April 8: Release of post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis’s highly-anticipated post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation, “Amoris Laetitia” (The Joy of Love) on love in the family will be released on Friday 8th April. The Vatican said the Exhortation will be presented to journalists at the Holy See’s Press Office on Friday 8th April at 11.30. 

The text of the Apostolic Exhortation in Italian, French, English, German, Spanish and  Portuguese (in paper and/or digital format) will be available to accredited journalists from 8.00 a.m. (Rome time) on Friday 8th April. However, the document will remain under embargo until 12 noon that day. 

The panel of speakers at the press conference will include: Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, general secretary of the Synod of Bishops; Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, O.P., archbishop of Vienna, and an Italian married couple: Professor Francesco Miano, lecturer in moral philosophy at Rome’s University of Tor Vergata, and his wife, Professor Giuseppina De Simone in Miano, lecturer in philosophy at the Theological Faculty of Southern Italy in Naples.

A simultaneous translation service will be available in Italian, English and Spanish. The Press Conference can be seen via live streaming (audio-video) on the site:

http://player.rv.va (Vatican Player, Vatican Radio) where it will subsequently remain available on demand. 

 

The Apostolic Exhortation is the conclusion of a two-year synod process discussing both the beauty and challenges of family life today.

In 2014 the Vatican hosted an Extraordinary Synod which was in preparation for the October 2015 Ordinary Synod. An estimated 190 bishops from around the world participated in each gathering.

The 2015 Synod’s theme was “the vocation and mission of the family in the Church and the modern world.”

 

(from Vatican Radio)

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At the General Audience the Pope recalls that God’s forgiveness blots out sin at the root – The ocean and the snow

God in his goodness “does not hide the sin but destroys and blots it out”. Indeed, “he blots it out from the very root, not as they do at the dry cleaners’ when we take a suit and they remove a stain“. No! God blots out our sin from the very root, completely! ”. With this evocative imagery Pope Francis spoke of divine mercy in the catechesis — the last in a series dedicated to the Jubilee theme in light of the Old Testament — during the General Audience on Wednesday, 30 March. With the faithful present in St Peter’s Square, the Pope elaborated on Psalm 51[50], the ‘Miserere’. The following is a translation of the Holy Father’s address, which he gave in Italian.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Good morning,

Today we shall complete the catecheses on mercy in the Old Testament, and do so by meditating on Psalm 51[50], known as the Miserere. It is a penitential prayer in which the request for forgiveness is preceded by the confession of sins and in which the one praying allows himself to be purified by the Lord’s love. Thus, he becomes a new creature, capable of obedience, steadfastness of spirit, and of sincere praise.

The “title” that the ancient Hebrew tradition gave to this Psalm refers to King David and his sin with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite. We are quite familiar with the event. Kind David, called by God to shepherd the people and guide them on the paths of obedience to divine Law, betrayed his mission and, after committing adultery with Bathsheba, has her husband put to death. A terrible sin! The prophet Nathan shows David his sin and helps him to recognize it. It is the moment of reconciliation with God, in confessing his sin. Here David was humble. He showed greatness!

Those who pray with this Psalm are called to feel the same sense of remorse and of trust in God, which David had when he mended his ways and, although the king, he humbled himself without being afraid to confess his crime and show his misery to the Lord, yet confident that the Lord’s mercy was assured. What he had done was not a minor sin, a small lie: he had committed adultery and murder!

The Psalm begins with these words of supplication:

“Have mercy on me, O God,

according to thy steadfast love;

according to thy abundant mercy

blot out my transgressions.

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,

and cleanse me from my sin! (vv. 1-2).

The invocation is addressed to the God of mercy in order that, moved by a love as great as that of a father or mother, he have mercy, that is, grant grace, show his favour with benevolence and understanding. It is a heartfelt plea to God, who alone can free one from sin. Very descriptive images are used: blot out, wash me, cleanse me. Made manifest in this prayer is man’s true need: the only thing that we truly need in our life is that of being forgiven, freed from evil and from its consequence of death. Unfortunately, life often makes us experience these situations. In [such circumstances] we must first trust in mercy. God is greater than our sin. Let us not forget this: God is greater than our sin! “Father, I do not know how to say it. I have committed many, serious [sins]!”. God is greater than all the sins we can commit. God is greater than our sin. Shall we say it together? All together: “God is greater than our sin!”. Once again: “God is greater than our sin!”. Once more: “God is greater than our sin!”. His love is an ocean in which we can immerse ourselves without fear of being overcome: to God forgiving means giving us the certainty that he never abandons us. Whatever our heart may admonish us, he is still and always greater than everything (cf. 1 Jn 3:20), because God is greater than our sin.

In this sense, whoever prays with this Psalm seeks forgiveness, confesses his sin, but in acknowledging it celebrates the justice and holiness of God. Moreover he asks to be granted grace and mercy. The Psalmist trusts in the goodness of God. He knows that divine goodness is immensely effective, because [God] creates what he says. He does not hide the sin but destroys and blots it out. He blots it out from the very root, not as they do at the dry cleaners’ when we take a suit and they remove a stain. No! God blots out our sin from the very root, completely! Therefore the penitent person becomes pure again; every stain is eliminated and now he is whiter than pure snow. We are all sinners. Is this true? If any of you does not feel you are a sinner, raise your hand…. No one. We all are sinners. We sinners, with forgiveness, become new creatures, filled by the spirit and full of joy. Now a new reality begins for us: a new heart, a new spirit, a new life. We, forgiven sinners, who have received divine grace, can even teach others to sin no more. “But Father, I am weak, I fall, I fall”. — “If you fall, get up! Stand up!”. When a child falls, what does he do? He raises his hand to mom, to dad so they help him to get up. Let us do the same! If out of weakness you fall into sin, raise your hand: the Lord will take it and help you get up. This is the dignity of God’s forgiveness! The dignity that God’s forgiveness gives us is that of lifting us up, putting us back on our feet, because he created men and woman to stand on their feet.

The Psalmist says:

“Create in me a clean heart, O God,

and put a new and right spirit within me.

[…].

Then I will teach transgressors thy ways,

and sinners will return to thee” (vv. 10, 13).

Dear brothers and sisters, God’s forgiveness is what we all need, and it is the greatest sign of his mercy. It is a gift that every forgiven sinner is called to share with every brother and sister he meets. All those whom the Lord has placed beside us, family, friends, coworkers, parishioners… everyone needs, as we do, the mercy of God. It is beautiful to be forgiven, but you too, if you want to be forgiven, forgive in turn. Forgive! May the Lord allow us, through the intercession of Mary, Mother of Mercy, to be witnesses to his forgiveness, which purifies the heart and transforms life. Thank you.

I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, including those from England, Ireland, Norway, Nigeria, Australia, Indonesia, Pakistan and the United States. In the joy of the Risen Lord, I invoke upon you and your families the loving mercy of God our Father. May the Lord bless you all!

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Pope at General Audience: God pulls us up from sin

(Vatican Radio)  “God is greater than our sin!”  That’s what Pope Francis reminded pilgrims at the General Audience Wednesday 30 March.  In his remarks in Italian, the Pope said God’s infiinite mercy wipes away our sins just like the dry cleaner is able to eliminate the stains from our clothes. 

He invited those gathered in Saint Peter’s square to raise their hands if any among them had not sinned in his or her lifetime.  He remarked that no one present had raised a hand and observed that some people find themselves sinning over and over again. 

But when we fall in sin – just like when a child falls – noted the Pope, we raise our hand to be lifted up by a parent and it is God who will pull us up.  “God created man and woman to stand upright,” said the Pope.  “It is beautiful to be forgiven,” stressed Pope Francis, “but you too, if you want to be pardoned, you should also forgive.  Forgive!”

Pope Francis conveyed this message to English speaking pilgrims:

Dear Brothers and Sisters:  In our continuing catechesis for this Holy Year of Mercy, we now conclude our treatment of the Old Testament with a consideration of Psalm 51, the Miserere.  This Psalm is traditionally seen as King David’s prayer for forgiveness following his sin with Bathsheba.  Its opening words: “Have mercy on me, O God in your kindness”, are a moving confession of sin, repentance and confident hope in God’s merciful pardon.  Together with a heartfelt plea to be cleansed and purified of his sin, the Psalmist sings the praise of God’s infinite justice and holiness.  He asks for the forgiveness of his great sin but also for the gift of a pure heart and a steadfast spirit, so that, thus renewed, he may draw other sinners back to the way of righteousness.  God’s forgiveness is the greatest sign of his infinite mercy.  Through the prayers of Mary, Mother of Mercy, may we become ever more convincing witnesses to that divine mercy which forgives our sins, creates in us a new heart, and enables us to proclaim God’s reconciling love to the world.

I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, including those from England, Ireland, Norway, Nigeria, Australia, Indonesia, Pakistan and the United States.  In the joy of the Risen Lord, I invoke upon you and your families the loving mercy of God our Father.  May the Lord bless you all!

(from Vatican Radio)

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Holy See urges recognition of women’s role in peacebuilding

(Vatican Radio)  The Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations in New York has paid “special homage” to “women who have had profound and lasting effects on the lives of millions of people and on the development of nations through their selfless and long-term work in education, healthcare and values formation among the young.”

In a statement presented to the Security Council Open Debate on Women, peace and security 28 March 2016, Archbishop Bernardito Auza addressed the issue of “the role of women in conflict prevention and resolution in Africa,”   saying that women, even in the most difficult circumstances, distinguish themselves for their bravery, constancy and dedication.”

“Women and girls who have become victims of rape and other forms of violence during conflicts find security and understanding in the institutions run by these women, more often than not by women religious.”

Yemen: Sisters of Charity sacrificed their lives for the poor

The Vatican diplomat recalled with “gratitude and sorrow” the sacrifice of four Missionary Sisters of Charity Sister Anselm from India, Sister Marguerite and Sister Reginette from Rwanda, and Sister Judit from Kenya, “who were massacred by cowardly fundamentalists on March 4 in Aden, Yemen.”

“They devoted their lives for poor and elderly women, a dozen of whom were also killed with them, while some sources claim that the terrorists who kidnapped the Indian priest Father Tom from the same institution crucified him on Good Friday.”

Archbishop Auzo praised efforts by the U.N. and governments to “raise awareness and arrive at a fuller recognition of the vital role of women” in conflict prevention and peacebuilding. 

The Vatican diplomat said women have a “special gift in educating people to be more receptive and sensitive of the needs of others around them and beyond” and that their contribution in this area “is crucial in conflict resolution and in fostering post-conflict reconciliation.”

Please find below the full transcript of Archbishop Auzo’s statement to the UN Security Council:

Mr. President,

My delegation wishes to thank the Angolan Presidency for convening this particularly important Open Debate on the role of women in conflict prevention and resolution in Africa. Women are drivers of development and human flourishing in multiple fields: in the family and faith communities, in socio-cultural initiatives and humanitarian efforts, in education and health care, in mediation and preventive diplomacy, in peacekeeping and peacebuilding. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development cannot be achieved without the contribution of women.

Sustainable development goal 16 aims to “promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development.” In many countries in Africa, in particular in the Great Lakes Region, “peaceful and inclusive societies” are still a distant dream. Women can greatly contribute towards realization. Thus the Holy See expresses its appreciation for the initiatives promoted by the Security Council and Governments to raise awareness and arrive at a fuller recognition of the vital role of women in preventive diplomacy, mediation, peacekeeping missions and peace-building processes. This recognition, however, must be fully translated into action in order to unleash skills and capacities that allow women to bring order out of chaos, community out of division, and peace out of conflict. Their special gift in educating people to be more receptive and sensitive of the needs of others around them and beyond is crucial in conflict resolution and in fostering post-conflict reconciliation.

Mr. President,

My delegation wishes to pay special homage to the women who have had profound and lasting effects on the lives of millions of people and on the development of nations through their selfless and long-term work in education, healthcare and values formation among the young. These women, even in the most difficult circumstances, distinguish themselves for their bravery, constancy anddedication. Women and girls who have become victims of rape and other forms of violence during conflicts find security and understanding in the institutions run by these women, more often than not by women religious.

Their spirit of sacrifice for the good of others bring some of them to death. My delegation feels dutybound at this moment to remember with gratitude and sorrow the four Missionary Sisters of the Charity Sister Anselm from India, Sister Marguerite and Sister Reginette from Rwanda, and Sister Judit from Kenya, who were massacred by cowardly fundamentalists on March 4 in Aden, Yemen.

They devoted their lives for poor and elderly women, a dozen of whom were also killed with them, while some sources claim that the terrorists who kidnapped the Indian priest Father Tom from the same institution crucified him on Good Friday.

Pope Francis has prayed that “this pointless slaughter will awaken consciences, lead to a change of heart, and inspire all parties to lay down their arms and take up the path of dialogue.” There is no greater sacrifice for peace and reconciliation than to lay down one’s life for it. May their blood these be seeds for a peaceful and reconciled Yemen!

Mr. President,

The Holy See has been very attentive to the inspiring work of African women in defending the voiceless, in preventing the outbreak of communal violence, in caring for the victims of conflicts, in reinforcing fragile peace, in fostering human dignity and fundamental human rights. Through various initiatives, the Holy See aims to consolidate their tremendous contributions to build peaceful and inclusive societies. The rise of more and more African women to high political and diplomatic spheres can greatly help Africa find answers to the problems that until now have kept it from sharing fully the fruits of development and the dividends of peace.

Education has been key to this empowerment. If women are to become prime drivers of sustainable development and peaceful societies, ensuring that all girls and women have access to education is indispensable. Improving access to education for women will not only redound to a fuller realization of their potentials and greater professional opportunities; it is also a key to better educated future generations capable of ushering in and maintaining just and peaceful societies. I am proud to say that the Catholic Church in Africa is the leading provider of quality education for all, ensuring to the best of its possibilities that no woman or girl would be left unschooled, preparing them to become dignified agents of their own personal flourishing and active protagonists in building strong families and peaceful societies.

Sadly, for far too many women, it is still a steep uphill struggle to emancipate themselves from situations of marginalization, violence, abandonment and exclusion. The world today continues to be confronted with various old and new forms of violence directed against women and girls, in particular the use of rape as a weapon of war during conflicts, the abuses in refugee camps, the trafficking of women and girls for sexual exploitation, forced abortion, forced conversion and forced marriage. Instead of being eradicated, some of these acts of violence have re-emerged in even crueler forms, constituting some of the most horrendous violations of human rights.

Mr. President,

The obligation to put an end to these barbaric acts against women and girls is incumbent upon every one of us, upon every Government and in a particular way, upon this Council.

Thank you, Mr. President.

(from Vatican Radio)

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Pope Francis: Mercy and love have conquered sin at Easter

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis said “we also stand today before the empty tomb of Jesus, and meditate with wonder and gratitude on the great mystery of the Resurrection of the Lord” during his  Easter Monday Regina Coeli address.

“Life has conquered death. Mercy and love have conquered sin! There is need of faith and hope to open this new and wonderful horizon,” Pope Francis said.

“And we know that faith and hope are a gift from God, and we have to ask: ‘Lord, give me faith, give me hope! We have so much need!’. Let us by pervaded by the emotions that resonate in the Easter sequence: ‘Yes, we are certain: Christ is truly risen.’ The Lord has risen among us! This truth marked in an indelible way the lives of the Apostles who, after the Resurrection, again felt the need to follow their Master and, receiving the Holy Spirit, went without fear to proclaim to all what they had seen with their own eyes and personally experienced.”

The Holy Father said “in this Jubilee Year we are called to rediscover and to welcome with particular intensity the comforting announcement of the resurrection: ‘Christ, my hope, is risen!’”, adding “if Christ is risen, we can look with new eyes and hearts at every event of our lives, even the most negative.”

“The moments of darkness, of failure, and also of sin can be transformed and announce a new path. When we have reached the base of our misery and our weakness, the risen Christ gives us the strength to lift ourselves up. If we have faith in Him, His grace saves us!” – Pope Francis continued – “The crucified and risen Lord is the full revelation of mercy, present and active in history. This is the Easter message that still resonates today and that will resonate throughout the time of Easter until Pentecost.”

The Pope said “the silent witness to the events of the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus was Mary.”

“She was standing next to the cross: She did not collapse in the face of grief, but her faith made her stronger” – he explained – “In the broken heart of a mother, there was always the flame of hope. We ask her to also help us to accept in fullness the Easter proclamation of resurrection, to embody it concretely in our daily lives.”

He then invoked Our Lady before reciting the Regina Coeli prayer, which is prayed instead of the Angelus during the Easter season: “May the Virgin Mary give us the certainty of faith that suffered every step of our journey, illuminated by the light of Easter; that it will become a blessing and joy for us and for others, especially for those who suffer because of selfishness and indifference.”

After reciting the Regina Coeli, Pope Francis condemned the “reprehensible” terrorist attack in Lahore, Pakistan, and called on civil and other authorities to “do everything possible to restore security and peace to the population and, in particular, to the most vulnerable religious minorities.”

At the end of his address, the Holy Father encouraged everyone to spend a little bit of time every day reading from the Gospels.

“It takes no more than five minutes to read a passage from the Gospel. Remember this!…And do not forget to pray for me!” Pope Francis concluded.

(from Vatican Radio)

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Pope Francis condemns terrorist attack against Pakistani Christians

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Easter Monday called for pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square to pause for a moment of prayer for the victims of the terrorist attack in Lahore, Pakistan, which killed more than 70 people, mostly Christian families celebrating Easter Sunday in a public park.

During his Regina Coeli address, Pope Francis called the attack “reprehensible” and said it “bloodied” Easter.

“I wish to express my closeness to all those affected by this cowardly and senseless crime, and ask you to pray to the Lord for the numerous victims and their loved ones,” Pope Francis said.

“I appeal to the civil authorities and to all the social components of [Pakistan] to do everything possible to restore security and peace to the population and, in particular, to the most vulnerable religious minorities,” the Pope continued.

“I repeat, once again, that violence and murderous hatred lead only to pain and destruction; respect and fraternity are the only way to achieve peace,” – the Holy Father said – “The Passover of the Lord inspires in us, in an even more powerful way, prayers to God so that he stops the hands of the violent, who spread terror and death; and makes it possible for love, justice and reconciliation to reign in the world.”

After his remarks, Pope Francis led those gathered in St. Peter’s Square in a “Hail Mary” for the victims and their families.

(from Vatican Radio)

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Pope Francis: Christ has won perfect victory over evil

(Vatican Radio) St. Peter’s Square filled to overflowing on Easter Sunday morning, as scores of thousands of pilgrims and tourists gathered under a brilliant Roman spring sky for Mass, followed by the traditional Benedictio urbi et orbi – the “Blessing of the City and the World”.

Delivered from the central loggia – the balcony set in the middle of the upper level of the façade of St. Pater’s Basilica – the Holy Father’s remarks on the occasion focused on Christ’s perfect triumph over evil and sin in the Resurrection.

The Holy Father recalled all victims of terrorism everywhere, saying, “May He draw us closer on this Easter feast to the victims of terrorism, that blind and brutal form of violence which continues to shed blood in different parts of the world, as in the recent attacks in Belgium, Turkey, Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, and Côte d’Ivoire.”

Pope Francis went on to say that the Easter message speaks especially to those seeking to escape from persecution and poverty, calling everyone in happier situations not to forget them. “The Easter message of the risen Christ, a message of life for all humanity,” said Pope Francis, “echoes down the ages and invites us not to forget those men and women seeking a better future, an ever more numerous throng of migrants and refugees – including many children – fleeing from war, hunger, poverty and social injustice.” 

The Holy Father also spoke directly to all people everywhere, who struggle to keep faith and hope.

“To those in our society who have lost all hope and joy in life, to the elderly who struggle alone and feel their strength waning,” he said, “to young people who seem to have no future, to all I once more address the words of the Risen One: ‘See, I am making all things new… To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life’ (Rev 21:5-6).”

Pope Francis concluded, saying, “May this comforting message of Jesus help each of us to set out anew with greater courage to blaze trails of reconciliation with God and with all our brothers and sisters,” and, departing from his prepared text, added, “[of this] we have great need!”

(from Vatican Radio)

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Pope Francis: Easter Urbi et Orbi a message of hope

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis delivered the traditional Urbi et Orbi blessing on Easter Sunday, following Mass in St. Peter’s Square. Speaking to pilgrims and tourists gathered in the Square for the occasion, Pope Francis especially remembered the suffering peoples of Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen. 
Below, please find the full text of the Holy Father’s prepared remarks. “The Easter message of the risen Christ,” said Pope Francis, “a message of life for all humanity, echoes down the ages and invites us not to forget those men and women seeking a better future, an ever more numerous throng of migrants and refugees – including many children – fleeing from war, hunger, poverty and social injustice.” 

The Holy Father also spoke directly to all people everywhere, who struggle to keep faith and hope.

“To those in our society who have lost all hope and joy in life, to the elderly who struggle alone and feel their strength waning,” he said, “to young people who seem to have no future, to all I once more address the words of the Risen One: ‘See, I am making all things new… To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life’ (Rev 21:5-6).” Pope Francis concluded, saying, “May this comforting message of Jesus help each of us to set out anew with greater courage to blaze trails of reconciliation with God and with all our brothers and sisters.”

Below, please find the official English translation of the Holy Father’s prepared remarks

************************************************************************** 

Message of His Holiness Pope Francis

Urbi et Orbi

Easter Sunday, 27 March 2016

“O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,

for his mercy endures for ever”  (Ps 135:1)

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Happy Easter!

Jesus Christ, the incarnation of God’s mercy, out of love for us, died on the cross, and out of love he rose again from the dead.  That is why we proclaim today: Jesus is Lord!

His resurrection fulfils the prophecy of the Psalm: God’s mercy endures for ever; it never dies.  We can trust him completely, and we thank him because for our sake he descended into the depths of the abyss.

Before the spiritual and moral abysses of mankind, before the chasms that open up in hearts and provoke hatred and death, only an infinite mercy can bring us salvation.  Only God can fill those chasms with his love, prevent us from falling into them and help us to continue our journey together towards the land of freedom and life.

The glorious Easter message, that Jesus, who was crucified is not here but risen (cf. Mt 28:5-6), offers us the comforting assurance that the abyss of death has been bridged and, with it, all mourning, lamentation and pain (cf. Rev 21:4).  The Lord, who suffered abandonment by his disciples, the burden of an unjust condemnation and shame of an ignominious death, now makes us sharers of his immortal life and enables us to see with his eyes of love and compassion those who hunger and thirst, strangers and prisoners, the marginalized and the outcast, the victims of oppression and violence.  Our world is full of persons suffering in body and spirit, even as the daily news is full of stories of brutal crimes which often take place within homes, and large-scale armed conflicts which cause indescribable suffering to entire peoples.

The risen Christ points out paths of hope to beloved Syria, a country torn by a lengthy conflict, with its sad wake of destruction, death, contempt for humanitarian law and the breakdown of civil concord.  To the power of the risen Lord we entrust the talks now in course, that good will and the cooperation of all will bear fruit in peace and initiate the building of a fraternal society respectful of the dignity and rights of each citizen.  May the message of life, proclaimed by the Angel beside the overturned stone of the tomb, overcome hardened hearts and promote a fruitful encounter of peoples and cultures in other areas of the Mediterranean and the Middle East, particularly in Iraq, Yemen and Libya.  May the image of the new man, shining on the face of Christ, favour concord between Israelis and Palestinians in the Holy Land, as well as patience, openness and daily commitment to laying the foundations of a just and lasting peace through direct and sincere negotiations.  May the Lord of life also accompany efforts to attain a definitive solution to the war in Ukraine, inspiring and sustaining initiatives of humanitarian aid, including the liberation of those who are detained.

The Lord Jesus, our peace (Eph 2:14), by his resurrection triumphed over evil and sin. May he draw us closer on this Easter feast to the victims of terrorism, that blind and brutal form of violence which continues to shed blood in different parts of the world, as in the recent attacks in Belgium, Turkey, Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, and Côte d’Ivoire.  May he water the seeds of hope and prospects for peace in Africa; I think in particular of Burundi, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan, marked by political and social tensions.

With the weapons of love, God has defeated selfishness and death.  His son Jesus is the door of mercy wide open to all.  May his Easter message be felt ever more powerfully by the beloved people of Venezuela in the difficult conditions which they are experiencing, and by those responsible for the country’s future, that everyone may work for the common good, seeking spaces of dialogue and cooperation with all.  May efforts be made everywhere to promote the culture of counter, justice and reciprocal respect, which alone can guarantee the spiritual and material welfare of all people.

The Easter message of the risen Christ, a message of life for all humanity, echoes down the ages and invites us not to forget those men and women seeking a better future, an ever more numerous throng of migrants and refugees – including many children – fleeing from war, hunger, poverty and social injustice.  All too often, these brothers and sisters of ours meet along the way with death or, in any event, rejection by those who could offer them welcome and assistance.  May the forthcoming World Humanitarian Summit not fail to be centred on the human person and his or her dignity, and to come up with policies capable of assisting and protecting the victims of conflicts and other emergencies, especially those who are most vulnerable and all those persecuted for ethnic and religious reasons.

On this glorious day, “let the earth rejoice, in shining splendour” (cf. Easter Proclamation), even though it is so often mistreated and greedily exploited, resulting in an alteration of natural equilibria.  I think especially of those areas affected by climate change, which not infrequently causes drought or violent flooding, which then lead to food crises in different parts of the world.

Along with our brothers and sisters persecuted for their faith and their fidelity to the name of Christ, and before the evil that seems to have the upper hand in the life of so many people, let us hear once again the comforting words of the Lord: “Take courage; I have conquered the world! (Jn 16:33).  Today is the radiant day of this victory, for Christ has trampled death and destruction underfoot.  By his resurrection he has brought life and immortality to light (cf. 2 Tim 1:10).  “He has made us pass from enslavement to freedom, from sadness to joy, from mourning to jubilation, from darkness to light, from slavery to redemption.  Therefore let us acclaim in his presence: Alleluia!” (Melito of Sardis, Easter Homily).

To those in our society who have lost all hope and joy in life, to the elderly who struggle alone and feel their strength waning, to young people who seem to have no future, to all I once more address the words of the Risen One: “See, I am making all things new… To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life” (Rev 21:5-6).  May this comforting message of Jesus help each of us to set out anew with greater courage to blaze trails of reconciliation with God and with all our brothers and sisters.

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Pope Francis: condolences to terror attack victims in Iraq

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has conveyed his condolences to the families of the victims of the deadly terror attack in Iskanderiyeh, Iraq, on Good Friday. At least 29 people were killed in the attack, for which the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria claimed responsibility. Delivered via telegram signed by the Secretary of State of the Holy See, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, to the Apostolic Nuncio in Iraq, Archbishop Alberto Ortega Martin, the Holy Father promises prayers for the deceased and for their loved ones, as well as for the resolve of the Iraqi people in the face of such violence.

Below, please find the full text of the telegram, in English

*********************************************************************

The Most Reverend Alberto Ortega Martín

Apostolic Nuncio in Iraq

BAGHDAD

Your Excellency,

I would ask you kindly to transmit the following message to the appropriate national authorities:

Saddened by the news of the great loss of life caused by the terrorist attack in Iskanderiyah, His Holiness Pope Francis offers fervent prayers for the victims and their families, invoking Gods mercy upon the dead and divine consolation upon those who suffer.  He prays that in response to this act of senseless violence the Iraqi people will be strengthened in their resolve to reject the ways of hatred and conflict and to work together fearlessly for a future of mutual respect, solidarity and freedom. 

Cardinal Pietro Parolin

Secretary of State

(from Vatican Radio)

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Pope at Easter Vigil urges us to let Risen Christ into our lives

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday evening presided at the Easter Vigil in St Peter’s Basilica, with the baptism of 12 catechumens from Italy, Albania, Cameroon, Korea, India and China.

In his homily the Pope reflected on the actions of Peter who ran to Jesus’ tomb on the first Easter morning. Even though he, like the other disciples,  had not believed the testimony of the women who had already found the empty grave, the Pope noted that Peter was not overwhelmed by doubt or consumed by remorse.

Listen: 

Like the women who had gone to bury the body, the Pope said, Peter did not give into sadness and darkness but allowed the light of God to enter his heart. Like Peter and the women, he said, let us not stay imprisoned within ourselves, but instead break open our sealed tombs and let the Risen Christ into our hearts. Though we will always encounter problem, we must let the light of Christ shine on them, knowing that He is always at our side and will not let us down

Pope Francis said this certainty is the foundation of our Christian hope which is not mere optimism or a desire to be courageous. The Spirit, he said, does not remove evil with a magic wand. But rather He pours into us the vitality of life and the knowledge that Christ has conquered fear, sin and death, compelling us to set out and announce this Easter message to others.

Please find below the English translation of Pope Francis’ homily at the Mass of the Easter Vigil

“Peter ran to the tomb” (Lk 24:12).  What thoughts crossed Peter’s mind and stirred his heart as he ran to the tomb?  The Gospel tells us that the eleven, including Peter, had not believed the testimony of the women, their Easter proclamation.   Quite the contrary, “these words seemed to them an idle tale” (v. 11).  Thus there was doubt in Peter’s heart, together with many other worries: sadness at the death of the beloved Master and disillusionment for having denied him three times during his Passion.

There is, however, something which signals a change in him: after listening to the women and refusing to believe them, “Peter rose” (v. 12).  He did not remain sedentary, in thought; he did not stay at home as the others did.  He did not succumb to the sombre atmosphere of those days, nor was he overwhelmed by his doubts.  He was not consumed by remorse, fear or the continuous gossip that leads nowhere.  He was looking for Jesus, not himself.  He preferred the path of encounter and trust.  And so, he got up, just as he was, and ran towards the tomb from where he would return “amazed” (v. 12).  This marked the beginning of Peter’s resurrection, the resurrection of his heart.  Without giving in to sadness or darkness, he made room for hope: he allowed the light of God to enter into his heart, without smothering it.   

The women too, who had gone out early in the morning to perform a work of mercy, taking the perfumed ointments to the tomb, had the same experience.  They were “frightened and bowed their faces”, and yet they were deeply affected by the words of the angel: “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” (v. 5).

We, like Peter and the women, cannot discover life by being sad, bereft of hope.  Let us not stay imprisoned within ourselves, but let us break open our sealed tombs to the Lord so that he may enter and grant us life.  Let us give him the stones of our rancour and the boulders of our past, those heavy burdens of our weaknesses and falls.  Christ wants to come and take us by the hand to bring us out of our anguish.  This is the first stone to be moved aside this night: the lack of hope which imprisons us within ourselves.  May the Lord free us from this trap, from being Christians without hope, who live as if the Lord were not risen, as if our problems were the centre of our lives.

We see and will continue to see problems both within and without.  They will always be there.  But tonight it is important to shed the light of the Risen Lord upon our problems, and in a certain sense, to “evangelize” them.  Let us not allow darkness and fear to distract us and control us;  we must cry out to them: the Lord “is not here, but has risen!” (v. 6).  He is our greatest joy; he is always at our side and will never let us down.

This is the foundation of our hope, which is not mere optimism, nor a psychological attitude or desire to be courageous.  Christian hope is a gift that God gives us if we come out of ourselves and open our hearts to him.  This hope does not disappoint us because the Holy Spirit has been poured into our hearts (cf. Rom 5:5).  The Paraclete does not make everything look appealing.  He does not remove evil with a magic wand.  But he pours into us the vitality of life, which is not the absence of problems, but the certainty of being loved and always forgiven by Christ, who for us has conquered sin, death and fear.  Today is the celebration of our hope, the celebration of this truth: nothing and no one will ever be able to separate us from his love (cf. Rom 8:39).

The Lord is alive and wants to be sought among the living.  After having found him, each person is sent out by him to announce the Easter message, to awaken and resurrect hope in hearts burdened by sadness, in those who struggle to find meaning in life.  There is so necessary today.   However, we must not proclaim ourselves.  Rather, as joyful servants of hope, we must announce the Risen One by our lives and by our love; otherwise we will be only an international organization full of followers and good rules, yet incapable of offering the hope for which the world longs. 

How can we strengthen our hope?  The liturgy of this night offers some guidance.  It teaches us to remember the works of God.  The readings describe God’s faithfulness, the history of his love towards us.  The living word of God is able to involve us in this history of love, nourishing our hope and renewing our joy.  The Gospel also reminds us of this: in order to kindle hope in the hearts of the women, the angel tells them: “Remember what [Jesus] told you” (v. 6).  Let us not forget his words and his works, otherwise we will lose hope.  Let us instead remember the Lord, his goodness and his life-giving words which have touched us.  Let us remember them and make them ours, to be sentinels of the morning who know how to help others see the signs of the Risen Lord.  

Dear brothers and sisters, Christ is risen!  Let us open our hearts to hope and go forth.  May the memory of his works and his words be the bright star which directs our steps in the ways of faith towards the Easter that will have no end.       

(from Vatican Radio)

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