Vatican Information Service

The Pope decrees that not only men may be chosen for the washing of the feet in the Liturgy of Holy Thursday


Vatican City, 21 January 2016 (VIS) – The Holy Father has written a letter, dated 20 Decemberand published today, to Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, in which he decrees that from now on, the people chosen for the washing of the feet in the liturgy of Holy Thursday may be selected from all the People of God, and not only men and boys.

The Pope writes to the cardinal that he has for some time reflected on the "rite of the washing of the feet contained in the Liturgy of the Mass in Coena Domini, with the intention of improving the way in which it is performed so that it might express more fully the meaning of Jesus' gesture in the Cenacle, His giving of Himself unto the end for the salvation of the world, His limitless charity".

"After careful consideration", he continues, "I have decided to make a change to the Roman Missal. I therefore decree that the section according to which those persons chosen for the Washing of the feet must be men or boys, so that from now on the Pastors of the Church may choose the participants in the rite from among all the members of the People of God. I also recommend that an adequate explanation of the rite itself be provided to those who are chosen".

The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has today published a decree on the aforementioned rite, dated 6 January 2016, the full text of which is published below:

"The reform of the Holy Week, by the decree Maxima Redemptionis nostrae mysteria of November 1955, provides the faculty, where counselled by pastoral motives, to perform the washing of the feet of twelve men during the Mass of the Lord's Supper, after the reading of the Gospel according to John, as if almost to represent Christ's humility and love for His disciples.

In the Roman liturgy this rite was handed down with the name of the Mandatum of the Lord on brotherly charity in accordance with Jesus' words, sung in the Antiphon during the celebration.

In performing this rite, bishops and priests are invited to conform intimately to Christ who 'came not to be served but to serve' and, driven by a love 'to the end', to give His life for the salvation of all humankind.

To manifest the full meaning of the rite to those who participate in it, the Holy Father Francis has seen fit to change the rule by in the Roman Missal (p.300, No. 11) according to which the chosen men are accompanied by the ministers, which must therefore be modified as follows: 'Those chosen from among the People of God are accompanied by the ministers' (and consequently in the Caeremoniale Episcoporum No. 301 and No. 299 b referring to the seats for the chosen men, so that pastors may choose a group of faithful representing the variety and unity of every part of the People of God. This group may consist of men and women, and ideally of the young and the old, healthy and sick, clerics, consecrated persons and laypeople.

This Congregation for Divine Worship and the Disipline of the Sacraments, by means of the faculties granted by the Supreme Pontiff, introduces this innovation in the liturgical books of the Roman Rite, recalling pastors of their duty to instruct adequately both the chosen faithful and others, so that they may participate in the rite consciously, actively and fruitfully".

 

Pilgrimage to shrines: an eloquent expression of faith


Vatican City, 21 January 2016 (VIS) – "Making a pilgrimage to shrines is one of the most eloquent expressions of the faith of a people for God … This popular religiosity is an authentic form of evangelisation that must be promoted and emphasised, without minimising its importance", said Pope Francis this morning as he received in the Paul VI Hall three thousand leaders of pilgrimages and rectors of shrines, participating in the Jubilee.

"It would be a mistake to think that those who go on a pilgrimage live a spirituality that is not personal but rather of the 'masses'. The reality is that the pilgrim carries within him hos own history and faith, and the lights and shadows of his own life. Each person carries within his or her heart a special wish and a particular prayer. Those who enter the shrine immediately feel they are at home, welcomed, understood and supported. … Therefore, the key word I would like to underline today with you is 'welcome'. … An affectionate, celebratory, cordial and patient welcome. … Jesus spoke about welcome, but most of all He practised it. When we read that sinners such as Matthew and Zacchaeus welcomed Jesus in their home and at their table, it is because they felt welcomed first by Jesus, and this had changed their lives".

Francis commented that the pilgrim often reaches a sanctuary tired, hungry and thirsty. "And very often this physical condition reflects the inner condition", he observed. "Therefore, every person needs to be welcomed well both materially and spiritually. … Whoever they may be, young or old, rich or poor, sick and troubled or simply a curious tourist, we must find the right way to welcome them, because in each one of them there is a heart that seeks God, at times without being fully aware".

Finally, he said that priests offer a special welcome in these shrines as ministers of God's forgiveness, as the shrine is the "house of forgiveness, where each person encounters the tenderness of the Father who is merciful to all, without excluding anyone. Those who approach the confessional do so because they repent of their sins. … Priests who carry out their mission in sanctuaries must always have a heart full of mercy: their attitude must be that of a father".

 

Pope's message to the World Economic Forum: "Do not forget the poor"


Vatican City, 21 January 2016 (VIS) – "Do not forget the poor", writes Pope Francis to the founder and executive president of the World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab, in the message he sent tot he annual meeting of the forum that opened yesterday in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, on the theme " Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution". In the text, which was consigned by Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council "Justice and Peace", the Pope emphasises that this "revolution" has been accompanied by unemployment affecting millions of people, and expresses his hope that the development of advanced technologies may lead to the creation of dignified work for all, the consolidation of economic rights and the defence of the environment.

The Holy Father also warns against the danger that a culture of prosperity numbs people, rendering them insensitive to the problems of others, and reiterates that business activity is a noble vocation directed towards the production of wealth and the improvement of the world for all, when it is understood as a service to the common good. He concludes by expressing his hope that the World Economic Forum may be a platform for the defence and protection of creation, as well as for the achievement of a "healthier, more human, more social, more integral" progress.

Pope Francis begins by offering to Klaus Schwab his good wishes "for the fruitfulness of this meeting, which seeks to encourage continuing social and environmental responsibility through a constructive dialogue on the part of government, business and civic leaders, as well as distinguished representatives of the political, financial and cultural sectors".

"The dawn of the so-called 'fourth industrial revolution' has been accompanied by a growing sense of the inevitability of a drastic reduction in the number of jobs. The latest studies conducted by the International Labour Organisation indicate that unemployment presently affects hundreds of millions of people. The financialisation and technologisation of national and global economies have produced far-reaching changes in the field of labour. Diminished opportunities for useful and dignified employment, combined with a reduction in social security, are causing a disturbing rise in inequality and poverty in different countries. Clearly there is a need to create new models of doing business which, while promoting the development of advanced technologies, are also capable of using them to create dignified work for all, to uphold and consolidate social rights, and to protect the environment. Man must guide technological development, without letting himself be dominated by it".

"To all of you I appeal once more: 'Do not forget the poor!' This is the primary challenge before you as leaders in the business world. Those who have the means to enjoy a decent life, rather than being concerned with privileges, must seek to help those poorer than themselves to attain dignified living conditions, particularly through the development of their human, cultural, economic and social potential. We must never allow the culture of prosperity to deaden us, to make us incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and sensing the need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. Weeping for other people’s pain does not only mean sharing in their sufferings, but also and above all realising that our own actions are a cause of injustice and inequality. Let us open our eyes, then, and see the misery of the world, the wounds of our brothers and sisters who are denied their dignity, and let us recognise that we are compelled to heed their cry for help. May we reach out to them and support them so they can feel the warmth of our presence, our friendship, and our fraternity. May their cry become our own, and together may we break down the barriers of indifference that too often reign supreme and mask our hypocrisy and egoism".

Once we realise this, he continues, "we become more fully human, since responsibility for our brothers and sisters is an essential part of our common humanity. Do not be afraid to open your minds and hearts to the poor. In this way, you will give free rein to your economic and technical talents, and discover the happiness of a full life, which consumerism of itself cannot provide. In the face of profound and epochal changes, world leaders are challenged to ensure that the coming 'fourth industrial revolution', the result of robotics and scientific and technological innovations, does not lead to the destruction of the human person – to be replaced by a soulless machine – or to the transformation of our planet into an empty garden for the enjoyment of a chosen few. On the contrary, the present moment offers a precious opportunity to guide and govern the processes now under way, and to build inclusive societies based on respect for human dignity, tolerance, compassion and mercy. I urge you, then, to take up anew your conversation on how to build the future of the planet, 'our common home', and I ask you to make a united effort to pursue a sustainable and integral development".

"As I have often said, and now willingly reiterate, business is a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving our world, especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good. As such, it has a responsibility to help overcome the complex crisis of society and the environment, and to fight poverty. This will make it possible to improve the precarious living conditions of millions of people and bridge the social gap which gives rise to numerous injustices and erodes fundamental values of society, including equality, justice and solidarity".

"In this way, through the preferred means of dialogue, the World Economic Forum can become a platform for the defence and protection of creation and for the achievement of a progress which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral with due regard also for environmental goals and the need to maximise efforts to eradicate poverty as set forth in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and in the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change".

 

General audience: keep our promises to children


Vatican City, 14 October 2015 (VIS) – Before beginning this Wednesday's general audience, the Holy Father asked for forgiveness for the various scandals that have occurred in Rome and in the Vatican during recent days.

Returning to the theme of aspects of the relationship between the Church and the family, the Pope dedicated today's catechesis to to promises we make to children. He explained that this did not mean the many promises we make during the day to make them happy or good, or to encourage them to work hard at school, but rather the most important ones, “decisive for their expectations in life, for their trust in relation to other human beings, for their capacity to conceive of God's name as a blessing”.

“We adults refer to children as a promise of life”, he continued. “And we are easily moved by this, saying that the young are our future. But I wonder, at times, if we are equally serios about their future! A question that we should ask more often is this: how faithful are we to the promises we make to children when we bring them into our world? Welcome and care, closeness and attention, trust and hope, are all basic promises, that may be summarised in one word: love. This is the best way to welcome a human being into the world, and we all learn this before being aware of it. It is a promise that a man and a woman make to every child, from the moment he or she is conceived in their thoughts”.

When instead this promise is not honoured, “children are wounded by an unbearable 'scandal', made even more serious by the fact that they are unable to understand it. God keeps watch over this promise from the very first moment. Do you remember what Jesus said? 'Their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven'. Woe to those who betray their trust, woe! Their trustful abandonment to our promise, that commits us from the very first moment, will be our judgement”. The Pope added that children's spontaneous trust in God “should never be harmed, especially when this occurs as a result of a certain presumption, more or less consciously, to substitute Him. God's tender and mysterious relationship with the soul of children must never be violated. A child is ready from birth to feel loved by God. As soon as he or she is able to feel loved, a child also feels that there is a God Who loves children”.

“Only if we look at children with God's eyes are we truly able to understand how, by defending the family, we protect humanity! The viewpoint of children is the viewpoint of the Son of God”. Francis recalled that the Church herself, in Baptism, makes great promises to children, that require commitment on the part of parents and the Christian community, and concluded by asking that Our Lady and St. Joseph teach us to welcome Jesus in every child God sends us.

 

Married couples speak before the Synod Assembly


Vatican City, 8 October 2015 (VIS) – Married couples are participating as auditors in this year's Synod dedicated to the family, presenting their concrete experiences as couples, parents or grandparents before the Assembly of cardinals, bishops, priests and experts. On 5 October the Assembly heard the testimony of the Mexican couple Gertrudiz Clara Rubio de Galindo and Andres Salvador Galindo, executive secretaries of the Episcopal Commission for the Family of the Episcopal Conference, secretaries of CELAM for the Mexico-Central America zone. On 6 October, during the third General Congregation, the Assembly was addressed by Buysile Patronella Nkosi and Meshack Jabulani Nkosi, members of the Advisory Committee for the National Family Desk of the Southern African Episcopal Catholic Bishops' Conference.

Rubio de Galindo and Galindo Lopez have been married for 45 years and have two children and four grandchildren. They commented that the early years of their marriage were difficult due in particular to the economic problems they encountered, and some relatives even advised them to separate for this reason. “In spite of insistence to the contrary, Andres and I decided to fight against the imbalance that this had caused and to persevere with our marriage and the family we had started to raise, although we took this decision without a clear awareness of what the sacrament of marriage meant”, said Gertrudiz Clara Rubio de Galindo. “Shortly after, thanks to God we had the opportunity to have an experience with the Encuentro Matrimonial Catolico, in which we learned to communicate, to forgive, but above all to understand God's plan for us as a married couple and as a family. And we continue to fight for our relationship, but now with more awareness, in accordance with God's plan”.

“Years later, in other period of economic difficulty, after visiting the Basilica of Guadalupe, we decided to collaborate with the family pastoral ministry of the diocese. This decision led us to contribute in various parts of Central America, where throughout the years we have seen that the great problems that occur within families are caused by social, cultural, political, educational, economic and religious factors, and if marriage and the family are weakened, they need to be resuscitated through formation and teaching in terms of its identity and mission”. Therefore, Rubio de Galindo concluded, the pastoral care of the family in the third millennium requires “pastors impassioned by God's plan”, who accompany and form families so that they may discover and experience “their identity and mission”.

On 6 October the Synod Fathers heard the story of Meshack Jabulani and Buysile Patronella Nkosi, married for 35 years and with five children and eight grandchildren. Three of their children, Meshack Jabulani said, are married with non-Catholics and so they “are walking in two faiths but one love”. One of their sons-in-law and their daughter-in-law intend to convert to Catholicism and in Easter 2016 they will be welcomed into the Catholic Church.

During the last 33 years they have accompanied many young people with whom they have shared their life experience, the Word of God and the teachings of the Church. “We pass on the Good News of the love of God for us through His Son Jesus Christ, and we in our life every day try through God's grace to become good news to each other and to young couples and the world. This is made possible by letting the Word of God, Christ Himself, be our compass”.

“We have and have had our numerous challenges, of perhaps not seeing things the same way or hurting each other in one way or another but our redemption has always been to try to be humble enough to say 'I am sorry'. As in the words of the Holy Father, 'pardon me, thank you and may I please' are indispensable words if we are to live in peace and harmony in our family. It is important to remember to say 'I love you' to each other and to the children. Pope Benedict XVI, in his encyclical 'Caritas in Veritate', emphasises the importance of love as the principle of life in society, the place where a person learns common good since the family is the first place where a new person learns to love, to forgive, experiences forgiveness and learns to share”.

“The choice we made 35 years ago is the choice we continue to make every day to care for each other in the family and to be faithful to each other as we committed to love forever. To modern society, which unfortunately has developed a 'throwaway culture', this kind of commitment seems to be utter foolishness and is ridiculed and discouraged. Young people then tend to be afraid to get married, and look at this commitment as a burden. Part of our calling is to encourage them to enter into the journey of holy matrimony looking at Christ as their new hope”.

“We have experienced new life being born, and have seen our parents giving us support in raising our children. We have also seen them getting older and more frail and have taken care of them until they passed on. We have seen our children develop to parenthood themselves and us assuming a supportive role for them and their families. We continue to pass on our faith, all the Christian values and the culture of 'Ubuntu' – humaneness. This brings joy and fulfilment and has made our lives richer and fuller through the grace of God”, concluded Nkosi.

 

The spirit of the family is the constitutional charter of the Church


Vatican City, 7 October 2015 (VIS) – During the period of the Synod dedicated to “The vocation and the mission of the family in the Church and the contemporary world”, the catechesis of the Wednesday general audiences will focus on various aspects of the relationship between the Church and the family, the Pope announced this morning to the thousands of faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square. Francis asked all to pray for a good outcome of the Synod assembly, and underlined that the family deserves all the dedication of which the Church is capable, and therefore the Synod is called upon to interpret the care of the Church for the family in our times.

“Men and women of today are in need of a robust injection of family spirit”, he continued. “Indeed, the style of relations – civil, economic, legal, professional, and as citizens – would appear very rational, formal and organised, but also very 'dehydrated', arid and anonymous. At times this becomes unbearable. While seeking to be inclusive in its forms, in reality it abandons an ever greater number of people to solitude and exclusion”.

The family, however, “opens for the whole of society a far more human prospect: it opens children's eyes onto life … and introduces them to the need for bonds of fidelity, sincerity, trust, cooperation and respect; it encourages the planning of an inhabitable world and the belief in relationships of trust, even in difficult situations. … And we are all aware of the indispensable nature of the care of the family for its smallest members, the most vulnerable, the wounded, and even those who have encountered the most disasters in the conduct of their lives”.

Nevertheless, the Pope remarked, “the family is not granted due recognition or support in the political and social organisation of contemporary society. I would add: not only does the family not receive adequate recognition, but it no longer generates learning. At times it would seem that, in spite of all its science and technology, modern society is still not able to translate this knowledge into better forms of civil coexistence. … In this situation, the opposite extremes of this brutalisation of relationships – that is, technocratic obtuseness and amoral familism – come together and feed into one another. It is a paradox”.

“The Church perceives today, at this precise point, the historical meaning of her mission with regard to the family and genuine family spirit; starting from a careful revision of life. .. It could be said that the 'family spirit' is a constitutional charter for the Church. This is how Christianity should appear and should be. … The Church is and must be the family of God”.

The Pope recalled that when Jesus invited Peter to follow Him, He said that He would have made him a “fisher of men”. “And this called for a new type of net. We could say that today families are one of the most important nets for the mission of Peter and the Church. It is not a net that takes prisoners! On the contrary, it liberates from the treacherous waters of abandonment and indifference, that drown many human beings in a sea of loneliness and indifference. Families are well aware of the dignity of being sons and not slaves or outsiders”.

“From here, from the family, Jesus begins again his path among human beings to persuade them that God has not forgotten them. From here Peter takes strength for his ministry. From here the Church, in obedience to the Word of the Master, goes out to fish offshore, sure that if it takes place, the catch will be miraculous. May the enthusiasm of the Synod Fathers, inspired by the Holy Spirit, kindle the zeal of a Church that abandons the old nets and goes out to fish again, trusting in the Word of her Lord. Let us pray intensely for this! Indeed, Christ promised and reassures us: if even a bad father does not refuse to give bread to his hungry children, of course God would not refuse to give the Spirit to those who, imperfect as they are, ask with impassioned insistence”.

 

“The man who falls or who errs must be understood and loved”


Vatican City, 4 October 2015 (VIS) – Today the Holy Father presided at the opening Mass of the Synod of Bishops on “The vocation and mission of the family in the Church and the contemporary world”. In his homily, the bishop of Rome commented on the Biblical texts of this 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time, noting that they focus on “three themes: solitude, love between man and woman, and the family”.

Regarding solitude, he spoke of Adam's dominion over all the other creatures in the Garden of Eden, “a sign of his dominion, his clear and undisputed power”. Nonetheless, “he felt alone, because 'there was not found a helper fit for him'”. Loneliness, said the Pope, “is experienced by countless men and women in our own day. I think of the elderly, abandoned even by their loved ones and children; widows and widowers; the many men and women left by their spouses; all those who feel alone, misunderstood and unheard; migrants and refugees fleeing from war and persecution; and those many young people who are victims of the culture of consumerism, the culture of waste, the throwaway culture”.

“Today we experience the paradox of a globalised world filled with luxurious mansions and skyscrapers, but a lessening of the warmth of homes and families; many ambitious plans and projects, but little time to enjoy them... Our experience today is, in some way, like that of Adam: so much power and at the same time so much loneliness and vulnerability. The image of this is the family. People are less and less serious about building a solid and fruitful relationship of love: in sickness and in health, for better and for worse, in good times and in bad. Love which is lasting, faithful, conscientious, stable and fruitful is increasingly looked down upon, viewed as a quaint relic of the past”.

In the first reading we hear that God was pained by Adam’s loneliness, and resolved to make him a helper fit for him. “These words show that nothing makes man’s heart as happy as another heart like his own, a heart which loves him and takes away his sense of being alone. These words also show that God did not create us to live in sorrow or to be alone. He made men and women for happiness, to share their journey with someone who complements them, to live the wondrous experience of love: to love and to be loved, and to see their love bear fruit in children, as today’s Psalm says. This is God’s dream for His beloved creation: to see it fulfilled in the loving union between a man and a woman, rejoicing in their shared journey, fruitful in their mutual gift of self”.

“What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder”, said the Pope, turning to the theme of the family. “This is an exhortation to believers to overcome every form of individualism and legalism which conceals a narrow self-centredness and a fear of accepting the true meaning of the couple and of human sexuality in God’s plan. Indeed, only in the light of the folly of the gratuitousness of Jesus’ paschal love will the folly of the gratuitousness of an exclusive and life-long conjugal love make sense”.

“For God, marriage is not some adolescent utopia, but a dream without which his creatures will be doomed to solitude”, he continued. “Indeed, being afraid to accept this plan paralyses the human heart. Paradoxically, people today – who often ridicule this plan – continue to be attracted and fascinated by every authentic love, by every steadfast love, by every fruitful love, by every faithful and enduring love. We see people chase after fleeting loves while dreaming of true love; they chase after carnal pleasures but desire total self-giving”.

“In this extremely difficult social and marital context, the Church is called to carry out her mission in fidelity, truth and love. To carry out her mission in fidelity to her Master as a voice crying out in the desert, in defending faithful love and encouraging the many families which live married life as an experience which reveals of God’s love; in defending the sacredness of life, of every life; in defending the unity and indissolubility of the conjugal bond as a sign of God’s grace and of the human person’s ability to love seriously”.

“To carry out her mission in truth, which is not changed by passing fads or popular opinions. The truth which protects individuals and humanity as a whole from the temptation of self-centredness and from turning fruitful love into sterile selfishness, faithful union into temporary bonds. … To carry out her mission in charity, not pointing a finger in judgement of others, but – faithful to her nature as a mother – conscious of her duty to seek out and care for hurting couples with the balm of acceptance and mercy; to be a 'field hospital' with doors wide open to whoever knocks in search of help and support”.

Francis recalled St. John Paul II who said: “Error and evil must always be condemned and opposed; but the man who falls or who errs must be understood and loved”, and added “The Church must search out these persons, welcome and accompany them, for a Church with closed doors betrays herself and her mission, and, instead of being a bridge, becomes a roadblock: 'For He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified have all one origin. That is why He is not ashamed to call them brethren'”.

“In this spirit”, he concluded, “we ask the Lord to accompany us during the Synod and to guide His Church, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph, her most chaste spouse”.

 

Society is not strong without the family


Vatican City, September 2015 (VIS) – In today's Sunday Angelus the Pope again asked the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square for prayers for the Synod on the Family inaugurated yesterday with Mass in St. Peter's Basilica.

“The Synod Fathers, from all over the world and gathered around St. Peter's Successor will reflect during these three weeks on the vocation and the mission of the Church in the Church and in society, for a careful spiritual and pastoral discernment. We will keep our gaze fixed on Jesus in order to find, on the basis of His teaching of truth and mercy, the most appropriate routes for adequate commitment on the part of the Church, with families and for families, so that the Creator's original plan for man and woman may be implemented and may operate in all its beauty and strength in today's world”.

In this sense, the reading of the Book of Genesis on complementarity and reciprocity between the man and woman who unite and become one flesh, “that is, one life, one existence”, and in this way “transmit their life to new human beings: they become parents. They participate in the creative power of God Himself. But”, he warned, “be careful! God is love, and one participates in His work when one loves with and like Him. … And this is also the love that is given to spouses in the Sacrament of marriage. It is the love that nurtures their relationship, through joy and suffering, in moments of serenity and difficulty. It is the love that awakens the desire to create children, to wait for them, welcome them, raise them and educate them. It is the same love that, in today's Gospel, Jesus reveals to the children: 'Let the children come to me, do not prevent them'.

“Today we ask the Lord that all parents and educators in the world, as in society as a whole, are made instruments of that acceptance and love with which Jesus embraces the little ones. He looks into their hearts with the tenderness and care of a father and, at the same time, a mother. I think of so many children that are hungry, abandoned, exploited, forced into the war, refused. It is painful to see images of children that are unhappy, looking lost, fleeing from poverty and conflicts. They are knocking on our doors and our hearts begging for help. May the Lord help us not to be a 'fortress-society,' but rather a 'family-society' which welcomes – with the proper rules -but always welcomes with love”.

The Pope concluded by invoking the inspiration of the Holy Spirit for the Synod Fathers and the intercession of the Virgin Mary, uniting with those who today, Italian Shrine of Pompeii, pray the traditional supplication to the Our Lady of the Rosary.

Following the Angelus, Francis mentioned the beatification yesterday in Santander, Spain, of Pio Heredia and seventeen companions of the Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance of St. Bernard, killed in hatred of the faith during the Spanish civil war and the religious persecution of the 1930s. “Let us praise the Lord for their courageous witness, and with their intercession, let us beg that He liberate the world from the scourge of war”.

He prayed for the victims of a landslide that swept away an entire village in Guatemala, and of the flood in the Cote d'Azur in France, and urged concrete acts of solidarity in their support. He also affectionately greeted Italian pilgrims on the feast day of the their patron, St. Francis of Assisi.

 

Prayer Vigil for the Synod – the Church can light up the darkness of humanity


Vatican City, 3 October 2015 (VIS) - “When life proves difficult and demanding, we can be tempted to step back, turn away and withdraw, perhaps even in the name of prudence and realism, and thus flee the responsibility of doing our part as best we can”, said the Holy Father during his inauguration of the prayer vigil for the Synod of Bishops, held during the night of Saturday 3 October. Organised by the Italian Episcopal Conference, large numbers of faithful and pilgrims participated in St. Peter's Square.

The Pope spoke about the human fear that the prophet Elijah experienced and how he got up and fled for his life, and recalled that “just a year ago, in this same Square, we invoked the Holy Spirit and asked that - in discussing the theme of the family - the Synod Fathers might listen attentively to one another, with their gaze fixed on Jesus, the definitive Word of the Father and the criterion by which everything is to be measured. This evening, our prayer cannot be otherwise. For as Patriarch Athenagoras Metropolitan Ignatius IV Hazim reminded us, without the Holy Spirit God is far off, Christ remains in the past, the Church becomes a mere organisation, authority becomes domination, mission becomes propaganda, worship becomes mystique, Christian life the morality of slaves”.

“Let us pray that the Synod which opens tomorrow will show how the experience of marriage and family is rich and humanly fulfilling”, he continued. “May the Synod acknowledge, esteem, and proclaim all that is beautiful, good and holy about that experience. May it embrace situations of vulnerability and hardship: war, illness, grief, wounded relationships and brokenness, which create distress, resentment and separation. May it remind these families, and every family, that the Gospel is always 'good news' which once again enables us to start over. From the treasury of the Church’s living tradition may the Fathers draw words of comfort and hope for families called in our own day to build the future of the ecclesial community and the city of man”.

The Pope emphasised that “every family is always a light, however faint, amid the darkness of this world. Jesus’ own human experience took shape in the heart of a family, where he lived for thirty years. His family was like any number of others, living in an obscure village on the outskirts of the Empire”.

He gave the example of Charles de Foucauld who “came to understand that we do not grow in the love of God by avoiding the entanglement of human relations. For in loving others, we learn to love God, in stooping down to help our neighbour, we are lifted up to God. Through his fraternal closeness and his solidarity with the poor and the abandoned, he came to understand that it is they who evangelise us, they who help us to grow in humanity”.

The Holy Father encouraged the faithful to enter into the mystery of the family in order to be able to understand it. “The family is a place where evangelical holiness is lived out in the most ordinary conditions. There we are formed by the memory of past generations and we put down roots which enable us to go far. The family is a place of discernment, where we learn to recognise God’s plan for our lives and to embrace it with trust. It is a place of gratuitousness. of discreet fraternal presence and solidarity, a place where we learn to step out of ourselves and accept others, to forgive and to be feel forgiven”.

“Let us set out once more from Nazareth for a Synod which, more than speaking about the family, can learn from the family, readily acknowledging its dignity, its strength and its value, despite all its problems and difficulties. In the 'Galilee of the nations' of our own time, we will rediscover the richness and strength of a Church which is a mother, ever capable of giving and nourishing life, accompanying it with devotion, tenderness, and moral strength. For unless we can unite compassion with justice, we will end up being needlessly severe and deeply unjust”.

“A Church which is family is also able to show the closeness and love of a father ... a Church of children who see themselves as brothers and sisters, will never end up considering anyone simply as a burden, a problem, an expense, a concern or a risk. Other persons are essentially a gift, and always remain so, even when they walk different paths. The Church is an open house, far from outward pomp, hospitable in the simplicity of her members. … This Church can indeed light up the darkness felt by so many men and women. She can credibly point them towards the goal and walk at their side, precisely because she herself first experienced what it is to be endlessly reborn in the merciful heart of the Father”, Francis concluded.

 

The Pope speaks almost an hour with journalists on flight from Philadelphia


Vatican City, 29 September 2015 (VIS) – During his return flight to Rome following his apostolic trip to Cuba and the United States, Pope Francis answered a number of questions posed by the journalists who accompanied him on the papal flight.

The Holy Father first commented that he had been surprised in the United States by the warmth and friendliness of the people. He remarked that in Washington D.C. the welcome was very warm but more formal than in New York, where everything was more exuberant, while in Philadelphia it was more expressive. “Three different approaches but the same welcome”.

He also explained the reason for his meeting with the United States episcopate in Washington D.C., where he felt the need to express to the prelates his compassion with regard to cases of sexual abuse. “A horrible thing”, he said, “and many suffer because they did not know about it and are true men of the Church, true pastors. … And I spoke to them using words from the Bible, from the Book of Revelation: you are coming from a great tribulation, because what happened was a 'great tribulation'. .. I would say almost a sacrilege. … We all know that abuse has occurred in many places: in families, in the neighbourhood, in schools, at gymnasiums … But when a priest commits abuse it is very serious, because the vocation of the priest is to make that boy or girl grow in God's love, towards emotional maturity. And instead this is crushed, it is damaged. And this must not be concealed: those who have covered up these events are equally guilty. It is dreadful. And the words I spoke were not intended to say, “Don't worry, it's nothing”. Instead I wanted to say, “It has been awful and I imagine you have wept a lot”. This was the meaning of what I said, and I spoke firmly”.

He affirmed that he understood those victims of abuse and their families who felt unable to forgive the perpetrators. “Yes, I understand them. I pray for them and I do not judge them. Once, at one of these meetings, a woman said to me, 'When my mother discovered I had been abused, she blasphemed against God, lost her faith and died an atheist'. And I understand her. And God, Who is better than me, understands her. I am sure that He welcomed her. Because what was abused, destroyed, was her own flesh, the flesh of her daughter”.

With regard to the peace process in Colombia, he expressed his joy at the news that an agreement between the FARC and the government will be signed in March. “When I heard this, I asked the Lord, 'Let us arrive in March, may we arrive with this good intention', as some small details remain to be clarified, but the will is present on both sides. Even in the small group; all three are in agreement. We must await March for the definitive accord, which is the point of international justice. I have spoken twice with President Santos on the matter. And the Holy See is very open to assisting as far as possible”.

Attention then turned to the immigration crisis in Europe. “It has become a state of crisis after a long process. This process began years ago, as the wars from which these people flee have been going on for years. Hunger: there has been famine for years. When I think of Africa, I think of it as the exploited continent. … And I believe that instead of exploiting a continent, or a country, or the land, investments should be made so that the people can avoid this crisis. It is true, there is a refugee crisis – as I said in Congress – on a scale we have not seen since the last World War. … But you know what happens to walls. All of them. All walls fall down, today, tomorrow, or a hundred years from now. Eventually they crumble. Walls are not a solution. … The problem remains, and with more hatred”.

Another question addressed the issue of expectations for the upcoming Synod on the family and cases of divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, and the recent Motu Proprio facilitating the process of declaring nullity of marriage, considered by some as opening the way to “Catholic divorce”. Francis said that, “in the reform of methods and procedures, I closed the door to the administrative route, by which divorce could have entered more easily. And it may be said to those who consider this to be Catholic divorce that they are mistaken, since this last document closes the door to divorce that may otherwise enter – it would have been easier – via the administrative route. … The Synod Fathers asked for this: the streamlining of procedures for declaring nullity of marriage. And I stop there. This document, this Motu Proprio, reduces the length of procedures, but it is not a divorce as marriage is indissoluble when there is a sacrament, and the Church cannot change this. It is part of her doctrine. It is an indissoluble sacrament. The legislative procedure is to show that what appeared to be a sacrament was in fact not a sacrament, for instance, due to lack of freedom, or lack of maturity, or mental illness. … Then there is the problem of second marriages, of divorcees who make a new union. It seems to me simplistic to say that the solution for these people is that that they can share in Communion. This is not the only solution. What the Instrumentum laboris proposes is far more. The matter of new unions by divorced persons is not the only problem. In the Instrumentum laboris there are many. For instance, young people who do not get married, who do not want to marry. It is a pastoral problem for the Church. Another problem is the emotional maturity necessary for marriage. Another problem is faith. … The Synod intends to think very carefully about preparation for marriage, which is one of the most difficult aspects”.

The Holy Father also replied to a question regarding freedom of conscience for public workers requested to sign documents or carry out procedures contrary to their religious convictions. “I cannot bring to mind all the cases of conscientious objection that may exist. But yes, I can say that conscientious objection is a human right. It is a right, and if a person is prevented from exercising their freedom of conscience, they are denied a right. Conscientious objection must exist in all legal frameworks as it is a human right. Otherwise we would end up in a situation where we select what is a right, saying 'this right that has merit, this one does not'.

In relation to the bombing of Isis bases in Syria by the French air force, he commented, “I do not have a good knowledge of how the situation will unfold. I heard that Russia took one position and it wasn’t clear yet about the United States. I truly don’t know what to say because I haven’t fully understood the situation. But, when I hear the word bombing, death, blood… I repeat what I said in Congress and at the UN, to avoid these things. But, I don’t know, I can’t judge the political situation because I don’t know enough about it”.

He went on to answer a question on the relations between the Holy See and China. “China is a great nation that offers the world a great culture and many good things. I said once, in the aircraft flying over China, that I would very much like to visit China. I love the Chinese people. … I hope that there will be opportunities to establish good relations. … We are in contact and we are talking. For me to have a friend in a great country like China, which has so much culture and has so much opportunity to do good, would be a great joy”.

“Will we one day see women priests in the Catholic Church?”, was another question. “No, that cannot be done”, answered the Pope. “After discussion and long reflection St. John Paul II, said so clearly. Not because women don’t have the capacity. In the Church women are more important than men, because the Church is a woman. … The Church is the bride of Jesus Christ. And the Madonna is more important than Popes, bishops and priests. I must admit we are a bit late in developing a theology of women. We have to move ahead with that theology. Yes, that’s true”.

“In the United States you have become a star. Is it good for the Church for the Pope to be a star?” was the final question. “The title Popes use and must is 'Servant of the servants of God'”, replied Francis. “It is different to being a star. … Yes, in the media this word is used, but the reality is quite different. How many stars are there whose light goes out, that fall. It is a fleeting thing. Instead, being the servant of the servants of God, this is good. This does not come to an end”.
 

Communication and Mercy: a fruitful encounter


Vatican City, 29 September 2015 (VIS) “Communication and mercy: a fruitful encounter” is the theme chosen by the Holy Father for World Communications Day. The choice of theme this year has clearly been determined by the Celebration of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, and the Holy Father undoubtedly desired that World Communications Day would provide the appropriate occasion to reflect on the deep synergy between communication and mercy.

In the Bull of Indiction of the Jubilee Year, in paragraph 12, the Pope affirms that the Church is commissioned to announce the mercy of God, the beating heart of the Gospel, which in its own way must penetrate the heart and mind of every person. He adds that her language and her gestures must transmit mercy, so as to touch the hearts of all people and inspire them once more to find the road that leads to the Father.

It is helpful, in this regard, that communication is a key element for the promotion of a culture of encounter. The Pope, on this occasion, refers to the language and gestures of the Church but the context makes it clear that all men and women in their own communications, in their reaching out to meet others, ought to be motivated by a deep expression of welcome, availability and forgiveness.

The theme highlights the capacity of good communication to open up a space for dialogue, mutual understanding and reconciliation, thereby allowing fruitful human encounters to flourish. At a time when our attention is often drawn to the polarised and judgemental nature of much commentary on the social networks, the theme invokes the power of words and gestures to overcome misunderstandings, to heal memories and to build peace and harmony.

Once again, Pope Francis is reminding us that, in its essence, communication is a profoundly human achievement. Good communication is never merely the product of the latest or most developed technology, but is realised within the context of a deep interpersonal relationship.

World Communications Day, the only annual worldwide event called for by the Second Vatican Council, is celebrated in most countries, on the recommendation of the bishops of the world, on the Sunday before Pentecost (in 2016, May 8th).

The Holy Father's message for World Communications Day is traditionally published on 24 January, in conjunction with the Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, patron of writers.

Communication and Mercy: a fruitful encounter

Vatican City, 29 September 2015 (VIS) “Communication and mercy: a fruitful encounter” is the theme chosen by the Holy Father for World Communications Day. The choice of theme this year has clearly been determined by the Celebration of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, and the Holy Father undoubtedly desired that World Communications Day would provide the appropriate occasion to reflect on the deep synergy between communication and mercy.

In the Bull of Indiction of the Jubilee Year, in paragraph 12, the Pope affirms that the Church is commissioned to announce the mercy of God, the beating heart of the Gospel, which in its own way must penetrate the heart and mind of every person. He adds that her language and her gestures must transmit mercy, so as to touch the hearts of all people and inspire them once more to find the road that leads to the Father.

It is helpful, in this regard, that communication is a key element for the promotion of a culture of encounter. The Pope, on this occasion, refers to the language and gestures of the Church but the context makes it clear that all men and women in their own communications, in their reaching out to meet others, ought to be motivated by a deep expression of welcome, availability and forgiveness.

The theme highlights the capacity of good communication to open up a space for dialogue, mutual understanding and reconciliation, thereby allowing fruitful human encounters to flourish. At a time when our attention is often drawn to the polarised and judgemental nature of much commentary on the social networks, the theme invokes the power of words and gestures to overcome misunderstandings, to heal memories and to build peace and harmony.

Once again, Pope Francis is reminding us that, in its essence, communication is a profoundly human achievement. Good communication is never merely the product of the latest or most developed technology, but is realised within the context of a deep interpersonal relationship.

World Communications Day, the only annual worldwide event called for by the Second Vatican Council, is celebrated in most countries, on the recommendation of the bishops of the world, on the Sunday before Pentecost (in 2016, May 8th).

The Holy Father's message for World Communications Day is traditionally published on 24 January, in conjunction with the Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, patron of writers.

 

Francis meets with the victims of sexual abuse: perpetrators will be held accountable


Vatican City, 28 September 2015 (VIS) – The final day of the Pope's apostolic trip began yesterday with his meeting at the St. Charles Borromeo Seminary with victims of sexual abuse perpetrated when they were minors by members of the clergy, or members of their families or teachers. The group was composed of five adults – 3 women and 2 men – accompanied by Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley, archbishop of Boston and president of the Commission for the Protection of Minors, instituted by the Pope, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, and Bishop Michael Joseph Fitzgerald, head of the diocesan office for the protection of minors in the same diocese.

During the meeting, which lasted half an hour, Francis listened to their accounts of their experiences, addressed them as a group and then greeted each one individually. He prayed with them and manifested his participation in their suffering, his pain and his shame for the harm caused by members of the clergy or ecclesiastical collaborators.

“Thank you for coming here today”, he said. “Words cannot fully express my sorrow for the abuse you suffered. You are precious children of God who should always expect our protection, our care and our love. I am profoundly sorry that your innocence was violated by those who you trusted. In some cases the trust was betrayed by members of your own family, in other cases by priests who carry a sacred responsibility for the care of soul. In all circumstances, the betrayal was a terrible violation of human dignity.

“For those who were abused by a member of the clergy, I am deeply sorry for the times when you or your family spoke out, to report the abuse, but you were not heard or believed. Please know that the Holy Father hears you and believes you. I deeply regret that some bishops failed in their responsibility to protect children. It is very disturbing to know that in some cases bishops even were abusers. I pledge to you that we will follow the path of truth wherever it may lead. Clergy and bishops will be held accountable when they abuse or fail to protect children.

“We are gathered here in Philadelphia to celebrate God's gift of family life. Within our family of faith and our human families, the sins and crimes of sexual abuse of children must no longer be held in secret and in shame. As we anticipate the Jubilee Year of Mercy, your presence, so generously given despite the anger and pain you have experienced, reveals the merciful heart of Christ. Your stories of survival, each unique and compelling, are powerful signs of the hope that comes from the Lord's promise to be with us always.

“It is good to know that you have brought family members and friends with you today. I am grateful for their compassionate support and pray that many people of the Church will respond to the call to accompany those who have suffered abuse. May the Door of Mercy be opened wide in our dioceses, our parishes, our homes and our hearts, to receive those who were abused and to seek the path to forgiveness by trusting in the Lord. We promise to support your continued healing and to always be vigilant to protect the children of today and tomorrow.

“When the disciples who walked with Jesus on the road to Emmaus recognised that He was the Risen Lord, they asked Jesus to stay with them. Like those disciples, I humbly beg you and all survivors of abuse to stay with us, to stay with the Church, and that together, as pilgrims on the journey of faith, we might find our way to the Father”.

 

Francis to visiting bishops: Appreciation and gratitude to families must prevail over complaints


Vatican City, 28 September 2015 (VIS) – Shortly after his meeting with a group of victims, the Holy Father returned to the issue of sexual abuse at the beginning of his address to the three hundred bishops attending the World Meeting of Families, held in the great Chapel of the St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.

“I am deeply pained by the stories, the sufferings and the pain of minors who were sexually abused by priests. I continue to be ashamed that persons charged with the tender care of those little ones abused them and caused them grave harm. I deeply regret this. God weeps. The crimes and sins of sexual abuse of minors may no longer be kept secret; I commit myself to ensuring that the Church makes every effort to protect minors and I promise that those responsible will be held to account. Survivors of abuse have become true heralds of hope and ministers of mercy; humbly we owe our gratitude to each of them and to their families for their great courage in shedding the light of Christ on the evil sexual abuse of minors. I say this because I have just met with a group of persons abused as children, who are helped and accompanied here in Philadelphia with particular care by Archbishop Chaput, and we felt that I should communicate this to you”.

Moving on to the issue of the family, he pronounced a discourse, at times improvised, in which he focused on the characteristics of families in today's society and the mission of bishops, reiterating that as pastors they must not be afraid to stay in the midst of families, with all their problems and their capacities, as “ A Christianity which does little in practice, while incessantly explaining its teachings, is dangerously unbalanced”.

The following are extensive extracts from the Pope's address:

“For the Church, the family is not first and foremost a cause for concern, but rather the joyous confirmation of God’s blessing upon the masterpiece of creation. Every day, all over the world, the Church can rejoice in the Lord’s gift of so many families who, even amid difficult trials, remain faithful to their promises and keep the faith! I would say that the foremost pastoral challenge of our changing times is to move decisively towards recognising this gift. For all the obstacles we see before us, gratitude and appreciation should prevail over concerns and complaints. The family is the fundamental locus of the covenant between the Church and God’s creation. Without the family, not even the Church would exist. Nor could she be what she is called to be, namely 'a sign and instrument of communion with God and of the unity of the entire human race'. Needless to say, our understanding, shaped by the interplay of ecclesial faith and the conjugal experience of sacramental grace, must not lead us to disregard the unprecedented changes taking place in contemporary society, with their social, cultural – and now juridical – effects on family bonds. These changes affect all of us, believers and non-believers alike. Christians are not 'immune' to the changes of their times. This concrete world, with all its many problems and possibilities, is where we must live, believe and proclaim”.

“Until recently, we lived in a social context where the similarities between the civil institution of marriage and the Christian sacrament were considerable and shared. The two were interrelated and mutually supportive. This is no longer the case. To describe our situation today, I would use two familiar images: our neighbourhood stores and our large supermarkets. There was a time when one neighbourhood store had everything one needed for personal and family life. The products may not have been cleverly displayed, or offered much choice, but there was a personal bond between the shopkeeper and his customers. … They trusted one another. They built up trust”.

“Then a different kind of store grew up: the supermarket. Huge spaces with a great selection of merchandise. The world seems to have become one of these great supermarkets; our culture has become more and more competitive. Business is no longer conducted on the basis of trust; others can no longer be trusted. There are no longer close personal relationships. Today’s culture seems to encourage people not to bond with anything or anyone, not to trust. … Today consumerism determines what is important. Consuming relationships, consuming friendships, consuming religions, consuming, consuming... Whatever the cost or consequences. A consumption which does not favour bonding, a consumption which has little to do with human relationships. Social bonds are a mere 'means' for the satisfaction of 'my needs'. The important thing is no longer our neighbour, with his or her familiar face, story and personality”.

“The result is a culture which discards everything that is no longer 'useful' or 'satisfying' for the tastes of the consumer. We have turned our society into a huge multicultural showcase tied only to the tastes of certain 'consumers', while so many others only 'eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table'. This causes great harm. I would say that at the root of so many contemporary situations is a kind of impoverishment born of a widespread and radical sense of loneliness. ... Loneliness with fear of commitment in a limitless effort to feel recognised”.

“Should we blame our young people for having grown up in this kind of society? Should we condemn them for living in this kind of a world? Should they hear their pastors saying that 'it was all better back then'. … No, I do not think that this is the way. As shepherds following in the footsteps of the Good Shepherd, we are asked to seek out, to accompany, to lift up, to bind up the wounds of our time. To look at things realistically, with the eyes of one who feels called to action, to pastoral conversion. The world today demands this conversion on our part. 'It is vitally important for the Church today to go forth and preach the Gospel to all: to all places, on all occasions, without hesitation, reluctance or fear. ... The Gospel is not a product to be consumed; it has nothing to do with consumerist culture”.

“We would be mistaken, however, to see this culture of the present world as mere indifference towards marriage and the family, as pure and simple selfishness. … We must not fall into this trap. Many young people, in the context of this culture of discouragement, have yielded to a form of unconscious acquiescence. They are paralysed when they encounter the beautiful, noble and truly necessary challenges which faith sets before them. Many put off marriage while waiting for ideal conditions, when everything can be perfect. Meanwhile, life goes on, without really being lived to the full. In Congress, a few days ago, I said that we are living in a culture th