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Monday, December 28, 2015

''Family Life: A Pilgrimage for Experiencing the Joy of Forgiveness''

Vatican City, 27 December 2015 (VIS) – At 10:00 this morning, on the Feast of the Holy Family, Pope Francis celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. During the celebration, attended by Roman and pilgrim families for the Jubilee of Family, he gave the following homily:

''The biblical readings which we just heard presented us with the image of two families on pilgrimage to the house of God. Elkanah and Hannah bring their son Samuel to the Temple of Shiloh and consecrate him to the Lord. In the same way, Joseph and Mary, in the company of Jesus, go as pilgrims to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover.''

''We often see pilgrims journeying to shrines and places dear to popular piety. These days, many of them are making their way to the Holy Door opened in all the cathedrals of the world and in many shrines. But the most beautiful thing which emerges from the word of God today is that the whole family goes on pilgrimage. Fathers, mothers and children together go to the house of the Lord, in order to sanctify the holy day with prayer. It is an important teaching, which is meant for our own families as well. Indeed, we could say that family life is a series of pilgrimages, both small and big.''

''For example, how comforting it is for us to reflect on Mary and Joseph teaching Jesus how to pray! This is a sort of pilgrimage, the pilgrimage of education in prayer. And it is comforting also to know that throughout the day they would pray together, and then go each Sabbath to the synagogue to listen to readings from the Law and the Prophets, and to praise the Lord with the assembly. Certainly, during their pilgrimage to Jerusalem, they prayed by singing the Psalm: ‘I was glad when they said to me, ''Let us go to the house of the Lord!'' Our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem’.''

''How important it is for our families to journey together towards a single goal! We know that we have a road to travel together; a road along which we encounter difficulties but also enjoy moments of joy and consolation. And on this pilgrimage of life we also share in moments of prayer. What can be more beautiful than for a father and mother to bless their children at the beginning and end of each day, to trace on their forehead the sign of the cross, as they did on the day of their baptism? Is this not the simplest prayer which parents can offer for their children? To bless them, that is, to entrust them to the Lord, just like Elkanah and Anna, Joseph and Mary, so that he can be their protection and support throughout the day. In the same way, it is important for families to join in a brief prayer before meals, in order to thank the Lord for these gifts and to learn how to share what we have received with those in greater need. These are all little gestures, yet they point to the great formative role played by the family in the pilgrimage of everyday life.''

''At the end of that pilgrimage, Jesus returned to Nazareth and was obedient to his parents. This image also contains a beautiful teaching about our families. A pilgrimage does not end when we arrive at our destination, but when we return home and resume our everyday lives, putting into practice the spiritual fruits of our experience. We know what Jesus did on that occasion. Instead of returning home with his family, he stayed in Jerusalem, in the Temple, causing great distress to Mary and Joseph who were unable to find him. For this little ‘escapade’, Jesus probably had to beg forgiveness of his parents. The Gospel doesn’t say this, but I believe that we can presume it. Mary’s question, moreover, contains a certain reproach, revealing the concern and anguish which she and Joseph felt. Returning home, Jesus surely remained close to them, as a sign of his complete affection and obedience. Moments like these become part of the pilgrimage of each family; the Lord transforms the moments into opportunities to grow, to ask for and to receive forgiveness, to show love and obedience.''

''In the Year of Mercy, every Christian family can become a privileged place on this pilgrimage for experiencing the joy of forgiveness. Forgiveness is the essence of the love which can understand mistakes and mend them. How miserable we would be if God did not forgive us! Within the family we learn how to forgive, because we are certain that we are understood and supported, whatever the mistakes we make.''

''Let us not lose confidence in the family! It is beautiful when we can always open our hearts to one another, and hide nothing. Where there is love, there is also understanding and forgiveness. To all of you, dear families, I entrust this most important mission – the domestic pilgrimage of daily family life – which the world and the Church need, now more than ever.''

Angelus: The Holy Family: Domestic Church and True School of the Gospel

Vatican City, 27 December 2015 (VIS) – After celebrating the Mass for the Feast of the Holy Family, the Holy Father appeared at the window of his study in the Apostolic Palace to pray the Angelus with the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square. Before the Marian prayer, the Pope recalled this past September''s meeting with families in Philadelphia, USA as well as all the families he has met during his apostolic trips and all the families around the world with these words:

''I would like to greet you all with affection and gratitude, especially at this present time when the family is subjected to various kinds of misunderstandings and difficulties that weaken it. Today's Gospel,'' he continued, ''invites families to capture the light of hope coming from the house of Nazareth where Jesus grew up in joyfulness.''

''The family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph is, for every believer and especially for families, a true school of the Gospel. Here we admire the fulfillment of God's plan to make the family a special community of life and love. Here we learn that every Christian family is called to be a ‘domestic church'', to make the light of the Gospel virtues shine forth and to become leaven for the good in society. The typical characteristics of the Holy Family are meditation and prayer, mutual understanding and respect, a spirit of sacrifice, labor, and solidarity.''

''Each family can draw valuable guidance for lifestyles and life choices and can draw strength and wisdom for the everyday journey from the example and witness of the Holy Family. Our Lady and St. Joseph teach us how to welcome children as a gift from God, to generate and educate them by cooperating in a wonderful way with the Creator's work; giving the world a new smile with every child. It is in the united family that children bring their existence to maturity, living a meaningful and effective experience of gratuitous love, of tenderness, of reciprocal respect, of mutual understanding, of forgiveness, and of joy.''

''The true joy experienced in the family is not something casual or accidental. It is a joy born of the profound harmony among persons, which gives us a taste of the beauty of being together, of supporting one another along the journey of life. But at the heart of that joy is always God's presence, his welcoming, merciful, and patient love toward all. If the doors of the family are not opened to the presence of God and his love, the family loses its harmony, selfishness prevails, and joy is extinguished. Instead, the family that lives the joy of life, the joy of faith, spontaneously communicating it, is the salt of the earth and light of the world. It is the leaven for all of society.''

Pope Calls Attention to Migrant Cubans in Difficulty

Vatican City, 27 December 2015 (VIS) – After praying the Angelus, Pope Francis spoke on behalf of the ''numerous Cuban migrants who are in difficulty in Central America,'' many of whom are victims of human trafficking. He called on the countries in the region to generously renew the necessary efforts to finding a timely solution to this humanitarian tragedy.

At the same time, the pontiff also greeted the families and the pilgrims from around the world present in the square, thanking them for their witness. He thanked everyone for their well wishes and prayers.

Pope’s Message to Young Adults at the European Meeting of the Taize Community

Vatican City, 27 December 2015 (VIS) – Pope Francis, through a telegram sent by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, addressed the participants in the 38th European Meeting of Young Adults organized by the Taize Community, which will take place from Monday, 28 December 2015 until 1 January 2016, in Valencia, Spain.

The Holy Father encouraged the more than 30,000 expected participants to ''have the courage of mercy, which will guide you not only to receive it in your lives but also to be close to those who are in distress. You know that the Church is here for all of humanity and where there are Christians everyone should find an oasis of mercy. This,'' he emphasized, ''particularly applies to the many migrants in such need of your welcome.'' The Pope also expressed his hope that ''during these beautiful days … you might better discover Christ, ‘the face of the Father’s mercy'', and he sent them his blessing.

Telegram on the Attacks in the Philippines

Vatican City, 27 December 2015 (VIS) – Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin sent a telegram of condolences on behalf of the Pope Francis to Msgr. Giuseppe Pinto, apostolic nuncio in Manila, following the attacks on the island of Mindanao, in the south of the country.

''The Holy Father was deeply saddened to learn of the senseless killing of innocent people in Mindanao, and he sends condolences to the families of those who lost their lives. His Holiness prays that security and safety will be established for all people in the region, so that dialogue, tolerance and peace may enable each person to live free from fear. He asks all believers to reject violence in the name of God who is love, and invokes abundant divine gifts of consolation, mercy and strength upon those affected by this tragedy.''

Pope’s Condolences on Gas Plant Accident in Nigeria

Vatican City, 27 December 2015 (VIS) – Pope Francis, through Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, has sent the following telegram of condolences to Msgr. Augustine Kasuja, apostolic nuncio in Abuya, following the tragic accident that occurred in the Nigerian city of Nnewi when a truck exploded in a gas plant.

''The Holy Father was deeply saddened to learn of the tragic explosion at a gas plant in Nnewi, in which so many people died or were seriously injured. He sends heartfelt condolences to the relatives of the deceased and injured, to the authorities and to the entire Nation. His Holiness, commending the souls of the departed to the tender mercy of God, invokes the abundant divine gifts of consolation and strength upon those who mourn and upon all who have been affected by this tragedy.''

Angelus: ''Never Tire of Asking for Divine Forgiveness''

Vatican City, 25 December 2015 (VIS) – ''Today we celebrate the Feast of St. Stephen,'' said the Pope today at noon from the window of his study in the Apostolic Palace, when he prayed the Angelus with the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square. ''This memorial of the first martyr follows immediately after the Solemnity of Christmas. Yesterday we contemplated the merciful love of God who became man for us. Today we see the consistent response of Jesus’ disciple who gives his life. Yesterday, the Savior was born on earth; now his faithful witness is born in heaven. Yesterday as today, the darkness of the denial of life looms, but the light of love that overcomes hatred and inaugurates a new world shines still stronger.''

''There is a particular aspect in today’s story from the Acts of the Apostles that ties St. Stephen to the Lord. It is the forgiveness he offered before he died from being stoned. Nailed to the cross, Jesus said: ‘Father, forgive them for they know not what they do’. Likewise, Stephen ‘bent his knees and cried out: ''Lord, do not charge them with this sin''.’ Stephen, therefore, is a martyr, which means witness because he does as Jesus does. In fact, the true witnesses are those who act as does Jesus: those who pray, those who love, those who give, but above all, those who forgive because forgiveness, as the word implies, is the greatest expression of giving.''

''But – we might ask – what is the use of forgiving?'' the pontiff continued. ''Is it just a good deed or does it bring results? We find the answer precisely in Stephen’s martyrdom. Among those for whom he begged forgiveness was a young man named Saul who persecuted the Church and tried to destroy it. Shortly thereafter, Saul became Paul, the great saint, the Apostle to the Gentiles. He had received Stephen’s forgiveness. We can say that Paul was born of God’s grace and Stephen’s forgiveness.''

''We also are born of God’s forgiveness. Not only in Baptism but every time we are forgiven our hearts are reborn, are remade. From the beginning, every step forward in the life of faith is impressed with the seal of divine mercy. Because only when we are loved can we in turn love. It does us good to remind ourselves of this: if we want to move forward in faith, we must first of all receive God’s forgiveness. We must meet the Father who is always ready to forgive everything and who, in forgiving us, heals our hearts and reignites our love. We must never tire of asking God’s forgiveness,'' Pope Francis emphasized, ''because it is only when we are forgiven, when we feel ourselves pardoned, that we can learn to forgive.''

The Holy Father acknowledged that forgiving ''is not easy. It is always very difficult.'' He explained that, in order to imitate Christ and forgive the great and small offenses that we suffer every day, we have to start with prayer like St. Stephen. ''It starts from our hearts. We can deal with the resentment we feel through prayer, entrusting those who have done us wrong to God’s mercy. … Then we discover that this inner struggle to forgive purifies us from evil and that prayer and love set us free from the inner chains of rancor. … Through forgiveness we overcome evil with good, we turn hatred into love, and thus make the world cleaner.''

Before finishing, Pope Francis entrusted to the Virgen Mary all those who, ''like St. Stephen, suffer persecution in the name of the faith, our many martyrs today. Help direct our prayers to receive and to offer forgiveness.''

Christmas Message: ''Only God’s Mercy Can Free Humanity from the Many Forms of Evil''

Vatican City, 25 December 2015 (VIS) – At noon today, the Solemnity of the Birth of the Lord, the Pope gave the traditional Christmas message from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica. On finishing the address, which is given in its entirety below, he imparted the Urbi et Orbi blessing ''to the city [of Rome] and to the world''.

''Dear brothers and sisters, Happy Christmas!
Christ is born for us, let us rejoice in the day of our salvation!''

''Let us open our hearts to receive the grace of this day, which is Christ himself. Jesus is the radiant ‘day’ which has dawned on the horizon of humanity. A day of mercy, in which God our Father has revealed his great tenderness to the entire world. A day of light, which dispels the darkness of fear and anxiety. A day of peace, which makes for encounter, dialogue and, above all, reconciliation. A day of joy: a ‘great joy’ for the poor, the lowly and for all the people.''

''On this day, Jesus, the Savior is born of the Virgin Mary. The Crib makes us see the ‘sign’ which God has given us: ‘a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger’. Like the shepherds of Bethlehem, may we too set out to see this sign, this event which is renewed yearly in the Church. Christmas is an event which is renewed in every family, parish and community which receives the love of God made incarnate in Jesus Christ. Like Mary, the Church shows to everyone the ‘sign’ of God: the Child whom she bore in her womb and to whom she gave birth, yet who is the Son of the Most High, since he ‘is of the Holy Spirit’. He is truly the Savior, for he is the Lamb of God who takes upon himself the sin of the world. With the shepherds, let us bow down before the Lamb, let us worship God’s goodness made flesh, and let us allow tears of repentance to fill our eyes and cleanse our hearts. This is something we all need!''

''He alone, he alone can save us. Only God’s mercy can free humanity from the many forms of evil, at times monstrous evil, which selfishness spawns in our midst. The grace of God can convert hearts and offer mankind a way out of humanly insoluble situations.''

''Where God is born, hope is born. He brings hope. Where God is born, peace is born. And where peace is born, there is no longer room for hatred and for war. Yet precisely where the incarnate Son of God came into the world, tensions and violence persist, and peace remains a gift to be implored and built. May Israelis and Palestinians resume direct dialogue and reach an agreement which will enable the two peoples to live together in harmony, ending a conflict which has long set them at odds with grave repercussions for the entire region.''

''We pray to the Lord that the agreement reached in the United Nations may succeed in halting as quickly as possible the clash of arms in Syria and in remedying the extremely grave humanitarian situation of its suffering people. It is likewise urgent that the agreement on Libya be supported by all, so as to overcome the grave divisions and violence afflicting the country. May the attention of the international community be unanimously directed to ending the atrocities which in those countries, as well as in Iraq, Libya, Yemen and sub-Saharan Africa, even now reap numerous victims, cause immense suffering and do not even spare the historical and cultural patrimony of entire peoples. My thoughts also turn to those affected by brutal acts of terrorism, particularly the recent massacres which took place in Egyptian airspace, in Beirut, Paris, Bamako and Tunis.''

''To our brothers and sisters who in many parts of the world are being persecuted for their faith, may the Child Jesus grant consolation and strength. They are our martyrs of today.''

''We also pray for peace and concord among the peoples of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and South Sudan, that dialogue may lead to a strengthened common commitment to the building of civil societies animated by a sincere spirit of reconciliation and of mutual understanding.''

''May Christmas also bring true peace to Ukraine, offer comfort to those suffering from the effects of the conflict, and inspire willingess to carry out the agreements made to restore concord in the entire country.''

''May the joy of this day illumine the efforts of the Colombian people so that, inspired by hope, they may continue their commitment to working for the desired peace.''

''Where God is born, hope is born; and where hope is born, persons regain their dignity. Yet even today great numbers of men and woman are deprived of their human dignity and, like the child Jesus, suffer cold, poverty, and rejection. May our closeness today be felt by those who are most vulnerable, especially child soldiers, women who suffer violence, and the victims of human trafficking and the drug trade.''

''Nor may our encouragement be lacking to all those fleeing extreme poverty or war, travelling all too often in inhumane conditions and not infrequently at the risk of their lives. May God repay all those, both individuals and states, who generously work to provide assistance and welcome to the numerous migrants and refugees, helping them to build a dignified future for themselves and for their dear ones, and to be integrated in the societies which receive them.''

''On this festal day may the Lord grant renewed hope to all those who lack employment – and they are so many! May he sustain the commitment of those with public responsibilities in political and economic life, that they may work to pursue the common good and to protect the dignity of every human life.''

''Where God is born, mercy flourishes. Mercy is the most precious gift which God gives us, especially during this Jubilee year in which we are called to discover that tender love of our heavenly Father for each of us. May the Lord enable prisoners in particular to experience his merciful love, which heals wounds and triumphs over evil.''

''Today, then, let us together rejoice in the day of our salvation. As we contemplate the Crib, let us gaze on the open arms of Jesus, which show us the merciful embrace of God, as we hear the cries of the Child who whispers to us: ‘for my brethren and companions’ sake, I will say: Peace be within you’.''

Christmas Eve Mass: ''The Mission of Making Known ''The Prince of Peace'''

Vatican City, 24 December 2015 (VIS) – This evening, beginning at 9:30pm, Pope Francis presided over Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter's Basilica. During the course of the celebration he gave this homily:

''Tonight 'a great light' shines forth; the light of Jesus' birth shines all about us. How true and timely are the words of the prophet Isaiah which we have just heard: ''You have brought abundant joy and great rejoicing'! Our heart was already joyful in awaiting this moment; now that joy abounds and overflows, for the promise has been at last fulfilled. Joy and gladness are a sure sign that the message contained in the mystery of this night is truly from God. There is no room for doubt; let us leave that to the skeptics who, by looking to reason alone, never find the truth. There is no room for the indifference which reigns in the hearts of those unable to love for fear of losing something. All sadness has been banished, for the Child Jesus brings true comfort to every heart.''

''Today, the Son of God is born, and everything changes. The Savior of the world comes to partake of our human nature; no longer are we alone and forsaken. The Virgin offers us her Son as the beginning of a new life. The true light has come to illumine our lives so often beset by the darkness of sin. Today we once more discover who we are! Tonight we have been shown the way to reach the journey's end. Now must we put away all fear and dread, for the light shows us the path to Bethlehem. We must not be laggards; we are not permitted to stand idle. We must set out to see our Savior lying in a manger. This is the reason for our joy and gladness: this Child has been ''born to us'; he was ''given to us', as Isaiah proclaims. The people who for two thousand years have traversed all the pathways of the world in order to allow every man and woman to share in this joy are now given the mission of making known ''the Prince of Peace' and becoming his effective servant in the midst of the nations.''

''So when we hear tell of the birth of Christ, let us be silent and let the Child speak. Let us take his words to heart in rapt contemplation of his face. If we take him in our arms and let ourselves be embraced by him, he will bring us unending peace of heart. This Child teaches us what is truly essential in our lives. He was born into the poverty of this world; there was no room in the inn for him and his family. He found shelter and support in a stable and was laid in a manger for animals. And yet, from this nothingness, the light of God's glory shines forth. From now on, the way of authentic liberation and perennial redemption is open to every man and woman who is simple of heart. This Child, whose face radiates the goodness, mercy and love of God the Father, trains us, his disciples, as Saint Paul says, ''to reject godless ways' and the richness of the world, in order to live ''temperately, justly and devoutly'.''

''In a society so often intoxicated by consumerism and hedonism, wealth and extravagance, appearances and narcissism, this Child calls us to act soberly, in other words, in a way that is simple, balanced, consistent, capable of seeing and doing what is essential. In a world which all too often is merciless to the sinner and lenient to the sin, we need to cultivate a strong sense of justice, to discern and to do God's will. Amid a culture of indifference which not infrequently turns ruthless, our style of life should instead be devout, filled with empathy, compassion and mercy, drawn daily from the wellspring of prayer.''

''Like the shepherds of Bethlehem, may we too, with eyes full of amazement and wonder, gaze upon the Child Jesus, the Son of God. And in his presence may our hearts burst forth in prayer: ''Show us, Lord, your mercy, and grant us your salvation'.''

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 28 December 2015 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father appointed Msgr. Brian McGee as Bishop of Argyll and the Isles (area 31,080, population 77,400, Catholics 10,179, priests 25, permanent deacons 1, religious 32), Scotland. Bishop-elect McGee was born in Greenock, in the Diocese of Paisley, in 1965 and was ordained a priest of the clergy of Paisely in 1989. He has served as a pastor as well as the Scots College’s spiritual director. He was diocesan director of the RCIA program as well as Episcopal Vicar for marriage and the family. Since 2014 he has served as Paisley’s vicar general.

On Thursday, 24 December, the Holy Father appointed Msgr. Wojciech Tomasz Osial as auxiliary bishop of Lowicz (area 5,806, population 609,479, Catholics 607,825, priests 166, religious 390), Poland. Bishop-elect Osial was born in Lowicz in 1970 and was ordained a priest in 1995. He holds a doctorate in catechetics from Rome’s Pontifical Salesian University and has been serving as Lowicz’s diocesan director for catechism and curial notary. He is also a professor in the seminaries of Lowicz and Oltarzew as well as the Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University in Warsaw. He has been a canon of the cathedral chapter since 2014.
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