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Monday, January 18, 2016

The Pope receives in audience Prince Albert and Princess Charlene of Monaco

Vatican City, 18 January 2016 (VIS) - Today the Holy Father received in audience His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco, accompanied by Her Serene Highness Princess Charlene. The Prince subsequently met with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, and Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, secretary for Relations with States.

During the cordial discussions, the existing good bilateral relations were emphasised and reference was made to the historical contribution of the Catholic Church to the life of the Principality. Attention then turned to various matters of common interest, such as the protection of the environment, humanitarian aid and the integral development of peoples.

Finally, the parties considered some issues affecting the international community, such as peace and security, the acceptance of migrants and the general situation in the Mediterranean region and the Middle East.

To the Finnish ecumenical delegation: Christians are called upon to be credible witnesses to unity and artisans of peace and reconciliation

Vatican City, 18 January 2016 (VIS) – This year, as is traditional, an ecumenical delegation from Finland, led this year by the Lutheran bishop of Helsinki, Irja Askola, came to visit the bishop of Rome for the feast day of St. Henry of Uppsala, patron of the country.

"Your ecumenical pilgrimage is an eloquent sign of the fact that, as Lutherans, Orthodox and Catholics, you have recognised what unites you and together you wish to bear witness to Jesus Christ, Who is the foundation of unity", said the Pope, expressing his joy at their visit.

"In a special way, we can thank the Lord for the fruits of the dialogue between Lutherans and Catholics", he continued. "Here I think in particular of the common document on 'Justification in the Life of the Church'. Building on these foundations, our dialogue is making promising progress towards a shared understanding, on the sacramental level, of Church, Eucharist and Ministry. These steps forward, made together, lay a solid basis for a growing communion of life in faith and spirituality, as our relations develop in a spirit of serene discussion and fraternal sharing".

Although in this dialogue, differences still remain in doctrine and in practice, "This must not discourage us, but instead spur us along our journey towards ever greater unity, not least by working to overcome old ideas and suspicions. In a world frequently torn by conflict and marked by secularism and indifference, we are called to join in professing our faith in Jesus Christ, and thus to become ever more credible witnesses of unity and promoters of peace and reconciliation", concluded the Holy Father.

Francis thanks public security personnel in the Vatican

Vatican City, 18 January 2016 (VIS) – This morning the Holy Father received in audience in the Clementine Hall the members of the General Inspectorate for Public Security in the who serve in the Vatican. The agents also accompany the Pope on his pastoral visits in Italy, and the Pope also thanked them for their service in this role.

During his address to the security personnel, Francis affirmed that his meeting with them was very important this year in the context of the Holy Year of Mercy, an event of spiritual significance which has already brought tens of thousands of pilgrims from around the world to Rome in this first month alone. The managers, officials and agents of the public security service are therefore required to make even greater efforts "to ensure that the celebrations and events connected with the extraordinary Jubilee take place in a regular and fruitful way. External order, over which you keep careful watch, can only benefit inner order, permeated with serenity and peace".

"We have just concluded Christmas time, but in many places, as in St. Peter's Square, the nativity remains on display, and invites us to protect within us, following the example of Our Lady, the mystery we have celebrated. Mary offered us Jesus as the beginning of a new life. The Child is the true consoler of hearts, the true light that illuminates our life, conquering the darkness of sin. In Him we have contemplated the face of the mercy of God the Father, and we have received a renewed invitation to convert to love and forgiveness. May this spiritual experience accompany us throughout the entire Holy Year, and may the Jubilee of Mercy be for all of us a time that is strong for the spirit, a time of reconciliation with God and with our brothers", concluded the Holy Father.

Francis visits the Great Synagogue of Rome

Vatican City, 17 January 2016 (VIS) – Yesterday, following in the footsteps of St. John Paul II and Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, Pope Francis visited the Great Synagogue of Rome to greet the Jewish community of the capital, the longest-established in the world. The Holy Father was received by the president of the Community of Rome, Ruth Dureghello, the president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, Renzo Gattegna and the Chief Rabbi of Rome, Riccardo Di Segni, who gave a welcome address.

"Toda rabba", (thank you), responded Francis, who then went on to speak about the importance that he has always attributed to the relationship between Jews and Christians ever since his days in Buenos Aires, when he met with the Argentine Jewish community and closely followed its celebrations and ceremonies. "In Jewish-Christian dialogue, there is a unique and special bond, by virtue of the Jewish roots of Christianity: Jews and Christians should consider themselves brothers, united by the same God and by a rich common spiritual heritage on which we base and continue to build the future". In this respect, he recalled that on 13 April 1986 St. John Paul II, during his visit to the same synagogue, coined the expression "elder brothers" to describe Jews in relation to Christians, and indeed, he affirmed "you are our elder brothers and sisters in faith. We all belong to the same family, the family of God, Who accompanies us and protects us as His people".

Francis noted that 2015 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the conciliar Declaration "Nostra aetate", which enabled systematic dialogue between the Catholic Church and Judaism, transforming the relationship between Christians and Jews. "From enemies and strangers, we have become friends and brothers. … 'Yes' to the rediscovery of the Jewish roots of Christianity, 'no' to any form of anti-Semitism, and condemnation of every injustice, discrimination and persecution that may derive from it". The Pope also highlighted the theological dimension of this dialogue, affirming that "Christians, to understand themselves, cannot but refer to these Jewish roots, and the Church, while professing salvation through faith in Christ, acknowledges the irrevocable nature of the Old Covenant and God's constant, faithful love for Israel".

However, alongside the theological questions, the Pope also spoke about the challenges that today's world must face, beginning with that of the integral ecology that both Jews and Christians must respond to by offering "to humanity as a whole the Bible's message regarding care for creation. Conflicts, wars, violence and injustice open up deep wounds in humanity, and we are called upon to strengthen our commitment to peace and justice. Man's violence against man contradicts any religion worthy of the name, and in particular, the three great monotheistic religions. Life is sacred, as a gift from God. The fifth Commandment of the Decalogue says: 'Thou shalt not kill'. God is the God of life, and wishes always to promote it and defend it; and we, created in His image and semblance, are required to do likewise. Every human being, as a creature of God, is our brother, regardless of his origin or his religious belief. … Neither violence nor death will have the final word before God, Who is the God of love and life. We must pray ceaselessly so that in Europe, the Holy Land, the Middle East, Africa and every other part of the world He may help us to practice the logic of peace, reconciliation, forgiveness and life".

The ceremony was also attended by the last Italian survivors of the Shoah, and the bishop of Rome spoke to them of how "the Jewish people, throughout their history, have suffered violence and persecution, up to the extermination of European Jews during the Shoah. Six million people, just because they belonged to the Jewish people, were victims of the most inhuman barbarism perpetrated in the name of an ideology that sought to substitute man for God".

"On 16 October 1943, more than a thousand men, women and children of the Jewish community of Rome were deported to Auschwitz", he recalled. "Today I wish to remember them with the heart in a special way: their suffering, their anguish, their tears must never be forgotten. And the past must serve as a lesson for the present and for the future. The Shoah teaches us that it is necessary to maintain the highest vigilance, so as to intervene promptly in defence of human dignity and peace. I would like to express my closeness to every living witness of the Shoah, and I greet in particular those of you who are present here".

"In the last fifty years, mutual understanding and trust, and friendship, have grown and deepened between us", concluded the Holy Father. "Let us pray together to the Lord so that He might lead us on a path to a better future. God has plans for our salvation".

Angelus: Jesus responds to the promises of joy that fill our hearts

Vatican City, 17 January 2016 (VIS) – Today, World Day of Migrants and Refugees, the Pope appeared at the window of his study in the Vatican Apostolic Palace to pray the Angelus with the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square, including seven thousand people from various ethnic communities on a pilgrimage to pass through the Holy Door, and to hear the Holy Father speak.

Before the Marian prayer Francis spoke about the day's Gospel reading, which narrates Jesus' first miracle, the transformation of water into wine during the wedding party at Cana. "Miracles, then, are extraordinary signs that accompany the preaching of the Good News, and are intended to kindle or strengthen faith in Jesus. In the miracle at Cana, we can see an act of kindness by Jesus towards the newly-weds, a sign of God’s blessing of the marriage. The love between man and woman is therefore a good way to live the Gospel, that is, to walk with joy on the path of holiness".

"But the miracle of Cana is not just about the bride and groom", he added. "Every person is called to meet the Lord in his life. The Christian faith is a gift we receive in Baptism, which enables us to meet God. Faith passes through times of joy and sorrow, light and darkness, as in any authentic experience of love. The story of the wedding at Cana invites us to rediscover that Jesus does not come to us as a judge ready to condemn our sins, nor as a commander demanding we blindly follow His orders. He appears as the Saviour of humanity … as the One who answers the expectations and promises of joy that dwell in the heart of every one of us".

"Do I truly know the Lord in this way?" asked the Pope. "Do I feel Him next to me, in my life? … This means becoming aware that Jesus searches for us and invites us to make room for Him deep in our heart. And in this journey of faith, with Him, we are not alone: we have received the gift of the Blood of Christ. The large stone jars that Jesus filled with water to transform it into wine are a sign of the passage from the Old to the New Covenant: instead of water used for the purification ritual, we received the Blood of Jesus, poured in a sacramental way in the Eucharist and in a brutal way in the Passion and on the Cross. The Sacraments, which flow from the Paschal Mystery, imbue us with supernatural strength and allow us to enjoy God's infinite mercy".

"May the Virgin Mary, model of meditation on the words and gestures of the Lord, help us to rediscover faith with the beauty and richness of the Eucharist and the other Sacraments, which manifest God's faithful love for us. In this way we may deepen our love for the Lord Jesus, our Spouse, and go towards Him with lamps lit with our joyous faith, thus becoming His witnesses in the world", he concluded.

The Pope prays for the victims of the attacks in Indonesia and Burkina Faso, and urges migrants not to let themselves be robbed of hope

Vatican City, 17 January 2016 (VIS) – After today's Angelus prayer, the Pope affectionately greeted the members of the various ethnic communities present in the Square.

"Dear migrants and refugees", he said, "each of you carries a history, a culture, precious values; and often, unfortunately, experiences of poverty, oppression and fear. Your presence in this square is a sign of hope in God. Do not let yourselves to be robbed of hope and the joy of living, that spring from the experience of divine mercy, thanks also to the people who welcome you and help you".

"I now invite you all to pray to God for the victims of the attacks that have taken place in recent days in Indonesia and Burkina Faso. May the Lord welcome them into His home, and support the efforts of the international community to build peace", Francis concluded, praying the Hail Mary with all those present.

The Pope advocates a new humanism of work

Vatican City, 16 January 2016 (VIS) – Education, sharing and witness were the three words that the Pope suggested to the members of the Christian Workers' Movement for living the vocation of work, a vocation that "calls us to imitate actively the tireless work of the Father and of Jesus Who, as the Gospel tells us, are always working".

In the Paul VI Hall Francis spoke to seven thousand members of the organisation about the importance of education which "is not solely about teaching various techniques or imparting ideas, but rather making ourselves and the reality that surrounds us more human. And this applies in a special way to work: it is necessary to teach a new 'humanism of work'. We live in a time of exploitation of workers, in a time in which work is not at the service of the dignity of the person, but is instead slave labour. We must instruct and educate in a new humanism of work, in which mankind, and not profit, is at the centre; in which the economy does not exploit but instead serves man".

Education is fundamental in helping us "not to be deceived into thinking that work, our daily effort, the gift of oneself and study do not have any value. I would add that nowadays, in the world of work – as in every environment – it is urgent to educate in following the luminous and demanding road of honesty, shunning the short cuts of favouritism and influential connections. These temptations, great and small, are always present, but they must always be seen as moral bargains unworthy of man: they are to be rejected, so that the heart is accustomed to staying free. Otherwise, they generate a false and harmful mentality, which must be combated: that of illegality, which leads to the corruption of the person and of society. Illegality is like an unseen octopus, hidden and submerged but which grabs and poisons with its tentacles, contaminating and causing great harm".

With regard to sharing, the Pope remarked that work is not merely an individual vocation, but rather an opportunity to enter into relations with others. "Work should unite people, not distance them from each other or cause them to be closed and distant. … It offers the chance to share daily life, to be interested in those near us, to receive as a gift and as a responsibility the presence of others".

Referring to the "Civil Service projects", an initiative of the Movement which enables it to bring people and new contexts together and occupy itself with their problems and hopes, he emphasised that others should not simply receive passing attention but should instead be the focus of genuine projects. "Everyone makes plans for himself, but planning for others allows us to take a step further: to place intelligence at the service of love, making the person more complete and life happier, through the capacity to give".

Finally, witness. "The apostle Paul encouraged the witness of faith through activity, conquering laziness and indolence, and he set out a very strong and clear rule: 'If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat'. In that time too there were those who made others work so that they themselves could eat. Today, instead, there are people who would like to work but they are not able to, and struggle even to eat. You encounter many young people who do not work; they are truly, as you have said, the new excluded people of our time. Just think that in some countries in Europe, this cultured Europe of ours, youth unemployment reaches 40 per cent, 47 per cent in other countries, 50 per cent in others. But what can a young person do without working? Where does he or she end up? As a victim of addiction, psychological illness, suicide. The statistics of suicide among the young are not always published. It is a tragedy, a tragedy of the excluded people of our time, who are deprived of their dignity. Human justice requires access to work for all. Even divine mercy calls to us: faced with people in difficulty and in situations of hardship – I think of young people for whom getting married or having children is a problem, as they do not have a sufficiently stable job or a house – it is not helpful to give sermons. Instead it is necessary to transmit hope, comfort with presence, and support with concrete assistance".

The Pope begins his "Fridays of mercy"

Vatican City, 16 January 2016 (VIS) – Yesterday Pope Francis began his "Fridays of mercy" yesterday with a visit to a rest home for the elderly on the outskirts of Rome. He announced this initiative at the beginning of the Jubilee, explaining that one Friday each month he would perform a special gesture of mercy.

The Holy Father, accompanied by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, responsible for the organisation of the Jubilee of Mercy, arrived at 4 p.m. at the Bruno Buozzi rest home, which accommodates 33 elderly people. He spoke with all the residents, who were happy and surprised at the visit, which had not been announced in advance.

Before returning to the Vatican, the Pope also visited the Casa Iride, which accommodates six patients in a vegetative state. The centre is not organised as a hospital, but rather as a family house where the residents can be continually assisted by members of their families.

According to a note from the Holy See Press Office, Pope Francis especially wished to counter the "throwaway culture" on this occasion by highlighting "the great importance and value of the elderly and grandparents, as well as the value and dignity of life in every situation".


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

- Christine Lagarde, director general of the International Monetary Fund;

- Archbishop Antonio Mennini, apostolic nuncio in Great Britain;

- Archbishop Leo William Cushley of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, Scotland.

On Saturday 16 January the Holy Father received in audience:

- Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops;

- Delegation of the Serbian Orthodox Patriarchate;

- Archbishop Luciano Russo, apostolic nuncio in Rwanda;

- Archbishop Hubertus Matheus Maria van Megen, apostolic nuncio in Sudan and in Eritrea.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 16 January 2016 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed:

- Bishop Stephen Lee Bun Sang, auxiliary of Hong Kong, China, as bishop of Macau (area 30, population 607,500, Catholics 29,872, priests 88, religious 319), China. He succeeds Bishop Jose Lai Hung-seng, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese in accordance with art. 401 para. 2 of the Code of Canon Law was accepted by the Holy Father.

- Archbishop Luigi Pezzuto, apostolic nuncio in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Montenegro, as apostolic nuncio in Monaco.
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