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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Encounter with young Ugandans: the blood of martyrs flows in your veins

Vatican City, 29 November 2015 (VIS) – Yesterday afternoon the Pope met with the young people of Uganda at the Kololo airstrip, a former airport near Kampala which is currently used for major events, and which is able to hold around a hundred thousand people. The young people had followed the Mass celebrated by Pope Francis a few hours previously at the Catholic Namugongo shrine via the maxi screens installed in the area. The civil authorities responsible for education and sport were also present in Kololo along with, in a special area, 200 young deaf people, refugees, and chaplains for youth pastoral ministry. On the stage there were another fifty young people, a couple from each diocese in the country and a group of orphans.

The Pope set aside his prepared discourse, which we reproduce below, preferring instead to converse informally with those present after listening to the testimony of two young people, Emmanuel Odokonyero and Winnie Nansumba, who told of their difficult experiences, from sickness and depression to recruitment and witnessing the torture and murder of their friends.

“As I listened to Winnie and Emmanuel's testimonies, I asked myself a question: can a negative experience have a purpose in life? Yes! … Many of us here today have had negative experiences. There is always the possibility of opening up a horizon, of opening it up with the strength of Jesus. … Because Jesus is the Lord. Jesus can do anything. And Jesus suffered the most negative experience in history: He was insulted, denied and murdered. And Jesus, through the power of God, rose again. He can do the same for each one of us, with every negative experience. This is why Jesus is the Lord.

“I imagine, and together we can all imagine Emmanuel's suffering, when he saw his companions tortured, when he saw his companions murdered. But Emmanuel was brave. … He risked everything, he had faith in Jesus and he escaped. And here he is today, fourteen years later, qualified in management. There is always a way! Our life is like a seed, that must die in order to live again; and at times this means dying physically, like Emmanuel's companions. To die as Charles Lwanga and the martyrs of Uganda died. But through this death there is a life, there is life for all. If I transform a negative into a positive, I am triumphant. But this can be done only with the grace of Jesus. … Are you willing to transform in life all those negative things into positive things? Are you willing to transform war into peace? Be conscious that you are a people of martyrs. The blood of the martyrs flows in your veins! This is why you have your faith and life. And this faith and life is so beautiful, that it is called the 'pearl of Africa'”.

“If you believe that Jesus can change your life, ask Him for His help. This is prayer. … Pray to Jesus, because He is the Saviour. Never cease praying. Prayer is the most powerful weapon a young person has. Jesus loves you. … So, open the door to your heart and let Him enter. Let Jesus enter into your life. And when Jesus enters your life, He will help you fight, to fight against all problems. … To fight against depression, to fight against AIDS. Ask for help to overcome these situations, and always to fight. Fight with desire and with prayer”.

“The third thing I would like to say … We are all in the Church, we all belong to the Church. … And the Church has a mother. Mary! … Pray to Mary! … When a child falls and hurts himself, he cries and looks for his mother. When we have a problem, the best thing we can do is to go to where our Mother is. To pray to Mary, to pray to our Mother”.

“Three things”, he concluded: “The first: overcome difficulties. The second: transform the negative into positive. And the third: prayer. Pray to Jesus, Who is capable of everything. Jesus, Who enters into our heart and changes our life. Jesus, Who came to save me and who gave His life for me. Let us pray to Jesus, because He is the only Lord. And since in the Church we are not orphans, we have a Mother, let us pray to our Mother”.

The following is the Holy Father's prepared discourse:

“Dear Young Friends,

I am happy to be here and to share these moments with you. I greet my brother bishops and the civil authorities present, and I thank Bishop Paul Ssemogerere for his words of welcome. The testimonies of Winnie and Emmanuel confirm my impression that the Church in Uganda is alive with young people who want a better future. Today, if you will allow me, I want to confirm you in your faith, encourage you in your love, and in a special way, strengthen you in your hope.

Christian hope is not simply optimism; it is much more. It is rooted in the new life we have received in Jesus Christ. St. Paul tells us that hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love was poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit at our baptism. This hope enables us to trust in Christ’s promises, to trust in the power of His love, His forgiveness, His friendship. That love opens the door to new life. Whenever you experience a problem, a setback, a failure, you must anchor your heart in that love, for it has the power to turn death into life and to banish every evil.

So this afternoon I would invite you, first of all, to pray for this gift to grow within you, and for the grace to become messengers of hope. There are so many people around us who experience deep anxiety and even despair. Jesus lifts these clouds, if we allow Him to.

I would also like to share with you a few thoughts about some of the obstacles which you may encounter on our journey of hope. All of you want a better future, employment, health and prosperity. This is good. You want to share your gifts, your aspirations and your enthusiasm with others, for the good of the nation and of the Church. This too is very good. But when you see poverty, when you experience lack of opportunity, when you experience failure in your lives, sometimes a feeling of despair can grow. You can be tempted to lose hope.

Have you ever seen a little child who stops in front of a dirty puddle on the path ahead of him? A puddle he cannot leap over or go around? He may try but then he stumbles and gets soaked. Then, after many attempts, he calls out to his father, who takes his hand and swings him over to the other side. We are like that child. Life presents us with many dirty puddles. But we don’t have to overcome all those problems and hurdles on our own. God is there to take our hand, if only we call on him.

What I am saying is that all of us have to be like that little child, even the Pope! For it is only when we are small and humble that we are not afraid to call out to our Father. If you have experienced his help, you know what I am speaking about. We need to learn to put our hope in him, knowing that he is always there for us. He gives us confidence and courage. But – and this is important – it would be wrong not to share this beautiful experience with others. It would be wrong for us not to become messengers of hope for others.

There is one particular puddle which can be frightening to young people who want to grow in their friendship with Christ. It is the fear of failing in our commitment to love, and above all, failing in that great and lofty ideal which is Christian marriage. You may be afraid of failing to be a good wife and mother, failing to be a good husband and father. If you are looking at that puddle, you may even see your weaknesses and fears reflected back to you. Please, don’t give in to them! Sometimes these fears come from the devil who does not want you to be happy. No! Call out to God, extend your hearts to him and he will lift you in his arms and show you how to love. I ask young couples in particular to trust that God wants to bless their love and their lives with his grace in the sacrament of marriage. God’s gift of love is at the heart of Christian marriage, not the costly parties which often obscure the deep spiritual meaning of this day of joyful celebration with family and friends.

Finally, one puddle that we all have to face is the fear of being different, of going against the grain in a society which puts increasing pressure on us to embrace models of gratification and consumption alien to the deepest values of African culture. Think about it! What would the Uganda martyrs say about the misuse of our modern means of communication, where young people are exposed to images and distorted views of sexuality that degrade human dignity, leading to sadness and emptiness? What would be the Uganda martyrs’ reaction to the growth of greed and corruption in our midst? Surely they would appeal to you to be model Christians, confident that your love of Christ, your fidelity to the Gospel, and your wise use of your God-given gifts can only enrich, purify and elevate the life of this country. They continue to show you the way. Do not be afraid to let the light of your faith shine in your families, your schools and your places of work. Do not be afraid to enter into dialogue humbly with others who may see things differently.

Dear young friends, when I look at your faces I am filled with hope: hope for you, hope for your country, and hope for the Church. I ask you to pray that the hope which you have received from the Holy Spirit will continue to inspire your efforts to grow in wisdom, generosity and goodness. Don’t forget to be messengers of that hope! And don’t forget that God will help you to cross whatever puddles you meet along the way!

Hope in Christ and he will enable you to find true happiness. And if you find it hard to pray, if you find it hard to hope, do not be afraid to turn to Mary, for she is our Mother, the Mother of Hope. Finally, please, do not forget to pray for me! God bless you all!”.

In the Nalukolongo House of Charity: do not close your doors to the cry of the poor

Vatican City, 29 November 2015 (VIS) – Yesterday, following his encounter with the young people of Uganda, the Pope transferred to the Nalukolongo House of Charity, founded in 1978 by Cardinal Emmanuel Kikwanuka Nsubunga (1914-1990) and entrusted to the Good Samaritan Sisters, the congregation he founded, which currently cares for around one hundred poor people of any religion or age, from infancy to extreme old age.

Nalukolongo is a place which, as Francis recalled in his brief address to the guests in the institution and the thirty women religious who take care of them, “has always been associated with the Church’s outreach to the poor, the handicapped, the sick. I think particularly of the great and fruitful work carried out with those people affected by AIDS. Here, in early times, slave children were ransomed and women received religious instruction. I greet the Good Samaritan Sisters who carry on this fine tradition, and I thank them for their years of quiet and joyful service in this apostolate. And here, Jesus is present here, because he said that he would always be present among the poor, the sick, convicts, the destitute, those who suffer. Jesus is here”.

“I also greet the representatives of the many other apostolic groups who serve the needs of our brothers and sisters in Uganda. Above all, I greet the residents of this home and others like it, and all who benefit from these works of Christian charity. For this is a home. Here you can find love and care; here you can feel the presence of Jesus, our brother, who loves each of us with God’s own love”.

“Today, from this Home, I appeal to all parishes and communities in Uganda – and the rest of Africa – not to forget the poor, not to forget the poor! The Gospel commands us to go out to the peripheries of society, and to find Christ in the suffering and those in need. The Lord tells us, in no uncertain terms, that is what he will judge us on! How sad it is when our societies allow the elderly to be rejected or neglected! How wrong it is when the young are exploited by the modern-day slavery of human trafficking! If we look closely at the world around us, it seems that, in many places, selfishness and indifference are spreading. How many of our brothers and sisters are victims of today’s throwaway culture, which breeds contempt above all towards the unborn, the young and the elderly!”.

“As Christians, we cannot simply stand by, stand by watching what is happening, without doing anything. Something must change! Our families need to become ever more evident signs of God’s patient and merciful love, not only for our children and elders, but for all those in need. Our parishes must not close their doors, or their ears, to the cry of the poor. This is the royal road of Christian discipleship. In this way we bear witness to the Lord who came not to be served, but to serve. In this way we show that people count more than things, that who we are is more important than what we possess. For in those whom we serve, Christ daily reveals himself and prepares the welcome which we hope one day to receive in his eternal kingdom”.

“Dear friends, by simple gestures, by simple prayerful actions which honour Christ in the least of his brothers and sisters, we can bring the power of his love into our world, and truly change it. I thank you once more for your generosity and love. I will remember you always in my prayers and I ask you, please, to pray for me. I commend all of you to the loving protection of Mary, our Mother, and I give you my blessing. Omukama abakuume (God protect you!)”.

The Pope meets the clergy of Uganda: maintain memory and continue to bear witness

Vatican City, 29 November 2015 (VIS) The Pope's day ended with an encounter with the priests, men and women religious, and seminarians in the cathedral of Kampala, dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Beforehand the Holy Father met with the bishops of Uganda, around thirty in number, including bishops emeritus, in the archbishop's residence near the cathedral.

Upon arrival he was greeted by the bishop responsible for consecrated life, John Baptist Kaggwa, to whom he handed the discourse he had prepared for the occasion, and addressed some extemporaneous remarks in Spanish to those present, apologising for nt doing so in English.

“There are three things I want to say”, Francis began. “First, in the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses reminds his people: 'Do not forget'. He repeats it several times throughout the book: 'Do not forget'. Do not forget all that God has done for the people. The first thing I want to say is: ask for the grace of memory. As I said to the young, the blood of the Catholics of Uganda is mixed the blood of martyrs. Do not lose the memory of this seed, so in this way you will continue to grow. The main enemy of memory is forgetfulness, but it is not the most dangerous. The most dangerous enemy of memory is getting used to inheriting the goods of our fathers. The Church in Uganda should never grow accustomed to viewing her martyrs as a distant memory. Martyr means witness. The Church in Uganda, to be faithful to this memory, must continue to be a witness. You should not 'live off the interest'. Past glories have been the beginning, but you must build future glories too. And this is the task that the Church entrusts to you: to bear witness, like the martyrs who gave their lives for the Gospel”.

“In order to be witnesses, we need faithfulness. Fidelity to memory, fidelity to our vocation, fidelity to apostolic zeal. Faithfulness means following the way of holiness. It means doing what previous witnesses did: being missionaries. Perhaps here in Uganda there are dioceses that have many priests and dioceses that have few. Faithfulness means suggesting to the bishop that you go to another diocese in need of missionaries. And this is not easy. Faithfulness means perseverance in your vocation. Here I wish to thank the Sisters of the House of Mercy in a special way for the example of faithfulness they give: fidelity to the poor, the sick and the needy, because Christ is there. Uganda has been irrigated by the blood of martyrs and witnesses. Today it is necessary to continue to irrigate it, and to welcome new challenges, new witnesses and new missions. Otherwise, you will lose the great wealth you have, and the 'pearl of Africa' will end up preserved in a museum, because this is how the devil attacks , little by little. I am speaking not only to priests, but also to the religious. But I wish to say this in a special way to priests, with regard to the problem of mission: may priests in dioceses where the clergy is well-represented offer themselves to diocese with fewer clergy, so Uganda can continue to be missionary”.

“Memory, which means fidelity; and fidelity, which is only possible with the prayer. If a religious, a nun or a priest stops praying or prays rarely, because he or she has a lot of work, then he or she has already started to lose memory, which means losing faithfulness. Prayer also means humiliation: the humiliation of going regularly to the confessor, to tell him your sins. You can not limp with both legs. We men and women religious, priests can not lead a double life. If you are a sinner, if you are a sinner, ask forgiveness. But not to hide a lack of fidelity. Do not close memory away in the cupboard”.

“Memory, new challenges, faithfulness to memory, and prayer. Prayer always begins with recognition that we are sinners. With these three pillars the “pearl of Africa” will continue to be a pearl, and not just a phrase we find in the dictionary. May the martyrs, who gave strength to this Church, help you to move forward in memory, fidelity and prayer. And please, I ask you not to forget to pray for me”.

Finally, Pope Francis invited those present to pray the Hail Mary together.

The following is the discourse prepared by the Holy Father for his encounter with the clergy.

“Dear Brother Priests, Religious and Seminarians,

I am happy to be with you, and I thank you for your cordial welcome. I especially thank the speakers for bearing witness to your hopes and concerns, and, above all, the joy which inspires you in your service to God’s people in Uganda.

I am pleased, too, that our meeting takes place on the eve of the First Sunday of Advent, a season which invites us to look to new beginnings. This Advent we are also preparing to cross the threshold of the extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy which I have called for the whole Church.

As we approach the Jubilee of Mercy, I would ask you two questions. First: who are you, as priests or future priests, and as consecrated persons? In one sense, the answer is an easy one: surely you are men and women whose lives have been shaped by a 'personal encounter with Jesus Christ'. Jesus has touched your hearts, called you by name, and asked you to follow him with an undivided heart in the service of his holy people.

The Church in Uganda has been blessed, in its short yet venerable history, with a great cloud of witnesses – lay faithful, catechists, priests and religious – who forsook everything for the love of Jesus: homes, families, and, in the case of the martyrs, their own lives. In your own lives, whether in the priestly ministry or in your religious consecration, you are called to carry on this great legacy, above all with quiet acts of humble service. Jesus wants to use you to touch the hearts of yet other people: he wants to use your mouths to proclaim his saving word, your arms to embrace the poor whom he loves, your hands to build up communities of authentic missionary disciples. May we never forget that our 'yes' to Jesus is a 'yes' to his people. Our doors, the doors of our churches, but above all the doors of our hearts, must constantly be open to God’s people, our people. For that is who we are.

A second question I would ask you tonight is: What more are you called to do in living your specific vocation? Because there is always more that we can do, another mile to be walked on our journey.

God’s people, indeed all people, yearn for new life, forgiveness and peace. Sadly, there are many troubling situations in our world for which we must pray, beginning with realities closest to us. I pray especially for the beloved people of Burundi, that the Lord may awaken in their leaders and in society as a whole a commitment to dialogue and cooperation, reconciliation and peace. If we are to accompany those who suffer, then like the light passing through the stained glass windows of this Cathedral, we must let God’s power and healing pass through us. We must first let the waves of his mercy flow over us, purify us, and refresh us, so that we can bring that mercy to others, especially those on the peripheries.

All of us know well how difficult this can be. There is so much work to be done. At the same time, modern life also offers so many distractions which can dull our consciences, dissipate our zeal, and even lure us into that 'spiritual worldliness' which eats away at the foundations of the Christian life. The work of conversion – that conversion which is the heart of the Gospel of Jesus – must be carried out each day, in the battle to recognise and overcome those habits and ways of thinking which can fuel spiritual complacency. We need to examine our consciences, as individuals and as communities.

As I mentioned, we are entering the season of Advent, which is a time of new beginnings. In the Church we like to say that Africa is the continent of hope, and with good reason. The Church in these lands is blessed with an abundant harvest of religious vocations. This evening I would offer a special word of encouragement to the young seminarians and religious present. The Lord’s call is a source of joy and a summons to serve. Jesus tells us that 'it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks'. May the fire of the Holy Spirit purify your hearts, so that you can be joyful and convincing witnesses to the hope of the Gospel. You have a beautiful word to speak! May you always speak it, above all, by the integrity and conviction of your lives.

Dear brothers and sisters, my visit to Uganda is brief, and today was a very long day! But I consider our meeting tonight to be the crowning of this beautiful day when I was able to go as a pilgrim to the Shrine of the Uganda Martyrs at Namugongo, and to meet with the many young people who are the future of the nation and our Church. Truly I leave Africa with great hope in the harvest of grace which God is preparing in your midst! I ask all of you to pray for an outpouring of apostolic zeal, for joyful perseverance in the calling you have received, and, above all, for the gift of a pure heart ever open to the needs of all our brothers and sisters. In this way the Church in Uganda will truly prove worthy of its glorious heritage and face the challenges of the future with sure hope in Christ’s promises. I will remember all of you in my prayers, and I ask you, please, to pray for me!”.

The Pope arrives in the Central African Republic as a pilgrim of peace and an apostle of hope

Vatican City, 29 November 2015 (VIS) – This morning, at 9.15 local time (7.15 in Rome), the Holy Father left Uganda to embark on the final phase of his eleventh apostolic trip, in the Central African Republic, reaching the capital Bangui at 10 am local time, the same as in Rome. The Pope was received by the Head of State of the Transition of the Central African Republic, Catherine Samba-Panza, who is also the deputy president of the Association of African Women Jurists. The Head of State, mayor of the capital during the 2012- 2013 armed conflict, was elected as interim president to govern the country during the phase of transition between civil war and the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections, scheduled to take place in December.

From the airport the Pope proceeded to the Palais de la Renaissance, where after meeting with the family of the president in private, he encountered the ruling class and diplomatic corps accredited to the country, to whom he expressed his sympathy and spiritual closeness to all Central Africans. The bishop of Rome also greeted the representatives of international organisations whose work evokes “the ideal of solidarity and cooperation which needs to be cultivated between peoples and nations”.

“As the Central African Republic progressively moves, in spite of difficulties, towards the normalisation of its social and political life, I come to this land for the first time, following my predecessor St. John Paul II. I come as a pilgrim of peace and an apostle of hope. For this reason, I express my appreciation of the efforts made by the different national and international authorities, beginning with Madam Interim Head of State, to guide the country to this point. It is my fervent wish that the various national consultations to be held in coming weeks will enable the country to embark serenely on new chapter of its history”.

“To brighten the horizon, there is the motto of the Central African Republic, which translates the hope of pioneers and the dream of the founding fathers: 'Unity-Dignity-Labour'. Today, more than ever, this trilogy expresses the aspirations of each Central African. Consequently, it is a sure compass for the authorities called to guide the destiny of the country. Unity, dignity, labour! Three very significant words, each of which represents as much a building project as a unending programme, something to be ceaselessly crafted”.

“First, unity. This, we know, is a cardinal value for the harmony of peoples. It is to be lived and built up on the basis of the marvellous diversity of our environment, avoiding the temptation of fear of others, of the unfamiliar, of what is not part of our ethnic group, our political views or our religious confession. Unity, on the contrary, calls for creating and promoting a synthesis of the richness which each person has to offer. Unity in diversity is a constant challenge, one which demands creativity, generosity, self-sacrifice and respect for others”.

Then, dignity. This moral value is rightly synonymous with the honesty, loyalty, graciousness and honour which characterise men and women conscious of their rights and duties, and which lead them to mutual respect. Each person has dignity. I was interested to learn that Central Africa is the country of the 'Zo kwe zo', the country where everybody is somebody. Everything must be done to protect the status and dignity of the human person. Those who have the means to enjoy a decent life, rather than being concerned with privileges, must seek to help those poorer than themselves to attain dignified living conditions, particularly through the development of their human, cultural, economic and social potential. Consequently, access to education and to health care, the fight against malnutrition and efforts to ensure decent housing for everyone must be at the forefront of a development concerned for human dignity. In effect, our human dignity is expressed by our working for the dignity of our fellow man”.

“Finally, labour. It is by working that you are able to improve the lives of your families. St. Paul tells us that 'children ought not to lay up for their parents, but parents for their children'. The work of parents expresses their love for their children. And you again, Central Africans, can improve this marvellous land by wisely exploiting its many resources. Your country is located in a region considered to be one of the two lungs of mankind on account of its exceptionally rich biodiversity. In this regard, echoing my cncyclical 'Laudato Si’', I would like particularly to draw the attention of everyone, citizens and national leaders, international partners and multinational societies, to their grave responsibility in making use of environmental resources, in development decisions and projects which in any way affect the entire planet. The work of building a prosperous society must be a cooperative effort. The wisdom of your people has long understood this truth, as seen in the proverb: 'The ants are little, but since they are so many, they can bring their hoard home'”.

“It is no doubt superfluous to underline the capital importance of upright conduct and administration on the part of public authorities. They must be the first to embody consistently the values of unity, dignity and labour, serving as models for their compatriots”.

“The history of the evangelisation of this land and the socio-political history of this country attest to the commitment of the Church in promoting the values of unity, dignity and labour. In recalling the pioneers of evangelisation in the Central African Republic, I greet my brother bishops, who now carry on this work. With them, I express once more the readiness of the local Church to contribute even more to the promotion of the common good, particularly by working for peace and reconciliation. I do not doubt that the Central African authorities, present and future, will work tirelessly to ensure that the Church enjoys favourable conditions for the fulfilment of her spiritual mission. In this way she will be able to contribute increasingly to 'promoting the good of every man and of the whole man', to use the felicitous expression of my predecessor, Blessed Paul VI, who fifty years ago was the first Pope of modern times to come to Africa, to encourage and confirm the continent in goodness at the dawn of a new age”.

“For my part, I express my appreciation for the efforts made by the international community, represented here by the Diplomatic Corps and the members of the various Missions of the International Organisations. I heartily encourage them to continue along the path of solidarity, in the hope that their commitment, together with the activity of the Central African authorities, will help the country to advance, especially in the areas of reconciliation, disarmament, peacekeeping, health care and the cultivation of a sound administration at all levels”.

“To conclude, I would like to express once more my joy to visit this marvellous country, located in the heart of Africa, home to a people profoundly religious and blessed with so such natural and cultural richness. Here I see a country filled with God’s gifts! May the Central African people, its leaders and its partners, always appreciate the value of these gifts by working ceaselessly for unity, human dignity and a peace based on justice. May God bless you all! Thank you”.

After his meeting with the country's leaders, the Holy Father travelled by popemobile to the refugee camp in the parish of St. Sauveur, where he was welcomed by the children who live there and greeted by a woman residing there. The Pope greeted all present and addressed the following words to them: “We must work and pray to do everything possible for peace, but peace without love, without friendship, without tolerance and without forgiveness, is not possible. Each one of us must do something. I wish peace upon all of you and for all Central Africans, a great peace among you; that you may live in peace regardless of ethnic group, culture, religion or social status. Peace to all, as we are all brothers and sisters. I would like us all to say together that we are all brothers and sisters, and therefore we want peace. I bring you the Lord's blessing”.

This afternoon, after lunching with the bishops of the Central African Republic at the apostolic nunciature, he will visit the faculty of theology in Bangui, where he will pronounce a discourse before the country's evangelical communities.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Francis in Uganda: despite our different beliefs, we must all seek truth and work for justice and reconciliation

Vatican City, 28 November 2015 (VIS) – Yesterday afternoon Pope Francis arrived in Uganda, the second leg of his apostolic trip in Africa. He was awaited at at the airport by President Yoweri Kaguta Museweni, representatives of the religious and civil authorities, and a group of dancers who performed a traditional dance in his honour. From the airport the Pope transferred to the State House in Entebbe, where he privately greeted the family of the president, who was also Head of State during St. John Paul II's visit to the country. He then met with the authorities and the diplomatic corps of Uganda.

In his address in the Conference Hall, Francis emphasised that his visit was intended to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the canonisation of the martyrs of Uganda by his predecessor Pope Paul VI, but at the same time he hoped it would also be “a sign of friendship, esteem and encouragement for all the people of this great nation”.

“The Martyrs, both Catholic and Anglican, are true national heroes. They bear witness to the guiding principles expressed in Uganda’s motto – For God and My Country. They remind us of the importance that faith, moral rectitude and commitment to the common good have played, and continue to play, in the cultural, economic and political life of this country. They also remind us that, despite our different beliefs and convictions, all of us are called to seek the truth, to work for justice and reconciliation, and to respect, protect and help one another as members of our one human family. These high ideals are particularly demanded of men and women like yourselves, who are charged with ensuring good and transparent governance, integral human development, a broad participation in national life, as well as a wise and just distribution of the goods which the Creator has so richly bestowed upon these lands”.

“My visit is also meant to draw attention to Africa as a whole, its promise, its hopes, its struggles and its achievements”, he continued. “The world looks to Africa as the continent of hope. Uganda has indeed been blessed by God with abundant natural resources, which you are challenged to administer as responsible stewards. But above all, the nation has been blessed in its people: its strong families, its young and its elderly... the living memory of every people”.

Francis praised Uganda's “outstanding concern” for refugees, which has enabled them “to rebuild their lives in security and to sense the dignity which comes from earning one’s livelihood through honest labour. Our world, caught up in wars, violence, and various forms of injustice, is witnessing an unprecedented movement of peoples. How we deal with them is a test of our humanity, our respect for human dignity, and above all our solidarity with our brothers and sisters in need”.

“I hope to encourage the many quiet efforts being made to care for the poor, the sick and those in any kind of trouble. It is in these small signs that we see the true soul of a people. In so many ways, our world is growing closer; yet at the same time we see with concern the globalisation of a 'throwaway culture' which blinds us to spiritual values, hardens our hearts before the needs of the poor, and robs our young of hope”.

He concluded, “As I look forward to meeting you and spending this time with you, I pray that you, Mr. President, and all the beloved Ugandan people, will always prove worthy of the values which have shaped the soul of your nation. Upon all of you I invoke the Lord’s richest blessings. Mungu awabariki!”.

At the Munyonyo Shrine: may the martyrs obtain for you the grace to be wise teachers

Vatican City, 28 November 2015 (VIS) – Following his encounter with the leaders of Uganda, the Pope travelled 38 kilometres by car from Entebbe to Munyonyo, the place where King Mwanga II (1884-1903) chose to exterminate the Christians of Uganda and where in May 1886 the first four martyrs were killed, including St. Andrew Kaggwa, patron of Ugandan catechists. Every year catechists gather in the area of the shrine of Munyonyo, now entrusted to the Conventual Franciscans, where a new Church able to hold a thousand people is being built. Among the catechists attending the meeting with the Holy Father there was also a representation of teachers from the Uganda National Council of Laity, as laypeople have played, and continue to play, a very important role in the evangelisation of the country.

Upon arrival, the Pope was received by the superior of the Franciscans and by Archbishiop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga of Kampala, who accompanied him to the churchyard where he planted and watered a tree, along with the archbishop and leaders of the Orthodox and Protestant confessions to underline the ecumenical aspect of the Ugandan martyrs. Indeed, dozens of Anglicans were killed during the reign of King Mwanga II, alongside twenty-two of his servants, pages and functionaries who were converted to Catholicism by the missionaries of Africa.

After blessing the new statue of St. Andrew Kaggwa, located in the place of his martyrdom, the Pope addressed the catechists, first thanking them for their sacrifices in fulfilling their mission. “You teach what Jesus taught, you instruct adults and help parents to raise their children in the faith, and you bring the joy and hope of eternal life to all”, he said. “Thank you for your dedication, your example, your closeness to God’s people in their daily lives, and all the many ways you plant and nurture the seeds of faith throughout this vast land. Thank you especially for teaching our children and young people how to pray”.

“I know that your work, although rewarding, is not easy. So I encourage you to persevere, and I ask your bishops and priests to support you with a doctrinal, spiritual and pastoral formation capable of making you ever more effective in your outreach. Even when the task seems too much, the resources too few, the obstacles too great, it should never be forgotten that yours is a holy work. The Holy Spirit is present wherever the name of Christ is proclaimed. He is in our midst whenever we lift up our hearts and minds to God in prayer. He will give you the light and strength you need! The message you bring will take root all the more firmly in people’s hearts if you are not only a teacher but also a witness. Your example should speak to everyone of the beauty of prayer, the power of mercy and forgiveness, the joy of sharing in the Eucharist with all our brothers and sisters”.

“The Christian community in Uganda grew strong through the witness of the martyrs”, he continued. “They testified to the truth which sets men free; they were willing to shed their blood to be faithful to what they knew was good and beautiful and true. We stand here today in Munyonyo at the place where King Mwanga determined to wipe out the followers of Christ. He failed in this, just as King Herod failed to kill Jesus. The light shone in the darkness, and the darkness could not overcome it. After seeing the fearless testimony of Saint Andrew Kaggwa and his companions, Christians in Uganda became even more convinced of Christ’s promises”.

“May Saint Andrew, your patron, and all the Ugandan catechist martyrs, obtain for you the grace to be wise teachers, men and women whose every word is filled with grace, convincing witnesses to the splendour of God’s truth and the joy of the Gospel”, the Pontiff concluded. “Go forth without fear to every town and village in this country, to spread the good seed of God’s word, and trust in his promise that you will come back rejoicing, with sheaves full from the harvest. Omukama Abawe Omukisa! God bless you!”.

Yesterday evening in the nunciature of Kampala Pope Francis received the president of South Sudan, Salva Kiir. The director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., underlined that the audience represented a “special gesture” demonstrating the attention with which the Pope follows the troubled events in this country, the youngest in Africa (independent since July 2011), and whose founders included the Catholic bishop Cesare Mazzolari, who died shortly after its birth. South Sudan has not yet known peace, although the ideals that inspired its independence included peacemaking between ethnic groups and with Sudan.

Homily at the Namugongo shrines: we honour the Ugandan martyrs when we carry on their witness to Christ

Vatican City, 28 November 2015 (VIS) – Early this morning, the Pope visited the Anglican shrine at Namugongo (under the jurisdiction of the Church of Uganda), erected in the place where 25 Ugandans, Catholics and Anglicans, were martyred between 1884 and 1887. Their relics are conserved in a chapel adjacent to the holy building, situated just a few kilometres from the Catholic shrine. Francis was welcomed by the Anglican archbishop Stanley Ntagali, and he unveiled a commemorative plaque near the recently restored chapel. He then went to the place where the martyrs were condemned, tortured and killed. Forty bishops of the Ugandan Anglican episcopate were present in the chapel. After praying a few minutes in silence, the Holy Father took leave of Archbishop Ntagali and travelled the three kilometres between the Anglican and Catholic shrines by popemobile.

The national Catholic shrine of Namugongo stands in a large natural park where religious ceremonies are often held in the open air, due to the large numbers of faithful. The shape of the Church recalls that of the traditional huts of the Baganda or “Akasiisiira” ethnic group, and is supported by 22 pillars commemorating the 22 Catholic martyrs. In front of the main entrance to the Basilica, below the great altar, there is the place where Charles Lwanga was burned alive in 1886. The church was consecrated by Blessed Paul VI during his apostolic trip to Uganda in 1969, and is a destination for pilgrims throughout the year, but especially on 3 June, the day of Charles Lwanga's martyrdom.

Before celebrating the Eucharist, Francis entered the Basilica and prayed before the altar which holds the relics of Charles Lwanga. He then toured the area by popemobile to greet the thousands of faithful who attended the votive Mass for the fiftieth anniversary of the canonisation of the martyrs of Uganda, and pronounced the following homily:

“From the age of the Apostles to our own day, a great cloud of witnesses has been raised up to proclaim Jesus and show forth the power of the Holy Spirit. Today, we recall with gratitude the sacrifice of the Uganda martyrs, whose witness of love for Christ and his Church has truly gone 'to the end of the earth'. We remember also the Anglican martyrs whose deaths for Christ testify to the ecumenism of blood. All these witnesses nurtured the gift of the Holy Spirit in their lives and freely gave testimony of their faith in Jesus Christ, even at the cost of their lives, many at such a young age”.

“We too have received the gift of the Spirit, to make us sons and daughters of God, but also so that we may bear witness to Jesus and make him everywhere known and loved. We received the Spirit when we were reborn in Baptism, and we were strengthened by his gifts at our Confirmation. Every day we are called to deepen the Holy Spirit’s presence in our life, to 'fan into flame' the gift of his divine love so that we may be a source of wisdom and strength to others”.

“The gift of the Holy Spirit is a gift which is meant to be shared. It unites us to one another as believers and living members of Christ’s mystical Body. We do not receive the gift of the Spirit for ourselves alone, but to build up one another in faith, hope and love. I think of Saints Joseph Mkasa and Charles Lwanga, who after being catechised by others, wanted to pass on the gift they had received. They did this in dangerous times. Not only were their lives threatened but so too were the lives of the younger boys under their care. Because they had tended to their faith and deepened their love of God, they were fearless in bringing Christ to others, even at the cost of their lives. Their faith became witness; today, venerated as martyrs, their example continues to inspire people throughout the world. They continue to proclaim Jesus Christ and the power of his Cross”.

“If, like the martyrs, we daily fan into flame the gift of the Spirit who dwells in our hearts, then we will surely become the missionary disciples which Christ calls us to be. To our families and friends certainly, but also to those whom we do not know, especially those who might be unfriendly, even hostile, to us. This openness to others begins first in the family, in our homes where charity and forgiveness are learned, and the mercy and love of God made known in our parents’ love. It finds expression too in our care for the elderly and the poor, the widowed and the orphaned”.

“The witness of the martyrs shows to all who have heard their story, then and now, that the worldly pleasures and earthly power do not bring lasting joy or peace. Rather, fidelity to God, honesty and integrity of life, and genuine concern for the good of others bring us that peace which the world cannot give. This does not diminish our concern for this world, as if we only look to the life to come. Instead, it gives purpose to our lives in this world, and helps us to reach out to those in need, to cooperate with others for the common good, and to build a more just society which promotes human dignity, defends God’s gift of life and protects the wonders of nature, his creation and our common home”.

“Dear brothers and sisters, this is the legacy which you have received from the Ugandan martyrs – lives marked by the power of the Holy Spirit, lives which witness even now to the transforming power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This legacy is not served by an occasional remembrance, or by being enshrined in a museum as a precious jewel. Rather, we honour them, and all the saints, when we carry on their witness to Christ, in our homes and neighbourhoods, in our workplaces and civil society, whether we never leave our homes or we go to the farthest corner of the world”.

“May the Uganda martyrs, together with Mary, Mother of the Church, intercede for us, and may the Holy Spirit kindle within us the fire of his divine love! Omukama abawe omukisa. God bless you!”.

Francis to the young people of Kenya: tribalism is defeated by listening, an open heart, and dialogue

Vatican City, 28 November 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father's last act in Kenya was his encounter with the young in the Kasarani stadium, where he set aside his prepared discourse and instead directly responded to some questions, in his native Spanish. The following are extensive extracts from Pope Francis' answers.

“There exists a question at the basis of all the questions you have asked me. Why are there divisions, struggles, war, death and fanaticism? Why is there this desire for self-destruction? In the first page of the Bible, after all the wonders that God worked, a brother kills his own brother. The spirit of evil leads us to destruction; the spirit of evil leads us to disunity, to tribalism, to corruption, to drug abuse. … It leads us to destruction through fanaticism. Manuel asked me, 'What can we do to ensure that ideological fanaticism does not rob us of our brothers or friends?'. … The first thing I would say in response is that a man loses the best of his humanity, and a woman loses the best of her humanity, when they forget to pray, because they consider themselves omnipotent; they do not feel the need to ask the Lord's help when faced with so many tragedies. Life is full of difficulties, but there are two ways of looking at difficulties: either you can see them as something that obstructs you, that destroys you, or you can see them as a real opportunity. It is up to you to choose. For me, is a difficulty either a path to destruction, or an opportunity to overcome my situation, or that of my family, my community or my country? … Some of the difficulties that you have mentioned are challenges”.

“One challenge that Lynette mentioned is that of tribalism. Tribalism destroys a nation: … it can be defeated by using our ear, our heart and our hand. With our ears, we listen: what is your culture? Why are you this way? Why does your tribe have this habit or this custom? … With the heart: after listening, the answer is to open your heart; and finally, to extend you hand so as to continue the dialogue. … I would now like to invite all you young people … to come here and to take each other by the hand; let us stand up and take each other by the hand as a sign against tribalism. We are all a single nation! … Conquering tribalism is a task to be carried out day by day: it is the work of the ear, in listening to others; the work of the heart, opening one's heart to others; and the work of the hand, extending one's hand to others”.

“Another question is that of corruption. … Corruption is something that enters into us. It is like sugar: it is sweet, we like it, it's easy, but then, it ends badly. With so much easy sugar we end up diabetic, and so does our country. Every time we accept a bribe and put it in our pocket, we destroy our heart, we destroy our personality and we destroy our homeland. … What you steal through corruption remains … in the heart of the many men and women who have been harmed by your example of corruption. It remains in the lack of the good you should have done and did not do. It remains in sick and hungry children, because the money that was for them, through your corruption, you kept for yourself. Boys and girls, corruption is not a path for life, it is a path of death”.

“Manuel too asked some incisive questions. … What can we do to prevent the recruitment of our loved ones [by militias]? What can we do to bring them back? To answer this question we need to know why a young person, full of hope, lets himself be recruited or indeed seeks to be recruited: he leaves behind his family, his friends, he drifts away from life, because he learns how to kill. And this is a question that you must address to the authorities. If a young person, a boy or a girl, a man or a woman, has no job and cannot study, what can he or she do? … The first thing we must do to prevent the young from being recruited or seeking recruitment is to focus on education and work. If young people have no job, what future awaits them? … This is the danger. It is a social danger, that comes from beyond us, from beyond the country, because it depends on the international system, which is unjust, and which places the economy and the god of money at its centre, rather than the person”.

“Another question was: how can we see the hand of God in the tragedies of life? … Men and women all over the world ask themselves this question in one way or another, and they find no explanation. There are questions to which, no matter how much we try to respond, we are unable to find an answer. How can I see the hand of God in a tragedy of life? There is just one answer: no, there is no answer. There is just one route, looking at the Son of God. God delivered Him to us to save all of us. God Himself became a tragedy. God let Himself be destroyed on the cross. And when the moment comes when you do not understand, when you are desperate and the world seems to fall down around you, look to the Cross! There we see God's failure, God's destruction. But there is also the challenge of our faith. Because the story did not end with this failure: there was then the Resurrection, which renewed us all”.

“A final question … What words do you have for young people who have not experienced love in their own families? Is it possible to come out of this experience? There are abandoned children everywhere: either they are abandoned at birth, or they were abandoned by life, by the family and parents, and do not feel the affection of the family. This is why the family is so important. … There is just one cure to emerge from this experience: give what you have not received. If you have not received understanding, be understanding with others; if you have not received love, love others; if you have felt the pain of loneliness, draw close to those who are alone. Flesh is healed with flesh! And God made Himself flesh to heal us. Let us too do the same towards others”.

Video message: true change begins in ourselves

Vatican City, 28 November 2015 (VIS) - “'Realities simply are, whereas ideas are worked out. There has to be a continuous dialogue between the two, lest ideas become detached from realities. It is dangerous to dwell in the realm of words alone, of images and rhetoric'. To prevent the danger of living detached from reality, it is necessary to open the eyes and the heart”, says Pope Francis in the video message he sent yesterday afternoon to the participants in the 5th Festival of the Social Doctrine of the Church, held in Verona from 26 to 29 November, on the theme “The challenge of reality”.

“Our life is made up of many things”, he continued; “a torrent of news, of many problems: all this leads us not to see, not to be aware of the problems of the people who are near us. Indifference seems to be a medicine that protects us from involvement, and becomes a way of being more relaxed. This is indifference. But this non-involvement is a way of defending our selfishness, and saddens us. … The challenge of reality also requires the capacity for dialogue, to build bridges instead of walls. This is the time for dialogue, not for the defence of opposition and rigidity. I invite you to face 'the challenge of finding and sharing the mystique of living together, of mingling and encounter, of embracing and supporting one another, of stepping into this flood tide which, while chaotic, can become a genuine experience of fraternity, a caravan of solidarity, a sacred pilgrimage'”.

“The challenge of reality, however, requires change. Everyone is aware of the need for change, because we sense that something is not working. … True change begins in ourselves and is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. People who experience inner change from the Spirit lead also to social change”.

The Pope goes on to mention the environmental challenge, and the need to “listen to the cry of Mother Earth. Respect for creatures and for creation represents a great challenge for the future of humanity. Man and creation are inseparably linked”. Francis emphasises that while we think of this theme as being part of politics, economics and development strategy, “nothing can substitute personal commitment. Austerity, responsible consumption, a lifestyle that welcomes creation as a gift and excludes predatory and exclusive forms of possession, is the concrete way of creating a new sensibility. If many of us live like this, it will have a positive impact on society as a whole, and the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor will become audible to all”, he concluded.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 28 November 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the diocese of Yopougon, Cote d'Ivoire, presented by Bishop Laurent Akran Mandjo upon reaching the age limit. He is succeeded by Bishop Jean Salomon Lezoutie, coadjutor of the same diocese.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Meeting with clergy in Kenya: in following Jesus there is no place for ambition

Vatican City, 27 November 2015 (VIS) – In the sports field of the St. Mary School, belonging to the archdiocese of Nairobi and founded in 1939 by the Felician Sisters, the Holy Father met with clergy, men and women religious, and seminarians of Kenya, to whom he addressed an extemporaneous discourse in his native Spanish, including many expressions and idioms typical of his homeland Argentina. An interpreter translated into English, one of Kenya's official languages.

Francis said that he was struck by the passage in St. Paul's letter in which he says, “And I am sure of this, that He Who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ”, and added, “All of you were chosen by the Lord; He chose each one of us. He began His work on the day He looked at us in Baptism, and then later when He looked at us and said: 'If you wish, come with me'. So we lined up and began our journey. But it was He Who began the journey, not us. In the Gospel we read about one of the people Jesus healed, who then wanted to follow Him. But Jesus told him, 'No'. If we want to follow Jesus Christ – in the priesthood and or consecrated life – we have to enter by the door! And the door is Christ! He is the one Who calls, Who begins, Who does the work. Some people want to enter by the window. It doesn't work that way. So please, if any of you has friends who came in by the window, embrace them and tell them it would be better to leave and go serve God in another way, because a work which Jesus Himself did not begin, by the door, will never be brought to completion”.

“There are people who do not know why God calls them, but they know that He has. Go ahead in peace, God will let you know why He has called you. Others want to follow the Lord for some benefit. We remember the mother of James and John, who said, 'Lord, I beg you, when you cut the cake, give the biggest slice to my sons. … Let one of them sit at your right and the other at your left'. We can be tempted to follow Jesus for ambition: ambition for money or power. All of us can say, 'When I first followed Jesus, I was not like that'. But it has happened to other people, and little by little it was sowed in our heart like weeds. In our life as disciples of Jesus there must be no room for personal ambition, for money, for worldly importance. We will follow Jesus to the very last final step of His earthly life, the Cross. He will make sure you rise again, but you have to keep following Him to the end. And I tell you this in all seriousness, because the Church is not a business or an a NGO. The Church is a mystery: the mystery of Jesus Who looks at each of us and says 'Follow me'”.

“So let this be clear: Jesus is the one Who calls. … He does not 'canonise' us. We continue to be the same old sinners. … We are all sinners; starting with me. But Jesus' tenderness and love keep us going. May He who began a good work in you bring it to completion. … Do you remember any time in the Gospel, when the Apostle James wept? Or when one of the other Apostles wept? Only one wept, the Gospel tells us; he who knew he was a sinner, so great a sinner that he betrayed his Lord. And when he realised this, he wept. Then Jesus made him Pope. Who can understand Jesus? It is a mystery! So never stop weeping. When priests and religious no longer weep, something is wrong. We need to weep for our infidelity, for all the pain in our world, for all those people who are cast aside, the elderly who are abandoned, for children who are killed, for the things we do not understand. We need to weep when people ask us, 'Why?'. None of us has all the answers to those questions. … There are situations in life for which we can only weep, and look to Jesus on the cross. This is the only answer we have for certain injustices, certain kinds of pain, certain situations in life. … Whenever a consecrated man or woman or a priest forgets Christ crucified, he or she falls into an ugly sin, a sin which disgusts God; it is the sin of being tepid, lukewarm. ... What else can I say to you? Never stray from Jesus. In other words, never stop praying. 'But Father, sometimes it is so tiresome to pray, it wearies us. It makes us fall asleep...'. So sleep before the Lord: that is also a way of praying. But stay there, before Him and pray! Do not stop praying”.

The Holy Father reiterated that “when we let ourselves be chosen by Jesus, it is to serve: to serve the People of God, to serve the poorest, the outcast, living on the fringes of society, to serve children and the elderly. But also to serve people who are unaware of their own pride and sin; to serve Jesus in them. Letting ourselves be chosen by Jesus means letting ourselves be chosen to serve, and not to be served”.

“This is what I wanted to say to you, what I felt when I heard those words of St. Paul, who trusted that the One Who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ'. A cardinal said to me … that when he goes to the cemetery and sees the graves of dedicated missionaries, men and women religious who gave their lives, he wonders, 'Why don't we canonise this or that one tomorrow?', because they spent their lives serving others. … Thank you for your courage in following Jesus, thank you for all the times you realise that you yourselves are sinners, and thank you for all the tender caresses you give to those who need them. Thank you for all those times when you helped so many people die in peace. Thank you for 'burning' your lives in hope. Thank you for letting yourselves be helped, corrected and forgiven every day. And as I thank you, I also ask you not to forget to pray for me, as I need your prayers. Many thanks”.

“I must leave now, as there are children suffering from cancer whom I wish to greet and comfort. I thank you, seminarians, whom I have not named but are included in all that I have said. And if any of you do not have the courage to take this path, seek another job, consider marrying and having a family. Thank you”.

The Pope at the UNON: African heritage at constant risk of destruction

Vatican City, 27 November 2015 (VIS) – The Pope's final appointment yesterday afternoon was at the United Nations Office at Nairobi (UNON), the general headquarters of the United Nations in Africa, instituted by the General Assembly in 1996. The structure also houses the offices of two United Nations programmes, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the UN-Habitat (United Nations Human Settlement Programme). Around twenty international and United Nations organisations have their regional offices for Africa in Nairobi.

Upon arrival, the Pope was welcomed by the director general of the UNON, Sahle Work Zewde, the executive director of UNEP Achim Steiner, and the executive director of UN-Habitat, Joan Clos. Then, accompanied by the director general, he was invited to plant a tree in the UNON park; as Francis later emphasised, this is an act charged with symbolic meaning in many cultures. He then entered the new UNEP building where he pronounced a discourse before 3,000 people, in which he expressed his hope that COP 21 may conclude with a “transformational” global agreement based on the principles of solidarity, justice, equality and participation, and with three complex and interdependent aims: the alleviation of the impact of climate change, the fight against poverty, and the promotion of respect for human dignity. In view of the imminent 10th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation, to be held in Nairobi, the Holy Father also spoke about the agreements on intellectual property and access to medicine and essential healthcare, and also mentioned illegal trafficking in animals and precious stones, trades which perpetuate poverty and exclusion.

The following are extensive extracts from his discourse:

“Planting a tree is first and foremost an invitation to continue the battle against phenomena like deforestation and desertification. … Planting a tree is also an incentive to keep trusting, hoping, and above all working in practice to reverse all those situations of injustice and deterioration which we currently experience. … In a few days an important meeting on climate change will be held in Paris, where the international community as such will once again confront these issues. It would be sad, and I dare say even catastrophic, were particular interests to prevail over the common good and lead to manipulating information in order to protect their own plans and projects”.

“COP21 represents an important stage in the process of developing a new energy system which depends on a minimal use of fossil fuels, aims at energy efficiency and makes use of energy sources with little or no carbon content. We are faced with a great political and economic obligation to rethink and correct the dysfunctions and distortions of the current model of development. … For this reason, I express my hope that COP21 will achieve a global and 'transformational' agreement based on the principles of solidarity, justice, equality and participation; an agreement which targets three complex and interdependent goals: lessening the impact of climate change, fighting poverty and ensuring respect for human dignity”.

“For all the difficulties involved, there is a growing 'conviction that our planet is a homeland and that humanity is one people living in a common home'. No country 'can act independently of a common responsibility. If we truly desire positive change, we have to humbly accept our interdependence'. The problem arises whenever we think of interdependence as a synonym for domination, or the subjection of some to the interests of others, of the powerless to the powerful. What is needed is sincere and open dialogue, with responsible cooperation on the part of all: political authorities, the scientific community, the business world and civil society”.

“At the same time we believe that 'human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good and making a new start'. This conviction leads us to hope that, whereas the post-industrial period may well be remembered as one of the most irresponsible in history, 'humanity at the dawn of the twenty-first century will be remembered for having generously shouldered its grave responsibilities'”.

“This much-needed change of course cannot take place without a substantial commitment to education and training. Nothing will happen unless political and technical solutions are accompanied by a process of education which proposes new ways of living. … This calls for an educational process which fosters in boys and girls, women and men, young people and adults, the adoption of a culture of care … in place of a culture of waste, a 'throw-away culture' where people use and discard themselves, others and the environment. By promoting an 'awareness of our common origin, of our mutual belonging, and of the future to be shared with everyone', we will favour the development of new convictions, attitudes and lifestyles. … We need to be alert to one sad sign of the 'globalisation of indifference': the fact that we are gradually growing accustomed to the suffering of others, as if it were something normal, or even worse, becoming resigned to such extreme and scandalous kinds of 'using and discarding' and social exclusion as new forms of slavery, human trafficking, forced labour, prostitution and trafficking in organs. 'There has been a tragic rise in the number of migrants seeking to flee from the growing poverty aggravated by environmental degradation. They are not recognised by international conventions as refugees; they bear the loss of the lives they have left behind without enjoying any legal protection whatsoever'”.

“Together with neglect of the environment, we have witnessed for some time now a rapid process of urbanisation, which in many cases has unfortunately led to a 'disproportionate and unruly growth of many cities … [where] we increasingly see the troubling symptoms of a social breakdown which spawns 'increased violence and a rise in new forms of social aggression, … a loss of identity', a lack of rootedness and social anonymity”.

“Here I would offer a word of encouragement to all those working at local and international levels to ensure that the process of urbanisation becomes an effective means for development and integration. This means working to guarantee for everyone, especially those living in outlying neighbourhoods, the basic rights to dignified living conditions and to land, lodging and labour. … The forthcoming Habitat-III Conference, planned for Quito in October 2016, could be a significant occasion for identifying ways of responding to these issues”.

“In a few days, Nairobi will host the 10th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation. … While recognising that much has been done in this area, it seems that we have yet to attain an international system of commerce which is equitable and completely at the service of the battle against poverty and exclusion. Commercial relationships between States, as an indispensable part of relations between peoples, can do as much to harm the environment as to renew it and preserve it for future generations”.

“I would especially like to echo the concern of all those groups engaged in projects of development and health care – including those religious congregations which serve the poor and those most excluded – with regard to agreements on intellectual property and access to medicines and essential health care. Regional free trade treaties dealing with the protection of intellectual property, particularly in the areas of pharmaceutics and biotechnology, should not only maintain intact the powers already granted to States by multilateral agreements, but should also be a means for ensuring a minimum of health care and access to basic treatment for all. Multilateral discussions, for their part, should allow poorer countries the time, the flexibility and the exceptions needed for them to comply with trade regulations in an orderly and relatively smooth manner. Interdependence and the integration of economies should not bear the least detriment to existing systems of health care and social security; instead, they should promote their creation and good functioning. Certain health issues, like the elimination of malaria and tuberculosis, treatment of so-called orphan diseases, and neglected sectors of tropical medicine, require urgent political attention, above and beyond all other commercial or political interests”.

“Africa offers the world a beauty and natural richness which inspire praise of the Creator. This patrimony of Africa and of all mankind is constantly exposed to the risk of destruction caused by human selfishness of every type and by the abuse of situations of poverty and exclusion. In the context of economic relationships between States and between peoples, we cannot be silent about forms of illegal trafficking which arise in situations of poverty and in turn lead to greater poverty and exclusion. Illegal trade in diamonds and precious stones, rare metals or those of great strategic value, wood, biological material and animal products, such as ivory trafficking and the relative killing of elephants, fuels political instability, and fuels organised crime and terrorism. This situation too is a cry rising up from humanity and the earth itself, one which needs to be heard by the international community”.

“Once again I express the support of the Catholic community, and my own, to continue to pray and work that the fruits of regional cooperation, expressed today in the African Union and the many African agreements on commerce, cooperation and development, may be vigorously pursued and always take into account the common good of the sons and daughters of this land”.

In a Kangemi slum: thank you for reminding us that there are other types of culture

Vatican City, 27 November 2015 (VIS) -This morning the Holy Father transferred to the Church of St. Joseph the Worker, situated in one of the poorest quarters of the city of Kangemi. “I feel very much at home sharing these moments with brothers and sisters who, and I am not ashamed to say this, have a special place in my life and my decisions”, said the Pope to the inhabitants of the area. “I am here because I want you to know that your joys and hopes, your troubles and your sorrows, are not indifferent to me. I realise the difficulties which you experience daily! How can I not denounce the injustices which you suffer?”

He began by speaking about the wisdom found in poor neighbourhoods, “'A wisdom which is born of the stubborn resistance of that which is authentic', from Gospel values which an opulent society, anaesthetised by unbridled consumption, would seem to have forgotten. You are able 'to weave bonds of belonging and togetherness which convert overcrowding into an experience of community in which the walls of the ego are torn down and the barriers of selfishness overcome'”.

“The culture of poor neighbourhoods, steeped in this particular wisdom, 'has very positive traits, which can offer something to these times in which we live; it is expressed in values such as solidarity, giving one’s life for others, preferring birth to death, providing Christian burial to one’s dead; finding a place for the sick in one’s home, sharing bread with the hungry (for there is always room for one more seat at the table), showing patience and strength when faced with great adversity, and so on'. Values grounded in the fact each human being is more important than the god of money. Thank you for reminding us that another type of culture is possible”.

“I want in first place to uphold these values which you practice, values which are not quoted in the stock exchange, are not subject to speculation, and have no market price. I congratulate you, I accompany you and I want you to know that the Lord never forgets you. The path of Jesus began on the peripheries, it goes from the poor and with the poor, towards others”.

“To see these signs of good living that increase daily in your midst in no way entails a disregard for the dreadful injustice of urban exclusion. These are wounds inflicted by minorities who cling to power and wealth, who selfishly squander while a growing majority is forced to flee to abandoned, filthy and run-down peripheries”.

“This becomes even worse when we see the unjust distribution of land (if not in this neighbourhood, certainly in others) which leads in many cases to entire families having to pay excessive and unfair rents for utterly unfit housing. I am also aware of the serious problem posed by faceless 'private developers' who hoard areas of land and even attempt to appropriate the playgrounds of your children’s schools. This is what happens when we forget that 'God gave the earth to the whole human race for the sustenance of all its members, without excluding or favouring anyone'”.

He emphasised the very serious problem of the lack of access to infrastructures and basic services. “By this I mean toilets, sewers, drains, refuse collection, electricity, roads, as well as schools, hospitals, recreational and sport centres, studios and workshops for artists and craftsmen. I refer in particular to access to drinking water. 'Access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights. Our world has a grave social debt towards the poor who lack access to drinking water, because they are denied the right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity'. To deny a family water, under any bureaucratic pretext whatsoever, is a great injustice, especially when one profits from this need”.

“This situation of indifference and hostility experienced by poor neighbourhoods is aggravated when violence spreads and criminal organisations, serving economic or political interests, use children and young people as 'canon fodder' for their ruthless business affairs. I also appreciate the struggles of those women who fight heroically to protect their sons and daughters from these dangers. I ask God that that the authorities may embark, together with you, upon the path of social inclusion, education, sport, community action, and the protection of families, for this is the only guarantee of a peace that is just, authentic and enduring”.

“These realities which I have just mentioned are not a random combination of unrelated problems. They are a consequence of new forms of colonialism which would make African countries 'parts of a machine, cogs on a gigantic wheel'. Indeed, countries are frequently pressured to adopt policies typical of the culture of waste, like those aimed at lowering the birth rate, which seek 'to legitimise the present model of distribution, where a minority believes that it has the right to consume in a way which can never be universalised'”.

The bishop of Rome went on to propose “renewed attention to the idea of a respectful urban integration, as opposed to elimination, paternalism, indifference or mere containment. We need integrated cities which belong to everyone. We need to go beyond the mere proclamation of rights which are not respected in practice, to implementing concrete and systematic initiatives capable of improving the overall living situation, and planning new urban developments of good quality for housing future generations. The social and environmental debt owed to the poor of cities can be paid by respecting their sacred right to the “three Ls”: Land, Lodging, Labour. This is not a question of philanthropy; rather it is a duty incumbent upon all of us”.

He launched an appeal to all Christians, and their pastors in particular, to renew their missionary zeal, “to take initiative in the face of so many situations of injustice, to be involved in their neighbours’ problems, to accompany them in their struggles, to protect the fruits of their communitarian labour and to celebrate together each victory, large or small. I realise that you are already doing much, but I ask to remember this is not just another task; it may instead be the most important task of all, because 'the Gospel is addressed in a special way to the poor'”.

“Dear neighbours, dear brothers and sisters”, he concluded, “let us together pray, work and commit ourselves to ensuring that every family has dignified housing, access to drinking water, a toilet, reliable sources of energy for lighting, cooking and improving their homes; that every neighbourhood has streets, squares, schools, hospitals, areas for sport, recreation and art; that basic services are provided to each of you; that your appeals and your pleas for greater opportunity can be heard; that all can enjoy the peace and security which they rightfully deserve on the basis of their infinite human dignity. Mungu awabariki! God bless you”.

The Pope leaves Kenya for Uganda

Vatican City, 27 November 2015 (VIS) – After visiting the shantytown of Kangemi, Francis transferred by car to the Karasani stadium, situated 22 km outside Nairobi, in order to meet with the young people of Kenya. He gave an extemporaneous address in Spanish, in the form of answers to questions from those present, on issues such as tribalism, the recruitment of child soldiers, and the abandonment of families, and urged them not to give up when faced with difficulties but instead to consider them as an opportunity to overcome the situations that gave rise to them, emphasising the two pillars essential in this respect: education and work.

After his discourse, to be published tomorrow, Saturday, the Pope met with the bishops of Kenya in the stadium and then proceeded to the apostolic nunciature of Nairobi where he lunched. From there he travelled to the airport, where he was awaited by President Uhuru Kenyatta, and boarded his flight for Entebbe, the capital of Uganda, the second country to be visited by the Pope on his apostolic trip in Africa. This afternoon he is expected to visit the Ugandan president Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, in his official residence, and will then address the civil and religious authorities and the diplomatic corps. The Holy Father's day will conclude with an encounter with catechists and teachers at the shrine of Munyonyo, where Uganda's first four martyrs were killed in 1886.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 27 November 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed:

- Fr. Hector Vila as bishop of Whitehorse (area 732,515, population 43,000, Catholics 9,600, priests 6, permanent deacons 2, religious 5), Canada. The bishop-elect was born in Lima, Peru in 1962 and was ordained a priest in 1995. He studied at the University of Toronto, Canada, and the Redemptoris Mater seminary in Rome, and has served in pastoral roles in the Roman parishes of St. Ireneo and St. Patrizio and in the parish of St. Norbert in Toronto, and is currently rector of the Redemptoris Mater seminary in Toronto.

- Fr. Emmanuel Nguyen Hong Son as coadjutor of the diocese of Ba Ria (area 1,988, population 1,427,024, Catholics 254,302, priests 172, religious 799), Vietnam. The bishop-elect was born in Bien Hoa, Vietnam in 1952 and was ordained a priest in 1980. He holds a licentiate in dogmatic theology from the Institut Catholique de Paris, France, and has served in a number of pastoral roles in the diocese of Ba Ria, including parish priest, dean forane, rector of the minor seminary, head of continuing formation of diocesan clergy, member of the episcopal commission for the doctrine of the faith. He is currently vicar general of the same diocese.


Vatican City, 27 November 2015 (VIS) – We inform our readers that, due to the Holy Father's apostolic trip to Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic, an extraordinary edition of the Vatican Information Service bulletin will be published on Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 November.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Pope in Kenya: the link between the protection of nature and the building of a just and equitable social order

Vatican City, 26 November 2015 (VIS) – The clear relationship between the protection of nature and constructing a just and equitable social order, the aspirations of the young and a fair distribution of natural and human resources were the central themes of Pope Francis' first discourse in Africa yesterday.

The Holy Father spoke in the presence of President Uhuru Kenyatta, the authorities and representatives of the political, economic and cultural spheres, in the gardens of the State House, the president's residence in Nairobi, Kenya.

Kenya, he said, “is a young and vibrant nation, a richly diverse society which plays a significant role in the region. In many ways your experience of shaping a democracy is one shared by many other African nations. Like Kenya, they too are working to build, on the solid foundations of mutual respect, dialogue and cooperation, a multi-ethnic society which is truly harmonious, just and inclusive”.

“Yours too is a nation of young people. … The young are any nation’s most valuable resource. To protect them, to invest in them and to offer them a helping hand, is the best way we can ensure a future worthy of the wisdom and spiritual values dear to their elders, values which are the very heart and soul of a people”.

“Kenya has been blessed not only with immense beauty, in its mountains, rivers and lakes, its forests, savannahs and semi-deserts, but also by an abundance of natural resources. The Kenyan people have a strong appreciation of these God-given treasures and are known for a culture of conservation which does you honour. The grave environmental crisis facing our world demands an ever greater sensitivity to the relationship between human beings and nature. We have a responsibility to pass on the beauty of nature in its integrity to future generations, and an obligation to exercise a just stewardship of the gifts we have received. These values are deeply rooted in the African soul. In a world which continues to exploit rather than protect our common home, they must inspire the efforts of national leaders to promote responsible models of economic development”.

“In effect, there is a clear link between the protection of nature and the building of a just and equitable social order”, the Holy Father emphasised. “There can be no renewal of our relationship with nature, without a renewal of humanity itself. To the extent that our societies experience divisions, whether ethnic, religious or economic, all men and women of good will are called to work for reconciliation and peace, forgiveness and healing. In the work of building a sound democratic order, strengthening cohesion and integration, tolerance and respect for others, the pursuit of the common good must be a primary goal. Experience shows that violence, conflict and terrorism feed on fear, mistrust, and the despair born of poverty and frustration. Ultimately, the struggle against these enemies of peace and prosperity must be carried on by men and women who fearlessly believe in, and bear honest witness to, the great spiritual and political values which inspired the birth of the nation”.

Addressing the country's political, cultural and economic leaders, he remarked that “the advancement and preservation of these great values is entrusted in a special way” to them. “This is a great responsibility, a true calling, in the service of the entire Kenyan people. The Gospel tells us that from those to whom much has been given, much will be demanded. In that spirit, I encourage you to work with integrity and transparency for the common good, and to foster a spirit of solidarity at every level of society. I ask you in particular to show genuine concern for the needs of the poor, the aspirations of the young, and a just distribution of the natural and human resources with which the Creator has blessed your country. I assure you of the continued efforts of the Catholic community, through its educational and charitable works, to offer its specific contribution in these areas”.

“I am told that here in Kenya it is a tradition for young schoolchildren to plant trees for posterity. May this eloquent sign of hope in the future, and trust in the growth which God gives, sustain all of you in your efforts to cultivate a society of solidarity, justice and peace on the soil of this country and throughout the great African continent. I thank you once more for your warm welcome, and upon you and your families, and all the beloved Kenyan people, I invoke the Lord’s abundant blessings”.

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