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Wednesday, October 2, 2013


Vatican City, 2 October 2013 (VIS) – The holiness of the Church was the theme chosen by Francis for his catechesis during today's general audience, which took place in St. Peter's Square and was attended by more than 50,000 people.

In the Creed, after professing that the Church is “one”, the Pope said, “we also confess that she is 'holy'; we thus affirm the holiness of the Church, and this is a characteristic that has been present ever since the beginning in the conscience of the first Christians, who called themselves simply 'the holy', as they were certain of the action of God, of the Holy Spirit who sanctifies the Church”.

But”, he asked, “How can we say that the Church is holy, if we see that the Church throughout history, during her long journey through the centuries, has experienced many moments of darkness? How can a Church be holy if she is made up of human beings, of sinners? Of men who are sinners, women who are sinners, priests who are sinners, nuns who are sinners, bishops who are sinners, cardinals who are sinners, popes who are sinners? Everyone. How can a Church like this be holy?”

The Church is holy because “she comes from God Who is holy, Who is faithful to her and never abandons her to the power of death and evil. She is holy because Jesus Christ, Saint of God, is indissolubly united to her; she is holy because she is guided by the Holy Spirit which purifies, transforms, and renews. She is not holy by our merits, but because God makes her holy”.

You could say to me: but the Church is made up of sinners, we see this every day. And this is true: we are a Church of sinners, and we sinners are called to let ourselves be transformed … by God. Throughout history there has been the temptation to say: the Church is just the Church of the pure, of those who are entirely coherent, and the rest are to be cast aside. No! It's true! This is heresy... The Church is holy, she does not refuse sinners; on the contrary, she welcomes them, she is open even to those who are most distant, she calls to all to allow themselves to be surrounded by the mercy, tenderness, and forgiveness of the Father, Who offers to all the opportunity to encounter Him and to walk the path to holiness. … Is there anyone here who brings no sin with them? No, we all carry our sins with us.”

In the Church, the God we encounter “is not a ruthless judge, but is like the Father in the Gospel parable. … The Lord wants us to be part of a Church who knows how to extend her arms to welcome all, who is not the house of few, but the home of all, where everyone can be renewed, transformed and sanctified by His love; the strongest and the weakest, sinners, the indifferent, the discouraged and the lost. The Church offers to all the possibility of embarking on the road of holiness, which is the road of the Christian”.

Do not be afraid of holiness”, concluded Francis, “of letting yourself be loved and purified by God. … Let us allow God's holiness be transmitted to us. Every Christian is called to holiness; and holiness does not consist, first and foremost, in doing extraordinary things, but rather in letting God act. It is the encounter between our weakness and the strength of His grace”.


Vatican City, 2 October 2013 (VIS) – In a press conference held in the Holy See Press Office this morning, director Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., gave information on the meeting of the Council of Cardinals, taking place in the Vatican from 1 to 3 October.

The members of the Council, before the beginning of the meeting, concelebrate with the Pope the morning Holy Mass in the Santa Marta chapel, said Fr. Lombardi. Following the first meeting yesterday morning in the third loggia of the papal apartment, they decided to continue the meetings in the Santa Marta guesthouse, where they all currently reside. The meetings will take place in a small room, not far from the Chapel, for logistic reasons, ensuring that the members do not need to transfer to the apostolic palace. The meetings follow an intense schedule: from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Pope Francis will participate in the morning and evening sessions on Tuesday. Today he was not present due to the general Audience, but he will be present this afternoon and tomorrow.

The Pope emphasised the significance of the chirograph by which he instituted the Council of Cardinals, “a document that gives this group juridical status, stability and continuity and which makes the Council a more consistent tool, especially from a juridical point of view”. He also specified that the members are not “continental delegates”, but rather members of the episcopal college who are also cardinals, who have rich pastoral experience, and who come from large dioceses. The Holy Father chose them for this reason, but they are not delegates of the episcopates of various parts of the world.

They are all people whom the Pope holds in high regard, with whom he is in confidence and accord and whose advice he considers to be helpful in taking what he considers to be the most suitable approach to the governance of the Church”, continued Fr. Lombardi. “This is not an insignificant task, since confidence and esteem foster the climate of serenity necessary for an open and constructive dialogue”.

The first meeting yesterday afternoon opened with a brief introduction from the Pope and a reflection on the ecclesiology of Vatican Council II, in order to define the nature of the Council in relation not only to organisational matters, but to “a broader theological and spiritual vision of the Church, inspired by the ecclesiology of Vatican Council II and the implementation of its themes”. “Naturally”, specified Fr. Lombardi, “this is not achieved simply by means of a morning round table, but indicates the views the various board members take. They have considered issues such as how to revive and refresh the relationship between the universal and local Church, communion and collegiality, the need to be a Church of the poor, and the role of the laity; all points raised by Vatican Council II and which form a backdrop to the work of the Council of Cardinals. In the light of this, they will later consider structures of governance”.

Each of the participants presented a brief summary of the suggestions received, and brought along material which forms part of the common working documentation for the Council. This has enabled the group to classify the major themes to be considered in this and subsequent sessions.

The afternoon session was dedicated to the Synod of Bishops and was attended by the new secretary, Bishop Baldisseri. “It is an important theme, both for the participation of the episcopate in the life of the Church through the synod, and for the urgency of initiating preparations for the next synod, about which we will probably know more within a few days. However we do not know if it will be an ordinary or extraordinary synod”, said Lombardi, adding that the Pope had made reference to a “theme of an anthropological nature: the family according to the Gospel, but in any case it is not yet precise. The Holy Father also said that prominent themes such as family and matrimonial pastoral will be the order of the day in the activity of the Church in the near future”.

Today, Wednesday, the Council has focused on other issues such as the reform of the Curia in its various aspects, the function of the Secretariat of State, relations between the dicasteries and with the Holy Father. There have been many suggestions and contributions. It is is long term task, and therefore one should not expect conclusions in the short term or within these days”.
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