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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Mass in the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit: the Church shows fidelity to the Holy Spirit when she does not seek to control or tame Him

Vatican City, 30 November 2014 (VIS) – Early yesterday afternoon, Pope Francis visited the Latin Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, opened for worship in 1846. In the courtyard there is a statue of Pope Benedict XV, erected by the Turks in 1919 during the Pope's lifetime, to thank him for his efforts in favour of the Turkish victims of the First World War. It bears the inscription: “To the great Pope of the world's tragic hour, Benedict XV, benefactor of the people, without discrimination of nationality or religion, a token of gratitude from the Orient”. During his papacy, Armenian Christians were massacred in the Ottoman Empire, and Benedict XV used every means available to him – words, humanitarian aid and diplomatic activity – to bring an end to the slaughter.

Pope Francis celebrated an inter-ritual Mass with prayers in Armenian, Turkish, Aramaic (Chaldean rite), Syro-Turkish, Italian, French, English and Spanish , attended by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomaios I, the Syro-Catholic Patriarch Ignacio III Youna, the patriarchal Armenian apostolic vicar of Istanbul, Archbishop Aram Ateshian, the Syro-Orthodox Metropolitan of Istanbul Filuksinos Yusf Cetin and other representatives of various evangelical confessions.

“In the Gospel”, explained Pope Francis, “Jesus shows himself to be the font from which those who thirst for salvation draw upon, as the Rock from whom the Father brings forth living waters for all who believe in him. In openly proclaiming this prophecy in Jerusalem, Jesus heralds the gift of the Holy Spirit whom the disciples will receive after his glorification, that is, after his death and resurrection. The Holy Spirit is the soul of the Church. He gives life, he brings forth different charisms which enrich the people of God and, above all, he creates unity among believers: from the many he makes one body, the Body of Christ. The Church’s whole life and mission depend on the Holy Spirit; he fulfils all things”.

The profession of faith itself, as Saint Paul reminds us in today’s first reading, “is only possible because it is prompted by the Holy Spirit: 'No one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit'. When we pray, it is because the Holy Spirit inspires prayer in our heart. When we break the cycle of our self-centredness, and move beyond ourselves and go out to encounter others, to listen to them and help them, it is the Spirit of God who impels us to do so. When we find within a hitherto unknown ability to forgive, to love someone who doesn’t love us in return, it is the Spirit who has taken hold of us. When we move beyond mere self-serving words and turn to our brothers and sisters with that tenderness which warms the heart, we have indeed been touched by the Holy Spirit”.

“It is true”, observed the Pontiff, “that the Holy Spirit brings forth different charisms in the Church, which at first glance, may seem to create disorder. Under His guidance, however, they constitute an immense richness, because the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of unity, which is not the same thing as uniformity. Only the Holy Spirit is able to kindle diversity, multiplicity and, at the same time, bring about unity. When we try to create diversity, but are closed within our own particular and exclusive ways of seeing things, we create division. When we try to create unity through our own human designs, we end up with uniformity and homogenisation. If we let ourselves be led by the Spirit, however, richness, variety and diversity will never create conflict, because the Spirit spurs us to experience variety in the communion of the Church.

“The diversity of members and charisms is harmonised in the Spirit of Christ, Whom the Father sent and whom He continues to send, in order to achieve unity among believers. The Holy Spirit brings unity to the Church: unity in faith, unity in love, unity in interior life. The Church and other Churches and ecclesial communities are called to let themselves be guided by the Holy Spirit, and to remain always open, docile and obedient”.

He continued, “Ours is a hopeful perspective, but one which is also demanding. The temptation is always within us to resist the Holy Spirit, because He takes us out of our comfort zone and unsettles us; He makes us get up and drives the Church forward. It is always easier and more comfortable to settle in our sedentary and unchanging ways. In truth, the Church shows her fidelity to the Holy Spirit in as much as she does not try to control or tame Him. We Christians become true missionary disciples, able to challenge consciences, when we throw off our defensiveness and allow ourselves to be led by the Spirit. He is freshness, imagination and newness”.

Our defensiveness is evident “when we are entrenched within our ideas and our own strengths – in which case we slip into Pelagianism – or when we are ambitious or vain. These defensive mechanisms prevent us from truly understanding other people and from opening ourselves to a sincere dialogue with them. But the Church, flowing from Pentecost, is given the fire of the Holy Spirit, which does not so much fill the mind with ideas, but inflames the heart; she is moved by the breath of the Spirit which does not transmit a power, but rather an ability to serve in love, a language which everyone is able to understand. In our journey of faith and fraternal living, the more we allow ourselves to be humbly guided by the Spirit of the Lord, the more we will overcome misunderstandings, divisions, and disagreements and be a credible sign of unity and peace”.

The Pope extended his embrace “with this joyful conviction” to all those present at the Mass, and expressed his gratitude to the representatives of the Protestant communities, who joined in prayer with the Catholic faithful for this celebration. He also greeted the Armenian Patriarch, His Beatitude Mesrob II, who was unable to attend.

“Brothers and sisters”, he concluded, “let us turn our thoughts to the Virgin Mary, Mother of God. With her, she who prayed with the Apostles in the Upper Room as they awaited Pentecost, let us pray to the Lord asking him to send his Holy Spirit into our hearts and to make us witnesses of his Gospel in all the world”.

Prayer at the Ecumenical Patriarchate: brothers in hope of Jesus resurrected

Vatican City, 30 November 2014 (VIS) – After celebrating Holy Mass in the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, Francis transferred at midday to the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Phanar, the world centre of Orthodoxy.

The Orthodox Church has 300 million faithful, present especially in Eastern and Northern Europe, along the north-east coast of the Mediterranean and in the Middle East. It consists of various patriarchal Churches who maintain their autonomy while remaining linked to each other in a spirit of faith. The Ecumenical Patriarchate is the “primus inter pares” with respect to the other Orthodox patriarchates, and co-ordinates their activities. Its ecclesiastical jurisdiction includes not only Istanbul, but extends also to four other Turkish dioceses, Mount Athos, Crete, Patmos and the Islands of the Dodecanese and, following emigration, dioceses in Central and Western Europe, the Americas, Pakistan and Japan. Finally, it is the point of reference for Orthodox faithful throughout the world in territories not under the direct jurisdiction of the other Orthodox patriarchates. For centuries, the seat of the Patriarchate was next to the Cathedral of Hagia Sophia. Following the fall of Constantinople in 1453, it was transferred from 1601 to the quarter of Phanar. The Ecumenical Patriarch is His Holiness Bartholomaios I, whose commitment to inter-orthodox cooperation and ecumenical dialogue is well-known, as well as his interest in the protection of the environment, earning him the moniker “the green Patriarch”.

The Pope was received by the Patriarch in the Church of St. George, where an ecumenical liturgy took place in which both prayed for the unity of God's holy Churches. After Bartholomaios' discourse, Pope Francis addressed those present.

“Each evening brings a mixed feeling of gratitude for the day which is ending and of yearning trust before the oncoming night. This evening my heart is full of gratitude to God who allows me to be here in prayer with Your Holiness and with this sister Church after an eventful day during my Apostolic Visit. At the same time my heart awaits the day which we have already begun liturgically: the Feast of the Apostle Saint Andrew, Patron of this Church. In the words of the prophet Zachariah, the Lord gives us anew in this evening prayer, the foundation that sustains our moving forward from one day to the next, the solid rock upon which we advance together in joy and hope. The foundation rock is the Lord’s promise: 'Behold, I will save my people from the countries of the east and from the countries of the west… in faithfulness and in righteousness'.

“Yes, my venerable and dear Brother Bartholomaios, as I express my heartfelt 'thank you' for your fraternal welcome, I sense that our joy is greater because its source is from beyond; it is not in us, not in our commitment, not in our efforts – that are certainly necessary – but in our shared trust in God’s faithfulness which lays the foundation for the reconstruction of his temple that is the Church. 'For there shall be a sowing of peace'; truly, a sowing of joy. It is the joy and the peace that the world cannot give, but which the Lord Jesus promised to his disciples and, as the Risen One, bestowed upon them in the power of the Holy Spirit”.

He continued, “Andrew and Peter heard this promise; they received this gift. They were blood brothers, yet their encounter with Christ transformed them into brothers in faith and charity. In this joyful evening, at this prayer vigil, I want to emphasise this; they became brothers in hope. What a grace, Your Holiness, to be brothers in the hope of the Risen Lord! What a grace, and what a responsibility, to walk together in this hope, sustained by the intercession of the holy Apostles and brothers, Andrew and Peter! And to know that this shared hope does non deceive us because it is founded, not upon us or our poor efforts, but rather upon God’s faithfulness”.

“With this joyful hope, filled with gratitude and eager expectation, I extend to Your Holiness and to all present, and to the Church of Constantinople, my warm and fraternal best wishes on the Feast of your holy Patron”.

Francis and Bartholomaios then recited the Lord's Prayer together in Latin and imparted their blessing, the Pope in Latin and the Patriarch in Greek, after which they retired to the second floor for a private meeting.

Francis participates in the Divine Liturgy on the Solemnity of St. Andrew, patron of the Church of Constantinople

Vatican City, 30 November 2014 (VIS) – Pope Francis' final day in Turkey began with a meeting, early in the morning at the Pontifical Representation in Istanbul, of the Chief Rabbi of Turkey, Ishak Haleva. The Jewish community in Turkey, consisting of around 25 thousand people, is numerically the second largest in an Islamic country, following that of Iran. The most substantial Jewish settlement in Turkey dates from the period of the Spanish Inquisition (1492). At the beginning of the nineteenth century there were around 100 thousand, but this figure dropped drastically as a result of emigration to America and Israel. Pope Benedict XVI also met with the Chief Rabbi during his trip to Turkey in 2006.

Following the celebration and after listening to the Patriarch's words, the Pope addressed those present, recalling how as Archbishop of Buenos Aires he had frequently participated in the Divine Liturgy of the city's Orthodox communities, but “today, the Lord has given me the singular grace to be present in this Patriarchal Church of Saint George for the celebration of the Feast of the holy Apostle Andrew, the first-called, the brother of Saint Peter, and the Patron Saint of the Ecumenical Patriarchate”.

He continued, “Meeting each other, seeing each other face to face, exchanging the embrace of peace, and praying for each other, are all essential aspects of our journey towards the restoration of full communion. All of this precedes and always accompanies that other essential aspect of this journey, namely, theological dialogue. An authentic dialogue is, in every case, an encounter between persons with a name, a face, a past, and not merely a meeting of ideas.

“This is especially true for us Christians, because for us the truth is the person of Jesus Christ”, observed the Pontiff. “The example of Saint Andrew, who with another disciple accepted the invitation of the Divine Master, 'Come and see', and 'stayed with him that day', shows us plainly that the Christian life is a personal experience, a transforming encounter with the One who loves us and who wants to save us. In addition, the Christian message is spread thanks to men and women who are in love with Christ, and cannot help but pass on the joy of being loved and saved. Here again, the example of the apostle Andrew is instructive. After following Jesus to his home and spending time with Him, Andrew 'first found his brother Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (meaning Christ). He brought him to Jesus'. It is clear, therefore, that not even dialogue among Christians can prescind from this logic of personal encounter”.

Therefore, “it is not by chance that the path of reconciliation and peace between Catholics and Orthodox was, in some way, ushered in by an encounter, by an embrace between our venerable predecessors, Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras and Pope Paul VI, which took place fifty years ago in Jerusalem. Your Holiness and I wished to commemorate that moment when we met recently in the same city where our Lord Jesus Christ died and rose.

“By happy coincidence, my visit falls a few days after the fiftieth anniversary of the promulgation of Unitatis Redintegratio, the Second Vatican Council’s Decree on Christian Unity. This is a fundamental document which opened new avenues for encounter between Catholics and their brothers and sisters of other Churches and ecclesial communities. In particular, in that Decree the Catholic Church acknowledges that the Orthodox Churches 'possess true sacraments, above all – by apostolic succession – the priesthood and the Eucharist, whereby they are still joined to us in closest intimacy'. The Decree goes on to state that in order to guard faithfully the fullness of the Christian tradition and to bring to fulfilment the reconciliation of Eastern and Western Christians, it is of the greatest importance to preserve and support the rich patrimony of the Eastern Churches. This regards not only their liturgical and spiritual traditions, but also their canonical disciplines, sanctioned as they are by the Fathers and by Councils, which regulate the lives of these Churches”.

The Pope emphasised the importance of reaffirming respect for this principle “as an essential condition, accepted by both, for the restoration of full communion, which does not signify the submission of one to the other, or assimilation. Rather, it means welcoming all the gifts that God has given to each, thus demonstrating to the entire world the great mystery of salvation accomplished by Christ the Lord through the Holy Spirit. I want to assure each one of you here that, to reach the desired goal of full unity, the Catholic Church does not intend to impose any conditions except that of the shared profession of faith. Further, I would add that we are ready to seek together, in light of Scriptural teaching and the experience of the first millennium, the ways in which we can guarantee the needed unity of the Church in the present circumstances. The one thing that the Catholic Church desires, and that I seek as Bishop of Rome, 'the Church which presides in charity', is communion with the Orthodox Churches. Such communion will always be the fruit of that love which 'has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us', a fraternal love which expresses the spiritual and transcendent bond which unites us as disciples of the Lord”.

In today’s world, “voices are being raised which we cannot ignore and which implore our Churches to live deeply our identity as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. The first of these voices is that of the poor. In the world, there are too many women and men who suffer from severe malnutrition, growing unemployment, the rising numbers of unemployed youth, and from increasing social exclusion. These can give rise to criminal activity and even the recruitment of terrorists. We cannot remain indifferent before the cries of our brothers and sisters. These ask of us not only material assistance – needed in so many circumstances – but above all,our help to defend their dignity as human persons, so that they can find the spiritual energy to become once again protagonists in their own lives. They ask us to fight, in the light of the Gospel, the structural causes of poverty: inequality, the shortage of dignified work and housing, and the denial of their rights as members of society and as workers. As Christians we are called together to eliminate that globalisation of indifference which today seems to reign supreme, while building a new civilisation of love and solidarity”.

A second plea, he said, “comes from the victims of the conflicts in so many parts of our world. We hear this resoundingly here, because some neighbouring countries are scarred by an inhumane and brutal war. I think in a particular way of the numerous victims of the grotesque and senseless attack which recently killed and injured so many Muslims who were praying in a Mosque in Kano, Nigeria. Taking away the peace of a people, committing every act of violence – or consenting to such acts – especially when directed against the weakest and defenceless, is a profoundly grave sin against God, since it means showing contempt for the image of God which is in man. The cry of the victims of conflict urges us to move with haste along the path of reconciliation and communion between Catholics and Orthodox. Indeed, how can we credibly proclaim the Gospel of peace which comes from Christ, if there continues to be rivalry and disagreement between us?”

A third cry is that of young people. “Today, tragically, there are many young men and women who live without hope, overcome by mistrust and resignation. Many of the young, influenced by the prevailing culture, seek happiness solely in possessing material things and in satisfying their fleeting emotions. New generations will never be able to acquire true wisdom and keep hope alive unless we are able to esteem and transmit the true humanism which comes from the Gospel and from the Church’s age-old experience. It is precisely the young who today implore us to make progress towards full communion. I think for example of the many Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant youth who come together at meetings organised by the Taize community. They do this not because they ignore the differences which still separate us, but because they are able to see beyond them; they are able to embrace what is essential and what already unites us.

Pope Francis concluded by addressing Bartholomaios I: “We are already on the way, on the path towards full communion and already we can experience eloquent signs of an authentic, albeit incomplete union. This offers us reassurance and encourages us to continue on this journey. We are certain that along this journey we are helped by the intercession of the Apostle Andrew and his brother Peter, held by tradition to be the founders of the Churches of Constantinople and of Rome. We ask God for the great gift of full unity, and the ability to accept it in our lives. Let us never forget to pray for one another”.

Joint declaration of Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomaios I: “We call on all religious leaders to pursue and strengthen interreligious dialogue”

Vatican City, 30 November 2014 (VIS) – Following the Divine Liturgy, Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomaios I appeared on the balcony of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and blessed the faithful gathered in the street. Francis imparted the blessing in Latin, and Bartholomaios I in Greek. They subsequently ascended to the Throne Room where they signed and read the following joint Declaration:

“We, Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I,express our profound gratitude to God for the gift of this new encounter enabling us,in the presence of the members of the Holy Synod, the clergy and the faithful of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, to celebrate together the feast of Saint Andrew, the first–called and brother of the Apostle Peter. Our remembrance of the Apostles, who proclaimed the good news of the Gospel to the world through their preaching and their witness of martyrdom, strengthens in us the aspiration to continue to walk together in order to overcome, in love and in truth, the obstacles that divide us.

“On the occasion of our meeting in Jerusalem last May, in which we remembered the historical embrace of our venerable predecessors Pope Paul VI and the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras, we signed a joint declaration. Today on the happy occasion of this further fraternal encounter, we wish to re–affirm together our shared intentions and concerns.

“We express our sincere and firm resolution, in obedience to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ, to intensify our efforts to promote the full unity of all Christians, and above all between Catholics and Orthodox. As well, we intend to support the theological dialogue promoted by the Joint International Commission, instituted exactly thirty–five years ago by the Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios and Pope John Paul II here at the Phanar, and which is currently dealing with the most difficult questions that have marked the history of our division and that require careful and detailed study. To this end, we offer the assurance of our fervent prayer as Pastors of the Church, asking our faithful to join us in praying 'that all may be one, that the world may believe'.

“We express our common concern for the current situation in Iraq, Syria and the whole Middle East. We are united in the desire for peace and stability and in the will to promote the resolution of conflicts through dialogue and reconciliation. While recognising the efforts already being made to offer assistance to the region, at the same time, we call on all those who bear responsibility for the destiny of peoples to deepen their commitment to suffering communities, and to enable them, including the Christian ones, to remain in their native land. We cannot resign ourselves to a Middle East without Christians, who have professed the name of Jesus there for two thousand years. Many of our brothers and sisters are being persecuted and have been forced violently from their homes. It even seems that the value of human life has been lost, that the human person no longer matters and may be sacrificed to other interests. And, tragically, all this is met by the indifference of many. As Saint Paul reminds us, 'If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together'. This is the law of the Christian life, and in this sense we can say that there is also an ecumenism of suffering. Just as the blood of the martyrs was a seed of strength and fertility for the Church, so too the sharing of daily sufferings can become an effective instrument of unity. The terrible situation of Christians and all those who are suffering in the Middle East calls not only for our constant prayer, but also for an appropriate response on the part of the international community.

“The grave challenges facing the world in the present situation require the solidarity of all people of good will, and so we also recognise the importance of promoting a constructive dialogue with Islam based on mutual respect and friendship. Inspired by common values and strengthened by genuine fraternal sentiments, Muslims and Christians are called to work together for the sake of justice, peace and respect for the dignity and rights of every person, especially in those regions where they once lived for centuries in peaceful coexistence and now tragically suffer together the horrors of war. Moreover, as Christian leaders, we call on all religious leaders to pursue and to strengthen interreligious dialogue and to make every effort to build a culture of peace and solidarity between persons and between peoples. We also remember all the people who experience the sufferings of war. In particular, we pray for peace in Ukraine, a country of ancient Christian tradition, while we call upon all parties involved to pursue the path of dialogue and of respect for international law in order to bring an end to the conflict and allow all Ukrainians to live in harmony.

“Our thoughts turn to all the faithful of our Churches throughout the world, whom we greet, entrusting them to Christ our Saviour, that they may be untiring witnesses to the love of God. We raise our fervent prayer that the Lord may grant the gift of peace in love and unity to the entire human family.

“'May the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you'”.

After the signing of the Declaration, the Pope, the Ecumenical Patriarch and various members of the respective delegations lunched together on the third floor of the Phanar.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Francis at the Diyanet: violence seeking religious justification warrants the strongest condemnation

Vatican City, 28 November 2014 (VIS) – Yesterday afternoon, following his address before the Turkish authorities in the Presidential Palace, the Holy Father met with the prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu, after which he proceeded to the Diyanet, the Department for Religious Affairs and highest Sunni Islamic authority in Turkey. Although a secular state, 98% of the Turkish population is Muslim, of whom 68% are Sunni and 30% Shia. The president of the Diyanet, Mehmet Gormez, welcomed the Pope upon arrival and accompanied him to his office where they spoke privately for a minute. They then entered the Hall together, where Francis addressed the gathered Muslim and Christian political and religious leaders.

“It is a tradition that Popes, when they visit different countries as part of their mission, meet also with the leaders and members of various religions. Without this openness to encounter and dialogue, a papal visit would not fully correspond to its purposes. And so I wished to meet you, following in the footsteps of my venerable predecessors. In this context, I am pleased to recall in a special way Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to this very same place in November 2006. Good relations and dialogue between religious leaders have, in fact, acquired great importance. They represent a clear message addressed to their respective communities which demonstrates that mutual respect and friendship are possible, notwithstanding differences. Such friendship, as well as being valuable in itself, becomes all the more meaningful and important in a time of crisis such as our own: crises which in some parts of the world are disastrous for entire peoples”.

He continued, “Wars cause the death of innocent victims and bring untold destruction, inter-ethnic and interreligious tensions and conflicts, hunger and poverty afflicting hundreds of millions of people, and inflict damage on the natural environment – air, water and land. Especially tragic is the situation in the Middle East, above all in Iraq and Syria. Everyone suffers the consequences of these conflicts, and the humanitarian situation is unbearable. I think of so many children, the sufferings of so many mothers, of the elderly, of those displaced and of all refugees, subject to every form of violence. Particular concern arises from the fact that, owing mainly to an extremist and fundamentalist group, entire communities, especially – though not exclusively – Christians and Yazidis, have suffered and continue to suffer barbaric violence simply because of their ethnic and religious identity. They have been forcibly evicted from their homes, and have had to leave behind everything to save their lives and preserve their faith. This violence has also brought damage to sacred buildings, monuments, religious symbols and cultural patrimony, as if trying to erase every trace, every memory of the other.

“As religious leaders, we are obliged to denounce all violations against human dignity and human rights. Human life, a gift of God the Creator, possesses a sacred character. As such, 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”.

However, as well as denouncing such situations, he added, “we must also work together to find adequate solutions. This requires the cooperation of all: governments, political and religious leaders, representatives of civil society, and all men and women of goodwill. In a unique way, religious leaders can offer a vital contribution by expressing the values of their respective traditions. We, Muslims and Christians, are the bearers of spiritual treasures of inestimable worth. Among these we recognise some shared elements, though lived according to the traditions of each, such as the adoration of the All-Merciful God, reference to the Patriarch Abraham, prayer, almsgiving, and fasting – elements which, when lived sincerely, can transform life and provide a sure foundation for dignity and fraternity. Recognising and developing our common spiritual heritage – through interreligious dialogue – helps us to promote and to uphold moral values, peace and freedom in society. The shared recognition of the sanctity of each human life is the basis of joint initiatives of solidarity, compassion, and effective help directed to those who suffer most. In this regard, I wish to express my appreciation for everything that the Turkish people, Muslims and Christians alike, are doing to help the hundreds of thousands of people who are fleeing their countries due to conflicts. There are two million of them. This is a clear example of how we can work together to serve others, an example to be encouraged and maintained”.

In this regard, the Holy Father expressed his satisfaction at the good relations between the Diyanet and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. “It is my earnest desire that these relations will continue and be strengthened for the good of all, so that every initiative which promotes authentic dialogue will offer a sign of hope to a world so greatly in need of peace, security and prosperity. Following my meeting with the president, I am also hopeful that this interreligious dialogue will take on creative new forms”.

He concluded by thanking again the president of the Diyanet and his collaborators for this meeting, and expressed his gratitude to all present for their presence and their prayers for him and his ministry. “For my part, I assure you of my prayers. May the Lord grant us all his blessing”.

Following the encounter, the Pope transferred to the apostolic nunciature, where he spent the night.

Pope Francis visits the Blue Mosque and the Museum of Hagia Sophia

Vatican City, 29 November 2014 (VIS) – This morning, Pope Francis travelled by air from Ankara to Istanbul. The only city in the world divided across two continents, Asia and Europe, it is situated on the banks of the Bosphorus, the river that connects the Black Sea with the Mediterranean. Upon arrival he was welcomed by the Governor of Istanbul and by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomaios I, and then transferred by car to the Blue Mosque, or the Mosque of the Sultan Ahmed.

Built between 1609 and 1917 by Ahmed I on what had been the site of the great palace of Constantinople, the mosque became the most important place of worship of the Ottoman Empire. The name “Blue Mosque” derives from the 21,043 turquoise ceramic tiles adorning the walls and the dome. The ceramics used to cover the walls, columns and arches originated from Iznik in ancient Nicaea, and range in colour from deep blue to green. Benedict XVI visited the mosque during his trip to Turkey in 2006. Pope Francis was received by the Grand Mufti and remained a moment in silent prayer.

The Holy Father then proceeded to the Museum of Hagia Sophia, the basilica dedicated to Divine Wisdom, first built in the year 360 by the emperor Constantine on a site previously occupied by pagan temples. It was later destroyed by two fires, one in 404 and another in 532, and the emperor Justinian undertook its reconstruction in order to make it into “the most sumptuous work since the time of Creation”, ordering all the provinces of the empire to provide their best marble and most prized materials. Hagia Sophia was inaugurated for the third time in 537. During the conquest of Constantinople in 1204, it was despoiled of its richest adornments by Latin Christians and in 1453, when it fell into the hands of the Ottomans, Mehmet II ordered it to be transformed into the first imperial mosque of Istanbul. During the subsequent three centuries, this Muslim place of worship received splendid gifts from various sultans, until the eighteenth century, when the mosaics were covered with plaster. In 1847 the Sultan Abdulmegid engaged the Swiss architects Gaspare and Giuseppe Fossati to uncover the mosaics and restore the building. In 1935, at the behest of Ataturk, Hagia Sophia became a museum, which it remains to this day. Popes Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI all visited it during their trips to Turkey.

Pope Francis was received at the Imperial Door by the director of the Museum, who accompanied him on a guided tour lasting around half an hour. The Holy Father signed the guest book of Hagia Sophia, first in Greek with the phrase Αγία Σοφία του Θεού (Holy Wisdom of God) and then in Latin: “Quam dilecta tabernacula tua Domine (Psalm 38).

After leaving Hagia Sophia through the Beautiful Gate, Francis proceeded to the papal representation where he was awaited by members of the Catholic communities (Latin, Armenian, Syrian and Chaldean) of Istanbul, and where he was greeted by the president of the Episcopal Conference of Turkey, Archbishop Ruggero Franceschini, O.F.M. Cap.

Cardinal Schonborn, Pope's special envoy in Kiev

Vatican City, 29 November 2014 (VIS) – In a letter published today, written in Latin and dated 18 November, the Holy Father nominated Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, archbishop of Vienna, as his special envoy at the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the liberation of the Greek-Catholic Church in Ukraine, scheduled to take place in Kiev on 10 December 2014.

The mission accompanying the cardinal will be composed of Rev. Yurij Kolasa, vicar for Greek-Catholics in Austria, and Rev. Ihor Sfiaban, head of the Ecumenical Commission of the Curia of the Major Archbishop.

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Pope arrives in Turkey, a land able to promote an encounter of civilisations and identify viable paths of peace and authentic progress

Vatican City, 28 November 2014 (VIS) – This morning Pope Francis began the sixth apostolic trip of his pontificate. His visit to Turkey is essentially of an ecumenical nature, like those of his predecessors; the country has occupied a privileged position in the geography of papal trips ever since the visit of the Apostolic Delegate Angelo Roncalli, referred to by the Turkish authorities as “the first Turkish pope in history” following his election as Pope John XXIII. Turkey was also the destination of Paul VI's fifth apostolic trip in 1967, a corollary of his pilgrimage to the Holy Land and his historic embrace with the Ecumenical Patriarch Atenagoras in Jerusalem. John Paul II continued the tradition with his fourth trip (1979) as did Benedict XVI with his fifth apostolic trip, in 2006.

The Holy Father departed from Rome's Fiumicino airport at 9 a.m., and reached the Turkish capital Ankara at 1 pm (local time) where he was received by the civil and religious authorities. He transferred by car to the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder and first president of the Turkish Republic, the “Father of the Turks” who guided Turkey's radical rupture with its Ottoman past, laying down the foundations of the modern secular state in its 1937 Constitution. Upon arrival the Pope was received by the Commander of the Guard, ascended the Steps of Honour, left a floral tribute and prayed for a moment. He was then accompanied to the nearby “Tower of National Pact”, where he signed the guest book.

He then paid a visit to the Presidential Palace or “Ak Saray” (White Palace), inaugurated just two months ago by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and substituting the historic Cankaya Palace. The Holy Father was received by the president, and the two spoke in private for a few minutes, after which Pope Francis gave his first public address on Turkish soil, addressed to the authorities gathered in the Ak Saray.

“I am pleased to visit your country so rich in natural beauty and history, and filled with vestiges of ancient civilisations. It is a natural bridge between two continents and diverse cultures”, the Pope began. “This land is precious to every Christian for being the birthplace of Saint Paul, who founded various Christian communities here, and for hosting the first seven Councils of the Church. It is also renowned for the site near Ephesus which a venerable tradition holds to be the 'Home of Mary',the place where the Mother of Jesus lived for some years. It is now a place of devotion for innumerable pilgrims from all over the world, not only for Christians, but also for Muslims.

“Yet, the reasons why Turkey is held with such regard and appreciation are not only linked to its past and ancient monuments, but also have to do with the vitality of its present, the hard work and generosity of its people, and its role in the concert of nations. It brings me great joy to have this opportunity to pursue with you a dialogue of friendship, esteem and respect, in the footsteps of my predecessors Blessed Paul VI, Saint John Paul II and Benedict XVI. This dialogue was prepared for and supported by the work of the then apostolic delegate, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, who went on to become Saint John XXIII, and by the Second Vatican Council”.

The Pope reiterated the need for a dialogue to “deepen the understanding and appreciation of the many things which we hold in common. Such a dialogue will allow us to reflect sensibly and serenely on our differences,and to learn from them. There is a need to move forward patiently in the task of building a lasting peace, one founded on respect for the fundamental rights and duties rooted in the dignity of each person. In this way, we can overcome prejudices and unwarranted fears, leaving room for respect, encounter, and the release of more positive energies for the good of all”.

Therefore, “it is essential that all citizens – Muslim, Jewish and Christian – both in the provision and practice of the law, enjoy the same rights and respect the same duties. They will then find it easier to see each other as brothers and sisters who are travelling the same path, seeking always to reject misunderstandings while promoting cooperation and concord. Freedom of religion and freedom of expression, when truly guaranteed to each person, will help friendship to flourish and thus become an eloquent sign of peace.

“The Middle East, Europe and the world all await this maturing of friendship. The Middle East, in particular, has for too long been a theatre of fratricidal wars, one born of the other, as if the only possible response to war and violence must be new wars and further acts of violence. How much longer must the Middle East suffer the consequences of this lack of peace? We must not resign ourselves to ongoing conflicts as if the situation can never change for the better! With the help of God, we can and we must renew the courage of peace! Such courage will lead to a just, patient and determined use of all available means of negotiation, and in this way achieve the concrete goals of peace and sustainable development”.

Addressing the president, the Pope reaffirmed that “interreligious and intercultural dialogue can make an important contribution to attaining this lofty and urgent goal, so that there will be an end to all forms of fundamentalism and terrorism which gravely demean the dignity of every man and woman and exploit religion. Fanaticism and fundamentalism, as well as irrational fears which foster misunderstanding and discrimination, need to be countered by the solidarity of all believers. This solidarity must rest on the following pillars: respect for human life and for religious freedom, that is the freedom to worship and to live according to the moral teachings of one’s religion; commitment to ensuring what each person requires for a dignified life; and care for the natural environment. The peoples and the states of the Middle East stand in urgent need of such solidarity, so that they can 'reverse the trend' and successfully advance a peace process, repudiating war and violence and pursuing dialogue, the rule of law, and justice.

“Sadly, to date, we are still witnessing grave conflicts. In Syria and Iraq, particularly, terrorist violence shows no signs of abating. Prisoners and entire ethnic populations are experiencing the violation of the most basic humanitarian laws. Grave persecutions have taken place in the past and still continue today to the detriment of minorities, especially – though not only – Christians and Yazidis. Hundreds of thousands of persons have been forced to abandon their homes and countries in order to survive and remain faithful to their religious beliefs.

Turkey, which has generously welcomed a great number of refugees, is directly affected by this tragic situation on its borders; the international community has the moral obligation to assist Turkey in taking care of these refugees. In addition to providing much needed assistance and humanitarian aid, we cannot remain indifferent to the causes of these tragedies. In reaffirming that it is licit, while always respecting international law, to stop an unjust aggressor, I wish to reiterate, moreover, that the problem cannot be resolved solely through a military response. What is required is a concerted commitment on the part of all, based on mutual trust, which can pave the way to lasting peace, and enable resources to be directed, not to weaponry, but to the other noble battles worthy of man: the fight against hunger and sickness, the promotion of sustainable development and the protection of creation, and the relief of the many forms of poverty and marginalisation of which there is no shortage in the world today”.

The Pope concluded, “Turkey, by virtue of its history, geographical position and regional influence, has a great responsibility: the choices which Turkey makes and its example are especially significant and can be of considerable help in promoting an encounter of civilisations and in identifying viable paths of peace and authentic progress. May the Most High bless and protect Turkey, and help the nation to be a strong and fervent peacemaker”.

Indulgences for the Year of Consecrated Life

Vatican City, 28 November 2014 (VIS) – The Holy Father, on the occasion of the Year of Consecrated Life, will concede plenary indulgences, with the customary conditions (sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer in keeping with the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff) to all members of the institutes of consecrated life and other truly repentant faithful moved by a spirit of charity, starting from the first Sunday of Advent this year until 2 February 2016, the day of the closure of the Year of Consecrated Life. The indulgence may also be offered for departed souls in Purgatory.

Indulgence may be obtained:

- In Rome, in participation in the international meetings and celebrations established in the calendar of the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life, and pious reflection on for a suitable period of time, concluding with the Lord's Prayer, the Profession of Faith in any legitimate approved form, and invocations of the Virgin Mary;

- In all the particular Churches, during the days devoted to consecrated life in the diocese, and during diocesan celebrations organised for the Year of Consecrated Life, by visiting the cathedral or another sacred place designated with the consent of the Ordinary of the place, or a convent church or oratory of a cloistered monastery, and publicly reciting the Liturgy of the Hours or through a suitable period of time of devout reflection, concluding with the Lord's Prayer, the Profession of Faith in any legitimate approved form, and pious invocations of the Virgin Mary.

Members of the Institutes of Consecrated Life who, on account of ill health or other serious reasons are prevented from visiting these sacred places, may nonetheless receive Plenary Indulgence if, completely detached from any type of sin and with the intention of being able to fulfil the three usual conditions as soon as possible, devoutly carry out the spiritual visit and offer their illness and the hardships of their life to God the merciful through Mary, with the addition of the prayers as above.

To facilitate this access to divine grace by means of pastoral charity, the Apostolic Penitentiary Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, who signed the decree, asks that the canons, members of the Chapter, the priests of the Institutes of Consecrated Life and all others able to hear confessions offer themselves willingly and generously to the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and regularly administer Holy Communion to the sick.


Vatican City, 28 November 2014 (VIS) – Special editions of the VIS bulletin will be transmitted on Saturday 29 and Sunday 30 November, on the occasion of Pope Francis' apostolic trip to Turkey.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Serve new wine in new wineskins says the Pope to representatives of consecrated life

Vatican City, 27 November 2014 (VIS) – The Congregration for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life celebrated their plenary assembly reflecting on the current state of consecrated life in the Church, fifty years after the Conciliar documents “Lumen gentium” and “Perfectae caritatis”. The theme chosen was “New wine in new wineskins”, and Pope Francis, who received eighty participants in audience this morning, based his discourse on the multiple meanings of this phrase.

“In the part of the Lord's vineyard selected by those who have chosen to imitate Christ more closely through the profession of evangelical counsels, new grapes are matured and new wine is obtained”, said the Holy Father. “In these days you have been offered the chance to discern the quality and ageing of the 'new wine' that has been produced during the long season of renewal, and at the same time to evaluate whether the wineskins that contain it, represented by the institutional forms present today in consecrated life, are adequate to contain this 'new wine' and to favour its full maturation. As I have recalled many times, we must not be afraid of setting aside the 'old wineskins': of renewing those habits and those structures that, in the life of the Church and therefore also in consecrated life, we realise no longer respond to what God asks of us today to further His Kingdom in the world: the structures that give us false protection and that condition the dynamism of charity; the habits that distance us from the flock to which we are sent and prevent us from hearing the cry of those who await the Good News of Jesus Christ”.

“You do not hide those areas of weakness that it is possible to find today in consecrated life (such as the resistance to change of certain sectors, the diminished power of attraction, the not insignificant number of those who abandon the vocation, the fragility of certain formative itineraries, concern for institutional and ministerial tasks at the expense of spiritual life, the difficult integration of cultural and generational diversity, and a problematic balance in the exercise of authority and the use of goods), but you wish to continue to listen for signals from the Spirit, that opens up new horizons and leads to new paths, always starting out from the supreme rule of the Gospel and inspired by the bold creativity of your founders”.

The Pope went on to list the criteria to follow for guidance in the “arduous task of evaluating the new wine and testing the quality of the wineskins”: the evangelical originality of the choices, charismatic fidelity, the primary of service, attention to the least and most fragile, and respect for the dignity of every person.

He encouraged those present to “continue to work with generosity and resourcefulness in the Lord's vineyard”, to obtain “that generous wine that will be able to reinvigorate the life of the Church and to bring cheer to the heart of the many brothers and sisters in need of your care”, and he underlined that “even the substitution of old for new wineskins … does not take place automatically, but requires commitment and ability, to offer the suitable space for welcoming and bringing to fruition the new gifts with which the Spirit continues to embellish the Church, His spouse”. He concluded, “do not forget … to carry on the process of renewal that has been initiated and to a great extent accomplished in these fifty years, examining every novelty in the light of the Word of God and in listening to the needs of the Church and of the contemporary world”.

Migrants and the poor, dual challenge of urban pastoral ministry

Vatican City, 27 November 2014 (VIS) – This morning, in the Consistory Hall of the Apostolic Palace, Pope Francis received in audience the participants in the second phase of the International Pastoral Congress on the World's Big Cities, held in Barcelona, Spain from 24 to 26 November. The Holy Father took the opportunity to explore in depth four challenges and possible prospects for urban pastoral ministry. “The places where God is calling us to … and the aspects to which we should pay special attention”.

Firstly, he mentioned the need to “implement a change in our pastoral mentality”. We are no longer in the era “in which the Church was the sole point of reference for culture”. Previously, “as an authentic teacher, she was aware of her responsibility to outline and to impose not only cultural forms but also values”. He continued, “Today we are no longer the only ones who produce culture, nor are we the first or the most listened to. We are therefore in need of a change in pastoral mentality, but not a 'relativist pastoral'”, that in its wish to be part of the cultural mix, “loses its evangelical perspective, leaving humanity to its own devices and freed from God's hand. No, this is the path of relativism, the easy route. This cannot be considered as pastoral ministry! He who acts in this way is not truly interested in man, but instead leaves him to the mercy of two equally grave dangers: concealing both Jesus, and the truth of man himself, from him – a way that leads humanity to solitude and death”. Therefore, the Pope added, “we need to have the courage to carry out an evangelising pastoral ministry, bold and without fear, as men, women, families and the various groups that inhabit the city expect from us, and need for their lives, the Good News that is Jesus and His Gospel”.

As a second challenge, he emphasised “dialogue with multiculturality” and the need for pastoral dialogue without relativism, that does not negotiate its own Christian identity, but that instead seeks to reach the heart of others, of those different to ourselves, and to sow the Gospel there. We need a contemplative attitude, that without denying the contribution of the different sciences in understanding the urban phenomenon – these contributions are important – seeks to discover the foundation of cultures, that in their deepest core are always open to and thirst for God”. To face this challenge, Francis underlined that it would help us greatly to know the “invisible cities, the groups or human territories that are identified by their symbols, languages, rites and ways of narrating life”.

“The religiosity of the people” was the third point he focused on. “We must discover, in the religiosity of our populations, the authentic religious substratum, that in many cases is Christian and Catholic. We must not fail to recognise, or regard with disdain, this experience of God that, although at times dispersed or mixed with other things, needs to be discovered and not constructed. He we find the semina Verbi sown by the Spirit of the Lord”. The Pope also commented on the many migrants and poor people who fill our cities, “pilgrims of life, in search of salvation”, who pose a “dual challenge”: that of “being hospitable to the poor and migrants, not generally the case in the city, which pushes them away, and of recognising the value of their faith”. “The urban poor”, who constitute the fourth point with which the Holy Father concluded his discourse, are “excluded and discarded. The Church cannot ignore their cry, nor can she enter into the game of unjust, mean and self-serving systems that seek to render them invisible”.

The Pope made two proposals for facing these challenges: to reach out to encounter God, “Who lives in the cities and in the poor”, to facilitate the encounter of others with God, making the Sacraments accessible, and to work towards a Samaritan Church, “with concrete witness of mercy and tenderness that endeavours to be present in the existential and poor peripheries, acting directly on the social subconscious, producing guidance and meaning for city life”.

To the Pauline family: take the breath of the Gospel to the most diverse cultures and social contexts

Vatican City, 27 November 2014 (VIS) – This morning the Pope received in audience the members of the Pauline Family, the group of institutions that encompasses the Society of St. Paul and the Daughters of St. Paul (Paulines), dedicated to the apostolate through means of communication. Founded by Blessed Giacomo Alberione (1884-1971), the Pauline Family is composed of ten members: five religious congregations, four aggregated institutes and an association of lay collaborators. This year it celebrates the centenary of its foundation and, to commemorate this anniversary, Francis invited them to renew their “commitment to living and communicating faith”, especially through the editorial and multimedia tools typical of their charism.

He also encouraged them to continue the path their founder opened up and which the Family has followed so far, “always keeping your gaze on broader horizons”, adding that we must never forget that “evangelisation is essentially connected with the proclamation of the Gospel to those who do not know Jesus Christ, or have always denied Him. … Everyone has the right to receive the Gospel. Christians have the duty of announcing it without excluding anyone. This impulse to move towards the people, but also to existential peripheries, this 'Catholic' impulse, is something you have in the blood, in your DNA, for the very fact that your founder was inspired by the figure and the mission of the apostle Paul”.

Francis explained that Blessed Giacomo Alberione saw, in the announcement of Christ and of the Gospel to the masses, the most authentic and most necessary form of charity that could be offered to men and women who thirst for truth and justice”. He added, “you too are called to serve the people of today, to whom the Spirit sends you, with creativity and dynamic fidelity to your charism, identifying the most appropriate ways of announcing Jesus. … The imagination of charity knows no bounds, and knows how to open up ever new roads to bring the breath of the Gospel into the most diverse cultures and social environments”.

“Vatican Council II presented the Church to us as a population on the move … a vision that expresses Christian hope. … Therefore, our being a Church in progress, while it roots us in the task of announcing Christ and His love for every creature, also prevents us from being imprisoned by earthly and mundane structures; it keeps the spirit open and makes us capable of outlooks and demands that find their fulfilment in the beatitude of the Lord.

Holy Father's calendar for December 2014 and January 2015

Vatican City, 27 November 2014 (VIS) – The Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff has published the following calendar of liturgical celebrations at which the Holy Father will preside in December 2014 and January 2015:


Monday 8: Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. At 4 p.m. in Piazza di Spagna, veneration of the image of Mary Immaculate.

Friday 12: Feast of Blessed Virgin Mary of Guadalupe. At 6 p.m. in the Vatican Basilica, Holy Mass for Latin America.

Sunday 14: “Gaudete Sunday” Third of Advent. At 4 p.m., pastoral visit to the Roman Parish of “San Giuseppe all'Aurelio”.

Wednesday 24: Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord. At 9.30 p.m. in the Vatican Basilica, Holy Mass.

Thursday 25: Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord. Central loggia of the Vatican Basilica, at 12 p.m., “Urbi et Orbi” blessing.

Wednesday 31: Solemnity of Mary Most Holy, Mother of God. At 5 p.m. First Vespers and Te Deum, in Thanksgiving for the past year.


Thursday 1: Solemnity of Mary Most Holy, Mother of God. 48th World Peace Day. At 10 a.m. in the Vatican Basilica, Holy Mass.

Tuesday 6: Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord. At 10 a.m. in the Vatican Basilica, Holy Mass.

Sunday 11: Sunday after the Epiphany: Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. At 9.30 a.m. in the Sistine Chapel. Holy Mass and baptism of babies.

Monday 12 to Monday 19: Apostolic trip in Sri Lanka and the Philippines.

Sunday 25: Solemnity of the Conversion of St. Paul. At 5.30 in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls, Vespers.

Christians and Muslims condemn extremism and violence committed in the name of religion

Vatican City, 27 November 2014 (VIS) – The Centre for Interreligious Dialogue of the Islamic Culture and Relations Organisation and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue held their Ninth Colloquium of dialogue from 24 to 26 November in Teheran, Iran, under the joint chairmanship of Abuzar Ibrahimi Turkaman, president of the Islamic Culture and Relations Organisation, and Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. At the end of the meeting, the participants agreed on the following:

1. Two decades of dialogue between the abovementioned institutions have provided the occasion for better knowledge and mutual understanding;

2. The participants emphasised that Christian-Muslim constructive dialogue plays a crucial role in making a better society;

3. Spirituality is a both a divine gift and the fruit of a human journey leading to truth;

4. A genuine spirituality enables us to recognise God’s presence and action within ourselves and in the world;

5. The media are called to play their distinctive role in the promotion of positive relations between Christians and Muslims;

6. The participants condemned all kinds of extremism and violence, especially committed in the name of religion.

The participants decided to hold the next colloquium in Rome in 2016, which will be preceded by a preparatory meeting 2015.


Vatican City, 27 November 2014 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father received in audience:

- Archbishop Michael A. Blume, apostolic nuncio in Uganda;

- Archbishop Ramiro Moliner Ingles, apostolic nuncio in Albania.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Pope addresses press on the return flight from Strasbourg: “I never give up a cause for lost”

Vatican City, 26 November 2014 (VIS) – During his return journey from Strasbourg, where he addressed both the European Parliament and the Council of Europe, Pope Francis answered questions posed by the journalists who accompanied him on the flight. The questions and the Holy Father's answers are published below.

Q: “Your Holiness addressed the European Parliament with pastoral works that may also be regarded as political words, and which may be linked, in my opinion, to a social-democratic stance - for example, when you say that we must ensure that the true expressive force of populations is not removed by multinational powers. Could we say that you are a social-democrat Pope?”

Pope Francis: “This would be reductive. It makes me feel as if I am part of a collection of insects: 'This is a social-democratic insect ...'. No, I would say not. I don't know if I am a social-democrat Pope or not. I would not dare to define myself as belonging to one side or another. I dare say that this comes from the Gospel: this is the message of the Gospel, taken up by the social doctrine of the Church. In reality, in this and in other things – social and political – that I have said, I have not detached myself from the social Doctrine of the Church. The social Doctrine of the Church comes from the Gospel and from Christian tradition. What I said – the identity of the people – is a Gospel value, is it not? In this sense, I say it. But you have made me laugh, thank you!”

Q: “There is almost no-one on the streets of Strasbourg this morning. The people say they are disappointed. Do you regret not visiting the Cathedral of Strasbourg, that celebrates is millennium this year? And when will you make your first trip to France, and where? Lisieux, perhaps?”

Pope Francis: “No, it is not yet planned, but one should certainly go to Paris. Then, there is a proposal to go to Lourdes. I have asked to visit a city where no Pope has yet been, to greet the citizens. But the plan has not yet been made. No, for Strasbourg, a visit to the cathedral was considered but it would have mean already making a visit to France, and this was the problem”.

Q: During your address to the Council of Europe I was struck by the concept of transversality, especially with reference to your meetings with young politicians in various countries, and indeed you spoke of the need for a sort of pact between generations, an intergenerational agreement at the margins of this transversality. Also, if I may ask, is it true that you are devoted to St. Joseph, and have a statue of him in your room?”

Pope Francis: “Yes, it is true. Whenever I have asked something of St. Joseph, he has granted it to me. The fact of 'transversality' is important. I have seen in dialogue with young politicians in the Vatican, from different parties and nations, that they speak with a differetn music, that tends towards transversality, and this is valuable. They are not afraid of coming out of their own territory, without denying it, but coming out in order to engage in dialogue. They are courageous! I believe that we must imitate this, along with intergenerational dialogue. This tendency to come out to find people of other origins and to engage in dialogue: Europe needs this today”.

Q: “In your second discourse, to the Council of Europe, you spoke about the sins of the sons of the Church. I would like to know if you have received the news on the events in Granada [alleged sexual abuse of minors by priests in the archdiocese, Ed.], that in a certain sense you brought to light...”

Pope Francis: “I received the news – it was sent to me, I read it, I called the person and I said, 'Tomorrow you must go to the bishop', and I wrote to the bishop asking him to begin work, to start the investigation and go ahead. How did I receive the news? With great pain, with very great sadness. But the truth is the truth, and we cannot hide it”.

Q: “In your addresses in Strasbourg, you spoke frequently of both the threat of terrorism and the threat of slavery: these are attitudes that are also typical of the Islamic State, which threatens much of the Mediterranean, which threatens Rome and also threatens you personally. Do you think it is possible to engage in dialogue with these extremists, or do you think this is a lost cause?”

Pope Francis: “I never give something up as a lost cause: never. Perhaps dialogue is not possible, but never close the door. It is difficult, one might say almost impossible, but the door is always open. You have used the word 'threaten' twice: it is true, terrorism is a threat. … But slavery is a real situation embedded in the today's social fabric, and has been for some time. Slave labour, human trafficking, the trade in children … it is a crisis! We must not close our eyes to this. Slavery, today, is a reality, the exploitation of people … And then there is the threat of these terrorists. But there is another threat, and it is State terrorism. When the situation becomes critical, and each State believes it has the right to massacre the terrorists, many who are innocent fall prey alongside the terrorists. This is a form of high-level anarchy that is very dangerous. It is necessary to fight terrorism, but I repeat what I said during my previous trip: when it is necessary to stop an unjust aggressor, it must be done with international consensus”.

Q: “In your heart, when you travel to Strasbourg, do you travel as Peter's Successor, as the bishop of Rome, or as the archbishop of Buenos Aires?”

Pope Francis: “As all three, I think. My memory is that of the archbishop of Buenos Aires, but I am no longer in this role. Now I am the bishop of Rome and Peter's Successor, and I think that I travel with this memory but with these realities; I travel with all these things. Europe worries me at the moment; it is good for me to go ahead in order to help, as the bishop of Rome and Peter's Successor; in this respect I am Roman”.

General Audience: the Church on the path to the Kingdom of Heaven

Vatican City, 26 November 2014 (VIS) – The Holy Father dedicated the catechesis of this morning's general audience to “a fundamental truth that Vatican Council II kept clearly in mind, and which must never be forgotten: the Church is not a static reality, still, an end in itself, but is instead continually in progress through history, towards the final, marvellous destination that is the Kingdom of Heaven, of which the earthly Church is the seed and the beginning”. He continued, “When we face this horizon, we realise that our imagination stops and discovers that it is only just able to intuit the splendour of the mystery that overcomes our senses. And certain questions arise spontaneously in us: when will this final passage take place? What will the new dimension in which the Church enters be like? What will become of humanity? And of the Creation that surrounds us? But these questions are not new; they had already been posed by Jesus' disciples in those times”.

Francis explained that, faced with these questions, the Council Constitution “Gaudium et spes” affirms that “we are unaware of when the earth and humanity will come to an end, and we do not know how the universe will be transformed. Certainly, the appearance of this world, deformed by sin, will pass away. However, we know from Revelation that God prepares a new home and a new land, in which justice will abide, and whose joy will superabundantly satiate all the desires for peace that arise from the heart of man. … We will finally be clothed in joy, peace and God's love, completely and without any limit, face to face with Him”.

In this way, the Pontiff emphasised that it is good to perceive that there is a basic continuity and communion between the Church in Heaven and the Church in her earthly path, without forgetting that we are always invited to offer good works, prayers and the Eucharist to alleviate the suffering of souls that still await endless beatitude. “From a Christian perspective the distinction is no longer between those who are already dead and those who are not, but between those who are with Christ and those who are not. This is the decisive element for our salvation and for our happiness”.

“At the same time, the Sacred Scripture teaches us that the fulfilment of this marvellous plan cannot but affect all that which surrounds us and which emerged from the thought and the heart of God. … What we expect, as the completion of a transformation that is in reality already in process ever since Christ's death and resurrection, is therefore a new creation; it is not, therefore, the annihilation of the cosmos and all that which surrounds us, but rather bringing everything to its fullness of being, of truth, of beauty. This is the plan that God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, has always wished to fulfil, and is fulfilling”. He concluded, “when we think of these stupendous reality that awaits us, we realise the extent to which belonging to the Church is truly a wonderful gift, that leads towards the highest vocation”.

Francis asks for prayers for his trip to Turkey

Vatican City, 26 November 2014 (VIS) – Following today's catechesis, the Pope offered special greetings to the Arab-speaking faithful, in particular those from Iraq and the Middle East. “The violence, suffering and the seriousness of the sins committed must lead us to leave all to the justice of God, who will judge each one according to his works. Be strong and cling to the Church and to your faith, so as to purify the world with your confidence; transform with your hope and heal with your forgiveness, with the love and patience of your witness. May the Lord protect and support you”.

Finally, during his greetings in Italian, and recalled that tomorrow his three-day apostolic trip to Turkey will begin, he invited those present to pray that “Peter's visit to his brother Andrew may bring fruits of peace, sincere dialogue between religions and harmony in the Turkish nation”.

Pope Francis' message to the International Pastoral Congress on the World's Big Cities

Vatican City, 26 November 2014 (VIS) – Yesterday afternoon the Holy Father sent a message to Cardinal Lluis Martinez Sistach, archbishop of Barcelona, Spain, on the occasion of the International Pastoral Congress on the World's Big Cities, held in the Catalan capital.

“I am glad to learn of the work accomplished and encourage all to continue to reflect creatively on the way to face the task of evangelising in great urban centres, in increasing expansion, and in which everyone needs to feel the closeness and mercy of God, who does not abandon”, writes the Pope.

“The Church has the mission of ensuring that the Good News of Jesus Christ and His salvific love reaches all environments, without fear of pluralism and without any form of discrimination. She does not consider it a loss to go out to the peripheries or to change the usual preconceptions, when necessary. Like a mother, whose primary concern is the wellbeing of her children, without sparing any effort or sacrifice, may she ensure they never lack the light of the Gospel that fills life with hope, joy and peace; that they never lack acceptance to feel integrated within a community, in circumstances of disintegration or in cold anonymity; that there grows in them the spirit of authentic solidarity with all, especially with those most in need”.

First International Prayer Day and reflection on human trafficking

Vatican City, 26 November 2014 (VIS) – The Pontifical Councils for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples and for Justice and Peace, in collaboration with the international male and female Unions of Superior Generals (UISG and USG) have convoked an international conference for prayer and reflection on human trafficking, tobe held on 8 February 2015, feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita, the Sudanese slave canonised in 2000.

According to a press release, “human trafficking is one of the worst examples of slavery in the XXI Century. This concerns the whole world. According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) roughly 21 million people, often very poor and vulnerable, are victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation, forced labour and begging, illegal organ removal, domestic servitude and forced marriages, illegal adoption and other forms of exploitation. Each year around 2.5 million people are victims of trafficking and slavery: 60 are women and children. They often suffer abuse and unspeakable violence. On the other hand, for traffickers and pimps, this is one of the most lucrative illegal activities in the world, generating a total of 32 billion dollars a year. It is the third most profitable 'business' after drugs and arms trafficking”.
“The primary objective of the International Day is to create greater awareness on this phenomenon and to reflect on the overall situation of violence and injustice that affect so many people, who have no voice, do not count, and are no one: they are simply slaves. Another goal is to attempt to provide solutions to counter this modern form of slavery by taking concrete actions. For this, it is necessary to stress the need to ensure rights, freedom and dignity to all trafficked persons, reduced to slavery. On the other hand, we must denounce both the criminal organisations and those who use and abuse the poverty and vulnerability of victims to transform them into goods for pleasure and gain”.

In brief

Vatican City, 26 November 2014 (VIS) – CARDINAL JEAN-LOUIS TAURAN, PRESIDENT OF THE PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR Interreligious Dialogue is participating in the 9th Colloquium between the aforementioned Pontifical Council and the Centre for Interreligious Dialogue (CID) of the Islamic Culture and Relations Organisation (ICRO), held in Teheran, Iran from 25 to 26 November on the theme “Christians and Muslims in constructive dialogue for the good of society”. In his address, the cardinal remarked that the term “construction” normally refers to the building of a house on strong foundations, and emphasised that “we need to be sure that we are doing good work, on solid foundations, to be sure of the hoped results for our present and our future”. Other themes to be considered during the meeting are spirituality, religious values as a response to extremism and violence, and the role of the media in promoting a culture of dialogue. Cardinal Tauran remarked that, when agreeing the sub-themes during the preparatory meeting, no-one imagined that extremism and violence would become as dramatic as they are today. “We cannot remain silent or indifferent to the extreme, inhuman and multi-form violence to which Christians and Yezedis have been subjected. Many of them, as we know, have preferred death to renouncing their faith. They are true martyrs. … Nothing can justify these heinous acts. Invoking religion to justify these crimes would be a crime against religion itself as well”.

ARCHBISHOP DOMINIQUE MAMBERTI, SECRETARY FOR RELATIONS WITH STATES yesterday addressed the plenary assembly of the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference in Sydney, in a discourse devoted to the diplomatic activity of the Holy See, with special reference to the situation of Christians in the Middle East. “The Holy See's diplomacy has various particular aims, which flow from its primarily spiritual mission. These include the defence of the Church's rights and freedom, and of religious liberty in general, the promotion of an ethical vision in the various questions which affect human life, society and development, the defence of human dignity and rights, the promotion of reconciliation and peace, the promotion of integral human development and humanitarian interests, the protection of the environment and, when requested, the mediation of disputes”.

The Holy See, he added, “is very concerned about the tragic situation currently unfolding in the Middle East. It does not propose technical solutions but it is tirelessly involved in raising international awareness and in appealing to the international community to intervene as a matter of urgency to stop the aggressor, provide humanitarian aid and address the root causes of the present crisis”.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 26 November 2014 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed Fr. Celestin Hakizimana as bishop of Gikongoro (area 2,057, population 582,159, Catholics 248,471, priests 51, religious 70), Rwanda. The bishop-elect was born in Kigali, Rwanda in 1963 and was ordained a priest in 1991. He holds a doctorate in theology from the San Tommaso Faculty of Theology in Naples, Italy, and has served in a number of pastoral roles, including parish vicar in Rutongo, diocesan representative for Catholic education, director of the St. Paul National Pastoral Centre in Kigali, and director of GEMECA-Rwanda. He is currently secretary general of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Rwanda.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Francis prays for the intercession of the Virgin for his trip to Strasbourg

Vatican City, 25 November 2014 (VIS) – Yesterday afternoon, as is his custom before a journey, at around 5.30 the Holy Father went to the Basilica of St. Mary Major to pray before the image of the Virgin Salus Popoli Romani and to ask for her intercession for his apostolic trip to the European institutions based in Strasbourg. Francis prayed for around half an hour and left before the Virgin a floral tribute in blue and yellow, the colours of the European flag.

The Pope to the European Parliament: dignity and transcendence, key concepts for the future of Europe

Vatican City, 25 November 2014 (VIS) – Europe's future depends on the rediscovery of the vital and indissoluble nexus between dignity and transcendence, as otherwise it risks slowly losing its soul and the humanistic spirit that loves and defends. This was Pope Francis' message to the members of the European Parliament during his visit to the legislative body of the European Union (EU) in Strasbourg: it is the only international organisation directly elected by 508 million citizens, and composed of 751 deputies elected in the 28 member states of the EU.

The Holy Father left Rome by air shortly before 8 a.m. and arrived in Strasbourg in 10 a.m., where he was greeted by the French Minister of State for European Affairs, two deputy presidents, various representatives of the civil authorities, including the mayor of Strasbourg, Roland Ries, and local ecclesiastical figures. Pope Francis then travelled by car to the seat of the Parliament where he was received by President Martin Schulz and, following presentations by the two delegations of the 14 members of the Bureau of the Parliament and the 8 presidents of the political groups of the Assembly, he signed the Gold Book of the Parliament with the following phrase: “I hope that the European Parliament is always the place where each member contributes to ensure that Europe, mindful of her past, looks with confidence to the future to live with hope in the present”.

After attending the Solemn Session of the Parliament and listening to the speech by President Schulz, Pope Francis addressed the Assembly, recalling that his visit takes place over a quarter of a century after that of Pope John Paul II, and many things have changed in Europe and throughout the world in the intervening period. “The opposing blocs which then divided the continent in two no longer exist, and gradually the hope is being realised that 'Europe, endowed with sovereign and free institutions, will one day reach the full dimensions that geography, and even more, history have given it'. As the European Union has expanded, the world itself has become more complex and ever changing; increasingly interconnected and global, it has, as a consequence, become less and less 'Eurocentric'. Despite a larger and stronger Union, Europe seems to give the impression of being somewhat elderly and haggard, feeling less and less a protagonist in a world which frequently regards it with aloofness, mistrust and even, at times, suspicion.

“In addressing you today, I would like, as a pastor, to offer a message of hope and encouragement to all the citizens of Europe. It is a message of hope, based on the confidence that our problems can become powerful forces for unity in working to overcome all those fears which Europe – together with the entire world – is presently experiencing. It is a message of hope in the Lord, who turns evil into good and death into life. It is a message of encouragement to return to the firm conviction of the founders of the European Union, who envisioned a future based on the capacity to work together in bridging divisions and in fostering peace and fellowship between all the peoples of this continent. At the heart of this ambitious political project was confidence in man, not so much as a citizen or an economic agent, but in man, in men and women as persons endowed with transcendent dignity”.

The Pope stressed the close bond between these two words: “dignity” and “transcendent”.
“'Dignity' was the pivotal concept in the process of rebuilding which followed the Second World War”, he affirmed. “Our recent past has been marked by the concern to protect human dignity, in contrast to the manifold instances of violence and discrimination which, even in Europe, took place in the course of the centuries. Recognition of the importance of human rights came about as the result of a lengthy process, entailing much suffering and sacrifice, which helped shape an awareness of the unique worth of each individual human person. This awareness was grounded not only in historical events, but above all in European thought, characterised as it is by an enriching encounter whose 'distant springs are many, coming from Greece and Rome, from Celtic, Germanic and Slavic sources, and from Christianity which profoundly shaped them', thus forging the very concept of the 'person'.

“Today, the promotion of human rights is central to the commitment of the European Union to advance the dignity of the person, both within the Union and in its relations with other countries. This is an important and praiseworthy commitment, since there are still too many situations in which human beings are treated as objects whose conception, configuration and utility can be programmed, and who can then be discarded when no longer useful, due to weakness, illness or old age”.

Promoting the dignity of the person, he continued, “means recognising that he or she possesses inalienable rights which no one may take away arbitrarily, much less for the sake of economic interests”, yet “care must be taken not to fall into certain errors which can arise from a misunderstanding of the concept of human rights and from its misuse. Today there is a tendency to claim ever broader individual rights; underlying this is a conception of the human person as detached from all social and anthropological contexts. ... The equally essential and complementary concept of duty no longer seems to be linked to such a concept of rights. As a result, the rights of the individual are upheld, without regard for the fact that each human being is part of a social context wherein his or her rights and duties are bound up with those of others and with the common good of society itself”.

The Pontiff emphasised, “I believe, therefore, that it is vital to develop a culture of human rights which wisely links the individual, or better, the personal aspect, to that of the common good, of the ‘all of us’ made up of individuals, families and intermediate groups who together constitute society. … To speak of transcendent human dignity thus means appealing to human nature, to our innate capacity to distinguish good from evil, to that 'compass' deep within our hearts, which God has impressed upon all creation. Above all, it means regarding human beings not as absolutes, but as beings in relation. In my view, one of the most common diseases in Europe today is the loneliness typical of those who have no connection with others. This is especially true of the elderly, who are often abandoned to their fate, and also in the young who lack clear points of reference and opportunities for the future. It is also seen in the many poor who dwell in our cities and in the disorientation of immigrants who came here seeking a better future”.

This loneliness, he remarked, “has become more acute as a result of the economic crisis, whose effects continue to have tragic consequences for the life of society. In recent years, as the European Union has expanded, there has been growing mistrust on the part of citizens towards institutions considered to be aloof, engaged in laying down rules perceived as insensitive to individual peoples, if not downright harmful. In many quarters we encounter a general impression of weariness and ageing, of a Europe which is … no longer fertile and vibrant. As a result, the great ideas which once inspired Europe seem to have lost their attraction, only to be replaced by the bureaucratic technicalities of its institutions. Together with this, we encounter certain rather selfish lifestyles, marked by an opulence which is no longer sustainable and frequently indifferent to the world around us, and especially to the poorest of the poor. To our dismay we see technical and economic questions dominating political debate, to the detriment of genuine concern for human beings. Men and women risk being reduced to mere cogs in a machine that treats them as items of consumption to be exploited, with the result that – as is so tragically apparent – whenever a human life no longer proves useful for that machine, it is discarded with few qualms, as in the case of the terminally ill, the elderly who are abandoned and uncared for, and children who are killed in the womb. This is the great mistake made 'when technology is allowed to take over'; the result is a confusion between ends and means. It is the inevitable consequence of a 'throwaway culture' and an uncontrolled consumerism”.

Francis reminded the members of parliament that they are called to a great mission which may however appear impossible: tending to the needs of individuals and peoples. “To care for individuals and peoples in need means protecting memory and hope; it means taking responsibility for the present with its situations of utter marginalisation and anguish, and being capable of bestowing dignity upon it. How, then, can hope in the future be restored, so that, beginning with the younger generation, there can be a rediscovery of that confidence needed to pursue the great ideal of a united and peaceful Europe, a Europe which is creative and resourceful, respectful of rights and conscious of its duties?”

To answer this question, the Pope referred to Raphael's celebrated fresco of the “School of Athens”, found in the Vatican. “Plato and Aristotle are in the centre. Plato’s finger is pointed upward, to the world of ideas, to the sky, to heaven as we might say. Aristotle holds his hand out before him, towards the viewer, towards the world, concrete reality. This strikes me as a very apt image of Europe and her history, made up of the constant interplay between heaven and earth, where the sky suggests that openness to the transcendent – to God – which has always distinguished the peoples of Europe, while the earth represents Europe’s practical and concrete ability to confront situations and problems. The future of Europe depends on the recovery of the vital connection between these two elements. A Europe which is no longer open to the transcendent dimension of life is a Europe which risks slowly losing its own soul and that 'humanistic spirit' which it still loves and defends. … I consider to be fundamental not only the legacy that Christianity has offered in the past to the social and cultural formation of the continent, but above all the contribution which it desires to offer today, and in the future, to Europe’s growth. This contribution does not represent a threat to the secularity of states or to the independence of the institutions of the European Union, but rather an enrichment. This is clear from the ideals which shaped Europe from the beginning, such as peace, subsidiarity and reciprocal solidarity, and a humanism centred on respect for the dignity of the human person”.

Pope Francis went on to reiterate the readiness of the Holy See and the Catholic Church, through the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe (COMECE), to engage in “meaningful, open and transparent dialogue with the institutions of the European Union. I am likewise convinced that a Europe which is capable of appreciating its religious roots and of grasping their fruitfulness and potential, will be all the more immune to the many forms of extremism spreading in the world today, not least as a result of the great vacuum of ideals which we are currently witnessing in the West, since 'it is precisely man’s forgetfulness of God, and his failure to give him glory, which gives rise to violence'. Here I cannot fail to recall the many instances of injustice and persecution which daily afflict religious minorities, and Christians in particular, in various parts of our world. Communities and individuals today find themselves subjected to barbaric acts of violence: they are evicted from their homes and native lands, sold as slaves, killed, beheaded, crucified or burned alive, under the shameful and complicit silence of so many.

“The motto of the European Union is United in Diversity. Unity, however, does not mean uniformity of political, economic and cultural life, or ways of thinking. ... I consider Europe as a family of peoples who will sense the closeness of the institutions of the Union when these latter are able wisely to combine the desired ideal of unity with the diversity proper to each people, cherishing particular traditions, acknowledging its past history and its roots, liberated from so many manipulations and phobias. … At the same time, the specific features of each one represent an authentic richness to the degree that they are placed at the service of all. … Ladies and Gentlemen, Members of the European Parliament, within this dynamic of unity and particularity, yours is the responsibility of keeping democracy alive for the peoples of Europe. It is no secret that a conception of unity seen as uniformity strikes at the vitality of the democratic system, weakening the rich, fruitful and constructive interplay of organisations and political parties. … Keeping democracy alive in Europe requires avoiding the many globalising tendencies to dilute reality: namely, angelic forms of purity, dictatorships of relativism, brands of ahistorical fundamentalism, ethical systems lacking kindness, and intellectual discourse bereft of wisdom”.

Keeping democracies alive “is a challenge in the present historic moment. The true strength of our democracies – understood as expressions of the political will of the people – must not be allowed to collapse under the pressure of multinational interests which are not universal, which weaken them and turn them into uniform systems of economic power at the service of unseen empires. This is one of the challenges which history sets before you today. To give Europe hope means more than simply acknowledging the centrality of the human person; it also implies nurturing the gifts of each man and woman. It means investing in individuals and in those settings in which their talents are shaped and flourish. The first area surely is that of education, beginning with the family, the fundamental cell and most precious element of any society. ... Then too, stressing the importance of the family not only helps to give direction and hope to new generations, but also to many of our elderly, who are often forced to live alone and are effectively abandoned because there is no longer the warmth of a family hearth able to accompany and support them. Alongside the family, there are the various educational institutes: schools and universities. … Young people today are asking for a suitable and complete education which can enable them to look to the future with hope instead of disenchantment”.

The Pontiff went on to speak about the defence of the environment, remarking that “Europe has always been in the vanguard of efforts to promote ecology. Our earth needs constant concern and attention. Each of us has a personal responsibility to care for creation, this precious gift which God has entrusted to us. This means, on the one hand, that nature is at our disposal, to enjoy and use properly. Yet it also means that we are not its masters. Stewards, but not masters. … Respect for the environment, however, means more than not destroying it; it also means using it for good purposes. I am thinking above all of the agricultural sector, which provides sustenance and nourishment to our human family. It is intolerable that millions of people around the world are dying of hunger while tons of food are discarded each day from our tables. Respect for nature also means recognising that man himself is a fundamental part of it. Along with an environmental ecology, there is also need of that human ecology which consists in respect for the person, which I have wanted to emphasise in addressing you today”.

The second area in which talent flourishes is work. “The time has come to promote policies which create employment, but above all there is a need to restore dignity to labour by ensuring proper working conditions. This implies, on the one hand, finding new ways of joining market flexibility with the need for stability and security on the part of workers; these are indispensable for their human development. It also implies favouring a suitable social context geared not to the exploitation of persons, but to ensuring, precisely through labour, their ability to create a family and educate their children”.

With regard to the need fro a united response to question of migration, Francis exclaimed, “We cannot allow the Mediterranean to become a vast cemetery! … The absence of mutual support within the European Union runs the risk of encouraging particularistic solutions to the problem, solutions which fail to take into account the human dignity of immigrants, and thus contribute to slave labour and continuing social tensions. Europe will be able to confront the problems associated with immigration only if it is capable of clearly asserting its own cultural identity and enacting adequate legislation to protect the rights of European citizens and to ensure the acceptance of immigrants. Only if it is capable of adopting fair, courageous and realistic policies which can assist the countries of origin in their own social and political development and in their efforts to resolve internal conflicts – the principal cause of this phenomenon – rather than adopting policies motivated by self-interest, which increase and feed such conflicts.

“Awareness of one’s own identity is also necessary for entering into a positive dialogue with the States which have asked to become part of the Union in the future. I am thinking especially of those in the Balkans, for which membership in the European Union could be a response to the desire for peace in a region which has suffered greatly from past conflicts. Awareness of one’s own identity is also indispensable for relations with other neighbouring countries, particularly with those bordering the Mediterranean, many of which suffer from internal conflicts, the pressure of religious fundamentalism and the reality of global terrorism.

“It is incumbent upon you, as legislators, to protect and nurture Europe’s identity, so that its citizens can experience renewed confidence in the institutions of the Union and in its underlying project of peace and friendship. … I encourage you to work to make Europe rediscover the best of itself. An anonymous second-century author wrote that 'Christians are to the world what the soul is to the body'. The function of the soul is to support the body, to be its conscience and its historical memory. A two-thousand-year-old history links Europe and Christianity. It is a history not free of conflicts and errors, but one constantly driven by the desire to work for the good of all. We see this in the beauty of our cities, and even more in the beauty of the many works of charity and constructive cooperation throughout this continent. This history, in large part, must still be written. It is our present and our future. It is our identity. Europe urgently needs to recover its true features in order to grow, as its founders intended, in peace and harmony, since it is not yet free of conflicts”.

“Dear Members of the European Parliament”, he concluded, “the time has come to work together in building a Europe which revolves not around the economy, but around the sacredness of the human person, around inalienable values. In building a Europe which courageously embraces its past and confidently looks to its future in order fully to experience the hope of its present. The time has come for us to abandon the idea of a Europe which is fearful and self-absorbed, in order to revive and encourage a Europe of leadership, a repository of science, art, music, human values, and faith too. A Europe which contemplates the heavens and pursues lofty ideals. A Europe which cares for, defends and protects man, every man and woman. A Europe which bestrides the earth surely and securely, a precious point of reference for all humanity”.

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