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Friday, April 24, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

- Ana Maria Freire;

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

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

Other Pontifical Acts

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pope Francis' trip to Cuba confirmed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Pontifical Acts

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

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


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

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In memoriam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 20, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pope Francis receives the Conference of European Rabbis

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

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

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

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

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

The Holy Father remembers Chief Rabbi of Rome, Elio Toaff

Vatican City, 20 April 2015 (VIS) – Pope Francis has sent a letter of condolences to the Chief Rabbi of the Jewish community of Rome, Riccardo Di Segni, for the death yesterday of his predecessor in this role, Rabbi Elio Toaff, at the age of 99. The following is the full text of the letter.

“I wish to express my heartfelt participation in the mourning of the family and the entire Jewish community of the capital following the departure of the Rabbi Professor Elio Toaff, the long-time spiritual guide of the Jews of Rome.

A key figure in Italian Jewish and civil history during recent decades, he knew how to earn esteem and appreciation through his moral authority, linked to a profound humanity.

I recall with gratitude his generous efforts and sincere willingness to promote dialogue and fraternal relations between Jews and Catholics, which experienced a significant moment in his memorable encounter with St. John Paul II at the Synagogue of Rome.

I raise prayers that the Almighty, rich in love and faithfulness, welcome him in His Kingdom of peace”.

Buddhists and Christians, together to counter modern slavery

Vatican City, 20 April 2015 (VIS) – “Buddhists and Christians, together to counter modern slavery” is the title of the message from the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue to Buddhists, to celebrate the month of Vesakh, the commemoration of the three most significant events in the life of Gautama Buddha – his birth, enlightenment and death. This occasion, according to the president of the dicastery, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, also provides an opportunity “to think of the unfortunate and all who suffer, and to rededicate ourselves to bringing them comfort and happiness through acts of love and compassion”.

This year's text is inspired by Pope Francis’s “Message for the 2015 World Day of Peace”, entitled No Longer Slaves, but Brothers and Sisters, in which the Holy Father observes that, historically, the institution of slavery was once generally accepted and resulted in the “rejection of others, their mistreatment, violations of their dignity and fundamental rights, and institutionalised inequality”. Accordingly, “a slave could be bought and sold, given away or acquired, as if he or she were a commercial product” and although slavery has been formally abolished throughout the world, there are still “millions of people today – children, women and men of all ages – deprived of freedom and forced to live in conditions akin to slavery”.

Pope Francis gives examples of modern day slavery: men, women and child labourers; migrants who undergo physical, emotional and sexual abuse while working in shameful working conditions; persons forced into prostitution, many of whom are minors, as well as male and female sex slaves; those kidnapped by terrorists and forced to be combatants, and those who are tortured, mutilated or killed. Human hearts deformed by corruption and ignorance are, according to the Holy Father, the cause of these terrible evils against humanity. When hearts are corrupted, human beings no longer see others as “beings of equal dignity, as brothers or sisters sharing a common humanity, but rather as objects”.

“Dear friends, we share the conviction that modern slavery and human trafficking are grave crimes, open wounds on the body of contemporary society”, states the message for Vesakh. In one section of the “Eightfold Path” – namely “Right Livelihood” – the Buddha declares that trading in live beings, including slaves and prostitutes, is one of five occupations that are not to be engaged in. He instructs that possessions are to be acquired peacefully, honestly and by legal means, without coercion, violence or deceit, and by means that do not cause harm or suffering. In this way, Buddhism promotes respect for the life and freedom of each person”.

“As Buddhists and Christians committed to respect for human life, we must cooperate together to end this social plague. Pope Francis invites us to overcome indifference and ignorance by offering assistance to victims, in working for their psychological and educational rehabilitation, and in efforts to reintegrate them into society where they live or from which they come”.

The text concludes, “We pray that your celebration of Vesakh, which includes making special efforts to bring happiness to those less fortunate in our midst, may be a time of deepened consideration of the various ways in which we can work together so that there will no longer be slaves, but brothers and sisters living in fraternity, loving kindness and compassion for all”.

Regina Coeli: the content of Christian witness is not an ideology

Vatican City, 19 April 2015 (VIS) – At midday today the Pope appeared at the window of his study in the Vatican Apostolic Palace to pray the Regina Coeli with the faithful present in the square. Before the Marian prayer, Francis spoke about the meaning of witness in the life of Christians. “A witness is one who has seen, who recalls, and recounts”, he said. “To see, to remember and to tell are the three verbs that describe identity and mission. The witness is one who has seen, but not with indifferent eyes; he has seen and allowed himself to be involved in the event. Therefore, he also remembers, not only because he is able to precisely reconstruct the facts, but because these facts have spoken to him and he has grasped their deep meaning. And so the witness recounts, not in a cold or detached way, but as one who has allowed himself to be questioned, and has from that day forth changed his life”.

“The content of Christian witness is not a theory, and ideology, or a complex system of precepts and prohibitions”, he added, “but rather a message of salvation, a concrete event, or rather a Person: it is the risen Christ, the sole and living Saviour of all”.

The Pontiff went on to emphasise that the Christian may be a witness of the risen Christ “by way of a path that has its foundation in Baptism and its nourishment in the Eucharist, its seal in Confirmation and its continual conversion in Penance. … If, however, a Christian allows himself to be rapt by comforts and vanity, if he becomes deaf and blind to the question of 'resurrection' of so many of his brothers, how will he be able to communicate the living Jesus, with his liberating power and infinite tenderness?”.

Men and women like us, seeking a better life

Vatican City, 19 April 2015 (VIS) – Following the Marian prayer, the Pope launched an appeal to the international community to react as soon as possible to tragedies like Saturday's shipwreck in Sicilian waters, causing the deaths of hundreds of immigrants travelling towards the Italian coast.

“They are men and women like us”, he said. “Our brothers who seek a better life; hungry, persecuted, wounded, exploited, victims of wars, seeking a better life. They were looking for happiness. I invite you to pray for them”.

State Visit of the President of the Italian Republic

Vatican City, 18 April 2015 (VIS) – This morning the Holy Father received a State visit from the president of the Italian Republic, Sergio Mattarella. The visit takes place just two months after his election, and as the Pontiff remarked, “shows the excellent relations between the Holy See and Italy”. There is a long-standing tradition of regular meetings between the Italian authorities and the Universal Church, reinforced following Vatican Council II.

In his address to the president, the Pope referred first to the Lateran Pacts, incorporated into the Republican Constitution, which constitute “a solid framework for reference, within which the relations between Italy and the Holy See have been peacefully developed and strengthened, guaranteeing mutual sovereignty and independence and at the same time ensuring mutual orientation towards active collaboration, on the basis of shared values and in view of the common good”. For this, it is fundamental for collaboration to be constantly renewed, “distinguishing roles and competences and with full respect for reciprocal functions”, with the aim of “uniting forces for the good of all citizens, who have the right to such harmony, from which they derive innumerable benefits. … Reciprocal autonomy does not diminish, but indeed enhances common responsibility for human beings and for the spiritual and material needs of the community, which we all have the task of serving with humility and dedication”.

“A healthy pluralism does not reject the specific contribution offered by the various ideal and religious members that make up our society, provided that, of course, they accept the fundamental principals that guide civil life, and do not exploit or distort their beliefs to violent and abusive ends. In other words, the orderly development of a pluralistic civil society presupposes that it does not claim to confine the true religious spirit solely to the intimacy of the conscience, but that it also recognises its significant role in the building of society, legitimating the the valuable contribute that it may offer”. In this respect, the history of Italy clearly demonstrates both the great contribution of Christianity to her culture and the character of her population, and the extent to which Christian faith has permeated the art, architecture and customs of the country”.

The Pope did not fail to mention, among the fundamental goods for the development of each community, the importance of work, “distinguished by its bond with the very dignity of the person, with the possibility of building a dignified and free existence”, and he emphasised that “the lack of work for the young becomes a cry of pain that must impel those in public office, intermediary organisations, private businesspeople and the ecclesial community to make every effort to remedy the situation, according the suitable priority to the problem. Indeed, the possibility of dignity and of the future resides in the availability of work”.

Another theme of the Pope's address was the protection of the environment, and in this regard he spoke about the Milan Universal Exposition, the theme of which is “Feeding the planet: energy for life”. “The event of the Expo will be an important occasion in which the most modern technologies necessary for guaranteeing healthy, safe and sufficient food for all peoples, respecting the environment, will be presented”, he said. “This may also contribute to deeper study of the causes of environmental degradation, in order to provide the competent authorities with a framework of knowledge and experience indispensable for making effective decisions and for preserving the health of the planet that God has entrusted to the care of humankind”.

Finally, the Holy Father expressed his gratitude for Italy's efforts in receiving the many immigrants who, risking their lives, seek acceptance. “It is clear that the proportions of the phenomenon require a much broader involvement. We must never tire of soliciting more extensive efforts at European and international levels”.

Francis concluded by expressing his hope that Italy, “treasuring her noble traditions and culture, largely inspired by Christian faith, may progress and prosper in harmony, offering her valuable contribution to peace and justice in the world”.

Italy and the Holy See: promoting and protecting religious freedom and human dignity at bilateral and international levels

Vatican City, 18 April 2015 (VIS) - This morning the president of the Italian Republic, Sergio Mattarella, paid a visit to the Holy Father Francis. The Head of the Italian State, accompanied by Paolo Gentiloni, minister for foreign affairs and international cooperation, subsequently met with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, accompanied by Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, secretary for Relations with States.

During the cordial discussions, satisfaction was expressed for the good relations between the Holy See and Italy, further consolidated by the recent signing of the Convention on fiscal matters. Themes relevant to the Italian social situation were then considered, with particular reference to the family, education, work and migration. Appreciation was affirmed for the cooperation of the Catholic Church in alleviating the situations of hardship that characterise some sectors of society. Mention was also made, within the framework of the current international situation, of the worrying spread of violence that continues to affect the eastern Mediterranean and North African areas.

The Parties confirmed their willingness to pursue their active collaboration on a bilateral level in the context of the international community, especially with regard to the promotion and protection of religious freedom and the dignity of human beings.

To the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences: raise awareness of new forms of slavery

Vatican City, 18 April 2015 (VIS) – The Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, chaired by Margaret Archer, dedicated its plenary session to human trafficking. This morning the Pope received in audience the members of this institution and thanked them for their work in deepening knowledge of new forms of slavery and in endeavouring to eradicate human trafficking, noting that this scourge afflicts those who suffer as a result of forced labour, prostitution, and trafficking in organs and drugs.

“St. Peter Claver, in an historical moment at which slavery was widespread and socially acceptable, unfortunately – and scandalously – also in the Christian world, as it was a large-scale business, felt himself to be called by the words of the Lord, and consecrated himself as 'a slave of slaves'. And many other saints, such as St. John of Matha, went on to fight slavery, following the mandate of Paul: slaves no more, but brothers and sisters in Christ”.

“We know that the historical abolition of slavery as a social structure is a direct consequence of the message of freedom brought to the world by Christ with its fullness of grace, truth and love, with His programme of the Beatitudes. The progressive awareness of this message throughout history is the work of the Spirit of Christ and of His gifts, in which there participate the saints and many men and women of good will, who do not identify with a religious faith but who are committed to improving the human condition”.

“Unfortunately, in a global economic system dominated by profit, new forms of slavery have developed, in a certain way worse and more inhuman than those of the past. Therefore, following the Lord's message of redemption, we are called upon even more today to denounce and combat them. Firstly, we must raise awareness of this new evil that, in the globalised world, seeks to conceal itself as it is scandalous and 'politically incorrect'. No-one likes to acknowledge that in their own city, region or nation, there are new forms of slavery, yet we know that this wound afflicts almost all countries. We must then denounce this terrible scourge in all its gravity. Pope Benedict XVI has already categorically denounced every violation of the principle of equal dignity among human beings. I too have declared several times that these new forms of slavery – human trafficking, forced labour, prostitution, the trade in organs – are serious crimes and 'an open wound on the body of contemporary society'”.

Francis launched a final appeal to all of society to become more aware, “especially with regard to national and international legislation, in order to be able to bring traffickers to justice and to redirect their unjust earnings for the rehabilitation of victims. The most suitable methods must be sought to penalise those who are complicit in this inhuman market. We are required to improve the methods of rescuing victims, and their social inclusion, also bringing up to date the legislation on the right of asylum. The civil authorities must be more cognizant of the seriousness of this tragedy, which constitutes a regression for humanity”.

The Pope receives the A.C.I.S.J.F.: let young women know they are called to happiness

Vatican City, 20 April 2015 (VIS) - “I wish to express my gratitude to you for your generous efforts in the service of young women who live in situations of precariousness and suffering”, said the Pope this morning as he received, in the Sala Clementina, seventy members of the International Catholic Association for the Service of Young Women (A.C.I.S.J.F.), founded in Fribourg, Switzerland, by Louise de Reynold in response to the needs of young women who, due to social changes, lived far from their family environment.

The number of these women, as the Pope observed in his address, is increasing, and the many forms of poverty that affect them “call out to us and should inspire a new creativity, to offer them the material and spiritual aid they need. … Through your ongoing activities to welcome them, and through reflection to face the new challenges generated by today's world, such as the phenomenon of migration, your work seeks to be at the service of the life and dignity of the person, demonstrating that 'true faith in the incarnate Son of God is inseparable from self-giving … from service”.

The young are most in need of “attention and to be listened to”, and the A.C.I.S.J.F. must help them “to grow in confidence, to find points of reference and to progress in human and spiritual maturity, nourished by Gospel values”, he added. “Be credible witnesses for them, so that they experience the joy of knowing they are loved by God, their Father, and called to happiness. And, at the same time, let yourselves be instructed by these young people whom you accompany and assist. Even amid their difficulties. They often bear witness to those essential virtues of fraternity and solidarity. They also remind us that we are frail and depend on God and on others. May the Lord's merciful gaze touch us and help us to welcome our poverty in order to go ahead trustfully, and to make efforts together in that 'revolution of tenderness' to which Jesus opened the way through his Incarnation”.

He concluded, “I hope that the sense of belonging to the Church, who is a great family, may grow in you. I invite you to continue to announce to all the joy of the Gospel, bear in mind the diversity of cultures, of religious traditions, and of the origins of the young women you wish to serve, as well as their richness that demands to be received with respect”.

Telegram for the death of Cardinal Francis Eugene George

Vatican City, 18 April 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has sent a telegram of condolences to the Archbishop of Chicago, U.S.A., Blase J. Cupich, for the death yesterday, Friday 17 April, of Cardinal Francis Eugene George, O.M.I., emeritus of the same archdiocese, at the age of 78.

In the text the Pope recalls with gratitude Cardinal George's witness of consecrated life as an Oblate of Mary Immaculate, his service to the Church's educational apostolate, and his years of episcopal ministry in the Churches of Yakima, Portland and Chicago, and commends the soul of “this wise and gentle pastor” to the merciful love of the Father.

The Pope to receive Catholic Charismatic Renewal in audience on 3 July

Vatican City, 18 April 2015 (VIS) – The Holy See Press Office has stated that the Holy Father will receive in audience the Movement of Catholic Charismatic Renewal at 10 a.m. on 3 July, in St. Peter's Square.

Symposium on Friar Junipero Serra, to be canonised 23 September

Vatican City, 18 April 2015 (VIS) – This morning in the Holy See Press office, the Day of Reflection dedicated to “Friar Junipero Serra, apostle of California, witness of holiness”, to be held on Saturday 2 May at the Pontifical North American College of Rome, Italy. At the beginning of the press conference, Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., announced that the Pope will canonise Blessed Junipero Serra on 23 September during his apostolic trip to the United States, outside the National Shrine in Washington, D.C.

The event on 2 May, convoked by the Pontifical North American College and the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, and funded by the archdiocese of Los Angeles, will aim to inform on the life, mission and witness of holiness of Friar Junipero Serra, O.F.M. (1713-1784).

Speakers at the conference were Cardinal Marc Ouellet, P.S.S., president of the Pontifical Council for Latin America; Guzman Carriquiry Lecour, secretary of the vice-presidency of the same dicastery; Fr. Vincenzo Criscuolo, O.F.M. Cap., general rapporteur of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints; and Msgr. James Francis Checcio, rector of the Pontifical North American College.

The activities to take place on the Day of Reflection include the Pope's visit to the Pontifical North American College, during which he will officiate at Holy Mass.


Vatican City, 20 April 2015 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father received in audience:

- Cardinal Fernando Filoni, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples;

- Signor Tomaz Kunstelj, new ambassador of Slovenia to the Holy See, presenting his letters of credence;

- Archbishop Santo Gangemi, apostolic nuncio in Guinea and Mali;

- Bishop Gonzalo de Villa y Vazquez of Solola-Chimaltenango, Guatemala;

- Six prelates of the Episcopal Conference of Gabon, on their “ad Limina” visit:

- Archbishop Basile Mve Engone of Libreville;
- Bishop Timothee Mobido-Nzockena of Franceville;
- Bishop Mathieu Madega Lebouakehan of Mouila, apostolic administrator “sede vacante et ad nutum Sanctae Sedis” of Port-Gentil with Bishop emeritus Dominique Bonnet, C.S.Sp.;
- Bishop Jean-Vincent Ondo Eyene of Oyem;
- Bishop Joseph Koerber, C.S.Sp., apostolic vicar of Makokou.

On Saturday, 18 April, the Holy Father received in audience Cardinal Marc Ouellet, P.S.S., prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 20 April 2015 (VIS) – On Saturday, 18 April, the Holy Father appointed Bishop Misael Vacca Ramirez of Yopal, Colombia, as bishop of Duitama-Sogamoso (area 4,928, population 437,000, Catholics 423,000, priests 115, permanent deacons 13, religious 155), Colombia.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Pope Francis praises the work of the “Papal Foundation”

Vatican City, 17 April 2015 (VIS) – Today at midday Pope Francis received in audience, in the Sala Clementina, 225 members, administrators and collaborators of the “Papal Foundation” during their annual visit to Rome. The “Papal Foundation” is a Catholic association established in 1990 in Philadelphia, U.S.A. by the late Cardinal John Krol, which provides funding for the needs of the Church throughout the world.

In his address to the institution, the Pope emphasised the wide variety of projects supported by the Foundation, which offer “witness to the ceaseless efforts of the Church to promote the integral development of the human family, conscious as she is of the immense and ongoing needs of so many of our brothers and sisters”. The Papal Foundation “devotes a sizeable percentage of its resources to the education and formation of young priests, religious and lay men and women, hastening the day when their local Churches may be self-supportive, and, indeed,pass on the fruits of such generosity to others”.

Pope Francis thanked those present for the hard work and sacrifice that this entails, and to assured them of his heartfelt prayers for them, their loved ones, and all those whom they support.

“As the Church prepares for the coming Jubilee of Mercy, I ask our Lord Jesus Christ, 'the face of the Father’s mercy', to refresh and renew each one of you through his mercy, the greatest of his many gifts”, he concluded. “May each of you experience the healing and freedom that come from the encounter of forgiveness and gratuitous love offered in the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist”.

Declaration of the director of the Holy See Press Office on the Pope's possible trip to Cuba

Vatican City, 17 April 2015 (VIS) – The director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., in response to questions from journalists regarding the possibility of Pope Francis visiting Cuba, has affirmed that “the Holy Father has taken into consideration the idea of making a stop in Cuba on the occasion of his upcoming trip to the United States. However, contacts with the Cuban authorities are still in too early a phase for it to be possible to regard this stop as a firm decision and an operative plan”.


Vatican City, 17 April 2015 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father received in audience:

- Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for New Evangelisation;

- Reiner Haseloff, minister president of Saxony-Anhalt, Federal Republic of Germany, with his wife and entourage.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 17 April 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed:

- Rev. Fr. Juan de Dios Pena Rojas as bishop of El Vigia-San Carlos del Zulia (area 8,233, population 432,000, Catholics 427,000, priests 32, religious 10), Venezuela. The bishop-elect was born in Acequias, Venezuela in 1967 and was ordained a priest in 1992. He holds a bachelor's degree in theology from the Pontifical Xavierian University of Bogota, Colombia, a licentiate in theology from the Santa Rosa de Lima University Institute, Caracas, Venezuela, and a licentiate in history of the Church from the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome. He has served in a number of pastoral and academic roles in the archdiocese of Merida, including formator in the major seminary, assessor for youth pastoral ministry, administrative director of the archiepiscopal curia, professor and president of the Scholastic Institute of the major seminary, parish priest, member and secretary of the presbyteral council, and chaplain of the Dominican Sisters of Santa Rosa de Lima. He is currently member of the college of consultors and of the Metropolitan Chapter, and rector of the “San Buenaventura” major seminary of Merida.

- Msgr. Francesco Viscome, Italy, substitute defender of the bond, as promoter of justice at the Tribunal of the Roman Rota.

- Rev. Fr. Francesco Ibba, Italy, as substitute defender of the bond at the Tribunal of the Roman Rota.
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