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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

General audience: Brother, sister: words beloved to Christianity

Vatican City, 18 February 2015 (VIS) – Continuing his cycle of catechesis dedicated to the family, after reflecting on the figure of the mother and father, the Pope today spoke about fraternity. “'Brother' and 'sister' are words that Christianity loves. And, thanks to the family, they are words that all cultures and all ages understand”.

Fraternal bonds are very important in the history of the people of God, and are highly praised in the Old Testament. However their rupture opened up a deep abyss in mankind, and God's question to Cain - “Where is your brother?” - never ceases to resonate throughout history. “And”, exclaimed the Pontiff, “unfortunately, in this generation too, Cain's dramatic answer is also repeated endlessly: “I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper?”. The rupture of the bond between brothers disfigures humanity. And even within families, how many brothers argue over small things, an inheritance, and then no longer even speak to or greet each other? If we think that they inhabited the womb of the same mother …. We all know families in which there are divisions between brothers. Let us pray to the Lord for them, to help brothers be reunited and families rebuilt. And let us always keep these divided brothers in our prayers”.

The bond of fraternity that is formed in the family, among children, if it occurs a climate of education in openness to others, “is the great school of freedom and peace. Perhaps we are not always aware of this, but it is precisely the family that introduces fraternity into the world”, remarked the Pope, emphasising that from this first experience, fraternity “radiates like a promise to the whole of society and the relations between peoples. And the blessing that God – in Jesus Christ – lavishes upon this bond of fraternity, extends it unimaginably, making it capable of surpassing any difference of nation, culture or even religion”.

He added, “Think about what becomes of the bond between men, even the most diverse, when they are able to say of another, 'he is just like a brother, she is just like a sister to me'. History has demonstrated sufficiently that even liberty and equality, without fraternity, can be filled with individualism, conformism and personal interest”.

Fraternity in the family shines in a special way “when we see the care, patience, and affection that surround those brothers and sisters who are weak, sick, or disabled. Having a brother or a sister who cares for you is a powerful experience, priceless and irreplaceable. The same applies to the Christian family. We must be moved to tenderness by the smallest, the weakest, the poorest: they have a 'right' to capture our heart and soul. Yes, they are our brothers and we must love them and treat them as such. When this happens, when it is as if the poor are part of the family, our Christian fraternity comes to life. Indeed, Christians go towards the poor and the weak not in obedience to an ideological programme, but because the word and example of the Lord tell us that they are our brothers. This is the principle of God's love and of all justice between men”.

“And now I suggest one thing”, he added, off the cuff: “in silence, each of us, let us think of our brothers and sisters, and pray for them”. St. Peter's Square remained in silence for a moment, after which Francis added, “With this prayer we brought all of them, our brothers and sisters, here in the square to be blessed”.

“Today, more than ever, it is necessary to bring fraternity back to the centre of our technocratic and bureaucratic society: then liberty and equality will also acquire the correct tone. Therefore, let us not light-heartedly deprive our families, through apprehension or fear, of the beauty of a full fraternal experience. And lot us not lose our trust in the broad horizon that faith is able to draw from this experience, enlightened by God's blessing”.

Appeal for Libya

Vatican City, 18 February 2015 (VIS) – Following this morning's catechesis, Pope Francis launched a fresh appeal for prayers for “our Egyptian brothers, killed in Libya three days ago for the mere fact of being Christians. May the Lord welcome them into his house and console their families and their communities”.

He also encouraged prayer for peace in the Middle East and in North Africa, remembering all the deceased, the wounded and refugees. “May the international Community find peaceful solutions to the difficult situation in Libya”.

Francis joins in prayer for peace in Ukraine

Vatican City, 18 February 2015 (VIS) – At the end of today's general audience, the Pope greeted the faithful gathered in the square in various languages. He dedicated some special words to the Ukrainian bishops, currently in Rome on their “ad Limina” visit, and all the faithful accompanying them. “Слава Ісусу Христу! Praise be to Jesus Christ!”, said the Holy Father in Ukrainian. “I know that among the many intentions you bring to the Tombs of the Apostles there is the plea for peace in Ukraine. I carry the same wish in my heart and join in your prayer that lasting peace may come soon to your homeland”.

52nd Campaign for Fraternity in Brazil: dialogue and collaboration between the Church and society

Vatican City, 18 February 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has sent a message to the faithful of Brazil on the occasion of the 52nd Campaign for Fraternity in Brazil, organised annually by the Episcopal Conference during Lent. The theme of this year's Campaign is “Fraternity: Church and Society”.

“We are nearing Lent, the time of preparation for Easter: a time of penance, prayer and charity, a time to renew our lives, to identify with Jesus through generous donation to our brothers, especially those most in need”, writes the Pope. “Indeed, the Church, the community in which 'God gathered together as one all those who in faith look upon Jesus as the author of salvation and the source of unity and peace', cannot be indifferent to the needs of those she encounters, as 'the joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted … are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ'”.

Francis mentions in his message that during these forty days, the Campaign for Fraternity wishes to help deepen, in the light of the Gospel, dialogue and collaboration between Church and society, to serve the construction of the Kingdom of God in the heart and life of the Brazilian people. He underlines, however, that this is not the exclusive task of institutions: all people must contribute, starting in their own home, their own workplace, and in relations with others. “Let us recall that each individual Christian and every community is called to be an instrument of God for the liberation and promotion of the poor, and for enabling them to be fully a part of society. This demands that we be docile and attentive to the cry of the poor and come to their aid”.

The Holy Father encourages an “examination of conscience” on the “concrete and effective commitment of each one of us in the construction of a more just, fraternal and peaceful society”. He concludes, “I hope that this year's Lenten journey, in the light of the proposals of the Campaign for Fraternity, may predispose hearts to the new life offered to us by Christ, and that the transformative power that flows from the Resurrection reaches everyone in its pastoral, family, social and cultural dimension, and strengthens sentiments of fraternity and lively collaboration in every heart”.

Francis thanks the Italian Coast Guard for their work with refugees and immigrants

Vatican City, 18 February 2015 (VIS) – Yesterday evening in the Domus Sanctae Marthae the Pope received a delegation from the Italian Coast Guard, and heard their account of the difficult rescue operations they carry out at sea to save refugees and migrants. The delegation was composed of nine people, led by Admiral Commander Felicio Angrisano and Admiral Giovanni Pettorino, head of the operative unit, and accompanied by the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Maurizio Lupi.

The members of the delegation recounted their moving and inspiring experiences, and the Pope expressed his participation and appreciation for the service they carry out with bravery and dedication to the poorest. He recalled his trip to Lampedusa and praised the solidarity of the islanders with the refugees that arrive there, even at the expense of tourism in the area. He also mentioned that he had sent his Almoner, Archbishop Krajewski, to participate in the operation to recover bodies following the tragic shipwreck last year, and concluded, “I truly admire you, and I feel small before the work that you do, risking your lives, and I offer my heartfelt thanks to you for this. But I support you in the best way I can: with prayer, praise and affection”.


Vatican City, 18 February 2015 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father received in audience Ricardo Lewandowski, president of the Federal Supreme Court of Brazil.
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