Pope Francis' Weekly General Audience on Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Pope Francis held his weekly General Audience on Wednesday. After thanking the pilgrims present in St Peter's Square for braving the brief, late Spring rainstorm that surprised them, there was read a passage from the Gospel according to St John (19:32-35), in which the episode of the soldiers' piercing of His side is recounted. Then the Holy Father began his catechesis, which this week began a new series of reflections on the mystery of the Church, based in the documents of the II Vatican Council. Below, please find the English translation of the Holy Father's catechesis.

Dear brothers and sisters,

Last Wednesday I stressed the deep connection between the Holy Spirit and the Church. Today I would like to start some reflections on the mystery of the Church, a mystery that we all live and of which we are part. I would like to do this, using some well-known phrases taken from the documents of the Second Vatican Council.

Today the first: the Church as Family of God
In recent months, more than once I have made reference to the parable of the prodigal son, or rather of the merciful father (cf. Lk 15:11-32). The youngest son leaves the house of his father, squanders everything, and decides to return because he realizes he made a mistake, though he no longer considers himself worthy of sonship. He thinks he might be welcomed back as a servant. Instead, the father runs to meet him, embraces him, gives him back his dignity as a son, and celebrates. This parable, like others in the Gospel, shows well the design of God for humanity.

What is this God’s plan? It is to make us all the one family of his children, in which each of you feels close to Him and feels loved by Him – feels, as in the Gospel parable, the warmth of being the family of God. In this great design, the Church finds its source. [The Church is] is not an organization founded by an agreement among [a group of] persons, but - as we were reminded many times by Pope Benedict XVI - is the work of God: it was born out of the plan of love, which realises itself progressively in history. The Church is born from the desire of God to call all people into communion with Him, to His friendship, and indeed, as His children, to partake of His own divine life. The very word “Church”, from the Greek ekklesia, means “convocation”. 

God calls us, urges us to escape from individualism, [from] the tendency to withdraw into ourselves, and calls us – convokes us – to be a part of His family. This convocation has its origin in creation itself. God created us in order that we might live in a relationship of deep friendship with Him, and even when sin had broken this relationship with God, with others and with creation, God did not abandon us. 

The whole history of salvation is the story of God seeking man, offering humanity His love, embracing mankind. He called Abraham to be the father of a multitude, chose the people of Israel to forge an alliance that embraces all nations, and sent, in the fullness of time, His Son, that His plan of love and salvation be realized in a new and everlasting covenant with humanity. When we read the Gospels, we see that Jesus gathers around him a small community that receives His word, follows Him, shares His journey, becomes His family – and with this community, He prepares and builds His Church.

Whence, then, is the Church born? It is born from the supreme act of love on the Cross, from the pierced side of Jesus from which flow blood and water, a symbol of the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist. In the family of God, the Church, the lifeblood is the love of God that is realized in loving Him and others, loving all without distinction, without measure. The Church is a family that loves and is loved.

When does the Church manifest itself? We celebrated [the Church’s manifestation] two Sundays ago: the Church manifests itself when the gift of the Holy Spirit fills the hearts of the Apostles and pushes them to go out and start the journey to proclaim the Gospel, to spread the love of God.

Even today, some say, “Christ yes, the Church no,” like those who say, “I believe in God, but in priests, no.” They say, “Christ: yes. Church: no.” Nevertheless, it is the Church that brings us Christ and that brings us to God. The Church is the great family of God's children. Of course it also has the human aspects: in those who compose it, pastors and faithful, there are flaws, imperfections, sins – the Pope has his, as well: he has lots of them; but the beautiful thing is that, when we become aware that we are sinners, we find the mercy of God. God always forgives: do not forget this. God always forgives, and He receives us in His love of forgiveness and mercy. Some people say – this is beautiful – that sin is an offence against God, but it is also an opportunity: the humiliation of realizing that one is a sinner and that there is something exceedingly beautiful: the mercy of God. Let us think about this.

Let us ask ourselves today: how much do I love the Church? Do I pray for her? Do I feel myself a part of the family of the Church? What do I do to make the Church a community in which everyone feels welcomed and understood, [in which] everyone feels the mercy and love of God who renews life? Faith is a gift and an act that affects us personally, but God calls us to live our faith together, as a family: as the Church.

We ask the Lord, in a special way in this Year of the faith, that our communities, the whole Church be ever more true families that live and carry the warmth of God.

The Holy Father also had greetings for English-speaking pilgrims, which he delivered through an interpreter:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: In today’s Audience I would like to speak of the Church as God’s family. Like the merciful father in the parable of the prodigal son, God wants all of us to live in his love and to share in his life. The Church is an essential part of this divine plan; we were made to know and love God and, despite our sins, he continues to call us to return to him. In the fullness of time, he sent his Son into our world to inaugurate the new and eternal covenant with humanity through his sacrifice on the cross. The Church was born of this supreme act of reconciling love, in the water and blood which flowed from Christ’s pierced side. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit sent the Apostles to proclaim the Gospel of God’s love to the ends of the earth. Christ can never be separated from his Church, which he has made the great family of God’s children. Today, let [us] pledge ourselves to renewing our love for the Church and to letting her be God’s true family, where everyone feels welcomed, understood and loved.

Vatican Says: 100 Thousand Christians Killed Every Year Because of Their Faith

The Holy See has expressed "deep concern" for violations of religious freedom and systematic attacks on Christian communities in regions of the world such as Africa, Asia and the Middle East. This was pointed out by Msgr. Silvano Maria Tomasi, who spoke Monday at the United Nations in Geneva. Statement by His Excellency Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva 23rd Session of the Human Rights Council Interactive Dialogue with High Commissioner.

Mr. President,
My Delegation congratulates Madam High Commissioner for her presentation as well as for the activities of her office for the promotion, recognition and implementation of human rights.

Mr. President,
The serious violations of the right to freedom of religion in general and the recent continuing discrimination and systematic attacks inflicted on some Christian communities in particular, deeply concern the Holy See and many democratic Governments whose population embrace various religious and cultural traditions. Credible research has reached the shocking conclusion that an estimate of more than 100,000 Christians are violently killed because of some relation to their faith every year. Other Christians and other believers are subjected to forced displacement, to the destruction of their places of worship, to rape and to the abduction of their leaders -as it recently happened in the case of Bishops Yohanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yaziji, in Aleppo (Syria).

Several of these acts have been perpetrated in parts of the Middle East, Africa and Asia, the fruit of bigotry, intolerance, terrorism and some exclusionary laws. In addition, in some Western countries where historically the Christian presence has been an integral part of society, a trend emerges that tends to marginalize Christianity in public life, ignore historic and social contributions and even restrict the ability of faith communities to carry out social charitable services. 

Mr. President, The Human Rights Council has recognized that "religion, spirituality and belief may and can contribute to the promotion of the inherent dignity and worth of the human person." The Christian religion, as other faith-communities, is "at the service of the true good of humanity." In fact "Christian communities, with their patrimony of values and principles, have contributed much to making individuals and peoples aware of their identity and their dignity".

In this connection, it may be useful that the Delegation of the Holy See should recall some pertinent data on the current services to the human family carried out in the world by the Catholic Church without any distinction of religion or race. In the field of education, it runs 70,544 kindergartens with 6,478,627 pupils; 92,847 primary schools with 31,151,170 pupils; 43,591 secondary schools with 17,793,559 pupils. The Church also educates 2,304,171 high school pupils, and 3,338,455 university students. The Church’s worldwide charity and healthcare centers include: 5,305 hospitals; 18,179 dispensaries; 547 Care Homes for people with Leprosy; 17,223 Homes for the elderly, or the chronically ill or people with a disability; 9,882 orphanages; 11,379 creches; 15,327 marriage counseling; 34,331 social rehabilitation centers and 9,391 other kinds of charitable institutions. To such data about social action activity, there should be added the assistance services carried out in refugee camps and to internally displaced people and the accompaniment of these uprooted persons. This service certainly doesn’t call for discrimination against Christian.

Mr. President,
Allow me also to congratulate the Delegations, like that of Italy, that took the floor to express a defense of religious freedom in general and Christians in particular since these have been targeted victims of human rights violations and to welcome the position of the Prime Minister of Bangladesh on the introduction of anti-blasphemy law in her country. In conclusion, Pope Francis’ words regarding the celebration of the 17th Centennial Anniversary of the Edict of Milan, that opened the way to religious freedom, are an appropriate wish, that "… civil authorities everywhere respect the right to publicly express one’s faith and to accept without prejudice the contribution that Christianity continues to offer to the culture and society of our time". Thank you Mr. President.

Pope Francis' Sunday Angelus Message on May 26, 2013

St Peter’s Square was packed to capacity as pilgrims and tourists joined Pope Francis for the Sunday Angelus.In words before the recitation of the Marian prayer the Holy Father recalled the Feast of the Holy Trinity. He said that “The light of Easter and Pentecost renew every year in us the joy and wonder of faith that recognizes that God is not something vague, or abstract, but has a name: "God is love." 

Pope Francis explained the Holy Trinity is not the product of human reasoning, but the face with which God has revealed himself, walking with humanity. Following the recitation of the Angelus the Pope remembered Father Giuseppe Puglisi, Priest and Martyr who was Beatified on Saturday.

Blessed Giuseppe who was killed by the Mafia in 1993 was described by Pope Francis as an exemplary priest and a man devoted especially to youth ministry. The Holy Father, speaking in Italian, went on to say that he thinks about the “sorrows of men and women, even children, who are exploited by many kinds of mafias, who make them do a job that makes them slaves, like prostitution, with so many social pressures. He then prayed that the Lord would convert the hearts of these people.

The Pope also had words of greeting for a group of Chinese Catholics who are in Rome to pray for the Church in China, invoking the intercession of Mary Help of Christians. Finally, on this feast of the Holy Trinity Pope Francis, as has become customary, wished everyone in the Square a pleasant Sunday and a good lunch. 

Monthly Message of the Virgin Mary From Medjugorje on May 25, 2013

"Dear children! Today I call you to be strong and resolute in faith and prayer, until your prayers are so strong so as to open the Heart of my beloved Son Jesus. Pray little children, pray without ceasing until your heart opens to God’s love. I am with you and I intercede for all of you and I pray for your conversion. Thank you for having responded to my call." 

Pope Francis' Weekly General Audience on Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Below is a translation of Pope Francis’ General Audience catechesis on Wednesday, May 22, 2013. (Original text in Italian): 

Dear brothers and sisters, good day!

in the Creed, after having professed faith in the Holy Spirit, we say: "We believe in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church." There is a deep connection between these two realities of faith: the Holy Spirit gives life to the Church, guides Her steps. Without the presence and the incessant action of the Holy Spirit, the Church could not live and could not accomplish the task that the Risen Jesus has entrusted her; to go and make disciples of all nations (cf. Mt 28:18). Evangelization is the mission of the Church, not just of a few, but my, your, our mission. The Apostle Paul exclaimed: "Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel" (1 Cor 9:16). Everyone must be evangelizers, especially through with their life! Paul VI pointed out that "... evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize,"(Apostolic Exhortation. Evangelii Nuntiandi, 14).

Who is the real engine of evangelization in our lives and in the Church? Paul VI wrote with clarity: "It is the Holy Spirit who, today just as at the beginning of the Church, acts in every evangelizer who allows himself to be possessed and led by Him. The Holy Spirit places on his lips the words which he could not find by himself, and at the same time the Holy Spirit predisposes the soul of the hearer to be open and receptive to the Good News and to the kingdom being proclaimed."(ibid., 75). To evangelize, then, we must be open to the action of the Spirit of God, without fear of what He asks us or where He leads us. Let us entrust ourselves to Him! He enables us to live and bear witness to our faith, and enlighten the hearts of those we meet. This was the Pentecost experience of the Apostles gathered with Mary in the Upper Room, " Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim"(Acts 2:3-4). The Holy Spirit descending upon the Apostles, compels them to leave the room in which they had locked themselves in fear, makes them come out of themselves, and turns them into heralds and witnesses of the "mighty works of God" (v. 11). And this transformation wrought by the Holy Spirit is reflected in the crowd that rushed to the scene and which came "from every nation under heaven" (v. 5), so that everyone hears the words of the Apostles as if they were spoken in their own language (v. 6 ).

Here is a first important effect of the Holy Spirit that guides and inspires the proclamation of the Gospel: unity, communion. At Babel, according to the Bible, the dispersion of peoples and the confusion of tongues began, the result of man’s act of arrogance and pride in wanting to build on his own strength, and without God, "a city and a tower whose top may reach unto heaven "(Gen 11:4). At Pentecost, these divisions are overcome. There is no longer more pride toward God, nor closure towards one another, but there is openness to God, to going out to announce His Word: a new language, that of love that the Holy Spirit pours into our hearts (cf. Rom 5:5), a language that everyone can understand and which, when welcomed, can be expressed in every life and in every culture. The language of the Spirit, the language of the Gospel is the language of communion, which invites us to overcome closure and indifference, division and conflict. We should all ask ourselves: how do I let myself be guided by the Holy Spirit so that my witness of faith is one of unity and communion? Do I bring the message of reconciliation and love that is the Gospel to the places where I live? Sometimes it seems that what happened at Babel is repeated today; divisions, the inability to understand each other, rivalry, envy, selfishness. What do I do with my life? Do I bring unity? Or do I divide with gossip and envy? Let us ask ourselves this. Bringing the Gospel means we in the first place must live reconciliation, forgiveness, peace, unity, love that the Holy Spirit gives us. Let us remember the words of Jesus: "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:34-35).

A second element: on the day of Pentecost, Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, stands up "with the eleven" and "raided his voice" (Acts 2:14); "proclaimed" (v. 29) the good news of Jesus, who gave His life for our salvation and who God raised from the dead. Here is another effect of the Holy Spirit: Courage! the courage to proclaim the newness of the Gospel of Jesus to all, with self-confidence (parrhesia), in a loud voice, in every time and in every place. And this happens even today for the Church and for each of us: from the fire of Pentecost, from the action of the Holy Spirit, ever new missionary energies are released, new ways in which to proclaim the message of salvation, new courage to evangelize. Never be closed to this action! May we live the Gospel with humility and courage! May we witness the novelty, the hope, the joy that the Lord brings to life. Let us feel within us "the delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing" (Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation. Ap. Evangelii nuntiandi, 80) Because evangelizing, announcing Jesus, evangelizing brings us joy! It energizes us. Being closed up within ourselves brings bitterness. Proclaiming the joy and hope that the Lord brings to world lifts us up!

I will only mention a third element, but it is particularly important: a new evangelization, a Church that evangelizes must always start from prayer, from asking, like the Apostles in the Upper Room, for the fire of the Holy Spirit. Only a faithful and intense relationship with God allows us to leave our enclosures and announce the Gospel with parrhesia. Without prayer our actions become empty and our proclamation soulless, it is not animated by the Spirit.

Dear friends, as said Benedict XVI, the Church today " especially feels the wind of the Holy Spirit that helps us, shows us the right path, and so, with new enthusiasm, we are on our journey and we thank the Lord" (Address to Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, October 27, 2012). Let us renew our trust in the Holy Spirit every day. The trust that He enacts in us, He is in us, He gives us courage, confidence and peace! Let us be guided by Him, men and women of prayer, witnessing the Gospel with courage, becoming instruments in our world of God’s unity and communion.
Thank you.

English summary:
Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our catechesis on the Creed, we now pass from the article on the Holy Spirit to that on the Church, “one, holy, catholic and apostolic”. The Holy Spirit and the Church are in fact inseparable. The Spirit enlivens and guides the Church, and each of us within the Church, to carry out Christ’s mandate to make disciples of all peoples. He opens minds and hearts to the beauty and truth of the Gospel. The Spirit overcomes selfishness and division, creating unity, communion, reconciliation and love. The Spirit also instils the strength needed to bear courageous witness to the Risen Christ; he is the spirit of mission and evangelization. The fire of the Holy Spirit was sent down upon the Apostles at Pentecost in answer to their fervent prayer; ardent prayer in the Spirit must always be the soul of new evangelization and the heart of our lives as Christians. Let us renew each day our trust in the working of the Holy Spirit, open our hearts to his inspiration and gifts, and strive to be signs of unity and communion with God in the midst of our human family.

Greetings in English: 
I invite all of you to pray with me for the victims, especially the children, of the disaster in Oklahoma. May the Lord himself console everyone, in particular parents who have lost a child in such a tragic way. I offer a cordial welcome to all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Audience, including those from England, Ireland, India, Canada and the United States. My special greeting goes to the pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Hartford and the Alumni Association of the Catholic University of America. In these days when the Church celebrates the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, I invoke upon you and your families his gifts of wisdom and peace. God bless you all! 

Pope Francis' Sunday Homily During Pentecost Mass on May 19, 2013

Below is the official English language translation of Pope Francis’ homily at the Holy Mass of the Feast of Pentecost.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today we contemplate and re-live in the liturgy the outpouring of the Holy Spirit sent by the risen Christ upon his Church; an event of grace which filled the Upper Room in Jerusalem and then spread throughout the world.

But what happened on that day, so distant from us and yet so close as to touch the very depths of our hearts? Luke gives us the answer in the passage of the Acts of the Apostles which we have heard (2:1-11). The evangelist brings us back to Jerusalem, to the Upper Room where the apostles were gathered. The first element which draws our attention is the sound which suddenly came from heaven “like the rush of a violent wind”, and filled the house; then the “tongues as of fire” which divided and came to rest on each of the apostles. Sound and tongues of fire: these are clear, concrete signs which touch the apostles not only from without but also within: deep in their minds and hearts. As a result, “all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit”, who unleashed his irresistible power with amazing consequences: they all “began to speak in different languages, as the Spirit gave them ability”. A completely unexpected scene opens up before our eyes: a great crowd gathers, astonished because each one heard the apostles speaking in his own language. They all experience something new, something which had never happened before: “We hear them, each of us, speaking our own language”. And what is it that they are they speaking about? “God’s deeds of power”.

In the light of this passage from Acts, I would like to reflect on three words linked to the working of the Holy Spirit: newness, harmony and mission.

1. Newness always makes us a bit fearful, because we feel more secure if we have everything under control, if we are the ones who build, program and plan our lives in accordance with our own ideas, our own comfort, our own preferences. This is also the case when it comes to God. Often we follow him, we accept him, but only up to a certain point. It is hard to abandon ourselves to him with complete trust, allowing the Holy Spirit to be the soul and guide of our lives in our every decision. We fear that God may force us to strike out on new paths and leave behind our all too narrow, closed and selfish horizons in order to become open to his own. Yet throughout the history of salvation, whenever God reveals himself, he brings newness and change, and demands our complete trust: Noah, mocked by all, builds an ark and is saved; Abram leaves his land with only a promise in hand; Moses stands up to the might of Pharaoh and leads his people to freedom; the apostles, huddled fearfully in the Upper Room, go forth with courage to proclaim the Gospel. This is not a question of novelty for novelty’s sake, the search for something new to relieve our boredom, as is so often the case in our own day. The newness which God brings into our life is something that actually brings fulfilment, that gives true joy, true serenity, because God loves us and desires only our good. Let us ask ourselves: Are we open to “God’s surprises”? Or are we closed and fearful before the newness of the Holy Spirit? Do we have the courage to strike out along the new paths which God’s newness sets before us, or do we resist, barricaded in transient structures which have lost their capacity for openness to what is new?

2. A second thought: the Holy Spirit would appear to create disorder in the Church, since he brings the diversity of charisms and gifts; yet all this, by his working, is a great source of wealth, for the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of unity, which does not mean uniformity, but which leads everything back to harmony. In the Church, it is the Holy Spirit who creates harmony. One of Fathers of the Church has an expression which I love: the Holy Spirit himself is harmony – “Ipse harmonia est”. Only the Spirit can awaken diversity, plurality and multiplicity, while at the same time building unity. Here too, when we are the ones who try to create diversity and close ourselves up in what makes us different and other, we bring division. When we are the ones who want to build unity in accordance with our human plans, we end up creating uniformity, standardization. But if instead we let ourself be guided by the Spirit, richness, variety and diversity never become a source of conflict, because he impels us to experience variety within the communion of the Church. Journeying together in the Church, under the guidance of her pastors who possess a special charism and ministry, is a sign of the working of the Holy Spirit. Having a sense of the Church is something fundamental for every Christian, every community and every movement. It is the Church which brings Christ to me, and me to Christ; parallel journeys are dangerous! When we venture beyond (proagon) the Church’s teaching and community, and do not remain in them, we are not one with the God of Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Jn 9). So let us ask ourselves: Am I open to the harmony of the Holy Spirit, overcoming every form of exclusivity? Do I let myself be guided by him, living in the Church and with the Church?

3. A final point. The older theologians used to say that the soul is a kind of sailboat, the Holy Spirit is the wind which fills its sails and drives it forward, and the gusts of wind are the gifts of the Spirit. Lacking his impulse and his grace, we do not go forward. The Holy Spirit draws us into the mystery of the living God and saves us from the threat of a Church which is gnostic and self-referential, closed in on herself; he impels us to open the doors and go forth to proclaim and bear witness to the good news of the Gospel, to communicate the joy of faith, the encounter with Christ. The Holy Spirit is the soul of mission. The events that took place in Jerusalem almost two thousand years ago are not something far removed from us; they are events which affect us and become a lived experience in each of us. The Pentecost of the Upper Room in Jerusalem is the beginning, a beginning which endures. The Holy Spirit is the supreme gift of the risen Christ to his apostles, yet he wants that gift to reach everyone. As we heard in the Gospel, Jesus says: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to remain with you forever” (Jn 14:16). It is the Paraclete Spirit, the “Comforter”, who grants us the courage to take to the streets of the world, bringing the Gospel! The Holy Spirit makes us look to the horizon and drive us to the very outskirts of existence in order to proclaim life in Jesus Christ. Let us ask ourselves: do we tend to stay closed in on ourselves, on our group, or do we let the Holy Spirit open us to mission?

Today’s liturgy is a great prayer which the Church, in union with Jesus, raises up to the Father, asking him to renew the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. May each of us, and every group and movement, in the harmony of the Church, cry out to the Father and implore this gift. Today too, as at her origins, the Church, in union with Mary, cries out:“Veni, Sancte Spiritus! Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of your love!” Amen.

Pope Francis' Weekly General Audience on Wednesday, May 15, 2013

In preparation for the Feast of Pentecost and in the context of the Year of Faith catechesis on the Creed, Pope Francis dedicated his Wednesday audience to the action that the Holy Spirit accomplishes in us, in guiding us to the Truth.

He said “In this Year of Faith let us ask ourselves if we have actually taken a few steps to get to know Christ and the truths of faith more, by reading and meditating on the Scriptures, studying the Catechism, steadily approaching the Sacraments. But at the same time let us ask ourselves what steps we are taking so that the faith directs our whole existence. Do not be a ‘part-time” Christian, at certain moments, in certain circumstances, in certain choices, be Christian at all times! The truth of Christ, that the Holy Spirit teaches us and gives us, always and forever involves our daily lives. Let us invoke him more often, to guide us on the path of Christ's disciples”.

Ahead of the audience the Holy father released two white doves into the sky over St Peter’s Square, presented to him by pilgrims. And in a moment of dialogue with the crowd, estimated at over 70 thousand again this Wednesday, Pope Francis asked them to pray to Holy Spirit every day. "Will you do it?" he asked, the crowd answered "yes". The Pope was not content however, and again said : "I can’t hear you!", to which the crowd shouted even louder “YES!”.

Below is a translation of the Holy Father’s general audience catechesis Wednesday May 15, 2013:

Dear brothers and sisters, good day!

today I want to focus on the action that the Holy Spirit accomplishes in guiding the Church and each one of us to the Truth. Jesus says to his disciples: the Holy Spirit, “he will guide you to all truth" (Jn 16:13), he himself being "the Spirit of truth" (cf. Jn 14:17; 15:26; 16:13).

We live in an age rather skeptical of truth. Benedict XVI has spoken many times of relativism, that is, the tendency to believe that nothing is definitive, and think that the truth is given by consent or by what we want. The question arises: does "the" truth really exist? What is "the" truth? Can we know it? Can we find it? Here I am reminded of the question of the Roman procurator Pontius Pilate when Jesus reveals the profound meaning of his mission: "What is truth?" (Jn 18,37.38). Pilate does not understand that "the" Truth is in front of him, he cannot see in Jesus the face of the truth, which is the face of God yet, Jesus is just that: the Truth, which, in the fullness of time, "became flesh" (Jn 1,1.14), came among us so that we may know it. You cannot grab the truth as if it were an object, you encounter it. It is not a possession, is an encounter with a Person.

But who helps us recognize that Jesus is "the" Word of truth, the only begotten Son of God the Father? St. Paul teaches that "no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the holy Spirit" (1 Cor 12:3). It is the Holy Spirit, the gift of the Risen Christ, that helps us recognize the Truth. Jesus calls him the "Paraclete", meaning "the one who comes to our aid," who is by our side to support us in this journey of knowledge, and at the Last Supper, Jesus assures his disciples that the Holy Spirit will teach them all things , reminding them of his words (cf. Jn 14:26).

What is then the action of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in the life of the Church to guide us to the truth? First of all, remind and imprint on the hearts of believers the words that Jesus said, and precisely through these words, God’s law - as the prophets of the Old Testament had announced - is inscribed in our hearts and becomes within us a principle of evaluation in our choices and of guidance in our daily actions, it becomes a principle of life. Ezekiel’s great prophecy is realized: "I will sprinkle clean water over you to make you clean; from all your impurities and from all your idols I will cleanse you. I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. …I will put my spirit within you so that you walk in my statutes, observe my ordinances, and keep them"(36:25-27). Indeed, our actions are born from deep within: it is the heart that needs to be converted to God, and the Holy Spirit transforms it if we open ourselves to Him

The Holy Spirit, then, as Jesus promises, guides us "into all truth" (Jn 16:13) he leads us not only to an encounter with Jesus, the fullness of Truth, but guides us "into" the Truth, that is, he helps us enter into a deeper communion with Jesus himself, gifting us knowledge of the things of God. We cannot achieve this on our own strengths. If God does not enlightens us interiorly, our being Christians will be superficial. The Tradition of the Church affirms that the Spirit of truth acts in our hearts, provoking that "sense of faith" (sensus fidei), through which, as the Second Vatican Council affirms, the People of God, under the guidance of the Magisterium, adheres unwaveringly to the faith given once and for all to the saints,(113) penetrates it more deeply with right thinking, and applies it more fully in its life (cf. Dogmatic Constitution. Lumen gentium, 12). Let's ask ourselves: are we open to the Holy Spirit, do I pray to him to enlighten me, to make me more sensitive to the things of God? And this is a prayer we need to pray every day, every day: Holy Spirit may my heart be open to the Word of God, may my heart be open to good, may my heart be open to the beauty of God, every day. But I would like to ask a question to all of you: How many of you pray every day to the Holy Spirit? Eh, a few of you I bet, eh! Well, a few, few, a few, but we realise this wish of Jesus, pray every day for the Holy Spirit to open our hearts to Jesus

We think of Mary who "kept all these things and pondered them in her heart" (Lk 2,19.51). The reception of the words and the truths of faith so that they become life, is realized and grows under the action of the Holy Spirit. In this sense, we must learn from Mary, reliving her "yes", her total availability to receive the Son of God in her life, and who from that moment was transformed. Through the Holy Spirit, the Father and the Son come to dwell in us: do we live in God and of God, is our life really animated by God? How many things do I put before God?

Dear brothers and sisters, we need to let ourselves be imbued with the light of the Holy Spirit, so that He introduces us into the Truth of God, who is the only Lord of our lives. In this Year of Faith let us ask ourselves if we have actually taken a few steps to get to know Christ and the truths of faith more, by reading and meditating on the Scriptures, studying the Catechism, steadily approaching the Sacraments. But at the same time let us ask ourselves what steps we are taking so that the faith directs our whole existence. Do not be a ‘part-time” Christian, at certain moments, in certain circumstances, in certain choices, be Christian at all times! The truth of Christ, that the Holy Spirit teaches us and gives us, always and forever involves our daily lives. Let us invoke him more often, to guide us on the path of Christ's disciples.

English summary:
Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our catechesis on the Creed, we have been considering the person and work of the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus calls “the Spirit of Truth” (cf. Jn 16:13). In an age skeptical of truth, we believe not only that truth exists, but that it is found through faith in Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God. The Holy Spirit brings us to Jesus; he guides the whole Church into the fullness of truth. As the “Paraclete”, the Helper sent by the Risen Lord, he reminds us of Christ’s words and convinces us of their saving truth. As the source of our new life in Christ, he awakens in our hearts that supernatural “sense of the faith” by which we hold fast to God’s word, come to a deeper understanding of its meaning, and apply it in our daily lives. Let us ask ourselves: am I truly open, like the Virgin Mary, to the power of the Holy Spirit? Even now, with the Father and the Son, the Spirit dwells in our hearts. Let us ask him to guide us into all truth and to help us grow in friendship with Christ through daily prayer, reading of the Scriptures and the celebration of the sacraments.

I am pleased to greet the many English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Audience, including those from England, Scotland, Sweden, Australia, India, Vietnam, Canada and the United States. As the Church prepares to celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, I pray that his gifts of wisdom, joy and peace will accompany you and your families along the path of authentic Christian discipleship. God bless you all!

Pope Francis' Sunday Homily During Canonization Mass and Angelus Message on May 12, 2013

Pope Francis canonized over 800 new saints on Sunday, during Mass in St Peter's Square: Antonio Primaldo and his companions, martyrs of Otranto in Italy; Laura di Santa Caterina da Siena Montoya y Upegui, virgin and foundress; and Maria Guadalupe García Zavala, co-foundress. 

Below is a translation of his homily which he delivered partly in Italian and partly in Spanish.

Dear brothers and sisters!
In this seventh Sunday of Easter we are gathered to celebrate with joy a feast of holiness. Thanks be to God who has made His glory – the glory of Love – to shine on the Martyrs of Otranto, on Mother Laura Montoya and María Guadalupe García Zavala. I greet all of you who have come to this celebration - from Italy, Colombia, Mexico, from other countries - and I thank you! Let us look on the new saints in the light of the Word of God proclaimed: a Word that invited us to be faithful to Christ, even unto martyrdom; a word that recalled to us the urgency and the beauty of bringing Christ and his Gospel to everyone; a word that spoke to us about the witness of charity, without which even martyrdom and mission lose their Christian savour.

The Acts of the Apostles, when they speak of the Deacon, Stephen, the first martyr, insist on telling us that he was a man “full of the Holy Spirit (6:5, 7:55).” What does this mean? It means that he was full of the love of God, that his whole person, his whole life was animated by the Spirit of the risen Christ, so as to follow Jesus with total fidelity, even unto to the gift of self.

Today the Church proposes for our worship a host of martyrs, who were called together to the supreme witness to the Gospel in 1480. About eight hundred people, [who], having survived the siege and invasion of Otranto, were beheaded near that city. They refused to renounce their faith and died confessing the risen Christ. Where did they find the strength to remain faithful? Precisely in faith, which allows us to see beyond the limits of our human eyes, beyond the boundaries of earthly life, to contemplate “the heavens opened” – as St. Stephen said – and the living Christ at the right hand of the Father. Dear friends, let us conserve the faith [that] we have received and that is our true treasure, let us renew our fidelity to the Lord, even in the midst of obstacles and misunderstandings; God will never allow us to want [for] strength and serenity. As we venerate the martyrs of Otranto, let us ask God to sustain those many Christians who, in these times and in many parts of the world, right now, still suffer violence, and give them the courage and fidelity to respond to evil with good.

The second idea can be drawn from the words of Jesus that we heard in the Gospel: “I pray for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may be one, as You, Father, are in me and I in thee, that they also may be in us. (Jn 17:20)” Saint Laura Montoya was an instrument of evangelization, first as teacher and then as the spiritual mother of the indigenous peoples, in whom she infused hope, welcoming them with the love [she] learned from God, and bringing them to him with pedagogical efficacy that respected, and was not opposed to, their own culture. In her work of evangelization, Mother Laura became, in the words of St. Paul, truly everything to everyone, (cf. 1 Cor 9:22). Even today her spiritual daughters live and bring the Gospel to the most remote and needy places, as a kind of vanguard of the Church.

This first saint born on the beautiful Colombian soil, teaches us to be generous [together] with God, not to live the faith alone - as if we could live our faith in isolation - but to communicate, to radiate the joy of the Gospel by word and witness of life in every place we find ourselves. She teaches us to see the face of Jesus reflected in the other, to overcome indifference and individualism, welcoming everyone without prejudice or constraints, with love, giving the best of ourselves and above all, sharing with them the most valuable thing we have, which is not our works or our organizations, no: the most valuable thing we have is Christ and his Gospel.

Finally, a third thought. In today’s Gospel, Jesus prays to the Father with these words: “I have made known thy name to them and will make it known: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them. (Jn 17:26)” The martyrs’ faithfulness even unto death, the proclamation of the Gospel are rooted in the love of God that has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit (cf. Rom 5:5), and in the witness we must bear to this love in our daily lives. St. Maria Guadalupe García Zavala knew this well. Giving up a comfortable life – how much damage does the comfortable life, life of comfort, do? The gentrification of the heart paralyzes us – and [she], giving up a comfortable life to follow the call of Jesus, taught people to love poverty, in order the more to love the poor and the sick. Mother Lupita knelt on the floor of the hospital before the sick, before the abandoned, to serve them with tenderness and compassion. This is what it means to touch the flesh of Christ. The poor, the abandoned, the sick, the marginalized are the flesh of Christ. And Mother Lupita touched the flesh of Christ and taught us this conduct: [to be] unabashed,[to be] unafraid, [to be] not loathe to touch the flesh of Christ. Mother Lupita understood what it means “to touch the flesh of Christ.” Today her spiritual daughters also seek to reflect the love of God in works of charity, without sparing sacrifices, and [while] facing with meekness, with apostolic constancy (hypomone), any obstacle.

This new Mexican saint invites us to love as Jesus loved us, and this leads one not to retreat into oneself, into one’s own problems, into one’s own ideas, into one’s own interests in this little world that has done us so much damage, but to get up and go to meet those who need care, understanding and support, to bring the warm closeness of God’s love through gestures of delicacy and sincere affection and love.

Fidelity to Christ and his Gospel, in order to proclaim it in word and deed, bearing witness to God’s love with our love, with our charity toward all: the saints proclaimed today offer shining examples and teachings of these. They also pose questions to our Christian life: how am I faithful to Christ? Let us take this question with us to consider during the day: how am I faithful to Christ? I am able to “show” my faith with respect, but also with courage? Am I attentive to others, do I recognize when someone is in need, do I see in everyone a brother and a sister to love? Let us ask that, by the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of the new saints, the Lord might fill our lives with the joy of His love. So be it.

Angelus (Regina Coeli)

After the Holy Mass, Pope Francis prayed the Regina coeli prayer with the tens of thousands of faithful who had gathered in Saint Peter’s Square for the Mass of Canonization for more than 800 saints. Before the Regina coeli, the Holy Father prayed especially for the countries of Italy, Colombia and Mexico, which had given so many new saints to the Church. 

Pope Francis also called to mind the beatification on Saturday of the Italian priest Father Luigi Novarese, who, he said, was “able to renew the pastoral care of the sick by making them active participants in the Church.”

The Holy Father also had greetings for greeted all those who participated in Sunday’s March for Life, inviting them to continue to draw attention to the “important issue of respect for human life from the moment of conception.” He urged support for the European initiative “One of us” that strives to obtain juridical protection for human embryos. And Pope Francis noted the upcoming “Day for Evangelium vitae” as “a special moment for those who have at heart the sanctity of human life.”

Finally, Pope Francis said, “let us call upon the Virgin Mary, the mother and model of all Christians.”

Below is an English translation of his remarks before the traditional Eastertide prayer of Marian devotion.

Dear brothers and sisters,

At the end of this celebration, I wish to greet all of you who have come to pay homage to the new saints, especially the official delegations of Italy, Colombia and Mexico. May the martyrs of Otranto help the beloved Italian people to look with hope to the future, trusting in the nearness of God who never abandons us, even in difficult times. 

Through the intercession of Mother Laura Montoya, the Lord grant new missionary and evangelizing impulse to the Church, and, inspired by the example of harmony and reconciliation of this new saint, may the beloved children of Colombia continue to work for peace and fair development of their homeland.

Let us place in the hands of Saint Guadalupe García Zavala all the poor, the sick and those who assist them, and commend to her intercession the noble Mexican nation, that, having banished all violence and insecurity, the nation might increasingly advance along the path of solidarity and fraternal co-existence.

I am also pleased to mention that [Saturday], in Rome, the priest Luigi Novarese, founder of the Center for Volunteers of Suffering and the Silent Workers of the Cross, was beatified. I join in the thanksgiving for this exemplary priest, who was able to renew the pastoral care of the sick by making them active participants in the Church.

I greet the participants in the "March for Life" which took place in Rome this [Sunday] morning and invite you to keep the attention of everyone on the important issue of respect for human life from the moment of conception. In this regard, I am pleased to recall the signature-collection drive currently underway in many Italian parishes, in order to support the European “One of Us” initiative to ensure legal protection to the embryo, protecting every human being from the first moment of existence. A special moment especially for those who care about the defense of the sanctity of human life will be Evangelium Vitae Day, which will take place here in the Vatican, in the context of the Year of Faith, on 15 and 16 June.

I greet with affection all parish groups, families, schools, the young people present. With filial love we now turn to the Virgin Mary, Mother and model of all Christian saints. [Have a] good Sunday, and [enjoy your] lunch.

Historical Meeting Between Pope Francis and Coptic Pope Tawadros II

Pope Francis met on Friday with the leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Tawadros II, telling him the future of Egypt and the role of its Christian communities finds a deep echo in the heart of the entire Catholic world. 

Pope Tawadros of Alexandria, who heads the largest Christian Church in the Middle East, is currently making a five day visit to Rome, his first outside Egypt since his enthronement last November. He’s due to hold talks with Vatican and Italian officials, as well as celebrating together with the various Coptic communities here in Italy.

Friday’s meeting between the Catholic and Oriental Orthodox popes comes 40 years to the day after the first historic encounter between Pope Paul VI and Tawadros’ predecessor, Shenouda III, who signed a joint statement pledging the two Churches to the search for reconciliation and unity.

In his speech to Pope Francis, Tawadros proposed that May 10th each year should be marked as a day of celebration between the two communities. He also invited the successor of St Peter to visit his Church, founded by St Mark the Evangelist around the middle of the 1st century.

Following is the full text of Pope Francis' address to Pope Tawadros and his delegation:

Your Holiness,
Dear Brothers in Christ,

For me it is a great joy and a truly graced moment to be able to receive all of you here, at the tomb of Saint Peter, as we recall that historic meeting forty years ago between our predecessors, Pope Paul VI and the late Pope Shenouda III, in an embrace of peace and fraternity, after centuries of mutual distrust. So it is with deep affection that I welcome Your Holiness and the distinguished members of your delegation, and I thank you for your words. Through you, I extend my cordial greetings in the Lord to the bishops, the clergy, the monks and the whole Coptic Orthodox Church.

Today’s visit strengthens the bonds of friendship and brotherhood that already exist between the See of Peter and the See of Mark, heir to an inestimable heritage of martyrs, theologians, holy monks and faithful disciples of Christ, who have borne witness to the Gospel from generation to generation, often in situations of great adversity.

Forty years ago the Common Declaration of our predecessors represented a milestone on the ecumenical journey, and from it emerged a Commission for Theological Dialogue between our Churches, which has yielded good results and has prepared the ground for a broader dialogue between the Catholic Church and the entire family of Oriental Orthodox Churches, a dialogue that continues to bear fruit to this day. In that solemn Declaration, our Churches acknowledged that, in line with the apostolic traditions, they profess “one faith in the One Triune God” and “the divinity of the Only-begotten Son of God ... perfect God with respect to his divinity, perfect man with respect to his humanity”. They acknowledged that divine life is given to us and nourished through the seven sacraments and they recognized a mutual bond in their common devotion to the Mother of God.

We are glad to be able to confirm today what our illustrious predecessors solemnly declared, we are glad to recognize that we are united by one Baptism, of which our common prayer is a special expression, and we long for the day when, in fulfillment of the Lord’s desire, we will be able to communicate from the one chalice.

Of course we are well aware that the path ahead may still prove to be long, but we do not want to forget the considerable distance already traveled, which has taken tangible form in radiant moments of communion, among which I am pleased to recall the meeting in February 2000 in Cairo between Pope Shenouda III and Blessed John Paul II, who went as a pilgrim, during the Great Jubilee, to the places of origin of our faith. I am convinced that – under the guidance of the Holy Spirit – our persevering prayer, our dialogue and the will to build communion day by day in mutual love will allow us to take important further steps towards full unity.

Your Holiness, I am aware of the many marks of attention and fraternal charity that you have shown, since the early days of your ministry, to the Catholic Coptic Church, to its Pastor, Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak and to his predecessor, Cardinal Antonios Naguib. The institution of a “National Council of Christian Churches”, which you strongly desired, represents an important sign of the will of all believers in Christ to develop relations in daily life that are increasingly fraternal and to put themselves at the service of the whole of Egyptian society, of which they form an integral part. Let me assure you that your efforts to build communion among believers in Christ, and your lively interest in the future of your country and the role of the Christian communities within Egyptian society find a deep echo in the heart of the Successor of Peter and of the entire Catholic community.

“If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together” (1 Cor 12:26). This is a law of the Christian life, and in this sense we can say that there is also an ecumenism of suffering: just as the blood of the martyrs was a seed of strength and fertility for the Church, so too the sharing of daily sufferings can become an effective instrument of unity. And this also applies, in a certain sense, to the broader context of society and relations between Christians and non-Christians: from shared suffering can blossom forth forgiveness and reconciliation, with God’s help.

Your Holiness, in assuring you of my prayers that the whole flock entrusted to your pastoral care may be ever faithful to the Lord’s call, I invoke the protection of both Saint Peter and Saint Mark: may they who during their lifetime worked together in practical ways for the spread of the Gospel, intercede for us and accompany the journey of our Churches.

Pope Francis' Weekly General Audience on Wednesday May 08, 2013

Pope Francis held his weekly General Audience in St. Peter's Square on Wednesday. below is the  translation of the text: 

Dear brothers and sisters, good day.

The season of Easter that we are living with joy, guided by the liturgy of the Church, is par excellence the time of the Holy Spirit, given to us "not by measure" (cf. John 3:34) by the crucified and risen Jesus. This time of grace ends with the feast of Pentecost, when the Church relives the outpouring of the Spirit upon Mary and the Apostles gathered in prayer in the Upper Room.

But who is the Holy Spirit? In the Creed we profess with faith: "I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life." The first truth to which we adhere in the Creed is that the Holy Spirit is Kyrios, Lord. This means that He is truly God as are the Father and the Son, on our part object of the same act of worship and glorification that we direct to the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit, in fact, is the third Person of the Blessed Trinity; the Holy Spirit is the great gift of the Risen Christ who opens our minds and our hearts to faith in Jesus as the Son sent by the Father, and who leads us to friendship, to communion with God

But I would like to focus on the fact that the Holy Spirit is the inexhaustible source of God's life in us. In all times and in all places man has yearned for a full and beautiful life, a just and good one, a life that is not threatened by death, but that can mature and grow to its fullest. Man is like a traveler who, crossing the deserts of life, has a thirst for living water, gushing and fresh, capable of quenching his deep desire for light, love, beauty and peace. We all feel this desire! And Jesus gives us this living water: it is the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and who Jesus pours into our hearts. Jesus tells us that "I came that they may have life and have it more abundantly" (John 10, 10).

Jesus promised the Samaritan woman that he would donate an eternally abundant ‘"living water” to all those who recognize him as the Son sent by the Father to save us (John 4: 5-26; 3:17). Jesus came to give us this' "living water" that is the Holy Spirit, so that our life may be guided by God, may be animated by God, may be nourished by God. When we say that a Christian is a spiritual man, this is what we mean: a Christian is a person who thinks and acts according to God, according to the Holy Spirit. And do we believe in God? Do we act according to God? Or do we let ourselves be guided by so many other things that are not God?

At this point we can ask ourselves: how can this water quench our deep thirst? We know that water is essential for life; without water we die; it quenches our thirst, it cleanses, it renders the earth fertile. In the Epistle to the Romans we find this sentence: "God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us" (5:5). The '"living water," the Holy Spirit, the Gift of the Risen One who comes to dwell in us, cleanses us, enlightens us, renews us, transforms us because rendering us partakers of the very life of God who is Love. This is why the Apostle Paul says that the Christian's life is animated by the Spirit and by its fruits, which are "love, joy, peace, generosity, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Gal 5:22 -23). The Holy Spirit leads us to divine life as "children of the Only Son." In another passage from the Letter to the Romans, which we have mentioned several times, St. Paul sums it up in these words: "All who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. And you… have you received the Spirit who renders us adoptive children, and thanks to whom we cry out, "Abba! Father. “The Spirit itself, together with our own spirit, attests that we are children of God. And if we are His children, we are also His heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we take part in his suffering so we can participate in his glory "(8, 14-17). This is the precious gift that the Holy Spirit brings into our hearts: the very life of God, the life of true children, a relationship of familiarity, freedom and trust in the love and mercy of God, which as an effect has also a new vision of others, near and far, seen always as brothers and sisters in Jesus to be respected and loved. The Holy Spirit teaches us to look with the eyes of Christ, to live life as Christ lived, to understand life as Christ did. That's why the living water that is the Holy Spirit quenches our lives because it tells us that we are loved by God as His children, that we can love God as his children, and that by his grace we can live as children of God, as did Jesus. And us? Do we listen to the Holy Spirit who tells us: God loves you? Do we really love God and others as Jesus did?

Pope Francis' Sunday Angelus Message (Regina Caeli) on May 05, 2013

At the end of Sunday’s Mass, Pope Francis recited the Regina Caeli prayer with the tens of thousands of pilgrims gathered in Saint Peter’s Square for the celebration. 

In his remarks prior to the Regina Caeli, the Holy Father spoke about the “spiritual presence of the Virgin Mary, alive in our midst.” On a day dedicated to Confraternities and Popular Piety, he noted that love for Mary is one of the characteristics of popular piety that “must be strengthened and well-ordered.” He invited those present to reflect on “Mary the pilgrim, who follows Jesus the Son, and goes before all of us in the journey of faith.”

Pope Francis also had greetings for those Christians who, following the Julian calendar, are celebrating Easter on Sunday. “I wish to send to these brothers and sisters a special greeting,” he said, “uniting myself to them with all my heart in proclaiming the joyful news: Christ is risen!” He prayed especially for those celebrating Easter amongst “trials and sufferings,” praying that the Holy Spirit would give them “counsel and consolations” and guide them “in the ways of peace and reconciliation.”

The Pope also spoke about the beatification on Saturday of Francisca de Paula De Jesus, called “Nha Chica.” He said, “I unite myself to the joy of the Church in Brazil for this luminous disciple of the Lord.”

Pope Francis greeted all those present, especially members of the Confraternities, along with parish groups and families. He noted especially the “Meter” association on the occasion of the Day for Children who are Victims of Violence. He assured those who have suffered or who are suffering abuse of his prayers, and forcefully called on everyone to protect and defend all human persons, but especially children, who are among the most vulnerable. 

In a final greeting, Pope Francis offered encouragement to those suffering from pulmonary hypertension and to their families. 

Below is the complete text of Pope Francis’ remarks before Sunday’s Regina Caeli: 

In this moment of profound communion in Christ, we feel the spiritual presence of the Virgin Mary alive in our midst – a maternal presence, a familiar presence, especially for you are take part in the Confraternities. The love for the Madonna is one of the characteristics of popular piety, which needs to be strengthened and well oriented. For this reason, I invite you to meditate on the last chapter of the Constitution of the Second Vatican Council on the Church, Lumen gentium, which speaks precisely of Mary in the mystery of Christ and of the Church. There it is said that Mary "advanced in her pilgrimage of faith" (n. 58). Dear friends, in the Year of Faith I leave you this icon of Mary the pilgrim, who follows Jesus the Son, and goes before all of us in the journey of faith. 

Today the Eastern Churches that follow the Julian Calendar celebrate the feast of Easter. I wish to send to these brothers and sisters a special greeting, uniting myself to them with all my heart in proclaiming the joyful news: Christ is risen! Gathered in prayer around Mary, we ask God for the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, that He might counsel and comfort all Christians, especially those who celebrate Easter amongst trials and sufferings, and might guide them in the ways of reconciliation and peace. 

Yesterday, in Brazil, Francisca de Paula De Jesus, called "Nha Chica," was beatified. Her simple life was totally dedicated to God and to charity – so much so that she was called “mother of the poor.” I unite myself to the joy of the Church in Brazil for this luminous disciple of the Lord.

I greet with affection all the Confraternities present, who came from so many countries. Thank you for your testimony of faith! And I greet also the parish groups and families, as well as the grand parade of marching bands and various associations of Schützen [riflemen] from Germany.

A special greeting goes today to the “METER” Association on the day for children who are victims of violence. And this gives me the opportunity to turn my thoughts to those who have suffered and are suffering because of abuse. I would like to assure them that are present in my prayers, but I would also say emphatically that we must all commit ourselves with clarity and courage to every human person, especially children, who are among the most vulnerable, that they might always be defended and protected.

I also encourage those with pulmonary hypertension and their families.

President Michel Sleiman Says: "Pray for Me" To Pope Francis

He met Benedict XVI a few months ago to thank him for his trip to Lebanon in September 2012. But the Maronite Christian Lebanese president, Michel Sleiman, decided to return to Rome to meet Pope Francis in the Vatican.

The meeting between the Argentinean pope and Sleiman – who was not able to attend the mass which celebrated the start of Francis’ Petrine ministry last 19 March, because he was not in the country – lasted 25 minutes and the two were assisted by an interpreter. The Prefect of the Papal Household, Mgr. Georg Gänswein, who returned to the Vatican with Benedict XVI yesterday, was also present.

The Lebanese president gave Francis a 20th century icon of the Virgin Mary; in exchange, the new Pope gave him a silver and mother of pearl medallion. Sleiman was accompanied by an entourage of 11 people, including his wife, Wafaa and the vice prime minister Samir Mokbel and his wife.

According to a Vatican Press Office statement, during the audience the two leaders said they hoped for the success of negotiations for the formation of a new government in Beirut. The new government “will face significant challenges on a national and international level.” Lebanon has been without a government since the end of March, after Prime Minister Najij Miqati handed in his resignation. This is second resignation handed in, in the past few months. The former prime minister’s coalition government split over differences in opinion regarding the organisation of the upcoming legislative elections.

Sleiman and Francis also highlighted the importance of dialogue and collaboration between members of the various ethnic and religious communities that make society so rich and varied, in favour of the common good and the development and stability of the nation.”

But the main focus of the audience was, naturally, the Syrian conflict and the tragic situation faced by thousands of refugees who have fled to Lebanon and neighbouring countries. Francis and Sleiman “called for further humanitarian aid with the support of the international community to help the suffering population.”

But in the Vatican there is fear of the repercussions the Syrian crisis could have on Lebanon’s domestic situation, especially on Christians. Last October, just one month after Benedict XVI’s visit to Lebanon, there was a serious bombing in Beirut’s Christian neighbourhood, leading to the death of the head of Lebanon’s secret services, the Lebanese Internal Security Forces (FSI), Wissam al Hassan.

The Vatican statement said there was mention of “the delicate situation faced by Christians in the entire Middle East and the significant contribution they can make.” This was in light of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation “Ecclesia in the Middle East”, which Pope Benedict XVI delivered on his visit to Lebanon. The Apostolic Exhortation “is an important reference point for Catholic communities and societies in the Region.” Finally, the two leaders wished for “a quick and fruitful resumption of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. This is becoming increasingly necessary for peace and stability in the Region.”

Watch the video:

Message of the Virgin Mary to Nonbelievers on May 02, 2013, From Medjugorje

“Dear children! Anew, I am calling you to love and not to judge. My Son, according to the will of the Heavenly Father, was among you to show you the way of salvation, to save you and not to judge you. If you desire to follow my Son, you will not judge but love like your Heavenly Father loves you. And when it is the most difficult for you, when you are falling under the weight of the cross do not despair, do not judge, instead remember that you are loved and praise the Heavenly Father because of His love. My children, do not deviate from the way on which I am leading you. Do not recklessly walk into perdition. May prayer and fasting strengthen you so that you can live as the Heavenly Father would desire; that you may be my apostles of faith and love; that your life may bless those whom you meet; that you may be one with the Heavenly Father and my Son. My children, that is the only truth, the truth that leads to your conversion, and then to the conversion of all those whom you meet – those who have not come to know my Son – all those who do not know what it means to love. My children, my Son gave you a gift of the shepherds. Take good care of them. Pray for them. Thank you.”

Pope Francis' General Weekly Audience on Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

Marking the feast of St Joseph the Worker and World Labor Day this Wednesday May 1st, Pope Francis launched an urgent appeal to Christians and men and women of goodwill worldwide to take decisive steps to end slave labor.

Speaking in Italian he said : “I would like to add a word about another particular work situation that concerns me: I am referring to what we could define as "slave labor", the work that enslaves. How many people worldwide are victims of this type of slavery, in which the person is at the service of his or her work, while work should offer a service to people so they may have dignity. I ask my brothers and sisters in faith and all men and women of good will for a decisive choice to combat trafficking in persons, which includes "slave labor".

Taking advantage of bank holiday and the unseasonably hot weather, an estimated 70 thousand people descended on St Peter’s Wednesday morning, queuing from dawn to ensure their place in the square for the audience with the Pope.

Many among the pilgrims belonged to Catholic Confraternities from all five continents who are preparing two days of celebration together with the Pope as part of the great events organized by the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization for the Year of Faith.

But the vast majority of those gathered were young people, boys and girls as well as thousands of teens and University students. Speaking directly to them, Pope Francis said: “I would like to speak especially to you young people: be committed to your daily duties, your study, your work, to relationships of friendship, to helping towards others; your future also depends on how you live these precious years of your life. Do not be afraid of commitment, sacrifice and do not look with fear towards the future; keep your hope alive: there is always a light on the horizon”.

The Pope was referring to his earlier reflection on the current employment crisis that is afflicting many nations worldwide. Pointing to the figure of St Joseph the Worker, Pope Francis said: 

“Work is fundamental to the dignity of a person. Work, to use an image, "anoints" us with dignity, fills us with dignity, makes us like God, who has worked and still works, who always acts (cf. Jn 5:17); it gives you the ability to maintain ourselves, our family, to contribute to the growth of our nation. And here I think of the difficulties which, in various countries, today afflicts the world of work and businesses; I think of how many, and not just young people, are unemployed, many times due to a purely economic conception of society, which seeks selfish profit, beyond the parameters of social justice.

I wish to extend an invitation to solidarity to everyone, and I would like to encourage those in public office to make every effort to give new impetus to employment, this means caring for the dignity of the person, but above all I would say do not lose hope; St. Joseph also moments of difficulty, but he never lost faith and was able to overcome them, in the certainty that God never abandons us”.

Below is a translation of the Holy Father’s Audience catechesis:

Dear brothers and sisters, Good Day!,

Today, May 1st, we celebrate Saint Joseph the Worker and begin the month traditionally dedicated to Our Lady. In our encounter this morning, I want to focus on these two figures, so important in the life of Jesus, the Church and in our lives, with two brief thoughts: the first on work, the second on the contemplation of Jesus

1. In the Gospel of St. Matthew, in one of the moments when Jesus returns to his town, to Nazareth, and speaks in the synagogue, the amazement of his fellow townspeople at his wisdom is emphasized, and the question they ask: "Is not this the carpenter's son? "(13:55). Jesus comes into our history is among us, born of Mary by the power of God, but with the presence of Saint Joseph, the legal father who cares for him and also teaches him his work. Jesus is born and lives in a family, in the Holy Family, learning the craft of carpenter from Saint Joseph in his workshop in Nazareth, sharing with him the commitment, effort, satisfaction and also the difficulties of every day.

This reminds us of the dignity and importance of work. The book of Genesis tells us that God created man and woman entrusting them with the task of filling the earth and subduing it, which does not mean exploiting it, but nurturing and protecting it, caring for it through their work (cf. Gen 1:28; 2 15). Work is part of God’s loving plan, we are called to cultivate and care for all the goods of creation and in this way participate in the work of creation! Work is fundamental to the dignity of a person. Work, to use an image, "anoints" us with dignity, fills us with dignity, makes us similar to God, who has worked and still works, who always acts (cf. Jn 5:17); it gives you the ability to maintain ourselves, our family, to contribute to the growth of our nation. And here I think of the difficulties which, in various countries, today afflicts the world of work and business; I think of how many, and not just young people, are unemployed, many times due to a purely economic conception of society, which seeks selfish profit, beyond the parameters of social justice.

I wish to extend an invitation to solidarity to everyone, and I would like to encourage those in public office to make every effort to give new impetus to employment, this means caring for the dignity of the person, but above all I would say do not lose hope; St. Joseph also experienced moments of difficulty, but he never lost faith and was able to overcome them, in the certainty that God never abandons us. And then I would like to speak especially to you young people: be committed to your daily duties, your study, your work, to relationships of friendship, to helping towards others; your future also depends on how you live these precious years of your life. Do not be afraid of commitment, of sacrifice and do not look with fear towards the future; keep your hope alive: there is always a light on the horizon.

I would like to add a word about another particular work situation that concerns me: I am referring to what we could define as "slave labor", the work that enslaves. How many people worldwide are victims of this type of slavery, in which the person is at the service of his or her work, while work should offer a service to people so they may have dignity. I ask my brothers and sisters in faith and all men and women of good will for a decisive choice to combat trafficking in persons, which includes "slave labor".

2. In reference to the second thought: in the silence of daily events, St. Joseph, together with Mary, have one common center of attention: Jesus. They accompany and nurture, with commitment and tenderness, the growth of the Son of God made man for us, reflecting on everything that happened. In the Gospels, St. Luke twice emphasizes the attitude of Mary, which is also that of St. Joseph: "She kept all these things and pondered them in her heart" (2,19.51). To listen to the Lord, we must learn to contemplate, feel His constant presence in our lives and we must stop and converse with Him, give him space in prayer. Each of us, even you boys and girls, young people, so many of you here this morning, should ask: how much space do I give to the Lord? Do I stop to talk with him? Ever since we were children, our parents have accustomed us to start and end the day with a prayer, to teach us to feel that the friendship and the love of God accompanies us. Let us remember the Lord more in our daily life! 

And in this month of May, I would like to recall the importance and beauty of the prayer of the Holy Rosary. Reciting the Hail Mary, we are led to contemplate the mysteries of Jesus, that is, to reflect on the key moments of his life, so that, as with Mary and St. Joseph, He is the center of our thoughts, of our attention and our actions . It would be nice if, especially in this month of May, we could pray the Holy Rosary together in the family, with friends, in the parish, or some prayer to Jesus and the Virgin Mary! Praying together is a precious moment that further strengthens family life, friendship! Let us learn to pray more in the family and as a family!

Dear brothers and sisters, we ask Saint Joseph and the Virgin Mary, who teach us to be faithful to our daily tasks, to live our faith in the actions of everyday life and to give more space to the Lord in our lives, to stop to contemplate His face.

English summary 

Dear Brothers and Sisters: On this first day of May, Mary’s month, we celebrate the feast of Saint Joseph the Worker. Joseph, the carpenter of Nazareth, reminds us of the dignity and importance of labour. Work is part of God’s plan for the world; by responsibly cultivating the goods of creation, we grow in dignity as men and women made in God’s image. For this reason, the problem of unemployment urgently demands greater social solidarity and wise and just policies. I also encourage the many young people present to look to the future with hope, and to invest themselves fully in their studies, their work and their relationships with others. Saint Joseph, as a model of quiet prayer and closeness to Jesus, also invites us to think about the time we devote to prayer each day. In this month of May, the Rosary naturally comes to mind as a way to contemplate the mysteries of Christ’s life. May Saint Joseph and the Virgin Mary help us to be faithful in our daily work and to lift up our minds and hearts to Jesus in prayer.

Greetings to English language pilgrims

I am pleased to greet the many pilgrimage groups present at today’s Audience, including those from the Archdiocese of Gwangju in South Korea. Upon all the English-speaking visitors, including those from England, Scotland, Denmark, Canada and the United States, I invoke the joy and peace of the Risen Lord.