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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The family faced with death

Vatican City, 17 June 2015 (VIS) – Bereavement in the family was the theme of Pope Francis' catechesis during this Wednesday's general audience in St. Peter's Square, attended by more than fifteen thousand people.

“Death is an experience that affects all families, without exception. It is part of life; however, when it touches someone close to us, it never appears natural to us. For parents, the loss of a child … is an affront to the promises, gifts and sacrifices of love joyfully offered to the life we have brought into being. The whole family is paralysed, silenced. And a child suffers something similar when he or she is left alone by the loss of one or both parents. The emptiness and abandonment that opens up inside the child is even more distressing on account of the fact that he does not have the sufficient experience to 'give a name' to what has happened. In these cases death is like a black hole that opens up in the life of families, for which we are unable to give any explanation. And at times we even reach the point of blaming God”.

“But many people – and I understand them – become angry with God, and blaspheme. 'Why have you taken my son, my daughter from me? There is no God, God does not exist! Why has He done this to me?'. But this anger arises from great pain; the loss of a son or a daughter, a father or mother, is an immense pain. … In these cases, death seems like a hole”.

But physical death, the Pope warned, has “accomplices” that are even worse: “hatred, envy, pride and greed, the sin of the world that works for death and renders it even more painful and unjust. Family ties appear to be the predestined and helpless victims of these powerful auxiliaries of death that accompany human history. Think of the absurd 'normality' with which, in certain moments and in certain places, the events that add horror to death are provoked by the hatred and indifference of other human beings. May the Lord free us from growing accustomed to this”.

Thanks to God's compassion given to us in Jesus, “many families demonstrate in their actions that death does not have the last word. Every time that a bereaved family – even terribly – finds the strength to keep the faith and love that unite us to those whom we love, it prevents death from claiming everything. The darkness of death must be faced with more intense love. In the light of the Resurrection of the Lord, Who never abandons any of those whom the Father has entrusted to Him, we can remove the 'sting' from death, as the apostle Paul said; we can prevent it from poisoning life, from spoiling our affections, from making us fall into the darkest emptiness. In this faith, we are able to console each other, knowing that the Lord has defeated death once and for all. Our dear ones have not disappeared into the darkness of nothing: hope assures us that they are in the good and strong hands of God. Love is stronger than death”, the Pope emphasised. If we let ourselves be supported by this faith, “the experience of bereavement can generate a stronger solidarity in family ties, a new openness to the suffering of other families, a new fraternity with those families who are born and reborn in hope”.

Faith gives us birth and rebirth in hope, reiterated Francis, recalling the passage from the Gospel in which Jesus revives the widower's son, restoring him to his mother. “This is our hope”, he exclaimed. “Jesus will restore to us all our dear ones who have passed away, He will return them to us and we will meet them again. … Let us remember this gesture of Jesus … as the Lord will do the same with the loved ones in our family”. This faith, he said, “protects us from a nihilistic vision of death, as well as from the false consolations of the world, 'so that the Christian truth does not risk mixing itself with myths of various types'”, giving way to rites of superstition, ancient or modern”.

The Pope concluded by urging all pastors and all Christians to express in the most concrete way the sense of faith in relation to the family experience of bereavement. “The right to weep must not be denied”, he exclaimed. “Even Jesus was deeply moved and profoundly troubled by the bereavement of a family he loved. We can, instead, draw from the simple and powerful witness of many families who have known how to grasp, in the difficult passage of death, also the safe passage offered by the Lord, crucified and risen, with his irrevocable promise of the resurrection of the dead. The work of God's love is stronger than the work of death. We must seek to be 'accomplices' to that love, with our faith. … Death was defeated by Jesus on the cross. Jesus will restore all of us to our families”.

Appeal for the defence of creation and aid to refugees

Vatican City, 17 June 2015 (VIS) – Following today's catechesis the Pope mentioned that tomorrow the Encyclical on the care of creation, our “common home”, will be published. “Our home is being ruined and this damages everyone, especially the poorest. I therefore make an appeal for responsibility, on the basis of the task that God assigned to the human being in creation: 'to tend and to keep' the 'garden' in which He placed him. I invite everyone to welcome with an open heart this Document which is in line with the social doctrine of the Church”.

He also drew attention to World Refugee Day, organised by the United Nations and to be held next Saturday, and called for prayers “for the many brothers and sisters who seek refuge far from the lands of their birth, in search of a place where they can live without fear, so that their dignity may always be respected”. He added, “I encourage the work of the many who help them, and hope that the international community will act in a concerted and effective way to prevent the causes of forced migration”.

In his greetings to Polish pilgrims, the Holy Father mentioned St. Albert Chmielowski, whose memory is celebrated today. “Remembering his commitment to the poor, to the homeless, to the incurably sick, we open our hearts to the needs of our brothers. From this we learn to serve Christ in the poor and to be good for others, like bread. Let us imitate him in aspiring to holiness”.

Consistory for the canonisation of blesseds Vincenzo Grossi, Mary of the Immaculate Conception, Louis Martin and Marie-Azelie Guerin

Vatican City, 17 June 2015 (VIS) – On Saturday 27 June, in the Consistory Hall of the Vatican Apostolic Palace, the Holy Father will preside at the celebration of Terce and the ordinary public consistory for the canonisation of the blesseds Vincenzo Grossi, Italian diocesan priest and founder of the Institute of Daughters of the Oratory (1845-1917); Mary of the Immaculate Conception (nee Maria Isabel Salvat Romero), Spanish superior general of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Company of the Cross (1926-1998); and the French spouses Louis Martin (1823-1894) and Marie-Azelie Guerin (1831-1877), parents of St. Therese of Lisieux.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 17 June 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, professor of theoretical physics at the University of Potsdam and director of the Institute for Climate Impact in Potsdam, Federal Republic of Germany, as ordinary member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.
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