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Pope at Audience: For Strong Families, Put Away Cell Phone, Shut Off TV

Francis Says Togetherness Can Serve as ‘Thermometer’ to Keep Families Healthy

Spending time interacting within the family is important, and therefore, togetherness shouldn’t be replaced by having phones out and televisions blasting.

Pope Francis stressed this during his weekly General Audience in St. Peter’s Square today, as he continued his catechesis on the family. Last week, he looked at the importance of the family as the place where we learn the value of forgiveness, and this week, he considered the importance of togetherness. 

Togetherness, he pointed out, involves sharing together the good things of life with your loved ones and being happy to do so, and also sharing the difficult times, such as loss of a loved one.

The Holy Father began his catechesis pointing out that sitting at the table for the family dinner, and sharing our meal and the experiences of our day, is a fundamental image of togetherness and solidarity.  He also said togetherness is a reliable «thermometer» to measure the «health» of the relationship.

He noted how if a relative has a struggle, speaking about it together at the table helps to find a solution.

«A family that almost never eats together, or is not at the table, but watching the TV or on their smartphones, is hardly a family,» he said, lamenting when «the children at the table are attached to the computer, to the phone and do not listen to each other.»


Since Jesus gave us the Eucharist as a meal, Pope Francis pointed out to those gathered, there is a close relationship between families and the Mass. 

He went on to say that this togetherness we experience in our families is meant, in the family of the Church, to extend to all as a sign of God’s universal love.  In this way, he observed, the Eucharist becomes a «school of inclusion,» where one learns to be attentive to the needs of everyone. 

The Holy Father lamented that the family meal is disappearing in some societies, and that food itself, which represents our sharing with others, is often wasted, while brothers and sisters throughout the world go hungry. 

Pope Francis concluded, praying that our families, and the entire Church be signs of togetherness and solidarity for the good of the whole human family, especially during the upcoming Jubilee Year of Mercy, Dec. 8 – Nov. 20, 2016.

GENERAL AUDIENCE: On Living and Being Together as a Family

“A family that almost never eats together, or that does not speak at the table, but watches television, or looks at smartphones, is a family that is ‘very little a family’”

Here is a translation of the address Pope Francis gave this morning at the general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

During these days the Church of Italy is holding its National Congress at Florence — the Cardinals, Bishops, consecrated, and laymen all together. I invite you to pray a Hail Mary to Our Lady for them [Hail Mary].

Today we will reflect on a characteristic quality of family life, which is learned from the first years of life: fellowship, that is, the attitude of sharing the goods of life and of being happy to be able to do so. To share and to be able to share is a valuable virtue! Its symbol, its “icon” is the family gathered around the domestic table. The sharing of a meal — and, therefore, in addition to food, also affections, the recounting of events –is a fundamental experience. When there is a celebration, a birthday, an anniversary, it finds us around the table. In some cultures it is typical to do this also when mourning, to be close to one in sorrow because of the loss of a relative.

Fellowship is a sure thermometer to measure the health of relations: if there is in the family something that is not well, or some hidden wound, at the table it is immediately understood. A family that almost never eats together, or that does not speak at the table, but watches television, or looks at smartphones, is a family that is “very little a family.” When children are attached to their computers at the table, to mobile phones, and do not listen to one another, this is not a family, it is a boarding house.

Christianity has a special vocation to fellowship; everyone knows it. The Lord Jesus gladly taught at the table, and sometimes represented the Kingdom of God as a festive invitation. Jesus chose the table also to give his disciples his spiritual testament – he did so at supper – condensed in the memorial gesture of His Sacrifice: gift of His Body and of His Blood as food and drink of salvation, which nourish true and lasting love.

In this perspective, we can well say that the family is “at home” at Mass, precisely because it brings to the Eucharist its own experience of fellowship and opens it to the grace of a universal fellowship, of the love of God for the world.

By participating in the Eucharist, the family is purified from the temptation to shut itself in on itself, fortified in love and fidelity, and stretches the limits of its fraternity according to Christ’s heart.

In this our time, marked by so many closures and too many walls, fellowship, generated by the family and dilated by the Eucharist, becomes a crucial opportunity. The Eucharist and the families nourished by it can surmount the closures and build bridges of hospitality and charity. Yes, the Eucharist of a Church of families, capable of restoring to the community the active leaven of fellowship and mutual hospitality, is a school of human inclusion that is not afraid of confrontations! There are no little ones, orphans, weak ones, vulnerable ones, wounded and disappointed ones, desperate and abandoned ones that the Eucharistic fellowship of families is not able to nourish, refresh, protect and host.

The memory of family virtues helps us to understand. We ourselves have known, and still know, what miracles can happen when a mother has eyes and attention, care giving and care for children other than her own. Up to yesterday, one mother was enough for all the children of the yard! And yet: we know well what strength a people acquire whose parents are ready to move to protect everyone’s children, because they regard children as a joint good, that they are happy and proud to protect.

Today many social contexts put obstacles to family fellowship. It’s true; today it’s not easy. We must find the way to recover it. One speaks at table, one listens at table. There is no silence, that silence that is not the silence of nuns but the silence of egoism, where every one makes do for himself, or there is the television or the computer … and there is no talking. No, no silence. We must recover that family fellowship although adapting it to the times. It seems that fellowship has become something that is bought and sold, but then it’s something else. And nourishment is not always the symbol of a just sharing of goods, capable of reaching one who does not have bread or affections. In rich countries we are induced to spending for excessive nourishment, and then we are also induced to remedy the excess. And this foolish “business” takes away our attention from real hunger, of the body and of the soul. When there is no fellowship there is egoism, each one thinks of himself. So much so that advertising has reduced it to a weakness for snacks and a desire for sweets. While so many, too many brothers and sisters, remain outside the table. It is somewhat shameful!

Let us look at the mystery of the Eucharistic banquet. The Lord breaks His Body and sheds His Blood for all. Truly, there is no division that can resist this Sacrifice of communion: only a false attitude, of complicity with evil, can exclude from it. Every other distance cannot resist the vulner
able power of the broken bread and poured wine, Sacrament of the one Body of the Lord.

The living and vital alliance of the family, which precedes, supports and embraces, in the dynamism of its hospitality, the daily toils and joys, cooperates with the grace of the Eucharist, which is able to create ever new communion with the strength that includes and saves.

In fact a Christian family will show precisely in this way the breadth of its true horizon, which is the horizon of the Mother Church of all men, of all the abandoned and the excluded, in all peoples.

Let us pray that this family fellowship will be able to grow and mature in the time of grace of the forthcoming Jubilee of Mercy.

[Original text: Italian]

[Translation by ZENIT]

[Greeting in English:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our continuing catechesis on the family, today we consider the importance of togetherness. Sitting at table for the family dinner, sharing our meal and the experiences of our day, is a fundamental image of togetherness and solidarity. Because Jesus gave us the Eucharist as a meal, there is a close relationship between families and the Mass. The togetherness we experience in our families is meant, in the family of the Church, to extend to all as a sign of God’s universal love. In this way the Eucharist becomes a school of inclusion, in which we learn to be attentive to the needs of everyone. Sadly, the family meal, this great symbol of togetherness, is disappearing in some societies. Food itself, the very sign of our sharing with other, is wantonly wasted in some places, while our brothers and sisters go hungry in others. The Eucharist reminds us that our bread is meant to be shared with all. May our families, and the entire Church, be signs of togetherness and solidarity for the good of the whole human family, especially during the coming Jubilee of Mercy.

I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, including those from the United Kingdom, Denmark, the Netherlands, Ghana, Japan, Korea and the United States of America. Upon you and your families I invoke the Lord’s blessings of joy and peace. God bless you all!

[The Pope’s greeting in Italian:]

A cordial welcome to the Italian-speaking pilgrims! I greet the Ecumenical Group of Farfa Sabina; the participants in the Meeting on Palliative Care; the Order of the Social Assistants and the Coordination of the Free Professional Associations.

Today we celebrate the Liturgical Memoria of Saint Martin, Bishop of Tours, a very popular figure especially in Europe, model of sharing with the poor. Next year, in happy coincidence with the Jubilee of Mercy, the 17th centenary of his birth will be observed.

I address a greeting to young people, the sick and newlyweds. May the Lord help you, dear young people, to be promoters of mercy and reconciliation; may He support you, dear sick, not to lose trust, not even in moments of harsh trial; and may He grant you, dear newlyweds, to find in the Gospel the joy of receiving every human life, above all the weak and vulnerable.

[Original text: Italian]

[Translation by ZENIT]

Text of Pope’s Address in Florence on Humanism

«I do not wish to design here, in the abstract, a ‘new humanism,’ a certain idea of man, but to present with simplicity some traits of Christian humanism, which is that of the ‘sentiments of Christ Jesus'»

Here is a translation of the Pope’s address Tuesday in Florence to the 5th National Ecclesial Congress for the Church in Italy.

His audience was the some 2,500 participants in the National Congress, which is underway through Friday on the subject “A New Humanism in Jesus Christ.”

After Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco’s greeting and some testimonies presented by Francesca Massarelli, a married woman and catechumen, by spouses Pierluigi and Gabriella Proietti, and by Father Bledar Xhuli, an Albanian immigrant who is today a priest of the Diocese of Florence, the Holy Father Francis delivered the address that we translate below.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Represented in the cupola of this most beautiful Cathedral is the Universal Judgment. Jesus, our light, is at the center. The inscription that one reads at the top of the fresco is “Ecce Homo.” Looking at this cupola we are attracted to the top, while we contemplate the transformation of the Christ judged by Pilate into the Christ seated on the throne of judges. An Angel brings Him the sword, but Jesus does not assume the symbols of judgment, in fact, He raises His right hand showing the signs of the Passion, because He “gave Himself as a ransom for all” (1 Timothy 2:6). “For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:17).

In the light of this Judge of mercy, our knees bend in adoration, and our hands and our feet are reinvigorated. We can speak of a humanism only from the centrality of Jesus, discovering in Him the features of man’ authentic face. It is the contemplation of the face of Jesus dead and risen that reconstructs our humanity, also that fragmented by the toils of life or marked by sin. We must not tame the power of Christ’s face. His face is the image of His transcendence. It is the misericordiae vultus. Let us allow ourselves to be looked at by Him. Jesus is our humanism. Let us always be anxious about his question: “But who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15).

the face of an “emptied” God, of a God that has assumed the condition of servant, humiliated and obedient unto death (cf. Philippians 2:7). Jesus’ face is similar to that of so many of our humiliated brothers, rendered slaves, emptied. God has assumed their face. And that face looks at us. God — who is “the Being of whom one cannot think a greater,” as Saint Anselm said, or the always greater God of Saint Ignatius of Loyola – becomes ever greater than Himself by lowering Himself. If we do not lower ourselves we will not be able to see His face. We will not see any of His fullness if we do not accept that God emptied Himself. And, therefore, we will not understand anything of Christian humanism and our words will be beautiful, cultured, refine, but they will not be words of faith. They will be words that sound empty.

I do not wish to design here, in the abstract, a “new humanism,” a certain idea of man, but to present with simplicity some traits of Christian humanism, which is that of the “sentiments of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). They are not abstract provisional sensations of the spirit, but represent the warm interior strength that makes us capable of living and of taking decisions. What are these sentiments? I would like to present at least three to you today.

The first sentiment is humility. “In humility count others better than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3), says Saint Paul to the Philippians. Further on the Apostle speaks of the fact that Jesus does not consider His being like God a “privilege”  (Philippians 2:6). There is a precise message here. The obsession to keep one’s glory, one’s “dignity,” one’s influence must not be part of our sentiments. We must pursue God’s glory and this does not coincide with ours. God’s glory, which shines in the humility of the cave of Bethlehem and the dishonor of the cross of Christ always surprises us.

Another sentiment of Christ that gives shape to Christian humanism is unselfishness. “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of other
s” (Philippians 2:4), Saint Paul asks again. Therefore, more than unselfishness, we must seek the happiness of the one beside us. A Christian’s humanity is always outgoing. It is not narcissistic, self-referential. When our heart is rich and is very self-satisfied, then there is no longer room for God. Please, let us avoid “shutting ourselves in structures that give us a false protection, in norms that are transformed in implacable judgments, in habits in which we feel tranquil” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 49).

Our duty is to work and struggle to make this world a better place. Our faith is revolutionary by an impulse that comes from the Holy Spirit. We must follow this impulse to come out of ourselves, to be men according to Jesus’ Gospel.  May  life be decided on the capacity to give oneself. It is there that it transcends itself, that it arrives at being fruitful.

A further sentiment of Christ Jesus is that of beatitude. A Christian is a blessed, if he has in himself the joy of the Gospel. The Lord points out the way to us in the Beatitudes. By following it we human beings can attain an authentically more human and divine happiness.  Jesus speaks of the happiness that we experience only when we are poor in spirit. For the great Saints beatitude has to do with humiliation and poverty. But there is also much of this beatitude in the humblest part of our people: it is the one that knows the richness of solidarity, of sharing even the little one has, the richness of the daily sacrifice of work, sometimes hard and badly paid, but carried out of love for dear persons, and also for one’s own miseries, which, however, lived in trust of the providence and mercy of God the Father, nourish a humble greatness.

The Beatitudes that we read in the Gospel begin with a blessing and end with a promise of consolation.  They introduce us on a way of possible greatness, that of the spirit, and when the spirit is ready all the rest comes on its own. Of course if we do not have our heart open to the Holy Spirit, it will seem baloney because it does not lead us to “success.” To be “blessed,” to relish the consolation of friendship with Jesus Christ, it is necessary to have an open heart. Beatitude is a laborious wager, made up of renunciations, listening and learning, whose fruits will be gathered in time, giving us an incomparable peace: “O taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:9)!

Humility, Unselfishness, Beatitude: these are the three traits that I wish to present today to your meditation on Christian humanism, which is born from the humanity of the Son of God. And these traits also say something to the Italian Church that is gathered today, to walk together as an example of solidarity. These traits tell us that we must not be obsessed by “power,” even when it takes the face of a useful and functional power for the social image of the Church. If the Church does not assume the sentiments of Jesus, she is disoriented; she loses the meaning. Instead, if she assumes them, she is able to live up to her mission.  Jesus’ sentiments tell us that a Church that thinks of herself and of her own interests will be sad. Finally, the Beatitudes are the mirror in which we should look at ourselves, which permits us to know if we are walking in the right way: it is a mirror that does not lie.

A Church that has these traits – humility, unselfishness, beatitude – is a Church that is able to recognize the Lord’s action in the world, in the culture, in the daily life of the people. I have said it more than once and I repeat it again to you today: I prefer a bumpy, wounded and soiled Church for having gone out through the streets, rather than a sick Church because she is closed in the comfortableness of holding on to her own certainties. I do not want a Church concerned to be at the center and that ends up enclosed in a tangle of obsessions and procedures” (Evangelii Gaudium, 49). However, we know that temptations exist; the temptations to be faced are so many. I will present at least two. Do not get frightened; this will not be a list of temptations!  — as those fifteen that I said to the Curia!

The first of them is the Pelagian. It pushes the Church not to be humble, unselfish and blessed. And it does so with the appearance of a good. Pelagianism leads us to have trust in the structures, in the organizations, in the plans, which are perfect because abstract. Often it even leads us to assume a style of control, of hardness, of normativity. The norm gives to the Pelagian the security of feeling superior, of having a precise orientation. He finds his strength in this, not in the lightness of the Spirit’s breath. In face of evils or problems of the Church it is useless to seek solutions in conservatism and fundamentalism, in the restoration of surmounted conduct and forms that do not even have culturally the capacity to be significant. Christian Doctrine is not a closed system incapable of generating questions, doubts, questionings, but it is alive, it is able to disquiet, it is able to encourage. It does not have a rigid face; it has a body that moves and develops; it has tender flesh: Christian Doctrine is called Jesus Christ. The reform of the Church then – and the Church is always reforming – is alien to Pelagianism. It does not exhaust itself in an umpteenth plan to change the structures. It means, instead, to be grafted and rooted in Christ, allowing oneself to be led by the Spirit. Then everything will be possible with genius and creativity.

The Italian Church must let herself be led by her powerful breath and hence sometimes disquieting breath. She must always assume the spirit of her great explorers, who on ships were passionate about navigation in the open sea and not frightened by frontiers and tempests. May she be a free Church, open to the challenges of the present, never vulnerable out of fear of losing something. May she never be vulnerable out of fear of losing something. And encountering people along their streets, may she assume the resolution of Saint Paul. “To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22).

A second temptation to overcome is that of Gnosticism. It leads to trust in logical and clear reasoning, which, however, loses the tenderness of the brother’s flesh. The fascination of Gnosticism is that of “a faith closed in in subjectivism, where only a determined experience is of interest or a series of reasons  and knowledge that one believes can comfort and illuminate, but where the subject in the end remains closed in the immanence of his own reason and his sentiments” (Evangelii Gaudium, 94). Gnosticism cannot transcend. The difference between Christian transcendence and some form of Gnostic spiritualism lies in the mystery of the Incarnation. Not to put into practice, not to lead the Word to the reality, means to build on sand, to remain in a pure idea and to degenerate into intimism that does not give fruit, that renders its dynamism sterile.

The Italian Church has great Saints by whose example they can help her to live the faith with humility, unselfishness and gladness, from Francis of Assisi to Philip Neri. But we also think of the simplicity of invented personages, such as Don Camillo who teams up with Peppone. I am struck by how, in Guareschi’s stories, the prayer of a good parish priest is united to evident closeness with the people. Dom Camillo said of himself: “I am a poor country priest who knows his parishioners one by one, who loves them, who knows their sorrows and joys, who suffers and is able to laugh with them. “ Closeness to the people and prayer are the key to live a popular, humble, generous and happy Christian humanism. If we lose this contact with the people
faithful to God we lose in humanity and go nowhere.

But then, what must we do, Father? – you might say. What is the Pope asking of us?

It is up to you to decide: people and Pastors together. Today I simply invite you to raise your head and contemplate once again the Ecce Homo that we have above our heads. Let us pause to contemplate the scene. We turn to Jesus who is represented here as Universal Judge. What will happen “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the Angels with Him, then He will sit on his glorious throne” (Matthew 25:34-36). There comes to mind the priest who received a very young priest who gave testimony.

However, He could also say: ”Depart from me, your cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his Angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me” (Matthew 25:41-43).

The Beatitudes and the words we have just read on the Universal Judgment help us to live the Christian life at the level of holiness. They are few, simple but practical words. Two pillars: the Beatitudes and the words of the Last Judgment. May the Lord give us the grace to understand this message of His! And we look once again at the features of Jesus’ face and at his gestures.  We see Jesus who eats and drinks with sinners (Mark 2:16; Matthew 11:19); let us contemplate Him while He speaks with the Samaritan woman (John 4:7-26); let us watch Him while He meets at night with Nicodemus (John 7:33); let us relish with affection the scene of Him who has his feet anointed by a prostitute (cf. Luke 7:36-50); let us feel His saliva on the tip of our tongue, which is thus loosed (Mark 7:33). Let us admire the attraction of all the people “that surround his disciples, namely us, and let us experience their “gladness and simplicity of heart” (Acts 2:46).

I ask the Bishops to be Pastors, nothing more: Pastors. May this be your joy: “I am a Pastor.” It will be the people, your flock that will sustain you. Recently I read about a Bishop who was in the Metro during the rush hour and there were so many people that he no longer knew where to put his hand to hold on. Pushed from right to left, he leaned on persons not to fall. And so he thought that, in addition to prayer, what makes a Bishop stand is his people.

May nothing and no one take from you the joy of being supported by your people. As Pastors, do not be preachers of complex doctrines, but heralds of Christ, dead and risen for us. Point to the essential, to the kerygma. There is nothing more solid, profound and certain than this proclamation. But may it be all the People of God that proclaim the Gospel, people and Pastors, I hope. I expressed this pastoral concern of mine in the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (cf. nn. 111-134).

I recommend to the whole Italian Church what I indicated in that Exhortation: the social inclusion of the poor, who have a privileged place in the People of God, and the capacity of encounter and dialogue to foster social friendship in your country, seeking the common good.

The option for the poor is a “special form of primacy in the exercise of Christian charity, attested by the whole Tradition of the Church” (John Paul II, Encyclical Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 42). This option  “is implicit in Christological faith in that God who made Himself poor for us, to enrich us through His poverty” (Benedict XVI, Address to the Opening Session of the 5th General Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Episcopate). The poor know well Christ Jesus’ sentiments because they know the suffering Christ by experience. “We are called to discover Christ in them, to loan them our voice in their causes, but also to be their friends, to listen to them, to understand them and to receive the mysterious wisdom that God wills to communicate to us through them” (Evangelii Gaudium, 198).

May God protect the Italian Church from every surrogate of power, of image, of money. Evangelical poverty is creative, receives, supports and is rich in hope. We are here in Florence, city of beauty. How much beauty in this city has been put at the service of charity! I am thinking of the Hospital of the Innocents, for instance. One of the first Renaissance architectures, it was created for the service of abandoned children and desperate mothers. Often these mothers left, together with the newborns, medals cut in half with which they hoped, when presenting the other half, to be able to recognize their own children in better times. See, we must imagine that our poor have a cut medal. We have the other half. Because Mother Church has in Italy half of the medal of all and she recognizes all her abandoned, oppressed, exhausted children. And this has always been one of your virtues, because you know well that the Lord shed his Blood not for some, or for a few or for many but for all.

In a special way, I also recommend to you the capacity to dialogue and to encounter. To dialogue is not to negotiate. To negotiate is to try to take one’s “slice” of the common cake. This is not what I mean, but it is to seek the common good for all. Discuss together, I dare say get angry together, think of the best solutions for all. Many times a meeting is involved in conflict. There is conflict in dialogue: it is logical and foreseeable that it be so. And we must not fear it or ignore it, but accept it. We must accept “to accept to endure the conflict, to resolve it and to transform it into a ring of connection of a new process” (Evangelii Gaudium, 227).

However, we must always remember that there is no genuine humanism that does not see love as a bond between human beings, be it of an inter-personal nature, profound, social, political or intellectual. Founded on this is the necessity of dialogue and of encounter to build the civil society together with others. We know that the best answer to the conflictive nature of the human being, of the famous homo homini lupus of Thomas Hobbes, is the “Ecce Homo” of Jesus who does not recriminate, but receives and, paying in person, saves.

Italian society is built when its diverse cultural riches can dialogue constructively: the popular, the academic, the youthful, the artistic, the technological, the economic, the political, the media … May the Church be ferment of dialogue, of encounter and of unity. Moreover, our formulations of faith themselves are the fruit of dialogue and encounter between cultures, and different communities and entities. We must not be afraid of dialogue: in fact it is precisely confrontation and criticism that help us to keep theology from being transformed into ideology.

In addition, remember that the best way to dialogue is not to talk and argue, but to do something together, to build together, to make plans but not on our own, between Catholics, but together with all those who have good will – and without the fear of carrying out the necessary exodus to every genuine dialogue. Otherwise it is not possible to understand the other’s reasons, or to understand in depth that a brother counts more than the positions that we judge far from our own though genuine certainties. He is a brother.

But the Church must also be able to give a clear answer in face of the threats that arise within the public debate: this is one of the ways of the specific contribution of believers to the building of the common society. Believers are citizens. And I say it here, in Florence, where art, faith and citizenship have always been in a dynamic balance between denunciation and proposal. The nation is not a museum, but a collective work in
permanent construction in which the things that differentiate one, including political and religious membership, are to be put in common.

I appeal above all “to you, young people, because you are strong,” said the Apostle John (1 John 2:14). Young people, overcome apathy. May no one scorn your youth, but learn to be models in speaking and acting (cf. 1 Timothy 4:12) I ask you to be builders of Italy, to get to work for a better Italy. Please, do not look at life from the balcony, but commit yourselves, immerse yourselves in the wide social and political dialogue. May the hands of your faith be raised to Heaven, but may they do so while building a city constructed on relations in which the love of God is the foundation. And thus you will be free to accept today’s challenges, to live the changes and the transformations.

It can be said that today we do not live in an age of change but in a change of age. Therefore, the situations we are living today pose new challenges, which, for us at times are difficult to understand. Our times require that we live problems as challenges and not as obstacles: the Lord is active and at work in the world. Therefore, you must go out to the streets and to the crossroads: call all those you find, exclude no one (cf. Matthew 22:9). Above all, accompany the one who remained at the side of the street, “the lame, the maimed, the blind, the dumb,” (Matthew 15:30). Wherever you are, never build walls or borders, but Squares and field hospitals.

* * *
I am pleased with a restless Italian Church, always closer to the abandoned, the forgotten, the imperfect. I desire a happy Church with the face of a mother, who understands, accompanies and caresses. You also dream of this Church; believe in her; innovate with freedom. The Christian humanism you are called to live affirms radically the dignity of every person as Son of God; it establishes between every human being an essential fraternity, it teaches to understand work, to inhabit Creation as a common home, it furnishes reasons for joy and humor, also in the midst of a life that is so often hard.

Although it is not for me to say how to realize this dream today, allow me to leave one indication with you for the forthcoming years: in every community, in every parish and institution, in every Diocese and circumscription, in every region seek to begin, in a synodal way, a deeper reflection on Evangvelii Gaudium, to draw practical criteria from it and to act on its dispositions, especially on the three or four priorities that you have singled out in this Congress. I am certain of your ability to get into a creative movement to concretize this study. I am sure of it because you are an adult Church, very ancient in the faith, solid in roots and ample in fruits. Therefore, be creative in expressing that genius that your greats, from Dante to Michelangelo, expressed in a matchless way. Believe in the genius of Italian Christianity, which is not the patrimony either of individuals or of an elite, but of the community, of the people of this extraordinary country.

I entrust you to Mary, who here in Florence is venerated as “Most Holy Annuziata.” In the fresco found in the Basilica with the same name – where I will go shortly –, the Angel is silent and Mary speaks saying: “Ecce ancilla Domini.” All of us are in those words. May the whole Italian Church speak them with Mary. Thank you.

[Original text: Italian]

[Translation by ZENIT]

At the end of his address, the Pope greeted some Representatives of the Congress. Then he left the Cathedral to go by car to the Basilica of the Most Holy Annunziata.

Pope’s Message for Public Session of the Pontifical Academies

“A pilgrimage – as those who have followed on foot a stretch of the ancient itineraries, opportunely rediscovered and proposed again to our days – is also an experience of mercy, of sharing and of solidarity with one who travels the same road, as well as of hospitality and generosity on the part of the one who hosts and assists pilgrims”

The 20th Public Session of the Pontifical Academies was held Tuesday on the theme: “Ad Limina Petri. Monumental Traces of Pilgrimage in the First Centuries of Christianity.”

The works were introduced by Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture, and by the Council for Coordination between the Pontifical Academies.

In the course of the Session, before awarding the Prize of the Pontifical Academies and the Medal of the Pontificate to this year’s winners, the Cardinal Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, read the Message sent by the Holy Father Francis.

Here is a translation of the text of the Message.

* * *

To the Venerable Brother,

The Lord Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi,

President of the Pontifical Council for Culture

and of the Council for Coordination between the Pontifical Academies

With earnest gratitude I give my cordial welcome to you, Lord Cardinal, and to the distinguished Members of the Pontifical Academies, on the occasion of the 20th Public Session. This manifestation reaches a first significant goal, for which I congratulate you and the Presidents of the Academies, who have shared the project of institutional renewal desired by my Predecessor, Saint John Paul II, and started in 1995, in fact, with the creation of the Council for Coordination between the seven Pontifical Academies that are part of it.

Outstanding certainly among the initiatives geared to appreciating this common path is the Prize destined annually to young scholars, artists and institutions that contributed in an important way, through their studies and works, to the various disciplinary ambits in which the Academies themselves work, to promote Christian humanism and the development of the religious sciences.

The Annual Session, an event that has now become traditional, is the propitious occasion be it to bring together all the academics and to proclaim the winner or winners of the Prize of the Pontifical Academies, be it for a common thematic reflection. Therefore, for all of you present at that ceremony, Cardinals, Bishops, Ambassadors, academics and friends, I express the hope that such Sessions always constitute moments of cultural and interior enrichment, of incitement to an ever more profund  personal and communal commitment, capable of arousing in the Church the desire for a renewed humanism, up to the challenges of our time.

Therefore, I rejoice with you, particularly with the Presidents of the two Pontifical Academies that organized the Session this year — the Roman of Archaeology and the Cultorum Martyrum –, for the topic chosen, when we are now a few weeks from the opening of the Jubilee of Mercy.

Ad Limina Petri. Monumental Traces of Pilgrimage in the First Centuries of Christianity,” is the thought-provoking title of your meeting, which prepares us for the start of the Holy Year, recalling opportunely attention to pilgrimage as a constitutive element of the Jubilee. In the Bull of Proclamation Misericordiae Vultus, I stressed its importance, affirming that “The practice of pilgrimage has a special place in the Holy Year, because it represents the journey each of us makes in this life. Life itself is a pilgrimage, and the human being is a viator, a pilgrim travelling along the road, making his way to the desired destination. Similarly, to reach the Holy Door in Rome or in any other place in the world, everyone, each according to his or her ability, will have to make a pilgrimage. This will be a sign that mercy is also a goal to reach and requires dedication an
d sacrifice. May pilgrimage be an impetus to conversion: by crossing the threshold of the Holy Door, we will find the strength to embrace God’s mercy and dedicate ourselves to being merciful with others as the Father has been with us” (n. 14).

Hence, your reflection will contribute to deepen the meaning of the Christian pilgrimage, as evidenced by the ancient testimonies, by the traces left by pilgrims of Christian antiquity in the Roman shrines, to begin with, in fact, those documented at the tomb of Peter or the Memoria Apostolorum. From the first centuries of the Christian era the itineraries of pilgrims, be they ecclesiastical be they lay, are well documented by numerous sources, among which are the graffiti left in places visited, near the tombs of Martyrs. From these attestations, the genuine and generous faith emerges of one who starts to travel, with great courage and also with many sacrifices, to find, rather to touch with the hand, witnesses of the faith and their memory, so as to draw from them enthusiasm and interior strength to live one’s faith ever more profoundly and coherently.

A pilgrimage – as those who have followed on foot a stretch of the ancient itineraries, opportunely rediscovered and proposed again to our days – is also an experience of mercy, of sharing and of solidarity with one who travels the same road, as well as of hospitality and generosity on the part of the one who hosts and assists pilgrims. Outstanding among the works of corporal mercy, which I wished to propose again as one of the characteristic signs of the Holy Year, is in fact the reception of strangers. May a glance at Christian antiquity and at the traces left by pilgrims reminds us of the commitment to hospitality and sharing, which in the experience of pilgrimage becomes a conscious itinerary of conversion and joyful daily practices.

I earnestly hope that all those that come to Rome on the occasion of the Holy Year or live the experience of pilgrimage to the many goals proposed by the local Churches, will be able to feel, as the disciples of Emmaus, the Lord beside them as travel companion. Thus may they experience the joy of the encounter with Him, as well as with brothers and sisters in which He continues to be present and to interpellate: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me … Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Matthew 25: 35.40).

Wishing now, to encourage and support all those committed to offer valid contributions to the historico-archaeological research and related to the cult of Martyrs, object of this edition of the Prize, I am happy to assign the Prize of the Pontifical Academies, ex aequo, to the Portuguese Association Campo Arqueologico di Mertola, referent Professor Virgilio Lopes, for the archaeological campaigns carried out in the last years and for the extraordinary results obtained; and to Dr. Matteo Braconi for his excellent doctoral thesis on “The Mosaic of the Apse of the Basilica of Saint Pudenziana at Rome. History,  Restorations, Interpretations,” discussed at the University of Studies Roma Tre. As a sign of encouragement for historical research in the religious realm, I then assign the Medal of the Pontificate to Dr. Almudena Alba Lopez, for the publication Political Theology and Anti-Arian controversy of the University of Salamanca.

Finally, wishing the academics and all those present a fruitful commitment in their respective fields of research, I entrust each and all of you to the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary, Mater Misericordiae, that she may assist us always in our daily pilgrimage. I impart to you from my heart the Apostolic Blessing and I ask you to pray for me.

From the Vatican, November 10, 2015


[Original text: Italian]

[Translation by ZENIT]

A Rarity in a Cuban Suburb: a New Church Will Be Built

To Be Dedicated to St. John Paul II

This report is contributed by Oliver Maksan of Aid to the Church in Need.

The skyline of the suburb of Guiteras, on the outskirts of the Cuban capital, is dominated by grey prefabricated buildings that are crumbling badly, weakened by the moist tropical temperatures. Some 32,000 people live in this place that looks like so many others on the island nation. But Guiteras is very different in one respect: a new Catholic church is being built there, which is a great rarity.

In a place where no old churches date back to the time before the revolution, Catholics generally have to meet in private homes. Up until now, building permits for new church buildings have been approved in only a few cases. Cuba’s President Raul Castro made the Guiteras property available to the church after Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the island in 2012. 

“Up until now, we have been praying and meeting in the courtyard of a private home. We are looking forward to moving into our new church,” Deacon Manuel Hernandez told international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need. It will be some time, though. 

“We now have the building permit. However, there hasn’t been a lot of progress. We don’t have enough materials and building equipment. A bulldozer was supposed to excavate the foundation. It broke down after one hour. Now we simply have to wait,” Hernandez said.

Saint Pope John Paul II will be the patron saint of the new church. He was the first Pope to visit the Caribbean island, in 1998. That papal journey is credited with triggering, however slowly, a willingness on the part of the regime to grant the Church in Cuba more liberties, though innumerable restrictions remain in place.

The local Catholic community in Guiteras, meanwhile, is not sitting still: “We have lay missionaries who go to homes. In addition, we pass out food to elderly people in need. We want to intensify these efforts once the new church is completed. We also want to build a pastoral center and a sports field here. With these, we want to appeal to young people in particular,” the deacon said.

This pleases the older members of the parish. Amalia, for example, an elderly lady who is one of the founders of the parish in Guiteras, regularly joins other women in praying the rosary in a temporary chapel in the spot where the new church will be built. She said: “When the new church is finally standing, it will definitely draw more people. It is going to be wonderful. Twenty-one years ago we began meeting in private homes to read the Gospel and to pray. It wasn’t always easy. People were even not allowed to hang up a cross or a picture of the Virgin in the flats provided by the state.” 

However, the woman is convinced that the faith can take advantage of fertile ground in Cuba. “There used to be only a few. Today, hundreds of people come to our services. All Cubans believe. Anyone who claims anything else is lying,” she said.

Aid to the Church in Need is an international Catholic charity under the guidance of the Holy See, providing assistance to the suffering and persecuted Church in more than 140 countries. www.churchinneed.org (USA); www.acnuk.org (UK); www.aidtochurch.org (AUS); www.acnireland.org (IRL); www.acn-aed-ca.org (CAN) 
www.acnmalta.org (Malta)

Holy See to UN: People Need to Be Educated in Climate Change

Archbishop Follo at UNESCO Promotes Benedict XVI’s Call for ‘Human Ecology’

People need to be educated about climate change, and its impact on nations and peoples, says a Holy See representative at the UN.

Archbishop Francesco Follo, Holy See permanent observer at UNESCO, affirmed this when he addressed the 38th General Conference of this body, which took place from 25 October to 10 November in Paris.

“UNESCO is heavily involved in the preparations for the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP 21) and I am sure that the Organisation, through its Global Action Programme on Education for Sustainable Development, plays and will continue to play a very important role in making education in climate change a central and visible element of the international response to this theme. Therefore, the Holy See welcomes with satisfaction … the UNESCO Road Map for the implementation of the programme. Its objective is to help people understand the impact of global warming and to familiarise the young, in particular, with climate change. In order to achieve this, the programme strengthens Member States’ capacity to guarantee a quality education in climate change, to encourage innovative education approaches to incorporating education in climate change in school curricula, and to promote awareness of climate change as well as the strengthening of informal education programmes through the communication media, networks and associations”.

Archbishop Follo commented that the 70th anniversary of UNESCO offered a good opportunity to take stock of our history and to reflect on our common future, responding to the Holy Father’s urgent invitation to engage in a “new dialogue on the way in which we are constructing the future of the planet” and to promote “an ‘ecological’ education that must take into account the ethics of life and dialogue”.

This dialogue begins with “becoming aware that inhabiting the earth means living ‘in her’ with respect, sobriety and simplicity in terms of what we require, take and receive from her”. But we should also live ‘with her and care for her’. … A human attitude that derives from work and the assumption of responsibility is required.

Indeed, it is important not to forget that the relationship between humanity and nature “is synthesized by work. In effect, on the one hand nature is the expression of a design of love and truth. It precedes us and was given to us by God as a living environment, Who established it according to an intrinsic order to guide man in cultivating and maintaining it”. With regard to responsibility, “in simple terms, we all know where we are, and in equally simple terms, we all know where we wish to go: we must leave the earth habitable, or render it newly habitable for future generations if we have ransacked it”.

“This purpose is inspired by the encyclical “Laudato si’” that Pope Francis dedicated to our common home”, concluded Archbishop Follo, citing Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, who had encouraged the development of a “human ecology”, since “intelligence requires us to respect others as well as the home where we live. … Pope Francis says that intelligence also commands us to respect our common home as by doing so, we demonstrate our love for our neighbour”.

Respecting Rights and Freedoms: Australia’s Attorney General Speaks Out

Is Anti-Catholicism the New Racism?

Religious freedom is just as important as political freedom, declared George Brandis, Australia’s attorney general, in a speech given on November 5.

Brandis was speaking at Australia’s Human Rights Commission’s Religious Freedom Roundtable, held in Sydney.

The event was meant to provide a forum for people of diverse religious faiths and also those who do not profess a faith, but who take an interest in religious affairs.

“To those who are adherents of a religious faith – and in Australia, according to the last census, that was seven among every 10 of us – religion can be the most fundamental source of our sense of right and wrong; and of those beliefs about mankind and his place in the cosmos which transcend the everyday,” Brandis commented.

He noted that many notions of political liberties had their origin in the struggles for religious liberty. The attorney general referred to the political battles of the 17th and 18th centuries in England and to the writings of such authors as John Milton and John Locke.

At the same time over the Atlantic, in the colonies of North America, there was a strong commitment to religious liberty, not least in the writings of such persons as Thomas Jefferson.

In more recent times Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights strongly affirmed the right to religious freedom and liberty of conscience.

Turning to the current situation in Australia, Brandis commented that sometimes there is an inconsistent attitude towards religious tolerance.

“Members of Christian faiths – in particular the Catholic faith – are routinely the subject of mockery and insult by prominent writers and commentators, provoking Mr Dyson Heydon’s observation, in his Acton Lecture last year, that ‘anti-Catholicism in Australia now might be called the racism of the intellectuals’ – or perhaps he should have said, the pseudo-intellectuals,” Brandis observed.

He also referred to what he termed the “incessant, smearing ridicule” of the former Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, on account of his religious faith, describing it as “bigotry at its most shameful.”

Brandis said that the Roundtable had as its task the identification of some of the challenges to religious tolerance, and to develop strategies and understandings to help foment tolerance and mutual respect.

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