Parents: Moved to Tears After Pope Hugs Their Disabled Son

The parents of a disabled little boy were speechless and moved to tears when Pope Francis cradled the child and kissed him.

I watched the video, and it brought a lump to my throat as well.

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Monsignor Meth Pleads Guilty

It looks like Kevin Wallin, the breaking bad priest known in the press as “Monsignor Meth,” is going to prison.

Wallin, who was on suspension from the priesthood at the time of his arrest, pled guilty to possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine. He is scheduled to be sentenced June 25 and is expected to receive a sentence of between 11 and 14 years in prison. Since this is a federal crime, he may serve most of his sentence behind bars. 

Wallin, who is 61, will probably be an elderly man if he ever goes free again. 

In addition to taking up drug trafficking, Wallin had also opened an adult video and sex toy shop named Oz & Dorothy’s Place. He is accused of using the shop to launder the drug money.

From the Associated Press: 

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A suspended Roman Catholic priest accused of making more than $300,000 in methamphetamine sales out of his Connecticut apartment while running an adult video and sex toy shop pleaded guilty Tuesday to a federal drug charge.

Kevin Wallin, 61, of Waterbury, admitted to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine and was scheduled to be sentenced June 25. The prosecution and defense agreed on a sentence of 11 to 14 years in prison.

Prosecutors said the 61-year-old Wallin had meth mailed to him from co-conspirators in California and sold the drugs out of his Waterbury apartment last year. He also bought an adult video and sex toy shop in North Haven named Land of Oz & Dorothy’s Place, apparently to launder the drug money, authorities said.

Wearing a beige prison jumpsuit and sporting a goatee and close-cropped hair, Wallin acknowledged in court that the drug operation involved nearly four pounds of methamphetamine. He said “yes” several times as the judge asked whether he understood the consequences of his plea.

Wallin, former pastor at St. Augustine Parish in Bridgeport, appeared to have no supporters in the courtroom. He was led out of the room in handcuffs and remains detained. (Read the rest here.) 

At Gethsemane

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Gethsemane is far more than the physical garden where Jesus prayed the night He was taken.

Gethsemane is a place in the human heart, a destination we all reach. Some of us will go there many times in our lives.

Gethsemane is what I call The Alone. It is that stripped-bare moment when the pretenses and self lies that sustain us in our illusion of invincibility and significance are taken from us. Gethsemane is the realization that we are alone in a way that the glad-handing niceties of human interaction hide from us.

Emotions such as loneliness and even despair are trivialities when contrasted with the stark solitary helplessness of The Alone. It is a stunning thing to look into the eyes of another human being and see satan looking back at you. It is a soul-scouring reality to face the insignificance we really are to other people.

That is Gethsemane, and it is what Jesus faced for you. And for me.

“Can you not wait with me one hour?” He asked the disciples, and the question vibrates with the isolating aloneness that prompted it. He had to face the awfulness of what was coming without human succor or understanding. When they came, when Judas struck Him to the heart with a kiss of betrayal, when He looked into the pitiless eyes of Satan, staring at him from another human face, He was alone.

That was Christ’s Gethsemane. Our Gethsemane, even though it will differ, is in some ways like it.

My friend Linda Caswell is director of All Things New, a ministry that shelters and redeems women who have been trafficked and prostituted. These women know The Alone not as an event or passage, but as the whole of their lives. They have inhabited The Alone the way you and I inhabit our jobs, families and lives, because it has been their lives.

Most of these women have had very few positive contacts with people of faith. They avoid churches because the men who have bought them are also in the churches. Their only safety is in Jesus, but they do not understand that at first.

When Linda shows them the movie that Mel Gibson made, The Passion of the Christ, it inevitably breaks through the hard shell of their self-defenses. Women who do not understand the Gospels as anything but a lie told by lying liars who buy and sell them break down and sob uncontrollably when they see Jesus humiliated, beaten, tortured and disregarded.

This Jesus, the One who prayed “let this cup pass” in Gethsemane, they understand. And by the miracle of the grace of the cross, they believe that this Jesus understands them.

Their lives, which have been an unending Gethsemane, open to this brother God who was beaten, tortured, humiliated and disregarded as they have been.

Because He understands. Because He does not disregard them. Because He is the only One who can go with them into The Alone of their personal Gethsemanes.

Jesus Christ suffered for us to redeem us from our sins, from the things we’ve done. He also suffered to redeem us from the things that have been done to us. In this cruel world where the biggest and the meanest usually make all the rules, the things that are done to us can cut deeper and leave us less able to see the Divine than our sins.

We put people outside the bright circles of acceptability that we draw around ourselves and those we deem worthy. We cast them into the hell of unending Gethsemane where no one keeps vigil with them and no one cares that they are alone.

Only Jesus, Who has been there, can penetrate The Alone of our lives. He is the One, the only One, who can draw people back from the man-made abyss of life lived in The Alone where we cast so many of the people that He died to save.

It is important to remember this at all times, but especially today when we re-enact the Last Supper. Jesus was becoming Christ on this night when He gave us the Eucharist and the servant priesthood. He was teaching us how to love with a love that passes all human understanding and how to live the life of the Kingdom in this world. He was showing us that even in our Gethsemane, even in the deepest pit of The Alone, we are never alone, for He is always there.

And he will keep watch with us, not just for an hour, but for the whole of this life and into the one beyond.

 

Video: Pope Francis Washing Feet on Holy Thursday

From Rome Reports: Pope Francis, washing the feet of 12 young prison inmates yesterday, including two young women and two Muslims.

What the Holy Father did here is beautiful and deeply meaningful to me.

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Pope Francis, Holy Thursday and Us

For I was in prison, and you visited me.

Pope Francis will wash the feet of incarcerated young people tonight. Some of them have no faith. Others are Muslim. Many of them did not even know who the Pope was when they first heard he was coming.

Many Catholics, particularly those in prison ministry, are overjoyed by this act. But there are others who find it off-putting, even a bit scandalous. They expect the Pope to wash the feet of other priests, or at least other men, who are Catholic, Christian and probably important. I’ve read comments emphasizing that the young people whose feet the Holy Father will wash are nondescript boys and girls, many of whom are of no faith or Muslim.  They are people who won’t even appreciate the honor they are receiving.

But the Pope is only doing what Jesus did. He is seeking out those who are lost. It appears that this deep equality of all humanity that Our Lord lived and taught is as scandalous to some of us today as it was 2,000 years ago. But a failure to live this will kill the Church. We are not meant to be a closed-off, self-congratulatory faith that despises rather than serves those Jesus died to save.

People didn’t “appreciate” the honor of having God made flesh walking among them 2,000 years ago. The drama of Holy Week is a re-enactement of just how profoundly they didn’t appreciate it. Not even His own disciples really appreciated the honor they were receiving. No one, except His mother, understood what was happening.

Holy Thursday drives us back to the night when He was taken, to the moment when He gave us the Eucharist and instituted the priesthood. But He did not give us a priesthood created for palaces and fine things. It was and is and will always be a servant priesthood. It is priesthood of the kind that goes to prisons and washes the feet of young people who do not understand the meaning of what is happening any more than Peter did on that night in the Upper Room. When it ceases to be that, it ceases to be a priesthood of Christ and becomes a priesthood for itself.

The foot washing is a sign signifying that these young people — and all of us along with them — are children of the living God. It is a living memorial of the servant priesthood Jesus instituted in the upper room 2,000 years ago. If Christ The Lord could go down on his knees before a group of itinerant fishermen and tax collectors and wash their feet, why shouldn’t the Pope do the same for a group of incarcerated young people?

If the Son of God can submit to betrayal, false arrest, verbal abuse, beating, mockery, and a hideously painful, lingering death, then what makes us think that we’re so special?

When Jesus was asked questions similar to the ones that have been raised by those who oppose the Holy Father’s plans to go to the prison tonight, He answered them with a simple statement. The Son of Man came to save and seek the lost. I think He’s saying the same thing to us today and that Pope Francis is His voice.

At last, I get to meet someone who says he is my father!

One of the young people said that when they heard of the Pope’s plans. That statement, speaking as it does of a young person who has most likely led an unloved life, breaks my heart. It also fills me with gratitude that he or she can feel that way about our Holy Father. I am in awe of a Church whose leader can wield the power of a Pope yet move to touch and heal ones such as these. Only a Church whose true head is Christ Jesus could do that.

Two thousand years and counting, and the Gospel message of love, forgiveness and hope marches on to the ends of the earth.

Why I am a Catholic in 200 Words or Less (Much Less)

1. I am a Catholic because Christ in the Eucharist called me for years and a good priest opened the doors and let me in.

2. I am a Christian – which happened before I became a Catholic — because Christ in the Holy Spirit called me. He called me throughout my anti-religion years.

3. St Peter told Jesus: Where else would we go? You alone have the words that lead to eternal life. That was true then. It’s true now.

That, in 85 words, is why I am a Catholic.

Chaput: Pope Francis is the Medicine the Church Needs

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Is Pope Francis God’s instrument for leading us away from “tepid Christianity” and “mediocrity in our faith?”


Archbishop Charles Chaput thinks so.


Overwhelming percentages of practicing Catholics are like me — delighted with our new pope. However, there is disquiet in some quarters, mostly from people who loved the symbols of high office which Pope Francis has eschewed. The people I know who feel this way are certainly not “tepid” Catholics. They are far better Catholics than I am or ever will be. They are also people who loved the pomp and feel the loss of it keenly. 


Painful as it is for them, I think that Pope Francis is teaching us a necessary lesson. He is teaching us what the symbols mean. He is pulling back the curtain on the symbolism to show us the reality behind it, and that reality is Christ. “I didn’t come to destroy the law and the prophets, but to fulfill them.” Jesus said. In the same way His vicar on earth is not destroying the richness of the Church, he is teaching us what it means.

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We are faced with virulent secularism and aggressively marketed moral and social destruction in the West; violent persecution and death-dealing exploitation, poverty and war in much of the rest of the world.


We need a pope who will preach Christ. I don’t know how to say it more directly than that. This world needs Christ and Him crucified. 


The Church is a church of metaphor and symbol. In some ways, the Church itself is a metaphor. I get that. But, if people focus on the metaphor to the point that they begin to take it literally, then that becomes a kind of idolatry. The symbols and the metaphor all point to the living Christ Who was crucified for our sins and Who offers us the gift of eternal life.

Pope Francis is not only pulling away the curtain to show us what lies behind the symbols, he is talking to us about the realities of the devil and hell. I will write about this more later, but our new pope is not afraid to refer to the “evil one” as the father of lies and the machinator behind many of our worst impulses. 

Archbishop Chaput talks about the “tepid Christianity we find in the northern hemisphere.” I couldn’t agree more. The purpose of this blog is to offer whatever assistance I can in equipping Christians to stand for Jesus. As a catechism-following, Jesus-loving, pro-life Democratic office holder, I have the unique perspective of often having been the much-maligned tip of the sword on social issues. I also have the perspective of one who has seen and experienced the almost militant indifference of Christians to what is happening in the world.

“Tepid” is too kind. Snoozing in our beds and refusing to be wakened is more to the point. I love the liturgy and the mass, not because of the vestments and the beautiful Church, but because it is an hour-long (or 30 minutes long for daily mass) prayer. I love the mass because it re-enacts Calvary, because it takes us to the foot of the cross and then beyond it to our redemption. I love the mass because the healing touch of Jesus is there in the Eucharist.

Holy eucharist

For far too many people, the form has become more important than the reality. People who focus on the form rather than the substance are too often substituting the form for the substance.

All we have to do to turn this world around is follow Christ. To do that, we need a pope, bishops and priests who preach Christ. Pope Francis is doing exactly that. I thank God for him.

Excerpts from Archbishop Chaput’s interview with Vatican Insider are below.


When he was elected Pope, Francis said that he comes from the “end of the world”. What did he mean?

“In our day and age the Gospel is preached in every corner of the Earth. God’s family of faith is one body, one people, intimately connected by the love of Jesus Christ, no matter where in the world we come from. The new Pope is living proof of this. He comes quite literally from the other side of world.”


What is the importance of him being from Argentina? Will the hispanic community play a central role in the Church of the XXI century? What changes will this imply for the U.S. Catholic Church

“Maybe God is telling us that the kind of tepid Christianity we find in the northern hemisphere is no longer vigorous enough to face the challenges the Church is faced with.”


Cardinal Bergoglio is very atypical, in that he never held a position in the Roman Curia, he has never wanted a car or a chef and he takes the bus…What does all this mean in your opinion?
 

“Less is more. Simplicity and humility, when they’re combined with intelligence and courage, make a very powerful medicine for the soul. I think this Pope is just the medicine we need as a Church.”


Why did Bergoglio choose the name Francis? Was it because St. Francis rebuilt the Church of Jesus? Does this mean that the Curia acknowledges that the Church needs to be rebuilt in some way?

“”Repair my house” were the words Jesus addressed to St. Francis from the cross of St. Damian. The issues of reform, renewal and repair: All of these things probably figured into the new Pope’s choice of a name … people have a mistaken image of Francis of Assisi … He was certainly “counter-cultural” - but only in his radical poverty; his radical obedience to the Church; and his radical insistence on living the Gospel fully, including all of its uncomfortable demands. That’s the kind of purity that leads to a genuine rebuilding of Church life …


Liberal groups, particularly here in the U.S., are really concerned about the cardinals’ choice of Pope. Even Cristina Fernández de Kirchner said that his position is reminiscent of medieval times. What you think?

“Words like “liberal” and “conservative” are hopelessly misleading when we speak about Catholic belief. There’s no way of separating love for the poor from love for an unborn child. Defense of the oppressed and marginalized and defense of the family, the nature of marriage and the unborn child spring from exactly the same Catholic commitment to human dignity. There is nothing “progressive” about killing an unborn human child in the womb. And there is nothing redeemably “orthodox” or “conservative” about ignoring the cries of the poor.”

(Read the rest here.) 



Pope Won’t Move, Will Live in Vatican Worker’s Residence

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He lives with his employees, and it appears he likes it. 

He wears black shoes, doesn’t like limousines, and makes his own telephone calls. 

Not only do I love our Pope, but he’s beginning to get through to me, at least a little bit. I spend more on toys, tech toys in particular, than the poorest of the poor on this earth make in a year. If Apple sells it, I own it. My husband says I’m competing with Imelda Marcos as to who has the most shoes. 

Maybe I need to re-think my priorities. After all, if the Pope can do it, then shouldn’t we? 

Details of the story from CNA/EWTN:

.- Pope Francis said this morning he will stay at Saint Martha’s residence instead of moving to the Apostolic Palace, according to the Vatican press office.

“After the Mass ended this morning, the Pope told those present that he intends to remain in the Casa Santa Marta and stay with the employees,” said the Holy See’s press office director, Father Federico Lombardi.

Pope Francis has been staying at the residence instead of the papal apartment because of renovations that were taking place there. According to the Associated Press, those updates have been completed and the apartment is ready for the Pope to move in.

He has invited street-sweepers, Vatican gardeners, the residency’s staff and the Vatican newspaper’s staff to take part in the daily Mass.

The seals of the papal apartment have been removed, but the Argentinian Pope will remain in St. Martha’s residence for the time being.

Fr. Lombardi did not say if the Pope will move out in the future.

When he was in Buenos Aires, Pope Francis lived in a small apartment, instead of the grand archbishop’s residence.

For years, he cooked his own meals and traveled on public transport around the city. (Read more here.)

Brother Popes in the Year of Two Living Popes

Pope Francis visited the Pope Emeritus for lunch and prayer. 

In this historic year of two living popes, it was heartwarming to see the embrace. Everything went the way you would expect. Pope Emeritus Benedict sat on the non-pope side of the seat in the car and then, when they went to prayer he tried to insist that Pope Francis go forward the altar and pray alone. Pope Francis refused to do this and so the two popes knelt in prayer side by side in a pew. 

This is the first time in 600 years that we have had two living popes. It’s heartwarming to see them behave the way men of God should. 

The Associated Press has details:

In this photo provided by the Vatican paper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis meets Pope emeritus Benedict XVI in Castel Gandolfo Saturday, March 23, 2013. Pope Francis has traveled to Castel Gandolfo to have lunch with his predecessor Benedict XVI in a historic and potentially problematic melding of the papacies that has never before confronted the Catholic Church. The Vatican said the two popes embraced on the helipad. In the chapel where they prayed together, Benedict offered Francis the traditional kneeler used by the pope. Francis refused to take it alone, saying "We're brothers," and the two prayed together on the same one. (AP Photo/Osservatore Romano, HO)

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Associated Press/Osservatore Romano, HO – In this photo provided by the Vatican paper L’Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis meets Pope emeritus Benedict XVI in Castel Gandolfo Saturday, March 23, 2013. Pope Francis has traveled to Castel Gandolfo to have lunch with his predecessor Benedict XVI in a historic and potentially problematic melding of the papacies that has never before confronted the Catholic Church. The Vatican said the two popes embraced on the helipad. In the chapel where they prayed together, Benedict offered Francis the traditional kneeler used by the pope. Francis refused to take it alone, saying “We’re brothers,” and the two prayed together on the same one. (AP Photo/Osservatore Romano, HO)  less

 

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (AP) — The two men in white embraced and showed one another the deference owed a pope in ways that surely turned Vatican protocol upside down: A reigning pope telling a retired one, “We are brothers,” and insisting that they pray side-by-side during a date to discuss the future of the Catholic Church.

Pope Francis traveled Saturday from the Vatican to this hilltown south of Rome to have lunch with his predecessor, Benedict XVI, an historic and potentially problematic melding of the papacies that has never before confronted the church.

In a season of extraordinary moments, starting with Benedict’s resignation and climaxing with the election of the first Latin American pope, Saturday’s encounter provided perhaps the most enduring images of this papal transition as popes present and past embraced, prayed and broke bread together.

“It was a moment of great communion in the church,” said the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi. “The spiritual union of these two people is truly a great gift and a promise of serenity for the church.” (Read the rest here.) 

Pope Francis on Moral Relativism and Being Our Own Criterion

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Pope watchers the world over are well aware that Pope Francis has a love and a calling for the poor. 

He has told us that this inspired his choice of names. 

This emphasis on the poor has caused some disquiet in certain circles. What, they wonder, about the other things? Rumors have flown like mosquitos, claiming that our Holy Father mocked his own election, will abandon traditional marriage, is going to upend the liturgy and allow … what was it? puppets and cartoon characters?? … in the mass. We’ve been regaled with stories about his shoe color and how he’s “tipping the Church over” by washing the feet of young prisoners on Holy Thursday.

That’s why I was so glad to be able to publish a post indicating that fully 90% of Catholics who attend weekly mass approve of our new pontiff. I would guess that the other 10% must be on their computers, spinning out tales 24/7.

Today, Pope Francis made a speech to the Vatican Diplomatic Corps which should allay at least some of those fears. He talked about the poor of the world in moving terms, saying, 

How many poor people there still are in the world! And what great suffering they have to endure! After the example of Francis of Assisi, the Church in every corner of the globe has always tried to care for and look after those who suffer from want, and I think that in many of your countries you can attest to the generous activity of Christians who dedicate themselves to helping the sick, orphans, the homeless and all the marginalized, thus striving to make society more humane and more just.

Then, he went on to talk about “another form of poverty … of our time,” which he said was “the spiritual poverty … which afflicts the so-called richer countries … what my much-loved predecessor, Benedict XVI, called the ‘tyranny of relativism’ which makes everyone his own criterion and endangers the coexistence of peoples.”

He added that this was the second reason for his name choice, since St Francis not only loved the poor, he also loved peace.

There is no peace without truth! There cannot be peace if everyone is his own criterion, if everyone can always claim exclusively his own rights, without at the same time caring for the good of others, of everyone, on the basis of the nature that unites every human being on this earth … it is not possible to build bridges between people while forgetting God. But the converse is also true: It is not possible to build true links with God while ignoring other people.

Typing these words has reminded me again how blessed we are that the Holy Spirit has given us this man to be our pope. We need to follow his leadership. It’s difficult for Americans to admit that they should stop quarreling and nit-picking and just follow. But that is what we need to do. 

We are Christians, and it is our precise calling to follow Jesus. The single best way we can know that we are following Jesus is not, as our Holy Father said, to follow our “own criterion,” but to judge our understanding of how we should live by that which is given to us by the Church. 

Pope Francis is Christ’s Vicar here on Earth. 

I personally find some of the things a tiny minority of Catholics are saying about him painful. It is hurtful to me as a woman of faith to read articles attacking my Pope. I expect it from the secular world. But when it comes from Catholics, even when they are only a disgruntled few, it is appalling. 

Here, from Vatican radio, is the entire text of Pope Francis’ speech to the diplomats: 

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Heartfelt thanks to your Dean, Ambassador Jean-Claude Michel, for the kind words that he has addressed to me in the name of everyone present. It gives me joy to welcome you for this exchange of greetings: a simple yet deeply felt ceremony, that somehow seeks to express the Pope’s embrace of the world. Through you, indeed, I encounter your peoples, and thus in a sense I can reach out to every one of your fellow citizens, with their joys, their troubles, their expectations, their desires.
Your presence here in such numbers is a sign that the relations between your countries and the Holy See are fruitful, that they are truly a source of benefit to mankind. That, indeed, is what matters to the Holy See: the good of every person upon this earth! And it is with this understanding that the Bishop of Rome embarks upon his ministry, in the knowledge that he can count on the friendship and affection of the countries you represent, and in the certainty that you share this objective. At the same time, I hope that it will also be an opportunity to begin a journey with those few countries that do not yet have diplomatic relations with the Holy See, some of which were present at the Mass for the beginning of my ministry, or sent messages as a sign of their closeness – for which I am truly grateful.
As you know, there are various reasons why I chose the name of Francis of Assisi, a familiar figure far beyond the borders of Italy and Europe, even among those who do not profess the Catholic faith. One of the first reasons was Francis’ love for the poor. How many poor people there still are in the world! And what great suffering they have to endure! After the example of Francis of Assisi, the Church in every corner of the globe has always tried to care for and look after those who suffer from want, and I think that in many of your countries you can attest to the generous activity of Christians who dedicate themselves to helping the sick, orphans, the homeless and all the marginalized, thus striving to make society more humane and more just.
But there is another form of poverty! It is the spiritual poverty of our time, which afflicts the so-called richer countries particularly seriously. It is what my much-loved predecessor, Benedict XVI, called the “tyranny of relativism”, which makes everyone his own criterion and endangers the coexistence of peoples. And that brings me to a second reason for my name. Francis of Assisi tells us we should work to build peace. But there is no true peace without truth! There cannot be true peace if everyone is his own criterion, if everyone can always claim exclusively his own rights, without at the same time caring for the good of others, of everyone, on the basis of the nature that unites every human being on this earth.
One of the titles of the Bishop of Rome is Pontiff, that is, a builder of bridges with God and between people. My wish is that the dialogue between us should help to build bridges connecting all people, in such a way that everyone can see in the other not an enemy, not a rival, but a brother or sister to be welcomed and embraced! My own origins impel me to work for the building of bridges. As you know, my family is of Italian origin; and so this dialogue between places and cultures a great distance apart matters greatly to me, this dialogue between one end of the world and the other, which today are growing ever closer, more interdependent, more in need of opportunities to meet and to create real spaces of authentic fraternity.
In this work, the role of religion is fundamental. It is not possible to build bridges between people while forgetting God. But the converse is also true: it is not possible to establish true links with God, while ignoring other people. Hence it is important to intensify dialogue among the various religions, and I am thinking particularly of dialogue with Islam. At the Mass marking the beginning of my ministry, I greatly appreciated the presence of so many civil and religious leaders from the Islamic world. And it is also important to intensify outreach to non-believers, so that the differences which divide and hurt us may never prevail, but rather the desire to build true links of friendship between all peoples, despite their diversity.
Fighting poverty, both material and spiritual, building peace and constructing bridges: these, as it were, are the reference points for a journey that I want to invite each of the countries here represented to take up. But it is a difficult journey, if we do not learn to grow in love for this world of ours. Here too, it helps me to think of the name of Francis, who teaches us profound respect for the whole of creation and the protection of our environment, which all too often, instead of using for the good, we exploit greedily, to one another’s detriment.

Dear Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you again for all the work that you do, alongside the Secretariat of State, to build peace and construct bridges of friendship and fraternity. Through you, I would like to renew to your Governments my thanks for their participation in the celebrations on the occasion of my election, and my heartfelt desire for a fruitful common endeavour. May Almighty God pour out his gifts on each one of you, on your families and on the peoples that you represent. Thank you!