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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

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2015

Latest News from Vatican and Pope Francis



13-01-2015 - Year XXII - Num. 007 

Summary
- Francis begins his apostolic trip to Sri Lanka
- Interreligious meeting: religious beliefs must never be abused in the cause of violence and war
- Pope's greetings to the presidents of Doctrinal Commissions of the European Episcopal Conferences
- The Pope addresses the Diplomatic Corps: peace must guide the destiny of peoples
- The Pope baptises thirty-three infants in the Sistine Chapel
- Angelus: deafness to the voice of the Holy Spirit leads to muteness in evangelisation
- Rebuilding the country means rebuilding the person: the Pope at the conference on Haiti
- Meeting of the presidents of the European Episcopal Conferences
- Note on security in the Vatican
- Audiences
- Other Pontifical Acts
- In Memoriam
Francis begins his apostolic trip to Sri Lanka
Vatican City, 13 January 2014 (VIS) – This morning Pope Francis began his visit to Sri Lanka and the Philippines, the seventh apostolic trip of his papacy. Like his predecessor St. John Paul II, he will visit the two Asian countries with the greatest number of Catholics in a single trip. The visit to Sri Lanka will last for two days and will include an interreligious meeting, the canonisation of Joseph Vaz and a Marian prayer at the shrine of Our Lady of Madhu. During his three-day visit to the Philippines the Holy Father will meet, among others, victims of the typhoon Yolanda. The last day of his trip will coincide with the feast day of the Holy Child of Cebu in the Philippines, whose shrine receives millions of pilgrims.
The Holy Father, who left from Rome's Fiumicino airport at 6.50 p.m. yesterday evening, and arrived in Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, at 9 a.m. today, local time, where he was received by representatives of the religious and civil authorities including the apostolic nuncio of Sri Lanka, Archbishop Pierre Nguyen Van Tot, and the president of the country, Maithripala Sirisena. Two young girls offered him a floral garland and he was welcomed with hymns sung by a choir and greetings from around two thousand children.
The welcome ceremony took place at the same airport, and following the president's speech, the Pope addressed those present.
“My visit to Sri Lanka is primarily pastoral”, he began. “As the universal pastor of the Catholic Church, I have come to meet, encourage and pray with the Catholic people of this island. A highlight of this visit will be the canonisation of Blessed Joseph Vaz, whose example of Christian charity and respect for all people, regardless of ethnicity or religion, continues to inspire and teach us today. But my visit is also meant to express the Church’s love and concern for all Sri Lankans, and to confirm the desire of the Catholic community to be an active participant in the life of this society.
 “It is a continuing tragedy in our world that so many communities are at war between themselves. The inability to reconcile differences and disagreements, whether old or new, has given rise to ethnic and religious tensions, frequently accompanied by outbreaks of violence. Sri Lanka for many years knew the horrors of civil strife, and is now seeking to consolidate peace and to heal the scars of those years. It is no easy task to overcome the bitter legacy of injustice, hostility and mistrust left by the conflict. It can only be done by overcoming evil with good and by cultivating those virtues which foster reconciliation, solidarity and peace. The process of healing also needs to include the pursuit of truth, not for the sake of opening old wounds, but rather as a necessary means of promoting justice, healing and unity.
“Dear friends, I am convinced that the followers of the various religious traditions have an essential role to play in the delicate process of reconciliation and rebuilding which is taking place in this country. For that process to succeed, all members of society must work together; all must have a voice. All must be free to express their concerns, their needs, their aspirations and their fears. Most importantly, they must be prepared to accept one another, to respect legitimate diversities, and learn to live as one family. Whenever people listen to one another humbly and openly, their shared values and aspirations become all the more apparent. Diversity is no longer seen as a threat, but as a source of enrichment. The path to justice, reconciliation and social harmony becomes all the more clearly seen.
“In this sense, the great work of rebuilding must embrace improving infrastructures and meeting material needs, but also, and even more importantly, promoting human dignity, respect for human rights, and the full inclusion of each member of society. It is my hope that Sri Lanka’s political, religious and cultural leaders, by measuring their every word and action by the good and the healing it will bring, will make a lasting contribution to the material and spiritual progress of the Sri Lankan people”. The Pontiff concluded, “Mr President, dear friends, I thank you once again for your welcome. May these days we spend together be days of friendship, dialogue and solidarity. I invoke an abundance of God’s blessings upon Sri Lanka, the Pearl of the Indian Ocean, and I pray that its beauty may shine forth in the prosperity and peace of all its people”.
Following his address, the Holy Father made the 28-kilometre journey from the airport to the apostolic nunciature in Colombo by car. The transfer took longer than expected due to the large number of faithful who greeted the Pope as he passed. He therefore cancelled the scheduled visit to the archbishop's residence to meet with the twenty bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Sri Lanka, whom he encountered recently in the Vatican. Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin attended as the Pope's envoy.
Upon arrival at the archbishop's residence, Pope Francis lunched privately, after which he transferred by car to the presidential residence in Colombo to pay a courtesy visit to President Maithripala Sirisena, with whom he had a private discussion. The president subsequently accompanied the pontiff to the great hall where there was a presentation by the State authorities and dignitaries, and a short ceremony for the issue of commemorative stamps.
Interreligious meeting: religious beliefs must never be abused in the cause of violence and war
Vatican City, 13 January 2014 (VIS) – The second stage of Pope Francis' apostolic trip to Sri Lanka was his visit to the BMICH (Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall) in Colombo, where he participated in a meeting with representatives of other religious confessions.
The main religious groups in the country are Buddhism (70% of the population), Hinduism (12.6%), Islam (9.7%) and Catholicism (7.16%). From a chronological perspective, Hinduism was the predominant belief on the island until the arrival of Buddhist missionaries in the third century B.C.; currently its followers are concentrated geographically in the north and east of the country, and the majority belong to the Tamil ethnic group. Theravada Buddhism reached the island in around 246 B.C., and was declared the official religion around 200 B.C.; from the mid-nineteenth century onwards it enjoyed a revival linked to national movements. Islam spread from the fifteenth century, brought by Arab merchants who controlled the South Indian Ocean trade routes, until the arrival of Franciscan missionaries along with the Portuguese. According to tradition St. Thomas arrived on the island in the first century after crossing Kerala in southern India. However, the earliest documentation of Christianity on the island dates from 1322, when the Franciscan Odorico da Pordenone stayed briefly, and then from 1517 onwards, with the arrival of Franciscan missionaries.
 Around one thousand representatives of the various religious communities (Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and various Christian confessions) awaited Pope Francis in the Great Hall of the BMICH. The meeting began with the Buddhist chant “Pirith”, followed by a Hindu blessing, a Muslim blessing and a prayer by the ecumenical group.
Following a speech by the Buddhist monk Vigithasiri Niyangoda Thero, the Holy Father gave an address in which he affirmed the Church's profound and lasting respect for other religions, and reiterated that, for the sake of peace, religious beliefs must never be abused to justify violence and war.
“I have come to Sri Lanka in the footsteps of my predecessors Popes Paul VI and John Paul II to demonstrate the great love and concern which the Catholic Church has for Sri Lanka. It is a particular grace for me to visit the Catholic community here, to confirm them in their Christian faith, to pray with them and to share their joys and sufferings. It is equally a grace to be with all of you, men and women of these great religious traditions, who share with us a desire for wisdom, truth and holiness.
“At Vatican Council II, the Catholic Church declared her deep and abiding respect for other religions. She stated that she 'rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions. She has a high regard for their manner of life and conduct, their precepts and doctrines'. For my part, I wish to reaffirm the Church’s sincere respect for you, your traditions and beliefs”.
He continued, “It is in this spirit of respect that the Catholic Church desires to cooperate with you, and with all people of good will, in seeking the welfare of all Sri Lankans. I hope that my visit will help to encourage and deepen the various forms of interreligious and ecumenical cooperation which have been undertaken in recent years.
“These praiseworthy initiatives have provided opportunities for dialogue, which is essential if we are to know, understand and respect one another. But, as experience has shown, for such dialogue and encounter to be effective, it must be grounded in a full and forthright presentation of our respective convictions. Certainly, such dialogue will accentuate how varied our beliefs, traditions and practices are. But if we are honest in presenting our convictions, we will be able to see more clearly what we hold in common. New avenues will be opened for mutual esteem, cooperation and indeed friendship.
“Such positive developments in interreligious and ecumenical relations take on a particular significance and urgency in Sri Lanka. For too many years the men and women of this country have been victims of civil strife and violence. What is needed now is healing and unity, not further conflict and division. Surely the fostering of healing and unity is a noble task which is incumbent upon all who have at heart the good of the nation, and indeed the whole human family. It is my hope that interreligious and ecumenical cooperation will demonstrate that men and women do not have to forsake their identity, whether ethnic or religious, in order to live in harmony with their brothers and sisters.
“How many ways there are for the followers of the different religions to carry out this service! How many are the needs that must be tended to with the healing balm of fraternal solidarity! I think in particular of the material and spiritual needs of the poor, the destitute, those who yearn for a word of consolation and hope. Here I think too of the many families who continue to mourn the loss of their loved ones.
“Above all, at this moment of your nation’s history, how many people of good will are seeking to rebuild the moral foundations of society as a whole? May the growing spirit of cooperation between the leaders of the various religious communities find expression in a commitment to put reconciliation among all Sri Lankans at the heart of every effort to renew society and its institutions. For the sake of peace, religious beliefs must never be allowed to be abused in the cause of violence and war. We must be clear and unequivocal in challenging our communities to live fully the tenets of peace and coexistence found in each religion, and to denounce acts of violence when they are committed.
“Dear friends”, concluded the Pope, “I thank you once again for your generous welcome and your attention. May this fraternal encounter confirm all of us in our efforts to live in harmony and to spread the blessings of peace”.
Pope's greetings to the presidents of Doctrinal Commissions of the European Episcopal Conferences
Vatican City, 13 January 2014 (VIS) – The Holy Father has sent a message to greet the participants in the meeting of the presidents of the Doctrinal Commissions of the European Episcopal Conferences with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Esztergom, “the religious heart of Hungary”. The text was read this morning, during the opening session of the meeting, which will be held from 13 to 15 January.
“I thank Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, for this timely initiative that emphasises the importance of the local Episcopates, and in particular the Doctrinal Commissions, in their responsibility for the unity and integrity of the faith as well as its transmission to the younger generations. As I wrote in my Apostolic Exhortation 'Evangelii Gaudium', resuming the teaching of the dogmatic Constitution 'Lumen Gentium' of Vatican Council II, 'Episcopal conferences are in a position to contribute in many and fruitful ways to the concrete realisation of the collegial spirit'. I hope that your meeting will contribute to enabling a collegial approach to various doctrinal and pastoral difficulties that present themselves in Europe today, with the aim of inspiring in the faithful a new missionary zeal and greater openness to the transcendent dimension of life, without which Europe risks losing the very 'humanistic spirit' that it loves and defends.
“I commend your works to the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary, model for every believer, and impart my heartfelt blessing”.
12-01-2015 - Year XXII - Num. 006 

The Pope addresses the Diplomatic Corps: peace must guide the destiny of peoples
Vatican City, 12 January 2014 (VIS) – This morning in the Clementine Hall the Holy Father addressed members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See for the exchange of greetings that traditionally takes place at the beginning of the new year. Francis thanked the dean of the ambassadors, Jean-Claude Michel of Monaco, for the efforts made by the Corps in fostering, in a spirit of mutual collaboration, the relations between the states and international organisations they represent and the Holy See, and added that during the past year “these relations were consolidated by an increase in the presence of ambassadors resident in Rome and by the signing of new bilateral Accords, both general, like the one concluded last January with Cameroon, and specific, like those signed with Malta and Serbia”.
During his address to the diplomats, Pope Francis examined the international situation from the dual perspective of hope and peace and the aspect of rejection, both personal and social, “leading to the breakdown of society and spawning violence and death”. The Pope mentioned a number of dramatic events, such as the massacre of over one hundred children in Pakistan, the confrontation in Ukraine, the continuing tension in the Middle East, the recent attacks in Paris, the violence against the population in Nigeria, and the civil conflicts in Libya, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo; he also emphasised the fact that wars often involve the widespread incidence of the horrendous crime of rape of women and girls. He also made reference to those afflicted by the Ebola virus, the problems faced by immigrants and refugees, and the lack of assistance for families. The Holy Father remarked that the overview should not however be dominated by pessimism, and he cited positive elements such as the resurgence of Albania, the results of ecumenical dialogue in Turkey, the expectations for Jordan and Lebanon, the decision of the U.S.A. and Cuba to break their mutual silence, the transformations in Burkina Faso, the efforts towards achieving stable peace in Colombia and Venezuela and the decision of the U.S.A. to close the Guantanamo Bay detention centre. He concluded by expressing his hope for the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals and the drafting of a new Climate Change Agreement over the coming year.
“I thank you for your presence at this traditional meeting, which allows me at the beginning of each new year to offer to you, your families, and the peoples you represent, my cordial greetings and best wishes. I am especially grateful to your Dean, Ambassador Jean-Claude Michel, for the kind words which he addressed to me in the name of all, and I thank each of you for your constant dedication and efforts to foster, in a spirit of mutual cooperation, relations between the countries and international organisations which you represent and the Holy See. In the course of the past year too, these relations were consolidated by an increase in the presence of ambassadors resident in Rome and by the signing of new bilateral Accords, both general, like that concluded last January with Cameroon, and specific, like those signed with Malta and Serbia.
“Today I wish to repeat a word quite dear to us: peace! It comes to us from the angelic hosts who proclaimed it on Christmas night as a precious gift of God, while at the same time as a personal and social responsibility which calls for our commitment and concern. But together with peace, the image of the Christmas creche speaks to us another tragic reality: that of rejection. In some iconographic representations, both in the West and in the East – I think for example of the splendid Nativity icon of Andrej Rublev – the Child Jesus is shown not lying in a manger, but in a tomb. The image, which is meant to connect the two principal Christian feasts of Christmas and Easter, shows that the joyful acceptance of this new birth is inseparable from the entire drama of Jesus’ life, his humiliation and rejection, even to death on the cross.
“The Christmas stories themselves show us the hardened heart of a humanity which finds it difficult to accept the Child. From the very start, he is cast aside, left out in the cold, forced to be born in a stable since there was no room in the inn. If this is how the Son of God was treated, how much more so is it the case with so many of our brothers and sisters! Rejection is an attitude we all share; it makes us see our neighbour not as a brother or sister to be accepted, but as unworthy of our attention, a rival, or someone to be bent to our will. This is the mindset which fosters that 'throwaway culture' which spares nothing and no one: nature, human beings, even God himself. It gives rise to a humanity filled with pain and constantly torn by tensions and conflicts of every sort.
“Emblematic of this, in the Gospel infancy narratives, is King Herod. Feeling his authority threatened by the Child Jesus, he orders all the children of Bethlehem to be killed. We think immediately of Pakistan, where a month ago, more than a hundred children were slaughtered with unspeakable brutality. To their families I wish to renew my personal condolences and the assurance of my continued prayers for the many innocents who lost their lives.
“The personal dimension of rejection is inevitably accompanied by a social dimension, a culture of rejection which severs the deepest and most authentic human bonds, leading to the breakdown of society and spawning violence and death. We see painful evidence of this in the events reported daily in the news, not least the tragic slayings which took place in Paris a few days ago. Other people 'are no longer regarded as beings of equal dignity, as brothers or sisters sharing a common humanity, but rather as objects'. Losing their freedom, people become enslaved, whether to the latest fads, or to power, money, or even deviant forms of religion. These are dangers which I pointed out in my recent Message for the World Day of Peace, which dealt with the issue of today’s multiple forms of enslavement. All of them are born of a corrupt heart, a heart incapable of recognising and doing good, of pursuing peace.
“It saddens us to see the tragic consequences of this mentality of rejection and this 'culture of enslavement' in the never-ending spread of conflicts. Like a true world war fought piecemeal, they affect, albeit in different forms and degrees of intensity, a number of areas in our world, beginning with nearby Ukraine, which has become a dramatic theatre of combat. It is my hope that through dialogue the efforts presently being made to end the hostilities will be consolidated, and that the parties involved will embark as quickly as possible, in a renewed spirit of respect for international law, upon the path of mutual trust and fraternal reconciliation, with the aim of bringing an end to the present crisis.
“My thoughts turn above all to the Middle East, beginning with the beloved land of Jesus which I had the joy of visiting last May, and for whose peace we constantly pray. We did this with extraordinary intensity, together with the then president of Israel, Shimon Peres, and the president of Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas, inspired by a confident hope that negotiations between the two parties will once more resume, for the sake of ending violence and reaching a solution which can enable Palestinians and Israelis alike to live at last in peace within clearly established and internationally recognised borders, thus implementing the 'two state solution'.
“The Middle East is tragically embroiled in other conflicts which have lasted far too long, with chilling repercussions, due also to the spread of fundamentalist terrorism in Syria and in Iraq. This phenomenon is a consequence of the throwaway culture being applied to God. Religious fundamentalism, even before it eliminates human beings by perpetrating horrendous killings, eliminates God himself, turning him into a mere ideological pretext. In the face of such unjust aggression, which also strikes Christians and other ethnic and religious groups in the region – the Yezidis for example – a unanimous response is needed, one which, within the framework of international law, can end the spread of acts of violence, restore harmony and heal the deep wounds which the ongoing conflicts have caused. Here, in your presence, I appeal to the entire international community, as I do to the respective governments involved, to take concrete steps to bring about peace and to protect all those who are victims of war and persecution, driven from their homes and their homeland. In a letter written shortly before Christmas, I sought to express my personal closeness and the promise of my prayers to all the Christian communities of the Middle East. Theirs is a precious testimony of faith and courage, for they play a fundamental role as artisans of peace, reconciliation and development in the civil societies of which they are a part. A Middle East without Christians would be a marred and mutilated Middle East! In urging the international community not to remain indifferent in the face of this situation, I express my hope that religious, political and intellectual leaders, especially those of the Muslim community, will condemn all fundamentalist and extremist interpretations of religion which attempt to justify such acts of violence.
“Sadly, comparable acts of brutality, which not infrequently reap victims from among the poor and the most vulnerable, are found in other parts of the world as well. I think in particular of Nigeria where acts of violence continue to strike indiscriminately and there is a constant increase in the tragic phenomenon of kidnappings, often of young girls carried off to be made objects of trafficking. This is an abominable trade which must not continue! It is a scourge which needs to be eradicated, since it strikes all of us, from individual families to the entire international community.
“I also look with concern to the many civil conflicts taking place in other parts of Africa, beginning with Libya, ravaged by a drawn-out internecine war which has caused unspeakable suffering among its people, with grave repercussions for the delicate balances in the region. I think of the dramatic situation in the Central African Republic, in which, sad to say, the good will inspiring the efforts of those seeking to build a future of peace, security and prosperity, has encountered resistance and selfish partisan interests. These risk frustrating the hopes of a people which has endured so much and which now longs to shape its future in freedom. Of particular concern, too, is the situation in South Sudan and in some areas of Sudan, the Horn of Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where civilian casualties are on the rise and thousands of persons, including many women and children, are being forced to flee and to endure conditions of extreme distress. I voice my hope for a common commitment on the part of individual governments and the international community to end every form of fighting, hatred and violence, and to pursue reconciliation, peace and the defence of the transcendent dignity of the person.
“Nor can we overlook the fact that wars involve another horrendous crime, the crime of rape. This is a most grave offence against the dignity of women, who are not only violated in body but also in spirit, resulting in a trauma hard to erase and with effects on society as well. Sadly, even apart from situations of war, all too many women even today are victims of violence.
“Every conflict and war is emblematic of the throwaway culture, since people’s lives are deliberately crushed by those in power. Yet that culture is also fuelled by more subtle and insidious forms of rejection. I think in the first place of the way the sick are treated; often they are cast aside and marginalised like the lepers in the Gospel. Among the lepers of our own day we can count the victims of the new and terrible outbreak of Ebola which, especially in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, has already taken over six thousand lives. Today I wish publicly to praise and thank those healthcare workers who, alongside men and women religious and volunteers, are caring in every way possible for the sick and their families, especially orphaned children. At the same time I renew my appeal to the entire international community to provide adequate humanitarian assistance to patients and to make concerted efforts to combat the disease.
“Together with lives thrown away because of war and disease, there are those of numerous refugees and displaced persons. Once again, the reality can be appreciated by reflecting on the childhood of Jesus, which sheds light on another form of the throwaway culture which harms relationships and causes the breakdown of society. Indeed, because of Herod’s brutality, the Holy Family was forced to flee to Egypt, and was only able to return several years later. One consequence of the situations of conflict just described is the flight of thousands of persons from their homeland. At times they leave not so much in search of a better future, but any future at all, since remaining at home can mean certain death. How many persons lose their lives during these cruel journeys, the victims of unscrupulous and greedy thugs? I raised this issue during my recent visit to the European Parliament, where I insisted that 'we cannot allow the Mediterranean to become a vast cemetery'. Then too there is the alarming fact that many immigrants, especially in the Americas, are unaccompanied children, all the more at risk and in need of greater care, attention and protection.
“Often coming without documents to strange lands whose language they do not speak, migrants find it difficult to be accepted and to find work. In addition to the uncertainties of their flight, they have to face the drama of rejection. A change of attitude is needed on our part, moving from indifference and fear to genuine acceptance of others. This of course calls for 'enacting adequate legislation to protect the rights of… citizens and to ensure the acceptance of immigrants'. I thank all those who, even at the cost of their lives, are working to assist refugees and immigrants, and I urge states and international organisations to make every effort to resolve these grave humanitarian problems and to provide the immigrants’ countries of origin with forms of aid which can help promote their social and political development and settle their internal conflicts, which are the chief cause of this phenomenon. 'We need to take action against the causes and not only the effects'. This will also enable immigrants to return at some point to their own country and to contribute to its growth and development.
“Together with immigrants, displaced people and refugees, there are many other 'hidden exiles' living in our homes and in our families. I think especially of the elderly, the handicapped and young people. The elderly encounter rejection when they are considered a 'burdensome presence', while the young are thrown away when they are denied concrete prospects of employment to build their future. Indeed, there is no poverty worse than that which takes away work and the dignity of work, or which turns work into a form of enslavement. This is what I sought to stress during my recent meeting with popular movements working to finding adequate solutions to some of today’s problems, including the scourge of rising unemployment among the young, illegal labour, and the dramatic situation of so many workers, especially children, who are exploited out of greed. All this is contrary to human dignity and the fruit of a mentality which is centred on money, benefits and economic profit, to the detriment of our fellow man.
“Then too, the family itself is not infrequently considered disposable, thanks to the spread of an individualistic and self-centred culture which severs human bonds and leads to a dramatic fall in birth rates, as well as legislation which benefits various forms of cohabitation rather than adequately supporting the family for the welfare of society as a whole.
“Among the causes of these realities is a model of globalisation which levels out differences and even discards cultures, cutting them off from those factors which shape each people’s identity and constitute a legacy essential to their sound social development. In a drab, anonymous world, it is easy to understand the difficulties and the discouragement felt by many people who have literally lost the sense of being alive. This tragic situation is aggravated by the continuing economic crisis, which fosters pessimism and social conflict. I have been able to see its effects here in Rome, where I meet many people in trying situations, and in the various journeys I have made in Italy.
“To the beloved Italian nation, then, I would like to express my hope that in the continuing climate of social, political and economic uncertainty the Italian people will not yield to apathy or dissension, but will rediscover those values of shared concern and solidarity which are at the basis of their culture and civic life, and are a reason for confidence both now and in the future, especially for the young.
“Speaking of the young, I wish to mention my journey to Korea, where last August I met thousands of young people assembled for the Sixth Asian Youth Day. There I spoke of the need to treasure our young, 'seeking to pass on the legacy of the past and to apply it to the challenges of the present'. This demands that we reflect on 'how well we are transmitting our values to the next generation and on the kind of world and society we are preparing to hand on to them'.
“This evening I will have the joy of setting off once more for Asia, to visit Sri Lanka and the Philippines as a sign of my interest and pastoral concern for the people of that vast continent. To them and to their governments I wish to voice yet again the desire of the Holy See to offer its own contribution of service to the common good, to harmony and social concord. In particular, I express my hope for a resumption of dialogue between the two Koreas, sister countries which speak the same language.
“Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, at the beginning of a new year, though, we do not wish our outlook to be dominated by pessimism, or the defects and deficiencies of the present time. We also want to thank God for the gifts and blessings he has bestowed upon us, for the occasions of dialogue and encounter which he has granted us, and for the fruits of peace which he has enabled us to savour.
“I experienced an eloquent sign that the culture of encounter is possible during my visit to Albania, a nation full of young people who represent hope for the future. Despite the painful events of its recent history, the country is marked by the 'peaceful coexistence and collaboration that exists among followers of different religions', in an atmosphere of respect and mutual trust between Catholics, Orthodox and Muslims. This is an important sign that sincere faith in God makes one open to others, generates dialogue and works for the good, whereas violence is always the product of a falsification of religion, its use as a pretext for ideological schemes whose only goal is power over others. Similarly, in my recent journey to Turkey, a historic bridge between East and West, I was able to see the fruits of ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, as well as efforts made to assist refugees from other countries of the Middle East. I also encountered this spirit of openness in Jordan, which I visited at the beginning of my pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and in the testimonies which come from Lebanon, a country which I pray will overcome its current political problems.
“One example close to my heart of how dialogue can build bridges comes from the recent decision of the United States of America and Cuba to end a lack of communication which has endured for more than half a century, and to initiate a rapprochement for the benefit of their respective citizens. Here I think too of the people of Burkina Faso, who are experiencing a period of significant political and institutional change, with the hope that a renewed spirit of cooperation will contribute to the growth of a more just and fraternal society. I also note with pleasure that last March an agreement was signed to end long years of tension in the Philippines. I wish to encourage the efforts made to ensure a stable peace in Colombia, as well as the initiatives taken to restore political and social harmony in Venezuela. At the same time, I express my hope that a definitive agreement may soon be reached between Iran and the 5+1 Group regarding the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, and my appreciation of the efforts already made in this regard. I note with satisfaction the intention of the United States to close the Guantanamo detention facilities, while acknowledging the generous willingness of several countries to receive the detainees. I heartily thank those countries. Finally, I would like to express my appreciation and encouragement to those countries actively engaged in promoting human development, political stability and civil coexistence between their citizens.
“Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, on 6 August 1945, humanity witnessed one of the most horrendous catastrophes in its history. For the first time, in a new and unprecedented way, the world experienced the full potential of man’s destructive power. From the ashes of that immense tragedy which was the Second World War, there arose among the nations a new will for dialogue and encounter which inspired the United Nations Organisation, whose seventieth anniversary we will celebrate this year. In his visit to the UN headquarters fifty years ago, my predecessor, Pope Paul VI, noted that 'the blood of millions, countless unheard-of sufferings, useless massacres and frightening ruins have sanctioned the agreement that unites you with an oath that ought to change the future of the world: never again war, never again war! It is peace, peace, that has to guide the destiny of the nations of all mankind'.
“This is likewise my own hope-filled prayer for this new year, which, for that matter, will see the continuation of two significant processes: the drawing up of the Post-2015 Development Agenda, with the adoption of Sustainable Development Goals, and the drafting of a new Climate Change Agreement. The latter is urgently needed. The indispensable presupposition of all these is peace, which, even more than an end to all wars, is the fruit of heartfelt conversion. With these sentiments, I once more offer to each of you, to your families and your peoples, my prayerful good wishes that this new year of 2015 will be one of hope and peace”.
The Pope baptises thirty-three infants in the Sistine Chapel
Vatican City, 11 January 2014 (VIS) – This morning in the Sistine Chapel the Holy Father presided at a Eucharistic celebration during which he baptised thirty-three children of Vatican employees. In his homily, citing the first reading, the Pope remarked that the Lord is concerned for his children, like a parent, and therefore ensures they receive substantial nourishment. “God, like a good father or a good mother, wishes to give good things to his children. And what is this nourishment that God gives us? It is His Word”.
The Word “enables us to grow and to be fruitful in life, like the rain and the snow are good for the earth and make it fecund. Therefore you, parents and godparents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, will help these children to grow well if you give them the Word of God, te Gospel of Jesus. And also offer this to them by example! Every day, get used to reading a passage from the Gospel, a short one, and always carry a copy of the Gospel in your pocket, in your bag, so you can read it. And this will be an example for your children – seeing their father, mother, godparents, grandfather, grandmother, aunts and uncles all reading the Word of God”.
“You, mothers, give you children milk – and even now, if they cry with hunger, feel free to feed them. Let us give thanks to the Lord for the gift of milk and pray for those mothers – there are many, unfortunately – who are not able to give their children food to eat. Let us pray and try to help these mothers. So, what the milk does for the body, the Word of God does for the spirit: the Word of God enables faith to grow. As we heard in the words of the apostle John: 'Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten by God”. Your children are baptised in this faith. Today it is your faith, dear parents and godparents. It is the faith of the Church, in which these little ones will receive Baptism. But tomorrow, but the grace of God, it will be their faith, their personal 'yes' to Jesus Christ, who gives us the love of the Father”.
He continued, “Baptism brings us within the body of the Church, as part of God's holy people. And in this body, in this journeying people, faith is transmitted from generation to generation: it is the faith of the Church. It is the faith of Mary, our mother, the faith of St. Joseph, of St. Peter, of St. Andrew, of St. John, of the apostles and the martyrs, that has arrived with us through Baptism: a chain that transmits faith”.
“The candle of faith is passed from one hand to another”, explained the Pope, alluding to the Paschal candle that is lit during Baptismal rites and which represents Christ, resurrected and living in our midst. You, families, take from Him this light of faith to transmit to your children. You take this light from the Church, the body of Christ, the people of God that journeys through every time and every place. Teach your children that it is not possible to be Christian outside the Church, and it is not possible to follow Christ outside the Church, as the Church is our mother, and lets us grow in the love of Jesus Christ”.
Francis then turned to the final aspect to emerge from today's biblical readings: that in Baptism we are consecrated in the Holy Spirit. “The word 'Christian' means consecrated like Jesus, in the same Spirit in which Jesus was immersed in all his earthly existence. He is the 'Christ', the anointed, the consecrated, and the baptised are Christians, that is, consecrated, anointed. And therefore, dear parents and godparents, if you want your children to become true Christians, help them to grow 'immersed' in the Holy Spirit, that is, in the warmth of God's love, in the light of His Word”.
Angelus: deafness to the voice of the Holy Spirit leads to muteness in evangelisation
Vatican City, 11 January 2014 (VIS) – The feast of the Baptism of the Lord concludes the season of the Nativity and the Pope, during the Angelus at midday today, commenting on the passage in the Gospel of St. Mark – when the heavens open at the moment at which John the Baptist baptises Jesus in the Jordan – affirmed that this event marks the end of “the time of the closed heavens, which indicated the separation of God and man as a consequence of sin”.
Sin “alienates us from God and ruptures the bond between earth and heaven, causing misery and failure in our lives. The open heavens indicate that God has given His grace so that the earth may bear His fruit. Thus the world transforms into God's dwelling amid humanity, and each one of us has the opportunity to meet the Son of God, experiencing all of His love and infinite mercy. We find Him truly present in the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist. We are able to recognise Him in the face of our brothers, especially the poor, the sick, the imprisoned, and refugees; they are the living flesh of the suffering Christ and the visible image of the invisible God”.
With the Baptism of Jesus, not only did the heavens open, but also “God speaks, making his voice resound anew: 'You are my beloved Son: with you I am well pleased'. … And then the Holy Spirit descends, in the form of a dove: this enables Christ, the consecrated of the Lord, to inaugurate His mission, which is our salvation”. The Holy Father remarked that the Holy Spirit is forgotten in our prayers: “We need to ask for His help, His strength, His inspiration. The Holy Spirit, that fully inspired the life and ministry of Jesus, is the same Spirit that today guides Christian existence, the existence of a man and a woman who say they wish to be Christians. Placing under the action of the Holy Spirit our life as Christians and the mission that we have all received by virtue of our Baptism means rediscovering the apostolic courage necessary to overcome easy worldly comforts. … A Christian or a community that is deaf to the voice of the Holy Spirit, Who urges us to take the Gospel to the outermost limits of the world and of society, also becomes a mute Christian or community, unable to speak or to evangelise”.
“Remember to pray often that the Holy Spirit might help us and give us strength and inspiration, leading us forward”, concluded Pope Francis who, following the Angelus prayer, asked the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square, especially those from Sri Lanka and the Philippines, to pray for him during his apostolic trip to these two countries, to commence tomorrow.
Rebuilding the country means rebuilding the person: the Pope at the conference on Haiti
Vatican City, 10 January 2014 (VIS) – This morning Pope Francis received in audience the participants in the conference “The communion of the Church: memory and hope for Haiti five years after the earthquake”, organised by the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” and the Pontifical Commission for Latin America in collaboration with the bishops of Haiti. He began by thanking those who “in numerous ways came to the aid of the Haitian people following that tragedy which left in its wake so much death, destruction and desperation”. He emphasised that, “through the help given to our brothers and sisters in Haiti, we have shown that the Church is a great body, one in which the various members care for one another. It is in this communion, prompted by the Holy Spirit, that our charitable service finds its deepest motivation”.
“How much has been done toward rebuilding the country in these five years! Nevertheless, we cannot ignore the fact that much remains to be done. All that has been done, and all that, with God’s help, will yet be done, rests on three solid pillars: the human person, ecclesial communion, and the local Church”, added the Pope, who went on to further explain these three pillars.
Firstly, “the person is at the centre of the Church’s activity. We have just celebrated Christmas, and it is precisely the Incarnation which tells us how important man is to God, who wished to assume our human nature. Our first concern must thus be that of helping everyone, each man and woman, to live fully as persons. There can be no true rebuilding of a country without also rebuilding each person in his or her totality. This means ensuring that the material needs of every person in Haiti be met, and that they be able to be free, to assume their responsibilities and to further their own spiritual and religious lives. The human person has a transcendent dimension, and the Church first of all cannot neglect this dimension, which finds its fulfilment in the encounter with God. Consequently, in this phase of reconstruction, humanitarian and pastoral activities are not in competition with one another, but rather are complementary: each needs the other, and together they help Haitians to be mature persons and Christians capable of devoting themselves to the good of their brothers and sisters”.
With regard to the second fundamental aspect, ecclesial communion, the Holy Father remarked that Haiti has seen “effective cooperation between many ecclesial institutions – dioceses, religious institutes, charitable organisations” alongside many laypersons, all of whom have carried out important charitable works. “This variety of agencies, and thus of ways of offering assistance and development, is a positive factor, since it is a sign of the vitality of the Church and of the generosity of so many. … But charity is even yet more authentic and more incisive when it is lived in communion. Communion shows that charity is not merely about helping others, but is a dimension that permeates the whole of life and breaks down all those barriers of individualism which prevent us from encountering one another. Charity is the inner life of the Church and is manifested in ecclesial communion. Communion between bishops and with bishops, who are the first ones responsible for the service of charity. Communion among the various charisms and charitable institutions, since none of us works for or by themselves, but rather in the name of Christ who has shown us the way of service. It would be a contradiction to live charity apart from one another! I invite you therefore to strengthen every possible means of working together. Ecclesial communion is reflected as well in collaboration with the civil authorities and international organisations, so that all may strive for authentic progress for the Haitian people, in the spirit of the common good”.
Finally, Pope Francis underlined the importance of the local Church, “because it is here that the Christian experience is made tangible. The Church in Haiti must become always more alive and fruitful, to witness to Christ and to make its contribution to the development of the nation”. In this regard, he encouraged the bishops of Haiti, all the priests and those engaged in pastoral work on the island to “inspire in the faithful renewed efforts in Christian formation and in joyful and fruitful evangelisation. The witness of evangelical charity is effective when it is sustained by a personal relationship with Jesus in prayer, in listening to the word of God, and in receiving the Sacraments. This is the true 'strength' of the local Church”.
The Pope concluded by reiterating his heartfelt gratitude, and urging those present to continue along their path, assuring them of his prayers and his blessing.
Meeting of the presidents of the European Episcopal Conferences
Vatican City, 10 January 2014 (VIS) – The presidents of the European Episcopal Conferences and the superiors of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will meet from 13 to 15 January in Esztergom, Hungary.
By the Instruction of 23 February 1967, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on behalf of Blessed Pope Paul VI, had asked the Episcopal Conferences to institute an internal Doctrinal Commission, as a advisory organ for the same Episcopal Conferences and for the individual bishops in their concern for matters of doctrine of the faith.
To strengthen collaboration between the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Doctrinal Commissions, in 1982 it was decided to periodically gather together the presidents of the aforementioned Commissions at a continental level. One of the original characteristics of these meetings was the fact that the superiors of the Congregation travel to the various continents, thus underlining the importance of local and regional issues and their responsibility in facing doctrinal questions. The first of these meetings, during the prefecture of the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, took place in Latin America, in Bogota, (1984); it was followed by meetings in Kinshasa, Africa (1987); Vienna, Europa (1989); Hong Kong, Asia (1993); Guadalajara, Latin America (1996); and San Francisco, North America (1999). During the prefecture of Cardinal William Levada another encounter took place in Dar es Salaam (2009).
Now, Cardinal Peter Erdo, archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest and president of the Council of Episcopal Conferences of Europe (CCEE), has accepted the request made by Cardinal Gerhard L. Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for a new meeting with the presidents of the European Doctrinal Commissions in Esztergom. Such an encounter demonstrates the will on the part of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to support the local episcopates – as Pope Francis emphasises – in their commitment to the promotion and protection of the doctrine of the faith, taking into consideration the specific challenges to be faced in Europe today.
Note on security in the Vatican
Vatican City, 12 January 2014 (VIS) – The director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., gave the following declaration to journalists today:
“Contrary to the claims made by some organs of the media, the Holy See has not been informed of specific risks by the security services of other Countries.
The Holy See maintains its usual, appropriate contacts with the security services, and in view of the current situation advises a reasonable level of attention and prudence, but concrete and specific risks have not been indicated.
There is therefore no reason to arouse concerns that may needlessly affect both those who live and work in the Vatican and the many pilgrims and tourists who visit on a daily basis”.
Audiences
Vatican City, 10 January 2014 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father received in audience Cardinal Marc Ouellet, P.S.S., prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.
Other Pontifical Acts
Vatican City, 12 January 2014 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed:
- Fr. Fernand J. Cheri, O.F.M., as auxiliary of the archdiocese of New Orleans (area 10,898, population 1,238,228, Catholics 520,056, priests 352, permanent deacons 211, religious 664), U.S.A. The bishop-elect was born in New Orleans in 1952, was ordained a priest in 1978 and gave his solemn vows in 1996. He holds a master's degree in theology from Xavier University, New Orleans, and has served in a number of pastoral roles, including administrator of the “St. Joseph the Worker” parish; parish priest of the “St. Francis de Sales” parish, New Orleans; administrator of the “St. Theresa of the Child Jesus” parish, New Orleans; chaplain and teacher at the “Hales Franciscan High School”, Chicago; parish priest of the “St. Vincent de Paul” parish, Nashville; teacher at the Althoff Catholic High School, Belleville; director of the O.F.M. Office of Friar Life, vocation minister of the O.F.M. Vocation Office and deputy director of the university chaplaincy of Xavier University, New Orleans. He is currently director of campus ministry at Quincy University, Quincy.
- Msgr. Janusz Urbanczyk, nunciature counsellor at the Holy See Permanent Mission at the United Nations, New York, as Holy See Permanent Representative at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO), and as Holy See Permanent Observer at the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) and at the United Nations in Vienna.
On Saturday, 10 January, the Holy Father appointed:
- Bishop Juan Barros Madrid, military ordinary for Chile, as bishop of Osorno (area 9,236, population 241,000, Catholics 125,000, priests 204, permanent deacons 23, religious 97), Chile.
- Msgr. Nicolo Anselmi as auxiliary of the metropolitan archdiocese of Genoa (area 966, population 812,246, Catholics 690,409, priests 553, permanent deacons 31, religious 1,402), Italy. The bishop-elect was born in Genoa, Italy in 1961 and was ordained a priest in 1992. He holds a bachelor's degree in theology from the theological faculty of Genoa and has served in a number of pastoral and administrative roles, including parish vicar of the “Santi Pietro e Bernardo alla Foce” parish in Genoa, head of the youth pastoral service for the archdiocese of Genoa, regional head of youth pastoral care for the Liguria Episcopal Conference, administrator of the parish of “San Giovanni Bosco della Rimessa”, lecturer at the major seminary of Genoa and head of the national youth pastoral service. He is currently episcopal vicar for university, youth and sport pastoral ministry; director of the office for youth pastoral ministry; provost of the parish-basilica of Santa Maria delle Vigne; member of the presbyteral council and member of the college of consultors. In 2012 he was named Chaplain of His Holiness.
- Bishop Guglielmo Borghetti of Pitigliano-Sovana-Orbetello, Italy, as coadjutor bishop of the diocese of Albenga-Imperia (area 979, population 170,010, Catholics 157,000, priests 181, permanent deacons 22, religious 388), Italy.
- Archbishop Eugene Martin Nugent as apostolic nuncio in Haiti. Archbishop Nugent was formerly apostolic nuncio in Madagascar, Mauritius and the Seychelles, and apostolic delegate in the Cormoros Islands, with the function of apostolic delegate in La Reunion, France.
In Memoriam
Vatican City, 12 January 2014 (VIS) – The following prelates died in recent months:
- Bishop Sofron Stefan Wasyl Mudry, O.S.B.M., emeritus of Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine, on 31 October 2014 at the age of 90.
- Bishop Alberto Johannes Först, O. Carm. emeritus of Dourados, Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil, on 1 November 2014 at the age of 87.
- Archbishop James Mwewa Spaita, emeritus of Kasama, Zambia, on 4 November 2014 at the age of 80.
- Archbishop Juan Antonio Flores Santana, emeritus of Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic, on 9 November 2014 at the age of 87.
- Bishop Caetano Antonio Lima dos Santos, O.F.M. Cap., emeritus of Ilheus, Bahia, Brazil, on 11 November 2014 at the age of 98.
- Bishop Henri Marie Raoul Brincard, C.R.S.A, of Le Puy-en-Velay, France, on 14 November 2014 at the age of 74.
- Bishop Javier Azagra Labiano, emeritus of Cartagena, Spain, on 16 November 2014 at the age of 91.
- Bishop Jeremiah Joseph Coffey, emeritus of Sale, Australia, on 19 November 2014 at the age of 81.
- Bishop Leonard James Olivier, S.V.D, auxiliary emeritus of Washington, U.S.A., on 19 November 2014 at the age of 91.
- Bishop Sebelio Peralta Alvarez, of San Lorenzo, Paraguay, on 19 November 2014 at the age of 75.
-Cardinal Fiorenzo Angelini, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Health Care Workers (for Health Care Pastoral), on 22 November 2014 at the age of 98.
- Bishop Joseph Francis Maguire, emeritus of Springfield, U.S.A., on 23 November 2014 at the age of 95.
- Archbishop Joseph Thomas Dimino, military ordinary emeritus of the U.S.A., on 25 November 2014 at the age of 91.
- Bishop Alfredo Ernest Novak, C.SS.R. emeritus of Paranagua, Brazil, on 3 December 2014, at the age of 84.
- Bishop Patrick Edward O’Connor, emeritus of Tokelau, New Zealand, on 3 December 2014, at the age of 82.
- Cardinal Jorge Maria Mejia, archivist and librarian emeritus of the Holy Roman Church, on 9 December 2014 at the age of 91.
- Bishop Georges Lagrange, emeritus of Gap, France, on 11 December 2014 at the age of 85.
- Bishop Anthony Edward Pevec, auxiliary emeritus of Cleveland, U.S.A., on 14 December 2014 at the age of 89.
- Bishop Stephen Hector Youssef Doueihi, emeritus of St. Maron of Brooklyn (Maronites), U.S.A., on 17 December 2014 at the age of 87.
- Bishop Claude Henri Edouard Frikart, C.I.M., auxiliary emeritus of Paris, France, on 18 December 2014, at the age of 92.
- Archbishop Giuseppe Pittau, S.J. secretary emeritus of la Congregation for Catholic Education, on 26 December 2014, at the age of 86.
- Bishop Gery-Jacques-Charles Leuliet, emeritus of Amiens, France, on 1 January 2015, at the age of 104.
- Archbishop Paulinus Costa, emeritus of Dhaka, Bangladesh, on 3 January 2015 at the age of 78.
- Bishop Natalino Pescarolo, emeritus of Cuneo, Italy, on 4 January 2015 at the age of 85.
- Bishop Bernard Joseph McLaughlin, auxiliary emeritus of Buffalo, U.S.A., on 5 January 2015, at the age of 102.
- Bishop Joseph Djida, O.M.I., of Ngaoundere, Cameroon, on 6 January 2015 at the age of 69.


Pope Francis 'For the sake of peace, religious beliefs must never be allowed to be abused in the cause of violence...' Full Text Interreligious Meeting


Pope Francis greets members of other religious communities taking part in an interfaith encounter in the Sri Lankan capital on Tuesday - ANSA
13/01/2015 


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Tuesday underlined the importance of interreligious and ecumenical dialogue in Sri Lanka which is undergoing a process of reconciliation, following a 26-year-long civil war.
Speaking on the first full day of his apostolic journey to Sri Lanka, Pope Francis addressed a gathering of Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and other Christian leaders, reaffirming the Church’s deep and sincere respect for other religious beliefs.As he entered the International Congress Centre in the Sri Lankan capital, the Pope was greeted by traditional music and drumming, followed by the chanting of a Buddhist blessing by members of the country’s majority religious community
Buddhist and Hindu leaders welcomed the Pope, speaking of the need for peace, reconciliation and unity in a nation still struggling to overcome the effects of the civil war. A Muslim representative also recalled the need for religious leaders to build bridges, overcome suspicion and promote peaceful coexistence between communities. He mentioned the killing of innocent people in France and Pakistan in the name of Islam, but he said “Islam has no relationship to such evil conduct and deeds”.
To the spiritual leaders present at the gathering, Pope Francis said interfaith dialogue must be grounded in a full and honest presentation of our own convictions, which will help us to “see more clearly what we hold in common”.  Interreligious relations, he said, hold “a particular significance and urgency” in Sri Lanka which needs healing and unity, not further conflict and division.
“It is my hope that interreligious and ecumenical cooperation will demonstrate that men and women do not have to forsake their identity, whether ethnic or religious, in order to live in harmony with their brothers and sisters…”
Speaking of the need to serve the poor and destitute, as well as those whose families were torn apart by the war, the Pope said “May the growing spirit of cooperation between the leaders of the various religious communities find expression in a commitment to put reconciliation among all Sri Lankans at the heart of every effort to renew society and its institutions”.
For the sake of peace, the Pope stressed, “religious beliefs must never be allowed to be abused in the cause of violence and war.  We must be clear and unequivocal, he said, in challenging our communities to live fully the tenets of peace and coexistence found in each religion, and to denounce acts of violence when they are committed”.
Pope Francis concluded with the wish that this fraternal encounter “confirm all of us in our efforts to live in harmony and to spread the blessings of peace”.
Please find below the full text of Pope Francis’ Address to the Interreligious and Ecumenical Gathering in Colombo:  
Dear Friends,
    I am grateful for the opportunity to take part in this meeting which brings together, among others, the four largest religious communities integral to the life of Sri Lanka: Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity.  I thank you for your presence and for your warm welcome.  I also thank those who have offered prayers and blessings, and in a particular way I express my gratitude to Bishop Cletus Chandrasiri Perera and to the Venerable Vigithasiri Niyangoda Thero for their kind words.
    I have come to Sri Lanka in the footsteps of my predecessors Popes Paul VI and John Paul II to demonstrate the great love and concern which the Catholic Church has for Sri Lanka.  It is a particular grace for me to visit the Catholic community here, to confirm them in their Christian faith, to pray with them and to share their joys and sufferings.  It is equally a grace to be with all of you, men and women of these great religious traditions, who share with us a desire for wisdom, truth and holiness.
    At the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church declared her deep and abiding respect for other religions.  She stated that she “rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions.  She has a high regard for their manner of life and conduct, their precepts and doctrines” (Nostra Aetate, 2).  For my part, I wish to reaffirm the Church’s sincere respect for you, your traditions and beliefs.
    It is in this spirit of respect that the Catholic Church desires to cooperate with you, and with all people of good will, in seeking the welfare of all Sri Lankans.  I hope that my visit will help to encourage and deepen the various forms of interreligious and ecumenical cooperation which have been undertaken in recent years.
    These praiseworthy initiatives have provided opportunities for dialogue, which is essential if we are to know, understand and respect one another.  But, as experience has shown, for such dialogue and encounter to be effective, it must be grounded in a full and forthright presentation of our respective convictions.  Certainly, such dialogue will accentuate how varied our beliefs, traditions and practices are.  But if we are honest in presenting our convictions, we will be able to see more clearly what we hold in common.  New avenues will be opened for mutual esteem, cooperation and indeed friendship.
    Such positive developments in interreligious and ecumenical relations take on a particular significance and urgency in Sri Lanka.  For too many years the men and women of this country have been victims of civil strife and violence.  What is needed now is healing and unity, not further conflict and division.  Surely the fostering of healing and unity is a noble task which is incumbent upon all who have at heart the good of the nation, and indeed the whole human family.  It is my hope that interreligious and ecumenical cooperation will demonstrate that men and women do not have to forsake their identity, whether ethnic or religious, in order to live in harmony with their brothers and sisters.

    How many ways there are for the followers of the different religions to carry out this service!  How many are the needs that must be tended to with the healing balm of fraternal solidarity!  I think in particular of the material and spiritual needs of the poor, the destitute, those who yearn for a word of consolation and hope.  Here I think too of the many families who continue to mourn the loss of their loved ones.
    Above all, at this moment of your nation’s history, how many people of good will are seeking to rebuild the moral foundations of society as a whole?  May the growing spirit of cooperation between the leaders of the various religious communities find expression in a commitment to put reconciliation among all Sri Lankans at the heart of every effort to renew society and its institutions.  For the sake of peace, religious beliefs must never be allowed to be abused in the cause of violence and war.  We must be clear and unequivocal in challenging our communities to live fully the tenets of peace and coexistence found in each religion, and to denounce acts of violence when they are committed.
    Dear friends, I thank you once again for your generous welcome and your attention.  May this fraternal encounter confirm all of us in our efforts to live in harmony and to spread the blessings of peace

Pope Francis arrives in Asia - Welcome ceremony from Sri Lanka "now seeking to consolidate peace..."


Pope Francis with Sri Lanka's President Maithripala Sirisena in Colombo, Jan 13, 2015 - REUTERS
13/01/2015 06:32



( Vatican Radio) Pope Francis arrived in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on Tuesday morning, at the beginning of a week-long visit to Asia that will see him in both Sri Lanka and the Philippines. The Holy Father arrived to pomp and circumstance: traditional dancers, a children’s choir performing an especially composed hymn to mark the visit, as well as the execution of the anthems of the Holy See and Sri Lanka by the military band, along with a 21-gun salute.The newly-elected and installed President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, Maithripala Sirisena, offered official words of greeting to Pope Francis, thanking him for the visit and asking his blessing upon himself and his whole nation and people:
It is indeed significant that Your Holiness has commenced this apostolic journey to Asia with a visit to Sri Lanka. Your visit is also particularly significant to me personally, as I have been elected to the office of President only few days ago. The visit of Your Holiness gives me an opportunity to receive your blessings as I commence my term of office.
The visit of Pope Francis to the island nation, known as “the pearl of the Indian ocean ” for its natural beauty, comes as Sri Lankans work to heal the scars of a decades-long civil war that ended in 2009. The need for genuine reconciliation in order to achieve justice and true, lasting peace, was a focal point of the Holy Father’s own remarks at the welcome ceremony:
It is a continuing tragedy in our world that so many communities are at war with themselves.  The inability to reconcile differences and disagreements, whether old or new, has given rise to ethnic and religious tensions, frequently accompanied by outbreaks of violence.  Sri Lanka for many years knew the horrors of civil strife, and is now seeking to consolidate peace and to heal the scars of those years.  It is no easy task to overcome the bitter legacy of injustices, hostility and mistrust left by the conflict.  It can only be done by overcoming evil with good (cf.Rom 12:21) and by cultivating those virtues which foster reconciliation, solidarity and peace.  The process of healing also needs to include the pursuit of truth, not for the sake of opening old wounds, but rather as a necessary means of promoting justice, healing and unity.
The role of religious believers in fostering peace and furthering the common good was another theme of the Holy Father’s remarks:
Dear friends, I am convinced that the followers of the various religious traditions have an essential role to play in the delicate process of reconciliation and rebuilding which is taking place in this country.  For that process to succeed, all members of society must work together; all must have a voice.  All must be free to express their concerns, their needs, their aspirations and their fears.  Most importantly, they must be prepared to accept one another, to respect legitimate diversities, and learn to live as one family.  Whenever people listen to one another humbly and openly, their shared values and aspirations become all the more apparent.  Diversity is no longer seen as a threat, but as a source of enrichment.  The path to justice, reconciliation and social harmony becomes all the more clearly seen.
The centerpiece of the Holy Father’s visit to Sri Lanka is the canonization of Blessed Joseph Vaz, a 17th and early 18th century priest, who was great hero of the cause of the Gospel in Sri Lanka – a cause that is very much alive and in the service of the whole Sri Lankan people in this day:
My visit to Sri Lanka is primarily pastoral.  As the universal pastor of the Catholic Church, I have come to meet, encourage and pray with the Catholic people of this island.  A highlight of this visit will be the canonization of Blessed Joseph Vaz, whose example of Christian charity and respect for all people, regardless of ethnicity or religion, continues to inspire and teach us today.  But my visit is also meant to express the Church’s love and concern for all Sri Lankans, and to confirm the desire of the Catholic community to be an active participant in the life of this society.
The canonization of Blessed Joseph Vaz is to take place during an open-air Mass in Colombo on Wednesday.

 2015

Saint January 13 : St. Hilary of Poitiers : Bishop


Information:
Feast Day:January 13
Born:
300, Poitiers
Died:368, Poitiers
Bishop, born in that city at the beginning of the fourth century; died there 1 November, according to the most accredited opinion, or according to the Roman Breviary, on 13 January, 368. Belonging to a noble and very probably pagan family, he was instructed in all the branches of profane learning, but, having also taken up the study of Holy Scripture and finding there the truth which he sought so ardently, he renounced idolatry and was baptized. Thenceforth his wide learning and his zeal for the Faith attracted such attention that he was chosen about 350 to govern the body of the faithful which the city had possessed since the third century. We know nothing of the bishops who governed this society in the beginning. Hilary is the first concerning whom we have authentic information, and this is due to the important part he played in opposing heresy. The Church was then greatly disturbed by internal discords, the authority of the popes not being so powerful in practice as either to prevent or to stop them. Arianism had made frightful ravages in various regions and threatened to invade Gaul, where it already had numerous partisans more or less secretly affiliated with it. Saturninus, Bishop of Arles, the most active of the latter, being exposed by Hilary, convened and presided over a council at Béziers in 356 with the intention of justifying himself, or rather of establishing his false doctrine. Here the Bishop of Poitiers courageously presented himself to defend orthodoxy, but the council, composed for the most part of Arians, refused to hear him, and being shortly afterwards denounced to the Emperor Constantius, the protector of Arianism, he was at his command transported to the distant coasts of Phrygia.
But persecution could not subdue the valiant champion. Instead of remaining inactive during his exile he gave himself up to study,  completed certain of his works which he had begun, and wrote his treatise on the synods. In this work he analysed the professions of faith uttered by the Oriental bishops in the Councils of Ancyra, Antioch, and Sirmium, and while condemning them, since they were in substance Arian, he sought to show that sometimes the difference between the doctrines of certain heretics and orthodox beliefs was rather in the words than in the ideas, which led to his counselling the bishops of the West to be reserved in their condemnation. He was sharply reproached for his indulgence by certain ardent Catholics, the leader of whom was Lucifer, Bishop of Cagliari. However, in 359, the city of Seleucia witnessed the assembly in synod of a large number of Oriental bishops, nearly all of whom were either Anomoeans or Semi-Arians. Hilary, whom everyone wished to see and hear, so great was his reputation for learning and virtue, was invited to be present at this assembly. The governor of the province even furnished him with post horses for the journey. In presence of the Greek fathers he set forth the doctrines of the Gallic bishops, and easily proved that, contrary to the opinion current in the East, these latter were not Sabellians. Then he took part in the violent discussions which took place between the Semi-Arians, who inclined toward reconciliation with the Catholics, and the Anomoeans, who formed as it were the extreme left of Arianism.
After the council, which had no result beyond the wider separation of these brothers in enmity, he left for Constantinople, the stronghold of heresy, to continue his battle against error. But while the Semi-Arians, who were less numerous and less powerful, besought him to become the intermediary in a reconciliation between themselves and the bishops of the West, the Anomoeans, who had the immense advantage of being upheld by the emperor, besought the latter to send back to his own country this Gallic bishop, who, they said, sowed discord and troubled the Orient. Constantius acceded to their desire, and the exile was thus enabled to set out on his journey home. In 361 Hilary re-entered Poitiers in triumph and resumed possession of his see. He was welcomed with the liveliest joy by his flock and his brothers in the episcopate, and was visited by Martin, his former disciple and subsequently Bishop of Tours. The success he had achieved in his combat against error was rendered more brilliant shortly afterwards by the deposition of Saturninus, the Arian Bishop of Arles by whom he had been persecuted. However, as in Italy the memory still rankled of the efforts he had made to bring about a reconciliation between the nearly converted Semi-Arians and the Catholics, he went in 364 to the Bishop of Vercelli to endeavour to overcome the intolerance of the partisans of the Bishop Lucifer mentioned above. Almost immediately afterwards, that it might be seen that, if he was full of indulgence for those whom gentleness might finally win from error, he was intractable towards those who were obstinate in their adherence to it, he went to Milan, there to assail openly Auxentius, the bishop of that city, who was a firm defender of the Arian doctrines. But the Emperor Valentinian, who protected the heretic, ordered Hilary to depart immediately from Milan.
He then returned to his city of Poitiers, from which he was not again to absent himself and where he was to die. This learned and energetic bishop had fought against error with the pen as well as in words. The best edition of his numerous and remarkable writings is that published by Dom Constant under the title: "Sancti Hilarii, Pictavorum episcopi opera, ad manuscriptos codices gallicanos, romanos, belgicos, necnon ad veteres editiones castigata" (Paris, 1693). The Latin Church celebrates his feast on 14 January, and Pius IX raised him to the rank of Doctor of the Universal Church. The Church of Puy glories in the supposed possession of his relics, but according to one tradition his body was borne to the church of St-Denys near Paris, while according to another it was taken from the church of St-Hilaire at Poitiers and burned by the Protestants in 1572.

(Taken from Catholic Encyclopedia)

Pope Francis "Today I wish to repeat a word quite dear to us: peace!" Full Text/Video


Pope Francis addresses the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See - ANSA
12/01/2015 10:31


(Vatican Radio) On Monday, Pope Francis gave his traditional address to the members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See. 
Below, please find the full text of the Holy Father's address to the members of the Diplomatic Corps: 
ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
TO THE MEMBERS OF THE DIPLOMATIC CORPS
12 January 2015
Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I thank you for your presence at this traditional meeting, which allows me at the beginning of each new year to offer to you, your families, and the peoples you represent, my cordial greetings and best wishes. I am especially grateful to your Dean, Ambassador Jean-Claude Michel, for the kind words which he addressed to me in the name of all, and I thank each of you for your constant efforts to foster in a spirit of mutual cooperation the relations between the countries and international organizations which you represent and the Holy See. In the course of the past year too, these relations were consolidated by an increase in the presence of ambassadors resident in Rome and by the signing of new bilateral Accords, both general, like that concluded last January with Cameroon, and specific, like those signed with Malta and Serbia.
Today I wish to repeat a word quite dear to us: peace! It comes to us from the angelic hosts who proclaimed it on Christmas night (cf. Lk 2:14) as a precious gift of God, while at the same time as a personal and social responsibility which calls for our commitment and concern. But together with peace, the image of the Christmas crèche speaks to us another tragic reality: that of rejection. In some iconographic representations, both in the West and in the East – I think for example of the splendid Nativity icon of Andrej Rublev – the Child Jesus is shown not lying in a manger, but in a tomb. The image, which is meant to connect the two principal Christian feasts of Christmas and Easter, shows that the joyful acceptance of this new birth is inseparable from the entire drama of Jesus’ life, his humiliation and rejection, even to death on the cross.
The Christmas stories themselves show us the hardened heart of a humanity which finds it difficult to accept the Child. From the very start, he is cast aside, left out in the cold, forced to be born in a stable since there was no room in the inn (cf. Lk 2:7). If this is how the Son of God was treated, how much more so is it the case with so many of our brothers and sisters! Rejection is an attitude we all share; it makes us see our neighbour not as a brother or sister to be accepted, but as unworthy of our attention, a rival, or someone to be bent to our will. This is the mind-set which fosters that “throwaway culture” which spares nothing and no one: nature, human beings, even God himself. It gives rise to a humanity filled with pain and constantly torn by tensions and conflicts of every sort.
Emblematic of this, in the Gospel infancy narratives, is King Herod. Feeling his authority threatened by the Child Jesus, he orders all the children of Bethlehem to be killed. We think immediately of Pakistan, where a month ago, more than a hundred children were slaughtered with unspeakable brutality. To their families I wish to renew my personal condolences and the assurance of my continued prayers for the many innocents who lost their lives.
The personal dimension of rejection is inevitably accompanied by a social dimension, a culture of rejection which severs the deepest and most authentic human bonds, leading to the breakdown of society and spawning violence and death. We see painful evidence of this in the events reported daily in the news, not least the tragic slayings which took place in Paris a few days ago. Other people “are no longer regarded as beings of equal dignity, as brothers or sisters sharing a common humanity, but rather as objects” (Message for the 2015 World Day of Peace, 8 December 2014, 4). Losing their freedom, people become enslaved, whether to the latest fads, or to power, money, or even deviant forms of religion. These are dangers which I pointed out in my recent Message for the World Day of Peace, which dealt with the issue of today’s multiple forms of enslavement. All of them are born of a corrupt heart, a heart incapable of recognizing and doing good, of pursuing peace.
It saddens us to see the tragic consequences of this mentality of rejection and this “culture of enslavement” (ibid., 2) in the never-ending spread of conflicts. Like a true world war fought piecemeal, they affect, albeit in different forms and degrees of intensity, a number of areas in our world, beginning with nearby Ukraine, which has become a dramatic theatre of combat. It is my hope that through dialogue the efforts presently being made to end the hostilities will be consolidated, and that the parties involved will embark as quickly as possible, in a renewed spirit of respect for international law, upon the path of mutual trust and fraternal reconciliation, with the aim of bringing an end to the present crisis.
My thoughts turn above all to the Middle East, beginning with the beloved land of Jesus which I had the joy of visiting last May, and for whose peace we constantly pray. We did this with extraordinary intensity, together with the then President of Israel, Shimon Peres, and the President of Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas, inspired by a confident hope that negotiations between the two parties will once more resume, for the sake of ending violence and reaching a solution which can enable Palestinians and Israelis alike to live at last in peace within clearly established and internationally recognized borders, thus implementing the “two state solution”.
The Middle East is tragically embroiled in other conflicts which have lasted far too long, with chilling repercussions, due also to the spread of fundamentalist terrorism in Syria and in Iraq. This phenomenon is a consequence of the throwaway culture being applied to God. Religious fundamentalism, even before it eliminates human beings by perpetrating horrendous killings, eliminates God himself, turning him into a mere ideological pretext. In the face of such unjust aggression, which also strikes Christians and other ethnic and religious groups in the region, a unanimous response is needed, one which, within the framework of international law, can end the spread of acts of violence, restore harmony and heal the deep wounds which the ongoing conflicts have caused. Here, in your presence, I appeal to the entire international community, as I do to the respective governments involved, to take concrete steps to bring about peace and to protect all those who are victims of war and persecution, driven from their homes and their homeland. In a letter written shortly before Christmas, I sought to express my personal closeness and the promise of my prayers to all the Christian communities of the Middle East. Theirs is a precious testimony of faith and courage, for they play a fundamental role as artisans of peace, reconciliation and development in the civil societies of which they are a part. A Middle East without Christians would be a marred and mutilated Middle East! In urging the international community not to remain indifferent in the face of this situation, I express my hope that religious, political and intellectual leaders, especially those of the Muslim community, will condemn all fundamentalist and extremist interpretations of religion which attempt to justify such acts of violence.
Sadly, comparable acts of brutality, which not infrequently reap victims from among the poor and the most vulnerable, are found in other parts of the world as well. I think in particular of Nigeria where acts of violence continue to strike indiscriminately and there is a constant increase in the tragic phenomenon of kidnappings, often of young girls carried off to be made objects of trafficking. This is an abominable trade which must not continue! It is a scourge which needs to be eradicated, since it strikes all of us, from individual families to the entire international community (cf. Address to Newly Accredited Ambassadors to the Holy See, 12 December 2013).
I also look with concern to the many civil conflicts taking place in other parts of Africa, beginning with Libya, ravaged by a drawn-out internecine war which has caused unspeakable suffering among its people, with grave repercussions for the delicate balances in the region. I think of the dramatic situation in the Central African Republic, in which, sad to say, the good will inspiring the efforts of those seeking to build a future of peace, security and prosperity, has encountered resistance and selfish partisan interests. These risk frustrating the hopes of a people which has endured so much and which now longs to shape its future in freedom. Of particular concern, too, is the situation in South Sudan and in some areas of Sudan, the Horn of Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where civilian casualties are on the rise and thousands of persons, including many women and children, are being forced to flee and to endure conditions of extreme distress. I voice my hope for a common commitment on the part of individual governments and the international community to end every form of fighting, hatred and violence, and to pursue reconciliation, peace and the defence of the transcendent dignity of the person.
Nor can we overlook the fact that wars involve another horrendous crime, the crime of rape. This is a most grave offense against the dignity of women, who are not only violated in body but also in spirit, resulting in a trauma hard to erase and with effects on society as well. Sadly, even apart from situations of war, all too many women even today are victims of violence.
Every conflict and war is emblematic of the throwaway culture, since people’s lives are deliberately crushed by those in power. Yet that culture is also fuelled by more subtle and insidious forms of rejection. I think in the first place of the way the sick are treated; often they are cast aside and marginalized like the lepers in the Gospel. Among the lepers of our own day we can count the victims of the new and terrible outbreak of Ebola which, especially in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, has already taken over six thousand lives. Today I wish publicly to praise and thank those healthcare workers who, alongside men and women religious and volunteers, are caring in every way possible for the sick and their families, especially orphaned children. At the same time I renew my appeal to the entire international community to provide adequate humanitarian assistance to patients and to make concerted efforts to combat the disease.
Together with lives thrown away because of war and disease, there are those of numerous refugees and displaced persons. Once again, the reality can be appreciated by reflecting on the childhood of Jesus, which sheds light on another form of the throwaway culture which harms relationships and causes the breakdown of society. Indeed, because of Herod’s brutality, the Holy Family was forced to flee to Egypt, and was only able to return several years later (cf. Mt 2:13-15). One consequence of the situations of conflict just described is the flight of thousands of persons from their homeland. At times they leave not so much in search of a better future, but any future at all, since remaining at home can mean certain death. How many persons lose their lives during these cruel journeys, the victims of unscrupulous and greedy thugs? I raised this issue during my recent visit to the European Parliament, where I insisted that “we cannot allow the Mediterranean to become a vast cemetery” (Address to the European Parliament, Strasbourg, 25 November 2014). Then too there is the alarming fact that many immigrants, especially in the Americas, are unaccompanied children, all the more at risk and in need of greater care, attention and protection.
Often coming without documents to strange lands whose language they do not speak, migrants find it difficult to be accepted and to find work. In addition to the uncertainties of their flight, they have to face the drama of rejection. A change of attitude is needed on our part, moving from indifference and fear to genuine acceptance of others. This of course calls for “enacting adequate legislation to protect the rights of… citizens and to ensure the acceptance of immigrants” (ibid.). I thank all those who, even at the cost of their lives, are working to assist refugees and immigrants, and I urge states and international organizations to make every effort to resolve these grave humanitarian problems and to provide the immigrants’ countries of origin with forms of aid which can help promote their social and political development and settle their internal conflicts, which are the chief cause of this phenomenon. “We need to take action against the causes and not only the effects” (ibid.). This will also enable immigrants to return at some point to their own country and to contribute to its growth and development.
Together with immigrants, displaced people and refugees, there are many other “hidden exiles” (Angelus, 29 December 2013) living in our homes and in our families. I think especially of the elderly, the handicapped and young people. The elderly encounter rejection when they are considered a “burdensome presence” (ibid.), while the young are thrown away when they are denied concrete prospects of employment to build their future. Indeed, there is no poverty worse than that which takes away work and the dignity of work (cf. Address to Participants in the World Meeting of Popular Movements, 28 October 2014), or which turns work into a form of enslavement. This is what I sought to stress during my recent meeting with popular movements working to finding adequate solutions to some of today’s problems, including the scourge of rising unemployment among the young, illegal labour, and the dramatic situation of so many workers, especially children, who are exploited out of greed. All this is contrary to human dignity and the fruit of a mentality which is centred on money, benefits and economic profit, to the detriment of our fellow man.
Then too, the family itself is not infrequently considered disposable, thanks to the spread of an individualistic and self-centred culture which severs human bonds and leads to a dramatic fall in birth rates, as well as legislation which benefits various forms of cohabitation rather than adequately supporting the family for the welfare of society as a whole.
Among the causes of these realities is a model of globalization which levels out differences and even discards cultures, cutting them off from those factors which shape each people’s identity and constitute a legacy essential to their sound social development. In a drab, anonymous world, it is easy to understand the difficulties and the discouragement felt by many people who have literally lost the sense of being alive. This tragic situation is aggravated by the continuing economic crisis, which fosters pessimism and social conflict. I have been able to see its effects here in Rome, where I meet many people in trying situations, and in the various journeys I have made in Italy.
To the beloved Italian nation, then, I would like to express my hope that in the continuing climate of social, political and economic uncertainty the Italian people will not yield to apathy or dissension, but will rediscover those values of shared concern and solidarity which are at the basis of their culture and civic life, and are a reason for confidence both now and in the future, especially for the young.
Speaking of the young, I wish to mention my journey to Korea, where last August I met thousands of young people assembled for the Sixth Asian Youth Day. There I spoke of the need to treasure our young, “seeking to pass on the legacy of the past and to apply it to the challenges of the present” (Meeting with Authorities, 14 August 2014). This demands that we reflect on “how well we are transmitting our values to the next generation and on the kind of world and society we are preparing to hand on to them” (ibid.).
This evening I will have the joy of setting off once more for Asia, to visit Sri Lanka and the Philippines as a sign of my interest and pastoral concern for the people of that vast continent. To them and to their governments I wish to voice yet again the desire of the Holy See to offer its own contribution of service to the common good, to harmony and social concord. In particular, I express my hope for a resumption of dialogue between the two Koreas, sister countries which speak the same language.
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
At the beginning of a new year, though, we do not wish our outlook to be dominated by pessimism, or the defects and deficiencies of the present time. We also want to thank God for the gifts and blessings he has bestowed upon us, for the occasions of dialogue and encounter which he has granted us, and for the fruits of peace which he has enabled us to savour.
I experienced an eloquent sign that the culture of encounter is possible during my visit to Albania, a nation full of young people who represent hope for the future. Despite the painful events of its recent history, the country is marked by the “peaceful coexistence and collaboration that exists among followers of different religions” (Address to Authorities, Tirana, 21 September 2014), in an atmosphere of respect and mutual trust between Catholics, Orthodox and Muslims. This is an important sign that sincere faith in God makes one open to others, generates dialogue and works for the good, whereas violence is always the product of a falsification of religion, its use as a pretext for ideological schemes whose only goal is power over others. Similarly, in my recent journey to Turkey, a historic bridge between East and West, I was able to see the fruits of ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, as well as efforts made to assist refugees from other countries of the Middle East. I also encountered this spirit of openness in Jordan, which I visited at the beginning of my pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and in the testimonies which come from Lebanon, a country which I pray will overcome its current political problems.
One example close to my heart of how dialogue can build bridges comes from the recent decision of the United States of America and Cuba to end a lack of communication which has endured for more than half a century, and to initiate a rapprochement for the benefit of their respective citizens. Here I think too of the people of Burkina Faso, who are experiencing a period of significant political and institutional change, with the hope that a renewed spirit of cooperation will contribute to the growth of a more just and fraternal society. I also note with pleasure that last March an agreement was signed to end long years of tension in the Philippines. I wish to encourage the efforts made to ensure a stable peace in Colombia, as well as the initiatives taken to restore political and social harmony in Venezuela. At the same time, I express my hope that a definitive agreement may soon be reached between Iran and the 5+1 Group regarding the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, and my appreciation of the efforts already made in this regard. I note with satisfaction the intention of the United States to close the Guantanamo detention facilities, while acknowledging the generous willingness of several countries to receive the detainees. Finally, I would like to express my appreciation and encouragement to those countries actively engaged in promoting human development, political stability and civil coexistence between their citizens.
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
On 6 August 1945, humanity witnessed one of the most horrendous catastrophes in its history. For the first time, in a new and unprecedented way, the world experienced the full potential of man’s destructive power. From the ashes of that immense tragedy which was the Second World War, there arose among the nations a new will for dialogue and encounter which inspired the United Nations Organization, whose seventieth anniversary we will celebrate this year.  In his visit to the UN headquarters fifty years ago, my predecessor, Pope Paul VI, noted that “the blood of millions, countless unheard-of sufferings, useless massacres and frightening ruins have sanctioned the agreement that unites you with an oath that ought to change the future of the world: never again war, never again war! It is peace, peace, that has to guide the destiny of the nations of all mankind” (Address to the United Nations, New York, 4 October 1965).
This is likewise my own hope-filled prayer for this new year, which, for that matter, will see the continuation of two significant processes: the drawing up of the Post-2015 Development Agenda, with the adoption of Sustainable Development Goals, and the drafting of a new Climate Change Agreement. The indispensable presupposition of all these is peace, which, even more than an end to all wars, is the fruit of heartfelt conversion.
With these sentiments, I once more offer to each of you, to your families and your peoples, my prayerful good wishes that this new year of 2015 will be one of hope and peace. Radio Vaticana
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