(Vatican Radio) The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors [PCPM] met for its eighth Plenary Assembly from March 24-26, 2017. The resignation of founding member Marie Collins was a key topic on the agenda. The Commission expressed its gratitude to her and supported her continuing work to promote healing for victims of abuse and the prevention of all abuse of minors and vulnerable adults. During the Plenary the Commision also discussed the importance of responding directly and compassionately to victims/survivors when they write to offices of the Holy See. The Plenary Assembly followed the Education Day on March 23, at the Gregorian University, co-sponsored in partnership with the Centre for Child Protection and the Congregation for Catholic Education.
Please find below the Concluding Statement
The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors [PCPM] met for its eighth Plenary Assembly from March 24-26, 2017.
A central topic in this Plenary Assembly was the resignation of founding member Marie Collins. The Commission members expressed strong support for her and her continuing work to promote healing for victims of abuse and the prevention of all abuse of minors and vulnerable adults. They also expressed their particular gratitude that Marie Collins has agreed to continue working with the Commission’s educational programs for new bishops and the offices of the Roman Curia.
Commission members have unanimously agreed to find new ways to ensure its work is shaped and informed with and by victims/survivors. Several ideas that have been successfully implemented elsewhere are being carefully considered for recommendation to the Holy Father.
The Commission discussed the importance of responding directly and compassionately to victims/survivors when they write to offices of the Holy See. Members agreed that acknowledging correspondence and giving a timely and personal response is one part of furthering transparency and healing. They acknowledged that this is a significant task due to the volume and nature of the correspondence and requires clear and specific resources and procedures. They have agreed to send further recommendations to Pope Francis for consideration.
This Plenary Assembly followed the Education Day on March 23, at the Gregorian University, co-sponsored in partnership with the Centre for Child Protection and the Congregation for Catholic Education. Titled “Safeguarding in schools and homes: learning from experience worldwide”, it had a particular focus on Latin American countries that have large Catholic school systems, and presentations concerning efforts in Australia and Italy. The academic seminar was attended by more than 150 people. These included prefects and representatives from Vatican dicasteries including the Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin, seminary rectors, educators, formators and authorities from Italian State Police and the Vatican gendarme who are all seen as key collaborators in the PCPM’s educational efforts. The Commissioners reiterated their sincere gratitude to the invited guests and speakers: Fr Friedrich Bechina, FSO, Undersecretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education; Mónica Yerena Suárez - Provincia Marista de México Central; Fr Wilfredo Grajales Rosas, SDB – Director del Instituto Distrital para la Protección de Niños, Niñas, Adolescentes y Jóvenes, Bogotá, Colombia; Juan Ignacio Fuentes, CONSUDEC Argentina; Francis Sullivan, CEO, Truth Justice and Healing Commission, Australia and Dott. Giovanni Ippolito, Direttore Tecnico Capo Psicologo, Questura di Foggia. The speakers were also invited to address the opening session of the PCPM Plenary Assembly.
The Commission members continue the work entrusted by Pope Francis to assist local Churches with their responsibility for the protection of all minors and vulnerable adults (Statutes, art. 1). As our Holy Father wrote to the Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences and Superiors of Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, “I now ask for your close and complete cooperation with the Commission for the Protection of Minors. The work I have entrusted to them includes providing assistance to you and your Conferences through an exchange of best practices and through programmes of education, training, and developing adequate responses to sexual abuse” (2 February 2015). The Commission is also receiving representatives of bishop’s conferences around the world who are in Rome for their Ad Limina visits.
Commissioners continue to visit episcopal conferences and local churches throughout the world to assist in policy development and implementation of best practices to create a safer environment. So far this year, these include workshops with the Church leadership, formators, catechists and child protection officers in Zambia and Colombia. Members are currently preparing to present to the first European Conference on Formation and Prevention in Seminaries co-organized by the Archdiocese of Florence and the Centre for Child Protection of the Gregorian University, and the upcoming meeting of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences in Bangkok, Thailand this Spring, and the May meeting of the Directors of CELAM and the Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences of Latin America and the Caribbean Islands.
An essential element of these presentations is the PCPM Guidelines template. The Holy Father wrote, “every effort must also be made to ensure that the provisions of the Circular Letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith dated 3 May 2011 are fully implemented” (2 February 2015). Thus, at the plenary meeting, the members spoke again of their willingness to work together with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith communicating a “Guidelines Template” to episcopal conferences and religious congregations, both directly and through the CommissionWebsite (www.protectionofminors.va).
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday during the Angelus in a sunny St Peter’s Square took inspiration from the Gospel reading in which Jesus restores the sight of the blind man.
Listen to Lydia O'Kane's report:
With this miracle the Holy Father explained, “Jesus reveals himself as light of the world”. Each of us, the Pope said, is blind from birth, in that, “we were created to know God, but because of sin we are like the blind, we need a new light, that of faith, that Jesus has given us.”
In fact, Pope Francis went on to say, “the blind man of the Gospel regaining his vision is opened up to the mystery of Christ.”
This man represents us when we do not realize that Jesus is "the light of the world" and when we look elsewhere when we prefer to rely on small lights when fumbling in the dark,” the Pope said.
We too, he continued, have been "enlightened" to Christ in baptism, and then we are called to behave as children of light.”
Posing the question, “What does it mean to have true light and to walk in the light?, the Holy Father answered by saying, “it means first of all to abandon false lights.” Another false light, Pope Francis noted, is self-interest: “if we evaluate people and things based on the criterion of our profit, our pleasure, our prestige, we are not being truthful in relationships and situations.”
Following the recitation of the Marian prayer the Pope remembered José Álvarez-Benavides y de la Torre, and one hundred and fourteen companion martyrs who were beatified on Saturday in Spain. He said, “these priests, religious and lay people have been heroic witnesses of Christ and his Gospel of peace and fraternal reconciliation. Their example and their intercession sustain the Church's involvement in building a civilization of love.”
Pope Francis also recalled his one day pastoral visit to Milan on Saturday expressing his thanks to the organisers and those who took part, both believers and non-believers, adding, it felt home.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis wrapped up his one-day pastoral journey to the northern Italian city of Milan with an encounter with newly confirmed youngsters.
At the end of his busy day in the city, the Pope travelled to the football stadium of San Siro where he was welcomed by almost 80,000 people, including parents, god-parents, catechists, teachers and volunteers.
The Pope took questions from some of those present and in his off-cuff answers he focused on the importance of education and formation.
A good teacher he said knows how to enhance and promote the qualities of his pupils without neglecting the person as a whole.
“Education is “head-hands-heart” he said.
He reminded teachers and trainers that “children also need to play, to have fun, to rest.”
The Pope concluded the encounter with a strong appeal to defeat ‘bullying’: “Please be careful, be on the look-out for the phenomenon of bullying” he said and invited the tens of thousands of boys and girls to reflect in silence and ask themselves whether there is someone in their school or in their community that teases them for whatever reason or whether they themselves are mean and even aggressive towards others. “This is bullying” he said and asked them to promise the Lord never to be bullies or to allow others to be victims of bullies.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis celebrated Holy Mass in Monza Park for the people of the Archdiocese of Milan, Italy on Saturday during a pastoral visit, reflecting on the annunciation of Jesus as a message of joy at the peripheries of society.
The Holy Father invited them to be joyful members of God’s people and to avoid “speculating” on the future of others.
Listen to Devin Watkins’ report:
Two were the questions Pope Francis put to the people gathered for Mass in Monza Park: “How can we live the joy of the Gospel today within our cities? Is Christian hope possible in this situation, here and now?”
The Holy Father said these two questions “touch our identities” and “require of us a new way of seeing our place in history”.
He was reflecting on the difference between the two annunciation stories in the first chapter of Luke’s Gospel: that of John the Baptist (Lc 1,26-38), which took place in the inner sanctuary of the Temple in Jerusalem, and that of Jesus (Lc 1,5-10).
He said the annunciation of Jesus’ birth to Mary by the Angel Gabriel took place in Galilee: “a peripheral city with a less-than-excellent reputation (Jn 1,46)”.
The Pope said the contrast indicates that “God’s new encounter with His people will take place in places we would not normally expect: on the margins and peripheries”.
He said, “It is God Himself who takes the initiative and chooses to enter – as Mary did – in our houses and daily struggles, full of anxiety and desires.”
Pope Francis said finding joy in our daily lives can be a challenge due to the speculation or taking advantage of others.
“Some people speculate on life, on work, and on the family. They speculate on the poor and migrants, on young people and their future. Everything seems to be reduced to numbers, on the other hand leaving the daily life of families to be discolored by precariousness and insecurity.”
The keys to finding joy in our mission, the Pope said, are “memory, belonging, and seeing the possible in the impossible”.
“The first thing the Angel [Gabriel] does is evoke her memory, in this way opening Mary’s present to the whole of Salvation History. He evokes the promises made to David as a fruit of the Covenant with Jacob. Mary is a daughter of the Covenant.”
This memory, the Holy Father said, allows Mary to recognize her belonging to the People of God.
He said the Archdiocese of Milan is inhabited by “a people called to welcome differences and integrate them with respect and creativity, celebrating the newness offered by others. It is a people unafraid of embracing borders.”
Third, Pope Francis reminded Milan’s pilgrims that “Nothing is impossible for God” (Lc 1,37).
“When we open to allowing ourselves to be helped or counseled and when we open ourselves to grace, it seems that the impossible begins to become reality.”
In conclusion, the Pope said, “As before, God continues to seek allies and men and women capable of believing and capable of remembering, recognizing themselves as belonging to His people in order to cooperate with the creativity of the Holy Spirit.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) One of the highlights of Pope Francis ’ 1-day pastoral journey to the Italian city of Milan is his visit to the city’s main detention center, the San Vittore Prison .
Shortly after midday and the recitation of the Angelus, the Pope travelled to the prison where he was welcomed by the director,Gloria Manzelli, and by the prison chaplain, don Marco Recalcati.
San Vittore currently hosts over 900 inmates – both men and women – as well as a number of infants who live with their detained mothers in a special unit. The Pope met briefly with them before exchanging greetings with a large group of the San Vittore staff and volunteers.
The building, designed by the engineer Francesco Lucca, takes inspiration from the 18th century Panopticon with 6 wings with three floors each. Moving through these wings, the Pope was given the opportunity to shake hands with some 80 people representing all the different categories of inmates, before going on to meet those who are detained in a “protected” environment.
In the third wing, Pope Francis sat down for lunch with some 100 prisoners and treated to a typically Milanese cuisine, including rice with saffron and steaks “alla Milanese” prepared by some of the inmates themselves.
The visit concluded with an exchange of gifts and the blessing of cards with the prisoners’ names on them to be taken away by the Pope.
Throughout his pontificate Pope Francis has highlighted the predicament of prisoners and urged political leaders across the world to respect the dignity of inmates and offer them amnesty whenever possible. In many occasions he has called for a criminal justice system that is not exclusively punitive, but is open to the hope and the possibility of re-inserting the offender into society. Pope Francis has also called for a world-wide abolition of the death penalty and said he opposes life in prison without parole.
Underlining his deep concern for prisoners the Pope concluded the Holy Year of Mercy with a special Jubilee Mass for some 1,000 prisoners from 12 countries and their families, as well as prison chaplains and volunteers in St. Peter's Basilica.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday is making a one day pastoral visit to Milan. This morning he paid a call on Milan’s Duomo and traveled to the peripheries of the city to meet with immigrant families.
Listen to our report:
For the curious pilgrim or tourist a trip to Milan is not complete without a visit the “Duomo” or Cathedral Church. And it was here in front of this iconic building that Pope Francis recited the Angelus on Saturday greeted by thousands of well- wishers.
A short time earlier inside this magnificent building, the Pope met with priests and consecrated persons, listening to their questions and offering words of advice. During the question and answer session the Holy Father said that in a world that is multicultural, multi-religious, and multi-ethnic, the Church, over its entire history, has had much to teach us and to help us towards a culture of diversity. The Holy Spirit, Pope Francis noted “is the master of diversity.” The Pope also underlined the importance of prayer and of service in the church; service by priests, religious and consecrated to the poor and to the Word of God.
Responding to a question from a religious mother who asked how it was possible to continue to be a significant presence today despite being fewer and older, the Pope said, that it was most important not to become resigned to one’s fate. He said that realities today were a challenge, but religious orders who were in the minority were being invited to rise again like yeast with the help of the Holy Spirit, who also inspired the hearts of their founders.
This one day pastoral visit began on Saturday morning with the Holy Father’s going out to Milan’s peripheries to meet with Rom, Islamic, and immigrant families of the ‘White Houses’ in the Forlanini quarter of the city. Greeting the crowds of people that had gathered to see him, he told them that the Church “always needs to be restored” because he added, it is made by us, who are sinners.” Let us be restored, he said by God’s mercy.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday greeted the Rom, Islamic, and immigrant families of the ‘White Houses’ in the Forlanini quarter of Milan at the beginning of his one-day pastoral visit to the city.
Upon his arrival, residents gave the Holy Father two gifts: a priestly stole and a picture of a statuette of the Madonna.
Pope Francis thanked them for their gifts and said it was important for him to be welcomed to Milan by a community of families.
He said the stole was a reminder that he comes “as a priest: I come to Milan as a priest”.
He also recognized that it had been handmade by several residents of the Forlanini quarter: “It’s a reminder that the Christian priest is chosen from among the people and at the service of the people. My priesthood…is a gift from Christ, but it is ‘woven’ by you, by our people with their faith, labours, prayers, and tears.”
Pope Francis then said the statuette of Our Lady is a sign of his being welcomed to Milan by the Madonna.
“It reminds me of Mary’s care, who ran to meet Elizabeth. This is the care and concern of the Church, which does not remain in the city centre waiting but comes to meet all at the peripheries; she goes also to meet non-Christians and non-believers…; and she brings Jesus to all, he who is the love of God made flesh and gives meaning to our lives and saves us from evil.”
Afterwards, the Holy Father made his way to Milan’s Duomo Cathedral to meet with priests and consecrated men and women.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis addressed Heads of State and Heads of Government of European Union countries on Friday afternoon, the eve of the 60° anniversary of the signing of the treaties creating the European Economic Community and the European Atomic Energy Community – the first major structural steps toward creating the European Union.
Below, please find the full text of the Holy Father’s prepared remarks, in their official English translation
Address of His Holiness Pope Francis
to European Heads of State and Government
24 March 2017
I thank you for your presence here tonight, on the eve of the sixtieth anniversary of the signing of the Treaties instituting the European Economic Community and the European Atomic Energy Community. I convey to each of you the affection of the Holy See for your respective countries and for Europe itself, to whose future it is, in God’s providence, inseparably linked. I am particularly grateful to the Honourable Paolo Gentiloni, President of the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Italy, for his respectful words of greeting in your name and for the efforts that Italy has made in preparing for this meeting. I also thank the Honourable Antonio Tajani, President of the European Parliament, who has voiced the aspirations of the peoples of the Union on this anniversary.
Returning to Rome, sixty years later, must not simply be a remembrance of things past, but the expression of a desire to relive that event in order to appreciate its significance for the present. We need to immerse ourselves in the challenges of that time, so as to face those of today and tomorrow. The Bible, with its rich historical narratives, can teach us a basic lesson. We cannot understand our own times apart from the past, seen not as an assemblage of distant facts, but as the lymph that gives life to the present. Without such an awareness, reality loses its unity, history loses its logical thread, and humanity loses a sense of the meaning of its activity and its progress towards the future.
25 March 1957 was a day full of hope and expectation, enthusiasm and apprehension. Only an event of exceptional significance and historical consequences could make it unique in history. The memory of that day is linked to today’s hopes and the expectations of the people of Europe, who call for discernment in the present, so that the journey that has begun can continue with renewed enthusiasm and confidence.
This was very clear to the founding fathers and the leaders who, by signing the two Treaties, gave life to that political, economic, cultural and primarily human reality which today we call the European Union. As P.H. Spaak, the Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs stated, it was a matter “indeed, of the material prosperity of our peoples, the expansion of our economies, social progress and completely new industrial and commercial possibilities, but above all… a particular conception of life that is humane, fraternal and just”.
After the dark years and the bloodshed of the Second World War, the leaders of the time had faith in the possibility of a better future. “They did not lack boldness, nor did they act too late. The memory of recent tragedies and failures seems to have inspired them and given them the courage needed to leave behind their old disputes and to think and act in a truly new way, in order to bring about the greatest transformation… of Europe”.
The founding fathers remind us that Europe is not a conglomeration of rules to obey, or a manual of protocols and procedures to follow. It is a way of life, a way of understanding man based on his transcendent and inalienable dignity, as something more than simply a sum of rights to defend or claims to advance. At the origin of the idea of Europe, we find “the nature and the responsibility of the human person, with his ferment of evangelical fraternity…, with his desire for truth and justice, honed by a thousand-year-old experience”. Rome, with its vocation to universality, symbolizes that experience and was thus chosen as the place for the signing of the Treaties. For here – as the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, J. Luns, observed – “were laid the political, juridical and social foundations of our civilization”.
It was clear, then, from the outset, that the heart of the European political project could only be man himself. It was also clear that the Treaties could remain a dead letter; they needed to take on spirit and life. The first element of European vitality must be solidarity. As the Prime Minister of Luxembourg, J. Bech stated, “the European economic community will prove lasting and successful only if it remains constantly faithful to the spirit of European solidarity that created it, and if the common will of the Europe now being born proves more powerful than the will of individual nations”. That spirit remains as necessary as ever today, in the face of centrifugal impulses and the temptation to reduce the founding ideals of the Union to productive, economic and financial needs.
Solidarity gives rise to openness towards others. “Our plans are not inspired by self-interest”, said the German Chancellor, K. Adenauer. The French Minister of Foreign Affairs, C. Pineau, echoed this sentiment: “Surely the countries about to unite… do not have the intention of isolating themselves from the rest of the world and surrounding themselves with insurmountable barriers”. In a world that was all too familiar with the tragedy of walls and divisions, it was clearly important to work for a united and open Europe, and for the removal of the unnatural barrier that divided the continent from the Baltic Sea to the Adriatic. What efforts were made to tear down that wall! Yet today the memory of those efforts has been lost. Forgotten too is the tragedy of separated families, poverty and destitution born of that division. Where generations longed to see the fall of those signs of forced hostility, these days we debate how to keep out the “dangers” of our time: beginning with the long file of women, men and children fleeing war and poverty, seeking only a future for themselves and their loved ones.
In today’s lapse of memory, we often forget another great achievement of the solidarity ratified on 25 March 1957: the longest period of peace experienced in recent centuries. “Peoples who over time often found themselves in opposed camps, fighting with one another… now find themselves united and enriched by their distinctive national identities”. Peace is always the fruit of a free and conscious contribution by all. Nonetheless, “for many people today, peace appears as a blessing to be taken for granted”, one that can then easily come to be regarded as superfluous. On the contrary, peace is a precious and essential good, for without it, we cannot build a future for anyone, and we end up “living from day to day”.
United Europe was born of a clear, well-defined and carefully pondered project, however embryonic at first. Every worthy project looks to the future, and the future are the young, who are called to realize its hopes and promises. The founding fathers had a clear sense of being part of a common effort that not only crossed national borders, but also the borders of time, so as to bind generations among themselves, all sharing equally in the building of the common home.
I have devoted this first part of my talk to the founding fathers of Europe, so that we can be challenged by their words, the timeliness of their thinking, their impassioned pursuit of the common good, their certainty of sharing in a work greater than themselves, and the breadth of the ideals that inspired them. Their common denominator was the spirit of service, joined to passion for politics and the consciousness that “at the origin of European civilization there is Christianity”, without which the Western values of dignity, freedom and justice would prove largely incomprehensible. As Saint John Paul II affirmed: “Today too, the soul of Europe remains united, because, in addition to its common origins, those same Christian and human values are still alive. Respect for the dignity of the human person, a profound sense of justice, freedom, industriousness, the spirit of initiative, love of family, respect for life, tolerance, the desire for cooperation and peace: all these are its distinctive marks”. In our multicultural world, these values will continue to have their rightful place provided they maintain a vital connection to their deepest roots. The fruitfulness of that connection will make it possible to build authentically “lay” societies, free of ideological conflicts, with equal room for the native and the immigrant, for believers and nonbelievers.
The world has changed greatly in the last sixty years. If the founding fathers, after surviving a devastating conflict, were inspired by the hope of a better future and were determined to pursue it by avoiding the rise of new conflicts, our time is dominated more by the concept of crisis. There is the economic crisis that has marked the past decade; there is the crisis of the family and of established social models; there is a widespread “crisis of institutions” and the migration crisis. So many crises that engender fear and profound confusion in our contemporaries, who look for a new way of envisioning the future. Yet the term “crisis” is not necessarily negative. It does not simply indicate a painful moment to be endured. The word “crisis” has its origin in the Greek verb kríno, which means to discern, to weigh, to assess. Ours is a time of discernment, one that invites us to determine what is essential and to build on it. It is a time of challenge and opportunity.
So what is the interpretative key for reading the difficulties of the present and finding answers for the future? Returning to the thinking of the founding Fathers would be fruitless unless it could help to point out a path and provide an incentive for facing the future and a source of hope. When a body loses its sense of direction and is no longer able to look ahead, it experiences a regression and, in the long run, risks dying. What, then, is the legacy of the founding fathers? What prospects do they indicate for surmounting the challenges that lie before us? What hope do they offer for the Europe of today and of tomorrow?
Their answers are to be found precisely in the pillars on which they determined to build the European economic community. I have already mentioned these: the centrality of man, effective solidarity, openness to the world, the pursuit of peace and development, openness to the future. Those who govern are charged with discerning the paths of hope, identifying specific ways forward to ensure that the significant steps taken thus far have not been wasted, but serve as the pledge of a long and fruitful journey.
Europe finds new hope when man is the centre and the heart of her institutions. I am convinced that this entails an attentive and trust-filled readiness to hear the expectations voiced by individuals, society and the peoples who make up the Union. Sadly, one frequently has the sense that there is a growing “split” between the citizenry and the European institutions, which are often perceived as distant and inattentive to the different sensibilities present in the Union. Affirming the centrality of man also means recovering the spirit of family, whereby each contributes freely to the common home in accordance with his or her own abilities and gifts. It helps to keep in mind that Europe is a family of peoples and that – as in every good family – there are different sensitivities, yet all can grow to the extent that all are united. The European Union was born as a unity of differences and a unity in differences. What is distinctive should not be a reason for fear, nor should it be thought that unity is preserved by uniformity. Unity is instead harmony within a community. The founding fathers chose that very term as the hallmark of the agencies born of the Treaties and they stressed that the resources and talents of each were now being pooled. Today the European Union needs to recover the sense of being primarily a “community” of persons and peoples, to realize that “the whole is greater than the part, but it is also greater than the sum of its parts”, and that therefore “we constantly have to broaden our horizons and see the greater good which will benefit us all”. The founding fathers sought that harmony in which the whole is present in every one of the parts, and the parts are – each in its own unique way – present in the whole.
Europe finds new hope in solidarity, which is also the most effective antidote to modern forms of populism. Solidarity entails the awareness of being part of a single body, while at the same time involving a capacity on the part of each member to “sympathize” with others and with the whole. When one suffers, all suffer (cf. 1 Cor 12:26). Today, with the United Kingdom, we mourn the victims of the attack that took place in London two days ago. For solidarity is no mere ideal; it is expressed in concrete actions and steps that draw us closer to our neighbours, in whatever situation they find themselves. Forms of populism are instead the fruit of an egotism that hems people in and prevents them from overcoming and “looking beyond” their own narrow vision. There is a need to start thinking once again as Europeans, so as to avert the opposite dangers of a dreary uniformity or the triumph of particularisms. Politics needs this kind of leadership, which avoids appealing to emotions to gain consent, but instead, in a spirit of solidarity and subsidiarity, devises policies that can make the Union as a whole develop harmoniously. As a result, those who run faster can offer a hand to those who are slower, and those who find the going harder can aim at catching up to those at the head of the line.
Europe finds new hope when she refuses to yield to fear or close herself off in false forms of security. Quite the contrary, her history has been greatly determined by encounters with other peoples and cultures; hers “is, and always has been, a dynamic and multicultural identity”. The world looks to the European project with great interest. This was the case from the first day, when crowds gathered in Rome’s Capitol Square and messages of congratulation poured in from other states. It is even more the case today, if we think of those countries that have asked to become part of the Union and those states that receive the aid so generously offered them for battling the effects of poverty, disease and war. Openness to the world implies the capacity for “dialogue as a form of encounter” on all levels, beginning with dialogue between member states, between institutions and citizens, and with the numerous immigrants landing on the shores of the Union. It is not enough to handle the grave crisis of immigration of recent years as if it were a mere numerical or economic problem, or a question of security. The immigration issue poses a deeper question, one that is primarily cultural. What kind of culture does Europe propose today? The fearfulness that is becoming more and more evident has its root cause in the loss of ideals. Without an approach inspired by those ideals, we end up dominated by the fear that others will wrench us from our usual habits, deprive us of familiar comforts, and somehow call into question a lifestyle that all too often consists of material prosperity alone. Yet the richness of Europe has always been her spiritual openness and her capacity to raise basic questions about the meaning of life. Openness to the sense of the eternal has also gone hand in hand, albeit not without tensions and errors, with a positive openness to this world. Yet today’s prosperity seems to have clipped the continent’s wings and lowered its gaze. Europe has a patrimony of ideals and spiritual values unique in the world, one that deserves to be proposed once more with passion and renewed vigour, for it is the best antidote against the vacuum of values of our time, which provides a fertile terrain for every form of extremism. These are the ideals that shaped Europe, that “Peninsula of Asia” which stretches from the Urals to the Atlantic.
Europe finds new hope when she invests in development and in peace. Development is not the result of a combination of various systems of production. It has to do with the whole human being: the dignity of labour, decent living conditions, access to education and necessary medical care. “Development is the new name of peace”, said Pope Paul VI, for there is no true peace whenever people are cast aside or forced to live in dire poverty. There is no peace without employment and the prospect of earning a dignified wage. There is no peace in the peripheries of our cities, with their rampant drug abuse and violence.
Europe finds new hope when she is open to the future. When she is open to young people, offering them serious prospects for education and real possibilities for entering the work force. When she invests in the family, which is the first and fundamental cell of society. When she respects the consciences and the ideals of her citizens. When she makes it possible to have children without the fear of being unable to support them. When she defends life in all its sacredness.
Nowadays, with the general increase in people’s life span, sixty is considered the age of full maturity, a critical time when we are once again called to self-examination. The European Union, too, is called today to examine itself, to care for the ailments that inevitably come with age, and to find new ways to steer its course. Yet unlike human beings, the European Union does not face an inevitable old age, but the possibility of a new youthfulness. Its success will depend on its readiness to work together once again, and by its willingness to wager on the future. As leaders, you are called to blaze the path of a “new European humanism” made up of ideals and concrete actions. This will mean being unafraid to take practical decisions capable of meeting people’s real problems and of standing the test of time.
For my part, I readily assure you of the closeness of the Holy See and the Church to Europe as a whole, to whose growth she has, and always will, continue to contribute. Invoking upon Europe the Lord’s blessings, I ask him to protect her and grant her peace and progress. I make my own the words that Joseph Bech proclaimed on Rome’s Capitoline Hill: Ceterum censeo Europam esse aedificandam – furthermore, I believe that Europe ought to be built.
 P.H. SPAAK, Address on the Signing of the Treaties of Rome, 25 March 1957.
 A. DE GASPERI. La nostra patria Europa. Address to the European Parliamentary Conference, 21 April 1954, in Alcide De Gasperi e la politica internazionale, Cinque Lune, Rome, 1990, vol. III, 437-440.
 Cf. P.H. SPAAK, loc. cit.
 J. LUNS, Address on the Signing of the Treaties of Rome, 25 March 1957.
 J. BECH, Address on the Signing of the Treaties of Rome, 25 March 1957.
 K. ADENAUER, Address on the Signing of the Treaties of Rome, 25 March 1957.
 C. PINEAU, Address on the Signing of the Treaties of Rome, 25 March 1957.
 P.H. SPAAK, loc. cit.
 Address to Members of the Diplomatic Corps Accredited to the Holy See, 9 January 2017.
 Cf. P.H. SPAAK, loc. cit.
 A. DE GASPERI, loc. cit.
 JOHN PAUL II, European Act, Santiago de Compostela, 9 November 1982: AAS 75/1 (1983), 329.
 Cf. Address to the European Parliament, Strasbourg, 25 November 2014: AAS 106 (2014), 1000.
 Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 235.
 Address at the Conferral of the Charlemagne Prize, 6 May 2016: L’Osservatore Romano, 6-7 May 2016, p. 4.
 Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 239.
 PAUL VI, Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio, 26 March 1967, 87: AAS 59 (1967), 299.
 Address at the Conferral of the Charlemagne Prize, loc. cit., p. 5.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) The Press Office of the Holy See has released the following communiqué on Pope Francis' audience for the President of Fiji:
Today, Friday 24 March, the Holy Father Francis received in Audience, in the Vatican Apostolic Palace, the president of the Republic of Fiji, His Excellency Mr Jioji Konousi Konrote, who subsequently met with His Eminence Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, accompanied by His Excellency Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, secretary for Relations with States. During the cordial discussions, the existing good relations between the Holy See and Fiji and the contribution of the Catholic Church to the life of the country were evoked. Attention then turned to the issue of climate change and, above all, to its ethical dimension, which demands solidarity with the most vulnerable social groups and countries, and with the new generations.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a letter of condolence to the Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, following the death of Cardinal William Keeler, who led the Archdiocese of Baltimore from 1989-2007.
The full text of the telegram can be found below:
To the Most Reverend William E. Lori
Archbishop of Baltimore
Deeply saddened to learn of the death of Cardinal William H. Keeler, I offer heartfelt condolences to you and to the clergy, religious and lay faithful of the Archdiocese. With gratitude for Cardinal Keeler’s years of devoted episcopal ministry in the local Churches of Harrisburg and Baltimore, his years of leadership within the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and his long-standing commitment to ecumenical and interreligious understanding, I join you in commending the soul of this wise and gentle pastor to the merciful love of God our heavenly Father. To all who mourn the late Cardinal in the sure hope of the Resurrection, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of consolation and peace in the Lord.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis is set to receive 27 European Union heads of State and government at a private audience in the Vatican’s Sala Regia on Friday evening.
The encounter takes place on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome.
Leaders will be joined at the audience by representatives of EU institutions.
These include Antonio Tajani, President of the European Parliament, Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, and Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission.
Pope Francis will address the group after speeches made by Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni and Antonio Tajani.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has officially recognized the miracle attributed to the intercession of two Fatima children - Blesseds Francisco and Jacinta Marto. He also approved the canonizations of 30 Brazilian and 3 Mexican martyrs.
The Pope will visit Fatima in Portugal on 12-13 May. Click here to see the schedule of his visit.
During an audience on Thursday with Cardinal Angelo Amato, S.D.B., Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, the Holy Father authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to promulgate the following decrees :
- the miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Angelo da Acri (né Luca Antonio Falcone), professed priest of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, born 19 October 1669 and died 30 October 1739);
- the miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Francisco Marto, born on 11 June 1908 and died on 4 April 1919, and Blessed Jacinta Marto, born 11 March 1910 and died 20 February 1920, children of Fátima;
- the martyrdom of Servants of God José Fernández Sánchez and 32 companions, priests and coadjutor brothers of the Congregation of the Mission, alongside six laypeople of the Association of the Miraculous Medal of Our Lady, killed in hatred of the faith during the Spanish civil war;
- the martyrdom of Servant of God Regina Mariam Vattalil (née Rani Maria), professed sister of the Franciscan Clarist Congregation, killed in hatred of the faith on 25 February 1995;
- the heroic virtues of Servant of God Daniele da Samarate (né Felice Rossini), professed priest of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, born 15 June 1876 and died 19 May 1924;
- the heroic virtues of Servant of God Macrina Raparelli (né Elena), founder of the Congregation of the Basilian Sisters, daughters of Saint Macrina, born 2 April 1893 and died 26 February 1970;
- the heroic virtues of Servant of God Daniela Zanetta, layperson, born 15 December 1962 and died 14 April 1986.
The Holy Father also approved the favourable votes of the Ordinary Session of Cardinals and Bishops, member of the Congregation, regarding the canonization of the following Blesseds :
- André de Soveral, and Ambrósio Francisco Ferro, diocesan priests, and Mateus Moreira, layperson, alongside 27 companions, martyrs, killed in hatred of the faith in Brazil on 16 July 1645 and 3 October 1645;
- Cristóbal, Antonio and Juan, adolescent martyrs, killed in hatred of the faith in Mexico in 1529.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Listen to the Word of God to avoid the risk of a hardened heart. That was Pope Francis’ message in his homily at morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta on Thursday. The Pope pointed out that when we turn away from God and are deaf to His Word, we become unfaithful or even “Catholic atheists.”
Pope Francis drew inspiration from the First Reading from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah to meditate on the importance of listening to the Word of God. “When we do not stop to listen to the voice of the Lord we end up moving away, we turn away from Him, we turn our backs. And if we do not listen to the voice of the Lord, we listen to other voices.”
The Holy Father suggested that if we do not listen to God’s voice, then in the end we listen to the voices of idols. He noted bitterly that eventually, “we become deaf: deaf to the Word of God.”
“And all of us, if we stop a little today and look at our hearts, we will see how many times – how many times! – we close our ears and how many times we have become deaf. And when a people, a community, but we can also say a Christian community, a parish, a diocese, when they close their ears and become deaf to the Word of the Lord, they search for other voices, other lords, and it ends with idols, the idols of the world, the worldliness that society offers. That community distances itself from the living God.”
If the heart hardens, we become “Catholic pagans”, even “Catholic atheists.” As we move away from the Lord, the Pope added, our hearts harden. When someone “does not listen, the heart becomes harder, more closed in on itself, hard and unable to receive anything; not only is it closed: there is a hardness of heart.” That person lives “in that world, that atmosphere that doesn’t do him good. He moves further away from God every day.”
“And these two things – not listening to the Word of God and a hardened heart, closed in on itself – cause infidelity. You lose your sense of fidelity. The Lord says in the First Reading: ‘faithfulness is gone’, and we become unfaithful Catholics, Catholic pagans or, uglier still, Catholic atheists, because we have no reference to the love of the living God. To not listen and to turn our backs – that makes our hearts harden – takes us on the road to infidelity.
The Pope then asked, “This infidelity, how does it end?” He answered by referring to the Gospel passage from St Luke, in which Jesus is accused of healing people through the power of Beelzebul. “It ends in confusion; you do not know where God is or where He is not, you confuse God with the devil.”
His Holiness said we should ask ourselves whether we really listen to the Word of God or whether we harden our hearts. “This is blasphemy. Blasphemy is the final word on this path that begins with not listening, with the hardening of the heart.” This failure to listen and this hardening of the heart “leads to confusion, making you forget fidelity and, ultimately, blaspheming.”
To those who forget the wonder of the first meeting with Jesus, he said: “Each of us can ask ourselves today: ‘Have I stopped listening to the Word of God, taking the Bible in my hands and talking only to myself? Has my heart been hardened? Am I far from the Lord? Have I lost my fidelity to the Lord and do I live with the idols that offer me worldliness every day? Have I lost the joy of the wonder of my first meeting with Jesus?’. Today is a day to listen. ‘O that today you would listen to His voice! Harden not your hearts!’’. We ask for this grace: the grace to listen so that our hearts will not be hardened.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received Paul Biya, President of the Republic of Cameroon, in a private audience at the Vatican on Thursday.
A communique from the Holy See Press Office said their discussions were "cordial".
"During the cordial discussions, the existing good relations between the Holy See and Cameroon were evoked, as was the important contribution the Church offers to the development of the country, especially in the fields of education and healthcare. Taking into consideration the peaceful co-existence and mutual respect between the various religious groups, attention was focused on the importance of promoting national cohesion, enhancing the richness of the various historic and cultural traditions of the country, with respect for human and minority rights."
The Pope and the president also exchanged "views on some themes of international interest, with particular reference to the current challenges affecting the region".
President Biya subsequently met with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, who was accompanied by Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a telegram expressing his condolences to the victims of the terror attack at the Houses of Parliament in London on Wednesday, in which an attacker killed four people before armed police shot him dead.
Addressed to the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols , and signed by the Cardinal Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, the telegram conveys the Holy Father's promises of prayers and spiritual closeness to the grieving families, as well as his spiritual solidarity with the whole people.
Below, please find the full text of the Telegram, in English
His Eminence Cardinal Vincent Nichols
Archbishop of Westminster
President of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales
Deeply saddened to learn of the loss of life and of the injuries caused by the attack in central London, His Holiness Pope Francis expresses his prayerful solidarity with all those affected by this tragedy. Commending those who have died to the loving mercy of Almighty God, His Holiness invokes divine strength and peace upon their grieving families, and he assures the nation of his prayers at this time.
Cardinal Pietro Parolin
Secretary of State
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has greeted participants in a Vatican conference on the value and values of water promoted by the Pontifical Council for Culture.
Wednesday, March 22, marks the 25th iteration of World Water Day, instituted by the United Nations in 1992.
The conference is entitled “ Watershed: replenishing water values for a thirsty world ”.
During his greetings to English speakers at the General Audience, Pope Francis gave a special welcome and encouraged participants in their work.
“I am happy that this meeting is taking place, for it represents yet another stage in the joint commitment of various institutions to raising consciousness about the need to protect water as a treasure belonging to everyone, mindful too of its cultural and religious significance. I especially encourage your efforts in the area of education, through programmes directed to children and young people. Thank you for all that you do and may God bless you!”
Speakers at the one-day event include Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture and of the Pontifical Commission of Sacred Archaeology, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States, and Cardinal Peter Turkson, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has called for an ongoing commitment to welcome and integrate forced migrants and refugees and described the current migration phenomenon as the world’s greatest tragedy after the Second World War.
Speaking on Wednesday to crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the weekly General Audience, the Pope also continued his catechesis on Christian hope and appealed to the faithful to ‘re-discover’ the Sacrament of Reconciliation .
Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni :
In his appeal , launched after the catechesis, Pope Francis reminded all Catholic communities to participate in the upcoming “ 24 hours for the Lord ” initiative on 23rd and 24th of March with Churches across the globe offering the Sacrament of Confession as a “privileged moment of grace” during our Lenten journey.
And speaking to an Italian association that offers services and help to migrants and refugees upon their arrival and a long-term process of integration, the Pope highlighted the rights and the responsibilities of those who receive and of those who are received, and described the current migration crisis as the greatest tragedy after World War 2.
His words come just days before EU Heads of State or Government convene in the city to mark the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome.
In his catechesis meanwhile, Pope Francis reflected on a reading from Saint Paul which focusses on the attitudes of steadfastness and encouragement.
They are intimately connected to the reality of Christian hope because ours, he said, is a God of steadfastness as he loves us perseveringly and never tires of consoling us.
He is also a God of encouragement, he continued, who calls us to be close to the weak and the needy with whom he asks us to be strong and to be sowers of hope.
What’s more, the Pope continued, Christians are called to spread hope by supporting and encouraging one another, especially those in danger of faltering. But we do so, he concluded, with the strength provided by the Lord, who is our unfailing source of hope.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis sent a video message to young people on Tuesday to help them prepare for the XXXII World Youth Day, which is being celebrated at the diocesan level on Palm Sunday, 9 April 2017.
The theme of this year's WYD is “The Mighty One has done great things for me” (Lk 1:49).
In the video, Pope Francis highlights several themes of his full message for WYD , inviting young people to embark on a path of spiritual preparation for the international celebration of World Youth Day in Panama on 22-27 January 2019.
Watch the full video:
Below please find the official English translation of the Pope's video message:
Dear young people,
With the memory vividly in our minds of our meeting together at World Youth Day 2016 in Krakow, we have set out towards the next goal that will be, God willing, Panama in 2019. These moments of encounter and conversation with you are very important to me. I want this journey to proceed in line with preparations for the next Synod of Bishops because it is dedicated to you, young people.
We are accompanied on this journey by Our Mother, the Virgin Mary. She encourages us with her faith, the same faith that she expressed in her song of praise. Mary said, “The Mighty One has done great things for me” (Lk 1:49). She knew how to give thanks to God who looked upon her littleness, and she recognised the great things that God was accomplishing in her life. So she set off to visit her cousin Elizabeth who was old and needed her to be close by. Mary did not stay at home because she was not a young couch potato who looks for comfort and safety where nobody can bother them. She was moved by faith because faith is at the heart of Our Mother’s entire life story.
Dear young people, God is also watching over you and calling you, and when God does so, he is looking at all the love you are able to offer. Like the young woman of Nazareth, you can improve the world and leave an imprint that makes a mark on history ‒ your history and that of many others. The Church and society need you. With your plans and with your courage, with your dreams and ideals, walls of stagnation fall and roads open up that lead us to a better, fairer, less cruel and more humane world.
As you follow this path, I encourage you to cultivate a relationship of familiarity and friendship with Our Lady. She is our Mother. Speak to her as you would to a Mother. Together with her, give thanks for the precious gift of faith that you have received from your elders, and entrust your whole life to her. She is a good Mother who listens to you and embraces you, who loves you and walks together with you. I assure you that if you do that, you will not regret it.
Have a good pilgrimage to World Youth Day 2019.
May God bless you all.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Saint Joseph gives young people “the ability to dream, to risk, and to undertake the difficult tasks that they have seen in dreams.” That was the message of Pope Francis during the morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta.
The day’s liturgy commemorated the Solemnity of St Joseph, which is normally celebrated on 19 March, but which is transferred when that date falls on a Sunday in Lent.
In his homily, Pope Francis focused on the figure of St Joseph, the guardian of weaknesses, and of the “dream of God.”
The Gospel of the day tells how Joseph, in obedience to the angel who appeared to him in a dream, took Mary, who had conceived by the Holy Spirit, as his wife. Joseph, silent and obedient, is a man who carries with him the promises of “ancestry, heritage, paternity, sonship, stability”:
“And this man, this dreamer, is able to accept this duty, this grave duty. He has so much to say to us in this time of a strong sense of being orphaned. And so this man takes the promise of God and carries it onward in silence, with strength, he carries it onward so that God’s Will might be done.”
Saint Joseph, the Pope said, is a man “who can tell us many things, but who does not speak,” “the hidden man,” the man of silence, “who has the greatest authority in that moment without letting it be seen.” And the Pope emphasized that the things God confides to the heart of Joseph are “weak things”: promises – and a promise is weak. And then there is the birth of the child, the flight into Egypt, situations of weakness. Joseph takes to heart and carries forward “all these weaknesses” as weaknesses are carried forward: “with so much tenderness,” “with the tenderness with which one takes a child in one’s arms”:
“He is the man who doesn’t speak but obeys, the man of tenderness, the man capable of carrying forward the promises so that they might become solid, certain; the man who guarantees the stability of the Kingdom of God, the paternity of God, our sonship as children of God. I like to think of Joseph as the guardian of weaknesses, of our weaknesses too: he is able to give birth to so many beautiful things from our weaknesses, even from our sins.”
Joseph is the guardian of weaknesses so that they might become firm in faith. But he received this duty in a dream: he is a man “able to dream,” Pope Francis said. And so he is also “the guardian of the dream of God”: God’s dream “of saving all of us,” of redemption, was entrusted to him. “How great was this carpenter!” the Pope exclaimed. He was silent, but he worked, he guarded, he carried forward the weaknesses, and he was capable of dreaming. And so he is a figure who has a message for all:
“Today I want to ask, grant to all of us the ability to dream, that when we dream great things, beautiful things, we might draw near to the dream of God, the things God dreams about us. [I ask] that he might give to young people – because he was young – the capacity to dream, to risk, to undertake the difficult tasks they have seen in dreams. And [I ask] him to give to all of us the faithfulness that tends to grow when we have a just attitude – Joseph was just – [the faithfulness that] grows in silence, with few words; that grows in tenderness that guards our own weaknesses and those of others.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) “Perhaps we have not yet encountered Jesus personally,” Pope Francis said in his Angelus address on Sunday. “Perhaps we have not recognized Him as our Saviour.”
The Holy Father was commenting on the day’s Gospel, which relates the “dialogue” between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. Because of the great respect Jesus shows her — despite her being a Samaritan, and despite her disordered life — she is open to the words of Christ, when He speaks to her about the true faith. She recognizes Him as a prophet, and intuits that He could be the Messiah, and Jesus tells her plainly that He is, in fact, the Messiah — something that happens very rarely in the Gospels, the Pope said.
“Dear brothers,” Pope Francis continued, “the water that gives eternal life was poured out in our hearts on the day of our Baptism;” on that day, “God transformed us and filled us with His grace.” However, the Pope said, we sometimes forget about the grace of our Baptism, or treat it merely as a piece of biographical data. When that happens we go looking for “wells” filled with water that cannot quench our thirst. “And so this Gospel is for us!” the Pope said, “not just for the Samaritan woman.”
Lent, he said, is a good opportunity for us “to draw near” to Jesus, “to encounter Him in prayer in a heart-to-heart dialogue… to see His face in the face of a brother or a sister who is suffering.” In this way, the Pope said, “we can renew within ourselves the grace of Baptism, quenching our thirst at the font of the Word of God and of the Holy Spirit; and thereby discovering, too, the joy of becoming artisans of reconciliation and instruments of peace in our daily lives. “
(from Vatican Radio)...