Pope Francis in Turkey: Day 1 highlights

(Vatican Radio) On the first day of his apostolic trip to Turkey, Pope Francis said religious leaders “are obliged” to denounce violence in the name of religion. He also appealed for more international assistance for the thousands of refugees from nearby Iraq and Syria, who have taken refuge in Turkey.

Upon arriving in Ankara on Friday afternoon, the Pope stopped at a mausoleum, where the remains of Turkey’s founder are buried—part of protocol for all visiting heads of state—before visiting with President Recep Tayip Erdogan at the Presidential Palace and with the head of the country’s Department of Religious Affairs, Mehmet Gormez.

Vatican Radio journalist Philippa Hitchen is on the ground, covering the Pope’s three-day apostolic journey. She shared the highlights of the first day in a nutshell.

Listen to the live link-up with Philippa Hitchen during the 28 November broadcast of Vatican Radio World News:

On Saturday, the Pope will travel to Istanbul, where he is expected to visit several historic sites, including Santa Sofia, a former basilica, which had been converted into a mosque in the 15th century and is now a museum. He is then expected to visit one of Istanbul’s most important mosques, the Sultan Ahmet, also known as the “Blue Mosque”. He is scheduled to celebrate Mass at the Catholic Holy Spirit Cathedral in the afternoon.

The evening is to include ecumenical prayer at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of St George, followed by a private meeting with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I. 

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis: May Turkey have peace, coexistence, dignity

(Vatican Radio) Shortly after his arrival in Ankara Friday for a three day pastoral visit to Turkey, Pope Francis visited the Mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder and first President of the modern-day Republic of Turkey. 

The Pope was greeted by the Commander of the Guards, laid a wreath of flowers and paused for a few moments of silence.  Pope Francis was then accompanied to the Tower of “National Pact” at the entry to the Anitkabir Atatürk Museum which exhibits the founder of the Turkish Republic's personal items, wardrobe, and a number of the gifts presented to him.  There, the Holy Father signed The “Gold Book”, with the following inscription:

"May the Almighty grant peace and prosperity to the dear Turkish people, with the wish that the entire Country may increasingly become a place of peaceful coexistence between cultures and civilizations, where every human person feels welcomed and his or her dignity and free expression of faith is safeguarded."

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis condemns “barbaric” violence by fundamentalists against minorities

(Vatican Radio)  Speaking on the first day of his visit to Turkey, Pope Francis condemned the “barbaric violence” waged by fundamentalists in Iraq and Syria against entire communities, especially Christians and Yazidis, because of their ethnic and religious identity.  His remarks came in a speech to Turkey’s Department for Religious Affairs which is the nation’s highest Islamic authority.  As religious leaders, Pope Francis said, we are obliged to denounce all violations against human dignity and human life and “any violence which seeks religious justification warrants the strongest condemnation.”


Please find below the English translation of the full text of Pope Francis’ speech to the Department for Religious Affairs:


Mr President,

Religious and Civil Authorities,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

                I am pleased to meet with you today in the course of my visit to your country.  I thank the President of this distinguished office for his cordial invitation which affords me the opportunity to share these moments with political and religious leaders, both Muslim and Christian.

                It is a tradition that Popes, when they visit different countries as part of their mission, meet also with the leaders and members of various religions.  Without this openness to encounter and dialogue, a Papal Visit would not fully correspond to its purposes. And so I have wished to meet you, following in the footsteps of my venerable predecessors.  In this context, I am pleased to recall in a special way Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to this very same place in November 2006.

                Good relations and dialogue between religious leaders have, in fact, acquired great importance.  They represent a clear message addressed to their respective communities which demonstrates that mutual respect and friendship are possible, notwithstanding differences.  Such friendship, as well as being valuable in itself, becomes all the more meaningful and important in a time of crises such as our own, crises which in some parts of the world are disastrous for entire peoples.

                Wars cause the death of innocent victims and bring untold destruction, interethnic and interreligious tensions and conflicts, hunger and poverty afflicting hundreds of millions of people, and inflict damage on the natural environment – air, water and land.

                Especially tragic is the situation in the Middle East, above all in Iraq and Syria.  Everyone suffers the consequences of these conflicts, and the humanitarian situation is unbearable.  I think of so many children, the sufferings of so many mothers, of the elderly, of those displaced and of all refugees, subject to every form of violence.  Particular concern arises from the fact that, owing mainly to an extremist and fundamentalist group, entire communities, especially – though not exclusively – Christians and Yazidis, have suffered and continue to suffer barbaric violence simply because of their ethnic and religious identity.  They have been forcibly evicted from their homes, having to leave behind everything to save their lives and preserve their faith.  This violence has also brought damage to sacred buildings, monuments, religious symbols and cultural patrimony, as if trying to erase every trace, every memory of the other.

                As religious leaders, we are obliged to denounce all violations against human dignity and human rights.  Human life, a gift of God the Creator, possesses a sacred character.  As such, any violence which seeks religious justification warrants the strongest condemnation because the Omnipotent is the God of life and peace.  The world expects those who claim to adore God to be men and women of peace who are capable of living as brothers and sisters, regardless of ethnic, religious, cultural or ideological differences.

                As well as denouncing such violations, we must also work together to find adequate solutions.  This requires the cooperation of all: governments, political and religious leaders, representatives of civil society, and all men and women of goodwill.  In a unique way, religious leaders can offer a vital contribution by expressing the values of their respective traditions.  We, Muslims and Christians, are the bearers of spiritual treasures of inestimable worth.  Among these we recognize some shared elements, though lived according to the traditions of each, such as the adoration of the All-Merciful God, reference to the Patriarch Abraham, prayer, almsgiving, fasting… elements which, when lived sincerely, can transform life and provide a sure foundation for dignity and fraternity.  Recognizing and developing our common spiritual heritage – through interreligious dialogue – helps us to promote and to uphold moral values, peace and freedom in society (cf. JOHN PAUL II, Address to the Catholic Community in Ankara, 29 November 1979).  The shared recognition of the sanctity of each human life is the basis of joint initiatives of solidarity, compassion, and effective help directed to those who suffer most.  In this regard, I wish to express my appreciation for everything that the Turkish people, Muslims and Christians alike, are doing to help the hundreds of thousands of people who are fleeing their countries due to conflicts. There are two million. This is a clear example of how we can work together to serve others, an example to be encouraged and maintained.

                I wish also to express my satisfaction at the good relations which exist between the Diyanet and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.  It is my earnest desire that these relations will continue and be strengthened for the good of all, so that every initiative which promotes authentic dialogue will offer a sign of hope to a world which so deeply needs peace, security and prosperity. And also after my discussions with the President, I hope that this dialogue becomes creative in new forms.

                Mr President, I renew my gratitude to you and your colleagues for this meeting, which fills my heart with joy.  I am grateful also to each one of you, for your presence and for your prayers which, in your kindness, you offer for me and my ministry.  For my part, I assure you of my prayers.  May the Lord grant us all his blessing.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis: Interreligious dialogue can help end forms of fundamentalism

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis has urged more interreligious dialogue to help bring peace and end all forms of "fundamentalism,terrorism and irrational fears." His appeal came in a speech to Turkey’s President Erdogan and other top political leaders on the first day of his pastoral visit to the cities of Ankara and Istanbul.  In his discourse, the Pope also stressed the importance of religious freedom, respect for human dignity and said we must never "resign ourselves" to ongoing conflicts in the Middle East. He spoke of his concern over the conflicts in Iraq and Syria along with the "grave persecution" of minorities there and praised Turkey’s "generous" response in welcoming a large number of refugees from these regional conflicts.

Please find below an English translation of the full text of Pope Francis’ address to President Erdogan and other Turkish political leaders:

Mr President,

Distinguished Authorities,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

              I am pleased to visit your country so rich in natural beauty and history, and filled with vestiges of ancient civilizations.  It is a natural bridge between two continents and diverse cultures.  This land is precious to every Christian for being the birthplace of Saint Paul, who founded various Christian communities here, and for hosting the first seven Councils of the Church.  It is also renowned for the site near Ephesus which a venerable tradition holds to be the “Home of Mary”, the place where the Mother of Jesus lived for some years.  It is now a place of devotion for innumerable pilgrims from all over the world, not only for Christians, but also for Muslims.

                Yet, the reasons why Turkey is held with such regard and appreciation are not only linked to its past and ancient monuments, but also have to do with the vitality of its present, the hard work and generosity of its people, and its role in the concert of nations. 

                It brings me great joy to have this opportunity to pursue with you a dialogue of friendship, esteem and respect, in the footsteps of my predecessors Blessed Paul VI, Saint John Paul II and Benedict XVI.  This dialogue was prepared for and supported by the work of the then Apostolic Delegate, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, who went on to become Saint John XXIII, and by the Second Vatican Council.

                Today what is needed is a dialogue which can deepen the understanding and appreciation of the many things which we hold in common.  Such a dialogue will allow us to reflect sensibly and serenely on our differences, and to learn from them.

                There is a need to move forward patiently in the task of building a lasting peace, one founded on respect for the fundamental rights and duties rooted in the dignity of each person.  In this way, we can overcome prejudices and unwarranted fears, leaving room for respect, encounter, and the release of more positive energies for the good of all.

                To this end, it is essential that all citizens – Muslim, Jewish and Christian – both in the provision and practice of the law, enjoy the same rights and respect the same duties.  They will then find it easier to see each other as brothers and sisters who are travelling the same path, seeking always to reject misunderstandings while promoting cooperation and concord.  Freedom of religion and freedom of expression, when truly guaranteed to each person, will help friendship to flourish and thus become an eloquent sign of peace.

                The Middle East, Europe and the world all await this maturing of friendship.  The Middle East, in particular, has for too long been a theatre of fratricidal wars, one born of the other, as if the only possible response to war and violence must be new wars and further acts of violence.

                How much longer must the Middle East suffer the consequences of this lack of peace?  We must not resign ourselves to ongoing conflicts as if the situation can never change for the better!  With the help of God, we can and we must renew the courage of peace!  Such courage will lead to a just, patient and determined use of all available means of negotiation, and in this way achieve the concrete goals of peace and sustainable development.

                Mr President, interreligious and intercultural dialogue can make an important contribution to attaining this lofty and urgent goal, so that there will be an end to all forms of fundamentalism and terrorism which gravely demean the dignity of every man and woman and exploit religion. 

                Fanaticism and fundamentalism, as well as irrational fears which foster misunderstanding and discrimination, need to be countered by the solidarity of all believers.  This solidarity must rest on the following pillars: respect for human life and for religious freedom, that is the freedom to worship and to live according to the moral teachings of one’s religion; commitment to ensuring what each person requires for a dignified life; and care for the natural environment.  The peoples and the states of the Middle East stand in urgent need of such solidarity, so that they can “reverse the trend” and successfully advance a peace process, repudiating war and violence and pursuing dialogue, the rule of law, and justice.

                Sadly, to date, we are still witnessing grave conflicts.  In Syria and Iraq, particularly, terrorist violence shows no signs of abating.  Prisoners and entire ethnic populations are experiencing the violation of the most basic humanitarian laws.  Grave persecutions have taken place in the past and still continue today to the detriment of minorities, especially – though not only – Christians and Yazidis.  Hundreds of thousands of persons have been forced to abandon their homes and countries in order to survive and remain faithful to their religious beliefs. 

                Turkey, which has generously welcomed a great number of refugees, is directly affected by this tragic situation on its borders; the international community has the moral obligation to assist Turkey in taking care of these refugees.  In addition to providing much needed assistance and humanitarian aid, we cannot remain indifferent to the causes of these tragedies.  In reaffirming that it is licit, while always respecting international law, to stop an unjust aggressor, I wish to reiterate, moreover, that the problem cannot be resolved solely through a military response.

                What is required is a concerted commitment on the part of all, based on mutual trust, which can pave the way to lasting peace, and enable resources to be directed, not to weaponry, but to the other noble battles worthy of man: the fight against hunger and sickness, the fight for sustainable development and the protection of creation, and the relief of the many forms of poverty and marginalization of which there is no shortage in the world today.

                Turkey, by virtue of its history, geographical position and regional influence, has a great responsibility: the choices which Turkey makes and its example are especially significant and can be of considerable help in promoting an encounter of civilizations and in identifying viable paths of peace and authentic progress.

                May the Most High bless and protect Turkey, and help the nation to be a strong and fervent peacemaker!  Thank you!

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis greets journalists on papal plane to Turkey

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis briefly greeted journalists travelling with him on the flight to the Turkish capital, Ankara.

Please see below a English translation of his remarks made in Italian:

“Hello.   I welcome you and thank you for your company during this journey.  Your work is a support, a help and also a service for the world, reporting on this religious and humanitarian activity.  At this time, Turkey is a witness (to this) and one that offers help to many refugees from the areas of conflict.  I thank you for your work.  We’ll meet again on our return for the press conference.  Many thanks and have a good trip.”

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis arrives in Ankara at start of his visit to Turkey

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis’ plane has touched down at Ankara airport at the start of his three day pastoral journey to Turkey.  His visit to the cities of Ankara and Istanbul comes in response to invitations from the Turkish government and from the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians.

The Pope’s engagements in Ankara include meetings with Turkey’s government leaders and with the nation’s senior Muslim cleric. He then travels to Istanbul where he will meet Patriarch Bartholomew for talks and is also due to sign a joint declaration with him.    

(from Vatican Radio)

Spotlight on ecumenical and interfaith relations in Turkey

(Vatican Radio) Catholic-Orthodox relations and dialogue with the Muslim world are the two main issues under the spotlight as Pope Francis travels to the Turkish capital of Ankara on Friday for his 6th international journey. The Pope will then spend Saturday and Sunday in Istanbul where he was invited by the Orthodox leader, Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew 1st  to celebrate the feast of St Andrew on November 30th.

Just six months ago, the two leaders met in Jerusalem and signed a joint declaration marking half a century since the lifting of mutual excommunications and the beginning of a new era of improved relations between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. So what are the expectations ahead of this latest encounter in the Patriarch’s headquarters at the Phanar in Istanbul? And how can the tiny Christian minority in Turkey help to promote better relations with the wider Muslim world?

To find answers to those questions, Philippa Hitchen spoke with Dominican Father Claudio Monge, director of a Centre for Cultural and Interreligious Dialogue in Istanbul….


Fr Claudio says Patriarch Bartholomew is a very important point of reference for the Christian world vis-à-vis the Turkish authorities and the Turkish state. At the same time, he notes that while the Orthodox leader has really fraternal relations with many people in the Catholic Church, that friendship is not always shared within the wider Greek-Orthodox community…..

While Fr Claudio believes the meeting in Turkey may not significantly change the relationship between the two local churches, he says there is a wider importance as both Catholics and Orthodox pray for the pan-Orthodox Synod that Bartholomew is trying to organize for 2016. “We are convinced that this is not only a very important goal for the Orthodox world, but for the whole of Christianity, in Europe and in the Middle East,” Fr Claudio says, since improved relationships between the different Orthodox churches may help them “ to give a new face, a new hope to the Christians in this area, that is majority Islamic, Islamic area.”

Regarding the role of interfaith dialogue in Turkey today, Fr Claudio says it’s not possible to talk about Christian –Muslim dialogue as a “dialogue of systems”. The Islamic world, he says, is very, diverse, very complex and real dialogue is always dialogue between believers who can meet together “in daily life for the common question of living together, but also for spiritual and even theological reasons.” Fr Claudio says he’s increasingly convinced that “real believers are concerned of the importance to be together as believers, witnesses of a new hope in a world that suffers a lot, a world that is characterized by violence, and where human life and dignity are very often forgotten.” It is a huge task, he continues, to build bridges between believers and although religion may be instrumentalized by a  populist political vision, more and more people are against such exploitation, preferring to see religion as “ a resource to build a new relationships between countries and people.”

Asked if he believes the Pope’s words can have any impact on the political situation in the region, Fr Claudio says: “I think so…… I am more and more convinced that for example as Christian and Muslims, we define God as creator. And it’s more and more difficult to accept, among real believers, that a creator can destroy and can let lives be destroyed in such a way….. The challenge, he says, is how to translate and give shape at political level to this “ very deep feeling” but he says  more and more people are saying--- “Not in my name”—the famous hashtag that many Muslim people all over the world started a few weeks ago speaking for example about violence and so on..” 

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis’ visit to Turkey: its political and religious dimensions

(Vatican Radio)  What is the main significance and chief highlights of Pope Francis’s three day pastoral visit to Turkey this week?  And what message is he likely to bring to the Christian and Muslim communities during his time in Ankara and Istanbul?  These were some of the questions Susy Hodges put to Vatican Radio’s correspondent Philippa Hitchen who is travelling with the Pope during his trip. 

Listen to the full interview with Philippa Hitchen just before her departure for Turkey: 

Philippa explained that Pope Francis is visiting Turkey after receiving invitations both from the Turkish government and from Patriarch Bartholomew I, spiritual leader of the Orthodox Church, who asked him to participate in celebrations marking the feast of St. Andrew, founder of the Eastern Church.  She said because of these two separate invitations, the papal visit to Turkey has a two-fold significance. 

“There’s a political dimension to it and there’s a religious dimension to it.”

One of the most keenly-awaited moments of the Pope’s visit will be his meeting with Bartholomew I and Philippa pointed out that this encounter comes against the backdrop of a “particularly good friendship” that has been struck up between the two leaders.   

The political dimension to this visit, observed Philippa, comes from the Pope’s meetings with Turkey’s president and prime minister and with the nation’s Department of Religious Affairs which will give him a chance to address a message to “ the wider Muslim world.”  She said Pope Francis is likely to use these meetings with Turkey’s political and Muslim representatives to stress once again his conviction that religion has never be used to justify violence.

“The Pope will say very clearly once again, I’m sure, that no believer, nobody who has any faith in God can ever carry out any acts of violence in the name of religion.”  In this context, Philippa also noted how Turkey’s religious leaders have clearly condemned the violence being waged by the Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.  

When it comes to Turkey’s tiny Catholic community, Philippa said she expected the Pope to urge them to be “more united… to witness together … to tackle their problems together,” saying it will be “an important message of encouragement.” 

(from Vatican Radio)

Holy Father’s calendar for December 2014 and January 2015

Vatican City, 27 November 2014 (VIS) – The Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff has published the following calendar of liturgical celebrations at which the Holy Father will preside in December 2014 and January 2015:


Monday 8: Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. At 4 p.m. in Piazza di Spagna, veneration of the image of Mary Immaculate.

Friday 12: Feast of Blessed Virgin Mary of Guadalupe. At 6 p.m. in the Vatican Basilica, Holy Mass for Latin America.

Sunday 14: “Gaudete Sunday” Third of Advent. At 4 p.m., pastoral visit to the Roman Parish of “San Giuseppe all'Aurelio”.

Wednesday 24: Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord. At 9.30 p.m. in the Vatican Basilica, Holy Mass.

Thursday 25: Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord. Central loggia of the Vatican Basilica, at 12 p.m., “Urbi et Orbi” blessing.

Wednesday 31: Solemnity of Mary Most Holy, Mother of God. At 5 p.m. First Vespers and Te Deum, in Thanksgiving for the past year.


Thursday 1: Solemnity of Mary Most Holy, Mother of God. 48th World Peace Day. At 10 a.m. in the Vatican Basilica, Holy Mass.

Tuesday 6: Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord. At 10 a.m. in the Vatican Basilica, Holy Mass.

Sunday 11: Sunday after the Epiphany: Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. At 9.30 a.m. in the Sistine Chapel. Holy Mass and baptism of babies.

Monday 12 to Monday 19: Apostolic trip in Sri Lanka and the Philippines.

Sunday 25: Solemnity of the Conversion of St. Paul. At 5.30 in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls, Vespers.

Pope: God lives in big cities. We must be there with Him.

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has urged bishops and pastoral care workers to take up the challenge of bringing the Gospel into big cities with a profound change of attitude and renewed committment.

In a message to participants of the International Pastoral Congress on the World's Big Cities, held in Barcelona this week, the Pope issued an encouragement to reflect creatively on the way they face the task of evangelization in great urban centers that are in increasing expansion, and in which everyone needs to feel the closeness and mercy of God.

Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni

Delivering his message to a group of Cardinals and bishops from big cities across the world whom he received in audience on Thursday morning, Pope Francis began with a reflection on his own personal experience as Archbishop of the “populous and multicultural city of Buenos Aires” with its dense population of 13 million.

He said that together with the bishops of the 11 dioceses that make up that ecclesiastical region, he searched for new ways with which to open pathways into urban realities, taking stock of possible fears that sometimes “confuse” or even “paralyze” us.

The Pope recalled a chapter of his Apostolic Exhortation “Evangelii gaudium” in which he drew attention to urban pastoral care and its many challenges:  “challenges” – he said – “in places to which God is calling us”.

Pope Francis focused on four of these challenges. He described them as “making a change in our pastoral mentality”; “dialogue with multiculturalism”; “religiousness of people”; and “the urban poor”. 

Regarding the first of these challenges he said that in big cities we need new maps to help us reposition our thoughts and our attitudes. “We must not be disorientated” – he said – “because that would lead us to take the wrong road” as well as confuse the people of God that is looking for Life, Truth and the Sense.

He pointed out that our pastoral practice is based and rooted in times gone by: “We are no longer in that era. We are not in Christianity. Today we are not the only ones that produce culture, we are not the first nor the most listened to”. Thus, he said, we need a change in pastoral mentality. But he pointed out that we do not need “relativistic pastoral care” which would leave man alone and “emancipated from God’s hands: “This would not be pastoral care!”  He said it would leave man in danger of treading a road of solitude and death.

And Pope Francis said we must have the courage to evangelize at a pastoral level with audacity and fearlessness, because that’s what men, women and families, as well as the various groups that live in cities expect from us. “We must work without shame or shyness as we announce Jesus Christ.

Regarding the dialogue with multiculturalism , Pope Francis pointed to a pastoral dialogue without relativisms, without compromising one’s Christian identity, but aiming to reach the heart of the other, of he who is different to us, and there “sow the seeds of the Gospel”.

Within this realm the Pope said we need a contemplative attitude that makes use of the contribution of diverse sciences to be able to understand the urban phenomenon. This will help us – he said – to get to know “the invisible cities: the groups or the human territories who find identity in symbols, idioms, rites and forms to tell the stories of life”.

In respect to the religiousness of people, Pope Francis said: “God lives in cities. We must go and look for him and remain where He is operating”. He said it is important to discover within the “religiosity of our people, the authentic religious under layer, which in many cases is Christian and Catholic”. He said we must not ignore or despise experiences of God that may be dispersed or mixed up: they ask to be “revealed and not constructed”.

Regarding the issue of religiosity Francis said it differs enormously in the five continents, and he pointed out that the Church in Latin America and in the Caribbean has recognized its strength that comes above all from poor majorities.

God – he said – continues to talk to us today through the poor. And he said large cities today are inhabited by numerous migrants and poor people who come from rural areas, from other continents, with other cultures. “They are pilgrims of life in search of ‘salvation’, who often find the force to go forward and to struggle thanks to a simple and profound experience of faith in God” the Pope said.  So, it is a double challenge: to be hospitable towards the poor and towards migrants; and to give value to their faith. And Pope Francis expressed his belief that within the faith of these men and women there is enormous potential for evangelization in urban areas.

Finally, the Pope dedicated a passage to urban poor. He said that amongst its precious offers for life, in the folds of large cities there are many poor people, marginalized people, people who have been “thrown away”. The Church, he said: “cannot ignore their cry, nor can it be part of unjust systems” that try to render them invisible. And he spoke of cycles of new poverty that are excluding generations of families. Of economic, social, moral and spiritual poverty that exclude God’s children: “In cities, the future of the poor is even poorer” he said.

Concluding, Pope Francis proposed two pastoral nuclei: “Go out and facilitate” and “The Samaritan Church. To be there”.

Calling it a real “ecclesial transformation” the Pope said it’s all about going out and meeting God who lives in cities with the poor. Meeting, listening to, blessing, walking with the people; facilitating the encounter with the Lord are his rule of thumb.

He tells pastoral workers to render the Sacrament of Baptism accessible; to make sure churches are open and that administrative offices have opening hours that suit the needs of people who go to work; that the Catechesis be suitable in content and accessibility to the time limitations of people who live in big cities.     

And he asked for witness. With the right kind of witness – the Pope said – we can reach the deepest nuclei, we can go where culture is born and sow the mustard seed in the heart of new cultures generated by urban reality.

It must be a concrete witness of mercy and tenderness and it must be present in the poorest and most peripheral existential realities. We must take care of the aged with significant  actions and learn to work together with those who are already doing things in favour of the poor.

The big city – Pope Francis said – is a propitious space for ecumenical charitable pastoral work, and we have the responsibility of committing to service for the poor together with our brothers of other Churches.

(from Vatican Radio)