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(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis delivered the homily at Mass in St. Peter's Square on Sunday - Palm Sunday - the beginning of Holy Week, 2015. Please find, below, the official English translation of the Holy Father's prepared remarks.

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At the heart of this celebration, which seems so festive, are the words we heard in the hymn of the Letter to the Philippians: “He humbled himself” (2:8).  Jesus’ humiliation.

These words show us God’s way and the way of Christians: it is humility.  A way which constantly amazes and disturbs us: we will never get used to a humble God!

Humility is above all God’s way: God humbles himself to walk with his people, to put up with their infidelity.  This is clear when we read the Book of Exodus.  How humiliating for the Lord to hear all that grumbling, all those complaints against Moses, but ultimately against him, their Father, who brought them out of slavery and was leading them on the journey through the desert to the land of freedom.

This week, Holy Week, which leads us to Easter, we will take this path of Jesus’ own humiliation.  Only in this way will this week be “holy” for us too!

We will feel the contempt of the leaders of his people and their attempts to trip him up.  We will be there at the betrayal of Judas, one of the Twelve, who will sell him for thirty pieces of silver.  We will see the Lord arrested and carried off like a criminal; abandoned by his disciples, dragged before the Sanhedrin, condemned to death, beaten and insulted.  We will hear Peter, the “rock” among the disciples, deny him three times.  We will hear the shouts of the crowd, egged on by their leaders, who demand that Barabas be freed and Jesus crucified.  We will see him mocked by the soldiers, robed in purple and crowned with thorns.  And then, as he makes his sorrowful way beneath the cross, we will hear the jeering of the people and their leaders, who scoff at his being King and Son of God.

This is God’s way, the way of humility.  It is the way of Jesus; there is no other.  And there can be no humility without humiliation.

Following this path to the full, the Son of God took on the “form of a slave” (cf. Phil 2:7).  In the end, humility means service.  It means making room for God by stripping oneself, “emptying oneself”, as Scripture says (v. 7).  This is the greatest humiliation of all.

There is another way, however, opposed to the way of Christ.  It is worldliness, the way of the world.  The world proposes the way of vanity, pride, success…  the other way.  The Evil One proposed this way to Jesus too, during his forty days in the desert.  But Jesus immediately rejected it.  With him, we too can overcome this temptation, not only at significant moments, but in daily life as well.

In this, we are helped and comforted by the example of so many men and women who, in silence and hiddenness, sacrifice themselves daily to serve others: a sick relative, an elderly person living alone, a disabled person…

We think too of the humiliation endured by all those who, for their lives of fidelity to the Gospel, encounter discrimination and pay a personal price.  We think too of our brothers and sisters who are persecuted because they are Christians, the martyrs of our own time.  They refuse to deny Jesus and they endure insult and injury with dignity.  They follow him on his way.  We can speak of a “cloud of witnesses” (cf. Heb  12:1). 

Let us set about with determination along this same path, with immense love for him, our Lord and Saviour.  Love will guide us and give us strength.  For where he is, we too shall be (cf. Jn  12:26).  Amen.
(from Vatican Radio)

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a Telegram signed by the Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin concerning the recent and severe flooding in Chile and Peru.

Abnormally heavy rains on Wednesday and Thursday in the Atacama Desert in Chile's north, have swollen rivers and caused flash floods.  Nine people are confirmed dead and at least nineteen people are missing.  

The following is a translation of the text of the Pope's telegram:

Due to the severe flooding affecting areas of Peru and Chile, and which have caused casualties and heavy damage to property, the Holy Father is offering prayers for the eternal rest of the deceased and calls for the Lord to grant consolation and strength to those affected by this disaster. 

The Holy Father furthermore exhorts all institutions and all people of good will, motivated by sentiments of fraternal solidarity and Christian charity, to provide assistance in order to overcome these difficult times.

(from Vatican Radio)

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent his condolences upon learning of the death of the Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, Mar Dinkha IV.

“The Christian world has lost an important spiritual leader, a courageous and wise pastor who faithfully served his community in extremely challenging times,” Pope Francis writes. “His Holiness Mar Dinkha suffered greatly because of the tragic situation in the Middle East, especially in Iraq and in Syria, resolutely calling attention to the plight of our Christian brothers and sisters and other religious minorities suffering daily persecution.”

Pope Francis also gave thanks for the commitment of Mar Dinkha to improving relations among Christians, and in particular between the Catholic Church and Assyrian Church of the East.

The full text of the telegram is below

 

To His Beatitude Mar Aprem

                Locum Tenens of the Assyrian Church of the East

Having learned with sadness of the death of His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV, Catholicos Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, I wish to express my heartfelt condolences to Your Beatitude, to the Bishops, clergy and all the faithful and to assure you of the spiritual closeness of all Catholics at this time.  The Christian world has lost an important spiritual leader, a courageous and wise pastor who faithfully served his community in extremely challenging times.  His Holiness Mar Dinkha suffered greatly because of the tragic situation in the Middle East, especially in Iraq and in Syria, resolutely calling attention to the plight of our Christian brothers and sisters and other religious minorities suffering daily persecution.  I recall how we spoke of this at length during the recent visit of His Holiness to Rome.  I give heartfelt thanks to Almighty God for the enduring commitment of His Holiness to improving relations among Christians and in particular between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East.  May the Lord receive him into his kingdom and grant him eternal rest, and may the memory of his long and devoted service to the Church live on as a challenge and inspiration to us all.

                               FRANCISCUS PP.

(from Vatican Radio)

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis said the life of St Teresa of Avila, characterized by “total self-giving to God,” is a “great treasure” that can help to renew consecrated life today.

The pope spoke of the witness of St Teresa in a letter, issued Saturday, to the Superior General of the Order of Discalced Carmelites, Fr Xavier Cannistrà, to mark the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the saint’s birth.

Listen to the report by Laura Ieraci:

St Teresa of Avila, a Spanish nun and mystic and a reformer of the Carmelite Order, was born 28 March 1515.

Also known as St Teresa of Jesus, her writings are among the classics of Christian spirituality and mysticism. Her most known spiritual work is The Interior Castle. Pope Paul VI named her a Doctor of the Church in 1970.

In his letter to the Carmelite Superior General, the Pope said St Teresa left “a great treasure to renew consecrated life today, full of concrete proposals, ways and methods to pray” that always lead one back to Jesus and “constitute a genuine school to grow in love for God and neighbour.”

The Pope described St Teresa as “primarily a teacher of prayer.”

“Teresa’s prayer was not reserved only to one space or to one time of day; it arose spontaneously in the most diverse occasions,” he said. “She was convinced of the value of continuous prayer, even if it was not always perfect.”

“The saint asks us to be steadfast, faithful, even in times of dryness, personal difficulties or urgent needs that call us,” he continued.

The Pope added that St Teresa knew the importance of authentic community life and that “neither prayer nor mission” can be sustained without it.

Consequently, she built monasteries characterized by fraternity and warned her sisters of the danger of individualism, as well as gossip, jealousy and criticism “which severely damage relationships with others,” the Pope said.

“With these noble roots, Teresian communities are called to become houses of communion,” said the pope, “capable of witnessing to fraternal love and to the motherhood of the Church, presenting to the Lord the needs of the world, torn by divisions and wars.”

Below is the Vatican Radio translation of the Pope’s letter to Carmelite Father Xavier Cannistrà:

Dear Brother,

On the 500th anniversary of the birth of St Teresa of Jesus, I wish, together with the whole Church, to give thanks to the great family of Discalced Carmelites—religious men and women and secular members—for  the charism of this remarkable woman.

I consider it a providential grace that this anniversary coincides with the Year of Consecrated Life, in which the saint of Avila shines as a sure and attractive model of total self-giving to God. It is one more reason to look to the past with gratitude and to rediscover "the inspiring spark" that gave impetus to the founders and to the first communities (cf. Letter to all consecrated people, 21 November 2014).

How much goodness does the testimony of her consecration—born directly from the encounter with Christ, her experience of prayer as continuous dialogue with God, and her community life, rooted in the motherhood of the Church—do for us!

1. St Teresa is primarily a teacher of prayer. The discovery of Christ's humanity was central to her experience. Moved by the desire to share this personal experience with others, she describes it in a vivid and simple way, accessible to everyone, because it consists simply in "a relationship of friendship ... with he who we know loves us" (Life, 8, 5 ). Many times this same narrative becomes prayer, as if she had wanted to introduce the reader into her interior dialogue with Christ. Teresa’s prayer was not reserved only to one space or to one time of day; it arose spontaneously in the most diverse occasions: "It would be extremely difficult if you could only pray in secluded places" (Foundations, 5, 16). She was convinced of the value of continuous prayer, even if it was not always perfect. The saint asks us to be steadfast, faithful, even in times of dryness, personal difficulties or urgent needs that call us.

Teresa left us a great treasure to renew consecrated life today, full of concrete proposals, ways and methods to pray, that, far from closing us in on ourselves or leading us only to inner balance, always make us start again from Jesus and constitute a genuine school to grow in love for God and neighbour.

2. Since her encounter with Jesus, St Teresa lived "another life"; she become a tireless communicator of the Gospel (cf. Life, 23, 1). Eager to serve the Church, and in the face of serious problems of her time, she did not limit herself to being a spectator of the reality around her. In her position as a woman and with her health difficulties, she decided,  she said, "to do what little depended on me ... that is to follow the evangelical counsels as perfectly as possible and to ensure that these few nuns who are here do the same" (Th...

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis says the lives of Christians must be coherent and express faith in action.

Speaking to the crowds gathered in a rainy St. Peter’s Square for the Sunday Angelus, the Pope invited all believers to always bear in mind the message of the Gospel, the image of the Crucified Lord, and the need to be witnesses of faith.

Calling on Christians to express their faith in action, the Pope also turned to those who have yet to experience an encounter with Christ offering the gift of a pocket-sized Gospel in which “we can meet Jesus, listen to Him, and get to know Him”.

And commenting on the fact that 50 thousand copies of the Gospel were being distributed in the Square by 300 homeless people, the Pope said “this is a beautiful gesture” that Jesus approves: “those who are most needy are the ones who are giving us the Word of God”.

“Take it – he said – keep it in your pocket or in your handbag and read a passage a day. God’s word lights up our path. It will do you good!”

Reflecting on the reading for the Fifth Sunday of Lent, the Pope said that John tells of a group of Greeks of Jewish faith who came to Jerusalem to celebrate a feast day and said to Philip “We would like to see Jesus”. Francis pointed out that there were many people in the Holy city including High Priests, political leaders as well as ordinary citizens and people like those “Greeks” who were curious to get to know Jesus and to learn of his life.

And repeating the words “We would like to see Jesus”, Pope Francis said that there are many amongst us who would like to see Jesus, who are in search of his life-giving message. To them – he said – “there are three things we can offer: the Gospel, the crucifix and our witness”.

In the Gospel – the Pope said – we can meet Jesus and listen to his words; through the crucifix we have the tangible sign of His love for us when he died on the cross to save us; in being witnesses to Christianity we can express our faith in simple gestures of fraternal charity.

After the recitation of the Angelus prayer, Pope Francis thanked the people of Naples for the warm welcome he received during his pastoral visit to the city on Saturday.

And noting that today we mark World Water Day, the Pope said water is the most essential element of life and that the future of humanity depends on our capacity to protect water and to adopt correct water utilization policies.

Calling on the international community to monitor water policies so that the waters of the planet be adequately protected Francis also pointed out that water is a common good and that it must be accessible to all.

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