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Thursday, September 17, 2015

Audience with the Prime Minister of Luxembourg: assistance to refugees and displaced persons

Vatican City, 17 September 2015 (VIS) – This morning in the Vatican Apostolic Palace the Holy Father Francis received in audience the Prime Minister of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, Xavier Bettel, who subsequently met with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, accompanied by Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, secretary for Relations with States.

The cordial discussions offered the opportunity to reaffirm the wish to consolidate the existing good relations between the Holy See and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and to consider issues of common interest, with special attention to the relationship between Church and State, underlining the relevance of religious freedom and spiritual values for social cohesion.

Within the context of Luxembourg’s term of presidency of the European Union, attention then turned to various matters of a European and international nature, with particular reference to current conflicts, the issue of migration and the need to provide assistance to refugees and displaced persons, as well as the situation of persecuted religious minorities.

To young consecrated persons: prophecy, closeness, memory and adoration

Vatican City, 17 September 2015 (VIS) – This morning the Holy Father received in audience the participants in the World Meeting of Young Consecrated Men and Women, which took place within the context of the Year of Consecrated Life. During the audience, and after special greetings for those from Syria and Iraq in which he recalled the martyrs of these countries, the Pope answered three questions posed to him by those present.

The first question, asked by a woman religious, related to the problem of instability and mediocrity in the vocational path. Francis recalled that, according to St. Teresa of Jesus, strict observance removed freedom. “The Lord calls you – and calls all of us – to the 'prophetic way' of freedom, that is the freedom that is to be united with witness and fidelity. A mother who raises her children in a strict fashion … and does not let them dream … annuls their creative future, rendering them barren. Consecrated life, too, can be barren, when it is not truly prophetic, when dreaming is not permitted. … Prophecy, the capacity to dream, is the opposite of rigidity. And observance must not be rigid: if it is, it is personal egoism. … Always keep your heart open to what the Lord says to you and bring it into your dialogue with the superior, the teacher or your spiritual guide, the Church, the bishop. Openness, an open heart, dialogue, and also community dialogue. … I tell you sincerely, one of the sins I most frequently encounter in community life is the incapacity for forgiveness between brothers and sisters. … Gossip in a community obstructs forgiveness and puts distance between people. … It is the scourge of community life. … It is a bomb that destroys the reputation of others who are unable to defend themselves as gossip takes place in obscurity, not in the light of day”.

The Pope went on to affirm that ever since the beginning of consecrated life there have been moments of instability. “There will always be temptations … and returning to St. Teresa of Jesus, she said that one must pray for those who are about to die, as this is the moment of greatest instability, in which the temptations arise with force. Culturally it is true, we live in a very unstable time … we live in a culture of the provisional. … And this culture has also entered into the Church, into religious communities, into the family and marriage. … Instead there is the culture of the definitive – God sent His Son for ever, not in a temporary way, to one generation or country, but rather to all and forever. And this is a criterion of spiritual discernment … taking on definitive commitments so as not to disintegrate”.

In response to another question on evangelisation, the Pope emphasised that apostolic zeal comes from a wish to evangelise that inflames the heart. “Evangelising is not the same as proselytism”, he remarked. “We are not a football team seeking members and supporters. … Evangelisation is not about simply convincing, it is about bearing witness that Jesus lives. … And this witness is given with the flesh, with one's own life. And here – forgive me if I am a bit of a feminist – I would like to give thanks for the witness of consecrated women. You always have the wish to go to the front line, as you are mothers, you have the maternity of the Church, that brings you close to people. … You are the icons of the Church's tenderness and love, of the maternity of the Church and of Our Lady”.

“Another key word in consecrated life is memory. I do not think that James and John ever forgot their first encounter with Jesus, and nor did the other apostles. … The memory of one's own vocation. In the darkest moments, the moments of temptation, in the difficult moments of our consecrated life, return to the source, treasure the memory and wonder of when the Lord looked upon us”.

The Pope was asked to share his memory of the first calling he received. “I don't know how it was. I entered the Church by chance, I saw a confessional and I left changed, I left in a different way. My life changed then. And what attracted me to Jesus and the Gospel? I don't know … their closeness to me. The Lord has never left me alone, not even in dark and difficult moments, nor in moments of sin … because the Lord always meets us definitively. He is not part of the culture of the provisional: He loves us for ever and He accompanies us always”.

“So, proximity to the people, prophecy in our witness, with an ardour, with the apostolic zeal that warms the hearts of others, even without words … and memory, always returning to the source”.

“I would like to end with two words”, Francis concluded. “One is … among the worst attitudes of the religious: gazing upon one's own reflection in the mirror, narcissism. Be on your guard against this. … And yes, instead, to the contrary, to what despoils us of all narcissism, yes to adoration. I think this is one of the central themes. We all pray and give thanks to the Lord, we ask favours, we praise the Lord … but do we adore the Lord? The prayer of silent adoration: 'You are the Lord', is the opposite of narcissism. I would like to finish with this word, adoration. Be men and women of adoration”.

The Church cannot remain silent as women and children live on the streets

Vatican City, 17 September 2015 (VIS) – This morning in the Clementine Hall the Holy Father received the participants in the International Symposium on the Pastoral Care of the Street, organised by the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Itinerant Peoples. The aim of the meeting was to draw up a plan of action to respond to the phenomenon of women and children – and their families – who live mainly on the streets.

Among the often sad causes of the phenomenon, the Pope lists indifference, poverty, family and social violence, and human trafficking. “They involve the pain of marital separations and the birth of children out of wedlock, frequently doomed to a life of 'vagrancy'. Street children and street women are not numbers, or 'packets' to be traded; they are human beings, each with his or her own name and face, each with a God-given identity”.

“No child chooses to live on the streets. Sadly, even in our modern, globalised world, many children continue to be robbed of their childhood, their rights and their future. Lack of legal protection and adequate structures only aggravates their state of deprivation: they have no real family or access to education or health care. Every child abandoned or forced to live on the streets, at the mercy of criminal organisations, is a cry rising up to God, Who created man and woman in His own image. It is an indictment of a social system which we have criticised for decades, but which we find hard to change in conformity with criteria of justice”.

He also spoke about the troubling increase in the number of young girls and women forced to earn a living on the street by selling their own bodies, victims of exploitation by criminal organisations and at times by parents and family members. “This is a shameful reality in our societies, which boast of being modern and possessed of high levels of culture and development. Widespread corruption and unrestrained greed are robbing the innocent and the vulnerable of the possibility of a dignified life, abetting the crime of trafficking and other injustices which they have to endure. No one can remain unmoved before the pressing need to safeguard the dignity of women, threatened by cultural and economic factors”.

He asked, “please: do not be disheartened by the difficulties and the challenges which you encounter in your dedicated work, nourished as it is by your faith in Christ, Who showed, even to death on the cross, the preferential love of God our Father for the weak and the outcast. The Church cannot remain silent, nor can her institutions turn a blind eye to the baneful reality of street children and street women. The Christian community in the various countries needs to be involved at all levels in working to eliminate everything which forces a child or a woman to live on the street or to earn a livelihood on the street. We can never refrain from bringing to all, and especially to the most vulnerable and underprivileged, the goodness and the tenderness of God our merciful Father. Mercy is the supreme act by which God comes to meet us; it is the way which opens our hearts to the hope of an everlasting love”.

The Holy Father concluded by offering to the participants in the congress “prayerful good wishes for the fruitfulness of your efforts, in your various countries, to offer pastoral and spiritual care, and liberation, to those who are most frail and exploited; I likewise pray for the fruitfulness of your mission to advance and protect their personhood and dignity”.

The Pope: no-one can remain oblivious to the atrocities and human rights violations in Syria and Iraq

Vatican City, 17 September 2015 (VIS) – “One of the most overwhelming human tragedies of recent decades are the terrible consequences that the conflicts in Syria and Iraq have on civilian populations as well as on cultural heritage. Millions of people are in distressing state of urgent need. They are forced to leave their native lands. Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey today carry the weight of millions of refugees, which they have generously received. Faced with such a situation and conflicts that are expanding and disturbing in an alarming way the internal and regional equilibrium, the international community seems unable to find adequate solutions while the arms dealers continue to achieve their interests”.

With these words the Pope addressed the participants in the meeting on the humanitarian crisis in Syria and Iraq, organised by the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”, attended by Catholic charitable bodies and the bishops of the region, among others, and to which more than thirty organisations have lent their support.

Francis went on to emphasise that “today, unlike in the past, atrocities and unspeakable human rights violations, which characterise these conflicts, are transmitted live by the media. Therefore, they captured the attention of the whole world. No one can pretend not to know! Everyone is aware that this war weighs in an increasingly unbearable way on the shoulders of the poor. We need to find a solution, which is never a violent one, because violence only creates new wounds”.

In this “ocean of pain”, he urged the attendees at the meeting to give special attention to the material and spiritual needs of the weakest and most defenceless: “I think particularly of the families, the elderly, the sick and the children. Children and young people, the hope of the future, are deprived of basic rights: to grow up in the serenity of the family, to be looked after and cared for, to play and study. With the continuation of the conflict, millions of children are deprived of the right to education and, consequently, they see the horizon of their future becoming obscured. Do not miss your commitment in this vital area”.

“There are many victims of this conflict: I think in all of them and I pray for all. However, I cannot fail to mention the serious harm to the Christian communities in Syria and Iraq, where many brothers and sisters are oppressed because of their faith, driven from their land, kept in prison or even killed. For centuries, the Christian and Muslim communities have lived together in these lands on the basis of mutual respect. Today the very legitimacy of the presence of Christians and other religious minorities is denied in the name of a 'violent fundamentalism claiming to be based on religion'. Yet, the Church responds to the many attacks and persecution that she suffers in those countries by bearing witness to Christ with courage, through her humble and fervent presence, sincere dialogue and the generous service in favour of whoever is suffering or in need without any distinction”.

The Pope remarked that “in Syria and Iraq, evil destroys buildings and infrastructures, but especially the conscience of man. In the name of Jesus, Who came into the world to heal the wounds of humanity, the Church feels called to respond to evil with good by promoting an integral human development of 'each man and of the whole man'. To answer this difficult call, Catholics must strengthen the intra-ecclesial collaboration and the bonds of communion which unite them with other Christian communities, seeking also cooperation with international humanitarian institutions and with all men of good will. I encourage you, therefore, to continue on the path of cooperation and sharing, and working together and in synergy. Please: do not abandon the victims of this crisis, even if the world’s attention were to lessen”.

“I ask that you all bring my message of profound solidarity and closeness to those who are in trial and enduring the tragic consequences of this crisis”, he concluded. “In communion with you and with your communities, I pray unceasingly for peace and the end of the torments and injustices in your beloved lands”.
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