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Friday, January 30, 2015

The Pope recalls the “immense tragedy” of Syria and Iraq

Vatican City, 30 January 2015 (VIS) – This morning in the Consistory Hall the Pope received thirty representatives of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches, constituted in 2003 following an initiative of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the ecclesiastical authorities of the family of Oriental Orthodox Churches. During the last ten years, from a historical perspective, it has examined the roads through which the Churches have expressed their communion in the first centuries, and what this means for our search for communion today. During this week's meeting, the Commission embarked upon a deeper examination of the nature of the Sacraments, especially Baptism.

Francis recalled the inspiring commitment to dialogue of His Holiness Ignatius Zakka I Was, Patriarch of the Syro-Orthodox Church of Antioch and all the East, who died last year, and joined in prayer with the clergy and the faithful for this “dedicated servant of God”.

“At this time we especially feel dismay and deep sadness at what is happening in the Middle East, especially in Iraq and Syria. I think of all those living in the region, including our Christian brothers and sisters, and many minorities, who are experiencing the effects of a prolonged and painful conflict. I join you in praying for a negotiated solution and in imploring God's goodness and mercy upon all those affected by this immense tragedy. All Christians are called to work together, in mutual acceptance and trust, in order to serve the cause of peace and justice. May the intercession and example of many martyrs and saints who have borne courageous witness of Christ in all our Churches sustain and strengthen you and your Christian communities”.

Telegram from the Pope for the explosion in the Mexican maternity hospital of Cualjimalpa

Vatican City, 30 January 2015 (VIS) – Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin has sent a telegram on behalf of the Holy Father to Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, archbishop of Mexico, Mexico, following an explosion in the Maternity Hospital of Cualjimalpa caused during the transfer of fuel to the centre, which claimed several victims and casualties including a number of babies.

Pope Francis, “greatly saddened by this tragic news”, according to the text, “offers his prayers for the eternal repose of the souls of the departed” and “wishes to convey his heartfelt condolences to the families of the deceased, along with expressions of comfort, his fervent hope for the swift recovery of the injured. He imparts the comfort of his apostolic blessing as a sign of hope in the Resurrected Lord”.

Pope Francis' prayer intentions for February

Vatican City, 30 January 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father's universal prayer intention for February is: “That prisoners, especially the young, may be able to rebuild lives of dignity”.

His intention for evangelisation is: “That married people who are separated may find welcome and support in the Christian community”.

The Master of Papal Ceremonies explains the new method of imposing the pallium

Vatican City, 30 January 2015 (VIS) – In a letter sent to all the apostolic nunciatures and dated 12 January, 2015, the Master of Papal Ceremonies, Msgr. Guido Marini, made public the Pope's decision to modify the method of imposing the pallium on the new metropolitan archbishops. The strip of white wool, symbolising the sheep on the shoulders of Jesus the Good Shepherd, will be delivered and no longer “imposed” by the Holy Father, according to tradition on 29 June, Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. Instead the imposition of the pallium upon the new archbishops will take place in their dioceses, by the hand of the local apostolic nuncios.

Yesterday, in an interview for Vatican Radio, Msgr. Marini explained the meaning of the Pontiff's decision, indicating that from next 29 June the archbishops, “as is customary, will be present in Rome, will concelebrate with the Holy Father and will participate in the blessing of the pallia, but the imposition will not take place. Each archbishop will receive his pallium from the Holy Father in a simple and private way. The imposition will occur in the diocese of origin, and therefore in a second moment, in the presence of the local Church and in particular the bishops of the suffragan dioceses, accompanied by their faithful”.

This is intended, continued the Master of Papal Ceremonies, to “emphasise the relationship between the newly appointed metropolitan archbishops and their local Church, therefore enabling more faithful to be present and this rite that is so important for them, and especially for the bishops of the suffragan dioceses, which in this way will be able to participate in the moment of the imposition. This maintains the significance of the celebration on 29 June, which underlines the relationship of communion, including the hierarchical communion between the Holy Father and the new archbishops, but at the same time adds, with a meaningful gesture, the bond with the local Church. … It is a beautiful gesture which accompanies the other [the imposition of the pallium, Ed.], which remains with all its entirety and depth”.


Vatican City, 30 January 2015 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father received in audience:

- Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family;

- Bishop Pietro Lagnese of Ischia, Italy;

- Francesco Maria Greco, ambassador of Italy, on his farewell visit;

- Colonel Daniel Rudolf Anrig, Commandant of the Pontifical Swiss Guard, on his farewell visit.

Thursday, January 29, 2015


Vatican City, 29 January 2015 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father received in audience:

- Cardinal Fernando Filoni, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples;

- Archbishop Jan Romeo Pawlowski, apostolic nuncio in the Republic of Congo and in Gabon;

- Archbishop Walmor Oliveira de Azevedo of Belo Horizonte, Brazil;

- Bishop Guglielmo Borghetti, coadjutor of Albenga-Imperia, Italy;

- German Cardona Gutierrez, ambassador of Colombia, on his farewell visit;

- Senator Claudio Zin, with an Italian-Latin American parliamentary delegation.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 29 January 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed Rev. Fr. Jean-Bertin Nadonye Ndongo, O.F.M. Cap., as bishop of Lolo (area 10,000, population 220,000, Catholics 195,000, priests 22, religious 25), Democratic Republic of Congo. The bishop-elect was born in Botuzu, Democratic Republic of Congo, in 1965, gave his perpetual vows in 1992, and was ordained a priest in 1993. He holds a licentiate in theology from the Catholic University of Kinshasa and has served in a number of roles, including parish priest of the “Sacre-Coeur de Jesus” parish in Bwamanda and member of the economic council for the diocese of Molegbe; formator and rector of the “Maison d'Etudes” in Kinshasa; vice-minister and subsequently provincial minister of the Capuchin Friars in the Democratic Republic of Congo and president of the Conference of Capuchin Friars of Central and Western Africa (CONCAO); and president of the Assembly of Major Superiors. He is currently definitor general of the Capuchin Friars Minor, Rome. He succeeds Bishop Ferdinand Maemba Liwoke, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese upon reaching the age limit was accepted by the Holy Father.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

General audience: fatherly responsibility and the sense of orphanhood in children

Vatican City, 28 January 2015 (VIS) – Pope Francis, returning to the theme of the family, dedicated the catechesis of today's Wednesday general audience to the figure of the father: “a word dear to us as Christians, more than any other, as it is the name with which Jesus taught us to call God”, he said to the thousands of faithful gathered in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall.

“Father is a universal word, known to all. It indicates a fundamental relationship that is real and ancient as the history of mankind. Today, however, we have reached the point of affirming that ours would be a 'society without fathers'. In other words, in particular in western culture, the figure of the father would be symbolically absent, to have vanished. … At first, this was perceived as a form of liberation: freedom from the father-master, from the father as the representative of a law imposed from the outside, from the father as the censor of the happiness of his children and an obstacle to the emancipation of the autonomy of the young. Indeed, in the past in some cases authoritarianism, indeed even oppression reigned in some homes: parents who treated their children like servants, who did not respect the personal needs of their growth, fathers who did not help them to embark on their path in freedom, to assume their own responsibilities for building their future and that of society”.

“And, as often happens, we have passed from one extreme to the other. The problem of our times no longer seems to be the invasive presence of fathers, but rather their absence. … Fathers are so focused on themselves, on their work and at times their personal fulfilment, that they even forget their families, leaving children and the young to their own devices. … Now, on this shared path of reflection on the family, I would like to say to all Christian communities that we must be more careful: the absence of the paternal figure in the life of children and the young produces lacunae and wounds that can be very serious. And in effect the deviances of children and adolescents may to a considerable extent be due to this lack of examples and authoritative guidance in their everyday life, to this lack of closeness and love from their fathers”.

“The feeling of orphanhood experienced by many young people is more profound than we might think. They are orphans in their families because their fathers are often absent, also physically, from the home, but above all because when they are present, they do not act like fathers: they do not speak with their children, they do not give their children, by their example accompanied by words, those principles, those values, those rules for life that the young need in the same way as they need bread. … At times it seems as if fathers are not sure what position they should occupy in the family, or how to educate their children. And so, in doubt, they abstain, they withdraw and neglect their responsibilities, possibly seeking refuge in an improbable relationship of parity with their children”.

The civil community with its institutions too has “a certain responsibility towards the young, that might be described as paternal”, the Pope added: “a responsibility that at times it neglects or exercises poorly. This too leaves them as orphans, and does not offer them true prospects. The young are therefore orphaned of sure paths to follow, orphaned of teachers in whom they can trust, orphaned of ideals to warm their hearts, orphaned of values and hopes that support them day by day. They are filled with idols but robbed of their hearts; they are driven to dream of enjoyment and pleasure, but they are not given work; they are deluded by the god of money and denied true richness”.

“Therefore, it is good for all of us, fathers and children, to listen once again to the promise that Jesus made to His disciples: 'I will not leave you orphans'. Indeed, He is the path to follow, the master to listen to, the hope that the world can change, that love will conquer hate, that there can be a future of brotherhood and peace for all”, Francis concluded. He added that next Wednesday he will further pursue this theme, focusing on “the beauty of paternity”. “For this reason I have chosen to begin with the darkness in order to reach the light. May the Lord help us to understand these things well”.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 28 January 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has:

- appointed Fr. Cesar Alcides Balbin Tamayo as bishop of Caldas (area 1,395, population 260,000, Catholics 250,000, priests 61, religious 76), Colombia. The bishop-elect was born in Santa Rosa de Osos, Colombia in 1958 and was ordained a priest in 1985. He holds a licentiate in moral theology from the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome, a licentiate in philosophy and science of religious education from the Universidad Catolica de Oriente, Colombia, and a master's degree in business administration from the Escuela de Administracion de Empresas in Barcelona, Spain. He has served in a number of pastoral and administrative roles, including rector of the “Miguel Angel Builes” minor seminary and of the “Santo Tomas de Aquino” major seminary in the diocese of Santa Rosa de Osos, director of the “Cooperativa Fraternidad Sacerdotal”, administrator of the “Mutuo Auxilio Sacerdotal Colombiano” of the Episcopal Conference of Colombia, and financial director of the Episcopal Conference of Colombia. He is currently parish priest of the “Santa Barbara” parish in Bellavista. He succeeds Bishop Soleibe Arbelaez, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese upon reaching the age limit was accepted by the Holy Father.

- accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the diocese of Graz-Seckau, Austria presented by Bishop Egon Kapellari, upon reaching the age limit.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Pope's Message for Lent 2015: “Make your hearts firm”

Vatican City, 27 January 2015 (VIS) – The following is the full text of the Holy Father Francis' message for Lent 2015, entitled “Make your hearts firm”. The document was signed in the Vatican on 4 October 2014, the festivity of St. Francis of Assisi.

“Lent is a time of renewal for the whole Church, for each communities and every believer. Above all it is a 'time of grace'. God does not ask of us anything that he himself has not first given us. “We love because he first has loved us'. He is not aloof from us. Each one of us has a place in his heart. He knows us by name, he cares for us and he seeks us out whenever we turn away from him. He is interested in each of us; his love does not allow him to be indifferent to what happens to us. Usually, when we are healthy and comfortable, we forget about others (something God the Father never does): we are unconcerned with their problems, their sufferings and the injustices they endure. Our heart grows cold. As long as I am relatively healthy and comfortable, I do not think about those less well off. Today, this selfish attitude of indifference has taken on global proportions, to the extent that we can speak of a globalisation of indifference. It is a problem which we, as Christians, need to confront.

When the people of God are converted to his love, they find answers to the questions that history continually raises. One of the most urgent challenges which I would like to address in this Message is precisely the globalisation of indifference.

Indifference to our neighbour and to God also represents a real temptation for us Christians. Each year during Lent we need to hear once more the voice of the prophets who cry out and trouble our conscience.

God is not indifferent to our world; he so loves it that he gave his Son for our salvation. In the Incarnation, in the earthly life, death, and resurrection of the Son of God, the gate between God and man, between heaven and earth, opens once for all. The Church is like the hand holding open this gate, thanks to her proclamation of God’s word, her celebration of the sacraments and her witness of the faith which works through love. But the world tends to withdraw into itself and shut that door through which God comes into the world and the world comes to him. Hence the hand, which is the Church, must never be surprised if it is rejected, crushed and wounded.

God’s people, then, need this interior renewal, lest we become indifferent and withdraw into ourselves. To further this renewal, I would like to propose for our reflection three biblical texts.

1. 'If one member suffers, all suffer together' – The Church
The love of God breaks through that fatal withdrawal into ourselves which is indifference. The Church offers us this love of God by her teaching and especially by her witness. But we can only bear witness to what we ourselves have experienced. Christians are those who let God clothe them with goodness and mercy, with Christ, so as to become, like Christ, servants of God and others. This is clearly seen in the liturgy of Holy Thursday, with its rite of the washing of feet. Peter did not want Jesus to wash his feet, but he came to realise that Jesus does not wish to be just an example of how we should wash one another’s feet. Only those who have first allowed Jesus to wash their own feet can then offer this service to others. Only they have 'a part' with him and thus can serve others.

Lent is a favourable time for letting Christ serve us so that we in turn may become more like him. This happens whenever we hear the word of God and receive the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. There we become what we receive: the Body of Christ. In this body there is no room for the indifference which so often seems to possess our hearts. For whoever is of Christ, belongs to one body, and in him we cannot be indifferent to one another. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honoured, all the parts share its joy'.

The Church is the communio sanctorum not only because of her saints, but also because she is a communion in holy things: the love of God revealed to us in Christ and all his gifts. Among these gifts there is also the response of those who let themselves be touched by this love. In this communion of saints, in this sharing in holy things, no one possesses anything alone, but shares everything with others. And since we are united in God, we can do something for those who are far distant, those whom we could never reach on our own, because with them and for them, we ask God that all of us may be open to his plan of salvation.

2. 'Where is your brother?' – Parishes and Communities
All that we have been saying about the universal Church must now be applied to the life of our parishes and communities. Do these ecclesial structures enable us to experience being part of one body? A body which receives and shares what God wishes to give? A body which acknowledges and cares for its weakest, poorest and most insignificant members? Or do we take refuge in a universal love that would embrace the whole world, while failing to see the Lazarus sitting before our closed doors?

In order to receive what God gives us and to make it bear abundant fruit, we need to press beyond the boundaries of the visible Church in two ways.

In the first place, by uniting ourselves in prayer with the Church in heaven. The prayers of the Church on earth establish a communion of mutual service and goodness which reaches up into the sight of God. Together with the saints who have found their fulfilment in God, we form part of that communion in which indifference is conquered by love. The Church in heaven is not triumphant because she has turned her back on the sufferings of the world and rejoices in splendid isolation. Rather, the saints already joyfully contemplate the fact that, through Jesus’ death and resurrection, they have triumphed once and for all over indifference, hardness of heart and hatred. Until this victory of love penetrates the whole world, the saints continue to accompany us on our pilgrim way. Saint Therese of Lisieux, a Doctor of the Church, expressed her conviction that the joy in heaven for the victory of crucified love remains incomplete as long as there is still a single man or woman on earth who suffers and cries out in pain: 'I trust fully that I shall not remain idle in heaven; my desire is to continue to work for the Church and for souls'.

We share in the merits and joy of the saints, even as they share in our struggles and our longing for peace and reconciliation. Their joy in the victory of the Risen Christ gives us strength as we strive to overcome our indifference and hardness of heart.

In the second place, every Christian community is called to go out of itself and to be engaged in the life of the greater society of which it is a part, especially with the poor and those who are far away. The Church is missionary by her very nature; she is not self-enclosed but sent out to every nation and people.

Her mission is to bear patient witness to the One who desires to draw all creation and every man and woman to the Father. Her mission is to bring to all a love which cannot remain silent. The Church follows Jesus Christ along the paths that lead to every man and woman, to the very ends of the earth. In each of our neighbours, then, we must see a brother or sister for whom Christ died and rose again. What we ourselves have received, we have received for them as well. Similarly, all that our brothers and sisters possess is a gift for the Church and for all humanity.

Dear brothers and sisters, how greatly I desire that all those places where the Church is present, especially our parishes and our communities, may become islands of mercy in the midst of the sea of indifference!

3. 'Make your hearts firm!' – Individual Christians
As individuals too, we have are tempted by indifference. Flooded with news reports and troubling images of human suffering, we often feel our complete inability to help. What can we do to avoid being caught up in this spiral of distress and powerlessness?

First, we can pray in communion with the Church on earth and in heaven. Let us not underestimate the power of so many voices united in prayer! The '24 Hours for the Lord' initiative, which I hope will be observed on 13-14 March throughout the Church, also at the diocesan level, is meant to be a sign of this need for prayer.

Second, we can help by acts of charity, reaching out to both those near and far through the Church’s many charitable organisations. Lent is a favourable time for showing this concern for others by small yet concrete signs of our belonging to the one human family.

Third, the suffering of others is a call to conversion, since their need reminds me of the uncertainty of my own life and my dependence on God and my brothers and sisters. If we humbly implore God’s grace and accept our own limitations, we will trust in the infinite possibilities which God’s love holds out to us. We will also be able to resist the diabolical temptation of thinking that by our own efforts we can save the world and ourselves.

As a way of overcoming indifference and our pretensions to self-sufficiency, I would invite everyone to live this Lent as an opportunity for engaging in what Benedict XVI called a formation of the heart. A merciful heart does not mean a weak heart. Anyone who wishes to be merciful must have a strong and steadfast heart, closed to the tempter but open to God. A heart which lets itself be pierced by the Spirit so as to bring love along the roads that lead to our brothers and sisters. And, ultimately, a poor heart, one which realises its own poverty and gives itself freely for others.

During this Lent, then, brothers and sisters, let us all ask the Lord: 'Fac cor nostrum secundum cor tuum': Make our hearts like yours (Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus). In this way we will receive a heart which is firm and merciful, attentive and generous, a heart which is not closed, indifferent or prey to the globalisation of indifference.

It is my prayerful hope that this Lent will prove spiritually fruitful for each believer and every ecclesial community. I ask all of you to pray for me. May the Lord bless you and Our Lady keep you”.

Indifference, key theme of the Pope's Message for Lent 2015

Vatican City, 27 January 2015 (VIS) – A press conference was held in the Holy See Press Office his morning, during which Msgr. Giampietro Dal Toso, secretary of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”, presented the Pope's Message for Lent 2015, explaining that its central theme is indifference, an issue that the Holy Father has touched upon on a number of occasions. In addition, in his speech to the UN last September Cardinal Secretary of State Parolin emphasised “widespread indifference”, which he equated with an “apathy” that is at times even “synonymous with irresponsibility”.

Indifference is, therefore, “an important concept to explain the different phenomena of the modern world. In this way, we can understand this same concept, including it in what is surely a partial interpretation of a certain culture. Indifference comes from a lack of difference, from a lack of attention to the difference. This can be applied at least on three levels”.

“At the interpersonal level, the play on words between difference and indifference is perhaps more easily understood. On the one hand, the difference is stressed in order to provoke a separation. On the other hand, a lack of attention to the difference between the other and myself conforms the other to one's own parameters and thus annihilates him”.

“At the cultural level, that is, in the everyday environment that helps shape our thoughts and judgement, I seem to notice an indifference to values. This is not only related to a lack of awareness of values or an incomplete observance of values; it is above all a lack of judgement on values. In this way, every choice becomes interchangeable, every option becomes viable, any assessment on good and evil, truth and falsity becomes useless. If there is no difference, everything is the same and is therefore not permissible for anyone to propose something that is more or less appropriate to a person’s nature. In my opinion, global uniformity, the lowering of the standards of values that comes from the lack of difference is linked to the experience of many of our contemporaries of a lack of meaning. If everything is the same, if nothing is different and everything is therefore more or less valid, in what can one invest one’s life? If everything is the same, it means that nothing really has value and therefore it means nothing fully deserves our gift”.

“We then come to a third level, that more specifically regards metaphysical principles. Here lies the greatest indifference, the largest and most consequential form of the lack of attention to difference, that is: indifference towards God and as a result, a lack of attention to the difference between the Creator and creature, which causes so much harm to modern man as it leads him to believe that he is God, while he must continually push against his own limitations”.

Msgr. Dal Toso went on to consider the globalisation of indifference not merely as a geographical phenomenon, but also a cultural one. As it spreads, a Western concept of the world, or Weltanschauung, prevails, linked not only to relationships but also as an existential attitude. The Church does not denounce certain situations simply in order to censure them but instead to offer paths towards healing. For this reason, the Lenten season is always a time of conversion, change and renewal. It is a time for overcoming this globalisation of indifference and entering into a new phase in which we recognise the difference between the self and the other, between one lifestyle and another, between oneself and God. This year’s Lenten Message presents three areas in which indifference must be overcome: the Church, the community and the individual”.

He continued, “Pope Francis speaks about the necessary conversion and the new heart that can beat within us. The key step in all social reconstruction and cultural renewal is change in the individual. The Gospel provides the keys for achieving this change in the person, which then affects the whole social fabric”. However, he warns, “conversion does not have its purpose in a better society, but in the knowledge of Christ and in becoming like Him. Therefore, as we can see in Pope Francis’ Magisterium, he calls us to go beyond a faith that serves only to care for oneself and one's own well being. Indifference stems from an attitude to life in which otherness does not make a difference and so each person withdraws into himself. Faith also can become instrumental in this search for self”. Our path, he explained, is must therefore take us further, “beyond ourselves”, so that we “live our faith by looking at Christ and in Him we find the Father and brothers and sisters who await us”.

Indifference must also be overcome in Christian communities, which are required to be “islands of mercy in a world dominated by the globalisation of indifference. There is a distinction between the Church and the world, between the heavenly city and the earthly city, a distinction which become increasingly evident. Our Christian places – parishes, communities and groups – must be transformed into places that manifest God’s mercy. Faced with this globalisation of indifference, some might be discouraged as it seems as if nothing can be changed, since we are part of a great social and economic process that is is beyond us. Instead, this is not the case. The Christian community can already overcome this indifference, it can show the world that one can live differently and that it can become the city on the mount mentioned in the Gospel. Beginning with this Lent season, Christian community life, where one lives for the other, can be not merely a chimera but instead a living reality; rather than a distant dream, a living sign of the presence of God’s mercy in Christ”.

Finally, the third level is the Church in her global reality. “Unfortunately”, remarked Msgr. Del Toso, “we tend to see the Church only as an institution and a structure. Instead, she is the living body of those who believe in Christ. It is the Church in her entirety that needs to be renewed. As a body, she shows that she is really alive because she changes, grows and develops. In this body, the members take care of each other”.

Finally, the prelate recalled that “Cor Unum” has always acted as an “instrument of the Pope's proximity to the least of our brothers and sisters”, offering three examples. First, he mentioned the recent joint meeting with the Pontifical Commission for Latin America and the various other entities involved in the reconstruction of Haiti, during which the balance of the financial aid raised by the Catholic Church's for the island during the five years since the earthquake, estimated at 21.5 million dollars, was presented. He also referred to the humanitarian crisis in the Middle East, especially in Syria and Iraq, “where the great victims of these wars are the people, especially the most vulnerable minorities such as Christians who again have become the 'cards' with which those in power play”. Finally, he remarked on the Pope's recent trip to the Philippines, where it could be seen what it means to “'make hearts firm' where there is nothing left to hope for”. In Tacloban, the area visited by the Pope, “Cor Unum” has built large community centre named after Pope Francis, to care for the young and the elderly. He concluded, “Our Dicastery wishes to be a great global expression of what it means for the Church to be a body in which each member can experience the love of the other”.

Holy Father's calendar for February to April 2015

Vatican City, 27 January 2015 (VIS) – The Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff has published the following calendar of liturgical celebrations at which the Holy Father will preside from February to April:


Monday 2: Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, 19th World Day of Consecrated Life. At 5.30 p.m. in the Vatican Basilica, Mass with the members of the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life.

Sunday 8: Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time. At 4 p.m., pastoral visit to the Roman parish of “St. Michael the Archangel in Pietralata”.

Saturday 14: At 11 a.m. in the Vatican Basilica, Ordinary Public Consistory for the creation of new cardinals and for several causes of canonisation.

Sunday 15: Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time. At 10 a.m. in the Vatican Basilica, Mass with newly-created cardinals.

Wednesday 18: Ash Wednesday. At 4.30 p.m., Basilica of St. Anselm, “Statio” and penitential procession. At 5 p.m. at the Basilica of St. Sabina, blessing and imposition of the ashes.

Sunday 22, First Sunday of Lent. Ariccia, beginning of spiritual exercises for the Roman Curia.

Friday 27: Conclusion of spiritual exercises for the Roman Curia.


Sunday 8: Third Sunday of Lent. At 4 p.m., pastoral visit to the Roman parish of “Holy Mary Mother of the Redeemer”.

Friday 13: At 5 p.m. in the Vatican Basilica, penitential liturgy.

Saturday 21: pastoral visit to Naples-Pompeii.

Sunday 29: Palm Sunday and the Passion of the Lord. At 9.30 a.m. in St. Peter's Square, blessing of the palms, procession and Mass.


Thursday 2: Holy Thursday. At 9.30 a.m. in the Vatican Basilica, Chrism Mass.

Friday 3: Good Friday. At 5 p.m. in the Vatican Basilica, celebration of the Passion of the Lord.

Friday 3: Good Friday. At 9.15 p.m., at the Colosseum, Via Crucis.

Saturday 4: Holy Saturday. At 8.30 p.m. in the Vatican Basilica, Easter Vigil.

Sunday 5: Easter Sunday. At 12 p.m., central balcony of the Vatican Basilica, “Urbi et Orbi” blessing.

Sunday 12: Second Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday. At 10 a.m. at the Vatican Basilica, Mass for the faithful of Armenian rite.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Solemnity of the conversion of St. Paul: “We are all at the service of the one Gospel”

Vatican City, 25 January 2015 (VIS) – Yesterday afternoon the Pope presided at the second Vespers on the solemnity of the conversion of St. Paul, bringing to a close the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, the theme of which this year was “Give me to drink” (John, 4.7).

Representatives from other Churches and communities in Rome were present, and the celebration concluded with an apostolic blessing. In his homily, the full text of which is published below, Pope Francis emphasised that Jesus' thirst – which is described in the Gospel passage of the Samaritan woman – goes well beyond physical thirst. “It is also the thirst for an encounter, the wish to establish a dialogue with the woman, thus offering her the possibility of a path of inner conversion”.

“On his way from Judea to Galilee, Jesus passes through Samaria”, began the Pope. “He has no problem dealing with Samaritans, who were considered by the Jews to be heretics, schismatics, separate. His attitude tells us that encounter with those who are different from ourselves can make us grow.

“Weary from his journey, Jesus does not hesitate to ask the Samaritan woman for something to drink. His thirst, however, is much more than physical: it is also a thirst for encounter, a desire to enter into dialogue with that woman and to invite her to make a journey of interior conversion. Jesus is patient, respectful of the person before him, and gradually reveals himself to her. His example encourages us to seek a serene encounter with others. To understand one another, and to grow in charity and truth, we need to pause, to accept and listen to one another. In this way, we already begin to experience unity. Unity grows along the way; it never stands still. Unity happens when we walk together.

“The woman of Sychar asks Jesus about the place where God is truly worshipped. Jesus does not side with the mountain or the temple, but goes to the heart of the matter, breaking down every wall of division. He speaks instead of the meaning of true worship: 'God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth'. So many past controversies between Christians can be overcome when we put aside all polemical or apologetic approaches, and seek instead to grasp more fully what unites us, namely, our call to share in the mystery of the Father’s love revealed to us by the Son through the Holy Spirit. Christian unity, we are convinced, will not be the fruit of subtle theoretical discussions in which each party tries to convince the other of the soundness of their opinions. When the Son of Man comes, he will find us still discussing! We need to realise that, to plumb the depths of the mystery of God, we need one another, we need to encounter one another and to challenge one another under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, who harmonises diversities and overcomes conflicts, reconciles differences”.

Gradually, continued the Pope, “the Samaritan woman comes to realise that the one who has asked her for a drink is able to slake her own thirst. Jesus in effect tells her that he is the source of living water which can satisfy her thirst for ever. Our human existence is marked by boundless aspirations: we seek truth, we thirst for love, justice and freedom. These desires can only be partially satisfied, for from the depths of our being we are prompted to seek 'something more', something capable of fully quenching our thirst. The response to these aspirations is given by God in Jesus Christ, in his paschal mystery. From the pierced side of Jesus there flowed blood and water. He is the brimming fount of the water of the Holy Spirit, 'the love of God poured into our hearts on the day of our baptism. By the working of the Holy Spirit, we have become one in Christ, sons in the Son, true worshippers of the Father. This mystery of love is the deepest ground of the unity which binds all Christians and is much greater than their historical divisions. To the extent that we humbly advance towards the Lord, then, we also draw nearer to one another”.

Her encounter with Jesus “made the Samaritan women a missionary. Having received a greater and more important gift than mere water from a well, she leaves her jar behind and runs back to tell her townspeople that she has met the Christ. Her encounter with Jesus restored meaning and joy to her life, and she felt the desire to share this with others. Today there are so many men and women around us who are weary and thirsting, and who ask us Christians to give them something to drink. It is a request which we cannot evade. In the call to be evangelisers, all the Churches and Ecclesial Communities discover a privileged setting for closer cooperation. For this to be effective, we need to stop being self-enclosed, exclusive, and bent on imposing a uniformity based on merely human calculations. Our shared commitment to proclaiming the Gospel enables us to overcome proselytism and competition in all their forms. All of us are at the service of the one Gospel”.

“In this moment of prayer for unity, I would also like to remember our martyrs, the martyrs of today. They are witnesses to Jesus Christ, and they are persecuted and killed because they are Christians. Those who persecute them make no distinction between the religious communities to which they belong. They are Christians and for that they are persecuted. This, brothers and sisters, is the ecumenism of blood”, emphasised Francis.

He continued, “Mindful of this testimony given by our martyrs today, and with this joyful certainty, I offer a cordial and fraternal greeting to His Eminence Metropolitan Gennadios, the representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch, His Grace David Moxon, the personal representative in Rome of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and “all the representatives of the various Churches and Ecclesial Communions gathered here to celebrate the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul”. He added, “I am also pleased to greet the members of the Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches, and I offer them my best wishes for the fruitfulness of the plenary session to be held in these coming days. I also greet the students from the Ecumenical Institute at Bossey, and the young recipients of study grants from by the Committee for Cultural Collaboration with the Orthodox Churches, centred in the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity”.

Also present, he said, “are men and women religious from various Churches and Ecclesial Communities who have taken part in an ecumenical meeting organised by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life, in conjunction with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, to mark the Year for Consecrated Life. Religious life, as prophetic sign of the world to come, is called to offer in our time a witness to that communion in Christ which transcends all differences and finds expression in concrete gestures of acceptance and dialogue. The pursuit of Christian unity cannot be the sole prerogative of individuals or religious communities particularly concerned with this issue. A shared knowledge of the different traditions of consecrated life, and a fruitful exchange of experiences, can prove beneficial for the vitality of all forms of religious life in the different Churches and Ecclesial Communities”.

“Dear brothers and sisters”, he concluded, “today all of us who thirst for peace and fraternity trustingly implore from our heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ the one priest and mediator, and through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Apostle Paul and all the saints, the gift of full communion between all Christians, so that 'the sacred mystery of the unity of the Church' may shine forth as the sign and instrument of reconciliation for the whole world”.

Angelus: God too thirsts for us

Vatican City, 25 January 2015 (VIS) – At midday today the Pope appeared at the window of his study to pray the Sunday Angelus with the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square and commented on today's Gospel reading, which relates the beginning of Jesus' preaching immediately after the arrest of St. John the Baptist.

“Jesus' announcement is similar to that of John, with the significant difference that Jesus does not indicate that another is to come: Jesus Himself is the fulfilment of the promise; He is the 'good news' to believe in, to receive and to communicate to men and women of all time, so that they too entrust their existence to Him. Jesus Christ Himself is the living Word and He is active in history: he who listens to and follows Him will enter the Kingdom of God”.

“Jesus is the fulfilment of the divine promise because it is He who gives mankind the Holy Spirit, the 'living water' that quenches the thirst of our restless heart for life, love, freedom, peace: our thirst for God”, explained Francis. Jesus' words to the Samaritan woman, 'Give me to drink', were the theme of this year's annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which concludes this afternoon with the second Vespers in the Roman Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls “to pray fervently to the Lord, so that He might strengthen our commitment to the full unity of all Christians”. He added, “it is an ugly thing, that Christians are divided. But Jesus wants us to be united: one body. Our sins and our history have divided us and we must therefore pray for the Spirit to unite us once more”.

“God, who made Himself man, had our thirst, not only for water, but above all the thirst for a full life, free from the slavery of evil and death. At the same time, with His incarnation God placed His thirst, because God also thirsts, in the heart of a man: Jesus of Nazareth. God thirsts for us, our hearts, our love, and placed this thirst in Jesus' heart. Therefore, in the heart of Christ, human and divine thirst meets. And the desire for the unity of his disciples belongs to this thirst”.

“May Jesus' thirst increasingly become our own”, he concluded. “Let us therefore continue to pray and strive for the full unity of the Disciples of Christ, in the certainty that He Himself is at our side and sustains us with the strength of His Spirit so that this goal can be reached”.

New appeal for a cease to the violence in Ukraine

Vatican City, 26 January 2015 (VIS) – At the end of today's Angelus prayer, a boy and a girl joined the Pope at the window of his study to read a message of peace on behalf of Catholic Action of the diocese of Rome, which concludes its traditional journey of the “Caravan of Peace” during these days. The young people of Catholic Action present in the square released a balloon containing messages of peace.

Beforehand, the Pope recalled “with deep concern the escalation of the clashes in east Ukraine, which continue to claim many victims among the civilian population. While I assure my prayers to those who suffer, I renew my heartfelt appeal for the resumption of attempts at dialogue in order to bring an end to the hostilities”.

Francis also mentioned that today is World Leprosy Day, and expressed his closeness to “all those who suffer from this disease, as well as those who care for them and those who fight to eradicate the causes of contagion, that is, living conditions that are not worthy of mankind. Let us renew our commitment to solidarity with these brothers and sisters”.

Finally, he addressed the Filipino community of Rome. “The Filipino people are wonderful for their strong and joyful faith. May the Lord also support those of you who live far from your homeland. Many thanks for your witness, and thank you for all the good you do for us, as you sow faith among us and offer a beautiful witness of faith”.

The most effective antidote to violence is accepting difference as richness

Vatican City, 24 January 2015 (VIS) – “In recent years, despite various misunderstandings and difficulties, strides ahead have been made in interreligious dialogue, even with followers of Islam. Listening is essential for this. It is not only a necessary condition in a process of mutual comprehension and peaceful co-existence, but it is also a pedagogic duty in order to 'acknowledge the values of others, appreciate the concerns underlying their demands and shed light on shared beliefs'”, said Pope Francis this morning, as he received in audience the participants in a meeting organised by the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and lslamic Studies (PISAI), commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of its foundation. The meeting was held at the Pontifical Urbanian University from 22 to 24 January on the theme: “Studying and Understanding the Religion of the Other. Towards Mutual Recognition between Religions and Cultures in Today’s World”.

Francis emphasised the need for adequate education, “so that, secure in our own identity, we can grow in mutual knowledge. We must take care not to fall prey to a syncretism that is conciliatory but ultimately empty and a harbinger of a totalitarianism without values. A comfortable and accommodating approach, 'which says “yes” to everything in order to avoid problems', ends up being 'a way of deceiving others and denying them the good which we have been given to share generously with others'. This invites us, first of all, to return to the basics”.

“At the beginning of dialogue there is encounter”, he continued. “This generates the first knowledge of the other. If, indeed, we start from the presumption of our common human nature, it is possible to overcome prejudice and falsehood, and to begin to understand the other from a new perspective”. Francis remarked that now there is a need, like never before, for an institution dedicated expressly to research and the formation of dialogue with Muslims, since “the most effective antidote to any form of violence is education in the discovery and acceptance of difference as richness and fruitfulness”. This task, affirmed the Pope, is not easy, but “is born of and matures from a strong sense of responsibility”.

He continued, “Islamic-Christian dialogue, in a special way, requires patience and humility accompanied by detailed study, as approximation and improvisation can be counterproductive and or even the cause of unease and embarrassment. There is a need for lasting and continuous commitment in order to ensure we do not find ourselves unprepared in various situations and in different contexts. For this reason it demands a specific preparation, that is not limited to sociological analysis but rather has the characteristics of a journey shared by people belonging to religions that, although in different ways, refer to the spiritual fatherhood of Abraham. Culture and education are not secondary to a true process of moving towards each other that respects in every person “his life, his physical integrity, his dignity and the rights deriving from that dignity, his reputation, his property, his ethnic and cultural identity, his ideas and his political choices”.

The Pope expressed his wish that this “valuable” Institute, may increasingly become “a point of reference for the formation of Christians who work in the field of interreligious dialogue” and that it may establish a fruitful collaboration with other Pontifical universities and research centres, both Christian and Muslim, throughout the world. He concluded by encouraging the community of the PISAI “never to betray the primary task of listening and dialogue, based on clear identities and the keen, patient and rigorous search for truth and beauty, which are placed in the hearts of every man and woman and truly visible in every authentic religious expression”.

Francis: “Unity is achieved by walking together”

Vatican City, 24 January 2015 (VIS) – At midday in the Consistory Hall of the Vatican Apostolic Palace the Holy Father met with the participants in the ecumenical colloquium of men and women religious organised by the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life, on the occasion of the Year for Consecrated Life. He highlighted that it is particularly meaningful that the meeting took place during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: “Each year this [week] reminds us that spiritual ecumenism is the soul of the ecumenical movement”. He went on to share with those present some thoughts regarding the importance of consecrated life to Christian unity.

“The wish to re-establish unity among all Christians is present naturally in all Churches, and regards both clergy and laypeople”, he began. “But religious life, which is rooted in Christ's will and the common tradition of the undivided Church, has without doubt a particular vocation in the promotion of this unity. … The search for union with God and unity within the fraternal community is proper to religious life, which thus realises in an exemplary fashion the prayer to the Lord that 'that they all may be one'”. Religious life, he continued, “shows us precisely that this unity is not the fruit of our efforts, but is a gift of the Holy Spirit, Who realises unity in diversity. It also shows us that this unity can be achieved only by journeying together, if we take the path of fraternity in love, in service, and in mutual acceptance”.

The Pontiff emphasised that there is no unity without conversion, prayer, or holiness of life. He remarked that religious life reminds us that “at the heart of every search for unity, and therefore every ecumenical effort, there is above all the conversion of the heart, that leads to asking for and the granting of forgiveness”, and that the commitment to ecumenism responds, first and foremost, to the prayer of the Lord Jesus and it is based essentially on prayer”. He added that “religious life helps us to become aware of the call addressed to baptised persons: the call to holiness of life, that is the one true path towards unity”. He concluded by expressing his gratitude for the witness to the Gospel given by men and women religious, and for their service in the cause of Christian unity.

Ten years after “Dignitas connubii”: in search of swift solutions

Vatican City, 24 January 2015 (VIS) – This morning Pope Francis received in audience the participants in the international congress commemorating the tenth anniversary of the publication of the Instruction “Dignitas connubii”. The symposium was organised by the faculty of canon law of the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, and with the patronage of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts and the “Consociatio internationalis studio iuris canonici promovendo”.

The Pope declared that the extensive participation in this meeting indicates the importance of the Instruction “Dignitas connubii”, “which is not directed principally to jurists but rather to those who work in local tribunals, and noted that “experience teaches us that he who knows the path to follow travels more rapidly. The knowledge of and familiarity with this Instruction may in the future also help ministers of the courts to streamline proceedings, often perceived by married couples as long and tiresome. The resources that this Instruction makes available for rapid proceedings, free of any formalism, have not yet been fully explored; similarly, the possibility of future legislation intended for the same purpose cannot be excluded”.

Finally, he commented on the importance of the contribution of the defender of the bond in cases of marriage annulment, specifying that “his presence and the faithful fulfilment of his task does not condition the judge, but rather allows and promotes the impartiality of his judgement by setting before him the arguments for and against annulment”.


Vatican City, 26 January 2015 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father received in audience:

- Cardinal Luis Sistach, archbishop of Barcelona, Spain;

- Bishop Gastone Simoni, emeritus of Prato, Italy;

- Bishop Francesco Micciche, emeritus of Trapani, Italy;

- Rev. Fr. Alejandro Moral Anton, prior general of the Order of St. Augustine (Augustinians).

On Saturday 24 January, the Holy Father received in audience:

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

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

- Maria De Los Angeles Marechal, co-president of the Fundacion Leopoldo Marechal, Argentina.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 26 January 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has:

- appointed Msgr. Stefan Hesse as archbishop of Hamburg (area 32,493, population 5,797,975, Catholics 397,331, priests 248, permanent deacons 60, religious 221), Germany. The bishop-elect was born in Cologne, Germany in 1966 and was ordained a priest in 1993. He studied theology in Bonn and Regensburg, and holds a doctorate in dogmatic theology from the High School of the Pallottine Fathers in Vallendar. He has served as parish priest in a number of parishes in the archdiocese of Cologne, and is currently canon of the Metropolitan Chapter of Cologne and vicar general. He served as diocesan administrator from March to September 2014.

- restored the title of metropolitan archdiocese to Cashel and Emly, Ireland. Archbishop Kieran O'Reilly, currently metropolitan archbishop of Cashel and apostolic administrator of Emly, was appointed as metropolitan archbishop of the new ecclesiastical circumscription.

On Saturday, 24 January the Holy Father appointed Fr. Ivica Petanjak, O.F.M. Cap., as bishop of Krk (area 1,119, population 40,447, Catholics 35,499, priests 79, religious 110), Croatia. The bishop-elect was born in Drenje, Croatia in 1963, gave his perpetual vows in 1988 and was ordained a priest in 1990. He holds a bachelor's degree in theology from the faculty of theology in Zagreb, Croatia, and a doctorate in church history from the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome. He has served in a number of pastoral roles, including deputy master of seminarians, parish vicar and hospital chaplain in Split, master of clerics, provincial minister, parish priest of the “Our Lady of Lourdes” parish in Rijeka and master of postulants. He is currently guardian of the Capuchin monastery of Osijek and provincial definitor. He succeeds Bishop Valter Zupan, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese upon reaching the age limit was accepted by the Holy Father.

Friday, January 23, 2015

To the Tribunal of the Roman Rota: do not ensnare salvation in the constraints of legalism

Vatican City, 23 January 2015 (VIS) – Pope Francis today received in audience the dean, prelate auditors, officials and collaborators of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, in order to inaugurate the legal year. In his address, the Holy Father focused on the human and cultural context in which matrimonial intent is formed. He emphasised that the crisis of values in society is not a recent phenomenon, and recalled that forty years ago Pope Paul VI had already denounced the ailments of modern man, “at times wounded by a systematic relativism, that bends to the easiest choices of circumstance, of demagogy, of fashion, of passion, of hedonism, of selfishness, so that externally he attempts to dispute the mastery of the law, and internally, almost without realising, substitutes the empire of moral conscience with the whim of psychological consciousness”.

The Pope highlighted the role of the judge, who is require to perform his judicial analysis where there is doubt regarding the validity of marriage, to ascertain whether there was an original shortcoming in consent, either directly in terms of a defect in the validity of intention or a grave deficit in the understanding of marriage itself to the extent of determining will. The crisis in marriage, indeed, not infrequently has at its root the crisis in knowledge enlightened by faith, or rather by adhesion to God and His plan of love realised in Jesus Christ”.

“Pastoral experience teaches us that today there is a great number of faithful in irregular situations, whose histories have been strongly influenced by the widespread worldly mentality”, he continued. “There exists, indeed, a sort of spiritual worldliness, which hides behind the appearance of piety and even love for the Church, and which leads to the pursuit not of the glory of God, but rather of personal well-being. One of the consequences of this attitude is a faith hemmed in by subjectivism, interested solely in a given experience or a series of arguments and areas of knowledge believed to console or enlighten, but in which the subject in reality remains imprisoned by the immanence of his or her own reason or emotions. … Therefore, the judge, in evaluating the validity of the consent given, must take into account the context of values and faith”.

Pope Francis urged greater commitment and passion in the ministry of the judge, whose role is “to protect the unity of the jurisprudence of the Church”, and “pastoral work for the good of many couples, and many children, who are often the victims of these situations. Here too there is a need for pastoral conversion on the part of ecclesiastical structures to be able to offer the opus iustitiae to all those who turn to the Church to shed light on their matrimonial situation. This is your difficult mission: … do not ensnare salvation in the constrictions of legalism. The function of law is guided towards the salus animarum on the condition that, avoiding sophisms distant from the living flesh of people in difficulty, it may help to establish the truth of the moment of consent”.

The Pope stressed the importance of the presence at every ecclesiastical Tribunal of persons competent to offer sound advice on the possibility of initiating a suit for the annulment of marriage. “In the hope that in every Tribunal these figures may be present to encourage real access to the justice of the Church for all the faithful, I would like to underline that a significant number of cases dealt with before the Roman Rota are enabled by legal aid granted to those whose economic situation would not otherwise allow them to engage the services of lawyer”.

Pope's Message for 49th World Communications Day

Vatican City, 23 January 2015 (VIS) – The Pope's message for the 49th annual World Communications Day was published today, the vigil of the feast day of St. Francis de Sales, patron saint of journalists. The Day will be celebrated on Sunday 17 May 2015, and this year's theme is “Communicating the family: a privileged place of encounter with the gift of love”. The message was published in English, French ,German, Portuguese and Spanish.

The full text of the message is reproduced below:

“The family is a subject of profound reflection by the Church and of a process involving two Synods: the recent extraordinary assembly and the ordinary assembly scheduled for next October. So I thought it appropriate that the theme for the next World Communications Day should have the family as its point of reference. After all, it is in the context of the family that we first learn how to communicate. Focusing on this context can help to make our communication more authentic and humane, while helping us to view the family in a new perspective.

“We can draw inspiration from the Gospel passage which relates the visit of Mary to Elizabeth. 'When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb”'. This episode first shows us how communication is a dialogue intertwined with the language of the body. The first response to Mary’s greeting is given by the child, who leaps for joy in the womb of Elizabeth. Joy at meeting others, which is something we learn even before being born, is, in one sense, the archetype and symbol of every other form of communication. The womb which hosts us is the first 'school' of communication, a place of listening and physical contact where we begin to familiarise ourselves with the outside world within a protected environment, with the reassuring sound of the mother’s heartbeat. This encounter between two persons, so intimately related while still distinct from each other, an encounter so full of promise, is our first experience of communication. It is an experience which we all share, since each of us was born of a mother.

“Even after we have come into the world, in some sense we are still in a 'womb', which is the family. A womb made up of various interrelated persons: the family is 'where we learn to live with others despite our differences'. Notwithstanding the differences of gender and age between them, family members accept one another because there is a bond between them. The wider the range of these relationships and the greater the differences of age, the richer will be our living environment. It is this bond which is at the root of language, which in turn strengthens the bond. We do not create our language; we can use it because we have received it. It is in the family that we learn to speak our 'mother tongue', the language of those who have gone before us. In the family we realise that others have preceded us, they made it possible for us to exist and in our turn to generate life and to do something good and beautiful. We can give because we have received. This virtuous circle is at the heart of the family’s ability to communicate among its members and with others. More generally, it is the model for all communication.

“The experience of this relationship which 'precedes' us enables the family to become the setting in which the most basic form of communication, which is prayer, is handed down. When parents put their newborn children to sleep, they frequently entrust them to God, asking that he watch over them. When the children are a little older, parents help them to recite some simple prayers, thinking with affection of other people, such as grandparents, relatives, the sick and suffering, and all those in need of God’s help. It was in our families that the majority of us learned the religious dimension of communication, which in the case of Christianity is permeated with love, the love that God bestows upon us and which we then offer to others.

“In the family, we learn to embrace and support one another, to discern the meaning of facial expressions and moments of silence, to laugh and cry together with people who did not choose one other yet are so important to each other. This greatly helps us to understand the meaning of communication as recognising and creating closeness. When we lessen distances by growing closer and accepting one another, we experience gratitude and joy. Mary’s greeting and the stirring of her child are a blessing for Elizabeth; they are followed by the beautiful canticle of the Magnificat, in which Mary praises God’s loving plan for her and for her people. A 'yes' spoken with faith can have effects that go well beyond ourselves and our place in the world. To 'visit' is to open doors, not remaining closed in our little world, but rather going out to others. So too the family comes alive as it reaches beyond itself; families who do so communicate their message of life and communion, giving comfort and hope to more fragile families, and thus build up the Church herself, which is the family of families.

“More than anywhere else, the family is where we daily experience our own limits and those of others, the problems great and small entailed in living peacefully with others. A perfect family does not exist. We should not be fearful of imperfections, weakness or even conflict, but rather learn how to deal with them constructively. The family, where we keep loving one another despite our limits and sins, thus becomes a school of forgiveness. Forgiveness is itself a process of communication. When contrition is expressed and accepted, it becomes possible to restore and rebuild the communication which broke down. A child who has learned in the family to listen to others, to speak respectfully and to express his or her view without negating that of others, will be a force for dialogue and reconciliation in society.

“When it comes to the challenges of communication, families who have children with one or more disabilities have much to teach us. A motor, sensory or mental limitation can be a reason for closing in on ourselves, but it can also become, thanks to the love of parents, siblings, and friends, an incentive to openness, sharing and ready communication with all. It can also help schools, parishes and associations to become more welcoming and inclusive of everyone.

“In a world where people often curse, use foul language, speak badly of others, sow discord and poison our human environment by gossip, the family can teach us to understand communication as a blessing. In situations apparently dominated by hatred and violence, where families are separated by stone walls or the no less impenetrable walls of prejudice and resentment, where there seem to be good reasons for saying 'enough is enough', it is only by blessing rather than cursing, by visiting rather than repelling, and by accepting rather than fighting, that we can break the spiral of evil, show that goodness is always possible, and educate our children to fellowship.

“Today the modern media, which are an essential part of life for young people in particular, can be both a help and a hindrance to communication in and between families. The media can be a hindrance if they become a way to avoid listening to others, to evade physical contact, to fill up every moment of silence and rest, so that we forget that 'silence is an integral element of communication; in its absence, words rich in content cannot exist'. The media can help communication when they enable people to share their stories, to stay in contact with distant friends, to thank others or to seek their forgiveness, and to open the door to new encounters. By growing daily in our awareness of the vital importance of encountering others, these 'new possibilities', we will employ technology wisely, rather than letting ourselves be dominated by it. Here too, parents are the primary educators, but they cannot be left to their own devices. The Christian community is called to help them in teaching children how to live in a media environment in a way consonant with the dignity of the human person and service of the common good.

“The great challenge facing us today is to learn once again how to talk to one another, not simply how to generate and consume information. The latter is a tendency which our important and influential modern communications media can encourage. Information is important, but it is not enough. All too often things get simplified, different positions and viewpoints are pitted against one another, and people are invited to take sides, rather than to see things as a whole.

“The family, in conclusion, is not a subject of debate or a terrain for ideological skirmishes. Rather, it is an environment in which we learn to communicate in an experience of closeness, a setting where communication takes place, a 'communicating community'. The family is a community which provides help, which celebrates life and is fruitful. Once we realise this, we will once more be able to see how the family continues to be a rich human resource, as opposed to a problem or an institution in crisis. At times the media can tend to present the family as a kind of abstract model which has to be accepted or rejected, defended or attacked, rather than as a living reality. Or else a grounds for ideological clashes rather than as a setting where we can all learn what it means to communicate in a love received and returned. Relating our experiences means realising that our lives are bound together as a single reality, that our voices are many, and that each is unique.

“Families should be seen as a resource rather than as a problem for society. Families at their best actively communicate by their witness the beauty and the richness of the relationship between man and woman, and between parents and children. We are not fighting to defend the past. Rather, with patience and trust, we are working to build a better future for the world in which we live”.

The wisdom of parents must guide children in the digital world

Vatican City, 23 January 2015 (VIS) – A press conference was held in the Holy See Press Office this morning in which Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, and Professor Chiara Giaccardi of the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan, Italy, presented the Holy Father's Message for the 49th World Day of Communications, entitled “Communicating the family: a privileged place of encounter with the gift of love”.

Archbishop Celli explained, “From this text there emerges a positive overall message, given that the Pope affirms that the family continues to be a great resource and not merely a problem or an institution in crisis. As we can see, the Pope is not interested principally in the problem between the family and communication linked to new technologies. He instead focuses on the most profoundly true and human dimension of communication”.

The message affirms, he continued, that the family “has the capacity to communicate itself and to communicate, by virtue of the bond that links its various members”, and he noted that “a paragraph is dedicated to prayer, defined as a fundamental form of communication that finds in the family its truest environment of discovery and experience”.

“In this context”, he added, forgiveness is understood “as a dynamic of communication, since when contrition is expressed and accepted, it becomes possible to restore and rebuild the communication which broke down”. He also remarked that a long paragraph is devoted to the most modern media and their influence on communication in and among families, both as a help and a hindrance. He noted that the text clearly restates what has already been underlined in the teachings of St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. “But it is important to rediscover yet again that the parents are the first educators of their children, who are increasingly present in the digital sphere. The presence of parents does not have a primarily technological dimension – generally children know more than their parents in this field – but is important on account of the wisdom they contribute”.

“It is well-known that one of the great risks is that children or teenagers may isolate themselves in a 'virtual world', significantly reducing their necessary integration in real everyday life and in the interrelationships of friendship. This is not to say that the relationships of affection or friendship that develop in the context of the web are not real. It must also be remembered that the young – and the not so young – are called upon to give witness to Christ in the digital world too, in the social networks we all inhabit”.

Decrees of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints

Vatican City, 23 January 2015 (VIS) – Yesterday afternoon the Holy Father Francis received in a private audience Cardinal Angelo Amato, S.D.B., prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, during which he authorised the Congregation to promulgate the following decrees:


- attributed to the Venerable Servant of God Maria Teresa Casini, Italian foundress of the Oblate Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (1864-1937);


- Servants of God Fidela (nee Dolores Oller Angelats) and two companions, Spanish professed nuns of the Institute of Sisters of St. Joseph, killed in hatred of the faith in Spain between 26 and 29 August 1936;

- Servants of God Pio Heredia Zubia and seventeen companions, of the Trappists of Cantabria and the Cistercian nuns of the Congregation of St. Bernard, killed in hatred of the faith in Spain in 1936;

- Servant of God Tshimangadzo Samuel Benedict Daswa (ne Bakali), South African layperson, killed in hatred of the faith in South Africa on 2 February 1990.


- Servant of God Ladislao Bukowinski, Ukrainian diocesan priest (1904-1974);

- Servant of God Aloysius Schwartz, American diocesan priest, founder of the Sisters of Mary of Banneux and the Brothers of Christ (1930-1992);

- Servant of God Cointa Jauregui Oses, Spanish professed nun of the Company of Mary Our Lady (1875-1954);

- Servant of God Teresa Gardi, Italian layperson of the Third Order of St. Francis (1769-1837);

- Servant of God Luis De Trelles y Nuogerol, Spanish layperson and founder of the Nocturnal Adoration Society in Spain (1819-1891);

- Servant of God Elisabeth Maria (nee Erizabe-to Maria) Satoko Kitahara, Japanese layperson (1929-1958);

- Servant of God Virginia Blanco Tardio, Bolivian layperson (1916-1990).


Vatican City, 23 January 2015 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father received in audience:

- Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy;

- Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith;

- Msgr. Pio Vito Pinto, dean of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota;

- College of the Prelate Auditors of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota;

- Maja Marija Lovrencic Svetek, ambassador of Slovenia, on her farewell visit.

Yesterday, Thursday 22 January, the Holy Father received in audience Cardinal Angelo Amato, S.D.B., prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Catholics and Lutherans together can bear witness to God’s mercy in our societies

Vatican City, 22 January 2015 (VIS) – “The fact that you come here together is itself a witness to the importance of efforts for unity. The fact that you pray together is a witness to our belief that only through the grace of God can that unity be achieved. The fact that you recite the Creed together is a witness to the one common faith of the whole of Christianity”. St. John Paul II addressed these words to the first Finnish ecumenical delegation of the Lutheran Church to come to Rome thirty years ago, and this morning, Pope Francis repeated them to the delegation present today on their annual ecumenical pilgrimage to celebrate the feast of St. Henry of Uppsala, the patron of Finland. The Pope mentioned that this year the visit coincides with the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, to reflect this year on Jesus' words to the Samaritan woman at the well: “Give me to drink”.

“We are reminded that the source of all grace is the Lord himself, and that His gifts transform those who receive them, making them witnesses to the true life that is in Him alone”, said the Holy Father. “As the Gospel tells us, many Samaritans believed in Jesus because of the woman’s testimony. As you, Bishop Vikstrom, have said, there is so much that Catholics and Lutherans can do together to bear witness to God’s mercy in our societies. A shared Christian witness is very much needed in the face of the mistrust, insecurity, persecution, pain and suffering experienced so widely in today’s world”.

He continued, “This common witness can be sustained and encouraged by progress in theological dialogue between the Churches. The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine on Justification, which was solemnly signed some fifteen years ago between the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church, can produce further fruits of reconciliation and cooperation between us. The Nordic Lutheran–Catholic dialogue in Finland and Sweden, under the related theme Justification in the Life of the Church, has been reflecting on important questions deriving from the Joint Declaration. Let us hope that further convergence will emerge from that dialogue on the concept of the Church, the sign and instrument of the salvation brought to us in Jesus Christ”.

The Pope praises the service of the Public Security Inspectorate in the Vatican

Vatican City, 22 January 2015 (VIS) – This morning Pope Francis received in audience a group of agents from the General Inspectorate for Public Security in the Vatican, accompanied by their families. This institution will celebrate the seventieth anniversary of the presence of the Italian forces of order in the Vatican. The Pope thanked them for the work they carry out on a daily basis “with professionalism and dedication”. He continued, “We began a new year a short while ago, and we have many hopes and expectations. We also see on the horizon the shadows and dangers that trouble humanity. As Christians we are called upon not to lose heart or to be discouraged. Our hope rests upon an immovable rock: God's love, revealed and given in Christ Jesus, our Lord”.

In his address, the Holy Father recalled the comforting words of the apostle Paul: “'Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? ... Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him Who loved us'. … In the light of this firm hope, your work assumes a different meaning, that brings human and Christian values into play. Indeed, you have the task of protecting and supervising places of the utmost importance for the faith, and of guaranteeing the security of millions of pilgrims. Many people who come to visit the heart of Christian Rome frequently turn to you”.

He added, “May every person feel helped and protected by your presence and your care. … We are all called to be our neighbour's guardians. The Lord will call us to account for the responsibilities entrusted to us, for the good and the bad we have brought upon our neighbours”.


Vatican City, 22 January 2015 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father received in audience:

- Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelisation;

- Archbishop Pier Luigi Celata; apostolic nuncio, former vice-camerlengo of the Apostolic Camera;

- Ignazio Marino, mayor of Rome.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 22 January 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the diocese of Quimper, France, presented by Bishop Jean-Marie Le Vert, in accordance with canon 401 para. 2 of the Code of Canon Law.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Pope recounts his pastoral trip to Asia

Vatican City, 21 January 2015 (VIS) – Before proceeding to the Paul VI Hall for this morning's Wednesday general audience, the Holy Father, following a centuries-long tradition, blessed two lambs in the hall of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, whose wool will be used to weave the pallia imposed on the new archbishops on 29 June, on the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul.

During today's audience, Pope Francis gave an account of his apostolic trip to Sri Lanka and the Philippines. “I will always keep in my heart the recollection of the joyful welcome I received from the crowds”, he confessed. The culmination of his stay in Sri Lanka, he said, was the canonisation of St. Joseph Vaz. “His example of holiness and love for his neighbour continues to inspire the Church in Sri Lanka in her apostolate of charity and education”, he said, adding that the new saint represented “a model for all Christians, who are called upon today to offer the salvific truth of the Gospel in a multi-religious context. With regard to the meeting with the governmental authorities, he emphasised the importance of dialogue, respect for human dignity and efforts to involve all in finding suitable solutions for reconciliation and the common good.

He also spoke about his encounter with religious leaders, which confirmed the good relations that exist between the various communities. “In this context, I wanted to encourage the cooperation that has already been initiated between the followers of different religious traditions, also in order to heal with the balsam of forgiveness those who are still afflicted by the sufferings of recent years”.

In the Philippines, he noted “the constant fruitfulness of the Gospel and its capacity to inspire a society worthy of mankind, in which there is a place for the dignity of each person and the aspirations of the Filipino population”. He explained that the main aim of his visit was to express his closeness to those brothers and sisters who had suffered as a result of the devastation wrought by typhoon Yolanda. “The power of God's love, revealed in the mystery of the Cross, was made evident in the spirit of solidarity shown by the many acts of charity and sacrifice that marked those days of darkness”. He also mentioned the young volunteer Kristel, killed following his visit to Tacloban by collapsing scaffolding due to extreme weather conditions.

Francis went on to speak about his encounter with families in Manila. “I have heard it said that families with many children and high birth rates are among the causes of poverty. It seems to me a simplistic opinion. I can say that the main cause of poverty is an economic system that has removed the person from the centre and replaced him with the god of money; an economic system that excludes and creates the throwaway culture in which we live. … It is necessary to protect families, which face various threats, so that they can bear witness to the beauty of the family in God's plan”.

Finally, he spokes about his meeting with the young. “I wanted to offer them my encouragement for their efforts in contributing to the renewal of society, especially through their service to the poor and the protection of the natural environment. Care for the poor is an essential element of our Christian life and witness – because corruption steals from the poor – and requires a culture of honesty”, he concluded.

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