Friday, February 12, 2016

LIVE #PopeFrancis meets Patriarch Kirill of Russia - Historic Meeting - SHARE

His Holiness Pope Francis meets with His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia in Cuba, where the Pope makes a stop on his way to Mexico, and where the Patriarch is on an official visit. The meeting includes a personal conversation at Havana’s José Martí International Airport, and concludes with the signing of a joint declaration. (Vatican: youtube) FULL VIDEO Below:
Joint Declaration
of Pope Francis
and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God the Father and the fellowship of the holy Spirit be with all of you” (2 Cor 13:13).
1. By God the Father’s will, from which all gifts come, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the help of the Holy Spirit Consolator, we, Pope Francis and Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, have met today in Havana. We give thanks to God, glorified in the Trinity, for this meeting, the first in history.
It is with joy that we have met like brothers in the Christian faith who encounter one another “to speak face to face” (2 Jn 12), from heart to heart, to discuss the mutual relations between the  Churches, the crucial problems of our faithful, and the outlook for the progress of human civilization.
2. Our fraternal meeting has taken place in Cuba, at the crossroads of North and South, East and West. It is from this island, the symbol of the hopes of the “New World” and the dramatic events of the history of the twentieth century, that we address our words to all the peoples of Latin America and of the other continents.
It is a source of joy that the Christian faith is growing here in a dynamic way.  The powerful religious potential of Latin America, its centuries–old Christian tradition, grounded in the personal experience of millions of people, are the pledge of a great future for this region.
3. By meeting far from the longstanding disputes of the “Old World”, we experience with a particular sense of urgency the need for the shared labour of Catholics and Orthodox, who are called, with gentleness and respect, to give an explanation to the world of the hope in us (cf. 1 Pet 3:15).
4. We thank God for the gifts received from the coming into the world of His only Son. We share the same spiritual Tradition of the first millennium of Christianity. The witnesses of this Tradition are the Most Holy Mother of God, the Virgin Mary, and the saints we venerate.  Among them are innumerable martyrs who have given witness to their faithfulness to Christ and have become the “seed of Christians”.
5. Notwithstanding this shared Tradition of the first ten centuries, for nearly one thousand years Catholics and Orthodox have been deprived of communion in the Eucharist. We have been divided by wounds caused by old and recent conflicts, by differences inherited from our ancestors, in the understanding and expression of our faith in God, one in three Persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are pained by the loss of unity, the outcome of human weakness and of sin, which has occurred despite the priestly prayer of Christ the Saviour: “So that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you … so that they may be one, as we are one” (Jn 17:21).
6. Mindful of the permanence of many obstacles, it is our hope that our meeting may contribute to the re–establishment of this unity willed by God, for which Christ prayed. May our meeting inspire Christians throughout the world to pray to the Lord with renewed fervour for the full unity of all His disciples. In a world which yearns not only for our words but also for tangible gestures, may this meeting be a sign of hope for all people of goodwill!
7. In our determination to undertake all that is necessary to overcome the historical divergences we have inherited, we wish to combine our efforts to give witness to the Gospel of Christ and to the shared heritage of the Church of the first millennium, responding together to the challenges of the contemporary world. Orthodox and Catholics must learn to give unanimously witness in those spheres in which this is possible and necessary. Human civilization has entered into a period of epochal change. Our Christian conscience and our pastoral responsibility compel us not to remain passive in the face of challenges requiring a shared response.
8. Our gaze must firstly turn to those regions of the world where Christians are victims of persecution. In many countries of the Middle East and North Africa whole families, villages and cities of our brothers and sisters in Christ are being completely exterminated. Their churches are being barbarously ravaged and looted, their sacred objects profaned, their monuments destroyed. It is with pain that we call to mind the situation in Syria, Iraq and other countries of the Middle East, and the massive exodus of Christians from the land in which our faith was first disseminated and in which they have lived since the time of the Apostles, together with other religious communities.
9. We call upon the international community to act urgently in order to prevent the further expulsion of Christians from the Middle East. In raising our voice in defence of persecuted Christians, we wish to express our compassion for the suffering experienced by the faithful of other religious traditions who have also become victims of civil war, chaos and terrorist violence.
10. Thousands of victims have already been claimed in the violence in Syria and Iraq, which has left many other millions without a home or means of sustenance. We urge the international community to seek an end to the violence and terrorism and, at the same time, to contribute through dialogue to a swift return to civil peace. Large–scale humanitarian aid must be assured to the afflicted populations and to the many refugees seeking safety in neighbouring lands.
We call upon all those whose influence can be brought to bear upon the destiny of those kidnapped, including the Metropolitans of Aleppo, Paul and John Ibrahim, who were taken in April 2013, to make every effort to ensure their prompt liberation.
11. We lift our prayers to Christ, the Saviour of the world, asking for the return of peace in the Middle East, “the fruit of justice” (Is 32:17), so that fraternal co–existence among the various populations, Churches and religions may be strengthened, enabling refugees to return to their homes, wounds to be healed, and the souls of the slain innocent to rest in peace.
We address, in a fervent appeal, all the parts that may be involved in the conflicts to demonstrate good will and to take part in the negotiating table. At the same time, the international community must undertake every possible effort to end terrorism through common, joint and coordinated action. We call on all the countries involved in the struggle against terrorism to responsible and prudent action. We exhort all Christians and all believers of God to pray fervently to the providential Creator of the world to protect His creation from destruction and not permit a new world war. In order to ensure a solid and enduring peace, specific efforts must be undertaken to rediscover the common values uniting us, based on the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
12. We bow before the martyrdom of those who, at the cost of their own lives, have given witness to the truth of the Gospel, preferring death to the denial of Christ. We believe that these martyrs of our times, who belong to various Churches but who are united by their shared suffering, are a pledge of the unity of Christians. It is to you who suffer for Christ’s sake that the word of the Apostle is directed: “Beloved … rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly” (1 Pet 4:12–13).
13. Interreligious dialogue is indispensable in our disturbing times. Differences in the understanding of religious truths must not impede people of different faiths to live in peace and harmony. In our current context, religious leaders have the particular responsibility to educate their faithful in a spirit which is respectful of the convictions of those belonging to other religious traditions. Attempts to justify criminal acts with religious slogans are altogether unacceptable. No crime may be committed in God’s name, “since God is not the God of disorder but of peace” (1 Cor 14:33).
14. In affirming the foremost value of religious freedom, we give thanks to God for the current unprecedented renewal of the Christian faith in Russia, as well as in many other countries of Eastern Europe, formerly dominated for decades by atheist regimes. Today, the chains of militant atheism have been broken and in many places Christians can now freely confess their faith. Thousands of new churches have been built over the last quarter of a century, as well as hundreds of monasteries and theological institutions. Christian communities undertake notable works in the fields of charitable aid and social development, providing diversified forms of assistance to the needy. Orthodox and Catholics often work side by side. Giving witness to the values of the Gospel they attest to the existence of the shared spiritual foundations of human co–existence.
15. At the same time, we are concerned about the situation in many countries in which Christians are increasingly confronted by restrictions to religious freedom, to the right to witness to one’s convictions and to live in conformity with them. In particular, we observe that the transformation of some countries into secularized societies, estranged from all reference to God and to His truth, constitutes a grave threat to religious freedom.  It is a source of concern for us that there is a current curtailment of the rights of Christians, if not their outright discrimination, when certain political forces, guided by an often very aggressive secularist ideology, seek to relegate them to the margins of public life.
16. The process of European integration, which began after centuries of blood–soaked conflicts, was welcomed by many with hope, as a guarantee of peace and security. Nonetheless, we invite vigilance against an integration that is devoid of respect for religious identities. While remaining open to the contribution of other religions to our civilization, it is our conviction that Europe must remain faithful to its Christian roots. We call upon Christians of Eastern and Western Europe to unite in their shared witness to Christ and the Gospel, so that Europe may preserve its soul, shaped by two thousand years of Christian tradition.
17. Our gaze is also directed to those facing serious difficulties, who live in extreme need and poverty while the material wealth of humanity increases. We cannot remain indifferent to the destinies of millions of migrants and refugees knocking on the doors of wealthy nations. The unrelenting consumerism of some more developed countries is gradually depleting the resources of our planet. The growing inequality in the distribution of material goods increases the feeling of the injustice of the international order that has emerged.
18. The Christian churches are called to defend the demands of justice, the respect for peoples’ traditions, and an authentic solidarity towards all those who suffer. We Christians cannot forget that “God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, that no human being might boast before God” (1 Cor 1:27–29).
19. The family is the natural centre of human life and society. We are concerned about the crisis in the family in many countries. Orthodox and Catholics share the same conception of the family, and are called to witness that it is a path of holiness, testifying to the faithfulness of the spouses in their mutual interaction, to their openness to the procreation and rearing of their children, to solidarity between the generations and to respect for the weakest.
20. The family is based on marriage, an act of freely given and faithful love between a man and a woman. It is love that seals their union and teaches them to accept one another as a gift. Marriage is a school of love and faithfulness. We regret that other forms of cohabitation have been placed on the same level as this union, while the concept, consecrated in the biblical tradition, of paternity and maternity as the distinct vocation of man and woman in marriage is being banished from the public conscience.
21. We call on all to respect the inalienable right to life. Millions are denied the very right to be born into the world. The blood of the unborn cries out to God (cf. Gen 4:10).
The emergence of so-called euthanasia leads elderly people and the disabled begin to feel that they are a burden on their families and on society in general.
We are also concerned about the development of biomedical reproduction technology, as the manipulation of human life represents an attack on the foundations of human existence, created in the image of God. We believe that it is our duty to recall the immutability of Christian moral principles, based on respect for the dignity of the individual called into being according to the Creator’s plan.
22. Today, in a particular way, we address young Christians. You, young people, have the task of not hiding your talent in the ground (cf. Mt 25:25), but of using all the abilities God has given you to confirm Christ’s truth in the world, incarnating in your own lives the evangelical commandments of the love of God and of one’s neighbour. Do not be afraid of going against the current, defending God’s truth, to which contemporary secular norms are often far from conforming.
23. God loves each of you and expects you to be His disciples and apostles. Be the light of the world so that those around you may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father (cf. Mt 5:14, 16). Raise your children in the Christian faith, transmitting to them the pearl of great price that is the faith (cf. Mt 13:46) you have received from your parents and forbears. Remember that “you have been purchased at a great price” (1 Cor 6:20), at the cost of the death on the cross of the Man–God Jesus Christ.
24. Orthodox and Catholics are united not only by the shared Tradition of the Church of the first millennium, but also by the mission to preach the Gospel of Christ in the world today. This mission entails mutual respect for members of the Christian communities and excludes any form of proselytism.
We are not competitors but brothers, and this concept must guide all our mutual actions as well as those directed to the outside world. We urge Catholics and Orthodox in all countries to learn to live together in peace and love, and to be “in harmony with one another” (Rm 15:5). Consequently, it cannot be accepted that disloyal means be used to incite believers to pass from one Church to another, denying them their religious freedom and their traditions. We are called upon to put into practice the precept of the apostle Paul: “Thus I aspire to proclaim the gospel not where Christ has already been named, so that I do not build on another's foundation” (Rm 15:20).
25. It is our hope that our meeting may also contribute to reconciliation wherever tensions exist between Greek Catholics and Orthodox. It is today clear that the past method of “uniatism”, understood as the union of one community to the other, separating it from its Church, is not the way to re–establish unity. Nonetheless, the ecclesial communities which emerged in these historical circumstances have the right to exist and to undertake all that is necessary to meet the spiritual needs of their faithful, while seeking to live in peace with their neighbours. Orthodox and Greek Catholics are in need of reconciliation and of mutually acceptable forms of co–existence.
26. We deplore the hostility in Ukraine that has already caused many victims, inflicted innumerable wounds on peaceful inhabitants and thrown society into a deep economic and humanitarian crisis. We invite all the parts involved in the conflict to prudence, to social solidarity and to action aimed at constructing peace. We invite our Churches in Ukraine to work towards social harmony, to refrain from taking part in the confrontation, and to not support any further development of the conflict.
27. It is our hope that the schism between the Orthodox faithful in Ukraine may be overcome through existing canonical norms, that all the Orthodox Christians of Ukraine may live in peace and harmony, and that the Catholic communities in the country may contribute to this, in such a way that our Christian brotherhood may become increasingly evident.
28. In the contemporary world, which is both multiform yet united by a shared destiny, Catholics and Orthodox are called to work together fraternally in proclaiming the Good News of salvation, to testify together to the moral dignity and authentic freedom of the person, “so that the world may believe” (Jn 17:21). This world, in which the spiritual pillars of human existence are progressively disappearing, awaits from us a compelling Christian witness in all spheres of personal and social life. Much of the future of humanity will depend on our capacity to give shared witness to the Spirit of truth in these difficult times.
29. May our bold witness to God’s truth and to the Good News of salvation be sustained by the Man–God Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, who strengthens us with the unfailing promise: “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom” (Lk 12:32)!
Christ is the well–spring of joy and hope. Faith in Him transfigures human life, fills it with meaning. This is the conviction borne of the experience of all those to whom Peter refers in his words: “Once you were ‘no people’ but now you are God’s people; you ‘had not received mercy’ but now you have received mercy” (1 Pet 2:10).

30. With grace–filled gratitude for the gift of mutual understanding manifested during our meeting, let us with hope turn to the Most Holy Mother of God, invoking her with the words of this ancient prayer: “We seek refuge under the protection of your mercy, Holy Mother of God”. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, through her intercession, inspire fraternity in all those who venerate her, so that they may be reunited, in God’s own time, in the peace and harmony of the one people of God, for the glory of the Most Holy and indivisible Trinity!

Francis                                                              Kirill
Bishop of Rome                                                 Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia
Pope of the Catholic Church

#PopeFrancis "My most profound desire is to pause before Our Lady" FULL TEXT Interview on Plane for #Mexico Visit

Pope Francis and journalists during the flight from Rome to Havana this morning:
Father Lombardi
Holy Father, welcome among us, as usual, at the beginning of these very beautiful inter-continental trips. This trip is very moving for us. We know that it is a trip that you have desired very much, be it to meet with the Patriarch, be it then for the meeting with the Mexican people. We are prepared, therefore, for great emotions and historic moments. We wish you the very best for these days and we are with you to do our service of spreading the Word of the Lord and your words well.
As you can see, we are a good group, about 76, a very international group. We have given an important space to the Mexicans. There are about ten Mexicans present, but almost all nations and countries are represented. Now we give you the floor, for whatever you would like to say at the beginning of this trip. Thank you, truly, for being here.
Pope Francis
Good morning! I thank you for your presence, for the work you do. It is a demanding trip, very jam-packed, but so desired: so desired by my brother Kirill, by me and also by the Mexican people. The other day, when beginning the Wednesday Audience, your Mexican ‘Dean’ [Dean of the Holy See Press Corps, Mexican journalist Valentina Alazraki] was waiting for me, as if to make me enter the tunnel of time, with all Cantinflas’ films. And so I entered Mexico by the door of [the Mexican comedian] Cantinflas, who really makes one laugh … My most profound desire is to pause before Our Lady of Guadalupe, that mystery that is studied, studied, studied and there are no human explanations. Even the most scientific study says: “But this is a thing of God.” And this is what makes Mexicans say: “I’m an atheist, but I am a Guadalupan.” Some Mexicans: Not all are atheists!
I would also like to say something else to you: that this is the last trip in which Doctor Gasbarri accompanies us. He has worked in the Vatican for 47 years. For 37 years, he has been concerned with the trips. I say it so that, during these days, we can express our gratitude to him and also think of a small party here, on our return  … and then Monsignor Mauricio Rueda will be in charge of trips. Welcome!
And now, if you allow me, I would like to greet you personally.
Father Lombardi
Before the Pope greets the individuals, we invite our Dean who, in addition to giving films to the Pope, is now giving him a way of protecting himself from the Mexican sun. This is the third Pope to whom Valentina offers a sombrero!
Valentina Alazraki
So that you feel Mexican! I gave the first to John Paul II 37 years ago. Then he made a collection, because he travelled five times  <to Mexico>. Pope Benedict put in on in Guanajuato and said he felt Mexican, so now it’s your turn. Moreover, this sombrero came from Cuba. A Mexican family took it to Cuba but was unable to give it to you and left it to me. I promised, in case you kept the promise to go to Mexico, to give it to you. What I didn’t imagine is that the sombrero would return to Cuba. This was the surprise! Thank you and bon voyage!
Pope Francis
I thank you. Thanks to you, Valentina, to all Mexicans, and to all the journalists. Thank you very much!
[Original text: Italian]
[Translation by ZENIT]

Prayer as Gift, Covenant & Communion: A Lenten Reflection

The Catechism of the Catholic Church begins its teaching on prayer with the question "What is prayer?" and with a quote from St. Terese of Lisieux: "For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy" (CCC 2558). Obviously, St. Terese's answer encapsulates the meaning of prayer both succinctly and profoundly. But, the Church doesn't end its instruction on the subject there; more must be unpacked and discovered regarding the definition offered by this Doctor of the Church. Therefore, the Catechism introduces prayer in terms of gift, covenant and communion.


When we enter into prayer, it's easy to fall into the lofty assumption that I am speaking to God and somehow that elevates my status, in other words, our attitude screams: "Look how holy I am!" The Catechism reminds us: "humility is the foundation of prayer, [sic] Only when we humbly acknowledge that 'we do not know how to pray as we ought,' are we ready to receive freely the gift of prayer" (CCC 2559). And, often we assume that we initiate  prayer, it is our decision to start the conversation with God. Yes, we do indeed decide to pray; it is a conscious effort on our parts. However, prayer is a response to the call from Our Loving Creator, it is He Who desires to speak with us and calls our name and offers us the gift of His presence in prayer. Our work in prayer is to be docile and remember who we are in relation to Our Creator and open our hearts to receive His Word.


When we think of the word covenant with regard to the people of God, we recall the Old Testament Covenants with Noah, Abraham, etc., and the New Covenant established in the coming of the Messiah in the New Testament. These images are important to understanding prayer as covenant. "Christian prayer is a covenant relationship between God and man in Christ. It is the action of God and of man, springing forth from both the Holy Spirit and ourselves, wholly directed to the Father, in union with the human will of the Son of God made man (CCC 2564). Just as God established covenant relationships with Noah, Abraham, Moses and David in the Old Testament, in the unique, individual  prayer of every person, The Holy Trinity forms a union that binds man to God and God to man. This unity in prayer is one of love and mutual self-giving -- it is a relationship of hearts. Prayer, especially after reception of the Eucharist is the closest man can come to heaven on earth. Again, St. Terese of Lisieux expresses it beautifully and simply: "My heaven within the Host safe hid and peaceful, lies, here Jesus Christ abides, divinest, fairest Fair. From that great fount of love doth endless life arise; There, day and night, my Lord doth hearken to my prayer" (Poem: My Heaven on Earth).


Prayer is a relationship. It is not one sided: I speak and ask; you listen and give. We have seen that prayer is given freely and responded to freely; it is a bond of the heart to one Whom we love and Who loves beyond measure -- in Creation; in Passion, Death and Resurrection; in the indwelling Spirit. "[P]rayer is the living relationship of the children of God with their Father who is good beyond measure, with his Son Jesus Christ and with the Holy Spirit" (CCC 2565). In this communion of hearts, we join with the angels and saints in offering just praise and worship to God, in giving thanks for the joys and sufferings that will sanctify us, in begging forgiveness for our transgressions and in asking for heavenly assistance in our needs. Queen of Angels and of Saints, Our Blessed Mother intercedes for us in our needs, as well. In these ways, we receive the grace necessary to reach out beyond our individual and unique relationship with the Trinity to offer the gift of prayer to others, to invite them in and teach them how to pray. This is the communion we know as the Body of Christ in the Church Triumphant, Church Suffering and the Church Militant. St. Paul explains by use of analogy: "If [one] part [of the body] suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy" (1 Cor 12:26). It is up to His faithful disciples to honor all people by sharing with them the gift of prayer; helping them to hear the loving call of God and respond with humility and awe.

Prayer as gift. Prayer as Covenant. Prayer as Communion. May we each enjoy this experience of prayer during our Lenten journey. And may we make time to pray before the Blessed Sacrament so as to understand the meaning and value of these words spoken by Archbishop Fulton Sheen: "The holy hour in our modern rat race is necessary for authentic prayer. Our world is one of speed in which intensity of movement is a substitute for lack of purpose; where noise is invoked to drown out the whisperings of conscience; where talk, talk, talk gives the impression that we are doing something when really we are not; where activity kills self-knowledge won by contemplation…" Slow down, visit with Jesus, listen to Him speak to your heart, and share the glorious gift of prayer with your neighbor. By Kathy Vestermark, Professor at CDU and US Correspondant for Catholic News World 

Today's Mass Readings and Video : Fri. February 12, 2016

Friday after Ash Wednesday
Lectionary: 221

Reading 1IS 58:1-9A

Thus says the Lord GOD:
Cry out full-throated and unsparingly,
lift up your voice like a trumpet blast;
Tell my people their wickedness,
and the house of Jacob their sins.
They seek me day after day,
and desire to know my ways,
Like a nation that has done what is just
and not abandoned the law of their God;
They ask me to declare what is due them,
pleased to gain access to God.
“Why do we fast, and you do not see it?
afflict ourselves, and you take no note of it?”

Lo, on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits,
and drive all your laborers.
Yes, your fast ends in quarreling and fighting,
striking with wicked claw.
Would that today you might fast
so as to make your voice heard on high!
Is this the manner of fasting I wish,
of keeping a day of penance:
That a man bow his head like a reed
and lie in sackcloth and ashes?
Do you call this a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD?
This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking every yoke;
Sharing your bread with the hungry,
sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own.
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed;
Your vindication shall go before you,
and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer,
you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am!

Responsorial Psalm PS 51:3-4, 5-6AB, 18-19

R. (19b) A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
and of my sin cleanse me.
R. A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
For I acknowledge my offense,
and my sin is before me always:
“Against you only have I sinned,
and done what is evil in your sight.”
R. A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
For you are not pleased with sacrifices;
should I offer a burnt offering, you would not accept it.
My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit;
a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
R. A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.

Verse Before The GospelSEE AM 5:14

Seek good and not evil so that you may live,
and the Lord will be with you.

GospelMT 9:14-15

The disciples of John approached Jesus and said,
“Why do we and the Pharisees fast much,
but your disciples do not fast?”
Jesus answered them, “Can the wedding guests mourn
as long as the bridegroom is with them?
The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them,
and then they will fast.”

Latest #News of #Vatican Information Service and #PopeFrancis at #HolySee

  • Pope Francis' apostolic trip to Mexico
  • Collection for the Holy Land
  • Ash Wednesday: God invites us to let ourselves be forgiven
  • Other Pontifical Acts
  • Pope Francis receives in audience the prime minister of Iraq: importance of presence of Christians and ethnic minorities and defence of their rights

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Pope Francis' apostolic trip to Mexico

Vatican City, 12 February 2016 (VIS) - This morning the Holy Father began his twelfth international apostolic trip, this time to Mexico with a stop in Havana, Cuba to meet with His Holiness Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia. The Pope arrived at Rome's international Fiumicino airport shortly after 7.30 a.m. and his flight departed at 8.24 a.m. He is expected to arrive at Jose Marti airport in Havana at 2 p.m. local time (8 p.m. in Rome).

Due to the apostolic trip and the meeting in Havana, special editions of the Vatican Information Service bulletin will be transmitted on Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 February.

Collection for the Holy Land

Vatican City, 12 February 2016 (VIS) - Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, has sent his annual letter to bishops around the world regarding the Good Friday collection for the Holy Land, "the East whence comes our redemption", as he writes in the text published yesterday and dated 10 February. "There lie our roots; there lies our heart. We are indebted to those who went out from there, carrying the light of faith to the world. Likewise, we are indebted to those who remained to give witness to that faith, in spite of the conflicts that have always tortured that Land", continues the prelate. "Nonetheless, the Christians in the Holy Land care for the places marked by the passage of Jesus Himself, allowing us to touch, as it were, the truth of our faith".

"This land challenges our charity, as it always has, yet today with a growing urgency. Indeed, every person who lives and works there deserves our prayers and our concrete assistance, so necessary for the continuation of the work of healing wounds and fostering confidently justice and peace. In this Jubilee year, we are urged more than ever to demonstrate our mercy and solicitude for our brothers in the Middle East. Refugees, displaced persons, the elderly, children, and the sick are all in need of our help. In this land of the East, people are dying, being kidnapped and even killed. Many live in agony for their loved ones, or suffer when the family is divided on account of forced migration and exodus. They know the darkness and fear of neglect, of loneliness, of misunderstanding. It is a time of trials and challenges, even of martyrdom. All this necessarily augments our obligation to help, to respond to emergencies, to reconstruct and to invent new ways of meeting the whole gamut of needs".

“'We cannot remain indifferent: God is not indifferent! God cares about mankind, God does not abandon us'. This care is expressed by our open hands, contributing generously. It can also be shown by making pilgrimages without fear to the places of our salvation, visiting also the schools and centers of assistance, where one can draw near to the local Christians and listen to their stories. The Collection for the Holy Land reminds us of an 'ancient' duty, which the history of recent years has made more urgent, but no less a source of the joy that comes from helping our brothers".

The Collection for the Holy Land is destined for Israel, the Palestinian Territories, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Cyprus, Egypt, Ethiopia and Eritrea, Turkey, Iran and Iraq.

In a report included with the letter the Cardinal provides a summary of the activities carried out in the Holy Land by the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land as a result of the 2015 collection, destined both for pilgrims (restoration of some of the Holy Places and works to improve reception), and for local communities (parish family counselling centres, support for artisanal initiatives, study grants, subsidies enabling young families to stay in the Holy Land, schools, and medical and social assistance).

Among the other works this year, special attention has been paid to Christians in Lebanon and Syria who live in situations of extreme need, by sending money to support local communities, the reconstruction of infrastructure and the development of new initiatives.

Ash Wednesday: God invites us to let ourselves be forgiven

Vatican City, 10 February 2016 (VIS) - This afternoon, Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, Pope Francis celebrated Holy Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, with the rite of the blessing and imposition of the ashes and the conferral of the mandate to the Jubilee Missionaries of Mercy. Cardinals, bishops and more than 700 Missionaries concelebrated with the Holy Father, who at the end of the Mass conferred upon the Missionaries their mandate and the faculty of absolving sins reserved to the Apostolic See. There are more than a thousand Missionaries of Mercy throughout the world, bearing special witness in each Church to the extraordinary nature of the Jubilee.

In his homily, the Holy Father remarked that at the beginning of the Lenten period, the Word of God addresses two invitations to us: "The first, as St. Paul said, is to let ourselves be reconciled with God ... as Christ knows the weakness of our heart; He sees that it is wounded by the evil we have committed and suffered; He knows how much we are in need of forgiveness, and He knows that we need to feel we are loved in order to do good. We are not able to do this by ourselves: therefore the apostle does not tell us to do something, but rather to let ourselves be reconciliated with God. ... He vanquishes sin and lifts us up from our miseries, if we entrust them to Him. It is up to us to recognise that we are in need of mercy; it is the first step on the Christian path and means entering through the open door that is Christ, where He Himself, the Saviour, awaits us and offers us a new and joyful life".

There are some obstacles to the doors of the heart, and the Pope included among these the "temptation to lock the doors, or rather to live with our sin, minimising it, always justifying it, thinking that we are no worse than others; in this way, however, we lock up our soul and stay trapped inside, prisoners of evil. Another obstacle is our shame at opening the secret door of the heart. Shame, in reality, is a good symptom, as it indicates that we want to reject evil; however, one must not convert in fear". The third obstacle is that of "distancing ourselves from the door, which happens when we close ourselves up in our miseries, when we dwell on them continually, linking the negative aspects among them to the point of casting ourselves into the darkest depths of the soul. We become familiar with the sadness we do not want, we are discouraged and we become weaker when faced with temptation. This happens when we stay by ourselves, closing ourselves away and hiding from the light, whereas only the grace of the Lord can free us".

God's second invitation comes from the prophet Joel: "Return to me with all your heart". "If there is a need to return, it is because we have drifted away", observed the Holy Father. "It is the mystery of sin: we have drifted away from God, from others, from ourselves. It is not difficult to become aware of this: we all see how we struggle to truly trust in God, to entrust ourselves to Him as our Father, without fear; how arduous it may be to love others; how much it costs us to truly do good, while we are attracted and seduced by so many material things, which vanish and in the end leave us poor. Alongside this history of sin, Jesus inaugurated a history of salvation. The Gospel that opens Lent invites us to be active agents, embracing three remedies, three forms of 'medicine' that cure us from sin".
The first is "prayer, the expression of openness and trust in the Lord: it is a personal encounter with Him, that reduces the distances created by sin. Praying means saying, 'I am not self-sufficient, I need You. You are my life and my salvation'". The second medicine, continued the Pope, is "charity, to overcome the sensation of extraneousness in relation to others. True love, in fact, is not an external act; it is not about giving in a paternalistic fashion to ease our conscience, but rather accepting those who are in need of our time, our friendship and our help". Finally, "fasting, penance to free ourselves of the dependencies of the past and to learn to become more sensitive and merciful. It is an invitation to simplicity and sharing: giving up something from our own table, some of our own goods, to rediscover the true good of freedom".

"Turn to me, says the Lord, turn with all your heart. Not only by external acts", emphasised the Holy Father at the end of his homily, "but rather from the very depths of our selves. Jesus calls us to live prayer, charity and penance with coherence and genuineness, conquering hypocrisy. May Lent be a time for 'pruning' away falsity, worldliness and indifference, so as not to think that 'everything is fine if I am fine', to understand that what counts is not approval, the pursuit of success or consent, but rather the purity of heart and life to rediscover Christian identity, which is love that serves, not selfishness that serves itself".

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 12 February 2016 (VIS) - The Holy Father has appointed:

- Rev. Fr. Antonio Giuseppe Caiazzo as archbishop of Matera - Irsina (area 2,095, population 142,748, Catholics 140,000, priests 92, religious 90), Italy. The bishop-elect was born in Isola Capo Rizzuto, Italy in 1956 and ordained a priest in 1981. He holds a doctorate in liturgy from the St. Anselm Pontifical Liturgical Institute, Rome, and has served as lecturer and member of the liturgical commission of the Italian Episcopal Conference, director of the diocesan centre of liturgy, rector of a minor seminary and member of the presbyterium in the diocese of Crotone, Italy. He is currently episcopal vicar for the clergy and consecrated life and parish priest.

- Msgr. Tomas Holub as bishop of Plzen (area 9,236, population 853,700, Catholics 119,100, priests 92, permanent deacons 6, religious 67), Czech Republic. The bishop-elect was born in Jaromer, Czech Republic in 1967 and was ordained a priest in 1993. He holds a degree in moral theology from the Charles University of Prague, and has served as military almoner and diocesan vicar general. He is currently general secretary of the Czech Episcopal Conference and parish priest. He succeeds Bishop Frantisek Radkovsky, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese upon reaching the age limit was accepted by the Holy Father. 

Saint February 12 : St. Saturninus & Companions : #Bishop & #Martyr

BISHOP, MARTYR Saint Saturninus was a contemporary and a disciple of Our Lord Jesus Christ; he came to Palestine from Greece, attracted by the reputation of Saint John the Baptist, which had echoed even to the northern Mediterranean region. He then followed our Saviour, heard His teaching, and was a witness to many of His miracles. He was present in the Cenacle when the Holy Spirit descended at Pentecost upon the Mother of Christ, the Apostles and Disciples assembled in the number of 120. (Acts of the Apostles 1:15) He departed to teach Christianity under Saint Peter's authority, evangelizing the lands east of Palestine, and going as far as the region of the Persians and Medes and their neighboring provinces. He cured the sick, the lepers, and the paralytics and delivered souls from the demons; and before he left, he gave written instructions to the new Christians concerning what they should believe and practice.
When Saint Saturninus went with Saint Peter to Rome, the Apostle was inspired to send out a number of fervent evangelists to the West, to dissipate by the light of Christ the darkness in which those regions were still plunged. Saturninus was directed to go to what is now southern France, to Toulouse in particular. Saint Peter consecrated him a bishop, that he might form and ordain native priests for the future Christian churches of Gaul. He was given for his companion Papulus, later to become Saint Papulus the Martyr.
The two companions acquired at Nimes an ardent assistant in the person of Honestus. At Carcassonne, when the three announced Christ they were thrown into a prison, where they suffered from hunger; but an Angel was sent by the Lord to deliver them, and they continued on their way to Toulouse, preaching the doctrine and the name of Christ publicly. At this large and opulent city, where idolatry was entrenched, the idols became mute when the missionaries arrived. This caused great astonishment, and the cause of the silence was sought. Saint Saturninus in the meantime was working miracles which produced a strong impression on the witnesses; among them, the cure of a woman with advanced leprosy. The sign of the cross which he made over crowds often cured many sick persons at the same time, and he then baptized those who showed themselves ready for the sacrament. For a time he left his two disciples there and continued on elsewhere, preaching in the cities of what are now Auch and Eauze. A Spaniard heard of him and crossed the Pyrenees to hear him; this man, by the name of Paternus, advanced so rapidly on the paths of virtue that Saint Saturninus ordained him and then established him bishop of Eauze. He himself returned to Toulouse and sent Honestus to Spain to preach. When the latter returned to ask him to come with him to Spain, he left his disciple Papulus in charge for a time at Toulouse.
At Pampeluna his preaching brought thousands to the truth, delivering these former idolaters from the heavy yoke of the ancient enemy. While he continued his apostolic labors elsewhere, in Toulouse a persecution broke out against Papulus, and the faithful Christian obtained the crown of martyrdom by a violent death. At once Saint Saturnin returned to Toulouse, when he learned of it.
The idols again became mute. One day a great multitude was gathered near a pagan altar, where a bull stood ready for the sacrifice. A man in the crowd pointed out Saturninus, who was passing by, as the cause of the silence. There is the one who preaches everywhere that our temples must be torn down, and who dares to call our gods devils! It is his presence that imposes silence on our oracles! He was chained and dragged to the summit of the capitol, situated on a high hill, and commanded to offer sacrifice to the idols and cease to preach Jesus Christ. An Angel appeared to him to fortify him, and the terrible flagellation he endured could not alter his firmness. I know only one God, the only true one; to Him alone I will offer sacrifice on the altar of my heart... How can I fear gods who you yourselves say are afraid of me? He was tied by a rope to the bull, which was driven down the stairs leading to the capitol. His skull was broken, and the Saint entered into the beatitude of the unceasing vision of God. His body was taken up and buried by two devout young women. Tradition conserved the memory of the place of his burial, where later a church was built.
Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 13