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Monday, December 1, 2014

To the Swiss Bishops' Conference: safeguard your country's long Christian tradition

Vatican City, 1 December 2014 (VIS) – This morning Pope Francis received the prelates of the Swiss Bishops' Conference at the end of their five-yearly “ad Limina” visit and handed them the text of the discourse he had prepared in advance, in which he referred to the country's long Christian tradition and the responsibility of prelates to keep faith strong. “Without living faith in the risen Christ, your beautiful churches and monasteries will gradually transform into museums; all the commendable works and institutions lose their soul, leaving behind only empty spaces and abandoned people”, he writes. “The mission that has been entrusted to you is to nurture your flock, proceeding in accordance with current circumstances. … The People of God cannot exist without their pastors, bishops and priests; the Lord has given the Church the gift of the apostolic succession in the service of the unity of faith and its full transmission”.

In this way, the Pope encourages them to continue their efforts in the formation of the seminarians, which constitutes the challenge for the future of the Church, and invites them to pay attention to their priests, especially in the case of estrangement or when the meaning of episcopal paternity appears to be forgotten. “A humble, honest and fraternal dialogue often enables a new beginning”, he writes. Similarly, he urges the bishops to acknowledge the support and efforts of the laity, differentiating between the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial priesthood. He encourages them to continue in the formation of the baptised regarding the truths of faith and their importance to liturgy, the parish, family and life, and to carefully select personnel to permit the laity to be truly integrated in and to take their rightful place in the Church.

The Holy Father mentions that the Church was born in Pentecost when the apostles went out and spoke in all languages thus reaching all mankind through the power of the Holy Spirit, and he recalls the Redeemer's invitation to preach the Gospel to all, proclaiming the Good News without bending to the whims of man. Finally, he imparts his apostolic blessing and expresses his hope that they may continue to cultivate God's field with diligence and patience, maintaining their passion for the truth, and he encourages them to entrust the future of evangelisation in their country to the Virgin Mary and to the intercession of St. Nicolas de Flue, St. Maurice, and their companions.

The Pope speaks to the press on the return flight to Rome

Vatican City, 1 December 2014 (VIS) – Yesterday, as is his custom, Pope Francis spoke with the journalists accompanying him on the return flight from Istanbul to Rome. The questions touched mostly on the themes of relations between Islam and Christianity, and ecumenism.

The Holy Father affirmed that the Qu'ran is a book of peace and that Islam cannot be equated with terrorism; however, he remarked, it is necessary for Muslim political, religious and academic leaders to condemn terrorist attacks so that the people may hear this directly from such figures. He also revealed that in the Blue Mosque, he prayed above all for peace. Referring later on to so-called “Christianophobia” or anti-Christian sentiment, as opposed to “Islamophobia”, he underlined that today there are many Christian martyrs among the populations of the Middle East, and he mentioned those compelled to leave their homes. This martyrdom has been the fate of faithful of different Christian confessions and has given rise to an “ecumenism of blood”.

With regard to the Middle East, he spoke about the situation in Syria, condemning the traffic and sale of arms, and reiterated that behind every war there are always political and economic problems and commercial interests, in attempts to save a system that accords centrality to the god of money, rather than human beings. The Pope observed that it seems to him we are experiencing a third world war, fragmented and dispersed in various places, and expressed his wish to go to Iraq, although he remarked that at the moment it would not be possible since it would create important problems for the authorities and difficulties regarding security. Francis revealed that he considers the opening of the Turkish-Armenian border to be a very important issue, but is aware that there are political issues that make this difficult, and he invited prayer to contribute to making this opening possible.

The Pope focused closely on the question of ecumenism, commenting that it is a path that must be followed together and stressing the importance of spiritual ecumenism – praying, working and carrying out charitable works together. He added that with orthodoxy, this joint path is proving successful thanks to the sacraments and the apostolic succession, and that it will be fundamental to provide an answer to the question posed by John Paul II when he asked the Orthodox to help arrive at a formula for primacy acceptable to these Churches. He also expressed his wish to go to Moscow in order to meet with the Patriarch Kiril, but not at the moment due to the pressing problems in Ukraine. Again in relation to ecumenism, he stressed that when the Church looks inwardly to herself rather than at Christ, when she believes herself to be a creator of light rather than a bringer of light, she creates divisions. Finally, he remarked on the desire of Christians to be able to celebrate Easter on the same date.

One of the final questions related to the recent Synod of Bishops, and the Holy Father affirmed that the Synod is a path and a process, and therefore a person's opinion or a draft document cannot be given consideration. Nor is the Synod a parliament, but rather a protected space where one may let the voice of the Spirit be heard.

Francis denounces the degrading living conditions of many refugees

Vatican City, 30 November 2014 (VIS) – Pope Francis chose to conclude his final day in Turkey by meeting a group of around a hundred refugees and asylum seekers. Christians and Muslims, they were mostly from Iraq and Syria, although some were from other countries in the Middle East and Africa, and have been assisted for some time by the Salesian community in Istanbul. The meeting took place in the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit.

“I wish to assure you that I share your sufferings; I hope my visit, by the grace of God, may offer you some consolation in your difficult situation”, said the Pope. “Yours is the sad consequence of brutal conflicts and war, which are always evils and which never solve problems. Rather, they only create new ones”.

He emphasised the difficulty of the living conditions of refugees, who often find themselves deprived, sometimes for long periods, of “basic needs such as a dignified home, healthcare, education and work. They have had to abandon not only their material possessions, but above all their freedom, closeness to family, their homeland and cultural traditions. The degrading conditions in which so many refugees are forced to live are intolerable! For this reason, we must do everything possible to eradicate the causes of this situation. I appeal for greater international cooperation to resolve the conflicts which are causing bloodshed in your homelands, to counter the other causes which are driving people to leave their home countries, and to improve conditions so that people may remain or return home. I encourage all who are working generously and steadfastly for justice and peace not to lose heart. I ask political leaders to always remember that the great majority of their people long for peace, even if at times they lack the strength and voice to demand it”.

The Holy Father praised the work of many organisations in aid of refugees, including numerous Catholic groups “which offer generous aid to many in need without discriminating. I wish also to express deep gratitude to the Turkish authorities for the great efforts they have made in assisting the displaced, in particular Syrian and Iraqi refugees, and for the authorities’ tangible commitment in trying to meet their needs. I hope that the necessary support of the international community may not be lacking”.

He offered some words of encouragement to the young people present. “It is easy to say this, but please make an effort not to be discouraged. With the help of God, continue to hope in a better future, despite the difficulties and obstacles which you are currently facing. The Catholic Church is with you, including through the invaluable work of the Salesians. The Church, in addition to other forms of help, also offers you the opportunity to see to your education and formation. Remember always that God does not forget any of his children, and that those who are the smallest and who suffer the most are closest to the Father’s heart”.

“For my part, together with the whole Church, I will continue to pray to the Lord, asking him to inspire those in leadership, so that they will not hesitate to promote justice, security and peace and do so in ways that are clear and effective”, he concluded. “Through her social and charitable organisations, the Church will remain at your side and will continue to hold up your cause before the world. May God bless you all! Please pray for me. Thank you!”

Following the meeting, the Pope proceeded to the hospital to visit the Armenian Orthodox Patriarch Mesrob II, who was admitted some years ago and remains in a coma. He subsequently went to Ataturk Airport where, after farewell greetings with the local civil and religious authorities, he departed for Rome. The aircraft carrying the Holy Father landed at 6.40 p.m. Before returning to the Vatican, he stopped in the Basilica of St. Mary Major to commend the fruits of his apostolic trip in Turkey to the Virgin.

Pope Francis' prayer intentions for December

Vatican City, 1 December 2014 (VIS) – The Holy Father's universal prayer intention for December is: “That the birth of the Redeemer may bring peace and hope to all people of good will”.

His intention for evangelisation is: “That parents may be true evangelisers, passing on to their children the precious gift of faith”.


Vatican City, 1 December 2014 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father received in audience:

- Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo, apostolic nuncio in the Dominican Republic and apostolic delegate in Porto Rico;

- Archbishop Jean-Marie Speich, apostolic nuncio in Ghana;

- Marco Vinicio Vargas Pereira, new ambassador of Costa Rica to the Holy See, presenting his credential letters;

- Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church;

- Archbishop Stephan Burger of Freiburg im Breisgau, Federal Republic of Germany;

- Thirteen prelates of the Swiss Bishops' Conference, on their “ad Limina” visit:

- Bishop Felix Gmur of Basel, with his auxiliaries, Bishop Martin Gachter and Bishop Denis Theurillat;

- Bishop Vitus Huonder of Chur, with his auxiliary Bishop Marian Eleganti;

- Bishop Charles Morerod, O.P., of Lausanne, Geneve et Fribourg, with his auxiliaries, Bishop Pierre Farine and Bishop Alain de Raemy;

- Bishop Valerio Lazzeri of Lugano;

- Bishop Markus Buchel of Sankt Gallen;

- Bishop Jean-Marie Lovey, C.R.B. of Sion;

- Fr. Urban Federer, O.S.B., abbot of Maria Einsiedeln, and

- Bishop Joseph Roduit, abbot of Saint-Maurice.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 1 December 2014 (VIS) – The Holy Father has accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the diocese of Mocoa-Sibundoy, Colombia, presented by Bishop Luis Alberto Parra Mora, in accordance with canon 401 para. 2 of the Code of Canon Law.

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