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Monday, March 2, 2015

To the prelates of North Africa: always be men of hope

Vatican City, 2 March 2015 (VIS) – This morning, the prelates of the Regional Episcopal Conference of North Africa (C.E.R.N.A), which encompasses the dioceses of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya were received in audience by the Pope at the end of their “ad Limina” visit. The Holy Father handed them a written address in which he recalls that the history of the region has been marked by many saintly figures from St. Cyprian and St. Augustine, a “spiritual patrimony for all the Church”, to Blessed Charles de Foucauld, who died one hundred years ago next year.

“For several years your region has been experiencing significant changes, which offer hope that aspirations to greater freedom and dignity may be fulfilled and which favour greater freedom of conscience”, continues Francis. “But at times these events have led to outbursts of violence. I wish to mention, in particular, the courage, loyalty and perseverance of the bishops of Libya, as well as the priests, consecrated persons and laypeople who stay in this country despite the many dangers. They are genuine witnesses of the Gospel. I thank them with all my heart and encourage them to continue their efforts in contributing to peace and reconciliation throughout the region”.

“Your episcopal conference … is an important forum for exchange and dialogue, but it must also be a tool for communion, for deepening fraternal relations and mutual trust”, the Pope writes. “The pilgrimage to Rome is a good opportunity to renew your joint commitment in the service of the Church's mission in each of your countries. You carry out this mission with your priests, your direct collaborators. They are from many countries and at times it is difficult for them to adapt to new situations. Therefore, it is particularly important to be close to them and to be attentive to their continuing formation so that they can live their ministry fully and serenely. … Men and women religious also have a special place in the life and in the mission of your Church, and I thank them for their witness of fraternal life and their generous commitment to the service of their brothers and sisters”.

“At the heart of your mission and at the origin of your hope there is, above all, the personal encounter with Jesus Christ and the certainty that He is at work in the world where you have been sent on His behalf. The evangelical vitality of your dioceses depends, therefore, on the quality of your spiritual and sacramental life”, observes the Holy Father, who alongside the saints from the region, mentions also “the men and women religious who have offered everything to God and to their brothers, to the point of sacrificing their own lives”. He highlights the bishops' responsibility for developing this spiritual legacy firstly among the faithful, but also opening it up to all. “I am pleased to hear that in recent years, various Christian shrines have been restored in Algeria. By welcoming all, kindly and without proselytising, your communities show that they wish to be a Church with open doors, always reaching out”.

“Universality is a feature of these Churches, where the faithful come from many countries to form living communities. … This offers the opportunity to admire God's work, which spreads among all peoples and all cultures”, writes the Pontiff, who goes on to greet the many students from sub-Saharan Africa, whom he invites to “stay firm in the faith” so as to be able to establish “bonds of friendship, trust and respect” with all persons, “thus contributing to the construction of a more fraternal world”.

Interreligious dialogue is also very important in the life of these Churches, and Francis stresses that in this field “the imagination of charity can open up countless ways of bringing the breath of the Gospel to the most diverse cultures and social sectors. As you are aware, mutual ignorance is the source of many misunderstandings and even conflicts. … The most effective antidote to any form of violence is education in the discovery and acceptance of difference as richness and fertility. Therefore, it is essential that priests, religious and laypeople in your dioceses are well-prepared in this area”.

In this regard, the Pope notes his satisfaction that the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies (PISAI), born in Tunisia, will celebrate its fiftieth anniversary this year. He invites the bishops to “support and make use of this institution when necessary, to experience language and culture” and to “deepen dialogue in truth and love between Christians and Muslims”. This dialogue is also experienced by bishops on a day-to-day basis with Christians of other confessions, and Francis therefore expresses his desire that the Al Mowafaqa Ecumenical Institute, founded in Morocco to promote ecumenical and interreligious dialogue may also contribute to greater mutual awareness.

“A Church of encounter and dialogue, you also wish to be at the service of all without distinction. Often with modest means, you manifest the charity of Christ and all the Church towards the poor, the sick, the elderly, women in need and the imprisoned. Thank you for your work in the assistance of the many immigrants from Africa who seek in your countries a place of transit or of welcome. Recognising their human dignity and working to awaken consciences before so many human tragedies, you show God's love for each one of them”.

“Dear brothers in the episcopate”, he concluded, “I wish to assure you of the support of all the Church in your mission. You are in the 'peripheries', with your special service of making manifest the presence of Christ and His Church in this region. Your testimony of life in simplicity and poverty is an eminent sign for all the Church. Be assured that the Successor of Peter accompanies you on your rough road, and encourages you always to be men of hope”.

Pope Francis' prayer intentions for March

Vatican City, 1 March 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father's universal prayer intention for March is: “That those involved in scientific research may serve the well-being of the whole human person”.

His intention for evangelisation is: “That the unique contribution of women to the life of the Church may be recognised always”.

Angelus: let us be transformed by love

Vatican City, 1 March 2015 (VIS) - “On this second Sunday of Lent, the Church shows us the ultimate goal of this itinerary of conversion, or rather, participation in the glory of Christ”, said the Pope before this Sunday's Angelus prayer upon returning from the week of spiritual exercises. He also recalled that last Sunday's Gospel passage presented Jesus resisting Satan's temptations in the desert.

“Today's Gospel tells us of the event of the Transfiguration, which takes place at the culmination of Jesus' public ministry. He is on the path to Jerusalem, where the prophecies of the Servant of God will be fulfilled and His redemptive sacrifice will be consummated”. Francis remarked that neither the multitude nor the apostles understood that the outcome of Jesus' mission of suffering would be His glorious passion, and so He decided to show a glimpse of His glory to the apostles Peter, James and John, to confirm them in their faith and to encourage them to follow him on the path of trial, on the way of the Cross. “From the heavens, they heard the voice of the Father: 'This is my beloved Son; hear him'”.

The Pope explained that listening to Christ involves assuming the logic of his Paschal mystery, placing ourselves on the path with Him in order to make of our existence a gift of love for others, in docile obedience to the will of God the Father, with an attitude of detachment from worldly things and of inner freedom. “It means, in other words, being ready to 'lose one's life', to sacrifice it so that all men might be saved; in this way we find eternal joy. There will always be a cross to bear and there will be trials along the way, but in the end it will always lead us to happiness”. Finally, the Pope encouraged those present to let themselves be transfigured by love, which is capable of transforming everyone, and to invoke the Virgin Mary to support us on our way.

Syria, Iraq and Venezuela in the Pope's prayers

Vatican City, 1 March 2015 (VIS) – Following today's Angelus prayer the Pope made an appeal regarding “the dramatic situation in Syria and Iraq, involving violence, abduction and abuse of Christians and other groups. I wish to assure those involved in these situations that we have not forgotten them; rather, we are close to them and pray ceaselessly for a swift end to the intolerable brutality they are subjected to”. He also commented that, along with the members of the Roman Curia, he offered the second Holy Mass of the spiritual exercises to this intention, and asked all persons, as far as possible, to work to alleviate the suffering of those afflicted, often merely because of the faith they profess. Let us pray for these brothers and sisters who suffer for the faith in Syria and Iraq”.

The Pontiff also commented on the acute tension that Venezuela is experiencing at present. “I pray for the victims and, in particular, for the boy who died a few days ago in San Cristobal. I urge all involved to reject violence and to respect the dignity of every person and the sacredness of human life, and encourage them to undertake a joint path for the good of the country, reopening space for sincere and constructive encounter and dialogue”.

The Pope to cooperatives: promote the economy of honesty

Vatican City, 28 February 2015 (VIS) - “The Church has always acknowledged, appreciated and encouraged the cooperative experience”, Pope Francis affirmed this morning, greeting more than seven thousand members of the Confederation of Italian Cooperatives who group together a number of different sectors, from agriculture to construction, including fishing and the distribution of consumer goods.

In this regard, Francis referred to various documents of the Magisterium, such as the encyclicals “Rerum Novarum”, with Leo XIII's appeal for a society in which “All [are] owners, not all proletarians”, and “Caritas in Veritate”, in which Benedict XVI underlines the importance of the economy of communion and the non-profit sector, and the “extraordinary social teaching of Blessed Paul VI”. He went on to urge the members of the Confederation to look not only to the past, but also to the future: “It is a real mission that requires creative imagination to find forms, methods, attitudes and tools to combat the throwaway culture cultivated by the powers that support the economic and financial policies of the globalised world”.

“Globalising solidarity, today, means thinking about the vertiginous increase in unemployment, the incessant tears of the poor, the need to reinstate a development that involves a genuine and full progress of the person, who is certainly in need of income, but not this alone. Let us think about healthcare needs, that the traditional welfare systems are no longer able to satisfy; the pressing needs of solidarity, to place human dignity once more at the centre of the world economy”.

Pope Francis suggested a series of concrete suggestions to help achieve this mission. The first was that cooperatives should “continue to be the motor for lifting up and developing the weakest part of our local communities and of civil society”. This involves “giving first place to the foundation of new cooperative enterprises, along with the further development of those already in existence, so as to create, above all, new work opportunities that currently do not exist … especially for the young, as we know that youth unemployment … destroys their hope”, but also for the “many women who need and wish to enter the world of work. We must not neglect the adults who often find themselves prematurely without work. Aside from new enterprises, let us look also to the companies in difficulty, those that the old owners leave to die, which could instead be revived through 'workers' buy out' initiatives.

Becoming active agents of new welfare solutions was his second suggestion, addressed above all to he healthcare sector, “a delicate field where many poor people no longer find their needs to be adequately met”. The answer may be found in applying subsidiarity, “with strength and coherence”, creating an effective network of assistance and solidarity between cooperatives, parishes and hospitals.

The third suggestion relates to the relationship between the economy and social justice, dignity and the value of the person. “It is well known that a certain liberalism believes it is necessary first and foremost to produce wealth, and that it is not important how, before promoting any form of redistributive policy”, explained the Pope. “Others think that it is the same enterprise that must donate the crumbs of accumulated wealth, thus absolving it of its so-called 'social responsibility'”. However, we know in achieving a new quality of the economy, it is possible to enable people to grow in all their potential. A member of a cooperative must not be merely … a worker … but must instead always be a protagonist, and must grow, through the cooperative, as a person, socially and professionally, in responsibility … an enterprise managed by a cooperative must grow in a truly cooperative way, involving all”.

“If we look around us, we see that the economy is never renovated in an ageing society, instead of one that grows”, he continued, presenting his fourth suggestion: strengthening the harmonisation between work and family within the cooperative movement. “Doing this also means helping women to fully achieve their vocation and to put their talents to use” through initiatives that meet the needs of all, from nurseries to domestic care.

“The fifth suggestion may be surprising. Doing all these things takes money! Cooperatives are not generally founded by great capitalists. … The Pope instead says to you: you must invest, and you must invest well! In Italy certainly, but not only, it is difficult to obtain public funding to compensate for the scarcity of resources. The solution I propose to you is this: unite with determination the right means for carrying out good works. Collaborate more with cooperative banks and businesses, organise resources to allow families to live with dignity and serenity, and pay fair salaries to your workers. … Money, placed at the service of life, can be managed in the right way by the cooperative, if however it is an authentic and true cooperative, where capital does not rule over people, but people over capital”.

“Therefore, I say that you do well to oppose and combat false cooperatives, and to continue to do so; they prostitute the name of cooperative, a very positive thing, to deceive people in the interests of profit, contrary to those of a true and authentic cooperative. … In the field in which you are active, to display an honourable facade while instead pursuing dishonourable and immoral objectives, often associated with the exploitation of labour or the manipulation of the market, or even a scandalous traffic in corruption, is a shameful and serious falsehood. The cooperative economy … if it seeks to fulfil a strong social function, if it wishes to be an agent of the future for a nation and for each local community, must pursue clear and transparent aims. It must promote an economy of honesty, a healing economy in the treacherous sea of the global economy. A real economy promoted by people who have at heart and in their minds only the common good”.

The final part of the Pope's address was dedicated to cooperation at the international level. “Extend your hand to the old and new existential peripheries, where there are disadvantaged people, where there are people who are alone and discarded, where there are people who do not receive respect. … It is necessary to have the courage and imagination to build the right road to integrate development, justice and peace throughout the world”, he concluded.

Presentation of the Pan-Amazon Ecclesial Network (REPAM): Incentive and relaunch of the Church in the Amazon

Vatican City, 2 March 2015 (VIS) – A press conference was held in the Holy See Press Office this morning to present the Pan-Amazon Ecclesial Network, established in 2014 in Brasilia, Brazil, during a meeting of bishops whose territories include Amazon regions, priests, missionaries of congregations who work in the Amazon jungle, national representatives of Caritas and laypeople belonging to various Church bodies. The speakers were Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council “Justice and Peace”; Archbishop Pedro Ricardo Barreto Jimeno, S.J., of Huancayo, Peru and president of the Department of Justice and Solidarity of the Latin American Episcopal Council; Michel Roy, secretary general of Caritas Internationalis; and Mauricio Lopez Oropeza, executive secretary of REPAM. Cardinal Claudio Hummes, O.F.M., president of the Commission for Amazonia of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil, was unable to be present but participated via an audio message.

The Amazon territory is the largest tropical forest in the world. It covers six million square kilometres and includes the territories of Guyana, Suriname and French Guyana, Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, Peru and Brazil. It is home to 2,779,478 indigenous people, comprising 390 indigenous tribes and 137 isolated (uncontacted) peoples with their valuable ancestral cultures, and 240 spoken languages belonging to 49 linguistic families. As Archbishop Barreto explained, it is “a territory that is devastated and threatened by the concessions made by States to transnational corporations. Large-scale mining projects, monoculture and climate change place its lands and natural environment at great risk”, leading to the destruction of cultures, undermining the self-determination of peoples and above all affronting Christ incarnate in the people who live there (indigenous and riparian peoples, peasant farmers, afro-descendants and urban populations). REPAM was founded as “God's answer to this heartfelt and urgent need to care for the life of people so they are able to live in harmony with nature, starting from the widespread and varied presence of members and structures of the Church in Pan-Amazonia”.

Cardinal Turkson illustrated the main characteristics of the network, starting with transnationality. “The large number of countries involved is due to the awareness that effective action to face challenges that cross the borders of a single State requires synergy between the living forces of all the nations involved, from the Secretariat of the REPAM to that of the dioceses and other Church initiatives in the various States, without forgetting that, from the beginning, the REPAM has worked in harmony with the Holy See, CELAM and its structures”. Another key feature is ecclesiality: “as well as working transnationally, REPAM proposes the institution of harmonious collaboration between the various components of the Church: religious congregations, dioceses, Caritas, various Catholic associations and Foundations, and lay groups”.

Commitment to the defence of life is, for Cardinal Turkson, the third characteristic. “REPAM was born in response to important challenges. It is engaged in defending the life of a number of communities who cumulatively comprise 30 million people. They are threatened by pollution, the radical and rapid change of the ecosystem upon which they depend, and the lack of protection for their basic human rights”. He added that the network is presented in Rome not only on account of the symbolic value of the See of Peter, but also to give visibility to REPAM. “The form in which REPAM, acting as a platform, is structured and defines its working methods, its agenda, its allies or its methods of accreditation, could serve as a model for other local churches in other countries facing similar challenges. In addition, REPAM has been conceived so as to become a took that may be applied in different basic contexts, such as justice, legality, the promotion and protection of human rights; cooperation between the Church and public institutions at various levels; conflict prevention and management; research and spread of information; inclusive and equitable economic development; responsible and equitable use of natural resources, respecting Creation; and the preservation of the traditional cultures and ways of life of the different populations”.

Cardinal Hummes, in his audio message, reiterated that the creation of the Pan-Amazon Ecclesial Network “represents a new incentive and relaunch of the work of the Church in Amazonia, strongly desired by the Holy Father. There, the Church wishes to be, with courage and determination, a missionary Church, merciful, prophetic, and close to all the people, especially the poorest, the excluded, the discarded, the forgotten and wounded. A Church with an 'Amazonian face' and an 'native clergy', as Pope Francis proposed in his address to the bishops of Brazil”.

Cardinal Murphy O'Connor, Pope's special envoy to the 4th centenary of the martyrdom of St. John Ogilvie, S.J.

Vatican City, 28 February 2015 (VIS) – Today a letter was published, written in Latin and dated 15 February, by which the Holy Father appoints Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor, archbishop emeritus of Westminster, as his special envoy to the solemn celebrations in honour of St. John Ogilvie S.J. (from 9 to 10 March in Glasgow, Scotland).

The pontifical mission accompanying the cardinal will be composed of his personal secretary Rev. Roger Reader, and Msgr. Javier Herrera Corona, adviser to the apostolic nunciature in London.


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

- Irina Bokova, director general of UNESCO, and entourage;

- Rev. Janusz Urbanczyk, Holy See permanent observer at the International Governing Organisations in Vienna;

- Nechirvan Barzani, president of the Council of Ministers of the Regional Government of Iraqi Kurdistan;

- Ten prelates of the Regional Episcopal Conference of North Africa (C.E.R.N.A) on their “ad Limina” visit:

Bishop Claude Rault of Laghouat, Algeria;

Archbishop Ghaleb Moussa Abdalla Bader of Algiers, Algeria;

- Bishop Paul Desfarges of Constantine, Algeria;

- Bishop Jean-Paul Vesco of Oran, Algeria;

- Bishop Sylvester Carmel Magro, apostolic vicar of Benghazi, Libya;

- Bishop Giovanni Innocenzo Martinelli, apostolic vicar of Tripoli, Libya;

- Archbishop Vincent Landel of Rabat, Morocco;

- Archbishop Santiago Agrelo Martínez of Tangier, Morocco;

- Fr. Mario Leon Dorado, O.M.I., apostolic prefect of the Western Sahara; and

- Archbishop Ilario Antoniazzi of Tunis, Tunisia.

On Saturday, 28 February, the Holy Father received in audience Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, archbishop of Naples, Italy.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 2 March 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed Msgr. Fidencio Lopez Plaza as bishop of San Andres Tuxtla (area 13,495, population 1,113,000, Catholics 1,035,000, priests 100, permanent deacons 33, religious 109), Mexico. The bishop-elect was born in Capullin, Mexico in 1950 and was ordained a priest in 1982. He specialised in pastoral and catechesis at the Pastoral Theological Institute of Medellin, Colombia, and has served in a number of pastoral roles, including coordinator of the diocesan secretariat for evangelisation and catechesis, professor in the conciliar seminary of Queretaro, parish priest in a number of parishes, head of the deanery of Guanajuato and member of the presbyteral council and the college of consultors. He is currently episcopal vicar for pastoral ministry of the diocese of Queretaro and parish priest of the “Pentecostes” parish.

On Saturday, 28 February, the Holy Father appointed:

- Rev. Fr. Francesco Savino as bishop of Cassano all'Jonio (area 1,311, population 108,100, Catholics 104,187, priests 98, permanent deacons 3, religious 74), Italy. The bishop-elect was born in Bitonto, Italy in 1954 and was ordained a priest in 1978. He holds a licentiate in theology from the Istituto Teological Pugliese and has served in a number of pastoral roles in the archdiocese of Bari-Bitonto, including parish vicar of San Silvestro-Crocifisso and parish priest of Cristo Re Universale in Bitonto. He is currently parish priest-rector of the parish-santuary of the Santi Medici in Bitonto, member of the College of Consultors, the diocesan presbyteral council and the Ministry of Health Commission on palliative care. He succeeds Bishop Nunzio Galantino, secretary general of the Italian Episcopal Conference, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese was accepted by the Holy Father.

- Msgr. Marek Marczak as auxiliary of the archdiocese of Lodz (area 5,200, population 1,490,000, Catholics 1,410,000, priests 763, religious 759), Poland. The bishop-elect was born in Piotrkow Trybunalski, Poland in 1969 and was ordained a priest in 1994. He holds a doctorate in dogmatic theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, and has served in a number of roles, including lecturer in dogmatic theology and the major seminary of Lodz, president of the Commission for the Lay Apostolate, visitator for catechesis, pastoral collaborator in the parish of St. Dorothy in Loz-Mileszki, and collaborator for the pastoral ministry of university lecturers in the archdiocese. He is currently rector of the major seminary and member of the presbyteral council.
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