Pope Francis’ Words to the Poor in Nairobi

Here is the Pope’s address to the poor of Nairobi, Kenya. As you most probably are aware, he is visiting that country in recent days.

His words speak for themselves.

(25-30 NOVEMBER 2015)



Nairobi (Kenya)
Friday, 27 November 2015


Thank you for welcoming me to your neighbourhood. I thank Archbishop Kivuva and Father Pascal for their kind words. I feel very much at home sharing these moments with brothers and sisters who, and I am not ashamed to say this, have a special place in my life and my decisions. I am here because I want you to know that your joys and hopes, your troubles and your sorrows, are not indifferent to me. I realize the difficulties which you experience daily! How can I not denounce the injustices which you suffer?

First of all, though, I would like to speak about something which the language of exclusion often disregards or seems to ignore. It is the wisdom found in poor neighbourhoods. A wisdom which is born of the “stubborn resistance” of that which is authentic” (cf. Laudato Si’, 112), from Gospel values which an opulent society, anaesthetized by unbridled consumption, would seem to have forgotten. You are able “to weave bonds of belonging and togetherness which convert overcrowding into an experience of community in which the walls of the ego are torn down and the barriers of selfishness overcome” (ibid., 149).

The culture of poor neighbourhoods, steeped in this particular wisdom, “has very positive traits, which can offer something to these times in which we live; it is expressed in values such as solidarity, giving one’s life for others, preferring birth to death, providing Christian burial to one’s dead; finding a place for the sick in one’s home, sharing bread with the hungry (for ‘there is always room for one more seat at the table’), showing patience and strength when faced with great adversity, and so on” (Equipo de Sacerdotes para las Villas de Emergencia, Argentina, Reflexiones sobre urbanización y la cultura villera, 2010). Values grounded in the fact each human being is more important than the god of money. Thank you for reminding us that another type of culture is possible.

I want in first place to uphold these values which you practice, values which are not quoted in the stock exchange, are not subject to speculation, and have no market price. I congratulate you, I accompany you and I want you to know that the Lord never forgets you. The path of Jesus began on the peripheries, it goes from the poor and with the poor, towards others.

To see these signs of good living that increase daily in your midst in no way entails a disregard for the dreadful injustice of urban exclusion. These are wounds inflicted by minorities who cling to power and wealth, who selfishly squander while a growing majority is forced to flee to abandoned, filthy and run-down peripheries.

This becomes even worse when we see the unjust distribution of land (if not in this neighbourhood, certainly in others) which leads in many cases to entire families having to pay excessive and unfair rents for utterly unfit housing. I am also aware of the serious problem posed by faceless “private developers” who hoard areas of land and even attempt to appropriate the playgrounds of your children’s schools. This is what happens when we forget that “God gave the earth to the whole human race for the sustenance of all its members, without excluding or favouring anyone” (Centesimus Annus, 31).

One very serious problem in this regard is the lack of access to infrastructures and basic services. By this I mean toilets, sewers, drains, refuse collection, electricity, roads, as well as schools, hospitals, recreational and sport centres, studios and workshops for artists and craftsmen. I refer in particular to access to drinking water. “Access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights. Our world has a grave social debt towards the poor who lack access to drinking water, because they are denied the right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity” (Laudato Si’, 30). To deny a family water, under any bureaucratic pretext whatsoever, is a great injustice, especially when one profits from this need.

This situation of indifference and hostility experienced by poor neighbourhoods is aggravated when violence spreads and criminal organizations, serving economic or political interests, use children and young people as “canon fodder” for their ruthless business affairs. I also appreciate the struggles of those women who fight heroically to protect their sons and daughters from these dangers. I ask God that that the authorities may embark, together with you, upon the path of social inclusion, education, sport, community action, and the protection of families, for this is the only guarantee of a peace that is just, authentic and enduring.

These realities which I have just mentioned are not a random combination of unrelated problems. They are a consequence of new forms of colonialism which would make African countries “parts of a machine, cogs on a gigantic wheel” (Ecclesia in Africa, 52). Indeed, countries are frequently pressured to adopt policies typical of the culture of waste, like those aimed at lowering the birth rate, which seek “to legitimize the present model of distribution, where a minority believes that it has the right to consume in a way which can never be universalized” (Laudato Si’, 50).

In this regard, I would propose a renewed attention to the idea of a respectful urban integration, as opposed to elimination, paternalism, indifference or mere containment. We need integrated cities which belong to everyone. We need to go beyond the mere proclamation of rights which are not respected in practice, to implementing concrete and systematic initiatives capable of improving the overall living situation, and planning new urban developments of good quality for housing future generations. The social and environmental debt owed to the poor of cities can be paid by respecting their sacred right of the “three Ls”: Land, Lodging, Labour. This is not philanthropy; it is a moral duty upon all of us.

I wish to call all Christians, and their pastors in particular, to renew their missionary zeal, to take initiative in the face of so many situations of injustice, to be involved in their neighbours’ problems, to accompany them in their struggles, to protect the fruits of their communitarian labour and to celebrate together each victory, large or small. I realize that you are already doing much, but I ask to remember this is not just another task; it may instead be the most important task of all, because “the Gospel is addressed in a special way to the poor” (Benedict XVI, Address to the Bishops of Brazil, 11 May 2007, 3).

Dear neighbours, dear brothers and sisters, let us together pray, work and commit ourselves to ensuring that every family has dignified housing, access to drinking water, a toilet, reliable sources of energy for lighting, cooking and improving their homes; that every neighbourhood has streets, squares, schools, hospitals, areas for sport, recreation and art; that basic services are provided to each of you; that your appeals and your pleas for greater opportunity can be heard; that all can enjoy the peace and security which they rightfully deserve on the basis of their infinite human dignity.

Mungu awabariki! God bless you!

And I ask you, please, do not forget to pray for me.

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Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!


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Deacon Bob’s Homily for Thanksgiving Day, 2015

Thanksgiving Homily, 2015
Sir 50: 20-24; 1 Cor 1: 3-9; Lk 21: 20-28

For what am I most grateful? Health? Life itself? Good fortune? My wife and family? The gift of Holy Orders into which I have been ordained? The Eucharist? My parents and siblings? My country? I could go on.


Yes, I am deeply grateful for all those things. I am the luckiest of all men, for I have been given much. Yet, I am most grateful for something else. I am grateful for the gift of faith which allows me to see God’s presence even in the darkest of times. With faith, I will get to heaven. Without it, I will be tormented. As we heard in the Gospel today, gratitude linked with faith brings salvation.

My health will someday leave me. My life on earth will someday end. My good fortune may take a turn for the worse. Without faith, my ministry will dry up, my reverence for the Eucharist will vanish, my pride in my country will erode, my family relationships will suffer without faith.

On a natural level, we want to be thankful for the good things of life. We know it’s only fair to be grateful for those things and people. St. Thomas Aquinas said that the virtue of gratitude is an extension of the cardinal virtue of justice and it is part of the natural law in every human being born into the world. It is part of our human nature to show such gratitude because it keeps us in harmony with others. Gratitude is an expression of basic human justice and it is an antidote to conflict and division among us. To be grateful is simply doing the right thing, the moral thing.

It is almost instinctual for humans to be grateful for the good things of life and to those who provide these good things to us. A grateful person, generally speaking, is a healthy person. A grateful person is usually at greater peace with himself and others than someone who is ungrateful. It is easy to like someone who is grateful for life and for the good things he enjoys. It is easy to give thanks for the good things of life, the pleasant and the beautiful things that are given to us, the things that give us comfort and security in life. It is natural to be grateful for these things.

So, if you want to be a better human being, practice gratitude. If you want a happier family life, practice gratitude. If you want peace in your relationships with neighbors and friends, practice gratitude because it will make you a more just person and others will respond favorably to you.


I know there are many people who seem to have little for which to be grateful, whose lives are truly painful, challenging, filled with problems and difficulties. It is their reality and they didn’t choose it. Thanksgiving day may be one more difficulty you face, not having family to be with, or peace in your life, or good things to enjoy. So I address you also.


Have faith! Yes, I know that is easy to say, and difficult to live. But have faith! It is difficult is to be grateful for the unpleasant, the difficult, the pain, the problems. It takes real faith to be grateful for the struggles, the challenges, the setbacks, the illnesses, and other naturally unpleasant and difficult things of life. It takes faith to see the presence of God working a miracle in you, desiring to make something beautiful out of it.


Remember, God doesn’t created bad things or desire your pain in life, but he allows it to be so he can transform it into a time of grace. God wants to give you life and love when you are distressed. Nothing is impossible for God, so he allows those difficult times in life, those setbacks, problems, illnesses into your life so he can take and transform them into something very beautiful, very grace-filled, something that will make you more life him — in other words — holy. In this way, if you have faith, faith which illuminates the hand of God at work in our lives, you can truly say you are grateful for those difficult times and events in our lives. I know I am asking something that seems unnatural and very difficult, but we have Jesus himself to show us how to do it, and many saints also.


No problem, no difficulty, no darkness that may come upon you can overcome the light of faith and the love of God for you. No matter how dark or bleak things may be, as long there is the light of faith, that faith will be a light that will mark the presence of God and allow him to take that darkness and turn it into light. For this kind of faith, I am most grateful.

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Pope Francis Greets Deacons on the Occasion of their 50th Year Jubilee in Rome

Pope Francis was to have given an audience to deacons from around the world who were gathering in Rome last month for a Jubilee celebrating 50 years since the Vatican Council restored the diaconate as a permanent rank in the Church. A fellow diaconate director from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Deacon Roger Heidt, attended and gave a report recently to the Region VIII deacon directors about his time there. From what he has said, it was memorable, to say the least.

Unfortunately, the Holy Father had to cancel his audience with the deacons and their wives because of the Synod on the family that was occurring at the same time. He did send his greetings though. I was able to locate his letter on the International Diaconate Centre’s (IDC) website, and I copy it below for your review. It is, I believe, the first time the Holy Father directly addressed the diaconate during his pontificate.

Here it is, as provided by the IDC:

Dear Brothers in the Diaconate,
dear Brothers in the Presbyterate and Episcopate,
dear wives of deacons,
dear participants in the Jubilee of the International Diaconate Centre,

I send you warm greetings and congratulate you on the 50th anniversary that you are celebrating these days on the occasion of the restoration of the Permanent Diaconate by the Second Vatican Council together with 600 people from 35 countries.

When Cardinal Oswald Gracias told me on behalf of your President Klaus Kießling that you were interested in meeting me, I agreed right away – full of anticipation to receive you. However now I have to dedicate my full attention to the Synodal processes, so a direct meeting will not be possible during your Jubilee celebration. I regret this very much and look forward to another opportunity.

In view of the first International Study Conference on the Permanent Diaconate, Paul VI stated on 25 October 1965: “Surely the Council acted in accordance with a providential inspiration of the Holy Spirit when it decided to renew the original ministry of diaconate at the service of the People of God.” It is in this conviction that I ask you not to relent in your commitment to a diaconal Universal Church and a world of solidarity. You are ambassadors of Jesus Christ who rejects anything related to authority and puts human hierarchies upside down like anyone who serves. You are ambassadors of our incarnate God who shows solidarity up until death and beyond death. You are called to accompany other people on their way to incarnation, in solidarity, everywhere in the world.

I thank you from the bottom of my heart for this commitment. At the same time I ask you to accompany me and my ministry with prayer. I also promise to take your concerns to the Lord and cordially impart to you my Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, on 20 October 2015


I especially will be meditating on that one sentence, “You are ambassadors of our incarnate God who shows solidarity up until death and beyond death.” This is a confirmation, for me, of a core piece of diaconal spirituality about which I have written, i.e., the diaconal call to a spiritual martyrdom whose source is in maintaing a contemplative gaze on the uttered Word of the Father and then being available to being sent by the Father to be present to suffering humanity.

As always, I welcome your comments.

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for the Solemnity of Christ the King, Cycle B, 2015

Here is my homily for this weekend. God bless each of you!

The Solemnity of Christ the King

Dn 7: 13-14; Rv 1: 5-8; Jn 18: 33b-37

November 21/22,2015

We are not comfortable with the word, king, nowadays. We would prefer to say President, or representative, or some other American government title. We grate at the thought of a king, and this goes deep into our American experience, all the way back to the Revolutionary War against the King of England.

Jesus, though, is our king. He has more authority over us than any president has ever had; more authority than any king has ever had in the history of the world. Jesus has made us into a kingdom, a kingdom, we are told, of truth.

Jesus gave witness to the truth. Jesus died for the truth. Jesus is the truth and his kingdom is one of eternal truth. Jesus is a king unlike the world has ever known before.

His kingdom of truth is present and evident in the world today. It is not of this world, even though it is present in the world, Jesus tells us. Jesus’ kingdom is the kingdom of heaven. It is the kingdom of the Blessed Trinity, of holiness and relationship and giving and receiving divine life and love. It is the kingdom of God.

Jesus is the king of this mysterious kingdom. As we heard in the readings today, Jesus’ kingdom shall not be taken away or destroyed. “All peoples, nations, and languages serve him.” All people give to and receive from Jesus the king and from his kingdom.

In this kingdom, nothing is ever taken from us by our king, because it is the kingdom of God, the Blessed Trinity, where God only gives and receives life and love. It is a kingdom where we will never take from anyone, or be taken by anyone, but rather we will give and receive God’s presence, his life, his love. It is no wonder Pilate could not understand such a kingdom, or such a king like Jesus.

Think for a moment. God is all. He is complete in himself. He is perfect in every way. Jesus is God incarnate. Jesus is complete and perfect. He needs nothing. He only desires to give and receive love. He is the “Alpha” and the “Omega,” the beginning and the end. We cannot take anything from him because he has no need for anything we possess; rather, Jesus only gives and receives. He is God, and he lives in the great mystery of the Trinity where the Father continually gives and receives love from the Son, and the Son gives and receives love from the Father so much so that the Holy Spirit is present. Father, Son, and Spirit, one God. The Father never takes anything from the Son or the Spirit, nor the Son and Spirit take anything from the Father. The life of the Trinity is a constant giving and receiving love and life and relationship and presence, never taking, always glorifying, sustaining, and magnifying each other as distinct persons but one God.

The amazing thing is Jesus, our king, wants us to be with him in this mysterious kingdom of the Trinity!

The world demands and takes from us. Worldly kingdoms tax us and take what they need from us, but God lacks nothing for he is complete. He has no need to take from us. He wants only to receive our freely given love. He wants us to be in a relationship with him in his kingdom. He wants to give us life, love, encouragement, direction, yes even correction and discipline, and he wants us to know the truth. God only wants to receive us into his very life, the life of the Trinity.

Jesus our king wants to take us to sit with him in heaven at the right hand of the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit!

Remember, Jesus told Pilate that he was a king because he came into the world to witness to the truth, in the power of the Spirit. Jesus is our king, and we have no need to fear him for his kingdom is life in the Trinity. It is a kingdom we all will hopefully one day fully enjoy in heaven where we will behold the beauty of God’s self-giving and receiving, and be caught up in it ourselves.

Is Jesus your king? Is this the kind of kingdom you want to live in for all eternity?

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May It Be So

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Random Thoughts: Loneliness, Complexity, and Relationship in Christian Life

It has been a number of weeks since my last posting, and for good reason. My responsibilities for the diaconal community in our diocese has increased including coordinating the annual retreat last week. It was a wonderful experience for us as a community. Deacon James Keating was our retreat director, and he inspired, healed, prayed, and challenged us all. We were blessed.

Seeking God in the ordinary has been the focus of so much of what has been going on. To take an idea offered by Keating, it  is not breadth which is important in our Catholic lives, but depth, i.e., seeking to plummet the depths of the ordinary in daily life. No doubt, this  is so much in keeping with diaconal spirituality, but not only we deacons, but Christians of whatever vocation. The complexity of  life can both be the work of Satan and his fertile field. Complexity leads to loneliness and loneliness is a source of all that is not holy. I was impressed with the idea that if we wish to do something to end sin in this world, we can simply relate to others, break out of our loneliness and break into the loneliness of others.

This whole idea relating to others as a remedy for sin makes the case for search for depth in the ordinary. How else can we truly be in relationship unless we enter into the silence of what is ordinary and avoid  the cacophony of complexity, the cultural norm of distraction from ourselves and each other? What we are talking about here is echoed in a talk I hear a professor give this  past year on the Catholic understanding of rest, a rest in which we truly encounter ourselves and each other, rather than enter into a world of distraction.

Breaking out of loneliness and into the quiet relatedness of the ordinary is another way of describing what the theologians among call kenosis or a  self-emptying so as to be taken up into what is of God. Here is where it becomes particularly pertinent to the deacon’s spirituality. As I have written in an article entitled, “The Diaconal Call to a Spiritual Martyrdom” published in the Josephinum Diaconate Review (JDR), a deacon’s glory lies in, and his vocation is lived out in, the encounter with the exigencies of the human condition, in the ordinariness of life where the pain of life  is experienced. The deacon cannot know glory unless he is  willing to relate to, become starkly aware of, the suffering of others and suffer himself in his presence to the pain of others. He must relate, break into the loneliness of contemporary complexity, and in his impotency to do much, be present to and give witness to the brokenness of life, living a simple life.

Much more can be said. Watch for my next article in the JDR.


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Deacon Bob’s Homily for 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle B

Here is my homily for this weekend. God bless all!

29th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle B, 2015

29th Sunday of Ordinary Time – Cycle B

Isaiah 53:10-11; Heb 4: 14-16; Mk 10: 35-45

October 17/18, 2015

I don’t know how many of us sitting here today have witnessed someone suffer and die. If you have served in the Armed Forces in a combat zone, no doubt you have. Others may have been present with a loved one as they suffered and died, and there was nothing you could do.

What is our response when this happens? Fear? Anger? Numbness and denial? Compassion?

In our Gospel today, what we didn’t hear was right before today’s passage, Jesus had told his Apostles that he was going to suffer and die. Immediately, James and John, almost in complete denial, make a demand of Jesus.

“Teacher, do for us what we ask of you. Give us privilege and honor!” When we hear this demand placed on the Lord by James and John, we get like the other ten Apostles, don’t we? We find such a demand rather arrogant, almost “adolescent.”

God, give me what I want!

What did Jesus do when he heard it? He asked two questions: 1.) Can you drink the cup I will drink?” and 2) “Will be baptized with the same baptism with which I will be baptized?”

In the Gospel of Mark, anytime we hear of the “cup” that Jesus drinks, or the “baptism” he undergoes, Mark is talking about Jesus’ suffering and death. So Jesus asked James and John, “Can you suffer and die with me?”

These are questions all of us need to ask ourselves. Can we drink the cup of Christ? Will I go where Jesus has gone, even to Calvary, the Cross? Maybe we should meditate on this each time we approach Holy Communion to receive the cup of the Blood of Christ, the cup of his suffering. Do we consider in receiving his Blood we are sharing his suffering?

If we follow Jesus, we end up drinking the cup; we end up being baptized. Yes, we will drink the cup! We will suffer in serving the will of God for us, which means the means to salvation for us lies in serving God and each other. This is the suffering, the “cup,” the “baptism,” because we must let go of ourselves, our will, our plans, our egos, and embrace the will of God and become a servant to those in need. To let go of all of that and embrace the Lord and those in need, that requires a kind of suffering.

But we are an adolescent people all too often. We often have adolescent prayers and demands: “I want you to do for me what I want! I want to be special, to have power and glory, to be the star of the team.” We act like we want to be God, don’t we? Our spiritual lives are stunted. We haven’t moved beyond the tenth grade in our search for spiritual maturity. “I want people to bow to me and my will, not me to theirs.”

It is interesting that James and John, the two Apostles closest to Jesus, were the ones to make the demands which revealed their spiritual adolescence. Yes, even the most “religious” among us still have a long way to go at times. Satan can get us to fall into a rather prideful arrogant sense of self-importance. Yet, Jesus says  that he is a servant, one who attends to the needs of others and gives his life and his will over to the will of the Father so much so that he says it is not his place to award places of honor to his followers; only God the Father does that. Jesus says that he is a servant even to the point of dying for us. He serves us and his Father by giving up his life so others may live. Here we see Jesus the Deacon, i.e., the one who serves.

Jesus’ glory was in his servanthood, in being a good deacon, in serving the needs of others, in fulfilling the Father’s will. Jesus tells us that to be his followers is to be a servant, to let go of ourselves and our adolescent grasping for power, prestige and success, and embracing the needs of someone else by serving them.

The spiritually mature person says, “Let me drink from you cup!” which is to say, “Let me bear your need, your pain, your distress, your sadness, your illness, your loneliness, your discouragement, your fear, your confusion, your loss, your  grief, your poverty.” It is to say to every unwed mother, “I will support your child” and to every frightened and hidden foreigner or refugee in our midst, “I will welcome you” and to every elderly person in this parish who is in the nursing home, hospital or shut-in their own homes, “I will visit you” and to every newly married couple, “I will support and advise your marriage.” It is to say to every dying person, “I will be with you as you suffer and die for you are precious in my eyes in your suffering.” It is to say to the confused teenager, “I’ve been there. Follow me, and I will show you the way.”

God offers you the cup. He has the cup in his hands and he extends it to you, saying, “Will you drink from it, the cup from which I drank, the cup given me by the Father?” Our glory lies in drinking from the same cup as Jesus drank. Meditate on this when you receive the Blood of Christ at communion time. You are drinking from the same cup of salvation, of suffering from which Jesus drank.

Don’t be afraid of suffering in this way. Don’t be afraid to experience the needs, the sufferings of others by serving them. Don’t be afraid to conform your will to the will of God for you by knowing him, loving him, and by serving the needs of others as a true servant, giving your life so others may live.

“For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

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Quote for the Day

“Blessed is the brother that would love his brother in illness, when the brother cannot be of use to him, as much as he loves him in health, when he can be of use to him.” — St. Francis of Assisi

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Photo for the Day

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Men of Faith, Read This.

Bishop Olmsted from the Diocese of Phoenix, has released an apostolic exhortation to all men of the faith. It is entitled, Into the Breach. 

Might I suggest that you read it? Here is an excerpt:

 “And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land…” Ezekiel 22:30

A Call to Battle I begin this letter with a clarion call and clear charge to you, my sons and brothers in Christ: Men, do not hesitate to engage in the battle that is raging around you, the battle that is wounding our children and families, the battle that is distorting the dignity of both women and men. This battle is often hidden, but the battle is real. It is primarily spiritual, but it is progressively killing the remaining Christian ethos in our society and culture, and even in our own homes. The world is under attack by Satan, as our Lord said it would be (1 Peter 5:8-14). This battle is occurring in the Church herself, and the devastation is all too evident. Since AD 2000, 14 million Catholics have left the faith, parish religious education of children has dropped by 24%, Catholic school attendance has dropped by 19%, infant baptism has dropped by 28%, adult baptism has dropped by 31%, and sacramental Catholic marriages have dropped by 41%.1 This is a serious breach, a gaping hole in Christ’s battle lines. While the Diocese of Phoenix has fared better than these national statistics, the losses are staggering. One of the key reasons that the Church is faltering under the attacks of Satan is that many Catholic men have not been willing to “step into the breach” – to fill this gap that lies open and vulnerable to further attack. A large number have left the faith, and many who remain “Catholic” practice the faith timidly and are only minimally committed to passing the faith on to their children. Recent research shows that large numbers of young Catholic men are leaving the faith to become “nones” – men who have no religious affiliation. The growing losses of young Catholic men will have a devastating impact on the Church in America in the coming decades, as older men pass away and young men fail to remain and marry in the Church, accelerating the losses that have already occurred.

To read the entire exhortation, go to: Into the Breach

To browse the website, go to:  Into the Breach Website

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Holy Father’s Words to the Victims of Sexual Abuse

The Holy Father met today with several victims of sexual abuse. Not all were abused by clergy but his message is clear.

As I have been doing, I let you read the pope’s words without commentary from me


St. Charles Borromeo Seminary,Philadelphia
Sunday, 27 September 2015

My dearest brothers and sisters in Christ, I am grateful for this opportunity to meet you, I am blessed by your presence. Thank you for corning here today.

Words cannot fully express my sorrow for the abuse you suffered. You are precious children of God who should always expect our protection, our care and our love. I am profoundly sorry that your innocence was violated by those who you trusted. In some cases the trust was betrayed by members of your own family, in other cases by priests who carry a sacred responsibility for the care of soul. In all circumstances, the betrayal was a terrible violation of human dignity.

For those who were abused by a member of the clergy, I am deeply sorry for the times when you or your family spoke out, to report the abuse, but you were not heard or believed. Please know that the Holy Father hears you and believes you. I deeply regret that some bishops failed in their responsibility to protect children. It is very disturbing to know that in some cases bishops even were abusers. I pledge to you that we will follow the path of truth wherever it may lead. Clergy and bishops will be held accountable when they abuse or fail to protect children.

We are gathered here in Philadelphia to celebrate God’s gift of family life. Within our family of faith and our human families, the sins and crimes of sexual abuse of children must no longer be held in secret and in shame. As we anticipate the Jubilee Year of Mercy, your presence, so generously given despite the anger and pain you have experienced, reveals the merciful heart of Christ. Your stories of survival, each unique and compelling, are powerful signs of the hope that comes from the Lord’s promise to be with us always.

It is good to know that you have brought family members and friends with you today. I am grateful for their compassionate support and pray that many people of the Church will respond to the call to accompany those who have suffered abuse. May the Door of Mercy be opened wide in our dioceses, our parishes, our homes and our hearts, to receive those who were abused and to seek the path to forgiveness by trusting in the Lord. We promise to support your continued healing and to always be vigilant to protect the children of today and tomorrow.

When the disciples who walked with Jesus on the road to Emmaus recognized that He was the Risen Lord, they asked Jesus to stay with them. Like those disciples, I humbly beg you and all survivors of abuse to stay with us, to stay with the Church, and that together, as pilgrims on the journey of faith, we might find our way to the Father.

Continue reading

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Holy Father’s Address to the United Nations

The Holy Father has been absolutely astounding in his energy and strength since landing here in the United States. Scarcely a moment’s rest for him it would seem, and with each talk, address, and homily he leaves us much to be considered and appreciated.

He addressed the United Nations today. Again, as previously, I provide my readers below a a copy of his remarks, as provided by the Press Office of the Vatican.



United Nations Headquarters, New York
Friday, 25 September 2015

Mr President,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good day.  Once again, following a tradition by which I feel honored, the Secretary General of the United Nations has invited the Pope to address this distinguished assembly of nations.  In my own name, and that of the entire Catholic community, I wish to express to you, Mr Ban Ki-moon, my heartfelt gratitude.  I greet the Heads of State and Heads of Government present, as well as the ambassadors, diplomats and political and technical officials accompanying them, the personnel of the United Nations engaged in this 70th Session of the General Assembly, the personnel of the various programs and agencies of the United Nations family, and all those who, in one way or another, take part in this meeting.  Through you, I also greet the citizens of all the nations represented in this hall.  I thank you, each and all, for your efforts in the service of mankind.

This is the fifth time that a Pope has visited the United Nations.  I follow in the footsteps of my predecessors Paul VI, in1965, John Paul II, in 1979 and 1995, and my most recent predecessor, now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, in 2008.  All of them expressed their great esteem for the Organization, which they considered the appropriate juridical and political response to this present moment of history, marked by our technical ability to overcome distances and frontiers and, apparently, to overcome all natural limits to the exercise of power.  An essential response, inasmuch as technological power, in the hands of nationalistic or falsely universalist ideologies, is capable of perpetrating tremendous atrocities.  I can only reiterate the appreciation expressed by my predecessors, in reaffirming the importance which the Catholic Church attaches to this Institution and the hope which she places in its activities.

The United Nations is presently celebrating its seventieth anniversary.  The history of this organized community of states is one of important common achievements over a period of unusually fast-paced changes.  Without claiming to be exhaustive, we can mention the codification and development of international law, the establishment of international norms regarding human rights, advances in humanitarian law, the resolution of numerous conflicts, operations of peace-keeping and reconciliation, and any number of other accomplishments in every area of international activity and endeavour.  All these achievements are lights which help to dispel the darkness of the disorder caused by unrestrained ambitions and collective forms of selfishness.  Certainly, many grave problems remain to be resolved, yet it is also clear that, without all this international activity, mankind would not have been able to survive the unchecked use of its own possibilities.  Every one of these political, juridical and technical advances is a path towards attaining the ideal of human fraternity and a means for its greater realization.

I also pay homage to all those men and women whose loyalty and self-sacrifice have benefitted humanity as a whole in these past seventy years.  In particular, I would recall today those who gave their lives for peace and reconciliation among peoples, from Dag Hammarskjöld to the many United Nations officials at every level who have been killed in the course of humanitarian missions, and missions of peace and reconciliation.

Beyond these achievements, the experience of the past seventy years has made it clear that reform and adaptation to the times is always necessary in the pursuit of the ultimate goal of granting all countries, without exception, a share in, and a genuine and equitable influence on, decision-making processes.  The need for greater equity is especially true in the case of those bodies with effective executive capability, such as the Security Council, the Financial Agencies and the groups or mechanisms specifically created to deal with economic crises.  This will help limit every kind of abuse or usury, especially where developing countries are concerned.  The International Financial Agencies are should care for the sustainable development of countries and should ensure that they are not subjected to oppressive lending systems which, far from promoting progress, subject people to mechanisms which generate greater poverty, exclusion and dependence.

The work of the United Nations, according to the principles set forth in the Preamble and the first Articles of its founding Charter, can be seen as the development and promotion of the rule of law, based on the realization that justice is an essential condition for achieving the ideal of universal fraternity.  In this context, it is helpful to recall that the limitation of power is an idea implicit in the concept of law itself.  To give to each his own, to cite the classic definition of justice, means that no human individual or group can consider itself absolute, permitted to bypass the dignity and the rights of other individuals or their social groupings.  The effective distribution of power (political, economic, defense-related, technological, etc.) among a plurality of subjects, and the creation of a juridical system for regulating claims and interests, are one concrete way of limiting power.  Yet today’s world presents us with many false rights and – at the same time – broad sectors which are vulnerable, victims of power badly exercised: for example, the natural environment and the vast ranks of the excluded.  These sectors are closely interconnected and made increasingly fragile by dominant political and economic relationships.  That is why their rights must be forcefully affirmed, by working to protect the environment and by putting an end to exclusion.

First, it must be stated that a true “right of the environment” does exist, for two reasons.  First, because we human beings are part of the environment.  We live in communion with it, since the environment itself entails ethical limits which human activity must acknowledge and respect.  Man, for all his remarkable gifts, which “are signs of a uniqueness which transcends the spheres of physics and biology” (Laudato Si’, 81), is at the same time a part of these spheres.  He possesses a body shaped by physical, chemical and biological elements, and can only survive and develop if the ecological environment is favourable.  Any harm done to the environment, therefore, is harm done to humanity.  Second, because every creature, particularly a living creature, has an intrinsic value, in its existence, its life, its beauty and its interdependence with other creatures.  We Christians, together with the other monotheistic religions, believe that the universe is the fruit of a loving decision by the Creator, who permits man respectfully to use creation for the good of his fellow men and for the glory of the Creator; he is not authorized to abuse it, much less to destroy it.  In all religions, the environment is a fundamental good (cf. ibid.).

The misuse and destruction of the environment are also accompanied by a relentless process of exclusion.  In effect, a selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity leads both to the misuse of available natural resources and to the exclusion of the weak and disadvantaged, either because they are differently abled (handicapped), or because they lack adequate information and technical expertise, or are incapable of decisive political action.  Economic and social exclusion is a complete denial of human fraternity and a grave offense against human rights and the environment.  The poorest are those who suffer most from such offenses, for three serious reasons: they are cast off by society, forced to live off what is discarded and suffer unjustly from the abuse of the environment.  They are part of today’s widespread and quietly growing “culture of waste”.

The dramatic reality this whole situation of exclusion and inequality, with its evident effects, has led me, in union with the entire Christian people and many others, to take stock of my grave responsibility in this regard and to speak out, together with all those who are seeking urgently-needed and effective solutions.  The adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the World Summit, which opens today, is an important sign of hope.  I am similarly confident that the Paris Conference on Climatic Change will secure fundamental and effective agreements.

Solemn commitments, however, are not enough, although they are certainly a necessary step toward solutions.  The classic definition of justice which I mentioned earlier contains as one of its essential elements a constant and perpetual will: Iustitia est constans et perpetua voluntas ius sum cuique tribuendi.  Our world demands of all government leaders a will which is effective, practical and constant, concrete steps and immediate measures for preserving and improving the natural environment and thus putting an end as quickly as possible to the phenomenon of social and economic exclusion, with its baneful consequences: human trafficking, the marketing of human organs and tissues, the sexual exploitation of boys and girls, slave labour, including prostitution, the drug and weapons trade, terrorism and international organized crime.  Such is the magnitude of these situations and their toll in innocent lives, that we must avoid every temptation to fall into a declarationist nominalism which would assuage our consciences.  We need to ensure that our institutions are truly effective in the struggle against all these scourges.

The number and complexity of the problems require that we possess technical instruments of verification.  But this involves two risks.  We can rest content with the bureaucratic exercise of drawing up long lists of good proposals – goals, objectives and statistics – or we can think that a single theoretical and aprioristic solution will provide an answer to all the challenges.  It must never be forgotten that political and economic activity is only effective when it is understood as a prudential activity, guided by a perennial concept of justice and constantly conscious of the fact that, above and beyond our plans and programmes, we are dealing with real men and women who live, struggle and suffer, and are often forced to live in great poverty, deprived of all rights.

To enable these real men and women to escape from extreme poverty, we must allow them to be dignified agents of their own destiny.  Integral human development and the full exercise of human dignity cannot be imposed.  They must be built up and allowed to unfold for each individual, for every family, in communion with others, and in a right relationship with all those areas in which human social life develops – friends, communities, towns and cities, schools, businesses and unions, provinces, nations, etc.  This presupposes and requires the right to education – also for girls (excluded in certain places) – which is ensured first and foremost by respecting and reinforcing the primary right of the family to educate its children, as well as the right of churches and social groups to support and assist families in the education of their children.  Education conceived in this way is the basis for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and for reclaiming the environment.

At the same time, government leaders must do everything possible to ensure that all can have the minimum spiritual and material means needed to live in dignity and to create and support a family, which is the primary cell of any social development.  In practical terms, this absolute minimum has three names: lodging, labour, and land; and one spiritual name: spiritual freedom, which includes religious freedom, the right to education and all other civil rights.

For all this, the simplest and best measure and indicator of the implementation of the new Agenda for development will be effective, practical and immediate access, on the part of all, to essential material and spiritual goods: housing, dignified and properly remunerated employment, adequate food and drinking water; religious freedom and, more generally, spiritual freedom and education.  These pillars of integral human development have a common foundation, which is the right to life and, more generally, what we could call the right to existence of human nature itself.

The ecological crisis, and the large-scale destruction of biodiversity, can threaten the very existence of the human species.  The baneful consequences of an irresponsible mismanagement of the global economy, guided only by ambition for wealth and power, must serve as a summons to a forthright reflection on man: “man is not only a freedom which he creates for himself.  Man does not create himself.  He is spirit and will, but also nature” (BENEDICT XVI, Address to the Bundestag, 22 September 2011, cited inLaudato Si’, 6).  Creation is compromised “where we ourselves have the final word… The misuse of creation begins when we no longer recognize any instance above ourselves, when we see nothing else but ourselves” (ID. Address to the Clergy of the Diocese of Bolzano-Bressanone, 6 August 2008, cited ibid.).  Consequently, the defence of the environment and the fight against exclusion demand that we recognize a moral law written into human nature itself, one which includes the natural difference between man and woman (cf. Laudato Si’, 155), and absolute respect for life in all its stages and dimensions (cf. ibid., 123, 136).

Without the recognition of certain incontestable natural ethical limits and without the immediate implementation of those pillars of integral human development, the ideal of “saving succeeding generations from the scourge of war” (Charter of the United Nations, Preamble), and “promoting social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom” (ibid.), risks becoming an unattainable illusion, or, even worse, idle chatter which serves as a cover for all kinds of abuse and corruption, or for carrying out an ideological colonization by the imposition of anomalous models and lifestyles which are alien to people’s identity and, in the end, irresponsible.

War is the negation of all rights and a dramatic assault on the environment.  If we want true integral human development for all, we must work tirelessly to avoid war between nations and peoples.

To this end, there is a need to ensure the uncontested rule of law and tireless recourse to negotiation, mediation and arbitration, as proposed by the Charter of the United Nations, which constitutes truly a fundamental juridical norm.  The experience of these seventy years since the founding of the United Nations in general, and in particular the experience of these first fifteen years of the third millennium, reveal both the effectiveness of the full application of international norms and the ineffectiveness of their lack of enforcement.  When the Charter of the United Nations is respected and applied with transparency and sincerity, and without ulterior motives, as an obligatory reference point of justice and not as a means of masking spurious intentions, peaceful results will be obtained.  When, on the other hand, the norm is considered simply as an instrument to be used whenever it proves favourable, and to be avoided when it is not, a true Pandora’s box is opened, releasing uncontrollable forces which gravely harm defenseless populations, the cultural milieu and even the biological environment.

The Preamble and the first Article of the Charter of the United Nations set forth the foundations of the international juridical framework: peace, the pacific solution of disputes and the development of friendly relations between the nations.  Strongly opposed to such statements, and in practice denying them, is the constant tendency to the proliferation of arms, especially weapons of mass distraction, such as nuclear weapons.  An ethics and a law based on the threat of mutual destruction – and possibly the destruction of all mankind – are self-contradictory and an affront to the entire framework of the United Nations, which would end up as “nations united by fear and distrust”.  There is urgent need to work for a world free of nuclear weapons, in full application of the non-proliferation Treaty, in letter and spirit, with the goal of a complete prohibition of these weapons.

The recent agreement reached on the nuclear question in a sensitive region of Asia and the Middle East is proof of the potential of political good will and of law, exercised with sincerity, patience and constancy.  I express my hope that this agreement will be lasting and efficacious, and bring forth the desired fruits with the cooperation of all the parties involved.

In this sense, hard evidence is not lacking of the negative effects of military and political interventions which are not coordinated between members of the international community.  For this reason, while regretting to have to do so, I must renew my repeated appeals regarding to the painful situation of the entire Middle East, North Africa and other African countries, where Christians, together with other cultural or ethnic groups, and even members of the majority religion who have no desire to be caught up in hatred and folly, have been forced to witness the destruction of their places of worship, their cultural and religious heritage, their houses and property, and have faced the alternative either of fleeing or of paying for their adhesion to good and to peace by their own lives, or by enslavement.

These realities should serve as a grave summons to an examination of conscience on the part of those charged with the conduct of international affairs.  Not only in cases of religious or cultural persecution, but in every situation of conflict, as in Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, Libya, South Sudan and the Great Lakes region, real human beings take precedence over partisan interests, however legitimate the latter may be.  In wars and conflicts there are individual persons, our brothers and sisters, men and women, young and old, boys and girls who weep, suffer and die.  Human beings who are easily discarded when our response is simply to draw up lists of problems, strategies and disagreements.

As I wrote in my letter to the Secretary-General of the United Nations on 9 August 2014, “the most basic understanding of human dignity compels the international community, particularly through the norms and mechanisms of international law, to do all that it can to stop and to prevent further systematic violence against ethnic and religious minorities” and to protect innocent peoples.

Along the same lines I would mention another kind of conflict which is not always so open, yet is silently killing millions of people.  Another kind of war experienced by many of our societies as a result of the narcotics trade.  A war which is taken for granted and poorly fought.  Drug trafficking is by its very nature accompanied by trafficking in persons, money laundering, the arms trade, child exploitation and other forms of corruption.  A corruption which has penetrated to different levels of social, political, military, artistic and religious life, and, in many cases, has given rise to a parallel structure which threatens the credibility of our institutions.

I began this speech recalling the visits of my predecessors.  I would hope that my words will be taken above all as a continuation of the final words of the address of Pope Paul VI; although spoken almost exactly fifty years ago, they remain ever timely.   I quote: “The hour has come when a pause, a moment of recollection, reflection, even of prayer, is absolutely needed so that we may think back over our common origin, our history, our common destiny.  The appeal to the moral conscience of man has never been as necessary as it is today… For the danger comes neither from progress nor from science; if these are used well, they can help to solve a great number of the serious problems besetting mankind (Address to the United Nations Organization, 4 October 1965).  Among other things, human genius, well applied, will surely help to meet the grave challenges of ecological deterioration and of exclusion.  As Paul VI said: “The real danger comes from man, who has at his disposal ever more powerful instruments that are as well fitted to bring about ruin as they are to achieve lofty conquests” (ibid.).

The common home of all men and women must continue to rise on the foundations of a right understanding of universal fraternity and respect for the sacredness of every human life, of every man and every woman, the poor, the elderly, children, the infirm, the unborn, the unemployed, the abandoned, those considered disposable because they are only considered as part of a statistic.  This common home of all men and women must also be built on the understanding of a certain sacredness of created nature.

Such understanding and respect call for a higher degree of wisdom, one which accepts transcendence, self-transcendence, rejects the creation of an all-powerful élite, and recognizes that the full meaning of individual and collective life is found in selfless service to others and in the sage and respectful use of creation for the common good.  To repeat the words of Paul VI, “the edifice of modern civilization has to be built on spiritual principles, for they are the only ones capable not only of supporting it, but of shedding light on it” (ibid.).

El Gaucho Martín Fierro, a classic of literature in my native land, says: “Brothers should stand by each other, because this is the first law; keep a true bond between you always, at every time – because if you fight among yourselves, you’ll be devoured by those outside”.

The contemporary world, so apparently connected, is experiencing a growing and steady social fragmentation, which places at risk “the foundations of social life” and consequently leads to “battles over conflicting interests” (Laudato Si’, 229).

The present time invites us to give priority to actions which generate new processes in society, so as to bear fruit in significant and positive historical events (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 223).  We cannot permit ourselves to postpone “certain agendas” for the future.  The future demands of us critical and global decisions in the face of world-wide conflicts which increase the number of the excluded and those in need.

The praiseworthy international juridical framework of the United Nations Organization and of all its activities, like any other human endeavour, can be improved, yet it remains necessary; at the same time it can be the pledge of a secure and happy future for future generations.  And so it will, if the representatives of the States can set aside partisan and ideological interests, and sincerely strive to serve the common good.  I pray to Almighty God that this will be the case, and I assure you of my support and my prayers, and the support and prayers of all the faithful of the Catholic Church, that this Institution, all its member States, and each of its officials, will always render an effective service to mankind, a service respectful of diversity and capable of bringing out, for sake of the common good, the best in each people and in every individual.  God bless you all.  Thank you.


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Holy Father’s Words to the Bishops of the United States

I also wish to reproduce for you here the address Pope Francis gave to the American bishops. Please read it for yourselves and don’t rely on the excerpts that will be reported by the press. Take you time to reflect and understand his message. Thanks.



Cathedral of Saint Matthew, Washington, D.C.
Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Dear Brother Bishops,

First of all, I wish to send a greeting to the Jewish community, our Jewish brothers and sisters, who today are celebrating Yom Kippur. May the Lord bless them with peace and help them to advance on the path of holiness, as we heard today in his word: “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (Lev 19:2).

I am pleased that we can meet at this point in the apostolic mission which has brought me to your country. I thank Cardinal Wuerl and Archbishop Kurtz for their kind words in your name. I am very appreciative of your welcome and the generous efforts made to help plan and organize my stay.

As I look out with affection at you, their pastors, I would like to embrace all the local Churches over which you exercise loving responsibility. I would ask you to share my affection and spiritual closeness with the People of God throughout this vast land.

The heart of the Pope expands to include everyone. To testify to the immensity of God’s love is the heart of the mission entrusted to the Successor of Peter, the Vicar of the One who on the cross embraced the whole of mankind. May no member of Christ’s Body and the American people feel excluded from the Pope’s embrace. Wherever the name of Jesus is spoken, may the Pope’s voice also be heard to affirm that: “He is the Savior”! From your great coastal cities to the plains of the Midwest, from the deep South to the far reaches of the West, wherever your people gather in the Eucharistic assembly, may the Pope be not simply a name but a felt presence, sustaining the fervent plea of the Bride: “Come, Lord!”

Whenever a hand reaches out to do good or to show the love of Christ, to dry a tear or bring comfort to the lonely, to show the way to one who is lost or to console a broken heart, to help the fallen or to teach those thirsting for truth, to forgive or to offer a new start in God… know that the Pope is at your side, the Pope supports you. He puts his hand on your own, a hand wrinkled with age, but by God’s grace still able to support and encourage.

My first word to you is one of thanksgiving to God for the power of the Gospel which has brought about remarkable growth of Christ’s Church in these lands and enabled its generous contribution, past and present, to American society and to the world. I thank you most heartily for your generous solidarity with the Apostolic See and the support you give to the spread of the Gospel in many suffering areas of our world. I appreciate the unfailing commitment of the Church in America to the cause of life and that of the family, which is the primary reason for my present visit. I am well aware of the immense efforts you have made to welcome and integrate those immigrants who continue to look to America, like so many others before them, in the hope of enjoying its blessings of freedom and prosperity. I also appreciate the efforts which you are making to fulfill the Church’s mission of education in schools at every level and in the charitable services offered by your numerous institutions. These works are often carried out without appreciation or support, often with heroic sacrifice, out of obedience to a divine mandate which we may not disobey.

I am also conscious of the courage with which you have faced difficult moments in the recent history of the Church in this country without fear of self-criticism and at the cost of mortification and great sacrifice. Nor have you been afraid to divest whatever is unessential in order to regain the authority and trust which is demanded of ministers of Christ and rightly expected by the faithful. I realize how much the pain of recent years has weighed upon you and I have supported your generous commitment to bring healing to victims – in the knowledge that in healing we too are healed – and to work to ensure that such crimes will never be repeated.

I speak to you as the Bishop of Rome, called by God in old age, and from a land which is also American, to watch over the unity of the universal Church and to encourage in charity the journey of all the particular Churches toward ever greater knowledge, faith and love of Christ. Reading over your names, looking at your faces, knowing the extent of your churchmanship and conscious of the devotion which you have always shown for the Successor of Peter, I must tell you that I do not feel a stranger in your midst. I am a native of a land which is also vast, with great open ranges, a land which, like your own, received the faith from itinerant missionaries. I too know how hard it is to sow the Gospel among people from different worlds, with hearts often hardened by the trials of a lengthy journey. Nor am I unaware of the efforts made over the years to build up the Church amid the prairies, mountains, cities and suburbs of a frequently inhospitable land, where frontiers are always provisional and easy answers do not always work. What does work is the combination of the epic struggle of the pioneers and the homely wisdom and endurance of the settlers. As one of your poets has put it, “strong and tireless wings” combined with the wisdom of one who “knows the mountains”.[1]

I do not speak to you with my voice alone, but in continuity with the words of my predecessors. From the birth of this nation, when, following the American Revolution, the first diocese was erected in Baltimore, the Church of Rome has always been close to you; you have never lacked its constant assistance and encouragement. In recent decades, three Popes have visited you and left behind a remarkable legacy of teaching. Their words remain timely and have helped to inspire the long-term goals which you have set for the Church in this country.

It is not my intention to offer a plan or to devise a strategy. I have not come to judge you or to lecture you. I trust completely in the voice of the One who “teaches all things” (Jn 14:26). Allow me only, in the freedom of love, to speak to you as a brother among brothers. I have no wish to tell you what to do, because we all know what it is that the Lord asks of us. Instead, I would turn once again to the demanding task – ancient yet never new – of seeking out the paths we need to take and the spirit with which we need to work. Without claiming to be exhaustive, I would share with you some reflections which I consider helpful for our mission.

We are bishops of the Church, shepherds appointed by God to feed his flock. Our greatest joy is to be shepherds, and only shepherds, pastors with undivided hearts and selfless devotion. We need to preserve this joy and never let ourselves be robbed of it. The evil one roars like a lion, anxious to devour it, wearing us down in our resolve to be all that we are called to be, not for ourselves but in gift and service to the “Shepherd of our souls” (1 Pet 2:25).

The heart of our identity is to be sought in constant prayer, in preaching (Acts 6:4) and in shepherding the flock entrusted to our care (Jn 21:15-17; Acts 20:28-31).

Ours must not be just any kind of prayer, but familiar union with Christ, in which we daily encounter his gaze and sense that he is asking us the question: “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” (Mk 3:31-34). One in which we can calmly reply: “Lord, here is your mother, here are your brothers! I hand them over to you; they are the ones whom you entrusted to me”. Such trusting union with Christ is what nourishes the life of a pastor.

It is not about preaching complicated doctrines, but joyfully proclaiming Christ who died and rose for our sake. The “style” of our mission should make our hearers feel that the message we preach is meant “for us”. May the word of God grant meaning and fullness to every aspect of their lives; may the sacraments nourish them with that food which they cannot procure for themselves; may the closeness of the shepherd make them them long once again for the Father’s embrace. Be vigilant that the flock may always encounter in the heart of their pastor that “taste of eternity” which they seek in vain in the things of this world. May they always hear from you a word of appreciation for their efforts to confirm in liberty and justice the prosperity in which this land abounds. At the same time, may you never lack the serene courage to proclaim that “we must work not for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures for eternal life” (Jn 6:27).

Shepherds who do not pasture themselves but are able to step back, away from the center, to “decrease”, in order to feed God’s family with Christ. Who keep constant watch, standing on the heights to look out with God’s eyes on the flock which is his alone. Who ascend to the height of the cross of God’s Son, the sole standpoint which opens to the shepherd the heart of his flock.

Shepherds who do not lower our gaze, concerned only with our concerns, but raise it constantly toward the horizons which God opens before us and which surpass all that we ourselves can foresee or plan. Who also watch over ourselves, so as to flee the temptation of narcissism, which blinds the eyes of the shepherd, makes his voice unrecognizable and his actions fruitless. In the countless paths which lie open to your pastoral concern, remember to keep focused on the core which unifies everything: “You did it unto me” (Mt 25:31-45).

Certainly it is helpful for a bishop to have the farsightedness of a leader and the shrewdness of an administrator, but we fall into hopeless decline whenever we confuse the power of strength with the strength of that powerlessness with which God has redeemed us. Bishops need to be lucidly aware of the battle between light and darkness being fought in this world. Woe to us, however, if we make of the cross a banner of worldly struggles and fail to realize that the price of lasting victory is allowing ourselves to be wounded and consumed (Phil 2:1-11).

We all know the anguish felt by the first Eleven, huddled together, assailed and overwhelmed by the fear of sheep scattered because the shepherd had been struck. But we also know that we have been given a spirit of courage and not of timidity. So we cannot let ourselves be paralyzed by fear.

I know that you face many challenges, and that the field in which you sow is unyielding and that there is always the temptation to give in to fear, to lick one’s wounds, to think back on bygone times and to devise harsh responses to fierce opposition.

And yet we are promoters of the culture of encounter. We are living sacraments of the embrace between God’s riches and our poverty. We are witnesses of the abasement and the condescension of God who anticipates in love our every response.

Dialogue is our method, not as a shrewd strategy but out of fidelity to the One who never wearies of visiting the marketplace, even at the eleventh hour, to propose his offer of love (Mt 20:1-16).

The path ahead, then, is dialogue among yourselves, dialogue in your presbyterates, dialogue with lay persons, dialogue with families, dialogue with society. I cannot ever tire of encouraging you to dialogue fearlessly. The richer the heritage which you are called to share with parrhesia, the more eloquent should be the humility with which you should offer it. Do not be afraid to set out on that “exodus” which is necessary for all authentic dialogue. Otherwise, we fail to understand the thinking of others, or to realize deep down that the brother or sister we wish to reach and redeem, with the power and the closeness of love, counts more than their positions, distant as they may be from what we hold as true and certain. Harsh and divisive language does not befit the tongue of a pastor, it has no place in his heart; although it may momentarily seem to win the day, only the enduring allure of goodness and love remains truly convincing.

We need to let the Lord’s words echo constantly in our hearts: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, who am meek and humble of heart, and you will find refreshment for your souls” (Mt 11:28-30). Jesus’ yoke is a yoke of love and thus a pledge of refreshment. At times in our work we can be burdened by a sense of loneliness, and so feel the heaviness of the yoke that we forget that we have received it from the Lord. It seems to be ours alone, and so we drag it like weary oxen working a dry field, troubled by the thought that we are laboring in vain. We can forget the profound refreshment which is indissolubly linked to the One who has made us the promise.

We need to learn from Jesus, or better to learn Jesus, meek and humble; to enter into his meekness and his humility by contemplating his way of acting; to lead our Churches and our people – not infrequently burdened by the stress of everyday life – to the ease of the Lord’s yoke. And to remember that Jesus’ Church is kept whole not by “consuming fire from heaven” (Lk 9:54), but by the secret warmth of the Spirit, who “heals what is wounded, bends what is rigid, straightens what is crooked”.

The great mission which the Lord gives us is one which we carry out in communion, collegially. The world is already so torn and divided, brokenness is now everywhere. Consequently, the Church, “the seamless garment of the Lord” cannot allow herself to be rent, broken or fought over.

Our mission as bishops is first and foremost to solidify unity, a unity whose content is defined by the Word of God and the one Bread of Heaven. With these two realities each of the Churches entrusted to us remains Catholic, because open to, and in communion with, all the particular Churches and with the Church of Rome which “presides in charity”. It is imperative, therefore, to watch over that unity, to safeguard it, to promote it and to bear witness to it as a sign and instrument which, beyond every barrier, unites nations, races, classes and generations.

May the forthcoming Holy Year of Mercy, by drawing us into the fathomless depths of God’s heart in which no division dwells, be for all of you a privileged moment for strengthening communion, perfecting unity, reconciling differences, forgiving one another and healing every rift, that your light may shine forth like “a city built on a hill” (Mt 5:14).

This service to unity is particularly important for this nation, whose vast material and spiritual, cultural and political, historical and human, scientific and technological resources impose significant moral responsibilities in a world which is seeking, confusedly and laboriously, new balances of peace, prosperity and integration. It is an essential part of your mission to offer to the United States of America the humble yet powerful leaven of communion. May all mankind know that the presence in its midst of the “sacrament of unity” (Lumen Gentium, 1) is a guarantee that its fate is not decay and dispersion.

This kind of witness is a beacon whose light can reassure men and women sailing through the dark clouds of life that a sure haven awaits them, that they will not crash on the reefs or be overwhelmed by the waves. I encourage you, then, my brothers, to confront the challenging issues of our time. Ever present within each of them is life as gift and responsibility. The future freedom and dignity of our societies depends on how we face these challenges.

The innocent victim of abortion, children who die of hunger or from bombings, immigrants who drown in the search for a better tomorrow, the elderly or the sick who are considered a burden, the victims of terrorism, wars, violence and drug trafficking, the environment devastated by man’s predatory relationship with nature – at stake in all of this is the gift of God, of which we are noble stewards but not masters. It is wrong, then, to look the other way or to remain silent. No less important is the Gospel of the Family, which in the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia I will emphatically proclaim together with you and the entire Church.

These essential aspects of the Church’s mission belong to the core of what we have received from the Lord. It is our duty to preserve and communicate them, even when the tenor of the times becomes resistant and even hostile to that message (Evangelii Gaudium, 34-39). I urge you to offer this witness, with the means and creativity born of love, and with the humility of truth. It needs to be preached and proclaimed to those without, but also to find room in people’s hearts and in the conscience of society.

To this end, it is important that the Church in the United States also be a humble home, a family fire which attracts men and women through the attractive light and warmth of love. As pastors, we know well how much darkness and cold there is in this world; we know the loneliness and the neglect experienced by many people, even amid great resources of communication and material wealth. We also know their fear in the face of life, their despair and the many forms of escapism to which it gives rise.

Consequently, only a Church which can gather around the family fire remains able to attract others. And not any fire, but the one which blazed forth on Easter morn. The risen Lord continues to challenge the Church’s pastors through the quiet plea of so many of our brothers and sisters: “Have you something to eat?” We need to recognize the Lord’s voice, as the apostles did on the shore of the lake of Tiberius (Jn 21:4-12). It becomes even more urgent to grow in the certainty that the embers of his presence, kindled in the fire of his passion, precede us and will never die out. Whenever this certainty weakens, we end up being caretakers of ash, and not guardians and dispensers of the true light and the warmth which causes our hearts to burn within us (Lk 24:32).

Before concluding, allow me to offer two recommendations which are close to my heart. The first refers to your fatherhood as bishops. Be pastors close to people, pastors who are neighbors and servants. Let this closeness be expressed in a special way towards your priests. Support them, so that they can continue to serve Christ with an undivided heart, for this alone can bring fulfillment to ministers of Christ. I urge you, then, not to let them be content with half-measures. Find ways to encourage their spiritual growth, lest they yield to the temptation to become notaries and bureaucrats, but instead reflect the motherhood of the Church, which gives birth to and raises her sons and daughters. Be vigilant lest they tire of getting up to answer those who knock on their door by night, just when they feel entitled to rest (Lk 11:5-8). Train them to be ready to stop, care for, soothe, lift up and assist those who, “by chance” find themselves stripped of all they thought they had (Lk 10:29-37).

My second recommendation has to do with immigrants. I ask you to excuse me if in some way I am pleading my own case. The Church in the United States knows like few others the hopes present in the hearts of these “pilgrims”. From the beginning you have learned their languages, promoted their cause, made their contributions your own, defended their rights, helped them to prosper, and kept alive the flame of their faith. Even today, no American institution does more for immigrants than your Christian communities. Now you are facing this stream of Latin immigration which affects many of your dioceses. Not only as the Bishop of Rome, but also as a pastor from the South, I feel the need to thank and encourage you. Perhaps it will not be easy for you to look into their soul; perhaps you will be challenged by their diversity. But know that they also possess resources meant to be shared. So do not be afraid to welcome them. Offer them the warmth of the love of Christ and you will unlock the mystery of their heart. I am certain that, as so often in the past, these people will enrich America and its Church.

May God bless you and Our Lady watch over you! Thank you!


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Holy Father Pope Francis’ Homily for the Canonization of Fr. Junipero Serra

(Here is the pope’s homily from the canonization Mass of Fr. Junipero Serra. I let it speak for  itself. Enjoy!)



National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, D.C.
Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Rejoice in the Lord always! I say it again, rejoice! These are striking words, words which impact our lives. Paul tells us to rejoice; he practically orders us to rejoice. This command resonates with the desire we all have for a fulfilling life, a meaningful life, a joyful life. It is as if Paul could hear what each one of us is thinking in his or her heart and to voice what we are feeling, what we are experiencing. Something deep within us invites us to rejoice and tells us not to settle for placebos which always keep us comfortable.

At the same time, though, we all know the struggles of everyday life. So much seems to stand in the way of this invitation to rejoice. Our daily routine can often lead us to a kind of glum apathy which gradually becomes a habit, with a fatal consequence: our hearts grow numb.

We don’t want apathy to guide our lives… or do we? We don’t want the force of habit to rule our life… or do we? So we ought to ask ourselves: What can we do to keep our heart from growing numb, becoming anesthetized? How do we make the joy of the Gospel increase and take deeper root in our lives?

Jesus gives the answer. He said to his disciples then and he says it to us now: Go forth! Proclaim! The joy of the Gospel is something to be experienced, something to be known and lived only through giving it away, through giving ourselves away.

The spirit of the world tells us to be like everyone else, to settle for what comes easy. Faced with this human way of thinking, “we must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and for the world” (Laudato Si’, 229). It is the responsibility to proclaim the message of Jesus. For the source of our joy is “an endless desire to show mercy, the fruit of our own experience of the power of the Father’s infinite mercy” (Evangelii Gaudium, 24). Go out to all, proclaim by anointing and anoint by proclaiming. This is what the Lord tells us today. He tells us:

A Christian finds joy in mission: Go out to people of every nation!

A Christian experiences joy in following a command: Go forth and proclaim the good news!

A Christian finds ever new joy in answering a call: Go forth and anoint!

Jesus sends his disciples out to all nations. To every people. We too were part of all those people of two thousand years ago. Jesus did not provide a short list of who is, or is not, worthy of receiving his message and his presence. Instead, he always embraced life as he saw it. In faces of pain, hunger, sickness and sin. In faces of wounds, of thirst, of weariness, doubt and pity. Far from expecting a pretty life, smartly-dressed and neatly groomed, he embraced life as he found it. It made no difference whether it was dirty, unkempt, broken. Jesus said: Go out and tell the good news to everyone. Go out and in my name embrace life as it is, and not as you think it should be. Go out to the highways and byways, go out to tell the good news fearlessly, without prejudice, without superiority, without condescension, to all those who have lost the joy of living. Go out to proclaim the merciful embrace of the Father. Go out to those who are burdened by pain and failure, who feel that their lives are empty, and proclaim the folly of a loving Father who wants to anoint them with the oil of hope, the oil of salvation. Go out to proclaim the good news that error, deceitful illusions and falsehoods do not have the last word in a person’s life. Go out with the ointment which soothes wounds and heals hearts.

Mission is never the fruit of a perfectly planned program or a well-organized manual. Mission is always the fruit of a life which knows what it is to be found and healed, encountered and forgiven. Mission is born of a constant experience of God’s merciful anointing.

The Church, the holy People of God, treads the dust-laden paths of history, so often traversed by conflict, injustice and violence, in order to encounter her children, our brothers and sisters. The holy and faithful People of God are not afraid of losing their way; they are afraid of becoming self-enclosed, frozen into élites, clinging to their own security. They know that self-enclosure, in all the many forms it takes, is the cause of so much apathy.

So let us go out, let us go forth to offer everyone the life of Jesus Christ (Evangelii Gaudium, 49). The People of God can embrace everyone because we are the disciples of the One who knelt before his own to wash their feet (ibid., 24).

We are here today, we can be here today, because many people wanted to respond to that call. They believed that “life grows by being given away, and it weakens in isolation and comfort” (Aparecida Document, 360). We are heirs to the bold missionary spirit of so many men and women who preferred not to be “shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security… within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door people are starving” (Evangelii Gaudium, 49). We are indebted to a tradition, a chain of witnesses who have made it possible for the good news of the Gospel to be, in every generation, both “good” and “news”.

Today we remember one of those witnesses who testified to the joy of the Gospel in these lands, Father Junípero Serra. He was the embodiment of “a Church which goes forth”, a Church which sets out to bring everywhere the reconciling tenderness of God. Junípero Serra left his native land and its way of life. He was excited about blazing trails, going forth to meet many people, learning and valuing their particular customs and ways of life. He learned how to bring to birth and nurture God’s life in the faces of everyone he met; he made them his brothers and sisters. Junípero sought to defend the dignity of the native community, to protect it from those who had mistreated and abused it. Mistreatment and wrongs which today still trouble us, especially because of the hurt which they cause in the lives of many people.

Father Serra had a motto which inspired his life and work, not just a saying, but above all a reality which shaped the way he lived:siempre adelante! Keep moving forward! For him, this was the way to continue experiencing the joy of the Gospel, to keep his heart from growing numb, from being anesthetized. He kept moving forward, because the Lord was waiting. He kept going, because his brothers and sisters were waiting. He kept going forward to the end of his life. Today, like him, may we be able to say: Forward! Let’s keep moving forward!

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