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Wednesday, June 3, 2015

General audience: the family and the downward spiral of poverty

Vatican City, 3 June 2015 (VIS) – The living conditions that put the family to the test and render it vulnerable, starting with poverty, will be the themes of Pope Francis' catechesis starting from today, he announced to the twenty thousand faithful attending this week's Wednesday general audience in St. Peter's Square.

The Holy Father spoke about the misery and degradation that can accompany poverty, in the suburbs of metropolises and in rural areas alike, a situation that is often aggravated by war that has a profound impact on civilians. “In truth, war is the 'mother of all poverty', a great predator of lives, souls, and of the dearest and most sacred affections”, he said.

However, he added, there are many families who, although poor, seek to live their daily lives with dignity, often openly trusting in God's blessing. Nevertheless, this “must not justify our indifference, but rather increase our shame! It is almost a miracle that, even in poverty, families continue to form, and indeed preserve as best they can, the special humanity of their bonds. It is a fact that irritates those planners of well-being who consider sentiments, procreation and family bonds as a variable secondary to the quality of life. Instead, we should kneel before these families, who are a true school of humanity and who save society from barbarism”.

“What will become of us if we give in to the blackmail of violence and money, and go so far as to renounce the affections of the family? A new form of civil ethics will arise only when those responsible in public life recognise the social bond, starting with the fight against the downward spiral of poverty in the family, that leads us to the abyss”. The Pope also remarked on the contradiction inherent in today's economy that often appears to specialise in individual well-being, but practices the widespread exploitation of family relationships. “The immense labour of the family is not quoted on balance sheets, naturally!” he exclaimed. “It is not merely a question of bread. We are talking about work, education, healthcare. It is important to be clear about this”.

“We must endeavour to stay ever closer to families afflicted by poverty”, he repeated. “In effect, social misery affects the family and at times destroys it. The lack or loss of work, or its precariousness, have serious repercussions on family life, putting relationships under stress. The living conditions in the most disadvantaged areas, with problems regarding housing and transport, as well as the reduction of social, healthcare and educational services, cause further difficulties. Added to these material factors there is also the damage caused to the family by false models, propagated by the mass media, based on consumerism and the cult of appearances, which affect the poorest social classes and increase the disintegration of family bonds”.

“The Church is Mother, and must never forget the tragedy of her children. She too must be poor, to become fruitful and to respond to so much suffering. A poor Church is a Church that practices a voluntary simplicity in her own life – in her institutions, in the lifestyle of her members – to break down walls of separation, especially those that separate us from the poor. This takes prayer and action. Let us pray intensively to the Lord to awaken us, to make our Christian families agents in this revolution of family closeness that is now so necessary. This is what the Church has been made of since the very beginning. And let us not forget”, he warned, “that the judgement of the needy, the small and the poor prefigures the judgement of God.”

The Pope prays for victims of the Yangtze shipwreck and blesses young Polish faithful in Lednica

Vatican City, 3 June 2015 (VIS) – In his greetings following today's catechesis, Pope Francis mentioned that the month of June is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and that tomorrow, Thursday, is the Feast of Corpus Christi. “We learn from the Lord, who made Himself into sustenance so as to be more available to others, serving all those in need, especially the poorest families”.

He then greeted the young Polish faithful attending the 19th meeting at Lednica, the town by the lake where it is believed that Mieszko, the first Polish monarch, was baptised in the year 966. “I share in your joy, your enthusiasm and your desire for the Holy Spirit. … Your life, like the life of … Jesus' disciples, cannot be empty, mundane, without purpose. Open your heart to the Holy Spirit so that it will be filled with His gifts. Ask Him to accompany you every day in your work, your studies, in prayer, in your decisions, in overcoming yourselves and in doing good. … With Him, you will transform the world. … He will help you to take up the great dialogue with God, with humanity and with the world in this stage of history”.

The Holy Father also expressed his closeness to the Chinese people following the tragic disaster on the river Yangtze, in which a cruise ship capsized, causing hundreds of deaths. He gave the assurance of his prayers for the victims, their families, and all those engaged in rescue operations.

Finally, he dedicated some special words to Italian workers for Whirlpool, threatened with redundancy. He expressed his hope that this serious employment crisis may resolved swiftly and equitably with respect for all and, in particularly, for families. “The entire country faces a very difficult situation”, he affirmed. “Strong commitment is called for to open up paths of hope”.

Cardinal Parolin at UNESCO: the Church has never regarded culture or education as mere tools of evangelisation

Vatican City, 3 June 2015 (VIS) – Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin spoke this morning at the conference “Educating today and tomorrow”, organised by the Mission of the Holy See permanent observer at UNESCO, with the Congregation for Catholic Education, to celebrate 70 years since the founding of this United Nations organ, the 50th anniversary of the conciliar declaration “Gravissimum educationis”, a key text for Catholic education, and 25 years since the apostolic constitution “Ex corde Ecclesiae”, a document of reference for Catholic universities.

In his discourse the cardinal presented an overview of the history of the educational service offered by the Catholic Church since its origins, emphasising that the pedagogy of the Church is based on biblical anthropology in which the relationship of love and reciprocity between man and God appears from Genesis onwards. He also underlined the importance attributed to this theme by Vatican Council II, in which a full and complete education is proposed, aimed at laying the foundations for an inclusive and peaceful society open to dialogue, and went on to mention current educational challenges and perspectives, such as the extreme fragmentation of knowledge and the worrying lack of communication between different disciplines. The Secretary of State affirmed the need to counteract the concept of the human being as a machine for production, proposing instead a vision of the person, and reiterated the need for formation in dialogue and the construction of fraternity.

“Culture and education have never been considered by the Catholic Church merely as tools for evangelisation, but rather as dimensions of humanity with high intrinsic value. Investment in the education of the younger generations is a condition for the 'progressive development of peoples … an object of deep interest and concern to the Church. This is particularly true in the case of those peoples who are trying to escape the ravages of hunger, poverty, endemic disease and ignorance; of those who are seeking a larger share in the benefits of civilisation and a more active improvement of their human qualities', as Paul VI affirmed in his encyclical 'Populorum progressio'. The Church shares in the efforts for greater access to literacy, to education for all and for continuing formation. These pillars are made even more solid with regard to the fundamental commitment in favour of ethnic and religious minorities and for the female gender, so important for the harmonious growth of society”.

The Catholic Church, an “expert in humanity”, has placed education at the centre of her mission and continues to consider it as a priority, especially in a context of “global emergency for education”, caused both by processes of change and by a reductionist perspective that tends to limit the scope of universal education to a purely economic aspect. In fact, looking closely, the recent financial crisis has been of an entropic nature: it gave rise to a loss of meaning and consequent social apathy. By this refusal, there is a tendency to lose one's orientation towards the common good and to drift away from the propulsive value of relationality in the name of a minimalist anthropology of 'homo oeconomicus', which stifles interpersonal relationships”.

He continued, “We live in times in which many perceive the signs of an epochal transition. As the history of humanity shows us, these periods are marked by instability and disorientation. Faced with the intensification of sentiments of opposition and hatred, it would appear necessary to start to 'share beauty' and 'praise creation', acknowledging the contribution that each person can offer and proposing humble and patient closeness between individuals, communities and peoples. At the foundation of this shared responsibility there is, as John Paul II said in his address to this same prestigious institution, “a fundamental dimension, capable of rocking the foundations of the systems that structure the whole of humanity and of freeing human existence, individual and collective, from the threats that weigh upon it. This fundamental dimension is man, man in his integrity, man who lives in both the sphere of material values and the sphere of spiritual values. Respect for the inalienable rights of the human person is the root of all this”.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 3 June 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed:

- Rev. Fr. Christian Noel Emmanuel as bishop of Trincomalee (area 2,727, population 378,182, Catholics 19,606, priests 36, religious 52), Sri Lanka. The bishop-elect was born in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka in 1960 and was ordained a priest in 1986. He has served as parish priest, diocesan head of catechism and liturgy, and professor at the diocesan seminary, and is currently vicar and bursar of the same diocese. He succeeds Bishop Joseph Kingsley Swampillai, whose resignation upon reaching the age limit was accepted by the holy father.

- Rev. Fr. Erio Castellucci as metropolitan archbishop of Modena-Nonantola (area 2,089, population 510,579, Catholics 465,500, priests 227, permanent deacons 73, religious 360), Italy.


Vatican City, 3 June 2015 (VIS) – The Vatican Information Service bulletin will not be transmitted tomorrow, Solemnity of Corpus Christi and a holiday in the Vatican. Service will resume on Friday 5 June.
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