(Vatican Radio) One of the highlights of the Holy Father’s first day in Georgia was his meeting with the Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia, Ilia II, and with the Members of the Holy Synod of the Georgian Orthodox Church.
In his address during the meeting, Pope Francis focused on the love of Christ as a basis for building up the bonds of unity between the Catholic Church and the Georgian Orthodox Church.
In his address to the leaders of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Pope Francis recalled Patriarch Ilia’s visit to Rome in 1980, the first visit ever of a Georgian Patriarch to the Vatican. He also recalled the visit of Pope John Paul II to Georgia on the eve of the Jubilee Year of 2000.
Pope Francis’ visit to Georgia likewise comes during the celebration of a Jubilee, the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy.
On the occasion of this new meeting, the Pope noted the ties that exist between the Georgian Church, founded on the preaching of St Andrew; and the Church of Rome, built on the foundation of the St Peter, Andrew’s brother. Addressing Ilia as “Dear Brother,” Pope Francis said, “let us allow the Lord Jesus to look upon us anew, let us once again experience the attraction of his call to leave everything that prevents us from proclaiming together his presence.”
The love of Christ as the basis of unity among Christians was the focus of the Pope’s reflection. “Truly, the love of the Lord raises us up,” Pope Francis said, “because it enables us to rise above the misunderstandings of the past, above the calculations of the present and fears for the future.”
The people of Georgia, he continued, have witnessed to “the greatness of this love” through the centuries – a love that has inspired “the immortal beauty” of Georgia’s cultural patrimony.
“I want to be a genuine friend to this land and its beloved people,” Pope Francis said, a people “who do not forget the good they have received and whose unique hospitality is intimately united to a way of living that is full of true hope, even though there is no shortage of difficulties.”
Pope Francis concluded his remarks by with an appeal to the “courageous heroes” of Georgia’s history, “who like St George, knew how to defeat evil.” May their intercession, he prayed, “May their intercession bring relief to the many Christians who even today suffer persecution and slander, and may they strengthen in us the noble aspiration to be fraternally united in proclaiming the Gospel of peace.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) In a video message to the people of Argentina, Pope Francis spoke of his regret at not being able to visit his homeland this year or in 2017, saying he already has planned trips to Asia and Africa next year.
Watch the Pope's video message:
The Pope assured his compatriots that he continues to be an Argentinian who feels close to his people and revealed that he "still travels with an Argentine passport." In the message which he described as a monologue but wished it were a chat, Pope Francis urged the people of Argentina to help promote "a culture of encounter" in which people can live “with dignity and express themselves peacefully without being insulted, condemned, attacked or cast to one side.”
Noting that this year there were two important events for the Church in Argentina, the beatification in August of Mama Antula (an 18th century Catholic laywoman) and the canonization in October of Cura Brochero (the 19th century Gaucho priest), the Pope said he very much wished he could have attended these two events but it was not possible. He said it was his love for his native Argentina that was prompting him to ask his fellow countrymen to place their nation on their shoulders – a nation that needs each of us to give of our best “to improve, grow and mature.” Only in this way, he went on, can we achieve “a culture of encounter” that is able to overcome “the throw-away culture” which is so prevalent in today’s world.
In additional to Argentina’s many natural riches, Pope Francis reminded his listeners that the nation’s greatest treasure was its people and urged them to walk alongside those who need assistance and help those who fall sick to recover.
The Pope concluded his message by saying like a school teacher of old he was giving his compatriots some homework during this Jubilee Year of Mercy. He then went on to list 7 works each of corporal and spiritual mercy and encouraged his listeners to try to perform these good deeds every day or every other day.
Listen to this report by Susy Hodges (that includes clips of the Pope's voice reading his message):
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis is currently on an Apostolic journey to Georgia. He flew into the nation's capital Tbilisi on Friday 30th of September and his third and last appointment of the day took place at the Chaldean Catholic Church of Simon 'Bar Sabbae', dedicated to a tenth century Coptic Saint. There he met with representatives of the Assyrian Chaldean community.
Listen to a report by Veronica Scarisbrick:
Upon his arrival at the Church the Pope was greeted by the Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans and the local parish priest. Together they entered the Church in procession, making their way towards the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament therein. .
Among those present were around three hundred faithful from the Assyrian Chaldean 'Diaspora'. Not just from the nation's capital but also from nearby towns and villages. For the record the Catholic Assyrian Chaldean mission in Georgia was instituted in 1995 under Vatican jurisdiction and from that year on the Chaldean rite was celebrated in the nation. But it was only in 2004 that the growing number of Chaldean parishioners prompted the construction of the Church of Saint Simon.
So it was in this Church on Friday that celebrations took place, beginning with sacred music and prayers in Aramaic. That's before Pope Francis himself prayed for peace in the world.
Speaking in Italian he implored the Lord to save the victims of injustice and maltreatment from their suffering, to confound the culture of death and make the triumph of life shine forth, to unite to His Cross the sufferings of the many innocent victims: the children, the elderly, and the persecuted Christians. Envelop in Paschal light, he went on to implore, those who are deeply wounded, those who are abused and deprived of freedom and dignity. May those who live in uncertainty experience the enduring constancy of Your kingdom, be they exiles, refugees or those who have lost the joy of living. Lord Jesus, he continued, cast forth the shadow of Your Cross over peoples at war, may they learn the way of reconciliation, dialogue and forgiveness. May peoples, so wearied by bombing, experience the joy of Your Resurrection and raise up Iraq and Syria from devastation, reunite your dispersed children under Your gentle kingship.
Finally before asking Our Lady to intercede in faith and hope Pope Francis asked the Lord to sustain Christians in the 'Diaspora' and grant them unity of faith and love. Only then at the end of his first day in Georgia after praying for peace, in a symbolic gesture he released a dove into the evening air.
Please find below a translation of the Prayer for Peace of His Holiness Pope Francis delivered at the Catholic Chaldean Church of Saint Simon Bar Sabbae
(Tbilisi, 30 September 2016)
we adore your cross
which frees us from sin, the origin of every division and evil;
we proclaim your resurrection,
which ransoms man from the slavery of failure and death;
we await your coming in glory,
which will bring to fulfilment your kingdom of justice, joy and peace.
by your glorious passion,
conquer the hardness of our hearts, imprisoned by hatred and selfishness;
by the power of your resurrection,
save the victims of injustice and maltreatment from their suffering;
by the fidelity of your coming,
confound the culture of death and make the triumph of life shine forth.
unite to your cross the sufferings of the many innocent victims:
the children, the elderly, and the persecuted Christians;
envelop in paschal light those who are deeply wounded:
abused persons, deprived of freedom and dignity;
let those who live in uncertainty experience the enduring constancy of your kingdom: the exiles, refugees, and those who have lost the joy of living.
cast forth the shadow of your cross over peoples at war;
may they learn the way of reconciliation, dialogue and forgiveness;
let the peoples so wearied by bombing experience the joy of your resurrection:
raise up Iraq and Syria from devastation;
reunite your dispersed children under your gentle kingship:
sustain Christians in the Diaspora and grant them the unity of faith and love.
O Virgin Mary, Queen of peace,
you who stood at the foot of the cross,
obtain from your Son pardon for our sins;
you who never doubted the victory of his resurrection,
sustain our faith and our hope;
you who are enthroned as Queen in glory,
teach us the royal road of service and the glory of love.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Meeting national authorities and members of the diplomatic corps in Tbilisi, Georgia Friday, Pope Francis described the Caucasus nation as a “blessed land, a place of encounter and vital exchange among cultures and civilizations” which, since the 4th century, “discovered in Christianity its deepest identity and the solid foundation of its values.”
The Pope was speaking at the Presidential palace shortly after his arrival in the Georgian capital. In his address, he recalled his meeting in the Vatican last year with President Giorgi Margvelashvili and thanked him for the invitation to visit his country whose values, expressed “in culture, language and traditions,” he said, place it fully “within the bedrock of European civilization.”
Georgia, a bridge between Europe and Asia
Describing Georgia as a “natural bridge between Europe and Asia,” that for centuries has facilitated “communication and relations” between peoples of diverse cultures, the Pope observed that 25 years have passed since Georgia’s independence was proclaimed. During that time, and “at great sacrifice,” he noted, Georgia built and strengthened its democratic institutions seeking “to guarantee the most inclusive and authentic development possible.”
He expressed his hope that all sectors of society would work towards peace and development so as “to create conditions for stability, justice and respect for the rule of law” in order to promote “greater opportunities for all.”
Peaceful coexistence among people, states needed for stability, development
For such enduring progress, he said, “the peaceful coexistence among all people and states in the region” is indispensable. “This requires increasing mutual esteem,” he stressed, “which can never lay aside respect for the sovereign rights of every country within the framework of international law.”
Pope Francis lamented what he called “a dominant way of thinking” in “far too many areas of the world” today which “hinders keeping legitimate differences and disagreements” within a climate of “civilized,” responsible and reasoned dialogue.
This form of dialogue, he stressed, is all the more necessary in today’s context “with no shortage of violent extremism that manipulates and distorts civic and religious principles, and subjugates them to… domination and death.”
Priority, the Pope said, should be given to human beings and “every attempt made to prevent differences from giving rise to violence.” Distinctions along ethnic, linguistic, political or religious lines,” he stressed, must be a “source of mutual enrichment” for the common good. This requires that everyone, he said, “make full use of their particular identity” with the possibility “to coexist peacefully in their homeland, or freely to return to that land if for some reason they have been forced to leave it.”
He expressed his hope that civil authorities “will continue to show concern for the situation of these persons” and to find “tangible solutions” to their predicament.
In conclusion, Pope Francis spoke of the centuries-long presence of the Catholic Church in the country and its on-going commitment to contribute to the well-being and peace of the nation through its charitable and institutional works and “by actively cooperating” with the authorities and civil society.” Finally, he noted “the renewed and strengthened dialogue with the ancient Georgian Orthodox Church and the other religious communities” in Georgia and expressed hope that the Catholic Church may continue to contribute to Georgian society “in common witness to the Christian tradition which unites us.”
Below, please find the official English translation of Pope Francis’ discourse to Georgian authorities and members of the diplomatic corps:
Distinguished Authorities and Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I thank Almighty God for granting me the opportunity to visit this blessed land, a place of encounter and vital exchange among cultures and civilizations, which, since the preaching of Saint Nino at the beginning of the fourth century, discovered in Christianity its deepest identity and the solid foundation of its values. As Saint John Paul II observed when visiting your country: “Christianity became the seed of successive flowerings of Georgian culture” (Address at the Arrival Ceremony, 8 November 1999), and this seed continues to bear fruit. Recalling with gratitude our meeting in the Vatican last year and the good relations which Georgia has always maintained with the Holy See, I sincerely thank you, Mr President, for your gracious invitation and for your cordial words of welcome in the name of the Authorities of the State and all the Georgian people.
The centuries-old history of your country shows that it is rooted in the values expressed in its culture, language and traditions. This places your country fully and in a particular way within the bedrock of European civilization; at the same time, as is evident from your geographical location, Georgia is to a great extent a natural bridge between Europe and Asia, a link that facilitates communication and relations between peoples. Through the centuries this has facilitated commercial ties as well as dialogue and the exchange of ideas and experiences between diverse cultures. As your national anthem proudly proclaims: “My icon is my homeland… bright mountains and valleys are shared with God”. The country is an icon expressing its identity and tracing its features and history; its mountains, rising freely towards heaven, far from being insurmountable walls, give splendour to the valleys; they distinguish them, connect them, make each one unique yet all open to the one sky, which covers them and offers them protection.
Mr President, twenty-five years have passed since Georgia’s independence was proclaimed. During this period when Georgia regained its full liberty, it built and strengthened its democratic institutions and sought ways to guarantee the most inclusive and authentic development possible. All of this was not without great sacrifice, which the people faced courageously in order to ensure their longed-for freedom. I hope that the path of peace and development will advance with the consolidated commitment of all sectors of society, so as to create conditions for stability, justice and respect for the rule of law, hence promoting growth and greater opportunities for all.
The peaceful coexistence among all peoples and states in the region is the indispensable and prior condition for such authentic and enduring progress. This requires increasing mutual esteem and consideration, which can never lay aside respect for the sovereign rights of every country within the framework of international law. So as to forge paths leading to lasting peace and true cooperation, we must recall that the relevant principles for a just and stable relationship between states are at the service of a practical, ordered and peaceful coexistence among nations.
Indeed, in far too many areas of the world, there seems to be a dominant way of thinking which hinders keeping legitimate differences and disagreements – which can always arise – within a climate of civilized dialogue where reason, moderation and responsibility can prevail. This is all the more necessary in the present historical moment, with no shortage of violent extremism that manipulates and distorts civic and religious principles, and subjugates them to the dark designs of domination and death.
We should wholeheartedly give priority to human beings in their actual circumstances and pursue every attempt to prevent differences from giving rise to violence that can cause ruinous calamity for people and for society. Far from being exploited as grounds for turning discord into conflict and conflict into interminable tragedy, distinctions along ethnic, linguistic, political or religious lines can and must be for everyone a source of mutual enrichment in favour of the common good. This requires that everyone make full use of their particular identity, having the possibility, above all else, to coexist peacefully in their homeland, or freely to return to that land, if for some reason they have been forced to leave it. I hope that civil authorities will continue to show concern for the situation of these persons, and that they will fully commit themselves to seeking tangible solutions, in spite of any unresolved political questions. It takes far-sightedness and courage to recognize the authentic good of peoples, and to pursue this good with determination and prudence. In this regard, it is essential to keep before our eyes the suffering of others, in order to proceed with conviction along the path which, though slow and laborious, is also captivating and freeing, and leads us towards peace.
The Catholic Church, which has been present for centuries in this country and has distinguished itself in a particular way for its commitment to human promotion and to charitable works, shares the joys and concerns of the Georgian people, and is resolved to offer its contribution for the well-being and peace of the nation, by actively cooperating with the authorities and civil society. It is my ardent desire that the Catholic Church may continue to make its own authentic contribution to the growth of Georgian society, thanks to the common witness to the Christian tradition which unites us, its commitment to those most in need, and the renewed and strengthened dialogue with the ancient Georgian Orthodox Church and the other religious communities of the country.
May God bless Georgia and give her peace and prosperity!
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has arrived in Georgia at the start of a three day trip to the Caucasus which will also take him Sunday for a brief visit to Azerbaijan. On Friday, Georgian government, civil and religious leaders and members of the Catholic community turned out at Tbilisi’s international airport to greet the pontiff, whose plane touched down shortly before 3:00 pm local time.
On Pope Francis’ schedule for the afternoon: a private visit to the President of the Republic, Giorgi Margvelashvili, at the presidential palace in Tbilisi followed by a meeting with national authorities, civil leaders and the diplomatic corps. The Holy Father will then pay a visit to Orthodox Patriarch Ilia II of all Georgia at the Patriarchal Palace in the capital. He will conclude the afternoon with a meeting with members of the Syro-Chaldean community in the Catholic Church of Saint Simon the Tanner in Tbilisi.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Lorna and Joseph are members of the neo-catechumenal way. The couple and their eight children have been in Tbilisi for the past 11 years to share the experience of their faith.
Speaking to Vatican Radio, Lorna said she believes – and hopes – Pope Francis’ visit to Georgia will not only bring joy to the small flock of Catholics in the predominantly Orthodox nation and help them to feel they are part of the Universal Church, but it will also give emphasis to the push towards full Christian unity.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) The Diocese of Manado is putting the final touches to preparations for the Second Indonesian Youth Day of the Catholic Church, that kicks off on Saturday here in Manado, the capital of the country’s northernmost province of North Sulawesi. The theme of the Oct. 1-6 event is, “The Joy of Gospel Amidst a Plural Society in Indonesia”. This follows from the 1st Indonesian Youth Day that took place in October 2012 in Sanggau, West Kalimantan, on the theme “Rooted and Built Up in Jesus Christ, Strengthened in the Faith.”
Robin Gomes reports:
The Second Indonesian Youth Day, taking place during the worldwide Catholic Church’s Jubilee Year of Mercy, is the first of two important youth celebrations in 2016 and 2017. This is also in preparation for the 6th Asian Youth Day to be hosted in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, July 30 – August 6, in 2017.
With nearly 90% of the nation’s over 250 million people professing Islam, Indonesia is the country with the largest Muslim population in the world. Christians make up almost 10% of the population, or over 25 million people, with Catholics forming some 2.7%. A vast majority of Indonesian Muslims are moderates, but recent incidents indicate that the nation is no exception to the growing threat of Islamic radicalism among its people, and the nation’s authorities are aware of it and taking action. In this context, the Indonesian Youth Day in Manado, focussing on diversity as a unifying factor, is of great relevance to the country, and the government has also shown great interest in this.
Bishop Joseph Suwatan of Manado who is hosting the youth event, told Vatican Radio’s Robin Gomes in Manado, that his diocese which comprises the northern provinces of North Sulawesi, Gorontalo and Central Sulawesi, is a model of peaceful co-existence and brotherhood among religions and peoples.
Interview with Bishop Suwatan:
From Oct. 1 to 6, Catholic youth from all the dioceses will pray, meditate, discuss and share their experiences on how important it is to engage in healthy dialogue, mutual understanding and cooperation, and work together in solidarity with followers other faiths, especially Islam, to create a healthy society for the common good. Commenting on the theme of the 2nd Indonesian Youth Day, “The Joy of Gospel Amidst a Plural Society in Indonesia”, Bishop Suwatan explained that he envisages the youth event in his diocese like the marriage feast of Cana in the Gospel, where Jesus transformed water into wine.
According to the Indonesian Youth Day coordinating team at the Bishop’s House in Manado, some 2600 young people from the country’s 37 dioceses will be arriving soon at Manado. The team is coordinating with the various dioceses and assigning participants to Manado’s 37 parishes who will take care of their accommodation and other expenses and also see to the event’s programme at the local level. Fr. Rheinner Saneba, the organizer of the media centre said that the first three days of the Indonesian Youth Day will be at the parish level, with participants taking part in live-in programmes in the homes of local families, both Catholics and non-Catholics. On the fourth day, Oct. 4, the Indonesian Youth Day will be officially inaugurated, with local Catholics as well as others joining the youth representatives from the dioceses for an afternoon of open-air celebration at Manado’s Klabat Stadium. The remaining days will be dedicated to a variety of programmes such as seminars, catechesis, adoration, procession, sharing of testimonies as well as shows by dioceses depicting the rich cultural variety of the far-flung archipelago of Indonesia.
(Robin Gomes, of Vatican Radio)
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Archbishop Raphael Minassian hopes that the Papal visit to Azerbaijan and Georgia will promote peace in the region. The small Catholic community in Georgia, which Pope Francis is visiting on Friday and Saturday, is made up of Latin, Chaldean and Armenian rites.
The Armenian presence in Tbilisi and the region on the border with the republic of Armenia dates back to the 4th century. Today the community is under the care of the Ordinary for Armenians in Eastern Europe, Archbishop Raphael Minassian.
Ahead of the Pope’s trip to Georgia, the Archbishop talked to Philippa Hitchen about the relationship of the Armenian community between Azerbaijan and Georgia.
Archbishop Raphael Minassian discusses the history of Armenians in Georgia: “The relationship with this country is very old and very constant because Tbilisi was the culture and the city of the Armenians for centuries. It is very normal to see the presence of the Armenians in this country.” He says that the presence in Georgia, “of Armenians is over 200,000 and Armenian Catholics are over 150,000.”
The Archbishop says that the Armenian community in Georgia can act as a bridge for peaceful relations. “In the relationship between the Orthodox and the Catholic Churches, the friendship remains as a base of all kinds of relations.” He also mentions that the Georgian government has been assisting the Catholic Churches, the Chaldean, Latin, and Armenian Catholics, for two years.
Although the Armenian community and the Georgian government are able to maintain a positive relationship, the Archbishop admits that they do experience problems. He says that “Both of them are working strongly for the propaganda of faith and the consolation that we have to encourage and accept it. Even if we are not working together we should work for the same case.” He also says that they are proud to be Christians in this country.
Archbishop Minassian says that Pope Francis has a hard situation on his shoulders: “He is obliged to work with a society where they preach liberty and they are in the situation of domination. They speak about rights and they are the people that strip the rights of human society and at the end if I were to say the word peace, they are the war makers. I am talking about presidents, kings, societies, governments, and all of these, the Holy Father has to pass by and say the reality, defend the rights, defend the liberty, and give peace to everybody. We lost the meaning of these three words and have to rebuild again.”
The Archbishop discusses his thoughts on the Pope’s appeal for peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan: “You know, in a way they used the religion for political issues and the possibility to have peace is very easy. The most important point is between the two nations or the two presidents who have to forget the people because they are the minority of the minorities that are leading the country. I think that if you take out all of the governments all of the people would live in peace.”
Although the governments are taking steps towards peace, the Archbishop hopes that more can be done. “There is work going on for peace, but I hope that also in the visit of his Holiness to Azerbaijan would encourage them also accept the realities because all of us in this world are passengers. No one owns anything in this Earth. So it is not useful to have these wars between people that can live peacefully and very happily.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received representatives from the various Catholic aid agencies and charitable organizations under the leadership of the Pontifical Council Cor unum working in Iraq, Syria, and other countries in the region affected by the ongoing conflicts in both Syria and Iraq.
The Pontifical Council Cor unum is the Pope’s special instrument for carrying out humanitarian initiatives, promoting integral human development, coordinatinge the initiatives of Catholic Organizations, and encouraging the faithful to give concrete witness to the Gospel through charitable activity.
In remarks prepared for the occasion and delivered to the roughly 100 people – including the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura – Pope Francis placed the work of Cor unum and partners in the key of mercy.
“The work of all who like you, represent so many workers in the field, who are committed to helping refugees and to safeguarding their dignity,” said Pope Francis, “is certainly a reflection of God’s mercy and, as such, a sign that evil has limits and does not have the last word.”
Click below to hear our report
The Holy Father renewed his condemnation of the ongoing violence, saying, “We must note with great sadness that since our last meeting a year ago, despite extensive efforts made in a variety of areas, the logic of arms and oppression, hidden interests and violence continues to wreak devastation on these countries and that, even now, we have not been able to put an end to the exasperating suffering and repeated violations of human rights.”
Pope Francis went on to discuss the recent attack on a UN humanitarian aid convoy in Syria, saying it is wrapped up in the mystery of iniquity – over which Christ has however won decisive victory.
“Violence begets violence, and we have the impression of being caught up in a spiral of arrogance and inertia from which there is no escape. This evil which grips our will and conscience should challenge us. Why, even at the cost of untold damage to persons, property and the environment, does man continue to pursue abuses of power, revenge and violence? We think of the recent attack on a United Nations humanitarian convoy… This is the experience of the mysterium iniquitatis , that evil which is present in man and in history and which needs to be redeemed. Destruction for destruction’s sake.”
“And so,” Pope Francis continued, “during this Year, in which we fix our gaze more intensely on Christ, on Mercy incarnate who has conquered sin and death, I am reminded of the words of Saint John Paul II: ‘The limit imposed upon evil, of which man is both perpetrator and victim, is ultimately the Divine Mercy.’ It is the only limit.”
“Yes,” said Pope Francis, “the answer to the drama of evil lies in the mystery of Christ.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis sets off on a three-day Apostolic Journey to Georgia and Azerbaijan on Friday, as a continuation of the pastoral visit he began to the Caucuses region with his trip to Armenia last June.
Ecumenical challenges will be at the heart of his encounters in Georgia, alongside the task of encouraging the small Catholic community in the predominantly Orthodox nation.
Listen to Philippa Hitchen's report from Tbilisi:
When Pope John Paul II visited this former Soviet nation, it was only the second time he had travelled to a majority Orthodox country. Just a decade on from the fall of the Berlin wall, he was pursuing his vision of reconciliation between the East and Western Churches so that Europe could, as he put it, breathe with both lungs again.
His trip to Romania earlier in the year had been hailed as a step in that direction, as he and Patriarch Teoctist made history by attending liturgies in Catholic and Orthodox churches.
Not so in Georgia though, where it was President Eduard Shevardnadze, the former Soviet foreign minister, who had to persuade Patriarch Elia to invite the pope, while Orthodox leaders warned worshippers to stay away from a papal Mass at the sports stadium in Tbilisi.
So what can Pope Francis expect and what progress has been made on the ecumenical scene in this country where Catholics, of 3 different rites, make up less than 2 percent of the population?
At one level relations remain difficult, as Georgia's ambassador to the Holy See told me frankly ahead of the papal visit. The Orthodox Church here did not take part in the pan-Orthodox Council last June, did not approve of the document signed by the international dialogue commission in Chieti last week and does not take part in other ecumenical bodies like the World Council of Churches.
Two days before the pope's arrival, the English speaking 'Georgia Today' paper ran a 'Focus on Church wars', detailing protests by a handful of ultra-nationalist agitators and arch-conservative priests.
But at a deeper level, the patient dialogue has produced results, with the same Patriarch Elia this time sending official representatives to the papal Mass at the sports stadium on Saturday morning.
Over the past two decades the local Caritas, the Camilian fathers, Salesian sisters and others have built trust and respect through their hospitals and schools, drop-in centres and soup kitchens for the poorest people living in the run down suburbs and rural areas. More recently they've also been providing support for refugees fleeing from the conflicts in Syria and Iraq.
While the Orthodox Church is recognised in the Constitution as playing a special part in the country's history, Catholics have been quietly working wherever they can at parish level to provide spiritual and practical support to all people in need.
The Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Church, Mgr Giuseppe Pasotto puts its neatly when he says "we are free to be who we are, with nothing to defend and everything to give".
So there are no Vatican flags or papal posters plastered on the walls here - only photos of the candidates in next week's parliamentary elections. Don't expect any ecumenical breakthrough or even the kind of warm embraces that we saw the pope receiving from other Orthodox leaders in Assisi recently.
But what the pope will do is to strengthen the small but vibrant Catholic Church here. He'll bring a much needed message of peace to the still volatile region. And I wouldn't mind betting that he will somehow find ways of furthering that vision of reconciliation begun by Pope John Paul 17 years ago.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) The theme for the Church’s 2017 World Day for Social Communications was published on Thursday. The theme or motto chosen for this event is: “Fear not, for I am with you” (Is 43.5). Communicating hope and trust in our time.
The Vatican Secretariat for Communications issued this following statement on the theme
Numbness of conscience or letting desperation get the better of us are two possible “diseases” that our current communication system can cause.
It is possible that our conscience is cauterised, as Pope Francis comments in Laudato si’, as a result of the fact that often professionals, opinion leaders and means of communication work in urban areas distant from places of poverty and need, and their physical distance often leads them to ignore the complexity of the dramas faced by men and women.
Desperation is possible, instead, when communication is emphasised and transformed into spectacle, at times becoming a genuine strategy for constructing present dangers and looming fears.
But in the midst of this tumult a whisper is heard: “Fear not, for I am with you”. In His Son, God expresses his solidarity with every human situation and revealed that we are not alone, because we have a Father Who does not forget His children. Those who live united with Christ discover that even darkness and death become, for those who so wish, a place for communion with Light and Life. In every event, they try to discover what is happening between God and humanity, to recognise how He too, through the dramatic scenario of this world, is writing the history of salvation. We Christians have “good news” to tell, because we contemplate trustfully the prospect of the Kingdom. The Theme of the next World Day of Social Communications is an invitation to tell the history of the world and the histories of men and women in accordance with the logic of the “good news” that reminds us that God never ceases to be a Father in any situation or with regard to any man. Let us learn to communicate trust and hope for history.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday invited the people of Mexico to sing the ‘Guadalupana,’ a traditional hymn to Our Lady of Guadalupe, for the suffering of the nation’s people.
The Holy Father’s remarks came during his greetings to Spanish-speaking pilgrims at the weekly General Audience .
“Pray for all those who suffer for any reason or who feel abandoned, so that looking at the Crucified, they are able to discover and feel the comfort and forgiveness of Christ, the Face of the Father’s Mercy,” Pope Francis said.
The murder of three priests has made headlines in Mexico, and Pope Francis sent a telegram strongly condemning the “brutal attacks.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis lit a symbolic torch at his Wednesday General Audience for the 'Week of the Family‘ event to be held by the Diocese of Rome on 2-8 October.
The Holy Father said the flame was a ‘symbol of the love of Roman families and those of the whole world’.
The ‘Week of the Family’ seeks to highlight the centrality of the family in Rome and to rediscover its beauty.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a telegram expressing his “heartfelt condolences” to the people of Israel upon learning of the death of their former President, Shimon Peres. He died on Wednesday at the age of 93.
“I fondly recall my time with Mr Peres at the Vatican and renew my great appreciation for the late President's tireless efforts in favour of peace,” Pope Francis said.
On June 8, 2014, Pope Francis hosted the historic prayer meeting in the Vatican Gardens with then-President Peres and the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas. The meeting came just weeks after Peres welcomed him to Israel during the Holy Father’s May 2014 trip to the Holy Land. The two men had previously met on April 30, 2013, at the Vatican.
Pope Francis met with Peres again at the Vatican in September of 2014, two months after he left office. The two men met for the last time on June 20, this year.
“As the State of Israel mourns Mr Peres, I hope that his memory and many years of service will inspire us all to work with ever greater urgency for peace and reconciliation between peoples,” – Pope Francis continued in his telegram – “In this way, his legacy will truly be honoured and the common good for which he so diligently laboured will find new expressions, as humanity strives to advance on the path towards enduring peace. With the assurance of my prayers for all who grieve, especially for the Peres family, I invoke the divine blessings of consolation and strength upon the nation.”
The full text of the telegram of Pope Francis is below
His Excellency Reuven Rivlin President of the State of Israel
I was deeply saddened to learn of the death of His Excellency Shimon Peres, and I wish to convey to you and to all the people of Israel my heartfelt condolences. I fondly recall my time with Mr Peres at the Vatican and renew my great appreciation for the late President's tireless efforts in favour of peace. As the State of Israel mourns Mr Peres, I hope that his memory and many years of service will inspire us all to work with ever greater urgency for peace and reconciliation between peoples. In this way, his legacy will truly be honoured and the common good for which he so diligently laboured will find new expressions, as humanity strives to advance on the path towards enduring peace. With the assurance of my prayers for all who grieve, especially for the Peres family, I invoke the divine blessings of consolation and strength upon the nation.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis greeted the faithful from the Italian dioceses of Ascoli Piceno, Otranto, and Nonantola who are on pilgrimage to Rome for the Jubilee of Mercy, at the conclusion of his Wednesday General Audience.
The Holy Father greeted Bishop Giovanni D’Ercole and the faithful of his Diocese of Ascoli Piceno, which was hard-hit by a 6.1-magnitude earthquake near the town of Pescara del Tronto .
Recovery efforts in the region continue to be hampered by aftershocks.
He also greeted the faithful from the Archdiocese of Otranto and their Archbishop Donato Negro, as well as the faithful from the Archdiocese of Modena-Nonantola.
“Dear brothers and sisters,” he said, “your pilgrimage for the Holy Year expresses a sense of communion with the universal Church and makes you witnesses of mercy in your local Churches.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has once again appealed for peace in Syria. At his General Audience on Wednesday, the Pope said, “dramatic news continues to reach me concerning the fate of the people of Aleppo, with whom, through prayer and spiritual closeness, I feel united in suffering.”
The Holy Father continued, “In expressing my deep sorrow and lively concern for what is happening in that already battered city – where children, the elderly, the sick, young and old, all are dying – I renew my appeal to everyone to commit themselves with all their strength to the protection of civilians as an imperative and urgent obligation.”
Departing from his prepared text, Pope Francis appealed directly to those responsible for the bombing, warning them that they will be “accountable to God” for their actions.
Since a ceasefire collapsed last week, rebel-held areas of Aleppo have been heavily bombarded, raising international concern over the plight of their 250,000 residents. On Wednesday morning, the Syrian military announced it was launching "concentrated air strikes" in Aleppo and nearby areas, targeting insurgent-held areas in the surrounding countryside.
Listen to Christopher Wells' report:
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) At his General Audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis spoke about “Forgiveness on the Cross.”
Below, please find the English language summary of the Pope’s catechesis for the weekly General Audience:
Dear Brothers and Sisters: Jesus’ words during His Passion culminate in forgiveness: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34). For the good thief, these are not mere words, for Jesus truly forgives him. For the bad thief, however, it is inconceivable that the Messiah would remain on the Cross and not save Himself. But it is precisely by remaining on the Cross that Jesus offers salvation to every person regardless of their situation. This Jubilee Year is a time of grace and mercy for all, the good and the bad, those in health and those who suffer. It is a time to remember that nothing can separate us from the love of God (cf. Rm 8:39). To all those sick in hospital, who live within the walls of a prison, or who are trapped by war, we are called to look to Christ Crucified on the Cross, who is God with us, who remains with us on the Cross and who offers Himself as our Saviour. The good thief helps us to understand how we should approach God: with awe and not fear, with respect for God’s power and infinite goodness. When we approach Him in this way, we entrust ourselves to His mercy, even in the darkest of moments. For God is always with us sinners, and He loves us even to death on the Cross. Let us see in the good thief a model of confidence in the Lord and, like him, let us call upon Jesus’ name and ask Him to remember us in Paradise.
Greetings to pilgrims:
I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, particularly those from England, Scotland, Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, Brunei, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, South Africa, Australia, Canada and the United States of America. I extend a special welcome to the seminarians of the Pontifical North American College and their families gathered here for the Ordination to the Diaconate to be celebrated tomorrow. May God bless you all!
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met with members of the World Jewish Congress on Monday evening.
An article published on Tuesday by the Vatican newspaper, the 'Osservatore Romano', highlighted how the Holy Father spoke about a series of issues pertaining to inter faith relations and the current migration crisis on the European continent.
“Europe often forgets that it has been enriched by migrants,” – Pope Francis said – “Europe is closing itself up. Europe is lacking creativity. Europe has a falling birth rate, and problems of high unemployment.”
Pope Francis also spoke about migrants integrating into their new surroundings, which he called “important.”
“The people who committed the terrorist attacks in Belgium were not properly integrated,” he said.
Pope Francis also reiterated a good Christian could not be an anti-Semite, and said Christians and Jews must speak out against brutality in the world.
“We need more friendliness and kindness, and we should not be afraid to speak out against brutality,” – the Holy Father said – “We should go on a joint journey together to make the world more secure. We need to speak out for peace.”
The World Jewish Congress includes the heads of Jewish communities in Europe and the Americas, and in light of the upcoming Rosh Hashana holiday, Pope Francis wished the Jewish world a happy new year.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis said silence and prayer is the way to overcome our darkest moments, rather than resorting to pills or alcoholic drinks to escape from our woes. His comments came during his homily at the morning Mass celebrated on Tuesday at the Santa Marta residence.
Listen to this report by Susy Hodges:
Taking his cue from the day’s first reading where Job was living through a spiritual desolation and was giving vent to his sorrows before God, the Pope’s homily focused on these dark moments of spiritual desolation that all of us experience at some point and explained how we can overcome them. He said although Job was in deep trouble and had lost everything he did not curse God and his outburst was that of “a son in front of his father.”
All of us sooner or later experience a spiritual darkness
“Spiritual desolation is something that happens to all of us: it can be stronger or weaker … but that feeling of spiritual darkness, of hopelessness, mistrust, lacking the desire to live, without seeing the end of the tunnel, with so much agitation in one’s heart and in one’s ideas… Spiritual desolation makes us feel as though our souls are crushed, we can’t succeed, we can’t succeed and we also don’t want to live: ‘Death is better!’ This was Job’s outburst. It was better to die than live like this. We need to understand that when our soul is in this state of generalized sadness we can barely breathe: This happens to all of us… whether strong or not ….. to all of us. (We need to) understand what goes on in our hearts.”
Pope Francis went on to pose the question: “What should we do when we experience these dark moments, be it for a family tragedy, an illness, something that weighs us down?.” Noting that some people would think of taking a pill to sleep and remove them from their problems or drinking one, two, three or four glasses” he warned that these methods “do not help.” Instead, today’s liturgy shows us how to cope with this spiritual desolation, “when we are lukewarm, depressed and without hope.”
The Pope said the way out from this situation is to pray, to pray loudly, just as Job did, day and night until God listens.
“It is a prayer to knock at the door but with strength! ‘Lord, my soul is surfeited with troubles. My life draws near to Hell. I am numbered among those who go down into the pit; I am a man without strength.’ How many times have we felt like this, without strength? And here is the prayer. Our Lord himself taught us how to pray in these dreadful moments. ‘Lord, you have plunged me into the bottom of the pit. Upon me, your wrath lies heavy. Let my prayer come before you, Lord.’ This is the prayer and this is how we should pray in our darkest, most dreadful, bleakest and most crushed moments that are really crushing us. This is genuine prayer. And it’s also giving vent just like Job did with his sons. Like a son.”
Silence, closeness and prayer is how to help those who are suffering
The importance of silence, being close and using prayer was stressed by Pope Francis who said that was the correct way for friends to behave when faced with those who are undergoing dark moments, warning words and speeches in these situations can do harm.
“First of all, we must recognize in ourselves these moments of spiritual desolation, when we are in the dark, without hope and asking ourselves why. Secondly, we must pray to the Lord like today’s reading from Psalm 87 teaches us to pray during our dark moments. ‘Let my prayer come before you, Lord.’ Thirdly, when I draw close to a person who is suffering, whether from illness, or whatever other type of suffering and who is experiencing a sense of desolation, we must be silent: but a silence with much love, closeness and caresses. And we must not make speeches that don’t help in the end and even can do harm.”
The Pope concluded his homily by asking the Lord to grant us these three graces: the grace to recognize spiritual desolation, the grace to pray when we are afflicted by this feeling of spiritual desolation and also the grace to know how to be close to people who are suffering terrible moments of sadness and spiritual desolation.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) The Vatican told the United Nations on Monday “nuclear arms offer a false sense of security, and that the uneasy peace promised by nuclear deterrence is a tragic illusion.”
“Nuclear weapons cannot create for us a stable and secure world,” said Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations.
He was speaking at an event marking the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.
“Peace and international stability cannot be founded on mutually assured destruction or on the threat of total annihilation,” the Vatican diplomat said.
The full statement of Archbishop Auza can be found below
Statement of H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza
Apostolic Nuncio, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations
at the High-level plenary meeting to commemorate and promote
The International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons
New York, 26 September 2016
The Holy See fervently hopes that this annual commemoration of the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons will contribute to breaking the deadlock that has beset the United Nations’ disarmament machinery for far too long now.
In February 1943, two years and a half before the Trinity test, Pope Piu XII had already voiced deep concern regarding the violent use of atomic energy. After Hiroshima and Nagasaki and given the totally uncontrollable and indiscriminate consequences of nuclear weapons, Pope Pius XII demanded the effective proscription and banishment of atomic warfare, calling the arms race a costly relationship of mutual terror. The Holy See has maintained this position ever since the advent of nuclear weapons.
My delegation believes that nuclear arms offer a false sense of security, and that the uneasy peace promised by nuclear deterrence is a tragic illusion. Nuclear weapons cannot create for us a stable and secure world. Peace and international stability cannot be founded on mutually assured destruction or on the threat of total annihilation. The Holy See believes that peace cannot be solely the maintaining of a balance of power. On the contrary, as Pope Francis affirmed, “Peace must be built on justice, socio-economic development, freedom, respect for human rights, the participation of all in public affairs and the building of trust between peoples.”
Lasting peace thus requires that all must strive for progressive and concerted nuclear disarmament.
The Holy See has been a Party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) since the very beginning, in order to encourage nuclear possessing States to abolish their nuclear weapons, to dissuade non-nuclear possessing States from acquiring or developing nuclear capabilities, and to encourage international cooperation on the peaceful uses of nuclear material. While firmly believing that the NPT remains vital to international peace and security and regretting deeply our collective failure to move forward with a positive disarmament agenda, the Holy See will continue to argue against both the possession and the use of nuclear weapons, until the total elimination of nuclear weapons is achieved.
Indeed, the Holy See considers it a moral and humanitarian imperative to advance the efforts towards the final objective of the total elimination of nuclear weapons. Disarmament treaties are not just legal obligations; they are also moral commitments based on trust between States, rooted in the trust that citizens place in their governments. If commitments to nuclear disarmament are not made in good faith and consequently result in breaches of trust, the proliferation of such weapons would be the logical corollary.
For our own good and that of future generations, we have no reasonable or moral option other than the abolition of nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons are a global problem and they impact all countries and all peoples, including future generations. Increasing interdependence and globalization demand that whatever response we make to the threat of nuclear weapons be collective and concerted, based on reciprocal trust, and within a framework of general and complete disarmament, as Art. VI of the NPT demands. Moreover, there is the real and present danger that nuclear weapons and other arms of mass destruction would fall into the hands of extremist terrorist groups and other violent non-state actors.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development calls upon all of us to embark on the implementation of the daunting ambition to better every life, especially those who have been and are left behind. It would be naïve and myopic if we sought to assure world peace and security through nuclear weapons rather than through the eradication of extreme poverty, increased accessibility to healthcare and education, and the promotion of peaceful institutions and societies through dialogue and solidarity.
No one could ever say that a world without nuclear weapons is easily achievable. It is not; it is extremely arduous; to some, it may even appear utopian. But there is no alternative than to work unceasingly towards its achievement.
Let me conclude by reaffirming the conviction that Pope Francis expressed in his December 2014 message to the President of the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons: “I am convinced that the desire for peace and fraternity planted deep in the human heart will bear fruit in concrete ways to ensure that nuclear weapons are banned once and for all, to the benefit of our common home.”
(from Vatican Radio)...