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Monday, May 13, 2013


Vatican City, 13 May 2013 (VIS) – This morning in the Vatican Apostolic Palace, the Holy Father received in audience His excellency Mr. Juan Manuel Santos Calderon, president of the Republic of Colombia. President Santos then met with the Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, S.D.B., accompanied by Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States.

In the course of cordial conversations, the actuality of Mother Laura Montoya Upegui, first Colombian saint and fruitful interpreter of the country's Christian roots, who had been canonized the preceding day in St. Peter's Square, was discussed. Also covered was the Church's contribution in promoting a “culture of encounter” and her works in service of the country's human and spiritual progress, particularly for the most in need and the youth.

The challenges that the country must face were taken into consideration, especially in regard to social inequalities. Reference to the undergoing process of peace and the victims of conflict was not overlooked, with the wishes that the parties involved carry on negotiations, inspired by a sincere search for the common good and for reconciliation. Finally, the Church's commitment in favour of life and of families was emphasized.


Vatican City, 13 May 2013 (VIS) – This morning, Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B., and Archbishop Angelo Becciu, substitute for General Affairs, presented the Holy Father with the 2013 edition of the "Annuario Pontificio" (Pontifical Yearbook, the Holy See's annual directory), in the presence of the officials responsible for compiling and printing the volumes. The "Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae" (the Church's Statistical Yearbook), which the same discastery is also responsible for, was also presented.

A reading of the information given shows some changes relative to the life of the Catholic Church in the world from 2012 to the election of Pope Francis.

In that period, it is noteworthy that there were erected: 11 new episcopal Sees; two personal ordinariates; one apostolic vicariate; and one apostolic prefecture. Also, one territorial prelature was elevated to the rank of diocese and two apostolic exarchates were elevated to the rank of eparchies.

The statistical information, which refers to the year 2011, reveals details about the Catholic Church in the 2,979 ecclesiastical circumscriptions around the planet. The number of Catholics in the world increased from 1.196 million in 2010 to 1.214 million in 2011, an increase of eighteen million faithful, corresponding to a growth of 1.5%. Over the last three years the presence of baptised Catholics in the world has remained stable at around 17.5%.

The number of Catholics with respect to the total population varies considerably between the continents. Their numbers have increased in Africa (by 4.3%), which has reported a 2.3% increase of its population between 2010 and 2011. In Asia, an increase in Catholics greater to an increase in the population was also recorded (of 2% compared to 1.2%). In the Americas and in Europe the increase in numbers of Catholics is equal to the population increase (.3%). In 2011, the total of baptised Catholics had a distribution of, by continent: the Americas (48.8%); Europe (23.5%); Africa (16%); Asia (10.9%); and Oceania (.8%).

From 2010 to 2011, the number of bishops increased from 5,104 to 5,132, a relative increase of .55%. The increase mainly involved Oceania (+4.6%) and Africa (+1%) while Asia and Europe are slightly below the world average and no variation is seen in the Americas.

The steady increase in the number of priests which began in the year 2000 has continued. On 31 December 2011, their numbers stood at 413,418 compared to last year's 412,236. Nevertheless, this was not homogeneous growth. In Africa and Asia the increase was, respectively, +39.5% and +32% (with an increase of more than 3,000 in 2011 alone). In the Americas the situation is stationary (122,000 priests) while, over the last decade, Europe has seen a decrease of more than 9%.

The number of permanent deacons registered a strong increase: from 29,000 in 2001 to 41,000 in 2011. Those present in North America and Europe count for 97.4% of the total.

The number of non-ordained male religious increased, slightly surpassing 55,000. Their numbers are increasing in Africa and Asia (+18.5% and +44.9% respectively) and decreasing in the Americas (-3.6%), in Europe (-18%), and in Oceania (-21.9%).

The is a strong decrease in the number of female religious, which currently registers 713,000 members in contrast to 792,000 in 2001. There are fewer female religious in Europe (-22%), Oceania (-21%), and the Americas (-17%). Nevertheless there is significant growth in their numbers in Africa (+28%) and in Asia (18%).

Candidates for the priesthood, diocesan and religious, have increased since 2001 (112,244) by 7.5%. In 2011 there were 120,616 registered. The strongest increase in seminarians was in Africa (+30.9%), and Asia (+29.4%), while Europe and the Americas registered a decrease in their numbers of 21.7% and 1.9% respectively.


Vatican City, 12 May 2013 (VIS) – “Let us look to the new saints in light of the Word of God that has been proclaimed,” the Pope said during his homily at the Mass in which three new saints were canonized. “It is a Word that has invited us to faithfulness to Christ, even unto martyrdom. It has recalled for us the urgency and beauty of bearing Christ and his Gospel to all. It has spoken to us of the witness of charity, without which even martyrdom and mission lose their Christian savour.”

The Martyrs of Otranto were more than 800 men from the southern Italian city who had survived the siege and invasion of Otranto only to be decapitated on the outskirts of the city when they refused to renounce their faith and died witnessing to the Risen Christ. “Where did they find the strength to remain faithful,” the Pope asked. “Precisely from the faith, which makes us see beyond the limits of our human sight, beyond this earthly life … God will never leave us without strength and serenity. While we venerate the Martyrs of Otranto, let us ask God to sustain the many Christians who, precisely at this time, now, and in many parts of the world, are still suffering violence, that He give them the valour to be faithful and to respond to evil with good.”

The second saint canonized, Mother Laura Montoya, “was an instrument of evangelisation, first as a teacher and then as the spiritual mother of the indigenous peoples in whom she instilled hope, embracing them with the love she had learned from God, bringing them to him with a pedagogical efficiency that respected their culture and didn't put itself in opposition to it. … This first saint born in the beautiful Colombian land teaches us to be generous with God, to not live the faith in isolation—as if it were possible to live the faith in an isolated way—but to communicate it, to bear the joy of the Gospel with words and witness of life in every sphere in which we find ourselves. … She teaches us to see Jesus' face reflected in others, to overcome indifference and selfishness, which corrode Christian communities and corrode our hearts, and she teaches us to embrace everyone without prejudice, without discrimination, and without reticence, but with sincere love, giving them the best of ourselves and above all sharing with them what we have that is most precious—not our deeds or our institutions. No! What we have that is most precious is Christ and his Gospel.”

Saint Guadalupe Garcia Zavala, “renouncing a life of ease—and how damaging the easy life, well-being, can be; the “embourgeoisement” of our hearts that paralyses us—...to follow Jesus' call, who taught her to love poverty so that she could love the poor and the sick more. … The poor, the abandoned, the ill, the marginalized are the flesh of Christ. Mother Lupita touched Christ's flesh and taught us this way of acting: of not being embarrassed, not being afraid, not being disgusted to 'touch the flesh of Christ'! … This new Mexican saint invites us to love as Jesus has loved us and this entails not being locked up in oneself, in our own problems, our own ideas, our own interests, in this little world that causes us so much harm, but to go out and go in search of who needs attention, understanding, and help, in order to bring them the warm nearness of God's love through tactful gestures of sincere affection and love.”

At the end of his homily, the Pope emphasized that the new saints teach us “faithfulness to Jesus and his Gospel, to proclaim him in word and with our lives, witnessing to God's love with our love and with our charity towards all.”


Vatican City, 12 May 2013 (VIS) – At the end of the Mass for the canonization of the new saints, the Pope greeted the official delegations from Italy, Colombia, and Mexico, led respectively by Italian Minister of Justice Anna Maria Cancellieri; the President of the Republic of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos Calderon; and the Adjunct General Director for Religious Affairs of the Presidency of the Republic of Mexico, Roberto Herrera Mena.

May the Martyrs of Otranto,” he exclaimed, “help the dear Italian people to look hopefully to the future, entrusting in the nearness of God who never abandons us, even in difficult times.”

The he asked for the intercession of Mother Laura Montoya that the Lord may “grant new missionary and evangelizing impetus to the Church and that, inspired by this new saint's example of harmony and reconciliation, the beloved children of Colombia might continue working for the progress of peace and justice in their country.”

In the hands of St. Guadalupe Garcia Zavala, we place all the poor, the sick, and those who assist them, and we entrust to her intercession the noble Mexican nation so that, all violence and insecurity banished, it may advance ever more along the path of solidarity and fraternal coexistence.”

The Holy Father also noted that yesterday, Saturday 11 May, Fr. Luigi Novarese, founder of the volunteer Centre of the Suffering and the Silent Works of the Cross, was beatified in Rome. Fr. Novarese was “an exemplary priest who renewed the pastoral outreach to the sick, making them active subjects in the Church.”

Finally, the Bishop of Rome greeted those participating in the “March for Life” that took place today in Rome, inviting them all to “keep everyone's attention alive to the very important topic of respect for human life from the moment of its conception. In this regards I would also like to note the signatures being gathered today in many Italian parishes for the purpose of sustaining the European citizens' initiative 'One of Us', to guarantee legal protection to embryos, protecting every human being from the first instant of their existence. A special moment for those who have the defence of the sacredness of human life at heart will be the 'Evangelium Vitae Day', which will take place here in the Vatican within the context of the Year of Faith, this 15-16 June.”


Vatican City, 13 May 2013 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father received twelve prelates from the Puglia region of the Italian Episcopal Conference on their "ad limina" visit:

   - Archbishop Francesco Cacucci of Bari-Bitonto,
   - Archbishop Giovanni Battista Pichierri of Trani-Barletta-Bisceglie,
   - Archbishop Donato Negro of Otranto,
   - Archbishop Francesco Pio Tamburrino, O.S.B., of Foggia-Bovino,
   - Archbishop Michele Castoro of Manfredonia-Vieste-San Giovanni Rotondo,
   - Bishop Raffaele Calabro of Andria,
   - Bishop Mario Paciello of Altamura-Gravina-Acquaviva delle Fonti,
   - Bishop Lucio Angelo Renna, O. Carm., of San Severo,
   - Bishop Felice di Molfetta of Cerignola-Ascoli Satriano,
   - Bishop Luigi Martella of Molfetta-Ruvo-Giovinazzo-Terlizzi,
   - Bishop Pietro Maria Fragnelli of Castellaneta, and
   - Bishop Domenico Cornacchia of Lucera-Troia.

On Saturday, 11 May, the Holy Father received:

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

   - Cardinal Antonio Maria Veglio, president of the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People.


Vatican City, 13 May 2013 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father elevated Fr. Victor Manuel Fernandez to the dignity of archbishop, assigning him the Titular Archiepiscopal See of Tiburnia. The archbishop-elect was born in Alcira Gigena, Cordoba, Argentina in 1962 and was ordained a priest in 1986. Since ordination he has served in several pastoral, academic, and administrative roles including, since 2011, as rector of The Catholic University of Argentina.

On Saturday, 11 May, the Holy Father accepted the resignation from the the office of auxiliary of the Archdiocese of Szczecin-Kamien, Poland, presented by Bishop Marian Blazej Kruszylowicz, O.F.M. Conv., upon having reached the age limit.
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