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Monday, February 2, 2015

To the bishops of Lithuania: constructive dialogue with all, closeness to the poor and assistance to those who emigrate

Vatican City, 2 February 2015 (VIS) - “You have come to Rome with your youth, but also with your heroism. Indeed, among you there are some young brothers, but mostly prelates who have experienced the sad period of persecution. Thank you for your witness to Jesus Christ and for your service to God's holy people”, writes the Holy Father in the discourse handed out at the end of his audience with the Lithuanian Bishops' Conference today, following their five-yearly “ad Limina” visit.

“Lithuania has always had pastors who are close to their flock and united with them”, he continues. “Throughout the history of the nation, they have accompanied their people with care, not only in their journey of faith and in facing material difficulties, but also in the civil and social construction of society; the foundations of its history and identity are found in the strength of the Gospel and the love of the Holy Mother of God. You are the heirs to this history, this heritage of pastoral charity, and you show this with the energy of your action, the communion you inspire and your perseverance in pursuing the goals the Spirit indicates to you”.

“Dear brothers, I know your apostolic labours. If for a long period the Church in your country was oppressed by regimes based on ideologies contrary to human dignity and freedom, today you must face others, more insidious, such as secularism and relativism. Therefore, alongside tireless proclamation of the Gospel and Christian values, you must not forget to maintain constructive dialogue with all, even those who do not belong to the Church or who are distant from religious experience. Ensure that Christian communities are always places of welcome, of open and constructive exchange, a stimulus for society as a whole in the pursuit of the common good”.

Francis does not overlook the ceaseless efforts and attention paid by the Lithuanian bishops to the clergy, and he invites them to pray that God might give them “generous priests capable of sacrifice and devotion”, as well as “convinced laypersons who know how to take responsibility within the ecclesial community and to make a valid Christian contribution to civil society”, to be encouraged by the bishops “with the strength of mature faith, in the civil, cultural, political and social fields”.

The Pope also remarks that the Church is engaged in reflection on the beauty and value of the family, and the challenges it faces in our time. He encourages the bishops, as pastors, to make their contribution to “this great work of discernment”, and above all to pay attention to the pastoral ministry of the family, so that couples “feel the closeness of the Christian community and are helped not to conform to the mentality of this world, but instead to continually renew themselves in the spirit of the Gospel”. He adds, “indeed, in your country, which is now a full member of the European Union, is exposed to an influx of ideologies that seek to introduce elements of destabilisation of families, the result of a misunderstood sense of personal freedom. Centuries-old Lithuanian traditions will help you to respond, in accordance with reason and faith, to these challenges”.

He then goes on to recommend special attention to vocations to the priesthood and to consecrated life, and encourages the Church in Lithuania to pray tirelessly to this end. He also urges adequate formation, both initial and continuing, of priests, consecrated persons and seminarians, as well as the active initiation of contact with them, to avoid leaving them alone with their difficulties. He concludes by exhorting care for the poor. “In Lithuania too, despite current economic development, there are many people in need, unemployed, sick, and abandoned. Be close to them. And do not forget that there are many, especially the young, who for various reasons leave the country to find a new path abroad. Their growing number and their needs require attention and pastoral care on the part of the Bishops' Conference, also to ensure the preservation of their faith and Lithuanian religious traditions”.

Angelus: the Gospel changes life

Vatican City, 1 February 2015 (VIS) – At midday, Pope Francis appeared at the window of his study to pray the Angelus with the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square, and to reflect on the readings in today's liturgy.

This Sunday's Gospel passage narrates Jesus' arrival with his disciples in the city of Capernaum, the birthplace of St. Peter and the largest city in Galilee at the time. St. Mark writes that, since it was the Sabbath, Jesus went immediately to the synagogue and began to teach. “This makes us think of the primacy of the Word of God, a word to listen to, receive and announce”, explained the Holy Father. Upon his arrival in Capernaum, Jesus does not delay in proclaiming the Gospel: “He does not think first of the logistical arrangements, certainly necessary, for his little community; nor does He take his time over organisation. His main concern is communicating the Word of God with the strength of the Holy Spirit. And the people in the synagogue are impressed, because Jesus 'taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes'”.

“What does 'with authority' mean?”, asked the Pope, before explaining that in human words, Jesus felt “all the strength of the Word of God, He felt the same authority of God Himself, the inspirer of the Holy Scriptures. And one of the characteristics of the Word of God is that it accomplishes what it says”. Indeed Jesus, after preaching, immediately demonstrates His authority by freeing a man, present in the synagogue, from possession by a demon. “It was Christ's authority that had provoked the reaction of Satan, hidden in that man. In turn, Jesus immediately recognised the voice of the devil and, severely rebuking him, ordered: 'Quiet! Come out of him!'. With the strength of his word alone, Jesus freed the person from evil. And again those present were astounded. 'He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey Him'. The Word of God creates this wonder in us. It possesses the strength to astonish us”.

“The Gospel is the word of life: it does not oppress people, but on the contrary, frees those who are enslaved by the many evil spirits of this world: the spirit of vanity, attachment to money, pride, sensuality; the Gospel changes hearts, changes lives, transforms the inclination to evil into good resolutions. The Gospel is capable of changing people. Therefore, it is the duty of Christians to spread this redeeming power everywhere, becoming missionaries and heralds of the Word of God. … The new doctrine that Jesus taught with authority is that which the Church brings to the world, along with the effective signs of His presence: authoritative teaching and the liberating action of the Son of God become the words of salvation and the gestures of love of the missionary Church”.

Pope Francis concluded by reminding those present that the Gospel has the strength to change life. “It is the Good News that transforms us only when we let ourselves be transformed by it. This is why I ask you always to make daily contact with the Gospel; to read a passage every day, to meditate upon it and to carry it everywhere with you, in your pocket or in your bag. … It is the power that changes us, that transforms us. It changes life, and it changes the heart”.

The Pope announces his visit to Sarajevo

Vatican City, 1 February 2015 (VIS) – Following today's Angelus prayer, the Holy Father announced that on 6 June he will travel to Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and asked those present for their prayers so that his visit “to those dear populations may give encouragement to the Catholic faithful, may be a leaven for good and contribute to the consolidation of brotherhood, peace, interreligious dialogue and friendship”.

He went on to greet the participants in the fourth world Congress organised by Scholas Occurrentes, to be held in the Vatican from 2 to 5 February on the theme “Responsibility for all education for a culture of encounter”.

Finally, he remarked that today is the “Day for Life” in Italy, focusing this year on the theme “Solidarity for life”. He expressed his appreciation for the associations, movements and all others who defend human life. “I join with the Italian bishops in calling for a renewed recognition of the human person and more suitable care for life from conception to its natural end. When we open ourselves to life and serve life, we experience the revolutionary force of love and tenderness, giving rise to a new humanism: the humanism of solidarity, the humanism of life.”

Pope's Telegram to the new President of the Italian Republic

Vatican City, 2 February 2015 (VIS) – Last Saturday the Holy Father sent a telegram to Sergio Mattarella, new president of the Italian Republic, in which he expresses his hope that the new head of State will be able to exercise his “high office in the service of the unity and harmony of the country”, and invokes upon him “constant divine assistance for enlightened action in the promotion of the common good, in line with the authentic human and spiritual values of the Italian population”.

There is no humanity without cultivation of the land: Francis on the central role of agriculture

Vatican City, 31 January 2015 (VIS) - “There is no humanity without the cultivation of the land; there is no good life without the food it produces for the men and women of every continent. Agriculture thus demonstrates its central role”, said Pope Francis this morning, as he received in audience two hundred managers from the National Confederation of Direct Cultivators in the Clementine Hall on the seventh anniversary of its foundation.

The name “direct cultivators”, explained the Pontiff, refers to cultivation, “a typically human and fundamental activity. In agricultural work there is, indeed, acceptance of the precious gift of the land that comes from God, but there is also its development through the equally valuable work of men and women, called to respond boldly and creatively to the mandate forever entrusted to mankind, the cultivation and stewardship of the land”.

This task, which requires time and energy, constitutes “a true vocation. It deserves to be recognised and suitably valued as such, also in concrete political and economic decisions. This means eliminating the obstacles that penalise such a valuable activity and that often make it appear unattractive to new generations, even though statistics show an increase in the number of students in schools and institutes of agriculture, which leads us to foresee and increase in the numbers of those employed in the agricultural sector. At the same time, it is necessary to pay due attention to the removal of land from agricultural use, to make it available for apparently more lucrative purposes”.

This reflection on agrarian work led the Holy Father to focus on two critical areas: poverty and hunger, and the protection of the environment. “Vatican Council II reiterated the common destination of earthly goods, but in reality the dominant economic system excludes many people from their correct use. The absolutism of the rules of the market and a throwaway culture in which waste of food has reached unacceptable proportions, along with other factors, have caused poverty and suffering for many families. Therefore, the system of production and distribution of food needs to be fundamentally re-evaluated. As our grandparents taught us, you do not play with food! Bread forms part of the sacredness of human life, and must not therefore be treated as a mere commodity”.

With regard to the second theme, the Pope underlined that in Genesis man is called not only to cultivate the land, but also to take care of it. These two aspects “are closely linked: every agriculturalist is well aware of how difficult it has become to cultivate the land in a time of accelerated climate change and increasingly widespread extreme meteorological events. How can we continue to produce good food for the lives of all when climate stability is at risk, when the air, water and the earth itself lose their purity as a result of pollution? We are truly realising the importance of timely action to safeguard Creation; it is urgent that nations succeed in collaborating for this fundamental purpose. The challenge is to achieve a form of agriculture with a low environmental impact. How can we ensure we safeguard the earth as well as cultivating it? Indeed, only in this way will future generations be able to continue to inhabit and cultivate our earth”.

The Holy Father concluded with an invitation to “rediscover love for the earth as the 'mother', as St. Francis would say, from which we come and to which we are constantly called upon to return. And this leads to a proposal: to protect the earth, to make an alliance with her, so that she many continue to be, as God intends, the source of life for the entire human family”.

Members and substitutes from the Episcopal Conferences for the 14th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops

Vatican City, 31 January 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has ratified the appointment of the following prelates as members and substitutes, elected by their respective Episcopal Conferences, for the 14th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which will take place in the Vatican from 4 to 25 October 2015 on the theme “The vocation and mission of the family in the Church and in the contemporary world”:

Member: Bishop Gervais Bashimiyubusa, of Ngozi, president of the Episcopal Conference.
Substitute: Bishop Joachim Ntahondereye of Muyinga.

Member: Bishop Tsegaye Keneni Derera, apostolic vicar of Soddo, Ethiopia.
Substitute: Bishop Markos Gebremedhin, C.M., apostolic vicar of Jimma-Bonga, Ethiopia.

Member: Archbishop Gabriel Charles Palmer-Buckle, of Accra.
Substitute: Bishop Anthony Kwami Adanuty of Keta-katsi.

Members: Cardinal John Njue, archbishop of Nairobi, president of the Episcopal Conference.
Bishop James Maria Wainaina Kungu of Muranga.
Substitute: Bishop Emanuel Barbara, O.F.M. Cap. of Malindi.

Member: Bishop Desire Tsarahazana of Toamasina, president of the Episcopal Conference.
Substitute: Bishop Jean de Dieu Raoelison, auxiliary of Antananarivo.

Member: Bishop Antoine Kambanda of Kibungo.
Substitute: Bishop Smaragde Mbonyintege of Kabgayi, president of the Episcopal Conference.


Members: Bishop Pedro María Laxague, auxiliary of Bahia Blanca.
Archbishop Jose Maria Arancedo of Santa Fe de la Vera Cruz, president of the Episcopal Conference.
Cardinal Mario Aurelio Poli, archbishop of Buenos Aires.
Substitutes: Archbishop Andres Stanovnik, O.F.M. Cap. of Corrientes.
Archbishop Hector Ruben Aguer of La Plata.

Members: Bishop Bernardo Miguel Bastres Florence, S.D.B. of Punta Arenas.
Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati Andrello, S.D.B., archbishop of Santiago de Chile, president of the Episcopal Conference.
Substitute: Bishop Cristian Contreras Villarroel of Melipilla, general secretary of the Episcopal Conference.

Member: Archbishop Juan de la Caridad Garcia Rodriguez of Camaguey.
Substitute: Bishop Marcelo Arturo Gonzalez Amador of Santa Clara.

Members: Archbishop Antonio Arregui Yarza of Guayaquil.
Archbishop Luis Gerardo Cabrera Herrera, O.F.M. of Cuenca.
Substitutes: Bishop Julio Parrilla Diaz of Riobamba.
Bishop Marcos Aurelio Perez Caicedo of Babahoyo, vice president of the Episcopal Conference.

Member: Bishop Luis Sole Fa, C.M. of Trujillo.
Substitute: Bishop Angel Garachana Perez, C.M.F. of San Pedro Sula.

Members: Bishop Rodrigo Aguilar Martinez of Tehuacan.
Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, archbishop of Mexico.
Bishop Francisco Javier Chavolla Ramos of Toluca.
Cardinal Francisco Robles Ortega, archbishop of Guadalajara, president of the Episcopal Conference.

Substitutes: Bishop Alfonso Gerardo Miranda Guardiola, auxiliary of Monterrey.
Bishop Jose Francisco Gonzalez Gonzalez of Campeche.

Members: Archbishop Joseph Edward Kurtz of Louisville, president of the Episcopal Conference.
Archbishop Charles Joseph Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. of Philadelphia.
Cardinal Daniel N. Di Nardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston, vice president of the Episcopal Conference.
Archbishop Jose Horacio Gomez of Los Angeles.

Substitutes: Bishop Blase J. Cupich of Spokane.
Archbishop Salvatore Joseph Cordileone of San Francisco.

Member: Bishop Jaime Rafael Fuentes Martin of Minas.
Substitute:Bishop Rodolfo Pedro Wirz Kraemer of Maldonado-Punta del Este, president of the Episcopal Conference.


Member: Bishop Joseph Arshad of Faisalabad.
Substitute: Archbishop Sebastian Francis Shaw of Lahore.

Members: Archbishop Paul Bui Van Doc of Thanh-Pho Ho Chi Minh, Hochiminh Ville, president of the Episcopal Conference.
Bishop Joseph Dinh Duc Dao, auxiliary of Xuan Loc.
Substitute: Bishop Pierre Nguyen Van Kham of My Tho.


Member: Bishop George Frendo, O.P. Auxiliary of Tirane-Durres.
Substitute: Bishop Ottavio Vitale, R.C.I. of Lezhe, Lesh.

Member: Bishop Benno Elbs of Feldkirch.
Substitute: Bishop Kalus Kung of Sankt Polten.

Member: Bishop Tomo Vuksic, military ordinary of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Substitute: Bishop Marko Semren, O.F.M. auxiliary of Banja Luka.

Members: Archbishop Georges Pontier of Marseille, president of the Episcopal Conference.
Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, archbishop Paris.
Bishop Jean-Luc Brunin of Le Havre.
Bishop Jean-Paul James of Nantes.
Substitutes: Bishop Olivier de Germay of Ajaccio.
Bishop Bruno Feillet, auxiliary of Reims.

Members: Cardinal Vincent Gerard Nichols, archbishop of Westminster, president of the Episcopal Conference.
Bishop Peter John Haworth Doyle of Northampton.
Substitute: Bishop Philip Anthony Egan of Portsmouth.

Member: Bishop Fragkiskos Papamanolis, O.F.M. Cap. emeritus of Syros, president of the Episcopal Conference.
Substitute: Archbishop Nikolaos Foskolos, emeritus of Athenai.

Members: Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin.
Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh, president of the Episcopal Conference.
Substitute: Archbishop Kieran O'Reilly, S.M.A. of Cashel.

Members: Cardinal Audrys Jouzas Backis, archbishop emeritus of Vilnius.
Substitute: Bishop Rimantas Norvila of Vilkaviskis.

Member: Cardinal Willem Jacobus Eijk, archbishop of Utrecht.
Substitute: Bishop Johannes Wilhelmus Maria Liesen of Breda.

Members: Cardinal Ricardo Blazquez Perez, archbishop of Valladolid, president of the Episcopal Conference.
Bishop Mario Iceta Gavicagogeascoa of Bilbao.
Archbishop Carlos Osoro Sierra of Madrid.
Substitute: Bishop Juan Antonio Reig Pla of Alcala de Henares.

Members: Bishop Daniel Eugene Hurley of Darwin.
Archbishop Mark Benedict Coleridge of Brisbane.
Substitute: Archbishop Philip Edward Wilson of Adelaide.

Member: Bishop Charles Edward Drennan of Palmerston North.
Substitute: Cardinal John Atcherley Dew, archbishop of Wellington, president of the Episcopal Conference.

Assembly on “Women's cultures”

Vatican City, 2 February 2015 (VIS) – A press conference was held in the Holy See Press Office this morning to present the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Culture on the theme “Women's Cultures: between equality and difference”, which will be held in Rome from 4 to 7 February. The speakers were Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture; Anna Maria Tarantola, president of RAI (Radiotelevisione Italiana); Monica Maggioni, director of RAI News, and Nancy Brilli, actor.

The Assembly will be divided into four sessions in which the following themes will be considered: “Between equality and difference: the quest for equilibrium”, “Generativity as a symbolic code”, “The female body: between culture and biology” and “Women and religion: flight or new forms of participation in the life of the Church?”. The Congress will be attended only by members and consultors of the Pontifical Council by pontifical appointment, with the exception of the session on Wednesday 4 February, when there will be a moment of public participation at the Teatro Argentina in Rome. For a period of 50 minutes there will be a series of videos, brief interviews, readings and images, and live music. Entry will be free, subject to capacity.


Vatican City, 2 February 2015 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father received in audience:

- Cardinal Agostino Vallini, vicar general of His Holiness for the diocese of Rome;

- Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, archbishop of Vienna, Austria;

- Eleven prelates of the Lithuanian Bishops' Conference, on their “ad limina” visit:

-Archbishop Sigitas Tamkevicius of Kaunas, with his auxiliary, Bishop Kestutis Kevalas;
- Bishop Eugenijus Bartulis of Siauliai;
- Bishop Jonas Boruta of Telsia, with his auxiliary, Bishop Linas Vodopjanovas;
- Bishop Rimantas Norvila of Vilkaviskis;
- Archbishop Gintaras Grusas of Vilnius, with his auxiliary, Bishop Arunas Poniskaitis and the archbishop emeritus, Cardinal Audrys Juozas Backis;
- Bishop Jonas Ivanauskas of Kaisiadoris; and
- Bishop Lionginas Virbalas of Panevezys.

On Saturday, 31 January the Holy Father received in audience:

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

- Cardinal Willem Jacobus Eijk, archbishop of Utrecht, Netherlands;

- Archbishop Yaser Rasmi Hanna Al-Ayyash of Petra and Philadelphia of the Greek-Melkites, Jordan;

- Don Notker Wolf, abbot primate of the Benedictine Confederation of Congregations;

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

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 2 February 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed:

- Msgr. Francisco Eduardo Cervantes Merino as bishop of Orizaba (area 2,012, population 663,000, Catholics 589,000, priests 89, religious 136), Mexico. The bishop-elect was born in Ocatan Merino Palafox, Mexico in 1953, and was ordained a priest in 1979. He holds a licentiate in pastoral theology from the Pontifical Lateran University, Rome, and a licentiate in educational psychology from the Normal Superior School of Mexico. He has held a number of pastoral roles in the diocese of Tuxpan, including parish vicar, parish priest of the “Corpus Christi” parish, professor at the diocesan seminary, diocesan coordinator of youth pastoral ministry, and member of the presbyteral council. He is currently parish priest of the Cathedral and vicar for pastoral ministry.

- Msgr. Liberatus Sangu as bishop of Shinyanga (area 50,000, population 2,440,000, Catholics 745,000, priests 55, religious 58), Tanzania. The bishop-elect was born in Mwazye, Tanzania in 1963 and ordained a priest in 1994. He studied sacramental theology at the St. Anselm Pontifical Athenaeum in Rome, and has held a number of pastoral and administrative roles, including formator in the minor seminary of Kaengesa, Sumbawanga; parish priest in Matai; director for vocations; formator at the preparatory seminary and head of youth pastoral ministry, and parish priest “ad tempus” in Sopa. He currently serves as an official of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples.

- Fr. Alphonsus Cullinan as bishop of Waterford and Lismore (area 2,542, population 157,358, Catholics 146,215, priests 134, religious 353), Ireland. The bishop-elect was born in County Clare in 1959 and was ordained a priest in 1994. He taught in schools in Castleconnell, Limerick and Valladolid, Spain for ten years before preparing for the priesthood in the national seminary at Maynooth. He studied moral theology at the Alphonsianum Academy, Rome, where he obtained a doctorate in Christian anthropology and utilitarianism. He has served as parish vicar at St. Munchin, chaplain of the Mid-Western Regional Hospital in Limerick, and chaplain at the Limerick Institute of Technology. He is currently parish priest in the parish of Rathkeale, Limerick.

On Saturday, 31 January the Holy Father appointed:

- Bishop Adelio Dell'Oro as bishop of Karaganda (area 711,208, population 3,590,000, Catholics 31,300, priests 18, religious 41), Kazakhstan, conserving “donec aliter provideatur” the role of apostolic administrator of Atyrau, Kazakhstan.

- Fr. Pietro Bovati, S.J., secretary of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, as consultor of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
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