22/3/2013: Pope Francis’ address to the Diplomatic Corps
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Heartfelt thanks to your Dean, Ambassador Jean-Claude Michel, for the kind words that he has addressed to me in the name of everyone present. It gives me joy to welcome you for this exchange of greetings: a simple yet deeply felt ceremony, that somehow seeks to express the Pope’s embrace of the world. Through you, indeed, I encounter your peoples, and thus in a sense I can reach out to every one of your fellow citizens, with their joys, their troubles, their expectations, their desires.
Your presence here in such numbers is a sign that the relations between your countries and the Holy See are fruitful, that they are truly a source of benefit to mankind. That, indeed, is what matters to the Holy See: the good of every person upon this earth! And it is with this understanding that the Bishop of Rome embarks upon his ministry, in the knowledge that he can count on the friendship and affection of the countries you represent, and in the certainty that you share this objective. At the same time, I hope that it will also be an opportunity to begin a journey with those few countries that do not yet have diplomatic relations with the Holy See, some of which were present at the Mass for the beginning of my ministry, or sent messages as a sign of their closeness – for which I am truly grateful.
As you know, there are various reasons why I chose the name of Francis of Assisi, a familiar figure far beyond the borders of Italy and Europe, even among those who do not profess the Catholic faith. One of the first reasons was Francis’ love for the poor. How many poor people there still are in the world! And what great suffering they have to endure! After the example of Francis of Assisi, the Church in every corner of the globe has always tried to care for and look after those who suffer from want, and I think that in many of your countries you can attest to the generous activity of Christians who dedicate themselves to helping the sick, orphans, the homeless and all the marginalized, thus striving to make society more humane and more just.
But there is another form of poverty! It is the spiritual poverty of our time, which afflicts the so-called richer countries particularly seriously. It is what my much-loved predecessor, Benedict XVI, called the “tyranny of relativism”, which makes everyone his own criterion and endangers the coexistence of peoples. And that brings me to a second reason for my name. Francis of Assisi tells us we should work to build peace. But there is no true peace without truth! There cannot be true peace if everyone is his own criterion, if everyone can always claim exclusively his own rights, without at the same time caring for the good of others, of everyone, on the basis of the nature that unites every human being on this earth.
One of the titles of the Bishop of Rome is Pontiff, that is, a builder of bridges with God and between people. My wish is that the dialogue between us should help to build bridges connecting all people, in such a way that everyone can see in the other not an enemy, not a rival, but a brother or sister to be welcomed and embraced! My own origins impel me to work for the building of bridges. As you know, my family is of Italian origin; and so this dialogue between places and cultures a great distance apart matters greatly to me, this dialogue between one end of the world and the other, which today are growing ever closer, more interdependent, more in need of opportunities to meet and to create real spaces of authentic fraternity.
In this work, the role of religion is fundamental. It is not possible to build bridges between people while forgetting God. But the converse is also true: it is not possible to establish true links with God, while ignoring other people. Hence it is important to intensify dialogue among the various religions, and I am thinking particularly of dialogue with Islam. At the Mass marking the beginning of my ministry, I greatly appreciated the presence of so many civil and religious leaders from the Islamic world. And it is also important to intensify outreach to non-believers, so that the differences which divide and hurt us may never prevail, but rather the desire to build true links of friendship between all peoples, despite their diversity.
Fighting poverty, both material and spiritual, building peace and constructing bridges: these, as it were, are the reference points for a journey that I want to invite each of the countries here represented to take up. But it is a difficult journey, if we do not learn to grow in love for this world of ours. Here too, it helps me to think of the name of Francis, who teaches us profound respect for the whole of creation and the protection of our environment, which all too often, instead of using for the good, we exploit greedily, to one another’s detriment.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you again for all the work that you do, alongside the Secretariat of State, to build peace and construct bridges of friendship and fraternity. Through you, I would like to renew to your Governments my thanks for their participation in the celebrations on the occasion of my election, and my heartfelt desire for a fruitful common endeavour. May Almighty God pour out his gifts on each one of you, on your families and on the peoples that you represent. Thank you!
19/3/2013: Homily at Pope Francis’ Inauguration Mass
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I thank the Lord that I can celebrate this Holy Mass for the inauguration of my Petrine ministry on the solemnity of Saint Joseph, the spouse of the Virgin Mary and the patron of the universal Church. It is a significant coincidence, and it is also the name-day of my venerable predecessor: we are close to him with our prayers, full of affection and gratitude.
I offer a warm greeting to my brother cardinals and bishops, the priests, deacons, men and women religious, and all the lay faithful. I thank the representatives of the other Churches and ecclesial Communities, as well as the representatives of the Jewish community and the other religious communities, for their presence. My cordial greetings go to the Heads of State and Government, the members of the official Delegations from many countries throughout the world, and the Diplomatic Corps.
In the Gospel we heard that “Joseph did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took Mary as his wife” (Mt 1:24). These words already point to the mission which God entrusts to Joseph: he is to be the custos, the protector. The protector of whom? Of Mary and Jesus; but this protection is then extended to the Church, as Blessed John Paul II pointed out: “Just as Saint Joseph took loving care of Mary and gladly dedicated himself to Jesus Christ’s upbringing, he likewise watches over and protects Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church, of which the Virgin Mary is the exemplar and model” (Redemptoris Custos, 1).
How does Joseph exercise his role as protector? Discreetly, humbly and silently, but with an unfailing presence and utter fidelity, even when he finds it hard to understand. From the time of his betrothal to Mary until the finding of the twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem, he is there at every moment with loving care. As the spouse of Mary, he is at her side in good times and bad, on the journey to Bethlehem for the census and in the anxious and joyful hours when she gave birth; amid the drama of the flight into Egypt and during the frantic search for their child in the Temple; and later in the day-to-day life of the home of Nazareth, in the workshop where he taught his trade to Jesus.
How does Joseph respond to his calling to be the protector of Mary, Jesus and the Church? By being constantly attentive to God, open to the signs of God’s presence and receptive to God’s plans, and not simply to his own. This is what God asked of David, as we heard in the first reading. God does not want a house built by men, but faithfulness to his word, to his plan. It is God himself who builds the house, but from living stones sealed by his Spirit. Joseph is a “protector” because he is able to hear God’s voice and be guided by his will; and for this reason he is all the more sensitive to the persons entrusted to his safekeeping. He can look at things realistically, he is in touch with his surroundings, he can make truly wise decisions. In him, dear friends, we learn how to respond to God’s call, readily and willingly, but we also see the core of the Christian vocation, which is Christ! Let us protect Christ in our lives, so that we can protect others, so that we can protect creation!
The vocation of being a “protector”, however, is not just something involving us Christians alone; it also has a prior dimension which is simply human, involving everyone. It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world, as the Book of Genesis tells us and as Saint Francis of Assisi showed us. It means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live. It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about. It means caring for one another in our families: husbands and wives first protect one another, and then, as parents, they care for their children, and children themselves, in time, protect their parents. It means building sincere friendships in which we protect one another in trust, respect, and goodness. In the end, everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it. Be protectors of God’s gifts!
Whenever human beings fail to live up to this responsibility, whenever we fail to care for creation and for our brothers and sisters, the way is opened to destruction and hearts are hardened. Tragically, in every period of history there are “Herods” who plot death, wreak havoc, and mar the countenance of men and women.
Please, I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill: let us be “protectors” of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment. Let us not allow omens of destruction and death to accompany the advance of this world! But to be “protectors”, we also have to keep watch over ourselves! Let us not forget that hatred, envy and pride defile our lives! Being protectors, then, also means keeping watch over our emotions, over our hearts, because they are the seat of good and evil intentions: intentions that build up and tear down! We must not be afraid of goodness or even tenderness!
Here I would add one more thing: caring, protecting, demands goodness, it calls for a certain tenderness. In the Gospels, Saint Joseph appears as a strong and courageous man, a working man, yet in his heart we see great tenderness, which is not the virtue of the weak but rather a sign of strength of spirit and a capacity for concern, for compassion, for genuine openness to others, for love. We must not be afraid of goodness, of tenderness!
Today, together with the feast of Saint Joseph, we are celebrating the beginning of the ministry of the new Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter, which also involves a certain power. Certainly, Jesus Christ conferred power upon Peter, but what sort of power was it? Jesus’ three questions to Peter about love are followed by three commands: feed my lambs, feed my sheep. Let us never forget that authentic power is service, and that the Pope too, when exercising power, must enter ever more fully into that service which has its radiant culmination on the Cross. He must be inspired by the lowly, concrete and faithful service which marked Saint Joseph and, like him, he must open his arms to protect all of God’s people and embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important, those whom Matthew lists in the final judgment on love: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison (cf.Mt 25:31-46). Only those who serve with love are able to protect!
In the second reading, Saint Paul speaks of Abraham, who, “hoping against hope, believed” (Rom4:18). Hoping against hope! Today too, amid so much darkness, we need to see the light of hope and to be men and women who bring hope to others. To protect creation, to protect every man and every woman, to look upon them with tenderness and love, is to open up a horizon of hope; it is to let a shaft of light break through the heavy clouds; it is to bring the warmth of hope! For believers, for us Christians, like Abraham, like Saint Joseph, the hope that we bring is set against the horizon of God, which has opened up before us in Christ. It is a hope built on the rock which is God.
To protect Jesus with Mary, to protect the whole of creation, to protect each person, especially the poorest, to protect ourselves: this is a service that the Bishop of Rome is called to carry out, yet one to which all of us are called, so that the star of hope will shine brightly. Let us protect with love all that God has given us!
I implore the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, Saints Peter and Paul, and Saint Francis, that the Holy Spirit may accompany my ministry, and I ask all of you to pray for me! Amen.
16/3/2013: Audience to representatives of communications media
At the beginning of my ministry in the See of Peter, I am pleased to meet all of you who have worked here in Rome throughout this intense period which began with the unexpected announcement made by my venerable Predecessor Benedict XVI on 11 February last. To each of you I offer a cordial greeting.
The role of the mass media has expanded immensely in these years, so much so that they are an essential means of informing the world about the events of contemporary history. I would like, then, to thank you in a special way for the professional coverage which you provided during these days – you really worked, didn’t you? – when the eyes of the whole world, and not just those of Catholics, were turned to the Eternal City and particularly to this place which has as its heart the tomb of Saint Peter. Over the past few weeks, you have had to provide information about the Holy See and about the Church, her rituals and traditions, her faith and above all the role of the Pope and his ministry.
I am particularly grateful to those who viewed and presented these events of the Church’s history in a way which was sensitive to the right context in which they need to be read, namely that of faith. Historical events almost always demand a nuanced interpretation which at times can also take into account the dimension of faith. Ecclesial events are certainly no more intricate than political or economic events! But they do have one particular underlying feature: they follow a pattern which does not readily correspond to the “worldly” categories which we are accustomed to use, and so it is not easy to interpret and communicate them to a wider and more varied public. The Church is certainly a human and historical institution with all that that entails, yet her nature is not essentially political but spiritual: the Church is the People of God, the Holy People of God making its way to encounter Jesus Christ. Only from this perspective can a satisfactory account be given of the Church’s life and activity.
Christ is the Church’s Pastor, but his presence in history passes through the freedom of human beings; from their midst one is chosen to serve as his Vicar, the Successor of the Apostle Peter. Yet Christ remains the centre, not the Sucessor of Peter: Christ, Christ is the centre. Christ is the fundamental point of reference, the heart of the Church. Without him, Peter and the Church would not exist or have reason to exist. As Benedict XVI frequently reminded us, Christ is present in Church and guides her. In everything that has occurred, the principal agent has been, in the final analysis, the Holy Spirit. He prompted the decision of Benedict XVI for the good of the Church; he guided the Cardinals in prayer and in the election.
It is important, dear friends, to take into due account this way of looking at things, this hermeneutic, in order to bring into proper focus what really happened in these days.
All of this leads me to thank you once more for your work in these particularly demanding days, but also to ask you to try to understand more fully the true nature of the Church, as well as her journey in this world, with her virtues and her sins, and to know the spiritual concerns which guide her and are the most genuine way to understand her. Be assured that the Church, for her part, highly esteems your important work. At your disposal you have the means to hear and to give voice to people’s expectations and demands, and to provide for an analysis and interpretation of current events. Your work calls for careful preparation, sensitivity and experience, like so many other professions, but it also demands a particular concern for what is true, good and beautiful. This is something which we have in common, since the Church exists to communicate precisely this: Truth, Goodness and Beauty “in person”. It should be apparent that all of us are called not to communicate ourselves, but this existential triad made up of truth, beauty and goodness.
Some people wanted to know why the Bishop of Rome wished to be called Francis. Some thought of Francis Xavier, Francis De Sales, and also Francis of Assisi. I will tell you the story. During the election, I was seated next to the Archbishop Emeritus of São Paolo and Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Claudio Hummes: a good friend, a good friend! When things were looking dangerous, he encouraged me. And when the votes reached two thirds, there was the usual applause, because the Pope had been elected. And he gave me a hug and a kiss, and said: “Don’t forget the poor!” And those words came to me: the poor, the poor. Then, right away, thinking of the poor, I thought of Francis of Assisi. Then I thought of all the wars, as the votes were still being counted, till the end. Francis is also the man of peace. That is how the name came into my heart: Francis of Assisi. For me, he is the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation; these days we do not have a very good relationship with creation, do we? He is the man who gives us this spirit of peace, the poor man … How I would like a Church which is poor and for the poor! Afterwards, people were joking with me. “But you should call yourself Hadrian, because Hadrian VI was the reformer, we need a reform…” And someone else said to me: “No, no: your name should be Clement”. “But why?” “Clement XV: thus you pay back Clement XIV who suppressed the Society of Jesus!” These were jokes. I love all of you very much, I thank you for everything you have done. I pray that your work will always be serene and fruitful, and that you will come to know ever better the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the rich reality of the Church’s life. I commend you to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Star of Evangelization, and with cordial good wishes for you and your families, each of your families. I cordially impart to all of you my blessing. Thank you.
I told you I was cordially imparting my blessing. Since many of you are not members of the Catholic Church, and others are not believers, I cordially give this blessing silently, to each of you, respecting the conscience of each, but in the knowledge that each of you is a child of God. May God bless you!
15/3/2013: Address to Cardinals
Text of address
This time dedicated to the Conclave has been full of meaning not only for the College of Cardinals, but also for all the faithful. In these days we have felt almost physically the affection and solidarity of the universal Church, as well as the attention of many people who, despite not sharing our faith, look with respect and admiration to the Church and the Holy See. From every corner of the Earth, a fervent and choral prayer of the Christian people was raised up for the new Pope, and my first encounter with the crowd gathered in St. Peter’s square was full of emotion. With that evocative image of prayerful and joyful people still etched in my mind, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the bishops, priests, consecrated persons, young people, families and the elderly for their spiritual closeness, so touching and fervent.
I feel the need to express my most vivid and deep gratitude to all of you, venerable and dear brother Cardinals, for the solicitous collaboration in guiding the Church during the Vacant See. I address a cordial greeting to each of you, beginning with the Dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, whom I thank for his expressions of devotion and for the fervent well-wishes he addressed to me in your name. With him I would like to thank the Lord Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Chamberlain of the Holy Roman Church, for his thoughtful work in this delicate transitional phase, and also the most dear Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, who was our leader in the Conclave, many thanks! My thoughts go with particular affection to the venerable Cardinals who, due to age or disease, assured us of their participation and their love for the Church through the offering of suffering and prayer. And allow me to tell you that the day before yesterday, Cardinal Mejia had a heart attack: he has been hospitalized at Pius XI. But it seems his health is stable, and he has sent us his regards.
Also deserving of my gratitude are those who, in various roles, have worked actively in preparing and carrying out the Conclave, ensuring the safety and tranquility of the Cardinals in this period that is so important for the life of the Church.
With great affection and profound gratitude, my thought goes also to my venerable predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, who during these years of his Pontificate has enriched and invigorated the Church with his teachings, his kindness, his leadership, his faith, his humility and his meekness. They will remain a spiritual heritage for everyone! The Petrine ministry, lived with total dedication, had in him a skillful and humble interpreter, whose gaze was always fixed on Christ, the risen Christ, present and alive in the Eucharist. Our fervent prayers will accompany him always, as will our ceaseless remembrance and our undying and affectionate gratitude. We feel that Benedict XVI has lit a flame in the depths of our hearts: it will continue to blaze because it will be fueled by his prayer, which will support the Church on her spiritual and missionary journey.
Dear brother Cardinals, our meeting is meant to be somewhat of an extension of the intense ecclesial communion experienced during this period. Animated by a deep sense of responsibility and supported by a great love for Christ and for the Church, we have prayed together, fraternally sharing our feelings, our experiences and reflections. In this climate of great cordiality, our reciprocal knowledge and mutual opening were thus increased; and this is good, because we are brothers. Someone told me: the Cardinals are the Holy Father’s priests. That community, that friendship, that closeness will do us all good. And this knowledge and this mutual opening have facilitated our docility to the action of the Holy Spirit. He, the Paraclete, is the Supreme protagonist of every initiative and expression of faith. This is strange, it makes me think: the Paraclete accounts for all the differences in the churches, and seems to be an apostle of Babel. But on the other hand, He is the One who creates unity from these differences, not in “equality”, but in harmony. I recall that Church Father who described Him thus: “Ipse harmonia est”. The Paraclete who gives each of us different charisms, unites us in this community of the Church, that worships the Father, Son and Him, the Holy Spirit.
Starting right from the authentic collegial affection that joins the College of Cardinals, I express my willingness to serve the Gospel with renewed love, helping the Church to become more and more in Christ and with Christ, the fruitful vine of the Lord. Stimulated also by the celebration of the Year of Faith, all together, Shepherds and faithful, we will strive to respond faithfully to our mission of always: bringing Jesus Christ to mankind and leading men to the encounter with Jesus Christ the Way, Truth and Life, truly present in the Church and at the same time, in every man. Such an encounter leads to becoming new men in the mystery of Grace, arousing in the soul that Christian joy which constitutes the hundredfold given by Christ to those who welcome Him into their lives.
As Pope Benedict XVI reminded us so many times in his teachings and, most recently, with that courageous and humble gesture, it is Christ who leads the Church through his Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the soul of the Church with His vivifying and unifying force: of many, it forms a single body, the Mystical Body of Christ. Let us never give in to that pessimism, that bitterness which the devil offers us every day. Let us not give in to pessimism and discouragement; we have that firm confidence which the Holy Spirit gives the Church, with his mighty breath, the courage to persevere and to seek new ways to evangelize, to bring the Gospel to the ends of the Earth (cf. Acts 1:8). The Christian truth is appealing and persuasive because it responds to the profound needs of human existence, announcing convincingly that Christ is the only Savior of the whole man and of all men. This announcement is still valid today, as it was at the beginning of Christianity, when the first great missionary expansion of the Gospel was carried out.
Dear Brothers, courage! Half of us are elderly: old age is – as I love to say — the seat of the wisdom of life. The old have the wisdom of having walked in life, like the elderly Simeon, the aged Anna in the temple. And it was precisely that wisdom that made them recognize Jesus. We offer this wisdom to the young: like good wine, which over the years becomes better, we give to young people the wisdom of life. I am reminded of what a German poet said of old age: “Es ist ruhig, das Alter, und fromm”: it is the time of tranquility and of prayer. And also of giving young people this wisdom. You will now go back to your sees to continue your ministry, enriched by the experience of these days, so full of faith and ecclesial communion. This unique and incomparable experience has enabled us to grasp deeply the whole beauty of the ecclesial reality, which is a reflection of the splendor of the risen Christ: one day we will look upon that beautiful face of the Risen Christ!
To the powerful intercession of Mary, our Mother, Mother of the Church, I entrust my ministry and your ministry. Under her motherly gaze, may each of us walk joyfully, obedient to the voice of her divine Son, strengthening unity, persevering together in prayer and witnessing to genuine faith in the continuous presence of the Lord. With these sentiments – they are real! – with these sentiments, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing, which I extend to your collaborators and to the persons entrusted to your pastoral care.
14/3/2013: First Homily
In these three readings I see that there is something in common: it is movement. In the first reading, movement is the journey [itself]; in the second reading, movement is in the up-building of the Church. In the third, in the Gospel, the movement is in [the act of] profession: walking, building, professing.
Walking: the House of Jacob. “O house of Jacob, Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.” This is the first thing God said to Abraham: “Walk in my presence and be blameless.” Walking: our life is a journey and when we stop, there is something wrong. Walking always, in the presence of the Lord, in the light of the Lord, seeking to live with that blamelessness, which God asks of Abraham, in his promise.
Building: to build the Church. There is talk of stones: stones have consistency, but [the stones spoken of are] living stones, stones anointed by the Holy Spirit. Build up the Church, the Bride of Christ, the cornerstone of which is the same Lord. With [every] movement in our lives, let us build!
Third, professing: we can walk as much we want, we can build many things, but if we do not confess Jesus Christ, nothing will avail. We will become a pitiful NGO, but not the Church, the Bride of Christ. When one does not walk, one stalls. When one does not built on solid rocks, what happens? What happens is what happens to children on the beach when they make sandcastles: everything collapses, it is without consistency. When one does not profess Jesus Christ – I recall the phrase of Leon Bloy – “Whoever does not pray to God, prays to the devil.” When one does not profess Jesus Christ, one professes the worldliness of the devil.
Walking, building-constructing, professing: the thing, however, is not so easy, because in walking, in building, in professing, there are sometimes shake-ups – there are movements that are not part of the path: there are movements that pull us back.
This Gospel continues with a special situation. The same Peter who confessed Jesus Christ, says, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. I will follow you, but let us not speak of the Cross. This has nothing to do with it.” He says, “I’ll follow you on other ways, that do not include the Cross.” When we walk without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, and when we profess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord. We are worldly, we are bishops, priests, cardinals, Popes, but not disciples of the Lord.
I would like that all of us, after these days of grace, might have the courage – the courage – to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the Cross of the Lord: to build the Church on the Blood of the Lord, which is shed on the Cross, and to profess the one glory, Christ Crucified. In this way, the Church will go forward.
My hope for all of us is that the Holy Spirit, that the prayer of Our Lady, our Mother, might grant us this grace: to walk, to build, to profess Jesus Christ Crucified. So be it.
(translation from Vatican Radio)
Cardinal Bergoglio’s Lenten Letter 2013
And rend your hearts, and not your garments, and turn to the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, patient and rich in mercy, and ready to repent of the evil. (Joel 2:13)
Little by little we become accustomed to hearing and seeing, through the mass media, the dark chronicle of contemporary society, presented with an almost perverse elation, and also we become [desensitized] to touching it and feeling it all around us [even] in our own flesh. Drama plays out on the streets, in our neighborhoods, in our homes and — why not? — even in our own hearts. We live alongside a violence that kills, that destroys families, that enlivens wars and conflicts in so many countries of the world. We live with envy, hatred, slander, the mundane in our heart.
The suffering of the innocent and peaceable buffets us nonstop; the contempt for the rights of the most fragile of people and nations is not so distant from us; the tyrannical rule of money with its demonic effects, such as drugs, corruption, trafficking in people — even children — along with misery, both material and moral, are the coin of the realm [today]. The destruction of dignified work, painful emigrations and the lack of a future also join in this [tragic] symphony.
Our errors and sins as Church are not beyond this analysis. Rationalizing selfishnesses, does not diminish it, lack of ethical values within a society metastisizes in [our] families, in the environment of [our] neighborhoods, towns and cities, [this lack of ethical values] testifies to our limitations, to our weaknesses and to our incapacity to transform this innumerable list of destructive realities.
The trap of powerlessness makes us wonder: Does it make sense to try to change all this? Can we do anything against this? Is it worthwhile to try, if the world continues its carnival merriment, disguising all [this tragedy] for a little while? But, when the mask falls, the truth appears and, although to many it may sound anachronistic to say so, once again sin becomes apparent, sin that wounds our very flesh with all its destructive force, twisting the destinies of the world and of the history.
Lent is presented us as a shout of truth and certain hope that comes us to say “Yes, it is possible to not slap on makeup, and not draw plastic smiles as if nothing happened.” Yes, it is possible that all is made new and different because God remains “rich in kindness and mercy, always willing to forgive” and He encourages us to begin anew time and again. Today, again, we are invited to undertake a Paschal road toward Life, a path that includes the cross and resignation; a path that will be uncomfortable but not fruitless. We are invited to admit that something inside us is not going well, (in society or in the Church) to change, to turn around, to be converted.
Today, the words of the prophet Joel are strong and challenging: Rend your heart, not your clothing: be converted to the Lord, your God. These [words] are an invitation to all people, nobody is excluded.
Rend your heart, not the clothing of artificial penance without [an eternal] future.
Rend your heart, not the clothing of technical fasting of compliance that [only serves to keep us] satisfied.
Rend your heart, not the clothing of egotistical and superficial prayer that does not reach the inmost part of [your] life to allow it to be touched by God.
Rend your heart, that we may say with the Psalmist: “We have sinned.”
“The wound of the soul is sin: Oh, poor wounded one, recognize your Doctor! Show him the wounds of your faults. And, since from Him our most secret thoughts cannot hide themselves, make the cry of your heart felt [to Him]. Move him to compassion with your tears, with your insistence ¡beg him! Let Him hear your sighs, that your pain reaches Him so that, at the end, He can tell you: The Lord has forgiven your sins.” (St. Gregory the Great)
This is the reality of our human condition. This is the truth that approaches authentic reconciliation between God and men. This is not a matter of discrediting [one’s] self-worth but of penetrating, to its fullest depth, our heart and to take charge of the mystery of suffering and pain that had tied us down for centuries, for thousands of years, [in fact,] forever.
Rend your hearts so that through this opening we can truly see.
Rend your hearts, open your hearts, because only with [such a] heart can we allow the entry of the merciful love of the Father, who loves us and heals us.
Rend your hearts the prophet says, and Paul asks us — almost on his knees — “be reconciled with God.” Changing our way of living is both a sign and fruit of a torn heart, reconciled by a love that overwhelms us.
This is [God’s] invitation, juxtaposed against so many injuries that wound us and can tempt us temptation to be hardened: Rend your hearts to experience, in serene and silent prayer, the gentle tenderness of God.
Rend your hearts to hear the echo of so many torn lives, that indifference [to suffering] does not paralyze us.
Rend your hearts to be able to love with the love with which we are beloved, to console with the consolation with which we are consoled and to share what we have received.
The liturgical time the Church starts today is not only for us, but also for the transformation of our family, of our community, of our Church, of our Country, of the whole world. They are forty days so that we may convert to the same holiness as God’s; that we become collaborators who receive the grace and the potential to reconstruct human life so that everyone may experience the salvation which Christ won for us by His death and resurrection.
Next to prayer and penitence, as a sign of our faith in the force of an all-transforming Easter, we also begin, as in previous years a “Lenten Gesture of Solidarity.” As Church in Buenos Aires, marching towards Easter and believing the Kingdom of God is possible we need that, in our hearts torn by the desire of conversion and by love, grace may blossom. [We need] effective gestures to alleviate the pain of so many of our brothers who walk alongside. “No act of virtue can be large if it does not also benefit another… Therefore, no matter how you spend the day fasting, no matter how you may sleep on a hard floor, and how you may eat ashes and sigh continuously, if do not do good to others, you do not accomplish anything great.” (St. John Chrysostom)
This year of faith we are traversing is also an opportunity God gives us to grow and to mature in an encounter with the Lord made visible in the suffering face of so many children without a future, in the trembling hands of the elders who have been forgotten and in the trembling knees of so many families who continue to face life without finding anyone who will assist them.
I wish you a holy Lent, a penitential and fruitful Lent and, please, I ask you all that you pray for me.
May Jesus bless you and may the Blessed Virgin care for you.
Card. Jorge Mario Bergoglio S.J.
Translation taken from this blog
13/3/2013: Deo Gratias for Pope Francis!
His first words…
Brothers and sisters good evening.
You all know that the duty of the Conclave was to give a bishop to Rome. It seems that my brother Cardinals have gone almost to the ends of the earth to get him… but here we are. I thank you for the welcome that has come from the diocesan community of Rome.
First of all I would like to say a prayer pray for our Bishop Emeritus Benedict XVI. Let us all pray together for him, that the Lord will bless him and that our Lady will protect him.
Glory to the Father…
And now let us begin this journey, the Bishop and the people, this journey of the Church of Rome which presides in charity over all the Churches, a journey of brotherhood in love, of mutual trust. Let us always pray for one another. Let us pray for the whole world that there might be a great sense of brotherhood. My hope is that this journey of the Church that we begin today, together with the help of my Cardinal Vicar, may be fruitful for the evangelization of this beautiful city.
And now I would like to give the blessing. But first I want to ask you a favour. Before the Bishop blesses the people I ask that you would pray to the Lord to bless me – the prayer of the people for their Bishop. Let us say this prayer – your prayer for me – in silence.
[The Protodeacon announced that all those who received the blessing, either in person or by radio, television or by the new means of communication receive the plenary indulgence in the form established by the Church. He prayed that Almighty God protect and guard the Pope so that he may lead the Church for many years to come, and that he would grant peace to the Church throughout the world.]
[Immediately afterwards Pope Francis gave his first blessing Urbi et Orbi – To the City and to the World.]
I will now give my blessing to you and to the whole world, to all men and women of good will.
Brothers and sisters, I am leaving you. Thank you for your welcome. Pray for me and I will be with you again soon… We will see one another soon.
Tomorrow I want to go to pray to the Madonna, that she may protect Rome.
Good night and sleep well!
From the Vatican News website. Visit the page to hear Pope Francis’ first words…