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Wednesday, September 11, 2013


Vatican City, 11 September 2013 (VIS) – Five hundred faithful participated this morning in the Wednesday general audience, in which Pope Francis continued his catechesis on the Church during the “Year of Faith”, turning to the theme of maternity.

Among the images that the Vatican Council II chose to help us better understand the nature of the Church, there is that of the 'mother': the Church is our mother in faith and in the supernatural life. For me it is the most beautiful image of the Church: the Church as mother. In what sense and how is the Church a mother? Let us begin with the human reality of maternity”.

First and foremost a mother gives life, she carries her child in the womb for nine months and then introduces him to life – she generates him. The Church does likewise: she generates us in faith, by the work of the Holy Spirit who renders her fruitful, like the Virgin Mary. Certainly, faith is a personal act … but we receive faith from others, in a family, in a community that teaches me to say 'I believe', 'we believe'. A Christian is not an island! We do not become Christians alone and by our own efforts, but rather faith is a gift from God that is given in and through the Church. And the Church gives us life in Baptism: that is, the moment in which she enables us to be born as children of God, the moment in which she gives us life in God, in which she generates us as a mother. … This permits us to understand something very important: our participation in the Church is not an external or formal fact, it is not a question of filling out a form, but is instead an internal and vital act. One does not belong to the Church in the same way as one belongs to a society, a team or any other organisation. It is a living bond, like that one has with one's own mother as … the Church is truly the mother of all Christians”.

A mother does not limit herself to giving life, but rather with great care helps her children to grow; she gives them milk, she nurtures them, she shows them the path of life, she accompanies them … she also knows how to correct them, to forgive, to understand; she knows how to be close to them in times of illness and suffering. In short, a good mother helps her children to come out of themselves, not to stay comfortably tucked under the maternal wing. … The Church, like a good mother, does the same thing: she accompanies our growth by transmitting to us the Word of God, which is a light that illuminates the path of Christian life, in administering the Sacraments. She nourishes us with the Eucharist, she brings us God's forgiveness through the Sacrament of Penance, she supports us in times of sickness through the Anointing of the Sick. The Church accompanies us in all our life in faith, in all our Christian life”.

Francis concluded by remarking that in the first centuries of the Church, it was very clearly understood that “the Church, while she is the mother of Christians, while she 'makes' Christians, is also 'made up' of Christians. The Church is not something apart from us, but is rather the entire body of believers, as the 'we' of Christians: I, you, we are all part of the Church. So, we all experience the maternity of the Church, both pastors and faithful. At times I hear: 'I believe in God but not in the Church … I've heard that the Church says … that priests say...”. Priests are one thing, but the Church is not made up solely of priests – we are all the Church! And if you say that you believe in God but you do not believe in the Church, you are saying that you do not believe in yourself, which is a contradiction. We are all the Church: from the recently baptised child to the bishops, to the Pope; we are all Church, and we are all equal in the eyes of God. We are all called to collaborate in the birth of faith in new Christians, we are all called upon to be educators in faith, to proclaim the Gospel. ... We all participate in the maternity of the Church … we are all the Church … so that the light of Christ may illuminate the furthest reaches of the Earth. Long live the Holy Mother Church!


Vatican City, 11 September 2013 (VIS) – In the early afternoon of yesterday, 10 September, Pope Francis visited the Centro Astalli in Rome, which receives and offers support to asylum-seekers and refugees, managed by the Jesuit Service for Refugees. The Pope arrived at the centre at lunchtime and greeted the diners and the volunteers working in the canteen. From there he proceeded first to the chapel in the Centre for a moment of private prayer, then to the Church of Jesus where he met with around five hundred people, all members of the institution, including workers, volunteers, friends and residents. Before addressing those present he listened to the words of two refugees, a Sudanese man and a Syrian woman.

Each one of you, dear friends, carries with you the story of a life riven by the drama of war, by conflicts often linked to international politics”, remarked the Holy Father. “But each of you carries above all a human and religious richness; a wealth to be welcomed, not feared. Many of you are Muslims or of other religions; you come from many countries and from different situations. We must not be afraid of difference! Brotherhood allows us to discover that diversity is wealth, a gift for all!”

The Pope recalled that Rome, after Lampedusa and other entry points, represents for many people the second stage of “a difficult, exhausting and at times violent journey” the undertake “with the aim of ensuring a future for their children and the hope of a different life for them and for their families”. Therefore, Rome should be “a city that allows them to rediscover the human dimension, to begin to smile again. However how often, here, as in other places, are many people whose stay permits bear the words 'international protection' forced to live in impoverished or at times degrading conditions, without the chance to begin a dignified life, to plan a new future?”

The Pope went on to speak about the commitment of the Society of Jesus to the cause of refugees, observing that St. Ignatius of Loyola had wanted a space to welcome the poor at his residence in Rome, and so in 1981 Fr. Pedro Arrupe founded the Jesuit Refugee Service, in the hope of maintaining the service in the heart of the city. “And I think of the spiritual farewell of Fr. Arrupe in Thailand, in a centre for refugees”, he added.

Francis selected three words to define the work of the Jesuits and their collaborators: serve, accompany and defend.

Serving means to welcome with care a person as they arrive, to reach out to them, without calculation and without fear … to work alongside those most in need, and first and foremost to establish with them a human relationship of closeness, to develop bonds of solidarity. … It means recognising and welcoming demands for justice, for hope, and together seeking the way, the real paths to liberation”.

But if we are to accompany, to welcome is not enough. “It is not enough to offer a sandwich if this is not accompanied by the possibility of learning to stand on one's own two feet. Charity that leaves the poor in the same situation as before is not adequate. True mercy, that which God gives and teaches us, asks for justice, asks that the poor find the way out of their poverty. It asks us - the Church, the city of Rome, the institutions – it demands that no-one should be in need of a meal, of a temporary shelter, a legal assistance service, to enable the recognition of his or her right to live and to work, to be recognised fully as a person”.

To serve and to accompany both mean to defend, they mean “to place oneself on the side of the weakest. … How often are we unable or unwilling to echo the voices of those … who have suffered and suffer, to those who have seen their rights trampled, who have experienced so much violence that it has even suffocated their desire for justice?”

The Holy Father emphasised that for all the Church it is important that receiving the poor and the promotion of justice are not simply entrusted to “specialists”, but rather take their place at the centre of pastoral care, and called in particular on religious Institutes to consider “seriously and with responsibility this sign of the times”. “The Lord”, he said, “calls us to live with more courage and generosity” the welcoming of the needy “in communities, in houses, in empty convents. … Empty convents are not to be sold to be transformed into hotels to make money for the Church. The empty convents are not ours, they are for the flesh of Christ, for the refugees. … This certainly isn't simple, and requires criteria, responsibility, and also courage. We do much, but we are perhaps called to do more, welcoming and sharing decisively that which Providence has given us to serve”.

Following his address, the Holy Father, accompanied by two refugees, placed a floral tribute on the tomb of Fr. Arrupe, buried in the Church of Jesus, and then returned to the Vatican.


Vatican City, 11 September 2013 (VIS) – Pope Francis has written a letter to the founder of “La Repubblica”, Eugenio Scalfari, responding to some questions that the ex-director of the newspaper had addressed to the Pope in various articles on faith and laicism. In the four-page letter, published today by the Italian daily, Francis addresses Scalfari and non-believers with a summary of how he personally discovered faith, reiterating that “without the Church I would not have been able to encounter Jesus” and adding that “it is due to this personal experience of faith lived within the Church that I am at ease in listening to your questions and in seeking, together with you, the paths along which we may perhaps begin to walk some of the way together”.

To the questions of how the Church responds to those who do not share in faith in Jesus and whether the Christian God forgives those who do not believe and do not seek faith, the Pope answers that “considering – and this is the fundamental issue – that the mercy of God knows no limits if we turn to him with a sincere and penitent heart, the real question for those who do not believe in God lies in listening to one's own conscience”. He explains, “Sin, also in those who are without faith, exists when it goes against our conscience. Listening to and obeying one's conscience means, indeed, to make decisions in relation to what is perceived as good and bad. And on this decision rests the goodness or evil of our actions”.

On the theme of whether it is wrong or a sin to believe that no “absolute truth” exists, the Pope writes, “the truth, according to Christian faith, is God's love for us in Jesus Christ. So, the truth is a relationship! Each one of us receives the truth and expresses it in his or her own way, from the history, culture, and situation in which he or she lives”.

In response to the final question, “With the disappearance of man on earth, would there disappear also the thought capable of imagining God?”, Francis writes, “The greatness of man rests in his capacity to think of God. And this means being able to experience a knowing and responsible relationship with Him. But the relationship is between two realities. … God does not depend on our thought. Besides, when man's life on earth ends – for the Christian faith, in any case, this world as we know it is destined to fall – man will not cease to exist, and, in a way that we do not know, nor will the universe that was created with him”.

Francis concludes by emphasising that “the Church, believe me, despite all the slowness, the infidelity, the mistakes and the sins that may have been committed by those who belong to her, has no other meaning or aim other than living and bearing witness to Jesus”.


Vatican City, 11 September 2013 (VIS) – On 22 September Pope Francis will visit Cagliari, on the Italian island of Sardinia, as was announced during the general audience of 15 May, when it was affirmed that a long-standing bond of brotherhood existed between the cities of Buenos Aires and Cagliari. “At the moment of the founding of the city of Buenos Aires, its founder wanted to name it 'City of the Most Holy Trinity', but the sailors who had brought him there were Sardinian and they wanted it to be called 'City of the Virgin of Bonaria'. There was an argument and, in the end, they arrived at a compromise. Thus the city's name turned out to be rather long: 'City of the Most Holy Trinity and Port of Our Lady of Bonaria'. Since it was so long, only the last word remained: Bonaria, Buenos Aires, in memory of your image of the Virgin of Bonaria”.

The aeroplane carrying the Pope will depart at 7.30 a.m. from Ciampino airport, Rome, and will land 45 minutes later at Mario Mameli airport, Cagliari. At 8.45 a.m., in the city of Cagliari, he will meet with and address representatives from the world of work; he will then greet the island's authorities and, at the Shrine of Our Lady of Bonaria, will visit the sick and celebrate Holy Mass at 10.30 a.m.

At 1 p.m. he will lunch with the bishops of Sardinia in the Regional Pontifical Seminary of Cagliari and at 3 p.m. in the Cathedral he will meet with the poor and some detainees. An hour later, in the Great Hall of the Pontifical Faculty of Theology, he will encounter some representatives from the world of culture and at 5 p.m., following the performance of “Cast your nets”, he will meet with young people in Largo Carlo Felice. The Pope will leave Sardinia at 6.30 p.m. and will return to the Vatican at 7.30 p.m.
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