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Monday, February 22, 2016

Jubilee of the Curia: be a model for all

Vatican City, 22 February 2016 (VIS) – At 10.30 a.m. today, the Solemnity of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle, the Holy Father presided at a Holy Mass celebrated in the Vatican Basilica for the Jubilee of the Roman Curia, the Governorate and the Institutions of the Holy See. All the participants, including the Pope, then carried out a procession of faith from the Paul VI Hall to the Basilica, passing through the Holy Door.

"At this time, the Lord Jesus addresses a question to every one of us: 'But who do you say that I am?'. A clear and direct question, from which it is not possible to escape or remain neutral, nor is it possible to postpone the answer or delegate it to someone else. But there is nothing inquisitional about this; instead, it is full of love! The love of our only Master, Who today calls us to renew our faith in Him, recognising Him as the Son of God and the Lord of our life. And the first one called to renew his profession of faith is the Successor of Peter, who bears the responsibility of confirming his brothers".

"Let us allow grace to form again our heart so as to believe, and open our mouth to fulfil the profession of faith and obtain salvation. Let us, then, make Peter's words our own: 'You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God'. May our thought and our gaze be fixed on Jesus Christ, the beginning and end of every action of the Church. He is the foundation and no-one may lay another. He is the 'stone' on which we must build. St. Augustine recalls this with expressive words when he writes that the Church, although agitated and disturbed by the upheavals of history, does not fall down, because she is built on stone, from which Peter's name is derived. It is not the stone that derives its name from Peter, but Peter from the stone, just as it is not the name Christ that derives from Christian, but Christian from Christ. The stone is Christ, the foundation on which Peter too was built".

Francis emphasised that "from this profession of faith there derives, for each one of us, the task of responding to this call from God. Pastors, first and foremost, are required to have as a model God Himself Who takes care of His flock. … It is also good for us, called to be Pastors in the Church, to let the face of God the Good Shepherd illuminate us, purify us, transform us and restore us, fully renewed in our mission. In our workplaces too may we feel, cultivate and practice a strong pastoral sense, especially towards the people we encounter every day. May no-one feel neglected or mistreated, but may everyone be able to experience, especially here, the loving care of the Good Shepherd".

"We are called upon to be God's collaborators in a task as fundamental and unique as bearing witness by our existence the strength of the grace that transforms and the power of the Spirit that renews. Let us allow the Lord to free us from every temptation that distances us from the essence of our mission, and let us rediscover the beauty of professing our faith in the Lord Jesus. Faith to the ministry matches well with the mercy we wish to experience. In the Sacred Scripture, indeed, faithfulness and mercy are inseparable. Where there is one there is the other, and it is precisely in their reciprocal nature and complementarity that we can see the very presence of the Good Shepherd. The faithfulness that is required of us is that of acting in accordance with Christ's heart. As we have heard in the words of the apostle Peter, we must tend to our flock with a generous heart and become a model for all. In this way, 'when the Chief Shepherd appears', we will be able to receive 'the crown of glory that will never fade away'".

Angelus: the Pope recounts his apostolic trip to Mexico

Vatican City, 21 February 2016 (VIS) – Pope Francis described his trip to Mexico as "an experience of transfiguration" in his reflection before this Sunday's Angelus. Starting from the Gospel reading of this second Sunday of Lent, dedicated to the Transfiguration of Jesus on Mount Tabor, the Holy Father spoke about his visit to the land of the Virgin of Guadalupe.

In Mexico, he said "the Lord has shown us the light of His glory through the Body of the Church, of His holy people that live in this land — a body so often wounded, a people so often oppressed and despised, whose dignity is violated. In fact, the various encounters experienced in Mexico were truly full of light: the light of a faith that transfigures faces and illumines our path".

"The spiritual 'centre of gravity' of my pilgrimage was the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe", he added. "To remain in silence before the image of the Mother was what suggested the trip to me. I thank God for giving me this opportunity. I contemplated and let myself to be gazed upon by She whose eyes hold the gaze of all of her children, the sorrows of violence, kidnapping and murders, the violence against so many poor people, against so many women. Guadalupe is the most visited Marian sanctuary in the world. From all of America, people go to pray there where the ‘Virgin Morenita’ appeared to the Indian St. Juan Diego, giving rise to the evangelisation of the continent and its new civilization, a fruit of encounter between diverse cultures".

"It is precisely this inheritance that the Lord has entrusted to Mexico: to protect the wealth of diversity, and at the same time, to manifest the harmony of a common faith: a simple and robust faith, accompanied by a great force of vitality and humanity", explained the Pope. "Like my predecessors, I also went to confirm the Mexican people in their faith, but at the same time to be confirmed. I have gathered fully this gift so that it may be of benefit to the universal Church".

"A shining example of what I am saying was given by families: Mexican families welcomed me with joy as a messenger of Christ and pastor of the Church. But at the same time, they gave me clear and strong witness of lived faith, of faith that transfigures life, for the edification of all Christian families in the world. The same may be said about the young, consecrated persons, priests, workers and the imprisoned".

After giving thanks to the Virgin of Guadalupe for this pilgrimage and acknowledging the contribution of the civil and ecclesiastical authorities of Mexico and all those who made the trip possible, Francis gave special praise to the Holy Trinity for the encounter in Cuba with Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, a meeting that was greatly desired by previous popes.

"This event too is a prophetic light of the Resurrection, which the world today needs more than ever. May the Holy Mother of God continue to guide us in the path of friendship and unity. Let us pray to the Virgin of Kazan, an icon of whom was given to me by Patriarch Kirill".

Francis: no capital punishment during the Year of Mercy

Vatican City, 22 February 2016 (VIS) – After today's Angelus prayer, Pope Francis spoke about the international conference “For a World Without the Death Penalty,” organised by the Sant’Egidio Community, which begins in Rome tomorrow, and expressed his hope that it may inspire fresh efforts towards the abolition of the death penalty.

The Pope observed that the increasingly strong public opposition to the death penalty, even as an instrument of legitimate social defence, is a sign of hope. "Indeed, modern societies are able to effectively control crime without definitively removing from the criminal the possibility of redeeming himself. The issue lies in the context of a perspective on penal justice that increasingly conforms to the dignity of man and God’s design for man and for society. And also penal justice open to the hope of being reintegrated in society. The command “thou shalt not kill” has absolute value and refers to the guilty as well as the innocent.

"The Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy is a good opportunity to promote in the world an increasingly mature respect for life and the dignity of each person. Because even a criminal has the inviolable right to life, a gift of God. I appeal to the consciences of those who govern, so that an international consensus may be reached for the abolition of the death penalty. I propose to those among them who are Catholic to make an exemplary gesture of courage: that the death penalty not be applied in this Holy Year of Mercy".

"All Christians and men and women of good will are called today to work not only for the abolition of the death penalty, but also to improve conditions in prisons, in respect for human dignity and the dignity of those deprived of freedom".

The Pope also mentioned next Thursday's Via Crucis through the streets of Rome, organised by the Pope Juan XXIII Foundation, founded by the priest Oreste Benzi, in support of women who are victims of human trafficking, and to pray for them.

Before concluding the Pope reiterated that Lent is a good time to undertake a path of conversion, based on mercy. "For this, I have decided to give to you here in the Square a 'spiritual medicine' called 'Misericordina'. We did this once before, but this one is better, it is 'Misericordina-Plus': a box with a rosary and an image of the Merciful Jesus. Volunteers, including the poor, the homeless, refugees and also religious, will now distribute them. Receive this gift as a spiritual aid to help spread forgiveness and fraternity, especially in this year of mercy".

Jubilee audience: mercy and commitment

Vatican City, 20 February 2016 (VIS) – This morning fifty thousand people attended the Holy Father's Jubilee audience in St. Peter's Square, following his return on Thursday from his apostolic trip in Mexico. The Pope's catechesis was on the theme of the commitment Christians are called to make to offer a concrete sign of God's closeness to the people they encounter.

"The Jubilee of Mercy is an opportunity to enter in depth into the mystery of God's goodness and love", he said. "In this Lenten time, the Church invites us to get to know better the Lord Jesus, and to live faith in a way coherent with a lifestyle that expresses the Father's mercy. My life, my attitude, my way of going about the world must be a concrete sign of the fact that God is close to us. Little gestures of love, of tenderness, of attention, that let us think that the Lord is with us, close to us. In this way we open the door of mercy".

For this, it is necessary to be committed, and this means assuming a responsibility, a task in relation to someone, and fulfilling it with fidelity, dedication and care. "Every day we are asked to commit ourselves to the things we do: in prayer, in work, in study, even in sport. … In short, committing oneself means acting with good will and effort to improve life", explained the Pope.

"God too has committed Himself to us", he continued. "His first commitment was that of creating the world, and despite our attempts to spoil it, He is committed to keeping it alive. But His greatest commitment was that of giving Jesus to us. … St. Paul recalls this when he writes that God 'did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all'.And, by virtue of this, together with Jesus the Father will give us everything we need".

In the Gospel it is very easy to see how God's commitment to us is made manifest. "In Jesus, God commits Himself fully in order to restore hope to the poor, to those who are deprived of their dignity, to outsiders, the sick, the imprisoned, and to sinners who welcome Him with good will. In all of this, Jesus was the living expression of the Father's mercy". Francis highlighted the fact that Jesus' welcome to sinners: "if we think of it in a human way, the sinner would be an enemy of Jesus, an enemy of God, but He drew close to them with goodness, He loved them and He changed their heart. We are all sinners, all of us. We all have some blame before God. But we must not be distrustful: He draws close to us to offer us consolation, mercy and forgiveness. This is God's commitment, and this is why He sent Jesus to us, to be close to us, to all of us, and to open the door of His love, His heart and His mercy".

Taking as a starting point the merciful love with which Jesus expressed God's commitment, we too can and must match His love with our effort, especially in the situations of greatest need, when there is the greatest thirst for hope. I think of our efforts with abandoned people, with those who have very serious disabilities, with the gravely ill, with the dying, and with those who are no longer able to express their gratitude. … We bring God's mercy to all these situations through commitment in life, which bears witness to our faith in Jesus. We must always bring with us this caress from God – because God has caressed us with His mercy – to those who are in need of it, to those who have suffering in their heart or who are sad. We must approach them with that caress from God, which is the same one God gave to us".

Francis concluded his catechesis by expressing his hope that the Jubilee may contribute to helping our mind and our heart to be profoundly aware of God's commitment to each one of us, and in this way, transform our life in a commitment to mercy for all.

Communique of the Secretariat for Communications

Vatican City, 22 February 2016 (VIS) – The Secretariat for Communications today issued the following communique:

"Due to the end of the term of service at Vatican Radio of the Director General Fr. Federico Lombardi and the Managing Director Alberto Gasbarri, the prefect for the Secretariat for Communications, Msgr. Dario Vigano, upon directions from the Secretariat of State, has appointed Giacomo Ghisani as "ad interim" legal representative and head of the Directorate of Vatican Radio, responsible for the day-to-day management of Vatican Radio in the context of the current restructuring of Vatican communications".

In an explanatory note, it is mentioned that by the Motu Proprio "The current communications context", dated 27 June 2015, Pope Francis instituted the Secretariat for Communications to integrate all the entities hitherto concerned with communication into a new dicastery of the Roman Curia. These structures were the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, the Holy See Press Office, the Vatican Internet Service, the Vatican Television Centre, L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican Typography, the Photographic Service and the Vatican Publishing House.

On 9 June of the same year, a feasibility study and working calendar were presented to the Council of Cardinals (the so-called C9), indicating the gradual process of unification of the existing entities; "such bodies", it specifies, "from the date of the publication of the present Motu Proprio, shall continue their respective duties, observing however the indications provided by the Secretariat for Communications".

The process has begun, and on 1 January 2016 the Pontifical Council for Social Communications and the Holy See Press Office were unified, from an administrative and management point of view. Nothing has been modified with regard to the competence of the Secretariat of State in relation to institutional communication.

This year, in accordance with the presented and approved time scale, the complex but certainly positive unification of Vatican Radio and the Vatican Television Centre was expected to take place. This was implemented for some services (such as the distribution of sound and images for papal ceremonies and other important Vatican events), and for the better deployment of human resources.

In this context it is clear why at the end of February, at the end of their respective five-year mandates and the upcoming retirements of two senior figures, the Director General Fr. Federico Lombardi and the Managing Director Alberto Gasbarri, they will not be substituted with figures in similar directing roles. Instead a legal representative and and head of the administrative office will be appointed, in the single person of Giacomo Ghisani, currently deputy director of the General Directorate of the Secretariat for Communications, who has an excellent knowledge of Vatican Radio having worked there for many years as head of the legal and international relations office.

The restructuring process will be accompanied by the formulation of new Statutes not only for the Dicastery but also the connected body that will ensure legal representation both in institutional contexts and at European and international level. The new Statutes will also reformulate the staffing plans of the unified bodies.

"The task that awaits us offers a great opportunity to evaluate in both entities the areas of excellence and our patrimony of multilingualism and multiculturalism", the note says.

"In this phase, the Vatican Television Centre will continue to refer to Stefano D'Agostini for the purposes of ordinary administration. The staff of Vatican Radio will refer to Giacomo Ghisani for administrative matters and to Fr. Andrzej Majewski for editorial activities and the situation of the various language versions (that is, the current Directorate of Programming). Technological matters, including acquisitions and the development of projects (the activity and competence of the current Technical Directorate) it will refer to Sandro Piervenanzi.

The Secretariat for Communications will follow this process with care and attention, to facilitate solutions to eventual difficulties and to guarantee its success.


Vatican City, 22 February 2016 (VIS) – The Holy Father received in audience:

- Egas da Costa Freitas, ambassador of East Timor to the Holy See, presenting his credential letters;

- Rogelio Francisco Emilio Pfirter, ambassador of Argentina to the Holy See, presenting his credential letters.

On Friday, 19 February the Holy Father received in audience Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, accompanied by Bishop Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, M.C.C.J., secretary of the same dicastery.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 22 February 2016 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed Fr. Angel Antonio Recinos Lemus as bishop of Zacapa y Santo Cristo de Esquipulas (area 5,066. population 613,000, Catholics 528,000, priests 32, permanent deacons 1, religious 68), Guatemala. The bishop-elect was born in Azulco, Guatemala in 1963 and was ordained a priest in 1994. He holds a licentiate in biblical theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, and has served in a number of academic, administrative and pastoral roles, including seminary professor, director of the Institute of Theology of the National Seminary, head of pastoral ministry of indigenous peoples, representative of Guatemale in the information network of the Church in Latin America, co-ordinator of the pastoral commission for the defence of the environment, and parish priest in various parishes. He is currently parish priest of Nuestra Senora de Lourdes and in El Progreso Achuapa, Jutiapa.

On Saturday, 20 February, the Holy Father appointed Bishop Ricardo Lingan Baccay, auxiliary of the archdiocese of Tuguegarao, Philippines, as bishop of Alaminos (area 24,492, population 684,000, Catholics 565,000, priests 52, religious 111), Philippines.
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