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Wherever you go…


“You illustrate humility, you model service, and a hope we all are hoping and waiting for.”

On the morning of September 19th, you, Holy Father, flew to Havana, Cuba, where people raised their eyes to welcome you.  A path of faith was printed in the itinerary of your visit to Cuba, celebrating Mass, vespers, and paying tribute to Mother Mary in the National Shrine of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre. I feel called to imitate your itinerary in my life, and this is not impossible. There is a church on my way to work to offer a prayer of thanksgiving, there is a rosary for me to pray on the train to bring me to our Mother, there are moments of silence to close my eyes and hear the Lord in my prayers. The eyes of the world follow you closely during your Apostolic Visit. The show us the Church is for everyone.

You are now in the United States, continuing your Apostolic Journey in Washington, New York and Philadelphia, where more people are eager to hear your message of peace and hope.  Your address to the American Congress in Washington, and to the United Nations Assembly in New York, reminds me of this moment in the Gospel: “and they were amazed at His teaching, for His message was with authority.” Wherever you go, the dazzling and flashing of lights does not alter your focus and attention. Your eyes reflect your compassion upon the suffering and lonely, the homeless, the migrant families, and prisoners.  You walk as Jesus walked, welcoming those who suffered, you heal them with hope and kindness.  The World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia is the peak and final stop of your visit in America. Your teaching in your General Audiences sharpens our understanding of the family as God created it. It restores hope and meaning to family. In early October, you will be meeting with the world’s bishops on the subject of the family – the Synod on the Family.  As our Holy Father, your message is that the family will bring the whole world together as one, in unity, peace and love.

So that everyone can have the opportunity to follow Pope Francis’ Apostolic Journey and the Synod on Family in October, Salt + Light is now available as a Free Preview on all major Canadian cable network. As “Your Catholic Channel of Hope”, it is our mission to bring you hope. In our media ministry, Our Hope Begins With You.

Wherever you go, Holy Father, you bring with you your message of joy and peace to the world.

madonna-lee-authorMadonna Lee is the Chinese Marketing Manager for Salt + Light, she writes content for the Chinese blog, spearheads Marketing projects for our Chinese department, and assists in Chinese productions. In the photo to left, Madonna at her work station.

Photo, top: Pope Francis, Catholic News Service

Pope in Cuba: Homily, Feast of St. Matthew, Holguín

“Jesus’ love goes before us, his look anticipates our needs.”

Here is the official translation of Pope Francis’ homily at the Plaza de la Revolución “Calixto García Iñíguez” in Holguín, Cuba.

* * *

We are celebrating the feast of the apostle and evangelist Saint Matthew. We are celebrating the story of a conversion. Matthew himself, in his Gospel, tell us what it was like, this encounter which changed his life. He shows us an “exchange of glances” capable of changing history.

On a day like any other, as Matthew, the tax collector, was seated at his table, Jesus passed by, saw him, came up to him and said: “Follow me”. Matthew got up and followed him.

Jesus looked at him. How strong was the love in that look of Jesus, which moved Matthew to do what he did! What power must have been in his eyes to make Matthew get up from his table! We know that Matthew was a publican: he collected taxes from the Jews to give to the Romans. Publicans were looked down upon and considered sinners; as such, they lived apart and were despised by others. One could hardly eat, speak or pray with the likes of these. For the people, they were traitors: they extorted from their own to give to others. Publicans belonged to this social class.

Jesus, on the other hand, stopped; he did not quickly take his distance. He looked at Matthew calmly, peacefully. He looked at him with eyes of mercy; he looked at him as no one had ever looked at him before. And this look unlocked Matthew’s heart; it set him free, it healed him, it gave him hope, a new life, as it did to Zacchaeus, to Bartimaeus, to Mary Magdalene, to Peter, and to each of us. Even if we do not dare raise our eyes to the Lord, he looks at us first. This is our story, and it is like that of so many others. Each of us can say: “I, too, am a sinner, whom Jesus has looked upon”. I ask you, in your homes or in the Church, to be still for a moment and to recall with gratitude and happiness those situations, that moment, when the merciful gaze of God was felt in our lives.

Jesus’ love goes before us, his look anticipates our needs. He can see beyond appearances, beyond sin, beyond failures and unworthiness. He sees beyond our rank in society. He sees beyond this, to our dignity as sons and daughters, a dignity at times sullied by sin, but one which endures in the depth of our soul. He came precisely to seek out all those who feel unworthy of God, unworthy of others. Let us allow Jesus to look at us. Let us allow his gaze to run over our streets. Let us allow that look to become our joy, our hope.

After the Lord looked upon him with mercy, he said to Matthew: “Follow me.” Matthew got up and followed him. After the look, a word. After love, the mission. Matthew is no longer the same; he is changed inside. The encounter with Jesus and his loving mercy has transformed him. He leaves behind his table, his money, his exclusion. Before, he had sat waiting to collect his taxes, to take from others; now, with Jesus he must get up and give, give himself to others. Jesus looks at him and Matthew encounters the joy of service. For Matthew and for all who have felt the gaze of Jesus, other people are no longer to be “lived off”, used and abused. The gaze of Jesus gives rise to missionary activity, service, self-giving. Jesus’ love heals our short-sightedness and pushes us to look beyond, not to be satisfied with appearances or with what is politically correct.

Jesus goes before us, he precedes us; he opens the way and invites us to follow him. He invites us slowly to overcome our preconceptions and our reluctance to think that others, much less ourselves, can change. He challenges us daily with the question: “Do you believe? Do you believe it is possible that a tax collector can become a servant? Do you believe it is possible that a traitor can become a friend? Do you believe is possible that the son of a carpenter can be the Son of God?” His gaze transforms our way of seeing things, his heart transforms our hearts. God is a Father who seeks the salvation of each of his sons and daughters.

Let us gaze upon the Lord in prayer, in the Eucharist, in Confession, in our brothers and sisters, especially those who feel excluded or abandoned. May we learn to see them as Jesus sees us. Let us share his tenderness and mercy with the sick, prisoners, the elderly and families in difficulty. Again and again we are called to learn from Jesus, who always sees what is most authentic in every person, which is the image of his Father.

I know the efforts and the sacrifices being made by the Church in Cuba to bring Christ’s word and presence to all, even in the most remote areas. Here I would mention especially the “mission houses” which, given the shortage of churches and priests, provide for many people a place for prayer, for listening to the word of God, for catechesis and community life. They are small signs of God’s presence in our neighborhoods and a daily aid in our effort to respond to the plea of the apostle Paul: “I beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (cf. Eph 4:1-3).

I now turn my eyes to the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, whom Cuba embraced and to whom it opened its doors forever. I ask Our Lady to look with maternal love on all her children in this noble country. May her “eyes of mercy” ever keep watch over each of you, your homes, your families, and all those who feel that they have no place. In her love, may she protect us all as she once cared for Jesus.

Pope Francis’ final day in Ecuador, heads to Bolivia: July 8

Tonight on Perspectives: Pope Francis meets with elderly and infirm at home run by Missionaries of Charity; Pope Francis meets with religious, priests and deacons of Ecuador; Pope Francis departs Ecuador and arrives in Bolivia

Faith, Through Charity, Can Dislodge Indifference and Apathy, Says Pope Francis

Francis urges Albanian Youth to say ‘Yes’ Acceptance and Solidarity


Pope Francis urges Albanian youth to say yes to acceptance and solidarity during his Angelus address.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Before concluding this celebration, I wish to greet each of you who have come from all over Albania and from nearby countries. I thank you for your presence and for the witness of your faith.

In a particular way, I wish to greet the young! They tell me that Albania is the youngest country in Europe, so it is to you that I turn! I invite you to build your lives on Jesus Christ: the one who builds on Christ builds on rock, because he is always faithful, even if we sometimes lack faith (cf. 2 Tim. 2:13). Jesus knows us better than anyone else; when we sin, he does not condemn us but rather says to us, “Go and sin no more” (Jn 8:11). Dear young people, you are the new generation of Albania, the future of the nation. With the power of the Gospel and the example of the martyrs, you know how to say “No” to the idolatry of money, “No” to the false freedom of individualism, “No” to addiction and to violence; you also know how to say “Yes” to a culture of encounter and of solidarity, “Yes” to the beauty that is inseparable from the good and the true; “Yes” to a life lived with great enthusiasm and at the same time faithful in little things. In this way, you will build a better Albania and a better world in the footsteps of your ancestors.

Let us turn to the Virgin Mary, whom you venerate above all under her title of “Our Lady of Good Counsel”. I stand before her, spiritually, at her Shrine in Scutari, so dear to you, and to her I entrust the entire Church in Albania and all the people of this country, especially families, children and the elderly who are the living memory of the people.  May Our Lady guide you to walk “together with God towards the hope that does not delude.”

Pope Francis’ Homily Addresses Martrydom in Albania



Below you will find the full text of Pope Francis’ homily during his first trip to Albania.

Homily of His Holiness Pope Francis
Holy Mass in Mother Teresa Square
(Tirana, 21 September 2014)

Today’s Gospel tells us that, as well as the Twelve Apostles, Jesus calls another seventy-two disciples and that he sends them to the villages and cities to announce the Kingdom of God (cf. Lk 10:1-9, 17-20).  He comes to bring the love of God to the world and he wishes to share it by means of communion and fraternity.  To this end he immediately forms a community of disciples, a missionary community, and he trains them how to “go out” on mission.  The method is both clear and simple: the disciples visit homes and their preaching begins with a greeting which is charged with meaning: “Peace be to this house!”.  It is not only a greeting, but also a gift: the gift of peace.  Being here with you today, dear brothers and sisters of Albania, in this Square dedicated to a humble and great daughter of this land, Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, I wish to repeat to you this greeting: May peace be in your homes! May peace reign in your hearts! Peace in your country!

In the mission of the seventy-two disciples we see a reflection of the Christian community’s missionary experience in every age: the risen and living Lord sends not only the Twelve, but the entire Church; he sends each of the baptized to announce the Gospel to all peoples.  Through the ages, the message of peace brought by Jesus’ messengers has not always been accepted; at times, the doors have been closed to them.  In the recent past, the doors of your country were also closed, locked by the chains of prohibitions and prescriptions of a system which denied God and impeded religious freedom.  Those who were afraid of the truth did everything they could to banish God from the hearts of men and women and to exclude Christ and the Church from the history of your country, even though it was one of the first to receive the light of the Gospel.  In the second reading, in fact, we heard a reference being made to Illyria, which in Paul’s time included the territory of modern-day Albania.

Recalling the decades of atrocious suffering and harsh persecutions against Catholics, Orthodox and Muslims, we can say that Albania was a land of martyrs: many bishops, priests, men and women religious, and laity paid for their fidelity with their lives.  Demonstrations of great courage and constancy in the profession of the faith are not lacking. How many Christians did not succumb when threatened, but persevered without wavering on the path they had undertaken!  I stand spiritually at that wall of the cemetery of Scutari, a symbolic place of the martyrdom of Catholics before the firing squads, and with profound emotion I place the flower of my prayer and of my grateful and undying remembrance.  The Lord was close to you, dear brothers and sisters, to sustain you; he led you and consoled you and in the end he has raised you up on eagle’s wings as he did for the ancient people of Israel (cf. First Reading). The eagle, depicted on your nation’s flag, calls to mind hope, and the need to always place your trust in God, who does not lead us astray and who is ever at our side, especially in moments of difficulty.

Today, the doors of Albania have been reopened and a season of new missionary vitality is growing for all of the members of the people of God: each baptized person has his or her role to fulfil in the Church and in society.  Each one must experience the call to dedicate themselves generously to the announcing of the Gospel and to the witness of charity; called to strengthen the bonds of solidarity so as to create more just and fraternal living conditions for all.  Today, I have come to encourage you to cultivate hope among yourselves and within your hearts; to involve the young generations; to nourish yourselves assiduously on the Word of God, opening your hearts to Christ: his Gospel will show you the way!  May your faith be joyful and bright; may you demonstrate that the encounter with Christ gives meaning to human existence, meaning to every man and woman.
In the spirit of communion among bishops, priests, consecrated persons and laity, I encourage you to bring vitality to your pastoral activities and to continuously seek new ways of making the Church present in society: do not be afraid to respond generously to Christ who invites you to follow him!  In a priestly or religious vocation you will find the richness and the joy of offering yourselves to the service of God and your brothers and sisters.  How many men and women await the light of the Gospel and the grace of the Sacraments!

To the Church which is alive in this land of Albania, I say “thank you” for the example of fidelity to the Gospel!  So many of your sons and daughters have suffered for Christ, even to the point of sacrificing their lives.  May their witness sustain your steps today and tomorrow as you journey along the way of love, of freedom, of justice and of peace.  Amen.

Pope Francis’ Opening Address in Albania Focuses on Peaceful Co-existence


Pope Francis’ visit to Albania marks the first time a pontiff has visited the ‘Land of the Eagles’ since Pope John Paul II’s trip in 1993. His opening address, full text found below, focuses on a fruitful co-existence between people of different beliefs.

“I am very happy to be here with you, in this noble land of Albania, a land of heroes who sacrificed their lives for the independence of the nation, and a land of martyrs, who witnessed to their faith in difficult times of persecution. I am grateful for the invitation to visit your country, called ‘the Land of the Eagles’, and for your warm welcome.

Almost a quarter of a century has passed since Albania re-embarked upon the arduous but rewarding path of freedom. This experience has allowed Albanian society to take up the process of material and spiritual reconstruction, to foster an increase of enthusiasm and initiatives, and to create a spirit of cooperation and exchange with countries of the Balkans, the Mediterranean, Europe and indeed with the rest of the world. This rediscovered freedom has helped you look to the future with trust and hope, establishing new projects and renewing friendly relations with countries both near and far.

Respect for human rights, among which religious freedom and freedom of expression stand out, is the preliminary condition for a country‚s social and economic development. When the dignity of the human person is respected and his or her rights recognized and guaranteed, creativity and interdependence thrive, and the potential of the human personality is unleashed through actions that further the common good.

There is a rather beautiful characteristic of Albania, one which is given great care and attention, and which gives me great joy: I am referring to the peaceful coexistence and collaboration that exists among followers of different religions. The climate of respect and mutual trust between Catholics, Orthodox and Muslims is a precious gift to the country. This is especially the case in these times where an authentic religious spirit is being perverted and where religious differences are being distorted and exploited. This creates dangerous circumstances which lead to conflict and violence, rather than being an occasion for open and respectful dialogue, and for a collective reflection on what it means to believe in God and to follow his laws.

Let no one use God as a ‘shield’ while planning and carrying out acts of violence and oppression! May no one use religion as a pretext for actions against human dignity and against the fundamental rights of every man and woman, above all, the right to life and the right of everyone to religious freedom!

What the experience in Albania shows, rather, is that a peaceful and fruitful coexistence between persons and communities of believers of different religions is not only desirable, but possible and realistic. The peaceful coexistence of different religious communities is, in fact, an inestimable benefit to peace and to harmonious human advancement. This is something of value which needs to be protected and nurtured each day, by providing an education which respects differences and particular identities, so that dialogue and cooperation for the good of all may be promoted and strengthened by mutual understanding and esteem. It is a gift which we need to implore from God in prayer. May Albania always continue to walk this path, offering an inspiring example to other countries.

Mr President, after a winter of isolation and persecution, the springtime of freedom has finally come. By means of free elections and new institutional structures, a democratic pluralism has been consolidated which is now favouring economic activity. Many people, especially at the beginning, chose to emigrate in search of work and a better standard of living, and in their own way contributed to the advancement of Albanian society. Many others rediscovered reasons for staying in their homeland, wanting to build it up from within. The efforts and sacrifices of all have improved the life of the nation in general.

The Catholic Church, for her part, has resumed a normal existence, re-establishing her hierarchy and rejoining the threads of a long tradition. Places of worship have been built or rebuilt. Among these, the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Good Counsel at Scutari holds a special place. Similarly, schools and centres of education and healthcare have been established for use by all citizens. The presence of the Church and her activities are therefore rightly seen as a service, not only to the Catholic community, but rather to the whole nation.

Blessed Mother Teresa, together with the martyrs who witnessed to their faith -to whom we pray and offer our appreciation- most certainly are rejoicing in heaven because of the work of men and women of good will who contribute to the flourishing of civil society and the Church in Albania.

Today, however, new challenges arise which must be faced. In a world that tends toward economic and cultural globalization, every effort must be made to ensure that growth and development are put at the service of all and not just limited parts of the population. Furthermore, such development will only be authentic if it is sustainable and just, that is, if it has the rights of the poor and respect for the environment close to heart. Alongside the globalization of the markets there must also be a corresponding globalization of solidarity; together with economic growth there must be a greater respect for creation; alongside the rights of individuals, there must be the guaranteed rights of those who are a bridge between the individual and the state, the family being the first and foremost of such institutions. Today Albania is able to face these challenges in an atmosphere of freedom and stability, two realities which must be strengthened and which form the basis of hope for the future.

I offer my heartfelt thanks to each of you for your gracious welcome, and, like Saint John Paul II in April 1993, I invoke upon Albania the protection of Mary, Mother of Good Counsel, entrusting to her the hopes of the entire Albanian people. May God abundantly pour out his grace and blessing upon Albania.



Prepared text of Pope Francis for Vespers in Tirana Cathedral

The following is Pope Francis’ original speech during the celebration of Vespers in Albania. 

Dear brothers and sisters,

It is a great joy for me to meet with you in your beloved homeland; I thank God for the opportunity and I thank you for your hospitality! Here in your midst, I can better express my closeness to your task of evangelization.

Since the moment your country has been free from dictatorship, the ecclesial communities in Albania have begun again to journey onward and to organize themselves for pastoral work, looking to the future with hope. I am particularly grateful to those Pastors who paid a great price for their fidelity to Christ and for their decision to remain united to the Successor of Peter. They were courageous in the face of difficulty and trial! There are still priests and religious among us who have experienced prison and persecution, like the sister and brother who have told us their story.  I embrace you warmly, and I praise God for your faithful witness that inspires the whole Church to continue to proclaim the Gospel with joy.

Treasuring this experience, the Church in Albania can grow in its missionary and apostolic zeal. I know and appreciate the effort you make to oppose those new forms of dictatorship that threaten to enslave individuals and communities. If the atheist regime sought to suffocate the faith, these new forms of dictatorship, in a more insidious way, are able to suffocate charity. I am referring to individualism, rivalry and heated conflicts: these are worldly mentalities that can contaminate even the Christian community. We need not be discouraged by these difficulties; do not be afraid to continue along the path of the Lord. He is always at your side, he gives you his grace and he helps you to sustain one another; to accept one another as you are, with understanding and mercy; he helps you to deepen fraternal communion.

Evangelization is more effective when it is carried out with oneness of spirit and with sincere teamwork among the various ecclesial communities as well as among missionaries and local clergy: this requires courage to seek out ways of working together and offering mutual help in the areas of catechesis and catholic education, as well as integral human development and charity. In these settings, the contribution of the ecclesial movements that know how to work in communion with Pastors is highly valuable. That is precisely what I see before me: bishops, priests, religious and laity: a Church that desires to walk in fraternity and unity.

When love for Christ is placed above all else, even above our legitimate particular needs, then we are able to move outside of ourselves, of our personal or communal pettiness, and move towards Jesus who, in our brothers and sisters, comes to us. His wounds are still visible today on the bodies of so many men and women who are hungry and thirst; who are humiliated; who are in hospital or prison. By touching and caring for these wounds with tenderness, it is possible to fully live the Gospel and to adore God who lives in our midst.

There are many problems that you encounter every day. These problems compel you to immerse yourselves with fervour and generosity in apostolic work. And yet, we know that by ourselves we can do nothing: “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain” (Ps 127:1). This awareness calls us to give due space for the Lord every day, to dedicate our time to him, open our hearts to him, so that he may work in our lives and in our mission. That which the Lord promises for the prayer made with trust and perseverance goes beyond what we can imagine (cf Lk 11:11-12): beyond that which we ask for, God sends us also the Holy Spirit. The contemplative dimension of our lives becomes indispensable even in the midst of the most urgent and difficult tasks we encounter. The more our mission calls us to go out into the peripheries of life, the more our hearts feel the intimate need to be united to the heart of Christ, which is full of mercy and love.

Considering the fact that the number of priests and religious is not yet sufficient, the Lord Jesus repeats to you today “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest,” (Mt 9: 37-38).  We must not forget that this prayer begins with a gaze: the gaze of Jesus, who sees the great harvest. Do we also have this gaze?  Do we know how to recognize the abundant fruits that the grace of God has caused to grow and the work that there is to be done in the field of the Lord? It is by gazing with faith on the field of God that prayer spring forth, namely, the daily and pressing invocation to the Lord for priestly and religious vocations.

Dear seminarians, postulants and novices, you are the fruit of this prayer of the people of God, which always precedes and accompanies your personal response. The Church in Albania needs your enthusiasm and your generosity. The time that you dedicate today to a solid spiritual, theological, communitarian and pastoral formation, is directed to serving adequately the people of God tomorrow. The people, more than seeking experts, are looking for witnesses: humble witnesses of the mercy and tenderness of God; priests and religious conformed to Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who are capable of communicating the love of Christ to all people.

Together with you and the entire Albanian people, I want to give thanks to God for the many missionaries whose activity was decisive for the renewal of the Church in Albania and which continues to be of great importance to this day.  These missionaries have offered significant contribution to the consolidation of the spiritual patrimony that the Albanian bishops, priests, consecrated religious and lay persons have preserved in the midst of difficult trials and tribulations. Let us acknowledge the great work done by the religious institutes for the revival of Catholic education: these efforts are worth recognizing and sustaining.

Dear brothers and sisters, do not be discouraged in the face of difficulties. Following the footsteps of your fathers, be tenacious in giving testimony to Christ, walking together with God, toward the hope that never disappoints. In your journey, rest assured that you are accompanied and supported by the love of the whole Church. I thank you from the heart for this meeting, and I entrust each one of you and your communities – your plans and your hopes – to the holy Mother of God. I bless you from my heart and I ask you please to pray for me.


Unscripted remarks of the Holy Father during Vespers in Tirana Cathedral

“Today we have touched the martyrs.” – Pope Francis

On Sunday, September 21, 2014, during his visit to Albania, Pope Francis met with priests, seminarians, religious men & women & lay leaders in Tirana Cathedral to celebrate Vespers. Upon hearing the very moving testimonies of a priest and sister who were imprisoned for many years under the very harsh communist regime in Albania, Pope Francis set aside his prepared text and spoke the following very moving words to the assembly in St. Paul’s Cathedral in Tirana, Albania this afternoon. Pope Francis embraced both the elderly priest and sister who gave testimony during the Vespers service.

“I had prepared several words to tell you, and I will give it to the Archbishop so that he may send you the translation once it is done. But now, I would like to tell you something else. We heard in the Reading: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (1 Cor. 1,3-4).

It is the text that the Church makes us reflect upon in today’s Vespers. In these past two months, I have prepared myself for this visit, reading the history of the persecutions in Albania. And it was a shock for me: I did not know that your people suffered so much! Then, today, on the way from the airport to the square, all these photographs of the martyrs. I can see that this people still remembers its martyrs, of those who suffered so much! A people of martyrs… And today, at the start of this celebration, I have touched two of them. That which I can tell you is what they have already said, with their lives, with their simple words…they spoke about things with such simplicity…but with so much pain!

And we may ask them: “But how were you able to survive so much tribulation?” And they will say this passage that we have heard in the Second Letter to the Corinthians: “God is the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort. It was He who consoled us!”, with this simplicity. They have suffered too much. They suffered physically, psychologically even, that anguish of uncertainty: if they were going to be gunned down or not…And they lived like that, with that anguish! And the Lord consoled them… I think of Peter, imprisoned, in chains: the whole Church prayed for him. And the Lord consoled Peter, and the martyrs and these two who we have heard today, the Lord consoled them because there were people in the Church, the people of God, the holy and good old women, so many cloistered nuns who prayed for them. And this is the mystery of the Church: when the Church asks the Lord to console His people, the Lord humbly consoles, even hidden. He consoles in the depths of the heart and consoles with strength. They, I’m sure, do not brag about what they lived through because they know that it was the Lord who carried them forward. But they tell us something, right? That for us, who are called to follow the Lord up close, the only consolation comes from Him, right?

Woe to us if we look for consolation elsewhere! Woe to the priests, the religious, the nuns, the novices, the consecrated when they look for consolation far from the Lord! I do not want to ‘hit you over the head’ (it. bastonarvi), eh? I do not want to become the executioner here, but know this well, eh? If you look for consolation somewhere else, you will not be happy! Even more so: no one will be able to console you, because your heart was not opened to the consolation of the Lord. And you will end, as the great Elijah says to the people of Israel, “limping with both legs”. Praise be God the Father, God of every consolation, who consoles us in all our tribulations, so that we may also console those who find themselves in any form of affliction, with the consolation with which we ourselves have been consoled, by God. It is what these two have done, today. With humility, without pretext, without bragging, doing a service for us: consoling us. Also, they tell us “But, we are sinners”.

Indeed, they say to us: “Sinners, but the Lord has been with us: this is the path. Do not be discouraged!” Forgive me, if I use you today as an example, but we should all be an example for the other. But, let us go home thinking well of this: Today, we have touched the martyrs.”

Thanks to Zenit International News Service for transcribing the Italian words spoken by the Holy Father.

Full text of Pope Francis’ Press Conference on return flight from Korea


Below you will find the complete transcript of Pope Francis’ hour-long Press Conference with journalists aboard the return flight from Korea to Rome earlier today. This text is published here with the permission and encouragement of Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, Director of the Holy See Press Conference.  The text was meticulously prepared by senior Vatican journalist, Gerard O’Connell, whose attention to detail and customary accuracy are found in this transcript.  The full text has been published earlier this afternoon on the website of the Jesuit America Magazine in the United States:

Mr. O’Connell, a close friend of Salt + Light Television, is an eminent journalist who was recently named the Vatican correspondent for America Magazine, a prestigious Catholic publication in the English speaking world. We express our sincere gratitude to Gerard O’Connell for his excellent work.
By Gerard O‚Connell

Pope Francis said “the unjust aggressor” against the minorities in Iraq “must be stopped” but, he added, no one state can decide to intervene by itself.  The crime of aggression has to be taken to the UN to decide which are the best means to stop the aggressor. He made clear “I do not say bomb.”

He revealed that he had contemplated going to Kurdistan at the time he sent Cardinal Filoni, and said he does not yet exclude that possibility if it is necessary.

He made clear his ardent desire to go to China, even “tomorrow,” and said he wishes to establish good relations with that noble people.

He rejected the suggestion that the Prayer for Peace in the Holy Land on June 8 was a failure, and emphasized that “it has opened a door” that still remains open.

He made these and other significant statements in an hour long interview on the flight back from Korea when he responded to a variety of questions from the international media.

America provides below the full transcript of the pope’s press conference. The translation was made by Gerard O’Connell, its Vatican correspondent, who travelled on the plane with the pope. This is not an official translation.

Q. During the visit to Korea, you reached out to the families of the Sewol ferry disaster and consoled them. Two questions: What did you feel when you met them? And were you not concerned that your action could be misinterpreted politically?

A. When you find yourself in front of human suffering, you have to do what your heart brings you to do. Then later they might say, he did this because he had a political intention, or something else. They can say everything. But when you think of these men, these women, fathers and mothers who have lost their children, brothers and sisters who have lost brothers and sisters, and the very great pain of such a catastrophe…my heart. I am a priest, I feel that I have to come close to them, I feel that way. That’s first. I know that the consolation that I can give, my words, are not a remedy. I cannot give new life to those that are dead. But human closeness in these moments gives us strength, solidarity.

I remember when I was archbishop of Buenos Aires, I experienced two catastrophes of this kind. One was a fire in a dance hall, a pop-music concert, and 194 people died in it. That was in 1993. And then there was another catastrophe with trains, and I think 120 died in that. At those times I felt the same thing, to draw close to them. Human pain is strong and if we draw close in those sad moments we help a lot.

And I want to say something more. I took this ribbon (from relatives of the Sewold ferry disaster, which I am wearing) out of solidarity with them, and after half a day someone came close to me and said, “It is better remove it, you should be neutral.” But listen, one cannot be neutral about human pain. I responded in that way. That’s how I felt.

Q. You know that recently the U.S. forces have started bombing the terrorists in Iraq, to prevent a genocide, to protect minorities, including Catholics who are under your guidance. My question is this: do you approve the American bombing?

A. Thanks for such a clear question. In these cases where there is an unjust aggression, I can only say this: it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor. I underline the verb: stop. I do not say bomb, make war, I say stop by some means. With what means can they be stopped? These have to be evaluated. To stop the unjust aggressor is licit.

But we must also have memory. How many times under this excuse of stopping an unjust aggressor the powers [that intervened] have taken control of peoples, and have made a true war of conquest.

One nation alone cannot judge how to stop an unjust aggressor. After the Second World War there was the idea of the United Nations. It is there that this should be discussed. Is there an unjust aggressor? It would seem there is. How do we stop him? Only that, nothing more.

Secondly, you mentioned the minorities. Thanks for that word because they talk to me about the Christians, the poor Christians. It’s true, they suffer. The martyrs, there are many martyrs. But here there are men and women, religious minorities, not all of them Christian, and they are all equal before God.

To stop the unjust aggressor is a right that humanity has, but it is also a right that the aggressor has to be stopped so that he does not do evil.

Q.  To return to Iraq. Like Cardinal Filoni and the head of the Dominicans, would you be ready to support a military intervention in Iraq to stop the Jihadists? And I have another question: do you think of going one day to Iraq, perhaps to Kurdistan to sustain the Christian refugees who wait for you, and to pray with them in this land where they have lived for 2,000 years?

A.  Not long ago I was with the Governor of Kurdistan, Minister Nechirvan Barzani. He had very clear ideas about the situation and how to find solutions, but that was before this unjust aggression.

I have responded to the first question. I am only in the agreement in the fact that when there is an unjust aggressor he is to be stopped.

Yes, I am willing [to go there]. But I think I can say this, when we heard with my collaborators about the killings of the religious minorities, the problem at that moment in Kurdistan was that they could not receive so many people. It’s a problem that one can understand. What can be done? We thought about many things. First  of all a communique was issued by Fr. Lombardi in my name.  Afterwards that communique was sent to all the nunciatures so that it be communicated to governments. Then we wrote a letter to the Secretary General of the United Nations. Many things …. And at the end we decided to send our personal envoy—Cardinal Filoni,  and I said if it were necessary when we return from Korea we can go there. It was one of the possibilities. This is my answer. I am willing [to go there]. At the moment it is not the best thing to do, but I am ready for this.

Q. My question is about China. China allowed you to fly over its airspace. The telegram that you sent [en route to Korea] was received without negative comments.  Do you think these are step forward towards a possible dialogue? And have you a desire to go to China?

Father Lombardi intervenes: I can inform you that we are now flying in the airspace over China at this moment. So the question is pertinent.

A. When we were about to enter into the Chinese airspace [en route to Korea], I was in the cockpit with the pilots, and one of them showed me a register and said, “We’re only ten minutes away from entering the Chinese airspace, we must ask authorization.” One always asks for this. It’s a normal thing, one asks for it from each country. And I heard how they asked for the authorization, how they responded. I was a witness to this. The pilot then said, “We sent a telegram,” but I don’t know how they did it.

Then I left them and I returned to my place and I prayed a lot for that beautiful and noble Chinese people, a wise people. I think of the great wise men of China, I think of the history of science and wisdom. And we Jesuits have a history there with Father Ricci. All these things came into my mind.

If I want to go to China? For sure! Tomorrow!

We respect the Chinese people. The church only asks for liberty for its task, for its work. There’s no other condition.

Then we should not forget that fundamental letter for the Chinese problems which was the one sent to the Chinese by Pope Benedict XVI. This letter is actual [relevant] today. It is actual. It’s good to re-read it.

The Holy See is always open to contacts. Always. Because it has a true esteem for the Chinese people.

Q. Your next journey will be to Albania and perhaps Iraq. After the Philippines and Sri Lanka, where will you go in 2015? And can I say that in Avila, there is great hope (that you will come),  can they still hope?

A. Yes! The president of Korea said to me—in perfect Spanish!—hope is the last thing one loses. She said that to me referring to the unification of Korea. One can always hope, but is not decided. Let me explain.

This year Albania is envisaged. Some have begun to say that the pope is starting everything from the periphery. But I am going to Albania for two important motives. First, because they have been able to form a government—just think of the Balkans, they have been able to form a government of national unity with Muslims, Orthodox and Catholics, with an interreligious council that helps a lot and is balanced. This is good, and harmonious. The presence of the pope wishes to say to all the peoples [of the world] that it’s possible to work together. I felt it as a real help to that noble people.

And there’s another thing, if we think about the history of Albania, in terms of religion is was the only country in the communist world to have in its constitution practical atheism. So if you went to mass it was against the constitution. And then, one of the ministers told me that 1820 churches were destroyed, both Orthodox and Catholic, at that time. Then other churches were transformed into theatres, cinemas, dancehalls. So I just felt that I had to go. It’s close, just one day.

Next year I would like to go to Philadelphia, for the meeting of the families. Then, I have been invited by the President of the United States to the American Congress. And also the Secretary General of the United Nations has also invited me to the Secretariat of the UN in New York. So maybe the three cities together.

Then there’s Mexico. The Mexicans want me to go to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, so we could take advantage of that too (during the U.S. visit), but it’s not certain.

And lastly Spain. The Spanish Royals have invited me. The bishops have invited me, but there is a shower of invitations to go to Spain, and maybe it is possible, but there is nothing sure, so I’ll just say that maybe to go to Avila in the morning and return in the afternoon if it were possible, but nothing is decided. So one can still hope.

Q. What kind of relationship is there between you and Benedict XVI? Do you have a regular exchange of opinions? Is there a common project after the encyclical (“Light of Faith”)?

A. We see each other. Before I departed [for Korea] I went to visit him. Two weeks earlier he sent me an interesting written text and he asked my opinion on it. We have a normal relationship.

I return to this idea, which may not be liked by some theologian. I am not a theologian, but I think that the emeritus-pope is not an exception. But after many centuries he is the first emeritus. Let us think about what he said, I have got old, I do not have the strength. It was a beautiful gesture of nobility, of humility and courage.

But if one thinks that 70 years ago emeritus bishops also were an exception. They did not exist, but today emeritus bishops are an institution.

I think that the emeritus pope is already an institution because our life gets longer and at a certain age there isn’t the capacity to govern well because the body gets tired, and maybe one’s health is good but there isn’t the capacity to carry forward all the problems of  a government like that of the church. I think that Pope Benedict made this gesture of emeritus popes. May, as I said before, some theologian may say this is not right, but I think this way. The centuries will tell us if this so or not. Let’s see.

But you could say to me, if you at some time felt you could not go forward, I would do the same! I would do the same. I would pray, but I would do the same. He [Benedict] opened a door that is institutional, not exceptional.

Our relationship is truly that of brothers. But I also said that I felt as if I have a grandfather at home because of his wisdom. He is a man of wisdom, of nuance that is good for me to hear him. And he encourages me sufficiently too. That’s the relationship I have with him.

Q. You have met the people who suffered. What did you feel when you greeted the comfort women at Mass this morning? And as regards the suffering of people in Korea there were also Christians hidden in Japan, and next year will the 150th anniversary of their “era of Nero” [in which Christians were persecuted]. Would it be possible to pray for them together with you at Nagasaki?

A. It would be most beautiful. I have been invited both by the government and by the bishops. I have been invited.

As for the suffering, you return to one of the first questions. The Korean people are a people who did not lose their dignity. It was a people that was invaded, humiliated. It suffered wars and now it is divided. Yesterday, when I went to the meeting with young people [at Haemi], I visited the museum of the martyrs there. It was terrible the sufferings of these people, just for not standing on a cross. It’s a historical suffering. This people has the capacity to suffer, and it is part of their dignity.

Also today, when those elderly women were in front of me at Mass, I thought that in that invasion there were young girls taken away to the barracks for to use them but they did not lose their dignity then. They were there today showing their faces, elderly, the last ones remaining. It’s a people strong in its dignity.

But returning to the question about the martyrs, the suffering and also these women, these are the fruits of war! Today we are in a world at war, everywhere. Someone said to me, “Father do you know that we are in the Third World War, but bit by bit.” He understood! It’s a world at war in which these cruelties are done.

I’d like to focus on two words. First, cruelty. Today children do not count. Once they spoke about a conventional war, today that does not count. I’m not saying that conventional wars were good things, but today a bomb is sent and it kills the innocent, the guilty, children, women they kill everybody. No! We must stop and think a little about the level of cruelty at which we have arrived. This should frighten us, and this is not to create fear. An empirical study could be done on the level of cruelty of humanity at this moment should frighten us a little.

The other word on which I would like to say something is torture. Today torture is one of the means, I would say, almost ordinary in the behavior of the forces of intelligence, in judicial processes and so on. Torture is a sin against humanity, is a crime against humanity. And I tell Catholics that to torture a person is a mortal sin, it’s a grave sin. But it’s more, it’s a sin against humanity.

Cruelty and torture! I would like very much if you, in your media, make a reflection: How do you see these things today? How do you see the cruelty of humanity, and what do you think of torture. I think it would do us all good to reflect on this.

Q.  You have a very demanding rhythm, full of commitments and take little rest, and no holidays, and you do these trips that are exhausting. And in these last months we see that you have also had to cancel some of these engagements, even at the last moment  Is there something to be concerned about in the life you lead?

A.  Yes, some people told me this. I have just taken holidays, at home, as I usually do.

Once I read a book. It was quite interesting, it’s title was: Rejoice that you are neurotic. I too have some neuroses. But one should treat the neuroses well. Give them some mate [herbal drink] every day. One of the neurosis is that I am too attached to life.

The last time I took a holiday outside Buenos Aires was with the Jesuit community in 1975. But I always take holidays. It’s true. I change rhythm. I sleep more. I read the things I like. I listen to music. That way I rest. In July and part of August I did that.

The other question. Yes, it is true, I had to cancel [engagements]. The day I should have gone to the Gemelli [hospital], up to 10 minutes before I was there, but I could not do it. It is true, they were seven very demanding days then, full of engagements. Now I have to be a little more prudent.

Q.  In Rio when the crowds chanted Francesco, Francesco, you told them to shout Christ, Christ. How do you cope with this immense popularity? How do you live it?

A.  I don’t know how to respond. I live it thanking the Lord that his people are happy. Truly, I do this. And I wish the People of God the best. I live it as generosity on the part of the people. Interiorly,  I try to think of my sins, my mistakes, so as not to think that I am somebody. Because I know this will last a short time, two or three years, and then to the house of the Father. And then it’s not wise to believe in this. I live it as the presence of the Lord in his people who use the bishop, the pastor of the people, to show many things. I live it a little more naturally than before, at the beginning I was a little frightened. But I do these thing, it comes into my mind that I must not make a mistake so as not to do wrong to the people in these things. A little that way.

Q. The pope has come from the end of the world and lives in the Vatican. Beyond Santa Marta about which you have talked to us, about your life and your choices. How does the Pope live in the Vatican? They’re always asking us: “What does he do?  How does he move about? Does he go for a walk? They have seen that you went to the canteen and surprise us.  What kind of life do you lead in Santa Marta, besides work?

A. I try to be free. There are work and office appointments, but then life for me, the most normal life I can do. Really, I’d like to go out but it’s not possible, it’s not possible, because if you go out people will come to you. That’s the reality. Inside Santa Marta I lead the normal life of work, of rest, chatting and so on.

Q. Don’t you feel like a prisoner?

A. At the beginning yes, but now some walls have fallen. For example, before it was said but the pope can’t do this or this. I’ll give you an example to make you laugh. When I would go into the lift, someone would come in there suddenly because the pope cannot go in the lift alone. So I said, you go to your place and I’ll go in the lift by myself. It’s normality.

Q. I’m sorry, Father, but I have to ask you this question as a member of the Spanish language group of which Argentina is a part. Your team, San Lorenzo, won the championship of America for the first time this week. I want to know how you are living this, how you are celebrating. I hear that a delegation are bringing the cup to the public audience on Wednesday, and that you will receive them in the public audience.

A. It’s good news after getting second place in Brazil. I learned about it here. They told me in Seoul. And they told me, they’re coming on Wednesday. It’s a public audience and they will be there. For me San Lorenzo is the team, all my family were supporters of it. My Dad played basketball at San Lorenzo; he was a player in the basketball team. And as children we went with him, and Mama also came with us to the Gazometer. Today the team of ’46 was a great team and won the championship. I live it with joy. Not a miracle, no!

Q. There’s been talk for a long time about an encyclical on ecology. Could you tell us when it will be published, and what are the key points?

A. I have talked a lot about this encyclical with Cardinal Turkson, and also with other people. And I asked Cardinal Turkson to gather all the input that have arrived, and four days before the trip, Cardinal Turkson brought me the first draft. It’s as thick as this. I’d say it’s about a third longer than “Evangelii Gaudium.” It’s the first draft.  It’s not an easy question because on the custody of creation, and ecology, also human ecology, one can talk with a certain security up to a certain point, but then the scientific hypotheses come, some sufficiently secure, others not. And in an encyclical like this, which has to be magisterial, one can only go forward on the things that are sure, the things that are secure. If the pope says the center of the universe is the earth and not the sun, he’s wrong because he says a thing that is scientifically not right. That’s what happens now. So we have to do the study now, number by number, and I believe it will become smaller. But going to the essentials, to that which one can affirm with security. One can say, in footnotes, that on this there is this and that hypothesis, to say it as information but not in the body of an encyclical that is doctrinal. It has to be secure.

Q. Thank you so much for your visit to South Korea. I’m going to ask you two questions. The first one is this: just before the final Mass at the cathedral you consoled some comfort women there, what thought occurred to you? And my second question, Pyongyang sees Christianity as a direct threat to its regime and its leadership and we know that some terrible thing happened to North Korean Christianity but we don’t know exactly what happened. Is there any special approach in your mind to change North Korea’s approach to North Korea’s Christianity?

A . On the first question I repeat this. Today, the women were there and despite all they suffered they have dignity, they showed their face. I think, as I said a short time ago, of the suffering of the war, of the cruelty of the one who wages war. These women were exploited, the were enslaved, all this is cruelty. I thought of all this, and of the dignity that they have and also how much they suffered. And suffering is an inheritance. The early fathers of the church said the blood of the martyrs if the seed of Christians. You Koreans have sown much, much, and out of coherence one now sees the fruit of that seed of the martyrs.

About North Korea, I know it is a suffering, and one I know for sure, there are many relatives that cannot come together, that’s a suffering, but it a suffering of that division of the country.   Today in the cathedral when I put on the vestments for mass there was a gift that they gave me, it was a crown of the thorns of Christ made from the iron wire that divides the two parts of the one Korea. We are now taking it with us on the plane, it’s a gift that I take, the suffering of division, of a divided family, but as I said yesterday, I can’t remember exactly, but talking to the bishops, I said we have  a hope: the two Koreas are brothers, and they speak the same language. They speak the same language because they have the same mother, and that gives us hope. The suffering of the division is great, I understand that and I pray that it ends.

Q. As an Italo-American I want to compliment you for your English, you should have no fear, and if you wish to do some practice before you go to America, my second homeland, I am willing to help. My question is this: You have spoken about martyrdom. At what stage is the process for the cause of Archbishop Romero. And what would you like to come out of this process?

A. The process was blocked in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith “for prudence,” it was said. Now it is unblocked and it is in the Congregation for Saints and follows the normal path of a process. It depends on how the postulators move, it’s very important to move in haste.

What I would like is to have clarified when there is martyrdom in “odium fidei” [out of hate for the faith], whether it is for confessing the credo or for performing the works that Jesus commands us to do  for our neighbor. This is a work of theologians that is being studied. Because behind him [Romero], there is Rutillio Grande and there are others. There are other that were also killed but are not at the same height as Romero. This has to be distinguished theologically. For me, Romero is a man of God. He was a man of God but there has to be the process, and the Lord will have to give his sign [of approval]. But if He wishes, He will do so! The postulators must move now because there are no impediments.

Q. Given what has happened in Gaza, was the Prayer for Peace held in the Vatican on June 8 a failure?

A. That prayer for peace was absolutely not a failure. First of all, the initiative did not come from me. The initiative to pray together came from two presidents: the president of the State of Israel and the president of the State of Palestine. They make known to me this unease, then we wanted to hold it there [in the Holy Land],  but we couldn’t find the right place because the political cost for each one was very high if they went to the other side. The nunciature was a neutral place, but to arrive at the nunciature the President of Palestine would have had to enter in Israel, so the thing was not easy. Then they said to me, let us do it in the Vatican, we will come. These two men are men of peace, they are men who believe in God, and they have lived through many ugly things, they are convinced that they only way to resolve the situation there is through dialogue, negotiation and peace.

You ask me, was it a failure? No, the door remains open. All four, the two presidents and Bartholomew I, I wanted him here as the ecumenical patriarch of Orthodoxy, it was good that he was with us, the door of prayer was opened. And it was said we must pray, peace is a gift of God,. It is a gift but we merit it with our work. And to say to humanity that the path of dialogue is important, negotiation is important, but there is also that of prayer. Then after that, we saw what happened. But it was just a matter of coincidence. That encounter for prayer was not conjuncture. It is a fundamental step of the human attitude, now the smoke of the bombs and the war do not let one see the door, but the door was left open from that moment. And as I believe in God, I look at that door and the many who pray and who ask that He helps us. I liked that question. Thank you!


– Photo Credit: Pope Francis listens to a journalist’s question aboard the papal flight from Seoul, South Korea, to Rome Aug. 18. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)