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Monday, September 22, 2014

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

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

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

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

Pope Francis' apostolic trip to Albania

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pope Francis recounts his emotional trip to Albania

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other news

The Holy Father receives the president of Latvia

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

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

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

The Church needs pastors able to kneel before others

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Special Commission to study marriage annulment reform

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

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

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

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

Cardinal Scola, Pope's special envoy to Cologne

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

- Cristina Fernandez Kirchner, president of the Argentine Republic.

Other Pontifical Acts

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 21, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To the young: yes to acceptance and solidarity

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

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

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

Friday, September 19, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Pope to visit Naples on 21 March 2015

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


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

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

- Archbishop James Patrick Green, apostolic nuncio in Peru;

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

- Professor Ignazio Marino, mayor of Rome.

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

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

- Bishop Oscar Vicente Ojea of San Isidro, Argentina;

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

Other Pontifical Acts

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


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

Thursday, September 18, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Francis to bishops: men able to cultivate God's fields

Vatican City, 2014 (VIS) – This morning the Holy Father received in audience the bishops appointed during the last year, who are participating in the congress organised by the Congregation for Bishops and the Congregation for the Oriental Churches. Francis commented that he was happy to meet them and said that they were “the fruit of the arduous work and tireless prayer of the Church who, when she chooses her pastors, recalls that entire night the Lord spent on the mount, in the presence of the Father, before naming those He wanted to stay with him and to go forth into the world”.

The Pope asked them now that they have overcome their initial fears and excitement of their consecration, never to take for granted the ministry entrusted to them, never to lose their wonder before God's plan nor the awe of walking aware of His presence and the presence of the Church who is, first and foremost, His. He also reminded them of “the inseparable bond between the stable presence of the bishop and the growth of the flock”. “When the pastor is missing or unavailable, pastoral care and the salvation of souls is at risk. In fact, in the pastors Christ gives to the Church, He shows His love for His bride and gives His life for her”.

He continued, “we do not need superficially happy bishops; it is necessary to dig deeper to discover what the Spirit continues to inspire in your Bride. You are not fixed-term bishops, who always need to change address, like medicines that lose their power to cure, or like those insipid foodstuffs that have to be thrown away because they have lost their usefulness. It is important not to block the curative force that springs from within the gift you have received, and this defends you from the temptation to come and go aimlessly, because no wind is favourable to he who does not know where he is going. And we have learned where we are going: we are always going towards Jesus”. He added, “in this way, your watch over your flock will never fail to encounter the flame of the Risen Christ”.

“I also beg you not to fall prey to the temptation to change the people. Love the people that God has given you, even when they have committed grave sins, without tiring of turning to the Lord for forgiveness and a new beginning, even at the cost of having to cancel your false images of the divine face or the fantasies you have nurtured of how to ensure their communion with God”. The Church, he added, is to offer “welcome to all without discrimination, offering the firmness of the authority that enables growth and the gentleness of paternity that generates. Do not fall prey the temptation to sacrifice your freedom by surrounding yourself with courts, networks or choirs of assent, as the Church and the world always have the right to hear from the lips of bishops the Gospel that sets them free”.

Pope Francis advised the bishops to imitate Moses' patience in leading his people, as “nothing is more important than introducing people to God!”. He therefore urged them to begin with the young and the elderly, “because the first are our wings, and the second are our roots. Wings and roots without which we do not know what we are, much less where we are going”. He added that he saw the bishops as sentinels, able to awaken their Churches; “men able to cultivate and ripen God's fields and pastors able to restore unity. “Do not waste energy in conflict and disagreement, but rather use it to build and to love”, he concluded, wishing them “fruitfulness, patience, humility and much prayer”.


Vatican City, 18 September 2014 (VIS) – Today the Holy Father received in audience fourteen prelates from the Episcopal Conference of the Cote d'Ivoire on their “ad Limina” visit:

- Cardinal Jean Pierre Kutwa, archbishop of Abidjan;

- Bishop Alexis Touabli Youlo of Agboville;

- Bishop Raymond Ahoua, F.D.P., of Grand-Bassam;

- Archbishop Paul-Simeon Ahouanan Djro, O.F.M., of Bouake;

- Bishop Ziri Boniface Gbaya of Abengourou;

- Bishop Marcellin Yao Kouadio of Yamoussoukro;

- Archbishop Joseph Ake Yapo of Gagnoa;

- Bishop Maurice Konan Kouassi of Daloa;

- Bishop Gaspard Beby Gneba of Man;

- Bishop Jean-Jacques Koffi Oi Koffi of San Pedro-en-Cote d'Ivoire;

- Archbishop Marie-Daniel Dadiet of Korhogo;

- Bishop Ignace Bessi Dogbo of Katiola;

- Bishop Antoine Kone of Odienne;

- Bishop Jean Salomon Lezoutie, coadjutor of Yopougon.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 2014 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed Bishop Anthony Colin Fisher of Parramatta, Australia, as metropolitan archbishop of Sydney (area 1,264, population 2,482,000, Catholics 664,000, priests 484, permanent deacons 3, religious 1,537), Australia.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Church, universal and missionary, cannot be wrapped up in herself

Vatican City, 17 September 2014 (VIS) – The meaning of the terms “Catholic” and “apostolic” when we speak about the Church was the theme of Pope Francis' catechesis at this morning's Wednesday general audience in St. Peter's Square, attended by 50,000 faithful.

When we profess the Creed, we state that we believe in a Catholic and apostolic Church. “Catholic means universal”, said the Holy Father, “and a clear sign of this Catholicity is that she speaks all languages. This is none other than the effect of the Pentecost: indeed, it was the Holy Spirit that enabled the Apostles and the entire Church to communicate to all, to the very ends of the earth, the Good News of salvation and of God's love. Thus, the Church was born Catholic – that is, 'symphonic' since the beginning, and she cannot be otherwise, destined as she is for evangelisation and for encountering everyone”: The Pope, remarking that everyone is able to read the Word of God in his or her own language, again encouraged those present always to carry a copy of the Gospel and to read one or two passages each day.

“If the Church is born Catholic, it means that she was born to go forth, missionary”, continued Pope Francis. “If the Apostles had stayed in the Cenacle without going out to preach the Gospel, the Church would have remained there, in that city, in that country, in that room. It is what we express when we describe her as 'apostolic'. But they went forth. An apostle spreads the good news of Jesus' resurrection. This term reminds us that the Church, on the foundations of the Apostles and in continuity with them, is sent to proclaim the Gospel to all humanity, with the signs of the tenderness and strength of God. The Apostles went forth, they travelled the world, they founded new churches, they consecrated new bishops and in this way, we continue their work”.

“And this too derives from the Pentecost. Indeed, the Holy Spirit is able to overcome any resistance, to defeat the temptation to remain wrapped up in ourselves, an elect few, and to consider ourselves as the only ones destined to receive God's blessing. Imagine if a group of Christians were to consider itself in this way; they would die out. First in soul and then in body, as they would not be able to generate new life. They would not be apostolic. The Holy Spirit leads us towards our brothers, even to those who are far away in every sense, so that they can share with us the gift of love, peace and joy that the Risen Lord has left us”.

“What does it mean, for our communities and for each of us, to be part of a Church that is Catholic and apostolic? First of all, it means taking to heart the salvation of all humanity, not to be indifferent or removed from the fate of so many of our brothers, but rather to be open and in solidarity with them. It also means having a sense of the fullness, the completeness, the harmony of Christian life, always rejecting partial and unilateral positions that close us up in ourselves”.

Being part of the apostolic Church means “being aware that our faith is anchored in the proclamation and the witness of Jesus' Apostles, and therefore always being aware that were are sent out, in communion with the successors of the Apostles, with our hearts full of joy, to proclaim Christ and His love for all humanity”.

Pope Francis recalled the “heroic life” of all the missionaries who leave their homelands to take the Gospel to others, encouraging those present to give thanks to God for the missionaries the Church has had and will continue to need.

“Let us ask the Lord to renew in us the gift of His Spirit, so that every Christian community and baptised person may be an expression of the Catholic and apostolic Holy Mother Church”.

The Pope to the faithful: accompany me in Albania in prayer

Vatican City, 17 September 2014 (VIS) – At the end of today's general audience, the Holy Father greeted those present in various languages. In his greetings in Arabic, he addressed the faithful of the Holy Land “from where the light of proclamation issued forth to the ends of the earth”, urging them always to be, “despite difficulties, courageous and joyful bearers of the Message of salvation, truth and blessing”.

Before his greetings in Italian, the Pope spoke about his trip to Albania this coming Sunday, 21 September, and invited the faithful to accompany him in prayer. “I decided to visit this country because it has suffered greatly as a result of a terrible atheist regime and is now realising the peaceful co-existence of its various religious components”.

Decrees of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints

Vatican City, 17 September 2014 (VIS) – The Holy Father today received in audience Cardinal Angelo Amato S.D.B., prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. During the audience he authorised the promulgation of decrees concerning the following causes:


- Blessed Maria Cristina of the Immaculate Conception (nee Adelaide Brando), Italian foundress of the Oblation Sisters of the Holy Sacrament (1856-1906);

- Venerable Servant of God Pio Alberto del Corona, Italian professed priest of the Order of Preachers, bishop of San Miniato and founder of the Dominican Sisters of the Holy Spirit (1837-1912);

- Venerable Servant of God Marie-Elisabeth Turgeon, Canadian foundress of the Sisters of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary (1840-1881).

The Pontiff also approved the votes of the Ordinary Session of the Cardinal and Bishop Fathers in favour of the canonisation of Blessed Joseph Vaz, Indian priest of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri, founder of the Oratory of the Holy Cross of Miracles in Goa (1651-1711).

Finally, the Holy Father decided that a Consistory will be convoked shortly for the canonisation of Blessed Joseph Vaz and Blessed Maria Cristina of the Immaculate Conception, nee Adelaide Brando.

Sixth meeting of the Council of Cardinals

Vatican City, 17 September 2014 (VIS) – This morning, the director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J., provided an update on the sixth meeting of the Council of Cardinals, which began on Monday, 15 September and will conclude this afternoon. As usual, the Holy Father was present at all sessions apart from this morning's, due to the Wednesday general audience.

“In the previous meetings, the Cardinals had worked by examining all the Congregations and Pontifical Councils, but they had also assigned a significant amount of time to hearing the referring Commissions on economic and organisational questions (COSEA and CRIOR) and on matters pertaining to the economic Dicasteries. Work in this area may now be considered complete, following the constitution of the Council and the Secretariat for the Economy. The press conference held by Cardinal Pell in July focused on the results of this work and on the initiation of the activities of these new organs.

“Therefore, in this meeting the Council of Cardinals resumed work on the other Dicasteries. In the meantime, several contributions had been prepared by various members of the Council on the different issues within their sphere of competence, which were proposed or presented to the Council. During these days, the Council focused on two principal “hotspots”.

“The first includes the themes of the laity and the family. It is a very broad area, encompassing many issues, including for instance the role of women in society and in the Church, youth, childhood, or matters related to lay associations and movements, and so on.

“The second comprises themes linked to justice and peace, charity, migrants and refugees, health, and the protection of life and ecology, especially human ecology.

“As can be seen, the discussions therefore involved many of the major issues that fall within the competences of the current Pontifical Councils, and how to face them in a coordinated and integrated fashion.

“The Council of Cardinals, as we are aware, does not make decisions, but formulates proposals for the Pope, who certainly intends to consult in further depth, also with regard to the various Dicasteries, involving those in roles of responsibility. Therefore, the Council’s proposals will be studied further, and it is to be expected that the Pope will speak about them, for instance, during the meetings with the Heads of the Dicasteries, which are convoked regularly and will certainly take place in the coming months.

“A draft Introduction for the new Constitution was also drawn up and distributed.

“In order to speed up this new phase in the work of the Council, the coordinator Cardinal Maradiaga has prepared an overall plan to facilitate the organisation of the contributions and reflections already offered during the previous meetings and the integration of new ones.

“It may be assumed that, with the next two meetings of the Council (9-11 December 2014 and 9-11 February 2015), the draft Constitution will reach an advanced stage of preparation, making it possible for the Pope to proceed with further consultations”.

With regard to the Commission for the Protection of Minors, the director of the Holy See Press Office commented that the appointment of the Secretary, Msgr. Robert Oliver, had been made public during recent days, adding: “In the next few weeks other very important aspects will be specified regarding the Statutes and further members of the Commission. It is expected that these will be clarified at the time of the next meeting of the Commission itself, scheduled for early October (4-5)”.

“With regard to the Commission on Vatican media, chaired by Lord Chris Patten, the first meeting will be held from 22-24 September at the Domus Sanctae Marthae. As a first meeting, it will be dedicated primarily to drawing up a framework for the common base of information necessary to enable the work of the members (several of whom are from contexts external to the Vatican), the planning of the work to be done over the coming months, and the method to be used. The Commission itself, during its first meeting, will establish its own strategy of communication. Therefore, interviews or communications will not be given prior to the meeting”, he concluded.

“Evangelii gaudium” and pastoral ministry: three day meeting in the Vatican

Vatican City, 17 September 2014 (VIS) – The international meeting “The Pastoral Project of 'Evangelii gaudium'”, organised by the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelisation, will be held in the Vatican from 18 to 20 September and will be attended by more than two thousand pastoral workers from seventy countries worldwide. Bishops, priests, catechists, consecrated persons, pastoral workers and members of associations and movements will explore in depth the content of the apostolic Exhortation that Pope Francis has indicated as the programmatic document of his papacy. Renowned speakers will discuss specific themes in relation to pastoral ministry and evangelisation. The meeting will culminate with an encounter with the Holy Father on Friday afternoon.

A detailed programme of the event can be found at www.novaevangelizatio.va
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