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Monday, February 8, 2016

Thirteenth meeting of the Council of Cardinals

Vatican City, 8 February 2016 (VIS) – This morning the Holy Father's thirteenth meeting with the Council of nine cardinals commenced. It will conclude tomorrow, 9 February.

Programme of the Holy Father's apostolic trip to Mexico

Vatican City, 8 February 2016 (VIS) – The programme of the Holy Father's apostolic trip to Mexico, with a prior stop in Havana, Cuba to meet with Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia was published today. The trip, the twelfth of Pope Francis' papacy, will take place from 12 to 18 February. All times given below are local.

The Pope will depart from Fiumicino airport, Rome on Friday 12 February at 7.45 a.m., destined for "Jose Marti" international airport, Havana, Cuba where he is expected to arrive at 2 p.m. At 2.15 p.m. he will meet privately with Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, with whom he will sign a Joint Declaration, followed by discourses from both leaders. At 5.30 p.m. Francis will depart for "Benito Juarez" international airport, Mexico City, where he is scheduled to arrive at 7.30 p.m.

On Saturday 13 February at 9.30 a.m. a welcome ceremony will be held at the National Palace, followed by a courtesy visit to the president of the Republic, and a meeting with the representatives of civil society and the diplomatic corps. At 11.30 a.m. the Pope will meet with Mexican bishops in the Cathedral, followed by Holy Mass at 5 p.m. in the Basilica of Guadalupe.

In the morning of Sunday 14 February the Holy Father will transfer by helicopter to Ecatepec, where he will preside at a Holy Mass at 11.30. At 2 p.m. he will lunch at the diocesan seminary, after which he will return by airport to Mexico City, where he will visit the "Federico Gomez" paediatric hospital.

On Monday 15 February Francis will travel by air to Tuxtla Gutierrez, followed by a helicopter transfer to San Cristobal de Las Casas. At 10.15 a.m. he will celebrate Holy Mass with the indigenous communities of the Chiapas in the municipal sports centre, followed by lunch with indigenous representatives and the papal entourage. At 3 p.m. he will visit the Cathedral of San Cristobal de Las Casas. At 4.15 p.m., following his return to Tuxtla Gutierrez, he will meet with families at the "Victor Manuel Reyna" stadium, after which he will depart for Mexico City where he is expected to arrive at 8 p.m.

At 7.50 a.m. on Tuesday 16 February he will depart by air for Morelia, where he will celebrate Holy Mass with clergy, men and women religious, consecrated persons and seminarians at the "Venustiano Carranza" stadium. His visit to the Cathedral at 3.20 p.m. will be followed by an encounter with young people at the "Jose Maria Morelos y Pavon" stadium at 4.30 p.m. He will later depart for Mexico City, arriving at 7.35 p.m.

In the morning of Wednesday 17 February, at 8.35., the Holy Father will depart by air for Ciudad Juarez, where he is expected to arrive at 10 a.m. He will visit the CeReSo No.3 penitentiary at 10.30., followed by a meeting with representatives of the world of work at the Colegio de Bachilleres of the State of Chihuahua at midday. At 4 p.m. he will celebrate Holy Mass in the Ciudad Juarez trade centre. He will then transfer to the "Abraham Gonzalez" international airport where the farewell ceremony will take place at 7 p.m. At 7.15 p.m. he will depart for Rome's Ciampino airport, where he is expected to arrive at 2.45 p.m. on the following day, Thursday 18 February.

Angelus: the logic of mission is to restore dignity and freedom through forgiveness of sins

Vatican City, 7 February 2016 (VIS) – The logic that guides the mission of Jesus and the mission of the Church is that of 'fishing', of going out in search of men and women, not our of proselytism but rather to restore full dignity and freedom through the forgiveness of sins, explained the Pope during today's Angelus, commenting on the day's reading from the Gospel of St. Luke which narrates the call of Jesus' first disciples. On the shore of the Sea of Galilee, Simon Peter and his companions were washing their nets after a night's fishing without catching anything. Jesus gets into one of the boats and begins to preach the word of God to the multitude gathered on the banks. He then tells them to take the boat out to see and to cast their nets, and although Simon Peter reminds Him that they had toiled all night in vain, he obeys, faithful to Christ.

"And his faith did not let him down; indeed, the nets were filled with such a quantity of fish that they almost tore", added Francis. "Before this extraordinary event, the fisherman were overcome with wonder. Simon Peter fell at Jesus' feet and said, 'Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man'. This miraculous sign convinced him that Jesus was not only a great teacher, Whose word is true and powerful, but that He is the Lord, the manifestation of God. And this presence, so close to him, inspires in Peter a strong sense of his own pettiness and unworthiness. From a human point of view, one would think there should be distance between the sinner and the saint. In truth, it is precisely his sinful condition that requires the Lord to not distance himself from him, the same way a doctor cannot turn away from the sick".

Jesus’ response to Simon Peter is "reassuring and decisive: 'Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men'. Again, the fisherman from Galilee, placing his trust in this word, leaves everything and follows Him, He Who has become his Master and Lord. James and John, companions of Simon Peter, do likewise. This is the logic that drives the mission of Jesus and the mission of the Church: to seek out, to 'fish' for men and women, to return full dignity and freedom to all, through the forgiveness of sins. This is the essence of Christianity: to spread the regenerating and gratuitous love of God, with an attitude of acceptance and mercy to everyone, so that everyone can encounter God's tenderness and achieve a full life. Here, in a particular way, I think of confessors: they are the first to give the mercy of the Father, following the example of Jesus, just as the two saints, Fr. Leopold and Padre Pio, did.

"Today’s Gospel asks us: do we really trust the Word of the Lord? Or do we let ourselves be discouraged by our failures? In this Holy Year of Mercy, we are called to comfort those who feel they are sinners and unworthy and downhearted for their mistakes, repeatin Jesus' words to them: 'Fear not'. The mercy of the Father is greater than your sins. It is greater, do not be afraid".

The Pope renews his appeal for peace and reconciliation in Syria

Vatican City, 7 February 2016 (VIS) – Following today's Angelus prayer, Pope Francis reiterated his concern regarding the tragic fate of civilian populations affected by the heavy fighting in Syria and compelled to abandon their homelands to escape the horrors of war. "I hope that, with generous solidarity, the necessary help may be given to ensure their survival and dignity, and I appeal to the international community to spare no effort in urgently bringing the parties involved to the negotiating table. Only a political solution to the conflict may guarantee a future of reconciliation and peace for this beloved and afflicted country, for which I urge you to pray".

After praying a Hail Mary for Syria with the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square, the Holy Father mentioned that today in Italy is the Day for Life, on the theme “Mercy makes life bloom.” "I join the Italian bishops in wishing, on the part of various educational and social institutions, for renewed commitment in favour of human life from conception to natural end. Our society must be helped to heal from all attacks on life, and to dare to change within, which is also shown through the works of mercy".

"Tomorrow, we celebrate the Day of Prayer and Reflection against Human Trafficking, which offers everyone the opportunity to help today's new slaves break the heavy chains of exploitation and to regain their freedom and dignity. I think in particular of the many women and children, the many men. We must make every effort to combat this crime, and this intolerable shame".

Tomorrow, Monday, in the Far East and in various parts of the world, millions of men and women celebrate the Lunar New Year. The Pope conveyed his wish that all may experience "serenity and peace within their families, the first place where we encounter the values of love and brotherhood, coexistence and sharing, attention and care for others. May the New Year bring the fruits of compassion, mercy and solidarity".

Finally, the Pope greeted the priestly community of the Mexican College of Rome, thanking them for their commitment to accompany with prayer his upcoming apostolic trip to Mexico and "the meeting that will take place in Havana with my dear brother Kirill", he concluded.

Video message: "I wish to go to Mexico as a missionary of mercy and peace"

Vatican City, 8 February 2016 (VIS) – "Now that my trip to Mexico is about to begin, I am happy and I feel great joy. I always have a special remembrance for Mexicans in my prayers. I hold them in my hearts and now I will be able to visit them and set foot on that blessed land, so beloved to God and so close to the Virgin Mary", says Pope Francis in the video message broadcast yesterday in Mexico on the eve of his upcoming visit to the country from 12 to 18 February.

"You perhaps ask, what does the Pope wish for from this trip? The answer is immediate and simple", he continues. "I wish to go as a missionary of mercy and peace, to meet with you so we can confess together our faith in God and share a fundamental truth in our days: that God cares for us, that He loves us with an infinite love, far beyond what we deserve. I wish to be as close to you as possible, but in a special way to all those who suffer, to embrace them and to tell them that Jesus loves them very much and that He is always by their side".

"I am glad that you are preparing for the trip with prayer. Prayer enlarges our hearts and prepares us to receive God's gifts. Prayer illuminates our eyes so we are able to see our neighbours as God sees them, to love like God loves. Thank you so much for praying for me, as I am in need of your prayers".

"May I confide to you another of my greatest wishes?", he continues. "To visit the house of Our Lady. Like a child, I wish to come to my mother and to place at her feet all that I carry in my heart. It is good to be able to visit the maternal home and to be able to feel the tenderness of her gracious presence. To her I entrust my trip and all of you, my dear Mexican brothers. May Jesus bless you and may the Holy Virgin care for you".

Pope's telegram for the earthquake in Taiwan

Vatican City, 8 February 2016 (VIS) – Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin has sent a message to Taiwan to express his profound sadness upon learning of the earthquake last Saturday in Tainan City, which has so far claimed 34 victims and has injured over five hundred. More than a hundred people are still missing.

The Pope sends prayerful condolences to the families of the deceased and to the injured, as well as the civil authorities, and offers encouragement to rescue workers. He commends the souls of the departed to God's tender mercy and invokes abundant blessings of consolation and strength to all those affected by the tragedy.

Jubilee audience: In the words of Padre Pio, prayer is our best weapon

Vatican City, 6 February 2016 (VIS) – "He was a servant of mercy. He dedicated himself full time to the "apostolate of listening", often to the point of exhaustion. He became, through the ministry of Confession, a living caress of the Father, healing the wounds of sin and enlivening the heart with peace. St. Pio never tired of welcoming people and listening to them, of spending time and energy to spread the perfume of the Lord's forgiveness. He was able to do so because he was always attached to the source: he continually slaked his thirst from the Crucified Jesus and thus became a channel of His mercy", said the Holy Father of St. Pio of Pietrelcina this morning at the Jubilee audience, addressing the Padre Pio Prayer Groups, workers of the Home for the Relief of Suffering private hospital in San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy, founded by St. Pio, and the faithful of the diocese of Manfredonia-Vieste-San Giovanni Rotondo. Yesterday afternoon a procession brought the relics of St. Pio and St. Leopold Mandic to St. Peter's Basilica, where they will remain until Thursday 11 February.

Francis described prayer as the "true mission", and recalled that the Saint defined the prayer groups as "hothouses of faith and seedbeds of love". "Padre Pio said that prayer is the force that moves the world, that extends God's smile and blessing to every languor and weakness", and explained that prayer is not simply "a good practice for bringing peace to the heart, nor is it a pious way of obtaining what one needs from God". "If it were, it would simply be motivated by a futile selfishness. Prayer, however, is a work of spiritual mercy, that wishes to present everything to the heart of God. It is a gift of faith and love, an intercession that is as necessary as bread. In a word, it means to entrust: to entrust the Church, people and situations to the Father, so that He may take care of them. For this reason prayer, as Padre Pio liked to say, is the best weapon we have; it is a key to God's heart".

The Pope thanked the prayer groups for their commitment and encouraged them to be "centres of mercy". He commented that Padre Pio had wanted the Home for the Relief of Suffering to be not only an excellent hospital, but also a "temple of science and prayer", and recalled the words of Pope emeritus Benedict XVI: "Human beings always need something more than technically proper care. They need humanity. They need heartfelt concern". Curing sickness means, first and foremost, "taking care of the patient. At times, while the wounds of the body are tended to, the wounds of the soul worsen, and these heal more slowly and with greater difficulty", he added. "Even the dying, those who are apparently unconscious, participate in prayer carried out with faith near to them, and they trust in God, in His mercy". Francis concluded with greetings to the archdiocese of Manfredonia-Vieste-San Giovanni Rotondo: "May whoever comes to your beautiful land find in you too a reflection of the light of Heaven".

Meeting of the Assembly of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors

Vatican City, 6 February 2016 (VIS) – This morning the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors held a meeting in Rome in which it analysed the direction and purpose of the Commission. As the result of this discussion, it was decided that Mr. Peter Saunders would take a leave of absence from his membership to consider how he might best support the Commission's work.

Communique of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors

Vatican City, 8 February 2016 (VIS) – The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors has had seven full days of meetings in Rome. Meetings of the six Working Groups focused on updates for current projects, and developing and drafting proposals. External collaborators who assisted the Working Groups included the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development (CAFOD), and an expert in Penal Canon Law. Draft proposals were presented to the Plenary Assembly for further discussion and decision about policies to propose to the Holy Father. Policies endeavour to recognise the diversity of information and guidance currently available to the Church around the world.

Examples of proposals being finalised for Pope Francis’ consideration include: a request for him to remind all authorities in the Church of the importance of responding directly to victims and survivors who approach them; the finalisation of a Universal Day of Prayer and a penitential liturgy.

Workshops on the legal aspects of the Protection of Minors to establish more transparency around canonical trials, with participation of external collaborators, are planned for later in the year and a report and recommendations will be provided at the next Plenary Assembly. A website is also being developed to share Best Practice for the Protection of Minors around the world.

In order to fulfil the mission of the Holy Father’s Chirograph for the Institution of the Commission to promote local responsibility, Commission members are actively in contact with numerous Bishops Conferences, and members of the Commission have presented to Religious Conferences and Congregations on safeguarding minors.

Over the past year or so, Commission members have met with Bishops and child protection authorities in: Philippines, Austria, Pacific Islands, New Zealand, Scotland, Poland, Central America (in Costa Rica), United States National Safe Environment (SECs) and Victims Assistance Coordinators (VACs). As an outcome of the workshop conducted by members of the Commission last August in the Philippines, the Philippine Bishops’ Conference created a child safeguarding office and Pastoral Exhortation on the pastoral care and protection of minors.

A meeting is planned in March in Ghana with Secretaries General of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), and a second meeting with child protection practitioners drawn from the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA) in Tanzania. Commission members are also attending the Anglophone Safeguarding Conference in Rome and the United States National Safe Environment and Victims Assistance Coordinators 2016. In 2017 the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) has requested a workshop with Commission members. The Commission likewise welcomes the recent announcement that in a week’s time the first course offering a diploma in the Safeguarding of Minors at the Pontifical Gregorian University will start with 19 participants from four continents: Africa, Europe, America and Asia.

The September 2016 meeting of the Commission will have a strategic focus on safeguarding minors in Catholic schools, and will invite contributions from experts in Latin America, England and Wales.

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors was created by Pope Francis in March of 2014. The Chirograph of His Holiness Pope Francis states specifically, “The Commission’s specific task is to propose to me the most opportune initiatives for protecting minors and vulnerable adults, in order that we may do everything possible to ensure that crimes such as those which have occurred are no longer repeated in the Church. The Commission is to promote local responsibility in the particular Churches, uniting their efforts to those of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, for the protection of all children and vulnerable adults.”


Vatican City, 6 February 2016 (VIS) – The Holy Father received in audience Cardinal Marc Ouellet, P.S.S., prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 8 February 2016 (VIS) – The Holy Father appointed- Fr. Shorot Francis Gomes as auxiliary of the archdiocese of Dhaka (area 12,000, population 23,539,280, Catholics 64,960, priests 115, religious 695), Bangladesh. The bishop-elect was born in Hashnabad, Bangladesh in 1965 and was appointed a priest in 1990. He holds a bachelor's degree in art from the Notre Dame College of Dhaka and a doctorate in moral theology from the Alphonsianum Academy, Rome, and has served in a number of pastoral roles in the archdiocese of Dhaka, including parish vicar, rector of the minor seminary and vice rector of the major seminary, and vicar general of the new diocese of Sylhet. He is currently vicar general of the archdiocese of Dhaka.

On Saturday 6 February, the Holy Father appointed:

- Fr. Manuel Eugenio Salazar Mora as bishop of Tilaran – Liberia (area 11,720, population 453,000, Catholics 384,000, priests 62, permanent deacons 10, religious 87), Costa Rica. The bishop-elect was born in Guadalupe, Costa Rica in 1958 and was ordained a priest in 1982. He holds a licentiate in fundamental theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, and has served in a number of pastoral and administrative roles in the archdiocese of San Jose de Costa Rica, including parish vicar, parish administrator, director of the department for religious education of the Episcopal Conference, director of the introductory seminary, rector of the national major Seminary, archdiocesan episcopal vicar for prophetic pastoral ministry, rector of the "Sagrado Corazon de Jesus" national seminary, and parish priest. He is currently pastor of the "San Jeronimo" parish, Moravia. He succeeds Bishop Vittorino Girardi Stellin, M.C.C.J., whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese upon reaching the age limit was accepted by the Holy Father.

- Fr. Duncan Theodore Tsoke as auxiliary of the archdiocese of Johannesburg (area 1.099, population 252,786, Catholics 250,000, priests 142, permanent deacons 16, religious 196), South Africa. The bishop-elect was born in Daveyton, South Africa in 1964 and was ordained a priest in 1995. He has served as parish vicar, formator and teacher of spirituality at the St. Peter seminary of Garsfontein, Pretoria, episcopal vicar for evangelisation, assistant vicar for vocational pastoral ministry, parish priest and parish administrator. He is currently vicar general of the archdiocese of Johannesburg and pastor of the Holy Family parish in Turffontein.

- Msgr. Giorgio Corbellini, president of the Labour Office of the Apostolic See, and Msgr. Guido Pozzi, secretary of the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei", as members of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
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