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Wednesday, January 8, 2014


Vatican City, 8 January 2014 (VIS) – In his first general audience of 2014, Pope Francis began a new series of catechesis on the Sacraments, starting with Baptism and recalling that by a fortunate coincidence, next Sunday will be the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

Baptism is the Sacrament “on which our faith is based, and which grafts us to Christ and His Church, as living members. Together with the Eucharist and Confirmation it forms the so-called 'Christian initiation', which constitutes a single, great sacramental event that aligns us with the Lord and makes us into a living sign of His presence and His love”.

However, the Bishop of Rome observed, we might ask, “Is Baptism truly necessary for us to live as Christians and to follow Jesus? Is it not fundamentally a simple rite, a formal act of the Church, for naming a child?” To answer this, he repeated the words of the apostle Paul: “Don’t you know that all of us who were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life'”.

“Therefore, it is not a mere formality! A baptised child is not the same as an child who is not baptised; a baptised person is not the same as one who has not received baptism. It is an act that touches the depth of our existence. We are immersed in that inexhaustible fount of life that is the death of Jesus, the greatest act of love of all history; and thanks to this love we are able to live a new life, no longer at the mercy of evil, sin and death, but rather in communion with God and with our brothers”.

The Pope again commented that many of us do not know the date when we were baptised and, as before, asked, those present in St. Peter's Square to find out the date of their baptism, as “it is a happy date”. “Obviously we do not remember the ceremony, especially if we were baptised soon after birth, but it is a pity not to recognise the importance of this day, as we thereby “risk losing sight of what the Lord has done for us, of the gift we have received. We end up considering it merely as an event that took place in the past – and not even by our will, but rather by that of our parents – that has no effect on the present”.

Instead, “we are called to live out our Baptism day after day, as a current fact of our existence. If we succeed in following Jesus and remaining in the Church, even with our limits and our frailty, it is precisely because of the Sacrament in which we became new creatures and were re-clothed in Christ. It is by Baptism, indeed, that we are freed from sin and enter into Jesus' relationship with God the Father, that we become bearers of new hope, that nothing and nobody may extinguish; the hope of taking the road to salvation; that we are able to forgive and love even those who offend us or harm us; and that we are able to recognise in the marginalised and the poor the face of the Lord who visits and draws close to us”.

Another characteristic of Baptism, concluded the Pontiff, is that “no-one can baptise himself; we can ask for baptism, wish for it, but we always need someone to confer this Sacrament in the name of the Lord. This is because Baptism is a gift that is given in a context of care and fraternal sharing. Throughout history, one person baptises another, who baptises another, and another … it is a chain. A chain of grace. But I cannot baptise myself; I have to ask another person to baptise me. It is an act of brotherhood, an act of affiliation to the Church. In the celebration of Baptism we recognise the truest features of the Church, who is like a mother who continues to generate new children in Christ, in the fecundity of the Holy Spirit”.

Following his catechesis and speaking in Italian, the Pope greeted those present, including the members of a circus company which will travel to Latin America this year; he encouraged them on their travels from city to city to “be messengers of joy and brotherhood in a society that greatly needs these qualities”.


Vatican City, 8 January 2014 (VIS) – The Holy Father has written a letter, dated 17 December 2013, for the 13th Inter-ecclesial Meeting of the Basic Ecclesial Communities (CEB), which will be held from 7 to 11 January in the city of Juazeiro do Norte in the Brazilian state of Ceara. The meeting will be dedicated to the theme: “Justice and prophesy in the service of life”.

The Pope conveys to the participants his wish that “the light of the Holy Spirit help you live with renewed enthusiasm the commitments of the Gospel of Jesus within Brazilian society”, and, recalling the Aparecida document, remarks that the CEB constitute a tool for ensuring “greater knowledge of the Word of God, social commitment in the name of the Gospel, the appearance of new lay services and education in faith for adults”.

He goes on to reiterate that the CEB must be characterised by “a new evangelical impulse and the capacity to relate to the world for the renewal of the Church”, and that it is therefore necessary “not to lose touch with the rich reality of the local parish, and to integrate the organic pastoral of the particular Church”.

Pope Francis concludes the letter by mentioning that evangelisation is the duty of all the Church, of all the People of God: “we must all be pilgrims, in the field and in the city, bringing the joy of the Gospel to all men and women. May the words of St. Paul resound in our hearts: 'Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!'”.


Vatican City, 8 January 2014 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father received in audience Bishop Nunzio Galantino, secretary general “ad interim” of the Italian Episcopal Conference.


Vatican City, 8 January 2014 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father appointed Fr. Irineu Roman, C.S.I. as auxiliary of the archdiocese of Belem do Para (area 2.082, population 2,125,000, Catholics 1,544,000, priests 194, permanent deacons 84, religious 518), Brazil. The bishop-elect was born in Vista Alegre do Prata, Brazil in 1958, gave his perpetual vows in 1988 and was ordained a priest in 1990. He studied theology at the Instituto Teologico do Norte do Parana in Londrina, Brazil, and the Pontifical Catholic University of Porto Alegre. He has served in the following pastoral roles: director of the Giuseppino di Fazenda Souza seminary in Caxias do Sul, director of the Giuseppino di Ana Rech seminary in Caxias do Sul, vicar of the parish of “Santa Rita de Cassia” in Planaltina and director of the seminary for adult vocations; director and chancellor of the religious community of Planaltina. He is currently priest of the parish of “Santa Edwiges” in Belem, in the archdiocese of Belem do Para and episcopal vicar of the “Sao Joao Batista” region.
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