Vatican City, 30 May 2014 (VIS) – The Holy See Press Office has declared that the prayer meeting for peace, to which the Holy Father invited the presidents of Israel, Shimon Peres, and Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas, will take place in the Vatican on the afternoon of Sunday 8 June. Both parties have agreed to this date.
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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...[+]
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
Friday, May 30, 2014
Vatican City, 30 May 2014 (VIS) – Next Sunday afternoon, the Holy Father will participate in a charismatic convention at the Olympic Stadium of Rome, which will take place from 1-2 June with the theme “Convert! Believe! Receive the Holy Spirit!”. Francis will arrive at the stadium at 5 p.m. and will enjoy the event from a box in the VIP area. It will be the first ever papal visit to a stadium in the Italian capital. This celebration of faith, organised by Renewal in the Spirit, will be attended by representatives of more than fifty countries, and an influx of more than 52,000 people is expected. During the encounter, which will involve moments of prayer, music and dance, the Holy Father will give an address.
Vatican City, 30 May 2014 (VIS) – Pope Francis' universal prayer intention for June is: “That the unemployed may receive support and find the work they need to live in dignity”.
His intention for evangelisation is: “That Europe may rediscover its Christian roots through the witness of believers”.
Vatican City, 30 May 2014 (VIS) – On Thursday, 12 June, in the Consistory Hall of the Apostolic Palace, during the celebration of Terce, an ordinary public consistory will be held for the canonisation of the following Blesseds:
- Giovanni Antonio Farina, bishop of Vicenza, Italy, and founder of the Institute of the Sisters of Saint Dorothy, Daughters of the Sacred Hearts.
- Kuriakose Elias Chavara of the Holy Family, Indian priest and founder of the Congregation of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate.
- Ludovico de Casoria, Italian professed priest of the Order of Friars Minor, founder of the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of Saint Elizabeth (“Bigie”).
- Nicola da Longobardi, Italian professed oblate of the Order of Minims.
- Eufrasia Eluvathingal of the Sacred Heart, Indian professed religious of the Congregation of the Mother of Carmel.
- Amato Ronconi, Italian layperson of the Third Order of St. Francis, founder of the founder of the Hospital-Hospice for Poor Pilgrims of Saludecio, now the Beato Amato Ronconi Nursing Home.
Vatican City, 30 May 2014 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father received in audience:
- Professor Rolf Heuer, director general of the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN).
- Sixteen prelates of the Mexican Episcopal Conference on their “ad limina” visit:
Archbishop Constancio Miranda Weckmann of Chihuahua;
Bishop Juan Guillermo Lopez Soto of Cuauhtemoc-Madera;
Archbishop Hector Gonzalez Martinez of Durango, with his auxiliary, Bishop Enrique Sanchez Martinez;
Bishop Jose Guadalupe Torres Campos of Gomez Palacio;
Bishop Mario Espinosa Contreras of Mazatlan;
Bishop Jose Guadalupe Galvan Galindo of Torreon;
Bishop Jonas Guerrero Corona of Culiacan;
Bishop Jose Benjamin Castillo Plasencia of Celaya;
Bishop Francisco Moreno Barron of Tlaxcala;
Bishop Lucas Martinez Lara of Matehuala;
Archbishop Rafael Romo Munoz of Tijuana;
Bishop Rafael Valdez Torres of Ensenada;
Bishop Miguel Angel Alba Diaz of La Paz en la Baja California Sur;
Bishop Jose Isidro Guerrero Macias of Mexicali;
Bishop Salvador Rangel Mendoza of Huejutla.
Vatican City, 30 May 2014 (VIS) – The Holy Father has:
- appointed Fr. Stephan Burger as archbishop of Freiburg im Breisgau, (area 16,229, population 4,735,970, Catholics 1,953,041, priests 1,007, permanent deacons 246, religious 1,684), Germany. The bishop-elect was born in Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany in 1962 and was ordained a priest in 1990. He studied theology at the University of Freiburg im Breisgau and obtained a licentiate in canon law from the University of Munster. He has served in the following roles: deputy priest in the parishes of St. Martin at Tauberbischofsheim and St. Franziskus at Pforzheim; parish administrator and subsequently priest of the parish of St. Mauritius at St. Leon-Rot; promoter of justice and subsequently judicial vicar at the tribunal of the archdiocese of Freiburg im Breisgau; and canon of the cathedral chapter.
- appointed Fr. Jonas Benson Okoye as auxiliary of the diocese of Awka (area 1,551, population 1,645,044, Catholics 818,792, priests 337, religious 165), Nigeria. The bishop-elect was born in Kaduna, Nigeria in 1963 and was ordained a priest in 1992. He studied theology and canon law at the Catholic Institute of West Africa, Port Harcourt, and holds a licentiate in canon law from St. Paul's University, Ottawa, Canada and a doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Lateran University, Rome. He has served in a number of pastoral roles, including vicar of St. John's Parish, Ezinfite; priest of St. Peter's Parish, Oko; defender of the bond at the ecclesiastical tribunal of Awka; priest of St. John's Parish, Neni and deputy judicial vicar of the diocese of Awka; and priest of the Immaculate Conception Heart Parish, Ekwulobia. He is currently priest of the parish of St. Matthew, Amawbia, judicial vicar of the diocese of Awka, judge of the interdiocesan ecclesiastical tribunal of Onitsha, and president of the Nigerian Society of Canon Law.
- appointed Msgr. Paolo Giulietti as auxiliary of the metropolitan archdiocese of Perugia-Città della Pieve (area 1,900, population 286,645, Catholics 256,000, priests 195, religious 427), Italy. The bishop-elect was born in Perugia, Italy in 1964 and was ordained a priest in 1991. He studied at the Theological Institute of Assisi and the Pontifical Salesian University, where he obtained a licentiate in theology, youth pastoral and catechetics. He has served in a number of pastoral roles, including: vicar in the parish of San Sisto in Perugia, spiritual assistant of the Confraternity of St. Jacopo of Compostela; director of the National Office of Youth Pastoral of the Italian Episcopal Conference; and priest of the parish of St. Bartholomew the Apostle in Ponte San Giovanni. He is currently vicar general of the archdiocese of Perugia-Città della Pieve. He is also moderator of the Curia, canon of the Cathedral of San Lorenzo in Perugia, and regional head of itineraries of faith. He was named Chaplain of His Holiness in 2005.
On Thursday, 29 May the Holy Father:
- confirmed the erection of the eparchy of St. Basil the Great of Bucharest of the Romanians, Romania, with territory from the current archieparchy of Fagaras and Alba Iulia of the Romanians.
- confirmed the transfer of Bishop Mihai Catalin Fratila from the office of auxiliary of and protosyncellus of Fagaras and Alba Iulia of the Romanians to the new eparchy of St. Basil the Great of Bucharest of the Romanians, Romania.
Wednesday, May 28, 2014
Vatican City, 28 May 2014 (VIS) – The Holy Father arrived punctually in St. Peter's Square this Wednesday morning, and began his general audience by touring the square in the popemobile to greet the 35,000 faithful and pilgrims who awaited him, kissing children and blessing religious objects. He then went on to speak about his recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land, from which he returned on Monday. “It was a great gift for the Church”, he commented, “and I give thanks to God. He led me to that blessed Land, that has seen the historical presence of Jesus and where events fundamental to Judaism, Christianity and Islam took place”.
He explained that “the main aim of this pilgrimage was to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the historic encounter between Pope Pope VI and the Patriarch Athenagoras. It was the first time that a Successor of Peter visited the Holy Land: Paul VI thus inaugurated, during Vatican Council II, the tradition of papal trips outside Italy during the contemporary era. This prophetic gesture on the part of the bishop of Rome and the Patriarch of Constantinople constituted a milestone in the arduous but promising path towards unity among all Christians, which has taken important steps since then. Therefore, my encounter with His Holiness Bartholomew, beloved brother in Christ, was the culmination of the visit. We prayed together at the Holy Sepulchre, along with the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III, and the Armenian Apostolic Patriarch Nourhan, as well as archbishops and bishops from various Churches and Communities, civil authorities and many faithful”.
“In that place, where the proclamation of the Resurrection resounds, we all felt the bitterness and suffering of the divisions that continue to exist between Christ's disciples, and this has really done great harm, harm to the heart. We are still divided; in that place, where the proclamation of the Resurrection resounds, where Jesus gives us life, we are still divided. But above all, in that celebration so rich in mutual brotherhood, esteem and affection, we strongly heard the voice of the Risen Good Shepherd who wishes to bring together all His sheep in one flock; we felt the desire to heal the wounds that are still open and to follow with tenacity the path to full communion”.
“Once more, like my predecessors, I ask forgiveness for what we have done to promote that division, and I pray that the Holy Spirit may help us to heal the wounds we have inflicted on other brethren. We are all brothers in Christ, and with the Patriarch Bartholomew we are friends, brothers; we have shared the desire to walk together, to do what we are able to do today: to pray together, to work together for God's flock, to seek peace and protect creation, the many things that we have in common. We must move forward like brothers”.
Pope Francis went on to speak about a second aim of the pilgrimage: that of encouraging, in the region, the path to peace, “which is both a gift from God and a commitment for humankind”. He continued, “I always did this as a pilgrim, in the name of God and of humankind, carrying in my heart a great compassion for the sons of that Land, who have lived in conditions of war for too long and have the right to finally experience days of peace! For this reason I exhorted the Christian faithful to let themselves be anointed by the Holy Spirit, with an open and docile heart, to increasingly able to make gestures of humility, fraternity and reconciliation. The Spirit enables us to assume these attitudes in our daily life, with people of different cultures and religions, and to thereby become peacemakers”. He added, “peace is crafted day by day, and with an open heart to allow God's gift to enter”.
The Pontiff commended the efforts made by the Jordanian authorities and people to welcome the many refugees from war zones: “a humanitarian effort that deserves and needs the constant support of the international community. I was impressed by the generosity of the Jordanian people. May the Lord bless this welcoming people”. He also commented that in other places during his pilgrimage he had “encouraged the authorities involved to continue in their efforts to alleviate the tensions in the Middle East, especially in war-torn Syria, and to continue their search for an equitable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”. “For this reason”, he added, “I invited the president of Israel and the president of Palestine, men of peace and artisans of peace, to join me in the Vatican to pray together for peace”.
He commented that the trip had also offered “the opportunity to confirm the faith of the Christian communities, who suffer greatly, and to express the gratitude of all the Church for the presence of Christians in that area and throughout the Middle East. These brothers of ours are courageous witnesses of hope and charity, 'salt and light' in the Land. Through their life of faith and prayer, and with their greatly appreciated educational and welfare assistance, they work for reconciliation and forgiveness, contributing to the common good of society”.
“With this pilgrimage”, he concluded, “I wished be the bearer of a word of hope, but I also received this in return! I received it from the brothers and sisters who hope 'against all hope', amid the suffering of those who have fled their own countries on account of conflicts; of those who, throughout the world, are derided and discriminated against for their faith in Christ. Let us stay close to them! Let us pray for them, and for peace in the Holy Land and in the Middle East. May the prayer of all the Church also support the path to full unity between Christians, so that the world may believe in God's love that in Jesus Christ came to live among us”.
Pope Francis concluded by inviting the faithful to pray a Hail Mary for world peace.
Vatican City, 28 May 2014 (VIS) – In his greetings in various languages following today's catechesis, the Holy Father invited all those present to pray for peace in the Holy Land and throughout the Middle East, and gave thanks to those who accompanied with prayer his recent apostolic pilgrimage. He addressed special greetings to the English and Welsh pilgrims, members of the Catholic Police Association, as well as the members of the International Catholic Commission for Migration who are holding their plenary session in these days, and expressed his hope that this “concerted commitment may contribute to assisting many of our brethren in need”. He also thanked the Arab-speaking pilgrims, above all those from Jordan and the Holy Land, for the affectionate and generous welcome received during his trip and assured them that he will hold them forever in his heart and in his prayers, invoking “abundant goodness, continuing prosperity and lasting peace”.
Vatican City, 28 May 2014 (VIS) – Pope Francis has sent a message to the director general of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) for its 103rd Session, to take place in Geneva from 28 May to 12 June 2014, on the theme “Building a future with decent work”. During these fifteen days, the workers, representatives of business and governments of the 185 Member States of the ILO will discuss migration, employment policy strategies, ways out of informality and the strengthening of the convention on forced labour.
“This Conference has been convened at a crucial moment of social and economic history, one which presents challenges for the entire world”, writes the Pope. “Unemployment is tragically expanding the frontiers of poverty. This is particularly disheartening for unemployed young people who can all too easily become demoralised, losing their sense of worth, feeling alienated from society”.
“Another grave and related issue confronting our world is that of mass migration: the sheer numbers of men and women forced to seek work away from their homelands is a cause for concern. Despite their hopes for a better future, they frequently encounter mistrust and exclusion, to say nothing of experiencing tragedies and disasters. Having made such sacrifices, these men and women often fail to find dignified work and fall victim to a certain 'globalisation of indifference'. Their situation exposes them to further dangers such as the horror of human trafficking, forced labour and enslavement. It is unacceptable that, in our world, slave labour has become common coin. This cannot continue! Human trafficking is a scourge, a crime against the whole of humanity. It is time to join forces and work together to free its victims and to eradicate this crime that affects all of us, from individual families to the worldwide community”.
The Holy Father states that it is “time to reinforce existing forms of cooperation and to establish new avenues for expanding solidarity. This calls for: a renewed insistence on the dignity of every person; a more determined implementation of international labour standards; planning for a focused development on the human person as its central actor and primary beneficiary; a re-evaluation of the responsibilities of international corporations in the countries where they operate, including the areas of profit and investment management; and a concerted effort to encourage governments to facilitate the movement of migrants for the benefit of all, thus eliminating human trafficking and perilous travel conditions. Effective cooperation in these areas will be greatly assisted by defining future sustainable development goals”.
He concluded by remarking that the social teaching of the Church “supports the initiatives of the ILO which aim to promote the dignity of the human person and the nobility of human labour. I encourage you in your efforts to face the challenges of today’s world in fidelity to these lofty goals. At the same time, I invoke God’s blessing on all that you do to defend and advance the dignity of work for the common good of our human family”.
Vatican City, 28 May 2014 (VIS) –On Friday 30 May the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” will hold a meeting between Catholic charitable organisations working in the context of the crisis in Syria. The meeting, which receives the support of 25 organisations, will be divided into two phases. In the morning, following the introduction from Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of “Cor Unum”, there will be discourses from Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin; Archbishop Mario Zenari, apostolic nuncio in Syria; and Bishop Antoine Audo, president of Caritas Syria, after which they will present the activities carried out in the information office in Beirut, established last year to collect and distribute data on the work of Catholic bodies. In the afternoon they will focus on concrete aspects of the collaboration between the various actors in Syria and in neighbouring countries.
The aim of the meeting is to evaluate the work carried out so far by Catholic charitable organisations in the context of the crisis, highlighting the critical themes that have emerged and identifying future priorities.
Syria is at the centre of attention of the international community owing to the prolonged and grave humanitarian crisis resulting from the war. The Holy See, along with its diplomatic activity through the network of nunciatures, relations with local Churches and the work of Catholic charitable agencies, actively participates in aid and humanitarian assistance programmes. According to available data, the crisis has so far claimed around 160,000 victims, has driven more than two million refugees across its borders, mostly into countries in the Middle East and Mediterranean area, and has displaced more than 6 million within the country.
Vatican City, 28 May 2014 (VIS) – Today the Holy Father received in audience:
- Plamen Oresharski, prime minister of the Republic of Bulgaria, and entourage.
- Msgr. Francesco Follo, Holy See permanent observer to the United Nations Scientific, Educational and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Vatican City, 28 May 2014 (VIS) – The Holy Father has:
- appointed Bishop Jose Luiz Majella Delgado of Jatai as archbishop of Pouso Alegre (area 12,281, population 817,000, Catholics 739,000, priests 59, permanent deacons 1, religious 200), Brazil. He succeeds Archbishop Ricardo Pedro Chaves Pinto Filho, O. Praem., whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same archdiocese, upon reaching the age limit, was accepted by the Holy Father.
- appointed the following members of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki of Poznan, Poland, and Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg, Germany.
Vatican City, 28 May 2014 (VIS) – We inform our readers that no VIS bulletin will be transmitted tomorrow, Thursday 29 May, on the Solemnity of the Lord's Ascension, a feast day in the Vatican. Service will resume on Friday, 30 May.
Tuesday, May 27, 2014
Vatican City, 26 May 2014 (VIS) – At 11.45 a.m., after a five-kilometre journey by car, the Holy Father arrived at the Notre Dame of Jerusalem Centre where he received in audience the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu. An hour and a half later, the Pontiff was scheduled to lunch with the papal entourage, but instead he changed his plans and decided to eat in the refectory of the Convent of San Salvador with the Franciscans. At 2.15 p.m., after blessing the Tabernacle of the chapel in the centre built by the Legionaries of Christ in Galilee, he left the centre for the small Greek Orthodox “Viri – Galilaei” church on the Mount of Olives. From there he paid a brief private visit to the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, after which they both blessed a group of faithful gathered outside the church. The Pope departed for the Gethsemane church, located on the slopes of the Mount of Olives and entrusted to the Custodian of the Holy Land. Upon entry, he venerated the rock upon which Jesus prayed before his arrest, situated at the foot of the altar. He then entered, where he was awaited by priests, consecrated persons and seminarians.
“At the hour which God had appointed to save humanity from its enslavement to sin, Jesus came here, to Gethsemane, to the foot of the Mount of Olives”, said the Pope. “We now find ourselves in this holy place, a place sanctified by the prayer of Jesus, by his agony, by his sweating of blood, and above all by his 'yes' to the loving will of the Father. We dread in some sense to approach what Jesus went through at that hour; we tread softly as we enter that inner space where the destiny of the world was decided. In that hour, Jesus felt the need to pray and to have with him his disciples, his friends, those who had followed him and shared most closely in his mission. But here, at Gethsemane, following him became difficult and uncertain; they were overcome by doubt, weariness and fright. As the events of Jesus’ passion rapidly unfolded, the disciples would adopt different attitudes before the Master: attitudes of closeness, distance, hesitation.
“Here, in this place, each of us – bishops, priests, consecrated persons, and seminarians – might do well to ask: Who am I, before the sufferings of my Lord? Am I among those who, when Jesus asks them to keep watch with him, fall asleep instead, and rather than praying, seek to escape, refusing to face reality? Or do I see myself in those who fled out of fear, who abandoned the Master at the most tragic hour in his earthly life? Is there perhaps duplicity in me, like that of the one who sold our Lord for thirty pieces of silver, who was once called Jesus’ 'friend', and yet ended up by betraying him? Do I see myself in those who drew back and denied him, like Peter? Shortly before, he had promised Jesus that he would follow him even unto death; but then, put to the test and assailed by fear, he swore he did not know him. Am I like those who began planning to go about their lives without him, like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, foolish and slow of heart to believe the words of the prophets?
“Or, thanks be to God, do I find myself among those who remained faithful to the end, like the Virgin Mary and the Apostle John?” he continued. “On Golgotha, when everything seemed bleak and all hope seemed pointless, only love proved stronger than death. The love of the Mother and the beloved disciple made them stay at the foot of the Cross, sharing in the pain of Jesus, to the very end. Do I recognise myself in those who imitated their Master to the point of martyrdom, testifying that he was everything to them, the incomparable strength sustaining their mission and the ultimate horizon of their lives? Jesus’ friendship with us, his faithfulness and his mercy, are a priceless gift which encourages us to follow him trustingly, notwithstanding our failures, our mistakes, also our betrayals.”
Pope Francis emphasised that “the Lord’s goodness does not dispense us from the need for vigilance before the Tempter, before sin, before the evil and the betrayal which can enter even into the religious and priestly life. We are all exposed to sin, to evil, to betrayal. We are fully conscious of the disproportion between the grandeur of God’s call and of own littleness, between the sublimity of the mission and the reality of our human weakness. Yet the Lord in his great goodness and his infinite mercy always takes us by the hand lest we drown in the sea of our fears and anxieties. He is ever at our side, he never abandons us. And so, let us not be overwhelmed by fear or disheartened, but with courage and confidence let us press forward in our journey and in our mission”.
He reminded those present that they were called to follow the Lord with joy in this holy land. “It is a gift and also a responsibility. Your presence here is extremely important”, and added that the whole Church was grateful for their work and sustains them with her prayers. He also offered his greetings to all Christians in Jerusalem: “I would like to assure them that I remember them affectionately and that I pray for them, being well aware of the difficulties they experience in this city. I urge them to be courageous witnesses of the passion of the Lord but also of his resurrection, with joy and hope”. He concluded, “let us imitate the Virgin Mary and Saint John, and stand by all those crosses where Jesus continues to be crucified. This is how the Lord calls us to follow him: this is the path, there is no other! 'Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also'”.
Vatican City, 26 May 2014 (VIS) – The Cenacle or “Upper Room”, the first location of the nascent Church and the place in which the priesthood, the Eucharist and the Reconciliation were instituted, was the last stage of the Holy Father's pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Francis celebrated Mass there yesterday afternoon, in which the Ordinaries of the Holy Land and the clergy in the Pope's entourage concelebrated. Due to limited space, the ceremony was not open to the public.
Christian tradition regarding the authenticity of the Upper Room is ancient and dates back to the third century. In the fourth century the new church next to the Upper Room, the “Holy Zion”, was built. Destroyed by the Persians in 614, it was restored and then destroyed again by Muslims. It was in ruins, with the exception of the chapel two floors from the Upper Room, when the Crusaders arrived in the Holy Land; they built a basilica with three naves. In 1187, Jerusalem came under the rule of Saladin, who permitted access to pilgrims and the celebration of the Eucharist by priests. By the time the Franciscans arrived in the Holy Land in 1335, the Basilica had been almost entirely destroyed, and so the Friars rebuilt it and, in addition, established a convent. From then on the Superior of the Custodians of the Holy Land assumed the title of “Guardian of Mount Zion”. In 1524, the Muslims appropriated the rooms below the Cenacle, claiming that they were the “Tomb of the prophet David”. Subsequently, an Ottoman decree expelled the Franciscans from the Upper Room; they were also forced to abandon the adjacent monastery, and the Cenacle was converted into a mosque to which Christians were denied access. The building including the Upper Room is currently the property of the Israeli State (since 1948), but remains under the jurisdiction of the Waqf (Custodian of Islamic holy places) of Jordan, exclusively for use for religious purposes. The supreme head of the Waqf is the Jordan monarch, King Abdullah II.
“It is a great gift that the Lord has given us by bringing us together here in the Upper Room for the celebration of the Eucharist”, said the Pope in his homily. “I greet you with fraternal joy and I wish to express my affection to the Oriental Catholic Patriarchs who have taken part in my pilgrimage during these days. I want to thank them for their significant presence, particularly dear to me and I assure them of a special place in my heart and in my prayers. Here, where Jesus shared the Last Supper with the apostles; where, after his resurrection, he appeared in their midst; where the Holy Spirit descended with power upon Mary and the disciples, here the Church was born, and she was born to go forth. From here she set out, with the broken bread in her hands, the wounds of Christ before her eyes, and the Spirit of love in her heart. In the Upper Room, the risen Jesus, sent by the Father, bestowed upon the apostles his own Spirit and with his power he sent them forth to renew the face of the earth. To go forth, to set out, does not mean to forget. The Church, in her going forth, preserves the memory of what took place here; the Spirit, the Paraclete, reminds her of every word and every action, and reveals their true meaning”.
He continued, “The Upper Room speaks to us of service, of Jesus giving the disciples an example by washing their feet. Washing one another’s feet signifies welcoming, accepting, loving and serving one another. It means serving the poor, the sick and the outcast, those whom I find difficult, those who annoy me. The Upper Room reminds us, through the Eucharist, of sacrifice. In every Eucharistic celebration Jesus offers himself for us to the Father, so that we too can be united with him, offering to God our lives, our work, our joys and our sorrows… offering everything as a spiritual sacrifice. The Upper Room also reminds us of friendship. 'No longer do I call you servants – Jesus said to the Twelve – but I have called you friends'. The Lord makes us his friends, he reveals God’s will to us and he gives us his very self. This is the most beautiful part of being a Christian and, especially, of being a priest: becoming a friend of the Lord Jesus, and discovering in our hearts that he is our friend. The Upper Room reminds us of the Teacher’s farewell and his promise to return to his friends: 'When I go… I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also'. Jesus does not leave us, nor does he ever abandon us; he precedes us to the house of the Father, where he desires to bring us as well”.
“The Upper Room, however, also reminds us of pettiness, of curiosity – 'Who is the traitor?' – and of betrayal. We ourselves, and not just others, can reawaken those attitudes whenever we look at our brother or sister with contempt, whenever we judge them, whenever by our sins we betray Jesus. The Upper Room reminds us of sharing, fraternity, harmony and peace among ourselves. How much love and goodness has flowed from the Upper Room! How much charity has gone forth from here, like a river from its source, beginning as a stream and then expanding and becoming a great torrent. All the saints drew from this source; and hence the great river of the Church’s holiness continues to flow: from the Heart of Christ, from the Eucharist and from the Holy Spirit”.
“Lastly, the Upper Room reminds us of the birth of the new family, the Church, our holy Mother the hierarchical Church established by the risen Jesus; a family that has a Mother, the Virgin Mary. Christian families belong to this great family, and in it they find the light and strength to press on and be renewed, amid the challenges and difficulties of life. All God’s children, of every people and language, are invited and called to be part of this great family, as brothers and sisters and sons and daughters of the one Father in heaven”.
“These horizons are opened up by the Upper Room, the horizons of the Risen Lord and his Church”, concluded the Holy Father. “From here the Church goes forth, impelled by the life-giving breath of the Spirit. Gathered in prayer with the Mother of Jesus, the Church lives in constant expectation of a renewed outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Send forth your Spirit, Lord, and renew the face of the earth!”.
Following the Eucharistic celebration, the Pope transferred to Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport for his return flight to Rome, departing at 7.15 p.m. and arriving at Rome's Ciampino airport at 11 p.m.
Vatican City, 27 May 2014 (VIS) – “I want to say, with great humility, that terrorism is bad! It is bad in its origins and it is bad in its results. It is bad because it is born of hate, and it is bad in its results because it does not construct, it destroys! May all people understand that the path of terrorism does not help. The way of terrorism is fundamentally criminal. I pray for all these victims and for all victims of terrorism in the world. Please, no more terrorism! It is a dead-end street”.
These were the words spoken by Pope Francis yesterday, before the tomb commemorating the victims of terrorism in Israel.
Vatican City, 27 May 2014 (VIS) – At the end of his trip, during the flight from Tel Aviv to Rome, Pope Francis spoke for over 40 minutes with the journalists who accompanied him on the flight, answering their questions on various issues linked not only to his pilgrimage to the Holy Land, but also in relation to the abuse of minors, remarried divorcees, his upcoming trips, priestly celibacy, and so on. Below is a summary of some of the Pope's answers.
The Holy Land and the prayer meeting in the Vatican with Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas.
The most authentic gestures are those that we don't think about, those that come to us, aren't they? I thought about suggesting it during the trip, but there were many logistical problems, because each one has to consider the territory, and it's not easy. So I thought about a meeting, and at the end, I came up with this invitation. It will be an encounter to pray, not for the purposes of mediation. We will pray with the two presidents; prayer is important, it helps. Afterwards, each person will return home. There would be a rabbi, a Muslim, and myself.
Abuse of minors
At the moment there are three bishops under investigations: one has already been found guilty and we are now considering the penalty to be imposed. There are no privileges. … A priest who does this betrays the Body of the Lord, because this priest must lead this child, this boy, this girl, to sanctity, and this boy or girl trusts in him; and instead of leading them to sanctity he abuses them. This is very serious. It is like, by way of comparison, holding a black Mass. You are supposed to lead them to sanctity and instead you lead them to a problem that will last their entire lives. In a few days' time there will be a Mass at the Domus Sanctae Marthae with some survivors of abuse, and then a meeting with them. … But we must move forward on this issue, with zero tolerance!
Contradiction between the poor and austere Church and the financial scandals within
The Gospel tells us that Lord Jesus once said to His disciples that it is inevitable that there will be scandals, because we are human and we are sinners. And there will be scandals. The key is trying to avoid that there are more of them! Economic administration calls for honesty and transparency. The two Commissions, the one which has studied the IOR and the Commission that has studied the Vatican as whole, have reached their conclusions, and now the ministry, the Secretariat for the economy directed by Cardinal Pell, will carry out the reforms that the two Commissions have advised. … For instance, in the IOR I think that around 1,600 accounts have been closed, belonging to people who were not entitled to hold an account at the IOR. The IOR exists to help the Church, and accounts can be held by bishops, Vatican employees, and their widows or widowers, to draw their pensions. … But other private individuals are not entitled to accounts. It is not open to all.
There is a key word: unemployment. This is a serious matter. It is serious because I look at it this way, simplifying somewhat. We are in a global economic system which places money at its centre, not the human person. A true economic system should revolve around men and women, the human person. This economic system we have today places money at the centre and to maintain its equilibrium, it has to carry out various “waste” measures. Children are discarded, as the low birth rates in Europe show, and the elderly are abandoned.
Stable and lasting peace in Jerusalem
The Catholic Church has established its position from a religious point of view: it will be the city of peace for the three religions. The concrete measures for peace must come from negotiations. I agree that from the negotiations perhaps it will emerge that it will be the capital of one State or another, it would be madness on my part. But these are hypotheses, and I do not consider myself competent to say that we should do one thing or another. I believe that it is necessary to negotiate with honesty, fraternity and great trust in the path of negotiation. It takes courage to do this, and I pray that these two leaders, these two governments will have the courage to take this path. It is the only route to peace.
The Catholic Church has married priests – Greek Catholics, Coptic Catholics, those of oriental rites. Celibacy is not a question of dogma, but rather a rule of life that I greatly appreciate, as I believe it is a gift for the Church. But, since it is not a dogma of faith, the door is always open.
Relations with the Orthodox Churches
Patriarch Bartholomew and I spoke about the unity we create as we walk together. Unity cannot be created in a congress on theology. He confirmed that Athenagoras said to Paul VI: “We go ahead together, calmly, and put all the theologians together on an island where they can discuss among themselves, and we walk ahead in life!”. There are many things we can do to help each other. For instance, with the Churches. In Rome, as in many cities, many Orthodox go to Catholic churches. Another thing we mentioned, that may be considered in the pan-orthodox Council, is the date of Easter, because it is somewhat ridiculous to say, “When is your Christ resurrected? Mine was resurrected last week”. Yes, the date of Easter is a sign of unity. … We also spoke a lot on the problems of ecology, and the need to work together on this issue.
Forthcoming trips and the problems faced by Christians in Asia
With regard to Asia, two trips are planned: the one to South Korea, for the meeting of young Asians, and then, next January, a two-day trip to Sri Lanka and then on to the Philippines, to the area affected by the typhoon. The problem of the lack of freedom of worship affects not only certain Asian countries, but also other countries in the world. Religious freedom is something that not all countries have. Some have a certain level of control … others adopt measures that lead to a real persecution of believers. There are martyrs! There are martyrs in our times, Christian martyrs, both Catholic and non-Catholic. There are places where it is forbidden to wear a crucifix or to possess a Bible; where it is forbidden to teach the catechism to children.
Abdication from the pontificate in the case of failing strength and the issue of Popes emeritus
I will do what the Lord tells me to do: pray, and seek God's will. But I think that Benedict XVI is not a unique case. It happened because he no longer had the strength and in an honest way – he is a man of faith, and humble – he took this decision. Seventy years ago bishops emeritus barely existed, whereas now there are many. What will happen to Popes emeritus? I think that we must look to him as an institution. He has opened a door, the door of Popes emeritus. Will there be others? Only God knows. But this door is open, and I think that a bishop of Rome, a Pope who feels that his strength is declining – because we live much longer now – must ask himself the same questions that Pope Benedict faced.
Beatification of Pius XII
The cause for Pius XII is open. However, there has been no miracle, and if there are no miracles it is not yet possible to go ahead.
Synod on the family and remarried divorcees
The Synod in October will be on the family and the problems it faces; its riches and its current situation. I do not like the fact that many people, even within the Church, have said that it will be the Synod about remarried divorcees, as if it could simply be reduced to a case study: can they receive communion or not? The issue is much broader. Today, as we all know, the family is in crisis, and it is a global crisis. Young people no longer want to get married, or prefer simply to live together; marriage is in crisis, and therefore the family is too. The problem of family pastoral care is very broad. Pope Benedict said something about the family three times: it is necessary to study the faith with which a person approaches marriage and clarify that divorcees are not excommunicated, and very often they are treated as if they are.
Reform of the Roman Curia
The council of eight cardinals is studying the constitution “Pastor bonus” and the Roman Curia. It has consulted many people and with the Curia and is still studying certain issues, such as bringing together various dicasteries to streamline organisation. One of the key points is the economy, and it is therefore necessary to work in collaboration with the secretary of State. … The obstacles are those one encounters in any process of this type. Planning the approach, the work of persuasion is very important. There are some people who do not see this clearly, but any reform involves these things. But I am content, in truth.
Vatican City, 27 May 2014 (VIS) – The Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff has published the following calendar of liturgical celebrations over which the Holy Father will preside from September to November:
Sunday, 8: Pentecost. At 10 a.m., Holy Mass in the Papal Chapel of the Vatican Basilica.
Thursday, 12: At 10 a.m. in the Consistory Hall, Consistory for various causes of canonisation.
Thursday, 19: Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. At 7 p.m., St. John Lateran, Holy Mass in the Papal Chapel. Procession to St. Mary Major and Eucharistic blessing.
Saturday 21: Pastoral visit to Cassano all'Jonio.
Sunday 29: Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul. At 9.30 a.m., in the Papal Chapel: Holy Mass and imposition of the pallium on the new metropolitan archbishops.
Saturday, 5: Pastoral visit to Campobasso and Isernia.
Wednesday, 13. Apostolic trip to the Republic of Korea for the Sixth Asian Youth Day.
Vatican City, 27 May 2014 (VIS) – The Holy Father has:
- accepted the resignation from the office of auxiliary of the archdiocese of Lodz, Poland, presented by Bishop Adam Lepa, upon reaching the age limit.
- accepted the resignation from the office of auxiliary of the archdiocese of Washington, U.S.A., presented by Bishop Francisco Gonzalez Valer, S.F., upon reaching the age limit.
- gave his assent to the election by the Synod of Bishops of the Greek-Catholic Ukrainian Church of Fr. Yosafat Moshchych as auxiliary of the archieparchy of Ivano-Frankivsk of the Ukrainians, Ukraine. The bishop-elect was born in Stariy Rozdil, Ukraine in 1976 and was ordained a priest in 1999. He holds a licentiate in moral theology from the Alphonsianum Academy, Rome, and has served as Superior General of the missionary congregation of St. Andrew the Apostle. He is currently “sincellus” for laical aggregations in the archieparchy of Ivano-Frankivsk of the Ukrainians, Ukraine.
Monday, May 26, 2014
Vatican City, 26 May 2014 (VIS) – Pope Francis and the president of the State of Israel, Shimon Peres, met this morning in the Presidential Palace. It was a very cordial private meeting during which the Holy Father commented that he would like to invent a new Beatitude, “one I can apply to myself today: 'Blessed is he who enters the house of a wise and good man”. They then left the building for the palace gardens to plant an olive tree together as a symbol of peace. This was followed by the public meeting, which took place on a specially installed stage, in the presence of around a hundred children of various religions.
“I am grateful to you, Mr President, for your kind and sage words of greeting and your warm welcome”, said the Holy Father. “I am happy to be able to meet you once again, this time in Jerusalem, the city which preserves the Holy Places dear to the three great religions which worship the God who called Abraham. The Holy Places are not monuments or museums for tourists, but places where communities of believers daily express their faith and culture, and carry out their works of charity. Precisely for this reason, their sacred character must be perpetually maintained and protection given not only to the legacy of the past but also to all those who visit these sites today and to those who will visit them in the future. May Jerusalem be truly the City of Peace! May her identity and her sacred character, her universal religious and cultural significance shine forth as a treasure for all mankind! How good it is when pilgrims and residents enjoy free access to the Holy Places and can freely take part in religious celebrations”.
“Mr President, you are known as a man of peace and a peacemaker”, he continued. “I appreciate and admire the approach you have taken. Peacemaking demands first and foremost respect for the dignity and freedom of every human person, which Jews, Christians and Muslims alike believe to be created by God and destined to eternal life. This shared conviction enables us resolutely to pursue peaceful solutions to every controversy and conflict. Here I renew my plea that all parties avoid initiatives and actions which contradict their stated determination to reach a true agreement and that they tirelessly work for peace, with decisiveness and tenacity”.
“There is likewise the need for a firm rejection of all that is opposed to the cultivation of peace and respectful relations between Jews, Christians and Muslims. We think, for example, of recourse to violence and terrorism, all forms of discrimination on the basis of race or religion, attempts to impose one’s own point of view at the expense of the rights of others, anti-Semitism in all its possible expressions, and signs of intolerance directed against individuals or places of worship, be they Jewish, Christian or Muslim”.
He recalled that “a variety of Christian communities live and work in the State of Israel. They are an integral part of society and participate fully in its civic, political and cultural affairs. Christians wish, as such, to contribute to the common good and the growth of peace; they wish to do so as full-fledged citizens who reject extremism in all its forms and are committed to fostering reconciliation and harmony. The presence of these communities and respect for their rights – as for the rights of all other religious groups and all minorities – are the guarantee of a healthy pluralism and proof of the vitality of democratic values as they are authentically embodied in the daily life and workings of the State”.
“Mr President”, he concluded, “you know that I pray for you and I know that you are praying for me, and I assure you of my continued prayers for the institutions and the citizens of the State of Israel. I likewise assure you of my constant prayer for the attainment of peace and all the inestimable goods which accompany it: security, tranquillity, prosperity and – the most beautiful of all – fraternity. Finally, my thoughts turn to all those afflicted by the continuing crises in the Middle East. I pray that their sufferings may soon be alleviated by an honourable resolution of hostilities. Peace be upon Israel and the entire Middle East! Shalom!”.
The Pontiff, following the meeting, continued his visit at the Pontifical Institute “Notre Dame of Jerusalem Centre”, a centre of the Augustine Fathers of the Assumption of France, which welcomes pilgrims to the Holy Land and is considered as an ecumenical centre and territorial prelature, whose prelate is the Apostolic Delegate in Jerusalem and Palestine. Here he received in private audience the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu.
Vatican City, 26 May 2014 (VIS) – Pope Francis today paid a courtesy visit to the Chief Rabbinate of Israel at the Heichal Shlomo, where he met with the two Chief Rabbis, Yona Metzger (Ashkenazi) and Shlomo Amar (Sephardi). Both also met with Benedict XVI during his pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 2009.
After a brief discussion with the two Rabbis, Francis addressed those gathered at Heichal Shlomo, first demonstrating his joy for the warm welcome he has received and then commenting that, as archbishop of Buenos Aires, he had counted many Jewish brethren among his friends.
“Together we organised rewarding occasions of encounter and dialogue; with them I also experienced significant moments of sharing on a spiritual level. In the first months of my pontificate, I was able to receive various organisations and representatives from the Jewish community worldwide. As was the case with my predecessors, there have been many requests for such meetings. Together with the numerous initiatives taking place on national and local levels, these testify to our mutual desire to know one another better, to listen to each other and to build bonds of true fraternity”.
He observed, “This journey of friendship represents one of the fruits of the Second Vatican Council, and particularly of the Declaration Nostra Aetate, which proved so influential and whose fiftieth anniversary we will celebrate next year. I am convinced that the progress which has been made in recent decades in the relationship between Jews and Catholics has been a genuine gift of God, one of those great works for which we are called to bless his holy name: 'Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his love endures forever; who alone has wrought marvellous works, for his love endures forever'”.
“A gift of God, yes, but one which would not have come about without the efforts of so many courageous and generous people, Jews and Christians alike. Here I would like to mention in particular the growing importance of the dialogue between the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and the Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews. Inspired by the visit of Pope John Paul II to the Holy Land, this dialogue was inaugurated in 2002 and is already in its twelfth year. I would like to think that, in terms of the Jewish tradition of the Bar Mitzvah, it is just coming of age. I am confident that it will continue and have a bright future in years to come”.
“We need to do more than simply establish reciprocal and respectful relations on a human level”, he remarked. “We are also called, as Christians and Jews, to reflect deeply on the spiritual significance of the bond existing between us. It is a bond whose origins are from on high, one which transcends our own plans and projects, and one which remains intact despite all the difficulties which, sadly, have marked our relationship in the past. On the part of Catholics, there is a clear intention to reflect deeply on the significance of the Jewish roots of our own faith. I trust that, with your help, on the part of Jews too, there will be a continued and even growing interest in knowledge of Christianity, also in this holy land to which Christians trace their origins. This is especially to be hoped for among young people”.
“Mutual understanding of our spiritual heritage, appreciation for what we have in common and respect in matters on which we disagree: all these can help to guide us to a closer relationship, an intention which we put in God’s hands. Together, we can make a great contribution to the cause of peace; together, we can bear witness, in this rapidly changing world, to the perennial importance of the divine plan of creation; together, we can firmly oppose every form of anti-Semitism and all other forms of discrimination”, he concluded. “May the Lord help us to walk with confidence and strength in his ways. Shalom!”
Vatican City, 25 May 2014 (VIS) – At 8 a.m. the Pope transferred from Temple Mount to the Western Wall, or “Wailing Wall”. Fifteen metres high, this wall is a place of worship for the Jews for historical and religious reasons, and is linked to numerous traditions such as that of leaving prayers written on small pieces of paper between the blocks of the wall. Francis was received by the Chief Rabbi, who accompanied him to the wall. The Pope prayed in silence before the wall and, like his predecessors, left a piece of paper on which he had written the Lord's Prayer; he said, “I have written it in Spanish because it is the language I learned from my mother”.
He then proceeded to Monte Herzl where, in accordance with protocol on official visits and assisted by a Christian boy and girl, he left a wreath of flowers in the Israel national cemetery at the tomb of Theodore Herzl, founder of the Zionist movement. The Holy Father also strayed slightly from his itinerary to pray at a tomb for the victims of terrorism in Israel.
He then travelled by car to the Yad Vashem Memorial, a monument built in 1953 by the State of Israel to commemorate the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Along with the president and director of the Centre, the Pope walked around the perimeter of the Mausoleum before entering the Remembrance Hall, where he was awaited by the president, the prime minister, and the Rabbi president of the Council of Yad Vashem. Inside the Hall there is a monument with an eternal flame positioned in front of the crypt, which contains several urns with the ashes of victims of various concentration camps. The Pope lit the flame, placed a yellow and white floral wreath in the Mausoleum and, before his address, read from the Old Testament. He then spoke briefly about strength and the pain of man's inhuman evil and on the “structures of sin” that oppose the dignity of the human person, created in the image and semblance of God.
“'Adam, where are you?'. Where are you, o man? What have you come to? In this place, this memorial of the Shoah, we hear God’s question echo once more: 'Adam, where are you?' This question is charged with all the sorrow of a Father who has lost his child. The Father knew the risk of freedom; he knew that his children could be lost… yet perhaps not even the Father could imagine so great a fall, so profound an abyss! Here, before the boundless tragedy of the Holocaust, that cry – “Where are you?” – echoes like a faint voice in an unfathomable abyss…
“Adam, who are you? I no longer recognise you. Who are you, o man? What have you become? Of what horror have you been capable? What made you fall to such depths? Certainly it is not the dust of the earth from which you were made. The dust of the earth is something good, the work of my hands. Certainly it is not the breath of life which I breathed into you. That breath comes from me, and it is something good.
“No, this abyss is not merely the work of your own hands, your own heart… Who corrupted you? Who disfigured you? Who led you to presume that you are the master of good and evil? Who convinced you that you were god? Not only did you torture and kill your brothers and sisters, but you sacrificed them to yourself, because you made yourself a god.
“Today, in this place, we hear once more the voice of God: “Adam, where are you?”
“From the ground there rises up a soft cry: 'Have mercy on us, O Lord!' To you, O Lord our God, belongs righteousness; but to us confusion of face and shame.
“A great evil has befallen us, such as never happened under the heavens. Now, Lord, hear our prayer, hear our plea, save us in your mercy. Save us from this horror.
“Almighty Lord, a soul in anguish cries out to you. Hear, Lord, and have mercy! We have sinned against you. You reign for ever. Remember us in your mercy. Grant us the grace to be ashamed of what we men have done, to be ashamed of this massive idolatry, of having despised and destroyed our own flesh which you formed from the earth, to which you gave life with your own breath of life. Never again, Lord, never again!
“'Adam, where are you?' Here we are, Lord, shamed by what man, created in your own image and likeness, was capable of doing. Remember us in your mercy”.
The Holy Father concluded his visit by speaking with some Holocaust survivors and signed the Yad Vashem Book of Honour, where he wrote: “With shame for what man, created in the image and likeness of God, was able to do. With shame that man become the patron of evil; with the shame for what man, believing himself to be god, sacrificed his brothers to himself. Never again! Never again!"
He bid farewell to the chorus and the authorities who had greeted him upon arrival, and left by car for the Heichal Shlomo Centre.
Vatican City, 26 May 2014 (VIS) – Early this morning the Holy Father visited the Esplanade of the Mosques, or Temple Mount. An artificial esplanade, trapezoid in shape, it occupies a sixth of the surface area of the Old City. This area is significant for the three monotheistic religions, and is thrice holy: for Jews, it is the place where Abraham would have sacrificed Isaac, as well as the site of the Temple of Solomon; for Muslims, it is the third destination for pilgrims after Mecca and Medina; and for Christians, it is the place of Christ's prophecy of the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem. In the area there are two of most important Muslim shrines, the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock.
The Pope's car entered by the al-Asbat gate and arrived at the entrance of the Dome of the Rock, where he was received by the Great Mufti Muhammad Ahmad Husayn, supreme judicial-religious authority of Jerusalem and the Arab Muslim people in Palestine, and the director-general of the council of the “Waqf” (Islamic religious assets). After a brief visit he was accompanied to the Al-Kubbah Al-Nahawiyya building, where he was awaited by the high representatives of the Islamic community.
“Following in the footsteps of my predecessors, and in particular the historic visit of Pope Paul VI fifty years ago, the first visit of a Pope to the Holy Land, I have greatly desired to come as a pilgrim to the places which witnessed the earthly presence of Jesus Christ”, said the Pope. But my pilgrimage would not be complete if it did not also include a meeting with the people and the communities who live in this Land. I am particularly happy, therefore, to be with you, dear Muslim faithful, brothers. Francis recalled Abraham, “who lived as a pilgrim in these lands. Muslims, Christians and Jews see in him, albeit in different ways, a father in faith and a great example to be imitated. He became a pilgrim, leaving his own people and his own house in order to embark on that spiritual adventure to which God called him”.
The Pope went on to describe a pilgrim as, like Abraham, “a person who makes himself poor and sets forth on a journey. Pilgrims set out intently toward a great and longed-for destination, and they live in the hope of a promise received. This was how Abraham lived, and this should be our spiritual attitude. We can never think ourselves self-sufficient, masters of our own lives. We cannot be content with remaining withdrawn, secure in our convictions. Before the mystery of God we are all poor. We realise that we must constantly be prepared to go out from ourselves, docile to God’s call and open to the future that he wishes to create for us.
“In our earthly pilgrimage we are not alone. We cross paths with other faithful; at times we share with them a stretch of the road and at other times we experience with them a moment of rest which refreshes us. Such is our meeting today, for which I am particularly grateful. It is a welcome and shared moment of rest, made possible by your hospitality, on the pilgrimage of our life and that of our communities. We are experiencing a fraternal dialogue and exchange which are able to restore us and offer us new strength to confront the common challenges before us”.
“Nor can we forget that the pilgrimage of Abraham was also a summons to righteousness”, he continued. “God wanted him to witness his way of acting and to imitate him. We too wish to witness to God’s working in the world, and so, precisely in this meeting, we hear deep within us his summons to work for peace and justice, to implore these gifts in prayer and to learn from on high mercy, magnanimity and compassion”.
In conclusion, the Pope launched an appeal to “all communities who look to Abraham: may we respect and love one another as brothers and sisters! May we learn to understand the sufferings of others! May no one abuse the name of God through violence! May we work together for justice and peace! Salaam!”
ECUMENICAL ENCOUNTER IN THE HOLY SEPULCHRE: LET US NOT DEPRIVE THE WORLD OF THE PROCLAMATION OF THE RESURRECTION
Vatican City, 26 May 2014 (VIS) – After signing the Joint Declaration, the Holy Father and the Patriarch Bartholomew went to the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre to take part in an ecumenical celebration. The Pope entered the Square by the Muristan arch, while the Patriarch entered by the gate of St. Helena. The celebration continued with the participation of the Ordinaries of the Holy Land, the Syrian archbishop, the Ethiopian archbishop, the Anglican bishop, the Lutheran bishop, and others. It was also attended by the general consuls of the five countries who guarantee the “Statu quo” of the Basilica (France, Belgium, Spain, Italy and Greece), and the other consuls of the “Corpus separatum” of Jerusalem (Switzerland, the United States, Turkey, and the United Kingdom).
The Holy Sepulchre is, according to tradition, the place where the burial, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ took place. After the repression of the Jewish revolt in 135, Jerusalem underwent a radical change: the Jews, Samaritans and Judeo-Christians were expelled and their return was prohibited. Hadrian, with the intention of eliminating every trace of the religion that had provoked two violent revolts, destroyed all places of worship, and the Holy Sepulchre suffered the same fate: it was razed to the ground, its cavities filled with earth, and a temple to the goddess Venus-Ishtar was built over it. During the first ecumenical Council of Nicaea, the bishop of Jerusalem, Macarius, invited the emperor Constantine to restore to light the Holy Sepulchre, which, beneath the rubble, was perfectly preserved. The Basilica of the Resurrection to be built there at the behest of the Empress Helena, mother of Constantine, and went on to have a tumultuous history throughout the centuries. The stone that sealed the tomb was broken during the Persian invasion of 614 and it went on to suffer further damages until the decision of the Crusaders in 1099 to enclose all the monuments to the death and Resurrection of Christ in a single building, which remained almost unaltered until the end of the nineteenth century. Further damages resulted from the earthquake in 1927 and the first Arab-Israel war in 1948.
The Basilica continues to be regulated according to the “Statu quo”, and it is the property of three communities: the Latins (represented by the Friars Minor), the Greek Orthodox and the Armenian Orthodox; the Coptic Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox and the Ethiopian Orthodox may officiate in the Basilica. At the entrance, in the atrium, there is the Stone of the Anointing, which according to tradition indicates the place where Jesus, deposed from the Cross, was anointed.
Pope Francis and the Patriarch Bartholomew were received by the three superiors of the communities of the “Statu Quo” (Greek Orthodox, Franciscan and Armenian Apostolic). The Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III and the Custodian of Jerusalem, Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, O.F.M. Cap., and the Armenian Apostolic Patriarch, His Beatitude Archbishop Nourhan Manougian, venerated the Stone of the Anointing, followed by the Pope and the Ecumenical Patriarch.
After the proclamation of the Gospel and the words of Patriarch Bartholomew, the Holy Father gave an address in which he commented that the Basilica, “which all Christians regard with the deepest veneration”, his pilgrimage in the company of my "beloved brother in Christ, His Holiness Bartholomew, now reaches its culmination. We are making this pilgrimage in the footsteps of our venerable predecessors, Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras, who, with courage and docility to the Holy Spirit, made possible, fifty years ago, in this holy city of Jerusalem, an historic meeting between the Bishop of Rome and the Patriarch of Constantinople. I cordially greet all of you who are present. In a special way I express my heartfelt gratitude to those who have made this moment possible: His Beatitude Theophilos, who has welcomed us so graciously, His Beatitude Nourhan Manougian and Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa”.
“It is an extraordinary grace to be gathered here in prayer”, he continued. “The empty tomb, that new garden grave where Joseph of Arimathea had reverently placed Jesus’ body, is the place from which the proclamation of the resurrection begins. … This proclamation, confirmed by the testimony of those to whom the risen Lord appeared, is the heart of the Christian message, faithfully passed down from generation to generation. … This is the basis of the faith which unites us, whereby together we profess that Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of the Father and our sole Lord, 'suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried; he descended into hell; on the third day he rose again from the dead'. Each of us, everyone baptised in Christ, has spiritually risen from this tomb, for in baptism all of us truly became members of the body of the One who is the Firstborn of all creation; we were buried together with him, so as to be raised up with him and to walk in newness of life”.
“Let us receive the special grace of this moment. We pause in reverent silence before this empty tomb in order to rediscover the grandeur of our Christian vocation: we are men and women of resurrection, and not of death. From this place we learn how to live our lives, the trials of our Churches and of the whole world, in the light of Easter morning. … Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of the basis of our hope! Let us not deprive the world of the joyful message of the resurrection! And let us not be deaf to the powerful summons to unity which rings out from this very place, in the words of the One who, risen from the dead, calls all of us 'my brothers'”.
“Clearly we cannot deny the divisions which continue to exist among us, the disciples of Jesus”, he observed. “This sacred place makes us even more painfully aware of how tragic they are. And yet, fifty years after the embrace of those two venerable Fathers, we realise with gratitude and renewed amazement how it was possible, at the prompting of the Holy Spirit, to take truly significant steps towards unity. We know that much distance still needs to be travelled before we attain that fullness of communion which can also be expressed by sharing the same Eucharistic table, something we ardently desire; yet our disagreements must not frighten us and paralyse our progress. We need to believe that, just as the stone before the tomb was cast aside, so too every obstacle to our full communion will also be removed. This will be a grace of resurrection, of which we can have a foretaste even today. Every time we ask forgiveness of one another for our sins against other Christians and every time we find the courage to grant and receive such forgiveness, we experience the resurrection! Every time we put behind us our long-standing prejudices and find the courage to build new fraternal relationships, we confess that Christ is truly risen! Every time we reflect on the future of the Church in the light of her vocation to unity, the dawn of Easter breaks forth! Here I reiterate the hope already expressed by my predecessors for a continued dialogue with all our brothers and sisters in Christ, aimed at finding a means of exercising the specific ministry of the Bishop of Rome which, in fidelity to his mission, can be open to a new situation and can be, in the present context, a service of love and of communion acknowledged by all”.
“Standing as pilgrims in these holy places, we also remember in our prayers the entire Middle East, so frequently and lamentably marked by acts of violence and conflict. Nor do we forget in our prayers the many other men and women who in various parts of our world are suffering from war, poverty and hunger, as well as the many Christians who are persecuted for their faith in the risen Lord. When Christians of different confessions suffer together, side by side, and assist one another with fraternal charity, there is born an ecumenism of suffering, an ecumenism of blood, which proves particularly powerful not only for those situations in which it occurs, but also, by virtue of the communion of the saints, for the whole Church as well. Those who kill, who persecute Christians out of hatred, do not ask if they are Orthodox or Catholics: they are Christians. The blood of Christians is the same”.
Finally, addressing Bartholomew and all those present, he said, “Your Holiness, beloved brother, dear brothers and sisters all, let us put aside the misgivings we have inherited from the past and open our hearts to the working of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of love, in order to hasten together towards that blessed day when our full communion will be restored. In making this journey, we feel ourselves sustained by the prayer which Jesus himself, in this city, on the eve of his passion, death and resurrection, offered to the Father for his disciples. It is a prayer which we ourselves in humility never tire to make our own: 'that they may all be one… that the world may believe'. And when disunity makes us pessimistic, distrusting, fearful, let us all commend ourselves to the protection of the Holy Mother of God. When there is spiritual turmoil in the Christian soul, it is only by seeking refuge under her mantle that we can find peace. May the Holy Mother of God help us on this journey”.
After this discourse, the Pope and the Patriarch embraced as a sign of peace and prayed the Lord's Prayer together in Italian, while the others present did so in their own languages. They then entered the Sepulchre to venerate the empty tomb, after which they ascended to the Basilica together to bless the people. They then continued to Mount Calvary, accompanied by the Greek and Armenian Patriarchs and the Custodian of the Holy Land, to venerate the place of Jesus' death and crucifixion.
JOINT DECLARATION OF POPE FRANCIS AND THE ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH BARTHOLOMEW: OUR COMMON SEARCH DOES NOT DISTANCE US FROM THE TRUTH
Vatican City, 26 May 2014 (VIS) – After the welcome ceremony at Tel Aviv airport, the Pope transferred by helicopter to Jerusalem where, at the Apostolic Delegation, he met with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew, who was accompanied by three high dignitaries. The meeting was also attended by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin and Cardinal Kurt Koch, prefect of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
The Patriarch Bartholomew was elected in 1991 as the 270th Patriarch archbishop of Constantinople, the New Rome and the Ecumenical Patriarch. He visited Benedict XVI in the Vatican in 2008 and participated in the celebration of the second millennium since the birth of St. Paul. On 19 March 20123 he attended the Mass of the beginning of Pope Francis' Petrine ministry; it was the first time since the Great Schism of 1054 that an Orthodox patriarch was present at the inauguration ceremony of a Catholic pope.
Following the meeting, Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew signed the following Joint Declaration:
“1. Like our venerable predecessors Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras who met here in Jerusalem fifty years ago, we too, Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, were determined to meet in the Holy Land 'where our common Redeemer, Christ our Lord, lived, taught, died, rose again, and ascended into Heaven, whence he sent the Holy Spirit on the infant Church' (Common communiqué of Pope Paul VI and
Patriarch Athenagoras, published after their meeting of 6 January 1964). Our meeting, another encounter of the Bishops of the Churches of Rome and Constantinople founded respectively by the two Brothers the Apostles Peter and Andrew, is a source of profound spiritual joy for us. It presents a providential occasion to reflect on the depth and the authenticity of our existing bonds, themselves the fruit of a grace-filled journey on which the Lord has guided us since that blessed day of fifty years ago.
2. Our fraternal encounter today is a new and necessary step on the journey towards the unity to which only the Holy Spirit can lead us, that of communion in legitimate diversity. We call to mind with profound gratitude the steps that the Lord has already enabled us to undertake. The embrace exchanged between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras here in Jerusalem, after many centuries of silence, paved the way for a momentous gesture, the removal from the memory and from the midst of the Church of the acts of mutual excommunication in 1054. This was followed by an exchange of visits between the respective Sees of Rome and Constantinople, by regular correspondence and, later, by the decision announced by Pope John Paul II and Patriarch Dimitrios, of blessed memory both, to initiate a theological dialogue of truth between Catholics and Orthodox. Over these years, God, the source of all peace and love, has taught us to regard one another as members of the same Christian family, under one Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, and to love one another, so that we may confess our faith in the same Gospel of Christ, as received by the Apostles and expressed and transmitted to us by the Ecumenical Councils and the Church Fathers. While fully aware of not having reached the goal of full communion, today we confirm our commitment to continue walking together towards the unity for which Christ our Lord prayed to the Father so 'that all may be one'.
3. Well aware that unity is manifested in love of God and love of neighbour, we look forward in eager anticipation to the day in which we will finally partake together in the Eucharistic banquet. As Christians, we are called to prepare to receive this gift of Eucharistic communion, according to the teaching of Saint Irenaeus of Lyon, through the confession of the one faith, persevering prayer, inner conversion, renewal of life and fraternal dialogue. By achieving this hoped for goal, we will manifest to the world the love of God by which we are recognized as true disciples of Jesus Christ.
4. To this end, the theological dialogue undertaken by the Joint International Commission offers a fundamental contribution to the search for full communion among Catholics and Orthodox. Throughout the subsequent times of Popes John Paul II and Benedict the XVI, and Patriarch Dimitrios, the progress of our theological encounters has been substantial. Today we express heartfelt appreciation for the achievements to date, as well as for the current endeavours. This is no mere theoretical exercise, but an exercise in truth and love that demands an ever deeper knowledge of each other’s traditions in order to understand them and to learn from them. Thus we affirm once again that the theological dialogue does not seek a theological lowest common denominator on which to reach a compromise, but is rather about deepening one’s grasp of the whole truth that Christ has given to his Church, a truth that we never cease to understand better as we follow the Holy Spirit’s promptings. Hence, we affirm together that our faithfulness to the Lord demands fraternal encounter and true dialogue. Such a common pursuit does not lead us away from the truth; rather, through an exchange of gifts, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, it will lead us into all truth.
5. Yet even as we make this journey towards full communion we already have the duty to offer common witness to the love of God for all people by working together in the service of humanity, especially in defending the dignity of the human person at every stage of life and the sanctity of family based on marriage, in promoting peace and the common good, and in responding to the suffering that continues to afflict our world. We acknowledge that hunger, poverty, illiteracy, the inequitable distribution of resources must constantly be addressed. It is our duty to seek to build together a just and humane society in which no-one feels excluded or marginalised.
6. It is our profound conviction that the future of the human family depends also on how we safeguard – both prudently and compassionately, with justice and fairness – the gift of creation that our Creator has entrusted to us. Therefore, we acknowledge in repentance the wrongful mistreatment of our planet, which is tantamount to sin before the eyes of God. We reaffirm our responsibility and obligation to foster a sense of humility and moderation so that all may feel the need to respect creation and to safeguard it with care. Together, we pledge our commitment to raising awareness about the stewardship of creation; we appeal to all people of goodwill to consider ways of living less wastefully and more frugally, manifesting less greed and more generosity for the protection of God’s world and the benefit of His people.
7. There is likewise an urgent need for effective and committed cooperation of Christians in order to safeguard everywhere the right to express publicly one’s faith and to be treated fairly when promoting that which Christianity continues to offer to contemporary society and culture. In this regard, we invite all Christians to promote an authentic dialogue with Judaism, Islam and other religious traditions. Indifference and mutual ignorance can only lead to mistrust and unfortunately even conflict.
8. From this holy city of Jerusalem, we express our shared profound concern for the situation of Christians in the Middle East and for their right to remain full citizens of their homelands. In trust we turn to the almighty and merciful God in a prayer for peace in the Holy Land and in the Middle East in general. We especially pray for the Churches in Egypt, Syria, and Iraq, which have suffered most grievously due to recent events. We encourage all parties regardless of their religious convictions to continue to work for reconciliation and for the just recognition of peoples’ rights. We are persuaded that it is not arms, but dialogue, pardon and reconciliation that are the only possible means to achieve peace.
9. In an historical context marked by violence, indifference and egoism, many men and women today feel that they have lost their bearings. It is precisely through our common witness to the good news of the Gospel that we may be able to help the people of our time to rediscover the way that leads to truth, justice and peace. United in our intentions, and recalling the example, fifty years ago here in Jerusalem, of Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras, we call upon all Christians, together with believers of every religious tradition and all people of good will, to recognise the urgency of the hour that compels us to seek the reconciliation and unity of the human family, while fully respecting legitimate differences, for the good of all humanity and of future generations.
10. In undertaking this shared pilgrimage to the site where our one same Lord Jesus Christ was crucified, buried and rose again, we humbly commend to the intercession of the Most Holy and Ever Virgin Mary our future steps on the path towards the fullness of unity, entrusting to God’s infinite love the entire human family.
'May the Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you! The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!'”.
Jerusalem, 25 May 2014.
THE POPE ARRIVES IN ISRAEL: ISRAELIS AND PALESTINIANS, AT PEACE WITHIN INTERNATIONALLY RECOGNISED BORDERS
Vatican City, 26 May 2014 (VIS) – Early this afternoon, the Pope visited the Basilica of the Nativity. The first historical references to this “cave of the manger of Bethlehem” date back to Origenes. In 326, the emperor Constantine ordered the construction of a basilica at the over the Grotto of the Nativity, with its floor raised slightly higher than ground level. Damaged by fire and the revolt of the Samaritans, it was restored in 540. In 614, the Persians under Khosrau II invaded the region but left the Basilica intact on account of its frescoes of the Magi in Persian dress. In 638, the Muslims entered Bethlehem, which passed to the Crusaders with the entry of Tancred in 1099. In 1187 Saladin occupied Jerusalem and Bethlehem but again spared the Shrine. In 1192, the bishop of Salisbury, Hubert Valter, re-established the Latin cult in return for payment of a tribute by the faithful. In 1347, the Franciscans obtained permission from the Ottomans to officiate in the Basilica and possession of the Grotto and the Basilica. In the sixteenth century there began a period of disputes between Franciscans and Greek Orthodox regarding the possession of the Basilica, which changed hands according the favour enjoyed at the Sublime Porte by the nations supporting the communities. With the defeat of the Venetians and their expulsion from Crete in 1669, the Orthodox were authorised to take possession of the Grotto and the Basilica. The latter is still their property, whereas the Grotto of the Nativity returned to the Franciscans in 1690. St. Catherine's Basilica, next to the Basilica of the Nativity, is the parish of the Latins in Bethlehem.
The ownership of the individual Holy Places is a vexed question that has given rise to dispute between the communities belonging to the three monotheistic religions of the Holy Land, and remains a delicate theme for international chancellors. At the beginning of the seventeenth century, the struggle between the Byzantine and Latin communities, already heated, began to be affected by the highs and lows of international politics and the relations between the powers of the age: the Sultan of Istanbul, who considered the Christian Holy Places as state property; the Italian Maritime Republics which protected the Latins; and the Tsar of Russia, traditionally the protector of Orthodox Churches. Some sanctuaries passed from one community to another, at times only on the basis of the sum of money offered to the Sublime Porte. In 1850, a French request to the Sultan to clarify the matter led to a further dispute with Russia, and and a decree was issued from Istanbul in February 1852 to authorise the existing situation in the various shrines. The “statu quo” virtually froze the claims of the Franciscans in relation to the expropriations of which they had been victims for centuries, and cost them a high price in terms of human lives and property. This Ottoman edict remains in force today and continues to govern the situation in various Shrines such as the Grotto of the Nativity (Bethlehem), the Cenacle and the Holy Sepulchre (Jerusalem).
Pope Francis visited the Grotto of the Nativity, which he reached via an internal passage between the “Casa Nova” Convent and the Greek-Orthodox Basilica, and spent some time there in prayer. He returned by the same passage to the Convent where he was photographed with the Friars. He then proceeded to the “Phoenix Centre” in Bethlehem, a reception centre in the refugee camp of Dheisheh; the centre was built as a result of a donation from Pope John Paul II on his visit in 2000. The Pope was received in the auditorium of the centre by around one hundred children from the refugee camps of Dheisheh, Aida and Beit Jibrin. There was a festive atmosphere with singing, and two children presented the Pope with drawings, letters and craft works. The Pope prayed with the children, and before imparting his blessing a child read him a letter in which he said, 'we are children of Palestine. Our parents have endured occupation for 66 years. We opened our eyes to this occupation and have seen the nakba in the eyes of our grandparents as they left this world. We want to tell the world: enough suffering and humiliation!”.
“Don’t ever allow the past to determine your lives”, the Holy Father responded. “Always look to the future, work hard and make efforts to achieve what you want. But you must understand this: violence cannot be overcome by violence. Violence is overcome by peace! By peace, by working with dignity to help your homeland to move forward”. He then returned to the heliport, where he was awaited by the president of the State of Palestine who bid the Pope farewell, accompanied by the Guard of Honour. After a half-hour journey by helicopter the Pontiff arrived at the International Ben Gurion Airport of Tel Aviv, Israel, where he was received by Shimon Peres, president of the State; Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister; the political, civil and religious authorities, the Ordinaries of the Holy Land, and a choir of young people. “I have come on pilgrimage to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the historic visit of Pope Paul VI”, said Francis. “Since then, much has changed in the relationship between the Holy See and the State of Israel: diplomatic relations, established some twenty years ago, have favoured the development of good relations, as witnessed by the two Agreements already signed and ratified, and a third which is in the process of being finalised. In this spirit I greet all the people of Israel with prayerful good wishes that their aspirations of peace and prosperity will achieve fulfilment”.
The Pope went on to remark that the Holy Land is a spiritual point of reference for as the scene of a multi-millennial history and the principal events in the origin and growth of the three great monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. “So I express my hope and prayer that this blessed land may be one which has no place for those who, by exploiting and absolutising the value of their own religious tradition, prove intolerant and violent towards those of others”. He commented that during his pilgrimage he would visit some of the most significant places in Jerusalem, “a city of universal importance”. “Jerusalem, of course, means 'city of peace'”, he continued. “This is what God wills it to be, and such is the desire of all people of good will. Yet sadly Jerusalem remains deeply troubled as a result of long standing conflicts. We all know how urgent is the need for peace, not only for Israel but also for the entire region. May efforts and energies be increasingly directed to the pursuit of a just and lasting solution to the conflicts which have caused so much suffering. In union with all men and women of good will, I implore those in positions of responsibility to leave no stone unturned in the search for equitable solutions to complex problems, so that Israelis and Palestinians may live in peace. The path of dialogue, reconciliation and peace must constantly be taken up anew, courageously and tirelessly. There is simply no other way”.
He went on to renew the appeal made by his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI during his 2009 visit: “the right of the State of Israel to exist and to flourish in peace and security within internationally recognised borders must be universally recognized. At the same time, there must also be a recognition of the right of the Palestinian people to a sovereign homeland and their right to live with dignity and with freedom of movement. The 'Two State Solution' must become reality and not remain merely a dream”.
The Pontiff went on to speak about a “particularly moving” part of his stay, his visit on Monday to the Yad Vashem Memorial to the six million Jews who were victims of the Shoah, “a tragedy which is the enduring symbol of the depths to which human evil can sink when, spurred by false ideologies, it fails to recognise the fundamental dignity of each person, which merits unconditional respect regardless of ethnic origin or religious belief. I beg God that there will never be another such crime, which also counted among its victims many Christians and others. Ever mindful of the past, let us promote an education in which exclusion and confrontation give way to inclusion and encounter, where there will be no place for anti-Semitism in any of its forms or for expressions of hostility, discrimination or intolerance towards any individual or people”.
He added, “It is with a profoundly saddened heart that I have heard of how many people lost their lives in Saturday's atrocious attack in Brussels. I thoroughly condemn this criminal act of anti-Semitic hatred, and commend the victims to God's mercy and pray for the recovery of the injured”.
The Holy Father remarked that the brevity of his visit necessarily limits the encounters he is able to make, but took the opportunity to greet all Israel’s citizens and to express his closeness to them, “particularly those living in Nazareth and in Galilee, where many Christian communities are found”. He concluded by addressing a “warm and fraternal greeting” to the bishops and the Christian faithful, and encouraged them “to persevere in their quiet witness of faith and hope in the service of reconciliation and forgiveness, following the teaching and example of the Lord Jesus, who gave his life to bring about peace between God and man, and between brothers. May you always be a leaven of reconciliation, bringing hope to others, bearing witness to charity! Know that you are constantly in my prayers”.
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In accordance with international regulations on Intellectual Property and Author’s Rights, VIS authorises reproduction of news items issued by the Vatican Information Service, partially or in their entirety, on condition that the source (VIS – Vatican Information Service) is quoted.