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Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Pope receives the president of the Republic of the Seychelles

Vatican City, 30 April 2015 (VIS) – This morning in the Vatican Apostolic Palace the Holy Father Francis received in audience the president of the Republic of the Seychelles, James Alix Michel, who subsequently met with Cardinal secretary of State Pietro Parolin, accompanied by Msgr. Antoine Camilleri, under secretary for Relations with States.

During the cordial discussions, satisfaction was expressed for the good relations existing between the Holy See and the Republic of the Seychelles. Mention was made of the Catholic Church’s contribution to the service of society, especially in the fields of welfare and education, and themes of common interest were considered, such as the dignity and full development of the human person and the protection of the environment.

Finally, there was an exchange of opinions on the socio-political situation in the country and in the region.

To the Anglican-Catholic Commission: the cause of unity is not an optional undertaking

Vatican City, 30 April 2015 (VIS) – This morning Pope Francis received in audience twenty members of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, meeting in these days in order to study the relationship between the universal Church and the local Church, with particular reference to processes for discussions and decision making regarding moral and ethical questions. The Commission was created as a result of the historic meeting in 1966 between Pope Paul VI and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Arthur Michael Ramsey, who signed a joint declaration to establish dialogue based on the Gospel and the common tradition in the hope of leading to the unity in truth for which Christ prayed.

Although that goal has not yet been reached, the Commission's visit to the Pope shows how “the shared tradition of faith and history between Anglicans and Catholics can inspire and sustain our efforts to overcome the obstacles to full communion”. Furthermore, the commission will shortly publish five jointly agreed statements from the second phase of the Anglican-Catholic dialogue, a reminder that ecumenical relations and dialogue are not secondary elements of the life of the Churches. “The cause of unity is not an optional undertaking and the differences which divide us must not be seen as inevitable”, said the Holy Father.

“There is a strong bond that already unites us which goes beyond all divisions”, underlined Francis. “It is the testimony of Christians from different Churches and traditions, victims of persecution and violence simply because of the faith they profess. And not only now, that there are many of them; I think also of the martyrs of Uganda, half Catholics and half Anglicans. The blood of these martyrs will nourish a new era of ecumenical commitment, a fervent desire to fulfil the last will and testament of the Lord: that all may be one. The witness by these our brothers and sisters demands that we live in harmony with the Gospel and that we strive with determination to fulfil the Lord's will for his Church. Today the world urgently needs the common, joyful witness of Christians, from the defence of life and human dignity to the promotion of justice and peace. Together let us invoke the gifts of the Holy Spirit in order to be able to respond courageously to the 'signs of the times' which are calling all Christians to unity and common witness”.

To the Community of Christian Life: reach out to the neediest frontiers of humanity

Vatican City, 30 April 2015 (VIS) – This morning Pope Francis received in audience the Community of Christian Life (CVX) and the Student Missionary League, for the inauguration of the National Conference of the two Italian groups, exponents of Ignatian spirituality, to be held in Frascati, Italy, from today until 3 May, on the theme “Beyond Walls”. The Holy Father handed them a written discourse in which he indicates various priorities to be taken into account on their spiritual and community path.

First, he mentions the challenge of promoting a culture of justice and peace. “Faced with a culture of illegality, corruption and confrontation, you are called to devote yourselves to the common good, also through service to those linked to politics. If Christians dissociate themselves from direct involvement in politics, it would be a betrayal of the mission of the lay faithful, who are called upon to be salt and light in the world, also through this form of presence”.

He focuses on family pastoral ministry, following the last Synod of Bishops, as a second apostolic priority, and encouraged them to help diocesan communities in their care for families, the vital cell of society, an in accompanying couples as they prepare for marriage. He also emphasises the importance of working with those who have “drifted away” from the Church: among them there are many separated couples, “who suffer as a result of the failure of their plans for married life”, and also other difficult family situations.

Finally, he turns his attention to missionary life, and encourages them to maintain their capacity to “go out towards the frontiers of humanity at its neediest”. The Pope mentions the members of communities present in Syria, Lebanon and plans for the reception of immigrants in Sicily, and reminds them that, “in this luminous and fruitful apostolic style, you too can be active in inspiring the various educational institutions in Italy, Catholic and state-managed, as in other parts of the world”.

Telegram for the death of Cardinal Giovanni Canestri: a wise pastor, attentive to the needs of others

Vatican City, 30 April 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has sent a telegram of condolences to Cardinal Agostino Vallini, his vicar for the diocese of Rome, for the death at the age of 97 of Cardinal Giovanni Canestri, who was archbishop of Genoa, Italy from 1987 to 1995. Originally from the diocese of Alessandria, the late cardinal belonged to the clergy of Rome.

“The passing of the venerated cardinal elicits in my heart profound emotion and sincere admiration for an esteemed man of the Church who lived with humility and devotion his long and fruitful priesthood and episcopate in the service of the Gospel and of the souls entrusted to him. I recall with gratitude his fervent ministry, first as a deputy priest during the difficult war years in the outskirts of Rome, areas affected by suffering and poverty; then as a parish priest in two populous suburbs, intent on educating the young in particular in the joy of faith. Upon being appointed as auxiliary bishop of Rome, he devoted himself with apostolic intensity to the spiritual and material needs of the people, while participating diligently in the work of Vatican Council II. In his episcopal ministry in Tortona, then as vicegerent and subsequently archbishop of Cagliari, and finally Genoa-Bobbio, he demonstrated pastoral wisdom and generous attention to the needs of others, reaching out to all with goodness and gentleness. I raise fervent prayers that the Lord receive the late cardinal in eternal joy and peace, and I bestow upon you and those who share in sorrow the comfort of my apostolic blessing, with a special thought for the Apostolic Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, who lovingly cared for him especially in these last years of his infirmity”.

Pope Francis' prayer intentions for May

Vatican City, 30 April 2015 (VIS) - The Holy Father's universal prayer intention for May is: “That, rejecting the culture of indifference, we may care for our neighbours who suffer, especially the sick and the poor”.

His intention for evangelisation is: “That Mary's intercession may help Christians in secularised cultures be open to proclaiming Jesus”.

Presentation of the concert for Papal works of charity

Vatican City, 30 April 2015 (VIS) – This morning a press conference was held in the Holy See Press Office to present the concert organised to support the Pope's charitable work, which will take place on 14 May, solemnity of the Ascension, at 6 p.m. in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall. The concert, to be conducted by Maestro Daniel Oren and performed by the Philarmonic Orchestra of Salerno, Italy and the choir of the diocese of Rome led by Msgr. Marco Frisina, is sponsored by the Papal Almoner, the Pontifical Council for Culture, the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelisation, and the St. Matthew Foundation, in memory of Cardinal Van-Thuan, and unites culture with charitable concerns. For the occasion, the donations gathered will be entirely devolved to the office of the Apostolic Almoner, the dicastery responsible for the Pope's charity.

The protagonists of the event are the most needy, the poor and sick, who will occupy the front rows and have been invited through charitable and voluntary associations: the Great Priory of Rome and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, the Circle of St. Peter, diocesan Caritas, the Sant'Egidio Community and the Centro Astalli, which assists migrants and refugees, the Daughters of Charity and other associations present in the diocese of Rome. The event will also be attended by detainees from the Rebibbia prison and various inhabitants of camps for nomadic peoples. Elderly people, families and young people from the Roman parishes have also been invited, especially those from the quarters afflicted by material and spiritual difficulties.

An invitation is required to attend the concert. These are entirely free and may be obtained online before 8 May by compiling the form on the website of the Choir of the Diocese of Rome, at http://www.corodiocesidiroma.com/concerto-aula-paolo-vi.html.

During the press conference, Msgr. Diego Ravelli, head of the office of the Apostolic Almoner, explained that this will be a concert not only “with” the poor but rather “for” the poor, as the donations made by the sponsors and all those who wish to offer an economic contribution will be destined for Pope Francis' charitable works. This task is entrusted to the Apostolic Almoner, whose mission is explained below, and which receives every day a great number of letters from needy people and families, a number that has increased along with the economic crisis, rising unemployment and the phenomenon of immigration. All these letters are authenticated by parish priests and other ecclesiastical authorities, to whom as guarantors the economic assistance will be given, to be devolved to the people concerned, “as it is important for the Pope's concrete gesture to be integrated with the solidarity of the local Church and Christian parish community”.

“Aid will be modest as it is hoped it will reach the largest possible number of people”, he continued. “The Almoner's Office also supports associations devoted to alleviating the suffering of different groups of people in difficulties, such as the homeless, political refugees, prisoners, overseas university students, hospital inpatients, the elderly, single mothers and orphaned or abandoned children. Similarly, again with modest subsidies, it also intervenes outside Italy, especially in the poorest countries, to support initiatives of a charitable nature promoted by bishops and diocesan or religious priests. Particular attention is also given to cloistered women religious, who often lack sufficient economic resources for everyday needs or to face extraordinary or unexpected maintenance work on community buildings”.

“In total, the sum that the Apostolic Almoner distributed in 2014 exceeded one and a half million Euros”, said Msgr. Rivelli, who went on to remark that when Pope Francis appointed Archbishop Konrad Krajewski in 2013 he instructed him to reach out to the poor, not to wait for them to ask for help, and to “leave his desk to go in search of them beyond the office walls”.

“All this is possible thanks to the charity fund available to the Almoner, made up of donations from private individuals and groups or bodies, or collections organised for the purpose, and offers directly from the hands of the Holy Father, who receives contributions for his charity during the general audiences and from meetings with pilgrims. The majority of the funds, however, come from the faculty, delegated to the Almoner by Pope Leo XIII, to grant apostolic blessings in the form of documents on parchment to the faithful who request them for certain occasions”.

New commission for Vatican communications

Vatican City, 30 April 2015 (VIS) – During the last meeting of the Council of Cardinals to assist the Holy Father in the governance of the universal Church and to draw up a plan for the revision of the apostolic constitution “Pastor bonus” on the Roman Curia (13-15 April 2015), the final report of the committee charged with proposing reform of Vatican communications, the so-called Vatican Media Committee (VMC), was examined.

The Council of Cardinals subsequently proposed to His Holiness the institution of a commission to study this final report and to suggest feasible approaches to its implementation. The proposal was favourably accepted by the Holy Father, who on 23 April decided to institute the commission and to appoint its members.

The new commission will be chaired by Msgr. Dario Edoardo Vigano, director of the Vatican Television Centre, and its members will be: Paolo Nusiner, director general of the daily newspaper “Avvenire”, Nuova Editoriale Italiana, Milan; Msgr. Lucio Adrian Ruiz, head of the Vatican Internet Service, directorate of Telecommunications of the Governorate of Vatican City State; Fr. Antonio Spadaro, S.J., director of “La Civiltà Cattolica”; and Msgr. Paul Tighe, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.

The international community must not resign itself to the tragedy of Christians in the Middle East

Vatican City, 30 April 2015 (VIS) – Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, spoke yesterday at the opening of the Symposium “Christians in the Middle East: what future?”, organised by the Sant'Egidio Community and the archdiocese of Bari-Bitonto, Italy.

In his address, the cardinal remarked that many Christians in the East, hearing just a few days ago the story of Pilate's famous gesture of washing his hands, “may have thought of the indifference and inaction to which the international community appears to have resigned itself before the tragedies that have for some years now been wearing away at Syria and Iraq”. He added, “it is also saddening to see the incapacity of leaders in Lebanon, even those who are Christians, to arrive at consensus on the new president on the basis of a line of conduct due less to conscience than to the weighty influences of the forces that compete for supremacy in the area”.

“We trust, however, that in the heart of all people, both in the West and in the East, the governor Pilate's poignant question remains alive: 'Quid est veritas?', 'What is truth?', followed by his search and service to it. The truth is first and foremost an act of removing every veil and covering from reality. It cannot be denied that if a solution has not yet been found it is certainly because the problems are many and complex, and also touch upon the internal relations between the different groups of Muslim faithful and between them and other religions present in the region, including Christians. But it is also legitimate to think that there are interests and balances of power and wealth that go before – seemingly without conceding a step – the mere survival, rather than the well-being, of the populations. And this is a scandal: let us remember what the Lord says, still today, to all the Cains on earth: 'What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground'.

Cardinal Sandri went on to mention that every year he launches an appeal, on behalf of the Holy Father, for support and aid to Christians in the Holy Land, a term that designates not only those who live within the borders of the State of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, but also all the places linked to salvation history, the area of Mesopotamia and Persia, where the apostles preached, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt, where the Holy Family sought refuge.

“But mentioning a presence thus configured must be an indication of a method also for discussion at other levels”, he added. “It is not possible to speak of stability in the Middle East without reference to the age-old question of Israel and Palestine, accepting that Christians are permitted to live relatively peacefully in both territories. On the other hand, there must be no doubt regarding the need for all States, including Israel, to exist and be protected, not threatened. It is the task of Christian pastors throughout the Middle East to help their faithful to grow in this knowledge, pouring abundant oil of consolation, forgiveness and mercy on the wounds of the recent past. If we do not move in this direction, there is no doubt that power-crazed groups such as ISIS will multiply, especially as they are supported with arms and resources by various interested parties”.

“The West appears to have lost, over the centuries, the capacity for conceiving of itself within a healthy religious framework of reference, and increasingly favours an exasperated secular model, if not indeed a true 'eclipse of God'. The destruction and horrors of the Middle East – which some wish to attribute exclusively to the religious factors – must not become an excuse to confirm this partial and mistaken vision, but rather a stimulus for rethinking the coexistence of and collaboration between different sectors of society for the full development of humanity”, concluded the prefect.

The participants in the symposium subsequently attended the Basilica of St. Nicholas, patron of Bari, where they prayed for the saint's intercession to bring an end to the suffering of Christians in the Middle East and to accompany the work of the Pan-Orthodox Council, to be held in Turkey in 2016.


Vatican City, 30 April 2015 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father received in audience Bishop Robert Francis Provost, apostolic administrator of Chiclayo, Peru.


Vatican City, 30 April 2015 (VIS) – We inform our readers that tomorrow, Friday 1 May, feast of St. Joseph the Worker and a holiday in the Vatican, the Vatican Information Service bulletin will not be transmitted. Service will resume on Monday, 4 May.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

General audience: the dignity of marriage

Vatican City, 29 April 2015 (VIS) – Following last Wednesday's catechesis on God's original plan for man and woman as a couple, the Pope spoke at today's general audience about marriage, recalling that Jesus' first miracle took place during the wedding at Cana, when He transformed water into wine and thus ensured that the celebrations could take place. “This fact reminds us of Genesis, when God completed His creation with his masterpiece: man and woman”, he said. “And Jesus began His miracles with this masterpiece, in marriage. … Thus Jesus teaches us that the masterpiece of society is the family: the man and the woman who love each other. ... Since that time, many things have changed but that 'sign' of Christ contains a message that remains valid”.

“Nowadays it does not seem easy to describe marriage as a celebration that is renewed over time, in the different seasons in the entire life of spouses. It is a fact that fewer people marry. Instead, in many countries the number of separations is increasing, while the number of children is in decline. The difficulty of staying together – both as a couple and as a family – leads to bonds being broken with increasing frequency and rapidity. … In effect, many young people are led to give up the plan of an irrevocable bond and a lasting family. There is a kind of culture of the provisional: everything is temporary, and it seems that nothing is permanent”.

For this reason, the Pope continued, one of the questions we must face nowadays is why young people do not choose to get married, and seem to have little confidence in marriage and in the family. “The difficulties are not only of an economic nature, although these are very important”, he observed. “Many people believe that the change that has taken place in recent decades was set in motion by the emancipation of women. But this argument is not valid either. It is an insult, a form of misogyny that seeks to subjugate women. If men behave in this way, we are like Adam, when God asked him who had eaten the fruit of the tree, and he said that the woman gave it to him”.

“In reality, almost all men and women would prefer emotional security in the form of a solid marriage and a happy family … but, for fear of failure, many do not even want to think about it. … Perhaps it is precisely that fear of failure that is the greatest obstacle to receiving the word of Christ, Who promises His grace to the matrimonial union and to the family”. However, “marriage consecrated by God preserves that bond between man and woman that God has blessed ever since the creation of the world; and it is a source of peace and good for all married and family life. For example, in the early times of Christianity, this great dignity of the bond between man and woman defeated an abuse considered to be entirely normal in those times, that is, the right of husbands to repudiate their wives, even for the most specious and humiliating reasons. The Gospel, the Gospel that announces this sacrament, ended this culture of habitual repudiation”.

“The Christian seed of radical equality between spouses must bear new fruit today”, emphasised the Holy Father. “The witness of the social dignity of marriage will become persuasive, the witness of reciprocity between husband and wife, of complementarity. .. And as Christians we must become more demanding in this respect. For example, in decisively supporting equal pay for equal work: inequality is a scandal. Why is it taken for granted that women should earn less than men? No! They have the same rights. At the same time, the maternity of women and the paternity of men should be recognised as a richness that remains valid, especially for the benefit of children. Equally, the virtue of hospitality in Christian families today retains a crucial importance, especially in situations of poverty, degradation and domestic violence”.

“Do not be afraid of inviting Jesus to the wedding celebrations! And also His Mother Mary!” exclaimed Pope Francis. “Christians, when they marry 'in the Lord', are transformed into an effective sign of God's love. Christians do not marry only for themselves: they marry in the Lord in favour of all the community, of society as a whole”.

The Pope sends a video message to guests at the Caritas centres

Vatican City, 29 April 2015 (VIS) – Yesterday evening in the Brancaccio theatre, Rome, the guests of the Caritas reception centre were the protagonists of the play “Se non fosse per te” (“If it were not for you”), directed by Carlo Del Giudice, which narrates their life stories. It recounts stories of love, disappointment and abandonment, but also of mutual love for children, parents, life and God. It offers a unique opportunity for dialogue between Rome and her most vulnerable citizens, in which Pope Francis wished to participate by sending a video message to the actors.

“The way in which you speak to the city offers a meaningful opportunity for dialogue and exchange. Between you, on the stage, displaying your hidden talents, assisted by expert professionals who have guided you as actors to enable your resources and potential to flourish – and those who are listen, surely amazed by the richness you offer. Whoever thought that a homeless person could be someone we can learn from? Whoever thought they could be a saint? Instead, this evening you transmit to us from the stage valuable teachings on love, on the needs of others, on solidarity, and on how to find, amid difficulties, the love of the Father”.

“Poverty is the great teaching that Jesus gave to us when he descended into the waters of the Jordan to be baptised by John the Baptist. He did not do so out of a need for penance, for conversion; He did so in order to be among the people, people in need of forgiveness, in the midst of us, sinners, in order to bear the burden of our sins. And this is the path He chose so as to console us, save us, liberate us from our misery. That which gives us true freedom, true salvation and true happiness is His love of compassion, tenderness and sharing. The Good Samaritan who lifts us up, beaten by robbers”.

“St. Gregory of Nyssa, a great theologian of antiquity, writes: 'Consider well who are the poor in the Gospel and discover their dignity; they wear the face of the Lord. In His mercy He has given them His own face'. And St. Augustine said, 'On earth Christ is hungry in the poor. You must fear Christ in heaven and recognise Him on earth; on earth He is poor, in heaven He is rich'”.

“I too wish to make these words my own. You are not a burden to us. You are the wealth without which our attempts to discover the face of the Lord are in vain. A few days after my election, I received from you a letter of well wishes and offers of prayer. I remember replying immediately, to tell you that I hold you in my heart and am at your disposal. I confirm those words. On that occasion I asked you to pray for me. I reiterate my request, as I am truly in need of your prayers”.

The Pope went on to thank all the workers of Caritas Rome. “I think of them as my hands, the hands of the bishop, in touching the Body of Christ. I also thank the many volunteers from the parishes of Rome and other parts of Italy. In this way they discover a world that requires attention and solidarity; men and women who seek affection, relationships, dignity, and with whom we can experience charity by learning to welcome, listen and give of ourselves”.

The Pope remarked that the city of Rome has in all times been distinguished by persons filled with God's love. “Let us think of St. Lawrence (his jewels were the poor) and St. Pammachius (a Roman senator who converted and devoted himself exclusively to the service of the least among us), St. Fabiola (the first to build a hostel for the poor in Porto), St. Philip Neri, Blessed Angelo Paoli, St. Joseph Labre (the 'beggar saint'), and Don Luigi di Liegro, founder of Caritas Rome. How I would like Rome to shine with 'pietas' for those who suffer, with welcome for those who flee from war and death, with willingness, smiles and magnanimity for those who have lost hope. How I would like the Church of Rome always to show herself to be an ever more attentive and caring mother to the weak. We all have weaknesses, all of us; everyone has their own. How I would like the parish communities in prayer, as a poor person enters the Church, to kneel in veneration as they do when the Lord enters! How I would like the flesh of Christ to be touched in the needy of this city”.

The Pope concluded his message by expressing his hope of meeting the actors personally, as occurred recently with the homeless in the Sistine Chapel, and he bestowed on them his blessing.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Pope greets UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences

Vatican City, 28 April 2015 (VIS) - Shortly after 9 a.m. this morning in the Casina Pio IV, seat of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the Holy Father briefly met with the United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon, present at the Academy for the subsequent opening presentation of the international workshop “Protect the Earth, dignify humanity. The moral dimensions of climate change and sustainable development”.

During the private audience the secretary of the United Nations, as he explained in the following press conference, expressed to the Pope his gratitude for having agreed to address the Assembly of the United Nations this coming 25 September and remarked that he was looking forward to the Holy Father’s discourse on the occasion and to his forthcoming encyclical. He also illustrated various aspects of the United Nations’ current commitment not only to environmental issues, but also to migrants and the dramatic humanitarian situations in the areas of the world affected by conflicts.

“Cor Unum” to send 100,000 dollars to earthquake-stricken Nepal

Vatican City, 28 April 2015 (VIS) – Following the earthquake that struck the territory of Nepal with extraordinary vehemence last weekend, the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” has undertaken to send a first contribution of 100 thousand dollars for aid to the population on behalf of the Holy Father.

This sum, which will be sent to the local Church, will be used to support aid operations for the displaced and other affected persons, and is intended as a first and immediate concrete expression of Pope Francis' “spiritual closeness and paternal encouragement” towards those afflicted, as he assured during the Regina Coeli of Sunday 26 April. Episcopal conferences and Catholic charitable entities are already extensively involved in humanitarian works.

According to the data currently available but not yet definitive, there have been more than 4,300 victims so far and approximately 7 million affected in 34 districts of Nepal, a million homeless, and around 2 million children in need of assistance. Numerous villages are isolated and aid has not yet reached them. The government has estimated that roughly 400 thousand buildings have been destroyed.


Vatican City, 28 April 2015 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father received in private audience Rafael Correa Delgado, president of the Republic of Ecuador, and entourage.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 28 April 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed:

- Rev. Fr. Edward Mapunda as bishop of Singida (area 49,341, population 1,500,000, Catholics 238,307, priests 67, religious 437), Tanzania. The bishop-elect was born in Mango, Tanzania in 1964, and was ordained a priest in 1997. He holds a Master's degree in education from the University of Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania and has served as formator and subsequently vice-rector of the minor seminary of Singida. He is currently bursar and diocesan delegate for health.

- Cardinal Dominique Mamberti, prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, as president of the Commission for Lawyers.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Queen Silvia of Sweden and her family visit the Pope

Vatican City, 27 April 2015 (VIS) – At 10 a.m. today, in the private Library of the Apostolic Palace, the Holy Father received in private audience Her Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden, accompanied by various family members and her entourage.

This afternoon, Her Majesty will participate in a workshop at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences organised by the Embassy of Sweden to the Holy See and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences on the theme of the fight against human trafficking, with particular attention to children. She will subsequently visit the Vatican Apostolic Library for the inauguration of the “distribution desk” realised with the contribution of the King Gustaf VI Adolf Foundation.

During the conversation, which took place mostly in Spanish, a language the Queen knows well, she informed the Pope of the activities she promotes in Sweden, especially for the benefit of children, and the Pope took the opportunity the express his gratitude for the welcome extended by Sweden to refugees and displaced persons. Among the gifts from Queen Silvia, the Pope received three small Swedish prayer books, also adapted for children. The religious education of her children has been particularly close to the sovereign's heart, and the Pope expressed his lively appreciation.

Princess Madeleine, with her husband and one year-old daughter Leonore, were also present in the Queen’s entourage, and the Pope therefore received the young family with particular affection.

The Pope praises the dynamism of the Church in Benin

Vatican City, 27 April 2015 (VIS) – The vitality of the Church, the pastoral ministry of the family, attention to priests and persons religious, and relations with the civil authorities are the central themes of the written discourse that the Pope handed to the bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Benin this morning, at the end of their “ad Limina” visit.

The Holy Father begins by praising the dynamism of parish life, the extensive participation of the faithful in ceremonies and the increase of vocations to the priesthood, but he also echoed the prelates' reports that it is at times superficial and lacking in solidity and strength. “Therefore, it is important that the desire for a profound knowledge of the Christian mystery not be the prerogative of an elite, but instead must inspire all faithful, as everyone is called to holiness. It is imperative that the Church in Benin resists and defeats the winds to the contrary that are rising throughout the world and do not fail to blow upon you too. I know that you are vigilant in the face of numerous ideological and media attacks. The spirit of secularisation is at work in your country too, although it is not yet very visible. Only a faith profoundly rooted in the heart of the faithful, and lived in a concrete way, will enable you to face this”.

One of the challenges to the Church in Benin is family pastoral ministry, to which the upcoming Synod will seek to respond. The Pope thanks the prelates of Benin for their prayers for this assembly, and for their mobilisation of the dioceses to participate in such important event. “I can only encourage you to continue with determination in the efforts you have undertaken to support families, both in their faith and in their daily life. I know that the pastoral ministry of marriage remains difficult, considering the real social and cultural situation of the people. However, do not be discouraged, but persevere tirelessly as the family in defence of the Catholic Church is a reality willed by God; it is a gift of God that brings joy, stability and happiness to people and to societies. It is an important challenge since the family, as the basic unit of both society and of the Church, is the place where authentic human and Gospel values are transmitted”.

The bishop of Rome then turns to the theme of the education of the younger generations, who must bring solidarity, justice and mutual respect to the society of the future. “It is necessary to promote in your country – without of course renouncing any of the Truth as revealed by the Lord – the encounter between cultures and dialogue between religions, especially with Islam. It is well known that Benin offers an example of harmony between the religions present in her territory. It is however wise to be vigilant, considering the current world climate, in order to conserve this fragile heritage. I am particularly pleased that an international colloquium on interreligious dialogue has been held, under the presidency of Cardinal Tauran, which was widely appreciated”.

“Your local Churches have a key role in promoting harmony and justice in the progress of the country”, Pope Francis observes. “But it is a role they also play in healthcare and human development. How much work is carried out in the name of the Gospel in your dioceses! While the global crisis is affecting many countries, it is necessary to go against the grain with courage, fighting against the throwaway culture that reaches everywhere and spreading the Gospel values of hospitality and encounter. The service of charity is a constitutive dimension of the mission of the Church, and it is an expression of her essence. However, it should be borne in mind that the spirit of the works accomplished by the Church has a specific nature that must be clearly identified: she never acts as a form of simple social aid, but rather as the manifestation of the tenderness and mercy of Jesus Himself, who tends to the wounds and weaknesses of His brothers. The joy of the Gospel is thus announced to humanity in the most effective way”.

The Pope thanks the priests of Benin for their generous service into the Gospel and mentions again the great number of vocations, a blessing from the Lord, and encourages the Church in Benin to share her resources with the Churches of other regions which are lacking. However, he writes, “when you send your priests to study or on missions elsewhere, do so with judgement, without forgetting the needs of your own Churches”.

The final paragraphs of the text are dedicated to the good relationship between the Church and the civil authorities in the country. “The voice of the Church is listened to and her action is appreciated. I invite you to continue to take your place fully in the public life of the country, especially in these times. I know you are engaged in constant work to encourage relations between the different components of society. I invite you to continue along this path, taking care not to enter directly into the political arena or party disputes. The conduct of public affairs remains the duty of the laity, whom you have the important duty of ceaselessly educating and encouraging”.

Ordination of nineteen new priests: imitate the Father, who never tires of forgiving

Vatican City, 26 April 2015 (VIS) – On the 52nd World Day of Prayer for Vocations, Pope Francis conferred priestly ordination to nineteen deacons: thirteen from the Roman diocesan seminaries (Pontifical Roman Major Seminary, “Redemptoris Mater” Diocesan College, Seminary of Our Lady of Divine Love) and six from other colleges. The Mass was concelebrated by the Holy Father and Cardinal Agostino Vallini, vicar general for the diocese of Rome, Archbishop Filippo Iannone, vicegerent, the auxiliary bishops, the superiors of the seminaries involved, and the deacons' parish priests.

During the liturgy of ordination, the Pope pronounced the homily for this rite, improvising some paragraphs. “These sons of ours are called to the order of the presbytery. It is good for us to reflect a little on the ministry to which they will be elevated within the Church. As you well know, the Lord Jesus is the sole Supreme Priest of the New Testament, but in Him also all the holy people of God is constituted as a priestly people. All of us! Nonetheless, among all His disciples, Jesus wishes to choose some in particular to publicly exercise priestly office on behalf of all mankind, thus continuing His personal mission as teacher, priest and pastor. … They have reflected on this, their vocation, and now they are to receive the ordination to the priesthood. And the bishop risks – risks! - and chooses them, just as the Father risked for each one of us”.

“And to you, who are about to be raised to the order of the presbytery, consider that by exercising the ministry of the Holy Doctrine you will participate in the mission of Christ, the sole master. Dispense to all that Word of God, that you yourselves have received with joy. Read and meditate diligently on the Word of the Lord so as to believe in what you have read, to teach what you have learnt in faith, to live what you have taught. And may this be the nourishment of the People of God; may your homilies never be dull; may your homilies arrive straight to the heart of the people as they come from your heart: what you say to them is what you have in your heart. In this way one offers the Word of the Lord, and in this way your doctrine will be joy and sustenance to Christ's faithful; the aroma of your life will be witness, as example edifies, whereas words without example are empty. They are ideas that never reach the heart and may even do harm; they do not do good”.

“When you celebrate Mass, acknowledge then what you are doing. Do not be hasty! Imitate what you celebrate – it is not an artificial rite. … With Baptism, you will add new faithful to the People of God. You must never refuse Baptism to those who ask for it. With the Sacrament of Penance you will forgive sins in the name of Christ and of the Church. And I, in the name of the Jesus Christ, the Lord, and His spouse, the Holy Church, I ask you never to tire of being merciful. You will be in the confessional to forgive, not to condemn! Imitate the Father, Who never tires of forgiving. With the holy oils you will bring relief to the sick. By celebrating the holy rites and raise at the different times of the day the prayers of praise and supplication, you will become the voice of the People of God and of the whole of humanity. Aware of having been chosen among men and constituted for their benefit to attend to matters of God, exercise Christ's priestly work with joy and sincere charity, intent solely on pleasing God and not yourselves. A priest who lives to please himself, who acts like a peacock, is unpleasant”.

“Finally, participating in Christ's mission as Head and Pastor in filial communion with your bishop, make efforts to unite the faithful in a single family – you are ministers of unity in the Church and in the family – to lead them to God the Father by means of Christ in the Holy Spirit”, he concluded, adding. “and always keep before your eyes the example of the Good Shepherd, Who did not come to be served, but to serve; not to remain in comfort, but to reach out to seek and save what was lost”.

Regina Coeli: contemplation and thanksgiving are not enough – we must follow the Good Shepherd

Vatican City, 26 April 2015 (VIS) – At the end of the celebration of Holy Mass for new vocations, Pope Francis appeared at the window of his study in the Vatican Apostolic Palace to pray this Sunday's Regina Coeli with the faithful gathered in the square. Beforehand the Holy Father spoke about the figure of Jesus, the Good Shepherd in Whom we contemplate God's Providence.

“The Father gave us the greatest and most precious gift He could give. It is the highest and purest love, as it is not motivated by any need, it is not conditioned by any calculation, it is not attracted by any interest to receive in exchange. Before this love of God, we experience immense joy and open ourselves up to the the acknowledgement of what we have freely received. But contemplating and giving thanks are not enough. We must also follow the Good Shepherd. In particular, those who have the mission of guides in the Church – priests, bishops, popes – are called upon to assume not the mentality of a manager but rather that of a servant, in imitation of Jesus Who, despoiling Himself, saved us with His mercy. The new priests of the diocese of Rome, whom I have had the joy of ordaining this morning in St. Peter's Basilica, are also called to this style of pastoral life”.

The Pope invited two of the newly ordained priests to appear at the window to greet the people and to thank the faithful for their ordination, and he asked that Our Lady might obtain for him, for the bishops and the priests of all the world the grace of serving the holy people of God through the joyful preaching of the Gospel, heartfelt celebration of the Sacraments and patient and gentle pastoral guidance”.

Following the Marian prayer, the Pope assured his closeness to those affected by the powerful earthquake in Nepal and neighbouring countries. “I pray for the victims, for the injured, and for all those who suffer as a result of this disaster”, he said. “May they have the support of fraternal solidarity. And let us pray to Our Lady to be close to them”.

Telegram for the earthquake in Nepal

Vatican City, 26 April 2015 (VIS) – Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin has sent a telegram of condolences on behalf of the Holy Father to Bishop Paul Simick, of the apostolic vicariate of Nepal, for the victims of the earthquake that struck the country and neighbouring India, Tibet and Bangladesh.

“His Holiness Pope Francis was deeply saddened to learn of the earthquake and the resultant loss of many hundreds of lives in Nepal, as well as in neighbouring countries. He expresses his solidarity with all affected by this disaster and assures those who grieve for deceased family members of his closeness in prayer. His Holiness commends the souls of the victims to the loving mercy of the Almighty and he offers encouragement to the civil authorities and emergency personnel as they continue their rescue efforts and assistance to those touched by this tragedy. Upon them all he invokes the blessings of the Almighty as a pledge of healing and consolation”.

To the John Paul II Foundation: nurture solidarity with Christian fraternity

Vatican City, 25 April 2015 (VIS) - “The canonisation of John Paul II has given a new impulse to your work in the service of the Church and evangelisation. It has rendered it, if possible, even more universal. And you offer a valuable contribution to ensuring that the spiritual legacy of this Pope saint may continue to make fertile the great field of the Church and to support her path through history”, said the Pope this morning to the members of the John Paul II Foundation, whom he received in audience in the Sala Clementina of the Apostolic Palace.

Francis thanked them for their initiatives in the educational field, recalling John Paul II's great love for the young. “You contribute to ensuring that his charism and his paternity continue to bear fruit”, he remarked, also emphasising the valuable opportunities they offer to priests and laypeople to enhance their formation, to be better prepared and to accompany communities in facing the cultural and pastoral challenges of our times.

“It is enough to think of one of the key words of his teaching, 'solidarity': a word that some people thought ought to become obsolete, but which in reality still retains all its prophetic force”, he continued. “Therefore, it is important that you, first of all, in your 'network' of the Circles of Friends of the Foundation, live this solidarity among yourselves, nurturing it continually with Christian fraternity, inspired in turn by prayer and obedience to the Word of God”.


Vatican City, 27 April 2015 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father received in audience:

- Professor Riccardo Di Segni, Chief Rabbi of Rome;

- Archbishop Bruno Musaro, apostolic nuncio to the Arab Republic of Egypt and Holy See delegate at the League of Arab States;

- Archbishop Giorgio Lingua, apostolic nuncio to Cuba;

- Ten prelates of the Episcopal Conference of Benin, on their “ad Limina” visit:

- Archbishop Antoine Ganye of Cotonou;

- Bishop Eugene Cyrille Houndekon of Abomey;

- Bishop Francois Gnonhossou, S.M.A., of Dassa-Zoume;

- Bishop Victor Agbanou of Lokossa;

- Archbishop Pascal N'Koue of Parakou;

- Bishop Paul Kouassivi Vieira of Djougou;

- Bishop Clet Feliho of Kandi;

- Bishop Antoine Sabi Bio of Natitingou;

- Bishop Martin Adjou Moumouni of N'Dali;

- Rev. Jean-Benoit Gnambode, diocesan administrator of Porto Novo.

On Saturday, 25 April, the Holy Father received in audience:

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

- Guillermo Leon Escobar Herran, new ambassador of Colombia to the Holy See, presenting his letters of credence;

- Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto, apostolic nuncio to the Philippines;

- Msgr. Fernando Chica Arellano, Holy See permanent observer at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (F.A.O.), International Fund for Agricultural Development (I.F.A.D.), and World Food Programme (W.F.P.);

- Bishop Antonio Augusto dos Santos Marto of Leiria-Fatima, Portugal.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 27 April 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City, U.S.A., as metropolitan archbishop of Sante Fe (area 158,296, population 1,473,000, Catholics 328,850, priests 207, permanent deacons 215, religious 269), U.S.A. He succeeds Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same archdiocese upon reaching the age limit was accepted by the Holy Father.

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Pope receives the president of the Czech Republic: strengthen collaboration in areas of common interest

Vatican City, 24 April 2015 (VIS) – This morning in the Vatican Apostolic Palace the Holy Father Francis received in audience the president of the Czech Republic, Milos Zeman, who subsequently met with Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, secretary for Relations with States.

During the cordial discussions, which took place on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the restoration of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the then-Czech and Slovak Federative Republic, which took place on 19 April 1990, mutual willingness to strengthen the good bilateral relations was confirmed, along with the hope of concluding negotiations with a view to stipulating a bilateral Agreement. The Parties expressed their wish to further develop cooperation between Church and State in sectors of mutual interest, especially in culture, education and social welfare, for the benefit of the entire nation.

Attention then turned to the current international context, with special attention to the situation of Christians and other minorities in the Middle East.

“Ad Limina” visit of the bishops of Lesotho and Namibia: be generous in bringing Christ's tenderness to those who suffer

Vatican City, 24 April 2015 (VIS) – Today Pope Francis received in audience the bishops of Lesotho and Namibia, “lands known for their flourishing Christian faith”, at the end of the “ad Limina” visit. In the written discourse he handed to the prelates, the Pope recalled the labours and sacrifices of many missionaries, who were supported by generations of indigenous companions in lands which have often presented great challenges, both environmental and social, but which are known for their churches and chapels, parishes, mission stations and outstations, “which draw many to a community life centred on prayer and work”.

“Renowned too are your numerous schools at every level, your clinics and hospitals, built with love and faithfulness from the materials of Namibia’s soil and Lesotho’s mountains. I encourage you to continue supporting and nurturing these great blessings, even when resources are sparse, for the Lord promises that he will not fail to bless us”.

He continued, “I know that your communities face many challenges daily, and I am sure that this weighs heavily on your hearts. Strengthen them in love to overcome selfishness in private or public life; be generous in bringing them the tenderness of Christ where threats to human life occur, from the womb to old age – and I think particularly of those suffering with HIV and AIDS”. He encouraged them to “not only win them to the cause of Christ but also make them protagonists of a renewed African society”.

The Pope goes on to mention Christian families that are fragmented due to employment far away from home, or because of separation or divorce and urged the bishops to continue offering them help and guidance, preparing couples for Christian marriage, and constantly sustaining families by offering generously the Church’s Sacraments, especially the Sacrament of mercy. “I thank you for your efforts in promoting healthy family life in the face of distorted views that emerge in contemporary society. … The family is the best setting for learning and applying the culture of forgiveness, peace and reconciliation. … From healthy families will come numerous priestly vocations, families where men have learned to love inasmuch as they have been unconditionally loved ...having learned respect, justice, the role of authority expressed by parents and loving concern”.

“In a time of an apparent decrease in vocations to the priesthood and to religious life, it is important to speak openly about the fulfilling and joyful experience of offering one’s life to Christ”, continues the Holy Father. “For when your Christian communities are built up by your own continued example of 'living in truth and joy your priestly commitments, celibacy in chastity and detachment from material possessions', then vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life will most certainly abound”. He thanks God for “the continued witness and service of so many communities of religious brothers and sisters who are vital to the praying heart of the Church, along with the many committed sodalities and other lay associations of the Church in Lesotho and Namibia”. He also notes, when developing pastoral plans, in paying careful spiritual attention to the poorest in society. “I ask you to be particularly mindful of those most in need in your Churches, entrusting all your initiatives to God's care”.

Finally, he exhorts the bishops to “persevere as men of deep and constant prayer, in the way of Blessed Joseph Gerard, who listened to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in all matters. Prayer precedes and leads to authentic evangelisation. As you know from experience, when the Church summons all Christians to constantly take up anew the task of evangelising the world, 'she is simply pointing to the source of authentic personal fulfilment'; that is, she is showing us the path to our deepest happiness”.

The Holy See at the United Nations: condemnation of violence against women in armed conflict

Vatican City, 23 April 2015 (VIS) – Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Holy See permanent observer at the United Nations, spoke during the Security Council open debate on “Women, peace security” in New York on 15 April 2015.

“Women are not spared any of the brutal consequences of war, and are additionally subject to uniquely degrading and traumatising attacks and long-term consequences”, said the prelate. “It is only just and reasonable that their voice should be present and influential in the work of preventing and resolving violence and war. It is well documented that sexual violence of many kinds accompanies modern warfare. We all know the awful litany: women are raped and trafficked, forced into prostitution to earn a living, and terrorised individually and in their roles as protectors of their children and other vulnerable family members. All violence against human life is terrible, but sexual violence is intended to debase, dehumanise, demoralise – in a unique way. The consequences are profound and long lasting – physical as well as psychological”.

The nuncio remarked that this last year has been notable for the “new and ongoing atrocities involving sexual violence in various conflicts and by groups such as Boko Haram and the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Some are also attacks upon women and girls purely because of the faith they profess. Although this is of very serious concern today for Christians, surely this is a matter where our shared human nature, across all religions and cultures, cries out for common commitment of members of all faiths and governments, strongly to condemn and confront such heinous acts, and to step forward to protect those threatened”.

“It seems that, in the past several years, there has emerged a greater international consciousness of the scourge of human trafficking, and even increased responses” he continued. “It is to be hoped that there will be an ever greater appreciation of what Pope Francis has called the 'trauma', affecting both 'body and spirit', of rape as a tool of war. To adapt an observation made by His Holiness, a two point drop in the stock market is front page news, while the violation of hundreds or even thousands of women would go unreported”.

The Holy See delegation therefore supports the processes identified in successive reports issued by the Secretary General, as essential for ensuring justice to women assaulted in conflict: effective investigation and documentation; consistent and rigorous prosecution; and ongoing investigation and responsibility regarding the root causes of sexual and other violence in armed conflict. “We support efforts to bring adequate legal, medical and social services to the particular women affected, to witnesses and survivors, and to their family members. Because of the Catholic Church’s permanent local presence in the areas of the world most affected by disasters, a network of Catholic institutions and agencies respond rapidly and effectively to address the consequence of violence in armed conflict. It is always distressing, however, to see that some are still promoting the abortion of unborn children as part of the 'treatment' or response to the attack of their mothers. This contradicts the peace and security mission of the United Nations, and proposes to meet violence with more violence”.

Archbishop Auza concluded, “It has been observed many times at this body, and it is true, that women are not only victims but also necessary agents and contributors in the work of preventing and resolving conflicts. Without their contributions, government, negotiators and civil society groups can neither understand the problems, nor propose effective solutions. Moreover, it is important to continue in every Member State the steady and patient work of achieving structural justice for women in every sector of society. A proper vision of women’s roles in society, and an integration of women in every social sector, are crucial aspects of the prevention of violence”.


Vatican City, 24 April 2015 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father received in audience:

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

- Ana Maria Freire;

- Seven prelates of the Namibia and Lesotho Catholic Bishops' Conferences, on their “ad Limina” visit:

- Archbishop Liborius Ndumbukuti Nashenda, O.M.I. of Windhoek, Namibia;
- Bishop Philipp Pollitzer, O.M.I., of Keetmanshoop, Namibia;
- Bishop Joseph Shipandeni Shikongo, O.M.I., apostolic vicar of Rundu, Namibia;
- Archbishop Gerard Tlali Lerotholi, O.M.I., of Maseru, Lesotho;
- Bishop Augustinus Tumaole Bane, O.M.I., of Leribe, Lesotho;
- Bishop John Joale Tlhomola, S.C.P., of Mohale's Hoek, Lesotho;
- Bishop Joseph Mopeli Sephamola, O.M.I., of Qacha's Nek, Lesotho.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 24 April 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed:

- Rev. Fr. Edward C. Malesic as bishop of Greensburg (area 8,632, population 704,000, Catholics 166,200, priests 205, permanent deacons 2, religious 350), U.S.A. The bishop-elect was born in Harrisburg, U.S.A. in 1960, and was ordained a priest in 1987. He holds a licentiate in canon law from the Catholic University of America, Washington D.C., and has served in a number of pastoral roles in the diocese of Harrisburg, including deputy priest, chaplain of the York College and the Millersville University; auditor; defender of the bond and canonical consultor of the ecclesiastical tribunal; and adjunct judicial vicar. He is currently parish priest of the Holy Infant Parish in York Haven, and judicial vicar. He succeeds Bishop Lawrence E. Brandt, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese upon reaching the age limit has been accepted by the Holy Father.

- Bishop Josef Graf as auxiliary of the diocese of Regensburg (area 14,665, population 1,712,000, Catholics 1,207,706, priests 953, permanent deacons 108, religious 477), Germany. The bishop-elect was born in Riedenburg, Germany in 1957 and was ordained a priest in 1983. He holds as doctorate in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, and has served as parish vicar in Regensburg-Reinhausen. He is currently spiritual director of the major seminary of Regensburg. In 2007 he was named Chaplain of His Holiness.

- Msgr. Piergiorgio Bertoldi, nunciature counsellor, as apostolic nuncio to Burkina Faso and Niger, at the same time elevating him to the dignity of archbishop.

On Thursday, 23 April, the Holy Father appointed Rev. Fr. Brendan Cahill as bishop of Victoria in Texas (area 23,573, population 292,229, Catholics 119,600, priests 62, permanent deacons 39, religious 88), U.S.A. The bishop-elect was born in 1963 in Coral Gables, U.S.A., and was ordained a priest in 1990. He holds a doctorate in dogmatic theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University. He has served in a number of pastoral roles, including parish vicar, rector of the “St. Mary” seminary in Houston, archdiocesan director of the Secretariat for Clergy Formation and Chaplaincy Services, head of the Priests Personnel Board, and member of the presbyteral council. He is currently vicar for the clergy of the same diocese. He succeeds Bishop David E. Fellhauer, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese upon reaching the age limit was accepted by the Holy Father.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

General audience: man and woman, complementary and of the same divine substance

Vatican City, 22 April 2015 (VIS) – Pope Francis dedicated his catechesis at today's Wednesday general audience to the second chapter of Genesis, in which we read that God created man as the culmination of all Creation and placed him in a beautiful garden so that he could cultivate it. “The Holy Spirit, who inspires all the Bible, suggests for a moment the image of man alone, without woman”, said the Pontiff. “And it suggests the thought of God, almost the sentiments of God as He watches him, as He observes Adam alone in the garden: he is free, he is the master, but … he is alone. And God sees that this is not good; it is a lack of communion, a lack of fullness. 'It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him'”.

When after presenting all the other creatures, God finally presents woman to Adam, “the man joyfully recognises that creature, and only her, to be part of him: 'bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh'. Finally there is reflection, reciprocity. The woman is not a replica of man; she comes directly from God's gesture of creation. Indeed, the image of the 'rib' does not imply inferiority or subordination, but on the contrary, that man and woman are of the same substance and are complementary. And the fact that, again in the parable, God forms woman while man is sleeping, underlines that she is in no way a creation of man, but of God”.

God's trust in man and woman, to whom He entrusts the earth, is generous, direct and full. “He trusts them. But here there is the evil one who introduces suspicion, incredulity and distrust into their minds. And finally, they arrive at the point of disobeying the commandment that protects them. They give in to the delirium of omnipotence that contaminates everything and destroys harmony”.

“Sin generates diffidence and division between man and woman. Their relationship is undermined by a thousand forms of abuse and subjection, of deceptive seduction and humiliating arrogance, including the most tragic and violent. History bears their traces. Let us think, for instance, of the negative excesses of patriarchal culture. Think of the exploitation and commodification of the female body in the media in contemporary culture. But let us also think of the recent epidemic of distrust, scepticism and even hostility that is spreading in our culture – starting in particular from a comprehensible diffidence on the part of women – with regard to the alliance between man and woman that is able, at the same time, to refine the intimacy of communion and safeguard the dignity of difference”.

“If we do not find a wave of sympathy for this alliance, able to protect new generations from distrust and indifference, the children who come into the world will be increasingly rooted in it”, warned the bishop of Rome. “The social devaluation of the stable and generative alliance of man and woman is certainly a loss for all. We must restore honour to marriage and the family”.

“The stewardship of this alliance of man and woman, even if they are sinners and wounded, confused and humiliated, distrustful and uncertain, is therefore for us as believers a demanding and exciting vocation. The account of creation and sin, at the end, offers us a beautiful image: 'And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them'. It is an image of tenderness towards the couple, sinners as they were, that leaves us speechless. It is an image of the paternal protection of the human couple. God Himself cares for and protects His finest creation”, concluded the Pope.

On Earth Day, the Pope invites us to see the world through God's eyes

Vatican City, 22 April 2015 (VIS) – In the multi-lingual greetings at the end of today's catechesis, the Pope addressed among others the Polish pilgrims who tomorrow celebrate the solemnity of St. Adalbert, whose martyrdom more than a thousand years ago formed the foundation of his church and his nation. St. John Paul II described him as an “incomparable inspiration for those who today work to build a Europe renewed in the faith of her cultural and religious roots”. “May the heavenly protection of the patron of Poland confirm you in your faith and intercede for the peace and development of your homeland”.

Addressing the Italian faithful present, he also mentioned that today is Earth Day, and he urged all to “see the world through the eyes of God the Creator: the earth is the environment to protect and the garden to cultivate. The relationship between man and nature must not be governed by greed, manipulation and exploitation, but rather should preserve the divine harmony between creatures and creation, in the logic of respect and care, to place it at the service of our brothers and for future generations”.

Pope Francis' trip to Cuba confirmed

Vatican City, 22 April 2015 (VIS) – The director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., today issued the following declaration:

“I am able to confirm that the Holy Father Francis, having received and accepted the invitation from the civil authorities and bishops of Cuba, has decided to pay a visit to the island before his arrival in the United States for the trip announced some time ago”.

Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue: make space for dialogue with Muslims, now more than ever

Vatican City, 22 April 2015 (VIS) – The following is the full text of a Declaration published this morning by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue:

“The events of recent times cause many of us to ask: 'Is there still space for dialogue with Muslims?'. The answer is: yes, more than ever.

Firstly because the great majority of Muslims themselves do not identify with the current acts of barbarism.

Unfortunately today the word 'religious' is often associated with the word 'violence', whereas believers must demonstrate that religions are required to be heralds of peace and not violence.

To kill in the name of religion is not only an offence to God, but it is also a defeat for humanity. On 9 January 2006 Pope Benedict XVI, addressing the Diplomatic Corps and speaking about the danger of clashes between civilisations and in particular organised terrorism, affirmed that 'No situation can justify such criminal activity, which covers the perpetrators with infamy, and it is all the more deplorable when it hides behind religion, thereby bringing the pure truth of God down to the level of the terrorists’ own blindness and moral perversion'.

Unfortunately in recent days we have witnessed a radicalisation of community and religious discourse, with the consequent risks of increasing hatred, violence, terrorism and the growing and commonplace stigmatisation of Muslims and their religion.

In such a context we are called upon to strengthen fraternity and dialogue. Believers have formidable potential for peace, if we believe that man was created by God and that humanity is a single family; and even more so if we believe, as we Christians do, that God is Love. Continuing to engage in dialogue, even when experiencing persecution, can become a sign of hope. Believers do not wish to impose their vision of humanity and of history, but rather seek to propose respect for differences, freedom of thought and religion, the protection of human dignity, and love for truth.

We must have the courage to review the quality of family life, the methods of teaching religion and history, and the contain of sermons in our places of worship. Above all, family and schools are the key to ensuring that tomorrow’s world will be based on mutual respect and brotherhood.

Uniting our voice to that of Pope Francis, we say: 'any violence which seeks religious justification warrants the strongest condemnation because the Omnipotent is the God of life and peace. The world expects those who claim to adore God to be men and women of peace who are capable of living as brothers and sisters, regardless of ethnic, religious, cultural or ideological differences' (Ankara, 28 November 2014)”.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 22 April 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed Bishop Eduardo Pinheiro Da Silva, S.D.B., auxiliary of the archdiocese of Campo Grande, Brazil, as bishop of Jaboticabal (area 5,175, population 486,000, Catholics 366,000, priests 66, permanent deacons 1, religious 88), Brazil.

Yesterday, 21 April, the Holy Father appointed Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, U.S.A., as apostolic administrator “sede vacante” of the diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.


Vatican City, 22 April 2015 (VIS) – We inform our readers that tomorrow, feast day of St. George, patron of the Holy Father, the Vatican Information Service Bulletin will not be transmitted. Service will resume on Friday 24 April.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Pope participates in the suffering and consternation of the Orthodox Patriarch of Ethiopia for the recent slaughter of Christians

Vatican City, 21 April 2015 (VIS) – Yesterday afternoon Pope Francis sent a message to the Patriarch of the Ethiopian Tewahedo Orthodox Church, His Holiness Abuna Matthias, upon hearing of the slaughter of 28 Ethiopian Christians kidnapped in Libya by the group ISIS.

“With great distress and sadness I learn of the further shocking violence perpetrated against innocent Christians in Libya. I know that Your Holiness is suffering deeply in heart and mind at the sight of your faithful children being killed for the sole reason that they are followers of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. I reach out to you in heartfelt spiritual solidarity to assure you of my closeness in prayer at the continuing martyrdom being so cruelly inflicted on Christians in Africa, the Middle East and some parts of Asia.

It makes no difference whether the victims are Catholic, Copt, Orthodox or Protestant. Their blood is one and the same in their confession of Christ! The blood of our Christian brothers and sisters is a testimony which cries out to be heard by everyone who can still distinguish between good and evil. All the more this cry must be heard by those who have the destiny of peoples in their hands.

At this time we are filled with the Easter joy of the disciples to whom the women had brought the news that 'Christ has risen from the dead'. This year, that joy – which never fades – is tinged with profound sorrow. Yet we know that the life we live in God’s merciful love is stronger than the pain all Christians feel, a pain shared by men and women of good will in all religious traditions.

With heartfelt condolences I exchange with Your Holiness the embrace of peace in Christ Our Lord”.

Collaboration agreements with UNICEF and CONMEBOL in favour of Scholas Occurrentes, signed before the Holy Father

Vatican City, 21 April 2015 (VIS) – This morning, in the Domus Sanctae Marthae and in the presence of Pope Francis, the executive director of UNICEF, Anthony Lake, and the deputy president of CONMEBOL signed two collaboration agreements in favour of Scholas Occurrentes, the educational network supported by the Holy Father.

UNICEF is the United Nations Children's Fund, and CONMEBOL the South American Football Confederation. Scholas Occurrentes is a the first worldwide initiative with the aim of promoting integration and peace between peoples through education, connecting more than 400,000 schools and educational networks, both public and private and of all religions. The five-year collaboration with UNICEF will be based on the broadening of access for young children, especially the most disadvantaged, to technology, sport and the arts – platforms for education, participation and the building of peace, enabling the young to learn about themselves, others and the world that surrounds them.

Scholas and UNICEF will initially cooperate in a series of joint activities worldwide, with the special aim of bringing an end to violence and promoting the connectedness of all young people, making the most of the unique capacities of each person to favour the participation of adolescents and to broaden their access to the tools and information they need to be connected, to communicate and to collaborate.

The two organisations will explore the bonds between their respective platforms for mobilisation on social networks and communication media, and will support both digital campaigns and social movements in aid of the most disadvantaged children. The specific collaboration projects include involvement in the Scholas network in terms of content and opportunities for the participation by young people in “The young express their own opinion”, UNICEF's online space for adolescents and young people. UNICEF will also adapt the U-Report for the Scholas global community, which will enable its members to join the 500,000 or so young people who already use the mobile-based platform to speak about their interests and to participate.

The organisations will also develop new opportunities for collaboration in relation to major events centred on world youth, such as the Summit on the Social Impact of Youth, to be held during the Summer Games of the Special Olympics in 2015 in Los Angeles. In 2016, the association will begin to explore initiatives at regional, national and community levels, including campaigns to raise awareness and joint promotional activities linked to issues affecting millions of disadvantaged adolescents.

In memoriam

Vatican City, 20 April 2015 (VIS) – The following prelates have died in recent weeks:

- Bishop Andre Vallee, P.M.E., emeritus of Hearst, Canada, on 28 February at the age of 84.

- Cardinal Edward Michael Egan, archbishop emeritus of New York, U.S.A, on 5 March at the age of 82.

- Bishop Antonio Dorado Soto, emeritus of Malaga, Spain, on 17 March at the age of 83.

- Bishop Malachy John Goltok, of Bauchi, Nigeria, on 21 March at the age of 49.

- Archbishop Ennio Appignanesi, emeritus of Potenza-Muro Lucano-Marsico Nuovo Italy, on 26 March at the age of 89.

- Bishop Alonso Llano Ruiz, emeritus of Istmina-Tado, Colombia, on 26 March at the age of 83.

- Bishop Juan Carlos Maccarone, emeritus of Santiago del Estero, Argentina, on 29 March at the age of 74.

- Bishop Alberto Ricardo da Silva, emeritus of Dili, East Timor, on 2 April at the age of 71.

- Bishop William Benedict Friend, emeritus of Shreveport, U.S.A. on 2 April at the age of 83.

- Archbishop Luis María Perez de Onraita Aguirre, emeritus of Malanje, Angola on 3 April at the age of 81.

- Bishop Eugene Moke Motsuri , auxiliary emeritus of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, on 6 April at the age of 99.

- Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte, archbishop emeritus of Montreal, Canada, on 8 April at the age of 78.

- Bishop Joao Alves dos Santos, O.F.M. Cap., of Paranagua, Brazil, on 9 April at the age of 58.

-Bishop Elmo Noel Joseph Perera, emeritus of Galle, Sri Lanka, on 9 April at the age of 82.

- Bishop Antonio Alberto Guimaraes Rezende, C.S.S., emeritus of Caetite, Brazil, on 13 April at the age of 89.

- Cardinal Roberto Tucci, S.J., on 14 April, at the age of 93.

- Bishop Felice Leonardo, emeritus of Cerreto Sannita-Telese-Sant’Agata de’ Goti, Italy, on 15 April at the age of 100

- Cardinal Francis Eugene George, O.M.I., archbishop emeritus of Chicago, U.S.A., on 17 April at the age of 78.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Ad Limina visit of the bishops of Gabon: evangelise the customs and socio-political realities of your country

Vatican City, 18 April 2015 (VIS) – “In this jubilee year that commemorates several events in the life of the Church in Gabon, including the 170th anniversary of her foundation, I wish to greet and encourage your priests, men and women religious and other pastoral agents who collaborate with you, as well as the lay faithful of your dioceses, whom I join in prayer and thanksgiving”, writes the Holy Father in the discourse he handed this morning to the bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Gabon, at the end of their “ad Limina” visit.

“The courageous missionaries who preached the Gospel in your land, in heroic conditions, and also the first Christians of Gabon, who welcomed the Good News of salvation with a generous heart and bore witness to it, often facing great adversity, are the pioneers of your local Church. Their memory, their zeal and their evangelical witness must never cease to inspire you in your pastoral action, and constitute for the Church of Gabon the source of a renewed commitment to the announcement of the Gospel, as a message of peace, joy and salvation that liberates man from the forces of evil to guide him to the Kingdom of God”.

“To carry out the ministry that has been entrusted to you in each of your dioceses requires you to live in authentic fraternity within your Episcopal Conference”, he continues. “Fraternal collaboration must make it possible to respond better to needs such as the challenges of the Church and to assure, with a collegial spirit, service to the common good all society. In this regard, you have recently taken the initiative of establishing a day of prayer for your country. The Church thus shows that she shares in the concerns of all Gabonese and that the Christian message, far from deterring humanity from building an ever more just and fraternal world, makes doing so a duty. The Centre for Studes for Social Doctrine and Interreligious Dialogue, established in 2011 in Libreville, also shows your concern for evangelising customs and the socio-political realities of your country”.

“The unity of the presbytery with the bishop is an example that gives the faithful the sense of the Church as the family of God. This must be translated in particular into great care to immunise them against the insidious danger of tribal and ethnic discrimination, which are the very negation of the Gospel. This spirit of communion is especially expressed in the fraternal care that you dedicate to the life and the mission of your priests. … The candidates to the priesthood also need … effective accompaniment in the indispensable and complex process of the discernment of vocations. This discernment and the formation of seminarians must be anchored first to the Gospel, and then to the true cultural values of their country, on the sense of honesty, responsibility and the given word. … Men and women religious, who since the founding of the Church in Gabon have displayed extraordinary apostolic zeal in the service of the Gospel, are also entitled to privileged and affectionate attention from you … that may be manifested in constructive dialogue and permanent collaboration at all levels with them, as well as in spiritual closeness and the promotion of different charisms within your dioceses”.

The bishop of Rome encourages the prelates to continue in their efforts to “awaken in the laity the sense of their Christian vocation, and to urge them to develop their charisms in order to put them to the service of the Church and of society. The Church is missionary by nature. … Therefore, the human and Christian formation of the laity is an important way of contributing to the work of the evangelisation and development of the people, always endeavouring to adopt an 'outbound' approach towards social peripheries. It is also necessary to present to the young the true face of Christ, their friend and guide, so that they find in Him a solid anchorage to resist ideologies and sects as well as the illusions of a false modernity and the mirage of material wealth”.

“In this regard, it is important to maintain the prestige of Catholic educational institutions in your country, by way of a formation that is increasingly inspired by the spirit of the Gospel. The 2001 Agreement between the Holy See and the Gabonese Republic on the Status of Catholic Education offers valuable support to the local Church, favouring the promotion of each and every person, with a preferential option for the poorest. I encourage you, therefore, not to hesitate in raising your voice to defend the human person and the sacred nature of life”. The Holy Father concludes, “In this time of preparation for the upcoming Synod of Bishops on the family, I invite you to pray and to ask for prayer for a good outcome, to better serve all families”.

Pope Francis receives the Conference of European Rabbis

Vatican City, 20 April 2015 (VIS) – For the first time a delegation of the Conference of European Rabbis, presided by Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, has met with the Successsor of Peter in the Vatican. Pope Francis, who received them this morning, expressed his joy at this event, and at the same time offered his condolences, which he extended to the Jewish community of Rome, for the death yesterday of the ex Grand Rabbi of Rome, Elio Toaff, a “man of peace and dialogue”, who received Pope John Paul II during his historical visit to the Great Synagogue of Rome in April 1986. For this reason, the current Chief Rabbi of Rome, Riccardo Di Segni, was not present at the meeting.

In his address to the delegation, the Pope emphasised that the dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Jewish communities continues to progress as it has for half a century; 28 October will mark the fiftieth anniversary of the conciliar Declaration Nostra Aetate, which is still the reference point for efforts in this regard. “With gratitude to the Lord, may we recall these years, rejoicing in our progress and in the friendship which has grown between us”, he said.

“Today, in Europe, it is more important than ever to emphasise the spiritual and religious dimension of human life”, he continued. “In a society increasingly marked by secularism and threatened by atheism, we run the risk of living as if God did not exist. People are often tempted to take the place of God, to consider themselves the criterion of all things, to control them, to use everything according to their own will. It is so important to remember, however, that our life is a gift from God, and that we must depend on him, confide in him, and turn towards him always. Jews and Christians have the blessing but also the responsibility to help preserve the religious sense of the men and women of today, and that of our society, by our witness to the sanctity of God and human life. God is holy, and the life he has given is holy and inviolable”.

Francis voiced his concerns regarding increasing anti-Semitism and acts of hatred and violence in Europe, and affirmed that “every Christian must be firm in deploring all forms of anti-Semitism, and in showing their solidarity with the Jewish people”. He also referred to the recent seventieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the concentration camp which has come to be synonymous with the great tragedy of the Shoah. The memory of what took place there, in the heart of Europe, is a warning to present and future generations. Acts of hatred and violence against Christians and the faithful of other religions must likewise be condemned everywhere”.

“Dear friends”, he concluded, “I heartily thank you for this very significant visit. I extend my best wishes to your communities, with the assurance of my closeness and prayers. And, please, do not forget to pray for me. Shalom alechem!”.

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