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09-04-2015 - Year XXII - Num. 067 

Summary (Image source
- Francis receives the president of the Slovak Republic, 25 years after the restoration of diplomatic relations with the Holy See
- The Holy Father addresses the Patriarchal Synod of the Armenian Catholic Church
- Presentation of the Holy See pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale
- Audiences

- What do the angels of children tell God about us?
- Francis praises the late Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte
- Holy Week
- Holy Thursday: the tasks of a priest demand compassion
- The Pope washes the feet of twelve detainees in Rebibbia prison
- Good Friday: In Christ abandoned, we see all those abandoned in the world
- Easter Vigil Mass: learn from the women how to enter into the Paschal mystery
- Easter Sunday: may the consoling and healing voice of the Lord reach us all
- Regina Coeli: Christ is risen! Repeat this with our witness of life
- Pope's telegram for the attack on Garissa University College
- Other Pontifical Acts
Francis receives the president of the Slovak Republic, 25 years after the restoration of diplomatic relations with the Holy See
Vatican City, 9 April 2015 (VIS) – This morning the Holy Father Francis received in audience, in the Vatican Apostolic Palace, the president of the Slovak Republic, Andrej Kiska, who subsequently met with Msgr. Antoine Camilleri, Under-Secretary for Relations with States, in the Secretariat of State.
During the cordial discussions, which took place shortly before the 25th anniversary of the restoration of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the then Czech and Slovak Federative Republic on 19 April 1990 following St. John Paul II’s visit to the country, satisfaction was expressed for the good bilateral relations sealed by the Agreements in force and by the fruitful dialogue between the Church and the civil authorities.
The Parties then turned their attention to the current International context, with particular attention to the challenges affecting certain areas of the world, especially the Middle East, and the importance of the protection of the dignity of the human person.
The Holy Father addresses the Patriarchal Synod of the Armenian Catholic Church
Vatican City, 9 April 2015 (VIS) – This morning Pope Francis received in audience twenty bishops of the Synod of the Armenian Catholic Church, who will attend next Sunday's Holy Mass to be celebrated for faithful of Armenian rite in St. Peter's Basilica, during which St. Gregory of Narek will be proclaimed a Doctor of the Church.
In the discourse he addressed to the bishops, the Holy Father remarked that on Sunday they will “raise a prayer of Christian intercession for the sons and daughters of your beloved people, who were made victims a hundred years ago”, and invoked Divine Mercy “so that it might help all, in the love for truth and justice, to heal every wound and to expedite concrete gestures of reconciliation and peace between the nations that still have not managed to reach a reasonable consensus on the interpretation of these sad events”.
Francis greeted all the clergy and lay faithful of the Armenian Catholic Church, many of whom have accompanied the bishops to Rome in these days, as well as “those who live in the countries of the diaspora, such as the United States, Latin America, Europe, Russia, Ukraine, up to the Motherland”. He added, “I think with particular sadness of those areas, such as that of Aleppo, that a hundred years ago were a safe haven for the few survivors. In such regions the stability of Christians, not only Armenians, has latterly been placed in danger”.
“Your people, whom tradition recognises as the first to convert to Christianity in 301, has a two thousand-year history and preserves an admirable patrimony of spirituality and culture, united with a capacity for recovery amid the many persecutions and trials to which it has been subjected. I invite you always to cultivate a sentiment of acknowledgement of the Lord, for having been capable of maintaining fidelity to Him even during the most difficult periods. It is important, furthermore, to ask of God the gift of wisdom of the heart: the commemoration of the victims of a hundred years ago indeed places us before the darkness of the mysterium iniquitatis”.
“As the Gospel tells us, from the depths of the human heart there may emerge the darkest powers, capable of planning the systematic annihilation of one's brother, of considering him an enemy, an adversary, or even without the same human dignity”, he observed. “But for believers the issue of the evil committed by man also introduces the mystery of participation in the redemptive Passion: a number of sons and daughters of the Armenian nation were capable of pronouncing Christ's name to the point of shedding their blood or of death by starvation during the interminable exodus they were forced to undertake”.
“The painful pages in the history of your people continue, in a certain sense, the Passion of Christ, but in each one of these there is also the germ of the Resurrection. There is no lack of commitment among you, Pastors, to the education of the lay faithful to enable them to interpret reality with new eyes, in order to be able to say every day: my people consists not only of those who suffer for Christ, but above all of those who are risen in Him. Therefore it is important to remember the past, in order to draw from it the new lymph needed to nurture the present with the glorious announcement of the Gospel and with the witness of charity. I encourage you to support the path of continuing formation of priests and consecrated persons. They are your first collaborators; the communion between them and you will be strengthened by the exemplary fraternity they may observe in the Synod and with the Patriarch”.
The Pope expressed his gratitude to those who made efforts to alleviate the sufferings of their ancestors, making special reference to Pope Benedict XV “who intervened before the Sultan Mehmet V to bring an end to the massacre of the Armenians”, and who was “a great friend of the Christian Orient: he established the Congregation for the Oriental Churches and the Pontifical Oriental Institute, and in 1920 he inscribed St. Ephrem the Syrian among the Doctors of the Universal Church”. Francis continued, “I am pleased that our meeting takes place on the eve of the same gesture I will have the pleasure of performing on Sundayregarding the great figure of St. Gregory of Narek”.
“To his intercession, I entrust in particular the ecumenical dialogue between the Catholic Armenian Church and the Armenian Apostolic Church, aware of the fact that the 'ecumenism of blood' has already been achieved through the martyrdom and persecution that took place one hundred years ago”, he concluded. “I now invoke the Lord's blessing upon you and your faithful, and I ask you not to forget to pray for me”.
Presentation of the Holy See pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale
Vatican City, 9 April 2015 (VIS) - “In the beginning … the Word became Flesh” is the name of the Holy See's pavilion at the upcoming 56th Venice Biennale of Art (9 May to 22 November 2015), which was presented this morning by Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture and commissioner of the Pavilion, along with Paolo Baratta, president of the Biennale and Micol Forte, curator of the Vatican Museums Collection of Contemporary Art and of the pavilion.
During the press conference, held in the Holy See Press Office, Cardinal Ravasi explained that, continuing from the theme of the Holy See's first contribution to the 2013 Venice Biennale, the 2015 pavilion will see to re-establish the dialogue between art and faith and the need to examine, especially at an international level, the relationship between the Church and contemporary art. “Continuing from the first edition, the Holy See pavilion of the 56th Venice Biennale will develop the theme of the 'Beginning', with an itinerary leading from the Old to the New Testament, making 'logos' and 'flesh' the terms of a relationship constantly in progress”.
“The reference to Genesis, understood as Creation, De-Creation, Re-Creation, in 2013 constituted the object of a reflection that is now further developed in the Prologue of the Gospel of John. In this latter, two essential poles are highlighted: the transcendent Word that is 'in the Beginning', and at the same time, reveals the dialogical and communicational nature of the God of Jesus Christ; and the Word that becomes 'flesh', body, bringing the presence of God into the essence of humanity, especially where it appears to be wounded and suffering. The 'vertical-transcendent' dimension and the 'horizontal-immanent' dimension of flesh thus constitute in this sense the axes of research. It is necessary to refer to these axes – and their intersection – to understand the individual works and the dialogue that is interwoven between them within the exhibition space.
Micol Forti presented the works and artists represented in the Pavilion, remarking that the “indissoluble bond between 'logos' and 'flesh' produces a dialectic dynamism … that inspires, in artists as well as in the public, reflection on the binomial that is at the root of humanity. The three artists, all young, of differing provenance, experience, ethical and aesthetic vision, have been required to flesh out the idea evoked in the Prologue of the Gospel of John”. They include the Colombian Monika Bravo who, Forti explained, “has developed a narrative, deconstructed and recomposed on six screens and the same number of transparent panels, positioned on strongly coloured walls. In each composition, Nature, the Word (written and spoken) and artistic abstraction are presented as active elements of heuristic vision, open to a margin of experimental indeterminacy in the development of a new perceptive space and sensory fullness”.
The Macedonian Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva has designed a “monumental, architectural installation, whose 'fabric', almost a sort of skin or mantle, welcomes the visitor in a dimension that is simultaneously physical and symbolic. [The work is] made of organic waste material, in a journey from 'ready-made' to 're-made'”. Forti continued, “Flesh transforms into history in the reality offered without falsification” by the photographer Mario Macilau, from Mozambique. The series of nine black and white photographs taken in Maputo, capital of Mozambique, depicts the street children who at a young age are compelled to face life in terms of survival. “It is not a photo-reportage, but rather a poetic work that reverses the connections between now and before, near and far, the visible and what cannot be seen”.
Vatican City, 9 April 2015 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father received in audience:
- Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Secreteriat for the Economy;
- Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, archbishop of Perugia - Citta della Pieve, Italy;
- Archbishop Adolfo Tito Yllana, apostolic nuncio in Australia;
- Msgr. Giovanni Pietro Dal Toso, secretary of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”.
08-04-2015 - Year XXII - Num. 66 

What do the angels of children tell God about us?
Vatican City, 8 April 2015 (VIS) – During today's Wednesday general audience in St. Peter's Square, the Holy Father continued with his cycle of catechesis on the family, completing his reflection on children, “the most beautiful fruit of the blessing that the Creator has bestowed on man and woman”. This week he focused on the “stories of passion” that many children sadly experience. “Many children, from the very beginning, are rejected, abandoned, robbed of their childhood and their future. One might even dare say, almost as a justification, that it was a mistake to bring them into the world. This is shameful! Please, let us not punish them for our own errors! Children are never a mistake!”
“Those who have the task of governing and educating – indeed, I would say, all adults – are responsible for children, and everyone must do what he can to change this situation. I refer to the passion of children. Every marginalised, abandoned child, living on the streets by begging or by any other expedient, without schooling, without medical care, is a cry lifted up to God and an accusation against the system we have constructed. … However, none of these children are forgotten by the Father in Heaven. None of their tears are in vain. And our responsibility must not be forgotten either, the social responsibility of persons and countries”.
Francis recalled how Jesus urged the apostles to let the children come to Him, and remarked that “thanks to God, children with serious difficulties very often find extraordinary parents, willing to make any sacrifice and to spare no act of generosity”. However, he added, “these parents should not be left alone! We must accompany them in their efforts, but also offer them moments of shared joy and carefree pleasure, so that they are not entirely consumed by the routines of therapy”. The Pope also mentioned that often children suffer the consequences of lives damaged by precarious or underpaid employment, unreasonable working hours, immature relationships and irresponsible separations. “Often they experience violence that they are not able to overcome, and before the eyes of adults are forced to grow accustomed to degradation”.
The Holy Father emphasised that the well-being of children must always be taken seriously, and noted that now, as in the past, the Church offers her maternity in the service of children and families. “Imagine a society that decided, once and for all, to establish the principle that … where the children who come into this world are concerned, no sacrifice on the part of adults may be judged as too costly or too great, so as to avoid any child believing himself to be a mistake, without value, or being abandoned to the wounds inflicted by life”. He concluded, “May the Lord judge our life by listening to what the angels of children bring to Him, those angels that always see the face of the Father in heaven. Let us always ask ourselves, what do they tell God about us, these children's angels?”
Francis praises the late Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte
Vatican City, 8 April 2015 (VIS) – Pope Francis has sent a telegram of condolences to Archbishop Christian Lepine of Montreal, Canada, for the death of Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte, archbishop emeritus of the same city, at the age of 78. The Holy Father expresses his sadness upon learning of the passing of the cardinal and offers his condolences to his family and former diocesans. “At this time, in which we celebrate the resurrection of the Lord”, he writes, “I ask Him to welcome in the light of eternal life this faithful pastor who served the Church with devotion, not only in his diocese but also at national level, as president of the Episcopal Conference of Canada, and as an accomplished member of several Roman dicasteries”.
The Pope describes the departed cardinal as a “committed pastor, attentive to the challenges of the contemporary Church”, recalling his participation in the Synod of Bishops in 1994 dedicated to “Consecrated life and its role in the Church and in the World”, and his key role in the 1997 Synod on America. Francis also imparts a special apostolic blessing to the cardinal's family and loved ones, his parishioners and all those who will attend the funeral.
Holy Week
Holy Thursday: the tasks of a priest demand compassion
Vatican City, 2 April 2015 (VIS) – At 9.30 this morning, in St. Peter's Basilica, Pope Francis presided at the Chrism Mass, the liturgy celebrated today, Holy Thursday, in all cathedral churches. The cardinals, bishops and priests (diocesan and religious) present in Rome concelebrated with the Holy Father.
During the Eucharistic celebration, the priests renewed the vows made during their ordination. The oil used to anoint the sick and catechumens, and the Chrism, were then blessed.
“'My hand shall ever abide with him, my arms also shall strengthen him'. This is what the Lord means when he says: 'I have found David, my servant; with my holy oil I have anointed him'. It is also what our Father thinks whenever he 'encounters' a priest. And he goes on to say: 'My faithfulness and my steadfast love shall be with him. He shall cry to me, “You are my Father, my God and the rock of my salvation”'.
“It is good to enter with the Psalmist into this monologue of our God. He is talking about us, his priests, his pastors. But it is not really a monologue, since he is not the only one speaking. The Father says to Jesus: 'Your friends, those who love you, can say to me in a particular way: “You are my Father”'. If the Lord is so concerned about helping us, it is because he knows that the task of anointing his faithful people is not easy, it is demanding; it can tire us. We experience this in so many ways: from the ordinary fatigue brought on by our daily apostolate to the weariness of sickness, death and even martyrdom.
“The tiredness of priests! Do you know how often I think about this weariness which all of you experience? I think about it and I pray about it, often, especially when I am tired myself. I pray for you as you labour amid the people of God entrusted to your care, many of you in lonely and dangerous places. Our weariness, dear priests, is like incense which silently rises up to heaven. Our weariness goes straight to the heart of the Father.
“Know that the Blessed Virgin Mary is well aware of this tiredness and she brings it straight to the Lord. As our Mother, she knows when her children are weary, and this is her greatest concern. 'Welcome! Rest, my child. We will speak afterwards'. 'Whenever we draw near to her, she says to us: 'Am I not here with you, I who am your Mother?'. And to her Son she will say, as she did at Cana, 'They have no wine'.
“It can also happen that, whenever we feel weighed down by pastoral work, we can be tempted to rest however we please, as if rest were not itself a gift of God. We must not fall into this temptation. Our weariness is precious in the eyes of Jesus who embraces us and lifts us up. 'Come to me, all who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest'. “Whenever a priest feels dead tired, yet is able to bow down in adoration and say: 'Enough for today Lord', and entrust himself to the Father, he knows that he will not fall but be renewed. The one who anoints God’s faithful people with oil is also himself anointed by the Lord: 'He gives you a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit'.
“Let us never forget that a key to fruitful priestly ministry lies in how we rest and in how we look at the way the Lord deals with our weariness. How difficult it is to learn how to rest! This says much about our trust and our ability to realise that that we too are sheep: we need the help of the Shepherd. A few questions can help us in this regard.
“Do I know how to rest by accepting the love, gratitude and affection which I receive from God’s faithful people? Or, once my pastoral work is done, do I seek more refined relaxations, not those of the poor but those provided by a consumerist society? Is the Holy Spirit truly 'rest in times of weariness' for me, or is he just someone who keeps me busy? Do I know how to seek help from a wise priest? Do I know how to take a break from myself, from the demands I make on myself, from my self-seeking and from my self-absorption? Do I know how to spend time with Jesus, with the Father, with the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph, with my patron saints, and to find rest in their demands, which are easy and light, and in their pleasures, for they delight to be in my company, and in their concerns and standards, which have only to do with the greater glory of God? Do I know how to rest from my enemies under the Lord’s protection? Am I preoccupied with how I should speak and act, or do I entrust myself to the Holy Spirit, who will teach me what I need to say in every situation? Do I worry needlessly, or, like Paul, do I find repose by saying: 'I know him in whom I have placed my trust'?
“Let us return for a moment to what today’s liturgy describes as the work of the priest: to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim freedom to prisoners and healing to the blind, to offer liberation to the downtrodden and to announce the year of the Lord’s favour. Isaiah also mentions consoling the broken-hearted and comforting the afflicted.
“These are not easy or purely mechanical jobs, like running an office, building a parish hall or laying out a soccer field for the young of the parish. The tasks of which Jesus speaks call for the ability to show compassion; our hearts are to be 'moved' and fully engaged in carrying them out. We are to rejoice with couples who marry; we are to laugh with the children brought to the baptismal font; we are to accompany young fiancés and families; we are to suffer with those who receive the anointing of the sick in their hospital beds; we are to mourn with those burying a loved one. All these emotions, if we do not have an open heart, can exhaust the heart of a shepherd. For us priests, what happens in the lives of our people is not like a news bulletin: we know our people, we sense what is going on in their hearts. Our own heart, sharing in their suffering, feels 'com-passion', is exhausted, broken into a thousand pieces, moved and even 'consumed' by the people. Take this, eat this. These are the words the priest of Jesus whispers repeatedly while caring for his faithful people: Take this, eat this; take this, drink this… In this way our priestly life is given over in service, in closeness to the People of God, and this always leaves us weary.
“I wish to share with you some forms of weariness on which I have meditated. There is what we can call 'the weariness of people, the weariness of the crowd'. For the Lord, and for us, this can be exhausting – so the Gospel tells us – yet it is a good weariness, a fruitful and joyful exhaustion. The people who followed Jesus, the families which brought their children to him to be blessed, those who had been cured, those who came with their friends, the young people who were so excited about the Master, they did not even leave him time to eat. But the Lord never tired of being with people. On the contrary, he seemed renewed by their presence. This weariness in the midst of activity is a grace on which all priests can draw. And how beautiful it is! People love their priests, they want and need their shepherds! The faithful never leave us without something to do, unless we hide in our offices or go out in our cars wearing sunglasses. There is a good and healthy tiredness. It is the exhaustion of the priest who wears the smell of the sheep, but also smiles the smile of a father rejoicing in his children or grandchildren. It has nothing to do with those who wear expensive cologne and who look at others from afar and from above. We are the friends of the Bridegroom: this is our joy. If Jesus is shepherding the flock in our midst, we cannot be shepherds who are glum, plaintive or, even worse, bored. The smell of the sheep and the smile of a father. Weary, yes, but with the joy of those who hear the Lord saying: 'Come, O blessed of my Father'.
“There is also the kind of weariness which we can call 'the weariness of enemies'. The devil and his minions never sleep and, since their ears cannot bear to hear the word of God, they work tirelessly to silence that word and to distort it. Confronting them is more wearying. It involves not only doing good, with all the exertion this entails, but also defending the flock and oneself from evil. The evil one is far more astute than we are, and he is able to demolish in a moment what it took us years of patience to build up. Here we need to implore the grace to learn how to 'offset' (and it is an important habit to acquire): to thwart evil without pulling up the good wheat, or presuming to protect like supermen what the Lord alone can protect. All this helps us not to let our guard down before the depths of iniquity, before the mockery of the wicked. In these situations of weariness, the Lord says to us: 'Have courage! I have overcome the world!'. The Word of God gives us strength.
“And finally – I say finally lest you be too wearied by this homily itself! – there is also 'weariness of ourselves'. This may be the most dangerous weariness of all. That is because the other two kinds come from being exposed, from going out of ourselves to anoint and to do battle (for our job is to care for others). But this third kind of weariness is more 'self-referential': it is dissatisfaction with oneself, but not the dissatisfaction of someone who directly confronts himself and serenely acknowledges his sinfulness and his need for God’s mercy, His help; such people ask for help and then move forward. Here we are speaking of a weariness associated with 'wanting yet not wanting', having given up everything but continuing to yearn for the fleshpots of Egypt, toying with the illusion of being something different. I like to call this kind of weariness 'flirting with spiritual worldliness'. When we are alone, we realise how many areas of our life are steeped in this worldliness, so much so that we may feel that it can never be completely washed away. This can be a dangerous kind of weariness. The Book of Revelation shows us the reason for this weariness: 'You have borne up for my sake and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first'. Only love gives true rest. What is not loved becomes tiresome, and in time, brings about a harmful weariness.
“The most profound and mysterious image of how the Lord deals with our pastoral tiredness is that, 'having loved his own, he loved them to the end': the scene of his washing the feet of his disciples. I like to think of this as the cleansing of discipleship. The Lord purifies the path of discipleship itself. He 'gets involved' with us, becomes personally responsible for removing every stain, all that grimy, worldly smog which clings to us from the journey we make in his name.
“From our feet, we can tell how the rest of our body is doing. The way we follow the Lord reveals how our heart is faring. The wounds on our feet, our sprains and our weariness, are signs of how we have followed Him, of the paths we have taken in seeking the lost sheep and in leading the flock to green pastures and still waters. The Lord washes us and cleanses us of all the dirt our feet have accumulated in following Him. This is something holy. Do not let your feet remain dirty. Like battle wounds, the Lord kisses them and washes away the grime of our labours.
“Our discipleship itself is cleansed by Jesus, so that we can rightly feel 'joyful', 'fulfilled', 'free of fear and guilt', and impelled to go out 'even to the ends of the earth, to every periphery'. In this way we can bring the good news to the most abandoned, knowing that 'He is with us always, even to the end of the world'. And please, let us ask for the grace to learn how to be weary, but weary in the best of ways!”.
The Pope washes the feet of twelve detainees in Rebibbia prison
Vatican City, 2 April 2015 (VIS) – This afternoon Pope Francis celebrated Holy Mass “in Coena Domini” in Rome's Rebibbia penitentiary, where he arrived around 5.15 p.m. He greeted the authorities, staff and a group of detainees in the prison courtyard. Shortly before 6 p.m., in the “Padre Nostro” church in the New Complex of Rebibbia, the Pope presided at the Holy Mass that begins the Easter Triduum, during which he washed the feet of twelve detainees, six men and six women from the nearby women's penitentiary.
In his improvised homily, the Pope remarked that on a Thursday like today, Jesus was at the table with His disciples, celebrating the feast of the Passover. “The Gospel reading we have just heard contains a phrase which is precisely at the centre of what Jesus did for all of us: 'having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end'. Jesus loved us. Jesus loves us. Without limits, always, to the end. … And each one of us can say, 'He gave His life for me'. … For everyone, name and surname. This is how His love is: personal. Jesus' love never disappoints, as He never tires of loving, just as He never tires of forgiving, of embracing us. This is the first thing I wanted to say to you: Jesus loved us, each one of us, unto the end”.
“And then, he does what the disciples did not understand: washing their feet. In that time, it was a custom, as when people arrived at a house their feet were dirty from the dust of the road. … But the master of the house did not do this. It was a task for the slaves. And Jesus, like a slave, washes our feet, the feet of His disciples, and therefore says to Peter: 'What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterwards you will understand'. So great is Jesus' love that He made Himself into a slave to serve us, to heal us, to cleanse us”.
“And today, in this Mass, the Church wishes for her priest to wash the feet of twelve people, in memory of the Twelve Apostles. But in our hearts we must be sure that the Lord, when He washes our feet, washes us entirely, He purifies us, He lets us feel His love once more. In the Bible there is a beautiful phrase, from the prophet Isaiah: 'Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you'. This is what God's love for us is like”.
“And today”, he concluded, “I will wash the feet of twelve of you, but all of you, all people, are in these brothers and sisters. You represent them. But I too need to be washed by the Lord, and therefore pray during this Mass that the Lord may wash away my impurities, so that I may become more of a slave than you, more of a slave in the service of the people, as Jesus was”.
Good Friday: In Christ abandoned, we see all those abandoned in the world
Vatican City, 3 April 2015 (VIS) – At 9.15 p.m. today, Good Friday, at Rome's ancient Colosseum, Pope Francis offered a meditation following the torch-lit Via Via Crucis in which thousands of faithful participate every year, accompanying Christ's journey to the Cross. From the terrace of the Palatine Hill, the Holy Father listened to the reflections that accompanied each of the fourteen stations, all of which were united by the constant reference to the gift of being protected by God's love, and in particular that of the crucified Jesus, and the task of being, in turn, protectors of the whole of Creation, especially the poorest and most marginalised. He reflected on the situation of men and women who are persecuted and martyred for their faith or for working to promote justice and peace, on the family, on the condition of life for women, on human trafficking and violence against children in its various forms.
The cross was carried between the fourteen stations by the cardinal archbishop of Rome, Agostino Vallini, a large family, another family with adopted children, two patients, citizens of Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, Egypt and China, women religious from secular institutes and of Our Lady of Piety in Latin America, and two custodians of the Holy Land.
At the end of the Via Crucis, the Pope recited the following prayer:
“O Christ crucified and victorious, Your Way of the Cross is the summary of Your life, the icon of Your obedience to the will of the Father,and the realisation of Your infinite love for us sinners. It is the proof of Your mission. It is the final fulfilment of the revelation and the history of salvation. The weight of Your cross frees us from all of our burdens.
“In Your obedience to the will of the Father, we become aware of our rebellion and disobedience. In You, sold, betrayed, crucified by Your own people and those dear to You, we see our own betrayals and our own usual infidelity. In Your innocence, Immaculate Lamb, we see our guilt. In Your face, slapped, spat on and disfigured, we see the brutality of our sins. In the cruelty of Your passion, we see the cruelty of our heart and of our actions. In Your own feeling of abandonment, we see those abandoned by their families, by society, by attention and by solidarity. In Your body, sacrificed, ripped and torn, we see the body of our brothers who have been abandoned along the way, disfigured by our negligence and our indifference. In Your thirst Lord, we see the thirst of Your merciful Father, who desired to embrace, forgive and save all of humanity. In You, Divine Love, we see even today, before our very eyes, and often with our silence and complicity, our persecuted brothers and sisters, decapitated, crucified for their faith in You.
“Imprint in our heart, Lord, sentiments of faith, hope and charity, of sorrow for our sins, and lead us to repent for our sins that have crucified You. Lead us to transform our conversion with words into a conversion of life and works. Help us to preserve within us a living memory of Your disfigured face, so that we may never forget the terrible price You paid to free us. Crucified Jesus, strengthen in us a faith that does not collapse in the face of temptations; awaken in us the hope that does get lost following the temptations of the world. Preserve in us the charity that is not fooled by the corruption of worldliness. Teach us that the cross is the way to the resurrection. Teach us that Good Friday is the way to the Easter of light. Teach us that God never forgets any of his children, and never tires of forgiving us and embracing us with His infinite mercy. But also teach us to never tire of asking Him for forgiveness and believing in the boundless mercy of the Father”.
Easter Vigil Mass: learn from the women how to enter into the Paschal mystery
Vatican City, 4 April 2015 (VIS) – The solemn Easter Vigil began this evening at 8.30 in St. Peter's Basilica. Pope Francis presided over the rites which began in the church atrium with a blessing of the new fire and the preparation of the Paschal candle. After the procession to the altar with the lighted candle the celebration continued with the singing of the “Exsultet”, and Liturgy of the Word. The Holy Father went on to administer the sacraments of Christian initiation (Baptism, Confirmation and First Communion) to ten people from Italy, Portugal, Albania, Kenya and Cambodia.
Following the Gospel reading, the bishop of Rome pronounced a homily in which he commented that the women were the first to enter into the empty tomb, and urged those present to learn from these women, Jesus' disciples, never to lose faith or hope.
“Tonight is a night of vigil”, he said. “The Lord is not sleeping; the Watchman is watching over his people, to bring them out of slavery and to open before them the way to freedom. The Lord is keeping watch and, by the power of His love, He is bringing His people through the Red Sea. He is also bringing Jesus through the abyss of death and the netherworld.
“This was a night of vigil for the disciples of Jesus, a night of sadness and fear. The men remained locked in the Upper Room. Yet, the women went to the tomb at dawn on Sunday to anoint Jesus’ body. Their hearts were overwhelmed and they were asking themselves: 'How will we enter? Who will roll back the stone of the tomb?” But here was the first sign of the great event: the large stone was already rolled back and the tomb was open.
“'Entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe'. The women were the first to see this great sign, the empty tomb; and they were the first to enter. 'Entering the tomb'. It is good for us, on this Vigil night, to reflect on the experience of the women, which also speaks to us. For that is why we are here: to enter, to enter into the Mystery which God has accomplished with his vigil of love. We cannot live Easter without entering into the mystery. It is not something intellectual, something we only know or read about. It is more, much more!
“'To enter into the mystery' means the ability to wonder, to contemplate; the ability to listen to the silence and to hear the tiny whisper amid great silence by which God speaks to us. To enter into the mystery demands that we not be afraid of reality: that we not be locked into ourselves, that we not flee from what we fail to understand, that we not close our eyes to problems or deny them, that we not dismiss our questions. To enter into the mystery means going beyond our own comfort zone, beyond the laziness and indifference which hold us back, and going out in search of truth, beauty and love. It is seeking a deeper meaning, an answer, and not an easy one, to the questions which challenge our faith, our fidelity and our very existence.
“To enter into the mystery, we need humility, the lowliness to abase ourselves, to come down from the pedestal of our 'I' which is so proud, of our presumption; the humility not to take ourselves so seriously, recognising who we really are: creatures with strengths and weaknesses, sinners in need of forgiveness. To enter into the mystery we need the lowliness that is powerlessness, the renunciation of our idols ... in a word, we need to adore. Without adoration, we cannot enter into the mystery.
“The women who were Jesus’ disciples teach us all of this. They kept watch that night, together with Mary. And she, the Virgin Mother, helped them not to lose faith and hope. As a result, they did not remain prisoners of fear and sadness, but at the first light of dawn they went out carrying their ointments, their hearts anointed with love. They went forth and found the tomb open. And they went in. They had kept watch, they went forth and they entered into the Mystery. May we learn from them to keep watch with God and with Mary our Mother, so that we too may enter into the Mystery which leads from death to life”.
Easter Sunday: may the consoling and healing voice of the Lord reach us all
Vatican City, 5 April 2015 (VIS) – At 10.15 today, Easter Sunday, the Holy Father Francis celebrated the solemn Mass of the Resurrection of the Lord in St. Peter's Square, which had been decorated for the occasion with 40,000 plants and flowers (tulips, narcissus and hyacinths) offered by Dutch florists, mostly in yellow and white, the colours of Vatican City State. The celebration, which began with the "Resurrexit" rite – the opening of an icon of the Risen Lord, placed next to the papal altar – was attended by more than 50,000 faithful from all around the world, whom the Pope thanked.
The Holy Father did not pronounce a homily, but following Mass at midday he delivered an Easter message and imparted his “Urbi et Orbi” blessing from the central balcony of the Vatican basilica. He addressed the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square and all those following the event on radio or television, making a special Easter appeal for the world not to submit to arms traffickers, recalling the tragedies in Yemen, Libya, Syria and Iraq, the persecution of Christians in these and other countries, the conflicts in the Holy Land and the war in Ukraine. He also made a plea for peace in Nigeria, South Sudan and the Republic of Congo, and mentioned in particular the poor, the incarcerated and immigrants, who are frequently scorned and rejected. He then imparted his “Urbi et Orbi” blessing, to the city and the world.
“Dear Brothers and Sisters, Happy Easter! Jesus Christ is risen!” exclaimed the Pope. “Love has triumphed over hatred, life has conquered death, light has dispelled the darkness! Out of love for us, Jesus Christ stripped Himself of His divine glory, emptied Himself, took on the form of a slave and humbled Himself even to death, death on a cross. For this reason God exalted him and made him Lord of the universe. Jesus is Lord! By His death and resurrection, Jesus shows everyone the way to life and happiness: this way is humility, which involves humiliation. This is the path which leads to glory. Only those who humble themselves can go towards the 'things that are above', towards God. The proud look 'down from above'; the humble look 'up from below'.
“On Easter morning, alerted by the women, Peter and John ran to the tomb. They found it open and empty. Then they drew near and 'bent down' in order to enter it. To enter into the mystery, we need to 'bend down', to abase ourselves. Only those who abase themselves understand the glorification of Jesus and are able to follow him on his way. The world proposes that we put ourselves forward at all costs, that we compete, that we prevail. But Christians, by the grace of Christ, dead and risen, are the seeds of another humanity, in which we seek to live in service to one another, not to be arrogant, but rather respectful and ready to help. This is not weakness, but true strength! Those who bear within them God’s power, His love and His justice, do not need to employ violence; they speak and act with the power of truth, beauty and love.
“From the risen Lord we ask today the grace not to succumb to the pride which fuels violence and war, but to have the humble courage of pardon and peace. We ask Jesus, the Victor over death, to lighten the sufferings of our many brothers and sisters who are persecuted for his name, and of all those who suffer injustice as a result of ongoing conflicts and violence. There are so many of them. We ask for peace, above all, for beloved Syria and Iraq, that the roar of arms may cease and that peaceful relations may be restored among the various groups which make up those beloved countries. May the international community not stand by before the immense humanitarian tragedy unfolding in these countries and the drama of the numerous refugees. We pray for peace for all the peoples of the Holy Land. May the culture of encounter grow between Israelis and Palestinians and the peace process be resumed, in order to end years of suffering and division.
“We implore peace for Libya, that the present absurd bloodshed and all barbarous acts of violence may cease, and that all concerned for the future of the country may work to favour reconciliation and to build a fraternal society respectful of the dignity of the person. For Yemen too we express our hope for the growth of a common desire for peace, for the good of the entire people. At the same time, in hope we entrust to the merciful Lord the framework recently agreed to in Lausanne, that it may be a definitive step toward a more secure and fraternal world. We ask the risen Lord for the gift of peace for Nigeria, South Sudan and for the various areas of Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. May constant prayer rise up from all people of goodwill for those who lost their lives – I think in particular of the young people who were killed last Thursday at Garissa University College in Kenya –, for all who have been kidnapped, and for those forced to abandon their homes and their loved ones.
“May the Lord’s resurrection bring light to beloved Ukraine, especially to those who have endured the violence of the conflict of recent months. May the country rediscover peace and hope thanks to the commitment of all interested parties. We ask for peace and freedom for the many men and women subject to old and new forms of enslavement on the part of criminal individuals and groups. Peace and liberty for the victims of drug dealers, who are often allied with the powers who ought to defend peace and harmony in the human family. And we ask peace for this world subjected to arms dealers, who profit from the blood of men and women.
“May the marginalised, the imprisoned, the poor and the migrants who are so often rejected, maltreated and discarded, the sick and the suffering, children, especially those who are victims of violence; all who today are in mourning, and all men and women of goodwill, hear the consoling and healing voice of the Lord Jesus: 'Peace to you!'. 'Fear not, for I am risen and I shall always be with you'.
Regina Coeli: Christ is risen! Repeat this with our witness of life
Vatican City, 6 April 2015 (VIS) – At midday today the Holy Father appeared at the window of his study to pray the Regina Coeli, the prayer that substitutes the Angelus during Easter time, with the thousands of faithful and pilgrims reunited in St. Peter's Square. Before reciting the Marian prayer, Francis commented on the day's Gospel reading, remarking that the angel announced to the women in the tomb that Jesus was risen, and asked them to take the news to the disciples and to tell them to go to Galilee, where they would encounter the Messiah. “Today, too, He is with us, here in the square”. The Pope also noted that this is the announcement that the Church has repeated since the very first day. “Christ is risen!” “It is the good news we are called upon to take to others everywhere, inspired by the Holy Spirit. Faith in the resurrection of Jesus and the hope that He has brought to us is the most beautiful gift that the Christian can and must offer to his brethren. … Christ is risen! Let us repeat this in words, but above all with the witness of our life”.
“Let us proclaim Christ's resurrection when His light illuminates the darkest moments of our existence and we are able to share it with others; when we know how to smile with those who smile, and weep with those who weep; when we walk alongside those who are sad and at risk of losing hope; when we recount our experience of faith to those who are in search of meaning and happiness. With our attitude, our witness, our life, we say: Jesus is risen! We say this with all our soul. … Easter is the event that brought radical newness to every human being, for history and for the world: it is the triumph of life over death; it is the celebration of reawakening and regeneration. Let our existence be conquered and transformed by the Resurrection!” concluded the Pope, urging those present to pray to the Virgin Mary to “let the joy of Easter grow in us”.
Following the Regina Coeli prayer, Francis greeted the faithful, wishing them a happy Easter and encouraging them to read a passage from the Gospel every day. He addressed some words to the Shalom Movement, which has reached the final stage of its relay race to raise public awareness of the persecution of Christians throughout the world. “You have reached the end of your itinerary, but we must all continue on the spiritual path of intense prayer, concrete participation and tangible aid in the defence and protection of our brothers and sisters who are persecuted, exiled, killed, decapitated, for the mere fact of being Christians. They are our present-day martyrs, and there are many of them; indeed, we might say that there are more of them than in the first centuries”.
Francis also urged the international community “not to remain silent and inert in the face of this unacceptable crime, which constitutes a worrying erosion of the most elementary human rights. I truly hope that the international community does not look away”.
Pope's telegram for the attack on Garissa University College
Vatican City, 3 April 2015 (VIS) – Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin sent a telegram of condolences on behalf of the Holy Father to Cardinal John Njue, archbishop of Nairobi, Kenya, following the attack on the university campus of Garissa which caused the death of 147 students and many casualties.
“Deeply saddened by the immense and tragic loss of life caused by the recent attack on the Garissa University College, the Holy Father sends assurances of his prayers and spiritual closeness to the families of the victims and to all Kenyans at this painful time. He commends the souls of the deceased to the infinite mercy of Almighty God, and he prays that all who mourn them will be comforted in their loss. In union with all people of good will throughout the world, His Holiness condemns this act of senseless brutality and prays for a change of heart among its perpetrators. He calls upon all those in authority to redouble their efforts to work with all men and women in Kenya to bring an end to such violence and to hasten the dawn of a new era of brotherhood, justice and peace”.
Other Pontifical Acts
Vatican City, 8 April 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has:
- accepted the resignation from the office of auxiliary of the archdiocese of Morelia, Mexico, presented by Archbishop Octavio Villegas Aguilar upon reaching the age limit.
On Tuesday, 7 April, the Holy Father appointed:
- Rev. Fr. Ernesto Jose Romero Rivas, O.F.M. Cap., as apostolic vicar of Tucupita (area 40,200, population 167,676, Catholics 120,000, priests 8, religious 20), Venezuela. The bishop-elect was born in Machiques, Venezuela in 1960, gave his solemn vows in 1990, and was ordained a priest in the same year. He holds a licentiate in catechetics from the Pontifical Salesian University in Rome and has served in a number of roles, including parish administrator in Tucupita; and master of post-novices, counsellor, superior, rector, bursar and vice provincial counsellor of the Order of Friars Minor in Venezuela. He is currently pro-vicar of Tucupita and parish priest.
- appointed Rev. Fr. Vincent Aind as bishop of Bagdogra (area 1,200, population 1,015,000, Catholics 54,301, priests 58, religious 185), India. The bishop-elect was born in Kalchini, India in 1955 and was ordained a priest in 1984. He holds a doctorate in philosophy from the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, and has served in a number of roles, including parish vicar and parish priest in the diocese of Jalpaiguri; lecturer, spiritual director, rector and dean of the Morning Star regional seminary, Barrackpore; and principal of the Morning Star College. He is currently diocesan consulter and member of the council for economic affairs of the diocese of Jalpaiguri, and regional secretary of the Commission for the Clergy, Religious and Seminarians of the Regional Episcopal Conference of West Bengal.