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Saturday, October 1, 2016

Meeting priests, religious and seminarians in Tbilisi

At 3:30pm local time today, the Holy Father, Pope Francis left the Nunciature in Tbilisi and went to the Church of the Assumption for a meeting with priests, religious men and women and seminarians.  Also in attendance were representatives from the Pastoral Councils of various Catholic denominations present in Georgia.

Upon his arrival, at 3:45pm, the Pope was welcomed by His Excellency, Giuseppe Pasotto, Apostolic Administrator for Latin Catholics in the Caucasus; and the Vicar.  Following the introductions offered by the Apostolic Administrator and four testimonials which were offered, the Holy Father gave his speech.

The meeting concluded with the recitation of the Our Father in Georgian, a blessing and the offering of a gift to the Holy Father.

Speech of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
addressed to priests, religious men and women
and seminarians

Good afternoon!
Thank you, dear Brother, thank you.
Now, I will speak for all, mixing up all the questions.

When you (referring to priests who had provided their testimonials) were speaking, at the end it came to my mind - and he (Bishop Minassian) is my witness - something that happened at the end of the Mass in Gyumri (Armenia).  Having completed the Mass, I invited His Excellency to climb aboard the popemobile along with the Bishop of the Armenian Apostolic Church in that same city.  We were three bishops: the Bishop of Rome, the Catholic Bishop of Gyumri and the Armenian Apostolic Bishop.  All three: a nice salad!  We made the rounds, travelling though the crowd and then we all disembarked.  And when I went to get in to the car, an old lady made a sign to me, calling me to come to her.  How old was she?  Eighty?  She wasn't old ... It seemed that she was older than that, she seemed to be older than eighty ... I felt in my heart a desire to go to her and to greet her, because she was behind the barriers.  She was a humble woman, very humble.  She greeted me with love ... She had a gold tooth, like they used to have in times gone by ... And she said to me: I am Armenian, but I live in Georgia.  And I came from Georgia!  She had travelled for eight hours, or seven hours by bus, to meet the Pope.  Then, the next day, when I was going somewhere else - two hours or more - I found her there too!  I told her: But, madam, you are from Georgia ... So many hours of travelling.  And then two more hours the next day, to find me ...  Ah, yes!  This is faith!, she said to me.  You spoke about being firm in your faith.  Be firm in your faith and bear witness to it like this woman did.  She believed that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, had left Peter on the earth and she wanted to see Peter.

To be firm in faith means being able to receive faith from others, able to safeguard it and to pass it on.  You said, as you spoke about being firm in faith: keeping the memory of the past alive, the history of a nation and having the courage to dream and to build a bright future.  Being firm in faith means not forgetting that which we have learned, above all, passing it on to our brothers and helping them to believe too.  This is the reason why, when I was in Kraków, I gave a special mission to the young people: to speak with their grandmothers.  Grandmothers are the ones who have passed on the faith to us.  And you who work with young people should teach them to listen to their grandmothers, to speak with their grandmothers, to receive the fresh water of faith, to build upon it in the present, to make it known and to help others to believe - don't hide it in a drawer, no - build upon it, make it grow and pass it on to our children.

The Apostle Paul, speaking to his beloved disciple Timothy, in the second letter, told him to remain firm in the faith that he had received from his mother and his grandmother.  This is the path that we must choose, and this will help us to grow a lot.  To receive our inheritance, to help it to take root and to pass it on.  A plant that has no roots will never grow.  Faith without the roots of a mother and a grandmother will never grow.  Even the faith that has been passed on to me and that I do not pass on to others, to little ones, to my children cannot grow.

Therefore, to sum up: in order to be firm in faith, we need to have a memory of the past, be courageous for the present and have hope for the future.  This is true for anyone who wants to be firm in faith.  Don't forget that Georgian woman, who was able to travel by bus - for six or seven hours - to Armenia, to the city of Gyumri, where he (His Excellency, Raphael François Minassian) is the Bishop, and then the next day, go on to find the Pope again in Yerevan.  Don't forget that image!  She is a woman who lives here: she is an Armenian woman, but she lives in Georgia!  And Georgian woman are hungry, they have a great hunger to be women of faith, strong, able to help the Church to go on!

And you, Kote (the seminarian), once you said to your mother: I want to do what that man is doing (the priest who was celebrating Mass).  And when you were finished speaking, you said: I am proud to be a Catholic and to become a Georgian Catholic priest.   That's quite a story ,,, You did not say what your mother responded ... What did she say when you told her: I want to do what that man is doing? (He responded: I was young and my mother told me: Ok, do what he is doing! ... But I was a young child ... ).  Once again it is the woman, a strong Georgian woman.  That woman was losing a son, but she praised God.  She accompanied him on his journey, and Kote's mother also lost the opportunity to become a mother-in-law! ... This is the beginning of a vocation, and there is always a mother, a grandmother ... But you said the key word: memory.  Keep the memory of your first call.  Cherish that moment and never forget that memory: Mommy, I want to do what that man is doing.  This was no fairy tale that came into your mind: it was the Holy Spirit inspiring you.  And keep this with the memory; cherish the grace of the Holy Spirit.  Here, I am speaking to all you priests and sisters!

All of us, in our lives, have - or had - dark moments.  Even we who are consecrated have moments of darkness.  When it seems that things are not progressing, when we are having difficulty living together in community, in our dioceses ... In those moments, what we need to do is to stop and to remember.  Remember the moment when I was touched by the Holy Spirit.  Like he said, at the moment when he said: Mommy, I want to do what that man is doing: the moment when we touch the Holy Spirit.  Perseverance in a vocation is rooted in the memory of the embrace in which the Lord enwrapped us and with which he said to us: Come, come with me.  This is what I advice all of you who are consecrated: do not turn away, when there are difficulties.  If you can, look back, to the memory of that moment.  The only one.  And that is how your faith will remain strong, your vocation will remain strong ... With our weaknesses, with our sins; we are all sinners and we all need to go to confession, but the mercy and the love of Jesus are greater than our sins.

Now, I want to speak about two things that you have said ... but (first) tell me: is it really cold in Kazakstan in winter?  Yes? ... Well, keep going all the same!

And now, Irina.  We spoke with the priests, with the religious, with those who are consecrated in firm faith but what is faith like in matrimony?  Marriage is the most beautiful thing that God has ever created.  The bible tells us that God created man and woman, he created them in his image (cf Gen 1:27).  That means that man and woman, who become one flesh, are the image of God.  I understood, Irina, when you were speaking about difficulties that so often are part of married life: misunderstandings, temptations ... Ah, it's easy to solve these problems; we can always get a divorce and then I can find someone else, he can find someone else, and we'll start again.  Irina, do you know who pays the price of a divorce?  Two people pay.  Who pays?  (Irina responds: both do).  Both of you?  Even more!  God pays, because one flesh is divided, the image of God is spoiled.  And children pay too.  You have no idea, dear brothers and sisters, you have no idea how much children suffer, the little ones, when they see fighting between their parents, and their separation!  We should do everything we can to save our marriages.  But is it normal to have fights in a marriage?  Yes, it's normal.  It happens.  Sometimes, dishes fly.  But if love is true, then we can quickly make peace.  I advise spouses: fight if you want, fight if you want but don't let the day end without making up with one another.  Do you know why?  Because a cold war the next day is very dangerous.  How many marriages would be saved if we had the courage, at the end of the day, to not make a speech, but to give each other a hug, and peace would be achieved!  It's true, there are some more complicated situations, when the devil gets involved and puts before the man a woman who is more beautiful than his wife, or when he places before the woman a man who is more handsome than her husband.  Ask for help right away.  When this temptation appears, ask for help right away.

This is what you (Irina) were saying: we need to help couples.  And how can we help couples?  We can help by welcoming them, staying close to them, accompanying them, discernment and integration of couples into the life of the Church.  Welcome, accompany, discern and integrate.  In the Catholic community, we must help couples to save their marriages.  There are three words: golden words in married life.  I always ask couples: Do you love each other? - Yes, they say.  And when one of you does something for the other one, do you say 'thank you'? And if one of you does something wrong, do you ask the other one for forgiveness?  If you want to do something (for example) spend a day in the country, or whatever, do you ask your spouse for his or her opinion?  There are three words: What do you think?  Can I?; Thank you; Excuse me.  If couples use these words: Excuse me, I was wrong; Can I do this? or Thank you for this wonderful treat that you prepared for me. Can I, Thank you, Excuse me, if you use these three words, marriage will work out well.  They are one way to help.

Irina, you mentioned a great danger to marriage today: the theory of gender.  Today, there is a world war being fought against marriage.  Today, there are ideological colonizations that destroy, but not with armies, they destroy with ideas.  Therefore, we have to defend ourselves against ideological colonizations.  If there are problems, try to make peace as soon as possible, before the day is ended, and don't forget those three words: Excuse me, thank you, and I'm sorry.

And you, Kote, you spoke about an open Church, that is not closed in upon itself, that is a Church for all, a mother Church - mothers are like that.  There are two women who Jesus wanted us all to have: his mother and his spouse.  These two are similar.  The mother is the mother of Jesus, and he left her as our mother.  The Church is Jesus' spouse and is also our mother.  With the mother Church and our mother Mary, we can go on ahead, secure in our steps.  There, we will find another woman.  It seems that the Lord prefers to use women to build up the faith.  Mary, the Holy Mother of God; the Church, the Holy Spouse of God - even though she is sinful in each of us, her children - and the grandmother and the mother who passed on the faith to us.

It will be up to Mary, it will be up to the Church, it will be up to our grandmothers and our mothers to defend the faith.  Your ancient monks said this - listen well: When there are spiritual turbulences, we must take refuge under the mantle of the Holy Mother of God.  And Mary is the model of the Church, she is the model of all women, yes, because the Church is a woman and Mary is a woman.

Now, one last thing ... Who said it?  Perhaps it was Kote, once more: the problem of ecumenism.  Never fight!  Let the theologians study abstract things about theology.  But what should I do with a friend, a neighbour, an orthodox person?  Be open, be a friend.  Should I force them to convert?  There is a great sin against ecumenism: proselytism.  We should never proselytize with the orthodox!  They are our brothers and sisters, disciples of Jesus Christ.  There are many complex historical reasons why things are the way they are.  Both they and we believe in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit; we believe in the Holy Mother of God.  And what should we do?  Do not condemn, no, we cannot.  Friendship, journeying together, pray for one another.  Pray and do works of charity together, when you can.  This is ecumenism.  But never condemn a brother or a sister, never refuse to greet him or her because he or she is orthodox.

I want to finish by talking about something else that poor Kote said.  Holy Father - you said at the end - I am proud to be Catholic and to become a Georgian Catholic priest.  To you and to all of you Georgians, I believe, please, defend yourself against worldliness.  Jesus spoke out so strongly against worldliness; and in his speech during the Last Supper, he asked the Father: Father, defend them (the disciples) against worldliness.  Defend them against the world.  Let us ask for this grace all together: that the Lord might free us from worldliness; that He might make us men and women of the Church; firm in the faith that we have received from our mothers and grandmothers; firm in the faith that is secure beneath the protection of the mantle of the Holy Mother of God.

And so, just as we are, without moving about, let us pray to the Holy Mother of God.

Hail Mary ...

And now, I will give you my blessing.  And I ask you, please, to pray for me.


Pray for me.
(Original text in Italian)

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