The Holy Father Thursday welcomed an ecumenical delegation of the Lutheran Church from Finland on its annual visit to Rome during the January 18 to 25 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and the feast of St. Henry of Uppsala, patron saint of Finland.

He quoted from St. John Paul who, thirty years ago, welcomed the first such delegation and said, “The fact that you come here together is itself a witness to the importance of efforts for unity. The fact that you pray together is a witness to our belief that only through the grace of God can that unity be achieved. The fact that you recite the Creed together is a witness to the one common faith of the whole of Christianity.”

Reiterating the words of Bishop Vikstrom, in Rome with the delegation, Francis said, “there is so much that Catholics and Lutherans can do together to bear witness to God’s mercy in our societies. A shared Christian witness is very much needed in the face of the mistrust, insecurity, persecution, pain and suffering experienced so widely in today’s world.”

The Pope said, “The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine on Justification which was solemnly signed some fifteen years ago between the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church, can produce further fruits of reconciliation and cooperation between us. …Let us hope that further convergence will emerge from that dialogue on the concept of the Church, the sign and instrument of the salvation brought to us in Jesus Christ.”


Thursday morning Pope Francis received a group of agents from the General Inspectorate for Public Security in the Vatican as it celebrates the 70th anniversary of the presence of the Italian forces of order in the Vatican. He thanked the officials and members of their families for the work they carry out on a daily basis “with professionalism and dedication.” The officers work normally in and around St. Peter’s Square and they staff the airport-style security maches for people entering St. Peter’s Basilica or entering the square for a papal general audience.

As we start a new year, he said, “we have many hopes and expectations, and we also see on the horizon the shadows and dangers that trouble humanity. As Christians we are called upon not to lose heart or to be discouraged. Our hope rests upon an immovable rock: God’s love, revealed and given in Christ Jesus, our Lord.”

Francis explained that, “In the light of this firm hope, your work assumes a different meaning that brings human and Christian values into play. Indeed, you have the task of protecting and supervising places of the utmost importance for the faith, and of guaranteeing the security of millions of pilgrims. Many people who come to visit the heart of Christian Rome frequently turn to you.”

“May every person,” said the Holy Father, “feel helped and protected by your presence and your care. … We are all called to be our neighbor’s guardians. The Lord will call us to account for the responsibilities entrusted to us, for the good and the bad we have brought upon our neighbors.”


Vatican City, January 22, 2015 – The Holy Father declared on 10 January 2015 by way of a Rescriptum ex audientia Ss.mi presented to the President of the IOR Supervisory Commission of Cardinals that the Statute of the Istituto per le Opere di Religione (IOR) has been changed to elevate the number of members in the IOR Supervisory Commission of Cardinals and the IOR Board of Superintendence from five to six respectively. The Rescriptum ex audientia Ss.mi has come into effect on 10 January 2015 and will be published in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis in due course. In addition, the nomination of a non-voting Secretary General to the IOR Board of Superintendence has been formalized by the President of the Supervisory Commission of Cardinals.

The full Rescriptum ex audientia Ss.mi as well as information on the IOR governance structure and its key personnel can be found on the Institute’s website at

About the Istituto per le Opere di Religione (IOR):

The “Istituto per le Opere di Religione” (IOR) is an institute founded on 27 June 1942 by Papal Decree. Its origins date back to the “Commissione Cardinalizia ad Pias Causas” established in 1887 by Pope Leo XIII. The purpose of the IOR is to serve the global mission of the Catholic Church by providing for the custody and administration of its customers’ assets, and rendering dedicated worldwide payment services to its customers. The Institute’s mission was confirmed by the Holy Father, Pope Francis, on 7 April 2014. The IOR operates from a single location – its headquarters in the Vatican City State – and is regulated by the “Autorità di Informazione Finanziaria” (AIF), the financial supervisory body for the Vatican City State. The IOR serves approximately 15,500 customers. As of 31 December 2013, the Institute was entrusted with customers’ assets totalling €5.9 billion.


When Pope Francis appealed for peace in Niger yesterday at the general audience, he was referring to events in that country that have received little coverage in the secular media. The following reports, datelined Niamey, Niger, are from Fides, the news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples:

(Fides) – “Between Friday 16 and Saturday 17 January, various churches and religious communities in Niger suffered extensive damage because of demonstrators protesting against the publication of the French weekly Charlie Hebdo. In the Diocese of Maradi and Niamey, several churches were burned, along with some religious houses. Other Protestant churches were also affected by the protesters.” Fr. Nicolas Ayouba, superior of the Redemptorists of Niger, confirmed the news to Fides, adding: “According to the latest news, our Community of St. Clement of Niamey was not attacked, while the church of St. Gabriel yes. All the Redemptorists are still in good condition.”

The churches of St. Paul, St. Augustine, St. Gabriel, St. John, St. Teresa and St. Joseph were burned and looted in Niamey, as well as two convents of nuns. Because of the situation, all Sunday celebrations were suspended.

The Apostolic Administrator of Niamey, Archbishop Michel Cartatéguy told Vatican Radio: “As a Christian community, we are still under shock. All our churches – 12 out of 14 – have been completely looted: there is nothing left … everything is burned. The cathedral was not touched, because of my request to monitor it. We have suspended all activities of the Catholic mission; we have closed our schools, our dispensaries … We are not able to understand what is going on. I summoned all the priests and community leaders to pray in silence, and we meditated on love for enemies. Many of our religious, who today have lost everything, were protected, and still are, by Muslim families. I said to the highest authorities: ‘We have nothing against the Muslim community, on the contrary’. Indeed, we must further strengthen the bonds of unity and brotherhood that we have built.”

In another report, Fides said, quoting a statement sent to the agency, “The bishops of Niger have suspended “until further notice” all the activities of the Catholic Church (schools, health centers, charitable activities), “following the looting of churches and infrastructure of our institutions, and the desecration of our places of worship. The measure will allow us to pray and to read, in serenity, the painful events that we have suffered.” The bishops “thank very warmly all those who have expressed their solidarity in these difficult times.”