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(Vatican Radio) Are we open to the gift of God’s salvation, or do we prefer to take refuge in the safety of our man-made rules and regulations? That was the question Pope Francis posed during his homily at the morning Mass at Santa Marta on Friday, as Philippa Hitchen reports...


God’s only wish, Pope Francis told his listeners, is to save his people, but so often we want to make the rules for our own salvation. This is the dramatic paradox of so many of the Bible stories which culminate in the life of Jesus himself. Reflecting on the Gospel reading of the day, the Pope spoke of Jesus’ sadness at being rejected and ignored by his own people. “If the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Tyre and Sidon,” Jesus warns the people of Chorazin and Bethsaida, “they would long ago have repented.” Just as the prophets were rejected and killed by their people, so they do the same to Jesus. And it’s the leaders, the Pope said, who provoke this resistance to the salvation he’s offering:

E proprio la classe dirigente quela che chiude le porte al modo col quale Dio vuole salvarci…..

It’s the ruling class which closes the door to God’s way of salvation, Pope Francis said. That’s why Jesus has such strong words with the leaders of his day – they argue, they try to trick him and catch him out because they are resisting his offer of salvation. Jesus says to them, “I don’t understand you! You are like those children who say ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn’. What do you want?” They want, the Pope said, to save themselves and remain closed to the way of the Lord.

This attitude, the Pope continued, is quite different from that of the people of God, who understand and accept salvation brought to them through Jesus. Their leaders, on the other hand, reduce salvation to the fulfilment of the 613 commandments they have created through their intellectual and theological fervour.

Loro non credono nella misericordia e nel perdono…..

These leaders, the Pope said, don’t believe in mercy and forgiveness but simply in sacrifices. They want everything clearly sorted out and this is the drama of their resistance to salvation. Each one of us, he said, shares this drama and we should ask ourselves: How do I want to be saved? On my own? Through a spirituality which is good, but fixed and clear so that there are no risks? Or following the footsteps of Jesus who always surprises us, opening doors to that mystery of God’s mercy and pardon?

If I don’t follow Jesus but go looking for other gurus and seek refuge in man-made commandments, the Pope concluded, I may feel safe but the truth is I am buying my salvation, instead of receiving the free gift that God gives me. 

(from Vatican Radio)

Vatican City, 3 October 2014 (VIS) – This morning in the Clementine Hall the Holy Father received in audience the participants in the Plenary Assembly of the Congregation for the Clergy. “The vocation is truly a treasure that God places in the hearts of some men, chosen by Him and called to follow Him in this special state of life. This treasure, that must be discovered and brought to light, is not made to 'enrich' someone alone. He who is called to the ministry is not the 'master' of his vocation, but rather the administrator of a gift that God has entrusted to him for the good of all the people, or rather for all humanity, even those who have drifted away from religious practice or do not profess faith in Christ”. Pope Francis added that “at the same time, all the Christian community is the custodian of the treasure of these vocations, destined to its service, and must always be aware of its task of promoting, welcoming and accompanying them with affection”.

Similarly, the Pope reminded the clergy that they too must play their role in formation. “This involves protecting and nurturing vocations, so that they bear mature fruit”. He remarked that Jesus did not call his disciples by saying to them “come, I will explain to you”, or “follow me, I will teach you”. “The formation Christ offered his disciples instead took the form of 'come and follow me', 'do as I do', and this is the method that today, too, the Church must offer her ministers. … For this reason, it is a task that is never completed, because priests never stop being Jesus' disciples; they never stop following him”.

Pope Francis spoke about evangelisation as the aim of vocation. “Every vocation is for the mission, and the mission of ordained ministers is evangelisation”, he continued, adding that “the first form of evangelisation is the witness of fraternity and of communion between priests and bishop”. He concluded by emphasising that it is necessary for the clergy to “be priests … free of every spiritual worldliness, aware that it is their lives that evangelise rather than their works”, rather than to take a limited view of priesthood as a profession”, also asking the bishops to think of the good of the people of God, to study the itinerary of vocations carefully, and not to accept priests simply because there is a lack of them in the diocese.

Vatican City, 3 October 2014 (VIS) – A press conference was held this morning in the Holy See Press Office during which Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, outlined the structure of the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Family, to be inaugurated by the Pope during a solemn mass in St. Peter's Basilica next Sunday.

The Cardinal explained that among the 191 Synod Fathers there will be 61 Cardinals, one Cardinal Patriarch, 7 Patriarchs, one major archbishop, 67 metropolitan archbishops, 47 bishops, one auxiliary bishop, 1 priest and 6 religious. There will also be 16 experts, 38 auditors and 8 fraternal delegates. He also remarked that since this assembly will consider the theme of the family, special emphasis has been given to married couples, parents and family heads, a total of 12 persons; there is also one married couple within the group of experts.

He went on to speak about the characteristics of the upcoming Synod, which show the Holy Father's wish to “undertake an innovative and original Synodal path, structured in two phases: the current Extraordinary Assembly, on the theme 'Pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelisation', and next year's Ordinary Assembly, which will take as its theme 'The vocation and the mission of the family in the Church and in the contemporary world'”. Cardinal Baldisseri noted that during the preparatory phase, “there resounded the voice of all of the People of God”, from bishops to lay faithful who were able to express their opinions through the questionnaire linked to the preparatory document distributed by the Episcopal Conferences. “The large number of responses is due on the one hand to the theme of the Synod, which regards the life of the community, families and people and reflects the pastoral care that the bishops have always had in relation to the family. On the other hand, the breadth of the material that was submitted is without doubt an indication of the frankness and freeness with which the consultation was carried out. This broad-ranging freedom of expression will also characterise the Synod Assembly, which will certainly take place in an atmosphere of respect for every position, with mutual charity and with a genuinely constructive approach”.

He continued, “other new elements will affect the organisation of the work of the Synod, and therefore relate to the internal methodology of the Assembly. First, the Relatio ante disceptationem will include various novelties, and the Secretariat General asked the Synod fathers to transmit their contributions in advance, indicating the issue on which they intended to speak during the Assembly, respecting the order of themes. These texts were taken into consideration during the drafting of the Relatio ante disceptationem, which proved useful in organising the thematic agenda. In this way, the so-called Relatio becomes reference point which may be worked upon during the interventions in the Assembly”.

Secondly, during the debate in the Synod Hall, which will take place during the first week, beginning with the Second General Congregation, the thematic order established following the Instrumentum laboris will be followed. Each general Congregation will open with the announcement of the theme by the president delegate, followed by an intervention by a married couple of Auditors, who will offer the Synod Fathers their testimony of family life, contributing to the enrichment of the debate on pastoral action.

Thirdly, during the “Relatio post disceptationem” issued at the end of the first week will provide the basis for the work of the second week by the so-called “small groups”, when the Fathers prepare the final document, the “Relatio Synodi”, to be submitted to the Holy Father.

“There will also be novelties regarding the means of communication”, continued Cardinal Baldisseri. “Each day there will be a Briefing in the Holy See Press Office, with the collaboration of the Press Secretaries and the participation of various Synod Fathers. The Press Office Bulletin will contain information regarding the day's work. Furthermore, there will be a Twitter service to transmit brief summaries of the most important news in real time.

“The work of the Synod Fathers will be accompanied by the prayer of the people of God”, concluded Cardinal Baldisseri. In Rome, in the Salus Populi Romani chapel in the Basilica of St. Mary Major, a bishop or a cardinal will celebrate a Holy Mass for the family. The presence of the relics of the Blessed couple Zelie and Louis Martin, and their daughter St. Therese of the Child Jesus, are significant, as are those of the Blessed couple Luigi and Maria Beltrame Quattrocchi. Throughout the world, prayers will be offered in shrines, especially those dedicated to the Holy Family, in monasteries, in communities of consecrated life, in dioceses and in parishes”.


“Respect for every position, mutual charity and a genuinely constructive attitude” in the knowledge “that brotherly communion grows in freedom”. 

According to Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, this is the spirit that will bring to life the work of the Extraordinary Assembly which opens on Sunday, 5 October. The Cardinal presented the theme and methods at a press briefing on Friday, 3 October, highlighting that “it is important to express oneself clearly and with courage” because “to manifest one's thought” serves to enrich the debate and helps “to identify the pastoral choices most appropriate for the family in modern context”. He then expressed the hope that, through “calm and fair debate”, the participants may seek “the truth together” and that each would not “give precedence to” his own “point of view as exclusive”. The Cardinal also urged the press to “convey to the public the genuine content of the assembly”.

During the briefing several new information channels were also presented with respect to the work of the Synod, including a specific page on the Vatican website:

(synod14.vatican.va/content/sinodo/it/sinodo2014/events/topic.html/content/sinodoevents/it/2014/10/1/sinododeivescovi); and on twitter: (@HolySeePress #Synod14).

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis celebrated Mass on Sunday morning in St Peter's Square, following a special encounter with elderly persons. In his homily, the Holy Father spoke of the enormous - indeed indispensable - contribution that seniors make to society, most importantly in their conservation of hard-earned wisdom and experience. "There are times," said Pope Francis, "when generations of young people, for complex historical and cultural reasons, feel a deeper need to be independent from their parents, “breaking free”, as it were, from the legacy of the older generation." Nevertheless, if the meeting of generations is lost and not re-established, and a "new and fruitful intergenerational equilibrium is restored," the inevitable result will be, "serious impoverishment for everyone, and the freedom which prevails in society is actually a false freedom, which almost always becomes a form of authoritarianism." Please find the full text of the official translation of the Holy Father's prepared remarks, below.


Homily of His Holiness Pope Francis

Mass for the Elderly

28 September 2014


            Today we accept the Gospel we have just heard as a Gospel of encounter: the encounter between young and old, an encounter full of joy, full of faith, and full of hope.

            Mary is young, very young.  Elizabeth is elderly, yet God’s mercy was manifested in her and for six months now, with her husband Zechariah, she has been expecting a child.

            Here too, Mary shows us the way: she set out to visit her elderly kinswoman, to stay with her, to help her, of course, but also and above all to learn from her – an elderly person – a wisdom of life.

            Today’s first reading echoes in various ways the Fourth Commandment: “Honour your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you” (Ex 20:12).  A people has no future without such an encounter between generations, without children being able to accept with gratitude the witness of life from the hands of their parents.  And part of this gratitude for those who gave you life is also gratitude for our heavenly Father.

            There are times when generations of young people, for complex historical and cultural reasons, feel a deeper need to be independent from their parents, “breaking free”, as it were, from the legacy of the older generation.  It is a kind of adolescent rebellion.  But unless the encounter, the meeting of generations, is reestablished, unless a new and fruitful intergenerational equilibrium is restored, what results is a serious impoverishment for everyone, and the freedom which prevails in society is actually a false freedom, which almost always becomes a form of authoritarianism.

            We hear the same message in the Apostle Paul’s exhortation to Timothy and, through him, to the Christian community.  Jesus did not abolish the law of the family and the passing of generations, but brought it to fulfillment.  The Lord formed a new family, in which bonds of kinship are less important than our relationship with him and our doing the will of God the Father.  Yet the love of Jesus and the Father completes and fulfils our love of parents, brothers and sisters, and grandparents; it renews family relationships with the lymph of the Gospel and of the Holy Spirit.  For this reason, Saint Paul urges Timothy, who was a pastor and hence a father to the community, to show respect for the elderly and members of families.  He tells him to do so like a son: treating “older men as fathers”, “older women as mothers” and “younger women as sisters” (cf. 1 Tim 5:1).  The head of the community is not exempt from following the will of God in this way; indeed, the love of Christ impels him to do so with an even greater love.  Like the Virgin Mary, who, though she became the mother of the Messiah, felt herself driven by the love of God taking flesh within her to hasten to her elderly relative.

            And so we return to this “icon” full of joy and hope, full of faith and charity.  We can imagine that the Virgin Mary, visiting the home of Elizabeth, would have heard her and her husband Zechariah praying in the words of today’s responsorial psalm: “You, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth…  Do not cast me off in the time of old age, do not forsake me when my strength is spent...  Even to old age and grey hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to all the generations to come”  (Ps 71:5,9,18).  The young Mary listened, and she kept all these things in her heart.  The wisdom of Elizabeth and Zechariah enriched her young spirit.  They were no experts in parenthood; for them too it was the first pregnancy.  But they were experts in faith, experts in God, experts in the hope that ...

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