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Monday, September 7, 2015

The Pope praises the synodality of the Church in Portugal

Vatican City, 7 September 2015 (VIS) – This morning the Holy Father received in audience the bishops of the Portuguese Episcopal Conference, at the end of their “ad Limina” visit, and subsequently handed them a written discourse in which he praises, among other things, the growth of synodality as a style of pastoral life in the country's particular Churches and various initiatives including the general enquiry on the beliefs and faith of the Portuguese people, the first response to which is the Note “Promoting pastoral renewal in the Church in Portugal” (April 2013).

The Pope also emphasised that the five-yearly reports of the bishops suggest that the Church in Portugal has more positive than negative aspects and lives serenely, guided by common sense, and is listened to by the majority of the population and national institutions, even though her voice is not always followed. The people are hospitable, generous, religious and peace-loving, and the episcopate is fraternally united. The priests are well-prepared both spiritually and culturally, and consecrated persons are faithful to the charism of their founders, while the laity expresses in the world the effective presence of the Church.

However, the Pope notes the abandonment of Christian practice by young people after their confirmation, precisely at an age at which they take up the reins of future life, and asked if this is perhaps due to a failure of catechesis to grow with them and to respond to their questions and concerns. He therefore invites the bishops to rethink the question of a global catechetical path covering different ages and offers them encouragement, recalling that the Lord assures His constant presence and His infallible assistance to the Church.

We cannot remain indifferent to those who suffer as a result of war and violence

Vatican City, September 2015 (VIS) – “Peace is always possible – religions and cultures in dialogue” is the title of the 28th International Meeting for Peace, organised by the Sant'Egidio Community. Twenty years after the end of the war in the Balkans, it is being held this year in Tirana, Albania from 6 to 8 September. The Meetings follow the trail of St. John Paul II who attended the first in 1986 in Assisi, Italy.

Below are extensive extracts of the Holy Father's message to participants, dated 29 August 2015, memory of the martyrdom of St. John the Baptist.

“As historical contexts change and peoples are called upon to face profound and at times dramatic transformations, we are increasingly aware of the need for the followers of different religions to meet, to engage in dialogue, to journey together and to collaborate for peace, in that 'spirit of Assisi' that refers to the luminous witness of St. Francis”.

“This year you have chosen to visit Tirana, the capital of a country that has become a symbol of the peaceful cohabitation of different religions, after a long history of suffering. … I wished to choose Albania as the first European country to visit, precisely to encourage the path of peaceful coexistence after the tragic persecutions suffered by Albanian believers during the last century. The long list of martyrs still speaks to us today of that dark period, but also of the strength of faith that does not bend to the arrogance of evil. In no other country in the world has the decision to exclude God from the life of the people been so strong; even just a religious sign was enough to warrant punishment with prison, if not death. This deeply affected the Albanian people, up to the moment at which they regained their freedom, when the members of the various religious communities, sorely tested by the suffering they had experienced, were once more able to live together in peace”.

“It is precisely because it has its foundations in God that 'peace is always possible', as the title of your Meeting this year affirms. It is necessary to confirm this truth, especially today, when in some parts of the world it would seem that violence, persecution and abuse prevail over religious freedom, along with resignation to protracted conflicts. We must never become resigned to war! And we must not remain indifferent to those who suffer as a result of war and violence. For this reason I have chosen as the theme of the next World Day of Peace: 'Overcome indifference and win peace'. But it is also a form of violence to raise walls and barriers to obstruct those who seek a place of peace. It is violence to reject those who flee from inhuman conditions in the hope of a better future. It is violence to discard children and the elderly from society and from life itself. It is violence to widen the gap between those who waste the superfluous and those who lack essentials”.

“In this world, faith in God leads us to believe and leads us to cry aloud that peace is possible. It is faith that drives us to trust in God and not to resign ourselves to the work of evil. As believers we are called upon to rediscover that universal vocation to peace that lies at the heart of our different religious traditions, and to courageously offer it again to the men and women of our time. I reiterate what I said in this respect when speaking to religious leaders in Tirana: 'Authentic religion is a source of peace and not of violence! No one must use the name of God to commit violence! To kill in the name of God is a grave sacrilege. To discriminate in the name of God is inhuman'”.

God is not closed in on Himself, but opens up to humanity

Vatican City, 6 September 2015 (VIS) – The Gospel account of the deaf-mute, which shows how Jesus restores the full communication of the person with God and neighbour, was the theme of Pope Francis' reflection during this morning's Angelus audience.

The Holy Father explained to the thousands of faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square at midday that the miracle takes place in the area of Decapolis, in pagan territory, and therefore the deaf-mute brought before Jesus is transformed into a symbol of the non-believer who completes a journey towards faith. “Indeed, his deafness expresses the inability to listen and to understand not only the words of man, but also the Word of God. And St. Paul reminds us that 'faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ'”.

The first thing Jesus does is to take the man far from the crowd: “He does not wish to publicise the gesture He is about to perform, nor does He want His word to be submerged in the din of voices and the chatter of those around. The Word of God that Christ communicates to us requires silence so as to be received as the Word that heals, reconciles and re-establishes communication”.

Jesus then touches the ears and the tongue of the man to restore, through touch, the communication that had been blocked. But the miracle is “a gift that comes from on high, that Jesus implores from the Father; this is why He lifts His eyes to the heavens and commands, 'Be opened'. And the deaf man's ears open, the knot in his tongue is untied and he begins to speak correctly”.

This passage teaches us that “God is not closed in on Himself, but instead opens up to and communicates with humanity. In His immense mercy, He overcomes the abyss of the infinite difference between Him and us, and comes towards us. In order to communicate with humanity, God becomes man. It is not enough for Him to speak to us through the law and the prophets; He makes Himself present in the person of His Son, the Word made flesh. Jesus is the great 'bridge-builder' who constructs in Himself the great bridge of full communion with the Father”.

“But this Gospel also speaks to us about ourselves”, emphasised the Pope. “Often we are caught up and closed in on ourselves, and we create many inaccessible and inhospitable islands. Even the most elementary human relationships at times create situations incapable of mutual openness; the closed couple, the closed family, the closed group, the closed parish, the closed nation … and this is not of God. This is ours, it is our sin”.

“However, at the origin of our Christian life, in baptism, precisely this gesture and this word of Jesus are present: 'Ephthatha!', 'Be opened!'. And the miracle was performed: we were cured of the deafness of selfishness and the muteness of closure and sin, and we become part of the great family of the Church. We are able to hear God Who speaks to us and to communicate His Word to those who have never heard it, or have forgotten it, burying it under the thorns of the worries and deceits of the world”.

Appeal to the dioceses of Europe to welcome refugee families

Vatican City, 6 September 2015 (VIS) – After praying the Angelus, Francis launched a heartfelt appeal to all the dioceses of Europe to welcome families among the tens of thousands of refugees seeking to flee the horrors of war and persecution.

“We recognise God's mercy through our works, as is shown by the life of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the anniversary of whose death we commemorated yesterday”.

“Faced with the tragedy of tens of thousands of refugees who flee death from war or hunger, on a journey towards the hope of life, the Gospel calls to us and asks us to be close to them, to the smallest and the abandoned; to give them real hope. Not merely to say; 'be brave, be patient'. Christian hope is assertive, with the tenacity of those who go towards a certain destination”.

“Therefore, as we near the Jubilee of Mercy, I wish to address an appeal to the parishes, religious communities, monasteries and shrines throughout Europe to express the concreteness of the Gospel and to welcome a family of refugees. A concrete gesture in preparation for the Holy Year of Mercy. May every parish, every religious community, every monastery and every shrine in Europe host a family, starting with my diocese of Rome”,

“I address my brother bishops in Europe, true pastors, so that in their dioceses they may hear my appeal, recalling that Mercy is the second name of Love: 'as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me'. The two parishes of the Vatican will also welcome two families of refugees in these days”.

The Pope then went on to mention that the bishops of Venezuela and Colombia will meet shortly to examine together the painful situation that has emerged on the border between the two countries. “I see in this meeting a clear sign of hope. I invite all, especially the beloved Venezuelan and Colombian peoples, to pray that, in a spirit of solidarity and fraternity, the current difficulties may be overcome”.

He also remarked that yesterday in Gerona, Spain, the women religious Fidelia Oller, Josefa Monrabal and Facunda Margenat, “killed for their fidelity to Christ and to the Church”, were proclaimed blessed. Despite threats and intimidation, these women bravely stayed where they were to assist the sick, trusting in God. May their heroic witness, unto the shedding of their blood, give strength and hope to those who are persecuted today for their Christian faith. And as we know, there are many of them”.

Finally, he spoke about the inauguration last Friday in Brazzaville, capital of the Republic of the Congo, of the eleventh African Games, in which thousand of athletes from all over the continent will compete. “I hope that this great festival of sport will contribute to peace, fraternity and the development of all the countries of Africa”.

The Holy Father receives the “Cells of evangelisation”

Vatican City, 5 September 2015 (VIS) – This morning in the Paul VI Hall, Pope Francis received more than 5,000 members of the “Cells of Evangelisation” from all over the world, accompanied by the Fr. Piergiorgio Perini, parish priest of St. Eustorgio in Milan, Italy, who founded this institution whose statutes were formally recognised by the Catholic Church on 15 April this year. With the help of their “cells”, parish priests are able to educate their parishes in evangelisation and to continue their ordinary pastoral ministry while also giving it a missionary quality.

This missionary aim requires, above all, “listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit Who continues to speak to His Church and to drive her to take paths that are at times little-known but decisive for the progress of evangelisation. Remaining always willing to listen and being careful never to become exhausted by tiredness and the difficulties of the moment, are conditions for overcoming the various obstacles we encounter on the path of evangelisation”.

The cells, with their daily commitment and in communion with other ecclesial entities, help the parish community to become a family “in which we find the rich and multiform reality of the Church”. “Meeting in homes to share the joys and hopes that are present in the heart of every person, is a genuine experience of evangelisation that closely resembles what took place in the early years of the Church”, remarked the Pope, noting that the Cells are “able to welcome all without judging anyone, to offer the experience of God's presence and love for one's brothers. Welcome is fundamental to evangelisation, as it is one of the first signs of the communion to which we are called to bear witness, for having encountered Christ in our life”.

The Holy Father exhorted the members of the movement to make the Eucharist the heart of their evangelising mission, “so that each Cell may be a Eucharistic community where breaking bread is equivalent to recognising the real presence of Jesus Christ among us”. “Your statutes were approved on Divine Mercy Sunday. May you always bear witness to the tenderness of God the Father and His closeness to everyone, especially the weakest and loneliest”.

Cardinal Fernando Sturla, Pope's special envoy to the Fifth National Eucharistic Congress of Bolivia

Vatican City, 5 September 2015 (VIS) – In a letter published today, written in Latin and dated 22 August, the Holy Father appoints Cardinal Daniel Fernando Sturla Berhouet, S.D.B., archbishop of Montevideo, Uruguay, as his special envoy to the Fifth National Eucharistic Congress of Bolivia, to be celebrated in Tarija, Bolivia from 16 to 20 September.

The mission accompanying the cardinal will be composed of Msgr. Diego Luis Espana Gonzalez, vicar general of the diocese of Tarija, Bolivia, and Fr. Pablo Cesar Alcoba Miranda, parish priest of the parish Nuestra Senora de Pilcomayo in Yacuiba and episcopal vicar of the same diocese.


Vatican City, 7 September 2015 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father received in audience 40 prelates from the Portuguese Episcopal Conference, on their “ad Limina” visit, in two separate groups. In the early morning, he received:

- Cardinal Jose Macario do Nascimento Clemente, patriarch of Lisbon, with his auxiliaries, Bishop Joaquim Augusto da Silva Mendes, Bishop Nuno Bras da Silva Martins, and Bishop Jose Augusto Traquina Maria;

Bishop Antonio de Sousa Braga of Angra;

- Bishop Antonio Jose Cavaco Carrilho of Funchal, with Bishop emeritus Teodoro de Faria;

- Bishop Manuel da Rocha Felicio of Guarda;

- Bishop Antonio Augusto dos Santos Marto of Leiria-Fatima, with Bishop emeritus Serafim de Sousa Ferreira e Silva;

- Bishop Antonino Eugenio Fernandes Dias of Portalegre Castelo Branco;

- Bishop Manuel Pelino Domingues of Santarem;

- Bishop Gilberto Delio Gongalves Canavarro dos Reis of Setubal with Bishop emeritus Manuel da Silva Martins;

- Archbishop Jose Francisco Sanches Alves of Evora, with Bishop emeritus Maurilio Jorge Quintal de Gouveia;

- Bishop Antonio Vitalino Fernandes Dantas of Beja, with coadjutor Bishop Jose Jogo dos Santos Marcos;

- Bishop Manuel Neto Quintas of Faro, with Bishop emeritus Manuel Madureira Dias;

In the late morning, he received:

- Archbishop Jorge Ferreira da Costa Ortiga of Braga, with his auxiliary, Bishop Francisco Jose Villas-Boas Senra de Faria Coelho;

- Bishop Antonio Manuel Moiteiro Ramos of Aveiro;

- Bishop Jose Manuel Garcia Cordeiro of Braganca Miranda, with Bishops emeritus Antonio Jose Rafael and Antonio Montes Moreira;

- Bishop Virgilio do Nascimento Antunes of Coimbra;

- Bishop Antonio Jose da Rocha Couto of Lamego, with Bishop emeritus Jacinto Tomas de Carvalho;

- Bishop Antonio Francisco dos Santos of Porto, with his auxiliaries, Bishop Antonio Maria Bessa Taipa, Bishop Joao Evangelista Pimentel Lavrador and Bishop Pio Goncalo Alves de Sousa, and former auxiliary Bishop Joao Miranda Teixeira;

- Bishop Anacleto Cordeiro Gongalves de Oliveira of Viana do Castelo, with Bishop emeritus Jose Augusto Martins Fernandes Pedreira;

- Bishop Amandio Jose Tomas of Vila Real;

- Bishop Ilidio Pinto Leandro of Viseu;

- Bishop Manuel da Silva Rodrigues Linda, Military Ordinary, with Military Ordinary emeritus Bishop Januario Torgal Mendes Ferreira.

On Saturday, 5 September, the Holy Father received in audience:

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

- Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith;

- Archbishop Sergio da Rocha of Brasilia, Brazil, president of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil, with Archbishop Murilo Sebastiao Ramos Krieger of Sao Salvador da Bahia, vice president; and Bishop Leonardo Ulrich Steiner, auxiliary of Brasilia, secretary general.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 7 September 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed:

On Saturday, 5 September, the Holy Father:

- appointed Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Catholic Education, as his special envoy at the concluding celebration of the 500th anniversary of the arrival from Rome of the Sacred Image of the Madonna of Lask in the shrine of Lask in the archdiocese of Lodz, to be held on Sunday 8 November.

- accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the diocese of Taiohae, Marquis Islands, France, presented by Bishop Guy Chevalier, SS.CC. upon reaching the age limit. He is succeeded by Bishop Pascal Chang-Soi, SS.CC., coadjutor of the same diocese.

- gave his assent to the canonical election by the Synod of Bishops of the Armenian Patriarchal Church of Rev. Archpriest Kevork (Georges) Assadourian as auxiliary of the patriarchal eparchy of Beirut of the Armenians (Catholics 12,500, priests 22, permanent deacons 3, religious 49), Lebanon. The bishop-elect was born in Kamichlie, Syria in 1961 and was ordained a priest in 1986. He studied philosophy and theology at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) and at the Pontifical Lateran University, and has served in a number of roles in Lebanon, including vice rector of the seminary of Bzommar, vicar and parish priest in several parishes, and bursar. He currently exercises his pastoral ministry in Paris in the Armenian-Catholic eparchy of France.

- appointed Archbishop Thomas E. Gullickson, formerly apostolic nuncio in Ukraine, as apostolic nuncio in Switzerland and in the Principality of Liechtenstein.

Press conference on Pope Francis' two new Motu proprio on the reform of canonical procedure for marriage annulment

Vatican City, 7 September 2015 (VIS) At midday tomorrow, Tuesday 8 September, a press conference will be held in the Holy See Press Office to present the two letters issued “Motu proprio” by Pope Francis, “Mitis ludex Dominus Iesus” and “Mitis et misericors Iesus” on the reform of canonical procedure for the annulment of marriage in the Code of Canon Law (CIC) and the Code of Canons of the Oriental Churches (CCEO) respectively.

The speakers in the conference, in the order in which they will intervene, are:

- Msgr. Pio Vito Pinto, dean of the Roman Rota and president of the Special Commission for the Study of the Reform of Matrimonial Processes in Canon Law;

- Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts and member of the Special Commission;

- Bishop Dimitrios Salachas, apostolic exarch of Athens for Greek Catholics of Byzantine Rite and member of the Special Commission;

- Archbishop Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, S.J., secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and member of the Special Commission;

- Msgr. Alejandro W. Bunge, prelate auditor of the Roman Rota and secretary of the Special Commission;

- Fr. Nikolaus Schoch, O.F.M., substitute promoter of Justice at the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura and secretary of the Special Commission.
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