Home - VIS Vatican - Receive VIS - Contact us - Calendar

The Vatican Information Service is a news service, founded in the Holy See Press Office, that provides information about the Magisterium and the pastoral activities of the Holy Father and the Roman Curia...[]

Last 5 news

VISnews in Twitter Go to YouTube

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Pope Francis' first homily in Latin America: for the family, the best is yet to come

Vatican City, 7 July 2015 (VIS) – Yesterday more than a million people attended the Pope's first Mass in Ecuador, in Guayaquil. He first visited the Shrine of Divine Mercy, the city's second largest place of worship, built at the behest of Archbishop Antonio Arregui Yarza between 2009 and 2014 and able to hold 2,300 people.

Upon arrival at the Shrine, the Holy Father was welcomed by an immense crowd, with whom he prayed a Hail Mary before leaving the temple, and whom he greeted with the following words: “Now I will celebrate Mass, and I hold you all in my heart. I will ask for each one of you, I will say to the Lord, 'You know the names of those who were there'. I will ask Jesus for great mercy for every one of you; I will ask Him to care for you and to cover you with His mercy. May Our Lady always be by your side”.

“And now, before I leave – because I am on my way to Mass, and the archbishop tells me we are running out of time – I give you my blessing … I am not asking you to give me anything! But I ask you, please, to pray for me. Will you promise me? May God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, bless you. Thank you for your Christian witness”.

The Pope then travelled the 25 kilometres that separate the Shrine from Samanes Park, where he celebrated Holy Mass specially dedicated to families. The Gospel reading recounted the wedding at Cana, and in his homily the Pope focused on Mary who expresses to Jesus her concern as the newly-weds have no wine.

“The wedding at Cana is repeated in every generation, in every family, in every one of us and our efforts to let our hearts find rest in strong love, fruitful love and joyful love. Let us make room for Mary, 'the Mother' as the evangelist calls her. Let us journey with her now to Cana.

“Mary is attentive, she is attentive in the course of this wedding feast, she is concerned for the needs of the newly-weds. She is not closed in on herself, worried only about her little world. Her love makes her 'outgoing' towards others. She does not seek her friends to say what is happening, to criticise the poor organisation of the wedding feast. And since she is attentive, she discretely notices that the wine has run out. Wine is a sign of happiness, love and plenty. How many of our adolescents and young people sense that these is no longer any of that wine to be found in their homes? How many women, sad and lonely, wonder when love left, when it slipped away from their lives? How many elderly people feel left out of family celebrations, cast aside and longing each day for a little love, from their sons and daughters, their grandchildren, their great grandchildren? This lack of this 'wine' can also be due to unemployment, illness and difficult situations which our families around the world may experience. Mary is not a 'demanding' mother, nor a mother-in-law who revels in our lack of experience, our mistakes and the things we forget to do. Mary, quite simply, is a Mother! She is there, attentive and concerned. It is gratifying to hear this: Mary is a Mother! I invite you to repeat this with me: Mary is a Mother! Once again: Mary is a Mother! And once more: Mary is a Mother!

“But Mary, at the very moment she perceives that there is no wine, approaches Jesus with confidence: this means that Mary prays. She goes to Jesus, she prays. She does not go to the steward, she immediately tells her Son of the newly-weds' problem. The response she receives seems disheartening: 'What does it have to do with you and me? My hour has not yet come'. But she nonetheless places the problem in God’s hands. Her deep concern to meet the needs of others hastens Jesus’ hour. And Mary was a part of that hour, from the cradle to the cross. She was able 'to turn a stable into a home for Jesus, with poor swaddling clothes and an abundance of love'. She accepted us as her sons and daughters when the sword pierced her son’s heart. She teaches us to put our families in God’s hands; she teaches us to pray, to kindle the hope which shows us that our concerns are also God’s concerns.

“Praying always lifts us out of our worries and concerns. It makes us rise above everything that hurts, upsets or disappoints us, and helps to put ourselves in the place of others, in their shoes. The family is a school where prayer also reminds us that we are not isolated individuals; we are one and we have a neighbour close at hand: he or she is living under the same roof, is a part of our life, and is in need.

“And finally, Mary acts. Her words, 'Do whatever he tells you', addressed to the attendants, are also an invitation to us to open our hearts to Jesus, who came to serve and not to be served. Service is the sign of true love. Those who love know how to serve others. We learn this especially in the family, where we become servants out of love for one another. In the heart of the family, no one is rejected; all have the same value. I remember once how my mother was asked which of her five children – we are five brothers – did she love the most. And she said: it is like the fingers on my hand, if I prick one of them, then it is as if the others are pricked also. A mother loves her children as they are. And in the family, children are loved as they are. None are rejected. 'In the family we learn how to ask without demanding, to say “thank you” as an expression of genuine gratitude for what we have been given, to control our aggressivity and greed, and to ask forgiveness when we have caused harm, when we quarrel, because in all families there are quarrels. The challenge is to then ask for forgiveness. These simple gestures of heartfelt courtesy help to create a culture of shared life and respect for our surroundings'. The family is the nearest hospital; when a family member is ill, it is in the home that they are cared for as long as possible. The family is the first school for the young, the best home for the elderly. The family constitutes the best 'social capital'. It cannot be replaced by other institutions. It needs to be helped and strengthened, lest we lose our proper sense of the services which society as a whole provides. Those services which society offers to its citizens are not a type of alms, but rather a genuine 'social debt' with respect to the institution of the family, which is foundational and which contributes to the common good.

“The family is also a small Church, called a 'domestic Church' which, along with life, also mediates God’s tenderness and mercy. In the family, we imbibe faith with our mother’s milk. When we experience the love of our parents, we feel the closeness of God’s love.

“In the family, and we are all witnesses of this, miracles are performed with what little we have, with what we are, with what is at hand… and many times, it is not ideal, it is not what we dreamt of, nor what 'should have been'. There is one detail that makes us think: the new wine, that good wine mentioned by the steward at the wedding feast of Cana, came from the water jars, the jars used for ablutions, we might even say from the place where everyone had left their sins … it came from the 'worst' because 'where sin increased, grace abounded all the more'. In our own families and in the greater family to which we all belong, nothing is thrown away, nothing is useless. Shortly before the opening of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, the Church will celebrate the Ordinary Synod devoted to the family, deepen her spiritual discernment and consider concrete solutions and help to the many difficult and significant challenges facing families today. I ask you to pray fervently for this intention, so that Christ can take even what might seem to us impure, like the water in the jars scandalising or threatening us, and turn it – by making it part of his 'hour' – into a miracle. The family today needs this miracle.

“All this began because 'they had no wine'. It could all be done because a woman – the Virgin Mary – was attentive, left her concerns in God’s hands and acted sensibly and courageously. But there is a further detail, the best was to come: everyone went on to enjoy the finest of wines. And this is the good news: the finest wines are yet to be tasted; for families, the richest, deepest and most beautiful things are yet to come. The time is coming when we will taste love daily, when our children will come to appreciate the home we share, and our elderly will be present each day in the joys of life. The finest of wines is expressed by hope, this wine will come for every person who stakes everything on love. And the best wine is yet to come, in spite of all the variables and statistics which say otherwise. The best wine will come to those who today feel hopelessly lost. Say it to yourselves until you are convinced of it. Say it to yourselves, in your hearts: the best wine is yet to come. Whisper it to the hopeless and the loveless. Have patience, hope, and follow Mary’s example, pray, open your heart, because the best wine is yet to come. God always seeks out the peripheries, those who have run out of wine, those who drink only of discouragement. Jesus feels their weakness, in order to pour out the best wines for those who, for whatever reason, feel that all their jars have been broken”.

After his final blessing, the Pope transferred by car to the Colegio Javier of the Society of Jesus, founded in 1856, and where there are currently 1560 students. The community is made up of 20 Jesuit fathers, with whom the Pope lunched. Following a brief rest he returned to Quito to meet with the president of the Republic.

Visit to the president of Ecuador and Quito Cathedral

Vatican City, 7 July 2015 (VIS) – The Pope spent the last part of his second day in Ecuador in the capital, Quito, where he paid a courtesy visit to President Rafael Correa at Carondelet Palace, the seat of the government. Built in the late eighteenth century by the Spanish architect Antonio Garcia, it is located in the historic centre of the city and owes its name to the governor Francisco Luis Hector, baron of Carondelet, under whose mandate it was constructed. During the colonial period it was known as the Royal Palace, but according to legend Simon Bolivar, in admiration of its facade, changed its name in memory of the governor.

Upon arrival President Correa greeted the Pope with a warm embrace; they then entered the Protocol Room where they spoke in private. The president subsequently introduced his family to the Holy Father and gifts were exchanged. Francis gave the Ecuadorian head of State a mosaic depicting the Virgin and Child, a copy realised by the Vatican Museums mosaic laboratory of the image from the Chapel of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Roman basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls, before which St. Ignatius of Loyola and his first followers gave their religious vows on 22 August 1541, thereby originating the Society of Jesus.

At the end of his visit, the bishop of Rome and the president appeared at the balcony of Carondelet Palace to greet the crowd gathered in Plaza de la Independencia. The Pope travelled on foot the fifty metres between the Palace and the Metropolitan Cathedral of Quito, which invokes the Coronation of the Virgin Mary. The Cathedral, completed in 1585, represents a combination of styles, from the Gothic-Mudejar (Moorish) to Baroque and neo-Classical, and it houses the remains of Antonio Jose Francisco de Sucre y Alcala, the Mariscal Sucre (1795-1830), hero of South American independence.

The Holy Father entered the cathedral where he was received by the rector; after greeting various sick and disabled people gathered inside, he prayed a moment. Upon leaving, almost at night-time, he blessed the thousands of people congregated in the square, setting aside the brief discourse he had previously prepared, and addressed the following words to them:

“I give you my blessing, to each one of you, to your families, to all your loved ones and to the great and noble Ecuadorian people, so that there may be no more difference, no more exclusion, so that no-one is discarded, so that all may be brothers, so that everyone is included and no-one is left out of this great Ecuadorian nation. To every one of you and your families, I give my blessing. But first, let us pray the Hail Mary together...”.

“May the blessing of God Almighty, of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, descend upon you and remain with you for ever. And please, I ask you to pray for me. Good night, and see you tomorrow”.

Today, 7 July, Pope Francis will meet the bishops of Ecuador and will celebrate Holy Mass in the Bicentenario Park in Quito. Later he will visit the Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador, where he will receive the keys to the capital in the Church of St. Francis and address those present. He will conclude the day with a private visit to the Church of the Society of Jesus.

The following is the brief discourse the Pope had prepared, to be given outside Quito Cathedral:

“I have come to Quito as a pilgrim, to share with you the joy of spreading the Gospel. When I left the Vatican, I passed the statue of Saint Mariana de Jesus, who from the apse of St. Peter’s Basilica keeps watch over the little street which the Pope travels so often. I entrusted to her the fruits of this visit, and I prayed that all of us might learn from her example. Her sacrifice and her heroic virtue are usually represented by a flower, a lily. Yet, at St. Peter’s she holds a whole bouquet of flowers. Along with her own flower, she offers the Lord, in the heart of the Church, your flowers, and the flowers of all the people of Ecuador.

“The Saints call us to imitate them and to learn from them. This was the case with St. Narcisa de Jesus and Blessed Mercedes de Jesus Molina, who were challenged by St. Mariana’s example. How many of you here today have known what it is to be orphaned? How many of you have had to assume the responsibility of looking after younger brothers or sisters, despite being young yourselves? How many of you care daily with great patience for the sick or the elderly? Mariana did just this, and Narcisa and Mercedes followed her example. It is not difficult if God is with us. They accomplished no great feats in the eyes of the world. They simply loved much, and they showed this love in their daily lives, touching the suffering flesh of Christ in others, in his people. Nor did they do this alone, they did it 'side by side' with others. All the work that went into the building of this Cathedral was done that same way, our way, the way of the native peoples, quietly and unassumingly working alongside one another for the good of the community, without seeking credit or applause. God grant that, just as the stones of this cathedral were carried by those who went before us, we may carry one another’s burdens, and thus help to build up or heal the lives of so many of our brothers and sisters incapable of doing it by themselves.

“Today I am here with you, and you have shared with me the joy which fills your hearts: 'How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good tidings'. This is the beauty we are called to spread, like an aroma of Christ: our prayer, our good works, and our sacrifices for those most in need. This is the joy of evangelising and 'blessed are you if you do these things'.

“God bless you all”.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 7 July 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed Bishop Santiago Silva Retamales, auxiliary of the diocese of Valparaiso, Chile, as military ordinary for Chile.

Monday, July 6, 2015

The Pope arrives in Ecuador, the first stage of his apostolic trip in Latin America

Vatican City, 6 July 2015 (VIS) – At 10 p.m. yesterday, 5 July, Pope Francis arrived in Quito, the capital of Ecuador, on the first leg of his ninth apostolic trip during which he will also visit Bolivia and Paraguay.

The Holy Father left Rome by air at 9 a.m; during the long flight he spoke with the journalists who accompanied him on the aircraft and, as is customary, sent telegrams to the Heads of State of those countries through whose airspace he passed.

Upon arrival in Quito, the Pontiff was received by a group of children dressed in the traditional costumes of the various Ecuadorian peoples: two of them, a boy and a girl, offered him a floral tribute. The president, Rafael Correa, then gave a welcome address in which, in the light of the Encyclical “Laudato si'”, he mentioned that 20% of the national territory is protected in 44 nature reserves and parks, and he underlined the diversity of cultures present in Ecuador, which is home to not only a mestizo majority but also 14 indigenous nationalities with corresponding ancestral languages, including two populations who live in the heart of virgin forest, choosing voluntary isolation. The president also mentioned various documents constituting the pastoral Magisterium, with clear reference to the Social Doctrine of the Church, and concluded amiably: “The Argentines very proudly say 'the Pope is Argentine', and my dear friend Dilma Rousseff, president of Brazil, says, 'very well, the Pope is Argentine, but God is Brazilian!'. Of course the Pope is Argentine, and perhaps God is Brazilian, but one thing is certain: paradise is Ecuadorian!”.

The Pope expressed his joy and gratitude for the warm welcome he received, “a sign of the hospitality which so well defines the people of this noble nation”.

“I thank you, Mr President, for your words and I appreciate the convergence of what you have said with my own way of thinking: you have quoted me far too much, thank you!”, he continued. “I, in turn, express my cordial good wishes for the exercise of your office: that you may achieve your objectives for the good of your people. I greet the distinguished government authorities, my brother bishops, the faithful of the Church in this country, and all those who today have opened to me their hearts, their homes, their nation. To all of you, I express my affection and sincere appreciation”.

“I have visited Ecuador on a number of occasions for pastoral reasons. Today too I have come as a witness of God’s mercy and of faith in Jesus Christ. For centuries that faith has shaped the identity of this people and borne much good fruit, including the outstanding figures of St. Mariana de Jesus, St. Miguel Febres, St. Narcisa de Jesus and Blessed Mercedes de Jesus Molina, beatified in Guayaquil thirty years ago, during the visit of Pope St. John Paul II. These, and others like them, lived their faith with intensity and enthusiasm, and by their works of mercy they contributed in a variety of ways to improving the Ecuadorian society of their day”.

“In our own time too, we can find in the Gospel a key to meeting contemporary challenges, respecting differences, fostering dialogue and full participation, so that the growth in progress and development already registered will be strengthened and ensure a better future for everyone, with particular concern for the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters who are the debt still outstanding in Latin America. In these efforts, Mr President, you can always count on the commitment and cooperation of the Church to serve the Ecuadorian people who move forward with great dignity”.

“Dear friends, I begin my visit filled with excitement and hope for the days ahead. In Ecuador is the point closest to outer space: it is the Chimborazo, which for that reason is called the place 'closest to the sun', the moon and the stars. We Christians identify Christ with the sun, and the moon with the Church; the moon does not have its own light, indeed if it hides from the sun it will be enveloped by darkness. The sun is Jesus Christ and if the Church moves away or hides from him, she will be in darkness and no longer able to offer witness. May the coming days make all of us ever more clearly aware of how close is the sun which 'dawns upon us from on high'. May each of us be a true reflection of his light and his love”.

“From this place, I wish to embrace all of Ecuador. From the peak of Chimborazo to the Pacific coast; from the Amazon rainforest to the Galapagos Islands, may you never lose the ability to thank God for what he has done and is doing for you. May you never lose the ability to protect what is small and simple, to care for your children and for your elderly, who are the living memory of your people, to have confidence in the young, and to be constantly struck by the nobility of your people and the singular beauty of your country, which, according to the President, is nothing short of paradise”.

“May the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, to which Ecuador has been consecrated, grant you every grace and blessing. Thank you”, concluded the Pope.

Following a brief private audience with President Correa, the Pope travelled by popemobile the forty kilometres between Mariscal Sucre airport and the centre of Quito, the best conserved capital of all South America. It was the first, along with the Polish city of Krakow, to be declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 1978. During his journey the Pope was greeted by thousands of people who had gathered around Quito to await his arrival. Upon arrival at the apostolic nunciature, where he was to dine and rest for a few hours, Francis went out into the street to greet the faithful, who applauded him. “I come to bless you before we go to rest, and let the neighbours sleep!” he said, and after reciting the Lord's Prayer with them, he returned inside the nunciature.

This afternoon the Pope will transfer to Guayaquil where he will visit the Shrine of Divine Mercy and celebrate Holy Mass.

Francis prays to Our Lady at the Basilica of St. Mary Major before his trip to Latin America

Vatican City, 4 July 2015 (VIS) – At 7 p.m. today, the eve of his departure for Latin America, the Holy Father went to the Basilica of St. Mary Major to commend his imminent apostolic trip to Our Lady. He left a floral tribute before the image of the Virgin, composed of flowers in the colours of the flags of the three countries he will visit, and spent around twenty minutes in prayer.

To the members of Charismatic Renewal movement: share with others the baptism you have received

Vatican City, 4 July 2015 (VIS) – Unity in diversity and ecumenism of prayer, word and blood were the key themes of the Pope's improvised address to the thousands of members of the Renewal in the Holy Spirit movement yesterday afternoon, on the occasion of their 38th National Convocation, held in Rome from 3-4 July on the theme “Ways of Unity and Peace – Voices of prayer for the martyrs of today and for a spiritual ecumenism”. The encounter began at 4 p.m. in St. Peter's Square, and was attended by Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches; Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, president of the Italian Episcopal Conference, along with the Orthodox and Catholic oriental Patriarchs, Anglican and Lutheran bishops, and Pentecostal pastors.

In his address, the Pope emphasised that unity does not mean uniformity. It is not a “spherical” unity in which “every point is equidistant from the centre and there is no difference between one point and another. The model is the polyhedron, which reflects the confluence of all the parts that nonetheless maintain their originality, and these are the charisms, in unity but also diversity. … The distinction is important because we are speaking about the work of the Holy Spirit, not our own. Unity in the diversity of expressions of reality, as many as the Holy Spirit has wished to inspire”.

Another point the Holy Father considered very important to clarify related to those who guide. “There exists a great temptation for leaders to believe themselves indispensable, step by step to head towards authoritarianism, to personality cults, and not to allow the communities renewed in the Holy Spirit to thrive. This temptation renders 'eternal' the position of those who consider themselves indispensable. … We must be very clear that only the Holy Spirit is indispensable in the Church and Jesus is the only Lord. There are no others. … A time limit should be established for roles in the Church, which are in reality a form of service. An important service carried out by lay leaders is to facilitate the growth and the spiritual and pastoral maturity of those who will take their place at the end of their service. It would be opportune for all roles of service in the Church to have a time limit – there are no lifelong leaders in the Church”.

The Holy Father asked the members of Renewal in the Holy Spirit to share with all in the Church the baptism they have received. “It is the most important service that we can give to all in the Church”, he emphasised: “helping the people of God in their personal encounter with Jesus Christ, Who transforms us into new men and women, in small groups, humble but effective, because the Spirit that works within them. Do not focus on large-scale meetings that often go no further, but instead on the 'artisanal' relationships that derive from witness, in the family, at work, in social life, in parishes, in prayer groups, with everyone!”.

Another strong sign of the Spirit in Charismatic Renewal is the search for unity in the Body of Christ. “You, as Charismatics, have the special grace of praying and working for Christian unity, so that the current of grace flows through all Christian Churches. Christian unity is the work of the Holy Spirit and we must pray together. … We have all received the same baptism, we all follow Jesus' path. … We have all caused these divisions throughout history, for different reasons, but not good ones. But now is the time that the Spirit makes us think that these divisions are a sort of 'counter-witness', and we must do all we can to walk side by side: spiritual ecumenism, the ecumenism of prayer”.

There is also another form of unity: “the unity of the blood of martyrs, that makes us one. There is the ecumenism of blood. We know that those who kill Christians in hatred of Jesus Christ, before killing, do not ask: 'But are you a Lutheran, Orthodox, Evangelical, Baptist, Methodist?' They say, 'You are Christian', and behead them. … Fifty years ago, Blessed Paul VI, during the canonisation of the young martyrs of Uganda, referred to the fact that for the same reason the blood of their Anglican companion catechists had been shed. They were Christians, they were martyrs. Forgive me, and do not be scandalised, but they are our martyrs! Because they gave their lives for Christ, and this is ecumenism of blood. We must pray in memory of our common martyrs”.

Finally, there is “unity in work with the poor and the needy, who also need baptism in the Holy Spirit. It would be good to organise seminars on life in the Spirit, along with other Christian charismatic entities, for those brothers and sisters who live on the streets: they too have the Spirit within them that pushes for someone to throw open the door from outside”.

Before imparting his final blessing, the Pope invited those present to go forth and preach the good news of Jesus “to the poor, to the marginalised, the blind, the sick, the imprisoned, to all men and women. In each one of them there is the Spirit, Who wants to be helped to throw open the door so as to be revived. May the Lord accompany you in this mission, always with the Bible in your hand, always with the Gospel in your pocket, with the Word of Christ”.

Benedict XVI receives Doctorate honoris causa from the Pontifical University of John Paul II and the Musical Academy of Krakow

Vatican City, 4 July 2015 (VIS) – Pope emeritus Benedict XVI today received a Doctorate honoris causa from the Pontifical University of John Paul II and the Musical Academy of Krakow, Poland, granted by the rectors of both institutions and conferred this morning at Castel Gandolfo by Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, archbishop of Krakow and grand chancellor of the university dedicated to St. John Paul II.

Benedict XVI received the nomination with a discourse in which he recalled how St. John Paul II demonstrated by example that “the joy of great religious music and the role of popular participation in holy liturgy, the solemn joy and simplicity of the humble celebration of the faith, go hand in hand”.

“In the Vatican Council II Constitution on the liturgy it is written very clearly: 'The treasure of sacred music is to be preserved and fostered with great care'. On the other hand, the text highlights, as a fundamental liturgical category, the participatio actuosa of all the faithful in holy action. But what remained peacefully together in the Constitution has often subsequently, in the reception of the Council, been in a relationship of dramatic tension. Significant parts of the liturgical movement believed that there would be space for the great choral works and even orchestral masses only in concert halls, not in the liturgy, in which there would have been space only for the hymns and common prayer of the faithful. On the other hand, there was dismay at the cultural impoverishment of the Church that would necessarily have resulted. How could the two aspects be reconciled? These were the questions asked by many of the faithful, including simple people, not only those with a theological education”.

“At this point, perhaps it is correct to ask the underlying question: what is music? Where does it come from and where does it lead? I think there are three 'places' from which music arises. The first wellspring is the experience of love. When human beings were seized by love, another dimension of being opened up within them, a new greatness and breadth of reality, driving them to express themselves in a new way. Poetry, hymn and music in general were born of the opening up of this new dimension of life. A second origin of music is the experience of sadness, of being touched by death, by suffering and by the abysses of existence. In this case too, in the opposite direction, there open up new dimensions of life that do not find answers in discourse alone. Finally, the third origin of music is the encounter with the divine, which from the beginning is part of what defines the human being. … It may be said that the quality of music depends on the purity and the greatness of the encounter with the divine, with the experience of love and pain. The purer and more authentic the experience, the purer and greater will be the music that emerges and develops from it”.

“Certainly, western music goes far beyond the religious and ecclesial environment. However, it finds its deepest source in the liturgy in the encounter with God. In Bach, for whom the glory of God ultimately represents the aim of all music, this is entirely evident. The great and pure response of western music developed in the encounter with that God Who, in the liturgy, made Himself present in us in Jesus Christ. That music, for me, is a demonstration of the truth of Christianity. Where this form of response develops, the encounter with the truth, with the true Creator of the world, takes place. Therefore, the great religious music is a reality of theological level and lasting meaning for the faith of all Christianity, even though it is not at all necessary for it to be performed always and everywhere. On the other hand, it is also clear that it cannot disappear from the liturgy and its presence can be an entirely special form of participation in holy celebration and in the mystery of the faith”.

“If we think of the liturgy celebrated by St. John Paul II in all continents, we see the full breadth of the expressive possibilities of faith in the liturgical event, and we also see how the great music of the western tradition is not external to the liturgy, but instead originated and grew within it and in this way continually contributes to its formation. We do not know the future of our culture and of religious music. But one thing is clear: where there takes place the encounter with the living God Who in Christ comes towards us, there too develops the response, whose beauty comes from the truth itself”, concluded Benedict XVI.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 4 July 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father appointed:

- Joaquin Hermes Robledo Romero of Carapegua, Paraguay, as bishop of San Lorenzo (area 1,944, population 823,239, Catholics 813,000, priests 41, permanent deacons 29, religious 106), Paraguay.

- Bishop Jean Laffitte, secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Family, as prelate of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Cardinal Parolin explains the importance of the Encyclical “Laudato si'” for the Church and the world in the light of major events in 2015

Vatican City, 3 July 2015 (VIS) – Yesterday afternoon Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin spoke at the high-level conference “People and planet first: the imperative to change course” (Rome, Augustinianum, 2-3 July), organised by the Pontifical Council “Justice and Peace” and CIDSE, an international network of Catholic non-governmental development organisations.

The theme of the Cardinal's address was “The Importance of the Encyclical Laudato Si' for the Church and the World, in the Light of Major Political Events in 2015 and Beyond”. Three key United Nations conferences are scheduled to take place in the second half of 2015: the “Third International Conference on Financing for Development”, (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 13 to 16 July); the “United Nations Summit to adopt the Post-2015 Development Agenda”, (New York, U.S.A., 25 to 27 September); and the “Twenty-First Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations framework Convention on Climate Change” or “COP21” (Paris, France, 30 November to 11 December), for the purpose of adopting a new agreement on climate change. Cardinal Parolin affirmed that “the Encyclical will have a certain impact on these events, but its breadth and depth go well beyond its context in time”.

The Secretary of State's discourse focused on three sectors to help understand of “Laudato si'” – the international sphere, the national and local sphere, and the sphere of the Church – emphasising the two pressing requirements relevant to all three, namely “redirecting our steps” and promoting a “culture of care”.

In the international framework, he said, there is a need for “an ever greater recognition that 'everything is connected' and that the environment, the earth and the climate are 'a shared inheritance, whose fruits are meant to benefit everyone'. They are a common and collective good, belonging to all and meant for all, the patrimony of all humanity and the responsibility of everyone'. Recognising these truths is not, however, a foregone conclusion. It calls for a firm commitment to develop an authentic ethics of international relations, one that is genuinely capable of facing up to a variety of issues, such as commercial imbalances, and foreign and ecological debt, which are denounced in the Encyclical”.

“Unfortunately, what has prevented the international community from assuming this perspective can be summed up in the following observations of the Pope: its 'failure of conscience and responsibility' and the consequent 'meagre awareness of its own limitations'. We live, however, in a context where it is possible to 'leave behind the modern myth of unlimited material progress... [and] to devise intelligent ways of directing, developing and limiting our power'; 'we have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology; we can put it at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral'”. The Cardinal remarked, “more than once I have had occasion to emphasise how the technological and operative base for promoting such progress is already available or within our reach. We must seize this great opportunity, given the real human capacity to initiate and forge ahead on a genuinely and properly virtuous course, one that irrigates the soil of economic and technological innovation, cultivating three interrelated objectives: to help human dignity flourish; to help eradicate poverty; and to help counter environmental decay”.

“The forces at work in the international sphere are not sufficient on their own, however, but must also be focused by a clear national stimulus, according to the principle of subsidiarity. And here we enter into the second area of our reflection, that of national and local action. Laudato Si' shows us that we can do much in this regard, and it offers some examples, such as: 'modifying consumption, developing an economy of waste disposal and recycling... [the improvement of] agriculture in poorer regions... through investment in rural infrastructures, a better organisation of local [and] national markets, systems of irrigation, and the development of techniques of sustainable agriculture', the promotion of a 'circular model of production', a clear response to the wasting of food, and the acceleration of an 'energy transition'”. He added, “unfortunately, 'there are too many special interests, and economic interests too easily end up trumping the common good and manipulating information so that their own plans will not be affected'”.

The final area considered by the Secretary of State was the Catholic Church, who “finds nourishment in the example of St. Francis who, as indicated from the very opening pages of the Encyclical, 'lived in simplicity and in wonderful harmony with God, with others, with nature and with himself. He shows us just how inseparable the bond is between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace”.

He concluded, “Pope Francis states once again that 'the Church does not presume to settle scientific questions or to replace politics', but seems to be the bearer of the need to question the meaning and purpose of all human activity. What is well-known by now is the Encyclical's call for us to reflect on 'what kind of world we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up'. The answer which the Pope offers to this question is quite revealing: 'When we ask ourselves what kind of world we want to leave behind, we think in the first place of its general direction, its meaning and its values. … It is no longer enough, then, simply to state that we should be concerned for future generations. We need to see that what is at stake is our own dignity”.


Vatican City, 3 July 2015 (VIS) – In the afternoon of Thursday 2 July, the Holy Father received in audience Cardinal Fernando Filoni, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 3 July 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed:

- Msgr. Dennis Villarojo and Fr. Oscar L. Florencio as auxiliaries of the archdiocese of Cebu (area 5,088, population 4,692,562, Catholics 4,153,173, priests 612, permanent deacons 1, religious 1,827), Philippines.

Bishop-elect Villarojo was born in Cebu City, Philippines in 1967, and was ordained a priest in 1994. He received a licentiate in philosophy from the University of Santo Tomas in Manila, Philippines and a doctorate in philosophy from the Pontifical University of the Sacred Heart, Rome. He has served as the personal secretary of the archbishop of Cebu, Cardinal Vidal, and coordinator of the archdiocesan Pastoral Planning Board. He is currently moderator of the personal pastoral group of the parish of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, Capitol, Cebu City, and secretary general of the 51st Eucharistic Congress to take place in Cebu in January 2016.

Bishop-elect Florencio was born in Capoocan, Philippines in 1966 and was ordained a priest in 1990. He received a licentiate in theology from the University of Santo Tomas in Manila, Philippines and a doctorate in sacred theology from the Pontifical University of the Sacred Heart, Rome. He has served as parish vicar and spiritual director of the Sacred Heart Seminary in Palo, and parish priest. He is currently rector of the Saint John School of Theology, Palo, and vice-chancellor of the same archdiocese.

- Philippe Morard as vice commander of the Swiss Pontifical Guard, with the rank of lieutenant commander.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

One billion tourists, one billion opportunities

Vatican City, 2 July 2015 (VIS) - “One billion tourists, one billion opportunities” is the title of the Message for World Tourism Day 2015 (27 September), published today by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples. The Message, dated 24 June, was signed by Cardinal Antonio Maria Veglio and Bishop Joseph Kalathiparambil, respectively president and secretary of the dicastery.

The document, as its title indicates, focuses on the opportunities and challenges that the great increase in tourism represents for contemporary society and notes that the concept of the “tourist” is increasingly being substituted by that of the “traveller”, who does not merely visit a place but rather, in a sense, becomes an integral part of it. In the light of Pope Francis' Encyclical “Laudato si'”, the Message highlights that the tourism sector, by promoting appreciation of natural and cultural wealth, can promote their conservation or, paradoxically, their destruction. The Message finally invites the transformation of travel into “an existential experience”.

“It was 2012 when the symbolic barrier of one billion international tourist arrivals was surpassed. Now the numbers continue to grow so much that the forecasts estimate a new threshold of two billion will be reached in 2030. To this data even higher figures related to local tourism must be added.

For World Tourism Day we want to concentrate on the opportunities and challenges raised by these statistics, and for this we make the theme proposed by the World Tourism Organisation our own: 'One billion tourists, one billion opportunities'.

This growth launches a challenge to all the sectors involved in this global phenomenon: tourists, businesses, governments and local communities and, of course, the Church too. The billion tourists should necessarily be considered above all in their billion opportunities.
This message is being made public a few days after the presentation of Pope Francis' Encyclical Laudato si’ dedicated to care for our common home. We need to take this text into great consideration because it offers important guidelines to follow in our attention to the world of tourism.

We are in a phase of change in which the way of moving is changing and consequently the experience of travelling as well. Those who go to countries different from their own do so with the more or less conscious desire to reawaken the most hidden part of themselves through encounter, sharing and confrontation. More and more, a tourist is in search of direct contact with what is different in its extra-ordinariness.

By now the classic concept of a 'tourist' is fading while that of a 'traveller' has become stronger: that is, someone who does not limit himself to visiting a place but in some way becomes an integral part of it. The 'citizen of the world' is born: no longer to see but to belong, not to look around but to experience, no longer to analyse but to take part in, and not without respect for what and whom he encounters.

In his latest Encyclical, Pope Francis invites us to approach nature with 'openness to awe and wonder' and to speak 'the language of fraternity and beauty in our relationship with the world'. This is the right approach to adopt with regard to the places and peoples we visit. This is the road to seizing a billion opportunities and making them bear even more fruits.

The businesses in this sector are the first ones who should be committed to achieving the common good. The responsibilities of companies is great, also in the tourist area, and to take advantage of the billion opportunities they need to be aware of this. The final objective should not be profit as much as offering travellers accessible roads to achieving the experience they are looking for. And businesses have to do this with respect for people and the environment. It is important not to lose awareness of people's faces. Tourists cannot be reduced only to a statistic or a source of revenue. Forms of tourist business need to be implemented that are studied with and for individuals and invest in individuals and sustainability so as to offer work opportunities in respect for our common home.

At the same time, governments have to guarantee respect for the laws and create new ones that can protect the dignity of individuals, communities and the territory. A resolute attitude is essential. Also in the tourist area, the civil authorities of the different countries need to have shared strategies to create globalised socio-economic networks in favour of local communities and travellers in order to take positive advantage of the billion opportunities offered by the interaction.

From this viewpoint, also the local communities are called to open up their borders to welcome those who come from other countries moved by a thirst for knowledge, a unique occasion for reciprocal enrichment and common growth. Giving hospitality enables the environmental, social and cultural potentialities to bear fruit, to create new jobs, to develop one's identity, and to bring out the value of the territory. A billion opportunities for progress, especially for countries that are still developing. To increase tourism, especially in its most responsible forms, makes it possible to head towards the future strong with one's specificity, history and culture. Generating income and promoting the specific heritage can reawaken that sense of pride and self-esteem useful for strengthening the host communities' dignity, but care is always needed to not betray the territory, traditions and identity in favour of the tourists. It is in the local communities where there can grow 'a greater sense of responsibility, a strong sense of community, a readiness to protect others, a spirit of creativity and a deep love for the land. They are also concerned about what they will eventually leave to their children and grandchildren'.

One billion tourists, if well received, can become an important source of well-being and sustainable development for the entire planet. Moreover, the globalisation of tourism leads to the rise of an individual and collective civic sense. Each traveller, by adopting a more correct criterion for moving around the world, becomes an active part in safeguarding the earth. One individual's effort multiplied by a billion becomes a great revolution.

On a voyage, a desire for authenticity is also hidden which is realised in the spontaneity of relations and getting involved in the communities visited. The need is growing to get away from the virtual, which is so capable of creating distances and impersonal acquaintances, and to rediscover the genuineness of an encounter with others. The economy of sharing can also build a network through which humanity and fraternity increase and can generate a fair exchange of goods and services.

Tourism also represents a billion opportunities for the Church's evangelising mission. 'Nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts'. First of all, it is important for the Church to accompany Catholics with liturgical and formative proposals. She should also illuminate those who during the experience of travelling open their hearts and ask themselves questions and in this way make a real first proclamation of the Gospel. It is essential for the Church to go forth and be close to travellers in order to offer an appropriate and individual answer to their inner search. By opening her heart to others, the Church makes a more authentic encounter with God possible. With this goal, hospitality by the parish communities and the religious formation of tourist personnel should be enhanced.

The Church's task is also to educate to living free time. The Holy Father reminds us that 'Christian spirituality incorporates the value of relaxation and festivity. We tend to demean contemplative rest as something unproductive and unnecessary, but this is to do away with the very thing which is most important about work: its meaning. We are called to include in our work a dimension of receptivity and gratuity, which is quite different from mere inactivity'.

Moreover, we should not forget Pope Francis' convocation to celebrate the Holy Year of Mercy. We have to ask ourselves how the pastoral care of tourism and pilgrimages can be an area to 'experience the love of God who consoles, pardons, and instils hope'. A particular sign of this jubilee time will undoubtedly be the pilgrimage.

Faithful to her mission and starting from the conviction that 'we also evangelize when we attempt to confront the various challenges which can arise', the Church cooperates in making tourism a means for the development of peoples, especially the most disadvantaged ones, and setting in motion simple but effective projects. However, the Church and institutions should always be vigilant to prevent a billion opportunities from becoming a billion dangers by cooperating in the safeguard of personal dignity, workers' rights, cultural identity, respect for the environment, and so on.

One billion opportunities also for the environment: 'The entire material universe speaks of God’s love, his boundless affection for us. Soil, water, mountains: everything is, as it were, a caress of God'. Between tourism and the environment there is a close interdependency. The tourist sector, by taking advantage of the natural and cultural riches, can promote their conservation or, paradoxically, their destruction. In this relationship, the Encyclical Laudato si’ appears to be a good travelling companion.

Many times we pretend we do not see the problem. 'Such evasiveness serves as a license to carrying on with our present lifestyles and models of production and consumption'. By acting not as masters but with 'responsible stewardship', each one has his or her obligations that must be made concrete in precise actions that range from specific, coordinated legislation down to simple everyday actions, passing through appropriate educational programs and sustainable and respectful tourist projects. Everything has its importance, but a change in lifestyles and attitudes is necessary and surely more important. 'Christian spirituality proposes a growth marked by moderation and the capacity to be happy with little'.

The tourism sector can be an opportunity, indeed, one billion opportunities for building roads to peace too. Encounter, exchange and sharing favour harmony and understanding.
There are one billion occasions to transform a voyage into an existential experience. One billion possibilities to become the makers of a better world, aware of the riches contained in every traveller's suitcase. One billion tourists, one billion opportunities to become 'instruments of God our Father, so that our planet might be what he desired when he created it and correspond with his plan for peace, beauty and fullness'”.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Pope commemorates the late Patriarch of Cilicia of the Armenians

Vatican City, 1 July 2015 (VIS) – Pope Francis has sent a message to Bishop Gregoire Ghabroyan, administrator of the Patriarchate of Cilicia of the Armenians, for the funeral of His Beatitude Nerses Bedros XIX Tarmouni, who died on 25 June, to be held in the Cathedral of St. Elie and St. Gregory the Illuminator in Beirut. The message was read during the funeral ceremony by Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.

“It is with great sadness that I have learned of the return to the house of the Father of our beloved brother in Christ, His Beatitude Nerses Bedros XIX Tarmouni, Patriarch of Cilicia of the Armenians. I conserve in my heart the memory of my encounter with him, accompanied by the bishops of the Synod and the faithful of this Patriarchal Church, on the occasion of the commemoration of the victims of the Metz Yegern and the proclamation of St. Gregory of Narek as as Doctor of the universal Church. It was as if these events lived in the vicinity of the relics of the apostle St. Peter had marked the long and faithful journey of your 'Caput et Pater', revealing some of his most characteristic aspects.

“He was, above all, deeply rooted on the Rock that is Christ. He held that the most valuable treasure that a bishop is called upon to minister to is the faith that comes from apostolic preaching. His Beatitude spared nothing in ensuring its dissemination, especially by promoting the continuing formation of the clergy so that, even in difficult contexts, the ministers of God renew their adhesion to Christ, the sole hope and consolation for humanity.

“He dedicated himself to ensuring that the just commemoration of the sufferings of the Armenian people throughout their history become an action of God's grace considering the example of martyrs and witnesses, and at the same time obtained from Him the balm of consolation and reconciliation, which alone may heal the deepest wounds of souls and of peoples.

“Patriarch Nerses was finally able to rejoice with the Armenian people at the elevation of St. Gregory of Narek to the luminous title of Doctor of the Church. His Beatitude wished the spiritual influence of this great saint be an example for pastors and faithful, convinced that through St. Gregory of Narek everyone can experience the wonders that the Lord is able to achieve in the heart that opens up to Him in daily simplicity and humility, and in solidarity with the drama of humanity, through ceaseless intercession.

“Invited to perpetuate this triple heritage left to us by Patriarch Nerses, we implore the Holy Spirit to continue to renew the face of the Armenian Catholic Church, through the commitment of pastors and faithful, and we also entrust to the Father of all Mercy the labours , linked to the the limits and weaknesses of the condition of the pilgrims on their way to the eternal homeland”.

People and planet first: the imperative to change course

Vatican City, 1 July 2015 (VIS) – This morning a press conference was held in the Holy See Press Office to present the high-level Conference “People and planet first: the imperative to change course” (Rome, Augustinianum, 2-3 July) organised by the Pontifical Council “Justice and Peace” and CIDSE, an international network of Catholic non-governmental development organisations.

The speakers at the conference were Cardinal Kodwo Appiah Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council “Justice and Peace”; Naomi Klein, writer; Ottmar Edenhofer, co-president of the Intergovernmental Group of Experts on Climate Change (IPCC) and Bernd Nilles, secretary general of Cooperation Internationale pour le Developpement et la Solidarite (International Cooperation for Development and Solidarity).

Cardinal Turkson emphasised that the title of the conference, which focuses on climate change, clearly indicates the aim to be pursued: “people and planet, not one or the other, not one at the expense of the other”. He noted that in his recent Encyclical “Laudato si'”, the Pope proposes an integral ecology that respects its human and social dimensions, and shows that climate change is one of the main challenges facing humanity in our times, also highlighting that the climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all. “Yet the costs of climate change are being borne by those least responsible for it and least able to adapt to it – the poor. Overall, climate change is a global problem with a spectrum of serious implications: environmental, social, economic and political”. In “Laudato si'”, the Pope also laments the failure of past global summits on the environment, and launches an urgent appeal for enforceable international agreements to stop climate change.

In this respect, as Cardinal Turkson observes, the COP21 Conference held in Paris from 30 November to 11 December 2015 will be crucial in identifying strong solutions to the problem of climate change. The Sustainable Development Goals are also relevant in this context, and coincide in various aspects with the points made by Pope Francis in his Encyclical. “For example, the 13th proposed goal will express the imperative to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. Related goals include: make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable; ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns; conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development; protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss”.

“These goals, similar to important points made in 'Laudato si'', await the pledges and the will of the whole world community during the 70th United Nations General Assembly beginning in mid-September 2015. Yet the single biggest obstacle to the imperative to change course is not economic, scientific or even technological, but rather within our minds and hearts. The same mindset which stands in the way of making radical decisions to reverse the trend of global warming also stands in the way of achieving the goal of eliminating poverty. A more responsible overall approach is needed to deal with both problems: the reduction of pollution and the development of poorer countries and regions. … The political dimension needs to re-establish democratic control over the economy and finance, that is, over the basic choices made by human societies. This is the path the entire human family is on, the one which leads through New York to Paris and beyond”, concluded the prelate.

Naomi Klein affirmed that what Pope Francis writes in “Laudato si'” “is not only a teaching for the Catholic world but for 'every person living on this planet'. And I can say that as a secular Jewish feminist who was rather surprised to be invited to the Vatican, it certainly spoke to me”.

“In a world where profit is consistently put before both people and the planet, climate economics has everything to do with ethics and morality. Because if we agree that endangering life on earth is a moral crisis, then it is incumbent on us to act like it. That does not mean gambling the future on the boom and bust cycles of the market. It means policies that directly regulate how much carbon can be extracted from the earth. It means policies that will get us to 100 per cent renewable energy in two or three decades – not by the end of the century. And it means allocating common, shared resources – like the atmosphere – on the basis of justice and equity, not winners-take-all”.

Therefore, “a new kind of climate movement is fast emerging. It is based on the most courageous truth expressed in the encyclical: that our current economic system is both fuelling the climate crisis and actively preventing us from taking the necessary actions to avert it. A movement based on the knowledge that if we don’t want runaway climate change, then we need system change. And because our current system is also fuelling ever widening inequality, we have a chance, in rising to the climate challenge, to solve multiple, overlapping crises at once. In short, we can shift to a more stable climate and fairer economy at the same time”.

“This growing understanding is why you are seeing some surprising and even unlikely alliances. Like, for instance, me at the Vatican. Like trade unions, Indigenous, faith and green groups working more closely together than ever before. Inside these coalitions, we do not agree on everything. … But we understand that the stakes are so high, time is so short and the task is so large that we cannot afford to allow those differences to divide us. When 400,000 people marched for climate justice in New York last September, the slogan was 'To change everything, we need everyone'. Everyone includes political leaders, of course. But having attended many meetings with social movements about the COP summit in Paris, I can report this: there is zero tolerance for yet another failure being dressed up as a success for the cameras. … If the deal fails to bring about immediate emission reductions while providing real and substantive support for poor countries, then it will be declared a failure. As it should be”.

“What we must always remember is that it’s not too late to veer off the dangerous road we are on, the one that is leading us towards 4 degrees of warming”, emphasised Naomi Klein. “Indeed we could still keep warming below 1.5 degrees if we made it our top collective priority. It would be difficult, to be sure. As difficult as the rationing and industrial conversions that were once made in wartime. As ambitious as the anti-poverty and public works programs launched in the aftermath of the Great Depression and the Second World War. But difficult is not the same as impossible. And giving up in the face of a task that could save countless and lives prevent so much suffering – simply because it is difficult, costly and requires sacrifice from those of us who can most afford to make do with less – is not pragmatism. It is surrender of the most cowardly kind. And there is no cost-benefit analysis in the world that is capable of justifying it”.

Archbishop Tomasi: terrorism is the antithesis of the values and commitments of peaceful national and international co-existence

Vatican City, 1 July 2015 (VIS) – Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi, Holy See permanent observer at the United Nations and other international bodies in Geneva spoke yesterday at the 29 th Session of the Human Rights Council Panel on the effects of terrorism on the enjoyment by all persons of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

“The Holy See Delegation would like to denounce most especially terrorist acts carried out in the name of religion”, said the nuncio. “As Pope Francis states, 'religious fundamentalism, even before it eliminates human beings by perpetrating horrendous killings, eliminates God himself, turning him into a mere ideological pretext'. … Acts of terrorism cause the destruction of human rights, political freedoms and the rule of law. Terrorism is the antithesis of the shared values and commitments which serve as the basis for peaceful coexistence domestically and internationally. Indeed, with the proliferation of terrorism and the impunity which its proponents enjoy, we can say that there is also a 'globalisation of terrorism'. ... A situation is thus created where the positive political will of the major players is required in order to address and resolve the problem of global terrorism and its disastrous effects”.

“The Holy See is deeply convinced that terrorism, especially those forms that derive from religious extremism, must be confronted with concerted political efforts by all players, especially by all the local and regional parties involved, as well as by the major international players, whose role is indispensable in negotiating and finding a viable solution, diplomatic or otherwise, to protect life and the future stability of the regions touched by terrorism. The response to terrorism cannot be merely by way of military action. Political participation, fair and just legal systems, and cutting all forms of public and private support for terrorism are means not only to respond, but also to prevent, terrorism. It is also important to remember the positive obligation that States have to undertake in order to protect their citizens and, where that is not possible, to collaborate with other regional authorities in order to address the threats posed by terrorist groups”, concluded Archbishop Tomasi.

Message for Sea Sunday: more resources to combat human trafficking and exploitation

Vatican City, 1 July 2015 (VIS) – The Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples today published its message for Sea Sunday (12 July), signed by Cardinal Antonio Maria Veglio and Bishop Joseph Kalathiparambil, respectively president and secretary of the dicastery. The following is the full text of the message:

“To transport goods and products around the world, the global economy deeply relies on the maritime industry supported by a workforce of around 1.2 million seafarers, who at sea and in the oceans frequently facing the strong and powerful forces of nature, manage ships of all kinds and dimensions.

As ports are built far away from the cities, and because of the fast turnaround in loading and unloading cargo, the crews sailing the ships are like 'invisible' people. As individuals we do not acknowledge the importance and the benefits that the maritime profession brings to our life and we become aware of their work and sacrifices only when disasters strike.

In spite of the technological development that makes life on board more comfortable and makes it easier to communicate with loved ones, seafarers are forced to spend long months in a restricted space, away from their families. Restrictive and unjust regulations often limit shore leave when in port and the continuous threat of piracy in many sea routes adds stress while sailing. We are still confident that the ratification and coming into force of the Maritime Labour Convention 2006 by a growing number of countries, accompanied by effective inspections by flag States will result in a tangible improvement of the labour and working conditions on board all ships.

In the present day, with war, violence and political instability in several countries, a new phenomenon has been affecting the shipping industry. Since last year, alongside the coast guards and the naval forces of Italy, Malta and European Union, the merchant vessels transiting in the Mediterranean Sea have been actively involved in the by-now daily task of rescuing thousands and thousands of migrants trying to reach the coasts of Italy in all kinds of overcrowded and substandard crafts.

Since time immemorial seafarers have fulfilled the obligation to rescue people in distress at sea under any conditions. However, as it has been stressed by other maritime organisations, for the merchant vessels rescuing migrants at sea remains a health, safety and security risk for seafarers. Commercial ships are designed to transport goods (containers, oil, gas, etc.) and all the facilities are custom-made for the limited number of crew members on board. For these reasons merchant vessels are not equipped to provide assistance to a large number of migrants.

Seafarers are professionally qualified in their work and trained to handle a number of emergency situations but rescuing hundreds of often frantic men, women and children is something that no training course in maritime school has prepared them for. Furthermore, the physical effort in seeking to rescue as many persons as possible, and witnessing numerous lifeless bodies in the sea, render the experience traumatic and leave the crews exhausted and psychologically distressed, in need of specific psychological and spiritual support.

On Sea Sunday as the Catholic Church we would like to express our appreciation for seafarers in general for their fundamental contribution to the international trade. This year in particular, we would like to recognise the great humanitarian effort made by the crews of merchant vessels that without hesitation, sometimes risking their own life, have engaged in many rescue operations saving thousands of migrants lives.

Our gratitude goes also to all the chaplains and volunteers of the Apostleship of the Sea for their daily commitment in serving the people of the sea; their presence in the docks is the sign of the Church in their midst and shows the compassionate and merciful face of Christ.

In conclusion, while we appeal to the governments in Europe, the countries of origin of migration flows, and international organisations to cooperate in searching for a durable and definitive political solution to instability in those countries, we would also like to call for more resources to be committed not only for search and rescue missions but also to prevent the trafficking and exploitation of persons escaping from conditions of conflict and poverty”.
Copyright © VIS - Vatican Information Service