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Friday, October 30, 2015

The Pope on Blessed Oscar Romero: his impact is still felt in our time

Vatican City, 30 October 2015 (VIS) – This morning five hundred pilgrims from El Salvador, in Rome to give thanks for the beatification of the bishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero, met with the Holy Father in the Paul VI Hall. The Pope defined the Salvadoran bishop martyr as a “good pastor, full of love for God and close to his brothers who, living the dynamism of the Beatitudes, gave his life in a violent way while celebrating the Eucharist, the supreme sacrifice of love, sealing with his own blood the Gospel that he announced”.

“From the very beginning of the life of the Church, Christians have always believed that the blood of martyrs is a seed for Christians, as Tertullian said. Today too, in a dramatic way, the blood of a great number of Christian martyrs continues to be shed on the field of the world, with the certain hope that will bear fruit in a rich harvest of holiness, justice, reconciliation and love of God. But we must remember that one is not born a martyr. Archbishop Romero remarked, 'We must be willing to die for our faith, even if the Lord does not grant us this honour. ... Giving life does not only mean being assassinated; giving life, having the spirit of martyrdom, means offering it in silence, in prayer, in the honest fulfilment of one's duty; in this silence of everyday life, giving life a little at a time'”.

“Indeed, the martyr is not someone relegated to the past, a beautiful image that adorns our churches and which we recall with a certain nostalgia. No, the martyr is a brother, a sister, who continues to accompany us in the communion of saints and who, united with Christ, does not ignore our earthly pilgrimage, our sufferings, our anxieties. In the recent history of this beloved country, the witness of Msgr. Romero has joined that of the other brothers and sisters … who are a treasure and well-founded hope for the Church and for Salvadoran society. The impact of his commitment can still be felt in our times”.

Just a few weeks before the beginning of the extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, the example of Msgr. Romero constitutes, for his beloved nation, a “stimulus to a renewed proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to announce it in a way that all people can understand, so that the merciful love of the Divine Saviour enters the heart and the history of this good people. The holy people of God in pilgrimage in El Salvador have a series of difficult tasks ahead of them, which require, as in the rest of the world, an evangelising announcement that allows witness, in the communion of Christ's one Church, of authentic Christian life”.

“On this occasion, I make my own the sentiments of the Blessed Msgr. Romero, who with the well-founded hope longed to see the happy time when the terrible suffering of many of our brothers, due to hate, violence and injustice, would disappear. May the Lord, with a shower of mercy and goodness and a torrent of grace convert all hearts, and may the beautiful homeland He has given you, that bears the name of the Divine Saviour, be transform into a country where all are redeemed and all are brothers, without differences, since we are all one in Christ our Lord”.

The Holy Father concluded with some unscripted remarks. “I wish to add something we are forgetting”, he said. “The martyrdom of Msgr. Romero was not fulfilled at the moment of his death – it was a martyrdom of witness, of prior suffering and prior persecution, up to his death. But even afterwards, following his death – I was a young priest and a witness to this – he was defamed, slandered, his memory despoiled, and his martyrdom continued also for his brethren in the priesthood and in the episcopate. This is not hearsay, but rather things I have heard. Or perhaps it is best to see it thus: a man who continues to be a martyr. After having given his life, he continues to give it by allowing himself to be assailed by all this misunderstanding and slander. This gives me strength. Only God knows the stories of those people who have given their lives, who have died, and continue to be stoned with the hardest stone that exists in the world: language”.

To the Santa Marta Group: combating human trafficking is a moral imperative for States

Vatican City, 30 October 2015 (VIS) – Pope Francis has sent a message to the Santa Marta Group, an initiative launched by the Holy Father in the battle against human trafficking, involving the security forces of various countries, episcopates, social organisations and representatives of various religious confessions. The group is currently gathered at the San Lorenzo del Escorial in Spain, a meeting inaugurated this Friday by Queen Sofia and attended by cardinals, bishops, social activists and around fifty heads of police from around the world.

In the short time of its existence, writes Francis, this worthy group has made significant achievements and is called upon to play a decisive role in the eradication of human trafficking and modern slavery. He recalls that during the last year there have been important institutional changes that have without doubt supported its activity, starting with the meeting of mayors in Vatican City on 21 July, in which key figures signed a declaration expressing their commitment to eliminating the new forms of slavery that constitute a crime against humanity.

He also mentions the recent approval of the Agenda 2030, with the new United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which include the adoption of immediate and effective means for eradicating forced labour, putting an end to modern forms of slavery and human trafficking and ensuring the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including the recruitment and deployment of child soldiers, with a view to putting an end to all forms of child labour by 2025.

The Pope also refers to his address to the United Nations in New York on 25 September, in which he affirmed that the world demands of government leaders “a will which is effective, practical and constant, concrete steps and immediate measures for preserving and improving the natural environment and thus putting an end as quickly as possible to the phenomenon of social and economic exclusion, with its baneful consequences. … Such is the magnitude of these situations and their toll in innocent lives, that we must avoid every temptation to fall into a declarationist nominalism which would assuage our consciences”. “Today the 193 states of the United Nations have a new moral imperative to combat human trafficking, a true crime against humanity. Collaboration between bishops and the civil authorities, each in accordance with his own mission and character and with the aim of discovering best practice for the fulfilment of this delicate task, is a decisive step to ensuring that the will of governments reaches the victims in a direct, immediate, constant, effective and concrete way”.

“For my part, I pray that God Almighty grant you the grace of carrying forward the delicate, humanitarian and Christian mission of healing the open and painful wounds of humanity, which are also Christ's wounds. I assure you of all my support and my prayer, and the support and prayer of the faithful of the Catholic Church. With God's help, and your collaboration, the indispensable service of the Santa Marta Group will be able to free the victims of new forms of slavery, rehabilitate them, along with the imprisoned and the marginalised, unmasking the traffickers and those who create this market, and provide effective assistance to cities and nations; a service for the common good and the promotion of human dignity, able to bring out the best in every person and every citizen”.

The Pope's 60th anniversary message to the Latin American Episcopal Council: love your people, open paths of greater equality, justice and peace

Vatican City, 30 October 2015 (VIS) – To commemorate 60 years of the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM), the Pope has written a message to the president Cardinal Ruben Salazar Gomez in which he expresses his gratitude for all the good the Lord has gradually sown there, and that has borne fruit through the service of God's Church in Latin America.

“I hope that CELAM, making pastoral and missionary conversion its priority, may increasingly participate in, support and give momentum to this evangelising movement towards all environments and all frontiers. It is important that our communities are a 'home and school of communion', which attract by a surprising fraternity based on the recognition of the common father, and help always to keep alive in the Church in Latin America the passion for our peoples, the bearing of our sufferings and the capacity for Christian discernment of the vicissitudes of their recent history, to open up paths of greater equality, peace and justice”.

He also emphasises that the upcoming opening of the extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy “will be an event of grace in which CELAM must provide a fundamental service of inspiration, exchange and celebration”.

Finally, the Pope imparts his apostolic blessing to all members of CELAM, their collaborators, and the episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean, placing all these intentions under the protection of the mantle of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patron of America, so that by her intercession “Our Lord Jesus Christ may inspire new and holier missionary disciples in our Churches, and more courageous builders of peace and justice in our nations”.

Pope Francis' prayer intentions for November

Vatican City, 30 October 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father's universal prayer intention for November is: “That we may be open to personal encounter and dialogue with all, even those whose convictions differ from our own”.

His intention for evangelisation is: “That pastors of the Church, with profound love for their flocks, may accompany them and enliven their hope”.


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

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

- Cardinal Ruben Salazar Gomez, archbishop of Bogota, Colombia, president of the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM), with Bishop Carlos Maria Collazzi Irazabal of Mercedes, Uruguay, first deputy president; Archbishop Jose Belisario da Silva of Sao Luis do Maranhao, Brazil, second deputy president; Bishop Juan Espinoza Jimenez, auxiliary of Morelia, Mexico, secretary general; Cardinal Jose Luis Lacunza Maestrojuan, bishop of David, Panama, president for economic affairs; and Fr. Leonidas Ortiz Losada, adjunct secretary general.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 30 October 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed:

- Bishop Fidel Herraez Vegas, auxiliary of Madrid, Spain, as archbishop of Burgos (area 13,850, population 374,970, Catholics 337,473, priests 519, religious 1,377), Spain. He succeeds Archbishop Francisco Gil Hellin, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same archdiocese upon reaching the age limit was accepted by the Holy Father.

- Bishop Renauld de Dinechin, auxiliary of Paris, France, as bishop of Soissons (area 7,378, population 557,000, Catholics 403,000, priests 89, permanent deacons 22, religious 97), France.


Vatican City, 30 October 2015 (VIS) – We inform our readers that there will be no Vatican Information Service bulletin on Monday, 2 November, a holiday in the Vatican. Service will resume on Tuesday, 3 November.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Audience with the president of Lithuania: greater solidarity between nations

Vatican City, 29 October 2015 (VIS) – Today the Holy Father Francis received in audience Dalia Grybauskaite, president of the Republic of Lithuania, who subsequently met with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, accompanied by Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, secretary for Relations with States.

During the cordial discussions appreciation was expressed for the positive contribution of the Catholic Church to Lithuanian society. Attention then turned to a number of themes of common interest, such as European integration, the need for greater solidarity between nations to face various current challenges, the reception of migrants in Europe, peace and security at regional and international level, the conflict in Ukraine, and the situation in the Middle East, with particular reference to Syria and the Holy Land.

Transmitting Christian hope: the Pope receives the participants in the 6th World Congress of Radio Maria

Vatican City, 29 October 2015 (VIS) – This morning the Pope received in the Sala Clementina the participants in the Radio Maria 6th World Congress, taking place in the shrine of Collevallenza, Italy from 25 to 30 October and attended by the presidents and priests who direct the 75 Radio Maria broadcasters throughout the world and the further six who will shortly become active. Thousands of volunteers contribute to the running of Radio Maria, which has around 30 million listeners worldwide.

Pope Francis began his address by commenting that ever since its creation the aim of Radio Maria has been to help the Church in her task of evangelising, and to do so in its own special way, “with closeness to the concerns and problems of the people, with words of consolation and hope, the fruit of faith and commitment to solidarity. … The spread of Radio Maria in many environments, very diverse in terms of culture, language and tradition, is good news for all as it shows that, when we have the courage to propose high profile content from a clearly Christian position, the initiative is well-received, beyond our best predictions, and at times by those who thereby perhaps come into contact with the message of the Gospel for the first time”.

The Pope invited the members of Radio Maria to continue their work, trusting in Providence that has always enabled them to find the means to respond to their daily needs regarding the modernisation of technologies and the development of the radio station, which has spread rapidly and organically. “In this respect, the challenge is to maintain your style of sobriety, while continuing to seek suitable tools”.

The work of Radio Maria has become “a true mission”, which must be carried out “with fidelity to the Gospel and to the Magisterium of the Church, and listening to society and to the people, especially the poorest and most marginalised, so as to be a point of reference and a support to all your listeners. … All those who listen to your radio programmes recognise you as a broadcaster that offers ample space to prayer, demonstrating that when one opens up to prayer, one opens the door … to the Lord. Your model in this is Our Lady. It is therefore necessary to love Mary with your heart to live and feel in harmony with the Church”.

The Pope concluded by urging the directors “always to cultivate the inner garden of prayer, of listening to the Word of God”, and to seek out “good readings, so as to deepen your faith. In other words, always be aware that you give something great and unique: Christian hope, which is far more than a mere spiritual consolation, since it is based on the power of the Resurrection, witnessed with faith and works of charity”.

Programme of Pope Francis' visit to Prato and Florence

Vatican City, 29 October 2015 (VIS) – The Holy See Press Office today made public the programme of the Holy Father's visit to Prato and Florence, Italy on 10 November for the Fifth National Congress of the Italian Church.

The Pope will depart at 7 a.m. from the Vatican heliport and will arrive an hour later at the municipal sports camp in Prato. From there he will transfer to the cathedral and will address workers from the square. At 9 a.m. he will travel by helicopter from Prato to Florence where, after arrival at the Luigi Ridolfi stadium, he will visit the baptistery and will meet with the representatives of the National Congress of the Italian Church in Piazza Santa Maria del Fiore. At midday he will pray the Angelus and greet the sick in the Basilica della Santissima Annunziata, after which he will lunch with the poor who attend the San Francesco Poverino refectory. After celebrating Holy Mass in the Artemio Franchi municipal stadium, the Holy Father will greet the authorities and depart for Rome at 5 p.m., where he is due to arrive around 6 p.m.

Message from Cardinal Tauran to the Religions for Peace European Assembly: from fear to trust

Vatican City, 29 October 2015 (VIS) – Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, has sent a message to the participants in the Religions for Peace European Assembly, currently gathered in Castel Gandolfo to discuss the theme “Welcoming Each Other in Europe: from Fear to Trust”.

The cardinal mentioned the Assembly's concept paper, which underlines the multiple challenges of today's Europe: fear of losing one's identity leading to radicalism and fundamentalism, tendency to withdraw into oneself, xenophobia, rising intolerance towards different religions and minorities and increasing tides of forced migration due to wars, dictatorial regimes and ecological crisis.

“How can we change fear into trust, discrimination into respect, enmity into amity, polarisation into solidarity, a selfish lifestyle into a selfless one, a throwaway culture into a caring culture, and confrontation into encounter and dialogue? The true mission of religion is peace because religion and peace go together. No true religious leader can ignore the culture of dehumanisation and violence or preach and support it. We all agree that peace or violence and trust or fear come from the human heart. Prayer, spiritual practices, and actions for justice and peace can awaken our hearts to overcome the polarised vision of seeing our neighbour as another separate person. As religious leaders our urgent challenge today, is to transform distrust , suspicion, intolerance into a new culture based on respect, mutual understanding, non-violence, solidarity and peaceful conflict resolution. Since our spiritual patrimony is so great, let us work together to remedy these social and cultural ills through dialogue and cooperation”.


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

- Yury Fedotov, executive director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime;

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

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Interreligious audience in St. Peter's Square on the 50th anniversary of the conciliar declaration “Nostra Aetate”

Vatican City, 28 October 2015 (VIS) – This week's general audience was held on the 50th anniversary of the Vatican Council II Declaration “Nostra Aetate” on the relations between the Catholic Church and non-Christian religions. It was attended by representatives of various religions and participants in the International Congress organised to commemorate the event by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue in collaboration with the Commission for Religious Relationships with Jews, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Pontifical Gregorian University.

Before beginning his catechesis in St. Peter's Square the Pope greeted the sick and elderly who, due to the weather conditions, were unable to attend the open air audience. Francis also mentioned them in the square and asked for a minute of silence and prayer for them all.

The audience began with greetings from Cardinals Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. After the reading in several languages of a paragraph of “Nostra Aetate”, the Pope welcomed all those present and expressed his gratitude to them for commemorating together the 50th anniversary of this important conciliar document.

“Vatican Council II was an extraordinary moment of reflection, dialogue and prayer to renew the gaze of the Catholic Church upon herself and the world. A reading of the signs of the times in order to bring her up to date, guided by a dual fidelity: fidelity to the ecclesial tradition and fidelity to the history of the men and women of our time. Indeed, God revealed Himself in creation and in history, spoke through prophets and fully in His Son made man, addressing the heart and soul of every human being who seeks the truth and the way to practise it”.

Francis, reiterating that the message of the Declaration “Nostra Aetate” remains valid today, recalled some of its key points: the growing interdependence of peoples; the human search for meaning in life, suffering and death, questions that always accompany our journey; the common origin and common destiny of humanity; the unity of the human family; religions as the search for God or the Absolute, within the various ethnic groups and cultures; the Church's benevolent and careful view of all religions, which does not reject anything good or true in them; the Church's esteem for all believers of all religions, appreciating their spiritual and moral commitment; and finally, the Church's openness to dialogue with all, while remaining at the same time faithful to the truth in which she believes, starting from the salvation offered to all that has its origin in Jesus, the sole saviour, and that is worked by the Holy Spirit, as the source of peace and love”.

The Pope also noted that over the last fifty years there have been many initiatives and examples of institutional or personal relations with non-Christian religions. The most significant among them include the meeting in Assisi on 27 October 1986, promoted by St. John Paul II. He also praised the great transformation that has taken place in this period in the relationship between Christians and Jews. “Indifference and opposition have turned into cooperation and benevolence”, he remarked. “From enemies and strangers, we have become friends and brothers. The Council, with the Declaration 'Nostra Aetate', showed the way: 'yes' to the rediscovery of the Jewish roots of Christianity; 'no' to any form of anti-Semitism and condemnation of any resulting injustice, discrimination and persecution. Mutual knowledge, respect and esteem constitute the way that, valid for relations with Jews, is similarly relevant to relations with other religions. I think in particular of Muslims who, as the Council states, 'adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself, merciful and all-powerful, the Creator of Heaven and earth, Who has spoken to men'. They refer to the paternity of Abraham, they venerate Jesus as a prophet, they honour His virgin Mother Mary, they await the day of judgement, and practise prayer, charity and fasting”.

“The dialogue we need cannot be other than open and respectful, and in this way it is shown to be fruitful. Mutual respect is the condition and the aim of interreligious dialogue; respecting the rights of others to life, physical integrity and fundamental freedoms: that is, freedom of conscience, thought, expression and religion. The world looks to us as believers, and exhorts us to collaborate among ourselves and with men and women of good will who do not profess any religion, and asks us for effective answers on several issues: peace, hunger, the poverty that afflicts millions of people, the environmental crisis, violence, especially that committed in the name of religion, corruption, moral degradation, the crisis of the family, the economy and finance, and above all, hope. We believers do not have solutions for these problems, but we have a great resource: prayer. We must pray. Prayer is our treasury, which we draw from according to our respective traditions, to ask for the gifts humanity yearns for”.

He acknowledged that violence and terrorism have given rise to “an attitude of suspicion and indeed condemnation with regard to religions. In reality, since no religion is immune to the risk of fundamentalist or extremist deviations by individuals or groups, it is necessary to look instead to the positive values they embody and promote, and which are a wellspring of hope. ... Dialogue based on trustful respect can bring seeds of goodness that in turn become the buds of friendship and collaboration in many fields, and especially in service to the poor, the smallest and the elderly, and welcoming migrants and the excluded”. He also remarked on the role of religions in defending the environment, a common good.

The upcoming extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy will offer an opportunity for collaboration in charitable works. “And in this field, where compassion is most important, we can join with many people who do not consider themselves to be believers or who are in search of God and truth, people who place the face of others at the centre, especially their brothers and sisters in need. But the mercy that is required of us embraces all creation, that God entrusted to us as its custodians rather than exploiters or destroyers. We must always seek to leave behind a better world than the one we found”.

The Pope concluded by urging all those present to pray for the future of interreligious dialogue, “and to pray for each other, as we are brothers! Without the Lord, nothing is possible; with Him, everything is possible. May our prayer fully adhere to the will of God, Who wants all men to acknowledge each other as brothers and to live as such, forming a great human family in the harmony of diversity”.

Following the greetings in different languages, the Pope invited all to pray to the Lord, each following his or her own tradition, that He might make us brothers together and servants to our brothers in need.

Pakistan and Afghanistan in Francis' prayers

Vatican City, 28 October 2015 (VIS) – Following today's general audience the Holy Father launched an appeal for the populations of Pakistan and Afghanistan, afflicted by a major earthquake that has claimed many victims and caused devastating material damage. “Let us pray for the deceased, their families, and for all the injured and homeless, imploring consolation in suffering and courage in adversity. May there be no lack of concrete solidarity for these, our brothers”.

Chirograph for the institution of the Foundation Gravissimum Educationis

Vatican City, 28 October 2015 (VIS) – Pope Francis has instituted the Foundation Gravissimum Educationis by a chirograph bearing today's date. In the text, the Holy Father expresses his gratitude to the Congregation for Catholic Education for the initiatives organised to commemorate the fiftieth year since the declaration “Gravissimum educationis” on Christian education, promulgated the the Vatican Ecumenical Council II on 28 October 1965.

“I am likewise pleased to learn that the same Dicastery wishes to constitute on this occasion a Foundation entitled Gravissimum Educationis, with the aim of pursuing “scientific and cultural ends, intended to promote Catholic education in the world”, he adds. “The Church recognises the 'extreme importance of education in the life of man and how its influence ever grows in the social progress of this age', are profoundly linked to the fulfilment of 'the mandate she has received from her divine founder of proclaiming the mystery of salvation to all men and of restoring all things in Christ'”, he writes, quoting the conciliar Declaration.

The Pope goes on to institute as public canonical and civil juridical persons the Foundation Gravissimum Educationis, whose premises will be located in Vatican City and which will be subject to current canon law, current civil law in Vatican City, and its statutes.

Representatives of different religions on the conciliar Declaration “Nostra Aetate”

Vatican City, 28 October 2015 (VIS) – At 12.30 this afternoon in the Holy See Press Office a conference was held with the representatives of the different religions present at this morning's interreligious general audience and those attending the International Congress to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the conciliar Declaration “Nostra Aetate”, held from 26 to 28 October at the Pontifical Gregorian University.

The speakers were Professor Bellanwila Wimalaratna (Buddhism), Claudio Epelman (Judaism), Rabbi David Rose (Judaism), Swami Chidanand Saraswati (Hinduism), Rasoul Rasoulipour (Islam), Abdellah Redouane (Islam), Samani Pratibha Pragya (Jainism) and Brinder Singh Mahon (Sikhism).

The central theme of the conference was the importance of the Declaration and how it has facilitated openness on the journeys of dialogue and reconciliation between different religions.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Letter to the cardinal Secretary of State on questions related to the reform of the Roman Curia

Vatican City, 27 October 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has written a letter to Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin regarding various issues that have arisen during the process of reforming the structures of the Roman Curia. The following is the full text of the letter:

“While the process of reform of various structures of the Roman Curia, to which the Council of Cardinals I instituted on 28 September 2013 is dedicating its attention, is continuing in accordance with the established programme, it is necessary to note that certain problems have emerged in the meantime, in relation to which I intend to take prompt action.

I wish first to state that the current period of transition is not a time of vacatio legis. Therefore, I confirm that the Apostolic Constitution “Pastor bonus” and subsequent amendments thereto remain in full force, along with the General Regulations of the Roman Curia.

Since compliance with the common rules is necessary both to guarantee the orderly conduct of work in the Roman Curia and in the institutions connected to the Holy See, and to ensure equitable treatment of employees and collaborators, also in economic terms, I order that the provisions in the aforementioned documents, as well as in the Regulations for lay staff of the Holy See and Vatican City State and the Regulations of the independent Commission for the evaluation of the recruitment of lay staff in the Apostolic See, be scrupulously observed.

Accordingly, all staff hiring and transfers must be carried out within the limits established by staffing plans, excluding any other criterion, with the nulla osta of the Secretariat of State and in compliance with the prescribed procedures, including reference to the established parameters for remuneration.

The above, to the extent compatible with their Regulations, is valid also for the Governorate of Vatican City State and the dependent Institutions of the Apostolic See, although not expressly indicated in the Apostolic Constitution Pastor bonus, with the exception of the Institute for the Works of Religion.

I therefore request, Your Eminence, that the provisions I have mentioned be brought to the attention of all the Superiors of the Dicasteries, the Offices and Bodies of the Roman Curia, as well as the Commissions, Committees and connected Institutions, as well as the Governorate, highlighting in particular the aspects requiring special attention, and that supervision of compliance be exercised.

I thank you for your collaboration and, in communion of intentions and prayer, I cordially greet you in the Lord”.

Telegram of condolences for the earthquake in Afghanistan and Pakistan

Vatican City, 27 October 2015 (VIS) – Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin today sent a telegram on behalf of the Holy Father to Archbishop Ghaleb Bader, apostolic nuncio in Pakistan, following the serious earthquake in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“His Holiness Pope Francis was deeply saddened to learn of the tragic loss of life in Afghanistan and Pakistan as a result of the earthquake in the region. He expresses his heartfelt solidarity with all those affected by this disaster, and he offers the assurance of his prayers for the dead, as well as for the injured and those still missing. Upon all those who mourn the loss of loved ones and upon the civil authorities and emergency personnel involved in the relief efforts, Pope Francis invokes the divine blessings of consolation and strength”.

Esteem and appreciation for Patriarch Bartholomew I, awarded the Sophia University Institute's first doctorate honoris causa

Vatican City, 27 October 2015 (VIS) – Pope Francis has sent a message to the cardinal archbishop of Florence, Giuseppe Bettori, Grand Chancellor of the On the occasion of the Sophia University Institute, Loppiano, Italy, following the conferral of a doctorate honoris causa in “Culture of Unity” to His Holiness Bartholomew I, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.

The Holy Father greets those present, expresses his closeness, and offers a special thought for his beloved brother Bartholomew, to whom, he writes, “I renew my sentiments of profound esteem and heartfelt appreciation, rejoicing in the present initiative which, as well as constituting heartfelt recognition for his commitment to the promotion of the culture of unity, contributes favourably to the common journey our Churches take towards full and visible unity, to which we aspire with dedication and perseverance”.

“In the hope that the Sophia University Institute, following the charism of the Focolari Movement and open to the action of the Spirit, may continue to be a place of encounter and dialogue between different cultures and religions, I assure my prayerful remembrance and, asking for your prayers, I impart my Blessing to all present”, the Pope concludes.

Presentation of the 51st International Eucharistic Congress

Vatican City, 27 October 2015 (VIS) – This morning in the Holy See Press Office a press conference was held to present the 51st International Eucharistic Congress, to take place in Cebu, Philippines from 24 to 31 January 2016 on the theme “Christ in you, our Hope of glory; the Eucharist, source and goal of mission”. The speakers were Archbishop Jose S. Palma of Cebu, Philippines, Archbishop Piero Marini, Italy, president of the Committee for the International Eucharistic Congresses, and Fr. Vittore Boccardi, S.S.S., member of the same committee.

Archbishop Palma commented on the importance of the choice of Asia and the Philippines to host the Congress. “In recent years, Asia is the continent that has become one of the great engines of world growth in the economic and social point of view”, he said. “From the religious point of view, however, it is still a contingent that has to be evangelised; … where the Catholic Church is a small minority; in spite of being the continent where Jesus was born, lived, died and rose again. The 51st Eucharistic Congress, therefore, could become the mirror of the Asian Church in the sense that it will see how the Catholic Church carries out its task of evangelisation. As with the previous Congresses, representatives of the different Churches and a myriad of pilgrims from all over the world will be attending”.

The Congress, he continued, is expected to be attended by “around 20 cardinals, 50 bishops from other countries and at least 100 Filipino bishops who gather for the Catholic Bishops Conference Plenary Assembly in January 2016. As of October 2015, we already have 8,345 registered pilgrims representing 57 nations”. In addition, said Archbishop Palma, so far there are 600 registered host families ready to welcome pilgrims.

The events of the Congress will be divided into two main parts: the first, the “Theological Symposium”, will take place from 20 to 22 January, and the “Congress Proper”, from 24 to 31 January. The basic themes for reflection during the Theological Symposium are: “The Christian Virtue of Hope”; “Eucharist in the Gospel of St. John”; “Liturgy and Inculturation”; “The History of the Novus Ordo”; “Evangelising the Secular World” and “A Catechism on the Sunday Eucharist”. During the Congress Proper, the themes will be “Christ our Hope of Glory”; “Christian Hope”; “The Eucharist as Celebration of the Paschal Mystery”; “The Eucharist as Mission”; “Mission as Dialogue”; “The Eucharist and Dialogue with Cultures”; “The Eucharist and Dialogue with the Poor”; “The Eucharist and Dialogue with other Religions” and “The Eucharist and Mary”.

Archbishop Marini, with reference to the theme of the Congress, affirmed that “the evangelical announcement and faith in the Lord Jesus professed by the Christian community are important and necessary for Asia, but must be presented in accordance with the methods of dialogue, methods that have distinguished the activity of the particular Churches of the continent in the last thirty years. It is precisely this programme of dialogue with cultures, religious traditions and the multitudes of the poor that forms, in an entirely natural and evident way, the fabric of pastoral reflections contained in the basic text. The text explains that the Eucharist is the source and culmination of the mission of the Church and identifies the added value offered by the Eucharistic celebration for a mission that is committed to leavening through the enzymes of dialogue, reconciliation, peace and future, of which Asia is in great need”.

“The Eucharistic Congresses, then, will go to Cebu to recall that the mission is an exchange of gifts between those who announce and who receive the evangelical message”, he added. “They go to the city that is the cradle of Christianity in the East to give and to receive, to evangelise and to be evangelised, to speak but also to listen. In that human environment that is not linked to the labyrinth of rationalism, the celebration of the Eucharistic mystery is bound with the experience of poverty, suffering and affections and continues to build communities that wish to break bread in the Kingdom of God”.

Finally, Fr. Boccardi commented that the event in Cebu, along with the World Youth Days, World Family Day, and so on, will become “an extraordinary resource for bearing witness, through its celebration, to how the Eucharist is not only the source of life in the Church but also the place of its projection in the world. Every particular Church that celebrates the Eucharist in any part of the world, is called upon to demonstrate the maturity of giving to others, of mutual listening, of availability and concrete collaboration so that the community of faithful might become the house of God and of our brothers amid the homes of mankind. There it will be possible to live that 'dialogue of life” that is a starting point for the joyful witness of the Gospel”.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 27 October 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed:

- Bishop Matteo Maria Zuppi, auxiliary of Rome, as metropolitan archbishop of Bologna (area 3,549, population 998,600, Catholics 951,462, priests 590, permanent deacons 127, religious 1,115), Italy. He succeeds Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same archdiocese upon reaching the age limit was accepted by the Holy Father.

- Msgr. Corrado Lorefice as metropolitan archbishop of Palermo (area 1,366, population 916,000, Catholics 909,000, priests 479, permanent deacons 41, religious 1,249), Italy. The bishop-elect was born in Ispica, Italy in 1962 and was ordained a priest in 1987. He holds a licentiate in moral theology and a doctorate in moral theology, and has served in a number of pastoral roles in the diocese of Noto, Italy, including bursar and vice rector of the seminary, lecturer in moral theology, director of the diocesan and regional centres for vocations, director of formation of permanent deacons, director of the diocesan catechistic office, parish administrator, and episcopal vicar for the clergy. He is currently parish priest and vicar forane, episcopal vicar for pastoral ministry, and lecturer in the “San Paolo” theological faculty of Catania. He succeeds Cardinal Paolo Romeo, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same archdiocese upon reaching the age limit was accepted by the Holy Father.

- Msgr. Giacomo Morandi, vicar general of the archdiocese of Modena-Nonantola, Italy, as under-secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Church’s first duty is not to hand down condemnations or anathemas, but to proclaim God’s mercy

Vatican City, 24 October 2015 (VIS) – The final General Congregation of the 14 th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops concluded today with an address from Pope Francis. The Holy Father spoke about how these three weeks of intense work have had different meanings for families, the Christian community and the Church, and reiterated that “the true defenders of doctrine are not those who uphold its letter, but its spirit; not ideas but people; not formulae but the gratuitousness of God’s love and forgiveness”.

The following are extensive extracts from the Pope's address:

“As I followed the labours of the Synod, I asked myself: What will it mean for the Church to conclude this Synod devoted to the family?

Certainly, the Synod was not about settling all the issues having to do with the family, but rather attempting to see them in the light of the Gospel and the Church’s tradition and two-thousand-year history, bringing the joy of hope without falling into a facile repetition of what is obvious or has already been said.

Surely it was not about finding exhaustive solutions for all the difficulties and uncertainties which challenge and threaten the family, but rather about seeing these difficulties and uncertainties in the light of the Faith, carefully studying them and confronting them fearlessly, without burying our heads in the sand.

It was about urging everyone to appreciate the importance of the institution of the family and of marriage between a man and a woman, based on unity and indissolubility, and valuing it as the fundamental basis of society and human life.

It was about listening to and making heard the voices of the families and the Church’s pastors, who came to Rome bearing on their shoulders the burdens and the hopes, the riches and the challenges of families throughout the world.

It was about showing the vitality of the Catholic Church, which is not afraid to stir dulled consciences or to soil her hands with lively and frank discussions about the family.

It was about trying to view and interpret realities, today’s realities, through God’s eyes, so as to kindle the flame of faith and enlighten people’s hearts in times marked by discouragement, social, economic and moral crisis, and growing pessimism.

It was about bearing witness to everyone that, for the Church, the Gospel continues to be a vital source of eternal newness, against all those who would “indoctrinate” it in dead stones to be hurled at others.

It was also about laying bare the closed hearts which frequently hide even behind the Church’s teachings or good intentions, in order to sit in the chair of Moses and judge, sometimes with superiority and superficiality, difficult cases and wounded families.

It was about making clear that the Church is a Church of the poor in spirit and of sinners seeking forgiveness, not simply of the righteous and the holy, but rather of those who are righteous and holy precisely when they feel themselves poor sinners.

It was about trying to open up broader horizons, rising above conspiracy theories and blinkered viewpoints, so as to defend and spread the freedom of the children of God, and to transmit the beauty of Christian Newness, at times encrusted in a language which is archaic or simply incomprehensible.

In the course of this Synod, the different opinions which were freely expressed – and at times, unfortunately, not in entirely well-meaning ways – certainly led to a rich and lively dialogue; they offered a vivid image of a Church which does not simply 'rubber stamp', but draws from the sources of her faith living waters to refresh parched hearts.

And – apart from dogmatic questions clearly defined by the Church’s Magisterium – we have also seen that what seems normal for a bishop on one continent, is considered strange and almost scandalous – almost! – for a bishop from another; what is considered a violation of a right in one society is an evident and inviolable rule in another; what for some is freedom of conscience is for others simply confusion. Cultures are in fact quite diverse, and every general principle – as I said, dogmatic questions clearly defined by the Church’s Magisterium – every general principle needs to be inculturated, if it is to be respected and applied. The 1985 Synod, which celebrated the twentieth anniversary of the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, spoke of inculturation as 'the intimate transformation of authentic cultural values through their integration in Christianity, and the taking root of Christianity in the various human cultures'. Inculturation does not weaken true values, but demonstrates their true strength and authenticity, since they adapt without changing; indeed they quietly and gradually transform the different cultures.

We have seen, also by the richness of our diversity, that the same challenge is ever before us: that of proclaiming the Gospel to the men and women of today, and defending the family from all ideological and individualistic assaults.

And without ever falling into the danger of relativism or of demonising others, we sought to embrace, fully and courageously, the goodness and mercy of God who transcends our every human reckoning and desires only that 'all be saved'. In this way we wished to experience this Synod in the context of the Extraordinary Year of Mercy which the Church is called to celebrated.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, the Synod experience also made us better realise that the true defenders of doctrine are not those who uphold its letter, but its spirit; not ideas but people; not formulae but the gratuitousness of God’s love and forgiveness. This is in no way to detract from the importance of formulae – they are necessary – or from the importance of laws and divine commandments, but rather to exalt the greatness of the true God, Who does not treat us according to our merits or even according to our works but solely according to the boundless generosity of His Mercy. It does have to do with overcoming the recurring temptations of the elder brother and the jealous labourers. Indeed, it means upholding all the more the laws and commandments which were made for man and not vice versa.

In this sense, the necessary human repentance, works and efforts take on a deeper meaning, not as the price of that salvation freely won for us by Christ on the cross, but as a response to the One who loved us first and saved us at the cost of his innocent blood, while we were still sinners.

The Church’s first duty is not to hand down condemnations or anathemas, but to proclaim God’s mercy, to call to conversion, and to lead all men and women to salvation in the Lord.

Blessed Paul VI expressed this eloquently: 'We can imagine, then, that each of our sins, our attempts to turn our back on God, kindles in Him a more intense flame of love, a desire to bring us back to Himself and to His saving plan… God, in Christ, shows Himself to be infinitely good. God is good. Not only in Himself; God is – let us say it with tears – good for us. He loves us, He seeks us out, He thinks of us, He knows us, He touches our hearts and He waits for us. He will be – so to say – delighted on the day when we return and say: ‘Lord, in your goodness, forgive me. Thus our repentance becomes God’s joy”.

St. John Paul II also stated that: 'the Church lives an authentic life when she professes and proclaims mercy ... and when she brings people close to the sources of the Saviour’s mercy, of which she is the trustee and dispenser'.

Benedict XVI, too, said: 'Mercy is indeed the central nucleus of the Gospel message; it is the very name of God … May all that the Church says and does manifest the mercy God feels for mankind. When the Church has to recall an unrecognised truth, or a betrayed good, she always does so impelled by merciful love, so that men may have life and have it abundantly'.

In light of all this, and thanks to this time of grace which the Church has experienced in discussing the family, we feel mutually enriched. Many of us have felt the working of the Holy Spirit Who is the real protagonist and guide of the Synod. For all of us, the word 'family' does have the same sound as it did before the Synod, so much so that the word itself already contains the richness of the family’s vocation and the significance of the labours of the Synod.

In effect, for the Church to conclude the Synod means to return to our true 'journeying together' in bringing to every part of the world, to every diocese, to every community and every situation, the light of the Gospel, the embrace of the Church and the support of God’s mercy. Thank you”.

Final Relatio of the Synod: truth and mercy

Vatican City, 24 October 2015 (VIS) – The Synod Fathers approved by 177 votes out of 265, a two-thirds majority, the final Relatio of the 14th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod on the Family, made up of 94 paragraphs, each one of which was voted on individually. The director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., gave a briefing on the document, which was authorised for publication in Italian by Pope Francis.

Fr. Lombardi remarked that the text takes into account the many difficulties faced by the family, but also its great capacity for facing and reacting to them. The conclusive document of the Synod includes many of the amendments to the Instrumentum Laboris presented by the Synod Fathers and therefore reflects the voice of the Assembly.

With reference to the two paragraphs dedicated to complex family situations, which were approved by a very slender majority of 178 and 180 votes, Fr. Lombardi noted that they regard the pastoral approach to wounded families or those that are irregular from a canonical point of view and in terms of the discipline of the Church: in particular, cohabitation, civil marriage, divorced and remarried persons and the way of pastorally addressing these situations.

Fr. Lombardi underlined that the tone of the document is positive and welcoming, and that it has greatly enriched the Instrumentum Laboris. Similarly, the Pope's Motu Proprio on the reform of marriage annulment procedures made an effective and decisive contribution to the theme of the Synod.

The final Relatio reaffirms the doctrine of the indissolubility of sacramental marriage, which is not a yoke but rather a gift from God, a truth based in Christ and in His relationship with the Church. At the same time, it underlines that truth and mercy converge in Christ, which leads to welcome to wounded families. Without expressly mentioning access to the Eucharist for remarried divorcees, the Synod document recalls that they are not excommunicated and refers the analysis of complex family situations to the discernment of pastors. This discernment, the text underlines, must be applied in accordance with the teaching of the Church, with trust in God's mercy that is denied to no-one. With regard to cohabiting couples, the text reiterates that this situation should be faced constructively, seeking to transform it into an opportunity for a path to conversion towards the fullness of marriage and family, in the light of the Gospel.

Other salient points of the document refer to homosexuality. There must be no discrimination against people with homosexual tendencies, but at the same time the text states that the Church is contrary to same-sex unions and external pressure on the Church in relation to this matter is not accepted. There are special paragraphs dedicated to immigrants, refugees and persecuted families who are often divided and whose members can become victims of trafficking. A welcoming approach was invoked for them too, recalling their rights and also their duties in their host countries.

There are specific paragraphs on women, men and children, the mainstays of family life: the text emphasises the need for the protection and the recognition of the value of their respective roles. It is hoped that a more prominent role will be identified for women in the formation of ordained ministers, while in relation to children mention was made of the beauty of adoption and fostering, practices which reconstruct ruptured family bonds. The Synod does not forget widows and widowers, the disabled, the elderly and grandparents, who enable the transmission of faith in the family and must be protected from the throwaway culture. Unmarried people must also be acknowledged for their commitment to the Church and society.

Among the “shadows” that are frequently cast on the family, the Synod notes the presence of political and religious fanaticism hostile to Christianity, growing individualism, gender ideology, conflicts, persecution, poverty, precarious employment, corruption, economic difficulties that can exclude families from education and culture, the globalisation of indifference in which humanity's place at the centre of society is usurped by money, pornography, and the declining birth rate.

The Relation therefore gathers together suggestions for strengthening preparation for marriage, especially for the young who appear intimidated by it. They are in need, says the Synod, of an adequate emotional formation, following the virtues of chastity and self-giving. In this regard, mention was made of the bond between the sexual act and procreation between spouses, of which children are the most precious fruit, since they bear the memory and hope of an act of love. Another bond is that between the vocation of the family and the vocation to consecrated life. Education in sexuality and corporeality and the promotion of responsible parenting would also be central, in accordance with the teachings of Paul VI's encyclical “Humanae Vitae” and the primary role of parents in the education of their children in faith.

An appeal is launched to institutions to promote an support policies in favour of the family, and Catholics engaged in politics are exhorted to protect the family and life, as a society that neglects them loses its openness to the future. In this respect, the Synod reaffirms the sacredness of life from conception to natural death, and warns against the grave threats posed to the family by abortion and euthanasia. Further paragraphs are dedicated to mixed marriages, whose positive aspects in relation to ecumenical and interreligious dialogue are underlined, while confirming the need to protect religious freedom and the right to conscientious objection in society.

The text includes extensive reflection on the need to modify the language of the Church, making it more meaningful so that the proclamation of the Gospel of the family may truly respond to the deepest human aspirations. This means not only presenting a series of regulations but rather announcing the grace that gives the capacity to live well the good of the family.

Finally, the Relatio emphasises the beauty of the family: as a domestic church based on marriage between a man and a woman, the fundamental cell of the society whose growth it contributes, a safe entry to the deepest sentiments, the sole point of connection in a fragmented age, and an integral part of human ecology, it must be protected, supported and encouraged, also by the authorities.

The document concludes by a plea to the Synod Fathers by the Pope, regarding the possibility of producing a document on the family. As Fr. Lombardi explains, “The Synod Fathers do not say that all is complete, but affirm that they offer the Relatio to the Holy Father to enable him to evaluate whether to continue on this route with a document, on the basis of the Synod text, to further examine the theme of the family from the perspective he wishes to offer. 'We continue on our path'”.

Closing Mass of the Synod: what the people sow today in tears, they will reap tomorrow in joy

Vatican City, 24 October 2015 (VIS) – This Sunday the Pope celebrated Mass for the conclusion of the 14th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. In his homily, he reflects on the day's three readings that show us the compassion and paternity of God, revealed in Jesus.

“In the midst of a national disaster, the people deported by their enemies, the prophet Jeremiah proclaims that 'the Lord has saved His people, the remnant of Israel'. Why did He save them? Because He is their Father; and as a Father, He takes care of His children and accompanies them on the way, sustaining 'the blind and the lame, the women with child and those in labour'. His fatherhood opens up for them a path forward, a way of consolation after so many tears and great sadness. If the people remain faithful, if they persevere in their search for God even in a foreign land, God will change their captivity into freedom, their solitude into communion: what the people sow today in tears, they will reap tomorrow in joy.

“We too have expressed, with the Psalm, the joy which is the fruit of the Lord’s salvation: 'our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongues with shouts of joy'. A believer is someone who has experienced God’s salvific action in his life. We pastors have experienced what it means to sow with difficulty, at times in tears, and to rejoice for the grace of a harvest which is beyond our strength and capacity. The passage from the Letter to the Hebrews shows us Jesus’ compassion. He also 'is beset with weakness', so that He can feel compassion for those in ignorance and error. Jesus is the great high priest, holy and innocent, but also the high priest Who has taken on our weakness and been tempted like us in all things, save sin. For this reason He is the mediator of the new and definitive covenant which brings us salvation.

“Today’s Gospel is directly linked to the First Reading: as the people of Israel were freed thanks to God’s fatherhood, so too Bartimaeus is freed thanks to Jesus’ compassion. Jesus has just left Jericho. Even though He has only begun His most important journey, which will take Him to Jerusalem, He still stops to respond to Bartimaeus’ cry. Jesus is moved by his request and becomes involved in his situation. He is not content to offer him alms, but rather wants to personally encounter him. He does not give him any instruction or response, but asks him: 'What do you want me to do for you?'. It might seem a senseless question: what could a blind man wish for if not his sight? Yet, with this question made face to face, direct but respectful, Jesus shows that He wants to hear our needs. He wants to talk with each of us about our lives, our real situations, so that nothing is kept from Him. After Bartimaeus’ healing, the Lord tells him: 'Your faith has made you well'. It is beautiful to see how Christ admires Bartimaeus’ faith, how He has confidence in him. He believes in us, more than we believe in ourselves.

“There is an interesting detail. Jesus asks His disciples to go and call Bartimaeus. They address the blind man with two expressions, which only Jesus uses in the rest of the Gospel. First they say to him: 'Take heart!', meaning 'have faith, strong courage!'. Indeed, only an encounter with Jesus gives a person the strength to face the most difficult situations. The second expression is 'Rise!', as Jesus said to so many of the sick, whom He took by the hand and healed. His disciples do nothing other than repeat Jesus’ encouraging and liberating words, leading him directly to Jesus, without lecturing him. Jesus’ disciples are called to this, even today, especially today: to bring people into contact with the compassionate Mercy that saves. When humanity’s cry, like Bartimaeus’, becomes stronger still, there is no other response than to make Jesus’ words our own and, above all, imitate His heart. Moments of suffering and conflict are for God occasions of mercy. Today is a time of mercy.

“There are, however, some temptations for those who follow Jesus. … None of the disciples stopped, as Jesus did. They continued to walk, going on as if nothing were happening. If Bartimaeus was blind, they were deaf: his problem was not their problem. This can be a danger for us: in the face of constant problems, it is better to move on, instead of letting ourselves be bothered. In this way, just like the disciples, we are with Jesus but we do not think like Him. … We are able to speak about Him and work for Him, but we live far from His heart, which is reaching out to those who are wounded. This is the temptation: a 'spirituality of illusion'”.

“There is a second temptation, that of falling into a 'scheduled faith'. We are able to walk with the People of God, but we already have our schedule for the journey, where everything is listed: we know where to go and how long it will take; everyone must respect our rhythm and every problem is a bother. ... Jesus, on the other hand, wants to include, above all those kept on the fringes who are crying out to Him. They, like Bartimaeus, have faith, because awareness of the need for salvation is the best way of encountering Jesus”.

“Dear Synod Fathers, we have walked together”, he concluded. “Thank you for the path we have shared with our eyes fixed on Jesus and our brothers and sisters, in the search for the paths which the Gospel indicates for our times so that we can proclaim the mystery of family love. Let us follow the path that the Lord desires. Let us ask Him to turn to us with His healing and saving gaze, which knows how to radiate light, as it recalls the splendour which illuminates it. Never allowing ourselves to be tarnished by pessimism or sin, let us seek and look upon the glory of God, which shines forth in men and women who are fully alive”.

The first to walk with us is our Father

Vatican City, 26 October 2015 (VIS) – Following the Holy Mass for the conclusion of the Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, celebrated in St. Peter's Basilica, Pope Francis appeared at the window of his study to pray the Angelus with the faithful and pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square. Before the Marian prayer, the Pope invited those present to “give thanks to God for these three weeks of intense work, inspired by prayer and by a spirit of authentic communion. It has been arduous but it was a true gift from God, which will surely bear many fruits”. He explained that “the word 'Synod' means 'to walk together' and reflected on the Synod experience, also mentioning the continuing refugee crisis.

“This Word of God tells us that the first Who wishes to walk together with us, to have a 'synod' with us is … our Father. His 'dream' is, and has always been, to form a people, to bring them together, leading them toward the land of freedom and peace. And this people is made up of families, the 'mothers and those with child'; it is a people that, as it proceeds, perpetrates life, with God's blessing. … I confess to you that I compare this prophecy of the journeying people with the images of refugees on the streets of Europe, a dramatic situation in our days. God too says to them, 'They departed in tears, but I will console them and guide them; I will lead them to brooks of water'. Even those families who suffer the most, who have been uprooted from their lands, were present with us in the Synod, in our prayers and in our work, through the voices of some of their pastors present in the Assembly. These people in search of dignity, these families looking for peace are still with us. The Church does not abandon them, because they belong to the people that God wants to free from slavery and lead to freedom”.

After praying the Angelus, Pope Francis greeted pilgrims from several countries, especially the Brotherhood of the Lord of Miracles of Rome, “who with great devotion have brought the image venerated in Lima, Peru”, the musical pilgrims of the “Musikverein Manhartsberg” from the Austrian diocese of Vienna and the Orchestra of Landwehr, Fribourg, Switzerland, who had performed in a concert for charity the previous day.

The Pope visits Cardinal Roger Etchegaray

Vatican City, 26 October 2015 (VIS) – Yesterday afternoon the Holy Father made a private visit to Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, who was admitted to the Agostino Gemelli Hospital following a fall at the end of the celebration in the Vatican Basilica, causing a fracture of the left femur. His overall condition is good, but he will need to undergo an operation to repair the fracture.

The Pope spoke cordially with the cardinal for around a quarter of an hour, and gave him his blessing. Cardinal Etchegaray thanked Pope Francis, especially for the Synod which has just come to a close.

Francis receives the Synod of the Chaldean Church: I pray that Christians will not be forced to abandon Iraq and the Middle East

Vatican City, 26 October 2015 (VIS) – This morning Pope Francis received in audience the members of the Synod of the Chaldean Church, led by His Beatitude Patriarch Raphael I Louis Sako, to whom he expressed his solidarity will all the inhabitants of Iraq and Syria, asking that God's mercy heal the wounds of a war that has afflicted the hearts of communities, so that “no one may feel discouragement in this time when the outcry of violence seems to drown out our heartfelt prayers for peace”.

The bishop of Rome remarked that the current situation in their lands of origin “is gravely compromised by the fanatical hatred sown by terrorism, which continues to cause a great haemorrhage of faithful who leave the lands of their fathers, where they grew up firmly rooted in the furrow of tradition. This state of affairs clearly undermines the vital Christian presence in that land which witnessed the beginning of the journey of the Patriarch Abraham, heard the voice of the Prophets who called Israel to hope during the Exile, and saw the foundation of the first Churches upon the blood of many martyrs. There too Christians bore witness to the fullness of the Gospel, made their specific contribution to the growth of society over centuries of peaceful coexistence with our Islamic brothers and sisters. Sadly, these are times which are instead marked by countless examples of persecution, and even martyrdom”.

“The Chaldean Church, which suffers from the war, is also conscious of the needs of the faithful in the diaspora, who are desirous to maintaining their solid roots while becoming part of new situations. So I confirm, today more than ever, the complete support and solidarity of the Apostolic See in favour of the common good of the entire Chaldean Church. I pray that Christians will not be forced to abandon Iraq and the Middle East – I think especially of the sons and daughters of your Church, and their rich traditions. I urge you to work tirelessly as builders of unity in all the provinces of Iraq, fostering dialogue and cooperation among all those engaged in public life, and contributing to healing existing divisions while preventing new ones from arising”.

The visit of the Synod of the Chaldean Church offers the opportunity, said the Pope “to renew my heartfelt appeal to the international community to adopt every useful strategy aimed at bringing peace to countries terribly devastated by hatred, so that the life-giving breeze of love will once more be felt in places which have always been a crossroads for peoples, cultures and nations. May the peace for which we all hope arise on the horizon of history, so that the grievous tragedies caused by violence may yield to a climate of mutual coexistence”.

“The Synod which you are celebrating these days in Urbe, is a 'journeying together', a favourable moment of exchange amid the diversities which enrich your fraternal communion under the gaze of Christ, the Good Shepherd … who is concerned for the salvation of his sheep, and is especially concerned for those who have strayed. May you imitate him: zealous in seeking the salus animarum of priests as well as laity, realising full well that the exercise of communion sometimes demands a genuine kenosis, a self-basement and self-spoliation”.

“In doing so”, he concluded, “you will bridge distances and discern the response to be given to the pressing needs of the Chaldean Church today, in your native lands and in the diaspora. In this way the reflections which emerge from your discussions will be able to provide fruitful solutions to your current needs and points of convergence for resolving liturgical and more general issues”.

To military chaplains: offer a consoling and fraternal presence to returning servicemen

Vatican City, 26 October 2015 (VIS) - “You have come from different countries to reflect together on some of the current challenges of international humanitarian law, relating to the protection of human dignity during non-international armed conflicts and the so-called 'new' armed conflicts. This is, unfortunately, a theme of great current relevance, especially if we think of the intensification of violence and the multiplication of theatres of war in various areas around the world, such as Africa, Europe and the Middle East”, said the Pope today as he received in audience the participants in the fourth training course in international humanitarian law for military chaplains, organised by the Congregation for Bishops, the Pontifical Council “Justice and Peace” and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

Francis highlighted that war ruptures relationships between brothers and nations. “It also disfigures those who are witnesses to such atrocities. Many soldiers return after military action or from peacemaking missions with very real inner wounds. War can leave an indelible mark on them. Indeed, war always leaves an indelible mark”.

“It is therefore necessary to ask what the best ways are to cure the spiritual wounds of servicemen who, having experienced war, have witnessed atrocious crimes. These people and their families require a specific form of pastoral attention, a care that enables them to feel the maternal closeness of the Church. The role of the military chaplain is that of accompanying them and supporting them on their journey, always offering a consoling and fraternal presence”.

“International humanitarian law seeks to safeguard the essential principles of humanity in the context of war, which is in itself dehumanising. It aims to protect those who do not participate in the conflict, such as the civil population or healthcare and religious workers, and those who no longer participate actively, such as the wounded and prisoners. … In order to fulfil its aim of humanising the effects of armed conflict, humanitarian law deserves to be better known and promoted among all soldiers and armed forces, including non-state forces, such as security personnel and police. In addition, it needs to be developed further so as to face the new realities of war which today, unfortunately, involve the use of increasingly deadly weapons”.

“However, as Christians we remain profoundly convinced that the final aim, worthy of humanity and of the human community, is the abolition of war. Therefore, we must always make efforts to build bridges that unite rather than walls that separate; we must always help to look for a glimmer of hope for mediation and reconciliation. … In this period, in which we are living a piecemeal third world war, you are called upon to nurture in soldiers and their families the spiritual and ethical dimension so that it may help them face the difficulties and often devastating questions inherent in the special service they carry out for their homeland and for humanity”.

To the Gypsy population: the time has come to eradicate prejudice

Vatican City, 26 October 2015 (VIS) – This morning, in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall, Pope Francis received in audience the participants in the World Pilgrimage of Gypsy People, which gathered together Roma, Sinti and other itinerant peoples, organised by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples in collaboration with the “Migrantes” Foundation of the Italian Episcopal Conference and the “Migrantes” Office of the diocese of Rome and the Sant'Egidio Community. This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of Blessed Paul VI's visit to the nomad camp of Pomezia, Italy, on 26 September 1965.

Francis mentioned the great changes that have taken place in the Gypsy community since that historic visit, both in the field of evangelisation and in that of human, social and cultural development. “A strong sign of faith and spiritual growth in your ethnic groups is the increasing number of vocations to priestly life, the diaconate and consecrated life”, he said. He described the latter as “a bridge between two cultures” and remarked that they are therefore “called upon always to be witnesses of evangelical transparency to favour the birth, growth and nurturing of new vocations. You must know how to be companions not only on a spiritual journey, but also in everyday life, with its hardships, joys and worries”.

He acknowledged the difficulties faced by these peoples, and commented that he had seen the precarious conditions in which they live during his pastoral visits, emphasising that this situation is in contrast with the right of every person to a dignified life, dignified work, education and healthcare. “I would like to see the beginning of a new history for your people. The time has come to eradicate the deep-rooted prejudices, preconceptions and mutual distrust that are often at the basis of discrimination, racism and xenophobia. No-one should feel isolated, and no-one should be authorised to trample the dignity and rights of others. … Let us therefore allow the Gospel to awaken our consciences and to open our hearts and hands to the neediest and most marginalised, starting from those closest to us”.

Francis encouraged them to be the first to make efforts to construct more human peripheries and to build bonds of fraternity and exchange. “You can do this if you are, first and foremost, good Christians, avoiding all that which is unworthy of the name: falseness, fraud, cheating and quarrels”, and encouraged them to follow the example of blessed Ceferino Gimenez Malla. The Pope urged them not to give the media or public opinion the opportunity to speak badly of them. “You are the agents of your own present and future. Like all citizens, you can contribute to the well-being and the progress of society by respecting the law, fulfilling your duties and integrating also through the emancipation of the new generations”.

With regard to children and the young, “your most valuable treasure”, he stated that “education is without doubt the foundation for the healthy development of the person. It is well known that the limited scholastic level of many of your young people currently represents the main obstacle to access to the world of work. Your children have the right to go to school: do not prevent them from doing so!”. He also commented on the need for effort on the part of civil institutions in “guaranteeing adequate education for young gypsies, also offering families who live in the most disadvantaged conditions the opportunity to benefit from adequate integration in schools and in work”.

The Pope concluded by echoing the words of Blessed Paul VI fifty years ago, when he affirmed that itinerant populations were not at the margins of the Church, but rather, in some respects, at her very heart.

Telegram for the death of Cardinal Korec, tireless defender of the Christian faith and human rights

Vatican City, 26 October 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has sent a telegram of condolences to the Archbishop of Bratislava and the president of the Episcopal Conference of Slovakia, Stanislav Zvolensky, for the death last Saturday of Cardinal Jan Chryzostom Korec, at the age of 91.

The Pope remembers with profound emotion the archbishop emeritus of Nitra, a committed and generous pastor who throughout his long episcopal ministry was a “fearless witness of the Gospel and a tireless defender of the Christian faith and the rights of the person”.

The cardinal, who was imprisoned for several years and prevented from freely exercising his episcopal mission, “did not let himself be intimidated, always giving a luminous example of strength and trust in divine providence, as well as faithfulness to the See of Peter”, Francis writes.

“I thank the Lord for having given His Church this eminent priestly and episcopal figure, and raise fervent prayers to God that He might welcome in His eternal joy, after so much suffering, this good and faithful servant”. The Pope concludes by offering his apostolic blessing to the archbishop, the Slovakian episcopate, the presbytery, religious communities and all the faithful of the diocese of Nitra, whom the cardinal loved and served, as a sign of Christian faith and hope in the Resurrected Lord.

Cardinals, patriarchs and bishops launch appeal to negotiators of COP 21

Vatican City, 26 October 2015 (VIS) – This morning in the Holy See Press Office a press conference was held to present the Appeal by by Cardinals, Patriarchs and Bishops from across the globe representing the continental groupings of national episcopal conferences, to the negotiators of the COP 21 in Paris (Conference of Parties), to be held from 30 November to 11 December this year. The initiative was promoted by the Pontifical Council “Justice and Peace”, inspired by the Holy Father's Encyclical “Laudato si'”.

The speakers were Cardinal Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Bombay, India, president of the FABC (Asia); Cardinal Ruben Salazar Gomez, archbishop of Bogota, Colombia, president of the CELAM (Latin America), Archbishop John Ribat of Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, president of the Federation of Episcopal Conferences of Oceania (FCBCO) and Bishop Jean Kockerols of Mechelen-Brussels, first vice-president of the Commission of the Episcopates of the European Community (COMECE) and, as special envoy, Professor Jean-Pascal van Ypersele de Strihou of the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium, former vice-president of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Before the beginning of the Conference, the Appeal was signed by various representatives of the episcopate from around the world, in the presence of Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council “Justice and Peace”, and His Beatitude Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai, O.M.M., Patriarch of Antioch (Maronites) and president of CCPO (the Council of Catholic Patriarchs of the East), Archbishop Gabriel Mbilingi, C.S.Sp., of Lubango, Angola, president of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), Archbishop Richard William Smith of Edmonton, Canada, former president of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Canada, Msgr. Duarte Nuno Queiroz de Barros de Cunha, general secretary of the Council of Episcopal Conferences of Europe and Msgr. Ronny E. Jenkins, general secretary of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and Bernd Nilles, general secretary of CIDSE (International Alliance of Catholic Development Agencies).

The appeal is issued by Cardinals, Patriarchs and Bishops from across the globe representing the continental groupings of national episcopal conferences and it is addressed to those negotiating the COP 21 in Paris, calling on them to work toward the approval of a fair, legally binding and truly transformational climate agreement.

“Representing the Catholic Church from the five continents, we Cardinals, Patriarchs and Bishops have come together to express, on our own behalf and on behalf of the people for whom we care, the widely-held hope that a just and legally binding climate agreement will emerge from the negotiations of the COP 21 in Paris. We advance a ten-point policy proposal, drawing on the concrete experience of people across the continents, and linking climate change to social injustice and the social exclusion of the poorest and most vulnerable of our citizens.

Climate Change: challenges and opportunities

In his encyclical letter, Laudato si’, addressed ‘to every person living on this planet’, Pope Francis claims that ‘climate change represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity today’. The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all. The natural environment is a collective good, the patrimony of all humanity and the responsibility of everyone.

Whether believers or not, we are agreed today that the earth is essentially a shared inheritance, whose fruits are meant to benefit everyone. For believers, this becomes a question of fidelity to the Creator, since God created the world for everyone. Hence every ecological approach needs to incorporate a social perspective which takes into account the fundamental rights of the poor and the underprivileged.

Damage to climate and environment has enormous repercussions. The problem arising from the dramatic acceleration of climatic change is global in its effects. It challenges us to re- define our notions of growth and progress. It poses a lifestyle question. It is imperative that we find a solution that is consensual, because of the scale and global nature of the climate’s impact, it invites a solidarity that is universal, a solidarity that is ‘intergenerational’ and ‘intragenerational’.

The Pope defines our world as ‘our common home’ and, in the exercise of our stewardship, we must keep in mind the human and social degradation which is a consequence of a damaged environment. We call for an integral ecological approach, we call for social justice to be placed centre stage ‘so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor’.
Sustainable development must include the poor

While deploring the dramatic impact of rapid climate change on sea levels, extreme weather events, deteriorating ecosystems and the loss of biodiversity, the Church is also witness to how climate change is affecting vulnerable communities and peoples, greatly to their disadvantage. Pope Francis draws our attention to the irreparable impact of unrestrained climate change in many developing countries across the world. Moreover, in his address to the United Nations the Pope said the misuse and destruction of the environment are also accompanied by a relentless process of exclusion.

Courageous leaders seeking enforceable agreements

The building and maintenance of a sustainable common home requires courageous and imaginative political leadership. Legal frameworks are required which clearly establish boundaries and ensure the protection of the ecosystem.

Reliable scientific evidence suggests that accelerated climate change is the result of unrestrained human activity, working to a particular model of progress and development, and that excessive reliance on fossil fuels is primarily responsible. The Pope and Catholic Bishops from five continents, sensitive to the damage caused, appeal for a drastic reduction in the emission of carbon dioxide and other toxic gases.

We join the Holy Father in pleading for a major break-through in Paris, for a comprehensive and transformational agreement supported by all based on principles of solidarity, justice and participation. This agreement must put the common good ahead of national interests. It is essential too that the negotiations result in an enforceable agreement that protects our common home and all its inhabitants.

We, Cardinals, Patriarchs and Bishops, issue a general call and make ten specific policy proposals. We call on COP 21 to forge an international agreement to limit a global temperature increase to within those parameters currently suggested from within the global scientific community to avoid catastrophic climatic impacts, especially on the poorest and most vulnerable communities. There is, we agree, a common but also differentiated responsibility of all nations. Different countries have reached a different stage on the development spectrum. The need to work together in a common endeavour is imperative.

Our ten calls:

1. to keep in mind not only the technical but particularly the ethical and moral dimensions of climate change as indicated in Article 3 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

2. to accept that climate and atmosphere are global common goods that are belonging to all and meant for all.

3. to adopt a fair, transformational and legally binding global agreement based on our vision of the world that recognises the need to live in harmony with nature, and to guarantee the fulfilment of human rights for all, including those of Indigenous Peoples, women, youth and workers.

4. to strongly limit a global temperature increase and to set a goal for complete decarbonisation by mid-century, in order to protect front-line communities suffering from the impacts of climate change, such as those in the Pacific Islands and in coastal regions.

- to ensure that the temperature threshold is enshrined in a legally binding global agreement, with ambitious mitigation commitments and actions from all countries recognising their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities (CBDRRC), based on equity principles, historical responsibilities, and the right to sustainable development.

- to secure that the emissions reductions by governments are in line with the decarbonisation goal, governments need to undertake periodic reviews of the pledges they make and of the ambition they show. And to be successful these reviews need also to be based on science and equity and shall be mandatory.

5. to develop new models of development and lifestyles that are climate compatible, address inequality and bring people out of poverty. Central to this is to put an end to the fossil fuel era, phasing out fossil fuel emissions, including emissions from military, aviation and shipping, and providing affordable, reliable and safe renewable energy access for all.

6. to ensure people’s access to water and to land for climate resilient and sustainable food systems, which give priority to people driven solutions rather than profits.

7. to ensure inclusion and participation of the poorest, most vulnerable and impacted at all levels of the decision-making process.

8. to ensure that the 2015 agreement delivers an adaptation approach that adequately responds to the immediate needs of the most vulnerable communities and builds on local alternatives.
9. to recognise that adaptation needs are contingent on the success of mitigation measures taken. Those responsible for climate change have responsibilities to assist the most vulnerable in adapting and managing loss and damage and to share the necessary technology and knowhow.

10. to provide clear roadmaps on how countries will meet the provision of predictable, consistent, and additional finance commitments, ensuring a balanced financing of mitigation actions and adaptation needs.

All this would call for serious ecological awareness and education.

Prayer for the Earth

God of love, teach us to care for this world our common home. Inspire government leaders as they gather in Paris to listen to and heed the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor; to be united in heart and mind in responding courageously; to seek the common good and protect the beautiful earthly garden you have created for us, for all our brothers and sisters, for all generations to come. Amen”.

Bishop Signatories to this Declaration:

Cardinal Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Bombay, India, president of FABC (Asia); Cardinal Peter Erdo, archbishop of of Esztergom –Budapest, president of CCEE (Europe); Cardinal Reinhard Marx, archbishop of Munich, Germany, president of COMECE (Europe); Cardinal Ruben Salazar Gomez, archbishop of Bogota, Colombia, president of CELAM (Latin America); Archbishop Gabriel Mbilingi of Lubango, Angola, president of SECAM (Africa); Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, president of USCCB (United States of America), Archbishop John Ribat of Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, president of FCBCO (Oceania), and Bishop David Douglas Crosby, O.M.I., of Hamilton, Canada, president of CCCB-CECC (Canada).

The document was written in collaboration with the Catholic networks CIDSE and Caritas Internationalis, and with the sponsorship of the Pontifical Council “Justice and Peace”.
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