Home - VIS Vatican - Receive VIS - Contact us - Calendar

The Vatican Information Service is a news service, founded in the Holy See Press Office, that provides information about the Magisterium and the pastoral activities of the Holy Father and the Roman Curia...[]

Last 5 news

VISnews in Twitter Go to YouTube

Thursday, February 18, 2016

To the detainees of CeReSo 3 in Cuidad Juarez: those who have experienced hell can be prophets for society

Vatican City, 17 February 2016 (VIS) – Yesterday at 10 a.m. local time (6 p.m. in Rome) the Holy Father began the last leg of his apostolic trip in Mexico: Ciudad Juarez, for two centuries the only land passage to the United States. Indeed, Cuidad Juarez is situated on the Rio Grande, facing the Texan city of El Paso. The two form a metropolitan area with two million inhabitants. It is a very developed industrial centre and, according to various statistics, one of the most violent cities in the world, due principally to drug trafficking across the border with the United States. It also has around 950 armed gangs with tens of thousands of members, and is home to hundreds of Mexican gang members deported from the United States. During the last four years of the drugs war, 212,000 inhabitants – or around 18 per cent of the population – abandoned the city. Ciudad Juarez is sadly renowned for the disappearance of thousands of women, typically from poor families, who worked in the maquiladoras (clandestine factories). The theme of the abduction and murder of these women has featured in literature and cinema, and various associations have been established to defend women, including "Nuestras hijas de regreso a casa" ("Bring our daughters back home").

The Holy Father began his day in Ciudad Juarez with a visit to the CeReSo 3 penitentiary, which formed part of a project for the requalification of the penal institutions of the State of Chihuahua, and has been awarded for its observance of international norms in the field. It houses three thousand detainees including a limited number of women. Upon arrival Francis greeted the families of some of the inmates, and proceeded to the chapel where he was awaited by staff and the priests of the penitentiary's pastoral service, to whom he addressed some words of thanks for their work. "You encounter much fragility. Therefore I would like to offer you this fragile image", he said, referring to the crystal crucifix he gave to the Centre to commemorate his visit. "Crystal is fragile, it breaks easily. Christ on the Cross represents the greatest fragility of humanity; however it is this fragility that saves us, that helps us, that enables us to keep going and opens the doors of hope. It is my wish that each one of you, with the blessing of the Virgin and contemplating the fragility of Christ Who died to save us, sowing seeds of hope and resurrection".

He was awaited in the Centre's main courtyard by seven hundred detainees, of whom he greeted around fifty in person. One of them gave a testimony in which he affirmed that the presence of the Holy Father was a call to mercy especially for those who had lost hope in their rehabilitation and for those who had forgotten that there are human beings in prison. Francis then addressed those present, remarking first that he could not have left "without greeting you and celebrating with you the Jubilee of Mercy", adding that mercy "embraces everyone and is found in every corner of the world. There is no place beyond the reach of his mercy, no space or person it cannot touch".

"Celebrating the Jubilee of Mercy with you is recalling the pressing journey that we must undertake in order to break the cycle of violence and crime. We have already lost many decades thinking and believing that everything will be resolved by isolating, separating, incarcerating, and ridding ourselves of problems, believing that these policies really solve problems. We have forgotten to focus on what must truly be our concern: people’s lives; their lives, those of their families, and those who have suffered because of this cycle of violence".

"Divine Mercy reminds us that prisons are an indication of the kind of society we are. In many cases they are a sign of the silence and omissions which have led to a throwaway culture, a symptom of a culture that has stopped supporting life, of a society that has abandoned its children. Mercy reminds us that reintegration does not begin here within these walls; rather it begins before, it begins 'outside', in the streets of the city. Reintegration or rehabilitation begins by creating a system which we could call social health, that is, a society which seeks not to cause sickness, polluting relationships in neighbourhoods, schools, town squares, the streets, homes and in the whole of the social spectrum. A system of social health that endeavours to promote a culture which acts and seeks to prevent those situations and pathways that end in damaging and impairing the social fabric".

"At times it may seem that prisons are intended more to prevent people from committing crimes than to promote the process of rehabilitation that allows us to address the social, psychological and family problems which lead a person to act in a certain way", he observed. "The problem of security is not resolved only by incarcerating; rather, it calls us to intervene by confronting the structural and cultural causes of insecurity that impact the entire social framework. Jesus’ concern for the care of the hungry, the thirsty, the homeless and prisoners sought to express the core of the Father’s mercy. This becomes a moral imperative for the whole of society that wishes to maintain the necessary conditions for a better common life. It is within a society’s capacity to include the poor, infirm and imprisoned, that we see its ability to heal their wounds and make them builders of a peaceful coexistence. Social reintegration begins by making sure that all of our children go to school and that their families obtain dignified work by creating public spaces for leisure and recreation, and by fostering civic participation, health services and access to basic services, to name just a few possible measures. The whole rehabilitation process starts here".

"Celebrating the Jubilee of Mercy with you means learning not to be prisoners of the past, of yesterday. It means learning to open the door to the future, to tomorrow; it means believing that things can change. Celebrating the Jubilee of Mercy with you means inviting you to lift up your heads and to work in order to gain this space of longed-for freedom. Celebrating the Jubilee of Mercy with you means repeating this phrase that we heard a little while ago, so well expressed and with such force: 'When they gave me my sentence ,someone said to me: do not ask the reason why you are here, but the purpose. And this 'purpose' keeps us going ahead; it enables us to overcome the barrier of the social deception that would have us believe that security and order are obtained only through imprisonment".

"We know that we cannot turn back, we know that what is done, is done. This is the way I wanted to celebrate with you the Jubilee of Mercy, because it does not exclude the possibility of writing a new story and moving forward. You suffer the pain of a failure, you feel the remorse of your actions and in many cases, with great limitations, you seek to remake your lives in the midst of solitude. You have known the power of sorrow and sin, and have not forgotten that within your reach is the power of the resurrection, the power of divine mercy which makes all things new. Now, this mercy can reach you in the hardest and most difficult of places, but such occasions can also perhaps bring truly positive results. From inside this prison, you must work hard to change the situations which create the most exclusion. Speak with your loved ones, tell them of your experiences, help them to put an end to this cycle of violence and exclusion. The one who has suffered the greatest pain, and we could say 'has experienced hell', can become a prophet in society. Work so that this society which uses people and discards them will not go on claiming victims".

"As I say these things, I recall Jesus' words: 'Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone'. I should leave now … in saying these things to you, I do not do so as if I were in the pulpit, wagging my finger; I do so on the basis of the experience of my own wounds, errors and sins that the Lord has wished to forgive and re-educate. I do so on the basis of the knowledge that, without His grace and my vigilance, I could easily repeat them. Brothers, I always ask myself, as I enter a prison, 'Why them and not me?'. And it is a mystery of divine mercy. But we all celebrating this divine mercy today, looking ahead with hope".

Finally, the Pope addressed all the staff and those who undertake any type of work that brings them into contact with inmates, urging them to remember their potential to be "signs of the heart of the Father", and adding, "We need one another; as our sister said to us, recalling the Letter to the Hebrews: let us feel we are imprisoned alongside them".

Before giving his blessing, he invited those present to pray a moment in silence: "Each one knows what he wants to say to the Lord; each person knows what he wants to be forgiven for. But I ask you, in this silent prayer, let us open our hearts to be able to forgive the society that has not been able to help us and that has often led us to err. From the depths of our hearts, may each one of us ask God to help us believe in his mercy".

Francis to the world of work: "God will hold enslavers to account"

Vatican City, 17 February 2016 (VIS) – "I wanted to meet with you here in this land of Juarez, because of the special relationship this city has with the world of labour. I am grateful not only for your words of welcome and for your testimonies, which reveal the anxieties, joys and hopes of your lives, but also for this opportunity to share and reflect together. Anything we can do to foster dialogue, encounter, and the search for better alternatives and opportunities is already an accomplishment to be valued and highlighted. And there are two words that I want to underline: dialogue and encounter. Never tire of pursuing dialogue. Wars gradually come about due to a lack of talking and encounter". The Holy Father addressed these words to representatives of the world of work, businesspeople and workers, whom he encountered at the Colegio de Bachilleres of the State of Chihuahua in Ciudad Juarez at midday yesterday (8 p.m. in Rome).

"Obviously more needs to be done than dialogue and encounter, but today we do not have the luxury of missing any chance to encounter, any chance to discuss, confront or explore. This is the only way we will be able to build for tomorrow, to create sustainable relationships capable of providing the needed framework that, little by little, will rebuild the social bonds so damaged by a lack of communication and by a lack of the minimal respect necessary for a healthy coexistence. So I thank you, and I hope that this occasion may serve to build the future. May it be a good opportunity to forge the Mexico that its people and children deserve".

"I would like to dwell on this latter point. Here today there are various workers’ organisations and representatives of Commerce Chambers and business associations. At first sight they could be considered as adversaries, but they are united by the same responsibility: seeking to create employment opportunities which are dignified and truly beneficial for society and especially for the young of this land. One of the greatest scourges for young people is the lack of opportunities for study and for sustainable and profitable work, which would permit them to work for the future. In many cases – many cases – this lack of opportunity leads to situations of poverty and rejection. This poverty and rejection then becomes the best breeding ground for the young to fall into the cycle of drug trafficking and violence. It is a luxury which today we cannot afford; we cannot allow the present and future of Mexico to be isolated and abandoned. And for this to happen, dialogue, speaking face to face, and work opportunities are needed to help forge a constructive path ahead".

"Unfortunately, the times we live in have imposed the paradigm of economic utility as the starting point for personal relationships. The prevailing mentality, everywhere, advocates for the greatest possible profits, immediately and at any cost. This not only causes the ethical dimension of business to be lost, but it also forgets that the best investment we can make is in people, in individual persons and in families. The best investment is creating opportunities. The prevailing mentality puts the flow of people at the service of the flow of capital, resulting in many cases in the exploitation of employees as if they were objects to be used, discarded and thrown out. God will hold us accountable for the slavery of our day, and we must do everything to make sure that these situations do not happen again. The flow of capital cannot decide the flow and life of people. For this reason I liked that aspiration which was expressed through dialogue, talking face to face".

Francis observed that, when faced with tenets of the Social Doctrine of the Church, it is frequently objected that "'these teachings would have us be charitable organisations or transform our businesses into philanthropic institutions'. We have heard this criticism. The only aspiration of the Church’s Social Doctrine is to guard over the integrity of people and social structures. Every time that, for whatever reason, this integrity is threatened or reduced to a consumer good, the Church’s Social Doctrine will be a prophetic voice to protect us all from being lost in the seductive sea of ambition. Every time that a person’s integrity is violated, society, in a certain sense, begins to decline. And this Social Doctrine of the Church is against no one, but in favour of all. Every sector has the obligation of looking out for the good of all; we are all in the same boat. We all have to struggle to make sure that work is a humanizing moment which looks to the future; that it is a space for building up society and each person’s participation in it. This attitude not only provides an immediate improvement, but in the long run it will also transform society into a culture capable of promoting a dignified space for everyone. This culture, born many times out of tension, is creating a new style of relationships, a new kind of nation".

"What kind of world do we want to leave our children?", the Holy Father asked. "I believe that the vast majority of us can agree. This is precisely our horizon, our goal, and we have to come together and work for this. It is always good to think about what I would like to leave my children; it is also a good way to think of others’ children. What kind of Mexico do you want to leave your children? Do you want to leave them the memory of exploitation, of insufficient pay, of workplace harassment, of trafficking in slave labour? Or do you want to leave them a culture which recalls dignified labour, proper lodging, and land to be worked? The three 'L’s': Labour, Lodging, Land. What type of culture do we want for those who will come after us? What air will they breathe? An air tainted by corruption, violence, insecurity and suspicion, or, on the contrary, an air capable of generating – and the word is crucial – generating alternatives, renewal and change? To generate is to be co-creators with God. This, naturally, involves much effort".

"I know that the issues raised are not easy, but it is worse to leave the future in the hands of corruption, brutality and the lack of equity. I know it is often not easy to bring all parties together in negotiations, but it is worse, and we end up doing more harm, when there is a lack of negotiations and appreciation. An old manager of labourers, a very honest man, who left this world having earned every penny due to him and who never took advantage of others, once said to me: 'Each time we had to sit down at the negotiating table, I knew that I had to lose something in order to make us all win something'. This is a good philosophy coming from the world of labour. I know it is not easy to get along in an increasingly competitive world, but it is worse to allow the competitive world to ruin the destiny of the people. Slaves. Profit and capital are not a good over and above the human person; they are at the service of the common good. When the common good is used only at the service of profit and capital, this has a name: it is called exclusion, and through it the throwaway culture gets stronger and stronger. Throwaway and exclusion".

Recalling the testimony of one of the young people in the Morelia Stadium, who had remarked that "this world robs us of the capacity to dream", Francis urged "dialogue, speaking face to face, negotiating, and losing out at times so that all can win. I invite you to dream of a Mexico that your children deserve; a Mexico where no one is first, second, or fourth; a Mexico where each sees in the other the dignity of a child of God. May our Lady of Guadalupe, who made herself known to St. Juan Diego, and revealed how the seemingly abandoned were her privileged witnesses, help you all, whatever your profession, whatever your work, to take up this task of dialogue, face to face discussion, and encounter".

Mass in Ciudad Juarez fair: no more death and exploitation

Vatican City, 17 February 2016 (VIS) - "In this Year of Mercy, with you here, I beg for God’s mercy; with you I wish to plead for the gift of tears, the gift of conversion", exclaimed the Pope yesterday during the Mass celebrated in the fair ground of Ciudad Juarez, on the frontier between Mexico and the United States. The Holy Father toured the area several times in the popemobile to greet the faithful gathered on both sides of the border.

Awareness of violence, injustice and oppression, the need for conversion and mercy, the "human tragedy" of forced migration to which this metropolis bears witness, the scars of the illegal drugs trade and human trafficking, and at the same time the possibility of changing this situation, were the main points of the Holy Father's homily. He began with St. Irenaeus' celebrated assertion that "the glory of God is the life of man", an expression that continues to echo in the heart of the Church.

"The glory of the Father is the life of his sons and daughters. There is no greater glory for a father than to see his children blossom, no greater satisfaction than to see his children grow up, developing and flourishing. The first reading that we have just heard points to this. The great city of Nineveh, was self-destructing as a result of oppression and dishonour, violence and injustice. The grand capital’s days were numbered because the violence within it could not continue. Then the Lord appeared and stirred Jonah’s heart: the Father called and sent forth His messenger. Jonah was summoned to receive a mission. 'Go', he is told, because in 'forty days Nineveh shall be overthrown'. Go and help them to understand that by the way they treat each other, ordering and organising themselves, they are only creating death and destruction, suffering and oppression. Make them see this is no way to live, neither for the king nor his subjects, nor for farm fields nor for the cattle. Go and tell them that they have become used to this degrading way of life and have lost their sensitivity to pain. Go and tell them that injustice has infected their way of seeing the world. 'Therefore, go Jonah!'. God sent him to testify to what was happening, He sent him to wake up a people intoxicated with themselves".

"In this text we find ourselves before the mystery of divine mercy. Mercy, which always rejects wickedness, takes the human person in great earnest. Mercy always appeals to the goodness of each person, even though it may be dormant and numbed. Far from bringing destruction, as we so often desire or want to bring about ourselves, mercy seeks to transform each situation from within. Herein lies the mystery of divine mercy. It seeks and invites us to conversion, it invites us to repentance; it invites us to see the damage being done at every level. Mercy always pierces evil in order to transform it. It is the mystery of God our Father: He sends his Son who pierced into what was evil, He made himself sin in order to transform evil. This is his mercy".

"The king listened to Jonah, the inhabitants of the city responded and penance was decreed. God’s mercy has entered the heart, revealing and showing wherein our certainty and hope lie: there is always the possibility of change, we still have time to transform what is destroying us as a people, what is demeaning our humanity. Mercy encourages us to look to the present, and to trust what is healthy and good beating in every heart. God’s mercy is our shield and our strength".

Jonah helped them to see and to become aware. "Following this, his call found men and women capable of repenting, and capable of weeping. To weep over injustice, to cry over corruption, to cry over oppression. These are tears that lead to transformation, that soften the heart; they are the tears that purify our gaze and enable us to see the cycle of sin into which very often we have sunk. They are tears that can sensitise our gaze and our attitude, which are hardened and dormant in the face of another’s suffering. They are the tears that can break us, capable of opening us to conversion. This is what happened to Peter after having denied Jesus; he cried and those tears opened his heart".

"This word echoes forcefully today among us; this word is the voice crying out in the wilderness, inviting us to conversion. In this Year of Mercy, with you here, I beg for God’s mercy; with you I wish to plead for the gift of tears, the gift of conversion. Here in Ciudad Juárez, as in other border areas, there are thousands of immigrants from Central America and other countries, not forgetting the many Mexicans who also seek to pass over 'to the other side'. Each step, a journey laden with grave injustices: the enslaved, the imprisoned and extorted; so many of these brothers and sisters of ours are the consequence of a trade in human trafficking, the trafficking of persons".

"We cannot deny the humanitarian crisis which in recent years has meant migration for thousands of people, whether by train or highway or on foot, crossing hundreds of kilometres through mountains, deserts and inhospitable zones. The human tragedy that is forced migration is a global phenomenon today. This crisis which can be measured in numbers and statistics, we want instead to measure with names, stories, families. They are the brothers and sisters of those expelled by poverty and violence, by drug trafficking and criminal organizations. Being faced with so many legal vacuums, they get caught up in a web that ensnares and always destroys the poorest. Not only do they suffer poverty but they must also endure all these forms of violence. Injustice is radicalised in the young; they are “cannon fodder”, persecuted and threatened when they try to flee the spiral of violence and the hell of drugs. And what can we say about the many women whose lives have been unjustly robbed?"

"Let us together ask our God for the gift of conversion, the gift of tears, let us ask him to give us open hearts like the Ninevites, open to His call heard in the suffering faces of countless men and women. No more death! No more exploitation! There is always time to change, always a way out and always an opportunity, there is always the time to implore the mercy of God. Just as in Jonas’ time, so too today may we commit ourselves to conversion; may we be signs lighting the way and announcing salvation. I know of the work of countless civil organisations working to support the rights of migrants. I know too of the committed work of so many men and women religious, priests and lay people in accompanying migrants and in defending life. They are on the front lines, often risking their own lives. By their very lives they are prophets of mercy; they are the beating heart and the accompanying feet of the Church that opens her arms and sustains".

"This time for conversion, this time for salvation, is the time for mercy. And so, let us say together in response to the suffering on so many faces: in your compassion and mercy, Lord, have pity on us … cleanse us from our sins and create in us a pure heart, a new spirit".

"And now I also want to greet from here all our beloved brothers and sisters who are joining us simultaneously from the other side of the frontier, especially those who are gathered in the Stadium of the University of El Paso, known as The Sun Bowl. … Thanks to technology, we can pray, sing and celebrate together that merciful love which God gives us, and which no frontier can prevent us from sharing. Thank you, brothers and sisters of El Paso, for making us feel one single family and one same Christian community".

The Pope leaves Mexico: many lights proclaim hope in the Mexican people

Vatican City, 17 February 2016 (VIS) – Pope Francis took leave of Mexico today, thanking God for granting him his visit to a country "that always surprises, for Mexico is a surprise!". He departed from the airport of Ciudad Juarez at 7 p.m. local time (3 a.m. in Rome) today, 18 February, and is expected to arrive in Rome at 3.15 p.m.

The Holy Father again gave thanks to all those who made his pilgrimage possible, including the state and local authorities and "all those anonymous helpers who quietly gave of their very best to make these days a great family celebration".

"I have felt welcomed and warmly received by the love, the celebration, the hope of this great Mexican family: thank you for having opened the doors of your lives to me, the doors of your nation", he added, then reciting the words of Octavio Paz in his poem "Hermandad":

“I am a man: I only last a brief while, and the night is vast.
But I look up: the stars are writing.
Without grasping I understand: I am also the writing
and in this very instant someone is spelling me out”.

"Taking up these beautiful words, I dare to suggest that the one who spells us out and marks out the road for us is the mysterious but real presence of God in the real flesh of all people, especially the poorest and most needy of Mexico", the Pontiff commented. "The night can seem vast and very dark, but in these days I have been able to observe that in this people there are many lights who proclaim hope; I have been able to see in many of their testimonies, in their faces, the presence of God who carries on walking in this land, guiding you, sustaining hope; many men and women, with their everyday efforts, make it possible for this Mexican society not to be left in darkness. Many men and women lining the streets as I went by, lifted up their children, showing them to me: they are the future of Mexico, let us look after them, let us love them. These children are tomorrow’s prophets, they are the sign of a new dawn. And I assure you that on some occasions, as I passed by, I felt I wanted to cry on seeing so much hope among people who suffer so much".

"May Mary, Mother of Guadalupe, continue to visit you, continue to walk on your lands – Mexico which cannot be understood without her – may she continue helping you to be missionaries and witnesses of mercy and reconciliation", he concluded. "Once again, thank you very much for this warm, so very warm, Mexican hospitality".

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 17 February 2016 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed Fr. Felice Accrocca of the clergy of Latina-Terracina-Sezze-Priverno, Italy, as metropolitan archbishop of Benevento (area 1,691, population 273,700, Catholics 271,700, priests 207, permanent deacons 53, religious 315), Italy. The bishop-elect was born in Cori, Italy in 1959 and was ordained a priest in 1986. He holds a degree in letters from the "La Sapienza" University of Rome and a doctorate in ecclesiastical history from the Pontifical Gregorian University. He has served in a number of pastoral and administrative roles, including deputy priest, parish priest, moderator of the curia, diocesan assistant for Catholic Action, and secretary of the diocesan synod. He is currently director of the "Paolo VI" diocesan school of theology, episcopal vicar for diocesan pastoral ministry, parish priest and parish administrator. He is also lecturer in medieval Church history at the Pontifical Gregorian University. He succeeds Archbishop Andrea Mugione, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same metropolitan archdiocese upon reaching the age limit was accepted by the Holy Father.
Copyright © VIS - Vatican Information Service