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Thursday, June 11, 2015

Pope Receives Canadian Prime Minister: Cooperation and Dialogue between Federal Government and Church

Vatican City, 11 June 2015 (VIS) - This morning, Pope Francis received in audience the Prime Minister of Canada, Mr. Stephen Harper, who subsequently met with Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States.

During the course of the cordial discussions, the good relations existing between the Holy See and Canada were noted, as was the positive spirit of cooperation and dialogue between the Canadian federal government and the Church. In particular, Canada’s commitment to defend and promote religious freedom in the context of fundamental human rights were treated.

Later in the conversation, international political issues were discussed, with reference to Europe and the Middle East and the prospects for peace in that region, as well as the fight against terrorism and environmental issues.

Pope to Participants of FAO's 39th Conference: Responding to the Imperative of Right of All to Food

Vatican City, 11 June 2015 (VIS) – The right to food, the problem of waste, the impact of the market on hunger, the primacy of agricultural development, water issues, land grabbing, and dependence on external aid were the central themes of the address given this morning by Pope Francis to the 450 participants at the 39th Conference of the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization), whom he received in audience in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace.

Faced with the poverty of many of our brothers and sisters,” said the Pope, “sometimes I think that the issue of hunger and agricultural development has now become one of the many problems in this time of crisis. … Our tendency to 'defect' when faced with difficult issues is human,” but “we must respond to the imperative of access to necessary food is a right for all. Human rights permit no exclusions. Certainly, we can take comfort knowing that the number of hungry persons in 1992, 1.2 million, has been reduced even though the world population has grown. However, there is little point to noting the numbers or even projecting a series of concrete commitments and recommendations to be implemented in policies and investments if we neglect the obligation to 'eradicate hunger and prevent all forms of malnutrition in the world'.”

Many are worried about statistics regarding waste: a third of food produced is included under this point,” observed the pontiff. “ Reducing waste is essential, as is reflection on the non-alimentary use of agricultural products, which go in large amounts to animal feed or to produce biofuels. Certainly we must ensure increasingly healthy environmental conditions, but can we keep excluding some?It is necessary to raise the awareness of all countries regarding the type of nutrition adopted, and this varies depending on the latitudes. … But, both in quality and quantity, the situation of uncertainty determined by the weather, by increased demand, and price uncertainty weigh down the situation.”

We must also ask ourselves: How much does the market, with its rules, impact world hunger? Of the studies you have made, it has been shown that, since 2008, the price of food has changed trends. It doubled, then stabilized, but with higher values than the previous period. Such volatile prices impede the poorest from making plans or keeping a minimum nutrition. The causes are many. We are rightly concerned with climate change but we cannot forget financial speculation. An example is the prices of wheat, rice, corn, soy, … sometimes linked to performance funds and therefore, the higher the price the more the fund earns. Here as well, we must take another path, convincing ourselves that the products of the land have a value that we can all 'sacred' because they are the fruit of the daily labor of persons, families, and communities of farmers.”

The purpose of the FAO includes the working of the land, fisheries, livestock, forests,” recalled Pope Francis. “This development must be at the center of economic activity ...this means supporting effective resilience, specifically reinforcing communities' capacities to cope with crisesnatural ones or those caused by human action―and paying attention to the different needs. Thus it will be possible to pursue a decent standard of living. This commitment includes other critical points. First, it seems difficult to accept the general resignation, disinterest, and even absence of so many, even of states. A times there is the sense that hunger is an unpopular topic, an insoluble problem that can't be dealt with in a legislative or presidential term and therefore can't guarantee consensus. The reasons that lead to limiting the contributions of ideas, technology, expertise, and funding lie in the unwillingness to make binding commitments seeing that we hide behind the question of the world economic crisis and the idea that there is hunger in all countries. … But then it is forgotten that, if poverty in one country is a social problem that can find solutions, in other contexts it is a social problem and social policies are not enough to address it. This attitude may change if we put solidarity at the heart of international relations, transposing the vocabulary of policy options to a policy of the other.”

The Pope also noted the needs of educating persons regarding a proper nutrition... “We know that in the West the problem is high consumption and waste. In the South, however, it is necessary to encourage local production to ensure nutrition. In many countries with 'chronic hunger', [local produce] is replaced by foreign food, perhaps initially through assistance. But emergency aid is not enough and does not always reach the right hands. It creates a dependence on large producers and, if the country lacks the financial means, then the population winds up not eating and hunger grows.”

Climate change also makes us think of the forced displacement of populations and the many humanitarian tragedies caused by lack of resources, particularly water, which is already a source of conflict that is expected to increase. It isn't enough to assert that there is a right to water without making the effort to achieve sustainable consumption of this good and to eliminate any waste. … Besides water, land use also remains a serious problem. Ever more troubling is the seizure of arable land by transnational companies and states, which not only deprives farmers of an essential commodity, it also directly affects countries' sovereignty. There are too many areas where the foods produced go to foreign countries and the local population is impoverished twice, since they have neither food nor land. … We know that the world's food production is largely the work of family farms. Therefore it is important,” the Pope concluded, “that the FAO strengthen its partnerships and projects in favor of family businesses, and encourage states to equitably regulate land use and ownership. This may help eliminate the inequalities that are now at the center of international attention.”

To Bishops of Latvia and Estonia: Be Near to Migrant Families

Vatican City, 11 June 2015 (VIS) – This morning Pope Francis received in audience prelates of the Episcopal Conferences of Latvia and Estonia at the conclusion of their ad Limina visit. In the speech he addressed to them he reminded them that the Lord has chosen them “to work in a society that, having been for so long oppressed by regimes based on ideologies that are contrary to human dignity and freedom, is today called to measure itself against other insidious dangers, such as secularism and relativism. While that may make it harder for your pastoral outreach, I urge you continue tirelessly, never losing faith, in proclaiming Christ's Gospel, the Word of salvation for persons of every time and culture.”

In this renewed evangelization you are not alone. You have your priests who, although few and of many diverse origins, are there by your side with respect, obedience, and generosity. … I encourage you to take good care of their formation, both in terms of theological and ecclesial preparation as well as in terms of human maturity rooted in a solid spirituality and characterized by friendly openness, capable of discerning the reality of the world in which we live. … For the growth and journey of your communities, the presence of men and women in the consecrated life is also extremely valuable. Especially in this Year dedicated to them it is opportune to make them understand that they are not only appreciated for the services they render but primarily for the richness of their charisms and their witness, for the very fact that they are, [their presence] spreads the perfume of Christ among the people of God in how they follow the Gospel counsels.”

The participation of the lay faithful is also indispensable for the mission of evangelization,” Pope Francis emphasized. “Your nearness and concern will help them carry out those responsibilities that, according to the teachings of Vatican Council II, they are called to undertake in the cultural, social, political, and also charitable and catechetical fields. … The lay faithful are the living path between what we Pastors preach and the various social environments. … At the same time, both they and you are in daily contact with other Christian traditions that are present in your territory and together you can support ecumenical dialogue, which is so necessary today in view of the fact that social peace is sometimes shaken by ethnic and linguistic differences.”

The Pope shares the bishops' determination to promote the family, noting however that “marriage today is often considered a form of emotional gratification that can be constituted in any way whatsoever or changed according to the sensibilities of each. Unfortunately, this reductive conception also affects the mindset of Christians, causing a ease in resorting to divorce or separation. As pastors we are called to question on the preparation for marriage given to engaged couples and also on how to assist those who are living in these situations so that the children do not become the primary victims and the spouses do not feel excluded from God's mercy and the Church's care but are helped on their faith journey and in the Christian education of their children.”

Finally, the Pope recalled the economic and social crisis that has also affected Latvia and Estonia, provoking a migration the result of which has been a large number of single-parent families in need of special pastoral attention. The absence of a father or mother in many families causes the other spouse greater effort, in every sense, in raising the children. For these families your attention and the pastoral outreach of your priests is truly valuable, combined with the effective nearness of the communities.”

Pope's Audience with Vladimir Putin: Ukraine and Middle East, Key Points of Meeting

Vatican City, 11 June 2015 (VIS) - President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin was received in audience by the Holy Father yesterday afternoon according to a press release from the director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J.

The private meeting held in the library of the Apostolic Palace began approximately at 6:15pm and lasted some 50 minutes. Afterwards there was a presentation of the president's entourage and an exchange of gifts. President Putin offered the Pope an image of the famous Church of Christ the Savior which the Holy Father reciprocated with a medallion by artist Guido Veroi that represented the angel of peace—an invitation to build a world of solidarity and peace based on justice—and a copy of the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium.

As foreseen, given the current global state of affairs, the meeting was mainly devoted to the conflict in the Ukraine and the situation in the Middle East.

Regarding the situation in the Ukraine, the Holy Father affirmed that a great and sincere effort is necessary to achieve peace. He agreed on the importance of re-establishing a climate of dialogue and that all parties must commit themselves to enforcing the Minsk Accords. It is also essential to address the serious humanitarian situation, in particular guaranteeing access to humanitarian workers and, with the contribution of all parties, a progressive easing of tensions in the region.

On the other hand, as regards the conflicts of the Middle East, regarding the territories of Syria and Iraq, the common and urgent idea of seeking peace with the concrete participation of the international community, at the same time ensuring the necessary conditions of life to all area of society, including religious minorities, Christians in particular was substantially confirmed.

At the same time as the meeting with President Putin, a meeting was held between Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, secretary for Relations with States, and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Sergey Lavrov during which the topics of the conflict in the Ukraine and the worrying situation in the Middle East were also discussed.

National Holy See Day at Milan's Expo 2015

Vatican City, 11 June 2015 (VIS) – Today marked the celebration of the National Day of the Holy See at the Expo 2015 in Milan. Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, General Commissioner of the Holy See for Expo Milan 2015, Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu, substitute for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, president on the Italian Episcopal Conference, and Cardinal Angelo Scola, Archbishop of Milan, all spoke this morning. This afternoon the “Courtyard of the Gentiles” will also intervene with a presentation on the theme of “The Faces of the Earth”.

During the course of the celebrations this morning, Archbishop Becciu's speech emphasized that the Holy See considers the vast objective of ensuring an adequate level of nutrition as a real necessity, a result of true sharing, the same which is evidenced in the participation of so many countries in Expo Milan 2015.

A shared action,” the archbishop stated, “whose priority is the reduction of the number of hungry persons must include not only interventions during emergency situations, but also projects in favor of agricultural development and their funding proportionate to the different capacity of donors and the needs of beneficiaries. Giving and receiving according to justice requires a formation of conscience attentive to the needs of others, of each one, including when the problem is related to the use of technology, their transfer to the most vulnerable areas and the ability to meet the needs of beneficiaries without limiting the prerogatives, rights, and―not the least―alimentary customs and cultures. Such a commitment demands that governments, international institutions, and civil social organizations involved in food safety work together, preserving diversity without putting them at odds, and using dialogue as the only concrete tool.”

Religions and their traditions,” he added, “know well that freedom from hunger also means freedom from conflicts and prevention of war as the Catholic Church's litany of saints recalls, in the prayer for liberation from disease, hunger, and war: 'a peste, fame, et bello libera nos, Domine'.”

ROACO Plenary Assembly to Analyze Situation of Christians in Middle East, Armenia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and the Holy Land

Vatican City, 11 June 2015 (VIS) – ROACO (Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches) will hold its 88th annual plenary assembly in the Vatican from 15 to 17 June.

The assembly will begin on Monday morning with an audience granted by Pope Francis to the representatives of the various aid projects to the Oriental Catholic Churches. As in previous years, it will be a session dedicated to the situation in Syria with attention also given to Iraq in view of the recent tragic developments in that region which also affect the faithful of the Eastern Churches. The results of the recent visit to Iraq made by Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, during which he and a delegation from ROACO met with refugees, bishops, priests, and religious in Baghdad, Erbil, and Dohuk, will be presented.

On Tuesday, 16 June, the cardinal will celebrate Holy Mass at St. Stephen of the Abyssinians, a historical presence of the Oriental Church within the Vatican walls, to pray for peace in the Middle East as well as the Ukraine where the Greek-Catholic Church has a presence, and to pray for the benefactors, living and deceased, of the Oriental Catholic Churches.

On the occasion of the centenary memorial of the Medz Yeghern suffered by the Armenian people, a session will be dedicated to the Armenian Catholic Church in Eastern Europe, which is present in Georgia and Russia as well as Armenia. Another session will study the Church of Ethiopia and the Church of Eritrea, which was recently elevated by Pope Frances to a metropolitan church (metropolitana sui iuris). As customary, during the assembly the situation of the Church in the Holy Land will be examined, with verifications of the projects undertaken thanks to the proceeds of the Good Friday collection.

The objective of the proceedings, which will conclude on Thursday 17 June, is to identify priorities for the work of evangelization and charitable interventions in order that they be coordinated by ROACO as a gesture of the solidarity of the universal Church.


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

Five prelates of the Episcopal Conference of Latvia and Estonia, on their ad Limina visit:
    - Archbishop Zbigņev Stankevics of Riga,
    - Bishop Eduards Pavlovskis of Jelgava,
    - Bishop Viktors Stulpins of Liepaja,
    - Bishop Janis Bulis of Rezkene-Aglona, and
    - Bishop Philippe Jean-Charles Jourdan, Apostolic Adminstrator of Estonia.

Archbishop emeritus Antonio Maria Rouco Varela of Madrid, Spain, and

a delegation from the San Andres School of Evangelization.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, June 2015 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father has appointed Bishop Lionginas Virbalas, S.J., as Metropolitan Archbishop of Kaunas (area 8,750, population 661,000, Catholics 530,000, priests 135, religious 227), Lithuania. Archbishop Virbalas, previously bishop of Panevezys, Lithuania, succeeds Archbishop Sigitas Tamkevicius, S.J., whose resignation from the pastoral care of the archdiocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.
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