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Monday, September 22, 2014

Pope Francis gives thanks to the Virgin for his trip to Albania

Vatican City, 22 September 2014 (VIS) – At around midday today the Holy Father visited the Basilica of St. Mary Major to give thanks to the Virgin for her protection following the completion of his trip to Albania.

As usual, he prayed in silence in the Salus Populi Romani Chapel, where he left a large floral tribute he had received yesterday evening in Albania during his final encounter at the Bethany Centre.

The faithful present in the Basilica joined in singing the Salve Regina, and the Pope returned to the Vatican at around 12.30.

Pope Francis' apostolic trip to Albania

Interreligious meeting in Tirana: “God's name must not be used to commit violence”

Vatican City, 21 September 2014 (VIS) – At 4 p.m. yesterday, after lunch in the apostolic nunciature with the Albanian bishops, Pope Francis proceeded to the Catholic University “Our Lady of Good Counsel” – instituted in 2004 and administrated by a foundation linked to the Religious Congregation of the Sons of the Immaculate Conception of Tirana – to meet with the heads of other religions and Christian denominations.

The event was attended by representatives of the six largest religious communities in the country: Muslim, Bektashi (an Islamic Sufi order), Catholic, Orthodox, Evangelical and Jewish. The Pope expressed his joy at meeting with them as their presence together was a sign of dialogue and collaboration for the good of society as a whole.

Pope Francis began his discourse by remarking that Albania had sadly “witnessed the violence and tragedy that can be caused by a forced exclusion of God from personal and communal life”. He continued, “When, in the name of an ideology, there is an attempt to remove God from society, it ends up adoring idols, and very soon men and women lose their way, their dignity is trampled and their rights violated. You know well how much pain comes from the denial of freedom of conscience and of religious freedom, and how from such a wound comes a humanity that is impoverished because it lacks hope and ideals”.

However, the changes that have taken place since the 1990s have had, as a positive effect, the creation of the conditions for authentic religious freedom, making it possible for communities “to renew traditions that were never really extinguished, despite fierce persecution”. This religious freedom has enabled everyone to offer, according to his or her own religious convictions, “a positive contribution to the moral, and subsequently the economic, reconstruction of the country”.

However, he added, quoting the words of St. John Paul II, “True religious freedom shuns the temptation to intolerance and sectarianism, and promotes attitudes of respect and constructive dialogue. We cannot deny that intolerance towards those with different religious convictions is a particularly insidious enemy, one which today is being witnessed in various areas around the world. All believers must be particularly vigilant so that, in living out with conviction our religious and ethical code, we may always express the mystery we intend to honour. This means that all those forms which present a distorted use of religion, must be firmly refuted as false since they are unworthy of God or humanity. Authentic religion is a source of peace and not of violence. No one must use the name of God to commit violence. To kill in the name of God is a grave sacrilege. To discriminate in the name of God is inhuman”.

“From this point of view, religious freedom is not a right which can be guaranteed solely by existing legislation, although laws are necessary”, he remarked. “Rather, religious freedom is a shared space, an atmosphere of respect and cooperation that must be built with the participation of all, even those who have no religious convictions”. He went on to outline two attitudes that may be especially useful in promoting this fundamental freedom.

“The first is that of regarding every man and woman, even those of different religious traditions, not as rivals, less still enemies, but rather as brothers and sisters. When a person is secure in his or her own beliefs, there is no need to impose or put pressure on others: there is a conviction that truth has its own power of attraction. … Each religious tradition, from within, must be able to take account of the existence of others”.

The second is “commitment to the common good. Whenever belonging to a specific religious tradition gives rise to service with conviction, generosity and concern for the whole of society without making distinctions, then there too exists an authentic and mature development of religious freedom, which appears not only as a space in which to legitimately defend one’s autonomy, but also as a potential that enriches the human family as it advances”.

“Let us look around us: there are so many poor and needy people, so many societies that try to find a more inclusive way of social justice and path of economic development!” exclaimed the Holy Father. “How great is the need for the human heart to be firmly fixed on the deepest meaning of experiences in life and rooted in a rediscovery of hope! Men and women, inspired in these areas by the values of their respective religious traditions, can offer an important, and even unique, contribution. This is truly a fertile land offering much fruit, also in the field of interreligious dialogue”.

“But I would also like to mention an ever-present spectre, that of relativism: “it is all relative”. In this respect, we must keep a basic principle clear in our minds: it is not possible to enter into dialogue other than from the standpoint of one's own identity. Without identity dialogue cannot exist. It would be the spectre of a dialogue, a dialogue on air: without purpose. Each one of us has his or her own religious identity and is faithful to it. But the Lord knows how to lead history on. Each one of us starts from his or her own identity, without pretending to have another, because it is not useful ... and this is relativism. What we have in common is the path of life, and the good will to start out from one's own identity for the good of our brothers and sisters. Each one of us offers the witness of his or her own identity to the other, and dialogues with the other. After this, dialogue may proceed on theological questions, but the most important and most beautiful thing is to walk together without betraying one's own identity, without masking it, without hypocrisy”.

Pope Francis concluded his address by encouraging religious leaders to maintain and develop “the tradition of good relations among the various religious communities in Albania, and to be united in serving your beloved homeland. With a touch of humour, it may be said that this is like a football team: Catholics 'in competition' alongside all the others but all united together for the good of the country and for humanity. Continue to be a sign, for your country and beyond, that good relations and fruitful cooperation are truly possible among men and women of different religions”.

In the Cathedral of Tirana: “Today we have touched martyrs”

Vatican City, 21 September 2014 (VIS) – Following the interreligious meeting at the Catholic University, Pope Francis transferred to the Cathedral of St. Paul in the centre of Tirana to celebrate vespers with priests, religious, seminarians and lay movements. The church, consecrated in 2002, is able to hold up to 700 persons and a large stained glass window depicting the encounter between St. John Paul II and Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

The Holy Father had prepared a discourse to deliver there, but after hearing the testimony of an 83 year-old priest and an 85 year-old nun who had both survived persecution under the communist regime, he was moved to tears, embraced them, and setting aside the official text which he handed to the Archbishop of Tirana, Rrok Mirdita, he addressed those present with some off-the-cuff comments, published in full below:

“I had prepared a few words to say to you, and I will give them to the Archbishop, who will make them available for you later. The translation is already done. He will see that you get them.

But right now I would like to tell you something else. In the reading we heard these words: 'Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God'. This is the text which the Church invites us to reflect upon at this evening’s Vespers. Over the past two months I have been preparing for this Visit by reading the history of the persecution in Albania. For me it was surprising: I did not know that your people had suffered so greatly! Then today, on the road from the airport to the square, there were all those pictures of the martyrs. It is clear that this people today continues to remember their martyrs, those who suffered so dearly! A people of martyrs. And today at the beginning of the celebration, I touched two of them.

“What I can say to you is what they themselves have said, by their lives, by their plain words. They told their stories simply, yet they spoke of so much pain. We can ask them: 'How did you manage to survive such trials?'. And they will tell us what we heard in this passage from the Second Letter to the Corinthians: 'God is the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation. He is the one who consoled us'. They have told us so, and in a straightforward way. They suffered greatly. They suffered physically, mentally, with the anguish of uncertainty: they did not know whether they would be shot or not, and so they lived with this anguish. And the Lord consoled them.

“I think of Peter, imprisoned and in chains, while the whole Church prayed for him. And the Lord consoled Peter. And the martyrs, including those whom we heard today: the Lord consoled them because there were people in the Church, the People of God – devout and good old women, so many cloistered nuns – who were praying for them.

“This is the mystery of the Church: when the Church asks the Lord to console his people, the Lord consoles them, quietly, even secretly. He consoles them in the depths of the heart and he comforts them with strength. I am certain that they [the martyrs] do not boast of what they have experienced, because they know that it was the Lord who sustained them.

“But they have something to tell us! They tell us that we, who have been called by the Lord to follow him closely, must find our consolation in him alone. Woe to us if we seek consolation elsewhere! Woe to priests and religious, sisters and novices, consecrated men and women, when they seek consolation far from the Lord! Today I don’t want to be harsh and severe with you, but I want you to realise very clearly that if you look for consolation anywhere else, you will not be happy! Even more, you will be unable to comfort others, for your own heart is closed to the Lord’s consolation. You will end up, as the great Elijah said to the people of Israel, 'limping with both legs'.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God.

“That is what these two [the martyrs] have done, today. Humbly, without pretence or boasting, they have done a service for us: they have consoled us. They also tell us this: 'We are sinners, but the Lord was with us. This is the path. Do not be discouraged!' Excuse me, if I use you as an example, but all of us have to be examples for one another. Let us go home reflecting on this: today we have touched martyrs”.

The following is the full text of the discourse prepared for the Albanian clergy:

“Since the moment your country freed itself from dictatorship, the ecclesial communities in Albania have begun again to journey onward and to reorganise pastoral ministry, looking to the future with hope. I am particularly grateful to those pastors who paid a great price for their fidelity to Christ and for their decision to remain united to the Successor of Peter. They were courageous in the face of difficulty and trial. There are still priests and religious among us who have experienced prison and persecution, like the sister and brother who have told us their story. I embrace you warmly, and I praise God for your faithful witness that inspires the whole Church to continue to proclaim the Gospel with joy.

“Treasuring this experience, the Church in Albania can grow in its missionary and apostolic zeal. I know and appreciate the effort you make to oppose those new forms of 'dictatorship' that threaten to enslave individuals and communities. If the atheist regime sought to suffocate the faith, these new forms of dictatorship, in a more insidious way, are able to suffocate charity. I am referring to individualism, rivalry and heated conflicts: these are worldly mentalities that can contaminate even the Christian community. We need not be discouraged by these difficulties; do not be afraid to continue along the path of the Lord. He is always at your side, he gives you his grace and he helps you to sustain one another; to accept one another as you are, with understanding and mercy; he helps you to deepen fraternal communion.

“Evangelisation is more effective when it is carried out with oneness of spirit and with sincere teamwork among the various ecclesial communities as well as among missionaries and local clergy: this requires courage to seek out ways of working together and offering mutual help in the areas of catechesis and catholic education, as well as full human development and charity. In these settings, the contribution of the ecclesial movements that know how to work in communion with pastors is highly valuable. That is precisely what I see before me: bishops, priests, religious and laity: a Church that desires to walk in fraternity and unity. When love for Christ is placed above all else, even above our legitimate particular needs, then we are able to move outside of ourselves, of our personal or communal pettiness, and move towards Jesus who, in our brothers and sisters, comes to us. His wounds are still visible today on the bodies of so many men and women who are hungry and thirsty; who are humiliated; who are in hospital or prison. By touching and caring for these wounds with tenderness, it is possible to fully live the Gospel and to adore God who lives in our midst.

“When love for Christ is placed above all else, even above our legitimate particular needs, then we are able to move outside of ourselves, of our personal or communal pettiness, and move towards Jesus who, in our brothers and sisters, comes to us. His wounds are still visible today on the bodies of so many men and women who are hungry and thirsty; who are humiliated; who are in hospital or prison. By touching and caring for these wounds with tenderness, it is possible to fully live the Gospel and to adore God who lives in our midst.

“There are many problems that you encounter every day. These problems compel you to immerse yourselves with fervour and generosity in apostolic work. And yet, we know that by ourselves we can do nothing: 'Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain'. This awareness calls us to give due space for the Lord every day, to dedicate our time to him, open our hearts to him, so that he may work in our lives and in our mission. That which the Lord promises for the prayer made with trust and perseverance goes beyond what we can imagine: beyond that which we ask for, God sends us also the Holy Spirit. The contemplative dimension of our lives becomes indispensable even in the midst of the most urgent and difficult tasks we encounter. The more our mission calls us to go out into the peripheries of life, the more our hearts feel the intimate need to be united to the heart of Christ, which is full of mercy and love.

“Considering the fact that the number of priests and religious is not yet sufficient, the Lord Jesus repeats to you today 'The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest'. We must not forget that this prayer begins with a gaze: the gaze of Jesus, who sees the great harvest. Do we also have this gaze? Do we know how to recognise the abundant fruits that the grace of God has caused to grow and the work that there is to be done in the field of the Lord? It is by gazing with faith on the field of God that prayer springs forth, namely, the daily and pressing invocation to the Lord for priestly and religious vocations. Dear seminarians, postulants and novices, you are the fruit of this prayer of the people of God, which always precedes and accompanies your personal response. The Church in Albania needs your enthusiasm and your generosity. The time that you dedicate today to a solid spiritual, theological, communitarian and pastoral formation, is directed to serving adequately the people of God tomorrow. The people, rather than seeking experts, are looking for witnesses: humble witnesses of the mercy and tenderness of God; priests and religious conformed to Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who are capable of communicating the love of Christ to all people.

“Together with you and the entire Albanian people, I want to give thanks to God for the many missionaries whose activity was decisive for the renewal of the Church in Albania and which continues to be of great importance to this day. These missionaries have offered a significant contribution to the consolidation of the spiritual patrimony that the Albanian bishops, priests, consecrated religious and lay persons have preserved in the midst of difficult trials and tribulations. Let us acknowledge the great work done by the religious institutes for the revival of Catholic education: these efforts are worth recognising and sustaining.

“Dear brothers and sisters, do not be discouraged in the face of difficulties. Following the footsteps of your fathers, be tenacious in giving testimony to Christ, walking 'together with God, toward the hope that never disappoints'. In your journey, rest assured that you are accompanied and supported by the love of the whole Church. I thank you from the heart for this meeting, and I entrust each one of you and your communities – your plans and your hopes – to the holy Mother of God. I bless you from my heart and I ask you, please, to pray for me”.

Visit to the Bethany Centre: “Here faith becomes concrete charity”

Vatican City, 21 September 2014 (VIS) – The final stage of Pope Francis' apostolic trip to Albania was the visit to the Bethany Charitable Centre, approximately thirty kilometres from Tirana. The centre, founded by the Italian Antonietta Vitale in 1999, assists numerous disabled people and poor or marginalised children, with the collaboration of a group of lay volunteers.

“In places such as this we are all confirmed in the faith; each one is helped in his or her belief, because we see the faith visibly expressed in practical acts of charity. We see how faith brings light and hope in situations of grave hardship”, remarked Pope Francis in the address he gave in the church in the Centre, dedicated to St. Anthony of Padua. “This faith, working through charity, dislodges the mountains of indifference, of disbelief and of apathy. ... Through humble gestures and simple acts of service to the least among us, the Good News that Jesus is risen and lives among us is proclaimed”.

“This Centre, furthermore, shows that it is possible to live together peacefully and fraternally as people of different ethnicities and followers of various religious confessions. Here differences do not prevent harmony, joy and peace, but rather become opportunities for a greater mutual awareness and understanding. … Each religious community expresses itself through love and not violence, and is never ashamed of showing goodness! The persons who nourish goodness in their heart, find that such goodness leads to a peaceful conscience and to profound joy even in the midst of difficulties and misunderstandings. Even when affronted, goodness is never weak but rather, shows its strength by refusing to take revenge. Goodness is its own reward and draws us closer to God, who is the Supreme Good. … Goodness offers infinitely more than money, which only deludes, because we have been created to receive the love of God and to offer it, not to measure everything in terms of money or power”.

With regard to the volunteers who collaborate in the Centre, the Pope quoted one of the children in the Bethany Centre, who said, “'For fifteen years now they have sacrificed themselves joyfully out of love for Jesus and for us'. This phrase reveals how making a gift of oneself for the love of Jesus gives birth to joy and hope, and it also shows how serving one’s brothers and sisters is transformed into an experience of sharing God’s kingdom. These words … might seem paradoxical to many in our world who are slow to grasp their meaning and who frantically seek the key to existence in earthly riches, possessions and amusements. What these people discover, instead, is estrangement and bewilderment”.

The bishop of Rome emphasised that instead, “the secret to a good life is found in loving and giving oneself for love’s sake. From here comes the strength to 'sacrifice oneself joyfully', and thus the most demanding work is transformed into a source of a greater joy. In this way, there is no longer any fear of making important choices in life, but they are seen for what they are, namely, as the way to personal fulfilment in freedom”.

He concluded, “May your patron, St. Anthony, accompany you along the way. I encourage you to continue faithfully serving the Lord Jesus in the poor and abandoned, and to pray to Him so that the hearts and minds of all may be opened to goodness, to charity shown in works, which is the source of real and authentic joy”.

The Pope greeted the children and disabled persons present upon leaving the church, and then transferred to Mother Teresa airport to depart for Rome. The aircraft carrying the Holy Father landed shortly after 9.30 p.m.

Pope Francis recounts his emotional trip to Albania

Vatican City, 22 September 2014 (VIS) – During his return flight to Rome, the Holy Father responded to several questions posed by three Albanian journalists who had covered his apostolic trip to Albania. The three questions, and Pope Francis' answers, are published in full below.

Q: “Did His Holiness set out with an idea in mind about Albanians and Albania? Such as the Albanian who has suffered but is also tolerant. Has he encountered any other quality in the Albanians, or are these the right qualities to enable the eagle to return to the nest?”

Pope Francis: “The Albanian is not only tolerant, he is a brother. He has the capacity for fraternity, which is more. This can be seen in the co-existence and collaboration between Muslims, Orthodox and Catholics. They collaborate, but like brothers. And then, another aspect that struck me at the beginning is the youth of the country – it is the youngest country in Europe. But you can see that Albania has achieved a superior development in culture and governance, thanks to this fraternal quality”.

Q: “Travelling along the central boulevard of Tirana, beneath the portraits of the clerics martyred during the communist regime, in a country in which the State imposed atheism until twenty-five years ago, what was your personal feeling?”

Pope Francis: “For two months I have been studying that difficult period in the history of Albania, in order to understand it, and I have also studied something of its origins. But you have had beautiful and strong cultural roots since the beginning. It was a cruel period; the level of cruelty was terrible. When I saw those photos – but not just the Catholics, also the Orthodox, and Muslims …. and when I thought of the words said to them: 'But you must not believe in God', to which they responded, 'I believe'... Boom! They killed them. This is why I say that all three religious components have given witness to God and now give witness to fraternity”.

Q: “Albania is a country with a Muslim majority. But your visit took place at a moment in which the global situation is precarious. You yourself have declared that the third world war has already begun. The message of your visit is intended solely for Albania, or beyond?”

Pope Francis: “No, it goes far beyond. Albania has constructed a path of peace, co-existence and cooperation that goes far beyond, that touches other countries that also have diverse ethnic roots. It is a country with a Muslim majority, but it is not a Muslim country. It is a European country. Albania is a European country in terms of her culture, the culture of coexistence, and also for her cultural history”.

Q: “After Albania, where will your next trips be?”

Pope Francis: “On 25 November, Strasbourg, to speak at the Council of Europe and the European Parliament. And then, perhaps, on 28 November, Turkey, to be there to celebrate the feast of St. Andrew, with the Patriarch Bartholomaios”.

Q: “We have understood that you have a vision of Albania that is a little different to that of the Europeans; that is, we look at Europe almost as if it were the European Union, whereas you have chosen, as the first European country to visit, a peripheral country that does not belong to the European Union. What would you say to those who look only at the Europe of the 'powerful'?”

Pope Francis: “That my trip is a message, it is a sign: it is a sign I wish to give”.

Q: “We all saw you weep, I think, for the first time, we saw you very moved during that encounter: it was, I think, the most moving moment of the trip...”

Pope Francis: “To hear a martyr speak of his own martyrdom was very powerful. I think that all of us who were there were moved, all of us. And they spoke as if they were talking about other people, simply and with humility. It did me a great deal of good”.

Other news

The Holy Father receives the president of Latvia

Vatican City, 20 September 2014 (VIS) – This morning, the Holy Father Francis received in audience Andris Berzins, president of the Republic of Latvia, who subsequently met with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, accompanied by Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States.

During the discussions, which took place in a cordial atmosphere, the existing good relations between Latvia and the Holy See were evoked, as well as the positive contribution made by the Catholic Church to society, especially in the fields of education and social welfare.

Mention was then made of various aspects of life in the country, as well as international matters of common interest, particularly in view of Latvia’s upcoming Presidency of the Council of the European Union, from 1 January 2015. Special attention was paid to the situation in Ukraine, in the hope that a political solution, based on law, may be sought through dialogue.

The Church needs pastors able to kneel before others

Vatican City, 22 September 2014 (VIS) – This morning in the Vatican's Clementine Hall, the Holy Father received the bishops participating in the seminar organised by the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples. Pope Francis praised the courage of the bishops, who have not allowed themselves “to be intimidated by the difficulties and challenges of the current world, that make the mission of bishops even more arduous nowadays”, but have instead placed their trust in the Lord, “in imitation of the first disciples”.

He reminded them of the urgent need for missionary conversion “that involves every baptised person and every parish”, emphasising that pastors are required to be the first to live and witness this conversion as the leaders of the particular Churches. Therefore, he added, “I encourage you to direct your life and your episcopal ministry towards this missionary transformation that currently challenges the People of God”.

“Service to humanity is at the centre of this missionary conversion of the Church. … A shining example of this pastoral service is offered by the Korean martyr saints … whose liturgical memory we celebrate today. Anchored in Christ, the Good Shepherd, they did not hesitate to shed their own blood for the Gospel, of which they were faithful dispensers and heroic witnesses. The Church needs pastors, that is, servants, bishops, who are able to kneel before others to wash their feet. Pastors who are close to the people, meek fathers and brothers, patient and merciful; who embrace poverty both as freedom for the Lord and as simplicity and austerity in life”.

“Make efforts to give a new missionary impetus to your diocesan communities, so that they continue to grow with new members, thanks to your witness of life and your episcopal ministry, exercised as a service to the People of God. Be close to your priests, pay attention to religious life, and love the poor”. He concluded by urging them to promote pastoral care for the family, “so that families, accompanied and educated, may be increasingly better able to offer their contribution to the life of the Church and society”, and so that they may provide the foundation for the work of evangelisation, “through their educational mission and with their active participation in the life of parish communities”.

The Church must be a sign of closeness to God's mercy

Vatican City, 20 September 2014 (VIS) – The participants in the international meeting, “The pastoral project of Evangelii gaudium”, organised by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of New Evangelisation” and chaired by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, were received in audience by Pope Francis in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall yesterday.

In his address, the Holy Father spoke of the urgency of the evangelising mission in our times, presenting as an example, first and foremost, the passage from the Gospel according to Matthew in which Jesus feels compassion towards the crowd that follows Him, tired and exhausted like a flock without a shepherd.

“How many people, in so many of the existential peripheries of our time, are tired and exhausted, and await the Church? They await us!” he exclaimed. “How can we reach them? … It is not the task of the Pope to offer a detailed and complete analysis of contemporary reality, but to invite all the Church to grasp the signs of the times that the Lord continually offers us. … These signs … must be reread in the light of the Gospel: this is the moment of solid commitment, the context in which we are called upon to work in order to enable the growth of God's Kingdom. How much poverty and solitude we see in today's world, unfortunately! How many people live in conditions of great suffering and ask the Church to be a sign of the Lord's goodness, solidarity and mercy. This is a task, in particular, for those who have the responsibility of pastoral ministry. … They are required to recognise and interpret these signs of the times in order to offer a wise and generous response”.

“Before so many pastoral needs, before the many demands of men and women, we run the risk of being afraid and of turning inwards in an attitude of fear and defence. Herein there lie the temptations of sufficiency and clericalism, of the codification of faith in rules and instructions, just as the scribes, pharisees and doctors of the law did in Jesus' time. Everything is clear and orderly, but the population of believers and seekers will continue to hunger and thirst for God. I have said many times that the Church seems like a military hospital to me: many injured people who need our closeness, who ask of us what they asked of Jesus: closeness, proximity. And if we assume the attitude of the scribes, the doctors of the law and the pharisees, we will never offer a testimony of closeness”.

In this regard, the Pope cited the parable in which Jesus speaks of the owner of a vineyard who, in need of workers, left his home at different times of the day to look for them. “He did not go out just once”, he emphasised. “All those who are responsible for pastoral care can find a good example in this parable. Go forth at all times of the day to find those who are in search of the Lord. Reach the weakest and the least fortunate to offer them support so they can be useful in the Lord's vineyard, even if it is only for an hour”.

“Another aspect: please, let us not follow the song of the sirens who call us to transform pastoral care into a convulsive series of initiatives, without grasping the essence of commitment to evangelisation. At times it appears as if they are more concerned with multiplying their activities rather than taking care of people and their encounter with God. A pastoral care that lacks this attention will gradually become sterile”.

Finally, the Pope advised those present to consider two important qualities: patience and perseverance. “The Word of God entered with 'patience' in the moment of the Incarnation and thus unto death on the Cross. Patience and perseverance. We do not have a 'magic wand' for everything, but we do have our trust in the Lord Who accompanies us and never abandons us. … Let us do good, but without expected to be recompensed. Let us sow and offer witness. Our witness is the beginning of an evangelisation that touches the heart and transforms is. Words without example are of no use! Our witness is that which brings and gives validity to our words”.

“Thank you for your commitment”, he concluded. “I bless you and, please, do not forget to pray for me, because I have to talk a lot and also give a little Christian witness!”.

Special Commission to study marriage annulment reform

Vatican City, 22 September 2014 (VIS) – The Holy See Press Office today issued the following communique:

“On 27 August 2014, the Holy Father decided to institute a special Commission to study the reform of the canonical marriage annulment process.

The Commission will be chaired by Msgr. Pio Vito Pinto, dean of the tribunal of the Roman Rota, and will be composed of the following members: Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts; Msgr. Luis Francisco Ladario, secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; Bishop Dimitri Salachas, Apostolic Exarch of the Greek Byzantine Catholic Church; Msgrs. Maurice Monier, Leo Xavier Michael Arokiaraj and Alejandro W. Bunge, prelate auditors of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota; the Rev. Fr. Nikolaus Schoch, O.F.M., substitute promotor of Justice of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura; Fr. Konstanc Miroslav Adam, O.P., rector of the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum); Fr. Jorge Horta Espinoza, O.F.M., Dean of the Faculty of Canon Law of the Pontifical University Antonianum; and Prof. Paolo Moneta, formerly professor of Canon Law at the University of Pisa.

The work of the Special Commission will begin as soon as possible and will focus on the preparation of a proposal for the reform of the marriage annulment process, seeking to simplify and streamline the procedure, while safeguarding the principle of the indissoluble nature of marriage”.

Cardinal Scola, Pope's special envoy to Cologne

Vatican City, 22 September 2014 (VIS) – Today a letter was published, written in Latin and dated 6 August, by which the Holy Father appoints Cardinal Angelo Scola, archbishop of Milan, as his special envoy to the celebrations for the 850th anniversary of the translation of relics of the Magi from Milan to Cologne, Germany, scheduled to take place on 28 September. The pontifical mission accompanying the cardinal will be composed of Msgr. Klaus Kramer of the clergy of Rottenburg-Stuttgart, president of Missio-Aachen, and Rev. Provost Hubertus Bottcher of the clergy of Paderborn, dean of Arnsberg.


Vatican City, 20 September 2014 (VIS) – The Holy Father received in audience:

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

- Thorbjorn Jagland, secretary general of the Council of Europe, and entourage;

- Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, president of the Italian Episcopal Conference;

- Cardinal Lluis Martinez Sistach, archbishop of Barcelona, Spain;

- Bishop Alcides Jorge Pedro Casaretto, emeritus of San Isidro, Argentina;

- Cristina Fernandez Kirchner, president of the Argentine Republic.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 20 September 2014 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed:

- Bishop Blase J. Cupich of Spokane, U.S.A., as metropolitan archbishop of Chicago (area 3,654, population 6,251,000, Catholics 2,438,000, priests 1,559, permanent deacons 660, religious 2,787), U.S.A. He succeeds Cardinal Francis E. George, O.M.I., whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same metropolitan archdiocese, upon reaching the age limit, was accepted by the Holy Father.

- Rev. Fr. Riccardo Luca Guariglia, O.S.B., as ordinary abbot of the territorial abbey of Montevergine (area 3, population 232, Catholics 232, priests 12, religious 27), Italy. Fr. Guariglia is currently lecturer in fundamental theology at the “Madonna delle Grazie” Theological Institute in Benevento, Italy, and claustral prior and master of novices of the monastic community of Montevergine.

- Cardinal Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Bombay, India, as his special envoy to the celebrations for the 500th anniversary of the evangelisation of Myanmar, to be held in Yangon from 21 to 23 November 2014.

- Msgr. Paolo Rudelli, nunciature advisor, as special advisor and Holy See permanent observer at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.

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