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Friday, November 27, 2015

Meeting with clergy in Kenya: in following Jesus there is no place for ambition

Vatican City, 27 November 2015 (VIS) – In the sports field of the St. Mary School, belonging to the archdiocese of Nairobi and founded in 1939 by the Felician Sisters, the Holy Father met with clergy, men and women religious, and seminarians of Kenya, to whom he addressed an extemporaneous discourse in his native Spanish, including many expressions and idioms typical of his homeland Argentina. An interpreter translated into English, one of Kenya's official languages.

Francis said that he was struck by the passage in St. Paul's letter in which he says, “And I am sure of this, that He Who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ”, and added, “All of you were chosen by the Lord; He chose each one of us. He began His work on the day He looked at us in Baptism, and then later when He looked at us and said: 'If you wish, come with me'. So we lined up and began our journey. But it was He Who began the journey, not us. In the Gospel we read about one of the people Jesus healed, who then wanted to follow Him. But Jesus told him, 'No'. If we want to follow Jesus Christ – in the priesthood and or consecrated life – we have to enter by the door! And the door is Christ! He is the one Who calls, Who begins, Who does the work. Some people want to enter by the window. It doesn't work that way. So please, if any of you has friends who came in by the window, embrace them and tell them it would be better to leave and go serve God in another way, because a work which Jesus Himself did not begin, by the door, will never be brought to completion”.

“There are people who do not know why God calls them, but they know that He has. Go ahead in peace, God will let you know why He has called you. Others want to follow the Lord for some benefit. We remember the mother of James and John, who said, 'Lord, I beg you, when you cut the cake, give the biggest slice to my sons. … Let one of them sit at your right and the other at your left'. We can be tempted to follow Jesus for ambition: ambition for money or power. All of us can say, 'When I first followed Jesus, I was not like that'. But it has happened to other people, and little by little it was sowed in our heart like weeds. In our life as disciples of Jesus there must be no room for personal ambition, for money, for worldly importance. We will follow Jesus to the very last final step of His earthly life, the Cross. He will make sure you rise again, but you have to keep following Him to the end. And I tell you this in all seriousness, because the Church is not a business or an a NGO. The Church is a mystery: the mystery of Jesus Who looks at each of us and says 'Follow me'”.

“So let this be clear: Jesus is the one Who calls. … He does not 'canonise' us. We continue to be the same old sinners. … We are all sinners; starting with me. But Jesus' tenderness and love keep us going. May He who began a good work in you bring it to completion. … Do you remember any time in the Gospel, when the Apostle James wept? Or when one of the other Apostles wept? Only one wept, the Gospel tells us; he who knew he was a sinner, so great a sinner that he betrayed his Lord. And when he realised this, he wept. Then Jesus made him Pope. Who can understand Jesus? It is a mystery! So never stop weeping. When priests and religious no longer weep, something is wrong. We need to weep for our infidelity, for all the pain in our world, for all those people who are cast aside, the elderly who are abandoned, for children who are killed, for the things we do not understand. We need to weep when people ask us, 'Why?'. None of us has all the answers to those questions. … There are situations in life for which we can only weep, and look to Jesus on the cross. This is the only answer we have for certain injustices, certain kinds of pain, certain situations in life. … Whenever a consecrated man or woman or a priest forgets Christ crucified, he or she falls into an ugly sin, a sin which disgusts God; it is the sin of being tepid, lukewarm. ... What else can I say to you? Never stray from Jesus. In other words, never stop praying. 'But Father, sometimes it is so tiresome to pray, it wearies us. It makes us fall asleep...'. So sleep before the Lord: that is also a way of praying. But stay there, before Him and pray! Do not stop praying”.

The Holy Father reiterated that “when we let ourselves be chosen by Jesus, it is to serve: to serve the People of God, to serve the poorest, the outcast, living on the fringes of society, to serve children and the elderly. But also to serve people who are unaware of their own pride and sin; to serve Jesus in them. Letting ourselves be chosen by Jesus means letting ourselves be chosen to serve, and not to be served”.

“This is what I wanted to say to you, what I felt when I heard those words of St. Paul, who trusted that the One Who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ'. A cardinal said to me … that when he goes to the cemetery and sees the graves of dedicated missionaries, men and women religious who gave their lives, he wonders, 'Why don't we canonise this or that one tomorrow?', because they spent their lives serving others. … Thank you for your courage in following Jesus, thank you for all the times you realise that you yourselves are sinners, and thank you for all the tender caresses you give to those who need them. Thank you for all those times when you helped so many people die in peace. Thank you for 'burning' your lives in hope. Thank you for letting yourselves be helped, corrected and forgiven every day. And as I thank you, I also ask you not to forget to pray for me, as I need your prayers. Many thanks”.

“I must leave now, as there are children suffering from cancer whom I wish to greet and comfort. I thank you, seminarians, whom I have not named but are included in all that I have said. And if any of you do not have the courage to take this path, seek another job, consider marrying and having a family. Thank you”.

The Pope at the UNON: African heritage at constant risk of destruction

Vatican City, 27 November 2015 (VIS) – The Pope's final appointment yesterday afternoon was at the United Nations Office at Nairobi (UNON), the general headquarters of the United Nations in Africa, instituted by the General Assembly in 1996. The structure also houses the offices of two United Nations programmes, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the UN-Habitat (United Nations Human Settlement Programme). Around twenty international and United Nations organisations have their regional offices for Africa in Nairobi.

Upon arrival, the Pope was welcomed by the director general of the UNON, Sahle Work Zewde, the executive director of UNEP Achim Steiner, and the executive director of UN-Habitat, Joan Clos. Then, accompanied by the director general, he was invited to plant a tree in the UNON park; as Francis later emphasised, this is an act charged with symbolic meaning in many cultures. He then entered the new UNEP building where he pronounced a discourse before 3,000 people, in which he expressed his hope that COP 21 may conclude with a “transformational” global agreement based on the principles of solidarity, justice, equality and participation, and with three complex and interdependent aims: the alleviation of the impact of climate change, the fight against poverty, and the promotion of respect for human dignity. In view of the imminent 10th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation, to be held in Nairobi, the Holy Father also spoke about the agreements on intellectual property and access to medicine and essential healthcare, and also mentioned illegal trafficking in animals and precious stones, trades which perpetuate poverty and exclusion.

The following are extensive extracts from his discourse:

“Planting a tree is first and foremost an invitation to continue the battle against phenomena like deforestation and desertification. … Planting a tree is also an incentive to keep trusting, hoping, and above all working in practice to reverse all those situations of injustice and deterioration which we currently experience. … In a few days an important meeting on climate change will be held in Paris, where the international community as such will once again confront these issues. It would be sad, and I dare say even catastrophic, were particular interests to prevail over the common good and lead to manipulating information in order to protect their own plans and projects”.

“COP21 represents an important stage in the process of developing a new energy system which depends on a minimal use of fossil fuels, aims at energy efficiency and makes use of energy sources with little or no carbon content. We are faced with a great political and economic obligation to rethink and correct the dysfunctions and distortions of the current model of development. … For this reason, I express my hope that COP21 will achieve a global and 'transformational' agreement based on the principles of solidarity, justice, equality and participation; an agreement which targets three complex and interdependent goals: lessening the impact of climate change, fighting poverty and ensuring respect for human dignity”.

“For all the difficulties involved, there is a growing 'conviction that our planet is a homeland and that humanity is one people living in a common home'. No country 'can act independently of a common responsibility. If we truly desire positive change, we have to humbly accept our interdependence'. The problem arises whenever we think of interdependence as a synonym for domination, or the subjection of some to the interests of others, of the powerless to the powerful. What is needed is sincere and open dialogue, with responsible cooperation on the part of all: political authorities, the scientific community, the business world and civil society”.

“At the same time we believe that 'human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good and making a new start'. This conviction leads us to hope that, whereas the post-industrial period may well be remembered as one of the most irresponsible in history, 'humanity at the dawn of the twenty-first century will be remembered for having generously shouldered its grave responsibilities'”.

“This much-needed change of course cannot take place without a substantial commitment to education and training. Nothing will happen unless political and technical solutions are accompanied by a process of education which proposes new ways of living. … This calls for an educational process which fosters in boys and girls, women and men, young people and adults, the adoption of a culture of care … in place of a culture of waste, a 'throw-away culture' where people use and discard themselves, others and the environment. By promoting an 'awareness of our common origin, of our mutual belonging, and of the future to be shared with everyone', we will favour the development of new convictions, attitudes and lifestyles. … We need to be alert to one sad sign of the 'globalisation of indifference': the fact that we are gradually growing accustomed to the suffering of others, as if it were something normal, or even worse, becoming resigned to such extreme and scandalous kinds of 'using and discarding' and social exclusion as new forms of slavery, human trafficking, forced labour, prostitution and trafficking in organs. 'There has been a tragic rise in the number of migrants seeking to flee from the growing poverty aggravated by environmental degradation. They are not recognised by international conventions as refugees; they bear the loss of the lives they have left behind without enjoying any legal protection whatsoever'”.

“Together with neglect of the environment, we have witnessed for some time now a rapid process of urbanisation, which in many cases has unfortunately led to a 'disproportionate and unruly growth of many cities … [where] we increasingly see the troubling symptoms of a social breakdown which spawns 'increased violence and a rise in new forms of social aggression, … a loss of identity', a lack of rootedness and social anonymity”.

“Here I would offer a word of encouragement to all those working at local and international levels to ensure that the process of urbanisation becomes an effective means for development and integration. This means working to guarantee for everyone, especially those living in outlying neighbourhoods, the basic rights to dignified living conditions and to land, lodging and labour. … The forthcoming Habitat-III Conference, planned for Quito in October 2016, could be a significant occasion for identifying ways of responding to these issues”.

“In a few days, Nairobi will host the 10th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation. … While recognising that much has been done in this area, it seems that we have yet to attain an international system of commerce which is equitable and completely at the service of the battle against poverty and exclusion. Commercial relationships between States, as an indispensable part of relations between peoples, can do as much to harm the environment as to renew it and preserve it for future generations”.

“I would especially like to echo the concern of all those groups engaged in projects of development and health care – including those religious congregations which serve the poor and those most excluded – with regard to agreements on intellectual property and access to medicines and essential health care. Regional free trade treaties dealing with the protection of intellectual property, particularly in the areas of pharmaceutics and biotechnology, should not only maintain intact the powers already granted to States by multilateral agreements, but should also be a means for ensuring a minimum of health care and access to basic treatment for all. Multilateral discussions, for their part, should allow poorer countries the time, the flexibility and the exceptions needed for them to comply with trade regulations in an orderly and relatively smooth manner. Interdependence and the integration of economies should not bear the least detriment to existing systems of health care and social security; instead, they should promote their creation and good functioning. Certain health issues, like the elimination of malaria and tuberculosis, treatment of so-called orphan diseases, and neglected sectors of tropical medicine, require urgent political attention, above and beyond all other commercial or political interests”.

“Africa offers the world a beauty and natural richness which inspire praise of the Creator. This patrimony of Africa and of all mankind is constantly exposed to the risk of destruction caused by human selfishness of every type and by the abuse of situations of poverty and exclusion. In the context of economic relationships between States and between peoples, we cannot be silent about forms of illegal trafficking which arise in situations of poverty and in turn lead to greater poverty and exclusion. Illegal trade in diamonds and precious stones, rare metals or those of great strategic value, wood, biological material and animal products, such as ivory trafficking and the relative killing of elephants, fuels political instability, and fuels organised crime and terrorism. This situation too is a cry rising up from humanity and the earth itself, one which needs to be heard by the international community”.

“Once again I express the support of the Catholic community, and my own, to continue to pray and work that the fruits of regional cooperation, expressed today in the African Union and the many African agreements on commerce, cooperation and development, may be vigorously pursued and always take into account the common good of the sons and daughters of this land”.

In a Kangemi slum: thank you for reminding us that there are other types of culture

Vatican City, 27 November 2015 (VIS) -This morning the Holy Father transferred to the Church of St. Joseph the Worker, situated in one of the poorest quarters of the city of Kangemi. “I feel very much at home sharing these moments with brothers and sisters who, and I am not ashamed to say this, have a special place in my life and my decisions”, said the Pope to the inhabitants of the area. “I am here because I want you to know that your joys and hopes, your troubles and your sorrows, are not indifferent to me. I realise the difficulties which you experience daily! How can I not denounce the injustices which you suffer?”

He began by speaking about the wisdom found in poor neighbourhoods, “'A wisdom which is born of the stubborn resistance of that which is authentic', from Gospel values which an opulent society, anaesthetised by unbridled consumption, would seem to have forgotten. You are able 'to weave bonds of belonging and togetherness which convert overcrowding into an experience of community in which the walls of the ego are torn down and the barriers of selfishness overcome'”.

“The culture of poor neighbourhoods, steeped in this particular wisdom, 'has very positive traits, which can offer something to these times in which we live; it is expressed in values such as solidarity, giving one’s life for others, preferring birth to death, providing Christian burial to one’s dead; finding a place for the sick in one’s home, sharing bread with the hungry (for there is always room for one more seat at the table), showing patience and strength when faced with great adversity, and so on'. Values grounded in the fact each human being is more important than the god of money. Thank you for reminding us that another type of culture is possible”.

“I want in first place to uphold these values which you practice, values which are not quoted in the stock exchange, are not subject to speculation, and have no market price. I congratulate you, I accompany you and I want you to know that the Lord never forgets you. The path of Jesus began on the peripheries, it goes from the poor and with the poor, towards others”.

“To see these signs of good living that increase daily in your midst in no way entails a disregard for the dreadful injustice of urban exclusion. These are wounds inflicted by minorities who cling to power and wealth, who selfishly squander while a growing majority is forced to flee to abandoned, filthy and run-down peripheries”.

“This becomes even worse when we see the unjust distribution of land (if not in this neighbourhood, certainly in others) which leads in many cases to entire families having to pay excessive and unfair rents for utterly unfit housing. I am also aware of the serious problem posed by faceless 'private developers' who hoard areas of land and even attempt to appropriate the playgrounds of your children’s schools. This is what happens when we forget that 'God gave the earth to the whole human race for the sustenance of all its members, without excluding or favouring anyone'”.

He emphasised the very serious problem of the lack of access to infrastructures and basic services. “By this I mean toilets, sewers, drains, refuse collection, electricity, roads, as well as schools, hospitals, recreational and sport centres, studios and workshops for artists and craftsmen. I refer in particular to access to drinking water. 'Access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights. Our world has a grave social debt towards the poor who lack access to drinking water, because they are denied the right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity'. To deny a family water, under any bureaucratic pretext whatsoever, is a great injustice, especially when one profits from this need”.

“This situation of indifference and hostility experienced by poor neighbourhoods is aggravated when violence spreads and criminal organisations, serving economic or political interests, use children and young people as 'canon fodder' for their ruthless business affairs. I also appreciate the struggles of those women who fight heroically to protect their sons and daughters from these dangers. I ask God that that the authorities may embark, together with you, upon the path of social inclusion, education, sport, community action, and the protection of families, for this is the only guarantee of a peace that is just, authentic and enduring”.

“These realities which I have just mentioned are not a random combination of unrelated problems. They are a consequence of new forms of colonialism which would make African countries 'parts of a machine, cogs on a gigantic wheel'. Indeed, countries are frequently pressured to adopt policies typical of the culture of waste, like those aimed at lowering the birth rate, which seek 'to legitimise the present model of distribution, where a minority believes that it has the right to consume in a way which can never be universalised'”.

The bishop of Rome went on to propose “renewed attention to the idea of a respectful urban integration, as opposed to elimination, paternalism, indifference or mere containment. We need integrated cities which belong to everyone. We need to go beyond the mere proclamation of rights which are not respected in practice, to implementing concrete and systematic initiatives capable of improving the overall living situation, and planning new urban developments of good quality for housing future generations. The social and environmental debt owed to the poor of cities can be paid by respecting their sacred right to the “three Ls”: Land, Lodging, Labour. This is not a question of philanthropy; rather it is a duty incumbent upon all of us”.

He launched an appeal to all Christians, and their pastors in particular, to renew their missionary zeal, “to take initiative in the face of so many situations of injustice, to be involved in their neighbours’ problems, to accompany them in their struggles, to protect the fruits of their communitarian labour and to celebrate together each victory, large or small. I realise that you are already doing much, but I ask to remember this is not just another task; it may instead be the most important task of all, because 'the Gospel is addressed in a special way to the poor'”.

“Dear neighbours, dear brothers and sisters”, he concluded, “let us together pray, work and commit ourselves to ensuring that every family has dignified housing, access to drinking water, a toilet, reliable sources of energy for lighting, cooking and improving their homes; that every neighbourhood has streets, squares, schools, hospitals, areas for sport, recreation and art; that basic services are provided to each of you; that your appeals and your pleas for greater opportunity can be heard; that all can enjoy the peace and security which they rightfully deserve on the basis of their infinite human dignity. Mungu awabariki! God bless you”.

The Pope leaves Kenya for Uganda

Vatican City, 27 November 2015 (VIS) – After visiting the shantytown of Kangemi, Francis transferred by car to the Karasani stadium, situated 22 km outside Nairobi, in order to meet with the young people of Kenya. He gave an extemporaneous address in Spanish, in the form of answers to questions from those present, on issues such as tribalism, the recruitment of child soldiers, and the abandonment of families, and urged them not to give up when faced with difficulties but instead to consider them as an opportunity to overcome the situations that gave rise to them, emphasising the two pillars essential in this respect: education and work.

After his discourse, to be published tomorrow, Saturday, the Pope met with the bishops of Kenya in the stadium and then proceeded to the apostolic nunciature of Nairobi where he lunched. From there he travelled to the airport, where he was awaited by President Uhuru Kenyatta, and boarded his flight for Entebbe, the capital of Uganda, the second country to be visited by the Pope on his apostolic trip in Africa. This afternoon he is expected to visit the Ugandan president Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, in his official residence, and will then address the civil and religious authorities and the diplomatic corps. The Holy Father's day will conclude with an encounter with catechists and teachers at the shrine of Munyonyo, where Uganda's first four martyrs were killed in 1886.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 27 November 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed:

- Fr. Hector Vila as bishop of Whitehorse (area 732,515, population 43,000, Catholics 9,600, priests 6, permanent deacons 2, religious 5), Canada. The bishop-elect was born in Lima, Peru in 1962 and was ordained a priest in 1995. He studied at the University of Toronto, Canada, and the Redemptoris Mater seminary in Rome, and has served in pastoral roles in the Roman parishes of St. Ireneo and St. Patrizio and in the parish of St. Norbert in Toronto, and is currently rector of the Redemptoris Mater seminary in Toronto.

- Fr. Emmanuel Nguyen Hong Son as coadjutor of the diocese of Ba Ria (area 1,988, population 1,427,024, Catholics 254,302, priests 172, religious 799), Vietnam. The bishop-elect was born in Bien Hoa, Vietnam in 1952 and was ordained a priest in 1980. He holds a licentiate in dogmatic theology from the Institut Catholique de Paris, France, and has served in a number of pastoral roles in the diocese of Ba Ria, including parish priest, dean forane, rector of the minor seminary, head of continuing formation of diocesan clergy, member of the episcopal commission for the doctrine of the faith. He is currently vicar general of the same diocese.


Vatican City, 27 November 2015 (VIS) – We inform our readers that, due to the Holy Father's apostolic trip to Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic, an extraordinary edition of the Vatican Information Service bulletin will be published on Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 November.
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