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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Conviviality, a thermometer for measuring the health of family relationships

Vatican City, 11 November 2015 (VIS) – This morning's Wednesday general audience was held in St. Peter's Square, attended by thousands of faithful. Before beginning, the Holy Father invited those present to recite a Hail Mary for the cardinals, bishops, consecrated persons and laypeople who are currently meeting in Florence for the National Congress of the Italian Church.

He dedicated today's catechesis to conviviality, a typical characteristic of family life. This attitude of sharing the goods of life and of being happy to do so is, he said, “a precious virtue”. He continued, “Its symbol, its icon, is the family gathered around the table, partaking of a meal together – and therefore not merely food, but also sentiments, stories, and events. It is a fundamental experience. When there is a celebration – a birthday, an anniversary – the family gathers around the table. In some cultures it is customary to do so also following bereavement, to stay close to those who suffer for the loss of a family member”.

“Conviviality is a sure thermometer for measuring the health of relations: if in the family there is a problem or a hidden trouble, you understand immediately at the table. A family that almost never eats together, or in does not talk at the table but instead watches the television, or smartphones, is not a close family. Christianity has a special vocation to conviviality, as we all know. The Lord Jesus taught at the table, and represented the Kingdom of God as a festive banquet. Jesus also chose to consign to the disciples His spiritual testament at the table, condensed in the memorial gesture of His Sacrifice”.

Francis explained that the family brings to the Eucharist its own experience of conviviality, and opens it to the grace of a universal conviviality, of God's love for the world. “Participating in the Eucharist, the family is purified of the temptation to close up in itself, fortified in love and in faith, and broadens the boundaries of its own fraternity according to Christ's heart. In our time, marked by closed minds and too many walls, the conviviality generated by the family and extended in the Eucharist becomes a crucial opportunity. The Eucharist and families it nourishes are able to overcome such limitations and to build bridges of acceptance and charity”.

“Nowadays many social contexts impede family conviviality. We must find a way to recover it, if adapting it to the times. Conviviality seems to have become something to buy and sell, but in that way it becomes something else. Nourishment is not always the symbol of a just sharing of goods, able to reach those who have neither bread nor affection. In rich countries we are induced to spend first on excessive consumption, and then again to remedy the excess. This senseless behaviour diverts our attention from the true hunger of the body and the mind”.

“The living and vital alliance of Christian families, which support and embracesin the dynamism of their hospitality the burdens and joys of everyday life, cooperates with the grace of the Eucharist, which is able to create ever new communities with its strength that includes and saves”. The Pope concluded, “the Christian family thus shows the true extent of its horizon, which is the horizon of the Mother Church and all humanity, the abandoned and excluded among all peoples”.

The Pope meets with President Dragan Covic of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Vatican City, 11 November 2015 (VIS) – Before today's general audience, in the study of the Paul VI Hall, the Holy Father received Dragan Covic, the incumbent chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, accompanied by the representatives of the Organising Committee of the State and the Church for his pastoral visit on 6 June this year.

“I would like to thank you for your visit”, he said. “I still hold in my heart that many great and beautiful things I have learned from you: your capacity for suffering, your capacity for forgiveness or at least to seek to forgive, your capacity to join and work together, your capacity for dialogue. Many thanks for the examples you give to humanity. I ask you to greet, on my behalf, your people, all the people, the two other presidents, and the communities that have a different religion but which meet, speak, and dialogue for the good of the country. May they speak between themselves and help your homeland to go ahead. And greet your good young people! I remember the questions they asked me. They are the promise of your homeland”.

The Holy Father thanked those present, asking them for their prayers. He gave his blessing to Bosnia-Herzegovina and its families, children and future, encouraging them to continue on their path.

Pope's message to the 21st public session of the Pontifical Academies: life is a pilgrimage

Vatican City, 11 November 2015 (VIS) – Yesterday the Pontifical Academies held their 21 st public session, organised by the Pontifical Council for Culture, which coordinates these institutions. The theme of the session this year was: “Ad limina Petri: monumental traces of pilgrimage in the first centuries of Christianity”. During the event Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, on behalf of the Holy Father, awarded the Pontifical Academies Award to young experts, artists and institutions distinguished in the course of the year in the promotion of Christian humanism.

Pope Francis sent the participants a message in which he recalls how in the Bull to convoke the Jubilee of Mercy, Misericordiae Vultus, he underlined the importance of pilgrimage as a distinctive sign of the Holy Year as “it is the icon of the path that every person must walk in his or her existence. Life is a pilgrimage and the human being a viator, a pilgrim who follows a road up to the intended goal. Even to reach the Holy Door in Rome too, or in any other place, each person must carry out, according to his or her strengths, a pilgrimage. It will be a sign of the fact that mercy too is an objective to be reached and which requires commitment and sacrifice. Pilgrimage, therefore, may be a stimulus to conversion: by passing through the Holy Door we will let ourselves be embraced by God's mercy and we will endeavour to be merciful with others as the Father is with us”.

He goes on to refer to the theme of the Session, noting that since the first centuries of the Christian age the itineraries of pilgrims, both ecclesiastics and laypeople, have been well documented by various sources, “including the graffiti left in the places they visited, by the side of the tombs of martyrs. From this evidence there emerges the genuine and generous faith of those who journey with great courage and also with many sacrifices, to encounter, and indeed to touch with their hands, the witnesses of faith and their memories, so as to draw new enthusiasm and inner strength to live their own faith increasingly deeply and coherently”.

He remarks that pilgrimage, as is shown by those who have walked part of the ancient itineraries, rediscovered and retraced in our times, “is also an experience of mercy, sharing and solidarity with those who take the same road, as well as welcome and generosity on the part of those who host and assist pilgrims. Among the works of corporal mercy, that I have wished to re-propose as one of the signs characterising the Holy Year, welcome to strangers stands out. A glance at Christian antiquity and the traces left by pilgrims reminds us of the commitment to welcome and sharing, that in the experience of pilgrimage becomes a conscious itinerary of conversion and joyful daily practice”.

Finally, the Pope announces the names of this year's winners of the prize that “awards a valuable contribution to archaeological study and relates to the worship of martyrs”. The winners are, ex aequo, the Portuguese association “Campo Arqueologico di Mertola”, whose referent is Professor Virgilio Lopes, for the archaeological campaigns carried out in recent years and for the extraordinary results obtained; and to Matteo Braconi for his excellent doctoral thesis on “The mosaic of the apse of the Basilica of St. Pudenziana in Rome. History, restoration, interpretations”, defended at the Rome Tre University.

As a sign of encouragement for research in the fields of history and religion, the Pope awarded the Pontifical Medal to the Spanish Almudena Alba Lopez for her publication “Political theology and anti-Arian polemics” (University of Salamanca).

Humanism with the face of charity: Mass in Florence

Vatican City, 11 November 2015 (VIS) – Pope Francis concluded his brief pastoral visit to Florence yesterday with Mass celebrated before fifty thousand people in the “Artemio Franchi” stadium. Even the detainees in the Florentine prison participated in a way, as the altar at which the Holy Father consecrated the Eucharist was produced by them, for which he warmly thanked them.

In his homily, the Holy Father began from Christ's question to His disciples: “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”. “Jesus is interested in what people think, not to keep them happy, but to be able to communicate with them”, he explained. “Without knowing what people think, the disciple isolates himself and begins to judge people according to his own thoughts and convictions. Maintaining a healthy contact with reality, with what people experience, their tears and their joys, is the only way of being able to help them … to open their hearts to God. In reality, when God wanted to speak with us He incarnated Himself. Jesus' disciples must never forget where they were chosen from – that is, among the people – and must never give in to the temptation to assume detached attitudes, as if what the people think and live did not affect them or as if it were of little importance to them. … This also applies to us. The fact that we are gathered today to celebrate Holy Mass in a sports stadium is a reminder of this. The Church, like Jesus, lives amid the people and for the people. For this reason the Church, throughout her history, has always carried within her the same question: who is Jesus for the men and women of today?”.

“Safeguarding and announcing the true faith in Jesus Christ is at the heart of our Christian identity, since in recognising the mystery of the Son of God made man, we can enter into the mystery of God and the mystery of man. … Today, too … our joy is sharing this faith and answering the Lord Jesus together: 'You, for us, are the Christ, the Son of the living God'. Our joy is also that of going against the grain and surmounting current opinion, that, like then, does not manage to see Jesus as more than a prophet or a teacher. Our joy is recognising in Him the presence of God, the envoy of His Father, the Son who came to make Himself an instrument of salvation for humanity”.

“At the root of the mystery of salvation is “the will of a merciful God, who does not give up when confronted with man's incomprehension, blame and misery, but rather gives Himself to him, to the point of making Himself man in order to encounter every person in his or her true condition. This, God's merciful love, is what Simon Peter recognises in Jesus' face. It is the same face that we are called upon to recognise in the forms in which the Lord assures us of His presence among us: in His Word, that illuminates the darkness of our minds and our heart; in the Sacraments, that regenerate us from our death to new life; in fraternal communion, that the Holy Spirit generates among His disciples; in boundless love, that renders generous and tender service to all; in the poor, who reminds us that Jesus wished for the supreme revelation of Himself and His Father to take the image of Himself humiliated and crucified. This truth of faith, this truth scandalises … those who do not tolerate the mystery of God impressed on the face of Christ”.

“In reality, the communion between the divine and the human, fully realised in Jesus, is our aim, the culmination of human history according to the Father's plan. … God and man are not the two extremes of an opposition: they always seek each other, as God recognises in man His own image and man recognises himself only by looking at God. … This is the road on which we can encounter humanity … with the spirit of the good Samaritan. It is not by chance that humanism, to whose most creative moments the city of Florence bears witness, has always had the face of charity”.

“At the end of the Mass the Pope greeted the cardinal archbishop of Florence, Giuseppe Betori, and the members of the Italian Episcopal Conference, and thanked the detainees who had constructed the altar. He then transferred by car to the “Luigi Ridolfi” stadium where he departed by helicopter to return to the Vatican.

The Holy See at UNESCO: the importance of education on climate change

Vatican City, 11 November 2015 (VIS) – Archbishop Francesco Follo, Holy See permanent observer at UNESCO, addressed the 38th General Conference of this body, which took place from 25 October to 10 November in Paris.

“UNESCO is heavily involved in the preparations for the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP 21) and I am sure that the Organisation, through its Global Action Programme on Education for Sustainable Development, plays and will continue to play a very important role in making education in climate change a central and visible element of the international response to this theme. Therefore, the Holy See welcomes with satisfaction … the UNESCO Road Map for the implementation of the programme. Its objective is to help people understand the impact of global warming and to familiarise the young, in particular, with climate change. In order to achieve this, the programme strengthens Member States' capacity to guarantee a quality education in climate change, to encourage innovative education approaches to incorporating education in climate change in school curricula, and to promote awareness of climate change as well as the strengthening of informal education programmes through the communication media, networks and associations”.

Archbishop Follo commented that the 70th anniversary of UNESCO offered a good opportunity to take stock of our history and to reflect on our common future, responding to the Holy Father's urgent invitation to engage in a “new dialogue on the way in which we are constructing the future of the planet” and to promote “an 'ecological' education that must take into account the ethics of life and dialogue”.

This dialogue begins with “becoming aware that inhabiting the earth means living 'in her' with respect, sobriety and simplicity in terms of what we require, take and receive from her”. But we should also live 'with her and care for her'. … A human attitude that derives from work and the assumption of responsibility is required.

Indeed, it is important not to forget that the relationship between humanity and nature “is synthesized by work. In effect, on the one hand nature is the expression of a design of love and truth. It precedes us and was given to us by God as a living environment, Who established it according to an intrinsic order to guide man in cultivating and maintaining it”. With regard to responsibility, “in simple terms, we all know where we area, and in equally simple terms, we all know where we wish to go: we must leave the earth habitable, or render it newly habitable for future generations if we have ransacked it”.

“This purpose is inspired by the encyclical “Laudato si'” that Pope Francis dedicated to our common home”, concluded Archbishop Follo, citing Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, who had encouraged the development of a “human ecology”, since “intelligence requires us to respect others as well as the home where we live. … Pope Francis says that intelligence also commands us to respect our common home as by doing so, we demonstrate our love for our neighbour”.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 11 November 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has:

- appointed Fr. Karel Choennie as bishop of Paramaribo (area 163,829, population 505,580, Catholics 115,221, priests 18, permanent deacons 4, religious 16), Suriname. The bishop-elect was born in Suriname in 1958 and was ordained a priest in 1985. He holds a licentiate in pastoral theology from the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium, and has served in a number of pastoral roles in the diocese of Paramaribo, including parish priest, episcopal vicar, member of the diocesan curia and vicar general. He is currently pastor of the St. Clement parish.

- accepted the resignation from the office of auxiliary of the archdiocese of Detroit, United States of America, presented by Archdiocese Francis R. Reiss, upon reaching the age limit.
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