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Monday, February 15, 2016

Mass at Ecatepec: Lent is a time for opening our eyes to the injustices that stand in the way of God's plan

Vatican City, 15 February 2016 (VIS) – After leaving the apostolic nunciature in Mexico City, the Pope travelled by helicopter to Ecatepec to celebrate Holy Mass. It is the first time that this satellite city has received a papal visit.

Ecatepec is located on a hill approximately 28 kilometres from the capital, and is densely populated, with more than a million and a half inhabitants who commute daily to Mexico City to work. It was originally a city-state governed by a chief closely related to the reigning dynasty of the Tenochtitlan, the Aztec capital. Ecatepec was declared the Republic of Indians in 1560, thus conserving a certain autonomy and maintaining the succession of the leader. In the seventeenth century it became a municipality under Spanish administration, and "de Morelos" was added to its name in honour of the national hero Jose Maria Morelos y Pavon, executed by the Spanish during the first war of Mexican independence in 1819. In 1980 Ecatepec was declared a city.

Francis celebrated Mass in the sports area of the Ecatepec Study Centre, which is able to hold 400,000 people, and following the Gospel reading, which related the temptations of Christ in the desert, he pronounced a homily in which he emphasised that Lent is a good moment to recover the joy and hope that make us feel we are beloved sons and daughters of the Father. "The Father who waits for us in order to cast off our garments of exhaustion, of apathy, of mistrust, and so clothe us with the dignity which only a true father or mother knows how to give their children, with the garments born of tenderness and love".

He is the Father of a great family, Who knows that He has a unique love, but "does not know how to bear or raise an 'only child'. He is the God of the home, of brotherhood, of bread broken and shared. He is the God who is 'Our Father', not 'my father' or 'your stepfather'. God’s dream makes its home and lives in each one of us so that at every Easter, in every Eucharist we celebrate, we may be the children of God. It is a dream which so many of our brothers and sisters have had through history. A dream witnessed to by the blood of so many martyrs, both from long ago and from now".

"Lent is a time of conversion, of daily experiencing in our lives of how this dream is continually threatened by the father of lies – and we hear in the Gospel how he acted towards Jesus – by the one who tries to separate us, making a divided and confrontational family; a society which is divided and at loggerheads, a society of the few, and for the few. How often we experience in our own lives, or in our own families, among our friends or neighbours, the pain which arises when the dignity we carry within is not recognised. How many times have we had to cry and regret on realising that we have not acknowledged this dignity in others. How often – and it pains me to say it – have we been blind and impervious in failing to recognise our own and others’ dignity".

Lent, therefore, is also a time for "reconsidering our feelings, for letting our eyes be opened to the frequent injustices which stand in direct opposition to the dream and the plan of God. It is a time to unmask three great temptations that wear down and fracture the image which God wanted to form in us".

The Pope went on to explain the meaning of these three temptations of Christ, which are also "three temptations for the Christian, which seek to destroy what we have been called to be; three temptations which try to corrode us and tear us down".

The first is wealth "seizing hold of goods destined for all, and using them only for 'my own people'. That is, taking the 'bread' based on the toil of others, or even at the expense of their very lives. That wealth which tastes of pain, bitterness and suffering. That is the bread that a corrupt family or society gives its own children. The second temptation, vanity: the pursuit of prestige based on continuous, relentless exclusion of those who 'are not like me'. The futile chasing of those five minutes of fame which do not forgive the 'reputation' of others. 'Making firewood from a felled tree' gradually gives way to the third temptation, the worst. It is that of pride, or rather, putting oneself on a higher level than one truly is on, feeling that one does not share the life of 'mere mortals', and yet being one who prays every day: 'I thank you Lord that you have not made me like those others'.

These three temptations which the Christian is faced with daily "seek to corrode, destroy and extinguish the joy and freshness of the Gospel. Three temptations which lock us into a cycle of destruction and sin".

"It is worth asking ourselves, to what degree are we aware of these temptations in our lives, in our very selves?", continued Francis. "How much have we become accustomed to a lifestyle where we think that our source and life force lies only in wealth? To what point do we feel that caring about others, our concern and work for bread, for the good name and dignity of others, are wellsprings of happiness and hope? We have chosen Jesus, not the evil one. If we remember what we heard in the Gospel, Jesus does not reply to the devil with any of His own words, but rather He challenges him with the words of God, the words of scripture. Because brothers and sisters, and let us be clear about this, we cannot dialogue with the devil, we cannot do this because He will always win. Only the power of Gods’ word can overcome him. We have opted for Jesus and not for the devil; we want to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, even though we know that this is not easy. We know what it means to be seduced by money, fame and power. For this reason, the Church gives us the gift of this Lenten season, invites us to conversion, offering but one certainty: He is waiting for us and wants to heal our hearts of all that tears us down. He is the God Who has a name: Mercy. His name is our wealth, His name is what makes us famous, His name is our power and in His name we say once more with the Psalm: 'You are my God and in You I trust'. Will you repeat it together? Three times: 'You are my God and in You I trust'".

After listening to the response of the crowd, Francis concluded, "In this Eucharist, may the Holy Spirit renew in us the certainty that His name is Mercy, and may He let us experience each day that 'the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus...', knowing that 'with Christ and in Christ joy is constantly born anew'”.

Angelus: thanksgiving is born among a people capable of remembering

Vatican City, 14 February 2016 (VIS) – Following Mass, the Pope invited those present to pray the Angelus and to reflect, before the Marian prayer, on the first reading in which Moses addresses his people during harvest time, a moment of abundance, so they do not forget their origins and provenance, nor the difficulties they have had to overcome.

"Thanksgiving is something which is born and grows among a people capable of remembering", explained the Holy Father. "It is rooted in the past, and through good and bad times, it shapes the present. … On this festive day we can celebrate how good the Lord has been to us. Let us give thanks for this opportunity to be together, to present to our Good Father the first fruits of our children, our grandchildren, of our dreams and our plans; the first fruits of our cultures, our languages and our traditions, the first fruits of our efforts".

"How much each one of you has suffered to reach this moment!", he exclaimed. "How much you have 'walked' to make this day a day of feasting, a time of thanksgiving. How much others have walked, who have not arrived here and yet because of them we have been able to keep going. Today, at the invitation of Moses, as a people we want to remember, we want to be the people that keeps alive the memory of God Who passes among His People, in their midst. We look upon our children knowing that they will inherit not only a land, a culture and a tradition, but also the living fruits of faith which recalls the certainty of God’s passing through this land. It is a certainty of his closeness and of his solidarity, a certainty which helps us lift up our heads and ardently hope for the dawn".

"I too join you in this remembrance, in this living memory of God’s passing through your lives. As I look upon your children I cannot but make my own the words which Blessed Pope Paul VI addressed to the Mexican people: 'A Christian cannot but show solidarity… to solve the situation of those who have not yet received the bread of culture or the opportunity of an honourable job… he cannot remain insensitive while the new generations have not found the way to bring into reality their legitimate aspirations'. And then Blessed Paul VI continued offering this invitation to 'always be on the front line of all efforts… to improve the situation of those who suffer need”, to see in every man a brother and, in every brother Christ'".

Francis urged the Mexican people to "be on the front line, to be first in all the initiatives which help make this blessed land of Mexico a land of opportunities, where there will be no need to emigrate in order to dream, no need to be exploited in order to work, no need to make the despair and poverty of many the opportunism of a few, a land that will not have to mourn men and women, young people and children who are destroyed at the hands of the dealers of death".

"This land is filled with the perfume of la Guadalupana who has always gone before us in love", concluded the bishop of Rome. "Let us say to her, with all our hearts: Blessed Virgin, help us to bear radiant witness to communion, service, ardent and generous faith, justice and love of the poor, that the joy of the Gospel may reach to the ends of the earth, illuminating even the fringes of our world".

Cure not only with medicine but also with "kindness-therapy"

Vatican City, 14 February 2016 (VIS) – At 4.30 p.m. the Holy Father transferred by helicopter to Ecatepec and from there to the "Marte" military camp to visit the Federico Gomez Paediatric Hospital, which was also visited in 1979 by St. John Paul II, and which assists around eight hundred children each day.

The Pope met with the young patients of the hospital and told them the story of when Jesus’ parents took Him to the Temple to present Him to God. "And while there they met an old man called Simeon who, upon seeing Jesus, was very moved and filled with joy and gratitude. He took Jesus in his arms and held him close, and began to bless the Lord. Looking at Jesus inspired him in two ways: the feeling of gratitude and the desire to bless. Simeon is the 'uncle' who teaches us these two attitudes: gratitude and then blessing".
"For my part (and not only because of my age), I feel I can relate well with these two lessons of Simeon", he confessed. "On the one hand, entering here and seeing your eyes, your smiles, your faces, has filled me with a desire to give thanks. Thank you for the kind way that you welcomed me, thank you for recognising the tenderness with which you are cared for and accompanied. Thank you for the efforts of many who are doing their best so that you can get better quickly. It is very important that we feel cared for and accompanied, to feel loved and to know that all these workers here are looking for the best way to care for us. To each of these people, I say, 'Thank you'. And at the same time, I wish to bless you. I ask God to bless you, and to accompany you and your families, and all those people who work in this home and try to ensure that your smiles grow day by day. May God bless each person – not only doctors but also those who provide 'kindness-therapy' thus making the time spent here more enjoyable".

Francis went on to ask if they had heard of the Indian Juan Diego, and explained that "When his uncle was sick, he was quite worried and distressed. Then, the Virgin of Guadalupe appeared to him and said, 'Let not your heart be disturbed or upset by anything. Am I not here with you, I who am your mother?'. We have Mary as our Mother, and so let us ask her to give us the gift of her Son, Jesus. Let us close our eyes and ask her to give us what our hearts seek today, and then let us pray together", he said, before praying a Hail Mary with the children. He then toured the playroom and chemotherapy department of the Haematology-Oncology Unit, and paid a private visit to the ward to greet the young inpatients.

Statement of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors

Vatican City, 15 February 2016 (VIS) – Cardinal Seán O’Malley, OFM Cap., president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, together with all the Commission Members, issued today the following statement on the obligation to report suspected sexual abuse to civil authorities:

“As Pope Francis has so clearly stated: ‘The crimes and sins of the sexual abuse of children must not be kept secret for any longer. I pledge the zealous vigilance of the Church to protect children and the promise of accountability for all’. We, the President and the Members of the Commission, wish to affirm that our obligations under civil law must certainly be followed, but even beyond these civil requirements, we all have a moral and ethical responsibility to report suspected abuse to the civil authorities who are charged with protecting our society”.

Cardinal O’Malley’s statement continued, “In the United States, our Bishops’ Charter clearly states the obligation that all dioceses/eparchies and personnel report suspected abuse to the public authorities. Every year at our November meeting, at a training session for new bishops, this obligation is reaffirmed, and every other February the Conference runs a second training program for new bishops which also clearly and explicitly includes this obligation. As the Holy Father’s advisory commission for the protection of minors, we recently shared with Pope Francis an overview of the Commission’s extensive education efforts in local Churches over the past two years and reiterated the Members’ willingness to provide this material at courses offered in Rome, including to the annual training program for new bishops and to the offices of the Roman Curia for their use in their own child protection efforts”.
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