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Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Pope to the Catholicos Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East: there is no religious, political or economic justification for the condition of thousands of Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq and Syria

Vatican City, 2014 (VIS) – “Our meeting is marked by the suffering we share on account of the wars that beset various regions of the Middle East and in particular for the violence suffered by Christians and members of other religious minorities, especially in Iraq and Syria”, said Pope Francis this morning, as he received in audience His Holiness Mar Dinka IV, Catholicos Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East. “When we think of their suffering, it is natural to overcome the distinctions of rite or confession; in them there is the body of Christ that, still today, is injured, beaten and humiliated. There are no religious, political or economic factors that can justify what is happening to hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women, and children. We are deeply united in our prayers for intercession and in charity towards these suffering members of the body of Christ”.

“Your visit is another step along the path of an increasing closeness and spiritual communion between us, after the bitter misunderstandings of previous centuries”, continued the bishop of Rome. Twenty years ago, the joint Christological declaration you signed along with my predecessor, the Pope St. John Paul II, was a milestone in our path to full communion. In this declaration we acknowledged that we confess the sole faith of the apostles, faith in the divinity and humanity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, united in a single person, without confusion or alteration, without division or separation.

Finally, the Pope referred to the work of the Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East, which he accompanies with prayer “so that the blessed day may come in which we are able to celebrate at the same altar the sacrifice of praise, that will make us one in Christ. … What unites us is far greater than what divides, and for this reason we feel urged by the Spirit to share from now the spiritual treasures of our ecclesial traditions, to live, like true brothers, sharing the gifts that the Lord does not cease to give to our Churches, as a sign of His goodness and mercy”.

To the prelates of Chad: the behaviour of the Church is a model for all society

Vatican City, 2014 (VIS) – The implementation of catechetical methods for inculturation, the defence of the family and the role of women, and the need for dialogue with other religions in a country where Catholics are a minority are the main themes of the discourse Pope Francis handed to the bishops of Chad this morning, at the end of their “ad Limina” visit. The Holy Father writes that the Catholic communities in this country “are growing, not only numerically, but also in terms of quality and the strength of their efforts”, and expressed his satisfaction for the work carried out in the spheres of education, health and development.

“The civil authorities are very grateful to the Catholic Church for her contribution to society as a whole in Chad. I encourage you to persevere along this path, as there is a strong bond between evangelisation and human development, a bond that must be expressed and developed in all the work of evangelisation. Service to the poor and the most disadvantaged constitutes a true testimony of Christ, Who made Himself poor in order to be close to us and to save us. Both the religious congregations and lay associations who work with them play an important role in this respect, and they are to be thanked for this”.

“However”, he observes, “it is certain that this commitment to social service does not constitute the entirety of evangelizing activity; the deepening and strengthening of faith in the hearts of the faithful, that translates into an authentic spiritual and sacramental life, are essential to enable them to withstand the many trials of contemporary life, and to ensure that the behaviour of the faithful is more coherent with the requirements of the Gospel. … This is especially necessary in a country where certain cultural traditions bear considerable weight, where less morally demanding religious possibilities are present everywhere, and where secularism begins to make headway”.

Therefore, “it is necessary for the faithful to receive a solid doctrinal and spiritual formation. And the first locus of formation is certainly catechesis. I invite you, with a renewed missionary spirit, to implement the catechetical methods used in your dioceses. First, the good aspects of their traditions must be considered and accorded their due value – because Christ did not come to destroy cultures, but rather to lead them to fulfilment – while that which is not Christian must be clearly denounced. At the same time, it is essential to ensure the accuracy and integrity of doctrinal content”.

The Pope goes on to refer to families, who are “the vital cell of society and the Church, and who are currently very vulnerable. … And within the family, it is important that the role and the dignity of the woman are recognised, to bear eloquent witness to the Gospel. Therefore, in this respect, “behaviour within the Church must be a model for the whole of society”.

After reiterating the need for the permanent formation of the clergy and the closeness of bishops and priests, Pope Francis observes that the Church in Chad, “despite her vitality and development, is a minority in a population in which there is a Muslim majority and which is still partly bound to its traditional religions”, and encouraged the prelates to ensure “that the Church, which is respected and listened to, occupies the space justly accorded to her in society in Chad, in which a significant element has converted, even though this remains a minority”. He continues, “in this context, I must urge you to foster interreligious dialogue, which was fortunately initiated by the late Archbishop of N'Djamena, Mathias M'Garteri Mayadi, who did much to promote the co-existence of different religious communities. I believe that it is necessary to continue with this type of initiative to prevent the violence to which Christians have fallen victim in neighbouring countries”.

The Holy Father concluded by reiterating the importance of maintaining the good relations established with the civil authorities, and highlighted the recent signing of a Framework Agreement between the Holy See and the Republic of Chad that, once ratified, will greatly help the mission of the Church.

To Justice and Peace: rising inequality and poverty endanger democracy

Vatican City, 2014 (VIS) – This morning the Holy Father received in audience the participants in the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council “Justice and Peace”: a meeting that coincides with the fifth anniversary of the publication of Benedict VI's encyclical “Caritas in veritate”. Pope Francis described it as “a fundamental document for the evangelisation of the social sphere, which offers valuable guidance for the presence of Catholics in society, in the institutions, in the economy, in finance and in politics”, which “has drawn attention to both the benefits and the dangers of globalisation, when the latter is not guided towards the good of the people. While globalisation has increased aggregate wealth and that of a number of individual States, it has also caused division between various social groups, creating inequality and new forms of poverty in within those same countries that are considered to be among the richest”.

The Pope remarked that one of the aspects of the current economic system is the exploitation of international imbalances in the costs of labour, which affects millions of people who live on less than two dollars a day. This imbalance not only fails to respect the dignity of those who provide low cost labour, but also removes sources of work from those areas where it is most protected. “This poses the problem of creating mechanisms for protecting working rights, as well as the environment, in the presence of an increasingly consumerist ideology, that does not demonstrate responsibility with regard to cities and to creation. Rising inequality and poverty put participatory and inclusive democracy at risk; the latter always presupposes an economy and a market that are fair and do not exclude. This therefore means that the structural causes of inequality and poverty must be dealt with”. Frances remarked that in his apostolic exhortation “Evangelii gaudium” he indicated three basic instruments for the social inclusion of the those most in need: education, access to healthcare, and work for all.

“In other words”, he explained, “the State of social rights must not be dismantled, and in particular the right to work must be protected. This must not be considered a variable, dependent upon financial and monetary markets. It is a fundamental right for dignity, for the formation of a family, for the realisation of the common good and for peace. Education and work and access to welfare for all are key elements both for development and for the just distribution of goods, for achieving social justice and for belonging to society, and for participating freely and responsibly in political life, understood as the management of the “res publica”. Ideas that claim to increase income at the cost of restricting the job market and creating further exclusion are not coherent with an economy at the service of man and the common good, or with an inclusive and participatory democracy”.

Further problems arise from the “lasting imbalances between economic sectors, remuneration, commercial banks and banks engaged in speculation, between institutions and global problems: it is necessary to remain vigilant about poverty and social justice. This requires, on the one hand, radical reforms that provide for the redistribution of the wealth produced, and the universalisation of free markets in the service of families, and on the other, a redistribution of sovereignty, at both national and supranational levels”.

Returning to the encyclical “Caritas in veritate”, the Pope noted that this document emphasised the bond between the environmental and human ecology, and affirmed the current relevance of its principles. “A love full of truth is in fact the foundation on which we must build the peace that is particularly hoped for and necessary for the good of all today. It enables us to overcome dangerous fanaticism, conflicts over the possession of resources, migration of biblical dimensions, the lasting wounds of hunger and poverty, human trafficking, social and economic injustice and disparity, and imbalance in terms of access to collective goods”. He concluded, “the Church is always on the move, in the search of new ways to proclaim the Gospel, also in the social sphere”.

Pope Francis receives in audience the survivors of the Lampedusa shipwreck that claimed 368 lives

Vatican City, 2014 (VIS) – Yesterday afternoon the Holy Father received a delegation of Eritrean survivors and relatives of the victims of the shipwreck that occurred a year ago in the waters of Lampedusa, Sicily, in which 368 migrants lost their lives. The delegation was composed of 37 people – more than 20 survivors and some relatives – from the various European countries where they have settled, often with family members who were already present there. These countries include Germany, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands and Denmark. Other survivors are due to arrive tomorrow, to join the delegation to participate in the commemoration of the tragedy in Lampedusa tomorrow. A few days ago a proposal was put forward to the Italian parliament that 3 October be declared a “Day of Remembrance for Victims of the Sea”.

The delegation was organised by the “3 October Committee”, chaired by Tareke Brhane, and was accompanied by Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, almoner of His Holiness, and Fr. Giovanni Lamanna, former president of the Astalli Centre, the Italian home of the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), an international Catholic organisation active in more than forty countries, whose mission is to accompany and assist refugees and asylum-seekers, and to defend their rights.

During the meeting, which took place in a room adjacent to the Vatican's Paul VI Hall, one of the refugees addressed the Pope, asking for his help and support in work that remains to be done, for instance in identifying the bodies, that in some cases has not yet been possible. Another young person thanked the Pope for his support for and interest in the welfare of migrants and refugees.

The Pope, moved by these testimonies, said, “I cannot find the words to say what I feel. What you have suffered is to be contemplated in silence; one weeps, and seeks a way of being close to you. At times, when you seem to have arrived in the port, we encounter very difficult situations. You find closed doors and do not know where to go. But there are many people whose hearts are open to you. The door of the heart is the most important in these moments. I implore all men and women in Europe to open the doors of their hearts! I want to say that I am close to you, I pray for you, I pray that the closed doors open up”.

The delegation presented the Holy Father with a sculpture in iron, depicting a bottle in the sea, containing a family. At the end of the encounter, the Pope personally greeted all those present.

Papal representatives in the Middle East gather in the Vatican to discuss the situation of Christians in the region

Vatican City, 2014 (VIS) – The papal representatives in the Middle East are meeting in the Vatican from 2 to 4 October, at the Holy Father's behest, to discuss the presence of Christians in the region, due to the grave situation that has prevailed in recent months. The meeting began this morning at the Secretariat of State and was attended by the Superiors of the Secretariat of State and the Roman Curia directly linked with the issue, as well as the Holy See Permanent Observers at the United Nations in New York and Geneva, and the apostolic nuncio to the European Union.

The meeting demonstrates the Holy Father's closeness and interest in this important question. He opened the meeting, thanking the participants convened to pray and reflect together on what to do to approach the dramatic situation experienced by Christians in the Middle East, along with other religious and ethnic minorities who suffer as a result of the violence that continues to rage throughout the region. With heartfelt words the Holy Father demonstrated his concern regarding the situations of conflict currently in progress in many areas, and for the phenomenon of terrorism, which holds human lives to have no value. The Pontiff also mentioned the problem of arms trafficking that is the basis of many problems, as well as the humanitarian drama experienced by many people forced to leave their countries. In emphasising the importance of prayer, the Holy Father expressed his hope that multi-level initiatives and actions may be identified in order to manifest the solidarity of all the Church towards the Christians of the Middle East and also to involve the international community and all men and women of good will, to respond to the needs of the very many people who suffer in the region.

Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin illustrated the importance and aim of the meeting. Cardinal Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, offered a complete report on the situation experienced by Christians in the Middle East, presenting different aspects of the question and opening up dialogue with the participants. The papal representatives in Syria and Iraq then went on to provide information on the conditions of Christians in their respective countries, and finally, Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”, spoke on the role of the Church in facing the humanitarian crisis in the Middle East.

This afternoon, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, will speak on religious dialogue with Islam, and the challenges faced by Christians in the Middle East. This will be followed by a presentation by Cardinal Fernando Filoni, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, on his recent visit to Iraq as the Holy Father's special envoy. After the debate, the session will close with Vespers.


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

- Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne, archbishop of Lima, Peru;

- Archbishop Pedro Ricardo Barreto Jimeno of Huancayo, Peru;

- Seven prelates of the Episcopal Conference of Chad, on their “ad Limina” visit:

- Bishop Rosario Pio Ramolo, O.F.M. Cap., of Gore;

- Bishop Miguel Angel Sebastian Martinez, M.C.C.I., of Lai, apostolic administrator “sede vacante et ad nutum Sanctae Sedis” of Doba;

- Bishop Joachim Kouraleyo Tarounga of Moundou;

- Bishop Jean-Claude Bouchard, O.M.I., of Pala;

- Bishop Goetbe Edmond Djitangar of Sarh;

- Bishop Henri Coudray, S.J., apostolic vicar of Mongo; and

- Rev. Alphonse Karamba, diocesan administrator of N'Djamena.
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