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Friday, December 19, 2014

The Nativity and the Christmas Tree are signs of light and hope

Vatican City, 19 December 2014 (VIS) – This morning in the Clementine Hall the Pope received delegations from the Italian provinces of Verona and Catanzaro, which provided the Nativity scene with its terracotta figures and the Christmas tree that are decorating St. Peter's Square during the festive season this year, and which will be illuminated before the public this evening.

“Christian values have enriched the culture, literature, music and art of your lands, and today such values continue to constitute a valuable heritage to be preserved and transmitted to future generations”, he said. “The Nativity and the Christmas tree are evocative festive symbols very dear to our Christian families: they recall the mystery of the Incarnation, the only begotten Son of God, made flesh in order to save us, and the light that Jesus has brought to the world through His birth. But the creche and the tree touch the hearts of all, as they speak of fraternity, intimacy and friendship, calling to people of our time to rediscover the beauty of simplicity, sharing and solidarity. They are an invitation to unity, harmony and peace; an invitation to make room, in our personal and social life, for God, Who does not come with arrogance, imposing His power, but instead offers His omnipotent love through the fragile figure of a Child. The creche and the tree therefore bring a message of light, hope, and love”.

“The Messiah made Himself man and came among us, to dispel the shadows of error and sin, bringing His divine light to humanity. Jesus Himself says of Himself: 'I am the light of the world; whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life'. Let us follow Him, the true light, so as not to lose our way and in turn to reflect light and warmth on those who go through moments of difficulty and inner darkness”.

Francis: sport to promote friendship between peoples

Vatican City, 19 December 2014 (VIS) – The Italian National Olympic Committee (CONI) celebrates its centenary this year. This morning around five thousand managers and athletes from the Committee attended a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, after which Pope Francis addressed a brief discourse to them. “In our times sport is the home of the Church, and this meeting is the proof of this: we celebrate together your centenary, an important anniversary for Italian sport”, he said.

The Holy Father commented that for one hundred years the CONI has promoted and organised sport in Italy not only in relation to the great global event that is the Modern Olympics, but also focusing on the popular, social, educational and cultural dimensions. “It does this taking inspiration from the principles of the Olympic Charter, that places among its main aims the centrality of the person, the harmonious development of humanity, the defence of human dignity, and, moreover, the contribution to a better world, without wars or tension, educating the young through sport practised without discrimination of any type, in a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play”.

“Sport has always promoted universalism characterised by fraternity and friendship among peoples, accord and peace between nations; respect, tolerance, and harmony in diversity”, he added. “Every sporting event, especially Olympic ones, in which representatives of nations with different histories, cultures, traditions, faiths and values compete, can be come a channel for an ideal strength able to open up new paths, at times unexpected, in overcoming conflicts caused by the violation of human rights”.

The Olympic motto, “Citius, altius, fortius”, “is not an incitement to the supremacy of one nation over another, of one people over another people, nor of the exclusion of the weakest and least protected, but rather represents the challenge posed to all of us, not just athletes: that of making the effort and the sacrifice to reach the important goals in life, accepting one's own limits without allowing oneself to be obstructed by them, but seeking instead to overcome them”.

The Holy Father encouraged the members of CONI to continue their work in schools, in the world of work and in solidarity “to promote a sport that is accessible to all, mindful of the weakest and of the most precarious sectors of society; an inclusive sport for the differently-abled, foreigners, those who live in peripheries and are in need of meeting places, sociality, sharing and play; a sport that aims not at being 'useful', but at the development of the human person, in a gratuitous fashion”.

Finally, Francis remarked that CONI was the first national Olympic committee – whose example was later followed by others – to include an Olympic chaplain in its organisation. “It is a friendly presence to demonstrate the closeness of the Church and to stimulate in sports people a strong sense of spiritual training. Indeed, there are certain words typical of sport that can be used to refer to spiritual life. The saints understood this, and knew how to interpret passion, enthusiasm, constancy, determination, challenge and limits, looking beyond themselves, towards the horizon of God”.


Vatican City, 19 December 2014 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father received in audience:

- Cardinal Marc Ouellet, P.S.S., prefect of the Congregation for Bishops;

- Archbishop Georges Pontier of Marseilles, France, president of the Conference of Bishops of France, accompanied by Bishop Pascal Delannoy of Saint-Denis, vice president, and Msgr. Olivier Ribadeau, general secretary.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Pope to new ambassadors: task of ambassador, through small steps, is to bring peace

Vatican City, 18 December 2014 (VIS) -This morning in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace, the Holy Father received in audience the ambassadors of the following nations, presenting their Credential Letters:
      - Mr. Vaanchig Purevdorj of Mongolia,
      - Mr. Sean Mcweeney, Q.C., of The Bahamas,
      - Mr. Edward D.A. Lambert of Dominica,
      - Mr. Philip Sang’ka Marmo of Tanzania,
      - Mrs. Louise Bang Jespersen of Denmark,
      - Mr. Dato’ Mohd Zulkephli Bin Mohd Noor of Malaysia,
      - Dr. Francois Xavier Ngarambe of Rwanda,
      - Mr. Jari Petteri Luoto of Finland,
      - Mrs. Janet Lowe of New Zealand,
      - Sheikh Mouclary Diarra of Mali,
      - Mr. Kokou Nayo Atsumikoa M’Beou of Togo,
      - Mr. Shameem Ahsan of Bangladesh, and,
      - Sheikha Moza Bint Nasser bin Ahmad Ali Al-Thani of Qatar.

The Holy Father welcomed the new ambassadors with the following words: “I warmly welcome you and hope that every time you enter this house that you feel at home. I extend our welcome and respect for you and for your peoples and the heads of your governments. I greet you and wish your work to be fruitful, to be fertile. The work of an ambassador lies in small steps, small things, but they always end up making peace, bringing closer the hearts of people, sowing brotherhood among peoples. This is your job, but with little things, tiny things. Today we are all happy because we have seen how two peoples, distanced for so many years, made a step nearer one another yesterday. That was brought about by ambassadors, by diplomacy. Your job is noble work, very noble. I wish it to be fruitful, fertile, and may God bless you. Thank you.”


Vatican City, 18 December 2014 (VIS) – Official dialogue between Lutherans and Catholics has been in place for almost 50 years and the progress made in this half century “constitutes a solid foundation for sincere friendship lived in faith and spirituality,” Pope Francis said this morning on receiving a delegation from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany on an ecumenical visit to Rome.

Despite theological differences that persist in various issues of the faith, collaboration and fraternal coexistence characterize the life of our churches and ecclesial communities, which are committed to a common ecumenical journey and joint documents. One such text was the “Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification” between the Lutheran World Federation and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, which was officially signed fifteen years ago in Augsburg. “These are,” Pope Francis said, “important milestones that allow us to confidently continue along the path undertaken.”

Although the common goal of full and visible unity of Christians sometimes seems to become more difficult to achieve because of different interpretations regarding the church and its unity, we must not give in to resignation but concentrate on the next possible step. “Do not forget,” the Pope stressed, “that we are walking together the path of friendship, mutual respect, and theological research. It is a path that makes us look with hope to the future. That is why, this past 21 November, bells of all the cathedrals in Germany rang to invite all Christian brothers and sisters to a common liturgical service for the fiftieth anniversary of the promulgation of Unitatis Redintegratio, the Second Vatican Council's Decree on Ecumenism.”

The Holy Father expressed his satisfaction that the Commission on Bilateral Dialogue between the German Bishops' Conference and the German Evangelical Lutheran Church is about to finish its work dedicated to “God and the Dignity of Man”. He emphasized the relevance of “issues related to the dignity of the human person at the beginning and end of life, as well as those related to family, marriage, and sexuality, which cannot be excluded or left to the side just because one doesn't want to endanger the ecumenical consensus reached thus far. It would be a shame if new confessional differences arose in such important topics related to human existence.”

Ecumenical dialogue today can no longer be separated from the reality and the life of our churches. In 2017, Lutheran and Catholic Christians will jointly commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. On that occasion, Lutherans and Catholics around the world will, for the first time, have the opportunity to share the same ecumenical commemoration, not in the form of a triumphalistic celebration, but as the profession of our common faith in the Triune God. At the center of this event, therefore, there will be common prayer and the plea that our Lord Jesus Christ pardon for our mutual faults, along with the joy of journeying together on a shared ecumenical path. This meaningfully references the document produced by the Lutheran-Catholic Commission for Unity published last year entitled “From Conflict to Communion: The Joint Lutheran-Catholic Commemoration of the Reformation in 2017”. May this commemoration of the Reformation encourage us all to carry out, with God's help and the support of his Spirit, further steps towards unity and to not just limit ourselves to what we have already achieved!”


Vatican City, 18 December 2014 (VIS) - “I have heard that this year you are working on a theme with the slogan 'Everything to Discover'. It's a beautiful journey, one which requires courage and the hard work of exploring to then rejoice when the plan that Jesus has for each of us is discovered.” This is what Pope Frances told the youth of Catholic Action Italy this morning when he met with them in the Vatican. Regarding their theme, especially the word “everything”, the Holy Father offered some advice for “walking well in Catholic Action, in your family, and in your communities”.

Never give up,” he said, “because what Jesus thought for your path is something to be built together: together with your parents, your brothers and sisters, and your friends from school, from catechism, from your parishes, and from Catholic Action. Concern yourselves with the needs of the poorest, those suffering the most, and those who are most lonely because whoever has chosen to love Jesus cannot not love their neighbor. Your journey in Catholic Action, therefore, will become total love.”

The Pope asked them not to forget the Church and her priests, and to put themselves at the service of their community, “because the Church is not just priests and bishops, but the entire community. So put yourselves at the service of the community. Give of your time, energy, personal qualities and skills in your parishes and thus bear witness that the wealth of each is a gift from God that should be fully shared.” He also encouraged them to be apostles of peace and serenity starting with their families. Remind your parents, siblings, and peers that it is beautiful to love one another and that misunderstandings can be overcome because, united to Jesus, everything is possible.” To that end, Pope Francis encouraged them to talk to Jesus in prayer. “He is your best friend who will never abandon you. Entrust your joys and sorrows to Him. Turn to Him any time you make a mistake or do something wrong. You can be sure that He will forgive you. And speak to all of Jesus, of his love, his mercy, his tenderness, because friendship with Jesus—who gave himself for us—is an event that must be told.”

Finally, he emphasized that “with the grace of his birth, Jesus wants to help us take a stronger, safer, and happier step toward being his disciples” and that it only takes a few words, which our Mother, the Virgin, teaches us; the words of her response to the Lord's call; “Here I am.”


Vatican City, 18 December 2014 (VIS) - The following is the full text of a communique published yesterday afternoon by the Governorate of Vatican City State.

The Holy Father wishes to express his warm congratulations for the historic decision taken by the Governments of the United States of America and Cuba to establish diplomatic relations, with the aim of overcoming, in the interest of the citizens of both countries, the difficulties which have marked their recent history.”

In recent months, Pope Francis wrote letters to the President of the Republic of Cuba, His Excellency Mr Raul Castro, and the President of the United States, The Honorable Barack Obama, and invited them to resolve humanitarian questions of common interest, including the situation of certain prisoners, in order to initiate a new phase in relations between the two parties.”

The Holy See received delegations of the two countries in the Vatican last October and provided its good offices to facilitate a constructive dialogue on delicate matters, resulting in solutions acceptable to both parties.”

The Holy See will continue to assure its support for initiatives which both nations will undertake to strengthen their bilateral relations and promote the well-being of their respective citizens.”


Vatican City, 18 December 2014 (VIS) – This morning the Holy Father received in audience:

- Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, and

- Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli, apostolic nuncio to Singapore, non-residential pontifical representative for Vietnam, and apostolic nuncio to the Association of South-East Asian Nations.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

General Audience: Jesus chose to come to the world as part of a family

Vatican City, 17 December 2014 (VIS) – The family is the “great gift that the Lord has given to the world ever since the beginning, when he entrusted to Adam and Eve the mission of multiplying and filling the earth; the gift that Jesus confirmed and sealed in His Gospel”, said the Holy Father during this Wednesday's general audience, in the first of the new cycle of catechesis dedicated to the family, which will continue throughout the coming year.

The proximity to Christmas illuminates the mystery of the incarnation of the Son of God, which opens a new chapter in the universal history of man and woman. “And this new beginning occurs within a family, in Nazareth. He could have come spectacularly, or as a warrior, an emperor… No – he came as the son of a family, in a family”, he emphasised.

God chose to be born “in a human family, that He Himself had formed. He created this family in a remote village in the outer reaches of the Roman Empire. Not in Rome, the capital of the Empire, not in a great city, but in an almost invisible and somewhat notorious periphery. This is even noted in the Gospel, almost as if it were a turn of phrase: 'Can anything good come out of Nazareth?'. Perhaps, in many parts of the world, we too still speak in this way when we hear the name of certain peripheral areas of large cities. And yet, it was precisely there, in the outskirts of the great Empire, that there began the most holy and good story of Jesus among mankind”.

“Jesus chose to remain in the periphery for thirty years, during which there is no mention of miracles or healing, of preaching, of crowds who run after him. In Nazareth, everything seems to happen 'normally', according to the habits of a pious and hard-working family of Israelites. … The Gospels, in their sobriety, say nothing of Jesus' adolescence and leave this task to our affectionate imaginings. Art, literature and music have followed the path of the imagination. Certainly, it is not difficult to imagine how much mothers could learn from Mary's tender care for her Son! And how much fathers could benefit from the example of Joseph, a righteous man, who dedicated his life to supporting and defending his wife and child – is family – through difficult times. To say nothing of how much the young could be encouraged by the adolescent Jesus in understanding the necessity and beauty of cultivating their deepest vocation, and of having great dreams”, he added.

“Every Christian family – as Mary and Joseph did – must first welcome Jesus, listen to Him, speak with Him, shelter Him, protect Him, grow with Him; and in this way, make the world better. Let us make space in our heart and in our days for the Lord. This is what Mary and Joseph did, and it was not easy: how many difficulties they had to overcome! It was not a false or unreal family. The family of Nazareth calls to us to rediscover the vocation and the mission of the family, of every family. And so what happened in those thirty years in Nazareth can also happen to us: making love, not hate, normal; mutual help common, instead of indifference and hostility. It is not by chance that Nazareth means 'she who preserves', like Mary who, as the Gospel tells us, 'treasured all these things in her heart'. From then on, whenever there is a family that preserves this mystery, even if it should be at the outer reaches of the world, the mystery of the Son of God is at work. And He comes to save the world”.

Pope Francis asks for prayers for the victims of terrorist attacks

Vatican City, 17 December 2014 (VIS) – The Pope, at the end of today's general audience, asked for prayers for the victims of the inhuman terrorist acts that have occurred in recent days in Yemen, Australia and Pakistan. “May the Lord receive the souls of the departed in His peace, console their families and convert the hearts of the perpetrators, whose violence does not cease even before children”.

At the end of the audience, 2,500 people danced the milonga to the sound of the bandoneon in St. Peter's Square to celebrate Pope Francis' 78th birthday. The initiative, “A tango for Francis”, emerged on the social networks and, as was shown today, thousands of people joined in.

Completion of the Commission for the Protection of Minors

Vatican City, 17 December 2014 (VIS) – The Holy Father has nominated new members of the Commission for the Protection of Minors, chosen from various parts of the world, so as to allow a broad representation of different situations and cultures. The Commission therefore composed as follows:

Cardinal Sean O'Malley, OFM Cap., president
Mons. Robert Oliver (United States), secretary
Rev. Luis Manuel Ali Herrera (Colombia)
Dr. Catherine Bonnet (France)
Marie Collins (Ireland)
Dr. Gabriel Dy-Liacco (Philippines)
Prof. Sheila the Baroness Hollins (England)
Bill Kilgallon (New Zealand)
Sr. Kayula Gertrude Lesa, RSC (Zambia)
Sr. Hermenegild Makoro, CPS (South Africa)
Kathleen McCormack (Australia)
Dr. Claudio Papale (Italy)
Peter Saunders (England)
Hon. Hanna Suchocka (Poland)
Dr. Krysten Winter-Green (United States)
Rev. Dr. Humberto Miguel Yanez, SJ (Argentina)
Rev. Dr. Hans Zollner, SJ (Germany)

The next plenary session of the Commission will take place, as previously stated, in the Vatican on from 6-8 February 2015.

Brief information on members of the Commission is given below.

Cardinal Sean O'Malley, OFM Cap. (United States), archbishop of Boston, serves as the president of the Commission and is a member of the Council of Cardinals which advises Pope Francis.

Msgr. Robert Oliver (United States) serves as the Secretary of the Commission, following many years in child protection work for the Archdiocese of Boston, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith as the Promoter of Justice.

Rev. Luis Manuel Ali Herrera (Colombia) is the Director of the Department of Psychology, professor of pastoral psychology in the Conciliar Seminary of the Archdiocese of Bogota, and as a parish priest.

Dr. Catherine Bonnet (France) is a child psychiatrist, psychotherapist, researcher, and author on child sexual abuse and perinatal violence and neglect.

Marie Collins (Ireland) is a survivor of child sexual abuse. A founder Trustee of the Marie Collins Foundation she served on the committee which drafted the Catholic Church’s all-Ireland child protection policy, “Our Children Our Church.”

Dr. Gabriel Dy-Liacco (Philippines) is an adult and adolescent psychotherapist and pastoral counsellor for various mental health concerns including of individuals, couples, families and groups, including victims and perpetrators of abuse.

Prof. Sheila the Baroness Hollins (England) has worked as a psychiatrist and psychotherapist with children and adults with intellectual disabilities including those who have been sexually abused, and is a life peer in the House of Lords.

Bill Kilgallon (New Zealand) is Director of the National Office for Professional Standards of the Catholic Church in New Zealand where he has lived for the last four years. Prior to that he had a long career in social work and health services in the UK.

Sr. Kayula Gertrude Lesa, RSC (Zambia) is a development professional, trainer and author on child protection, human trafficking, refugee rights and the right to information. She served as a member of the African Forum for Church Social Teaching (AFCAST).

Sr. Hermenegild Makoro, CPS (South Africa) is a member of the Missionary Sisters of the Precious Blood in the diocese of Mathatha in South Africa. She works as a high school teacher and for several years in the diocese as a trainer in pastoral work. After serving as an Associate Secretary General of the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference for six years, Sr. Hermenegild was appointed as the Secretary General of the SACBC in 2012.

Kathleen McCormack (Australia) is a social welfare worker who served as Director of Welfare of Catholic Care in the Diocese of Wollongong for 29 years and held leadership roles in Family Services, Child Protection, Out Of Home Care and Ageing and Disability Services.

Dr. Claudio Papale (Italy) is a canon lawyer and a civil lawyer, professor of canon law at the Pontifical Urban University, and an official of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Peter Saunders (England) was abused throughout his childhood in Wimbledon, South West London. Later in life, after earning a Business Studies degree, Peter discovered that he was one of millions who had suffered such abuse and who could not find any appropriate support. So he set up NAPAC, the National Association for People Abused in Childhood, for supporting all survivors and for developing greater resources for responding to child abuse.

Hon. Hanna Suchocka (Poland) is a professor of constitutional law and specialist in human rights at the University of Poznan, and was formerly Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland and Ambassador of Poland to the Holy See.

Dr. Krysten Winter-Green (United States) is a New Zealander with post-graduate degrees in Theology, Human Development, Social Work, Religion and Pastoral Psychology. She has served in dioceses around the world with homeless persons and those living with AIDS. Krysten’s concentration in the areas of child abuse include forensics, assessment and treatment of priest/clergy offenders.

Rev. Dr. Humberto Miguel Yanez, SJ (Argentina) is Director of the Department of Moral Theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University, professor of moral theology at the Gregorian and the Pontifical Urban University, and former Director of the Centre of Research and Social Action in Argentina.

Rev. Dr. Hans Zollner, SJ (Germany) is President of the Centre for Child Protection of the Pontifical Gregorian University and Director and Professor of the Institute of Psychology. He was Chair of the organising committee for the Symposium “Towards Healing and Renewal” on sexual abuse of minors (February 2012).

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 17 December 2014 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed:

- Msgr. Adelar Baruffi as bishop of Cruz Alta (area 16,790, population 401,000, Catholics 321,000, priests 32, religious 50), Brazil. The bishop-elect was born in Garibaldi, Brazil in 1969 and was ordained a priest in 1995. He studied philosophy at the University of Caxias do Sul and theology at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul, and holds a licentiate in theological anthropology and spiritual theology from the “Teresianum” Pontifical Theological Faculty, Rome. He has served in a number of pastoral roles, including spiritual assistant, coordinator of formators and rector of the minor seminary and the preparatory course, rector of the major seminary, coordinator of diocesan presbyteral pastoral ministry, parish vicar and member of the council of presbyters and the College of Consultors. He is currently parish vicar of the “Santo Antonio” parish in Bento Goncalves.

- Fr. Onecimo Alberton as bishop of Rio do Sul (area 8,909, population 321,000, Catholics 263,000, priests 64, religious 212), Brazil. The bishop-elect was born in Orleans, Brazil in 1965 and was ordained a priest in 1992. He studied philosophy at the Universidade do Sul, Tubarao, and theology at the Theological Institute of Santa Catarina, Florianopolis, and has served in a number of roles, including: parish priest of the “Nossa Senhora da Natividade” parish, Cocal do Sul Criciuma; formator in the minor and major seminaries of Criciuma; rector of the “Bom Pastor” seminary, Florianopolis. He is currently parish priest of the “Sao Paulo Apostolo” parish in Criciuma. He succeeds Bishop Augustinho Petry, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese upon reaching the age limit was accepted by the Holy Father.

- Msgr. Jean-Marc Eychenne as bishop of Pamiers (area 4,903, population 154,546, Catholics 107,400, priests 46, permanent deacons 13, religious 80), France. The bishop-elect was born in Pamiers, France in 1956 and was ordained a priest in 1982. He holds a baccalaureate from the Faculty of Theology of Milan, and has served in a number of roles, including: master of novices of the Communaute Saint-Martin, teacher at the Higher Institute of Religious Sciences and formator of seminarians at the Communaute Saint-Martin in Genoa; parish vicar of Madeleine in Orleans-Checy, parish priest in the “Saint-Yves de la Source” parish and episcopal vicar for the pastoral area of Val-de-Loire et Sologne. He is currently vicar general of Orleans, France.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Presentation of the Final Report of the Apostolic Visitation of Institutes of Women Religious in the United States of America

Vatican City, 16 December 2014 (VIS) – This morning a press conference was held in the Holy See Press Office to present the Final Report of the Apostolic Visitation of Institutes of Women Religious in the United States of America.

The speakers in the conference were Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, prefect of the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life; Archbishop Jose Rodriguez Carballo, O.F.M., secretary of the same congregation; Mother M. Clare Millea, A.S.C.J., director of the Apostolic Visitation in the United States; Sister. Sharon Holland, I.H.M., president of the “Leadership Conference of Women Religious” (LCWR); Sr. Agnes Mary Donovan, S.V., coordinator of the “Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious” (CMSWR), and Fr. Thomas Rosica, C.S.B., assistant to the Visitation Committee.

Cardinal Braz de Aviz explained that the Visitation was initiated “because of our awareness that apostolic religious life in the United States is experiencing challenging times. Although we knew that any initiative of this magnitude would have its limits,we wished to gain deeper knowledge of the contributions of the women religious to the Church and society as well as those difficulties which threaten the quality of their religious life and, in some cases, the very existence of the institutes.

“Our final report on the Apostolic Visitation is addressed to the women religious of the United States as well as to the Church’s Pastors and faithful. In addition to publishing this general report, our Dicastery will send individual reports to those institutes which hosted an on-site visitation and to those institutes whose individual reports indicated areas of concern. We will also send letters of thanks to those institutes which participated in the first two phases of the Visitation. … We are aware that the Apostolic Visitation was met with apprehension by some women religious as well as the decision, on the part of some institutes, not to collaborate fully in the process. While this was a painful disappointment for us, we use this present opportunity to express our willingness to engage in respectful and fruitful dialogue with those institutes which were not fully compliant with the Visitation process”.

The cardinal went on to remark that Pope Francis had asked the dicastery, in close collaboration with the Congregation for Bishops, to update the curial document Mutuae Relationes regarding the collaboration among bishops and religious, “in accord with the Church’s resolve to foster the ecclesial communion which we all desire”. He concluded by expressing his joy at Pope Francis' many recent statements about “the indispensable and unique contributions of women to society and the Church. I assure you that this Congregation is committed to collaborate in the realisation of Pope Francis’ resolve that 'the feminine genius' find expression in the various settings where important decisions are made, both in the Church and in social structures. We will continue to work to see that competent women religious will be actively involved in ecclesial dialogue regarding “the possible role of women in decision-making in different areas of the Church’s life”.

Archbishop Jose Rodriguez Carballo, O.F.M, secretary of the Congregation, then went on to present an overview of the final report. He explained that the dicasteries of the Apostolic See regularly authorise Apostolic Visitations, which involve sending one or more visitors to evaluate an ecclesiastical entity in order to assist the group in question to improve the way in which it carries out its mission in the life of the Church. “In some ways, however, this Apostolic Visitation was unprecedented. It involved 341 religious institutes of women religious which engage in apostolic ministry and which have a generalate, provincialate and/or initial formation program in the United States. Both diocesan and pontifical right institutes, to which approximately 50,000 women religious throughout the United States belong, were part of the Visitation. Each province of institutes which had more than one province in the United States was considered a separate unit, for a total of 405 entities involved in the Visitation. Our dicastery appointed a woman religious from the United States, Mother Mary Clare Millea, A.S.C.J., as Apostolic Visitator, granting her the faculties to design and carry out the Visitation. She, in turn, chose a core team of American religious who assisted her throughout the process”.

“The Visitation took place between 2009 and 2012 and was divided into four phases. In the first phase, 266 superiors general (78% of their total number) voluntarily engaged in personal dialogue with the Visitator. Subsequently, all major superiors were asked to complete a questionnaire requesting empirical data and qualitative information regarding the spiritual, community and ministerial life of the individual institutes. On-site visits were then conducted in a representative sample of 90 religious institutes, representing about half of the apostolic women religious in the United States. In the final phase of the Visitation, the Visitator submitted to our dicastery a final general report on the major issues and trends in women’s religious life in the United States. While these trends cannot be presumed to apply to each of the institutes, they were significant enough to warrant mention in her report”.

“The document we are presenting today is our Congregation’s response to the Vistitator’s general report. Following a brief introduction, it describes the rationale and offers an overview of the Visitation process. It then briefly treats the principal issues evaluated during the Visitation process: empirical data, charism and identity, vocations and religious formation, Christ-centred prayer, community life and ministry, governance and financial stewardship, collaboration in the evangelising mission of the Church and ecclesial communion. On each of these topics, a point of reference is given in the form of a brief statement of current Church teaching on the issue being reviewed. This is followed by a summary of the Visitator’s overall evaluation of the reality. The third part of each section contains the Congregation’s recommendations to all religious institutes regarding that issue”.

Archbishop Rodriguez Carballo added that “any oral summary of the Apostolic Visitation during this press conference would risk impoverishing its content. The full text of the Report will be made available for consultation at: www.vatican.va, www.uisg.org, www.vidimusdominum.org, www.lcwr.org, www.cmswr.org, and www.usccb.org) and will be sent to all the participating religious institutes.

The Visitator, Sr. M. Clare Millea, A.S.C.J., remarked that the Visit had provided many opportunities for “reflection, dialogue and communion among women religious in the United States as well as with the Church's pastors and lay faithful. Congregation leaders, including those who at first expressed resistance to this initiative, have shared that the process has yielded surprising positive results, such as honest confrontation with the transformative power of the Word of God, deep spiritual conversations with our sisters about the life, witness and message of our foundresses and founders, earnest delving into Church documents about consecrated life, increased solidarity among women religious and renewed desire to move beyond attitudes which prevent us from being in communion with one another, a wonderful outpouring of loving gratitude expressed to women religious by bishops, clergy and laypersons, which has sparked new energy and resourcefulness among us and awakened a renewed interest in the promotion of vocations to the religious life”.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 16 December 2014 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed Fr. Samson Shukardin, O.F.M., as bishop of Hyderabad (area 137,386, population 22,309,840, Catholics 47,242, priests 30, religious 89), Pakistan. The bishop-elect was born in Hyderabad, Pakistan in 1961, gave his solemn vows in 1991 and was ordained a priest in 1993. He holds a diploma in theology from the National Catholic Institute of Theology in Karachi and a licentiate in civil law from the Sindh Law College, and has served in a number of pastoral roles, including parish vicar in Gujrat, procurator of the Franciscan province, and custodian of the Franciscan Order and president of the Conference of Major Superiors in Pakistan. He is currently parish priest of the “St. Elizabeth” parish in Hyderabad, diocesan director of the Commission of Justice and Peace, and vicar general of the diocese of Hyderabad. He succeeds Bishop Max John Rodrigues, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese upon reaching the age limit was accepted by the Holy Father.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Audience with Dragan Covic: the importance of the Catholic contribution to the reconstruction of Bosnia Herzegovina

Vatican City, 15 December 2014 (VIS) – This morning in the Vatican Apostolic Palace the Holy Father received in audience Dragan Covic, Croatian member of the Collegial Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, who subsequently met with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, accompanied by Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States.

During the cordial discussions, the Parties focused on the situation in the country, with particular reference to the contribution of Catholics to the edification of society and especially their commitment in the field of reconstruction following the devastation caused by floods last spring. Satisfaction was expressed regarding the good bilateral relations, and several issues were discussed in relation to the application of the 2006 Basic Agreement, which governs the relationships and collaboration between the Church and the State for the common good.

Finally, various themes relating to regional and international politics were considered.

To Catholic television workers: avoid the sins of the media

Vatican City, 15 December 2014 (VIS) – This morning Pope Francis met with the managers and workers of TV2000, an Italian Church television broadcasting company, with whom he wished to share “three thoughts on the role of the communicator”, recalling that “the Catholic media have a very difficult mission in relation to social communication: seeking to preserve it from all that distorts and twists it for other purposes. Often communication is subject to propaganda, ideologies, political ends, or for the control of the economy or technology. The first thing that is beneficial to communication is parrhesia, or rather the courage to speak directly, to speak frankly and freely. … If, instead, we are worried about tactical aspects, our words become artificial, and we communicate nothing. Freedom also means freedom from fashions, clichés, pre-packaged formulas. … We must reawaken words. But every word has a spark of fire and life within. Reawaken that spark, so that it comes out. So this is the first task of the communicator: to reawaken the word”.

Secondly, he emphasised the need to avoid “filling” and “closing”; the first takes the form of “saturating our perceptions with an excess of slogans that annul our thoughts instead of setting them into motion”, whereas the second is that of seeking short cuts instead of favouring longer and more complex routes of understanding, “choosing to present an individual as if he or she could solve all our problems, or on the contrary, as a scapegoat onto whom we can discharge all our responsibilities. [It is] jumping to conclusions immediately, instead of making the effort to represent the complexity of real life”.

Finally, Francis mentioned the third mission, “speaking to the whole person … avoiding the sins of the media: disinformation, slander and defamation”. Authentic communication, he stressed, “is not concerned with attention-grabbing. … It is necessary to speak to people as a whole: to their mind and their heart, so that they know how to see beyond the immediate, beyond a present that risks being forgetful and fearful of the future”. Of these three sins, “the most insidious is disinformation, as it leads to mistakes and to believing only a part of the truth”.

These three tasks bring to life “the culture of encounter, so necessary in an increasingly pluralistic context. Confrontation does not lead anywhere”, he concluded. “Creating a culture of encounter: it is an important job for you”.

Pope Francis visits the Roman parish of San Giuseppe all'Aurelio

Vatican City, 14 December 2014 (VIS) – This afternoon Pope Francis visited the Roman parish of San Giuseppe all'Aurelio, in the Primavalle suburb of the capital. Before celebrating the Eucharist, Francis met with various groups of people and spoke informally with them.

First, he met with some children who were preparing for their First Communion, and spoke about his own, which took place on 8 October 1944. “I remember it as if it were today. I prepared for a year with a very kind nun and two catechists. … In those times, its was not possible to drink a little water before Mass, nothing – not even a drop of water. It was Pope Pius XII who saved us from this dictatorship! … And we all arrived in the Church with our hands together, singing. … And later, in the afternoon, we returned to the Church for our Confirmation: the same day. And you, who will take your first Communion, will remember that day for ever, all your life: the first day Jesus came to you. He comes, He makes Himself one with us, he nourishes us to give us strength. … Do not forget the date, and every year, on that day, confess and take communion, will you?”

He then spoke to the Rom families in the parish, wishing them peace within their families and adding, “May there be work, and may there be joy. The joy of Jesus, the peace of Jesus, and so on. Do not lose hope in difficult moments, as hope never disappoints: the Lord gives it to us. And the Lord, sooner or later, He always awaits us, always”.

The Holy Father then met with the sick, and began by thanking them for their witness of patience, of love for God and of hope in the Lord. “This does great good to the Church”, he affirmed. “You continually nurture the Church with your life, with your suffering, with your patience. Thank you, truly. The Church, without the sick, would not carry on. You are the strength of the Church, her true strength”.

Finally, he encountered newly baptised children with their parents. “A child always offers a word of hope simply by being. … A child is a seed of the future. …. And you, parents, will say to God, protect my child in the future. Our hopes reside in our children. We hand them the torch of faith and life, and they will pass it on to their children, our grandchildren. This is life. And in Baptism, you have given them faith, and thus faith from Jesus' time up to the present day is like a chain, transmitted by parents. And this is a real responsibility! Never forget the day of your Baptism”.

Finally, after revealing that he was baptised on 25 December, just eight days after his birth, as was the custom at the time, Francis asked all those present to pray for him, and added, “babies and children cry, they make noise, they run about … and it bothers me greatly when a child cries in church and people expect him or her to leave. No! It is the best sermon. The cry of a child is the voice of God. Never, ever send them out of the church!”

Following his meetings with the parishioners, Pope Francis confessed several people and then celebrated Mass. In his homily, he mentioned that “the Church this Sunday anticipates the joy of the Nativity, and it is therefore called 'Gaudete Sunday', joyful Sunday”. The joy of the Nativity, he said, is a special joy the the Christian experiences not only on that day, but throughout all his or her life. “It is a serene, calm joy, a joy that always accompanies a Christian. Even in difficult moments, this joy is transformed into peace. The true Christian never loses this peace, even during suffering. This peace is a gift from the Lord”.

Francis emphasised that we encounter Christian joy in prayer and in giving thanks to God, and he spoke about all those people who do not know how to thank God and who are always looking for something to complain about. “A Christian cannot live like this, always complaining. … No saint has ever had a sad face. The saints always had joyful faces. Or at least, in moments of suffering, their faces showed peace”. In this way, the Pontiff explained that in order to obtain this Christian joy, which is not the joy of consumerism on 24 December, first one must pray and give thanks – but then there exists a further dimension, which is bringing the glad tidings to others. “Go to others, those who are in need, both materially and spiritually. They are many people who suffer and are distraught as a result of family problems. Bring them peace, the anointing of Jesus, the oil of Jesus which does so much good and consoles the soul”.

Angelus: rediscover the true joy of Jesus Christ

Vatican City, 14 December 2014 (VIS) – Today, the third Sunday of Advent, known as the “Sunday of Joy” (Gaudete), Pope Francis appeared at the window of his study to pray the Angelus with the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square, including many children who had brought their figurines of the baby Jesus from their Nativity displays, to be blessed by the Holy Father.

Francis remarked that the time of Advent, which began two weeks ago, invites us to spiritual vigilance to prepare the way for the Lord who is on his way. “On this third Sunday the liturgy proposes to us another inner attitude with which to await the Lord: joy. Man's heart desires joy. We all wish for joy, every family, every population aspires to happiness. But what is the joy that the Christian is required to live and to bear witness to? It is that which comes from closeness to God, from His presence in our life. Ever since Jesus entered into history, with his birth in Bethlehem, humanity has received the germ of the Kingdom of God, like the terrain that receives the seed, the promise of a future harvest. There is no need to search elsewhere! Jesus has come to bring joy to all for ever. It is not merely a hoped-for joy, or a joy postponed to paradise: here on earth we are sad but in paradise we will be joyful. No! It is not this, but rather it is a joy that is already real and that can be experienced now, because Jesus Himself is our joy, and with Jesus our home is joyful”.

“We baptised sons and daughters of the Church, all of us, are called upon to always welcome newly the presence of God among us and to help others to discover this presence, or to rediscover it if they have forgotten. It is a beautiful mission, similar to that of John the Baptist: guiding people towards Jesus – not to ourselves! – because it is towards Him that the human heart tends when it seeks joy and happiness”.

“St. Paul, in today's liturgy, indicates the conditions for being missionaries of joy: pray diligently, always give thanks to God, follow His Spirit, seek that which is good and avoid evil”, continued the Pope. “If this is our way of life, then the Good News will be able to enter into many homes and to help people and families rediscover that in Jesus, there is salvation. In Him it is possible to find inner peace and the strength to face each day the different situations of life, even the most onerous and difficult. We never hear about a sad saint or a saint with a gloomy appearance. It would be contradictory. A Christian is a person whose heart is filled with peace because he or she knows to place joy in the Lord even when experiencing difficult moments in life. To have faith does not mean not having difficult moments, but rather having the strength to face them knowing that we are not alone. And this is the peace God gives to His sons and daughters”.

The Pope gives a prayerbook to the faithful

Vatican City, 14 December 2014 (VIS) – After today's Angelus prayer, Pope Francis greeted all those present in St. Peter's Square – families, parish groups, associations and, in particular, faithful from Poland where today the Christmas candle is lit, and commitment to solidarity is reaffirmed, especially in the current Polish “Year of Caritas”.

He then addressed the children who had brought him the figures from their Nativity displays to be blessed, thanking them for their presence and for the joy they brought to the square, where a sign was held that read “With Jesus, there is joy in our home”. The Pope wished them a happy Christmas and asked them to pray for him in front of their Nativity display at home, as he does for them.

“Prayer is the breath of the soul: it is important to find moments during the day to open our heart to God, even with the simple and short prayers of the Christian people. Therefore, I thought of giving a gift to all of you here in the square – a surprise, a gift: I will give you a little pocket-sized book that gathers together a few prayers, for various moments in the day and different situations in life. Some volunteers will distribute to them to you. Take one each and keep it with you always, as a help to live the whole day with God, and so we do not forget that beautiful message you have brought here on your banner: 'With Jesus, there is joy in our home'. Once again: 'With Jesus, there is joy in our home'”.

The book offered by the Pope contains Psalms, the Magnificat, invocations of Mary, the Gloria, the prayer to the Angel of the Guard, prayers to recite during the day and blessings for the table, in confession and for specific intentions. It is published in Italian by the Vatican Publishing House.

Audience with Matteo Renzi: common concern about persistent social and economic problems

Vatican City, 13 December 2014 (VIS) – This morning the Holy Father Francis received Matteo Renzi, prime minister of the Italian Republic, on an official visit. Following the papal audience, Renzi met with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, accompanied by Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Secretary for Relations with States.

The discussions took place in a serene and cordial atmosphere. Attention focused on, among other issues, the current context of persistent difficulties of an economic and social nature, with negative consequences especially in relation to youth employment. In addition, the importance of education to promote the future of new generations was emphasised.

Various themes relating to international politics were then considered, and the Parties shared their serious concerns for the gradual worsening of conflicts in the Middle East.
With regard to the term of the Italian Presidency of the European Union, the Parties affirmed the importance of the themes mentioned by the Holy Father during his recent address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg. These were held to be fundamental to the harmonious development of European peoples.

Finally, the Parties renewed their commitment to continuing their joint cooperation to resolve various issues of a bilateral nature.

St. Lucy, patroness of the blind and visually-impaired, teaches us the secret of true happiness

Vatican City, 15 December 2014 (VIS) – “Your association is non-confessional; however you have proposed to meet on this specific day, confirming that the tradition retains a certain significance for you”, said the Pope as he received in audience the members of the National Council of the Italian Union of the Blind and Visually-Impaired, on the feast day of St. Lucy. Francis spoke about the human values the saint suggests, the first of which was courage. “We all need courage in order to face the challenges of life. … In particular, the blind and visually-impaired need courage in order not to close themselves up, not to assume a victim mentality, but rather to open themselves to reality, to others, to society; to learn how to recognise and make good use of the capabilities the Lord has given to each person, without exception”.

Another value suggested by St. Lucy, he continued, is “the fact that she was not alone, but rather was part of a community, a member of a body of which Christ was the head, a stone in the edifice of which Christ was the foundation. … An association is not the sum of the individuals that constitute it – it is much more. … To form a group, to be united, to meet up with one another, to share experiences and pool resources … all this is part of the civil patrimony of a group. And often people who live with disadvantages or disabilities can show everyone, with their experience, that we are not 'monads', we are not made to be isolated, but rather to relate to one another, to complete each other, to help, accompany and support each other”.

“Finally, St. Lucy tells us the life is made to be given away. She lived this in the extreme form of martyrdom, but the value of giving oneself is universal: it is the secret to true happiness. Humanity cannot be fully realised in having or even in doing; it is realised in loving, that is, the giving of oneself. And this may be understood as the secret of the name 'Lucy': a person is luminous to the extent that he or she is a gift for others. And every person, in reality, is a precious gift”. The Pope concluded by remarking that even today living according to these values can mean encountering incomprehension and the struggle of at times going against the grain, and that it is necessary to fight, with the example and intercession of St. Lucy. He encouraged those present to confront this challenge with courage and with the joy of doing so together.

Francis gives thanks to the foundation of Notre Dame des Sans-Abri for its work with the homeless

Vatican City, 13 December 2014 (VIS) – “Notre Dame des Sans-Abri (Our Lady of the Homeless)! What a beautiful name! The mother of Jesus, who gives shelter to her sons”, said Pope Francis this morning as he received in audience the Foyer de Notre Dame des Sans-Abri, the association founded in Lyon in 1952 by Gabriel Rosset to assist the thousands of homeless men, women and children who lived under bridges, or in unsanitary and overcrowded huts.

“I would like you to know how much I appreciate your commitment to the poorest, to those who society turns away, those who have no roof over their heads or food to eat, those who are without work and therefore without dignity. Your founder listened to the cry of the poor; he was moved by the suffering of others, and responded generously. This call is none other than the call of the suffering Christ Himself; in the people you serve, you touch their wounds and cure them; and at the same time, they offer you profound teaching, since through them you encounter Jesus. The poor always evangelise us, they communicate God's wisdom to us, mysteriously. Today's world urgently needs this witness of divine mercy. At a time in which the human being is frequently rejected as useless when no longer productive, God, on the other hand, always acknowledges the dignity and nobility of his beloved son and daughter, who has a privileged position in His heart. The poor are the Lord's most favoured, and are at the centre of the Gospel”.

“I thank you for this witness of mercy that you offer with many concrete actions, simple and warm gestures through which you alleviate the misery people suffer, giving them new hope and restoring their dignity to them. There is no better way to announce to today's world the joy of the Gospel. The option for the last among us, for those society rejects and casts aside, is a sign that we can always give, a sign that effectively bears witness to Christ, Who died and rose again”.

Finally, Pope Francs invited the members of the foundation to remain faithful to their name, recalling the Marian dimension of their work. “Mary's heart is full of compassion for all people, especially for the poorest and most disadvantaged, those who are most in need; and it is her maternal tenderness – along with that of the Church – that is made manifest through you”.

The Pope prays to the Virgin of Guadalupe that the future of Latin America be forged for the poor

Vatican City, 13 December 2014 (VIS) – Yesterday afternoon, on the liturgical solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Guadalupe, patroness of Latin America, the Holy Father celebrated Mass in the Vatican Basilica. The celebration was accompanied by hymns from the “Misa Criolla”, by the Argentine composer Ariel Ramirez. Extensive extracts from the homily pronounced by the Pontiff are published below:

“Today, with gratitude and joy, the peoples and nations of our great Latin American homeland commemorate the feast of their 'patroness', Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose devotion extends from Alaska to Patagonia. … On this feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe … we sing with her the 'Magnificat', we entrust to her the lives of our people and the continental mission of the Church. When she appeared to St. Juan Diego in Tepeyac … this led to a new visitation. She tenderly hastened to embrace the new people of the Americas at the dramatic moment they came into being: 'A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet' that assumed within herself the cultural and religious symbolism of the native people, announcing her Son and giving Him to the new and suffering people of mixed race. … The most perfect disciple of the Lord became the 'great missionary who brings the Gospel to our America'. The Son of Mary most Holy, his Immaculate Mother, reveals himself from the origins of this new peoples’ history, as the 'true God who gives us Life'”.

“The Holy Mother of God not only visited these people, but she chose to remain with them. … By her intercession, the Christian faithful started to become the richest treasure of the soul of the American people, whose precious pearl is Jesus Christ. It is a patrimony which is transmitted and manifest today in the many baptism of multitudes of people, in the faith, hope and charity of many; in precious popular piety; and in that popular ethos that reveals itself in an awareness of human dignity, in the passion for justice, in solidarity with the poorest and suffering, in hope that is sometimes against every hope”.

“That is why, here today, we can continue to praise God for the wonders he has brought to the lives of the Latin American people. … In the wonders which the Lord has achieved in Mary, she recognises her Son's style and way of acting in the story of Salvation. Sweeping away worldly judgements, destroying idols of power, riches, success at any cost, denouncing self-sufficiency, pride and a secularised which distances from God, the Mary’s Magnificat professes that God delights in subverting ideologies and worldly hierarchies. He lifts up the lowly, comes to the aid of the poor and the smallest among us, he fills with goodness, blessings and hope those who trust in his mercy from generation to generation, while he casts down the rich, the powerful, and rulers from their thrones. The 'Magnificat' introduces us to the Beatitudes, the earliest synthesis of the Gospel. In the light of the Beatitudes we feel compelled to ask that the future of Latin America be forged for the poor and those who suffer, for the humble, those who hunger and thirst for justice, for the compassionate, the pure of heart, those who work for peace, and for those who are persecuted because of Christ's name, 'for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven'. May theirs be the grace of being forged by those who today the idolatrous system of the throwaway culture relegates to the category of slaves, objects to be used or simply denied”.

“And we make this request because Latin America is the 'continent of hope'! Because she hopes in new ways of development which combine traditional Christianity and civil progress, justice and equity with reconciliation, scientific development and technology with human wisdom. Fruitful suffering with joyful hope. We can protect this hope only with great amounts of truth and mercy, the basis for all realities and revolutionary engines of an authentically new life”.

“We place these realities and these desires on the altar as a gift pleasing to God. … He is the only Lord, the 'liberator' of all of our slavery and misery derived from sin. He calls us to live the true life, a more human life, to live together as children and brothers, now that the doors to 'the new heaven and the new earth' are open. We implore the Blessed Virgin Mary, under the name 'Our Lady of Guadalupe' – the Mother of God, our Queen, our Lady, the young woman, our Little One (as called St. Juan Diego called her), and with all the loving names which popular piety has given her – that she may continue to accompany, help and protect our people. May she lead by the hand all pilgrim children in these lands to the encounter with her Son, Jesus Christ Our Lord, present in the Church, in its holiness, especially in the Eucharist, present in the treasure of his Word and teachings, present in the faithful and holy people of God, in those who suffer and in the humble of heart. So be it. Amen!”.

“I received my first ecumenical sermon from my grandmother, in front of you”, says the Pope to the Salvation Army

Vatican City, 13 December 2014 (VIS) – Yesterday, Friday 12 December, Pope Francis received in audience a delegation from the Salvation Army, well-known for their mission of evangelisation and voluntary work.

“Your visit is one of the good fruit of the more frequent and beneficial contacts that have developed during recent years between the Salvation Army and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity; contacts among which we must recall a series of theological conversations intended to promote better mutual understanding, mutual respect and regular collaboration. … I hope with all my heart that Catholics and Salvationists may continue to bear witness to Christ and the Gospel together in a world that greatly needs to experience God's mercy. Catholics and Salvationists, along with other Christians, recognise that the needy have a special place in God's heart, to the extent that the Lord Jesus Christ made Himself poor for us. As a consequence, they frequently encounter one another in the same human peripheries, and it is my fervent hope that common faith in our Saviour Jesus Christ, the sole mediator between God and Man, may become an increasingly solid foundation for friendship and collaboration between us”.

“I pray that in today's world, all Christ's disciples may offer their contribution with the same conviction and the same dynamism that the Salvation Army demonstrates in its devoted and valued service. The differences between Catholics and Salvationists on theological and ecclesiological matters must not obstruct the witness of our shared love for God and for our neighbour, a love that is able to inspire energetic efforts to restore the dignity of those who live at the margins of society”.

The Pope concluded by recounting an anecdote. When he was four years old – the year was 1940 – he was walking along the street with his grandmother. “At that time, there was the idea that all Protestants would go to hell. On the other side of the road there were two women from the Salvation Army, wearing their hats. And, I remember as if it were yesterday, I asked my grandmother, 'Who are those people? Nuns?', and she answered, 'No, they are Protestants, but they are good'. And so my grandmother, thanks to your good witness, opened the door to ecumenism for me. I received my first ecumenical sermon in front of you. Thank you very much”.

Cardinal Turkson to travel to Sierra Leone and Liberia to bring the solidarity of the Church to two of the countries hardest hit by the Ebola virus

Vatican City, 15 December 2014 (VIS) – Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council “Justice and Peace”, will travel to Sierra Leone on 16 December, followed by a visit to Liberia, two of the countries most affected by the Ebola virus. The World Health Organisation confirms around 18,000 probable or suspected cases and more than 6,500 deaths as a result of this disease. The cardinal wishes to offer “a message of solidarity and hope for the Church, for healthcare workers and for the population”.

Cardinal Turkson will be accompanied by Msgr. Robert J. Vitillo, special health consultor for Caritas Internationalis. “The Church, including Caritas, religious congregations and other Catholic-inspired organisms, has been on the front line in response to Ebola”, affirmed Vitillo. “As well as providing healthcare for other illnesses, establishing stringent procedures for infection control and creating screening areas, the Church, to prevent the transmission of the virus in the healthcare setting, has trained communities with the aim of involving the clergy and local parish groups in renewed efforts to stop the spread of this lethal virus”.

“On a number of occasions the Holy Father has expressed his profound concern for those affected by Ebola and for their loved ones. I hope to express the solidarity of the Pope and of all the Church”.


Vatican City, 15 December 2014 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father received in audience:

- Dragan Covic, Croatian member of the presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and entourage;

- Archbishop Aldo Cavalli, apostolic nuncio in Malta and Libya;

- Archbishop Edgar Pena Parra, apostolic nuncio in Pakistan;

- Dennis Anthony Savoie, ambassador of Canada to the Holy See, presenting his letters of credence;

- Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches;

- Don Pier Giorgio Perini, founder of the Parish Cells of Evangelisation.

On Saturday, 13 December the Holy Father received in audience:

- Cardinal Marc Ouellet, P.S.S., prefect of the Congregation for Bishops;

- Matteo Renzi, prime minister of Italy, with his wife and entourage;

- Archbishop George Kocherry, apostolic nuncio in Bangladesh;

- Cardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley, archbishop of Boston, U.S.A.;

- George Weigel.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 13 December 2014 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed Msgr. Marek Szkudlo and Fr. Adam Wodarczyk as auxiliaries of the archdiocese of Katowice (area 2,400, population 1,520,900, Catholics 1,477,900, priests 1,105, religious 1,013), Poland.

The bishop-elect Marek Szkudlo was born in Tychy, Poland in 1952 and was ordained a priest in 1978. He has served in a number of pastoral roles, including deputy priest in the parishes of “St. Margaret Lyski” and “St. Michael Archangel” in Katowice, chaplain of the scouts and member of the diocesan liturgical commission; parish priest of Our Lady Mother of the Church in Jastrzebie Zdroj and dean of Jastrzebie Gorne, chaplain for workers and miners, moderators for young priests and member of the Council of Consultors. He is currently episcopal vicar for permanent formation of priests, member of the college of consultors, of the presbyteral council and president of the diocesan commission for the clergy.

The bishop-elect Adam Wodarczyk was born in Tarnowskie Gory, Poland in 1968 and was ordained a priest in 1994. He holds a licentiate from the Catholic University of Liblino and a doctorate in pastoral theology from the Silesia State University and has served as deputy curate of the “St. Hedwig of Silesia” parish in Chorzow, and regional moderator of the “Light-Life” Movement. He is currently moderator general of the Light-Life Movement, appointed by the Polish Episcopal Council and, at national level, consultor of the Council for youth pastoral, of the Committee for new evangelisation and the missionary radio.
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