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Monday, January 26, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Angelus: God too thirsts for us

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

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

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

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

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

New appeal for a cease to the violence in Ukraine

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

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

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

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

The most effective antidote to violence is accepting difference as richness

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

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

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

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

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

Francis: “Unity is achieved by walking together”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

- Cardinal Luis Sistach, archbishop of Barcelona, Spain;

- Bishop Gastone Simoni, emeritus of Prato, Italy;

- Bishop Francesco Micciche, emeritus of Trapani, Italy;

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

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

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

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

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

Other Pontifical Acts

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

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

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

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