Updated: 2 hours 59 min ago
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has a fortnightly telephone appointment with a youth prison in Buenos Aires, where he speaks to the young people incarcerated there. The head of the Vatican Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi, revealed this during a press conference in Mexico City on Friday. When asked about the prison riot at Topo Chico prison in Monterrey, Mexico, which left 49 people dead, Fr. Lombardi said the event had “troubled the heart” of Pope Francis. Pope Francis is scheduled to visit a prison near the end of his visit to Mexico in the city of Juarez, which Fr. Lombardi said was still on the schedule, adding Pope Francis has a strong commitment to ministry to prisoners. “Not only has he visited penitentiaries in Rome, such as the Holy Thursday ceremony in Rebibbia, where he met with detainees” – Father Lombardi said – “Pope Francis also every 15 days carries out a telephone conversation with young prisoners in Buenos Aires.” (from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis is in Mexico on his 12th Apostolic Journey, after meeting with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill in Havana, Cuba to sign a joint declaration. The Director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, spoke with Veronica Scarisbrick about the Holy Father's meeting with the Patriarch and his arrival in Mexico.
Listen to their conversation:
Noting that the Pope and the Patriarch's encounter was private, Fr. Lombardi said the climate of the discussion was "very friendly, but 'friendly' is too little an expression for he says the encounter [began] with the Patriarch saying 'my brother' and ended with 'finally, finally we meet, you are my brother'. This means he was very happy and the Patriarch was also happy."
He notes this will not be a unique episode but is merely the beginning of a closer relationship. "The Pope has said that they spoke about some concrete initiatives, but he has not explained what. The talk was not theoretically but was concrete."
"The dynamic element is the personal encounter between the Pope and the Patriarch."
Turning to the arrival of Pope Francis in Mexico , Fr. Lombardi said "here in Mexico City we have these incredible crowds, over a million people. There was a very good preparation for the little arrival ceremony, with people, songs, and dances.
As per his usual, the Holy Father immediately broke protocol upon arrival, going to meet the people. "In this sense I think we have already experienced how the great Mexican people is happy to have the Pope with them and how the Pope desires to meet personally and directly many, many people. This is obviously a place where the Pope speaks his [native] language; this is an advantage. I think it will be a marvellous encounter with this land where the people has always demonstrated an enormous love for the popes."
Concluding the interview, Fr. Lombardi said, "the vitality of the youth of this people will give a sense of hope, of dynamism, and future, and also the encounter with the Virgin of Guadalupe will give a sense of tenderness and spirituality to these days."
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis is in Mexico on his 12th Apostolic Journey. He was welcomed there to an atmosphere of 'fiesta' on Friday night. On Saturday his schedule includes an encounter with civil society and the diplomatic corps, the bishops of Mexico, and Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Vatican Radio's Veronica Scarisbrick is in Mexico with Pope Francis and sent this report on Saturday's activities.
Listen to the report:
While Pope Francis comes to Mexico to walk with the people he has also begged a chance to pray on his own. You’ll have guessed where. It’s before the image of ‘Our Lady of Guadalupe’ which he says inspires security and tenderness. “She is our mother”, he insists, “who cares, protects and leads a people”.
His request has been granted and on Saturday on the first full day of his Apostolic journey he’ll be shown into a sort of secret room, the ‘camarin’ as they call it, located directly behind the altar of the Basilica of the Shrine which houses this image.
To get to it a sort of mini bank vault has to be unlocked. And for this fleeting occasion the image will be turned towards the Pope rather than towards the congregation gathered there for Holy Mass.
You are probably familiar with this 16th century image of Our Lady framed by a pink almond shaped oval with the rays of the sun all around, wearing a green blue cloak decorated with stars and standing on a crescent moon. The moon being symbolic of Mexico as the word means ‘navel of the moon’. Known as the 'Morenita' she appeared as a 'mestizo', of mixed race, so symbolic of the unity of Mexican people.
Pope Francis makes requests but also courteously accepts invitations. Naturally from the nation’s President Enrique Pena Nieto at the impressive ‘Palacio Nacional’, seat of the federal executive in Mexico.
Located at the heart of Mexico City the building with its stylish colonial red façade overlooks the elegant “Plaza de la Constituciòn” known as ‘El Zòcalo’. Part of the stone used for it was stolen from the original Palace of the Aztec Emperor Moctezuma II, also in the early 16th century.
It is there that on Saturday morning Pope Francis delivers his first speech to the Mexican nation in the presence of civil authorities, civil society and the diplomatic corps.
The second speech is to the Bishops fittingly in the City’s Metropolitan Cathedral of the ‘Assumption’ with its ‘Dona Maria’ bell which pealed for two hours to welcome the Pope to town on Saturday evening. An ornate colonial building which like all of the rest of this capital city sinks into the spongey soil of what was once an azure lake. One which houses a massive gold altar. I mean really massive. That’s why perhaps the ‘guardia federal’ keeps guard inside the precints of the Cathedral.
In Mexico City, I’m Veronica Scarisbrick.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis arrived in Mexico Friday evening after an historic meeting with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill in Cuba . This is his 12th Apostolic Journey and is the third Pope to visit the country. Vatican Radio’s Veronica Scarisbrick is with the Pope in Mexico. She sends us this report on his arrival Friday evening.
Listen to the report:
The Pope’s arrival in Mexico City was supposed to be a straightforward affair without particular protocol. In reality it had more the feeling of a ‘fiesta’ verging on a television show.
There was a stadium crowd, mariachi, folk dancers in colourful traditional dresses and singers of all ages including children. But then as we know Mexicans love fiestas.
And perhaps Pope Francis does too. He certainly looked relaxed and happy as he always does when he’s back among his people.
On a more official note the President of Mexico, Enrique Pena Nieto was there to greet him together with his wife, the ‘primera dama’.
And there were children who ran all together into his arms to hug him while the crowds yelled “ Quedan que el papa nos benedica’, requesting he bless them.
Eventually he did bless them and then waved in a friendly manner and on a more profane note he donned a black and gold Mexican mariachi hat for a moment.
And then he climbed into his pope mobile and covered the nineteen kilometres into town amid a tunnel of cheering crowds lighting up the night with their smart phones or torches.
Definitely a homecoming…
With Pope Francis in Mexico City, I’m Veronica Scarisbrick
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) On board the papal plane following the meeting with Patriarch Kirill , Pope Francis told journalists that “it was a conversation between brothers.”
Speaking en route to Mexico the Pope said that he and the Patriarch spoke about their respective Churches, the situation in the world, wars, orthodoxy and also the next pan-orthodox Synod. He added that he really felt, “an inner joy that came from the Lord”.
The Pope reaffirmed the freedom that was felt during the meeting which included the presence of Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, Metropolitan Hilarion and two interpreters.
Pope Francis also said that “possible activities in common” has been talked about, adding that “unity is a walk together.”
Commenting on the joint declaration signed after the encounter, the Holy Father stressed “it was a pastoral and not a sociological declaration.” The Pope said it was “pastoral" in the sense that it was “two bishops meeting about pastoral concerns.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis and the Russian Orthodox leader Patriarch Kirill on Friday concluded a historic encounter in the Cuban capital with an urgent appeal for an end to conflict and the persecution of Christians across the Middle East.
The appeal came in a Joint Declaration which the two leaders signed at the end of a two hour private conversation at Havana airport, signaling the start of a new era of relations between Catholics and the Russian Orthodox Church.
Listen to Philippa Hitchen's report:
The 30 paragraph long declaration put down in words the heartfelt desire of both the Pope and the Patriarch to put an end to centuries of conflict and disputes between Moscow and Rome.
Speaking after the closed door encounter, with just their translators and closest advisers present, Pope Francis said the two leaders had talked together as bishops and “as brothers” who share the same baptism.
Unity, the Pope stressed, is achieved by walking together, adding that he and the Patriarch had discussed a number of initiatives that they feel it is possible to achieve, despite the continuing obstacles that have divided the East and Western churches since their schism of 1054.
In their Joint Declaration, the two men say they hope their first encounter in Cuba, crossroads between East and West, between North and South, can contribute in a concrete way to the reestablishment of unity between Christians.
The document speaks at length about the plight of Christians and other people of faith who are persecuted in countries across the Middle East and North Africa, witnessing the destruction of their churches and the extermination of families, villages and entire cities. In particular the statement speaks of the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, urging the international community to work together “to put an end to violence and terrorism” and to prevent the expulsion of Christians from the region.
The Pope and the Patriarch stress the vital importance of interfaith dialogue and they appeal to all those involved in the fight against terrorism “to act in a responsible and prudent manner”.
Also high on the list of shared Catholic and Orthodox concerns is the question of religious freedom, not just in former communist countries where atheism dominated for decades but also throughout the Europe and beyond where secularism, the statement warns, poses “a serious threat to religious liberty”. The Joint Document focuses on the plight of the poor and migrants who are knocking on the door of rich countries, where unbridled consumerism is threatening the natural resources of our planet.
The Pope and the Patriarch reiterate their belief in the family and marriage, as an act of love freely chosen between a man and a woman, as the foundation of society. They stress the inalienable right to life of children in the womb, as well as the elderly and the sick, and they call on young Christians to be unafraid to live out these Gospel values in their lives.
Finally the two leaders speak about the conflict in Ukraine which has left so many dead and injured, provoking a serious humanitarian and economic crisis. They say they hope their encounter can contribute to ending the tensions between Greek Catholics and Orthodox Christians and they invite members of all Churches to work together to restore peace to the war-torn country.
(from Vatican Radio)...
of Pope Francis
and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God the Father and the fellowship of the holy Spirit be with all of you” (2 Cor 13:13).
1. By God the Father’s will, from which all gifts come, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the help of the Holy Spirit Consolator, we, Pope Francis and Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, have met today in Havana. We give thanks to God, glorified in the Trinity, for this meeting, the first in history.
It is with joy that we have met like brothers in the Christian faith who encounter one another “to speak face to face” (2 Jn 12), from heart to heart, to discuss the mutual relations between the Churches, the crucial problems of our faithful, and the outlook for the progress of human civilization.
2. Our fraternal meeting has taken place in Cuba, at the crossroads of North and South, East and West. It is from this island, the symbol of the hopes of the “New World” and the dramatic events of the history of the twentieth century, that we address our words to all the peoples of Latin America and of the other continents.
It is a source of joy that the Christian faith is growing here in a dynamic way. The powerful religious potential of Latin America, its centuries–old Christian tradition, grounded in the personal experience of millions of people, are the pledge of a great future for this region.
3. By meeting far from the longstanding disputes of the “Old World”, we experience with a particular sense of urgency the need for the shared labour of Catholics and Orthodox, who are called, with gentleness and respect, to give an explanation to the world of the hope in us (cf. 1 Pet 3:15).
4. We thank God for the gifts received from the coming into the world of His only Son. We share the same spiritual Tradition of the first millennium of Christianity. The witnesses of this Tradition are the Most Holy Mother of God, the Virgin Mary, and the saints we venerate. Among them are innumerable martyrs who have given witness to their faithfulness to Christ and have become the “seed of Christians”.
5. Notwithstanding this shared Tradition of the first ten centuries, for nearly one thousand years Catholics and Orthodox have been deprived of communion in the Eucharist. We have been divided by wounds caused by old and recent conflicts, by differences inherited from our ancestors, in the understanding and expression of our faith in God, one in three Persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are pained by the loss of unity, the outcome of human weakness and of sin, which has occurred despite the priestly prayer of Christ the Saviour: “So that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you … so that they may be one, as we are one” (Jn 17:21).
6. Mindful of the permanence of many obstacles, it is our hope that our meeting may contribute to the re–establishment of this unity willed by God, for which Christ prayed. May our meeting inspire Christians throughout the world to pray to the Lord with renewed fervour for the full unity of all His disciples. In a world which yearns not only for our words but also for tangible gestures, may this meeting be a sign of hope for all people of goodwill!
7. In our determination to undertake all that is necessary to overcome the historical divergences we have inherited, we wish to combine our efforts to give witness to the Gospel of Christ and to the shared heritage of the Church of the first millennium, responding together to the challenges of the contemporary world. Orthodox and Catholics must learn to give unanimously witness in those spheres in which this is possible and necessary. Human civilization has entered into a period of epochal change. Our Christian conscience and our pastoral responsibility compel us not to remain passive in the face of challenges requiring a shared response.
8. Our gaze must firstly turn to those regions of the world where Christians are victims of persecution. In many countries of the Middle East and North Africa whole families, villages and cities of our brothers and sisters in Christ are being completely exterminated. Their churches are being barbarously ravaged and looted, their sacred objects profaned, their monuments destroyed. It is with pain that we call to mind the situation in Syria, Iraq and other countries of the Middle East, and the massive exodus of Christians from the land in which our faith was first disseminated and in which they have lived since the time of the Apostles, together with other religious communities.
9. We call upon the international community to act urgently in order to prevent the further expulsion of Christians from the Middle East. In raising our voice in defence of persecuted Christians, we wish to express our compassion for the suffering experienced by the faithful of other religious traditions who have also become victims of civil war, chaos and terrorist violence.
10. Thousands of victims have already been claimed in the violence in Syria and Iraq, which has left many other millions without a home or means of sustenance. We urge the international community to seek an end to the violence and terrorism and, at the same time, to contribute through dialogue to a swift return to civil peace. Large–scale humanitarian aid must be assured to the afflicted populations and to the many refugees seeking safety in neighbouring lands.
We call upon all those whose influence can be brought to bear upon the destiny of those kidnapped, including the Metropolitans of Aleppo, Paul and John Ibrahim, who were taken in April 2013, to make every effort to ensure their prompt liberation.
11. We lift our prayers to Christ, the Saviour of the world, asking for the return of peace in the Middle East, “the fruit of justice” (Is 32:17), so that fraternal co–existence among the various populations, Churches and religions may be strengthened, enabling refugees to return to their homes, wounds to be healed, and the souls of the slain innocent to rest in peace.
We address, in a fervent appeal, all the parts that may be involved in the conflicts to demonstrate good will and to take part in the negotiating table. At the same time, the international community must undertake every possible effort to end terrorism through common, joint and coordinated action. We call on all the countries involved in the struggle against terrorism to responsible and prudent action. We exhort all Christians and all believers of God to pray fervently to the providential Creator of the world to protect His creation from destruction and not permit a new world war. In order to ensure a solid and enduring peace, specific efforts must be undertaken to rediscover the common values uniting us, based on the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
12. We bow before the martyrdom of those who, at the cost of their own lives, have given witness to the truth of the Gospel, preferring death to the denial of Christ. We believe that these martyrs of our times, who belong to various Churches but who are united by their shared suffering, are a pledge of the unity of Christians. It is to you who suffer for Christ’s sake that the word of the Apostle is directed: “Beloved … rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly” (1 Pet 4:12–13).
13. Interreligious dialogue is indispensable in our disturbing times. Differences in the understanding of religious truths must not impede people of different faiths to live in peace and harmony. In our current context, religious leaders have the particular responsibility to educate their faithful in a spirit which is respectful of the convictions of those belonging to other religious traditions. Attempts to justify criminal acts with religious slogans are altogether unacceptable. No crime may be committed in God’s name, “since God is not the God of disorder but of peace” (1 Cor 14:33).
14. In affirming the foremost value of religious freedom, we give thanks to God for the current unprecedented renewal of the Christian faith in Russia, as well as in many other countries of Eastern Europe, formerly dominated for decades by atheist regimes. Today, the chains of militant atheism have been broken and in many places Christians can now freely confess their faith. Thousands of new churches have been built over the last quarter of a century, as well as hundreds of monasteries and theological institutions. Christian communities undertake notable works in the fields of charitable aid and social development, providing diversified forms of assistance to the needy. Orthodox and Catholics often work side by side. Giving witness to the values of the Gospel they attest to the existence of the shared spiritual foundations of human co–existence.
15. At the same time, we are concerned about the situation in many countries in which Christians are increasingly confronted by restrictions to religious freedom, to the right to witness to one’s convictions and to live in conformity with them. In particular, we observe that the transformation of some countries into secularized societies, estranged from all reference to God and to His truth, constitutes a grave threat to religious freedom. It is a source of concern for us that there is a current curtailment of the rights of Christians, if not their outright discrimination, when certain political forces, guided by an often very aggressive secularist ideology, seek to relegate them to the margins of public life.
16. The process of European integration, which began after centuries of blood–soaked conflicts, was welcomed by many with hope, as a guarantee of peace and security. Nonetheless, we invite vigilance against an integration that is devoid of respect for religious identities. While remaining open to the contribution of other religions to our civilization, it is our conviction that Europe must remain faithful to its Christian roots. We call upon Christians of Eastern and Western Europe to unite in their shared witness to Christ and the Gospel, so that Europe may preserve its soul, shaped by two thousand years of Christian tradition.
17. Our gaze is also directed to those facing serious difficulties, who live in extreme need and poverty while the material wealth of humanity increases. We cannot remain indifferent to the destinies of millions of migrants and refugees knocking on the doors of wealthy nations. The unrelenting consumerism of some more developed countries is gradually depleting the resources of our planet. The growing inequality in the distribution of material goods increases the feeling of the injustice of the international order that has emerged.
18. The Christian churches are called to defend the demands of justice, the respect for peoples’ traditions, and an authentic solidarity towards all those who suffer. We Christians cannot forget that “God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, that no human being might boast before God” (1 Cor 1:27–29).
19. The family is the natural centre of human life and society. We are concerned about the crisis in the family in many countries. Orthodox and Catholics share the same conception of the family, and are called to witness that it is a path of holiness, testifying to the faithfulness of the spouses in their mutual interaction, to their openness to the procreation and rearing of their children, to solidarity between the generations and to respect for the weakest.
20. The family is based on marriage, an act of freely given and faithful love between a man and a woman. It is love that seals their union and teaches them to accept one another as a gift. Marriage is a school of love and faithfulness. We regret that other forms of cohabitation have been placed on the same level as this union, while the concept, consecrated in the biblical tradition, of paternity and maternity as the distinct vocation of man and woman in marriage is being banished from the public conscience.
21. We call on all to respect the inalienable right to life. Millions are denied the very right to be born into the world. The blood of the unborn cries out to God (cf. Gen 4:10).
The emergence of so-called euthanasia leads elderly people and the disabled begin to feel that they are a burden on their families and on society in general.
We are also concerned about the development of biomedical reproduction technology, as the manipulation of human life represents an attack on the foundations of human existence, created in the image of God. We believe that it is our duty to recall the immutability of Christian moral principles, based on respect for the dignity of the individual called into being according to the Creator’s plan.
22. Today, in a particular way, we address young Christians. You, young people, have the task of not hiding your talent in the ground (cf. Mt 25:25), but of using all the abilities God has given you to confirm Christ’s truth in the world, incarnating in your own lives the evangelical commandments of the love of God and of one’s neighbour. Do not be afraid of going against the current, defending God’s truth, to which contemporary secular norms are often far from conforming.
23. God loves each of you and expects you to be His disciples and apostles. Be the light of the world so that those around you may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father (cf. Mt 5:14, 16). Raise your children in the Christian faith, transmitting to them the pearl of great price that is the faith (cf. Mt 13:46) you have received from your parents and forbears. Remember that “you have been purchased at a great price” (1 Cor 6:20), at the cost of the death on the cross of the Man–God Jesus Christ.
24. Orthodox and Catholics are united not only by the shared Tradition of the Church of the first millennium, but also by the mission to preach the Gospel of Christ in the world today. This mission entails mutual respect for members of the Christian communities and excludes any form of proselytism.
We are not competitors but brothers, and this concept must guide all our mutual actions as well as those directed to the outside world. We urge Catholics and Orthodox in all countries to learn to live together in peace and love, and to be “in harmony with one another” (Rm 15:5). Consequently, it cannot be accepted that disloyal means be used to incite believers to pass from one Church to another, denying them their religious freedom and their traditions. We are called upon to put into practice the precept of the apostle Paul: “Thus I aspire to proclaim the gospel not where Christ has already been named, so that I do not build on another's foundation” (Rm 15:20).
25. It is our hope that our meeting may also contribute to reconciliation wherever tensions exist between Greek Catholics and Orthodox. It is today clear that the past method of “uniatism”, understood as the union of one community to the other, separating it from its Church, is not the way to re–establish unity. Nonetheless, the ecclesial communities which emerged in these historical circumstances have the right to exist and to undertake all that is necessary to meet the spiritual needs of their faithful, while seeking to live in peace with their neighbours. Orthodox and Greek Catholics are in need of reconciliation and of mutually acceptable forms of co–existence.
26. We deplore the hostility in Ukraine that has already caused many victims, inflicted innumerable wounds on peaceful inhabitants and thrown society into a deep economic and humanitarian crisis. We invite all the parts involved in the conflict to prudence, to social solidarity and to action aimed at constructing peace. We invite our Churches in Ukraine to work towards social harmony, to refrain from taking part in the confrontation, and to not support any further development of the conflict.
27. It is our hope that the schism between the Orthodox faithful in Ukraine may be overcome through existing canonical norms, that all the Orthodox Christians of Ukraine may live in peace and harmony, and that the Catholic communities in the country may contribute to this, in such a way that our Christian brotherhood may become increasingly evident.
28. In the contemporary world, which is both multiform yet united by a shared destiny, Catholics and Orthodox are called to work together fraternally in proclaiming the Good News of salvation, to testify together to the moral dignity and authentic freedom of the person, “so that the world may believe” (Jn 17:21). This world, in which the spiritual pillars of human existence are progressively disappearing, awaits from us a compelling Christian witness in all spheres of personal and social life. Much of the future of humanity will depend on our capacity to give shared witness to the Spirit of truth in these difficult times.
29. May our bold witness to God’s truth and to the Good News of salvation be sustained by the Man–God Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, who strengthens us with the unfailing promise: “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom” (Lk 12:32)!
Christ is the well–spring of joy and hope. Faith in Him transfigures human life, fills it with meaning. This is the conviction borne of the experience of all those to whom Peter refers in his words: “Once you were ‘no people’ but now you are God’s people; you ‘had not received mercy’ but now you have received mercy” (1 Pet 2:10).
30. With grace–filled gratitude for the gift of mutual understanding manifested during our meeting, let us with hope turn to the Most Holy Mother of God, invoking her with the words of this ancient prayer: “We seek refuge under the protection of your mercy, Holy Mother of God”. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, through her intercession, inspire fraternity in all those who venerate her, so that they may be reunited, in God’s own time, in the peace and harmony of the one people of God, for the glory of the Most Holy and indivisible Trinity!
Bishop of Rome Patriarch of Moscow
Pope of the Catholic Church and all Russia
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has expressed his condolences after a deadly riot in a Mexican prison that left dozens of people dead.
In a telegram addressed to the Archbishop Rogelio Cabrera López, Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin said the Holy Father was “deeply saddened” by news of the incident, which occurred on the eve of the pontiff’s visit to the country.
Pope Francis is offering prayers for the eternal rest of those who died in the violence, the Cardinal said. In addition, he assured the families of the victims of the Pope’s “heartfelt condolences and spiritual closeness,” together with his prayers for “a speedy and full recovery” for those who were injured.
“With these sentiments,” the telegram concluded, “the Holy Father, while invoking the loving protection of Our Lady of Guadalupe, imparts with affection the comforting Apostolic Blessing as a sign of consolation and hope in this time of sadness.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has just arrived in the Cuban capital Havana where he will have an historic first meeting with the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill. The Patriarch arrived in Cuba yesterday at the start of a three nation tour of Orthodox communities in Latin America, while Pope Francis is on his way to Mexico City, where he’s scheduled to land at around 7.30 this evening local time.
Cuban President Raul Castro was at Havana’s ‘José Martì’ International airport to meet the papal plane and to accompany Pope Francis to the room where the private encounter is taking place.
The two Church leaders are due to meet together for about two hours, accompanied by their translators and their top ecumenical experts, Cardinal Kurt Koch , President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and Metropolitan Hilarion, President of the Moscow Patriarch’s Department for External Church Relations.
The Pope and the Patriarch will then exchange gifts and sign a Common Declaration, expected to focus on the plight of Christians in the Middle East and other areas where Catholics and Orthodox can witness together to their common Christian values.
Both leaders will then hold a brief press conference to share their impressions and their hopes for the future of Catholic-Orthodox relations.
You can watch the event live and hear our radio commentary in English on the Vatican YouTube channel .
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis is set to arrive in Mexico on Friday, the third Pope to visit the country. Vatican Radio’s Veronica Scarisbrick is awaiting the Pope in Mexico. She sends us this report:
When Pope Francis sets foot on Mexican soil, it will be a moment of great ‘alegria’ or joy for the Mexican people. And the bells of the Cathedral in Mexico City will be rung by 800 volunteers for two hours.
I’m not sure if you ever get used to papal visits but Mexicans certainly have had their fair share of them, seven with that of Francis. But while he may be the third pope to visit after Saint John Paul II, who came here five times in the course of his pontificate, and Benedict XVI, now Pope Emeritus who came in 2012, for Mexicans he’s a pope with a difference.
To start with he’s a ‘Latino’ like them, speaks the same language… although, as I discovered, four million Mexicans have yet to learn Spanish, for in some areas they still speak indigenous languages. No doubt Pope Francis will give some of those languages a try. Mayan ones by the unpronounceable names, perhaps – his way of getting closer to the people.
And then, well, there’s something very deep he shares with the people. And not just Catholics who make up roughly 84 per cent of the population. It’s the devotion to ‘Our Lady of Guadalupe,’ spiritual heart of the nation. On Friday afternoon he’ll celebrate Holy Mass in the Basilica of the Shrine there.
Pope Francis is coming to walk through the peripheries with the people of this nation, which has the second largest Catholic population in the world. To start with he’ll be spending two days in Mexico City where he’s elected the Apostolic Nunciature as his home for the next five nights.
As for the places, well Francis has made some very personal choices: that’s to travel where no Pope has ever been before. This means the southern state of Chiapas, with its majority indigenous population; the western diocese of Morelia, hotspot of the drug cartels; and his final stop, Ciudad Juarez, along the border with the United States, where he’ll celebrate Holy Mass on the heavily guarded Mexican-US border, the largest economic divide in the world .
Naturally there will be more intimate moments, for example when he visits a hospital for children who are terminally ill. And more official moments, for example at the ‘Palacio Nacional’ where on Friday morning he becomes the first Pope to be invited to the seat of the nation’s federal executive where President Enrique Pena Nieto has his office.
Although Pope Francis has said on more than one occasion that he’s not coming to Mexico to solve problems but rather to draw inspiration from the faith of the Guadalupe people, it will be difficult for him to avoid some of the nation’s key issues in his scheduled 15 speeches – questions that centre around economic justice, immigration and the rights of indigenous people in what is Latin America’s second largest economy where, for most, prosperity remains a dream; and where there is stupefying violence.
No surprise then that the 'Milenio'daily features an eloquent cartoon with the Pope being warmly welcomed at the airport as he steps out on to a pool of blood instead of a red carpet.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) As is tradition, Pope Francis has sent telegrams to the heads of state of the countries his plane flies over on Friday as he travels to Havana, and then to Mexico.
The telegrams to the European countries the Pope has flown over are presented here in their original languages
A SUA ECCELLENZA
ON. SERGIO MATTARELLA
PRESIDENTE DELLA REPUBBLICA ITALIANA
PALAZZO DEL QUIRINALE 00187 ROMA
NEL MOMENTO IN CUI LASCIO ROMA PER RECARMI IN MESSICO PER SOSTENERE LA MISSIONE DELLA CHIESA LOCALE E PORTARE UN MESSAGGIO DI SPERANZA, MI E’ CARO RIVOLGERE A LEI, SIGNOR PRESIDENTE, IL MIO DEFERENTE SALUTO, CHE ACCOMPAGNO CON FERVIDI AUSPICI PER IL BENESSERE SPIRITUALE, CIVILE E SOCIALE DEL POPOLO ITALIANO, CUI INVIO VOLENTIERI LA BENEDIZIONE APOSTOLICA
HIS EXCELLENCY FRANCOIS HOLLANDE
PRESIDENT OF THE FRENCH REPUBLIC
I SEND CORDIAL GREETINGS TO YOUR EXCELLENCY AS I FLY OVER FRANCE ON MY WAY TO MEXICO. I ASSURE YOU AND ALL THE CITIZENS OF THE REPUBLIC OF A REMEMBRANCE IN MY PRAYERS, AND I INVOKE UPON EACH OF YOU GOD’S BLESSINGS OF PEACE AND JOY.
HIS MAJESTY FELIPE VI
KING OF SPAIN
I SEND CORDIAL GREETINGS TO YOUR MAJESTY AND THE ROYAL FAMILY AS I FLY OVER SPAIN ON MY WAY TO MEXICO. I ASSURE YOU AND ALL THE PEOPLE OF THE NATION OF A REMEMBRANCE IN MY PRAYERS, AND I INVOKE UPON EACH OF YOU GOD’S BLESSINGS OF PEACE AND JOY.
HIS EXCELLENCY ANIBAL CAVACO SILVA
PRESIDENT OF THE PORTUGUESE REPUBLIC
I SEND CORDIAL GREETINGS TO YOUR EXCELLENCY AS I FLY OVER PORTUGAL ON MY WAY TO MEXICO. I ASSURE YOU AND ALL THE PEOPLE OF THE NATION OF A REMEMBRANCE IN MY PRAYERS, AND I INVOKE UPON EACH OF YOU GOD’S BLESSINGS OF PEACE AND JOY.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis greeted the reporters who joined him on the plane Friday for his apostolic journey to Havana – for a brief meeting with Russian Patriarch Kirill – and Mexico.
The Director of the Holy See Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi, SJ, said the Holy Father had a “beautiful meeting” with the journalists, and called the journey “very important.”
Father Lombardi said the Pope noted it was the final apostolic trip of Alberto Gasbarri, the coordinator of papal journeys, and thanked him for his 47 years of service to the Vatican.
The dean of the Holy See Press Corps, Valentina Alazraki of Mexico’s “Televisa”, gave Pope Francis a sombrero to celebrate his journey to her native country. The Holy Father also revealed to the journalists she gave him some films starring the Mexican comedian Cantinflas earlier in the week to help him prepare for his trip, which Pope Francis said were a “good laugh.”
“My deepest desire is to pause before Our Lady of Guadalupe, this mystery that is studied, and studied, and studied, and there is no human explanation,” Pope Francis said on the plane, adding even scientists say the image is "a thing of God."
Wall Street Journal correspondent Francis X. Rocca sent a Facebook message from the plane describing an “unusual” and “moving” encounter, with Noel Diaz of ESNE Catholic television in Los Angeles.
“As a child in his native Tijuana, Mexico, Diaz shined shoes for money. So today he knelt down in the aisle and shined the pope's shoes, then gave him a custom-made shoeshine kit,” Rocca writes. “Diaz told the pope he intended these presents as reminders of the unheralded struggles of ordinary, honest people across Mexico and among immigrants to the U.S.”
Responding to press reports of a papal visit to Colombia, Pope Francis said he could visit the country in 2017 if peace talks between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) continue to go forward.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Speaking on the eve of Pope Francis’ departure for Mexico, the (Vatican) Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, said the Church there is called “to condemn evil and speak out against all negative phenomena such as corruption, drug trafficking, violence and crime which are hindering and delaying the spiritual and material progress of the country.” The cardinal's remarks came in an interview with the Vatican Television Centre (CTV).
Asked about the main themes of the Pope’s pastoral visit to Mexico, Cardinal Parolin said these themes are common to all his travels and his pontificate such as the themes of “mercy, justice, peace and hope.” However, he said they also include those which are particularly relevant to Mexico as a nation, such as the deep faith of its people and their extraordinary Marian devotion and the amazing culture, both of the nation and its people, including the indigenous communities. The Cardinal said the Pope will also touch on the more negative issues afflicting Mexico such as organized crime, drug trafficking and poverty.
Noting that Pope Francis will visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe during his visit, the Secretary of State agreed that this papal journey will have a strong Marian component given the deep devotion of Mexicans for their country’s patron saint, who he said is “right at the centre and the heart” of their history and their lives. He said he was always very moved when he saw “how much veneration and how much trust” are placed in Our Lady of Guadalupe by the people of Mexico.
The theme of this papal visit to Mexico is “Pope Francis: Missionary of mercy and peace” and when asked how this journey can be seen within the context of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, Cardinal Parolin said he believed that through his presence in Mexico the Pope wishes to be “a help to the nation, to the Church of that nation to rediscover and live in its daily life, the proclamation and witness of mercy.” The Cardinal also noted that Pope Francis will meet with a wide variety of Mexicans to remind everybody about this challenge to embrace mercy in daily life, from the politicians through to the indigenous people. He said the Pope will be reminding all those he meets during his trip of this need to be merciful.
Asked about the challenges facing the Church in Mexico, Cardinal Parolin said a definite challenge is to condemn “the evil” that is present, “and speak out against all negative phenomena such as corruption, drug trafficking, violence and crime which are hindering and delaying the spiritual and material progress of the country.” The local Church, he continued, also needs to act like” the Good Samaritan” when faced with so many people who suffer and are in need. The cardinal also mentioned the problem of migration and its often negative impact on families who get split up. As ever, Cardinal Parolin said, the Church’s main challenge is to educate the consciences of the people and speak up against the idolatry of money and other negative phenomena. When it comes to the evils of forced migration, arms and drug trafficking, he said Pope Francis will be urging people to fight against these problems and above all to change their hearts.
Turning to Friday’s meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill, Cardinal Parolin described this historic meeting as “a great sign of hope” and also an event that gives us the courage to continue to push ahead in the effort to build "an understanding, a meeting and a dialogue." The Cardinal also said he believed that this meeting in Cuba will have “a big impact” on the ecumenical journey.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis departed Rome Friday morning on his way to Mexico for a weeklong pastoral visit that will take him to Mexico City, to the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe , and to some of the country’s most poor and violent towns on the margins of society. On his way to Mexico as the first Latin American pontiff to travel there, Pope Francis is to make a brief stop in Havana, Cuba for a meeting with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill. The recently-added visit to the papal itinerary is being seen by many as a highly anticipated, historic step towards healing the wounds of division after a schism divided Christianity 1,000 years ago.
Mexico prison fire, riot casts shadow over papal visit
But the Pope’s visit to Mexico has been overshadowed by the deaths of at least 49 inmates at a prison in the north of the country. Fire broke out after a brawl between rival gangs at the overcrowded Topo Chico penitentiary turned into a riot, injuring a further 12.
Vatican Radio’s Veronica Scarisbrick is in Mexico City ahead of the Pope’s arrival. She says there’s no doubt that the tragedy will be weighing heavily on the Pope’s thoughts during his visit…
Listen to Veronica Scarisbrick's report:
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis took off from Rome’s Fiumicino airport this morning on an Apostolic visit to Mexico. While there he will celebrate Mass in the Basilica of Guadalupe, meet with families and young people and there will be a Meeting with the World of Culture. He will also make a visit to city of San Cristóbal de Las Casas and celebrate Holy Mass with the indigenous community of Chiapas. Our Correspondent Veronica Scarisbrick who is awaiting Pope Francis in Mexico, found out more about the community and it’s much loved late Bishop.
The late Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia is an iconic figure in Mexico. You may have heard of him, he lived and worked for many years in the southern state of Chiapas along the border with Guatemala. That's from 1959 to 1999.
Precisely at San Cristobal de Las Casas where Pope Francis will go on Monday 15th of February and where he'll celebrate Holy Mass at the City's Sports Centre with the Mayan indigenous community.
Here in Mexico I caught up with someone who worked closely with him and eventually inherited the diocese. He's Bishop Raul Vera Lopez a Dominican who describes the time spent with his predecessor as 'a moment of grace from God'.
Bishop Ruiz was once a familiar figure in his diocese, often perceived riding on the back of a mule along the highland paths on the way to visit the people of one of the villages or towns of his diocese. Speaking to the people there in their own Mayan languages by the unpronounceable names.
But while he was very much loved by the local people who lived in extreme poverty, he was also criticised by the local government and by Rome. Because he had begun to apply the teachings he had learnt both during the Second Vatican Council and from the Medellin Conference of Latin American Bishops. Empowering the indigenous people to defend their cultures and traditions and founding the Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas human rights centre.
Over the years Bishop Vera has drawn inspiration from his example and has promoted human rights in every possible way. Recently in a special way he assists parents and families of 'desaparecidos' through an organisation by the name of FUNDEC.
Importantly in December he made it his mission to travel to Rome to inform Pope Francis of the current situation in Mexico regarding human rights. To make quite sure Francis might prepare his Apostolic visit in touch with the reality in the nation today
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis’ Special Envoy, Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, celebrated Mass on Thursday in the town of Nazareth in the Holy Land to mark the Church’s World Day of the Sick. The Mass took place in Nazareth’s Basilica of the Annunciation and was the centerpiece of events marking the 2016 World Day of the Sick that is celebrated each year on February 11th, the feast day of St. Bernadette of Lourdes.
In his homily at the Mass, Archbishop Zimowski, who is President of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, reminded his listeners that the central theme of Pope’s Francis’ message for this year’s World Day of the Sick is the need for us to entrust our lives to the Merciful Jesus like Mary did. Archbishop Zimowski said all of us are called in our different ways to help the person who is suffering and stressed we must not be intimidated by the fact that we cannot help in a satisfactory way, in the way that Jesus did. “The important thing,” he said, “is to go, to be at the side of the man who suffers.”
Please find below an English translation of Archbishop Zimowski’s homily at the Mass in Nazareth:
Entrusting oneself to the merciful Jesus like Mary.
‘Do whatever he tells you’ (Jn 2:5)
“Your Blessedness, dear brothers in the episcopate, and priests, deacons and consecrated people, representatives of the sister Churches and Christian communities, civil authorities, dearest brothers and sisters, especially dear sick people, your family relatives, volunteers and health-care workers.
The reason for our presence today in Nazareth, in this Basilica of the Annunciation, is the celebration of the twenty-fourth World Day of the Sick. We are celebrating the liturgical memorial of the Blessed Virgin of Lourdes, that place where 162 years ago Our Lady appeared to Saint Bernadette, giving to the sick and the suffering her beautiful smile. She came from heaven, reminding humanity that her Son has prepared a place for us up above and that one must never separate heaven from the earth or the earth from heaven. In commemorating the liturgical memorial of Lourdes we thank St. John Paul II who, on 13 May 1992, instituted this World Day. The Year of Mercy that we are living through constitutes a propitious opportunity to intensify the spirit of mercy that it is in each one of us.
Here I would like to recall what Pope Francis in his Message writes about this: ‘On this World Day of the Sick let us ask Jesus in his mercy, through the intercession of Mary, his Mother and ours, to grant to all of us this same readiness to be serve those in need, and, in particular, our infirm brothers and sisters. At times this service can be tiring and burdensome, yet we are certain that the Lord will surely turn our human efforts into something divine. We too can be hands, arms and hearts which help God to perform his miracles, so often hidden. We too, whether healthy or sick, can offer up our toil and sufferings like the water which filled the jars at the wedding feast of Cana and was turned into the finest wine. By quietly helping those who suffer, as in illness itself, we take our daily cross upon our shoulders and follow the Master (cf. Lk 9:23). Even though the experience of suffering will always remain a mystery, Jesus helps us to reveal its meaning’ (Message of Pope Francis for the Twenty-Fourth World Day of the Sick. 15 September 2015).
1. Called to a Vocation that is Totally Singular
We are in Nazareth where ‘the Word became flesh and dwelt among us’ (Jn 1:14) We are ‘here in the city of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, we have come together to entrust ourselves to the merciful Jesus like Mary’ in order to enter the ‘school of initiation in understanding the life of Jesus, the school of the Gospel of mercy. Here one learns to observe, to listen, to meditate, to penetrate the meaning – which is so deep and mysterious – of that very simple, very humble, very beautiful apparition. Here one learns the method by which we can enter the intelligence of Christ. Here, in this school, one understands the need to have spiritual discipline, if one wants to become a pupil of the Gospel and a disciple of Christ’ (Paul VI, 5 January 1964).
We are here to celebrate the World Day of the Sick during this Holy Year of Mercy which Pope Francis wanted. In the Message that he gave to us he asks us ‘to entrust ourselves to the merciful Jesus like Mary’. ‘This year, since the Day of the Sick will be solemnly celebrated in the Holy Land, I wish to propose a meditation on the Gospel account of the wedding feast of Cana (Jn 2: 1-11), where Jesus performed his first miracle through the intervention of his Mother’.
Today, dearest brothers and sisters, in this Basilica of the Annunciation, we should think for a few moments about the response of the Virgin Mary to the call of God: her fiat, ‘Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be to me according to your word’ (Lk 1:38). Mary is called ‘Handmaid of the Lord’, and thus Mary is placed next to the ‘servants of the Lord’, like Moses, David and the prophets. Mary is called to a totally singular service: that of being the mother of he who is the Son of God, of he through whom God gives to humanity fullness of life and salvation. How can we not emphasise here a link between Mary, the Handmaid of the Lord, and the servants of the wedding feast of Cana? Jesus himself always places at the centre of his behaviour ‘listening to, and putting into practice, the Word of God’ (cf. Lk 8:21; 11:25). Mary asks the same of the servants: ‘Do whatever he tells you’ (Jn 2:5).
During her life Mary remained a ‘handmaid’ of the Lord. Just as she herself is united to Jesus, so does she lead all men to him. This means that we must turn all our attention to Jesus because from him we receive the right instructions: ‘do whatever he tells you’. Mary has complete trust in Jesus and allows him to decide how to act. She has confidence in the fact that in every circumstance he will do good things. For this reason, the Holy Father in his Message writes: ‘The wedding feast of Cana is an image of the Church: at the centre there is Jesus who in his mercy performs a sign; around him are the disciples, the first fruits of the new community; and beside Jesus and the disciples is Mary, the provident and prayerful Mother. Mary partakes of the joy of ordinary people and helps it to increase; she intercedes with her Son on behalf of the spouses and all the invited guests. Nor does Jesus refuse the request of his Mother. How much hope there is in that event for all of us! We have a Mother with benevolent and watchful eyes, like her Son; a heart that is maternal and full of mercy, like him; hands that want to help, like the hands of Jesus who broke bread for those who were hungry, touched the sick and healed them. All this fills us with trust and opens our hearts to the grace and mercy of Christ’.
2. The Role of Servants in the Culture of Encounter and Peace
The words of the Virgin Mary to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you’, indeed, echo those addressed by Moses to the whole of the people of Israel in the revelation of Sinai, which was to appear again as a significant background to the wedding feast of Cana. In Sinai, Moses, after listening to the word of the Lord, called together the elders of the people and told them what the Lord had ordered him: ‘All that the Lord has spoken we will do’ (Ex 19:7-8). At Cana, Mary of Nazareth exhorts the servants to do the same, to do everything that Jesus tells them. In this way, she performs the task of ‘mediation’ between Jesus and the servants who have been called to listen to her voice, a role similar to that of Moses at the foot of the Sinai where he was between the Lord and the assembly of his brethren, the servants of the Lord.
The action of the Mother of Jesus, therefore, has the task of preparing the servants of the wedding feast to listen to the voice of Jesus, to obey what he tells them. Rightly, the Blessed Pope Paul IV, in his Marialis cultus (n. 57), wrote that the words of Mary to the servants of Cana are ‘a further reason in favour of the pastoral value of devotion to the Blessed Virgin as a means of leading men to Christ…And they are words which harmonise wonderfully with those spoken by the Father at the theophany of Mount Tobor: “Listen to him” (Mt 17:5)’. Mary of Nazareth is for us a clear indication that leads to the centre of the Christian experience.
I would like to remember the event that took place here, near to Nazareth, in Capernaum. The centurion addresses Jesus with simple words: ‘Lord, my servant is being paralysed at home, in terrible distress’. Jesus answered immediately: ‘I will come and heal him’ (Mt 8:6-7). This is an example, one of very many, indeed the whole of the Gospel is full of similar events. Christ, trustingly called to go to sick people. Christ, called by the sick. Christ, at the service of men who suffer. St. Mark in his Gospel, in particular, reminds us of the miracles of healing that were performed by Jesus.
Dearest brothers and sisters, we are also constantly called. All of us, in a certain sense, are called, even though each one of us is called in a different way. The call – the invitation – that the centurion of the Gospel addressed to Jesus is repeated unceasingly. Man suffers in various places; at times he ‘suffers terribly’ and calls another man. He needs his help. He needs his presence. At times we are intimidated by the fact that we cannot help in a satisfactory way, in the way that Jesus did. We try to overcome this embarrassment. The important thing is to go, to be at the side of the man who suffers. Perhaps, more than healing, he needs the presence of a man, of a human heart full of mercy, of human solidarity.
We are dealing here with medical doctors, with nurses, with all the different categories of health-care workers. We are dealing here with institutions that serve human health: medical and dental surgeries, pharmacies, hospitals, clinics, therapeutic resorts, sanatoria, and nursing homes; the welcoming walls of our homes, our family relatives, and the disinterested solidarity of numerous volunteers who work in the socio/health-care field. In particular, one must, therefore, at any cost, support a fine tradition: the work of a medical doctor and of a nurse must always be seen not only as a profession but also, and perhaps first of all, as a service, a ‘vocation’. Care for the physically disabled, care for the mentally ill – these sectors constitute, more than any other setting of social life, the yardstick of the culture of a society and a state, as we have seen and experienced when visiting various nursing homes in recent days.
We must be the true servants of those who suffer in various ways, because of violence, persecution, exile and discrimination as well.
Here I cannot neglect to refer to the recommendations made by Pope Francis: ‘If we can learn to obey the words of Mary, who says: “Do whatever he tells you”, Jesus will always turn the waters of our lives into precious wine’.
Thus this World Day of the Sick, celebrated solemnly in the Holy Land, will help to meet the wish that Pope Francis expressed in his Bull for the indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee: that it ‘will foster an encounter with [Judaism and Islam] and with other noble religious traditions; may it open us to even more fervent dialogue so that we might know and understand one another better; may it eliminate every form of closed-mindedness and disrespect, and drive out every form of violence and discrimination’ (Misericordiae Vultus, 23). ‘Every hospital and nursing home can be a visible sign and setting in which to promote the culture of encounter and peace, where the experience of illness and suffering, along with professional and fraternal assistance, helps to overcome every limitation and division’ (Message for the Twenty-fourth World Day of the Sick, 2016).
3. Mercy for those who are God-fearing
Let us now try to allow ourselves to be impregnated by the scent of the Word of the Lord which has just been proclaimed. The narrative account of the Gospel that we have now listened to on the liturgical memorial of the Blessed Virgin of Lourdes has a special moment – the beatitude of Mary: ‘Blessed is she who believed in the fulfilment of the words of the Lord’. In the Annunciation, Mary abandons herself to God completely. She replied, therefore, with all of her ‘I’. ‘And Mary’s “yes” is for all Christians a lesson and example of obedience to the will of the Father, which is the way and means of one’s own sanctification’ (Paul VI, Marialis Cultus, n. 22).
a. The Faith and the Beatitude of Mary and Joseph
Mary’s completion in the eyes of God is characterised by the words: ‘Blessed is she who believed’. One characteristic of Mary is her faith – which parallels that of Abraham – by which she recognises that the word of God is trustworthy and fully valid.
But we must also remember the faith of St. Joseph. As soon as he learnt and understood God’s plan from the Angel, without uttering a word he took Mary to his home. The ‘fiat’ of Mary and the action of Joseph express the same faith. ‘When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife’ (Mt 1:24). He took her in all the mystery of her motherhood; he took her together with the Son who would come into the world by work of the Holy Spirit: in this way he demonstrated a readiness to act, similar to that of Mary, in line with what God had asked him to do through His messenger.
Thus Mary is called ‘blessed’. She is recognised as having all the reasons to be blessed and have overflowing joy. The beatitude that Elizabeth addresses to her cousin pre-supposes that the words of God had been addressed to Mary. The beatitude that was expressed by a woman of the people: ‘“Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts that you sucked”, was explained and broadened by Jesus: ‘“Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it’ (Lk 11:27-28). Jesus does not dispute that Mary has this beatitude but he makes this depend on a relationship with God and His words. Mary in an exemplary way entrusted herself to these words. After Elizabeth explained what she had been able to understand about Mary, the Virgin spoke and spoke exclusively about God, and her words reveal deep knowledge about the Lord.
b. Fear of God is a Gift of the Holy Spirit
Mary of Nazareth states first and foremost: ‘And his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation’. These words refer not to men who are afraid of God but, rather, to those who treat Him with respect. Fear of God is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. I will now address families: ‘dear parents, bring up your children in this God-fearing spirit. St. Augustine said: “If God holds pride of place in our lives, everything will be in place”’.
Let us pray therefore: ‘O God of my fathers and Lord of mercy, who hast made all things by the word, and by thy wisdom has formed man, to have dominion over the creatures thou hast made…give me the wisdom…who understands what is pleasing in thy sight and what is right according to thy commandments. (Canticle Wis 9:1-10).
At the end of our reflections let us see Mary as our example for our trusting response to the Lord. ‘Mary, therefore, is the one who has the deepest knowledge of the mystery of God’s mercy. She knows its price, she knows how great it is. In this sense, we call her the Mother of mercy: our Lady of Mercy, or Mother of divine mercy; in each of these titles there is a deep theological meaning, for they express the special preparation of her soul, of her whole personality, so that she was able to perceive, through the complex events, first of Israel, then of every individual and the whole of humanity, that mercy of which “from generation to generation” people become sharers according to the eternal design of the most Holy Trinity’ (John Paul II, Dives in misericordia, n.9).
The canticle of the Magnificat was the response of Mary of Nazareth to the mercy of the Father: ‘he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation…he has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy’. With Mary, our Mother of Mercy, the Virgin of the Visitation, we also raise to the Lord our ‘magnificat’ which is the song of the trust and the hope of all poor people, sick people, the suffering people of the world, who exult with joy because they know that God is at their sides as the Saviour. To him we entrust our lives, following the example of Mary, making ours the wish that Pope Francis expresses in his Message; may his words find room and joyous practical expression in our daily lives: ‘To all those who assist the sick and the suffering I express my confident hope that they will draw inspiration from Mary, the Mother of Mercy. May the sweetness of her countenance watch over us in this Holy Year, so that all of us may rediscover the joy of God’s tenderness, allow it to dwell in our hearts and express it in our actions!’ Amen.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) The President of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on Thursday morning to honour Saint “Padre” Pio of Pietrelcina and Saint Leopoldo Mandic.
The two saints have been in the Basilica for a week as part of the celebrations for the Jubilee of Mercy.
In his homily, Archbishop Fisichella said during the Holy Year “the Lord calls on us to deny ourselves, take up the cross, and follow Jesus – as did Saint Pio and Saint Leopoldo.”
The two saints were last week initially brought to the Roman Basilica of St. Lawrence-Outside-the-Walls, before being taken to the Church of San Salvatore in Lauro. On Friday, they were processed down the pilgrim’s path which has been established for the Jubilee Year to Saint Peter’s Basilica.
After the Mass on Thursday morning, the mortal remains of Padre Pio began the journey back to San Giovanni Rotondo, while Saint Leopoldo was returned to his resting place in Padua.
The authorities of the city of Rome estimate over 500,000 people saw the two saints during their stay in the city.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday morning paid a private visit to the Basilica of Saint Mary Major in Rome, where – as has become customary – he prayed before the icon of Maria Salus Populi Romani ahead of his Apostolic Voyage to Mexico.
From St Mary Major, the Holy Father made the short journey to Rom’s Cathedral, the Archbasilica of St John Lateran, where the priests of the diocese were meeting at the beginning of Lent. During the visit, Pope Francis heard the confessions of several priests.
On the website of the Vicariate of Rome, Cardinal Agostino Vallini, the Vicar for the City of Rome, explained the meeting of priests had a “penitential” character, offering the clergy the opportunity “to have an experience of the mercy of the Father; and, in turn, to be able to ministers of mercy in the communities entrusted to us.”
As a Lenten “sign,” the offering taken up during the encounter was donated to the diocesan branch of Caritas.
Finally, Cardinal Vallini noted, Pope Francis offered as a gift to each of the priests of the diocese a copy of his book “The Name of God is Mercy.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) The Prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, has sent a letter to the bishops of the world, appealing to them for aid to the Church in the Holy Land.
Dated Ash Wednesday, 2016, the letter looks forward to the worldwide collection for the Christians of the Holy Land, which is made at Good Friday each year in churches around the globe.
Click below to hear our report
“The Collection for the Holy Land,” writes Cardinal Sandri, “reminds us of an ‘ancient’ duty, which the history of recent years has made more urgent, but no less a source of the joy that comes from helping our brothers.”
Below, please find the full text of Cardinal Sandri’s letter, in its official English version
February 10, 2016
Good Friday is the day when evil seemed to triumph, as the Innocent One suffered death on the Cross. It is a day that never seems to end in the Holy Land, where apparently interminable violence must be endured. Broadening our the gaze to the whole world, it is no less difficult to give wings to hope for a serene future.
The human heart, restless and troubled, seeks light, life and hope; it wants to walk in brotherhood, together with fellow human beings. Desiring to set out anew, it looks beyond its present condition, longing for a reality that is greater and truer: a salvation already won, yet ever to be striven for.
The Good Friday collection rekindles in us this sure hope along with a clearer perception of the evil that surrounds us. It turns our gaze to the Holy Land, to the East whence comes our Redemption. There lie our roots; there lies our heart. We are indebted to those who went out from there, carrying the light of faith to the world. Likewise, we are indebted to those who remained to give witness to that faith, in spite of the conflicts that have always tortured that Land.
Nonetheless, the Christians in the Holy Land care for the places marked by the passage of Jesus Himself, allowing us to touch, as it were, the truth of our faith. This Land challenges our charity, as it always has, yet today with a growing urgency. Indeed, every person who lives and works there deserves our prayers and our concrete assistance, so necessary for the continuation of the work of healing wounds and fostering confidently justice and peace.
In this Jubilee year, we are urged more than ever to demonstrate our mercy and solicitude for our brothers in the Middle East. Refugees, displaced persons, the elderly, children, and the sick are all in need of our help. In this land of the East, people are dying, being kidnapped and even killed. Many live in agony for their loved ones, or suffer when the family is divided on account of forced migration and exodus. They know the darkness and fear of neglect, of loneliness, of misunderstanding. It is a time of trials and challenges, even of martyrdom. All this necessarily augments our obligation to help, to respond to emergencies, to reconstruct and to invent new ways of meeting the whole gamut of needs. Such acts of mercy, all necessary and urgent, allow us each day to experience that “if the Lord does not build the house, in vain do its builders labor”.
We live clinging to the Cross of Good Friday, but sustained by the light of the Resurrection. The Holy Land is a place of dialogue, whose inhabitants never cease dreaming of constructing bridges, and in which the Christian community lives to proclaim the Gospel of Peace. It is a Land of “ecumenism of blood” and at the same time a place of extraordinary normality.
“We cannot remain indifferent: God is not indifferent! God cares about mankind, God does not abandon us” (Pope Francis). This care is expressed by our open hands, contributing generously. It can also be shown by making pilgrimages without fear to the places of our salvation, visiting also the schools and centers of assistance, where one can draw near to the local Christians and listen to their stories.
The Collection for the Holy Land reminds us of an “ancient” duty, which the history of recent years has made more urgent, but no less a source of the joy that comes from helping our brothers.
In conclusion, I assure you of the deepest gratitude of the Holy Father Francis and that of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, which seeks to accompany our brothers and sisters of the East with attentive care. Kindly extend this heartfelt thanks to all the Christian faithful of your particular Church.
With most cordial and fraternal greetings in our Lord, I remain
Leonardo Card. Sandri
✠ Cyril Vasil’, S.J.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Here in Mexico city the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas is everywhere. It’s plastered on taxis, in shops, in homes and in the most unlikely places.
No surprise as in the past even Mexican revolutionaries carried her image into battle. She’s ‘Our Lady of Guadalupe’, Patroness of the Americas. She represents the spiritual heart of the nation. Her image is that of a ‘mestizo’, symbolic of that blend of Spanish Catholicism and American religious traditions.
Click below to hear the report from Vatican Radio's special envoy in Mexico, Veronica Scarisbrick
The same cannot be said for images of Pope Francis around town, they are far and few between. Most of those I saw were related to publicity. But two bumper billboards were significant. They related to two of the three areas of Mexico Pope Francis will be visiting. They are Chiapas along the border with Guatemala home to a large indigenous, population and Michoacàn hotspot of the drug cartels. Chiapas and Michoacàn clearly want to welcome Pope Francis in the capital city as well.
I haven’t seen any relating to the third and last stop on the Pope’s itinerary, Ciudad Juarez on that economic divide represented by the border with the United States. Once dubbed the murder capital of the world it’s where the dreams of a better future for many migrants, those who make it that far, are most often dashed.
But this is the city most featured in the Mexican press right now for a very specific reason. It seems that the families of the forty- three young ‘desaparecidos’ seeking for answers to outcome of their young sons, are going to be sitting in the front rows during Holy Mass. And speculation is rife as to whether there will be a private encounter with Pope Francis.
This lack of images around town doesn’t mean that people don’t know the first Latin American Pope is coming to town on Friday 12 th of February.
Everyone, really everyone I speak to here in the streets, knows their first Latin American pope is going to be riding his pope mobile through the streets here. No surprise as it’s their only chance to catch a glimpse of him close to.
One TV show I came across even featured a toy pope mobile running pone through a ‘maquette’ of Mexico City and newspapers feature cartoons showing aggressive politicians all wanting to jump on to the pope mobile at once.
There’s definitely a warmth surrounding the arrival of Pope Francis here as he comes as ‘missionary of peace’. And I think he’d agree with Mexican Nobel laureate Octavio Paz who once wrote that Our Lady of Guadalupe’s " inspirational story is impressed on the heart of Mexico". Adding how "she is the solace of the poor, the shield of the weak and oppressed". After all Pope Francis has said he is coming here as a pilgrim to spend time with the people of Mexico, to walk with them, especially with those in the ‘peripheries’. To walk with this people that does not forget its Mother , the Mother who forged her people in hope”.
In Mexico City awaiting the arrival of Pope Francis, I’m Veronica Scarisbrick
(from Vatican Radio)...