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Monday, October 5, 2015

First General Congregation: the Synod is the Church that walks together to see reality with the eyes of faith, says the Pope

Vatican City, 5 October 2015 (VIS) – This morning at 9 a.m. the 14th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops dedicated to “The vocation and mission of the family in the Church and the contemporary world” commenced in the Vatican. In the presence of the Holy Father, the first to speak was the Honduran Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga, who presented to the Synod Fathers a brief meditation summarising the intentions and spirit of the Assembly.

“Brothers, who come from the four corners of the world summoned by Peter, moved by the love of Jesus and the Mother Church”, he began. “St. Paul invites us, indeed, to joy. The joy of the gospel that Pope Francisco tirelessly proclaims worldwide. But as he himself has told us, the greatest risk in the world today, with its multiple and overwhelming consumption, is an individualistic sorrow that springs from the comfortable and covetous heart, the feeble search for superficial pleasures, the isolated consciousness. Sometimes it saddens us to hear how the world has focused on this Synod as if we came together as two opposing sides to defend entrenched positions. Therefore, with Jesus Christ joy is always born and reborn'”.

“But let us take heart”, he continued. “We are not a Church in danger of extinction or indeed far less. Neither is the family, although it is threatened and opposed. Nor do we come to mourn or lament the difficulties. Psalm 26 tells us: 'Be brave, take heart. Hope in the Lord'. Let us all have one mind: let us all seek the unanimity that comes from dialogue, not ideas defended at all costs. St. Paul reminds us to have same sentiments as Christ. Live in peace: as Evangelii Gaudium tells us, dialogue contributes to peace, because the Church proclaims the 'Gospel of peace'. To proclaim Jesus Christ, Who is peace in person, the Mother Church encourages us to be instruments of peace and credible witnesses of a reconciled life. It is time to know how to plan a culture that favours dialogue and the pursuit of consensus and agreements as a form of encounter. We are not in need of a project of few and for the few, or an enlightened or minority that appropriates a collective sentiment”.

“Therefore, we wish to begin the Synod in peace”, he concluded. “It is not the peace of the world, made of compromises and commitments that frequently are not fulfilled. It is the peace of Christ, peace with ourselves. And the conclusion is clear: 'The God of love and peace will be with you'. So we can say, 'Stay with us, Lord', not because the day is ending, but rather because it is beginning. A new day for the families of the world, believers or not, families tired of the uncertainties and doubts sown by various ideologies such as deconstruction, cultural and social contradictions, fragility and loneliness. Abide with us Lord, so that this Synod indicate a path of joy and hope for all families”.

The Holy Father than introduced the work of the first day, explaining that “the Synod is not a convention or a locutory; it is not a parliament or a senate, where an accord is sought. The Synod, instead, is an ecclesial expression, that is, the Church who walks together to read reality with the eyes of faith, and which therefore does not represent a museum to be looked at or even to be protected, but is rather a living source from which the Church slakes her thirst so as to slake the thirst and enlighten the deposit of life”.

The Synod is, furthermore, “a protected space where the Church can experience the action of the Holy Spirit. In the Synod the Spirit speaks through the language of all those who let themselves be guided by God, Who always surprises us, by God Who shows to the smallest among us what He hides from the wise and the intelligent, by God Who created the law and the Sabbath for man and not vice versa, by God Who leaves his ninety-nine sheep to seek the one lost sheep, by God Who is always greater than our logic and our calculations. However, let us remember that the Synod may be a space for the action of the Holy Spirit only if we participants clothe ourselves in apostolic courage, evangelical humility and trustful prayer”.

“Apostolic courage so that we do not let ourselves be afraid neither before the seductions of the world, that tend to extinguish in the heart of men the light of the truth, substituting it will small temporary lights, neither before the hardening of some hearts that, in spite of good intentions, distance people from God”, underlined the Pope.

“Evangelical humility so that we empty ourselves of our own conventions and prejudices in order to listen to our brother Bishops and to fill ourselves with God. Humility that leads us not to point a finger at others to judge them, but rather to offer them a hand to help them up without ever feeling superior to them”.

“Trustful prayer is the action of the heart when it opens to God, when it calms our mood so we hear the gentle voice of God that speaks in the silence. Without listening to God, all of our words will remain words alone, that nether satisfy nor serve. Without allowing ourselves to be guided by the Holy Spirit, all our decisions will be mere decorations that instead of exalting the Gospel, cover or conceal it”.

“Dear brothers”, concluded Francis, “as I said, the Synod is not a parliament where, in order to reach a consensus or a common accord we resort to negotiation, pacts or compromise; the only method of the Synod is to open itself to the Holy Spirit with apostolic courage, with evangelical courage and with trustful prayer so that He may guide us, enlighten us and let us put before our eyes not our own personal views, but our faith in God, fidelity to the Magisterium, the good of the Church and the salus animarum”.

The president delegate, the cardinal archbishop of Paris Andre Vingt-Trois, then commented that the Pope's decision to convoke two sessions of the Synod of Bishops on the mission of the family in the contemporary world has been fruitful and that the episcopate has borne witness to this. The particular Churches have made efforts to contribute to the work by answering to the questionnaire that informed the Instrumentum Laboris. “Our Synod is led by the Church”. The cardinal also mentioned the Motu Proprio Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus, with which the Holy Father has reformed the canonical procedures regarding the declaration of nullity of marriage, which offers valuable direction on the spirit according to which this phase of the Synod should unfold. “Without casting doubt on the sacramental tradition of our Church, nor its doctrine on the indissolubility of marriage, you invite us to share our pastoral experiences and to open the paths of mercy by which the Lord calls all those who wish to and are able to enter into a space for conversion with a view to forgiveness”.

Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, general secretary of the Synod, explained the working methods of the Synod of Bishops in this extraordinary assembly, including the time available for interventions by the Synod Fathers and the greater space accorded to the Circuli Minori to foster more intense debate, as well as the importance conceded to the contributions by couples and the relationships between the Synod and the media.

Finally, the general rapporteur, the cardinal archbishop of Ezstergom-Budapest, Peter Erdo, illustrated the first part of the Instrumentum Laboris, which begins by listening to the challenges to the family, placing them in the contemporary socio-cultural context, and its anthropological change, characterised by a “flight from institutions” leading to institutional instability and the predominance of individualism and subjectivism. He then spoke about the discernment of the family vocation, the divine pedagogy of the family and indissolubility as a gift and a task, mentioning the family in the Magisterium of the Church and its missionary dimension, as well as “wounded” families, placing them in the context of mercy and truth. The cardinal touched upon the theme of the evangelising dimension of the family and ecclesial accompaniment of family units, as well as the issue of reproductive responsibility and the challenges of education.

“Listening to the Word of God, our response must show the sincere and fraternal attention to the needs of our contemporaries, to transmit to them the liberating truth and to be witnesses of our greatest mercy. To face today's challenges to the family. The Church must convert and become more alive, more personal, and more community-based, also at the levels of the parish and the small community. It would appear that a community reawakening is already in process in many areas. So that it might be more general and increasingly profound, we ask that the light of the Holy Spirit show us also the concrete steps we need to take. In this way, the vocation and the mission of the family in the Church and the contemporary world, the theme of this Synod, would appear in the serene and concrete light that enables us to grow in hope and trust in God's mercy; in that mercy to which Pope Francis wished to dedicate an extraordinary Jubilee. Let us thank the Holy Father for this decision of hope and entrust our work to the Holy Family of Nazareth”.

“The man who falls or who errs must be understood and loved”

Vatican City, 4 October 2015 (VIS) – Today the Holy Father presided at the opening Mass of the Synod of Bishops on “The vocation and mission of the family in the Church and the contemporary world”. In his homily, the bishop of Rome commented on the Biblical texts of this 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time, noting that they focus on “three themes: solitude, love between man and woman, and the family”.

Regarding solitude, he spoke of Adam's dominion over all the other creatures in the Garden of Eden, “a sign of his dominion, his clear and undisputed power”. Nonetheless, “he felt alone, because 'there was not found a helper fit for him'”. Loneliness, said the Pope, “is experienced by countless men and women in our own day. I think of the elderly, abandoned even by their loved ones and children; widows and widowers; the many men and women left by their spouses; all those who feel alone, misunderstood and unheard; migrants and refugees fleeing from war and persecution; and those many young people who are victims of the culture of consumerism, the culture of waste, the throwaway culture”.

“Today we experience the paradox of a globalised world filled with luxurious mansions and skyscrapers, but a lessening of the warmth of homes and families; many ambitious plans and projects, but little time to enjoy them... Our experience today is, in some way, like that of Adam: so much power and at the same time so much loneliness and vulnerability. The image of this is the family. People are less and less serious about building a solid and fruitful relationship of love: in sickness and in health, for better and for worse, in good times and in bad. Love which is lasting, faithful, conscientious, stable and fruitful is increasingly looked down upon, viewed as a quaint relic of the past”.

In the first reading we hear that God was pained by Adam’s loneliness, and resolved to make him a helper fit for him. “These words show that nothing makes man’s heart as happy as another heart like his own, a heart which loves him and takes away his sense of being alone. These words also show that God did not create us to live in sorrow or to be alone. He made men and women for happiness, to share their journey with someone who complements them, to live the wondrous experience of love: to love and to be loved, and to see their love bear fruit in children, as today’s Psalm says. This is God’s dream for His beloved creation: to see it fulfilled in the loving union between a man and a woman, rejoicing in their shared journey, fruitful in their mutual gift of self”.

“What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder”, said the Pope, turning to the theme of the family. “This is an exhortation to believers to overcome every form of individualism and legalism which conceals a narrow self-centredness and a fear of accepting the true meaning of the couple and of human sexuality in God’s plan. Indeed, only in the light of the folly of the gratuitousness of Jesus’ paschal love will the folly of the gratuitousness of an exclusive and life-long conjugal love make sense”.

“For God, marriage is not some adolescent utopia, but a dream without which his creatures will be doomed to solitude”, he continued. “Indeed, being afraid to accept this plan paralyses the human heart. Paradoxically, people today – who often ridicule this plan – continue to be attracted and fascinated by every authentic love, by every steadfast love, by every fruitful love, by every faithful and enduring love. We see people chase after fleeting loves while dreaming of true love; they chase after carnal pleasures but desire total self-giving”.

“In this extremely difficult social and marital context, the Church is called to carry out her mission in fidelity, truth and love. To carry out her mission in fidelity to her Master as a voice crying out in the desert, in defending faithful love and encouraging the many families which live married life as an experience which reveals of God’s love; in defending the sacredness of life, of every life; in defending the unity and indissolubility of the conjugal bond as a sign of God’s grace and of the human person’s ability to love seriously”.

“To carry out her mission in truth, which is not changed by passing fads or popular opinions. The truth which protects individuals and humanity as a whole from the temptation of self-centredness and from turning fruitful love into sterile selfishness, faithful union into temporary bonds. … To carry out her mission in charity, not pointing a finger in judgement of others, but – faithful to her nature as a mother – conscious of her duty to seek out and care for hurting couples with the balm of acceptance and mercy; to be a 'field hospital' with doors wide open to whoever knocks in search of help and support”.

Francis recalled St. John Paul II who said: “Error and evil must always be condemned and opposed; but the man who falls or who errs must be understood and loved”, and added “The Church must search out these persons, welcome and accompany them, for a Church with closed doors betrays herself and her mission, and, instead of being a bridge, becomes a roadblock: 'For He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified have all one origin. That is why He is not ashamed to call them brethren'”.

“In this spirit”, he concluded, “we ask the Lord to accompany us during the Synod and to guide His Church, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph, her most chaste spouse”.

Society is not strong without the family

Vatican City, September 2015 (VIS) – In today's Sunday Angelus the Pope again asked the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square for prayers for the Synod on the Family inaugurated yesterday with Mass in St. Peter's Basilica.

“The Synod Fathers, from all over the world and gathered around St. Peter's Successor will reflect during these three weeks on the vocation and the mission of the Church in the Church and in society, for a careful spiritual and pastoral discernment. We will keep our gaze fixed on Jesus in order to find, on the basis of His teaching of truth and mercy, the most appropriate routes for adequate commitment on the part of the Church, with families and for families, so that the Creator's original plan for man and woman may be implemented and may operate in all its beauty and strength in today's world”.

In this sense, the reading of the Book of Genesis on complementarity and reciprocity between the man and woman who unite and become one flesh, “that is, one life, one existence”, and in this way “transmit their life to new human beings: they become parents. They participate in the creative power of God Himself. But”, he warned, “be careful! God is love, and one participates in His work when one loves with and like Him. … And this is also the love that is given to spouses in the Sacrament of marriage. It is the love that nurtures their relationship, through joy and suffering, in moments of serenity and difficulty. It is the love that awakens the desire to create children, to wait for them, welcome them, raise them and educate them. It is the same love that, in today's Gospel, Jesus reveals to the children: 'Let the children come to me, do not prevent them'.

“Today we ask the Lord that all parents and educators in the world, as in society as a whole, are made instruments of that acceptance and love with which Jesus embraces the little ones. He looks into their hearts with the tenderness and care of a father and, at the same time, a mother. I think of so many children that are hungry, abandoned, exploited, forced into the war, refused. It is painful to see images of children that are unhappy, looking lost, fleeing from poverty and conflicts. They are knocking on our doors and our hearts begging for help. May the Lord help us not to be a 'fortress-society,' but rather a 'family-society' which welcomes – with the proper rules -but always welcomes with love”.

The Pope concluded by invoking the inspiration of the Holy Spirit for the Synod Fathers and the intercession of the Virgin Mary, uniting with those who today, Italian Shrine of Pompeii, pray the traditional supplication to the Our Lady of the Rosary.

Following the Angelus, Francis mentioned the beatification yesterday in Santander, Spain, of Pio Heredia and seventeen companions of the Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance of St. Bernard, killed in hatred of the faith during the Spanish civil war and the religious persecution of the 1930s. “Let us praise the Lord for their courageous witness, and with their intercession, let us beg that He liberate the world from the scourge of war”.

He prayed for the victims of a landslide that swept away an entire village in Guatemala, and of the flood in the Cote d'Azur in France, and urged concrete acts of solidarity in their support. He also affectionately greeted Italian pilgrims on the feast day of the their patron, St. Francis of Assisi.

Prayer Vigil for the Synod – the Church can light up the darkness of humanity

Vatican City, 3 October 2015 (VIS) - “When life proves difficult and demanding, we can be tempted to step back, turn away and withdraw, perhaps even in the name of prudence and realism, and thus flee the responsibility of doing our part as best we can”, said the Holy Father during his inauguration of the prayer vigil for the Synod of Bishops, held during the night of Saturday 3 October. Organised by the Italian Episcopal Conference, large numbers of faithful and pilgrims participated in St. Peter's Square.

The Pope spoke about the human fear that the prophet Elijah experienced and how he got up and fled for his life, and recalled that “just a year ago, in this same Square, we invoked the Holy Spirit and asked that - in discussing the theme of the family - the Synod Fathers might listen attentively to one another, with their gaze fixed on Jesus, the definitive Word of the Father and the criterion by which everything is to be measured. This evening, our prayer cannot be otherwise. For as Patriarch Athenagoras Metropolitan Ignatius IV Hazim reminded us, without the Holy Spirit God is far off, Christ remains in the past, the Church becomes a mere organisation, authority becomes domination, mission becomes propaganda, worship becomes mystique, Christian life the morality of slaves”.

“Let us pray that the Synod which opens tomorrow will show how the experience of marriage and family is rich and humanly fulfilling”, he continued. “May the Synod acknowledge, esteem, and proclaim all that is beautiful, good and holy about that experience. May it embrace situations of vulnerability and hardship: war, illness, grief, wounded relationships and brokenness, which create distress, resentment and separation. May it remind these families, and every family, that the Gospel is always 'good news' which once again enables us to start over. From the treasury of the Church’s living tradition may the Fathers draw words of comfort and hope for families called in our own day to build the future of the ecclesial community and the city of man”.

The Pope emphasised that “every family is always a light, however faint, amid the darkness of this world. Jesus’ own human experience took shape in the heart of a family, where he lived for thirty years. His family was like any number of others, living in an obscure village on the outskirts of the Empire”.

He gave the example of Charles de Foucauld who “came to understand that we do not grow in the love of God by avoiding the entanglement of human relations. For in loving others, we learn to love God, in stooping down to help our neighbour, we are lifted up to God. Through his fraternal closeness and his solidarity with the poor and the abandoned, he came to understand that it is they who evangelise us, they who help us to grow in humanity”.

The Holy Father encouraged the faithful to enter into the mystery of the family in order to be able to understand it. “The family is a place where evangelical holiness is lived out in the most ordinary conditions. There we are formed by the memory of past generations and we put down roots which enable us to go far. The family is a place of discernment, where we learn to recognise God’s plan for our lives and to embrace it with trust. It is a place of gratuitousness. of discreet fraternal presence and solidarity, a place where we learn to step out of ourselves and accept others, to forgive and to be feel forgiven”.

“Let us set out once more from Nazareth for a Synod which, more than speaking about the family, can learn from the family, readily acknowledging its dignity, its strength and its value, despite all its problems and difficulties. In the 'Galilee of the nations' of our own time, we will rediscover the richness and strength of a Church which is a mother, ever capable of giving and nourishing life, accompanying it with devotion, tenderness, and moral strength. For unless we can unite compassion with justice, we will end up being needlessly severe and deeply unjust”.

“A Church which is family is also able to show the closeness and love of a father ... a Church of children who see themselves as brothers and sisters, will never end up considering anyone simply as a burden, a problem, an expense, a concern or a risk. Other persons are essentially a gift, and always remain so, even when they walk different paths. The Church is an open house, far from outward pomp, hospitable in the simplicity of her members. … This Church can indeed light up the darkness felt by so many men and women. She can credibly point them towards the goal and walk at their side, precisely because she herself first experienced what it is to be endlessly reborn in the merciful heart of the Father”, Francis concluded.

The Pope receives volunteers from the Food Bank and again denounces food waste

Vatican City, 3 October 2015 (VIS) – This morning in the Paul VI Hall Pope Francis received in audience seven thousand volunteers from the Food Bank Foundation, established 25 years ago by the Italian businessman Danilo Fossati and Don Giussani, founder of Communion and Liberation, to combat food waste, recovering and distributing food among the poor and families in need.

In his address to them, Francis underlined that hunger has now assumed the dimensions of a true scandal that threatens the life and dignity of many people: men and women, children and the elderly. “Every day we must face this injustice: in a world rich in food resources, thanks also to enormous technological progress, there are too many people who do not have the essentials for survival; and this is true not only of poor countries, but increasingly so in rich and developed societies. The situation is aggravated by the increase in migratory flows, which bring thousands of refugees to Europe, fleeing their countries and in need of everything. In the face of such an immeasurable problem, Jesus' words resonate: 'For I was hungry and you gave me food'. We see in the Gospel that the Lord, when He realises that the crowd that has come to listen to Him is hungry, does not ignore the problem, nor does He give a good speech on the fight against poverty; instead He performs a gesture that leaves everyone astonished. He takes the little that the disciples have brought with them, He blesses it, and He multiplies the bread and fishes, so that in the end 'they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over'”.

“We cannot perform a miracle as Jesus did; however we can do something when faced wit the emergency of hunger, something useful, that also has the power of a miracle. First of all we can educate ourselves in humanity, in recognising the humanity present in every person, in need of everything. This is perhaps what Danilo Fossati, entrepreneur in the food sector and founder of the Food Bank, was thinking of when he confided to Don Giussani his unease at seeing the destruction of products that could still be consumed, when so many people in Italy suffered from hunger”.

The bishop of Rome remarked that the Foundation has its roots in the heart of those two men who were not indifferent to the cry of the poor and “understood that something needed to change in the mentality of the people, that the walls of individualism and selfishness had to be broken down. … Jesus Himself invites us to make space in our heart for the urgency of feeding the hungry, and the Church has made it one of the works of corporal mercy”.

Finally, commenting that the Food Bank volunteers encounter hundreds of people every day, the Pope reminded them of the need to remember that they are “people and not numbers, each one with his or her burden that at times seems impossible to bear. Always keeping this in mind, you will be able to look them in the eye, to hold their hand, to descry the flesh of Christ in them and to help them regain their dignity and get back on their feet. I encourage you to be brothers and friends to the poor; to let them feel that they are important in God's eyes”.

Mass for the Vatican Gendarmerie Corps

Vatican City, 3 October 2015 (VIS) – Following the festivity of St. Michael Archangel, patron of the Vatican City State Gendarmerie Corps, Pope Francis celebrated Mass this morning in the Governorate Chapel, attended by the members of the Corps.

The Holy Father spoke in his homily about St. Michael's battle against Satan, affirming that “there is a war between good and evil, in which we must choose what we want, good or evil. But … the methods of war adopted by these two enemies are totally opposed to one another. In the initial prayer … we ask for the grace to be defended by Archangel Michael against the temptations of the devil, and this is one of the devil's methods: temptation”.

He then explained “the three steps of the method of the ancient serpent, the devil. First, having things: in this case bread, wealth, the wealth that gradually leads to corruption, and this corruption is not a tale, it is everywhere. Many people are willing to sell their soul for a pittance, they sell their happiness, their life, everything. It is the first step: money and wealth. Then, when you have it you feel important, which leads to the second step: vanity. What the devil said to Jesus: Let's go to the terrace, 'cast Yourself down from here' – make a great spectacle! Living for vanity. And the third step is power, pride and arrogance: 'to you I will give all this authority', you will be in command”.

“This also happens to us, in small things, always, in small things: too attached to wealth, we like it when we are praised, like the peacock. And many people become ridiculous. Vanity makes us become ridiculous. Or, in the end, when you have power you feel as if you are God, and this is the great sin”.

“You who have a difficult job, in which there are always conflicts and you have to put in things in their place, often enabling crime to be avoided. Pray to the Lord that, by the intercession of St. Michael Archangel, He will defend you from any temptation of corruption for money, for wealth, for vanity or arrogance. The humbler you are, like Jesus, the humbler your service will be and the more fruitful and useful it will be for all of us”.

Statement by the Director of the Holy See Press Office

Vatican City, 3 October 2015 (VIS) – The Director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., today made the following statement:

“With regard to the declarations and interview given by Msgr. Krzystof Charamsa it should be observed that, notwithstanding the respect due to the events and personal situations, and reflections on the issue, the decision to make such a pointed statement on the eve of the opening of the Synod appears very serious and irresponsible, since it aims to subject the Synod assembly to undue media pressure. Msgr. Charamsa will certainly be unable to continue to carry out his previous work in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Pontifical universities, while the other aspects of his situation shall remain the competence of his diocesan Ordinary”.


Vatican City, 3 October 2015 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father received in audience:

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

- Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, apostolic nuncio in Belarus.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 5 October 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed:

- Archbishop Salvatore Ligorio of Matera-Irsina, Italy, as metropolitan archbishop of Potenza-Muro-Lucano-Marsico Nuovo (area 1,634, population 154,600, Catholics 152,600, priests 113, permanent deacons 23, religious 124), Italy. He succeeds Archbishop Agostino Superbo, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same archdiocese upon reaching the age limit was accepted by the Holy Father.

- Msgr. Andrea Migliavacca as bishop of San Miniato (area 691, population 176,794, Catholics 161,000, priests 79, permanent deacons 10, religious 122), Italy. The bishop-elect was born in Pavia, Italy in 1967 and was ordained a priest in 1992. He holds a degree in canon law from the Pontifical Gregorian University and has served in a number of pastoral and administrative roles in Pavia, including notary of the diocesan ecclesiastical tribunal, adjunct judicial vicar, head of youth pastoral, Catholic Action assistant for youth, parish administrator of the San Genesio ed Uniti. He is currently vice chancellor and judge of the Lombard Regional Ecclesiastical Tribunal, rector of the diocesan seminary and head of vocations, judicial vicar and canon of the Cathedral Chapter.
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