(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis visited the Papal Basilica of Saint Mary Major on Monday, after his arrival at Rome’s Ciampino Airport. The Pope had just concluded a 10-day Apostolic Voyage to Cuba and the United States.
The Holy Father brought flowers to put before the image of “Salus Populi Romani”, a Byzantine icon of the Madonna and Child located in the Basilica’s Pauline Chapel.
Pope Francis traditionally visits the icon before and after each of his Apostolic trips.
On Monday, several people were waiting for the Pope’s arrival, and he greeted and waved at them. He had avoided the photographers before his departure on Saturday, 19 September, by visiting the icon the previous evening.
(from Vatican Radio)…
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis made an unscheduled stop at Philadelphia’s Saint Joseph’s University on Sunday, shortly before celebrating the final Mass for the World Meeting of Families.
Pope Francis blessed a new statue – “Synagoga and Ecclesia in Our Time” – which commemorates the 50th anniversary of Nostra Aetate, the Vatican II Document on the Relation of the Church with Non-Christian Religions.
The bronze work located in front of the Chapel of St. Joseph is by Philadelphia artist Joshua Koffman, and was dedicated on 25 September.
Saint Joseph’s University is a Jesuit institution, and was the first University in the United States to found an Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations.
“To have him actually set foot on our campus was unforgettable, said Mark C. Reed, Saint Joseph’s president.
“This is a truly historic day for Saint Joseph’s University, Jesuit education across the country and the importance of interfaith relations,” he added.
Rabbi Abraham Skorka of Buenos Aires, a longtime friend of Pope Francis, was also at the brief ceremony.
(from Vatican Radio)…
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis speaks about his just concluded visit to the United States and Cuba and touches on many issues including the sex abuse scandal in the Church, the right to be a conscientious objector, the peace accord in Colombia, migration and the upcoming Synod on the Family.
The Pope was speaking to journalists on the papal flight that departed from Philadelphia on Sunday evening and landed in Rome on Monday morning, ending his 10th Apostolic Journey to Cuba, the United Nations and the United States.
During the journey Pope Francis answered questions put to him by 11 journalists on board the American Airlines flight.
The in-flight press conference lasted 47 minutes. Questions were asked in English, Spanish and Italian.
Please find below our translation of the full transcript of the press conference:
Good evening to all and thank you for the work because you went about from one place to the other and I was in a car but you… thank you very much.
Elizabeth Dias, Time Magazine:
Thank you so much Holy Father Elizabeth Dias from TIME magazine. We are all so curious…this was your first visit to the US. What surprised you about the US and what was different to what you might have expected?
It was my first visit. I’d never been here before. What surprised me was the warmth, the warmth of the people, so lovable. It was a beautiful thing and also different: in Washington the welcome was warm but more formal; New York was a bit exuberant. Philadelphia very expressive. Three different kinds of welcome. I was very struck by this kindness and welcome but also by the religious ceremonies and also by the piety, the religiosity of the people… you could see the people pray and this struck me a lot. Beautiful.
Elizabeth Dias, Time Magazine:
Was there some sort of challenge that you didn’t expect in the United States?
No, thank God no…everything was good. No challenge. No provocation. Everyone was polite. No insults and nothing bad.
Elizabeth Dias, Time Magazine :
Well, what is the challenge?
We must continue to work with the faithful like we have always done, until now. Accompanying people in their growth – through the good times but also through the difficult ones – accompanying people in their joy and in their bad moments, in their difficulties when there is no work, ill health. The challenge of the Church… now I understand: the Church’s challenge is staying close to the people. Close to the United States… not being a Church which is detached from the people but close to them, close, close and this is something that the Church in America has understood, and understood well.
David O’Reilly, Philadelphia Inquirer:
Holy Father: Philadelphia, as you know, has had a very difficult time with sex abuse. It’s still an open wound in Philadelphia. So I know many people in Philadelphia were surprised that you offered bishops comfort and consolation and I think many in Philadelphia would ask you why did you feel the need to offer compassion to the bishops?
In Washington I spoke to all the US bishops… they were all there no? I felt the need to express compassion because something really terrible happened. And many of them suffered who did not know of this. I used words from the bible from Apocalypse: You are coming from a large tribulation. What happened was a great tribulation. But also the suffering (emotional). What I said today to the victims of abuse. I wouldn’t say an apotheosis but almost a sacrilege. We know abuses are everywhere: in families, in neighborhoods, in schools, in gyms. But when a priest abuses it is very serious because the vocation of the priest is to make that boy, that girl, grow towards the love of God, toward maturity, and towards good. Instead this is squashed and this is nearly a sacrilege and he betrayed his vocation, the calling of the Lord. For this reason the Church is strong on this and one must not cover these things up. Those who covered this up are guilty. Even some bishops who covered this up, It is a terrible thing and the words of comfort were not to say: ”Don’t worry that was nothing… no, no, no even some bishops who covered this up, It’s a terrible thing and the words of comfort were not to say “don’t worry that was nothing…no, no , no, but it was so bad that I imagine that you cried hard”… that was the sense of what I meant and today I spoke strongly.
Maria Antonieta Collins, Univision:
You have spoken a lot about forgiveness, that God forgives us and that we often ask for forgiveness. I would like to ask you, after you were at the seminary today. There are many priests that have committed sexual abuses to minors and have not asked for forgiveness for their victims. Do you forgive them? And on the other hand, do you understand the victims or their relatives who can’t or don’t want to forgive?
If a person has done wrong, is conscious of what he has done and does not say sorry, I ask God to take him into account. I forgive him, but he does not receive that forgiveness, he is closed to forgiveness. We must forgive, because we were all forgiven. It is another thing to receive that forgiveness. If that priest is closed to forgiveness, he won’t receive it, because he locked the door from the inside. And what remains is to pray for the Lord to open that door. To forgive you must be willing. But not everyone can receive or know how to receive it, or are just not willing to receive it. What I’m saying is hard. And that is how you explain how there are people who finish their life hardened, badly, without receiving the tenderness of God.
Maria Antonieta Collins, Univision:
Regarding victims or relatives who don’t forgive – do you understand them?
Yes, I do. I pray for them. And I don’t judge them. Once, in one of these meetings, I met several people and I met a woman who told me “When my mother found out that I had been abused, she became blasphemous, she lost her faith and she died an atheist.” I understand that woman. I understand here. And God who is even better than me, understands her. And I’m sure that that woman has been received by God. Because what was abused, destroyed, was her own flesh, the flesh of her daughter. I understand her. I don’t judge someone who can’t forgive. I pray and I ask God… God is a champion in finding paths of solutions. I ask him to fix it.
Andres Beltramo, Notimex:
Thanks, first of all for this moment. We’ve all heard you speak so much about the peace process in Colombia between the FARC and the government. Now, there’s an historic agreement. Do you feel involved in this agreement and you’ve said that you wished to go to Colombia when this agreement was made, right? Now there are a lot of Colombians awaiting you.
When I heard the news that in March the accord will be signed I said to the Lord, ‘Lord, help us reach March.’ The willingness is there on both sides. It is there, even in the small group, everyone is in agreement. We have to reach March, for the definitive accord, which is the point of international justice. I was very happy and I felt like I was a a part of it because I’ve always wanted this. I spoke to president Santos twice about this problem. Not only myself, but also the Holy See. The Holy See was always willing to help and do what it could.
Thomas Jansen, CIC:
Holy Father, I wanted to ask something about the migrant crisis in Europe. Many countries are building new barriers out of barbed wire. What do you think of this development?
You used a word, crisis. It’s become a state of crisis after a long process. For years, this process has exploded because wars for which those people leave and flee are wars waged for years. Hunger. It’s hunger for years. When I think of Africa… this is a bit simplistic. But I see it as an example. It comes to me to think about Africa, “the exploited continent.” They went to pick up the slaves there, then its great resources. It’s the exploited continent. And, now the wars, tribal or not. But they have economic interests behind them. And, I think that instead of exploiting a continent or a nation, make investments there instead so the people are able to work and this crisis would have been avoided. It’s true, as I said at Congress, it’s a refugee crisis not seen since World War II. It’s the biggest. You asked me about barriers. You know what happens to all walls. All of them. All walls fall. Today, tomorrow or in 100 years, they will fall. It’s not a solution. The Wall isn’t a solution. In this moment, Europe is in difficulty, it’s true. We have to be intelligent. We must find solutions. We must encourage dialogue between different nations, to find them. Walls are never solutions. But bridges are, always, always. I don’t know. What I think is that walls can last a little time or a long time. The problem remains but it also remains with more hatred. That’s what I think.
Jean Marie Guenois, Le Figaro:
Holy Father, you obviously cannot anticipate the debate of the synod fathers, we know that well. But we want to know just before the Synod, in your heart as a pastor, if you really want a solution for the divorced and remarried. We want to also know if your ‘motu proprio’ on the speeding-up of annulments has closed this debate. Finally, how do you respond to those who fear that with this reform, there is a de-facto creation of a so-called ‘Catholic divorce.’ Thank you.
I’ll start with the last one. In the reform of the procedure and the way, I closed the door to the administrative path, which was the path through which divorce could have entered. You could say that those who think this is ‘Catholic divorce’ are wrong because this last document has closed the door to divorce by which it could have entered. It would have been easier with the administrative path. There will always be the judicial path.
Continuing with the third (question): the document…. I don’t remember the third but you correct me.
Jean Marie Guenois, Le Figaro:
The question was on the notion of Catholic divorce, if the motu proprio has closed the debate before the synod on this theme?
This was called for by the majority of the Synod fathers in the synod last year: streamline the process because there are cases that last 10-15 years, no? There’s one sentence, then another sentence, and after there’s an appeal, there’s the appeal then another appeal. It never ends. The double sentence, when it was valid that there was an appeal, was introduced by Papa Lambertini, Benedict XIV, because in central Europe, I won’t say which country, there were some abuses, and to stop it he introduced this but it’s not something essential to the process. The procedure changes, jurisprudence changes, it gets better. At that time it was urgent to do this, then Pius X wanted to streamline and made some changes but he didn’t have the time or the possibility to do it. The Synod fathers asked for it, the speeding up of the annulment processes. And I stop there. This document, this ‘motu proprio’ facilitates the processes and the timing, but it is not divorce because marriage is indissoluble when it is a sacrament. And this the Church cannot change. It’s doctrine. It’s an indissoluble sacrament. The legal trial is to prove that what seemed to be a sacrament wasn’t a sacrament, for lack of freedom for example, or for lack of maturity, or for mental illness. There are so many reasons that bring about (an annulment), after a study, an investigation. That there was no sacrament. For example, that the person wasn’t free. Another example: now it’s not so common but in some sectors of common society at least in Buenos Aires, there were weddings when the woman got pregnant: ‘you have to get married.’ In Buenos Aires, I counselled my priests, strongly, I almost prohibited them to celebrate weddings in these conditions. We called them “speedy weddings”, eh? (They were) to cover up appearances. And the babies are born, and some work out but there’s no freedom and then things go wrong little by little they separate (and say) ‘I was forced to get married because we had to cover up this situation” and this is a reason for nullity. So many of them.
Cases of nullity, you have, you can find them (the reasons) on the internet there all there are many, eh? Then, the issue of the second weddings, the divorcees, who make a new union. You read what, you have the “instrumentum laboris.” what is put in discussion seems a bit simplistic to me to say that the Synod is the solution for these people and that they can have communion. That’s not the only solution. No, what the “Instrumentum laboris” proposes is a lot more, and also the problem of the new unions of divorcees isn’t the only problem. In the “Instrumentum laboris” there are many. For example, young people don’t get married. They don’t want to get married. It’s a pastoral problem for the Church. Another problem: the affective maturity for a marriage. Another problem: faith. ‘Do I believe that this is for ever? Yes, yes, yes, I believe.’ ‘But do you believe it?’ the preparation for a wedding: I think so often that to become a priest there’s a preparation for 8 years, and then, its not definite, the Church can take the clerical state away from you. But, for something lifelong, they do four courses! 4 times… Something isn’t right. It’s something the Synod has to deal with: how to do preparation for marriage. It’s one of the most difficult things.
There are many problems, they’re all are listed in the “Instrumentum laboris.”
But, I like that you asked the question about ‘Catholic divorce.’ That doesn’t exist. Either it wasn’t a marriage, and this is nullity — it didn’t exist. And if it did, it’s indissoluble. This is clear. Thank you.
Terry Moran, ABC News:
Holy Father, thank you, thank you very much and thank you to the Vatican staff as well. Holy Father, you visited the Little Sisters of the Poor and we were told that you wanted to show your support for them and their case in the courts. And, Holy Father, do you also support those individuals, including government officials, who say they cannot in good conscience, their own personal conscience, abide by some laws or discharge their duties as government officials, for example in issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples. Do you support those kinds of claims of religious liberty?
I can’t have in mind all cases that can exist about conscience objection. But, yes, I can say the conscientious objection is a right that is a part of every human right. It is a right. And if a person does not allow others to be a conscientious objector, he denies a right. Conscientious objection must enter into every juridical structure because it is a right, a human right. Otherwise we would end up in a situation where we select what is a right, saying ‘this right that has merit, this one does not.’ It (conscientious objection) is a human right. It always moved me when I read, and I read it many times, when I read the “Chanson de Roland” when the people were all in line and before them was the baptismal font and they had to choose between the baptismal font or the sword. They had to choose. They weren’t permitted conscientious objection. It is a right and if we want to make peace we have to respect all rights.
Terry Moran, ABC News:
Would that include government officials as well?
It is a human right and if a government official is a human person, he has that right. It is a human right.
Stefano Maria Paci, Sky News:
Holiness, you used very strong words at the UN to denounce the world’s silence on the persecution of Christians, who are deprived of their homes, thrown out, deprived of their possessions, enslaved and brutally killed. Yesterday, President Hollande announced the beginning of a bombing campaign by France on ISIS bases in Syria. What do you think of this military action? Also, the mayor of Rome, city of the Jubilee, declared that he came to the World Meeting of Families because you invited him. Can you tell us how it went?
I will start with your second question. I did not invite Mayor Marino. Is that clear? I didn’t do it and I asked the organizers and they didn’t invite him either. He came. He professes to be a Catholic and he came spontaneously. That’s the first thing. But it is clear, heh? And now about bombardments. Truly, I heard the news the day before yesterday, and I haven’t read about it. I don’t know much about the situation. I heard that Russia took one position and it wasn’t clear yet about the United States. I truly don’t know what to say because I haven’t fully understood the situation. But, when I hear the word bombing, death, blood… I repeat what I said in Congress and at the UN, to avoid these things. But, I don’t know, I can’t judge the political situation because I don’t know enough about it.
Miriam Schmidt, German DPA Agency:
Holy Father, I wanted to ask a question about the relationship of the Holy See with China and the situation in this country which is also quite difficult for the Catholic Church. What do you think about this?
China is a great nation that offers the world a great culture, so many good things. I said once on the plane when were flying over China when we were coming back from Korea that I would very much like so much to go to China. I love the Chinese people and I hope there is possibility of having good relations, good relations. We’re in contact, we talk, we are moving forward but for me, having a friend of a great country like China, which has so much culture and has so much opportunity to do good, would be a joy.
Maria Sagrarios Ruiz de Apodaca, RNE:
Thank you. Good evening, Holy Father. You have visited the U.S. for the first time, you had never been there before. You spoke to Congress, you spoke to the United Nations. You drew multitudes. Do you feel more powerful? And another question, we heard you draw attention to the role of religious women, of the women in the Church in the United States. Will we one day see women priests in the Catholic church as some groups in the U.S. ask, and some other Christian churches have?
He’s telling me not to answer in Spanish (referring to Fr. Federico Lombardi.) The sisters in the United States have done marvels in the field of education, in the field of health. The people of the United States love the sisters. I don’t know how much they love the priests, (laughs) but they love the sisters, they love them so much. They are great, they are great, great, great women. Then, one follows her congregation, their rules, there are differences. But are they great. And for that reason I felt the obligation to say thank you for what they have done. An important person of the government of the United States told me in the last few days: “The education I have, I owe above all to the sisters.” The sisters have schools in all neighborhoods, rich and poor. They work with the poor and in the hospitals. This was the first. The second? The first I remember, the second?
Maria Sagrarios Ruiz de Apodaca, RNE
If you feel powerful after having been in the United States with your schedule and having been successful?
I don’t know if I had success, no. But I am afraid of myself. Why am I afraid of myself? I feel always – I don’t know – weak in the sense of not having power and also power is a fleeting thing, here today, gone tomorrow. It’s important if you can do good with power. And Jesus defined power, the true power is to serve, to do service, to do the most humble services, and I must still make progress on this path of service because I feel that I don’t do everything I should do. That’s the sense I have of power.
Third, on women priests, that cannot be done. Pope St. John Paul II after long, long intense discussions, long reflection said so clearly. Not because women don’t have the capacity. Look, in the Church women are more important than men, because the church is a woman. It is “la” church, not “il” church. The Church is the bride of Jesus Christ. And the Madonna is more important than popes and bishops and priests. I must admit we are a bit late in an elaboration of the theology of women. We have to move ahead with that theology. Yes, that’s true.
Mathilde Imberty, Radio France
Holy Father, you have become a star in the United States. Is it good for the Church if the Pope is a star?
The Pope must… Do you know what the title was of the Pope that ought to be used? Servant of the servants of God. It’s a little different from the stars. Stars are beautiful to look at. I like to look at them in the summer when the sky is clear. But the Pope must be, must be the servant of the servants of God. Yes, in the media this is happening but there’s another truth. How many stars have we seen that go out and fall. It is a fleeting thing. On the other hand, being servant of the servants of God is something that doesn’t pass.
(from Vatican Radio)…
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis’ message for the 31st World Youth Day was released on Monday and is focused on the theme from the Beatitudes ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy’. The next meeting of young people from across the globe will take place in the Polish city of Krakow in July 2016.
In the message Pope Francis notes that the forthcoming World Youth Day takes place within the context of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. For that reason he says, it’s providential that the gathering will take place in the city associated with both Pope Paul II and Sr Faustina Kowalska, the two great “apostles of mercy of our times”.
In the message, the Pope also recounts his personal experience of God’s mercy in his own life, sharing the story of how he first heard God calling him to the priesthood when he was seventeen years old. He also invites young people of the world to become instruments of mercy to those around them, suggesting that throughout the seven months leading up to the Krakow event, they could focus on a different spiritual and corporal work of mercy for each month.
Please find below the full message for the 31st World Youth Day in Krakow 2016
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Mt 5:7)
Dear Young People,
We have come to the last stretch of our pilgrimage to Krakow, the place where we will celebrate the 31st World Youth Day next year in the month of July. We are being guided on this long and challenging path by Jesus’ words taken from the Sermon on the Mount. We began this journey in 2014 by meditating together on the first Beatitude: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:3). The theme for 2015 was: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Mt 5:8). During the year ahead, let us allow ourselves to be inspired by the words: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Mt 5:7).
5. The Jubilee of Mercy
With this theme, the Krakow 2016 WYD forms part of the Holy Year of Mercy and so becomes a Youth Jubilee at world level. It is not the first time that an international youth gathering has coincided with a Jubilee Year. Indeed, it was during the Holy Year of the Redemption (1983/1984) that Saint John Paul II first called on young people from around the world to come together on Palm Sunday. Then, during the Great Jubilee of the year 2000, over two million young people from around 165 countries gathered in Rome for the 15th World Youth Day. I am sure that the Youth Jubilee in Krakow will be, as on those two previous occasions, one of the high points of this Holy Year!
Perhaps some of you are asking: what is this Jubilee Year that is celebrated in the Church? The scriptural text of Leviticus 5 can help us to understand the meaning of a “jubilee” for the people of Israel. Every fifty years they heard the sounding of a trumpet (jobel) calling them (jobil) to celebrate a holy year as a time of reconciliation (jobal) for everyone. During that time they had to renew their good relations with God, with their neighbours and with creation, all in a spirit of gratuitousness. This fostered, among other things, debt forgiveness, special help for those who had fallen into poverty, an improvement in interpersonal relations and the freeing of slaves.
Jesus Christ came to proclaim and bring about the Lord’s everlasting time of grace. He brought good news to the poor, freedom to prisoners, sight to the blind and freedom to the oppressed (cf. Lk 4:18-19). In Jesus, and particularly in his Paschal Mystery, the deeper meaning of the jubilee is fully realized. When the Church proclaims a jubilee in the name of Christ, we are all invited to experience a wonderful time of grace. The Church must offer abundant signs of God’s presence and closeness, and reawaken in people’s hearts the ability to look to the essentials. In particular, this Holy Year of Mercy is “a time for the Church to rediscover the meaning of the mission entrusted to her by the Lord on the day of Easter: to be a sign and an instrument of the Father’s mercy” (Homily at First Vespers of Divine Mercy Sunday, 11 April 2015).
6. Merciful like the Father
The motto for this Extraordinary Jubilee is “Merciful like the Father” (cf. Misericordiae Vultus, 13). This fits in with the theme of the next WYD, so let us try to better understand the meaning of divine mercy.
The Old Testament uses various terms when it speaks about mercy. The most meaningful of these are hesed and rahamim. The first, when applied to God, expresses God’s unfailing fidelity to the Covenant with his people whom he loves and forgives for ever. The second, rahamim, which literally means “entrails”, can be translated as “heartfelt mercy”. This particularly brings to mind the maternal womb and helps us understand that God’s love for his people is like that of a mother for her child. That is how it is presented by the prophet Isaiah: “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you” (Is 49:15). Love of this kind involves making space for others within ourselves and being able to sympathize, suffer and rejoice with our neighbours.
The biblical concept of mercy also includes the tangible presence of love that is faithful, freely given and able to forgive. In the following passage from Hosea, we have a beautiful example of God’s love, which the prophet compares to that of a father for his child: “When Israel was a child I loved him; out of Egypt I called my son. The more I called them, the farther they went from me… Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, who took them in my arms; I drew them with human cords, with bands of love; I fostered them like one who raises an infant to his cheeks… I stooped to feed my child” (Hos 11:1-4). Despite the child’s wrong attitude that deserves punishment, a father’s love is faithful. He always forgives his repentant children. We see here how forgiveness is always included in mercy. It is “not an abstract idea, but a concrete reality with which he reveals his love as of that of a father or a mother, moved to the very depths out of love for their child… It gushes forth from the depths naturally, full of tenderness and compassion, indulgence and mercy” (Misericordiae Vultus, 6).
The New Testament speaks to us of divine mercy (eleos) as a synthesis of the work that Jesus came to accomplish in the world in the name of the Father (cf. Mt 9:13). Our Lord’s mercy can be seen especially when he bends down to human misery and shows his compassion for those in need of understanding, healing and forgiveness. Everything in Jesus speaks of mercy. Indeed, he himself is mercy.
In Chapter 15 of Luke’s Gospel we find the three parables of mercy: the lost sheep, the lost coin and the parable of the prodigal son. In these three parables we are struck by God’s joy, the joy that God feels when he finds and forgives a sinner. Yes, it is God’s joy to forgive! This sums up the whole of the Gospel. “Each of us, each one of us, is that little lost lamb, the coin that was mislaid; each one of us is that son who has squandered his freedom on false idols, illusions of happiness, and has lost everything. But God does not forget us; the Father never abandons us. He is a patient Father, always waiting for us! He respects our freedom, but he remains faithful forever. And when we come back to him, he welcomes us like children into his house, for he never ceases, not for one instant, to wait for us with love. And his heart rejoices over every child who returns. He is celebrating because he is joy. God has this joy, when one of us sinners goes to him and asks his forgiveness” (Angelus, 15 September 2013).
God’s mercy is very real and we are all called to experience it firsthand. When I was seventeen years old, it happened one day that, as I was about to go out with friends, I decided to stop into a church first. I met a priest there who inspired great confidence, and I felt the desire to open my heart in Confession. That meeting changed my life! I discovered that when we open our hearts with humility and transparency, we can contemplate God’s mercy in a very concrete way. I felt certain that, in the person of that priest, God was already waiting for me even before I took the step of entering that church. We keep looking for God, but God is there before us, always looking for us, and he finds us first. Maybe one of you feels something weighing on your heart. You are thinking: I did this, I did that…. Do not be afraid! God is waiting for you! God is a Father and he is always waiting for us! It is so wonderful to feel the merciful embrace of the Father in the sacrament of Reconciliation, to discover that the confessional is a place of mercy, and to allow ourselves to be touched by the merciful love of the Lord who always forgives us!
You, dear young man, dear young woman, have you ever felt the gaze of everlasting love upon you, a gaze that looks beyond your sins, limitations and failings, and continues to have faith in you and to look upon your life with hope? Do you realize how precious you are to God, who has given you everything out of love? Saint Paul tells us that “God proves his love for us in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). Do we really understand the power of these words?
I know how much the WYD cross means to all of you. It was a gift from Saint John Paul II and has been with you at all your World Meetings since 1984. So many changes and real conversions have taken place in the lives of young people who have encountered this simple bare cross! Perhaps you have asked yourselves the question: what is the origin of the extraordinary power of the cross? Here is the answer: the cross is the most eloquent sign of God’s mercy! It tells us that the measure of God’s love for humanity is to love without measure! Through the cross we can touch God’s mercy and be touched by that mercy! Here I would recall the episode of the two thieves crucified beside Jesus. One of them is arrogant and does not admit that he is a sinner. He mocks the Lord. The other acknowledges that he has done wrong; he turns to the Lord saying: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom”. Jesus looks at him with infinite mercy and replies: “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (cf. Lk 23:32, 39-43). With which of the two do we identify? Is it with the arrogant one who does not acknowledge his own mistakes? Or is it with the other, who accepts that he is in need of divine mercy and begs for it with all his heart? It is in the Lord, who gave his life for us on the cross, that we will always find that unconditional love which sees our lives as something good and always gives us the chance to start again.
7. The amazing joy of being instruments of God’s mercy
The Word of God teaches us that “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). That is why the fifth Beatitude declares that the merciful are blessed. We know that the Lord loved us first. But we will be truly blessed and happy only when we enter into the divine “logic” of gift and gracious love, when we discover that God has loved us infinitely in order to make us capable of loving like Him, without measure. Saint John says: “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love… In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another” (1 Jn 4:7-11).
After this very brief summary of how the Lord bestows his mercy upon us, I would like to give you some suggestions on how we can be instruments of this mercy for others.
I think of the example of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. He said, “Jesus pays me a visit every morning in Holy Communion, and I return the visit in the meagre way I know how, visiting the poor”. Pier Giorgio was a young man who understood what it means to have a merciful heart that responds to those most in need. He gave them far more than material goods. He gave himself by giving his time, his words and his capacity to listen. He served the poor very quietly and unassumingly. He truly did what the Gospel tells us: “When you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret” (Mt 6:3-4). Imagine that, on the day before his death when he was gravely ill, he was giving directions on how his friends in need should be helped. At his funeral, his family and friends were stunned by the presence of so many poor people unknown to them. They had been befriended and helped by the young Pier Giorgio.
I always like to link the Gospel Beatitudes with Matthew 25, where Jesus presents us with the works of mercy and tells us that we will be judged on them. I ask you, then, to rediscover the corporal works of mercy: to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, assist the sick, visit the imprisoned and bury the dead. Nor should we overlook the spiritual works of mercy: to counsel the doubtful, teach the ignorant, admonish sinners, comfort the sorrowful, forgive offences, patiently bear with troublesome people and pray to God for the living and the dead. As you can see, mercy does not just imply being a “good person” nor is it mere sentimentality. It is the measure of our authenticity as disciples of Jesus, and of our credibility as Christians in today’s world.
If you want me to be very specific, I would suggest that for the first seven months of 2016 you choose a corporal and a spiritual work of mercy to practice each month. Find inspiration in the prayer of Saint Faustina, a humble apostle of Divine Mercy in our times:
“Help me, O Lord,
…that my eyes may be merciful, so that I will never be suspicious or judge by appearances, but always look for what is beautiful in my neighbours’ souls and be of help to them;
… that my ears may be merciful, so that I will be attentive to my neighbours’ needs, and not indifferent to their pains and complaints;
… that my tongue may be merciful, so that I will never speak badly of others, but have a word of comfort and forgiveness for all;
… that my hands may be merciful and full of good deeds;
… that my feet may be merciful, so that I will hasten to help my neighbour, despite my own fatigue and weariness;
… that my heart may be merciful, so that I myself will share in all the sufferings of my neighbour” (Diary, 163).
The Divine Mercy message is a very specific life plan because it involves action. One of the most obvious works of mercy, and perhaps the most difficult to put into practice, is to forgive those who have offended us, who have done us wrong or whom we consider to be enemies. “At times how hard it seems to forgive! And yet pardon is the instrument placed into our fragile hands to attain serenity of heart. To let go of anger, wrath, violence, and revenge are necessary conditions to living joyfully” (Misericordiae Vultus, 9).
I meet so many young people who say that they are tired of this world being so divided, with clashes between supporters of different factions and so many wars, in some of which religion is being used as justification for violence. We must ask the Lord to give us the grace to be merciful to those who do us wrong. Jesus on the cross prayed for those who had crucified him: “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34). Mercy is the only way to overcome evil. Justice is necessary, very much so, but by itself it is not enough. Justice and mercy must go together. How I wish that we could join together in a chorus of prayer, from the depths of our hearts, to implore the Lord to have mercy on us and on the whole world!
8. Krakow is expecting us!
Only a few months are left before we meet in Poland. Krakow, the city of Saint John Paul II and Saint Faustina Kowalska, is waiting for us with open arms and hearts. I believe that Divine Providence led us to the decision to celebrate the Youth Jubilee in that city which was home to those two great apostles of mercy in our times. John Paul II realized that this is the time of mercy. At the start of his pontificate, he wrote the encyclical Dives in Misericordia. In the Holy Year 2000 he canonized Sister Faustina and instituted the Feast of Divine Mercy, which now takes place on the Second Sunday of Easter. In 2002 he personally inaugurated the Divine Mercy Shrine in Krakow and entrusted the world to Divine Mercy, in the desire that this message would reach all the peoples of the earth and fill their hearts with hope: “This spark needs to be lighted by the grace of God. This fire of mercy needs to be passed on to the world. In the mercy of God the world will find peace and mankind will find happiness!” (Homily at the Dedication of the Divine Mercy Shrine in Krakow, 17 August 2002).
Dear young people, at the Shrine in Krakow dedicated to the merciful Jesus, where he is depicted in the image venerated by the people of God, Jesus is waiting for you. He has confidence in you and is counting on you! He has so many things to say to each of you… Do not be afraid to look into his eyes, full of infinite love for you. Open yourselves to his merciful gaze, so ready to forgive all your sins. A look from him can change your lives and heal the wounds of your souls. His eyes can quench the thirst that dwells deep in your young hearts, a thirst for love, for peace, for joy and for true happiness. Come to Him and do not be afraid! Come to him and say from the depths of your hearts: “Jesus, I trust in You!”. Let yourselves be touched by his boundless mercy, so that in turn you may become apostles of mercy by your actions, words and prayers in our world, wounded by selfishness, hatred and so much despair.
Carry with you the flame of Christ’s merciful love – as Saint John Paul II said – in every sphere of your daily life and to the very ends of the earth. In this mission, I am with you with my encouragement and prayers. I entrust all of you to Mary, Mother of Mercy, for this last stretch of the journey of spiritual preparation for the next WYD in Krakow. I bless all of you from my heart.
From the Vatican, 15 August 2015
Solemnity of the Assumption of the B.V. Mary
(from Vatican Radio)…
(Vatican Radio) The world is a complex place, and its problems cannot be fixed at one go. Nevertheless, “the contribution of the Pope has been huge,” and America has heard and received his message. This is the nutshell version of the concluding review the Director of the Press Office of the Holy See, Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, gave to Vatican Radio on Sunday, following the final press briefing on the last day of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Voyage to the United States.
Below, please find the audio and full transcript – edited for clarity – of Fr. Lombardi SJ’s conversation with Vatican Radio’s Chris Altieri, in the United States:
CRA: As the visit has now entered its final stage, what can you say has been the Holy Father’s central message and has it been received?
FLSJ: Yes. The points of the message of the Pope were many, obviously – because he has spoken for the entire world, for the American Congress, and also for families and for the Church. We have not to forget that for the Pope, the first intention of this trip was the World Day of Families – and in this sense I think that he has succeeded in keeping this message, this attention for families[front and center] during the entire journey. From Cuba, on, every time he has addressed anyone – important authorities, too: President Obama, the Congress, the United Nations – he has always recalled the importance of the family, through to these [final days in Philadelphia], in which he has [proclaimed] the beauty of the Gospel of the Family as a “factory of hope” – I think he was very successful in finding this strong expression.
CRA: How do you think he has been received, especially by the people?
FLSJ: Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful – I think maybe more than expected – or perhaps [not more than expected], because he knows how the people love him, and we have had also in these big American cities, the people on the street with spontaneous enthusiasm. In this sense, it was a very positive experience for him and for us, who travel with him, to see how the people – the “normal” people, who are in different countries love him and understand his message – even if he was not so perfect in English – his communication was good. People have understood.
CRA: Going forward now, has the Holy Father planted the seeds of his message, and will they take root – is there reason to hope?
FLSJ: Surely. We hope that this will happen in the future, [that his message will take root]. Sure: he has done very much. We cannot solve all the problems of history in one [go], but we try always to give our contribution [to the cause]. The contribution the Pope has given has been huge.
(from Vatican Radio)…