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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

News Vatican Information Service November 25, 2014


SUMMARY:

- Francis prays for the intercession of the Virgin for his trip to Strasbourg
- The Pope to the European Parliament: dignity and transcendence, key concepts for the future of Europe
- Francis at the Council of Europe: imposed peace is not enough – it must be loved, free and fraternal
- The Pope receives the President of the Arab Republic of Egypt
- The Pope to convoke a conference in Haiti in January 2015, five years after the earthquake that devastated the island
- Audiences
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Francis prays for the intercession of the Virgin for his trip to Strasbourg

Vatican City, 25 November 2014 (VIS) – Yesterday afternoon, as is his custom before a journey, at around 5.30 the Holy Father went to the Basilica of St. Mary Major to pray before the image of the Virgin Salus Popoli Romani and to ask for her intercession for his apostolic trip to the European institutions based in Strasbourg. Francis prayed for around half an hour and left before the Virgin a floral tribute in blue and yellow, the colours of the European flag.

The Pope to the European Parliament: dignity and transcendence, key concepts for the future of Europe

Vatican City, 25 November 2014 (VIS) – Europe's future depends on the rediscovery of the vital and indissoluble nexus between dignity and transcendence, as otherwise it risks slowly losing its soul and the humanistic spirit that loves and defends. This was Pope Francis' message to the members of the European Parliament during his visit to the legislative body of the European Union (EU) in Strasbourg: it is the only international organisation directly elected by 508 million citizens, and composed of 751 deputies elected in the 28 member states of the EU.

The Holy Father left Rome by air shortly before 8 a.m. and arrived in Strasbourg in 10 a.m., where he was greeted by the French Minister of State for European Affairs, two deputy presidents, various representatives of the civil authorities, including the mayor of Strasbourg, Roland Ries, and local ecclesiastical figures. Pope Francis then travelled by car to the seat of the Parliament where he was received by President Martin Schulz and, following presentations by the two delegations of the 14 members of the Bureau of the Parliament and the 8 presidents of the political groups of the Assembly, he signed the Gold Book of the Parliament with the following phrase: “I hope that the European Parliament is always the place where each member contributes to ensure that Europe, mindful of her past, looks with confidence to the future to live with hope in the present”.

After attending the Solemn Session of the Parliament and listening to the speech by President Schulz, Pope Francis addressed the Assembly, recalling that his visit takes place over a quarter of a century after that of Pope John Paul II, and many things have changed in Europe and throughout the world in the intervening period. “The opposing blocs which then divided the continent in two no longer exist, and gradually the hope is being realised that 'Europe, endowed with sovereign and free institutions, will one day reach the full dimensions that geography, and even more, history have given it'. As the European Union has expanded, the world itself has become more complex and ever changing; increasingly interconnected and global, it has, as a consequence, become less and less 'Eurocentric'. Despite a larger and stronger Union, Europe seems to give the impression of being somewhat elderly and haggard, feeling less and less a protagonist in a world which frequently regards it with aloofness, mistrust and even, at times, suspicion.

In addressing you today, I would like, as a pastor, to offer a message of hope and encouragement to all the citizens of Europe. It is a message of hope, based on the confidence that our problems can become powerful forces for unity in working to overcome all those fears which Europe – together with the entire world – is presently experiencing. It is a message of hope in the Lord, who turns evil into good and death into life. It is a message of encouragement to return to the firm conviction of the founders of the European Union, who envisioned a future based on the capacity to work together in bridging divisions and in fostering peace and fellowship between all the peoples of this continent. At the heart of this ambitious political project was confidence in man, not so much as a citizen or an economic agent, but in man, in men and women as persons endowed with transcendent dignity”.

The Pope stressed the close bond between these two words: “dignity” and “transcendent”.

'Dignity' was the pivotal concept in the process of rebuilding which followed the Second World War”, he affirmed. “Our recent past has been marked by the concern to protect human dignity, in contrast to the manifold instances of violence and discrimination which, even in Europe, took place in the course of the centuries. Recognition of the importance of human rights came about as the result of a lengthy process, entailing much suffering and sacrifice, which helped shape an awareness of the unique worth of each individual human person. This awareness was grounded not only in historical events, but above all in European thought, characterised as it is by an enriching encounter whose 'distant springs are many, coming from Greece and Rome, from Celtic, Germanic and Slavic sources, and from Christianity which profoundly shaped them', thus forging the very concept of the 'person'.

Today, the promotion of human rights is central to the commitment of the European Union to advance the dignity of the person, both within the Union and in its relations with other countries. This is an important and praiseworthy commitment, since there are still too many situations in which human beings are treated as objects whose conception, configuration and utility can be programmed, and who can then be discarded when no longer useful, due to weakness, illness or old age”.

Promoting the dignity of the person, he continued, “means recognising that he or she possesses inalienable rights which no one may take away arbitrarily, much less for the sake of economic interests”, yet “care must be taken not to fall into certain errors which can arise from a misunderstanding of the concept of human rights and from its misuse. Today there is a tendency to claim ever broader individual rights; underlying this is a conception of the human person as detached from all social and anthropological contexts. ... The equally essential and complementary concept of duty no longer seems to be linked to such a concept of rights. As a result, the rights of the individual are upheld, without regard for the fact that each human being is part of a social context wherein his or her rights and duties are bound up with those of others and with the common good of society itself”.

The Pontiff emphasised, “I believe, therefore, that it is vital to develop a culture of human rights which wisely links the individual, or better, the personal aspect, to that of the common good, of the ‘all of us’ made up of individuals, families and intermediate groups who together constitute society. … To speak of transcendent human dignity thus means appealing to human nature, to our innate capacity to distinguish good from evil, to that 'compass' deep within our hearts, which God has impressed upon all creation. Above all, it means regarding human beings not as absolutes, but as beings in relation. In my view, one of the most common diseases in Europe today is the loneliness typical of those who have no connection with others. This is especially true of the elderly, who are often abandoned to their fate, and also in the young who lack clear points of reference and opportunities for the future. It is also seen in the many poor who dwell in our cities and in the disorientation of immigrants who came here seeking a better future”.

This loneliness, he remarked, “has become more acute as a result of the economic crisis, whose effects continue to have tragic consequences for the life of society. In recent years, as the European Union has expanded, there has been growing mistrust on the part of citizens towards institutions considered to be aloof, engaged in laying down rules perceived as insensitive to individual peoples, if not downright harmful. In many quarters we encounter a general impression of weariness and ageing, of a Europe which is … no longer fertile and vibrant. As a result, the great ideas which once inspired Europe seem to have lost their attraction, only to be replaced by the bureaucratic technicalities of its institutions. Together with this, we encounter certain rather selfish lifestyles, marked by an opulence which is no longer sustainable and frequently indifferent to the world around us, and especially to the poorest of the poor. To our dismay we see technical and economic questions dominating political debate, to the detriment of genuine concern for human beings. Men and women risk being reduced to mere cogs in a machine that treats them as items of consumption to be exploited, with the result that – as is so tragically apparent – whenever a human life no longer proves useful for that machine, it is discarded with few qualms, as in the case of the terminally ill, the elderly who are abandoned and uncared for, and children who are killed in the womb. This is the great mistake made 'when technology is allowed to take over'; the result is a confusion between ends and means. It is the inevitable consequence of a 'throwaway culture' and an uncontrolled consumerism”.

Francis reminded the members of parliament that they are called to a great mission which may however appear impossible: tending to the needs of individuals and peoples. “To care for individuals and peoples in need means protecting memory and hope; it means taking responsibility for the present with its situations of utter marginalisation and anguish, and being capable of bestowing dignity upon it. How, then, can hope in the future be restored, so that, beginning with the younger generation, there can be a rediscovery of that confidence needed to pursue the great ideal of a united and peaceful Europe, a Europe which is creative and resourceful, respectful of rights and conscious of its duties?”

To answer this question, the Pope referred to Raphael's celebrated fresco of the “School of Athens”, found in the Vatican. “Plato and Aristotle are in the centre. Plato’s finger is pointed upward, to the world of ideas, to the sky, to heaven as we might say. Aristotle holds his hand out before him, towards the viewer, towards the world, concrete reality. This strikes me as a very apt image of Europe and her history, made up of the constant interplay between heaven and earth, where the sky suggests that openness to the transcendent – to God – which has always distinguished the peoples of Europe, while the earth represents Europe’s practical and concrete ability to confront situations and problems. The future of Europe depends on the recovery of the vital connection between these two elements. A Europe which is no longer open to the transcendent dimension of life is a Europe which risks slowly losing its own soul and that 'humanistic spirit' which it still loves and defends. … I consider to be fundamental not only the legacy that Christianity has offered in the past to the social and cultural formation of the continent, but above all the contribution which it desires to offer today, and in the future, to Europe’s growth. This contribution does not represent a threat to the secularity of states or to the independence of the institutions of the European Union, but rather an enrichment. This is clear from the ideals which shaped Europe from the beginning, such as peace, subsidiarity and reciprocal solidarity, and a humanism centred on respect for the dignity of the human person”.

Pope Francis went on to reiterate the readiness of the Holy See and the Catholic Church, through the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe (COMECE), to engage in “meaningful, open and transparent dialogue with the institutions of the European Union. I am likewise convinced that a Europe which is capable of appreciating its religious roots and of grasping their fruitfulness and potential, will be all the more immune to the many forms of extremism spreading in the world today, not least as a result of the great vacuum of ideals which we are currently witnessing in the West, since 'it is precisely man’s forgetfulness of God, and his failure to give him glory, which gives rise to violence'. Here I cannot fail to recall the many instances of injustice and persecution which daily afflict religious minorities, and Christians in particular, in various parts of our world. Communities and individuals today find themselves subjected to barbaric acts of violence: they are evicted from their homes and native lands, sold as slaves, killed, beheaded, crucified or burned alive, under the shameful and complicit silence of so many.

The motto of the European Union is United in Diversity. Unity, however, does not mean uniformity of political, economic and cultural life, or ways of thinking. ... I consider Europe as a family of peoples who will sense the closeness of the institutions of the Union when these latter are able wisely to combine the desired ideal of unity with the diversity proper to each people, cherishing particular traditions, acknowledging its past history and its roots, liberated from so many manipulations and phobias. … At the same time, the specific features of each one represent an authentic richness to the degree that they are placed at the service of all. … Ladies and Gentlemen, Members of the European Parliament, within this dynamic of unity and particularity, yours is the responsibility of keeping democracy alive for the peoples of Europe. It is no secret that a conception of unity seen as uniformity strikes at the vitality of the democratic system, weakening the rich, fruitful and constructive interplay of organisations and political parties. … Keeping democracy alive in Europe requires avoiding the many globalising tendencies to dilute reality: namely, angelic forms of purity, dictatorships of relativism, brands of ahistorical fundamentalism, ethical systems lacking kindness, and intellectual discourse bereft of wisdom”.

Keeping democracies alive “is a challenge in the present historic moment. The true strength of our democracies – understood as expressions of the political will of the people – must not be allowed to collapse under the pressure of multinational interests which are not universal, which weaken them and turn them into uniform systems of economic power at the service of unseen empires. This is one of the challenges which history sets before you today. To give Europe hope means more than simply acknowledging the centrality of the human person; it also implies nurturing the gifts of each man and woman. It means investing in individuals and in those settings in which their talents are shaped and flourish. The first area surely is that of education, beginning with the family, the fundamental cell and most precious element of any society. ... Then too, stressing the importance of the family not only helps to give direction and hope to new generations, but also to many of our elderly, who are often forced to live alone and are effectively abandoned because there is no longer the warmth of a family hearth able to accompany and support them. Alongside the family, there are the various educational institutes: schools and universities. … Young people today are asking for a suitable and complete education which can enable them to look to the future with hope instead of disenchantment”.

The Pontiff went on to speak about the defence of the environment, remarking that “Europe has always been in the vanguard of efforts to promote ecology. Our earth needs constant concern and attention. Each of us has a personal responsibility to care for creation, this precious gift which God has entrusted to us. This means, on the one hand, that nature is at our disposal, to enjoy and use properly. Yet it also means that we are not its masters. Stewards, but not masters. … Respect for the environment, however, means more than not destroying it; it also means using it for good purposes. I am thinking above all of the agricultural sector, which provides sustenance and nourishment to our human family. It is intolerable that millions of people around the world are dying of hunger while tons of food are discarded each day from our tables. Respect for nature also means recognising that man himself is a fundamental part of it. Along with an environmental ecology, there is also need of that human ecology which consists in respect for the person, which I have wanted to emphasise in addressing you today”.

The second area in which talent flourishes is work. “The time has come to promote policies which create employment, but above all there is a need to restore dignity to labour by ensuring proper working conditions. This implies, on the one hand, finding new ways of joining market flexibility with the need for stability and security on the part of workers; these are indispensable for their human development. It also implies favouring a suitable social context geared not to the exploitation of persons, but to ensuring, precisely through labour, their ability to create a family and educate their children”.

With regard to the need fro a united response to question of migration, Francis exclaimed, “We cannot allow the Mediterranean to become a vast cemetery! … The absence of mutual support within the European Union runs the risk of encouraging particularistic solutions to the problem, solutions which fail to take into account the human dignity of immigrants, and thus contribute to slave labour and continuing social tensions. Europe will be able to confront the problems associated with immigration only if it is capable of clearly asserting its own cultural identity and enacting adequate legislation to protect the rights of European citizens and to ensure the acceptance of immigrants. Only if it is capable of adopting fair, courageous and realistic policies which can assist the countries of origin in their own social and political development and in their efforts to resolve internal conflicts – the principal cause of this phenomenon – rather than adopting policies motivated by self-interest, which increase and feed such conflicts.

Awareness of one’s own identity is also necessary for entering into a positive dialogue with the States which have asked to become part of the Union in the future. I am thinking especially of those in the Balkans, for which membership in the European Union could be a response to the desire for peace in a region which has suffered greatly from past conflicts. Awareness of one’s own identity is also indispensable for relations with other neighbouring countries, particularly with those bordering the Mediterranean, many of which suffer from internal conflicts, the pressure of religious fundamentalism and the reality of global terrorism.

It is incumbent upon you, as legislators, to protect and nurture Europe’s identity, so that its citizens can experience renewed confidence in the institutions of the Union and in its underlying project of peace and friendship. … I encourage you to work to make Europe rediscover the best of itself. An anonymous second-century author wrote that 'Christians are to the world what the soul is to the body'. The function of the soul is to support the body, to be its conscience and its historical memory. A two-thousand-year-old history links Europe and Christianity. It is a history not free of conflicts and errors, but one constantly driven by the desire to work for the good of all. We see this in the beauty of our cities, and even more in the beauty of the many works of charity and constructive cooperation throughout this continent. This history, in large part, must still be written. It is our present and our future. It is our identity. Europe urgently needs to recover its true features in order to grow, as its founders intended, in peace and harmony, since it is not yet free of conflicts”.

Dear Members of the European Parliament”, he concluded, “the time has come to work together in building a Europe which revolves not around the economy, but around the sacredness of the human person, around inalienable values. In building a Europe which courageously embraces its past and confidently looks to its future in order fully to experience the hope of its present. The time has come for us to abandon the idea of a Europe which is fearful and self-absorbed, in order to revive and encourage a Europe of leadership, a repository of science, art, music, human values, and faith too. A Europe which contemplates the heavens and pursues lofty ideals. A Europe which cares for, defends and protects man, every man and woman. A Europe which bestrides the earth surely and securely, a precious point of reference for all humanity”.

Francis at the Council of Europe: imposed peace is not enough – it must be loved, free and fraternal

Vatican City, 25 November 2014 (VIS) – At midday the Holy Father proceeded by car to the seat of the Council of Europe, where he met the authorities, including the secretary general Thorbjørn Jagland, who accompanied him to the lobby of the Committee of Ministers. This was followed by an exchange of gifts, after which they entered the Great Hall where, following greetings and the opening discourse by the secretary general, the Pontiff addressed those present, thanking them for their invitation and for their “work and contribution to peace in Europe through the promotion of democracy, human rights and the rule of law”.

He continued, “This year the Council of Europe celebrates its sixty-fifth anniversary. It was the intention of its founders that the Council would respond to a yearning for unity which, from antiquity, has characterised the life of the continent. Frequently, however, in the course of the centuries, the pretension to power has led to the dominance of particularist movements. … The dream of the founders was to rebuild Europe in a spirit of mutual service which today too, in a world more prone to make demands than to serve, must be the cornerstone of the Council of Europe’s mission on behalf of peace, freedom and human dignity”.

On the other hand, the road to peace, and avoiding a repetition of what occurred in the two World Wars of the last century, “is to see others not as enemies to be opposed but as brothers and sisters to be embraced. This entails an ongoing process which may never be considered fully completed. This is precisely what the founders grasped. They understood that peace was a good which must continually be attained, one which calls for constant vigilance. … Consequently, the founders voiced their desire to advance slowly but surely with the passage of time. That is why the founders established this body as a permanent institution. Pope Paul VI, several years later, observed that 'the institutions which in the juridical order and in international society have the task and merit of proclaiming and preserving peace, will attain their lofty goal only if they remain continually active, if they are capable of creating peace, making peace, at every moment'. What is called for is a constant work of humanisation, for 'it is not enough to contain wars, to suspend conflicts ... An imposed peace, a utilitarian and provisional peace, is not enough. Progress must be made towards a peace which is loved, free and fraternal, founded, that is, on a reconciliation of hearts'”.

Achieving the good of peace first calls for education in peace, “banishing a culture of conflict aimed at fear of others, marginalising those who think or live differently … Tragically, peace continues all too often to be violated. This is the case in so many parts of the world where conflicts of various sorts continue to rage. It is also the case here in Europe, where tensions persist”, he said. “Yet peace is also put to the test by other forms of conflict, such as religious and international terrorism, which displays deep disdain for human life and indiscriminately reaps innocent victims. This phenomenon is unfortunately bankrolled by a frequently unchecked traffic in weapons. The Church is convinced that 'the arms race is one of the greatest curses on the human race and the harm it inflicts on the poor is more than can be endured'. Peace is also violated by trafficking in human beings, the new slavery of our age, which turns persons into merchandise for trade and deprives its victims of all dignity. Not infrequently we see how interconnected these phenomena are. The Council of Europe, through its Committees and Expert Groups, has an important and significant role to play in combating these forms of inhumanity. … Peace is not merely the absence of war, conflicts and tensions. In the Christian vision, peace is at once a gift of God and the fruit of free and reasonable human acts aimed at pursuing the common good in truth and love”.

The path chosen by the Council of Europe is above all that of promoting human rights, together with the growth of democracy and the rule of law. This is a particularly valuable undertaking, with significant ethical and social implications, since the development of our societies and their peaceful future coexistence depends on a correct understanding of these terms and constant reflection on them. … In your presence today, then, I feel obliged to stress the importance of Europe’s continuing responsibility to contribute to the cultural development of humanity.

Throughout its history, Europe has always reached for the heights, aiming at new and ambitious goals, driven by an insatiable thirst for knowledge, development, progress, peace and unity. … But in order to progress towards the future we need the past, we need profound roots. We also need the courage not to flee from the present and its challenges. We need memory, courage, a sound and humane utopian vision. … Truth appeals to conscience, which cannot be reduced to a form of conditioning. Conscience is capable of recognising its own dignity and being open to the absolute; it thus gives rise to fundamental decisions guided by the pursuit of the good, for others and for one’s self; it is itself the locus of responsible freedom. … It also needs to be kept in mind that apart from the pursuit of truth, each individual becomes the criterion for measuring himself and his own actions. The way is thus opened to a subjectivistic assertion of rights, so that the concept of human rights, which has an intrinsically universal import, is replaced by an individualistic conception of rights”.

This kind of individualism leads to human impoverishment and cultural aridity, since it effectively cuts off the nourishing roots on which the tree grows. Indifferent individualism leads to the cult of opulence reflected in the throwaway culture all around us. … And so today we are presented with the image of a Europe which is hurt, not only by its many past ordeals, but also by present-day crises which it no longer seems capable of facing with its former vitality and energy; a Europe which is a bit tired and pessimistic, besieged by events and winds of change coming from other continents. … Europe should reflect on whether its immense human, artistic, technical, social, political, economic and religious patrimony is simply an artefact of the past, or whether it is still capable of inspiring culture and displaying its treasures to mankind as a whole. In providing an answer to this question, the Council of Europe with its institutions has a role of primary importance”.

The history of Europe might lead us to think somewhat naively of the continent as bipolar, or at most tripolar … and thus to interpret the present and to look to the future on the basis of this schema, which is a simplification born of pretentions to power. But this is not the case today, and we can legitimately speak of a 'multipolar' Europe. Its tensions – whether constructive or divisive – are situated between multiple cultural, religious and political poles. Europe today confronts the challenge of creatively 'globalising' this multipolarity” which calls for “striving to create a constructive harmony, one free of those pretensions to power which, while appearing from a pragmatic standpoint to make things easier, end up destroying the cultural and religious distinctiveness of peoples”.

To speak of European multipolarity is to speak of peoples which are born, grow and look to the future. The task of globalising Europe’s multipolarity cannot be conceived by appealing to the image of a sphere – in which all is equal and ordered, but proves reductive inasmuch as every point is equidistant from the centre – but rather, by the image of a polyhedron, in which the harmonic unity of the whole preserves the particularity of each of the parts”.

The second challenge which I would like to mention is transversality. … Were we to define the continent today, we should speak of a Europe in dialogue, one which puts a transversality of opinions and reflections at the service of a harmonious union of peoples. To embark upon this path of transversal communication requires not only generational empathy, but also an historic methodology of growth. In Europe’s present political situation, merely internal dialogue between the organisations (whether political, religious or cultural) to which one belongs, ends up being unproductive. Our times demand the ability to break out of the structures which 'contain' our identity and to encounter others, for the sake of making that identity more solid and fruitful in the fraternal exchange of transversality. A Europe which can only dialogue with limited groups stops halfway; it needs that youthful spirit which can rise to the challenge of transversality”.

In the light of all this, I am gratified by the Council of Europe's desire to invest in intercultural dialogue, including its religious dimension, through the Exchanges on the religious dimension of intercultural dialogue. Here is a valuable opportunity for open, respectful and enriching exchange between persons and groups of different origins and ethnic, linguistic and religious traditions, in a spirit of understanding and mutual respect”.

This way of thinking also casts light on the contribution which Christianity can offer to the cultural and social development of Europe today within the context of a correct relationship between religion and society. … European society as a whole cannot fail to benefit from a renewed interplay between these two sectors, whether to confront a form of religious fundamentalism which is above all inimical to God, or to remedy a reductive rationality which does no honour to man. There are in fact a number of pressing issues which I am convinced can lead to mutual enrichment, issues on which the Catholic Church – particularly through the Council of Episcopal Conferences of Europe (CCEE) – can cooperate with the Council of Europe and offer an essential contribution”.

Similarly, the contemporary world offers a number of other challenges requiring careful study and a common commitment, beginning with the welcoming of migrants. … Then too, there is the grave problem of work. … It is my profound hope that the foundations will be laid for a new social and economic cooperation, free of ideological pressures, capable of confronting a globalised world while at the same time encouraging that sense of solidarity and mutual charity which has been a distinctive feature of Europe, thanks to the generous efforts of hundreds of men and women – some of whom the Catholic Church considers saints – who over the centuries have worked to develop the continent, both by entrepreneurial activity and by works of education, welfare, and human development. These works, above all, represent an important point of reference for the many poor people living in Europe. How many of them there are in our streets! They ask not only for the food they need for survival, which is the most elementary of rights, but also for a renewed appreciation of the value of their own life, which poverty obscures, and a rediscovery of the dignity conferred by work”.

Finally, among the issues calling for our reflection and our cooperation is the defence of the environment, of this beloved planet earth. It is the greatest resource which God has given us and is at our disposal not to be disfigured, exploited, and degraded, but so that, in the enjoyment of its boundless beauty, we can live in this world with dignity”.

Pope Paul VI called the Church an 'expert in humanity'. In this world, following the example of Christ and despite the sins of her sons and daughters, the Church seeks nothing other than to serve and to bear witness to the truth. This spirit alone guides us in supporting the progress of humanity. In this spirit, the Holy See intends to continue its cooperation with the Council of Europe, which today plays a fundamental role in shaping the mentality of future generations of Europeans. This calls for mutual engagement in a far-ranging reflection aimed at creating a sort of new agora, in which all civic and religious groups can enter into free exchange, while respecting the separation of sectors and the diversity of positions, an exchange inspired purely by the desire of truth and the advancement of the common good. For culture is always born of reciprocal encounter which seeks to stimulate the intellectual riches and creativity of those who take part in it; this is not only a good in itself, it is also something beautiful. My hope is that Europe, by rediscovering the legacy of its history and the depth of its roots, and by embracing its lively multipolarity and the phenomenon of a transversality in dialogue, will rediscover that youthfulness of spirit which has made this continent fruitful and great”.

The Pope receives the President of the Arab Republic of Egypt

Vatican City, 25 November 2014 (VIS) – Yesterday, 24 November, Pope Francis received in audience Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, president of the Arab Republic of Egypt. Following this encounter the president met with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin.

During the cordial exchange, discussions focused on the situation in the Egyptian nation, highlighting the closeness and solidarity of the Church to all the people of Egypt during this period of political transition. At the same time, hope was expressed that within the framework of guarantees enshrined by the new Constitution in terms of the safeguard of human rights and religious freedom, the peaceful coexistence among all components of society may be strengthened and the path to inter-religious dialogue may continue to be pursued.

Furthermore, themes of common interest were discussed with particular reference to the role of the country in the promotion of peace and stability in the Middle East and North Africa. In this regard, it was reiterated that dialogue and negotiation are the only options to put an end to the conflicts and to the violence that endanger defenceless populations and cause the loss of human lives.

The Pope to convoke a conference in Haiti in January 2015, five years after the earthquake that devastated the island

Vatican City, 25 November 2014 (VIS) – This morning the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” announced that its president, Cardinal Robert Sarah, will visit Haiti from 25 to 29 November, five years on from the earthquake that brought devastation to the island and its population, causing around 230 thousand deaths. The main aim of the trip is to bring a sign of concrete spiritual closeness to those who are still engaged in reconstruction works, and to inaugurate the “Notre Dame des Anges” school in Leogane, built through the work of the local Church and with the coordination of the apostolic nunciature.

On the occasion of this trip, the Holy Father has expressed his wish to convoke a conference on Haiti, to be held in the Vatican on 10 January 2015, to ensure that attention remains focused on this humanitarian catastrophe, the impact of which is still felt, and to emphasise the Church's closeness to the Haitian people. The meeting will be organised by the Pontifical Commission for Latin America and the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”, in collaboration with local bishops.

Meanwhile, on 26 November, during his visit to the island, Cardinal Sarah will meet with representatives of Caritas Haiti, Msgr. Erick Touissant, the president and the director, Fr. Herve Francois, as well as other Caritas representatives present on the island. He will then meet with other Catholic humanitarian organisations working in Haiti.

On 27 November he will participate in the opening of the school “Notre Dame des Anges” in Leogane, managed by the Society of Jesus and built using funds sent directly by the Holy Father during the five years following the earthquake. On the same day he will meet with the local authorities, and in particular with the president of the Republic of Haiti.

On 28 November the prelate will meet with the Episcopal Conference of Haiti, the priests, religious and laypersons who offer their assistance not only in the reconstruction of infrastructure but also in the full human development of the population. The Cardinal will communicate the Pope's special encouragement to all to continue their work with dedication.

Audiences

Vatican City, 25 November 2014 (VIS) – On the afternoon of Monday 24 November, the Holy Father received in audience Abdulaziz Othman Altwaijri, director general of the Islamic Educational Cultural and Scientific Organisation, and entourage.


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