(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received the bishops of Portugal on Monday, during the course of the bishops’ ad limina visits. In remarks prepared for the occasion and delivered in written form, the Holy Father encouraged the bishops, “To persevere in the commitment of a constant and methodical evangelization, convinced that a truly Christian formation of conscience is of extreme and indispensable importance to help social maturity, and to assure the true and balanced well-being of Portugal.”
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The Holy Father went on to discuss the challenge of reaching young people, especially, with the Gospel.
“The Church in Portugal needs young people capable of responding to the God who calls them,” he said. “Do not you want, dear brothers,” concluded Pope Francis, “for that Apostolic zeal or sense of initiative [necessary] to the obtaining of this, with the use of human endeavor linked to the efficacy of divine aid.
(from Vatican Radio)…
Vatican City, 7 September 2015 (VIS) – This morning the Holy Father received in audience the bishops of the Portuguese Episcopal Conference, at the end of their “ad Limina” visit, and subsequently handed them a written discourse in which he praises, among other things, the growth of synodality as a style of pastoral life in the country’s particular Churches and various initiatives including the general enquiry on the beliefs and faith of the Portuguese people, the first response to which is the Note “Promoting pastoral renewal in the Church in Portugal” (April 2013). The Pope also emphasised that the five-yearly reports of the bishops suggest that the Church in Portugal has more positive than negative aspects and lives serenely, guided by common sense, and is listened to by the majority of the population and national institutions, even though her voice is not always followed. The people are hospitable, generous, religious and peace-loving, and the episcopate is fraternally united. The priests are well-prepared both spiritually and culturally, and consecrated persons are faithful to the charism of their founders, while the laity expresses in the world the effective presence of the Church. However, the Pope notes the abandonment of Christian practice by young people after their confirmation, precisely at an age at which they take up the reins of future life, and asked if this is perhaps due to a failure of catechesis to grow with them and to respond to their questions and concerns. He therefore invites the bishops to rethink the question of a global catechetical path covering different ages and offers them encouragement, recalling that the Lord assures His constant presence and His infallible assistance to the Church….
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis celebrated Mass on Monday morning in the chapel of the Santa Marta residence, with the recently-elected Patriarch of Cilicia of the Armenians, His Beatitude Gregory Peter XX Ghabroyan, as well as with the Bishops of Synod of the Apostolic Armenian Catholic Church and the Prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri.
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In remarks following the readings of the day, the Holy Father spoke of the many Christians, who continue to be persecuted, and of the complicit silence of many powerful world leaders. Even today, “Perhaps more than in the early days,” said Pope Francis, [Christians] are persecuted, killed, driven out, despoiled, only because they are Christians”:
“Dear brothers and sisters, there is no Christianity without persecution. Remember the last of the Beatitudes: when they bring you into the synagogues, and persecute you, revile you, this is the fate of a Christian. Today too, this happens before the whole world, with the complicit silence of many powerful leaders who could stop it. We are facing this Christian fate: go on the same path of Jesus.”
The Pope recalled, “One of many great persecutions: that of the Armenian people”:
“The first nation to convert to Christianity: the first. They were persecuted just for being Christians,” he said. “The Armenian people were persecuted, chased away from their homeland, helpless, in the desert.” This story – he observed – began with Jesus: what people did, “to Jesus, has during the course of history been done to His body, which is the Church.”
“Today,” the Holy Father continued, “I would like, on this day of our first Eucharist, as brother Bishops, dear brother Bishops and Patriarch and all of you Armenian faithful and priests, to embrace you and remember this persecution that you have suffered, and to remember your holy ones, your many saints who died of hunger, in the cold, under torture, [cast] into the wilderness only for being Christians.”
The Holy Father also remembered the broader persecution of Christians in the present day. “We now, in the newspapers, hear the horror of what some terrorist groups do, who slit the throats of people just because [their victims] are Christians. We think of the Egyptian martyrs, recently, on the Libyan coast, who were slaughtered while pronouncing the name of Jesus.”
Pope Francis prayed that the Lord might, “give us a full understanding, to know the Mystery of God who is in Christ,” and who, “carries the Cross, the Cross of persecution, the Cross of hatred, the Cross of that, which comes from the anger,” of persecutors – an anger that is stirred up by “the Father of Evil”:
“May the Lord, today, make us feel within the body of the Church, the love for our martyrs and also our vocation to martyrdom. We do not know what will happen here: we do not know. Only Let the Lord give us the grace, should this persecution happen here one day, of the courage and the witness that all Christian martyrs have shown, and especially the Christians of the Armenian people.”
(from Vatican Radio)…
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis says it is also “violence to raise walls and barriers to stop those who seek havens of peace. It is violence to reject those who flee from inhumane conditions, with hope of a better future”.
In a letter to the Community of Saint Egidio which is gathered in Tirana for its annual “International Meeting for Peace”, the Pope expressed his support for the event and highlighted the growing need for inter-religious dialogue for a peaceful world.
The theme of the meeting this year is “Peace is always possible”. It sees Saint Egidio Community leaders and members present in the Albanian capital together with leaders of Christian Churches and Communities as well as with leaders of the other Great World Religions.
The meeting will last until Tuesday 8th.
Please find below the full text of Pope Francis’ letter:
Illustrious Representatives of the Christian Churches and Communities, and of the Great World Religions, I offer you all my most respectful greetings and I express my spiritual closeness to the International Meeting for Peace promoted by the Community of Saint Egidio in Tirana.
These meetings follow one another in the path marked by St John Paul II with the first historical Meeting of Assisi in October 1986. Since then a pilgrimage has developed, of men and women of different religions, who year after year stop in various cities of the world. While the scenarios of history change and peoples are called to face profound – and at times dramatic – transformations, it is increasingly necessary that the followers of different religions meet with each other, in dialogue, walking together and collaborating for peace in the very “spirit of Assisi” that recalls the luminous testimony of Saint Francis.
This year you have chosen to stop in Tirana, the capital of a Country that has become a symbol of peaceful coexistence among different religions, after a long history of sufferance. It is a choice I agree with, as I demonstrated with my visit to Tirana in September last year. I chose Albania as the first European Country to visit, in order to encourage the path of peaceful coexistence after the tragic persecutions experienced by Albanian believers in the past century. The long list of their martyrs still brings back memories of that dark time, but it also reminds us of the power of faith, which is unbent by the arrogance of evil. In no other country in the world was the choice to reject God from the life of the people so persistent: a religious sign was enough to be punished with prison, or even death. This saddest of primacies profoundly marked the Albanian people, until the time when freedom was restored, when members of the various religious communities, tested by their shared suffering, found themselves living together in peace.
For this reason, dear friends, I am particularly grateful to you for choosing Albania. Today I wish to reaffirm with you what I said last year in Tirana: “a peaceful and fruitful coexistence between persons and communities of believers of different religions is not only desirable, but possible and realistic” (Meeting with the Civil Authorities, 21st September 2014). This is the spirit of Assisi: to live together in peace, remembering that peace and coexistence have a spiritual foundation. Prayer is always at the root of peace!
Because its foundation lies in God, “peace is always possible”, as the title of your Meeting this year states. It is necessary to reaffirm this truth, especially today, while in some parts of the world violence, persecutions and abuse of religious freedom seem to prevail, together with resignation in front of conflicts that drag themselves on. We must never be resigned to war! And we must not be indifferent in front of people who suffer from war and violence. For this reason I chose as the theme of the next World Day of Peace: “Overcome Indifference and Conquer Peace”.
It is violence also to raise walls and barriers to stop those who seek havens of peace. It is violence to reject those who flee from inhumane conditions, with hope of a better future. It is violence to discard children and elderly people from society and from life itself! It is violence to widen the gap between people who waste what is superfluous and people who lack what is necessary!
In this world of ours, faith in God makes us believe and cry out that peace is possible. As believers we are called to rediscover the universal vocation of peace that lies in the heart of our respective religious traditions, and offer it afresh, bravely, to the men and women of our times. And I reaffirm what I said in this regard in Tirana, speaking to the religious leaders: “Authentic religion is a source of peace and not of violence! No one must use the name of God to commit violence! To kill in the name of God is a grave sacrilege. To discriminate in the name of God is inhuman” (Meeting with Religious Leaders).
Dear friends, to state that peace is always possible is not naivety, it rather expresses our faith that nothing is impossible to God. Of course, we are required to be involved, personally and through our communities, in the great work of peace. May this land of Albania, land of martyrs, be the origin of a new prophecy of peace. I join you all so that, in the variety of our religious traditions, we can continue and live a shared passion for the growth of peaceful coexistence among all the peoples of the earth.
From the Vatican, 29th August 2015
Memory of the Martyrdom of St John the Baptist
(from Vatican Radio)…
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis’ morning Mass in the chapel of the Santa Marta residence on Monday was an extraordinary occasion: it saw the recently-elected Patriarch of Cilicia of the Armenians, His Beatitude Gregory Peter XX Ghabroyan, concelebrate the liturgy with the Holy Father, and exchange with the Pope the concrete sign of ecclesial communion par excellence .
A statement from the Armenian Patriarchate describes the scene during the Liturgy: “[At the Rite of Communion], the Holy Father … elevates the paten with the Body of Christ and offers it to the Patriarch. The two hold the Host high with their four hands. The Holy Father then raises the chalice with the Blood of Christ, offers it to the Patriarch, and they with their four hands keep it elevated. After a moment of silence, the Holy Father offers the Body of Christ, and together they communicate. The Holy Father takes the Blood of Christ from the chalice, then offers it to the Patriarch.”
“‘Communion’ is a concept held in great honor in the early Church and also today,” the statement explains. “[I]t does not mean some vague sentiment, but an organic reality, which requires a legal form and that is at the same time animated by charity.
The statement goes on to say, “The Ecclesiastica communio , which the Holy Father Francis granted to His Beatitude Gregory Peter XX with Letter of July 25, now finds expression in the exchange of the Sacred Species, which confirms the Eucharistic communion between the Bishop and the Church of Rome, who presides in charity, and the Patriarchal Church of Cilicia of the Armenians, through its Pater et Caput .
(from Vatican Radio)…