Pope meets with Georgian Orthodox Patriarch

(Vatican Radio) One of the highlights of the Holy Father’s first day in Georgia was his meeting with the Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia, Ilia II, and with the Members of the Holy Synod of the Georgian Orthodox Church.

In his address during the meeting, Pope Francis focused on the love of Christ as a basis for building up the bonds of unity between the Catholic Church and the Georgian Orthodox Church.

In his address to the leaders of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Pope Francis recalled Patriarch Ilia’s visit to Rome in 1980, the first visit ever of a Georgian Patriarch to the Vatican. He also recalled the visit of Pope John Paul II to Georgia on the eve of the Jubilee Year of 2000.

Pope Francis’ visit to Georgia likewise comes during the celebration of a Jubilee, the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy.

On the occasion of this new meeting, the Pope noted the ties that exist between the Georgian Church, founded on the preaching of St Andrew; and the Church of Rome, built on the foundation of the St Peter, Andrew’s brother. Addressing Ilia as “Dear Brother,” Pope Francis said, “let us allow the Lord Jesus to look upon us anew, let us once again experience the attraction of his call to leave everything that prevents us from proclaiming together his presence.”

The love of Christ as the basis of unity among Christians was the focus of the Pope’s reflection. “Truly, the love of the Lord raises us up,” Pope Francis said, “because it enables us to rise above the misunderstandings of the past, above the calculations of the present and fears for the future.”

The people of Georgia, he continued, have witnessed to “the greatness of this love” through the centuries – a love that has inspired “the immortal beauty” of Georgia’s cultural patrimony.

“I want to be a genuine friend to this land and its beloved people,” Pope Francis said, a people “who do not forget the good they have received and whose unique hospitality is intimately united to a way of living that is full of true hope, even though there is no shortage of difficulties.”

Pope Francis concluded his remarks by with an appeal to the “courageous heroes” of Georgia’s history, “who like St George, knew how to defeat evil.” May their intercession, he prayed, “May their intercession bring relief to the many Christians who even today suffer persecution and slander, and may they strengthen in us the noble aspiration to be fraternally united in proclaiming the Gospel of peace.”

(from Vatican Radio)

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Pope Francis in Georgia: prayer for peace

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis is currently on an Apostolic journey to Georgia. He flew into the  nation’s capital Tblisi on Friday 30th of September and his third and last appointment of the day took place at  the Chaldean Catholic Church of Simon ‘Bar Sabbae’, dedicated to a tenth century Coptic Saint. There he met with representatives of the Assyrian Chaldean community.

Listen to a report by Veronica Scarisbrick: 

Upon his arrival at the Church the Pope was greeted by the Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans and the local parish priest. Together they entered the Church in procession, making their  way towards the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament therein. .

Among those present were around three hundred faithful from the Assyrian Chaldean ‘Diaspora’. Not just from the nation’s capital but also from nearby towns and villages. For the record the Catholic Assyrian Chaldean mission in Georgia was instituted in 1995 under Vatican jurisdiction and from that year on the Chaldean rite was celebrated in the nation. But it was only in 2004 that the growing number of Chaldean parishioners prompted the construction of the Church of Saint Simon. 

So it was in this Church on Friday that celebrations took place, beginning with sacred music and prayers in Aramaic. That’s before Pope Francis himself prayed for peace in the world.

Speaking in Italian he implored  the Lord to save the victims of injustice and maltreatment from their suffering, to confound the culture of death and make the triumph of life shine forth, to unite to His Cross the sufferings of the many innocent victims: the children, the elderly, and the persecuted Christians. Envelop in Paschal light, he went on to implore, those who are deeply wounded, those who are abused and deprived of freedom and dignity. May those who live in uncertainty experience the enduring constancy of Your kingdom, be they exiles, refugees or those who have lost the joy of living.  Lord Jesus, he continued,  cast forth the shadow of Your Cross over peoples at war, may they learn the way of reconciliation, dialogue and forgiveness. May peoples, so wearied by bombing, experience the joy of Your Rresurrection and raise up Iraq and Syria from devastation, reunite your dispersed children under Your gentle kingship. 

Finally before asking Our Lady to intercede in faith and hope Pope Francis asked the Lord to sustain Christians in the ‘Diaspora’ and grant them unity of faith and love. 

Please find below a translation of the Prayer for Peace of His Holiness Pope Francis delivered at the Catholic Chaldean Church of Saint Simon Bar Sabbae

(Tbilisi,  30 September 2016)

Lord Jesus,

we adore your cross

which frees us from sin, the origin of every division and evil;

we proclaim your resurrection,

which ransoms man from the slavery of failure and death;

we await your coming in glory,

which will bring to fulfilment your kingdom of justice, joy and peace.

Lord Jesus,

by your glorious passion,

conquer the hardness of our hearts, imprisoned by hatred and selfishness;

by the power of your resurrection,

save the victims of injustice and maltreatment from their suffering;

by the fidelity of your coming,

confound the culture of death and make the triumph of life shine forth.

Lord Jesus,

unite to your cross the sufferings of the many innocent victims:

the children, the elderly, and the persecuted Christians;

envelop in paschal light those who are deeply wounded:

abused persons, deprived of freedom and dignity;

let those who live in uncertainty experience the enduring constancy of your kingdom: the exiles, refugees, and those who have lost the joy of living. 

Lord Jesus,

cast forth the shadow of your cross over peoples at war;

may they learn the way of reconciliation, dialogue and forgiveness;

let the peoples so wearied by bombing experience the joy of your resurrection:

raise up Iraq and Syria from devastation;

reunite your dispersed children under your gentle kingship:

sustain Christians in the Diaspora and grant them the unity of faith and love.

O Virgin Mary, Queen of peace,

you who stood at the foot of the cross,

obtain from your Son pardon for our sins;

you who never doubted the victory of his resurrection,

sustain our faith and our hope;

you who are enthroned as Queen in glory,

teach us the royal road of service and the glory of love.

Amen. 

(from Vatican Radio)

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Pope delivers address to Authorities, diplomats in Georgia

(Vatican Radio)  Meeting national authorities and members of the diplomatic corps in Tbilisi, Georgia Friday, Pope Francis described the Caucasus nation as a “blessed land, a place of encounter and vital exchange among cultures and civilizations” which, since the 4th century, “discovered in Christianity its deepest identity and the solid foundation of its values.”

The Pope was speaking at the Presidential palace shortly after his arrival in the Georgian capital.  In his address, he recalled his meeting in the Vatican last year with President Giorgi Margvelashvili and thanked him for the invitation to visit his country whose values, expressed “in culture, language and traditions,” he said, place it fully “within the bedrock of European civilization.”

Georgia, a bridge between Europe and Asia

Describing Georgia as a “natural bridge between Europe and Asia,” that for centuries has facilitated “communication and relations” between peoples of diverse cultures, the Pope observed that 25 years have passed since Georgia’s independence was proclaimed.  During that time, and “at great sacrifice,” he noted, Georgia built and strengthened its democratic institutions seeking “to guarantee the most inclusive and authentic development possible.”

He expressed his hope that all sectors of society would work towards peace and development so as “to create conditions for stability, justice and respect for the rule of law” in order to promote “greater opportunities for all.”

Peaceful coexistence among people, states needed for stability, development

For such enduring progress, he said, “the peaceful coexistence among all people and states in the region” is indispensable.  “This requires increasing mutual esteem,” he stressed, “which can never lay aside respect for the sovereign rights of every country within the framework of international law.”

Pope Francis lamented what he called  “a dominant way of thinking” in “far too many areas of the world” today which “hinders keeping legitimate differences and disagreements”  within a climate of “civilized,” responsible and reasoned dialogue.

This form of dialogue, he stressed, is all the more necessary in today’s context  “with no shortage of violent extremism that manipulates and distorts civic and religious principles, and subjugates them to… domination and death.”

Priority, the Pope said, should be given to human beings and “every attempt made to prevent differences from giving rise to violence.”  Distinctions along ethnic, linguistic, political or religious lines,” he stressed, must be a “source of mutual enrichment” for the common good. This requires that everyone, he said, “make full use of their particular identity” with the possibility “to coexist peacefully in their homeland, or freely to return to that land if for some reason they have been forced to leave it.”

He expressed his hope that civil authorities “will continue to show concern for the situation of these persons” and to find “tangible solutions” to their predicament.

In conclusion, Pope Francis spoke of the centuries-long presence of the Catholic Church in the country and its on-going commitment to contribute to the well-being and peace of the nation through its charitable and institutional works and “by actively cooperating” with the authorities and civil society.” Finally, he noted “the renewed and strengthened dialogue with the ancient Georgian Orthodox Church and the other religious communities” in Georgia and expressed hope that the Catholic Church may continue to contribute to Georgian society “in common witness to the Christian tradition which unites us.”

Below, please find the official English translation of Pope Francis’ discourse to Georgian authorities and members of the diplomatic corps:

Mr President,

Distinguished Authorities and Members of the Diplomatic Corps,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

            I thank Almighty God for granting me the opportunity to visit this blessed land, a place of encounter and vital exchange among cultures and civilizations, which, since the preaching of Saint Nino at the beginning of the fourth century, discovered in Christianity its deepest identity and the solid foundation of its values.  As Saint John Paul II observed when visiting your country: “Christianity became the seed of successive flowerings of Georgian culture” (Address at the Arrival Ceremony, 8 November 1999), and this seed continues to bear fruit.  Recalling with gratitude our meeting in the Vatican last year and the good relations which Georgia has always maintained with the Holy See, I sincerely thank you, Mr President, for your gracious invitation and for your cordial words of welcome in the name of the Authorities of the State and all the Georgian people.

            The centuries-old history of your country shows that it is rooted in the values expressed in its culture, language and traditions.  This places your country fully and in a particular way within the bedrock of European civilization; at the same time, as is evident from your geographical location, Georgia is to a great extent a natural bridge between Europe and Asia, a link that facilitates communication and relations between peoples.  Through the centuries this has facilitated commercial ties as well as dialogue and the exchange of ideas and experiences between diverse cultures. As your national anthem proudly proclaims: “My icon is my homeland… bright mountains and valleys are shared with God”.  The country is an icon expressing its identity and tracing its features and history; its mountains, rising freely towards heaven, far from being insurmountable walls, give splendour to the valleys; they distinguish them, connect them, make each one unique yet all open to the one sky, which covers them and offers them protection.

            Mr President, twenty-five years have passed since Georgia’s independence was proclaimed.  During this period when Georgia regained its full liberty, it built and strengthened its democratic institutions and sought ways to guarantee the most inclusive and authentic development possible.  All of this was not without great sacrifice, which the people faced courageously in order to ensure their longed-for freedom.  I hope that the path of peace and development will advance with the consolidated commitment of all sectors of society, so as to create conditions for stability, justice and respect for the rule of law, hence promoting growth and greater opportunities for all.

The peaceful coexistence among all peoples and states in the region is the indispensable and prior condition for such authentic and enduring progress.  This requires increasing mutual esteem and consideration, which can never lay aside respect for the sovereign rights of every country within the framework of international law.  So as to forge paths leading to lasting peace and true cooperation, we must recall that the relevant principles for a just and stable relationship between states are at the service of a practical, ordered and peaceful coexistence among nations. 

Indeed, in far too many areas of the world, there seems to be a dominant way of thinking which hinders keeping legitimate differences and disagreements – which can always arise – within a climate of civilized dialogue where reason, moderation and responsibility can prevail.  This is all the more necessary in the present historical moment, with no shortage of violent extremism that manipulates and distorts civic and religious principles, and subjugates them to the dark designs of domination and death.

We should wholeheartedly give priority to human beings in their actual circumstances and pursue every attempt to prevent differences from giving rise to violence that can cause ruinous calamity for people and for society.  Far from being exploited as grounds for turning discord into conflict and conflict into interminable tragedy, distinctions along ethnic, linguistic, political or religious lines can and must be for everyone a source of mutual enrichment in favour of the common good.  This requires that everyone make full use of their particular identity, having the possibility, above all else, to coexist peacefully in their homeland, or freely to return to that land, if for some reason they have been forced to leave it.  I hope that civil authorities will continue to show concern for the situation of these persons, and that they will fully commit themselves to seeking tangible solutions, in spite of any unresolved political questions.  It takes far-sightedness and courage to recognize the authentic good of peoples, and to pursue this good with determination and prudence.  In this regard, it is essential to keep before our eyes the suffering of others, in order to proceed with conviction along the path which, though slow and laborious, is also captivating and freeing, and leads us towards peace. 

The Catholic Church, which has been present for centuries in this country and has distinguished itself in a particular way for its commitment to human promotion and to charitable works, shares the joys and concerns of the Georgian people, and is resolved to offer its contribution for the well-being and peace of the nation, by actively cooperating with the authorities and civil society.  It is my ardent desire that the Catholic Church may continue to make its own authentic contribution to the growth of Georgian society, thanks to the common witness to the Christian tradition which unites us, its commitment to those most in need, and the renewed and strengthened dialogue with the ancient Georgian Orthodox Church and the other religious communities of the country.

May God bless Georgia and give her peace and prosperity! 

(from Vatican Radio)

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Pope Francis arrives in Georgia at start of visit to Caucasus

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis has arrived in Georgia at the start of a three day trip to the Caucasus which will also take him Sunday for a brief visit to Azerbaijan.  On Friday, Georgian government, civil and religious leaders and members of the Catholic community turned out at Tbilisi’s international airport to greet the pontiff, whose plane touched down shortly before 3:00 pm local time. 

On Pope Francis’ schedule for the afternoon:  a private visit to the President of the Republic,   President Eduard Shevardnadze, at the presidential palace in Tbilisi followed by a meeting with national authorities, civil leaders and the diplomatic corps.  The Holy Father will then pay a visit to Orthodox Patriarch Ilia II of all Georgia at the Patriarchal Palace in the capital.  He will conclude the afternoon with a meeting with members of the Syro-Chaldean community in the Catholic Church of Saint Simon the Tanner in Tbilisi.

(from Vatican Radio)

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Pope departs on papal visit to Georgia and Azerbaijan

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis departed Rome’s Fiumicino airport just after 9 am on Friday morning for a three day Apostolic visit to Georgia and Azerbaijan.

The Holy Father is due to touch down in the Georgian capital Tbilisi at 3pm local time.

Following a welcoming ceremony at Tbilisi’s international airport the Pope will pay a courtesy visit to the President of Georgia followed by a meeting with authoriites and diplomatics.

Pope Francis’ visit to Georgia and Azerbaijan continues until October 2nd.

(from Vatican Radio)

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