Thursday, March 21, 2013


Vatican City, 20 March 2013 (VIS) – Early this afternoon in the Clementine Hall of the Vatican Apostolic Palace, Pope Francis received fraternal delegates, that is, representative envoys of Churches, Ecclesial Communities, and international ecumenical organizations, as well as representatives of non-Christian Religions, who have come to Rome for the inauguration of his ministry as Bishop of Rome and successor of the Apostle Peter.
On behalf of those present, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, greeted the Pope, recalling the “elevated, serious, and difficult task” that his ministry bears with it. He also reiterated the need for the Churches to shun worldly distractions and to work on the unity between Christians.
Francis, who listened to the words of the Patriarch seated on an armchair rather than the throne that is customarily used in the Clementine Hall, thanked Bartholomew I, calling him “my brother Andrew”, since the patriarchs of Constantinople are considered the successors of the Apostle Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter. He then said that, thanks to the presence at yesterday's Mass of representatives of the various communities, he felt “in an even stronger way, the prayer for unity among the believers in Christ and [glimpsed] prefigured in some way, its full realization, which depends on God's plan and our sincere cooperation.”
“I begin my apostolic ministry,” he continued, “in this year that my venerated predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, with a truly inspired intuition, proclaimed the Year of Faith for the Catholic Church. With this initiative, which I wish to continue and which I hope serves as a stimulus for each of us in our journey of faith, he wanted to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, proposing a type of pilgrimage to what is essential for every Christian: a personal and transforming relationship with Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who died and rose again for our salvation. The heart of the Council's message lies precisely in the desire to proclaim this ever-valid treasure of the faith to the persons of our time.”
Francis then recalled the image and words of Pope John XXIII at the opening of the Council: “The Catholic Church considers it her duty to actively work so as to bring about the great mystery of that unity for which Jesus Christ prayed so ardently to His Father in heaven on the eve of his sacrifice.” He continued saying: “Yes, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we all feel intimately joined in our Saviour's prayer at the Last Supper, to his call: 'ut unum sint'. Let us call on our merciful Father that we may fully live that faith that we received as a gift on the day of our Baptism and to be able to witness to it freely, joyfully, and courageously. This will be the best way we can serve the cause of unity among Christians, a service of hope for a world that is still marked by divisions, differences, and rivalries.”
“For my part, I wish to assure you, following in the path of my predecessors, of my firm will to continue on the path of ecumenical dialogue ... I ask you to take my cordial greetings and assurance of my remembrance in the Lord Jesus to the Churches and Christian Communities that you represent here. I also ask of you the kindness of a special prayer for myself, so that I might be a Pastor in harmony with Christ's heart.”
Then, addressing the representatives of the Jewish communities, he emphasized “the very special spiritual bond” that they have with Christians. Quoting the Vatican II declaration Nostra Aetate, he said: “'The Church of Christ acknowledges that ... the beginnings of her faith and her election are found already among the Patriarchs, Moses and the prophets.' … I am confident that, with the help of the Almighty, we can profitably continue that fraternal dialogue that the Council hoped for and that has been carried out, bearing not few fruits, especially over the last few decades.”
The Pope then greeted those belonging to other religious traditions, first of all the Muslims who “adore the one, living, and merciful God and who call upon Him in prayer.” Then, addressing all those gathered, he said: “I really appreciate your presence. In it I see a tangible sign of the desire to grow in mutual respect and cooperation for the common good of humanity.”
“The Catholic Church is aware of the importance of the promotion of friendship and respect between men and women of different religious traditions. I want to repeat this: the promotion of friendship and respect between men and women of different religious traditions.”.. The Church “is also aware of the responsibility that we all bear to this our world, to all of creation, which we should love and protect. And we can do much for the good of the poorest, of the weak and suffering, to promote justice and reconciliation, to build peace. But, above all, we must keep alive the thirst for the Absolute in the world, not allowing a one-dimensional vision of the human person, in which humanity is reduced to that which it produces and consumes, to prevail. This is one of the most dangerous pitfalls of our times.”
“We know how, in recent times, violence has produced an attempt to eliminate God and the divine from the horizon of humanity, and we feel the value of witnessing in our societies to the original openness to the transcendent that is inscribed in the human heart. In this, we also feel close to all men and women who, although not claiming to belong to any religious tradition, still feel themselves to be in search of truth, goodness, and beauty, God's Truth, Goodness, and Beauty, and who are our precious allies in the effort to defend human dignity, in building a peaceful coexistence between peoples, and in carefully protecting creation.”

Vatican City, 19 March 2013 (VIS) – To protect with tenderness. That is the call to each of us. It is the new Pope's message. Perhaps it will be the directive of his government. Clear, simple, deep, compelling. Spoken in Italian and lasting no more than twenty minutes. The crowd gathered in St. Peter's Square remained attentive throughout the celebration, which lasted just under the two hours that had been planned.
“This is a punctual Pope. Even a bit ahead of schedule. At least that's how it was today,” said a German pilgrim, advanced in age, who had been waiting for hours in front of a giant screen set up in Via della Conciliazione, the street that runs in front of the Vatican. He had been watching as, little by little, thousands more gathered in the square. He was right. The Pope's Jeep appeared in St. Peter's Square around 8:50am. Standing up in the back, Pope Francis in his white cassock, his mozzetta, his black shoes, and his pectoral cross (the one he has had since being appointed bishop) smiled as he greeted and blessed those he passed. People began to run to him with their flags, their children, their friends, their sick... And then Francis picked up a baby in his arms and, to everyone's astonishment, got down from the car. What was going on? He had seen a handicapped man and wanted to embrace and bless him.
This is the new Pope: the Argentine, the first Pope from the Americas, the first Francis, leader of the Catholic Church who was presented to the world today and who, in the few days since his election, has excited so many. People already know him as the “close” Pope, the “simple” Pope, the Pope who “is like a father”, who greets the crowds with a “good afternoon” and says goodbye with an “enjoy your lunch”. He is the Pope who, first thing this morning, made a phone call to his native land where his countrymen and women had gathered in Buenos Aires' Plaza de Mayo. Surprising everyone with the call, live over the phone, he left them with a message: “Do not be afraid.” They were the same words spoken by one of his predecessors in 1978, the Polish Pope Karol Wojtyla, Blessed John Paul II.
This is the first time that Pope Francis has taken the Popemobile through the square and the people wanted to see him better, closer... The new Pope moved through them and then went back around again in what was, perhaps, the longest trip that a Roman pontiff has ever made around the square. He travelled over the ground that, twenty-one centuries earlier, had been occupied by the Circus of Nero. The ground where modern investigators have confirmed the tradition of the site of St. Peter's martyrdom: Peter the fisherman, the first Pope of the Catholic Church, whose remains are still conserved in the same place. Of that ancient vista perhaps the only thing that remains is the great obelisk, brought to Rome from Heliopolis by order of the emperor Caligula. It is the same obelisk that hundreds of workers have been toiling around all night to prepare for the historic event.
Today, twenty-one centuries later, there are other witnesses and the spectacle is different but the protagonist is again a “common man”. Jorge Mario Bergoglio, S.J., Argentine, 76 years-old, a chemical technician. His followers may number over 1,165,714,000: the number of Catholics in the world, which is, approximately, one out of every six. In the “bleachers” this time are men and women who have come from over 132 countries around the world. They have come “because they wanted to”, as the Holy See emphasized: “There were no 'invitations' sent out. All who wish to come are warmly welcomed. It must be made clear that no one has privileged status or will be refused.” And so they have come: six sovereigns, three crown princes, 31 heads of state, 11 heads of government... more than 250 Catholic bishops and 1200 priests and seminarians... But those numbers do not count the men, women, youth, elderly, those of every type, faith, language, culture, class, status, and opinion who also came.
On the terrace of the Charlemagne Wing (the left-hand side colonnade of the square, if you are facing the Basilica) were positioned the cameras of some of the nearly 6000 journalists covering the event. Some of them saw the dawn; others were even there at 4:00am. For many of them, this will be their final event to cover after following developments day-by-day, including the almost-daily press conferences held by Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, who yesterday was presented with a plaque and press pass by the Italian Agency for the Associated Press as a thank you on behalf of all the journalists.
But the ceremony begins. Within the Basilica, the Holy Father Francis venerates St. Peter at his tomb. At this important moment he chose to be accompanied by the ten Patriarchs and Major Archbishops of the Eastern Rite Catholic Churches who were in attendance. Why? Perhaps to demonstrate the universality of the Catholic Church with its two rites, Oriental and Latin, that are equal in essence and dignity. From the Confession, the tomb of St. Peter, the Pope reascended to the main floor of the Basilica, following the Book of the Gospels, the papal pallium, and the new Fisherman’s Ring.
Outside in the square, ecclesiastics who are not concelebrating have been seated to the left of the altar (always if you are facing the Basilica) and, to the right, political and civil authorities. Beauty is present in the splendour of the chants intoned by the Sistine Chapel Choir and the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music. The first Gregorian chant is the “Laudes Regiae” (Christ is King). At the Offertory during the Mass a motet composed by Pierluigi da Palestrina precisely for the Inauguration of the Pontificate will be sung: “Tu es pastor ovium” (You Are the Shepherd of the Sheep). At the conclusion of the Mass will come the “Te Deum” with verses alternating between Gregorian chant and a melody by Tomas Luis de Victoria.
There are three important moments of the ceremony inaugurating the new pontiff's Petrine ministry before the Mass begins. The first is the imposition of the pallium made from lamb's wool. Cardinal proto-deacon Jean-Louis Tauran, the one who made the “habemus Papam” announcement from the Basilica’s loggia last Wednesday, today will place the pallium on the Holy Father's shoulders. It represents the “lost, sick, or weak sheep which the shepherd places on his shoulders and carries to the waters of life”.
Then the Dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, will bestow the Fisherman's Ring on Francis. It bears the image of Peter holding the keys and is made of gold-plated silver. It was designed by the Italian artist Enrico Manfrini for Pope Paul VI but was never cast in metal. Its wax cast was conserved by Paul VI's personal secretary Archbishop Pasquale Macchi and, on his death, by Archbishop Macchi's colleague Msgr. Ettore Malnati who had it cast and proposed it, through Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, as one of the choices for the new Roman Pontiff.
Thirdly, six cardinals, two from each of the Orders, will make a symbolic act of obedience on behalf of all the other cardinals. This act of obedience was already made, by the Cardinal electors at the end of the Conclave and by the rest of the College of Cardinals when they met with him the next day. The people of God will be represented in the act of obedience made by the faithful who are present when the Pope takes possession of the Cathedral of Rome—St. John Lateran—in the next few days.
Now the Mass begins. It is the Mass for the Solemnity of St. Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church. Concelebrating are all the cardinals present in Rome, joined by six Patriarchs and Major Eastern Rite Archbishops; the Secretary of the College of Cardinals; Fr. Jose Rodriguez Carballo, O.F.M., superior general of the Order of Friars Minor; and Fr. Adolfo Nicolas Pachon, S.J., superior general of the Society of Jesus. In total they will be around 180 concelebrating with Pope Francis.
The Gospel, the culminating moment of the Liturgy of the Word is proclaimed in Greek, in deference to the Eastern Rite. Afterwards, Pope Francis gives his homily in Italian. The square is silent and the Holy Father is calm. “It seems like he has always been Pope,” someone remarks as soon as they hear his first words. The text was given to journalists beforehand with the warning, “Be attentive! This Pope loves to improvise!” But in this moment he stuck with the prepared text.
The Pope speaks of St. Joseph, the example he gives us, of his vocation, his fidelity, his availability, of how he knew how to listen to God, of how he was attentive to everything going on around him. This is the preamble of his homily, then he arrives at its heart, connecting St. Joseph's vocation to that of us all, each of us, and to the Pope's own vocation as well. He concludes with a resounding entreaty: our responsibility to protect with tenderness, to not destroy what we have received. From creation to ourselves and those around us, and especially the poorest. “We must not be afraid of goodness or even tenderness!” Pope Francis exhorted. We are all called “so that the star of hope will shine brightly. Let us protect with love all that God has given us!” So ended the homily of the new Bishop of Rome, the homily of the Mass inaugurating his pontificate.
In the square a young man says of the quiet: “We were silent but a seething volcano is within us.” He was one of the many young Italians who have come with their children, some of which are just babies. Beside him is a group from Lebanon who remember John Paul II and Benedict XVI's trips to their land. “Francis will come too. We're sure of it!”
At the end, after the Mass, the Pope went to pray before the statue of the Virgin that stood next to the altar. Then, amidst the crowd's cries of “Francesco, Francesco, Francesco”, the Gregorian chant, and the thundering bells of St. Peter's, the new Holy Father returned to the Basilica. After removing his liturgical vestments, he went to the Altar of Confession, standing in front of which he received the greetings of the diplomatic representatives of the 132 countries and various organizations that had attended the Mass.
In the next few days, Pope Francis will have to figure out how to answer the millions of email messages that have already been received, despite the fact that he still doesn't have an official address.
Vatican City, 19 March 2013 (VIS) – Following is the complete text of the homily that Pope Francis gave during the Mass inaugurating his Petrine ministry. Beginning with the image of St. Joseph, the “protector”, the Pope stressed that the vocation to protect creation and humanity concerns everyone. He urged all to not be afraid of goodness or even of tenderness.
“Dear Brothers and Sisters, I thank the Lord that I can celebrate this Holy Mass for the inauguration of my Petrine ministry on the solemnity of Saint Joseph, the spouse of the Virgin Mary and the patron of the universal Church. It is a significant coincidence, and it is also the name-day of my venerable predecessor: we are close to him with our prayers, full of affection and gratitude.”
“I offer a warm greeting to my brother cardinals and bishops, the priests, deacons, men and women religious, and all the lay faithful. I thank the representatives of the other Churches and Ecclesial Communities, as well as the representatives of the Jewish community and the other religious communities, for their presence. My cordial greetings go to the Heads of State and Government, the members of the official Delegations from many countries throughout the world, and the Diplomatic Corps.”
“In the Gospel we heard that 'Joseph did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took Mary as his wife' (Mt 1:24). These words already point to the mission that God entrusts to Joseph: he is to be the 'custos', the protector. The protector of whom? Of Mary and Jesus; but this protection is then extended to the Church, as Blessed John Paul II pointed out: 'Just as Saint Joseph took loving care of Mary and gladly dedicated himself to Jesus Christ’s upbringing, he likewise watches over and protects Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church, of which the Virgin Mary is the exemplar and model' (Redemptoris Custos, 1).”
“How does Joseph exercise his role as protector? Discreetly, humbly, and silently, but with an unfailing presence and utter fidelity, even when he finds it hard to understand. From the time of his betrothal to Mary until the finding of the twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem, he is there at every moment with loving care. As the spouse of Mary, he is at her side in good times and bad, on the journey to Bethlehem for the census and in the anxious and joyful hours when she gave birth; amid the drama of the flight into Egypt and during the frantic search for their child in the Temple; and later in the day-to-day life of the home of Nazareth, in the workshop where he taught his trade to Jesus.”
“How does Joseph respond to his calling to be the protector of Mary, Jesus and the Church? By being constantly attentive to God, open to the signs of God’s presence and receptive to God’s plans and not simply to his own. This is what God asked of David, as we heard in the first reading. God does not want a house built by humans, but faithfulness to his word, to his plan. It is God himself who builds the house, but from living stones sealed by his Spirit. Joseph is a “protector” because he is able to hear God’s voice and be guided by his will; and for this reason he is all the more sensitive to the persons entrusted to his safekeeping. He can look at things realistically, he is in touch with his surroundings, he can make truly wise decisions. In him, dear friends, we learn how to respond to God’s call, readily and willingly, but we also see the heart of the Christian vocation, which is Christ! Let us protect Christ in our lives, so that we can protect others, so that we can protect creation!”
“The vocation of being a 'protector', however, is not just something involving us Christians alone; it also has a prior dimension which is simply human, involving everyone. It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world, as the Book of Genesis tells us and as Saint Francis of Assisi showed us. It means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live. It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about. It means caring for one another in our families: husbands and wives first protect one another, and then, as parents, they care for their children, and children themselves, in time, protect their parents. It means building sincere friendships in which we protect one another in trust, respect, and goodness. In the end, everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it. Be protectors of God’s gifts!”
“Whenever human beings fail to live up to this responsibility, whenever we fail to care for creation and for our brothers and sisters, the way is opened to destruction and our hearts are hardened. Tragically, in every period of history there are 'Herods' who plot death, wreak havoc, and mar the countenance of men and women.”
“Please, I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political, and social life, and all men and women of goodwill: let us be 'protectors' of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment. Let us not allow omens of destruction and death to accompany our world's journey! But to be 'protectors', we also have to keep watch over ourselves! Let us not forget that hatred, envy, and pride defile our lives! Being protectors, then, also means keeping watch over our emotions, over our hearts, because they are the seat of good and evil intentions: intentions that build up or tear down! We must not be afraid of goodness or even tenderness!”
“Here I would add one more thing: caring, protecting, demands goodness; it calls for a certain tenderness. In the Gospels, Saint Joseph appears as a strong and courageous man, a working man, yet in his heart we see great tenderness, which is not the virtue of the weak but rather a sign of strength of spirit and a capacity for concern, for compassion, for genuine openness to others, for love. We must not be afraid of goodness, of tenderness!”
“Today, together with the feast of Saint Joseph, we are celebrating the beginning of the ministry of the new Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter, which also involves a certain power. Certainly, Jesus Christ conferred power upon Peter, but what sort of power was it? Jesus’ three questions to Peter about love are followed by three commands: feed my lambs, feed my sheep. Let us never forget that authentic power is service, and that the Pope too, when exercising power, must enter ever more fully into that service which has its radiant culmination on the Cross. He must be inspired by the lowly, concrete, and faithful service which marked Saint Joseph and, like him, he must open his arms to protect all of God’s people and embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important, those whom Matthew lists in the final judgement on love: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and those in prison (cf. Mt 25:31-46). Only those who serve with love are able to protect!”
“In the second reading, Saint Paul speaks of Abraham, who, 'hoping against hope, believed' (Rom 4:18). Hoping against hope! Today too, amid so much darkness, we need to see the light of hope and to be men and women who bring hope to others. To protect creation, to protect every man and every woman, to look upon them with tenderness and love, is to open up a horizon of hope; it is to let a shaft of light break through the heavy clouds; it is to bring the warmth of hope! For believers, for us Christians, like Abraham, like Saint Joseph, the hope that we bring is set against the horizon of God that has opened up before us in Christ. It is a hope built on the rock that is God.”
“To protect Jesus with Mary, to protect the whole of creation, to protect each person, especially the poorest, to protect ourselves: this is a service that the Bishop of Rome is called to carry out, yet one to which all of us are called, so that the star of hope will shine brightly. Let us protect with love all that God has given us!”
“I implore the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, Saints Peter and Paul, and Saint Francis, that the Holy Spirit may accompany my ministry, and I ask all of you to pray for me! Amen.”
Vatican City, 19 March 2013 (VIS) – The thousands of people who spent a sleepless night in the main square of Buenos Aires, Plaza de Mayo, to watch the Mass inaugurating former Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio's Petrine ministry had a pleasant surprise. At 7:32am Rome time—that is, 3:32am in Argentina—the speakers placed outside the cathedral in the square began to carry the voice of Pope Francis. He was calling, from the Vatican, to greet them.
As reported by the Argentine newspaper, Clarin, the Pope had called the cell phone of one of his aides, Fr. Alejandro Russo, rector of the cathedral. From the archdiocesan television centre they were then able to connect the call to Plaza de Mayo, so that the pontiff might say hello to his parishioners. Shortly afterwards, the rector announced that he had a special surprise and those gathered began to hear Francis' voice. “Dear sons and daughters, I know you have gathered in the square. I know that you are saying prayers, I need them very much. It is beautiful to pray because we look to heaven and know that we have a good Father who is God.”
A huge wave of applause greeted the Pope's words and he continued: “I want to ask a favour of you. I want to ask for us to walk together, to care for one another, for you to care for each other. Do not cause harm. Protect life. Protect the family; protect nature; protect the young; protect the elderly. Let there not be hatred or fighting. Put aside envy.” And, in the city's slang, he added: “No le saquen el cuero a nadie [literally, “don't flay or skin anyone alive”, that is, don't gossip, don't criticize one another]. Talk with one another so that this desire to protect each other might grow in your hearts. And draw near to God. God is good. He always forgives and understands. Do not be afraid of him. Draw near to him and may the Virgin bless you. May she, as a mother, protect you. Please do not forget this bishop who is far away but who loves you very much. Pray for me!”
“Through the intercession of Mary, ever Virgin, and each of your guardian angels, the glorious patriarch St. Joseph, St. Therese of the Child Jesus, and each of your protector saints, may God All-mighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, bless you,” Francis concluded, imparting the papal blessing to all present before closing the connection.
Vatican City, 19 March 2013 (VIS) – This is the history of the Fisherman’s Ring that, beginning today, Pope Francis will wear on the ring finger of his right hand.
Archbishop Pasquale Macchi, the personal secretary of Pope Paul VI, kept the wax cast of the ring that had been designed for Paul VI by the Italian artist Enrico Manfrini. (He also made several medals and other artistic objects for Paul VI.) The ring depicts St. Peter holding the keys. It was never cast into metal therefore Paul VI never wore it. Instead, he always wore the ring that was commissioned at the time of the Second Vatican Council.
When he passed away in 2006, the cast, along with other objects, was left by Archbishop Macchi to Monsignor Ettore Malnati, who had worked closely with him for many years. Msgr. Malnati made a ring of gold-plated silver from the wax cast. This ring was offered to Pope Francis, along with several other possible options, by the Papal Master of Ceremonies, through the auspices of Cardinal Re. Pope Francis chose it for his Ring of the Fisherman and it was bestowed upon him at this morning's Mass of the Inauguration of his Petrine Ministry.
Vatican City, 20 March 2013 (VIS) – Yesterday afternoon, Pope Francis made a phone call to Pope emeritus Benedict XVI to express his well wishes on the Pope emeritus' saint's day—St. Joseph. Again he also declared his, and the Church's, gratitude for the Pope emeritus' service. It was a long and cordial call. The Pope emeritus has attentively followed the events of recent days, in particular the Mass of inauguration of the new pontiff's Petrine ministry, and he assured his successor of his continued closeness in prayer.
Vatican City, 20 March 2013 (VIS) – This morning, the Holy Father received in separate audiences:
- Her Excellency Dilma Vana Rousseff, president of Brazil, with an entourage,
- His Holiness Bartholomew I, ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople,
- Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, of the Patriarchate of Moscow, and
- Claudio Epelman, executive director of the Latin American Jewish Congress.

No comments: