General Audience: Pope focuses on role of father in family life

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis called on fathers to be present in the lives of their children pointing out that the absence of a ‘father figure’ can have grave consequences.

Speaking on Wednesday during the weekly General Audience, the Pope continued in his catechesis on the family, choosing to focus on the dignity and role of fathers.

He said that teaching us to call God our Father, Jesus gave new depth and richness to this relationship, so fundamental to the life of society.  

Sadly – Francis said -  in our modern societies, we are experiencing a crisis of fatherhood. In the past it was common practice to perceive the  image of the father as authoritarian and at times even repressive, today – he said - we now sense uncertainty and confusion about the role of the father.

And speaking of  an “absence” of the father figure in society, the Pope said that “without father figures, young people often feel ‘orphaned’, left adrift at a critical moment in their growth and development. 

Calling on fathers to be responsible, he said that fathers are necessary as examples and guides for our children in wisdom and virtue.
  
Society itself – he continued -  has a similar responsibility not to leave the young as orphans, without ideals, sound values, hopes and possibilities for work and for authentic spiritual fulfilment.  

Just as Jesus promised that he would not leave us orphans – Pope Francis concluded - let us ask him to deepen and renew our appreciation of fatherhood and to raise up good fathers for the benefit of our families, our Church and our world.

(from Vatican Radio)

Holy Father’s calendar for February to April 2015

Vatican City, 27 January 2015 (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 from February to April:

FEBRUARY

Monday 2: Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, 19th World Day of Consecrated Life. At 5.30 p.m. in the Vatican Basilica, Mass with the members of the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life.

Sunday 8: Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time. At 4 p.m., pastoral visit to the Roman parish of “St. Michael the Archangel in Pietralata”.

Saturday 14: At 11 a.m. in the Vatican Basilica, Ordinary Public Consistory for the creation of new cardinals and for several causes of canonisation.

Sunday 15: Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time. At 10 a.m. in the Vatican Basilica, Mass with newly-created cardinals.

Wednesday 18: Ash Wednesday. At 4.30 p.m., Basilica of St. Anselm, “Statio” and penitential procession. At 5 p.m. at the Basilica of St. Sabina, blessing and imposition of the ashes.

Sunday 22, First Sunday of Lent. Ariccia, beginning of spiritual exercises for the Roman Curia.

Friday 27: Conclusion of spiritual exercises for the Roman Curia.

MARCH

Sunday 8: Third Sunday of Lent. At 4 p.m., pastoral visit to the Roman parish of “Holy Mary Mother of the Redeemer”.

Friday 13: At 5 p.m. in the Vatican Basilica, penitential liturgy.

Saturday 21: pastoral visit to Naples-Pompeii.

Sunday 29: Palm Sunday and the Passion of the Lord. At 9.30 a.m. in St. Peter's Square, blessing of the palms, procession and Mass.

APRIL

Thursday 2: Holy Thursday. At 9.30 a.m. in the Vatican Basilica, Chrism Mass.

Friday 3: Good Friday. At 5 p.m. in the Vatican Basilica, celebration of the Passion of the Lord.

Friday 3: Good Friday. At 9.15 p.m., at the Colosseum, Via Crucis.

Saturday 4: Holy Saturday. At 8.30 p.m. in the Vatican Basilica, Easter Vigil.

Sunday 5: Easter Sunday. At 12 p.m., central balcony of the Vatican Basilica, “Urbi et Orbi” blessing.

Sunday 12: Second Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday. At 10 a.m. at the Vatican Basilica, Mass for the faithful of Armenian rite.

Pope Francis: We must ask God for the desire to do His will

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis says we need to pray to God every day for the grace to understand His will, to follow it and to carry it out fully.  This was the core message of his homily at the morning Mass on Tuesday at the Santa Marta residence.

 

Listen to this report by Susy Hodges: 

 

Taking his cue from the day’s readings, the Pope reflected on one of the cornerstones of our faith: obedience to God’s will. This, he explained, is the path to holiness for each Christian, namely that we carry out God’s will. 

“The opposite began in Paradise with Adam’s failure to obey.  And that disobedience brought evil to the whole of humanity.  And sins too are acts of disobedience towards God, of not doing God’s will.  The Lord teaches us instead that this is the path, there is no other one.  And it begins with Jesus in Heaven, in his desire to obey the Father.  But here on earth it begins with Our Lady: what did she say to the Angel?  ‘Let it be done to me according to your word’, namely that God’s will is carried out.  And with that ‘Yes’ to the Lord, our Lord began his journey amongst us.”

Many options on the tray

Pope Francis, stressed, however, that following God’s will is not easy.  Even for Jesus it wasn’t easy when he faced temptations in the wilderness or in the Gardens of Olives.  And, continued the Pope, it wasn’t easy either for his disciples and neither is it easy for us, when each day we are faced with a tray of so many different options and that’s why we need the gift of God’s grace.

“Do I pray that the Lord gives me the desire to do his will, or do I look for compromises because I’m afraid of God’s will?  Another thing: praying to know God’s will for me and my life, concerning a decision that I must take now… there are so many things.  The way in which we handle things…. Praying for the desire to do God’s will and praying to know God’s will.  And when I know God’s will, praying again for the third time, to follow it.  To carry out that will, which is not my own, it is His will.  And all this is not easy.”

Desire to do God's will

In conclusion,  Pope Francis said,  we need to pray to have the desire to follow God’s will, pray to know God’s will and once we know this, pray for the strength to go ahead and do His will.

“The Lord grants His grace to all of us so that one day He can say about us  the same thing  that He said about that group, that crowd who followed Him, those who were seated around Him, just as we have heard in the Gospel: ‘Here is my mother and my brothers and sisters.  Whoever does the will of God is my brother, my sister and my mother.’ Doing God’s will makes us become part of Jesus’ family, it makes us his mother, father, sister, brother.”

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope warns of globalization of indifference in Lenten message

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis is inviting all believers to open their hearts to God and to overcome a “globalization of indifference” that is threatening to spread a feeling of distress and powerlessness and causing individuals and communities to withdraw into themselves, closing “the door through which God comes into the world and the world comes to him”.

Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni:  

The Pope’s words of comfort and concern come in his message for Lent 2015 which was released on Tuesday in the Vatican.

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday which falls this year on 18 February 2015.

Please find below the full text of Pope Francis’ Lenten Message:  

MESSAGE
OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
FOR LENT 2015
“Make your hearts firm”
(James5:8)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Lent is a time of renewal for the whole Church, for each communities and every believer. Above all it is a “time of grace” (2 Cor6:2). God does not ask of us anything that he himself has not first given us. “We love because he first has loved us” (1 Jn4:19). He is not aloof from us. Each one of us has a place in his heart. He knows us by name, he cares for us and he seeks us out whenever we turn away from him. He is interested in each of us; his love does not allow him to be indifferent to what happens to us. Usually, when we are healthy and comfortable, we forget about others (something God the Father never does): we are unconcerned with their problems, their sufferings and the injustices they endure … Our heart grows cold. As long as I am relatively healthy and comfortable, I don’t think about those less well off. Today, this selfish attitude of indifference has taken on global proportions, to the extent that we can speak of a globalization of indifference. It is a problem which we, as Christians, need to confront.

When the people of God are converted to his love, they find answers to the questions that history continually raises. One of the most urgent challenges which I would like to address in this Message is precisely the globalization of indifference. Indifference to our neighbour and to God also represents a real temptation for us Christians. Each year during Lent we need to hear once more the voice of the prophets who cry out and trouble our conscience. God is not indifferent to our world; he so loves it that he gave his Son for our salvation. In the Incarnation, in the earthly life, death, and resurrection of the Son of God, the gate between God and man, between heaven and earth, opens once for all. The Church is like the hand holding open this gate, thanks to her proclamation of God’s word, her celebration of the sacraments and her witness of the faith which works through love (cf. Gal5:6). But the world tends to withdraw into itself and shut that door through which God comes into the world and the world comes to him. Hence the hand, which is the Church, must never be surprised if it is rejected, crushed and wounded. God’s people, then, need this interior renewal, lest we become indifferent and withdraw into ourselves. To further this renewal, I would like to propose for our reflection three biblical texts.

1. “If one member suffers, all suffer together” (1 Cor 12:26)– The Church
The love of God breaks through that fatal withdrawal into ourselves which is indifference. The Church offers us this love of God by her teaching and especially by her witness. But we can only bear witness to what we ourselves have experienced. Christians are those who let God clothe them with goodness and mercy, with Christ, so as to become, like Christ, servants of God and others. This is clearly seen in the liturgy of Holy Thursday, with its rite of the washing of feet. Peter did not want Jesus to wash his feet, but he came to realize that Jesus does not wish to be just an example of how we should wash one another’s feet. Only those who have first allowed Jesus to wash their own feet can then offer this service to others. Only they have “a part” with him (Jn13:8) and thus can serve others. Lent is a favourable time for letting Christ serve us so that we in turn may become more like
him. This happens whenever we hear the word of God and receive the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. There we become what we receive: the Body of Christ. In this body there is no room for the indifference which so often seems to possess our hearts. For whoever is of Christ, belongs to one body, and in him we cannot be indifferent to one another. “If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honoured, all the parts share its joy” (1 Cor12:26). The Church is the communio  sanctorumnot only because of her saints, but also because she is a communion in holy things: the love of God revealed to us in Christ and all his gifts. Among these gifts there is also the response of those who let themselves be touched by this love. In this communion of saints, in this sharing in holy things, no one possesses anything alone, but shares everything with others. And since we are united in God, we can do something for those who are far distant, those whom we could never reach on our own, because with them and for them, we ask God that all of us may be open to his plan of salvation.

2. “Where is your brother?” (Gen4:9)– Parishes and Communities
All that we have been saying about the universal Church must now be applied to the life of our parishes and communities. Do these ecclesial structures enable us to experience being part of one body? A body which receives and shares what God wishes to give? A body which acknowledges and cares for its weakest, poorest and most insignificant members? Or do we take refuge in a universal love that would embrace the whole world, while failing to see the Lazarus sitting before our closed doors (Lk16:19-31)? In order to receive what God gives us and to make it bear abundant fruit, we need to press beyond the boundaries of the visible Church in two ways. In the first place, by uniting ourselves in prayer with the Church in heaven. The prayers of the Church on earth establish a communion of mutual service and goodness which reaches up into the sight of God. Together with the saints who have found their fulfilment in God, we form part of that communion in which indifference is conquered by love. The Church in heaven is not triumphant because she has turned her back on the sufferings of the world and rejoices in splendid isolation. Rather, the saints already joyfully contemplate the fact that, through Jesus death and resurrection, they have triumphed once and for all over indifference, hardness of heart and hatred. Until this victory of love penetrates the whole world, the saints continue to accompany us on our pilgrim way. Saint Therese of Lisieux, a Doctor of the Church, expressed her conviction that the joy in heaven for the victory of crucified love remains incomplete as long as there is still a single man or woman on earth who suffers and cries out in pain: “I trust fully that I shall not remain idle in heaven; my desire is to continue to work for the Church and for souls” (Letter254, July 14, 1897). We share in the merits and joy of the saints, even as they share in our struggles and our longing for peace and reconciliation. Their joy in the victory of the Risen Christ gives us strength as we strive to overcome our indifference and hardness of heart.

In the second place, every Christian community is called to go out of itself and to be engaged in the life of the greater society of which it is a part, especially with the poor and those who are far away. The Church is missionary by her very nature; she is not self-enclosed but sent out to every nation and people. Her mission is to bear patient witness to the One who desires to draw all creation and every man and woman to the Father. Her mission is to bring to all a love which cannot remain silent. The Church follows Jesus Christ along the paths that lead to
every man and woman, to the very ends of the earth (cf. Acts1:8). In each of our neighbours, then, we must see a brother or sister for whom Christ died and rose again. What we ourselves have received, we have received for them as well. Similarly, all that our brothers and sisters possess is a gift for the Church and for all humanity.

Dear brothers and sisters, how greatly I desire that all those places where the Church is present, especially our parishes and our communities, may become islands of mercy in the midst of the sea of indifference!

3. “Make your hearts firm!” (James 5:8) – Individual Christians
As individuals too, we are tempted by indifference. Flooded with news reports and troubling images of human suffering, we often feel our complete inability to help. What can we do to avoid being caught up in this spiral of distress and powerlessness? First, we can pray in communion with the Church on earth and in heaven. Let us not underestimate the power of so many voices united in prayer! The 24 Hours for the Lord initiative, which I hope will be observed on 13-14 March throughout the Church, also at the diocesan level, is meant to be a sign of this need for prayer. Second, we can help by acts of charity, reaching out to both those near and far through the Church’s many charitable organizations. Lent is a favourable time for showing this concern for others by small yet concrete signs of our belonging to the one human family. Third, the suffering of others is a call to conversion, since their need reminds me of the uncertainty of my own life and my dependence on God and my brothers and sisters. If we humbly implore God’s grace and accept our own limitations, we will trust in the infinite possibilities which God’s love holds out to us. We will also be able to resist the diabolical temptation of thinking that by our own efforts we can save the world and ourselves.

As a way of overcoming indifference and our pretensions to self-sufficiency, I would invite everyone to live this Lent as an opportunity for engaging in what Benedict XVI called a formation of the heart (cf. Deus  Caritas  Est, 31). A merciful heart does not mean a weak heart. Anyone who wishes to be merciful must have a strong and steadfast heart, closed to the tempter but open to God. A heart which lets itself be pierced by the Spirit so as to bring love along the roads that lead to our brothers and sisters. And, ultimately, a poor heart, one which realizes its own poverty and gives itself freely for others. During this Lent, then, brothers and sisters, let us all ask the Lord: “Fac cor nostrum secundum cor tuum”: Make our hearts like yours(Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus). In this way we will receive a heart which is firm and merciful, attentive and generous, a heart which is not closed, indifferent or prey to the globalization of indifference. It is my prayerful hope that this Lent will prove spiritually fruitful for each believer and every ecclesial community. I ask all of you to pray for me. May the Lord bless you and Our Lady keep you.

From the Vatican, 4 October 2014 Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi

 

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis: women first and foremost in transmitting faith

(Vatican Radio) The primary and indispensable role of women in transmitting the faith to new generations: 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. On the day when the Church celebrates the memory of Saints Timothy and Titus – bishops and disciples of St Paul the Apostle, Pope Francis commented in particular on the second letter of Paul to Timothy.

Mothers and Grandmothers transmit the faith

Paul reminds Timothy of where his “sincere faith” comes from: his faith comes from the Holy Spirit,  “through his mother and grandmother.” Pope Francis went on to say, “Mothers and grandmothers are the ones who [in primis] transmit the faith.” The Holy Father went on to say:

It is one thing to pass on the faith, and another to teach the matters of faith. Faith is a gift: it is not possible to study Faith. We study the things of faith, yes, to understand it better, but with study [alone] one never comes to Faith. Faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit, which surpasses all [“academic”] formation.

Faith, moreover, is a gift that passes from generation to generation, through the “beautiful work of mothers and grandmothers, the fine work of the women who play those roles,” in a family, “whether they be maids or aunts,” who transmit the faith:

It occurs to me: why is it mainly women, who to pass on the faith? Simply because the one who brought us Jesus is a woman. It is the path chosen by Jesus. He wanted to have a mother: the gift of faith comes to us through women, as Jesus came to us through Mary.

Cherish the gift of faith because you waters down

“We need,” said Pope Francis, “in our own day to consider whether women really are aware of the duty they have to transmit the faith.” Paul invites Timothy to guard the Faith, the deposit of Faith, avoiding “empty pagan chatter, empty chatter of the world.”  He went on to say, “We have – all of us – received the gift of faith: we have to keep it, at least in order that it not become watered down, so that it remains strong, with the power of the Holy Spirit who gave it to us.” We keep the faith by cherishing and nurturing it every day:

If we do not have this care, every day, to revive this gift of God which is Faith, but rather let faith weaken, become diluted, Faith ends up being a culture: ‘Yes, but, yes, yes, I am a Christian, yes yes,’ – a mere culture – or a gnosis, [specialized kind of] knowledge: ‘Yes, I know well all the matters of Faith, I know the catechism’. But how do you live your faith? This, then, is the importance of reviving every day this gift: to bring it to life.

Timidity and shame they do not increase the faith

Saint Paul says that there are two things in particular, which contrast with a living Faith: “the spirits of timidity and of shame”:

God has not given us a spirit of timidity. The spirit of timidity goes against the gift of faith: it does not let faith grow, advance, be great. Shame, in turn, is the following sin, [which says]: ‘Yes, I have Faith, but I cover it up, that it not be seen too much’. It’s a little bit here, a little bit there – it is, as our forebears called it, a “rosewater” Faith – because I am ashamed to live it powerfully. No: this is not the Faith: [Faith knows] neither timidity nor shame. What is it, then? It is a spirit of power and of love and of prudence: that is what Faith is This is the faith. "

Faith is not negotiable

Pope Francis explained that the spirit of prudence is knowing that we cannot do everything we want: it means looking for the ways, the path, the manners by which to carry the Faith forward, cautiously. “We ask the Lord’s grace,” he concluded, “that we might have a sincere Faith, a Faith that is not negotiable depending on the opportunities that come, a Faith that every day I try to revive or at least ask the Holy Spirit to revive it, and make it bear much fruit.” 

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope on Christian unity encounter, accept, listen

(Vatican Radio) Christians are called to follow the example of Jesus in encountering, listening and working together with others to spread the message of the Gospel in the modern world. That was Pope Francis’ message to members of all the different Christian Churches gathered in the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls on Sunday evening to mark the conclusion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Listen to Philippa Hitchen's report

The theme for the 2015 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity was focused on the story of Jesus who asks the Samaritan woman for a drink of water from her well, engaging her in conversation despite the Samaritans being seen as heretics by the Jews. Addressing Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, Reformed and Evangelical Christians gathered with cardinals, bishops, priests, religious and lay Catholics in St Paul’s Basilica, Pope Francis reflected on the way Jesus encourages us all to encounter, accept and listen to one another.

The Pope said Jesus also speaks to the woman about true worship which breaks down walls of division. So many past controversies between Christians can be overcome, he said, when we put aside all polemical approaches and seek to grasp more fully the unity we already share. Christian unity, he said, will not be the fruit of subtle theoretical discussions in which each tries to convince the other of the soundness of their opinions.

Just as the Samaritan woman becomes a missionary after her encounter with Jesus, Pope Francis said all Christians today are called share the good news of the Gospel with the weary and thirsty men and women of today’s world. In the call to be evangelisers, he said, we discover a privileged setting for closer cooperation among all the Churches and ecclesial communities.

(from Vatican Radio)

Cardinal Filoni celebrates the 50th anniversary of the diocese of Xuan Loc, "may families and parishes become God’s families"

Xuan Loc - "Today I have the joy of celebrating with you the 50th anniversary of the creation of the diocese of Xuan Loc, which took place on October 14, 1965, by decision of the Blessed Pope Paul VI, who at the same time erected the Diocese Phu Cuong, to which also goes my greetings and my best wishes". This is what Card. Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples said on 24 January, during the Mass he presided in the Cathedral of the Diocese of Xuan Loc, almost at the end of his pastoral visit in Vietnam .
"I know that you, the faithful of Xuan Loc, have been preparing for this anniversary with a beautiful five-year program - the Cardinal recalled in his homily - which had 'The Family', at the center in reference to the Parish, to the mystery of the Church, to charity, to the proclamation of the Gospel, and in this year, to the mystery of the Eucharist".
He had words of appreciation for the work carried out by the Bishops who succeeded at the head of the diocese, for the priests, men and women religious and lay people, encouraging them with words often repeated by Pope Francis: "Courage! Go ahead!".
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council and the missionary decree "Ad Gentes," with which the Conciliar Fathers asked that evangelization passes completely under the total competence of the local Churches, therefore we can say that "Xuan Loc is the result of the Council, and as local Church, in recent years, it has taken on the task of proclaiming the Gospel and making you the true family of God" highlighted Card. Filoni, citing the current pastoral theme:"To renew our faith so that our families and our parishes become God’s families".
Referring to the Bible readings during Mass, Cardinal. Filoni recalled what the Prophet Isaiah says about the mission of Jesus: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free". He stressed: "Is there a mission more beautiful, more noble, bigger than this? This is your mission today! Not another, just this"! Then he recalled the words of St. Paul:" Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel" and stressed:" But where? When? And the answer is: everywhere and always"!
In Luke finally Jesus himself, in the synagogue of Nazareth, explains his mission: he was "consecrated to announce a message and a year of grace to the poor". The Cardinal concluded: "Dear brothers and sisters of Da Nang; dear brothers and sisters of Vietnam; I ask you to make yours this same mission, and with the same enthusiasm of the Apostles and the Missionaries that have brought you the faith, take it forward. How many people are waiting to know here and today, Christ. Good Apostolate"!
Link correlati :The full text of the Cardinal’s homily, in Italian The full text of the Cardinal’s homily, in English The full text of the Cardinal’s homily, in French

Pope Francis concludes Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

 (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis this evening has gathered with the faithful of the diocese of Rome and with the representatives of the different Churches and Ecclesial Communities, in the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls to mark the conclusion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Please find below a English language translation of the Pope's words during Vespers at the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls

On his way from Judea to Galilee, Jesus passes through Samaria.  He has no problem dealing with Samaritans, who were considered by the Jews to be heretics, schismatics, separated.  His attitude tells us that encounter with those who are different from ourselves can make us grow.

Weary from his journey, Jesus does not hesitate to ask the Samaritan woman for something to drink.  His thirst, however, is much more than physical: it is also a thirst for encounter, a desire to enter into dialogue with that woman and to invite her to make a journey of interior conversion.  Jesus is patient, respectful of the person before him, and gradually reveals himself to her.  His example encourages us to seek a serene encounter with others.  To understand one another, and to grow in charity and truth, we need to pause, to accept and listen to one another.  In this way, we already begin to experience unity.

The woman of Sychar asks Jesus about the place where God is truly worshiped.  Jesus does not side with the mountain or the temple, but goes to the heart of the matter, breaking down every wall of division.  He speaks instead of the meaning of true worship: “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (Jn 4:24).  So many past controversies between Christians can be overcome when we put aside all polemical or apologetic approaches, and seek instead to grasp more fully what unites us, namely, our call to share in the mystery of the Father’s love revealed to us by the Son through the Holy Spirit.  Christian unity will not be the fruit of subtle theoretical discussions in which each party tries to convince the other of the soundness of their opinions.  We need to realize that, to plumb the depths of the mystery of God, we need one another, we need to encounter one another and to challenge one another under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, who harmonizes diversities and overcomes conflicts.

Gradually the Samaritan woman comes to realize that the one who has asked her for a drink is able to slake her own thirst.  Jesus in effect tells her that he is the source of living water which can satisfy her thirst for ever (cf. Jn 4:13-14).  Our human existence is marked by boundless aspirations: we seek truth, we thirst for love, justice and freedom.  These desires can only be partially satisfied, for from the depths of our being we are prompted to seek “something more”, something capable of fully quenching our thirst.  The response to these aspirations is given by God in Jesus Christ, in his paschal mystery.  From the pierced side of Jesus there flowed blood and water (cf. Jn 19:34).  He is the brimming fount of the water of the Holy Spirit, “the love of God poured into our hearts (Rom 5:5) on the day of our baptism.  By the working of the Holy Spirit, we have become one in Christ, sons in the Son, true worshipers of the Father.  This mystery of love is the deepest ground of the unity which binds all Christians and is much greater than their historical divisions.  To the extent that we humbly advance towards the Lord, then, we also draw nearer to one another.

Her encounter with Jesus made the Samaritan women a missionary.  Having received a greater and more important gift than mere water from a well, she leaves her jar behind (cf. Jn 4:28) and runs back to tell her townspeople that she has met the Christ (cf. Jn 4:29).  Her encounter with Jesus restored meaning and joy to her life, and she felt the desire to share this with others.  Today there are so many men and women around us who are weary and thirsting, and who ask us Christians to give them something to drink.  It is a request which we cannot evade.  In the call to be evangelizers, all the Churches and Ecclesial Communities discover a privileged setting for closer cooperation.  For this to be effective, we need to stop being self-enclosed, exclusive, and bent on imposing a uniformity based on merely human calculations (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 131).  Our shared commitment to proclaiming the Gospel enables us to overcome proselytism and competition in all their forms.  All of us are at the service of the one Gospel!

In this joyful conviction, I offer a cordial and fraternal greeting to His Eminence Metropolitan Gennadios, the representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch, to His Grace David Moxon, the personal representative in Rome of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and to all the representatives of the various Churches and Ecclesial Communions gathered here to celebrate the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul.  I am also pleased to greet the members of the Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches, and I offer them my best wishes for the fruitfulness of the plenary session to be held in these coming days.  I also greet the students from the Ecumenical Institute at Bossey, and the young recipients of study grants from by the Committee for Cultural Collaboration with the Orthodox Churches, centred in the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

Also present today are men and women religious from various Churches and Ecclesial Communities who have taken part in an ecumenical meeting organized by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life, in conjunction with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, to mark the Year for Consecrated Life.  Religious life, as prophetic sign of the world to come, is called to offer in our time a witness to that communion in Christ which transcends all differences and finds expression in concrete gestures of acceptance and dialogue.  The pursuit of Christian unity cannot be the sole prerogative of individuals or religious communities particularly concerned with this issue.  A shared knowledge of the different traditions of consecrated life, and a fruitful exchange of experiences, can prove beneficial for the vitality of all forms of religious life in the different Churches and Ecclesial Communities.

Dear brothers and sisters, today all of us who thirst for peace and fraternity trustingly implore from our heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ the one Priest, and through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Apostle Paul and all the saints, the gift of full communion between all Christians, so that “the sacred mystery of the unity of the Church” (Unitatis Redintegratio, 2) may shine forth as the sign and instrument of reconciliation for the whole world.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Angelus: Jesus wanted united Christians

(Vatican Radio) On Sunday and before the Angelus, the Pope recalled the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and its theme, "Give me a drink", the sentence uttered by Jesus to the Samaritan woman.

He told the faithful gathered that the "desire for unity" of the disciples of Jesus is part of our "thirst not only material for water, but above all our thirst for a full life, free from the slavery of evil and death."

He went on to say that "Jesus is the fulfillment of God's promises because it is he who gives to the Holy Spirit, the 'living water' that quenches our restless hearts, hungry for life, love, freedom, peace : thirsty for God.

Pope Francis continued on the theme of unity by saying that, “It is a bad thing that Christians are divided, Jesus wants us united, one body. Our sins, history has divided us. For this we must pray that the Holy Spirit bring us together again".”

Joining the Holy Father were a boy and a girl from the Catholic Action Rome movement who were part of a group of thousands in the square marking the annual January "Caravan of Peace". They, along with Pope Francis launched white doves from the window of his studio.

Following the Angelus, the Pope also remembered the World Day for Sufferers of Leprosy, saying, “I express my closeness to all the people who suffer from this disease, as well as to those who care for them, and to those who struggle to remove the causes of the disease, that is, living conditions unworthy of man. Let us renew our commitment of solidarity to these brothers and sisters. "And finally bringing his Angelus address to a close, and in light of his recent visit to Asia, the Holy Father had greetings for the Filipino community in Rome, thanking them for their strong and joyful faith.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis appeals for Ukraine at Angelus

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis issued a heartfelt appeal on Sunday for Ukraine saying, “ I am following with deep concern the escalation of the fighting in eastern Ukraine, which continues to cause many casualties among the civilian population. As I assure you of my prayers for all who suffer, I renew a heartfelt appeal for a resumption  in dialogue and an end to all hostilities.”

The Holy Father made the appeal following the recitation of the Marian prayer from his studio above St Peter’s Square.

(from Vatican Radio)