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Monday, February 16, 2015

Audience with the King of Tonga: satisfaction at the nomination of the first cardinal from the archipelago

Vatican City, 16 February 2015 (VIS) – Today in the Vatican Apostolic Palace the Holy Father Francis received in audience Their Majesties the King Tupou VI of Tonga and the Queen Nanasipau’u Tuku’aho, who went on to meet with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, accompanied by Archbishop Paul Gallagher, secretary for Relations with States.

His Majesty first expressed his satisfaction at the election of the first Cardinal from the archipelago, Cardinal Soane Patita Paini Mafi, underlining the enthusiasm of the population and the presence of Her Majesty the Queen and numerous Tongans at the Ordinary Public Consistory held on 14 February. During the cordial discussions, attention was paid to the recent political developments in the country and on a number of aspects of social and economic life, as well as the positive contribution of the Catholic Church in various areas of society.

There was subsequently an exchange of opinions on the international situation, with particular reference to the island States of the Pacific and the environmental problems that some of them are compelled to face.

The Pope receives the representatives of the Church of Scotland (Reformed)

Vatican City, 16 February 2015 (VIS) – The Right Rev. John P. Chalmers, moderator of the Church of Scotland, accompanied by a group of representatives of the same Church, were received this in audience this morning by the Holy Father who, in his greeting, expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to meet and share with them a common commitment to the service of the Gospel and the cause for Christian unity.

“Scotland’s rich cultural and historical traditions have been shaped by outstanding saintly witnesses to Christ from various confessions”, he observed. “The present state of ecumenical relations in Scotland clearly shows that what we, as Christians, hold in common is greater than all that divides us. On this basis the Lord is calling us to seek ever more effective ways to overcome old prejudices and to find new forms of understanding and cooperation”.

The Pope remarked that he was heartened to see that “the good relations between the Church of Scotland and the Catholic Church have borne fruit in shared reflection on the challenges posed by contemporary society, and that in many cases we are able to speak with one voice on issues which deeply affect the lives of all Christians. In our globalised and often confused world, a common Christian witness is a necessary requisite for the effectiveness of our efforts to evangelise.

“We are pilgrims and we journey alongside one another. We need to learn to have 'sincere trust in our fellow pilgrims, putting aside all suspicion or mistrust, and turn our gaze to what we are all seeking: the radiant peace of God’s face', he continued, citing his Apostolic Exhortation “Evangelii gaudium”. He went on to reiterate that faith and Christian witness current face such great challenges that “only by working together will we be able effectively to serve the human family and enable the light of Christ to reach every dark corner of our hearts and of our world”.

“May the journey of reconciliation and peace between our communities continue to draw us closer, so that, prompted by the Holy Spirit, we may bring life to all, and bring it in abundance. Let us pray for one another, and continue to advance in the way of wisdom, good will, strength and peace”. Pope Francis then added, in his native Spanish, “allow me to use my mother tongue to express a profound and sad sentiment. Today I have read about the execution of those twenty-one or twenty-two Coptic Christians. They said only: 'Jesus, help me'. They were assassinated for the mere fact of being Christians. You, Brother, in your discourse, referred to what is happening in Jesus' land. The blood of our Christian brothers is a testimony that calls to us. Regardless of whether they are Catholic, Orthodox, Coptic, Lutherans – this does not matter, they are Christians. And blood is the same. Their blood confesses Christ. In remembrance of these brothers of ours who have died for the mere fact of confessing Christ, I ask that we encourage each other to go ahead with this ecumenism, that is giving us strength, this ecumenism of blood. The martyrs are all Christians. Let us all pray for each other”.

To the Pro Petri Sede Association: there is much to learn from the poor

Vatican City, 16 February 2015 (VIS) - “I am grateful for your commitment to serving the poor. The growing number of marginalised people living in situations of extreme precariousness is a fact that calls to us and demands zealous solidarity to offer them the material and spiritual support they need”, said the Pope this morning, as he received in audience the members of the Pro Petri Sede Association, on their pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles in these days. “At the same time, we have much to receive from the poor whom we encounter and assist”, he added. “In the throes of difficulty, they are often witnesses to the essential, to family values; they are able to share with those who are poorer than them, and to rejoice in it. … Indifference and self-centredness are always on the increase. Care for the poor enriches us by setting us on a path of humility and truth”.

Francis encouraged them to pray to the Lord, especially during the Lenten time that is about to begin, to ask Him to give them a merciful and poor heart, that knows its own poverty and offers itself to others. He mentioned their valuable work in assisting the neediest populations throughout the world, offering them spiritual consolation so that they do not feel forgotten in their difficulties and retain hope. He also invited them to pray fervently for peace, “so that political leaders may find ways of dialogue and reconciliation”, and concluded by expressing his hope that their pilgrimage might increase in every one of them “the sense of belonging to the Church, which is a great family, and the joy of announcing the Gospel to all. May fraternity be strengthened among you, so you may carry out your mission in the service of the poor and the least, for whom Jesus has a special predilection”.

Before concluding, the Pope added some impromptu words regarding the Benelux countries, which “have filled the world with missionaries. Today they face a vocational crisis. I would like to ask you to knock on the door of Jesus' heart and ask Him not to forget the generosity that these two countries had in other times. May He send vocations to Benelux, so that the life of faith may grow further. You work with the poor and love the poor, but think also of those who are poor in faith, who have no faith because there is no-one to preach it to them. May the Lord send priests to announce the faith. And please, pray for vocations in your countries”.

Francis at the Mass with new cardinals: the way of the Church is that of mercy and inclusion

Vatican City, 15 February 2015 (VIS) – At 10 a.m. today Pope Francis presided at a Eucharistic celebration in the Vatican Basilica with the cardinals created in yesterday's consistory, and with all the cardinals in Rome for the occasion.

In the homily he pronounced before the members of the College of Cardinals, in which he commented on the passage from the Gospel narrating the healing of the leper – marginalised, despised and abandoned for being “impure” – Francis insisted that the cardinals follow Jesus' merciful logic and reminded them that the way of the Church is “not only to welcome and reinstate with evangelical courage all those who knock at our door, but to go out and seek, fearlessly and without prejudice, those who are distant, freely sharing what we ourselves freely received”.

'Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean…': Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out his hand and touched him, and said: 'I do choose. Be made clean!'. The compassion of Jesus! That com-passion which made him draw near to every person in pain! Jesus does not hold back; instead, he gets involved in people’s pain and their need for the simple reason that he knows and wants to show com-passion, because he has a heart unashamed to have 'compassion'.

“'Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed in the country; and people came to him from every quarter'. This means that Jesus not only healed the leper but also took upon himself the marginalisation enjoined by the law of Moses. Jesus is unafraid to risk sharing in the suffering of others; he pays the price of it in full.

“Compassion leads Jesus to concrete action: he reinstates the marginalised! These are the three key concepts that the Church proposes in today’s liturgy of the word: the compassion of Jesus in the face of marginalisation and his desire to reinstate.

“Marginalisation: Moses, in his legislation regarding lepers, says that they are to be kept alone and apart from the community for the duration of their illness. He declares them: 'unclean!'.

“Imagine how much suffering and shame lepers must have felt: physically, socially, psychologically and spiritually! They are not only victims of disease, but they feel guilty about it, punished for their sins! Theirs is a living death; they are like someone whose father has spat in his face.

“In addition, lepers inspire fear, contempt and loathing, and so they are abandoned by their families, shunned by other persons, cast out by society. Indeed, society rejects them and forces them to live apart from the healthy. It excludes them. So much so that if a healthy person approached a leper, he would be punished severely, and often be treated as a leper himself.

“True, the purpose of this rule was 'to safeguard the healthy', 'to protect the righteous', and, in order to guard them from any risk, to eliminate the 'peril' by treating the diseased person harshly. As the high priest Caiaphas exclaimed: 'It is better to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed'.

Reinstatement: Jesus revolutionises and upsets that fearful, narrow and prejudiced mentality. He does not abolish the law of Moses, but rather brings it to fulfilment. He does so by stating, for example, that the law of retaliation is counterproductive, that God is not pleased by a Sabbath observance which demeans or condemns a man. He does so by refusing to condemn the sinful woman, but saves her from the blind zeal of those prepared to stone her ruthlessly in the belief that they were applying the law of Moses. Jesus also revolutionises consciences in the Sermon on the Mount, opening new horizons for humanity and fully revealing God’s 'logic'. The logic of love, based not on fear but on freedom and charity, on healthy zeal and the saving will of God. For 'God our Saviour desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth'. 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice'.

“Jesus, the new Moses, wanted to heal the leper. He wanted to touch him and restore him to the community without being 'hemmed in' by prejudice, conformity to the prevailing mindset or worry about becoming infected. Jesus responds immediately to the leper’s plea, without waiting to study the situation and all its possible consequences! For Jesus, what matters above all is reaching out to save those far off, healing the wounds of the sick, restoring everyone to God’s family! And this is scandalous to some people!

“Jesus is not afraid of this kind of scandal! He does not think of the closed-minded who are scandalised even by a work of healing, scandalised before any kind of openness, by any action outside of their mental and spiritual limits, by any caress or sign of tenderness which does not fit into their usual thinking and their ritual purity. He wanted to reinstate the outcast, to save those outside the camp.

“There are two ways of thinking and of having faith: we can fear to lose the saved and we can want to save the lost. Even today it can happen that we stand at the crossroads of these two ways of thinking. The thinking of the doctors of the law, which would remove the danger by casting out the diseased person, and the thinking of God, who in his mercy embraces and accepts by reinstating him and turning evil into good, condemnation into salvation and exclusion into proclamation.

“These two ways of thinking are present throughout the Church’s history: casting off and reinstating. Saint Paul, following the Lord’s command to bring the Gospel message to the ends of the earth, caused scandal and met powerful resistance and great hostility, especially from those who demanded unconditional obedience to the Mosaic law, even on the part of converted pagans. Saint Peter, too, was harshly criticised by the community when he entered the house of the pagan centurion Cornelius.

“The Church’s way, from the time of the Council of Jerusalem, has always always been the way of Jesus, the way of mercy and reinstatement. This does not mean underestimating the dangers of letting wolves into the fold, but welcoming the repentant prodigal son; healing the wounds of sin with courage and determination; rolling up our sleeves and not standing by and watching passively the suffering of the world. The way of the Church is not to condemn anyone for eternity; to pour out the balm of God’s mercy on all those who ask for it with a sincere heart. The way of the Church is precisely to leave her four walls behind and to go out in search of those who are distant, those essentially on the 'outskirts' of life. It is to adopt fully God’s own approach, to follow the Master who said: 'Those who are well have no need of the physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call, not the righteous but sinners'.

“In healing the leper, Jesus does not harm the healthy. Rather, he frees them from fear. He does not endanger them, but gives them a brother. He does not devalue the law but instead values those for whom God gave the law. Indeed, Jesus frees the healthy from the temptation of the 'older brother', the burden of envy and the grumbling of the labourers who bore 'the burden of the day and the heat'.

In a word: charity cannot be neutral, antiseptic, indifferent, lukewarm or impartial! Charity is infectious, it excites, it risks and it engages! For true charity is always unmerited, unconditional and gratuitous!. Charity is creative in finding the right words to speak to all those considered incurable and hence untouchable. Finding the right words. Contact is the language of genuine communication, the same endearing language which brought healing to the leper. How many healings can we perform if only we learn this language of contact! The leper, once cured, became a messenger of God’s love. The Gospel tells us that 'he went out and began to proclaim it freely and to spread the word'.

Dear new Cardinals, this is the 'logic', the mind of Jesus, and this is the way of the Church. Not only to welcome and reinstate with evangelical courage all those who knock at our door, but to go out and seek, fearlessly and without prejudice, those who are distant, freely sharing what we ourselves freely received. 'Whoever says: “I abide in [Christ]”, ought to walk just as he walked'. Total openness to serving others is our hallmark, it alone is our title of honour!

“Consider carefully that, in these days when you have become Cardinals, we have asked Mary, Mother of the Church, who herself experienced marginalisation as a result of slander and exile, to intercede for us so that we can be God’s faithful servants. May she – our Mother – teach us to be unafraid of tenderly welcoming the outcast; not to be afraid of tenderness. How often we fear tenderness! May Mary teach us not to be afraid of tenderness and compassion. May she clothe us in patience as we seek to accompany them on their journey, without seeking the benefits of worldly success. May she show us Jesus and help us to walk in his footsteps.

“Dear new Cardinals, my brothers, as we look to Jesus and our Mother, I urge you to serve the Church in such a way that Christians – edified by our witness – will not be tempted to turn to Jesus without turning to the outcast, to become a closed caste with nothing authentically ecclesial about it. I urge you to serve Jesus crucified in every person who is marginalised, for whatever reason; to see the Lord in every excluded person who is hungry, thirsty, naked; to see the Lord present even in those who have lost their faith, or turned away from the practice of their faith, or say that they are atheists; to see the Lord who is imprisoned, sick, unemployed, persecuted; to see the Lord in the leper – whether in body or soul – who encounters discrimination! We will not find the Lord unless we truly accept the marginalised! May we always have before us the image of St. Francis, who was unafraid to embrace the leper and to accept every kind of outcast. Truly, dear brothers, the Gospel of the marginalised is where our credibility is at stake, is discovered and is revealed!”.

Angelus: good is contagious

Vatican City, 15 February 2015 (VIS) – At midday, following the Mass celebrated with the cardinals in the Vatican Basilica, the Pope appeared at the window of his study in the Apostolic Palace to pray the Angelus with the faithful and pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square.

Francis returned to the theme of his homily, Christ's compassion and mercy when faced with any type of ailment of the body or spirit, based on the Gospel narrative of the healing of the leper.

“God's mercy overcomes every barrier, and Jesus' hand touches the leper. He does not keep a safe distance and does not act by proxy, but rather He directly exposes Himself to contagion by our malady; and it is precisely our malady that becomes the locus of contact: He, Jesus, takes our ailing humanity from us and we take His healthy, restorative humanity from Him. This happens every time that we receive a Sacrament with faith: the Lord Jesus 'touches' us and gives us His grace. In his case, we think especially of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which cures us from the leprosy of sin”.

“Once again the Gospel shows us what God does when faced with our sickness: God does not come to 'give a lecture' on pain; neither does He come to eliminate suffering and death from the world; rather, He comes to take upon Himself the burden of our human condition, to bear it unto the end, to free us in a radical and definitive way. Thus Christ vanquishes the ills and sufferings of the world: by taking them upon Himself and defeating them with the strength of God's mercy”.

Today, the Gospel passage of the healing of the leper tells us that if we wish to be “true disciples of Christ, we are required to become, joined with Him, instruments of His merciful love, setting aside every type of marginalisation. To be 'imitators of Christ' before the poor or sick, we must not be afraid to look them in the eye and to draw closer with tenderness and compassion, to touch and embrace them”, explained the Pope, adding that he often asks those who help others to do so “looking them in the eye, without being afraid to touch them, so that the gesture of aid may also be a gesture of communication”.

“We too need to be accepted by them”, he continued, “A gesture of tenderness, a gesture of compassion. … If evil is contagious, so is good. Therefore, good must increasingly abound in us. Let us be 'infected' by good, and spread good to others!”.

Following the Angelus prayer, the Holy Father expressed his desire for hope and peace to all the men and women of the Far East and in the other parts of the world that celebrate the new lunar year. “This celebrations offer them the happy occasion to rediscover and live intensely fraternity, the precious bond of family life and the foundation of social life. May this annual return to the roots of the person and the family help these peoples to build a society in which relationships based on respect, justice and charity may be woven”.

Finally, he greeted all those who have come to Rome for the consistory and to accompany the new cardinals, and thanked the countries that had sent official delegations. Pope Francis concluded by asking the faithful and pilgrims in the Square to applaud the new cardinals.


Vatican City, 16 February 2015 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father received in audience:

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

- Pynchas Brener, chief rabbi emeritus of the “Israelite Union of Caracas”, and entourage.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 16 February 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed Bishop Ystinus Harjosusanto, M.S.F., of Tanjung Selor, Indonesia, as archbishop of Samarinda (area 114,810, population 2,774,246, Catholics 105,959, priests 44, religious 109), Indonesia.
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