On the Apostolic Visit to Sri Lanka and the Philippines

«It gave us consolation and hope to see so many large families that welcome children as a true gift of God.»

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Here is the translation of the Holy Father’s address during his weekly General Audience today at the Paul VI Audience Hall.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today I will reflect on my apostolic journey last week to Sri Lanka and the Philippines. After my visit to Korea some months ago, I went again to Asia, a continent of rich cultural and spiritual traditions. The trip was above all a joyful encounter with the ecclesial communities that give witness to Christ in those countries: I confirmed them in the faith and in the missionary spirit. I keep ever in my heart the memory of the festive welcome on the part of the crowds – in some cases virtually oceanic –, which accompanied the salient moments of the trip. Moreover, I encouraged interreligious dialogue at the service of peace, as well as the journey of those people towards unity and social development, especially under the leadership of families and young people.

The culminating moment of my stay in Sri Lanka was the canonization of the great missionary Joseph Vaz. This holy priest administered the Sacraments, often in secret, to the faithful, but helped all those in need without distinction, from every religion and social condition. His example of holiness and love of neighbor continues to inspire the Church in Sri Lanka in her apostolate of charity and education. I pointed out Saint Joseph Vaz as model for all Christians, called today to propose the salvific truth of the Gospel in a multi-religious context, with respect towards others, with perseverance and with humility.

Sri Lanka is a country of great natural beauty, whose people are seeking to rebuild unity after a long and tragic civil conflict. In my meeting with the government authorities, I stressed the importance of dialogue, of respect for human dignity, of the effort to involve all to find adequate solutions in order to foster reconciliation and the common good.

The different religions have a significant role to carry out in this regard. My meeting with religious leaders was a confirmation of the good relations that already exists among the various communities. In this context, I wished to encourage the cooperation already underway between the followers of the different religious traditions, also in order to be able to heal with the balm of forgiveness all those still afflicted by the sufferings of the last years. The subject of reconciliation also characterized my visit to the shrine of Our Lady of Madhu, much venerated by the Tamil and the Sinhalese and a place of pilgrimage for members of other religions. In that holy place, we asked Mary our Mother to obtain for all the Sri Lankan people the gift of unity and peace.

From Sri Lanka I left for the Philippines, where the Church is preparing to celebrate the 5th centenary of the arrival of the Gospel. It is the principal Catholic country of Asia, and the Filipino people are well known for their profound faith, their religiosity and their enthusiasm, also in the diaspora. At my meeting with the national authorities, as well as in moments of prayer and during the crowded closing Mass, I stressed the constant ffruitfulness of the Gospel and its capacity to inspire a society worthy of mankind, in which there is a place for the dignity of each one and the aspirations of the Filipino people.

The main purpose of the visit, and the reason why I decided to go to the Philippines  — and this was the main reason – was to be able to express my closeness to our brothers and sisters who suffered the devastation of typhoon Yolanda. I went to Tacloban, the region most gravely affected, where I rendered tribute to the faith and the capacity of recovery of the local population. At Tacloban, however, the adverse weather conditions caused another innocent victim: the young volunteer Kristel, overwhelmed and killed by a structure swept away by the wind. I then thanked all those who, from all over the world, responded to their need with a generous abundance of aid. The strength of the love of God, revealed in the mystery of the Cross, was rendered evident in the spirit of solidarity demonstrated by the many acts of charity and sacrifice that marked those dark days.

The meetings with families and young people at Manila, were salient moments of the visit to the Philippines. Healthy families are essential to the life of society. It gave us consolation and hope to see so many large families that welcome children as a true gift of God. They know that every child is a gift of God. I heard it said that families with many children and the birth of so many children are among the causes of poverty. It seems to me to be a simplistic opinion. I can say that the main cause of poverty is an economic system that has removed the person from the center and put the god of money there; an economic system that excludes, that always excludes, children, the elderly, the youth, without work…- and that creates the throwaway culture that we live in. Recalling the figure of Saint Joseph, who protected the life of the “Holy Child,” so venerated in that country, I reminded that it is necessary to protect the families that face different threats, so that they can witness the beauty of the family in God’s plan. It is also necessary to defend them from the new ideological colonizations, which attempts threatens their identity and their mission.

It was a joy for me to be with the young people of the Philippines, to hear their hopes and their concerns. I wished to offer them my encouragement in their efforts to contribute to the renewal of the society, especially through service to the poor and the protection of the natural environment.

The care of the poor is an essential element of our life and Christian witness. It entails the rejection of every form of corruption that robs the poor and requires a culture of honesty.

I thank the Lord for this pastoral visit to Sri Lanka and the Philippines. I pray that He will always bless these two countries and confirm the fidelity of Christians to the evangelical message of our redemption, reconciliation and communion in Christ.

[Translation by ZENIT]

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Dear Brothers and Sisters:  

My recent Apostolic Journey to Sri Lanka and the Philippines was a joy-filled encounter with their Catholic communities.

In Sri Lanka I canonized Saint Joseph Vaz, a great missionary whose example of charity continues to inspire the faithful in their service to the poor and in respectful relations with the followers of other religions.  Sri Lanka still suffers the effects of a prolonged civil conflict.  In my meeting with religious leaders I asked that we work together as agents of healing, peace and reconciliation.  

My visit to the Philippines was a sign of solidarity with all those affected by Typhoon Yolanda.  In Tacloban we celebrated our hope in the mercy of God, who does not disappoint.  In Manila I asked families to cherish and protect the family in its fundamental role in society and in God’s plan.  At my meeting with young people, I challenged them to build a society of integrity and compassion for the poor.  

At the conclusion of my visit, I commended the Filipino people to their patron and protector, the Christ Child, and urged them to persevere in their precious witness to the Gospel on the great continent of Asia.

Pope Francis (In Italian):

I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, including the various groups from the United Kingdom, Switzerland, New Zealand, Japan and the United States of America.  Upon you and your families I invoke grace and peace in the Lord Jesus.  God bless you all!

© Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I would now like to invite you to pray together for the victims of the manifestations of these last days in beloved Niger. We invoke from the Lord the gift of reconciliation and peace, that religious sentiment may never becom
e the occasion of violence, of oppression and of destruction. I hope that as soon as possible a climate of mutual respect and peaceful coexistence is re-established for the good of all.

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I give a cordial welcome to the Italian-speaking pilgrims. I greet the teachers of the Seminaries and Higher Institutes affiliated to the Pontifical Urban University; the members of the Sommelier Italian Foundation and the students, in particular those of the Bossey University Ecumenical Institute present for a study visit at Rome. A warm greeting goes to parish groups, in particular  the faithful of Capurso, proclaimed “Civitas Mariae” and to the families of the National Tumors Institute of Milan. I wished for all that the visit to the Eternal City will stimulate each one to reflect further on the Word of God to be able to proclaim that Jesus is the Savior.

A special thought goes to young people, the sick and newlyweds. The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity , which we are observing, offers us the opportunity to reflect on our belonging to Christ and to the Church. Dear young people, pray that all Christians may be only one family; dear sick, offer your sufferings for the cause of the unity of Christ’s Church; and you, dear newlyweds, experience gratuitous love as that of God for humanity.

[Translation by ZENIT]
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