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Friday, October 3, 2014

Pope Francis receives the president of Sri Lanka

Vatican City, 3 October 2014 (VIS) – Today the Holy Father Francis received in audience the president of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa, who subsequently met with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin.

During the cordial discussions, the Parties focused on the country’s current situation, with particular reference to signs of social and economic improvement, and conveyed their hope that solutions corresponding to the legitimate expectations of all citizens may be found.

In this context, the Parties expressed their hope that the Holy Father’s upcoming visit to Sri Lanka may be welcomed as a sign of closeness to the Sri Lankan population and may encourage those who work for the common good, reconciliation, justice and peace.

The Pope receives the Council of European Episcopal Conferences: “Be a prophetic voice for society”

Vatican City, 3 October 2014 (VIS) – “Family and future of Europa” is the theme of the plenary assembly taking place in these days at the Council of European Episcopal Conferences. This morning Pope Francis received seventy of its members, to whom he delivered an off-the-cuff address. He subsequently handed them a written discourse underlining how, as pastors close to their flock, they well know the complexity of the panorama and the challenges the mission of the Church faces, even in Europe.

“We are called to be an 'outbound' Church, in movement from the centre towards the peripheries to reach out to all, without fear, without distrust, and with apostolic courage”, says the document.

Addressing the theme of the plenary session, the Holy Father writes that it constitutes an important occasion for joint reflection on how to exalt the family as a valuable resource for pastoral renewal, emphasising the need for Pastors and families to work together, with a spirit of humility and sincere dialogue, so that parish communities become “families of families”. In this respect, he observes that “there is no lack of diverse experiences of family pastoral care and political and social commitment to support families, both those that experience an ordinary married life and those afflicted by problems or breakdowns. It is important to gather together these significant experiences present in the different areas of the life of the men and women of our time, in relation to whom we must exercise an appropriate discernment, in order to then 'put them in the network', thus involving other diocesan communities”.

Collaboration between Pastors and families also extends to the field of education, “favouring the maturation of a spirit of justice, solidarity, peace, and the courage of one's own convictions. It involves supporting parents in their responsibility to education their children, protecting their fundamental right to give their children the education they consider most appropriate. Parents, indeed, remain the first and most important educators of their children, and therefore they have the right to educate them in conformity with their moral and religious convictions. In this regard, it is possible to outline common and coordinated pastoral directives, with the aim of offering valid promotion and support to Catholic schools”.

At the end of the text, Pope Francis encourages those present to continue in their efforts to favour communion between the various Churches in Europe, enabling appropriate collaboration for fruitful evangelisation. “I also invite you to be a 'prophetic voice' within society, especially where the process of secularisation in process throughout the European continent tends to make it increasingly marginal to speak about God”, he concludes.

To the clergy: do not limit yourselves to merely acting as priests – “be” priests

Vatican City, 3 October 2014 (VIS) – This morning in the Clementine Hall the Holy Father received in audience the participants in the Plenary Assembly of the Congregation for the Clergy. “The vocation is truly a treasure that God places in the hearts of some men, chosen by Him and called to follow Him in this special state of life. This treasure, that must be discovered and brought to light, is not made to 'enrich' someone alone. He who is called to the ministry is not the 'master' of his vocation, but rather the administrator of a gift that God has entrusted to him for the good of all the people, or rather for all humanity, even those who have drifted away from religious practice or do not profess faith in Christ”. Pope Francis added that “at the same time, all the Christian community is the custodian of the treasure of these vocations, destined to its service, and must always be aware of its task of promoting, welcoming and accompanying them with affection”.

Similarly, the Pope reminded the clergy that they too must play their role in formation. “This involves protecting and nurturing vocations, so that they bear mature fruit”. He remarked that Jesus did not call his disciples by saying to them “come, I will explain to you”, or “follow me, I will teach you”. “The formation Christ offered his disciples instead took the form of 'come and follow me', 'do as I do', and this is the method that today, too, the Church must offer her ministers. … For this reason, it is a task that is never completed, because priests never stop being Jesus' disciples; they never stop following him”.

Pope Francis spoke about evangelisation as the aim of vocation. “Every vocation is for the mission, and the mission of ordained ministers is evangelisation”, he continued, adding that “the first form of evangelisation is the witness of fraternity and of communion between priests and bishop”. He concluded by emphasising that it is necessary for the clergy to “be priests … free of every spiritual worldliness, aware that it is their lives that evangelise rather than their works”, rather than to take a limited view of priesthood as a profession”, also asking the bishops to think of the good of the people of God, to study the itinerary of vocations carefully, and not to accept priests simply because there is a lack of them in the diocese.

Second day of the meeting on the presence of Christians in the Middle East

Vatican City, 3 October 2014 (VIS) – The meeting of various Papal Representatives and Superiors of the competent dicasteries, convoked in the Vatican at the behest of the Holy Father to analyse “The presence of Christians in the Middle East”, continued today. During this morning’s meeting, the Secretary for Relations with States gave a general presentation on the political situation in the Middle East and on the principles guiding the action of the Holy See, demonstrating the global repercussions of what happens in the Region. Peace is to be sought by means of a “regional” and comprehensive solution that does not overlook the interests of any of the parties, through dialogue and not through unilateral decisions imposed by force. With reference to the phenomenon of terrorism, the Secretary for Relations with States emphasised the importance of combating the fundamentalism at its base. An important role should be played by religious leaders, favouring interreligious dialogue and in particular the collaboration of all for the good of society. The Holy See, in following the political situation in the Middle East, and more generally in its relations with countries with a Muslim majority, considers to be fundamental issues the protection and respect for Christians and other religious minorities as fully-entitled citizens, and human rights, especially that of religious freedom.

The apostolic nuncio in Israel and the apostolic delegate for Jerusalem and Palestine presented reports n the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and on the presence of Christians in the Holy Land. A solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is crucial for the stabilisation of the Middle East and for peace in the region. Indeed, after many years it remains unresolved, with the very grave regional and global consequences this implies. In this regard, the Holy Father’s pilgrimage to the Holy Land and the subsequent prayer meeting in the Vatican opened up hopes for peace. The recent conflict in Gaza recalls that the situation is serious and difficult, but it is necessary to renew diplomatic efforts for a just and lasting solution that respects the rights of both parties to the conflict.

After a moment of dialogue, the Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity provided information on the relationship between the Catholic Church and other Churches and Christian confessions in the Middle East.

In the afternoon, two reports will be heard on the role of the Church in relation to the refugee crisis and in the promotion of justice and peace, presented by the Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples and the Prefect of the Pontifical Council “Justice and Peace”. After a lengthy dialogue, the afternoon session will conclude with Vespers and a fraternal dinner at the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

Tomorrow, the final day of the meeting, Holy Mass will be celebrated in the Pauline Chapel of the Apostolic Palace, presided by the Cardinal Secretary of State, followed by an exchange of ideas in relation to the conclusions and working guidelines emerging from these days of study and reflection.

Cardinal Baldisseri on the Synod on the Family

Vatican City, 3 October 2014 (VIS) – A press conference was held this morning in the Holy See Press Office during which Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, outlined the structure of the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Family, to be inaugurated by the Pope during a solemn mass in St. Peter's Basilica next Sunday.

The Cardinal explained that among the 191 Synod Fathers there will be 61 Cardinals, one Cardinal Patriarch, 7 Patriarchs, one major archbishop, 67 metropolitan archbishops, 47 bishops, one auxiliary bishop, 1 priest and 6 religious. There will also be 16 experts, 38 auditors and 8 fraternal delegates. He also remarked that since this assembly will consider the theme of the family, special emphasis has been given to married couples, parents and family heads, a total of 12 persons; there is also one married couple within the group of experts.

He went on to speak about the characteristics of the upcoming Synod, which show the Holy Father's wish to “undertake an innovative and original Synodal path, structured in two phases: the current Extraordinary Assembly, on the theme 'Pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelisation', and next year's Ordinary Assembly, which will take as its theme 'The vocation and the mission of the family in the Church and in the contemporary world'”. Cardinal Baldisseri noted that during the preparatory phase, “there resounded the voice of all of the People of God”, from bishops to lay faithful who were able to express their opinions through the questionnaire linked to the preparatory document distributed by the Episcopal Conferences. “The large number of responses is due on the one hand to the theme of the Synod, which regards the life of the community, families and people and reflects the pastoral care that the bishops have always had in relation to the family. On the other hand, the breadth of the material that was submitted is without doubt an indication of the frankness and freeness with which the consultation was carried out. This broad-ranging freedom of expression will also characterise the Synod Assembly, which will certainly take place in an atmosphere of respect for every position, with mutual charity and with a genuinely constructive approach”.

He continued, “other new elements will affect the organisation of the work of the Synod, and therefore relate to the internal methodology of the Assembly. First, the Relatio ante disceptationem will include various novelties, and the Secretariat General asked the Synod fathers to transmit their contributions in advance, indicating the issue on which they intended to speak during the Assembly, respecting the order of themes. These texts were taken into consideration during the drafting of the Relatio ante disceptationem, which proved useful in organising the thematic agenda. In this way, the so-called Relatio becomes reference point which may be worked upon during the interventions in the Assembly”.

Secondly, during the debate in the Synod Hall, which will take place during the first week, beginning with the Second General Congregation, the thematic order established following the Instrumentum laboris will be followed. Each general Congregation will open with the announcement of the theme by the president delegate, followed by an intervention by a married couple of Auditors, who will offer the Synod Fathers their testimony of family life, contributing to the enrichment of the debate on pastoral action.

Thirdly, during the “Relatio post disceptationem” issued at the end of the first week will provide the basis for the work of the second week by the so-called “small groups”, when the Fathers prepare the final document, the “Relatio Synodi”, to be submitted to the Holy Father.

“There will also be novelties regarding the means of communication”, continued Cardinal Baldisseri. “Each day there will be a Briefing in the Holy See Press Office, with the collaboration of the Press Secretaries and the participation of various Synod Fathers. The Press Office Bulletin will contain information regarding the day's work. Furthermore, there will be a Twitter service to transmit brief summaries of the most important news in real time.

“The work of the Synod Fathers will be accompanied by the prayer of the people of God”, concluded Cardinal Baldisseri. In Rome, in the Salus Populi Romani chapel in the Basilica of St. Mary Major, a bishop or a cardinal will celebrate a Holy Mass for the family. The presence of the relics of the Blessed couple Zelie and Louis Martin, and their daughter St. Therese of the Child Jesus, are significant, as are those of the Blessed couple Luigi and Maria Beltrame Quattrocchi. Throughout the world, prayers will be offered in shrines, especially those dedicated to the Holy Family, in monasteries, in communities of consecrated life, in dioceses and in parishes”.


Vatican City, 2014 (VIS) – Today the Holy Father received in audience Cardinal Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino, archbishop of San Cristobal de La Habana, Cuba.

In the afternoon of Thursday, 2 October, the Holy Father received in audience:

- Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, apostolic penitentiary;

- Bishop Hugo Nicolas Barbaro of San Roque of Presidencia Roque Saenz Pena, Argentina; and

- Bishop Fernando Martin Croxatto, auxiliary of Comodoro Rivadavia, Argentina.
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