Vatican City, 21 January 2015 (VIS) – Before proceeding to the Paul VI Hall for this morning's Wednesday general audience, the Holy Father, following a centuries-long tradition, blessed two lambs in the hall of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, whose wool will be used to weave the pallia imposed on the new archbishops on 29 June, on the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul.
During today's audience, Pope Francis gave an account of his apostolic trip to Sri Lanka and the Philippines. “I will always keep in my heart the recollection of the joyful welcome I received from the crowds”, he confessed. The culmination of his stay in Sri Lanka, he said, was the canonisation of St. Joseph Vaz. “His example of holiness and love for his neighbour continues to inspire the Church in Sri Lanka in her apostolate of charity and education”, he said, adding that the new saint represented “a model for all Christians, who are called upon today to offer the salvific truth of the Gospel in a multi-religious context. With regard to the meeting with the governmental authorities, he emphasised the importance of dialogue, respect for human dignity and efforts to involve all in finding suitable solutions for reconciliation and the common good.
He also spoke about his encounter with religious leaders, which confirmed the good relations that exist between the various communities. “In this context, I wanted to encourage the cooperation that has already been initiated between the followers of different religious traditions, also in order to heal with the balsam of forgiveness those who are still afflicted by the sufferings of recent years”.
In the Philippines, he noted “the constant fruitfulness of the Gospel and its capacity to inspire a society worthy of mankind, in which there is a place for the dignity of each person and the aspirations of the Filipino population”. He explained that the main aim of his visit was to express his closeness to those brothers and sisters who had suffered as a result of the devastation wrought by typhoon Yolanda. “The power of God's love, revealed in the mystery of the Cross, was made evident in the spirit of solidarity shown by the many acts of charity and sacrifice that marked those days of darkness”. He also mentioned the young volunteer Kristel, killed following his visit to Tacloban by collapsing scaffolding due to extreme weather conditions.
Francis went on to speak about his encounter with families in Manila. “I have heard it said that families with many children and high birth rates are among the causes of poverty. It seems to me a simplistic opinion. I can say that the main cause of poverty is an economic system that has removed the person from the centre and replaced him with the god of money; an economic system that excludes and creates the throwaway culture in which we live. … It is necessary to protect families, which face various threats, so that they can bear witness to the beauty of the family in God's plan”.
Finally, he spokes about his meeting with the young. “I wanted to offer them my encouragement for their efforts in contributing to the renewal of society, especially through their service to the poor and the protection of the natural environment. Care for the poor is an essential element of our Christian life and witness – because corruption steals from the poor – and requires a culture of honesty”, he concluded.