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Thursday, June 6, 2013


Vatican City, 6 June 2013 (VIS) – “You are preparing for a particular ministry of commitment … a task that requires … great inner freedom,” Pope Francis said this morning to the 45 members of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy whom he received this morning in the Clementine Hall of the Vatican Apostolic Palace, with their president, Archbishop Beniamino Stella. It is the institution that trains candidates for the Holy See's diplomatic service.

In his address to the group, the Holy Father urged the current students to: “live these years of your preparation with commitment, generosity, and greatness of soul, so that this freedom can truly take shape in you!” The Pope explained that, first of all, this freedom “means being free from personal projects: from some of the concrete ways that, perhaps one day, you imagined living your priesthood, from planning the future; from the perspective of staying a long time in 'your' place of pastoral action. It means making yourselves free, in some way, even from the culture and the mentality that you came from, not to forget it and even less to deny it, but to open yourselves, in charity, to understanding diverse cultures and meeting persons belonging to worlds that are even very far removed from your own.”

Above all, it means being vigilant in order to be free from personal ambitions or aims, which can cause so much harm to the Church, taking care to always put, not your own fulfilment or the recognition that you could receive within and outside of the ecclesial community, but the greater good of the Gospel cause and the fulfilment of the mission that you will be entrusted with. … The ministry that you are preparing for asks you to go out of yourselves, a self-detachment that can only be achieved through an intense spiritual journey and a serious unification of the life around you to the mystery of God's love and to the inscrutable plan of his call.”

We can live the freedom from our plans and our will not as a reason for frustration or emptiness, but as an openness to God's superabundant gift, which makes our priesthood fruitful. In this way, the Holy Father asked them to take great care of their spiritual lives, the source of that inner freedom, by “cultivating a life of prayer and by making your daily work the gym of your sanctification”.

Francis reminded those present of the words of Blessed John XXIII: “The more mature I grow in years and experience, the more I recognize that the surest way to make myself holy and to succeed in the service of the Holy See lies in the constant effort to reduce everything … to the utmost simplicity and tranquillity … and concentrate on what is truth, justice, and charity, above all charity. Any other way of behaving is nothing but affectation and self-assertion; it soon shows itself in its true colours and becomes a hindrance and a mockery.”

In his own words, the Pope then mentioned the sisters who carry out their service amongst the Academy's students. “They are good Mothers who accompany you with prayer, with their simple and essential words, and above all by their example of loyalty, dedication, and love.” He also thanked the lay personnel that work at the house “with their hidden yet important presence that allows you to live your time at the Academy serenely and committedly.” On concluding the audience, the Holy Father invited them to undertake their service to the Holy See with the same spirit as Blessed John XXIII, asked them to pray for him, and entrusted them to the Virgin Mary and their patron, St. Anthony Abbot.


Vatican City, 6 June 2013 (VIS) – In a note released today, the Prefecture of the Pontifical Household announced that, during the summer period, all private and special audiences will be suspended. The Wednesday general audiences of 3,10, 17, and 31 July are likewise suspended and will resume again from 7 August. On Sunday, 14 July, the Holy Father will pray the Angelus from the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo. From Monday, 22 July, to Monday, 29 July, the Holy Father will travel to Brazil for the 28th World Youth Day.

Director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., explained this morning that the pontiff's normal residence for the summer period will continue to be the Domus Sanctae Marthae, even if he will occasionally travel to Castel Gandolfo, as for the Sunday Angelus on 14 July. Further, the morning Masses in the chapel of the Domus will be suspended from 7 July.


Vatican City, 31 May 2013 (VIS) – “Welcoming Christ in Refugees and Forcibly Displaced Persons” is the title of the document prepared by the Pontifical Councils for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples and "Cor Unum", which was presented this morning at a press conference in the Holy See Press Office. Speaking at the conference were Cardinal Antonio Maria Veglio and Cardinal Robert Sarah, respectively presidents of the two dicasteries. Also participating in the presentation were: Mr. Johan Ketelers, secretary general of the International Catholic Migration Commission (CICM) and Dr. Katrine Camilleri, assistant director of Jesuit Refugee Service Malta and recipient of the 2007 Nansen Refugee Award (United Nations Refugee Award, ACNUR-UNHCR).

Our document,” explained Cardinal Veglio, “is a pastoral guide that starts from a fundamental premise, ... which is that every policy, initiative, or intervention in this area must be guided by the principle of the centrality and dignity of every human person. … Indeed, this is the pivot of the Church's social doctrine: 'individual human beings are the foundation, the cause and the end of every social institution'. Refugees, asylum seekers, and the forcibly displaced, therefore, are persons whose dignity must be protected, indeed, it must be the absolute priority. This is why the document recalls the rights granted to each refugee, which promote the individuals' well-being. These are well described in the 1951 Refugee Convention.”

Governments must respect these rights while further [rights to be extended] to the people involved in forced migration must be studied. Protection must be guaranteed to all who live under conditions of forced migration, taking into account their specific needs, which can vary from a residency permit for victims of human trafficking to the possibility of being granted citizenship for those who are stateless,” the cardinal observed. On the contrary, he noted, it is occurring more and more frequently that refugees are subjected to confined detention, interment in refugee camps, and having their freedom to travel and their right to work restricted.

It would be very different if their recognized and declared rights were properly respected. After all, the States have established and ratified these convention to ensure that individuals' rights do not remain just proclaimed ideals or commitments that are subscribed to but not honoured. … The Church, for her part, is convinced that the pastoral care for all persons who, in various ways, are involved in forced migration is a collective responsibility, as well as [the responsibility] of each individual believer. … In close connection to moral values and the Christian vision, we mean to save human lives, to restore dignity to persons, to offer hope, and to give adequate social and communal responses. Letting ourselves be challenged by the presence of refugees, asylum seekers, and other persons who have been forcibly displace compels us to go out of our closed world, which is familiar to us, toward the unknown, in mission, in the courageous witness of evangelization,” the prelate concluded.

Cardinal Sarah then referred to the four million displaced persons within Syria, noting the 80,000 deaths, in less than two years, that have been “collateral effects” of the conflict. In this regard he observed that, up until the 1950's, in war there was a proportion of 1 civilian victim to 9 military casualties while today that amount has been inverted and dozens of thousands of people are in flight, “in the attempt to, at least, save their lives”.

He also referenced the population of the Sahel region of Africa, condemned to hunger because of drought, likening the situation to that in the American states that have recently been hit by tornadoes. He emphasized that, “at whatever latitude, the fight against against natural catastrophes is absolutely unequal and gives a sense of how humanity is at the mercy of nature instead of being its responsible custodian.” The cardinal did not overlook those who, even in Europe, are unemployed and condemned to “a 'structural poverty', who pay the price of political choices with their own lives”. Many of these persons chose the path of emigration, unleashing the “phenomenon of a flight of [intellectuals], which further and permanently impoverishes their country of origin”.

In this state of things “the Church intervenes in different ways according to her ability, mainly thanks to the worthy work of her charitable organizations and their volunteers”. But “charity, first of all, is wed to the individual … charity isn't a window or a register. Whoever is in need must be able to find a good Samaritan whose heart beats with theirs because they are made alike and because [the good Samaritan] serves Christ [in serving their neighbour in need].” In the same way, charity “has a plural dimension: the refugee, the impoverished, the suffering need a network of ecclesial support that embraces and assimilates them … recognizing the dignity of the person and making them again feel part of the human family, respecting their identity and their faith” because “the Christian community is called to live the ecclesial dimension of charity”.


Vatican City, 6 June 2013 (VIS) – The Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” called a meeting, from 4-5 June, of the Catholic charitable agencies that are working to combat the crisis in Syria. Around 25 representatives of local churches, charitable agencies working in the region, institutional donors from the Catholic world, the Holy See, and the Apostolic Nunciature in Syria gathered to reaffirm the continuity of their commitment and to renew the Holy Father's appeal that all violence cease and that paths of dialogue and reconciliation, based on respect for all, be opened.

The local Churches have responded concretely to the population, both in Syria and the entire region, from the beginning of the conflict. More than 400,000 persons are regularly supported, without discrimination, by humanitarian aid to the cost of more than 25 million Euro. Testimonials confirm the extent of the tragedy: almost 7 million people who need humanitarian assistance, more than 4.5 million forcibly displaced persons, and an ever-increasing number of persons seeking security outside of the country's borders.

A more careful analysis of the needs in this area have revealed that, with the onset of summer, the risk of epidemics in the affected population—with pregnant women, children, the elderly, and the disabled in particular jeopardy—will certainly increase along with shortages of medicines and aid.

In the face of this alarming situation, the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” has launched an appeal on behalf of all the agencies involved to economically support the humanitarian efforts and the search for peace, in the hopes of rebuilding a country that has been torn and destroyed by the conflict.

The international community must also provide more support to the countries that are receiving refugees and to humanitarian operations there, in order to be able to respond to their growing needs. The international community's mediation efforts, even if more decisive in respect to previous months, still seem insufficient. Thus the risks are increasing that the conflict in Syria might become another endless war in which the first victims are defenceless civilians, who are often treated as targets in the “useless massacre” of this ongoing violence.


Vatican City, 6 June 2013 (VIS) – According to a joint communique released today, “the Bilateral Permanent Working Commission between the Holy See and the State of Israel met [yesterday], 5 June 2013, at the Vatican, at the Plenary level to continue negotiations pursuant to the Fundamental Agreement Art. 10 paragraph 2.”

The meeting was headed by Msgr. Antoine Camilleri, under-secretary for the Holy See's Relations with States and by Mr. Zeev Elkin, M.K., deputy minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Israel. The Commission welcomed the two new heads of the delegations, and acknowledged the contribution of Ambassador Bahij Mansour to the negotiations and wished him success in his new position. The negotiations took place in a thoughtful and constructive atmosphere. The Commission took notice that significant progress was made and the parties committed themselves to accelerate negotiations on the remaining issues, and look forward to an expedited conclusion in the near term.”

The Parties have agreed on future steps and to hold the next Plenary meeting by December 2013 in Jerusalem.”


Vatican City, 6 June 2013 (VIS) – Today the Holy Father received:

   - the credential letters of the new ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran, His excellency Mr. Mohamed Taher Rabbani,

   - members of the presidency of the Latin American Confederation of Religious Orders (CLAR), and

   - Archbishop Beniamino Stella, president of Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy.


Vatican City, 6 June 2013 (VIS) – Today the Holy Father appointed Fr. Lionginas Virbalas, S.J., as bishop of Panevezys (area 13,000, population 390,000, Catholics 320,000, priests 98, religious 76), Lithuania. The bishop-elect, previously rector of the Pontifical Russian College of St. Therese of the Child Jesus in Rome, Italy, was born in Birzai, Lithuania, in 1961 and was ordained a priest in 1991. Since ordination he has served in several academic, pastoral, institutional, and diocesan level roles, most recently as: consultor of the Jesuit Provincial Curia in Lithuania (2003); adjunct secretary general of Lithuania's Episcopal Conference (2005-2009); and pastor of St. Casimir parish in Vilnius (1997-2005 and again from 2009-2010). He succeeds Bishop Jonas Kauneckas, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.
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