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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

First general audience of 2015: the central role of mothers in the Church and in the Christian community

Vatican City, 7 January 2015 (VIS) – “The first day of the year is the feast day of the Mother of God, followed by the Epiphany, which recalls the visit of the Magi. The evangelist Matthew writes, 'And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him'. It was the Mother who, after having generated Him, who presents the Son to the world. She gives us Jesus, she shows Jesus to us”. With these words Pope Francis began the first catechesis of the Wednesday morning general audiences of 2015, which he dedicated to the figure of the mother, both in the family and in the Christian community.

“Every human being owes his or her life to a mother, and almost always owes much of his or her subsequent existence, human and spiritual formation, to her”, affirmed the Pope. “However, although the mother is highly exalted from a symbolic point of view, she is listened to and helped very little in daily life, and her central role in society is not given much consideration. On the contrary, often the willingness of mothers to sacrifice themselves for their children is exploited in order to save on social expenditure”.

Even in the Christian community, the mother is not always given due consideration. “Yet at the centre of the life of the Church there is the Mother of Jesus. … It is necessary to better understand their daily struggle to be efficient at work and attentive and affectionate at home; we must better understand what they aspire to in order to express the best and most authentic results of their emancipation”.

Mothers are “the strongest antidote to individualism. … They are those who most hate war, which kills their children. They bear witness to the beauty of life. Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero said that mothers live a 'maternal martyrdom'. In his homily at the funeral of a priest killed by death squads, he said, echoing Vatican Council II, 'We must all be willing to die for our faith, even if the Lord does not grant us this honour... Giving life does not only mean being killed; giving life, having the spirit of martyrdom, is giving in duty, in silence, in prayer, in the honest fulfilment of one's duty; in that silence of everyday life, giving life a little at a time. Yes, as it is given by a mother, who without fear, with the simplicity of maternal martyrdom, conceives a child in her womb, gives him life, nurses him, nurtures him and cares for him with affection. It is giving life. It is martyrdom'. Yes, being a mother does not mean merely bringing a child into the world, but it is also a choice of life, the decision to give life”.

“A society without mothers would be an inhuman society, as mothers always know how to show tenderness, devotion and moral strength, even in the moments of greatest difficulty. Mothers often also transmit the deepest sense of religious practice. … It is a message that mothers who believe know how to transmit without much explanation; this arrives later, but the seed of faith is planted in those first precious moments. Without mothers … faith would lose a good part of its simple, profound warmth”.

“And the Church is a mother”, exclaimed the Pope. “We are not orphans; we are children, we have a mother – the Virgin, the mother Church and our mother. We are not orphans, we are children of the Church, we are the children of Mary and of our mother. Thank you, dear mothers, for what you are in the family and for what you give to the Church and to the world. And to you, our beloved Church, thank you for being a mother. And to you, Mary, mother of God, thank you for presenting us to Jesus”.

Following the catechesis, the Holy Father greeted, among others, a delegation of French imams engaged in dialogue between Islam and Christianity, and a group of Polish survivors of the Auschwitz concentration camp, freed seventy years ago.

To circus performers, creators of beauty: humanity needs beauty

Vatican City, 7 January 2014 (VIS) – “The people who perform in the circus create beauty – they are creators of beauty. And this is good for the soul. How we are in need of beauty!” exclaimed Pope Francis, in his greetings to the performers of the Liana Orfei Golden Circus, who performed before the Pontiff at the end of today's general audience. “Our life is very practical – we do things, we carry out our work, we do what we have to do – 'doing' is the language of the hands. But our life is also about thinking and reason. And this is important, as we are animals who think – we do not think like animals! Thought, the language of the mind, is important. We are also people who love, who have this capacity to love: the language of the heart. … And all these three languages unite to create the unity of the person. And there beauty lies: and those of you who performed today are creators of harmony, creators of beauty, who show us the high road of beauty”.

He continued, “God is certainly true, God is certainly good, God certainly knows how to do things, He created the world – but above all, God is beautiful! The beauty of God. Very often we forget about beauty. Let us not forget this, and let us thank these people who are good at doing things, good at maintaining balance, at performing, but most of all, good at creating beauty”.

Epiphany: “the Magi did not reject the smallness of the child Jesus”

Vatican City, 6 January 2015(VIS) – This morning the Holy Father celebrated Holy Mass in the Vatican Basilica on the Solemnity of the Epiphany. The ceremony was accompanied by the Pontifical Sistine Chapel Choir and, as is customary, was attended by the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See.

In his homily, Pope Francis commented that the child, born in Bethlehem, “came not only for the people of Israel, represented by the shepherds of Bethlehem, but also for all humanity, represented today by the wise men from the East”. He added, “it is on the Magi and their journey in search of the Messiah that the Church today invites us to meditate and pray”.

The wise men from the East were “the first in that great procession of which the prophet Isaiah spoke in today’s first reading: a procession which from that time on has continued uninterrupted; in every age it hears the message of the star and finds the Child Hho reveals the tenderness of God. New persons are always being enlightened by that star; they find the way and come into His presence”.

According to tradition, the Pontiff explained, “the wise men were sages, watchers of the constellations, observers of the heavens, in a cultural and religious context which saw the stars as having significance and power over human affairs. The wise men represent men and woman who seek God in the world’s religions and philosophies: an unending quest. Men and women who seek God”.

They indicate to us “the path of our journey through life. They sought the true Light. As a liturgical hymn of Epiphany which speaks of their experience expresses: 'Lumen requirunt lumine'; by following a light, they sought the light, 'Lumen requirunt lumine'. They set out in search of God. Having seen the sign of the star, they grasped its message and set off on a long journey. The Holy Spirit called them and prompted them to set out; during their journey they were also to have a personal encounter with the true God”.

Along the way, the wise men encountered many difficulties. “Once they reached Jerusalem, they went to the king's palace, for they thought it obvious that the new king would be born in the royal palace. There they lost sight of the star. How often sight of the star is lost! And, having lost sight of the star, they met with a temptation, placed there by the devil: it was the deception of Herod. King Herod was interested in the child, not to worship Him but to eliminate Him. Herod is the powerful man who sees others only as rivals. Deep down, he also considers God a rival, indeed the most dangerous rival of all. In the palace the wise men experience a moment of obscurity, of desolation, which they manage to overcome thanks to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, who speaks through the prophecies of sacred Scripture. These indicate that the Messiah is to be born in Bethlehem, the city of David”.

At that point “they resume their journey, and once more they see the star; the evangelist says that they 'rejoiced exceedingly'. Coming to Bethlehem, they found 'the child with Mary His mother'. After that of Jerusalem, this was their second great temptation: to reject this smallness. But instead, 'they fell down and worshipped Him', offering him their precious symbolic gifts. Again, it is the grace of the Holy Spirit which assists them. That grace, which through the star had called them and led them along the way, now lets them enter into the mystery. The star which led them on the journey allows them to enter into the mystery. Led by the Spirit, they come to realise that God’s criteria are quite different from those of men, that God does not manifest himself in the power of this world, but speaks to us in the humbleness of His love. God’s love is great. God’s love is powerful. But the love of God is humble, very humble. The wise men are thus models of conversion to the true faith, since they believed more in the goodness of God than in the apparent splendour of power”.

“And so we can ask ourselves”, continued the Holy Father, “what is the mystery in which God is hidden? Where can I find Him? All around us we see wars, the exploitation of children, torture, trafficking in arms, human trafficking … In all these realities, in these, the least of our brothers and sisters who are enduring these difficult situations, there is Jesus. The crib points us to a different path from the one cherished by the thinking of this world: it is the path of God’s self-abasement, that humility of God’s love by which He abases himself, He completely lowers himself, His glory concealed in the manger of Bethlehem, on the cross upon Calvary, in each of our suffering brothers and sisters”.

“The wise men entered into the mystery”, he concluded. “They passed from human calculations to the mystery: this was their conversion. And our own? Let us ask the Lord to let us undergo that same journey of conversion experienced by the wise men. Let us ask Him to protect us and to set us free from the temptations which hide the star. To let us always be aware of the uncomfortable question: 'Where is the star?', whenever – amid the deceptions of this world – we lose sight of it. To let us know ever anew God’s mystery, and not to be scandalised by the 'sign', that sign spoken of by the angels, which points to 'a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger', and to have the humility to ask the Mother, our Mother, to show Him to us. To find the courage to be liberated from our illusions, our presumptions, our 'lights', and to seek this courage in the humility of faith and in this way to encounter the Light, Lumen, like the holy wise men. May we enter into the mystery. May it be so”.

Angelus: the path of the Magi is a journey of the soul towards Christ

Vatican City, 6 January 2015 (VIS) – At the end of the Eucharistic celebration in St. Peter's Square, Pope Francis appeared at the window of his study to pray the Angelus with the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square.

The Holy Father, returning to the theme of the journey of the wise men, remarked that “with their act of adoration, the Magi testify that Jesus came to earth to save not just one people, but all peoples” and, therefore on the Epiphany “our gaze extends to the horizon of the whole world to celebrate the manifestation of the Lord to all people, that is, the manifestation of God’s love and universal salvation”.

“As the Creator and Father of all, he wishes to be the Saviour of all”, he continued. “This is why we are always required to nurture great trust and hope in every person and in his salvation: even those who appear to be far from the Lord are followed – or rather “pursued” – by His impassioned -and faithful love”.

The Gospel account of the Magi describes their journey from the East as “a journey of the soul, a journey towards the encounter with Christ. They are attentive to the signs that point to His presence; they are tireless in facing the difficulties of their search; they are courageous in coping with the consequences of their encounter with the Lord. ... The experience of the Magi evokes every man’s journey to Christ. … The star that is able to guide every person to Jesus is the Word of God, which is the light that directs our journey, nourishes our faith and regenerates it”. Therefore, Pope Francis emphasised, “We must not forget to read it and to meditate on it every day, so that it may be a flame we carry within us to illuminate our steps and the steps of those who walk beside us, who perhaps struggle to find their way to Christ”.

The Holy Father went on to mention “our brothers and sisters in the Christian East, Catholics and Orthodox, many of whom celebrate the Nativity of Our Lord tomorrow”, and sent them a warm greeting.

Finally, he remarked that today we celebrate the World Day of Missionary Childhood, “dedicated to children who joyfully live the gift of faith and pray that the light of Jesus might reach all the children of the world. I encourage teachers to nurture the missionary spirit in the young so that witnesses of God's tenderness and heralds of His love might be born among them”.

The Holy See intensifies its fight against the Ebola virus

Vatican City, 7 January 2015 (VIS) – The Pontifical Council “Justice and Peace” today publishes its document “Expanding the Catholic Church's commitment to the Ebola emergency response”, in which it describes for the first time its pastoral response to a relatively new disease which has devastated communities above all in the countries of Western Africa, especially Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

According to the document, “The Holy See wishes to express its appreciation to the local Catholic Church in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone for its timely response to the Ebola crisis. In order to strengthen these efforts, and as a practical response to the emergency, the Holy See is making a financial contribution. The funds will support Church-sponsored structures with a view to increasing the assistance they offer via healthcare institutions, community initiatives and pastoral care of patients and healthcare professionals. The Holy See encourages other donors, whether private or public, to add to these funds as a sign of solidarity with our brothers and sisters who are suffering gravely in the areas affected by the disease.

“The monies contributed by the Holy See will be used to purchase much-needed protective supplies, to assist with the transport of patients, and to pay for the renovation of buildings, among other things. A portion of the Holy See’s contribution will be directed towards residents in targeted communities so as to develop and enhance strategies needed to stop the spread of Ebola. Funds are also earmarked for the support of afflicted families and orphaned children. As part of a pastoral response, the Holy See will contribute to the care of people in affected areas by training and supporting clergy, men and women religious as well as lay pastoral workers, ensuring that they are better equipped to attend to the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the sick and the suffering. The Holy See will focus on parishes,because so much of the Church’s work takes place at the level of the parish, and it is an important grass-roots institution in fighting the Ebola-related stigma now emerging as a serious problem, particularly for survivors”.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 7 January 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed:

- Bishop Jose Antonio Peruzzo of Palmas – Francisco Beltrao, Brazil, as archbishop of Curitiba (area 5,751, population 2,444,000, Catholics 1,821,000, priests 405, permanent deacons 64, religious 1,549), Brazil.

- appointed Fr. Leomar Antonio Brustolin as auxiliary of the archdiocese of Porto Alegre (area 13,530, population 3,395,000, Catholics 2,527,000, priests 362, permanent deacons 58, religious 1,487), Brazil. The bishop-elect was born in Caxias do Sul, Brazil in 1967 and was ordained a priest in 1992. He studied philosophy at the University of Caxias do Sul and theology at the Pontifical University of Rio Grande do Sul, and holds a licentiate in systematic theology from the Jesuit faculty (FAJE) at Belo Horizonte and a doctorate in theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum), Rome. He has served in a number of pastoral and academic roles, including parish vicar of the Cathedral of Caxias do Sul, professor of theology at the Pontifical University of Rio Grande do Sul at Porto Alegre, coordinator of the licentiate course in theology at the same university, director of the course in theology for laypersons and director of the Centre for Theology of Caxias do Sul. He is currently parish priest of the St. Teresa of Avila Cathedral in Caxias do Sul.

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