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Friday, January 29, 2016

To the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: faith is not only knowledge committed to memory, but truth lived in love

Vatican City, 29 January 2016 (VIS) – "Mercy is the foundation of the life of the Church: the first truth of the Church, indeed, is Christ's love", were the opening words of the Holy Father's discourse to the participants in the plenary assembly of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, whom he received in audience this morning in the Clementine Hall. The Pope went on to urge all the Christian people, both pastors and the faithful, to rediscover during this Jubilee the corporal and spiritual works of mercy as when, in the twilight of life, we are asked if we have given food to the hungry and given the thirsty water to drink, we will also be asked "if we have helped people to set their doubts aside, if we have committed ourselves to welcoming sinners, admonishing them and correcting them, if we have been able to combat ignorance, especially in relation to the Christian faith and the righteous life".

"In faith and in charity a cognitive and unifying relationship is established with the mystery of Love, which is God Himself. The effective mercy of God became, in Jesus, affective mercy, as He made Himself man for the salvation of mankind. The task entrusted to your Dicastery here finds its ultimate foundation and and adequate justification. Christian faith, indeed, is not only knowledge to be committed to memory, but also truth to live in love. Therefore, along with the doctrine of the faith, it is also necessary to safeguard the integrity of customs, particularly in the most delicate areas of life. Adhering to faith in the person of Christ implies both an act of reason and a moral response to His gift. In this respect, I thank you for all your commitment and the responsibility you exercise in treating cases of abuse of minors by members of the clergy".

"Safeguarding the integrity of faith and customs is a delicate task. Performing this mission well requires collegial commitment. … The correct synodality must be promoted at all levels of ecclesial life", added the Pope, citing in this respect the meeting organised by the Congregation with the Doctrinal Commissions of the Episcopal Conferences of Europe, enabling various doctrinal and pastoral challenges to be faced in a collegial way and thus inspiring in the faithful "a new missionary impulse and greater openness to the transcendent dimension of life, without which Europe runs the risk of losing its humanist spirit that it nevertheless loves and defends".

Another significant contribution of the Congregation to the renewal of ecclesial life was its study on complementarity between hierarchical and charismatic gifts, called upon to collaborate in synergy for the good of the Church and the world, and whose relationship evokes the Trinitarian root, the bond between the divine Word made flesh and the Holy Spirit, which is always a gift of the Father and the Son.

"It is precisely this root, if acknowledged and listened to humbly, that permits the Church to let herself be renewed at any time. … Unity and plurality are the seal of a Church that, moved by the Spirit, knows how to walk with a sure and faithful step towards the purpose that the Risen Lord has indicated to them throughout history. Here we see clearly how the synodal dynamic, if correctly understood, is born from communion and leads towards an increasingly implemented, deepened and extended, in the service of the life and the mission of the People of God".

Two initiatives linked to the Jubilee: the Missionaries of Mercy and the translation to Rome of the relics of St. Pio of Pietrelcina and St. Leopold Mandic

Vatican City, 29 January 2016 (VIS) – This morning in the Holy See Press Office Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelisation, and Msgr. Graham Bell, under-secretary of the same dicastery, presented two initiatives linked to the Jubilee Year: the Missionaries of Mercy and the temporary translation to Rome of the relics of St. Pio of Pietrelcina and St. Leopold Mandic.

"It is has been almost two months now since Pope Francis opened the Holy Door of St. Peter’s", said Archbishop Fisichella. "Since that moment, the Doors of Mercy have been opened all around the world. The incredible number of people who have registered for these events allows us to acknowledge how this insight of Pope Francis, his idea of having this Extraordinary Jubilee, has answered a true need of the people of God who are receiving this event of grace with great joy and enthusiasm. We can conclude from this participation that the Jubilee is being intensely lived in all the world and in every local Church, where this time of grace is being organised as a genuine form of renewal for the Church and as a particular moment of the new evangelisation".

"Every day we receive thousands of pictures and documents from around the world attesting to the commitment and the faith of believers", he continued. "Yet all of this activity has not stopped a substantial number of pilgrims from arriving in Rome during this period. According to the data available to us on a daily basis, as of today 1,392,000 people have participated in Jubilee events. An interesting detail is that 40 per cent of those who have attended come from abroad, speaking largely Spanish and French. We have registered pilgrims from Bangladesh, Hong Kong, Korea, Kenya, Mozambique, El Salvador, New Zealand, Argentina, Mexico, the Fiji Islands, Russia, Belarus, the Seychelles, the Ivory Coast, Chad, Kuwait, the U.S.A., Albania and from many other countries. I would like to reiterate that this is not the criteria by which to judge the actual outcome of the Jubilee. A Holy Year of mercy goes well beyond numbers, for it is intended to touch the hearts and the minds of people in order to assist them in coming to understand the ways in which God’s great love manifests itself in their daily lives. It is a time during which to assess our lives of faith and to understand how we are capable of conversion and renewal, both of which come from recognising the importance of remaining focused upon what is essential. In any case, a general evaluation of the Jubilee cannot be made after only two months but must be done at its conclusion. All of the other considerations at the moment are incomplete and temporary and, thus, do not merit particular attention".

Archbishop Fisichella described two signs of the Holy Father's concrete witness of mercy. On Friday, December 18, he opened the Door of Charity in the homeless shelter, “Don Luigi di Liegro”, where he celebrated Holy Mass in the refectory. On January 15, he visited first the “Bruno Buozzi” nursing home for the elderly in Torrespaccata, Rome, then the Casa Iride where he spent time with those in vegetative states who are being assisted by their families. "These signs possess a symbolic value before all of the many needs that are present in society today", he emphasised, "intended to stir in all of us a greater awareness of the many situations of need in our cities and to offer a small response of caring and aid".

Following these reflections on the first two months of the Jubilee, the prelate presented two upcoming special events. The first is the presence in Rome of the reliquaries containing the relics of St. Leopold Mandic and St. Pio of Pietrelcina. "Such an occasion is of great significance for it is an unprecedented event, given the stories of these two saints who spent their lives in the service of the mercy of God. Fr. Leopold (1866-1942) was canonised by St. John Paul II on December 16, 1983 and is less well known than St. Pio. Yet, his hunger for holiness spread beyond the Church of Padua, where he lived the major part of his life and where his memory and his relics remain. Originally from Croatia, this Capuchin father dedicated all of his life to the confessional. For almost thirty years, he spent from ten to fifteen hours a day in the secrecy of his cell, the very place which became a confessional for thousands of people who found in their relationships with him the privileged witness of forgiveness and of mercy. Some of his brothers noted that he was 'ignorant and too lenient in forgiving everyone without discernment'. Yet, his simple and humble response to this charge leaves one speechless: 'Should the Crucified blame me for being lenient, I would answer Him: Lord, you gave me this bad example. I have not yet reached the folly of your having died for souls'".

St. Pio (1887-1968), canonised in 2002 by St. John Paul II, "does not require lengthy presentation. This simple Capuchin friar spent his entire life at San Giovanni Rotondo without ever leaving that town. Certainly, during his life, some in Rome caused him to suffer, but his holiness always prevailed. In the silence of obedience, he also became a privileged witness of mercy, dedicating all of his life to the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We are grateful to the Capuchin Fathers and to the Bishops of the Dioceses of Padua and Manfredonia-Vieste-San Giovanni Rotondo for having responded so graciously to the wish of the Pope that the relics of these two saints remain in Rome for a period of time during the Jubilee".

"The program is quite simple", he explained. "The urns containing the relics will arrive in Rome on February 3 where they will be placed in the Church of San Lorenzo Fuori le Mura. The church will be open to the faithful starting at 15:00 with a celebration of reception. The relics will remain in San Lorenzo until 20:30 the following day, during which time there will be a number of celebrations reserved for the vast extended Franciscan Family. An all-night vigil is being organised in the Jubilee Church of San Salvatore in Lauro, which will begin at 22:00 on February 4. The prayer will continue until the following day, February 5, with various celebrations and will conclude with Holy Mass at 14:00 presided by Michele Castoro, the Archbishop of Manfredonia-Vieste-San Giovanni Rotondo. At 16:00, a procession with the two reliquaries containing the relics will begin from San Salvatore in Lauro and then proceed the entire length of Via della Conciliazione in order to arrive at the parvis of St. Peter’s Basilica. There, Cardinal Angelo Comastri, the Archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, will receive the relics and after a moment of prayer, will then accompany the relics into the Basilica where they will be placed in the central nave before the Altar of the Confession for people to venerate. The relics will remain in St. Peter’s for veneration until the morning of February 11 when, after the Holy Mass of thanksgiving at 7:30 am at the Altar of the Chair, they will be returned to their original homes. It is opportune to note that on February 10, Ash Wednesday, the Basilica will remain closed in the morning for the General Audience and then, in the afternoon, Holy Mass will be celebrated in the Basilica to mark the beginning of Lent. Thus, those who wish to venerate the relics are kindly asked to choose to do so on one of the previous days and to follow along the Jubilee reserved walkway in order to enter through the security check point as rapidly as possible".

The second event is the celebration that will take place on Ash Wednesday, when the Holy Father will give the mandate to the Missionaries of Mercy. "As attested to in the Bull of Indiction, Misericordiae vultus, the Missionaries are to be a 'sign of the Church’s maternal solicitude for the People of God, enabling them to enter the profound richness of this mystery so fundamental to the faith. There will be priests to whom I will grant the authority to pardon even those sins reserved to the Holy See, so that the breadth of their mandate as confessors will be even clearer. They will be, above all, living signs of the Father’s readiness to welcome those in search of his pardon. They will be missionaries of mercy because they will be facilitators of a truly human encounter, a source of liberation, rich with responsibility for overcoming obstacles and taking up the new life of Baptism again. They will be led in their mission by the words of the Apostle: ‘For God has consigned all men to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon all’”.

"Thus, the Missionaries of Mercy are a select number of priests who have received from the Pope the charge to be privileged witnesses in their respective Churches of the extraordinariness of this Jubilee event", explained the archbishop. "It is only the Pope who nominates these Missionaries, not the Bishops, and it is he who entrusts them with the mandate to announce the beauty of the mercy of God while being humble and wise confessors who possess a great capacity to forgive those who approach the confessional. The Missionaries, who come from every continent, number over 1,000. I am delighted to announce that there are Missionaries coming from many distant countries and, among these, some of which have a uniquely significant importance such as: Burma, Lebanon, China, South Korea, Tanzania, United Arab Emirates, Israel, Burundi, Vietnam, Zimbabwe, Latvia, East Timor, Indonesia, Thailand, and Egypt. There will also be Oriental Rite priests".

"We have received a great response for participation but must place a limit on the large number of requests in order to ensure that the specific sign value, one which expresses how truly special the initiative is, be maintained", he remarked. "All of the Missionaries have received the permission of their respective diocesan Bishops or Religious Superiors and will make themselves available to those requesting their services throughout the entirety of the Jubilee but, most especially, during the Lenten Season. There will be seven hundred Missionaries arriving in Rome. Pope Francis will meet with them on February 9 in order to express his feelings regarding this initiative which will certainly be one of the most touching and significant of the Jubilee of Mercy. On the following day, only the Missionaries of Mercy will concelebrate with the Holy Father, during which time they will receive the 'mandate', as well as the faculty to absolve those sins reserved to the Holy See. An interesting story may help to capture the pastoral interest that this initiative has garnered around the world. Father Richard from Australia will visit 27 communities in his rural Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle where there is only one church and no priests in residence. Traveling in a camper, he will journey from community to community as a 'Missionary of Mercy on Wheels'! This is but an example of the way in which the Jubilee is meant to reach all, allowing everyone to touch the closeness and the tenderness of God".

Finally, other Jubilee events are planned. The first Jubilee Audience will be held in St. Peter’s Square on Saturday, January 30. "Pope Francis has responded generously to the many requests he has received from pilgrims who wish to meet him. Consequently, one Saturday a month has been added to the official calendar for a special audience, one which will be in addition to the regular Wednesday Audiences. This first audience already has 20,000 people registered. Another event of particular interest is the Jubilee for the Curia, the Governorate, and Institutions connected to the Holy See to be held on 22 February. This celebration will begin with a reflection given by Fr. Marco Rupnik at 8:30 am in the Paul VI Hall. After this meditation, there will be a procession through St. Peter’s Square which will pass through the Holy Door. Holy Mass will then be celebrated by Pope Francis at 10 am".

"The Jubilee continues to follow its course and we are certain that, in accord with the desires of Pope Francis, it will be an important opportunity to live out in our daily lives the mercy which the Father constantly extends to all of us”, concluded the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelisation.

World Leprosy Day: combating disease and reintegrating survivors in society

Vatican City, 29 January 2016 (VIS) – Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care, has written a message for the 63rd World Leprosy Day, the theme of which this year is "To live is to help to live".

"This Day … constitutes for everyone an opportunity to continue with the fight against this terrible infection, as well as to weaken the ostracism that often burdens the people who carry its unmistakable signs", writes the prelate. "This is a marginalisation that can be traced back to a natural sense of self-defence in relation to a disease which at one time was incurable, and to an almost ‘ancestral’ fear which, however, today no longer has any reason to exist given that leprosy can be defeated and those who have been cured of it can go back to living".

"Making its own the commitment of the Church to caring for people with leprosy and supporting those who have been cured of it, and in order to increase the sensitivity of men and women of good will, our Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, cooperating, respectively, with the Sasakawa Foundation and the Raoul Follereau Foundation, has organised two study days which will be held on Friday 10 and Saturday 11 June 2016 in the Vatican. At that event, those taking part will be able to be present at the celebration of the Eucharist presided over by Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday 12 June, on the occasion of the Jubilee for the Sick and Disabled".

"We must feel ourselves committed to finding a new impetus against this disease, broadening activities involving information and prevention, but above all fostering, as a gesture of true ‘com-passion’, the social and occupational reintegration of those who have been cured of it and who – despite the fact that they carry the marks of this disease on their bodies – have maintained intact their dignity as persons", concludes Msgr. Zimowski.


Vatican City, 29 January 2016 (VIS) – The Holy Father received in audience:

- Cardinal Domenico Calcagno, president of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA);

- Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity;

- Archbishop Luciano Suriani, apostolic nuncio in Serbia.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 29 January 2016 (VIS) – The Holy Father:

- appointed Msgr. Luigi Mansi as bishop of Andria (area 799, population 139,977, Catholics 138,000, priests 89, permanent deacons 7, religious 104), Italy. The bishop-elect was born in Cerignola, Italy in 1952 and was ordained a priest in 1975. He holds a licentiate in theology from the Pontifical Lateran University and a doctorate in theological anthropology from the Pugliese Theological Faculty. He has served in a number of pastoral and academic roles in the diocese of Cerignola-Ascoli Satriano, including vice rector of the episcopal seminary, rector of the diocesan seminary, head of vocational pastoral ministry, director and lecturer in theology at the diocesan Institute of Religious Sciences and the Higher Institute of Religious Sciences of the Pontifical Lateran University, master of ceremonies, episcopal chancellor and parish priest. He is currently episcopal vicar for pastoral ministry, and member of the episcopal council, the presbyteral council and the college of consultors. In 1991 he was named Chaplain of His Holiness. He succeeds Bishop Raffaele Calabro, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese upon reaching the age limit was accepted by the Holy Father.

- elevated Fr. Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, M.C.C.J., secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, to the dignity of bishop.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Audience with the president of Togo: joint commitment to peace and security in West and Sub-Saharan Africa

Vatican City, 28 January 2016 (VIS) - The Holy Father Francis today received in audience the president of the Republic of Togo, Faure Essozimna Gnassingbe, who subsequently met with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, accompanied by Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, secretary for Relations with States.

During the cordial discussions the Parties acknowledged the good existing relations between the Holy See and Togo, and the prospects for their further consolidation. Mention was made of the contribution of the Catholic Church to the development of the country and the integral progress of the Togolese population, especially in the field of education.

Attention then turned to various challenges affecting West and Sub-Saharan Africa, with special emphasis on the need for joint commitment to the promotion of security and peace in the Region.

Presentation of the World Day of the Sick

Vatican City, 28 January 2016 (VIS) – This morning in the Holy See Press Office a press conference was held to present the 24th World Day of the Sick, to be celebrated in Nazareth in the Holy Land on 11 February, feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes, on the theme "Entrusting oneself to the merciful Jesus like Mary: 'Do whatever he tells you'”, based on the account of the wedding at Cana according to the Gospel of St. John.

The panel was composed of Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers (Health Pastoral Care), Msgr. Jean-Marie Mate Musivi Mupendawatu, secretary of the same dicastery, Rev. Fr. Augusto Chendi, under-secretary, Rev. Fr. Pietro Felet, S.C.I., secretary general of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land and local referent for the organisation of the World Day of the Sick 2016.

The place where the Day will be held – Nazareth, in the Holy Land – is the first point to highlight, said Archbishop Zimowski. Nazareth is the place of the incarnation, where Jesus began His salvific mission and in Galilee cured many people, as is narrated in the Gospel of St. Mark, read in these days, in which Christ calls to the sick to heal them and, in turn, is called to by them. "In a certain sense we are all constantly called upon, although each person in a different way", explained the prelate. "The human being suffers in different places and, at times, suffers terribly. He calls to another person as he is in need of his help and his presence. At times we are intimidated by the fact of not being able to heal, of not being able to help like Jesus. Let us try to overcome this embarrassment. The important thing is to keep going, to stay beside the man who suffers. He needs, perhaps more than healing, the presence of another person, of a human heart full of mercy, of human solidarity".

"These are doctors, nurses, all the representatives of the healthcare professions. They are the institutions that serve human health. … We must support this great tradition at all costs: the work of doctors and nurses is treated not only as a profession but also and perhaps firstly as a service, as a vocation. Care for the physically impaired and the elderly, care for the mentally ill – these sectors constitute, more than any other aspect of social life, the measure of the culture of a society and the state".

Secondly, the archbishop remarked that the Day occurs in the context of the extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, and that there will be a visit to the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre and the Basilica of the Agony in Gethsemane, the places where Christ gave Himself to the Father for our salvation. "Jesus unites humanity through His Cross, and the celebration of the World Day of the Sick in the Holy Land will help us to realise the wish Pope Francis expressed in the Bull of Indiction, that is, that 'this Jubilee year celebrating the mercy of God will foster an encounter with [Judaism and Islam] and with other noble religious traditions; may it open us to even more fervent dialogue so that we might know and understand one another better; may it eliminate every form of closed-mindedness and disrespect, and drive out every form of violence and discrimination'. Every hospital and clinic, as the Holy Father reminds us, can be a visible sign and place for promoting the culture of encounter and peace, where the experience of sickness and suffering, as well as professional and fraternal help, may contribute to overcoming every limit and division".

Finally, the archbishop spoke about the role of servants at the wedding of Cana, who Mary told to do as Christ told them. "Naturally, the miracle takes place through Christ's work; however, He sought human help in completing the prodigy. He could have made the wine appear directly in the amphorae. But He wants to count on human collaboration, and asks the servants to fill them with water. How precious and pleasing to God it is to be servants of others! This, more than anything else, makes us similar to Jesus, Who 'came not to be served, but to serve'".

"The fruit of this Day must be concrete: the closeness of our hearts that is expressed in mercy towards the sick and needy, who must feel the closeness or proximity, material and spiritual, of the entire Christian community", he concluded. "It is important that they are not left abandoned or alone as they face such a delicate moment in their life".

Fr. Chendi explained that the programme of the Day is divided into three parts: liturgical moments; theological-pastoral insights, with the presence on 9 February in the Pontifical Institute Notre Dame Centre of Jerusalem of the Catholic Ordinaries and Patriarchs and bishops of the sister Churches of the Holy Land; and concrete gestures of charity, such as visits to various hospitals and healthcare structures present in the area.

The under-secretary also mentioned that plenary indulgence granted by Pope Francis to those who participate in this Day, with the explicit intention that, through corporal and spiritual works of mercy "they will encounter a renewed and authentic witness and discover the Christian meaning of suffering and its sharing among brothers".

With regard to the theological and pastoral dimension, the congress of 9 February "will offer the opportunity to identify problems, also of an ethical and pastoral nature, that are urgent from both a legislative and a clinical and care-related point of view. In particular, in the name of the inviolable value of every human life and the unique dignity characteristic of every person, attention will be paid to issues regarding the end of life and the care of people with different pathologies, both physically and psychologically invalidating".

In relation to the charitable dimension, Fr. Chendi explained that the visits to various entities working in the Holy Land, both Catholic and non-Catholic, will constitute "a tangible sign of what Pope Francis describes in his message as Mary's tenderness in Cana of Galilee, which translates into a predisposition towards serving those in need and in particular our brothers and sisters in sickness".


Vatican City, 28 January 2016 (VIS) – This morning, the Holy Father received in audience:

- Archbishop George Panikulam, apostolic nuncio in Uruguay;

- Leonardo DiCaprio.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 28 January 2016 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed Fr. Jose Hirais Acosta Beltran as bishop of Huejutla (area 6,014, population 557,987, Catholics 502,752, priests 96, religious 67), Mexico. The bishop-elect was born in Pezmatlan, Mexico in 1966 and was ordained a priest in 1993. He has served in a number of pastoral roles in the diocese of Huejutla, including parish vicar, vice rector of the minor seminary, professor and formator at the major seminary and judge at the ecclesiastical tribunal. He is currently diocesan administrator, prefect of studies and spiritual director of the major seminary of Huejutla, defender of the bond in the diocesan tribunal and member of the college of consultors.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

General audience: God gives us the legacy of mercy

Vatican City, 27 January 2016 (VIS) -God's mercy has always been present throughout the history of the People of Israel, accompanying the way of Patriarchs, endowing them with offspring despite their sterility as in the case of Abraham and Sarah, and leading them on paths of grace and reconciliation, as is shown by the story of Joseph and his brothers. When life became difficult due to slavery in Egypt, God was not indifferent to their suffering. He saved them from the Pharaoh through Moses, he took them out of Egypt and led them through the Red Sea and the desert to the promised land and to freedom. This was the theme of the Holy Father's catechesis during this Wednesday's general audience in St. Peter's Square, entitled "God heard their groaning and He remembered His covenant", drawn from the Book of Exodus.

"Mercy is not indifferent to the pain of the oppressed, to the cry of those who suffer violence and slavery or are condemned to death. Suffering is a sad reality that afflicts every age, including our own, and often makes us feel helpless, tempting us to harden our hearts and think of other things. God, however, is not indifferent; He never turns away from human suffering. The God of mercy … intervenes to save, inspiring men capable of hearing the cry of suffering and of working in favour of the oppressed".

Moses, one of God's chosen ones, saved from the waters of the Nile by divine mercy, becomes a mediator for the liberation of his people. "And we too, in this Year of Mercy, can be mediators … with the works of mercy, being close to our neighbours, to relieve them. They are many good things we can do", added the Pope. "God's mercy always acts to save us. The Lord, through his servant Moses, leads Israel in the desert like a child, educating his people in faith and creating a strong bond of love, like that between a father and son, or a bride and groom. … God possesses all the earth because He has created it, but the people become for Him a different type of possession: His personal reserve of gold and silver, like the treasure King David says he has donated for the construction of the Temple. This is what we become for God by welcoming his covenant and letting ourselves be saved by Him. The Lord's mercy makes man precious, like a personal wealth that belongs to Him, that He conserves and is pleased with".

"These are the wonders of divine mercy, that finds fulfilment in the Lord Jesus, in that 'new and eternal alliance' consummated with His blood, that with forgiveness destroys our sin and definitively makes us children of God, precious jewels in the hands of the good and merciful Father. And if we are sons of God, we have the possibility of inheriting this goodness and mercy. Let us ask the Lord, in this Year of Mercy … to open our heart to reach everyone with the works of mercy, the legacy of the mercy that God the Father has shown to us", concluded the bishop of Rome.

The Pope invites faithful to "Cor Unum" retreat and greets circus performers

Vatican City, 27 January 2016 (VIS) – Following today's catechesis, the Holy Father mentioned that the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum", on the occasion of the Jubilee of Mercy, has arranged a day of spiritual retreat for people and groups involved in charity service. The day, to be held in the individual dioceses during the upcoming Lenten period, "will offer an opportunity to reflect on the call to be merciful like the Father", said Francis, inviting those present to welcome this proposal, following the indications and using the materials prepared by "Cor Unum".

After his special greetings to the young, the sick and newly-weds, the Pope mentioned that tomorrow will be the feast day of St. Thomas Aquinas, patron of Catholic schools. "His example inspires you, dear young people, to see in the merciful Jesus the sole teacher of life; may his intercession obtain for those of you who are sick the serenity and peace present in the mystery of the Cross; and may his doctrine encourage you, dear newly-weds, to trust in the wisdom of the heart to fulfil your mission".

Finally, he greeted a group of circus performers and acrobats, reiterating that their profession is the creation of beauty, and beauty always brings us closer to God.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 27 January 2016 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed Fr. Adilson Pedro Busin, C.S., as auxiliary of the archdiocese of Porto Alegre (area 13,530, population 3,423,000, Catholics 2,547,000, priests 359, permanent deacons 59, religious 1,450), Brazil. The bishop-elect was born in Sarandi, Brazil in 1965, gave his permanent vows in 1992 and was ordained a priest in 1993. He holds a licentiate in science of education from the Pontifical Salesian University of Rome, and has served in a number of roles in his congregation, including vocational animator and rector of the minor seminary of Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, master of novices in Porto Alegre, and provincial superior. He is currently regional vicar for the South American region, president of the Scalabrinian Association for the service of migrants, and master of novices.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Audience with the President of Iran: the importance of dialogue and responsibility of religious communities in promoting reconciliation, tolerance and peace

Vatican City, 26 January 2016 (VIS) – Today in the Vatican Apostolic Palace the Holy Father Francis received in audience Hassan Rouhani, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, who subsequently met with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, accompanied by Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, secretary for Relations with States.

During the cordial discussions, common spiritual values emerged and reference was made to the good state of relations between the Holy See and the Islamic Republic of Iran, the life of the Church in the country and the action of the Holy See to favour the promotion of the dignity of the human person and religious freedom.

Attention then turned to the conclusion and application of the Nuclear Accord and the important role that Iran is called upon to fulfil, along with other countries in the Region, to promote suitable political solutions to the problems afflicting the Middle East, to counter the spread of terrorism and arms trafficking. In this respect, the Parties highlighted the importance of interreligious dialogue and the responsibility of religious communities in promoting reconciliation, tolerance and peace.

Holy Father's Message for Lent 2016: "I desire mercy and not sacrifice". The works of mercy on the Jubilee path

Vatican City, 26 January 2016 (VIS) “'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice': The works of mercy on the Jubilee path" is the title of Pope Francis' message for Lent 2016 (10 February to 20 March). Taking as a starting point this phrase from the Gospel of St. Matthew, the Holy Father divides his message into three sections: "Mary, the image of a Church which evanglises because she is evangelised", "God's covenant with humanity: a history of mercy", and "The works of mercy". The document, signed on 4 October, feast of St. Francis of Assisi, concludes by encouraging the faithful not to waste this season of Lent, a favourable time for conversion, and by invoking the intercession of Our Lady who, "encountering the greatness of God’s mercy freely bestowed upon her, was the first to acknowledge her lowliness and to call herself the Lord’s humble servant".

The following is the full text of the Pope's Message:

"The works of mercy on the road of the Jubilee

1. Mary, the image of a Church which evangelises because she is evangelised

In the Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, I asked that 'the season of Lent in this Jubilee Year be lived more intensely as a privileged moment to celebrate and experience God’s mercy'. By calling for an attentive listening to the word of God and encouraging the initiative '24 Hours for the Lord', I sought to stress the primacy of prayerful listening to God’s word, especially his prophetic word. The mercy of God is a proclamation made to the world, a proclamation which each Christian is called to experience at first hand. For this reason, during the season of Lent I will send out Missionaries of Mercy as a concrete sign to everyone of God’s closeness and forgiveness.

After receiving the Good News told to her by the Archangel Gabriel, Mary, in her Magnificat, prophetically sings of the mercy whereby God chose her. The Virgin of Nazareth, betrothed to Joseph, thus becomes the perfect icon of the Church which evangelises, for she was, and continues to be, evangelised by the Holy Spirit, who made her virginal womb fruitful. In the prophetic tradition, mercy is strictly related – even on the etymological level – to the maternal womb (rahamim) and to a generous, faithful and compassionate goodness (hesed) shown within marriage and family relationships.

2. God’s covenant with humanity: a history of mercy

The mystery of divine mercy is revealed in the history of the covenant between God and His people Israel. God shows Himself ever rich in mercy, ever ready to treat His people with deep tenderness and compassion, especially at those tragic moments when infidelity ruptures the bond of the covenant, which then needs to be ratified more firmly in justice and truth. Here is a true love story, in which God plays the role of the betrayed father and husband, while Israel plays the unfaithful child and bride. These domestic images – as in the case of Hosea – show to what extent God wishes to bind Himself to his people.

This love story culminates in the incarnation of God’s Son. In Christ, the Father pours forth His boundless mercy even to making Him 'mercy incarnate'. As a man, Jesus of Nazareth is a true son of Israel; He embodies that perfect hearing required of every Jew by the Shema, which today too is the heart of God’s covenant with Israel: 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might'. As the Son of God, He is the Bridegroom who does everything to win over the love of His bride, to whom He is bound by an unconditional love which becomes visible in the eternal wedding feast.

This is the very heart of the apostolic kerygma, in which divine mercy holds a central and fundamental place. It is 'the beauty of the saving love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ Who died and rose from the dead', that first proclamation which 'we must hear again and again in different ways, the one which we must announce one way or another throughout the process of catechesis, at every level and moment'. Mercy 'expresses God’s way of reaching out to the sinner, offering him a new chance to look at himself, convert, and believe', thus restoring his relationship with him. In Jesus crucified, God shows His desire to draw near to sinners, however far they may have strayed from Him. In this way He hopes to soften the hardened heart of His Bride.

3. The works of mercy

God’s mercy transforms human hearts; it enables us, through the experience of a faithful love, to become merciful in turn. In an ever new miracle, divine mercy shines forth in our lives, inspiring each of us to love our neighbour and to devote ourselves to what the Church’s tradition calls the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. These works remind us that faith finds expression in concrete everyday actions meant to help our neighbours in body and spirit: by feeding, visiting, comforting and instructing them. On such things will we be judged. For this reason, I expressed my hope that 'the Christian people may reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy; this will be a way to reawaken our conscience, too often grown dull in the face of poverty, and to enter more deeply into the heart of the Gospel where the poor have a special experience of God’s mercy'. For in the poor, the flesh of Christ 'becomes visible in the flesh of the tortured, the crushed, the scourged, the malnourished, and the exiled … to be acknowledged, touched, and cared for by us'. It is the unprecedented and scandalous mystery of the extension in time of the suffering of the Innocent Lamb, the burning bush of gratuitous love. Before this love, we can, like Moses, take off our sandals, especially when the poor are our brothers or sisters in Christ who are suffering for their faith.

In the light of this love, which is strong as death, the real poor are revealed as those who refuse to see themselves as such. They consider themselves rich, but they are actually the poorest of the poor. This is because they are slaves to sin, which leads them to use wealth and power not for the service of God and others, but to stifle within their hearts the profound sense that they too are only poor beggars. The greater their power and wealth, the more this blindness and deception can grow. It can even reach the point of being blind to Lazarus begging at their doorstep. Lazarus, the poor man, is a figure of Christ, who through the poor pleads for our conversion. As such, he represents the possibility of conversion which God offers us and which we may well fail to see. Such blindness is often accompanied by the proud illusion of our own omnipotence, which reflects in a sinister way the diabolical 'you will be like God' which is the root of all sin. This illusion can likewise take social and political forms, as shown by the totalitarian systems of the twentieth century, and, in our own day, by the ideologies of monopolising thought and technoscience, which would make God irrelevant and reduce man to raw material to be exploited. This illusion can also be seen in the sinful structures linked to a model of false development based on the idolatry of money, which leads to lack of concern for the fate of the poor on the part of wealthier individuals and societies; they close their doors, refusing even to see the poor.

For all of us, then, the season of Lent in this Jubilee Year is a favourable time to overcome our existential alienation by listening to God’s word and by practising the works of mercy. In the corporal works of mercy we touch the flesh of Christ in our brothers and sisters who need to be fed, clothed, sheltered, visited; in the spiritual works of mercy – counsel, instruction, forgiveness, admonishment and prayer – we touch more directly our own sinfulness. The corporal and spiritual works of mercy must never be separated. By touching the flesh of the crucified Jesus in the suffering, sinners can receive the gift of realising that they too are poor and in need. By taking this path, the 'proud', the 'powerful' and the 'wealthy' spoken of in the Magnificat can also be embraced and undeservedly loved by the crucified Lord Who died and rose for them. This love alone is the answer to that yearning for infinite happiness and love that we think we can satisfy with the idols of knowledge, power and riches. Yet the danger always remains that by a constant refusal to open the doors of their hearts to Christ Who knocks on them in the poor, the proud, rich and powerful will end up condemning themselves and plunging into the eternal abyss of solitude which is Hell. The pointed words of Abraham apply to them and to all of us: 'They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them'. Such attentive listening will best prepare us to celebrate the final victory over sin and death of the Bridegroom, now risen, who desires to purify His Betrothed in expectation of His coming.

Let us not waste this season of Lent, so favourable a time for conversion! We ask this through the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary, who, encountering the greatness of God’s mercy freely bestowed upon her, was the first to acknowledge her lowliness and to call herself the Lord’s humble servant".

Presentation of the Holy Father's Message for Lent 2016

Vatican City, 26 January 2016 (VIS) – A press conference was held in the Holy See Press Office this morning to present the Holy Father's Message for Lent 2016. The panel was composed of Cardinal Francesco Montenegro, archbishop of Agrigento, Italy and member of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum"; Msgr. Giampietro Dal Toso and Msgr. Segundo Tejado Munoz, respectively secretary and under-secretary of the same dicastery.

Cardinal Montenegro explained that the Message is divided into three parts, focusing on mercy in the light of the Word of God, insistence on the works of mercy and the relationship between Lent and the Jubilee itinerary.

The first part examines the theme of mercy in the Scripture and helps us to recover the fundamental meanings of this term that Pope Francis has previously described as "the very foundation" of both the Trinitarian mystery and the life of the Church". In particular, since Lent looks towards the Paschal mystery, we focus on the fact that Christ's Cross is the culmination of the revelation of the Father's mercy, and Jesus is the face of this mercy. "During Lent, the Church has always encouraged greater nourishment from the Word of God, and the Pope invites all Christians to explore the theme of mercy through the pages of the Bible and the prophets, as these are not simply limited to repeating that God is merciful, but rather indicate clearly that His children must be merciful too, practising a greater love especially by caring for children, the poor and the helpless".

The works of mercy, the second key point of the Message, form part of the treasury of the Christian tradition. While during Lent we fix our gaze on the crucified Christ and in the liturgy we relive all that He suffered for our love, "we certainly cannot think that face, unique as it is, has stopped being present in our history", added Cardinal Montenegro. The Pope hopes that during Lent all Christians will feel the need to be nurtured by the Word of God and will at the same time open their heart to those who suffer by performing works of mercy. "As a pastor of a Church which experiences several forms of poverty and faces various challenges such as that of immigration, I would like to add something", he continued. "At times we tend to think that faith can be lived only by participating in the sacraments or praying in the most varied ways, excluding from spiritual life the needs of man, and especially those of the poorest. The result is that this type of faith sooner or later becomes sterile or insipid. Instead, when we listen and put this into practice, faith then becomes a joyful and contagious experience, enriching and stimulating. We have experienced this, for example, in Lampedusa with the arrival of thousands of people, and in many other communities who have accepted the challenge of opening up to the different forms of poverty in their area. ... It is clear that this is not easy, as at times it is necessary to deal with entrenched mentalities that do not easily open up to the new. However, in my limited experience, I feel able to say that the way is possible and it is, above all, the way Jesus shows to us in the Gospel".

Finally, the Message considers the Jubilee itinerary. "The Paschal mystery is the heart of the liturgical year, and this Lent is right at the heart of the Jubilee. The strong time of the Jubilee is interlinked with Lenten time, constituting an extraordinary richness for the conversion and the spiritual growth of every Christian and for the Church as a whole. From this perspective the message we are presenting has a very stimulating backdrop of questions on the current historical and cultural context, and how the Christian is located within it". … From this there derives the prophetic proposal of the Jubilee path and of the Lenten period as a time for reviewing the path of one's own life, and for hearing the cry of the poor, the same Christ Who knocks on the door of our heart in the hope that we decide to open it and, welcoming Him, sample real life. In these first months of the Jubilee, especially through the sign of the door, we have been able to experience the beauty of mercy made accessible to all. Not only the door of the St. Peter's Basilica, or the major Basilicas, but also the cathedrals in the dioceses and, in particular, places that symbolise poverty, such as the Caritas hostel in Rome and prison cells. Through these powerful choices the Pope is inviting all the Church to set out towards every person, and towards the suffering and the poor in particular. In this way, the Jubilee path is not only the one we find in the calendar, but rather the one we are all called to undertake, supported by God's mercy, to recognise Him in the poor so as to place ourselves by their side to listen and serve".

Msgr. Del Toso spoke about the initiatives of "Cor Unum" during the Lenten period. The first, in response to a request from the Holy Father, is a spiritual retreat for those who work in the service of charity in the Church, so that they too may "experience God's mercy". The second is a major international conference to commemorate ten years since the publication of Pope emeritus Benedict XVI's first encyclical, "Deus caritas est", to be held on 25 and 26 February in the New Synod Hall.

The Pope at the closure of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: unity is achieved by walking together

Vatican City, 26 January 2016 (VIS) – Yesterday afternoon, in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls, the Holy Father presided at the celebration of second Vespers on the solemnity of the conversion of St. Paul, which concluded the 49th Week of Prayer for Christian Unity on the theme "Called to proclaim the mighty acts of the Lord". As is customary, the representatives of other Churches and Ecclesiastical Communities present in Rome also attended the ceremony.

In his homily, extensive extracts of which are published below, Pope Francis spoke of the common call to the mission of all Christians and invited Catholics to ask forgiveness for non-evangelical behaviour towards other Christians and to forgive in turn those who have offended them.

The conversion of St. Paul following his encounter with the resurrected Christ on the road to Damascus, said the Holy Father, "is not principally a moral change, but rather an experience of Christ's transforming grace, and at the same time the call to a new mission, that of announcing to all the Jesus he had previously persecuted by persecuting His disciples. In that moment, Paul understood that between the eternally living Christ and His followers there was a real and transcendent union: Jesus lives and is present in them, and they live in Him. … God's superabundant mercy is the sole basis on which Paul's ministry is founded, and it is at the same time what the apostle must proclaim to all. … For the first Christians, as today for our baptised, it is a source of consolation and constant wonder to know that they were chosen to form part of God's plan for salvation, put into effect in Jesus Christ and in the Church. … Here we see the mystery of mercy and of God's choice: the Father loves us all and wants to save us all, and for this reason He calls to some, 'conquering' them with His grace, so that through them His love can reach everyone".

"In the light of the Word of God that we have heard, and that has guided us during this Week of Prayer for Christian unity, we may truly say that all believers in Christ are called to proclaim the mighty acts of God. Going beyond the differences that still separate us, we acknowledge with joy that at the origin of Christian life there is always a call from God Himself. … Converting means letting the Lord live and work in us. For this reason, when Christians from different Churches listen to the Word of God together and seek to put it into practice, they achieve important steps towards unity. It is not only this call that unites us. We have the same mission in common – announcing to all the wonderful works of God. While we are on the path towards full communion, we can already develop multiple forms of collaboration, working together and collaborating to promote the spread of the Gospel. By walking and working together, we realise that we are already united in the name of the Lord. Unity is achieved by walking together".

"In this Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, we are well aware that Christian unity cannot truly be sought without fully trusting in God's mercy. We first ask forgiveness for the sin of our divisions, which are an open wound on the Body of Christ. As the bishop of Rome and pastor of the Catholic Church, I wish to invoke mercy and forgiveness for the non-evangelical behaviour of Catholics in relation to other Churches. At the same time, I invite all Catholic brothers and sisters to forgive if, in the past, they have been offended by other Christians. We cannot cancel out what has been, but we must not allow the weight of past errors to continue to contaminate our relations. God's mercy will renew our relationships".

"Unity is a gift of the mercy of God the Father. Here, before the tomb of St. Paul, apostle and martyr, housed in this splendid Basilica, we feel that our humble request is sustained by the intercession of the multitude of Christian martyrs, past and present. They responded generously to the call of the Lord; they bore faithful witness, with their lives, to the marvellous works that God has achieved for us, have already experienced full communion in the presence of God the Father. Sustained by their example – this example that is the ecumenism of blood – and, consoled by their intercession, we confide our humble prayer to God".

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 25 January 2016 (VIS) – The Holy Father:

- appointed Archbishop Miguel Maury Buendia, apostolic nuncio in Romania, as apostolic nuncio in Moldavia.

- decided that the Canadian diocese of Keewatin – Le Pas, Churchill – Hudson Bay, Moosonee, Grouard – McLennan and Mackenzie – Fort Smith Whitehorse shall transfer from the jurisdiction of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples to that of the Congregation of Bishops.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Spread the joy of the Gospel in the simplicity of life

Vatican City, 25 January 2016 (VIS) – "You are preparing to respond to that impulse from the Spirit, to be the 'future of the Church', in accordance with God's heart; not with individual preferences or passing fashions, but as the announcement of the Gospel requires", said the Pope this morning as he received in audience the Pontifical Community of the Lombard Seminary in Rome, in the Clementine Hall. "To prepare oneself well requires not only extensive work, but also an inner conversion, basing daily ministry on the first call of Jesus, and reviving it in the personal relationship with Him, as did the apostle Paul, whose conversion we remember today".

The pope went on to mention St. Charles Borromeo, whose life is presented as "a constant movement of conversion, reflecting the image of the Pastor. He identified with this image, and he nurtured it with his life, aware that discourse becomes reality at the price of blood: the sanguinis ministri were for him the true priests. He achieved this image by losing himself in it; he applied all his passion to reproducing it. In this way, the great work of the theologians of the time, the Council of Trent, was carried out by holy pastors like Borromeo".

Francis also emphasised that they were the heirs of and witnesses to a great history of sainthood, "rooted in your patrons, the bishops Ambrose and Charles; and in more recent times your alumni have included three Blesseds and three Servants of God. This is the goal to strive for. Often, though, a temptation appears on the way, to be resisted: that of 'normality', of a pastor for whom a 'normal' life is enough. This priest then begins to content himself with any attention he receives, judges his ministry on the basis of his successes and gradually goes in search of what he likes, becoming lukewarm and without true interest in others. The 'normality' for us is instead pastoral holiness, the giving of life. If a priest decides merely to become a normal person, he will be a mediocre priest, or worse".

"The words of life can be announced only those who make their own life into a constant dialogue with the Word of God, or better, with God who speaks. In these years you have been entrusted with the mission of training in this dialogue of life: the knowledge of the various disciplines you study is not an end in itself, but must instead be made concrete in the conversation of prayer and in the real encounter with people. It is not beneficial to form oneself in a compartmentalised fashion, as prayer, cultural and pastoral ministry are the cornerstones of the same edifice: they must remain steadfast and united to support each other, well cemented together, so that the priests of today and tomorrow will be spiritual men and merciful pastors, unified within by the love of the Lord and able to spread the joy of the Gospel in the simplicity of life".

The Pope also remarked that to be a good priest, it is essential to maintain contact and closeness with the bishop. "The characteristic of the diocesan priest is precisely his diocesan nature, and the cornerstone of this is frequent contact with the bishop, in dialogue and discernment with him. A priest who does not maintain a close relationship with his bishop is slowly isolated from the diocesan group and his fruitfulness diminishes, precisely because he does not participate in dialogue with the Father of the Diocese". He concluded by asking those present to "cultivate the beauty of friendship and the art of establishing relations, so as to create a priestly fraternity, made stronger by its particular diversities".

Holy See Press Office communique: Pope to participate in joint Reformation commemoration

Vatican City, 25 January 2016 (VIS) – The Holy See Press Office today announced that His Holiness Francis intends to participate in a joint ceremony of the Catholic Church and the World Lutheran Federation to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, scheduled to take place in Lund, Sweden on Monday 31 October 2016.

Joint ecumenical commemoration of the Reformation

Vatican City, 25 January 2016 (VIS) – Pope Francis, Bishop Munib A. Younan and the Rev. Martin Junge, respectively president and general secretary of the World Lutheran Foundation, will preside at a joint commemoration of the Reformation on 31 October in Lund, Sweden, according to a press release issued today by the World Lutheran Foundation and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU).

This event, ahead of the 500 th anniversary of Luther's Reformation in 2017, will highlight the solid ecumenical developments between Catholics and Lutherans and the joint gifts received through dialogue and will include common worship based on the recently published Catholic-Lutheran “Common Prayer” liturgical guide.

“The LWF is approaching the Reformation anniversary in a spirit of ecumenical accountability,” says LWF General Secretary Rev. Dr Martin Junge. “I’m carried by the profound conviction that by working towards reconciliation between Lutherans and Catholics, we are working towards justice, peace and reconciliation in a world torn apart by conflict and violence.”

Cardinal Koch, President of the PCPCU explains further: “By concentrating together on the centrality of the question of God and on a Christocentric approach, Lutherans and Catholics will have the possibility of an ecumenical commemoration of the Reformation, not simply in a pragmatic way, but in the deep sense of faith in the crucified and resurrected Christ.

The Lund event is part of the reception process of the study document From Conflict to Communion, which was published in 2013, and has since been widely distributed to Lutheran and Catholic communities. The document is the first attempt by both dialogue partners to describe together at international level the history of the Reformation and its intentions.

Earlier this year, the LWF and PCPCU sent to LWF member churches and Catholic Bishops’ Conferences a jointly prepared “Common Prayer”, which is a liturgical guide to help churches commemorate the Reformation anniversary together. It is based on the study document From Conflict to Communion: Lutheran-Catholic Common Commemoration of the Reformation in 2017, and features the themes of thanksgiving, repentance and commitment to common witness with the aim of expressing the gifts of the Reformation and asking forgiveness for the division which followed theological disputes.

The year 2017 will also mark 50 years of the international Lutheran-Catholic dialogue, which has yielded notable ecumenical results, of which most significant is the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ). The JDDJ was signed by the LWF and the Catholic Church in 1999, and affirmed by the World Methodist Council in 2006. The declaration nullified centuries’ old disputes between Catholics and Lutherans over the basic truths of the doctrine of justification, which was at the centre of the 16th century Reformation.

Angelus: the mission of the Christian community is to evangelise the poor

Vatican City, 25 January 2016 (VIS) – The evangelising activity of Jesus was the theme of Pope Francis' reflection in this Sunday's Angelus. The Holy Father explained to the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square for the Marian prayer that Christ was very different to the teachers of his time because, among other things, He did not open a school for the study of the Law, but instead "went about everywhere to preach and teach: in the synagogues, in the streets, in the houses. Jesus also differs from John the Baptist, who proclaims the imminent judgement of God, while Jesus proclaims the forgiveness of the Father".

Francis cites the Gospel of St. Luke, who narrates the scroll of the prophet Isaiah in the Synagogue of Nazareth, when Jesus stands to read the Holy Scripture and recites the passage "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor". Then, after a moment of expectant silence, He says, to general amazement: "Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing".

"To evangelise the poor: this is the mission of Jesus, according to what He Himself says", affirmed the Pope. "This is also the mission of the Church, and of every person baptised in the Church. To be Christian and to be a missionary is the same thing. To proclaim the Gospel, with words, and, even before that, with one’s life, is the principle end of the Christian community and of each of its members. It is known that Jesus addresses the Good News to everyone, without excluding anyone; and yet, He privileges those who are furthest away, the suffering, the sick, those discarded by society. But let us ask ourselves a question. What does it mean to evangelise the poor? It means above all being close to them, having the joy of serving them, freeing them from oppression, and all this in the name of and with the Spirit of Christ, because He is the Gospel of God, He is the Mercy of God, He is the liberation of God. It is He Who was made poor in order to enrich us with His poverty. … The messianic proclamation of the Kingdom of God that has come amongst us is addressed in a preferential way to the marginalised, to prisoners, to the oppressed."

"Probably in the time of Jesus these people were not at the centre of the community of faith. And we can ask ourselves: today, in our parish communities, in the associations, in the movements, are we faithful to Christ's programme? Is the evangelisation of the poor, bringing them the good news, our priority? This is not about providing social assistance, much less about political activity. It is about the strength of the Gospel of God, Who converts hearts, heals the wounded, and transforms human and social relationships according to the logic of love. Indeed, the poor are at the centre of the Gospel".

The Pope concluded by asking that the Virgin Mary, "Mother of evangelisers", help us to "feel strongly the hunger and thirst for the Gospel that exists in the world, especially in the heart and the flesh of the poor" so that each one of us and every Christian community may "bear concrete witness to the mercy that Christ has given to us".

Cardinal Puljic, Pope's special envoy to Dubrovnik

Vatican City, 23 January 2016 (VIS) - In a letter published today, written in Latin and dated 30 December 2015, the Holy Father appoints Cardinal Vinko Puljic, archbishop of Vrhbosna, Croatia, as his special envoy at the events scheduled to take place in Dubrovnik on 3 February to commemorate the seventeenth centenary of the martyrdom of St. Blaise, patron of the diocese, and the 600th anniversary of the Ragusan law against the slave trade.

The mission accompanying the cardinal will be composed of Msgr. Ivan Simic, dean of the deanery of Dubrovnik, and Rev. Slavko Grubsic, former rector of the church of St. Blaise in Dubrovnik.


Vatican City, 25 January 2016 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father received in audience:

- Neven Pelicaric, ambassador of Croatia, presenting his credential letters;

- Archbishop Miguel Maury Buendia, apostolic nuncio in Romania and Moldavia;

- Archbishop Wojciech Zaluski, apostolic nuncio in Burundi;

- Archbishop Mario Antonio Cargnello of Salta, Argentina;

- Budiarman Bahar, ambassador of Indonesia, on his farewell visit;

- Cardinal Giuseppe Betori, archbishop of Florence, Italy.

On Saturday 23 January, the Holy Father received in audience:

- Matthew S. Lee, ambassador of the Republic of China, presenting his credential letters;

- His Beatitude Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai, patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites, Lebanon;

- Prefect Francesco Paolo Tronca, Commissioner of the Municipality of Rome;

- Cardinal Ruben Salazar Gomez, archbishop of Bogota, Colombia, with Archbishop Luis Augusto Castro Quiroga of Tunja, president of the Episcopal Conference of Colombia; Archbishop Oscar Urbina Ortega of Villavicencio, deputy president; Bishop Jose Daniel Falla Robles, auxiliary of Cali, general secretary.

Bishop Roberto Rodríguez, emeritus of La Rioja, Argentina.

In the afternoon of Friday 22 January, the Holy Father received in audience Cardinal Marc Ouellet, P.S.S., prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 25 January 2016 (VIS) – The Holy Father has:

- erected the diocese of San Francisco de Asis de Jutiapa (area 3219, population 458,321, Catholics 389,573, priests 24, religious 82), Guatemala, with territory taken from the diocese of Jalapa, making it a suffragan of the archdiocese of Santiago de Guatemala.

- appointed Fr. Antonio Calderon Cruz as bishop of the new diocese of San Francisco de Asis de Jutiapa, Guatemala. The bishop-elect was born in Guatemala City, Guatemala in 1959 and was ordained a priest in 1986. He has served in a number of pastoral roles, including administrator, head of diocesan youth pastoral ministry, formator in the "Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion" national major seminary, parish priest, episcopal vicar for pastoral ministry, and diocesan administrator. He is currently parish priest in the diocese of San Marcos.

On Saturday 23 January the Holy Father has appointed Msgr. Miroslaw Milewski as auxiliary of Plock (area 11,000, population 3,779,000, Catholics 69,900, priests 106, permanent deacons 34, religious 89), Poland. The bishop-elect was born in Ciechanow, Poland in 1971 and was ordained a priest in 1997. He holds a doctorate from the Catholic University of Lublino, Poland, and has served in a number of pastoral and academic roles, including deputy priest, prefect of discipline in the major seminary of Plock, and adjunct professor of Social Doctrine of the Church at the Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University of Warsaw. He is currently vicar general and chancellor of the Curia, lecturer at the major seminary of Plock, and member of the College of Consultors, the presbyteral council and the pastoral council. In 2012 he was named Chaplain of His Holiness.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Audience with the president of the Commonwealth of Dominica: concern for the environment and climate change

Vatican City, 22 January 2016 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican Apostolic Palace, the Holy Father Francis received in audience the President of the Commonwealth of Dominica, Charles Angelo Savarin, who subsequently met with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, accompanied by Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, secretary for Relations with States.

During the cordial discussions, reference was made to existing good bilateral relations, expressing the opportunity for a fruitful joint collaboration between the State and the Catholic Church, who offers a significant contribution to the promotion of the dignity of the person, as well as in the sectors of the education of the young and assistance to those most in need.

Finally, attention turned to various themes of regional and global relevance, with particular reference to the protection of the environment and the theme of climate change and natural disasters, which cause grave damages and claim many victims among the Island’s population.

To the Tribunal of the Roman Rota: adequate preparation for marriage, "a new catechumenate"

Vatican City, 22 January 2016 (VIS) – This morning in the Clementine Hall the Holy Father received in audience the members of the Apostolic Tribunal of the Roman Rota for the inauguration of the Judicial Year, and reiterated to them that their ministry has always been of great help to the Successor of Peter, "so that the Church, inseparably linked to the family, continues to proclaim the plan of God the Creator and the Redeemer on the sacredness and beauty of the family institution. A mission that is always current, but of special relevance in our time".

Along with the definition of the Roman Rota as the Tribunal of the Family, the Holy Father emphasised another of its prerogatives as "the Tribunal of the truth of the sacred bond. And these two aspects are complementary. Indeed the Church can show the merciful and indefectible love of God for families, especially those wounded by sin and by the trials of life, and at the same time, proclaim the essential truth of marriage according to God's plan. This service is entrusted principally to the Pope and the bishops".

He went on toe refer to the synodal path on the theme of the family that during the last two years has made possible a "profound and wise discernment, thanks to which the Church, among other things, has indicated to the world that there can be no confusion between the family beloved by God and any other type of union", and highlighted that the activity of the Rota, "both in judging and in contributing to permanent formation, assists and promotes the opus veritatis. When the Church, by means of your service, proposes to declare the truth on marriage in a concrete case, for the good of the faithful, she keeps in mind at the same time those who, by their free choice or through unhappy circumstances live in a state of objective error, continue to receive Christ's merciful love, and therefore that of the Church herself".

"The family and the Church, at different levels, contribute to accompanying the human being up to the end of his or her existence. And they do so certainly with the teachings that they transmit, but also with their very nature as communities of love and life. Indeed, if the family can be described as a 'domestic church', to the Church we might justly apply the title of the family of God. … Precisely because she is a mother and a teacher, the Church knows that among Christians some have a strong faith, formed by charity, strengthened by good catechesis and nurtured in prayer and sacramental life, whereas others have a weak and neglected faith, unformed, uneducated or forgotten".

"It should be clearly affirmed that the quality of faith is not an essential condition for matrimonial consent, which according to the longstanding doctrine, can be undermined only at a natural level. Indeed, the habitus fidei is infused in the moment of Baptism and continues to flow mysteriously into the soul, even when the faith is not developed or psychologically appears to be absent. It is not unusual for newly-weds, drawn to marriage by the instinctus naturae, at the moment of celebration have a limited awareness of the fullness of God's plan, and only later, in family life, discover all that God the Creator and Redeemer has established for them. The lack of formation in faith and also an error regarding the unity, indissolubility and sacramental dignity of marriage may vitiate matrimonial consent only if they determine will. It is precisely for this reason that errors regarding the sacramental nature of marriage must be evaluated very carefully".

"The Church, therefore, with a renewed sense of responsibility, continues to propose marriage in its essential elements – offspring, the good of spouses, unity, indissolubility, sacramentality – not as an ideal for the few, despite modern models centred on the ephemeral and transitory, but as a reality that, in Christ's grace, can be lived by all baptised faithful. And therefore this gives greater importance to the pastoral urgency that involves all structures of the Church in convergence towards a common intention, an adequate preparation for marriage, as a sort of new catechumenate, greatly hoped for by some Synod Fathers".

Communication and mercy: the Holy Father's Message for the fiftieth World Day of Social Communications

Vatican City, 22 January 2016 (VIS) – "Communication and mercy" is the title of Pope Francis' Message for the fiftieth World Day of Social Communications, to be held on 8 May. The Message is symbolically signed by the Holy Father on Sunday 24 January 2016, feast of St. Francis of Sales, patron of journalists. The following is the full text of the Message:

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Holy Year of Mercy invites all of us to reflect on the relationship between communication and mercy. The Church, in union with Christ, the living incarnation of the Father of Mercies, is called to practise mercy as the distinctive trait of all that she is and does. What we say and how we say it, our every word and gesture, ought to express God’s compassion, tenderness and forgiveness for all. Love, by its nature, is communication; it leads to openness and sharing. If our hearts and actions are inspired by charity, by divine love, then our communication will be touched by God’s own power.

As sons and daughters of God, we are called to communicate with everyone, without exception. In a particular way, the Church’s words and actions are all meant to convey mercy, to touch people’s hearts and to sustain them on their journey to that fullness of life which Jesus Christ was sent by the Father to bring to all. This means that we ourselves must be willing to accept the warmth of Mother Church and to share that warmth with others, so that Jesus may be known and loved. That warmth is what gives substance to the word of faith; by our preaching and witness, it ignites the 'spark' which gives them life.

Communication has the power to build bridges, to enable encounter and inclusion, and thus to enrich society. How beautiful it is when people select their words and actions with care, in the effort to avoid misunderstandings, to heal wounded memories and to build peace and harmony. Words can build bridges between individuals and within families, social groups and peoples. This is possible both in the material world and the digital world. Our words and actions should be such as to help us all escape the vicious circles of condemnation and vengeance which continue to ensnare individuals and nations, encouraging expressions of hatred. The words of Christians ought to be a constant encouragement to communion and, even in those cases where they must firmly condemn evil, they should never try to rupture relationships and communication.

For this reason, I would like to invite all people of good will to rediscover the power of mercy to heal wounded relationships and to restore peace and harmony to families and communities. All of us know how many ways ancient wounds and lingering resentments can entrap individuals and stand in the way of communication and reconciliation. The same holds true for relationships between peoples. In every case, mercy is able to create a new kind of speech and dialogue. Shakespeare put it eloquently when he said: 'The quality of mercy is not strained. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath. It is twice blessed: it blesseth him that gives and him that takes' (The Merchant of Venice, Act IV, Scene I).

Our political and diplomatic language would do well to be inspired by mercy, which never loses hope. I ask those with institutional and political responsibility, and those charged with forming public opinion, to remain especially attentive to the way they speak of those who think or act differently or those who may have made mistakes. It is easy to yield to the temptation to exploit such situations to stoke the flames of mistrust, fear and hatred. Instead, courage is needed to guide people towards processes of reconciliation. It is precisely such positive and creative boldness which offers real solutions to ancient conflicts and the opportunity to build lasting peace. 'Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God'.

How I wish that our own way of communicating, as well as our service as pastors of the Church, may never suggest a prideful and triumphant superiority over an enemy, or demean those whom the world considers lost and easily discarded. Mercy can help mitigate life’s troubles and offer warmth to those who have known only the coldness of judgement. May our way of communicating help to overcome the mindset that neatly separates sinners from the righteous. We can and we must judge situations of sin – such as violence, corruption and exploitation – but we may not judge individuals, since only God can see into the depths of their hearts. It is our task to admonish those who err and to denounce the evil and injustice of certain ways of acting, for the sake of setting victims free and raising up those who have fallen. The Gospel of John tells us that 'the truth will make you free'. The truth is ultimately Christ himself, whose gentle mercy is the yardstick for measuring the way we proclaim the truth and condemn injustice. Our primary task is to uphold the truth with love. Only words spoken with love and accompanied by meekness and mercy can touch our sinful hearts. Harsh and moralistic words and actions risk further alienating those whom we wish to lead to conversion and freedom, reinforcing their sense of rejection and defensiveness.

Some feel that a vision of society rooted in mercy is hopelessly idealistic or excessively indulgent. But let us try and recall our first experience of relationships, within our families. Our parents loved us and valued us for who we are more than for our abilities and achievements. Parents naturally want the best for their children, but that love is never dependent on their meeting certain conditions. The family home is one place where we are always welcome. I would like to encourage everyone to see society not as a forum where strangers compete and try to come out on top, but above all as a home or a family, where the door is always open and where everyone feels welcome.

For this to happen, we must first listen. Communicating means sharing, and sharing demands listening and acceptance. Listening is much more than simply hearing. Hearing is about receiving information, while listening is about communication, and calls for closeness. Listening allows us to get things right, and not simply to be passive onlookers, users or consumers. Listening also means being able to share questions and doubts, to journey side by side, to banish all claims to absolute power and to put our abilities and gifts at the service of the common good.

Listening is never easy. Many times it is easier to play deaf. Listening means paying attention, wanting to understand, to value, to respect and to ponder what the other person says. It involves a sort of martyrdom or self-sacrifice, as we try to imitate Moses before the burning bush: we have to remove our sandals when standing on the 'holy ground' of our encounter with the one who speaks to me. Knowing how to listen is an immense grace, it is a gift which we need to ask for and then make every effort to practice.

Emails, text messages, social networks and chats can also be fully human forms of communication. It is not technology which determines whether or not communication is authentic, but rather the human heart and our capacity to use wisely the means at our disposal. Social networks can facilitate relationships and promote the good of society, but they can also lead to further polarisation and division between individuals and groups. The digital world is a public square, a meeting-place where we can either encourage or demean one another, engage in a meaningful discussion or unfair attacks. I pray that this Jubilee Year, lived in mercy, 'may open us to even more fervent dialogue so that we might know and understand one another better; and that it may eliminate every form of closed-mindedness and disrespect, and drive out every form of violence and discrimination'. The internet can help us to be better citizens. Access to digital networks entails a responsibility for our neighbour whom we do not see but who is nonetheless real and has a dignity which must be respected. The internet can be used wisely to build a society which is healthy and open to sharing.

Communication, wherever and however it takes place, has opened up broader horizons for many people. This is a gift of God which involves a great responsibility. I like to refer to this power of communication as 'closeness. The encounter between communication and mercy will be fruitful to the degree that it generates a closeness which cares, comforts, heals, accompanies and celebrates. In a broken, fragmented and polarised world, to communicate with mercy means to help create a healthy, free and fraternal closeness between the children of God and all our brothers and sisters in the one human family".

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