience of these seventy years since the founding of the United Nations in general, and in particular the experience of these first fifteen years of the third millennium, reveal both the effectiveness of the full application of international norms and the ineffectiveness of their lack of enforcement. When the Charter of the United Nations is respected and applied with transparency and sincerity, and without ulterior motives, as an obligatory reference point of justice and not as a means of masking spurious intentions, peaceful results will be obtained. When, on the other hand, the norm is considered simply as an instrument to be used whenever it proves favourable, and to be avoided when it is not, a true Pandora’s box is opened, releasing uncontrollable forces which gravely harm defenseless populations, the cultural milieu and even the biological environment.

The Preamble and the first Article of the Charter of the United Nations set forth the foundations of the international juridical framework: peace, the pacific solution of disputes and the development of friendly relations between the nations. Strongly opposed to such statements, and in practice denying them, is the constant tendency to the proliferation of arms, especially weapons of mass distraction, such as nuclear weapons. An ethics and a law based on the threat of mutual destruction – and possibly the destruction of all mankind – are self-contradictory and an affront to the entire framework of the United Nations, which would end up as “nations united by fear and distrust”. There is urgent need to work for a world free of nuclear weapons, in full application of the non-proliferation Treaty, in letter and spirit, with the goal of a complete prohibition of these weapons.

The recent agreement reached on the nuclear question in a sensitive region of Asia and the Middle East is proof of the potential of political good will and of law, exercised with sincerity, patience and constancy. I express my hope that this agreement will be lasting and efficacious, and bring forth the desired fruits with the cooperation of all the parties involved.

In this sense, hard evidence is not lacking of the negative effects of military and political interventions which are not coordinated between members of the international community. For this reason, while regretting to have to do so, I must renew my repeated appeals regarding to the painful situation of the entire Middle East, North Africa and other African countries, where Christians, together with other cultural or ethnic groups, and even members of the majority religion who have no desire to be caught up in hatred and folly, have been forced to witness the destruction of their places of worship, their cultural and religious heritage, their houses and property, and have faced the alternative either of fleeing or of paying for their adhesion to good and to peace by their own lives, or by enslavement.

These realities should serve as a grave summons to an examination of conscience on the part of those charged with the conduct of international affairs. Not only in cases of religious or cultural persecution, but in every situation of conflict, as in Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, Libya, South Sudan and the Great Lakes region, real human beings take precedence over partisan interests, however legitimate the latter may be. In wars and conflicts there are individual persons, our brothers and sisters, men and women, young and old, boys and girls who weep, suffer and die. Human beings who are easily discarded when our only response is to draw up lists of problems, strategies and disagreements.

As I wrote in my letter to the Secretary-General of the United Nations on 9 August 2014, “the most basic understanding of human dignity compels the international community, particularly through the norms and mechanisms of international law, to do all that it can to stop and to prevent further systematic violence against ethnic and religious minorities” and to protect innocent peoples.

Along the same lines I would mention another kind of conflict which is not always so open, yet is silently killing millions of people. Another kind of war experienced by many of our societies as a result of the narcotics trade. A war which is taken for granted and poorly fought. Drug trafficking is by its very nature accompanied by trafficking in persons, money laundering, the arms trade, child exploitation and other forms of corruption. A corruption which has penetrated to different levels of social, political, military, artistic and religious life, and, in many cases, has given rise to a parallel structure which threatens the credibility of our institutions.

I began this speech recalling the visits of my predecessors. I would hope that my words will be taken above all as a continuation of the final words of the address of Pope Paul VI; although spoken almost exactly fifty years ago, they remain ever timely. “The hour has come when a pause, a moment of recollection, reflection, even of prayer, is absolutely needed so that we may think back over our common origin, our history, our common destiny. The appeal to the moral conscience of man has never been as necessary as it is today… For the danger comes neither from progress nor from science; if these are used well, they can help to solve a great number of the serious problems besetting mankind (Address to the United Nations Organization, 4 October 1965). Among other things, human genius, well applied, will surely help to meet the grave challenges of ecological deterioration and of exclusion. As Paul VI said: “The real danger comes from man, who has at his disposal ever more powerful instruments that are as well fitted to bring about ruin as they are to achieve lofty conquests” (ibid.).

The common home of all men and women must continue to rise on the foundations of a right understanding of universal fraternity and respect for the sacredness of every human life, of every man and every woman, the poor, the elderly, children, the infirm, the unborn, the unemployed, the abandoned, those considered disposable because they are only considered as part of a statistic. This common home of all men and women must also be built on the understanding of a certain sacredness of created nature.

Such understanding and respect call for a higher degree of wisdom, one which accepts transcendence, rejects the creation of an all-powerful élite, and recognizes that the full meaning of individual and collective life is found in selfless service to others and in the sage and respectful use of creation for the common good. To repeat the words of Paul VI, “the edifice of modern civilization has to be built on spiritual principles, for they are the only ones capable not only of supporting it, but of shedding light on it” (ibid.).

El Gaucho Martín Fierro, a classic of literature in my native land, says: “Brothers should stand by each other, because this is the first law; keep a true bond between you always, at every time – because if you fight among yourselves, you’ll be devoured by those outside”.

The contemporary world, so apparently connected, is experiencing a growing and steady social fragmentation, which places at risk “the foundations of social life” and consequently leads to “battles over conflicting interests” (Laudato Si’, 229).

The present time invites us to give priority to actions which generate new processes in society, so as to bear fruit in significant and positive historical events (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 223). We cannot permit ourselves to postpone “certain agendas” for the future. The future demands of us critical and global decisions in the face of world-wide conflicts which increase the number of the excluded and those in need.

The praiseworthy international juridical framework of the United Nations Organization and of all its activities, like any other human endeavour, can be improved, yet it remains necessary; at the same time it can be the pledge of a secure and happy future for future generations. And so it will, if the representatives of the States can set aside partisan and ideological interests, and sincerely strive to serve the common good. I pray to Almighty God that this will be the case, and I assure you of my support and my prayers, and the support and prayers of all the faithful of the Catholic Church, that this Institution, all its member States, and each of its officials, will always render an effective service to mankind, a service respectful of diversity and capable of bringing out, for sake of the common good, the best in each people and in every individual.

May God bless you all.


Pope’s Address to UN Staff Members

“Behind the scenes, your daily efforts make possible many of the diplomatic, cultural, economic and political initiatives of the United Nations, which are so important for meeting the hopes and expectations of the peoples who make up our human family.”

By Staff Reporter

New York City, September 25, 2015

Here is the text of the address delivered by Pope Francis to members of the UN Staff.

* * *

Dear Friends,

On the occasion of my visit to the United Nations, I am pleased to greet you, the men and women who are, in many ways, the backbone of this Organization. I thank you for your welcome, and I am grateful for all that you have done to prepare for my visit. I would ask you also to offer my greetings to the members of your families and to your colleagues who could not be with us today...because of the lottery (Laughter)

The vast majority of the work done here is not of the kind that makes the news. Behind the scenes, your daily efforts make possible many of the diplomatic, cultural, economic and political initiatives of the United Nations, which are so important for meeting the hopes and expectations of the peoples who make up our human family. You are experts and experienced fieldworkers, officials and secretaries, translators and interpreters, cleaners and cooks, maintenance and security personnel. Thank you for all that you do!

Your quiet and devoted work not only contributes to the betterment of the United Nations. It also has great significance for you personally. For how we work expresses our dignity and the kind of persons we are.

Many of you have come to this city from countries the world over. As such, you are a microcosm of the peoples which this Organization represents and seeks to serve. Like so many other people worldwide, you are concerned about your children’s welfare and education. You worry about the future of the planet, and what kind of a world we will leave for future generations. But today, and everyday, I would ask each of you, whatever your capacity, to care for one another. Be close to one another, respect one another, and so embody among yourselves this Organization’s ideal of a united human family, living in harmony, working not only for peace, but in peace; working not only for justice, but in a spirit of justice.

Dear friends, I bless each one of you from my heart. I will pray for you and your families, and I ask each of you, please, to remember to pray for me. And if any of you are not believers, I ask you to wish me well. God bless you all.

Thank you.

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Pope’s Off-the-Cuff Address to Families

"All of the love that God has in Himself, all of the beauty that God has in Himself, all of the truth that God has in Himself, He gives to the family"

By Staff Reporter

Philadelphia, September 26, 2015

Here is a transcription and translation of the address Pope Francis gave this evening at the Festival of Families at the World Meeting of Families. He chose not to follow his prepared text and instead gave the following address off-the-cuff.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters, dear families,

Thank you to those who have given their testimonies. Thank you to those who have brought us joy with their art, with beauty, which is the path to reach God. Beauty brings us to God. And a true testimony brings us to God, because God also is the truth, He is beauty, He is goodness, and a testimony given to serve is good, it makes us good people, because God is good. It brings us to God. All that is good, all that is true, all that is beautiful brings us to God. Because God is good, God is beautiful, God is the truth. 

Thank you to everyone who gave us a message here and [thank you] for the presence of all of you, which is also a testimony, a true testimony that it is worthwhile to live as a family, that a society grows strong, grows in goodness, grows in beauty and truly grows if it is built on the foundation of the family.

Once, a boy asked me — you know that children ask hard questions — he asked me, "Father, what did God do before He created the world?" I can tell you that it was hard for me to come up with an answer. I told him what I’m saying now to you. Before creating the world, God loved, because God is love. But there was so much love that He had within Himself, this love between the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, it was so great, so overflowing that — I don’t know if this is very theological, but you’ll understand what I mean — it was so great that He couldn't be egotistical. He had to come out of Himself so as to have that which He could love outside of Himself.

And there God created the world. There God made this marvel in which we live and, since we’re a little mixed up, we are destroying it. But the most beautiful thing that God made, the Bible says, was the family. He created man and woman, and He gave them everything. He gave them the world! Grow, multiply, cultivate the earth, make it produce, make it grow. He presented to a family all of the love that He made in this marvelous creation.

Let’s go back a bit. All of the love that God has in Himself, all of the beauty that God has in Himself, all of the truth that God has in Himself, He gives to the family. And a family is truly a family when it is able to open its arms and receive all of this love.

Obviously, earthly paradise is here no longer. Life has its problems. Men, because of the devil’s astuteness, learned to have divisions among themselves. And all of this love that God had given was nearly lost. And shortly thereafter, the first crime, the first fratricide. A brother kills another brother: war. The love, the beauty, and the truth of God — and the destruction of war. And between these two poles, we walk today. We have to decide. We have to decide on which path to walk.

But let’s go back. When the man and his wife made the mistake and distanced themselves from God, God did not leave them alone. There was so much love, so much love that He began to walk with humanity. He began to walk with His people, until the fullness of time arrived, and He gave the greatest sign of His love, His Son.

And His Son, where did He send Him? To a palace? To a city, to start a business? He sent Him to a family! God came into the world in a family.

And he was able to do this because this family was a family that had its heart open to love, that had the doors open to love. Let’s think of Mary, this young woman. She couldn’t believe it. "How can this be?" And when it was explained to her, she obeyed. Let’s think of Joseph, full of dreams to form a household. He finds himself with this surprise that he doesn’t understand. He accepts. He obeys. And in the obedience of love of this woman, Mary, and of this man, Joseph, a family is created into which comes God. 

God always knocks at the door of hearts. He likes to do this. It comes from His heart. But, do you know what He likes best? To knock on the doors of families and find families that are united, to find families that love each other, to find the families that bring up their children and educate them and help them to keep going forward and that create a society of goodness, of truth, and of beauty.

We are in the Festival of Families. The family has a divine passport, is that clear? The passport that a family has is issued it by God, so that within its heart, truth, love, and beauty would grow more and more. 

Sure, one of you could say to me, "Father, you speak this way because you’re single." In families, there are difficulties. In families, we argue; in families, sometimes the plates fly; in families, the children give us headaches. And I’m not even going to mention the mother-in-law. But in families, there is always, always, the cross. Always. Because the love of God, of the Son of God, also opened for us this path. But, in families as well, after the cross, there is the resurrection. Because the Son of God opened for us this path. Because of this, the family is — forgive the term I’ll use — it is a factory of hope, of hope of life and of resurrection. God was the one who opened this path.

And the children. The children make us work. We, too, as sons and daughters also created work. 

Sometimes, at home, I see some of my collaborators who come into work with dark circles under their eyes. They have a baby who is a month old, or two moths old, and I ask them, "You didn’t sleep?" "Oh no, he cried all night long." In families, there are difficulties, but these difficulties are overcome with love. Hate doesn’t overcome any difficulty. Division of hearts doesn’t overcome any difficulty. Only love is capable of overcoming difficulties. Love is a festival. Love is joy. Love is to keep moving forward. 

And I don’t want to continue talking, because this will get too long. But I would like to stress two points regarding the family which I would like you to pay special attention to. Not only would I like you to do this, but we must pay special attention to this: the children and the grandparents. Children and young people are the future, they are the strength, those who take us forward. They are the ones in which we place our hope. Grandparents are the memory of a family, they are the ones who gave us the faith, transmitted to us the faith.

To take care of the grandparents and to take care of the children is the sign of love — I don’t know if it’s the greatest but I would say the most promising [sign of love] of the family, because it promises the future. A people that does not know how to care for the children and a people that does not know how to care for the grandparents is a people without a future, because it doesn’t have strength and it doesn’t have the memory that will carry it forward.

And well, the family is beautiful, but it is costly. It brings problems. In the family, sometimes there is enmity. The husband fights with the wife or they give each other dirty looks, or the children with the parents … I advise one thing: Never end the day without making peace in the family. In a family, a day cannot end at war. 

May God bless you. May God give you strength. May God strengthen you to keep moving forward. Let us care for the family. Let us defend the family, because there, there, our future is in play. Thank you, may God bless you and pray for me, please.


Text of Pope's Prepared Address for Festival of Families

"God did not want to come into the world other than through a family. God did not want to draw near to humanity other than through a home"

By Staff Reporter

Philadelphia, September 26, 2015

This is a Vatican translation of the text that Pope Francis had prepared for the Festival of Families at the World Meeting of Families this evening. He left aside this text and spoke off-the-cuff.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Dear Families,

First of all, I want to thank the families who were willing to share their life stories with us. Thank you for your witness! It is always a gift to listen to families share their life experiences; it touches our hearts. We feel that they speak to us about things that are very personal and unique, which in some way involve all of us. In listening to their experiences, we can feel ourselves drawn in, challenged as married couples and parents, as children, brothers and sisters, and grandparents.

As I was listening, I was thinking how important it is for us to share our home life and to help one another in this marvelous and challenging task of “being a family”.

Being with you makes me think of one of the most beautiful mysteries of our Christian faith. God did not want to come into the world other than through a family. God did not want to draw near to humanity other than through a home. God did not want any other name for himself than Emmanuel (cf. Mt 1:23). He is “God with us”. This was his desire from the beginning, his purpose, his constant effort: to say to us: “I am God with you, I am God for you”. He is the God who from the very beginning of creation said: “It is not good for man to be alone” (Gen 2:18). We can add: it is not good for woman to be alone, it is not good for children, the elderly or the young to be alone. It is not good. That is why a man leaves his father and mother, and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one flesh (cf. Gen 2:24). The two are meant to be a home, a family.

From time immemorial, in the depths of our heart, we have heard those powerful words: it is not good for you to be alone. The family is the great blessing, the great gift of this “God with us”, who did not want to abandon us to the solitude of a life without others, without challenges, without a home.

God does not dream by himself, he tries to do everything “with us”. His dream constantly comes true in the dreams of many couples who work to make their life that of a family.

That is why the family is the living symbol of the loving plan of which the Father once dreamed. To want to form a family is to resolve to be a part of God’s dream, to choose to dream with him, to want to build with him, to join him in this saga of building a world where no one will feel alone, unwanted or homeless.

As Christians, we appreciate the beauty of the family and of family life as the place where we come to learn the meaning and value of human relationships. We learn that “to love someone is not just a strong feeling – it is a decision, it is a judgment, it is a promise” (Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving). We learn to stake everything on another person, and we learn that it is worth it.

Jesus was not a confirmed bachelor, far from it! He took the Church as his bride, and made her a people of his own. He laid down his life for those he loved, so that his bride, the Church, could always know that he is God with us, his people, his family. We cannot understand Christ without his Church, just as we cannot understand the Church without her spouse, Christ Jesus, who gave his life out of love, and who makes us see that it is worth the price.

Laying down one’s life out of love is not easy. As with the Master, “staking everything” can sometimes involve the cross. Times when everything seems uphill. I think of all those parents, all those families who lack employment or workers’ rights, and how this is a true cross. How many sacrifices they make to earn their daily bread! It is understandable that, when these parents return home, they are so weary that they cannot give their best to their children.

I think of all those families which lack housing or live in overcrowded conditions. Families which lack the basics to be able to build bonds of closeness, security and protection from troubles of any kind.

I think of all those families which lack access to basic health services. Families which, when faced with medical problems, especially those of their younger or older members, are dependent on a system which fails to meet their needs, is insensitive to their pain, and forces them to make great sacrifices to receive adequate treatment.

We cannot call any society healthy when it does not leave real room for family life. We cannot think that a society has a future when it fails to pass laws capable of protecting families and ensuring their basic needs, especially those of families just starting out. How many problems would be solved if our societies protected families and provided households, especially those of recently married couples, with the possibility of dignified work, housing and healthcare services to accompany them throughout life.

God’s dream does not change; it remains intact and it invites us to work for a society which supports families. A society where bread, “fruit of the earth and the work of human hands” continues to be put on the table of every home, to nourish the hope of its children.

Let us help one another to make it possible to “stake everything on love”. Let us help one another at times of difficulty and lighten each other’s burdens. Let us support one another. Let us be families which are a support for other families.

Perfect families do not exist. This must not discourage us. Quite the opposite. Love is something we learn; love is something we live; love grows as it is “forged” by the concrete situations which each particular family experiences. Love is born and constantly develops amid lights and shadows. Love can flourish in men and women who try not to make conflict the last word, but rather a new opportunity. An opportunity to seek help, an opportunity to question how we need to improve, an opportunity to discover the God who is with us and never abandons us. This is a great legacy that we can give to our children, a very good lesson: we make mistakes, yes; we have problems, yes. But we know that that is not really what counts. We know that mistakes, problems and conflicts are an opportunity to draw closer to others, to draw closer to God.

This evening we have come together to pray, to pray as a family, to make our homes the joyful face of the Church. To meet that God who did not want to come into our world in any other way than through a family. To meet “God with us”, the God who is always in our midst.


Pope's Address in Philadelphia on Religious Freedom

"Religious liberty, by its nature, transcends places of worship and the private sphere of individuals and families"

By Staff Reporter

Philadelphia, September 26, 2015

Here is a Vatican translation of the address Pope Francis gave this afternoon in Philadelphia, at a meeting with immigrants on the theme of religious freedom. ZENIT's transcription and translation of his few off-the-cuff remarks are found in brackets.

* * *

Dear Friends, [good afternoon,]

One of the highlights of my visit is to stand here, before Independence Mall, the birthplace of the United States of America. It was here that the freedoms which define this country were first proclaimed. The Declaration of Independence stated that all men and women are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, and that governments exist to protect and defend those rights. Those ringing words continue to inspire us today, even as they have inspired peoples throughout the world to fight for the freedom to live in accordance with their dignity.

But history also shows that these or any truths must constantly be reaffirmed, re-appropriated and defended. The history of this nation is also the tale of a constant effort, lasting to our own day, to embody those lofty principles in social and political life. We remember the great struggles which led to the abolition of slavery, the extension of voting rights, the growth of the labor movement, and the gradual effort to eliminate every kind of racism and prejudice directed at successive waves of new Americans. This shows that, when a country is determined to remain true to its founding principles, based on respect for human dignity, it is strengthened and renewed. [When a country holds on to the memory of its roots, it continues to grow, it renews itself and continues receiving within itself new peoples and new persons who come.]

All of us benefit from remembering our past. A people which remembers does not repeat past errors; instead, it looks with confidence to the challenges of the present and the future. Remembrance saves a people’s soul from whatever or whoever would attempt to dominate it or use it for their interests. When individuals and communities are guaranteed the effective exercise of their rights, they are not only free to realize their potential, they also contribute -- [with these capacities, with their work] -- to the welfare and enrichment of society.

In this place which is symbolic of the [United States] way, I would like to reflect with you on the right to religious freedom. It is a fundamental right which shapes the way we interact socially and personally with our neighbors whose religious views differ from our own. [The ideal of interreligious dialogue where all men and women of different religious traditions can dialogue without fighting. Religious liberty gives this.]

Religious freedom certainly means the right to worship God, individually and in community, as our consciences dictate. But religious liberty, by its nature, transcends places of worship and the private sphere of individuals and families. [Because the religious reality, the religious dimension, is not a subculture. It is part of the culture of any people and any nation.]

Our various religious traditions serve society primarily by the message they proclaim. They call individuals and communities to worship God, the source of all life, liberty and happiness. They remind us of the transcendent dimension of human existence and our irreducible freedom in the face of every claim to [any] absolute power. We need but look at history, [it serves us well to look at history,] especially the history of the last century, to see the atrocities perpetrated by systems which claimed to build one or another “earthly paradise” by dominating peoples, subjecting them to apparently indisputable principles and denying them any kind of rights. Our rich religious traditions seek to offer meaning and direction, “they have an enduring power to open new horizons, to stimulate thought, to expand the mind and heart” (Evangelii Gaudium, 256). They call to conversion, reconciliation, concern for the future of society, self-sacrifice in the service of the common good, and compassion for those in need. At the heart of their spiritual mission is the proclamation of the truth and dignity of the human person and human rights.

Our religious traditions remind us that, as human beings, we are called to acknowledge an Other, who reveals our relational identity in the face of every effort to impose “a uniformity to which the egotism of the powerful, the conformism of the weak, or the ideology of the utopian would seek to impose on us” (M. de Certeau).

In a world where various forms of modern tyranny seek to suppress religious freedom, or try to reduce it to a subculture without right to a voice in the public square, or to use religion as a pretext for hatred and brutality, it is imperative that the followers of the various religions join their voices in calling for peace, tolerance and respect for the dignity and rights of others.

We live in a world subject to the “globalization of the technocratic paradigm” (Laudato Si’, 106), which consciously aims at a one-dimensional uniformity and seeks to eliminate all differences and traditions in a superficial quest for unity. The religions thus have the right and the duty to make clear that it is possible to build a society where “a healthy pluralism which respects differences and values them as such” (Evangelii Gaudium, 255) is a “precious ally in the commitment to defending human dignity… and a path to peace in our troubled world” (ibid., 257) [so troubled by war].

The Quakers who founded Philadelphia were inspired by a profound evangelical sense of the dignity of each individual and the ideal of a community united by brotherly love. This conviction led them to found a colony which would be a haven of religious freedom and tolerance. That sense of fraternal concern for the dignity of all, especially the weak and the vulnerable, became an essential part of the North American spirit. During his visit to the United States in 1987, Saint John Paul II paid moving homage to this, reminding all Americans that: “The ultimate test of your greatness is the way you treat every human being, but especially the weakest and most defenseless ones” (Farewell Address, 19 September 1987, 3).

I take this opportunity to thank all those, of whatever religion, who have sought to serve the God of peace by building cities of brotherly love, by caring for our neighbors in need, by defending the dignity of God’s gift of life in all its stages, by defending the cause of the poor and the immigrant. All too often, [and everywhere], those most in need of our help are unable to be heard. You are their voice, and many of you, [men and women religious], have faithfully made their cry heard. In this witness, which frequently encounters powerful resistance, you remind North American democracy of the ideals for which it was founded, and that society is weakened whenever and wherever [any] injustice prevails.

[Just a while ago, I spoke of the tendency toward globalization. Globalization isn't bad. On the contrary, the tendency toward globalizing ourselves is good. It unites us. What can be bad is the way of doing this. If a type of globalization aims to reduce everyone to uniformity like a sphere, this globalization destroys the richness and the uniqueness of each person and each people. If a type of globalization seeks to unite everyone but respecting each person, respecting him as a person, his richness, his uniqueness, respecting each people, its richness, each person, then this globalization is good and it enables all of us to grow, and it brings peace. I'd like to use a bit of geometry here. If globalization is a sphere, where every point is equal, equidistant from the center, it decimates, it's not good. If globalization is like a polyhedron where all are united but each one conserves his own identity, it's good and it brings a people to grow, and gives dignity to all people and grants them rights.]

Among us today are members of America’s large Hispanic population, as well as representatives of recent immigrants to the United States. [Thank you for opening the door.] I greet all of you with particular affection! Many of you have emigrated to this country at great personal cost, but in the hope of building a new life. Do not be discouraged by whatever challenges and hardships you face. I ask you not to forget that, like those who came here before you, you bring many gifts to your new nation. [Please,] you should never be ashamed of your traditions. Do not forget the lessons you learned from your elders, which are something you can bring to enrich the life of this American land. I repeat, do not be ashamed of what is part of you, your life blood. You are also called to be responsible citizens, [you are called to be responsible citizens] and to contribute [as did those who came before, with so much effort; to contribute] fruitfully to the life of the communities in which you live. I think in particular of the vibrant faith which so many of you possess, the deep sense of family life and all this e other values which you have inherited. By contributing your gifts, you will not only find your place here, you will help to renew society from within. [To not forget the memory of what happened here more than two centuries ago. To not forget the memory of that Declaration that proclaimed that all men and women are created equal and that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, and that governments exist to protect and defend those rights.]

Dear friends, I thank you for your warm welcome and for joining me here today. [Let us conserve liberty, take care of liberty, liberty of conscience, religious liberty, the liberty of each family, of each people, which is what gives space to rights.] May this country and each of you be renewed in gratitude for the many blessings and freedoms that you enjoy. And may you defend these rights, especially your religious freedom, for it has been given to you by God himself. May he bless you all. [And I ask you, please, to pray a little for me.]

[My brothers and sisters in Christ, now let us offer together the prayer Jesus taught us. Our Father … ]


Pope's Homily at Mass With Priests and Religious of Philadelphia

"One of the great challenges facing the Church in this generation is to foster in all the faithful a sense of personal responsibility for the Church’s mission, and to enable them to fulfill that responsibility as missionary disciples, as a leaven of the Gospel in our world."

By Staff Reporter

Philadelphia, September 26, 2015

Here is the translation of Pope Francis' Homily at Mass with Priests and Religious of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia at Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral.

* * * 

This morning I learned something about the history of this beautiful Cathedral: the story behind its high walls and windows. I would like to think, though, that the history of the Church in this city and state is really a story not about building walls, but about breaking them down. It is a story about generation after generation of committed Catholics going out to the peripheries, and building communities of worship, education, charity and service to the larger society.

That story is seen in the many shrines which dot this city, and the many parish churches whose towers and steeples speak of God’s presence in the midst of our communities. It is seen in the efforts of all those dedicated priests, religious and laity who for over two centuries have ministered to the spiritual needs of the poor, the immigrant, the sick and those in prison. And it is seen in the hundreds of schools where religious brothers and sisters trained children to read and write, to love God and neighbor, and to contribute as good citizens to the life of American society. All of this is a great legacy which you have received, and which you have been called to enrich and pass on.

Most of you know the story of Saint Katharine Drexel, one of the great saints raised up by this local Church. When she spoke to Pope Leo XIII of the needs of the missions, the Pope – he was a very wise Pope! – asked her pointedly: “What about you? What are you going to do?”. Those words changed Katharine’s life, because they reminded her that, in the end, every Christian man and woman, by virtue of baptism, has received a mission. Each one of us has to respond, as best we can, to the Lord’s call to build up his Body, the Church.

“What about you?” I would like to dwell on two aspects of these words in the context of our particular mission to transmit the joy of the Gospel and to build up the Church, whether as priests, deacons, or members of institutes of consecrated life.

First, those words – “What about you?” – were addressed to a young person, a young woman with high ideals, and they changed her life. They made her think of the immense work that had to be done, and to realize that she was being called to do her part. How many young people in our parishes and schools have the same high ideals, generosity of spirit, and love for Christ and the Church! Do we challenge them? Do we make space for them and help them to do their part? To find ways of sharing their enthusiasm and gifts with our communities, above all in works of mercy and concern for others? Do we share our own joy and enthusiasm in serving the Lord?

One of the great challenges facing the Church in this generation is to foster in all the faithful a sense of personal responsibility for the Church’s mission, and to enable them to fulfill that responsibility as missionary disciples, as a leaven of the Gospel in our world. This will require creativity in adapting to changed situations, carrying forward the legacy of the past not primarily by maintaining our structures and institutions, which have served us well, but above all by being open to the possibilities which the Spirit opens up to us and communicating the joy of the Gospel, daily and in every season of our life.

“What about you?” It is significant that those words of the elderly Pope were also addressed to a lay woman. We know that the future of the Church in a rapidly changing society will call, and even now calls, for a much more active engagement on the part of the laity. The Church in the United States has always devoted immense effort to the work of catechesis and education. Our challenge today is to build on those solid foundations and to foster a sense of collaboration and shared responsibility in planning for the future of our parishes and institutions. This does not mean relinquishing the spiritual authority with which we have been entrusted; rather, it means discerning and employing wisely the manifold gifts which the Spirit pours out upon the Church. In a particular way, it means valuing the immense contribution which women, lay and religious, have made and continue to make, to the life of our communities.

Dear brothers and sisters, I thank you for the way in which each of you has answered Jesus’ question which inspired your own vocation: “What about you?”. I encourage you to be renewed in the joy of that first encounter with Jesus and to draw from that joy renewed fidelity and strength. I look forward to being with you in these days and I ask you to bring my affectionate greetings to those who could not be with us, especially the many elderly priests and religious who join us in spirit.

During these days of the World Meeting of Families, I would ask you in a particular way to reflect on our ministry to families, to couples preparing for marriage, and to our young people. I know how much is being done in your local Churches to respond to the needs of families and to support them in their journey of faith. I ask you to pray fervently for them, and for the deliberations of the forthcoming Synod on the Family.

Now, with gratitude for all we have received, and with confident assurance in all our needs, let us turn to Mary, our Blessed Mother. With a mother’s love, may she intercede for the growth of the Church in America in prophetic witness to the power of her Son’s Cross to bring joy, hope and strength into our world. I pray for each of you, and I ask you, please, to pray for me.

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

 

Pope's Farewell Address

"Your care for me and your generous welcome are a sign of your love for Jesus and your faithfulness to him. So too is your care for the poor, the sick, the homeless and the immigrant, your defense of life at every stage, and your concern for family life"

By Staff Reporter

Philadelphia, September 27, 2015

Here is the text of the address Pope Francis gave this evening in Philadelphia shortly before departing for Rome.

* * *

Mr. Vice-President, 

Distinguished Authorities, 

My Brother Bishops, 

Dear Friends, 

My days with you have been brief. But they have been days of great grace for me and, I pray, for you too. Please know that as I prepare to leave, I do so with a heart full of gratitude and hope. 

I am grateful to all of you and to the many others who worked so hard to make my visit possible and to prepare for the World Meeting of Families. In a particular way I thank Archbishop Chaput and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the civil authorities, the organizers, and all the many volunteers and benefactors who assisted in ways large and small. 

I also thank the families who shared their witness during the Meeting. It is not so easy to speak openly of one’s life journey! But their honesty and humility before the Lord and each of us showed the beauty of family life in all its richness and diversity. I pray that our days of prayer and reflection on the importance of the family for a healthy society will inspire families to continue to strive for holiness and to see the Church as their constant companion, whatever the challenges they may face. 

At the end of my visit, I would also like to thank all those who prepared for my stay in the Archdioceses of Washington and New York. It was particularly moving for me to canonize Saint Junípero Serra, who reminds us all of our call to be missionary disciples, and I was also very moved to stand with my brothers and sisters of other religions at Ground Zero, that place which speaks so powerfully of the mystery of evil. Yet we know with certainty that evil never has the last word, and that, in God’s merciful plan, love and peace triumph over all. 

Mr. Vice-President, I ask you to renew my gratitude to President Obama and to the Members of Congress, together with the assurance of my prayers for the American people. This land has been blessed with tremendous gifts and opportunities. I pray that you may all be good and generous stewards of the human and material resources entrusted to you. 

I thank the Lord that I was able to witness the faith of God’s people in this country, as manifested in our moments of prayer together and evidenced in so many works of charity. Jesus says in the Scriptures: “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me”. Your care for me and your generous welcome are a sign of your love for Jesus and your faithfulness to him. So too is your care for the poor, the sick, the homeless and the immigrant, your defense of life at every stage, and your concern for family life. In all of this, you recognize that Jesus is in your midst and that your care for one another is care for Jesus himself. 

As I leave, I ask all of you, especially the volunteers and benefactors who assisted with the World Meeting of Families: do not let your enthusiasm for Jesus, his Church, our families, and the broader family of society run dry. May our days together bear fruit that will last, generosity and care for others that will endure! Just as we have received so much from God –gifts freely given us, and not of our own making – so let us freely give to others in return. 

Dear friends, I embrace all of you in the Lord and I entrust you to the maternal care of Mary Immaculate, Patroness of the United States. I will pray for you and your families, and I ask you, please, to pray for me. May God bless you all. God bless America!


Pope's Homily at Conclusion of World Meeting of Families

"Love is shown by little things, by attention to small daily signs which make us feel at home. Faith grows when it is lived and shaped by love. That is why our families, our homes, are true domestic churches"

By Staff Reporter

Philadelphia, September 27, 2015

Here is a Vatican translation of the homily Pope Francis gave this afternoon at the closing Mass of the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. A transcription and translation of the remarks he added off-the-cuff are included in brackets.

* * *

Today the word of God surprises us with powerful and thought-provoking images. Images which challenge us, but also stir our enthusiasm. 

In the first reading, Joshua tells Moses that two members of the people are prophesying, speaking God’s word, without a mandate. In the Gospel, John tells Jesus that the disciples had stopped someone from casting out evil spirits in the name of Jesus. Here is the surprise: Moses and Jesus both rebuke those closest to them for being so narrow! Would that all could be prophets of God’s word! Would that everyone could work miracles in the Lord’s name! 

Jesus encountered hostility from people who did not accept what he said and did. For them, his openness to the honest and sincere faith of many men and women who were not part of God’s chosen people seemed intolerable. The disciples, for their part, acted in good faith. But the temptation to be scandalized by the freedom of God, who sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous alike (Mt 5:45), bypassing bureaucracy, officialdom and inner circles, threatens the authenticity of faith. Hence it must be vigorously rejected. 

Once we realize this, we can understand why Jesus’ words about causing “scandal” are so harsh. For Jesus, the truly “intolerable” scandal consists in everything that breaks down and destroys our trust in the working of the Spirit! 

Our Father will not be outdone in generosity and he continues to scatter seeds. He scatters the seeds of his presence in our world, for “love consists in this, not that we have loved God but that he loved us” first (1 Jn 4:10). That love gives us a profound certainty: we are sought by God; he waits for us. It is this confidence which makes disciples encourage, support and nurture the good things happening all around them. God wants all his children to take part in the feast of the Gospel. Jesus says, “Do not hold back anything that is good, instead help it to grow!” To raise doubts about the working of the Spirit, to give the impression that it cannot take place in those who are not “part of our group”, who are not “like us”, is a dangerous temptation. Not only does it block conversion to the faith; it is a perversion of faith! 

Faith opens a “window” to the presence and working of the Spirit. It shows us that, like happiness, holiness is always tied to little gestures. “Whoever gives you a cup of water in my name will not go unrewarded”, says Jesus (cf. Mk 9:41). These little gestures are those we learn at home, in the family; they get lost amid all the other things we do, yet they do make each day different. They are the quiet things done by mothers and grandmothers, by fathers and grandfathers, by children, [by siblings]. They are little signs of tenderness, affection and compassion. Like the warm supper we look forward to at night, the early lunch awaiting someone who gets up early to go to work. Homely gestures. Like a blessing before we go to bed, or a hug after we return from a hard day’s work. Love is shown by little things, by attention to small daily signs which make us feel at home. Faith grows when it is lived and shaped by love. That is why our families, our homes, are true domestic churches. They are the right place for faith to become life, and life to [grow in] faith. 

Jesus tells us not to hold back these little miracles. Instead, he wants us to encourage them, to spread them. He asks us to go through life, our everyday life, encouraging all these little signs of love as signs of his own living and active presence in our world. 

So we might ask ourselves, [today, here, at the end of this festival]: How are we trying to live this way in our homes, in our societies? What kind of world do we want to leave to our children (cf. Laudato Si’, 160)? We cannot answer these questions alone, by ourselves. It is the Spirit who challenges us to respond as part of the great human family. Our common house can no longer tolerate sterile divisions. The urgent challenge of protecting our home includes the effort to bring the entire human family together in the pursuit of a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change (cf. ibid., 13). May our children find in us models and incentives to communion! [Not of division.] May our children find in us men and women capable of joining others in bringing to full flower all the good seeds which the Father has sown! 

Pointedly, yet affectionately, Jesus tells us: “If you, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Lk 11:13). How much wisdom there is in these few words! It is true that, as far as goodness and purity of heart are concerned, we human beings don’t have much to show! But Jesus knows that, where children are concerned, we are capable of boundless generosity. So he reassures us: if only we have faith, the Father will give us his Spirit. 

We Christians, the Lord’s disciples, ask the families of the world to help us! How many of us are here at this celebration! This is itself something prophetic, a kind of miracle in today’s world, [which is tired of inventing new divisions, new sufferings, new disasters]. Would that we could all be prophets! Would that all of us could be open to miracles of love for the sake of [our own family and] all the families of the world, and thus overcome the scandal of a narrow, petty love, closed in on itself, impatient of others! 

[I leave you a question for each one to answer to himself, since I said the word impatient: In my house, do we yell? Or do we speak with love and tenderness? This is a good way to measure our love.]

And how beautiful it would be if everywhere, even beyond our borders, we could appreciate and encourage this prophecy and this miracle! We renew our faith in the word of the Lord which invites faithful families to this openness. It invites all those who want to share the prophecy of the covenant of man and woman, which generates life and reveals God. [May he help us to participate in the prophecy of peace, of tenderness and family affection. May he help us to participate in this prophetic gesture of caring for our children and our grandparents with tenderness, patience and love.]

Anyone who wants to bring into this world a family which teaches children to be excited by every gesture aimed at overcoming evil – a family which shows that the Spirit is alive and at work – will encounter our gratitude and our appreciation. Whatever the family, people, region, or religion to which they belong! 

May God grant to all of us [to be prophets of the joy of the Gospel, of the Gospel of the family, of the love of families. To be prophets], as the Lord’s disciples, [and grant us] the grace to be worthy of this purity of heart which is not scandalized by the Gospel! [Amen]


Pope's Address to Bishops From Around the World Attending Meeting of Families

"We might well ask whether in our pastoral ministry we are ready to “waste” time with families. Whether we are ready to be present to them, sharing their difficulties and joys"

By Staff Reporter

Philadelphia, September 27, 2015

Here is a Vatican translation of the address Pope Francis gave this morning when he met in Philadelphia with bishops from the around the world who are in town to attend the World Meeting of Families.

He began his address sharing a brief reflection from the meeting he had had just before this event with victims of sexual abuse.

A ZENIT translation and transcription of remarks he added off-the-cuff is in brackets.

* * *

Dear Brother Bishops, [Good morning]

I hold the stories and the suffering and the sorrow of children who were sexually abused by priests deep in my heart. I remain overwhelmed with shame that men entrusted with the tender care of children violated these little ones and caused grievous harm. I am profoundly sorry. God weeps.

The crimes and sins of the sexual abuse of children must no longer be held in secret. I pledge the zealous vigilance of the Church to protect children and the promise of accountability for all.

These, survivors of abuse have yourselves become true heralds of hope and ministers of mercy. We humbly owe each one of you and your families our gratitude for your immense courage to shine the light of Christ on the evil of the sexual abuse of children.

--

I am happy to be able to share these moments of pastoral reflection with you, amid the joyful celebrations for the World Meeting of Families.

[I am speaking in Spanish because they told me that all of you speak Spanish.] [laughter]

For the Church, the family is not first and foremost a cause for concern, but rather the joyous confirmation of God’s blessing upon the masterpiece of creation. Every day, all over the world, the Church can rejoice in the Lord’s gift of so many families who, even amid difficult trials, remain faithful to their promises and keep the faith!

I would say that the foremost pastoral challenge of our changing times is to move decisively towards recognizing this gift. For all the obstacles we see before us, gratitude and appreciation should prevail over concerns and complaints. The family is the fundamental locus of the covenant between the Church and God’s creation, [which God blessed on the last day with a family.] Without the family, not even the Church would exist. Nor could she be what she is called to be, namely “a sign and instrument of communion with God and of the unity of the entire human race” (Lumen Gentium, 1).

Needless to say, our understanding, shaped by the interplay of ecclesial faith and the conjugal experience of sacramental grace, must not lead us to disregard the unprecedented changes taking place in contemporary society, with their social, cultural – and now, [unfortunately] juridical – effects on family bonds. These changes affect all of us, believers and non-believers alike. Christians are not “immune” to the changes of their times. This concrete world, with all its many problems and possibilities, is where we must live, believe and proclaim.

Until recently, we lived in a social context where the similarities between the civil institution of marriage and the Christian sacrament were considerable and shared. The two were interrelated and mutually supportive. This is no longer the case. To describe our situation today, I would use two familiar images: our neighborhood stores and our large supermarkets.

There was a time when one neighborhood store had everything one needed for personal and family life. The products may not have been cleverly displayed, or offered much choice, but there was a personal bond between the shopkeeper and his customers. Business was done on the basis of trust, people knew one another, they were all neighbors. They trusted one another. They built up trust. These stores were often simply known as “the local market”.

Then a different kind of store grew up: the supermarket. Huge spaces with a great selection of merchandise. The world seems to have become one of these great supermarkets; our culture has become more and more competitive. Business is no longer conducted on the basis of trust; others can no longer be trusted. There are no longer close personal relationships. Today’s culture seems to encourage people not to bond with anything or anyone, not to trust. The most important thing nowadays seems to be to follow the latest trend or activity. This is even true of religion. Today consumerism determines what is important. Consuming relationships, consuming friendships, consuming religions, consuming, consuming… Whatever the cost or consequences. A consumption which does not favor bonding, a consumption which has little to do with human relationships. Social bonds are a mere “means” for the satisfaction of “my needs”. The important thing is no longer our neighbor, with his or her familiar face, story and personality.

The result is a culture which discards everything that is no longer “useful” or “satisfying” for the tastes of the consumer. We have turned our society into a huge multicultural showcase tied only to the tastes of certain “consumers”, while so many others only “eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table” (Mt 15:27).

This causes great harm. [A very great cultural harm.] I would say that at the root of so many contemporary situations is a kind of impoverishment born of a widespread and radical sense of loneliness. Running after the latest fad, accumulating “friends” on one of the social networks, we get caught up in what contemporary society has to offer. Loneliness with fear of commitment in a limitless effort to feel recognized.

Should we blame our young people for having grown up in this kind of society? Should we condemn them for living in this kind of a world? Should they hear their pastors saying that “it was all better back then”, “the world is falling apart and if things go on this way, who knows where we will end up?” [This sounds to me like what that one Argentinean is always saying.] No, I do not think that this is the way.

As shepherds following in the footsteps of the Good Shepherd, we are asked to seek out, to accompany, to lift up, to bind up the wounds of our time. To look at things realistically, with the eyes of one who feels called to action, to pastoral conversion. The world today demands this conversion on our part. “It is vitally important for the Church today to go forth and preach the Gospel to all: to all places, on all occasions, without hesitation, reluctance or fear. The joy of the Gospel is for all people: no one can be excluded” (Evangelii Gaudium, 23)

[The Gospel is not a product to consume. It is not part of this culture of consumerism.]

We would be mistaken, however, to see this “culture” of the present world as mere indifference towards marriage and the family, as pure and simple selfishness. Are today’s young people hopelessly timid, weak, inconsistent? We must not fall into this trap. Many young people, in the context of this culture of discouragement, have yielded to a form of unconscious acquiescence. They are paralyzed when they encounter the beautiful, noble and truly necessary challenges which faith sets before them. Many put off marriage while waiting for ideal conditions, when everything can be perfect. Meanwhile, life goes on, without really being lived to the full. For knowledge of life’s true pleasures only comes as the fruit of a long-term, generous investment of our intelligence, enthusiasm and passion.

[At Congress, a few days ago, I said that we are living in a culture that convinces and pushes young people toward not founding a family. Some because of a lack of material resources and others because they have so many resources that they are very comfortable as they are. And this is the temptation: to not found a family.]

As pastors, we bishops are called to collect our energies and to rebuild enthusiasm for making families correspond ever more fully to the blessing of God which they are! We need to invest our energies not so much in rehearsing the problems of the world around us and the merits of Christianity, but in extending a sincere invitation to young people to be brave and to opt for marriage and the family.

[In Buenos Aires, so many women lamented: "My son. He's 30 or 32 or 34 years old and he's not getting married! I don't know what to do." "Well, Señora, don't iron his shirts any more!

We have to make young people excited about taking this risk, because this is a risk for fecundity and life.]

Here too, we need a bit of holy parrhesia! 

["Why don't you get married?" "Yes, yes, I have a girlfriend, but we're not sure, if yes, or no." "We're saving up for the party, or for this other thing." A holy parrhesia to accompany them and bring them to mature toward the commitment of matrimony.]

A Christianity which “does” little in practice, while incessantly “explaining” its teachings, is dangerously unbalanced. I would even say that it is stuck in a vicious circle. A pastor must show that the “Gospel of the family” is truly “good news” in a world where self-concern seems to reign supreme! We are not speaking about some romantic dream: the perseverance which is called for in having a family and raising it transforms the world and human history.

A pastor serenely yet passionately proclaims the word of God. He encourages believers to aim high. He will enable his brothers and sisters to hear and experience God’s promise, which can expand their experience of motherhood and fatherhood within the horizon of a new “familiarity” with God (Mk 3:31-35).

A pastor watches over the dreams, the lives and the growth of his flock. This “watchfulness” is not the result of talking but of shepherding. Only one capable of standing “in the midst of” the flock can be watchful, not someone who is afraid of questions, contact, accompaniment. A pastor keeps watch first and foremost with prayer, supporting the faith of his people and instilling confidence in the Lord, in his presence. A pastor remains vigilant by helping people to lift their gaze at times of discouragement, frustration and failure. We might well ask whether in our pastoral ministry we are ready to “waste” time with families. Whether we are ready to be present to them, sharing their difficulties and joys.

Naturally, experiencing the spirit of this joyful familiarity with God, and spreading its powerful evangelical fruitfulness, has to be the primary feature of our lifestyle as bishops: a lifestyle of prayer and [in second place] preaching the Gospel (Acts 6:4).

[It's always caught my attention and I've been struck by the fact that at the beginning, at the beginnings of the Church, the Hellenists went to complain because the widows and the orphans were not being well taken care of. The apostles couldn't keep up, and they didn't take care of them sufficiently. And so they got together and invented deacons. The Holy Spirit inspired them to create deacons. And when Peter announced their decision, he explained: We're going to choose seven men to take care of this matter. And two things fall to us [bishops]: prayer and preaching. What is the first task of the bishop? It is to pray, to pray. And the second work, which goes along with this, is to preach. This dogmatic definition can help us ... and if I'm wrong, Cardinal Mueller ... It helps us. It helps because it defines what is the role of the bishop. The bishop is created to shepherd. He is a shepherd, but to shepherd first with prayer and with preaching. And afterward, everything else. If there's time.]

By our own humble Christian apprenticeship in the familial virtues of God’s people, we will become more and more like fathers and mothers (as did Saint Paul: cf. 1 Th 2:7,11), and less like people who have simply learned to live without a family. [How terrible. Very terrible.] Our ideal is not to live without love! A good pastor renounces the love of a family precisely in order to focus all his energies, and the grace of his particular vocation, on the evangelical blessing of the love of men and women who carry forward God’s plan of creation, beginning with those who are lost, abandoned, wounded, broken, downtrodden and deprived of their dignity. This total surrender to God’s agape is certainly not a vocation lacking in tenderness and affection! We need but look to Jesus to understand this (cf. Mt 19:12). The mission of a good pastor, in the style of God – and only God can authorize this, not our own presumption! – imitates in every way and for all people the Son’s love for the Father. This is reflected in the tenderness with which a pastor devotes himself to the loving care of the men and women of our human family.

For the eyes of faith, this is a most valuable sign. Our ministry needs to deepen the covenant between the Church and the family. [I emphasize this: deepen the covenant between the Church and the family.]  Otherwise it becomes arid, and the human family will grow irremediably distant, by our own fault, from God’s joyful good news [and it will go to the supermarket that's popular to buy the products that in this particular moment appeal to it the most.]

If we prove capable of the demanding task of reflecting God’s love, cultivating infinite patience and serenity as we strive to sow its seeds in the frequently crooked furrows in which we are called to plant, then even a Samaritan woman with five “non-husbands” will discover that she is capable of giving witness. And for every rich young man who with sadness feels that he has to calmly keep considering the matter, an older publican will come down from the tree and give fourfold to the poor, to whom, before that moment, he had never even given a thought.

[Brothers,] may God grant us this gift of a renewed closeness between the family and the Church. [The family needs it. The Church needs it. And we pastors need it.] The family is our ally, our window to the world, and the evidence of an irrevocable blessing of God destined for all the children who in every age are born into this difficult yet beautiful creation which God has asked us to serve! [Thank you very much.]


Pope's Address to Victims of Sexual Abuse

"For those who were abused by a member of the clergy, I am deeply sorry for the times when you or your family spoke out, to report the abuse, but you were not heard or believed. Please know that the Holy Father hears you and believes you."

By Staff Reporter

Philadelphia, September 27, 2015

Here is the Vatican translation of the Pope's address to victims of sexual abuse by the clergy, who he met with early this morning at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia. Following his address, the Pope met privately with each of the individuals present at the meeting. 

* * *

My dearest brothers and sisters in Christ, I am grateful for this opportunity to meet you. I am blessed by your presence. Thank you for coming here today.

Words cannot fully express my sorrow for the abuse you suffered. You are precious children of God who should always expect our protection, our care and our love. I am profoundly sorry that your innocence was violated by those who you trusted. In some cases the trust was betrayed by members of your own family, in other cases by priests who carry a sacred responsibility for the care of soul, In all circumstances, the betrayal was a terrible violation of human dignity.

For those who were abused by a member of the clergy, I am deeply sorry for the times when you or your family spoke out, to report the abuse, but you were not heard or believed. Please know that the Holy Father hears you and believes you. I deeply regret that some bishops failed in their responsibility to protect children. It is very disturbing to know that in some cases bishops even were abusers. I pledge to you that we will follow the path of truth wherever it may lead. Clergy and bishops will be held accountable when they abuse or fail to protect children.

We are gathered here in Philadelphia to celebrate God's gift of family life. Within our family of faith and our human families, the sins and crimes of sexual abuse of children must no longer be held in secret and in shame. As we anticipate the Jubilee Year of Mercy, your presence, so generously given despite the anger and pain you have experienced, reveals the merciful heart of Christ. Your stories of survival, each unique and compelling, are powerful signs of the hope that comes from the Lord's promise to be with us always.

It is good to know that you have brought family members and friends with you today. I am grateful for their compassionate support and pray that many people of the Church will respond to the call to accompany those who have suffered abuse. May the Door of Mercy be opened wide in our dioceses, our parishes, our homes and our hearts, to receive those who were abused and to seek the path to forgiveness by trusting in the Lord. We promise to support your continued healing and to always be vigilant to protect the children of today and tomorrow.

When the disciples who walked with Jesus on the road to Emmaus recognized that He was the Risen Lord, they asked Jesus to stay with them. Like those disciples, I humbly beg you and all survivors of abuse to stay with us, to stay with the Church, and that together, as pilgrims on the journey of faith, we might find our way to the Father.


Pope’s Address to Inmates of Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility

“Jesus comes to meet us, so that he can restore our dignity as children of God.”

By Staff Reporter

Philadelphia, September 27, 2015

Here is the translation of the Pope’s address to the inmates of the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Pennsylvania.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Thank you for receiving me and giving me the opportunity to be here with you and to share this time in your lives. It is a difficult time, one full of struggles. I know it is a painful time not only for you, but also for your families and for all of society. Any society, any family, which cannot share or take seriously the pain of its children, and views that pain as something normal or to be expected, is a society “condemned” to remain a hostage to itself, prey to the very things which cause that pain.

I am here as a pastor, but above all as a brother, to share your situation and to make it my own. I have come so that we can pray together and offer our God everything that causes us pain, but also everything that gives us hope, so that we can receive from him the power of the resurrection.

I think of the Gospel scene where Jesus washes the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper. This was something his disciples found hard to accept. Even Peter refused, and told him: “You will never wash my feet” (Jn 13:8).

In those days, it was the custom to wash someone’s feet when they came to your home. That was how they welcomed people. The roads were not paved, they were covered with dust, and little stones would get stuck in your sandals. Everyone walked those roads, which left their feet dusty, bruised or cut from those stones. That is why we see Jesus washing feet, our feet, the feet of his disciples, then and now.

Life is a journey, along different roads, different paths, which leave their mark on us.

We know in faith that Jesus seeks us out. He wants to heal our wounds, to soothe our feet which hurt from travelling alone, to wash each of us clean of the dust from our journey. He doesn’t ask us where we have been, he doesn’t question us about what we have done. Rather, he tells us: “Unless I wash your feet, you have no share with me” (Jn 13:8). Unless I wash your feet, I will not be able to give you the life which the Father always dreamed of, the life for which he created you. Jesus comes to meet us, so that he can restore our dignity as children of God. He wants to help us to set out again, to resume our journey, to recover our hope, to restore our faith and trust. He wants us to keep walking along the paths of life, to realize that we have a mission, and that confinement is not the same thing as exclusion.

Life means “getting our feet dirty” from the dust-filled roads of life and history. All of us need to be cleansed, to be washed. All of us, and me in first place. All of us are being sought out by the Teacher, who wants to help us resume our journey. The Lord goes in search of us; to all of us he stretches out a helping hand.

It is painful when we see prison systems which are not concerned to care for wounds, to soothe pain, to offer new possibilities. It is painful when we see people who think that only others need to be cleansed, purified, and do not recognize that their weariness, pain and wounds are also the weariness, pain and wounds of society. The Lord tells us this clearly with a sign: he washes our feet so we can come back to the table. The table from which he wishes no one to be excluded. The table which is spread for all and to which all of us are invited.

This time in your life can only have one purpose: to give you a hand in getting back on the right road, to give you a hand to help you rejoin society. All of us are part of that effort, all of us are invited to encourage, help and enable your rehabilitation. A rehabilitation which everyone seeks and desires: inmates and their families, correctional authorities, social and educational programs. A rehabilitation which benefits and elevates the morale of the entire community and society.

I encourage you to have this attitude with one another and with all those who in any way are part of this institution. May you make possible new opportunities, new journeys, new paths.

All of us have something we need to be cleansed of, or purified from. May the knowledge of that fact inspire us to live in solidarity, to support one another and seek the best for others.

Let us look to Jesus, who washes our feet. He is “the way, and the truth, and the life”. He comes to save us from the lie that says no one can change, from the lie that says no one can change. He helps us to journey along the paths of life and fulfillment. May the power of his love and his resurrection always be a path leading you to new life.

Seated now in silence, we ask the Lord to bless us.

May God bless you and protect, may His face shine upon you, and may He grant you peace.

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Text of Pope's Press Conference on Return Flight From the United States

Pope Responds to Reporters on Way Back to Rome

By Staff Reporter

Rome, September 28, 2015

Below is a translation of the press conference with Pope Francis and journalists on board the plane held on the return flight from the United States.

* * *

Pope Francis:

Good evening to all and thank you for the work because you went about from one place to the other and I was in a car but you… thank you very much.

Elizabeth Dias, Time Magazine:

Thank you so much Holy Father Elizabeth Dias from TIME magazine. We are all so curious…this was your first visit to the US. What surprised you about the US and what was different to what you might have expected?

Pope Francis:

It was my first visit. I’d never been here before. What surprised me was the warmth, the warmth of the people, so lovable. It was a beautiful thing and also different: in Washington the welcome was warm but more formal; New York was a bit exuberant. Philadelphia very expressive. Three different kinds of welcome. I was very struck by this kindness and welcome but also by the religious ceremonies and also by the piety, the religiosity of the people... you could see the people pray and this struck me a lot. Beautiful.

Elizabeth Dias, Time Magazine:

Was there some sort of challenge that you didn’t expect in the United States?  

Pope Francis:

No, thank God no…everything was good. No challenge. No provocation. Everyone was polite. No insults and nothing bad.

Elizabeth Dias, Time Magazine:

Well, what is the challenge?

Pope Francis:

We must continue to work with the faithful like we have always done, until now. Accompanying people in their growth - through the good times but also through the difficult ones - accompanying people in their joy and in their bad moments, in their difficulties when there is no work, ill health. The challenge of the Church… now I understand: the Church’s challenge is staying close to the people. Close to the United States… not being a Church which is detached from the people but close to them, close, close and this is something that the Church in America has understood, and understood well.

David O’Reilly, Philadelphia Inquirer:

Holy Father: Philadelphia, as you know, has had a very difficult time with sex abuse. It’s still an open wound in Philadelphia. So I know many people in Philadelphia were surprised that you offered bishops comfort and consolation and I think many in Philadelphia would ask you why did you feel the need to offer compassion to the bishops?

Pope Francis:

In Washington I spoke to all the US bishops… they were all there no? I felt the need to express compassion because something really terrible happened. And many of them suffered who did not know of this. I used words from the bible from Apocalypse: You are coming from a large tribulation. What happened was a great tribulation. But also the suffering (emotional). What I said today to the victims of abuse. I wouldn’t say an apotheosis but almost a sacrilege. We know abuses are everywhere: in families, in neighborhoods, in schools, in gyms. But when a priest abuses it is very serious because the vocation of the priest is to make that boy, that girl, grow towards the love of God, toward maturity, and towards good. Instead this is squashed and this is nearly a sacrilege and he betrayed his vocation, the calling of the Lord. For this reason the Church is strong on this and one must not cover these things up. Those who covered this up are guilty. Even some bishops who covered this up, It is a terrible thing and the words of comfort were not to say: ”Don’t worry that was nothing… no, no, no even some bishops who covered this up, It’s a terrible thing and the words of comfort were not to say “don’t worry that was nothing…no, no , no, but it was so bad that I imagine that you cried hard”… that was the sense of what I meant and today I spoke strongly.

Maria Antonieta Collins, Univision:

You have spoken a lot about forgiveness, that God forgives us and that we often ask for forgiveness. I would like to ask you, after you were at the seminary today. There are many priests that have committed sexual abuses to minors and have not asked for forgiveness for their victims. Do you forgive them? And on the other hand, do you understand the victims or their relatives who can’t or don’t want to forgive?

Pope Francis:

If a person has done wrong, is conscious of what he has done and does not say sorry, I ask God to take him into account. I forgive him, but he does not receive that forgiveness, he is closed to forgiveness. We must forgive, because we were all forgiven. It is another thing to receive that forgiveness. If that priest is closed to forgiveness, he won’t receive it, because he locked the door from the inside. And what remains is to pray for the Lord to open that door. To forgive you must be willing. But not everyone can receive or know how to receive it, or are just not willing to receive it. What I’m saying is hard. And that is how you explain how there are people who finish their life hardened, badly, without receiving the tenderness of God.

Maria Antonieta Collins, Univision:

Regarding victims or relatives who don’t forgive  - do you understand them?

Pope Francis:

Yes, I do. I pray for them. And I don’t judge them. Once, in one of these meetings, I met several people and I met a woman who told me “When my mother found out that I had been abused, she became blasphemous, she lost her faith and she died an atheist.” I understand that woman. I understand her. And God who is even better than me, understands her. And I’m sure that that woman has been received by God. Because what was abused,  destroyed, was her own flesh, the flesh of her daughter. I understand her. I don’t judge someone who can’t forgive. I pray and I ask God… God is a champion in finding paths of solutions. I ask him to fix it.

Andres Beltramo, Notimex:

Thanks, first of all for this moment. We’ve all heard you speak so much about the peace process in Colombia between the FARC and the government. Now, there’s an historic agreement. Do you feel involved in this agreement and you’ve said that you wished to go to Colombia when this agreement was made, right? Now there are a lot of Colombians awaiting you.

Pope Francis:

When I heard the news that in March the accord will be signed I said to the Lord, 'Lord, help us reach March.'  The willingness is there on both sides. It is there, even in the small group, everyone is in agreement. We have to reach March, for the definitive accord, which is the point of international justice. I was very happy and I felt like I was a a part of it because I’ve always wanted this. I spoke to president Santos twice about this problem. Not only myself, but also the Holy See. The Holy See was always willing to help and do what it could.

Thomas Jansen, CIC:

Holy Father, I wanted to ask something about the migrant crisis in Europe. Many countries are building new barriers out of barbed wire. What do you think of this development?

Pope Francis:

You used a word, crisis. It’s become a state of crisis after a long process. For years, this process has exploded because wars for which those people leave and flee are wars waged for years. Hunger. It’s hunger for years. When I think of Africa… this is a bit simplistic. But I see it as an example. It comes to me to think about Africa, “the exploited continent.” They went to pick up the slaves there, then its great resources. It’s the exploited continent. And, now the wars, tribal or not. But they have economic interests behind them. And, I think that instead of exploiting a continent or a nation, make investments there instead so the people are able to work and this crisis would have been avoided. It’s true, as I said at Congress, it’s a refugee crisis not seen since World War II. It’s the biggest. You asked me about barriers. You know what happens to all walls. All of them. All walls fall. Today, tomorrow or in 100 years, they will fall. It’s not a solution. The Wall isn’t a solution. In this moment, Europe is in difficulty, it’s true. We have to be intelligent. We must find solutions. We must encourage dialogue between different nations, to find them. Walls are never solutions. But bridges are, always, always. I don’t know. What I think is that walls can last a little time or a long time. The problem remains but it also remains with more hatred. That’s what I think.

Jean Marie Guenois, Le Figaro:

Holy Father, you obviously cannot anticipate the debate of the synod fathers, we know that well. But we want to know just before the Synod, in your heart as a pastor, if you really want a solution for the divorced and remarried. We want to also know if your ‘motu proprio’ on the speeding-up of annulments has closed this debate. Finally, how do you respond to those who fear that with this reform, there is a de-facto creation of a so-called 'Catholic divorce.' Thank you.

Pope Francis:

I’ll start with the last one. In the reform of the procedure and the way, I closed the door to the administrative path, which was the path through which divorce could have entered. You could say that those who think this is 'Catholic divorce' are wrong because this last document has closed the door to divorce by which it could have entered. It would have been easier with the administrative path. There will always be the judicial path.

Continuing with the third (question): the document…. I don’t remember the third but you correct me.

Jean Marie Guenois, Le Figaro:

The question was on the notion of Catholic divorce, if the motu proprio has closed the debate before the synod on this theme?

Pope Francis:

This was called for by the majority of the Synod fathers in the synod last year: streamline the process because there are cases that last 10-15 years, no? There’s one sentence, then another sentence, and after there's an appeal, there's the appeal then another appeal. It never ends.  The double sentence, when it was valid that there was an appeal, was introduced by Papa Lambertini, Benedict XIV, because in central Europe, I won’t say which country, there were some abuses, and to stop it he introduced this but it's not something essential to the process. The procedure changes, jurisprudence changes, it gets better. At that time it was urgent to do this, then Pius X wanted to streamline and made some changes but he didn’t have the time or the possibility to do it. The Synod fathers asked for it, the speeding up of the annulment processes. And I stop there. This document, this ‘motu proprio’ facilitates the processes and the timing, but it is not divorce because marriage is indissoluble when it is a sacrament. And this the Church cannot change. It's doctrine. It’s an indissoluble sacrament. The legal trial is to prove that what seemed to be a sacrament wasn't a sacrament, for lack of freedom for example, or for lack of maturity, or for mental illness. There are so many reasons that bring about (an annulment), after a study, an investigation. That there was no sacrament. For example, that the person wasn't free.  Another example: now it’s not so common but in some sectors of common society at least in Buenos Aires, there were weddings when the woman got pregnant: 'you have to get married.' In Buenos Aires, I counselled my priests, strongly, I almost prohibited them to celebrate weddings in these conditions. We called them “speedy weddings”, eh? (They were) to cover up appearances. And the babies are born, and some work out but there's no freedom and then things go wrong little by little they separate (and say) 'I was forced to get married because we had to cover up this situation” and this is a reason for nullity. So many of them.

Cases of nullity, you have, you can find them (the reasons) on the internet there all there are many, eh? Then, the issue of the second weddings, the divorcees, who make a new union. You read what, you have the “instrumentum laboris.” what is put in discussion seems a bit simplistic to me to say that the Synod is the solution for these people and that they can have communion. That's not the only solution. No, what the “Instrumentum laboris” proposes is a lot more, and also the problem of the new unions of divorcees isn't the only problem. In the “Instrumentum laboris” there are many. For example, young people don’t get married. They don’t want to get married. It's a pastoral problem for the Church. Another problem: the affective maturity for a marriage. Another problem: faith. 'Do I believe that this is for ever? Yes, yes, yes, I believe.' 'But do you believe it?' the preparation for a wedding: I think so often that to become a priest there's a preparation for 8 years, and then, its not definite, the Church can take the clerical state away from you. But, for something lifelong, they do four courses! 4 times… Something isn't right. It’s something the Synod has to deal with: how to do preparation for marriage. It’s one of the most difficult things.

There are many problems, they're all are listed in the “Instrumentum laboris.”

But, I like that you asked the question about 'Catholic divorce.' That doesn't exist. Either it wasn't a marriage, and this is nullity -- it didn't exist. And if it did, it's indissoluble. This is clear. Thank you.

Terry Moran, ABC News:

Holy Father, thank you, thank you very much and thank you to the Vatican staff as well. Holy Father, you visited the Little Sisters of the Poor and we were told that you wanted to show your support for them and their case in the courts. And, Holy Father, do you also support those individuals, including government officials, who say they cannot in good conscience, their own personal conscience, abide by some laws or discharge their duties as government officials, for example in issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples. Do you support those kinds of claims of religious liberty?

Pope Francis:

I can’t have in mind all cases that can exist about conscientious objection. But, yes, I can say the conscientious objection is a right that is a part of every human right. It is a right. And if a person does not allow others to be a conscientious objector, he denies a right.Conscientious objection must enter into every juridical structure because it is a right, a human right. Otherwise we would end up in a situation where we select what is a right, saying 'this right that has merit, this one does not.' It (conscientious objection) is a human right. It always moved me when I read, and I read it many times, when I read the “Chanson de Roland” when the people were all in line and before them was the baptismal font and they had to choose between the baptismal font or the sword. They had to choose. They weren’t permitted conscientious objection. It is a right and if we want to make peace we have to respect all rights.

Terry Moran, ABC News:

Would that include government officials as well?

Pope Francis:

It is a human right and if a government official is a human person, he has that right. It is a human right.

Stefano Maria Paci, Sky News:

Holiness, you used very strong words at the UN to denounce the world’s silence on the persecution of Christians, who are deprived of their homes, thrown out, deprived of their possessions, enslaved and brutally killed. Yesterday, President Hollande announced the beginning of a bombing campaign by France on ISIS bases in Syria. What do you think of this military action?   Also, the mayor of Rome, city of the Jubilee, declared that he came to the World Meeting of Families because you invited him.  Can you tell us how it went?

Pope Francis:

I will start with your second question.  I did not invite Mayor Marino. Is that clear?  I didn’t do it and I asked the organizers and they didn’t invite him either. He came. He professes to be a Catholic and he came spontaneously. That’s the first thing. But it is clear, heh? And now about bombardments. Truly, I heard the news the day before yesterday, and I haven’t read about it. I don’t know much about the situation. I heard that Russia took one position and it wasn’t clear yet about the United States.  I truly don’t know what to say because I haven’t fully understood the situation. But, when I hear the word bombing, death, blood… I repeat what I said in Congress and at the UN, to avoid these things. But, I don’t know, I can’t judge the political situation because I don’t know enough about it.  

Miriam Schmidt, German DPA Agency:

Holy Father, I wanted to ask a question about the relationship of the Holy See with China and the situation in this country which is also quite difficult for the Catholic Church. What do you think about this?

Pope Francis:

China is a great nation that offers the world a great culture, so many good things. I said once on the plane when were flying over China when we were coming back from Korea that I would very much like so much to go to China. I love the Chinese people and I hope there is possibility of having good relations, good relations. We’re in contact, we talk, we are moving forward but for me, having a friend of a great country like China, which has so much culture and has so much opportunity to do good, would be a joy.

Maria Sagrarios Ruiz de Apodaca, RNE:

Thank you. Good evening, Holy Father. You have visited the U.S. for the first time, you had never been there before. You spoke to Congress, you spoke to the United Nations. You drew multitudes. Do you feel more powerful? And another question, we heard you draw attention to the role of religious women, of the women in the Church in the United States. Will we one day see women priests in the Catholic church as some groups in the U.S. ask, and some other Christian churches have?

Pope Francis:

He’s telling me not to answer in Spanish (referring to Fr. Federico Lombardi.) The sisters in the United States have done marvels in the field of education, in the field of health. The people of the United States love the sisters. I don’t know how much they love the priests, (laughs) but they love the sisters, they love them so much. They are great, they are great, great, great women. Then, one follows her congregation, their rules, there are differences. But are they great. And for that reason I felt the obligation to say thank you for what they have done. An important person of the government of the United States told me in the last few days: “The education I have, I owe above all to the sisters.” The sisters have schools in all neighborhoods, rich and poor. They work with the poor and in the hospitals. This was the first. The second? The first I remember, the second?

Maria Sagrarios Ruiz de Apodaca, RNE

If you feel powerful after having been in the United States with your schedule and having been successful?

Pope Francis:

I don’t know if I had success, no. But I am afraid of myself. Why am I afraid of myself? I feel always – I don’t know – weak in the sense of not having power and also power is a fleeting thing, here today, gone tomorrow. It’s important if you can do good with power. And Jesus defined power, the true power is to serve, to do service, to do the most humble services, and I must still make progress on this path of service because I feel that I don’t do everything I should do. That’s the sense I have of power.

Third, on women priests, that cannot be done. Pope St. John Paul II after long, long intense discussions, long reflection said so clearly. Not because women don’t have the capacity. Look, in the Church women are more important than men, because the church is a woman. It is “la” church, not “il” church. The Church is the bride of Jesus Christ. And the Madonna is more important than popes and bishops and priests. I must admit we are a bit late in an elaboration of the theology of women. We have to move ahead with that theology. Yes, that’s true.

Mathilde Imberty, Radio France

Holy Father, you have become a star in the United States. Is it good for the Church if the Pope is a star?

Pope Francis:

The Pope must… Do you know what the title was of the Pope that ought to be used? Servant of the servants of God. It’s a little different from the stars. Stars are beautiful to look at. I like to look at them in the summer when the sky is clear. But the Pope must be, must be the servant of the servants of God. Yes, in the media this is happening but there’s another truth. How many stars have we seen that go out and fall. It is a fleeting thing. On the other hand, being servant of the servants of God is something that doesn’t pass.


Pope Returns from Historic Visit to Cuba and the United States

Prays at Basilica of Saint Mary Major

By Staff Reporter

Rome, September 28, 2015

Shortly before 10 a.m., the American Airlines flight bearing Pope Francis from his historic 10 day visit to Cuba and the United States landed in Rome’s Ciampino airport.

During the flight, the Pope held a 40 minute press conference with journalists.

Upon landing, the Holy Father made his customary visit to the Rome's Basilica of Saint Mary Major to give thanks to the Blessed Mother for his visit.

According to Vatican news blog, Il Sismografo, the Pope spent several minutes in prayer in front of the image of Salus Populi Romani (Protectoress of the Roman People). According to legend, the image one of several paintings believed to have been painted by Saint Luke.This is the Pope's 25th visit to the Basilica since his election. The 78 year old Pontiff has made it a custom to visit and pray to the Blessed Virgin Mary before and after every journey. 

Following his visit to the Basilica, the Pope returned to the Vatican. Pope Francis' next apostolic trip will be to Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic from November 25th - 30th. (J.A.E.)

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