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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Monday, December 15, 2014

Pope Francis: Rigidity is a sign of a weak heart

Pope Francis: Rigidity is a sign of a weak heart

2014-12-15 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) The day's Gospel reading, which relates how the chief priests asked Jesus by what authority He did His works, was the focus of the Pope's homily on Monday. It is a demand, the Pope explained, that demonstrates the "hypocritical heart" of those people – people who were not interested in the truth, who sought only their own interests, and went where the wind blew: you should go this way, you should go that way…" They were weathervanes, all of them! All of them! Without consistency. A heart without consistency. And so they negotiated everything: they negotiated interior freedom, they negotiated the faith, they negotiated their county, everything except appearances." To such people, getting the best out of every situation was the important thing. They were opportunists: "They profited from the situations."

"And yet," the Pope continued, "some of you might ask me: 'But Father, these people were observers of the law: on Saturday they didn't travel more than a hundred metres – or however many they were able to go – they never, never sat down to eat without washing their hands and making their ablutions; they were a very observant people, very secure in their habits.' Yes, it's true – but only in appearance. They were strong, but on the outside. They were in a cast. The heart was very week, they didn't know what they believed. And because of this their life, the outer part of their life, was completely regulated, but the heart was otherwise: a weak heart, and a skin that was plastered over, strong, harsh. Jesus, on the other hand, teaches us that the Christian should have a strong heart, a firm heart, a heart built on the rock, that is Christ; and then, in the way it goes out, it goes out with prudence: 'In this case, I do this, but…' It is the way of going out, but the heart is not negotiable, the rock is not negotiable. The rock is Christ, it is not negotiable":

"This is the drama of the hypocrisy of this people. And Jesus never negotiates His heart of the Son of the Father, but He was so open to the people, seeking paths to help them. 'But this can't be done; our discipline, our doctrine say this can't be done!' they say. 'Why do your disciples eat grain in the fields, when they travel, on the day of the Sabbath? It can't be done!' They were so rigid in their discipline: 'No, the discipline can't be touched, it's sacred.'"

Pope Francis recalled how "Pius XII freed us from the very heavy cross that was the Eucharistic fast":

"But some of you might remember. You couldn't even drink a drop of water. Not even that! And to brush your teeth, it had to be done in such a way that you didn't swallow the water. But I myself as a young boy went to confession for having made the Communion, because I thought a drop of water had gone in. Is it true or no? It's true. When Pius XII changed the discipline: 'Ah, heresy! No! He touched the discipline of the Church.' So many Pharisees were scandalized. So many. Because Pius XII had acted like Jesus: he saw the need of the people. 'But the poor people, with such warmth.' These priests who said three Masses, the last at one o'clock, after noon, fasting. The discipline of the Church. And these Pharisees [spoke about] 'our discipline' – rigid on the outside, but, as Jesus said of them, 'rotting in the heart,' weak, weak to the point of rottenness. Gloomy in the heart."

"This is the drama of these people," and Jesus denounces hypocrisy and opportunism:

"Even our life can become like that, even our life. And sometimes, I confess something to you, when I have seen a Christian, a Christian of that kind, with a weak heart, not firm, not fixed on the rock—Jesus – and with such rigidness on the outside, I ask the Lord: 'But Lord, throw a banana peel in front of them, so that they will take a good fall, and feel shame that they are sinners, and so encounter You, [and realize] that You are the Saviour. Many times a sin will make us feel shame, and make us encounter the Lord, Who pardons us, as the sick who were there and went to the Lord for healing."

"But the simple people," the Pope said, "do not err," despite the words of these doctors of the law, "because the people know, they have a certain 'flair' for the faith."

The Pope concluded his homily with this prayer: "I ask the Lord for the grace that our hearts might be simple, luminous with the truth that He gives us, and thus we might be able to be lovable, forgiving, understanding of others, [to have] a large heart with the people, to be merciful. Never to condemn, never to condemn. If you have wanted to condemn, you condemn yourself, who has some reason, eh?" He continued, "Let us ask the Lord for the grace that He might give us this interior light, that convinces us that the rock is Him alone, and not so many stories we make as if they were important things; and that He might tell us – that He might tell us! – the path, that He might accompany us on the path, that He might enlarge our hearts, so that they can enter into the problems of so many people, and that He might give us the grace that these people did not have: the grace to feel that we are sinners."

Listen to Christopher Wells' report: 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Mass of Our Lady of Guadalupe: Pope Francis

Pope Francis: Mass of Our Lady of Guadalupe

2014-12-13 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis delivered the homily at Mass in St Peter's Basilica on Friday evening, to mark the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Below, please find Vatican Radio's working translation of the Holy Father's prepared remarks.


"All the people praise you, Lord, all the people. Have mercy on us and give us your blessing; Lord, turn your eyes toward us. The earth knows your goodness and the people your salvific works. The nations sing of you with jubilation, because you judge the world with justice." (Psalm 66).

The prayer of the psalmist, pleads for forgiveness and blessing for the peoples and nations and, at the same time, expresses with joyful praise the spiritual sense of this Eucharistic celebration. Today, with gratitude and joy, the peoples and nations of our great Latin American homeland commemorate the feast of their "patron", Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose devotion extends from Alaska to Patagonia. With the Archangel Gabriel and Saint Isabella, we begin our filial prayer: "Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with you." (Luke 1:28).

On this feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, we gratefully remember her visitation to us and her maternal closeness. We sing with her the "Magnificat", we entrust to her the lives of our people and the continental mission of the Church.

When she appeared to Saint Juan Diego in Tepeyac, she introduced herself as the "ever perfect Holy Virgin Mary, Mother of the True God" (Nican Mopohua), leading to a new visitation. She tenderly hastened to embrace the new people of the Americas at the  dramatic moment they came into being: "A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet" (Rev 12:1). She assumed within herself the cultural and religious symbolism of the native people, announcing her Son and giving Him to the new and suffering people of mixed race. Many leapt for joy and hope before her visitation and before the gift of her Son, and the most perfect disciple of the Lord became the "great missionary who brings the Gospel to our America" (Aparecida, 269). The Son of Mary most Holy, his Immaculate Mother, reveals himself from the origins of this new peoples' history, as the "true God who gives us Life," as the good news of filial dignity of all the inhabitants of America.

No longer is anyone a servant, but we are all children of the same Father, brothers and sisters together. The Holy Mother of God not only visited these people, but she chose to remain with them. She left her sacred image mysteriously imprinted on the "tilma" (or cloak) of her messenger in order that we might keep in mind the symbol of Mary's covenant with these people, conferring her spirit and tenderness.

Through her intercession, the Christian faithful began to become the richest treasure of the soul of the American people, whose precious pearl is Jesus Christ. It is a patrimony which is transmitted and manifest today in the many baptism of multitudes of people, in the faith, hope and charity of many; in precious popular piety; and in that popular ethos that reveals itself in an awareness of human dignity, in the passion for justice, in solidarity with the poorest and suffering, in hope that is sometimes against every hope.

That's why we here today can continue to praise God for the wonders he has done in the lives of the Latin American people. God "has hidden these things from the wise and the learned, [and has] revealed them to the childlike." (Mt 11:25) In the wonders which the Lord has achieved in Mary, she recognizes her Son's style and way of acting in the story of Salvation. Sweeping away worldly judgments, destroying idols of power, riches, success at any cost, denouncing self-sufficiency, pride and a secularized Messiah complex which distances from God, the Mary's Magnificat professes that God delights in subverting ideologies and worldly hierarchies.

He lifts up the lowly, comes to the aid of the poor and the little, he fills with goodness, blessings and hope those who trust in his mercy from generation to generation, while he casts down the rich, the powerful, and rulers from their thrones.

The "Magnificat" introduces us to the Beatitudes, the earliest synthesis of the Gospel. In the light of the Beatitudes we feel compelled to ask that the future of Latin America be forged for the poor and those who suffer, for the humble, those who hunger and thirst for justice, for the compassionate, the pure of heart, those who work for peace, and for those who are persecuted because of Christ's name, "for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven." (Mt 5: 1-11).

And we make this request because Latin America is the "continent of hope"! Because she hopes in new ways of development which combine traditional Christianity and civil progress, justice and equity with reconciliation, scientific development and technology with human wisdom. Fruitful suffering with joyful hope. We can protect this hope only with great amounts of truth and mercy, the basis for all realities and revolutionary engines of an authentically new life.

We place these realities and these desires on the altar as a gift pleasing to God. Imploring his forgiveness and trusting in his Mercy, we celebrate the sacrifice and the paschal victory of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the only Lord, the "liberator" of all of our slavery and misery derived from sin. He calls us to live the true life, a more human life, to live together as children and brothers, now that the doors to "the new heaven and the new earth" are open (Rev 21:1). We implore the Blessed Virgin Mary, under the name "Our Lady of Guadalupe" – the Mother of God, our Queen, our Lady, the young woman, our Little One (as called Saint Juan Diego called her), and with all the loving names which popular piety has given her – that she may continue to accompany, help and protect our people.

May she lead by the hand all pilgrim children in these lands to the encounter with her Son, Jesus Christ Our Lord, present in the Church, in its holiness, especially in the Eucharist, present in the treasure of his Word and teachings, present in the faithful and holy people of God, in those who suffer and in the humble of heart. So be it. Amen!

(from Vatican Radio)

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Prayers to Mary on the feast of the Immaculate Conception: Pope Francis

Prayers to Mary on the feast of the Immaculate Conception

2014-12-09 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on the feast of the Immaculate Conception on Monday prayed to Our Lady at Piazza di Spagna in Rome, asking her to invoke her maternal protection "for us, our families, this city and the whole world." He also prayed that humanity would be free from every form of spiritual and material slavery.

Please find below a full Vatican Radio translation of Pope Francis' prayer on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

Mary our Mother, today the People of God celebrate you and venerate you as Immaculate, preserved forever from the stain of sin.

Accept the homage I offer you in the name of the Church in Rome and throughout the world.

Knowing that you, who are our Mother, are totally free from sin, is of great comfort to us.

Knowing that evil has no power over you, fills us with hope and strength in the daily struggle we have to face against the threats of the evil one.

But we are not alone in this struggle, we are not orphans because Jesus, before dying on the Cross, gave you to us as our Mother.

Even though we are sinners, we are still your children, children of the Immaculate, called to that holiness that shines in you by the grace of God since the beginning.

Inspired by this hope, today we invoke your maternal protection for us, our families, this city and the whole world.

Through your intercession, may the power of God's love that preserved you from original sin, free humanity from every form of spiritual and material slavery and make God's plan of salvation be victorious in both hearts and in history.

May grace prevail over pride in us too, your children.

May we become merciful as our heavenly Father is merciful.

During this time leading to the celebration of Jesus' birth, teach us to go against the flow: to strip ourselves, to be humble and giving, to listen and be silent, to go out of ourselves, giving space to the beauty of God, source of true joy.

Pray for us, our Immaculate Mother!


(from Vatican Radio)

Monday, December 8, 2014


Tuesday, December 2, 2014


Clementine Hall
Monday, 12 February 2007


Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood, 
Esteemed Professors, 
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is with particular pleasure that I welcome you at the beginning of the Congress' work in which you will be engaged in the following days on a theme of considerable importance for the present historical moment, namely, the natural moral law.

I thank Bishop Rino Fisichella, Rector Magnificent of the Pontifical Lateran University, for the sentiments expressed in the address with which he has introduced this meeting.

There is no doubt that we are living in a moment of extraordinary development in the human capacity to decipher the rules and structures of matter, and in the consequent dominion of man over nature.

We all see the great advantages of this progress and we see more and more clearly the threat of destruction of nature by what we do.

There is another less visible danger, but no less disturbing:  the method that permits us to know ever more deeply the rational structures of matter makes us ever less capable of perceiving the source of this rationality, creative Reason. The capacity to see the laws of material being makes us incapable of seeing the ethical message contained in being, a message that tradition calls lex naturalis, natural moral law.

This word for many today is almost incomprehensible due to a concept of nature that is no longer metaphysical, but only empirical. The fact that nature, being itself, is no longer a transparent moral message creates a sense of disorientation that renders the choices of daily life precarious and uncertain.

Naturally, the disorientation strikes the younger generations in a particular way, who must in this context find the fundamental choices for their life.

It is precisely in the light of this contestation that all the urgency of the necessity to reflect upon the theme of natural law and to rediscover its truth common to all men appears. The said law, to which the Apostle Paul refers (cf. Rom 2: 14-15), is written on the heart of man and is consequently, even today, accessible.

This law has as its first and general principle, "to do good and to avoid evil". This is a truth which by its very evidence immediately imposes itself on everyone. From it flows the other more particular principles that regulate ethical justice on the rights and duties of everyone.

So does the principle of respect for human life from its conception to its natural end, because this good of life is not man's property but the free gift of God. Besides this is the duty to seek the truth as the necessary presupposition of every authentic personal maturation.

Another fundamental application of the subject is freedom. Yet taking into account the fact that human freedom is always a freedom shared with others, it is clear that the harmony of freedom can be found only in what is common to all:  the truth of the human being, the fundamental message of being itself, exactly the lex naturalis.

And how can we not mention, on one hand, the demand of justice that manifests itself in giving unicuique suum and, on the other, the expectation of solidarity that nourishes in everyone, especially if they are poor, the hope of the help of the more fortunate?

In these values are expressed unbreakable and contingent norms that do not depend on the will of the legislator and not even on the consensus that the State can and must give. They are, in fact, norms that precede any human law: as such, they are not subject to modification by anyone. 
The natural law, together with fundamental rights, is the source from which ethical imperatives also flow, which it is only right to honour.

In today's ethics and philosophy of Law, petitions of juridical positivism are widespread. As a result, legislation often becomes only a compromise between different interests:  seeking to transform private interests or wishes into law that conflict with the duties deriving from social responsibility.

In this situation it is opportune to recall that every juridical methodology, be it on the local or international level, ultimately draws its legitimacy from its rooting in the natural law, in the ethical message inscribed in the actual human being.

Natural law is, definitively, the only valid bulwark against the arbitrary power or the deception of ideological manipulation. The knowledge of this law inscribed on the heart of man increases with the progress of the moral conscience.

The first duty for all, and particularly for those with public responsibility, must therefore be to promote the maturation of the moral conscience. This is the fundamental progress without which all other progress proves non-authentic.

The law inscribed in our nature is the true guarantee offered to everyone in order to be able to live in freedom and to be respected in their own dignity.

What has been said up to this point has very concrete applications if one refers to the family, that is, to "the intimate partnership of life and the love which constitutes the married state... established by the Creator and endowed by him with its own proper laws" (Gaudium et Spes,n. 48).

Concerning this, the Second Vatican Council has opportunely recalled that the institution of marriage has been "confirmed by the divine law", and therefore "this sacred bond... for the good of the partner, of the children and of society no longer depends on human decision alone" (ibid.).

Therefore, no law made by man can override the norm written by the Creator without society becoming dramatically wounded in what constitutes its basic foundation. To forget this would mean to weaken the family, penalizing the children and rendering the future of society precarious.

Lastly, I feel the duty to affirm yet again that not all that is scientifically possible is also ethically licit. 
Technology, when it reduces the human being to an object of experimentation, results in abandoning the weak subject to the arbitration of the stronger. To blindly entrust oneself to technology as the only guarantee of progress, without offering at the same time an ethical code that penetrates its roots in that same reality under study and development, would be equal to doing violence to human nature with devastating consequences for all.

The contribution of scientists is of primary importance. Together with the progress of our capacity to dominate nature, scientists must also contribute to help understand the depth of our responsibility for man and for nature entrusted to him.

On this basis it is possible to develop a fruitful dialogue between believers and non-believers; between theologians, philosophers, jurists and scientists, which can offer to legislation as well precious material for personal and social life.

Therefore, I hope these days of study will bring not only a greater sensitivity of the learned with regard to the natural moral law, but will also serve to create conditions so that this theme may reach an ever fuller awareness of the inalienable value that the lex naturalispossesses for a real and coherent progress of private life and the social order.

With this wish, I assure you of my remembrance in prayer for you and for your academic commitment to research and reflection, while I impart to all with affection the Apostolic Blessing.


© Copyright 2007 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Monday, December 1, 2014

Pope Francis visits Armenian Patriarch: TURKEY

Pope Francis visits Armenian Patriarch in Istanbul hospital

2014-12-01 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) Before leaving for the airport to board his flight back to Rome at the end of his visit to Turkey, Pope Francis paid a visit to the Armenian Patriarch of Constaninople, Mesrob Mutafian, who is seriously ill at the San Salvatore Armenian hospital in Istanbul.  



(from Vatican Radio)

Bombing of Mosque: “extremely grave sin against God.” - Pope Francis

Pope Francis: The bombing on Kano Mosque: "extremely grave sin against God."

2014-11-30 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) On the last day of his visit to Turkey, Pope Francis has condemned the Friday 28 November, bomb attack on a busy Mosque in Kano, northern Nigeria.

Pope Francis was speaking at the end of a joint Liturgical prayer service which he held with the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I. The Istanbul-based Bartholomew I is the leader of many of the world's Orthodox Christians. The Liturgical service (Divina Liturgia) for thanksgiving and peace was held at the Orthodox Church of St. George in Istanbul, Turkey.

At the end of the Liturgy, Pope Francis told the world to rid itself of indifference towards the poor; hungry; disillusioned youth without jobs and many of the world's victims of conflict. In light of the message of the Gospel, he spoke of the need to overcome structures of poverty that continue to make create so much suffering in the world. Speaking in Italian, Pope Francis said, the world is called to defeat the "the globalisation of indifference." Then he went on to describe the bombing and attack on the Mosque in Kano as an "extremely grave sin against God."

On Friday, a bomb exploded when two suicide bombers blew themselves up and three gunmen then opened fire on worshippers during weekly prayers at the Grand Mosque of Kano. Several reports say at least 120 people were killed and 270 others were wounded in the attack blamed on Boko Haram Islamic insurgents.

Boko Haram has no regard for traditional Islamic leaders of Nigeria. The Mosque that was attacked is near the palace of the influential Moslem leader, the emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi. At the time of the attack, the emir was said to out of the country. Only recently he had called upon Northerners to arm and defend themselves against Boko Haram and not wait for the security forces.

Pope Francis returns to Rome this evening after a three day visit to Turkey. Among the most memorable gestures of this visit will be that of Pope Francis bowing, in a sign of great humility, to Bartholomew I and asking for a blessing from the Ecumenical Patriarch -blessing said Pope Francis, "for me and the Church of Rome."

(Fr. Paul Samasumo)


(from Vatican Radio)

Sunday, November 30, 2014

MISSION: Pope Francis’ visit to Turkey

Revisiting the highlights of Pope Francis' visit to Turkey

2014-11-30 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis has just concluded a three-day pastoral visit to Turkey which took him to the cities of Ankara and Istanbul.  It was a journey that had a strong emphasis on ecumenical relations and interfaith dialogue and saw the Pope and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I sign a joint declaration pledging to intensify their search for Christian unity and calling for a constructive dialogue with Islam. Our correspondent travelling with the Pope to Turkey was Philippa Hitchen and in an interview with Linda Bordoni, she revisited some of the highlights of this papal trip.  

Listen to the full interview with Vatican Radio's correspondent Philippa Hitchen: 

Pope Francis' final engagement before he left Istanbul on Sunday was a meeting with a group of young people including many refugees from conflict zones of the Middle East and Africa. Philippa described the event as a "very poignant" visit and "personal encounter" between the refugees and the Pope that also helps to remind the international community of the huge number of refugees who have flocked to Turkey from neighbouring countries, especially Syria.  

Turning to the Pope's many other engagements during this "very busy" visit, Philippa said there were many moving and significant moments.  One particularly striking moment for her was the Pope's gesture of bowing his head and asking for the blessing of the Orthodox Patriarch during a Divine Liturgy at the Patriarchal Church of St. George in Istanbul and she said this spoke volumes about the friendship between the two leaders and the ecumenical dialogue between their Churches.  

"How could you not be moved by the moment that Pope Francis bowed his head and asked the Orthodox Patriarch to bless him and the patriarch planted a kiss on his head….. a real symbol of the friendship between these two people and also a real symbol of the direction that their Churches are taking..…a slow but steady progress towards reconciliation and Christian unity between East and West." 

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Guardian view on the pope’s speech to the European parliament: rediscover your core values
Europe is far from over. It’s a continent of many blessings


The Guardian, Thursday 27 November 2014
Jump to comments (67)
Pope Francis leaves the European parliament in Strasbourg. 'Far from seeking to fuel further disenchantment with the EU, this was a strong-minded plea for a better Europe.' Photograph: Reuters

Few speeches about Europe these days arouse much enthusiasm. The subject is more likely to be greeted with boredom or acrimony, the debate conducted in instant and shallow slogans. So the pope’s message to the European parliament in Strasbourg on Tuesday, calling for a break from the current angst and “a return to the conviction of the founders of the European Union” came as something of a shock.

It did not play down the woes and inadequacies of the current state of European affairs. On the contrary, the speech included descriptions of the “distrust of citizens towards institutions considered to be aloof, engaging in laying down rules perceived as insensitive to individual people”. But those – step forward, Nigel Farage – who thrive on channelling populist sentiment against the very essence of the European project would be fools or, more likely, cynics to claim that Pope Francis has vindicated them in any way.

Indeed, far from seeking to fuel further disenchantment with the EU, this was a strong-minded plea for a better Europe, one in tune with its founding values of “human dignity” and fundamental rights. It was no Faragiste demand to dismantle or diminish the enterprise. It was instead a call for the “confidence needed to pursue the great ideal of a united and peaceful Europe”.

No less important, it was a speech urging all Europeans to look at themselves not through the prism of narrow domestic or intra-EU disputes, but as a continent of many blessings, despite the current anxiety, not least in the eurozone. Yes, it must redefine its role and ambitions in a globalised, interconnected and more complex world. But Europe is far from over: it accounts for only 7% of the world’s population, but 25% of its GDP and 50% of its public spending.

As Francis pointed out, this globalised world has become “less and less Eurocentric”. The Argentinian pope has great credibility to make this point, as well as to remind Europe that it needs to reach out to those who endure great ordeals to reach its shores. For years Jorge Mario Bergoglio built his image and his pastoral activities in Buenos Aires as the archbishop of the poor, the favelas and the downtrodden. He is the first non-European pontiff in over a thousand years, well aware that today’s Catholic church has its greatest constituencies in the global south, parts of the world where Europe is regarded with “aloofness, mistrust and even, at times, suspicion”. In 2013, his first trip outside Rome after becoming pope was to the island of Lampedusa, scene of too many migrants’ tragedies.

By castigating a Europe that produces a “general impression of weariness and ageing”, a Europe which is now a “grandmother ... no longer fertile and vibrant”, the pope intended to issue a wake-up call. He aimed his criticism at the plight of the unemployed in the age of austerity and on how contemporary society pushes individuals towards an “uncontrolled consumerism”. The pope wants Europe to “rediscover the best of itself”. Some may see that as a call for miracles. Others will cringe at the reference to lack of fertility. But the overall message must be welcomed for the right reasons, which are about strengthening the EU, not undermining it. The time is long overdue for more voices to speak out, for Europe’s politicians, not least in the UK, to present their vision of the “better” EU they want – and are ready to defend.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Pope Francis: Address to European Parliament

Pope Francis: Address to European Parliament
A statue of the Virgin Mary is displayed by faithful in front of the European Parliament - REUTERS

25/11/2014 09:48

(Vatican Radio) The full text of the address delivered by Pope Francis to members of the European Parliament, Strasbourg, France, on Tuesday November 25, 2014.

Mr President and Vice Presidents,

Members of the European Parliament,

All associated with the work of this Institution,

Dear Friends,

I thank you for inviting me to address this institution which is fundamental to the life of the European Union, and for giving me this opportunity to speak, through you, to the more than five-hundred million citizens whom you represent in the twenty-eight Member States. I am especially grateful to you, Mr President, for your warm words of welcome in the name of the entire assembly.

My visit comes more than a quarter of a century after that of Pope John Paul II. Since then, much has changed throughout Europe and the world as a whole. The opposing blocs which then divided the continent in two no longer exist, and gradually the hope is being realized that "Europe, endowed with sovereign and free institutions, will one day reach the full dimensions that geography, and even more, history have given it".[1]

As the European Union has expanded, the world itself has become more complex and ever changing; increasingly interconnected and global, it has, as a consequence, become less and less "Eurocentric". Despite a larger and stronger Union, Europe seems to give the impression of being somewhat elderly and haggard, feeling less and less a protagonist in a world which frequently regards it with aloofness, mistrust and even, at times, suspicion.

In addressing you today, I would like, as a pastor, to offer a message of hope and encouragement to all the citizens of Europe.

It is a message of hope, based on the confidence that our problems can become powerful forces for unity in working to overcome all those fears which Europe - together with the entire world - is presently experiencing. It is a message of hope in the Lord, who turns evil into good and death into life.

It is a message of encouragement to return to the firm conviction of the founders of the European Union, who envisioned a future based on the capacity to work together in bridging divisions and in fostering peace and fellowship between all the peoples of this continent. At the heart of this ambitious political project was confidence in man, not so much as a citizen or an economic agent, but in man, in men and women as persons endowed withtranscendent dignity.

I feel bound to stress the close bond between these two words: "dignity" and "transcendent".

"Dignity" was the pivotal concept in the process of rebuilding which followed the Second World War. Our recent past has been marked by the concern to protect human dignity, in constrast to the manifold instances of violence and discrimination which, even in Europe, took place in the course of the centuries. Recognition of the importance of human rights came about as the result of a lengthy process, entailing much suffering and sacrifice, which helped shape an awareness of the unique worth of each individual human person. This awareness was grounded not only in historical events, but above all in European thought, characterized as it is by an enriching encounter whose "distant springs are many, coming from Greece and Rome, from Celtic, Germanic and Slavic sources, and from Christianity which profoundly shaped them",[2] thus forging the very concept of the "person".

Today, the promotion of human rights is central to the commitment of the European Union to advance the dignity of the person, both within the Union and in its relations with other countries. This is an important and praiseworthy commitment, since there are still too many situations in which human beings are treated as objects whose conception, configuration and utility can be programmed, and who can then be discarded when no longer useful, due to weakness, illness or old age.

In the end, what kind of dignity is there without the possibility of freely expressing one's thought or professing one's religious faith? What dignity can there be without a clear juridical framework which limits the rule of force and enables the rule of law to prevail over the power of tyranny? What dignity can men and women ever enjoy if they are subjected to all types of discrimination? What dignity can a person ever hope to find when he or she lacks food and the bare essentials for survival and, worse yet, when they lack the work which confers dignity?

Promoting the dignity of the person means recognizing that he or she possesses inalienable rights which no one may take away arbitrarily, much less for the sake of economic interests.

At the same time, however, care must be taken not to fall into certain errors which can arise from a misunderstanding of the concept of human rights and from its misuse. Today there is a tendency to claim ever broader individual rights; underlying this is a conception of the human person as detached from all social and anthropological contexts, as if the person were a "monad" (μονάς), increasingly unconcerned with other surrounding "monads". The equally essential and complementary concept of duty no longer seems to be linked to such a concept of rights. As a result, the rights of the individual are upheld, without regard for the fact that each human being is part of a social context wherein his or her rights and duties are bound up with those of others and with the common good of society itself.

I believe, therefore, that it is vital to develop a culture of human rights which wisely links the individual, or better, the personal aspect, to that of the common good, of the "all of us" made up of individuals, families and intermediate groups who together constitute society.[3] In fact, unless the rights of each individual are harmoniously ordered to the greater good, those rights will end up being considered limitless and consequently will become a source of conflicts and violence.

To speak of transcendent human dignity thus means appealing to human nature, to our innate capacity to distinguish good from evil, to that "compass" deep within our hearts, which God has impressed upon all creation.[4] Above all, it means regarding human beings not as absolutes, but asbeings in relation. In my view, one of the most common diseases in Europe today is the loneliness typical of those who have no connection with others. This is especially true of the elderly, who are often abandoned to their fate, and also in the young who lack clear points of reference and opportunities for the future. It is also seen in the many poor who dwell in our cities and in the disorientation of immigrants who came here seeking a better future.

This loneliness has become more acute as a result of the economic crisis, whose effects continue to have tragic consequences for the life of society. In recent years, as the European Union has expanded, there has been growing mistrust on the part of citizens towards institutions considered to be aloof, engaged in laying down rules perceived as insensitive to individual peoples, if not downright harmful. In many quarters we encounter a general impression of weariness and aging, of a Europe which is now a "grandmother", no longer fertile and vibrant. As a result, the great ideas which once inspired Europe seem to have lost their attraction, only to be replaced by the bureaucratic technicalities of its institutions.

Together with this, we encounter certain rather selfish lifestyles, marked by an opulence which is no longer sustainable and frequently indifferent to the world around us, and especially to the poorest of the poor. To our dismay we see technical and economic questions dominating political debate, to the detriment of genuine concern for human beings.[5] Men and women risk being reduced to mere cogs in a machine that treats them as items of consumption to be exploited, with the result that - as is so tragically apparent - whenever a human life no longer proves useful for that machine, it is discarded with few qualms, as in the case of the terminally ill, the elderly who are abandoned and uncared for, and children who are killed in the womb.

This is the great mistake made "when technology is allowed to take over";[6] the result is a confusion between ends and means".[7] It is the inevitable consequence of a "throwaway culture" and an uncontrolled consumerism. Upholding the dignity of the person means instead acknowledging the value of human life, which is freely given us and hence cannot be an object of trade or commerce. As members of this Parliament, you are called to a great mission which may at times seem an impossible one: to tend to the needs of individuals and peoples. To tend to those in need takes strength and tenderness, effort and generosity in the midst of a functionalistic and privatized mindset which inexorably leads to a "throwaway culture". To care for individuals and peoples in need means protecting memory and hope; it means taking responsibility for the present with its situations of utter marginalization and anguish, and being capable of bestowing dignity upon it.[8]

How, then, can hope in the future be restored, so that, beginning with the younger generation, there can be a rediscovery of that confidence needed to pursue the great ideal of a united and peaceful Europe, a Europe which is creative and resourceful, respectful of rights and conscious of its duties?

To answer this question, allow me to use an image. One of the most celebrated frescoes of Raphael is found in the Vatican and depicts the so-called "School of Athens". Plato and Aristotle are in the centre. Plato's finger is pointed upward, to the world of ideas, to the sky, to heaven as we might say. Aristotle holds his hand out before him, towards the viewer, towards the world, concrete reality. This strikes me as a very apt image of Europe and her history, made up of the constant interplay between heaven and earth, where the sky suggests that openness to the transcendent - to God - which has always distinguished the peoples of Europe, while the earth represents Europe's practical and concrete ability to confront situations and problems.

The future of Europe depends on the recovery of the vital connection between these two elements. A Europe which is no longer open to the transcendent dimension of life is a Europe which risks slowly losing its own soul and that "humanistic spirit" which it still loves and defends.

Taking as a starting point this opening to the transcendent, I would like to reaffirm the centrality of the human person, which otherwise is at the mercy of the whims and the powers of the moment. I consider to be fundamental not only the legacy that Christianity has offered in the past to the social and cultural formation of the continent, but above all the contribution which it desires to offer today, and in the future, to Europe's growth. This contribution does not represent a threat to the secularity of states or to the independence of the institutions of the European Union, but rather an enrichment. This is clear from the ideals which shaped Europe from the beginning, such as peace, subsidiarity and reciprocal solidarity, and a humanism centred on respect for the dignity of the human person.

I wish, then, to reiterate the readiness of the Holy See and the Catholic Church, through the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of Europe (COMECE), to engage in meaningful, open and transparent dialogue with the institutions of the European Union. I am likewise convinced that a Europe which is capable of appreciating its religious roots and of grasping their fruitfulness and potential, will be all the more immune to the many forms of extremism spreading in the world today, not least as a result of the great vacuum of ideals which we are currently witnessing in the West, since "it is precisely man's forgetfulness of God, and his failure to give him glory, which gives rise to violence".[9]

Here I cannot fail to recall the many instances of injustice and persecution which daily afflict religious minorities, and Christians in particular, in various parts of our world. Communities and individuals today find themselves subjected to barbaric acts of violence: they are evicted from their homes and native lands, sold as slaves, killed, beheaded, crucified or burned alive, under the shameful and complicit silence of so many.

The motto of the European Union is United in Diversity. Unity, however, does not mean uniformity of political, economic and cultural life, or ways of thinking. Indeed, all authentic unity draws from the rich diversities which make it up: in this sense it is like a family, which is all the more united when each of its members is free to be fully himself or herself. I consider Europe as a family of peoples who will sense the closeness of the institutions of the Union when these latter are able wisely to combine the desired ideal of unity with the diversity proper to each people, cherishing particular traditions, acknowledging its past history and its roots, liberated from so many manipulations and phobias. Affirming the centrality of the human person means, above all, allowing all to express freely their individuality and their creativity, both as individuals and as peoples.

At the same time, the specific features of each one represent an authentic richness to the degree that they are placed at the service of all. The proper configuration of the European Union must always be respected, based as it is on the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity, so that mutual assistance can prevail and progress can be made on the basis of mutual trust.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Members of the European Parliament, within this dynamic of unity and particularity, yours is the responsibility of keeping democracy alive for the peoples of Europe. It is no secret that a conception of unity seen as uniformity strikes at the vitality of the democratic system, weakening the rich, fruitful and constructive interplay of organizations and political parties. This leads to the risk of living in a world of ideas, of mere words, of images, of sophistry. and to end up confusing the reality of democracy with a new political nominalism. Keeping democracy alive in Europe requires avoiding the many globalizing tendencies to dilute reality: namely, angelic forms of purity, dictatorships of relativism, brands of ahistorical fundamentalism, ethical systems lacking kindness, and intellectual discourse bereft of wisdom[10].

Keeping democracies alive is a challenge in the present historic moment. The true strength of our democracies - understood as expressions of the political will of the people - must not be allowed to collapse under the pressure of multinational interests which are not universal, which weaken them and turn them into uniform systems of economic power at the service of unseen empires. This is one of the challenges which history sets before you today.

To give Europe hope means more than simply acknowledging the centrality of the human person; it also implies nurturing the gifts of each man and woman. It means investing in individuals and in those settings in which their talents are shaped and flourish. The first area surely is that of education, beginning with the family, the fundamental cell and most precious element of any society. The family, united, fruitful and indissoluble, possesses the elements fundamental for fostering hope in the future. Without this solid basis, the future ends up being built on sand, with dire social consequences. Then too, stressing the importance of the family not only helps to give direction and hope to new generations, but also to many of our elderly, who are often forced to live alone and are effectively abandoned because there is no longer the warmth of a family hearth able to accompany and support them.

Alongside the family, there are the various educational institutes: schools and universities. Education cannot be limited to providing technical expertise alone. Rather, it should encourage the more complex process of assisting the human person to grow in his or her totality. Young people today are asking for a suitable and complete education which can enable them to look to the future with hope instead of disenchantment. There is so much creative potential in Europe in the various fields of scientific research, some of which have yet to be fully explored. We need only think, for example, of alternative sources of energy, the development of which will assist in the protection of the environment.

Europe has always been in the vanguard of efforts to promote ecology. Our earth needs constant concern and attention. Each of us has a personal responsibility to care for creation, this precious gift which God has entrusted to us. This means, on the one hand, that nature is at our disposal, to enjoy and use properly. Yet it also means that we are not its masters. Stewards, but not masters. We need to love and respect nature, but "instead we are often guided by the pride of dominating, possessing, manipulating, exploiting; we do not 'preserve' the earth, we do not respect it, we do not consider it as a freely-given gift to look after".[11] Respect for the environment, however, means more than not destroying it; it also means using it for good purposes. I am thinking above all of the agricultural sector, which provides sustenance and nourishment to our human family. It is intolerable that millions of people around the world are dying of hunger while tons of food are discarded each day from our tables. Respect for nature also calls for recognizing that man himself is a fundamental part of it. Along with an environmental ecology, there is also need of that human ecology which consists in respect for the person, which I have wanted to emphasize in addressing you today.

The second area in which people's talents flourish is labour. The time has come to promote policies which create employment, but above all there is a need to restore dignity to labour by ensuring proper working conditions. This implies, on the one hand, finding new ways of joining market flexibility with the need for stability and security on the part of workers; these are indispensable for their human development. It also implies favouring a suitable social context geared not to the exploitation of persons, but to ensuring, precisely through labour, their ability to create a family and educate their children.

Likewise, there needs to be a united response to the question of migration. We cannot allow the Mediterranean to become a vast cemetery! The boats landing daily on the shores of Europe are filled with men and women who need acceptance and assistance. The absence of mutual support within the European Union runs the risk of encouraging particularistic solutions to the problem, solutions which fail to take into account the human dignity of immigrants, and thus contribute to slave labour and continuing social tensions. Europe will be able to confront the problems associated with immigration only if it is capable of clearly asserting its own cultural identity and enacting adequate legislation to protect the rights of European citizens and to ensure the acceptance of immigrants. Only if it is capable of adopting fair, courageous and realistic policies which can assist the countries of origin in their own social and political development and in their efforts to resolve internal conflicts - the principal cause of this phenomenon - rather than adopting policies motivated by self-interest, which increase and feed such conflicts. We need to take action against the causes and not only the effects.

Mr President, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Awareness of one's own identity is also necessary for entering into a positive dialogue with the States which have asked to become part of the Union in the future. I am thinking especially of those in the Balkans, for which membership in the European Union could be a response to the desire for peace in a region which has suffered greatly from past conflicts. Awareness of one's own identity is also indispensable for relations with other neighbouring countries, particularly with those bordering the Mediterranean, many of which suffer from internal conflicts, the pressure of religious fundamentalism and the reality of global terrorism.

Upon you, as legislators, it is incumbent to protect and nurture Europe's identity, so that its citizens can experience renewed confidence in the institutions of the Union and in its underlying project of peace and friendship. Knowing that "the more the power of men and women increases, the greater is individual and collective responsibility",[12] I encourage you to work to make Europe rediscover the best of itself.

An anonymous second-century author wrote that "Christians are to the world what the soul is to the body".[13] The function of the soul is to support the body, to be its conscience and its historical memory. A two-thousand-year-old history links Europe and Christianity. It is a history not free of conflicts and errors, but one constantly driven by the desire to work for the good of all. We see this in the beauty of our cities, and even more in the beauty of the many works of charity and constructive cooperation throughout this continent. This history, in large part, must still be written. It is our present and our future. It is our identity. Europe urgently needs to recover its true features in order to grow, as its founders intended, in peace and harmony, since it is not yet free of conflicts.

Dear Members of the European Parliament, the time has come to work together in building a Europe which revolves not around the economy, but around the sacredness of the human person, around inalienable values. In building a Europe which courageously embraces its past and confidently looks to its future in order fully to experience the hope of its present. The time has come for us to abandon the idea of a Europe which is fearful and self-absorbed, in order to revive and encourage a Europe of leadership, a repository of science, art, music, human values and faith as well. A Europe which contemplates the heavens and pursues lofty ideals. A Europe which cares for, defends and protects man, every man and woman. A Europe which bestrides the earth surely and securely, a precious point of reference for all humanity!

Thank you!

[1] JOHN PAUL II, Address to the European Parliament (11 October 1988), 5.

[2] JOHN PAUL II, Address to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (8 October 1988), 3.

[3] Cf. BENEDICT XVI, Caritas in Veritate, 7; SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 26.

[4] Cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 37.

[5] Cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 55.

[6] BENEDICT XVI, Caritas in Veritate, 71.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 209.

[9] BENEDICT XVI, Address to the Members of the Diplomatic Corps, 7 January 2013.

[10] Evangelii Gaudium, 231.

[11] FRANCIS, General Audience, 5 June 2013.

[12] Cf. SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Gaudium et Spes, 34.

[13] Cf. Letter to Diognetus, 6.
(Emer McCarthy)