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Thursday, January 16, 2014


Vatican City, 16 January 2014 (VIS) – Following is the Holy Father's message to the bishops, priests, consecrated, and faithful throughout the world for the 51st World Day of Prayer for Vocations, which will take place this 11 May and has the theme of “Vocations: Witness to the Truth”.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. The Gospel says that 'Jesus went about all the cities and villages... When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest”' (Mt 9:35-38). These words surprise us, because we all know that it is necessary first to plow, sow and cultivate to then, in due time, reap an abundant harvest. Jesus says instead that “the harvest is plentiful”. But who did the work to bring about these results? There is only one answer: God. Clearly the field of which Jesus is speaking is humanity, us. And the efficacious action which has borne “much fruit” is the grace of God, that is, communion with Him (cf. Jn 15:5). The prayer which Jesus asks of the Church therefore concerns the need to increase the number of those who serve his Kingdom. Saint Paul, who was one of 'God’s fellow workers', tirelessly dedicated himself to the cause of the Gospel and the Church. The Apostle, with the awareness of one who has personally experienced how mysterious God’s saving will is, and how the initiative of grace is the origin of every vocation, reminds the Christians of Corinth: 'You are God’s field' (1 Cor 3:9). That is why wonder first arises in our hearts over the plentiful harvest which God alone can bestow; then gratitude for a love that always goes before us; and lastly, adoration for the work that he has accomplished, which requires our free consent in acting with him and for him.

2. Many times we have prayed with the words of the Psalmist: 'It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture' (Ps 100:3); or: 'The Lord has chosen Jacob for himself, Israel as his own possession' (Ps 135:4). And yet we are God’s 'possession' not in the sense of a possession that renders us slaves, but rather of a strong bond that unites us to God and one another, in accord with a covenant that is eternal, 'for his steadfast love endures for ever' (Ps 136). In the account of the calling of the prophet Jeremiah, for example, God reminds us that he continually watches over each one of us in order that his word may be accomplished in us. The image is of an almond branch which is the first tree to flower, thus announcing life’s rebirth in the springtime (cf Jer 1:11-12). Everything comes from him and is his gift: the world, life, death, the present, the future, but—the Apostle assures us—'you are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s' (1 Cor 3:23). Hence the way of belonging to God is explained: it comes about through a unique and personal relationship with Jesus, which Baptism confers on us from the beginning of our rebirth to new life. It is Christ, therefore, who continually summons us by his word to place our trust in him, loving him 'with all the heart, with all the understanding, and with all the strength' (Mk 12:33). Therefore every vocation, even within the variety of paths, always requires an exodus from oneself in order to centre one’s life on Christ and on his Gospel. Both in married life and in the forms of religious consecration, as well as in priestly life, we must surmount the ways of thinking and acting that do not conform to the will of God. It is an 'exodus that leads us on a journey of adoration of the Lord and of service to him in our brothers and sisters' (“Address to the International Union of Superiors General”, 8 May 2013). Therefore, we are all called to adore Christ in our hearts (1 Pet 3:15) in order to allow ourselves to be touched by the impulse of grace contained in the seed of the word, which must grow in us and be transformed into concrete service to our neighbour. We need not be afraid: God follows the work of his hands with passion and skill in every phase of life. He never abandons us! He has the fulfilment of his plan for us at heart, and yet he wishes to achieve it with our consent and cooperation.

3. Today too, Jesus lives and walks along the paths of ordinary life in order to draw near to everyone, beginning with the least, and to heal us of our infirmities and illnesses. I turn now to those who are well disposed to listen to the voice of Christ that rings out in the Church and to understand what their own vocation is. I invite you to listen to and follow Jesus, and to allow yourselves to be transformed interiorly by his words, which 'are spirit and life' (Jn 6:62). Mary, the Mother of Jesus and ours, also says to us: 'Do whatever he tells you' (Jn 2:5). It will help you to participate in a communal journey that is able to release the best energies in you and around you. A vocation is a fruit that ripens in a well cultivated field of mutual love that becomes mutual service, in the context of an authentic ecclesial life. No vocation is born of itself or lives for itself. A vocation flows from the heart of God and blossoms in the good soil of faithful people, in the experience of fraternal love. Did not Jesus say: 'By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another' (Jn 13:35)?

4. Dear brothers and sisters, this 'high standard of ordinary Christian living' (cf John Paul II, “Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte”, 31) means sometimes going against the tide and also encountering obstacles, outside ourselves and within ourselves. Jesus himself warns us: the good seed of God’s word is often snatched away by the Evil one, blocked by tribulation, and choked by worldly cares and temptation (cf Mt 13:19-22). All of these difficulties could discourage us, making us fall back on seemingly more comfortable paths. However, the true joy of those who are called consists in believing and experiencing that he, the Lord, is faithful, and that with him we can walk, be disciples and witnesses of God’s love, open our hearts to great ideals, to great things. 'We Christians were not chosen by the Lord for small things; push onwards toward the highest principles. Stake your lives on noble ideals!' (“Homily at Holy Mass and the Conferral of the Sacrament of Confirmation”, 28 April 2013). I ask you bishops, priests, religious, Christian communities and families to orient vocational pastoral planning in this direction, by accompanying young people on pathways of holiness which, because they are personal, 'call for a genuine “training in holiness” capable of being adapted to every person’s need. This training must integrate the resources offered to everyone with both the traditional forms of individual and group assistance, as well as the more recent forms of support offered in associations and movements recognized by the Church' (“Novo Millennio Ineunte”, 31).
Let us dispose our hearts therefore to being 'good soil', by listening, receiving and living out the word, and thus bearing fruit. The more we unite ourselves to Jesus through prayer, Sacred Scripture, the Eucharist, the Sacraments celebrated and lived in the Church and in fraternity, the more there will grow in us the joy of cooperating with God in the service of the Kingdom of mercy and truth, of justice and peace. And the harvest will be plentiful, proportionate to the grace we have meekly welcomed into our lives. With this wish, and asking you to pray for me, I cordially impart to you all my Apostolic Blessing.”


Vatican City, 16 January 2014 (VIS) – This morning the Holy Father received in audience the officials who provide service and assistance during pontifical audiences, ceremonies and official gatherings, collectively known as the "Addetti di Anticamera”, along with their family members.

Pope Francis reminded them that they are “at home”, emphasizing trust and familiarity. The Pope thanked them for their service, noting the care and cordiality with which they carry out their duties.

The Papal Household,” he told them, “belongs to all the members of the Catholic Church who find here hospitality, familial warmth, and support for their faith. The true master of the house is the Lord, of whom we are all disciples and servants of His Gospel. This requires that we cultivate constant dialogue with Him in prayer, that we grow in His friendship and intimacy, and that we bear witness of His merciful love to all. Carried out in this spirit, your work will become an opportunity to communicate the joy of being part of the Church.”


Vatican City, 16 January 2014 (VIS) – Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, C.S., Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva, spoke this morning before the Committee on the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC). He presented the Holy See's periodic report on this issue.

The protection of children remains a major concern for contemporary society and for the Holy See,” the prelate said. “... Abusers are found among members of the world’s most respected professions, most regrettably, including members of the clergy and other church personnel. …”

Confronted with this reality, the Holy See has carefully delineated policies and procedures designed to help eliminate such abuse and to collaborate with respective State authorities to fight against this crime. The Holy See is also committed to listen carefully to victims of abuse and to address the impact such situations have on survivors of abuse and on their families. The vast majority of church personnel and institutions on the local level have provided, and continue to provide, a wide variety of services to children by educating them, and by supporting their families, and by responding to their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. Egregious crimes of abuse committed against children have rightly been adjudicated and punished by the competent civil authorities in the respective countries.”

Therefore, the response of the Holy See to the sad phenomenon of the sexual abuse of minors has been articulated in different ambits. On the level of the Holy See, as the Sovereign of Vatican City State, the response to sexual abuse has been in accord with its direct responsibility over the territory of Vatican City State. In this regard, special legislation has been enacted to implement international legal obligations, and covers the State, and its tiny population.”

On the international level, the Holy See has taken concrete action by the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990. In 2000, the Holy See acceded to the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution, and Child Pornography, as well as the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict. The Holy See then promotes and encourages these international instruments.”

At the same time, the Holy See as the central organ of the Catholic Church has formulated guidelines to facilitate the work of the local Churches to develop effective measures within their jurisdiction and in conformity with canonical legislation.”

Local Churches, taking into account the domestic law in their respective countries, have developed guidelines and monitored their implementation with the aim of preventing any additional abuse and dealing promptly with it, in accordance with national law whenever it occurs. … The result of the combined action taken by local Churches and by the Holy See presents a framework that, when properly applied, will help eliminate the occurrence of child sexual abuse by clergy and other church personnel.”

The Permanent Observer explained that “the Holy See’s 'Periodic Report on the CRC' is divided into four Parts: Part I deals with general considerations, including the nature of the Holy See as a subject of international law. Part II responds to the concluding observations of the Committee to the Holy See’s Initial Report, and, in particular, questions concerning reservations; the Committee’s four principles and the duties and rights of parents, the education of girls, education about health, and education on the CRC. The Holy See also discusses the principles it promotes concerning the rights and duties of the child within the context of the family. Part III presents the international contributions of the Holy See in advancing and promoting basic principles recognized in the CRC on a full range of issues pertaining to children (e.g., the family, adoption, children with disabilities; health and welfare; leisure and culture; and special measures to protect children, including questions pertaining to sexual abuse, drug addiction, children living on the streets and minority groups). Finally, Part IV addresses the implementation of the Convention in Vatican City State.”

In the end, there is no excuse,” the prelate repeated, “for any form of violence or exploitation of children. Such crimes can never be justified, whether committed in the home, in schools, in community and sports programs, or in religious organizations and structures. This is the long-standing policy of the Holy See. … For this reason, the Holy See, and local Church structures in all parts of the world, are committed to holding inviolable the dignity and entire person of every childbody, mind, and spirit.”

Pope Benedict XVI,” the prelate concluded, “speaking to the Bishops of Ireland in 2006 had these important words to say: 'In the exercise of your pastoral ministry, you have had to respond in recent years to many heart-rending cases of sexual abuse of minors. These are all the more tragic when the abuser is a cleric.' … Likewise, Pope Francis clearly … undertook new action and has announced the creation of a Commission for the Protection of Minors, with the aim of proposing new initiatives for the development of safe environment programs for children and improving efforts for the pastoral care for victims of abuse around the world.”


Vatican City, 16 January 2014 (VIS) - The International Theological Commission, following studies carried out over the past five-year period (2009–2014), has drawn up a new document entitled: “God, the Trinity, and the Unity of Humanity: Christian Monotheism and its Opposition to Violence”. The text will appear in “La Civilta Cattolica”, no. 3926 (18 January 2014), the journal that traditionally publishes the Italian versions of the Commission’s documents. It will also be available, from today, on “La Civilta Cattolica’s” website (www.laciviltacattolica.it) as well as on the International Theological Commission’s webpage on the Vatican website (www.vatican.va). Awaiting its translation into the various languages, the Italian text is currently offered along with an introduction to the text in a few other languages.

As is evident from the document’s Preliminary Note, the text is the result of study regarding certain aspects of Christian discourse on God, particularly in response to theories that claim that a necessary relationship exists between monotheism and violence. The text was prepared by a subcommission composed of: Fr. Peter Damian Akpunonu, Fr. Gilles Emery, O.P., Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-Fai, S.D.B., Bishop Charles Morerod, O.P., Fr. Thomas Norris, Fr. Javier Prades Lopez, Bishop Paul Rouhana, Fr. Pierangelo Sequeri, Fr. Guillermo Zuleta Salas, and the subcommission’s president, Fr. Philippe Vallin.

Between 2009 and 2013, the subcommission met to discuss the issue, which was also treated during the Commission’s plenary sessions. The present text was approved by the Commission “in forma specifica” on 6 December 2013, and was then submitted to the Commission’s president, Archbishop Gerhard L. Muller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who authorised its publication.


Vatican City, (VIS) – Following is the presentation of the International Theological Commission's new document, “God, the Trinity, and the Unity of Humanity: Christian Monotheism and its Opposition to Violence”.

The theological reflection presented here seeks to investigate various aspects of Christian discourse about God which, in the modern context, require specific theological clarification. The immediate reason for this clarification is the theory, variously argued, according to which there is a necessary link between monotheism and the wars of religion. Discussion of this connection has demonstrated a number of misunderstandings of religious doctrine, to such an extent as to obscure authentic Christian thought about the one God.”

The purpose of this reflection can be summed up in a two-fold question: (a) How can Catholic theology respond critically to the cultural and political opinion which sees an intrinsic link between monotheism and violence? (b) How can the purity of religious faith in the one God be recognised as the principle and source of love between human beings?”

Our reflection takes the form of a reasoned testimony, not an apologetic argument. The Christian faith, in fact, sees the incitement of violence in the name of God as the greatest corruption of religion. Christianity reaches this conviction from the revelation of God’s own life, which is brought to us by Jesus Christ. The Church of believers is well aware that witnessing to this faith demands a permanent readiness for conversion: which also implies a certain parrhesia, a courageous frankness in self-criticism.”

In Chapter I, 'Suspicions Regarding Monotheism', we seek to clarify the theme of religious 'monotheism' as it is understood in various contexts of modern political philosophy. We are aware of the evolution that has resulted in a highly differentiated spectrum of theoretical positions nowadays, ranging from the classical background of so called humanistic atheism to more recent forms of religious agnosticism and political laicism. Our reflection seeks first of all to show that the notion of monotheism, which is certainly significant in the history of our culture, is nevertheless too generic when it is used as an indication of equivalence between the historical religions which confess the oneness of God (namely Judaism, Islam and Christianity). Secondly, we formulate our critical reservations with regard to a cultural simplification which reduces the alternatives to a choice between a necessarily violent monotheism and a presumptively tolerant polytheism.”

In this reflection, we are sustained throughout by the conviction, which we believe is shared by the vast majority of our contemporaries, both believers and non-believers, that inter-religious wars and also wars in the name of religion are simply senseless.”

As Catholic theologians, we then seek to illustrate, on the basis of the truth of Jesus Christ, the relationship between the revelation of God and a non-violent humanism. We do so by reconsidering various aspects of Christian doctrine particularly helpful for illuminating the modern discussion: regarding the proper understanding of the Trinitarian confession of the one God, and regarding the implications of the revelation of Christ for the redemption of the bond between human beings.”

In Chapter II, 'God’s Initiative in the Human Journey', we interrogate the biblical witness, with particular attention to the issue of its “difficult pages”: in other words, those in which the revelation of God is involved with forms of violence between human beings. We seek to identify the reference points which the same scriptural tradition highlightswithin itselffor the interpretation of the Word of God. On the basis of that investigation, we offer an outline of an anthropological and Christological framing of developments of interpretation that were driven by the actual historical circumstances.”

In Chapter III, 'God Who Saves us from Violence', we propose a deeper understanding of the event of the death and resurrection of Christ, as the key to the reconciliation of human beings. Oikonomia is essential here in the determination of theologia. The revelation inscribed in the event of Jesus Christ, which universally manifests the love of God, enables the religious justification of violence to be neutralised on the basis of the Christological and Trinitarian truth of God.”

In Chapter IV, 'Faith Faced with the Full Force of Reason', we strive to illustrate the approximations and philosophical implications of thought about God. Various points of discussion with modern atheism, broadly channelled into the theses of a radical anthropological naturalism, are considered first of all. Thenalso for the benefit of interreligious comparison with regard to monotheismwe offer a sort of philosophical-theological meditation on the integration of the revelation of the intimately relational disposition of God and the traditional conception of God’s absolute simplicity.”

Finally, in Chapter V, 'The Children of God Scattered and Gathered', we summarise the specifically Christian elements which determine the Church’s task of witnessing to the reconciliation both of God and humanity and of human beings with one another. Christian revelation purifies religion, by restoring to the latter its fundamental role in the human search for meaning. For that reason, in our invitation to reflection we are very conscious of the particular needespecially in today’s cultural contextalways to treat together the theological content and the historical development of the Christian revelation of God.”


Vatican City, 16 January 2014 (VIS) - Today, the Holy Father received in audience:

- Cardinal Roger Michael Mahony, archbishop emeritus of Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.,

- Cardinal Vinko Puljic, archbishop of Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina,

- members of the presidency of the French Episcopal Conference:
Archbishop Georges Pontier of Marseilles, President,
Bishop Pascal Delannoy of Saint-Denis, Vice President,
Archbishop Pierre-Marie Carre of Montpellier, Vice President,
Fr. Olivier Ribadeau Dumas, Secretary General, and

- a group of Argentinian Rabbis.
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