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Pope In CAR: Homily during Mass at Barthélémy Boganda Stadium


On Monday, November 30, 2015, on his last day in Africa, Pope Francis celebrated Mass at Barthélémy Boganda Stadium, Central African Republic. Below you will find the full text of his prepared remarks:

Homily of His Holiness Pope Francis
Bangui, Barthélémy Boganda Stadium
30 November 2015

We might be astonished, listening to this morning’s first reading, by the enthusiasm and missionary drive of Saint Paul.  “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Rom 10:15).  These words inspire us to give thanks for the gift of the faith which we have received.  They also inspire us to reflect with amazement on the great missionary effort which – not long ago – first brought the joy of the Gospel to this beloved land of Central Africa.  It is good, especially in times of difficulty, trials and suffering, when the future is uncertain and we feel weary and apprehensive, to come together before the Lord.  To come together, as we do today, to rejoice in his presence and in the new life and the salvation which he offers us.  For he invites us to cross over to another shore (cf. Lk  8:22).

This other shore is, of course, eternal life, heaven, which awaits us.  Looking towards the world to come has always been a source of strength for Christians, of the poor, of the least, on their earthly pilgrimage.  Eternal life is not an illusion; it is not a flight from the world.  It is a powerful reality which calls out to us and challenges us to persevere in faith and love.

But the more immediate other shore, which we are trying to reach, this salvation secured by the faith of which Saint Paul speaks, is a reality which even now is transforming our lives and the world around us.  “Faith in the heart leads to justification” (Rom 10:10).  Those who believe receive the very life of Christ, which enables them to love God and their brothers and sisters in a new way and to bring to birth a world renewed by love.

Let us thank the Lord for his presence and for the strength which he gives us in our daily lives, at those times when we experience physical and spiritual suffering, pain, and grief.  Let us thank him for the acts of solidarity and generosity which he inspires in us, for the joy and love with which he fills our families and our communities, despite the suffering and violence we sometimes experience, and our fears for the future.  Let us thank him for his gift of courage, which inspires us to forge bonds of friendship, to dialogue with those who are different than ourselves, to forgive those who have wronged us, and to work to build a more just and fraternal society in which no one is abandoned.  In all these things, the Risen Christ takes us by the hand and guides us.  I join you in thanking the Lord in his mercy for all the beautiful, generous and courageous things he has enabled you to accomplish in your families and communities during these eventful years in the life of your country.

Yet the fact is that we have not yet reached our destination.  In a certain sense we are in midstream, needing the courage to decide, with renewed missionary zeal, to pass to the other shore.  All the baptized need to continually break with the remnants of the old Adam, the man of sin, ever ready to rise up again at the prompting of the devil.  How often this happens in our world and in these times of conflict, hate and war!  How easy it is to be led into selfishness, distrust, violence, destructiveness, vengeance, indifference to and exploitation of those who are most vulnerable…

We know that our Christian communities, called to holiness, still have a long way to go.  Certainly we need to beg the Lord’s forgiveness for our all too frequent reluctance and hesitation in bearing witness to the Gospel.  May the Jubilee Year of Mercy, which has just begun in your country, be an occasion to do so.  Dear Central Africans, may you look to the future and, strengthened by the distance you have already come, resolutely determine to begin a new chapter in the Christian history of your country, to set out towards new horizons, to put out into the deep.  The Apostle Andrew, with his brother Peter, did not hesitate to leave everything at Christ’s call: “Immediately they left their nets and followed him” (Mt 4:20).  Once again, we are amazed at the great enthusiasm of the Apostles.  Christ drew them so closely to himself, that they felt able to do everything and to risk everything with him.

Each of us, in his or her heart, can ask the crucial question of where we stand with Jesus, asking what we have already accepted – or refused to accept – in responding to his call to follow him more closely.  The cry of “those who bring good news” resounds all the more in our ears, precisely when times are difficult; that cry which “goes out through all the earth… to the ends of the earth” (Rom 10:18; cf. Ps 19:4).  And it resounds here, today, in this land of Central Africa.  It resounds in our hearts, our families, our parishes, wherever we live.  It invites us to persevere in enthusiasm for mission, for that mission which needs new “bearers of good news”, ever more numerous, generous, joyful and holy.  We are all called to be, each of us, these messengers whom our brothers and sisters of every ethnic group, religion and culture, await, often without knowing it.  For how can our brothers and sisters believe in Christ – Saint Paul asks – if the Word is neither proclaimed nor heard?

We too, like the Apostles, need to be full of hope and enthusiasm for the future.  The other shore is at hand, and Jesus is crossing the river with us.  He is risen from the dead; henceforth the trials and sufferings which we experience are always opportunities opening up to a new future, provided we are willing to follow him.  Christians of Central Africa, each of you is called to be, through perseverance in faith and missionary commitment, artisans of the human and spiritual renewal of your country.

May the Virgin Mary, who by sharing in the Passion of her Son, now shares in his perfect joy, protect you and encourage you on this path of hope. Amen.

Pope In CAR: Address to Muslim Community


On Monday, November 30, 2015, on the final day of his first Apostolic Visit to Africa, Pope Francis met with the Muslim Community in Bangui, Central African Republic. Below you will find the full text of his prepared remarks:

Address of Pope Francis
Meeting with the Muslim Community
Bangui, Central Mosque
November 30, 2015

Dear Muslim friends, leaders and followers of Islam,

It is a great joy for me to be with you and I thank you for your warm welcome.  In a particular way I thank Imam Tidiani Moussa Naibi for his kind words of greeting.  My Pastoral Visit to the Central African Republic would not be complete if it did not include this encounter with the Muslim community.

Christians and Muslims are brothers and sisters.  We must therefore consider ourselves and conduct ourselves as such.  We are well aware that the recent events and acts of violence which have shaken your country were not grounded in properly religious motives.  Those who claim to believe in God must also be men and women of peace.  Christians, Muslims and members of the traditional religions have lived together in peace for many years.  They ought, therefore, to remain united in working for an end to every act which, from whatever side, disfigures the Face of God and whose ultimate aim is to defend particular interests by any and all means, to the detriment of the common good.  Together, we must say no to hatred, to revenge and to violence, particularly that violence which is perpetrated in the name of a religion or of God himself.  God is peace, salam.

In these dramatic times, Christian and Muslim leaders have sought to rise to the challenges of the moment.  They have played an important role in re-establishing harmony and fraternity among all.  I would like express my gratitude and appreciation for this.  We can also call to mind the many acts of solidarity which Christians and Muslims have shown with regard to their fellow citizens of other religious confessions, by welcoming them and defending them during this latest crisis in your country, as well as in other parts of the world.

We cannot fail to express hope that the forthcoming national consultations will provide the country with leaders capable of bringing Central Africans together, thus becoming symbols of national unity rather than merely representatives of one or another faction.  I strongly urge you to make your country a welcoming home for all its children, regardless of their ethnic origin, political affiliation or religious confession.  The Central African Republic, situated in the heart of Africa, with the cooperation of all her sons and daughters, will then prove a stimulus in this regard to the entire continent.  It will prove a positive influence and help extinguish the smouldering tensions which prevent Africans from benefitting from that development which they deserve and to which they have a right.

Dear friends, I invite you to pray and work for reconciliation, fraternity and solidarity among all people, without forgetting those who have suffered the most as a result of recent events.

May God bless you and protect you!

CNS photo/Paul Haring

Pope In CAR: Homily during Mass with Priests, Consecrated Persons and Lay Leaders


On Sunday, November 29, 2015, Pope Francis celebrated Mass with priests, consecrated persons and lay leaders in Bangui, Central African Republic. Below you will find the full text of his prepared homily:

Homily of Pope Francis
Mass with Priests, Consecrated Persons and Lay Leaders
Bangui, Cathedral
29 November 2015

On this first Sunday of Advent, the liturgical season of joyful expectation of the Saviour and a symbol of Christian hope, God has brought me here among you, in this land, while the universal Church is preparing for the opening of the Jubilee Year of Mercy.  I am especially pleased that my pastoral visit coincides with the opening of this Jubilee Year in your country.  From this cathedral I reach out, in mind and heart, and with great affection, to all the priests, consecrated men and women, and pastoral workers of the nation, who are spiritually united with us at this moment.  Through you, I would greet all the people of the Central African Republic: the sick, the elderly, those who have experienced life’s hurts.  Some of them are perhaps despairing and listless, asking only for alms, the alms of bread, the alms of justice, the alms of attention and goodness.

But like the Apostles Peter and John on their way to the Temple, who had neither gold nor silver to give to the paralytic in need, I have come to offer God’s strength and power; for these bring us healing, set us on our feet and enable us to embark on a new life, to “go across to the other side” (cf. Lk 8:22).

Jesus does not make us cross to the other side alone; instead, he asks us to make the crossing with him, as each of us responds to his or her own specific vocation.  We need to realize that making this crossing can only be done with him, by freeing ourselves of divisive notions of family and blood in order to build a Church which is God’s family, open to everyone, concerned for those most in need.  This presupposes closeness to our brothers and sisters; it implies a spirit of communion.  It is not primarily a question of financial means; it is enough just to share in the life of God’s people, in accounting for the hope which is in us (cf. 1 Pet 3:15), in testifying to the infinite mercy of God who, as the Responsorial Psalm of this Sunday’s liturgy makes clear, is “good [and] instructs sinners in the way” (Ps 24:8).  Jesus teaches us that our heavenly Father “makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good” (Mt 5:45).  Having experienced forgiveness ourselves, we must forgive others in turn.  This is our fundamental vocation: “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48).

One of the essential characteristics of this vocation to perfection is the love of our enemies, which protects us from the temptation to seek revenge and from the spiral of endless retaliation.  Jesus placed special emphasis on this aspect of the Christian testimony (cf. Mt 5:46-47).  Those who evangelize must therefore be first and foremost practitioners of forgiveness, specialists in reconciliation, experts in mercy.  This is how we can help our brothers and sisters to “cross to the other side” – by showing them the secret of our strength, our hope, and our joy, all of which have their source in God, for they are grounded in the certainty that he is in the boat with us.  As he did with the apostles at the multiplication of the loaves, so too the Lord entrusts his gifts to us, so that we can go out and distribute them everywhere, proclaiming his reassuring words: “Behold, the days are coming when I will fulfil the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah” (Jer 33:14).

In the readings of this Sunday’s liturgy, we can see different aspects of this salvation proclaimed by God; they appear as signposts to guide us on our mission.  First of all, the happiness promised by God is presented as justice.  Advent is a time when we strive to open our hearts to receive the Saviour, who alone is just and the sole Judge able to give to each his or her due.  Here as elsewhere, countless men and women thirst for respect, for justice, for equality, yet see no positive signs on the horizon.  These are the ones to whom he comes to bring the gift of his justice (cf. Jer 33:15).  He comes to enrich our personal and collective histories, our dashed hopes and our sterile yearnings.  And he sends us to proclaim, especially to those oppressed by the powerful of this world or weighed down by the burden of their sins, that “Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will dwell securely.  And this is the name by which it shall be called, ‘The Lord is our righteousness’” (Jer 33:16).  Yes, God is righteousness; God is justice.  This, then, is why we Christians are called in the world to work for a peace founded on justice.

The salvation of God which we await is also flavoured with love.  In preparing for the mystery of Christmas, we relive the pilgrimage which prepared God’s people to receive the Son, who came to reveal that God is not only righteousness, but also and above all love (cf. 1 Jn 4:8).  In every place, even and especially in those places where violence, hatred, injustice and persecution hold sway, Christians are called to give witness to this God who is love.  In encouraging the priests, consecrated men and woman, and committed laity who, in this country live, at times heroically, the Christian virtues, I realize that the distance between this demanding ideal and our Christian witness is at times great.  For this reason I echo the prayer of Saint Paul: “Brothers and sisters, may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all men and women” (1 Th 3:12).  Thus what the pagans said of the early Christians will always remain before us like a beacon: “See how they love one another, how they truly love one another” (Tertullian, Apology, 39, 7).

Finally, the salvation proclaimed by God has an invincible power which will make it ultimately prevail.  After announcing to his disciples the terrible signs that will precede his coming, Jesus concludes: “When these things begin to take place, look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Lk 21:28).  If Saint Paul can speak of a love which “grows and overflows”, it is because Christian witness reflects that irresistible power spoken of in the Gospel.  It is amid unprecedented devastation that Jesus wishes to show his great power, his incomparable glory (cf. Lk 21:27) and the power of that love which stops at nothing, even before the falling of the heavens, the conflagration of the world or the tumult of the seas.  God is stronger than all else.  This conviction gives to the believer serenity, courage and the strength to persevere in good amid the greatest hardships.  Even when the powers of Hell are unleashed, Christians must rise to the summons, their heads held high, and be ready to brave blows in this battle over which God will have the last word.  And that word will be love!

To all those who make unjust use of the weapons of this world, I make this appeal: lay down these instruments of death!  Arm yourselves instead with righteousness, with love and mercy, the authentic guarantors of peace.  As followers of Christ, dear priests, religious and lay pastoral workers, here in this country, with its suggestive name, situated in the heart of Africa and called to discover the Lord as the true centre of all that is good, your vocation is to incarnate the very heart of God in the midst of your fellow citizens.  May the Lord deign to “strengthen your hearts in holiness, that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints” (1 Th 3:13).  

Reconciliation. Mercy. Forgiveness. Peace.


CNS photo/Paul Haring

Pope In CAR: Address to Evangelical Communities


On Sunday, November 29, 2015, Pope Francis met with various Evangelical Communities at the Faculty of Evangelical Theology in Bangui, Central African Republic. Below you will find the full text of his prepared remarks:

Address of His Holiness Pope Francis
Meeting with Evangelical Communities
Bangui, Faculty of Evangelical Theology
November 29, 2015

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am happy to be able to meet you in this Faculty of Evangelical Theology.  I thank the Dean of the Faculty and the President of the Evangelical Alliance of Central Africa for their kind words of welcome With fraternal affection I greet each of you and, through you, all the members of your communities.  All of us are here in the service of the risen Lord who assembles us today; and, by virtue of the common baptism we have received, we are sent to proclaim the joy of the Gospel to men and women of this beloved country of Central Africa.

For all too long, your people have experienced troubles and violence, resulting in great suffering.  This makes the proclamation of the Gospel all the more necessary and urgent.  For it is Christ’s own flesh which suffers in his dearest sons and daughters: the poorest of his people, the infirm, the elderly, the abandoned, children without parents or left to themselves without guidance and education.  There are also those who have been scarred in soul or body by hatred and violence, those whom war has deprived of everything: work, home and loved ones.

God makes no distinctions between those who suffer.  I have often called this the ecumenism of blood.  All our communities suffer indiscriminately as a result of injustice and the blind hatred unleashed by the devil.  Here I wish to express my closeness and solidarity to Pastor Nicholas, whose home was recently ransacked and set on fire, as was the meeting-place of his community.  In these difficult circumstances, the Lord keeps asking us to demonstrate to everyone his tenderness, compassion and mercy.  This shared suffering and shared mission are a providential opportunity for us to advance together on the path of unity; they are also an indispensable spiritual aid.  How could the Father refuse the grace of unity, albeit still imperfect, to his children who suffer together and, in different situations, join in serving their brothers and sisters?

Dear friends, the lack of unity among Christians is a scandal, above all because it is contrary to God’s will.  It is also a scandal when we consider the hatred and violence which are tearing humanity apart, and the many forms of opposition which the Gospel of Christ encounters.  I appreciate the spirit of mutual respect and cooperation existing between the Christians of your country, and I encourage you to continue on this path of common service in charity.  It is a witness to Christ which builds up unity.

With increasing intensity and courage, may you add to perseverance and charity, a commitment to prayer and common reflection, as you seek to achieve greater mutual understanding, trust and friendship in view of that full communion for which we firmly hope.

I assure you of my prayerful support along the path of fraternal charity, reconciliation and mercy, a path which is long, yet full of joy and hope. May God bless you! May he bless your communities!

CNS photo/Paul Haring

Pope In CAR: Impromptu Address at Refugee Camp


Below is a ZENIT translation of Pope Francis’ off-the-cuff words at the St. Sauveur Refugee Camp in the Central African Republic’s capital of Bangui:

I greet all of you here.
I tell you that I read what the children had written [on signs], “peace”, “forgiveness”, “unity” and so many things … “love”. We must work and pray and do everything for peace. But peace without love, without friendship, without tolerance, without forgiveness, is not possible. Each of us has to do something. I wish you, to you and to all Central Africans, peace, a great peace among you. May you live in peace regardless of your ethnicity, culture, religion, social status. But everyone in peace! Everyone! Because we are all brothers. I would like for us to say together: “We are all brothers.” [The people repeat: “We are all brothers”] Another time! [“We are all brothers”]. And for this, because we are all brothers, we want peace.
And I give you the Lord’s blessing. May the Lord bless you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. And pray for me! Pray for me, did you hear? [“Yes!”]

Pope In CAR: Address to Authorities and Diplomatic Corps


On Sunday, November 29, 2015, Pope Francis arrived in the Central African Republic for the final leg of his first Apostolic Visit to Africa. Below you will find the full text of his address at the Presidential Palace in Bangui:

Address of His Holiness Pope Francis
Meeting with Authorities and the Diplomatic Corps
Bangui, Presidential Palace
November 29, 2015

Madam Interim Head of State,
Distinguished Authorities,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Representatives of International Organizations,
My Brother Bishops,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am happy to be here with you.  I would first like to express my appreciation for your warm hospitality and to thank Madam Interim Head of State for her kind words of welcome.  In this place, which is in some sense the home of all Central Africans, I am pleased to express, through you and the other authorities of the country present, my affection and spiritual closeness to all your fellow citizens. I would like also to greet the members of the Diplomatic Corps and the representatives of the International Organizations, whose work recalls the ideal of solidarity and cooperation which needs to be cultivated between peoples and nations.

As the Central African Republic progressively moves, in spite of difficulties, towards the normalization of its social and political life, I come to this land for the first time, following my predecessor Saint John Paul II.  I come as a pilgrim of peace and an apostle of hope.  For this reason, I express my appreciation of the efforts made by the different national and international authorities, beginning with Madam Interim Head of State, to guide the country to this point.  It is my fervent wish that the various national consultations to be held in coming weeks will enable the country to embark serenely on new chapter of its history.

To brighten the horizon, there is the motto of the Central African Republic, which translates the hope of pioneers and the dream of the founding fathers: Unity-Dignity-Labour.  Today, more than ever, this trilogy expresses the aspirations of each Central African.  Consequently, it is a sure compass for the authorities called to guide the destiny of the country.  Unity, dignity, labour!  Three very significant words, each of which represents as much a building project as a unending programme, something to be ceaselessly crafted.

First unity.  This, we know, is a cardinal value for the harmony of peoples.  It is to be lived and built up on the basis of the marvellous diversity of our environment, avoiding the temptation of fear of others, of the unfamiliar, of what is not part of our ethnic group, our political views or our religious confession.  Unity, on the contrary, calls for creating and promoting a synthesis of the richness which each person has to offer.  Unity in diversity is a constant challenge, one which demands creativity, generosity, self-sacrifice and respect for others.

Then, dignity.  This moral value is rightly synonymous with the honesty, loyalty, graciousness and honour which characterize men and women conscious of their rights and duties, and which lead them to mutual respect.  Each person has dignity.  I was interested to learn that Central Africa is the country of the “Zo kwe zo”, the country where everbody is somebody.  Everything must be done to protect the status and dignity of the human person.  Those who have the means to enjoy a decent life, rather than being concerned with privileges, must seek to help those poorer than themselves to attain dignified living conditions, particularly through the development of their human, cultural, economic and social potential.  Consequently, access to education and to health care, the fight against malnutrition and efforts to ensure decent housing for everyone must be at the forefront of a development concerned for human dignity.  In effect, our human dignity is expressed by our working for the dignity of our fellow man.

Finally, labour.  It is by working that you are able to improve the lives of your families. Saint Paul tells us that “children ought not to lay up for their parents, but parents for their children” (II Cor 12:14).  The work of parents expresses their love for their children.  And you again, Central Africans, can improve this marvellous land by wisely exploiting its many resources.  Your country is located in a region considered to be one of the two lungs of mankind on account of its exceptionally rich biodiversity.  In this regard, echoing my Encyclical Laudato Si’, I would like particularly to draw the attention of everyone, citizens and national leaders, international partners and multinational societies, to their grave responsibility in making use of environmental resources, in development decisions and projects which in any way affect the entire planet.  The work of building a prosperous society must be a cooperative effort.  The wisdom of your people has long understood this truth, as seen in the proverb: “The ants are little, but since they are so many, they can bring their hoard home”.

It is no doubt superfluous to underline the capital importance of upright conduct and administration on the part of public authorities. They must be the first to embody consistently the values of unity, dignity and labour, serving as models for their compatriots.

The history of the evangelization of this land and the sociopolitical history of this country attest to the commitment of the Church in promoting the values of unity, dignity and labour.  In recalling the pioneers of evangelization in the Central African Republic, I greet my brother bishops, who now carry on this work.  With them, I express once more the readiness of the local Church to contribute even more to the promotion of the common good, particularly by working for peace and reconciliation.  I do not doubt that the Central African authorities, present and future, will work tirelessly to ensure that the Church enjoys favourable conditions for the fulfilment of her spiritual mission.  In this way she will be able to contribute increasingly to “promoting the good of every man and of the whole man” (Populorum Progressio, 14), to use the felicitous expression of my predecessor, Blessed Paul VI, who fifty years ago was the first Pope of modern times to come to Africa, to encourage and confirm the continent in goodness at the dawn of a new age.

For my part, I express my appreciation for the efforts made by the international community, represented here by the Diplomatic Corps and the members of the various Missions of the International Organizations.  I heartily encourage them to continue along the path of solidarity, in the hope that their commitment, together with the activity of the Central African authorities, will help the country to advance, especially in the areas of reconciliation, disarmament, peacekeeping, health care and the cultivation of a sound administration at all levels.

To conclude, I would like to express once more my joy to visit this marvellous country, located in the heart of Africa, home to a people profoundly religious and blessed with so such natural and cultural richness.  Here I see a country filled with God’s gifts!  May the Central African people, its leaders and its partners, always appreciate the value of these gifts by working ceaselessly for unity, human dignity and a peace based on justice.  May God bless you all!  Thank you

Pope In Uganda: Address at Meeting with Priests, Religious and Seminarians


Here is a transcription and translation of the unscripted address Pope Francis gave this evening to priests and religious in Uganda. Transcription and translation by ZENIT International News Service.

There are three things I want to tell you. First of all, in the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses reminds his people: “Don’t forget.” And he repeats it in this book various times. To not forget. To not forget everything that God did for his people.

The first thing that I want to say to you is that you ask for the grace of memory, [of remembering.] As I said to the young people: In the blood of Ugandan Catholics is mixed the blood of martyrs. Do not forget the memory of this seed. So that in this way you continue to grow.

The main enemy of memory is forgetting. But this isn’t the most dangerous enemy. The most dangerous enemy of memory is becoming accustomed to inheriting the goods of those who’ve gone before. The Church in Uganda can never become accustomed to the distant memory of its martyrs. Martyr means witness. The Church in Uganda, to be faithful to this memory, must continue to be a witness. It can’t live “piggy-backing.” The glories of the past were the beginning but you have to make the glory of the future. And this is the task that the Church gives to you. Be witnesses, as the martyrs who gave their lives for the Gospel were witnesses.

To be witnesses — the second word that I want to say to you — fidelity is necessary. Fidelity to memory. Fidelity to one’s vocation. Fidelity to apostolic zeal. Fidelity means to follow the way of holiness. Fidelity means to do what the witnesses of the past did: to be missionaries.

Perhaps here in Uganda there are dioceses that have many priests and dioceses that have few. Fidelity means offering oneself to the bishop to go to another diocese that needs missionaries. And this isn’t easy. Fidelity means persevering in the vocation. And here, I want to give thanks in a special way for the example of fidelity that the sisters from the House of Mercy gave me. Fidelity to the poor, to the ill, to the neediest. Because Christ is there.

Uganda was watered with the blood of martyrs, of witnesses. Today it is necessary to continue watering it and for this, new challenges, new testimonies, new missions.

If not, you’re going to lose the great richness that you have. And the “pearl of Africa” will end up being on display in a museum. Because the devil attacks like that — little by little. And I’m speaking not only for the priests, but also to the religious.

For the priests, I did want to speak particularly about this issue of being missionaries: That the dioceses with a lot of priests offer themselves to those with fewer clergy.

Thus, Uganda will continue to be missionary.

Memory which means fidelity and fidelity that is only possible with prayer. If a man or woman religious, a priest, abandons prayer or prays only a little, because he says he has a lot of work, he has already begun to lose memory. And he has already begun to lose fidelity.

Prayer, which also means humiliation. The humiliation of going regularly to your confessor and to say your own sins. You can’t limp with both feet. Men religious, women religious and priests cannot live a double life. If you are a sinner, ask for forgiveness. But don’t keep hidden what God doesn’t want. Don’t keep a lack of fidelity hidden away. Don’t shut memory up in a closet. Memory. New challenges, fidelity to memory. And prayer. Prayer always begins with recognizing oneself as a sinner.

With these three columns, the pearl of Africa will continue to be a pearl and not just the word missionary.

May the martyrs who gave strength to this Church help us to go forward in memory, in fidelity and in prayer.

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

Now, I invite you to pray all together an Ave Maria to the Virgin.

Pope In Uganda: Address at Nalukolongo House of Charity


On Saturday, November 28, 2015, Pope Francis visited the Nalukolongo House of Charity for the elderly and disabled in Kampala. Below, you will find the prepared remarks of his address to those caregivers:

Address of His Holiness Pope Francis
Visit to the House of Charity
Kampala, Nalukolongo
Saturday 28 November 2015

Dear Friends,

Thank you for your warm welcome.  I wanted very much to visit this House of Charity, which Cardinal Nsubuga founded here in Nalukolongo.  This is a place which has always been associated with the Church’s outreach to the poor, the handicapped, the sick.  Here, in early times, slave children were ransomed and women received religious instruction.  I greet the Good Samaritan Sisters who carry on this fine tradition, and I thank them for their years of quiet and joyful service in this apostolate.  

I also greet the representatives of the many other apostolic groups who serve the needs of our brothers and sisters in Uganda.  Above all, I greet the residents of this home and others like it, and all who benefit from these works of Christian charity.  For this is a home.  Here you can find love and care; here you can feel the presence of Jesus, our brother, who loves each of us with God’s own love.

Today, from this Home, I appeal to all parishes and communities in Uganda – and the rest of Africa – not to forget the poor.  The Gospel commands us to go out to the peripheries of society, and to find Christ in the suffering and those in need.  The Lord tells us, in no uncertain terms, that is what he will judge us on!  How sad it is when our societies allow the elderly to be rejected or neglected!  How wrong it is when the young are exploited by the modern-day slavery of human trafficking!  If we look closely at the world around us, it seems that, in many places, selfishness and indifference are spreading.  How many of our brothers and sisters are victims of today’s throwaway culture, which breeds contempt above all towards the unborn, the young and the elderly!

As Christians, we cannot simply stand by.  Something must change!  Our families need to become ever more evident signs of God’s patient and merciful love, not only for our children and elders, but for all those in need.  Our parishes must not close their doors, or their ears, to the cry of the poor.  This is the royal road of Christian discipleship.  In this way we bear witness to the Lord who came not to be served, but to serve.  In this way we show that people count more than things, that who we are is more important than what we possess.  For in those whom we serve, Christ daily reveals himself and prepares the welcome which we hope one day to receive in his eternal kingdom.

Dear friends, by simple gestures, by simple prayerful actions which honour Christ in the least of his brothers and sisters, we can bring the power of his love into our world, and truly change it.  I thank you once more for your generosity and love.  I will remember you in my prayers and I ask you, please, to pray for me.  I commend all of you to the loving protection of Mary, our Mother, and I give you my blessing.  

Omukama Abakuume!(God protect you!)

CNS photo/Paul Haring

Pope In Uganda: Address at Meeting with Youth Unscripted


Here is a transcription and translation of the unscripted address Pope Francis gave to young people this afternoon in Uganda. Transcription and translation by ZENIT International News Service.

I listened with much sorrow in my heart to the testimonies of Winnie and Emmanuel. But as I was listening, I asked myself a question: Can a negative experience serve for something in life? Yes.

Both Winnie and Emmanuel have suffered negative experiences. Winnie thought she had no future. That the life before her was against a wall. But Jesus showed her little by little that he can make a great miracle in life. That he can transform a wall into a horizon. A horizon that opens to the future. In the face of a negative experience — as many of us who are here have had negative experiences — there is always the possibility of opening a horizon. Of opening it with the door of Jesus. Today, Winnie has transformed her depression, her bitterness into hope.

And this isn’t magic. This is the work of Jesus. Because Jesus is Lord. Jesus can do everything. And Jesus suffered the most negative experience in history. He was insulted, he was rejected, he was killed. And Jesus, by the power of God, rose again. He can do the same thing in each one of us with each negative experience. Because Jesus is Lord.

I can imagine — and all of us together, let us imagine — the suffering of Emmanuel. When he saw that his companions were tortured. When he saw that his companions were assassinated. Emmanuel was courageous. He took heart. He knew that if they found him, the day he escaped, they would kill him. He took a risk. He trusted in Jesus. And he escaped. And today we have him here, after 14 years, with a degree in administration sciences.

All is possible. Our life is like a seed; to live, we must die. And sometimes, it is to die physically, like Emmanuel’s companions. To die as Charles Lwanga and the martyrs of Uganda died. But through this death, there is life. A life for everyone. If I transform the negative into positive, I am triumphant. But this can only be done with the grace of Jesus.

Are you certain of this? I didn’t hear! Are you certain? Are you ready to transform all the negative things of life into positive things? Are you ready to transform hate into love? Are you ready to transform, to want to transform, war into peace?

You must be aware that you are a people of martyrs. Through your veins flows the blood of martyrs. And because of this, you have the faith and the life that you have now. And this life is so beautiful that it is called the pearl of Africa.

It seems that the microphone doesn’t work well. Sometimes we ourselves don’t work well. Yes or no? And when we don’t work well, to whom do we have to ask help? I don’t hear you. Louder!

We have to ask Jesus. Jesus can change your life. Jesus can break down all of the walls that you have before you. Jesus can make of your life a service for others.

Some of you might ask me: For this, is there a magic wand? If you want Jesus to change your life, ask him. And this is called prayer.  Did you understand? To pray. I ask you: Do you pray? Are you sure? Pray to Jesus because he is the savior. Never stop praying. Prayer is the strongest weapon that a youth has.

Jesus loves us. I ask you: Does Jesus love some people and not others? Does Jesus love everyone? Does Jesus want to help everyone? Then open the doors of your heart and allow him to come in.

Allow Jesus to enter into my life. And when Jesus comes into your life, he helps you to fight. To fight agains all of the problems that Winnie spoke of. Fight against depression, fight against AIDS, to ask help to rise above these situations. But always to fight. Fight with my desire, and fight with my prayer. Are you ready to fight? Are you ready to want the best for yourselves? Are you ready to pray, to ask Jesus to help you in the fight?

And a third thing that I want to tell you: All of us are in the Church, we belong to the Church, right? And the Church has a Mother. What’s her name? I can’t hear! Pray to our Mother. When a child falls, gets hurt, he starts to cry and goes to look for his mom. When we have a problem, the best thing we can do is go where our Mother is. And pray to Mary, our mother. Do you agree? Do you pray to the Virgin, our Mother? Here I ask, do you pray to Jesus and to the Virgin, our Mother?

So three things: rise above difficulties, transform the negative into positive, and third, prayer. Prayer to Jesus who can do everything. That Jesus enters into our hearts. And changes our lives. Jesus, who came to save me and gave his life for me. Pray to Jesus because he is the only Lord. And since in the Church, we are not orphans, and we have a mother, to pray to our Mother. And what is the name of our Mother? Louder!

I thank you very much for having listened to me. I thank you a lot because you want to change the negative into positive. That you want to fight against evil with Jesus at your side, and above all I thank you because you have the desire to never abandon prayer. And now I invite you to pray together to our Mother, that she protects us. Agreed? Everyone together.

Ave Maria


A last request: Pray for me. Pray for me. I need it. Don’t forget. Good-bye.

Pope In Uganda: Homily During Mass at Uganda Martyrs’ Shrine


On Saturday, November 28, 2015, Pope Francis celebrated Holy Mass in Namugongo, the site of the Uganda Martyrs’ Shrine. Below, you will find the full text of the Holy Father’s prepared homily:

Homily of His Holiness Pope Francis
Mass at the Uganda Martyrs’ Shrine, Namugongo
Saturday November 28, 2015

“You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

From the age of the Apostles to our own day, a great cloud of witnesses has been raised up to proclaim Jesus and show forth the power of the Holy Spirit.  Today, we recall with gratitude the sacrifice of the Uganda martyrs, whose witness of love for Christ and his Church has truly gone “to the end of the earth”.  We remember also the Anglican martyrs whose deaths for Christ testify to the ecumenism of blood.  All these witnesses nurtured the gift of the Holy Spirit in their lives and freely gave testimony of their faith in Jesus Christ, even at the cost of their lives, many at such a young age.

We too have received the gift of the Spirit, to make us sons and daughters of God, but also so that we may bear witness to Jesus and make him everywhere known and loved.  We received the Spirit when we were reborn in Baptism, and we were strengthened by his gifts at our Confirmation.  Every day we are called to deepen the Holy Spirit’s presence in our life, to “fan into flame” the gift of his divine love so that we may be a source of wisdom and strength to others.

The gift of the Holy Spirit is a gift which is meant to be shared.  It unites us to one another as believers and living members of Christ’s mystical Body.  We do not receive the gift of the Spirit for ourselves alone, but to build up one another in faith, hope and love.  I think of Saints Joseph Mkasa and Charles Lwanga, who after being catechized by others, wanted to pass on the gift they had received.  They did this in dangerous times.  Not only were their lives threatened but so too were the lives of the younger boys under their care.  Because they had tended to their faith and deepened their love of God, they were fearless in bringing Christ to others, even at the cost of their lives. Their faith became witness; today, venerated as martyrs, their example continues to inspire people throughout the world.  They continue to proclaim Jesus Christ and the power of his Cross.

If, like the martyrs, we daily fan into flame the gift of the Spirit who dwells in our hearts, then we will surely become the missionary disciples which Christ calls us to be.  To our families and friends certainly, but also to those whom we do not know, especially those who might be unfriendly, even hostile, to us.  This openness to others begins first in the family, in our homes where charity and forgiveness are learned, and the mercy and love of God made known in our parents’ love.  It finds expression too in our care for the elderly and the poor, the widowed and the orphaned.

Just as the mother and seven sons from the Second Book of Maccabees encouraged one another in their moment of great trial (7:1-2. 9-14), so too, as members of God’s family, we are to assist one another, to protect one another, and to lead one another to the fullness of life.  Here I think with gratitude of all those – bishops, priests, consecrated men and women, and catechists – who in so many ways help to support Christian families.  May the Church in this country continue, especially through its parish communities, to assist young couples to prepare for marriage, to encourage couples to live the marital bond in love and fidelity, and to assist parents in their duty as the first teachers of the faith for their children.

Like the Apostles and the Uganda martyrs before us, we have received the gift of the Holy Spirit to become missionary disciples called to go forth and bring the Gospel to all.  At times this may take us to the end of the earth, as missionaries to faraway lands. This is essential to the spread of God’s Kingdom, and I ask always for your generous response to this need.  But we do not need to travel to be missionary disciples.  In fact, we need only to open our eyes and see the needs in our homes and our local communities to realize how many opportunities await us.

Here too the Uganda martyrs show us the way.  Their faith sought the good of all people, including the very King who condemned them for their Christian beliefs. Their response was to meet hatred with love, and thus to radiate the splendour of the Gospel.  They did not simply tell the King what the Gospel does not allow, but showed through their lives what saying “yes” to Jesus really means.  It means mercy and purity of heart, being meek and poor in spirit, and thirsting for righteousness in the hope of an eternal reward.

The witness of the martyrs shows to all who have heard their story, then and now, that the worldly pleasures and earthly power do not bring lasting joy or peace.  Rather, fidelity to God, honesty and integrity of life, and genuine concern for the good of others bring us that peace which the world cannot give.  This does not diminish our concern for this world, as if we only look to the life to come.  Instead, it gives purpose to our lives in this world, and helps us to reach out to those in need, to cooperate with others for the common good, and to build a more just society which promotes human dignity, defends God’s gift of life and protects the wonders of nature, his creation and our common home.

Dear brothers and sisters, this is the legacy which you have received from the Uganda martyrs – lives marked by the power of the Holy Spirit, lives which witness even now to the transforming power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  This legacy is not served by an occasional remembrance, or by being enshrined in a museum as a precious jewel. Rather, we honour them, and all the saints, when we carry on their witness to Christ, in our homes and neighbourhoods, in our workplaces and civil society, whether we never leave our homes or we go to the farthest corner of the world.

May the Uganda martyrs, together with Mary, Mother of the Church, intercede for us, and may the Holy Spirit kindle within us the fire of his divine love!

Omukama Abawe Omukisa!   (God bless you!)