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Thursday, May 7, 2015

European Churches and Ecclesiastic Communities: Collaborating in Solidarity to Welcome Immigrants

Vatican City,7 May 2015 (VIS) – This morning Pope Francis received members of the joint committee of the Conference of European Churches (CEC), whose objective is facilitating ecumenism throughout the continent, where many of the divisions and wars between Christians began. The current situation is very different. Thanks to ecumenical dialogue, ecclesiastic communities have taken great steps on the path to reconciliation and peace, as demonstrated by the recent European Ecumenical Assemblies and the Ecumenical Charter written in Strasbourg, France in 2001. These are landmarks in the collaboration between the CEC and the Council of the Bishops' Conferences of Europe (CCEE) that give rise to the hope of achieving full and visible union between believers in Christ.

The Holy Father, who noted that the ecumenical journey, even with all its difficulties, is already an integral part of the process of reconciliation and communion, recalled that the conciliar decree Unitatis Redintegratio affirms that the division between Christians “damages the holy cause of preaching the Gospel to every creature”. “This is evident,” he stated, “when, for example, the European Churches and ecclesiastic communities have different points of view on important anthropological or ethical questions. Nevertheless, I hope that opportunities for common reflection in light of Sacred Scripture and shared tradition will not be lacking and that they will be fruitful … and that we might find common answers to the questions that contemporary society asks of Christians. The closer we are to Christ, the closer we are united among ourselves.”

Today the European Churches and ecclesiastic communities face new and decisive challenges, that can only be effectively answered by speaking with one voice,” the Pope affirmed. “I am thinking, for example, of the challenges of legislation that, in the name of a misunderstood principle of tolerance wind up blocking citizens from freely expressing and practicing their religious convictions peacefully and legitimately. Moreover, faced with the attitude that Europe seems to have toward the dramatic and often tragic emigration of thousands of persons fleeing war, persecution, and misery, the European Churches and ecclesiastic communities have the duty to promote solidarity and hospitality. European Christians are called upon to intercede with prayer and by actively working to bring dialogue and peace to current conflicts.”

Pope thanks Bishops of Mali for Safeguarding Interreligious Dialogue

Vatican City, 7 May 2015 (VIS) – The peaceful coexistence among believers of different religions, the safeguarding of interreligious dialogue, the common commitment of Christians and Muslims in defense of cultural heritage, promotion of women, and the consolidation of the family were some of the topics that Pope Francis addressed in the speech he delivered this morning to the bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Mali, at the end of their “ad Limina” visit. Following are extensive excerpts from the address.

I would like to direct your attention toward the person of Christ in the delicate situation that your country has faced in recent years, including security challenges. At times, this situation has undermined the coexistence between the various sectors of society as well as the harmony between men and women of different religions present in the land of Mali, which is rich with a glorious past, synonymous with admirable traditions among which are tolerance and cohesion. I thank your Episcopal Conference for knowing how to preserve the spirit of interreligious dialogue in this delicate context. The common commitment of Christians and Muslims to safeguard the Mali's cultural treasures, especially the large libraries of Timbuktu, patrimony of humanity, is an eloquent example. When you return, I want you to express my nearness, not only to your faithful, but also to your fellow citizens of all social classes and religions, men and women of good will involved in the fight against intolerance and exclusion.”

In this situation, the Christian communities and their pastors are called to give an even greater witness to their faith based on the unconditional acceptance of the Gospel values. You are already following this path in translating the Bible into local languages because, in order to live the Word of God and to witness to it faithfully, we must first know it, diligently study it, and assimilate it. In this sense, the efforts made in your dioceses to develop new Catechesis manuals are to be welcomed. Thanks to a solid formation, the lives of the faithful will be even more rooted in faith and strengthened to withstand all threats.”

Despite the serious problems facing it, the Church in Mali shows a beautiful dynamic in its work of evangelization, preserving a profound respect of conscience. Christ's followers grow in number and fervor. But the Christian witness of the family still needs greater coherence. In your cultural context, also marked by divorce and polygamy, Catholics are called upon to concretely proclaim, through their witness, to the Gospel, life, and the family. I also encourage you to continue your pastoral work, paying particular attention to the situation of women: promoting the role of women in society and fighting against abuse and violence toward women is also a way of proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who chose to be born of a woman, the Virgin Mary.”

If in any particular church the synergy inspired by charity is needed to ensure its credibility, then your context of the charity and unity lived in the Church are among the most important signs of fruitful dialogue with other religions, an expression of authentic Christian witness... It is to be hoped that even nowadays these witnesses of members of other religions toward our Christian communities multiply.”

Likewise, the Gospel lived in its authentic dimension of charity should inspire social ministry. The Church is present in Mali in the areas of education for peace and your Christian communities actively contribute to promoting genuine national reconciliation. In congratulating you for your pastoral sensitivity in the field of promoting the human person without consideration limited to ethnic or religious affiliation, I would like to pay tribute to the many Christians who spread the culture of solidarity and hospitality, especially in facing the violence of the last years.”

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, strengthened by the Lord's promise to be with his family until the end of time, I am convinced that despite the difficulties on their path, the Church in Mali will continue to be a testament to hope and peace.”

Pope Francis receives Sporting Association of Lazio, Italy: True Sports help overcome Situations of Injustice

Vatican City, 7 May 2015 (VIS) – Seven thousand players, managers, members, and supporters of the Sporting Association of Lazio (Societa Sportiva Lazio), one of the Italian capital city's two football teams, were welcomed this afternoon in the Paul VI Audience Hall to meet with the Pope. The Association was created 15 years ago when a group of youths decided to create a club open to the youth of the city that would perpetuate the moral and ethical values of the sport. “At that time,” Pope Francis said, “organized sports were a privilege of the rich. The intention of the founding group was to make it accessible at all levels and in all social categories. I encourage you, therefore, to continue being welcoming, to continue to value various talents. May your sporting association always be an open house where fraternity and harmony without discrimination can be found.”

The club's motto is a phrase from the Roman historian and politician Sallust: “Concordia parvae res crescunt, discordia maximae dilabuntur” (small things thrive with harmony; discord brings the greatest things to ruin). The Pope asserted that the sporting association's long history has confirmed that truth, enriched by different associated activities, structured in various sporting sections, and united by the Olympic spirit and mutual solidarity. “One of [your] merits is that of having worked to bring equal status to all sports. In Italy, as in my country, Argentina, too, there is the risk of speaking always about football and neglecting other sports. Instead, every sports discipline has its value, not only physical or social, but also moral since it offers the possibility to people, especially to children and the young, to develop balance, self-control, sacrifice, and loyalty towards others. I want to emphasize this last one: loyalty. Loyalty towards others because betrayal is increasing a bit everywhere...Loyalty! Sports allows it to grow.”

The Bible teaches us,” the Pope concluded, “that the human person is a unity: spirit and body. I therefore encourage you to always cultivate, together with sporting activities … the religious and spiritual dimension. … We must not neglect studies, friendship, or the service of the poor either. We can't overlook these things to do just one thing. ...Thanks be to God we have wonderful examples of men and women athletes, even great champions, who never stopped living faithfully and serving others. In fact, true sports allows us to build a more fraternal and supportive world, helping overcome situations of injustice and of human and social discomfort.”


Vatican City, 7 May 2015 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father received in audience five prelates of the Episcopal Conference of Mali, on their “ad Limina” visit:
- Archbishop Jean Zerbo of Bamako,
-Bishop Jonas Dembele of Kayes,
- Bishop Jean-Gabriel Diarra of San,
- Bishop Augustin Traore of Segou, and
- Bishop Jean-Baptiste Tiamaof Sikasso.

Yesterday afternoon the Holy Father Francis received in audience Archbishop Luis Hector Villalba of Tucuman, Argentina.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 7 May 2015 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father:

- appointed Msgr. Lucio Bonora, of the clergy of the Diocese of Treviso, Italy, as a judge of the Ecclesiastic Tribunal of Vatican City State. The Holy Father has also appointed Fr. Paolo Scevola, of the clergy of the Diocese of Vigevano, Italy, as an actuary notary of the same tribunal. Both will continue in their roles as officials of the Secretary of State in the General Affairs section.

- appointed Bishop Esteban Escudero Torres as auxiliary of Valencia (area 13,090, population 3,225,000, Catholics 3,041,000, priests 1,541, permanent deacons 16, religious 4,785), Spain, assigning him the Titular See of Diano. Bishop Escudero Torres was previously bishop of Palencia, Spain.
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