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English summary of Pope Francis' catechesis, Thursday's Special Jubilee Audience

5 hours 38 min ago
(Vatican Radio) On Thursday, Pope Francis held a Special Jubilee Audience , using the text of Matthew 25:35-36 as a launching point. He said that mercy is not an abstraction or a lifestyle but concrete and practical. The English language summary of the Holy Father's catechesis follows: GENERAL AUDIENCE (Thursday, 30 June 2016) CATECHESIS Works of Mercy ( Mt 25,31-46) Dear Brothers and Sisters: During this Holy Year of Mercy, we have not only considered the gift of God’s mercy in itself, but also the works of mercy which we are called to practice as part of the Christian life. To paraphrase Saint James, we can say that mercy without works is dead. To be merciful like God our Father demands constant sensitivity to the needs, material and spiritual, of those around us. Jesus himself tells us in no uncertain terms that we will be judged by the mercy we show to the poor: those who hunger and thirst, the naked, the stranger, the sick and those in prison (cf. Mt 25:35-36).  Particularly in our prosperous societies, Christians are called to guard against the temptation of indifference to the plea of so many of our brothers and sisters.  In our rapidly changing and increasingly globalized world, many new forms of poverty are appearing. In response to them, may we prove creative in developing new and practical forms of charitable outreach as an expression of the way of mercy. This past weekend I made a Pastoral Visit to Armenia, the first nation to embrace the Christian faith and a people which has remained faithful even in the midst of great trials. I also plan to go to Georgia and Azerbaijan in the near future, to affirm the ancient Christian roots of those countries and to support every effort to encourage peace and reconciliation in a spirit of respect for all.  With gratitude for the welcome and fellowship showed me by the Armenian Apostolic Church, I ask the Virgin Mary to strengthen Christians everywhere to remain firm in the faith and to work for a society of ever greater justice and peace. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope at Audience: it’s one thing to talk mercy, another to live it

5 hours 42 min ago
(Vatican Radio) T oday the Lord invites us to make a serious examination of conscience, Pope Francis said Thursday at a special Jubilee audience at St Peter’s Square in Rome. It’s one thing to talk mercy but quite another to live it, he said. Mercy is not an abstraction or a lifestyle and, paraphrasing the words of St James the Apostle, mercy without works is dead in itself. Listen to Alexander MacDonald's report: Pope Francis used the text of Matthew 25:31 as a launching point for discussing acts of mercy toward others. What makes mercy come alive is its dynamism to meet the spiritual and material needs of others, he said. Mercy has eyes to see, ears to listen, hands to help lift. Sometimes we pass by dramatic situations of poverty and it seems that they don’t touch us, the Pope said. We continue as if nothing happened, in an indifference which ultimately makes us hypocrites and without realizing it, leads to a form of spiritual lethargy that numbs the soul and leaves life barren. Those who have experienced mercy in their own lives, the Pope continued, cannot remain indifferent to the needs of our brothers. The teaching of the Lord Jesus does not allow for escape routes. “I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was naked, displaced, sick, in prison and you visited me.” Pope Francis concluded his catechesis by reflecting on his recent apostolic journey to Armenia, the first nation,  he noted, to have embraced Christianity.  He thanked the President of Armenia and the Catholicos Karekin II, the Partriarch, the Catholic bishops and the people of Armenia for welcoming him as a pilgrim in fraternity and peace. Finally, Pope Francis said, as Christians we are called to strengthen our fraternal communion and bear witness to the Gospel of Christ. (from Vatican Radio)...

'Prayer opens the door to closed hearts', Pope says at Mass

Wed, 06/29/2016 - 07:35
(Vatican Radio) On Wednesday, Pope Francis celebrated Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica for the solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, during which he said prayer is the “way out” when we become closed in on ourselves. Listen to Ann Scheible's report: Pope Francis centred his June 29 homily on the day’s Gospel reading, and reflected on the themes of being opened and closed, as demonstrated by the lives of Saints Peter and Paul. Drawing from examples from the life of Peter, such as when he was imprisoned, the Holy Father said “prayer appears as the main way out. It is a way out for the community, which risks closing in on itself out of persecution and fear.” “Prayer, as humble entrustment to God and his holy will, is always the way out of our becoming 'closed', as individuals and as a community.” Likewise, this theme of going out in service of the Gospel is seen in the writings of St Paul. “Paul’s life was utterly projected forward, in bringing Christ to those who did not know him, and then in rushing, as it were, into Christ’s arms, to be “saved for his heavenly kingdom,” the Pope said. Turning back to Peter, Pope Francis reflected on how he was set free by Christ’s “compassionate gaze” which “pierces the heart and brings tears of repentance.” The Pope referenced the scene in the Gospels in which Peter encounters Jesus after having denied him three times.   “At that moment, Simon Peter was set free from the prison of his selfish pride and fear, and overcame the temptation of closing his heart to Jesus’s call to follow him along the way of the cross.” Pope Francis also spoke of the “constant temptation for the Church” of “closing in on herself in the face of danger.”  “Prayer enable grace to open a way out from closure to openness, from fear to courage, from sadness to joy.  And we can add: from division to unity.” During the Mass, the Pope conferred the Pallium to twenty-five prelates from eleven countries who were named metropolitan archbishops over the past year. Included among them were US Archbishop Bernard Anthony Hebda of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, MN, Archbishop Adam Szal of Przemyśl, Poland, and Archbishop Basilio Athaei of Taunggyi, Myanmar. The pallium is a woolen vestment conferred on a new archbishop by the Pope, traditionally on the solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis: Saints Peter, Paul are 2 pillars of faith linking East to West

Wed, 06/29/2016 - 07:04
(Vatican Radio)  The Church of Rome was founded on the faith of Saints Peter and Paul , the two Apostles from the Holy Land whose feast day is celebrated 29 June:  that’s what Pope Francis recalled during his midday Angelus address on this Rome holiday.  The entire universal Church, he said, considers the two patron saints of Rome “two pillars and two great lights which shine not only in the Rome sky, but in the hearts of believers of the Orient and the West.” In his catechesis, Pope Francis pointed out that the two apostles were very different: Peter, a humble fisherman and Paul, sophisticated and highly educated.  The courageous decision of the two Near Eastern saints to embark on a difficult and dangerous journey to Rome gave this territory the Christian spiritual and cultural patrimony that has formed its very foundation, the Pope affirmed. Both came to Rome to give witness to the Gospel among people and they sealed their mission of faith and charity with martyrdom, he added. Today, Peter and Paul return among us in a symbolic way, the Pope said, traveling the streets of this city, knocking “at the doors of our homes, and above all, of our hearts.”  They still desire to bring Jesus to us: “his merciful love, his consolation, his peace; Let us welcome their message!” Referring to the celebration of Holy Mass which he had just concluded in St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis said he blessed the Pallia for the new Metropolitan Archbishops who had been appointed this year. He renewed his best wishes to them and their families and encouraged them to “pursue with joy their mission in service to the Gospel, in communion with the entire Church and especially with the Seat of Peter” as symbolized in the Pallium. Pope Francis said he welcomed with joy and affection Members of a delegation sent by his “dear brother,” Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.  Their presence, he added, “is sign of the existing fraternal bonds between our Churches.  Let us pray so that the bonds of communion and common witness will strengthen.” The Holy Father then entrusted to the Blessed Virgin Mary, “Salus Populi Romani” the entire world, and “in particular this city of Rome” so that it will always refer back to its rich foundation of spiritual and moral values “in its social life, its mission in Italy, in Europe and in the world.” In his comments following the Angelus Prayer, Pope Francis prayed for the victims of Monday’s horrific terrorist attack at Istanbul’s main international airport, for their families and the “dear Turkish people.”  He prayed for the conversion of “violent hearts” and asked the Lord to “sustain our steps on the path to peace.” (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope prays for victims of deadly attack at Istanbul airport

Wed, 06/29/2016 - 06:16
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday called for a moment of silent prayer for all those affected by a suicide attack in Istanbul’s international airport which killed dozens of people and injured some 150 others. “Yesterday evening, in Istanbul, a brutal terrorist attack was committed, which has killed and injured many people,” the Pope said during his 29 June Angelus address after celebrating Mass for the solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul. “We pray for the victims, for their families, and for the beloved people of Turkey. May the Lord convert the hearts of the violent, and sustain our feet on the way of peace.” The Pope invited everyone in St Peter’s Square to take a moment of silent prayer, before leading the crowds in the recitation of the Hail Mary. At least 36 people were killed Tuesday when suicide bombers struck the Ataturk Airport, and around 147 people were wounded. Officials say they believe Islamic State militants are behind the June 29 attack, which is the latest in a series of attacks in Turkey in recent months. (from Vatican Radio)...

Saints Peter and Paul: why remember them on the same day?

Wed, 06/29/2016 - 05:32
(Vatican Radio) Veronica Scarisbrick asks scripture scholar Mark Benedict Coleridge, Archbishop of Brisbane in Australia, to shed light on on the figures of Saints Peter and Paul on the day ( the 29th of June) that the Church remembers them in a special way each year. Listen to Archbishop of Brisbane in Australia, Mark Benedict Coleridge in a programme produced by Veronica Scarisbrick : Archbishop Coleridge explains how Saints Peter and Paul fought mightily in their lifetime but eventually their stories converged and their paths crossed in the most decisive way. Both these apostles, he goes on to say, were among the Christian leaders in Rome to be swept away in the tide of blood that came with the persecution of the Emperor Nero. Both suffered a martyr's death, Paul was beheaded, Peter crucified. And in the moment of their death they found their way so completely and so profoundly to Jesus crucified and Risen that they found their way to one another (from Vatican Radio)...

Homily for Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul: Full text

Wed, 06/29/2016 - 04:10
(Vatican Radio) In his homily for the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul , Pope Francis focused on the themes of “closing” and “opening” in the lives of the two patrons of Rome. The Church must avoid the risk of closing in on itself out of persecution and fear, the Pope said. At the same time, she must be able to see “the small openings through which God can work.” Prayer, he said, “enables grace to open a way out from closure to openness, from fear to courage, from sadness to joy.  And we can add: from division to unity .” Read the full text of Pope Francis’ prepared homily for the Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul: Homily of His Holiness Pope Francis Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul 29 June 2016 The word of God in today’s liturgy presents a clear central contrast between closing and opening .  Together with this image we can consider the symbol of the keys that Jesus promises to Simon Peter so that he can open the entrance to the kingdom of heaven, and not close it before people, like some of the hypocritical scribes and Pharisees whom Jesus reproached (cf. Mt 23:13). The reading from the Acts of the Apostles (12:1-11) shows us three examples of “closing” : Peter is cast into prison; the community gathers behind closed doors in prayer; and – in the continuation of our reading – Peter knocks at the closed door of the house of Mary, the mother of John called Mark, after being set free. In these three examples of “closing”, prayer appears as the main way out .  It is a way out for the community, which risks closing in on itself out of persecution and fear.  It is a way out for Peter who, at the very beginning of the mission given him by the Lord, is cast into prison by Herod and risks execution.  While Peter was in prison, “the church prayed fervently to God for him” ( Acts 12:5).  The Lord responds to that prayer and sends his angel to liberate Peter, “rescuing him from the hand of Herod” (cf. v. 11).  Prayer, as humble entrustment to God and his holy will, is always the way out of our becoming “closed”, as individuals and as a community. Paul too, writing to Timothy, speaks of his experience of liberation, of finding a way out of his own impending execution.  He tells us that the Lord stood by him and gave him strength to carry out the work of evangelizing the nations (cf. 2 Tim 4:17).  But Paul speaks too of a much greater “opening”, towards an infinitely more vast horizon.  It is the horizon of eternal life, which awaits him at the end of his earthly “race”.  We can see the whole life of the Apostle in terms of “going out” in service to the Gospel .  Paul’s life was utterly projected forward, in bringing Christ to those who did not know him, and then in rushing, as it were, into Christ’s arms, to be “saved for his heavenly kingdom” (v. 18). Let us return to Peter .  The Gospel account ( Mt 16:13-19) of his confession of faith and the mission entrusted to him by Jesus shows us that the life of Simon, the fishermen of Galilee – like the life of each of us – opens , opens up fully, when it receives from God the Father the grace of faith.  Simon sets out on the journey – a long and difficult journey – that will lead him to go out of himself, leaving all his human supports behind, especially his pride tinged with courage and generous selflessness.  In this, his process of liberation, the prayer of Jesus is decisive: “I have prayed for you [Simon], that your own faith may not fail” ( Lk 22:32).  Likewise decisive is the compassionate gaze of the Lord after Peter had denied him three times: a gaze that pierces the heart and brings tears of repentance (cf. Lk  22:61-62).  At that moment, Simon Peter was set free from the prison of his selfish pride and fear , and overcame the temptation of closing his heart to Jesus’s call to follow him along the way of the cross. I mentioned that, in the continuation of the passage from the Acts of the Apostles, there is a detail worthy of consideration (cf. 12:12-17).  When Peter finds himself miraculously freed from Herod’s prison, he goes to the home of the mother of John called Mark.  He knocks on the closed door and a servant by the name of Rhoda comes.  Recognizing Peter’s voice, in disbelief and joy, instead of opening the door, she runs to tell her mistress.  The account, which can seem comical, makes us perceive the climate of fear that led the Christian community to stay behind closed doors, but also closed to God’s surprises.  This detail speaks to us of a constant temptation for the Church, that of closing in on herself in the face of danger.  But we also see the small openings through which God can work.  Saint Luke tells us that in that house “many had gathered and were praying ” (v. 12).  Prayer enables grace to open a way out from closure to openness, from fear to courage, from sadness to joy.  And we can add: from division to unity .  Yes, we say this today with confidence, together with our brothers from the Delegation sent by the beloved Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to take part in the celebration of the Holy Patrons of Rome.  Today is also a celebration of communion for the whole Church, as seen by the presence of the metropolitan archbishops who have come for the blessing of the pallia, which they will receive from my representatives in their respective sees. May Saints Peter and Paul intercede for us, so that we can joyfully advance on this journey, experience the liberating action of God, and bear witness to it before the world.  (from Vatican Radio)...

Vatican celebrates anniversary of Benedict's ordination

Tue, 06/28/2016 - 09:17
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Tuesday hosted a celebration for the 65th anniversary of the priestly ordination of his predecessor Benedict, the pope emeritus. Joseph Ratzinger, who took the name Benedict XVI when he was elected to the papacy in 2005, attended the celebration in the Sala Clementina within the Apostolic Palace. More than thirty cardinals were also present, as well as a number of other invited guests. The event began with music from the Sistine Choir and a speech by Pope Francis. In his remarks, the Supreme Pontiff recalled St Peter’s response to Jesus’ question, “Do you love me?” “Lord, you know that I love you,” answered the first Pope. And this, the current Pope said, “is the note that has dominated a life spent entirely in the service of the priesthood and of the true theology”. Pope Francis said that Benedict continues to serve the Church, “not ceasing to truly contribute to her growth with strength and wisdom.” “And you do this,” he said, “from that little Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in the Vatican, that is shown in that way to be anything but that forgotten little corner to which today’s culture of waste tends to relegate people when, with age, their strength diminishes.” He spoke, too, about the “Franciscan” dimension of the monastery, which recalls the Portiuncula, the “little portion” where St Francis founded his order, and laid down his life. Divine Providence, he said, “has willed that you, dear Brother, should reach a place one could truly call ‘Franciscan’, from which emanates a tranquillity, a peace, a strength, a confidence, a maturity, a faith, a dedication, and a fidelity that does so much good for me, and gives strength to me and to the whole Church.” At the conclusion of his remarks, Pope Francis offered best wishes to Pope emeritus Benedict on behalf of himself and of the whole Church, with the prayer for Benedict, “That you, Holiness, might continue to feel the hand of the merciful God who supports you; that you might continue to experience and witness to us the love of God; that, with Peter and Paul, you might continue to rejoice with great joy as you journey toward the goal of the faith.” Later, after more music and speeches by Cardinals Gerhard Müller and Angelo Sodano – respectively Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and Dean of the College of Cardinals – Benedict offered words of thanks to all his well-wishers, and in a particular way to Pope Francis. Speaking to the Holy Father, Benedict said, “Your kindness, from the first moment of the election, in every moment of my life here, strikes me, is a source of real inspiration for me. More than in the Vatican Gardens, with their beauty, your goodness is the place where I dwell: I feel protected.” The Pope emeritus also reflected on the concept of “thanksgiving,” reflecting on a word written, in Greek, on a remembrance card from his first Mass. That word, he said, suggests “not only human thanksgiving, but naturally hints at the more profound word that is hidden, which appears in the liturgy, in the Scriptures,” and in the words of consecration. The Greek word “eucharistomen,” he said, “brings us back to that reality of thanksgiving, to that new dimension that Christ has given it. He has transformed into thanksgiving, and so into blessing, the Cross, suffering, all the evil of the world. And thus He has fundamentally transubstantiated life and the world, and has given us, and gives us today the Bread of true life, which overcomes the world thanks to the strength of his love.”   (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope to Constantinople Patriarchate delegation: 'God's mercy is bond uniting us'

Tue, 06/28/2016 - 05:43
(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis addressed a delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, with whom he held a private audience on Tuesday in the Vatican, calling the mercy of God ‘the bond uniting us’. The delegation came to Rome following the conclusion of the week-long Pan-Orthodox Council , which was held on the Greek island of Crete. Listen to Devin Watkins' report: The mercy of God is the bond uniting the Churches, a fruit of the Holy Spirit which produces communion but never uniformity. That was at the heart of Pope Francis’ message to the delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in a private audience. Recalling that June 29th marks the Feast of St. Peter and Paul, the Holy Father said that the Church in every age has proclaimed their same message of divine mercy. “Saints Peter and Paul both experienced great sin and, subsequently, the power of God’s mercy. As a result of this experience, Peter, who had denied his Master, and Paul, who persecuted the nascent Church, became tireless evangelizers and fearless witnesses to the salvation offered by God in Christ to every man and woman.” The Pope noted that from the earliest centuries there have been many differences between the Churches of Rome and Constantinople, including liturgical practices, ecclesiastical discipline, and “in the manner of formulating the one revealed truth”. “Acknowledging that the experience of God’s mercy is the bond uniting us means that we must increasingly make mercy the criterion and measure of our relationship. If, as Catholics and Orthodox, we wish to proclaim together the marvels of God’s mercy to the whole world, we cannot continue to harbour sentiments and attitudes of rivalry, mistrust and rancour. For divine mercy frees us of the burden of past conflicts and lets us be open to the future to which the Spirit is guiding us.” “One contribution to surmounting the obstacles to our recovery of the unity we shared in the first millennium – a unity that was never uniformity but always communion with respect for legitimate diversities – is provided by theological dialogue .” Pope Francis went on to recall the “powerful spiritual and human closeness” he experienced on his recent visit to the Greek island of Lesbos in the accompaniment of Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, and Ieronymos II, Archbishop of Athens and All Greece. “Seeing the despair on the faces of men, women and children uncertain of their future, listening helplessly as they related their experiences, and praying on the shore of the sea that has claimed the lives of so many innocent persons, was a tremendously moving experience. It made clear how much still needs to be done to ensure dignity and justice for so many of our brothers and sisters.” The Holy Father concluded his remarks with assurances to the delegation of his prayers for the recently-concluded Pan-Orthodox Council. “Together with many of our Catholic brothers and sisters and other Christians, I accompanied with my prayers the immediate preparation and the unfolding of the Council. […] May the Holy Spirit bring forth from this event abundant fruits for the good of the Church.” Below, please find the official English translation of the Pope's address: 28 June 2016 With joy and affection I offer you a heartfelt welcome on the occasion of the Solemnity of the Holy Patrons of the Church of Rome, the Apostles Peter and Paul.  I thank you for your presence and I ask you to convey my deep gratitude to His Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and to the Holy Synod for sending a distinguished Delegation to share our joy on this Solemnity. This year’s meeting takes place in the context of the Catholic Church’s celebration of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy.  I desired to proclaim the Jubilee as a favourable time for contemplating the mystery of the Father’s infinite love revealed in Christ, and for strengthening and rendering more effective our witness to this mystery (cf. Bull Misericordiae Vultus , 2-3).  In their own lives and in rather different ways, Saints Peter and Paul both experienced great sin and, subsequently, the power of God’s mercy.  As a result of this experience, Peter, who had denied his Master, and Paul, who persecuted the nascent Church, became tireless evangelizers and fearless witnesses to the salvation offered by God in Christ to every man and woman.  Following the example of the Apostles Peter and Paul, and the other Apostles, the Church, made up of sinners redeemed through Baptism, has continued in every age to proclaim that same message of divine mercy. In celebrating the Solemnity of the Apostles, we recall to mind the experience of forgiveness and grace uniting all those who believe in Christ.  From the earliest centuries, there have been many differences between the Church of Rome and the Church of Constantinople, in the liturgical sphere, in ecclesiastical discipline and also in the manner of formulating the one revealed truth.  However, beyond the concrete shapes that our Churches have taken on over time, there has always been the same experience of God’s infinite love for our smallness and frailty, and the same calling to bear witness to this love before the world.  Acknowledging that the experience of God’s mercy is the bond uniting us means that we must increasingly make mercy the criterion and measure of our relationship.  If, as Catholics and Orthodox, we wish to proclaim together the marvels of God’s mercy to the whole world, we cannot continue to harbour sentiments and attitudes of rivalry, mistrust and rancour.  For divine mercy frees us of the burden of past conflicts and lets us be open to the future to which the Spirit is guiding us. One contribution to surmounting the obstacles to our recovery of the unity we shared in the first millennium – a unity that was never uniformity but always communion with respect for legitimate diversities – is provided by theological dialogue.  Dear Metropolitan Methodius, I wish to express to you my appreciation for the fruitful work accomplished by the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation of which Your Eminence is Co-President.  Instituted more than fifty years ago, this Consultation has proposed significant reflections on central theological issues for our Churches, thus fostering the development of excellent relations between Catholics and Orthodox on that continent.  In this regard, I rejoice that this coming September the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church will meet once again.  The task of this Commission is indeed precious; let us pray the Lord for the fruitfulness of its work.  I also offer a special remembrance in my prayers for you, dear Archbishop Job, appointed the Orthodox Co-President of the Commission, and I express my profound gratitude to Metropolitan Ioannis of Pergamum, who has long carried out this delicate task with dedication and competence. I thank the Lord that this past April I was able to meet my beloved brother Bartholomew when, together with the Archbishop of Athens and of All Greece, His Beatitude Ieronymos II, we visited the Isle of Lesvos, to be with the refugees and migrants.  Seeing the despair on the faces of men, women and children uncertain of their future, listening helplessly as they related their experiences, and praying on the shore of the sea that has claimed the lives of so many innocent persons, was a tremendously moving experience.  It made clear how much still needs to be done to ensure dignity and justice for so many of our brothers and sisters.  A great consolation in that sad experience was the powerful spiritual and human closeness that I shared with Patriarch Bartholomew and Archbishop Ieronymos.  Led by the Holy Spirit, we are coming to realize ever more clearly that we, Catholics and Orthodox, have a shared responsibility towards those in need, based on our obedience to the one Gospel of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Taking up this task together is a duty linked to the very credibility of our Christian identity.  Consequently, I encourage every form of cooperation between Catholics and Orthodox in concrete undertakings in service to suffering humanity.  Your Eminence, dear brothers, the celebration of the Pan-Orthodox Council has recently concluded at Crete.  Together with many of our Catholic brothers and sisters, and other Christians, I accompanied with my prayers the immediate preparation and the unfolding of the Council.  Cardinal Koch and Bishop Farrell, who participated in the historic event as fraternal observers of the Catholic Church, have just returned from Crete; they will be able to inform me about the Council and the resolutions it adopted.  May the Holy Spirit bring forth from this event abundant fruits for the good of the Church.   At the conclusion of this meeting, I renew my heartfelt gratitude to you for your presence and I assure you of my fraternal love and respect for the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  Let us entrust our prayers and intentions to the intercession of the Most Holy Virgin Mary, Saints Peter and Paul, and Saint Andrew, the brother of Peter.  And I ask you, please, to pray for me and for my ministry. (from Vatican Radio)...

Msgr Viganò on one year into the Vatican Communications reform

Mon, 06/27/2016 - 09:20
(Vatican Radio) One year from the publication of the “Motu Proprio” with which Pope Francis established the new Vatican Secretariat for Communication charged with reforming Vatican media, the Prefect of the Secretariat, Msgr. Dario Eduardo Viganò, gives a run-down of the work accomplished in the past 12 months and looks ahead to a new vision. Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni : In an interview with Vatican Radio’s Alessandro Gisotti, Msgr. Viganò points out that clear indications in the Pope’s “Motu Proprio” place the current digital culture at the center of the reform and change the perspective into a “User first” one that challenges us to “stop navel-gazing in the assumption that others are listening and looking at us”. The media reform regards all the Vatican media outlets including the daily newspaper “L’Osservatore Romano”, Vatican Radio, CTV, the LEV publishing house, the typography and the Vatican Press Office.   Msgr. Viganò points out that some 85% of the population use mobile devices to connect to media. The Pope’s “Motu Proprio”, he says, is “an invitation to leave behind the arrogance of a unidirectional mode of communication” and to realize that we are called to bring the message of the Gospel to men and women of today who are immersed in new media. Speaking of the past year of work, Msgr. Viganò says it has been an intense but “fascinating” time that has seen some 400 people involved in over 140 meetings in an effort to understand the existing potential and to draw up new projects. Some of these, he says, have resulted in investing in professional training and some staff members have been given the opportunity to “grow” by doing master degrees in business administration and communications. Msgr. Viganò says the Pope himself and the C9 Council of Cardinals were extremely interested in their last meeting at the beginning of June to be updated on how the reform is proceeding. He says numbers were specifically spoken about because “the Cardinals will have to take responsibility for some of the decisions” to be made.  Regarding the technical aspects of the reform and the presentation of the new multi-media internet portal, Msgr. Viganò points out that “it’s all very well to have a new portal with better software, more options, etc., but the real reform takes place behind the scenes”. He describes the portal as the tip of an iceberg of a system in which everything will be produced by a concerted team effort:  “we must learn to put our personal experience aside and put ourselves humbly in the position of learning because humility is the necessary way to approach the reform”. And regarding the new portal itself, Msgr. Viganò explains it will feature videos, podcasts, images, print articles and live radio. He says the advantages for those who listen/watch/read us is that they will no longer be confused or “cannibalized” by turning to us. Claiming that “we have been inexistent for the public”, he says that when Francis was elected Pope most people consulted Wikipedia to discover who Jorge Mario Bergoglio was and says there is much work to be done regarding web reputation and positioning.  “We must become ‘the source’ for Vatican and Papal news – not the official source (that’s the Press Office) but an important source’, he says. Following an in depth analysis of the organizations that make up Vatican media, Msgr. Viganò says the Secretariat has come to the conclusion that it is the work of the people which is ultimately penalized: “it’s like a motor that has everything and yet does not work efficiently; instead of producing energy it produces only heat and ends up overheating and stalling. Here we have a motor; we want it to function properly so that it can go fast, so that it can put on the breaks, so that it can overtake when needed”.  Regarding the unification of Vatican Radio and CTV, Msgr. Viganò says a ‘repositioning’ and an ‘empowerment’ of the Radio’s “105 Live” local radio broadcasts will soon be a reality because, he says, it is important for the radio dimension to remain and  people will be able to continue to listen to Vatican Radio in Italian. However he says it will possibly feature news broadcasts in other languages as well. “As Fr Lombardi mentioned on the occasion of the Radio’s 80th anniversary, Vatican Radio is no longer a radio station” he said.  The different language programmes, Msgr. Viganò explains, will be the ‘beating heart’, the protagonists of the ‘hub content’ of the new portal with a slew of  multi-linguistic and multi-cultural programmes with text content and audio that will be offered via podcasts. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope returns to Vatican after Apostolic Voyage to Armenia

Mon, 06/27/2016 - 05:19
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis flew back to Italy Sunday evening after his Apostolic Voyage to Armenia. It was the fourteenth international journey of Pope Francis’ pontificate. The Pope’s plane landed at Rome’s Ciampino Airport a little after 8:30 Sunday evening, after just under four hours of flight time. Before returning to the Vatican, Pope Francis, as has become customary, paid a brief visit to the Basilica of St Mary Major, where he prayed before the icon of Mary, Salus Populi Romani (Protectress of the Roman People), in thanksgiving for the happy outcome of the Apostolic Voyage.  (from Vatican Radio)...

Papal press conference touches a host of issues

Mon, 06/27/2016 - 02:57
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis spoke on the Armenian genocide, the relation of the Church to homosexuals, and Britain’s vote last week to leave the European Union, as well as a host of other topics in a wide-ranging press conference on his flight back to Rome following his Apostolic Voyage to Armenia. Sunday’s in-flight press conference began with questions about the Apostolic Voyage to Armenia that Pope Francis had just concluded. Asked about his message for Armenia for the future, the Holy Father spoke about his hopes and prayers for justice and peace, and his encouragement that leaders are working to that end. In particular, he talked of the work of reconciliation with Turkey and with Azerbaijan. The Pope will be travelling to Azerbaijani later this year. Pope Francis also spoke about his use of the word ‘genocide,’ acknowledging the legal import of the expression, but explaining that this was the term commonly in use in Argentina for the massacre of Armenians during the first World War. During the press conference, Pope Francis also addressed a number of religious and ecumenical issues. Speaking about the controversy that arose from remarks by the Prefect of the Pontifical Household, Archbishop Georg Ganswein, who in a speech earlier this month had spoken of a shared “Petrine ministry,” Pope Francis insisted there was only one Pope, while praising the pope emeritus as a “great man of God.” About the Pan-Orthodox Council, which concluded Sunday in Crete, the Pope said, “A step was made forward . . . I think the result was positive.” In response to a question about upcoming commemorations of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant “Reformation,” Pope Francis said, “I think perhaps this is also the right moment for us not only to remember the wounds on both sides, but also to recognize the gifts of the Reformation.” He also had words of praise for Martin Luther. The Pope praying and working together are important for fostering unity. Pope Francis also answered a question about women deacons, and his decision to form a commission to study the issue. He said he was surprised and annoyed to hear that his remarks were interpreted to mean that the Church had opened the door to deaconesses. “This is not telling the truth of things,” he said. But, he continued, “women’s thought is important,” because they approach questions differently from men. “One cannot make a good decision without listening to women. Reporters also questioned the Pope about recent events, including the recent “Brexit” vote in Britain. He said he had not had time to study the reasons for the British vote to leave the European Union, but noted that the vote showed “divisions,” which could also be seen in other countries. “Fraternity is better, and bridges are better than walls,” he said, but he acknowledged that there are “different ways of unity.” Creativity and fruitfulness are two key words for the European Union as it faces new challenges. The secular press, meanwhile, latched onto remarks Pope Francis made concerning the Church’s relationship to homosexuals. Insisting once again that homosexuals must not be discriminated against, the Pope said that the Church should apologize to homosexuals and ask forgiveness for offending them – but he added, the Church should also ask forgiveness of any groups of persons who had been hurt by Christians who do not live up to the Gospel. There will always be good and bad Christians in the Church, he said, citing Christ’s parable of the wheat and the weeds. “All of us are saints, because all of us have the Holy Spirit. But we are all sinners, [and] I [am] the first.” Finally, answering a question from Father Federico Lombardi, SJ, the Director of the Holy See Press Office, Pope Francis reflected on his visit to the Memorial at Tzitzernakaberd, and his upcoming journey to Poland, which will include a visit to Auschwitz. The Pope said that in such places, he likes to reflect silently, “alone,” praying that the Lord might grant him “the grace of crying.” At the conclusion of the press conference, Pope Francis thanked the reporters for their hard work and goodness.  (from Vatican Radio)...

Lombardi: Pope in Armenia to build peace and reconciliation

Sun, 06/26/2016 - 11:23
(Vatican Radio) The Director of the Vatican Press Office has strongly dismissed Turkish accusations that Pope Francis adopted a “Crusades” mentality when he used the word “genocide” to describe the massacre of 1.5 million Armenians a century ago.  Fr. Federico Lombardi SJ was answering questions by journalists reporting on the papal journey in Armenia. Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni :   The questions pertained to an angry statement late Saturday by Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli following the Pope’s use of the word “genocide” when referring to the Ottoman-era slaughter of Armenians. Turkey in fact rejects the term genocide, saying the 1.5 million deaths cited by historians is an inflated figure and that people died on both sides as the Ottoman Empire collapsed amid World War I.  Nurettin Canikli called the Pope’s comments ``greatly unfortunate'' and said they bore the hallmarks of the ``mentality of the Crusades.'' But responding to Canikli's comments, Fr Lombardi said that nothing in Francis' texts or actions had suggested a Crusades-like mentality or spirit. “His is a spirit of dialogue”- Lombardi said – “of building peace, of building bridges and not walls.”  “The Pope – he added – is not doing Crusades”, “he has said no words against the Turkish people”.' And  Lombardi underlined the fact that Francis’ three-day visit to the Orthodox nation was one of peace and reconciliation with repeated calls for unity with Armenia’s Oriental Orthodox Church, a visit to the nation’s closed western border with Turkey and a joint declaration with the Apostolic Church leader.  (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope leaves Armenia at conclusion of his pastoral visit

Sun, 06/26/2016 - 10:54
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis left the Armenian capital, Yerevan, on Sunday afternoon at the conclusion of his three day pastoral visit to the Caucasian nation. The Alitalia plane carrying the Pope and his entourage back to Rome took off following a farewell ceremony on the airport runway with Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, alongside Catholicos Karekin II, head of the Armenian Apostolic Church and leaders of the small Catholic community there. The Pope was due to arrive back in Rome shortly before 9pm local time at the conclusion of this 14th international papal journey. During the visit, the Pope signed a common declaration with Patriarch Karekin giving thanks for progress towards Christian unity, while also appealing for peace in the world. He visited the nation’s genocide memorial museum, took part in an ecumenical prayer vigil for peace, travelled to the northern city of Gyumri and to the monastery of Khor Virap, close to the border with Turkey, where the country’s rulers became the first to adopt Christianity as a state religion in the year 301. (from Vatican Radio)...

Francis at the monastery of ‘Khor Virap’

Sun, 06/26/2016 - 09:55
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis ended his three day Apostolic journey to Armenia, his 14th abroad with a visit to ‘Khor Virap’ monastery at the foot of  Mount Ararat. A significant site linked to the conversion of  this nation to Christianity. Veronica Scarisbrick reports: The red brick monastery of Khor Virap at the foot of Mount Ararat where tradition holds that Noah’s ark came to rest after the floods is one of Armenia’s most sacred sites. It’s here that the most memorable image of Pope Francis’s visit to Armenia played out. That of the Pope and the Patriarch standing out against the skyline in unison in the shadow of the snow-capped Mount, as together they release two white doves which flutter into the evening light before soaring up high. A striking gesture which holds within it a symbol of unity and peace. By contrast the name of the monastery provides a sinking feeling as it means 'deep dungeon'. And while dark and musty dungeons really exist here, some sinking deep into the ground, over six metres under one of the Chapels of the monastery complex, what really matters is that it was in one of these dungeons, often referred to as a well, that Saint Gregory the Illuminator, was held prisoner for thirteen lonng years before bringing about the conversion of the King in 301, so at the beginning of the fourth century. A conversion which led to Armenia becoming the first nation ever to adopt Christianity as a State religion. And a conversion which was no doubt on the Pope’s mind as together with the Patriarch he made his way up two narrow flights of stairs to the room known as the ‘Well of Saint Gregory’. They were there  to light a candle before making their way to the nearby Chapel to pray: the Patriarch in Armenian and the Pope in Italian. Before leaving this land which Pope Francis has described as ‘beloved’ he  expressed the idea that it was a grace to find himself on these heights where, beneath the gaze of Mount Ararat, the very silence seems to speak.  And where the 'khatchkar' – the stone crosses – recount a singular history bound up with rugged faith and immense suffering. A history, he went on to say, replete with magnificent testimonies to the Gospel, to which you the Armenian people are heirs. Words pronounced a day earlier when he had symbolically watered, once again together with the Patriarch, the seedlings of a vine in a model of Noah’s Ark. New life that grows out of memory.   (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope and Catholicos sign joint statement on justice and peace

Sun, 06/26/2016 - 08:14
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis and Catholicos Karekin II, leader of the Armenian Apostolic Church on Sunday signed a common declaration, giving thanks for the progress towards Christian unity, and appealing for peace in the Middle East and other regions torn apart by conflict, terrorism and religious persecution. At the conclusion of a three day pastoral visit to Armenia, the first country to embrace the Christian faith, the Pope joined the Patriarch in calling for a peaceful resolution in neighbouring Nagorno-Karabakh. The declaration also recalls “the extermination of a million and a half Armenian Christians, in what is generally referred to as the first genocide of the twentieth century”. In the statement the two religious leaders pray for a change of heart in all who commit violence, as well as imploring leaders of nations to hear the cry of those people “who have urgent need of bread, not guns”. They acknowledge all that is already being done to support victims of violence, but they insist that much more is needed on the part of political leaders and the international community to ensure the right of all to live in peace and security, to uphold the rule of law, to protect religious and ethnic minorities, to combat human trafficking and smuggling. Please find below the full text of the Common Declaration of Pope Francis and Catholicos Karekin II at Holy Etchmiadzin, Republic of Armenia Today in Holy Etchmiadzin, spiritual center of All Armenians, we, Pope Francis and Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II raise our minds and hearts in thanksgiving to the Almighty for the continuing and growing closeness in faith and love between the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Catholic Church in their common witness to the Gospel message of salvation in a world torn by strife and yearning for comfort and hope. We praise the Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for enabling us to come together in the biblical land of Ararat, which stands as a reminder that God will ever be our protection and salvation. We are spiritually gratified to remember that in 2001, on the occasion of the 1700th anniversary of the proclamation of Christianity as the religion of Armenia, Saint John Paul II visited Armenia and was a witness to a new page in warm and fraternal relations between the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Catholic Church. We are grateful that we had the grace of being together, at a solemn liturgy in Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome on 12 April 2015, where we  pledged our will to oppose every form of discrimination and violence, and commemorated the victims of what the Common Declaration of His Holiness John-Paul II and His Holiness Karekin II spoke of as “the extermination of a million and a half Armenian Christians, in what is generally referred to as the first genocide of the twentieth century”  (27 September 2001). We praise the Lord that today, the Christian faith is again a vibrant reality in Armenia, and that the Armenian Church carries on her mission with a spirit of fraternal collaboration between the Churches, sustaining the faithful in building a world of solidarity, justice and peace. Sadly, though, we are witnessing an immense tragedy unfolding before our eyes, of countless innocent people being killed, displaced or forced into a painful and uncertain exile by continuing conflicts on ethnic, economic, political and religious grounds in the Middle East and other parts of the world. As a result, religious and ethnic minorities have become the target of persecution and cruel treatment, to the point that suffering for one’s religious belief has become a daily reality. The martyrs belong to all the Churches and their suffering is an “ecumenism of blood” which transcends the historical divisions between Christians, calling us all to promote the visible unity of Christ’s disciples. Together we pray, through the intercession of the holy Apostles, Peter and Paul, Thaddeus and Bartholomew, for a change of heart in all those who commit such crimes and those who are in a position to stop the violence. We implore the leaders of nations to listen to the plea of millions of human beings who long for peace and justice in the world, who demand respect for their God-given rights, who have urgent need of bread, not guns. Sadly, we are witnessing a presentation of religion and religious values in a fundamentalist way, which is used to justify the spread of hatred, discrimination and violence. The justification of such crimes on the basis of religious ideas is unacceptable, for “God is not the author of confusion, but of peace” (I Corinthians 14:33). Moreover, respect for religious difference is the necessary condition for the peaceful cohabitation of different ethnic and religious communities. Precisely because we are Christians, we are called to seek and implement paths towards reconciliation and peace. In this regard we also express our hope for a peaceful resolution of the issues surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh. Mindful of what Jesus taught his disciples when he said: “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me” (Matthew 25: 35-36), we ask the faithful of our Churches to open their hearts and hands to the victims of war and terrorism, to refugees and their families. At issue is the very sense of our humanity, our solidarity, compassion and generosity, which can only be properly expressed in an immediate practical commitment of resources. We acknowledge all that is already being done, but we insist that much more is needed on the part of political leaders and the international community in order to ensure the right of all to live in peace and security, to uphold the rule of law, to protect religious and ethnic minorities, to combat human trafficking and smuggling. The secularization of large sectors of society, its alienation from the spiritual and divine, leads inevitably to a desacralized and materialistic vision of man and the human family. In this respect we are concerned about the crisis of the family in many countries. The Armenian Apostolic Church and the Catholic Church share the same vision of the family, based on marriage, an act of freely given and faithful love between man and woman.  We gladly confirm that despite continuing divisions among Christians, we have come to realize more clearly that what unites us is much more than what divides us. This is the solid basis upon which the unity of Christ’s Church will be made manifest, in accordance with the Lord’s words, “that they all may be one” (John 17.21). Over the past decades the relationship between the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Catholic Church has successfully entered a new phase, strengthened by our mutual prayers and joint efforts in overcoming contemporary challenges. Today we are convinced of the crucial importance of furthering this relationship, engaging in deeper and more decisive collaboration not only in the area of theology, but also in prayer and active cooperation on the level of the local communities, with a view to sharing full communion and concrete expressions of unity.  We urge our faithful to work in harmony for the promotion in society of the Christian values which effectively contribute to building a civilization of justice, peace and human solidarity. The path of reconciliation and brotherhood lies open before us. May the Holy Spirit, who guides us into all truth (cf. John 16:13), sustain every genuine effort to build bridges of love and communion between us. From Holy Etchmiadzin we call on all our faithful to join us in prayer, in the words of Saint Nerses the Gracious: “Glorified Lord, accept the supplications of Your servants, and graciously fulfil our petitions, through the intercession of the Holy Mother of God, John the Baptist, the first martyr Saint Stephen, Saint Gregory our Illuminator, the Holy Apostles, Prophets, Divines, Martyrs, Patriarchs, Hermits, Virgins and all Your saints in Heaven and on Earth. And unto You, O indivisible Holy Trinity, be glory and worship forever and ever. Amen”. Holy Etchmiadzin, 26 June 2016 His Holiness Francis                     His Holiness Karekin II (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis in Armenia: May we hasten to Christian unity

Sun, 06/26/2016 - 04:10
(Vatican Radio)  On the last day of his three day visit to Armenia, Pope Francis participated Sunday in the Divine Liturgy celebrated by his Oriental Orthodox host, Catholicos of all Armenians Karekin II. In a discourse at the conclusion of the celebration, Pope Francis spoke of his “already unforgettable” visit and prayed that the two Churches “follow God’s call to full communion and hasten to it.”  Thanking Catholicos Karekin for his hospitality, Pope Francis said, “you have opened to me the doors of your home and we have experienced ‘how good and pleasant it is when brothers live in unity’.”  “We have met, we have embraced as brothers, we have prayed together and shared the gifts, hopes and concerns of the Church of Christ.  We have felt as one her beating heart, and we believe and experience that the Church is one,” Pope Francis said. Citing Saints Bartholomew and Thaddeus “who first proclaimed the Gospel in these lands” and “Saints Peter and Paul who gave their lives for the Lord in Rome,”  the pontiff said they “surely rejoice to see our affection and our tangible longing for full communion.” Francis prayed the Holy Spirit to “make all believers one heart and soul; may he come to re-establish us in unity” and, “may the cause of our scandal be dissolved” by God’s love, “above all the lack of unity among Christ’s disciples.” Calling for peace in the Armenian Church and “complete” communion, Pope Francis prayed for “an ardent desire for unity” among Christians.  But such unity, he stressed, must not mean “the submission of one to the other, or assimilation, but rather the acceptance of all the gifts that God has given to each.” Concluding, Pope Francis urged the faithful to “listen to the voices of the humble and poor, of the many victims of hatred who suffered and gave their lives for the faith” and to young people “who seek a future free of past divisions.” From this holy place, the Pope said, “may a radiant light shine forth once more… and to the light of faith which has illumined these lands from the time of Saint Gregory…may there be joined the light of the love that forgives and reconciles.”   Below, please find the English translation of Pope Francis’ discourse: Your Holiness, Dear Bishops, Dear Brothers and Sisters,               At the end of this greatly-desired visit, one already unforgettable for me, I join my gratitude to the Lord with the great hymn of praise and thanksgiving that rose from this altar.  Your Holiness, in these days you have opened to me the doors of your home, and we have experienced “how good and pleasant it is when brothers live in unity” ( Ps 133:1).  We have met, we have embraced as brothers, we have prayed together and shared the gifts, hopes and concerns of the Church of Christ.  We have felt as one her beating heart, and we believe and experience that the Church is one .  “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope… one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all” ( Eph 4:4-6).  With great joy we can make our own these words of the Apostle Paul!  Our meeting comes under the aegis of the holy Apostles whom we have encountered.  Saints Bartholomew and Thaddeus, who first proclaimed the Gospel in these lands, and Saints Peter and Paul who gave their lives for the Lord in Rome and now reign with Christ in heaven, surely rejoice to see our affection and our tangible longing for full communion.  For all this, I thank the Lord, for you and with you: Park astutsò! (Glory to God!).             During this Divine Liturgy, the solemn chant of the Trisagion rose to heaven, acclaiming God’s holiness.  May abundant blessings of the Most High fill the earth through the intercession of the Mother of God, the great saints and doctors, the martyrs, especially the many whom you canonized last year in this place.  May “the Only Begotten who descended here” bless our journey.  May the Holy Spirit make all believers one heart and soul; may he come to re-establish us in unity .  For this I once more invoke the Holy Spirit, making my own the splendid words that are part of your Liturgy.  Come, Holy Spirit, you “who intercede with ceaseless sighs to the merciful Father, you who watch over the saints and purify sinners”, bestow on us your fire of love and unity, and “may the cause of our scandal be dissolved by this love” (Gregory of Narek, Book of Lamentations , 33, 5), above all the lack of unity among Christ’s disciples.             May the Armenian Church walk in peace and may the communion between us be complete.  May an ardent desire for unity rise up in our hearts, a unity that must not be “the submission of one to the other, or assimilation, but rather the acceptance of all the gifts that God has given to each.  This will reveal to the entire world the great mystery of salvation accomplished by Christ the Lord through the Holy Spirit” ( Greeting at the Divine Liturgy , Patriarchal Church of Saint George, Istanbul, 30 November 2014).             Let us respond to the appeal of the saints, let us listen to the voices of the humble and poor, of the many victims of hatred who suffered and gave their lives for the faith.  Let us pay heed to the younger generation, who seek a future free of past divisions.  From this holy place may a radiant light shine forth once more, and to the light of faith, which has illumined these lands from the time of Saint Gregory, your Father in the Gospel, may there be joined the light of the love that forgives and reconciles.             Just as on Easter morning the Apostles, for all their hesitations and uncertainties, ran towards the place of the resurrection, drawn by the blessed dawn of new hope (cf. Jn 20:3-4), so too on this holy Sunday may we follow God’s call to full communion and hasten towards it.             Now, Your Holiness, in the name of God, I ask you to bless me, to bless me and the Catholic Church, and to bless this our path towards full unity.                                (from Vatican Radio)...

Armenian Catholicos Karekin at Divine Liturgy in Etchmiadzin

Sun, 06/26/2016 - 03:50
(Vatican Radio)  At the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy celebrated at the apostolic Cathedral in Etchmiadzin, Armenia, the Catholicos of all Armenians Karekin II thanked Pope Francis for his “brotherly visit” to the country and prayed that the Lord “keep firm our Churches in love and collaboration” and “grant us new opportunities for witness of brotherhood.” Pope Francis has been the guest of the Oriental Orthodox Catholicos during his three day pastoral visit to Armenia and participated in Sunday’s celebration. In a reflection on the miracle of the multiplication of bread, the day’s reading of the Scripture, the Catholicos recalled that Christ performed the miracle in order to feed the hungry crowds.  “The essence of this miracle, which became one of the important missions of Christ’s Holy Church,” he said, “is the satisfaction of empty spirits” by the Gospel teachings and “the support of the needy through compassion.” The Lord urges us to be “co-workers with God,” he added, by rejuvenating the faith through good works, prayer and “worship with compassion” and “giving alms,” he said. “Today, faith in God is being tempted and human souls are being hardened during times of hardship and difficulties as well as during times of wealth and lavishness, when they are disengaged with the concerns of those who long for daily bread and are in pain and suffering,” added the Catholicos. And, he warned:  “Faith is put to the test by extremism and other kinds of ideologies; xenophobia, addictions, passions and self-centred profits. The processes of secularism are intensifying, spiritual and ethical values and views are distorted, and the family structure, established by God, is being shaken. The root of evil in modern life is in trying to build a world without God, to construe the laws and commandments of God which bring forward economic, political, social, environmental and other problems, that day by day deepen and threaten the natural way of life.” But, “goodness will prevail in the world and current challenges will be overcome” through Christ’s Eucharist and reflection on Christ’s teachings he observed.  Such Christian witness, he said, “will repeat the miracle of the multiplication of the bread through supporting and consoling the needy, the sick, and the sorrowful.” Ecumenical brotherhood and mission During Pope Francis’ visit, Catholicos Karekin took care to stress, “we reconfirmed that the Holy Church of Christ is one in the spreading of the gospel of Christ in the world, in taking care of creation, standing against common problems, and in the vital mission of the salvation of man who is the crown and glory of God’s creation. The inseparable mission of the Church of Christ is the strengthening of solidarity among nations and peoples, reinforcing of brotherhood and collaboration, and a witness to this is the participation in this Divine Liturgy today of the ethnic minorities in Armenia: the Assyrians, Belarus, Greeks, Georgians, Jews, Yezidis, Kurds, Germans, Poles, Russians and Ukrainians who in brotherly coexistence with our people bring their assistance towards the development of our country and the progress of social life.”   Below, please find the English translation of Catholicos Karekin II’s discourse: When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. John 13:34   In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Yours Holiness, beloved brother in Christ, Your Excellency, President of the Republic of Armenia, Beloved spiritual brothers and faithful people,   Over the course of the past few days we have been experiencing an abundance of spiritual joy and joint prayer while glorifying God in Holy Etchmiadzin. Today we have gathered for the celebration of Divine Liturgy, joined in prayer by the Pontiff of Rome, our beloved brother, Pope Francis. It is symbolic that today’s reading of the Scripture, during the celebration of Divine Liturgy, was the story of the multiplication of bread. The Evangelist tells us that when Christ secluded himself, knowing this, the multitude of people followed Him, and when the Lord saw the gathered crowd, He had compassion for them and healed the sick. In the evening the apostles asked the Lord to set the people free so that they could find food for themselves. Christ commanded them to feed the people. However, there was a shortage of food, and the Lord blessed it and the bread, which had miraculously multiplied, was enough for the apostles to feed the entire multitude.            The essence of this miracle, which became one of the important missions of Christ’s Holy Church, is the satisfaction of empty spirits by the Lord-given teachings and the support of the needy through compassion. The Lord urges His followers to rejuvenate faith by works, to conjoin prayer and worship with compassion, and to give alms; through which, by the appeasement of hardship and tribulations, we are co-workers with God, according to the words of the apostle (1 Corinthians 3:9). Through this vision, numerous prophesying Church fathers, graceful patriarchs, brave and good shepherds, countless witnesses of faith and devout believers have for centuries depicted the pages of the history of Christ’s Church with the devout preaching of the Word of God and the great works of giving alms and fostering; so that the people may be strengthened by faith, and through the works of faith they may secure the presence of God in the lives of humanity.             Today, faith in God is being tempted and human souls are being hardened during times of hardship and difficulties as well as during times of wealth and lavishness, when they are disengaged with the concerns of those who long for daily bread and are in pain and suffering. Faith is put to the test by extremism and other kinds of ideologies; xenophobia, addictions, passions and self-centred profits. The processes of secularism are intensifying, spiritual and ethical values and views are distorted, and the family structure, established by God, is being shaken. The root of evil in modern life is in trying to build a world without God, to construe the laws and commandments of God which bring forward economic, political, social, environmental and other problems, that day by day deepen and threaten the natural way of life.             Nevertheless, the world does not cease from being the center of God’s love and care. The Lord continues to say, “I am the bread of life: he that comes to me shall never hunger; and he that believes in me shall never thirst” ( John 6:35 ). The one who has tasted the delightful teachings of the Lord stoops to raise the fallen, to increase hope and faith in the hearts of men, and to repeat the miracle of the multiplication of the bread through supporting and consoling the needy, the sick, and the sorrowful. Goodness will prevail in the world and current challenges will be overcome by these commands of God, and by utilizing spiritual and moral values. All good works express God’s care towards humanity and the world, according to the words of the Lord, “behold the kingdom of God is within you” ( Luke 17:21 ), and as an affirmation of this, the churches of the world bring their service.             Dear ones, during these days together with our spiritual brother, Pope Francis, with joint visits and prayers we reconfirmed that the Holy Church of Christ is one in the spreading of the gospel of Christ in the world, in taking care of creation, standing against common problems, and in the vital mission of the salvation of man who is the crown and glory of God’s creation. The inseparable mission of the Church of Christ is the strengthening of solidarity among nations and peoples, reinforcing of brotherhood and collaboration, and a witness to this is the participation in this Divine Liturgy today of the ethnic minorities in Armenia: the Assyrians, Belarus, Greeks, Georgians, Jews, Yezidis, Kurds, Germans, Poles, Russians and Ukrainians who in brotherly coexistence with our people bring their assistance towards the development of our country and the progress of social life.             On this graceful day we are appreciative for another opportunity to thank Pope Francis on the occasion of his brotherly visit. We and our people will always pray for you, beloved brother, and for your efforts made towards peace and prosperity of humanity and towards the advancement of the Church of Christ. May God give you strength, bless and keep firm our Churches in love and collaboration and may He grant us new opportunities for witness of brotherhood. In your daily prayers remember the Armenian people, the Armenian statehood and the Armenian Church and the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin.             With a prayerful spirit we ask for the protection and support of the Holy Right Hand of Almighty God to shelter those suffering from wars and terrorism, as well as those who are in starvation, poverty and other kinds of afflictions. We also beseech the Lord to pour abundant graces of heaven upon our lives and the whole world.  Amen     (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope and Catholicos water tree in symbolic gesture for Armenian diaspora

Sun, 06/26/2016 - 02:15
(Vatican Radio)  In a symbolic gesture, Pope Francis and the Catholicos of all Armenians Karekin II watered a tree symbolizing Armenia’s many Christians living in the diaspora so that they may bear fruit, signifying new life.  The two Church leaders took up amphoras at the end of Saturday’s ecumenical prayer for peace in Yerevan and poured water over the earth which had been gathered by children residents of Armenia and elsewhere across the world and placed in a vessel resembling Noah’s Ark. Armenia is home to Mount Ararat where, according to legend, Noah landed his Ark after the Great Floods. Tens of thousands of Armenia’s Christians fled the country in the 1900s during Ottoman massacres.  On Saturday, Francis paid his respects at Armenia's imposing genocide memorial and greeted descendants of survivors of the 1915 slaughter. In the memorial’s guest book, the Pope wrote:  ``Here I pray with sorrow in my heart, so that a tragedy like this never again occurs, so that humanity will never forget and will know how to defeat evil with good…May God protect the memory of the Armenian people. Memory should never be watered-down or forgotten. Memory is the source of peace and the future.''   (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis at the start of his last day in Armenia

Sun, 06/26/2016 - 01:39
(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis began his day Sunday with a private Mass in a chapel prepared for the occasion in the Apostolic Palace of Etchmiadzin where the Holy Father has been residing on his three day pastoral visit to Armenia.  Sunday is the last day of his visit to the very first nation to adopt Christianity as the state religion. Following Mass, the Pope was to meet privately with Armenia’s 14 Catholic bishops and 12 priests before heading to San Tiridate Square to participate in the the Divine Liturgy celebrated by his Eastern Orthodox hosts.  The Holy Father is expected to deliver a discourse following an address by the Catholicos of all Armenians Karekin II.  Pope Francis will wrap up the day with a visit to Khor Virap monastery which lies in the shadow of Mount Ararat, where tradition holds that Noah landed his ark. One of Armenia’s most sacred sites, Khor Virap is not far from the country’s closed border with Turkey.   The Holy Father will depart from Yerevan's international airport in the evening to fly back to Rome and the Vatican. (from Vatican Radio)...

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