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Monday, February 1, 2016

The Church and the world await your prophecy, closeness and hope, says the Pope to the participants in the Jubilee of Consecrated Life

Vatican City, 1 February 2016 (VIS) – The Year of Consecrated Life, convoked by Pope Francis at the end of 2014 and which began with a prayer vigil in November of the same year in the Roman basilica of St. Mary Major, closes tomorrow with a solemn Mass celebrated by the Holy Father in St. Peter's Basilica. Along the way there have been events, seminars, chains of prayer in monasteries around the world, and an encounter between consecrated persons of different Christian confessions which, the Pontiff affirmed, is an initiative that it would be useful to continue.

This morning in the Paul VI Hall the Pope received in audience the participants in the Jubilee of Consecrated Life, the final event of the Year. He addressed some extemporaneous remarks to those present, setting aside the text previously prepared for the occasion, extensive extracts of which are reproduced below:

"One day Jesus, in His infinite mercy, addressed each one of us and told us personally, 'Come'. If we are here it is because we answered 'yes', at times with an adhesion full of enthusiasm and joy, at other times more difficult, perhaps uncertain", but always "with generosity, letting ourselves be guided along paths that we would not even have imagined", learning from Christ "the relationship with the Father, receiving His Spirit, learning to love the poor and sinners. We have followed Him together, learning service, acceptance, forgiveness and fraternal charity from Him. Our consecrated life has meaning because staying with Him and taking Him with us along the streets of the world, conforms us to Him, makes us Church, a gift for humanity".

"The Year that is coming to an end, but our commitment to staying faithful to the call we have received and to growing in love, giving and creativity, continues. Therefore I would like to leave you with three words. … The first word is prophecy, characteristic of consecrated life. … You are called, first and foremost, to proclaim with your life, before your words, the reality of God: to say God. If at times He is denied or marginalised or ignored, we must ask ourselves if perhaps we have not allowed His face to be transparent, instead showing our own. The face of God is that of a Father, 'merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love'".

The second word is closeness. "God, in Jesus, comes close to every man and every woman: He has shared in the joy of the spouses in Cana of Galilee and the anguish of the widow of Nain; He enters into the house of Jairus, touched by death, and the house of Bethany, perfumed with nard; He took upon Himself illness and suffering, to the point of giving His life in ransom. Following Christ means going where He went; taking upon onself, like the good Samaritan, the wounded we encounter along the road; going in search of the lost sheep. To be, like Jesus, close to the people; sharing their joys and pains, showing with our love the paternal face of God and the maternal caress of the Church. May no-one ever feel distant, detached, closed or barren. Each one of you is called upon to serve your brothers, following your own charism: with prayer, with catechesis, with teaching, with the care of the sick or the poor, announcing the Gospel, or performing the various works of mercy. The important thing is not to live for yourselves, just as Jesus did not live for Himself, but for the Father and for us".

Finally, hope: bearing witness to God and His merciful love, consecrated men and women can inspire hope in our humanity, "marked by so anguish and fear, and at times tempted to be discouraged. You can enable the renewing force of the beatitudes to be felt; of honesty and compassion, the value of goodness, of the simple life, essential and full of meaning. And you can nurture hope in the Church too. I think for example of ecumenical dialogue. The charismatic and prophetic witness of consecrated life in the variety of its forms can help us to acknowledge ourselves as more united and can promote full communion".

"In your daily apostolate, do not let yourselves be conditioned by your age or number. What counts is the capacity to repeat the initial 'yes' to the call from Jesus that continues to be heard, in an ever new way, in every season of life. His call and our response keep our hope alive. Prophecy, closeness, hope. Living in this way, you will have joy in your heart, the distinctive sign of Jesus' followers and, in particular, of consecrated persons".

Pope Francis' prayer intentions for February

Vatican City, 1 February 2016 (VIS) – The Holy Father's universal prayer intention for February is: “That we may take good care of creation – a gift freely given – cultivating and protecting it for future generations”.

His intention for evangelisation is: “That opportunities may increase for dialogue and encounter between the Christian faith and the peoples of Asia”.

Pope's video message for the closure of the International Eucharistic Council in the Philippines: the Eucharist teaches us to act with integrity

Vatican City, 1 February 2016 (VIS) – Yesterday, 31 January, with the Holy Mass presided by Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, S.D.B., archbishop of Yangon, Myanmar, the pontifical legate closed the 51st International Eucharistic Council, which began on 24 January in Cebu, Philippines, on the theme "Christ in you, our hope of glory: the Eucharist, source and goal of the Church's mission".

Following the Eucharistic celebration, a video message from Pope Francis was broadcast, in which he emphasises that the theme of the Congress "reminds us that the risen Jesus always lives and is present in His Church, above all in the Eucharist, the Sacrament of His Body and Blood. Christ’s presence among us is not only a consolation, but also a promise and a summons. It is a promise that everlasting joy and peace will one day be ours in the fullness of his Kingdom. But it is also a summons to go forth, as missionaries, to bring the message of the Father’s tenderness, forgiveness and mercy to every man, woman and child".

The Holy Father invites reflection on two gestures of Jesus at the Last Supper: table fellowship and the washing of feet. With regard to the former, he recalls how important it was for Jesus to share meals with his disciples, but also, and especially, with sinners and the outcast. "Sitting at the table, Jesus was able to listen to others, to hear their stories, to appreciate their hopes and aspirations, and to speak to them of the Father’s love. At each Eucharist, the table of the Lord’s Supper, we should be inspired to follow His example, by reaching out to others, in a spirit of respect and openness, in order to share with them the gift we ourselves have received".

This is especially important in Asia, where the Church is committed to "respectful dialogue with the followers of other religions" and where "this prophetic witness most often takes place, as we know, through the dialogue of life". Through the testimony of "lives transformed by God’s love, we best proclaim the Kingdom’s promise of reconciliation, justice and unity for the human family. Our example can open hearts to the grace of the Holy Spirit, Who leads them to Christ the Saviour".

The other gesture, the washing of feet, is "a sign of humble service, of the unconditional love with which He gave his life on the Cross for the salvation of the world. The Eucharist is a school of humble service. It teaches us readiness to be there for others. This too is at the heart of missionary discipleship". The Pope gives the example of the aftermath of the typhoon that brought immense devastation to the Philippines, yet it also brought in its wake an immense outpouring of solidarity, generosity and goodness. "People set about rebuilding not just homes, but lives. The Eucharist speaks to us of that power, which flows from the Cross and constantly brings new life. It changes hearts. It enables us to be caring, to protect the poor and the vulnerable, and to be sensitive to the cry of our brothers and sisters in need. It teaches us to act with integrity and to reject the injustice and corruption which poison the roots of society".

Pope Francis concluded by announcing that the next International Eucharistic Congress will take place in 2020 in Budapest, Hungary.

Angelus: the only privilege in the eyes of God is not having privileges

Vatican City, 31 January 2016 (VIS) – At midday today the Pope prayed the Angelus with the pilgrims and faithful in St. Peter's Square. Beforehand he commented on the day's Gospel reading, which "like last Sunday leads us to the synagogue of Nazareth, the village of Galilee where Jesus grew up in His family and was known to all. He had left shortly before to begin His public life, but returns for the first time and presents Himself to the community, gathered on the Sabbath in the synagogue. He reads the passage from the prophet Isaiah, who speaks about the future messiah, and at the end declares: 'Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing'. His fellow townspeople, at first surprised and admiring, began to sneer and murmur among themselves, and to say, 'why does this man who claims to be the Consecrated of the Lord not repeat here the works and miracles that He did in Capernaum and the other nearby towns?'. Jesus then declares, 'No prophet is accepted in his own native place', and recalls the great prophets of the past, Elijah and Elisha, who worked miracles for the pagans in order to denounce the lack of faith of their people. At this point, those present are offended, they rise in indignation, they drive Jesus out of the town and want to throw Him over a precipice. But He, with the strength of His peace, 'passed through the midst of them and went away'. His hour had not yet come".

The Pope explained that this account of the Evangelist Luke is not simply the story of a community dispute, as can sometimes happen in our own neighbourhoods too, caused by envy and jealousies, but also brings to light a temptation that a religious person is always vulnerable to — we are all vulnerable to it — and which we must certainly avoid. … It is the temptation to consider religion as a human investment and thus to 'negotiate' with God, seeking our own interests. Instead, true religion is receiving the revelation of a God Who is the Father and Who cares for every one of his creatures, even the smallest and least significant in the eyes of man. This is precisely what Jesus’ prophetic ministry consists of: announcing that no human condition can be a motive for exclusion … from the heart of the Father, and that the only privilege in the eyes of God is that of not having privileges. The only privilege in the eyes of God is that of not having privileges, of not having protectors, of abandoning oneself in His hands".

“The 'today' proclaimed by Christ that day applies to every day; it resonates for us in this Square too, reminding us of the current importance of and need for salvation brought by Jesus to humanity. God goes out towards the men and women of all times and places in the concrete situations in which they find themselves. He also comes out towards us. He is always the one Who takes the first step. He comes to visit us with His mercy, to lift us from the dust of our sin; He comes to extend His hand to lift us from the abyss in which our pride has caused us to fall, and He invites us to welcome the consoling truth of the Gospel and to walk the paths of righteousness. He always comes to find us, to seek us".

Francis concluded by invoking Our Lady, explaining that the situation was a foretaste of what she would suffer below the Cross, seeing her Son in the synagogue, "first admired, then challenged, then insulted, and threatened with death. In her heart, filled with faith, she conserved all these things".

The Pope: be instruments of peace

Vatican City, 31 January 2016 (VIS) – Following today's Marian prayer the Pope greeted all the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square and mentioned that today is World Leprosy Day. "This illness, although in regression, unfortunately still afflicts the poorest and most marginalised people. It is important to keep alive our solidarity with these brothers and sisters who are incapacitated by this disease. We assure them of our prayers and of our support to those who assist them. Well done to these laypeople, these nuns, these priests".

The Holy Father also dedicated some words to a group of young people from Catholic Action of the diocese of Rome, who have come to the end of their Caravan of Peace. He encouraged them to be instruments of peace and mercy among their peers, so that this year their "witness of peace, inspired by faith in Jesus, may be even more joyful and aware, enriched by the gesture of passing through the Holy Door". A group of young people read the Message aloud and released balloons in the square as a symbol of peace.

First Jubilee audience: mercy and mission

Vatican City, 30 January 2016 (VIS) – Pope Francis dedicated the first of his Jubilee audiences to the theme "Mercy and Mission". The Jubilee audiences are an initiative of the Holy Father during the Holy Year, enabling those who are unable to attend the Wednesday general audiences to participate in his catechesis. On this occasion more than 22,000 people were present in St. Peter's Square.

"Day by day we enter into the life of this Holy Year of Mercy. With His grace, the Lord guides our steps as we cross the Holy Door and comes towards us so as to stay always with us, despite our shortcomings and our contradictions. Let us never tire of asking His forgiveness, as when we are weak His closeness makes us stronger and allows us to live our faith with greater joy".

Referring to the close link between mercy and mission, Francis underlined that as Christians we have the responsibility to be missionaries of the Gospel. "When we receive good news or have a good experience it is natural that we wish to communicate it to others. … The joy we feel inspires us to do so. It should be the same when we encounter the Lord. Indeed, the concrete sign we have truly encountered Jesus is the joy we feel in communicating this to others too. This is not proselytism, but rather it is a gift: I give you what makes me joyful. Reading the Gospel we see that this was also the experience of the first disciples. … Encountering Jesus is the same as encountering His love. This love transforms us and makes us able to transmit to others the strength that it gives us".

"We could say that the day of our Baptism each one of us is given another name alongside the one we receive from our mother and father, and this name is 'Christopher', which means 'Christ-bearer'. The name of our approach, as bearers of Christ's joy and mercy", remarked the Holy Father. "The Christian is a bearer of Christ. … But the mercy we receive from the Father is not given to us as a private consolation, but rather makes us instruments to enable others to receive the same gift. There is a wonderful circularity between mercy and mission".

"Living mercy makes us missionaries of mercy, and being missionaries enables us increasingly to grow in God's mercy. So, let us take seriously the fact of being Christians, and let us commit ourselves to living as believers, because only in this way may the Gospel touch the people's hearts, opening them to receive the grace of love", concluded the Holy Father.

The Pope reiterates the importance of protecting workers' health

Vatican City, 30 January 2016 (VIS) – Following his catechesis the Pope greeted, among others, the Italian faithful including members of the National Association of Maimed and Injured Workers (ANMIL), whose presence offered the Holy Father the opportunity to reiterate the importance of protecting workers' health and safety and defending human life, a gift from God, especially when it is at its weakest and most fragile.

He also addressed the managers and employees of Rome's transport agency, ATAC, encouraging them in their work as today, he said, "the quality of social life depends greatly on the quality of transport". He expressed his hope for increased efforts to reduced pollution and thanked ATAC employees for their service to pilgrims, especially during the Jubilee Year.

Finally, he greeted the young, the sick and newly-weds. "Tomorrow we commemorate St. John Bosco, the apostle of youth. Look to him, dear young people, as an exemplary educator. You, dear sick people, may learn from his spiritual experience always to trust in the crucified Christ. And you, dear newly-weds, ask his intercession so as to take on your conjugal mission with generous commitment".

Presentation of the book "Witnesses of the Resurrected"

Vatican City, 1 February 2016 (VIS) – This morning a press conference was held in the Holy See Press Office to present the book "Witnesses of the Resurrected", the proceedings of the annual formation course for new bishops organised by the Congregation for Bishops, edited by the Vatican Publishing House (LEV). The speakers were Cardinal Marc Ouellet, P.S.S., prefect of the Congregation for Bishops; Archbishop Ilson de Jesus Montanari, secretary of the same Congregation, and Archbishop Francesco Cacucci of Bari-Bitonto, rapporteur of the Course.

"This experience began from afar", said Cardinal Ouellet. "Indeed, the Synods held during the last decades have shown that there is a need for the formation of all those who form part of the Church: laypeople, priests, men and women religious, and also bishops. … In the light of these declarations, the Congregation for Bishops, after careful discernment, began its experience of the course for new bishops. The first event, coordinated by the then-prefect, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, was carried out in late June and early July 2001. The next will therefore be the sixteenth edition. Bishops from all over the world will travel to Rome for this initiative, under the patronage of the Congregation for Bishops, in collaboration with the Congregation for the Oriental Churches and, occasionally, the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples".

"This means that more than 1500 bishops have started their pastoral mission via this experience of eight or nine days of cohabitation, fraternal exchange, conferences, debates and, above all, encounters with the Holy Father and representatives of the Curia Romana and the episcopate worldwide. The content shared in this course is published in this book and made available to the public, to allow observations and suggestions to be made that may be useful for improving the experience".

Archbishop Francesco Cacucci explained that "in a moment of hyperactivity and fragmentation, the bishop is called upon today more than ever to be a man of synthesis and to help priests, "brothers and friends", to share the essential. … The Congress of Italian Churches, held in Florence last November, was encouraged by the Holy Father to live an effective synodality. Walking together (synod) with priests, consecrated persons and laypeople may be tiresome but it is an expression of love, of the communion in the Church. It may be said, after St. Augustine, that when one loves, even hardship is beloved. Therefore, to be a 'witness of the Resurrecetd', the bishop is called upon to be a man of prayer, especially of prayer for intercession".

Archbishop Ilson de Jesus Montanari added that during these sixteen years the number of bishops participating has always been more than a hundred, and explained that after the first meetings, the Congregation for Oriental Churches joined in the experience, sending more bishops. "This presence has enabled us to obtain a better knowledge of the situation of these churches, which often face problems or are in minority situations, so as to strengthen fraternal relations with them", he concluded.

Archbishop Zimowski, Pope's special envoy to the World Day of the Sick

Vatican City, 30 January 2016 (VIS) – In a letter published today, written in Latin and dated 12 January, the Holy Father appoints Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers (for Health Pastoral Care) as his special envoy at the celebration of the World Day of the Sick, to be held in Nazareth on 11 February 2016.


Vatican City, 1 February 2016 (VIS) – The Holy Father received in audience:

- Bishop Marcelo Daniel Colombo of La Rioja, Argentina;

- Bishop Hugo Nicolas Barbaro of San Roque de Presidencia Roque Saenz Pena, Argentina;

- Mother Zulema Nelly Zayas, superior general of the "Hijas del Divino Salvador" congregation.

On Saturday 30 January the Holy Father received in audience Cardinal Marc Ouellet, P.S.S., prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 30 January 2016 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed:

- Fr. Virgilio Do Carmo Da Silva, S.D.B., as bishop of Dili (area 4,750, population 595,000, Catholics 562,000, priests 133, permanent deacons 1, religious 502), East Timor. The bishop-elect was born in Venilale, East Timor in 1967, gave his religious vows in 1997 and was ordained a priest in 1998. He has served in a number of pastoral roles including formator of novices, bursar of the House of Formation in Venilale and parish vicar, master of novices, and director of the House of Salesians and the Don Bosco Technical School in Fatumaca. He is currently provincial of the Salesians.

- Fr. Carlos Alberto Salcedo Ojeda, O.M.I., as auxiliary of Huancayo (area 4,750, population 595,000, Catholics 562,000, priests 133, permanent deacons 1, religious 425), Peru. The bishop-elect was born in Comas, Peru in 1960, gave his religious vows in 1993 and was ordained a priest in 1996. He has served in a number of pastoral roles, including parish vicar, parish priest, counsellor of the delegation of Oblate Missionaries of Mary Immaculate in Peru, director of the pre-novitiate "St. Eugene Mazenod" in Lima, secretary of the O.M.I. team for the formation of the Latin America region and assistant to the master of novices of the international novitiate in Asuncion, Paraguay. He is currently episcopal vicar in the archdiocese of Huancayo, parish priest, and coordinator of the Commission for Justice, Peace and Integrity of the Oblate Delegation in Peru.

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