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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Francis to workers in Prato: fight the cancer of corruption and the exploitation of labour

Vatican City, 10 November 2015 (VIS) – Pope Francis arrived shortly before 8 a.m. at the Lungobisenzio Stadium in the Italian city of Prato, the first brief stop in his visit to the Tuscany region. From there, he transferred the cathedral square where he was awaited by thousands of faithful, some of whom had spent the night there to be able to greet the Pope. Many of them were workers, to whom he addressed a discourse on the dignity of work, in which he condemned exploitation. He also referred to the members of the Chinese community resident in the city who died last year in a fire in a textile factory where they worked and lived illegally.

Francis affirmed that he was passing through the city as part of a larger pilgrimage: “It is little, but at least the intention is there”, and remarked that he would like to spend longer in this “city of Mary”. He began by quoting the biblical passage on the liberation of Israel, when the Lord asked the Jews to celebrate the Passover with “girded loins”.

“To 'gird the loins', to wear the cloak belted at the waist, meant being ready, preparing oneself to leave, to go out to be on one's way”, he said, explaining that today this means being ready “to share the joy of having met the Lord and also the toil of walking His path. We are required to go out towards the men and women of our time. Going out, certainly, means taking risks, but there is no faith without risk. A faith that thinks of itself and is closed in on itself is not faithful to the invitation of the Lord, Who asks His people to take the initiative and to commit themselves fearlessly. Confronted with the often vertiginous transformations of recent years, there is the danger of succumbing to the whirlwind of events, losing the courage to seek out the way. … But the Lord, Who wishes to reach those who do not yet love Him, spurs us on. … He asks the Church, His bride, to walk today's rough paths, to accompany those who have lost their way and to pitch tents of hope, to welcome those who are wounded and expect nothing more from life”.

“For a disciple of Jesus, no closeness can turn into distance. Rather, there exist none who are too far away, only neighbours to be reached”, affirmed Francis, thanking the citizens of Prato for their continuing efforts to integrate all people and to resist the throwaway culture of indifference. “In times distinguished by uncertainty and fear, your initiatives in favour of the weakest and families, that you are also committed to adopting, are praiseworthy. As you seek the best concrete solutions for inclusion, do not be discouraged by difficulties. Do not resign yourselves when faced with what appear to be difficult situations of coexistence; always be encouraged by the wish to establish genuine “neighbourly pacts”.

Finally, the Holy Father recalled that St. Paul invited Christians to wear a particular armour, that of God. “We must gird ourselves with truth. Nothing good can be based on lies or the lack of transparency. Always seeking and choosing the truth is not easy; however it is a vital decision, that must profoundly mark the existence of each person and of society, so that it may be more just and more honest. The sacred nature of every human being requires respect, welcome and dignified work for all. Dignified work! If I may, I would like to remember the five men and two women, Chinese nationals, who died two years ago as a result of a fire in the industrial zone of Prato. They lived and slept inside the same industrial building where they worked: in one area, a small dormitory had been fashioned in cardboard and plasterboard, with bunk beds to make use of the height of the structure. It is a tragedy of exploitation and of inhumane conditions of life. And this is not dignified work! The life of every community demands that we fight the cancer of corruption all the way; the cancer of the exploitation of human beings and labour, and the poison of illegality. Among us and along with others, we must never tire of fighting for truth and justice”.

Francis to the National Ecclesial Congress: the traits of Christian humanism

Vatican City, 10 November 2015 (VIS) – Following his brief visit to Prato, the Pope travelled by helicopter to Florence, where he was received by the cardinal archbishop Giuseppe Betori, and by the other civil and religious authorities. He transferred by car to the Baptistery dedicated to St. John the Baptist in the square before the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, and paused a moment before the painting “The White Crucifixion”, currently on display in the “Divine Beauty” exhibition in Palazzo Strozzi. From there, he proceeded to Santa Maria del Fiore on foot to meet with the participants in the Fifth National Ecclesial Congress, dedicated this year to the theme “In Jesus Christ, the new humanism”. In the cathedral, where the 2,500 participants were gathered, he was greeted by Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, president of the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI) and archbishop of Genoa, along with Archbishop Cesare Nosiglia of Turin and Bishop Nunzio Galantino, secretary of the CEI.

The Pope gave an address focusing on the theme of the Congress, extensive extracts of which are published below, in which he spoke about the features of Christian humanism and the temptations to which the Church is exposed.

“We can speak about humanism only by starting from the centrality of Jesus, discovering in Him the features of the authentic face of man. And the contemplation of the face of the dead and risen Jesus that recomposes our humanity, fragmented as it may be by the hardships of life, or marked by sin. We must not domesticate the power of the face of Christ. The face is the image of His transcendence. … I do not wish here to draw an abstract image of the 'new humanism', a certain idea of man, but to present with simplicity some features of Christian humanism, which is that of the sentiments, the mind of Jesus Christ. These are not abstract temporary sensations but rather represent the warm interior force that makes us able to live and to make decisions”:

“The first sentiment is humility. … The obsession with preserving one's own glory and 'dignity', one's own influence, must not form part of our sentiments. We must seek God's glory, that does not coincide with ours. God's glory that shines in the humility of the stable in Bethlehem or in the dishonour of Christ's cross always surprises us”.

“Another sentiment is selflessness. '… The humanity of the Christian is always outward-looking. … Please, let us avoid 'remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits that make us feel safe'. Our duty is to make this world a better place, and to fight. Our faith is revolutionary because of the inspiration that comes from the Holy Spirit”.

“Another of Jesus Christ's sentiments is beatitude. The Christian is blessed. … In the Beatitudes, the Lord shows us the path. By taking it, we human beings can arrive at the most authentically human and divine happiness. … For the great saints, beatitude is about humiliation and poverty. But also in the most humble of our people there is much of this beatitude: it is that of he who knows the richness of solidarity, of sharing also the little he possesses. … The beatitudes we read in the Gospel begin with a blessing and end with a promise of consolation. They introduce us to a path of possible greatness, that of the spirit, and when the spirit is ready all the rest comes by itself”.

“Humility, selflessness, beatitude … they also say something to the Italian Church that today meets to walk together, setting an example of synodality. These features tell us that we must not be obsessed with power, even when this assumes the appearance of a useful or functional power in the social image of the Church. If the Church does not assume Jesus' mind, she is disorientated and loses her way. A Church with these three features – humility, selflessness and beatitude – is a Church that recognises the action of the Lord in the world, in culture, in the daily life of the people. I have said this more than once, and I will repeat it again today to you: 'I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security'”.

“However, we know that there are many temptations we must resist. I will present you at least two of them. The first is that of Pelagianism, which leads the Church not to be humble, selfless and blessed. … Often it leads us even to assuming a style of control, of hardness, normativity. Rules give to the Pelagian the security of feeling superior, of having a precise orientation. In this it finds its strength, not in the soft breath of the Spirit. Faced with the ills or the problems of the Church, it is useless to seek solutions in conservatism or fundamentalism, in the restoration of outdated forms and conduct that have no capacity for meaning, even culturally. Christian doctrine is not a closed system incapable of generating questions, doubts and uncertainties, but it is living, it knows how to disturb and to encourage. Its face is not rigid, it has a body that moves and develops, it has tender flesh; Christian doctrine is called Jesus Christ”.

“A second temptation is the gnosticism that leads us to place our trust in logical and clear reasoning that, however, loses the tenderness of our brother's flesh. … The difference between Christian transcendence and any other form of gnostic spiritualism resides in the mystery of the Incarnation. Not putting into practice, not leading the Word to reality, means building on sand, remaining in the pure idea and degenerating into intimisms that do not bear fruit, that render its dynamism sterile”.

“The Italian Church has great saints whose examples help live faith with humility, generosity and joy, from St. Francis of Assisi to St. Philip Neri. But let us also think of invented characters such as Don Camillo and Peppone. I am struck by how, in the stories of Guareschi, the prayer of a good pastor unites with evident closeness to the people”.

“But then, you will ask, what must we do? What is the Pope asking of us? It is up to you to decide: people and pastor together. And I invite you, again, simply to contemplate the Ecce Homo above us”.

“I ask the bishops to be pastors. Nothing more: pastors. May this be your joy: 'I am a pastor'. It will be the people, your flock, who support you. … May nothing and no-one remove from you the joy of being supported by your people. As pastors, do not be preachers of complex doctrines, but rather announcers of Christ, Who died and rose again for us. Focus on the essential, the kerygma. There is nothing more solid, profound and sure than this announcement. But may it be all the people of God who announce the Gospel, people and pastors”.

“I recommend all the Italian Church what I indicated in the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium: the social inclusion of the poor, who occupy a special place in the People of God, and the capacity for encounter and dialogue to promote friendship and in your country, in search of the common good”.

“May God protect the Church in Italy from any kind of surrogate of power, image and money. Evangelical poverty is creative, it welcomes, supports and is rich in hope. The mother Church … recognises all her abandoned, oppressed and weary children. And this has always been one of your virtues, as you are well aware that the Lord shed his blood not for some, for few or for many, but for all”.

“I also recommend, in a special way, the capacity for dialogue and encounter. Dialogue is not negotiation. Negotiating is bargaining to obtain your own piece of the common 'pie'. That is not what I mean. Instead it is seeking the common good for all”.

“May the Church be a leaven for dialogue, encounter, unity. Indeed, our very formulations of faith are the fruit of dialogue and encounter between different cultures, communities and claims. We must not be afraid of dialogue; on the contrary, it is precisely comparison and criticism that helps us to preserve theology from being transformed into ideology. Also remember that the best way to engage in dialogue is not that of speaking and discussing, but rather of doing something together, of constructing something, of making projects: not alone, among Catholics, but along with all people of goodwill”.

“But the Church also knows how to give a clear answer to the threats that emerge within public debate: this is one of the forms of specific contributions that the faithful offer to the construction of common society. Believers are citizens. … I appeal above all to the young: overcome apathy. … Do not look down on life from the balcony, but rather get involved, immerse yourselves in broad social and political dialogue. … Our times require us to live problems as challenges and not as obstacles: the Lord is active and at work in the world. … Wherever you are, never construct walls or frontiers, but instead open squares and field hospitals”.

“I would like a restless Italian Church, ever closer to the abandoned, the forgotten, the imperfect. I wish for a joyful Church with the face of a mother, who understands, accompanies and caresses. May you too dream of this Church, believe in her, innovate freely. The Christian humanism that you are called upon to live radically affirms that dignity of every person as Son of God, establishes between all human beings a fundamental fraternity, teaches to understand work, to inhabit creation as our common home, and provides reasons for joy and humour, even in a life that is often very hard”.

Following his encounter with the representatives of the ecclesial congress, shortly before midday, the Pope went to the Basilica of the Santissima Annunziata to pray the Angelus with various sick and disabled people, after which he lunched with the poor in the San Francesco Poverino refectory.

Episcopal ordination in the Basilica of St. John Lateran: the Kingdom of God is built with patience

Vatican City, 10 November 2015 (VIS) – Yesterday, 9 November, festivity of the dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran, Pope Francis conferred episcopal ordination to Msgr. Angelo De Donatis, of the clergy of Rome, who was appointed auxiliary bishop of Rome on 14 September.

The homily pronounced by the Holy Father during the mass was essentially the ritual homily for the ordination of bishops from the Italian edition of the Pontificale Romanum. However, Francis added some phrases dedicated in particular to the proclamation of the Word, the welcome of the poor and vulnerable, and mercy.

“Announcing the Word at every opportunity and also at less opportune moments; admonish … but always kindly, exhort with magnanimity and doctrine. May your words be simple, so that everyone can understand, rather than long homilies. … Remember your father, how happy he was to find nearby another parish where Mass was celebrated without a homily! May your homilies be the transmission of God's grace: simple, that everyone may understand, and so that all wish to become better”.

“With your heart, love like a father and a brother all those whom God entrusts to you; as I have said, first and foremost the priests, deacons and seminarians; but also the poor, the vulnerable, and those who are in need of welcome and help. Exhort the faithful to cooperate in apostolic efforts and listen to them willingly and with patience. Often you will need a lot of patience … but the Kingdom of God is built in this way”.

“As we near the Year of Mercy, I ask you as a brother to be merciful. The Church and the world are in need of great mercy. Teach priests and seminarians the path of mercy. With words, but most of all through your attitude. The Father's mercy always receives, there is always room in His heart, He never turns anyone away. He waits, and waits. … I wish you great mercy”.

During the rite of consigning the episcopal ring, the Pope also added: “Do not forget that, before this ring, there was that of your parents. Defend the family”.

Clarifications from Fr. Federico Lombardi

Vatican City, 10 November 2015 (VIS) – The director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., in response to questions from journalists, today affirmed that:

“There is no basis to the reports in some articles claiming that in recent days, as part of the investigations in process in the Vatican, a number of cardinals and high prelates have been heard (it has even been stated that four cardinals were involved). This is absolutely false.

“Similarly, the reports in recent days in some articles regarding contacts with the Italian authorities by Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello in relation to the problems of leaked documents are entirely untrue”.
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