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Monday, May 25, 2015

Meeting of the Council of the Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops


Vatican City, 25 May 2015 (VIS) – This morning the Holy Father chaired the meeting of the Council of the Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops.

Pentecost: the Holy Spirit makes us capable of dedicating ourselves to works of justice and peace


Vatican City, 24 May 2015 (VIS) – “Strengthened by the Spirit – who guides, who guides us into the truth, who renews us and the whole earth, and who gives us his fruits – strengthened in the Spirit and by these many gifts, may we be able to battle uncompromisingly against sin, to battle uncompromisingly against corruption, which continues to spread in the world day after day, by devoting ourselves with patient perseverance to the works of justice and peace”, said the Holy Father during Mass in St. Peter's Basilica on the solemnity of Pentecost.

Pope Francis repeated several times during his homily that the Holy Spirit, today as yesterday, guides, renews and bears fruit, acting through people and communities, and making them capable of receiving God, “capax Dei” the Holy Fathers have affirmed.

“On the evening of Easter, Jesus appeared to the Apostles and breathed on them his Spirit; on the morning of Pentecost the outpouring occurred in a resounding way, like a wind which shook the place the Apostles were in, filling their minds and hearts. They received a new strength so great that they were able to proclaim Christ’s Resurrection in different languages. ... Together with them was Mary, the Mother of Jesus, the first disciple, there too as Mother of the nascent Church. With her peace, with her smile,with her maternity, she accompanied the joyful young Bride, the Church of Jesus”.

In the Gospel, Jesus promises his disciples that, when he has returned to the Father, the Holy Spirit will come to “guide them into all the truth”, and explains to them that its action will bring them to understand ever more clearly what he, the Messiah, has said and done, especially with regard to his death and resurrection. “To the Apostles, who could not bear the scandal of their Master’s sufferings, the Spirit would give a new understanding of the truth and beauty of that saving event. At first they were paralysed with fear, shut in the Upper Room to avoid the aftermath of Good Friday. Now they would no longer be ashamed to be Christ’s disciples; they would no longer tremble before the courts of men. Filled with the Holy Spirit, they would now understand 'all the truth': that the death of Jesus was not his defeat, but rather the ultimate expression of God’s love, a love that, in the Resurrection, conquers death and exalts Jesus as the Living One, the Lord, the Redeemer of mankind, the Lord of history and of the world. This truth, to which the Apostles were witnesses, became Good News, to be proclaimed to all”.

The Holy Spirit also renews the earth. “Respect for creation, then, is a requirement of our faith: the 'garden' in which we live is not entrusted to us to be exploited, but rather to be cultivated and tended with respect. Yet this is possible only if Adam – the man formed from the earth – allows himself in turn to be renewed by the Holy Spirit, only if he allows himself to be re-formed by the Father on the model of Christ, the new Adam. In this way, renewed by the Spirit of God, we will indeed be able to experience the freedom of the sons and daughters, in harmony with all creation. In every creature we will be able to see reflected the glory of the Creator”.

“The world needs men and women who are not closed in on themselves, but filled with the Holy Spirit”, exclaimed the Pope at the end of his homily. “Closing oneself off from the Holy Spirit means not only a lack of freedom; it is a sin. There are many ways one can close oneself off to the Holy Spirit: by selfishness for one’s own gain; by rigid legalism – seen in the attitude of the doctors of the law to whom Jesus referred as 'hypocrites'; by neglect of what Jesus taught; by living the Christian life not as service to others but in the pursuit of personal interests; and in so many other ways. However, the world needs the courage, hope, faith and perseverance of Christ’s followers. The world needs the fruits, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, as Saint Paul lists them: 'love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control'. The gift of the Holy Spirit has been bestowed upon the Church and upon each one of us, so that we may live lives of genuine faith and active charity, that we may sow the seeds of reconciliation and peace”.


Regina Coeli: the Church is not born isolated


Vatican City, 24 May 2015 (VIS) – As is usual on a Sunday, the Pope appeared at the window of his study at midday today to pray the Regina Coeli with the thousands of pilgrims and faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square.

Before the Marian prayer he again referred to the solemnity of Pentecost, which represents “the baptism of the Church, which thus begins her path through history, guided by the strength of the Holy Spirit”. He continued, “That event, which changes the heart and the life of the apostles and the other disciples, is immediately reflected outside the Cenacle. Indeed, the door that had been kept closed for fifty days is finally opened and the first Christian Community, no longer closed in on itself, begins to speak to the crowds of different origins of the great things that God has done. … And every person present hears the disciples speak in his own language. The gift of the Spirit re-establishes the harmony of language lost in Babel, and prefigures the universal dimension of the apostles' mission”.

The Church “is not born isolated: she is born universal, one, Catholic, with a precise identity but open to all, not closed, an identity that embraces the whole world, without exception. The Mother Church does not close her door to anyone! Not even the greatest sinner! And this is due to the strength and the grace of the Holy Spirit. The Mother Church throws her doors wide open to all, because she is a mother”.

Pentecost is also “the beginning of a new season: the season of witness and fraternity. It is a season that comes from above, that comes from God, like the flames of fire that came to rest of the head of each disciple. It was the flame of love that burned away all bitterness; it was the language of the Gospel that crosses the boundaries set by man and touches the hearts of the multitude, without distinction of language, race or nationality. As on that day of Pentecost, today too the Holy Spirit is continually poured onto the Church and on each one of us, so that we leave behind our mediocrity and narrow-mindedness, and communicate the merciful love of the Lord to all the world … so that as we announce Jesus, resurrected, living and present in our midst, we warm our own heart and the heart of peoples, drawing them close to Him, the path, the truth, and life”.


The Pope urges the international community to help refugees in the Bay of Bengal


Vatican City, 24 May 2015 (VIS) – Following today's Regina Coeli the Pope voiced his concern and suffering for the fate of the many refugees stranded at sea in the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea, expressing his appreciation for the efforts made by those countries which “have shown their willingness to welcome these people who face great suffering and danger”, and urged the international community to offer humanitarian aid.

He went on to recall that today marks the centenary of Italy's entry into the First World War, “that senseless slaughter”. “Let us pray for the victims”, he said, “asking the Holy Spirit for the gift of peace”.

He also mentioned the beatification yesterday of Archbishop Oscar Romero in El Salvador and the Italian religious sister Irene Stefanini in Kenya. “The first was killed in hatred of the faith as he celebrated the Eucharist”, he remarked. “This zealous pastor, following Jesus' example, chose to stay among his people, especially the poor and oppressed, even at the cost of his own life. Sister Irene Stefanini, Missionary of Consolation, served the Kenyan population with joy, mercy and tender compassion. May the example of these blesseds inspire in every one of us the wish to bear witness to the Gospel with courage and self-sacrifice”.

Finally, on the feast day of Mary Help of Christians, he greeted the Salesian community, asking that the Lord might give them the strength to continue in their work in the spirit of St. John Bosco.


Message for World Missions Day: “There is an inseparable bond between our faith and the poor”


Vatican City, 24 May 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father's message for the 89th World Mission Day was published today. To be held on Sunday 18 October 2015, this year the Day will take place in the context of the Year of Consecrated Life and will therefore highlight the bond between faith and mission.

The following is the full text of the message:

“The 2015 World Mission Sunday 2015 takes place in the context of the Year of Consecrated Life, which provides a further stimulus for prayer and reflection. For if every baptised person is called to bear witness to the Lord Jesus by proclaiming the faith received as a gift, this is especially so for each consecrated man and woman. There is a clear connection between consecrated life and mission. The desire to follow Jesus closely, which led to the emergence of consecrated life in the Church, responds to his call to take up the cross and follow him, to imitate his dedication to the Father and his service and love, to lose our life so as to gain it. Since Christ’s entire existence had a missionary character, so too, all those who follow him closely must possess this missionary quality.

The missionary dimension, which belongs to the very nature of the Church, is also intrinsic to all forms of consecrated life, and cannot be neglected without detracting from and disfiguring its charism. Being a missionary is not about proselytising or mere strategy; mission is part of the 'grammar' of faith, something essential for those who listen to the voice of the Spirit who whispers 'Come' and 'Go forth'. Those who follow Christ cannot fail to be missionaries, for they know that Jesus 'walks with them, speaks to them, breathes with them. They sense Jesus alive with them in the midst of the missionary enterprise'.

Mission is a passion for Jesus and at the same time a passion for his people. When we pray before Jesus crucified, we see the depth of his love which gives us dignity and sustains us. At the same time, we realise that the love flowing from Jesus’ pierced heart expands to embrace the People of God and all humanity. We realise once more that he wants to make use of us to draw closer to his beloved people and all those who seek him with a sincere heart. In Jesus’ command to 'go forth', we see the scenarios and ever-present new challenges of the Church’s evangelising mission. 'l her members are called to proclaim the Gospel by their witness of life. In a particular way, consecrated men and women are asked to listen to the voice of the Spirit who calls them to go to the peripheries, to those to whom the Gospel has not yet been proclaimed.

The fiftieth anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s Decree Ad Gentes is an invitation to all of us to reread this document and to reflect on its contents. The Decree called for a powerful missionary impulse in Institutes of Consecrated Life. For contemplative communities, St. Theresa of the Child Jesus, Patroness of the Missions, appears in a new light; she speaks with renewed eloquence and inspires reflection upon the deep connection between contemplative life and mission. For many active religious communities, the missionary impulse which emerged from the Council was met with an extraordinary openness to the mission ad gentes, often accompanied by an openness to brothers and sisters from the lands and cultures encountered in evangelisation, to the point that today one can speak of a widespread 'interculturalism' in the consecrated life. Hence there is an urgent need to reaffirm that the central ideal of mission is Jesus Christ, and that this ideal demands the total gift of oneself to the proclamation of the Gospel. On this point there can be no compromise: those who by God’s grace accept the mission, are called to live the mission. For them, the proclamation of Christ in the many peripheries of the world becomes their way of following him, one which more than repays them for the many difficulties and sacrifices they make. Any tendency to deviate from this vocation, even if motivated by noble reasons due to countless pastoral, ecclesial or humanitarian needs, is not consistent with the Lord’s call to be personally at the service of the Gospel. In Missionary Institutes, formators are called to indicate clearly and frankly this plan of life and action, and to discern authentic missionary vocations. I appeal in particular to young people, who are capable of courageous witness and generous deeds, even when these are countercultural: Do not allow others to rob you of the ideal of a true mission, of following Jesus through the total gift of yourself. In the depths of your conscience, ask yourself why you chose the religious missionary life and take stock of your readiness to accept it for what it is: a gift of love at the service of the proclamation of the Gospel. Remember that, even before being necessary for those who have not yet heard it, the proclamation of the Gospel is a necessity for those who love the Master.

Today, the Church’s mission is faced by the challenge of meeting the needs of all people to return to their roots and to protect the values of their respective cultures. This means knowing and respecting other traditions and philosophical systems, and realising that all peoples and cultures have the right to be helped from within their own traditions to enter into the mystery of God’s wisdom and to accept the Gospel of Jesus, who is light and transforming strength for all cultures.

Within this complex dynamic, we ask ourselves: 'Who are the first to whom the Gospel message must be proclaimed?'. The answer, found so often throughout the Gospel, is clear: it is the poor, the little ones and the sick, those who are often looked down upon or forgotten, those who cannot repay us. Evangelisation directed preferentially to the least among us is a sign of the Kingdom that Jesus came to bring: 'There is an inseparable bond between our faith and the poor. May we never abandon them'. This must be clear above all to those who embrace the consecrated missionary life: by the vow of poverty, they choose to follow Christ in his preference for the poor, not ideologically, but in the same way that he identified himself with the poor: by living like them amid the uncertainties of everyday life and renouncing all claims to power, and in this way to become brothers and sisters of the poor, bringing them the witness of the joy of the Gospel and a sign of God’s love.

Living as Christian witnesses and as signs of the Father’s love among the poor and underprivileged, consecrated persons are called to promote the presence of the lay faithful in the service of Church’s mission. As the Second Vatican Council stated: 'The laity should cooperate in the Church's work of evangelisation; as witnesses and at the same time as living instruments, they share in her saving mission'. Consecrated missionaries need to generously welcome those who are willing to work with them, even for a limited period of time, for an experience in the field. They are brothers and sisters who want to share the missionary vocation inherent in Baptism. The houses and structures of the missions are natural places to welcome them and to provide for their human, spiritual and apostolic support.

The Church’s Institutes and Missionary Congregations are completely at the service of those who do not know the Gospel of Jesus. This means that they need to count on the charisms and missionary commitment of their consecrated members. But consecrated men and women also need a structure of service, an expression of the concern of the Bishop of Rome, in order to ensure koinonia, for cooperation and synergy are an integral part of the missionary witness. Jesus made the unity of his disciples a condition so that the world may believe. This convergence is not the same as legalism or institutionalism, much less a stifling of the creativity of the Spirit, who inspires diversity. It is about giving a greater fruitfulness to the Gospel message and promoting that unity of purpose which is also the fruit of the Spirit.

The Missionary Societies of the Successor of Peter have a universal apostolic horizon. This is why they also need the many charisms of consecrated life, to address the vast horizons of evangelisation and to be able to ensure adequate presence in whatever lands they are sent.

Dear brothers and sisters, a true missionary is passionate for the Gospel. St. Paul said: 'Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!'. The Gospel is the source of joy, liberation and salvation for all men and women. The Church is aware of this gift, and therefore she ceaselessly proclaims to everyone 'what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes'. The mission of the servants of the Word – bishops, priests, religious and laity – is to allow everyone, without exception, to enter into a personal relationship with Christ. In the full range of the Church’s missionary activity, all the faithful are called to live their baptismal commitment to the fullest, in accordance with the personal situation of each. A generous response to this universal vocation can be offered by consecrated men and women through an intense life of prayer and union with the Lord and his redeeming sacrifice.

To Mary, Mother of the Church and model of missionary outreach, I entrust all men and women who, in every state of life work to proclaim the Gospel, ad gentes or in their own lands. To all missionaries of the Gospel I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing”.


Francis prays with the Pentecostal evangelical pastors of Phoenix for the unity of the Church


Vatican City, 24 May 2015 (VIS) – The diocese of Phoenix, U.S.A., has organised a day of dialogue and prayer, on the eve of Pentecost, with a group of evangelical pastors of Pentecostal orientation, including the Italian Giovanni Traettino, whom Pope Francis visited during his trip to Caserta. The Holy Father participated with a video message, screened yesterday afternoon at the opening of the meeting (during the night in Europe), ample extracts of which are given below:

“'Father, may we be one so that the world may believe you sent me'. This is the slogan, the theme of the meeting: Christ’s prayer to the Father for the grace of unity. Today, Saturday … I will be with you spiritually and with all my heart. We will search together, we will pray together, for the grace of unity. The unity that is budding among us is that unity which begins under the seal of the one Baptism we have all received. It is the unity we are seeking along a common path. It is the spiritual unity of prayer for one another. It is the unity of our common labour on behalf of our brothers and sisters, and all those who believe in the sovereignty of Christ. Dear brothers and sisters, division is a wound in the body of the Church of Christ. And we do not want this wound to remain open. Division is the work of the father of Lies, the father of Discord, who does everything possible to keep us divided.

“Together today, I here in Rome and you over there, we will ask our Father to send the Spirit of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and to give us the grace to be one, 'so that the world may believe'. I wish to say something that may sound controversial, or even heretical, perhaps. But there is someone who 'knows' that, despite our differences, we are one. It is he who is persecuting us. It is he who is persecuting Christians today, he who is anointing us with (the blood of) martyrdom. He knows that Christians are disciples of Christ: that they are one, that they are brothers! He doesn’t care if they are Evangelicals, or Orthodox, Lutherans, Catholics or Apostolic … he doesn’t care! They are Christians. And that blood (of martyrdom) unites. Today, dear brothers and sisters, we are living an 'ecumenism of blood'. This must encourage us to do what we are doing today: to pray, to dialogue together, to shorten the distance between us, to strengthen our bonds of brotherhood.

“I am convinced it will not be theologians who bring about unity among us. Theologians help us, the science of the theologians will assist us, but if we hope that theologians will agree with one another, we will reach unity the day after Judgement Day. The Holy Spirit brings about unity. Theologians are helpful, but most helpful is the goodwill of us all who are on this journey with our hearts open to the Holy Spirit! In all humility, I join you as just another participant on this day of prayer, friendship, closeness and reflection. In the certainty that we have one Lord: Jesus is the Lord. In the certainty that this Lord is alive: Jesus is alive, the Lord lives in each one of us. In the certainty that He has sent the Spirit He promised us so that this 'harmony' among all His disciples might be realised”.


The Pope to Christian workers' association: fight for free, creative, participatory and fraternal work


Vatican City, 23 May 2015 (VIS) - “We must ensure that through work – free, creative, participatory and mutually supportive – human beings may express and increase the dignity of their lives”, said Pope Francis this morning as he received in audience the members of the Christian Associations of Italian Workers (ACLI), who celebrate the 70th anniversary of their foundation this year.

The Holy Father took the opportunity to reflect on the scale and urgency of the employment problem in today's world and the need to propose equitable, fraternal and genuinely practicable solutions. “The spread of precariousness, illegal work and organised crime, especially among the younger generations, ensure that the lack of work robs dignity and obstructs the fullness of human life. This demands an immediate and vigorous response”, he said, then indicating the four features that should be present in all work.

Firstly, work must be free: the true freedom of work means that man, continuing the work of the Creator, ensures that the world reaches its objective. Too often, however, work is a vehicle for oppression at several levels: man against another man; new forms of organised slavery that oppress the poorest. “In particular, many children and women suffer as the result of an economy that obliges them to carry out undignified work that contradicts creation in its beauty and harmony. We must ensure that work is not a tool of alienation, but rather of hope and new life”.

Creative work allows one to use his or her unique and original abilities. This is achieved “when man is permitted to express with freedom and creativity in certain forms of activity, in collaborative work conducted in the community that enable full economic and social development to him and to others. We cannot clip the wings of those, especially the young, who have much to give with their intelligence and capacities; they must be freed of the burdens that oppress them and prevent them from fully entering the world of work as soon as possible”.

Participatory work corresponds to the relational dimension of the person, and involves the establishment of responsible bonds of collaboration. However, “when, due to an 'economistic' vision … others are regarded as a means and not an end, work loses its primary meaning as the continuation of God's work, a work destined for all humanity, so that all may benefit”.

Finally, mutually supportive work means responding to the many men and women who have lost their jobs or are seeking employment, above all with closeness and solidarity. Associations such as the ACLI, as places of welcome and encounter, must also identify opportunities for formation and professional training.

Francis went on to refer to some key aspects of the ACLI. The first is its presence outside Italy, which began with the phase of Italian emigration and continues to be valuable since many young people leave Italy to seek work pertinent to their studies or to enrich their professional experience. “Support them on their path”, he said. “In their eyes you may see the reflection of your parents or grandparents who travelled far to work”.

The Association is also engaged in the battle against poverty and that of the impoverishment of the middle classes. “Offering support, not only of an economic nature, to those below the poverty line, who have increased in number in Italy in recent years, can bring benefits to all of society. At the same time, those who yesterday lived a dignified life must be prevented from slipping into poverty. It takes very little these days to become poor: the loss of a job, an elderly relative who is no longer self-sufficient, sickness in the family, or even – think of this terrible paradox – the birth of a child. It is an important cultural battle, that of ensuring that welfare is considered to be the infrastructure of development rather than a cost. You can act as a coordinator and motor for the 'alliance against poverty', which proposes the development of a national plan for decent and dignified work”.

“Christian inspiration and the popular dimension determine that way of understanding and implementing the ACLI's historic triple fidelity to workers, democracy and the Church. In the current context, it may be said that these three attitudes may be summarised in one, new and simple: fidelity to the poor”.


Blessed Oscar Arnulfo Romero: a martyr who knew how to guide, defend and protect his flock


Vatican City, 23 May 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has sent a letter to Archbishop Jose Luis Escobar Alas of San Salvador, president of the Episcopal Conference of El Salvador, for the beatification of Oscar Arnulfo Romero Galdamez, former archbishop of the same archdiocese and martyr, killed in hatred of the faith on 24 March 1980. The the beatification Mass, celebrated in Plaza del Divino Salvador del Mundo in the Salvadoran capital, was attended by the Pope's special envoy Cardinal Angelo Amato S.D.B., prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

The following is the full text of the letter:

“The beatification of Msgr. Oscar Arnulfo Romero Galdamex, who was the pastor of this beloved archdiocese, is a cause for great joy for Salvadorans and for those who rejoice in the example of the best sons of the Church. Msgr. Romero, who built peace with the strength of love, bore witness to faith, giving his life to the extreme.

The Lord never abandons His people in difficulties, and always shows solicitude to its needs. He sees oppression, He hears the cries of pain of His children, and he comes to their aid to free them from oppression and to lead them to a new land, of 'milk and honey', fertile and spacious. Just as He chose Moses to guide His people in His name, He continues to raise pastors after His own heart, who graze His flock with wisdom and prudence.

In this beautiful central American country, bathed by the Pacific Ocean, the Lord granted His Church a zealous bishop who, loving God and serving his brothers, converted himself in the image of Christ the Good Shepherd. In times of difficult co-existence, Msgr. Romero knew how to guide, defend and protect his flock, remaining faithful to the Gospel and in communion with all the Church. His ministry was distinguished by his particular care for the poorest and most marginalised. And at the moment of his death, as he celebrated the Holy Sacrifice of love and reconciliation, he received the grace of fully identifying himself with He Who gave His life for his flock.

On this day of celebration for the Salvadoran nation, and also for our brother countries in Latin America, let us give thanks to God for granting to the bishop martyr the capacity to see and hear the suffering of his people, and for forming his heart so that, in His name, he was guided and enlightened, and his work was filled with Christian charity.

The voice of the newly Blessed continues to resonate today, reminding us that the Church, a convocation of brothers around the Lord, is the family of God, in which there should be no division. Faith in Jesus Christ, when it is well understood and its full consequences are realised, generates communities that are builders of peace and solidarity. This is what the Church is called to do today in El Salvador, America and the world at large: to be rich in mercy, to convert into leaven for reconciliation for society.

Msgr. Romero invites us to good sense and reflection, respect for life and harmony. It is necessary to reject 'the violence of the sword, of hatred' and to live 'the violence of love, which caused Christ to be nailed to a cross, which enables us all to overcome our selfishness and ensures there may no longer be such cruel inequalities between us'. He was able to see and to experience in his own flesh 'the selfishness that lurks in those who do not wish to give what is theirs for the benefit of others'. And, with a father's heart, he cared for the 'poor majority', urging the powerful to transform their weapons into ploughshares.

May those who regard Msgr. Romero as a friend in faith, those who invoke him as a protector and intercessor, those who admire him, find in him the strength and encouragement to build the Kingdom of God, and to commit themselves to creating a more equitable and dignified social order.

It is the right time for true national reconciliation when faced with today's challenges. The Pope participates in your hopes, and unites himself to your prayers so that the seed of martyrdom may flourish and become entrenched in the true paths of the sons and daughters of that nation, which proudly bears the name of the divine Saviour of the World.

Dear brother, I ask you to pray and to ask for prayers for me, and I impart my apostolic blessing to all those who join in any way in the celebration of the new Blessed”.


Pope's message for the Second International Conference on Women


Vatican City, 23 May 2015 (VIS) – The Pope has sent a message of greetings and encouragement to the participants in the Second International Conference on Women held in Rome, and which today comes to an end. The event was organised by the Pontifical Pontifical Council “Justice and Peace”, in cooperation with the World Union of Women’s Catholic Organisations and the World Women’s Alliance for Life and Family, on the theme “Women and the post-2015 development agenda: the challenges of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”.

“Women face a variety of challenges and difficulties in various parts of the world”, he writes. “In the West, at times they still experience discrimination in the workplace; they are often forced to choose between work and family; they not infrequently suffer violence in their lives as fiancees, wives, mothers, sisters and grandmothers. In poor and developing countries, women bear the heaviest burdens: it is they who travel many miles in search of water, who too often die in childbirth, who are kidnapped for sexual exploitation or forced into marriages at a young age or against their will. At times they are even denied the right to life simply for being female. All of these problems are reflected in the proposals for the post-2015 Development Agenda currently being discussed in the United Nations.

“Issues relating to life are intrinsically connected to social questions. When we defend the right to life, we do so in order that each life – from conception to its natural end – may be a dignified life, one free from the scourge of hunger and poverty, of violence and persecution. Pope Benedict XVI, in his encyclical Caritas in Veritate, highlighted how the Church 'forcefully maintains this link between life ethics and social ethics, fully aware that a society lacks solid foundations when, on the one hand, it asserts values such as the dignity of the person, justice and peace, but then, on the other hand, radically acts to the contrary by allowing or tolerating a variety of ways in which human life is devalued and violated, especially where it is weak or marginalised'.

“I encourage you, who are engaged in defending the dignity of women and promoting their rights, to allow yourselves to be constantly guided by the spirit of humanity and compassion in the service of your neighbour. May your work be marked first and foremost by professional competence, without self-interest or superficial activism, but with generous dedication. In this way you will manifest the countless God-given gifts which women have to offer, encouraging others to promote sensitivity, understanding and dialogue in settling conflicts big and small, in healing wounds, in nurturing all life at every level of society, and in embodying the mercy and tenderness which bring reconciliation and unity to our world. All this is part of that 'feminine genius' of which our society stands in such great need”.


Audiences


Vatican City, 23 May 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father received in audience:

- Cardinal Marc Ouellet, P.S.S., prefect of the Congregation for Bishops;

- Boyko Borissov, prime minister of Bulgaria, and entourage;

- Nikola Gruevski, president of the government of the ex-Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, with his wife and entourage.


Other Pontifical Acts


Vatican City, 23 May 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed:

- Archbishop Ghaleb Moussa Abdalla Bader of Algiers, Algeria, as apostolic nuncio to Pakistan.

- Sergio Melillo as bishop of Ariano Irpino-Lacedonia (area 781, population 74,970, Catholics 74,270, priests 44, permanent deacons 8, religious 80), Italy. The bishop-elect was born in 1955 in Avellino, Italy and was ordained a priest in 1989. A licentiate in dogmatic theology, he has exercised his pastoral ministry in the diocese of Avellino in the roles of parish priest, vice director of diocesan Caritas and parish vicar of the Cathedral. He has also served as lecturer in dogmatic theology at the “San Giuseppe Moscati” Higher Institute of Religious Sciences, lecturer in religious culture the Avellino “Università della Terza Età”. He is currently vicar general and a member of the presbyteral council and college of consultors.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Pope Francis, protagonist of the Ninth International Meeting of the Silos School of Thought


Vatican City, 22 May 2015 (VIS) – The Silos School of Thought, Spain, will dedicate its next two international meetings to the study and dissemination of the thought and action of Pope Francis. It is the ninth encounter of the School which, in collaboration with the UNESCO Chair in Spain, and under the auspices of the Benedictine Abbey of Silos, gathered together figures from the worlds of science and culture in an atmosphere of respectful pluralism and convergence in relation to universal values.

In a letter to the Steering Committee of the School, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, writes: “In the two years of his papacy Pope Francis has transformed into a media phenomenon. … And, however, … beyond these direct, concise, effective, high-impact phrases we have grown accustomed to, we discover vigorous and spiritual theological thought. He expresses this theology, with its Latin American accent and flavour, imbued with wisdom born of closeness to the people … with his own methods of communication. His reflection is part of the faith of the people, and this gives special strength and nuance to his thought. If John Paul II was the pope of Man, the path of the Church, and Benedict XVI of the word and the primacy of the search for God, Francis is the pope of the People of God, recipient and bearer of revelation, called to go forth in towards an encounter with others, with a message of mercy”.

The Ninth Meeting of the School, entitled “Thought and Action of Pope Francis: a voice for all”, will be divided into two phases. The first, on 6 June, in the Abbey of Silos, will be based on the paper “Pope Francis: words and gestures”, by Professor Angel Cordovilla Perez, director of the Department of Dogmatic and Fundamental Theology at the Pontifical University of Comillas, Madrid, Spain. The session will be chaired by Professor Manuel Balado Ruiz-Gallegos, director of the Silos School of Thought.

The second Meeting will be held during the first trimester of 2016 and will study the conclusions of the Synod on the family.

Audiences


Vatican City, 22 May 2015 (VIS) – This morning, the Holy Father visited various dicasteries of the Roman Curia located in Piazza Pio XII.

In the afternoon of Thursday 21 May the Holy Father received in audience:

- Cardinal Dominique Mamberti, prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura;

- Archbishop Hector Ruben Aguer of La Plata, Argentina;

- Bishop Juan Ruben Martinez of Posadas, Argentina.

Other Pontifical Acts


Vatican City, 22 May 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed:

- Fr. Jean-Louis Balsa as bishop of Viviers (area 5,556, population 327,072, Catholics 285,000, priests 142, permanent deacons 15, religious 591), France. The bishop-elect was born in Nice, France in 1957 and was ordained a priest in 1984. He holds a degree in philosophy from the University of Nice and in theology from the Institut Catholique de Paris. He has served in a number of roles in the diocese of Nice, including coordinator of pastoral assistance in the lyceums and colleges of Cannes, parish priest, teacher of theology at the diocesan seminary, episcopal vicar for youth pastoral ministry, and secretary general of the diocesan Synod. He is currently vicar general for the diocese of Nice. He succeeds Bishop Francois Blondel, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the diocese of Viviers upon reaching the age limit was accepted by the Holy Father.

- Fr. Jean Cesar Scarcella, C.R.A., as ordinary abbot of the territorial abbey of Saint-Maurice (area 9,085, population 8.077, Catholics 6,154, priests 38, religious 91), Switzerland. The bishop-elect was born in Montreux, Switzerland in 1951, gave his solemn vows in 1988, and was ordained a priest in 1990. He studied philosophy and theology at the University of Fribourg and has served as vicar in Aigle, curate in Bex, and within the abbey, animator of liturgy for the basilica, consulter, rector of the basilica, sacristan, and choirmaster. He is currently vicar general of the abbey and master of novices.

- Archbishop Mario Roberto Cassari as apostolic nuncio to Malta. Archbishop Cassari was previously apostolic nuncio in South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Pope thanks the Italian police for their efforts in receiving immigrants and fighting human trafficking


Vatican City, 21 May 2015 (VIS) – This morning in the Paul VI Hall the Holy Father received in audience six hundred relatives of members of the State Police gravely injured in killed in service, and thanked them for their witness of Christian hope and for their faithfulness to institutions and to a mission that “demands the courage of helping those in danger and stopping the aggressor”. Society as a whole, he added, “is indebted to you for the possibility of conducting an orderly life, free of the arrogance of the violent and the corrupt”.

“Those who, day after day, take on the seriousness and commitment of their profession and place themselves at the disposal of the community, and especially those who are in danger or find themselves in situations of grave difficulty, 'go forth' to their neighbours and serve. Acting in this way, they live their life, even in the eventuality of losing it, as Jesus did, dying on the Cross. Only by contemplating Jesus on the Cross can we find the strength to forgive and the consolation that our crosses too will redeem His; therefore, every sacrifice and every tragedy will find redemption in Him”, affirmed the Holy Father.

“The witness of Christian values is even more eloquent in our times, in which the generous zeal of so many is not often accompanied by the capacity to channel it in a coherent and constant way. In our times, evidently, it proves easier to commit oneself to something temporary or partial. On the contrary, the work of the Police force requires something solid in time and, although contingent situations change, there is a constant in all ages: that of guaranteeing legality and order for all citizens, allowing us to reap the benefits”.

The Pope also remarked that during recent years the police have carried out decisive action in managing the impact of the flow of refugees arriving in Italy, seeking refuge from wars and persecution. “You are on the front line both in the initial reception of immigrants, and in counteracting unscrupulous traffickers. In this task … you are distinguished by your spirit of service and humanity, motivated not only by the law but first and foremost by the moral imperative to do good, to save as many people as possible and to spare no energy or time in this commitment”.

“Be proud of your work and continue to serve the state, every citizen and every person in danger. In defending the weak and the law you will find the truest meaning of your service and will be an example to the country, which needs people who serve it with altruism, and generosity and constancy”.

Presentation of the Second International Conference on Women


Vatican City, 21 May 2015 (VIS) – This morning a press conference was held in the Holy See Press Office to present the second International Conference on Women (22-24 May, ex Domus Pacis, Rome) organised – like the first Conference held in 2009 – by the Pontifical Council “Justice and Peace”, in collaboration with the World Union of Catholic Women's Organisations (WUCWO) and the World Women's Alliance for Life and Family (WWALF). The theme of the conference will be “Women and the post-2015 development agenda - the challenges of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”. The conference will be attended by over a hundred participants – mostly women, but to a lesser extent also men – from diverse cultural and social contexts and from all five continents, and will aim to offer the most complete overview possible of the main issues that affect women throughout the world in our times.

The speakers at the conference were Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council “Justice and Peace”; Flaminia Giovanelli, under-secretary of the same dicastery; Olimpia Tarzia, president of the WWALF, and Maria Giovanni Ruggieri, president of the WUCWO.

Cardinal Turkson explained that the first day, 22 May, will begin with an analysis of female anthropology in the context of modern culture, which will also seek to shed light on recent and increasingly incisive semantic changes in terms of reference. The second panel will focus on the theme of education and the role of women in this field, as well as “the alliance between men and women and their mutual respect … in order to combat violence and abuse of power”. The cardinal emphasised that “education is an essential resource for ensuring the right to life, which is still denied in some parts of the planet where the birth of a female child is seen as a misfortune, since the sole destiny of a woman is an arranged marriage for which the family is required to provide a dowry”.

Another theme is interreligious dialogue as a path towards lasting peace, and the role of women in this context. “The many episodes in recent times in which women and girls have been victims of unspeakable atrocities involving sexual violence, also and above all due to their Christian faith, are an important challenge to us. Such episodes demand that we intensify interreligious dialogue and appeal to our shared human nature, that transcends all religions and cultures, to forcefully condemn such atrocities in order to protect those under threat”.

The second International Conference on Women will also offer the opportunity to discuss the many old and new forms of slavery and violence that affect women in various ways in different parts of the world. While in the western world domestic violence prevails and there is an increasing incidence of episodes of so-called “femicide”, in other poorer areas of developing countries the infanticide of female children and selective abortion of female foetuses are widespread practices. Inspired by Pope Francis' Message for Peace, the theme of which this year is “Slaves no more, but brothers and sisters”, the Conference will denounce the phenomenon of human trafficking which the Pontiff has on numerous occasions described as a crime against humanity whose victims are, for the most part, girls and women.

“While in many countries there has certainly been significant progress in favour of women, especially in the fields of education, political representation and economic participation, much still remains to be done”, observed the president of Justice and Peace, noting that it is true that poverty continues to affect women disproportionately, and many women “have no protection in many fields, including domestic, manufacturing and agricultural work”.

However, the Conference does not intend merely to provide an overview of the most urgent matters linked to the conditions of women, or to be simply an opportunity to denounce the violations of the dignity of women and their rights. It will also endeavour to offer a contribution that may be useful within the framework of current negotiations for the new agenda for post-2015 developments. Therefore, on the second day of the meeting, on Saturday 23 May, working groups will focus on the main thematic areas of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). “The question of women is transversal and crucial in the majority of the current proposals of the SDGs: women play a key role in the reduction of poverty, hunger throughout the world, and education, and are also the guardians of life in all its phases”.


Audiences


Vatican City, 21 May 2015 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father received in audience:

- Mabel Chitiga, ambassador of Zimbabwe to the Holy See, presenting her credential letters;

- Josel Musa Nhleko, ambassador of Swaziland to the Holy See, presenting his credential letters;

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

- Cardinal Carlo Caffara, archbishop of Bologna, Italy.


Other Pontifical Acts


Vatican City, 21 May 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has:

- accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the archdiocese of Merida-Badajoz, Spain, presented by Bishop Santiago Garcia Aracil upon reaching the age limit. He is succeeded by Bishop Celso Moga Iruzubieta, coadjutor of the same archdiocese.

- appointed Rev. Fr. Dominique Blanchet as bishop of Belfort-Montbeliard (area 1,472, population 327,800, Catholics 249,500, priests 73, permanent deacons 14, religious 36), France. The bishop-elect was born in Cholet, France in 1966 and was ordained a priest in 1999. He has served in a number of pastoral roles in the diocese of Angers, France, including episcopal delegate for youth pastoral ministry and parish priest. He is currently vicar general of the diocese of Angers, moderator of the Curia, administrator of the parish of Chalonnes-sur-Loire and parish priest of the parish of Sts. Lazarus and Nicholas in Angers.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Education, the natural vocation of the family


Vatican City, 20 May 2015 (VIS) – The education of children as the natural vocation of the family was the theme of Pope Francis' catechesis during this Wednesday's general audience in St. Peter's Square.

The Holy Father, first citing the words of St. Paul to the Colossians: “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged”, emphasised the duty of parents to accompany their children step by step, without demanding the impossible, so as not to overwhelm them. He then went on to speak of the difficulties faced by mothers and fathers who often only have the opportunity to see their children in the evening when they return home tired after work – “those who are lucky enough to have work”, he added – and also referred to the even more critical situation faced by separated parents, inviting them to ensure that the conflicts between the couple do not have an impact on the children.

Francis also mentioned that the family has been accused of other things, including authoritarianism, favouritism, conformism, and emotional repression that generates conflicts. “In fact, a fracture has opened up between family and society, undermining mutual trust, and in this way, the alliance between family and society in the education of children has entered into a crisis”.

“There are many symptoms”, he continued. “For example, in schools this has affected relationships between parents and teachers. … On the other hand, there has been a proliferation of so-called 'experts' who occupy the role of parents even in the most intimate aspects of education … and parents are expected only to listen, to learn and to adapt. Deprived of their role, they often become excessively apprehensive and possessive with regard to their children, to the point of never correcting them. They tend to increasingly entrust them to 'experts', even in relation to the most delicate and personal aspects of their life, placing themselves in the corner. In this way, parents run the risk of excluding themselves from the life of their children”.

“How have we arrived at this point? Without doubt in the past parents, or rather, certain educational models, had certain limits. But it is also true that there are mistakes that only parents are authorised to make, as they are able to compensate for them in a way that is impossible for any other person. On the other hand, as we well know, life now spares us little time for speaking, reflection and exchange. Many parents are 'kidnapped' by their work and other worries, and they find themselves paralysed by the fear of making mistakes. The problem, however, is not only about talking. … Let us ask ourselves instead: do we seek to understand 'where' our children truly are on their path? Where is their soul? … And above all, do we want to know?”.

Francis underlined that the Christian communities are called upon to offer support to the educational mission of the family. “At the base of everything there is love, that which God gives to us, that “is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things”. Even in the best of families, there is much to be endured, and it takes a lot of patience. Jesus Himself experienced education in the family”.

“Even in this case, the grace of Christ's love fulfils what is inscribed in human nature. How many excellent examples we have of Christian parents full of human wisdom! They show that good family education is the backbone of humanism. Its spread through society is the resource that allows us to compensate for the shortcomings, the wounds, the lack of paternity and maternity that affect the least fortunate children, and works true miracles”.

“I hope that the Lord may give Christian families the faith, freedom and courage necessary for their missions. If family education rediscovers the pride of its central role, many things will change for the better, for uncertain parents and disappointed children. It is time for fathers and mothers to return from their exile, and to fully resume their role as educators”, concluded Francis.

The Pope joins the Catholics of China in prayer and recalls Christians persecuted for their faith


Vatican City, 20 May 2015 (VIS) – Following today's catechesis, the Pope remarked that on 24 May Catholics in China pray with devotion to Mary Most Holy, Help of Christians, venerated in the Sheshan shrine in Shanghai. “In the statue above the Shrine, Mary holds her Son aloft, presenting Him to the world with His arms open in a gesture of love and mercy. We too ask Mary to help Catholics in China always to be credible witnesses of this merciful love among their people and to live spiritually united with the rock of Peter upon which the Church is built”.

The Holy Father also mentioned the initiative of the Italian Episcopal Conference, which has proposed that the dioceses, on the occasion of the Eve of Pentecost, remember the many brothers and sisters exiled or killed for the mere fact of being Christians. “They are martyrs. I hope that this moment of prayer may help spread the knowledge that religious freedom is an inalienable human right and raise awareness of the tragedy of Christians persecuted in our time, and bring an end to this unacceptable crime”.

Cardinal Parolin: when the future of the planet is at stake, there are no political frontiers, barriers and walls that can protect us from environmental and social degradation


Vatican City, 20 May 2015 (VIS) – Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin has sent a message to the participants in the conference “The New Climate Economy: how economic growth and sustainability can go hand in hand”, held today in the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, in collaboration with the Pontifical Council “Justice and Peace” the World Resource Institute, the New Climate Economy and the embassy of the Netherlands to the Holy See.

The conference takes place in the context of two key steps in the preparatory process adopted by the United Nations: the UN Summit to adopt the post-2015 development agenda and the 21st conference on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to be held in Paris next December, to adopt a new agreement to face the adverse effects of climate change. “Both of them represent the serious ethical and moral responsibility that each of us has towards the whole human family, especially the poor and future generations”, observed the cardinal.

“When the future of the planet is at stake, there are no political frontiers, barriers or walls behind which we can hide to protect ourselves from the effects of environmental and social degradation. There is no room for the globalisation of indifference, the economy of exclusion or the throwaway culture so often denounced by Pope Francis. Of course, the path is not easy, since this ethical and moral responsibility calls into question the resetting of the development model, requiring a major political and economic commitment. However, as I said to the UN Climate Summit on 23 September 2014, 'the technological and operational bases needed to facilitate this mutual responsibility are already available or within our reach. We have the capacity to start and strengthen a true and beneficial process which will irrigate, as it were, through adaptation and mitigation activities, the field of economic and technological innovation where it is possible to cultivate two interconnected objectives: combating poverty and easing the effects of climate change'”.

Cardinal Parolin concluded by conveying Pope Francis' best wishes to the participants, and his hope that “the discussions and reflections of this Conference may contribute to further and deepen reflection on the meaning of the economy and its goals, as well as to finding ways to guarantee access to a truly integral human development for all, especially the poor and the future generations”.


The Holy See at the 68th Assembly of the World Health Organisation


Vatican City, 20 May 2015 (VIS) – Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, president of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Health Care Workers and head of the Holy See delegation at the 68th Assembly of the World Health Organisation, held in Geneva from 18 to 26 May, participated in the debate on the Ebola virus epidemic which has claimed 9,380 lives out of a total of more than 23,000 cases of contagion throughout the world, mainly in West Africa.

“The Holy See delegation wishes to note the importance and the timeliness of the theme for the general discussion”, said the archbishop. “The recent Ebola outbreak was a human and public health tragedy, which, among others, showed that the need to build resilient health systems cannot be over emphasised, as they are essential for the provision of universal health coverage and for a prompt response to outbreaks of disease”.

“Unfortunately, most low income countries, which are still afflicted by infectious disease and epidemics, have very poor health systems that need urgent intervention, if they are to respond to the health needs of the whole population. … This requires long-term commitment from national governments and international donors to support resilient health systems and to ensure universal coverage of health services, thus strengthening the capacity of national health systems to deliver equitable and quality health-care services, and also stepping up their ability to respond to outbreaks and to improve community ownership and participation. This means short and long-term investment in a number of key elements of the health system; particularly, improved primary health care, an adequate number of trained health workers, availability of medicine, appropriate infrastructure, update statistical data, sufficient public financing, public-private partnership and scaling up the number of well-equipped health posts and district hospitals. It is also a challenge to donors to make a shift from short-term program funding to long-term comprehensive health service financing”.

“The recent report on Global evidence on inequities in rural health protection, by the International Labour Office, revealed that more than half of the population in rural areas worldwide does not have access to basic healthcare, with many of them at risk of impoverishment or deepened poverty due to out of pocket payment for services. This is clear evidence that, in 2015, we are still a long way from universal coverage. For various reasons, there are strong inequalities in access to healthcare between the rural and urban areas, with the latter often more advantaged than the former which are most deprived. Embracing the recommendation of the report, my delegation wishes to note the urgent need to address this rural urban divide in the post-2015 Development Agenda, bearing in mind that “human life is always sacred and always has ‘quality’”.

“In many countries, the Catholic Church is privileged to be one of the primary partners of the State in providing much needed health care services to populations in remote areas, through its over 110,000 health and social-welfare institutions around the world”, he concluded. “It is therefore important to offer them the necessary collaboration and support so as to enable them to bring the services close and to render them accessible to poor people in particular. Indeed, in many low-income countries, the contribution of civil society and communities to health services delivery is fundamental”.


Other Pontifical Acts


Vatican City, 20 May 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has:

- accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the diocese of Alto Solimoes, Brazil, presented by Bishop Evangelista Alcimar Caldas Magalhaes, O.F.M. Cap., upon reaching the age limit. He is succeeded by Bishop Adolfo Zon Pereira, S.X., coadjutor of the same diocese.

- appointed Fr. Paulo Jackson Nobrego de Sousa as bishop of Garanhuns (area 8,734, population 677,000, Catholics 609,000, priests 60, permanent deacons 7, religious 94), France. The bishop-elect was born in Sao Jose de Espinharas, Brazil in 1969 and was ordained a priest in 1993. He holds a licentiate in Biblical Sciences from the Pontifical Biblical Institute, Rome, and a doctorate in biblical theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome. He has served in a number of pastoral roles in the diocese of Patos, Brazil, including parish administrator, parish vicar, rector of the diocesan seminary, formator of major seminarians at the archdiocesan seminary of Joao Pessoa, diocesan pastoral coordinator, and parish priest. He has also served as national secretary of the Organisation of Seminaries and Philosophical and Theological Institutes of Brazil. He is currently professor of sacred scripture at the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais, parish priest of the “Senhor Bom Jesus do Horto” parish in Belo Horizonte, and formator of seminarians in Patos.

- appointed Bishop Laurent Dognin, auxiliary of Bordeaux, France, as bishop of Quimper (area 6,785, population 899,870, Catholics 733,000, priests 271, permanent deacons 33, religious 582), France.

- appointed Bishop Pedro Cunha Cruz, auxiliary of the archdiocese of Sao Sebastiao do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as coadjutor of the diocese of Campanha (area 15,420, population 780,000, Catholics 762,000, priests 116, religious 181), Brazil.

- accepted the resignation from the office of auxiliary of the archdiocese of Hamburg, Germany, presented by Bishop Norbert Werbs upon reaching the age limit.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Statistics on the Catholic Church in Bosnia and Herzegovina


Vatican City, 19 May 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father will make an apostolic trip to Sarajevo, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, on 6 June. The following are some statistical data on the Catholic Church in this country, from the Central Office of Church Statistics.

Bosnia and Herzegovina has a surface area of 51,197 sq. km. and a population of 3,833,000 inhabitants, of whom 43,900 are Catholics – 11.5% of the population. There are four ecclesiastical circumscriptions, 304 parishes and one parish centre. The apostolate consists of six bishops, 624 priests, 14 men religious and 537 women religious. There are 68 catechists and 120 major seminarians.

The Catholic Church in Bosnia and Herzegovina has 16 educational centres including pre-school, primary, middle, secondary and high schools, and a university. There are also six clinics, four rest homes for the elderly and disabled, four orphanages and nurseries, six family counselling centres and life protection centres, three centres for social education or re-education, and six centres of other types.

The Pope to the Italian bishops: denounce corruption, which impoverishes all


Vatican City, 19 May 2015 (VIS) - “Our vocation is to listen when the Lord asks us: 'Console my people'. Indeed, we are asked to console, to help, to encourage, without discrimination, all our brothers who are oppressed by the weight of their crosses, without ever tiring of working to lift them up again with the strength that comes only from God”, said Pope Francis yesterday afternoon to the bishops of the Italian Episcopal Conference, as he inaugurated the 68th assembly, to be held in the Vatican to analyse the reception of the Apostolic Exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium” (The Joy of the Gospel).

Proclaiming the Gospel today, a difficult moment in history, requires prelates to “go against the grain: or rather, to be joyful witnesses of the Risen Christ to transmit joy and hope to others”, said the Holy Father, who went on to illustrate the importance of the “ecclesial sensibility”, which means assuming the same sentiments as Christ, “sentiments of humility, compassion, concreteness and wisdom”.

A sensibility that also involves “not being timid … in denouncing and fighting against a widespread mentality of the public and private corruption that shamelessly impoverishes families, pensioners, honest workers and Christian communities, discarding the young, who are systematically deprived of any hope for their future, and above all marginalising the weak and the needy. It is an ecclesial sensibility that, as good pastors, makes us go forth towards the People of God to defend them from ideological colonisations that take away their identity and human dignity”.

This sensibility is also made tangible in pastoral decisions and in the elaboration of documents “where the abstract theoretical-doctrinal aspect must not prevail, as if our directions were intended not for our People or our country, but only for a few scholars or specialists – instead we must make the effort to translate them into concrete and comprehensible proposals”, emphasised Francis.

The strengthening of the essential role of the laity is another of the concrete applications of pastoral sensibility, since “laypeople with an authentic Christian formation should not need a bishop-guide … to assume their own responsibilities at all levels, political to social, economic to legislative. However, they do need a bishop-pastor”.

Finally, the ecclesial sensibility is revealed in a tangible way “in collegiality and in the communion between bishops and their priests; in the communion between bishops themselves; between dioceses which are materially and vocationally rich and those in difficulty; between the periphery and the centre; between episcopal conferences and the bishops, and the Successor of Peter”. He remarked, “in some parts of the world we see a widespread weakening of collegiality, both in pastoral planning and in the shared undertaking of economic and financial commitments. The habit of checking the reception of programmes and the implementation of projects is lacking. For example, conferences or events are organised which promote the usual voices, anaesthetising the Communities, approving choices, opinions and people, instead of allowing us to be transported towards the horizons where the Holy Spirit asks us to go”.

“Why do we let the religious institutes, monasteries and congregations age so much, almost to the point of no longer giving evangelical witness faithful to the founding charism? Why do we not try to regroup them before it is too late?”. This is a global problem that, as the Holy Father stated, indicates a lack of ecclesial sensibility.

“I will end here, after have presented to you a few examples of weakened ecclesial sensibility due to the need to continually face enormous global problems and the crisis that spares not even the Christian and ecclesial identity itself”, he concluded, asking the Lord to grant to all during the Jubilee Year of Mercy “the joy of rediscovering and making fruitful God's mercy, with which we are all called to console every man and every woman of our time”.


Other Pontifical Acts


Vatican City, 19 May 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed:

- Rev. Fr. James Massa and Rev. Fr. Witold Mroziewski as auxiliaries of Brooklyn (area 466, population 4,838,406, Catholics 1,403,137, priests 604, permanent deacons 225, religious 1,053), U.S.A.

Bishop-elect Massa was born in Jersey City, U.S.A., in 1960 and was ordained a priest in 1986. He holds a master's degree in theology from the Yale University School of Divinity, New Haven, and a doctorate in systematic theology from Fordham University, New York. He has served in a number of roles in the diocese of Brooklyn, including parish vicar, chaplain and professor at the Kansas Newman College, professor at the Pope John XXIII national seminary and the seminary of the Immaculate Conception, executive director of the ecumenical and interreligious committee of the U.S.A. episcopal conference, consultor of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, professor of the St. Joseph seminary, moderator of the curia and administrator of the Holy Name Parish.

Bishop-elect Mroziewski was born in Augustow, Poland in 1966 and was ordained a priest in 1991. He holds master's degrees in theology and canon law, and a doctorate in canon law from the Catholic University of Lublin, Poland. He has served in a number of roles, including parish vicar in the diocese of Lomza, Poland, and in Brooklyn, parish vicar, administrator, parish priest, judge at the diocesan tribunal, coordinator of the Polish apostolate, adjunct promoter of justice for criminal causes, member of the presbyteral council and defender of the bond. He is currently parish priest of the Holy Cross parish in Maspeth.
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