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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Pope Francis' message for World Day of Migrants and Refugees: “A Church without frontiers, mother to all”

Vatican City, 23 September 2014 (VIS) – The full text of the Holy Father's Message for World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2015 is published below:

“Dear brothers and sisters,

Jesus is 'the evangeliser par excellence and the Gospel in person'. His solicitude, particularly for the most vulnerable and marginalised, invites all of us to care for the frailest and to recognise his suffering countenance, especially in the victims of new forms of poverty and slavery. The Lord says: 'I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me'. The mission of the Church, herself a pilgrim in the world and the Mother of all, is thus to love Jesus Christ, to adore and love him, particularly in the poorest and most abandoned; among these are certainly migrants and refugees, who are trying to escape difficult living conditions and dangers of every kind. For this reason, the theme for this year’s World Day of Migrants and Refugees is: Church without frontiers, Mother to all.

“The Church opens her arms to welcome all people, without distinction or limits, in order to proclaim that 'God is love'. After his death and resurrection, Jesus entrusted to the disciples the mission of being his witnesses and proclaiming the Gospel of joy and mercy. On the day of Pentecost, the disciples left the Upper Room with courage and enthusiasm; the strength of the Holy Spirit overcame their doubts and uncertainties and enabled all to understand the disciples’ preaching in their own language. From the beginning, the Church has been a mother with a heart open to the whole world, and has been without borders. This mission has continued for two thousand years. But even in the first centuries, the missionary proclamation spoke of the universal motherhood of the Church, which was then developed in the writings of the Fathers and taken up by the Second Vatican Council. The Council Fathers spoke of Ecclesia Mater to explain the Church’s nature. She begets sons and daughters and 'takes them in and embraces them with her love and in her heart'.

“The Church without frontiers, Mother to all, spreads throughout the world a culture of acceptance and solidarity, in which no one is seen as useless, out of place or disposable. When living out this motherhood effectively, the Christian community nourishes, guides and indicates the way, accompanying all with patience, and drawing close to them through prayer and works of mercy.

“Today this takes on a particular significance. In fact, in an age of such vast movements of migration, large numbers of people are leaving their homelands, with a suitcase full of fears and desires, to undertake a hopeful and dangerous trip in search of more humane living conditions. Often, however, such migration gives rise to suspicion and hostility, even in ecclesial communities,prior to any knowledge of the migrants’ lives or their stories of persecution and destitution. In such cases, suspicion and prejudice conflict with the biblical commandment of welcoming with respect and solidarity the stranger in need.

On the other hand, we sense in our conscience the call to touch human misery, and to put into practice the commandment of love that Jesus left us when he identified himself with the stranger, with the one who suffers, with all the innocent victims of violence and exploitation. Because of the weakness of our nature, however, 'we are tempted to be that kind of Christian who keeps the Lord’s wounds at arm’s length'.

“The courage born of faith, hope and love enables us to reduce the distances that separate us from human misery. Jesus Christ is always waiting to be recognised in migrants and refugees, in displaced persons and in exiles, and through them he calls us to share our resources, and occasionally to give up something of our acquired riches. Pope Paul VI spoke of this when he said that 'the more fortunate should renounce some of their rights so as to place their goods more generously at the service of others'.

“The multicultural character of society today, for that matter, encourages the Church to take on new commitments of solidarity, communion and evangelisation. Migration movements, in fact, call us to deepen and strengthen the values needed to guarantee peaceful coexistence between persons and cultures. Achieving mere tolerance that respects diversity and ways of sharing between different backgrounds and cultures is not sufficient. This is precisely where the Church contributes to overcoming frontiers and encouraging the 'moving away from attitudes of defensiveness and fear, indifference and marginalisation … towards attitudes based on a culture of encounter, the only culture capable of building a better, more just and fraternal world'.

“Migration movements, however,are on such a scale that only a systematic and active cooperation between States and international organisations can be capable of regulating and managing such movements effectively. For migration affects everyone, not only because of the extent of the phenomenon, but also because of 'the social, economic, political, cultural and religious problems it raises, and the dramatic challenges it poses to nations and the international community'.

“At the international level, frequent debates take place regarding the appropriateness, methods and required norms to deal with the phenomenon of migration. There are agencies and organizations on the international, national and local level which work strenuously to serve those seeking a better life through migration. Notwithstanding their generous and laudable efforts, a more decisive and constructive action is required, one which relies on a universal network of cooperation, based on safeguarding the dignity and centrality of every human person. This will lead to greater effectiveness in the fight against the shameful and criminal trafficking of human beings, the violation of fundamental rights, and all forms of violence, oppression and enslavement. Working together, however, requires reciprocity,joint-action, openness and trust, in the knowledge that 'no country can singlehandedly face the difficulties associated with this phenomenon, which is now so widespread that it affects every continent in the twofold movement of immigration and emigration'.

“It is necessary to respond to the globalisation of migration with the globalisation of charity and cooperation, in such a way as to make the conditions of migrants more humane. At the same time, greater efforts are needed to guarantee the easing of conditions, often brought about by war or famine,which compel whole peoples to leave their native countries.

“Solidarity with migrants and refugees must be accompanied by the courage and creativity necessary to develop, on a world-wide level, a more just and equitable financial and economic order, as well as an increasing commitment to peace, the indispensable condition for all authentic progress.

“Dear migrants and refugees! You have a special place in the heart of the Church, and you help her to enlarge her heart and to manifest her motherhood towards the entire human family. Do not lose your faith and hope! Let us think of the Holy Family during the flight in Egypt: Just as the maternal heart of the Blessed Virgin and the kind heart of Saint Joseph kept alive the confidence that God would never abandon them, so in you may the same hope in the Lord never be wanting. I entrust you to their protection and I cordially impart to all of you my Apostolic Blessing”.

The challenge of migration: indifference must not prevail

Vatican City, 23 September 2014 (VIS) – A press conference was held in the Holy See Press Office this morning, in which Cardinal Antonio Maria Veglio, president of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples, along with Archbishop Joseph Kalathiparambil, secretary of the same dicastery, presented the Holy Father's message for World Day of Migrants and Refugees, which will be held on Sunday 18 January 2015 on the theme, “A Church without frontiers, Mother to all”.

Cardinal Veglio explained that the Message is dated 3 September, the date of the centenary of the election of Pope Benedict XV, and highlighted the importance Pope Francis has attached to establishing an annual day for increasing awareness of the phenomenon of migration. He also emphasised that the Church has faced ever new and challenging situations during her millennial history, and that migration poses fresh challenges not only on account of its magnitude but also for the various social, economic, political, cultural and religious problems it gives rise to.

“The biblical commandment to love one's neighbour, to open the door to him as though welcoming God, may come into conflict with certain problematic situations, for instance when immigrants are linked to irregular or delinquent behaviour”. Cardinal Veglio posed the question, “How should the Church respond?”, when faced with such a complex situation, and went on to outline the three recommendations offered by the Pope. These are: the renouncement of oneself, collaboration between the different entities and institutions that work for immigrants, and the humanisation of conditions for immigrants, intensifying efforts to promote a gradual reduction in the root causes of immigration, that cause entire peoples to abandon their homelands.

Archbishop Kalathiparambil went on to consider the theme of multiculturalism in contemporary society, which is in constant evolution. He raised key issues related to forced immigration, explaining that this takes the form of fleeing for salvation, often involving dangerous or life-threatening journeys which may nonetheless offer the only option for reaching a country where protection and the possibility of a dignified life can be found. The prelate highlighted that since many people in these conditions cannot meet the stringent requirements for international travel as they often do not possess, and have no means of obtaining valid documents, they become “vulnerable and defenceless, in search of protection, and easy prey to smugglers and traffickers”.

He remarked that “to respond effectively to the recognition of the need for protection, to restore human dignity to refugees and treat the causes of forced mobility”, States are required to cooperate in a spirit of international solidarity, and added that the Church must make efforts to ensure that “the dignity and the centrality of the human person is protected, promoting solidarity and dialogue between peoples”. He concluded by emphasising that today's challenge is to resist becoming “used to the human tragedy experienced by forcibly displaced persons, and not to allow indifference, 'the weakness of our human nature', to prevail or to give rise to the temptation to be Christians who keep a safe distance from the wounds of the Lord”.

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: Cardinal Muller meets the superior general of the Society of St. Pius X

Vatican City, 23 September 2014 (VIS) – The Holy See Press Office has issued a statement to confirm that this morning from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., a cordial meeting took place at the premises of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith between Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior general of the Society of St. Pius X. The meeting was also attended by Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer, S.J., secretary of the same Congregation, Archbishop Joseph Augustine Di Noia, O.P., adjunct secretary and Archbishop Guido Pozzo, secretary of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, along with two assistants from the Society of St. Pius X, Rev. Niklaus Pfluger and Rev. Alain-Marc Nély.

During the meeting, various problems of a doctrinal and canonical nature were examined, and it was decided to proceed gradually and over a reasonable period of time in order to overcome difficulties and with a view to the envisioned full reconciliation.

International Theological Commission at the end of its eighth term: appointments and new website

Vatican City, 23 September 2014 (VIS) – This year the International Theological Commission concludes its eighth five-year term, which began with the pontifical appointment of its members on 19 June 2009.

As is known, the International Theological Commission, instituted by the Servant of God Paul VI on 11 April 1969, has the task of assisting the Holy See, and in particular the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in examining the most important and current doctrinal questions. The Commission is composed of theologians from various schools and nations, eminent for their scientific excellence and fidelity to the Magisterium of the Church. The Members – no more than thirty in number – are appointed by the Holy Father “ad quinquennium” upon proposal by the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and following consultation with the Episcopal Conferences. During the course of its history the Commission has published 27 documents, with the approval of its President.

The Holy See wishes to express special gratitude for the competent and conscientious theological service provided by the Members of the Commission during the term that is about to draw to an end. Three documents have been published during this term: Theology today. Perspectives, Principles and Criteria (approved in 2011 and published in 2012); God the Trinity and the Unity of Humanity: Christian monotheism and its opposition to violence (approved in 2013 and published in 2014) and the more recent Sensus fidei in the life of the Church (approved and published in the current year 2014). In reality, the work of the Commission has been more extensive, as it has also offered valuable contributions on other issues on behalf of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is the primary task of the Commission.

On 26 July 2014, with the appointment by the Holy Father Francis of thirty new Members, the Commission began its ninth term. This will continue until 2019, which will also be a jubilee period for the Commission, which celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of its institution on 11 April 2019.

As usual, in view of the aforementioned appointments, during this last year extensive consultations have been carried out with Episcopal Conferences throughout the world, as well as the Synods of the oriental Eparchies. On the basis of the responses received, Cardinal Gerhard L. Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, presented to the Holy Father a preferential list of candidates. Taking these proposals into consideration, the Pope appointed the theologians who are to form the Commission, at the same time renewing the appointment of Fr. Serge-Thomas Bonino, O.P., France, as secretary general.

With regard to the provenance of the Members, there is an increased number of extra-European appointees in the new composition of the Commission. As well as the 14 representatives of Europe (compared to 14 in the previous term) there are 5 from South America (previously 3), 4 from Asia (previously 4), 3 from Africa (previously 2), 3 from North America (previously 2) and 1 from Australia (previously 1).

Furthermore, there is a notable increase in the contribution of female theologians. In the two previous terms, the Commission benefited from the presence of two renowned theologians, Sister Sara Butler, M.S.B.T., (U.S.A.), and Professor Barbara Hallensleben (Switzerland, of German nationality). Five other female theologians have been appointed for the new term: Sister Prudence Allen, R.S.M., (U.S.A.), Sister Alenka Arko, Com. Loyola (Slovenia-Russia), Moira Mary McQuenn (G.B. – Canada), Tracey Rowland (Australia), Marianne Schlosser (Germany – Austria). Women now constitute 16% of the Commission’s members, a sign of growing female involvement in theological research. In 2014 it was also decided to further diversify the ecclesial provenance of the members, in relation to their religious status and the particular charisms they represent.

The first meeting of the new members, which will take place in plenary session at the premises of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is traditionally held in the first week of Advent – from 1 to 5 December. The three themes to be considered by the Commission over the coming years will be selected.

The International Theological Commission has renovated and enriched its page on the Vatican website (www.vatican.va), which offers all its documents in various languages, among the section of Commissions linked to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. All the documents published by the Comission are available for consultation, usually in ten or more languages. The Commission has now taken a further step to facilitate consultation while conserving all its documentation on the official site of the Holy See (www.vatican.va), by establishing a new link (www.cti.va).

Referring to the initials of its Latin name, “Commissio Theologica Internationalis”, the new link has the advantage of being identical for various languages, such as Italian, Spanish, French and Portuguese. Aside from offering a page dedicated to the Commission, the new link also offers the reader the possibility of selecting the language without returning to the Vatican homepage. It is hoped that this new and easier to use page will be a useful tool for stimulating dialogue by enabling an increasingly effective communication of the Commission's theological patrimony both within and beyond the Church.

The Holy See at the 58th Conference of the IAEA: nuclear disarmament is a realistic objective

Vatican City, 20 September 2014 (VIS) – Archbishop Antoine Camilleri, under secretary for Relations with States, attended the 58th General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), held in Vienna yesterday. He began his address by emphasising that the Holy See commends and supports all the activities of the IAEA, which contribute to “authentic human development and foster peace and prosperity throughout the world”, and remarked that, in relation to the Agency's significant achievements, “the Holy See believes that improved public awareness and recognition ... would come about through a greater use of the modern means of communication and a deeper cooperation with civic and political authorities”. Moreover, he added, “we believe that these activities … are compatible with Pope Francis' call for fraternity, articulated in his 2014 Message for the World Day of Peace”.

He went on to stress that the prevention of the proliferation of nuclear weapons is “paramount for all humankind. Yet the attainment of this objective cannot be the final word with regard to peace: special emphasis must be given to worldwide nuclear disarmament. This must be a goal for all states, especially for those who possess nuclear weapons or who want to develop or acquire them. Furthermore it is a goal which ought not to be considered unrealistic. The reality of peace unquestionably requires a change of course which can be accomplished by decision-making which is clear and firm, and by a willingness to seek and achieve nuclear disarmament. As in years past, the Holy See urges governments and scientific experts engaged in the field of military defence to work strenuously towards such disarmament”. He commented that this year is the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, and the seventy-fifth of the Second World War, conflicts whose terrible consequences we still experience to this day.

Archbishop Camilleri turned his attention to the great worldwide interest in ensuring the enhancement and improvement of nuclear safety since the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi power plants in March 2011. “This is the path that must be pursued: doing everything humanly possible to prevent accidents at nuclear facilities and minimising any consequences should an accident occur”. He concluded by confirming that the Holy See delegation “wishes to encourage and support the efforts and innovative approaches tht concern the management and safe disposal of radioactive waste”, and reiterated the great importance attached by the Holy See to the successful cooperation of the IAEA with other United Nations organisations such as the WHO and the FAO.


Vatican City, 23 September 2014 (VIS) – The Holy Father received in audience twenty-one bishops of the Ghana Bishops' Conference, on their “ad limina” visit:

- Archbishop Gabriel Charles Palmer-Buckle of Accra;

- Bishop Francis Anani Kofi Lodonu of Ho,

- Bishop Gabriel Akwasi Abiabo Mante of Jasikan;

- Bishop Anthony Kwami Adanuty of Keta-Akatsi;

- Bishop Joseph Kwaku Afrifah-Agyekum of Koforidua;

- Archbishop Matthias Kobena Nketsiah of Cape Coast;

- Bishop John Bonaventure Kwofie, C.S.Sp. of Sekondi-Takoradi;

- Bishop Joseph Francis Kweku Essien of Wiawso;

- Archbishop Gabriel Justice Yaw Anokye of Kumasi, apostolic administrator of Obuasi, with Archbishops emeritus Peter Kwasi Sarpong and Thomas Kwaku Mensah;

- Bishop Peter Kwaku Atuahene of Goaso;

- Bishop Joseph Osei-Bonsu of Konongo-Mampong;

- Bishop Matthew Kwasi Gyamfi of Sunyani;

- Bishop Dominic Yeboah Nyarko of Techiman;

- Archbishop Philip Naameh of Tamale;

- Bishop Peter Paul Angkyier of Damongo;

- Bishop Alfred Agyenta of Navrongo-Bolgatanga;

- Bishop Paul Bemile of Wa;

- Bishop Vincent Sowah Boi-nai, S.V.D., of Yendi;

- Bishop Gabriel Edoe Kumordji, S.V.D., apostolic vicar of Donkorkrom.

On the afternoon of Monday, 22 September, the Holy Father received in audience:

- Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy;

- Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera, archbishop of Valencia, Spain.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 20 September 2014 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed the new members of the International Theological Commission and has renewed the mandate of a number of members from its previous five-year term. For the 2014-2019 term, the Commission will be composed of the following members:

- Fr. Serge Thomas Bonino, O.P., secretary general, France;

- Rev. Terwase Henry Akaabiam, Nigeria;

- Sister Prudence Allen, R.S.M., U.S.A.;

- Sister Alenka Arko, Loyola Community, Russian Federation - Slovenia;

- Msgr. Antonio Luiz Catelan Ferreira, Brazil;

- Msgr. Piero Coda, Italy;

- Rev. Lajos Dolhai, Hungary;

- P. Peter Dubovsky, S.J., Slovakia;

- Rev. Mario Angel Flores Ramos, Mexico;

- Rev. Carlos Maria Galli, Argentina;

- Rev. Krzysztof Gozdz, Poland;

- Rev. Gaby Alfred Hachem, Lebanon;

- Fr. Thomas Kollamparampil, C.M.I., India;

- Rev. Koffi Messan Laurent Kpogo, Togo;

- Rev. Oswaldo Martinez Mendoza, Colombia;

- Professor Moira Mary McQueen, Canada – Great Britain;

- Rev. Karl Heinz Menke, Germany;

- Rev.do John Junyang PARK, Corea;

- Fr. Bernard Pottier, S.J., Belgium;

- Rev. Javier Prades Lopez, Spain;

- Professor Tracey Rowland, Australia;

- Professor Hector Gustavo Sanchez Rojas, S.C.V., Peru;

- Professor Marianne Schlosser, Austria – Germany;

- Rev. Nicholaus Segeja M'Hela, Tanzania;

- Rev. Pierangelo Sequeri, Italy;

- Rev. Zeljko Tanjic, Croatia;

- Fr. Gerard Francisco P. Timoner III, O.P., Philippines;

- Fr. Gabino Uribarri Bilbao, S.J., Spain;

- Rev. Philippe Vallin, France;

- Fr. Thomas G. Weinandy, O.F.M.Cap., U.S.A.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Pope Francis gives thanks to the Virgin for his trip to Albania

Vatican City, 22 September 2014 (VIS) – At around midday today the Holy Father visited the Basilica of St. Mary Major to give thanks to the Virgin for her protection following the completion of his trip to Albania.

As usual, he prayed in silence in the Salus Populi Romani Chapel, where he left a large floral tribute he had received yesterday evening in Albania during his final encounter at the Bethany Centre.

The faithful present in the Basilica joined in singing the Salve Regina, and the Pope returned to the Vatican at around 12.30.

Pope Francis' apostolic trip to Albania

Interreligious meeting in Tirana: “God's name must not be used to commit violence”

Vatican City, 21 September 2014 (VIS) – At 4 p.m. yesterday, after lunch in the apostolic nunciature with the Albanian bishops, Pope Francis proceeded to the Catholic University “Our Lady of Good Counsel” – instituted in 2004 and administrated by a foundation linked to the Religious Congregation of the Sons of the Immaculate Conception of Tirana – to meet with the heads of other religions and Christian denominations.

The event was attended by representatives of the six largest religious communities in the country: Muslim, Bektashi (an Islamic Sufi order), Catholic, Orthodox, Evangelical and Jewish. The Pope expressed his joy at meeting with them as their presence together was a sign of dialogue and collaboration for the good of society as a whole.

Pope Francis began his discourse by remarking that Albania had sadly “witnessed the violence and tragedy that can be caused by a forced exclusion of God from personal and communal life”. He continued, “When, in the name of an ideology, there is an attempt to remove God from society, it ends up adoring idols, and very soon men and women lose their way, their dignity is trampled and their rights violated. You know well how much pain comes from the denial of freedom of conscience and of religious freedom, and how from such a wound comes a humanity that is impoverished because it lacks hope and ideals”.

However, the changes that have taken place since the 1990s have had, as a positive effect, the creation of the conditions for authentic religious freedom, making it possible for communities “to renew traditions that were never really extinguished, despite fierce persecution”. This religious freedom has enabled everyone to offer, according to his or her own religious convictions, “a positive contribution to the moral, and subsequently the economic, reconstruction of the country”.

However, he added, quoting the words of St. John Paul II, “True religious freedom shuns the temptation to intolerance and sectarianism, and promotes attitudes of respect and constructive dialogue. We cannot deny that intolerance towards those with different religious convictions is a particularly insidious enemy, one which today is being witnessed in various areas around the world. All believers must be particularly vigilant so that, in living out with conviction our religious and ethical code, we may always express the mystery we intend to honour. This means that all those forms which present a distorted use of religion, must be firmly refuted as false since they are unworthy of God or humanity. Authentic religion is a source of peace and not of violence. No one must use the name of God to commit violence. To kill in the name of God is a grave sacrilege. To discriminate in the name of God is inhuman”.

“From this point of view, religious freedom is not a right which can be guaranteed solely by existing legislation, although laws are necessary”, he remarked. “Rather, religious freedom is a shared space, an atmosphere of respect and cooperation that must be built with the participation of all, even those who have no religious convictions”. He went on to outline two attitudes that may be especially useful in promoting this fundamental freedom.

“The first is that of regarding every man and woman, even those of different religious traditions, not as rivals, less still enemies, but rather as brothers and sisters. When a person is secure in his or her own beliefs, there is no need to impose or put pressure on others: there is a conviction that truth has its own power of attraction. … Each religious tradition, from within, must be able to take account of the existence of others”.

The second is “commitment to the common good. Whenever belonging to a specific religious tradition gives rise to service with conviction, generosity and concern for the whole of society without making distinctions, then there too exists an authentic and mature development of religious freedom, which appears not only as a space in which to legitimately defend one’s autonomy, but also as a potential that enriches the human family as it advances”.

“Let us look around us: there are so many poor and needy people, so many societies that try to find a more inclusive way of social justice and path of economic development!” exclaimed the Holy Father. “How great is the need for the human heart to be firmly fixed on the deepest meaning of experiences in life and rooted in a rediscovery of hope! Men and women, inspired in these areas by the values of their respective religious traditions, can offer an important, and even unique, contribution. This is truly a fertile land offering much fruit, also in the field of interreligious dialogue”.

“But I would also like to mention an ever-present spectre, that of relativism: “it is all relative”. In this respect, we must keep a basic principle clear in our minds: it is not possible to enter into dialogue other than from the standpoint of one's own identity. Without identity dialogue cannot exist. It would be the spectre of a dialogue, a dialogue on air: without purpose. Each one of us has his or her own religious identity and is faithful to it. But the Lord knows how to lead history on. Each one of us starts from his or her own identity, without pretending to have another, because it is not useful ... and this is relativism. What we have in common is the path of life, and the good will to start out from one's own identity for the good of our brothers and sisters. Each one of us offers the witness of his or her own identity to the other, and dialogues with the other. After this, dialogue may proceed on theological questions, but the most important and most beautiful thing is to walk together without betraying one's own identity, without masking it, without hypocrisy”.

Pope Francis concluded his address by encouraging religious leaders to maintain and develop “the tradition of good relations among the various religious communities in Albania, and to be united in serving your beloved homeland. With a touch of humour, it may be said that this is like a football team: Catholics 'in competition' alongside all the others but all united together for the good of the country and for humanity. Continue to be a sign, for your country and beyond, that good relations and fruitful cooperation are truly possible among men and women of different religions”.

In the Cathedral of Tirana: “Today we have touched martyrs”

Vatican City, 21 September 2014 (VIS) – Following the interreligious meeting at the Catholic University, Pope Francis transferred to the Cathedral of St. Paul in the centre of Tirana to celebrate vespers with priests, religious, seminarians and lay movements. The church, consecrated in 2002, is able to hold up to 700 persons and a large stained glass window depicting the encounter between St. John Paul II and Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

The Holy Father had prepared a discourse to deliver there, but after hearing the testimony of an 83 year-old priest and an 85 year-old nun who had both survived persecution under the communist regime, he was moved to tears, embraced them, and setting aside the official text which he handed to the Archbishop of Tirana, Rrok Mirdita, he addressed those present with some off-the-cuff comments, published in full below:

“I had prepared a few words to say to you, and I will give them to the Archbishop, who will make them available for you later. The translation is already done. He will see that you get them.

But right now I would like to tell you something else. In the reading we heard these words: 'Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God'. This is the text which the Church invites us to reflect upon at this evening’s Vespers. Over the past two months I have been preparing for this Visit by reading the history of the persecution in Albania. For me it was surprising: I did not know that your people had suffered so greatly! Then today, on the road from the airport to the square, there were all those pictures of the martyrs. It is clear that this people today continues to remember their martyrs, those who suffered so dearly! A people of martyrs. And today at the beginning of the celebration, I touched two of them.

“What I can say to you is what they themselves have said, by their lives, by their plain words. They told their stories simply, yet they spoke of so much pain. We can ask them: 'How did you manage to survive such trials?'. And they will tell us what we heard in this passage from the Second Letter to the Corinthians: 'God is the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation. He is the one who consoled us'. They have told us so, and in a straightforward way. They suffered greatly. They suffered physically, mentally, with the anguish of uncertainty: they did not know whether they would be shot or not, and so they lived with this anguish. And the Lord consoled them.

“I think of Peter, imprisoned and in chains, while the whole Church prayed for him. And the Lord consoled Peter. And the martyrs, including those whom we heard today: the Lord consoled them because there were people in the Church, the People of God – devout and good old women, so many cloistered nuns – who were praying for them.

“This is the mystery of the Church: when the Church asks the Lord to console his people, the Lord consoles them, quietly, even secretly. He consoles them in the depths of the heart and he comforts them with strength. I am certain that they [the martyrs] do not boast of what they have experienced, because they know that it was the Lord who sustained them.

“But they have something to tell us! They tell us that we, who have been called by the Lord to follow him closely, must find our consolation in him alone. Woe to us if we seek consolation elsewhere! Woe to priests and religious, sisters and novices, consecrated men and women, when they seek consolation far from the Lord! Today I don’t want to be harsh and severe with you, but I want you to realise very clearly that if you look for consolation anywhere else, you will not be happy! Even more, you will be unable to comfort others, for your own heart is closed to the Lord’s consolation. You will end up, as the great Elijah said to the people of Israel, 'limping with both legs'.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God.

“That is what these two [the martyrs] have done, today. Humbly, without pretence or boasting, they have done a service for us: they have consoled us. They also tell us this: 'We are sinners, but the Lord was with us. This is the path. Do not be discouraged!' Excuse me, if I use you as an example, but all of us have to be examples for one another. Let us go home reflecting on this: today we have touched martyrs”.

The following is the full text of the discourse prepared for the Albanian clergy:

“Since the moment your country freed itself from dictatorship, the ecclesial communities in Albania have begun again to journey onward and to reorganise pastoral ministry, looking to the future with hope. I am particularly grateful to those pastors who paid a great price for their fidelity to Christ and for their decision to remain united to the Successor of Peter. They were courageous in the face of difficulty and trial. There are still priests and religious among us who have experienced prison and persecution, like the sister and brother who have told us their story. I embrace you warmly, and I praise God for your faithful witness that inspires the whole Church to continue to proclaim the Gospel with joy.

“Treasuring this experience, the Church in Albania can grow in its missionary and apostolic zeal. I know and appreciate the effort you make to oppose those new forms of 'dictatorship' that threaten to enslave individuals and communities. If the atheist regime sought to suffocate the faith, these new forms of dictatorship, in a more insidious way, are able to suffocate charity. I am referring to individualism, rivalry and heated conflicts: these are worldly mentalities that can contaminate even the Christian community. We need not be discouraged by these difficulties; do not be afraid to continue along the path of the Lord. He is always at your side, he gives you his grace and he helps you to sustain one another; to accept one another as you are, with understanding and mercy; he helps you to deepen fraternal communion.

“Evangelisation is more effective when it is carried out with oneness of spirit and with sincere teamwork among the various ecclesial communities as well as among missionaries and local clergy: this requires courage to seek out ways of working together and offering mutual help in the areas of catechesis and catholic education, as well as full human development and charity. In these settings, the contribution of the ecclesial movements that know how to work in communion with pastors is highly valuable. That is precisely what I see before me: bishops, priests, religious and laity: a Church that desires to walk in fraternity and unity. When love for Christ is placed above all else, even above our legitimate particular needs, then we are able to move outside of ourselves, of our personal or communal pettiness, and move towards Jesus who, in our brothers and sisters, comes to us. His wounds are still visible today on the bodies of so many men and women who are hungry and thirsty; who are humiliated; who are in hospital or prison. By touching and caring for these wounds with tenderness, it is possible to fully live the Gospel and to adore God who lives in our midst.

“When love for Christ is placed above all else, even above our legitimate particular needs, then we are able to move outside of ourselves, of our personal or communal pettiness, and move towards Jesus who, in our brothers and sisters, comes to us. His wounds are still visible today on the bodies of so many men and women who are hungry and thirsty; who are humiliated; who are in hospital or prison. By touching and caring for these wounds with tenderness, it is possible to fully live the Gospel and to adore God who lives in our midst.

“There are many problems that you encounter every day. These problems compel you to immerse yourselves with fervour and generosity in apostolic work. And yet, we know that by ourselves we can do nothing: 'Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain'. This awareness calls us to give due space for the Lord every day, to dedicate our time to him, open our hearts to him, so that he may work in our lives and in our mission. That which the Lord promises for the prayer made with trust and perseverance goes beyond what we can imagine: beyond that which we ask for, God sends us also the Holy Spirit. The contemplative dimension of our lives becomes indispensable even in the midst of the most urgent and difficult tasks we encounter. The more our mission calls us to go out into the peripheries of life, the more our hearts feel the intimate need to be united to the heart of Christ, which is full of mercy and love.

“Considering the fact that the number of priests and religious is not yet sufficient, the Lord Jesus repeats to you today 'The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest'. We must not forget that this prayer begins with a gaze: the gaze of Jesus, who sees the great harvest. Do we also have this gaze? Do we know how to recognise the abundant fruits that the grace of God has caused to grow and the work that there is to be done in the field of the Lord? It is by gazing with faith on the field of God that prayer springs forth, namely, the daily and pressing invocation to the Lord for priestly and religious vocations. Dear seminarians, postulants and novices, you are the fruit of this prayer of the people of God, which always precedes and accompanies your personal response. The Church in Albania needs your enthusiasm and your generosity. The time that you dedicate today to a solid spiritual, theological, communitarian and pastoral formation, is directed to serving adequately the people of God tomorrow. The people, rather than seeking experts, are looking for witnesses: humble witnesses of the mercy and tenderness of God; priests and religious conformed to Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who are capable of communicating the love of Christ to all people.

“Together with you and the entire Albanian people, I want to give thanks to God for the many missionaries whose activity was decisive for the renewal of the Church in Albania and which continues to be of great importance to this day. These missionaries have offered a significant contribution to the consolidation of the spiritual patrimony that the Albanian bishops, priests, consecrated religious and lay persons have preserved in the midst of difficult trials and tribulations. Let us acknowledge the great work done by the religious institutes for the revival of Catholic education: these efforts are worth recognising and sustaining.

“Dear brothers and sisters, do not be discouraged in the face of difficulties. Following the footsteps of your fathers, be tenacious in giving testimony to Christ, walking 'together with God, toward the hope that never disappoints'. In your journey, rest assured that you are accompanied and supported by the love of the whole Church. I thank you from the heart for this meeting, and I entrust each one of you and your communities – your plans and your hopes – to the holy Mother of God. I bless you from my heart and I ask you, please, to pray for me”.

Visit to the Bethany Centre: “Here faith becomes concrete charity”

Vatican City, 21 September 2014 (VIS) – The final stage of Pope Francis' apostolic trip to Albania was the visit to the Bethany Charitable Centre, approximately thirty kilometres from Tirana. The centre, founded by the Italian Antonietta Vitale in 1999, assists numerous disabled people and poor or marginalised children, with the collaboration of a group of lay volunteers.

“In places such as this we are all confirmed in the faith; each one is helped in his or her belief, because we see the faith visibly expressed in practical acts of charity. We see how faith brings light and hope in situations of grave hardship”, remarked Pope Francis in the address he gave in the church in the Centre, dedicated to St. Anthony of Padua. “This faith, working through charity, dislodges the mountains of indifference, of disbelief and of apathy. ... Through humble gestures and simple acts of service to the least among us, the Good News that Jesus is risen and lives among us is proclaimed”.

“This Centre, furthermore, shows that it is possible to live together peacefully and fraternally as people of different ethnicities and followers of various religious confessions. Here differences do not prevent harmony, joy and peace, but rather become opportunities for a greater mutual awareness and understanding. … Each religious community expresses itself through love and not violence, and is never ashamed of showing goodness! The persons who nourish goodness in their heart, find that such goodness leads to a peaceful conscience and to profound joy even in the midst of difficulties and misunderstandings. Even when affronted, goodness is never weak but rather, shows its strength by refusing to take revenge. Goodness is its own reward and draws us closer to God, who is the Supreme Good. … Goodness offers infinitely more than money, which only deludes, because we have been created to receive the love of God and to offer it, not to measure everything in terms of money or power”.

With regard to the volunteers who collaborate in the Centre, the Pope quoted one of the children in the Bethany Centre, who said, “'For fifteen years now they have sacrificed themselves joyfully out of love for Jesus and for us'. This phrase reveals how making a gift of oneself for the love of Jesus gives birth to joy and hope, and it also shows how serving one’s brothers and sisters is transformed into an experience of sharing God’s kingdom. These words … might seem paradoxical to many in our world who are slow to grasp their meaning and who frantically seek the key to existence in earthly riches, possessions and amusements. What these people discover, instead, is estrangement and bewilderment”.

The bishop of Rome emphasised that instead, “the secret to a good life is found in loving and giving oneself for love’s sake. From here comes the strength to 'sacrifice oneself joyfully', and thus the most demanding work is transformed into a source of a greater joy. In this way, there is no longer any fear of making important choices in life, but they are seen for what they are, namely, as the way to personal fulfilment in freedom”.

He concluded, “May your patron, St. Anthony, accompany you along the way. I encourage you to continue faithfully serving the Lord Jesus in the poor and abandoned, and to pray to Him so that the hearts and minds of all may be opened to goodness, to charity shown in works, which is the source of real and authentic joy”.

The Pope greeted the children and disabled persons present upon leaving the church, and then transferred to Mother Teresa airport to depart for Rome. The aircraft carrying the Holy Father landed shortly after 9.30 p.m.

Pope Francis recounts his emotional trip to Albania

Vatican City, 22 September 2014 (VIS) – During his return flight to Rome, the Holy Father responded to several questions posed by three Albanian journalists who had covered his apostolic trip to Albania. The three questions, and Pope Francis' answers, are published in full below.

Q: “Did His Holiness set out with an idea in mind about Albanians and Albania? Such as the Albanian who has suffered but is also tolerant. Has he encountered any other quality in the Albanians, or are these the right qualities to enable the eagle to return to the nest?”

Pope Francis: “The Albanian is not only tolerant, he is a brother. He has the capacity for fraternity, which is more. This can be seen in the co-existence and collaboration between Muslims, Orthodox and Catholics. They collaborate, but like brothers. And then, another aspect that struck me at the beginning is the youth of the country – it is the youngest country in Europe. But you can see that Albania has achieved a superior development in culture and governance, thanks to this fraternal quality”.

Q: “Travelling along the central boulevard of Tirana, beneath the portraits of the clerics martyred during the communist regime, in a country in which the State imposed atheism until twenty-five years ago, what was your personal feeling?”

Pope Francis: “For two months I have been studying that difficult period in the history of Albania, in order to understand it, and I have also studied something of its origins. But you have had beautiful and strong cultural roots since the beginning. It was a cruel period; the level of cruelty was terrible. When I saw those photos – but not just the Catholics, also the Orthodox, and Muslims …. and when I thought of the words said to them: 'But you must not believe in God', to which they responded, 'I believe'... Boom! They killed them. This is why I say that all three religious components have given witness to God and now give witness to fraternity”.

Q: “Albania is a country with a Muslim majority. But your visit took place at a moment in which the global situation is precarious. You yourself have declared that the third world war has already begun. The message of your visit is intended solely for Albania, or beyond?”

Pope Francis: “No, it goes far beyond. Albania has constructed a path of peace, co-existence and cooperation that goes far beyond, that touches other countries that also have diverse ethnic roots. It is a country with a Muslim majority, but it is not a Muslim country. It is a European country. Albania is a European country in terms of her culture, the culture of coexistence, and also for her cultural history”.

Q: “After Albania, where will your next trips be?”

Pope Francis: “On 25 November, Strasbourg, to speak at the Council of Europe and the European Parliament. And then, perhaps, on 28 November, Turkey, to be there to celebrate the feast of St. Andrew, with the Patriarch Bartholomaios”.

Q: “We have understood that you have a vision of Albania that is a little different to that of the Europeans; that is, we look at Europe almost as if it were the European Union, whereas you have chosen, as the first European country to visit, a peripheral country that does not belong to the European Union. What would you say to those who look only at the Europe of the 'powerful'?”

Pope Francis: “That my trip is a message, it is a sign: it is a sign I wish to give”.

Q: “We all saw you weep, I think, for the first time, we saw you very moved during that encounter: it was, I think, the most moving moment of the trip...”

Pope Francis: “To hear a martyr speak of his own martyrdom was very powerful. I think that all of us who were there were moved, all of us. And they spoke as if they were talking about other people, simply and with humility. It did me a great deal of good”.

Other news

The Holy Father receives the president of Latvia

Vatican City, 20 September 2014 (VIS) – This morning, the Holy Father Francis received in audience Andris Berzins, president of the Republic of Latvia, who subsequently met with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, accompanied by Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States.

During the discussions, which took place in a cordial atmosphere, the existing good relations between Latvia and the Holy See were evoked, as well as the positive contribution made by the Catholic Church to society, especially in the fields of education and social welfare.

Mention was then made of various aspects of life in the country, as well as international matters of common interest, particularly in view of Latvia’s upcoming Presidency of the Council of the European Union, from 1 January 2015. Special attention was paid to the situation in Ukraine, in the hope that a political solution, based on law, may be sought through dialogue.

The Church needs pastors able to kneel before others

Vatican City, 22 September 2014 (VIS) – This morning in the Vatican's Clementine Hall, the Holy Father received the bishops participating in the seminar organised by the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples. Pope Francis praised the courage of the bishops, who have not allowed themselves “to be intimidated by the difficulties and challenges of the current world, that make the mission of bishops even more arduous nowadays”, but have instead placed their trust in the Lord, “in imitation of the first disciples”.

He reminded them of the urgent need for missionary conversion “that involves every baptised person and every parish”, emphasising that pastors are required to be the first to live and witness this conversion as the leaders of the particular Churches. Therefore, he added, “I encourage you to direct your life and your episcopal ministry towards this missionary transformation that currently challenges the People of God”.

“Service to humanity is at the centre of this missionary conversion of the Church. … A shining example of this pastoral service is offered by the Korean martyr saints … whose liturgical memory we celebrate today. Anchored in Christ, the Good Shepherd, they did not hesitate to shed their own blood for the Gospel, of which they were faithful dispensers and heroic witnesses. The Church needs pastors, that is, servants, bishops, who are able to kneel before others to wash their feet. Pastors who are close to the people, meek fathers and brothers, patient and merciful; who embrace poverty both as freedom for the Lord and as simplicity and austerity in life”.

“Make efforts to give a new missionary impetus to your diocesan communities, so that they continue to grow with new members, thanks to your witness of life and your episcopal ministry, exercised as a service to the People of God. Be close to your priests, pay attention to religious life, and love the poor”. He concluded by urging them to promote pastoral care for the family, “so that families, accompanied and educated, may be increasingly better able to offer their contribution to the life of the Church and society”, and so that they may provide the foundation for the work of evangelisation, “through their educational mission and with their active participation in the life of parish communities”.

The Church must be a sign of closeness to God's mercy

Vatican City, 20 September 2014 (VIS) – The participants in the international meeting, “The pastoral project of Evangelii gaudium”, organised by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of New Evangelisation” and chaired by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, were received in audience by Pope Francis in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall yesterday.

In his address, the Holy Father spoke of the urgency of the evangelising mission in our times, presenting as an example, first and foremost, the passage from the Gospel according to Matthew in which Jesus feels compassion towards the crowd that follows Him, tired and exhausted like a flock without a shepherd.

“How many people, in so many of the existential peripheries of our time, are tired and exhausted, and await the Church? They await us!” he exclaimed. “How can we reach them? … It is not the task of the Pope to offer a detailed and complete analysis of contemporary reality, but to invite all the Church to grasp the signs of the times that the Lord continually offers us. … These signs … must be reread in the light of the Gospel: this is the moment of solid commitment, the context in which we are called upon to work in order to enable the growth of God's Kingdom. How much poverty and solitude we see in today's world, unfortunately! How many people live in conditions of great suffering and ask the Church to be a sign of the Lord's goodness, solidarity and mercy. This is a task, in particular, for those who have the responsibility of pastoral ministry. … They are required to recognise and interpret these signs of the times in order to offer a wise and generous response”.

“Before so many pastoral needs, before the many demands of men and women, we run the risk of being afraid and of turning inwards in an attitude of fear and defence. Herein there lie the temptations of sufficiency and clericalism, of the codification of faith in rules and instructions, just as the scribes, pharisees and doctors of the law did in Jesus' time. Everything is clear and orderly, but the population of believers and seekers will continue to hunger and thirst for God. I have said many times that the Church seems like a military hospital to me: many injured people who need our closeness, who ask of us what they asked of Jesus: closeness, proximity. And if we assume the attitude of the scribes, the doctors of the law and the pharisees, we will never offer a testimony of closeness”.

In this regard, the Pope cited the parable in which Jesus speaks of the owner of a vineyard who, in need of workers, left his home at different times of the day to look for them. “He did not go out just once”, he emphasised. “All those who are responsible for pastoral care can find a good example in this parable. Go forth at all times of the day to find those who are in search of the Lord. Reach the weakest and the least fortunate to offer them support so they can be useful in the Lord's vineyard, even if it is only for an hour”.

“Another aspect: please, let us not follow the song of the sirens who call us to transform pastoral care into a convulsive series of initiatives, without grasping the essence of commitment to evangelisation. At times it appears as if they are more concerned with multiplying their activities rather than taking care of people and their encounter with God. A pastoral care that lacks this attention will gradually become sterile”.

Finally, the Pope advised those present to consider two important qualities: patience and perseverance. “The Word of God entered with 'patience' in the moment of the Incarnation and thus unto death on the Cross. Patience and perseverance. We do not have a 'magic wand' for everything, but we do have our trust in the Lord Who accompanies us and never abandons us. … Let us do good, but without expected to be recompensed. Let us sow and offer witness. Our witness is the beginning of an evangelisation that touches the heart and transforms is. Words without example are of no use! Our witness is that which brings and gives validity to our words”.

“Thank you for your commitment”, he concluded. “I bless you and, please, do not forget to pray for me, because I have to talk a lot and also give a little Christian witness!”.

Special Commission to study marriage annulment reform

Vatican City, 22 September 2014 (VIS) – The Holy See Press Office today issued the following communique:

“On 27 August 2014, the Holy Father decided to institute a special Commission to study the reform of the canonical marriage annulment process.

The Commission will be chaired by Msgr. Pio Vito Pinto, dean of the tribunal of the Roman Rota, and will be composed of the following members: Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts; Msgr. Luis Francisco Ladario, secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; Bishop Dimitri Salachas, Apostolic Exarch of the Greek Byzantine Catholic Church; Msgrs. Maurice Monier, Leo Xavier Michael Arokiaraj and Alejandro W. Bunge, prelate auditors of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota; the Rev. Fr. Nikolaus Schoch, O.F.M., substitute promotor of Justice of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura; Fr. Konstanc Miroslav Adam, O.P., rector of the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum); Fr. Jorge Horta Espinoza, O.F.M., Dean of the Faculty of Canon Law of the Pontifical University Antonianum; and Prof. Paolo Moneta, formerly professor of Canon Law at the University of Pisa.

The work of the Special Commission will begin as soon as possible and will focus on the preparation of a proposal for the reform of the marriage annulment process, seeking to simplify and streamline the procedure, while safeguarding the principle of the indissoluble nature of marriage”.

Cardinal Scola, Pope's special envoy to Cologne

Vatican City, 22 September 2014 (VIS) – Today a letter was published, written in Latin and dated 6 August, by which the Holy Father appoints Cardinal Angelo Scola, archbishop of Milan, as his special envoy to the celebrations for the 850th anniversary of the translation of relics of the Magi from Milan to Cologne, Germany, scheduled to take place on 28 September. The pontifical mission accompanying the cardinal will be composed of Msgr. Klaus Kramer of the clergy of Rottenburg-Stuttgart, president of Missio-Aachen, and Rev. Provost Hubertus Bottcher of the clergy of Paderborn, dean of Arnsberg.


Vatican City, 20 September 2014 (VIS) – The Holy Father received in audience:

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

- Thorbjorn Jagland, secretary general of the Council of Europe, and entourage;

- Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, president of the Italian Episcopal Conference;

- Cardinal Lluis Martinez Sistach, archbishop of Barcelona, Spain;

- Bishop Alcides Jorge Pedro Casaretto, emeritus of San Isidro, Argentina;

- Cristina Fernandez Kirchner, president of the Argentine Republic.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 20 September 2014 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed:

- Bishop Blase J. Cupich of Spokane, U.S.A., as metropolitan archbishop of Chicago (area 3,654, population 6,251,000, Catholics 2,438,000, priests 1,559, permanent deacons 660, religious 2,787), U.S.A. He succeeds Cardinal Francis E. George, O.M.I., whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same metropolitan archdiocese, upon reaching the age limit, was accepted by the Holy Father.

- Rev. Fr. Riccardo Luca Guariglia, O.S.B., as ordinary abbot of the territorial abbey of Montevergine (area 3, population 232, Catholics 232, priests 12, religious 27), Italy. Fr. Guariglia is currently lecturer in fundamental theology at the “Madonna delle Grazie” Theological Institute in Benevento, Italy, and claustral prior and master of novices of the monastic community of Montevergine.

- Cardinal Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Bombay, India, as his special envoy to the celebrations for the 500th anniversary of the evangelisation of Myanmar, to be held in Yangon from 21 to 23 November 2014.

- Msgr. Paolo Rudelli, nunciature advisor, as special advisor and Holy See permanent observer at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Pope arrives in Albania, example of fruitful co-existence between people of different beliefs

Vatican City, 21 September 2014 (VIS) – This morning Pope Francis began his visit to Tirana, Albania - his fourth apostolic trip and the second by a pontiff to the “Land of the Eagles”. The first was by John Paul II in 1993, two years after the fall of the dictatorship and following the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the Republic of Albania. On that occasion, the Pope celebrated Mass in the Cathedral of Scutari, which had been transformed into a sports centre under the communist regime, and he blessed the first stone for the reconstruction of the Shrine to Our Lady of Good Counsel, built in 1895 and demolished in 1967. In Tirana in recent years both the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus of the Jesuit Fathers and the Orthodox Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ have been rebuilt.

The Holy Father, who departed from Rome's Fiumicino airport at 7.30 a.m., arrived in Tirana at 9 a.m. and was received at the aerodrome dedicated to Mother Teresa by representatives of the religious and civil authorities, including the apostolic nuncio in Albania, Archbishop Ramiro Moliner Ingles, and the Albanian prime minister Edi Rama. He proceeded by car to the presidential palace of Tirana, where the welcome ceremony took place, and he was greeted by the Albanian president, Bujar Nishani. Following a brief discussion, the president accompanied the Pope to the Salon Scanderberg for a meeting with the authorities, the diplomatic corps, and some of the country's religious leaders.

In his address to those present, the full text of which is published below, the Holy Father spoke about Albania's path to recovering civil liberties and religious freedom, warning of the exploitation of differences between religions and praising the peaceful co-existence and collaboration between those of different religious beliefs in Albania.

“I am very happy to be here with you, in this noble land of Albania, a land of heroes who sacrificed their lives for the independence of the nation, and a land of martyrs, who witnessed to their faith in difficult times of persecution. I am grateful for the invitation to visit your country, called 'the Land of the Eagles', and for your warm welcome.

“Almost a quarter of a century has passed since Albania re-embarked upon the arduous but rewarding path of freedom. This experience has allowed Albanian society to take up the process of material and spiritual reconstruction, to foster an increase of enthusiasm and initiatives, and to create a spirit of cooperation and exchange with countries of the Balkans, the Mediterranean, Europe and indeed with the rest of the world. This rediscovered freedom has helped you look to the future with trust and hope, establishing new projects and renewing friendly relations with countries both near and far.

“Respect for human rights, among which religious freedom and freedom of expression stand out, is the preliminary condition for a country’s social and economic development. When the dignity of the human person is respected and his or her rights recognised and guaranteed, creativity and interdependence thrive, and the potential of the human personality is unleashed through actions that further the common good.

“There is a rather beautiful characteristic of Albania, one which is given great care and attention, and which gives me great joy: I am referring to the peaceful coexistence and collaboration that exists among followers of different religions. The climate of respect and mutual trust between Catholics, Orthodox and Muslims is a precious gift to the country. This is especially the case in these times where an authentic religious spirit is being perverted and where religious differences are being distorted and exploited. This creates dangerous circumstances which lead to conflict and violence, rather than being an occasion for open and respectful dialogue, and for a collective reflection on what it means to believe in God and to follow his laws.

“Let no one use God as a 'shield' while planning and carrying out acts of violence and oppression! May no one use religion as a pretext for actions against human dignity and against the fundamental rights of every man and woman, above all, the right to life and the right of everyone to religious freedom!

“What the experience in Albania shows, rather, is that a peaceful and fruitful coexistence between persons and communities of believers of different religions is not only desirable, but possible and realistic. The peaceful coexistence of different religious communities is, in fact, an inestimable benefit to peace and to harmonious human advancement. This is something of value which needs to be protected and nurtured each day, by providing an education which respects differences and particular identities, so that dialogue and cooperation for the good of all may be promoted and strengthened by mutual understanding and esteem. It is a gift which we need to implore from God in prayer. May Albania always continue to walk this path, offering an inspiring example to other countries.

“Mr President, after a winter of isolation and persecution, the springtime of freedom has finally come. By means of free elections and new institutional structures, a democratic pluralism has been consolidated which is now favouring economic activity. Many people, especially at the beginning, chose to emigrate in search of work and a better standard of living, and in their own way contributed to the advancement of Albanian society. Many others rediscovered reasons for staying in their homeland, wanting to build it up from within. The efforts and sacrifices of all have improved the life of the nation in general.

“The Catholic Church, for her part, has resumed a normal existence, re-establishing her hierarchy and rejoining the threads of a long tradition. Places of worship have been built or rebuilt. Among these, the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Good Counsel at Scutari holds a special place. Similarly, schools and centres of education and healthcare have been established for use by all citizens. The presence of the Church and her activities are therefore rightly seen as a service, not only to the Catholic community, but rather to the whole nation.

“Blessed Mother Teresa, together with the martyrs who witnessed to their faith – to whom we pray and offer our appreciation – most certainly are rejoicing in heaven because of the work of men and women of good will who contribute to the flourishing of civil society and the Church in Albania.

“Today, however, new challenges arise which must be faced. In a world that tends toward economic and cultural globalization, every effort must be made to ensure that growth and development are put at the service of all and not just limited parts of the population. Furthermore, such development will only be authentic if it is sustainable and just, that is, if it has the rights of the poor and respect for the environment close to heart. Alongside the globalisation of the markets there must also be a corresponding globalisation of solidarity; together with economic growth there must be a greater respect for creation; alongside the rights of individuals, there must be the guaranteed rights of those who are a bridge between the individual and the state, the family being the first and foremost of such institutions. Today Albania is able to face these challenges in an atmosphere of freedom and stability, two realities which must be strengthened and which form the basis of hope for the future”.

“I offer my heartfelt thanks to each of you for your gracious welcome, and, like Saint John Paul II in April 1993, I invoke upon Albania the protection of Mary, Mother of Good Counsel, entrusting to her the hopes of the entire Albanian people. May God abundantly pour out his grace and blessing upon Albania”.

Following his address the Pope continued to Mother Teresa Square where he celebrated Holy Mass.

The living Church in the Land of the Eagles: thank you for your fidelity

Vatican City, 21 September 2014 (VIS) – Thousands of faithful participated in the Holy Mass celebrated by Pope Francis in Latin and Albanian at 11 a.m. in Mother Teresa Square. The liturgical readings reflected aspects of Albania's history. The first, from the Book of Exodus, told how “I bore you on eagle's wings”, whereas the epistle was St. Paul's letter to the Romans in which the apostle tells how he preached in Illyria, which at that time included the current territory of Albania.

However, in his homily the Holy Father commented on the passage from the Gospel of St. Luke, which includes the phrase “Peace be to this house” and which narrates how Jesus, after naming the twelve apostles, convokes another seventy-two disciples and sends them to proclaim the Kingdom of God to peoples and cities.

“He comes to bring the love of God to the world and he wishes to share it by means of communion and fraternity”, said Pope Francis. “To this end he immediately forms a community of disciples, a missionary community, and he trains them how to 'go out' on mission. The method is both clear and simple: the disciples visit homes and their preaching begins with a greeting which is charged with meaning: 'Peace be to this house!'. It is not only a greeting, but also a gift: the gift of peace. Being here with you today, dear brothers and sisters of Albania, in this square dedicated to a humble and great daughter of this land, Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, I wish to repeat to you this greeting: May peace be in your homes. May peace reign in your hearts. Peace in your country. Peace”.

“In the mission of the seventy-two disciples we see a reflection of the Christian community’s missionary experience in every age: the risen and living Lord sends not only the Twelve, but the entire Church; he sends each of the baptised to announce the Gospel to all peoples. Through the ages, the message of peace brought by Jesus’ messengers has not always been accepted; at times, the doors have been closed to them. In the recent past, the doors of your country were also closed, locked by the chains of prohibitions and prescriptions of a system which denied God and impeded religious freedom. Those who were afraid of the truth did everything they could to banish God from the hearts of men and women and to exclude Christ and the Church from the history of your country, even though it was one of the first to receive the light of the Gospel”.

Pope Francis went on to recall the “decades of atrocious suffering and harsh persecutions against Catholics, Orthodox and Muslims”, affirming that “Albania was a land of martyrs: many bishops, priests, men and women religious, lay faithful, and ministers of worship of other religions paid for their fidelity with their lives. Demonstrations of great courage and constancy in the profession of the faith are not lacking. How many Christians did not succumb when threatened, but persevered without wavering on the path they had undertaken! I stand spiritually at that wall of the cemetery of Scutari, a symbolic place of the martyrdom of Catholics before the firing squads, and with profound emotion I place the flower of my prayer and of my grateful and undying remembrance. The Lord was close to you, dear brothers and sisters, to sustain you; he led you and consoled you and in the end he has raised you up on eagle’s wings as he did for the ancient people of Israel. The eagle, depicted on your nation’s flag, calls to mind hope, and the need to always place your trust in God, who does not lead us astray and who is ever at our side, especially in moments of difficulty.

“The doors of Albania have now been reopened and a season of new missionary vitality is growing for all of the members of the people of God: each baptised person has his or her role to fulfil in the Church and in society. Each one must experience the call to dedicate themselves generously to the announcing of the Gospel and to the witness of charity; called to strengthen the bonds of solidarity so as to create more just and fraternal living conditions for all”.

Today, the Pontiff exclaimed, “I have come to give thanks to you for your witness and to encourage you to cultivate hope among yourselves and within your hearts. Do not forget the eagle. The eagle does not forget the nest, but flies high. It flies high! I have come to encourage you to involve the young generations; to nourish yourselves assiduously on the Word of God, opening your hearts to Christ: to the Gospel, to the encounter with God and the encounter among you, which is already taking place. Through this encounter of yours, you offer an example to all Europe”.

“To the living Church in this land of Albania, I say 'thank you' for your example of fidelity”, he concluded. “Do not forget the nest, your distant history; do not forget the wounds inflicted, but do not seek to avenge them. Go ahead, working with hope for a great future. So many of your sons and daughters have suffered for Christ, even to the point of sacrificing their lives. May their witness sustain your steps today and tomorrow as you journey along the path of love, the path of freedom, and above all, the path of justice and of peace”.

To the young: yes to acceptance and solidarity

Vatican City, 21 September 2014 (VIS) – Before the end of this Sunday's liturgy, Francis greeted those present from Albania and other neighbouring countries to thank them for their presence and for their witness of faith, and addressed the young in particular. “They say that Albania is the youngest country in Europe”, he commented, smiling, and invited them to “confirm [their] existence in Jesus Christ”.

“He who builds on Christ builds on rock, because He is always faithful, even if we sometimes lack faith”, continued the Holy Father. “Jesus knows us better than anyone else; when we sin, He does not condemn us but rather says to us, 'Go and sin no more'. Dear young people, you are the new generation of Albania, the future of your homeland. With the power of the Gospel and the example of your antecedents and the martyrs, know how to say 'No' to the idolatry of money, 'No' to the false freedom of individualism, 'No' to addiction and to violence; say 'Yes' to a culture of encounter and of solidarity, 'Yes' to the beauty that is inseparable from the good and the true; 'Yes' to a life lived with great enthusiasm and at the same time faithful in little things. In this way, you will build a better Albania and a better world”.

Before the Angelus prayer, the Pope invoked the Virgin Mary, venerated in Albania above all as “Our Lady of Good Counsel”. “I stand before her, spiritually, at her Shrine in Scutari, so dear to you, and to her I entrust the entire Church in Albania and all the people of this country, especially families, children and the elderly, who are the living memory of the people. May Our Lady guide you to walk together with God towards the hope that never disappoints”.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Audience with the president of Armenia: special attention to Christian communities and other religious minorities, and to refugees in conflict zones

Vatican City, 19 September 2014 (VIS) – This morning the Holy Father Francis received in Audience the President of the Republic of Armenia, His Excellency Mr. Serzh Sargsyan, who subsequently met with His Eminence Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, accompanied by His Excellency Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Secretary for Relations with States.

During the cordial discussions, satisfaction was expressed for the development and strengthening of bilateral relations, highlighting the special role of Christianity in the history and life of Armenian society.

With regard to the regional political situation, it is hoped that complex and hitherto unresolved issues may be overcome through dialogue between all the interested parties. Furthermore, mention was made of the theme of conflict in the Middle East, and trust was expressed in the common efforts of interested nations and religious communities to achieve a peaceful co-existence of peoples throughout the entire region. Special attention was paid to the situation faced by Christian communities and other religious minorities in the area, and to the humanitarian crisis regarding refugees from the affected zones.

Francis prays at St. Mary Major before his trip to Albania

Vatican City, 19 September 2014 (VIS) – Yesterday afternoon the Pope made a private visit to the Basilica of St. Mary Major to pray in silence before the image of the Virgin “Salus Populi Romani” on the eve of his apostolic trip to Albania, as he has done before his previous trips to other countries. The Holy Father left a floral tribute before the image and stayed in the Basilica, which was closed to the public, for half an hour.

The Pope to visit Naples on 21 March 2015

Vatican City, 19 September 2014 (VIS) – Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, archbishop of Naples, Italy, announced today that the Holy Father will visit Naples on 21 March 2015, confirmed by the Holy See Press Office. Today is the feast day of St. Januarius, patron of the city.


Vatican City, 19 September 2014 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father received in audience:

- Archbishop Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith;

- Archbishop James Patrick Green, apostolic nuncio in Peru;

- Professor Andrea Riccardi, founder of the Sant'Egidio Community;

- Professor Ignazio Marino, mayor of Rome.

Yesterday, Thursday 18 September, the Holy Father received in audience:

- Archbishop Guido Pozzo, secretary of the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei”;

- Bishop Oscar Vicente Ojea of San Isidro, Argentina;

- A group of cyclists from the “Cruce por la educacion argentina” Association.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 19 September 2014 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed Bishop Ulrich Neymeyr, auxiliary of the diocese of Mainz, Federal Republic of Germany, as bishop of Erfurt (area 12,000, population 2,188,589, Catholics 152,282, priests 200, permanent deacons 1, religious 240), Federal Republic of Germany.


Vatican City, 19 September 2014 (VIS) – On Sunday, 21 September, on the occasion of Pope Francis' visit to Tirana, Albania, a special edition of the Vatican Information Service bulletin will be transmitted.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Pope receives the bishops of Cote d'Ivoire: the role of the Church can be crucial in rebuilding your country

Vatican City, 2014 (VIS) – The bishops of Cote d'Ivoire were received by the Holy Father this morning, at the end of their five-yearly “ad Limina” visit, and the written discourse he handed to them emphasised the need for dialogue and brotherhood among prelates and their priests, along with the successful inculturation of faith.

“The fraternal communion that unites the bishops of a nation around Christ is essential for the growth of the Church as well as for the progress of society as as whole”, he writes. “This is especially true in a country that has suffered serious divisions and is in need of your witness and your firm commitment to rebuilding fraternity. Let us not be robbed of the ideal of brotherly love! By really being brothers, open to dialogue and mutual trust, listening to all – even when there are differences and contradictions – and making space for everyone, especially the youngest among you, you will provide a new missionary impulse and will truly transform society, so that it is more consistent with the Gospel ideal”.

“Therefore”, he continued, “I can only encourage you to take on the role that is yours in the task of national reconciliation, setting aside any personal involvement in political disputes at the expense of the common good. However, it is important to maintain constructive relations with the authorities within the country, as well as with the various components of society, so as to spread the true evangelical spirit of dialogue and collaboration. The role of the Church – which is valued and listened to – can be crucial. … I urge you to continue in your dialogue with Muslims, so as to discourage any drift towards violence or any incorrect religious interpretation of the conflict you have experienced”.

“Of course, you are not alone in facing the enormous task of evangelisation and the conversion of hearts: you have the support of the clergy, generous and motivated, and whose numbers continue to grow”, he remarks. “However, to avoid difficulties and shortcomings that some priests encounter, the best approach is without doubt to ensure the quality of formation, both initial and permanent, the encouragement of a priestly fraternity that overcomes ethnic divisions and, in particular, the closeness and attention that, like loving and caring fathers, you must give to each one of them. Use, wherever possible, gentleness, persuasion and encouragement to awaken pastoral zeal, rather than immediate sanctions or severity. I urge you to visit your priests often in order to listen to them and get to know them better. The formation of a fraternal, united 'presbyterium' around the bishop is necessary for a priest to remain attached to his own diocese and to prioritise its needs, rather than giving in to the temptation to leave it, to the detriment of the people of God who need his ministry”.

The Pope offers warm thanks to the consecrated persons for “the considerable task they take on, along with laypersons working alongside them, in the sectors of education, health and development. Their work is appreciated by all and is absolutely indispensable in view of the intimate connection between evangelisation and human development”: He also invites the bishops to ensure their pastoral closeness to all the lay faithful, but especially families, “who are more fragile nowadays, both on account of the secularisation of Ivorian society and the movement of the population and divisions caused by the conflict, as well as by less morally demanding temptations that arise all around them”. The Pontiff also draws attention to the elderly as, “despite the traditional African mentality that reserves a special veneration for them, many now find themselves alone and abandoned, due to the 'throwaway' culture that has appeared in your societies. However, their participation is essential for the equilibrium of the people and the education of the young”.

Francis concludes by expressing his joy and gratitude for the great work of evangelisation that is being carried out in Cote d'Ivoire. “However”, he warns, “faith remains fragile and the wind does not blow in its favour. Often, as the recent conflicts have unfortunately shown, ethnic particularism overrides evangelical fraternity, and many baptised persons, tired or disillusioned, drift away from the light of truth in search of easier solutions, whereas others simply do not put the demands of faith into practice in their lives. Undoubtedly the key for the future is found partly in ensuring the Word of God is more deeply rooted in people's hearts. It is certainly also necessary to enter into deeper dialogue with cultural, religious and traditional reality in order to achieve a true inculturation of our faith, unambiguously rejected what is contrary to it while welcoming and nurturing what is good. I therefore encourage you to continue ceaselessly in your work of evangelisation. In this way, the Church in Cote d'Ivoire can face the challenges of the future with serenity”.

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