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Monday, February 29, 2016

Meeting with Patriarch of Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church: A New Time of Fraternal Friendship

Vatican City, 29 February 2016 (VIS) – This morning, Pope Francis welcomed His Holiness Abune Mathias, Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. During the meeting the Bishop of Rome emphasized that the patriarch's visit strengthens the fraternal bonds that already unite both churches. He mentioned as milestones of the common path towards unity His Holiness Abune Paulos' encounters with St. John Paul II in 1993 and with Benedict XVI in 2009, who invited him to participate in the Synod of Bishops for Africa as was common practice in the early Church for representatives to be sent to the synods of other Churches. Likewise, a delegation from the Holy See was present at the 2012 funeral of Patriarch Abune Paulos.

Moreover, as Francis explained, since 2004 the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Churches have deepened their communion through theological dialogue in the International Joint Commission, which over the years has analysed the fundamental concept of the Churches' communion understood as participation in the communion between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Many things have been found in common: one faith, one baptism, one Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and many elements of the monastic traditions and the liturgy. "What unites us," the Pope said, "is greater than what divides us."

He continued, "We truly feel that the words of the Apostle Paul apply to us: 'If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together.' Shared sufferings have enabled Christians, otherwise divided in so many ways, to grow closer to one another. Just as in the early Church the shedding of the blood of martyrs became the seed of new Christians, so today the blood of the many martyrs of all the Churches has become the seed of Christian unity. The martyrs and saints of all the ecclesial traditions are already one in Christ. Their names are inscribed in the one martyrologium of the Church of God. The ecumenism of the martyrs is a summons to us, here and now, to advance on the path to ever greater unity."

The Pope recalled that the Orthodox Tewahedo Church has been, from the beginning, a Church of martyrs and that still today "you are witnessing a devastating outbreak of violence against Christians and other minorities in the Middle East and in some parts of Africa. We cannot fail, yet again, to implore those who govern the world’s political and economic life to promote a peaceful coexistence based on reciprocal respect and reconciliation, mutual forgiveness and solidarity." He also acknowledged the great strides being made in Ethiopia "to improve the living conditions of its people and to build an ever more just society, based on the rule of law and respect for the role of women". In particular, he noted the problem of access to water, with its grave social and economic repercussions. "There is great room for cooperation between the Churches in the service of the common good and the protection of creation," he stated, certain of "the readiness of the Catholic Church in Ethiopia to work together with the Orthodox Tewahedo Church".

"it is my fervent hope that this meeting will mark a new chapter of fraternal friendship between our Churches. We are conscious that history has left us with a burden of painful misunderstandings and mistrust, and for this we seek God’s pardon and healing. Let us pray for one another," the pontiff concluded, "invoking the protection of the martyrs and saints upon all the faithful entrusted to our pastoral care. May the Holy Spirit continue to enlighten us and guide our steps towards harmony and peace. May he nourish in us the hope that one day, with God’s help, we will be united around the altar of Christ’s sacrifice in the fullness of Eucharistic communion."

Pope praises work of Rome-St. Peter's Carabinieri squad

Vatican City, 29 February 2016 (VIS) – One hundred and fifty members of the Rome-St. Peter's Carabinieri Squad who work with the competent bodies of the Holy See to regulate events in and around St. Peter's Square throughout the year were received by Pope Francis in the Clementine Hall of the Vatican this morning. The pontiff thanked them for their work in service of pilgrims and tourists, noting that it is work that "requires professionalism and a sense of responsibility as well as attention to people---many of whom are elderly---continuous patience and availability to all. These are not easy qualities, which is why it is important to rely on God's help."

"The Holy Year of Mercy," he continued, "opens the possibility of renewal to all of us, beginning with inner purification, which is reflected in how we act and in how we carry out our daily activities. This spiritual dimension of the Jubilee compels each of us to question our actual commitment in responding to the demands of faithfulness to the Gospel to which the Lord calls us from our state in life. The Jubilee thus becomes a propitious occasion for personal and community verification. The 'paradigm' to test ourselves against are works of mercy, both corporal and spiritual. The Lord reminds us: 'Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.'"

"May this teaching of Jesus also guide you, who are responsible for the protection of public order, and help you to foster solidarity in every circumstance, especially towards the weak and defenceless. To be guardians of the right to life through the commitment to safety and the safety of persons. In carrying out this mission, may we always be aware that every person is loved by God and is his creature deserving of welcome and respect. May the grace of the extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy," the Pope concluded his brief address, "renew the spirit which you dedicate to your profession, bringing you to live it with extra attention, devotion, and generosity.

Pope Francis' Prayer Intentions for March

Vatican City, 29 February 2016 (VIS) - The Holy Father's universal prayer intention for February is: “That families in need may receive the necessary support and that children may grow up in healthy and peaceful environments”.

His intention for evangelisation is: “That those Christians who, on account of their faith, are discriminated against or are being persecuted, may remain strong and faithful to the Gospel, thanks to the incessant prayer of the Church".

Holy Father's calendar for March and April

Vatican City, 29 February 2016 (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 the months of March and April 2016:


Friday 4: At 5 p.m. in the Vatican Basilica, penitential celebration.

Sunday 6: Fourth Sunday of Lent. In Ariccia, beginning of the spiritual exercises for the Roman Curia.

Friday 11: Conclusion of the spiritual exercises for the Roman Curia.

Tuesday 15: At 10 a.m. in the Consistory Hall, consistory for causes of canonisation.

Sunday 20: Palm Sunday and the Passion of the Lord. At 9.30 a.m. in St. Peter's Square, blessing of the palms, procession and Holy Mass.

Thursday 24: Holy Thursday. At 9.30 a.m. in the Vatican Basilica, Chrism Mass.

Friday 25: Good Friday. At 5 p.m. in the Vatican Basilica, celebration of the Passion of the Lord.
At 9.15 p.m. at the Colosseum, Rome: Via Crucis (Way of the Cross).

Saturday 26: Holy Saturday. At 8.30 p.m. in the Vatican Basilica, Easter vigil


Saturday 2: At 6 p.m. in St. Peter's Square, prayer vigil and Jubilee for adherents to the spirituality of Divine Mercy.

Sunday 3: Second Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday). At 10.30 a.m. in St. Peter's Square, Holy Mass and Jubilee for adherents to the spirituality of Divine Mercy Sunday.

Angelus: never too late to repent, let us begin today!

Vatican City, 28 February 2016 (VIS) – "Every day, unfortunately, bad news is reported: murders, accidents, disasters, … In today's Gospel passage Jesus refers to two tragic events, which at the time caused quite a stir: the bloody crackdown by Roman soldiers inside the temple and the collapse of the tower of Siloam in Jerusalem, which claimed eighteen victims." These are the words that Pope Francis started with this afternoon before the Angelus, relating our current lived experience to the Gospel of the day. "Jesus knows the superstitious mentality of his listeners," he continued, "and knows that they interpret those kinds of events wrongly. In fact, they think that, if those persons died so cruelly, it's a sign that God has punished them for some grave offence they had committed, as if to say 'They deserved it.' And the fact that they had been spared from the disaster was equivalent to being 'okay'. They 'deserved it' but I 'am good'.

The Pope explained that "Jesus clearly rejects this view because God does not allow tragedies in order to punish sins. He affirms that those poor victims were not worse than others. Rather, he invites us to draw a warning from such painful events, a warning for all because we are all sinners. He said to those who are asking him: 'If you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!' Even today, in the face of certain misfortunes and tragic events, we might feel the temptation to 'dump' the responsibility onto the victims or even onto God himself. But the Gospel invites us to reflect: what is our idea of God? Are we convinced that God is this way or is it not just our own projection, a god made 'in our image and likeness'? In contrast, Jesus calls us to a change of heart, to make a radical change in our life's path, abandoning the pacts with evil – and we all do this, make pacts with evil, hypocrisy, I believe that we all have at least one piece of hypocrisy – to decisively take the Gospel path".

"But here again is the temptation to justify ourselves: 'What should we convert from? Aren't we all basically good people?' How many times have we thought that: 'All in all, I'm a pretty good person?' – haven't we? – 'Aren't we believers, who even practice enough?' And we think, therefore, that we are justified". The Pope stressed that we justify ourselves as believers and even practising ones. Unfortunately, each of us looks a lot like a tree that, for years, has given much evidence of sterility. But luckily for us, Jesus is like the peasant farmer who, with limitless patience, still gives another deferment to the barren fig tree. 'Leave it for this year,' he says to the master. 'It may bear fruit in the future'".

"A 'year' of grace", he continued, "the time of Christ's ministry, the time of the Church before his glorious return, the time of our life punctuated by a number of Lents, which are offered to us as opportunities for repentance and salvation, the time of a Jubilee Year of Mercy. Jesus' invincible patience. Have you thought on God's patience? Have you thought about his unyielding concern for sinners as they should provoke impatience in how we see ourselves! It is never to late for us to convert, never! God's patience waits for us up till the last minute. Remember the the story of St. Therese of the Child Jesus when she prayed for the man condemned to death, a criminal, who did not want to receive the comfort of the Church. He declined a priest's visit, didn't want it. He wanted to die that way. And she prayed, in the convent. And exactly at the moment of his execution he turned to the priest, took the crucifix and kissed it. God's patience! He does the same with us, with all of us! How many times – we don't know. We will know in Heaven – how many times we are there [about to fall] and the Lord saves us. He saves us because he has great patience with us. And this is his mercy. It is never too late to repent but it is urgent, the time is now. Let us begin today".

Before finishing, Pope Francis called upon the Virgin Mary "to sustain us so that we may open our hearts to God's grace, to his mercy. And help us to never judge others but to let daily misfortunes be the opportunity to make a serious examination of conscience and repent".

Tragedy of refugees in Pope's prayers

Vatican City, 28 February 2016 (VIS) – Greeting the faithful after the Marian prayer, the Holy Father again noted the tragedy of those fleeing wars, emphasising that countries like Greece "on the front lines are giving generous aid, which requires the cooperation of all nations. A unified response can be effective and distribute the weight evenly. This is why we need to focus firmly and unreservedly on negotiations".

"At the same time." he added, "I have hopefully welcomed the news about the cessation of hostilities in Syria and I invite all to pray so that this window of opportunity can give relief to those suffering , encouraging the necessary humanitarian aid and opening the way to dialogue and a much desired peace".

Pope Francis also expressed his nearness to the people of Fiji, hard hit by a devastating cyclone. "I pray for the victims and for those who are committed to relief operations". Before leaving, the pontiff recalled that today marks "Rare Disease Day" and directed his special prayers and encouragement to all associations that offer help in this area.

Pope Francis receives president of the Argentine Republic

Vatican City, 27 February 2016 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican Apostolic Palace, Pope Francis received in audience Mauricio Macri, president of the Argentine Republic, who subsequently met with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, accompanied by Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, secretary for Relations with States.

During the cordial discussions, which demonstrated the good bilateral relations between the Holy See and the Argentine Republic, themes of common interest were considered, such as assistance for integral development, respect for human rights, the fight against poverty and drug trafficking, justice, peace and social reconciliation. In this context, the positive contribution of the episcopate and Catholic institutions in Argentine society was reiterated, especially in the fields of human promotion and the formation of the new generations, and particularly in the current economic climate.

Finally, reference was made to various issues of broader significance and interest at regional and global levels.

Pope to businesspeople: seek a new humanism of work

Vatican City, 27 February 2016 (VIS) – This morning in the Paul VI Hall Pope Francis received in audience seven thousand Italian members of Confindustria (the General Confederation of Italian Industry). It was the first encounter in the Vatican in the history of the association, and took place within the context of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. The Holy Father observed that with this meeting, the men and women of Italian business confirm their commitment to contributing to a more just society, to reflecting together on the ethics of business, and to strengthening their attention to values, the "spinal column" of projects that offer a concrete alternative to the consumerist model of profit at any cost.

The theme "working together" inspires collaboration, sharing and preparing the way for relations regulated by a sense of joint responsibility. "In the complex world of business, working together means investing in projects able to involve those who are often forgotten or neglected, especially families. … And, alongside them, we cannot forget the weakest and most marginalised categories, such as the elderly, who may still have the resources and energy for active collaboration, but are too often discarded as useless and unproductive. Then there are potential workers, especially the young who, imprisoned by uncertainty or long periods of unemployment, do not receive offers of work providing them with not only an honest salary but also the dignity that they are often deprived of".

Working together means "basing work not on the solitary genius of an individual, but on the collaboration of many. It means, in other words, building a network to bring to the fore the gifts of all, without however neglecting the unique qualities of each person. At the centre of every business, therefore, is the person: not abstract, ideal or theoretical, but a real person with dreams, needs, hopes and hardships. … Faced with the many barriers of injustice, solitude, distrust and suspicion that continue to be built in our times, the world of work, in which you are on the front line, is required to take courageous steps so that encountering each other and working together is not merely a slogan, but rather a plan for the present and the future".

The Holy Father reminded those present of their "noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving our world", for which they are called to be builders of the common good and promoters of a "new humanism of work".

"You are called to safeguard professionalism, and at the same time to pay attention to the conditions in which work is carried out", he said. "May you always be guided by justice, which refuses the shortcuts of favouritism, and the dangerous deviations of dishonesty and easy compromise. May the supreme law always be attention to the dignity of others, an absolute and indispensable value. May this aim of altruism always distinguish your work: it will lead you to refuse categorically the infringement of the dignity of the person in the name of productive demands, which mask individualistic short-sightedness, sad selfishness and thirst for profit".

The Pope concluded by urging the members of Confindustria to represent, instead, a business open to the "broader meaning of life", allowing them "truly to serve the common good, by striving to increase the goods of this world and to make them more accessible to all", so that it is "not insensitive to the gaze of those in need. This is truly possible, provided that the simple proclamation of economic freedom does not prevail over the real freedom of man and his rights, that the market is not absolute, but rather honours the needs of justice and, in the final analysis, of the dignity of the person. There is no freedom without justice and no justice without respect for the dignity of every person".

Friday of Mercy: Pope pays surprise visit to San Carlo drug rehabilitation community

Vatican City, 27 February 2016 (VIS) – Yesterday afternoon the Pope paid a surprise visit to the San Carlo rehabilitation centre, near Castel Gandolfo, which belongs to the Italian Solidarity Centre, founded by Fr. Mario Picchi to prevent and combat exclusion, especially of those affected by drug abuse. The visit forms part of the Holy Father's "Friday of mercy" programme, in which he performs one of the corporal or spiritual works of mercy every Friday throughout the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

The San Carlo Community houses 55 people, mostly young, following a rehabilitation programme to free themselves from drug dependency. Francis' visit was unannounced and was a great surprise to all present. He spoke to the guests and staff, listened to their stories and expressed his closeness, urging them not to let themselves be devoured by the "metastasis" of drugs. He embraced them and explained that the path they have undertaken in the centre will offer them a real possibility of starting a new life worthy of a human being. Francis emphasised the need always to trust in the strength of mercy that continues to sustain our pilgrimage and, accompanying us even in our darkest hours, lets us feel the warmth of His presence and clothes man in dignity.

Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelisation, linked this "Friday of Mercy" to the Pope's recent trip to Mexico, characterised by his strong and unequivocal condemnation of drug trafficking. "It worries me greatly that, seduced by the empty power of the world, they exalt chimeras and don their macabre symbols to trade in death. … I implore you not to underestimate the ethical and anti-civic challenge that drug trafficking represents for young people and for society as a whole, including the Church", said Francis during the trip.

Just a few days after his return to Rome, added Archbishop Fisichella, the Pope has given a visible and concrete sign of the affirmation he made in the Cathedral of Mexico City regarding the need for pastors of the Church not to seek refuge in generic condemnations, but rather to reach out to the human and existential peripheries of the cities and to involve families, schools, institutions, the political community and the forces of order in a serious pastoral project aiming at the prevention of a phenomenon that destroys many lives.

IX World Day of Rare Diseases: Message of Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care

Vatican City, 29 February 2016 (VIS) – Today marks the IX World Day of Rare Diseases. On the occasion, Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers (for Health Pastoral Care) wrote a message entitled "The Patient's Voice at the Centre. Join Us in Making the Voice of Rare Diseases Heard". It emphasises how, for years, this dicastery has closely followed the various initiatives for those affected by such diseases, as well as focusing on their families, who are sometimes the only ones who give voice to a problem that should not be ignored by the various civil, scientific, and pastoral agencies.

"This global initiative", the prelate explained, "which aims to give proper emphasis to these diseases and to increase knowledge, also finds growing interest in the Church, so that those who, although suffering from diseases whose incidence is minimal or rare numerically, are not abandoned or isolated. They certainly cannot leave us indifferent. Indeed, their condition, as the theme chosen for this 9th day indicates, cannot but find echo in our hearts and in appropriate research and care".

"In particular", he specified, "this means making these persons more and more the protagonists, equipped with the necessary reference points and, at the same time, raising the awareness of the competent authorities, health professionals, pharmaceutical industry, and anyone who has a sincere interest in rare diseases. All in order to break the curtain of silence or exclusivity that is likely, in many cases, to hide a problem that, however, concerns the whole of society".

"The Church also feels involved in this commitment, constantly spurred by Pope Francis to grow and walk in solidarity. … By means of this dicastery, the Church, as the voice that can from many places have the leverage to achieve the common good and justice in the social and health care field, intends to bring the attention of its pastoral outreach in the area of rare and neglected diseases – defined as diseases that particularly call for solidarity – to this area and to the various scientific research institutions".

"This ecclesial attention will have a specific expression at the next international conference organized by the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, which will take place at the Vatican from 10 to 12 November, 2016. This initiative, almost at the conclusion of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, will be a further occasion for highlighting the work of corporal mercy that is assistance to the sick. It will be a sign of solidarity with persons affected by rare diseases as well as with the poor and vulnerable populations marked by neglected diseases, who usually live in the most remote rural areas of the world".


Vatican City, 29 February 2016 (VIS) – Today the Holy Father met separately with:

- three prelates from the Puerto Rican Episcopal Conference: Archbishop Roberto Octavio Gonzalez Nieves, O.F.M., of San Juan de Puerto Rico, president, accompanied by Bishop Alvaro Corrada del Rio, S.J., of Tyler, vice president, and by Bishop Eusebio Ramos Morales of Fajardo-Humacao, secretary general.

- Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, archbishop emeritus of Washington, USA,

- Bishop Paul Tighe, adjunct secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture with members of his family, and

- Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy.

On Saturday 27 February the Holy Father received in audience:

- Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation of Bishops, and

- Bishop Carlos Jose Tissera of Quilmes, Argentina.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 27 February 2016 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father appointed:

- Cardinal Francesco Monterisi, archpriest emeritus of the Papal Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls, as his special envoy to the concluding celebration of the Innocentian Year, commemorating the fourth centenary of the birth of Pope Innocent XII, to be held in Spinazzola, Italy on 13 March.

- Msgr. Maurizio Bravi, nunciature counsellor, as Holy See Permanent Observer at the World Tourism Organisation.

Notice to VIS subscribers

Vatican City, 29 February 2016 (VIS) – From tomorrow, Tuesday 1 March 2016, the Vatican Information Service newsletter will not be transmitted. Below is the link via which the web page including a synthesis in English of the official Holy See Press Office Bulletin may be consulted.


Friday, February 26, 2016

Benedict XVI's first encyclical, "Deus caritas est", remains timely

Vatican City, 26 February 2016 (VIS) "The message of the Encyclical Deus Caritas Est remains timely, indicating the ever relevant prospect for the Church’s journey. The more we live in this spirit, the more authentic we all are as Christians", said Pope Francis this morning as he received in audience in the Clementine Hall the participants in the two-day international congress "Love will never end: Prospects ten years on from the Encyclical Deus Caritas Est", organised by the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum", which analysed the theological and pastoral repercussions and prospects opened by Pope Benedict XVI's first encyclical.

The text, said Francis, "concerns a theme that allows us to retrace the entire history of the Church, which is also a history of charity. It is a story of the love received from God, to be carried to the world: this charity received and given is the fulcrum of the history of the Church and of the history of each one of us. ... Both for individual members of the faithful and for the Christian community as a whole, the words of Jesus hold true: that charity is the first and greatest of the commandments: 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength… You shall love your neighbour as yourself'".

The present Jubilee Year, continued the Holy Father, "is also an opportunity to return to this beating heart of our life and our witness, to the centre of the proclamation of faith: 'God is love'. God does not simply have the desire or capacity to love; God is love: charity is His essence, it is His nature. He is unique, but not solitary; ... He cannot be closed in on Himself because He is communion, He is charity; and charity by its nature is communicated and shared. In this way, God associates man to His life of love, and even if man turns away from Him, God does not remain distant but goes out to meet him. This going out to meet us, culminating in the Incarnation of His Son, is His mercy. It is His way of expressing Himself to us sinners, His face that looks at us and cares for us. The encyclical reads: 'Jesus’ programme is a heart which sees. This heart sees where love is needed and acts accordingly'. Charity and mercy are in this way closely related, because they are God’s way of being and acting: His identity and His name".

The first aspect which the Encyclical recalls for us is the face of God: "who is the God we can encounter in Christ? How faithful and unsurpassable is His love? … All our expressions of love, of solidarity, of sharing are but a reflection of that love which is God. He, without ever tiring, pours out His love on us, and we are called to become witnesses to this love in the world. Therefore, we should look to divine charity as to the compass which orients our lives, before embarking on any activity: there we find direction; from charity we learn how to see our brothers and sisters and the world".

Pope Francis also referred to a second aspect of the Encyclical – the need for charity to be increasingly reflected in the life of the Church. "How I wish that everyone in the Church, every institution, every activity would show that God loves man!", he exclaimed. "The mission that our charitable organisations carry out is important, because they provide so many poor people with a more dignified and human life, which is needed more than ever. But this mission is of utmost importance because, not with words, but with concrete love it can make every person feel loved by the Father, loved as His son or daughter and destined for eternal life with Him".

"I would like to thank all those who daily are committing themselves to this mission which challenges every Christian", he concluded. "In this Jubilee Year, my intention has been to emphasise that we can all experience the grace of the Jubilee by putting into practice the spiritual and corporal works of mercy: to live the works of mercy means to conjugate the verb 'to love' according to Jesus. In this way then, all of us together can contribute concretely to the great mission of the Church: to communicate the love of God which is meant to be spread".


Vatican City, 26 February 2016 (VIS) – This morning the Holy Father received in audience:

- Archbishop Osvaldo Padilla, apostolic nuncio in Korea and Mongolia, with family members;

- Bodo Ramelow, minister-president of Thuringia, Germany, with his wife and entourage;

- Archbishop Aldo Giordano, apostolic nuncio in Venezuela;

- Archbishop Jean-Abdo Arbach of Homs of the Greek-Melkites, Syria.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

"Love before the world": the Pope answers questions from children

Vatican City, 25 February 2016 (VIS) – "L'amore prima del mondo" ("Love before the world") is the title of a book published by Rizzoli, in the form of 31 letters and drawings sent to the Holy Father by children from various Jesuit institutions from all five continents, asking for advice and explanations, and Francis' replies.

The title is drawn from the Pope's answer to the question, "What did God do before the world was made?". The eighty pages of the volume consist of a dialogue between Francis and the Jesuit Fr. Antonio Spadaro, director of La Civilta Cattolica, who took the children's letters and drawings the Domus Sanctae Marthae last summer and to ask for a response. The Pope accepted the proposal and the resulting book has been released in Italian bookshops today. It will shortly be available in other languages.

Francis answers questions on a wide variety of issues, such as how Jesus managed to walk on water: "God doesn't sink", and why He created us if He knew we were going to sin against Him: Because God created us like Him. Free. And being free includes the possibility of sinning. … Freedom can be frightening because it cannot be planned. But it is beautiful and it is the greatest gift". In response to questions from the youngest children regarding the devil and guardian angels, the Pope recalls the importance of liturgy of prayer, or evokes the fantastic imagination of the young: "God defeated the devil on the cross. The devil is like the big scary dragons who are defeated and killed. They have a very long tail which, even if they are beaten and killed, continues to move".

There are also questions regarding war and atrocities; for instance, a child from Nigeria asks how these conflicts could be resolved. "It is necessary to encourage people of good will to speak against war. I cannot solve the conflicts in the world, but you and I can try to make this a better world. We need to convince everyone that the best way to win a war is not to enter into one. It is not easy, I know. But I try. You can try too".

A child from China wants to know why the Pope likes football. "I have never learned well the techniques of the game", admits Francis. "I don't have agile feet. But I like to see the team on the field because it is a game of solidarity". In response to a boy from the United Kingdom asks, "What was your hardest choice in your mission for faith?", the Holy Father replies, "There are many hard choices, but I have to say that the type of decision that is most difficult for me is to remove someone from a responsible job or a position of trust, or a path they are following, for reasons of unsuitability".

Francis to meet the Patriarch of the Orthodox Tewahedo Church of Ethiopia

Vatican City, 25 February 2016 (VIS) – On Monday, 29 February, the Holy Father Francis will meet with His Holiness Abuna Mathias, Patriarch of the Orthodox Tewahedo Church of Ethiopia, who will be present in Rome from Friday 26 to Monday 29. During his stay the Patriarch will visit the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the tomb of the apostle Peter, and will celebrate Holy Mass with the Ethiopian community of Rome on Sunday 28 February in the chapel of the Urbanian College.

The Orthodox Tewahedo Church of Ethiopia currently consists of 35 million faithful, and a large community exists in Rome. It enjoys cordial and increasingly close relations with the Catholic Church, especially following the first visit in 1993 of the then-Patriarch Abuna Paulos to Pope John Paul II.

Religious and migrations: perspectives, response and challenges

Vatican City, 25 February 2016 (VIS) – The international conference "The religious and migrations in the 21st century: perspectives, response and challenges", organised by the representation before the United Nations of the Passionists International, the Congregation of St. Joseph, Augustinians International and the Vincentians, yesterday concluded two days of intense work.

The aim of the meeting, attended by around a hundred men and women religious, as well as laypersons and experts in the sector, was to understand more fully the phenomenon of migration and its repercussions in today's world, especially in the context of the current European situation. It also considered the identification of more effective and shared forms of solidarity. A strong appeal was launched for intensified network-building among congregations, associations and other organisations in countries of origin, transit and destination. The network represents one of the most efficient ways of using energy, skills and resources, to give greater impetus to the already extraordinary work that these entities carry out. In Italy alone, some 23 million people (almost a quarter of the refugees present in the country) are received by parishes, religious communities, monasteries and sanctuaries.

The participants expressed major concerns regarding the large number of often unaccompanied minors involved in migratory flows, as well as the many young women, especially from Nigeria (more than four thousand in 2015) who risk falling into the trap of exploitation and prostitution.

Fr. Emela Xris Obiezu, representative of Augustinians International before the United Nations, emphasised that "In this complex world, and faced with the challenge of migration, it is increasingly necessary to think globally and act locally, also in terms of lobbying and advocacy, to take the voice of the victims and those who work alongside them to every level of attention, from local administrations to the United Nations, so as to influence working decisions, always placing at the centre of attention the person and respect for his or her freedom and dignity".


Vatican City, 25 February 2016 (VIS) – Yesterday the Holy Father received in audience Cardinal Mario Aurelio Poli, archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Notice to VIS subscribers

Vatican City, 25 February 2016 (VIS) – From Tuesday 1 March 2016, the Vatican Information Service newsletter will not be transmitted, but subscribers will instead receive a link via which they may consult the web page including a synthesis in English of the official Holy See Press Office Bulletin, the summary hitherto provided by the Vatican Information Service.

The newsletter service is expected to resume within a few weeks.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

General audience: mercy and power

Vatican City, 24 February 2016 (VIS) – Mercy and power were the theme of Pope Francis' catechesis in this week's Wednesday general audience in St. Peter's Square, attended by more than twenty thousand faithful and pilgrims.

The Holy Father explained that various passages of the Bible speak about kings and men of power, and also of their arrogance and abuses, demonstrating that "wealth and power can be good and useful for the common good if placed at the service of the poor and of all, with justice and charity. However if, as often occurs, if lived as a privilege, with selfishness and arrogance, they become tools of corruption and death".

An example of this unjust privilege is found in the account of the vineyard of Naboth. The king Ahab wishes to acquire it since it was situated adjacent to the royal palace, but Naboth refuses since for Israel the land is God's, and receives His blessing which is handed from generation to generation. Ahab is indignant at receiving this refusal, which he perceives as an offence to his power, undermining his authority. His wife, Jezebel, which also considered royal power to be absolute, decides to eliminate Naboth and makes false witnesses accuse him before the elders and the authorities of having blasphemed and spoken ill of the king, crimes which carried the death penalty. Naboth was executed and the king inherited his vineyard.

"Recalling these events, Jesus tells us: 'You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave'. If the dimension of service is lost, power transforms into arrogance and oppression". The story of Naboth, continued the Pope, "is not a story of other times; it is also the story of today, of the powerful who exploit the poor, exploit the people, to have more money. It is the story of human trafficking, of slave labour, of poor people who work illegally and with the minimum salary to enrich the powerful. It is the story of corrupt politicians who want more and more".

The episode of Naboth's vineyard teaches us "where the exercise of authority without respect for life or justice and without mercy leads us. And here we see where the thirst for power leads: it becomes avarice, the desire to possess everything". Francis gave the example of the words of the prophet Isaiah, "who was not a communist", when he observed the avidity of the rich landowners who sought to acquire more and more houses and land. "Woe to those who join house to house, who add field to field, until there is no more room, and you are made to dwell alone in the midst of the land".

However, "God is greater than evil, and the dirty games human beings play, and in His mercy He sends the prophet Elijah to help Ahab convert. The king, faced with his sin, is humbled and asks for forgiveness. How good it would be if today's powerful exploiters were to do likewise!", exclaimed Francis. "The Lord accepts his penance, but an innocent man was killed and this inevitably has consequences. Indeed, the evil committed leaves painful traces, and the history of mankind bears the scars".

In this case too, mercy shows the path to follow as it is able to cure wounds and change history. "Divine mercy is stronger than the sin of men. It is stronger, this is the example of Ahab! We know its power, when we remember the coming of the Innocent Son of God Who made Himself man to destroy evil with His forgiveness. Jesus Christ is the true king, but His power is completely different. His throne is the cross. He is not a king who kills, but on the contrary gives His life. His approach to all, especially the weakest, defeats solitude and the destiny of death that sin leads to. Jesus Christ, with His closeness and tenderness, leads sinners into the space of grace and forgiveness. And this is God's mercy".


Vatican City, 24 February 2016 (VIS) – Yesterday afternoon the Holy Father received in audience Cardinal Reinhard Marx, archbishop of Munchen und Freising, Germany, coordinator of the Council for the Economy.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 24 February 2016 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed Msgr. Zenildo Luiz Pereira da Silva, C.SS.R., as prelate coadjutor bishop of Borba (area 98,650, population 157,900, Catholics 127,600, priests 11, religious 15), Brazil. The bishop-elect was born in Linhares, Brazil in 1968, gave his religious vows in 1997 and was ordained a priest in 2001. He has served as parish priest and superior of the Redemptorist vice-province of Amazonia, and is currently parish priest of the cathedral of "Santana e Sao Sebastiao" in the diocese of Coari.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Heydar Aliyev Foundation funds restoration of catacombs of Sts. Marcellinus and Peter

Vatican City, 23 February 2016 (VIS) – This morning Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology, along with Mehriban Aliyeva, president of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation (HAF), Azerbaijan, presented the results of the restoration of the Roman catacombs of Sts. Marcellinus and Peter "ad duas lauros", entirely funded by the HAF.

On the basis of an agreement signed in 2012, the Foundation presided over by Aliyev has funded the restoration of the paintings of the cubicle of Susanna and the fossor, the niche of Daniel, the arcosolium of Orpheus, the cubicle of Our Lady with two Magi, and the cubicle of the praying matron. The most advanced conservation techniques, especially laser-based cleaning, have enabled the removal of a tenacious black patina that had provided resistant to all traditional cleaning methods. The last procedure, recently completed, involved the cubicle of the "praying matron", in an advanced state of deterioration. The newly-revealed frescoes consist of a central medallion with the Good Shepherd surrounded by the Biblical episodes of Jonah, Daniel among the lions and Noah in the Ark. In the corners there are praying male figures and birds. On the walls there is a rich decorative pattern with floral, plant-based and fantasy elements. On the wall of the entrance there is the notable figure of a praying woman, which although only just recognisable before restoration, now makes a strong visual impact. The figure, framed by two slender trees, may represent the deceased entombed in the cubicle.

During the presentation, which took place at the Pontifical Council for Culture, Cardinal Ravasi and the president of the HAF announced that their collaboration will continue and its next objective will be the restoration of the monumental complex of St. Sebastian Outside-the-Walls on the Via Appia Antica, currently only partially open to the public. The agreement relates to an extraordinary collection of sarcophagi, some situation in the perimeter of the Basilica of St. Sebastian (Museum of Sculptures and Epigraphic Museum), others "in situ" in their mausoleums. The Pontifical Commission for Religious Art has proposed to the HAF a conservation programme for the restoration of around fifteen sarcophagi. Aliyeva expressed her appreciation of the proposal on behalf of the Foundation, and a new agreement will be signed for the financing of the restoration works to render the complex accessible to the public.

Theological and pastoral perspectives, a decade after "Deus caritas est"

Vatican City, 23 February 2016 (VIS) – An international conference entitled "Love will never end. Prospects ten years on from the Encyclical Deus caritas est" will be held on Thursday 25 February in the Vatican's New Synod Hall. Organised by the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum", the conference forms part of the programme of events for the Jubilee of Mercy and has the aim of examining in depth the theological and pastoral implications of Pope Benedict XVI's first Encyclical for today's world, especially in relation to the activity of those who work in the Church's charitable service. The event will be attended by, among others, representatives of the episcopal conferences and Catholic charitable organisations from all over the world.

The conference will begin with greetings from Msgr. Giampietro Dal Toso, secretary of the "Cor Unum", followed by an intervention from Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, entitled "The Encyclical Deus caritas est: a theological reading". The subsequent speakers will be Michel Thio, president of the International Confederation of St. Vincent de Paul, Marina Almeida Costa, director of Caritas Cabo Verde, and Roy Moussali, executive director of the Syrian Society for Social Development. In the afternoon the theme of the meaning of love for the three monotheistic religions will be considered by Rabbi David Shlomo Rosen, director of the Department of Religious Affairs of the American Jewish Committee of Jerusalem, Professor Saeed Ahmed Khan, lecturer at the Wayne State University of Detroit, U.S.A., and the philosopher Fabrice Hadjadj, director of the Institut Philanthropos of the University of Fribourg, Switzerland.

The second day will begin with a presentation from Cardinal Luis Antonio G. Tagle, archbishop of Manila, Philippines and president of Caritas Internationalis, entitled "The importance of Deus caritas est for the charitable service of the Church today", followed by interventions from Alejandro Marius, president of the Asociacion Civil Trabajo y Persona, Venezuela, and Eduardo M. Almeida, representative in Paraguay of the Inter-American Bank. At midday the participants will be received in audience by Pope Francis in the Apostolic Palace. The afternoon session will open with contributions from Rev. Professor Paolo Asolan, lecturer at the Pontifical Lateran University, Rome, and Professor Rainer Gehrig, lecturer at the Catholic University of Murcia, Spain.

The morning sessions will be moderated by Martina Pastorelli, president of Catholic Voices Italia, and the afternoon sessions by Professor Luca Tuninetti, lecturer at the Pontifical Urbanian University, Rome.

Holy Mass will be celebrated on 25 and 26 February at 6 p.m. in the Church of Santa Maria della Pietà in Camposanto dei Teutonici (Our Lady of Mercy in the German Cemetery). On the first day Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes, president emeritus of "Cor Unum"; will preside, and on the second, Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

The conference will be fully broadcast by web streaming on the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum" website, at www.corunumjubilaeum.va .

In memoriam

Vatican City, 23 February 2016 (VIS) – The following prelates have died in recent weeks:

- Bishop Ian Murray, emeritus of Argyll and The Isles, Scotland, United Kingdom, on 22 January at the age of 83.

- Bishop Emile Jean Marie Henri Joseph Destombes, M.E.P., apostolic vicar emeritus of Phnom-Penh, Cambodia, on 28 January at the age of 80.

- Bishop John Baptist Kakubi, emeritus of Mbarara, Uganda, on 11 February at the age of 86.

- Bishop Barry Philip Jones of Christchurch, New Zealand, on 13 February at the age of 74.

- Archbishop Carlos Quintero Arce, emeritus of Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico, on 15 February at the age of 96.

- Bishop Gregorio Garavito Jimenez, S.M.M., emeritus of Villavicencio, Colombia, on 16 February at the age of 96.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Jubilee of the Curia: be a model for all

Vatican City, 22 February 2016 (VIS) – At 10.30 a.m. today, the Solemnity of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle, the Holy Father presided at a Holy Mass celebrated in the Vatican Basilica for the Jubilee of the Roman Curia, the Governorate and the Institutions of the Holy See. All the participants, including the Pope, then carried out a procession of faith from the Paul VI Hall to the Basilica, passing through the Holy Door.

"At this time, the Lord Jesus addresses a question to every one of us: 'But who do you say that I am?'. A clear and direct question, from which it is not possible to escape or remain neutral, nor is it possible to postpone the answer or delegate it to someone else. But there is nothing inquisitional about this; instead, it is full of love! The love of our only Master, Who today calls us to renew our faith in Him, recognising Him as the Son of God and the Lord of our life. And the first one called to renew his profession of faith is the Successor of Peter, who bears the responsibility of confirming his brothers".

"Let us allow grace to form again our heart so as to believe, and open our mouth to fulfil the profession of faith and obtain salvation. Let us, then, make Peter's words our own: 'You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God'. May our thought and our gaze be fixed on Jesus Christ, the beginning and end of every action of the Church. He is the foundation and no-one may lay another. He is the 'stone' on which we must build. St. Augustine recalls this with expressive words when he writes that the Church, although agitated and disturbed by the upheavals of history, does not fall down, because she is built on stone, from which Peter's name is derived. It is not the stone that derives its name from Peter, but Peter from the stone, just as it is not the name Christ that derives from Christian, but Christian from Christ. The stone is Christ, the foundation on which Peter too was built".

Francis emphasised that "from this profession of faith there derives, for each one of us, the task of responding to this call from God. Pastors, first and foremost, are required to have as a model God Himself Who takes care of His flock. … It is also good for us, called to be Pastors in the Church, to let the face of God the Good Shepherd illuminate us, purify us, transform us and restore us, fully renewed in our mission. In our workplaces too may we feel, cultivate and practice a strong pastoral sense, especially towards the people we encounter every day. May no-one feel neglected or mistreated, but may everyone be able to experience, especially here, the loving care of the Good Shepherd".

"We are called upon to be God's collaborators in a task as fundamental and unique as bearing witness by our existence the strength of the grace that transforms and the power of the Spirit that renews. Let us allow the Lord to free us from every temptation that distances us from the essence of our mission, and let us rediscover the beauty of professing our faith in the Lord Jesus. Faith to the ministry matches well with the mercy we wish to experience. In the Sacred Scripture, indeed, faithfulness and mercy are inseparable. Where there is one there is the other, and it is precisely in their reciprocal nature and complementarity that we can see the very presence of the Good Shepherd. The faithfulness that is required of us is that of acting in accordance with Christ's heart. As we have heard in the words of the apostle Peter, we must tend to our flock with a generous heart and become a model for all. In this way, 'when the Chief Shepherd appears', we will be able to receive 'the crown of glory that will never fade away'".

Angelus: the Pope recounts his apostolic trip to Mexico

Vatican City, 21 February 2016 (VIS) – Pope Francis described his trip to Mexico as "an experience of transfiguration" in his reflection before this Sunday's Angelus. Starting from the Gospel reading of this second Sunday of Lent, dedicated to the Transfiguration of Jesus on Mount Tabor, the Holy Father spoke about his visit to the land of the Virgin of Guadalupe.

In Mexico, he said "the Lord has shown us the light of His glory through the Body of the Church, of His holy people that live in this land — a body so often wounded, a people so often oppressed and despised, whose dignity is violated. In fact, the various encounters experienced in Mexico were truly full of light: the light of a faith that transfigures faces and illumines our path".

"The spiritual 'centre of gravity' of my pilgrimage was the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe", he added. "To remain in silence before the image of the Mother was what suggested the trip to me. I thank God for giving me this opportunity. I contemplated and let myself to be gazed upon by She whose eyes hold the gaze of all of her children, the sorrows of violence, kidnapping and murders, the violence against so many poor people, against so many women. Guadalupe is the most visited Marian sanctuary in the world. From all of America, people go to pray there where the ‘Virgin Morenita’ appeared to the Indian St. Juan Diego, giving rise to the evangelisation of the continent and its new civilization, a fruit of encounter between diverse cultures".

"It is precisely this inheritance that the Lord has entrusted to Mexico: to protect the wealth of diversity, and at the same time, to manifest the harmony of a common faith: a simple and robust faith, accompanied by a great force of vitality and humanity", explained the Pope. "Like my predecessors, I also went to confirm the Mexican people in their faith, but at the same time to be confirmed. I have gathered fully this gift so that it may be of benefit to the universal Church".

"A shining example of what I am saying was given by families: Mexican families welcomed me with joy as a messenger of Christ and pastor of the Church. But at the same time, they gave me clear and strong witness of lived faith, of faith that transfigures life, for the edification of all Christian families in the world. The same may be said about the young, consecrated persons, priests, workers and the imprisoned".

After giving thanks to the Virgin of Guadalupe for this pilgrimage and acknowledging the contribution of the civil and ecclesiastical authorities of Mexico and all those who made the trip possible, Francis gave special praise to the Holy Trinity for the encounter in Cuba with Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, a meeting that was greatly desired by previous popes.

"This event too is a prophetic light of the Resurrection, which the world today needs more than ever. May the Holy Mother of God continue to guide us in the path of friendship and unity. Let us pray to the Virgin of Kazan, an icon of whom was given to me by Patriarch Kirill".

Francis: no capital punishment during the Year of Mercy

Vatican City, 22 February 2016 (VIS) – After today's Angelus prayer, Pope Francis spoke about the international conference “For a World Without the Death Penalty,” organised by the Sant’Egidio Community, which begins in Rome tomorrow, and expressed his hope that it may inspire fresh efforts towards the abolition of the death penalty.

The Pope observed that the increasingly strong public opposition to the death penalty, even as an instrument of legitimate social defence, is a sign of hope. "Indeed, modern societies are able to effectively control crime without definitively removing from the criminal the possibility of redeeming himself. The issue lies in the context of a perspective on penal justice that increasingly conforms to the dignity of man and God’s design for man and for society. And also penal justice open to the hope of being reintegrated in society. The command “thou shalt not kill” has absolute value and refers to the guilty as well as the innocent.

"The Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy is a good opportunity to promote in the world an increasingly mature respect for life and the dignity of each person. Because even a criminal has the inviolable right to life, a gift of God. I appeal to the consciences of those who govern, so that an international consensus may be reached for the abolition of the death penalty. I propose to those among them who are Catholic to make an exemplary gesture of courage: that the death penalty not be applied in this Holy Year of Mercy".

"All Christians and men and women of good will are called today to work not only for the abolition of the death penalty, but also to improve conditions in prisons, in respect for human dignity and the dignity of those deprived of freedom".

The Pope also mentioned next Thursday's Via Crucis through the streets of Rome, organised by the Pope Juan XXIII Foundation, founded by the priest Oreste Benzi, in support of women who are victims of human trafficking, and to pray for them.

Before concluding the Pope reiterated that Lent is a good time to undertake a path of conversion, based on mercy. "For this, I have decided to give to you here in the Square a 'spiritual medicine' called 'Misericordina'. We did this once before, but this one is better, it is 'Misericordina-Plus': a box with a rosary and an image of the Merciful Jesus. Volunteers, including the poor, the homeless, refugees and also religious, will now distribute them. Receive this gift as a spiritual aid to help spread forgiveness and fraternity, especially in this year of mercy".

Jubilee audience: mercy and commitment

Vatican City, 20 February 2016 (VIS) – This morning fifty thousand people attended the Holy Father's Jubilee audience in St. Peter's Square, following his return on Thursday from his apostolic trip in Mexico. The Pope's catechesis was on the theme of the commitment Christians are called to make to offer a concrete sign of God's closeness to the people they encounter.

"The Jubilee of Mercy is an opportunity to enter in depth into the mystery of God's goodness and love", he said. "In this Lenten time, the Church invites us to get to know better the Lord Jesus, and to live faith in a way coherent with a lifestyle that expresses the Father's mercy. My life, my attitude, my way of going about the world must be a concrete sign of the fact that God is close to us. Little gestures of love, of tenderness, of attention, that let us think that the Lord is with us, close to us. In this way we open the door of mercy".

For this, it is necessary to be committed, and this means assuming a responsibility, a task in relation to someone, and fulfilling it with fidelity, dedication and care. "Every day we are asked to commit ourselves to the things we do: in prayer, in work, in study, even in sport. … In short, committing oneself means acting with good will and effort to improve life", explained the Pope.

"God too has committed Himself to us", he continued. "His first commitment was that of creating the world, and despite our attempts to spoil it, He is committed to keeping it alive. But His greatest commitment was that of giving Jesus to us. … St. Paul recalls this when he writes that God 'did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all'.And, by virtue of this, together with Jesus the Father will give us everything we need".

In the Gospel it is very easy to see how God's commitment to us is made manifest. "In Jesus, God commits Himself fully in order to restore hope to the poor, to those who are deprived of their dignity, to outsiders, the sick, the imprisoned, and to sinners who welcome Him with good will. In all of this, Jesus was the living expression of the Father's mercy". Francis highlighted the fact that Jesus' welcome to sinners: "if we think of it in a human way, the sinner would be an enemy of Jesus, an enemy of God, but He drew close to them with goodness, He loved them and He changed their heart. We are all sinners, all of us. We all have some blame before God. But we must not be distrustful: He draws close to us to offer us consolation, mercy and forgiveness. This is God's commitment, and this is why He sent Jesus to us, to be close to us, to all of us, and to open the door of His love, His heart and His mercy".

Taking as a starting point the merciful love with which Jesus expressed God's commitment, we too can and must match His love with our effort, especially in the situations of greatest need, when there is the greatest thirst for hope. I think of our efforts with abandoned people, with those who have very serious disabilities, with the gravely ill, with the dying, and with those who are no longer able to express their gratitude. … We bring God's mercy to all these situations through commitment in life, which bears witness to our faith in Jesus. We must always bring with us this caress from God – because God has caressed us with His mercy – to those who are in need of it, to those who have suffering in their heart or who are sad. We must approach them with that caress from God, which is the same one God gave to us".

Francis concluded his catechesis by expressing his hope that the Jubilee may contribute to helping our mind and our heart to be profoundly aware of God's commitment to each one of us, and in this way, transform our life in a commitment to mercy for all.

Communique of the Secretariat for Communications

Vatican City, 22 February 2016 (VIS) – The Secretariat for Communications today issued the following communique:

"Due to the end of the term of service at Vatican Radio of the Director General Fr. Federico Lombardi and the Managing Director Alberto Gasbarri, the prefect for the Secretariat for Communications, Msgr. Dario Vigano, upon directions from the Secretariat of State, has appointed Giacomo Ghisani as "ad interim" legal representative and head of the Directorate of Vatican Radio, responsible for the day-to-day management of Vatican Radio in the context of the current restructuring of Vatican communications".

In an explanatory note, it is mentioned that by the Motu Proprio "The current communications context", dated 27 June 2015, Pope Francis instituted the Secretariat for Communications to integrate all the entities hitherto concerned with communication into a new dicastery of the Roman Curia. These structures were the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, the Holy See Press Office, the Vatican Internet Service, the Vatican Television Centre, L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican Typography, the Photographic Service and the Vatican Publishing House.

On 9 June of the same year, a feasibility study and working calendar were presented to the Council of Cardinals (the so-called C9), indicating the gradual process of unification of the existing entities; "such bodies", it specifies, "from the date of the publication of the present Motu Proprio, shall continue their respective duties, observing however the indications provided by the Secretariat for Communications".

The process has begun, and on 1 January 2016 the Pontifical Council for Social Communications and the Holy See Press Office were unified, from an administrative and management point of view. Nothing has been modified with regard to the competence of the Secretariat of State in relation to institutional communication.

This year, in accordance with the presented and approved time scale, the complex but certainly positive unification of Vatican Radio and the Vatican Television Centre was expected to take place. This was implemented for some services (such as the distribution of sound and images for papal ceremonies and other important Vatican events), and for the better deployment of human resources.

In this context it is clear why at the end of February, at the end of their respective five-year mandates and the upcoming retirements of two senior figures, the Director General Fr. Federico Lombardi and the Managing Director Alberto Gasbarri, they will not be substituted with figures in similar directing roles. Instead a legal representative and and head of the administrative office will be appointed, in the single person of Giacomo Ghisani, currently deputy director of the General Directorate of the Secretariat for Communications, who has an excellent knowledge of Vatican Radio having worked there for many years as head of the legal and international relations office.

The restructuring process will be accompanied by the formulation of new Statutes not only for the Dicastery but also the connected body that will ensure legal representation both in institutional contexts and at European and international level. The new Statutes will also reformulate the staffing plans of the unified bodies.

"The task that awaits us offers a great opportunity to evaluate in both entities the areas of excellence and our patrimony of multilingualism and multiculturalism", the note says.

"In this phase, the Vatican Television Centre will continue to refer to Stefano D'Agostini for the purposes of ordinary administration. The staff of Vatican Radio will refer to Giacomo Ghisani for administrative matters and to Fr. Andrzej Majewski for editorial activities and the situation of the various language versions (that is, the current Directorate of Programming). Technological matters, including acquisitions and the development of projects (the activity and competence of the current Technical Directorate) it will refer to Sandro Piervenanzi.

The Secretariat for Communications will follow this process with care and attention, to facilitate solutions to eventual difficulties and to guarantee its success.


Vatican City, 22 February 2016 (VIS) – The Holy Father received in audience:

- Egas da Costa Freitas, ambassador of East Timor to the Holy See, presenting his credential letters;

- Rogelio Francisco Emilio Pfirter, ambassador of Argentina to the Holy See, presenting his credential letters.

On Friday, 19 February the Holy Father received in audience Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, accompanied by Bishop Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, M.C.C.J., secretary of the same dicastery.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 22 February 2016 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed Fr. Angel Antonio Recinos Lemus as bishop of Zacapa y Santo Cristo de Esquipulas (area 5,066. population 613,000, Catholics 528,000, priests 32, permanent deacons 1, religious 68), Guatemala. The bishop-elect was born in Azulco, Guatemala in 1963 and was ordained a priest in 1994. He holds a licentiate in biblical theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, and has served in a number of academic, administrative and pastoral roles, including seminary professor, director of the Institute of Theology of the National Seminary, head of pastoral ministry of indigenous peoples, representative of Guatemale in the information network of the Church in Latin America, co-ordinator of the pastoral commission for the defence of the environment, and parish priest in various parishes. He is currently parish priest of Nuestra Senora de Lourdes and in El Progreso Achuapa, Jutiapa.

On Saturday, 20 February, the Holy Father appointed Bishop Ricardo Lingan Baccay, auxiliary of the archdiocese of Tuguegarao, Philippines, as bishop of Alaminos (area 24,492, population 684,000, Catholics 565,000, priests 52, religious 111), Philippines.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Interview with the Pope on his return flight from Mexico

Vatican City, 19 February 2016 (VIS) – As is customary in his apostolic trips, the Pope answered questions posed by journalists during the return flight to Rome, on his visit to Mexico and his encounter in Havana, Cuba with the Patriarch Kirill. The Holy Father addressed a series of themes that ranged from his Mexican experience to the problem of paedophilia, immigration to the European situation, as well as the repercussions of the document signed with the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, the law on civil unions and the various problems linked to the family. He also expressed his hope to meet with Imam of the Mosque of Al-Azhar and revealed that he would like to visit China.

The following is a summary of the questions asked by journalists and the replies given by the Pope:

Question: "Holy Father, thousands of people are missing in Mexico, but the case of the Ayotzinapa 43 is emblematic. I would like to ask you why you did not meet with their families and also if you could offer a message to the families of the thousands of missing persons".

Pope Francis: "My messages make continual reference to assassinations, deaths, and lives taken by all these bands of drug traffickers, and by traffickers of human beings. I spoke about these problems as one of the wounds from which Mexico suffers. There have been some attempts to receive people, and there were many groups, even opposed to each other, with internal battles. Therefore I preferred to say that at the Mass I would have seen everyone, in the Mass at Juarez if they preferred, or at another, but I was open to this eventuality. It was practically impossible to receive all the groups who, on the other hand, were opposed to each other. It is a difficult situation to understand clearly, for me, as a foreigner. But I believe that Mexican society is a victim of this: of crimes, of this tendency to make people disappear, to discard them. I spoke about this in my discourses where I could. It is a great source of pain that I bear, as this people does not deserve to experience a tragedy like this".

Question: "The theme of paedophilia, as you know, has very dangerous and painful roots in Mexico. The case of Fr. Maciel has left important scars, especially for the victims. The victims continue to feel that they are not protected by the Church. ...What do you think about this idea that when priests are discovered in a case of this nature, they are to be moved to another parish, and nothing else. How do you regard this matter?".

Pope Francis: "A bishop who moves a priest to a different parish if he detects a case of paedophilia is without conscience and the best thing for him to do would be to resign. Secondly, I would like to return to the Maciel case. Here I would like to render homage to a man who battled in a moment in which he did not have the strength to impose himself, to the point of being able to do so: Cardinal Ratzinger, a man who had all the documentation. When he was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith he had all the documentation in his hands, he carried out investigations … but was not able continue up to the end. But if you remember, ten days before St. John Paul II died, that Good Friday Via Crucis, he said to all the Church that it was necessary to clean up all the 'filth' in the Church. In the Mass Pro Eligendo Pontifice – he was no fool, he knew he was a candidate – he did not try to conceal his position, he said exactly the same thing. That is, he was the courageous man who helped greatly to open this door. Thirdly, we are working hard. With the Cardinal Secretary of State, in discussion, and also with the group of nine cardinal counsellors, I decided to appoint a third secretariat adjunct to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is occupied exclusively with these cases, because the Congregation is unable to manage them with all it has to do, and therefore this secretariat knows how to manage this. Further more, the Court of Appeal was constituted, presided over by Msgr. Scicluna, which is dealing with the cases of second instance, on appeal. … Another thing that is working very well is the Commission for the Protection of Minors. … With regard to Maciel, returning to the Congregation, action has been taken and now the Congregation, the governance of the Congregation is semi-commissioned, or rather the superior general is elected by the Council, by the General Chapter, but the Vicar is chosen by the Pope. Two general counsellors are elected by the General Chapter and the other two are chosen by the Pope, so that we are able to help them to review old accounts".

Question: "You spoke very eloquently about the problems of immigrants. On the other side of the border, however, there is a rather tough electoral campaign in progress. One of the candidates to the White House, the Republican Donald Trump, recently said in an interview that His Holiness is a man of politics or indeed even a pawn in the hands of the Mexican government to favour a policy of immigration. He has declared that, if elected, he intends to construct a 2,500 kilometre wall along the border between Mexico and the United States, and to deport eleven million illegal immigrants, thus separating families, and so on. I would like to ask, first of all, what you think of these accusations and whether an American Catholic can vote for such a person".

Pope Francis: "I thank God that he has said I am a politician, as Aristotle defined the human being as an 'animal politicus': at least I am a human being! And that I am a pawn … perhaps, I do not know. I will leave that to your judgement, to the people. A person who thinks only of building walls, wherever that may be, and not bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the Gospel. With regard to what I would advise, to vote or not to vote: I would not like to become involved. I would say only that this man is not Christian. It is necessary to see if he has said these things, and for this reason I would give the benefit of the doubt".

Question: "The encounter with the Russian patriarch Kirill and the signing of the Joint Declaration was acclaimed throughout the world as an historic step. But now, already, in Ukraine the Greek Catholics feel betrayed and speak about a 'political document', supporting Russian policy. On the ground, the war of words has broken out again".

Pope Francis: "It is as document that is open to discussion. I would also add that Ukraine is a country that is going through a time of war, of suffering, with many interpretations. I have mentioned the Ukrainian people asking many times for prayers and closeness to them, both in the Angelus and in the Wednesday general audiences. But the historical fact of a war – everyone has their own idea: what is this war? Who started it? What must be done? What must not be done? It is clear that this is an historic problem, but also an existential problem for the country, and it speaks of suffering. And it is in this context that I insert this paragraph, and what the faithful say can be understood. [In an interview] the Ukrainian Catholic archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk said that many faithful had called or written to him saying they felt profoundly disappointed or betrayed by Rome. It is understandable that a people in that situation feels this way. The document is debatable on this question of Ukraine, but there it is said that the war is to stop and the conflict is to be managed through agreements. I too have personally expressed my hope that the Minsk Accords go ahead, and that what is written with the hand is not cancelled out with the elbow. The Church of Rome and the Pope have always said, 'seek peace'".

Question: "The Italian parliament is discussing the law on civil unions, an issue that is giving rise not only to major political conflicts, but also to fierce debate in society and among Catholics".

Pope Francis: "Firstly I do not know how things are in the Italian parliament. The Pope does not get involved in Italian politics. At the first meeting I had with the Italian bishops in May 2013, one of the three things I said was: with the Italian government you are on your own. The Pope is for everybody and he cannot get involved in the specific internal politics of a country. This is not the role of the Pope. What I think is what the Church thinks and has so often said – because this is not the first country to have this experience, there are so many – I think what the Church has always said about this".

Question: "For several weeks there has been great concern in many Latin American countries, and also in Europe, regarding the Zika virus. The greatest risk would be for pregnant women. Some authorities have proposed abortion, or avoiding pregnancy. With regard to avoiding pregnancy, on this issue, can the Church take into consideration the concept of 'the lesser of two evils?'"

Pope Francis: "Abortion is not the lesser of two evils. It is a crime, an absolute evil. On the ‘lesser evil,’ avoiding pregnancy, we speak in terms of a conflict between the fifth and sixth commandments. Paul VI, a great man, in a difficult situation in Africa, permitted nuns to use contraceptives in cases of rape. Do not confuse the evil of avoiding pregnancy by itself, with abortion. … On the other hand, avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil. In certain cases, as in this one, or in the one I mentioned of Blessed Paul VI, it was clear. I also urge doctors to do their utmost to find vaccines against … this disease. Work needs to be done on this".

Question: "You will soon receive the Charlemagne Prize, one of the most prestigious awards in the European Community. … Do you have a word for us in this situation of crisis in Europe?"

Pope Francis: "First, about the Charlemagne Prize. I had the habit of not accepting prizes or honours, not out of humility, but because I do not like these things. … But in this case, I would not say I was 'forced', but convinced by the holy and theological stubbornness of Cardinal Kasper. … I accepted and said 'yes, but in the Vatican'. And I offer it to Europe, as a co-decoration for Europe, a prize so that Europe may do as I said at Strasbourg; that it may no longer be 'grandmother Europe' but 'mother Europe'. Secondly, reading the news the other day about this crisis and so on … there was one word that I liked … the 're-foundation' of the European Union. I thought of the great fathers, but today where is there a Schuman, an Adenauer, the great statesmen who after the war founded the European Union. I like this idea of the re-foundation of the European Union, maybe it can be done, because Europe – I do not say is unique, but it has a strength, a culture, a history that cannot be lost, and we must do everything so that the European Union has the strength and also the inspiration to go forward".

Question: "Holy Father, you have spoken much about families and the Year of Mercy in this trip. Some wonder how a Church that claims to be merciful can forgive a murderer more easily than someone who has divorced and remarried?"

Pope Francis: "On the family, two synods have spoken. The Pope has spoken on this all year in the Wednesday Catechisms. The question is true, you posed it very well. The post-Synod document … reviews everything the Synod has said on conflicts, wounded families and the pastoral (care) of wounded families. It is one of our concerns. Another is the preparation for marriage. … Preparation for marriage is very important. ... I believe it is something that in the Church, in common pastoral ministry, at least in my country, in South America, the Church has not valued much. For example, it does not happen so much now, but some years ago in my homeland there was a habit, something called ‘casamiento de apuro', a marriage in haste because of an unplanned pregnancy, to protect the honour of the family. There, the spouses were not free and often this type of marriage is null. As a bishop I forbade my priests to celebrate this type of marriage. … I would say, let the baby come, let them continue as fiancées, and when they feel like they can continue for the rest of their lives, then they could go ahead. … Another very interesting chapter is the education of children: the victims of family problems are the children. … Another interesting thing from the meeting with families in Tuxtla – there was a couple, married again in second union, and 'integrated' in the pastoral ministry of the Church. The key phrase used by the synod, which I’ll take up again, is to ‘integrate’ wounded families, remarried couples and so on in the life of the Church. But the children who in the middle must not be forgotten. They are the primary victims, both of these wounds, and of conditions of poverty, work, and so on".

Question: "Does that mean they can receive Communion?"

Pope Francis: "This is the last thing. Integrating in the Church does not mean receiving communion. … It is a path towards integration, all doors are open, but we cannot say, ‘from here on they can have communion.’ This would be an injury also to marriage, to the couple, because it would not allow them to proceed on this path of integration. And the couple in Tuxtla were happy. They used a very beautiful expression: we do not receive Eucharistic communion, but we receive communion when we visit hospitals, in this service, and so forth. Their integration has remained there. If there is something more, the Lord will tell them, but it is a path, a road".

Question: "The media have referred to the intense correspondence John Paul II and the American philosopher, Ana Teresa Tymieniecka. … According to His Holiness, can a Pope have such an intimate relationship with a woman?"

Pope Francis: "I would say that a man who does not know how to have a relationship of friendship with a woman … well, he is a man who is missing something. … A friendship with a woman is not a sin. It is a friendship. … But the Pope is a man. The Pope needs the input of women, too. And the Pope, too, has a heart that can have a healthy, holy friendship with a woman. There are saint-friends – Francis and Clare, Teresa and John of the Cross. ... But women are still not well considered; we have not understood the good a woman can do for the life of a priest and of the church in the sense of counsel, help and healthy friendship".

Question: "On the topic of the law that is being considered in the Italian parliament: it is a law that in some ways is about other countries, because other countries have laws about unions among people of the same sex. There is a document from the Congregation for the Doctrine for the Faith from 2003 that dedicates … a chapter to the position of Catholic parliamentarians in relation this question. It says expressly that Catholic parliamentarians must not vote for these laws. I wanted to ask, first of all, is this document of 2003 still in effect? What is the position a Catholic parliamentarian must take? Also, after Moscow, Cairo: is there another 'thawing' on the horizon? I refer to the audience His Holiness hopes for with the 'Pope of the Sunnis', if we may call him thus: the Imam of Al Azhar".

Pope Francis: "On this second issue, Msgr. Ayuso, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue presided by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, went to meet the deputy to the Imam, and to greet the Imam. … I want to meet him. I know that he would like it. We are looking for a way, always through Cardinal Tauran because that is the way. But we we achieve this. Regarding the first theme: I do not remember that 2003 document from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, but every Catholic parliamentarian must vote according their well-formed conscience. I would say only this. I think it is sufficient. … With regard to persons of the same sex, I repeat what I said on the trip to Rio di Janeiro. It is in the Catechism of the Catholic Church".

Question: "Thank you for this trip to Mexico. … And we are already thinking about future trips. When are you going to go to Argentina, where they have been waiting for you for a long time? When will you return to Latin America, or will you go to China?"

Pope Francis: "I would love to go to China! ... I would like to say something just about the Mexican people. It is a population that has a great wealth … a culture that goes back millennia. … It is a people of great faith. They have also suffered religious persecution. There are martyrs, and I will now canonize two of them. It is a people that you cannot easily explain, because the word ‘people’ is not a logical category, it’s a mythical category. The Mexican people cannot be explained: you cannot explain this wealth, this history, this joy, the capacity to celebrate amid tragedy. … A nation that nevertheless still has this vitality can be explained only by Guadalupe. And I invite you to seriously study the facts of Guadalupe. The Madonna is there. I cannot find another explanation. … There are good books that explain it, that also explain the painting and its meaning. In this way you can understand better this great and beautiful people".
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