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Pope In Poland: Address during WYD Prayer Vigil

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On Saturday, July 29, 2016, Pope Francis presided over the prayer vigil during the World Youth Day 2016 in Krakow, Poland. Below, you can find the full text of his prepared remarks during the vigil at Campus Misericordae:

Dear young people, good evening!

It is good to be here with you at this Prayer Vigil!

At the end of his powerful and moving witness, Rand asked something of us. He said: “I earnestly ask you to pray for my beloved country”. Her story, involving war, grief and loss, ended with a request for prayers. Is there a better way for us to begin our vigil than by praying?

We have come here from different parts of the world, from different continents, countries, languages, cultures and peoples. Some of us are sons and daughters of nations that may be at odds and engaged in various conflicts or even open war. Others of us come from countries that may be at “peace”, free of war and conflict, where most of the terrible things occurring in our world are simply a story on the evening news. But think about it. For us, here, today, coming from different parts of the world, the suffering and the wars that many young people experience are no longer anonymous, something we read about in the papers. They have a name, they have a face, they have a story, they are close at hand. Today the war in Syria has caused pain and suffering for so many people, for so many young people like our good friend Rand, who has come here and asked us to pray for his beloved country.

Some situations seem distant until in some way we touch them. We don’t appreciate certain things because we only see them on the screen of a cell phone or a computer. But when we come into contact with life, with people’s lives, not just images on a screen, something powerful happens. We feel the need to get involved. To see that there are no more “forgotten cities”, to use Rand’s words, or brothers and sisters of ours “surrounded by death and killing”, completely helpless. Dear friends, I ask that we join in prayer for the sufferings of all the victims of war and for the many families of beloved Syria and other parts of our world. Once and for all, may we realize that nothing justifies shedding the blood of a brother or sister; that nothing is more precious than the person next to us. In asking you to pray for this, I would also like to thank Natalia and Miguel for sharing their own battles and inner conflicts. You told us about your struggles, and about how you succeeded in overcoming them. Both of you are a living sign of what God’s mercy wants to accomplish in us.

This is no time for denouncing anyone or fighting. We do not want to tear down. We have no desire to conquer hatred with more hatred, violence with more violence, terror with more terror. We are here today because the Lord has called us together. Our response to a world at war has a name: its name is fraternity, its name is brotherhood, its name is communion, its name is family. We celebrate the fact that coming from different cultures, we have come together to pray. Let our best word, our best argument, be our unity in prayer. Let us take a moment of silence and pray. Let us place before the Lord these testimonies of our friends, and let us identify with those for whom “the family is a meaningless concept, the home only a place to sleep and eat”, and with those who live with the fear that their mistakes and sins have made them outcasts. Let us also place before the Lord your own “battles”, the interior struggles that each of your carries in his or her heart.

(SILENCE)

As we were praying, I thought of the Apostles on the day of Pentecost. Picturing them can help us come to appreciate all that God dreams of accomplishing in our lives, in us and with us. That day, the disciples were together behind locked doors, out of fear. They felt threatened, surrounded by an atmosphere of persecution that had cornered them in a little room and left them silent and paralyzed. Fear had taken hold of them. Then, in that situation, something spectacular, something grandiose, occurred. The Holy Spirit and tongues as of fire came to rest upon each of them, propelling them towards an undreamt-of adventure.

We have heard three testimonies. Our hearts were touched by their stories, their lives. We have seen how, like the disciples, they experienced similar moments, living through times of great fear, when it seemed like everything was falling apart. The fear and anguish born of knowing that leaving home might mean never again seeing their loved ones, the fear of not feeling appreciated or loved, the fear of having no choices. They shared with us the same experience the disciples had; they felt the kind of fear that only leads to one thing: the feeling of being closed in on oneself, trapped. Once we feel that way, our fear starts to fester and is inevitably joined by its “twin sister”, paralysis: the feeling of being paralyzed. Thinking that in this world, in our cities and our communities, there is no longer any room to grow, to dream, to create, to gaze at new horizons – in a word to live – is one of the worst things that can happen to us in life. When we are paralyzed, we miss the magic of encountering others, making friends, sharing dreams, walking at the side of others.

But in life there is another, even more dangerous, kind of paralysis. It is not easy to put our finger on it. I like to describe it as the paralysis that comes from confusing happiness with a sofa. In other words, to think that in order to be happy all we need is a good sofa. A sofa that makes us feel comfortable, calm, safe. A sofa like one of those we have nowadays with a built-in massage unit to put us to sleep. A sofa that promises us hours of comfort so we can escape to the world of videogames and spend all kinds of time in front of a computer screen. A sofa that keeps us safe from any kind of pain and fear. A sofa that allows us to stay home without needing to work at, or worry about, anything. “Sofa-happiness”! That is probably the most harmful and insidious form of paralysis, since little by little, without even realizing it, we start to nod off, to grow drowsy and dull while others – perhaps more alert than we are, but not necessarily better – decide our future for us. For many people in fact, it is much easier and better to have drowsy and dull kids who confuse happiness with a sofa. For many people, that is more convenient than having young people who are alert and searching, trying to respond to God’s dream and to all the restlessness present in the human heart.

The truth, though, is something else. Dear young people, we didn’t come into this work to “vegetate”, to take it easy, to make our lives a comfortable sofa to fall asleep on. No, we came for another reason: to leave a mark. It is very sad to pass through life without leaving a mark. But when we opt for ease and convenience, for confusing happiness with consumption, then we end up paying a high price indeed: we lose our freedom.

This is itself a great form of paralysis, whenever we start thinking that happiness is the same as comfort and convenience, that being happy means going through life asleep or on tranquillizers, that the only way to be happy is to live in a haze. Certainly, drugs are bad, but there are plenty of other socially acceptable drugs, that can end up enslaving us just the same. One way or the other, they rob us of our greatest treasure: our freedom.

My friends, Jesus is the Lord of risk, of the eternal “more”. Jesus is not the Lord of comfort, security and ease. Following Jesus demands a good dose of courage, a readiness to trade in the sofa for a pair of walking shoes and to set out on new and uncharted paths. To blaze trails that open up new horizons capable of spreading joy, the joy that is born of God’s love and wells up in your hearts with every act of mercy. To take the path of the “craziness” of our God, who teaches us to encounter him in the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the sick, the friend in trouble, the prisoner, the refugee and the migrant, and our neighbours who feel abandoned. To take the path of our God, who encourages us to be politicians, thinkers, social activists. The God who asks us to devise an economy inspired by solidarity. In all the settings in which you find yourselves, God’s love invites you bring the Good News, making of your own lives a gift to him and to others.

You might say to me: Father, that is not for everybody, but just for a chosen few. True, and those chosen are all who are ready to share their lives with others. Just as the Holy Spirit transformed the hearts of the disciples on the day of Pentecost, so he did with our friends who shared their testimonies. I will use your own words, Miguel. You told us that in the “Facenda” on the day they entrusted you with the responsibility for helping make the house run better, you began to understand that God was asking something of you. That is when things began to change.

That is the secret, dear friends, and all of us are called to share in it. God expects something from you. God wants something from you. God hopes in you. God comes to break down all our fences. He comes to open the doors of our lives, our dreams, our ways of seeing things. God comes to break open everything that keeps you closed in. He is encouraging you to dream. He wants to make you see that, with you, the world can be different. For the fact is, unless you offer the best of yourselves, the world will never be different.

The times we live in do not call for young “couch potatoes” but for young people with shoes, or better, boots laced. It only takes players on the first string, and it has no room for bench-warmers. Today’s world demands that you be a protagonist of history because life is always beautiful when we choose to live it fully, when we choose to leave a mark. History today calls us to defend our dignity and not to let others decide our future. As he did on Pentecost, the Lord wants to work one of the greatest miracles we can experience; he wants to turn your hands, my hands, our hands, into signs of reconciliation, of communion, of creation. He wants your hands to continue building the world of today. And he wants to build that world with you.

You might say to me: Father, but I have my limits, I am a sinner, what can I do? When the Lord calls us, he doesn’t worry about what we are, what we have been, or what we have done or not done. Quite the opposite. When he calls us, he is thinking about everything we have to give, all the love we are capable of spreading. His bets are on the future, on tomorrow. Jesus is pointing you to the future.

So today, my friends, Jesus is inviting you, calling you, to leave your mark on life, to leave a mark on history, your own and that of many others as well.

Life nowadays tells us that it is much easier to concentrate on what divides us, what keeps us apart. People try to make us believe that being closed in on ourselves is the best way to keep safe from harm. Today, we adults need you to teach us how to live in diversity, in dialogue, to experience multiculturalism not as a threat but an opportunity. Have the courage to teach us that it is easier to build bridges than walls! Together we ask that you challenge us to take the path of fraternity. To build bridges… Do you know the first bridge that has to be built? It is a bridge that we can build here and now – by reaching out and taking each other’s hand. Come on, build it now, here, this first of bridges: take each other’s hand. This is a great bridge of brotherhood, and would that the powers of this world might learn to build it… not for pictures on the evening news but for building ever bigger bridges. May this human bridge be the beginning of many, many others; in that way, it will leave a mark.

Today Jesus, who is the way, the truth and the life, is calling you to leave your mark on history. He, who is life, is asking each of you to leave a mark that brings life to your own history and that of many others. He, who is truth, is asking you to abandon the paths of rejection, division and emptiness. Are you up to this? What answer will you give, with your hands and with your feet, to the Lord, who is the way, the truth and the life?


 

Poland’s Heart: From JPII to Francis

FROM JPII TO FRANCIS

Story and Photos by James Ramos

Maria offered us a place inside the bush. Suddenly, this sweet Polish lady moved so that we could find a place along the fence line to see Pope Francis in his Popemobile and we now found ourselves between a big green bush and a fence on Straszwskiego Street.

Maria told us about how she had seen ‘her pope,’ St. John Paul II, several times. She’d tap her chest each time said his name. She told us about the different times she had seen him. She told us that they’d ring the Sigismund Bell to honor Pope Francis’ visit. Then she told us that he’s down the street. We looked down the street and sure enough, he was rolling down the street in his Popemobile.

I remember how she looked at me: “James, are you ready?” I just laughed and said, “YES!” She tapped my chest twice and leaned over and pointed. He rolled past, waving as I waved my ?#?PopeEmoji?fan back. Then he was gone. She gave us each a hug, and told me: “James — journalist from Texas — you are lucky, you are good.” I’ll remember that forever. We started back for the Arena (which we’d get locked out of eventually) and then we heard a bell toll. Then another. Then another. Then another.

We remembered what Maria said about that bell. Then we saw an ambulance drive by, which is what we think we heard… Not the legendary bell. But we didn’t care, let’s pretend we heard it, OK?

FROM JPII TO FRANCIS 2


James_Ramos_photo

James Ramos is a storyteller and designer with the Texas Catholic Herald in Houston. Follow his #Krakow16 journey on Twitter, Instagram, and his blog. He’s also great at high fives, loves group selfies and is terrible at #PokemonGo.

The Magic of WYD

FridayBlog

Written by Ian Meaden

I spent the past couple of days trying to think of an interesting aspect of World Youth Day to write about, namely because there is so much I could talk about. There is so much going on all the time. For those reading this blog who may not know, World Youth Day is an opportunity for Catholic youth from around the world to come together in a single nation every three or so years for the singular purpose of praising God and celebrating our rich and beautiful Catholic faith.
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It is easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of World Youth Day, moving from one event to another, navigating the Krakow transit system (especially hard when your Polish is all but non-existent), finding stations, taking in Youth Festival events, as enjoying the overall social atmosphere and awesome fellowship of the entire pilgrimage. How many times in your life will you high five a group from Argentina and then sing with a group of Italians right after? However, we can not lose sight of the reason for why St. John Paul II inaugurated World Youth Day.
For me, the moment came Wednesday night at an event called “Mercy Fest”. This event involved Matt Maher (pride of Newfoundland) and Audrey Assad, leading 18,000 plus pilgrims in praise as worship then, quite possibly, one of the singular actions that left me awestruck occurred when the procession came out from under the bleachers with Bishop Robert Barron carrying the Blessed Sacrament in a giant Monstrance. At that moment, 18,000 pilgrims fell to their knees in Adoration of our Blessed Lord. What a moment! For the next hour and a half, we worshipped the Lord in song with the Blessed Sacrament on stage.
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Most of the lights in the Tauron Arena off with the bright white spotlights solely on, you guessed it, the Monstrance, the reason why we are here!
Now, personally speaking, it was quite the ordeal to get to the Arena, and for a period I did not think I would get in. There were so many people who wanted to partake in “Mercy Fest” that they were actually turning people away at the door. With the majority of my group (St. Joseph’s Basilica, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada) squarely inside, I was outside at the start waiting patiently and quietly in line; sitting while most were standing. I was sitting (I’m lazy) just reading my book. When the doors opened again to allow people inside, there was nearly a stampede around me. Thankfully, another group from the USA noticed that I was there first and quite patient and made sure I entered. I will add, the reason why I was late is because I was at Wawel Castle to see Pope Francis arrive. Now, I was only in area by sheer luck or Divine Mercy (I was actually in a mission to find WYD English prayer books for my group). I noticed the crowd gathering along the road and surmised it had something to do with His Holiness. Now, most of barricades were a good ten people deep, so me being me (and those who know me will attest that I tend to do stupid things without thinking) climbed up a 10-12 foot hill, stood at the top holding the branches of a bush so I didn’t fall backwards while waiting for the Popemobile to arrive.
image (5)As he arrived, and witnessing how close I was as the Popemobile went by, made my poor judgement fully worthwhile. It was at that point I made my way by Tram to Tauron Arena to meet my group.
World Youth Day is not just a pilgrimage, it is an encounter with The Lord. We witness that with Pope Francis. We witness that when we adore the Blessed Sacrament. We need to use this as an opportunity to grow closer to God, and allow God to grow close in us. As Cardinal Tagle said in his catechesis to us, we need to allow God to touch our hearts.

 Photo credits: Bill Wittman and Ian Meaden

Pope In Poland: Address at Conclusion of the Way of the Cross

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On Friday, July 29, 2016, Pope Francis led the Way of the Cross at Jordan Park in Krakow Blonia with the youth for the World Youth Day Krakow 2016. Below, find the full text of the Holy Father’s prepared remarks following the conclusion of the Way of the Cross:

I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,
I was a stranger and you welcomed me,
I was naked and you gave me clothing,
I was sick and you took care of me,
I was in prison and you visited me (Mt 25:35-36).

These words of Jesus answer the question that arises so often in our minds and hearts: “Where is God?” Where is God, if evil is present in our world, if there are men and women who are hungry and thirsty, homeless, exiles and refugees? Where is God, when innocent persons die asa result of violence, terrorism and war? Where is God, when cruel diseases break the bonds of life and affection? Or when children are exploited and demeaned, and they too suffer from grave illness? Where is God, amid the anguish of those who doubt and are troubled in spirit? These are questions that humanly speaking have no answer. We can only look to Jesus and ask him. And Jesus’ answer is this: “God is in them”. Jesus is in them; he suffers in them and deeply identifies with each of them. He is so closely united to them as to form with them, as it were, “one body”.

Jesus himself chose to identify with these our brothers and sisters enduring pain and anguish by agreeing to tread the “way of sorrows” that led to Calvary. By dying on the cross, he surrendered himself into to the hands of the Father, taking upon himself and in himself, with self- sacrificing love, the physical, moral and spiritual wounds of all humanity. By embracing the wood of the cross, Jesus embraced the nakedness, the hunger and thirst, the loneliness, pain and death of men and women of all times. Tonight Jesus, and we with him, embrace with particular love our  brothers and sisters from Syria who have fled from the war. We greet them and we welcome them with fraternal affection and friendship.

By following Jesus along the Way of the Cross, we have once again realized the importance of imitating him through the fourteen works of mercy. These help us to be open to God’s mercy, to implore the grace to appreciate that without mercy we can do nothing; without mercy, neither I nor you nor any of us can do a thing. Let us first consider the seven corporal works of mercy: feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick and those in prison, and burying the dead. Freely we have received, so freely let us give. We are called to serve the crucified Jesus in all those who are marginalized, to touch his sacred flesh in those who are disadvantaged, in those who hunger and thirst, in the naked and imprisoned, the sick and unemployed, in those who are persecuted, refugees and migrants. There we find our God; there we touch the Lord. Jesus himself told us this when he explained the criterion on which we will be judged: whenever we do these things to the least of our brothers and sisters, we do them to him (cf. Mt 25:31-46).

After the corporal works of mercy come the spiritual works: counseling the doubtful, instructing the ignorant, admonishing sinners, consoling the afflicted, pardoning offences, bearing wrongs patiently, praying for the living and the dead. In welcoming the outcast who suffer physically and welcoming sinners who suffer spiritually, our credibility as Christians is at stake.

Humanity today needs men and women, and especially young people like yourselves, who do not wish to live their lives “halfway”, young people ready to spend their lives freely in service to those of their brothers and sisters who are poorest and most vulnerable, in imitation of Christ who gave himself completely for our salvation. In the face of evil, suffering and sin, the only response possible for a disciple of Jesus is the gift of self, even of one’s own life, in imitation of Christ; it is the attitude of service. Unless those who call themselves Christians live to serve, their lives serve no good purpose. By their lives, they deny Jesus Christ.

This evening, dear friends, the Lord once more asks you to be in the forefront of serving others. He wants to make of you a concrete response to the needs and sufferings of humanity. He wants you to be signs of his merciful love for our time! To enable you to carry out this mission, he shows you the way of personal commitment and self-sacrifice. It is the Way of the Cross. The Way of the Cross is the way of fidelity in following Jesus to the end, in the often dramatic situations of everyday life. It is a way that fears no lack of success, ostracism or solitude, because it fills ours hearts with the fullness of Jesus. The Way of the Cross is the way of God’s own life, his “style”, which Jesus brings even to the pathways of a society at times divided, unjust and corrupt.

The Way of the Cross alone defeats sin, evil and death, for it leads to the radiant light of Christ’s resurrection and opens the horizons of a new and fuller life. It is the way of hope, the way of the future. Those who take up this way with generosity and faith give hope and a future to humanity.

Dear young people, on that Good Friday many disciples went back crestfallen to their homes. Others chose to go out to the country to forget the cross. I ask you: How do you want to go back this evening to your own homes, to the places where you are staying? How do you want to go back this evening to be alone with your thoughts? Each of you has to answer the challenge that this question sets before you.

Pope In Poland: Greeting to Children’s Hospital

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On Friday, July 29, 2016, Pope Francis visited the Children’s University Hospital (UCH) in Prokocim, Kraków as part of his visit to Krakow for the World Youth Day 2016. Below, you will find the full text of his prepared greetings:

Dear brothers and sisters,

A special part of my visit to Kraków is this meeting with the little patients of this hospital. I greet all of you and I thank the Prime Minister for his kind words. I would like to draw near to all children who are sick, to stand at their bedside, and embrace them. I would like to listen to everyone here, even if for only a moment, and to be still before questions that have no easy answers. And to pray.

The Gospel often shows us the Lord Jesus meeting the sick, embracing them and seeking them out. Jesus is always attentive to them. He looks at them in the same way that a mother looks at her sick child, and he is moved by compassion for them.

How I would wish that we Christians could be as close to the sick as Jesus was, in silence, with a caress, with prayer. Sadly, our society is tainted by the culture of waste, which is the opposite of the culture of acceptance. And the victims of the culture of waste are those who are weakest and most frail; and this is indeed cruel. How beautiful it is instead to see that in this hospital the smallest and most needy are welcomed and cared for. Thank you for this sign of love that you offer us! This is the sign of true civility, human and Christian: to make those who are most disadvantaged the centre of social and political concern.

Sometimes families feel alone in providing this care. What can be done? From this place, so full of concrete signs of love, I would like to say: Let us multiply the works of the culture of acceptance, works inspired by Christian love, love for Jesus crucified, for the flesh of Christ. To serve with love and tenderness persons who need our help makes all of us grow in humanity. It opens before us the way to eternal life. Those who engage in works of mercy have no fear of death.

I encourage all those who have made the Gospel call to “visit the sick” a personal life decision: physicians, nurses, healthcare workers, chaplains and volunteers. May the Lord help you to do your work well, here as in every other hospital in the world. May he reward you by giving you inner peace and a heart always capable of tenderness.

Thank you for this encounter! I carry you with me in affection and prayer. And please, do not forget to pray for me.


 

Joint statement by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs on the visit of Pope Francis to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp

Auschwitz

July 29, 2016

Ottawa, ON – Today, His Holiness Pope Francis will visit the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland. The Pope’s visit is an important occasion to recall the terrible consequences of hatred and indifference in the world. This will mark the third papal visit to the infamous site, following in the footsteps of Saint John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. The visit is in keeping with the papal record over the past half century of fostering Catholic-Jewish ties and speaking out against antisemitism, as well as other forms of hatred, intolerance, terrorism, and modern manifestations of genocide.

Shimon Koffler Fogel, Chief Executive Officer of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) remarked: “Today’s papal visit is a vital statement about the dangers of antisemitism, the duty to remember, and the imperative to speak out against genocide in our own time. We commend Pope Francis and our friends in the Catholic community for taking a strong stand against antisemitism, which poses a resurgent challenge in Europe and elsewhere. On this as on a range of issues, His Holiness has proven a principled leader who has inspired many beyond the Catholic Church. The Jewish community is appreciative that the Pope has today marked another milestone in Jewish-Catholic relations.”

Commenting on the occasion, the Most Reverend Douglas Crosby, O.M.I., Bishop of Hamilton and President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) said: “Can words ever properly convey the horrors which humanity and, in particular, the Jewish people experienced at Auschwitz? How does one begin to describe the evil and darkness which erupted so ferociously and mercilessly? When reflecting on Auschwitz each human being, through love, compassion, and truth, is challenged to plunge into the depths of their heart and confront the seeds of malice and intolerance, and to expose the contaminated soil of enmity which continues to plague humanity. When the heart and soul are corrupted by the diseases of hatred and indifference, their fruit brings forward so much suffering and despair in our world. But when transformed by faith and loving kindness, the soul and heart reap a harvest of hope, reconciliation and solidarity.”

The President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Chief Executive Officer of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs implore all people of good will to remember the past, not only with sadness and mourning, but as a lesson and a call to action. In so doing, today’s generation can learn the importance of vigilance in confronting hatred, and the imperative to work together to plant the seeds of a more just and loving society.

Mr. Shimon Koffler Fogel
Chief Executive Officer
Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA)

The Most Rev. Douglas Crosby, OMI
Bishop of Hamilton and President of the
Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops

Pope In Poland: WYD Welcome Address

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On Thursday, July 28, 2016 Pope Francis was officially welcomed to World Youth Day at Jordan Park, Blonia in Krakow. Below, find the full text of his prepared address:

Dear Young Friends, good evening!

At last we are together! Thank you for your warm welcome! I thank Cardinal Dziwisz, the bishops, priests, men and women religious, the seminarians and those who have accompanied you. I am also grateful to all those who made it possible for us to be here today, who “went the extra mile” so that we could celebrate our faith.

In this, the land of his birth, I especially want to thank Saint John Paul II, who first came up with the idea of these meetings and gave them such momentum. From his place in heaven, he is with us and he sees all of you: so many young people from such a variety of nations, cultures and languages but with one aim, that of rejoicing that Jesus is living in our midst. To say that Jesus is alive means to rekindle our enthusiasm in following him, to renew our passionate desire to be his disciples. What better opportunity to renew our friendship with Jesus than by building friendships among yourselves! What better way to build our friendship with Jesus than by sharing him with others! What better way to experience the contagious joy of the Gospel than by striving to bring the Good News to all kinds of painful and difficult situations!

Jesus called us to this Thirty-first World Youth Day. Jesus tells us: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall find mercy (Mt 5:7). Blessed indeed are they who can forgive, who show heartfelt compassion, who are capable of offering the very best of themselves to others.

Dear young people, in these days Poland is in a festive mood; in these days Poland wants to be the ever-youthful face of mercy. From this land, with you and all those young people who cannot be present today yet join us through the various communications media, we are going to make this World Youth Day an authentic Jubilee celebration.

In my years as a bishop, I have learned one thing. Nothing is more beautiful than seeing the enthusiasm, dedication, zeal and energy with which so many young people live their lives. When Jesus touches a young person’s heart, he or she becomes capable of truly great things. It is exciting to listen to you share your dreams, your questions and your impatience with those who say that things cannot change. For me, it is a gift of God to see so many of you, with all your questions, trying to make a difference. It is beautiful and heartwarming to see all that restlessness! Today the Church looks to you and wants to learn from you, to be reassured that the Father’s Mercy has an ever-youthful face, and constantly invites us to be part of his Kingdom.

Knowing your enthusiasm for mission, I repeat: mercy always has a youthful face! Because a merciful heart is motivated to move beyond its comfort zone. A merciful heart can go out and meet others; it is ready to embrace everyone. A merciful heart is able to be a place of refuge for those who are without a home or have lost their home; it is able to build a home and a family for those forced to emigrate; it knows the meaning of tenderness and compassion. A merciful heart can share its bread with the hungry and welcome refugees and migrants. To say the word “mercy” along with you is to speak of opportunity, future, commitment, trust, openness, hospitality, compassion and dreams.

Let me tell you another thing I have learned over these years. It pains me to meet young people who seem to have opted for “early retirement”. I worry when I see young people who have “thrown in the towel” before the game has even begun, who are defeated even before they begin to play, who walk around glumly as if life has no meaning. Deep down, young people like this are bored… and boring! But it is also hard, and troubling, to see young people who waste their lives looking for thrills or a feeling of being alive by taking dark paths and in the end having to pay for it… and pay dearly. It is disturbing to see young people squandering some of the best years of their lives, wasting their energies running after peddlers of fond illusions (where I come from, we call them “vendors of smoke”), who rob you of what is best in you.

We are gathered here to help one another other, because we do not want to be robbed of the best of ourselves. We don’t to be robbed of our energy, our joy, our dreams by fond illusions.

So I ask you: Are you looking for empty thrills in life, or do you want to feel a power that can give you a lasting sense of life and fulfilment? Empty thrills or the power of grace? To find fulfilment, to gain new strength, there is a way. It is not a thing or an object, but a person, and he is alive. His name is Jesus Christ.

Jesus can give you true passion for life. Jesus can inspire us not to settle for less, but to give the very best of ourselves. Jesus challenges us, spurs us on and helps us keep trying whenever we are tempted to give up. Jesus pushes us to keep our sights high and to dream of great things.

In the Gospel, we heard how Jesus, on his way to Jerusalem, stopped at a home – the home of Martha, Mary and Lazarus – and was welcomed. He stopped, went in and spent time with them. The two women welcomed him because they knew he was open and attentive. Our many jobs and responsibilities can make us a bit like Martha: busy, scattered, constantly running from place to place… but we can also be like Mary: whenever we see a beautiful landscape, or look at a video from a friend on our cellphone, we can stop and think, stop and listen… In these days, Jesus wants to stop and enter our home. He will look at us hurrying about with all our concerns, as he did with Martha… and he will wait for us to listen to him, like Mary, to make space for him amid the bustle. May these be days given over to Jesus and to listening to one another. May they help us welcome Jesus in all those with whom we share our homes, our neighbourhoods, our groups and our schools.

Whoever welcomes Jesus, learns to love as Jesus does. So he asks us if we want a full life: Do you want a complete life? Start by letting yourself be open and attentive! Because happiness is sown and blossoms in mercy. That is his answer, his offer, his challenge, his adventure: mercy. Mercy always has a youthful face. Like that of Mary of Bethany, who sat as a disciple at the feet of Jesus and joyfully listened to his words, since she knew that there she would find peace. Like that of Mary of Nazareth, whose daring “Yes” launched her on the adventure of mercy. All generations would call her blessed; to all of us she is the “Mother of Mercy”.

All together, then, we ask the Lord: “Launch us on the adventure of mercy! Launch us on the adventure of building bridges and tearing down walls, barriers and barbed wire. Launch us on the adventure of helping the poor, those who feel lonely and abandoned, or no longer find meaning in their lives. Send us, like Mary of Bethany, to listen attentively to those we do not understand, those of other cultures and peoples, even those we are afraid of because we consider them a threat. Make us attentive to our elders, as Mary of Nazareth was to Elizabeth, in order to learn from their wisdom.

Here we are, Lord! Send us to share your merciful love. We want to welcome you in our midst during this World Youth Day. We want to affirm that our lives are fulfilled when they are shaped by mercy, for that is the better part, and it will never be taken from us.


 

Pope Francis’ video dialogue with Italian youth gathered at St. John Paul II Shrine in Krakow on Wednesday evening

Frankie

In a video link with Italian youth on Wednesday evening, Pope Francis responded to questions of three young people. Below is the English translation of the dialogue.

P. –Good evening, your Holiness. First of all, thank you for finding the time, even though you have just arrived in Krakow, to link up with us. You wanted to be here with us this evening. Thank you, Holy Father. There are some young people here who, on behalf of the 90,000 Italians present in Krakow, would like to ask you some questions.

Girl:
After the railway accident on 12 July we are afraid of taking the train. Every day I catch the train to go to university, and that day I was not on the train purely by chance. Every day I sit in the front carriages, and there I used to meet and greet Luciano, one of the drivers who unfortunately lost his life in the accident. We felt at home in those trains, but now we are afraid. I want to ask, how can we return to normality? How can we defeat this fear and continue, to begin to be happy again on those trains which are our trains, our second home?

Pope Francis:
What happened to you is an injury; some, in the accident, received bodily injuries, and you were harmed in your heart, and this injury is fear. And when you feel this, you feel the injury of a shock. You have undergone a shock, a shock that stops you from feeling well, which hurts you. But this shock also gives you the opportunity to exceed yourself, to overcome. And as always in life, when we are injured, we are left with bruises and scars. Life is full of scars, life is full of scars, full of them. And with this, there will always be the memory of Luciano, or of others who are no longer with us as they were lost to us in the accident. And every day that you take the train you will have to feel the traces, let’s say, of that injury, of that scar, of what makes you suffer. And you are young, but life is full of this. And wisdom, learning to be a wise man, a wise woman, is precisely this: carrying forward the good and the bad things in life. There are things that cannot go on, and there are things that are beautiful. But the opposite also happens: how many young people like you are not able to go ahead in their own lives with the joy of beautiful things, and prefer to give up, to fall under the sway of drugs, or let themselves be defeated by life? In the end, the game is like this: either you win or it defeats you, life! Win in life yourself, it’s better! And do this with courage, even with suffering. And when there is joy, do it with joy, because you will lead you on and save you from an ugly illness, that of becoming neurotic. Please no – this, no!

Girl:
Dear Pope Francis, my name is Andrea, I am 15 years old and I come from Bergamo. I arrived in Italy when I was nine years old, around six years ago. The children in my class began to make fun of me, as I had just arrived, in fairly offensive terms. At the beginning I did not understand Italian well, I didn’t understand the words, and so I let it be. Then, once I began to understand, I was very upset, but I did not respond: I did not want to sink to their level. In this way I spent many years, up to the third year of middle school, when they exceeded the limit with all the offensive messages on the social networks, for which I felt practically useless and I decided to end it all, because in my mind at that moment I didn’t count any more and I felt marginalised by everyone in our village. And so I decided to end it all, and I attempted suicide. I did not succeed and I ended up in hospital. And there I understood that it was not me, that illness, that I was not the one who needed to be cured, that I didn’t deserve to stay there closed away in hospital. They were in the wrong, they were the ones who needed to be cured, not me. So I lifted myself up and decided not to end it all, because it was not worth it, because I could be strong. And indeed now I am well and I am truly strong. And on the one hand I am thankful for having treated myself in this way because in any case I am not strong, partly also thanks to them, because they put me in that situation. I have become strong because I have believed in myself, in my parents, and anyway I believed I could get through it, and I have. And I am here, and proud to be here.

I wanted to ask you, given that I have forgiven them in part, because I do not want to hate anyone, I have forgiven them to a point, but I also still suffer somewhat. I wanted to ask you, how can I forgive these people? How can I forgive them for everything they did to me?

Pope Francis:
Thank you for your account. You speak about a problem that is very common among children and even among those people who are not children: cruelty. But you see that children too are cruel, at times, and they have a capacity to hurt you where it hurts you most: to hurt your heart, to hurt your dignity, to hurt your nationality as in your case, no? You did not understand Italian well and they made fun of you with language, with words. … Cruelty is a human attitude that is right at the basis of all wars, all of them. The cruelty that prevents people from growing, that kills the other, that also kills the good name of another person. When a person speaks badly of another, this is cruel: it is cruel because it destroys that person’s reputation. But, you know, I like to repeat an expression when I speak about this cruelty of language: gossip is terrorism, the terrorism of gossip. The cruelty of language, or of what you felt, is like launching a bomb that destroys you or destroys anyone, and the one who throws it does not harm himself. This is a form of terrorism, it is something that we have to defeat. How can we defeat this? You have chosen the right path: silence and patience, and you finished with that beautiful word, forgiveness. But forgiving is not easy, because one may say: “Yes, I forgive but I do not forget”. And you will always carry this cruelty with you, this terrorism of ugly words, of words that harm and that try to exclude you from the community. There is a word in Italian that I did not know, which I learned when I first came to Italy: “extracomunitari”, which refers to people from other countries who come to live with us. But it is precisely this cruelty that ensures that you, who are from another country, become an “extracomunitario”. They drive you away from the community, they do not welcome you. It is something we must combat. You have been brave! You have been very brave in this. But it is necessary to fight against this terrorism of language, this terrorism of gossip, of insults, of driving people away with insults or by saying things to them that hurt them in their heart.

Is it possible to forgive totally? It is a grace we must ask of the Lord. We, by ourselves, cannot: we make the effort, as you have done, but forgiveness is a grace that the Lord gives you. Forgiving your enemy, forgiving those who have hurt you and those who have done you harm. When Jesus in the Gospel tells us, “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also”, it means this: leave this wisdom of forgiveness, which is a grace, in the hands of the Lord. But we must also do our part to forgive. I thank you for your witness. And there is also another attitude that counters this terrorism of language, whether they may be gossip, or insults: it is the attitude of meekness. Stay silent, treat others well, do not respond with something else that is bad. Like Jesus: Jesus was mild of heart. And we live in a world where we are used to responding to an insult with another. We insult each other and there is a lack of meekness. Ask the grace of meekness, of meekness of heart. And there we also find the grace that opens the way to forgiveness. Thank you for your witness.

Boy:
Dear Pope Francis, we are three boys and a priest, from the 350 people from Verona who departed to come here to WYD but had to interrupt their trip to Munich, last Friday, following the attack that we have all experienced first-hand, as we were there during those hours. We were told to come home, we were obliged to return home. We wanted to continue on our trip but it was not permitted. Fortunately, once we returned, we were given this possibility of returning here and we seized it with great joy and with great hope. After everything that happened, after the fear, we asked ourselves, and would like to ask you, how can we young people live and disseminate peace in this world so full of hatred?

Pope Francis:
You said two words which are the key to understanding: peace and hatred. Peace builds bridges, whereas hatred is the builder of walls. You must decide, in life: either I will make bridges or I will make walls. Walls divide and hatred grows: when there is division, hatred grows. Bridges unite, and when there is a bridge hatred can go away, because I can hear the other and speak with the other. When you shake the hand of a friend, of a person, you make a human bridge. You make a bridge. Instead, when you strike someone, when you insult another person, you build a wall. Hatred always grows with walls. At times, it may happen that you want to make a bridge and you offer your hand, but the other party does not take it; these are the humiliations that we must suffer in life in order to do good. But always make bridges. And you have come here: you were stopped and sent home, then you took a risk on the bridge to try again: this is the right attitude, always. Is there a difficulty that prevents me from doing something? Go back and then go ahead, return and move on. This is what we must do: make bridges. Do not fall to the ground, do not say, “Oh, I can’t”, no: always look for a way of building bridges. You are there, with you hands, make bridges, all of you! Take each other by the hand. I want to see lots of human bridges. Like that, raise up your hands, that’s right! This is the plan for life: make bridges, human bridges. Thank you.

P. – Holy Father, thank you, because you have given us an extraordinary gift this evening! Thank you Holy Father, thank you truly.

Pope Francis:
Thank you, and may the Lord bless you. Pray for me.


CNS Photo/Paul Haring

Pope In Poland: Homily at Jasna Gora

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On Thursday, July 28, 2016, during his visit to Poland for World Youth Day Krakow 2016, Pope Francis celebrated the 1050th anniversary of the Baptism of Poland, in the area near the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa. Below, you will find the full text of his homily:

From the readings of this Liturgy a divine thread emerges, one that passes through human history and weaves the history of salvation.

The apostle Paul tells us of God’s great plan: “When the fullness of time had come, God sent his son, born of a woman” (Gal 4:4). But history tells us that when this “fullness of time” came, when God became man, humanity was not especially well-disposed, nor was there even a period of stability and peace: there was no “Golden Age”. The scenario of this world did not merit the coming of God; indeed, “his own received him not” (Jn 1:11). The fullness of time was thus a gift of grace: God filled our time out of the abundance of his mercy. Out of sheer love he inaugurated the fullness of time.

It is particularly striking how the coming of God into history came about: he was “born of a woman”. There was no triumphal entrance or striking epiphany of the Almighty. He did not reveal himself as a brilliantly rising sun, but entered the world in the simplest of ways, as a child from his mother, with that “style” that Scripture tells us is like a rainfall upon the land (cf. Is 55:10), like the smallest of seeds which sprouts and grows (cf. Mk 4:31-32). Thus, contrary to our expectations and perhaps even our desires, the kingdom of God, now as then, “does not come in a way that attracts attention” (Lk 17:20), but rather in littleness, in humility.

Today’s Gospel takes up this divine thread delicately passing through history: from the fullness of time we come to the “third day” of Jesus’ ministry (cf. Jn 2:1) and the proclamation of the “hour” of salvation (cf. v. 4). Time shortens, God always shows himself in littleness. And so we come to “the first of the signs that Jesus did” (v. 11), in Cana of Galilee.

There is no amazing deed done before the crowd, or even a word to settle a heated political question like that of the subjection of the people to the power of Rome. Instead, in a small village, a simple miracle takes place and brings joy to the wedding of a young and completely anonymous family. At the same time, the water that became wine at the wedding banquet is a great sign, for it reveals to us the spousal face of God, a God who sits at table with us, who dreams and holds communion with us. It tells us that the Lord does not keep his distance, but is near and real. He is in our midst and he takes care of us, without making decisions in our place and without troubling himself with issues of power. He prefers to let himself be contained in little things, unlike ourselves, who always want to possess something greater. To be attracted by power, by grandeur, by appearances, is tragically human. It is  great temptation that tries to insinuate itself everywhere. But to give oneself to others, eliminating distances, dwelling in littleness and living the reality of one’s everyday life: this is exquisitely divine.

God saves us, then by making himself little, near and real. First God makes himself little. The Lord, who is “meek and humble of heart” (Mt 11:29), especially loves the little ones, to whom the kingdom of God is revealed (Mt 11:25); they are great in his eyes and he looks to them (cf. Is 66:2). He especially loves them because they are opposed to the “pride of life” that belongs to the world (cf. 1 Jn 2:16). The little ones speak his own language, that of the humble love that brings freedom. So he calls the simple and receptive to be his spokespersons; he entrusts to them the revelation of his name and the secrets of his heart. Our minds turn to so many sons and daughters of your own people, like the martyrs made the defenseless power of the Gospel shine forth, like those ordinary yet remarkable people who bore witness to the Lord’s love amid great trials, and those meek and powerful heralds of mercy who were Saint John Paul II and Saint Faustina. Through these “channels” of his love, the Lord has granted priceless gifts to the whole Church and to all mankind. It is significant that this anniversary of the baptism of your people exactly coincides with the Jubilee of mercy.

Then too, God is near, his kingdom is at hand (cf. Mk 1:15). The Lord does not want to be feared like a powerful and aloof sovereign. He does not want to remain on his throne in heaven or in history books, but loves to come down to our everyday affairs, to walk with us. As we think of the gift of a millennium so filled with faith, we do well before all else to thank God for having walked with your people, having taken you by the hand and accompanied you in so many situations. That is what we too, in the Church, are constantly called to do: to listen, to get involved and be neighbours, sharing in people’s joys and struggles, so that the Gospel can spread every more consistently and fruitfully: radiating goodness through the transparency of our lives.

Finally, God is real. Today’s readings make it clear that everything about God’s way of acting is real and concrete. Divine wisdom “is like a master worker” and “plays” (cf. Prov 8:30). The Word becomes flesh, is born of a mother, is born under the law (cf. Gal 4:4), has friends and goes to a party. The eternal is communicated by spending time with people and in concrete situations. Your own history, shaped by the Gospel, the Cross and fidelity to the Church, has seen the contagious power of a genuine faith, passed down from family to family, from fathers to sons and above all from mothers and grandmothers, whom we need so much to thank. In particular, you have been able to touch with your hand the real and provident tenderness of the Mother of all, whom I have come here as a pilgrim to venerate and whom we have acclaimed in the Psalm as the “great pride of our nation” (Jud 15:9).

It is to Mary, then that we, who have gathered here, now look. In her, we find complete conformity to the Lord. Throughout history, interwoven with the divine thread, is also a “Marian thread”. If there is any human glory, any merit of our own in the fullness of time, it is she. Mary is that space, preserved free from sin, where God  himself. She is the stairway God took to descend and draw near to us. She is the clearest sign of the fullness of time.

In the life of Mary we admire that littleness that God loves, for he “looked upon the humility of his servant”, and “lifted up the lowly” (Lk 1:48, 52). He was so pleased with her that he let his flesh be woven from hers, so that the Virgin became the Mother of God, as an ancient hymn, sung for centuries, proclaims. To you who uninterruptedly come to her, converging upon this, the spiritual capital of the country, may she continue to point the way. May she help you to weave in your own lives the humble and simple thread of the Gospel.

At Cana, as here in Jasna Góra, Mary offers us her nearness and helps us to discover what we need to live life to the full. Now as then, she does this with a mother’s love, by her presence and counsel, teaching us to avoid hasty decisions and grumbling in our communities. As the Mother of a family, she wants to keep us together. Through unity, the journey of your people has surmounted any number of harsh experiences. May the Mother, who stood steadfast at the foot of the Cross and persevered in prayer with the disciples in awaiting the Holy Spirit, obtain for you the desire to leave behind all past wrongs and wounds, and to build fellowship with all, without ever yielding to the temptation to withdraw or to domineer.

At Cana, Our Lady showed great realism. She is a Mother who takes people’s problems to heart and acts. She recognizes moments of difficulty and handles them discreetly, efficiently and decisively. She is neither imperious nor intrusive, but a Mother and a handmaid. Let us ask for the grace to imitate her sensitivity and her creativity in serving those in need, and to know how beautiful it is to spend our lives in the service of others, without favourites or distinctions. May Mary, Cause of our Joy, who brings peace amid the profusion of sin and the turmoil of history, obtain for us the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and enable us to be good and faithful servants.

Through her intercession, may the fullness of time come about also for us. The transition from before to after Christ means little if it remains a date in the annals of history. May each one of us be able to make an interior passage, a Passover of the heart, towards the divine “style” incarnated by Mary. May we do everything in littleness, and accompany others at close hand, with a simple and open heart.


 

Pope in Poland: Meeting with Authorities

PopeAuthorities

On Wednesday, July 27, 2016, Pope Francis arrived in Poland for the celebration of World Youth Day Krakow 2016. He was greeted at the “St John Paul II” International Airport in Balice-Kraków. Following his arrival, he met with Authorities at Wawel Castle in Krakow. Below, find the full text of his address:

Mr President,
Honourable Authorities,
Distinguished Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
University Rectors,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I offer a respectful greeting to His Excellency the President, and I thank him for his gracious welcome and kind words. I am pleased to greet the distinguished members of Government and Parliament, the University Rectors, the regional and municipal Authorities, as well as members of the Diplomatic Corps and the other authorities present. This is my first visit to central-eastern Europe and I am happy to begin with Poland, the homeland of the unforgettable Saint John Paul II, originator and promoter of the World Youth Days. Pope John Paul liked to speak of a Europe that breathes with two lungs. The ideal of a new European humanism is inspired by the creative and coordinated breathing of these two lungs, together with the shared civilization that has its deepest roots in Christianity.

Memory is the hallmark of the Polish people. I was always impressed by Pope John Paul’s vivid sense of history. Whenever he spoke about a people, he started from its history, in order to bring out its wealth of humanity and spirituality. A consciousness of one’s own identity, free of any pretensions to superiority, is indispensable for establishing a national community on the foundation of its human, social, political, economic and religious heritage, and thus inspiring social life and culture in a spirit of constant fidelity to tradition and, at the same time, openness to renewal and the future. In this sense, you recently celebrated the 1,050th anniversary of the Baptism of Poland. That was indeed a powerful moment of national unity, which reaffirmed that harmony, even amid a diversity of opinions, is the sure path to achieving the common good of the entire Polish people.

Similarly, fruitful cooperation in the international sphere and mutual esteem grow through awareness of, and respect for, one’s own identity and that of others. Dialogue cannot exist unless each party starts out from its own identity. In the daily life of each individual and society, though, there are two kinds of memory: good and bad, positive and negative. Good memory is what the Bible shows us in the Magnificat, the canticle of Mary, who praises the Lord and his saving works. Negative memory, on the other hand, keeps the mind and heart obsessively fixed on evil, especially the wrongs committed by others. Looking at your recent history, I thank God that you have been able to let good memory have the upper hand, for example, by celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the forgiveness mutually offered and accepted between the Polish and German episcopates, following the Second World War. That initiative, which initially involved the ecclesial communities, also sparked an irreversible social, political, cultural and religious process that changed the history of relationships between the two peoples. Here too we can think of the Joint Declaration between the Catholic Church in Poland and the Orthodox Church of Moscow: an act that inaugurated a process of rapprochement and fraternity not only between the two Churches, but also between the two peoples.

The noble Polish nation has thus shown how one can nurture good memory while leaving the bad behind. This requires a solid hope and trust in the One who guides the destinies of peoples, opens closed doors, turns problems into opportunities and creates new scenarios from situations that appeared hopeless. This is evident from Poland’s own historical experience. After the storms and dark times, your people, having regained its dignity, could say, like the Jews returning from Babylon, “We were like those who dream… our mouth was filled with laughter and our tongues with shouts of joy” (Ps 126:1-2). An awareness of the progress made and joy at goals achieved, become in turn a source of strength and serenity for facing present challenges. These call for the courage of truth and constant ethical commitment, to ensure that decisions and actions, as well as human relationships, will always be respectful of the dignity of the person. In this, every sphere of action is involved, including the economy, environmental concerns and the handling of the complex phenomenon of migration.

This last area calls for great wisdom and compassion, in order to overcome fear and to achieve the greater good. There is a need to seek out the reasons for emigration from Poland and to facilitate the return of all those wishing to repatriate. Also needed is a spirit of readiness to welcome those fleeing from wars and hunger, and solidarity with those deprived of their fundamental rights, including the right to profess one’s faith in freedom and safety. At the same time, new forms of exchange and cooperation need to be developed on the international level in order to resolve the conflicts and wars that force so many people to leave their homes and their native lands. This means doing everything possible to alleviate the suffering while tirelessly working with wisdom and constancy for justice and peace, bearing witness in practice to human and Christian values.

In the light of its thousand-year history, I invite the Polish nation to look with hope to the future and the issues before it. Such an approach will favour a climate of respect between all elements of society and constructive debate on differing positions. It will also create the best conditions for civil, economic and even demographic growth, fostering the hope of providing a good life for coming generations. The young should not simply have to deal with problems, but rather be able to enjoy the beauty of creation, the benefits we can provide and the hope we can offer. Social policies in support of the family, the primary and fundamental cell of society, assisting underprivileged and poor families, and helping responsibly to welcome life, will thus prove even more effective. Life must always be welcomed and protected. These two things go together – welcome and protection, from conception to natural death. All of us are called to respect life and care for it. On the other hand, it is the responsibility of the State, the Church and society to accompany and concretely help all those who find themselves in serious difficulty, so that a child will never be seen as a burden but as a gift, and those who are most vulnerable and poor will not be abandoned.

Mr President,

As throughout its long history, Poland can count on the cooperation of the Catholic Church, so that, in the light of the foundational Christian principles that forged Poland’s history and identity, the nation may, in changed historical conditions, move forward in fidelity to its finest traditions and with trust and hope, even in times of difficulty.

In expressing once again my gratitude, I offer heartfelt good wishes to you and all present, for a serene and fruitful service of the common good.

May Our Lady of Czestochowa bless and protect Poland!