Sunday, September 21, 2014

Pope Francis meets Inter-religious Leaders and Vespers Full Text/Video


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met with leaders of the different religious communities in Albania on Sunday afternoon, insisting once again that no-one can use the name of God to commit violence. Speaking at the Catholic University of Tirana, the Pope said “Authentic religion is a source of peace and not of violence….To kill in the name of God is a grave sacrilege. To discriminate in the name of God is inhuman.”
Noting that religious freedom cannot be guaranteed by legislation alone, the Pope urged his listeners to promote attitudes of respect and cooperation in the service of the common good.  When a person is secure of his or her own beliefs, he said, there is no need to impose or put pressure on others.
Please find below the full text of the Pope’s meeting with leaders of other religions and Christian denominations in Albania
Dear Friends,
It is a great pleasure to be here at this meeting which brings together leaders of the main religious confessions present in Albania. With deep respect I greet each one of you and the communities that you represent; and I wish to express my heartfelt gratitude to Archbishop Massafra for his words of introduction. It is important that you are here together: it is a sign of the dialogue which you experience daily, seeking to build among yourselves bonds of fraternity and cooperation for the good of the whole of society.
Albania sadly witnessed the violence and tragedy that can be caused by a forced exclusion of God from personal and communal life. When, in the name of an ideology, there is an attempt to remove God from society, it ends up adoring idols, and very soon men and women lose their way, their dignity is trampled and their rights violated. You know well how much pain comes from the denial of freedom of conscience and of religious freedom, and how from such a wound comes a humanity that is impoverished because it lacks hope and ideals to guide it.
The changes that have come since the 1990’s have had the positive effect, among other things, of creating the conditions for an exercise of authentic religious freedom. This has made it possible for each community to renew traditions which were never really extinguished, despite ferocious persecution. With this religious freedom has come also the possibility for every person to offer, according to their own religious convictions, a positive contribution; firstly, to the moral reconstruction of the country and then, subsequently, to the economic reconstruction.
In reality, as John Paul II stated during his historic visit to Albania in 1993, “Religious freedom […] is not only a precious gift from the Lord for those who have faith: it is a gift for each person, because it is the basic guarantee of every other expression of freedom […]. Only faith reminds us that, if we have one Creator, we are therefore all brothers and sisters. Religious freedom is a safeguard against all forms of totalitarianism and contributes decisively to human fraternity” (Message to the Albanian People, 25 April 1993).
He immediately then added, “True religious freedom shuns the temptation to intolerance and sectarianism, and promotes attitudes of respect and constructive dialogue” (ibid.). We cannot deny that intolerance towards those with different religious convictions is a particularly insidious enemy, one which today is being witnessed in various areas around the world. All believers must be particularly vigilant so that, in living out with conviction our religious and ethical code, we may always express the mystery we intend to honour. This means that all those forms which present a distorted use of religion, must be firmly refuted as false since they are unworthy of God or humanity. Authentic religion is a source of peace and not of violence! No one must use the name of God to commit violence! To kill in the name of God is a grave sacrilege. To discriminate in the name of God is inhuman.
Seen in this light, religious freedom is not a right which can be guaranteed solely by existing legislation, although laws are necessary. Rather religious freedom is a shared space, an atmosphere of respect and cooperation that must be built with everyone’s participation, even those who have no religious convictions. Allow me to outline two attitudes which can be especially helpful in the advancement of this fundamental freedom.
The first attitude is that of regarding every man and woman, even those of different religious traditions, not as rivals, less still enemies, but rather as brothers and sisters. When a person is secure of his or her own beliefs, there is no need to impose or put pressure on others: there is a conviction that truth has its own power of attraction. Deep down, we are all pilgrims on this earth, and on this pilgrim journey, as we yearn for truth and eternity, we do not live autonomous and self-sufficient individual lives; the same applies to religious, cultural and national communities. We need each other, and are entrusted to each other’s care. Each religious tradition, from within, must be able to take account of others.
The second attitude which fosters the promotion of religious freedom is the work done in service of the common good. Whenever adherence to a specific religious tradition gives birth to service that shows conviction, generosity and concern for the whole of society without making distinctions, then there too exists an authentic and mature living out of religious freedom. This presents itself not only as a space in which to legitimately defend one’s autonomy, but also as a potential that enriches the human family as it advances. The more men and women are at the service of others, the greater their freedom!
Let us look around us: there are so many poor and needy people, so many societies that try to find a more inclusive way of social justice and path of economic development! How great is the need for the human heart to be firmly fixed on the deepest meaning of experiences in life and rooted in a rediscovery of hope! Men and women, inspired in these areas by the values of their respective religious traditions, can offer an important, and even unique, contribution. This is truly a fertile land offering much fruit, also in the field of interreligious dialogue.
Dear friends, I encourage you to maintain and develop the tradition of good relations among the various religious communities in Albania, and to be united in serving your beloved homeland. Continue to be a sign for your country, and beyond, that good relations and fruitful cooperation are truly possible among men and women of different religions. And pray also for me. May God bless you all.

VESPERS WITH POPE FRANCIS IN TIRANA CATHEDRAL
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis told Albania’s priests, religious and lay movements that despite their many difficulties, they must have the courage to go out and serve those most in need. Speaking at Vespers in Tirana’s Catholic cathedral, the Pope recalled those pastors who paid a huge price under the atheist regime, experiencing prison and persecution in order to remain faithful to Christ.


When love for Christ is placed above all else, Pope Francis said, then we are able to move outside of ourselves, of our personal or communal pettiness, and move towards Jesus who, in our brothers and sisters, comes to us. His wounds are still visible today, the Pope said, on the bodies of so many men and women who are hungry and thirsty; who are humiliated; who are in hospital or prison. What people are looking for today, the Pope concluded, is not experts, but rather humble witnesses of the mercy and tenderness of God.
Please find below the full text of Pope Francis’ homily to Priests, Religious, Seminarians and Members of Lay Movements in the Cathedral of Tirana.
Dear brothers and sisters,
It is a great joy for me to meet with you in your beloved homeland; I thank God for the opportunity and I thank you for your hospitality! Here in your midst, I can better express my closeness to your task of evangelization.
Since the moment your country has been free from dictatorship, the ecclesial communities in Albania have begun again to journey onward and to organize themselves for pastoral work, looking to the future with hope. I am particularly grateful to those Pastors who paid a great price for their fidelity to Christ and for their decision to remain united to the Successor of Peter. They were courageous in the face of difficulty and trial! There are still priests and religious among us who have experienced prison and persecution, like the sister and brother who have told us their story. I embrace you warmly, and I praise God for your faithful witness that inspires the whole Church to continue to proclaim the Gospel with joy.
Treasuring this experience, the Church in Albania can grow in its missionary and apostolic zeal. I know and appreciate the effort you make to oppose those new forms of “dictatorship” that threaten to enslave individuals and communities. If the atheist regime sought to suffocate the faith, these new forms of dictatorship, in a more insidious way, are able to suffocate charity. I am referring to individualism, rivalry and heated conflicts: these are worldly mentalities that can contaminate even the Christian community. We need not be discouraged by these difficulties; do not be afraid to continue along the path of the Lord. He is always at your side, he gives you his grace and he helps you to sustain one another; to accept one another as you are, with understanding and mercy; he helps you to deepen fraternal communion.
Evangelization is more effective when it is carried out with oneness of spirit and with sincere teamwork among the various ecclesial communities as well as among missionaries and local clergy: this requires courage to seek out ways of working together and offering mutual help in the areas of catechesis and catholic education, as well as integral human development and charity. In these settings, the contribution of the ecclesial movements that know how to work in communion with Pastors is highly valuable. That is precisely what I see before me: bishops, priests, religious and laity: a Church that desires to walk in fraternity and unity.
When love for Christ is placed above all else, even above our legitimate particular needs, then we are able to move outside of ourselves, of our personal or communal pettiness, and move towards Jesus who, in our brothers and sisters, comes to us. His wounds are still visible today on the bodies of so many men and women who are hungry and thirst; who are humiliated; who are in hospital or prison. By touching and caring for these wounds with tenderness, it is possible to fully live the Gospel and to adore God who lives in our midst.
There are many problems that you encounter every day. These problems compel you to immerse yourselves with fervour and generosity in apostolic work. And yet, we know that by ourselves we can do nothing: “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain” (Ps 127:1). This awareness calls us to give due space for the Lord every day, to dedicate our time to him, open our hearts to him, so that he may work in our lives and in our mission. That which the Lord promises for the prayer made with trust and perseverance goes beyond what we can imagine (cf Lk 11:11-12): beyond that which we ask for, God sends us also the Holy Spirit. The contemplative dimension of our lives becomes indispensable even in the midst of the most urgent and difficult tasks we encounter. The more our mission calls us to go out into the peripheries of life, the more our hearts feel the intimate need to be united to the heart of Christ, which is full of mercy and love.
Considering the fact that the number of priests and religious is not yet sufficient, the Lord Jesus repeats to you today “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest,” (Mt 9: 37-38). We must not forget that this prayer begins with a gaze: the gaze of Jesus, who sees the great harvest. Do we also have this gaze? Do we know how to recognize the abundant fruits that the grace of God has caused to grow and the work that there is to be done in the field of the Lord? It is by gazing with faith on the field of God that prayer spring forth, namely, the daily and pressing invocation to the Lord for priestly and religious vocations. Dear seminarians, postulants and novices, you are the fruit of this prayer of the people of God, which always precedes and accompanies your personal response. The Church in Albania needs your enthusiasm and your generosity. The time that you dedicate today to a solid spiritual, theological, communitarian and pastoral formation, is directed to serving adequately the people of God tomorrow. The people, more than seeking experts, are looking for witnesses: humble witnesses of the mercy and tenderness of God; priests and religious conformed to Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who are capable of communicating the love of Christ to all people.
Together with you and the entire Albanian people, I want to give thanks to God for the many missionaries whose activity was decisive for the renewal of the Church in Albania and which continues to be of great importance to this day. These missionaries have offered significant contribution to the consolidation of the spiritual patrimony that the Albanian bishops, priests, consecrated religious and lay persons have preserved in the midst of difficult trials and tribulations. Let us acknowledge the great work done by the religious institutes for the revival of Catholic education: these efforts are worth recognizing and sustaining.
Dear brothers and sisters, do not be discouraged in the face of difficulties. Following the footsteps of your fathers, be tenacious in giving testimony to Christ, walking “together with God, toward the hope that never disappoints”. In your journey, rest assured that you are accompanied and supported by the love of the whole Church. I thank you from the heart for this meeting, and I entrust each one of you and your communities - your plans and your hopes - to the holy Mother of God. I bless you from my heart and I ask you please to pray for me.

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