(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis sent his greetings on Friday to the participants in the XVI World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates, taking place from 2 to 5 February in Bogotá, Colombia.
Pope Francis encouraged participants “in their efforts to promote understanding and dialogue among peoples”.
He made special mention of the peace efforts in Colombia between the government and rebel forces, saying they “can inspire all communities to rise above animosity and division, for ‘when victims of violence are able to resist the temptation to retaliate, they become the most credible promoters of nonviolent peacemaking.’”
The Holy Father concluded his message invoking ‘blessings of wisdom and strength’ on all participants.
“With prayers that nonviolence will thus become the “hallmark of our decisions, our relationships and our actions, and indeed of political life in all its forms” (Message for the 2017 World Day of Peace), His Holiness cordially invokes upon all gathered for the Summit meeting the divine blessings of wisdom and strength.”
The message was written by the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and sent through the Apostolic Nuncio to Colombia, Archbishop Ettore Balestrero.
Please find below the full text of the message:
The Cardinal Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, on behalf of the Holy Father Francis, has sent a message to the participants in the XVI World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates. I would ask you kindly to communicate what follows to all participants:
His Holiness Pope Francis was pleased to learn that the XVI World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates will be held in Bogotá from 2 to 5 February 2017, and he sends greetings to all present for the occasion. As the participants reflect on the many challenges to peace in the modern world, His Holiness encourages them in their efforts to promote understanding and dialogue among peoples. In a particular way, he trusts that the efforts in Colombia to build bridges of peace and reconciliation can inspire all communities to rise above animosity and division, for “when victims of violence are able to resist the temptation to retaliate, they become the most credible promoters of nonviolent peacemaking”. With prayers that nonviolence will thus become the “hallmark of our decisions, our relationships and our actions, and indeed of political life in all its forms” (Message for the 2017 World Day of Peace), His Holiness cordially invokes upon all gathered for the Summit meeting the divine blessings of wisdom and strength.
Cardinal Pietro Parolin
Secretary of State
With gratitude for your valued assistance and with every good wish,
Respectfully yours in Christ,
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday celebrated Mass for the feast of the Presentation of the Lord in St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Members of Institutes of Consecrated Life and of Societies of Apostolic Life participated in the Liturgy.
Listen to our report:
The Mass also commemorates the World Day for Consecrated Life. On this day, the Church celebrates and prays for those who have consecrated their lives to God by the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience. The World Day for Consecrated Life was established in 1997 by Pope Saint John Paul II; 2017 marks the twenty-first annual observance of the Day.
The liturgical feast chosen for the commemoration celebrates the presentation of the newborn Jesus in the Temple by Joseph and Mary forty days after His birth, in accordance with the law of the Old Testament. The feast is also known as “Candlemas” on account of the blessing of candles and the procession that takes place at the beginning of the Mass.
The candles blessed during the Liturgy thus symbolize both Christ, who is the Light of the World; and the lives of consecrated women and men who are called to reflect the light of Christ for all peoples.
In his homily for during the Mass, Pope Francis spoke of the “hymn of hope” pronounced by Simeon and Anna when they saw the Saviour appearing in the Temple. We, too, the Pope said, “have inherited this hymn of hope from our elders… We would do well to take up the dreams of our elders, so that we can prophesy in our day, and once more encounter what originally set our hearts on fire.”
But he also warned of a “temptation” that can make the consecrated life barren: the temptation of “survival”, which urges us to protect ourselves at the expense of our dreams. “The temptation of survival,” Pope Francis said, “makes us forget grace.”
The Holy Father reminded consecrated women and men, that they are called to put themselves “with Jesus in the midst of His people.”
Pope Francis concluded his homily with the exhortation: “Let us accompany Jesus as He goes forth to meet His people, to be in the midst of His people.”
This year’s celebration of the World Day for Consecrated Life has a particular significance, being devoted to thanksgiving and prayer for the give of vocations, especially in view of the upcoming Synod of Bishops, which will be dedicated to the theme: “Youth, faith and vocational discernment.” The Synod is expected to meet in October 2018.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) On Thursday, Pope Francis celebrated a solemn Mass for the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, and also commemorated the 21st annual World Day for Consecrated Life.
In his homily for the Mass, the Holy Father called on consecrated women and men to “accompany Jesus as He goes forth to meet His people, to be in the midst of His people.”
Below, please find the full text of Pope Francis’ homily for the feast of the Presentation of the Lord:
Homily of His Holiness Pope Francis
Feast of the Presentation of the Lord
2 February 2017
When the parents of Jesus brought the Child in fulfilment of the prescriptions of the law, Simeon, “guided by the Spirit” ( Lk 2:27), took the Child in his arms and broke out in a hymn of blessing and praise. “My eyes”, he said, “have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel” ( Lk 2:30-32). Simeon not only saw, but was privileged to hold in his arms the long-awaited hope, which filled him with exultation. His heart rejoiced because God had come to dwell among his people; he felt his presence in the flesh.
Today’s liturgy tells us that in that rite, the Lord, forty days after his birth, “outwardly was fulfilling the Law, but in reality he was coming to meet his believing people” ( Roman Missal , 2 February, Introduction to the Entrance Procession). This encounter of God with his people brings joy and renews hope.
Simeon’s canticle is the hymn of the believer, who at the end of his days can exclaim: “It is true, hope in God never disappoints” (cf. Rm 5:5). God never deceives us. Simeon and Anna, in their old age, were capable of a new fruitfulness, and they testify to this in song. Life is worth living in hope, because the Lord keeps his promise. Jesus himself will later explain this promise in the synagogue of Nazareth: the sick, prisoners, those who are alone, the poor, the elderly and sinners, all are invited to take up this same hymn of hope. Jesus is with them, Jesus is with us (cf. Lk 4:18-19).
We have inherited this hymn of hope from our elders. They made us part of this process. In their faces, in their lives, in their daily sacrifice we were able to see how this praise was embodied. We are heirs to the dreams of our elders, heirs to the hope that did not disappoint our founding mothers and fathers, our older brothers and sisters. We are heirs to those who have gone before us and had the courage to dream. Like them, we too want to sing, “God does not deceive; hope in him does not disappoint”. God comes to meet his people. And we want to sing by taking up the prophecy of Joel and making it our own: “I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions” (2:28).
We do well to take up the dreams of our elders, so that we can prophesy in our day and once more encounter what originally set our hearts afire. Dreams and prophecies together. The remembrance of how our elders, our fathers and mothers, dreamed, and the courage prophetically to carry on those dreams.
This attitude will make us fruitful. Most importantly, it will protect us from a temptation that can make our consecrated life barren: the temptation of survival . An evil that can gradually take root within us and within our communities. The mentality of survival makes us reactionaries, fearful, slowly and silently shutting ourselves up in our houses and in our own preconceived notions. It makes us look back, to the glory days – days that are past – and rather than rekindling the prophetic creativity born of our founders’ dreams, it looks for shortcuts in order to evade the challenges knocking on our doors today. A survival mentality robs our charisms of power, because it leads us to “domesticate” them, to make them “user-friendly”, robbing them of their original creative force. It makes us want to protect spaces, buildings and structures, rather than to encourage new initiatives. The temptation of survival makes us forget grace; it turns us into professionals of the sacred but not fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters of that hope to which we are called to bear prophetic witness. An environment of survival withers the hearts of our elderly, taking away their ability to dream. In this way, it cripples the prophecy that our young are called to proclaim and work to achieve. In a word, the temptation of survival turns what the Lord presents as an opportunity for mission into something dangerous, threatening, potentially disastrous. This attitude is not limited to the consecrated life, but we in particular are urged not to fall into it.
Let us go back to the Gospel passage and once more contemplate that scene. Surely, the song of Simeon and Anna was not the fruit of self-absorption or an analysis and review of their personal situation. It did not ring out because they were caught up in themselves and were worried that something bad might happen to them. Their song was born of hope, the hope that sustained them in their old age. That hope was rewarded when they encountered Jesus. When Mary let Simeon take the Son of the Promise into his arms, the old man began to sing of his dreams. Whenever she puts Jesus in the midst of his people, they encounter joy. For this alone will bring back our joy and hope, this alone will save us from living in a survival mentality. Only this will make our lives fruitful and keep our hearts alive: putting Jesus where he belongs, in the midst of his people.
All of us are aware of the multicultural transformation we are experiencing; no one doubts this. Hence, it is all the more important for consecrated men and women to be one with Jesus, in their lives and in the midst of these great changes. Our mission – in accordance with each particular charism – reminds us that we are called to be a leaven in this dough. Perhaps there are better brands of flour, but the Lord has called us to be leaven here and now, with the challenges we face. Not on the defensive or motivated by fear, but with our hands on the plough, helping the wheat to grow, even though it has frequently been sown among weeds. Putting Jesus in the midst of his people means having a contemplative heart, one capable of discerning how God is walking through the streets of our cities, our towns and our neighbourhoods. Putting Jesus in the midst of his people means taking up and carrying the crosses of our brothers and sisters. It means wanting to touch the wounds of Jesus in the wounds of a world in pain, which longs and cries out for healing.
To put ourselves with Jesus in the midst of his people! Not as religious “activists”, but as men and women who are constantly forgiven, men and women anointed in baptism and sent to share that anointing and the consolation of God with everyone.
To put ourselves with Jesus in the midst of his people. For this reason, “we sense the challenge of finding and sharing a ‘mystique’ of living together, of mingling and encounter, of embracing and supporting one another, of stepping into this flood tide which, while chaotic, can [with the Lord] become a genuine experience of fraternity, a caravan of solidarity, a sacred pilgrimage… If we were able to take this route, it would be so good, so soothing, so liberating and hope-filled! To go out of ourselves and to join others” ( Evangelii Gaudium , 87) is not only good for us; it also turns our lives and hopes into a hymn of praise. But we will only be able to do this if we take up the dreams of our elders and turn them into prophecy.
Let us accompany Jesus as he goes forth to meet his people, to be in the midst of his people. Let us go forth, not with the complaining or anxiety of those who have forgotten how to prophesy because they failed to take up the dreams of their elders, but with serenity and songs of praise. Not with apprehension but with the patience of those who trust in the Spirit, the Lord of dreams and prophecy. In this way, let us share what is truly our own: the hymn that is born of hope.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis’ prayer intention for February is to Comfort for the Afflicted: That all those who are afflicted, especially the poor, refugees, and marginalized, may find welcome and comfort in our communities.
The Apostleship of Prayer has produced the Pope’s Video on this prayer intention.
The full text of the Pope’s Video is below:
Welcome the Needy
We live in cities that throw up skyscrapers and shopping centers and strike big real estate deals … but they abandon a part of themselves to marginal settlements on the periphery.1
The result of this situation is that great sections of the population are excluded and marginalized: without a job, without options, without a way out. 2
Don’t abandon them. Pray with me for all those who are afflicted, especially the poor, refugees, and marginalized, may find welcome and comfort in our communities.3
Address of Pope Francis to the participants in the World Meeting of Popular Movements. Old Synod Hall, Tuesday, 28 October 2014.
 Evangelii Gaudium: Apostolic Exhortation "The Joy of the Gospel", Art. 53.
 Universal Prayer Intention of the Holy Father entrusted to the Pope's Worldwide Prayer Network (Apostleship of Prayer). February 2017.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher is wrapping up a week-long visit to Japan during which he met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and celebrated Mass in the city of Hiroshima.
The Vatican Secretary for Relations with States confirmed the Holy See's cooperation with Japan regarding the elimination of nuclear weapons.
On Wednesday Archbishop Gallagher held a ‘Lectio Magistralis’ at the Jesuit-run University of Sophia in Tokyo, dedicated to the promotion of a culture of peace.
During his lesson, Gallagher spoke of the important contribution made by a Catholic University which takes into account a global and not merely intellectual formation of the whole person.
Quoting Pope Francis he said that “if the university becomes no more than an academy of ideas or an assembly line of professionals, or its structure is determined by a business mentality, then it has truly lost its way”.
He said that one must never tire of looking at the world, with its events and actors, critically but also constructively, asking us not to “exclude” and appealing for “necessary dialogue” as a method proper to cultural and educational processes.
Referring to the core message of his lesson, Gallagher said “the question of peace involves more than politics or diplomatic activity; it is directly linked to culture and to the sphere of ethics and moral conscience that can generate much apprehension, yet is so greatly needed in international relations”.
He pointed out that the “vision of peace proposed by the magisterium of the Catholic Church does not necessarily coincide with that current in the community of the nations, as summarized, for example, by the contents of the UN Charter. The difference does not simply have to do with issues involving the use of force or the obligations incumbent upon states, but with the conviction that peace calls first and foremost for preventing the causes that lead to war. “To bring about true peace, it is necessary to bring people together concretely so as to reconcile peoples and groups with opposing ideological positions. It is also necessary to work together for what persons, families, peoples and nations feel is their right, namely to participate on a social, political and economic level in the goods of the modern world”.
Thus, Gallagher said, peace on earth is thus the result of any number of factors, of which a culture of peace is the vehicle.
He said Pope speaks of “a war being fought piecemeal” as a way of perceiving, among the many possible causes of conflict (selfish interests, poverty, lack of development, territorial dominion, spheres of influence...), the one that is essential.
Working for peace, he said, demands returning to the bases of human relationships and thus recovering the bases of the internal order of nations and the international order.
“As Pope Francis sees it, this means that true peace cannot come about “without the recognition of certain incontestable natural ethical limits and without the immediate implementation of those pillars of integral human development”. A true culture of peace, then, calls for concrete commitments requiring solid and structured foundations: exactly the opposite of the frequently heard idea that “a single theoretical and aprioristic solution will provide an answer to all the challenges”.
Archbishop Gallagher’s long lesson goes on to illustrate tools that are at the disposal of world leaders, he talks about the culture of peace and the threat to peace which today “comes not only from traditional wars and hostilities, whether domestic or international, but also from other problems”.
He talks of a return to the vision of just peace which includes religious freedom in its varied forms, among which is conscientious objection and points out that a culture of peace can also make a huge contribution to anti-terrorism strategies.
Archbishop Gallagher talked about the goals to be achieved, the use of dialogue, discussion and negotiation as well as “the language of the magisterium, this involves a correct and consistent application of the principle of subsidiarity”.
He reflected on the areas of development and international cooperation, on the more general fight against poverty which “presupposes a common agreement that can only be the result of an effective solidarity between states”.
“This would involve a greater appreciation of the role of intellectual property, an area in which a consistent culture of peace is called to recognize the right of researchers and producers to just compensation, so that new developments can truly be at the service of the common good of the human family” he said.
Gallagher concluded calling for a “prophetic vision that can bring together the human, cultural and religious aspects and thus offer our contemporary world a firm common witness to the service of goodness, the service of dialogue and the service of peace. In this context, the university has a fundamental task as a place of encounter between faith and reason, between memory of the past and scientific development towards the future, and as a place of encounter and discussion between different visions of life, technology, politics and religious convictions. That task is to prepare the way for a future of peace, an attainable future, a future for all”.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) The exploitation and enslavement of children is the focus of a week of activities leading up to the February 8th world day of prayer for an end to human trafficking.
Three years ago, Pope Francis asked women and men religious to organize a day, on the feast of the Sudanese saint Josephine Bakhita, to raise awareness of the plight of millions of victims of human trafficking.
At a press conference on Wednesday sisters from the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) announced initiatives taking place in countries around the world, with a focus this year on the theme of children in slavery.
Here in Rome, activities include a seminar at the Gregorian University, a film evening, a prayer vigil at the Rome parish of Ognissanti on the Via Appia and participation in the Pope’s general audience.
To find out more about the focus for this year’s event, Philippa Hitchen spoke to the president of the UISG, Sr Carmen Sammut …..
Sr Carmen recalls that the sisters asked the pope for a world day against slavery on the Church’s calendar and he entrusted them with the duty to organize a commemoration of trafficking victims.
She notes that ‘Talitha Kum’, the international network of religious against human trafficking, is present in around 80 countries where members mark the day of prayer as an important annual event.
Speaking of this year’s focus on trafficked children, Sr Carmen says it’s “the most horrible of things to think that a child is not given the possibility to be a child” but is taken instead into slavery for forced labour, sexual abuse or organ harvesting. She describes it as “really heartbreaking” but adds that the phenomenon is growing, due in part to growing poverty.
She recounts her experience of Filipino Cardinal Luis Tagle telling her, tearfully, that he sees families and parents selling their children out of poverty. Also she notes that because of increasing numbers of migrants, there are also more unaccompanied children.
Talking about solutions, Sr Carmen says the media must create greater awareness that this is a problem happening in every single country, though very often we choose to ignore it. Secondly, she says, if demand for the products made from slave labour is removed, there’s a possibility of less demand for trafficked children.
Sr Carmen quotes Pope Francis’ words that “purchasing is not only an economic but also a moral action”, adding that we need to realise that we can make a difference by not buying certain products. The same with sexual exploitation, she says, if there’s “not so much demand for sexual services, especially from children”.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) The Vatican supermarket is supporting those affected by the earthquakes in central Italy by offering goods for sale made by local farmers in the region, especially the small town of Amatrice, which was hit hardest by the quake on 24 August 2016.
The Vatican supermarket can be used by employees, retirees, and others affiliated with the Vatican who are provided with a special card providing them access.
Immediately after the earthquake, Pope Francis sent members of the Vatican fire department to aid in rescue efforts, and medical personnel working at the Vatican also volunteered to help.
Nearly 300 people died in the August quake, and dozens of others have died in subsequent tremors.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday asked people to pray for all those in Religious and Consecrated Life, who have been called to profess the evangelical counsels.
He was speaking on Wednesday during his General Audience , in anticipation of Thursday’s celebration of the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, which is also the World Day of Consecrated Life.
“I ask you to pray for the priests, sisters, and brothers belonging to contemplative and apostolic Religious Institutes,” Pope Francis said. “Their life dedicated to the Lord, and their charismatic service, will bear abundant fruit for the good of the faithful, and for the evangelizing mission of the Church.”
The Holy Father asked the faithful to pray that “through their witness of life, they may radiate to the world the love of Christ and the grace of the Gospel.”
Pope Francis is scheduled to celebrate Mass for the World Day of Consecrated Life on Thursday afternoon in St. Peter’s Basilica.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday invited Christians to “wear the hope of salvation like a helmet (1 Thess 5:8), in the knowledge that, because Christ is risen, the object of our hope is certain.”
The Holy Father was quoting from Saint Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians during his weekly General Audience in the Paul VI Hall where he continued his catechesis on Christian hope.
Listen to Lydia O'Kane's report
The Pope recalling the freshness and beauty of this first Christian proclamation described the community of Thessalonica at the time as one “ rooted in faith which celebrated with enthusiasm and joy the resurrection of the Lord Jesus”, despite its difficulties and the many trials.
Pope Francis noted how this letter of St Paul is more timely than ever because, “before the mystery of death, and the loss of our loved ones, we Christians are challenged to hope more firmly in the Lord’s promise of eternal life.”
Christian hope, the Pope continued, "is the expectation of something that has already been accomplished, and that will certainly be realized for each of us." Giving an example, he spoke of the woman who when realizing she is pregnant, waits every day for the arrival of her baby.
In that same hope, and in the communion of the Church, he added, “we pray too that those who have gone before us will live forever in Christ.”
Concluding his catechesis, Pope Francis said, St. Paul writes: "Jesus died for us so that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him". These words, he underlined, “are always a source of great consolation and peace.”
Greeting pilgrims at the end of the audience, the Pope thanked the delegation from the World Catholic Movement for climate for their commitment to caring for our common home at a time of, what he called, a “serious socio-environmental crisis.”
He also encouraged them to continue to build networks so that 'the local churches respond with determination to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor. "
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis during his General Audience on Wednesday continued his catechesis on Christian hope telling pilgrims in the Paul VI Hall that, "we Christians are challenged to hope more firmly in the Lord’s promise of eternal life."
Below find the Pope's words read out in English at the weekly General Audience
Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our continuing catechesis on Christian hope, today we turn to the earliest writing of the New Testament, Saint Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians. The Apostle writes to confirm this young Christian community in its faith in Christ’s death and resurrection, but he also speaks of the meaning of this mystery for the life of each believer. For Christ is the firstfruits of the future resurrection. Before the mystery of death, and the loss of our loved ones, we Christians are challenged to hope more firmly in the Lord’s promise of eternal life. Paul tells the Thessalonians to wear the hope of salvation like a helmet (1 Thess 5:8), in the knowledge that, because Christ is risen, the object of our hope is certain. Christian hope, then, is a way of life; we live daily in expectation of the resurrection. In that same hope, and in the communion of the Church, we pray too that those who have gone before us will live for ever in Christ. Let us ask the Lord to strengthen us in the sure expectation that one day we will be united with him, and all our loved ones, in the joy of the resurrection.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) If we keep our eyes constantly fixed on Jesus, we will discover with surprise that it is he who looks lovingly upon each of us. That was Pope Francis’ message on Tuesday at his morning Mass in the Casa Santa Marta.
Listen to Devin Watkins' report:
Jesus does not seek popularity, but is always among people
The author of Hebrews exhorts us to run in the faith "with perseverance, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus." In the Gospel, Jesus looks at us and sees us. Pope Francis explained that he is close to us, he "is always in the crowd":
“He didn’t walk around with guards to protect him, so that the people could not touch him. No, no! He stayed there and people surrounded him. And there were more people around every time Jesus went out. Statisticians might have been inclined to publish: ‘Rabbi Jesus’ popularity is falling’. But he sought something else: he sought people. And the people sought him. The people had their gaze fixed on him and he had his fixed on them. ‘Yes, yes, on the people, on the multitude’ – ‘No, on each individual!’. This is the peculiarity of Jesus’ gaze: He does not standardize people; He looks at each person.”
Jesus sees both great and small things
The Gospel of Mark narrates two miracles: Jesus heals a woman suffering from hemorrhaging for 12 years who, though pressed by the crowd, was able to touch his cloak. And he realizes that he was touched. Then, he raises the twelve year-old daughter of Jairus, a leader of the synagogue. He understands that the girl is hungry and tells her parents to give her something to eat:
“The gaze of Jesus falls on both the big and the small. That's how Jesus sees us all: He sees all things, but looks at each of us. He sees our big problems, our greatest joys, and also looks at the little things about us. Because he is close. Jesus is not afraid of the big things, but also takes account of the small ones. That's how Jesus looks at us.”
The surprise of encountering Jesus
If we run “with perseverance, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus”, Pope Francis said, “we will be ‘completely astonished’, just as happened to the people after the raising of Jairus’ daughter”:
“I go forward, looking at Jesus. I walk ahead, keeping my gaze fixed on Jesus, and what do I find? That he has his gaze fixed on me! And that makes me feel this great astonishment. This is the astonishment of the encounter with Jesus. But let us not be afraid! We are not afraid, just as that woman was not afraid to touch Jesus’ mantle. Let us not be afraid! Let us run down this road with our gaze ever fixed on Jesus. And we will have a beautiful surprise: He will fill us with awe. Jesus himself has his gaze fixed on me.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Secretary of State of the Holy See, is currently visiting Madagascar from 26 January to 1 February. The Cardinal is in that country to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Madagascar.
On the first day of his visit, the Secretary of State met with President Hery Rajaonarimampianina at the Presidential Palace. The Head of State was flanked by the Prime Minister and the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs. Cardinal Parolin was accompanied by the Apostolic Nuncio and some of the country’s Bishops. Also present was Cardinal Maurice Piat, the Bishop of Port-Louis in Mauritius.
Leaders of other Christian denominations joined the reception that followed the meeting.
President Rajaonarimampianina expressed appreciation for the visit, recalling the good relations between the Holy See and Madagascar, over the last 50 years. He spoke in glowing terms of his visit to Pope Francis in June 2014.
The President recognised the important role that the Catholic Church plays with its institutions contributing to the social development of all citizens in Madagascar, particularly in the education and health sector. Rajaonarimampianina hoped that the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of diplomatic relations would serve to strengthen ties between the Holy See and Madagascar.
For his part, Cardinal Parolin conveyed the affectionate greetings of Pope Francis to the people of Madagascar. The Cardinal Secretary of State expressed his sincere gratitude for the extraordinarily warm welcome that was reserved for him in Madagascar. Building on the reason for his visit, he expressed the readiness of the Holy See to continue the fruitful collaboration with Madagascar.
The Holy See prelate encouraged the local Church in Madagascar to continue contributing to the spiritual and social well-being of all citizens. He hoped that his visit would help support an agreement towards the full legal recognition of institutions of the Church.
Later, the Cardinal Secretary of State was decorated with the Grand Officer of the National Order of Madagascar award.
From Madagascar, Cardinal Parolin is scheduled to travel to Brazzaville in the Republic of Congo with a brief stop-over in Nairobi, Kenya.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) On Monday morning, following the usual Mass at the Pope’s residence in the Casa Santa Marta, the Holy Father met with Cardinal Gérald Cyprien LaCroix, assuring the Archbishop of Quebec City of his prayers for the victims of the attack on a mosque there on Sunday night.
Pope Francis stressed the importance of for all, Christians and Muslims, to be united in prayer. Following his meeting with the Pope, Cardinal Lacroix returned immediately to Canada.
The Holy Father also formally expressed his condolences for the victims of the terrorist attack in a telegram addressed to Cardinal Lacroix, and signed by the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin. The full text of the telegram, written in French, is provided below in an English translation:
Telegram concerning the attack on a mosque in Quebec City:
Most Eminent Cardinal Gérald Cyprien LaCroix
Having learned of the attack which occurred in Quebec in a prayer room of the Islamic Cultural Centre, which claimed many victims, His Holiness Pope Francis entrusts to the mercy of God the persons who lost their lives and he associates himself through prayer with the pain of their relatives. He expresses his profound sympathy for the wounded and their families, and to all who contributed to their aid, asking the Lord to bring them comfort and consolation in the ordeal. The Holy Father again strongly condemns the violence that engenders such suffering; and, imploring God for the gift of mutual respect and peace, he invokes upon the sorely tried families, and upon all persons touched by this tragedy, as well as upon all Quebecers, the benefits of the divine Blessing.
Cardinal Pietro Parolin
Secretary of State of His Holiness
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Monday met with the bishops of Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, who are in Rome for their “ad limina apostolorum” visit.
The President of the International Bishops’ Conference of Saints Cyril and Methodius, to which the bishops belong, spoke to Vatican Radio ahead of the ad limina visit.
Ecumenical and interreligious dialogue
Bishop Ladislav Nemét, SVD, of Zrenjanin, Serbia said ecumenical and interreligious dialogue is an important aspect of the Bishops’ Conference.
“As for Serbia, collaboration and ecumenical relations between the Holy See and the autocephalous Serbian Orthodox Church is very good… In Kosovo, interreligious dialogue is more meaningful, because Catholics live among Muslims. In Montenegro and Macedonia it is difficult for the Catholic Church to maintain relations with the official Orthodox Church and even with two Orthodox churches, which are growing with large state aid.”
Four different countries
Bishop Nemét said the Conference has made a recent proposal to the Holy See to divide the international group into national conferences.
He said the reason for the request is “because of the enormous differences between these countries”.
“We have four countries with differing legislation: only in Serbia do we have the right to teach religion in elementary and secondary schools. As for Montenegro, the government has signed a Fundamental Agreement with the Holy See. However, there are no similar accords with the other countries.”
Bishop Nemét said that, despite the request to divide the International Conference, a top priority is to “maintain a spirit of collaboration between the four countries”.
The second priority, he said, is to “reinforce our presence in these four diverse societies: reconciliation is still far off between Croatians and Serbians, between Albanians and Serbians…”
He concluded that these are areas of “great problems and challenges, and we can truly make a positive contribution, also according to the intentions of the Holy Father, who does much for peace in the world.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) The greatest strength of the Church today is in the little, persecuted Churches. That was the message of Pope Francis at the morning Mass in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta. At the heart of the Pope’s homily were the martyrs: “Today there are more than in the first ages” – but the media says nothing about them, he continued, because it’s not news. Pope Francis invited us to remember those who suffer martyrdom.
“Without memory there is no hope,” the Pope said, basing his homily on the reading from the Letter to the Hebrews. The first Reading of the Mass is an exhortation to remember the whole history of the people of the Lord. The liturgy in these days focuses on the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, which speaks of memory – and first of all, a “memory of docility,” the memory of the docility of so many people, beginning with Abraham, who was obedient, who went out from his own land without knowing where he was going. In particular, the section of Hebrews 11 read in today’s Mass dealt with other memories: the memory of the great works of the Lord, accomplished by Gideon, Barak, Samson, David; “so many people,” the Pope said, “who have done great things in the history of Israel.
Today there are more martyrs than in the first ages: the media says nothing because they're not newsworthy
There is also a third group we remember: the martyrs, “those who have suffered and given their lives, as Jesus did,” who “were stoned, tortured, killed by the sword.” The Church, in fact, is “this people of God,” “sinful but docile,” which “does great things and also bears witness to Jesus Christ, to the point of martyrdom”:
“The martyrs are those that carry the Church forward, they are those who support the Church, who have supported her [in the past] and [who] support her today. And today there are more than in the first centuries. The media doesn’t speak of them because they're not newsworthy, but so many Christians in the world today are blessed because [they are] persecuted, insulted, incarcerated. There are so many imprisoned solely for carrying a cross or for confessing Jesus Christ! This is the glory of the Church, and our support, and also our humiliation: we who have so much, everything seems so easy for us, and if we are lacking something we complain. But let us think of these our brothers and sisters who today, in numbers greater than in the first ages, are suffering martyrdom!”
“I cannot forget,” Pope Francis continued, “the testimony of that priest and that sister in the Cathedral of Tirana [Albania]: years and years of imprisonment, forced labour, humiliations,” for whom human rights did not exist.
The greatest strength of the Church is the small, persecuted Churches
Then the Pope recalled that the greatest strength of the Church of today is in the “little Churches” that are persecuted:
“And we too – it’s also true and just – we are satisfied when we see a great ecclesial act, which has great success, Christians who demonstrate… and this is beautiful! Is this strength? Yes, it’s strength. But the greatest strength of the Church today is in the little Churches, tiny, with few people, persecuted, with their Bishops in prison. This is our glory today, this is our glory and our strength.”
The blood of the martyrs is the seed of Christians
“A Church without martyrs – I would dare to say – is a church without Jesus,” the Pope said in conclusion. He then invited those present to pray “for our martyrs, who suffer so much… for those Churches that are not free to express themselves: they are our hope.” And the Pope recalled that in the first ages of the Church, an ancient writer said “the blood of Christians, the blood of the martyrs, is the seed of Christians”:
“They, with their martyrdom, their witness, with their suffering, even giving their life, offering their life, sow Christians for the future and in other Churches. Let us offer this Mass for our martyrs, for those who are now suffering, for the Churches that suffer, who do not have liberty. And let us thank the Lord for being present with the strength of the Holy Spirit in these our brothers and sisters who today are bearing witness to Him.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday dedicated his catechesis to the Gospel reading of the day reflecting on the Beatitudes recounted in the Sermon on the Mount.
He was addressing the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the recitation of the Angelus prayer.
The Gospel of Matthew, Francis said, is the keystone of the New Testament. It tells of how Jesus manifested God’s will to show man the path to happiness.
He said this message was already contained in the words of the prophets who highlighted God’s liberating closeness to the poor and the oppressed.
But Jesus, he said, points to a different path which exhorts us all to trust in God as Christian happiness is to be found in the promise of salvation.
Focusing on the first Beatitude “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”, Pope Francis said he who is poor in spirit does not rebel, but knows how to be humble, obedient, and available to the grace of God.
And he pointed out that the happiness of the poor in spirit has two dimensions: first of all in respect to material goods that should be used with moderation:
Being weighed down by the need for voracious consumption that leads one to believe “the more I have, the more I want” is something, the Pope said, that kills the soul. The man or woman who has this attitude, he explained, will never be happy.
Poverty of spirit, he continued, is revealed in the way a Christian praises and acknowledges the love with which the Lord created us and the world. In the way he puts his trust in God.
“He who is poor in spirit is the Christian who does not trust in material riches, who is not obstinate in conveying his own opinions, but listens with respect and willingly defers to the decisions of others” he said.
"If there were more people who are poor in spirit in our communities there would be fewer divisions, disagreements and controversies! Humility, like charity, it is an essential virtue for living together in Christian communities”.
Poverty, in the evangelical sense, the Pope said, is the path to the Kingdom of Heaven, a path that favors sharing rather than possession.
“You can walk the path of love - the Pope concluded - only if you have an open heart” following the example of Our Lady, the prime model of the poor in spirit, and totally docile to the will of the Lord.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday reiterated his closeness to the earthquake struck populations of Central Italy who are still suffering the consequences of the quake as well as the effects of extremely difficult weather conditions.
Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni :
Speaking after the Angelus Prayer to some 25,000 faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope appealed to political authorities saying “May these brothers and sisters of ours never lack solidarity and the constant support of the Institutions.”
“And please: may no kind of burocracy stand in the way, causing delays and ulterior suffering” he said.
The Pope also recalled World Leprosy Day with an appeal to beat the disease but also to fight the discrimination it generates.
Referring to the observance, marked annually on the last Sunday of January, he pointed out that although leprosy is in decline, it is still much feared and it invariably strikes the poorest and the most marginalized persons.
“I send my encouragement to those who work to assist the victims of leprosy and assure them of my prayers” he said.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) The Sovereign Order of Malta’s Sovereign Council on Saturday accepted the resignation of Grand Master Fra' Matthew Festing.
A press release says that Fra’ Ludwig Hoffmann von Rumerstein assumes the office of Lieutenant ad interim, and Albrecht Boeselager resumes his office as Grand Chancellor
Please find the Sovereign Order of Malta’s official press release below :
The Sovereign Council, the government of the Sovereign Order of Malta, met this afternoon in the Magistral Palace in Rome. On the agenda was the resignation from Office of Grand Master presented by Fra’ Matthew Festing, in accordance with article 16 of the Constitution of the Order of Malta. The Sovereign Council accepted his resignation from office.
Conforming to the Constitution, the Pope has been notified of the resignation of Fra' Matthew Festing, which will be communicated to the 106 Heads of State with whom the Order has diplomatic relations.
In accordance with Article 17 of the Constitution, the Grand Commander, Fra' Ludwig Hoffmann von Rumerstein, has assumed the office of Lieutenant ad interim and will remain the Order of Malta’s head until the election of the successor of the Grand Master.
The Sovereign Council thanked Fra' Matthew Festing for his great commitment during his nine years in office. Subsequently, the Sovereign Council presided over by the Lieutenant ad interim annulled the decrees establishing the disciplinary procedures against Albrecht Boeselager and the suspension of his membership in the Order. Albrecht Boeselager resumes his office as Grand Chancellor immediately.
In a letter sent yesterday, 27 January 2017, to Fra’ Ludwig Hoffman von Rumerstein and the members of the Sovereign Council, Pope Francis reaffirmed the special relationship between the Sovereign Order of Malta and the Apostolic See.
The Pope affirmed that the Lieutenant ad interim assumes responsibility over the Order’s government, in particular regarding relationships with other States. Pope Francis noted precisely that his Special Delegate will be operating on “the spiritual renewal of the Order, specifically of pag. 2 its professed members.”
The Sovereign Order of Malta ensures its full collaboration with the Special Delegate whom the Holy Father intends to appoint. The Sovereign Order of Malta is most grateful to Pope Francis and the Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin for their interest in and care for the Order. The Order appreciates that the Holy Father’s decisions were all carefully taken with regard to and respect for the Order, with a determination to strengthen its sovereignty.
The Lieutenant ad interim together with the Sovereign Council will soon convoke the Council Complete of State for the election of the successor of the Grand Master, according to Art. 23 of the Constitution.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday said the Church is facing a “hemorrhaging” of members of religious orders which is weakening consecrated life, and at the same time, the Church herself.
The Pope was speaking to the Plenary Session of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, which was discussing the theme “Fidelity and Abandonment,” which explored why people leave their vocation.
The Holy Father said although some leave for good reasons, because after discernment, they discover they do not have a vocation; but noted others leave years after making their final profession, and asks “What happened?”
“There are many factors which affect fidelity [to one’s vocation] in this era of change, which is not only a changing era, in which it is difficult to assume responsibilities which are serious and definitive,” Pope Francis said.
The Holy Father said the primary factor is a “provisional” culture, which leads to living an “à la carte” life which is “a slave to fashion.”
“This culture induces the need to always have ‘side doors’ open to other possibilities; it feeds consumerism and forgets the beauty of a simple and austere life, and in many cases causes an existential void,” – Pope Francis said – “It has also produces a powerful practical relativism, according to which everything is judged in terms of a self-realization which is often extraneous to the values of the Gospel.”
The Holy Father added “we live in a society where economic rules replace those of morality; laws that dictate and impose their own frames of reference at the expense of the values of life; a society where the dictatorship of money and profit proposes a vision of existence in which those who do not render to it are discarded.”
The Pope then turned to the current “world of youth,” which he described as “complex, but at the same time rich and challenging.”
The Holy Father said “young people seek a genuine spiritual life,” but can be seduced by the logic of worldliness, “the search for success at any price, easy money and easy pleasure.” He said this must be countered by “infect[ing] them with the joy of the Gospel…this culture must be evangelized if we do not want young people to succumb.”
Pope Francis finally turned to the situation within institutes of consecrated life, warning against a “counter witness” to fidelity.
“Such situations, among others, are: Routine, fatigue, the weight of managing structures, internal divisions, the search for power, a worldly manner of governing institutions, a service of authority that sometimes becomes authoritarianism and other times is laissez-faire,” – the Pope explained – “If the consecrated life wants to maintain its prophetic mission and its fascination, continuing to be a school of faithfulness for those near and those far, it must maintain the freshness and novelty of the centrality of Jesus; its spiritual attractiveness and the strength of mission; and show the beauty of following Christ and radiate hope and joy.”
The Pope urged them to pay particular attention to living their fraternal life in community, “nourished by communal prayer, prayerful reading of the Word, active participation in the sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation, fraternal dialogue and sincere communication among members, fraternal correction, mercy towards brothers or sisters who sin, and sharing responsibilities.”
Pope Francis concluded his remarks by bringing up the importance of accompaniment, and the necessity of preparing qualified spiritual guides.
“It is hard to remain faithful walking alone or walking with the guidance of brothers and sisters who are not able to listen carefully and patiently, or who lack adequate experience of consecrated life,” – the Holy Father said – “We need brothers and sisters experienced in the ways of God… Many vocations are lost for lack of good leaders.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Cardinal Peter Turkson, the Prefect of the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, has issued a statement for World Leprosy Day, which takes place on the last Sunday of January.
“Fear of this disease, which is one of the most feared in human history, defeats reason; lack of knowledge by a community about this pathology excludes those who have been cured of it, who, in their turn, because of the suffering and the forms of discrimination that they have endured, have lost the sense of dignity that belongs to them and is inalienable even though their bodies have mutilations,” – Cardinal Turkson writes – “ ‘For’ them, and above all ‘with’ people who are victims of leprosy, we must engage ourselves more deeply so that they can find welcome, solidarity and justice.”
The full Message by Cardinal Turkson is below
The eradication of leprosy and the reintegration of people afflicted by hanseniasis:
a challenge not yet won.
The development of effective pharmacological therapies and the major efforts at a planetary level of many national and international institutions and agencies, with the Catholic Church in the front line, over the last decades have inflicted a very severe blow on Hansen’s disease, known more commonly as leprosy. Hanseniasis, which in the year 1985 still afflicted over five million people in the world, today has about 200,000 new cases each year, but much – very much – still has to be done.
As for that matter was highlighted last June at the end of the symposium ‘Towards Holistic Care for People with Hansen’s Disease Respectful of their Dignity’, which was organised by the then Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, every new case of Hansen’s disease is one case too many, as is every residual form of stigma attached to it. Every law that discriminates against patients with Hansen’s disease is one law too many, as is every form of indifference. Within the framework of the initiative promoted in cooperation with the Nippon Foundation-Sasakawa Health Foundation, with the contribution of the Order of Malta, the Raoul Follereau Foundation and the Good Samaritan Foundation, it was further emphasised that given their role, it is important for the leaders of all religions, in their teachings, writings and speeches, to contribute to the elimination of discrimination against people afflicted by Hansen’s disease. On the other hand, as was also emphasised subsequently by the World Health Organisation during the World Forum on hanseniasis held in Seoul in November, physical and psychological care should be assured to patients during and after the end of their treatment.
In addition, we should all commit ourselves – and at all levels – to ensuring that in all countries policies relating to the family, to work, to schools, to sport, and policies of every other kind, that directly or indirectly discriminate against these people are changed, and that governments develop implementing plans that involve people with this disease.
Lastly, strengthening scientific research in order to develop new medical products, and obtain better diagnostic instruments in order to increase the possibility of early diagnosis, is fundamental.
Indeed, in large part new cases are identified only when the infection has provoked permanent lesions and has marked, by now for life, the adults or boys or girls who have this disease. On the other hand, especially in the most remote areas, it is difficult to assure the assistance that is needed to finish the treatment or it is difficult for the patients themselves to understand the importance of – or anyway give priority to – continuing with the pharmacological treatment where this has been begun.
But treatment is not enough. A person who has been cured of this disease must be reintegrated to the full into his or her original social fabric: his or her family, community, school, or work environment.
In order to promote and contribute to this process of reintegration, which for that matter remains almost impossible in many contexts, associations of former patients should be further supported and encouraged. At the same time, the spread of communities, with these former patients, should be promoted which – as has already taken place, for example, in India, in Brazil and in Ghana – become real families who understand and welcome people, offering a fertile terrain for mutual aid and authentic brotherhood.
With reflection, as well, upon the healing of the man with leprosy by Jesus narrated in the first chapter of the Gospel According to Mark. Christ ‘Moved with pity…stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, “I will do it. Be made clean.” The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean’. Then he ‘said to him, “See that you tell no one anything but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them”’.
Thus it was that Jesus not only healed the person in his entirety but also called on the man whom he healed to go to he who could declare his full reintegration into society, his readmission into the ‘human consortium’.
Perhaps today as yesterday this is a greatest obstacle to be overcome for those who have been marked by hansensiasis and for those who work for them. The disabilities, the unmistakeable signs left behind by this disease, are still today similar to brands. Fear of this disease, which is one of the most feared in human history, defeats reason; lack of knowledge by a community about this pathology excludes those who have been cured of it, who, in their turn, because of the suffering and the forms of discrimination that they have endured, have lost the sense of dignity that belongs to them and is inalienable even though their bodies have mutilations. ‘For’ them, and above all ‘with’ people who are victims of leprosy, we must engage ourselves more deeply so that they can find welcome, solidarity and justice.
(from Vatican Radio)...