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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".

Presentation of the Pope's Message for the World Day of Social Communications

Vatican City, 22 January 2016 (VIS) – This morning the a press conference was held to present the Holy Father's Message for the fiftieth World Day of Social Communications. The panel was composed of Msgr. Dario Vigano, prefect of the Secretariat for Communication, Paolo Ruffini, director of TV2000, and Marinella Perroni of the Pontifical Athenaeum of St. Anselm, Rome.

The prefect mentioned that this World Day of Social Communications, which the Church celebrates on May 8, is the fiftieth in chronological order: an important fact that relates to Vatican Council II, which fifty years ago issued the Decree on the tools of social communication, "Inter mirifica". It is also the only World Day established by the Council, and on this occasion it is also situated in the context of the great Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, to which the theme of the Day refers directly. Finally, it will be the first World Day of Social Communications held following the creation by the Holy Father of the Secretariat for Communications.

Following this preamble, Msgr. Vigano emphasised that mercy is the distinctive feature of the Church's way of acting and of being. The relationship between the Church and mercy is not an extrinsic one, or indeed accidental … but rather intrinsic, constitutive, part of the very identity of the Church. The experience of the Pentecost is the beginning of the historic experience of the Church. The Church carries the memory of Jesus and therefore cannot interpret the words of His announcement other than in relation to mercy. They are works awaiting by those who think they are far from the God of mercy of Whom we often have a distorted image, such as that of God as a ruthless judge unable to engage with the limits of suffering. … For the men and women of today, for Jesus' Church, these are the words to offer as an antidote to the harsh words of precepts pronounced by those who make accusations of prevailing relativism and the irrevocability of values. .. The Church called to participate in the messianic mission must know how to live in a true and authentic humanity. She must learn from Jesus how to express mercy in words of hope and life and in engaging gestures, letting us be touched by human experience and knowing, as Pope Francis often reminds us, how to touch the flesh of the least among us".

The second point was the relationship between silence and listening. Msgr. Vigano cited the Swiss philosopher Max Picard, who explained that contemporary man has become an appendix to noise, atrophying in a context of words shouted instead of spoken, that reduce to a minimum our capacity to listen and cause a lack of attention. "Listening is a necessary act for the development of communication and it requires above all silence, an indispensable condition for receiving each word pronounced and for understanding its meaning. … We communicate only to the extent that we are are the same time listeners, and Pope Francis' attention to this dichotomy is constant". Pope Benedict XVI too paid great attention to this issue, when in the Message for the 2012 World Day of Social Communications he wrote that when messages and information are abundant, silence becomes essential to enable us to distinguish what is important from what is insignificant and secondary".

The prefect concluded by quoting Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who wrote that the merciful "have an irresistible love for the down-trodden, the sick, the wretched, the wronged, the outcast and all who are tortured with anxiety. They go out and seek all who are enmeshed in the toils of sin and guilt. No distress is too great, no sin too appalling for their pity". "It is the blessing of mercy that the Church is called to live, first and foremost in her relationships as the Christian community is not an elite group, nor is it made up of the perfect. St. Paul … invites us all to recognise the starting point of Christian and ecclesial life, which is God's love and, by His grace, participation in His holiness".

Finally, Msgr. Vigano returned to the theme of silence: "From this Gehenna of noise that is our daily life, from this wind tunnel of gossip, and chatter there arises spontaneously a nostalgia for silence, the wish to mute words of manipulation, to discover the words of silence. Contemporary man, almost without realising it, is calling out with Verlaine, give me silence, and the love of mystery.

The director of TV2000, Paolo Ruffini, spoke about the need for television able to look upon the world with the eyes of mercy, without being afraid of being rooted in reality. "It must not be closed up in its own studies. … It chooses closeness as a criterion for understanding, for surprising itself and for surprising, for acting, for choosing. … It draws near to people in flesh and blood in the real world, not in the virtual one … and is able to communicate reality without surrendering to stereotypes, or to the vicious circles of condemnation and vengeance which, as the Pope writes, continue to ensnare us".

Decrees for the Causes of Saints

Vatican City, 22 January 2016 (VIS) - Yesterday, 21 January, the Holy Father Francis received in a private audience Cardinal Angelo Amato, S.D.B., prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, during which he authorised the Congregation to promulgate the following decrees:


- Blessed Stanislaw of Jesus and Mary (né Jan Papczyński), Polish founder of the Congregation of Marians of the Immaculate Conception. (1631-1701);

- Blessed Jose Gabriel del Rosario Brochero, Argentine diocesan priest (1840-1914);

- Blessed Jose Sánchez del Río, Mexican child martyr (1913-1928);

- Venerable Servant of God Francesco Maria Greco, Italian diocesan priest, founder of the Congregation of the Little Workers of the Sacred Heart (1857-1931);

- Venerable Servant of God Elisabetta Sanna, Italian layperson and widow, of the Third Order of St. Francis, member of the Catholic Apostolic Union founded by St. Vincent Pallotti (1788-1857);


- Venerable Servant of God Engelmar Unzeitig (né Hubert), German professed priest of the Congregation of Missionaries of Mariannhill, killed in hatred of the faith in 1945);

- Servants of God Genaro Fueyo Castañón, Spanish diocesan priest, and three companions, laypersons killed in hatred of the faith in 1936;

- Servant of God Iustus Takayama Ukon, Japanese layperson, killed in hatred of the faith in 1615.


- Servant of God Arsenio da Trigolo (né Giuseppe Migliavacca), professed priest of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, Italian founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of Mary Most Holy Consolatrix (1849-1909);

- Servant of God Maria Luisa of the Most Holy Sacrament (née Maria Velotti), Italian member of the Third Order of St. Francis and founder of the Franciscan Sisters Adorers of the Holy Cross (1826-1886).


Vatican City, 22 January 2016 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father received in audience:

- Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith;

- Timothy Donald Cook, chief executive officer of Apple;

- Msgr. Pio Vito Pinto, dean of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota;

- College of Prelate Auditors of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota.


Vatican City, 22 January 2016 (VIS) – The date of the Holy Father's letter to Cardinal Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, regarding the selection of people for the rite of the Washing of feet in the Holy Thursday liturgy is 20 December 2014, not 2015, as erroneously implied in yesterday's Vatican Information Service bulletin. We apologise to our readers.
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