3 Visit of His Eminence Card. Filoni to Malawi

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Visit of His Eminence Card. Filoni to Malawi

3-7 November 2016

Homily for the Consecration of the Cathedral of St. Joseph the Worker, Karonga, Malawi

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Temple of God and Temples of the Holy Spirit

Your Excellency, the Bishop of Karonga,

Your Excellency, the Nuncio to Malawi,

Dear Brothers in the Episcopacy and Priesthood,

Your Excellency, Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika, President of the Republic of Malawi,

Most Respectable Civil Authorities,

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I would first like to express what a joy it is to be here with all of you as the Holy Father’s Special Envoy for the solemn Consecration of your Cathedral, which was just dedicated to God as a place for you to gather as a family in worship of the Blessed Trinity. Indeed it is the Holy Father himself who, through me, comes in a certain way to this sacred place in order to draw near to you, to listen to you and to pray with you, as we now unite our hearts and our voices in this sacred liturgy. Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity to convey to all of you the greeting and Apostolic Blessing of His Holiness Pope Francis. I would also like to extend a personal greeting to His Excellency, the Most Rev. Martin Mtumbuka, Bishop of Karonga, along with a word of gratitude for the kind invitation, cordial welcome and dedicated service to this local Church. To His Excellency, the Most Rev. Julio Murat, Apostolic Nuncio to Malawi, I want to express my appreciation for organizing this visit.

Before reflecting on the Mysteries we celebrate today, I would like to fraternally greet all the Bishops here present, as well as all the priests, religious and lay faithful. As the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, I thank each of you for your tireless efforts in carrying out the Church’s mission of evangelization here in Malawi. I also extend my greeting and sentiments of gratitude to all civil officials to whom is entrusted the growth, safety and common good of this civil society.

Brothers and sisters, through the Rite of the Consecration of a Church, which took place just prior to this Mass, your Cathedral became a House of God, a privileged place where people will gather to adore the God who so humbly came to dwell among us. Whenever God calls you to this sacred space, whether for sacred liturgies and the sacraments or for personal prayer, He will renew each one of you who have become temples of the Holy Spirit. Here you will receive the strength to go out for the building up of the community of the faithful, wherever God leads you.

This joyous occasion, in which we contemplate the beauty and significance of this Temple, also marks an important step in the life of this local Church. Today we conclude the initial phase in the development of this young Diocese, which started just six years ago with its creation and the naming of its first Diocesan Bishop, all in response to the steady growth of the Church in this part of Malawi. I am happy to see that, since then, growth has continued, particularly in the number of baptisms and seminarians. This is the result of your dedication to the work of evangelization and your care for the youth and the poor.

From this new House of God, the Church in Karonga will, for generations to come, continue to grow and flourish as the faithful gather around their Bishop and his priest collaborators to worship God and receive divine strength. To this Temple many will be called by God to receive the Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation and the Holy Eucharist, which “lay the foundations of every Christian life” and enrich us with “the treasures of the divine life” for our growth in holiness.1 In your Cathedral couples will be united in the great Sacrament of Holy Matrimony and men will receive Holy Orders in service to the Church, both local and Universal. There, God’s abundant Mercy will continually be poured out upon His sons and daughters in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Finally, inside those very walls your departed brothers and sisters will receive a final farewell, until our Hope in Eternal Life reunites us in the life to come.

This Cathedral is a place where God has a home, near to your own homes, which means that He truly is “Emmanuel, God with us” (Mt 1:23), as He continually guides the growth of this young Church. God has indeed made a dwelling among us (cf. Ezekiel 37:27). Today’s First Reading speaks about the need to rejoice in God’s presence and Mercy. The priest Ezra thanked God and exhorted the people to rejoice, because “today is holy to the Lord your God” (v. 9). The Mercy of God and His presence among them was stronger than sin itself. Even though the People of God had sinned, they were called to rejoice because His Mercy would not depart from them.

Likewise, in this liturgy, in conjunction with today’s solemn Consecration, we are reminded to rejoice in the goodness of God, who is with us. But, we are also to remember that purification must take place in our own hearts in preparation for the coming of God. Each and every baptized Christian has been cleansed so as to become a special dwelling place for God. In other words, we too have been consecrated, or ‘set apart,’ in our Baptism so that God may take up residence in us! St. Paul reminds us, in the Second Reading, that not only is today holy, but you yourselves are holy, for you are temples of God in which the Spirit dwells (cf. vv. 16-17). As Pope Francis reminded us during his visit to Uganda one year ago, “We too have received the gift of the Spirit, to make us sons and daughters of God, but also so that we may bear witness to Jesus and make him everywhere known and loved. We received the gift of the Spirit when we were reborn in Baptism, and we were strengthened by his gifts at our Confirmation. Every day we are called to deepen the Holy Spirit’s presence in our life, to ‘fan into flame’ the gift of his divine love so that we may be a source of wisdom and strength to others. The gift of the Spirit is a gift which is meant to be shared. It unites us to one another as believers and living members of Christ’s mystical Body. We do not receive the gift of the Spirit for ourselves alone, but to build up one another in faith, hope and love.”2 God entrusts to you today not only this building but His People, this local Church, as well.

“If we daily fan into flame the gift of the Spirit…we will surely become the missionary disciples which Christ calls us to be…to our family and friends certainly, but also to those whom we do not know, especially those who might be unfriendly, even hostile, to us. This openness begins first in the family, in our homes, where charity and forgiveness are learned.”3 In this light, it is indeed fitting that this Cathedral was dedicated to St. Joseph. His example calls us to self-sacrificial love for the good of the family and the community. As your families grow in holiness so too will the entire Church and society here in Karonga. Since this Cathedral bears the name of St. Joseph the Worker, I would like to mention and thank each and every one of those who have made this day possible, all who in one way or another have given their own priceless contribution to the building of this Cathedral. St Joseph has accompanied you and will continue to intercede for you.

In today’s readings, St. Paul exhorts us to be attentive that there is no foundation other than Jesus Christ (cf. v. 11). “The Lord Jesus is the stone which supports the weight of the world, which maintains the cohesion of the Church and brings together in ultimate unity all the achievements of mankind. In him, we have God’s word and presence and from him the Church receives her life, her teaching, her mission…The one Christ is the foundation of the one Church. He is the rock on which our faith is built.”4 Indeed it is Christ himself who established and continually builds up the Church.

Jesus, the cornerstone, built his Church on the Rock, Peter, as we heard about in today’s Gospel. He continues to build up his Church through the Holy Father and the Bishops. Stay always united to Peter, the Pope, and to your Bishops, and then you will always have your proper foundation in Jesus Christ.

My dear brothers and sisters, the Consecration and dedication of this Cathedral is a cause for great rejoicing today. May this Temple of God always remind you that God is truly with you and that you are temples of the Holy Spirit. Be faithful and dedicated in your marriages and vocations. Educate your children about the wonders of God and His Church and encourage and support them in following God’s will wherever it may lead, especially if He is calling them to be ‘set apart’ or consecrated as priests or religious. Be always attentive to the needs of others, especially the poorest, the outcast and those who have not yet met Jesus Christ. And, whenever you fall short in living out your call holiness, do not hesitate to run to your Heavenly Father to receive His abundant Mercy.

May the Holy Spirit fill your hearts so that you will always be effective witnesses to God’s love and authentic missionaries of the Gospel. And may Our Lady, St. Joseph and the African Martyrs always guide you, protect you and intercede for you. God bless you!

*************(Breve discorso dopo la Messa)*************

Your Excellency, the Nuncio to Malawi,

Dear Brothers in the Episcopacy and Priesthood,

Your Excellency, Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika, President of the Republic of Malawi,

Most Respectable Civil Authorities,

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I would like to reiterate what a joy it is for me to be here as the Holy Father’s Special Envoy for this solemn Consecration. His Holiness Pope Francis personally greets you and wishes you an abundance of God’s blessings.

I would like thank each of you again for your tireless efforts in helping to build up a society of reconciliation, justice and peace here in Malawi. In fact, as Pope Francis mentioned to the Bishops of Malawi during their Ad Limina Visit to Rome in 2014, these same three things: reconciliation, justice and peace are essential to the message of the Gospel and must be proclaimed for the good of all society.5 It is the role of the Church, under the guidance of the Pope and the Bishops who have been appointed by Jesus as the Successors to the Apostles, “to speak with one voice on matters of importance to the nation at large.”6 The Church and the society must collaborate closely to “find the resources necessary to renew and build up a culture of solidarity.”7 This is done most effectively through, and never apart from, a strong commitment to family life, one of the strengths inherent in the people of Malawi. I would like to extend the following exhortation, which Pope Francis made to the Bishops two years ago, to all here present: “by doing everything you can to support, educate and evangelize families, especially those in situations of material hardship, breakdown, violence or infidelity, you will bring inestimable benefit to the Church and all of Malawian society.”8 May the united efforts of the Church and the society help families, despite any obstacles they may have to face, “to form each member, particularly the young, into persons of love, sacrifice, commitment and fidelity” in order to bring about a brighter tomorrow.9

1 Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1212.

2 Pope Francis, Homily at Holy Mass for the Martyrs of Uganda, Namugongo (Kampala), 28 November 2015.

3 Pope Francis, Homily at Holy Mass for the Martyrs of Uganda, Namugongo (Kampala), 28 November 2015.

4 Pope Benedict, Homily for the Dedication of the Church of the Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, 7 November 2010.

5 Cf. Pope Francis, Address to the Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi on their “Ad Limina” Visit, 6 November 2014.

6 Ibid.

7 Ibid.

8 Ibid.

9 Ibid.

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