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Friday, April 25, 2014


Vatican City, 25 April 2014 (VIS) – The bishops of the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference, from South Africa, Botswana and Swaziland, were received in audience by Pope Francis this morning, at the end of their “ad limina” visit. Francis handed them his prepared address, in which he recalls the arduous labours of the missionaries and the men and women of these countries in sowing the seed of faith and reaching out to the people in the villages, towns and cities, and especially in the ever-expanding urban townships. He emphasised the “flourishing parishes, thriving often against very great odds: far distances between communities and a dearth of material resources”. He praised the efforts made for the preparation of permanent deacons and the formation of lay catechists to assist the clergy where there are few priests.

“Priests and religious brothers and sisters are of one mind and heart in their service of God’s most vulnerable sons and daughters: widows, single mothers, the divorced, children at risk and especially the several million AIDS orphans, many of whom head households in rural areas. Truly the richness and joy of the Gospel is being lived and shared by Catholics with others around them”. The Pope remarks that, despite the difficulties faced by Catholic minority communities in countries where many religions are present, “the richness and joy of the Gospel is being living and shared by Catholics with others around them”, and he prays that they “will continue to persevere in building up the Lord's Kingdom with their lives that testify to the truth, and with the work of their hands that ease the sufferings of so many”.

He notes the serious pastoral challenges communities face, according to the bishops, such as the declining birth rate which affects the number of vocations, the tendency of some Catholics to drift away from the Church in favour of other groups who seem to promise something better, and abortion, which “compounds the grief of many women who now carry within them deep physical and spiritual wounds after succumbing to the pressure of a secular culture which devalues God's gift of sexuality and the right to life of the unborn”. He adds, “the rate of separation and divorce is high, even in many Christian families, and children frequently do not grow up in a stable home environment. We also observe with great concern, and can only deplore, an increase in violence against women and children. All these realities threaten the sanctity of marriage, the stability of life in the home and consequently the life of society as a whole. In this sea of difficulties, we bishops and priests must give a consistent witness to the moral teaching of the Gospel”.

The Holy Father expresses his appreciation for the unity of the bishops with their people and their solidarity with the vast number of unemployed in their countries. “Most of your people can identify at once with Jesus Who was poor and marginalised, Who had no place to lay His head”. He asks the prelates to offer, alongside the material support they provide, “the greater support of spiritual assistance and sound moral guidance”. He also comments on the reduced number of priests and seminarians, and urges “the authentic promotion of vocations in every territory, a prudent selection of candidates for seminary studies, fatherly encouragement of those men in formation, and attentive accompaniment in the years after ordination”.

Likewise, he encourages the rediscovery of the sacrament of reconciliation, “as a fundamental dimension of the life of grace”, and emphasises that “Christian matrimony is a lifelong covenant of love between one man and one woman; it entails real sacrifices in order to turn away from illusory notions of sexual freedom and in order to foster conjugal fidelity”, and approves the bishops' programmes of preparation for the sacrament of marriage, which are “inspiring young people with new hope for themselves and for their future as husbands and wives, fathers and mothers”.

Finally, he refers to the bishops' concerns regarding the “breakdown of Christian morals, including a growing temptation to collude with dishonesty”, an issue the bishops addressed in their pastoral statement on corruption, in which they note that “corruption is theft from the poor … hurts the most vulnerable … harms the whole community … destroys our trust”. “The Christian community is called be be consistent in its witness to the virtues of honesty and integrity, so that we may stand before the Lord, and our neighbours, with clean hands and a pure heart, as a leaven of the Gospel in the life of society”. He concludes, “With this moral imperative in mind, I know that you will continue to address this and other grave social concerns, such as the plight of refugees and migrants. May these men and women always be welcomed by our Catholic communities, finding in them open hearts and homes as they seek to begin a new life”.


Vatican City, 25 April 2014 (VIS) – The Holy Father has sent a video message to the Polish faithful, compatriots of Pope John Paul II, and a written message to the citizens of Bergamo, the province in which the village of “Sotto il Monte”, birthplace of Pope John XXIII, is located.

In his video message, rebroadcast by Polish Television (TVP) and by Polish Radio, the Pope remarks that he is happy to be able to proclaim John Paul II a saint, and expresses his gratitude to the Polish Pope for his “tireless service, is spiritual guidance, for bringing the Church into the third millennium of faith, and for his extraordinary witness of holiness”. Francis recalls the words Pope Benedict XVI used to describe Pope Wojtyla in the homily of his beatification in May 2011: “society, culture, political and economic systems he opened up to Christ, turning back with the strength of a titan – a strength which came to him from God – a tide which appeared irreversible. By his witness of faith, love and apostolic courage, accompanied by great human charisma, this exemplary son of Poland helped believers throughout the world not to be afraid to be called Christian, to belong to the Church, to speak of the Gospel. In a word: he helped us not to fear the truth, because truth is the guarantee of liberty”.

In his message to the citizens of Bergamo, published in the daily newspaper “L'Eco di Bergamo” with which Pope Roncalli collaborated during the years of his priesthood, he invites them to “give thanks to God for his holiness, a great gift to the universal Church”, and he encourages them to “conserve the memory of the land in which it germinated: a land of profound faith lived in daily life, in families that are poor but united by the love of the Lord, of communities capable of sharing in simplicity”.

The Holy Father comments that “the renewal brought by Vatican Council II opened up the way, and it is a special joy that the canonisation of Pope Roncalli should take place alongside that of Blessed John Paul II, who continued this renewal during his long pontificate”. He expresses his hope that “civil society too may always draw inspiration from the life of Bergamo's Pope and from the environment that he generated, searching new ways, adapted to the times, of building co-existence based on the perennial values of fraternity and solidarity”.


Vatican City, 25 April 2014 (VIS) – Yesterday afternoon celebrated Mass in the Roman church of St. Ignatius of Loyola to give thanks for the canonisation of the Jesuit father St. Jose de Anchieta S.J. (1534-1597), evangeliser of Brazil, linguist, dramatist and founder of the cities of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1980, Pope Francis extended his liturgical cult to the universal Church on 3 April, a process equivalent to canonisation.

In his homily, the Pope commented on the Gospel story of the disciples of Emmaus who relate their experience to Peter, who has also seen the Risen Christ; then shortly after Christ Himself appears in the room. “The disciples cannot believe their joy; they cannot believe because of their joy”, he said. “It is a moment of wonder, of encounter with Jesus Christ, in which there seems to be too much joy to be true; indeed, to assume the joy and wonder of that moment seems risky to us and we are tempted to take refuge in scepticism, in 'not exaggerating'. It is easier to believe in a spirit than in the living Christ! It is easier to go to a necromancer who predicts the future, who reads cards, than to trust in the hope of a triumphant Christ, a Christ who vanquishes death! An idea or imagination is easier to believe than the docility of this Lord who rises again from death, and what he invites us to! This process of relativising faith ends up distancing us from the encounter, distancing us from God's caress. It is as if we 'distilled' the reality of the encounter with Jesus Christ in the still of fear, in the still of excessive security, of wanting to control the encounter ourselves. The disciples were afraid of joy … and so are we”.

He went on to speak about the reading from the Acts of the Apostles which narrates the healing of the paralytic, prostrate at the door of the Temple, begging. Peter and John were unable to give him anything he sought: neither gold nor silver, but they cure him by offering him what they have: the name of Jesus. The crippled man's joy is contagious and, in the midst of the hubbub Peter announces the message. “The joy of the encounter with Jesus Christ, which it is so frightening for us to accept, is infectious and cries out the message: and this is how the Church grows! The paralytic believes, because 'the Church does not grow by proselytism, but by attraction'; the testimonial attraction of this joy that proclaims Jesus Christ. It is a witness born of joy, accepted and then transformed into proclamation. It is the foundational joy … without this joy, a Church cannot be founded! A Christian community cannot be established! It is an apostolic joy that irradiates and expands”.

Also St. Jose de Anchieta knew how to communicate what he had experienced with the Lord, what he had seen and heard from Him … and, along with Nobrega, he was the first Jesuit Ignatius send to America. He was a boy aged nineteen. He had so much joy that he was able to found a nation: he put in place the cultural foundations of a nation, in Jesus Christ. He had not studied theology, and he had not studied philosophy; he was a boy! But he had felt the gaze of Jesus Christ, and he had let himself be filled with joy, and chose light. This was and is his holiness. He was not afraid of joy”.

The Bishop of Rome concluded by mentioning that St. Jose de Anchieta had a beautiful hymn to the Virgin Mary, to whom he compared the message of peace, that proclaims the joy of the Good News. “May she, who in that Sunday dawn, sleepless with hope, was not afraid of joy, accompany us on our pilgrimage, inviting us all to rise, to set our paralyses aside, to enter together into the peace and joy that Jesus, the Risen Lord, promises us”.


Vatican City, 25 April 2014 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father received in audience:

- Thirteen prelates of the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference:

- Bishop Xolelo Thaddeus Kumalo of Eshowe;

- Bishop Zolile Peter Mpambani of Kokstad;

- Bishop Pius Mlungisi Dlungwane of Mariannhill;

- Bishop Stanisław Jan Dziuba of Umzimkulu;

- Archbishop Buti Joseph Tlhagale of Johannesburg, apostolic administrator “Sede vacante et ad nutum Sanctae Sedis” of Klerksdorp;

- Bishop Jose Luis Gerardo Ponce de Leon of Manzini, Swaziland, apostolic administrator “Sede vacante et ad nutum Sanctae Sedis” of the apostolic vicariate of Ingwavuma;

- Bishop Giuseppe Sandri of Witbank;

- Archbishop William Matthew Slattery of Pretoria, military ordinary for South Africa;

- Bishop Valentine Tsama Seane of Gaborone, Botswana;

- Bishop Jeremiah Madimetja Masela of Polokwane;

- Bishop Kevin Dowling of Rustenburg;

- Bishop Joao Noe Rodrigues of Tzaneen;

- Bishop Frank Atese Nubuasah of Pauzera, apostolic vicar of Francistown, Botswana.

- Cardinal Polycarp Pengo, archbishop of Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania.

- Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.


Vatican City, 25 April 2014 (VIS) – The Holy Father has:

- appointed Rev. Paul Simick as apostolic vicar of Nepal (area 147,180, population 28,610,000, Catholics 7,950, priests 71, religious 170). The bishop-elect was born in Gitdubling, India in 1963 and was ordained a priest in 1992. He holds a licentiate and a doctorate in biblical theology from the Pontifical Urbaniana University, Rome, and has served in a number of pastoral roles, including priest of the “Christ the King” parish, Pakyong, India; dean of the East Sikkim Deanery; bursar and subsequently deputy head of St. Xavier's School, Pakyong. He succeeds Bishop Anthony Francis Sharma, S.J., whose resignation upon reaching the age limit was accepted by the Holy Father.

- appointed Archbishop Anselmo Guido Pecorari, formerly apostolic nuncio in Uruguay, as apostolic nuncio in Bulgaria.


Vatican City, 25 April 2014 (VIS) – We inform our readers that, due to the canonisation of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II this coming Sunday, the Vatican Information Service will transmit special editions of its daily bulletin on Saturday 26 and Sunday 27 April.
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