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Friday, September 12, 2014

To the bishops of the Democratic Republic of Congo: work for a society based on respect for the dignity of the person

Vatican City, 12 September 2014 (VIS) – The education of young people in order to overcome violence and inequality, the participation of the Church in building society and the consolidation of peace and her mission in aid of “those whom life has wounded” were the main issues in the discourse Pope Francis handed to the bishops of the Democratic Republic of Congo this morning, at the end of their “ad Limina” visit.

“The Church in the Democratic Republic of Congo is a young Church”, writes the Holy Father. “However, it is also a Church of youth. Children and adolescents, in particular, need God's strength to help them resist the many temptations of a precarious life in which they are unable to study or find work. I am sympathetic to their plight, and I know you share their sorrows, their joys and hopes. I think with horror especially of those children and young people conscripted into militias and forced to kill their own countrymen. I encourage you, therefore, to pursue the pastoral care of youth. By providing the greatest assistance possible, especially through the creation of spaces for human, spiritual and professional formation, you can help them discover their deepest vocation that predisposes them to encounter the Lord”.

“The most effective way to overcome violence, inequality and ethnic divisions is to equip the young with a critical mind and to offer them the opportunity to mature an understanding of Gospel values. It is also necessary to strengthen pastoral care in universities and in Catholic and public schools, combining education with the clear proclamation of the Gospel. ... Similarly, to face the problem of family breakdown, caused in particular by war and poverty, it is essential to promote and encourage all initiatives to strengthen the family, the source of brotherhood and the foundation and first road to peace”.

“Fidelity to the Gospel also implies that the Church participates in the construction of the city. One of the most valuable contributions that the local church can offer your country is to help people rediscover the relevance of faith in daily life and the need to promote the common good. Similarly, leading figures in the nation, enlightened by pastors and in relation to their skills, can also be supported in incorporating Christian teachings in their personal lives and in the exercise of their duties in the service of the state and society. In this sense, the Magisterium of the Church, especially the encyclical Caritas in Veritate, the post-Synodal apostolic exhortation “Africae munus” and the recent apostolic exhortation “Evangelii gaudium”, are invaluable tools”.

The Pope urges the Congolese bishops to “work tirelessly for the establishment of a just and lasting peace through a pastoral of dialogue and reconciliation among the various sectors of society, supporting the process of disarmament, and promoting effective collaboration with other religious denominations”. He emphasises that at this time, when the country is currently experiencing political events that are important for the future, “it is necessary for the Church to make her contribution, avoiding the risk of becoming substitute for political institutions and temporal realities that must retain their autonomy”. In particular, pastors must be careful not to take on roles that rightfully belong to the lay faithful, whose mission is justly that of bearing witness to Christ and the Gospel in politics and in all other areas of their activities”.

After highlighting the need for collaboration between all pastoral workers in the various fields of the apostolate, especially in education, health and charitable aid, Francis reminds the prelates that there are high expectations of them “in defence of spiritual and social values”, and he urges them to “provide guidance and solutions for the promotion of a society based on respect for the dignity of the human person”. In this regard, “attention to the poor and needy, as well as the elderly, the sick and disabled, should be the subject of adequate pastoral care under constant review”. Indeed, “the Church is called to be concerned with the wellbeing of these people and to bring the attention of society and public authorities to their situation”.

The Holy Father concludes by encouraging the bishops to be “men of hope for the people” and gave thanks for the work of all missionaries, priests, religious and other pastoral workers dedicated to the service of “those who have been wounded by life, the victims of violence, especially in the most isolated and remote areas of the country”, and reserved special mention for “the internally displaced and the many people who come from neighbouring countries”.

The exegete perceives the Divine Word through a fervent spiritual life

Vatican City, 12 September 2014 (VIS) – This morning the Holy Father met with the participants in the 43rd National Biblical Week, organised by the Italian Biblical Association, a meeting that inaugurated the celebrations for the fiftieth anniversary of the Dogmatic Constitution of Vatican Council II on the Divine Revelation “Dei Verbum”, promulgated on 18 November 1965.

“Faith, to respond, and so as not to be suffocated, must be constantly nurtured by the Word of God”, said the Pope, expressing his esteem and acknowledgement of the “valuable work” that the Association has carried out through the teachings of its lecturers and Bible scholars. He continued, “God has made the most of all the possibilities of human language, but at the same time He has had to submit His Word to the limitations of this language. True respect for the inspired Scriptures requires us to make all the efforts necessary to fully grasp their meaning”. As it is not possible for every Christian personally to carry out the research of every type necessary to arrive at a good understanding of Biblical texts, he added, “this task is entrusted to exegetes, those who are responsible in this sector for the good of all. ... Therefore, alongside academic competence, the Catholic exegete needs above all, faith: received from and shared with all believers who, in their entirety, cannot be mistaken”.

Pope Francis recalled the words of St. John Paul II: “to respect the coherence of the faith of the Church and the inspiration of the Scripture, Catholic exegesis must be careful not merely to comply with the human aspects of biblical texts. First and foremost, exegesis must help Christian people to perceive more clearly the Word of God in these texts, so as to accept it better, to live fully in communion with God. … Naturally it is necessary for the exegete to know how to perceive the Divine Word in the texts, and this is possible only if his spiritual life is fervent, rich in dialogue with the Lord; otherwise exegetic research remains incomplete, and the main objective is lost from sight”.

Returning to the words of St. John Paul II, Francis remarked, “To arrive at a fully valid interpretation of the words inspired by the Holy Spirit, we ourselves must be guided by the Holy Spirit; and for this we must pray, and ask in prayer for the inner light of the Spirit and accept this light with docility; we must ask for love, as love alone makes us able to understand the language of God, which is love”. He added, “Our Lady teaches us to fully welcome the Word of God, not only through intellectual research, but in all our life”, and concluded by giving his blessing to those present.

Catholics and Orthodox in Amman on “Synodality and the Primate”

Vatican City, 12 September 2014 (VIS) – The eighth plenary session of the International Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church will take place in Amman, Jordan from 15 to 23 September, following the invitation from the Greek-Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, His Beatitude Theophilos III.

The session will be co-chaired by Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and the Metropolitan of Pergamon Ioannis (Zizioulas) of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. As on previous occasions, the meeting will be attended by two representatives of each of the fourteen autocephalous Orthodox Churches and many other Catholic representatives. The plenary session will examine a draft document entitled “Synodality and the Primate”, drawn up by the Co-ordinating Committee of the Commission during the two meetings held in Rome in 2011 and in Paris in 2012.

The study of the theological and anthropological relationship between the primate and synodality in the life of the Church in local, regional and universal contexts should offer a framework for reference for considering the crucial question of the role of the bishop of Rome in the universal Church. In Amman, the members of the Commission will be required to evaluate whether the draft prepared by the Co-ordinating Committee adequately reflects the currently existing consensus on this delicate issue or if it will be necessary to explore the theme in further depth.

The plenary session will also offer participants the opportunity to share moments of prayer with the local Christian communities and to express their closeness to those who suffer as a result of ongoing conflicts in the region.

Archbishop Tomasi: human trafficking is not confined to poor and developing countries

Vatican City, 12 September 2014 (VIS) – The fight against contemporary forms of slavery was the theme of the address given by Archbishop Silvano Tomasi. Holy See Permanent Observer at the United Nations, during the 27th Ordinary Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The archbishop referred to a number of tragic forms of contemporary slavery that have recently attracted the attention of the media and the international community, such as “massive kidnappings and sale of young girls under the false premises of religious teachings as is done, for example, by Boko Haram in Nigeria or by the so-called Islamic State group in northern Iraq”.

“Some 250,000 children are forcibly conscripted and even used as “human shields” in the front lines of armed conflicts”, he continued. However, there are “other, subtler forms of slavery that deserve specific attention, including the 5.7 million children who are victims of forced and bonded labour, domestic servitude, early, forced and servile marriage … and caste-based forms of slavery, which affect the lives of so many and are not confined to developing and poor countries”. Factors that may contribute to the promotion of all forms of slavery include “the increasing incidence of absolute poverty among many families affected by the economic crises, the lack of education and illiteracy, long-term and apparently irreversible unemployment which force people into the informal-sector work without adequate pay or social protection, involuntary migration, and human trafficking”.

Although the international community has already developed international conventions and agreements to protect against contemporary forms of slavery, the Holy See observer remarked that greater political will is necessary to ensure the effectiveness of such instruments and to increase public awareness. “We need to break the silence about this 'open wound on the body of contemporary society' and motivate 'men and women of good will who want to cry out, Enough!'” he continued, noting that Pope Francis takes every opportunity to denounce the “many abominable forms of slavery [that] persist in today’s world” and has “joined with leaders from other major religious traditions to promote the ideals of faith and of shared human values in order to eradicate modern slavery and human trafficking ... for all time”.


Vatican City, 12 September 2014 (VIS) – Today the Holy Father received in audience twenty-one prelates from the National Episcopal Conference of the Democratic Republic of Congo, on their “ad Limina” visit:

- Archbishop Marcel Utembi Tapa of Kisangani;

- Bishop Etienne Ung’eyowun Bediwegi of Bondo;

- Bishop Dieudonne Uringi Uuci of Bunia;

- Bishop Joseph Banga Bane of Buta;

- Bishop Julien Andavo Mbia of Isiro-Niangara;

- Bishop Sosthene Ayikuli Adjuwa of Mahagi-Nioka;

- Bishop Janvier Kataka Luvete of Wamba;

- Archbishop Jean-Pierre Tafunga Mbayo, S.D.B., of Lubumbashi;

- Bishop Jean-Anatole Kalala Kaseba of Kamina;

- Bishop Fulgence Muteba Mugalu of Kilwa-Kasenga;

- Bishop Nestor Ngoy Katahwa of Kolwezi;

- Bishop Oscar Ngoy wa Mpanga, C.S.Sp., of Kongolo;

- Bishop Vincent de Paul Kwanga Ndjibu of Manono;

- Bishop Gaston Kashala Ruwezi, S.D.B., of Sakania-Kipushi;

- Archbishop Joseph Kumuondala Mbimba of Mbandaka-Bikoro;

- Bishop Joseph Mokobe Ndjoku of Basankusu;

- Bishop Fridolin Ambongo Besungu, O.F.M. Cap., of Bokungu-Ikela;

- Bishop Philibert Tembo Nlandu, C.I.C.M., of Budjala;

- Bishop Louis Nkinga Bondala, C.I.C.M., of Lisala;

- Bishop Ferdinand Maemba Liwoke of Lolo;

- Bishop Dominique Bulamatari of Molegbe.

This afternoon, the Holy Father is scheduled to receive in audience Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, apostolic nuncio in the Federal Republic of Germany.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 12 September 2014 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”, and Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, major penitentiary, as members of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.


Vatican City, 12 September 2014 (VIS) – We inform our readers that tomorrow, Saturday 13 September, an extraordinary edition of the Vatican Information Service will be transmitted on the occasion of Pope Francis' visit to Redipuglia, Italy.
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