Friday, September 25, 2015

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23-09-2015 - Year XXII - Num. 162 

Summary
- The Pope at the Shrine of El Cobre: ours is a revolution of tenderness, joy and compassion
- Francis leaves Cuba, reiterating that the family is not a 'problem' but rather an opportunity
- The Pope speaks about his trip in Cuba
- Francis arrives in the United States of America
- Other Pontifical Acts
- The Pope on the feast of St. Matthew: Jesus sees beyond indignity
- Francis prays before Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, patroness of Cuba
- Other News
- The United Nations to raise the Holy See flag on 25 September
- The Pope speaks with journalists on the papal flight
- The Pope arrives in Cuba, a meeting point for all peoples who come together in friendship
- Mass in Plaza de la Revolucion: the importance of a people is based on how it serves its most vulnerable members
- Angelus: Francis asks for definitive reconciliation in Colombia
- Meeting with President Raul Castro and with Commander Fidel in the Palace of the Revolution
- Vespers in the Cathedral of Havana
- Francis meets with the young, Cuba's hope for the future
- Other News
- Message to the Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East
- Message to Hungarian religious: seek the concerns and expectations of the people
- The Pope speaks with young people from Cuba and the United States before his apostolic trip
- Other Pontifical Acts
The Pope at the Shrine of El Cobre: ours is a revolution of tenderness, joy and compassion
Vatican City, 23 September 2015 (VIS) – “God’s presence in our lives never leaves us tranquil: it always pushes to do something. When God comes, He always calls us out of our house. We are visited so that we can visit others; we are encountered so as to encounter others; we receive love in order to give love”, said Pope Francis yesterday in his final homily in Cuba, in the Minor Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre.
The Pope commented on the Gospel passage that narrates the episode of Mary's visit to her cousin Elizabeth. “Mary went in haste, slowly but surely, with a steady pace, neither too fast nor so slow as never to get there. … Henceforth this was always to be her way. These lands have also been visited by her maternal presence. The Cuban homeland was born and grew, warmed by devotion to Our Lady of Charity”.
“This was what your fellow citizens also stated a hundred years ago, when they asked Pope Benedict XV to declare Our Lady of Charity the Patroness of Cuba”, Francis recalled. “They wrote that 'neither disgrace nor poverty were ever able to crush the faith and the love which our Catholic people profess for the Virgin of Charity, for whom, in all their trials, when death was imminent or desperation was at the door, there arose, like a light scattering the darkness of every peril, like a comforting dew, the vision of that Blessed Virgin”.
This Shrine has since kept alive the memory of God’s holy and faithful pilgrim people in Cuba. “From here she protects our roots, our identity, so that we may never stray to paths of despair. The soul of the Cuban people, as we have just heard, was forged amid suffering and privation which could not suppress the faith, that faith which was kept alive thanks to all those grandmothers who fostered, in the daily life of their homes, the living presence of God, the presence of the Father Who liberates, strengthens, heals, grants courage and serves as a sure refuge and the sign of a new resurrection. Grandmothers, mothers, and so many others who with tenderness and love were signs of visitation, valour and faith for their grandchildren, in their families”.
“Whenever we look to Mary, we come to believe once again in the revolutionary nature of love and tenderness”, he emphasised. “We are asked to live the revolution of tenderness as Mary, our Mother of Charity, did. We are invited to 'leave home' and to open our eyes and hearts to others. Our revolution comes about through tenderness, through the joy which always becomes closeness and compassion, and leads us to get involved in, and to serve, the life of others. … Our faith, 'calls us out of our house', to visit the sick, the prisoner and to those who mourn. It makes us able to laugh with those who laugh, and rejoice with our neighbours who rejoice”.
“Like Mary, we want to be a Church who serves, who leaves home and goes forth, who goes forth from her chapels, her sacristies, in order to accompany life, to sustain hope, to be a sign of unity. Like Mary, Mother of Charity, we want to be a Church who goes forth to build bridges, to break down walls, to sow seeds of reconciliation. Like Mary, we want to be a Church who can accompany all those 'pregnant' situations of our people, committed to life, to culture, to society, not washing our hands but rather walking with our brothers and sisters. All together, serving, helping. All sons and daughters of God, sons and daughters of Mary, sons and daughters of this noble Cuban soil”.
Francis leaves Cuba, reiterating that the family is not a 'problem' but rather an opportunity
Vatican City, 23 September 2015 (VIS) – The Pope concluded his visit to Cuba by meeting with families in the Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion cathedral in Santiago, where he gave thanks to all Cubans for the warm welcome he has received in these days, a “warmth spread by people who know how to welcome and to accept someone, to make him feel at home”.
The reading that preceded the Holy Father's discourse was the Gospel account of the wedding at Cana. “Jesus begins His public life at a wedding. He enters into that history of sowing and reaping, of dreams and quests, of efforts and commitments, of hard work which tills the land so that it can yield fruit. Jesus began His life within a family, within a home. And He continues to enter into, and become a part of, our homes. It is interesting to see how Jesus also appears at meals, at dinners. Eating with different people, visiting different homes, was a special way for Him to make known God’s plan. He goes to the home of His friends, Martha and Mary, but He is not choosy; it makes no difference to Him if they are publicans or sinners, like Zacchaeus. He did not just act this way himself; when He sent His disciples out to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God He told them: Stay in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide. Weddings, visits to people’s homes, dinners: those moments in people’s lives become 'special' because Jesus chose to be part of them”.
Francis recalled that in his former diocese many families told him that “the only time they came together was at dinner, in the evening after work, when the children had finished their homework. These were special times in the life of the family. They talked about what happened that day and what each of them had done. ... Jesus chooses all those times to show us the love of God. He chooses those moments to enter into our hearts and to help us to discover the Spirit of life at work in our daily affairs. It is in the home that we learn fraternity, solidarity, and not to be overbearing. It is in the home that we learn to receive, to appreciate life as a blessing and to realise that we need one another to move forward. … That is why the Christian community calls families 'domestic churches'”.
“Without family, without the warmth of home, life grows empty, there is a weakening of the networks which sustain us in adversity, nurture us in daily living and motivate us to build a better future. The family saves us from two present-day phenomena: fragmentation ... and uniformity. In both cases, people turn into isolated individuals, easy to manipulate and to rule. Societies which are divided, broken, separated or rigidly uniform are a result of the breakup of family bonds, the loss of those relationships which make us who we are, which teach us to be persons”.
“The family is a school of humanity which teaches us to open our hearts to others’ needs, to be attentive to their lives”, Francis continued. “Amid all the difficulties troubling our families today, please, never forget one thing: families are not a problem, they are first and foremost an opportunity. An opportunity which we have to care for, protect and support. We talk a lot about the future, about the kind of world we want to leave to our children, the kind of society we want for them. I believe that one possible answer lies in looking at yourselves: let us leave behind a world with families. No doubt about it: the perfect family does not exist; there are no perfect husbands and wives, perfect parents, perfect children, but this does not prevent families from being the answer for the future. God inspires us to love, and love always engages with the persons it loves. So let us care for our families, true schools for the future. Let us care for our families, true spaces of freedom. Let us care for families, true centres of humanity”.
The Holy Father invited all expectant mothers, “pregnant with hope as a new baby is a hope”, to caress their growing child in the womb as he gave them his blessing.
“I do not want to end without mentioning the Eucharist”, he continued. “All of you know very well that Jesus chose a meal to the setting for His memorial. He chose a specific moment of family life as the 'place' of his presence among us. A moment which we have all experienced, a moment we all understand: a meal. The Eucharist is the meal of Jesus’ family, which the world over gathers to hear His word and to be fed by His body. Jesus is the Bread of Life for our families. He wants to be ever present, nourishing us by His love, sustaining us in faith, helping us to walk in hope, so that in every situation we can experience the true Bread of Heaven”.
The Pope concluded by asking those present to pray for the World Meeting of Families and for the Synod of Bishops on the family, to start at the beginning of October. Then, accompanied by the archbishop of Santiago, Dionisio Guillermo Garcia Ibanez, he greeted faithful in the cathedral and finally appeared at the terrace overlooking Parque Cespedes, from where he bade farewell to Cuba with the following words:
“I greet you. Thank you for your welcome and your warmth. The Cubans are truly kind and good, and make you feel at home. Many thanks! And I would like to offer a word of hope. A word of hope that may perhaps make us turn our heads to look backwards and ahead. Looking back is memory. The memory of those who have given us life, and especially grandparents. A warm greeting to grandparents. Let us not forget them. Grandparents are our living memory. And looking ahead: children and the young, who are the strength of the people. A people that cares for grandparents and cares for children and the young is guaranteed victory! God bless you, and let Him give you His blessing, but on one condition. I ask you to pray for me. This is the condition. May God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, bless you. Farewell and thank you”.
The Pope speaks about his trip in Cuba
Vatican City, 23 September 2015 (VIS) – During the flight from Cuba to the United States, Pope Francis spoke with journalists and answered their questions on a number of issues including the trade embargo against Cuba, his critique of liberal capitalism and the future role of the Church on the island.
The first question related to the Pope's opinion on the trade embargo against Cuba, and whether he intends to refer to this theme in his address to the United States Congress.
“The question of the trade embargo is part of the negotiations”, replied Francis. “This is public: both presidents have referred to it. So, it is a public matter, that leads in the direction of the good relations that are being constructed. My hope is that an agreement satisfying both parties may be reached. … With regard to the position of the Holy See on the embargoes, previous Popes have spoken not only about this case, but also on other cases of embargoes. On this matter I refer to the social doctrine of the Church, which is precise and just. With regard to the United States Congress … I am thinking about what I would like to say in this respect; but not specifically on this theme, but rather in general on the issue of bilateral and multilateral agreements, as a sign of progress in co-existence. But this theme in a concrete sense is not mentioned, I am almost sure of this”.
“We have heard that more than fifty dissidents were arrested outside the nunciature because they were trying to obtain a meeting with you. Would you like to meet the dissidents? And if such a meeting took place, what would you say to them?”
“Firstly, I am not aware that this happened. … Directly, I do not know. Your two questions concern the future. I would like this to happen. I like meeting all people. First of all because I believe that all people are sons and daughters of God, and secondly, an encounter with any person is enriching. Yes, I would like to meet them. If you would like me to continue to speak about the dissidents, I have something very concrete to say. First of all, it was very clear that I would not have given any audience, as I was asked for an audience not only with the dissidents, but also with people from other sectors, including various heads of State. … Audiences were planned neither with dissidents, nor with others. Secondly, from the nunciature there were telephone calls with various people who form part of this group of dissidents. The task of the nuncio was to communicate to them that with pleasure, upon my arrival at the cathedral for the meeting with consecrated persons, I would have greeted those who were there. A greeting, this is true. But given that nobody presented themselves for the greeting, I do not know if they were there or not. I greeted all those who were there. Above all I greeted the sick, those who were in wheelchairs. But nobody presented him- or herself as a dissident. From the nunciature calls were made to invite them for a passing greeting”.
The third question was on the suffering of the Cuban Catholic Church under Fidel Castro, and whether during his meeting with the Commander, the Pope thought he had repented to any degree.
“Repentance is something very intimate, it is a matter of conscience”, said the Holy Father. “In the encounter with Fidel I spoke with him about the Jesuits he knew, as one of the gifts I took was a book by Fr. Llorente, a close friend of his and a Jesuit, and another by Fr. Pronzato which he will certainly appreciate. We spoke about these things. We spoke at length about 'Laudato si'', as he is very interested in environmental issues. It was an informal and spontaneous meeting. We spoke about the encyclical as he is very concerned about this matter, but we did not talk about the past”.
“Given that the Pope has denounced the current economic system, some sectors of American society have asked whether the Pope is communist and others, indeed, whether he is Catholic. What does Francis think about this?”
“I am sure that I have not said anything that is not present in the social Doctrine of the Church”, responded the Holy Father. “On another flight a journalist asked me if, when I went to speak to the Popular Movements, if the Church was following me, and I answered that I follow the Church, as in this way I don't think I can make a mistake. I don't believe I have said anything that is not in the social Doctrine of the Church. These things can be explained. Perhaps an explanation gave the impression that I tended a little to the left, but it would be an error of explanation. No. My doctrine, on all of this, on 'Laudato si'', on economic imperialism and all of this, it is that of the social doctrine of the Church. And if it is necessary for me to recite the Creed, I am willing to do so!”
Another journalist recalled that during his last apostolic trip to Latin America the Pope harshly criticised the liberal capitalist system while in Cuba his criticism of the Communist system was less severe. “What is the reason for this difference?”
“In the addresses I gave in Cuba, I always mentioned the social Doctrine of the Church”, explained Francis. “The things that need to be corrected I have mentioned clearly. … I have not said anything more than what I have written in the encyclical and in 'Evangelii Gaudium' on unfettered or liberal capitalism. … But here in Cuba … it has been a very pastoral trip, with the Catholic community, with Christians, and also with those people of good will and so my discourses have been homilies. … Even with the young – whether or not they were young believers and, among the believers, of different religions – it was a discourse of hope to encourage dialogue between them, to seek the things they have in common and not those that divide them, to build bridges. … It was a more pastoral language. Instead, in the encyclical it was necessary to tackle more technical issues”.
The penultimate question was whether or not the Catholic Church will assume any role in encouraging openness to political freedom in Cuba, considering the role the Holy See has already played in re-establishing relations between Cuba and the United States.
“The Church in Cuba has drawn up a list of prisoners to be pardoned”, revealed the Pope. “Amnesty has been granted to 3,500 of them, according to the president of the Episcopal Conference. And there are still cases under consideration. And the Church here in Cuba is working for further amnesty. For example, some people tell me it would be good to do away with life imprisonment. Speaking plainly, life imprisonment is almost a form of hidden death sentence. I have said this publicly in an address to European jurists. You stay there, dying every day without hope of freedom. It is a hypothesis. Another hypothesis is that there be general amnesties every year or two. But the Church is working, has worked on this. I am not saying that these three thousand were freed because of the Church lists, no. The Church has made a list, has officially requested amnesty, and will continue to do so”.
Finally, a reporter asked if the fact that three Popes have visited Cuba in twenty years may be interpreted as indicating that the island is in some way afflicted, inasmuch as a doctor visits a sick patient rather than a person in good health.
“No, no”, he replied. “The first was John Paul II, the first historic visit”, he affirmed. “But it was normal – he visited many countries, including those that were hostile towards the Church. The second was Pope Benedict XVI. … Initially my idea was to enter the United States via Mexico, but to visit Mexico without visiting Our Lady of Guadalupe would not have been good. Then, with the announcement of 17 December last year, when the talks that had been taking place for almost a year were made public, I said that I would like to visit the United States via Cuba. And I chose to do so for this reason. But Cuba does not have any particular affliction that other countries do not have”.
Francis arrives in the United States of America
Vatican City, 23 September 2015 (VIS) – With his arrival, ten minutes earlier than expected (3.49 p.m. local time, 9.50 p.m. in Rome) at the Andrews air base in Washington D.C. yesterday, the Pope began the second part of his apostolic trip. During his six days in the United States, he will meet with President Barack Obama and the American episcopate, canonise Blessed Junipero Serra, speak before the United States Congress (the first Pontiff to do so), meet the homeless in New York, address the United Nations, participate in an interreligious meeting at Ground Zero and a meeting for religious freedom, visit prison detainees and celebrate mass at the World Meeting of Families.
Upon arrival in the United States, Francis was received by President Barack Obama accompanied by the First Lady Michelle Obama, and their two daughters. The mayor of the District of Colombia and the governors of Maryland and Virginia were also present, along with the apostolic nuncio in the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, and the archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Donald Wuerl.
The Pope and the President, with the First Lady, spoke privately for a few minutes in the airport. Following their conversation the Pope transferred by car to the apostolic nunciature in Washington D.C., where he spent the night.
At 9.15 a.m. local time (3.15 p.m. in Rome) the welcome ceremony will be held in the White House, and in the grounds the Holy Father will pronounce his first discourse in the United States. He will then meet in private with President Obama, after which he will meet the bishops in the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle. He will later celebrate Mass for the canonisation of Blessed Junipero Serra in the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Francis will conclude his day with a visit to the John Paul II Seminary.
Other Pontifical Acts
Vatican City, 23 September 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the diocese of Ponta de Pedras, Brazil, presented by Bishop Alessio Saccardo, S.J., upon reaching the age limit. He is succeeded by Bishop Teodoro Mendes Tavares, C.S.Sp., coadjutor of the same diocese.
22-09-2015 - Year XXII - Num. 161 

The Pope on the feast of St. Matthew: Jesus sees beyond indignity
Vatican City, 22 September 2015 (VIS) – Yesterday the Pope left Havana and transferred to Holguin, the third largest city on the island in terms of number of inhabitants (1.5 million), and the recognised capital of Cuban music. It is the home of the National Ballet of Cuba, hosts an internationally renowned centre for the rehabilitation of drug users, and is a university town.
Upon arrival at Frank Pais Airport, Francis was received by the bishop of the diocese, Msgr. Emilio Aranguren Etcheverria, and greeted without a formal address the local authorities and around a hundred faithful who welcomed him, accompanied by a choir of children. He then travelled the twenty kilometres between the airport and the city centre by car, and the last three kilometres by popemobile, applauded by crowds. He arrived in Plaza de la Revolucion Calixto Garcia Iniguez de Holguin (1839-1898), dedicated to the Cuban patriot, where he celebrated Mass on the feast day of St. Matthew the apostle and evangelist.
“We are celebrating the story of a conversion”, said the Pope in his homily. “Matthew himself, in his Gospel, tells us what it was like, this encounter which changed his life. He shows us an 'exchange of glances' capable of changing history. On a day like any other, as Matthew, the tax collector, was seated at his table, Jesus passed by, saw him, came up to him and said: 'Follow me'. Matthew got up and followed him”.
“How strong was the love in that look of Jesus, which moved Matthew to do what he did! What power must have been in his eyes to make Matthew get up from his table! We know that Matthew was a publican: he collected taxes from the Jews to give to the Romans. Publicans were looked down upon and considered sinners; as such, they lived apart and were despised by others. One could hardly eat, speak or pray with the likes of these. For the people, they were traitors: they extorted from their own to give to others. Publicans belonged to this social class”.
Jesus, on the other hand, stopped: “He did not quickly take his distance. He looked at Matthew calmly, peacefully. He looked at him with eyes of mercy; he looked at him as no one had ever looked at him before. And this look unlocked Matthew’s heart; it set him free, it healed him, it gave him hope, a new life, as it did to Zacchaeus, to Bartimaeus, to Mary Magdalen, to Peter, and to each of us. Even if we do not dare raise our eyes to the Lord, he looks at us first. This is our story, and it is like that of so many others. Each of us can say: 'I, too, am a sinner, whom Jesus has looked upon”.
Jesus’ love “goes before us, his look anticipates our needs. He can see beyond appearances, beyond sin, beyond failures and unworthiness. He sees beyond our rank in society. He sees beyond this, to our dignity as sons and daughters, a dignity at times sullied by sin, but one which endures in the depth of our soul. He came precisely to seek out all those who feel unworthy of God, unworthy of others. Let us allow Jesus to look at us. Let us allow his gaze to run over our streets. Let us allow that look to become our joy, our hope”.
“After the Lord looked upon him with mercy, he said to Matthew: 'Follow me'. Matthew got up and followed him. After the look, a word. After love, the mission. Matthew is no longer the same; he is changed inside. The encounter with Jesus and his loving mercy has transformed him. He leaves behind his table, his money, his exclusion. Before, he had sat waiting to collect his taxes, to take from others; now, with Jesus he must get up and give, give himself to others. Jesus looks at him and Matthew encounters the joy of service. For Matthew and for all who have felt the gaze of Jesus, other people are no longer to be 'lived off', used and abused. The gaze of Jesus gives rise to missionary activity, service, self-giving. Jesus’ love heals our short-sightedness and pushes us to look beyond, not to be satisfied with appearances or with what is politically correct”.
Jesus goes before us, he precedes us: “He opens the way and invites us to follow him. He invites us slowly to overcome our preconceptions and our reluctance to think that others, much less ourselves, can change. He challenges us daily with the question: 'Do you believe? Do you believe it is possible that a tax collector can become a servant? Do you believe it is possible that a traitor can become a friend? Do you believe is possible that the son of a carpenter can be the Son of God?' His gaze transforms our way of seeing things, his heart transforms our hearts. God is a Father who seeks the salvation of each of his sons and daughters”.
The Pope invited everyone to gaze upon the Lord in prayer, in the Eucharist, in Confession, and in our brothers and sisters, “especially those who feel excluded or abandoned. May we learn to see them as Jesus sees us. Let us share his tenderness and mercy with the sick, prisoners, the elderly and families in difficulty. Again and again we are called to learn from Jesus, who always sees what is most authentic in every person, which is the image of his Father”.
“I know the efforts and the sacrifices being made by the Church in Cuba to bring Christ’s word and presence to all, even in the most remote areas. Here I would mention especially the 'mission houses' which, given the shortage of churches and priests, provide for many people a place for prayer, for listening to the word of God, for catechesis and community life. They are small signs of God’s presence in our neighbourhoods and a daily aid in our effort to respond to the plea of the apostle Paul: 'I beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace'”.
Francis concluded by invoking the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, “whom Cuba embraced and to whom it opened its doors forever”, asking her “to look with maternal love on all her children in this noble country. May her 'eyes of mercy' ever keep watch over each of you, your homes, your families, and all those who feel that they have no place. In her love, may she protect us all as she once cared for Jesus”.
In the late afternoon, before leaving Holguin, the Pope climbed the “Loma de la Cruz”, the Hill of the Cross, a place of pilgrimage for the Cuban people. The cross that dominates the hill, which offers a panoramic view of the entire island, was erected in 1790 by Friar Antonio de Alegria and is reached by scaling 458 steps.
From the summit the Pope blessed the city with the following prayer: “Looking upon the Holy Cross, raised on the summit of this mountain, that illuminates the life of families, children and the young, the sick and all those who suffer, may they receive Your consolation and your nearness, and may they feel invited to follow Your Son, the only way to reach You”.
Francis prays before Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, patroness of Cuba
Vatican City, 22 September 2015 (VIS) – At 4 p.m. local time (10 p.m. in Rome) Pope Francis departed by air from Holguin for Santiago de Cuba, the country's second largest city and rival to Havana in terms of its literary, musical and political life. Santiago was founded in 1514 by Diego Velazquez and was the island's capital from 1515 to 1617. Home of the “son”, the dance that was the precursor to the “salsa”, its monuments include the Castle of El Morro, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the Basilica of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre. The city is currently preparing to celebrate the fifth centenary of its foundation.
The Holy Father was received at the Antonio Maceo airport by several hundred faithful and by the local authorities, and transferred to the St. Basil the Great seminary. One of the oldest educational institutions in Cuba, it was founded in 1722, nationalised and transformed into a public school in 1961, and re-established as a seminary in 1997. There, Francis met privately, without a prepared discourse, with the Cuban episcopate.
Following the meeting, Francis visited the nearby national Shrine to Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, the most venerated pilgrimage site in Cuba, whose history is closely linked to the social and political events of the country. In 1606 three fishermen, two Indians and an African slave, found an image of the Virgin floating in the waters of the bay of Nipe bearing the phrase “I am the Virgin of Charity”. The image was taken to the copper mines in the nearby town of El Cobre, where the first shrine was built in 1684. In 1801 the “Manifesto for the freedom of the slaves of the mines of El Cobre” was read at the Shrine, and in 1868 Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, pioneer of the abolition of slavery and Cuban independence, made a pilgrimage to the Shrine and prayed for the liberation of Cuba before the sacred image. On 12 July 1898 a thanksgiving Mass was celebrated there for the liberation of the island, attended by the officials of the Liberation Army, and in 1916, in view of the growing devotion on the part of the Cuban people, Pope Benedict XV proclaimed “Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre” the patroness of Cuba. In 1927 the current Shrine was inaugurated and in 1936 the archbishop of Santiago de Cuba crowned the Virgin as the Mother and Patroness of Cuba. In 1977, Blessed Paul VI conferred to the Shrine the title of Minor Basilica.
The Pope and the archbishop of Santiago de Cuba, Dionisio Guillermo Garcia Ibanez, along with the Cuban bishops and the papal entourage, were received at the Basilica by the rector. Francis knelt before the image, asking that her people dispersed around the globe might be reunited. “Make the Cuban nation a home of brothers and sisters, so that this people opens its mind, heart and life to Christ, the sole Saviour and Redeemer”. He also prayed to the Lord for families and for children and the young, who are the wealth and hope of the country. Finally, he left before the image a silver vase containing flowers in the colours of the Vatican, yellow and white.
This afternoon, 22 September, the Holy Father will celebrate Mass in the Basilica of Our Lady of El Cobre, and then in the cathedral of Santiago where he will meet with Cuban families and bless the city. He will then leave Cuba at 12.30 local time (6.30 p.m. in Rome), destined for the United States of America, where he will be received at the Andrews air base in Washington D.C., following a flight lasting three and a half hours.
Other News
The United Nations to raise the Holy See flag on 25 September
Vatican City, 22 September 2015 (VIS) – After consultations with the Holy See, the United Nations will raise the flag of the Holy See for the first time on the morning of 25 September, so that it will be flying when Pope Francis arrives at the United Nations headquarters. The Holy See and the United Nations Secretariat have agreed that the flag will be raised with no ceremony. The United Nations personnel will raise it at the same time they will raise the other flags that day.
The Holy See flag has two vertical bands, one gold and one white. The white side features an image of two traversed keys, one gold and one silver, bound together by a red cord, and topped by a triple crown or tiara, crowned with a cross. The keys and tiara are both traditional symbols of the papacy. It has been the official flag of the Holy See since 1929.
21-09-2015 - Year XXII - Num. 160 
The Pope speaks with journalists on the papal flight
Vatican City, 19 September 2015 (VIS) – Shortly after beginning his trip from Rome to Havana, the Pope greeted the 76 journalists accompanying him on the flight. As indicated by the Director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., the media coverage of this trip will be more intense than usual. In a very cordial atmosphere, the Holy Father enquired about the journalists' families and received various edible gifts, including dulce de leche and an empanada, a typical Argentinian pastry, that he offered to all those present.
“Thank you for the welcome”, he said. “I wish you a good journey. If I am not mistaken, I think this is the longest trip I have made. … Fr. Lombardi mentioned peace. Today's world thirsts for peace. There are wars, immigrants who flee, this wave of immigration as a result of war, to escape from death and in search of life. Today I am happy as I was greeted at the door of St. Anna by one of the two families residing in the Vatican, in the parish of the same name. They are Syrian refugees. You can see the suffering in their faces. … This word: peace. I thank you for all that you do in your work to build bridges: small bridges, but bridges nonetheless, that together all form the great bridge of peace. I wish you a good trip and good work. Pray for me. Thank you”.
He also offered a greeting to all the journalists' colleagues working in their offices.
The Pope arrives in Cuba, a meeting point for all peoples who come together in friendship
Vatican City, 20 September 2015 (VIS) – “Missionary of Mercy” is the theme chosen by Pope Francis for his visit to Cuba, where he began his tenth apostolic trip yesterday. The Holy Father arrived in the Jose Marti airport in Havana at 4 p.m. local time (10 p.m. in Italy) after a twelve-hour flight, and was welcomed by the president of Cuba, Raul Castro, and by the cardinal archbishop of Havana, Jaime Ortega y Alamino, accompanied by Archbishop Dionisio Guillermo Garcia Ibanez, president of the Episcopal Conference.
After the protocol greetings and national anthems of Cuba and Vatican City State, President Castro gave a welcome address on behalf of the government and people of Cuba. The Pope thanked the president and asked him to convey sentiments of particular respect and consideration to his brother Fidel. “I would like my greeting to embrace especially all those who, for various reasons, I will not be able to meet, and to Cubans throughout the world”, continued Francis.
After remarking that 2015 marks the eightieth anniversary of the establishment of uninterrupted diplomatic relations between the Republic of Cuba and the Holy See, the Pope affirmed that his arrival in this “beloved nation” follows “the indelible path opened by the unforgettable apostolic journeys which my two predecessors, St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI, made to this island. I know that the memory of those visits awakens gratitude and affection in the people and leaders of Cuba. Today we renew those bonds of cooperation and friendship, so that the Church can continue to support and encourage the Cuban people in its hopes and concerns, with the freedom, the means and the space needed to bring the proclamation of the Kingdom to the existential peripheries of society”.
This Apostolic Journey also coincides with the first centenary of Pope Benedict XV’s declaration of our Lady of Charity of El Cobre as Patroness of Cuba, and Francis commented that it was the veterans of the War of Independence who, moved by sentiments of faith and patriotism, wanted the Virgen mambisa to be the patroness of Cuba as a free and sovereign nation. “Since that time she has accompanied the history of the Cuban people”, he said, “sustaining the hope which preserves people’s dignity in the most difficult situations and championing the promotion of all that gives dignity to the human person. The growing devotion to the Virgin is a visible testimony of her presence in the soul of the Cuban people. In these days I will have occasion to go to El Cobre, as a son and pilgrim, to pray to our Mother for all her Cuban children and for this beloved nation, that it may travel the paths of justice, peace, liberty and reconciliation”.
“Geographically, Cuba is an archipelago, facing all directions, with an extraordinary value as a 'key' between north and south, east and west. Its natural vocation is to be a point of encounter for all peoples to join in friendship, as Jose Marti dreamed, 'regardless of the languages of isthmuses and the barriers of oceans'. Such was also the desire of St. John Paul II, with his ardent appeal: 'May Cuba, with all its magnificent potential, open itself to the world, and may the world open itself to Cuba'”.
“For some months now, we have witnessed an event which fills us with hope: the process of normalising relations between two peoples following years of estrangement. It is a sign of the victory of the culture of encounter and dialogue, 'the system of universal growth' over 'the forever-dead system of groups and dynasties'. I urge political leaders to persevere on this path and to develop all its potentialities as a proof of the high service which they are called to carry out on behalf of the peace and well-being of their peoples, of all America, and as an example of reconciliation for the entire world. The world needs reconciliation, in this climate of a piecemeal third world war in which we are living”.
The Pope concluded his first discourse on Cuban soil by invoking “the protection of our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, Blessed Olallo Valdes and Blessed Jose Lopez Piteira, and Venerable Felix Varela, the great promoter of love between Cubans and all peoples, so that our bonds of peace, solidarity and mutual respect may ever increase”.
Mass in Plaza de la Revolucion: the importance of a people is based on how it serves its most vulnerable members
Vatican City, 20 September 2015 (VIS) – After spending the night in the apostolic nunciature in Havana, the Pope began his second day in Cuba by greeting the thousands of people who lined the streets on his journey by popemobile to Plaza de la Revolucion Jose Marti, dedicated to the poet and writer who fought for Cuban independence. The square, where the Holy Father celebrated Holy Mass attended by more than 200,000 faithful, is a strongly symbolic location for the island, and has provided the backdrop to important demonstrations.
Francis, who before the Eucharistic celebration met with the representatives of other Christian confessions present in Cuba in a provisional sacristy, devoted his homily to the importance of serving the weakest and frailest among us. “Let us not forget the Good News we have heard today: the importance of a people, a nation, and the importance of individuals, which is always based on how they seek to serve their vulnerable brothers and sisters. Here we encounter one of the fruits of a true humanity. Whoever does not live to serve, does not ‘serve’ to live”.
The Pope commented on the Gospel passage in which Jesus asks a seemingly indiscreet question of His disciples: “What were you discussing along the way?” to which they did not answer because on the way they had been arguing about who was the most important, and were ashamed.
“Who is the most important?”, continued the Pope. “This is a life-long question to which, at different times, we must give an answer. ... The history of humanity has been marked by the answer we give to this question. Jesus is not afraid of people’s questions; He is not afraid of our humanity or the different things we are looking for. On the contrary, He knows the 'twists and turns' of the human heart, and, as a good teacher, He is always ready to encourage and support us. As usual, He takes up our searching, our aspirations, and he gives them a new horizon … He somehow finds an the answer which can pose a new challenge, setting aside the 'right answers', the standard replies we are expected to give. As usual, Jesus sets before us the 'logic' of love. A mindset, an approach to life, which is capable of being lived out by all, because it is meant for all”.
“Far from any kind of elitism, the horizon to which Jesus points us is not for those few privileged souls capable of attaining the heights of knowledge or different levels of spirituality. The horizon to which Jesus points us always has to do with daily life, also here on “our island”, something which can season our daily lives with eternity. Who is the most important? Jesus is straightforward in His reply: 'Whoever wishes to be the first among you must be the last of all, and the servant of all'. Whatever wishes to be great must serve others, not be served by others”.
“Here lies the great paradox of Jesus”, emphasises the Pope. “The disciples were arguing about who would have the highest place, who would be chosen for privileges ... in order to stand out in the quest for superiority over others. Who would climb the ladder most quickly to take the jobs which carry certain benefits. Jesus upsets their 'logic', their mindset, simply by telling them that life is lived authentically in a concrete commitment to our neighbour. That is, in serving”.
But the call to serve “involves something special, to which we must be attentive. Serving others chiefly means caring for their vulnerability. Serving means caring for the vulnerable of our families, our society, our people. Theirs are the suffering, fragile and downcast faces which Jesus tells us specifically to look at and which He asks us to love. With a love which takes shape in our actions and decisions. With a love which finds expression in whatever tasks we, as citizens, are called to perform. People of flesh and blood, people with individual lives and stories, and with all their frailty: these are those whom Jesus asks us to protect, to care for, to serve. Being a Christian entails promoting the dignity of our brothers and sisters, fighting for it, living for it. That is why Christians are constantly called to set aside their own wishes and desires, their pursuit of power, and to look instead to those who are most vulnerable”.
“There is a kind of 'service' which truly 'serves' others, yet we need to be careful not to be tempted by another kind of service, a 'service' which is 'self-serving'. There is a way to go about serving which is interested in only helping 'my people', 'our people'. This service always leaves 'your people' outside, and gives rise to a process of exclusion. All of us are called by virtue of our Christian vocation to that service which truly serves, and to help one another not to be tempted by a 'service' which is really 'self-serving'. … Without looking to one side or the other to see what our neighbour is doing or not doing. Jesus tells us: Whoever would be first among you must be the last, and the servant of all. He will be the servant of all. He does not say: if your neighbour wants to be first, let him be the servant! We have to be careful to avoid judgemental looks and renew our belief in the transforming look to which Jesus invites us. This caring for others out of love is not about being servile. Rather, it means putting our brothers and sisters at the centre. Service always looks to their faces, touches their flesh, senses their closeness and even, in some cases, 'suffers' in trying to help. Service is never ideological, for we do not serve ideas, we serve people”.
“God’s holy and faithful people in Cuba is a people with a taste for celebration, for friendship, for beautiful things”, he concluded. “It is a people which marches with songs of praise. It is a people which has its wounds, like every other people, yet knows how to stand up with open arms, to keep walking in hope, because it has a vocation of grandeur. This is how it raised its heroes. Today I ask you to care for this vocation of yours, to care for these gifts which God has given you, but above all I invite you to care for and be at the service of the frailty of your brothers and sisters. Do not neglect them for plans which can be seductive, but are unconcerned about the face of the person beside you. We know, we are witnesses of the incomparable power of the resurrection, which 'everywhere calls forth the seeds of a new world'”.
Angelus: Francis asks for definitive reconciliation in Colombia
Vatican City, 20 September 2015 (VIS) – At the end of Mass, the Pope spoke for a few minutes before praying the Angelus.
“We have heard in the Gospel how the disciples were afraid to question Jesus when He spoke to them about His passion and death. He frightened them, and they could not grasp the idea of seeing Jesus suffer on the cross. We too are tempted to flee from our own crosses and those of others, to withdraw from those who suffer. In concluding this Holy Mass, in which Jesus has once more given Himself to us in His body and blood, let us now lift our gaze to the Virgin Mary, our Mother. We ask her to teach us to stand beside the cross of our brothers and sisters who suffer. To learn to see Jesus in every person bent low on the path of life, in all our brothers and sisters who hunger or thirst, who are naked or in prison or sick. With Mary our Mother, on the cross we can see who is truly “the greatest” and what it means to stand beside the Lord and to share in His glory.
“Let us learn from Mary to keep our hearts awake and attentive to the needs of others. As the wedding feast of Cana teaches us, let us be concerned for the little details of life, and let us not tire of praying for one another, so that no one will lack the new wine of love, the joy which Jesus brings us.
At this time I feel bound to direct my thoughts to the beloved land of Colombia, 'conscious of the crucial importance of the present moment when, with renewed effort and inspired by hope, its sons and daughters are seeking to build a peaceful society'. May the blood shed by thousands of innocent people during long decades of armed conflict, united to that of the Lord Jesus Christ crucified, sustain all the efforts being made, including those on this beautiful island, to achieve definitive reconciliation. Thus may the long night of pain and violence, with the support of all Colombians, become an unending day of concord, justice, fraternity and love, in respect for institutions and for national and international law, so that there may be lasting peace. Please, we do not have the right to allow ourselves yet another failure on this path of peace and reconciliation. Thank you, Mr. President, for all you have done in this work towards reconciliation”.
“I ask you now that we join together in praying to Mary, that we may place all our concerns and hopes before the heart of Christ. We pray to her in a special way for those who have lost hope and find no reasons to keep fighting, and for those who suffer from injustice, abandonment and loneliness. We pray for the elderly, the infirm, children and young people, for all families experiencing difficulty, that Mary may dry their tears, comfort them with a mother’s love, and restore their hope and joy. Holy Mother, I commend to you these your sons and daughters in Cuba. May you never abandon them!”.
Meeting with President Raul Castro and with Commander Fidel in the Palace of the Revolution
Vatican City, 20 September 2015 (VIS) – Following Holy Mass, and after lunch in the apostolic nunciature, the Pope transferred by car to the Palace of the Revolution to pay a courtesy visit to the President of the Council of State of Cuba, Raul Castro, elected in 2008 after his brother Fidel Castro stood down for reasons of ill health. Although this did not form part of the official programme for the visit, the Holy Father also met with “Commander” Fidel.
“The meeting was foreseeable, although it did not form part of the programme”, explained Fr. Lombardi. “We all knew that Commander Fidel wanted to see the Pope, as he did with Pope Benedict XVI during his visit. Commander Fidel, who is an elderly man, is spending this phase of his life in study and reflection: he reads a lot and enjoys conversing with people with great experience. This is explicitly how it was with Pope Benedict XVI, and also with Pope Francis”.
“Fidel had asked Pope Benedict to send some books that could be useful for his reflections, and Francis followed on from this by taking, on his own initiative, two books by the Italian priest Alessandro Pronzato, known to many as a prolific author of spiritual and catechetic texts. He also took a book and two CDs by Fr. Armando Llorente, a Jesuit priest who died a few years ago, who was close to Castro as a child when he attended the Jesuit school at the Colegio de Belen. The memorial of this relationship with a teacher who profoundly affected his life during his youth was a very meaningful gesture on the part of the Pope”.
“The Holy Father also took his two great texts, 'Evangelii Gaudium' and 'Laudato si''. This latter focuses on themes of interest to Castro also in this stage of his life – the great questions of the current world and its future. It is certainly a document he will find most interesting. Commander Castro gave the Pope a very well-known book, 'Fidel y la Religion' by Frei Betto, which takes the form of a conversation with Frei Betto. It was a very informal encounter, a serene exchange in the presence of various members of his family, and certainly a positive moment”.
Vespers in the Cathedral of Havana
Vatican City, 21 September 2015 (VIS) – The Immaculate Conception is the patroness of Havana and, in the historic cathedral dedicated to this title and to St. Cristobal, whose baroque facade was designed by Francesco Borromini, the Pope meet with the priests, men and women religious and seminarians of Cuba to for the Vespers prayer. Francis commented on the Gospel account of the rich young man, observant of the law, who is saddened when Jesus tells him that if he wishes to follow Him he must abandon his riches. He made some unscripted comments regarding the value of poverty for all Christians, as well as for consecrated persons. His original prepared discourse is reproduced below.
“We are gathered in this historic Cathedral of Havana to sing with psalms the faithfulness of God towards his people, with thanksgiving for his presence and his infinite mercy. A faithfulness and mercy not only commemorated by this building, but also by the living memory of some of the elderly among us, who know from experience that 'his mercy endures forever and his faithfulness throughout the ages'. For this, brothers and sisters, let us together give thanks.
“Let us give thanks for the Spirit’s presence in the rich and diverse charisms of all those missionaries who came to this land and became Cubans among Cubans, a sign that God’s mercy is eternal.
“The Gospel presents Jesus in dialogue with His Father. It brings us to the heart of the prayerful intimacy between the Father and the Son. As His hour drew near, Jesus prayed for His disciples, for those with Him and for those who were yet to come. We do well to remember that, in that crucial moment, Jesus made the lives of His disciples, our lives, a part of His prayer. He asked His Father to keep them united and joyful. Jesus knew full well the hearts of His disciples, and He knows full well our own. And so He prays to the Father to save them from a spirit of isolation, of finding refuge in their own certainties and comfort zones, of indifference to others and division into 'cliques' which disfigure the richly diverse face of the Church. These are situations which lead to a kind of isolation and ennui, a sadness that slowly gives rise to resentment, to constant complaint, to boredom; this 'is not God’s will for us, nor is it the life in the Spirit' to which He invited them, to which He has invited us. That is why Jesus prays that sadness and isolation will not prevail in our hearts. We want to do the same, we want to join in Jesus’ prayer, in His words, so that we can say together: 'Father, keep them in Your name… that they may be one, even as we are one', 'that Your joy may be complete'.
“Jesus prays and He invites us to pray, because He knows that some things can only be received as gifts; some things can only be experienced as gifts. Unity is a grace which can be bestowed upon us only by the Holy Spirit; we have to ask for this grace and do our best to be transformed by that gift.
“Unity is often confused with uniformity; with actions, feelings and words which are all identical. This is not unity, it is conformity. It kills the life of the Spirit; it kills the charisms which God has bestowed for the good of His people. Unity is threatened whenever we try to turn others into our own image and likeness. Unity is a gift, not something to be imposed by force or by decree. I am delighted to see you here, men and women of different generations, backgrounds and experiences, all united by our common prayer. Let us ask God to increase our desire to be close to one another. To be neighbours, always there for one another, with all our many differences, interests and ways of seeing things. To speak straightforwardly, despite our disagreements and disputes, and not behind each other’s backs. May we be shepherds who are close to our people, open to their questions and problems. Conflicts and disagreements in the Church are to be expected and, I would even say, needed. They are a sign that the Church is alive and that the Spirit is still acting, still enlivening her. Woe to those communities without a 'yes' and a 'no'! They are like married couples who no longer argue, because they have lost interest, they have lost their love.
“The Lord prays also that we may be filled with His own 'complete joy'. The joy of Christians, and especially of consecrated men and women, is a very clear sign of Christ’s presence in their lives. When we see sad faces, it is a warning that something is wrong. Significantly, this is the request which Jesus makes of the Father just before He goes out to the Garden to renew His own 'fiat'. I am certain that all of you have had to bear many sacrifices and, for some of you, for several decades now, these sacrifices have proved difficult. Jesus prays, at the moment of His own sacrifice, that we will never lose the joy of knowing that He overcomes the world. This certainty is what inspires us, morning after morning, to renew our faith. 'With a tenderness which never disappoints, but is always capable of restoring our joy' – by His prayer, and in the faces of our people – Christ 'makes it possible for us to lift up our heads and to start anew'.
“How important, how valuable for the life of the Cuban people, is this witness which always and everywhere radiates such joy, despite our weariness, our misgivings and even our despair, that dangerous temptation which eats away at our soul!
“Dear brothers and sisters, Jesus prays that all of us may be one, and that His joy may abide within us. May we do likewise, as we unite ourselves to one another in prayer”.
Francis meets with the young, Cuba's hope for the future
Vatican City, 21 September 2015 (VIS) – After Vespers, the Pope transferred to the “Centro de Estudio Padre Felix Varela”, the Felix Varela Cultural Centre, adjacent to the cathedral, to meet with the young people of Cuba. The Centre is dedicated to the Servant of God Felix Varela (1788-1853), considered to be the “father of Cuban culture”. The priest, whose cause for beatification is underway, taught for ten years at the San Carlos college and seminary, making a significant contribution to the progress of sciences and letters on the island. In 1821 he was elected as the representative of Cuba before the Spanish court, where he appealed for the liberation of black slaves. In 1823, following the reestablishment of absolutism in Spain under Ferdinand VII, he transferred to the United States where he proclaimed Cuba's right to independence and exercised his pastoral ministry for thirty years, founding schools, building churches and evangelising among the marginalised.
The Centre is a lay institute, in operation since 2011, coordinated by the Pontifical Council for Culture. It comprises a centre for ecclesiastical studies, also offering courses in philosophy, psychology, and a master's degree entitled Cuba-Emprende, aimed at supporting private enterprise initiatives in favour of economic change in the country. It also hosts concerts, conferences and other events, and promotes the Festival of Latin American Cinema.
The Pope expressed his joy at being in the company of the young in a centre so important to Cuban history, and after receiving greetings, he set aside his written discourse, and spoke informally with those present. Extensive extracts from the prepared text are published below:
“ … When I look at all of you, the first thing that comes into my mind and heart, too, is the word 'hope'. I cannot imagine a young person who is listless, without dreams or ideals, without a longing for something greater.
“But what kind of hope does a young Cuban have at this moment of history? Nothing more or less than that of any other young person in any other part of the world. Because hope speaks to us of something deeply rooted in every human heart, independently of our concrete circumstances and historical conditioning. Hope speaks to us of a thirst, an aspiration, a longing for a life of fulfilment, a desire to achieve great things, things which fill our heart and lift our spirit to lofty realities like truth, goodness and beauty, justice and love. But it also involves taking risks. It means being ready not to be seduced by what is fleeting, by false promises of happiness, by immediate and selfish pleasures, by a life of mediocrity and self-centredness, which only fills the heart with sadness and bitterness. No, hope is bold; it can look beyond personal convenience, the petty securities and compensations which limit our horizon, and can open us up to grand ideals which make life more beautiful and worthwhile. I would ask each one of you: What is it that shapes your life? What lies deep in your heart? Where do your hopes and aspirations lie? Are you ready to put yourself on the line for the sake of something even greater?
“Perhaps you may say: 'Yes, Father, I am strongly attracted to those ideals. I feel their call, their beauty, their light shining in my heart. But I feel too weak, I am not ready to decide to take the path of hope. The goal is lofty and my strength is all too little. It is better to be content with small things, less grand but more realistic, more within my reach'. I can understand that reaction; it is normal to feel weighed down by difficult and demanding things. But take care not to yield to the temptation of a disenchantment which paralyses the intellect and the will, or that apathy which is a radical form of pessimism about the future. These attitudes end either in a flight from reality towards vain utopias, or else in selfish isolation and a cynicism deaf to the cry for justice, truth and humanity which rises up around us and within us.
“But what are we to do? How do we find paths of hope in the situations in which we live? How do we make those hopes for fulfilment, authenticity, justice and truth, become a reality in our personal lives, in our country and our world? I think that there are three ideas which can help to keep our hope alive.
“Hope is a path made of memory and discernment. Hope is the virtue which goes places. It is not simply a path we take for the pleasure of it, but it has an end, a goal which is practical and lights up our way. Hope is also nourished by memory; it looks not only to the future but also to the past and present. To keep moving forward in life, in addition to knowing where we want to go, we also need to know who we are and where we come from. Individuals or peoples who have no memory and erase their past risk losing their identity and destroying their future. So we need to remember who we are, and in what our spiritual and moral heritage consists. This, I believe, was the experience and the insight of that great Cuban, Father Felix Varela. Discernment is also needed, because it is essential to be open to reality and to be able to interpret it without fear or prejudice. Partial and ideological interpretations are useless; they only disfigure reality by trying to fit it into our preconceived schemas, and they always cause disappointment and despair. We need discernment and memory, because discernment is not blind; it is built on solid ethical and moral criteria which help us to see what is good and just.
“Hope is a path taken with others. An African proverb says: 'If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go with others'. Isolation and aloofness never generate hope; but closeness to others and encounter do. Left to ourselves, we will go nowhere. Nor by exclusion will we be able to build a future for anyone, even ourselves. A path of hope calls for a culture of encounter, dialogue, which can overcome conflict and sterile confrontation. To create that culture, it is vital to see different ways of thinking not in terms of risk, but of richness and growth. The world needs this culture of encounter. It needs young people who seek to know and love one another, to journey together in building a country like that which José Martí dreamed of: 'With all, and for the good of all'.
“Hope is a path of solidarity. The culture of encounter should naturally lead to a culture of solidarity. I was struck by what Leonardo said at the beginning, when he spoke of solidarity as a source of strength for overcoming all obstacles. Without solidarity, no country has a future. Beyond all other considerations or interests, there has to be concern for that person who may be my friend, my companion, but also someone who may think differently than I do, someone with his own ideas yet just as human and just as Cuban as I am. Simple tolerance is not enough; we have to go well beyond that, passing from a suspicious and defensive attitude to one of acceptance, cooperation, concrete service and effective assistance. Do not be afraid of solidarity, service and offering a helping hand, so that no one is excluded from the path.
“This path of life is lit up by a higher hope: the hope born of our faith in Christ. He made himself our companion along the way. Not only does He encourage us, He also accompanies us; He is at our side and He extends a friendly hand to us. The Son of God, He wanted to become someone like us, to accompany us on our way. Faith in His presence, in His friendship and love, lights up all our hopes and dreams. With Him at our side, we learn to discern what is real, to encounter and serve others, and to walk the path of solidarity.
“Dear young people of Cuba, if God Himself entered our history and became flesh in Jesus, if He shouldered our weakness and sin, then you need not be afraid of hope, or of the future, because God is on your side. He believes in you, and He hopes in you.
“Dear friends, thank you for this meeting. May hope in Christ, your friend, always guide you along your path in life. And, please, remember to pray for me. May the Lord bless all of you”.
Other News
Message to the Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East
Vatican City, 21 September 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has sent a message to His Holiness Mar Gewargis, on the occasion of his election as Catholicos Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, in which he extends his “good wishes and prayerful solidarity” to the Patriarch and his faithful. He adds that it is his prayer that His Holiness may be an inspirational pastor for the flock entrusted to his care and “an untiring builder of peace and harmony, serving the common good and the good of the entire Middle East”.
He continues, “I join your Holiness in prayer and solidarity with all who suffer because of the tragic situation in the Middle East, especially our Christian brothers and sisters and other religious minorities in Iraq and Syria. With you, I ask the Lord to grant them strength so that they may persevere in their Christian witness. In expressing gratitude to Almighty God for the bonds of fraternity between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East, I hope and pray that our continuing friendship and dialogue may be further developed and deepened”.
Message to Hungarian religious: seek the concerns and expectations of the people
Vatican City, 19 September 2015 (VIS) – Yesterday afternoon Pope Francis sent a video message to the participants in the Meeting of Consecrated Persons in Hungary, an initiative linked to the Year of Consecrated Life.
“In the various forms of consecrated life, I think of you as close to the troubles and expectations of the people; I think of you as committed in the contexts in which you are inserted, with their difficulties and signs of hope. I encourage you to rejoice with those who rejoice, and to weep with those who weep; to ask of God a heart capable of compassion, to tend to the wounds of the body and the spirit and to bring God's consolation to many people. I believe that the most beautiful side of a country and a city is that of the Lord's disciples – the bishops, religious and lay faithful – who live with simplicity, in their daily lives, in the style of the Good Samaritan and who are close to the flesh and the wounds of their brethren, in whom they recognise the flesh and wounds of Jesus”.
“This charity full of mercy – we know well – comes from the heart of Christ, and we find this in prayer, especially in adoration, and in partaking with faith in the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Penance. May Mary, our Mother, help us always to be men and women of prayer”.
The Pope speaks with young people from Cuba and the United States before his apostolic trip
Vatican City, 19 September 2015 (VIS) – On 17 September Pope Francis participated in a programme organised by “Scholas Occurrentes” - an initiative organised between the students of various countries, cultures and religions – broadcast by CNN on Friday 18, in which two groups of students from Havana and New York also took part. The Holy Father answered questions posed by the students, starting with one from a girl from New York on the responsibility of the young in the care of the environment.
“It is one of the things that we have to learn from when we are young”, he said. “The environment, at this time, is one of the excluded. It cries to us to pay attention and to take care of it. So, how can a young person take care of the environment? First of all, by seeing the problems that exist in his or her neighbourhood, city and nation. … By looking for concrete measures you can take. The waste of paper is impressive. Avoid wasting electricity … What little you can do, but it is still a little more, a little more, a little more. Add to the will to save our common home”.
A girl from Havana asked the second question, regarding the capacity for leadership attributed to the Pope. “A leader is a good leader if he is capable of making other leaders emerge among the young”, he said. “If a leader wishes to lead alone, then he is a tyrant. Or rather, true leadership is fruitful. ... Sole leaders are here today and gone tomorrow. There are those who are born leaders: leaders in thought, leaders of action, leaders of joy, leaders of hope, leaders in building a better world. This is the path for you to follow; but you already have the seed of leadership within you. If they do not sow leadership in others, if they do not serve, they are dictators. I have no desire to be a dictator. I like to plant the seed of leadership in others”.
The third question was asked by a girl from New York, who showed the Pope a photograph of a dead tree with a bird perched on a branch.
“Yes, in the photo the tree is dead and the bird is alive”, observed Francis. “In a few months' time the bird will need to build a nest to lay its eggs and care for its young, but if the tree is dead, how will it be able to make a nest? This is what happens when we do not take care of the environment. One death leads to another, and then, instead of sowing growth, instead of sowing hope, we sow death. The way is the opposite: caring for life”.
A boy from Havana then spoke about the need to lift the embargo against Cuba. “I too will do everything possible not to forget”, replied the Holy Father. “Building bridges and removing obstacles to communication, so that communication can lead to friendship. One of the most beautiful things is social friendship. That's what I would like you to seek: friendship”.
The final two questions regarded education of boys and girls. “Education is one of the human rights”, affirmed Pope Francis. “A child has the right to be loved … to play … and to receive an education. Do you think about the number of children who, in countries at war at the moment, do not receive an education? … It is a challenge that must be faced. And it is up to us to start. … Do not wait for States to make agreements or governments to agree. Many years will pass in the meantime, as it is difficult. … So many children of your age, so many boys and girls devote their weekends and holidays to teach them. … A people that is not educated, who either because of war or for other reasons cannot receive an education, decays; it decays and declines even to the level of mere instinct. … We must be committed to the education of the young”.
“This morning I received a group of young people”, the Pope revealed. “One boy was from a country at war and he gave me a bullet, one of the many that rain down continually on his city. The young, in order to survive, have to stay closed up inside their homes, and no longer have the right to play. … We have lost the idea of how many children do not experience the joy of play, either because of war, or poverty, or because they live on the streets. And these children do not know how to communicate with the joy of play. They become easy prey to traffickers, who use them and lead them into delinquency, theft, drug abuse, prostitution, and many other things. So, the best way to begin to educate children is to give them the opportunity to play”.
At the end of the broadcast, the presenter invited the Pope to plant an olive tree in a pot placed nearby, and asked the Pope to give him the bullet so as to bury it in the ground on which the olive tree will grow.
Other Pontifical Acts
Vatican City, 21 September 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed Bishop Ferenc Palanki, auxiliary of Eger, Hungary, as bishop of Debrecen-Nyiregyhaza, (area 11,300, population 1,137,000, Catholics 250,000, priests 93, religious 33), Hungary. He succeeds Bishop Nandor Bosak, whose resignation from the pastoral ministry of the same diocese upon reaching the age limit was accepted by the Holy Father.
On Saturday 19 September the Holy Father:
- accepted the resignation from the office of auxiliary of the diocese of Koszalin-Kolobrzeg, Poland, presented by Bishop Pawel Cieslik, upon reaching the age limit.
- appointed Cardinal Salvatore De Giorgi, archbishop emeritus of Palermo, as his special envoy to the concluding celebration of the fifth centenary of the creation of the diocese of Lanciano (present-day archdiocese of Lanciano-Ortona), Italy, to be held on 22 November 2015.
On Friday 18 September the Holy Father appointed Fr. Guy Joseph Consolmagno, S.J., as director of the Vatican Observatory. Fr. Consolmagno is currently a member of the same scientific institution and president of the Vatican Observatory Foundation.

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