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Friday, March 6, 2015

Audience with the president of Azerbaijan: importance of intercultural and interreligious dialogue to promote peace

Vatican City, 6 March 2015 (VIS) - This morning the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and his wife were received in Audience by the Holy Father Francis. The president subsequently met with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, accompanied by the under secretary for Relations with States, Msgr. Antoine Camilleri.

During the cordial discussions, satisfaction was expressed for the development of bilateral relations. In particular, attention was paid to themes regarding the life of the Catholic Community in the country and to a number of initiatives in the culture field, revealing the value in the contemporary world of intercultural and interreligious dialogue to promote peace.

Reference was then made to the current regional and international situation, emphasising the importance of negotiation in conflict resolution, and education for promoting the conditions for peaceful coexistence between populations and different religious groups.

The Pope to members of the Neocatechumenal Way on the “missio ad gentes”: take to the peripheries of the world the message the God loves humanity and that love is possible

Vatican City, 6 March 2015 (VIS) – This morning in the Paul VI Hall Pope Francis received in audience seven thousand members of the Neocatechumenal Way, including two hundred families who will shortly depart on the “missio ad gentes”. “The task of the Pope is to confirm brothers in the faith”, said the Holy Father. “You too, with this gesture, have asked Peter's Successor to confirm your calling, to support your mission, to bless your charism. And today I confirm your calling, I support your mission, and I bless your charism. Because I am happy to do so! Go in the name of Christ, and take his Gospel all round the world”.

As well as from the cardinals and bishops who accompanied the Neocatechumenals, the Pope also gave special greetings to the organisers of the Way: Kiko Arguello and Carmen Hernandez, along with Fr. Mario Pezzi, and expressed his appreciation and encouragement “for all that, via the Way, you do for the good of the Church”.

“Our meeting today is a missionary response in obedience to Christ's instruction; 'Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptised will be saved'. And I am particularly content that this mission of yours will be carried out thanks to Christian families who, joined together in a community, have the mission of giving the signs of the faith that attract men to the beauty of the Gospel. … These communities are formed of a presbyter and four or five families with children, some of whom are fully grown, and constitute a 'missio ad gentes', with a mandate to evangelise non-Christians. To those non-Christians who have never heard of Jesus Christ, and the many non-Christians who have forgotten who Jesus Christ was, who He was: non-Christians who have been baptised but have forgotten their faith on account of secularisation, worldliness and many other things. Let us reawaken that faith!”

“Therefore, even prior to the word, it is your witness of life that demonstrates the heart of Christ's revelation: that God loves man to the extent of delivering Him to death, and that He was resurrected by the Father to give us the grace of offering our life to others. How much solitude, how much suffering, how much distance from God there is in many peripheries of Europe and America, and in many cities of Asia! How great is humanity's need, in every latitude, to hear that God loves us and that love is possible! These Christian communities, thanks to you, missionary families, have the essential task of making this message visible. And what is the message? 'Christ is risen, Christ lives! Christ lives among us!'”

“You have received the strength to leave everything and to depart for distant lands thanks to a path of Christian initiation, lived in small communities, where you have rediscovered the immense richness of your Baptism. This is the Neocatechumenal Way, a true gift of Providence to the Church in our time”, affirmed the Pope, “which rests on the three dimensions of the Church: the Word, the Liturgy and the Community. Therefore, obediently and constantly listening to the Word of God; the Eucharistic celebration in small communities after the first Vespers of Sunday; the celebration of Lauds within the family on Sunday with all children, and the sharing of faith with other brothers are at the origin of the many gifts that the Lord has bestowed to you, along with many vocations to the presbytery and to consecrated life”.

“On a number of occasions I have insisted on the need for the Church to pass from a pastoral ministry of simple conversion to a decisively missionary pastoral ministry. How often, in the Church, do we hold Jesus inside but fail to let Him out? This is the most important thing to do if we do not want the waters of the Church to stagnate. The Way has been carrying out this 'missio ad gentes' amid non-Christians for years now, by means of an 'implantatio Ecclesiae', a new presence of the Church, where the Church does not exist or is unable to reach people. 'What joy you give us through your presence and your activity!', exclaimed Blessed Paul VI in his first audience with you. I too offer you these words and encourage you to continue, entrusting you to the Holy Virgin Mary who inspired the Neocatechumenal Way”.

Telegram for the death of Cardinal Edward M. Egan

Vatican City, 6 March 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has sent a telegram of condolences to Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, archbishop of New York, U.S.A., for the death of Cardinal Edward M. Egan, archbishop emeritus of the same diocese. He recalls with gratitude “his years of episcopal ministry among Christ's flock in Bridgeport and New York, his distinguished service to the Apostolic See, and his expert contribution to the revision of the Church's law in the years following the Vatican Council II”, and, commending the late Cardinal's soul to God, imparts his apostolic blessing to all those participating in his funeral, held in St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Bishop Renato Corti is the author of the meditations for the stations of the 2015 Via Crucis

Vatican City, 6 March 2015 (VIS) – The Holy See Press Office today announced that the texts for the stations of the Via Crucis on Good Friday at the Colosseum have been prepared on behalf of the Holy Father by Bishop Renato Corti, emeritus of Novara, Italy, according to the traditional format of the fourteen stations.

Promoting a Europe based on the sacred nature of the human being

Vatican City, 5 March 2015 (VIS) – Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, secretary for Relations with States, gave an address in Bratislava, Slovakia today, during the meeting of the legal advisers of the Episcopal Conferences of Europe, (C.E.C.E.). The prelate focused on the challenges the Church faces today, and on Pope Francis' two addresses to the European Parliament and the Council of Europe on 25 November 2014.

Archbishop Gallagher emphasised that “at the centre of the Pope's considerations in Strasbourg was his affirmation of the dignity of the human person” and respect for human rights not for political reasons, but because “they are engraved in the heart of every human person”. He continued, “the Pope reminds us of the Christian roots of our continent … and exhorts the members of the European Parliament as the time has come to work together in building a Europe that revolves not around the economy, but around the sacredness of the human person, around inalienable values”, and added, “the time has come for us to abandon the idea of a Europe that is fearful and self-absorbed, in order to revive and encourage a Europe of leadership, a repository of science, art, music, human values and faith as well”.

He went on to highlight the worrying conditions of migrants who seek protection for their lives and families on our continent, a major challenge for Europe which greatly concerns the Pope. “The absence of mutual support within the European Union runs the risk of encouraging particularistic solutions to the problem, solutions which fail to take into account the human dignity of immigrants, and thus contribute to slave labour and continuing social tensions. … Christianity has to perform her mission in Europe, and the Cathlic Church especially, in which the unity of cultural differences is found, can offer tangible help to unite and strengthen the national family of Europe”.


Vatican City, 6 March 2015 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father received in audience:

- Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith;

- Archbishop Fernando Natalio Chomali Garib, archbishop of Concepcion, apostolic administrator “sede vacante” of Osorno, Chile.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 6 March 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed Rev. Augusto Paolo Lojudice as auxiliary of the diocese of Rome (area 849, population 2,885,272, Catholics 2,365,923, priests 4834, permanent deacons 122, religious 27,727), Italy. The bishop-elect was born in Rome, Italy in 1964 and was ordained a priest in 1989. He holds a licentiate in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, and has served in a number of pastoral roles, including parish vicar in the parishes of “Santa Maria del Buon Consiglio” and “San Virgilio”, parish priest of the parish “Santa Maria Madre del Redentore a Tor Bella Monaca”, and spiritual father of the Pontifical Roman Major Seminary. He is currently parish priest of the “San Luca al Prenestino” parish.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

To the Academy for Life: abandonment is the worst affliction for the elderly

Vatican City, 5 March 2015 (VIS) - “Palliative care expresses the typically human attitude of caring for each other, especially for those who suffer. It is the demonstration that the human person always remains precious, even when elderly or afflicted by illness. Indeed, the person is in any circumstance valuable to himself and to others, and loved by God. Therefore, when life becomes very fragile and the end of earthly life comes close, we feel the responsibility to look after and accompany the person in the best way possible”, said the Pope this morning, as he received in audience the members of the Pontifical Academy for Life, on the occasion of their general assembly on the theme “Assisting the elderly and palliative care”.

“The biblical commandment to honour our parents reminds us in a broader sense of our duty to honour all elderly people. God links a dual promise to this commandment: 'so that your life will be long on the fertile land that the Lord your God is giving you'. Obedience to this commandment ensures not only the gift of the land, but above all the possibility of making use of it. … The precept reveals to us the fundamental pedagogic relationship between parents and children, between the elderly and the young, with reference to the stewardship and transmission of religious teaching and wisdom to future generations. Honour this teaching, and those who transmit it are a source of life and blessing. On the contrary, the Bible severely admonishes those who neglect or mistreat their parents”.

“The Word of God is always living and we can see clearly how the commandment proves to be relevant to contemporary society, in which the logic of utility often takes precedence over that of solidarity and gratuitousness, even within families”, he continued. “'To honour' may be translated as the duty to have extreme respect and take care of those who, on account of their physical or social condition, could be left – or made – to die. Medicine has a special role within society as testimony to the honour due to an elderly person and to every human being. Evidence and efficiency cannot be the only criteria governing the work of doctors, and nor can the rules of healthcare systems and economic profit. A State cannot expect to profit from medicine”.

The Bishop of Rome remarked that the Assembly of the Academy for Life has studied new sectors for the application of palliative care which until now have been of valuable assistance to cancer patients. However, it may now be applied to a wide range of illnesses, often linked to old age and characterised by chronic and progressive degeneration. “The elderly need, first and foremost, the care of their families – whose affection cannot be substituted even by the most efficient structures or by the most competent and charitable healthcare workers”, he emphasised. Palliative care is “an important help for the elderly who, for reasons of seniority, receive less attention in terms of curative medicine and are often neglected. Abandonment is the most serious 'malady' to afflict the elderly, and also the greatest injustice they can suffer; those who have helped us to grow should not be abandoned when they need our help, our love, our tenderness”.

Francis concluded his address by encouraging healthcare professionals and medical students to specialise in this type of care, “which does not have less value on account of the fact that it is not 'lifesaving'. Palliative care involves something equally important: it accentuates the value of the person. Therefore, I urge all those who, in various ways, work in this sector to carry out their task in the spirit of service and recalling that all medical knowledge is truly science, in its most noble sense, only if it may assist the good of mankind, which can never be achieved by opposing life and dignity”.


Vatican City, 5 March 2015 (VIS) – Today the Holy Father received in audience:

- Archbishop Thomas Yeh Sheng-nan, apostolic nuncio in Algeria and Tunisia;

- Archbishop Eugene Martin Nugent, apostolic nuncio in Haiti;

- Archbishop Marek Solczynski, apostolic nuncio in Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan;

- Cardinal Beniamino Stella, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 5 March 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed:

- Bishop Herve Giraud of Soissons, France as archbishop of Sens (area 7,427, population 342,724, Catholics 208,900, priests 106, permanent deacons 21, religious 180), France, and prelate of the territorial prelature of “Mission de France” o Pontigny. He succeeds Bishop Yves Patenotre, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese upon reaching the age limit was accepted by the Holy Father.

- Archbishop Novatus Rugambwa as apostolic nuncio in Honduras. The archbishop is currently apostolic nuncio in Angola, Santo Tome and Principe.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

General audience: awaken a collective sense of gratitude towards grandparents and the elderly

Vatican City, 4 March 2015 (VIS) – Grandparents were the focus of this Wednesday's general audience in St. Peter's Square. Continuing his catechesis on the family, today the Pope considered the difficult current situation faced by the elderly, commenting that next week he will present a more positive view of the vocation that corresponds to this stage in life.

Thanks to advances in medical care, the Holy Father observed, life expectancy has increased and there is a far greater number of elderly people, but nevertheless society has not adapted to this change, and has not responded by creating space for them, with the respect and consideration their fragility and dignity demand. “When we are young, we are induced to ignore old age, as if it were an illness to keep at bay; however, once we become old, especially if we are poor, ill and alone, we experience the gaps in a society programmed for efficiency, which as a consequence ignores the elderly”.

He recalled the words of Benedict XVI during his visit to a residential home for the elderly: “The quality of a society … is also judged by how it treats elderly people and by the place it gives them in community life”, and exclaimed, “A civilisation can sustain itself if it respects wisdom, the wisdom of the elderly. On the contrary, a civilisation in which there is no place for the elderly or in which they are discarded because they create problems … carries the virus of death”.

He continued, “In the west, scholars present the current century as 'the century of old age: there are fewer children and an increase in elderly people. This imbalance is a great challenge to contemporary society. And yet, a certain culture of profit insists on making the elderly appear to be a burden, an extra weight. They are not only unproductive; they are an encumbrance, and are to be discarded. And discarding them is sinful. We do not dare to say this openly, but it happens. There is something cowardly in this inurement to throwaway culture. We want to remove our growing fear of weakness and vulnerability, but in this way we increase in the elderly the anguish of being inadequately supported and abandoned”.

Francis recalled that during his ministry in Buenos Aires he had first hand experience of these problems. “The elderly are abandoned, and not only to material precariousness. They are abandoned as a result of our selfish inability to accept their limits, which reflect our own limits, in the many difficulties that they must overcome nowadays to survive in a civilization that does not allow them to participate, to have their say, or to be referents according to a consumerist model in which 'only the young can be useful and can enjoy themselves'. The elderly should instead be, for all of society, the reserve of wisdom of our population. How easy it is for our conscience to slumber when there is no love”.

In the tradition of the Church, there is “a legacy of wisdom that has always promoted a culture of closeness to the elderly, a willingness to provide affectionate and supportive accompaniment in this final stage of life. This tradition is rooted in the Sacred Scripture”. Therefore, “the Church cannot and does n wish to conform to a mentality of impatience, far less indifference and disdain, with regard to old age. We must reawaken our collective sense of gratitude, appreciation and hospitality that enable the elderly to feel like a living part of the community. The elderly are men and women, mothers and fathers who have walked the same road before us, in the same house, in our everyday struggle for a dignified life. They are men and women from whom we have received much. The elderly person is not an alien. We are the elderly: sooner or later but in any case inevitably, even if we do not think about it”.

“We are all a little fragile, the elderly”, he continued. “Some, however, are particularly weak, many are alone, and affected by illness. Some depend on the indispensable care and attention of others. Will we take a step back for this? Will we abandon them to their fate? A society without closeness, in which gratuitousness and selfless affection – even among strangers – are disappearing, is a perverse society. The Church, faithful to the Word of God, cannot tolerate these degenerations. A Christian community in which closeness and gratuitousness are no longer considered indispensable, would lose its soul with this. Where there is no honour to the elderly, there is no future for the young”.

The Pope receives bishop friends of the Focolare Movement

Vatican City, 4 March 2015 (VIS) – The Pope, before today's general audience, received in the Paul VI Hall the seventy prelates from thirty-five countries attending the 38th Congress of Bishop Friends of the Focolare Movement, which began yesterday and will conclude on 6 March. The theme of the congress is “Eucharist, mystery of communion”. The president of the Movement, Maria Voce, and the co-president Jesus Moran, were also present in the Paul VI Hall. Following greetings from Cardinal Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovithavanij, archbishop of Bangkok, Thailand, the Holy Father gave a brief address.

“You have united in Rome the friendship of this Movement and an interest in the spirituality of communion”, said the Holy Father. “Effectively, the charism of unity, typical of the Work of Mary, is strongly anchored in the Eucharist, which confers its Christian and ecclesial character. Without the Eucharist, unity would be reduced to an emotion and a solely human, psychological, sociological dynamic. Instead, the Eucharist guarantees that Christ is at the centre, that it is His Spirit, the Holy Spirit, that guides our steps and our initiatives for encounter and communion”.

“As bishops, we gather our communities around the Eucharist, the dual nourishment of the Word and the Bread of Life. This is our service, and it is fundamental. The bishop is the principle of unity in the Church, but this is not possible without the Eucharist: the bishop does not gather the people around his person or his ideas, but rather around Christ, present in His Word and in the Sacrament of His Body and Blood. And following Jesus, the good pastor who made Himself lamb, sacrificed and resurrected, the bishop gathers the flock entrusted to him by offering his life, assuming himself a form of Eucharistic existence.”

The Holy Father gave special thanks to the prelates from the “bloodsoaked lands” of Syria, Iraq and Ukraine. “In the suffering you live with your people, you experience the strength that comes from Jesus in the Eucharist, the strength to go ahead united in faith and hope. In the daily celebration of Mass we join with you, and we pray for you, offering Christ's Sacrifice; and in this way the many initiatives of solidarity with your Churches take on strength and meaning”.

“Dear brothers”, he concluded, “I encourage you to continue in your commitment to promoting the ecumenical path and interreligious dialogue. And I thank you for the contribution you give towards greater communion between the various ecclesial movements”.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 4 March 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has:

- appointed Bishop Joaquim Wladimir Lopes Dias as bishop of Colatina (area 13,086, population 568,000, Catholics 484,000, priests 59, permanent deacons 11, religious 86), Brazil. Bishop Lopes Dias is currently auxiliary of the archdiocese of Vitoria, Brazil.

- appointed Rev. Jorge Cuapio Bautista as auxiliary of the archdiocese of Tlalnepantla (area 682, population 2,300,239, Catholics 1,953,239, priests 312, permanent deacons 10, religious 347), Mexico. The bishop-elect was born in Santa Ana Chiauhteman, Mexico in 1967 and was ordained a priest in 1992. He belongs to the Community of the Missionaries of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. He holds a licentiate in philosophy from the Universidad Popular Autonoma of the state of Pueblo, and a licentiate in science of the family from the John Paul II Institute in Rome. He has served in a number of pastoral roles in the diocese of Texcoco, including parish vicar, professor in the seminary, parish priest of the “San Salvador” and “San Bartolome Apostol” parishes, episcopal vicar for pastoral ministry and member of the College of Consultors. He currently assists in the parish of “Santa Isabel Ixtapan”.

- accepted the resignation from the office of auxiliary of the archdiocese of Tlalnepantla, Mexico, presented by Bishop Francisco Ramirez Navarro upon reaching the age limit.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Programme of the Holy Father's visit to Pompeii and Naples

Vatican City, 3 March 2015 (VIS) – Pope Francis will travel to Pompeii and Naples on Saturday, 21 March. He will leave the Vatican by helicopter at 7 a.m., and will arrive at the meeting area of the Shrine of Pompeii an hour later. Following a moment of prayer at the shrine, he will transfer by helicopter to the Scampia sports field in Naples. He will meet with representatives of various different groups in Piazza Giovanni Paolo II, and at 11 a.m. he will celebrate Holy Mass in Piazza del Plebiscito.

At 1 p.m., Pope Francis will visit the “Giuseppe Salvia” detention centre at Poggioreale, where he will lunch with a group of detainees. Two hours later he will venerate the relics of St. Januarius and, in the Cathedral of Naples, will meet the clergy, men and women religious and permanent deacons of the archdiocese. An hour later, in the Gesù Nuovo Basilica, he will meet with a group of sick people and, at 5 p.m. in the maritime quarter of Caracciolo, he will meet with a group of young Neapolitans.

The Pope will depart from the Naples Maritime Centre by helicopter at 6.15 p.m., and is due to arrive in the Vatican at 7 p.m.

The Pope approves the statutes of the new economic entities

Vatican City, 3 March 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has approved the statutes of the new economic entities of the Holy See: the Council for the Economy, the Secretariat for the Economy and the General Auditor's Office. The three statutes, signed 22 February 2015, feast of the Chair of St. Peter, were approved “ad experimentum” and entered into force on 1 March 2015, prior to their publication in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis.

The statutes may be consulted on the Vatican website: www.vatican.va

The Piazza and the Temple: new meeting of the Courtyard of the Gentiles

Vatican City, 3 March 2015 (VIS) - “The Piazza and the Temple” is the title of an event to take place next Friday, 6 March, in the Centre for American Studies in Rome. It is an initiative of the Courtyard of the Gentiles, a forum for dialogue between believers and non-believers which has for some years organised meetings of this type in various cities throughout the world, under the auspices of the Pontifical Council for Culture.

The event in Rome, organised with the collaboration of the Institut Francais-Centre St. Louis of the French Embassy at the Holy See and the Council for Research in Values and Philosophy, will be a meeting between believers and non-believers on how these two sensibilities – city square and temple – can coexist in the twenty-first century. According to a communique released by the Courtyard of the Gentiles, “the square is increasingly occupied by merchants, and by those who demand justice for the victims of merchants. The faithful of the temple also ask that their voice be heard in the square, because in a free society the square must be open to all”. The meeting will facilitate discussion regarding “the way in which these different voices can coexist, what limits every right involves, and the relationship that the square and the temple can have with the Palace”, or seats of power. A post-secular dialogue, that unfolds against the backdrop of the sure decline of an idea of secularisation according to which the temples would have gradually emptied”.

The chair and moderator will be the constitutional lawyer and former prime minister of Italy, Giuliano Amato, president of the Courtyard of the Gentiles Foundation. The meeting will also be attended by the Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor, author of the influential essay “A Secular Age”, among other works, and other experts on the theme of secularisation: Jose Casanova, professor of the sociology of religion at Georgetown University, Washington D.C., U.S.A.; Alessandro Ferrara, professor of political philosophy at the Tor Vergata University of Rome; Giacomo Marramao, professor of theoretical philosophy at the University of Rome III; and Francois Bousquet, historian and anthropologist of religions.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 3 March 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed Bishop Robert W. McElroy, auxiliary of San Francisco, U.S.A., as bishop of San Diego (area 22,942, population 3,127,045, Catholics 986,499, priests 309, permanent deacons 145, religious 335), U.S.A.

Monday, March 2, 2015

To the prelates of North Africa: always be men of hope

Vatican City, 2 March 2015 (VIS) – This morning, the prelates of the Regional Episcopal Conference of North Africa (C.E.R.N.A), which encompasses the dioceses of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya were received in audience by the Pope at the end of their “ad Limina” visit. The Holy Father handed them a written address in which he recalls that the history of the region has been marked by many saintly figures from St. Cyprian and St. Augustine, a “spiritual patrimony for all the Church”, to Blessed Charles de Foucauld, who died one hundred years ago next year.

“For several years your region has been experiencing significant changes, which offer hope that aspirations to greater freedom and dignity may be fulfilled and which favour greater freedom of conscience”, continues Francis. “But at times these events have led to outbursts of violence. I wish to mention, in particular, the courage, loyalty and perseverance of the bishops of Libya, as well as the priests, consecrated persons and laypeople who stay in this country despite the many dangers. They are genuine witnesses of the Gospel. I thank them with all my heart and encourage them to continue their efforts in contributing to peace and reconciliation throughout the region”.

“Your episcopal conference … is an important forum for exchange and dialogue, but it must also be a tool for communion, for deepening fraternal relations and mutual trust”, the Pope writes. “The pilgrimage to Rome is a good opportunity to renew your joint commitment in the service of the Church's mission in each of your countries. You carry out this mission with your priests, your direct collaborators. They are from many countries and at times it is difficult for them to adapt to new situations. Therefore, it is particularly important to be close to them and to be attentive to their continuing formation so that they can live their ministry fully and serenely. … Men and women religious also have a special place in the life and in the mission of your Church, and I thank them for their witness of fraternal life and their generous commitment to the service of their brothers and sisters”.

“At the heart of your mission and at the origin of your hope there is, above all, the personal encounter with Jesus Christ and the certainty that He is at work in the world where you have been sent on His behalf. The evangelical vitality of your dioceses depends, therefore, on the quality of your spiritual and sacramental life”, observes the Holy Father, who alongside the saints from the region, mentions also “the men and women religious who have offered everything to God and to their brothers, to the point of sacrificing their own lives”. He highlights the bishops' responsibility for developing this spiritual legacy firstly among the faithful, but also opening it up to all. “I am pleased to hear that in recent years, various Christian shrines have been restored in Algeria. By welcoming all, kindly and without proselytising, your communities show that they wish to be a Church with open doors, always reaching out”.

“Universality is a feature of these Churches, where the faithful come from many countries to form living communities. … This offers the opportunity to admire God's work, which spreads among all peoples and all cultures”, writes the Pontiff, who goes on to greet the many students from sub-Saharan Africa, whom he invites to “stay firm in the faith” so as to be able to establish “bonds of friendship, trust and respect” with all persons, “thus contributing to the construction of a more fraternal world”.

Interreligious dialogue is also very important in the life of these Churches, and Francis stresses that in this field “the imagination of charity can open up countless ways of bringing the breath of the Gospel to the most diverse cultures and social sectors. As you are aware, mutual ignorance is the source of many misunderstandings and even conflicts. … The most effective antidote to any form of violence is education in the discovery and acceptance of difference as richness and fertility. Therefore, it is essential that priests, religious and laypeople in your dioceses are well-prepared in this area”.

In this regard, the Pope notes his satisfaction that the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies (PISAI), born in Tunisia, will celebrate its fiftieth anniversary this year. He invites the bishops to “support and make use of this institution when necessary, to experience language and culture” and to “deepen dialogue in truth and love between Christians and Muslims”. This dialogue is also experienced by bishops on a day-to-day basis with Christians of other confessions, and Francis therefore expresses his desire that the Al Mowafaqa Ecumenical Institute, founded in Morocco to promote ecumenical and interreligious dialogue may also contribute to greater mutual awareness.

“A Church of encounter and dialogue, you also wish to be at the service of all without distinction. Often with modest means, you manifest the charity of Christ and all the Church towards the poor, the sick, the elderly, women in need and the imprisoned. Thank you for your work in the assistance of the many immigrants from Africa who seek in your countries a place of transit or of welcome. Recognising their human dignity and working to awaken consciences before so many human tragedies, you show God's love for each one of them”.

“Dear brothers in the episcopate”, he concluded, “I wish to assure you of the support of all the Church in your mission. You are in the 'peripheries', with your special service of making manifest the presence of Christ and His Church in this region. Your testimony of life in simplicity and poverty is an eminent sign for all the Church. Be assured that the Successor of Peter accompanies you on your rough road, and encourages you always to be men of hope”.

Pope Francis' prayer intentions for March

Vatican City, 1 March 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father's universal prayer intention for March is: “That those involved in scientific research may serve the well-being of the whole human person”.

His intention for evangelisation is: “That the unique contribution of women to the life of the Church may be recognised always”.

Angelus: let us be transformed by love

Vatican City, 1 March 2015 (VIS) - “On this second Sunday of Lent, the Church shows us the ultimate goal of this itinerary of conversion, or rather, participation in the glory of Christ”, said the Pope before this Sunday's Angelus prayer upon returning from the week of spiritual exercises. He also recalled that last Sunday's Gospel passage presented Jesus resisting Satan's temptations in the desert.

“Today's Gospel tells us of the event of the Transfiguration, which takes place at the culmination of Jesus' public ministry. He is on the path to Jerusalem, where the prophecies of the Servant of God will be fulfilled and His redemptive sacrifice will be consummated”. Francis remarked that neither the multitude nor the apostles understood that the outcome of Jesus' mission of suffering would be His glorious passion, and so He decided to show a glimpse of His glory to the apostles Peter, James and John, to confirm them in their faith and to encourage them to follow him on the path of trial, on the way of the Cross. “From the heavens, they heard the voice of the Father: 'This is my beloved Son; hear him'”.

The Pope explained that listening to Christ involves assuming the logic of his Paschal mystery, placing ourselves on the path with Him in order to make of our existence a gift of love for others, in docile obedience to the will of God the Father, with an attitude of detachment from worldly things and of inner freedom. “It means, in other words, being ready to 'lose one's life', to sacrifice it so that all men might be saved; in this way we find eternal joy. There will always be a cross to bear and there will be trials along the way, but in the end it will always lead us to happiness”. Finally, the Pope encouraged those present to let themselves be transfigured by love, which is capable of transforming everyone, and to invoke the Virgin Mary to support us on our way.

Syria, Iraq and Venezuela in the Pope's prayers

Vatican City, 1 March 2015 (VIS) – Following today's Angelus prayer the Pope made an appeal regarding “the dramatic situation in Syria and Iraq, involving violence, abduction and abuse of Christians and other groups. I wish to assure those involved in these situations that we have not forgotten them; rather, we are close to them and pray ceaselessly for a swift end to the intolerable brutality they are subjected to”. He also commented that, along with the members of the Roman Curia, he offered the second Holy Mass of the spiritual exercises to this intention, and asked all persons, as far as possible, to work to alleviate the suffering of those afflicted, often merely because of the faith they profess. Let us pray for these brothers and sisters who suffer for the faith in Syria and Iraq”.

The Pontiff also commented on the acute tension that Venezuela is experiencing at present. “I pray for the victims and, in particular, for the boy who died a few days ago in San Cristobal. I urge all involved to reject violence and to respect the dignity of every person and the sacredness of human life, and encourage them to undertake a joint path for the good of the country, reopening space for sincere and constructive encounter and dialogue”.

The Pope to cooperatives: promote the economy of honesty

Vatican City, 28 February 2015 (VIS) - “The Church has always acknowledged, appreciated and encouraged the cooperative experience”, Pope Francis affirmed this morning, greeting more than seven thousand members of the Confederation of Italian Cooperatives who group together a number of different sectors, from agriculture to construction, including fishing and the distribution of consumer goods.

In this regard, Francis referred to various documents of the Magisterium, such as the encyclicals “Rerum Novarum”, with Leo XIII's appeal for a society in which “All [are] owners, not all proletarians”, and “Caritas in Veritate”, in which Benedict XVI underlines the importance of the economy of communion and the non-profit sector, and the “extraordinary social teaching of Blessed Paul VI”. He went on to urge the members of the Confederation to look not only to the past, but also to the future: “It is a real mission that requires creative imagination to find forms, methods, attitudes and tools to combat the throwaway culture cultivated by the powers that support the economic and financial policies of the globalised world”.

“Globalising solidarity, today, means thinking about the vertiginous increase in unemployment, the incessant tears of the poor, the need to reinstate a development that involves a genuine and full progress of the person, who is certainly in need of income, but not this alone. Let us think about healthcare needs, that the traditional welfare systems are no longer able to satisfy; the pressing needs of solidarity, to place human dignity once more at the centre of the world economy”.

Pope Francis suggested a series of concrete suggestions to help achieve this mission. The first was that cooperatives should “continue to be the motor for lifting up and developing the weakest part of our local communities and of civil society”. This involves “giving first place to the foundation of new cooperative enterprises, along with the further development of those already in existence, so as to create, above all, new work opportunities that currently do not exist … especially for the young, as we know that youth unemployment … destroys their hope”, but also for the “many women who need and wish to enter the world of work. We must not neglect the adults who often find themselves prematurely without work. Aside from new enterprises, let us look also to the companies in difficulty, those that the old owners leave to die, which could instead be revived through 'workers' buy out' initiatives.

Becoming active agents of new welfare solutions was his second suggestion, addressed above all to he healthcare sector, “a delicate field where many poor people no longer find their needs to be adequately met”. The answer may be found in applying subsidiarity, “with strength and coherence”, creating an effective network of assistance and solidarity between cooperatives, parishes and hospitals.

The third suggestion relates to the relationship between the economy and social justice, dignity and the value of the person. “It is well known that a certain liberalism believes it is necessary first and foremost to produce wealth, and that it is not important how, before promoting any form of redistributive policy”, explained the Pope. “Others think that it is the same enterprise that must donate the crumbs of accumulated wealth, thus absolving it of its so-called 'social responsibility'”. However, we know in achieving a new quality of the economy, it is possible to enable people to grow in all their potential. A member of a cooperative must not be merely … a worker … but must instead always be a protagonist, and must grow, through the cooperative, as a person, socially and professionally, in responsibility … an enterprise managed by a cooperative must grow in a truly cooperative way, involving all”.

“If we look around us, we see that the economy is never renovated in an ageing society, instead of one that grows”, he continued, presenting his fourth suggestion: strengthening the harmonisation between work and family within the cooperative movement. “Doing this also means helping women to fully achieve their vocation and to put their talents to use” through initiatives that meet the needs of all, from nurseries to domestic care.

“The fifth suggestion may be surprising. Doing all these things takes money! Cooperatives are not generally founded by great capitalists. … The Pope instead says to you: you must invest, and you must invest well! In Italy certainly, but not only, it is difficult to obtain public funding to compensate for the scarcity of resources. The solution I propose to you is this: unite with determination the right means for carrying out good works. Collaborate more with cooperative banks and businesses, organise resources to allow families to live with dignity and serenity, and pay fair salaries to your workers. … Money, placed at the service of life, can be managed in the right way by the cooperative, if however it is an authentic and true cooperative, where capital does not rule over people, but people over capital”.

“Therefore, I say that you do well to oppose and combat false cooperatives, and to continue to do so; they prostitute the name of cooperative, a very positive thing, to deceive people in the interests of profit, contrary to those of a true and authentic cooperative. … In the field in which you are active, to display an honourable facade while instead pursuing dishonourable and immoral objectives, often associated with the exploitation of labour or the manipulation of the market, or even a scandalous traffic in corruption, is a shameful and serious falsehood. The cooperative economy … if it seeks to fulfil a strong social function, if it wishes to be an agent of the future for a nation and for each local community, must pursue clear and transparent aims. It must promote an economy of honesty, a healing economy in the treacherous sea of the global economy. A real economy promoted by people who have at heart and in their minds only the common good”.

The final part of the Pope's address was dedicated to cooperation at the international level. “Extend your hand to the old and new existential peripheries, where there are disadvantaged people, where there are people who are alone and discarded, where there are people who do not receive respect. … It is necessary to have the courage and imagination to build the right road to integrate development, justice and peace throughout the world”, he concluded.

Presentation of the Pan-Amazon Ecclesial Network (REPAM): Incentive and relaunch of the Church in the Amazon

Vatican City, 2 March 2015 (VIS) – A press conference was held in the Holy See Press Office this morning to present the Pan-Amazon Ecclesial Network, established in 2014 in Brasilia, Brazil, during a meeting of bishops whose territories include Amazon regions, priests, missionaries of congregations who work in the Amazon jungle, national representatives of Caritas and laypeople belonging to various Church bodies. The speakers were Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council “Justice and Peace”; Archbishop Pedro Ricardo Barreto Jimeno, S.J., of Huancayo, Peru and president of the Department of Justice and Solidarity of the Latin American Episcopal Council; Michel Roy, secretary general of Caritas Internationalis; and Mauricio Lopez Oropeza, executive secretary of REPAM. Cardinal Claudio Hummes, O.F.M., president of the Commission for Amazonia of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil, was unable to be present but participated via an audio message.

The Amazon territory is the largest tropical forest in the world. It covers six million square kilometres and includes the territories of Guyana, Suriname and French Guyana, Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, Peru and Brazil. It is home to 2,779,478 indigenous people, comprising 390 indigenous tribes and 137 isolated (uncontacted) peoples with their valuable ancestral cultures, and 240 spoken languages belonging to 49 linguistic families. As Archbishop Barreto explained, it is “a territory that is devastated and threatened by the concessions made by States to transnational corporations. Large-scale mining projects, monoculture and climate change place its lands and natural environment at great risk”, leading to the destruction of cultures, undermining the self-determination of peoples and above all affronting Christ incarnate in the people who live there (indigenous and riparian peoples, peasant farmers, afro-descendants and urban populations). REPAM was founded as “God's answer to this heartfelt and urgent need to care for the life of people so they are able to live in harmony with nature, starting from the widespread and varied presence of members and structures of the Church in Pan-Amazonia”.

Cardinal Turkson illustrated the main characteristics of the network, starting with transnationality. “The large number of countries involved is due to the awareness that effective action to face challenges that cross the borders of a single State requires synergy between the living forces of all the nations involved, from the Secretariat of the REPAM to that of the dioceses and other Church initiatives in the various States, without forgetting that, from the beginning, the REPAM has worked in harmony with the Holy See, CELAM and its structures”. Another key feature is ecclesiality: “as well as working transnationally, REPAM proposes the institution of harmonious collaboration between the various components of the Church: religious congregations, dioceses, Caritas, various Catholic associations and Foundations, and lay groups”.

Commitment to the defence of life is, for Cardinal Turkson, the third characteristic. “REPAM was born in response to important challenges. It is engaged in defending the life of a number of communities who cumulatively comprise 30 million people. They are threatened by pollution, the radical and rapid change of the ecosystem upon which they depend, and the lack of protection for their basic human rights”. He added that the network is presented in Rome not only on account of the symbolic value of the See of Peter, but also to give visibility to REPAM. “The form in which REPAM, acting as a platform, is structured and defines its working methods, its agenda, its allies or its methods of accreditation, could serve as a model for other local churches in other countries facing similar challenges. In addition, REPAM has been conceived so as to become a took that may be applied in different basic contexts, such as justice, legality, the promotion and protection of human rights; cooperation between the Church and public institutions at various levels; conflict prevention and management; research and spread of information; inclusive and equitable economic development; responsible and equitable use of natural resources, respecting Creation; and the preservation of the traditional cultures and ways of life of the different populations”.

Cardinal Hummes, in his audio message, reiterated that the creation of the Pan-Amazon Ecclesial Network “represents a new incentive and relaunch of the work of the Church in Amazonia, strongly desired by the Holy Father. There, the Church wishes to be, with courage and determination, a missionary Church, merciful, prophetic, and close to all the people, especially the poorest, the excluded, the discarded, the forgotten and wounded. A Church with an 'Amazonian face' and an 'native clergy', as Pope Francis proposed in his address to the bishops of Brazil”.

Cardinal Murphy O'Connor, Pope's special envoy to the 4th centenary of the martyrdom of St. John Ogilvie, S.J.

Vatican City, 28 February 2015 (VIS) – Today a letter was published, written in Latin and dated 15 February, by which the Holy Father appoints Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor, archbishop emeritus of Westminster, as his special envoy to the solemn celebrations in honour of St. John Ogilvie S.J. (from 9 to 10 March in Glasgow, Scotland).

The pontifical mission accompanying the cardinal will be composed of his personal secretary Rev. Roger Reader, and Msgr. Javier Herrera Corona, adviser to the apostolic nunciature in London.


Vatican City, 2 March 2015 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father received in audience:

- Irina Bokova, director general of UNESCO, and entourage;

- Rev. Janusz Urbanczyk, Holy See permanent observer at the International Governing Organisations in Vienna;

- Nechirvan Barzani, president of the Council of Ministers of the Regional Government of Iraqi Kurdistan;

- Ten prelates of the Regional Episcopal Conference of North Africa (C.E.R.N.A) on their “ad Limina” visit:

Bishop Claude Rault of Laghouat, Algeria;

Archbishop Ghaleb Moussa Abdalla Bader of Algiers, Algeria;

- Bishop Paul Desfarges of Constantine, Algeria;

- Bishop Jean-Paul Vesco of Oran, Algeria;

- Bishop Sylvester Carmel Magro, apostolic vicar of Benghazi, Libya;

- Bishop Giovanni Innocenzo Martinelli, apostolic vicar of Tripoli, Libya;

- Archbishop Vincent Landel of Rabat, Morocco;

- Archbishop Santiago Agrelo Martínez of Tangier, Morocco;

- Fr. Mario Leon Dorado, O.M.I., apostolic prefect of the Western Sahara; and

- Archbishop Ilario Antoniazzi of Tunis, Tunisia.

On Saturday, 28 February, the Holy Father received in audience Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, archbishop of Naples, Italy.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 2 March 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed Msgr. Fidencio Lopez Plaza as bishop of San Andres Tuxtla (area 13,495, population 1,113,000, Catholics 1,035,000, priests 100, permanent deacons 33, religious 109), Mexico. The bishop-elect was born in Capullin, Mexico in 1950 and was ordained a priest in 1982. He specialised in pastoral and catechesis at the Pastoral Theological Institute of Medellin, Colombia, and has served in a number of pastoral roles, including coordinator of the diocesan secretariat for evangelisation and catechesis, professor in the conciliar seminary of Queretaro, parish priest in a number of parishes, head of the deanery of Guanajuato and member of the presbyteral council and the college of consultors. He is currently episcopal vicar for pastoral ministry of the diocese of Queretaro and parish priest of the “Pentecostes” parish.

On Saturday, 28 February, the Holy Father appointed:

- Rev. Fr. Francesco Savino as bishop of Cassano all'Jonio (area 1,311, population 108,100, Catholics 104,187, priests 98, permanent deacons 3, religious 74), Italy. The bishop-elect was born in Bitonto, Italy in 1954 and was ordained a priest in 1978. He holds a licentiate in theology from the Istituto Teological Pugliese and has served in a number of pastoral roles in the archdiocese of Bari-Bitonto, including parish vicar of San Silvestro-Crocifisso and parish priest of Cristo Re Universale in Bitonto. He is currently parish priest-rector of the parish-santuary of the Santi Medici in Bitonto, member of the College of Consultors, the diocesan presbyteral council and the Ministry of Health Commission on palliative care. He succeeds Bishop Nunzio Galantino, secretary general of the Italian Episcopal Conference, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese was accepted by the Holy Father.

- Msgr. Marek Marczak as auxiliary of the archdiocese of Lodz (area 5,200, population 1,490,000, Catholics 1,410,000, priests 763, religious 759), Poland. The bishop-elect was born in Piotrkow Trybunalski, Poland in 1969 and was ordained a priest in 1994. He holds a doctorate in dogmatic theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, and has served in a number of roles, including lecturer in dogmatic theology and the major seminary of Lodz, president of the Commission for the Lay Apostolate, visitator for catechesis, pastoral collaborator in the parish of St. Dorothy in Loz-Mileszki, and collaborator for the pastoral ministry of university lecturers in the archdiocese. He is currently rector of the major seminary and member of the presbyteral council.
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