2015-11-10 Vatican - Pope Francis stressed the need for “the Church to live among the people and for them,” saying it should maintain a healthy contact with reality and peoples’ lives. Christ’s disciples, he said, “must never forget that they come from the people and must never fall into the temptation of adopting an aloof attitude” and not being concerned about the thoughts and lives of the people. The Pope’s comments came during his homily at an outdoor Mass celebrated in Florence on Tuesday (10th November).

Taking the inspiration for his homily from the St Matthew’s gospel, Pope Francis reminded his listeners that Jesus wanted to know from his disciples what the people were saying about Him in order to communicate with them. He warned that without knowing how people think, “a disciple becomes isolated and begins to judge people according to his own thoughts and convictions.”

For this reason, said the Pope, “a disciple must maintain a healthy contact with reality and with people’s lives with their joys and sorrows,” saying this “is the only way” to be able to help and communicate with them. Christ’s disciples, he stressed, “should never forget from where they have been chosen, namely from among the people, and must never fall into the temptation of adopting an aloof or detached attitude as if the thoughts and lives of the people were not their concern and of no importance for them.”

Pope Francis said “the Church, like Jesus, lives among the people and for the people” and we need to nurture a personal faith in Him, as the Son of God. Only if we recognize this truth about Jesus, will we be able to see the truth of our human condition and add our contribution “to the full humanization of society.”

The Pope went on to explain that “our joy” is to share this faith, whose truth scandalizes. We must also “go against the tide” and “overcome the prevailing opinion” of our contemporary society where just as in the past people are unable to recognize Jesus as more than a prophet or teacher.

He said the good that we sow along our path as Christians helps to create “a new and renewed humanity where no one is marginalized or discarded, where the person who serves is the greatest and where the children and the poor are welcomed and helped.” Noting the importance of humanism in the most creative periods of Florence’s history, the Pope noted that this humanity always had a charitable face, and said he prayed for a new humanity both for the city and Italy as a whole.

Pope in Prato: Combat cancer of corruption

2015-11-10 Vatican - Pope Francis Tuesday commenced his visit to the Tuscan cities of Prato and Florence with a call to be ready to journey with Christ, and an appeal against the exploitation of workers.

“The life of every community demands that we combat the cancer of corruption, the cancer of human and labour exploitation and the poison of illegality,” the Pope said, kicking off his visit to the region to mark the Fifth National Convention of the Italian Catholic Church.

Before meeting with labourers and labour representatives, the Pope venerated the “Girdle of Thomas” housed in Prato’s main cathedral, a relic which legend holds was the cord or belt dropped from Mary during her Assumption into Heaven.

Speaking on the symbolism of this relic, the Pope noted how in scripture the girding of one’s loins means “being ready, prepared to depart, to go out on a journey.”

We are inclined to remain sheltered, the Holy Father continued. However, the Lord calls the Church to “a renewed missionary passion and entrusts to us a great responsibility” to accompany those who have lost their way, to sow hope, and to welcome the wounded.

The “Girdle of Thomas” relic also evokes the image of service, like the Gospel account of Jesus girding his loins and washing the feet of his disciples like a servant, Pope Francis observed.

“We were served by God who became our neighbour, in order to serve in our time those near to us.”

The Pope thanked those present for their continued efforts in integrating everyone into the community, in contrast to the “culture of indifference and waste.”

Speaking off-the-cuff, Pope Francis recalled the five men and two women of Chinese citizenship living in poor conditions in Prato who were killed during an industrial fire. The 2013 blaze broke out at night in a clothing factory as the workers slept in a loft. The Pope described the event as “a tragedy of exploitation and inhuman life conditions.”

The Holy Father concluded his address by encouraging young people to never give in to “pessimism and resignation,” and called everyone to place their confidence in Mary.

“Mary is the one who, with prayer and love, in silent diligence, has transformed the Saturday of disillusion into the dawn of the Resurrection. If anyone feels fatigued and oppressed by life’s circumstances, trust in our mother, who is close and who consoles.”

Pope Francis sends message to Pontifical Academies in Florence

2015-11-10 Vatican - Pope Francis on Tuesday sent a message to members of the Pontifical Academies on the occasion of their twentieth General Meeting.

In the message, Pope Francis described the Annual General Meeting of the Pontifical Academies as “moments of cultural and spiritual enrichment, moments of inspiration to fulfill personal and communal duties … moments which encourage the Church to renew her ideas on humanism, in response to modern day challenges”.

The theme of this year’s meeting was “Ad limina Petri: historic pilgrimage trails during the first centuries of Christianity”. The Pope observed how this evocative title could help the faithful to prepare for the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, which begins in December.

He explained how pilgrimage is a “unique part” of the Holy Year, because it “emblematizes the journey every human being makes during their existence”. “Life is a pilgrimage and the human being is a pilgrim”.

The Holy Father also wrote, “your reflections will contribute to enhance the significance of Christian pilgrimage”. Within the context of the forthcoming Year of Mercy, he noted: “pilgrimage is an experience that involves mercy, sharing and solidarity”.

The Pope then went on to announce awards for those who had made significant contributions to research in historical anthropology. The recipients of the Premio delle Pontificie Accademie (the Pontifical Academies Prize) were the Campo Arqueológico di Mértola, for their work on archeological campaigns, and Dr. Matteo Braconi for his doctoral thesis entitled ‘The mosaic in the apse of the basilica di S. Pudenziana a Roma’.

The Medaglia del Pontificato (the Pontifical Medal) was then awarded to Dr. Almudena Alba López, for her publication 'Teologia politica y polémica antiarriana' ('Political Theology and the anti-Arian controversy').

Pope Francis concluded his message to the Pontifical Academies with his Apostolic Blessing.

A smiling challenge to the Church: Pope Francis in Florence

(Vatican Radio) - Pope Francis during his one-day visit to Florence on Tuesday (Nov. 10) spoke to the Fifth National Convention of the Italian Church gathered in St. Mary of the Flower Cathedral.

In his programmatic speech, Pope Francis laid out his vision for "a new humanism in Christ Jesus."

Chiara Giaccardi is a member of the preparatory committee for the event and professor of sociology at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan.

She spoke to Vatican Radio’s Alessandro Gisotti about the impact of Pope Francis’ words on the assembly.

His smile tipped them off. Something important was coming.

In what followed, Pope Francis told the assembly what was wrong with the Church. "Everybody was moved by his parresia, his benevolent way of telling what is wrong in the Church, but like a father who loves his sons and daughters, not like a judge," Ms. Giaccardi said.

"We need to start with mercy", she continued, "and this is the way that Jesus Christ is telling us where to go and how to go."

Agreeing that the Holy Father's speech is also a challenge to the Italian Church to work together, she said it is "a challenge to be free, which is not easy at all".

"The Church is not free because of money, because of power, because of the image in the media. Pope Francis invited all the Church and all the people to be free from [that which] is not able to make us happy and to make us free."

Concluding, Ms. Giaccardi said, "And the bishop can be happy only with the sheep, only among his people, and this is the same for all the Church. The Church must be close to the people. This is the only way to be [the] real Church of Jesus Christ."

Pope Francis eats with the poor in Florence

2015-11-10 Vatican - Pope Francis on his visit to the Italian city of Florence on Tuesday (Nov. 10) sat down for lunch with the city's poor at St. Francis' Soup Kitchen (Mensa di San Francesco Poverino).

In between his meeting with the National Congress of the Italian Church and celebrating Mass in the city’s football stadium, the Pope sat down for lunch with 60 of the city’s poorest citizens, both Italians and of other nationalities.

Many had lost both their jobs and their homes, but thanks to the work of the Catholic Church's charity, Caritas, who runs the meal kitchen where the lunch took place, they had not lost their dignity.

Pope Francis was given a meal voucher when he arrived and ate off a plastic plate, just like the rest of those gathered with him, emphasising his teaching that the Church must be with and accompany the marginalised and those on the peripheries of society.

Before lunch, the Holy Father met briefly with the sick and some persons with disabilities in the Basilica of Annunciation.

After individually greeting those present, Pope Francis recited the Angelus prayer with them before walking over to St. Francis' Soup Kitchen for lunch.