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Monday, May 11, 2015

Francis receives the Episcopal Conference of Togo: spread the values of the Christian family

Vatican City, 11 May 2015 (VIS) – Defence of the particular nature of the Christian family, and care in the formation of priests and consecrated persons in a country where religious communities and co-existence with other religions present no problems, were the key themes of the discourse Pope Francis handed to the bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Togo, whom he received in audience this morning at the end of their “ad Limina” visit.

In the text, and in view of the upcoming Synod of Bishops, the Pope underlines the need for the positive aspects of African families to be known and understood. “In particular”, he observes, “the African family welcomes life, and respects and takes into consideration the elderly. This heritage must be preserved, and serves as an example and impetus for others. The sacrament of marriage is a pastoral reality that is well accepted in your country, although there still exist barriers of a cultural and legal nature that prevent some couples from realising their wish to base their married life on faith in Christ. I encourage you to persevere in your effort to support families in difficulty … and to prepare couples for the commitments, demanding but magnificent, of Christian marriage. Togo is not immune to ideological and media attacks that come from all sides these days and which present models of unions and families incompatible with Christian faith. I am aware of the vigilance you show in this area, as well as your efforts, especially in the sector of communications”.

“But one of the keys to meeting the challenges presented to your communities and your societies is without doubt the formation of the young”, continues the bishop of Rome. “The Church-Family of God in Togo has chosen to stay close to children and young people who receive a good human and religious formation through numerous projects and initiatives. It is crucial that the young learn to life their faith with coherence, in order to bear witness to it with authenticity and to contribute to a more just and fraternal society. … Men and women religious play an indispensable role in the proclamation and transmission of faith in Togo. … I encourage you always to show paternal care towards the various Institutes. Their numbers are growing rapidly, and their development should be well accompanied; attention should also be paid to the formation of the youngest among them, in particular, to avoid amalgamation at the level of faith and inculturation. … Vocations are numerous in Togo and seminarians receive good formation in the seminaries … which must later help them in their battle against ambition, careerism, jealousy, worldliness, the seduction of money and worldly goods, and in living a sincere and joyful celibacy. I recommend special attention to the spiritual and pastoral care of young priests, and to be open to listening to their experiences”.

The Pope remarks that in recent years Togolese society has made significant progress in the political and social fields, and that “the Catholic Church has made extensive contributions to this, not only through her works of evangelisation and human promotion, but also through her commitment to justice and reconciliation. I thank you warmly for your efforts in this area, especially for your work in the Commission for Truth, Justice and Reconciliation. I encourage you to continue, ensuring that the Church occupies the place due to her in the the process of institutional reforms. ... However, it is always necessary to take care not to enter directly into political debate or disputes , taking care instead to form, encourage and support the laity – whose role this rightly is – so they are able to dedicate themselves to the service of the nation and the highest level and to assume their responsibilities”.

“I am glad that this service to Togolese society is also an opportunity for joint action with other Christian communities, as shown by various joint appeals to the nation. In the same way, in matters of interreligious dialogue, it is always necessary to promote, and perhaps further develop, the culture of dialogue and encounter, given that you enjoy peaceful co-existence especially with Islam, a co-existence that must be maintained considering the current situation in Western Africa. 'Interreligious dialogue is a necessary condition for peace in the world, and so it is a duty for Christians as well as other religious communities'. It is particularly important for young priests to receive a solid education in this matter”, concludes the Holy Father.

The Pope receives the “workers” of the Peace Factory

Vatican City, 10 May 2015 (VIS) – This morning in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall Pope Francis received in audience more than seven thousand children and young people, who form part of the “Peace Factory”, an initiative promoted by various institutions, including the Ministry of Education and the Italian Episcopal Conference, to favour multi-ethnic integration and to raise awareness among spiritual, political and educational leaders so that they use the language of peace. The Peace Factory, presented on 5 May at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) is a large laboratory that seeks to involve all schools in an educational network that, through art, theatre, new technologies and sport, offers a formation in human values to all boys and girls, starting from elementary school.

Upon arrival in the Hall, the Pope was warmly greeted by the thousands of Factory “workers”, and answered the questions that some of them posed to him, emphasising above all the inseparable relationship between peace and justice. Francis did not pronounce the discourse he had prepared, but we publish several extracts from it here below:

“Thank you for your invitation to work with you in the 'Peace Factory'! It is good workplace as it is about building a society without injustice and violence, where all children and young people may be welcomed and grow in love. There is a great need for peace factories, as unfortunately there is no lack of war factories! … War is the result of hatred, selfishness, the desire to own more and to dominate others. And to combat it you pledge to spread the culture of inclusion, reconciliation and encounter. … It is a good path, that requires courage and strength, so that everyone may understand the need for a change in mentality, to ensure the safety of children on the planet, and especially those who live in areas afflicted by wars and persecution”.

“The term 'factory' tells us that peace is something that has to … be built with wisdom and tenacity. But to build a world of peace, we need to begin with our own world, that is, the environments in which we live every day: the family, school, the playground, the gym, the oratory. … And it is important to work together with the people who live next to us: our friends, schoolmates, parents and educators. We need the help of all in order to build a better future. … The true builder of peace is one who makes the first step towards the other. And this is not weakness, but strength, the strength of peace. How can we put an end to wars in the world, if we are not capable of overcoming our minor misunderstandings and our arguments? Our acts of dialogue, forgiveness and reconciliation are bricks that serve to construct the edifice of peace”.

“Another characteristic of this factory is that it has no borders. One breathes an air of acceptance and encounter without barriers or exclusion. Faced with people from different countries and ethnic groups, who have other traditions and religions, your attitude is that of knowledge and dialogue, for the inclusion of all, with respect for the laws of the State. And you have understood that to construct a world of peace it is indispensable to take an interest in the needs of the poorest, the most suffering and abandoned, even those who are far away. I think of many of your peers who, just for the fact of being Christians, have been driven from their homes, their countries, and some have been killed for holding the Bible in their hands! And in this way the work of your 'factory' truly becomes a work of love. Loving others, especially the most disadvantaged, means showing that every person is a gift of God. Every person”.

“But peace itself is a gift of God, a gift to ask for trustfully in prayer. Therefore it is important not only to be witnesses of peace and love, but also witnesses of prayer. Prayer is speaking to God, our Father in Heaven, to entrust to Him our wishes, our joys, our sorrows. Prayer is asking Him for forgiveness every time we err and commit a sin, in the certainty that He always forgives. His goodness towards us drives us too to be merciful towards our brothers, forgiving them from our heart when they offend us or harm us. And, finally, peace has a face and a heart: it is the face and the heart of Jesus, the Son of God, Who died on the cross and rose again to bring peace to every man and to all humanity. Jesus is 'our peace', as he tore down the wall of hate that separated men from each other”.

The Holy Father receives the president of the Republic of Cuba

Vatican City, 10 May 2015 (VIS) – This morning the Holy Father received in private audience the president of the Republic of Cuba, Raul Castro Ruz. The meeting took place in the Pope's study adjacent to Paul VI Hall.

Upon arrival, at 9.30 a.m., the president was received by the Prefect of the Papal Household, Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, accompanied by his substitute, Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu, and the secretary for Relations with States, Bishop Paul Richard Gallagher. A personal meeting with the Pope then took place in the study, which lasted more than 50 minutes and was very cordial.

The president, as he declared before leaving the Vatican, thanked the Holy Father for his active role in improving relations between Cuba and the United States. He also expressed the sentiments of the Cuban people as they await and prepare for his upcoming visit to the island in September.

The Pope and the president then proceeded to the adjacent room for the presentation of the delegation accompanying Raul Castro, composed of around a dozen figures including the deputy prime minister, the minister for foreign affairs and the ambassador to the Holy See.

The exchange of gifts was very meaningful. The president offered the Pope a valuable commemorative medal of the Cathedral of Havana and a contemporary painting, depicting a large cross made up of wrecked boats, with a migrant in prayer in the foreground. The artist, the Cuban Kcho, was present and explained to the Pope that it was inspired by his great efforts to raise awareness in the world of the problems faced by migrants and refugees, beginning with his famous trip to Lampedusa. The Pope gave the president a copy of his apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium” and a large medallion depicting St. Martin covering the poor man with his cape. The Holy Father observed that he was particularly keen to give this gift, as it recalled the commitment not only to protecting the poor but also to promoting dignity.

President Raul Castro and his delegation left the Vatican shortly after 10.30 a.m.

Regina Coeli: love is a concrete path

Vatican City, 10 May 2015 (VIS) – During this Sunday's Regina Coeli, before thousands of faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square, the Pope commented on the day's Gospel reading which “takes us back to the Cenacle, where we hear Jesus' new commandment, 'that you love one another as I have loved you'”. He affirmed, “these words, pronounced during the Last Supper, summarise all Jesus' message; or rather, they summarise all He has gone. Jesus gave His life for His friends. Friends who had not understood Him, who had at the crucial moment abandoned, betrayed and denied Him. This shows us that He loves us even though we do not deserve His love: this is how Jesus loves us!”.

“In this way, Jesus shows us the road to follow Him, the path of love. His commandment is not a simple precept, … something abstract and external with regard to life. Christ's commandment is new because He was the first to realise it, He gave flesh to it, and thus the law of love is written once and for all in the heart of man. … It is a concrete path, a road that leads us out of ourselves to reach out to others. Jesus showed us that God's love is implemented in love for our neighbour. They both go together. The pages of the Gospel are full of this love: adults and children, the cultured and the simple, rich and poor, the righteous and sinners all find welcome in Christ's heart”.

“This Word of the Lord calls upon us to love each other, even if we do not always understand each other, even if we do not always agree … but it is precisely there that we see Christian love. A love that is shown even if there are differences of opinion and character: but love is greater than these differences. And this is the love that Jesus has taught us. … This love of Christ, that the Holy Spirit pours into our hearts, works wonders every day in the Church and in the world. There are many large and small gestures that obey the Lord's commandment”.

“Little everyday gestures, gestures of closeness to an elderly person, a child, a sick person, someone who is alone or in difficulty, homeless, jobless, an immigrant, a refugee. … Thanks to the strength of this Word of Christ, every one of us can be close to the brother and the sister he encounters. Gestures of closeness, of proximity. In these gestures, the love that Christ has taught us is made manifest”.

Following the Regina Coeli, the Pope greeted, among others, the Italian State Forestry Corps, which is organising the national day for National Reserves for the rediscovery and respect for the beauty of creation; the participants in the conference, promoted by the Italian Episcopal Conference in support of high-quality schooling open to families; a delegation of women from “Komen Italia”, an association engaged in the fight against breast cancer; and those who have taken part in an initiative for life which took place in Rome this morning.

“And, speaking of life”, he added, “today in many countries we celebrate Mother's Day: let us remember all mothers with gratitude and affection, and let us applaud them, all the mothers who are here in the Square. And with this applause, let us embrace all mothers, all our dear mothers: those who live with us physically, but also those who remain with us spiritually. May the Lord bless them all, and may Our Lady, to whom this month is dedicated, protect them”.

Pope's message to His Holiness Tawadros II: continuing friendship between the Orthodox Coptic Church and the Catholic Church

Vatican City, 11 May 2015 (VIS) – Pope Francis has sent a message to His Holiness Tawadros II, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark, to commemorate the second anniversary of their meeting in Rome.

“Today more than ever we are united by the ecumenism of blood, which further encourages us on the path towards peace and reconciliation. I assure you and the Christian community in Egypt and throughout the Middle East of my unceasing prayer, and I remember in particular the Coptic faithful recently martyred for their Christian faith. May the Lord welcome them into his Kingdom”.

He continues, “with thanksgiving to the Lord, I recall our advances along the path of friendship, united as we are by one baptism. Though our communion is yet imperfect, what we have in common is greater than what divides us. May we persevere on our journey to full communion, and grow in love and understanding”.

“It is particularly encouraging that the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches has recently finalised the document 'The Exercise of Communion in the Life of the Early Church and its Implications for our Search for Communion Today'. I am certain that Your Holiness shares my hope that this vital dialogue will carry on and bear abundant fruit. I am especially grateful for the willingness of the Patriarchate of the See of Saint Mark to hold the next meeting of the Commission in Cairo”.

“Christians throughout the world are facing similar challenges, which require us to work together in confronting these issues. I appreciate your appointment last year of a delegate to participate in the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops dedicated to the family. It is my hope that our cooperation in this area may continue, especially in addressing matters related to mixed marriages”.

He concludes, “With these sentiments, and recalling what has rightly become known as the day of friendship between the Coptic Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church, I exchange with Your Holiness a fraternal embrace in Christ the Lord”.

Pope's letter for the bicentenary of the coronation of Our Lady of Mercy

Vatican City, 11 May 2015 (VIS) – Today in the shrine of Our Lady of Mercy of Savona, Italy, the coronation of the statue of the Virgin Mary by Pope Pius VII on 10 May 1815 will be celebrated. Pope Francis has therefore sent as letter to Bishop Vittorio Lupi of the diocese of Savona-Noli, in which he recalls that Benedict XVI too was a pilgrim to the shrine, erected almost five centuries ago in the place where the Virgin appeared to the peasant Antonio Botta, asking for penance and conversion, and bidding him farewell with the words “Mercy, not justice”. “An exhortation that is more valid than ever in our age”, he writes, “which is, in particular, a time for mercy”.

“In such a dramatic moment in the history of Europe”, he continues, “Pope Pius VII, kidnapped by Napoleon and imprisoned in Savona, was able to go to the Shrine of Our Lady of Mercy and he vowed that, once freed, he would return there to crown her; this took place on 10 May 1815, and on 24 May he instituted the feast of Mary Most Holy, Help of Christians. Indeed, the Mother of Mercy is always close and helps all her children when they find themselves in danger, or, as is often the case in our times, they suffer discrimination and persecution. I hope that, as we draw closer to the Extraordinary Holy Year, all the Church may deepen and spread her trust in the Mother of Mercy, who in this land gave a perennial sign of her tenderness and her closeness to the pilgrm People of God in this world”.

To the bishops of Mozambique: always live among the faithful

Vatican City, 9 May 2015 (VIS) – The bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Mozambique were received this morning by the Pope at the end of their “ad Limina” visit. In the written discourse that he handed to them during the audience, he first recalls Jesus' question to the apostle Peter: “Do you love me?”, and before the latter's affirmative response He asked him to be the shepherd to His flock. Christ, Who made Himself poor for us, requires of the bishops the same love for their own flock, along with their full availability and complete commitment. He calls them to set aside false presumptions in order to “wash the feet of those the Lord has entrusted to us”.

Francis goes on to emphasise that in the pastoral ministry of the bishops, priests occupy a very special role as “if God sends us to love our neighbour, the closest neighbours of a bishop are the priests, indispensable collaborators”, for whom they must always keep their “heart, hand and door” open. “Time spent with them is never wasted”, he remarks. The Pope also comments that the fruitfulness of the episcopal and priestly mission cannot be measured by the number of collaborators, the prestige of the institution, or the quantity of resources available. Instead, what counts is “being pervaded with Christ's love, allowing oneself to be led by the Holy Spirit, and grafting one's own existence onto the tree of life, which is the Cross of the Lord”. From St. Paul, “insuperable model of the Christian missionary, we know that this means trying to conform to Jesus in His death to participate in His resurrection”. In his ministry the apostle “experienced suffering, weakness and defeat, but also joy and consolation”. “Jesus' paschal ministry is the heart of the mission of the Church”, affirms Francis. “If you abide in this mystery, you will be protected both from a worldly and triumphalist vision of the mission, and the disappointment that may arise when faced with trials and failures”.

“However, will there continue to be missionaries like Paul, men and women holding on to Christ's cross, denuded of everything so as to be able to embrace the Whole?”, asks the Pope. “We must rejoice for these men and women totally consecrated to Christ”. He highlights that the witness of men and women religious in Mozambique, who devote themselves to assisting the poor, to the education of abandoned children, and helping those experiencing all kinds of hardship. He also praises the “heroic dedication” of many doctors and nurses, priests and nuns, who work in clinics and hospitals, and he invites the bishops to thank them, underlining the importance of the inclusion of religious communities in diocesan life. “They are not merely reserve material for the diocese, but rather, charisms that enrich”, he stressed.

The Pope exhorts the prelates to live among their faithful, also in the peripheries of their dioceses and in particular in the “existential peripheries”, where there is suffering, loneliness and human degradation, as “a bishop who lives among his faithful keeps his ears open to listen to what the Spirit says to the Churches and to the voice of his sheep”. He also notes the importance of the diocesan bodies which have the task of advising the bishops and assisting them “through the promotion of loyal and constructive dialogue: presbyteral council, pastoral council, council of economic affairs. It is unthinkable for a bishop not to count on these diocesan bodies. This also means being with the people. I also think at this point of your duty to reside in the diocese: listen to what your people want, what they want to see in their bishop, walk with them, stay close to them. You need this presence to live and, in a certain sense, to breathe”.

“The pastors and the faithful of Mozambique need to further develop a culture of encounter”, the Pope observes. “Jesus asks only one thing: that you go out in search of the neediest”. Among these, he mentions the victims of the natural disasters that recently sowed destruction, suffering and death throughout the country, thus increasing the number of displaced persons and refugees. “These people need us to share in their suffering, their worries, their problems. They need us to look upon them with love and you must reach out to them, like Jesus”.

Finally, the Pope offers an overview of all Mozambique, where the tensions and conflicts of recent years have undermined the social fabric, destroyed families and jeopardised the future of thousands of young people. “The most effective way of opposing the mentality of arrogance and inequality, as well as social divisions, it to invest in the field of education, which teaches the young to think critically, and offers a path towards maturity in values. In this sense, it is appropriate to raise awareness among leaders in society and to revive pastoral ministry in universities and schools, combining the task of education with the proclamation of the Gospel. The needs are so great that they cannot be satisfied simply through individual initiatives or by a union of individuals educated in individualism. Community networks are needed to respond to social problems. There is a need for a union of forces and unity of direction: in this, the Episcopal Conference may help as it has among its functions the unitary dialogue with the political authority for the whole territory. In this respect, I encourage a decisive implementation of good relations with the government, not of dependency, but rather of solid collaboration”.

“Dear bishops”, he concludes, “spare no efforts in supporting the family and in the defence of life from conception to natural death. In this sense, remember the options appropriate to one of Christ's disciples and the beauty of being a mother, accompanied by the support of the family and the local community. The family must always be defended as the main source of fraternity, respect for others and the primary path of peace”.

Cardinal Daniel Fernando Sturla Berhouet to take possession of his titular church

Vatican City, 10 May 2015 (VIS) – The Office for Liturgical Celebrations today announced that at 6 p.m. on Sunday 17 May Cardinal Daniel Fernando Sturla Berhouet, S.D.B., archbishop of Montevideo, will take possession of the title of Santa Galla (Circonvallazione Ostiense, 195).


Vatican City, 11 May 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father received in audience:

- prelates of the Episcopal Conference of Togo, on their “ad Limina” visit:

- Archbishop Denis Komivi Amuzu-Dzakpah of Lome; with Archbishop emeritus Philippe Fanoko Kossi Kpodzro;

- Bishop Isaac Jogues Kodjo Agbemenya Gaglo of Aneho;

- Bishop Nicodeme Anani Barrigah-Benissan of Atakpame with Bishop emeritus Julien Mawule Kouto;

- Bishop Jacques Nyimbusede Tukumbe Anyílunda of Dapaong;

- Bishop Jacques Danka Longa, Vescovo di Kara;

- Bishop Benoit Comlan Messan Alowonou of Kpalime;

- Bishop Ambroise Kotamba Djoliba of Sokode.

- Adolfo Maria Perez Esquivel, Nobel Peace Prize laureate 1980.

On Saturday, 9 May, the Holy Father received in audience:

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

- Juan Carlos Gamarra Skeels, ambassador of Peru to the Holy See, on his farewell visit;

- Eighteen prelates of the Episcopal Conference of Mozambique, on their “ad Limina” visit:

- Archbishop Claudio Dalla Zuanna, S.C.I., of Beira;

- Bishop Francisco Joao Silota, M. Afr., of Chimoio;

- Bishop Francisco Lerma Martinez, I.M.C., of Gurue;

- Bishop Hilario Da Cruz Massinga, O.F.M., of Quelimane;

- Bishop Inacio Saure, I.M.C., of Tete;

- Archbishop Francisco Chimoio, O.F.M. Cap., of Maputo, with his auxiliary, Bishop Joao carlos Hatoa Nunes;

- Bishop Adriano Langa, O.F.M., of Inhambane;

- Bishop Lucio Andrice Muandula of Xai-Xai, with his auxiliary, Bishop Alberto Vera Arejula, O. de M., and with the bishop emeritus, Cardinal Júlio Duarte Langa;

- Archbishop Tome Markhweliha, S.C.J., of Nampula, with his auxiliary, Bishop Ernesto Maguengue;

- Bishop Atanasio Amisse Canira of Lichinga, with Bishop emeritus Elio Greselin, S.C.I.;

- Bishop Germano Grachane, C.M., of Nacala;

- Bishop Luiz Fernando Lisboa, C.P., of Pemba, with Bishop emeritus Januario Machaze Nhangumbe.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 11 May 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed Rev. Fr. Jorge Enrique Izaguirre Rafael, C.S.C., as bishop prelate of the territorial prelature of Chuquibamba (area 22,151, population 153,100, Catholics 136,600, priests 32, religious 62), Peru. The bishop-elect was born in Casma, Peru in 1968, gave his solemn vows in 1996, and was ordained a priest in 1997. He holds a diploma in pastoral theology from the Weston Jesuit School of Theology in Boston, U.S.A., and has served in a number of pastoral roles, including rector of the San Jose House of Formation of the Congregation of the Holy Cross in the diocese of Chosica; member of the Council of the district of Peru for his Congregation; assistant to the superior and parish priest. He is current assistant general of the Congregation of the Holy Cross, director of formation and superior of the International House of Formation of his Congregation in Santiago de Chile. He succeeds Bishop Mario Busquets Jorda, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same territorial prelature upon reaching the age limit was accepted by the Holy Father.

On Saturday 9 May the Holy Father appointed Msgr. Michal Janocha as auxiliary of Warsaw (area 3,350, population 1,540,000, Catholics 1,425,000, priests 1,192, permanent deacons 2, religious 2,599), Poland. The bishop-elect was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1959 and was ordained a priest in 1987. He holds a doctorate in history and history of art from the Academy of Catholic Theology of Warsaw, and has served in a number of roles including parish vicar and catechist at Izabelin, chaplain of the centre for the blind and partially-sighted in Laski, lecturer at the Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University of Warsaw, and spiritual director of the major seminary of Warsaw. He is currently lecturer in hisotory of art at the state University of Warsaw, member of the diocesan commission for art and architecture, director of the library and confessor for seminarians at the major seminary. In 2004 he was name Chaplain of His Holiness.

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