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Monday, February 23, 2015

St. Gregory of Narek, Doctor of the Church

Vatican City, 23 February 2015 (VIS) – On Saturday, 21 February the Holy Father received in audience Cardinal Angelo Amato, S.D.B., prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. During the audience he confirmed the proposal by the cardinals and bishops, members of the Plenary Session of the Congregation, to concede the title of Doctor of the Universal Church to St. Gregory of Narek, priest and monk, who was born in Andzevatsij (then Armenia, present-day Turkey) in 1005 and died in Narek (then Armenia, present-day Turkey) around 1005.

Lent, time for spiritual battle against evil

Vatican City, 22 February 2015 (VIS) – Lent, the liturgical time that refers to the forty days Jesus spent in the desert after his baptism in the river Jordan, was the subject of the Pope's reflection before this Sunday's Angelus prayer with the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square.

On the first Sunday of Lent, Francis explained that during these forty days of solitude in which Jesus prepared himself to announce the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, he “faces Satan 'body to body', he unmasks his temptations and is victorious. And in Him we all win, but it is up to us to protect this victory in our daily life”.

“The Church reminds us of this mystery at the beginning of every Lenten period”, he continued, “because it gives us the prospect and the meaning of this time, which is a time of combat – during Lent one must fight – a time of spiritual combat against the spirit of evil. And while we cross the Lenten 'desert', we keep our gaze fixed upon Easter, the definitive victory of Jesus against the Evil One, against sin and against death. This, then, is the meaning of this first Sunday of Lent: placing ourselves on the path of Christ, the road that leads to life”.

“And this, Jesus' path, passes through the desert, ... the place where both the voice of God and the voice of the Tempter can be heard. Amid noise and confusion; only superficial voices can be heard. Instead, in the desert we are able to descend to the depths, where our destiny is truly played out, life or death. And how do we hear the voice of God? We hear it in His Word. This is why it is important to know the Scripture, as otherwise we do not know how to respond to the deceptions of the Evil One. … Always keep a copy of the Gospel to hand. The Lenten desert helps us to say no to worldliness, to 'idols'; it helps us to make courageous decisions consistent with the Gospel and to strengthen solidarity with our brothers”.

“Therefore, let us enter into the desert without fear, because we are not alone; we are with Jesus, with the Father and with the Holy Spirit”, added the Holy Father. “Lent is an auspicious time to lead us to be increasingly aware of how much the Holy Spirit, received in baptism, has worked and can work in us. At the end of the Lenten itinerary, on the Easter Vigil, we are able to renew the baptismal alliance and the duties that derive from this with greater awareness”.

The Pope completed his reflection by entrusting to the Virgin the week of Spiritual Exercises that began yesterday afternoon, and in which his collaborators in the Roman Curia will also participate. He asked those present to pray, “so that in this 'desert' of the Spiritual Exercises, we can hear the voice of Jesus and also correct many flaws that we all have, and also to face up to the temptations that assail us every day. I therefore ask you to accompany us with your prayer”.

Following the Angelus prayer, the Pope referred again to Lent, “a path of conversion whose centre is the heart”, and gave the faithful present in the square a small booklet entitled “Custodisci il cuore”, “Safeguard your heart”. Distributed by a group of volunteers, including various homeless persons, it brings together a number of Jesus' teachings and the essential content of the faith, such as for instance the seven Sacraments, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the ten commandments, the virtues, the works of mercy, and so on.

“As is always the case, today in the square the needy give us a great wealth: the wealth of our doctrine to safeguard the heart”, he remarked, referring to the work of the homeless volunteers. “Take a booklet and carry it with you, to help in spiritual conversion and growth, which always starts from the heart: there, where the daily choices between good and evil are made, between worldliness and the Gospel, between indifference and sharing. Humanity needs justice, peace and love, and will obtain this only by returning wholeheartedly to God, the source”.

Spiritual exercises of the Pope and the Roman Curia

Vatican City, 22 February 2015 (VIS) – At 6 p.m. today, the first Sunday of Lent, at the House of the Divine Master in Ariccia, a few kilometres from Rome, the Roman Curia began its Spiritual Exercises, in which the Holy Father participates.

The meditations will be proposed by Fr. Bruno Secondin, O. Carm., and the theme will be “Servants and prophets of the living God”, a pastoral reading of the prophet Elijah.

The Exercises will be concluded on the morning of Friday, 27 February.

During the week of the Spiritual Exercises all audiences will be suspended, including the General Audience on Wednesday, 25 February.

Audience with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel

Vatican City, 21 February 2015 (VIS) – This morning the Holy Father Francis received in Audience in the Vatican Apostolic Palace the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, Angela Merkel, who subsequently met with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, accompanied by Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, secretary for Relations with States.

During the cordial discussions, and in view of the upcoming G7 Summit to be held in Bavaria, special attention was paid to various questions of an International nature, with particular reference to the struggle against poverty and hunger; the exploitation of human beings and the rights of women; and the challenges of promoting world health and the protection of Creation. The themes of human rights and religious freedom in various parts of the world were also considered, emphasising the importance of spiritual values to social cohesion.

Finally, the Parties considered the situation in Europe, underlining in particular the commitment to reaching a peaceful solution to the conflict in Ukraine.

The Pope again urges affiliates of organised crime to convert

Vatican City, 21 February 2015 (VIS) – This morning in the Paul VI Hall the Pope received in audience more than seven thousand people from the Italian diocese of Cassano all'Jonio, in the region of Calabria, which Francis visited last June, and whose church welcomes different rites and traditions that express “the variety of gifts that enrich Christ's Church”.

The Holy Father greeted the representatives of the various associations from the area that are occupied in “welcoming the suffering Christ”, especially those who have problems of substance abuse through support centres and homes, and recalled last year's meeting with the detainees in the Castrovillari prison, with the sick, and the extraordinary presence of the people on the Sibaris plain. “May the Lord help you to be welcoming communities, to accompany toward Christ those who find it difficult to discern his presence that saves”.

“I would like to reaffirm a thought that I suggested to you during my visit: he who loves Jesus, he who listens to Him and welcomes His Word, and he who lives in a sincere way the response to the Lord's call cannot in any way lend himself to the works of evil. Either Jesus, or evil! Jesus did not invite us to dine with demons: he cast them out, because they were evil. It is not possible to declare oneself Christian and then violate the dignity of people; those who belong to the Christian community cannot plan and implement violent acts against others and against the environment. The outward gestures of religiosity, unaccompanied by true and public conversion, are not sufficient to believe oneself in communion with Jesus and with His Church. The external gestures of religiosity are not enough to credit as believers those who, with the wickedness and arrogance typical of miscreants, make illegality their way of living. To those who have chosen the way of evil and who are affiliated to delinquent organisations, I renew my invitation to conversion. Open your heart to the Lord! The Lord awaits you and the Church will welcome you if, just as your decision to serve evil is public, your wish to serve good is clear and public”.

“The beauty of your land is a gift from God and an asset to conserve and to hand down in all its splendour to future generations”, remarked Francis. “Therefore, there is a need for courageous efforts by all, starting with the institutions, to ensure that it is not defaced irreparably by sordid interests”. He went on to list the Emmanuel Community among the places of beauty in the area: an place of “welcome and sharing” where young people whose lives have been devastated by drug abuse can find a “good Samaritan who tends to their wounds and knows how to anoint them with the balsam of closeness and affection”, and noted that it has restored hope to many families. “The Church thanks you for this service”, he said. “Placing yourself by the side of young people and adults who suffer as a result of addiction, you have embraced the suffering Christ and sowed hope”.

“Our time has a great need for hope!”, exclaimed the Holy Father. “The young can no longer be robbed of hope. … The young need hope. It is necessary to offer concrete signs of hope to those who experience pain and suffering. Social organisations and associations, as well as individuals who strive towards acceptance and sharing, are generators of hope. Therefore, I exhort your Christian communities to be agents of solidarity, never to stop before those who, for mere personal interest, sow self-centredness, violence and injustice. Oppose yourselves to the culture of death and be witnesses to the Gospel of life! May the light of God's Word and the support of the Holy Spirit help you to look with new and willing eyes upon the new forms of poverty that drive so many young people and families to desperation”.


Vatican City, 21 February 2015 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father received in separate audiences:

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

- Cardinal Angelo Amato, S.D.B., prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 23 February 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed:

- Bishop Freddy Antonio de Jesus Breton Martinez of Bani, Dominican Republic, as metropolitan archbishop of Santiago de los Caballeros (area 3,633, population 1,320,000, Catholics 1,105,000, priests 128, permanent deacons 121, religious 325), Dominican Republic. He succeeds Archbishop Ramon Benito de la Rosa y Carpio, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese upon reaching the age limit was accepted by the Holy Father.

- Rev. Andres Napoleon Romero Cardenas as bishop of Barahona (area 6,973, population 396,270, Catholics 215,000, priests 28, permanent deacons 2, religious 54), Dominican Repubilc. The bishop-elect was born in Ramonal Arriba, Dominican Republic in 1967 and was ordained a priest in 1995. He holds a licentiate in philosophy and letters and in religious sciences from the Pontifical University Mater et Magistra, Dominican Republic, and in biblical theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University, and has served in a number of pastoral and academic roles, including parish vicar, formator in the minor seminary and diocesan director for priestly vocations, professor of sacred scripture and research methodology, dean of the faculties of philosophy and theology, and formator at the St. Thomas Aquinas Pontifical major seminary. He is currently parish priest of the Cathedral of Santa Ana in the diocese of San Francisco de Macoris. He succeeds Bishop Rafael Leonidas Felipe y Nunez, whose resignation from the pastoral governance of the same diocese upon reaching the age limit was accepted by the Holy Father.

- Fr. Hector Rafael Rodriguez Rodriguez M.S.C., as bishop of La Vega (area 4,919, population 977,000, Catholics 801,000, priests 92, permanent deacons 65, religious 223), Dominican Republic. The bishop-elect was born in Sanchez, Dominican Republic in 1961, gave his solemn vows in 1984 and was ordained a priest in 1989. He holds a licentiate in spiritual theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University. During his pastoral ministry he has served as parish vicar and, within his community, director for aspirants at the Vocational Centre, director of the post-novitiate, master of novices, Provincial. He has also served as member of the Managing Body of the Dominican Conference of Religious. He is currently first adviser of the Congregation of Missionaries of the Sacred Heart. He succeeds Bishop Antonio Camilo Gonzalez, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese upon reaching the age limit was accepted by the Holy Father.

- Bishop Jose Miguel Gonzalez Rodriguez of Libano-Honda, Colombia, as bishop of Facatativa (area 2,311, population 546,000, Catholics 512,000, priests 93, permanent deacons 4, religious 305), Colombia.

On Saturday, 21 February appointed Archbishop Edgar Pena Parra, apostolic nuncio in Pakistan, as apostolic nuncio in Mozambique.
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