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Friday, February 27, 2015

The Pope and the Curia conclude their Spiritual Exercises

Vatican City, 27 February 2015 (VIS) – This morning in the House of the Divine Master in Ariccia the Holy Father and the Roman Curia completed the spiritual exercises they began last Sunday afternoon.

Following today's sermon, the Pope thanked Fr. Bruno Secondin, O. Carm., author of this week's meditations, which explored the theme “Servants and prophets of the living God”, based on a pastoral reading of the prophet Elijah.

“On behalf of all of us, myself included”, said Francis, “I would like to thank Fr. Secondin for his work with us. It is not easy to give Exercises to priests! We are all somewhat complicated, but you have managed to sow seeds. Many the Lord allow the seeds you have given us to grow. And I hope that we will all be able to leave here with a piece of Elijah's mantle in our hands and in our hearts. Thank you, Father!”.

A congress to commemorate the first mass in Italian celebrated by Blessed Paul VI

Vatican City, 27 February 2015 (VIS) – On 7 March 1965, Blessed Paul VI, on the 25th anniversary of the death of St. Luigi Orione, celebrated the first mass in Italian in history in the parish of Ognissanti (All Saints), Rome. “Today we inaugurate the new form of Liturgy in all the parishes and churches of the world, for all the Masses followed by the people. It is a great event, that shall be remembered as the beginning of a flourishing spiritual life, as a new effort to participate in the great dialogue between God and man”.

Fifty years on, to commemorate this historic date, Pope Francis will preside at a Eucharistic celebration next Saturday, 7 March at 6 p.m. in the same parish (Via Appia Nuova, 244). The occasion will also be celebrated by a Congress on Pastoral Liturgy organised by the Vicariate of Rome, the Opera Don Orione and the Pontifical Liturgical Institute of Rome, to open today at the Teatro Orione, adjacent to the All Saints parish.

The theme of the Congress is “United in giving thanks”. The works will be presented by Rev. Flavio Peloso, superior general of the Sons of Divine Providence (Don Orione), who comments that the event “will facilitate an understanding of the reasons behind yesterday's liturgical reforms and today's commitment to liturgical fidelity”. Following greetings from the auxiliary bishop Giuseppe Marciante, Archbishop Francesco Pio Tamburrano, metropolitan emeritus of Foggia-Bovino, Italy, will speak about “Tradition and renewal in paragraph 23 of the liturgical Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium. Archbishop Piero Marini, president of the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses, will then consider the theme “The spoken language, tool of communion in the dialogue of the liturgical assembly”, and finally Rev. Francesco Mazzitelli, parish priest of Ognissanti, will examine “The liturgical formation of the laity”.

The work of the Congress will be concluded by the Benedictine Fr. Jordi Pique, president of the Pontifical Liturgical Institute. The moderator, Fr. Giuseppe Midili, director of the diocesan liturgical office, affirmed that “the congress offers various points for reflection on the reasons that led the conciliar bishops to introduce the spoken language into the liturgy. Indeed, one of the main aims of liturgical reform was full, active and conscious participation in the liturgy, so that the faithful moved on from their role as mute, extraneous spectators. In this sense, the change was historical and signified a turnaround. Indeed, when the liturgy was celebrated in a language they did not understand, the faithful sought more accessible forms of private worship and prayer to recite during the Mass. With the introduction of the spoken language, these individualistic forms slowly disappeared from the celebratory context in favour of the centrality of the community celebration”.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 27 February 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed Bishop Charles Jude Scicluna, as metropolitan archbishop of Malta (area 246, population 413,000, Catholics 380,000, priests 621, religious 1,321), Malta. Msgr. Scicluna is currently apostolic administrator of the same archdiocese.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Foundation Centesimus Annus – Pro Pontifice presents the winners of the “Economy and Society” award

Vatican City, 26 February 2015 (VIS) – This morning in the Holy See Press Office the Foundation Centesimus Annus presented its activity during the past two years, its programmes and the names of the winners of the second edition of its the biennial international award, “Economy and Society”. The speakers in the conference were Domingo Sugranyes Bickel, president of the Foundation, Michael Konrad, secretary of the jury, Msgr. Giuseppe Antonio Scotti, a jury member and Alberto Quadrio Curzio, president of the scientific committee of the foundation and deputy president of the Italian Lincean Academy.

The Foundation Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice, the president explained, was created by St. John Paul II in 1993, is managed by a council made up of nine laypeople and reports to the president of the APSA (Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See), currently Cardinal Domenico Calcagno, under the supervision of the Secretariat of State. Its main objective is to promote the Social Doctrine of the Church and it therefore invites the participation of businesspeople and professionals who acknowledge the principles of this Doctrine and of the papal Magisterium, and who wish to contribute to the creation of a new economic and social culture. Sugranyes Bickel emphasised that in these last two years the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice has worked in line with the themes of Pope Francis' 2013 address, in which he remarked that it was essential to “restore to this word 'solidarity', viewed askance by the world of economics – as if it were a bad word – the social dignity that it deserves”.

Msgr. Scotti reiterated the importance of following Pope Francis' example in challenging the “deviant culture” that has reached the point of discarding people. “There are many who believe that the economy should assume the role of absolute producer of the aims and values to which every single aspect of the human dimension should be subject, justifying this with the fact that we live in a post-ideological, post-political age. Certainly, this would be an interesting aspect to analyse. … However, contemporary culture can also be analysed from the perspective of the Word of God. Considering that this award is assigned to authors who seek to contribute, through their studies, reflections and publications to learning anew how to take a scholarly view of the present and on the use of money, it seems appropriate to me to recall the words of the Qoheleth: 'Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless'”.

The names of the recipients of the second edition of the award were then announced: Pierre de Lauzun, for his work “Finance: un regard chrétien. De la banque mediéval a la mondialisation financière”, a profound reflection on the morality that motivates financial markets, viewed in the light of the social doctrine of the Church, inviting consideration of an order other than that purely linked to profit, and emphasising that there is no form of financial operation that may be separated from social realities and moral needs.

In the special section dedicated to young researchers of the social doctrine of the Church, the winner was Alexander Stummvoll, born in 1983, for his thesis “A Living Tradition. The Holy See, Catholic Social Doctrine and Global Politics 1965-2000”, presented in 2012 at the European University Institute, Florence, Italy. The study examines the Social Doctrine of the Church in international relations, referring to four major international issues that take a concrete event as a starting point. With reference to the war in Vietnam, he analyses the Holy See's commitment to peace; taking as a point of reference the Polish crisis before 1989 he studies the politics of the Holy See in relation to communism; from the conferences in Cairo and Beijing in 1994 and 1995 he examines the position of the Holy See regarding bioethical questions, and finally in relation to the campaign against Third World debt on the occasion of the 2000 Jubilee, he studies the Holy See's criticism of unfettered capitalism.

The awards will be presented by Cardinal Reinhard Marx, archbishop of Munich und Freising and president of the Jury, during the next International Congress of the Foundation, scheduled to take place from 25 to 27 May in the Vatican's New Synod Hall and in the Palazzo della Cancelleria in Rome, on the theme “Rethinking Key Features of Economic and Social Life”.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Clarification of the Pope's use of the expression “avoid 'Mexicanisation'” in a private and informal email

Vatican City, 25 February 2015 (VIS) – The Director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., announced yesterday afternoon that the Secretariat of State has sent a Note to the Mexican ambassador to the Holy See to clarify that in using the expression “avoid 'Mexicanisation'”, the Pope did not in any way intend to offend the Mexican population, for whom he holds special affection, nor to underestimate the commitment of the Mexican government in its fight against narcotics trafficking.

As is known, the expression “avoid 'Mexicanisation'” was used by the Pope in an email of a strictly private and informal nature, in response to an Argentine friend who is deeply involved in the battle against drug abuse, who had used the phrase.

The Note demonstrates that evidently the Pope intended only to emphasise the seriousness of the phenomenon of the drug trafficking that afflicts Mexico and other countries in Latin America. It is precisely this importance that has made the fight against drug trafficking a priority for the government; to combat violence and restore peace and serenity to Mexican families, acting on the causes at the root of this scourge.

It is a phenomenon that, like others in Latin America, that the Pope has drawn attention to on various occasions, including in his encounters with the bishops, emphasising the need to adopt policies of cooperation and collaboration at all levels.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 25 February 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed:

- Fr. Joseo Aristeu Vieira as bishop of Luz (area 24,990, population 494,000, Catholics 397,000, priests 75, religious 47), Brazil. The bishop-elect was born in Rio Vermelho, Brazil in 1952 and was ordained a priest in 1979. He served in a number of pastoral roles, including parish priest, spiritual director and professor of the “Sagrado Coracao de Jesus” provincial seminary in Diamantina; and coordinator of vocational pastoral ministry and works for priestly vocations. He is currently parish priest of the “ Imaculada Conceicao” parish in Buritizeiro, Brazil.

- Fr. Luiz Goncalves Knupp as bishop of Tres Lagoas (area 57,876, population 252,000, Catholics 190,000, priests 17, permanent deacons 12, religious 54), Brazil. The bishop-elect was born in Mandaguari, Brazil in 1967 and was ordained a priest in 1999. In the course of his pastoral ministry he has served as parish administrator, parish priest; spiritual director of the seminaries of theology, philosophy and preparation in Maringa. located in Londrina. He is currently parish priest of the “Nossa Senhora de Fatima” parish in Marialva, Brazil.

- Fr. Janusz Danecki, O.F.M. Conv., as auxiliary of the archdiocese of Campo Grande (area 43,762, population 913,096, Catholics 543,292, priests 106, permanent deacons 3, religious 280), Brazil. The bishop-elect was born in Lowicz, Poland in 1951, gave his solemn vows in 1975 and was ordained a priest in 1977. He exercised his pastoral ministry in the Franciscan parishes of Niepokalanow and Lodz before transferring to Brazil as a missionary, where he has served as formator of postulants and Superior of the “Jardim da Imaculada” community in Luziania; national director of the Militia Immaculatae, parish priest; rector of the Franciscan seminary in Brasilia, guardian of the convent and secretary of the Custodian; provincial vicar and formator in Brasilia. He is currently parish priest of the “Nossa Senhora de Fatima” parish in Jurua, Brazil.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

End of life assistance to the elderly, theme of the 21st assembly of the Pontifical Council pro Vita

Vatican City, 24 February 2015 (VIS) – The Pontifical Academy pro Vita will dedicate its upcoming general assembly to end of life assistance to the elderly. The assembly, which will take place in the New Synod Hall from 5 to 7 March, is the 21st to be held by this institution, and the official theme is “Assisting the Elderly and Palliative Care”.

During the assembly, on 6 March, there will be a workshop open to the public, especially scholars, healthcare and pastoral workers, and students who are interested in acquiring a deeper knowledge of the theme from a number of viewpoints: theological-philosophical, ethical and medical, cultural and social.

In the first session of the Workshop, “Clinical care for the elderly at the end of life”, following a brief general introduction to the theme by Bishop Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, president of the Pontifical Academy pro Vita, a number of specific issues will be considered, such as medical care for the elderly with chronic degenerative illlnesses, the use and abuse of analgesics in palliative care, nursing care for the terminally ill, and clinical decision-making processes for the elderly at the end of life.

The second session will be dedicated to ethical and anthropological perspectives, and will focus on the central role of relationships with the elderly in family, social and hospital contexts, and guidelines for accompanying the elderly as they near death, with respect for their dignity and avoiding any form of abandonment or euthanasia.

The day will conclude with the analysis of socio-cultural perspectives. The third session will be dedicated to the spirituality of the elderly in later year, legal aspects of the end of life, pastoral care and the role of the family, ending with the question, “What is social solidarity?”.

In Memoriam

Vatican City, 24 February 2015 (VIS) – The following prelates have died in recent weeks:

- Archbishop Pierre-Andre Fournier of Rimouski, Canada, on 10 January at the age of 71.

- Bishop James Naanman Daman, O.S.A, of Shendam, Nigeria, on 12 January at the age of 58.

- Bishop Joseph Mukasa Zuza of Mzuzu, Malawi, on 15 January at the age of 59.

- Bishop Jose Maria Hernandez Gonzalez, emeritus of Netzahualcoyotl, Mexico, on 19 January at the age of 88.

- Archbishop Jose Martins da Silva, S.D.N. emeritus of Porto Velho, Brazil, on 29 January at the age of 78.

- Bishop Adalberto Arturo Rosat, O.F.M., prelate emeritus of Aiquile, Bolivia, on 31 January at the age of 81.

- Bishop Vincent Valentine Egwuchukwu Ezeonyia, C.S.Sp., of Aba, Nigeria, on 8 February at the age of 73.

- Cardinal Karl Josef Becker, S.J. †Deacon of San Giuliano Martire, on 10 February at the age of 86.

- Bishop Abel Costas Montano, emeritus of Tarija, Bolivia, on 11 February at the age of 94.

- Bishop Thomas Bhalerao, S.J. emeritus of Nashik, India, on 13 February at the age of 82.

- Bishop Magnus Mwalunyungu, emeritus of Tunduru-Masasi, Tanzania, on 13 February at the age of 84.

- Bishop Joseph Devellerez Thaung Shwe , emeritus of Pyay, Myanmar, on 17 February at the age of 79.

- Archbishop Antonio Lanfranchi, of Modena-Nonantola, Italy, on 17 February at the age of 68.

- Bishop Bernardo Enrique Witte, O.M.I. emeritus of Concepcion, on 21 February at the age of 88.

Monday, February 23, 2015

St. Gregory of Narek, Doctor of the Church

Vatican City, 23 February 2015 (VIS) – On Saturday, 21 February the Holy Father received in audience Cardinal Angelo Amato, S.D.B., prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. During the audience he confirmed the proposal by the cardinals and bishops, members of the Plenary Session of the Congregation, to concede the title of Doctor of the Universal Church to St. Gregory of Narek, priest and monk, who was born in Andzevatsij (then Armenia, present-day Turkey) in 1005 and died in Narek (then Armenia, present-day Turkey) around 1005.

Lent, time for spiritual battle against evil

Vatican City, 22 February 2015 (VIS) – Lent, the liturgical time that refers to the forty days Jesus spent in the desert after his baptism in the river Jordan, was the subject of the Pope's reflection before this Sunday's Angelus prayer with the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square.

On the first Sunday of Lent, Francis explained that during these forty days of solitude in which Jesus prepared himself to announce the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, he “faces Satan 'body to body', he unmasks his temptations and is victorious. And in Him we all win, but it is up to us to protect this victory in our daily life”.

“The Church reminds us of this mystery at the beginning of every Lenten period”, he continued, “because it gives us the prospect and the meaning of this time, which is a time of combat – during Lent one must fight – a time of spiritual combat against the spirit of evil. And while we cross the Lenten 'desert', we keep our gaze fixed upon Easter, the definitive victory of Jesus against the Evil One, against sin and against death. This, then, is the meaning of this first Sunday of Lent: placing ourselves on the path of Christ, the road that leads to life”.

“And this, Jesus' path, passes through the desert, ... the place where both the voice of God and the voice of the Tempter can be heard. Amid noise and confusion; only superficial voices can be heard. Instead, in the desert we are able to descend to the depths, where our destiny is truly played out, life or death. And how do we hear the voice of God? We hear it in His Word. This is why it is important to know the Scripture, as otherwise we do not know how to respond to the deceptions of the Evil One. … Always keep a copy of the Gospel to hand. The Lenten desert helps us to say no to worldliness, to 'idols'; it helps us to make courageous decisions consistent with the Gospel and to strengthen solidarity with our brothers”.

“Therefore, let us enter into the desert without fear, because we are not alone; we are with Jesus, with the Father and with the Holy Spirit”, added the Holy Father. “Lent is an auspicious time to lead us to be increasingly aware of how much the Holy Spirit, received in baptism, has worked and can work in us. At the end of the Lenten itinerary, on the Easter Vigil, we are able to renew the baptismal alliance and the duties that derive from this with greater awareness”.

The Pope completed his reflection by entrusting to the Virgin the week of Spiritual Exercises that began yesterday afternoon, and in which his collaborators in the Roman Curia will also participate. He asked those present to pray, “so that in this 'desert' of the Spiritual Exercises, we can hear the voice of Jesus and also correct many flaws that we all have, and also to face up to the temptations that assail us every day. I therefore ask you to accompany us with your prayer”.

Following the Angelus prayer, the Pope referred again to Lent, “a path of conversion whose centre is the heart”, and gave the faithful present in the square a small booklet entitled “Custodisci il cuore”, “Safeguard your heart”. Distributed by a group of volunteers, including various homeless persons, it brings together a number of Jesus' teachings and the essential content of the faith, such as for instance the seven Sacraments, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the ten commandments, the virtues, the works of mercy, and so on.

“As is always the case, today in the square the needy give us a great wealth: the wealth of our doctrine to safeguard the heart”, he remarked, referring to the work of the homeless volunteers. “Take a booklet and carry it with you, to help in spiritual conversion and growth, which always starts from the heart: there, where the daily choices between good and evil are made, between worldliness and the Gospel, between indifference and sharing. Humanity needs justice, peace and love, and will obtain this only by returning wholeheartedly to God, the source”.

Spiritual exercises of the Pope and the Roman Curia

Vatican City, 22 February 2015 (VIS) – At 6 p.m. today, the first Sunday of Lent, at the House of the Divine Master in Ariccia, a few kilometres from Rome, the Roman Curia began its Spiritual Exercises, in which the Holy Father participates.

The meditations will be proposed by Fr. Bruno Secondin, O. Carm., and the theme will be “Servants and prophets of the living God”, a pastoral reading of the prophet Elijah.

The Exercises will be concluded on the morning of Friday, 27 February.

During the week of the Spiritual Exercises all audiences will be suspended, including the General Audience on Wednesday, 25 February.

Audience with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel

Vatican City, 21 February 2015 (VIS) – This morning the Holy Father Francis received in Audience in the Vatican Apostolic Palace the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, Angela Merkel, who subsequently met with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, accompanied by Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, secretary for Relations with States.

During the cordial discussions, and in view of the upcoming G7 Summit to be held in Bavaria, special attention was paid to various questions of an International nature, with particular reference to the struggle against poverty and hunger; the exploitation of human beings and the rights of women; and the challenges of promoting world health and the protection of Creation. The themes of human rights and religious freedom in various parts of the world were also considered, emphasising the importance of spiritual values to social cohesion.

Finally, the Parties considered the situation in Europe, underlining in particular the commitment to reaching a peaceful solution to the conflict in Ukraine.

The Pope again urges affiliates of organised crime to convert

Vatican City, 21 February 2015 (VIS) – This morning in the Paul VI Hall the Pope received in audience more than seven thousand people from the Italian diocese of Cassano all'Jonio, in the region of Calabria, which Francis visited last June, and whose church welcomes different rites and traditions that express “the variety of gifts that enrich Christ's Church”.

The Holy Father greeted the representatives of the various associations from the area that are occupied in “welcoming the suffering Christ”, especially those who have problems of substance abuse through support centres and homes, and recalled last year's meeting with the detainees in the Castrovillari prison, with the sick, and the extraordinary presence of the people on the Sibaris plain. “May the Lord help you to be welcoming communities, to accompany toward Christ those who find it difficult to discern his presence that saves”.

“I would like to reaffirm a thought that I suggested to you during my visit: he who loves Jesus, he who listens to Him and welcomes His Word, and he who lives in a sincere way the response to the Lord's call cannot in any way lend himself to the works of evil. Either Jesus, or evil! Jesus did not invite us to dine with demons: he cast them out, because they were evil. It is not possible to declare oneself Christian and then violate the dignity of people; those who belong to the Christian community cannot plan and implement violent acts against others and against the environment. The outward gestures of religiosity, unaccompanied by true and public conversion, are not sufficient to believe oneself in communion with Jesus and with His Church. The external gestures of religiosity are not enough to credit as believers those who, with the wickedness and arrogance typical of miscreants, make illegality their way of living. To those who have chosen the way of evil and who are affiliated to delinquent organisations, I renew my invitation to conversion. Open your heart to the Lord! The Lord awaits you and the Church will welcome you if, just as your decision to serve evil is public, your wish to serve good is clear and public”.

“The beauty of your land is a gift from God and an asset to conserve and to hand down in all its splendour to future generations”, remarked Francis. “Therefore, there is a need for courageous efforts by all, starting with the institutions, to ensure that it is not defaced irreparably by sordid interests”. He went on to list the Emmanuel Community among the places of beauty in the area: an place of “welcome and sharing” where young people whose lives have been devastated by drug abuse can find a “good Samaritan who tends to their wounds and knows how to anoint them with the balsam of closeness and affection”, and noted that it has restored hope to many families. “The Church thanks you for this service”, he said. “Placing yourself by the side of young people and adults who suffer as a result of addiction, you have embraced the suffering Christ and sowed hope”.

“Our time has a great need for hope!”, exclaimed the Holy Father. “The young can no longer be robbed of hope. … The young need hope. It is necessary to offer concrete signs of hope to those who experience pain and suffering. Social organisations and associations, as well as individuals who strive towards acceptance and sharing, are generators of hope. Therefore, I exhort your Christian communities to be agents of solidarity, never to stop before those who, for mere personal interest, sow self-centredness, violence and injustice. Oppose yourselves to the culture of death and be witnesses to the Gospel of life! May the light of God's Word and the support of the Holy Spirit help you to look with new and willing eyes upon the new forms of poverty that drive so many young people and families to desperation”.


Vatican City, 21 February 2015 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father received in separate audiences:

- Cardinal Marc Ouellet, P.S.S., prefect of the Congregation for Bishops;

- Cardinal Angelo Amato, S.D.B., prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 23 February 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed:

- Bishop Freddy Antonio de Jesus Breton Martinez of Bani, Dominican Republic, as metropolitan archbishop of Santiago de los Caballeros (area 3,633, population 1,320,000, Catholics 1,105,000, priests 128, permanent deacons 121, religious 325), Dominican Republic. He succeeds Archbishop Ramon Benito de la Rosa y Carpio, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese upon reaching the age limit was accepted by the Holy Father.

- Rev. Andres Napoleon Romero Cardenas as bishop of Barahona (area 6,973, population 396,270, Catholics 215,000, priests 28, permanent deacons 2, religious 54), Dominican Repubilc. The bishop-elect was born in Ramonal Arriba, Dominican Republic in 1967 and was ordained a priest in 1995. He holds a licentiate in philosophy and letters and in religious sciences from the Pontifical University Mater et Magistra, Dominican Republic, and in biblical theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University, and has served in a number of pastoral and academic roles, including parish vicar, formator in the minor seminary and diocesan director for priestly vocations, professor of sacred scripture and research methodology, dean of the faculties of philosophy and theology, and formator at the St. Thomas Aquinas Pontifical major seminary. He is currently parish priest of the Cathedral of Santa Ana in the diocese of San Francisco de Macoris. He succeeds Bishop Rafael Leonidas Felipe y Nunez, whose resignation from the pastoral governance of the same diocese upon reaching the age limit was accepted by the Holy Father.

- Fr. Hector Rafael Rodriguez Rodriguez M.S.C., as bishop of La Vega (area 4,919, population 977,000, Catholics 801,000, priests 92, permanent deacons 65, religious 223), Dominican Republic. The bishop-elect was born in Sanchez, Dominican Republic in 1961, gave his solemn vows in 1984 and was ordained a priest in 1989. He holds a licentiate in spiritual theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University. During his pastoral ministry he has served as parish vicar and, within his community, director for aspirants at the Vocational Centre, director of the post-novitiate, master of novices, Provincial. He has also served as member of the Managing Body of the Dominican Conference of Religious. He is currently first adviser of the Congregation of Missionaries of the Sacred Heart. He succeeds Bishop Antonio Camilo Gonzalez, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese upon reaching the age limit was accepted by the Holy Father.

- Bishop Jose Miguel Gonzalez Rodriguez of Libano-Honda, Colombia, as bishop of Facatativa (area 2,311, population 546,000, Catholics 512,000, priests 93, permanent deacons 4, religious 305), Colombia.

On Saturday, 21 February appointed Archbishop Edgar Pena Parra, apostolic nuncio in Pakistan, as apostolic nuncio in Mozambique.

Friday, February 20, 2015

To the bishops of Ukraine: indicate the values that bind Ukrainian society

Vatican City, 20 February 2015 (VIS) - “I welcome you to this house, which is also yours. And you are well aware of this, as the Successor of Peter has always welcomed his brothers from Ukraine with fraternal friendship”, begins the Pope's written discourse to the bishops of the Ukrainian Episcopal Conference, at the end of their “ad Limina” visit. The encounter takes place in the context of a serious and prolonged conflict within the country, which “continues to claim many innocent victims and to cause great suffering to the entire population”.

The Pope met with the bishops of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, the bishop of Mukachevo of Byzantine rite, and the bishops of the Conference of Roman Catholic Bishops in separate audiences in the Sala Clementina of the Apostolic Palace. The signed discourse was handed to the representatives of each the three Ukrainian ecclesiastical jurisdictions.

“In this period”, continues Francis, “I am particularly close to you in my prayers for the deceased and for all those who have been afflicted by violence, with my plea that the Lord might grant peace soon, and with my appeal to all interested parties to implement joint agreements and to respect the principle of international law, and especially to observe the recently signed armistice and all other commitments that are conditions for avoiding a resumption of hostilities”.

“I know the historical events that have scarred your land and which are still present in your collective memory. These are issues that in part have a political basis, to which you are not required to respond directly; but there are also socio-cultural realities and human tragedies that await your direct and positive contribution. In such circumstances, it is important to listen attentively to the voices that come from the land, from the people entrusted to your pastoral care. Listening to your people, you are able to solicit those values that characterise them: encounter, collaboration, the capacity to resolve disagreements. In short: the search for a possible peace. You are able to nurture this ethical heritage with charity, the divine love that stems from the heart of Christ”.

The Holy Father acknowledges that, “at local level, there are specific and practical agreements between you, heirs to two legitimate spiritual traditions – Oriental and Latin – as well as the other Christians among you. This, as well as a duty, is also an honour that must be recognised”. He also reiterates that the bishops, at national level, are full citizens of their country and therefore have the right to express their thought, also jointly, regarding its destiny, “not in the sense of promoting concrete political action, but in the indication and reaffirmation of the values that constitute the binding element of Ukrainian society, persevering in the tireless search for harmony and the common good, even when faced with serious and complex difficulties”. He emphasises, “The Holy See is by your side, also in international forums, to ensure that your rights, concerns and the right Gospel values that inspire you are understood, and seeks also to help meet the pastoral needs of those ecclesiastical structures that also find themselves having to face new legal questions”.

The crisis unfolding in Ukraine has undoubtedly had “serious repercussions on family life. United with this is a misunderstood sense of economic freedom that has enabled a small group of people to become enormously rich at the expense of the great majority of citizens. The presence of this phenomenon has also contaminated public institutions, to varying degrees. It has generated an inequitable poverty in a generous and rich land”. Therefore, the Pope exhorts the bishops to tirelessly remind their fellow citizens of “the considerations that faith and pastoral responsibility suggest to you. The meaning of justice and truth is first moral rather than political, and this is incumbent upon you as pastors. How much freer you will be as ministers of Christ's Church, as, in spite of your poverty, you become defenders of families, of the poor, of the unemployed, of the weak, the sick, the elderly, invalids and displaced persons”.

After encouraging the Ukrainian bishops to renew their zeal for the constant announcement of the Gospel and to pray attention to vocations to the priesthood and to consecrated life, the Ponfiff then goes on to consider the rapport between bishops, while aware of the “complex historical factors that weigh upon your mutual relations, as well as aspects of personal character”.

“The fact that both episcopates are Catholic and Ukrainian remains indisputable, in spite of differences of rites and traditions. I am personally saddened to hear that there are incomprehensions and that harm has been done. There is a need for a doctor, and this doctor is Jesus Christ, whom you both serve with generosity and with all your hearts. You are a single body and, as both St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI have done in the past, I exhort you to find between you a way to accept each other and to support each other generously in your apostolic labours. The unity of the episcopate, aside from giving a good example to the People of God, represents an inestimable service to the nation at a cultural, social, and above all spiritual level”. You are united in fundamental values and have the most valuable treasure in common: faith and the People of God. Therefore, I regard joint meetings of the bishops of all the “sui iuris” Churches present in Ukraine to be of the highest importance”.

“Whether Greek-Catholics or Latins, you are sons of the Catholic Church, which has been subject to martyrdom in your land too”, remarks Francis. “May the blood of your witnesses, who intercede from Heaven on your behalf, be a further inspiration to a true communion of hearts. Unite your strength and support each other, transforming historical events into a reason for sharing and unity. Well-rooted in the Catholic community, you can also apply yourselves with faith and patience to ecumenism, so that all Christians may grow in unity and cooperation. I am sure that your decisions, in accordance with the Successor of Peter, will be able to take on board the expectations of all your People. I invite you all to govern the Communities entrusted to you ensuring as far as possible your presence and closeness to the priests and faithful. I hope that you may maintain respectful and fruitful relations with the public authorities”.

Finally, the Holy Father exhorts them to pay great attention to the poor. “They are your wealth”, he emphasises. “You are the pastors of a flock entrusted to you by Christ; always be clearly aware of this, even within your internal organs of self-governance, which must always be understood as instruments of communion and prophecy. In this sense, I hope that your intentions and your actions will always be oriented towards the overall good of the Churches entrusted to you. … I impart with affection a special apostolic blessing to you, your communities and the dear population of Ukraine”.

Communique from the Managing Board and the College of Auditors of the Vatican Pensions Fund

Vatican City, 20 February 2015 (VIS) – The following is the full text of the communique issued today by the Managing Board and the College of Auditors of the Vatican Pension Fund:

“Since for some months, and amplified by press reports, alarming data has been circulating regarding the situation of the Vatican Pensions Fund and on the sustainability of honouring the commitments undertaken towards present and future subscribers, the Managing Board of the Fund and the College of Auditors consider it opportune to officially communicate the actuarial situation, assets and income of the aforementioned Fund, as it appears in the actuarial Technical Financial Statements drawn up by the actuary and the Financial Statements regularly approved by the Secretary of State.

With regard to the actuarial aspect, there is a substantial balance between available resources and commitments to current and future employees, due also to interventions (approved by the Secretary of State following proposals by the Managing Board) both in terms of contributions (increase of rates throughout the years up to the current rate of 26% on the total of taxable income) and in relation to performance (increase of two years of working life, raising the age of retirement to 67 for laypersons and 72 for clergy and persons religious.

The Statements also show, throughout the years, the solidity of the assets and financial structure of the Fund itself. The funding ratio of the Pensions Fund is 0.95%. From a strictly income-based perspective, the economic and financial situation of the institution records a gradual increase of financial and real estate resources both in terms of capital resources which, from 1993 to 2013 increased on average from € 22,256,196 per year, and in terms of the upward trend in net profit, which during the last 6 years has passed from € 23,583,882 to € 26,866,657, sums sufficient to cover the current costs of pensions.

To complete the picture, the Fund’s assets on 31 December 2014 were recorded at € 477,668,000. Adding the budget surplus for 2015, estimated to be around € 27,140,000, a net worth by 31 December 2015 of over 504 million euros may be hypothesised, confirming the real solidity of the Fund, which has progressed from an initial budget of 10 billion of the old Italian lire in 1993 to over 500 million euros in little more than twenty years”.

The Holy See at the United Nations: social development policies must address the spiritual and ethical dimension of the human person

Vatican City, 20 February 2015 (VIS) – Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Holy See Permanent Observer at the United Nations in New York addressed the 53rd Session of the Commission for Social Development on 10 February. He highlighted the Holy See's concerns regarding economic growth which has led to new challenges, but has not benefited everyone in society equally. Significant inequalities remain and many of the most vulnerable groups in society have been left behind. Without addressing these inequalities, especially as we transition into the post 2015 development agenda, we risk undermining the impact of economic growth on poverty and on the well-being of society as a whole.

“To be sustainable and beneficial for all, social development must be ethical, moral and person-centred”, he said. “We must be attentive to those indicators that give a complete picture of the well-being of every individual in society while promoting policies that encourage a truly integral approach to the development of the human person as a whole”.

He continued, “It is not enough to have gainful employment. Work must also be dignified and secure. Investments in education, access to basic health-care services, and the creation of social safety nets are primary, not secondary factors to improving a person’s quality of life, and ensuring the equitable distribution of wealth and resources in society. By placing the human person at the centre of development and encouraging investments and policies that meet real needs, the progress made towards eradicating poverty remains permanent and society more resilient in the face of potential crises”.

The archbishop reiterated that the market economy does not exist to serve itself, but rather to serve the common good of all of society, and therefore particular attention must be given to the welfare of the most vulnerable. He added that “the authentic integral development of the person and the eradication of poverty are achievable only by focusing on the tremendous value of the family to society”, and by adopting a strategic approach towards the eradication of poverty, “based on true social justice in order to help reduce the suffering of millions of our brothers and sisters. … Social development policies must address not only the economic and political needs, but also the spiritual and ethical dimension of each human person”.


Vatican City, 20 February 2015 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father received in audience:

- Prelates of the Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, on their “ad Limina” visit:

- His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, major archbishop of Kyiv-Halyc, accompanied by his auxiliaries, Bishop Bohdan Dzyurakh and Bishop Yosyf Milan;

- Bishop Stepan Meniok, archiepiscopal exarch of Donetsk;

- Bishop Mykhaylo Bubniy, archiepiscopal exarch of Odessa;

- Bishop Josaphat Oleh Hovera, archiepiscopal exarch of Lutsk;

- Archbishop Volodymyr Viytyshyn of Ivano-Frankivsk, accompanied by his auxiliary, Bishop Yosafat Moshchych;

- Bishop Vasyl Ivasiuk, of Kololyia-Chernivtsi;

- Bishop Ihor Voznyak, archbishop of Lviv of the Ukrainians, accompanied by his auxiliary, Bishop Venedykt Aleksiychuk;

- Bishop Jaroslav Pryriz of Sambir-Drohobych, accompanied by his auxiliary, Bishop Hryhoriy Komar;

- Bishop Mykhaylo Koltun of Sokal-Zhovkva;

- Bishop Taras Senkiv of Stryi. accompanied by his auxiliary, Bishop Bohdan Manyshyn;

- Archbishop Vasyl Semeniuk of Ternopil-Zboriv;

- Bishop Dmytro Hryhorak, Vescovo di Buchach;

- Bishop Vasyl Tuchapets, archiepiscopal exarch of Kharkiv;

- Bishop Dionisio Lachovicz, apostolic visitator for the Ukrainian faithful of Byzantine Rite resident in Italy and Spain;


- Bishop Milan Sasik of Mukachevo of Byzantine Rite, accompanied by his auxiliary, Bishop Nil Yuriy Lushchak:


Prelates of the Conference of Roman Catholic Bishops in Ukraine on their “ad Limina” visit:

- Archbishop Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki, of Lviv of the Latins;

- Bishop Leonid Dubrawski of Kamyanets-Podilskyi, accompanied by his auxiliary, Bishop Radoslaw Zmitrowicz;

- Bishop Stanislav Szyrokoradiuk of Kharkiv-Zaporizhia, accompanied by Bishop emeritus Marian Buczek and his auxiliary, Bishop Jan Sobilo;

- Archbishop-Bishop Petro Herkulan Malchuk of Kyiv-Zhytomir;

- Bishop Vitaliy Skomarovskyi of Lutsk;

- Bishop Antal Majnek of Mukachevo of the Latins;

- Bishop Bronislaw Bernacki of Odessa-Simferopol, with his auxiliary Bishop Jacek Pyl.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Pope meets with the parish priests of Rome

Vatican City, 19 February 2015 (VIS) – The traditional Lenten meeting of the Bishop of Rome and “his” priests – between the Pope and the parish priests of the diocese – took place this morning in the Paul VI Hall. As announced by Cardinal Agostino Vallini, vicar of His Holiness for the diocese of Rome, the theme this year was the homily.

After Cardinal Vallini's greetings, the Pope introduced the meeting by referring to his 2005 address to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Saints on the theme of the “Ars celebrandi”, the test of which was distributed to the participants in advance. The meeting then proceeded in dialogue with the priests present.

Lent: call for reconciliation with God, Who knows no hypocrisy

Vatican City, 19 February 2015 (VIS) – Yesterday, Ash Wednesday, the Holy Father presided at the traditional penitential procession from the church of St. Anselm on the Aventine Hill to the Basilica of St. Sabina, located on the same Roman hill. A number of cardinals, archbishops and bishops also took part, along with the Benedictine monks of St. Anselm, the Dominican fathers of Santa Sabina, and the faithful.

After the procession, Pope Francis presided at the Eucharistic celebration with the rite of the blessing and imposition of the ashes. The Pope received them from the hands of Cardinal Josef Tomko, the titular of the Basilica, and subsequently imposed them upon the cardinals and several monks, consecrated persons and faithful.

In his homily, the Pope commented on the Gospel readings of the Mass, beginning with the passage from the Prophet Joel, sent by God to call the population to penance and conversion following the plague of locusts that devastated Judah. “Only the Lord can save from the scourge, and it is therefore necessary to plead through prayer and fasting, confessing one's own sin”. The prophet insists on inner conversion, begging the population to return to God with all their hearts, which means “undertaking a path of conversion that is not superficial or transitory, but rather a spiritual itinerary that involves the most intimate part of our person. The heart, indeed, is the seat of our sentiments, the centre where our decisions and attitudes mature”.

Joel's call is not directed solely at individuals: it is extended to the entire community, and is a convocation to all, paying special attention to the prayer of priests, and reiterating that this must be accompanied by tears. “It does good to all, but especially to priests, at the beginning of this Lenten time, to ask for the gift of ears, so as to make our prayer and our path of conversion ever more authentic and free of hypocrisy”, continued the Pope. “It is good for us to ask: 'Do I weep? Does the Pope weep? Do the cardinals weep? Do the bishops weep? Do priests weep? Do we weep in our prayers?”.

This is the message, he emphasised, of today's Gospel reading, in which Jesus rereads the three works of mercy prescribed by the Mosaic Law – almsgiving, prayer and fasting – “which over time have been attacked by the rust of external formalism, or have even mutated into signs of social superiority”. He continued, “Jesus highlights a common temptation in these three works, that can be summarised in hypocrisy (mentioned three times): 'Beware of practising your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them … Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do … And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites … For they love to stand and pray ... that they may be seen by others'. Be aware, brothers, that hypocrites do not know how to weep, they have forgotten how, they do not ask for the gift of tears”.

“When we do something good, almost instinctively there arises in us the desire to be esteemed and admired for this good action, to receive satisfaction from it. Jesus invites us to carry out these works without any ostentation, and to trust solely in the Father's reward”.

“The Lord never ceases to have mercy on us, or to offer his forgiveness once again, whenever we are in need of it, inviting us to turn to him with a renewed heart, purified of evil, purified by tears, in order to participate in His joy. How can we accept this invitation? St. Paul suggests to us: 'We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God'. This effort of conversion is not simply a human task: it is allowing oneself to be reconciled. The reconciliation between us and God is possible thanks to the mercy of the Father Who, out of love for us, did not hesitate to sacrifice His only Son. … In Him, we can become righteous, in Him we can change, if we welcome God's grace and do not allow the 'favourable time' to pass by in vain. Please, let us stop for a moment and let ourselves be reconciled with God”, exclaimed the Holy Father.

As a sign of our will to be reconciled with God, “aside from the tears that are shed in secret, we make the public gesture of the imposition of the ashes on the forehead. The celebrant pronounces these words: 'For you are dust, and to dust you shall return', or repeats Jesus' exhortation: 'Repent and believe in the Gospel'. Both formulas constitute a reminder of the truth of human existence: we are limited creatures, sinners always in need of penance and conversion. How important it is to hear and heed this call in our time! The invitation to convert thus inspires us to return, like the son in the parable, into the arms of God, tender and merciful Father, to weep in that embrace, to trust in Him and entrust ourselves to Him”.


Vatican City, 19 February 2015 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father received in audience:

- Archbishop Vito Rallo;

This afternoon he is scheduled to receive in audience Archbishop Maury Buendia, apostolic nuncio in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 19 February 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed Rev. Fr. Jose Crispiano Clavijo Mendez as bishop of Sincelejo (area 10,523, population 953,000, Catholics 767,000, priests 66, permanent deacons 4, religious 80), Colombia. The bishop-elect was born in Tocancipa, Colombia in 1951 and was ordained a priest in 1988. He holds a licentiate in catechesis and youth pastoral ministry from the Pontifical Salesian University, Rome, and has served in a number of pastoral roles, including parish priest of the “Inmaculada Concepcion” in Chimichagua, chancellor of the diocesan curia, rector of the “Nuestra Senora del Rosario” Cathedral, vicar general, director of the Centre for Evangelisation, parish priest of the “El Espiritu Santo” parish in Valledupar, and episcopal delegate for the clergy and for catechesis. He is currently rector of the “Juan Pablo II” major seminary in Valledupar.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

General audience: Brother, sister: words beloved to Christianity

Vatican City, 18 February 2015 (VIS) – Continuing his cycle of catechesis dedicated to the family, after reflecting on the figure of the mother and father, the Pope today spoke about fraternity. “'Brother' and 'sister' are words that Christianity loves. And, thanks to the family, they are words that all cultures and all ages understand”.

Fraternal bonds are very important in the history of the people of God, and are highly praised in the Old Testament. However their rupture opened up a deep abyss in mankind, and God's question to Cain - “Where is your brother?” - never ceases to resonate throughout history. “And”, exclaimed the Pontiff, “unfortunately, in this generation too, Cain's dramatic answer is also repeated endlessly: “I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper?”. The rupture of the bond between brothers disfigures humanity. And even within families, how many brothers argue over small things, an inheritance, and then no longer even speak to or greet each other? If we think that they inhabited the womb of the same mother …. We all know families in which there are divisions between brothers. Let us pray to the Lord for them, to help brothers be reunited and families rebuilt. And let us always keep these divided brothers in our prayers”.

The bond of fraternity that is formed in the family, among children, if it occurs a climate of education in openness to others, “is the great school of freedom and peace. Perhaps we are not always aware of this, but it is precisely the family that introduces fraternity into the world”, remarked the Pope, emphasising that from this first experience, fraternity “radiates like a promise to the whole of society and the relations between peoples. And the blessing that God – in Jesus Christ – lavishes upon this bond of fraternity, extends it unimaginably, making it capable of surpassing any difference of nation, culture or even religion”.

He added, “Think about what becomes of the bond between men, even the most diverse, when they are able to say of another, 'he is just like a brother, she is just like a sister to me'. History has demonstrated sufficiently that even liberty and equality, without fraternity, can be filled with individualism, conformism and personal interest”.

Fraternity in the family shines in a special way “when we see the care, patience, and affection that surround those brothers and sisters who are weak, sick, or disabled. Having a brother or a sister who cares for you is a powerful experience, priceless and irreplaceable. The same applies to the Christian family. We must be moved to tenderness by the smallest, the weakest, the poorest: they have a 'right' to capture our heart and soul. Yes, they are our brothers and we must love them and treat them as such. When this happens, when it is as if the poor are part of the family, our Christian fraternity comes to life. Indeed, Christians go towards the poor and the weak not in obedience to an ideological programme, but because the word and example of the Lord tell us that they are our brothers. This is the principle of God's love and of all justice between men”.

“And now I suggest one thing”, he added, off the cuff: “in silence, each of us, let us think of our brothers and sisters, and pray for them”. St. Peter's Square remained in silence for a moment, after which Francis added, “With this prayer we brought all of them, our brothers and sisters, here in the square to be blessed”.

“Today, more than ever, it is necessary to bring fraternity back to the centre of our technocratic and bureaucratic society: then liberty and equality will also acquire the correct tone. Therefore, let us not light-heartedly deprive our families, through apprehension or fear, of the beauty of a full fraternal experience. And lot us not lose our trust in the broad horizon that faith is able to draw from this experience, enlightened by God's blessing”.

Appeal for Libya

Vatican City, 18 February 2015 (VIS) – Following this morning's catechesis, Pope Francis launched a fresh appeal for prayers for “our Egyptian brothers, killed in Libya three days ago for the mere fact of being Christians. May the Lord welcome them into his house and console their families and their communities”.

He also encouraged prayer for peace in the Middle East and in North Africa, remembering all the deceased, the wounded and refugees. “May the international Community find peaceful solutions to the difficult situation in Libya”.

Francis joins in prayer for peace in Ukraine

Vatican City, 18 February 2015 (VIS) – At the end of today's general audience, the Pope greeted the faithful gathered in the square in various languages. He dedicated some special words to the Ukrainian bishops, currently in Rome on their “ad Limina” visit, and all the faithful accompanying them. “Слава Ісусу Христу! Praise be to Jesus Christ!”, said the Holy Father in Ukrainian. “I know that among the many intentions you bring to the Tombs of the Apostles there is the plea for peace in Ukraine. I carry the same wish in my heart and join in your prayer that lasting peace may come soon to your homeland”.

52nd Campaign for Fraternity in Brazil: dialogue and collaboration between the Church and society

Vatican City, 18 February 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has sent a message to the faithful of Brazil on the occasion of the 52nd Campaign for Fraternity in Brazil, organised annually by the Episcopal Conference during Lent. The theme of this year's Campaign is “Fraternity: Church and Society”.

“We are nearing Lent, the time of preparation for Easter: a time of penance, prayer and charity, a time to renew our lives, to identify with Jesus through generous donation to our brothers, especially those most in need”, writes the Pope. “Indeed, the Church, the community in which 'God gathered together as one all those who in faith look upon Jesus as the author of salvation and the source of unity and peace', cannot be indifferent to the needs of those she encounters, as 'the joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted … are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ'”.

Francis mentions in his message that during these forty days, the Campaign for Fraternity wishes to help deepen, in the light of the Gospel, dialogue and collaboration between Church and society, to serve the construction of the Kingdom of God in the heart and life of the Brazilian people. He underlines, however, that this is not the exclusive task of institutions: all people must contribute, starting in their own home, their own workplace, and in relations with others. “Let us recall that each individual Christian and every community is called to be an instrument of God for the liberation and promotion of the poor, and for enabling them to be fully a part of society. This demands that we be docile and attentive to the cry of the poor and come to their aid”.

The Holy Father encourages an “examination of conscience” on the “concrete and effective commitment of each one of us in the construction of a more just, fraternal and peaceful society”. He concludes, “I hope that this year's Lenten journey, in the light of the proposals of the Campaign for Fraternity, may predispose hearts to the new life offered to us by Christ, and that the transformative power that flows from the Resurrection reaches everyone in its pastoral, family, social and cultural dimension, and strengthens sentiments of fraternity and lively collaboration in every heart”.

Francis thanks the Italian Coast Guard for their work with refugees and immigrants

Vatican City, 18 February 2015 (VIS) – Yesterday evening in the Domus Sanctae Marthae the Pope received a delegation from the Italian Coast Guard, and heard their account of the difficult rescue operations they carry out at sea to save refugees and migrants. The delegation was composed of nine people, led by Admiral Commander Felicio Angrisano and Admiral Giovanni Pettorino, head of the operative unit, and accompanied by the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Maurizio Lupi.

The members of the delegation recounted their moving and inspiring experiences, and the Pope expressed his participation and appreciation for the service they carry out with bravery and dedication to the poorest. He recalled his trip to Lampedusa and praised the solidarity of the islanders with the refugees that arrive there, even at the expense of tourism in the area. He also mentioned that he had sent his Almoner, Archbishop Krajewski, to participate in the operation to recover bodies following the tragic shipwreck last year, and concluded, “I truly admire you, and I feel small before the work that you do, risking your lives, and I offer my heartfelt thanks to you for this. But I support you in the best way I can: with prayer, praise and affection”.


Vatican City, 18 February 2015 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father received in audience Ricardo Lewandowski, president of the Federal Supreme Court of Brazil.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Pope's Message for World Youth Day: “Have the courage to be happy”

Vatican City, 17 February 2015 (VIS) - “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” is the title of the Holy Father's message for the thirtieth World Youth Day, celebrated every year on Palm Sunday. The Pope continues his reflection on the Beatitudes, and after referring to his previous messages on “revolutionary meaning” and the “powerful summons of Jesus to embark courageously upon the exciting quest for happiness”, he goes on to focus on “the desire for happiness”, starting from the first chapters of the Book of Genesis which “shows to us the splendid beatitude to which we are called” and “consists in perfect communion with God, with others, with nature, and with ourselves”.

Francis divides his message into four parts. After speaking about the desire for happiness, he analyses the sixth beatitude paragraph by paragraph, explaining purity of heart. If the heart is considered in the Bible to be the “centre of the emotions, thoughts and intentions of the human person”, its purity consists fundamentally in the absence of contaminants such as hate, cowardice, and envy. He then turns to the care for creation, so that it does not become contaminated, and invites a “human ecology” that “ will help us to breathe the pure air that comes from beauty, from true love, and from holiness”. Francis also urged the young not to allow their ability to love or be loved be instrumentalised or impaired, and not to trivialise love.

In the third part, “... for they shall see God”, he recalls that Jesus “awaits us always with open arms”, and calls to all “in whatever place or situation you find yourself”. “Encountering God in prayer, the reading of the Bible and in fraternal life will help you better to know the Lord and yourselves”, writes the Pope. “Like the disciples on the way to Emmaus, the Lord’s voice will make your hearts burn within you. He will open your eyes to recognise his presence and to discover the loving plan he has for your life”.

“Have the courage to be happy”, Francis concludes, recalling that this year's World Youth Day begins the final stage in preparation for the next great global event to be held in Krakow, Poland in 2016, thirty years after St. John Paul II instituted the World Youth Days in the Church. This “pilgrimage of young people from every continent under the guidance of the Successor of Peter has truly been a providential and prophetic initiative”.

The full text of the message is given below:

Dear Young Friends,

We continue our spiritual pilgrimage toward Krakow, where in July 2016 the next international World Youth Day will be held. As our guide for the journey we have chosen the Beatitudes. Last year we reflected on the beatitude of the poor in spirit, within the greater context of the Sermon on the Mount. Together we discovered the revolutionary meaning of the Beatitudes and the powerful summons of Jesus to embark courageously upon the exciting quest for happiness. This year we will reflect on the sixth beatitude: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”.

1. The desire for happiness

The word “blessed”, or “happy”, occurs nine times in this, Jesus’ first great sermon. It is like a refrain reminding us of the Lord’s call to advance together with him on a road which, for all its many challenges, leads to true happiness.

Dear young friends, this search for happiness is shared by people of all times and all ages. God has placed in the heart of every man and woman an irrepressible desire for happiness, for fulfilment. Have you not noticed that your hearts are restless, always searching for a treasure which can satisfy their thirst for the infinite?

The first chapters of the Book of Genesis show us the splendid “beatitude” to which we are called. It consists in perfect communion with God, with others, with nature, and with ourselves. To approach God freely, to see him and to be close to him, was part of his plan for us from the beginning; his divine light was meant to illumine every human relationship with truth and transparency. In the state of original purity, there was no need to put on masks, to engage in ploys or to attempt to conceal ourselves from one another. Everything was clear and pure.

When Adam and Eve yielded to temptation and broke off this relationship of trusting communion with God, sin entered into human history. The effects were immediately evident, within themselves, in their relationship with each other and with nature. And how dramatic the effects are! Our original purity as defiled. From that time on, we were no longer capable of closeness to God. Men and women began to conceal themselves, to cover their nakedness. Lacking the light which comes from seeing the Lord, they saw everything around them in a distorted fashion, myopically. The inner compass which had guided them in their quest for happiness lost its point of reference, and the attractions of power, wealth, possessions, and a desire for pleasure at all costs, led them to the abyss of sorrow and anguish.

In the Psalms we hear the heartfelt plea which mankind makes to God: “What can bring us happiness? Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord”. The Father, in his infinite goodness, responded to this plea by sending his Son. In Jesus, God has taken on a human face. Through his Incarnation, life, death and resurrection, Jesus frees us from sin and opens new and hitherto unimaginable horizons.

Dear young men and women, in Christ you find fulfilled your every desire for goodness and happiness. He alone can satisfy your deepest longings, which are so often clouded by deceptive worldly promises. As Saint John Paul II said: “He is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is he who provokes you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is he who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is he who reads in your hearts your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle. It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives”.

2. Blessed are the pure in heart

Let us now try to understand more fully how this blessedness comes about through purity of heart. First of all, we need to appreciate the biblical meaning of the word heart. In Hebrew thought, the heart is the centre of the emotions, thoughts and intentions of the human person. Since the Bible teaches us that God does not look to appearances, but to the heart, we can also say that it is from the heart that we see God. This is because the heart is really the human being in his or her totality as a unity of body and soul, in his or her ability to love and to be loved.

As for the definition of the word pure, however, the Greek word used by the evangelist Matthew is katharos, which basically means clean, pure, undefiled. In the Gospel we see Jesus reject a certain conception of ritual purity bound to exterior practices, one which forbade all contact with things and people (including lepers and strangers) considered impure. To the Pharisees who, like so many Jews of their time, ate nothing without first performing ritual ablutions and observing the many traditions associated with cleansing vessels, Jesus responds categorically: “There is nothing outside a man which by going into him can defile him; but the things which come out of a man are what defile him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness”.

In what, then, does the happiness born of a pure heart consist? From Jesus’ list of the evils which make someone impure, we see that the question has to do above all with the area of our relationships. Each one of us must learn to discern what can “defile” his or her heart and to form his or her conscience rightly and sensibly, so as to be capable of “discerning the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect”. We need to show a healthy concern for creation, for the purity of our air, water and food, but how much more do we need to protect the purity of what is most precious of all: our heart and our relationships. This “human ecology” will help us to breathe the pure air that comes from beauty, from true love, and from holiness.

Once I asked you the question: “Where is your treasure? In what does your heart find its rest?”. Our hearts can be attached to true or false treasures, they can find genuine rest or they can simply slumber, becoming lazy and lethargic. The greatest good we can have in life is our relationship with God. Are you convinced of this? Do you realise how much you are worth in the eyes of God? Do you know that you are loved and welcomed by him unconditionally, as indeed you are? Once we lose our sense of this, we human beings become an incomprehensible enigma, for it is the knowledge that we are loved unconditionally by God which gives meaning to our lives. Do you remember the conversation that Jesus had with the rich young man? The evangelist Mark observes that the Lord looked upon him and loved him, and invited him to follow him and thus to find true riches. I hope, dear young friends, that this loving gaze of Christ will accompany each of you throughout life.

Youth is a time of life when your desire for a love which is genuine, beautiful and expansive begins to blossom in your hearts. How powerful is this ability to love and to be loved! Do not let this precious treasure be debased, destroyed or spoiled. That is what happens when we start to use our neighbours for our own selfish ends, even as objects of pleasure. Hearts are broken and sadness follows upon these negative experiences. I urge you: Do not be afraid of true love, the love that Jesus teaches us and which St. Paul describes as “patient and kind”. Paul says: “Love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things”.

In encouraging you to rediscover the beauty of the human vocation to love, I also urge you to rebel against the widespread tendency to reduce love to something banal, reducing it to its sexual aspect alone, deprived of its essential characteristics of beauty, communion, fidelity and responsibility. Dear young friends, “in a culture of relativism and the ephemeral, many preach the importance of ‘enjoying’ the moment. They say that it is not worth making a life-long commitment, making a definitive decision, ‘for ever’, because we do not know what tomorrow will bring. I ask you, instead, to be revolutionaries, I ask you to swim against the tide; yes, I am asking you to rebel against this culture that sees everything as temporary and that ultimately believes you are incapable of responsibility, that believes you are incapable of true love. I have confidence in you and I pray for you. Have the courage to ‘swim against the tide’. And also have the courage to be happy”.

You young people are brave adventurers! If you allow yourselves to discover the rich teachings of the Church on love, you will discover that Christianity does not consist of a series of prohibitions which stifle our desire for happiness, but rather a project for life capable of captivating our hearts.

3. … for they shall see God

In the heart of each man and woman, the Lord’s invitation constantly resounds: “Seek my face!”. At the same time, we must always realise that we are poor sinners. For example, we read in the Book of Psalms: “Who can climb the mountain of the Lord? Who shall stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart”. But we must never be afraid or discouraged: throughout the Bible and in the history of each one of us we see that it is always God who takes the first step. He purifies us so that we can come into his presence.

When the prophet Isaiah heard the Lord’s call to speak in his name, he was terrified and said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips”. And yet the Lord purified him, sending to him an angel who touched his lips, saying: “Your guilt is taken away, and your sin is forgiven”. In the New Testament, when on the shores of lake Genessaret Jesus called his first disciples and performed the sign of the miraculous catch of fish, Simon Peter fell at his feet, exclaiming: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord”. Jesus’ reply was immediate: “Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be fishers of men”. And when one of the disciples of Jesus asked him: “Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied”, the Master replied: “He who has seen me has seen the Father.

The Lord’s invitation to encounter him is made to each of you, in whatever place or situation you find yourself. It suffices to have the desire for “a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter you; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day”. We are all sinners, needing to be purified by the Lord. But it is enough to take a small step towards Jesus to realise that he awaits us always with open arms, particularly in the sacrament of Reconciliation, a privileged opportunity to encounter that divine mercy which purifies us and renews our hearts.

Dear young people, the Lord wants to meet us, to let himself “be seen” by us. “And how?”, you might ask me. St. Teresa of Avila, born in Spain five hundred years ago, even as a young girl, said to her parents, “I want to see God”. She subsequently discovered the way of prayer as “an intimate friendship with the One who makes us feel loved”. So my question to you is this: “Are you praying?” Do you know that you can speak with Jesus, with the Father, with the Holy Spirit, as you speak to a friend? And not just any friend, but the greatest and most trusted of your friends! You will discover what one of his parishioners told the Curé of Ars: “When I pray before the tabernacle, ‘I look at him, and he looks at me’”.

Once again I invite you to encounter the Lord by frequently reading sacred Scripture. If you are not already in the habit of doing so, begin with the Gospels. Read a line or two each day. Let God’s word speak to your heart and enlighten your path. You will discover that God can be “seen” also in the face of your brothers and sisters, especially those who are most forgotten: the poor, the hungry, those who thirst, strangers, the sick, those imprisoned. Have you ever had this experience? Dear young people, in order to enter into the logic of the Kingdom of Heaven, we must recognise that we are poor with the poor. A pure heart is necessarily one which has been stripped bare, a heart that knows how to bend down and share its life with those most in need.

Encountering God in prayer, the reading of the Bible and in the fraternal life will help you better to know the Lord and yourselves. Like the disciples on the way to Emmaus, the Lord’s voice will make your hearts burn within you. He will open your eyes to recognise his presence and to discover the loving plan he has for your life.

Some of you feel, or will soon feel, the Lord’s call to married life, to forming a family. Many people today think that this vocation is “outdated”, but that is not true! For this very reason, the ecclesial community has been engaged in a special period of reflection on the vocation and the mission of the family in the Church and the contemporary world. I also ask you to consider whether you are being called to the consecrated life or the priesthood. How beautiful it is to see young people who embrace the call to dedicate themselves fully to Christ and to the service of his Church! Challenge yourselves, and with a pure heart do not be afraid of what God is asking of you! From your “yes” to the Lord’s call, you will become new seeds of hope in the Church and in society. Never forget: God’s will is our happiness!

4. On the way to Krakow

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”. Dear young men and women, as you see, this beatitude speaks directly to your lives and is a guarantee of your happiness. So once more I urge you: Have the courage to be happy!

This year’s World Youth Day begins the final stage of preparations for the great gathering of young people from around the world in Krakow in 2016. Thirty years ago St. John Paul II instituted World Youth Days in the Church. This pilgrimage of young people from every continent under the guidance of the Successor of Peter has truly been a providential and prophetic initiative. Together let us thank the Lord for the precious fruits which these World Youth Days have produced in the lives of countless young people in every part of the globe! How many amazing discoveries have been made, especially the discovery that Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life! How many people have realised that the Church is a big and welcoming family! How many conversions, how many vocations have these gatherings produced! May the saintly Pope, the Patron of World Youth Day, intercede on behalf of our pilgrimage toward his beloved Krakow. And may the maternal gaze of the Blessed Virgin Mary, full of grace, all-beautiful and all-pure, accompany us at every step along the way.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 17 February 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed Archbishop Adolfo Tito Yllana, apostolic nuncio in the Democratic Republic of Congo, as apostolic nuncio in Australia.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Audience with the King of Tonga: satisfaction at the nomination of the first cardinal from the archipelago

Vatican City, 16 February 2015 (VIS) – Today in the Vatican Apostolic Palace the Holy Father Francis received in audience Their Majesties the King Tupou VI of Tonga and the Queen Nanasipau’u Tuku’aho, who went on to meet with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, accompanied by Archbishop Paul Gallagher, secretary for Relations with States.

His Majesty first expressed his satisfaction at the election of the first Cardinal from the archipelago, Cardinal Soane Patita Paini Mafi, underlining the enthusiasm of the population and the presence of Her Majesty the Queen and numerous Tongans at the Ordinary Public Consistory held on 14 February. During the cordial discussions, attention was paid to the recent political developments in the country and on a number of aspects of social and economic life, as well as the positive contribution of the Catholic Church in various areas of society.

There was subsequently an exchange of opinions on the international situation, with particular reference to the island States of the Pacific and the environmental problems that some of them are compelled to face.

The Pope receives the representatives of the Church of Scotland (Reformed)

Vatican City, 16 February 2015 (VIS) – The Right Rev. John P. Chalmers, moderator of the Church of Scotland, accompanied by a group of representatives of the same Church, were received this in audience this morning by the Holy Father who, in his greeting, expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to meet and share with them a common commitment to the service of the Gospel and the cause for Christian unity.

“Scotland’s rich cultural and historical traditions have been shaped by outstanding saintly witnesses to Christ from various confessions”, he observed. “The present state of ecumenical relations in Scotland clearly shows that what we, as Christians, hold in common is greater than all that divides us. On this basis the Lord is calling us to seek ever more effective ways to overcome old prejudices and to find new forms of understanding and cooperation”.

The Pope remarked that he was heartened to see that “the good relations between the Church of Scotland and the Catholic Church have borne fruit in shared reflection on the challenges posed by contemporary society, and that in many cases we are able to speak with one voice on issues which deeply affect the lives of all Christians. In our globalised and often confused world, a common Christian witness is a necessary requisite for the effectiveness of our efforts to evangelise.

“We are pilgrims and we journey alongside one another. We need to learn to have 'sincere trust in our fellow pilgrims, putting aside all suspicion or mistrust, and turn our gaze to what we are all seeking: the radiant peace of God’s face', he continued, citing his Apostolic Exhortation “Evangelii gaudium”. He went on to reiterate that faith and Christian witness current face such great challenges that “only by working together will we be able effectively to serve the human family and enable the light of Christ to reach every dark corner of our hearts and of our world”.

“May the journey of reconciliation and peace between our communities continue to draw us closer, so that, prompted by the Holy Spirit, we may bring life to all, and bring it in abundance. Let us pray for one another, and continue to advance in the way of wisdom, good will, strength and peace”. Pope Francis then added, in his native Spanish, “allow me to use my mother tongue to express a profound and sad sentiment. Today I have read about the execution of those twenty-one or twenty-two Coptic Christians. They said only: 'Jesus, help me'. They were assassinated for the mere fact of being Christians. You, Brother, in your discourse, referred to what is happening in Jesus' land. The blood of our Christian brothers is a testimony that calls to us. Regardless of whether they are Catholic, Orthodox, Coptic, Lutherans – this does not matter, they are Christians. And blood is the same. Their blood confesses Christ. In remembrance of these brothers of ours who have died for the mere fact of confessing Christ, I ask that we encourage each other to go ahead with this ecumenism, that is giving us strength, this ecumenism of blood. The martyrs are all Christians. Let us all pray for each other”.

To the Pro Petri Sede Association: there is much to learn from the poor

Vatican City, 16 February 2015 (VIS) - “I am grateful for your commitment to serving the poor. The growing number of marginalised people living in situations of extreme precariousness is a fact that calls to us and demands zealous solidarity to offer them the material and spiritual support they need”, said the Pope this morning, as he received in audience the members of the Pro Petri Sede Association, on their pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles in these days. “At the same time, we have much to receive from the poor whom we encounter and assist”, he added. “In the throes of difficulty, they are often witnesses to the essential, to family values; they are able to share with those who are poorer than them, and to rejoice in it. … Indifference and self-centredness are always on the increase. Care for the poor enriches us by setting us on a path of humility and truth”.

Francis encouraged them to pray to the Lord, especially during the Lenten time that is about to begin, to ask Him to give them a merciful and poor heart, that knows its own poverty and offers itself to others. He mentioned their valuable work in assisting the neediest populations throughout the world, offering them spiritual consolation so that they do not feel forgotten in their difficulties and retain hope. He also invited them to pray fervently for peace, “so that political leaders may find ways of dialogue and reconciliation”, and concluded by expressing his hope that their pilgrimage might increase in every one of them “the sense of belonging to the Church, which is a great family, and the joy of announcing the Gospel to all. May fraternity be strengthened among you, so you may carry out your mission in the service of the poor and the least, for whom Jesus has a special predilection”.

Before concluding, the Pope added some impromptu words regarding the Benelux countries, which “have filled the world with missionaries. Today they face a vocational crisis. I would like to ask you to knock on the door of Jesus' heart and ask Him not to forget the generosity that these two countries had in other times. May He send vocations to Benelux, so that the life of faith may grow further. You work with the poor and love the poor, but think also of those who are poor in faith, who have no faith because there is no-one to preach it to them. May the Lord send priests to announce the faith. And please, pray for vocations in your countries”.
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