Interview of Pope Francis with Journalists During the Return Flight from the Holy Land
Francis p.p.


(24-26 MAY 2014)

Papal Flight
Monday, 26 May 2014

(Father Lombardi)

We thank the Pope very much for being here. After so exhausting a journey, he has been willing to meet us. So we’re very grateful to him.

We have organized ourselves – the journalists worked this out on their own – in some of the major language groups, which will present a few people to ask questions. I have not put any limits on them, because I know that you are willing to give them free scope… unless you yourself would like to say something first by way of introduction… Let us go to the questions.

The first question is from the Italian group:

  1. Holy Father, in these days you performed gestures which made the rounds of the whole world: putting your hand on the wall in Bethlehem, making the sign of the cross, embracing the survivors today at Yad Vashem, but also kissing the Holy Sepulchre yesterday with Bartholomaios, and so forth. We wanted to ask you if you had thought beforehand about all these gestures, decided on them. Why did you choose them and what do you think will be the effect of these gestures, in addition, naturally, to the grandiose gesture of inviting Peres and Abu Mazen to the Vatican…
  2. Gestures, the most authentic gestures, are not those you think about beforehand, but the ones that come naturally, no? I thought: “Something might be done”, but the concrete gestures, none of these was planned as such. Some things, for example inviting the two Presidents to pray, we had thought of doing there, but there were so many logistical problems, so very many, since they also have to take account of the territory, where it would take place, and that is not easy. So we thought of a meeting… but in the end we came up with this invitation which I hope will turn out well. But [the gestures] weren’t thought out beforehand and .. I don’t know, I get the idea of doing something, but it’s spontaneous, that’s the way it is. At least, to tell the truth, an idea that “something could be done”, but the concrete [gesture] did not come to me. For example, at Yad Vashem, nothing [came]; and then it did. That is what happened.

(Father Lombardi)

Good. Now a second question comes from the English language group.

  1. You have spoken out forcefully against the sexual abuse of minors by the clergy, by priests. You created a special commission to improve the way this problem is handled at the level of the universal Church. Practically speaking: we now know that in all the local Churches there are norms which impose a serious moral and often legal duty to cooperate with local civil authorities, in one way or another. What would you do in the case of a bishop who clearly did not respect, didn’t follow, these obligations?
  2. In Argentina, we say that people who get special treatment are “Daddy’s little baby”. As far as this problem is concerned, there will be no such “little babies”. Right now three bishops are under investigation. Three, and one has already been convicted and his punishment is being decided. There is no special treatment. The abuse of minors is truly a horrible crime… We know that it is a serious problem everywhere, but my concern is about the Church. A priest who does this betrays the body of the Lord, because this priest is supposed to lead this boy or girl, this young man or woman, to holiness. And these young people, these children are trusting… and then instead of leading them to holiness, he abuses them. And this is extremely serious! It is like… let me give just one example: it is like saying a black mass. You are supposed to lead them to holiness and you create a life-long problem for them … In the near future, at Santa Marta, there will be a Mass with some persons who have been abused, followed by a meeting: with them and myself, along with Cardinal O’Malley, who is part of the commission. But on this issue we need to keep moving forward: zero tolerance.

(Father Lombardi)

Thank you, Your Holiness. And now the Spanish language group.

  1. From the first day of your pontificate you have sent this clear message about a Church which is poor and for the poor, poor in simplicity, austerity. What do you plan to do to eliminate things which contradict this message of austerity? (The question went on to speak about situations recently reported in the press, including a transaction at the IOR involving 15 million euro).
  2. The Lord Jesus once said to his disciples – it is in the Gospel: “It is inevitable that there will be scandals…” We are human beings, all of us are sinners. And there will be scandals, there will be. The issue is to prevent more from happening! In the administration of finances, honesty and transparency [are essential]. The two commissions, the one which studied the IOR and the other which studied the Vatican as a whole, have reached their conclusions and offered proposals, and now, the ministry (we can call it that), the Secretariat for the Economy headed by Cardinal Pell, will pursue the reforms which these commissions recommended. But there will be inconsistencies, they will always be there because we are human, and so reform has to be ongoing. The Fathers of the Church used to say: “Ecclesia semper reformanda”. We have to be concerned to reform the Church day by day, because we are sinners, we are weak, and there are going to be problems. The administrative reorganization which the Secretariat for the Economy is working on will greatly help to avoid scandals, problems… For example, at the IOR I believe that at this point some… 1,600 accounts have been closed, belonging to people who are not entitled to have an account at the IOR. The IOR is meant to assist the Church: bishops of dioceses are entitled to have an account there, as well as employees of the Vatican and their widows or widowers, for their pensions.. That is what it is meant for. But other private individuals do not have that right…embassies, but only during the time of their embassy and not thereafter. It is not something open. And it is a good thing to close accounts which have no business being there. I would like to say one thing: in asking your question you brought up that matter of the 15 million euro. It is being looked into, the whole affair is not clear. It could be true, but at this time nothing definitive has been established: the problem is being studied, to be fair. Thank you.

(Father Lombardi)

Now it is the turn of the French language group.

  1. Holy Father, after the Middle East, we are now returning to Europe. Are you concerned about the growth of populism in Europe, which was once again evident yesterday in the European elections?
  2. In these days, I have barely had time to pray the Our Father! … I really don’t know anything about the elections, really. I don’t have information about who won, who didn’t win. I haven’t seen the news. When you say populism, in what sense do you mean it?
  3. In the sense that many Europeans are afraid nowadays; they think that there is no future for Europe. Unemployment is high and the anti-Europe party has made great gains in these elections…
  4. This is something I have been hearing about. About Europe, about people’s confidence or lack of confidence in Europe. And about the euro, how some people want to turn back… I don’t know a lot about these things. But you said a key word: unemployment. This is serious. It is serious because I see it this way, putting it simply. We are in a world economic system which is centred on money, not on the human person. A genuine economic system is centred on man and woman, the human person. Today money is at the centre. To maintain itself, its equilibrium, this system has to adopt certain “throwaway” measures. So you throw away children – the birth rate in Europe is not very high! I believe that in Italy it stands at 1.2%; in France, you have 2%, maybe a little more; in Spain, less than Italy – I don’t know if it even reaches 1%… Children are discarded. The elderly are discarded: old people are not useful; in the present situation, at this moment, we visit them because they are retired and needy, but it is a matter of the present situation. The elderly are also discarded with situations of hidden euthanasia in many countries. In a word, they are given medical care to a certain point, and then… And right now young people are being discarded and this is something very serious. It is extremely serious. In Italy, I believe that the rate of unemployment among the young is nearly 40%, I’m not sure. In Spain, I am sure that it is about 50%. And in Andalusia, in southern Spain, it is 60%! This means that there is an entire generation which is “neither-nor”: they neither study nor work, and this is something really serious! A generation of young people is being thrown away. For me, this throwaway culture is extremely serious. But it is not only in Europe, it is a bit everywhere, but in Europe we really feel it. A comparison can be made with the culture of well-being, ten years ago. And this is tragic. It is a difficult moment. It is an inhumane economic system. I didn’t hesitate to write in the Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium that this economic system kills. And I repeat this. I don’t know if to some extent I have addressed your concern… Thank you.

(Father Lombardi)

It is now the turn of the Portuguese language group.

  1. Holiness, I would like to ask you how should the “Jerusalem question” be resolved, so as to obtain a lasting and, as you have said, stable peace? Thank you.
  2. There are many proposals about the Jerusalem question. The Catholic Church, we can say the Vatican, has its own position from a religious perspective: it will be the city of peace of the three religions. This from a religious standpoint. The concrete measures for peace must emerge from negotiations. There have to be negotiations. I would be in agreement if from negotiations, there might come forward this part: it will be capital of one state, of another… But these are conjectures. I am not saying: “It has to be this way”, no. These are proposals which have to be negotiated. Really, I don’t feel competent to say, “This or that should be done”, because it would be madness on my part. But I believe that one has to enter into negotiations with honesty, a spirit of fraternity and mutual trust. And there everything is negotiated: all the territory, also the relations. Courage is needed to do this, and I fervently pray to the Lord that these two leaders, these two governments, will have the courage to go forward. This is the only path to peace. I only say what the Church must say and has always said: Jerusalem should be preserved as the capital of the three religions, as a point of reference, as a city of peace – I was also about to say “sacred”, but that is not the right word – but [a city] of peace and [a] religious [city].

(Father Lombardi)

Thank you, Holiness. Now we call upon the representative of the German language.

  1. Thank you, Holiness. During your pilgrimage, you spoke at length, and on a number of occasions met with Patriarch Bartholomaios. We were wondering if you also spoke about concrete means of rapprochement, if you also had occasion to speak of this. I wonder also if perhaps the Catholic Church could be able to learn something from the Orthodox Churches – I am speaking of married priests, a question which many Catholics in Germany consider urgent. Thank you.
  2. But the Catholic Church has married priests, no? Greek Catholics, Coptic Catholics, no? They exist, in the Eastern rites, there are married priests. Because celibacy is not a dogma of faith, it is a rule of life which I highly esteem and I believe is a gift for the Church. Since it is not a dogma of faith, the door is always open: at this time we have not spoken about this, as a programme, at least not now. We have more important things to do. With Bartolomaios, this subject was not broached because it is secondary, really, in our relations with the Orthodox. We spoke about unity, but unity happens along the way, unity is a journey. We can never create unity in a theology conference. He told me something I already knew, namely, that Athenagoras had said to Paul VI: “Let us quietly go forward; we can put all the theologians on an island to carry on their discussions, while we keep walking on in life!” It is true, as I thought it was… No, no, it is true. Bartholomaios himself told me so in these days. To walk together, to pray together, to cooperate on the many things we can do together, to join in helping one another. For example, with our churches. In Rome, and in numerous other cities, many Orthodox communities use Catholic churches at certain times as a help in this moving forward. Another thing about which we spoke, which perhaps the Pan-Orthodox council may do something, is the date of Easter, since it is a little ridiculous: “Tell me when does Christ rise for you?” … “Next week” … “For me he rose last week…” Yes, the date of Easter is one sign of unity. And with Bartholomaios we spoke as brothers. We like each other, we tell each other about our difficulties in governance. And one thing we have frequently spoken about is the issue of ecology: he is very concerned [about this], as I am. We have spoken enough to cooperate on a joint project on the issue. Thank you.

(Father Lombardi)

Since here we are not only Europeans or Americans, and so on, but also Asians, let’s now have a question from the representative of the Asian group, since you are also preparing to make trips to Asia.

  1. Your next journey will be in South Korea, and thus I would like to ask you about the Asian countries. In countries close to South Korea – there is no freedom of religion or freedom of expression. What are you thinking of doing on behalf of people who suffer from these situations?
  2. As far as Asia is concerned, two trips are planned: this one to South Korea for the meeting with Asian young people, and then, next January, a two-day visit to Sri Lanka and the Philippines, in the areas struck by the typhoon. The problem of the lack of freedom to practice one’s religion is not only found in certain Asian countries: in some, yes, but also in other countries of the world. Religious freedom is not something which all countries have. Some exert a more or less light, unobtrusive control; others adopt measures which end up as a true persecution of believers. There are martyrs! There are martyrs, today, Christian martyrs. Catholic and non-Catholics, but martyrs just the same. And in some places one cannot wear a crucifix or have a Bible. You can’t teach catechism to children, today! And I believe, I don’t think I am mistaken – that nowadays there are more martyrs than in the early days of the Church. We need to draw close to them, prudently in some places, in order to come to their aid; we must pray much for these Churches which suffer: they suffer greatly. Bishops too, and the Holy See, are quietly working to help these countries, the Christians of these countries. But is not an easy thing. For example, I’ll tell you one thing. In one country it is prohibited to pray together: it is forbidden. But the Christians there want to celebrate the Eucharist! And there is someone, a worker, who is a priest. And he goes there, to the table, and they make believe they’re drinking tea and they celebrate the Eucharist. If the police come, they quickly hide the books and take their tea. This is happening today. It is not easy.

(Father Lombardi)

And now we return to the Italian language group.

  1. Holiness, as Pope you have a great number of commitments and you keep up a very busy schedule, as we have seen these days. If at some point, let’s say, some time from now, you feel that you no longer have the strength to carry out your ministry, do you think you would make the same choice as your predecessor, and leave the papacy?
  2. I will do what the Lord tells me to do. Pray and seek God’s will. But I believe that Benedict XVI is not a unique case. It so happened that his strength was failing, and in all seriousness – he is a man of faith and very humble – he made this decision. I believe that he is an institution. Seventy years ago, for the most part retired bishops didn’t exist. And now, we have plenty of them. What will happen with retired Popes? I believe that we should see him as an institution: he opened a door, the door to retired Popes. Will there be others? God knows. But this door is open. I believe that a Bishop of Rome, a Pope, who feels that his strength is failing – because these days we are living longer – has to ask the same questions that Pope Benedict asked.

(Father Lombardi)

We now return to the English language group.

  1. Holy Father, today you met a group of Holocaust survivors. Obviously, you are well aware that a figure who remains controversial because of his role during the Holocaust is your predecessor, Pope Pius XII. Before becoming Pope, you wrote or said that you held Pius XII in high regard, but that you wanted to see the archives opened before coming to a definite conclusion. So we want to know whether you intend to go ahead with the cause of Pius XII, or will wait for further developments in the process before making a decision. Thank you.
  2. Thank you. The cause of Pius XII remains open; I have looked into it. There is still no miracle, and without miracles it cannot proceed. That is where things stand. We have to wait to see how things turn out, how the cause proceeds, and then think about making decisions. But the fact remains that there is no miracle and at least one miracle is needed for beatification. This is where the cause of Pius XII stands today. And I cannot think: “Will I beatify him or not”, because it is a slow process. Thank you.

(Father Lombardi)

Now let us go to Argentina for another question from the Spanish language group.

  1. You have become a spiritual leader, and also a political leader, and you are raising many expectations, both within the Church and in the international community. Within the Church, for example, what is going to happen with communion to the divorced and remarried, and in the international community, this mediation with which you surprised the world, for which this meeting will take place in the Vatican… My question is whether you are afraid of failure, after having raised so many expectations. Aren’t you afraid of somehow failing? Thank you.
  2. First of all, let me clarify something about this meeting in the Vatican. It will be a meeting to pray, not to mediate or to seek solutions, no. We will meet to pray, only. And then each one will go home. But I believe that prayer is important and that praying together without discussions of any kind is helpful. Perhaps I did not explain things well, before this, about what it will involve. It will be a prayer meeting: there will be a rabbi, there will be a Muslim and myself. I have asked the Custos of the Holy Land to organize some of the practical matters.

Second, thank you for your question about the divorced. The Synod will be on the family, the problem of the family, the treasures of the family, the present situation of the family. The preliminary talk which Cardinal Kasper gave had five chapters: four of them were on the family, the beauty of the family, its theological foundations, and problems facing families; while the fifth chapter dealt with the pastoral issue of separations, declarations of marriage nullity, divorced persons… Part of this issue is that of communion. I have not been happy that so many people – even church people, priests – have said: “Ah, the Synod will be about giving communion to the divorced”, and went straight to that point. I felt as if everything was being reduced to casuistry. No the issue is bigger and wider. Today, as we all know, the family is in crisis, it is in crisis worldwide. Young people don’t want to get married, they don’t get married or they live together. Marriage is in crisis, and so the family is in crisis. I don’t want us to fall into this casuistry of “can we” or “can’t we”? … So I thank you so much for this question, because it gives me the opportunity to clarify this.

The pastoral problem of the family is complex, very complex. And it has to be looked at case by case. Something Pope Benedict had said on three different occasions about the divorced has been very helpful to me. First, in Valle d’Aosta, another time in Milan, and a the third time in the consistory, the last public consistory which he called for the creation of cardinals. [He said that there is a need] to study the annulment process; to examine the faith with which people enter marriage and to make clear that the divorced are not excommunicated, [even though] they are often treated as if they were. This is something serious: the casuistry of the problem.

The Synod will be on the family: both the rich reality of the family and the problems faced by families. Solutions, annulments, all of this. This problem too, but as part of a larger picture. Now I would like to tell you why the Synod will be on the family: this has been a very powerful spiritual experience for me. During my second year as Pope, Archbishop Eterović, then the Secretary [General] of the Synod, approached me with three themes that the Post-synodal Council had proposed for the forthcoming Synod. The first was very striking, very good: what Jesus Christ brings to contemporary men and women. That was the title, following up on the Synod on evangelization. I agreed, we spoke for bit about changes in the method of the Synod, and at the end, I said: “Let’s add something else: what Jesus Christ brings to contemporary men and women and to the family”. Good. Then, when I went to the first meeting of the Post-synodal Council, I saw that the title was there in full, but gradually people were saying: “Yes, yes, “what he brings to the family”, “what Jesus Christ brings to the family”, and so, without realizing it, the Post-synodal commission ended up speaking about the family. I am sure that it was the spirit of the Lord guiding us even to the choice of this title. I am sure of it, because today the family truly needs so many forms of pastoral assistance. Thank you.

(Father Lombardi)

Now we once more have the French group.

  1. Holiness, can you tell us what the obstacles are to your reform of the Roman Curia, and where it presently stands?
  2. Well, the first obstacle is me! (laughter). No, we’re doing well, because it was… I don’t recall the date, but three months, or a little less after my election, that the Council of eight Cardinals was named…

(Father Lombardi)

… one month after the election…

  1. … One month after the election. Then, in early July we had our first meeting and from that time on we have been working. What does the Council do? The Council studies the entire Constitution Pastor Bonus and the Roman Curia. It has held consultations worldwide and with the whole Curia, and it is beginning to examine certain things. “This could be done one way, this in another..” Amalgamating some offices, for example, to streamline the organization… One of the key issues was finances, and the office for the economy will help greatly. It must work together with the Secretary of State, because everything is connected, everything happens together… Presently we have four days of work with this commission in July, and then, in September I think, another four. We are working. We are working hard and the results are not yet all evident, but the financial part is what emerged first, since there were some problems which the press had reported at length, and which we have to examine. The obstacles are the normal obstacles of the whole process. Studying the path… Convincing people is so important. Convincing, helping… Some people who do not see things clearly, but every reform entails this. But I am pleased, I am really pleased. We are working quite hard and this commission greatly assists us. Thank you

(Father Lombardi)

Holiness, thank you for making yourself available; pardon me if I interrupt your conversation. You have been most generous, all the more so following an extraordinary voyage which proved exciting for all of us, perhaps not as much as for yourself, but almost so! We also followed closely your moving spiritual experiences in the holy places; we felt these and they touched us. We hope that the rest of this trip will go well for you, and all the countless other things you have in mind, particularly the prayer meeting which is the natural continuation and completion of this journey. May it bear the fruit which you desire, and which I believe we all desire, for peace in the world. Heartfelt thanks, Your Holiness!

(the Holy Father)

I thank you all for your company, for your kindness… and please, I ask you to pray for me. I need it, so much! Thank you.

© Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Holy Mass with the Ordinaries of the Holy Land and the Papal Entourage
Francis p.p.


(24-26 MAY 2014)


The Upper Room (Jerusalem)
Monday, 26 May 2014

 It is a great gift that the Lord has given us by bringing us together here in the Upper Room for the celebration of the Eucharist. I greet you with fraternal joy and I wish to express my affection to the Oriental Catholic Patriarchs who have taken part in my pilgrimage during these days. I want to thank them for their significant presence, particularly dear to me and I assure them of a special place in my heart and in my prayers. Here, where Jesus shared the Last Supper with the apostles; where, after his resurrection, he appeared in their midst; where the Holy Spirit descended with power upon Mary and the disciples, here the Church was born, and she was born to go forth. From here she set out, with the broken bread in her hands, the wounds of Christ before her eyes, and the Spirit of love in her heart.

In the Upper Room, the risen Jesus, sent by the Father, bestowed upon the apostles his own Spirit and with his power he sent them forth to renew the face of the earth (cf. Ps 104:30).

To go forth, to set out, does not mean to forget. The Church, in her going forth, preserves the memory of what took place here; the Spirit, the Paraclete, reminds her of every word and every action, and reveals their true meaning.

The Upper Room speaks to us of service, of Jesus giving the disciples an example by washing their feet. Washing one another’s feet signifies welcoming, accepting, loving and serving one another. It means serving the poor, the sick and the outcast, those whom I find difficult, those who annoy me.

The Upper Room reminds us, through the Eucharist, of sacrifice. In every Eucharistic celebration Jesus offers himself for us to the Father, so that we too can be united with him, offering to God our lives, our work, our joys and our sorrows… offering everything as a spiritual sacrifice.

The Upper Room also reminds us of friendship. “No longer do I call you servants – Jesus said to the Twelve – but I have called you friends” (Jn 15:15). The Lord makes us his friends, he reveals God’s will to us and he gives us his very self. This is the most beautiful part of being a Christian and, especially, of being a priest: becoming a friend of the Lord Jesus, and discovering in our hearts that he is our friend.

The Upper Room reminds us of the Teacher’s farewell and his promise to return to his friends: “When I go… I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (Jn 14:3). Jesus does not leave us, nor does he ever abandon us; he precedes us to the house of the Father, where he desires to bring us as well.

The Upper Room, however, also reminds us of pettiness, of curiosity – “Who is the traitor?” – and of betrayal. We ourselves, and not just others, can reawaken those attitudes whenever we look at our brother or sister with contempt, whenever we judge them, whenever by our sins we betray Jesus.

The Upper Room reminds us of sharing, fraternity, harmony and peace among ourselves. How much love and goodness has flowed from the Upper Room! How much charity has gone forth from here, like a river from its source, beginning as a stream and then expanding and becoming a great torrent. All the saints drew from this source; and hence the great river of the Church’s holiness continues to flow: from the Heart of Christ, from the Eucharist and from the Holy Spirit.

Lastly, the Upper Room reminds us of the birth of the new family, the Church, our holy Mother the hierarchical Church established by the risen Jesus; a family that has a Mother, the Virgin Mary. Christian families belong to this great family, and in it they find the light and strength to press on and be renewed, amid the challenges and difficulties of life. All God’s children, of every people and language, are invited and called to be part of this great family, as brothers and sisters and sons and daughters of the one Father in heaven.

These horizons are opened up by the Upper Room, the horizons of the Risen Lord and his Church.

From here the Church goes forth, impelled by the life-giving breath of the Spirit. Gathered in prayer with the Mother of Jesus, the Church lives in constant expectation of a renewed outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Send forth your Spirit, Lord, and renew the face of the earth (cf. Ps 104:30)!

© Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Courtesy visit to the two Chief Rabbis of Israel
Francis p.p.


(24-26 MAY 2014)


Heichal Shlomo Center next to the Jerusalem Great Synagogue (Jerusalem)
Monday, 26 May 2014

Distinguished Chief Rabbis of Israel,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am particularly pleased to be here with you today. I am grateful for your warm reception and your kind words of welcome.

As you know, from the time I was Archbishop of Buenos Aires, I have counted many Jews among my friends. Today two friends who are rabbis are here with us. Together we organized rewarding occasions of encounter and dialogue; with them I also experienced significant moments of sharing on a spiritual level. In the first months of my pontificate, I was able to receive various organizations and representatives from the Jewish community worldwide. As was the case with my predecessors, there have been many requests for such meetings. Together with the numerous initiatives taking place on national and local levels, these testify to our mutual desire to know one another better, to listen to each other and to build bonds of true fraternity.

This journey of friendship represents one of the fruits of the Second Vatican Council, and particularly of the Declaration Nostra Aetate, which proved so influential and whose fiftieth anniversary we will celebrate next year. I am convinced that the progress which has been made in recent decades in the relationship between Jews and Catholics has been a genuine gift of God, one of those great works for which we are called to bless his holy name: “Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his love endures forever; who alone has wrought marvellous works, for his love endures forever” (Ps 135/136:3-4).

A gift of God, yes, but one which would not have come about without the efforts of so many courageous and generous people, Jews and Christians alike. Here I would like to mention in particular the growing importance of the dialogue between the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and the Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews. Inspired by the visit of Pope John Paul II to the Holy Land, this dialogue was inaugurated in 2002 and is already in its twelfth year. I would like to think that, in terms of the Jewish tradition of the Bar Mitzvah, it is just coming of age. I am confident that it will continue and have a bright future in years to come.

We need to do more than simply establish reciprocal and respectful relations on a human level: we are also called, as Christians and Jews, to reflect deeply on the spiritual significance of the bond existing between us. It is a bond whose origins are from on high, one which transcends our own plans and projects, and one which remains intact despite all the difficulties which, sadly, have marked our relationship in the past.

On the part of Catholics, there is a clear intention to reflect deeply on the significance of the Jewish roots of our own faith. I trust that, with your help, on the part of Jews too, there will be a continued and even growing interest in knowledge of Christianity, also in this holy land to which Christians trace their origins. This is especially to be hoped for among young people.

Mutual understanding of our spiritual heritage, appreciation for what we have in common and respect in matters on which we disagree: all these can help to guide us to a closer relationship, an intention which we put in God’s hands. Together, we can make a great contribution to the cause of peace; together, we can bear witness, in this rapidly changing world, to the perennial importance of the divine plan of creation; together, we can firmly oppose every form of anti-Semitism and all other forms of discrimination. May the Lord help us to walk with confidence and strength in his ways. Shalom!

© Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Letter of his Holiness Pope Francis to the Christians in the Middle East
Francis p.p.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction, with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God” (2 Cor 1:3-4).

When I thought of writing to you, our Christian brothers and sisters in the Middle East, these words of Saint Paul immediately came to mind. I write to you just before Christmas, knowing that for many of you the music of your Christmas hymns will also be accompanied by tears and sighs. Nonetheless, the birth of the Son of God in our human flesh is an indescribable mystery of consolation: “For the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all people” (Tit 2:11).

Sadly, afflictions and tribulations have not been lacking, even more recently, in the Middle East. They have been aggravated in the past months because of the continuing hostilities in the region, but especially because of the work of a newer and disturbing terrorist organization, of previously unimaginable dimensions, which has perpetrated all kinds of abuses and inhuman acts. It has particularly affected a number of you, who have been brutally driven out of your native lands, where Christians have been present since apostolic times.

Nor, in writing to you, can I remain silent about the members of other religious and ethnic groups who are also experiencing persecution and the effects of these conflicts. Every day I follow the new reports of the enormous suffering endured by many people in the Middle East. I think in particular of the children, the young mothers, the elderly, the homeless and all refugees, the starving and those facing the prospect of a hard winter without an adequate shelter. This suffering cries out to God and it calls for our commitment to prayer and concrete efforts to help in any way possible. I want to express to all of you my personal closeness and solidarity, as well as that of the whole Church, and to offer you a word of consolation and hope.

Dear brothers and sisters who courageously bear witness to Jesus in the land blessed by the Lord, our consolation and our hope is Christ himself. I encourage you, then, to remain close to him, like branches on the vine, in the certainty that no tribulation, distress or persecution can separate us from him (cf. Rom 8:35). May the trials which you are presently enduring strengthen the faith and the fidelity of each and all of you!

I pray that you will be able to experience a fraternal communion modelled on that of the first community of Jerusalem. The unity willed by our Lord is more necessary than ever at these difficult times; it is a gift from God, who appeals to our freedom and awaits our response. May the word of God, the sacraments, prayer and fellowship nourish and continually renew your communities.

The situation in which are you living is a powerful summons to holiness of life, as saints and martyrs of every Christian community have attested. I think with affection and veneration of the pastors and faithful who have lately been killed, often merely for the fact that they were Christians. I think also of those who have been kidnapped, including several Orthodox bishops and priests of various rites. May they soon return, safe and sound, to their homes and communities! I ask God to grant that all this suffering united to the Lord’s cross will bring about much good for the Church and for all the peoples in the Middle East.

In the midst of hostility and conflicts, the communion which you experience in fraternity and simplicity is a sign of God’s Kingdom. I am gratified by the good relations and cooperation which exist between the patriarchs of the Eastern Catholic Churches and those of the Orthodox Churches, and also between the faithful of the different Churches. The sufferings which Christians endure contribute immensely to the cause of unity. It is the ecumenism of blood, which demands a trusting abandonment to the working of the Holy Spirit.

May you always bear witness to Jesus amid your difficulties! Your very presence is precious for the Middle East. You are a small flock, but one with a great responsibility in the land where Christianity was born and first spread. You are like leaven in the dough. Even more than the many contributions which the Church makes in the areas of education, healthcare and social services, which are esteemed by all, the greatest source of enrichment in the region is the presence of Christians themselves, your presence. Thank you for your perseverance!

Your efforts to cooperate with people of other religions, with Jews and Muslims, is another sign of the Kingdom of God. The more difficult the situation, the more interreligious dialogue becomes necessary. There is no other way. Dialogue, grounded in an attitude of openness, in truth and love, is also the best antidote to the temptation to religious fundamentalism, which is a threat for followers of every religion. At the same time, dialogue is a service to justice and a necessary condition for the peace which all so ardently desire.

The majority of you live in environments which are predominantly Muslim. You can help your Muslim fellow citizens to present with discernment a more authentic image of Islam, as so many of them desire, reiterating that Islam is a religion of peace, one which is compatible with respect for human rights and favours peaceful coexistence on the part of all. This will prove beneficial for them and for all society. The tragic situation faced by our Christian brothers and sisters in Iraq, as well as by the Yazidi and members of other religious and ethnic communities, demands that all religious leaders clearly speak out to condemn these crimes unanimously and unambiguously, and to denounce the practice of invoking religion in order to justify them.

Dear brothers and sisters, almost all of you are native citizens of your respective countries, and as such you have the duty and the right to take full part in the life and progress of your nations. Within the region you are called to be artisans of peace, reconciliation and development, to promote dialogue, to build bridges in the spirit of the Beatitudes (cf. Mt 5:3:12), and to proclaim the Gospel of peace, in a spirit of ready cooperation with all national and international authorities.

In a special way I would like to express my esteem and gratitude to you, dear brother patriarchs, bishops, priests, and men and women religious, who accompany the journey of your communities with loving concern. How valuable is the presence and work of those completely consecrated to the Lord, serving him in their brothers and sisters, especially those in greatest need, and thus witnessing to his grandeur and his infinite love! How important is the presence of pastors in the midst of their flocks, especially in times of trouble!

To the young I send a paternal embrace. I pray for your faithfulness, your human and Christian development, and the attainment of your hopes and dreams. I repeat to you: “Do not be afraid or ashamed to be Christian. Your relationship with Jesus will help you to cooperate generously with your fellow citizens, whatever their religious affiliation” (Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Medio Oriente, 63).

To the elderly I express my respect and esteem. You are the memory of your peoples. I pray that this memory will become a seed which can grow and benefit generations yet to come.

I wish to encourage all of you who work in the very important fields of charity and education. I admire the work you do, especially through Caritas and other Catholic charitable organizations in the different countries, in providing help to anyone who asks, without discrimination. Through this witness of charity you help support the life of society and you contribute to the peace for which the region hungers as if for bread. Education too is critical for the future of society. How important it is for promoting the culture of encounter, respect for the dignity of each person and the absolute value of every human being!

Dear brothers and sisters, even though you may not be numerous, you play a significant role in the Church and in the countries where you live. The entire Church is close to you and supports you, with immense respect and affection for your communities and your mission. We will continue to assist you with our prayers and with every other means at our disposal.

At the same time I continue to urge the international community to address your needs and those of other suffering minorities, above all by promoting peace through negotiation and diplomacy, for the sake of stemming and stopping as soon as possible the violence which has already caused so much harm. I once more condemn in the strongest possible terms the traffic of arms. Instead, what are needed are plans and initiatives for peace, so as to further a global solution to the region’s problems. How much longer must the Middle East suffer from the lack of peace? We must not resign ourselves to conflicts as if change were not possible! In the spirit of my pilgrimage to the Holy Land and the subsequent prayer meeting in the Vatican with the Israeli and Palestinian presidents, I encourage you to continue to pray for peace in the Middle East. May those forced to leave their lands be able to return and to live in dignity and security. May humanitarian aid increase and always have as its central concern the good of each individual and each country, respecting their identity and without any other agendas. May the entire Church and the international community become ever more conscious of the importance of your presence in the region.

Dear Christian brothers and sisters of the Middle East, you have an enormous responsibility and in meeting it you are not alone. That is why I wanted to write to you, to encourage you and to let you know how precious your presence and your mission are in the land which the Lord has blessed. Your witness means much to me! Thank you! I pray for you and your intentions every day. I thank you because I know that, amid your sufferings, you also pray for me and for my service to the Church. I do hope to have the chance to come to you in person and to visit and to comfort you. May the Virgin Mary, the All-Holy Mother of God and our Mother, accompany you and protect you always with her tender love. To all of you and your families I impart my Apostolic Blessing, and I pray that your celebration of Christmas will be filled with the love and peace of Christ our Saviour.

From the Vatican, 21 December 2014, 4th Sunday of Advent


Message of His Holiness Pope Francis for Lent 2017
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“The Word is a gift. Other persons are a gift”

Dear Brothers and Sisters, 

Lent is a new beginning, a path leading to the certain goal of Easter, Christ’s victory over death. This season urgently calls us to conversion. Christians are asked to return to God “with all their hearts” (Joel 2:12), to refuse to settle for mediocrity and to grow in friendship with the Lord. Jesus is the faithful friend who never abandons us. Even when we sin, he patiently awaits our return; by that patient expectation, he shows us his readiness to forgive (cf. Homily, 8 January 2016).

Lent is a favourable season for deepening our spiritual life through the means of sanctification offered us by the Church: fasting, prayer and almsgiving. At the basis of everything is the word of God, which during this season we are invited to hear and ponder more deeply. I would now like to consider the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (cf. Lk 16:19-31). Let us find inspiration in this meaningful story, for it provides a key to understanding what we need to do in order to attain true happiness and eternal life. It exhorts us to sincere conversion.

  1. The other person is a gift

The parable begins by presenting its two main characters. The poor man is described in greater detail: he is wretched and lacks the strength even to stand. Lying before the door of the rich man, he fed on the crumbs falling from his table. His body is full of sores and dogs come to lick his wounds (cf. vv. 20-21). The picture is one of great misery; it portrays a man disgraced and pitiful.

The scene is even more dramatic if we consider that the poor man is called Lazarus: a name full of promise, which literally means God helps. This character is not anonymous. His features are clearly delineated and he appears as an individual with his own story. While practically invisible to the rich man, we see and know him as someone familiar. He becomes a face, and as such, a gift, a priceless treasure, a human being whom God loves and cares for, despite his concrete condition as an outcast (cf. Homily, 8 January 2016).

Lazarus teaches us that other persons are a gift. A right relationship with people consists in gratefully recognizing their value. Even the poor person at the door of the rich is not a nuisance, but a summons to conversion and to change. The parable first invites us to open the doors of our heart to others because each person is a gift, whether it be our neighbour or an anonymous pauper. Lent is a favourable season for opening the doors to all those in need and recognizing in them the face of Christ. Each of us meets people like this every day. Each life that we encounter is a gift deserving acceptance, respect and love. The word of God helps us to open our eyes to welcome and love life, especially when it is weak and vulnerable. But in order to do this, we have to take seriously what the Gospel tells us about the rich man.

  1. Sin blinds us 

The parable is unsparing in its description of the contradictions associated with the rich man (cf. v. 19). Unlike poor Lazarus, he does not have a name; he is simply called “a rich man”. His opulence was seen in his extravagant and expensive robes. Purple cloth was even more precious than silver and gold, and was thus reserved to divinities (cf. Jer 10:9) and kings (cf. Jg 8:26), while fine linen gave one an almost sacred character. The man was clearly ostentatious about his wealth, and in the habit of displaying it daily: “He feasted sumptuously every day” (v. 19). In him we can catch a dramatic glimpse of the corruption of sin, which progresses in three successive stages: love of money, vanity and pride (cf. Homily, 20 September 2013).

The Apostle Paul tells us that “the love of money is the root of all evils” (1 Tim 6:10). It is the main cause of corruption and a source of envy, strife and suspicion. Money can come to dominate us, even to the point of becoming a tyrannical idol (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 55). Instead of being an instrument at our service for doing good and showing solidarity towards others, money can chain us and the entire world to a selfish logic that leaves no room for love and hinders peace.

The parable then shows that the rich man’s greed makes him vain. His personality finds expression in appearances, in showing others what he can do. But his appearance masks an interior emptiness. His life is a prisoner to outward appearances, to the most superficial and fleeting aspects of existence (cf. ibid., 62).

The lowest rung of this moral degradation is pride. The rich man dresses like a king and acts like a god, forgetting that he is merely mortal. For those corrupted by love of riches, nothing exists beyond their own ego. Those around them do not come into their line of sight. The result of attachment to money is a sort of blindness. The rich man does not see the poor man who is starving, hurting, lying at his door.

Looking at this character, we can understand why the Gospel so bluntly condemns the love of money: “No one can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or be attached to the first and despise the second. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money” (Mt 6:24).

  1. The Word is a gift 

The Gospel of the rich man and Lazarus helps us to make a good preparation for the approach of Easter. The liturgy of Ash Wednesday invites us to an experience quite similar to that of the rich man. When the priest imposes the ashes on our heads, he repeats the words: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return”. As it turned out, the rich man and the poor man both died, and the greater part of the parable takes place in the afterlife. The two characters suddenly discover that “we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it” (1 Tim 6:7).

We too see what happens in the afterlife. There the rich man speaks at length with Abraham, whom he calls “father” (Lk16:24.27), as a sign that he belongs to God’s people. This detail makes his life appear all the more contradictory, for until this moment there had been no mention of his relation to God. In fact, there was no place for God in his life. His only god was himself.

The rich man recognizes Lazarus only amid the torments of the afterlife. He wants the poor man to alleviate his suffering with a drop of water. What he asks of Lazarus is similar to what he could have done but never did. Abraham tells him: “During your life you had your fill of good things, just as Lazarus had his fill of bad. Now he is being comforted here while you are in agony” (v. 25). In the afterlife, a kind of fairness is restored and life’s evils are balanced by good.

The parable goes on to offer a message for all Christians. The rich man asks Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his brothers, who are still alive. But Abraham answers: “They have Moses and the prophets, let them listen to them” (v. 29). Countering the rich man’s objections, he adds: “If they will not listen either to Moses or to the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead” (v. 31).

The rich man’s real problem thus comes to the fore. At the root of all his ills was the failure to heed God’s word. As a result, he no longer loved God and grew to despise his neighbour. The word of God is alive and powerful, capable of converting hearts and leading them back to God. When we close our heart to the gift of God’s word, we end up closing our heart to the gift of our brothers and sisters.

Dear friends, Lent is the favourable season for renewing our encounter with Christ, living in his word, in the sacraments and in our neighbour. The Lord, who overcame the deceptions of the Tempter during the forty days in the desert, shows us the path we must take. May the Holy Spirit lead us on a true journey of conversion, so that we can rediscover the gift of God’s word, be purified of the sin that blinds us, and serve Christ present in our brothers and sisters in need. I encourage all the faithful to express this spiritual renewal also by sharing in the Lenten Campaigns promoted by many Church organizations in different parts of the world, and thus to favour the culture of encounter in our one human family. Let us pray for one another so that, by sharing in the victory of Christ, we may open our doors to the weak and poor. Then we will be able to experience and share to the full the joy of Easter.

From the Vatican, 18 October 2016


Photos : Pope Francis blesses an inmate during a feet-washing ceremony at Rebibbia prison in Rome (CNS). Catholic Herald. 

Pope Francis Invites Faithful to Participate in “Minute for Peace”
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 VATICAN/HOLY LAND -Pope Francis has invited faithful to participate in the “Minute for Peace” on Thursday, June 8, 2017, at 1 p.m., in memory of the meeting of the Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the Vatican Gardens with the Pope and with Patriarch Bartholomew I, to pray together for peace on June 8, 2014.

“At 1 p.m., tomorrow,” the Pope said in Italian during his General Audience of this Wednesday, June 7, 2017, in Saint Peter’s Square, “the initiative ‘One Minute for Peace’ is being taken up again in different countries. A moment of prayer on the anniversary of the meeting in the Vatican between me, the late Israeli President Peres, and Palestinian President Abbas,” the Pope recalled.

“There is so much need, in our time, for praying – Christians, Jews and Muslims – for peace,” the Pope insisted.

“A Moment for Peace” calls for prayer and peacemaking on the third anniversary of the Vatican ‘Prayer for Peace’ meeting.

Participants are invited to interrupt their daily activities and dedicate a minute to reflect and pray according to their religious tradition for peace in the world.

This ‘minute’ can be done individually or in groups, in the street or in the church, in family, at school or in the workplace, said a statement of the organizers.

The initiative is promoted by the National Commission for Justice and Peace, the ‘Catholic Action’ of Argentina, as well as the Department of Laity, the Episcopal Commission for ecumenism, relations with Judaism, Islam and other religions, in communion along with the Argentine Episcopal Conference.

On an international level, the initiative is supported by the International Forum of Catholic Action and the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations.

Message of His Holiness Pope Francis for Lent 2018
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VATICAN – Please find below the message that His Holiness Pope Francis sent for Lent 2018.

Message of His Holiness Pope Francis for Lent 2018

“Because of the increase of iniquity, the love of many will grow cold” (Mt 24:12)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Once again, the Pasch of the Lord draws near! In our preparation for Easter, God in his providence offers us each year the season of Lent as a “sacramental sign of our conversion”.[1] Lent summons us, and enables us, to come back to the Lord wholeheartedly and in every aspect of our life.

With this message, I would like again this year to help the entire Church experience this time of grace anew, with joy and in truth. I will take my cue from the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew: “Because of the increase of iniquity, the love of many will grow cold” (24:12).

These words appear in Christ’s preaching about the end of time. They were spoken in Jerusalem, on the Mount of Olives, where the Lord’s passion would begin. In reply to a question of the disciples, Jesus foretells a great tribulation and describes a situation in which the community of believers might well find itself: amid great trials, false prophets would lead people astray and the love that is the core of the Gospel would grow cold in the hearts of many.

False prophets

Let us listen to the Gospel passage and try to understand the guise such false prophets can assume.

They can appear as “snake charmers”, who manipulate human emotions in order to enslave others and lead them where they would have them go. How many of God’s children are mesmerized by momentary pleasures, mistaking them for true happiness! How many men and women live entranced by the dream of wealth, which only makes them slaves to profit and petty interests! How many go through life believing that they are sufficient unto themselves, and end up entrapped by loneliness!

False prophets can also be “charlatans”, who offer easy and immediate solutions to suffering that soon prove utterly useless. How many young people are taken in by the panacea of drugs, of disposable relationships, of easy but dishonest gains! How many more are ensnared in a thoroughly “virtual” existence, in which relationships appear quick and straightforward, only to prove meaningless! These swindlers, in peddling things that have no real value, rob people of all that is most precious: dignity, freedom and the ability to love. They appeal to our vanity, our trust in appearances, but in the end they only make fools of us. Nor should we be surprised. In order to confound the human heart, the devil, who is “a liar and the father of lies” (Jn 8:44), has always presented evil as good, falsehood as truth. That is why each of us is called to peer into our heart to see if we are falling prey to the lies of these false prophets. We must learn to look closely, beneath the surface, and to recognize what leaves a good and lasting mark on our hearts, because it comes from God and is truly for our benefit.

A cold heart

In his description of hell, Dante Alighieri pictures the devil seated on a throne of ice,[2] in frozen and loveless isolation. We might well ask ourselves how it happens that charity can turn cold within us. What are the signs that indicate that our love is beginning to cool?

More than anything else, what destroys charity is greed for money, “the root of all evil” (1 Tim 6:10). The rejection of God and his peace soon follows; we prefer our own desolation rather than the comfort found in his word and the sacraments.[3] All this leads to violence against anyone we think is a threat to our own “certainties”: the unborn child, the elderly and infirm, the migrant, the alien among us, or our neighbor who does not live up to our expectations.

Creation itself becomes a silent witness to this cooling of charity. The earth is poisoned by refuse, discarded out of carelessness or for self-interest. The seas, themselves polluted, engulf the remains of countless shipwrecked victims of forced migration. The heavens, which in God’s plan, were created to sing his praises, are rent by engines raining down implements of death.

Love can also grow cold in our own communities. In the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, I sought to describe the most evident signs of this lack of love: selfishness and spiritual sloth, sterile pessimism, the temptation to self-absorption, constant warring among ourselves, and the worldly mentality that makes us concerned only for appearances, and thus lessens our missionary zeal.[4]

What are we to do?

Perhaps we see, deep within ourselves and all about us, the signs I have just described. But the Church, our Mother and Teacher, along with the often bitter medicine of the truth, offers us in the Lenten season the soothing remedy of prayer, almsgiving and fasting.

By devoting more time to prayer, we enable our hearts to root out our secret lies and forms of self-deception,[5] and then to find the consolation God offers. He is our Father and he wants us to live life well.

Almsgiving sets us free from greed and helps us to regard our neighbor as a brother or sister. What I possess is never mine alone. How I would like almsgiving to become a genuine style of life for each of us! How I would like us, as Christians, to follow the example of the Apostles and see in the sharing of our possessions a tangible witness of the communion that is ours in the Church! For this reason, I echo Saint Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians to take up a collection for the community of Jerusalem as something from which they themselves would benefit (cf. 2 Cor 8:10). This is all the more fitting during the Lenten season, when many groups take up collections to assist Churches and peoples in need. Yet I would also hope that, even in our daily encounters with those who beg for our assistance, we would see such requests as coming from God himself. When we give alms, we share in God’s providential care for each of his children. If through me God helps someone today, will he not tomorrow provide for my own needs? For no one is more generous than God.[6]

Fasting weakens our tendency to violence; it disarms us and becomes an important opportunity for growth. On the one hand, it allows us to experience what the destitute and the starving have to endure. On the other hand, it expresses our own spiritual hunger and thirst for life in God. Fasting wakes us up. It makes us more attentive to God and our neighbor. It revives our desire to obey God, who alone is capable of satisfying our hunger.

I would also like my invitation to extend beyond the bounds of the Catholic Church, and to reach all of you, men and women of good will, who are open to hearing God’s voice. Perhaps, like ourselves, you are disturbed by the spread of iniquity in the world, you are concerned about the chill that paralyzes hearts and actions, and you see a weakening in our sense of being members of the one human family. Join us, then, in raising our plea to God, in fasting, and in offering whatever you can to our brothers and sisters in need!

The fire of Easter

Above all, I urge the members of the Church to take up the Lenten journey with enthusiasm, sustained by almsgiving, fasting and prayer. If, at times, the flame of charity seems to die in our own hearts, know that this is never the case in the heart of God! He constantly gives us a chance to begin loving anew.

One such moment of grace will be, again this year, the “24 Hours for the Lord” initiative, which invites the entire Church community to celebrate the sacrament of Reconciliation in the context of Eucharistic adoration. In 2018, inspired by the words of Psalm 130:4, “With you is forgiveness”, this will take place from Friday, 9 March to Saturday, 10 March. In each diocese, at least one church will remain open for twenty-four consecutive hours, offering an opportunity for both Eucharistic adoration and sacramental confession.

During the Easter Vigil, we will celebrate once more the moving rite of the lighting of the Easter candle. Drawn from the “new fire”, this light will slowly overcome the darkness and illuminate the liturgical assembly. “May the light of Christ rising in glory dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds”,[7] and enable all of us to relive the experience of the disciples on the way to Emmaus. By listening to God’s word and drawing nourishment from the table of the Eucharist, may our hearts be ever more ardent in faith, hope and love.

With affection and the promise of my prayers for all of you, I send you my blessing. Please do not forget to pray for me.

From the Vatican, 1 November 2017

Solemnity of All Saints


[1] Roman Missal, Collect for the First Sunday of Lent (Italian).

[2] Inferno XXXIV, 28-29.

[3]“It is curious, but many times we are afraid of consolation, of being comforted. Or rather, we feel more secure in sorrow and desolation. Do you know why? Because in sorrow we feel almost as protagonists. However, in consolation the Holy Spirit is the protagonist!” (Angelus, 7 December 2014).

[4] Evangelii Gaudium, 76-109.

[5]Cf. BENEDICT XVI, Encyclical Letter Spe Salvi, 33.

[6]Cf. PIUS XII, Encyclical Letter Fidei Donum, III.

[7] Roman Missal (Third Edition), Easter Vigil, Lucernarium.

Source: Vatican