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Saturday, November 28, 2015

Francis in Uganda: despite our different beliefs, we must all seek truth and work for justice and reconciliation

Vatican City, 28 November 2015 (VIS) – Yesterday afternoon Pope Francis arrived in Uganda, the second leg of his apostolic trip in Africa. He was awaited at at the airport by President Yoweri Kaguta Museweni, representatives of the religious and civil authorities, and a group of dancers who performed a traditional dance in his honour. From the airport the Pope transferred to the State House in Entebbe, where he privately greeted the family of the president, who was also Head of State during St. John Paul II's visit to the country. He then met with the authorities and the diplomatic corps of Uganda.

In his address in the Conference Hall, Francis emphasised that his visit was intended to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the canonisation of the martyrs of Uganda by his predecessor Pope Paul VI, but at the same time he hoped it would also be “a sign of friendship, esteem and encouragement for all the people of this great nation”.

“The Martyrs, both Catholic and Anglican, are true national heroes. They bear witness to the guiding principles expressed in Uganda’s motto – For God and My Country. They remind us of the importance that faith, moral rectitude and commitment to the common good have played, and continue to play, in the cultural, economic and political life of this country. They also remind us that, despite our different beliefs and convictions, all of us are called to seek the truth, to work for justice and reconciliation, and to respect, protect and help one another as members of our one human family. These high ideals are particularly demanded of men and women like yourselves, who are charged with ensuring good and transparent governance, integral human development, a broad participation in national life, as well as a wise and just distribution of the goods which the Creator has so richly bestowed upon these lands”.

“My visit is also meant to draw attention to Africa as a whole, its promise, its hopes, its struggles and its achievements”, he continued. “The world looks to Africa as the continent of hope. Uganda has indeed been blessed by God with abundant natural resources, which you are challenged to administer as responsible stewards. But above all, the nation has been blessed in its people: its strong families, its young and its elderly... the living memory of every people”.

Francis praised Uganda's “outstanding concern” for refugees, which has enabled them “to rebuild their lives in security and to sense the dignity which comes from earning one’s livelihood through honest labour. Our world, caught up in wars, violence, and various forms of injustice, is witnessing an unprecedented movement of peoples. How we deal with them is a test of our humanity, our respect for human dignity, and above all our solidarity with our brothers and sisters in need”.

“I hope to encourage the many quiet efforts being made to care for the poor, the sick and those in any kind of trouble. It is in these small signs that we see the true soul of a people. In so many ways, our world is growing closer; yet at the same time we see with concern the globalisation of a 'throwaway culture' which blinds us to spiritual values, hardens our hearts before the needs of the poor, and robs our young of hope”.

He concluded, “As I look forward to meeting you and spending this time with you, I pray that you, Mr. President, and all the beloved Ugandan people, will always prove worthy of the values which have shaped the soul of your nation. Upon all of you I invoke the Lord’s richest blessings. Mungu awabariki!”.

At the Munyonyo Shrine: may the martyrs obtain for you the grace to be wise teachers

Vatican City, 28 November 2015 (VIS) – Following his encounter with the leaders of Uganda, the Pope travelled 38 kilometres by car from Entebbe to Munyonyo, the place where King Mwanga II (1884-1903) chose to exterminate the Christians of Uganda and where in May 1886 the first four martyrs were killed, including St. Andrew Kaggwa, patron of Ugandan catechists. Every year catechists gather in the area of the shrine of Munyonyo, now entrusted to the Conventual Franciscans, where a new Church able to hold a thousand people is being built. Among the catechists attending the meeting with the Holy Father there was also a representation of teachers from the Uganda National Council of Laity, as laypeople have played, and continue to play, a very important role in the evangelisation of the country.

Upon arrival, the Pope was received by the superior of the Franciscans and by Archbishiop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga of Kampala, who accompanied him to the churchyard where he planted and watered a tree, along with the archbishop and leaders of the Orthodox and Protestant confessions to underline the ecumenical aspect of the Ugandan martyrs. Indeed, dozens of Anglicans were killed during the reign of King Mwanga II, alongside twenty-two of his servants, pages and functionaries who were converted to Catholicism by the missionaries of Africa.

After blessing the new statue of St. Andrew Kaggwa, located in the place of his martyrdom, the Pope addressed the catechists, first thanking them for their sacrifices in fulfilling their mission. “You teach what Jesus taught, you instruct adults and help parents to raise their children in the faith, and you bring the joy and hope of eternal life to all”, he said. “Thank you for your dedication, your example, your closeness to God’s people in their daily lives, and all the many ways you plant and nurture the seeds of faith throughout this vast land. Thank you especially for teaching our children and young people how to pray”.

“I know that your work, although rewarding, is not easy. So I encourage you to persevere, and I ask your bishops and priests to support you with a doctrinal, spiritual and pastoral formation capable of making you ever more effective in your outreach. Even when the task seems too much, the resources too few, the obstacles too great, it should never be forgotten that yours is a holy work. The Holy Spirit is present wherever the name of Christ is proclaimed. He is in our midst whenever we lift up our hearts and minds to God in prayer. He will give you the light and strength you need! The message you bring will take root all the more firmly in people’s hearts if you are not only a teacher but also a witness. Your example should speak to everyone of the beauty of prayer, the power of mercy and forgiveness, the joy of sharing in the Eucharist with all our brothers and sisters”.

“The Christian community in Uganda grew strong through the witness of the martyrs”, he continued. “They testified to the truth which sets men free; they were willing to shed their blood to be faithful to what they knew was good and beautiful and true. We stand here today in Munyonyo at the place where King Mwanga determined to wipe out the followers of Christ. He failed in this, just as King Herod failed to kill Jesus. The light shone in the darkness, and the darkness could not overcome it. After seeing the fearless testimony of Saint Andrew Kaggwa and his companions, Christians in Uganda became even more convinced of Christ’s promises”.

“May Saint Andrew, your patron, and all the Ugandan catechist martyrs, obtain for you the grace to be wise teachers, men and women whose every word is filled with grace, convincing witnesses to the splendour of God’s truth and the joy of the Gospel”, the Pontiff concluded. “Go forth without fear to every town and village in this country, to spread the good seed of God’s word, and trust in his promise that you will come back rejoicing, with sheaves full from the harvest. Omukama Abawe Omukisa! God bless you!”.

Yesterday evening in the nunciature of Kampala Pope Francis received the president of South Sudan, Salva Kiir. The director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., underlined that the audience represented a “special gesture” demonstrating the attention with which the Pope follows the troubled events in this country, the youngest in Africa (independent since July 2011), and whose founders included the Catholic bishop Cesare Mazzolari, who died shortly after its birth. South Sudan has not yet known peace, although the ideals that inspired its independence included peacemaking between ethnic groups and with Sudan.

Homily at the Namugongo shrines: we honour the Ugandan martyrs when we carry on their witness to Christ

Vatican City, 28 November 2015 (VIS) – Early this morning, the Pope visited the Anglican shrine at Namugongo (under the jurisdiction of the Church of Uganda), erected in the place where 25 Ugandans, Catholics and Anglicans, were martyred between 1884 and 1887. Their relics are conserved in a chapel adjacent to the holy building, situated just a few kilometres from the Catholic shrine. Francis was welcomed by the Anglican archbishop Stanley Ntagali, and he unveiled a commemorative plaque near the recently restored chapel. He then went to the place where the martyrs were condemned, tortured and killed. Forty bishops of the Ugandan Anglican episcopate were present in the chapel. After praying a few minutes in silence, the Holy Father took leave of Archbishop Ntagali and travelled the three kilometres between the Anglican and Catholic shrines by popemobile.

The national Catholic shrine of Namugongo stands in a large natural park where religious ceremonies are often held in the open air, due to the large numbers of faithful. The shape of the Church recalls that of the traditional huts of the Baganda or “Akasiisiira” ethnic group, and is supported by 22 pillars commemorating the 22 Catholic martyrs. In front of the main entrance to the Basilica, below the great altar, there is the place where Charles Lwanga was burned alive in 1886. The church was consecrated by Blessed Paul VI during his apostolic trip to Uganda in 1969, and is a destination for pilgrims throughout the year, but especially on 3 June, the day of Charles Lwanga's martyrdom.

Before celebrating the Eucharist, Francis entered the Basilica and prayed before the altar which holds the relics of Charles Lwanga. He then toured the area by popemobile to greet the thousands of faithful who attended the votive Mass for the fiftieth anniversary of the canonisation of the martyrs of Uganda, and pronounced the following homily:

“From the age of the Apostles to our own day, a great cloud of witnesses has been raised up to proclaim Jesus and show forth the power of the Holy Spirit. Today, we recall with gratitude the sacrifice of the Uganda martyrs, whose witness of love for Christ and his Church has truly gone 'to the end of the earth'. We remember also the Anglican martyrs whose deaths for Christ testify to the ecumenism of blood. All these witnesses nurtured the gift of the Holy Spirit in their lives and freely gave testimony of their faith in Jesus Christ, even at the cost of their lives, many at such a young age”.

“We too have received the gift of the Spirit, to make us sons and daughters of God, but also so that we may bear witness to Jesus and make him everywhere known and loved. We received the Spirit when we were reborn in Baptism, and we were strengthened by his gifts at our Confirmation. Every day we are called to deepen the Holy Spirit’s presence in our life, to 'fan into flame' the gift of his divine love so that we may be a source of wisdom and strength to others”.

“The gift of the Holy Spirit is a gift which is meant to be shared. It unites us to one another as believers and living members of Christ’s mystical Body. We do not receive the gift of the Spirit for ourselves alone, but to build up one another in faith, hope and love. I think of Saints Joseph Mkasa and Charles Lwanga, who after being catechised by others, wanted to pass on the gift they had received. They did this in dangerous times. Not only were their lives threatened but so too were the lives of the younger boys under their care. Because they had tended to their faith and deepened their love of God, they were fearless in bringing Christ to others, even at the cost of their lives. Their faith became witness; today, venerated as martyrs, their example continues to inspire people throughout the world. They continue to proclaim Jesus Christ and the power of his Cross”.

“If, like the martyrs, we daily fan into flame the gift of the Spirit who dwells in our hearts, then we will surely become the missionary disciples which Christ calls us to be. To our families and friends certainly, but also to those whom we do not know, especially those who might be unfriendly, even hostile, to us. This openness to others begins first in the family, in our homes where charity and forgiveness are learned, and the mercy and love of God made known in our parents’ love. It finds expression too in our care for the elderly and the poor, the widowed and the orphaned”.

“The witness of the martyrs shows to all who have heard their story, then and now, that the worldly pleasures and earthly power do not bring lasting joy or peace. Rather, fidelity to God, honesty and integrity of life, and genuine concern for the good of others bring us that peace which the world cannot give. This does not diminish our concern for this world, as if we only look to the life to come. Instead, it gives purpose to our lives in this world, and helps us to reach out to those in need, to cooperate with others for the common good, and to build a more just society which promotes human dignity, defends God’s gift of life and protects the wonders of nature, his creation and our common home”.

“Dear brothers and sisters, this is the legacy which you have received from the Ugandan martyrs – lives marked by the power of the Holy Spirit, lives which witness even now to the transforming power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This legacy is not served by an occasional remembrance, or by being enshrined in a museum as a precious jewel. Rather, we honour them, and all the saints, when we carry on their witness to Christ, in our homes and neighbourhoods, in our workplaces and civil society, whether we never leave our homes or we go to the farthest corner of the world”.

“May the Uganda martyrs, together with Mary, Mother of the Church, intercede for us, and may the Holy Spirit kindle within us the fire of his divine love! Omukama abawe omukisa. God bless you!”.

Francis to the young people of Kenya: tribalism is defeated by listening, an open heart, and dialogue

Vatican City, 28 November 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father's last act in Kenya was his encounter with the young in the Kasarani stadium, where he set aside his prepared discourse and instead directly responded to some questions, in his native Spanish. The following are extensive extracts from Pope Francis' answers.

“There exists a question at the basis of all the questions you have asked me. Why are there divisions, struggles, war, death and fanaticism? Why is there this desire for self-destruction? In the first page of the Bible, after all the wonders that God worked, a brother kills his own brother. The spirit of evil leads us to destruction; the spirit of evil leads us to disunity, to tribalism, to corruption, to drug abuse. … It leads us to destruction through fanaticism. Manuel asked me, 'What can we do to ensure that ideological fanaticism does not rob us of our brothers or friends?'. … The first thing I would say in response is that a man loses the best of his humanity, and a woman loses the best of her humanity, when they forget to pray, because they consider themselves omnipotent; they do not feel the need to ask the Lord's help when faced with so many tragedies. Life is full of difficulties, but there are two ways of looking at difficulties: either you can see them as something that obstructs you, that destroys you, or you can see them as a real opportunity. It is up to you to choose. For me, is a difficulty either a path to destruction, or an opportunity to overcome my situation, or that of my family, my community or my country? … Some of the difficulties that you have mentioned are challenges”.

“One challenge that Lynette mentioned is that of tribalism. Tribalism destroys a nation: … it can be defeated by using our ear, our heart and our hand. With our ears, we listen: what is your culture? Why are you this way? Why does your tribe have this habit or this custom? … With the heart: after listening, the answer is to open your heart; and finally, to extend you hand so as to continue the dialogue. … I would now like to invite all you young people … to come here and to take each other by the hand; let us stand up and take each other by the hand as a sign against tribalism. We are all a single nation! … Conquering tribalism is a task to be carried out day by day: it is the work of the ear, in listening to others; the work of the heart, opening one's heart to others; and the work of the hand, extending one's hand to others”.

“Another question is that of corruption. … Corruption is something that enters into us. It is like sugar: it is sweet, we like it, it's easy, but then, it ends badly. With so much easy sugar we end up diabetic, and so does our country. Every time we accept a bribe and put it in our pocket, we destroy our heart, we destroy our personality and we destroy our homeland. … What you steal through corruption remains … in the heart of the many men and women who have been harmed by your example of corruption. It remains in the lack of the good you should have done and did not do. It remains in sick and hungry children, because the money that was for them, through your corruption, you kept for yourself. Boys and girls, corruption is not a path for life, it is a path of death”.

“Manuel too asked some incisive questions. … What can we do to prevent the recruitment of our loved ones [by militias]? What can we do to bring them back? To answer this question we need to know why a young person, full of hope, lets himself be recruited or indeed seeks to be recruited: he leaves behind his family, his friends, he drifts away from life, because he learns how to kill. And this is a question that you must address to the authorities. If a young person, a boy or a girl, a man or a woman, has no job and cannot study, what can he or she do? … The first thing we must do to prevent the young from being recruited or seeking recruitment is to focus on education and work. If young people have no job, what future awaits them? … This is the danger. It is a social danger, that comes from beyond us, from beyond the country, because it depends on the international system, which is unjust, and which places the economy and the god of money at its centre, rather than the person”.

“Another question was: how can we see the hand of God in the tragedies of life? … Men and women all over the world ask themselves this question in one way or another, and they find no explanation. There are questions to which, no matter how much we try to respond, we are unable to find an answer. How can I see the hand of God in a tragedy of life? There is just one answer: no, there is no answer. There is just one route, looking at the Son of God. God delivered Him to us to save all of us. God Himself became a tragedy. God let Himself be destroyed on the cross. And when the moment comes when you do not understand, when you are desperate and the world seems to fall down around you, look to the Cross! There we see God's failure, God's destruction. But there is also the challenge of our faith. Because the story did not end with this failure: there was then the Resurrection, which renewed us all”.

“A final question … What words do you have for young people who have not experienced love in their own families? Is it possible to come out of this experience? There are abandoned children everywhere: either they are abandoned at birth, or they were abandoned by life, by the family and parents, and do not feel the affection of the family. This is why the family is so important. … There is just one cure to emerge from this experience: give what you have not received. If you have not received understanding, be understanding with others; if you have not received love, love others; if you have felt the pain of loneliness, draw close to those who are alone. Flesh is healed with flesh! And God made Himself flesh to heal us. Let us too do the same towards others”.

Video message: true change begins in ourselves

Vatican City, 28 November 2015 (VIS) - “'Realities simply are, whereas ideas are worked out. There has to be a continuous dialogue between the two, lest ideas become detached from realities. It is dangerous to dwell in the realm of words alone, of images and rhetoric'. To prevent the danger of living detached from reality, it is necessary to open the eyes and the heart”, says Pope Francis in the video message he sent yesterday afternoon to the participants in the 5th Festival of the Social Doctrine of the Church, held in Verona from 26 to 29 November, on the theme “The challenge of reality”.

“Our life is made up of many things”, he continued; “a torrent of news, of many problems: all this leads us not to see, not to be aware of the problems of the people who are near us. Indifference seems to be a medicine that protects us from involvement, and becomes a way of being more relaxed. This is indifference. But this non-involvement is a way of defending our selfishness, and saddens us. … The challenge of reality also requires the capacity for dialogue, to build bridges instead of walls. This is the time for dialogue, not for the defence of opposition and rigidity. I invite you to face 'the challenge of finding and sharing the mystique of living together, of mingling and encounter, of embracing and supporting one another, of stepping into this flood tide which, while chaotic, can become a genuine experience of fraternity, a caravan of solidarity, a sacred pilgrimage'”.

“The challenge of reality, however, requires change. Everyone is aware of the need for change, because we sense that something is not working. … True change begins in ourselves and is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. People who experience inner change from the Spirit lead also to social change”.

The Pope goes on to mention the environmental challenge, and the need to “listen to the cry of Mother Earth. Respect for creatures and for creation represents a great challenge for the future of humanity. Man and creation are inseparably linked”. Francis emphasises that while we think of this theme as being part of politics, economics and development strategy, “nothing can substitute personal commitment. Austerity, responsible consumption, a lifestyle that welcomes creation as a gift and excludes predatory and exclusive forms of possession, is the concrete way of creating a new sensibility. If many of us live like this, it will have a positive impact on society as a whole, and the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor will become audible to all”, he concluded.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 28 November 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the diocese of Yopougon, Cote d'Ivoire, presented by Bishop Laurent Akran Mandjo upon reaching the age limit. He is succeeded by Bishop Jean Salomon Lezoutie, coadjutor of the same diocese.
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