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Friday, October 2, 2015

Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri explains how the Synod on the Family will unfold

Vatican City, 2 October 2015 (VIS) – This morning in the Holy See Press Office Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, general secretary of the Synod of Bishops, gave a presentation of the phases and methods of the Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on “The vocation and mission of the family in the Church and the contemporary world”, which will commence on Sunday 4 October.

“Tomorrow evening, in St. Peter's Square, in the presence of the Holy Father, a prayer vigil will be held in preparation for the Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, to be attended by the Synod Fathers, the participants in the Synod and all the faithful of the world, on an initiative of the Italian Episcopal Conference, which has invited families, movements and ecclesial associations. At nightfall the beauty of the family will shine through lighted torches. The trustful invocation of the Holy Spirit by the People of God is the prelude to the work of the Synod; indeed, we recall the important tone given to the last Extraordinary General Assembly by the Holy Father, with the powerful homily he gave during the Vigil.

The Mass on Sunday morning, presided by the Holy Father, will signal the opening of the Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod on 'The vocation and mission of the family in the Church and the contemporary world', allowing all the faithful of the world to join the common path of the pastors cum Petro et sub Petro.

This Assembly is the culmination of the synodal journey undertaken two years ago, with the distribution of the first questionnaire to all the particular Churches, enabling the profile of the family in the world, its riches and its challenges, to be outlined. The Extraordinary General Assembly then prepared a Final Report (Relatio Synodi) which raised further questions; the answers have been incorporated in today's Instrumentum Laboris. With this text in hand, composed of the Relatio Synodi and by the contributions of the particular Churches, the Fathers are preparing to listen to the challenges faced by the family, to discern its vocation, and to announce its mission.

Composition of the Ordinary General Assembly

In accordance with the Ordo Synodi Episcoporum (Art. 5 § 1), the Ordinary General Assembly will be attended by the Heads of the sui iuris Oriental Catholic Churches, the bishops elected by the Synod of Bishops and the Councils of the Hierarchy of the Oriental Catholic Churches, the bishops elected by the Episcopal Conferences, ten religious elected by the Union of Superiors General and the heads of dicasteries of the Roman Curia. In addition, the Holy Father also appoints some Members, in accordance with the same Synod regulations (Art. 5 § 4).

A total of 270 Synod Fathers will participate in this Assembly. They are divided into the following three categories: 42 ex officio, 183 ex electione and 45 ex nominatione pontificia. The Fathers originate from the five continents, as follows: 54 from Africa, 64 from America, 36 from Asia, 107 from Europe and 9 from Oceania.

The Members ex officio comprise the heads of the 15 Synods of Bishops of the sui iuris Oriental Catholic Churches; 25 heads of dicasteries of the Roman Curia; the general secretary and the under Secretary.

The 270 Synod Fathers include: 74 cardinals (including one cardinal Patriarch and 2 major archbishops), six Patriarchs, one major archbishop, 72 archbishops (including three titular), 102 bishops (including six auxiliaries, three apostolic vicars and one emeritus), two parish priests and 13 religious. In addition, other invitees from different cultures and nations will take part in this Synod Assembly (cf. Art. 7 Ordo Synodi): 24 experts and collaborators of the Special Secretary, 51 auditors and 14 fraternal delegates. Noteworthy is the fact that, since this is an Assembly dedicated to the family, particular importance is given to spouses, parents and family heads, of whom a total of 18 are present (17 auditors and one among the experts). Finally, we are pleased to welcome the fraternal delegates who, as representatives of other Churches and ecclesial communities, certainly share with the Catholic Church a concern for evangelisation and the pastoral care of families in today's world.

Synod methodology

Starting from the experience gained during the Third Extraordinary General Assembly last October and taking into account various suggestions have come from many sides, especially by the Synod Fathers, the General Secretariat of the Synod has developed a new methodology to apply the Ordinary General Assembly, approved by the Holy Father at the meeting of the Ordinary Council of the Secretariat on 25-26 May 2015.

Given the methodology of the previous synods, the majority of the Fathers suggested that the General Assembly is made more dynamic and participatory through the distribution of interventions among the individual members at different times, enabling more attention to be devoted each contribution. In addition, the Fathers requested the enhancement of the work in the Circuli Minores, where there is more active participation in the discussion, more direct and immediate connection between the Fathers in their own language, and in which the auditors and fraternal delegates can intervene.

The result of the first Synod phase, devloped during the last Extraordinary General Assembly, was the Relatio Synodi, which became, together with an attached series of questions, the Lineamenta of the Ordinary General Assembly presented to the particular Churches and to all other entitled persons. The Instrumentum Laboris, resulting from the composition of the Relatio Synodi and the answers related to it, it is the foundational document of this Synod Assembly.

In the opening session, the President Delegate will greet the Holy Father, who will open the meeting. This will be followed by reports from the General Secretary and the General Rapporteur. The General Rapporteur will then present the themes of the First Part (“Listening to the challenges to the family”; cf. Instrumentum Laboris Nos. 6-36). After the testimony of a married couple (auditors), the interventions of the Synod Fathers in the General Congregations, will begin. Their contribution constitutes a development of the basic text.

This will be followed by the sessions of the Circuli minori, in which the Fathers reflect on the basic text supplemented by the contributions made in the assembly hall, in order to develop the “ways” in which the text continues to mature. At the end of the sessions, the rapporteur from each Circulo presents a brief report of their work and indicates the supplements to be inserted in the base text. The reports of the Working Groups will be made public.

The same process is repeated for the Second Part (“The discernment of the vocation of the family”; cf. Instrumentum Laboris Nos. 37-68) and the Third Party (“The mission of the family today”; cf. Instrumentum Laboris Nos. 69 -147), during the following two weeks.

The Commission for the Elaboration of the Final Report, appointed by the Holy Father, in which all five continents are represented, consists of: Cardinal Peter Erdo, archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest (Hungary), Rapporteur General; the General Secretary; Archbishop Bruno Forte of Chieti-Vasto (Italy); Cardinal Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Bombay (India); Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington (United States of America); Cardinal John Atcherley Dew, archbishop of Wellington (New Zealand); Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernandez, rector of the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina (Argentina); Bishop Mathieu Madega Lebouakehan of Mouila (Gabon); Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Albano (Italy); Father Adolfo Nicolas Pachon, superior general of the Society of Jesus, representing the Union of Superiors General.

The Commission has the duty of following each stage of the project; therefore, it meets at the end of the work on each part and in drafting the final document. At the end of the three stages of work, the Commission oversees preparation of the draft of the Final Report, to be presented in plenary session. Bearing in mind that this project is the composition of three texts that have already been received in the Circuli minores – whose reports were read in plenary and published – further interventions must be advanced with regard to the collective work conducted so far.

Subsequently, the above Commission oversees the preparation of the final text of the Relatio finalis, to be presented on the morning of Saturday 24 October in plenary session and submitted for approval to the Assembly in the afternoon.

In accordance with the nature of the Synod, this document, the result of the collective work of the Fathers (cf. Code of Canon Law, can. 343), will be consigned to the Holy Father (cf. Ordo Synodi Episcoporum, Art. 23 § 4), who is responsible for decisions.

4) Given the large number of those entitled to speak (318 Fathers, the fraternal delegates and auditors) and the extra space reserved for Circuli minores (13 sessions), each speaker has the right to speak in the House for three minutes and to intervene extensively in the Circuli. As in the past, the General Congregations are granted one hour each, dedicated to free interventions by the Fathers. In addition, it is always possible to submit other written texts to the General Secretariat, in addition to the texts in paper and electronic formats presented in the Assembly Hall.

5) Considering that media communication and information during the last Extraordinary General Assembly was abundant and comprehensive, the same methods will also be used in relation to this General Assembly. In this regard, it is essential to bear in mind the basic criterion mentioned by the Holy Father on a number of occasions: the Synod must be a safe space so that the Holy Spirit can act and so that the Fathers have the freedom to express themselves with parresia.

During the three weeks, the briefing will be maintained as the basis for providing information; it will however be expanded, with a greater presence of the Synod Fathers, and using all available means of communication. The Fathers are free to communicate with the media at their own discretion and responsibility. The various stages in the development of the basic document remain confidential, since during the synodal process, the texts are subject to continuous developments right up to the final draft. However, the reports of the Circuli minori on the three aspects of the work of the Synod will be published. A special Commission, together with the Holy See Press Office, will as usual be responsible for providing information on the Synod.

Further information

On Saturday 17 October from 9:00 am to 12:30 pm, the Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Synod of Bishops will take place in the Paul VI Hall. The event is open to all who wish to participate, as well as those attending the Synod. In the mind of Blessed Paul VI, who instituted it on 15 September 1965, the Synod was intended to perpetuate the spirit of Vatican Council II in the Church, so that even after its conclusion, it would continue to receive that 'great abundance of benefits that we have been so happy to see flow to the Christian people during the time of the Council as a result of Our close collaboration with the bishops'.

After the introduction by the General Secretary, the commemorative report will be entrusted to Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, archbishop of Vienna and president of the Episcopal Conference of Austria. There will then be communications from five prelates representing all continents (Cardinal Gerald Vincent Nichols, archbishop of Westminster and president of the Episcopal Conference of England and Wales, for Europe; Archbishop Francisco Chimoio of Maputo, for Africa; Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati Andrello, archbishop of Santiago del Chile and president of the Episcopal Conference of Chile, for the Americas; His Beatitude Raphael I Louis Sako, Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, and Head of the Synod of the Chaldean Church, for Asia; and Cardinal Soane Patita Paini Mafi, bishop of Tonga and president of the Episcopal Conference of the Pacific, for Oceania). Lastly, the Holy Father will give the concluding address.

On Sunday 18 October at 10:30 am in the Vatican Basilica, there will be a Mass for the canonisation of, among others, the Blessed spouses Louis Martin and Marie-Azelie Guérin, parents of St. Therese of the Child Jesus.

In the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome, the People of God are invited to accompany with prayer the work of the Synod, invoking the protection of the Salus Populi Romani and the Blessed Martin couple, whose relics are exhibited there. Every day the Holy Rosary will be recited at 5 p.m. and Mass will be celebrated at 6. In the first week we will pray for children, in the second for parents, and for grandparents in the third.

Near the Synod Hall there will be, as usual, a chapel for prayer for the participants in the Synod, where the relics of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, her parents and the Beltrame Quattrocchi spouses will be displayed”.

Statement by the Director of the Holy See Press Office

Vatican City, 2 October 2015 (VIS) – The director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., today issued the following statement regarding the Pope's meeting with Kim Davis, an American public official who spent five days in prison for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

“The brief meeting between Mrs. Kim Davis and Pope Francis at the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, D.C. has continued to provoke comments and discussion. In order to contribute to an objective understanding of what transpired I am able to clarify the following points:

Pope Francis met with several dozen persons who had been invited by the nunciature to greet him as he prepared to leave Washington D.C. for New York City. Such brief greetings occur on all papal visits and are due to the Pope’s characteristic kindness and availability. The only real audience granted by the Pope at the nunciature was with one of his former students and his family.

“The Pope did not enter into the details of the situation of Mrs. Davis and his meeting with her should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects”.

Cardinals to take possession of their titular churches

Vatican City, 2 October 2015 (VIS) - The Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff today announced that on Sunday 11 October the following cardinals will take possession of their titular churches.

At 11 a.m., Cardinal Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovithavanij, archbishop of Bangkok, Thailand, will take possession of the title of Santa Maria Addolorata (Viale della Venezia Giulia, 134).

At 11.15 a.m. Cardinal Alberto Suarez Inda, archbishop of Morelia, Mexico, will take possession of the title of San Policarpo (Piazza Aruleno Celio Sabino, 50).

At 11.30 a.m., Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, S.D.B., archbishop of Yangon, Myanmar, will take possession of the title of Sant’Ireneo a Centocelle (Via dei Castani, 291).

At 12.00 p.m., Cardinal Ricardo Blazquez Perez, archbishop of Valladolid, Spain, will take possession of the title of Santa Maria in Vallicella (Via del Governo Vecchio, 134).


Vatican City, 2 October 2015 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father received in audience:

- Alexandros Couyou, ambassador of Greece, presenting his credential letters;

- Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith;

- Cardinal Fernando Filoni, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples;

- Archbishop Thomas E. Gullickson, apostolic nuncio in Switzerland and in Liechtenstein;

- the 200 participants in the meeting organised to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Servant of God, Cardinal Rafael Merry del Val.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 2 October 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed Fr. Jan Dubina, Slovakia, as papal master of ceremonies.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Francis praises the great spiritual and missionary heritage of the Comboni Missionaries of the Sacred Heart

Vatican City, 1 October 2015 (VIS) – The Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus attending their general chapter were received in audience by the Holy Father in the Clementine Hall this morning. In his address to them, Francis spoke about the words that define their name and identity.

As missionaries, the Combonians are “servants and messengers of the Gospel, especially for those who do not know it or have forgotten it”, said the Pope. “At the root of this, the personal relationship with Christ … determines all of our existence and action; and it is experienced and nurtured above all in prayer, in staying by the Lord's side. … In this prayerful space we encounter the true treasure we give to our brethren through proclamation. Indeed, the missionary is the servant of God Who speaks, Who wishes to speak to today's men and women, just as Jesus spoke to those of His time. … In the Word of God there is the wisdom that comes from above, and that enables us to find the languages, approaches and tools suited to responding to the challenges of a changing humanity”.

As Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus, you contribute joyfully to the mission of the Church, bearing witness to the charism of St. Daniel Comboni, characterised by the merciful love of Christ's Heart for the defenceless. In this Heart there is the source of the mercy that saves and generates hope. Therefore, as you are consecrated to God for the mission, you are called upon to imitate the merciful and mild Jesus, to live your service with a humble heart, caring for the most abandoned of our time. … From that Heart you learn the necessary meekness to carry out your apostolic action even in difficult and hostile contexts. This heart, that so loved humanity, drives you to the peripheries of society to bear witness to the perseverance of patient and faithful love”.

Finally, the Pope expresses to the missionaries his hope that this general chapter might illuminate the path of the Institute in the coming years, helping it to “continually rediscover its great heritage of spirituality and missionary activity. In this way you are able to trustfully continue your valuable contribution to the mission of the Church. May you be inspired and encouraged by the example of many of your brethren, who have given their lives for the cause of the Gospel, willing even to offer the supreme witness of blood. Indeed, it is well known that the Combonian Institute is distinguished by an uninterrupted chain of martyrs, up to our times. They are a fruitful seed in spreading God's Kingdom, and protectors of your apostolic efforts”.

Migrants and refugees challenge us: the response of the Gospel of mercy

Vatican City, 1 October 2015 (VIS) – “Migrants and refugees challenge us: the response of the Gospel of mercy” is the title of the Holy Father's message for World Day of Migrants and Refugees, to be held on 17 January 2016. The document, the full text of which is given below, was signed in the Vatican on 12 September, memorial of the Holy Name of Mary.

“Dear Brothers and Sisters, in the Bull of indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy I noted that 'at times we are called to gaze even more attentively on mercy so that we may become a more effective sign of the Father’s action in our lives'. God’s love is meant to reach out to each and every person. Those who welcome the Father’s embrace, for their part, become so many other open arms and embraces, enabling every person to feel loved like a child and 'at home' as part of the one human family. God’s fatherly care extends to everyone, like the care of a shepherd for his flock, but it is particularly concerned for the needs of the sheep who are wounded, weary or ill. Jesus told us that the Father stoops to help those overcome by physical or moral poverty; the more serious their condition, the more powerfully is His divine mercy revealed.

In our time, migration is growing worldwide. Refugees and people fleeing from their homes challenge individuals and communities, and their traditional ways of life; at times they upset the cultural and social horizons which they encounter. Increasingly, the victims of violence and poverty, leaving their homelands, are exploited by human traffickers during their journey towards the dream of a better future. If they survive the abuses and hardships of the journey, they then have to face latent suspicions and fear. In the end, they frequently encounter a lack of clear and practical policies regulating the acceptance of migrants and providing for short or long term programmes of integration respectful of the rights and duties of all. Today, more than in the past, the Gospel of mercy troubles our consciences, prevents us from taking the suffering of others for granted, and points out way of responding which, grounded in the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, find practical expression in works of spiritual and corporal mercy.

In the light of these facts, I have chosen as the theme of the 2016 World Day of Migrants and Refugees, 'Migrants and refugees challenge us: the response of the Gospel of mercy'. Migration movements are now a structural reality, and our primary issue must be to deal with the present emergency phase by providing programmes which address the causes of migration and the changes it entails, including its effect on the make-up of societies and peoples. The tragic stories of millions of men and women daily confront the international community as a result of the outbreak of unacceptable humanitarian crises in different parts of the world. Indifference and silence lead to complicity whenever we stand by as people are dying of suffocation, starvation, violence and shipwreck. Whether large or small in scale, these are always tragedies, even when a single human life is lost.

Migrants are our brothers and sisters in search of a better life, far away from poverty, hunger, exploitation and the unjust distribution of the planet’s resources which are meant to be equitably shared by all. Don’t we all want a better, more decent and prosperous life to share with our loved ones?

At this moment in human history, marked by great movements of migration, identity is not a secondary issue. Those who migrate are forced to change some of their most distinctive characteristics and, whether they like or not, even those who welcome them are also forced to change. How can we experience these changes not as obstacles to genuine development, rather as opportunities for genuine human, social and spiritual growth, a growth which respects and promotes those values which make us ever more humane and help us to live a balanced relationship with God, others and creation?

The presence of migrants and refugees seriously challenges the various societies which accept them. Those societies are faced with new situations which could create serious hardship unless they are suitably motivated, managed and regulated. How can we ensure that integration will become mutual enrichment, open up positive perspectives to communities, and prevent the danger of discrimination, racism, extreme nationalism or xenophobia?

Biblical revelation urges us to welcome the stranger; it tells us that in so doing, we open our doors to God, and that in the faces of others we see the face of Christ Himself. Many institutions, associations, movements and groups, diocesan, national and international organisations are experiencing the wonder and joy of the feast of encounter, sharing and solidarity. They have heard the voice of Jesus Christ: 'Behold, I stand at the door and knock'. Yet there continue to be debates about the conditions and limits to be set for the reception of migrants, not only on the level of national policies, but also in some parish communities whose traditional tranquillity seems to be threatened.

Faced with these issues, how can the Church fail to be inspired by the example and words of Jesus Christ? The answer of the Gospel is mercy.

In the first place, mercy is a gift of God the Father who is revealed in the Son. God’s mercy gives rise to joyful gratitude for the hope which opens up before us in the mystery of our redemption by Christ’s blood. Mercy nourishes and strengthens solidarity towards others as a necessary response to God’s gracious love, 'which has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit'. Each of us is responsible for his or her neighbour: we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, wherever they live. Concern for fostering good relationships with others and the ability to overcome prejudice and fear are essential ingredients for promoting the culture of encounter, in which we are not only prepared to give, but also to receive from others. Hospitality, in fact, grows from both giving and receiving.

From this perspective, it is important to view migrants not only on the basis of their status as regular or irregular, but above all as people whose dignity is to be protected and who are capable of contributing to progress and the general welfare. This is especially the case when they responsibly assume their obligations towards those who receive them, gratefully respecting the material and spiritual heritage of the host country, obeying its laws and helping with its needs. Migrations cannot be reduced merely to their political and legislative aspects, their economic implications and the concrete coexistence of various cultures in one territory. All these complement the defence and promotion of the human person, the culture of encounter, and the unity of peoples, where the Gospel of mercy inspires and encourages ways of renewing and transforming the whole of humanity.

The Church stands at the side of all who work to defend each person’s right to live with dignity, first and foremost by exercising the right not to emigrate and to contribute to the development of one’s country of origin. This process should include, from the outset, the need to assist the countries which migrants and refugees leave. This will demonstrate that solidarity, cooperation, international interdependence and the equitable distribution of the earth’s goods are essential for more decisive efforts, especially in areas where migration movements begin, to eliminate those imbalances which lead people, individually or collectively, to abandon their own natural and cultural environment. In any case, it is necessary to avert, if possible at the earliest stages, the flight of refugees and departures as a result of poverty, violence and persecution.

Public opinion also needs to be correctly formed, not least to prevent unwarranted fears and speculations detrimental to migrants.

No one can claim to be indifferent in the face of new forms of slavery imposed by criminal organisations which buy and sell men, women and children as forced labourers in construction, agriculture, fishing or in other markets. How many minors are still forced to fight in militias as child soldiers! How many people are victims of organ trafficking, forced begging and sexual exploitation! Today’s refugees are fleeing from these aberrant crimes, and they appeal to the Church and the human community to ensure that, in the outstretched hand of those who receive them, they can see the face of the Lord, 'the Father of mercies and God of all consolation'.

Dear brothers and sisters, migrants and refugees! At the heart of the Gospel of mercy the encounter and acceptance by others are intertwined with the encounter and acceptance of God Himself. Welcoming others means welcoming God in person! Do not let yourselves be robbed of the hope and joy of life born of your experience of God’s mercy, as manifested in the people you meet on your journey! I entrust you to the Virgin Mary, Mother of migrants and refugees, and to St. Joseph, who experienced the bitterness of emigration to Egypt. To their intercession I also commend those who invest so much energy, time and resources to the pastoral and social care of migrants. To all I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing”.

Presentation of the Pope's message for World Day of Migrants and Refugees: “Emigration is not the juxtaposition of cultures, but rather an encounter of peoples”

Vatican City, 1 October 2015 (VIS) – This morning in the Holy See Press Office Cardinal Antonio Maria Veglio, president of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples, and Archbishop Joseph Kalathiparambil, secretary of the same dicastery, presented the Holy Father's Message for World Day of Migrants and Refugees, published today.

Cardinal Veglio explained that not only does the Day fit naturally into the context of the Year of Mercy, the point of reference for the Church during the coming months, but also in view of the current situation in which migration is assuming immense proportions and leading to tragedies throughout the world, it must be recognised that this phenomenon in all its forms challenges us to respond.

It is hoped that this year the Day, celebrated in all the Church and at both national and diocesan levels as the Jubilee Day of Migrants and Refugees, will therefore provide a concrete opportunity for all the Christian community to reflect, pray and act. “Migration especially affects the local Churches, as they are closest to migrants and refugees. There we meet these people face to face and it is at that level that our encounter can truly assume a dimension nature”.

“We cannot remain indifferent or in silence when faced with so many tragedies. We cannot fail to express our heartfelt pain before so many situations of suffering – they are men and women, often poor, hungry, persecuted, spiritually or physically wounded, exploited or victims of war – who seek a better life. … This is the basis of the theme chosen for the Holy Father for the next Day”, added Cardinal Veglio, who went on to outline the issues in the Pope's document that challenge both individuals and the community as a whole.

Firstly, the text refers to the humanitarian crisis in the context of migration that affects not only Europe, but the entire world. This fact, as the Holy Father writes, “necessitates deeper study of the situation to enable us to better understand the causes of migrations, along with the consequences both in the destinations and from a global perspective, and therefore to face the phenomenon in the correct way ensuring the protection of human dignity”.

Secondly, the Message highlights the question of identity. “The arrival of immigrants in a new social context requires a process of mutual adaptation to the new situation”, the Cardinal observed. “Integration in the new society also requires inner strength demanding changes in elements of one's identity to adapt to the new social and cultural context”. Similarly, the arrival of migrants “seriously challenges the various societies who receive them, so that the process of insertion and integration respects values that make us ever more humane and help us to live a balanced relationship with God, others and creation , but at the same time allow migrants to contribute to the growth of the society that receive them. The Holy Father invites us to find a delicate balance between the two extremes, avoiding the creation of a cultural ghetto on the one hand, and any trace of extreme nationalism or xenophobia on the other”.

The Message also highlights the theme of welcome, emphasising that the Church has a prophetic word in encouraging welcome, that resonates in the various acts and works that the Christian communities carry out.

Faced with these problems and questions, the Pope affirms that “the response of the Gospel is mercy”. Mercy leads to solidarity with others and to cultivating a culture of encounter; “it challenges all of us so that everyone is willing not only to give but also to receive from others, and tends to build communion and unity”.

“The complexity of migration makes it difficult to separate the different political legislative, humanitarian and security aspects”, emphasised the prelate. “The perspective of the culture of encounter implies looking at the migrant as a whole, with all of his or her aspects. … In this way the presence of migrants becomes not a mere juxtaposition of different cultures in the same territory, but rather an encounter of peoples, where the proclamation of the Gospel inspires and encourages routes towards the renewal and transformation of all humanity”.

The third issue considered by the Holy Father in his Message is the defence of every person’s right to live with dignity, remaining in his or her homeland. … Every person has the right to emigrate – it is one of the fundamental rights ascribed to every human being. But beyond and before this, the right not to have to emigrate should be reaffirmed – that is, to be in the condition of being able to remain in one's homeland. First of all this implies the need to help those countries migrants and refugees leave behind. … The need for a response is not limited only to the war against smugglers or the tightening of immigration legislation, but must also consider that those who enjoy prosperity should ensure that the poor and needy (both individuals and nations) have the means with which to respond to their needs and to undertake a path of development through an equitable distribution of the planet’s resources”.

Finally, the Pope mentions the responsibility of the media and the importance of those who contribute to “unmasking false prejudices regarding migration, presenting it as truthfully as possible”.

Decrees for the Causes of Saints

Vatican City, 1 October 2015 (VIS) – Yesterday, 30 September, the Holy Father Francis received in a private audience Cardinal Angelo Amato, S.D.B., prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, during which he authorised the Congregation to promulgate the following decrees:


- Servant of God Valentin Palencia Marquina, Spanish diocesan priest, killed in hatred of the faith in Suances, Spain in 1937;


- Servant of God Giovanni Folci, Italian diocesan priest and founder of the Opera Divin Prigioniero (1890-1963);

- Servant of God Franciszek Blachnicki, Polish diocesan priest (1921-1987);

- Servant of God Jose Rivera Ramirez, Spanish diocesan priest (1925-1991);

- Servant of God Juan Manuel Martín del Campo, Mexican diocesan priest (1917-1996);

- Servant of God Antonio Filomeno Maria Losito, Italian professed priest of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (1838-1917);

- Servant of God Maria Benedetta Giuseppa Frey (nee Ersilia Penelope), Italian professed nun of the Cistercian Order (1836-1913);

- Servant of God Hanna Chrzanowska, Polish layperson, Oblate of the Ursulines of St. Benedict (1902-1973).


Vatican City, 1 October 2015 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father received in audience:

- Francisco Jose Ottonelli, ambassador of Uruguay, presenting his Credential Letters;

- Cardinal Jorge Liberato Urosa Savino, archbishop of Caracas, Venezuela, honorary president of the Episcopal Conference of Venezuela, with:

- Archbishop Diego Rafael Padron Sanchez of Cumana, president of the Episcopal Conference of Venezuela;

- Bishop Jose Luis Azuaje Ayala of Barinas, first deputy president;

- Bishop Mario del Valle Moronta Rodriguez of San Cristobal de Venezuela, second deputy president;

- Rev. Victor Hugo Basabe, secretary general.

- Filip Vucak, ambassador of Croatia, on his farewell visit.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 1 October 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has:

- appointed Msgr. Luigi Renna as bishop of Cerignola-Ascoli Satriano (area 1,327, population 110,889, Catholics 101,672, priests 58, permanent deacons 14, religious 87), Italy. The bishop-elect was born in 1966 in Corato, Italy, and was ordained a priest in 1991. He holds a licentiate in moral theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University, and a doctorate from the Pontifical Lateran University. He has served in a number of pastoral and academic roles in the diocese of Andria, Italy, including vice rector of the episcopal seminary; director of the diocesan “Msgr. Di Donna” school of formation; rector of the diocesan minor seminary, and lecturer in moral theology at the Pugliese Theological Faculty in Molfetta. He is currently canon of the cathedral chapter of Andria; director of the diocesan “San Tommaso d'Aquino” library; member of the college of consultors; director of the “San Luca Evangelista” diocesan archive; director of the school for training pastoral workers and rector of the Pius XI Pontifical regional seminary of Molfetta. He was named Chaplain of His Holiness in 2009.

- appointed Fr. Giovanni Roncari, O.F.M. Cap., as bishop of Pitigliano – Sovana – Orbetello (area 2,177, population 72,100, Catholics 70,000, priests 65, permanent deacons 9, religious 68), Italy. The bishop-elect was born in 1949 in Verona, Italy, gave his religious vows in 1972 and was ordained a priest in 1975. He holds a licentiate in Church history and has served in a number of roles in his order and as parish priest and delegate for the archdiocese of Florence for the lay apostolate. He is currently a parish priest, member of the college of consultors, episcopal vicar for the Florentine clergy and professor of theology in the Central Italy Faculty of Theology.

- confirmed the election of Rev. Sarkis Davidian as Armenian bishop of Ispahan (Catholics 2,000, priests 1, religious 12), Iran. The bishop-elect was born in 1943 in Aleppo, Syria and was ordained a priest in 1970. He has served as parish priest in France and Lebanon, and currently exercises his ministry as pastor in Armenia.

- accepted the resignation from the office of auxiliary of the diocese of Cebu, Philippines, presented by Bishop Emilio L. Bataclan, upon reaching the age limit.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Pope Francis on his apostolic trip to Cuba and the United States

Vatican City, 30 September 2015 (VIS) – The catechesis of this Wednesday's general audience in St. Peter's Square was dedicated to the Holy Father's recent apostolic trip in Cuba and the United States, which originated with his wish to participate in the Eighth World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia on 28 September. The visit was extended to include a visit to the United States, to the headquarters of the United Nations, and to Cuba, which was the first stage of his itinerary. The Pope took the opportunity to once again express his gratitude to the president of Cuba Raul Castro, the president of the United States Barack Obama, and the secretary general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, for the welcome they reserved to him, and to the bishops and collaborators in the organisation of the trip for their work.

The Pope recounted that he presented himself in Cuba, “a land rich in natural beauty, culture and faith”, as a “Missionary of Mercy”. “God's mercy is greater than any affliction, any conflict, any ideology; and with this gaze of mercy I was able to embrace the entire Cuban population, at home and abroad, looking beyond any division. The symbol of this deep unity is Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, … Patroness of Cuba, … Mother of Hope … who guides us on the path of justice, peace, freedom and reconciliation. … I was able to share with the Cuban people the hope of fulfilling the prophecy of St. John Paul II: that Cuba will open up to the world, and the world will open up to Cuba. No more closure, no more exploitation of the poor, but instead freedom and dignity. It is the path that draws strength from the Christian roots of the people, who have suffered greatly”.

After Cuba, the Pope proceeded the United States. “A symbolic step, a bridge that, thanks be to God, is being rebuilt”, he commented, adding that “God always wants to build bridges; we are the ones who build walls. But walls always fall down”.

He then spoke about the three phases of his trip to the United States: Washington D.C., New York and Philadelphia. In Washington D.C. he met not only with the political authorities, but also the clergy, the poor and the marginalised. He remarked that the greatest wealth of the country and her people is her “spiritual and ethical heritage. And so, I wanted to encourage to continuation of social construction faithful to the United States' fundamental principle, that all men are created by God, equal and endowed with inalienable rights, such as life, liberty an the pursuit of happiness. These values, that may be shared by all, find their fulfilment in the Gospel, as was clearly shown by the canonisation of the Franciscan Fr. Junipero Serra, the great evangeliser of California. St. Junipero shows us the way to joy: going forth and sharing Christ's love with others. This is the way of Christians, but also of any person who has known love: not to keep it to oneself but to share it with others. The United States of America have grown on this religious and moral base, and on this base they can continue to be a land of freedom, welcome and cooperation for a more just and fraternal world”.

Turning to the second phase of the trip, in New York, the Pope recalled his address to the representatives of nations at the General Assembly of the United Nations, in which he renewed the Catholic Church's commitment to support the institution and “its role in the promotion of development and peace, especially with regard to the need for joint and active commitment to care for creation”, and highlighted his appeal “to stop and prevent violence against ethnic and religious minorities and against civil populations”. The Holy Father recounted that he had prayed at Ground Zero for peace and fraternity, accompanied by representatives of various religions and families of victims of the 11 September attacks, and celebrated Mass for peace and justice in Madison Square Garden.

“In both Washington D.C. and New York I was able to meet various charitable and educational bodies, emblematic of the enormous service that the Catholic community – priests, man and women religious, and laypeople – offer in these fields”.

However, the climax of the trip was the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, “where the horizon extends to all the world through the 'prism' of the family”. He continued, “the family is the answer to the great challenge of our world, which is a dual challenge: fragmentation and solidification, two extremes which co-exist, support each other and together support the consumerist economic model. The family is the answer as it is the cell of a society that balances the personal and community dimensions, and at the same time the model for a sustainable management of the goods and resources of creation. The family is the protagonist of an integral ecology, as it is the primary social subject which contains within itself the two basic principals of human civilisation on earth: the principles of communion and fruitfulness. Biblical humanism presents us with this icon: the human couple, united and fruitful, placed by God in the garden of the world to cultivate it and protect it”.

The Holy Father concluded by greeting the archbishop of Philadelphia, Charles Chaput, noting his great love for the family made manifest in the organisation of the event. “It is not by chance, but rather providential that … the witness of the World Meeting of Families came at this moment from the United States of America – that is, the country that during the last century reached the highest level of economic and technological development without renouncing its religious roots. Now these same roots are asking to be replanted in the family, to rethink and change the model of development, for the good of the entire human family”.

The Pope recalls Blessed Klara Ludwika Szczesna, St. Rita of Cascia and St. Jerome

Vatican City, 30 September 2015 (VIS) – After today's catechesis, the Holy Father greeted among others the Sister Servants of the Sacred Heart of Jesus from Poland, who are currently in Rome, the “heart of the Church”, to give thanks for the beatification of Klara Ludwika Szczesna, co-founder of this congregation, in Krakow last Sunday. “By her life, the new Blessed taught us about giving oneself to God, humble service to neighbours, life according to the spirit of the Gospel, and sensitivity to the poor, to those in need and those who have lost their way in life. May her motto, “All for the Heart of Jesus”, be a challenge for all of us, so that we may live according to God's will”.

He also blessed a statue of St. Rita of Cascia, offered by a group of Lebanese faithful to the Italian archdiocese of Spoleto-Norcia, which will be placed at the crossroads between the saint's birthplace, Roccaporena, and Cascia, where her relics are held. He invited all during the upcoming Jubillee of Mercy to “reread her extraordinary human and spiritual experience as a sign of the power of God's mercy”.

Finally, he recalled that today we celebrate the memory of St. Jerome, and said, “Dear young people, may his passion for the Sacred Scripture lead you to fall in love with the Book of Life; dear sick people, may his austerity bring meaning to your suffering; dear newlyweds, may his spiritual vigour strengthen the faith of your new home”.

Pope Francis' prayer intentions for October

Vatican City, 30 September 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father's universal prayer intention for October is: “That human trafficking, the modern form of slavery, may be eradicated”.

His intention for evangelisation is: “That with a missionary spirit the Christian communities of Asia may announce the Gospel to those who are still awaiting it”.

Papal Magisterium on communication available online

Vatican City, 30 September 2015 (VIS) – This morning in the Holy See Press Office a press conference was held to present the Baragli Project, entitled “The Church and Communication”. The speakers were Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Fr. Franco Lever, professor emeritus of the Faculty of Social Communication Science at the Pontifical Salesian University and consultor of the same Pontifical Council, and Paolo Sparaci, professor at the same university.

“The PCCS is very pleased to support the Baragli Project”, affirmed Archbishop Celli. “The primary function of the PCCS, in accordance with the mandate given to it by Vatican II, is to promote the importance of communications in the life of the Church. Communication is not just another activity of the Church but is at the very essence of its life. … This project is particularly valuable because it brings together, and makes available to a wider public, a long tradition of teaching and reflection by the Church precisely on the centrality of communications”.

“The material themselves are hugely significant as they show how the Church has, throughout its history, sought to engage with the changing means and forms of communication which have shaped culture and human society. This collection enables us to appreciate how the Church’s manner and means of expressing its message have been transformed over the years in order to take account of changes and developments in the dominant forms and technologies of mass communication. … What one sees is a constant effort on the part of the Church to ensure that the Good News of the Gospel is made known to its contemporaries in ways that are culturally appropriate and that fully realise the potentials of new models of communications and developing technologies. The publication of these materials on-line will provide the raw resources which will enable theologians and communications scholars to deepen their reflections on how the Church today should fulfil its responsibility to share its message with all people”.

Fr. Level explained that “'The Church and Communication' is an 'online digital library' [that] gives access to excerpts chosen from over 1,100 documents, translated into various languages, from the first to the twenty-first century; features a 'navigator' which helps to explore available online sources; offers a platform for reading and personal study; and provides an open environment for collaboration. The site is geared towards those interested in the subject, and especially those working in Church educational and formation centres which do not have large libraries”.

“After some years of preparation, the beta version in Italian is going live today and can be found at www.chiesaecomunicazione.com. The purpose is to share what has been put together so far, to gather feedback and to finalize development of the definitive version in the coming months”.

At the same time, he added that 'The Church and Communication' will always be a work in progress with respect to three areas of ongoing development:

“Expanding the archive: not only adding future documents of the Magisterium, but widening the range of documents presented, including those from episcopal conferences (Latin America, Asia, USA, Africa, Europe), together with particularly significant contributions from individual bishops (example, the works of Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini in the field); consideration will also be given to documents from the Orthodox Church and the evangelical churches, especially the World Council of Churches and the Anglican Communion”;

“Creating a network of collaborators: an indispensable effort in order to offer translations of documents and background notes, also to discover new sources and evaluate their acquisition and inclusion”; and

“Offering new instruments and methodologies through the IPERNOTE publication platform, which features and tests new technologies which favour the shared reading and study of documents among a community of readers”.

He explained that the idea for this project was inspired by the figure and works of Father Enrico Baragli, SJ, (1908-2001), “a pioneer of the church in Italy with his study of the 'means of social communication'. … The origins for this project go back to 1998 when Father Baragli gave permission to Fr. Franco Lever to use his writings”, he concluded.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 30 September 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed Bishop Francisco Carlos da Silva of Ituiutaba, Brazil as bishop of Lins (area 8,261, population 305,000, Catholics 223,000, priests 58, permanent deacons 11, religious 49), Brazil. He succeeds Bishop Irineu Danelon, S.D.B., whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese upon reaching the age limit was accepted by the Holy Father.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Pope speaks almost an hour with journalists on flight from Philadelphia

Vatican City, 29 September 2015 (VIS) – During his return flight to Rome following his apostolic trip to Cuba and the United States, Pope Francis answered a number of questions posed by the journalists who accompanied him on the papal flight.

The Holy Father first commented that he had been surprised in the United States by the warmth and friendliness of the people. He remarked that in Washington D.C. the welcome was very warm but more formal than in New York, where everything was more exuberant, while in Philadelphia it was more expressive. “Three different approaches but the same welcome”.

He also explained the reason for his meeting with the United States episcopate in Washington D.C., where he felt the need to express to the prelates his compassion with regard to cases of sexual abuse. “A horrible thing”, he said, “and many suffer because they did not know about it and are true men of the Church, true pastors. … And I spoke to them using words from the Bible, from the Book of Revelation: you are coming from a great tribulation, because what happened was a 'great tribulation'. .. I would say almost a sacrilege. … We all know that abuse has occurred in many places: in families, in the neighbourhood, in schools, at gymnasiums … But when a priest commits abuse it is very serious, because the vocation of the priest is to make that boy or girl grow in God's love, towards emotional maturity. And instead this is crushed, it is damaged. And this must not be concealed: those who have covered up these events are equally guilty. It is dreadful. And the words I spoke were not intended to say, “Don't worry, it's nothing”. Instead I wanted to say, “It has been awful and I imagine you have wept a lot”. This was the meaning of what I said, and I spoke firmly”.

He affirmed that he understood those victims of abuse and their families who felt unable to forgive the perpetrators. “Yes, I understand them. I pray for them and I do not judge them. Once, at one of these meetings, a woman said to me, 'When my mother discovered I had been abused, she blasphemed against God, lost her faith and died an atheist'. And I understand her. And God, Who is better than me, understands her. I am sure that He welcomed her. Because what was abused, destroyed, was her own flesh, the flesh of her daughter”.

With regard to the peace process in Colombia, he expressed his joy at the news that an agreement between the FARC and the government will be signed in March. “When I heard this, I asked the Lord, 'Let us arrive in March, may we arrive with this good intention', as some small details remain to be clarified, but the will is present on both sides. Even in the small group; all three are in agreement. We must await March for the definitive accord, which is the point of international justice. I have spoken twice with President Santos on the matter. And the Holy See is very open to assisting as far as possible”.

Attention then turned to the immigration crisis in Europe. “It has become a state of crisis after a long process. This process began years ago, as the wars from which these people flee have been going on for years. Hunger: there has been famine for years. When I think of Africa, I think of it as the exploited continent. … And I believe that instead of exploiting a continent, or a country, or the land, investments should be made so that the people can avoid this crisis. It is true, there is a refugee crisis – as I said in Congress – on a scale we have not seen since the last World War. … But you know what happens to walls. All of them. All walls fall down, today, tomorrow, or a hundred years from now. Eventually they crumble. Walls are not a solution. … The problem remains, and with more hatred”.
Another question addressed the issue of expectations for the upcoming Synod on the family and cases of divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, and the recent Motu Proprio facilitating the process of declaring nullity of marriage, considered by some as opening the way to “Catholic divorce”. Francis said that, “in the reform of methods and procedures, I closed the door to the administrative route, by which divorce could have entered more easily. And it may be said to those who consider this to be Catholic divorce that they are mistaken, since this last document closes the door to divorce that may otherwise enter – it would have been easier – via the administrative route. … The Synod Fathers asked for this: the streamlining of procedures for declaring nullity of marriage. And I stop there. This document, this Motu Proprio, reduces the length of procedures, but it is not a divorce as marriage is indissoluble when there is a sacrament, and the Church cannot change this. It is part of her doctrine. It is an indissoluble sacrament. The legislative procedure is to show that what appeared to be a sacrament was in fact not a sacrament, for instance, due to lack of freedom, or lack of maturity, or mental illness. … Then there is the problem of second marriages, of divorcees who make a new union. It seems to me simplistic to say that the solution for these people is that that they can share in Communion. This is not the only solution. What the Instrumentum laboris proposes is far more. The matter of new unions by divorced persons is not the only problem. In the Instrumentum laboris there are many. For instance, young people who do not get married, who do not want to marry. It is a pastoral problem for the Church. Another problem is the emotional maturity necessary for marriage. Another problem is faith. … The Synod intends to think very carefully about preparation for marriage, which is one of the most difficult aspects”.

The Holy Father also replied to a question regarding freedom of conscience for public workers requested to sign documents or carry out procedures contrary to their religious convictions. “I cannot bring to mind all the cases of conscientious objection that may exist. But yes, I can say that conscientious objection is a human right. It is a right, and if a person is prevented from exercising their freedom of conscience, they are denied a right. Conscientious objection must exist in all legal frameworks as it is 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'.

In relation to the bombing of Isis bases in Syria by the French air force, he commented, “I do not have a good knowledge of how the situation will unfold. 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”.

He went on to answer a question on the relations between the Holy See and China. “China is a great nation that offers the world a great culture and many good things. I said once, in the aircraft flying over China, that I would very much like to visit China. I love the Chinese people. … I hope that there will be opportunities to establish good relations. … We are in contact and we are talking. For me to have a friend in a great country like China, which has so much culture and has so much opportunity to do good, would be a great joy”.

“Will we one day see women priests in the Catholic Church?”, was another question. “No, that cannot be done”, answered the Pope. “After discussion and long reflection St. John Paul II, said so clearly. Not because women don’t have the capacity. In the Church women are more important than men, because the Church is a woman. … The Church is the bride of Jesus Christ. And the Madonna is more important than Popes, bishops and priests. I must admit we are a bit late in developing a theology of women. We have to move ahead with that theology. Yes, that’s true”.

“In the United States you have become a star. Is it good for the Church for the Pope to be a star?” was the final question. “The title Popes use and must is 'Servant of the servants of God'”, replied Francis. “It is different to being a star. … Yes, in the media this word is used, but the reality is quite different. How many stars are there whose light goes out, that fall. It is a fleeting thing. Instead, being the servant of the servants of God, this is good. This does not come to an end”.

Communication and Mercy: a fruitful encounter

Vatican City, 29 September 2015 (VIS) “Communication and mercy: a fruitful encounter” is the theme chosen by the Holy Father for World Communications Day. The choice of theme this year has clearly been determined by the Celebration of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, and the Holy Father undoubtedly desired that World Communications Day would provide the appropriate occasion to reflect on the deep synergy between communication and mercy.

In the Bull of Indiction of the Jubilee Year, in paragraph 12, the Pope affirms that the Church is commissioned to announce the mercy of God, the beating heart of the Gospel, which in its own way must penetrate the heart and mind of every person. He adds that her language and her gestures must transmit mercy, so as to touch the hearts of all people and inspire them once more to find the road that leads to the Father.

It is helpful, in this regard, that communication is a key element for the promotion of a culture of encounter. The Pope, on this occasion, refers to the language and gestures of the Church but the context makes it clear that all men and women in their own communications, in their reaching out to meet others, ought to be motivated by a deep expression of welcome, availability and forgiveness.

The theme highlights the capacity of good communication to open up a space for dialogue, mutual understanding and reconciliation, thereby allowing fruitful human encounters to flourish. At a time when our attention is often drawn to the polarised and judgemental nature of much commentary on the social networks, the theme invokes the power of words and gestures to overcome misunderstandings, to heal memories and to build peace and harmony.

Once again, Pope Francis is reminding us that, in its essence, communication is a profoundly human achievement. Good communication is never merely the product of the latest or most developed technology, but is realised within the context of a deep interpersonal relationship.

World Communications Day, the only annual worldwide event called for by the Second Vatican Council, is celebrated in most countries, on the recommendation of the bishops of the world, on the Sunday before Pentecost (in 2016, May 8th).

The Holy Father's message for World Communications Day is traditionally published on 24 January, in conjunction with the Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, patron of writers.

“Cantate Domino”, the music of Popes, recorded in the Sistine Chapel

Vatican City, 29 September 2015 (VIS) – This morning in the Holy See Press Office a conference was held to present the music CD “Cantate Domino. The Sistine Chapel and the music of Popes”, produced by Deutsche Grammophon. The speakers were Archbishop Georg Ganswein, prefect of the Papal Household; Msgr. Massimo Palombella, S.D.B., director of the Pontifical Sistine Chapel Choir; Mark Wilkinson, president of Deutsche Grammophon; and Mirko Gratton, director of the classical music section of Universal Italia.

“The Pontifical Musical Choir, also known as the Sistine Chapel Choir, is among the oldest choral institutions in the world and has the unique characteristic of being the Pope's choir”, explained Archbishop Ganswein. This characteristic makes it part of the life of the “Pope's Home” and places the Pontifical Sistine Chapel Choir within the structure of the Prefecture of the Papal Household, and gives it the specific task of being an entity whose service is entirely devoted to the Pontiff. “The Prefecture is the point of reference for the Choir in terms of its artistic, administrative and disciplinary management. It is a composite and structured entity made up of 20 adult singers regularly employed by the Holy See, with the addition of 20 pueri cantores who attend the private elementary school annexed to the Choir. The release of a musical CD under the prestigious Deutsche Grammaphon label is an unprecedented event in the history of the Pontifical Musical Choir, and attests to the quality and professionalism that this Institution has achieved, thanks to its serious and diligent work under the guidance of Maestro Massimo Palombella”.

The album, released on 25 September, includes Renaissance music written for the Sistine Chapel Choir by Palestrina, Lassus and Victoria. There are also two pieces of Gregorian chant, alongside world premiere recordings of the original version of Allegri’s fabled Miserere (Sistine Codex of 1661) and a Nunc dimittis attributed to Palestrina which is still used during papal celebrations. Cantate Domino offers listeners the chance to hear these pieces as the composers intended – in Latin and in the surroundings for which they were originally written. In order to capture the magic, mystery and beauty of the music in such unique surroundings, Deutsche Grammophon set up a specially constructed studio within the Chapel. The mixing desk was set up in an ante-chamber, next to the “Sala del Pianto” (where the newly elected pontiff first dresses in the papal vestments).

“The Sistine Chapel was consecrated in 1483, and since then it has been home, without interruption, of the Pontifical Musical Choir”, explained Msgr. Palombella. “In recent years, after intense and specific study of Renaissance religious music and its aesthetic importance, we have been able to undertake an interesting and significant recording. My hope is that these musical masterpieces will reach millions of people throughout the world, bringing them into contact with the historical culture and profound spirituality of the Catholic Church”.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 29 September 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed:

- Bishop Hugo Alberto Torres Marin, auxiliary of Medellin, Colombia, as bishop of Apartado (area 26,000, population 561,000, Catholics 403,000, priests 65, religious 118), Colombia.

- Bishop Joao Evangelista Pimental Lavrador, auxiliary of Oporto, Portugal, as coadjutor of the diocese of Angra (area 2,243, population 246,102, Catholics 224,105, priests 147, permanent deacons 5, religious 129), Portugal.

Vatican Radio

Vatican City, 29 September 2015 (VIS) – Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin has appointed Fr. Andrzej Majewksi, S.J., as director of programming for Vatican Radio.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Francis meets with the victims of sexual abuse: perpetrators will be held accountable

Vatican City, 28 September 2015 (VIS) – The final day of the Pope's apostolic trip began yesterday with his meeting at the St. Charles Borromeo Seminary with victims of sexual abuse perpetrated when they were minors by members of the clergy, or members of their families or teachers. The group was composed of five adults – 3 women and 2 men – accompanied by Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley, archbishop of Boston and president of the Commission for the Protection of Minors, instituted by the Pope, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, and Bishop Michael Joseph Fitzgerald, head of the diocesan office for the protection of minors in the same diocese.

During the meeting, which lasted half an hour, Francis listened to their accounts of their experiences, addressed them as a group and then greeted each one individually. He prayed with them and manifested his participation in their suffering, his pain and his shame for the harm caused by members of the clergy or ecclesiastical collaborators.

“Thank you for corning here today”, he said. “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 recognised 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”.

Francis to visiting bishops: Appreciation and gratitude to families must prevail over complaints

Vatican City, 28 September 2015 (VIS) – Shortly after his meeting with a group of victims, the Holy Father returned to the issue of sexual abuse at the beginning of his address to the three hundred bishops attending the World Meeting of Families, held in the great Chapel of the St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.

“I am deeply pained by the stories, the sufferings and the pain of minors who were sexually abused by priests. I continue to be ashamed that persons charged with the tender care of those little ones abused them and caused them grave harm. I deeply regret this. God weeps. The crimes and sins of sexual abuse of minors may no longer be kept secret; I commit myself to ensuring that the Church makes every effort to protect minors and I promise that those responsible will be held to account. Survivors of abuse have become true heralds of hope and ministers of mercy; humbly we owe our gratitude to each of them and to their families for their great courage in shedding the light of Christ on the evil sexual abuse of minors. I say this because I have just met with a group of persons abused as children, who are helped and accompanied here in Philadelphia with particular care by Archbishop Chaput, and we felt that I should communicate this to you”.

Moving on to the issue of the family, he pronounced a discourse, at times improvised, in which he focused on the characteristics of families in today's society and the mission of bishops, reiterating that as pastors they must not be afraid to stay in the midst of families, with all their problems and their capacities, as “ A Christianity which does little in practice, while incessantly explaining its teachings, is dangerously unbalanced”.

The following are extensive extracts from the Pope's address:

“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 recognising 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. 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'. 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 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 neighbourhood stores and our large supermarkets. There was a time when one neighbourhood 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. … They trusted one another. They built up trust”.

“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. … Today consumerism determines what is important. Consuming relationships, consuming friendships, consuming religions, consuming, consuming... Whatever the cost or consequences. A consumption which does not favour 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 neighbour, 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'. This causes great 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. ... Loneliness with fear of commitment in a limitless effort to feel recognised”.

“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'. … 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 Gospel is not a product to be consumed; it has nothing to do with consumerist culture”.

“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. … 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 paralysed 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. In Congress, a few days ago, I said that we are living in a culture that drives and convinces young people not to form a family, some through lack of material means to do so, and others because they have the means but are comfortable as they are, but this is the temptation – not to form 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”.

“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. The world and history is transformed by families”.

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.

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. … 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 preaching the Gospel. The bishop is charged to be a pastor, but to be a pastor first and foremost by his prayer and preaching, because everything else follows, if there is 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 ... and less like people who have simply learned to live without a family. 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”.

“For faith, this is a most valuable sign. Our ministry needs to 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 will go to the latest supermarket to buy whatever product suits them then and there”.

“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”.

“My brothers, may God grant us this gift of a renewed closeness between the family and the Church. Families need it, the Church needs it, and we pastors need it”.

It is painful to see prison systems that do not care for wounds, soothe pain or offer new possibilities: the Pope to inmates at Curran-Fromhold penitentiary

Vatican City, 28 September 2015 (VIS) – After addressing the visiting bishops, the Pope transferred by helicopter to the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility, Philadelphia's largest male prison, which holds 2,800 inmates. Francis met with one hundred of them, along with the directors of the Centre, who awaited him in the gymnasium.

After hearing greetings from some of the detainees and receiving a gift that they had made for him, a chair, Francis thanked those present for welcoming him and giving him the opportunity to share this moment in their 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”.

The Pope spoke about 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'. 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”.

“We all know that life is a journey, along different roads, different paths, which leave their mark on us”, said the Pope. “We also 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 what about we have done. Rather, He tells us: 'Unless I wash your feet, you have no share with me'. 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 realise that we have a mission, and that confinement is never the same thing as exclusion”.

“Life means 'getting our feet dirty' from the dust-filled roads of life and history”, he continued. “All of us need to be cleansed, to be washed. All of us. Myself, first and foremost. 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 recognise 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; may you blaze new trails, new paths. All of us have something we need to be cleansed of, or purified from. All of us. May the knowledge of this fact inspire us all to live in solidarity, to support one another and seek the best for others”.

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

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