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Monday, January 4, 2016

Angelus: open the doors of our heart to the Word of Jesus

Vatican City, 3 January 2016 (VIS) – On the first Sunday of the year and the second after Christmas, Pope Francis appeared at the window of his study in the Vatican Apostolic Palace at midday to pray the Angelus with the faithful and pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square. “The Word – that is, the creative Word of God – was made flesh, and dwelt among us”, he said, referring to the prologue of the Gospel of St. John. “That Word, which dwells in heaven, that is, in the dimension of God, came to earth so that we might listen and be able to know and touch with our hand the love of the Father. The Word of God is the Only-begotten Son, made man, full of love and of faithfulness, Jesus Himself”.

The Pope explained that the Evangelist “does not conceal the dramatic nature of the Incarnation of the Son of God, emphasising that the gift of God's love is countered with its non-acceptance on the part of man. The World is light, but men have preferred darkness;. They closed the door in the face of the Son of God. It is the mystery of evil that undermines our life and that necessitates vigilance and attention on our part, so that it does not prevail. The Book of Genesis offers us a beautiful phrase that helps us to understand this: it says that evil 'lies in wait at our door'. Woe to us if we allow it to enter, as it would then close our door to anyone else. Instead we are called upon to throw open the door of our heart to the Word of God, to Jesus, thus to become His children”.

The Holy Father reiterated that once again the Church invites us to welcome the Word of salvation, this mystery of light. “If we welcome Jesus, we will grow in understanding and in the love of the Lord, and will learn to be merciful like Him”, he said. “Especially in this Holy Year of Mercy, let us be sure that the Gospel becomes ever more incarnate in our own lives too. Approaching the Gospel, meditating on it and incarnating it in daily life is the best way of understanding Jesus and bringing Him to others. This is the vocation and joy of every baptised person – showing Jesus and bringing Him to others – but to do this we must first know Him and have Him within us, as the Lord of our life. He will defend us from evil, from the devil, who always lies in wait by our door and wants to enter”.

He concluded, “With the renewed zeal of filial abandon, let us entrust ourselves yet again to Mary, whose sweet image as the Mother of Jesus and as our Mother we contemplate in the nativity during these days”.

In joyful and sad moments, let us trust in the Lord

Vatican City, 3 January 2016 (VIS) – After the Marian prayer, the Pope greeted the pilgrims present and reiterated his hope for peace and good in the Lord. “In moments of joy and of sadness, let us trust in Him, our mercy and our hope”.

He also mentioned the commitment we undertake on the first day of the year, the World Day of Peace: “overcome indifference and win peace”. “With God's grace, we can put this into practice”, he said, again encouraging those present to keep a copy of the Gospel to hand at all times and to read a paragraph every day “to know Jesus better, to open our heart to Jesus, and to enable others to know Him better”.

Pope Francis opens the Holy Door of St. Mary Major

Vatican City, 1 January 2016 (VIS) – On the afternoon of Friday, 1 January, Pope Francis celebrated Mass at the Basilica of St. Mary Major, where he then opened the Holy Door.

The following is the full text of the homily pronounced by the Holy Father:

“Salve, Mater Misericordiae! With this invocation we turn to the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Roman Basilica dedicated to her under the title of Mother of God. It is the first line of an ancient hymn which we will sing at the conclusion of this Holy Eucharist. Composed by an unknown author, it has come down to us as a heartfelt prayer spontaneously rising up from the hearts of the faithful: 'Hail Mother of mercy, Mother of God, Mother of forgiveness, Mother of hope, Mother of grace and Mother full of holy gladness'. In these few words we find a summary of the faith of generations of men and women who, with their eyes fixed firmly on the icon of the Blessed Virgin, have sought her intercession and consolation.

“It is most fitting that on this day we invoke the Blessed Virgin Mary above all as Mother of mercy. The door we have opened is, in fact, a Door of Mercy. Those who cross its threshold are called to enter into the merciful love of the Father with complete trust and freedom from fear; they can leave this Basilica knowing – truly knowing – that Mary is ever at their side. She is the Mother of mercy, because she bore in her womb the very Face of divine mercy, Jesus, Emmanuel, the Expectation of the nations, the 'Prince of Peace'. The Son of God, made incarnate for our salvation, has given us His Mother, who joins us on our pilgrimage through this life, so that we may never be left alone, especially at times of trouble and uncertainty.

“Mary is the Mother of God, she is the Mother of God who forgives, who bestows forgiveness, and so we can rightly call her Mother of forgiveness. This word – 'forgiveness' – so misunderstood in today’s world, points to the new and original fruit of Christian faith. A person unable to forgive has not yet known the fullness of love. Only one who truly loves is able to forgive and forget. At the foot of the Cross, Mary sees her Son offer Himself totally, showing us what it means to love as God loves. At that moment she heard Jesus utter words which probably reflected what He had learned from her as a child: 'Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing'. At that moment, Mary became for all of us the Mother of forgiveness. Following Jesus’ example and by His grace, she herself could forgive those who killed her innocent Son.

“For us, Mary is an icon of how the Church must offer forgiveness to those who seek it. The Mother of forgiveness teaches the Church that the forgiveness granted on Golgotha knows no limits. Neither the law with its quibbles, nor the wisdom of this world with its distinctions, can hold it back. The Church’s forgiveness must be every bit as broad as that offered by Jesus on the Cross and by Mary at His feet. There is no other way. It is for this purpose that the Holy Spirit made the Apostles the effective ministers of forgiveness, so what was obtained by the death of Jesus may reach all men and women in every age.

“The Marian hymn continues: 'Mother of hope and Mother of grace, Mother of holy gladness'. Hope, grace and holy gladness are all sisters: they are the gift of Christ; indeed, they are so many names written on His body. The gift that Mary bestows in offering us Jesus is the forgiveness which renews life, enables us once more to do God’s will and fills us with true happiness. This grace frees the heart to look to the future with the joy born of hope. This is the teaching of the Psalm: 'Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. […] Restore to me the joy of your salvation'. The power of forgiveness is the true antidote to the sadness caused by resentment and vengeance. Forgiveness leads to joy and serenity because it frees the heart from thoughts of death, whereas resentment and vengeance trouble the mind and wound the heart, robbing it of rest and peace. What horrible things are resentment and vengeance.

“Let us, then, pass through the Holy Door of Mercy knowing that at our side is the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Mother of God, who intercedes for us. Let us allow her to lead us to the rediscovery of the beauty of an encounter with her Son Jesus. Let us open wide the doors of our heart to the joy of forgiveness, conscious that we have been given new confidence and hope, and thus make our daily lives a humble instrument of God’s love.

“And with the love and affection of children, let us cry out to Our Lady as did the faithful people of God in Ephesus during the historic Council: 'Holy Mother of God!' I invite you to repeat together this acclamation three times, aloud and with all your heart and with all your love: 'Holy Mother of God! Holy Mother of God! Holy Mother of God!'”.

Francis: we are called to immerse ourselves in the ocean of mercy

Vatican City, 1 January 2016 (VIS) – Today, solemnity of Holy Mary Mother of God and the octave of Christmas, the Holy Father presided at Mass in the Vatican Basilica, concelebrated by cardinals, bishops and priests and attended by the Pueri Cantores, who have concluded their fortieth International Congress. Today is also the 49 th World Day of Peace, whose theme this year is “Overcome difference and win peace”.

The following is the full text of the homily pronounced by Pope Francis:

“We have heard the words of the Apostle Paul: 'When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman'. What does it mean to say that Jesus was born in 'the fullness of time'? If we consider that particular moment of history, we might quickly be deluded. Rome had subjugated a great part of the known world by her military might. The Emperor Augustus had come to power after five civil wars. Israel itself had been conquered by the Roman Empire and the Chosen People had lost their freedom. For Jesus’ contemporaries, it was certainly not the best of times. To define the fullness of time, then, we should not look to the geopolitical sphere.

“Another interpretation is needed, one which views that fullness from God’s standpoint. It is when God decided that the time had come to fulfil His promise, that the fullness of time came for humanity. History does not determine the birth of Christ; rather, His coming into the world enables history to attain its fullness. For this reason, the birth of the Son of God inaugurates a new era, a new computation of time, the era which witnesses the fulfilment of the ancient promise. As the author of the Letter to the Hebrews writes: 'God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by a Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom He also created the world. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and He sustains all things by His powerful word'. The fullness of time, then, is the presence of God Himself in our history. Now we can see His glory, which shines forth in the poverty of a stable; we can be encouraged and sustained by His Word, made 'little' in a baby. Thanks to Him, our time can find its fullness. The use of our personal time can also find its fullness in the encounter with Jesus Christ, God made man.

“Nonetheless, this mystery constantly clashes with the dramatic experience of human history. Each day, as we seek to be sustained by the signs of God’s presence, we encounter new signs to the contrary, negative signs which tend to make us think instead that He is absent. The fullness of time seems to fade before the countless forms of injustice and violence which daily wound our human family. Sometimes we ask ourselves how it is possible that human injustice persists unabated, and that the arrogance of the powerful continues to demean the weak, relegating them to the most squalid outskirts of our world. We ask how long human evil will continue to sow violence and hatred in our world, reaping innocent victims. How can the fullness of time have come when we are witnessing hordes of men, women and children fleeing war, hunger and persecution, ready to risk their lives simply to encounter respect for their fundamental rights? A torrent of misery, swollen by sin, seems to contradict the fullness of time brought by Christ. Remember, dear pueri cantores, this was the third question you asked me yesterday: how do we explain this… even children are aware of this.

“And yet this swollen torrent is powerless before the ocean of mercy which floods our world. All of us are called to immerse ourselves in this ocean, to let ourselves be reborn, to overcome the indifference which blocks solidarity, and to leave behind the false neutrality which prevents sharing. The grace of Christ, which brings our hope of salvation to fulfilment, leads us to cooperate with Him in building an ever more just and fraternal world, a world in which every person and every creature can dwell in peace, in the harmony of God’s original creation.

“At the beginning of a new year, the Church invites us to contemplate Mary’s divine maternity as an icon of peace. The ancient promise finds fulfilment in her person. She believed in the words of the angel, conceived her Son and thus became the Mother of the Lord. Through her, through her 'yes', the fullness of time came about. The Gospel we have just heard tells us that the Virgin Mary 'treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart'. She appears to us as a vessel filled to the brim with the memory of Jesus, as the Seat of Wisdom to whom we can have recourse to understand His teaching aright. Today Mary makes it possible for us to grasp the meaning of events which affect us personally, events which also affect our families, our countries and the entire world. Where philosophical reason and political negotiation cannot arrive, there the power of faith, which brings the grace of Christ’s Gospel, can arrive, opening ever new pathways to reason and to negotiation.

“Blessed are you, Mary, for you gave the Son of God to our world. But even more blessed are you for having believed in Him. Full of faith, you conceived Jesus first in your heart and then in your womb, and thus became the Mother of all believers. Send us, O Mother, your blessing on this day consecrated to your honour. Show us the face of Jesus your Son, Who bestows upon the entire world mercy and peace. Amen”.

Angelus: the enemy of peace is not only war, but also indifference

Vatican City, 1 January 2016 (VIS) – Following the Eucharistic celebration Pope Francis appeared at the window of his study in the Vatican Apostolic Palace to pray the Angelus with the thousands of faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square. Before the Marian prayer, the Pope wished a happy new year to those present and asked the Lord to grant peace on this, the 49th World Day of Peace.

“We know that with the new year not everything changes, and that many of yesterday's problems will remain even tomorrow. So I convey to you my wishes supported by true hope, which I draw from today's liturgy. … I also hope that the Lord may look upon you and that you may rejoice, knowing that every day His merciful face, more radiant than the sun, shines on you and never sets! Discovering God's face renews life, because He is a Father of his beloved humanity, Who never tires of starting over with us to renew us. But He does not promise magical changes, He does not use a magic wand. He loves to change reality from within, with patience and love; He asks to enter into our lives delicately, like rain on the earth, to bring fruit. And He always awaits us and looks upon us with tenderness. Every morning, as we reawaken, we can say, 'Today the Lord makes his face to shine upon me'. A beautiful prayer that is also reality”.

Francis remarked that today we celebrate the World Day of Peace, whose theme this year is “Overcome indifference and win peace”, and said that peace, that God the Father wishes to sow throughout the world, “must be cultivated by us. Not only that, it must also be 'won'. This implies a true struggle, a spiritual battle that takes place within our heart. The enemy of peace is not only war, but also indifference, which makes us think only of ourselves, so that we create barriers, suspicions, fears and narrow-mindedness. These things are the enemies of peace. We have, thanks be to God, access to much information; however at times we are so immersed in news that we are distracted from reality, from the brother and sister who need us. Let us start to open our heart, turning our attention to our neighbour, to those who are closest to us. This is the path to winning peace”.

The Pope asked for the help of the Queen of Peace, the Mother of God, whose solemnity we celebrate today. He explained that she “treasured these things, pondering them in her heart. … Let us entrust this new year to the Mother, so that peace and mercy might grow”.

Te Deum: good always prevails

Vatican City, 31 December 2015 (VIS) – On Thursday at 5 p.m., in the Vatican Basilica, the Holy Father presided at the first Vespers of the Solemnity of Holy Mary Mother of God. This was followed by the exposition of the Holy Sacrament, the traditional “Te Deum” hymn of thanksgiving for the year end, and the Eucharistic blessing. Francis concluded by blessing the nativity display in St. Peter's Square.

“Retracing the days of the past year can either take the form of a remembrance of facts and events leading to moments of joy and suffering, or of seeking to understand whether we have perceived the presence of God Who renews and sustains all with His help. We are called upon to confirm whether the events of the world were realised in accordance with God's will, or if we listened principally to the plans of men, often loaded with private interests, of insatiable thirst for power and gratuitous violence”.

“However, today our eyes must focus in particular on the signs that God has granted us, to touch with our own hand the strength of his merciful love. We cannot forget that many days have been marked by violence, death, and the unspeakable suffering of many innocent people, of refugees compelled to leave their homeland, of men, women and children without a fixed abode, food or sustenance. And then, great gestures of goodness, love and solidarity have filled the days of this year, even though they have not appeared on the news. Good things do not make the news. These signs of love cannot and must not be obscured by the arrogance of evil. Good always prevails, even though in some moments it can appear weaker and hidden”.

“Our city of Rome is not extraneous to this condition that affects the entire world. I would like all its inhabitants to receive a sincere invitation to overcome the difficulties of the present moment. Commitment to recovering the fundamental values of service, honesty and solidarity enables us to overcome the grave uncertainties that have dominated this past year, and which are symptoms of a meagre sense of dedication to the common good. May the positive contribution of Christian witness never be lacking, so that Rome, in accordance with her history, and with the maternal intercession of Mary Salus Populi Romani, may be a special interpreter of faith, acceptance, fraternity and peace”.

To the Pueri Cantores: “Let us not forget the hidden saints”

Vatican City, 31 December 2015 (VIS) – This morning the Holy Father received in the Paul VI Hall the participants in the 40 th International Congress organised by the International Federation of the Pueri Cantores, held in Rome from 28 December to 1 January. During the encounter the young choristers took the opportunity to present various questions to the Pope, who commented that he loved to listen to singing but was unable to sing himself. He shared anecdotes from his childhood with the young people, and emphasised that song educates and benefits the soul. “Christian life is a journey”, he said, “but not a sad one; instead it is a joyful path. And this is why we sing. Sing and journey … and in this way your soul will experience the joy of the Gospel”.

The second question regarded whether or not the Pope had made any new year's resolutions, to which Francis responded with a parable. “Once Jesus encountered a boy who said a word similar to yours: he said, 'Jesus, good master'. And Jesus looked at him and said: 'No, only God is good'. And what about us? Are we bad? No, half and half, we have a bit of everything. There is always that wound of original sin that we bear and which leads us not always to be good. But always remember, only God is good, and if you want to find goodness, go to the Lord, He is all goodness, all love, all mercy”. The Holy Father also recalled the many saints hidden in everyday life: good people who endeavour to be close to the Lord; he also mentioned the many other people who live their life in a state of anger. “To be angry harms not only the other person, but also yourself: it poisons you. And there are people who surely you know who have a bitter soul, who live their lives in anger and bitterness. It seems as if every day they clean their teeth with vinegar! … This is an illness”. With regard to new year's resolutions, he said that he had made one: to pray more, as “bishops and priests … must support God's people first with prayer – it is the first service”. He asked those present to pray more too, since “the Church goes ahead with the prayer of the holy. Pray for the Church!”.

A further question related to whether the world would always remain full of sad and tragic stories. “The world can improve”, he declared. “But there is something we do not like to talk about, but which we must talk about”, he added. “In the world there is a struggle between good and evil, as philosophers say, or between the devil and God. … The Bible tells us that this will continue until the end … and we all have a battlefield within us. There is the struggle between good and evil”. He added that in the world there are many good things, but “there is this attraction towards evil: it seems that we prefer to look at bad things rather than good things, great things. The devil does his part – this is true – but God too does His part, and there are many holy people. … We must not let ourselves be deceived! In the world there are bad things … and this is the devil's work against God; but there are also holy things, great things that are the work of God. There are hidden saints. Let us not forget this word: the hidden saints, those we do not see”.

Entry into force of agreement between the Holy See and the State of Palestine

Vatican City, 2 January 2016 (VIS) – With reference to the Comprehensive Agreement between the Holy See and the State of Palestine, signed on 26 June 2015, the Holy See and State of Palestine have notified each other that the procedural requirements for its entry into force have been fulfilled, under the terms of Article 30 of the same Agreement.

The Agreement, consisting of a Preamble and 32 articles, regards essential aspects of the life and activity of the Church in Palestine, while at the same time reaffirming the support for a negotiated and peaceful solution to the conflict in the region.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 3 January 2016 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed:

- Fr. William Ernesto Iraheta Rivera as bishop of Santiago de Maria (area 2,866, population 563,000, Catholics 449,700, priests 85, religious 88), El Salvador. The bishop-elect was born in Jayaque, El Salvador in 1962 and was ordained a priest in 1988. He has served in a number of pastoral roles in the archdiocese of San Salvador, including deputy priest, parish priest, director of the “Rosa Blanca” school centre, moderator of the archdiocesan curia, director of Caritas and episcopal delegate for education. He is currently pastor of the “San Marcos” parish. He succeeds Bishop Rodrigo Orlando Cabrera Cuellar, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese upon reaching the age limit was accepted by the Holy Father.

- Fr. Celestin-Marie Gaoua as bishop of Sokode (area 12,610, population 1,300,000, Catholics 153,000, priests 65, religious 87), Togo. The bishop-elect was born in Wahala, Togo in 1957 and was ordained a priest in 1986. He has served in a number of roles, including rector of the St. Paul minor seminary and the Fr. Jeremie Moran seminary in Atakpame, and missionary fidei donum in the diocese of Sokode, where he was parish vicar, pastor of the Cathedral parish and parish administrator. He is currently rector of the national philosophical major seminary Benoit XVI in Tchitchao, Kara, Togo. He succeeds Bishop Ambroise Kotamba Djoliba, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese upon reaching the age limit was accepted by the Holy Father.

- erected the eparchy of St. Mary, Queen of Peace, of the United States of American and Canada, for faithful of Syro-Malabar rite.

- appointed Bishop Thomas Mar Eusebios Naickamparambil, apostolic exarch for Syro-Malankars resident in the United States of America and apostolic visitor for the faithful in Canada and Europe, as the first eparchial bishop of the new eparchy of St. Mary, Queen of Peace, of the United States of American and Canada.
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