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Friday, March 27, 2015

Pope Expresses Solidarity with Families in Iraq and Nigeria

Vatican City, 27 March 2015 (VIS) – Pope Francis has a constant concern for the situation of Christian families and other groups of victims who have been expelled from their homes and villages, particularly in the city of Mosul and the Nineveh plains, many of whom have taken refuge in the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan. The Pope prays for them and hopes they can return and resume their lives in the lands and places where they have lived and built good relationships for hundreds of years.
In this coming Holy Week, these families are sharing together with Christ the unjust violence of which they have been made victims, participating in the suffering of Christ himself.
In a desire to be close to these families, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, is returning to Iraq as a sign of nearness, affection, and unity in prayer with them.
The families of the Diocese of Rome, united with their bishop in the feeling of nearness and solidarity with these families, through a special collection in the parishes, are sending the traditional Easter cakes in the shape of a dove (colomba cake) to share the joy of Easter and as a herald of good based on the faith in the Resurrection of Christ.

The Holy Father, moreover, makes himself present in a concrete way with a tangible sign of solidarity. Not wanting to forget the suffering of the families in northern Nigeria either, he has also sent a similar sign of solidarity through the local Bishops’ Conference.

Pope to Receive President of Italy and to Visit Prato and Florence

Vatican City, 27 March 2015 (VIS) – On 18 April, Pope Francis will receive President of Italy Sergio Mattarella for the first time in an official visit to the Vatican. President Mattarella was elected 3 February of this year. The visit has been confirmed by the Holy See Press Office as well as the pastoral visits that the Holy Father will make to the Italian cities of Prato and Florence on 10 November on the occasion of the 5th National Ecclesial Congress of the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI) that will be held from 9-13 November. The Congress’s theme is “A New Humanism through Jesus Christ”.

Pope Meets 150 Homeless who Visited Sistine Chapel Yesterday

Vatican City, 27 March 2015 (VIS) – Yesterday afternoon, shortly after 5:00pm, Pope Francis went to the Sistine Chapel to greet the 150 homeless persons who had been invited to visit the Vatican Museums through an initiative of the Office of Papal Charities. After shaking hands with those he met, he addressed the group saying: “Welcome. This is the house of all; this is your house. The doors are always open to all.”
Later, he thanked Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, Papal Almoner, for having organized the visit, which he called a “small kindness” for the guests. The Pope added: “Pray for me. I need the prayers of people like you. May the Lord protect you, accompany you on your life’s path, and make you feel the Father’s tender love.” He then greeted each person present and chatted with them for about 20 minutes.
As we reported yesterday, after the visit, the guests were invited to dinner at the Vatican Museums restaurant and they left Vatican City through the Sant’Uffizio Gate.

At the Pope’s request, there was no official video or photo report of the event.

Respect for Refugee Children: Legal Identity, Education

Vatican City, 27 March 2015 (VIS) – Respect for children, victims of war, was the subject of Holy See Permanent Observer to the United Nations and other international organizations in Geneva Archbishop Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi’s, speech given at the 28th session of the Human Rights Council held 17 March of this year.
The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic,” the archbishop stated, “recently reported that, since the start of the crisis, ‘more than 10 million Syrians have fled their homes. This amounts to almost half of the country’s population, now deprived of their basic rights’ … A variety of sources have provided evidence on how children suffer the brutal consequences of a persistent status of war in their country. Children are recruited, trained, and used in active combat roles, at times even as human shields in military attacks. The so-called Islamic State (ISIL) group has worsened the situation by training and using children as suicide bombers; killing children who belong to different religious and ethnic communities; selling children as slaves in markets; executing large numbers of boys; and committing other atrocities.”
In camps throughout the Middle East, children constitute approximately half of the refugee population and they are the most vulnerable demographic group in times of conflict and displacement. … Beyond the specific conditions faced by internally displaced children and those in the refugee camps of the region and beyond the enormous tragedies affecting them, it seems important to envision their future, by focusing on three particular areas of concern.”
First,” he asserted, “the world must deal with the situation of millions of stateless children, who as such according to the law, were never born. The United Nations estimates that approximately 30,000 of these children can be found in Lebanon alone. Moreover, due to the Middle Eastern conflicts and massive uprooting of families, several thousand unregistered children are scattered in camps and other asylum countries. … Stateless children cross international borders alone and find themselves completely abandoned. … While all face grave difficulties, those fleeing Syria face challenges that are even more dramatic: a child below eleven years of age and without documents has no access even to the most basic services. These children obviously cannot go to school and they are likely to be adopted illegally, recruited in an armed group, abused, exploited, or forced into prostitution. Every child has the right to be registered at birth and thus to be recognized as a person before the law. The implementation of this right opens the way for access to the enjoyment of other rights and benefits that affect the future of these children. Simplifying mechanisms and requirements for registration, waving fees, and advocating for refugee inclusive registration legislation, represent steps to solve the plight of stateless children.”
Second, another key component that shapes the future of uprooted children is education. Both in Syria and in refugee camps in the region, provision of education has become extremely problematic. Some 5,000 schools have been destroyed in Syria where more than one million and half students no longer receive an education and where attacks against school buildings continue. … The international community as a whole seems to have misjudged the extent of the Syrian crisis. It was thought by many that the Syrian refugee flow was temporary and such refugees would leave their countries of asylum in a matter of months. Now, after four years of conflict, it appears likely that these refugees will remain and the locals have to learn to live side by side with them. … In the camps, there are only 40 teachers for more than 1,000 students, aged 6 to 17. … For different reasons, whether in their home countries or in the refugee camps, children find an inadequate education system that jeopardizes their future. Everywhere there is an urgent need for an education system that could absorb these children and bring some normalcy to their lives.”
Third, another disruptive consequence of the continuing violence that torments the Middle East is the separation of family members, which forces many minors to fend for themselves. … To prevent the further exploitation of children and to protect them properly, an additional effort should be made to facilitate the reunification of minors with their respective families.”

The right to a legal identity, to an adequate education, and to a family,” the archbishop concluded, “are key elements and specific requirements in a comprehensive system of protection for children. Such measures require the close collaboration of all stakeholders. Access to quality education and psycho-social care, together with other basic services, is extremely important. However, children cannot benefit from such services unless they are registered at birth and their families and communities are supported to protect them better. If the violence does not stop and the normal pace of education and development is not resumed, these children are at risk of becoming a lost generation.”

Freedoms of Religion and Expression: Adopting an Ethics of Responsibility

Vatican City, 27 March 2015 (VIS) – On 10 March, Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi, Holy See Permanent Observer to the United Nations and other international organizations in Geneva, spoke at the 28th meeting of the Council for Human Rights. His speech, the majority of which is presented here below, emphasized the fundamental importance of religious freedom as well as the freedom of expression.
The International Community is now confronted with a delicate, complex, and urgent challenge with regard to respect for religious sensibilities and the need for peaceful coexistence in an ever more pluralistic world: namely, that of establishing a fair relationship between freedom of expression and freedom of religion. The relationship between these fundamental human rights has proven difficult to manage and to address on either a normative or institutional level. On the other hand, it should be recognized ‘that the open, constructive, and respectful debate of ideas, as well as interfaith and intercultural dialogue at the local, national, and international levels, can play a positive role in combating religious hatred, incitement, and violence.’ Failure in this effort is evident when an excessive and irresponsible use of freedom of expression results in intimidation, threats, and verbal abuse and these infringe upon freedom of religion and can sadly lead to intolerance and violence. Likewise, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion has focused on the violence committed ‘in the name of religion’, and on its root causes.”
Unfortunately, violence abounds today. If genocide means any act committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group, as such, then the International Community as a whole is certainly witnessing a sort of genocide in some regions of the world, where the enslavement and sale of women and children, the killing of young men, the burning, beheading and the forcing into exile of people continue. In this context, the Delegation of the Holy See would like to submit to the joint reflection of the Human Rights Council that these and other unspeakable crimes are being committed against people belonging to ancient communities simply because their belief, social system, and culture are different from the fundamentalist combatants of the so-called ‘Islamic State’ group. The appeal to religion in order to murder people and destroy the evidence of human creativity developed in the course of history makes the on-going atrocities even more revulsive and damnable. An adequate response from the International Community, which should finally put aside sectarian interests and save lives, is a moral imperative.”
Violence, however, does not stem from religion but from its false interpretation or its transformation into ideology. In addition, the same violence can derive from the idolatry of State or of the economy, and it can be an effect of secularization. All these phenomena tend to eliminate individual freedom and responsibility towards others. But, violence is always an individual’s act and a decision that implies personal responsibility. It is in fact by adopting an ethics of responsibility that the way toward the future can become fruitful, preventing violence and breaking the impasse between extreme positions: one that upholds any form of freedom of expression and the other that rejects any criticism of a religion. …”
Freedom of expression that is misused to wound the dignity of persons by offending their deepest convictions sows the seeds of violence. Of course, freedom of expression is a fundamental human right that is always to be upheld and protected; in fact, it also implies the obligation to say in a responsible way what a person thinks in view of the common good. … It does not, however, justify relegating religion to a subculture of insignificant weight or to an acceptable easy target of ridicule and discrimination. Antireligious arguments even in the form of irony can surely be accepted, as it is acceptable to use irony about secularism or atheism. Criticism of religious thinking can even help dismantle various extremisms. But what can justify gratuitous insults and spiteful derision of the religious feelings and convictions of others who are, after all, equal in dignity? Can we make fun of the cultural identity of a person, of the colour of his skin, of the belief of his heart? A ‘right to offend’ does not exist. …”

Several mutually interdependent issues like freedom of religion, freedom of expression, religious intolerance, and violence in the name of religion come together in the concrete situations the world faces today. The way forward seems to be the adoption of a comprehensive approach that would consider these issues together in domestic legislation and deal with them in such a way that they may facilitate a peaceful coexistence based on the respect of the inherent human dignity and rights of every person. While opting to be on the side of freedom, the consequences of its exercise cannot be ignored and they should respect this dignity and, thus, build a more humane and more brotherly global society.”

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Slogan and Logo of Pope’s Trip to Sarajevo Presented

Vatican City, 26 March 2015 (VIS) – This coming 6 June, Pope Francis will visit Sarajevo, capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The slogan of the visit will be “Peace Be With You” and the logo is a dove with an olive branch. Concretely, the dove with olive branch, symbol of peace, is flanking a cross, part of which is a stylized triangle symbolizing the country’s borders, with the colors of white, blue, yellow, and red representing both the country’s flag as well as the presence of Croats in the nation. It is the design of artists Miroslav Setka and Dragan Ivankovic.

At the presentation, Cardinal Vinko Puljic, archbishop of Sarajevo, explained that the slogan and logo were inspired by the Pope’s words “when he announced that the purpose of his visit would promote the peace process in Bosnia. Moreover, ‘Peace Be With You’ is the expression with which Jesus greeted the disciples when He appeared to them after the Resurrection. The times we live in,” the cardinal said, “are times of uncertainty regarding the future and that is why everyone in this country, especially we Catholics, needs this encouragement.”

Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel Open to 150 Homeless Visitors

Vatican City, 26 March 2015 (VIS) – One hundred and fifty homeless persons, generally found around St. Peter’s Square and Bernini’s Colonnade, will be guided around the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel in an initiative undertaken by Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, almoner of the Office of Papal Charities.

The guests, divided into three groups, each with their own guides, will visit part of the Vatican City State, including the Domus Sanctae Marthae, St. Peter’s Basilica, the palace of the Mint, the gardens, and the Gate of St. Gregory. On arriving at the museums they will visit the Carriage Pavillion, the Galleries of the Chandeliers and Maps, and the Sistine Chapel. After the visit, the group will eat at the restaurant in the Vatican Museums.

Carmelite Communities around the World Pray for Peace

Vatican City, 26 March 2015 (VIS) – Carmelite communities around the world today-26 March, the fifth centenary of the birth of St. Teresa of Avila, foundress of the Discalced Carmelite Order-are celebrating in the way deemed most appropriate and suitable, with a day of prayer for peace.

Prayer for peace,” the Carmelite Vicar General, Fr. Emilio Martinez said, “is a gift that we offer to St. Teresa and what better than to do what she asked of us, which is to keep the concerns of the world at heart.”

During the prayer, the communities will especially keep in mind persecuted Christians and countries at war, praying for the cessation of all public and domestic violence. The organizers of the day of prayer ask that each house and convent join the initiative and light a candle. Participation on social networks can be marked #Prayday.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 26 March 2015 (VIS) – Today the Holy Father:

- erected the eparchy of St. John Chrysostom of Gurgaon of the Syro-Malankars, India, appointing Bishop Jacob Mar Barnabas Aerath, OIC, as its first eparchal bishop. Bishop Aerath was previously apostolic visitor for the Syro-Malankars extra-territorial missions in India. The new eparchy extends along the northern part of India, covering 22 of the 29 states. The district’s southern boundary is made up of the four central states of: Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Orissa. In addition to these four states, the faithful are distributed throughout Punjab, Rajashtan, Haryana, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal. The eparchy is headquarted in Gurgaon because that metropolitan area has the largest concentration of faithful in the nine parishes covered. The region has two colleges and ten schools administrated by the Syro-Malankar church. It has 15 priests, both regular and eparchal, and 30 religious carrying out its pastoral, educational, and charitable work.

- erected the apostolic exarchate of St. Ephrem of Khadki of the Syro-Malankars, India, appointing Bishop Thomas Mar Anthonios Valiyavilayil as its first exarch. Bishop Valiyavilayil was previously curial bishop of Trivandrum of the Syro-Malankars, India. The new exarchate extends along the southern part of India, which previously did not have any ecclesial district of the Syro-Malankar church, and includes the states of Maharashtra, Goa, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana together with parts of the states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The extra-territorial mission of the Syro-Malankar church began in Poona in 1955 with the pastoral care of emigrants by Bethany Ashram, OIC. Today, the Syro-Malankar presence in the exarchate’s region includes 27 parishes and missions. There are 21 priests dedicated to pastoral care, 13 convents, and a dozen schools including a college of higher learning. The majority of the faithful are located around Mumbai and Poona, in the western state of Maharashtra.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Pope asks for prayers for the Synod on the family

Vatican City, 25 March 2015 (VIS) – On the solemnity of the Annunciation, during this Wednesday's general audience held in a rain-soaked St. Peter's Square, the Pope announced to the faithful that today would be a special catechesis, a pause for prayer during his path of reflections on the family.

“On 25 March, the Church solemnly celebrates the Annunciation, the beginning of the mystery of the Incarnation. The Archangel Gabriel visits the humble girl from Nazareth and announces that she will conceive and give birth to the Son of God. By this announcement the Lord illuminates and strengthens Mary's faith, as He will also do for her spouse Giuseppe, so that Jesus may be born in a human family. This is beautiful: it shows us how deeply the mystery of the Incarnation, as God wished it to be, includes not only conception in the womb of the mother, but also the fact of being welcomed into a true family. Today I would like to contemplate with you the beauty of this bond, of this, God's condescension, and we can do so reciting together the Hail Mary, which in its first part includes the words the Angel addressed to the Virgin”.

After praying the Hail Mary with all those present, Francis commented that today in many countries is the Day for Life, and that twenty years ago on this date St. John Paul II signed his encyclical “Evangelium Vitae”, in which the family “occupies a central role, inasmuch as it is the womb of human life”.

“The word of my venerated predecessor reminds us that the human couple has been blessed by God since the beginning to form a community of love and life, to whom the mission of procreation has been entrusted. Christian couples, by celebrating the sacrament of Marriage, indicate they are willing to honour this blessing, with the grace of Christ, for all their life. The Church, for her part, solemnly commits to caring for the family that is thus born, as a gift from God for her own life, in good times and bad: the bond between the Church and the family is sacred and inviolable. The Church, as a mother, never abandons her family, even when it is debased, hurt and humiliated in many ways. Not even when it gives in to sin or drifts away from the Church; she will always do everything to seek to cure and heal it, to invite it to convert and be reconciled with the Lord”.

If this is her task, the Pontiff observed, then it appears clear how much prayer the Church needs in order to be able to carry out this mission. “A prayer full of love for the family and for life. A prayer that knows how to rejoice with those who rejoice, and to suffer with those who suffer”. The Holy Father explained that he and his collaborators had decided to propose a renewal of the prayer for the Synod of Bishops on the family, and asked all present to continue to recite it until October, when the Synod assembly dedicated to the family is due to take place.

“I would like this prayer, like the entire Synod path, to be inspired by the Good Shepherd's compassion for his flock, especially for those people and families who for various reasons are 'harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd'. In this way, supported and inspired by the grace of God, the Church will be able to be even more committed, and even more united, in her witness of the truth of God's love and His mercy for the world's families, without exception, both inside and outside the fold”.

“I ask you, please, to ensure that your prayer is not lacking. All of us – the Pope, cardinals, bishops, priests, men and women religious – we must all pray for the Synod. We need this, not chatter! I encourage even those who feel distant to pray too, and those who are not used to doing so. This prayer for the Synod on the family is for the good of all of us. I know that this morning an image has been given to you, which you now hold in your hands. I invite you to keep it and carry it with you always, so that over the coming months you can recite the prayer often, with holy insistence, as Jesus asked us. Now, let us pray together:

Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
In you we contemplate
The splendour of true love,
We turn to you with confidence.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
Make our families, also,
Places of communion and cenacles of prayer,
Authentic schools of the Gospel,
And little domestic Churches.

Holy Family of Nazareth
May our families never more experience
Violence, isolation, and division:
May anyone who was wounded or scandalised
Rapidly experience consolation and healing.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
May the upcoming Synod of Bishops
Re-awaken in all an awareness
Of the sacred character and inviolability of the family,
Its beauty in the project of God.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
Hear and answer our prayer. Amen”.

Bringing bread to the table is a matter of dignity

Vatican City, 25 March 2015 (VIS) – At the end of today's general audience, the Pope greeted those present in various languages. In Italian he addressed a group of workers from the province of Vibo Valentia, in the Calabria region, which is currently experiencing a situation of economic crisis.

“I express my concern and closeness to your persistent problems. I make a heartfelt appeal that the logic of profit may not prevail over that of solidarity and justice. At the centre of every issue, especially in relation to work, there must always be the human person and his or her dignity. Being unable to bring bread to the table means losing one's dignity. This is the crisis of our time, especially for the young who, without work, have no prospects for the future and may become easy prey to criminal organisations”.

Condolences following the air disaster in France

Vatican City, 25 March 2015 (VIS) – Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin has sent a telegram of condolences to Bishop Jean-Philippe Nault, France, on behalf of the Holy Father following the air crash that occurred in the area yesterday, in which all 150 passengers and crew were killed.

“Upon learning of the tragic air accident that occurred in the region of Digne, claiming numerous victims, including many schoolchildren, His Holiness Pope Francis participates in the suffering of the families, expressing his closeness in prayer. He prays for the eternal repose of the departed, commending them to God's mercy, so that He might welcome them into his house of peace and light. He expresses his profound sympathy for all those affected by the tragedy, and for the rescuers who have to intervene in such difficult conditions. The Holy Father asks the Lord to bring strength and consolation to all and, as a pledge of solace, invokes divine blessings in abundance”.

Programme of the Holy Father's visit to Turin

Vatican City, 25 March 2015 (VIS) – On Sunday 21 June the Pope will visit Turin. Francis will arrive in the Italian city at 8 a.m. and, half an hour later, will meet with representatives of the world of work in the Piazzetta Reale. From there, he will move on to the Cathedral where he will pray before the Holy Shroud and before the altar of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. At 10.45 a.m. he will celebrate the Eucharist in Piazza Vittorio and will recite the Sunday Angelus prayer.

Following Mass, the Pope will proceed to the Archbishop's residence to lunch with young detainees from the “Ferrante Aporti” penitentiary for minors, several immigrants and homeless people, and a Rom family.

At 2.40 p.m. he will visit the Sanctuary of the Consolata, where he will withdraw for a few minutes in private prayer. At 3 p.m., in the Basilica of Our Lady Help of Christians, where he will meet with Salesians and the Daughters of Our Lady Help of Christians. An hour later, in the Church of Cottolengo, he will meet with the sick and disabled.

Back in Piazza Vittorio, at 6 p.m., he will meet with young people of the city, after which he will retire to the archbishop's residence.

On Monday 22, at 9 a.m., he will visit the Valdese Temple. Upon returning to the archbishop's residence, where he will meet privately with some of his relatives. He will celebrate a Holy Mass with them in the Chapel and will lunch with them. Before his departure from “Torino Caselle” airport, he will pay a short visit to the members of the Committee of the Shroud, the organisers and supporters of his visit.

The exhibition of the Holy Shroud of Turin

Vatican City, 25 March 2015 (VIS) – This morning a press conference was held in the Holy See Press Office to present the upcoming exhibition of the Holy Shroud of Turin (Turin, 19 April – 24 June 2015), on the occasion of the second centenary of the birth of St. John Bosco, which will be specially dedicated to the young and to those who suffer. The Pope will also make a pilgrimage to Turin from 21 to 22 June.

The speakers at the conference were the archbishop of Turin, Cesare Nosaglia, papal guardian of the Shroud; Elide Tisi, mayor of the city; Roberto Gottardo, president of the diocesan commission for the Shroud; and Rev. Luca Ramello, director of youth pastoral ministry for the diocese.

Archbishop Nosaglia explained that the Shroud represents, for the Universal Church, a point of reference of the first order for the life of the faith of many people and communities, who in this image recognise the signs of the Lord's passion, of Jesus who “inspires our lives and challenges us to fully realise our deepest vocation. Therefore”, he added “the theme I have chosen for the next exhibition is 'The Greatest Love': the gift of salvation which is made visible in our response, the worship of God and service to our brothers”.

“The Pope's trip, like the exhibition as a whole, is also intended to give thanks for 'the Saint of youth', and for the service that the Salesian family carries out in Turin and throughout the world in the fields of education, mission, sport and communication. … The world of youth is particularly involved in the Salesian mission, and during the Pope's visit there will be a sort of mini Youth Day, a series of meetings, encounters, prayer, moments of celebration that help resume contact with the young. An extraordinary sign will be the presence of the Word Youth Day Cross, which will make a stop in Turin during its journey to Krakow”.

Another peculiarity of this exhibition is attention to the world of those who suffer, and therefore this year sick or disabled pilgrims and those who accompany them will be able to benefit from new hospitality structures based on the model of the “Accueil” in Lourdes. It is also hoped that the Pilgrimage to the Shroud will offer an opportunity to partake in the sacrament of Reconciliation, as a “concrete sign of forgiveness” and, as on previous occasions, “in various places priests will hear the confessions of the faithful in all the world's major languages”.

The prelate emphasised that the 2015 exhibition has been organised according to the criterion of austerity, in a period of severe economic and social crisis throughout the area, and he thanked those entities that have offered their cooperation to help limit costs as far as possible. He also announced that during the display of the Shroud, Beato Angelico's celebrated “Lamentation over the Dead Christ” will be exhibited in the diocesan museum, on loan for the occasion from the city of Florence.

“As you are aware, visiting the Shroud is completely free. Traditionally many pilgrims at the leave a simple offering at the end of their journey, deposited with full discretion at the exit of the Cathedral and in the places of confession. On this occasion all the offerings will be given to the Pope when he is with us in Turin on 21 June. We will ask him to use them, naturally with full freedom, for a work, or a project to assist the poorest or neediest”.

Members and substitutes for the 14th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops

Vatican City, 25 March 2015 (VIS) – The following is a list of the members and substitutes appointed by the competent entities and ratified by the Holy Father on 17 March.

A) Episcopal Conferences

Member: Bishop Jean-Paul Vesco, O.P., of Oran, Algeria
Substitute: Archbishop Santiago Agrelo Martinez, O.F.M., of Tangier, Morocco

Members: Archbishop Stephen Brislin, of Cape Town, Kaapstad, president of the Episcopal Conference, South Africa
Bishop Zolile Peter Mpambani, S.C.I., of Kokstad, South Africa
Substitutes: Bishop Dabula Anton Mpako of Queenstown, South Africa
Bishop Jan De Groef, M. Afr., of Bethlehem, South Africa

Member: Bishop Joseph Sama of Nouna, Burkina Faso
Substitute: Archbishop Djalwana Laurent Lompo of Niamey, Niger

Member: Bishop Henri Coudray, S.J., apostolic vicar of Mongo
Substitute: Bishop Joachim Kouraleyo Tarounga of Moundou

CONGO (Democratic Republic)
Members: Bishop Nicolas Djomo Lola of Tshumbe, president of the Episcopal Conference
Bishop Philibert Tembo Nlandu, C.I.C.M., of Budjala
Substitute: Bishop Joseph Banga Bane of Buta

Member: Archbishop Vincent Coulibaly of Conakry
Substitute: Bishop Raphael Balla Guilavogui of N'Zerekore

Member: Archbishop Gerard Tlali Lerotholi, O.M.I., of Maseru, president of the Episcopal Conference
Substitute: Bishop Augustinus Tumaole Bane, O.M.I., of Leribe

Member: Bishop Anthony Fallah Borwah of Gbarnga
Substitute: Bishop Andrew Jagaye Karnley of Cape Palmas

Member: Bishop Jonas Dembele of Kayes
Substitute: Archbishop Jean Zerbo of Bamako

Member: Archbishop Francisco Chimoio, O.F.M. Cap., of Maputo
Substitute: Bishop Adriano Langa, O.F.M., of Inhambane

Member: Bishop Philipp Pollitzer, O.M.I., of Keetmanshoop
Substitute: Bishop Joseph Shipandeni Shikongo, O.M.I., apostolic vicar of Rundu

Members: Archbishop Matthew Man-oso Ndagoso of Kaduna
Bishop Camillus Raymond Umoh of Ikot Ekpene
Bishop Jude Ayodeji Arogundade of Ondo

Substitutes: Bishop Hilary Paul Odili Okeke of Nnewi
Archbishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama of Jos, president of the Episcopal Conference

Member: Bishop Jacques Danka Longa of Kara
Substitute: Bishop Benoit Comlan Messan Alowonou of Kpalime

Members: Archbishop John Baptist Odama of Gulu, president of the Episcopal Conference
Bishop Joseph Anthony Zziwa of Kiyinda-Mityana, Vice president of the Episcopal Conference
Substitutes: Bishop Lambert Bainomugisha, auxiliary of Mbarara
Bishop Sanctus Lino WANOK of Nebbi


Member: Bishop Francis Alleyne, O.S.B., of Georgetown, Co-operative Republic of Guiana
Substitute: Bishop Emmanuel Lafont of Cayenne, French Guiana

Members: Bishop Braulio Saez Garcia, O.C.D., auxiliary of Santa Cruz de la Sierra
Bishop Krzysztof Janusz Bialasik Wawrowska, S.V.D., of Oruro
Substitute: Bishop Aurelio Pesoa Ribera, O.F.M., auxiliary La Paz

Member: Bishop Rodolfo Valenzuela Nunez of Vera Paz, Coban, president of the Episcopal Conference
Substitute: Bishop Gonzalo De Villa y Vasquez, S.J., of Solola-Chimaltenango

Member: Bishop Yves-Marie Pean, C.S.C., of Les Gonaives
Substitute: Archbishop Max Leroy Mesidor of Cap-Haitien

Member: Bishop Cesar Bosco Vivas Robelo of Leon en Nicaragua
Substitute: Bishop Juan Abelardo Mata Guevara, S.D.B., of Esteli

Member: Bishop Aníbal Saldana Santamaria, O.A.R., prelate of Bocas del Toro
Substitute: Cardinal Jose Luis Lacunza Maestrojuan, O.A.R., bishop of David, president of the Episcopal Conference

Members: Archbishop Salvador Pineiro Garcia-Calderon of Ayacucho, president of the Episcopal Conference
Archbishop Hector Miguel Cabrejos Vidarte, O.F.M., of Trujillo
Substitute: Archbishop Jose Antonio Eguren Anselmi, S.C.V., of Piura

Members: Cardinal Jorge Liberato Urosa Savino, archbishop of Caracas
Archbishop Diego Rafael Padron Sanchez of Cumana, president of the Episcopal Conference
Substitutes: Bishop Fernando Jose Castro Aguayo, auxiliary of Caracas, Santiago de Venezuela
Bishop Rafael Ramon Conde Alfonzo of Maracay

Member: Bishop John Baptist Lee Keh-Mien of Hsinchu
Substitute: Bishop Thomas Chung An-Zu of Kiayi

Members: Archbishop Romulo G. Valles of Davao
Archbishop Jose S. Palma of Cebu
Bishop Gilbert A. Garcera of Daet
Substitutes: Bishop Pablo Virgilio S. David, auxiliary of San Fernando
Archbishop Antonio J. Ledesma, S.J., of Cagayan de Oro

Members: Archbishop Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo of Jakarta, president of the Episcopal Conference, military ordinary for Indonesia
Bishop Fransiskus Kopong Kung of Larantuka
Substitute: Bishop Leo Laba Ladjar, O.F.M., of Jayapura

Member: Archbishop Tomash Bernard Peta, of Mary Most Holy in Astana, president of the Episcopal Conference
Substitute: Athanasius Schneider, O.R.C., auxiliary of Mary Most Holy in Astana

Member: Bishop Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun, apostolic vicar of Pakse, Laos
Substitute: Olivier Michel Marie Schmitthaeusler, M.E.P., apostolic vicar of Phnom-Penh, Cambodia, president of the Episcopal Conference

Member: Archbishop John Wong Soo Kau of Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
Substitute: Bishop Sebastian Francis of Penang, Malaysia

Member: Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, S.D.B., archbishop of Yangon
Substitute: Bishop Felix Lian Khen Thang of Kalay

Member: His Beatitude Fouad TWAL, Patriarch of Jerusalem of the Latins, president of the Episcopal Conference
Substitute: Archbishop Maroun Elias Lahham, auxiliary and patriarchal vicar for Jerusalem of the Latins for Jordan


Member: Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz of Minsk-Mohilev
Substitute: Bishop Antoni Dziemianko of Pinsk

Member: Bishop Valter Zupan, emeritus of Krk, president of the Council of the Croation Episcopal Conference for the Family and Life
Substitute: Bishop Antun Skvorcevic of Pozega

Member: Archbishop Paolo Pezzi, F.S.C.B., of Mother of God in Moscow, president of the Episcopal Conference
Substitute: Bishop Joseph Werth, S.J., of Transfiguration in Novosibirsk

Members: Cardinal Reinhard Marx, archbishop of Munchen und Freising
Bishop Heiner Koch of Dresden-Meissen
Bishop Franz-Josef Hermann Bode of Osnabruck
Substitutes: Bishop Karl-Heinz Wiesemann of Speyer
Bishop Wilfried Theising, auxiliary of Munster

Member: Archbishop Philip Tartaglia of Glasgow, president of the Episcopal Conference of Scotland
Substitute: Bishop John Keenan of Paisley

Members: Cardinal Manuel Jose Macario Do Nascimento Clemente, Patriarch of Lisbon, president of the Episcopal Conference
Bishop Antonino Eugenio Fernandes Dias of Portalegre-Castelo Branco, president of the Episcopal Commission for the Laity and the Family
Substitute: Bishop Antonio Augusto Dos Santos Marto of Leiria-Fatima, vice president of the Episcopal Conference

Member: Bishop Jan Vokal of Hradec Kralove
Substitute: Bishop Ladislav Hucko, apostolic exarch for Catholic of Byznantine rite in the Czech Republic

Member: Bishop Jean-Marie Lovey, C.R.B., of Sion, Sitten
Substitute: Bishop Valerio Lazzeri of Lugano

B) “Sui Iuris” Oriental Catholic Churches

Synod of the Syro-Malabar Churches
Members:Bishop Joseph Kallarangatt of Palai of the Syro-Malabars, India
Archbishop Andrews Thazhath of Trichur of the Syro-Malabars, India
Substitutes: Archbishop Kuriakose Bharanikulangara of Faridabad of the Syro-Malabars, India
Bishop Thomas Elavanal, M.C.B.S., of Kalyan of the Syro-Malabars, India

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

International vigil at St. Mary Major for the 20th anniversary of the encyclical Evangelium Vitae

Vatican City, 24 March 2015 (VIS) – The Pontifical Council for the Family has organised an international vigil to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the publication of St. John Paul II's encyclical “Evangelium Vitae”. According to a press release from the dicastery, the event is a form of thanksgiving for the fruits of the pastoral care of life, and will also serve to spread the benefits of prayer for life as well as to recall eternal life, the destiny of every human being.

The vigil will be divided into three stages: it will begin at 5 p.m. in the Roman basilica of St. Mary Major, with an explanation of various artistic elements of the basilica relating to the theme of life. At 6 p.m. an original rosary will be prayed, focusing on the contemplation of the Gospel passages linked to the theme of life, interspersed with experiences related by the faithful. This will be followed, at 7 p.m., by a Eucharistic celebration presided by Bishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, who comments that “the anniversary of the Encyclical and this vigil that commemorates it, on the eve of the Annunciation, is particularly meaningful as it makes manifest the intimate connection between the mystery of life and the experience of the family, made up of affection and social relationships. Defending life means participating in the alliance between God, man and woman”.

The international character of the vigil is accentuated by the participation of the shrines of Fatima, Lourdes and Guadalupe, where rosaries will be recited, dedicated to life, as part of the initiative “A rosary embraces the world”.

The Italian television channel Telepace will transmit live the events of the vigil from 5.15 p.m., while English-, French- and Italian-speaking viewers will be able to take part in the Holy Rosaries of Lourdes, according to the following schedule: at 2.30 p.m. (local time) the Rosary will be broadcast by the main American Catholic television channels; at 3.30 p.m. by the French Catholic channel KTO, and at 6 p.m. in Italy, by the broadcaster TV2000.

Pope's Second lottery for charity

Vatican City, 24 March 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has expressed his gratitude for the proceeds raised by the lottery in support of his works of charity, which took place in January. The entire sum has been consigned to Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, almoner of His Holiness. In view of the widespread participation and generosity of many people, Pope Francis has made more prizes available to enable the initiative to be repeated.

The second lottery draw will take place on the solemnity of the Saints Peter and Paul, patrons of Rome, and the lucky numbers draw (each ticket costs 10 euros) is scheduled for 30 July, in the presence of a commission to guarantee the correct procedures. Prizes can be claimed during the following thirty days in the Department of Events Coordination of the Governorate of Vatican City State. Also on this occasion, like the first lottery, the proceeds will go directly to the Pope.

Tickets will be available from the Vatican Pharmacy, the Post Office, the Vatican supermarket, the “Station” warehouse, the sales outlets of the Philatelic and Numismatic Office, and the Vatican Museums bookshop.

The Holy See: equality of access to education for girls

Vatican City, 24 March 2015 (VIS) – Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Holy See Permanent Observer at the United Nations in New York, spoke on 13 March at the 59th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women, which analysed the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, with a view also to advancing women’s empowerment and equality in a post-2015 development agenda.

“There has been considerable progress for the cause of women in many countries, especially in the areas of education, political representation, and economic participation”, said the nuncio. “In spite of the admirable efforts and significant advances, however, still too many women continue to face discrimination and many forms of violence just for being women”.

“The goal of eradicating poverty, in particular extreme poverty, is at the heart of the Holy See’s concerns. The Catholic Church has nearly unparalleled experience of the needs of the poor through its bimillennial experience and through hundreds of thousands of programs and institutions serving poor women and men the world over”, he continued. “The promotion of inclusive and equitable economies has a profound impact in advancing the status of women. Indeed, women are experiencing unique economic distress linked to unfair employment policies, unequal pay for equal work, the denial of access to credit and property, and victimisation in situations of conflicts and migration. Notwithstanding the fact that women constitute the majority of the poor and are affected by the burden of poverty in very specific ways, they are nevertheless courageously at the forefront in the fight to eradicate extreme poverty. From this perspective, the fight for the advancement of women must also mean assuring them equal access to resources, capital and technology”.

The archbishop underlined that “studies have demonstrated that fragile family structures and the decline of marriage among the poor are very closely linked to poverty among women. Single mothers are left alone to raise children. Many mothers in situations of distress fail to send their children to school, thus entangling them in the vicious circle of poverty and marginalisation. … Numerous reports by the Secretary-General have highlighted the centrality of the family for poverty eradication and sustainable development”.

The Holy See takes note of the report by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the problems and attacks girls continue to suffer in accessing education. “My delegation is convinced that the fight for equal access to education for girls, especially quality education, is an indispensable component in the fight for the advancement of women … and reiterates Pope Francis' readiness of to work with all those who are seeking each day to build a world that concretely treats women as equals, in the diversity of gifts and strengths, toward the greater common good of all”.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 24 March 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed Bishop Bertram Victor Wick Enzler, auxiliary of Guayaquil, Ecuador, as bishop of Santo Domingo en Ecuador (area 8,500, population 801,000, Catholics 685,000, priests 82, permanent deacons 2, religious 135), Ecuador.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Be grains of wheat, offering the Gospel, the Cross and the witness of faith

Vatican City, 22 March 2015 (VIS) – At midday today the Pope appeared at the window of his study in the Vatican Apostolic Palace for the Sunday Angelus prayer with the thousands of faithful and pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square. Before the Marian prayer, Francis commented on the day's Gospel reading, in which the evangelist John narrates that some 'Greeks', Hebrews, had asked the apostle Philip if they could see Jesus. The Pope explained that this request goes far beyond this particular episode, instead expressing something universal; it “reveals a desire present in the ages and cultures, a desire present in the heart of so many people who have heard of Christ, but have not yet met him. Jesus responds with a prophecy that reveals His identity and shows the path to know Him truly: 'The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified'. … The hour of the Cross, the darkest in history, is also the source of salvation for those who believe in Him”.

Continuing in His prophecy, “Jesus uses a simple and suggestive image, that of the 'grain of wheat' that, once fallen in the earth, dies in order to produce fruit. In this image we find another aspect of Christ's Cross: fruitfulness. The death of Jesus, in fact, is an inexhaustible source of new life, because it carries within itself the regenerating strength of the love of God. Immersed in this love through Baptism, Christians can become 'grains of wheat' and produce much fruit if they, like Jesus, 'lose their own life' for the love of God and for their brothers and sisters”.

Francis emphasised that all those who want to see Jesus, who search for Him, those who have not yet encountered Jesus or who have lost their faith, we are able to offer three things: the Gospel, where we can encounter Jesus, listen to Him, know Him; the Cross, sign of the love of Jesus who gave Himself for us; and our witness of faith, poor but sincere. “A faith that is translated into simple gestures of fraternal charity. But mainly, in the coherence of our life, between what we say and what we do, coherence between our faith and our life, between our words and our actions”.

Francis offers pocket Gospels from the hands of the neediest

Vatican City, 22 March 2015 (VIS) – Following today's Angelus prayer, the Pope thanked the people of Naples for the warm welcome offered to him during his apostolic trip on Saturday. He also remarked that today is the World Day of Water, promoted by the United Nations. “Water is the most essential element for life”, he said. “The future of humanity depends on our capacity to guard it and share it”. He made an appeal to the international community to ensure that the planet's waters are adequately protected and that no one is excluded or discriminated against in the use of this quintessential common good.

As he did last year during Lent, the Pope offered all those present a pocket-sized Gospel, which was distributed by some homeless people who live in Rome. “Here we see a beautiful gesture”, he remarked. “Those ones most in need are the ones who give us the Word of God. Take this Gospel; keep it with you and read it often, every day. Carry it in your bag, in your pocket, but read it often. A verse, a passage every day. The Word of God is a light for our path. Read it, it will be good for you”.

Pope Francis' trip to Naples (21 March)

The Pope meets detainees at Poggioreale penitentiary

Vatican City, 22 March 2015 (VIS) – Yesterday the Pope visited the Giuseppe Salvia Penitentiary in Poggioreale. Upon arrival he was welcomed by the director of the centre and the chaplain, and he greeted the detainees from the forecourt of the institution. After lunch the Holy Father handed them a brief written discourse, several paragraphs of which are reproduced below:

“At times we feel disillusioned, discouraged, abandoned by everyone, but God does not forget his children – He never abandons them. He is always at our side, especially in times of difficulty; the Father is 'rich in mercy'. ... This is a certainty that gives comfort and hope, especially in difficult and sad times. Although we have erred in life, the Lord never tires of showing us the way back to the path and encounter with Him. … It is a fundamental certainty for us: nothing can separate us from the love of God! Not even the bars of a prison”.

“Dear brothers, I know your painful situations: I receive many letters – some truly moving – from prisons around the world. Inmates often live in conditions unworthy of human beings, and subsequently are unable to reintegrate into society. But, thanks be to God, there are also leaders, chaplains, educators, pastoral workers who know how to stay close to you in the right way. There are some good and meaningful experiences of reintegration. We must work on this, to develop these positive experiences, so they help nurture a different attitude in the civil community and also in the community of the Church. At the basis of this commitment is the conviction that love can always transform the human person. And so, a place of marginalisation, as a prison may be, in a negative sense, can then become a place of inclusion and stimulus for society as a whole, so that it becomes just and more attentive to people”.

“I invite you to live every day, every moment in the presence of God, to Whom the future of the world and of man belong. This is Christian hope: the future is in God's hands. History makes sense because it is inhabited by God's goodness”.

Francis to the clergy of Naples: “Gossip is the terrorism of brotherhood”

Vatican City, 22 March 2015 (VIS) – After visiting the Poggioreale penitentiary yesterday, the Holy Father transferred to the Cathedral of the Assumption in Naples to venerate the relics of St. Januarius, the patron of the city, and to meet with the clergy, men and women religious and permanent deacons of the archdiocese. The episcopal vicars for the clergy and for consecrated life posed two questions to the Pope on behalf of those in attendance: the first on the mission of the priesthood in a city of great contrasts such as Naples, and the second regarding the difficulties and joys in the life of consecrated persons.

Francis preferred to answer directly, setting aside the official discourse he had prepared and, seated rather than on foot, he spoke with those present.

“One of the testimonies you asked of me is this: that of always being on the move”, he said. “The path of consecrated life is that which follows Jesus. … If at the centre of my life … there is the fact of being opposed to a bishop, or a parish priest, or another priest, my entire life is absorbed by this battle. But this means losing your life! Not having a family, not having children, not having conjugal love, which is so good and beautiful, just to end up arguing with the bishop, with brother priests, with the faithful, and to end up with a sour face: this is not bearing witness. … When Jesus is at the centre, these difficulties are there all the same, they are everywhere, but we face them in a different way. In a convent, perhaps I don't like the superior, but I tolerate her and I ensure that the other superiors understand the situation. But no-one can take away my joy: the joy of following Jesus”.

He then addressed the seminarians. “What I would like to say to you is this: if you do not have Jesus at your centre, defer your ordination. If you are not sure that Jesus is the centre of your life, wait a little, in order to be certain. The alternative is setting out on a path without knowing where it will finish”.

The Pope then went on to speak about a second witness, that of the spirit of poverty, which is necessary also for priests, “who do not make this vow, but must have this spirit …
When the Church enters into business, either for priests or for persons religious, it is not good. … Consecrated persons – be they priests, or men and women religious – must never be businesspeople. The spirit of poverty is not, however, the spirit of miserliness. A priest, who has never taken a vow of poverty, may keep his savings but in an honest and reasonable way. But when one becomes greedy and starts getting involved in business … How many scandals in the Church, and what a lack of freedom, due to money!”. Francis gave the example of benefactors whose lives are less than exemplary, but to whom priests are not free to speak frankly because of the money they contribute. He added, “When money is involved, we begin to discriminate between people. Therefore, I would ask all seminarians to examine their consciences in this respect”.

The third testimony for the Holy Father is mercy. “We have forgotten about works of mercy … and I offer you an example: in the great Christian cities, there are baptised children who do not know how to make the sign of the Cross. And where is the work of mercy of teaching in this case? … We need to resume works of mercy, both corporal and spiritual. If there is a sick person near my house and I would like to visit him, but the time I have available coincides with a television show, and I choose the television show rather than a work of mercy, then this will not do. .. These are the things that draw us closer to the spirit of the world, which is another thing I would like to speak about: the danger of worldliness. … Think about the priestly prayer, when Jesus beseeches His Father: 'I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one'. Worldliness is contrary to witness, while the spirit of prayer is a witness that we see … and this witness attracts vocations”.

Another question posed by the vicar for the clergy regarded priestly fraternity, and the bishop of Rome answered that promoting this fraternity was easy neither in the convent, in consecrated life, nor in the presbytery. “For me, the sign that there is no brotherliness is gossip. … The terrorism of gossip. … In a presbytery there may be various points of view and differences: this is normal and it is Christian, but these differences must be brought our by having the courage to speak directly to others. … And when this is not possible, because at times it cannot be done, tell another person who can act as an intermediary. But you cannot speak against another person, because gossip is the terrorism of diocesan fraternity, of priestly fraternity, of religious communities”.

Joy is also a form of witness. “The joy of a full life, the joy of having chosen well, the joy of seeing every day that the Lord is faithful to me. ... Boring, sad priests or consecrated persons, with bitterness in their hearts, have something wrong and should seek a good spiritual adviser”.

“I would like to finish with three things”, said the Holy Father, at the end of his meeting in the cathedral. “Firstly, worship: we have lost the meaning of the worship of God, and we need to resume this. Secondly, it is not possible to love Jesus without loving His spouse. Love for the Church. … Thirdly, and this is important: apostolic zeal, which is missionary in nature. The love of the Church will lead you to know this, to come out of yourselves, to go forth and preach Christ's Revelation, but it will also urge you to come out of yourselves to reach another transcendence, which is worship”.

Finally, the Pope venerated the reliquary that contains the blood of St. Januarius; its miraculous liquefaction is awaited every year by Neapolitan faithful on 19 September during a solemn religious ceremony lead by the archbishop. This time the blood was only half liquefied, and Francis affirmed: “We see that the Spirit loves us by half. We must all convert, so that He will love us more. Thank you, and do not forget to pray for me”.

“Only in the Crucified Christ do we find the explanation of the mystery of sickness”

Vatican City, 22 March 2015 (VIS) - “It is not easy to approach a patient. The most beautiful and most miserable things in life are reserved, they conceal themselves. One tries to hide the greatest love, out of modesty; and for modesty we also hide those things that demonstrate our human misery”. With these words the Pope addressed the patients he met in the Basilica of Gesù Nuovo yesterday, explaining that to approach a patient it is necessary to go to him, since the modesty of life leads him to conceal himself. “When there are lifelong illnesses, when we find ourselves faced with maladies that affect an entire life, we prefer to hide them, because going to visit a patient means going and finding our own sickness. It means having the courage to say to oneself: I too have a malady of the heart, of the soul, of the spirit; I too am spiritually afflicted”.

Francis spoke of the mystery of sickness, explaining that although God created us to change the world, to be efficient, to dominate Creation, “when we find ourselves before sickness, we see that the ailment prevents this: that man or that woman who was born this way, or who became this way, seems to say 'no' to the mission of transforming the world. … We are only able to approach the sick … if we accustom ourselves to looking at the Crucified Christ, as here is the only explanation for this 'failure', this human failure, this ailment throughout our lives”.

“If you cannot understand the Lord”, he said to the patients present, “I ask the Lord to make you understand in your hearts that you are the flesh of Christ”. Francis thanked the volunteers who spend their time “caressing Christ's flesh, serving the crucified and living Christ”, and the doctors and nurses who have not transformed their profession into a form of trade, as “when medicine turns into trade, into business, it is like the priesthood when it acts in the same way: it loses the kernel of its vocation”. Finally, he urged all the Christians of the diocese of Naples not to forget what Jesus asked us, and what we will all be judged upon: “I was sick, and you cared for me”. “The sick suffer: they are a reflection of the suffering Christ”, he concluded. “Do not be afraid to draw close to Christ Who suffers”.

The Pope concludes his trip to Naples: “Our God is the God of words and of silence”

Vatican City, 22 March 2015 (VIS) – The final stage of the Pope's visit to Naples yesterday took place on the Caracciolo seafront promenade, where he met with the people of the city. The Holy Father again answered three questions. The first was posed by a young woman who wanted to know how to interpret God's silence when faced with difficulties such as corruption, and how to respond to this with signs of hope.

“God, our God is a God of words, He is a God of gestures, and He is a God of silence. We know the God of words because in the Bible there are the words of God: God talks to us and seeks us. The God of gestures is the God around us. … And then there is the God of silence. Think of the great silences in the Bible: for instance, the silence in the heart of Abraham when he went to offer his son as a sacrifice. …. But God's greatest silence was the Cross: Jesus heard his Father's silence, to the point of defining it as abandonment. … And then there occurred God's miracle, that word, that grandiose gesture of the Resurrection. Our God is also the God of silence, and there are silences of God's that cannot be explained if you do not look to the Cross. For example, why do children suffer? Where is there a word from God to explain why children suffer? … I do not say that the silence of God can be 'understood', but we can draw nearer to God's silences by looking upon the crucified Christ, Christ abandoned from the Mount of Olives unto the Cross. … But 'God created us to be happy'. Yes, it is true. But very often He says nothing. And this is the truth. I cannot deceive you by saying, 'No, have faith and all will go well, you will be happy, you will have good fortune, you will have money …'. No, our God also remains in silence. Remember: He is the God of words, the God of gestures, and the God of silences, and you have to unite these three things in your life. This is what I can say to you. I am sorry. I have no other 'recipe'”.

The second question was from an elderly woman, aged 95, who thanked the Pope for his defence of old age, a gift that today's society does not appreciate or discards, and commented that she had found a Christian community that showed her affection and gave her strength, and which had become like a family to her.

“You used a key word for our culture: 'discard'. The elderly are discarded, because this society throws away what is no longer useful, what is 'disposable'. Children are not useful, so why have them? … We discard children, and we discard the elderly, because we leave them by themselves. We elderly have ailments and problems, and we bring problems to others, and people discard us perhaps because of these ailments, because we are no longer useful. And then there is this habit of – excuse the expression – leaving people to die, and since we like using euphemisms, we use a technical word: euthanasia. But euthanasia is carried out not only by injection; there is also a hidden euthanasia, that of no longer giving medicine, of not offering cures, of making life sad, and so one dies, one expires. … But this path that you have found is the best medicine for a long life: closeness, friendship, tenderness. … Solitude is the most potent poison for the elderly. … Sons and daughters, I remind you of the fourth commandment. Are you affectionate with your parents? Do you embrace them, do you tell them you love them? … Examine your consciences. Affection is the best medicine for the elderly”.

Finally, a married couple asked the Pope how best to communicate the beauty of the family, through a pastoral ministry of outreach rather than defence.

“The family is in crisis: this is true, and it is not new”, answered Francis. “Young people do not want to get married, preferring instead to live together, easily and without compromises; then, if a child comes along, they marry out of necessity. … The crisis of the family is a social reality. Then there are the ideological colonisations of the family, modes and proposals from Europe and also from overseas. The error of the human mind that is gender theory creates a lot of confusion. … What can we do, faced with such active secularisation? What can we do with these ideological colonisations? What can be done with a culture that does not consider the family, in which people prefer not to marry? I do not have a recipe: the Church is aware of this and the Lord has inspired the convocation of a Synod on the family, on its many problems. … For example, there is the problem of preparation for marriage. Preparation is not a question of a course: became a married couple in eight lessons. … It is another thing entirely. It begins at home, with friends, with youth, during engagement. Engagement has lost the sacred meaning of respect. Today, normally, engagement and cohabitation are almost the same thing. Not always, as there are good examples. How can we prepare an engagement to mature? It is like fruit. If you do not gather it when it is ripe, it is not good. But all this is a crisis, and I ask you to pray a lot. I have no recipes for this, but the witness of love and the witness of how to resolve problems are important”.

At the end of the meeting, the Pope transferred to the maritime station of Naples in order to depart by helicopter. He arrived in Rome at 7 p.m.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 21 March 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has:

- appointed Bishop Stanislav Stolarik, auxiliary of Kosice, Slovakia, as bishop of Roznava (area 7,000, population 389,400, Catholics 223,100, priests 120, religious 95), Slovakia. He succeeds Bishop Vladimir Filo, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese upon reaching the age limit was accepted by the Holy Father.

- appointed Bishop Charles Phillip Richard Moth, formerly military ordinary for Great Britain, as bishop of Arundel and Brighton (area 4,998, population 3,225,000, Catholics 198,200, priests 192, permanent deacons 36, religious 499), England.

- appointed Msgr. Javier Gerardo Roman Arias as bishop of Limon (area 9,188, population 323,000, Catholics 263,453, priests 23, religious 36), Costa Rica. The bishop-elect was born in Alajuela, Costa Rica in 1962 and was ordained a priest in 1987. He has served in a number of pastoral roles, including deputy priest and parish priest in various parishes of the archdiocese of San Jose de Costa Rica. He is currently adjunct secretary of the Episcopal Conference of Costa Rica, parish priest of the “Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe” parish, and bursar of the archdiocese of San Jose de Costa Rica.

- accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the archieparchy of Istanbul of the Armenians, Turkey, presented by Bishop Hovhannes Tcholakian, upon reaching the age limit.

- confirmed the appointment of Bishop Levon Boghos Zekiyan, apostolic administrator of the archieparchy of Istanbul of the Armenians, Turkey, as archbishop of the same see.

- accepted the resignation from the office of apostolic administrator presented by Bishop Nechan Karakeheyan of the Ordinariate for Armenian Catholics resident in Greece, upon reaching the age limit.

- appointed Rev. Hovsep Bezazian as apostolic administrator of the Ordinariate for Armenian Catholics resident in Greece, without episcopal rank.

- Archbishop Aldo Cavalli, formerly apostolic nuncio in Malta and Libya, as apostolic nuncio in the Netherlands.

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