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Day: November 17, 2014

Pope to Bishops of Zambia: Reach out to poor and families

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received the Bishops of Zambia on Monday who are in Rome on their Ad Limina Visit. In his prepared remarks to the group the Pope spoke about the importance of the family and the need to reach out to the poorest and most afflicted and in society.  He also spoke to the Bishops about encouraging young people to play an active role in the life of the the Church.
Listen to Lydia O’Kane’s interview with Zambian priest and Head of Vatican Radio’s English Africa Section, Fr Paul Samasumo, about the Pope’s words to the Bishops of Zambia

Please find below the Pope’s English language remarks to the Bishops of Zambia
Dear Brother Bishops,
I welcome you to the City of the Apostles, where you have come as shepherd pilgrims ad Limina Apostolorum Petri et Pauli , and I thank Archbishop Mpundu for his gracious words on behalf of all the bishops, priests and people of your country.  As Christ our light and our life draws us together as brothers in the Church, may he deepen the ties between the Successor of Peter a nd the Bishops of Zambia.  This time in Rome offers you a fresh opportunity to reflect on the many ways in which the Lord’s flock entrusted to you has been growing in Africa.  Pray in these days to discern the way ahead in solidarity and fraternity, towards the plentiful harvest ( Jn 10:2) to which the Holy Spirit is leading you.
Looking back to the beginnings of the Church in Zambia, it is well known that the rich deposit of faith brought by missionary religious from lands overflowing with growth prompted your forebears to respond with their own works of charity, whose effects are felt throughout your country today.  Preparing for generations unborn, these spiritual leaders actively planted the word which the Holy Spirit had proposed to them (cf. 1 Cor 3:6).  Despite the sometimes painful meeting of ancient ways with the new hope that Christ the Lord brings to all cultures, the word of faith took deep root, multiplying a hundredfold, and a new Zambian society transformed by Christian values emerged. It is at once evident how plentiful the spiritual harvest in your vast land already is – blessed with Catholic-run clinics, hospitals and schools, many parishes alive and growing across Zambia, a wide diversity of lay ministries, and substantial numbers of vocations to the priesthood.  With the whole Church, we can give thanks to God for what he has already accomplished in the people entrusted to your care.
In our own days, Zambians continue to seek a happy and fulfilling future in the Church and in society, despite great challenges  which militate against stability in social and ecclesial life, in particular for families.  When family life is endangered, then the life of faith is also put at risk.  As you yourselves have recounted, many – especially the poor in their struggle for survival – are led astray by empty promises in false teachings that seem to offer quick relief in times of desperation.  
In regard to these difficulties, I am convinced that “the weakening of [family] bonds is particularly serious because the family is the fundamental cell of society, where we learn to live with others despite our differences and to belong to one another; it is also the place where parents pass on the faith to their children” ( Evangelii Gaudium , 66).  Be solicitous whether in or out of season, by supporting this “sanctuary of life” ( Africae Munus , 42) which is the family, for it is here that the Church’s well-being in Zambia must grow and be fostered.
I ask you, with your priests, to form strong Christian families, who – by your catechizing – will know, understand and love the truths of the faith more deeply, and thus be protected from those currents which may tempt them to fall away.  Affirm Catholic couples in their desire for fidelity in conjugal life and in their yearning to provide a stable spiritual home for their children, helping them to nurture the life of virtue in the family.  By so doing, your authentic teaching of the doctrines of the faith will touch the daily life of Zambian households.
I urge you to be close to your young people as they seek to establish and articulate their identity in a disorienting age.  Help them to find their purpose in the challenge and joy of co-creation with God that is the vocation to married life, fulfilled in the blessing of children; or indeed in the celibate vocations to the sacred priesthood or religious life, which the Church has been given for the salvation of souls.  Encourage young Catholics by living lives of virtue to experience the liberating gift of chastity as adults.  I pray that you will foster ever greater cooperation with Zambia’s networks of active Catholic youth, who can in turn lead many others into the Church’s family. 
In a special way invite those who have grown lukewarm and feel lost to return to the full practice of the faith.  As pastors of the flock, do not forget to seek out the weakest members of Zambian society, among whom are the materially poor and those afflicted with AIDS; for “the great majority of the poor have a special openness to the faith; they need God and we must not fail to offer them his friendship, his blessing, his word, the celebration of the sacraments and a journey of growth and maturity in the faith” ( Evangelii Gaudium , 200).
Despite all that the Church in Zambia faces, it is a time not to be discouraged but rather to offer the true freedom which only the Lord can give, sustained by the sacraments.  I encourage you to remain sensitive as shepherds to the spiritual and human needs of your closest coworkers: never tire of being kind and firm fathers to your priests, helping them resist materialism and the standards of the world, while recognizing their just needs.  Continue also to promote the treasure of religious life in your Dioceses, so that outstanding examples may be brought forth of Zambian men and women seeking to love the Lord with undivided hearts.
In this challenging time after the death of President Sata, I invite you to continue working with your political leaders for the common good, deepening your prophetic witness in defence of the poor in order to uplift the lives of the weak (cf. Pastoral Statement of the Zambia Episcopal Conference, “Act Justly and Walk Humbly with Your God”, 27 January 2013).
In all things, cooperate with the graces of the Holy Spirit, in unity of belief and purpose.  In union with priests, deacons, religious, catechists and lay leaders, irrigate with your corporal and spiritual works of mercy the vineyard of the Lord which stretches across Zambia like the great Zambezi River.  
The Church’s mission to evangelize never ends: “it is imperative to evangelize cultures in order to inculturate the Gospel… Each culture and social group needs purification and growth” ( Evangelii Gaudium , 69).  Then the People of God in Zambia will receive the gift of the Gospel from you with fresh vigour, as you offer them Christ’s joy and mercy anew.  May their lives conform ever more deeply to the pattern of the Gospel; then the Lord’s Kingdom of peace will spread and grow in your beloved nation.
The Lord of the harvest is preparing to send the rains he promises in due season ( Lev 26:4); for you are cultivating his fields until he returns at harvest time ( Mt 13:30).  Until then, knowing well how much your work demands personal sacrifice, patience and love, draw on the faith and sacrifice of the Apostles to whose threshold you have come, in order to return strengthened to the Church in Zambia.
Dear Brothers, trusting in the saving grace of Almighty God, and commending you – along with all priests, religious and lay faithful in your Dioceses – to the intercession of Mary “Mother of the Church which evangelizes” ( Evangelii Gaudium , 284), I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of peace and joy in the Risen Lord.
(from Vatican Radio)…

Pope Francis prepares to travel to Europe and Turkey

(Vatican Radio) Human rights and Christian values in Europe and ecumenism and interfaith dialogue in Turkey top the Pope’s busy agenda next week as he prepares for his 5th and 6th pastoral visits abroad.
At a press conference on Monday morning, Father Federico Lombardi SJ, Director of the Vatican Press Office illustrated the Pope’s schedule for the last week in November which will take him to Strasbourg, seat of the European Parliament and Council of Europe, and only two days afterwards  to Ankara and Istanbul in occasion of the festivity of Saint Andrew.
Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni : 

Pointing out that the visit to Strasbourg is a visit to Europe’s top governing bodies and not to France, Father Lombardi said it will be the briefest apostolic journey a Pope has ever made.
For a total of 3 hours and 50 minutes, Pope Francis will address the Plenary Assembly, first of the European Parliament (EP) and then of the Council of Europe (CoE) as well as meet with their heads  Martin Schultz and Thorbjorn Jagland and some of their closest collaborators.
Lombardi recalled that the last Pope to address the European Institutions in Strasbourg was Saint John Paul II in 1988. He pointed out that by addressing the Parliament’s 28 member nations and the 47 member states of the Council, Pope Francis is speaking to the heart of Europe and will invariably raise issues such as economic inequality, freedom of religion and a throwaway culture within a continent that is facing many challenges. He made it quite clear that it is only a “technical” touchdown on French soil, thus President Hollande will not be at the airport to meet him, whilst he will be meeting with key figures of the just started Italian Semester of the EU Council, Matteo Renzi and Jean-Claude Juncker. He explained Francis will arrive at the EP just in time to address the Session there and will be back on the plane for Rome before lunch!
Turkey also marks another record as it takes place only 2 days later. Father Lombardi said the main themes of this journey are ecumenical, of inter-faith dialogue and to encourage the small Turkish Catholic community in its faith.
Taking him to first to Ankara and then to Istanbul, Pope Francis will be received by State authorities and then by the president of Religious Affairs in the Diyanet.
On the following day, he will travel to Istanbul where he will visit significant landmarks such as the Blue Mosque, and the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit where he will celebrate Mass before participating in an ecumenical prayer and meeting in private with the Orthodox Patriarch, Bartholomew I.
Sunday 30 is the Feast day of St. Andrew, the Patron of the Eastern world and the Pope will preside over a divine liturgy in the patriarchal Church of St. George, impart an ecumenical blessing and sign a Joint Declaration with Bartholomew before departing. It can really be seen – Lombardi pointed out – as a continuation of his apostolic journey to the Holy Land last May, and it germinates in fertile soil that has already been tread upon by Popes Paul VIth, John Paul II, Benedict XVIth and well watered by John XXIIIrd who was Apostolic Nuncio to Turkey for 10 years before becoming Pope!
(from Vatican Radio)…

Pope Francis: Christians remember where they came from

(Vatican Radio) The temptation that Christians face to be with Jesus without being with the poor and marginalized: this was the focus of Pope Francis’ remarks to the faithful following the readings of the day at Mass on Monday morning in the chapel of the Santa Marta residence in the Vatican.
Click below to hear our report

The Holy Father said that the temptation to ignore Christ when he appears to us in the poor and afflicted is one that faces the Church in every age. Pope Francis offered his reflections following the Gospel reading of the day, which recounted the episode of the Lord’s miraculous healing of the blind man on the road to Jericho – a type of figure prominent in the Gospel according to St Luke (18:35-43), from which the reading was taken. The blind man was a no-account in the eyes of the world, a man who, “desired only salvation,” who so greatly, “desired to be cured,” of his affliction that he shouted and shouted, until the wall of indifference collapsed and he was able to knock, “on the door of the Lord’s heart.” The circle of disciples wanted only to quiet him, to keep him from disturbing the Lord:
“This [person on the margins] could not reach the Lord, because this clique – with a the best of intentions, mind you – closed the door.  This happens frequently, among us believers: when we have found the Lord, without our noticing it, we create this sort of ecclesiastical micro-climate . Not only the priests, the bishops, but the faithful, as well: ‘We’re the ones who are with the Lord,’ [we say to ourselves], though for all our looking on Him, we fail to see His needs. We do not look to the Lord who is hungry, who is thirsty, who is in prison, who is in hospital – to the Lord, who is in the marginalized – and being [so closed off, so sealed up], does great harm.”
Pope Francis went on to describe a second type of Christian – of whom there are a few – the kind of follower of Christ, who feels especially chosen. Such as these say and think things like, “Now we are the elect, we are with the Lord,”  said Pope Francis, adding that they therefore want to keep “this little world” to and for themselves – to keep it away from anyone – even little children – who might “disturb the Lord,” and saying that such as these, “have abandoned their first love.”:
“When in the Church, the faithful, ministers, become a group like this … not ‘ecclesial’, but ‘ecclesiastical’, [enjoyng] the privilege of closeness to the Lord, they are tempted to forget their first love – a love so beautiful – one we all had when the Lord has called us, saved us, told us: ‘But I love you so much.’ This is a temptation all disciples have: to forget our first love, that is, to forget the [rough neighborhoods], where [we all came from], even though [we are now] ashamed of it.”
Then the Holy Father described the third group on the scene: the “simple folk” – the ones who praise God for the healing of the blind man. “How many times,” he asked, “do we find simple people, how many old ladies who can barely walk,” but who make the trip, “to pray at a one of Our Lady’s shrines.” He went on to say that such as these, “do not ask for privileges, but only for grace.” Such as these, he continued, are “the faithful people” who know how to “waste time with the Lord,” and, “to follow the Lord, without asking special privileges,” and who, above all else, remember the “Church on the margins,” comprised of children, of the sick, of the imprisoned:
“Let us ask the Lord for the grace that all of us who have received the grace of being called, never, never, never move away from this Church. Let us never enter into this micro-climate of the privileged ecclesiastical disciples, who turn away from the Church of God, which is suffering, asking for salvation, which calls for faith, which begs to hear God’s Word. Let us ask the grace to be faithful to God, without asking the Lord for privileges, which separate us from God’s people.”
(from Vatican Radio)…

Pope Francis prepares to travel to Europe and Turkey

(Vatican Radio) Human rights and Christian values in Europe and ecumenism and interfaith dialogue in Turkey top the Pope’s busy agenda next week as he prepares for his 5th and 6th pastoral visits abroad. At a press conference on Monday morning, Father Federico Lombardi SJ, Director of the Vatican Press Office illustrated the Pope’s schedule…
Read more

Pope Francis: Christians remember where they came from

(Vatican Radio) The temptation that Christians face to be with Jesus without being with the poor and marginalized: this was the focus of Pope Francis’ remarks to the faithful following the readings of the day at Mass on Monday morning in the chapel of the Santa Marta residence in the Vatican. Click below to hear…
Read more