25-09-2015 - Year XXII - Num. 164
|- The Pope at the United States Congress: political activity must promote the good of the person and be based on human dignity|
|- The Holy Father: there is no social or moral justification for homelessness|
|- Vespers with the clergy and religious of the Cathedral of New York: gratitude and hard work are the two pillars of spiritual life|
|The Pope at the United States Congress: political activity must promote the good of the person and be based on human dignity|
Vatican City, 25 September 2015 (VIS) – The United States Congress, which met yesterday in joint session (an assembly of both the House of Representatives and the Senate) was addressed by a Pope for the first time in its history. Francis' arrival was announced by the speaker of the House of Representatives and Republican house leader John Boehner, and by the vice president of the United States, the Democrat Joe Biden. The extraordinary session was also attended by, among others, the dean of the Diplomatic Corps, the Supreme Court, and the secretary of State John Kerry.
The Pope was greeted with a standing ovation and delivered a discourse in English, published in full below, in which he underlined that all political activity must serve the good of the human person and be based on respect and dignity. Francis referred to four great Americans: President Abraham Lincoln, “guardian of liberty”, the political activist Martin Luther King, whose “dream of equality continues to inspire us all”, Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, whose “social activism, passion for justice and the cause of the oppressed, were inspired by the Gospel”, and the Cistercian monk Thomas Merton, “a thinker who challenged the certitudes of his time and … a man of dialogue, a promoter of peace between peoples and religions”.
The following is the full text of the Holy Father's address:
“I am most grateful for your invitation to address this Joint Session of Congress in 'the land of the free and the home of the brave'. I would like to think that the reason for this is that I too am a son of this great continent, from which we have all received so much and toward which we share a common responsibility.
“Each son or daughter of a given country has a mission, a personal and social responsibility. Your own responsibility as members of Congress is to enable this country, by your legislative activity, to grow as a nation. You are the face of its people, their representatives. You are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good, for this is the chief aim of all politics. A political society endures when it seeks, as a vocation, to satisfy common needs by stimulating the growth of all its members, especially those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk. Legislative activity is always based on care for the people. To this you have been invited, called and convened by those who elected you.
“Yours is a work which makes me reflect in two ways on the figure of Moses. On the one hand, the patriarch and lawgiver of the people of Israel symbolises the need of peoples to keep alive their sense of unity by means of just legislation. On the other, the figure of Moses leads us directly to God and thus to the transcendent dignity of the human being. Moses provides us with a good synthesis of your work: you are asked to protect, by means of the law, the image and likeness fashioned by God on every human face.
“Today I would like not only to address you, but through you the entire people of the United States. Here, together with their representatives, I would like to take this opportunity to dialogue with the many thousands of men and women who strive each day to do an honest day’s work, to bring home their daily bread, to save money and –one step at a time – to build a better life for their families. These are men and women who are not concerned simply with paying their taxes, but in their own quiet way sustain the life of society. They generate solidarity by their actions, and they create organisations which offer a helping hand to those most in need.
“I would also like to enter into dialogue with the many elderly persons who are a storehouse of wisdom forged by experience, and who seek in many ways, especially through volunteer work, to share their stories and their insights. I know that many of them are retired, but still active; they keep working to build up this land. I also want to dialogue with all those young people who are working to realise their great and noble aspirations, who are not led astray by facile proposals, and who face difficult situations, often as a result of immaturity on the part of many adults. I wish to dialogue with all of you, and I would like to do so through the historical memory of your people.
“My visit takes place at a time when men and women of good will are marking the anniversaries of several great Americans. The complexities of history and the reality of human weakness notwithstanding, these men and women, for all their many differences and limitations, were able by hard work and self-sacrifice – some at the cost of their lives – to build a better future. They shaped fundamental values which will endure forever in the spirit of the American people. A people with this spirit can live through many crises, tensions and conflicts, while always finding the resources to move forward, and to do so with dignity. These men and women offer us a way of seeing and interpreting reality. In honouring their memory, we are inspired, even amid conflicts, and in the here and now of each day, to draw upon our deepest cultural reserves.
“I would like to mention four of these Americans: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton.
“This year marks the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, the guardian of liberty, who laboured tirelessly that 'this nation, under God, [might] have a new birth of freedom'. Building a future of freedom requires love of the common good and cooperation in a spirit of subsidiarity and solidarity.
“All of us are quite aware of, and deeply worried by, the disturbing social and political situation of the world today. Our world is increasingly a place of violent conflict, hatred and brutal atrocities, committed even in the name of God and of religion. We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism. This means that we must be especially attentive to every type of fundamentalism, whether religious or of any other kind. A delicate balance is required to combat violence perpetrated in the name of a religion, an ideology or an economic system, while also safeguarding religious freedom, intellectual freedom and individual freedoms. But there is another temptation which we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners. The contemporary world, with its open wounds which affect so many of our brothers and sisters, demands that we confront every form of polarisation which would divide it into these two camps. We know that in the attempt to be freed of the enemy without, we can be tempted to feed the enemy within. To imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place. That is something which you, as a people, reject.
“Our response must instead be one of hope and healing, of peace and justice. We are asked to summon the courage and the intelligence to resolve today’s many geopolitical and economic crises. Even in the developed world, the effects of unjust structures and actions are all too apparent. Our efforts must aim at restoring hope, righting wrongs, maintaining commitments, and thus promoting the well-being of individuals and of peoples. We must move forward together, as one, in a renewed spirit of fraternity and solidarity, cooperating generously for the common good.
“The challenges facing us today call for a renewal of that spirit of cooperation, which has accomplished so much good throughout the history of the United States. The complexity, the gravity and the urgency of these challenges demand that we pool our resources and talents, and resolve to support one another, with respect for our differences and our convictions of conscience.
“In this land, the various religious denominations have greatly contributed to building and strengthening society. It is important that today, as in the past, the voice of faith continue to be heard, for it is a voice of fraternity and love, which tries to bring out the best in each person and in each society. Such cooperation is a powerful resource in the battle to eliminate new global forms of slavery, born of grave injustices which can be overcome only through new policies and new forms of social consensus.
“Here I think of the political history of the United States, where democracy is deeply rooted in the mind of the American people. All political activity must serve and promote the good of the human person and be based on respect for his or her dignity. 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness'. If politics must truly be at the service of the human person, it follows that it cannot be a slave to the economy and finance. Politics is, instead, an expression of our compelling need to live as one, in order to build as one the greatest common good: that of a community which sacrifices particular interests in order to share, in justice and peace, its goods, its interests, its social life. I do not underestimate the difficulty that this involves, but I encourage you in this effort.
“Here too I think of the march which Martin Luther King led from Selma to Montgomery fifty years ago as part of the campaign to fulfil his 'dream' of full civil and political rights for African Americans. That dream continues to inspire us all. I am happy that America continues to be, for many, a land of 'dreams'. Dreams which lead to action, to participation, to commitment. Dreams which awaken what is deepest and truest in the life of a people.
“In recent centuries, millions of people came to this land to pursue their dream of building a future in freedom. We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners. I say this to you as the son of immigrants, knowing that so many of you are also descended from immigrants. Tragically, the rights of those who were here long before us were not always respected. For those peoples and their nations, from the heart of American democracy, I wish to reaffirm my highest esteem and appreciation. Those first contacts were often turbulent and violent, but it is difficult to judge the past by the criteria of the present. Nonetheless, when the stranger in our midst appeals to us, we must not repeat the sins and the errors of the past. We must resolve now to live as nobly and as justly as possible, as we educate new generations not to turn their back on our 'neighbours' and everything around us. Building a nation calls us to recognise that we must constantly relate to others, rejecting a mindset of hostility in order to adopt one of reciprocal subsidiarity, in a constant effort to do our best. I am confident that we can do this.
“Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War. This presents us with great challenges and many hard decisions. On this continent, too, thousands of persons are led to travel north in search of a better life for themselves and for their loved ones, in search of greater opportunities. Is this not what we want for our own children? We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation. To respond in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal. We need to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome. Let us remember the Golden Rule: 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you'.
“This Rule points us in a clear direction. Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated. Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves. Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves. In a word, if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities. The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us. The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.
“This conviction has led me, from the beginning of my ministry, to advocate at different levels for the global abolition of the death penalty. I am convinced that this way is the best, since every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes. Recently my brother bishops here in the United States renewed their call for the abolition of the death penalty. Not only do I support them, but I also offer encouragement to all those who are convinced that a just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation.
“In these times when social concerns are so important, I cannot fail to mention the Servant of God Dorothy Day, who founded the Catholic Worker Movement. Her social activism, her passion for justice and for the cause of the oppressed, were inspired by the Gospel, her faith, and the example of the saints.
“How much progress has been made in this area in so many parts of the world! How much has been done in these first years of the third millennium to raise people out of extreme poverty! I know that you share my conviction that much more still needs to be done, and that in times of crisis and economic hardship a spirit of global solidarity must not be lost. At the same time I would encourage you to keep in mind all those people around us who are trapped in a cycle of poverty. They too need to be given hope. The fight against poverty and hunger must be fought constantly and on many fronts, especially in its causes. I know that many Americans today, as in the past, are working to deal with this problem.
“It goes without saying that part of this great effort is the creation and distribution of wealth. The right use of natural resources, the proper application of technology and the harnessing of the spirit of enterprise are essential elements of an economy which seeks to be modern, inclusive and sustainable. 'Business is a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving the world. It can be a fruitful source of prosperity for the area in which it operates, especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good'. This common good also includes the earth, a central theme of the encyclical which I recently wrote in order to 'enter into dialogue with all people about our common home'. 'We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all'.
“In 'Laudato Si’', I call for a courageous and responsible effort to 'redirect our steps', and to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity. I am convinced that we can make a difference and I have no doubt that the United States – and this Congress – have an important role to play. Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a 'culture of care' and 'an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature'. 'We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology'; 'to devise intelligent ways of… developing and limiting our power'; and to put technology 'at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral'. In this regard, I am confident that America’s outstanding academic and research institutions can make a vital contribution in the years ahead.
“A century ago, at the beginning of the Great War, which Pope Benedict XV termed a 'pointless slaughter', another notable American was born: the Cistercian monk Thomas Merton. He remains a source of spiritual inspiration and a guide for many people. In his autobiography he wrote: 'I came into the world. Free by nature, in the image of God, I was nevertheless the prisoner of my own violence and my own selfishness, in the image of the world into which I was born. That world was the picture of Hell, full of men like myself, loving God, and yet hating Him; born to love Him, living instead in fear of hopeless self-contradictory hungers'. Merton was above all a man of prayer, a thinker who challenged the certitudes of his time and opened new horizons for souls and for the Church. He was also a man of dialogue, a promoter of peace between peoples and religions.
“From this perspective of dialogue, I would like to recognise the efforts made in recent months to help overcome historic differences linked to painful episodes of the past. It is my duty to build bridges and to help all men and women, in any way possible, to do the same. When countries which have been at odds resume the path of dialogue – a dialogue which may have been interrupted for the most legitimate of reasons – new opportunities open up for all. This has required, and requires, courage and daring, which is not the same as irresponsibility. A good political leader is one who, with the interests of all in mind, seizes the moment in a spirit of openness and pragmatism. A good political leader always opts to initiate processes rather than possessing spaces.
“Being at the service of dialogue and peace also means being truly determined to minimize and, in the long term, to end the many armed conflicts throughout our world. Here we have to ask ourselves: Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade.
“Three sons and a daughter of this land, four individuals and four dreams: Lincoln, liberty; Martin Luther King, liberty in plurality and non-exclusion; Dorothy Day, social justice and the rights of persons; and Thomas Merton, the capacity for dialogue and openness to God.
Four representatives of the American people.
“I will end my visit to your country in Philadelphia, where I will take part in the World Meeting of Families. It is my wish that throughout my visit the family should be a recurrent theme. How essential the family has been to the building of this country! And how worthy it remains of our support and encouragement! Yet I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without. Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family. I can only reiterate the importance and, above all, the richness and the beauty of family life.
“In particular, I would like to call attention to those family members who are the most vulnerable, the young. For many of them, a future filled with countless possibilities beckons, yet so many others seem disoriented and aimless, trapped in a hopeless maze of violence, abuse and despair. Their problems are our problems. We cannot avoid them. We need to face them together, to talk about them and to seek effective solutions rather than getting bogged down in discussions. At the risk of oversimplifying, we might say that we live in a culture which pressures young people not to start a family, because they lack possibilities for the future. Yet this same culture presents others with so many options that they too are dissuaded from starting a family.
“A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as Lincoln did, when it fosters a culture which enables people to 'dream' of full rights for all their brothers and sisters, as Martin Luther King sought to do; when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed, as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work, the fruit of a faith which becomes dialogue and sows peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton.
“In these remarks I have sought to present some of the richness of your cultural heritage, of the spirit of the American people. It is my desire that this spirit continue to develop and grow, so that as many young people as possible can inherit and dwell in a land which has inspired so many people to dream. God bless America!”
After his address, the Pope was accompanied by House Speaker Boehmer to the Hall of Statuary where he viewed the statue of Fr. Junipero Serra, before proceeding to the Great Hall of the Library of Congress, where he presented the gift of a precious edition of the Bible. Then, accompanied by the leaders of Congress and members of the papal entourage, they both appeared on the balcony from where the Pope greeted and blessed the crowd gathered in the National Mall.
“Good day to you all!” he said, in Spanish. “I thank you for your welcome and your presence. I thank the most important people here: the children. I wish to ask God to bless them. Lord, Father of all, bless this people, bless each one of them, bless their families, give them what they need most. And I ask you, please to pray for me. And those of you who do not believe, or are unable to pray, please wish me well. God bless America!”
|The Holy Father: there is no social or moral justification for homelessness|
Vatican City, 25 September 2015 (VIS) – After his address to the United States Congress, Pope Francis transferred to the church of St. Patrick, the first parish in Washington, founded in 1794 to offer pastoral service to the Irish workers who were building the White House and Capitol, to where the United States government transferred in 1880 (Philadelphia was the temporary capital of the United States in the meantime). The church has a centre for health and education for the homeless, dedicated to Cardinal James Hickey, archbishop of Washington between 1980 and 2000, who had promoted diocesan health care services for the needy and migrants. The cardinal chose to spend the final years of his life in a home for the elderly without recourse to the Sisters of the Poor.
Francis arrived at the church shortly after 11 a.m. (5 p.m. in Rome), where he was awaited by two hundred homeless people whom he greeted and thanked for welcoming him and for their efforts to make the meeting possible. He spoke to them about the importance of St. Joseph, “the one I go to whenever I am 'in a fix'”. “You make me think of St. Joseph. Your faces remind me of his”.
“Joseph had to face some difficult situations in his life”, he continued. “One of them was the time when Mary was about to give birth, to have Jesus … and there was no place for them in the inn. … I can imagine Joseph, with his wife about to have a child, with no shelter, no home, no place to stay. The Son of God came into this world as a homeless person. The Son of God knew what it was to start life without a roof over His head”.
“We can imagine what Joseph must have been thinking. How is it that the Son of God has no home? Why are we homeless, why don’t we have housing? These are questions which many of you may ask daily. Like St. Joseph, you may ask: Why are we homeless, without a place to live? These are questions which all of us might well ask. Why do these, our brothers and sisters, have no place to live? Why are these brothers and sisters of ours homeless?”.
“Joseph’s questions are timely even today; they accompany all those who throughout history have been, and are, homeless. Joseph was someone who asked questions. But first and foremost, he was a man of faith. Faith gave Joseph the power to find light just at the moment when everything seemed dark. Faith sustained him amid the troubles of life. Thanks to faith, Joseph was able to press forward when everything seemed to be holding him back. In the face of unjust and painful situations, faith brings us the light which scatters the darkness. As it did for Joseph, faith makes us open to the quiet presence of God at every moment of our lives, in every person and in every situation. God is present in every one of you, in each one of us”.
“We can find no social or moral justification, no justification whatsoever, for lack of housing. There are many unjust situations, but we know that God is suffering with us, experiencing them at our side. He does not abandon us. We know that Jesus wanted to show solidarity with every person. He wanted everyone to experience His companionship, His help, His love. He identified with all those who suffer, who weep, who suffer any kind of injustice. He tells us this clearly: 'I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger and you welcomed me'”.
“Faith makes us know that God is at our side, that God is in our midst and His presence spurs us to charity. Charity is born of the call of a God Who continues to knock on our door, the door of all people, to invite us to love, to compassion, to service of one another. Jesus keeps knocking on our doors, the doors of our lives. He doesn’t do this by magic, with special effects, with flashing lights and fireworks. Jesus keeps knocking on our door in the faces of our brothers and sisters, in the faces of our neighbours, in the faces of those at our side”.
“Dear friends, one of the most effective ways we have to help is that of prayer. Prayer unites us; it makes us brothers and sisters … and reminds us of a beautiful truth which we sometimes forget. In prayer, we all learn to say 'Father', 'Dad'. We learn to see one another as brothers and sisters. In prayer, there are no rich and poor people, there are sons and daughters, sisters and brothers. In prayer, there is no first or second class, there is brotherhood. It is in prayer that our hearts find the strength not to be cold and insensitive in the face of injustice. In prayer, God keeps calling us, opening our hearts to charity”.
“How good it is for us to pray together. How good it is to encounter one another in this place where we see one another as brothers and sisters, where we realise that we need one another. Today I want to be one with you. I need your support, your closeness. I would like to invite you to pray together, for one another, with one another. That way we can keep helping one another to experience the joy of knowing that Jesus is in our midst, and that Jesus helps us to find solutions to the injustices which He Himself already experienced. Are you ready to pray together? I will begin in Spanish and you follow in English”.
All those present recited the Lord's Prayer along with the Pope. Before leaving, the Holy Father blessed them with the following words: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace”, adding “And, please, don’t forget to pray for me”.
|Vespers with the clergy and religious of the Cathedral of New York: gratitude and hard work are the two pillars of spiritual life|
Vatican City, 25 September 2015 (VIS) – Pope Francis arrived at John Kennedy Airport in New York at 5 p.m. (11 p.m. in Rome), where he was received by the cardinal archbishop Timothy Michael Dolan and Bishop Nicholas A. Di Marzio of Brooklyn, accompanied by Archbishop Bernardito C. Auza. The governor of New York State, Andrew Cuomo and the mayor of the city, Bill de Blasio, were also present. The Holy Father transferred by helicopter to Manhattan, where he boarded the popemobile to travel to Cathedral of St. Patrick, where he celebrated Vespers with clergy and men and women religious.
“I have two thoughts today for my Muslim brothers and sisters. First, my good wishes as you celebrate today the day of sacrifice. I wish my greetings could have been warmer. Second, my closeness, on account of the tragedy which your people experienced today in Mecca. In this moment of prayer, I join, and all of us join, in praying to God, our almighty and merciful Father” he said.
He went on to refer to the Cathedral of St. Patrick, “built up over many years through the sacrifices of many men and women, can serve as a symbol of the work of generations of American priests and religious, and lay faithful who helped build up the Church in the United States. ... Many did so at the cost of extraordinary sacrifice and with heroic charity. I think for example of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, who founded the first free Catholic school for girls in America, or St. John Neumann, the founder of the first system of Catholic education in the United States.
“This evening, my brothers and sisters, I have come to join you – priests and men and women of consecrated life – in praying that our vocations will continue to build up the great edifice of God’s Kingdom in this country. I know that, as a presbyterate in the midst of God’s people, you suffered greatly in the not distant past by having to bear the shame of some of your brothers who harmed and scandalised the Church in the most vulnerable of her members. In the words of the Book of Revelation, I say that you 'have come forth from the great tribulation' I accompany you at this moment of pain and difficulty, and I thank God for your faithful service to His people”.
Then, “in the hope of helping you to persevere on the path of fidelity to Jesus Christ”, he offered reflections on two aspects: the spirit of gratitude and of hard work.
Regarding gratitude, he observed that “the joy of men and women who love God attracts others to Him; priests and religious are called to find and radiate lasting satisfaction in their vocation. Joy springs from a grateful heart. Truly, we have received much, so many graces, so many blessings, and we rejoice in this. It will do us good to think back on our lives with the grace of remembrance. … Remembrance of the amazement which our encounter with Jesus Christ awakens in our hearts. … Let us seek the grace of remembrance so as to grow in the spirit of gratitude”.
“A grateful heart is spontaneously impelled to serve the Lord and to find expression in a life of commitment to our work”, he continued. “Once we come to realise how much God has given us, a life of self-sacrifice, of working for Him and for others, becomes a privileged way of responding to his great love. Yet, if we are honest, we know how easily this spirit of generous self-sacrifice can be dampened. There are a couple of ways that this can happen; both ways are examples of that 'spiritual worldliness' which weakens our commitment … to serve, and diminishes the wonder, the amazement, of our first encounter with Christ”.
“We can get caught up measuring the value of our apostolic works by the standards of efficiency, good management and outward success which govern the business world. Not that these things are unimportant! We have been entrusted with a great responsibility, and God’s people rightly expect accountability from us. But the true worth of our apostolate is measured by the value it has in God’s eyes. To see and evaluate things from God’s perspective calls for constant conversion in the first days and years of our vocation and, need I say, it calls for great humility. The cross shows us a different way of measuring success. Ours is to plant the seeds: God sees to the fruits of our labours. And if at times our efforts and works seem to fail and produce no fruit, we need to remember that we are followers of Jesus, and His life, humanly speaking, ended in failure, in the failure of the cross”.
“The other danger comes when we become jealous of our free time, when we think that surrounding ourselves with worldly comforts will help us serve better”, he warned. “The problem with this reasoning is that it can blunt the power of God’s daily call to conversion, to encounter with Him. Slowly but surely, it diminishes our spirit of sacrifice, our spirit of renunciation and hard work. It also alienates people who suffer material poverty and are forced to make greater sacrifices than ourselves, without being consecrated. Rest is needed, as are moments of leisure and self-enrichment, but we need to learn how to rest in a way that deepens our desire to serve with generosity. Closeness to the poor, the refugee, the immigrant, the sick, the exploited, the elderly living alone, prisoners and all God’s other poor, will teach us a different way of resting, one which is more Christian and generous”.
Gratitude and hard work: these are two pillars of the spiritual life which I have wanted, this evening, to share with you priests and religious. I thank you for prayers and work. … In a special way I would like to express my esteem and my gratitude to the religious women of the United States. What would the Church be without you? Women of strength, fighters, with that spirit of courage which puts you in the front lines in the proclamation of the Gospel. To you, religious women, sisters and mothers of this people, I wish to say … a big thank you, and to tell you that I love you very much”.
“I know that many of you are in the front lines in meeting the challenges of adapting to an evolving pastoral landscape”, he concluded. “Whatever difficulties and trials you face, I ask you, like St. Peter, to be at peace and to respond to them as Christ did: He thanked the Father, took up His cross and looked forward!”.
This brought to a close the Pope's first day in New York. Today, 25 September, Francis will address the Assembly of the United Nations, will attend an interreligious meeting at Ground Zero, will visit migrant families in Brooklyn and will celebrate Mass in Madison Square Garden.
Vatican City, 25 September 2015 (VIS) – Due to the Holy Father's apostolic trip, an extraordinary Vatican Information Service bulletin will be published on Saturday 26 and Sunday 27 September.
24-09-2015 - Year XXII - Num. 163
|The Pope at the White House: as the son of migrants, happy to be a guest in a country largely built by such families|
Vatican City, 24 September 2015 (VIS) – Yesterday more than two hundred thousand people awaited Pope Francis outside the White House, where shortly after local time ( in Rome) he was welcomed by President Barack Obama and the First Lady, Michelle Obama. They accompanied him to the podium erected in the grounds of the presidential residence, where before two thousand people the Holy Father gave his first address in the United States.
In his discourse he affirmed that, “as the son of an immigrant family, I am happy to be a guest in this country, which was largely built by such families”, and highlighted the commitment of American Catholics, along with their fellow citizens, to constructing a tolerant and inclusive society and to rejecting every form of unjust discrimination. The Pope also mentioned the importance of the right to religious freedom and the duty of defending it from anything that might threaten or compromise it.
Francis praised Barack Obama's initiative for reducing air pollution. “Accepting the urgency, it seems clear to me also that climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to a future generation”, he said. “When it comes to the care of our 'common home', we are living at a critical moment of history. We still have time to make the changes needed to bring about 'a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change'. Such change demands on our part a serious and responsible recognition not only of the kind of world we may be leaving to our children, but also to the millions of people living under a system which has overlooked them. Our common home has been part of this group of the excluded which cries out to heaven and which today powerfully strikes our homes, our cities and our societies. To use a telling phrase of the Reverend Martin Luther King, we can say that we have defaulted on a promissory note and now is the time to honour it. … Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home. As Christians inspired by this certainty, we wish to commit ourselves to the conscious and responsible care of our common home”.
The Holy Father also mentioned recent efforts “to mend broken relationships and to open new doors to cooperation within our human family” which “represent positive steps along the path of reconciliation, justice and freedom. I would like all men and women of good will in this great nation to support the efforts of the international community to protect the vulnerable in our world and to stimulate integral and inclusive models of development, so that our brothers and sisters everywhere may know the blessings of peace and prosperity which God wills for all his children”.
“Mr. President”, he concluded, “once again I thank you for your welcome, and I look forward to these days in your country. God bless America!”.
At the end of the welcome ceremony, the Pope and the president retired to the Oval Office where an exchange of gifts and a private discussion took place, attended by members of President Obama's family. The Pope's gift was a bronze medallion commemorating the Eighth World Meeting of Families, to be celebrated on in Philadelphia.
|Meeting with United States bishops: never repeat the crimes of the past|
Vatican City, 24 September 2015 (VIS) – The challenges of a nation whose vast resources require not insignificant moral responsibility in a world seeking new equilibria of peace, prosperity and integration, the importance of never again repeating past “crimes” against victims of abuse, the need for dialogue instead of hard and bellicose language, and the defence of the excluded, migrants and the environment were some of the themes that Pope Francis considered yesterday in the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington D.C., during his meeting with the episcopate of the United States. The following are extensive extracts from his address.
“My first word to you is one of thanksgiving to God for the power of the Gospel which has brought about remarkable growth of Christ’s Church in these lands and enabled its generous contribution, past and present, to American society and to the world. … I appreciate the unfailing commitment of the Church in America to the cause of life and that of the family, which is the primary reason for my present visit. I am well aware of the immense efforts you have made to welcome and integrate those immigrants who continue to look to America, like so many others before them, in the hope of enjoying its blessings of freedom and prosperity. I also appreciate the efforts which you are making to fulfil the Church’s mission of education in schools at every level and in the charitable services offered by your numerous institutions. These works are often carried out without appreciation or support, often with heroic sacrifice, out of obedience to a divine mandate which we may not disobey. I am also conscious of the courage with which you have faced difficult moments in the recent history of the Church in this country without fear of self-criticism and at the cost of mortification and great sacrifice. Nor have you been afraid to divest whatever is unessential in order to regain the authority and trust which is demanded of ministers of Christ and rightly expected by the faithful. I realise how much the pain of recent years has weighed upon you and I have supported your generous commitment to bring healing to victims – in the knowledge that in healing we too are healed – and to work to ensure that such crimes will never be repeated.
“I speak to you as the Bishop of Rome, called by God in old age, and from a land which is also American, to watch over the unity of the universal Church and to encourage in charity the journey of all the particular Churches toward ever greater knowledge, faith and love of Christ. … I too know how hard it is to sow the Gospel among people from different worlds, with hearts often hardened by the trials of a lengthy journey. Nor am I unaware of the efforts made over the years to build up the Church amid the prairies, mountains, cities and suburbs of a frequently inhospitable land, where frontiers are always provisional and easy answers do not always work. What does work is the combination of the epic struggle of the pioneers and the homely wisdom and endurance of the settlers”.
“It is not my intention to offer a plan or to devise a strategy. ... I have no wish to tell you what to do, because we all know what it is that the Lord asks of us. Instead, I would turn once again to the demanding task – ancient yet never new – of seeking out the paths we need to take and the spirit with which we need to work. … We are bishops of the Church, shepherds appointed by God to feed his flock. Our greatest joy is to be shepherds, and only shepherds, pastors with undivided hearts and selfless devotion. … The heart of our identity is to be sought in constant prayer, in preaching and in shepherding the flock entrusted to our care”.
“Ours must not be just any kind of prayer, but familiar union with Christ, in which we daily encounter His gaze and sense that He is asking us the question: 'Who is My mother? Who are My brothers?'. One in which we can calmly reply: 'Lord, here is Your mother, here are Your brothers! I hand them over to You; they are the ones whom You entrusted to me'”.
“Such trusting union with Christ is what nourishes the life of a pastor. It is not about preaching complicated doctrines, but joyfully proclaiming Christ Who died and rose for our sake. The 'style' of our mission should make our hearers feel that the message we preach is meant 'for us'. … May the closeness of the shepherd make them them long once again for the Father’s embrace. Be vigilant that the flock may always encounter in the heart of their pastor that 'taste of eternity' which they seek in vain in the things of this world”.
“Shepherds who do not pasture themselves but are able to step back, away from the centre, to 'decrease', in order to feed God’s family with Christ. Who keep constant watch, standing on the heights to look out with God’s eyes on the flock which is His alone. … Shepherds who do not lower our gaze, concerned only with our concerns, but raise it constantly toward the horizons which God opens before us and which surpass all that we ourselves can foresee or plan. Who also watch over ourselves, so as to flee the temptation of narcissism, which blinds the eyes of the shepherd, makes his voice unrecognisable and his actions fruitless”.
“Certainly it is helpful for a bishop to have the farsightedness of a leader and the shrewdness of an administrator, but we fall into hopeless decline whenever we confuse the power of strength with the strength of that powerlessness with which God has redeemed us. Bishops need to be lucidly aware of the battle between light and darkness being fought in this world. Woe to us, however, if we make of the cross a banner of worldly struggles and fail to realise that the price of lasting victory is allowing ourselves to be wounded and consumed. … I know that you face many challenges, and that the field in which you sow is unyielding and that there is always the temptation to give in to fear, to lick one’s wounds, to think back on bygone times and to devise harsh responses to fierce opposition. And yet we are promoters of the culture of encounter. We are living sacraments of the embrace between God’s riches and our poverty. We are witnesses of the abasement and the condescension of God Who anticipates in love our every response”.
“Dialogue is our method, not as a shrewd strategy but out of fidelity to the One Who never wearies of visiting the marketplace. … I cannot ever tire of encouraging you to dialogue fearlessly. ... Do not be afraid to set out on that 'exodus' which is necessary for all authentic dialogue. Otherwise, we fail to understand the thinking of others, or to realise deep down that the brother or sister we wish to reach and redeem, with the power and the closeness of love, counts more than their positions, distant as they may be from what we hold as true and certain. Harsh and divisive language does not befit the tongue of a pastor, it has no place in his heart; although it may momentarily seem to win the day, only the enduring allure of goodness and love remains truly convincing. … We need to … remember that Jesus’ Church is kept whole not by 'consuming fire from heaven', but by the secret warmth of the Spirit, Who 'heals what is wounded, bends what is rigid, straightens what is crooked'”.
“The great mission which the Lord gives us is one which we carry out in communion, collegially. The world is already so torn and divided, brokenness is now everywhere. Consequently, the Church, 'the seamless garment of the Lord' cannot allow herself to be rent, broken or fought over. … It is imperative, therefore, to watch over that unity, to safeguard it, to promote it and to bear witness to it as a sign and instrument which, beyond every barrier, unites nations, races, classes and generations. … This service to unity is particularly important for this nation, whose vast material and spiritual, cultural and political, historical and human, scientific and technological resources impose significant moral responsibilities in a world which is seeking, confusedly and laboriously, new balances of peace, prosperity and integration. ... I encourage you, then, my brothers, to confront the challenging issues of our time. Ever present within each of them is life as gift and responsibility. The future freedom and dignity of our societies depends on how we face these challenges”.
“The innocent victims of abortion, children who die of hunger or from bombings, immigrants who drown in the search for a better tomorrow, the elderly or the sick who are considered a burden, the victims of terrorism, wars, violence and drug trafficking, the environment devastated by man’s predatory relationship with nature – at stake in all of this is the gift of God, of which we are noble stewards but not masters. It is wrong, then, to look the other way or to remain silent. No less important is the Gospel of the Family, which in the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia I will emphatically proclaim together with you and the entire Church”.
“These essential aspects of the Church’s mission belong to the core of what we have received from the Lord. It is our duty to preserve and communicate them, even when the tenor of the times becomes resistant and even hostile to that message. I urge you to offer this witness, with the means and creativity born of love, and with the humility of truth. It needs to be preached and proclaimed to those without, but also to find room in people’s hearts and in the conscience of society. To this end, it is important that the Church in the United States also be a humble home, a family fire which attracts men and women through the attractive light and warmth of love. … Only a Church which can gather around the family fire remains able to attract others. And not any fire, but the one which blazed forth on Easter morn”.
“Before concluding, allow me to offer two recommendations which are close to my heart. The first refers to your fatherhood as bishops. Be pastors close to people, pastors who are neighbours and servants. Let this closeness be expressed in a special way towards your priests. … Find ways to encourage their spiritual growth, lest they yield to the temptation to become notaries and bureaucrats, but instead reflect the motherhood of the Church, which gives birth to and raises her sons and daughters”.
“My second recommendation has to do with immigrants. I ask you to excuse me if in some way I am pleading my own case. The Church in the United States knows like few others the hopes present in the hearts of these 'pilgrims'. From the beginning you have learned their languages, promoted their cause, made their contributions your own, defended their rights, helped them to prosper, and kept alive the flame of their faith. Even today, no American institution does more for immigrants than your Christian communities. Now you are facing this stream of Latin immigration which affects many of your dioceses. Not only as the Bishop of Rome, but also as a pastor from the South, I feel the need to thank and encourage you. Perhaps it will not be easy for you to look into their soul; perhaps you will be challenged by their diversity. But know that they also possess resources meant to be shared. So do not be afraid to welcome them. Offer them the warmth of the love of Christ and you will unlock the mystery of their heart. I am certain that, as so often in the past, these people will enrich America and its Church”.
|The canonisation of Blessed Junipero Serra: Jesus has no 'shortlist' of people worthy of His message|
Vatican City, 24 September 2015 (VIS) – Blessed Junipero Serra (1713-1784), known as the “Apostle of California”, was canonised yesterday by Pope Francis during a solemn Mass celebrated in the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the title under which, since 1847, the Virgin Mary is the patroness of the United States.
The new saint, born in Mallorca, Spain, was a missionary first in Mexico, where he learned the Pame language in order to teach the indigenous peoples the catechism and ordinary prayers, which he translated for them. He was also master of novices in the apostolic College of San Fernando. In 1767, the Jesuits were expelled from the missions of Baja California, which were entrusted to the Franciscans. Fr. Junipero was appointed Superior and arrived with 14 companions in the territory in 1760, where he founded the first mission of San Diego. He went on to found missions in Alta California: San Carlos de Monterrey, San Anselmo, San Gabriel and San Luis Obispo. In California alone he travelled 9,900 kilometres and 5,400 nautical miles to found new missions from which there derive the Franciscan names of Californian cities such as San Francisco, San Diego and Los Angeles. Serra was beatified by John Paul II in 1988.
In his homily the Pope cites St. Paul's words to the Philippians: “Rejoice in the Lord always! I say it again, rejoice!”. “Paul tells us to rejoice; he practically orders us to rejoice. This command resonates with the desire we all have for a fulfilling life, a meaningful life, a joyful life. … Something deep within us invites us to rejoice and tells us not to settle for placebos which simply keep us comfortable. At the same time, though, we all know the struggles of everyday life. So much seems to stand in the way of this invitation to rejoice. Our daily routine can often lead us to a kind of glum apathy which gradually becomes a habit, with a fatal consequence: our hearts grow numb”.
“We don’t want apathy to guide our lives … or do we?”, he continued. “We don’t want the force of habit to rule our life … or do we? So we ought to ask ourselves: What can we do to keep our heart from growing numb, becoming anaesthetised? How do we make the joy of the Gospel increase and take deeper root in our lives? Jesus gives the answer. He said to his disciples then and he says it to us now: Go forth! Proclaim! The joy of the Gospel is something to be experienced, something to be known and lived only through giving it away, through giving ourselves away”.
The spirit of the world “tells us to be like everyone else, to settle for what comes easy. Faced with this human way of thinking, 'we must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and for the world'. It is the responsibility to proclaim the message of Jesus. For the source of our joy is 'an endless desire to show mercy, the fruit of our own experience of the power of the Father’s infinite mercy'. Go out to all, proclaim by anointing and anoint by proclaiming. This is what the Lord tells us today. He tells us that a Christian finds joy in mission: Go out to people of every nation! A Christian experiences joy in following a command: Go forth and proclaim the good news! A Christian finds ever new joy in answering a call: Go forth and anoint!”.
“Jesus sends His disciples out to all nations. To every people. We too were part of all those people of two thousand years ago. Jesus did not provide a short list of who is, or is not, worthy of receiving His message, His presence. Instead, He always embraced life as He saw it. In faces of pain, hunger, sickness and sin. In faces of the wounded, in thirst, weariness, doubt and pity. Far from expecting a beautiful life, smartly-dressed and neatly groomed, He embraced life as He found it. It made no difference whether it was dirty, unkempt, broken. Jesus said: Go out and tell the good news to everyone. Go out and in my name embrace life as it is, and not as you think it should be. Go out to the highways and byways, go out to tell the good news fearlessly, without prejudice, without superiority, without condescension, to all those who have lost the joy of living. Go out to proclaim the merciful embrace of the Father. Go out to those who are burdened by pain and failure, who feel that their lives are empty, and proclaim the 'folly' of a loving Father Who wants to anoint them with the oil of hope, the oil of salvation. Go out to proclaim the good news that error, deceitful illusions and falsehoods do not have the last word in a person’s life. Go out with the balm which soothes wounds and heals hearts”.
Mission is “never the fruit of a perfectly planned program or a well-organised manual. Mission is always the fruit of a life which knows what it is to be found and healed, encountered and forgiven. Mission is born of a constant experience of God’s merciful anointing. The Church, the holy People of God, treads the dust-laden paths of history, so often traversed by conflict, injustice and violence, in order to encounter her children, our brothers and sisters. The holy and faithful People of God are not afraid of losing their way; they are afraid of becoming self-enclosed, frozen into elites, clinging to their own security. They know that self-enclosure, in all the many forms it takes, is the cause of so much apathy. So let us go out, let us go forth to offer everyone the life of Jesus Christ. The People of God can embrace everyone because we are the disciples of the One who knelt before his own to wash their feet.
“The reason we are here today is that many other people wanted to respond to that call. They believed that 'life grows by being given away, and it weakens in isolation and comfort'. We are heirs to the bold missionary spirit of so many men and women who preferred not to be 'shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security … within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door people are starving'. We are indebted to a tradition, a chain of witnesses who have made it possible for the good news of the Gospel to be, in every generation, both 'good' and 'new'”.
“Today we remember one of those witnesses who testified to the joy of the Gospel in these lands, Fr. Junipero Serra. He was the embodiment of 'a Church which goes forth', a Church which sets out to bring everywhere the reconciling tenderness of God. Junipero Serra left his native land and its way of life. He was excited about blazing trails, going forth to meet many people, learning and valuing their particular customs and ways of life. He learned how to bring to birth and nurture God’s life in the faces of everyone he met; he made them his brothers and sisters. Junipero sought to defend the dignity of the native community, to protect it from those who had mistreated and abused it. Mistreatment and wrongs which today still trouble us, especially because of the hurt which they cause in the lives of many people”.
Father Serra “had a motto which inspired his life and work, a saying he lived his life by: siempre adelante! Keep moving forward! For him, this was the way to continue experiencing the joy of the Gospel, to keep his heart from growing numb, from being anaesthetised. He kept moving forward, because the Lord was waiting. He kept going, because his brothers and sisters were waiting. He kept going forward to the end of his life. Today, like him, may we be able to say: Forward! Let’s keep moving forward!”.
After the Mass for canonisation the Holy Father proceeded to the new St. John Paul II archdiocesan seminary, inaugurated in 2011, inhabited by 47 seminarians who awaited Francis at the entrance to the institution. The Pope unveiled a plaque commemorating his visit and returned to the nunciature in Washington D.C., where he spent the night.
Today, 24 September, at 10 a.m. local time ( in Rome), the Holy Father will address the United States Congress assembled in joint session, an extraordinary gathering of both the House of Representatives and the Senate. He will subsequently meet with homeless people in the St. Patrick parish. After leaving the At local time ( in Rome) he will depart by air for New York, where he will conclude the day with Vespers in St. Patrick's Cathedral.
|Other Pontifical Acts|
Vatican City, 24 September 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has:
- accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the metropolitan archdiocese of Messina-Lipari-Santa Lucia del Mela, Italy, presented by Archbishop Calogero La Piana, S.D.B., in accordance with canon 402 para. 2 of the Code of Canon Laws.
- accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the diocese of Alba, Italy, presented by Bishop Giacomo Lanzetti, in accordance with canon 402 para. 2 of the Code of Canon Laws.
- accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the diocese of Goya, Argentina, presented by Bishop Ricardo Oscar Faifer, upon reaching the age limit. He is succeeded by Bishop Adolfo Ramon Canecin, coadjutor of the same diocese.
- appointed Archbishop Luis Gerardo Cabrera Herrera, O.F.M., of Cuenca, Ecuador as archbishop of Guayaquil (area 14,637, population 3,275,192, Catholics 2,783,913, priests 202, permanent deacons 21, religious 607), Ecuador. He succeeds Archbishop Antonio Arregui Yarza, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same archdiocese upon reaching the age limit was accepted by the Holy Father.