Updated: 1 hour 36 min ago
(Vatican Radio) Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, addressed the COP21 summit on climate change on Monday, emphasizing the need for an agreement with a “clear ethical slant”.
COP21, also known as the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, aims to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C.
The Cardinal Secretary of State continually made reference to the Pope’s recent speech at the United Nations Office in Nairobi, in which he expressed hope for a “transformative and global” agreement based on the values of “solidarity, justice, equality and participation”.
He also made reference to Pope Francis' recent encyclical Laudato si' , saying "A great cultural, spiritual and educational challenge stands before us, and it will demand that we set out on the long path of renewal." ( Laudato si' , n.202)
Cardinal Parolin spoke in the name of the Holy Father, telling the participants that the Pope desires a long-term ethical agreement which aims towards three concrete objectives: to “lessen the effects of climate change, fight against poverty, and enable the dignity all human beings”.
He said “we all know that the people most vulnerable and exposed to the effects of climate change are the poor and future generations…”, those who are not responsible for the change in the first instance. He strongly stated that “there is no room for mindless globalization”.
The Cardinal went on to say that developed countries ought to set a good example for poorer parts of the world, mentioning the development of low carbon economies and sustainable development programmes in particular, along with the promotion of renewable and efficient energy.
He concluded by saying that “our throwaway culture is unsustainable” and reiterated Pope Francis’ desire for a long-term ethical agreement which should aim to “lessen the effects of climate change, fight against poverty, and enable the dignity all human beings”.
(from Vatican Radio)...
Vatican City, 1 December 2015 (VIS) – During his return flight following his apostolic trip to Africa, the Pope answered questions from the journalists accompanying him on the aircraft. The following are extensive extracts from questions posed and the Holy Father's answers regarding his impressions of Africa, the Vatileaks case, his upcoming trips and COP 21.
The first question was from a Kenyan journalist who wanted to know the Pope's views on the stories told by poor families in the Kangemi slum regarding exclusion from fundamental human rights due to avarice and corruption.
Pope Francis: “I understand that 80 per cent of the world's wealth is in the hands of 17 per cent of the population; I do not know if this is true, but it is likely, as this is how things are. … It is an economic system in which money, the god of money, is at the centre. … And if things continue in this way, the world will not change. … In Kangemi, where I spoke clearly about rights, I felt great suffering. … Yesterday, for example, I visited a paediatric hospital, the only one in Bangui and in the country! And in intensive care they do not have the instruments to provide oxygen. There were many malnourished children, many. And the doctor told me, 'Here the majority will die, as they have malaria and they are malnourished. … And those people who hold 80 per cent of the world's wealth – what do they think of this?”
The second question regarded the most memorable moment of the Pope's trip to Africa.
Pope Francis: “For me Africa was a surprise. I thought: God surprises us, but also Africa surprises! … They have a great sense of welcome. … Then, each country has its own identity. Kenya is a little more modern, more developed. Uganda has the identity of martyrs: the Ugandan people, both Catholic and Anglican, venerate the martyrs. … The courage of giving life for an ideal. And the Central African Republic: there is the desire for peace, reconciliation, and forgiveness”.
The third question touched on the issued of Vatileaks and the importance of the press in denouncing corruption wherever it encounters it.
Pope Francis: “A free press, both secular and confessional, but professional ... is important to me, because the denouncement of injustice and corruption is good work. … And then those who are responsible must do something: form a judgement, constitute a tribunal. But the professional press must say everything, without falling prey to the three most common sins: disinformation, or telling half a story but omitting the other half; slander, or when the press is unprofessional and seeks to soil others with or without truth; and defamation, or rather, to damage a person's reputation … and these are the three defects that undermine the professionalism of the press. We need professionalism”.
A French journalist asked whether, faced with the danger of fundamentalism, religious leaders should intervene in the political arena.
Pope Francis: “If this means participating in politics, no. Being a priest, a pastor, an imam, a rabbi – this is the vocation of a religious leader. But political influence is exercised indirectly by preaching values, true values, and one of the greatest values is fraternity between us. … Fundamentalism is a sickness that we find in all religions. Among Catholics there are many, not a few, many, who believe to hold the absolute truth and they go ahead by harming others with slander and defamation, and they do great harm. … And it must be combated. Religious fundamentalism is not truly religious. Why? Because God is missing. It is a form of idolatry, in the same way as worshipping money is idolatry. Being political in the sense of convincing these people who have this tendency is a policy that we religious leaders must adopt”.
An Italian journalist asked why two of the defendants in the Vatileaks case, Msgr. Vallejo Balda and Francesca Immacolata Chaouqui, had been appointed.
Pope Francis: “I think it was a mistake. Msgr. Vallejo Balda entered via the role he had has had until now. He was secretary of the Prefecture of Economic Affairs. I am not sure how he entered but if I am not mistaken, it was he who presented [Chaouqui] as a woman who knew the world of commercial relations. … They worked and once they had finished their task, the members of the Commission, COSEA, remained in various places in the Vatican. The same applied to Vallejo Balda. Ms. Chaouqui did not remain in the Vatican because she entered for the purposes of the Commission and then left. Some say that she was angry about this, but the judges will tell us the truth of the situation. … For me [what came out] was not a surprise, it did not cause me to lose any sleep, because they have shown the work that began with the Commission of Cardinals – the 'C9' – to seek out corruption and things that are not going well. And here I want to say something … on the word 'corruption'. Thirteen days before the death of St. John Paul II … in the Via Crucis, the then-cardinal Ratzinger spoke about corruption in the Church. He was the first to denounce it. And when St. John Paul II died, in the 'pro eligendo Pontefice' Mass – he was the dean – he spoke about the same thing, and we elected him for this, his liberty to say these things. Since then there has been an air of corruption in the Vatican. … With respect to the judgement, I have given the concrete accusations to the judges, because that is what is important for the defence, the formulation of the accusations. I have not read them, the concrete, technical accusations. I would have liked this to finish before 8 December, for the Year of Mercy, but I do not think this will be possible, as I would like the lawyers who defend them to have to time to defend; they must have the freedom to prepare a full defence”.
A South African correspondent commented on the devastation caused by AIDS in Africa, where the epidemic continues, and where prevention is still the key. He asked the Pope whether or not it was time to change the Church's position on the use of condoms.
Pope Francis: “The question seems to me to be too narrow, or rather a partial question. Yes, it is one of the methods; the morality of the Church finds itself before a perplexity: it is the fifth or the sixth commandment, defending life, or that the sexual relationship must be open to life? … This questions makes me think about what they did to Jesus once. 'Tell me Master, is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?'. It is obligatory to heal! … But malnutrition, the exploitation of people, slave labour, the lack of drinking water: these are the problems. Let us not ask if we can use this sticking plaster or another for a small wound. The great wound is social injustice, the injustice of the environment, the injustice that I have mentioned such as exploitation and malnutrition. … I do not like to make reference to such specific cases when people die for lack of water or hunger, because of their habitat. … When everyone has been healed, when there are no longer these tragic diseases caused by mankind, either by social injustice or to earn more money. … Then we can ask the question, 'is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?'. Why do they continue the production and trafficking of weapons? Wars are the greatest cause of mortality. … I would say, do not think about whether or not it is lawful to heal on the Sabbath. I would like to say to humanity: ensure justice, and when everyone is healed, when there is no more injustice in this world, we can talk about the Sabbath”.
An Italian journalist wanted to know if the Pope had considered going to Armenia to commemorate the 101st anniversary of the tragedy that afflicted the population, as he did last year in Turkey.
“Last year I promised the three Patriarchs that I would go: the promise is there. I do not know if it will be possible to do so, but the promise stands. … As for wars, wars are due to ambition. I am talking about wars that are not a legitimate defence against an unjust aggressor, but rather wars, wars are an 'industry'! … War is a business, a weapons business. Terrorists, do they make their weapons? Perhaps the odd small one. Who gives them the weapons for warfare? There is a network of interests involved, and behind this there is money, or power: imperial power, or economic power. … But we have been at war for many years, some times more than others: the pieces of the war are smaller, then they become bigger. … I don't know what the 'Vatican position' is, but what I think is that wars are a sin against humanity. They destroy humanity, they are the cause of exploitation, of human trafficking, of so many things. … Wars are not of God. God is the God of peace”.
Another issue was whether the Conference on Climate Change in Paris will be the beginning to a solution to the environmental problem.
Pope Francis: “I am not sure, but I can say that it is now or never. Every year the problems grow more serious. … We are at the brink of suicide, to put it bluntly. And I am sure that almost all those who are in Paris, at the COP 21, are aware of this and want to do something. … I am trustful. I trust these people, that they will do something; because, I would say, I am sure that they have the goodwill to do so, and I hope it is so. And I pray for this”.
An American journalist asked what he thought Islam the teachings of the Prophet Muhammed had to say to today's world.
“It is possible to enter into dialogue; they have values. Many values. And these values are constructive. … Prayer, for example, and fasting. Religious values, and also other values. One cannot cancel out a religion because there are some groups, or many groups, at a certain historic moment, of fundamentalists. It is true that there have always been wars between religions throughout history, always. We too must ask forgiveness. … And the Thirty Years War, the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre. … We too must ask forgiveness, for fundamentalist extremism and for religious wars”.
The Pope's visit to Mexico and other Latin American countries was the theme of the next question.
Pope Francis: “I will go to Mexico. First of all, I would like to visit Our Lady, the Mother of America, and so I will go to Mexico City. If it were not for the Virgin of Guadalupe, I would not go to Mexico City, as I would prefer to visit three or four cities that had not been visited by Popes. But I will go to visit Our Lady. Then I will go to Chiapas, in the South, on the border with Guatemala; then I will go to Morelia, and almost certainly, on the way back towards Rome, I will spend a day or less in Ciudad Juarez. With regard to visiting other Latin American countries, I have been invited to go to Aparecida in 2019, the other Patroness of America, for Portuguese speakers. … and from there perhaps I will be able to visit another country – but I do not know, there are no plans”.
The final question was from a Kenyan journalist, who asked: “What do you say to the world, which thinks that Africa is simply ravaged by wars and full of destruction?”
Pope Francis: “Africa is a victim. Africa has always been exploited by other powers. From Africa, slaves were taken to America, and sold. There are powers that seek only to take the great wealth of Africa. I don't know, it is possibly the richest continent. … But they do not think of how to help countries grow, to promote work, so that everyone has work. … Exploitation! Africa is a martyr. She is a martyr to exploitation in history. Those who say that from Africa is the home of all calamities and all wars do not understand well, perhaps, the damage that humanity has done to certain forms of development. And it is for this reason that I love Africa, because Africa has been a victim of other powers”....
Vatican City, 1 December 2015 (VIS) – Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin spoke yesterday at the opening of the 21st Conference of States Parties to the Convention COP 21, held in Paris from 30 November to 11 December. After communicating Pope Francis' greetings and encouragement to the the participants in the hope of a fruitful outcome, the Cardinal mentioned the Holy Father's address to the United Nations Office at Nairobi on 26 November, when he expressed his hope that the Paris conference result in the adoption of a “global and transformational” agreement, based on the principles of solidarity, justice, equality and participation, orientated towards the attainment of three complex and interdependent objectives: mitigating the effects of climate change, combating poverty, and promoting the dignity of the human person.
He went on to list the three pillars of this “global and transformational” agreement. “The first consists in the adoption of a clear ethical orientation, inspiring the motivations and aims of the Agreement to be implemented. We are well aware that the people most vulnerable to the impact of the phenomenon of climate change are the poorest and future generations, who suffer the gravest consequences, often without bearing any responsibility. … Faced with the urgency of a situation that requires the broadest collaboration possible so as to reach a common plan, it is important that this Agreement be focused on the recognition both of the ethical imperative to act in a context of global solidarity, and of the common but differentiated responsibilities of all actors in accordance with their respective capacities and conditions”.
“The second pillar regards the fact that the Agreement should not only identify the methods for its implementation, but should also and above all transmit clear signs to guide the behaviour of all the actors involved, beginning with governments, but also local authorities, the world of business, the scientific community and civil society. … This necessitates undertaking with conviction the road towards a low-carbon economy and full human development. … In this regard, the countries with greater resources and capacities should set a good example, contributing resources to those countries in greater need so as to promote sustainable development policies and programmes. For instance, the promotion of renewable energy and dematerialisation, as well as the development of energy efficiency, come to mind, or the correct management of forests, transport and waste; the development of a circular model for the economy; the implementation of appropriate, sustainable and diversified programmes for food safety and to combat food waste; strategies against speculation and ineffective or indeed at times harmful subsidies; and the development and transfer of suitable technologies”.
The third and final pillar is the vision of the future. “COP 21 is not a moment of arrival or a starting point, but rather a crucial path in a process that without doubt will not end in 2015”, emphasised Cardinal Parolin. “An agreement with a long term perspective of this type should provide for processes for the revision of commitments and transparent, effective and dynamic follow-ups, able to progressively increase the level of ambition, as well as to guarantee suitable control. Furthermore, it is necessary to take into serious consideration the implementation of sustainable models of production and consumption, new attitudes, and new lifestyles. Here we enter the fundamental fields of education and training, unfortunately often situated at the margins of negotiations for international agreements. Technical solutions are necessary, but they are not enough if they do not consider education in sustainable life styles and responsible awareness”....
(Vatican Radio) During the in-flight press briefing en-route to Rome at the end of his three-nation visit to Africa, Pope Francis touched on a wide range of topics, from Vatileaks, to condoms, to a forthcoming visit to Mexico.
Some of the questions centered around the Nov. 25-30 journey, during which the Pope visited Kenya, Uganda, and the Central African Republic (CAR), marking his first trip to the continent.
During the press conference, Pope Francis was asked about those suffering exclusion from basic human rights, as he witnessed during some of his encounters in Africa. The Holy Father gave the example visiting Bangui’s pediatric hospital which lacked basic equipment, where he saw severely malnourished children, most of whom were dying of malaria.
The Pope condemned economic systems which make a “god of money,” referring to this as the “idolatry of money”. He added that “if mankind does not change, we will continue to have more miseries, tragedies, wars, children who die of hunger, and injustice.”
Pope Francis also decried the various forms of exploitation to which much of Africa has been subject. He described Africa as a “martyr of exploitation.”
Asked about his impressions of his first visit to Africa, Pope Francis said he was struck by the crowds, the joy, and the “very great sense of welcome” he encountered.
The Holy Father remarked on the unique identity of each of the countries he visited: Kenya, which is more modern and developed; Uganda, with its legacy of martyrs; and the CAR, with the people’s “desire for peace, reconciliation, and forgiveness.”
Pope Francs was asked about the global threat posed by fundamentalism, and whether religious leaders should intervene at a political level. Rather than intervening politically, the Holy Father said religious leaders should confront the threat of fundamentalism by promoting values, especially those of fraternity and coexistence. He also stressed that fundamentalism can be found in all religions, even Catholicism.
Turning to another topic, Pope Francis spoke with journalists about the role of the free press in dealing with matters of corruption. He said the media maintains professional integrity, so long as it avoids misinformation, calumny, and defamation.
Also addressed at the press conference was the so-called Vatileaks scandal and the ongoing trial of three Vatican employees and the two journalists charged with publishing stolen information. Pope Francis acknowledged that “an error was made” in the appointment of the Vatican employees. The Pope said he was not surprised by the information revealed, since he was already aware of the corruption within the Vatican. Pope Francis added that it was not him, but his predecessors who began the process of rooting out corruption in the Vatican.
One journalist asked if the Church would change its teaching on the use of condoms as a preventive method against HIV, which continues to be a widespread epidemic in Africa. Pope Francis responded that the answer must be seen first in a broader context, that of healing the more “serious wound” brought about by injustice; social and environmental injustices, people dying of hunger and thirst, war and the trafficking of arms.
Pope Francis also spoke of the escalating international conflicts, as seen for instance with the Russian airplane recently shot down by Turkey. He described war as a “business of weapons,” which destroys humanity. War does not come from God, who is a God of peace, the Pope said.
Asked where his next apostolic journey would take him, Pope Francis said he would likely visit Mexico, although the specifics of the trip have not been released.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) It’s just over a week until the beginning of the Jubilee of Mercy when Pope Francis will open the Holy Door at St Peter’s Basilica.
This extraordinary year was kick-started on Sunday when the Holy Father opened the Holy Door in Bangui on his visit to the Central African Republic.
One of the unique ideas of this Jubilee is that, for the first time Holy Doors will be opened in every diocese throughout the world, located for the most part in a Cathedral.
So what else can we expect from this great event in the life of the Church?
In this, the first of a four part interview taking us through key aspects of the Jubilee Year, Fr Eugene Silva, English language official at the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization looks at the Pope’s intentions for this Year of Mercy, the importance of the year for the local Church around the world and the emphasis placed on the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Listen to the first part of Lydia O’Kane’s interview with Fr Eugene Silva
The Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization has been charged with organizing the Holy Year of Mercy which officially opens on December 8 th and closes Nov 20 th 2016, the Feast of Christ the King.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Monday sent a message to Patriarch Bartholomew I, Archbishop of Constantinople, for the Feast of St. Andrew the Apostle, patron of the Orthodox Church.
The heads of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches traditionally send delegations for the feast day of each Church’s patron saint.
Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, is the Holy See’s representative to the Orthodox Patriarch for this year’s Feast of St. Andrew.
Cardinal Koch gave the Ecumenical Patriarch the message, signed by Pope Francis, at the end of the Divine Liturgy celebrated by Bartholomew I in the Patriarchal Church of St. George of Fener.
Below, please find Pope Francis' message to Patriarch Bartholomew:
To His Holiness Bartholomaios
Archbishop of Constantinople
Your Holiness, Beloved Brother in Christ,
A year has passed since we celebrated together, in the Patriarchal Church in the Phanar, the feast of Saint Andrew, the first-called Apostle and brother of Saint Peter. The occasion was a moment of grace which permitted me to renew and to deepen, in shared prayer and personal encounter, the bonds of friendship with you and with the Church over which you preside. It was with joy that I also experienced the vitality of a Church which unceasingly professes, celebrates and offers witness to faith in Jesus Christ, our one Lord and Saviour. I am pleased once again to send a delegation of the Holy See to the Patronal celebrations as a tangible sign of my fraternal affection and the spiritual closeness of the Church of Rome to Your Holiness, as well as to the members of the Holy Synod, the clergy, monks and all the faithful of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
In our profound communion of faith and charity, and grateful for all that God has accomplished for us, I recall the fiftieth anniversary on 7 December 2015 of the Joint Catholic-Orthodox Declaration of Pope Paul VI and the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I which expressed the decision to remove from memory and from the midst of the Church the excommunications of 1054. The memory of the mutual sentences of excommunication, together with the offensive words, groundless reproaches, and reprehensible gestures on both sides, which accompanied the sad events of this period, represented for many centuries an obstacle to rapprochement in charity between Catholics and Orthodox. Attentive to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ, who prayed to the Father on the eve of his Passion that his disciples “may be one” (Jn 17:21), Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras I consigned these painful memories to oblivion. Since then, the logic of antagonism, mistrust and hostility that had been symbolized by the mutual excommunications has been replaced by the logic of love and brotherhood, represented by our fraternal embrace.
While not all differences between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches were brought to an end, there now existed the conditions necessary to journey towards re-establishing the “full communion of faith, fraternal accord and sacramental life which existed among them during the first thousand years of the life of the Church” (Joint Catholic-Orthodox Declaration, 7 December 1965). Having restored a relationship of love and fraternity, in a spirit of mutual trust, respect and charity, there is no longer any impediment to Eucharistic communion which cannot be overcome through prayer, the purification of hearts, dialogue and the affirmation of truth. Indeed, where there is love in the life of the Church, its source and fulfilment is always to be found in Eucharistic love. So too the symbol of the fraternal embrace finds its most profound truth in the embrace of peace exchanged in the Eucharistic celebration.
In order to progress on our journey towards the full communion for which we long, we need continually to draw inspiration from the gesture of reconciliation and peace by our venerable predecessors Paul VI and Athenagoras I. At all levels and in every context of Church life, relations between Catholics and Orthodox must increasingly reflect the logic of love that leaves no room for the spirit of rivalry. Theological dialogue itself, sustained by mutual charity, must continue to examine carefully the questions which divide us, aiming always at deepening our shared understanding of revealed truth. Motivated by God’s love, we must together offer the world a credible and effective witness to Christ’s message of reconciliation and salvation.
The world today has great need of reconciliation, particularly in light of so much blood which has been shed in recent terrorist attacks. May we accompany the victims with our prayers, and renew our commitment to lasting peace by promoting dialogue between religious traditions, for “indifference and mutual ignorance can only lead to mistrust and unfortunately even conflict” (Common Declaration, Jerusalem 2014).
I wish to express my deep appreciation for Your Holiness’s fervent commitment to the critical issue of care for creation, for which your sensitivity and awareness is an exemplary witness for Catholics. I believe that it is a hopeful sign for Catholics and Orthodox that we now celebrate together an annual Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation on 1 September, following the longstanding practice of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. In this regard, I assure you of my prayers for the important international meeting on the environment to be held in Paris at which you will participate.
Your Holiness, it is incumbent upon humanity to rediscover the mystery of mercy, “the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness” (Misericordiae Vultus, 2). For this reason I have called for an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, a favourable time to contemplate the Father’s mercy revealed fully in his Son, Jesus Christ, and to become ourselves an effective sign of God’s love through our mutual pardon and works of mercy. It is providential that the anniversary of that historic Joint Catholic-Orthodox Declaration concerning the removal of the excommunications of 1054 occurs on the eve of the Year of Mercy. Following Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras I, Catholics and Orthodox today must ask pardon of God and one another for divisions that Christians have brought about in the Body of Christ. I ask you and all the faithful of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to pray that this Extraordinary Jubilee may bear the spiritual fruits for which we yearn. I willingly assure you of my prayers for the events that your Church will celebrate in the year to come, especially the Pan-Orthodox Great Synod. May this important occasion for all the Orthodox Churches be a source of abundant blessings for the life of the Church.
With fraternal affection in the Lord, I assure you of my spiritual closeness on the joyous feast of the Apostle Andrew, and I willingly exchange with Your Holiness an embrace of peace in the Lord Jesus.
From the Vatican, 30 November 2015
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Monday celebrated Mass at Bangui's Barthélémy Boganda Stadium for thousands of the faithful from the Central African Republic.
Listen to Devin Watkins' report:
Speaking of Paul's missionary zeal in the Letter to the Romans, Pope Francis in his final Mass in the Central African Republic reflected on the great missionary effort which first brought the Gospel to the people of Central Africa.
Times of difficulty, trial and suffering remind all of the Lord's call to come together and "to rejoice in his presence and in the new life and the salvation which he offers us."
"Looking towards the world to come," he said, "has always been a source of strength for Christians, of the poor, of the least, on their earthly pilgrimage. Eternal life is not an illusion; it is not a flight from the world. It is a powerful reality which calls out to us and challenges us to persevere in faith and love."
He then reminded them of the more immediate ‘other shore’: the life of faith. "Those who believe, he said, receive the very life of Christ, which enables them to love God and their brothers and sisters in a new way and to bring to birth a world renewed by love."
The Holy Father continued, saying "Yet the fact is that we have not yet reached our destination. In a certain sense we are in midstream, needing the courage to decide, with renewed missionary zeal, to pass to the other shore. How easy it is to be led into selfishness, distrust, violence, destructiveness, vengeance, indifference to and exploitation of those who are most vulnerable…"
Concluding his homily, Pope Francis told the faithful that, despite the difficulties of the present, "the other shore is at hand, and Jesus is crossing the river with us. He is risen from the dead; henceforth the trials and sufferings which we experience are always opportunities opening up to a new future, provided we are willing to follow him."
Below, please find Pope Francis' full homily:
Homily of His Holiness Pope Francis
Bangui, Barthélémy Boganda Stadium
30 November 2015
We might be astonished, listening to this morning’s first reading, by the enthusiasm and missionary drive of Saint Paul. “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Rom 10:15). These words inspire us to give thanks for the gift of the faith which we have received. They also inspire us to reflect with amazement on the great missionary effort which – not long ago – first brought the joy of the Gospel to this beloved land of Central Africa. It is good, especially in times of difficulty, trials and suffering, when the future is uncertain and we feel weary and apprehensive, to come together before the Lord. To come together, as we do today, to rejoice in his presence and in the new life and the salvation which he offers us. For he invites us to cross over to another shore (cf. Lk 8:22).
This other shore is, of course, eternal life, heaven, which awaits us. Looking towards the world to come has always been a source of strength for Christians, of the poor, of the least, on their earthly pilgrimage. Eternal life is not an illusion; it is not a flight from the world. It is a powerful reality which calls out to us and challenges us to persevere in faith and love.
But the more immediate other shore, which we are trying to reach, this salvation secured by the faith of which Saint Paul speaks, is a reality which even now is transforming our lives and the world around us. “Faith in the heart leads to justification” (Rom 10:10). Those who believe receive the very life of Christ, which enables them to love God and their brothers and sisters in a new way and to bring to birth a world renewed by love.
Let us thank the Lord for his presence and for the strength which he gives us in our daily lives, at those times when we experience physical and spiritual suffering, pain, and grief. Let us thank him for the acts of solidarity and generosity which he inspires in us, for the joy and love with which he fills our families and our communities, despite the suffering and violence we sometimes experience, and our fears for the future. Let us thank him for his gift of courage, which inspires us to forge bonds of friendship, to dialogue with those who are different than ourselves, to forgive those who have wronged us, and to work to build a more just and fraternal society in which no one is abandoned. In all these things, the Risen Christ takes us by the hand and guides us. I join you in thanking the Lord in his mercy for all the beautiful, generous and courageous things he has enabled you to accomplish in your families and communities during these eventful years in the life of your country.
Yet the fact is that we have not yet reached our destination. In a certain sense we are in midstream, needing the courage to decide, with renewed missionary zeal, to pass to the other shore. All the baptized need to continually break with the remnants of the old Adam, the man of sin, ever ready to rise up again at the prompting of the devil. How often this happens in our world and in these times of conflict, hate and war! How easy it is to be led into selfishness, distrust, violence, destructiveness, vengeance, indifference to and exploitation of those who are most vulnerable…
We know that our Christian communities, called to holiness, still have a long way to go. Certainly we need to beg the Lord’s forgiveness for our all too frequent reluctance and hesitation in bearing witness to the Gospel. May the Jubilee Year of Mercy, which has just begun in your country, be an occasion to do so. Dear Central Africans, may you look to the future and, strengthened by the distance you have already come, resolutely determine to begin a new chapter in the Christian history of your country, to set out towards new horizons, to put out into the deep. The Apostle Andrew, with his brother Peter, did not hesitate to leave everything at Christ’s call: “Immediately they left their nets and followed him” (Mt 4:20). Once again, we are amazed at the great enthusiasm of the Apostles. Christ drew them so closely to himself, that they felt able to do everything and to risk everything with him.
Each of us, in his or her heart, can ask the crucial question of where we stand with Jesus, asking what we have already accepted – or refused to accept – in responding to his call to follow him more closely. The cry of “those who bring good news” resounds all the more in our ears, precisely when times are difficult; that cry which “goes out through all the earth... to the ends of the earth” (Rom 10:18; cf. Ps 19:4). And it resounds here, today, in this land of Central Africa. It resounds in our hearts, our families, our parishes, wherever we live. It invites us to persevere in enthusiasm for mission, for that mission which needs new “bearers of good news”, ever more numerous, generous, joyful and holy. We are all called to be, each of us, these messengers whom our brothers and sisters of every ethnic group, religion and culture, await, often without knowing it. For how can our brothers and sisters believe in Christ – Saint Paul asks – if the Word is neither proclaimed nor heard?
We too, like the Apostles, need to be full of hope and enthusiasm for the future. The other shore is at hand, and Jesus is crossing the river with us. He is risen from the dead; henceforth the trials and sufferings which we experience are always opportunities opening up to a new future, provided we are willing to follow him. Christians of Central Africa, each of you is called to be, through perseverance in faith and missionary commitment, artisans of the human and spiritual renewal of your country.
May the Virgin Mary, who by sharing in the Passion of her Son, now shares in his perfect joy, protect you and encourage you on this path of hope. Amen.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Monday morning visited the Grand Mosque of Koudoukou in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, meeting with the city’s Muslim community.
The Holy Father was welcomed to the mosque by the Grand Imam Nehedi Tidjani, along with four other Imam, who accompanied him to the podium.
In his address, Pope Francis recalled the recent violence which has rocked the country, saying "Christians and Muslims are brothers and sisters."
"We are well aware that the recent events and acts of violence which have shaken your country were not grounded in properly religious motives. Those who claim to believe in God must also be men and women of peace. Christians, Muslims and members of the traditional religions have lived together in peace for many years. [...] Together, we must say no to hatred, no to revenge and no to violence, particularly that violence which is perpetrated in the name of a religion or of God himself. God is peace, God salam ."
Recalling the upcoming national consultations, the Holy Father said, "We cannot fail to express hope that the forthcoming national consultations will provide the country with leaders capable of bringing Central Africans together, thus becoming symbols of national unity rather than merely representatives of one or another faction. I strongly urge you to make your country a welcoming home for all its children, regardless of their ethnic origin, political affiliation or religious confession. The Central African Republic, situated in the heart of Africa, with the cooperation of all her sons and daughters, will then prove a stimulus in this regard to the entire continent."
Below, please find Pope Francis' prepared remarks to the Muslim Community of Bangui:
Address of Pope Francis
Meeting with the Muslim Community
Bangui, Central Mosque
30 November 2015
Dear Muslim friends, leaders and followers of Islam,
It is a great joy for me to be with you and I thank you for your warm welcome. In a particular way I thank Imam Tidiani Moussa Naibi for his kind words of greeting. My Pastoral Visit to the Central African Republic would not be complete if it did not include this encounter with the Muslim community.
Christians and Muslims are brothers and sisters. We must therefore consider ourselves and conduct ourselves as such. We are well aware that the recent events and acts of violence which have shaken your country were not grounded in properly religious motives. Those who claim to believe in God must also be men and women of peace. Christians, Muslims and members of the traditional religions have lived together in peace for many years. They ought, therefore, to remain united in working for an end to every act which, from whatever side, disfigures the Face of God and whose ultimate aim is to defend particular interests by any and all means, to the detriment of the common good. Together, we must say no to hatred, no to revenge and no to violence, particularly that violence which is perpetrated in the name of a religion or of God himself. God is peace, God salam.
In these dramatic times, Christian and Muslim leaders have sought to rise to the challenges of the moment. They have played an important role in re-establishing harmony and fraternity among all. I would like express my gratitude and appreciation for this. We can also call to mind the many acts of solidarity which Christians and Muslims have shown with regard to their fellow citizens of other religious confessions, by welcoming them and defending them during this latest crisis in your country, as well as in other parts of the world.
We cannot fail to express hope that the forthcoming national consultations will provide the country with leaders capable of bringing Central Africans together, thus becoming symbols of national unity rather than merely representatives of one or another faction. I strongly urge you to make your country a welcoming home for all its children, regardless of their ethnic origin, political affiliation or religious confession. The Central African Republic, situated in the heart of Africa, with the cooperation of all her sons and daughters, will then prove a stimulus in this regard to the entire continent. It will prove a positive influence and help extinguish the smouldering tensions which prevent Africans from benefitting from that development which they deserve and to which they have a right.
Dear friends, dear brothers, I invite you to pray and work for reconciliation, fraternity and solidarity among all people, without forgetting those who have suffered the most as a result of recent events.
May God bless you and protect you! Salam alaikum!
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Following Mass for the First Sunday of Advent, thousands of young people filled the square in front of Bangui’s Cathédrale Notre-Dame for a Prayer Vigil that went into the night.
Pope Francis joined the youth immediately after the Mass offering them words of encouragement before hearing several Confessions.
In his address to the young people, the Holy Father spoke off the cuff in Italian, calling to mind the country’s symbol for youth: the banana tree. “The Banana tree is a symbol of life, always growing, always reproducing, always providing fruit with high alimentary energy. The banana tree is also resistant. I think this expresses well your path in this difficult moment of war, hate, and division: the path of resistance.”
Referring to a young person who had spoken to the crowd before him speaking of his desire to flee, Pope Francis said, “Fleeing the challenges of life is never the solution! One must resist, have the courage to resist, to fight for the good! The one who flees does not have the courage to give life.”
The Holy Father then spoke to them of three useful things for their situation: prayer , efforts toward peace , and forgiveness .
“You must pray to resist, to love, to not hate, and to be artisans of peace.”
Below, please find the full text of Pope Francis’ prepared remarks:
Address of Pope Francis
Prayer Vigil with Young People and Confessions
Bangui, Cathedral Square
29 November 2015
Dear Young Friends,
Good evening! It is a great joy for me to be here with you this evening, as we enter upon a new liturgical year with the beginning of Advent. Is this not, for each one of us, an occasion to begin anew, a chance to “go across to the other side?” (cf. Lk 8:22).
During this, our meeting I will be able to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation with some of you. I encourage each of you to reflect on the grandeur of this sacrament, in which God comes to meet us personally. Whenever we ask, he comes to us and helps us to “go across to the other side”, to that side of our life where God forgives us and bathes us in his love which heals, soothes and raises up! The Jubilee of Mercy, which I just opened particularly for you, dear Central African and African friends, rightly reminds us that God is waiting for us, with arms wide open, as we see in the beautiful image of the Father who welcomes the prodigal son.
The forgiveness which we receive comforts us and enables us to make a new start, with trusting and serene hearts, better able to live in harmony with ourselves, with God and with others. The forgiveness which we receive enables us in turn to forgive others. There is always a need for this, especially in times of conflict and violence, as you know all too well. I renew my closeness to all those among you who are have experienced sorrow, separation and the wounds inflicted by hatred and war. In such situations, forgiving those who have done us harm is, humanly speaking, extremely difficult. But God offers us the strength and the courage to become those artisans of reconciliation and peace which your country greatly needs. The Christian, as a disciple of Christ, walks in the footsteps of his Master, who on the Cross asked his Father to forgive those who were crucifying him (cf. Lk 23:34). How far is this sentiment from those which too often reign in our hearts! Meditating on the attitude and the words of Jesus, “Father, forgive them”, can help to turn our gaze and convert our heart.
For many people, it is a scandal that God came to be one of us. It is a scandal that he died on a cross. Yes, it is scandalous: the scandal of the cross. The cross continues to scandalize. Yet it remains the one sure way: the way of the cross, the way of Jesus who came to share our life and to save us from sin (cf. Meeting with Young Argentineans, 25 July 2013). Dear friends, this cross speaks to us of the closeness of God: he is with us, he is with each one of you, in your joys and in your trials.
Dear young people, the most precious good which we can have in this life is our relationship with God. Are you convinced of this? Are you aware of the inestimable value that you have in God’s eyes? Do you know that you are loved and accepted by him, unconditionally, as you are? (cf. Message for the World Youth Day 2015, 2). Devoting time to prayer and the reading of Scripture, especially the Gospels, you will come to know him, and yourselves, ever better. Today too, Jesus’ counsels can illumine your feelings and your decisions. You are enthusiastic and generous, pursuing high ideals, searching for truth and beauty. I encourage you to maintain an alert and critical spirit in the face of every compromise which runs contrary to the Gospel message.
Thank you for your creative dynamism, which the Church greatly needs. Cultivate this! Be witnesses to the joy of meeting Jesus. May he transform you, strengthen your faith and help you to overcome every fear, so that you may embrace ever more fully God’s loving plan for you! God wills the happiness of every one of his children. Those who open themselves to his gaze are freed from sin, from sorrow, from inner emptiness and from isolation (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 1). Instead, they can see others as brothers or sisters, accepting their differences and recognizing that they are a gift for all of us.
It is in this way that peace is built, day by day. It calls for setting out on the path of service and humility, and being attentive to the needs of others. To embrace this mindset, we need to have a heart capable of bending low and sharing life with those most in need. That is where true charity is found. In this way solidarity grows, beginning with small gestures, and the seeds of division disappear. In this way dialogue among believers bears fruit, fraternity is lived day by day and it enlarges the heart by opening up a future. In this way, you will be able to do so much good for your country. I encourage you do so.
Dear young friends, the Lord is alive and he is walking at your side. When difficulties seem to abound, when pain and sadness seem to prevail all around you, he does not abandon you. He has left us the memorial of his love: the Eucharist and the sacraments, to aid our progress along the way and furnish the strength we need to daily move forward. This must be the source of your hope and your courage as you “go across to the other side” (cf. Lk 8:22), with Jesus, opening new paths for yourselves and your generation, for your families, for your country. I pray that you will be filled with this hope. May you be ever anchored in it, so that you can give it to others, to this world of ours so wounded by war and conflicts, by evil and sin. Never forget: the Lord is with you. He trusts you. He wants you to be missionary disciples, sustained in times of difficulty and trial by the prayers of the Virgin Mary and those of the entire Church. Dear young people of Central Africa, go forth! I am sending you out!
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday made a brief, unscheduled stop at a children's hospital in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic.
The Pope met with some of the young patients and staff, taking with him several boxes of medicines for the children there, provided by Rome’s “Bambino Gesu” pediatric hospital.
Pope Francis is scheduled to conclude his pastoral visit to Africa on Monday with a visit to the mosque in Bangui, followed by a Mass marking the feast of St Andrew in the city’s sports stadium. He is due to arrive back in Rome shortly before seven o’clock on Monday evening.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Priests and religious, catechists and young people joined Pope Francis on Sunday evening for the celebration of Holy Mass in the Cathedral of Bangui, Central African Republic. During the ceremony, the Pope opened the Holy Door of the Cathedral for the beginning of the Jubilee of Mercy. The Jubilee Year officially begins on 8 December. In his homily at the Mass the Pope spoke of the Christian vocation to love our enemies, saying it protects us "from the temptation to seek revenge and from the spiral of endless retaliation."
Below, please find the full text of Pope Francis’ homily for the Holy Mass for the First Sunday of Advent, celebrated in Bangui’s Notre-Dame Cathedral.
On this first Sunday of Advent, the liturgical season of joyful expectation of the Saviour and a symbol of Christian hope, God has brought me here among you, in this land, while the universal Church is preparing for the opening of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. I am especially pleased that my pastoral visit coincides with the opening of this Jubilee Year in your country. From this cathedral I reach out, in mind and heart, and with great affection, to all the priests, consecrated men and women, and pastoral workers of the nation, who are spiritually united with us at this moment. Through you, I would greet all the people of the Central African Republic: the sick, the elderly, those who have experienced life’s hurts. Some of them are perhaps despairing and listless, asking only for alms, the alms of bread, the alms of justice, the alms of attention and goodness.
But like the Apostles Peter and John on their way to the Temple, who had neither gold nor silver to give to the paralytic in need, I have come to offer God’s strength and power; for these bring us healing, set us on our feet and enable us to embark on a new life, to “go across to the other side” (cf. Lk 8:22).
Jesus does not make us cross to the other side alone; instead, he asks us to make the crossing with him, as each of us responds to his or her own specific vocation. We need to realize that making this crossing can only be done with him, by freeing ourselves of divisive notions of family and blood in order to build a Church which is God’s family, open to everyone, concerned for those most in need. This presupposes closeness to our brothers and sisters; it implies a spirit of communion. It is not primarily a question of financial means; it is enough just to share in the life of God’s people, in accounting for the hope which is in us (cf. 1 Pet 3:15), in testifying to the infinite mercy of God who, as the Responsorial Psalm of this Sunday’s liturgy makes clear, is “good [and] instructs sinners in the way” (Ps 24:8). Jesus teaches us that our heavenly Father “makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good” (Mt 5:45). Having experienced forgiveness ourselves, we must forgive others in turn. This is our fundamental vocation: “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48).
One of the essential characteristics of this vocation to perfection is the love of our enemies, which protects us from the temptation to seek revenge and from the spiral of endless retaliation. Jesus placed special emphasis on this aspect of the Christian testimony (cf. Mt 5:46-47). Those who evangelize must therefore be first and foremost practitioners of forgiveness, specialists in reconciliation, experts in mercy. This is how we can help our brothers and sisters to “cross to the other side” – by showing them the secret of our strength, our hope, and our joy, all of which have their source in God, for they are grounded in the certainty that he is in the boat with us. As he did with the apostles at the multiplication of the loaves, so too the Lord entrusts his gifts to us, so that we can go out and distribute them everywhere, proclaiming his reassuring words: “Behold, the days are coming when I will fulfil the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah” (Jer 33:14).
In the readings of this Sunday’s liturgy, we can see different aspects of this salvation proclaimed by God; they appear as signposts to guide us on our mission. First of all, the happiness promised by God is presented as justice. Advent is a time when we strive to open our hearts to receive the Saviour, who alone is just and the sole Judge able to give to each his or her due. Here as elsewhere, countless men and women thirst for respect, for justice, for equality, yet see no positive signs on the horizon. These are the ones to whom he comes to bring the gift of his justice (cf. Jer 33:15). He comes to enrich our personal and collective histories, our dashed hopes and our sterile yearnings. And he sends us to proclaim, especially to those oppressed by the powerful of this world or weighed down by the burden of their sins, that “Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it shall be called, ‘The Lord is our righteousness’” (Jer 33:16). Yes, God is righteousness; God is justice. This, then, is why we Christians are called in the world to work for a peace founded on justice.
The salvation of God which we await is also flavoured with love. In preparing for the mystery of Christmas, we relive the pilgrimage which prepared God’s people to receive the Son, who came to reveal that God is not only righteousness, but also and above all love (cf. 1 Jn 4:8). In every place, even and especially in those places where violence, hatred, injustice and persecution hold sway, Christians are called to give witness to this God who is love. In encouraging the priests, consecrated men and woman, and committed laity who, in this country live, at times heroically, the Christian virtues, I realize that the distance between this demanding ideal and our Christian witness is at times great. For this reason I echo the prayer of Saint Paul: “Brothers and sisters, may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all men and women” (1 Th 3:12). Thus what the pagans said of the early Christians will always remain before us like a beacon: “See how they love one another, how they truly love one another” (Tertullian, Apology, 39, 7).
Finally, the salvation proclaimed by God has an invincible power which will make it ultimately prevail. After announcing to his disciples the terrible signs that will precede his coming, Jesus concludes: “When these things begin to take place, look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Lk 21:28). If Saint Paul can speak of a love which “grows and overflows”, it is because Christian witness reflects that irresistible power spoken of in the Gospel. It is amid unprecedented devastation that Jesus wishes to show his great power, his incomparable glory (cf. Lk 21:27) and the power of that love which stops at nothing, even before the falling of the heavens, the conflagration of the world or the tumult of the seas. God is stronger than all else. This conviction gives to the believer serenity, courage and the strength to persevere in good amid the greatest hardships. Even when the powers of Hell are unleashed, Christians must rise to the summons, their heads held high, and be ready to brave blows in this battle over which God will have the last word. And that word will be love!
To all those who make unjust use of the weapons of this world, I make this appeal: lay down these instruments of death! Arm yourselves instead with righteousness, with love and mercy, the authentic guarantors of peace. As followers of Christ, dear priests, religious and lay pastoral workers, here in this country, with its suggestive name, situated in the heart of Africa and called to discover the Lord as the true centre of all that is good, your vocation is to incarnate the very heart of God in the midst of your fellow citizens. May the Lord deign to “strengthen your hearts in holiness, that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints” (1 Th 3:13). Amen.
Listen to this report by Philippa Hitchen:
"On the penultimate day of his pastoral visit to Africa, the Pope symbolically inaugurated the Year of Mercy in the Central African Republic, calling on all those gathered outside the cathedral in Bangui to pray together for peace in their country and in all nations suffering from war and conflict. As he pushed open the wooden doors, the congregation cheered and sang before the Pope began the celebration of Mass for the first Sunday of Advent.
In his homily Pope Francis spoke of the need for forgiveness, saying those who evangelise must be first and foremost “practitioners of forgiveness, specialists in reconciliation, experts in mercy”.
In this country where men and women thirst for respect, justice and equality, the Pope said, God calls Christians to work for peace founded on justice. In every place, but especially where there is violence, hatred, injustice and persecution, he said, Christians are called to give witness to the God of love.
God is stronger than all the turmoil of our world, the Pope insisted, and this gives the believer serenity, courage and strength to persevere even amidst the greatest hardships.
Finally Pope Francis concluded his homily with an urgent appeal to all those who make unjust use of the weapons in our world to “lay down these instruments of death”.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday met with representatives of the various evangelical communities in Africa, as he visited the Bangui Evangelical School of Theology. In his address to the gathering, the Pope stressed that "the lack of unity among Christians is a scandal, above all because it is contrary to God’s will. It is also a scandal, he said, "when we consider the hatred and violence which are tearing humanity apart."
Below, please find the full text of Pope Francis’ prepared remarks:
Address of His Holiness Pope Francis
Meeting with Evangelical Communities
Bangui, Faculty of Evangelical Theology
29 November 2015
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I am happy to be able to meet you in this Faculty of Evangelical Theology. I thank the Dean of the Faculty and the President of the Evangelical Alliance of Central Africa for their kind words of welcome. With fraternal affection I greet each of you and, through you, all the members of your communities. All of us are here in the service of the risen Lord who assembles us today; and, by virtue of the common baptism we have received, we are sent to proclaim the joy of the Gospel to men and women of this beloved country of Central Africa.
For all too long, your people have experienced troubles and violence, resulting in great suffering. This makes the proclamation of the Gospel all the more necessary and urgent. For it is Christ’s own flesh which suffers in his dearest sons and daughters: the poorest of his people, the infirm, the elderly, the abandoned, children without parents or left to themselves without guidance and education. There are also those who have been scarred in soul or body by hatred and violence, those whom war has deprived of everything: work, home and loved ones.
God makes no distinctions between those who suffer. I have often called this the ecumenism of blood. All our communities suffer indiscriminately as a result of injustice and the blind hatred unleashed by the devil. Here I wish to express my closeness and solidarity to Pastor Nicholas, whose home was recently ransacked and set on fire, as was the meeting-place of his community. In these difficult circumstances, the Lord keeps asking us to demonstrate to everyone his tenderness, compassion, and mercy. This shared suffering and shared mission are a providential opportunity for us to advance together on the path of unity; they are also an indispensable spiritual aid. How could the Father refuse the grace of unity, albeit still imperfect, to his children who suffer together and, in different situations, join in serving their brothers and sisters?
Dear friends, the lack of unity among Christians is a scandal, above all because it is contrary to God’s will. It is also a scandal when we consider the hatred and violence which are tearing humanity apart, and the many forms of opposition which the Gospel of Christ encounters. I appreciate the spirit of mutual respect and cooperation existing between the Christians of your country, and I encourage you to continue on this path of common service in charity. It is a witness to Christ which builds up unity.
With increasing intensity and courage, may you add to perseverance and charity, a commitment to prayer and common reflection, as you seek to achieve greater mutual understanding, trust and friendship in view of that full communion for which we firmly hope.
I assure you of my prayerful support along the path of fraternal charity, reconciliation and mercy, a path which is long, yet full of joy and hope.
May God bless you! May he bless your communities!
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday visited a refugee camp in Bangui housing people displaced by the sectarian violence in the Central African Republic (CAR) and told them “we are all brothers, regardless of our ethnic or religious group.” In brief off-the-cuff remarks to those living in the camp, the Pope said “We must work, pray and do everything possible for peace.” But he then went on to warn that “peace is not possible without love, without friendship, without tolerance and without forgiveness.”
Speaking whilst surrounded by many children, the Pope told them he had read what the children had written: “peace, forgiveness, unity and love.” “My wish,” he continued, “is that you can live in peace, regardless of your ethnic group, your culture, your religion and your social background… everybody living in peace because we are all brothers.” He then urged those present to repeat the words “we are all brothers,” saying it was for this reason that “we want peace.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis is in the Central African Republic (CAR) where he arrived on the morning of the 29th of November.His first appointment in the nations' capital Bangui was with the nation's Authorities and the Diplomatic Corps. Among those listening to the Pope's address was the interim President of the nation Mrs Catherine Samba- Panza. In his speech Pope Francis said he came "as a pilgrim of peace and an apostle of hope" and encouraged all parties to help the CAR to advance, especially in the areas of reconciliation, disarnament, peacekeeping, health care and the cultivation of a sound administration at all levels. Please find an English translation of his address below: Address of His Holiness Pope Francis Meeting with Authorities and the Diplomatic Corps Bangui, Presidential Palace 29 November 2015 Madam Interim Head of State, Distinguished Authorities, Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Representatives of International Organizations, My Brother Bishops, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am happy to be here with you. I would first like to express my appreciation for your warm hospitality and to thank Madam Interim Head of State for her kind words of welcome. In this place, which is in some sense the home of all Central Africans, I am pleased to express, through you and the other authorities of the country present, my affection and spiritual closeness to all your fellow citizens. I would like also to greet the members of the Diplomatic Corps and the representatives of the International Organizations, whose work recalls the ideal of solidarity and cooperation which needs to be cultivated between peoples and nations. As the Central African Republic progressively moves, in spite of difficulties, towards the normalization of its social and political life, I come to this land for the first time, following my predecessor Saint John Paul II. I come as a pilgrim of peace and an apostle of hope. For this reason, I express my appreciation of the efforts made by the different national and international authorities, beginning with Madam Interim Head of State, to guide the country to this point. It is my fervent wish that the various national consultations to be held in coming weeks will enable the country to embark serenely on new chapter of its history. To brighten the horizon, there is the motto of the Central African Republic, which translates the hope of pioneers and the dream of the founding fathers: Unity-Dignity-Labour. Today, more than ever, this trilogy expresses the aspirations of each Central African. Consequently, it is a sure compass for the authorities called to guide the destiny of the country. Unity, dignity, labour! Three very significant words, each of which represents as much a building project as a unending programme, something to be ceaselessly crafted. First unity. This, we know, is a cardinal value for the harmony of peoples. It is to be lived and built up on the basis of the marvellous diversity of our environment, avoiding the temptation of fear of others, of the unfamiliar, of what is not part of our ethnic group, our political views or our religious confession. Unity, on the contrary, calls for creating and promoting a synthesis of the richness which each person has to offer. Unity in diversity is a constant challenge, one which demands creativity, generosity, self-sacrifice and respect for others. Then, dignity. This moral value is rightly synonymous with the honesty, loyalty, graciousness and honour which characterize men and women conscious of their rights and duties, and which lead them to mutual respect. Each person has dignity. I was interested to learn that Central Africa is the country of the “Zo kwe zo”, the country where everbody is somebody. Everything must be done to protect the status and dignity of the human person. Those who have the means to enjoy a decent life, rather than being concerned with privileges, must seek to help those poorer than themselves to attain dignified living conditions, particularly through the development of their human, cultural, economic and social potential. Consequently, access to education and to health care, the fight against malnutrition and efforts to ensure decent housing for everyone must be at the forefront of a development concerned for human dignity. In effect, our human dignity is expressed by our working for the dignity of our fellow man. Finally, labour. It is by working that you are able to improve the lives of your families. Saint Paul tells us that “children ought not to lay up for their parents, but parents for their children” (2 Cor 12:14). The work of parents expresses their love for their children. And you again, Central Africans, can improve this marvellous land by wisely exploiting its many resources. Your country is located in a region considered to be one of the two lungs of mankind on account of its exceptionally rich biodiversity. In this regard, echoing my Encyclical Laudato Si’, I would like particularly to draw the attention of everyone, citizens and national leaders, international partners and multinational societies, to their grave responsibility in making use of environmental resources, in development decisions and projects which in any way affect the entire planet. The work of building a prosperous society must be a cooperative effort. The wisdom of your people has long understood this truth, as seen in the proverb: “The ants are little, but since they are so many, they can bring their hoard home”. It is no doubt superfluous to underline the capital importance of upright conduct and administration on the part of public authorities. They must be the first to embody consistently the values of unity, dignity and labour, serving as models for their compatriots. The history of the evangelization of this land and the sociopolitical history of this country attest to the commitment of the Church in promoting the values of unity, dignity and labour. In recalling the pioneers of evangelization in the Central African Republic, I greet my brother bishops, who now carry on this work. With them, I express once more the readiness of the local Church to contribute even more to the promotion of the common good, particularly by working for peace and reconciliation. I do not doubt that the Central African authorities, present and future, will work tirelessly to ensure that the Church enjoys favourable conditions for the fulfilment of her spiritual mission. In this way she will be able to contribute increasingly to “promoting the good of every man and of the whole man” (Populorum Progressio, 14), to use the felicitous expression of my predecessor, Blessed Paul VI, who fifty years ago was the first Pope of modern times to come to Africa, to encourage and confirm the continent in goodness at the dawn of a new age. For my part, I express my appreciation for the efforts made by the international community, represented here by the Diplomatic Corps and the members of the various Missions of the International Organizations. I heartily encourage them to continue along the path of solidarity, in the hope that their commitment, together with the activity of the Central African authorities, will help the country to advance, especially in the areas of reconciliation, disarmament, peacekeeping, health care and the cultivation of a sound administration at all levels. To conclude, I would like to express once more my joy to visit this marvellous country, located in the heart of Africa, home to a people profoundly religious and blessed with so such natural and cultural richness. Here I see a country filled with God’s gifts! May the Central African people, its leaders and its partners, always appreciate the value of these gifts by working ceaselessly for unity, human dignity and a peace based on justice. May God bless you all! Thank you. (from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis arrived in the Central African Republic on the morning of Sunday 29th of November on the last leg of his Apostolic journey to Africa, his 11th abroad. A journey which marks his first to this continent and which has taken him to Kenya and Uganda.
In the Central African Republic’s capital Bangui, Pope Francis will accomplish an historic gesture by opening the Holy Door of the cathedral in this city nine days before the inauguration of the Jubilee of Mercy on the 8th of December in the Vatican.
A symbolic gesture given the nation’s gruesome reality of ethnic and religious violence over the past two years which has pitted the majority Muslim Séléka forces against the majority Christian anti- Balaka forces. A situation which led to tens of thousands of people fleeing into neighbouring countries. And as brutal atrocities were reported on both sides the United Nations warned that there was high risk of the country descending into genocide.
For a long time the organizers of this visit of Pope Francis were uncertain whether they would have to cancel the visit to this nation for fear of lack of security. For the record the nation gained independence from France in 1960 and is one of the poorest in the world.
Among the other highlights of the visit of Pope Francis on Sunday in Bangui are a meeting with the local authorities and the diplomatic corps, a visit to the St Sauveur refugee camp, and a private encounter with the Bishops of the nation.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis concluded his visit to Uganda on Sunday morning with a brief farewell ceremony at the international airport at Entebbe, before flying to the Central African Republic for the final leg of his first Apostolic Voyage to Africa.
His brief flight from Kampala, Uganda to Bangui, the capital of the CAR, took him through the airspace of three countries. As is customary, the Holy Father addressed telegrams to the leaders of the three countries:
Entebbe – Bangui
HIS EXCELLENCY YOWERI MUSEVENI
PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF UGANDA
I RENEW MY GRATITUDE TO YOUR EXCELLENCY AND ALL THE UGANDAN PEOPLE FOR YOUR WARM HOSPITALITY DURING MY STAY. AS I DEPART FOR MY PASTORAL VISIT TO THE CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC, I ASSURE YOU OF MY SPIRITUAL CLOSENESS AND I INVOKE UPON UGANDA THE DIVINE BLESSINGS OF PEACE, JOY AND PROSPERITY.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
HIS EXCELLENCY JOSEPH KABILA
PRESIDENT OF THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO
AS I ENTER THE AIRSPACE OF THE NATION ON MY APOSTOLIC JOURNEY TO THE CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC, I SEND CORDIAL GREETINGS TO YOUR EXCELLENCY AND TO YOUR FELLOW CITIZENS. I INVOKE THE BLESSING OF ALMIGHTY GOD UPON THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO, AND I PRAY THAT HE MAY GRANT YOU ALL THE GIFTS OF PEACE AND WELL-BEING.
Central African Republic
HER EXCELLENCY CATHERINE SAMBA-PANZA
INTERIM PRESIDENT OF THE CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
AS I ENTER THE AIRSPACE OF THE NATION, I EXTEND CORDIAL GREETINGS TO YOUR EXCELLENCY AND THE PEOPLE OF THE CENTRAL AFRICIAN REPUBLIC. WITH JOY I LOOK FORWARD TO MY VISIT TO THE COUNTRY, AND I INVOKE ABUNDANT DIVINE BLESSINGS UPON YOU ALL.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) The final event on Pope Francis’ agenda on Saturday was a meeting with priest, religious, and seminarians in Kampala cathedral. Putting aside his prepared text, Pope Francis spoke off the cuff in his native Spanish, highlighting three essential points for the clergy - memory, fidelity, prayer - and seeking to strengthen the Christian faith in their country.
Listen to Devin Watkins' report:
Firstly, he told them to keep alive the testimony of the Ugandan martyrs, not allowing themselves to become too comfortable with superficial memories of the past, but continuing to be authentic witnesses to the faith today.
Secondly, the Pope urged the priests and religious to remain faithful, following the way of holiness of the martyrs and being good missionaries. Noting that there are dioceses in the country that have many clergy and others that have very few, the Pope said fidelity means having a diocesan bishop who is generous in offering priests to a neighbouring diocese that is in need.
Thirdly, Pope Francis stressed that fidelity is only possible through prayer. If a priest or religious stops praying because he or she has too much work, he said, then they begin to lose their memory and their fidelity. Prayer means constantly confessing our sins, the Pope concluded, not leading a double life but asking for forgiveness and for the strength to keep the missionary spirit alive.
Below, please find Pope Francis’ prepared remarks for the encounter:
Meeting with Priests, Religious and Seminarians
Kampala, St Mary’s Cathedral
Saturday, 28 November 2015
Dear Brother Priests, Religious and Seminarians,
I am happy to be with you, and I thank you for your cordial welcome. I especially thank the speakers for bearing witness to your hopes and concerns, and, above all, the joy which inspires you in your service to God’s people in Uganda.
I am pleased, too, that our meeting takes place on the eve of the First Sunday of Advent, a season which invites us to look to new beginnings. This Advent we are also preparing to cross the threshold of the extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy which I have called for the whole Church.
As we approach the Jubilee of Mercy, I would ask you two questions. First: who are you, as priests or future priests, and as consecrated persons? In one sense, the answer is an easy one: surely you are men and women whose lives have been shaped by a “personal encounter with Jesus Christ” (Evangelii Gaudium, 3). Jesus has touched your hearts, called you by name, and asked you to follow him with an undivided heart in the service of his holy people.
The Church in Uganda has been blessed, in its short yet venerable history, with a great cloud of witnesses – lay faithful, catechists, priests and religious – who forsook everything for the love of Jesus: homes, families, and, in the case of the martyrs, their own lives. In your own lives, whether in the priestly ministry or in your religious consecration, you are called to carry on this great legacy, above all with quiet acts of humble service. Jesus wants to use you to touch the hearts of yet other people: he wants to use your mouths to proclaim his saving word, your arms to embrace the poor whom he loves, your hands to build up communities of authentic missionary disciples. May we never forget that our “yes” to Jesus is a “yes” to his people. Our doors, the doors of our churches, but above all the doors of our hearts, must constantly be open to God’s people, our people. For that is who we are.
A second question I would ask you tonight is: What more are you called to do in living your specific vocation? Because there is always more that we can do, another mile to be walked on our journey.
God’s people, indeed all people, yearn for new life, forgiveness and peace. Sadly, there are many troubling situations in our world for which we must pray, beginning with realities closest to us. I pray especially for the beloved people of Burundi, that the Lord may awaken in their leaders and in society as a whole a commitment to dialogue and cooperation, reconciliation and peace. If we are to accompany those who suffer, then like the light passing through the stained glass windows of this Cathedral, we must let God’s power and healing pass through us. We must first let the waves of his mercy flow over us, purify us, and refresh us, so that we can bring that mercy to others, especially those on the peripheries.
All of us know well how difficult this can be. There is so much work to be done. At the same time, modern life also offers so many distractions which can dull our consciences, dissipate our zeal, and even lure us into that “spiritual worldliness” which eats away at the foundations of the Christian life. The work of conversion – that conversion which is the heart of the Gospel of Jesus (cf. Mk 1:15) – must be carried out each day, in the battle to recognize and overcome those habits and ways of thinking which can fuel spiritual complacency. We need to examine our consciences, as individuals and as communities.
As I mentioned, we are entering the season of Advent, which is a time of new beginnings. In the Church we like to say that Africa is the continent of hope, and with good reason. The Church in these lands is blessed with an abundant harvest of religious vocations. This evening I would offer a special word of encouragement to the young seminarians and religious present. The Lord’s call is a source of joy and a summons to serve. Jesus tells us that “it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks” (Lk 6:45). May the fire of the Holy Spirit purify your hearts, so that you can be joyful and convincing witnesses to the hope of the Gospel. You have a beautiful word to speak! May you always speak it, above all, by the integrity and conviction of your lives.
Dear brothers and sisters, my visit to Uganda is brief, and today was a very long day! But I consider our meeting tonight to be the crowning of this beautiful day when I was able to go as a pilgrim to the Shrine of the Uganda Martyrs at Namugongo, and to meet with the many young people who are the future of the nation and our Church. Truly I leave Africa with great hope in the harvest of grace which God is preparing in your midst! I ask all of you to pray for an outpouring of apostolic zeal, for joyful perseverance in the calling you have received, and, above all, for the gift of a pure heart ever open to the needs of all our brothers and sisters. In this way the Church in Uganda will truly prove worthy of its glorious heritage and face the challenges of the future with sure hope in Christ’s promises. I will remember all of you in my prayers, and I ask you, please, to pray for me!
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday encouraged young people in Uganda to turn negative experiences into positive ones with the help of Jesus and his grace. In an address where the Pope put aside his prepared remarks and spoke off-the-cuff in Spanish, he urged the young people to open the door of their hearts to Jesus. More than 150,000 cheering and dancing young people had gathered at an airstrip near Kampala to hear the Pope and gave him a rousing welcome when he arrived in his Popemobile. Before speaking to the crowd, the Pope listened to testimony from two young people, Emmanuel and Winnie, both of whom had faced many negative events in their lives.
Listen to this report by Susy Hodges:
Please find below a summary in English of the main points of Pope Francis’ off-the-cuff remarks:
The Pope said he listened with “great pain” to the testimony of Emmanuel and Winnie, noting that “both had very negative experiences.” But he stressed that "a negative experience can be transformed from a wall into a path that opens to the future" with the help and strength of Jesus. The Pope noted that Jesus experienced the most negative thing that has been experienced in history, he was insulted, rejected and murdered but then through the power of God he rose from the dead. He then asked the young people whether they were ready to transform all the negative things into positive ones. "Are you ready to transform hatred into love and war into peace?"
Please find below an English translation of Pope Francis' prepared written remarks to the young people:
Address of His Holiness Pope Francis
Meeting with Young People
Kampala, Kololo Air Strip
Saturday 28 November 2015
Holy Father: Omukama Mulungi! (God is good!)
Young people: Obudde bwonna! (For ever and ever!)
Dear Young Friends,
I am happy to be here and to share these moments with you. I greet my brother bishops and the civil authorities present, and I thank Bishop Paul Ssemogerere for his words of welcome. The testimonies of Winnie and Emmanuel confirm my impression that the Church in Uganda is alive with young people who want a better future. Today, if you will allow me, I want to confirm you in your faith, encourage you in your love, and in a special way, strengthen you in your hope.
Christian hope is not simply optimism; it is much more. It is rooted in the new life we have received in Jesus Christ. Saint Paul tells us that hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love was poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit at our baptism (cf. Rom 5:5). This hope enables us to trust in Christ’s promises, to trust in the power of his love, his forgiveness, his friendship. That love opens the door to new life. Whenever you experience a problem, a setback, a failure, you must anchor your heart in that love, for it has the power to turn death into life and to banish every evil.
So this afternoon I would invite you, first of all, to pray for this gift to grow within you, and for the grace to become messengers of hope. There are so many people around us who experience deep anxiety and even despair. Jesus lifts these clouds, if we allow him to.
I would also like to share with you a few thoughts about some of the obstacles which you may encounter on our journey of hope. All of you want a better future, employment, health and prosperity. This is good. You want to share your gifts, your aspirations and your enthusiasm with others, for the good of the nation and of the Church. This too is very good. But when you see poverty, when you experience lack of opportunity, when you experience failure in your lives, sometimes a feeling of despair can grow. You can be tempted to lose hope.
Have you ever seen a little child who stops in front of a dirty puddle on the path ahead of him? A puddle he cannot leap over or go around? He may try but then he stumbles and gets soaked. Then, after many attempts, he calls out to his father, who takes his hand and swings him over to the other side. We are like that child. Life presents us with many dirty puddles. But we don’t have to overcome all those problems and hurdles on our own. God is there to take our hand, if only we call on him.
What I am saying is that all of us have to be like that little child, even the Pope! For it is only when we are small and humble that we are not afraid to call out to our Father. If you have experienced his help, you know what I am speaking about. We need to learn to put our hope in him, knowing that he is always there for us. He gives us confidence and courage. But – and this is important – it would be wrong not to share this beautiful experience with others. It would be wrong for us not to become messengers of hope for others.
There is one particular puddle which can be frightening to young people who want to grow in their friendship with Christ. It is the fear of failing in our commitment to love, and above all, failing in that great and lofty ideal which is Christian marriage. You may be afraid of failing to be a good wife and mother, failing to be a good husband and father. If you are looking at that puddle, you may even see your weaknesses and fears reflected back to you. Please, don’t give in to them! Sometimes these fears come from the devil who does not want you to be happy. No! Call out to God, extend your hearts to him and he will lift you in his arms and show you how to love. I ask young couples in particular to trust that God wants to bless their love and their lives with his grace in the sacrament of marriage. God’s gift of love is at the heart of Christian marriage, not the costly parties which often obscure the deep spiritual meaning of this day of joyful celebration with family and friends.
Finally, one puddle that we all have to face is the fear of being different, of going against the grain in a society which puts increasing pressure on us to embrace models of gratification and consumption alien to the deepest values of African culture. Think about it! What would the Uganda martyrs say about the misuse of our modern means of communication, where young people are exposed to images and distorted views of sexuality that degrade human dignity, leading to sadness and emptiness? What would be the Uganda martyrs’ reaction to the growth of greed and corruption in our midst? Surely they would appeal to you to be model Christians, confident that your love of Christ, your fidelity to the Gospel, and your wise use of your God-given gifts can only enrich, purify and elevate the life of this country. They continue to show you the way. Do not be afraid to let the light of your faith shine in your families, your schools and your places of work. Do not be afraid to enter into dialogue humbly with others who may see things differently.
Dear young friends, when I look at your faces I am filled with hope: hope for you, hope for your country, and hope for the Church. I ask you to pray that the hope which you have received from the Holy Spirit will continue to inspire your efforts to grow in wisdom, generosity and goodness. Don’t forget to be messengers of that hope! And don’t forget that God will help you to cross whatever puddles you meet along the way!
Hope in Christ and he will enable you to find true happiness. And if you find it hard to pray, if you find it hard to hope, do not be afraid to turn to Mary, for she is our Mother, the Mother of Hope. Finally, please, do not forget to pray for me! God bless you all!
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) During his stay in the Ugandan capital on Saturday Pope Francis visited a home for the sick, the disabled and down-and-outs run by the Good Samaritan sisters. Before greeting residents and staff at the centre, the Pope visited the tomb of the first Ugandan Cardinal Emmanuel Nsubuga who founded the home in 1978 and was buried in the grounds there.
Listen to Philippa Hitchen's report:
Pope Francis began his visit to the House of Charity in Nalukolongo by stopping for a few moments of prayer in the chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Africa. He was then accompanied by the Good Samaritan sisters to the tomb of the former Cardinal Emmanuel Nsubuga, who set up the centre and was renowned for his outspoken condemnation of human rights violations during the reign of former dictator Idi Amin. He was also instrumental in organising the first visit of a Roman pontiff to Uganda, helping to coordinate Pope Paul VI’s three day journey to the newly independent nation in the summer of 1969.
Today the House of Charity cares for about a hundred people of all ages and different religious backgrounds, from Uganda as well as from the neighbouring countries of Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi . The youngest patient being cared for by the sisters is an eleven year old child, while the oldest is a man aged 102.
In his brief address, Pope Francis thanked the Good Samaritan sisters for their quiet and joyful service. He appealed to all parishes and communities in Africa not to forget the poor but “to go out to the peripheries of society” to find Christ amid the suffering and those in need. “How sad it is”, he said, “when our societies allow the elderly to be rejected or neglected” or when the young are exploited by the modern-day slavery of human trafficking.
If we look closely at the world around us, the Pope said, it seems that, in many places, selfishness and indifference are spreading. How many of our brothers and sisters, he added, are victims of today’s throwaway culture, which breeds contempt above all towards the unborn, the young and the elderly!
As Christians, the Pope said, we cannot simply stand by, closing our doors and our ears to the cry of the poor. Instead, he said, our families need to become ever more evident signs of God’s love, witnessing to the fact that people count more than things, that who we are is more important than what we possess.
Please find below the full text of Pope Francis’ address to residents of the House of Charity in Nalukolongo, Kampala on Saturday 28th November 2015
Thank you for your warm welcome. I wanted very much to visit this House of Charity, which Cardinal Nsubuga founded here in Nalukolongo. This is a place which has always been associated with the Church’s outreach to the poor, the handicapped, the sick. Here, in early times, slave children were ransomed and women received religious instruction. I greet the Good Samaritan Sisters who carry on this fine tradition, and I thank them for their years of quiet and joyful service in this apostolate.
I also greet the representatives of the many other apostolic groups who serve the needs of our brothers and sisters in Uganda. Above all, I greet the residents of this home and others like it, and all who benefit from these works of Christian charity. For this is a home. Here you can find love and care; here you can feel the presence of Jesus, our brother, who loves each of us with God’s own love.
Today, from this Home, I appeal to all parishes and communities in Uganda – and the rest of Africa – not to forget the poor. The Gospel commands us to go out to the peripheries of society, and to find Christ in the suffering and those in need. The Lord tells us, in no uncertain terms, that is what he will judge us on! How sad it is when our societies allow the elderly to be rejected or neglected! How wrong it is when the young are exploited by the modern-day slavery of human trafficking! If we look closely at the world around us, it seems that, in many places, selfishness and indifference are spreading. How many of our brothers and sisters are victims of today’s throwaway culture, which breeds contempt above all towards the unborn, the young and the elderly!
As Christians, we cannot simply stand by. Something must change! Our families need to become ever more evident signs of God’s patient and merciful love, not only for our children and elders, but for all those in need. Our parishes must not close their doors, or their ears, to the cry of the poor. This is the royal road of Christian discipleship. In this way we bear witness to the Lord who came not to be served, but to serve. In this way we show that people count more than things, that who we are is more important than what we possess. For in those whom we serve, Christ daily reveals himself and prepares the welcome which we hope one day to receive in his eternal kingdom.
Dear friends, by simple gestures, by simple prayerful actions which honour Christ in the least of his brothers and sisters, we can bring the power of his love into our world, and truly change it. I thank you once more for your generosity and love. I will remember you in my prayers and I ask you, please, to pray for me. I commend all of you to the loving protection of Mary, our Mother, and I give you my blessing.
Omukama Abakuume! (God protect you!)
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday morning celebrated the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at the National Sanctuary of the Ugandan Martyrs at Namugongo. The Shrine commemorates the martyrdom of 22 young Catholic converts during an anti-Christian persecution that took place under Mwanga II, the king of Buganda.
Below, please find the full text of Pope Francis’ prepared homily for the Holy Mass at the Sanctuary of the Ugandan Martyrs at Namugongo:
Homily of His Holiness Pope Francis
Mass at the Uganda Martyrs’ Shrine, Namugongo
Saturday, 28 November 2015
“You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
From the age of the Apostles to our own day, a great cloud of witnesses has been raised up to proclaim Jesus and show forth the power of the Holy Spirit. Today, we recall with gratitude the sacrifice of the Uganda martyrs, whose witness of love for Christ and his Church has truly gone “to the end of the earth”. We remember also the Anglican martyrs whose deaths for Christ testify to the ecumenism of blood. All these witnesses nurtured the gift of the Holy Spirit in their lives and freely gave testimony of their faith in Jesus Christ, even at the cost of their lives, many at such a young age.
We too have received the gift of the Spirit, to make us sons and daughters of God, but also so that we may bear witness to Jesus and make him everywhere known and loved. We received the Spirit when we were reborn in Baptism, and we were strengthened by his gifts at our Confirmation. Every day we are called to deepen the Holy Spirit’s presence in our life, to “fan into flame” the gift of his divine love so that we may be a source of wisdom and strength to others.
The gift of the Holy Spirit is a gift which is meant to be shared. It unites us to one another as believers and living members of Christ’s mystical Body. We do not receive the gift of the Spirit for ourselves alone, but to build up one another in faith, hope and love. I think of Saints Joseph Mkasa and Charles Lwanga, who after being catechized by others, wanted to pass on the gift they had received. They did this in dangerous times. Not only were their lives threatened but so too were the lives of the younger boys under their care. Because they had tended to their faith and deepened their love of God, they were fearless in bringing Christ to others, even at the cost of their lives. Their faith became witness; today, venerated as martyrs, their example continues to inspire people throughout the world. They continue to proclaim Jesus Christ and the power of his Cross.
If, like the martyrs, we daily fan into flame the gift of the Spirit who dwells in our hearts, then we will surely become the missionary disciples which Christ calls us to be. To our families and friends certainly, but also to those whom we do not know, especially those who might be unfriendly, even hostile, to us. This openness to others begins first in the family, in our homes where charity and forgiveness are learned, and the mercy and love of God made known in our parents’ love. It finds expression too in our care for the elderly and the poor, the widowed and the orphaned.
Just as the mother and seven sons from the Second Book of Maccabees encouraged one another in their moment of great trial (7:1-2. 9-14), so too, as members of God’s family, we are to assist one another, to protect one another, and to lead one another to the fullness of life. Here I think with gratitude of all those – bishops, priests, consecrated men and women, and catechists – who in so many ways help to support Christian families. May the Church in this country continue, especially through its parish communities, to assist young couples to prepare for marriage, to encourage couples to live the marital bond in love and fidelity, and to assist parents in their duty as the first teachers of the faith for their children.
Like the Apostles and the Uganda martyrs before us, we have received the gift of the Holy Spirit to become missionary disciples called to go forth and bring the Gospel to all. At times this may take us to the end of the earth, as missionaries to faraway lands. This is essential to the spread of God’s Kingdom, and I ask always for your generous response to this need. But we do not need to travel to be missionary disciples. In fact, we need only to open our eyes and see the needs in our homes and our local communities to realize how many opportunities await us.
Here too the Uganda martyrs show us the way. Their faith sought the good of all people, including the very King who condemned them for their Christian beliefs. Their response was to meet hatred with love, and thus to radiate the splendour of the Gospel. They did not simply tell the King what the Gospel does not allow, but showed through their lives what saying “yes” to Jesus really means. It means mercy and purity of heart, being meek and poor in spirit, and thirsting for righteousness in the hope of an eternal reward.
The witness of the martyrs shows to all who have heard their story, then and now, that the worldly pleasures and earthly power do not bring lasting joy or peace. Rather, fidelity to God, honesty and integrity of life, and genuine concern for the good of others bring us that peace which the world cannot give. This does not diminish our concern for this world, as if we only look to the life to come. Instead, it gives purpose to our lives in this world, and helps us to reach out to those in need, to cooperate with others for the common good, and to build a more just society which promotes human dignity, defends God’s gift of life and protects the wonders of nature, his creation and our common home.
Dear brothers and sisters, this is the legacy which you have received from the Uganda martyrs – lives marked by the power of the Holy Spirit, lives which witness even now to the transforming power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This legacy is not served by an occasional remembrance, or by being enshrined in a museum as a precious jewel. Rather, we honour them, and all the saints, when we carry on their witness to Christ, in our homes and neighbourhoods, in our workplaces and civil society, whether we never leave our homes or we go to the farthest corner of the world.
May the Uganda martyrs, together with Mary, Mother of the Church, intercede for us, and may the Holy Spirit kindle within us the fire of his divine love!
Omukama Abawe Omukisa! (God bless you!)
(from Vatican Radio)...