Pope's Islamic stumble baffles the experts
The Pope's Angelus Addresses from May 2008 (click here)


The Pope's Angelus Addresses
  (May 2005-April 2008)


On the Mission of Priests
"Sowing the Joy of the Gospel in the World"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 27, 2008 - Here is a translation of the greeting Benedict XVI gave today before praying the Regina Caeli with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

A few moments ago we concluded a celebration in St. Peter’s Basilica in which I ordained 29 new priests. This is a time every year of special grace and festivity: The lifeblood of the Church and society has been renewed and recirculated in them. If the presence of priests is indispensable for the life of the Church, it is also something precious for all.

In the Acts of the Apostles one reads that the Deacon Philip brought the Gospel to a city of Samaria; the people adhered to his preaching with enthusiasm and also saw the miracles that he worked for the sick; “and there was great joy in that city” (Acts 8:8). As I reminded the new presbyters in the course of the liturgical celebration, this is the meaning of the Church’s missions and particularly the mission of priests: Sowing the joy of the Gospel in the world!

Where Christ is preached with the power of the Holy Spirit and he is accepted with an open soul, society, though it be full of problems, becomes a “city of joy” -- which is also the title of a book about the work of Mother Teresa in Calcutta. This then is the wish I have for the newly ordained priests, for whom I invite all to pray: That where they are sent they may spread the joy and hope that flow from the Gospel.

In truth this is also the message that I brought last week to the United States of America, on an apostolic voyage that had these words as its motto: “Christ our hope.” I give thanks to God for abundantly blessing this singular missionary experience of mine and deigning to make me an instrument of the hope of Christ for that Church and that country. At the same time I thank God because I too was confirmed in hope by American Catholics: Indeed, I discovered a tremendous vitality and a decisive will to live and to witness to the faith in Jesus. Next Wednesday, during the general audience, I will speak more about this visit of mine to America.

Today many Eastern Churches, following the Julian Calendar, celebrate the great solemnity of Easter. I would like to express my fraternal spiritual nearness to these brothers and sisters of ours. I cordially greet them, praying that the God who is one and three will confirm them in the faith, fill them with the splendorous light that emanates from the resurrection of the Lord and to comfort them in the difficult situations that they often find themselves living and witnessing to the Gospel. I invite all to join with me in invoking the Mother of God, that the road of dialogue and collaboration that was started upon sometime ago will soon lead to a more complete communion among all the disciples of Christ, that they may be a luminous sign of hope for all humanity.

[After reciting the Regina Caeli, the Pope said in Italian:]

The news from some African countries continues to cause profound suffering and much concern. I ask you not to forget about these tragic events and the brothers and sisters who are involved in them! I ask you to pray for them and to be their voice!

In Somalia, especially in Mogadishu, bitter armed conflicts are worsening the humanitarian crisis of this dear people, which for too many years has been oppressed by brutality and misery.

Darfur, despite a momentary glimmer of hope, remains a tragedy without end for hundreds of thousands of defenseless and abandoned persons.

Finally, Burundi. After the recent bombardments that struck and terrorized the capital city of Bujumbura and also affected the apostolic nunciature, and in the face of the threat of a new civil war, I invite all the parties involved to take up again without delay the way of dialogue and reconciliation.

I ask the local political authorities, the leaders of the international community and every person of goodwill not to give up on efforts to bring and end to the violence and the honor the commitments that have been made, in a way that will provide a solid basis for peace and development. We entrust our petitions to Mary, Queen of Africa.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

Setting Out for Emmaus
"The Road That Leads There Is the Journey of Every Christian"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 6, 2008 - Here is a translation of the greeting Benedict XVI gave today before praying the Regina Caeli with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This Gospel for this Sunday -- the 3rd Sunday of Easter -- is the celebrated account of the disciples of Emmaus (cf. Luke 24:13-35). The story is told of two disciples of Christ who, on the day after the Sabbath, that is, the third day after Jesus’ death, sad and dejected, leave Jerusalem and set out for nearby village called, precisely, Emmaus.

Along the road, the risen Jesus comes and walks beside them but they do not recognize him. Seeing that they were disheartened, he explained, on the basis of the Scriptures, that the Messiah had to suffer and die to enter into his glory. Having entered into the house with them, he sat down at table with them, blessed the bread and broke it, and at that point they recognized him, but he disappeared from their sight, leaving them full of wonder before the broken bread, new sign of his presence. And immediately the two returned to Jerusalem and told the other disciples what happened.

The location of Emmaus has not been identified with any certainty. There are different hypotheses, and this fact is not without its significance because it leaves us to think that in reality Emmaus represents every place: The road that leads there is the journey of every Christian, indeed, of every man. Along our roads the risen Jesus is our companion on the journey, to reignite in our hearts the warmth of faith and hope and the breaking of the bread of eternal life.

In the disciples' conversation with the unknown traveler the expression that the evangelist Luke puts in one of their mouths is striking: “We were hoping…” (24:21). This past tense verb says everything: We believed, we followed, we hoped …, but now it is all over. Even Jesus of Nazareth, who had shown himself to be a powerful prophet in deeds and words, failed, and we are disappointed.

This drama of the disciples of Emmaus is as a mirror of the situation of many Christians of our time. It seems that the hope of faith has failed. Faith itself enters into crisis because of negative experiences that make us feel like we are abandoned by the Lord. But this road to Emmaus on which we travel can become a way of purification and maturation of our believing in God.

Even today we can enter into conversation with Jesus listening to his word. Even today he breaks the bread for us and gives himself as our bread. And in this way the encounter with the risen Christ, which is possible even today, gives us a deeper and more authentic faith, tempered, so to speak, by the fire of the Easter event; a robust faith because it is nourished not by human ideas, but by the word of God and by his presence in the Eucharist.

This stupendous Gospel text already contains the structure of the Mass: in the first part the hearing of the word through the sacred Scriptures; in the second the Eucharistic liturgy and communion with Christ present in the sacrament of his Body and his Blood.

Nourished at this twofold table, the Church is unceasingly built up and renews itself day by day in faith, in hope and in charity. Through the intercession of Mary Most Holy, let us pray that every Christian and every community, reliving the experience of the disciples of Emmaus, rediscover the grace of the transforming encounter with the risen Lord.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On John Paul II and Divine Mercy
"All the Church Does Shows the Mercy God Feels for Man"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, MARCH 30, 2008- Here is a translation of the greeting Benedict XVI gave today before praying the Regina Caeli with thousands of people gathered in the patio of the pontifical residence at Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters:

During the Jubilee Year 2000, the dear Servant of God John Paul II established that in the whole Church the Sunday after Easter, besides being the Sunday "in albis" would be designated Divine Mercy Sunday. He did this together with the canonization of Faustina Kowalska, a humble Polish woman religious, who was born in 1905 and died in 1938, a zealous messenger of merciful Jesus.

Mercy is in reality the central nucleus of the Gospel message; it is the very name of God, the face with which he has revealed himself in the old covenant and fully in Jesus Christ, the incarnation of creative and redeeming love. This merciful love also illumines the face of the Church, and is manifested, both by way of the sacraments, in particular that of reconciliation, and with works of communitarian and individual charity.

All that the Church says and does shows the mercy that God feels for man. When the Church has to remind about a neglected truth, or a betrayed good, it does it always motivated by a merciful love, so that men may have life and have it in abundance (cf. John 10:10). From divine mercy, which puts hearts at peace, also arises the authentic peace of the world, peace among peoples, cultures and religions.

Like Sister Faustina, John Paul II became in turn an apostle of divine mercy. On the night of that unforgettable Saturday, April 2, 2005, when he closed his eyes to this world, precisely the vigil of the Second Sunday of Easter was celebrated, and many observed the unique coincidence, which brought together a Marian dimension -- the first Saturday of the month -- and that of divine mercy.

In fact, his long and multifaceted pontificate finds here its central nucleus; all of his mission at the service of the truth about God, about man and peace in the world is summarized in this proclamation, as he himself said in Krakow-Lagiewniki in 2002, in inaugurating the great Shrine of Divine Mercy, "Apart from the mercy of God there is no other source of hope for mankind." His message, like that of St. Faustina, presents the face of Christ, supreme revelation of the mercy of God. To contemplate constantly this face: This is the inheritance that he has left us, which we welcome with joy and make our own.

There will be special reflection about divine mercy in the coming days, due to the World Apostolic Congress on Divine Mercy, which will take place in Rome and will be inaugurated with the holy Mass, which, God willing, I will preside over in the morning of Wednesday, April 2, on the third anniversary of the death of the Servant of God John Paul II. Let us place the congress under the heavenly protection of most holy Mary, Mother of Mercy. We entrust to her the great cause of peace in the world so that the mercy of God achieves what is impossible with human strength alone, and instills the courage for dialogue and reconciliation.

* * *

[After the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted the people in various languages. In English, he said:]

I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors here today. This Sunday's Gospel reminds us that through faith we recognize the presence of the Risen Lord in the Church, and that we receive from him the gift of the Holy Spirit. During this Easter season may we strengthen our desire to bear witness to the Good News of Jesus Christ calling us to a life of peace and joy. Upon each of you present and your families, I invoke God's blessings of happiness and wisdom.

-------------------------------------------------------------------


On Iraq and Sydney
"Enough With the Bloodshed"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 16, 2008 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today after Palm Sunday Mass and before reciting the midday Angelus with thousands gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

At the end of this solemn celebration in which we have meditated on Christ's Passion, I would like to recall the late Chaldean archbishop of Mosul, Monsignor Paulos Faraj Rahho, who tragically died a few days ago. His beautiful witness of fidelity to Christ, to the Church and his people, whom he did not want to abandon despite numerous threats, moves me to cry out forcefully and with distress: Enough with the bloodshed, enough with the violence, enough with the hatred in Iraq! And at the same time I make an appeal to the Iraqi people, who for five years have endured the consequences of a war that has provoked upheaval in its civil and social life: Beloved Iraqi people, lift up your heads and let it be you yourselves who, in the first place, rebuild your national life! May reconciliation, forgiveness, justice and respect for the civil coexistence of tribes, ethnic groups and religious groups be the solidary way to peace in the name of God!

And now, dear brothers and sisters, I renew my cordial greeting. I address it in a special way to young people, come from many countries of the world on the occasion of the World Youth Day, which the beloved Servant of God John Paul II wanted to link with Palm Sunday. In this moment my thoughts turn to Sydney, in Australia, where the preparations are under way for the great meeting that I will have with the young people of the whole world from July 15 to 20 of this year. I thank the Italian bishops' conference, Cardinal Pell, the archbishop of Sydney, and his collaborators in particular, for all the work that they are doing with such commitment. I am also grateful to the Australian federal and state officials for the generous support offered to this important initiative. See you in Sydney!

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

[After the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted the pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

I welcome the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors here this Palm Sunday, when we acclaim Jesus, model of humility, our Messiah and King. In a special way I greet all the young people gathered in Rome. I am looking forward to seeing many of you, together with thousands of others from across the globe, at World Youth Day in Sydney. Today, I wish to recognize the preparatory work being undertaken by the Australian Bishops' Conference together with Cardinal Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, and the organizing staff. Similarly I wish to acknowledge the spirit of generous cooperation shown by the Federal and the New South Wales governments, as well as the residents and business people of Sydney. Let us all pray for our young people, that World Youth Day will be a time of deep and lasting spiritual renewal. May the great events of Holy Week, in which we see love unfold in its most radical form, inspire you all to be courageous ‘witnesses of charity' to your friends, your communities and our world. Upon each of you present and your families, I invoke God's blessings of peace and wisdom.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On the Resurrection of Lazarus
"The Last Great 'Sign' Worked by Jesus"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 9, 2008 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our Lenten journey we have arrived at the 5th Sunday, characterized by the Gospel that narrates the resurrection of Lazarus (John 11:1-45). This is the last great “sign” worked by Jesus, and after it the high priests will convene the Sanhedrin and will decide to kill him; it is also decided that Lazarus himself will be killed. Lazarus was the living proof of Christ’s divinity and Christ is the Lord of life and death. In reality this Gospel passage shows Jesus as true Man and true God.

In the first place the evangelist insists on his friendship with Lazarus and the sisters Martha and Mary. He emphasizes that “Jesus loved them very much” (John 11:5), and for this reason wants to work the great prodigy. “Our friend Lazarus has died, but I am going to awaken him” (John 11:11). This is how he spoke to the disciples, expressing God’s view of physical death with the metaphor of sleep: God indeed sees it as sleep from which one can awaken. Jesus shows an absolute power in the face of this death: One sees it when he gives life back to the young son of the widow of Nain (cf. Luke 7:11-17) and to the 12-year-old daughter (cf. Mark 5:35-43). Of the young girl he says, “She is not dead but sleeping” (Mark 5:39), provoking the derision of those present. But in truth this is precisely what it is: The death of the body is a sleep from which God can awaken one at any moment.

This lordship over death does not impede Jesus from experiencing sincere compassion for the sorrow of parting. Seeing Mary and Martha crying and, along with those who had come to console them, Jesus too “is deeply moved and disturbed” and in the end “he wept” (John 11:33, 35). Jesus’ heart is divine-human: In him God and man have perfectly met, without separation and without confusion, he is the image, indeed, the incarnation of the God who is love, mercy, paternal and maternal tenderness, of the God who is Life. This is why he solemnly declares to Martha: “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, he will live; whoever lives and believes in me, will never die.” And he adds: “Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26).

It is a question that Jesus addresses to each one of us; a question that certainly overwhelms us, it overwhelms our ability to understand, and it asks us to entrust ourselves to him, as he has entrusted himself to the Father. Martha’s response is exemplary: “Yes, O Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world” (John 11:27). Yes, O Lord! We too believe, despite our doubts and our darkness; we believe in you, because you have the words of eternal life; we want to believe in you, who gives us a trustworthy hope of life beyond life, of authentic and full life in your kingdom of light and peace.

We entrust this prayer to Mary Most Holy. May her intercession strengthen our faith and our hope in Jesus, especially in the moments of great trial and difficulty?

[After the Angelus the Pope said the following in Italian:]

In these last days, violence and horror have again bloodied the Holy Land, feeding a spiral of destruction and death that does not seem to have an end. As I invite you to insistently implore the Almighty Lord for the gift of peace for those regions, I desire to entrust to his mercy the many innocent victims and to express solidarity with the families and the wounded.

Moreover, I encourage the Israeli and Palestinian authorities in their proposal to continue to build, through negotiation, a peaceful and just future, and I ask all in the name of God to abandon the tortuous ways of hatred and vendetta and to responsibly travel the ways of dialogue and trust.

And this is also my wish for Iraq, while we are still concerned over the fate of His Excellency Monsignore Rahho and of many Iraqis who continue to suffer from a blind and absurd violence, certainly contrary to the wishes of God.

Next Thursday, March 13, at 5:30 in the evening, I will preside at a penitential liturgy in St. Peter’s Basilica for the young people of the Diocese of Rome. It will be a powerful moment of preparation for the 23rd World Youth Day which will celebrate on Palm Sunday and which will culminate in July with the great meeting in Sydney. Dear young people of Rome, I invite all of you to this appointment with the Mercy of God! To the priests and leaders I recommend that you promote this participation of young people making the words of the apostle Paul your own: “We are ambassadors of Christ … let yourselves be reconciled with God” (2 Corinthians 5:20).

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Lent's Baptismal Journey
"Let Us Allow Jesus to Heal Us"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 2, 2008 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In these Sundays of Lent, through the texts of the Gospel of John, the liturgy leads us on a true and proper baptismal journey: Last Sunday Jesus promised the Samaritan woman the gift of "living water"; today, healing the blind man, Jesus reveals himself as the "light of the world"; next Sunday, resurrecting his friend Lazarus from the dead, he will present himself as "the resurrection and the light." Water, light, life: these are symbols of baptism, the sacrament that "immerses" believers in the mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ, freeing them from the slavery of sin and granting them eternal life.

Let us pause briefly over the story of the man born blind (John 9:41). The disciples, according to the mentality that was common at that time, take for granted that his blindness is the consequence of his sin or his parents' sin. Jesus, however, rejects this view and affirms: "Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him" (John 9:3).

What comfort these words offer us! They allow us to hear the living voice of God, who is provident and wise Love! Before the man marked by limitation and suffering Jesus does not think about possible faults, but about the will of God that created man for life. And so he solemnly declares: "We must do the works of the one who sent me ... While I am in the world, I am the light of the world" (John 9:5).

And he immediately takes action: With a little bit of earth and saliva he makes some mud and spreads it on the eyes of the blind man. This gesture alludes to the creation of man, which the Bible recounts with the symbol of earth that is formed and animated by the breath of God (cf. Genesis 2:7). "Adam," in fact, means "soil," and the human body is indeed composed of elements of the earth. Healing the man, Jesus brings about a new creation.

But that healing provokes a heated debate because Jesus performed it on the Sabbath, thereby transgressing a precept of the feast. Thus, at the end of the episode, Jesus and the blind man meet up again, both being chased out by the Pharisees: one because he violated the law and the other because, despite the healing, he remains marked as a sinner from birth.

To the blind man whom he healed Jesus reveals that he has come into the world for judgment, to separate the blind who can be healed from those who do not allow themselves to be healed because they presume that they are healthy. The tendency in man to construct an ideological system of security is strong: Even religion itself can become an element in this system, as can atheism, or secularism; but in constructing this system, one becomes blind to his own egoism.

Dear brothers, let us allow Jesus to heal us, Jesus who can and wants to give us the light of God! Let us confess our own blindnesses, our myopias, and above all that which the Bible calls the "great sin" (Psalm 18:14): pride. May Mary Most Holy help us in this, who, giving birth to Christ in the flesh, gave the world the true light.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On the Samaritan Woman
"God Thirsts for Our Faith and Our Love"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 24, 2008 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On this Third Sunday of Lent the liturgy this year proposes one of the most beautiful and profound texts of the Bible: the dialogue between Jesus and the Samaritan woman (cf. John 4:5-42). St. Augustine, about whom I am saying a great deal in the Wednesday catecheses, was rightly fascinated by this story, and he gave a memorable commentary on it. It is impossible for a brief explanation of this passage of the Gospel to bring out its richness: It is necessary to read and meditate on it personally, identifying oneself with that woman, who, one day, like many others, went to draw water from the well, and found Jesus there, seated by it, "tired from the trip," in the noonday heat.

"Give me to drink," he said to her, surprising her: It was, in fact, entirely unusual for a Jew to speak to a Samaritan woman, especially a woman who was a stranger. But the woman's wonder was destined to grow: Jesus spoke of a "living water" able to quench thirst completely and become "a spring of water welling up to eternal life" in her; furthermore, he showed her that he knew about her personal life; he revealed that the hour had come to worship the one true God in spirit and in truth; and in the end he confided to her -- something incredibly rare -- that he was the Messiah.

All of this happened, beginning from the real and sensible experience of thirst. The theme of thirst runs through the whole of John's Gospel: from the meeting with the Samaritan woman, to the great prophecy during the feast of the Tabernacles (John 7:37-38), to the cross, when Jesus before he dies says, to fulfill Scripture: "I thirst" (John 19:28).

The thirst of Christ is an entranceway into the mystery of God, who made himself thirsty to refresh us, as he made himself poor to enrich us (cf. 2 Corinthians 8:9). Yes, God thirsts for our faith and our love. Like a good and merciful father he desires for us all possible good and this good is God himself. For her part the Samaritan woman represents the existential unhappiness of those who have not found what they are looking for: She had "five husbands" and is now living with a man; her coming and going to the well represents a repetitive and resigned life.

But everything changes for her that day, on account of her conversation with the Lord Jesus, who shakes her up so much that she leaves the water jar and runs to tell the people of the village: "Come and see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ" (John 4:28-29)?

Dear brothers and sisters, let us too open our hearts to the confident hearing of the word of God to meet, like the Samaritan woman, Jesus, who reveals his love to us and says to us: The Messiah, your Savior, "It is I, who speak to you" (John 4:26). May Mary, first and perfect disciple of Christ, obtain this gift for us.

[After the Angelus, the Pope said the following in Italian:]

Recent floods have devastated large areas of the coast of Ecuador, causing very grave damage, which adds to the damage caused by the eruption of Tungurahua. As I entrust the victims of this calamity to the Lord, I express my personal nearness to those who are experiencing times of anxiety and tribulation and I invite all to a fraternal solidarity, so that the people of these areas can return as soon as possible to the normalcy of daily life.

Next Saturday, March 1, at 5 p.m., in the Paul VI Hall, I will preside at the Marian vigil of the university students of Rome. Students of other European and American countries will participate in it by radio and television links. We will invoke the intercession of Mary Seat of Wisdom for Christian hope to support the building of a civilization of love on these two continents and in the whole world. My dear university student friends, I expect to see many of you!

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Being Transfigured
"To Enter Into Life It Is Necessary to Listen to Jesus"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 17, 2008- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Yesterday, the spiritual exercises concluded here in the apostolic palace. As happens every year this retreat saw the Pope and his co-workers in the Roman Curia united in prayer and meditation. I thank those who were near to us spiritually: May the Lord give them recompense for their generosity.

Today, the Second Sunday of Lent, continuing along the way of penitence, the liturgy, after having presented the Gospel of Jesus' temptations in the desert last Sunday, invites us to reflect on the extraordinary event of the transfiguration on the mountain. Considered together, both episodes anticipate the paschal mystery: Jesus' struggle with the tempter is the prelude to the great final duel of the passion, while the light of his transfigured body anticipates the glory of the resurrection.

On the one hand we see Jesus fully man: He even shares temptation with us. On the other hand, we contemplate the Son of God: He divinizes our humanity. In this way we can say that these two Sundays act as pillars upon which rest the whole edifice of Lent right up to Easter, and, indeed, the whole structure of Christian life, which essentially consists in the paschal dynamism -- from death to life.

Mountains -- like Tabor and Sinai -- are the place of nearness to God. In relation to daily existence, the mountain is the elevated space where the pure air of creation is breathed. It is the place of prayer, where one is in the presence of the Lord, as were Moses and Elijah, who appeared alongside the transfigured Jesus and spoke to him of the "exodus" that awaited him in Jerusalem, that is, his Passover.

The transfiguration is an event of prayer: Praying, Jesus is immersed in God, he is united intimately to him, he adheres with his human will to the Father's will of love, and in this way light invades him and the truth of his being appears visibly: He is God, light from light. Even his robes become white and luminous. This makes one think of baptism, of the white robes worn by the neophytes. Those who are reborn in baptism are clothed in light, anticipating heavenly existence, which the Book of Revelation represents with the symbol of white robes (cf. Revelation 7:9,13).

This is the crucial point: The Transfiguration is an anticipation of the Resurrection, but this presupposes death. Jesus manifests his glory to the apostles so that they have the strength to face the scandal of the cross and understand that it is necessary to pass through many tribulations to reach the kingdom of God. The voice of the Father, which resounds from on high, proclaims Jesus as his beloved Son, as in the baptism in the Jordan, adding: "Listen to him" (Matthew 17:5). To enter into life it is necessary to listen to Jesus, to follow him along the way of the cross, carrying, like him, the hope of the resurrection in our heart. "Spe salvi," saved in hope. Today we can say: "Transfigured in hope."

Turning now in prayer to Mary, we recognize in her the human creature interiorly transfigured by the grace of Christ, and we entrust ourselves to her guidance to continue in the journey of Lent with faith.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Entering Into Lent
"Live This Time of Grace With Interior Joy and Generous Commitment"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 10, 2008 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Last Wednesday, with the fast and the rite of ashes, we entered into Lent. But what does it mean to "enter into Lent?" It means to enter into a time of particular commitment in the spiritual combat that opposes us to the evil present in the world, in each one of us and around us. It means to look evil in the face and dispose oneself to fight against its effects, above all against its causes, right up to its ultimate cause, Satan. It means not unloading the problem of evil onto others, onto society, onto God, but recognizing one's own responsibility and consciously taking it upon oneself.

In this regard Jesus' invitation to everyone to take up his "cross" and follow him in humility and confidence (cf. Matthew 16:24) resounds more urgently than ever. The "cross," as heavy as it may be, is not synonymous with misadventure, with a disgrace that must be avoided as much as possible, but with the opportunity to follow Christ and in this way acquire strength in the battle against sin and evil. Entering into Lent therefore means renewing the personal and communal decision to face evil together with Christ. The way of the cross is in fact the only way that leads to the victory of love over hate, of sharing over egoism, of peace over violence. Seen in this way, Lent is truly an occasion for determined ascetic and spiritual commitment founded upon the grace of Christ.

This year the beginning of Lent providentially coincides with the 150th anniversary of the apparitions at Lourdes. Four years after the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception by Blessed Pius IX, Mary appeared to St. Bernadette Soubirous in the grotto of Massabielle for the first time on Feb. 11, 1858. Other appearances followed, accompanied by extraordinary events, and at the end the Holy Virgin, bidding farewell to the young visionary, told her in the local dialect, "I am the Immaculate Conception." The message that the Madonna continues to spread at Lourdes recalls the words Jesus pronounced at the beginning of his public mission and that we hear again often during these days of Lent: "Convert and believe in the Gospel," pray and do penance. Let us accept Mary's invitation, which echoes Christ's, and let us ask her to help us to "enter" with faith into Lent, to live this time of grace with interior joy and generous commitment.

We entrust to the Virgin as well the sick and those who care lovingly for them. Tomorrow, the memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes, we celebrate, in fact, the World Day of the Sick. I greet with all my heart the pilgrims who are gathering in St. Peter's Basilica led by Cardinal Barragán, president of the Pontifical Council of Health. Unfortunately I cannot meet them because this evening I will begin spiritual exercises, but in silence and in recollection I will pray for them and for all the necessities of the Church and the world. To all those who will remember me to the Lord I offer my sincere thanks in advance.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On the Good News
"God Reigns in the World Through His Son Made Man"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 27, 2008 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *?

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

In today's liturgy the evangelist Matthew, who will accompany us though this whole liturgical year, presents the beginning of Jesus' public mission. It essentially consists in the preaching of the kingdom of God and in the healing of the sick, to demonstrate that this kingdom has drawn near, indeed, it is already in our midst.

Jesus begins his preaching in Galilee, the region in which he grew up, a "marginal" territory in comparison to the center of the Jewish nation, which is Judea, and in it, Jerusalem. But the prophet Isaiah had already announced that this land, assigned to the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali, would have a glorious future: The people immersed in darkness would see a great light (cf. Isaiah 8:23-9:1), the light of Christ and his Gospel (cf. Matthew 4:12-16).

The term "gospel" in Jesus' time was used by the Roman emperor's for their proclamations. Independently of the content, they were defined as "good news," that is, proclamations of salvation, because the emperor was considered the lord of the world and each of his edicts a portent of good. The application of this term to Jesus' preaching had a very critical meaning, as if to say: God, not the emperor, is the Lord of the world, and the true Gospel is that of Jesus Christ.

The "good news" that Jesus proclaims is summarized in these words: "The kingdom of God," or the kingdom of heaven, "is near" (Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:15). What does this expression mean? It certainly does not mean an earthly kingdom limited by space and time, but it proclaims that it is God who rules, that God is Lord and his lordship is present -- actual -- it is being realized.

The novelty of Christ's message is that in him God has drawn near, he already reigns in our midst, as the miracles and the healings that he accomplishes show. God reigns in the world through his Son made man, and with the force of the Holy Spirit, who is called "the finger of God" (cf. Luke 11:20). Where Jesus comes, the Creator Spirit brings life and men are cured of diseases of body and spirit. The lordship of God is thus manifested in the total healing of man. With this Jesus wants to reveal the countenance of the true God, the God who is near, full of mercy for every human being; the God who makes a gift to us of life in abundance, of his own life. The kingdom of God is for this reason life that affirms itself over death, the light of the truth that scatters the darkness of ignorance and falsehood.

Let us pray to Mary Most Holy that she obtain for the Church the same passion for the kingdom of God that animated the mission of Jesus Christ: passion for God, for his lordship of life and of love; passion for man, encountered in truth to give him the most precious treasure; the love of God, his Creator and Father.

[After the Angelus the Holy Father said the following in Italian:]

I greet with great affection the children and young people of Catholic Action of Rome, who have come, as every year, at the conclusion of the "Month of Peace," accompanied by the cardinal vicar, by parents and educators. Two of them are here by me, they have presented me with a message and shortly they will help me to release two doves, symbol of peace. Dear little friends, I know that you work on behalf of others your age who suffer from war and poverty. Continue along the road that Jesus has shown to us to build true peace!

Today we celebrate World Leprosy Day, begun 55 years ago by Raoul Follereau. To all those who suffer from this disease I offer my affectionate greeting, assuring you of a special prayer, which I extend to those who, in various ways, assist them, in particular to the volunteers of the Association of Friends of Raoul Follereau.

Last Monday, Jan. 21, I addressed a "Letter on the Urgent Task of Education" to the Diocese and the city of Rome. I wanted to offer in this way my own particular contribution to the formation of new generations, a difficult and crucial undertaking for the future of our city. On Saturday, Feb. 23, I will meet in a special audience in the Vatican all of those who, as educators or as children, adolescents and young people in formation, are most directly participants in the challenge of education, and I will symbolically consign this letter of mine to them.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Christian Unity
"We All Have the Duty to Pray and Work for the Overcoming of Every Division"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 20, 2008 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Two days ago began the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity during which Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans and Protestants, knowing that their divisions constitute an obstacle to the reception of the Gospel, together implore the Lord, in a yet more intense way, for the gift of full communion. This providential initiative was born 100 years ago, when Father Paul Wattson started the "Octave" of prayer for the unity of all the disciples of Christ. Today for this occasion the spiritual sons and daughters of Father Wattson, the friars and sisters of the Atonement, are present in St. Peter's Square and I greet them cordially and encourage them to pursue the cause of unity with their special dedication.

We all have the duty to pray and work for the overcoming of every division between Christians, responding to Christ's desire "ut unum sint." Prayer, conversion of heart, the reinforcement of the bonds of communion, form the essence of this spiritual movement that we hope will soon lead the disciples of Christ to celebrate the Eucharist together, the manifestation of their full unity.

This year's biblical theme is dense with meaning: "Pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17). St. Paul addresses himself to the community of Thessalonica, which was experiencing internal clashes and conflicts, to remind them with insistence about certain fundamental attitudes, among which there stands out, indeed, incessant prayer. With this invitation of his, he wants it to be understood that from the new life in Christ and in the Holy Spirit there flows forth the capacity to overcome all egoism, to live together in peace and fraternal union, to bear in large measure the burdens and sufferings of others. We must never tire of praying for the unity of Christians! When Jesus, during the Last Supper, prayed that his disciples "be one," he had a precise goal in mind: "That the world believe" (John 17:21).

The Church's evangelizing mission, therefore, moves along the path of ecumenism, the path of unity of faith, of evangelical witness and authentic fraternity. As is done every year, on Thursday, Jan. 25, I will go to the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls to conclude the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity with solemn vespers. I invite Romans and pilgrims to join with me and with Christians of all the churches and ecclesial communities who will take part in the celebration, to ask of God the precious gift of reconciliation among all the baptized.

May the Mother of God, whose appearance to Alphonse Ratisbonne in the Church of Sant'Andrea delle Frate in Rome we remember today, obtain from the Lord the abundance of the Holy Spirit for all disciples in such a way that we can arrive at perfect unity and in this way offer the witness of faith and life that the world urgently needs.

[After the Angelus the Holy Father said the following:]

First of all I wish to greet the young students, the professors and all of you who have come in great numbers to St. Peter's Square to participate in the prayer of the Angelus and to express your solidarity; I also greet the many who unite themselves to us spiritually. I thank you from my heart, dear friends; I thank the cardinal vicar who has made himself the promoter of this meeting.

As you know, I happily accepted the courteous invitation that was made to me to give a lecture this past Thursday at the inauguration of the academic year at La Sapienza -- University of Rome. I know this athenaeum well, I esteem and have affection for the students who study there: On several occasions every year many of them come to meet me in the Vatican, together with their colleagues from other universities. Unfortunately, as is known, the climate that was created rendered my presence at the ceremony inopportune. I postponed my visit but I wanted in any case to send the text that I had prepared for the occasion.

I love the search for truth, the comparison, the frank and respectful dialogue between reciprocal positions of the university environment, which for many years was my world. All of that is also the mission of the Church, committed to faithfully following Jesus, master of life, truth and love. As professor emeritus, so to speak, who has met many students in his life, I encourage all of you university students to be respectful of the opinions of others and to seek, with a free and responsible spirit, the truth and the good. To all and to each I renew my expression of gratitude, assuring my affection and my prayer.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Christ's Baptism
"Jesus Began Taking Upon Himself the Guilt of All Humanity"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 13, 2008 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

With today's feast of the Baptism of Jesus, the liturgical season of Christmas comes to a close. The child, whom the Magi came from the East to venerate in Bethlehem offering their symbolic gifts, we find now as an adult, in the moment in which he is baptized in the Jordan by the great prophet John (cf. Matthew 3:13). The Gospel notes that when Jesus, having received baptism, comes out of the water, the heavens open and the Holy Spirit descends upon him as a dove (cf. Matthew 3:16). A voice was then heard from heaven that said: "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17).

That was his first public appearance after 30 years of a hidden life in Nazareth. The eyewitnesses of this singular event were, besides the Baptist, his disciples, some of whom would from that moment become followers of Christ (cf. John 1:35-40). We have at the same time a Christophany and Theophany: Above all, Jesus manifests himself as the "Christ," the Greek term that is used as the translation of the Hebrew "Messiah," which means "anointed." He was not anointed with oil, in the matter of the kings and high priests of Israel, but with the Holy Spirit. At the same time, together with the Son of God, there appeared the signs of the Holy Spirit and of the heavenly Father.

What is the meaning of this deed, which Jesus wanted to accomplish, overcoming the resistance of the Baptist, to obey the Father's will (cf. Matthew 3:14-15)? The profound meaning will emerge only at the end of the earthly event of Christ, that is, in his death and resurrection. Receiving baptism from John together with sinners, Jesus began taking upon himself the weight of the guilt of all humanity, as the Lamb of God who "takes away" the sin of the world (cf. John 1:29).

This is a task that he will only bring to completion on the cross, where he also receives his "baptism" (cf. Luke 12:50). Dying, in fact, he "immerses" himself in the love of the Father and pours out the Spirit so that those who believe in him can be reborn from that inexhaustible font of new and eternal life. Christ's whole mission is summarized in this: We are baptized in the Holy Spirit to be liberated from the slavery of death and "have the heavens opened to us," that is, have access to the true and full life, which will be "a plunging ever anew into the vastness of being, in which we are simply overwhelmed with joy" ("Spe Salvi," No. 12).

This is also what happened for the 13 babies to whom I administered the sacrament of baptism this morning in the Sistine Chapel. For them and for their families we invoke the maternal protection of Mary Most Holy. And we pray for all Christians, that they may understand more and more the gift of baptism and commit themselves to living it with consistency, witnessing to the love of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On the Epiphany
"The Power of the Holy Spirit That Moves Hearts and Minds"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 6, 2008.- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square, on the solemnity of the Epiphany.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Today we celebrate the Epiphany of the Lord, that is, his manifestation to the peoples of the whole world, represented by the Magi who came from the East to pay homage to the king of the Jews. Observing celestial phenomena, these mysterious persons saw a new star rise and, instructed as well by the ancient prophecies, recognized in it the sign of the birth of the Messiah, descendant of David (cf. 2:1-2). From its first appearance, then, the light of Christ began to draw to itself the men "whom God loves" (Luke 2:14), of every language, people and culture. It is the power of the Holy Spirit that moves hearts and minds to seek truth, beauty, justice, peace.

The Servant of God John Paul II affirmed this in his encyclical "Fides et Ratio": "[M]en and women are on a journey of discovery which is humanly unstoppable -- a search for the truth and a search for a person to whom they might entrust themselves" (No. 33): The magi found both of these realities in the child of Bethlehem.

Men and women of every generation, in this their pilgrimage, have need of direction: What star, then, can they follow? After coming to rest "above the place where the child was" (Matthew 2:9), the star that guided the Magi had completed its function, but its spiritual light is ever present in the word of the Gospel, which today too is capable of guiding every man to Jesus. That same word, which is nothing if not the reflection of Christ, true man and true God, is authoritatively echoed by the Church for every well-disposed soul. The Church too, for this reason, carries out for humanity the mission of the star. But something of this sort can be said of every Christian, called to help guide the steps of his brothers by word and the witness of his life.

How important it is, then, that we Christians are faithful to our vocation! Every authentic believer is always on a journey in his personal itinerary of faith and, at the same time, with the little light that he carries in himself, can and must be of help to those he finds at his side and who perhaps have difficulty finding the road that leads to Christ.

As we prepare to say the Angelus, I offer my most cordial greetings to the brothers and sisters of the Eastern Churches who, following the Julian calendar, celebrate holy Christmas tomorrow: It is a great joy to share in the celebration of the mysteries of faith, in the multiform riches of the rites that attest to the bi-millennial history of the Church.

Together with the Christian communities of the East, very devoted to the Holy Mother of God, we invoke Mary's protection of the universal Church, so that the Gospel of Christ spread throughout the whole world, "Lumen Gentium," light of all peoples.

[After the Angelus, the Pope greeted the people in several languages. In Italian, he said:]

Today the World Day of Missionary Childhood is celebrated. For more than 160 years, through the initiative of the French bishop Charles de Forbin Janson, the childhood of Jesus has become the icon for the commitment of Christian children who help the Church in her task of evangelization by prayer, sacrifice and gestures of solidarity.

Thousands of children meet the needs of other children, driven by the love that the Son of God, become a child, brought to the earth. I say thanks to these little ones and I pray that they will always be missionaries. I also thank those who assist them, who accompany them along the road of generosity, of fraternity, of joyous faith that generates hope.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


On World Day of Peace
"The Virgin Truly Became Mother of God" (January 1, 2008)

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

We have begun a new year and I wish that it will be for all peaceful and prosperous. I commend it to the heavenly protection of the Virgin, to whom the liturgy invokes today with the most important title, the Mother of God. With her "yes" to the angel, on the day of the Annunciation, the Virgin conceived in her womb through the Holy Spirit, the eternal Word, and she brought him forth on the night of the Nativity.

In Bethlehem, in the fullness of time, Jesus was born of Mary: The Son of God was made man for our salvation, and the Virgin truly became Mother of God. This immense gift that Mary received was not reserved only for her, but for us all. In her fruitful virginity, in fact, God gave "to men the benefits of eternal salvation ... because through her we received the author of life" (cf. collect prayer).

Mary, after having given mortal flesh to the only Son of God, became mother of believers and of all humankind.

It is in the name of Mary, Mother of God and of mankind, that for the past 40 years, on the first day of the year, the Church has celebrated the World Day for Peace. The theme that has been chosen this year is "The Human Family, a Community of Peace."

The same love that builds and maintains unity in the family, the vital building block of society, favors these relationships of solidarity and of collaboration among the peoples of the earth, who are members of the single human family.

The Second Vatican Council recalled this when it affirmed, "One is the community of all peoples, one their origin. ... One also is their final goal, God" ("Nostra Aetate," No. 1). There is a close relationship, therefore, among family, society and peace.

"Consequently, whoever, even unknowingly, circumvents the institution of the family," I wrote in the message for today's World Day of Peace, "undermines peace in the entire community, national and international, since he weakens what is in effect the primary agency of peace" (No. 5).

Also, "We do not live alongside one another purely by chance; all of us are progressing along a common path as men and women, and thus as brothers and sisters" (No. 6). It is truly important that each one of us assumes responsibility before God and recognizes in him the originating font of our own existence, and that of others.

May this awareness give rise to a commitment to make humankind an authentic community of peace, ruled by "a common law ... one which would foster true freedom rather than blind caprice, and protect the weak from oppression by the strong" (No. 11).

May Mary, Mother of the Prince of Peace, aid the Church in its untiring service for peace, and help the community of nations, that will celebrate in 2008 the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to begin on a path of authentic solidarity and of stable peace.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On the Holy Family
"It Is Worth It to Work for the Family and Marriage"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 1, 2008 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered Sunday, the feast of the Holy Family, before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Today we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family. Following the narration of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, we stop to look at Jesus, Mary and Joseph, we look with adoration on the mystery of a God that chose to be born of a woman, the holy Virgin, and to enter this world by a path common to all men. In this way he sanctified the reality of the family, filling it with divine grace and fully revealing his vocation and mission.

The Second Vatican Council paid special attention to the family. The spouses, it affirmed, are for each other and their children witnesses of the faith and love of Christ (cf. "Lumen Gentium," No. 35). The Christian family participates in this way in the prophetic vocation of the Church: With its manner of living, "The Christian family loudly proclaims both the present virtues of the kingdom of God and the hope of a blessed life to come" (ibid.).

As my venerable predecessor Pope John Paul II repeated untiringly, the good of the person and of society is intimately linked to the "good health" of the family (cf. "Gaudium et Spes," No. 47). Because they are words of the council, the Church is committed to the defense and promotion of the "the natural dignity of the married state and the superlative value" of marriage and the family (ibid.).

With this end in mind, an important initiative is being celebrated today in Madrid. I will address those participants now in Spanish.

Greetings to the participants in the family encounter that is taking place this Sunday in Madrid, as well as to those cardinals, bishops and priests that accompany them.

Upon contemplating the mystery of the Son of God that came into the world surrounded by the affection of Mary and Joseph, I invite all Christian families to experience the loving presence of the Lord in their lives. I encourage them, inspired by love of Christ for all mankind, to give witness before the world of the beauty of human love, marriage and family. This, founded in the insoluble union between a man and a woman, constitutes the privileged environment in which human life is welcomed and protected, from its beginning until its natural end.

For this, parents have the right and fundamental obligation to educate their children, in the faith and in the values that dignify human existence. It is worth it to work for the family and marriage because it is worth it to work for the human being, the most valuable being created by God.

I direct myself in a special way to the children, so that they love and pray for their parents and brothers and sisters; to the young people, so that stimulated by the love of their parents, they follow with generosity their own vocation to marriage, the priesthood or religious life; to the elderly and the sick, so that they find the help and understanding they need. And to you, beloved spouses, count on the grace of God always, so that your love will be always more and more fruitful and faithful.

In the hands of Mary, "who with her 'yes' opened the door of our world to God" ("Spe Salvi"), I place the results of this celebration. Thank you very much and happy holidays.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Evangelization and Christmas (December 23, 2007)
"Nothing Is More Beautiful Than Freely Giving What We Have Freely Received"

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Only one day separates the Fourth Sunday of Advent from holy Christmas. Tomorrow night we will gather to celebrate the great mystery of love that does not cease to stupify us. God became the Son of Man so that we could become sons of God. During Advent, from the heart of the Church a prayer has often gone up: "Come, Lord, to visit us with your peace, your presence fills us with joy."

The evangelizing mission of the Church is the answer to the cry "Come, Lord Jesus," which runs through the whole of salvation history and which continually goes up from the lips of believers. "Come, Lord, to transform our hearts so that justice and peace are spread throughout the world." This is meant to bring to mind the doctrinal note on some aspects of evangelization just published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The document proposes, in effect, to remind all Christians -- in a situation in which the reason for being itself of evangelization is often no longer clear -- that the welcoming itself of the glad tidings of the faith moves us to communicate the salvation received as a gift.

In fact, the truth that saves life, that became flesh in Jesus, ignites in those who receive it a love of neighbour that moves our freedom to give as a gift that which has been freely received. Being reached by the presence of God, who draws near to us at Christmas, is an inestimable gift, a gift that is capable of making us live in the universal embrace of the friends of God, in that network of friendship with Christ that binds heaven and earth, that directs human freedom toward its fulfilment and that, if lived in its truth, flourishes in a gratuitous love and a concern for the good of all people.

Nothing is more beautiful, urgent and important than freely giving to people what we have freely received from God. Nothing can exempt or discharge us from this fascinating duty. The joy of Christmas of which we already have a foretaste, as we are filled with hope, moves us at the same time to proclaim to all the presence of God in our midst.

Mary is the incomparable model of evangelization, she who did not communicate an idea to the world but rather Jesus, the incarnate Word. Let us invoke her with confidence so that also the Church in our time proclaims Christ the Saviour. Every Christian and every community feels the joy of sharing with others the good news that God so loved the world to give his only begotten Son so that the world might be saved through him. This is the authentic meaning of Christmas, that we must always rediscover and live intensely.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

ANGELUS  On Gaudete Sunday
"God Is Near as Friend and Faithful Husband"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 16, 2007- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

"Gaudete in Domino semper" -- "Rejoice in the Lord always" (Philippians 4:4). With these words of St. Paul, the holy Mass of the Third Sunday of Advent opens, and for this reason it is called "Gaudete." The apostle exhorts Christians to rejoice because the coming of the Lord, that is, his glorious return, is certain and he will not delay. The Church makes precisely this invitation while she prepares to celebrate Christmas and her gaze is turned always more toward Bethlehem. In fact, we await his second coming with certain hope because we have known his first coming.

The mystery of Bethlehem reveals to us God-with-us, God near to us, not simply in a spatial and temporal sense; he is near to us because he has wedded, so to speak, our humanity; he has taken our condition upon himself, choosing to be completely like us, except in sin, to make us like him. Christian joy thus flows from this certainty: God is near, he is with me, he is with us, in joy and suffering, in health and sickness, as friend and faithful husband. And this joy remains even in trials, in suffering itself, and remains not on the surface but rather in the depths of the person who gives himself to God and confides in him.

Some ask themselves: But is this joy still possible today? The answer is given by the life of men and women of every age and social condition, happy to consecrate their existence to others! Was not Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta perhaps, in our times, an unforgettable witness of evangelical joy? She lived in daily contact with misery, human degradation, death. Her soul knew the trial of the dark night of faith, and yet she bestowed the smile of God upon all.

We read in one of her writings: "With impatience we await paradise, where God is, but it is in our power to be in paradise beginning here below and from this moment. Being happy with God means: loving like him, helping like him, giving like him, serving like him" ("La gioia di darsi agli altri," Ed. Paoline, 1987, 43).

Yes, joy enters into the heart of those who place themselves at the service of the least and the poor. In those who love in this way God takes up his abode and the soul is in joy. If, however, happiness is made an idol, the wrong road is taken and it is truly difficult to find Jesus. This, unfortunately, is the proposal of the cultures that put individual happiness in the place of God; it is a mentality that finds its emblematic effect in the pursuit of pleasure at all costs, in the spread of drug use as an escape, like a refuge in artificial paradises, which subsequently show themselves to be completely illusory.

Dear brothers and sisters, even at Christmastime it is possible to take the wrong road, to exchange the true feast for that one that does not open the heart to Christ. May the Virgin Mary help all Christians, and men in search of God, to reach Bethlehem, to meet the Child who is born for us, for the salvation and happiness of all men.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On St. John the Baptist
"The Great Prophet Asks Us to Prepare the Way of the Lord" (December 9, 2007)

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 9, 2007 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ!

Yesterday, on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, the liturgy invited us to turn our gaze to Mary, mother of Jesus and our mother, Star of Hope for every man. Today, the second Sunday of Advent, the liturgy presents us with the austere figure of the precursor, whom the evangelist Matthew introduces in this way: "John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea and saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand'" (Matthew 3:1-2).

His mission was to smooth out the roads before the Messiah, calling the people of Israel to repent of their sins and to correct every iniquity. John the Baptist announced the imminent judgment with demanding words: "Every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire" (Matthew 3:10). He challenged the hypocrisy of those who felt secure simply because they belonged to the chosen people: Before God, he said, no one has a right to boast, but must bear "good fruit as evidence of conversion" (Matthew 3:8).

As we pursue the journey of Advent, as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ, John the Baptist's call to conversion resounds in our communities. It is a pressing invitation to open our hearts and welcome the Son of God who comes into our midst to make the divine judgment manifest.

The Father, writes the evangelist John, judges no one, but rather has entrusted the power to judge to the Son of Man (cf. John 5:22, 27). And it is today, in the present, that our future destiny is at stake; it is the concrete way we conduct ourselves in this life that decides our eternal fate. At the sunset of our days on earth, at the moment of death, we will be evaluated according to whether or not we resemble the Child who is about to be born in the lowly cave in Bethlehem, since he is the criterion by which God measures humanity.

The heavenly Father, who in the birth of his only-begotten Son manifests his merciful love to us, calls us to follow in his footsteps, making our existence, as he did, a gift of love. And the fruits of love are the "good fruits of conversion" to which John the Baptist refers, when he directs his pointed words at the Pharisees and Sadducees who were in the crowds at Christ's baptism.

Through the Gospel, John the Baptist continues to speak down the centuries, to every generation. His clear and hard words are more than ever salutary for us men and women of today, in whom even the way to live and perceive Christmas is, unfortunately, very often affected by a materialistic mentality.

The "voice" of the great prophet asks us to prepare the way of the Lord who comes in the deserts of today, external and interior deserts, thirsty for the living water that is Christ.

May the Virgin Mary guide us to a true conversion of heart, that we may make the choices necessary to make our mentalities to be in tune with the Gospel.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Immaculate Conception
"Sign of Sure Hope and Solace to the People of God"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 9, 2007 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered Saturday before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square on the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

The star of Mary Immaculate shines down on the path of Advent. She is the "sign of sure hope and solace to the people of God during its sojourn on earth" ("Lumen Gentium," 68). To reach Jesus, the true light, the sun that has dissipated all the darkness of history, we need human persons near to us who reflect Christ's light and thus illuminate the road to be taken. What person is more luminous than Mary? Who can be for us better than her the star of hope, the sunrise that proclaims the day of salvation (cf. "Spe Salvi," 49)?

For this reason the liturgy brings us to celebrate today, as we approach Christmas, the solemn feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary: The mystery of God's grace overshadowed from the first moment of her existence this creature who was destined to be the Mother of the Redeemer, preserving her from the contagion of original sin. Gazing upon her, we recognize the height and beauty of God's project for every man: becoming holy and immaculate in love (cf. Ephesians 1:4), in the image of our Creator.

What a great gift to have Mary Immaculate as mother! A mother shining with beauty, transparent to God's love. I think of the young people of today, growing up in an environment saturated by messages that propose false models of happiness. These young men and women run the risk of losing hope because they often seem orphans of true love, the love that fills life with meaning and joy. This was a theme dear to my venerable predecessor, Pope John Paul II, who many times proposed Mary as "Mother of Love" to the young people of our time.

Not a few experiences tell us that young people, adolescents and even children are easy victims of the corruption of love, deceived by unscrupulous adults, who, lying to them and to themselves, draw them into the dead ends of consumerism. Even the most sacred realities, such as the human body, temple of the God of love and life, become objects of consumption; and this happens earlier and earlier, already in pre-adolescence. How sad it is when the young lose wonder, the enchantment of the best sentiments, the value of respect for the body, manifestation of the person and his inscrutable mystery!

Mary, the Immaculate one, whom we contemplate in her beauty and holiness, calls us back to all this. On the cross, Jesus entrusts her to John and to all the disciples (cf. John 19:27), and from that moment she became Mother for all humanity, Mother of Hope. We address our prayer to her with faith as we are in our heart on spiritual pilgrimage to Lourdes, where on this very day a special jubilee year has begun on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Mary's appearances in the grotto of Massabielle. Mary Immaculate, "star of the sea, shine upon us and guide us on our way!" ("Spe Salvi," 50).

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Hope
"The World Needs God -- the True God"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 2, 2007.- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

With this First Sunday of Advent a new liturgical year begins: The people of God again takes up its journey to live the mystery of Christ in history. Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (cf. Hebrews, 13:8); history, however, changes and requires constant evangelization; it needs to be renewed from within and the one true novelty is Christ: He is the fulfilment of history, the luminous future of man and the world.

Risen from the dead, Jesus is the Lord to whom God will make all enemies submit, including death itself (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:25-28). Advent, therefore, is the propitious time to reawaken in our hearts the expectation of him “who is, who was and who is coming” (Revelation 1:8). The Son of God already came to Bethlehem 20 centuries ago, he is coming in every moment into the soul and the community that is disposed to receive him, and he will come again at the end of time, “to judge the living and the dead.” Thus, the believer is always vigilant, animated by the intimate hope of meeting the Lord, as the psalm says: “I hope in the Lord, my soul hopes in his word. My soul waits for the Lord, more than the watchmen for the dawn” (Psalm 129:5-6).

This Sunday is, therefore, a most appropriate day to offer to the whole Church and all men of good will my second encyclical, which I wanted to dedicate to the theme of Christian hope. It is entitled “Spe Salvi” because it opens with the line of St. Paul, “Spe salvi facti sumus,” that is, “In hope we have been saved” (Romans 8:24).

In this passage, as in others in the New Testament, the word “hope” is closely connected with the word “faith.” It is a gift that changes the life of those who receive it, as the experience of so many saints demonstrates. In what does this hope consist that is so great and so “trustworthy” as to make us say that “in it” we have “salvation”?

In substance it consists in the knowledge of God, in the discovery of his heart as a good and merciful Father. Jesus, with his death on the cross and his resurrection, has revealed to us his countenance, the countenance of a God so great in love as to communicate to us an indestructible hope, a hope that not even death can crack, because the life of those who entrust themselves to this Father always opens up to the perspective of eternal beatitude.

The development of modern science has confined faith and hope more and more to the private and individual sphere, so much so that today it appears in an evident way, and sometimes dramatically, that the world needs God -- the true God! -- otherwise it remains deprived of hope. Science contributes much to the good of humanity -- without a doubt -- but it is not able to redeem humanity.

Man is redeemed by love, which renders social life good and beautiful. Because of this the great hope, that one that is full and definitive, is guaranteed by God, by God who is love, who has visited us in Jesus and given his life to us, and in Jesus he will return at the end of time.

It is in Christ that we hope and it is him that we await! With Mary, his Mother, the Church goes out to meet the Bridegroom: She does this with works of charity, because hope, like faith, is demonstrated in love. A good Advent to all!

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Trust in God
"Let Us Not be Afraid of the Future, Even When it Appears Bleak"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 18, 2007 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

In today's Gospel passage St. Luke re-proposes the biblical vision of history for our reflection and reports the words of Jesus that invite the disciples not to have fear but to face difficulties, misunderstandings and even persecutions with trust, persevering in faith in him.

"When you hear of wars and insurrections," the Lord says, "do not be terrified; for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end" (Luke 21:9). Mindful of this admonition of the Lord, the Church has from the very beginning lived in the prayerful expectation of the Lord's return, scrutinizing the signs of the times and putting the faithful on guard against recurring messianic movements that from time to time proclaim that the end of the world is imminent.

In reality, history must follow its course, which also brings human dramas and natural calamities with it. A plan of salvation that Christ has already carried out in his incarnation, death, and resurrection develops in history. The Church continues to proclaim and realize this mystery through preaching, the celebration of the sacraments and the witness of charity.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us welcome Christ's invitation to face daily events trusting in his providential love. Let us not be afraid of the future, even when it appears bleak to us, for the God of Jesus Christ, who took up history to open it up to its transcendent fulfillment, is its alpha and omega, the beginning and the end (cf. Revelation 1:8). He guarantees that in every little but genuine act of love the meaning of the whole universe is contained, and those who do not hesitate to lose their lives for him, will find them again in fullness (cf. Matthew 16:25).

Consecrated persons, who have placed their life without reserve at the service of the kingdom of God invite us with singular effectiveness to keep this perspective alive. Among these persons I would like especially to draw attention to those who are called to contemplation in cloistered monasteries. The Church dedicates a particular day to them on Wednesday, Nov. 21, the memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the temple. We owe much to these persons who live by what providence procures for them through the generosity of the faithful.

"As a spiritual oasis, a monastery reminds today's world of the most important, and indeed, in the end, the only decisive thing: that there is an ultimate reason why life is worth living -- God and his unfathomable love" (Address at Heiligenkreuz, Sept. 9, 2007). Faith that works in charity is the true antidote for the nihilistic mentality, which in our epoch spreads its influence further and further throughout the world.

May Mary, Mother of the Incarnate Word, accompany us on the earthly pilgrimage. We ask her to support the witness of all Christians, that it always rest on a solid and persevering faith.

[After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted pilgrims in several languages. In Italian, he said:]

In recent days southern Bangladesh was struck by a terrible cyclone that injured and killed numerous people and caused grave destruction. In renewing my profound condolences to the families and the whole nation, which is so dear to me, I appeal for international solidarity, which has already moved to assist with immediate necessities. I ask that every possible effort be made to succor these sorely tried brothers.

Today there opens in Jordan the 8th meeting of the countries who signed the convention on the ban of the use, stockpiling, manufacture and transport of anti-personnel mines and on their destruction. The Holy See is among the principal promoters of the convention that was signed 10 years ago. From my heart I convey my greeting and encouragement for a good outcome to the meeting so that these explosives, which continue to generate victims -- among whom are many children -- be completely prohibited.

This afternoon at Novara there will be beatified the venerable servant of God, Antonio Rosmini, a great figure of a priest and an illustrious man of culture, animated by fervid love for God and the Church. He bore witness to the virtue of charity in all of its dimensions and at a high level, but that for which he was mostly known was his generous commitment to what he called "intellectual charity," that is to say the reconciliation of faith and reason. May his example help the Church, especially Italian ecclesial communities, to grow in the awareness that the light of reason and that of grace, when they walk together, become a source of benediction for the human person and for society.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On St. Martin of Tours
"Generous Witness of the Gospel of Charity" (November 11, 2007)

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Today, Nov. 11, the Church remembers St. Martin, bishop of Tours, one of the most celebrated and venerated saints in Europe. Born around 316 to pagan parents in Pannonia, present-day Hungary, he was directed by his father to a military career.

When he was still an adolescent, Martin encountered Christianity and, overcoming many difficulties, he registered among the catechumens to prepare himself for baptism. He received the sacrament around the age of 20 but still had to remain for some time in the military, where he gave testimony to his new way of life: Respectful and understanding toward all, he treated his servant as a brother and he avoided vulgar entertainments.

Leaving military service, he went to stay with the holy Bishop Hilary at Poitiers in France. Ordained deacon and priest by Hilary, Martin began a monastery at Liguge with some disciples. Martin’s is the oldest known monastic foundation in Europe. About 10 years later, the Christians of Tours, being without a pastor, acclaimed Martin bishop. From that point on, Martin dedicated himself with ardent zeal to the evangelization of the countryside and the formation of the clergy.

Although many miracles are attributed to him, St. Martin is famous above all for an act of fraternal charity. While still a young soldier, he met a poor man along the road who was frozen and trembling from the cold. Martin took his own cloak and cutting it with his sword, gave half of it to the man. That night Jesus appeared to Martin in a dream, smiling and wrapped in the cloak.

Dear brothers and sisters, St. Martin’s charitable gesture inscribes itself in the same logic that moved Jesus to multiply the loaves of bread for the famished crowds, but above all to leave himself in food for humanity in the Eucharist, supreme sign of God’s love, "sacramentum caritatis." It is in the logic of sharing that the love of neighbor is concretely expressed. May St. Martin help us to understand that it is only through a common commitment to sharing that it is possible to respond to the great challenge of our time: that of building up a world of peace and justice in which every man can live with dignity. This can happen if a global model of authentic solidarity prevails, one that is able to assure all the inhabitants of the planet food, water, necessary medicines, and also work and energy resources, as well as cultural goods and scientific and technological knowledge.

We turn now to the Virgin Mary to implore that she help all Christians to be, like St. Martin, generous witnesses of the Gospel of charity and tireless builders of solidary sharing.

[After praying the Angelus the Holy Father greeted those who were present in various languages. In Italian he said:]

Lebanon’s national assembly will soon be called to elect the new head of state. As numerous initiatives undertaken in recent days have shown, this is a crucial moment on which depends the very survival of Lebanon and its institutions. I make my own the concerns recently expressed by the Maronite Patriarch, His Beatitude Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, and his desire that the new president recognize all Lebanese. Together let us implore Our Lady of Lebanon that she inspire in all the parties involved the necessary detachment from personal interests and a true passion for the common good.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Zacchaeus the Tax Collector
"Love ... Is the Force That Renews the World" (November 4, 2007)

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Today the liturgy presents the well-known Gospel episode of Jesus' meeting with Zacchaeus in the city of Jericho. Who was Zacchaeus? A rich "publican," that is, a tax collector for the Roman authorities, and precisely for this he was regarded as a public sinner.

Knowing that Jesus was passing through Jericho, this man was seized by a great desire to see him but, being small of stature, he climbed a tree. Jesus stopped beneath the tree and turned to him, calling him by name: "Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house" (Luke 19:5).

What a message in this simple phrase! "Zacchaeus": Jesus calls by name a man who is despised by all. "Today": Yes, his moment of salvation is now. "I must stay": Why "must"? Because the Father, who is rich in mercy, wants Jesus to go and "seek out and save what was lost" (Luke 19:10).

The grace of that unforeseeable moment was such that it completely changed Zacchaeus' life: "Behold," he confesses to Jesus, "half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over" (19:8). Once more the Gospel tells us that love, flowing from the heart of God and working through the heart of man, is the force that renews the world.

This truth shines forth in a singular way in the witness of the saint whose feast falls on this day: Charles Borromeo, archbishop of Milan. The figure of St. Charles rises up in the 16th century as the model of the pastor known for his exemplarity in charity, doctrine, apostolic zeal and above all prayer: "We conquer souls," he said, "on our knees."

Consecrated bishop when he was only 25, he put into practice the decree of Trent that demanded that bishops reside in their diocese, and he dedicated himself entirely to the Ambrosian church: three times he visited the entire diocese; he called six provincial synods and 11 diocesan synods; he founded seminaries to form a new generation of priests; he built hospitals and gave his family's wealth to the service of the poor; he defended the Church's rights against the powerful; he renewed religious life and instituted a new congregation of priests, the Oblates.

In 1576, when the plague was wreaking havoc on Milan, he visited and comforted the sick and gave all his goods to them. His motto was a single word: "Humilitas." Humility moved him, as it did the Lord Jesus, to renounce himself to become the servant of all.

Remembering my venerable predecessor John Paul II, who with devotion bore St. Charles' name, let us entrust to the intercession of St. Charles all the bishops of the world, for whom we invoke as always the celestial protection of Mary Most Holy, mother of the Church.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


On All Saints' Day
"God Invites Everyone to Form Part of His Holy People" (November 1, 2007)

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

On this solemnity of All Saints' Day, our hearts surpass the limits of time and space and open up to the vastness of heaven. In the early days of Christianity, the members of the Church were also called "saints." In the first Letter to the Corinthians, for example, St. Paul addresses "you who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be holy, with all those everywhere who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours" (1 Corinthians 1:2). In fact, the Christian is already holy, because baptism unites him to Jesus and the paschal mystery, but at the same time he has to become holy, conforming himself to Jesus ever more intimately.

Sometimes it is thought that sainthood is a privilege reserved only for the chosen few. Actually, to become a saint is the task of every Christian, and what's more, we could even say it's the task of everyone! The Apostle wrote that God has blessed us from all eternity and has chosen us in Christ "to be holy and without blemish before him" (Ephesians 1:3-4). All human beings are therefore called to sainthood, which ultimately consists in living as children of God, in that "likeness" to him according to which humanity was created.

All human beings are children of God, and they all should become what they are through the demanding path of freedom. God invites everyone to form part of his holy people. The "way" is Christ, the son, the Holy One of God: No one reaches the Father if not through him (cf. John 14:6).

The Church has wisely placed in close succession the feast of All Saints' Day with the commemoration of All the Faithful Departed. May our prayers of praise to God and veneration of the beatific souls, whom today's liturgy presents to us as "a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people and tongue" (Revelation 7:9), be united to our intercessory prayers for those who have preceded us in the passage from this world to eternal life. To them we will dedicate our prayers tomorrow in a special manner, and celebrate the Eucharistic sacrifice. In fact, the Church invites us to pray for them every day, offering our daily sufferings and weariness so that, completely purified, they may enjoy forever the light and peace of the Lord.

In the center of the assembly of saints shines the Virgin Mary, "humble and more exalted than any creature" (Dante, Paradise, XXXIII, 2). Placing our hand in hers, we feel ready to walk with more energy along the way of sainthood. To her we entrust our daily tasks, and we pray to her today for our dearly departed with the profound hope of one day finding ourselves together again with them in the glorious community of saints.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On the Call to Martyrdom
"Not an Exception Reserved Only to Some Individuals"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 28, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before leading the recitation of the midday Angelus. The address followed the beatification ceremony of 498 Spanish martyrs from the 20th century, celebrated by Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes.

* * *

My dear brothers and sisters:

This morning, here, in St. Peter's Square, 498 martyrs, assassinated in Spain during the decade of the '30s in the last century, were beatified. I thank Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes, who presided over the celebration, and I cordially greet the pilgrims gathered for this joyful occasion.

Adding such a great number of martyrs to the list of beatified persons shows that the supreme witness of giving blood is not an exception reserved only to some individuals, but a realistic possibility for all Christian people. It includes men and women of different ages, vocations and social conditions, who pay with their lives in fidelity to Christ and his Church.

The expression of St. Paul in today's liturgy adequately applies to them: "Beloved: I am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith" (2 Timithoy 4:6-7). Paul, detained in Rome, saw death approaching and balances this awareness and hope. At peace with God and himself, he serenely confronted death, with the knowledge that he had surrendered his life totally to the service of the Gospel, without sparing anything.

October, the month dedicated in a special way to missionary commitment, ends with the luminous testimony of the Spanish martyrs, who join the martyrs Albertina Berkenbrock, Emmanuel Gómez Gonzáles and Adilio Daronch, and Franz Jägerstätter, who were beatified recently in Brazil and Austria.

Their example gives witness to the fact that baptism commits Christians to participate boldly in the spread of the Kingdom of God, cooperating if necessary with the sacrifice of one's own life. Certainly not everyone is called to a bloody martyrdom. There is also an unbloody "martyrdom," which is no less significant, such as that of Celina Chludzinska Borzecka, wife, mother, widow and religious, beatified yesterday in Rome: It is the silent and heroic testimony of many Christians who live the Gospel without compromises, fulfilling their duty and dedicating themselves generously in service to the poor.

This martyrdom of ordinary life is a particularly important witness in the secularized societies of our time. It is the peaceful battle of love that all Christians, like Paul, have to fight tirelessly; the race to spread the Gospel that commits us until death. May Mary, Queen of Martyrs and Star of Evangelization, help us and assist us in our daily witness.

[Translation by ZENIT]

[After the Angelus, the Pope greeted the people in several languages. In English, he said:]

I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for this Angelus, including the group from the Oratory Prep School in Oxfordshire, England. The Gospel invites us to leave aside all arrogance and pride, and to walk in humility before God and with our neighbour. The Beatifications today remind us of the importance of humbly following our Lord even to the point of offering our lives for the faith. May your stay in Rome renew your love of Christ, and may God bless you all!

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Peace, Missions and Justice
"A Strong Effort Is Required By All" (October 21, 2007)

NAPLES, Italy, OCT. 21, 2007 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today after celebrating Mass in Naples, and before leading the recitation of the midday Angelus. The Pope was in Naples to open the 21st International Encounter of Peoples and Religions.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

At the end of this solemn celebration, I would like to renew, my dear friends of Naples, my greeting to you and my thanks for the cordial reception that you gave me. I address a particular greeting to the delegations that have come from various parts of the world to participate in the International Meeting for Peace sponsored by the Community of Sant'Egidio. The theme of this meeting is "Toward a World Without Violence: Religions and Cultures in Dialogue." May this important cultural and religious initiative contribute to consolidating peace in the world.

Let us pray for this. But let us also pray today in a special way for missionaries. Today, in fact, we celebrate World Mission Sunday, which has a very significant motto: "All the Churches For All the World." Every particular Church is responsible for the evangelization of all of humanity, and this cooperation among the Churches was augmented by Pope Paul VI 50 years ago with the encyclical "Fidei Donum." Let us not fail to give our spiritual and material support to those who work on the frontlines of the missions: priests, religious and lay people, who often encounter grave difficulties in their work, and even persecutions.

Let us give these prayer intentions to Mary Most Holy, who, in the month of October we love to invoke with the title with which she is venerated at the shrine of Pompeii, not far from here: Queen of the Rosary. To her we entrust the many pilgrims who have traveled from Caserta.

May the Holy Virgin also protect those who in various ways commit themselves to the common good and the just order of society, as has been highlighted rather well during the 45th Social Week of Italian Catholics. The event is being held in these days in Pistoia and Pisa, 100 years after the first such Week, promoted above all by Giuseppe Toniolo, an illustrious figure among Christian economists.

There are many problems and challenges that we face today. A strong effort is required by all, especially lay faithful working in social and political spheres, to assure that every person, in particular the youth, be assured the indispensable conditions for developing their natural talents and cultivating the generous choices of service to their families and the entire community.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On True Healing
"What a Treasure Is Hidden in the Little Phrase 'Thank You'"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 15, 2007 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Sunday to the crowds gathered in St. Peter's Square when he led the praying of the midday Angelus.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters!

The Gospel from this Sunday presents Jesus curing 10 lepers, of whom only one, a Samaritan, and thus a foreigner, returns to give thanks (cf. Luke 17:11-19). The Lord says, "Rise and go on your way; your faith has saved you" (Luke 17:19).

This Gospel passage invites us to a double reflection. Above all, it makes us think of two levels of healing: one that is more superficial, affecting the body; another, more profound, reaching the depths of a person, that which the Bible calls the "heart," and from there, irradiating to all of existence.

The complete and radical healing is "salvation." Even in common language, the distinction between "health" and "salvation" helps us to understand that salvation is much more that health. It is, in fact, a new life, full and definitive. Moreover, here, as in other circumstances, Jesus uses the expression, "Your faith has saved you." Faith saves the human person, re-establishing him in his profound relationship with God, with himself, and with others. And faith is expressed with appreciation. He who, like the healed Samaritan, knows how to give thanks, shows that he does not consider everything as something which is merited, but instead as a gift that, even if it comes through people or through nature, in the end, comes from God. Faith involves, then, the openness of the person to the grace of the Lord; to recognize that all is gift, all is grace. What a treasure is hidden in the little phrase "thank you!"

Jesus cures 10 people sick with leprosy, a sickness in that time considered a "contagious impurity," which required a rite of purification (cf. Leviticus 14:1-37). In reality, the leprosy that truly disfigures the person and society is sin; pride and egotism give birth in the spirit to indifference, hate and violence. Only God, who is Love, can cure this leprosy of the spirit, which disfigures the face of humanity. Upon opening the heart to God, the converted person is healed interiorly of evil.

"Repent and believe in the Gospel" (cf. Mark 1:15). Jesus made this invitation at the beginning of his public life, and it continues to resound in the Church, to the point that even the Blessed Virgin in her apparitions, especially in recent times, has renewed this call.

Today we think especially of Fatima, where, precisely 90 years ago, from May 13 to Oct. 13, 1917, the Virgin appeared to three little shepherds: Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco. Thanks to a television connection, I want to make myself spiritually present in that Marian shrine, where Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, secretary of state, has in my name presided over the concluding ceremonies of such an important anniversary.

I cordially greet him, and the other cardinals and bishops present, the priests that work in the shrine and the pilgrims who have come from every part of the world for this occasion. We ask the Blessed Virgin for the gift of conversion for all Christians, so that they may announce and give a faithful and coherent witness to the perennial evangelical message, which indicates to humanity the path to an authentic peace.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Month of the Rosary
"A Means for Contemplating Jesus" (October 7,2007)

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This first Sunday of October offers us two reasons for prayer and reflection: the memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary, which is today, and the commitment to missions, to which this month is dedicated in a special way.

The traditional image of the Madonna of the Rosary depicts Mary holding the child Jesus in her arm and giving the rosary to St. Dominic. This significant iconography shows that the rosary is a means given by the Virgin for contemplating Jesus and, meditating on his life, for loving and following him always more faithfully.

This is something that Mary has also offered in various apparitions. I am thinking especially of her appearance at Fatima that took place 90 years ago. To the three little shepherds, Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco, presenting herself as "the Madonna of the Rosary," she insistently recommended praying the rosary every day to bring an end to the war.

We also desire to welcome the Virgin’s maternal request, committing ourselves to saying the rosary with faith for peace in our families, in countries, and in the whole world.

In any case, we know that peace spreads where men and institutions are open to the Gospel. The month of October helps us to recall this fundamental truth through a mobilization that seeks to promote an authentic missionary drive in each community, and to support the work of priests, religious and laypeople who work on the Church's mission frontiers.

With special care we prepare to celebrate, on Oct. 21, the World Mission Day, which will have as its theme "All the Churches for All the World."

The proclamation of the Gospel remains the primary service that the Church owes to humanity, to offer the salvation of Christ to the man of our time, who is in many ways humiliated and oppressed, and to orientate in a Christian way cultural, social, and ethical transformations that are unfolding in the world.

This year we are moved toward a renewal of missionary commitment for still another reason: the 50th anniversary of the encyclical "Fidei Donum" of the Servant of God Pius XII, which promoted and encouraged cooperation among the Churches for the mission "ad gentes."

With pleasure I recall also that 150 years ago five priests and a layman of the Institute of Don Mazza in Verona departed for Africa, for present-day Sudan. Among them was St. Daniel Comboni, future bishop of central Africa and patron of the people of that region, whose liturgical memorial is Oct. 10.

We entrust all missionaries to the intercession of these pioneers of the Gospel and to the many other canonized and beatified missionaries, and especially to the maternal protection of the Queen of the Holy Rosary.

O Mary, help us to remember that every Christian is called to be a proclaimer of the Gospel by his word and by his life.

[Translation by ZENIT]

* * *

[After the Angelus the Holy Father said in English:]

I extend heartfelt greetings to the English-speaking visitors here today. In this month of October, dedicated to the holy rosary, we ponder with Mary the mysteries of our salvation, and we ask the Lord to help us grow in our understanding of the marvelous things he has done for us.

May God fill you with his love and may he grant you and all those dear to you his blessings of joy and peace.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Lazarus and World Hunger
"He Who Is Forgotten by All Is Not Forgotten by God"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 30, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus with the people gathered in the courtyard of the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo.

* * *
Dear Brothers and Sister!

Today, the Gospel of Luke presents the parable of the rich man and poor Lazarus (16:19-31). The rich man embodies the unjust spending of wealth by those who use it for unbridled and egotistical luxury, thinking only of satisfying themselves, without taking care of the beggar at their door.

The poor man, on the other hand, represents the person that only God cares for, and unlike the rich man, he has a name, Lazarus, an abbreviation of Eleazar, which means “God helps him." He who is forgotten by all is not forgotten by God; he who is worth nothing in the eyes of men, is precious in the eyes of the Lord.

The story shows how earthly injustice is overturned by divine justice: After death, Lazarus is welcomed “into Abraham’s bosom," that is to say, into eternal beatitude, while the rich man ends up “in hell among torments." It is a new, definitive, unappealing state. Therefore it is during this life that one must repent; doing so afterward is useless.

This parable also lends itself to a social interpretation. Paul VI’s encyclical “Populorum Progressio," written 40 years ago, remains memorable. In speaking about the fight against hunger, he writes: “It involves building a human community where men can live truly human lives … where the needy Lazarus can sit down with the rich man at the same banquet table” (No. 47).

The cause of the numerous situations of misery are -- according to the encyclical -- on the one hand, "servitude to other men” and on the other, “natural forces which they cannot yet control satisfactorily” (ibid).

Unfortunately, certain peoples suffer from both of these forces. How can we not think, especially in this moment, of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa, stricken with serious flooding over these last few days?

But we cannot forget many other situations of humanitarian emergency in various regions of the planet, in which battles for political power lead to the worsening of environmental problems already weighing on the people. The appeal Paul VI gave voice to back then: “The hungry nations of the world cry out to the peoples blessed with abundance” (“Populorum Progressio," No. 3), has the same urgency today.

We cannot say that we do not know the road to take: We have the law and the prophets, Christ tells us in the Gospel. Whoever chooses not to listen would not change even if someone came back from the dead to warn him.

May the Virgin Mary help us to take advantage of the present time to listen and to put into practice this word of God. May she make us attentive to our brothers in need, to share with them the abundance or the little that we have, and to contribute, beginning with ourselves, to the spreading of the logic and style of authentic solidarity.

[After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father addressed the pilgrims gathered at Castel Gandolfo, saying:]

I follow the serious events taking place in Myanmar with great trepidation and I wish to express my spiritual closeness to that dear people in this moment of sorrowful difficulty that they are experiencing. While guaranteeing them my intense prayer and support, I invite the entire Church to do the same and I hope that a peaceful solution can be found, for the good of the country.

I recommend the situation of the Korean peninsula to your prayers, where important developments in the dialogue between the two Koreas are a hopeful sign that the efforts of reconciliation in act can consolidate in favor of the Korean people and to benefit the stability and peace of the entire region.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Wealth and Poverty
"Equal Distribution of Goods Is a Priority" (September 23, 2007)

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters!

This morning I visited the Diocese of Velletri of which I was the titular cardinal for several years. It was a familial encounter, which permitted me to relive past moments rich with spiritual and pastoral experiences. During the solemn Eucharistic celebration, in speaking about the liturgical texts, I was able to reflect on the correct use of earthly goods, a theme that St. Luke the evangelist, in various ways, has brought to our attention over the last few Sundays.

In the parable of the dishonest, yet sharp steward, Christ teaches his disciples the best way to use money and material riches; share them with the poor and in this way earn their friendship, in view of the Kingdom of heaven. "Make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous mammon," says Jesus, "so that when it fails they may receive your into the eternal habitations" (Luke 16:9).

Money is not "dishonest" in itself, but more than anything else it can close man up within a blind egoism. What is needed therefore is a sort of "conversion" of economic goods: Instead of using them for one's own interests, we need to also think of the necessities of the poor, imitating Christ himself, who, wrote St. Paul, "Though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich" (2 Corinthians 8:9). It seems to be a paradox: Christ did not enrich us with his wealth, but with his poverty, that is with his love that motivated him to give himself completely to us.

This could open up a vast and complex field of reflection on the theme of wealth and poverty, even on the world stage, in which two rationales regarding economics come face to face: the logic of profit and that of the equal distribution of goods, and one does not contradict the other, provided that their relationship is well-ordered. Catholic social doctrine has always sustained that the equal distribution of goods is a priority. Profit is naturally legitimate and, in a just measure, necessary for economic development.

John Paul II wrote in "Centesimus Annus": "The modern business economy has positive aspects. Its basis is human freedom exercised in the economic field, just as it is exercised in many other fields (No. 32). However, he adds, capitalism is not considered the only valid model of economic organization (No. 35). The crises of hunger and the environment are denouncing, with growing evidence, that the logic of profit, if it prevails, increases the disproportion between rich and poor and a harmful exploitation of the planet. When the logic of sharing and solidarity prevails on the other hand, it is possible to correct the course of action and orient it toward proportional and sustainable development.

Mary Most Holy, who in the Magnificat proclaims: the Lord "has fed the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty" (Luke 1:53), help all Christians to use with evangelical wisdom, that is, with generous solidarity, earthly goods, and inspire governments and economists with farsighted strategies that favor the authentic progress of all peoples.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On the Parables of Mercy
"The Road That Jesus Shows"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 16, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus with the people gathered in the courtyard of the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Today the liturgy re-proposes for our meditation the 15th chapter of the Gospel of Luke, one of the high points and one of the most moving of all pages of sacred Scripture. It is beautiful to think that wherever in the whole world the Christian community gathers to celebrate the Sunday Eucharist, there resounds on this day this good news of truth and of salvation: God is merciful love. The evangelist Luke has gathered together three parables of divine mercy in this chapter. The two shorter ones that are also found in Matthew and Mark are those of the lost sheep and the lost coin; the third one -- long, detailed and unique to Luke’s Gospel -- is the celebrated parable of the merciful Father, typically referred to as the "parable of the prodigal son."

In this page of the Gospel it seems as though we can almost hear the voice of Jesus, who reveals the countenance of his Father and our Father. At bottom, this is what he came into the world for: To speak to us of the Father; to make him known to us, lost children, and to reawaken in our hearts the joy of belonging to him, the hope of being forgiven and restored to our full dignity, the desire to live in his house forever, the house that is also our house.

Jesus recounted the three parables of mercy because the Pharisees and the scribes spoke ill of him, seeing that he allowed sinners to draw near to him and he even ate with them (cf. Luke 15:1-3). Thus, he explained, with his usual language, that God does not want even one of his children to be lost and his soul overflows with joy when a sinner converts. True religion therefore consists in being in tune with this heart "rich in mercy," which asks us to love everyone, even those who are distant and those who are our enemies, imitating the heavenly Father who respects everyone’s freedom and draws all to himself with the invincible force of his fidelity. This is the road that Jesus shows to those who want to be his disciples: "Do not judge … do not condemn … forgive and you will be forgiven; give and it will be given to you … be merciful as your Father in heaven is merciful" (Luke 6:36-38). In these parables we find very concrete indications for our daily conduct as believers.

In our time, humanity needs the mercy of God to be vigorously proclaimed and witnessed to. The beloved John Paul II, who was a great apostle of divine mercy, intuited this pastoral urgency. He dedicated his second encyclical to the merciful Father and throughout his pontificate he was a missionary of mercy to all nations. After the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, which obscured the dawn of the third millennium, he invited Christians and men of good will to believe that God’s mercy is stronger than every evil and that in the cross of Christ there is found the salvation of the world. May the Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy, whom we contemplated yesterday as the sorrowful one at the foot of the cross, obtain for us the gift of always trusting in the love of God, and may she help us to be merciful as our Father in heaven.

[After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father addressed the pilgrims gathered at Castel Gandolfo in Italian, saying:]

This morning in Poland, at the shrine of Lichen, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, my secretary of state, in my name proclaimed as blessed Father Stanislao Papczynski, founder of the Congregation of Marian Clerics. I address a cordial greeting to the faithful gathered together for this happy occasion and to the many people who are devoted to this newly beatified son of the Church in whom they venerate a priest who was exemplary in preaching, in the formation of the laity, a father of the poor and an apostle of intercessory prayer for the dead.

And also this morning in Bordeaux, Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes, in my name proclaimed as blessed Sister Marie Celine of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a professed nun of the Second Order of St. Francis. She wanted her life, which was marked by the cross, to be a sign of Christ’s love, as she herself said: "I thirst to be a rose of charity."

I would also like to mention Father Basile Antoine-Marie Moreau, founder of the Congregation of the Holy Cross, who was beatified yesterday in Le Mans by Cardinal Saraiva Martins. I entrust in a special way to the intercession of these newly beatified their spiritual sons and daughters, that they follow with ardor the luminous testimony of the prophets of God, who is Lord of every life.

Today is the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the "Montreal Protocol" on the substances that deplete the ozone layer, causing grave damage for human beings and the ecosystem. In the last two decades, thanks to exemplary collaboration between politicians, scientists and economists within the international community, important results have been obtained with positive repercussions on present and future generations. I desire that, on the part of everyone, cooperation intensify to the end of promoting the common good, development, and the safeguarding of creation, returning to the alliance between man and the environment, which must be a mirror of God the Creator, from whom we come and toward whom we are journeying.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Loving Jesus as Mary Did
"She Allowed God to Fill Her With Love"

VIENNA, Austria, SEPT. 10, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the German-language address Benedict XVI gave Sunday before reciting the midday Angelus at the Cathedral of St. Stephen.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

It was a particularly beautiful experience this morning to be able to celebrate the Lord's Day with all of you in such a dignified and solemn manner in the magnificent Cathedral of Saint Stephen. The celebration of the Eucharist, carried out with due dignity, helps us to realize the immense grandeur of God's gift to us in the Holy Mass. In this way, we also draw near to each another and experience the joy of God. So I thank all those who, by their active contribution to the preparation of the liturgy or by their recollected participation in the sacred mysteries, created an atmosphere in which we truly felt God's presence. Heartfelt thanks and Vergelt's Gott to all!

In my homily I wished to say something about the meaning of Sunday and about today's Gospel, and I think that this led us to discover that the love of God, who surrendered himself into our hands for our salvation, gives us the inner freedom to let go of our own lives, in order to find true life. Mary's participation in this love gave her the strength to say "yes" unconditionally. In her encounter with the gentle, respectful love of God, who awaits the free cooperation of his creature in order to bring about his saving plan, the Blessed Virgin was able to overcome all hesitation and, in view of this great and unprecedented plan, to entrust herself into his hands. With complete availability, interior openness and freedom, she allowed God to fill her with love, with his Holy Spirit. Mary, the simple woman, could thus receive within herself the Son of God, and give to the world the Saviour who had first given himself to her.

In today's celebration of the Eucharist, the Son of God has also been given to us. Those who have received Holy Communion, in a special way, carry the Risen Lord within themselves. Just as Mary bore him in her womb -- a defenceless little child, totally dependent on the love of his Mother -- so Jesus Christ, under the species of bread, has entrusted himself to us, dear brothers and sisters. Let us love this Jesus who gives himself so completely into our hands! Let us love him as Mary loved him! And let us bring him to others, just as Mary brought him to Elizabeth as the source of joyful exultation! The Virgin gave the Word of God a human body, and thus enabled him to come into the world as a man. Let us give our own bodies to the Lord, and let them become ever more fully instruments of God's love, temples of the Holy Spirit! Let us bring Sunday, and its immense gift, into the world!

Let us ask Mary to teach us how to become, like her, inwardly free, so that in openness to God we may find true freedom, true life, genuine and lasting joy.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On the Home and the Public Square
"Let Us Spiritually Enter Into the Holy House" (September 2, 2007)

LORETO, Italy, SEPT. 2, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus with young people gathered in Loreto.

* * *

At the close of this solemn Eucharistic celebration, let us recite, my dear young people, the Angelus, in spiritual communion with all those who are joined to us via radio and television. Loreto, after Nazareth, is the ideal place to pray meditating on the mystery of the incarnation of the Son of God.

So, in this moment, my invitation is for us all to enter with our minds and hearts into the sanctuary of the Holy House, within those walls which according to tradition come from Nazareth, the place where the Virgin said “yes” to God and conceived in her own womb the Eternal Word incarnate.

Before we depart from this assembly, let us leave for a moment the "agora," the public square, and spiritually enter into the Holy House. There is a reciprocal relationship between the public square and the home. The square is large, it is open, it is the place of the encounter with others, of dialogue, of contact; home, on the other hand, is the place of meditation and interior silence, where the Word can be deeply welcomed.

To bring God into the public square, we must have received him interiorly at home, like Mary in the annunciation. And vice versa, the house is opened onto the square: This is also suggested by the fact that the Holy House has three walls, not four. It is an open home, opened onto the world, life, and also onto this agora of young Italians.

Dear friends, it is a great privilege for Italy, in this wonderful corner of the Marche, to give hospitality to the shrine of the Holy House. Be rightly proud about this and profit from it!

In the most important moments of your life come here, at least in your heart, to spiritually recollect yourselves between the walls of the Holy House. Pray to the Virgin Mary that you might obtain the light and strength of the Holy Spirit, to respond fully and generously to the voice of God. Thereby you will become true witnesses in the public square, in society, bearers of a Gospel that is not abstract but incarnate in your life.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Passing Through the Narrow Gate
"We Must Commit Ourselves to Being Little" (Aug 26, 2007)


* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Even today's liturgy proposes to us an illuminating and troubling phrase of Christ. During his last trip up to Jerusalem someone asks him: "Lord will those who are saved be few?" And Jesus answers: "Strive to enter by the narrow gate; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able" (Luke 13:23-24). What is meant by this "narrow gate"? Why is it that many people do not succeed in entering through it? Is it perhaps a passage that is reserved only for a few elect?

When we consider it, in effect, the way of reasoning of Jesus' interlocutors is always with us: the temptation to think of religious practice as a source of privileges and certainties is always waiting in ambush for us. In truth, Christ's message goes in exactly the opposite direction: Everyone can enter into life, but the gate is "narrow" for everyone. There is no privileged group. The way to eternal life is open to all, but it is "narrow" because it is demanding, it requires commitment, self-denial and mortification of one's own egoism.

Once again, as we have seen in past Sundays, the Gospel invites us to consider the future that awaits us and for which we must prepare during our pilgrimage on earth. The salvation that Jesus worked through his death and resurrection is universal. He is the only Redeemer and he invites everyone to the banquet of eternal life. But with one and the same condition: that of making the effort to follow him and imitate him, taking up one's cross, as he did, and dedicating one's life to the service of our brothers. One and universal, therefore, is this condition for entering into the life of heaven.

On the last day -- Jesus observes in the Gospel -- we will not be judged on the basis of presumed privileges, but by our works. The "workers of iniquity" will find themselves excluded, while those who have done good and sought justice, at the cost of sacrifice, will be welcomed. For this reason it will not be enough to declare oneself a "friend" of Christ, bragging about false merits: "We ate and drank in your presence and you taught in our streets" (Luke 13:26).

True friendship with Christ is expressed by one's way of life: it is expressed by goodness of heart, with humility, meekness and mercy, love of justice and truth, sincere and honest commitment to peace and reconciliation. This, we might say, is the "I.D. card" that qualifies us as authentic "friends"; this is the "passport" that permits us to enter into eternal life.

Dear brothers and sisters, if we too want to pass through the narrow gate we must commit ourselves to being little, that is, humble of heart, like Jesus. Like Mary, his and our Mother. She was the first, following the Son, to travel the way of the cross and she was assumed into the glory of heaven, as we recalled some days ago. The Christian people call on her as "launa Caeli," Gate of Heaven. Let us ask her to guide us, in our daily choices, along the road that leads to the "Gate of Heaven."

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Mary's Glorification
"She Sits in Splendor at the Right Hand of Her Son"

VATICAN CITY, AUG. 14, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered Aug. 15, the solemnity of the Assumption, before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered at Castel Gandolfo.

* * *

SOLEMNITY OF THE ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
BENEDICT XVI
ANGELUS

Papal Summer Residence, Castel Gandolfo
Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, we are celebrating the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This is an ancient feast deeply rooted in Sacred Scripture: indeed, it presents the Virgin Mary closely united to her divine Son and ever supportive of him.

Mother and Son appear closely bound in the fight against the infernal enemy until they completely defeat him. This victory is expressed in particular in overcoming sin and death, that is, in triumphing over the enemies which St Paul always presents as connected (cf. Rom 5: 12, 15-21; I Cor 15: 21-26).

Therefore, just as Christ's glorious Resurrection was the definitive sign of this victory, so Mary's glorification in her virginal body is the ultimate confirmation of her total solidarity with the Son, both in the conflict and in victory.

The Servant of God Pope Pius XII interpreted the deep theological meaning of this mystery on 1 November 1950 when he pronounced the solemn Dogmatic Definition of this Marian privilege.

He declared: "Hence, the revered Mother of God, from all eternity joined in a hidden way with Jesus Christ in one and the same decree of predestination, immaculate in her conception, a most perfect virgin in her divine motherhood, the noble associate of the divine Redeemer who has won a complete triumph over sin and its consequences, finally obtained, as the supreme culmination of her privileges, that she should be preserved free from the corruption of the tomb and that, like her own Son, having overcome death, she might be taken up body and soul to the glory of Heaven where, as Queen, she sits in splendour at the right hand of her Son, the immortal King of the Ages" (Apostolic Constitution "Munificentissimus Deus": AAS 42, [1 November 1950]).

Dear brothers and sisters, after being taken up into Heaven, Mary did not distance herself from us but continues to be even closer to us and her light shines on our lives and on the history of all humanity. Attracted by the heavenly brightness of the Mother of the Redeemer, let us turn with trust to the One who looks upon us and protects us from on high.

We all need her help and comfort to face the trials and challenges of daily life; we need to feel that she is our mother and sister in the concrete situations of our lives.

And so that we too may one day be able to share in her same destiny, let us imitate her now in her meek following of Christ and her generous service to the brethren. This is the only way to have a foretaste, already on our earthly pilgrimage, of the joy and peace which those who reach the immortal destination of Paradise live to the full.

After the Angelus:

I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking visitors gathered for this Angelus prayer on the Solemnity of the Assumption of Our Lady. May the example and prayers of Mary, Queen of Heaven, inspire and sustain us on our pilgrimage of faith, that we too may attain the glory of the Resurrection and the fulfilment of our hope in her Son's promises. Upon you and your families I invoke the Lord's richest blessings.
I wish you all a good Feast of the Assumption!

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Wealth
"Although a Good in Itself, Not an Absolute Good"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 22, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation provided by the Vatican's semi-official newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, of Benedict XVI's Aug. 5 address before praying the Angelus at Castel Gandolfo.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, the 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time, the Word of God spurs us to reflect on what our relationship with material things should be.

Although wealth is a good in itself, it should not be considered an absolute good. Above all, it does not guarantee salvation; on the contrary, it may even seriously jeopardize it.

In today's Gospel, Jesus puts his disciples on guard precisely against this risk. It is wisdom and virtue not to set one's heart on the goods of this world for all things are transient, all things can suddenly end.

For us Christians, the real treasure that we must ceaselessly seek consists in the "things above ... where Christ is seated at God's right hand"; St Paul reminds us of this today in his Letter to the Colossians, adding that our life "is hid with Christ in God" (cf. 3:1-3).

The Solemnity of the Transfiguration of the Lord, which we shall be celebrating tomorrow, invites us to turn our gaze "above", to Heaven. In the Gospel account of the Transfiguration on the mountain, we are given a premonitory sign that allows us a fleeting glimpse of the Kingdom of the Saints, where we too at the end of our earthly life will be able to share in Christ's glory, which will be complete, total and definitive. The whole universe will then be transfigured and the divine plan of salvation will at last be fulfilled.

Servant of God Paul VI

The day of the Solemnity of the Transfiguration remains linked to the memory of my venerable Predecessor, Servant of God Paul VI, who in 1978 completed his mission in this very place, here at Castel Gandolfo, and was called to enter the house of the Heavenly Father. May his commemoration be an invitation to us to look on high and to serve the Lord and the Church faithfully, as he did in the far-from-easy years of the last century.

May the Virgin Mary, whom we remember today in particular while we celebrate the liturgical Memorial of the Basilica of St Mary Major, obtain this grace for us. As is well known, this is the first Western Basilica to have been built in honour of Mary; it was rebuilt in 432 by Pope Sixtus III to celebrate the divine motherhood of the Virgin, a Dogma that had been solemnly proclaimed the previous year at the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus.

May the Virgin, who was more closely involved in Christ's mystery than any other creature, sustain us on our pilgrimage of faith so that, as the liturgy invites us to pray today, "we do not let ourselves be dominated by greed or selfishness as we toil with our efforts to subdue the earth but seek always what is worthwhile in God's eyes" (cf. Entrance Antiphon).

H.B. Patriarch Teoctist

At this time, a few days after the death of H.B. Teoctist, the Patriarch, I would like to address a special thought to the leaders and faithful of the Romanian Orthodox Church. I sent Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, to take part as my representative in his solemn funeral, celebrated last Friday at Bucharest's Patriarchal Cathedral.

I remember with esteem and affection this noble figure of a Pastor who loved his Church and made a positive contribution to relations between Catholics and Orthodox, constantly encouraging the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church (as a whole).

The two visits he paid my venerable Predecessor John Paul II and the hospitality which he in turn offered the Bishop of Rome during his historic Pilgrimage to Romania in 1999, are clear proof of his ecumenical commitment.

"May his memory live for ever", as the Orthodox liturgical tradition concludes the funeral service of all who fall asleep in the Lord. Let us make this invocation our own, asking the Lord to welcome this Brother of ours into his Kingdom of infinite light and to grant him the repose and peace promised to faithful servants of the Gospel.

I thank everyone and wish you all a good Sunday!

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


On the Peace Christ Brought
"Not the Simple Absence of Conflict" (August 19, 2007)

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

There is an expression of Jesus’ in this Sunday’s Gospel that always draws our attention and which needs to be properly understood. As he is on his way to Jerusalem, where death on the cross awaits him, Christ confides in his disciples: "Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division."

And he adds: "From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law" (Luke 12:51-53).

Whoever knows the least amount about the Gospel of Christ knows that it is the message of peace par excellence; Jesus himself, as St. Paul writes, "is our peace" (Ephesians 2:14); he died and rose from the dead to break down the wall of enmity and inaugurated the Kingdom of God, which is love, joy, and peace.

How, then, are we to explain these words of his? To what is the Lord referring when he says that he has come to bring -- according to St. Luke’s redaction -- "division," or -- according to St. Matthew’s -- the "sword" (Matthew 10:34)?

Christ’s expression means the peace that he came to bring is not synonymous with the simple absence of conflict. On the contrary, the peace of Jesus is the fruit of a constant struggle against evil. The battle that Jesus has decided to fight is not against men or human powers but against the enemy of God and man, Satan.

Those who desire to resist this enemy, remaining faithful to God and the good, must necessarily deal with misunderstandings and sometimes very real persecution. Thus, those who intend to follow Jesus and commit themselves without compromises to the truth must know that they will face opposition and will become, despite themselves, a sign of division among persons, even within their own families.

Love of one’s parents is indeed a sacred commandment, but for it to be lived authentically it cannot be set in opposition to the love of God and Christ. In such a way, in the footsteps of the Lord Jesus, Christians must become "instruments of his peace," according to the celebrated expression of St. Francis of Assisi. This is not an inconsistent and superficial peace but a real one, pursued with courage and tenacity in the daily commitment to defeat evil with good (cf. Romans 12:21), paying in person the price that this carries with it.

The Virgin Mary, Queen of Peace, shared the struggle of her son Jesus against the evil one, to the point of spiritual martyrdom, and she continues to share this struggle until the end of time. Let us invoke her maternal intercession, that she may help us always to be faithful witnesses to Christ’s peace, never giving in to compromises with evil.

[After the Angelus, the Holy Father said:]

In these days our thoughts and our prayers are turned constantly to the people of Peru, who have been stricken by a devastating earthquake. For the many who have died, I invoke the peace of the Lord, for those who have been injured, I ask for quick recovery, and for those thrown into miserable circumstances I assure you that the Church is with you, in spiritual and material solidarity. My secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who for some time had planned a visit to Peru, in the next few days, will, in person, bring the testimony of my sentiments and the concrete help of the Holy See.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Nuclear Technology
"Let Us Pray That Men Live in Peace"  (July 29, 2007)

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Arriving the other day from Lorenzago di Cadore, I am happy to find myself again here at Castel Gandolfo, in the familiar environment of this beautiful little town, where I plan to stay, if it pleases God, for the rest of the summer. I feel the strong desire to thank the Lord once again for having been able to spend tranquil days in the mountains of Cadore and I am grateful to all those who efficiently organized my stay there and watched over it with care.

With equal affection I would like to greet and express my grateful sentiments to you, dear pilgrims, and above all to you, dear citizens of Castel Gandolfo, who have welcomed me with your usual cordiality and have always accompanied me with discretion during the my sojourns with you.

Last Sunday, recalling the Note published 90 years ago on August 1 by Pope Benedict XV directed at the warring countries of the First World War, I reflected on the theme of peace. Now a new occasion invites me to reflect on another important question connected to this theme. This very day, in fact, is the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Agency, which was instituted with the mandate to "seek to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health, and prosperity throughout the world" (IAEA "Statute," No. II).

The Holy See, fully approving of the IAEA's goal, has been a member since the organization's foundation and continues to support its activity. The epochal changes of the last 50 years are evidence of how, in the difficult crossroads at which humanity finds itself, the commitment to encourage the nonproliferation of nuclear arms, to promote a progressive and agreed-upon nuclear disarmament, and to favor the peaceful and safe use of nuclear technology for authentic development -- respectful of the environment and always attentive to the most disadvantaged populations -- is always relevant and urgent.

For this reason I ardently hope for the success of the efforts of those who work to pursue the three objectives with determination and the intention to make things such that "the resources which would be saved could then be employed in projects of development capable of benefiting all their people, especially the poor." ("Message for the World Day of Peace 2006," No. 13).

It is well, in fact, to re-emphasize on this occasion how in the place of "the arms race there must be substituted a common effort to mobilize resources toward objectives of moral, cultural and economic development, 'redefining the priorities and hierarchies of values'" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2438).

We again entrust to the intercession of Mary Most Holy our prayer for peace, in particular that scientific and technological knowledge be used with a sense of responsibility and for the common good, in complete respect for international law. Let us pray that men live in peace and all feel as brothers, sons of one Father: God.


[The Holy Father made the following remarks after the Angelus:]

And now a plea for the Korean hostages in Afghanistan. The practice by armed groups of manipulating innocent persons for promoting their own goals is becoming widespread.

These are grave violations of human dignity, which go against every elementary norm of civilization and rights and gravely offend the divine law. I make my plea so that the authors of such criminal acts desist from the evil done and return their victims unharmed.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On War
LORENZAGO DI CADORE, Italy, JULY 22, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus in the Piazza Calvi of Lorenzago di Cadore, near the spot where the Pope is vacationing in northern Italy.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

In these days of rest that, thanks be to God, I am passing here in Cadore, I feel all the more intensely the impact of the sorrow of the news that comes to me about bloody altercations and episodes of violence that are occurring in so many parts of the world. This brings me to reflect once again on the drama of human freedom in the world. The beauty of nature reminds us that we have been placed here by God to "cultivate and keep" this "garden" that is the earth (cf. Genesis 2:8-17).

If men lived in peace with God and with each other, the earth would truly resemble a "paradise." Unfortunately, sin ruined this divine project, generating divisions and bringing death into the world. This is why men cede to the temptations of the evil one and make war against each other. The result is that in this stupendous "garden" that is the world, there open up circles of hell.

War, with the mourning and destruction it brings, has always been rightly considered a calamity that contrasts with God's plan. He created everything for existence and, in particular, wants to make a family of the human race. In this moment it is not possible for me to not return to a significant date in history: August 1, 1917 -- almost exactly 90 years ago -- my venerable predecessor, Benedict XV, published his celebrated "Nota Alle Potenze Belligeranti" (Note to the Warring Powers), asking them to put an end to the First World War (cf. ASS 9 [1917], 417-420).

As that huge conflict raged, the Pope had the courage to affirm that it was a "useless bloodbath." This expression of his left a mark on history. It was a justified remark given the concrete situation in that summer of 1917, especially on the front here in this part of northern Italy. But those words, "useless bloodbath," have a larger, prophetic application to other conflicts that have destroyed countless human lives.

Precisely these very lands in which we presently find ourselves, which in themselves speak of peace and harmony, have been a theatre in the First World War, as many testimonies and some moving songs of the Alps still recall. These are events not to be forgotten!

It is necessary to make a treasury of the negative experiences that our fathers unfortunately suffered, so that they not be repeated. Benedict XV's "Nota" did not limit itself to condemning war; it indicated, at a juridical level, the ways to construct an equitable and durable peace: the moral force of law, balanced and regulated disarmament, arbitration in disputes, freedom on the seas, the reciprocal remission of war debts, the restitution of occupied territories, fair negotiations to resolve problems.

The Holy See's proposal was oriented toward the future of Europe and of the world, according to a project that was Christian in inspiration but able to be shared by all because it was founded on the law of nations. It is the same program that the Servants of God Paul VI and John Paul II followed in their memorable speeches at the United Nations, repeating in the name of the Church: "No more war!"

From this place of peace here in the north of Italy, where one feels even more vitally how unacceptable the "useless bloodbaths" are, I renew the call to follow with tenacity the way of law, to firmly renounce the arms race, to reject in general the temptation to face new situations with old systems.

With these thoughts and wishes in our heart we now offer up a special prayer for peace in the world, entrusting it to Mary Most Holy, Queen of Peace.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On the Heart of Christian Life
"Love Renders Us Witnesses to Christ"

LORENZAGO DI CADORE, Italy, JULY 15, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus at Mirabello Castle, near the spot where the Pope is vacationing in northern Italy.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I thank the Lord that also this year he offers me the possibility to pass some days of rest in the mountains, and I am grateful to those who have welcomed me here in Lorenzago, in this enchanting panorama in which the summit of Mount Cadore forms the background and where my beloved predecessor John Paul II visited several times.

I offer a special thanks to the bishop of Treviso and the bishop of Belluno-Feltre, and to all who in various ways are contributing to assure me a serene and profitable sojourn. Before this scene of meadows, of woods, of peaks ascending toward heaven, the desire to praise God for the marvel of his works spontaneously arises in the soul and easily transforms itself into prayer.

Every good Christian knows that vacations are an opportune time to stretch one's body and to nourish the spirit in more ample spaces of prayer and meditation, to grow in one's personal relationship with Christ, and to conform more and more to his teachings. Today, for example, the liturgy invites us to reflect on the celebrated parable of the Good Samaritan (cf. Luke 10:25-37), that introduces love for God and neighbor into the heart of the evangelical message.

But who is my neighbor? Jesus' interlocutor asks. And the Lord answers, reversing the question, showing through the story of the Good Samaritan that each one of us must be the neighbor of each person we meet. "Go and do the same!" (Luke 10:37). To love, Jesus says, is to conduct oneself like the Good Samaritan. We know that Jesus is the Good Samaritan par excellence: Although he was God, he did not hesitate to abase himself to the point of becoming man and giving his life for us.

Love, therefore, is the "heart" of Christian life; in fact, only the love awakened in us by the Holy Spirit renders us witnesses to Christ.

I wanted to re-propose this important spiritual truth in the message for the 23rd World Youth Day, which will be made known next Friday, July 20: "You will receive power from the Holy Spirit, who will descend upon you" (Acts 1:8).

This is what I invite you to reflect on in the next months, dear young people, to prepare for our big meeting in Sydney, Australia, that, precisely in these days of July, will take place one year from now. The Christian communities of that beloved nation are actively working to welcome you and I am grateful to them for their efforts in organizing.

Let us entrust to Mary, who tomorrow we will invoke as the Virgin of Mount Carmel, the preparation and unfolding of the next meeting with the young people of the whole world, to which I invite you, dear friends of every continent.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Being Missionaries of Christ
"In God's Field There Is Work for Everyone" (July 8, 2007)

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today the Gospel (cf. Luke 10:1-12,17-20) presents Jesus sending out 72 disciples to the villages where he is about to arrive so that they will prepare the way.

This is unique to the evangelist Luke, who emphasizes that the mission is not reserved to the Twelve Apostles, but is extended to other disciples. In fact, Jesus says that "the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few" (Luke 10:2).

In God's field there is work for everyone. But Christ does not limit himself to sending out. He also gives the disciples clear and precise rules of conduct.

First of all he sends them out "two by two," so that they help each other and give an example of fraternal love. He notes that they will be "like lambs among wolves" -- despite everything they must be peaceful and in every situation bring a message of peace; they will not take clothes or money with them, so as to live by what Providence offers them; they will care for the sick, as a sign of God's mercy; where they are rejected, they will leave, limiting themselves to warning those who reject them that they are responsible for rejecting the kingdom of God.

St. Luke highlights the enthusiasm of the disciples over the good fruits of the mission, and records this beautiful expression of Jesus: "Do not rejoice because the demons are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven" (Luke 10:20). This Gospel reawakens in all the baptized the awareness of being missionaries of Christ, called to prepare the way for him with words and with the testimony of their lives.

Tomorrow I leave for Lorenzago di Cadore, where I will be the guest of the bishop of Treviso, in the house where the venerable John Paul II was already welcomed. The mountain air will be good for me and I will be able to dedicate myself more freely to reflection and prayer.

I wish all of you, especially those most in need, the possibility of taking a little vacation to reinvigorate your physical and spiritual energies and recover a salutary contact with nature. The mountains, in particular, evoke the upward ascent of the spirit, the elevation toward the "high measure" of our humanity, which daily life unfortunately tends to abase.

In this connection I would like to recall the fifth Pilgrimage of Young People to the Cross of Adamello, where twice the Holy Father John Paul II went. The pilgrimage took place recently and a short while ago culminated in the Holy Mass celebrated at a height of 3,000 meters. In greeting the archbishop of Trent and the general secretary of the Italian bishops' conference, as well as the government officials of Trent, I also renew my appointment with all Italian young people for two days at Loreto, Sept. 1-2.

May the Virgin Mary always protect us, whether on mission or in just repose, so that we carry out our task with joy and with fruit in the vineyard of the Lord.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On the Freedom of Christ
"A Conscious Choice Motivated by Love"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 1, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

The Biblical readings of the Mass this Sunday invite us to meditate on a fascinating theme that can summed up thus: freedom and the following of Christ. The evangelist Luke recounts that Jesus, "as the days in which he would be taken from the world were approaching, resolutely turned toward Jerusalem" (Luke 9:51).

With the expression "resolutely" we can glimpse something of the freedom of Christ. He knows in fact that death on the cross is waiting for him in Jerusalem but in obedience to the will of the Father he offers himself up for love. It is in his obedience to the Father that Jesus realizes his freedom as a conscious choice motivated by love. Who is freer than he, who is omnipotent?

He did not live his freedom, however, as license or dominion. He lived it as service. In this way he "filled" with content a freedom that would have otherwise remained an "empty" possibility to do or not do something. As the life itself of man, freedom takes its meaning from love. Who is more free? The one who holds onto all possibilities for fear of losing them, or the one who "resolutely" gives himself in service and thus finds himself full of life because of the love that he has given and received?

The apostle Paul, writing to the Christians in Galatia, in present day Turkey, says: "You were called for freedom, brothers and sisters. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love" (Galatians 5:13).

Living according to the flesh means to follow the egoistic tendencies of human nature. Living according to the Spirit, however, means letting oneself be guided in intentions and deeds by the love of God that Christ has given to us. Christian freedom, therefore, is completely different from arbitrariness; it is following Christ in the gift of self, right up to the sacrifice on the cross.

It might seem paradoxical, but the Lord lived the culmination of his freedom on the cross, as the pinnacle of love. When on Calvary they shouted: "If you are the Son of God, come down from that cross!" He showed his freedom as Son precisely by remaining on the gibbet to fully accomplish the merciful will of the Father. Many other witnesses to truth have shared this experience: men and woman who remained free even in a prison cell and under the threat of torture. "The truth will set you free." Those who belong to the truth will never be the slave of any power, but will always know how to freely be the servant of their brothers.

Let us look to Mary Most Holy. Humble handmaiden of the Lord, the Virgin is the model of the spiritual person, totally free because she is immaculate, immune to sin, and completely holy, dedicated to the service of God and neighbor. With her maternal care may she help us to follow Jesus, to know the truth, and to live in the freedom of love.

[After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted pilgrims in various languages. In Italian, he said:]

From Colombia comes the sad news of the barbarous assassination of 11 regional deputies of the department of Valle del Cauca, who were held hostage for more than five years by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

As I pray for them, I unite myself with the deep pain of their families and of the beloved Colombian nation which is once again shaken by fratricidal hate. I renew my earnest plea that all kidnapping cease immediately and that those who are victims of such inadmissible forms of violence be returned to the affection of their loved ones.

[Translation by ZENIT]

[In English he said:]

I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for today's Angelus. Today's Liturgy reminds us that to be a Christian means to follow Jesus. He is the Teacher, we are his disciples. May the Lord give us grace and courage so that our life will always be inspired by the words and actions of Jesus. I wish you all a pleasant stay in Rome and a blessed Sunday.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Birth of John the Baptist
"The First 'Witness' of Jesus" (June 24, 2007)

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, June 24, the liturgy invites us to celebrate the solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, whose life was totally oriented toward Christ, as was the life of Christ's mother, Mary.

John the Baptist was the precursor, the "voice" sent to announce the Incarnate Word. For this reason, to commemorate the birth of John the Baptist in reality means to celebrate Christ, the fulfillment of the promises of all the prophets, of whom John was the greatest, called to "prepare the way" before the Messiah (cf. Matthew 11:9-10).

All the Gospels begin the narrative of Jesus' public life with the account of the Jesus' baptism in the Jordan by John. St. Luke sets John's appearance on the scene in a solemn historical frame. My book "Jesus of Nazareth" also takes cues from Jesus' baptism in the Jordan, an event that had enormous resonance at that time.

From Jerusalem and from every part of Judea people came to listen to John the Baptist and be baptized by him in the river, confessing their sins (cf. Mark 1:5). The fame of the baptizer grew to such an extent that many asked whether he might be the Messiah. But John -- the Gospel writer emphasizes -- resolutely denied it: "I am not the Christ" (John 1:20).

Nevertheless, he is still the first "witness" of Jesus, having received instruction about him from heaven: "The man on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is he who will baptize in the Holy Spirit" (John 1:33). This happened precisely when Jesus, having received baptism, came out of the water: John saw the Spirit descend on him like a dove.

It was then that he "knew" the full reality of Jesus of Nazareth and began "to make it known to Israel" (John 1:31), naming him as Son of God and redeemer of man: "Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).

As an authentic prophet, John bore witness to the truth without compromise. He denounced transgressions of God's commandments, even when the protagonists were people in power. Thus, when he accused Herod and Herodius of adultery, he paid for it with his life, sealing with martyrdom his service to Christ, who is the truth in person.

Let us call on his intercession together with that of Mary Most Holy so that the Church of our time will know how to be ever faithful to Christ and testify with courage to his truth and his love for all.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Eucharistic Adoration

"Important to Recover the Capacity for Interior Silence" (June 10, 2007)

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Today’s solemnity of Corpus Domini, which in the Vatican and other nations was already celebrated this past Thursday, invites us to contemplate the great mystery of our faith: the most holy Eucharist, the real presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in the sacrament of the altar.

Every time that the priest renews the Eucharistic sacrifice, in the prayer of consecration he repeats: "This is my body … this is my blood." He does this giving his voice, his hands, and his heart to Christ, who wanted to remain with us as the beating heart of the Church. But even after the celebration of the divine mysteries, the Lord Jesus remains living in the tabernacle; because of this he is praised, especially by Eucharistic adoration, as I wished to recall in the recent postsynodal apostolic exhortation, "Sacramentum Caritatis" (cf. Nos. 66-69).

Indeed, there is an intrinsic connection between celebration and adoration. The holy Mass, in fact, is in itself the Church's greatest act of adoration: "No one eats this food," St. Augustine writes, "if he has not first worshipped it" (Commentary on Psalm 98:9; CCL XXXIX, 1385). Adoration outside holy Mass prolongs and intensifies what happened in the liturgical celebration and renders a true and profound reception of Christ possible.

Today, then, in all Christian communities, there is the Eucharistic procession, a singular form of public adoration of the Eucharist, enriched by beautiful and traditional manifestations of popular devotion. I would like to take the opportunity that today's solemnity offers me to strongly recommend to pastors and all the faithful the practice of Eucharistic adoration. I express my appreciation to the institutes of consecrated life, as also to the associations and confraternities that dedicate themselves to this practice in a special way. They offer to all a reminder of the centrality of Christ in our personal and ecclesial life.

I am happy to testify that many young people are discovering the beauty of adoration, whether personal or in community. I invite priests to encourage youth groups in this, but also to accompany them to ensure that the forms of adoration are appropriate and dignified, with sufficient times for silence and listening to the word of God. In life today, which is often noisy and scattered, it is more important than ever to recover the capacity for interior silence and recollection: Eucharistic adoration permits one to do this not only within one's "I" but rather in the company of that "You" full of love who is Jesus Christ, "the God who is near us."

May the Virgin Mary, Eucharistic Woman, lead us into the secret of true adoration. Her heart, humble and silent, was always recollected around the mystery of Jesus, in whom she worshipped the presence of God and his redemptive love. By her intercession may there grow faith in the Eucharistic mystery, the joy of participating at holy Mass, especially on Sunday, and the desire to bear witness to the immense charity of Christ.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Solemnity of Pentecost
"We Relive the Birth of the Church" (May 27, 2007)

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Today we celebrate the great feast of Pentecost. And through today's liturgy we relive the birth of the Church as it is narrated by Luke in the book of the Acts of the Apostles (2:1-13). Fifty days after Easter, the Holy Spirit descended upon the community of disciples -- "persevering with one mind in prayer" -- gathered together "with Mary, the mother of Jesus" and with the twelve apostles (cf. Acts 1:14; 2,1).

We can say, therefore, that the Church had its solemn beginning with the descent of the Holy Spirit. In this extraordinary event we find the essential and qualifying marks of the Church: the Church is one, like the community of Pentecost, which was united in prayer and "of one mind": "it had but one heart and one soul" (Acts 4:32).

The Church is holy, not because of its own merits, but because, animated by the Holy Spirit, it keeps its gazed fixed upon Christ to become conformed to him and his love. The Church is catholic because the Gospel is destined for all people and for this reason, already at the beginning, the Holy Spirit gives the Church the ability to speak in different tongues. The Church is apostolic because, built upon the foundation of the apostles, it faithfully conserves their teaching through the uninterrupted chain of apostolic succession.

The Church, moreover, is missionary by its nature, and from the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit does not cease to move it along the roads of the world to the ends of the earth and to the end of time. This reality, which we can verify in every epoch, is already anticipated in the Book of Acts, in which the passage of the Gospel from the Jews to the pagans, from Jerusalem to Rome, is described.

Rome represents the pagan world and therefore all peoples who are outside the ancient people of God. In fact, the Acts conclude with the arrival of the Gospel in Rome. We can say, then, that Rome is the concrete name of the catholicity and missionary spirit of the Church; it expresses fidelity to the origins, to the Church of all times, to a Church that speaks in all languages and goes out to meet every culture.

Dear brothers and sisters, the first Pentecost happened when Mary Most Holy was present among the disciples in the cenacle in Jerusalem and prayed. Today also we entrust ourselves to her maternal intercession so that the Holy Spirit descend abundantly upon the Church of our time and fill the hearts of all the faithful and enkindle in them -- in us -- the fire of his love.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Media Day (May 20, 2007)
"Safeguard the Common Good, Respect the Truth"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 20, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Regina Caeli with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I desire above all to renew my thanks to the Lord for my apostolic trip to Brazil which I undertook May 9-14 and, at the same time, I thank all those who accompanied me in prayer. As you know I traveled to Brazil for the opening of the 5th General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean. But before such a great ecclesial event, I had an opportunity to meet the Brazilian Catholic community. Many faithful came to the city of São Paolo for this occasion and especially for the first canonization of a native of Brazil: Father Antônio de Santa'Ana Galvão. I plan to speak about this trip at greater length on Wednesday during the general audience. In the meantime I invite you to continue to pray for the conference that is taking place in Aparecida, Brazil and for the journey of the people of God who live in Latin America.

The World Communications Day offers another motive for prayer and reflection today. This year the theme is "Children and the Media: A Challenge for Education." The educational challenges of today are often linked to the influence of the mass media, which competes with school, the Church and even the family. In this context an adequate formation in the right use of media is essential: Parents, teachers, and the ecclesial community are called to collaborate to educate children and young people to be selective and to develop a critical attitude, cultivating a taste for what is aesthetically and morally valid.

But the media too must make its contribution to this educational task, promoting the dignity of the human person, marriage and the family, and the accomplishments and aims of civilization. Programs that inculcate violence and antisocial behavior or that vulgarize human sexuality are unacceptable, and much more so when they are directed at the young. Thus I renew the appeal to the leaders of the media industry and workers in social communications that they safeguard the common good, respect the truth and protect the dignity of the human person and the family.

Dear brothers and sisters, the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, which the liturgy celebrated last Thursday, in some countries is celebrated today. Jesus, risen, returns to the Father. In this way he opens the passage to eternal life for us and makes the gift of the Holy Spirit possible. As the apostles did then, we too, after the Ascension, gather together in prayer to invoke the outpouring of the Spirit, in spiritual union with the Virgin Mary (cf. Acts 1:12-14). May her intercession obtain for the whole Church a renewed Pentecost.

[Translation by ZENIT]

[After praying the Regina Caeli, the Holy Father greeted pilgrims in six languages. In Italian, he said:]

The fighting between Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip and the rocket attacks against the inhabitants of nearby Israeli cities, which have provoked military intervention, are bringing about a bloody deterioration of the situation and causing dismay.

Once again, in the name of God, I ask that an end be brought to this tragic violence, while to the suffering Palestinian and Israeli populations I desire to express my solidarity and assurance of my prayerful remembrance.

I appeal to the sense of responsibility of all the Palestinian authorities that, in dialogue and firmness, they take up again the difficult path of understanding, neutralizing the violent. I invite the Israeli government to moderation and exhort the international community to multiply efforts for the re-launching of negotiations. May the Lord bring forth and sustain makers of peace!

[In English, he said:]

I am pleased to welcome the English-speaking pilgrims gathered here today. In the Gospel, Jesus prays that all may be one, just as he and the Father are one. He desires the world to know that he is the one sent by the Father. By working for reconciliation and peace, may Christians everywhere bear clearer witness to the Father's love for the world, so that all mankind may come to believe in his only-begotten Son Jesus Christ. God bless you!

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Latin America
"You Have a Part to Play in Building Your Nations' Destiny"

APARECIDA, Brazil, MAY 13, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the Regina Caeli at the end of the inaugural Mass of the 5th General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

With great affection I greet all of you who have come from the four corners of Brazil, from Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as those who are listening to me via radio and television. During the celebration of Mass, I invoked the Holy Spirit, asking him to make fruitful the Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean, which I shall inaugurate shortly. I ask you all to pray for the fruits of this great gathering, which opens up a future of hope for the Latin American family. You have a part to play in building your Nations' destiny. May God bless you and be with you!

I offer affectionate greetings to the Spanish-speaking groups and communities present today, and to all those in Spain and Latin America who are spiritually united with this celebration. May the Virgin Mary help you to keep alive the flame of faith, love and harmony, so that by the witness of your lives and by faithfulness to your baptismal vocation, you may be light and hope for humanity. Let us also pray that the celebration of this Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean will bear many fruits of authentic spiritual renewal and untiring evangelization. God bless you!

I warmly greet all the English-speaking groups present today. Families stand at the heart of the Church's mission of evangelization, for it is in the home that our life of faith is first expressed and nurtured. Parents, you are the primary witnesses to your children of the truths and values of our faith: pray with and for your children; teach them by your example of fidelity and joy! Indeed, every disciple, spurred on by word and strengthened by sacrament, is called to mission. It is a duty from which no one should shy away, for nothing is more beautiful than to know Christ and to make him known to others! May Our Lady of Guadalupe be your model and guide. God bless you all!

Dear French-speaking families and groups, I greet with all my heart those of you who live on the South American Continent, especially in Haiti, in French Guiana and in the Antilles. May you build, in cooperation with others, a more generous and fraternal society, taking care to help young people discover the greatness of family values.

Today is the ninetieth anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima. With their powerful call to conversion and penance, they are without doubt the most prophetic of all modern apparitions. Let us ask the Mother of the Church, who knows the sufferings and hopes of humanity, to protect our homes and our communities.

In a special way we entrust to her those peoples and nations that are in particular need, confident that she will not fail to heed the prayers we make to her with filial devotion. I remember in a special way those brothers and sisters who suffer from hunger. In this regard I want to mention the "March against Hunger" promoted by the World Food Programme, the United Nations agency responsible for food assistance. This initiative is taking place today in many cities worldwide, including Ribeirão Preto here in Brazil.

Our prayers are offered also for the Afro-Brazilian community, who this Sunday are commemorating the abolition of slavery in Brazil. May this celebration foster a renewed sense of missionary outreach towards this highly significant socio-cultural group in the Land of the Holy Cross.

I also extend my warm greetings, together with my sincere gratitude, to all the groups and associations gathered here. May God reward you and keep you firm in the faith.

Let us now proclaim with joy the hymn of our salvation.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Mary's Month
"Pray for This Apostolic Pilgrimage" to Brazil (May 6, 2007)

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

The month of May began several days ago. For many Christian communities this is the Marian month par excellence. As such, in the course of the centuries it has become one of the peoples' dearest devotions and has been valued by pastors as a propitious occasion for preaching, catechesis and community prayer.

After the Second Vatican Council, which emphasized the role of Mary most holy in the Church and in salvation history, Marian devotion underwent a profound renewal. And the month of May, coinciding at least in part with the Easter season, is quite propitious for illustrating the figure of Mary as the Mother who accompanies the community of disciples united in prayer in expectation of the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 1:12-14).

Consequently, this month can be an occasion to return to the faith of the primitive Church and, in union with Mary, understand that our mission even today is to proclaim and bear witness with courage and joy to Christ crucified and risen, the hope of humanity.

I would like to entrust to the Holy Virgin, Mother of the Church, my apostolic voyage to Brazil March 9-14. As did my venerable predecessors, Paul VI and John Paul II, I will preside at the opening of the General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean.

This fifth general conference will begin next Sunday in the great national shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida, in the city of the same name. Before this, however, I will travel to the metropolis of São Paulo, where I will meet the young people and bishops of Brazil and have the joy to register Frei Antonio de Sant'Anna Galvão in the book of saints.

This is my first pastoral visit to Latin America and I am preparing myself spiritually to visit the continent where almost half the Catholics of the whole world, many of them young people, live. It is for this reason that Latin America has been given the name "continent of hope": It is a hope that has to do not only with the Church, but with the whole of America and the entire world.

Dear brothers and sisters, I invite you to pray to Mary most holy for this apostolic pilgrimage and, in particular, for the 5th General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean, so that all the Christians of those regions may see themselves as disciples and missionaries of Christ, the way, the truth and the life. Many and multiple are the challenges of the present: This is why it is important that Christians be formed to be a "ferment" of good and a "light" of holiness in our world.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


On World Day for Vocations
"At the Service of the Church as Communion"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 29, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the Regina Caeli with the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, the Fourth Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday, is the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. All the faithful are exhorted to pray in a particular way for vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life.

This morning in St. Peter's Basilica I had the joy of ordaining 22 new priests. As I greet with affection these newly ordained men and their families and friends, I invite you to remember in your prayers those whom the Lord continues to call by name -- as he did one day with the apostles on the shores of the Sea of Galilee -- that they may become "fishers of men," that is, his more direct co-workers in the proclamation of the Gospel and the service of the Kingdom of God in our time.

Let us pray for the gift of perseverance for all priests: May they remain faithful to prayer, may they celebrate the holy Mass with ever renewed devotion, may their lives always be a listening to the word of God and that day after day they assimilate the same sentiments and attitudes of Jesus the Good Shepherd.

Let us pray, then, for those who are preparing for the priestly office and for the instructors in the seminaries of Rome, Italy and the whole world; let us pray for the families, that they continue to allow the "seed" of the call to the ministerial priesthood to mature and blossom.

This year the theme for the World Day of Prayer for Vocations is "Vocation at the Service of the Church as Communion." The Second Vatican Council, in presenting the mystery of the Church in our time, favored the category of "communion." In this perspective the rich variety of gifts and offices of the people of God is highlighted. All the baptized are called to contribute to the work of salvation. In the Church there are, however, some vocations that are especially dedicated to the service of communion.

The one who is primarily responsible for Catholic communion is the Pope, Successor of Peter and Bishop of Rome; with him the bishops, successors of the apostles, are caretakers and teachers of unity. The bishops are helped by the priests. But consecrated persons and all the faithful are also at the service of communion. The Eucharist is at the heart of the Church as communion: From this greatest sacrament the various vocations draw the spiritual strength to continually build up the one ecclesial body in charity.

We turn now to Mary, Mother of the Good Shepherd. May she who readily responded to God's call, saying "behold the handmaid of the Lord" (Luke 1:38), help us to welcome with joy and availability Christ's invitation to be his disciples, always animated by the desire to form "one heart and one soul" (cf. Acts 4:32).

[After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted pilgrims in eight languages. In English, he said:]

I extend a cordial greeting to the English-speaking pilgrims! Today, on this "Good Shepherd Sunday", the Church observes the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. In my message for this occasion, I emphasized that the call to ordained and consecrated life in the Church is a call to communion -- a communion rooted in the unity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

As Jesus tells us in the Gospel, "The Father and I are one" (John 10:30). Today, I invite you to join me in praying that young people will answer this call to communion and the service of the Church by responding generously to Christ's call to priesthood and religious life. May God bless you all!

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


REGINA CAELI

On Divine Mercy
"A New Reality, Fruit of the Love of God"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 15, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the Regina Caeli with the crowds gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

To all of you I renew the wish for a happy Easter, on the Sunday that closes the octave of Easter and is traditionally called Sunday "in Albis." This Sunday is also called Divine Mercy Sunday according to the wish of my venerable predecessor, the Servant of God John Paul II, who died right after the first vespers of this celebration.

On this singular occasion this morning I celebrated, in St. Peter's Square, a holy Mass, accompanied by cardinals, bishops, and priests, by the faithful of Rome and many pilgrims, who wanted to be close to the Pope, on the eve of his 80th birthday. From the depths of my heart I renew my most sincere thanks, which I extend to the whole Church, which, like a true family, especially in these days, surrounds me with its affection.

This Sunday -- as I said -- ends the week or, more precisely, the "octave" of Easter, which the liturgy considers a single day: "the day the Lord has made" (Psalm 117:24). It is not a chronological but a spiritual time that God has opened in the fabric of days when he raised Christ from the dead. The Creator Spirit, breathing the new and eternal life into the interred body of Jesus of Nazareth, brought the work of creation to its completion, bringing about a "first fruit"; a first fruit of a new humanity that is at the same time the first fruit of a new world and a new era.

This renewal of the world can be summed up in a word: the same word that the risen Jesus pronounced as a greeting, and much more as an announcement of his victory to his disciples: "Peace be with you!" (Luke 24:36; John 20:19,21,26). Peace is the gift that Jesus left to his friends (cf. John 2:27) as a benediction that was destined for all people and all nations.

It is not a peace according to the mentality of the "world," as a balance of power, but it is a new reality, fruit of the love of God, of his mercy. It is the peace that Jesus Christ earned at the price of his blood and that he communicates to those who trust in him. "Jesus, I trust in you": In these words the faith of the Christian is summed up, a faith in the omnipotence of the merciful love of God.

Dear brothers and sisters, as I thank you again for your spiritual nearness on the occasion of my birthday and the anniversary of my election as the Successor of Peter, I entrust all of you to Mary "Mater Misericordiae," Mother of Jesus who is the incarnation of Divine Mercy.

With her help let us be renewed by the Spirit to cooperate in the work of peace that God is accomplishing in the world and that does not make noise, but that is realized in the countless acts of charity of all its sons.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


On the Annunciation
"Mary's 'Yes' Is the Reflection of Christ's Own 'Yes'" (March 25, 2007)


* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

March 25 is the solemnity of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This year it coincides with a Sunday of Lent and so will be celebrated tomorrow. In any case, I would like to linger over this stupendous mystery of the faith that we contemplate every day in the recitation of the Angelus.

The annunciation, narrated at the beginning of the Gospel of St. Luke, is a humble human event, hidden -- no one saw it, no one knew about it, but Mary -- but at the same time decisive for the history of humanity. When the Virgin pronounced her "yes" to the angel's announcement, Jesus was conceived and with him the era of history began which would be ratified at Easter as the "new and eternal covenant."

In reality, Mary's "yes" is the reflection of Christ's own "yes" when he entered the world, as is noted in the Letter to the Hebrews in an interpretation of Psalm 39: "As is written of me in the scroll, Behold, I come to do your will, O God" (Hebrews 10:7). The Son's obedience is reflected in the Mother's and thus, by the meeting of these two "yeses," God was able to take on a human face. This is why the annunciation is also a Christological feast, because it celebrates a central mystery of Christ: his incarnation.

"Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to your Word." Mary's reply to the angel is extended in the Church, which is called to make Christ present in history, offering its own availability so that God might continue to visit humanity with his mercy. The "yes" of Jesus and Mary is in this way renewed in the "yes" of the saints, especially the martyrs, who are killed because of the Gospel.

I emphasize this because yesterday, March 24, the anniversary of the assassination of Archbishop Óscar Romero of San Salvador, we celebrated the Day of Prayer and Fasting for Missionary Martyrs: bishops, priests, religious, and lay people who were cut down as they carried out their mission of evangelization and human betterment.

These missionary martyrs, as this year's theme says, are the "hope for the world," because they bear witness that the love of Christ is stronger than violence and hate. They did not seek out martyrdom, but they were ready to give their lives to remain faithful to the Gospel. Christian martyrdom is justified only as the supreme act of love for God and our brothers.

In this Lenten season we often contemplate the Madonna as on Calvary she seals the "yes" she pronounced at Nazareth. United to Christ, the testimony of the Father's love, Mary lived martyrdom of the soul. Let us call on her intercession with confidence, so that the Church, faithful to her mission, bear courageous witness to God's love before the whole world.

[After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted pilgrims in six languages. In Italian, he said:]

Next Sunday we celebrate the solemn and suggestive liturgy of Palm Sunday, with which we begin Holy Week. In these circumstances the 22nd World Youth Day will take place.

This year's theme is Jesus' commandment: "As I have loved you, love one another" (John 13:34). To prepare ourselves for this day and the celebration of Easter, I invite the young people of the Diocese of Rome to a penitential liturgy that I will preside over on the afternoon of Thursday, March 29, in St. Peter's Basilica. Those who wish to may approach the sacrament of confession, a true encounter with God's love, which every man needs to live in joy and in peace.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On St. Justin Martyr
He Considered Christianity the "True Philosophy" (March 21, 2007)

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

With these catecheses we are reflecting on the great figures of the early Church. Today, we will talk about St. Justin, philosopher and martyr, the most important among the apologist fathers of the second century.

The term "apologist" refers to those ancient Christian writers who wanted to defend the new religion from the weighty accusations of the pagans and the Jews, and to spread Christian doctrine in terms understandable for the times.

Thus, the apologists have a twofold objective: the properly apologetic one, that is, to defend newborn Christianity (in fact, the Greek word "apologhía" means defend); and the "missionary" objective, which seeks to explain the faith using language and ideas which were understandable to their contemporaries.

Justin was born around the year 100, near the ancient city of Sichem, in Samaria, in the Holy Land. For a long time he searched for truth, passing through the various schools of traditional Greek philosophy.

Finally -- as he himself tells in the first chapters of his "Dialogue with Trypho" -- a mysterious person, an old man he met on the beach, initially unsettles Justin by showing him that it is impossible for the human person to satisfy the desire for the divine with human strengths alone.

Then, this man pointed to the ancient prophets as the ones who could show Justin the path to God and "true philosophy." Before leaving, the old man exhorts him to pray so that the doors of light would be opened to him.

The story symbolizes a crucial moment in Justin's life: At the end of a long philosophical journey in search of truth, he comes to find Christianity. He then founded a school in Rome, where, for free, he initiated his students into the new religion, which he considered the true philosophy.

In this religion, in fact, he had found the truth and, therefore, the way to live uprightly. Because of this he was denounced and decapitated around the year 165, under the reign of Marcus Aurelius, the emperor-philosopher to whom Justin had dedicated an "Apologia."

His two "Apologies" and the "Dialogue with Trypho" are the only works of his still in existence. In them, Justin aims above all to show the divine projects of creation and of salvation brought about by Christ, the "Logos," that is, the eternal Word, eternal Reason, creative Reason.

Every person, as a rational creature, participates in the "Logos," carrying within himself a "seed," and can perceive glimmers of truth. In this way, the same "Logos," who had revealed himself as a prophetic image to the Jews in the Old Covenant, had also partially revealed himself, as with "seeds of truth," in Greek philosophy.

Thus, Justin concludes, given that Christianity is a historical and personal manifestation of the "Logos" in its entirety, "all that is beautiful which has been expressed by anyone, belongs to us Christians" (II Apologia 13,4). In this way, Justin, even while contesting Greek philosophy for its contradictions, decidedly directs any philosophical truth toward the "Logos," justifying from a rational viewpoint the unusual "pretension" of truth and the universality of the Christian religion.

If the Old Testament tends toward Christ in the same way that a figure tends toward the reality which it represents, Greek philosophy also tends toward Christ and the Gospel, just as a part tends toward union with the whole.

And he says that these two realities, the Old Testament and Greek philosophy, are like two roads leading to Christ, to the "Logos." This is why Greek philosophy cannot be opposed to evangelical truth, and Christians may confidently draw from it, as if it was their own possession. This is why my venerable predecessor, Pope John Paul II, defined Justin as a "pioneer of a positive engagement with philosophical thinking -- albeit with cautious discernment. Although he continued to hold Greek philosophy in high esteem after his conversion, Justin claimed with power and clarity that he had found in Christianity 'the only sure and profitable philosophy,' ("Dialogue with Trypho" 8,1)" ("Fides et Ratio," No. 38).

On the whole, the person and the work of Justin mark the ancient Church's decisive option for philosophy, because of reason, instead of pagan religions. In fact, the first Christians refused any compromise with the pagan religion. They considered it idolatry, even at the cost of being accused as "impious" and "atheists." In particular and especially in his first "Apology," Justin harshly criticized the pagan religion and its myths, which he considered diabolical "disorientations" on the path to truth.

Instead, philosophy represented the privileged meeting place for paganism, Judaism and Christianity, precisely at the level of critiquing the pagan religion and its false myths.

Another apologist, Justin's contemporary, Bishop Melito of Sardis, defined the new religion as "our philosophy …" ("Hist. Eccl." 4,26,7).

In fact, the pagan religion did not walk along the path of the "Logos," but insisted on following its myths even if recognized by Greek philosophy as inconsistent with the truth. Therefore, the fall of the pagan religion was inevitable: It was the logical consequence of detaching religion from the truth of things, reducing it to a fake collection of ceremonies, traditions and customs.

Justin, and with him other apologists, took the position of the Christian faith as the God of the philosophers instead of the false gods of the pagan religion. It was a choice for the truth of being versus the myth of traditions. Some decades after Justin, Tertullian defined the same option of the Christians with a perennially valid phrase: "Dominus noster Christus veritatem se, non consuetudinem, cognominavit -- Christ said he was the truth, not the tradition" ("De virgin. vel." 1,1).

Note that the term "consuetudo," used here by Tertullian with reference to the pagan religion, may be translated in modern languages with expressions like "cultural fashions" or "fads."

In an era such as ours, marked by relativism in the debate on values and on religion -- as well as in interreligious dialogue -- this is a lesson that should not be forgotten. With this objective, and here I'll conclude, I again present to you the words of the mysterious old man that Justin found by the sea: "You, above all, pray that the doors of light will be opened for you. For, no one can see nor understand if God and his Christ do not give him understanding" ("Dial." 7,3).

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On the Eucharist
"It Nourishes That Profound Joy in Believers"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 18, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

I have just returned from the Juvenile Detention Center in the Casal di Marmo in Rome. I went there to visit on this Fourth Sunday of Lent, which we call in Latin "Laetare" (rejoice) from the first word of the entrance antiphon of the liturgy of today's Mass.

Today the liturgy invites us to rejoice because Easter is drawing near, the day of Christ's victory over sin and death. But where do we find the source of Christian joy if not in the Eucharist, which Christ has left us as spiritual food while we are pilgrims on earth? In every age the Eucharist nourishes that profound joy in believers that makes us all one with love and with peace. This joy has its origin in our communion with God and with our brothers.

Last Tuesday the postsynodal apostolic exhortation "Sacramentum Caritatis" was presented. This document has as its theme the Eucharist as source and summit of the life and mission of the Church. I elaborated this theme, gathering the fruits of the 11th General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops that took place in the Vatican in October 2005.

I plan to return to such an important text but at the moment I would like to underline that it is an expression of the faith of the universal Church in the eucharistic mystery, and that it places itself in continuity with the Second Vatican Council and the magisterium of my venerated predecessors, Paul VI and John Paul II.

In this document I wanted, among other things, to highlight its connection with the encyclical "Deus Caritas Est": That is why I chose "Sacramentum Caritatis" as the title, retrieving St. Thomas Aquinas' beautiful definition of the Eucharist (cf. Summa Theologiae III, q. 73, a. 3, ad 3), "sacrament of charity."

Yes, in the Eucharist, Christ wanted to give to us his love, which led him to offer his life for us on the cross.

During the Last Supper, washing the disciples' feet, Jesus left us the commandment of love: "Love one another as I have loved you," (John 13:34). But because this is possible only so long as we remain united with him, as branches of the vine (John 15:1-8), he chose to stay with us in the Eucharist, and this is what makes it possible for us to remain in him.

Therefore, when we nourish ourselves in faith with his body and his blood, his love passes into us and renders us able in turn to give our lives for the brethren (cf. 1 John 3:16). From here flows Christian joy, the joy of love.

The "eucharistic woman" par excellence is Mary, the masterpiece of divine grace: God's love made her immaculate and "in his presence in charity" (Ephesians 1:4). God placed St. Joseph -- whose liturgical solemnity we will celebrate tomorrow -- by her side, to guide the Redeemer.

I particularly invoke this great saint so that believing, celebrating, and living with faith the Eucharistic mystery, the people of God will be pervaded by the love of Christ and will spread the fruits of joy and peace through all humanity.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Conversion
"The Most Effective Response to Evil" (March 11, 2007)

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The passage of Luke's Gospel proclaimed on this Third Sunday of Lent refers to Jesus' comments on two current events of that time. The first was the uprising of some Galileans, which was suppressed by Pilate with the shedding of blood; the second was the collapse of a tower in Jerusalem, which caused the death of 18 victims. They were two tragic, yet very different, events. The first was caused by man, the other was accidental.

According to the mentality of the time, the people tended to think that the misfortune fell on the victims because of their grave fault. Jesus, on the contrary, says: "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered thus? ... Or those 18 upon whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who dwelt in Jerusalem?" (Luke 13:2,4). In both cases, he ends saying: "I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will likewise perish" (13:3,5).

This is, therefore, the point to which Jesus wished to lead those who were listening to him: the need for conversion. He does not present it in moralistic, but rather in realistic terms, as the only appropriate response to events that put human certainties in crisis.

In the face of certain misfortunes, he advises, it is no good to blame the victims. What is truly wise, rather, consists in allowing oneself to be questioned by the precariousness of existence and to adopt an attitude of responsibility: to do penance and improve our lives.

This is wisdom, this is the most effective response to evil, at all levels, interpersonal, social and international. Christ invites us to respond to evil first of all through a serious examination of conscience and with the commitment to purify our lives. Otherwise, we will perish, he says, we will perish in the same way. In fact, people and societies that live without questioning themselves have ruin as their only final end. Conversion, on the contrary, despite the fact it does not preserve us from problems and adversities, enables us to address them in a different "way."

Above all it helps to prevent evil, and to neutralize some of its threats. And, in any case, it enables us to overcome evil with good, though not always at the level of events, which at times are independent of our will, certainly always at the spiritual level.

In short, conversion overcomes evil at its root, which is sin, though it cannot always avoid its consequences.

Let us pray to Mary, who accompanies and supports us in our Lenten journey, to help every Christians to rediscover the grandeur, I would even say the beauty, of conversion. May she help us understand that to do penance and correct our conduct is not simply moralism, but the most effective way to improve both ourselves as well as society. An apt maxim explains it very well: It is better to light a match than to curse the darkness.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On the Transfiguration
"To Pray Is Not to Evade Reality"  (March 4, 2007)

 
* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

On this Second Sunday of Lent, the Evangelist Luke underlines that Jesus went up the mountain "to pray" (9:28) together with the apostles Peter, James and John and, "as he was praying" (9:29) the luminous mystery of his transfiguration took place.

For the three apostles, to go up on the mountain meant to be involved in Jesus' prayer, who often withdrew to pray, especially at dawn or after sundown, and sometimes during the whole night. However, on that occasion alone, on the mountain, he wished to manifest to his friends the interior light that invaded him when he prayed: His face -- we read in the Gospel -- his countenance was altered and his raiment became dazzling, reflecting the splendor of the divine person of the Incarnate Word (cf. Luke 9:29).

There is another detail in St. Luke's narrative which is worth underlining: It indicates the object of Jesus' conversation with Moses and Elijah, who appeared next to him when transfigured. The Evangelist narrates that they "spoke of his departure (in Greek, 'exodos'), which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem" (9:31).

Therefore, Jesus listens to the Law and the prophets that speak to him of his death and resurrection. In his intimate dialogue with his Father, he does not leave history, he does not flee from the mission for which he came into the world, though he knows that to attain glory he will have to go through the cross. What is more, Christ enters this mission more profoundly, adhering with all his being to the will of the Father, and he shows us that true prayer consists precisely in uniting our will to the Father's.

Therefore, for a Christian to pray is not to evade reality and the responsibilities it entails, but to assume them to the end, trusting in the faithful and inexhaustible love of the Lord. For this reason, the proof of the Transfiguration is, paradoxically, the agony in Gethsemane (cf. Luke 22:39-46). Given the imminence of the passion, Jesus experiences mortal anguish and entrusts himself to the divine will; at that moment his prayer is a pledge of salvation for us all. Christ, in fact, would implore the heavenly Father to "save him from death" and, as the author of the Letter to the Hebrews writes, "he was heard for his godly fear" (5:7). The Resurrection is proof that he was heard.

Dear Brothers and Sisters: Prayer is not something accessory, it is not "optional," but rather a question of life or death. Only one who prays, that is, who entrusts himself to God with filial love, can enter into eternal life, which is God himself. During this season of Lent, let us pray to Mary, mother of the Incarnate Word and teacher of the spiritual life, to teach us to pray as her Son did so that our life is transformed by the light of his presence.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Contemplating Christ Crucified
"Eloquent Message of Love"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 25, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This year, the Lenten message is inspired in the verse of John's Gospel, which in turn goes back to a messianic prophecy of Zechariah: "They shall look on him whom they have pierced" (John 19:37).

The beloved disciple, present with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and the other women on Calvary, was an eyewitness of the thrust of the spear which pierced Christ's side, so that blood and water came out (cf. John 19:31-34). This gesture of an unknown Roman soldier, destined to be lost in oblivion, was imprinted on the eyes and heart of the apostle, who recounted it in his Gospel. In the course of the centuries, how many conversions have taken place precisely thanks to the eloquent message of love that he receives who contemplates Jesus crucified!

Therefore, we enter the Lenten season with our gaze fixed on Jesus' side. In the encyclical letter "Deus Caritas Est" (cf. No. 12), I wished to underline that only by gazing on Jesus, dead on the cross for us, can we know and contemplate this fundamental truth: "God is love" (1 John 4:8,16). "In this contemplation the Christian discovers the path along which his life and love must move" ("Deus Caritas Est," No. 12).

Contemplating the Crucified with the eyes of faith, we can understand profoundly what sin is, its tragic gravity, and at the same time the incommensurable power of the Lord's forgiveness and mercy. During these days of Lent, let us not distance our hearts from this mystery of profound humanity and lofty spirituality.

On contemplating Christ, let us feel at the same time that we are contemplated by him. He whom we ourselves have pierced with our faults does not cease to shed over the world an inexhaustible torrent of merciful love. May humanity understand that only from this source is it possible to draw the spiritual energy indispensable to build that peace and happiness for which every human being is ceaselessly searching.

Let us pray to the Virgin Mary, whose soul was pierced next to her Son's cross, to obtain for us the gift of a firm faith. That, guiding us on our Lenten journey, she may help us leave everything that impedes us from listening to Christ and his word of salvation.

In particular, entrust to the Virgin Mary the week of Spiritual Exercises that will begin this afternoon in the Vatican, and in which I and my collaborators of the Roman Curia will participate.

Dear brothers and sisters: Please support me with your prayer and I will be happy to do the same in the recollection of the retreat, invoking divine power on each one of you, on your families and your communities.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On the 40 Days of Lent
"God Is Love and His Love Is the Secret of Our Happiness"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 21, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address at today's general audience. The Pope dedicated his address to Ash Wednesday.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Ash Wednesday, which we celebrate today, is for us Christians a particular day, characterized by an intense spirit of recollection and reflection. We begin, in fact, the Lenten journey, time of listening to the word of God, of prayer and of penance. They are 40 days in which the liturgy will help us to relive the important phases of the mystery of salvation.

As we know, man was created to be a friend of God, but the sin of our first parents broke this relationship of trust and love and, as a consequence, humanity is incapable of fulfilling its original vocation.

Thanks, however, to the redeeming sacrifice of Christ, we have been rescued from the power of evil: Christ, in fact, writes the apostle John, has been the victim of expiation of our sins (cf. 1 John 2:2); and St. Peter adds: "Christ also died for sins once for all" (cf. 1 Peter 3:18).

On dying with Christ to sin, the baptized person is also reborn to a new life and is freely re-established in his dignity as son of God. For this reason, in the early Christian community, baptism was considered as the "first resurrection" (cf. Revelation 20:5; Romans 6:1-11; John 5:25-28).

From the beginning, therefore, Lent was lived as the time of immediate preparation for baptism, which is administered solemnly during the paschal vigil. The whole of Lent was a journey toward this great encounter with Christ, toward immersion in Christ and the renewal of life.

We are already baptized, but often baptism is not very effective in our daily life. Therefore, Lent is also for us a renewed "catechumenate" in which we again go out to encounter our baptism and rediscover and relive it in depth, to again be really Christians.

Therefore, Lent is an opportunity to "be" Christians "again," through a constant process of interior change and of progress in knowledge and love of Christ. Conversion never takes place once and for all, but is a process, an interior journey of our whole life. Certainly this journey of evangelical conversion cannot be limited to a particular period of the year: It is a journey of every day which must embrace our whole existence, every day of our lives.

From this point of view, for every Christian and for all ecclesial communities, Lent is the appropriate spiritual season to train with greater tenacity in the search for God, opening the heart to Christ.

St. Augustine said on one occasion that our life is the sole exercise of the desire to come close to God, of being able to let God enter into our being. "The whole life of the fervent Christian," he says, "is a holy desire." If this is so, in Lent we are invited even more to uproot "from our desires the roots of vanity" to educate the heart in the desire, that is, in the love of God. "God," says St. Augustine, "is all that we desire" (cf. "Tract. in Iohn," 4). And we hope that we really begin to desire God, and in this way desire true life, love itself and truth.

Particularly appropriate is Jesus' exhortation, recorded by the Evangelist Mark: "Repent and believe in the Gospel" (Mark 1:15). The sincere desire for God leads us to reject evil and to do good. This conversion of the heart is above all a free gift of God, who created us for himself and has redeemed us in Jesus Christ: Our happiness consists in remaining in him (cf. John 15:3). For this reason, he himself anticipates our desire with his grace and supports our efforts of conversion.

But what does conversion really mean? Conversion means to seek God, to walk with God, to follow docilely the teachings of his Son, Jesus Christ; to be converted is not an effort to fulfill oneself, because the human being is not the architect of his own destiny. We have not made ourselves. Therefore, self-fulfillment is a contradiction and is too little for us. We have a higher destiny.

We could say that conversion consists precisely in not considering ourselves "creators" of ourselves, thus discovering the truth, because we are not authors of ourselves. Conversion consists in accepting freely and with love that we depend totally on God, our true Creator, that we depend on love. This is not dependence but liberty.

To be converted means, therefore, not to pursue personal success, which is something that passes but that, abandoning all human security, we follow the Lord with simplicity and trust, so that Jesus will become for each one, as Teresa of Calcutta liked to say, "my all in all." Whoever lets himself be conquered by him is not afraid of losing his own life, because on the cross he loved us and gave himself for us. And, in fact, by losing our life out of love, we find it again.

I wished to underline the immense love God has for us in the message on the occasion of Lent, published a few days ago, so that Christians of the whole community can pause spiritually during the time of Lent, together with Mary and John, the beloved disciple, before him who on the cross consummated for humanity the sacrifice of his life (cf. John 19:25).

Yes, dear brothers and sisters, the cross is also for us, men and women of our time -- who all too often are distracted by earthly and momentary concerns and interests -- the definitive revelation of divine love and mercy. God is love and his love is the secret of our happiness. However, to enter into this mystery of love there is no other way than that of losing ourselves, of giving ourselves to the way of the cross.

"If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me" (Mark 8:34). For this reason, the Lenten liturgy, on inviting us to reflect and pray, stimulates us to value penance and sacrifice more, to reject sin and evil and to conquer egoism and indifference. Prayer, fasting and penance, works of charity toward brothers, become in this way spiritual paths that we must undertake to return to God in response to the repeated calls to conversion that the liturgy makes today (cf. Galatians 2:12-13; Matthew 6:16-18).

Dear brothers and sisters, may the Lenten period that we undertake today, with the austere and significant rite of the imposition of ashes, be for all a renewed experience of the merciful love of Christ, who on the cross shed his blood for us.

Let us listen to him with docility to learn "to regive" his love to our neighbor, especially those who are suffering and experiencing difficulties. This is the mission of every disciple of Christ, but to carry it out it is necessary to listen to his word and to nourish oneself assiduously on his body and blood. May the Lenten journey, which in the early Church was the journey to Christian initiation, to baptism and the Eucharist, be for us, the baptized, a "Eucharistic" time in which we take part with greater fervor in the sacrifice of the Eucharist.

May the Virgin Mary -- who, after having shared the sorrowful passion of her divine Son, experienced the joy of resurrection -- accompany us during this Lent to the mystery of Easter, supreme revelation of the love of God.

A good Lent to all!

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On World Day of the Sick
"Offer Integral Care ... Human Support" (Februray 11, 2007)

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 11, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Church remembers today the first apparition of the Virgin Mary to St. Bernadette, which occurred Feb. 11, 1858, in the grotto of Massabielle in Lourdes, a miraculous event which has made that town, located in the French Pyrenees, a world center of pilgrimages and of intense Marian spirituality.

In that place, now almost 150 years ago, the Virgin's appeal for prayer and penance resounds forcefully, an almost permanent echo of the invitation with which Jesus began his pilgrimage in Galilee: "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the Gospel" (Mark 1:15).

That shrine has become, moreover, the object of numerous sick pilgrims, who on listening to Mary Most Holy, receive the encouragement to accept their sufferings and to offer them for the salvation of the world, uniting them to those of Christ crucified.

Because of this link between Lourdes and human suffering, 15 years ago, our beloved John Paul II wished that the World Day of the Sick be celebrated on the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.

This year, the heart of this celebration will be in the city of Seoul, capital of South Korea, where I have sent as my representative Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry. To him and to all those gathered there, I send my cordial greetings.

I would like to extend my greetings to health agents worldwide, aware of the importance in our society of their service to the sick, above all, I wish to express my spiritual closeness and affection to our sick brothers and sisters, with a special remembrance for those who are affected by particularly serious or painful illnesses: Our attention is dedicated in particular to them on this day.

It is necessary to support the development of palliative treatments that offer integral care and dispense to incurably sick people that human support and spiritual accompaniment they so need.

This afternoon, in St. Peter's Basilica, numerous sick people and pilgrims will gather around Cardinal Camillo Ruini, who will preside at the Eucharistic celebration. At the end of the Holy Mass, I will have the joy, as last year, of meeting with them, reliving the spiritual climate that is felt in the Grotto of Massabielle. With the Angelus, prayer, I would now like to commend to the protection of the Immaculate Virgin, the sick and those suffering in body and spirit throughout the world.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Pro-life Day in Italy
"Must Not Be Denied to Anyone" (February 4, 2007)

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 4, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Today Pro-life Day is being observed in Italy, promoted by the episcopal conference with the theme "Love and Desire Life."

I cordially greet all those who have gathered in St. Peter's Square to witness to their commitment in favor of life, from conception until natural death. I join the Italian bishops to renew the appeal, launched several times also by my venerated predecessors, to all men and women of good will to receive the great and mysterious gift of life.

Life, which is the work of God, must not be denied to any one, not even the smallest and defenseless newborn, and much less so when he has serious handicaps. At the same time, echoing the pastors of the Church in Italy, I urge you not to fall into the deception of thinking that one can dispose of life to the point of "legitimizing its interruption with euthanasia, masking it perhaps with a veil of human mercy."

The "Week of Life and Family" begins today in the Diocese of Rome, an important occasion to pray and reflect on the family, which is the "cradle" of life and of every vocation.

We know well that the family, based on marriage, constitutes the natural environment for the birth and education of children and, therefore, to ensure the future of the whole of humanity.

However, we also know that it is going through a profound crisis and that it must face numerous challenges.

Therefore, it is necessary to defend, protect and value it in its unique and irreplaceable character. If this commitment is first of all the duty of spouses, it is also a priority duty of the Church and of all public institutions to support the family through pastoral and political initiatives, which take into account the real needs of spouses, of the elderly and of the new generations.

A peaceful family atmosphere, enlightened by faith and the holy fear of God, also favors the rise and flowering of vocations at the service of the Gospel. I am referring in particular, not only to those called to follow Christ on the path of the priesthood, but also to men and women religious, consecrated persons, whom we remembered last Friday on the World Day of Consecrated Life.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us pray so that with a constant effort in favor of life and of the family our communities may become places of communion and hope, in which is renewed, despite the many difficulties, the great "yes" of authentic love to the reality of the human being and of the family, according to the original plan of God.

Let us ask the Lord, through the intercession of Mary Most Holy, that respect will grow for the sacred character of life, that there will be ever greater awareness of genuine family needs, and that the number will increase of those who contribute to bring about in the world the civilization of love.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On the Faith-Reason Synthesis
"A Precious Patrimony for Western Civilization" (January 28, 2007)

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

The liturgical calendar remembers today St. Tomas Aquinas, great doctor of the Church. With his charism of philosopher and theologian, he offers a valid model of harmony between reason and faith, dimensions of the human spirit, which are fully realized when they meet and dialogue.

According to the thought of St. Thomas, human reason, to say it as such, "breathes," that is, it moves on a wide, open horizon in which it can experience the best of itself. Nonetheless, when man limits himself to think only of material and experimental objects, he closes himself to the questions of life, about himself and about God, impoverishing himself.

The relationship between faith and reason is a serious challenge for the present prevailing culture in the Western world, and it is precisely for this reason that our beloved John Paul II wrote an encyclical, which was entitled precisely "Fides et Ratio" -- "Faith and Reason." I also took up this argument recently, in the address to the University of Regensburg.

In reality, the modern development of the sciences brings countless positive effects, which must always be acknowledged. At the same time, however, it must be admitted that the tendency to consider true only that which can be experienced constitutes a limitation for human reason and produces a terrible schizophrenia, evident to all, because of which rationalism and materialism, and hypertechnology and unbridled instincts, coexist.

It is urgent, therefore, to rediscover in a new way human rationality open to the light of the divine 'Logos' and to its perfect revelation that is Jesus Christ, Son of God made man. When Christian faith is authentic it does not mortify freedom or human reason; then, why should faith and reason be afraid of one another, if on meeting one another and dialoguing they can express themselves in the best way?

Faith implies reason and perfects it, and reason, illuminated by faith, finds the strength to rise to knowledge of God and of spiritual realities. Human reason loses nothing when it is open to the contents of faith; what is more, the latter calls for its free and conscious adherence.

With an amply extended wisdom, St. Thomas Aquinas established a prolific confrontation with the Arabic and Jewish thought of his time, in such a way that he is considered as an always-present teacher of dialogue with other cultures and religious. He knew to introduce this Christian synthesis between reason and faith that represents a precious patrimony for Western civilization, to which recourse can be taken also today to dialogue effectively with the great cultural and religious traditions of the East and South of the world.

Let us pray so that Christians, especially those in the academic and cultural realm, are more able to express the reasonable character of their faith and to witness to it with a dialogue inspired by love. We ask this gift of our Lord through the intercession of St. Thomas Aquinas, and above all Mary, Seat of Wisdom.

[After praying the Angelus, the Pope made an appeal for peace in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip]

In recent days, violence has again bloodied Lebanon. It is unacceptable that this path is undertaken to defend one's political reasons. I feel immense sadness for this beloved population. I know that many Lebanese feel the temptation to abandon all hope and feel themselves disoriented by all that is happening.

I make mine the firm words pronounced by His Beatitude Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir to denounce these fratricidal confrontations. Together with him and the other religious leaders, I invoke the help of God so that all Lebanese without distinction might be able and willing to work together to make of their homeland an authentic common home, surmounting those egoistic attitudes that prevent them from being truly dedicated to their country. (cf. "A Hope for Lebanon," 94, apostolic exhortation of Pope John Paul II). To the Christians of Lebanon, I repeat my exhortation to be promoters of a genuine dialogue between the different communities, and I invoke over all the protection of Our Lady of Lebanon.

I also desire, that violence in the Gaza Strip end as soon as possible. I wish to express my spiritual closeness to the entire population and assure them of my prayers so that the will might prevail in all to work together for the common good, undertaking peaceful paths to overcome differences and tensions.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


On Ecumenism
"Unity Comes About Especially by Praying" (January 21, 2007)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This Sunday is situated during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity that, as we know, is observed every year in our hemisphere Jan. 18-25. The theme for 2007 is an expression taken from Mark's Gospel, and it refers to the people's amazement over Jesus' cure of a man who could not hear or speak: "He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak" (Mark 7:37).

I intend to comment at greater length on this biblical topic next Jan. 25, feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, when, on the occasion of the closing of the week of prayer, I will preside at 5:30 p.m. over the celebration of vespers in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. I expect many of you at that liturgical meeting, given that unity comes about especially by praying, and the more unanimous the prayer, the more pleasing it is to the Lord.

This year, the initial draft for the week, adapted later by the Mixed International Commission, was prepared by the faithful of Umlazi, in South Africa, a very poor city where AIDS has acquired pandemic proportions and where human hopes are very few.

But the risen Christ is hope for all. He is so especially for Christians. Heirs of division that occurred in past times, in this circumstance they have wanted to launch an appeal: Christ can do all. He "makes the deaf hear and the mute speak"; that is, he is able to infuse in Christians the ardent desire to listen to the other, to communicate with the other, and to speak with him the language of mutual love.

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity thus reminds us that ecumenism is a profound dialogic experience, a mutual listening and speaking, knowing one another better. It is a task that all can undertake, especially in regard to spiritual ecumenism, based on prayer and on sharing what is possible for the time being among Christians.

I hope that the longing for unity, translated into prayer and fraternal collaboration to relieve human sufferings, will spread ever more at the level of parishes and ecclesial movements and among religious institutes.

I take advantage of the occasion to thank the Ecumenical Commission of the Vicariate of Rome and the city's parish priests, who encourage the faithful to observe this week. Also, in a more general way, I am grateful to all those, in all parts of the world, who pray and work for union with conviction and constancy.

May Mary, Mother of the Church, help all the faithful to let themselves be opened ever more profoundly by Christ to mutual communication in charity and in truth, to be transformed in him into only one heart and soul (Acts 4:32).

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Migrant Families
"Weakened and at Times Disfigured by Life's Trials" (January 14, 2007)


Dear Brothers and Sisters:

This Sunday we observe the annual World Day of Migrants and Refugees. Therefore, I address to all men of good will and, in particular, to Christian communities, a special message dedicated to migrant families.

We can contemplate the Holy Family of Nazareth, image of all families, as it reflects the image of God, guarded in the heart of every human family, even when it is weakened and at times disfigured by life's trials.

The Evangelist Mark recounts that, shortly after Jesus' birth, St. Joseph was obliged to travel to Egypt, taking with him the child and its Mother, to flee from King Herod's persecution (cf. Matthew 2:13-15).

In the drama of the family of Nazareth we can perceive the painful condition of so many migrants, especially refugees, the exiled, the displaced and the persecuted. We recognize, in particular, the difficulties of the migrant family as such: the difficult conditions of life, the humiliations, inconveniences and fragility.

In fact, the phenomenon of human mobility is very widespread and diversified. According to recent United Nations estimates, migrants impelled by financial reasons number almost 200 million; refugees number 9 million and international students some 2 million.

To this great number of brothers and sisters must be added the internally displaced and irregular migrants, keeping in mind that each one of them has, in one way or another, a family. Therefore, it is important to care for migrants and their families through the help of specific legislative, juridical and administrative protections, as well as through a network of services, listening centers and structures of social and pastoral assistance.

I hope that soon a balanced management will be established of the migratory flows and of human mobility in general, so that it will bring benefits to the whole human family, beginning with concrete measures that favor regular migration and family regrouping, paying special attention to women and minors.

Also in the huge field of international migrations, the human person must always be placed at the center. The just integration of families in social, economic and political systems is only achieved on one hand, by respecting the dignity of all immigrants and, on the other hand, by immigrants recognizing the values of the host society.

Dear friends, the reality of migrations must never be seen just as a problem, but also and above all as a great resource for humanity's progress. And the migrant family is especially a resource, if it is respected as such, and does not suffer irreparable lacerations, but is able to remain united or to regroup, and to fulfill its mission as the cradle of life and first sphere of a person's education.

Together we ask this of the Lord, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, and of St. Francesca Xavier Cabrini, patroness of migrants.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


On the Baptism of the Lord
"Holiness Constitutes the Vocation of All the Baptized" (January 7, 2007)

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Today the feast of the Baptism of the Lord is celebrated, which closes the Christmas season. The liturgy proposes to us the narrative of Jesus' baptism in the Jordan, according to St. Luke's account (cf. 3:15-16.21-22). The Evangelist narrates that, while Jesus was at prayer, after having received baptism among the many who were attracted by the precursor's preaching, the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in the form of a dove. At that moment, a voice resounded from on high: "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased" (Luke 3:22).

Jesus' baptism in the Jordan is recalled and highlighted, though in a different manner, by all the Evangelists. It formed part, in fact, of the apostolic preaching, as it constituted the starting point of a series of events and words on which the apostles were to give testimony (cf. Acts 1:21-22; 10:37-41). The apostolic community considered it very important, not only because in that circumstance, for the first time in history, the manifestation was taking place of the Trinitarian mystery in a clear and complete manner, but also because with that event Jesus' public ministry began on the roads of Palestine.

Jesus' baptism in the Jordan is the anticipation of his baptism of blood on the cross, and it is also a symbol of all the sacramental activity with which the Redeemer would enact the salvation of humanity. For this reason, the patristic tradition has paid much attention to this feast, which is the most ancient after Easter. "In the baptism of Christ," sings the liturgy of today, "the world is sanctified, sins are forgiven; in the water and in the Spirit we become new creatures" ("Antiphon to the Benedictus," Office of Lauds).

There is a profound relationship between Christ's baptism and our baptism. In the Jordan, the heavens were opened (cf. Luke 3:21) to indicate that the Savior opened to us the way of salvation and that we can follow it precisely thanks to the new birth "of water and the Spirit" (John 3:5), which takes place in baptism. In it, we are introduced in the mystical body of Christ, which is the Church, we die and rise with him, we are clothed in him, as the Apostle Paul underlines on several occasions (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:13; Romans 6:3-5; Galatians 3:27). The commitment that arises from baptism consists therefore in "listening" to Jesus, that is, to believe in him and follow him docilely doing his will, the will of God. In this way, each one of us can aspire to holiness, a goal that, as the Second Vatican Council reminded, constitutes the vocation of all the baptized. May we be helped by Mary, mother of the beloved Son of God, to always be faithful to our baptism.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On the Epiphany
"The Wise Men Are the First Fruits of the Gentiles" (January 6)

* * *
Dear Brothers and Sisters:

The solemnity of the Epiphany celebrates Christ's manifestation to the Wise Men, an event to which St. Matthew attaches great importance (cf. Matthew 2:1-12). He narrates in his Gospel that some "Wise Men" -- probably Persian religious leaders -- arrived in Jerusalem guided by a "star," a luminous heavenly phenomenon interpreted by them as a sign of the birth of the new king of the Jews.

No one in the city knew anything; what is more, Herod, the king on the throne, was very disturbed by the news and conceived the tragic plan of the "killing of the innocents" to eliminate the newly born rival. The Wise Men, on the contrary, allowed themselves to be guided by the sacred Scriptures, in particular, by Micah's prophecy, according to which, the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem, the city of David, located some 10 kilometers south of Jerusalem (cf. 5:2). Following that direction, they saw the star again and, full of joy, followed it until it paused above a hovel. They entered and saw the Child with Mary; they prostrated themselves before him and, in homage to his royal dignity, offered him gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Why is this event so important? Because with it began the adherence of the pagan peoples to faith in Christ, according to the promise that God had made to Abraham, to which the book of Genesis makes reference: "all the communities of the earth shall find blessing in you" (Genesis 12:3). Just as Mary, Joseph and the shepherds of Bethlehem represent the people of Israel that received the Lord, so the Wise Men are the first fruits of the gentiles, also called to form part of the Church, new people of God, which is no longer based on ethnic, linguistic or cultural homogeneity, but only on common faith in Jesus, Son of God.

For this reason, Christ's epiphany is at the same time, the Church's epiphany, that is, the manifestation of her vocation and universal mission. In this context, I joyfully address a cordial greeting to the beloved brothers and sisters of the Eastern Churches that, following the Julian Calendar, celebrate Holy Christmas tomorrow: I affectionately wish them abundance of Christian peace and prosperity.

I like to recall, moreover, that on the occasion of Epiphany, the World Day of Missionary Children is observed. It is the feast of Christian children who live joyfully the gift of faith and pray that the light of Jesus will reach all the children of the world.

I thank the children of "Holy Childhood," present in 110 countries, as they are precious cooperators of the Gospel and apostles of Christian solidarity in favor of the neediest. I encourage educators to cultivate in little ones the missionary spirit, so that impassioned missionaries will arise among them, witnesses of God's tenderness and proclaimers of his love.

We now turn to the Virgin Mary, star of evangelization: That through her intercession Christians throughout the world may live as children of the light and lead men to Christ, authentic light of the world.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On the Human Person
"The Pillar of the Whole Great Edifice of Peace" (January 1, 2007)

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 1, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before reciting the midday Angelus with tens of thousands of people gathered in St. Peter's Square.

Beforehand, the Pope presided at a Mass on the solemnity of Mary the Mother of God. It was also World Day of Peace.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

At the beginning of the new year I am happy to address to all of you, present in St. Peter's Square, and to all those who are with us through radio and television, the most cordial wishes of peace and goodness! May the light of Christ, the sun that appeared on humanity's horizon, illuminate your way and accompany you throughout the whole of 2007!

With happy intuition, my venerated predecessor, the Servant of God Paul VI, wished the year to open under the protection of Mary Most Holy, venerated as Mother of God. The Christian community, which these days has remained in prayerful adoration before the manger, contemplates today with special love the Virgin Mother.

Be at one with her while she contemplates the newborn Child, wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed in the manger. Like Mary, the Church also remains in silence, to receive and keep the interior resonances of the word made flesh and not waste the divine-human warmth that radiates in his presence. He is God's blessing! The Church, like the Virgin, does but show Jesus, the Savior, to all and reflects on each one the light of his face, splendor of goodness and truth.

Today we contemplate Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary, in his attribute of true "Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:5). He "is our peace," who came to pull down the "wall of separation" that divides men and nations, that is, "enmity" (Ephesians 2:14).

Because of this Paul VI, of venerated memory, also wanted Jan. 1 to be the World Day of Peace: so that every new year begins in the light of Christ, the great pacifier of humanity. I renew today my desire for peace to the rulers and leaders of nations and of international organizations and to all men and women of good will.

I do so particularly with the special message I prepared -- with my collaborators of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace -- whose theme this year is: "The Human Person, Heart of Peace." The latter touches an essential point, the value of the human person, who is the pillar of the whole great edifice of peace. At present there is much talk about human rights, but it is often forgotten that they need a stable -- not relative or debatable -- foundation. And this can only be the person's dignity. Respect for this dignity begins with the recognition and protection of the person's right to freely live and profess his religion.

We address our prayer with confidence to the Holy Mother of God, so that sacred respect for every human person and rejection of war and violence will be developed in consciences. Help us, Mary, you who gave Jesus to the world, to receive from him the gift of peace and to be sincere and courageous builders of peace.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On the Holy Family
"Living Image of the Love of God" (Feast of the Holy Family, 2006)


Dear Brothers and Sisters!

On this last Sunday of the year we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family of Nazareth. I joyfully greet all families worldwide, wishing them the peace and love that Jesus has given us, coming among us at Christmas.

In the Gospel we do not find speeches on the family but an event that is worth more than any word: God willed to be born and to grow up in a human family. In this way, he has consecrated the family as the first and ordinary way of his encounter with humanity.

During his life in Nazareth, Jesus honored the Virgin Mary and righteous Joseph, being subject to their authority during the whole time of his infancy and adolescence (Luke 2:51-52). In this way, he made evident the primary value of the family in the education of a person. Jesus was introduced to the religious community by Mary and Joseph, frequenting the synagogue of Nazareth.

With them he learned how to make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, as narrated in the Gospel passage that the liturgy of the day proposes for our meditation. When he was 12 years old, he stayed behind in the temple, and his parents took three days to find him. With that gesture, he led them to understand that he had to "attend to his Father's business," that is, to the mission that God had entrusted to him (Luke 2:41-52).

This Gospel episode reveals the most authentic and profound vocation of the family: that of supporting each one of its members on the path of discovery of God and of the plan he has ordained for them. Mary and Joseph educated Jesus above all by their example: From his parents, he learned all the beauty of the faith, of the love of God and of his law, as well as the exigencies of justice, which finds its fulfillment in love (Romans 13:10).

From them he learned first of all that one must do God's will, and that the spiritual bond is worth more than that of blood. The Holy Family is truly the "prototype" of every Christian family that, united in the sacrament of marriage and nourished by the Word and the Eucharist, is called to carry out the marvelous vocation and mission of being a living cell not only of society but of the Church, sign and instrument of unity for the whole human race.

Let us now invoke together the protection of Mary Most Holy and of St. Joseph for every family, especially for those in difficulty. May they be supported so that they will be able to resist the disintegrating impulses of a certain contemporary culture which undermines the very basis of the family institution. May they may help Christian families throughout the world to be the living image of the love of God.


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Feast of St. Stephen
"He Died Forgiving and Praying"  December 26, 2006)

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

On the day after the solemnity of Christmas, we celebrate today the feast of St. Stephen, deacon and first martyr. At first glance, to join the memory of the "protomartyr" and the birth of the Redeemer might seem surprising because of the contrast between the peace and joy of Bethlehem and the tragedy of St. Stephen, stoned in Jerusalem during the first persecution against the nascent Church.

In reality, this apparent opposition is surmounted if we analyze in greater depth the mystery of Christmas. The Child Jesus, lying in the cave, is the only-begotten Son of God who became man. He will save humanity by dying on the cross.

Now we see him in swaddling clothes in the manger; after his crucifixion, he will again be wrapped in bandages and placed in the sepulcher. It is no accident that the Christmas iconography sometimes represents the divine newborn Child lying in a small sarcophagus, to indicate that the Redeemer was born to die, he was born to give his life in ransom for all.

St. Stephen was the first to follow in the steps of Christ with martyrdom: like the divine Master, he died forgiving and praying for his executioners (cf. Acts 7:60). During the first four centuries of Christianity all the saints venerated by the Church were martyrs.

They are a countless multitude, which the liturgy calls "the white army of martyrs," (martyrum candidatus exercitus). Their death was not a reason for fear and sadness, but of spiritual enthusiasm, which always gave rise to new Christians. For believers, the day of death, and even more so, the day of martyrdom, is not the end of everything, but rather the "passage" to immortal life, it is the day of the final birth, the "dies natalis." Thus is understood the link that exists between the "dies natalis" of Christ and the "dies natalis" of St. Stephen. If Jesus had not been born on earth, men would not have been able to be born for heaven. Precisely because Christ was born, we are able to be "reborn."

Also Mary, who took the Redeemer in her arms in Bethlehem, suffered an interior martyrdom. She shared his Passion and had to take him, once again, in her arms when they took him down from the cross. To this Mother, who felt the joy of the birth and the anguish of the death of her divine Son, we entrust those who are persecuted and those who are suffering, in different ways, for witnessing and serving the Gospel.

With special spiritual closeness, I am also thinking of the Catholics who maintain their fidelity to the See of Peter without giving in to compromises, at times even at the cost of grave sufferings. The whole Church admires their example and prays that they will have the strength to persevere, knowing that their tribulations are a source of victory, though for the moment they might seem to be a failure.

To all, once again, happy Christmas!

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

A Christmas Surprise
"Tonight He Will Come" (December 24, 2006)

Dear Brothers and Sisters: The celebration of the holy birth is here.

Today's vigil prepares us to live intensely the mystery that tonight's liturgy will invite us to contemplate with the eyes of faith.

In the divine infant, who we will place in the manger, our salvation is made manifest. In the God made man for us, we all feel loved, taken in, we discover that we are worthy and unique before the eyes of the Creator.

The birth of Christ helps us to be conscientious of what human life is worth, the life of each human being, from the first instant until natural death.

To whomever opens their heart to this "baby wrapped in swaddling clothes," who lies "in a manger" (cf. Luke 12:12), is offered the possibility of seeing with new eyes the reality of everyday. He will delight in the ability of the interior seduction of the love of God that can transform even pain into joy.

Dear friends, let us prepare to encounter Jesus, the Emanuel, God with us. By his birth in the poverty of Bethlehem, he wants to accompany each one of us on our life journey. In this world, from the moment that he decided to make it his home, no one is a stranger.

It is true, we are all here in passing, but it is Jesus who makes us feel as if we are at home on this Earth, made holy by his presence. He asks us, nonetheless, to make is a hospitable home for all. This is precisely the surprise give of Christmas: Jesus came for each one of us and in him we have become brothers.

From here comes the commitment to overcome each day more our prejudices, to take down the walls, and to eliminate those differences that divide us, or even worse, that set people and nations against one another, so as to build together a world of justice and peace.

With these sentiments, dear brothers and sisters, we will live these last hours that separate us from Christmas, preparing ourselves spiritually to receive the Child Jesus. Tonight he will come for us. And he will also enter us, to live in the heart of each one of us.

For this to take place it is indispensable that we be available and ready to receive him, and be willing to give him room in our hearts, in our families and in our cities. May his birth not find us unprepared to celebrate Christmas, forgetting that he is precisely the protagonist of the celebration.

May Mary help us to maintain the indispensable interior recollection necessary to experience the profound joy that the birth of our Redeemer offers. To her let us direct our prayer, thinking in particular of those that live Christmas sad and alone, sick and suffering: May the Virgin bring consolation to all of them.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Joy of the Third Sunday of Advent (December 17, 2006)
"A Prophetic Proclamation Destined for the Whole of Humanity"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 17, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus with the thousands of people gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

On this Third Sunday of Advent, the liturgy invites us to joy of the spirit, with the famous antiphon which takes up the exhortation of the Apostle Paul: "Rejoice in the Lord.... The Lord is at hand" (cf. Philippians 4:4,5). The first biblical reading of the Mass is also an invitation to joy. At the end of the seventh century B.C., the prophet Zephaniah addressed the city of Jerusalem and its people with these words: "Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! ... The Lord your God is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory" (3:14,17).

God himself is represented with similar sentiments: "He will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing as on a day of festival" (Zephaniah 3:17,18a). This promise was fully realized in the mystery of Christmas, which we will celebrate within a week, and which it is necessary to renew in the "today" of our lives and in history.

The joy awakened by the liturgy in the hearts of Christians is not reserved to them alone: It is a prophetic proclamation destined for the whole of humanity, in particular, the poorest, in this case, those who are poor in joy!

Let us think of our brothers and sisters who, especially in the Middle East, in some areas of Africa and in other parts of the world, live the tragedy of war: What joy can they experience? What will their Christmas be like? Let us think of all the sick and lonely people who, in addition to having physical suffering, suffer in the spirit, as often they feel abandoned. How can one share joy with them without lacking respect for their suffering?

But let us also think of those, especially young people, who have lost the sense of authentic joy, and who seek it in vain where it is impossible to find: in the exasperated race for self-affirmation and success, in false amusements, in consumerism, in moments of drunkenness, in the artificial paradise of drugs and of other forms of alienation. We cannot fail to confront today's liturgy and its invitation -- "Rejoice!" -- with these tragic realities.

As at the time of the prophet Zephaniah, the Word of the Lord is addressed precisely to those who are being tested, "to life's wounded and orphans of joy." The invitation to joy is not an alienating message, or a sterile palliative, but rather a prophecy of salvation, an appeal for rescue that starts with inner renewal.

To transform the world, God chose a humble maiden from a town of Galilee, Mary of Nazareth, and called her with this greeting: "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you." In these words is found the secret of the authentic Christmas. God repeats them to the Church and to each one of us. Rejoice, the Lord is at hand! With Mary's help, let us give ourselves with humility and courage so that the world will welcome Christ, who is the source of authentic joy.

[Translation by ZENIT]

[At the end of the Angelus, the Pope greeted pilgrims in several languages. In Italian, he said:]

My thoughts go today to the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees in Syria, obliged to leave their country because of the dramatic situation that is being lived there. Caritas-Syria is going all-out to assist them.

However, I am launching an appeal to the sensitivity of private individuals, international organizations and governments so that they will make further efforts to address their most urgent needs. I raise my prayer to the Lord that he may give consolation to these brothers and sisters and move the hearts of many people to generosity.

[In English, he said:]

I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for today's Angelus. As we celebrate the Third Sunday of Advent, we are called to purify our hearts and to open them with joy to Christ our Lord and Savior. He comes to us in our humanity, offering us a share in his divinity. May your stay in Rome renew your faith in the Lord, and may he grant you all a blessed Sunday!

[Benedict XVI then added in Italian:]

I address a special greeting to the children and youngsters of Rome, who have come with their families and teachers for the blessing of the figurines of the Child Jesus, which they will place in the Cribs of their homes, schools and parishes. I thank the Center of Parishes of Rome which has organized this significant pilgrimage and from my heart I bless the figurines of the Child Jesus. Dear children, at the Crib pray also to Jesus for the Pope's intentions! I thank you and I wish you a happy Christmas!

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Timothy and Titus
"They Teach Us to Serve the Gospel With Generosity" (December 13, 2006)


Dear Brothers and Sisters:

After speaking at length of the great Apostle Paul, today we take into consideration two of his closest collaborators: Timothy and Titus. To them are addressed three letters traditionally attributed to Paul, of which two are destined to Timothy and one to Titus.

"Timothy" is a Greek name and means "who honors God." While Luke, in the Acts of the Apostles, mentions him six times, Paul names him on 17 occasions in his letters (moreover he appears once in the Letter to the Hebrews). We can deduce that from Paul he enjoyed great consideration, although Luke does not tell us all that he had to do with him. The Apostle, in fact, entrusted him with important missions and saw in him a sort of "alter ego," as can be seen in his great praise of him in the Letter to the Philippians. "I have no one like him, who will be genuinely anxious for your welfare" (2:20).

Timothy was born in Lystra (some 200 kilometers northwest of Tarsus) of a Jewish mother and a pagan father (cf. Acts 16:1). The fact that his mother had contracted a mixed marriage and that she did not circumcise her son leads one to think that Timothy was brought up in a family that was not strictly observant, though it is said that he knew the Scriptures from his childhood (cf. 2 Timothy 3:15). His mother's name has been transmitted to us, Eunice, and that of his grandmother, Lois (cf. 2 Timothy 1:5).

When Paul passed through Lystra at the start of his second missionary journey, he chose Timothy as his companion, as "he was well spoken by the brethren at Lystra and Iconium" (Acts 16:2), but he "circumcised him because of the Jews that were in those places " (Acts 16:3). Together with Paul and Silas, Timothy went across Asia Minor to Troas, from where he went to Macedonia. We are told that in Philippi, where Paul and Silas were accused of disturbing the city and imprisoned for having been opposed to some unscrupulous individuals who were taking advantage of a slave girl who had a spirit of divination (cf. Acts 16:16-40), Timothy was released. When Paul then was obliged to travel to Athens, Timothy caught up with him in that city and from there was sent to the young Church of Thessalonica to confirm her in the faith (cf. 1 Thessalonians 3:1-2). He then joined the Apostle in Corinth, giving him good news about the Thessalonians and collaborating with him in the evangelization of that city (cf. 2 Corinthians 1:19).

We again find Timothy in Ephesus, during Paul's third missionary journey. From there, the Apostle wrote probably to Philemon and to the Philippians, and both letters were written with Timothy (cf. Philemon 1; Philippians 1:1). From Ephesus, Paul sent him to Macedonia with a certain Erastus (cf. Acts 19:22) and later to Corinth, with the task to take a letter, in which he recommended to the Corinthians that they give him a good reception (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:17; 16:10-11).

He appears again as co-writer of the Second Letter to the Corinthians, and when from Corinth Paul wrote the Letter to the Romans, he transmitted greetings to Timothy, as well as to others (cf. Romans 16:21). From Corinth, the disciple again traveled to Troas, on the Asian shore of the Aegean Sea, there to await the Apostle who was going to Jerusalem at the end of his third missionary journey (cf. Acts 20:4).

From that moment, we can say that the figure of Timothy stands out as that of a pastor of great importance. According to Eusebius' subsequent "Ecclesiastical History," Timothy was the first bishop of Ephesus (cf. 3:4). Some of his relics have been in Italy since 1239, in the Cathedral of Termoli, in Molise, having come from Constantinople.

As regards the figure of Titus, whose name is of Latin origin, we know that he was Greek by birth, that is, pagan (cf. Galatians 2:3). Paul took him to Jerusalem on the occasion of the so-called Apostolic Council, in which the preaching of the Gospel to pagans was solemnly accepted without imposing upon them the precepts of the Mosaic law.

In the Letter he addresses to him, the Apostle praises him describing him as "my true child in our common faith" (Titus 1:4). After Timothy went to Corinth, Paul sent Titus with the task to call that rebellious community to obedience. Titus brought peace to the Church of Corinth and the Apostle wrote these words: "But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only with his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted in you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more.... Therefore we are comforted. And besides our own comfort we rejoiced still more at the joy of Titus, because his mind has been set at rest by you all" (2 Corinthians 7:6-7,13). Paul again sent Titus -- whom he called "partner and co-worker" (2 Corinthians 8:23) -- to organize the completion of the collections for the Christians of Jerusalem (2 Corinthians 8:6). Subsequent news found in these pastoral letters speak of him as bishop of Crete (cf. Titus 1:5), from whence, by invitation of Paul, he joined the Apostle in Nicopolis, in Epirus, (cf. Titus 3:12). Later he also went to Dalmatia (cf. 2 Timothy 4:10). We do not have any more information on Titus' subsequent trips or on his death.

In short, if we consider together the two figures of Timothy and Titus, we are aware of some significant facts. The most important is that Paul used collaborators in the development of his missions. He is, of course, the Apostle par excellence, founder and pastor of many Churches. Nevertheless, it is clear that he did not do it all alone, but leaned on trustworthy persons, who shared the effort and responsibilities.

To be pointed out, moreover is the willingness of his collaborators. The sources we have on Timothy and Titus underline their willingness to take on the different tasks, which often consisted in representing Paul even in difficult circumstances. In other words, they teach us to serve the Gospel with generosity, knowing that this also implies a service to the Church herself.

Let us take up, finally, the recommendation that the Apostle Paul makes to Titus in the letter he addresses to him: "This saying is trustworthy. I want you to insist on these points, that those who have believed in God be careful to devote themselves to good works; these are excellent and beneficial to others" (Titus 3:8). With our concrete commitment, we must and can discover the truth of these words, and carry out in this season of Advent good works to open the doors of the world to Christ, our Savior.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

For Second Sunday of Advent
"Church-Building Is a Sign of Church-Community"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 11, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Sunday to the crowds gathered in St. Peter's Square to recite the midday Angelus.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

This morning I had the joy of dedicating a new parish church to Mary Star of Evangelization, in Rome's neighborhood of North Torrino. It is an event that, though it refers in itself to that neighborhood, acquires a symbolic meaning in the liturgical season of Advent, while we prepare to celebrate the Lord's Nativity.

In these days the liturgy reminds us constantly that "God comes" to visit his people, to dwell in the midst of men and to form with them a communion of love and life, that is, a family. John's Gospel expresses thus the mystery of the Incarnation: "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us"; literally, "he made his dwelling among us" (John 1:14). Does not the building of a church amid the houses of a village or neighborhood of a city evoke perhaps this great gift and mystery?

The church-building is a concrete sign of the Church-community, made up of the "living stones," which are the believers, an image so loved by the apostles. St. Peter (2:4-5) and St. Paul (Ephesians 2:20-22), highlight how the "cornerstone" of this spiritual temple is Christ and that, united to him and very compact, we are also called to participate in the building of this living temple.

Therefore, though it is God who takes the initiative of coming to dwell in the midst of men, and he is always the main architect of this plan, it is also true that he does not will to carry it out without our active cooperation. Therefore, to prepare for Christmas means to commit oneself to build "God's dwelling with men." No one is excluded; every one can and must contribute so that this house of communion will be more spacious and beautiful.

At the end of time, it will be completed and will be the "heavenly Jerusalem": "I saw a new heaven and a new earth" -- we read in the Book of Revelation -- "I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband ... 'Behold, God's dwelling is with the human race'" (Revelation 21:1-3). Advent invites us to turn our gaze toward the "heavenly Jerusalem," which is the ultimate end of our earthly pilgrimage. At the same time, it exhorts us to commit ourselves with prayer, conversion and good works, to welcome Jesus in our lives, to construct with him this spiritual building of which each one of us -- our families and our communities -- is a precious stone.

Among all the stones that make up the heavenly Jerusalem, certainly the most resplendent and valuable, because of all of them it is the one closest to Christ -- the cornerstone -- is Mary Most Holy. Through her intercession, let us pray that this Advent will be for the whole Church a time of spiritual building and so speed up the coming of the Kingdom of God.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Mary, Full of Grace
"God Was Captivated by Mary's Humility" (December 8,  2006)

The solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Today we celebrate one of the most beautiful and popular feasts of the Blessed Virgin -- the Immaculate Conception. Not only did Mary not commit any sin, but she was also preserved from that common inheritance of the human race which is original sin, because of the mission to which God had destined her from all eternity: to be the mother of the Redeemer.

All this is contained in the truth of the faith of the Immaculate Conception. The biblical foundation of this dogma is found in the words the Angel addressed to the maiden of Nazareth: "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!" (Luke 1:28). "Full of grace," in the Greek original "kecharitomene," is Mary's most beautiful name, the name God himself gave her to indicate that from all eternity and forever she is the beloved, the chosen one, chosen to receive the most precious gift, Jesus, "the incarnate love of God" ("Deus Caritas Est," 12).

We might ask ourselves: Why did God choose, among all women, Mary of Nazareth specifically? The answer is hidden in the unfathomable mystery of the divine will. However, there is a reason that the Gospel highlights: her humility.

Dante Alighieri underlines this in the last canto of "Paradise": "Virgin mother, daughter of your Son, humble and loftier than any other creature, fixed term of the eternal counsel" (Paradise XXXIII, 1-3). The Virgin herself in the Magnificat, her canticle of praise, says this: "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord ... For he has looked upon his handmaid's lowliness" (Luke 1:46, 48). Yes, God was captivated by Mary's humility, who found favor in his eyes. (cf. Luke 1:30). In this way she became the Mother of God, image and model of the Church, chosen among the peoples to receive the Lord's blessing and radiate it to the whole human family.

This "blessing" is Jesus Christ himself. He is the source of "grace," of which Mary was full from the first instance of her existence. With faith she received Jesus and with love she gave him to the world. This is also our vocation and our mission, the vocation and mission of the Church: to receive Christ in our lives and give him to the world "so that the world might be saved by him" (John 3:17).

Dear Brothers and Sisters: The feast of the Immaculate Conception illuminates like a beacon the season of Advent, which is a time of vigilant and confident awaiting of the Savior. While we go out to encounter God, who comes, let us look at Mary who "shines as a sign of sure hope and of consolation for the people of God on the way" ("Lumen Gentium," 68).

With this awareness I invite you to join me in the afternoon when, in Piazza di Spagna, I will renew the traditional homage to this gentle Mother by grace and of grace. We now turn to her with the prayer that recalls the angel's announcement.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Christ Is Coming!
"To Knock on the Door of Every Man and Woman of Good Will"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 3, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

I want to thank the Lord once again, along with you, for the apostolic journey I undertook over the past days to Turkey: I felt accompanied and supported by the prayer of the whole Christian community. I address to all my cordial gratitude!

Next Wednesday, during the general audience, I will have the opportunity to speak at greater length of this unforgettable spiritual and pastoral experience, which I hope will bear good fruits for an ever more sincere cooperation among the disciples of Christ and for a fruitful dialogue with Muslim believers.

Now I am compelled to renew my gratitude to those who organized the trip and contributed in different ways to its peaceful and fruitful unfolding. In particular, I am thinking of Turkey's authorities and of the friendly Turkish people, who offered me a welcome worthy of their traditional spirit of hospitality.

Above all I would like to remember with affection and recognition the beloved Catholic community, which lives on Turkish soil. I think of it as we enter, this Sunday, in the time of Advent.

I was able to see and celebrate Holy Mass with these brothers and sisters of ours, who are in conditions that are often difficult. It is truly a small, varied flock rich in enthusiasm and faith which, so to speak, lives the Advent experience constantly and intensely, supported by hope.

In Advent, the liturgy often repeats and assures us, as though seeking to defeat our mistrust, that God "is coming": He comes to be with us, in each one of our situations; he comes to live among us, to live with and in us; he comes to fill the distances that divide and separate us; he comes to reconcile us with himself and with one another. He comes in the history of humanity to knock on the door of every man and woman of good will to offer individuals, families and peoples the gift of fraternity, concord and peace.

Therefore, Advent is par excellence the time of hope, in which believers in Christ are invited to remain in vigilant and active expectation, nourished by prayer and by a concrete commitment of love. May Christ's approaching nativity fill the hearts of all Christians with joy, serenity and peace!

To live this Advent period more authentically and fruitfully, the liturgy exhorts us to look at Mary most holy and to undertake spiritually with her the path to the cave of Bethlehem. When God knocked on the door of her youth, she received him with faith and love. In a few days, we will contemplate her in the luminous mystery of her Immaculate Conception. Let us be attracted by her beauty, reflection of divine glory, so that "the God that is coming" will find in each one of us a good and open heart, which he can fill with his gifts.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Christ, King of the Universe
"He Defeated the Power of the 'Prince of This World'" (November 26, 2006)

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

On this last Sunday of the liturgical year we celebrate the solemnity of Christ, King of the Universe. Today's Gospel presents a passage of the dramatic interrogation to which Pontius Pilate subjected Jesus, when he was handed over to him with the accusation of having usurped the title "king of the Jews."

Jesus responded to the questions of the Roman governor affirming that he was King, but not of this world (cf. John 18:36). He did not come to dominate peoples and territories, but to free men from the slavery of sin and be reconciled with God. And he added: "For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice" (John 18:37).

But, what is the "truth" which Christ came into the world to witness? His whole existence reveals that God is love. This is, therefore, the truth of which he gave full testimony with the sacrifice of his own life on Calvary. The cross is the "throne" from which he manifested the sublime royalty of God-Love. By giving himself in expiation of the sin of the world, he defeated the power of the "prince of this world" (John 18:31) and established definitively the Kingdom of God. A Kingdom that is manifested in fullness at the end of time, after all his enemies and finally death, are subjected to him (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:25-26).

Then the Son will hand over the Kingdom to the Father and finally God will be "all in all" (1 Corinthians 15:28). The road to achieve this goal is long and it is not possible to take short cuts. It is necessary that each person freely accept the truth of the love of God. He is Love and Truth, and love as well as truth never impose themselves: They knock on the door of the heart and mind and, where they enter, bring peace and joy. This is the way God reigns; this is his plan of salvation, a "mystery," in the biblical sense of the term, namely, a plan that is revealed little by little in history.

The Virgin Mary is associated in a very special way to Christ's royalty. God asked her, humble maiden of Nazareth, to become the Mother of the Messiah, and Mary corresponded to this call with her whole being, uniting her unconditional "yes" to that of her Son, Jesus, becoming with him obedient to the point of sacrifice. Because of this, God exalted her above all creatures and Christ crowned her Queen of Heaven and earth. We entrust the Church and the whole of humanity to her intercession, so that the love of God might reign in all hearts and his plan of justice and peace be fulfilled.

[At the end of the Angelus, the Pope greeted pilgrims in several languages. He began by saying in Italian:]

Dear brothers and sisters: As you know, in the next few days I will visit Turkey. From now on I wish to send a cordial greeting to the beloved Turkish people, of great historical and cultural richness. I express sentiments of esteem and sincere friendship to this nation and its representatives.

With heartfelt emotion, I wish to meet with the Catholic community, which is always present in my heart, and unite myself fraternally to the Orthodox Church, on the occasion of the feast of the Apostle St. Andrew.

With confidence, I wish to follow in the footsteps of my venerated predecessors, Paul VI and John XXIII, and I invoke the heavenly protection of Blessed John XXIII, who for 10 years was apostolic delegate in Turkey and felt great affection and esteem for that nation. I asked all of you to accompany me with prayer so that this pilgrimage may bring all the fruits willed by God.

Next December 1, World AIDS Day will be observed. I hope profoundly that it will serve to foster greater responsibility in curing the disease, as well as in the commitment to avoid all discrimination of those who have been affected. While I invoke the Lord's consolation on the sick and their families, I encourage the many initiatives which the Church supports in this field.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

In Praise of Cloistered Religious (Nov 19, 2006)
"Silently Witness That God Is the Only Support That Never Falters"


Dear Brothers and Sisters:

The day after tomorrow, November 21, on the occasion of the liturgical memorial of the Presentation of Mary Most Holy in the Temple, we celebrate "pro Orantibus" Day, dedicated to remembering cloistered religious communities. It is a particularly appropriate occasion to thank the Lord for the gift of so many persons who, in monasteries and hermitages, are totally dedicated to God in prayer, silence and hiddenness.

Some wonder about the meaning and value of their presence in our time, in which many urgent situations of poverty and need must be addressed. Why "shut oneself" forever behind the walls of a monastery and deprive others of the contribution of one's talents and experiences? What efficacy can prayer have to resolve the numerous concrete problems that continue to afflict humanity?

In fact, also today numerous persons often surprise friends and acquaintances when they abandon professional careers, often promising careers, to embrace the austere rule of a cloistered monastery. What leads them to take such a committed step if not their having understood, as the Gospel teaches, that the Kingdom of heaven is "a treasure" for which it is worth abandoning everything (cf. Matthew 13:44)?

These brothers and sisters silently witness that in the midst of daily vicissitudes, at times extremely convulsive, God is the only support that never falters, the unbreakable rock of fidelity and love. "Todo se pasa, Dios no se muda" [Everything passes, God is unchanging], wrote the great spiritual teacher Teresa of Avila in her famous text. And, given the widespread need that many experience to leave the daily routine of the great urban agglomerations in search of appropriate spaces for silence and meditation, monasteries of contemplative life appear as "oases" in which man, a pilgrim on earth, can go to the sources of the Spirit and slake his thirst along the way.

These places, apparently useless, are, on the contrary, indispensable, like the green "lungs" of a city: They are beneficial for all, including for those who do not visit them or perhaps do not know that they exist.

Dear brothers and sisters: Let us thank the Lord, who in his providence, has willed that there be cloistered communities, masculine and feminine. May they not lack our spiritual and also material support so that they will be able to fulfill their mission of keeping alive in the Church the ardent expectation of Christ's return. Let us invoke, for this reason, the intercession of Mary, whom, in the memorial of the Presentation in the Temple, we will contemplate as mother and model of the Church, who unites in herself both vocations: to virginity and to marriage, to the contemplative and to the active life.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

A Plea to End World Hunger (November 12, 2006)
"It Is Necessary 'to Convert' the Model of Global Development"

In his address the Pope referred to the FAO, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Today in Italy the annual Day of Thanksgiving is being observed, whose theme is "The Earth: a Gift for the Whole Human Family." In our families we teach the little ones to thank the Lord always before eating, with a brief prayer and the sign of the cross. This custom must be kept or rediscovered, because it teaches [us] not to take our "daily bread" for granted but to recognize in it a gift of Providence.

We should get into the habit of blessing the Creator for each thing: for air and water, precious elements which are the foundation of life on our planet; as well as for food that, through the fecundity of the earth, God gives us for our sustenance. Jesus taught his disciples to pray, asking the heavenly Father not for "my" but for "our" daily bread. Thus he wanted every man to feel co-responsible for his brothers, so that no one would be without what is necessary to live. The earth's products are a gift given by God "for the whole human family."

And here we touch upon a very painful point: the tragedy of hunger that, despite the fact that even recently it has been addressed in the highest institutional quarters, such as the United Nations and in particular the FAO, continues to be very grave always. The last annual FAO report confirmed what the Church knows very well through the direct experience of communities and missionaries: that more than 800 million people live in a situation of malnutrition and too many people, especially children, die of hunger.

How can this situation be addressed that, though repeatedly denounced, is not resolved, but on the contrary is getting worse in different ways? Surely it is necessary to eliminate the structural causes linked to the system of government of the world economy, which allocates the greater part of the planet's resources to a minority of the population. This injustice was criticized on different occasions by my venerated predecessors, the Servants of God Paul VI and John Paul II.

To be able to influence on a large scale it is necessary "to convert" the model of global development; this is required now not only by the scandal of hunger, but also by the environmental and energy emergencies. However, each person and each family can and must do something to alleviate hunger in the world, adopting a style of life and consumption compatible with the safeguarding of creation and with criteria of justice toward those who cultivate the land in every country.

Dear Brothers and Sisters: Today, the Day of Thanksgiving invites us, on one hand, to thank God for the fruits of agricultural labor and, on the other, it encourages us to be committed concretely to eradicate the scourge of hunger. May the Virgin Mary help us to be grateful for the benefits of Providence and to promote justice and solidarity in all parts of the globe.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On the Meaning of Death
With Christ, "It Has Been Deprived of Its 'Venom'" (November 5, 2006)

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

During these days that follow the liturgical commemoration of the dead, many parishes celebrate the octave of the dead, an appropriate occasion to remember our loved ones in prayer and to meditate on the reality of death, which the "civilization of comfort" often tries to remove from people's conscientiousness, immersed in the concerns of daily life.

To die, in fact, is part of life and not only of its end, but, if we pay attention, of every instant. Despite all the distractions, the loss of a loved one makes us discover the "problem," making us feel death as a radically hostile presence contrary to our natural vocation to life and happiness.

Jesus revolutionized the meaning of death. He did so with his teaching, above all by facing death himself. "Dying he destroyed death," says the liturgy of the Easter season. "With the Spirit that could not die, Christ defeated death that was killing man," wrote a Father of the Church (Melito of Sardis, "On Easter," 66). In this way, the Son of God wished to share our human condition to the end, to open it to hope. Ultimately, he was born to be able to die and in this way to free us from the slavery of death. The Letter to the Hebrews says: "that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone" (2:9).

Since then, death is no longer the same: It has been deprived, so to speak, of its "venom." The love of God, acting in Jesus, has given new meaning to the whole of man's existence and in this way, has also transformed death. If in Christ human life is a departure "from this world to the Father" (John 13:1), the hour of death is the moment in which this departure takes places in a concrete and definite way.

Those who commit themselves to live like him are freed from the fear of death, no longer showing the sarcastic smile of an enemy but offering the friendly face of a "sister," as St. Francis wrote in the "Canticle of Creatures." In this way, God can also be blessed for it: "Praise be to you, my Lord, for our Sister Bodily Death." We must not fear the death of the body, faith reminds us, as it is a dream from which we will awake one day.

The authentic death, which one must fear, is that of the soul, called by the Book of Revelation "second death" (cf. 20:14-15; 21:8). In fact, he who dies in mortal sin, without repentance, locked in prideful rejection of God's love, excludes himself from the Kingdom of life.

Through the intercession of Mary Most Holy and of St. Joseph, let us pray to the Lord for the grace to prepare serenely to depart from this world, when he wills to call us, with the hope of being able to be with him eternally, in the company of the saints and of our deceased loved ones.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


On All Saints' Day
"Everything Passes, Only God Does Not Change" (November 1, 2006)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today we celebrate the solemnity of All Saints, and tomorrow we commemorate the faithful departed.

These two deeply felt liturgical observances offer us a singular opportunity to meditate on eternal life. Does modern man still look for this eternal life or does he think that it belongs to a mythology that we have moved beyond?

In this our time, more so than in the past, we are so absorbed by earthly things that it is hard for us to think of God as a protagonist in history and in our own lives. Human existence, however, by its very nature, is directed toward something greater, which transcends it. The yearning in human beings for the fullness of justice, truth and happiness is irrepressible.

Faced with the enigma of death, there is alive in many the desire and the hope to find their loved ones again up above. Just as powerful is the belief in a final judgment which will re-establish justice, the expectation of a definitive confrontation in which each will be allotted what he deserves.

"Eternal life," however, does not mean for us Christians simply a life that lasts forever, but rather a new quality of existence fully immersed in the God's love, which frees us from evil and death and which puts us in everlasting communion with all the brothers and sisters who share in the same love.

Consequently, eternal life can already be present in the center of earthly and temporal life when, through grace, the soul is joined to God, its ultimate foundation. Everything passes, only God does not change. A Psalm says: "My flesh and my heart diminish; but the rock of my heart is God, God is my lot forever" (Psalm 72[73]:26).

All Christians, called to sanctity, are men and women who live anchored solidly in this "rock"; they have their feet on the earth but their heart is already in heaven, definitively dwelling with the friends of God.

Dear brothers and sisters, we meditate on this reality with our soul turned toward our final and definitive destiny, which gives meaning to the circumstances of our daily lives. Let us revive the joyous sentiment of the communion of saints and allow ourselves to be drawn by them to the goal of our existence: the face-to-face encounter with God.

Let us pray that this be the inheritance of all the faithful departed, not only of our own loved ones but also of all souls, especially those most forgotten and most in need of divine mercy. May the Virgin Mary, queen of all saints, guide us to choose eternal life in every moment -- the "life of the world to come," as we say in the Creed; a world already inaugurated by the resurrection of Christ and whose coming we can hasten with our sincere conversion and works of charity.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


On Bartimaeus' Encounter With Christ
"Faith Is a Path of Illumination" (October 29, 2006)

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

We read in this Sunday's Gospel (Mark 10:46-52) that, while the Lord passes through the streets of Jericho, a blind man named Bartimaeus addresses him, crying out loudly: "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" This entreaty moves Christ's heart, who pauses, has him called and cures him.

The decisive moment was the personal, direct encounter between the Lord and that man who was suffering. They are before one another: God with his will to cure and the man with his desire to be cured. Two liberties, two converging wills: "What do you want me to do for you?" the Lord asks him. "Let me receive my sight," replies the blind man. "Go your way; you faith has made you well."

With these words, the miracle is realized. God's joy, man's joy. And Bartimaeus, who had recovered his sight -- recounts the Gospel -- "followed him on the way": That is, he becomes his disciple and goes up with the Master to Jerusalem to take part with him in the great mystery of salvation. In the essential of its passages, this account evokes the itinerary of the catechumen toward the sacrament of baptism, which in the early Church was also called "lllumination."

Faith is a path of illumination; it starts from the humility of acknowledging one's need of salvation and arrives at the personal encounter with Christ, who calls [one] to follow him on the way of love. On this model the itineraries of Christian initiation have been established in the Church, which prepare for the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist.

In places of past evangelization -- where the baptism of children is widespread -- catechetical and spiritual experiences are proposed to young people and adults which enable them to undertake a path of rediscovery of the faith in a mature and conscious way, in order to assume later a coherent commitment to witness. How important is the work that pastors and catechists carry out in this field!

The rediscovery of the value of one's baptism is the basis of the missionary commitment of every Christian, because we see in the Gospel that he who lets himself be fascinated by Christ cannot do without witnessing the joy of following in his footsteps. In this month of October, especially dedicated to the mission, we understand even more that, in virtue of baptism, we have an inherent missionary vocation.

We invoke the intercession of the Virgin Mary so that missionaries of the Gospel will multiply. Intimately united to the Lord, may every baptized person hear that he is called to proclaim the love of God to all, with the testimony of his own life.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


80th World Mission Sunday
"Arises From the Heart" (October 22, 2006)


Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Today we observe the 80th World Mission Sunday. It was instituted by Pope Pius XI, who gave a strong impulse to the mission "ad gentes," and in the Jubilee of 1925 promoted a grandiose exhibition which later became the present Ethnological-Missionary Collection of the Vatican Museums. This year, in the usual message on the occasion of this Day, I proposed as a theme "Charity, Soul of the Mission." In fact, if the mission is not inspired by love, it is reduced to philanthropic and social activity. For Christians, however, the words of the Apostle Paul are applicable: "The love of Christ impels us" (2 Corinthians 5:14).

The charity that moved the Father to send his Son into the world, and the Son to give himself for us unto death on the cross, that same charity has been poured by the Holy Spirit into the hearts of believers. Every baptized person, as a shoot united to the vine, can cooperate in Jesus' mission, which is summarized thus: to take the good news to every person that "God is love" and, precisely for this reason, wills to save the world.

The mission arises from the heart: When one pauses to pray before a crucifix, looking at that pierced side, one cannot but feel within oneself the joy of knowing that one is loved and the desire to love and to make oneself an instrument of mercy and reconciliation. It is what occurred, exactly 800 years ago, to the young Francis of Assisi, in the little church of San Damiano, which was then dilapidated. From the cross, now kept in the Basilica of St. Claire, Francis heard Jesus, who said: "Go, repair my house, as you can see it is in ruins."

That "house" was above all his own life, which had to be "repaired" through an authentic conversion; it was the Church, not the one made of bricks, but of living people, which always needs purification. It was also the whole of humanity, in whom God wills to make his dwelling. The mission is always born from a heart transformed by the love of God, as witnessed by innumerable histories of saints and martyrs, who in different ways have spent their lives at the service of the Gospel.

Therefore, the mission is a source in which there is room for all: for those who commit themselves to realize the kingdom of God in their own homes; for those who live their professional work with a Christian spirit; for those who consecrate themselves totally to the Lord; for those who follow Jesus the Good Shepherd in the ordained ministry to the People of God; for those who go specifically to proclaim Christ to those who do not yet know him. May Mary Most Holy help us to live with new drive, each one in the situation in which Providence has placed him, the joy and courage of the mission.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Jesus' Words on Marriage
(October 8, 2006)
Christian Spouses, "Missionaries of Love and Life"

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

This Sunday, the Gospel presents us Jesus' words on marriage. To the question if it is lawful for a husband to repudiate his wife, as established by a precept of the Mosaic law (cf. Deuteronomy 24:1), he responded that it was a concession of Moses because of "hardness of heart," while the truth about marriage goes back "to the beginning of creation," when, as is written in Genesis, God "made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one" (Mark 10:6-7; cf. Genesis 1:27; 2:24).

And Jesus added: "So they are no longer two but one. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder" (Mark 10:8-9). This was God's original plan, as the Second Vatican Council also reminded in the constitution "Gaudium et Spes": "The intimate partnership of married life and love has been established by the Creator and qualified by his laws, and is rooted in the conjugal covenant. ... For God himself is the author of matrimony" (No. 48).

My thought is directed to all Christian spouses: With them I thank the Lord for the gift of the sacrament of marriage, and exhort them to remain faithful to their vocation in each stage of life, "in joy and in sorrow, in health and in sickness," as they promised in the sacramental rite.

May Christian spouses, aware of the grace received, build a family open to life and capable of facing together the numerous and complicated challenges of our time. Their testimony is particularly necessary today. Families are needed that do not let themselves be drawn by modern cultural currents inspired by hedonism and relativism, and that are willing to realize their mission in the Church and in society with generous dedication.

In the apostolic exhortation "Familiaris Consortio," the Servant of God John Paul II wrote that the sacrament of marriage "makes Christian married couples and parents witnesses of Christ 'to the end of the earth,' as authentic 'missionaries' of love and life" (cf. No. 54). This mission is oriented both to the internal life of the family -- especially in mutual service and in the education of children -- as well as the external: the domestic community, in fact, is called to be the sign of God's love to all. The family can only fulfill this mission if it is supported by divine grace. For this reason, it is necessary to pray tirelessly and to persevere in the daily effort to keep the commitments assumed on the wedding day.

I invoke the maternal protection of the Virgin and of Joseph her spouse on all families, especially those going through difficulties. Mary, Queen of the Family, pray for us!

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On the Rosary and Missions

"Take the Love of God to All"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, OCT. 1, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before reciting the midday Angelus with crowds at the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Today, the first day of October, I would like to reflect on two aspects that characterize this month in the ecclesial community: the praying of the rosary and commitment to the missions.

Next Saturday, Oct. 7, we celebrate the feast of the Virgin of the Rosary; it is as if every year Our Lady invited us to rediscover the beauty of this prayer, so simple and profound.

Our beloved Pope John Paul II was a great apostle of the rosary: We remember him kneeling with the beads in his hands, immersed in the contemplation of Christ, as he himself invited us to do with the Apostolic Letter "Rosarium Virginis Mariae."

The rosary is a contemplative and christocentric prayer, inseparable from the meditation of sacred Scripture. It is the prayer of the Christian who advances in the pilgrimage of faith, in the following of Jesus, preceded by Mary. I would like to invite you, dear brothers and sisters, to pray the rosary as a family during this month, and in communities and parishes, for the intentions of the Pope, for the mission of the Church and for peace in the world.

October is also the missionary month, and on Sunday Oct. 22 we observe World Mission Sunday. The Church is missionary by nature. "As the Father has sent me, even so I send you" (John 20:21), said the risen Jesus to his apostles in the Cenacle.

The mission of the Church is the prolongation of Christ's mission: to take the love of God to all, proclaiming charity with words and concrete testimony. In the message for the forthcoming World Mission Sunday I wished to present charity precisely as "soul of the mission."

St. Paul, apostle of the Gentiles, wrote: "For the love of Christ controls us" (2 Corinthians 5:14). May every Christian make these words his own, in the joyous experience of being a missionary of love there, where providence has placed him, with humility and courage, serving his neighbor without ulterior motives and obtaining in prayer the strength of joyful and industrious charity ("Deus Caritas Est," 32-39).

Universal patroness of the missions, along with St. Francis Xavier, is St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Carmelite virgin and doctor of the Church, whose memorial in fact we observe today. May she, who indicated the "simple" way to holiness as confident abandonment in the love of God, help us to be credible witnesses of the Gospel of charity. May Mary most holy, virgin of the rosary and queen of the missions, lead us all to Christ our savior.

[After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

I am pleased to greet the English-speaking visitors gathered here today, including the pilgrims from Rotterdam who are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the foundation of their diocese.

In this month of October, dedicated to the Holy Rosary, we ponder with Mary the mysteries of our salvation, and we ask the Lord to help us grow in our understanding of the marvelous things he has done for us. May God fill you with his love and may he bestow upon all those dear to you his blessings of joy and peace.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Remembering Sister Leonella Sgorbati
"Some Are Asked to Give the Supreme Testimony of Blood" (Castel Gandolfo, September 24, 2006)

In this Sunday's Gospel, Jesus announced to his disciples for the second time his passion, death and resurrection (cf. Mark 9:30-31). The Evangelist Mark highlights the strong contrast between His mentality and that of the Twelve Apostles, who not only didn't understand the words of the Master and clearly rejected the idea that he was going to meet death (cf. Mark 8:32), but also disputed over who among them was to be considered "the greatest" (cf. Mark 9:34). Jesus patiently explains to them his logic, the logic of love that involves service up to the gift of self: "If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all" (Mark 9:35).

This is the logic of Christianity, which responds to the truth of man created in the image of God, but at the same time it contrasts with his egoism, a consequence of original sin. Every human person is attracted by love -- which ultimately is God himself -- but often [the person] errs in the concrete ways of loving, and thus from a tendency that is at its origin positive, though tainted by sin, can be derived evil intentions and actions.

Also recalled, in today's liturgy, is the Letter of St. James: "Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice. But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity." The apostle concludes: "A fruit of righteousness is sown in peace for those who cultivate peace" (3:16-18).

This word brings to mind the witness of so many Christians who, with humility and in silence, spend their life at the service of others for the sake of the Lord Jesus, working concretely as servants of love and therefore "artisans" of peace. Some are asked to give the supreme testimony of blood, as happened a few days ago to the Italian religious, Sister Leonella Sgorbati, who fell victim to violence. This nun, who for many years served the poor and the children in Somalia, died pronouncing the word "pardon": This is the most authentic Christian witness, a peaceful sign of contradiction which shows the victory of love over hate and evil.

No doubt, following Christ is difficult, but, as he says, only the one who loses his life for the sake of the Gospel will save it (cf. Mark 8:35), giving full sense to one's existence. There exists no other path to be his disciples, there is no other path to witness to his love and tend toward evangelical perfection.

Mary, whom we invoke this day as Our Lady of Mercy, helps us to open our heart ever more to the love of God, mystery of joy and sanctity.

[After the Angelus, the Pope spoke in various languages. In English he said:]

Next Thursday is World Maritime Day and I would like to invite all of you to pray for the men and women involved in seafaring, and for their families. I thank the Lord for the work of the Apostleship of the Sea, which for many years has offered human and spiritual support to those who live this difficult and challenging way of life.

I welcome particularly the recent initiatives taken by the International Maritime Organization to contribute to the fight against poverty and hunger. May Our Lady, Star of the Sea, look down in love upon seafarers and their families and upon all those who care for their human and spiritual needs. …

To the English-speaking visitors here today, including the group of pilgrims associated with the Acton Institute in America, I extend cordial greetings. I pray that you may receive many graces during your stay, and that you return home strengthened in faith, hope, and love. I invoke God's blessings of joy and peace upon all of you, and upon your families and loved ones at home.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Apology to Muslims
"An Invitation to Frank and Sincere Dialogue" (September 17, 2006)

 Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before reciting the midday Angelus with crowds at the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The pastoral visit which I recently made to Bavaria was a deep spiritual experience, bringing together personal memories linked to places well known to me and pastoral initiatives toward an effective proclamation of the Gospel for today.

I thank God for the interior joy which he made possible, and I am also grateful to all those who worked hard for the success of this pastoral visit. As is the custom, I will speak more of this during next Wednesday's general audience.

At this time, I wish also to add that I am deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of my address at the University of Regensburg, which were considered offensive to the sensibility of Muslims.

These in fact were a quotation from a medieval text, which do not in any way express my personal thought.

Yesterday, the cardinal secretary of state published a statement in this regard in which he explained the true meaning of my words. I hope that this serves to appease hearts and to clarify the true meaning of my address, which in its totality was and is an invitation to frank and sincere dialogue, with great mutual respect.

[Translation issued by the Holy See]

Now, before reciting the Marian prayer, I wish to reflect on two recent and important liturgical feasts: the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, celebrated on Sept. 14, and the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, celebrated the day after. These two liturgical celebrations summarize in a visual manner the image of the Crucifixion, which represents the Virgin Mary at the foot of the Cross, according to the description of the Evangelist John, the only Apostle who stayed with Jesus at the hour of his death.

But, what does it mean to "exalt" the Cross? Is it not, perhaps, scandalous to venerate an offensive gibbet? The Apostle Paul says: "We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles" (1 Corinthians 1:23). Christians, however, do not exalt any cross, but that cross which Jesus sanctified with his sacrifice, fruit and testimony of immense love.

Christ, on the cross, shed all his blood to free humanity from the slavery of sin and death. For this reason, the cross was transformed from a sign of malediction to a sign of blessing, from a symbol of death to a symbol par excellence of the love that is able to overcome hatred and violence and that generates immortal life. "O Crux, ave spes unica! O cross, our only hope," sings the liturgy.

The evangelist writes: At the foot of the Cross was Mary (cf. John 19:25-27). Her sorrow is one with that of her son. It is a sorrow full of faith and love. On Calvary the Virgin participated in the salvific power of Christ's sorrow, uniting her "fiat" with that of her son.

Dear brothers and sisters: Spiritually united to Our Lady of Sorrows, let us also renew our "yes" to God, who chose the way of the cross to save us. It is a great mystery which still takes place until the end of the world and that also calls for our cooperation. May Mary help us to pick up our cross every day and to follow Jesus faithfully on the path of obedience, sacrifice and love.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Gregory the Great as Model
"The Life of the Pastor Must Be a Balanced Synthesis" (September 3, 2006, Castel Gandolfo)

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Today the Roman calendar remembers St. Gregory the Great, Pope and doctor of the Church (about the years 540-604). His singular figure, I would say almost unique, is an example that must be presented both to pastors of the Church as well as public administrators: In fact, first he was prefect and later Bishop of Rome.

As an imperial official, he was outstanding for his administrative capacity and moral integrity, to the point that, when only 30 years old, he held the highest civil office of "prefect of the city" ("Praefectus Urbis").

Meanwhile, maturing in his interior was the vocation to the monastic life which he embraced in the year 574, when his father died. Thereafter the Benedictine Rule became the foundation of his life. Even when he was sent by the Pope as his representative to the emperor of the East, he had a monastic, simple and poor lifestyle.

When being called back to Rome, though he lived in a monastery, he was a close collaborator of Pope Pelagius II, and, when the latter died, victim of a plague epidemic, Gregory was acclaimed by all as his successor.

He tried in every way to avoid the appointment, but in the end had to give in and, leaving the cloister with regret, dedicated himself to the community, aware that he was doing his duty and that he was a simple "servant of the servants of God."

"He is not really humble," he wrote, "who understands that he must be leader of others by decree of the divine will and yet disdains this pre-eminence. If on the contrary he submits to divine dispositions and does not have the vice of obstinacy and is prepared to benefit others with those gifts, when the highest dignity of governing souls is imposed on him, he must flee from it with his heart, but against his will, he must obey" ("Pastoral Rule," I, 6).

These words are as a dialogue with himself. With prophetic vision, Gregory intuited that a new civilization was dawning with the meeting between the Roman heritage and the peoples called "barbarians," thanks to the force of cohesion and the moral loftiness of Christianity. Monasticism was becoming a richness not only for the Church, but for the whole of society.

Of frail health but strong moral stature, St. Gregory the Great carried out intense pastoral and civil action. He left a very large collection of letters, admirable homilies, a famous commentary on the Book of Job and writings on the life of St. Benedict, as well as numerous liturgical texts, famous for the reform of chant, which, due to his name, was called "Gregorian."

However, his most famous work, without a doubt, is the "Pastoral Rule," which had the same importance for the clergy as St. Benedict's Rule for the monks of the Middle Ages. The life of the pastor of souls must be a balanced synthesis between contemplation and action, animated by love "which reaches the loftiest heights when it bends down with mercy to the profound ills of others. The ability to bend down to the misery of others is the measure of the force of one's self-giving to others" (II,5). In this teaching, always timely, the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council were inspired to describe the image of the pastor of our times.

Let us pray to the Virgin Mary that the example and teaching of St. Gregory the Great may be followed by the pastors of the Church and also by leaders of civil institutions.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


On Saints Monica and Augustine
"Their Testimonies Can Be of Great Help for Many Families"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 27, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address today at midday, before and after reciting the Angelus with the crowds gathered in the courtyard of the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Today, Aug. 27, we remember St. Monica, and tomorrow we will remember her son, St. Augustine: Their testimonies can be of great consolation and help for many families also of our time.

Monica, born in Tagaste, in present-day Algeria (in Souk-Arhas), of a Christian family, lived in an exemplary way her mission of wife and mother, helping her husband Patricius to discover, little by little, the beauty of faith in Christ and the strength of evangelical love, capable of overcoming evil with good.

After his death, which occurred prematurely, Monica dedicated herself with courage to the care of her three children, two boys and a girl, among them St. Augustine, who in the beginning made her suffer with his rather rebellious temperament.

As Augustine himself would say later, his mother gave him birth twice; the second time required a long spiritual labor, made up of prayer and tears, but crowned in the end by the joy of seeing him not only embrace the faith and receive baptism, but also dedicate himself entirely to the service of Christ.

How many difficulties there are also today in family relationships and how many mothers are anguished because their children choose mistaken ways!

Monica, a wise and solid woman in the faith, invites them not to be discouraged, but to persevere in their mission of wives and mothers, maintaining firm their confidence in God and clinging with perseverance to prayer.

As to Augustine, his whole life was an impassioned search for truth. In the end, not without a long interior storm, he discovered in Christ the ultimate and full meaning of his life and of the whole of human history. In adolescence, attracted by earthly beauty, he "fell upon" it -- as he says honestly (Confessions 10, 27-38) -- selfishly and possessively with behavior that caused some sorrow in his pious mother.

But through a toilsome journey, thanks also to her prayers, Augustine opened himself ever more to the fullness of truth and love, to the point of conversion, which occurred in Milan, under the guidance of the bishop, St. Ambrose.

Thus he remains as model of the way to God, supreme truth and good. "Late have I loved you," he wrote in his famous book of the Confessions, "O beauty so ancient and so new .... For behold you were within me, and I outside; and I sought you outside .... You were with me and I was not with you ... You called and cried to me and broke open my deafness: And you sent forth your beams and shone upon me and chased away my blindness" (ibid.).

May St. Augustine obtain for us also the gift of a sincere and profound encounter with Christ, an encounter above all also for all those young people who, thirsty for happiness, seek it in mistaken ways and get lost in dead ends.

St. Monica and St. Augustine invite us to turn with confidence to Mary, seat of wisdom. To her we entrust Christian parents so that, like Monica, they will support their children on their way with their example and prayer.

To the virgin mother of God, we commend young people so that, as Augustine, they will always tend to the fullness of truth and love, which is Christ: He alone can satisfy the profound needs of the human heart.

[Translation by ZENIT]

[At the end of the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted pilgrims in seven languages. In English, he said:]

I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for this Sunday Angelus, including the new students from the Pontifical North American College, and the former all-Ireland hurling champions from Offaly.

Today's Gospel invites us to join Peter and profess our complete trust in the Lord, who alone has the words of eternal life. May your stay in Castel Gandolfo and Rome renew your faith in Christ, and may God bless you all!

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Spiritual Side of Vacation
"We Always Need to be Nourished by the Eucharist" (August 13, 2006)  Castel Gandolfo

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In this summer period many have left the city and find themselves at tourist sites or in their homeland for their vacations. My wish for them is that this awaited rest serves to strengthen their mind and body, which, given the hectic course of modern existence, daily undergoes a continuous fatigue and strain.

The holidays also afford a precious opportunity to spend more time with relatives, to visit family and friends, in a word, to give more space to those human contacts whose desired cultivation is impeded by the rhythm of daily duties.

Certainly, not everyone can take advantage of vacation time and many must bypass it for various motives. I think in a particular way of those who are alone, of the elderly and the sick who often experience solitude even more during this time.

To these our brothers and sisters, I would like to manifest my spiritual closeness, heartily wishing that none of them lack the support and comfort of friendly people.

For many, vacation becomes a profitable occasion for cultural contacts, for prolonged moments of prayer and of contemplation in contact with nature or in monasteries and religious structures.

Having more free time, one can dedicate oneself more easily to conversation with God, meditation on Sacred Scripture and reading some useful, formative book. Those who experience this spiritual repose know how useful it is not to reduce vacations to mere relaxation and amusement.

Faithful participation in the Sunday Eucharistic celebration helps one to feel a living part of the ecclesial community even when one is outside his or her own parish. Wherever we find ourselves, we always need to be nourished by the Eucharist.

Today's Gospel reminds us of this by presenting Jesus as the bread of life. He himself, according to what the Evangelist John writes, proclaims himself as "the living bread come down from heaven" (cf. John 6:31), bread that feeds our faith and nourishes communion among all Christians.

Vacation time does not allow us to forget the grave conflict in the Middle East. The latest developments give hope that the conflicts will cease and that ready and effective humanitarian aid will be assured for the populations.

The hope of all is that peace will finally prevail over violence and the force of arms. Let us ask this with trusting insistence from Mary, always ready from her heavenly glory -- into which we will contemplate her assumption the day after tomorrow -- to intercede for her sons and daughters and to assist their needs.

[After the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today's Angelus. May your time here at Castel Gandolfo and in Rome deepen your faith in our Lord, the living bread, who brings us the gift of eternal life. Upon you and your families I invoke an abundance of God's blessings of peace and joy!

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Feast of Transfiguration, Aug. 6
"It Is Christ Who Constitutes the Full Manifestation of God's Light"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 21, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered on Aug. 6, before and after the recitation of the Angelus, to the crowds gathered in the courtyard of the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This Sunday, Mark the Evangelist recounts that Jesus took Peter, James and John with him up a high mountain and was transfigured before them, becoming so dazzlingly bright that they were "whiter than the work of any bleacher could make them" (Mark 9:2-10).

Today, the liturgy invites us to focus our gaze on this mystery of light. On the transfigured face of Jesus, a ray of light which he held within shines forth. This same light was to shine on Christ's face on the day of the resurrection. In this sense, the Transfiguration appears as a foretaste of the Paschal Mystery.

The Transfiguration invites us to open the eyes of our hearts to the mystery of God's light, present throughout salvation history. At the beginning of creation, the Almighty had already said: "'Fiat lux' -- let there be light!" (Genesis 1:2), and the light was separated from the darkness. Like the other created things, light is a sign that reveals something of God: It is, as it were, a reflection of his glory which accompanies its manifestations. When God appears, "his brightness was like the light, rays flashed from his hand" (Hebrews 3:3ff.).

Light, it is said in the psalms, is the mantle with which God covers himself (cf. Psalm 104:2). In the Book of Wisdom, the symbolism of light is used to describe the very essence of God: Wisdom, an outpouring of his glory, is "a reflection of eternal light" superior to any created light (cf. Wisdom 7:27,29ff.).

In the New Testament, it is Christ who constitutes the full manifestation of God's light. His Resurrection defeated the power of the darkness of evil forever. With the Risen Christ, truth and love triumph over deceit and sin. In him, God's light henceforth illumines definitively human life and the course of history: "I am the light of the world," he says in the Gospel, "he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (John 8:12).

In our time too, we urgently need to emerge from the darkness of evil, to experience the joy of the children of light! May Mary, whom we commemorated yesterday with special devotion on the annual memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major, obtain this gift for us. May the Blessed Virgin also obtain peace for the peoples of the Middle East, overwhelmed by fratricidal fighting! We know well that peace is first and foremost God's gift to be implored insistently in prayer, but at this time let us also remember that it is a commitment for all people of good will. May no one shirk this duty!

Thus, in the face of the bitter observation that so far the voices asking for an immediate cease-fire in that tormented region have gone unheard, I feel the urgent need to renew my pressing appeal in this regard, asking everyone to make an effective contribution to build a just and lasting peace. I entrust this renewed appeal to the intercession of the Most Holy Virgin.

[After the Angelus, the Pope said:]

I now address my customary greeting to the foreign pilgrims who are gathered here to join in our prayer.

I must recall on this Sunday, when the feast of the Transfiguration is celebrated, that other similar Sunday when the pilgrims who had gone to Castel Gandolfo for the Sunday Angelus were unable to take part in the Marian prayer with Pope Paul VI because in those very hours his state of health had deteriorated: As you know, the great Pontiff fell asleep in the Lord in the evening hours of that August 6, 1978. Let us remember him on this anniversary, our hearts grateful to God who gave him to his Church in the most important years of the Council and the post-conciliar period.

With great affection I greet the English-speaking visitors gathered for this Angelus prayer. Today, we celebrate the feast of the Transfiguration, when Jesus revealed the glory of his divine nature. May this luminous mystery be a source of lasting joy and hope for all who put their trust in the Lord's promises. God bless you and your families!

I wish you all a good Sunday!

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On St. Bernard of Clairvaux
"Numerous Occupations Lead to 'Hardness of Heart'"  (August 20, 2006)

VATICAN CITY, AUG. 20, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before praying the midday Angelus with thousands gathered in the courtyard of the summer papal residence of Castel Gandolfo.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Among the saints of the day, the calendar mentions today St. Bernard of Clairvaux, great doctor of the Church, who lived between the 11th and 12th centuries (1091-1153). His example and teachings appear particularly useful also in our time.

Having left the world after a period of intense interior turmoil, he was elected abbot of the Cistercian monastery of Clairvaux at 25 years of age, remaining at its head for 38 years, until his death.

His dedication to silence and contemplation did not prevent him from carrying out an intense apostolic activity. He was also exemplary in his commitment to overcome his impetuous temperament, as well as in his humility in being able to acknowledge his limitations and faults.

The wealth and value of his theology are not owed only to his opening new avenues, but rather on his having succeeded in proposing the truths of faith with a clear and incisive style, able to fascinate those who hear him and to dispose the spirit to recollection and prayer.

In each of his writings the echo is perceived of a rich interior experience, which he succeeded in communicating to others with an amazing capacity of persuasion.

For him, love is the greatest force of the spiritual life. God, who is love, creates man out of love and out of love rescues him. The salvation of all human beings, mortally wounded by original sin and burdened with personal sins, consists in adhering firmly to divine charity, which was fully revealed to us in Christ crucified and risen.

In his love, God heals our will and sick intelligence, raising them to the highest level of union with him, namely, to holiness and mystical union.

St. Bernard speaks of this among other things in his brief but consistent "Liber de diligendo Deo" (Book on the Love of God). He has another writing that I would like to point out, the "De Consideratione," a brief document addressed to Pope Eugene III. The dominant theme of this book, extremely personal, is the importance of interior recollection -- and he said this to a Pope -- an essential element of piety.

It is necessary to pay attention to the dangers of excessive activity, regardless of one's condition and occupation, observes the saint, because -- as he said to the Pope of that time, and to all Popes and to all of us -- numerous occupations often lead to "hardness of heart," "they are no more than suffering for the spirit, loss of intelligence and dispersion of grace" (II, 3).

This admonition is valid for all kinds of occupations, including those inherent to the governance of the Church. The message that, in this connection, Bernard addresses to the Pontiff, who had been his disciple at Clairvaux, is provocative: "See where these accursed occupations can lead you, if you continue to lose yourself in them -- without leaving anything of yourself for yourself" (ibid).

How useful for us also is this call to the primacy of prayer! May St. Bernard, who was able to harmonize the monk's aspiration for solitude and the tranquility of the cloister with the urgency of important and complex missions in the service of the Church, help us to concretize it in our lives, in our circumstances and possibilities.

We entrust this difficult desire to find a balance between interiority and necessary work to the intercession of the Virgin, whom he loved from his childhood with tender and filial devotion, to the point of meriting the title of "Marian Doctor."

Let us invoke her so that she will obtain authentic and lasting peace for the whole world. In a famous address, St. Bernard compares Mary with the star that seafarers look to so as not to lose their way.

He wrote these famous words: "Whoever you are that perceive yourself during this mortal existence to be rather drifting in treacherous waters, at the mercy of the winds and the waves, than walking on firm ground, turn not away your eyes from the splendor of this guiding star, unless thou wish to be submerged by the storm. ... Look at the star, call upon Mary. ... With her for guide, you shall not go astray, while invoking her, you shall never lose heart ... if she walks before you, you shall not grow weary; if she shows you favor, you shall reach the goal," ("Homilia super Missus est," II, 17).

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Appeal for Mideast Peace
"So That They Immediately Put Down Their Weapons" (July 30, 2006)

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, JULY 30, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the prepared text of the address Benedict XVI gave today before reciting the midday Angelus with the people who gathered at the summer papal residence in Castel Gandolfo.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Two days ago, my stay in the Aosta Valley finished, I came directly here to Castel Gandolfo, where I intend to remain until the end of the summer, with a brief interruption in September for the apostolic visit to Bavaria. I wish, first of all, to address my affectionate greetings to the ecclesial and civil community of this beautiful town, where I am always happy to come to.

I cordially thank the bishop of Albano, the parish and the priests, as well as the mayor and municipal administration and the other civil authorities. A special thought goes to the directorate and personnel of the pontifical villa, as well as to the police, whom I thank for their valuable service.

Moreover, I greet the many pilgrims who, with their warm presence, contribute to making evident, also in the homier atmosphere of this summer residence, the universal ecclesial dimension of this, our appointment for the Marian prayer.

In this moment I cannot help think of the situation, ever more grave and more tragic, that the Middle East is going through: hundreds of dead, many wounded, a huge number of the homeless and refugees; houses, towns and infrastructure destroyed; meanwhile, hatred and the desire for revenge grow in the hearts of many.

These facts demonstrate clearly that you cannot re-establish justice, establish a new order and build authentic peace when you resort to instruments of violence.

More than ever we see how prophetic and altogether realistic is the voice of the Church when, in the face of wars and conflicts of every kind, it points out the path of truth, justice, love and liberty (cf. encyclical "Pacem in Terris"). Humanity must also cross this path today to achieve the good desire for true peace.

In the name of God, I appeal to all those responsible for this spiral of violence, so that they immediately put down their weapons on all sides! I ask governing leaders and international organizations not to spare any effort to obtain this necessary halt to hostilities and so to be able to begin to build, through dialogue, a lasting and stable concord for all the people of the Middle East.

I appeal to all people of good to continue and to intensify the shipment of humanitarian help to those populations so tested and needy. But especially [I ask that] every heart continue to raise the hopeful prayer to the good and merciful God, so that he grants his peace to that region and to the whole world.

We entrust this sorrowful petition to the intercession of May, Mother of the Prince of Peace and Queen of Peace, so venerated in Mideast countries, where we hope to see soon reign this reconciliation for which the Lord Jesus has offered his precious Blood.

[Translation of the Italian by ZENIT]

[After the Angelus the Pope spoke in a number of languages. In English he said:]

I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for this Sunday Angelus, especially the group of young people of the Regnum Christi Movement.

In today's Gospel we see Jesus feeding the hungry multitudes. With the same generous love he continues to offer us daily the Bread of Life. May the Eucharist sustain us always in our love of God, and open our hearts to our neighbors, especially to those in need! I wish you all a blessed Sunday!

[In Italian he said:]

I greet with affection the Italian-language pilgrims, recalling that in the coming days we will mark the memorials of some great saints: tomorrow, St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits; on Aug. 2, St. Alphonsus Maria Liguori, founder of the Redemptorists; on Aug. 4, St. John Mary Vianney, the curé of Ars, patron of parishes. The example and the intercession of these luminous witnesses help us to progress on the path of sanctity.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Day of Prayer for Peace in Middle East
"I Raise to God a Sorrowful Prayer"  (July 23, 2006)

LES COMBES, Italy,  Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before praying the midday Angelus with thousands gathered in this Alpine village. The Pope named today a day of prayer and penance for peace in the Middle East.

Before the Holy Father's address, Bishop Giuseppe Anfossi of Aosta expressed to him the greetings of all those present.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

First of all, Your Excellency, thank you very much for this most cordial greeting, and thanks to all of you for this very warm and cordial reception. Thank you!

Your Excellency, you mentioned that last Thursday, given the worsening situation in the Middle East, I convoked a day of prayer and penance for this Sunday, inviting pastors, faithful and all believers to implore from God the gift of peace.

I strongly renew the appeal to the parties in conflict to adopt a cease-fire immediately and allow the sending of humanitarian aid, so that, with the support of the international community, ways will be found to begin negotiations.

I take advantage of the opportunity to reaffirm the right of the Lebanese to the integrity and sovereignty of their country, the right of Israelis to live in peace in their state, and the right of Palestinians to a free and sovereign homeland.

I feel, moreover, especially close to defenseless civilian populations, unjustly stricken in a conflict in which they are no more than victims: both those of Galilee, obliged to live in shelters, as well as the great multitude of Lebanese, who once more, see their country destroyed, and have to leave everything behind to try to save themselves in another place.

I raise to God a sorrowful prayer so that the aspiration to peace of the great majority of peoples may soon be realized, thanks to the common commitment of those responsible. I also renew my appeal to all charitable organizations to manifest in a practical manner common solidarity with those populations.

Yesterday we celebrated the feast of St. Mary Magdalene, disciple of the Lord, who plays a principal role in the Gospel. St. Luke presents her among the women who followed Jesus, after having "been healed of evil spirits and infirmities," specifying that from her "seven demons had gone out" (Luke 8:2).

Magdalene would be present under the cross, together with the mother of Jesus and other women. She would discover, on the morning of the first day after the Sabbath, the empty sepulcher, next to which she remained weeping until the risen Jesus appeared to her (cf. John 20:11).

The story of Mary Magdalene reminds everyone of a fundamental truth: She is a disciple of Christ who, in the experience of human weakness, has had the humility to ask for his help, has been healed by him, and has followed him closely, becoming a witness of the power of his merciful love, which is stronger than sin and death.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Bridget, one of the patronesses of Europe, native of Sweden, who lived in Rome and went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. In this way, she invites us to help humanity to find a great area of peace precisely also in the Holy Land.

I entrust the whole of humanity to the power of divine love, while I invite all to pray so that the beloved peoples of the Middle East are able to abandon the path of armed confrontation and build, with the boldness of dialogue, a just and lasting peace. May Mary, queen of peace, pray for us!

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Our Lady of Mount Carmel
"I Invite Special Prayers for Peace in the Holy Land"  (July 16, 2006)

INTROD, Italy, JULY 16, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address today, before praying the Angelus with the faithful gathered in Les Combes, Introd, in the Aosta Valley of the Italian Alps, where he is taking a few days of rest.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Also this year I am happy to spend some time of rest here, in the Aosta Valley, in the house that many times welcomed our beloved John Paul II. I have immersed myself immediately in this wonderful Alpine scenery which helps to reinvigorate body and spirit, and today I am happy to live this family meeting -- my cordial greetings to each one of you, residents and holidaymakers.

I wish first of all to greet and thank the pastor of the Church that lives in this valley, the bishop of Aosta, Bishop Giuseppe Anfossi, as well as the priests, men and women religious, and the laity of the diocesan community. I assure each one of my remembrance in prayer, especially for the sick and those suffering. My grateful thoughts go, moreover, to the Salesians, who have placed their house at the Pope's disposition. I address my deferential greetings to the authorities of the state and region, to the municipal administrator of Introd, to the forces of order and to all who in different ways collaborate toward my peaceful stay. May the Lord recompense you!

By a happy coincidence, this Sunday is July 16, day in which the liturgy remembers the Most Holy Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel. Carmel, high promontory that rises on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, at the altitude of Galilee, has in its folds numerous natural grottoes, favorites of hermits.

The most famous of these men of God was the great prophet Elias, who in the 9th century before Christ, courageously defended the purity of the faith in the one true God from contamination by idolatrous cults. Inspired in the figure of Elias, the contemplative order of Carmelites arose, a religious family that counts among its members great saints such as Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Therese of the Child Jesus and Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (in the world, Edith Stein).

The Carmelites have spread in the Christian people devotion to the Most Holy Virgin of Mount Carmel, pointing to her as a model of prayer, contemplation and dedication to God. Mary, in fact, before and in an unsurpassable way, believed and felt that Jesus, the incarnate Word, is the culmination, the summit of man's encounter with God.

Fully accepting the Word, "she happily reached the holy mountain" (Prayer of the Collect of the Memorial), and lives forever, in soul and body, with the Lord. To the Queen of Mount Carmel I wish to commend today all the communities of contemplative life spread throughout the world, especially those of the Carmelite Order, among which I remember the convent of Quart, not far from here. May Mary help every Christian to meet God in the silence of prayer.

[After the Angelus, the Holy Father said the following words:]

In recent days the news from the Holy Land is a reason for new and grave concern for all, in particular because of the spread of warlike actions also in Lebanon, and because of the numerous victims among the civilian population. At the origin of these cruel oppositions there are, sadly, objective situations of violation of law and justice. But neither terrorist acts nor reprisals, especially when they entail tragic consequences for the civilian population, can be justified. By such paths, as bitter experiences shows, positive results are not achieved.

This day is dedicated to the Virgin of Carmel, Mount of the Holy Land that, a few kilometers from Lebanon, dominates the Israeli city of Haifa, the latter also recently hit. Let us pray to Mary, Queen of Peace, to implore from God the fundamental gift of concord, bringing political leaders back to the path of reason, and opening new possibilities of dialogue and agreement. In this perspective I invite the local Churches to raise special prayers for peace in the Holy Land and in the whole of the Middle East.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On World Meeting of Families
"Family, Live and Transmit the Faith!" (July 2, 2006)

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

The 5th World Meeting of Families will take place next Saturday and Sunday in the city of Valencia, in Spain. The first such meeting was held in Rome in 1994, on the occasion of the International Year of the Family, promoted by the United Nations.

On that occasion, our beloved Pope John Paul II wrote a long and impassioned meditation on the family, which he addressed in the form of a letter to families worldwide. That great meeting of families was followed by others: in Rio de Janeiro, in 1997; in Rome, in 2000 on the occasion of the Jubilee of Families; in Manila in 2004, which he was unable to attend personally, but sent an audiovisual message.

It is important that today's families also hear the memorable appeal John Paul II left them 25 years ago in the apostolic exhortation "Familiaris Consortio": "Family, become what you are!" (cf. No. 17).

The theme of the forthcoming meeting in Valencia is the transmission of the faith in the family. The theme of the apostolic visit to that city is inspired in this commitment: "Family, Live and Transmit the Faith!"

In so many communities which today are secularized the first urgency for believers in Christ is, precisely, to renew the faith of adults so that they will be able to communicate it to new generations.

On the other hand, the journey of Christian initiation of children and adolescents can become an opportunity for parents to return to the Church and reflect further on the beauty and truth of the Gospel.

In short, the family is a living organism, where a mutual exchange of gifts takes place. What is important is that the word of God, which keeps the flame of faith alive, never be lacking. With a particularly significant gesture, during the rite of baptism, the godfather or godmother lights a candle from the great paschal candle, symbol of the risen Christ and then the celebrant says: "To you, parents and godparents, is entrusted the task of guarding this light so that this child, illuminated by Christ, may always live as a child of the light."

If this gesture, in which the whole meaning of the transmission of the faith in the family lies, is to be authentic, it must be preceded and accompanied by the parents' commitment to further their own knowledge of the faith, rekindling the flame with prayer and the assiduous practice of the sacraments of confession and the Eucharist.

Let us commend to the Virgin Mary the success of the forthcoming great Valencia meeting, and of all the families of the world so that they will be genuine communities of love and life, in which the flame of faith is transmitted from generation to generation.

[After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted pilgrims in six languages. In Italian, he said:]

I follow with growing concern the events in Iraq and the Holy Land. In the face of the blind violence that causes atrocious killings, on one hand, and, on the other, the threat of the aggravation of the crisis which for the past few days has been even more tragic, justice is necessary and a serious and credible commitment to peace which, unfortunately, are not perceived.

Therefore, I invite all to join in confident and persevering prayer that the Lord may enlighten hearts and that no one exempt himself from the duty to build a peaceful coexistence, in recognition that each man is a brother, regardless of the nation to which he belongs.

An important summit of religious leaders, organized by the Interreligious Council of Russia, will be held in Moscow from July 3-5.

At the invitation of the patriarch of Moscow, the Catholic Church will take part with her own delegation. I wish to express my cordial greetings to his holiness Alexy II and to all the participants. This significant meeting of so many exponents of the world's religions indicates the common desire to promote dialogue between civilizations and the pursuit of a more just and peaceful world order.

I hope that, thanks to the sincere commitment of all, areas will be found for effective collaboration to address the present-day challenges in reciprocal respect and understanding. In the case of Christians, it is about knowing one another ever more profoundly and appreciating one another mutually in the light of man's dignity and his eternal destiny.

Assuring my prayer that God may make the summit's working session fruitful, I invoke on all of you the abundant blessings of heaven.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Sts. Peter and Paul
"Columns and Foundation of the City of God"  (June 29, 2006)

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Today we honor solemnly Sts. Peter and Paul, "Apostles of Christ, columns and foundation of the city of God," as today's liturgy says. Their martyrdom was to be considered as the true and proper act of the birth of the Church of Rome.

The two apostles rendered their supreme testimony in a short distance of time and space one from the other: Here, in Rome, St. Peter was crucified and subsequently St. Paul was decapitated.

Their blood was fused therefore almost in one sole testimony of Christ, which drove St. Irenaeus, bishop of Lyon, in the middle of the second century, to speak of the "Church founded and constituted in Rome by the two most glorious Apostles Peter and Paul" ("Against Heresies" III, 3, 2).

Shortly after, from North Africa, Tertullian exclaimed: "This Church of Rome, how blessed she is! It was the Apostles themselves, who with their blood, poured out to her the whole doctrine" ("Prescription against the Heretics," 36).

Precisely because of this, the Bishop of Rome, Successor of the Apostle Peter, carries out a particular ministry of service of the doctrinal and pastoral unity of the people of God spread throughout the world.

In this context one also understands better the meaning of the rite that we renewed this morning, during the holy Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, that is, the reception of the pallium, ancient liturgical insignia, which expresses the special communion of these pastors with the Successor of Peter.

My greetings go to these venerated brother archbishops and to all those who accompanied them, while I invite all of you, dear brothers and sisters, to pray for them and for the Churches entrusted to them.

There is still another reason that renders our joy even greater today: It is the presence in Rome, on the occasion of the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, of a special delegation sent by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I.

To the members of this delegation I reiterate with affection my welcome and heartfelt gratitude to the patriarch, for rendering even more manifest with this gesture the existing bond of fraternity between our Churches.

May Mary, Queen of the Apostles, whom we invoke with trust, obtain for Christians the gift of full unity.

With her help and following in the footsteps of St. Peter and St. Paul, may the Church that is in Rome and all the people of God offer the world a testimony of unity and courageous dedication to the Gospel of Christ.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Sacred Heart
"Attracts Souls Thirsting for God's Mercy"   (June 25, 2006)

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

This Sunday, 12th of Ordinary Time, is as though "surrounded" by significant liturgical solemnities. Last Friday we celebrated the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a celebration that correctly unites popular devotion with theological profundity. Consecration to the Sacred Heart was -- and continues to be in some countries -- a tradition in families, which had an image of the Sacred Heart in their homes.

The roots of this devotion are deep in the mystery of the Incarnation: It was precisely through the Heart of Jesus that the Love of God for humanity was manifested in a sublime manner. For this reason, authentic worship of the Sacred Heart keeps all its validity and attracts especially souls thirsting for God's mercy, in which they find the inexhaustible source, from which they can draw the water of Life, capable of watering the deserts of the soul and make hope flower anew.

The solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is also the World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests: I take advantage of the opportunity to invite you all, dear Brothers and Sisters, to pray always for priests so that they can be witnesses of the love of Christ.

Yesterday the liturgy enabled us to celebrate the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, the only saint whose birth is commemorated, as it marked the beginning of the fulfillment of the divine promises: John is this "prophet," identified with Elijah, who was destined to immediately precede the Messiah to prepare the people of Israel for his coming (cf. Matthew 11:14; 17:10-13).

His feast reminds us that our whole life is always subordinated to Christ and attains its fulfillment by receiving him, Word, Light and Bridegroom, of whom we are voices, oil lamps and friends (cf. John 1:2,23; 1:7-8; 3:29). "He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30): This _expression of the Baptist is a program for every Christian.

To allow the "I" of Christ to take the place of our "I" was, in an exemplary way, the longing of the Apostles Peter and Paul, whom the Church will venerate with solemnity on June 29. St. Paul wrote about himself: "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Galatians 2:20).

Before them, and before any other saint, the one who lived this reality was Mary Most Holy, who kept the words of her Son Jesus in her heart. Yesterday we contemplated that Immaculate Heart of hers, heart of a Mother, who continues to watch over all of us with tender solicitude. May her intercession enable us to be faithful always to the Christian vocation.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On the Eucharist
"'Treasure' of the Church"    (June 18, 2006)

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Today, in Italy and in other countries, the solemnity of Corpus Christi is being celebrated, which already had its intense moment in Rome in the city's procession on Thursday.

It is the solemn and public feast of the Eucharist, sacrament of the body and blood of Christ: On this day, the mystery instituted in the Last Supper and commemorated every year on Holy Thursday, is presented to all, surrounded by the faith and devotion of the ecclesial community.

The Eucharist is, in fact, the "treasure" of the Church, the precious heritage that her Lord has left her. And the Church guards this heritage with the greatest care, celebrating it daily in the holy Mass, adoring it in churches and chapels, distributing it to the sick, and as viaticum to those on their last journey.

However, this treasure, which is destined for those who are baptized, does not exhaust its radius of action in the ambit of the Church: the Eucharist is the Lord Jesus who gives himself "for the life of the world" (John 6:51). At all times and in all places, he wishes to encounter man and give him God's life.

And not only this -- the Eucharist also has cosmic value: The transformation of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ constitutes, in fact, the principle of divinization of creation itself. This is why the feast of Corpus Christi is characterized particularly by the tradition of carrying the Blessed Sacrament in procession, a gesture full of meaning.

By carrying the Eucharist through the streets and squares, we wish to submerge the bread descended from heaven in the everyday of our lives; we want Jesus to walk where we walk; to live where we live. Our world, our lives, must become his temple.

On this feast day, the Christian community proclaims that the Eucharist is everything for it, that it is its very life, the source of love that triumphs over death. From communion with Christ arises the charity that transforms our lives and supports all on the journey toward the heavenly homeland. For this reason, the liturgy invites us to sing: "Good shepherd, true bread ? You who know all and can do everything, who nourish us on earth, lead your brothers to the table of heaven, in the glory of your saints."

Mary is the "Eucharistic woman," as Pope John Paul II described her in his encyclical "Ecclesia de Eucharistia." Let us pray to the Virgin that all Christians may deepen their faith in the Eucharistic mystery, so that they live in constant communion with Jesus and are his valid witnesses.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

St. Andrew, the Protoklitos, First Called  (June 14, 2006)

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

In the last two catecheses we have spoken about the figure of St. Peter. Now, in the measure the sources allow us, we want to know the other 11 apostles a bit better. Therefore, today we speak of Simon Peter's brother, St. Andrew, who was also one of the Twelve.

What first impresses one about Andrew is his name: It is not Hebrew, as one would expect, but Greek, indicative of a certain cultural openness of his family. We find ourselves in Galilee, where the Greek language and culture are quite present.

In the lists of the Twelve, Andrew is in second place in Matthew (10:1-4) and in Luke (6:13-16), or in the fourth place, in Mark (3:13-18) and in the Acts of the Apostles (1:13-14). In any case, without a doubt he had great prestige within the early Christian communities.

The blood tie between Peter and Andrew, as well as the joint call addressed to them by Jesus, are mentioned expressly in the Gospels. One reads: "As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And he said to them, 'Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men'" (Matthew 4:18-19; Mark 1:16-17).

From the fourth Gospel we know another important detail: At first, Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist; and this shows us that he was a man who was searching, who shared Israel's hope, who wanted to know better the word of the Lord, the presence of the Lord.

He was truly a man of faith and hope; and one day he heard that John the Baptist was proclaiming Jesus as "the Lamb of God" (John 1:36); then, he moved, and together with another disciple, whose name is not mentioned, followed Jesus, he who was called by John "Lamb of God." The evangelist says: "They saw where he was staying; and they stayed with him" (John 1:40-43), demonstrating immediately an uncommon apostolic spirit. Andrew, therefore, was the first apostle who received the call and followed Jesus.

For this reason the liturgy of the Byzantine Church honors him with the nickname "Protoklitos," which means the "first called."

Because of the fraternal relationship between Peter and Andrew, the Church of Rome and the Church of Constantinople regard themselves as sister Churches. To underline this relationship, my predecessor, Pope Paul VI, in 1964 returned the famous relic of St. Andrew, until then kept in the Vatican basilica, to the Orthodox metropolitan bishop of the city of Patras, in Greece, where, according to tradition, the apostle was crucified.

The Gospel traditions mention Andrew's name particularly on three other occasions, allowing us to know something more about this man. The first is the multiplication of the loaves in Galilee. On that occasion, Andrew pointed out to Jesus the presence of a young boy who had five barley loaves and two fish: very little, he said, for all the people that had gathered in that place (cf. John 6:8-9).

It is worthwhile to underline Andrew's realism. He had seen the boy, that is, he had already asked him: "But, what is this for all these people?" (ibid.) and he became aware of the lack of resources. Jesus, however, was able to make them be sufficient for the multitude of people that had gone to hear him.

The second occasion was in Jerusalem. Leaving the city, a disciple showed him the spectacle of the powerful walls that supported the temple. The Master's response was astonishing: He said that of those walls not one stone would remain upon another. Then Andrew, along with Peter, James and John, asked him: "Tell us, when this will be, and what will be the sign when these things are all to be accomplished?" (Mark 13:1-4).

As a response to this question, Jesus pronounced an important discourse on the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world, inviting his disciples to read with care the signs of the times and to always maintain a vigilant attitude. From this episode we may deduce that we do not have to be afraid to ask Jesus questions, but at the same time, we must be ready to accept the teachings, also astonishing and difficult, which he offers us.

Recorded in the Gospels, finally, is a third initiative of Andrew. The setting continues to be Jerusalem, shortly before the Passion. On the occasion of the feast of Passover, John recounts, some Greeks had come to the Holy City, perhaps proselytes or God-fearing men, to worship the God of Israel during the feast of Passover.

Andrew and Philip, the two apostles with Greek names, were the interpreters and mediators for Jesus of this small group of Greeks. The Lord's answer to his question seems enigmatic, as often happens in John's Gospel, but precisely in this way it is revealed full of meaning. Jesus says to his disciples and, through their mediation, to the Greek world: "The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit" (John 12:23-24).

What do these words mean in this context? Jesus wishes to say: Yes, my meeting with the Greeks will take place, but mine will not be a simple and brief talk with some persons, moved above all by curiosity. With my death, comparable to the fall into the earth of a grain of wheat, the hour of my glorification will come. From my death on the cross great fruitfulness will stem. The "dead grain of wheat" -- symbol of my crucifixion -- will become, in the Resurrection, bread of life for the world: It will be light for peoples and cultures.

Yes, the encounter with the Greek soul, with the Greek world, will take place in that profundity to which the grain of wheat refers, which attracts to itself the forces of the earth and of heaven and becomes bread. In other words, Jesus prophesies the Church of the Greeks, the Church of pagans, the Church of the world as fruit of his Pasch.

Very ancient traditions believe that Andrew, who transmitted these words to the Greeks, not only is the interpreter of some Greeks at the meeting with Christ, which we have just recalled, but he is considered as the Apostle of the Greeks in the years that followed Pentecost; they tell us that for the rest of his life he was the herald and interpreter of Jesus for the Greek world.

Peter, his brother, arrived in Rome from Jerusalem, passing through Antioch, to exercise his universal mission; Andrew, on the contrary, was the Apostle of the Greek world. In this way, both in life as in death, they appear as authentic brothers, a fraternity that is expressed symbolically in the special relationship of the sees of Rome and Constantinople, Churches that are truly sisters.

A subsequent tradition, as I was saying, recounts the death of Andrew in Patras, where he also suffered the torture of crucifixion. However, in that supreme moment, as his brother Peter, he asked to be placed on a cross different from that of Jesus. In his case, it was a cross in the shape of an X, that is, with the two beams crossed diagonally, which for this reason is called "St. Andrew's cross."

This is what he would have said on that occasion, according to an ancient narrative (of the beginning of the sixth century), entitled "Passion of Andrew": "Hail, O cross, inaugurated by the body of Christ, which has become adornment of his members, as if they were precious pearls. Before the Lord mounted you, you caused an earthly terror. However, now, gifted with a celestial love, you have become a gift. Believers know how much joy you possess, how many gifts you offer. Confident, therefore, and full of joy, I come so that you will also receive me exultant as disciple of him who hanged from you. … Blessed cross, which received the majesty and beauty of the members of the Lord …, take me and lead me far from men and hand me to my Master so that, through you, he will receive me who through you has redeemed me. Hail, O cross, yes, truly, hail!"

As we can see, we are before an extremely profound Christian spirituality, which sees in the cross, beyond an instrument of torture, the incomparable means of a full assimilation with the Redeemer, with the grain of wheat fallen into the earth. We must learn a very important lesson: Our crosses have value if they are considered and welcomed as part of the cross of Christ, if they are touched by the reflection of his light. Only through that cross our sufferings are also ennobled and attain their true meaning.

May the Apostle Andrew teach us to follow Jesus with promptness (cf. Matthew 4:20; Mark 1:18), to speak with enthusiasm of him to all those with whom we meet and, above all, to cultivate a relationship of authentic familiarity with him, conscious that only in him can we find the ultimate meaning of our life and death.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On the Most Holy Trinity: "Lover, Beloved and Love" (June 11, 2006)

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

On this Sunday, following that of Pentecost, we celebrate the solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.

Thanks to the Holy Spirit, who helps us to understand the words of Jesus and guides us into all the truth (John 14:26; 16:13), believers can know, so to speak, the intimacy of God himself, discovering that he is not infinite solitude, but communion of light and love, life given and received in an eternal dialogue between the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit -- lover, beloved and love, to recall St. Augustine.

So, no one can see God, but he himself has made himself known so that, with the Apostle John, we can affirm: "God is love" (1 John 4:8,16), "we know and believe the love God has for us" ("Deus Caritas Est," No. 1; cf. 1 John 4:16).

Whoever encounters Christ and enters into a relationship of friendship with him, receives the very Trinitarian communion in his own soul, in keeping with the promise of Jesus to his disciples: "If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him" (John 14:23).

For him who has faith, the whole universe speaks of God one and triune. From interstellar space to microscopic particles, all that exists refers to a being who communicates himself in the multiplicity and variety of the elements, as in an immense symphony.

All beings are ordered according to a harmonic dynamism, which we can call, analogically, "love." But only in the human person, free and rational, this dynamism becomes spiritual, a responsible love, as response to God and to one's neighbor in a sincere gift of self. In this love the human being finds his truth and happiness.

Among the different analogies of the ineffable mystery of God one and triune, which believers have the capacity to perceive, I would like to mention the family. It is called to be a community of love and life, in which differences must come together to become a "parable of communion."

The masterpiece of the Most Holy Trinity among all creatures is the Virgin Mary: In her humble heart full of faith in God, he prepared a worthy dwelling for himself, to fulfill his mystery of salvation. Divine love found in her perfect correspondence, and the only-begotten Son was made man in her womb. With filial confidence let us turn to Mary, so that, with her help, we will be able to progress in love and make our lives songs of praise to the Father, through the Son in the Holy Spirit.

Upon each of you and your loved ones at home, I invoke God's blessings of peace and joy!

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Pentecost
"The Whole Church Is Only One Great Movement" (June 4, 2006)

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

The solemnity of Pentecost invites us to go back to the origins of the Church, which, as the Second Vatican Council affirmed, "by the outpouring of the Spirit, was made manifest" ("Lumen Gentium," No. 2). At Pentecost, the Church was manifested one, holy, catholic and apostolic; it was manifested missionary, with the gift of speaking all the languages of the world, as the good news of the love of God is meant for all peoples.

"The Church, which the Spirit guides in the way of all truth and which he unified in communion and in works of ministry, he both equips and directs with hierarchical and charismatic gifts and adorns with his fruits" (ibid. 4).

Among the realities aroused by the Spirit in the Church are the ecclesial movements and communities, with which yesterday I had the joy of meeting in this square, in a great world gathering. The whole Church, as Pope John Paul II liked to say, is only one great movement, animated by the Holy Spirit, a river that goes through history to water it with the grace of God and to make her life fruitful in goodness, beauty, justice and peace.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Ascension
On Social Communication:
"An Important Vehicle to Spread the Gospel"  (May 21, 2006)

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

The book of the Acts of the Apostles states that Jesus, after his resurrection, appeared to the disciples during 40 days and afterward "as they were looking on, he was lifted up" (Acts 1:9). It was the Ascension, the feast we will celebrate on Thursday, May 25, though in some countries it is transferred to next Sunday.

The meaning of this last gesture of Jesus is twofold. Above all, ascending on "high," he unequivocally reveals his divinity: He returns to where he came from, that is, to God, after having fulfilled his mission on earth. Moreover, Christ ascends to heaven with the humanity he had assumed and which has resurrected from the dead: That humanity is ours, transfigured, divinized, made eternal. The Ascension, therefore, reveals the "supreme vocation" ("Gaudium et Spes," no. 22) of every human person -- called to the eternal life of the kingdom of God, kingdom of love, light and peace.

Celebrated on the feast of the Ascension, is the World Day of Social Communications, initiated by the Second Vatican Council, and now in its 40th year. Its theme this year is "The Media: Network of Communication, Communion and Cooperation." The Church looks with attention at the media, because it is an important vehicle to spread the Gospel and to foster solidarity between peoples, calling attention to the great problems that still mark them profoundly.

Today, for example, the initiative Walk the World, initiated by the United Nations World Food Program, seeks to sensitize governments and public opinion on the need for concrete and timely action to guarantee all, particularly children, "freedom from hunger." With prayer I am close to this demonstration, which is taking place in Rome and in other cities on some 100 countries.

I earnestly hope that, thanks to the contribution of all, the plague of hunger will be surmounted which still afflicts humanity, putting in great danger the hope of life of millions of people. I am thinking, above all, of the urgent and tragic situation in Darfur, Sudan, where strong difficulties persist to satisfy even the primary food needs of the population.

With the usual recitation of the Regina Caeli, we particularly entrust today to the Virgin Mary our brothers oppressed by the scourge of hunger, all those who come to their aid and those who, through the means of social communication, contribute to consolidate between peoples the bonds of solidarity and peace. We also pray to Our Lady to make fruitful the apostolic trip to Poland that, God willing, I will make from Thursday to next Sunday in memory of our beloved Pope John Paul II.

[After praying the Regina Caeli, the Holy Father greeted pilgrims in six languages. In Italian, he said:]

While the last preparations for my apostolic trip to Poland proceed rapidly, I also have present in my heart and prayer the important meeting on Saturday, June 3, the eve of Pentecost, when I will have the joy to meet in St. Peter's Square with numerous members of the more than one hundred ecclesial movements and new communities, from all over the world.

I know well what their formative, educational and missionary wealth -- so appreciated, supported and encouraged by our beloved Pope John Paul II -- means for the Church. Together we will celebrate the first vespers of the solemnity of Pentecost, invoking the Holy Spirit with confidence, so that he will fill the hearts of the faithful and proclaim to all the message of the love of Christ, savior of the world.

On the occasion of the "Day of Relief," which will be celebrated in Italy next Sunday, I assure my remembrance in prayer for terminally ill patients and for all those who assist them in living their suffering in a human way.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On the Vine and Branches
"The Secret of Spiritual Fruitfulness Is Union With God"  (May 14, 2006)

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

On this Fifth Sunday of Easter the liturgy presents the Gospel passage of John in which Jesus, speaking to the disciples at the last supper, exhorts them to remain united to him like the branches of the vine. It is a truly significant parable, as it explains with great effectiveness that the Christian life is a mystery of communion with Jesus: "He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5).

The secret of spiritual fruitfulness is union with God, union that is realized above all in the Eucharist, also called Communion. I want to underline this mystery of unity at this time of the year, in which many parish communities celebrate children's first Communion.

I express special greetings to all children who in these weeks encounter Jesus Christ in the Eucharist for the first time, hoping that they will become branches of the vine, which is Jesus, and grow to be true disciples of his.

A way to remain united to Christ, as branches on the vine, is to have recourse to the intercession of Mary, whom we venerated yesterday, May 13, in a particular way, recalling the apparitions of Fatima where, in 1917, she appeared on several occasions to three children, the little shepherds Francisco, Jacinta and Lucia.

The message she entrusted to them, in continuity with that of Lourdes, was an intense call to prayer and conversion, a truly prophetic message, above all if one considers that the 20th century was scourged by unheard-of destructions, caused by wars and totalitarian regimes, as well as extensive persecutions against the Catholic Church.

Moreover, on May 13, 1981, 25 years ago, the servant of God, Pope John Paul II, felt that he was saved miraculously from death by the intervention of a "maternal hand," as he himself said, and the whole of his pontificate was marked by what the Virgin had said at Fatima.

Although there is no lack of anxieties and sufferings, and although there are still reasons for apprehension about the future of humanity, what the "Lady in white" promised the little shepherds is consoling: "At the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph."

With this conviction, we now turn to Mary most holy, thanking her for her constant intercession and asking her to continue to watch over the path of the Church and of humanity, especially families, mothers and children.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Vocations
"God Continues to Call Adolescents, Youths and Adults" (May 7, 2006)

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

On this Fourth Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday, in which the World Day of Prayer for Vocations is observed, I have had the joy of ordaining in St. Peter's Basilica 15 new priests of the Diocese of Rome.

Together with them, I think of all those that, in all parts of the world receive priestly ordination at the same time. In thanking the Lord for the gift of these new priests at the service of the Church, we put them in Mary's hands, while invoking her intercession so that the number will grow of those who accept Christ's invitation to follow him on the path of the priesthood and consecrated life.

This year, the theme of the World Day of Prayer for Vocations is "Vocation in the Mystery of the Church." In the message I have addressed to the entire ecclesial community for this occasion, I recalled the experience of Jesus' first disciples that, after meeting him on the lake and in the villages of Galilee, were captivated by his attractiveness and love.

The Christian vocation always implies renewing this personal friendship with Jesus Christ, which gives meaning to one's life and makes it available for the Kingdom of God.

The Church lives from this friendship, nourished by the word and the sacraments, holy realities entrusted in a particular way to the ministry of bishops, priests and deacons, consecrated by the sacrament of holy orders. For this reason, as I underlined in the same message, the mission of the priest is irreplaceable and, although in some regions there is a lack of clergy, there is no doubt that God continues to call adolescents, youths and adults to leave all to dedicate themselves to the preaching of the Gospel and the pastoral ministry.

Another special way of following is the vocation to the consecrated life, which is expressed in a poor, chaste and obedient life, totally dedicated to God, in contemplation and prayer, placed at the service of brothers, especially the little ones and the poor.

However, let us not forget that Christian marriage is a vocation to holiness in the full sense of the word, and that the example of holy parents is the first favorable condition for the flowering of priestly and religious vocations.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us invoke the intercession of Mary, mother of the Church, for the priests, and men and women religious; let us pray, moreover, so that the seeds of the vocation that God sows in the hearts of the faithful will mature and bear fruits of holiness in the Church and the world.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On the Resurrection
"The Central Event of Christianity"  (April 30, 2006)

During Eastertide, the liturgy offers us numerous incentives to strengthen our faith in the risen Christ. On this Third Sunday of Easter, for example, St. Luke recounts that the two disciples of Emmaus, after having recognized "the breaking of the bread," left full of joy for Jerusalem to inform the others what had happened to them. And, in fact, while they were speaking, the Lord himself appeared showing his hands and feet with the signs of the passion.

In face of the apostles' incredulous surprise, Jesus asked that he be given baked fish and he ate it before them (cf. Luke 24:35-43). In this and other accounts there is a constant invitation to surmount incredulity and to believe in Christ's resurrection, as disciples are called, in fact, to be witnesses of this extraordinary event.

Christ's resurrection is the central event of Christianity, a fundamental truth that must be reaffirmed with vigor at all times, as to deny it in different ways, as has been attempted and continues to be attempted, or to transform it into a merely spiritual event is to make our faith vain. "If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain" (1 Corinthians 15:14).

In the days that followed the Lord's resurrection, the apostles remained gathered together, comforted by the presence of Mary and, after the Ascension, persevered with her in prayer, awaiting Pentecost. The Virgin was for them mother and teacher, a role she continues to carry out for Christians of all times. Every year, during Eastertide, we live this experience more intensely and, perhaps, precisely for this reason, popular tradition has consecrated the month of May, which normally falls between Easter and Pentecost, to Mary.

Therefore, the month that begins tomorrow helps us to rediscover the maternal role that she carries out in our lives so that we may always be docile disciples and courageous witnesses of the risen Lord.

Let us entrust the needs of the Church and of the world to Mary, especially at this moment marked by not a few shadows. Invoking also the intercession of St. Joseph, who we remember particularly tomorrow, thinking of the labor world, we address her with the Regina Caeli prayer, which enables us to relish the comforting joy of the presence of the risen Christ.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Divine Mercy
"An Integral Dimension of a Christian's Faith and Prayer" (April 23, 2006)

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

This Sunday the Gospel of John recounts that the risen Jesus appeared to his disciples, gathered in the cenacle, on the evening of the "first day of the week" (John 20:19), and that he showed himself to them again in the same place "eight days later" (John 20:26).

From the beginning, therefore, the Christian community began to live a weekly rhythm, highlighted by the encounter with the risen Lord.

It is what is also emphasized by the Second Vatican Council's constitution on the sacred liturgy, which affirms: "The Church, by an apostolic tradition, which has its origin in the same day of the resurrection of Christ, celebrates the paschal mystery every eight days, on the day that is called with reason 'day of the Lord' or Sunday" ("Sacrosanctum Concilium," No. 106).

The evangelist also recalls that in both apparitions the Lord Jesus showed the disciples the signs of the crucifixion, very visible and tangible also in his glorious body (cf. John 20:20,27). Those sacred wounds, in the hands, the feet and the side, are an inexhaustible source of faith, hope and love in which each one can drink, especially souls most thirsty of Divine Mercy.

In consideration of this, the Servant of God John Paul II, valuing the spiritual experience of a humble religious, St. Faustina Kowalska, wanted the Sunday after Easter to be dedicated in a special way to divine mercy, and providence disposed that he should die precisely on the vigil of that day (in the hands of Divine Mercy).

The mystery of the merciful love of God was at the center of the pontificate of my venerated predecessor. Let us recall, in particular, the encyclical "Dives in Misericordia" of 1980, and the dedication of the new shrine of Divine Mercy in Krakow, in 2002.

The words he pronounced on that last occasion were as a synthesis of his magisterium, evidencing that devotion to Divine Mercy is not a secondary, but an integral dimension of a Christian's faith and prayer.

May Mary most holy, mother of the Church, whom we now address with the Regina Caeli, obtain for all Christians to live in fullness Sunday as the "week's Easter," relishing the beauty of the encounter with the risen Lord and drinking from the source of his merciful love, to be apostles of his peace.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On the World Youth Day Cross
"A Journey of Conversion in Jesus' Steps"  (April 9, 2006)

The Pope gave his address after celebrating Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square. Also observed on this day was the diocesan-level World Youth Day.

* *

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

In a few moments a delegation of German youth will hand over the World Youth Day Cross to their Australian contemporaries. It is the cross that our beloved John Paul II entrusted to young people in 1984, so that they would take it to the world as a sign of Christ's love of humanity.

I greet Cardinal Joachim Meisner, archbishop of Cologne, and Cardinal George Pell, archbishop of Sydney, who wished to participate in this very significant moment.

The handover of the cross, after each of the world meetings, has become a "tradition," in the proper sense of a "traditio": a highly symbolic handover, which must be lived with great faith, committing oneself to a journey of conversion in Jesus' steps.

We are taught this faith by Mary Most Holy, who was the first to believe and to bear her own cross together with the Son, experiencing with him afterwards the joy of the resurrection. This is why the WYD Cross is accompanied by the icon of the Virgin, which reproduces that of Mary "Salvation of the Roman People" ["Salus Populi Romani"], venerated in the Basilica of St. Mary Major, the oldest basilica in the West dedicated to the Virgin.

After visiting several countries in Africa, to manifest the closeness of Christ and of his Mother to the peoples of that continent affected by so many sufferings, the cross and the Marian icon will be received next February in different regions of Oceania, and eventually travel to dioceses of Australia, until it reaches Sydney in July 2008. It is a spiritual pilgrimage that involves the whole Christian community, particularly young people.

[After the handover of the cross and icon, the Pope added:]

Brothers and Sisters:
In this setting of olives, offered by the region of Puglia, we pray to the Lord with faith that this cross and icon be instruments of peace and reconciliation between people and nations, and invoke the intercession of the Virgin Mary on the new pilgrimage, which begins today, so that it will be fruitful.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On John Paul II's "Way of the Cross"
"His Agony and Death Were Like a Prolongation of Easter Triduum"  (April 2, 2006)

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

On April 2 of last year, a day like today, our beloved Pope John Paul II lived during these same hours the last phase of his earthly pilgrimage, a pilgrimage of faith, love and hope, which left a profound mark on the history of the Church and of humanity. His agony and death were like a prolongation of the Easter triduum.

We all remember the images of his last Via Crucis on Good Friday: Being unable to go to the Colosseum, he followed it from his private chapel, holding a crucifix in his hands. Then, on Easter Sunday, he imparted the blessing "urbi et orbi," without being able to pronounce the words, just with a gesture of his hand. It was the most painful and moving blessing he left us as the greatest testimony of his determination to fulfill his mission to the end.

John Paul II died as he had lived, animated by the indomitable courage of faith, abandoning himself to God and commending himself to Mary Most Holy. We will remember him tonight with a Marian prayer vigil in St. Peter's Square, where tomorrow I will celebrate a Mass for him.

A year after his passing from earth to the Father's house, we can ask ourselves: What has this great Pope left us, who introduced the Church into the third millennium? His legacy is immense, but the message of his very long pontificate may be summarized in the words with which he wished to introduce it here, in St. Peter's Square, on October 22, 1978: "Open wide the doors to Christ!"

John Paul II incarnated this unforgettable call with his whole person and all his mission as Successor of Peter, especially with his extraordinary program of apostolic trips. On visiting countries around the world, when meeting with crowds, ecclesial communities, rulers, religious leaders and different social realities, he carried out something like a unique and great gesture of confirmation of his initial words.

He always proclaimed Christ, proposing him to all, as the Second Vatican Council did, in response to man's expectations, expectations of freedom, justice and peace. Christ is man's Redeemer -- he liked to repeat -- the only Savior of every person and of the whole human race.

In his last years, the Lord gradually stripped him of everything to assimilate him fully to himself. And when he could no longer travel, and later not even walk and, finally, not even speak, his gesture, his proclamation was reduced to the essential: the gift of himself to the end.

His death was the fulfillment of a coherent testimony of faith, which touched the hearts of many people of good will. John Paul II left us on a Saturday, the day dedicated in particular to Mary, for whom he always felt a filial devotion. We now pray to the heavenly Mother of God that she help us to keep as a treasure all that this great Pope gave us and taught us.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Victims of Religious Freedom
"Persevere in the Patience and Charity of Christ"  (March 26, 2006)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The consistory held recently to name 15 new cardinals was an intense ecclesial experience, which enabled us to relish the spiritual richness of collegiality, on finding ourselves together among brothers of different provenances, all united by the one love of Christ and his Church.

In a certain sense, we relived the reality of the first Christian community, gathered around Mary, Mother of Jesus, and Peter, to receive the gift of the Spirit and be committed to spread the Gospel in the whole world. Fidelity to this mission unto the sacrifice of one's life is the distinctive character of cardinals, as attested by their oath and as symbolized by scarlet, the color of blood.

By a providential coincidence, the consistory was held on March 24, the day in which missionaries were commemorated who fell last year on the frontiers of evangelization and of service to man in different parts of the earth. Thus, the consistory was an occasion to feel closer than ever to all those Christians who suffer persecutions because of the faith. Their witness, of which we receive news daily, and above all the sacrifice of those who have been killed, is for us a reason for edification and motivates us to an ever more sincere and generous evangelical commitment.

My thoughts go especially to those communities that live in countries where religious freedom is lacking or that, in fact, suffer many restrictions, despite its being affirmed on paper. To all of them I send my affectionate encouragement, so that they will persevere in the patience and charity of Christ, seed of the Kingdom of God that is coming, more than that, which is already in the world. To all those working at the service of the Gospel in those difficult situations, I wish to express my most profound solidarity in the name of the whole Church, and at the same time assure them of my daily remembrance in prayer.

The Church advances in history and spreads on earth accompanied by Mary, Queen of the Apostles. As in the cenacle, the Holy Virgin is always for Christians the living memory of Jesus. She animates their prayer and sustains their hope. We ask her to guide us in our daily journey and to protect with special predilection those Christian communities that are going through conditions of particular difficulty and suffering.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On St. Joseph
"His Mission Was Developed in Humility"  (March 19, 2006)

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Today, March 19, is the solemnity of St. Joseph, but as it coincides with the third Sunday of Lent, its liturgical celebration is postponed until tomorrow. However, the Marian context of the Angelus invites us to reflect with veneration on the figure of the Most Holy Virgin Mary's spouse, patron of the universal Church. I like to recall that our beloved Pope John Paul II was also very devoted to St. Joseph, to whom he dedicated the apostolic exhortation "Redemptoris Custos," Custodian of the Redeemer, and who surely experienced his assistance at the hour of death.
The figure of this great saint, even though remaining somewhat hidden, is of fundamental importance in the history of salvation. Above all, belonging to the tribe of Judah, he united Jesus to the Davidic lineage, so that, realizing the promises about the Messiah, the son of the Virgin Mary may really be called "son of David."

The Gospel of Matthew highlights in a special way the messianic prophecies which found their fulfillment through Joseph's role: the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem (2:13-15); the byname "Nazarene" (2:22-23). In all this he showed himself, as his spouse Mary, authentic heir of Abraham's faith: faith in God who guides the events of history according to his mysterious salvific plan. His greatness, like Mary's, stands out even more because his mission was developed in humility and in the hiddenness of the house of Nazareth. Moreover, God himself, in the person of his incarnate Son, chose this way and style of life in his earthly existence.

From the example of St. Joseph we all receive a strong invitation to develop with fidelity, simplicity and modesty the task that providence has assigned to us. I am thinking above all of fathers and mothers of families, and I pray that they will always be able to appreciate the beauty of a simple and industrious life, cultivating the conjugal relationship with care and fulfilling with enthusiasm the great and not easy educational mission.

To priests, who exercise paternity over ecclesial communities, may St. Joseph obtain that they love the Church with affection and complete dedication, and support consecrated persons in their joyous and faithful observance of the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience. May he protect workers worldwide so that they contribute with their different professions to the progress of the whole of humanity, and may he help every Christian to realize the will of God with confidence and love, thus cooperating in the fulfillment of the work of salvation.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On the Transfiguration
"No One Lives 'on Tabor' While on Earth"  (March 12)

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Yesterday morning the week of spiritual exercises ended, which were preached here, in the Apostolic Palace, by the retired patriarch of Venice, Cardinal Marco Cé. They were days dedicated entirely to listening to the Lord, who always speaks to us, but who expects more attention from us, especially in the Lenten season.

Today's Gospel passage also reminds us of this, when proposing the account of the transfiguration of Christ on Mount Tabor. Astonished in the presence of the transfigured Lord, who was speaking with Moses and Elias, Peter, James and John were suddenly enveloped in a cloud from which a voice arose that proclaimed: "This is my beloved Son, listen to him" (Mark 9:7).

When one has the grace to sense a strong experience of God, it is as though seeing something similar to what the disciples experienced during the Transfiguration: For a moment they experienced ahead of time something that will constitute the happiness of paradise. In general, it is brief experiences that God grants on occasions, especially in anticipation of harsh trials. However, no one lives "on Tabor" while on earth.

Human existence is a journey of faith and, as such, goes forward more in darkness than in full light, with moments of obscurity and even profound darkness. While we are here, our relationship with God develops more with listening than with seeing; and even contemplation takes place, so to speak, with closed eyes, thanks to the interior light lit in us by the word of God.

The Virgin Mary herself, notwithstanding the fact that she was the human creature closest to God, walked day after day as though on a pilgrimage of faith (cf. "Lumen Gentium," 58), keeping and meditating constantly in her heart the word that God addressed to her, whether through the sacred Scriptures or through events of the life of her son, in which she recognized and accepted the Lord's mysterious voice.

This is, therefore, the gift and commitment for each one of us in the Lenten Season: To listen to Christ, like Mary. To listen to him in the word, preserved in sacred Scripture. To listen to him in the very events of our lives, trying to read in them the messages of providence. To listen to him, finally, in our brothers, especially in the little ones and the poor, for whom Jesus himself asked our concrete love. To listen to Christ and to obey his voice. This is the only way that leads to joy and love.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Temptation
Lent a Time to "Struggle Against the Spirit of Evil"  (March 5, 2006)

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Last Wednesday we began Lent and today we celebrate the first Sunday of this liturgical time, which stimulates Christians to commit themselves to a journey of preparation for Easter. The Gospel reminds us today that, after being baptized in the Jordan River, Jesus -- moved by the Holy Spirit that rested on him, revealing that he was the Christ -- went for forty days into the Judean wilderness where he resisted the temptations of Satan (cf. Mark 1:12-13). Following their teacher and Lord, Christians also enter spiritually in the Lenten wilderness to face with him "the struggle against the spirit of evil."

The image of the wilderness is a very eloquent metaphor of the human condition. The book of Exodus narrates the experience of the people of Israel that, after having come out of Egypt, wandered in the Sinai desert during 40 years, before reaching the Promised Land.

During this long journey, the Jews experienced all the force and insistence of the tempter that led them to lose confidence in the Lord and to turn back; but, at the same time, thanks to the mediation of Moses, they learned to listen to the voice of the Lord, who was calling them to become his holy people.

Upon meditating this passage of the Bible, we understand that to fulfill our life in freedom it is necessary to surmount the test that freedom itself implies, that is, temptation. Only if liberated from falsehood and sin, can the human person, thanks to the obedience of faith that opens him to truth, find the full meaning of his existence and have peace, love and joy.

Precisely for this reason, Lent is a favorable time for a careful revision of life in recollection, prayer and penance. The spiritual exercises, which as is traditional, will take place from this afternoon until next Saturday here, in the Apostolic Palace, will help me and my collaborators of the Roman Curia enter with greater awareness in this characteristic Lenten climate.

Dear brothers and sisters, while I ask you that you support me with your prayers, I assure you of my prayer before the Lord so that, for all Christians, Lent will be an occasion of conversion and of a more courageous impulse to holiness. Let us invoke for this reason the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary.

[After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father addressed this greeting to pilgrims:]

Next Saturday, March 11, at 5 p.m. in the Paul VI Auditorium, a Marian vigil will be held, organized by university students of Rome. Also participating, thanks to radio and television connections, will be students of other European countries and Africa. It will be a propitious occasion to pray to the Holy Virgin to open new paths of cooperation between the peoples of Europe and Africa.
Dear young people, I hope you will participate in great numbers!

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Living Lent Well
As "One Who Has Found in Jesus the Meaning of Life"  (February 26, 2006)

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

The Gospel of Mark, theme of the Sunday celebrations of this liturgical year, presents a catechumenal itinerary, which leads the disciple to recognize Jesus as Son of God.

By a fortunate coincidence, today's passage touches on the topic of fasting: As you know, next Wednesday the Lenten season will begin with the rite of ashes and penitential fasting. For this reason, the Gospel is particularly appropriate.

It recounts how while Jesus was seated at table in the publican Levi's house, the Pharisees and followers of John the Baptist asked him why his disciples did not fast as they did. Jesus answered that the wedding guests cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them; they will fast when the bridegroom is taken from them (cf. Mark 2:18-20).

With these words, Christ reveals his identity of Messiah, Israel's bridegroom, who came for the betrothal with his people. Those who recognize and welcome him are celebrating. However, he will have to be rejected and killed precisely by his own: At that moment, during his Passion and death, the hour of mourning and fasting will come.

As I mentioned, the Gospel episode anticipates the meaning of Lent. As a whole, it constitutes a great memorial of the Lord's passion, in preparation for the Easter resurrection. During this period the 'Alleluia' is not sung and we are invited to practice appropriate forms of penitential denial.

The Lenten season must not be faced with an "old" spirit, as if it were a heavy and tedious obligation, but with the new spirit of the one who has found in Jesus and his paschal mystery the meaning of life, and now feels that everything must make reference to him. This was the attitude of the Apostle Paul, who affirmed that he left everything behind to be able to know Christ "and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead" (Philippians 3:10-11).

May our guide and teacher in our Lenten journey be Mary Most Holy, who, when Jesus went with determination to Jerusalem to suffer the passion, followed him with total faith. As a "new amphora" she received the "new wine" prepared by the Son for the messianic betrothal (cf. Mark 2:22). And, in this way, she was the first to receive under the Cross that grace, poured out by the pierced heart of the son, incarnation of the love of God for humanity, that she herself, had requested with a mother's instinct for the bride and groom of Cana (cf. "Deus Caritas Est," Nos. 13-15).

[After praying the Angelus, the Pope made this appeal:]
News continues to arrive these days of tragic violence in Iraq, with attacks in the mosques themselves. These are actions that sow mourning, fuel hatred, and gravely hinder the already difficult work of the country's reconstruction.

In Nigeria, during several days confrontations have taken place between Christians and Muslims, with many victims and destruction of churches and mosques. While expressing my firm condemnation for the violation of places of worship, I commend to the Lord all the deceased and those who mourn for them.

I invite all, moreover, to more intense prayer and penance, in the holy season of Lent, so that the Lord will remove from these beloved nations, and from many other parts of the earth, the threat of such conflicts!

The fruit of faith in God is not devastating antagonisms, but the spirit of fraternity and collaboration in favor of the common good. God, Creator and Father of all, will call to an even more severe account all those who shed their brother's blood in his name. May all, through the intercession of the Holy Virgin, again encounter him, who is authentic peace!

[Translation by ZENIT]

[The Holy Father then greeted pilgrims in six languages. In English, he said:]

I offer a warm welcome to all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors. This Wednesday the Church begins her annual Lenten pilgrimage of prayer and penance, in preparation for the celebration of the paschal mystery of Christ's passion, death and resurrection.

May this holy season be a time of profound spiritual renewal for you and your families. Upon all of you I cordially invoke the Lord's blessings of joy and peace.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Cures of Christ
"What Paralyzes Integral Development of Humanity?" (February 19, 2006)

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

These Sundays the liturgy presents in the Gospel the account of several healings wrought by Christ. Last Sunday, the leper; today is the turn of the paralytic whom four people took on a pallet to Jesus. Seeing their faith, he said to the paralytic: "My son, your sins are forgiven" (Mark 2:5).

Acting thus, he showed that above all he wants to heal the spirit. The paralytic is [an] image of all human beings whom sin prevents from moving freely, from walking on the path of goodness, to give the best of themselves. In fact, evil, nestling in the spirit, binds man with the cords of deceit, anger, envy and other sins and, little by little, paralyzes him.

That is why Jesus, arousing scandal in the scribes present, says first: "Your sins are forgiven," and only afterward, to show the authority that has been conferred on him by God to forgive sins, adds: "Rise, take up your pallet and walk" (Mark 2:11) and heals him completely. The message is clear: Man, paralyzed by sin, needs the mercy of God that Christ has come to give him so that, healed in his heart, the whole of his life can again flourish.

Also today humanity bears the signs of sin, which prevents it from progressing quickly in those values of fraternity, justice and peace which it has also proposed itself in solemn declarations. Why? What blocks its way? What paralyzes this integral development?

We know well that, in the historical plane, the causes are manifold and the problem is complex. But the Word of God invites us to have a look of faith and to have confidence, as those people who carried the paralytic, whom only Jesus can really cure. The basic choice of my predecessors, especially of our beloved John Paul II, was to lead the men of our time to Christ the Redeemer so that, through the intercession of Mary Immaculate, he could heal them.

I have also wanted to proceed on this path. In a particular way, with the first encyclical, "Deus Caritas Est," I wished to indicate, to believers and to the whole world, God as source of authentic love. Only the love of God can renew man's heart, and only if the heart of paralyzed humanity is healed can it get up and walk. The love of God is the true force that renews the world.

Together, let us invoke the intercession of the Virgin Mary, so that all men will be open to the merciful love of God, and thus the human family might be profoundly healed from the evils afflicting

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Christ's Curing
"'The Hand' of God Stretched Out to Humanity"  (February 12, 2006)

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Yesterday, Feb. 11, feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, we observed the World Day of the Sick, which this year had its principal celebrations in Adelaide, Australia, including an international congress on the ever urgent subject of mental health. Illness is a typical feature of the human condition, to the point that it can become its realistic metaphor, as St. Augustine well expresses it in one of his prayers: "Have mercy on me, Lord! Look, I do not hide my wounds from you. You are the doctor, I am the patient; you are merciful, I miserable" ("Confessions," X, 39).

Christ is the true "doctor" of humanity, whom the heavenly Father has sent to the world to cure man, marked in body and spirit by sin and its consequences. Precisely in these Sundays, Mark's Gospel presents Jesus to us who, at the beginning of his public ministry, is completely dedicated to preaching and curing of the sick in the villages of Galilee.

The innumerable miraculous signs he effects with the sick confirm the "good news" of the Kingdom of God. Today's Gospel recounts the cure of a leper and expresses with great effectiveness the intensity of the relationship between God and man, summarized in a wonderful dialogue: "If you will, you can make me clean," says the leper. "I will; be clean," replies Jesus, touching him with his hand and freeing him from leprosy (Mark 1:40-42).

In this passage we see concentrated the whole history of salvation: This gesture of Jesus, who stretches out his hand and touches the sore-ridden body of the person who invokes him, manifests perfectly God's will to cure his fallen creature, restoring life to him "in abundance" (John 10:10), full, happy, eternal life. Christ is "the hand" of God stretched out to humanity so that it can be extricated from the shifting sands of sickness and death, to rise again by leaning on the firm rock of divine love (cf. Psalm 39:2-3).

I would like today to entrust to Mary, "Health of the Sick," especially those in all parts of the world, who not only suffer from lack of health, but also from loneliness, abject poverty and marginalization. I am also thinking in particular of all those who in hospitals or other centers take care of the sick and are dedicated to their cure. May the Holy Virgin help each one to find consolation in body and spirit, thanks to adequate health care and fraternal charity, which becomes concrete care in solidarity.

[After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father addressed this greeting to pilgrims:]

Two days ago the 20th edition opened of the Winter Olympic Games. I address by cordial greetings to the organizers, to officials of the International Olympics Committee and to athletes who have come from all parts of the world. I hope this beautiful sports competition will be characterized by the Olympic values of loyalty, joy and fraternity, thus offering a contribution to peace among peoples.

This Feb. 12 the 75th anniversary is being celebrated of the inauguration of Vatican Radio and of the first radio-message to the world of Pope Pius XI, who asked scientist Guglielmo Marconi to build the Vatican's radiophonic station. With radio, and later with television, the message of the Gospel and the word of Popes have reached all peoples more rapidly and easily.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Defending and Promoting Life
"A Primary Value That Must Be Acknowledged"  (February 5, 2006)

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Today in Italy Pro-Life Day is being observed, which constitutes a precious occasion of prayer and reflection on the topics of the defense and promotion of human life, especially when it is found in conditions of difficulty. Present in St. Peter's Square are numerous lay faithful who work in this field, some committed in the Pro-Life Movement.

I address my cordial greetings to them, in particular to Cardinal Camillo Ruini, who is accompanying them, and I again express my appreciation for the work they do so that life will always be welcomed as gift and supported with love.

While I invite you to meditate on the message of the Italian bishops, which has as its topic "Respect of Life," I remember our beloved Pope John Paul II, who paid constant attention to these problems.

In particular, I would like to recall the encyclical "Evangelium Vitae," which he published in 1995, and which represents an authentic cornerstone in the Church's teaching on such a current, decisive question.

In framing the moral aspects in a broad spiritual and cultural context, my venerated predecessor confirmed on several occasions that human life is a primary value that must be acknowledged, and that the Gospel calls for it to always be respected.

In the light of my recent encyclical on Christian love, I would like to emphasize the importance of the "service of charity" in supporting the promotion of human life. In this connection, even before undertaking operative initiatives, it is essential to promote an appropriate "attitude to the other": The culture of life is based, in fact, on attention to others, without exclusions or discriminations.

"All" human life, as such, is worthy of and calls for always being defended and promoted. We know well that this truth runs the risk of being contradicted often by the widespread hedonism in the so-called welfare societies: Life is exalted while it is enjoyable, but there is a tendency to stop respecting it when it is sick or experiences some kind of disability.

Beginning, on the contrary, from profound love for every person, it is possible to apply effective forms of service to life: both the nascent as well as that marked by marginalization or suffering, especially in its terminal phase.

The Virgin Mary received with perfect love the word of life, Jesus Christ, who came into the world so that men "may have life, and have it abundantly" (John 10:10). We commend to her women who are expecting a child, families, health agents and volunteers committed in different ways in the service of life.
We pray, in particular, for people who are in situations of great difficulty.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Witnesses of Love
"The Whole History of the Church Is a History of Holiness"  (January 29, 2006)

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

In the encyclical published last Wednesday, reaffirming the primacy of charity in the life of the Christian and the Church, I wished to recall that the privileged witnesses of this primacy are the saints, who made of their lives, with a thousand notes, a hymn to God-Love.

The liturgy makes us celebrate it every day of the year. I think, for example, of those we are commemorating in these days: the Apostle Paul, with the disciples Timothy and Titus, St. Angela Merici, St. Thomas Aquinas St. John Bosco. They are saints who are very different from one another: The former belong to the beginning of the Church; they are the missionaries of the first evangelization.

During the Middle Ages, Thomas Aquinas is the model of the Catholic theologian who sees in Christ the supreme synthesis of truth and love. During the Renaissance, Angela Merici suggested a path of holiness as well for those living in a secular environment. In modern times, Don Bosco, inflamed by the charity of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, looked after the most underprivileged boys and became a father and teacher to them.

Indeed the whole history of the Church is a history of holiness, animated by the one Love that has its source in God. In fact, only supernatural charity, which always flows anew from the heart of Christ, can explain the prodigious flowering throughout the centuries of orders, masculine and feminine religious institutes and other forms of consecrated life. Among the saints most known for their charity, I mentioned in the encyclical John of God, Camillus of Lelis, Vincent de Paul, Louise de Marillac, Joseph Cottolengo, Luis Orione and Teresa of Calcutta (cf. No. 40).

These men and women, whom the spirit of Christ molded, making them models of evangelical commitment, lead us to consider the importance of a consecrated life as _expression and school of charity. The Second Vatican Council emphasized that the imitation of Christ in chastity, poverty and obedience is totally oriented to attaining perfect charity (cf. "Perfectae Caritatis," No. 1). To highlight the importance and value of consecrated life, the Church will celebrate next Feb. 2, feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple, the Day of Consecrated Life. In the afternoon, as Pope John Paul II liked to do, I will preside at the holy Mass in the Vatican basilica, to which consecrated men and women who live in Rome are especially invited.

Together we will thank God for the gift of consecrated life and pray so that it will continue to be an eloquent sign of his merciful love in the world.

We now turn to Mary Most Holy, mirror of charity: With her maternal help, may she help Christians, and the consecrated in particular, to walk rapidly and joyfully on the path of holiness.
[After praying the Angelus the Pope added:]

Today the World Day of Leprosy is being observed, begun more than 50 years ago by Raoul Follereau, and promoted by the associations inspired by its humanitarian work. I address a special greeting to all those suffering from this illness, and I encourage missionaries, health agents, and volunteers committed on this front of service to man.

Leprosy is a symptom of a more serious and widespread ill, abject poverty. For this reason, as my predecessors did, I renew my appeal to leaders of nations to make every effort to overcome together the serious imbalances that still penalize the greater part of humanity.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
"We Must Not Doubt That One Day We Will Be 'One'"  (January 22, 2006)

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

This Sunday is celebrated in the midst of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which takes place every year from Jan. 18-25. It is an initiative, born at the beginning of the past century, which has undergone a positive development, increasingly becoming an ecumenical point of reference, in which Christians of the various confessions worldwide pray and reflect on the same biblical text.

The passage chosen this year is taken from chapter 18 of Matthew's Gospel, which refers to some of the teachings of Jesus that affect the community of disciples. Among other things, it affirms: "If two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them" (Matthew 18:19-20).

These words of the Lord Jesus infuse much confidence and hope! In particular, they invite Christians to ask God together for that full unity among them, for which Christ himself, with heartfelt insistence, prayed to the Father during the Last Supper (cf. John 17:11,21,23). We understand, therefore, the reason why it is so important that we, Christians, invoke the gift of unity with persevering constancy. If we do so with faith, we can be sure that our request will be heard. We do not know when or how, as it is not for us to know, but we must not doubt that one day we will be "one," as Jesus and the Father are united in the Holy Spirit.

The prayer for unity is the soul of the ecumenical movement, which, thanks be to God, advances throughout the world. Of course difficulties and trials are not lacking, but these also have their spiritual usefulness, as they drive us to have patience and perseverance and to grow in fraternal charity. God is love and only if we are converted to him and accept his Word will we all be united in the one Mystical Body of Christ.

The _expression, "God is love," in Latin "Deus Caritas Est," is the title of my first encyclical, which will be published next Wednesday, Jan. 25, feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. I am happy it coincides with the conclusion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. On that day, I will go to St. Paul's Basilica to preside at Vespers, in which representatives of other churches and ecclesial communities will take part. May the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, intercede for us.

[After praying the Angelus, the Pope greeted pilgrims in six languages. In Italian he said:]

Five hundred years ago, on Jan. 22, 1506, Pope Julius II welcomed and blessed the first contingent of Swiss Guards who came to Rome to ensure the defense of his person and of the Apostolic Palace. Thus the Papal Swiss Guard was born. On recalling that historical event, I joyfully greet all those who make up this distinguished corps to which, as a sign of appreciation and recognition, I impart my heartfelt special apostolic blessing.

[Benedict XVI added in English:]

I greet all the English-speaking visitors present at today's Angelus. During this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, let us ask the Lord to grant that all his followers may be one, so that the world may believe (cf. John 17:20-21). May all Christians intensify their efforts to be builders of unity in truth and love!

[Speaking again in Italian, the Holy Father said:]

Among the many concerns for the international situation, my thoughts go today again to Africa and, in particular, to Ivory Coast where grave tensions persist among the country's different social and political components. I invite all to continue with the constructive dialogue to attain reconciliation and peace. I entrust these intentions to the intercession of the Holy Virgin, so loved by the Ivorian people.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Beauty of Liturgical Ordinary Time
"For the Believer, It Is an Incessant Search and New Discovery"  (January 15, 2006)

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Last Sunday, in which we celebrated the Baptism of the Lord, the Ordinary Time of the liturgical year began. The beauty of this time lies in the fact that it invites us to live our ordinary life as a way of holiness, that is, of faith and friendship with Jesus, continually discovered and rediscovered as teacher and lord, way, truth and life of man.

This is what John's Gospel suggests to us in today's liturgy, on presenting to us the first meeting between Jesus and of some of those who became his apostles. They were disciples of John the Baptist, and he in fact brought them to Jesus when, after the baptism in the Jordan, he presented him as the "Lamb of God" (John 1:36).

Two of his disciples then followed the Messiah, who asked them: "What do you seek?" The two asked him: "Rabbi, where are you staying?" And Jesus answered: "Come and see," that is, he invited them to follow him and to spend some time with him.

They were so impressed in the few hours they spent with Jesus, that immediately one of them, Andrew, went to see his brother Simon to tell him: "We have found the Messiah." We are before two particularly significant words: "seek" and "find."

We can extract these two verbs from today's evangelical passage and draw a fundamental guideline for the new year, a time in which we want to renew our spiritual journey with Jesus, with the joy of seeking and finding him incessantly. The most authentic joy, in fact, is in the relationship with him, having found, followed, known and loved him thanks to a continuous tension of the mind and heart.

To be a disciple of Christ: This is enough for the Christian. Friendship with the Master assures the soul profound peace and serenity, even in dark moments and the most difficult trials. When faith goes through dark nights, when one no longer "hears" or "sees" God's presence, friendship with Jesus guarantees that, in reality, there is nothing that can separate us from his love (cf. Romans 8:39).

To seek and find Christ, inexhaustible source of truth and life, is what the word of God invites us take up again, at the beginning of a new year, this journey of faith that never ends. "Rabbi, where do you live?" We also ask Christ and he answers: "Come and see."

For the believer, it is an incessant search and new discovery as Christ is the same yesterday, today and always, but we, the world, history, are never the same, and he comes to us to give us his communion and his fullness of life. Let us ask the Virgin Mary to help us follow Jesus, experiencing every day the joy of penetrating ever more in his mystery.

[After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father added:]

The 2006 World Day of Migrants and Refugees is being observed today. Migrations constitute a very widespread phenomenon in the present-day world: they are a "sign of the times." This phenomenon appears in very varied ways: Migration can be voluntary or forced, legal or illegal, for reasons of work or study. If, on one hand, respect is affirmed for ethnic and cultural differences, on the other there are difficulties of acceptance and integration.

The Church encourages taking advantage of what is positive of this sign of the times, overcoming every form of discrimination, injustice and contempt of the human person, as every man is an image of God.

Today the Diocese of Rome is observing Catholic School Day. I greet the directors, teachers, parents and students gathered here and I encourage them to continue with their commitment in favor of an integral education, which endeavors to unite the quality of education with the Christian conception of man and society.

I desire a constant collaboration between the family and the school, as well as full recognition of the service offered by Catholic schools. Happy school year!

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Baptism
"We Are All Children of God in Christ Jesus"  (January 8, 2006)

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

On this Sunday following the solemnity of the Epiphany, we celebrate the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which ends the liturgical time of Christmas. Today we contemplate Jesus who, at the age of about 30, had John baptize him in the Jordan River. It was a baptism of penance, which used the symbol of water to express the purification of heart and life.

John, called the "Baptist," that is, he who baptizes, preached this baptism to Israel to prepare for the imminent coming of the Messiah; and he told all that after him another would come, greater than he, who would not baptize with water but with the Holy Spirit (cf. Mark 1:7-8). When Jesus was baptized in the Jordan, the Holy Spirit descended, rested on him with the corporal appearance of a dove, and John the Baptist recognized that he was the Christ, the "Lamb of God," who came to take away the sins of the world (cf. John 1:29).

Therefore, the baptism in the Jordan is also an "epiphany," a manifestation of the messianic identity of the Lord and of his redeeming work, which will culminate with another "baptism," that of his death and resurrection, through which the whole world will be purified in the fire of divine mercy (cf. Luke 12:49-50).

On this feast, Pope John Paul II usually administered the sacrament of baptism to some children. For the first time, this morning, I also had the joy of baptizing 10 newborns in the Sistine Chapel. I renew with affection my greeting to these little ones, to their families, as well as to the godfathers and godmothers.

The baptism of children expresses and realizes the mystery of the new birth to divine life in Christ: Believing parents take their children to the baptismal font, representation of the "womb" of the Church, from whose blessed waters the children of God are begotten. The gift received by the newborns calls for its being accepted by them, once they become adults, in a free and responsible way: This process of maturation will lead them later to receive the sacrament of confirmation, which in fact will confirm their baptism and will confer on them the "seal" of the Holy Spirit.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, may today's solemnity be a propitious opportunity for all Christians to discover the joy and beauty of their baptism that, lived with faith, is an ever present reality: It continually renews us in the image of the new man, in holiness of thoughts and deeds. Baptism, moreover, unites Christians of all creeds. Insofar as baptized, we are all children of God in Christ Jesus, our master and Lord. May the virgin Mary obtain for us the grace to understand ever more the value of our baptism and to witness to it with a worthy conduct of life.

[After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

I greet all the English-speaking visitors present at this Angelus. Today's celebration of the baptism of our Lord is a joyful reminder of the gift of our own baptism! Grateful for the new life given to us in this sacrament, may Christians always bear witness in the world to the values and truths of God's kingdom!

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Feast of Epiphany
"The Magi's Worship: Fulfillment of Scriptures"  (January 6, 2006)

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Today we celebrate the Epiphany of the Lord, namely, his manifestation to the Gentiles, represented by the Wise Men, mysterious people who came from the East, of which the Gospel according to Matthew speaks (Matthew 2:1-12). The Magi's worship of Jesus was recognized immediately as fulfillment of the prophetic Scriptures. "And nations shall come to your light," we read in the Book of Isaiah, "and kings to the brightness of your rising. …… They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord" (Isaiah 60:3,6). The light of Christ, which the cave of Bethlehem contained, today expands in all its universal splendor. My thoughts go particularly to the beloved brothers and sisters of the Oriental Churches who, following the Julian calendar, celebrate today holy Christmas: I address to them my most cordial greetings of peace and goodness in the Lord.

It seems spontaneous to recall today World Youth Day. Last August, it gathered in Cologne more than 1 million young people, who raised as their motto the Magi's words in reference to Jesus: "We Have Come to Worship Him" (Matthew 2:2). How many times we have heard and repeated them! Now we cannot hear them without returning spiritually to that memorable event that represented a genuine "epiphany." In fact, the pilgrimage of young people in its most profound dimension, can be seen as an itinerary guided by the light of a "star," by the light of faith. And today I want to extend to the whole Church the message that I then proposed to young people gathered on the banks of the Rhine River: "Open wide your hearts to God; let yourselves be astonished by Christ! Open the doors of your freedom to his merciful love! Show Christ your joys and sorrows, allowing him to illuminate your mind with his light and touch your hearts with his grace" (Address of Aug. 18, 2005).

I would like the entire Church to breathe, as in Cologne, the atmosphere of "epiphany," and of genuine missionary commitment aroused by the manifestation of Christ, light of the world, sent by God the Father to reconcile and unify humanity with the force of love. With this spirit, let us pray with fervor for full Christian unity so that their testimony will become the leaven of communion for the whole world. For this reason, let us invoke the intercession of Mary Most Holy, Mother of Christ and Mother of the Church.

[After praying the Angelus, the Pope said:]

On the feast of the Epiphany, Children's Missionary Day is celebrated, established by Pope Pius XII, of happy memory. With the theme "Children Help Children," thousands of initiatives of solidarity are supported by the Pontifical Society of Missionary Childhood, teaching children to grow with a spirit of openness to the world and of attention to the difficulties of their more underprivileged contemporaries. For my ministry, I also count on the prayer of children and on their active participation in the mission of the Church.

[The Holy Father then greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

I greet all the English-speaking visitors present at this Angelus. The Epiphany of Our Lord is the manifestation of Jesus as the divine Savior for people of all races and nations. May Christians everywhere deepen their personal communion with Christ, and bear constant witness to the Gospel of God's universal love!

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Mother of God, and World Day of Peace
"We Must Open Ourselves to the Truth"  (January 1, 2006)

Beforehand, the Pope presided at a Mass on the solemnity of Mary the Mother of God. It was also World Day of Peace.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

On this first day of the year, the Church contemplates the heavenly Mother of God, who holds in her arms the Child Jesus, source of all blessings. "Hail, holy Mother, you have given birth to the King who rules heaven and earth for ever and ever."

The announcement of the angels in Bethlehem echoed in Mary's maternal heart, filling it with wonder: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!" (Luke 2:14). And the Gospel adds that Mary "kept all these things, pondering them in her heart" (Luke 2:19). Like her, the Church also keeps and meditates on the Word of God, applying it with the different and changing situations she finds on her way.

Contemplating Christ, who came on earth to give us peace, we celebrate with the new year the World Day of Peace, which began by decision of Pope Paul VI thirty-eight years ago. In my first message on this occasion, I wanted to take up this year a constant theme in the magisterium of my venerated predecessors, beginning with the memorable encyclical of Blessed Pope John XXIII, "Pacem in Terris": the theme of truth as the foundation of authentic peace: "In Truth, Peace" is the motto that I present for the reflection of every person of good will.

When man allows himself to be illuminated by the splendor of truth, he becomes interiorly a courageous architect of peace. The liturgical time we are living gives us a great lesson: To welcome the gift of peace we must open ourselves to the truth that has been revealed in the person of Jesus, who taught us the "content" and at the same time the "method" of peace, that is, love.

God, in fact, who is perfect and subsistent love, revealed himself in Jesus, assuming our human condition. In this way he has also indicated to us the way of peace: dialogue, forgiveness, solidarity. This is the only way that leads to authentic peace.

Let us turn our gaze to Mary Most Holy, who today blesses the whole world showing her divine Son, the "Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:5). With trust, let us invoke her powerful intercession so that the human family, by opening itself to the evangelical message, might spend the year which begins today in fraternity and peace. With these sentiments I express to all of you here present, and to all those who are united to us through radio and television, my most cordial wishes for peace and goodness."

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Feast of St. Stephen, Dec. 26
"Professing the Christian Faith Demands the Heroism of the Martyrs"

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Yesterday, after solemnly celebrating Christ's Birth, today we are commemorating the birth in Heaven of St Stephen, the first martyr. A special bond links these two feasts and it is summed up well in the Ambrosian liturgy by this affirmation: "Yesterday, the Lord was born on earth, that Stephen might be born in Heaven" (At the breaking of the bread).

Just as Jesus on the Cross entrusted himself to the Father without reserve and pardoned those who killed him, at the moment of his death St. Stephen prayed: "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit"; and further: "Lord, do not hold this sin against them" (cf. Acts 7:59-60). Stephen was a genuine disciple of Jesus and imitated him perfectly. With Stephen began that long series of martyrs who sealed their faith by offering their lives, proclaiming with their heroic witness that God became man to open the Kingdom of Heaven to humankind.
In the atmosphere of Christmas joy, the reference to the martyr St. Stephen does not seem out of place. Indeed, the shadow of the Cross was already extending over the manger in Bethlehem.

It was foretold by the poverty of the stable in which the infant wailed, the prophecy of Simeon concerning the sign that would be opposed and the sword destined to pierce the heart of the Virgin, and Herod's persecution that would make necessary the flight to Egypt.

It should not come as a surprise that this Child, having grown to adulthood, would one day ask his disciples to follow him with total trust and faithfulness on the Way of the Cross.

Already at the dawn of the Church, many Christians, attracted by his example and sustained by his love, were to witness to their faith by pouring out their blood. The first martyrs would be followed by others down the centuries to our day.

How can we not recognize that professing the Christian faith demands the heroism of the Martyrs in our time too, in various parts of the world? Moreover, how can we not say that everywhere, even where there is no persecution, there is a high price to pay for consistently living the Gospel?

Contemplating the divine Child in Mary's arms and looking to the example of St Stephen, let us ask God for the grace to live our faith consistently, ever ready to answer those who ask us to account for the hope that is in us (cf. 1 Peter 3:15).

[After the Angelus:]

I greet all the English-speaking visitors present at today's Angelus and I wish you the joy and peace of Christmas! Through the intercession of the martyr St. Stephen, may Christians everywhere give clear witness to Christ, Savior of all humanity.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Figure of St. Joseph
His Silence Shows "Fullness of Faith" (December 18, 2005)

Dear brothers and sisters!

In these days of Advent, the liturgy invites us to contemplate in a special way the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph, who lived with a unique intensity the time of waiting and preparation for the birth of Jesus. Today I want to direct our gaze toward the figure of St. Joseph. In today's Gospel, St. Luke presents the Virgin Mary as "betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David," (Luke 1:27). Yet, the one who gives the most importance to the adoptive father of Jesus is the Evangelist Matthew, emphasizing that, thanks to him, the Child was legally introduced into the lineage of David, fulfilling the Scriptures, in which the Messiah was prophesized as the "son of David."

But the role of Joseph could not be reduced to this legal aspect. He is the model of a "righteous" man (Matthew 1:19), who in perfect harmony with his spouse welcomes the Son of God made man and watches over his human growth. Hence, in these days the precede Christmas, it is particularly fitting to establish a kind of spiritual dialogue with St. Joseph so that he helps us live to the fullest this mystery of faith.

The beloved Pope John Paul II, who was very devoted to St. Joseph, left us an admirable meditation dedicated to him in the apostolic exhortation "Redemptoris Custos" (Custodian of the Redeemer). Among the many aspects that he emphasized, he dedicates a particular importance to the silence of St. Joseph. His silence is permeated with the contemplation of the mystery of God, in an attitude of total availability to the divine will.

In other words, the silence of St. Joseph does not demonstrate an empty interior, but rather the fullness of faith that he carries in his heart, and that guides each of his thoughts and actions. A silence through which Joseph, together with Mary, guard the Word of God, known through sacred Scripture, comparing it continually to the events of the life of Jesus; a silence interwoven with constant prayer, a prayer of blessing of the Lord, of adoration of his holy will and of boundless confidence in his providence. It is not exaggerated to say that Jesus will learn -- on a human level -- precisely from "father" Joseph this intense interior life, which is the condition of authentic righteousness, the "interior righteousness," which one day he will teach to his disciples (cf. Matthew 5:20).
Let's allow ourselves to be "infected" by the silence of St. Joseph! It is so lacking in this world which is often too noisy, which is not favourable to recollection and listening to the voice of God. In this time of preparation for Christmas, let us cultivate interior recollection so as to receive and keep Jesus in our lives.

[After praying the Angelus, the Pope greeted the pilgrims in various languages. In English he said:]

On this Fourth Sunday of Advent I welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for the Angelus. As the celebration of Our Lord's birth draws near let us join with Mary in prayerful trust, ready to embrace God's will as a sign of hope for our world. During these last days of the holy season of Advent, I invoke upon you and your families God's abundant blessings of joy and peace.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On the Real Spirit of Christmas
"The Crib Can Help Us"  (December 11, 2005)

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

After celebrating the solemnity of Mary's Immaculate Conception, we enter these days in the evocative atmosphere of preparations for this coming holy Christmas. In the present-day consumer society, this period suffers, unfortunately, a sort of commercial "contamination," which runs the risk of altering its authentic spirit, characterized by recollection, sobriety, a joy that is not exterior but profound.

Therefore, it is providential that, as a door of entrance to Christmas, the feast exists of the Mother of Jesus, who better than any one, can guide us to know, love and worship the Son of God made man. Therefore, let us allow her to accompany us; may her sentiments encourage us to predispose ourselves with sincerity of heart and openness of spirit to recognize the Son of God in the Child of Bethlehem, come to earth for our redemption. Let us walk with her in prayer and accept the reiterated invitation addressed to us by the Advent liturgy to remain in expectation, in a vigilant and joyful expectation, as the Lord will not delay: He comes to deliver his people from sin.

Continuing a beautiful and consolidated tradition, in many families the crib begins to be prepared, as if to relive with Mary these days full of trepidation that preceded Jesus' birth. To set up the crib at home can be a simple but effective way of presenting the faith and transmitting it to one's children. The manger helps us to contemplate the mystery of God's love who revealed himself in the poverty and simplicity of the Bethlehem cave.

St. Francis of Assisi was so overwhelmed by the mystery of the Incarnation, that he wanted to present it again in Greccio with the living manger, thus becoming the initiator of a long popular tradition which still keeps its value for evangelization today.

The crib can help us, in fact, to understand the secret of the true Christmas, because it speaks of humility and the merciful goodness of Christ, who "though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor" (2 Corinthians 8:9). His poverty enriches those who embrace it and Christmas brings joy and peace to those who, as the shepherds, accept in Bethlehem the words of the angel: "And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger" (Luke 2:12). It continues to be a sign also for us, men and women of the 21st century. There is no other Christmas.

As our beloved John Paul II did, in a few moments I will also bless the images of the Child Jesus that the children of Rome will place in the crib in their homes. With this gesture, I want to invoke the Lord's help so that all Christian families will prepare to celebrate with faith the forthcoming Christmas feasts. May Mary help us to enter into the genuine spirit of Christmas.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Solemnity of Immaculate Conception
"In Mary Shines the Eternal Goodness of the Creator"   (December 8, 2005)

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Today we celebrate the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. It is a day of intense spiritual joy, in which we contemplate the Virgin Mary, "in lowliness/ Surpassing, as in height, above them all,/ Term by the eternal counsel pre-ordained," as the supreme poet Dante sings ("Paradise," XXXIII, 3). In her shines the eternal goodness of the Creator who, in his plan of salvation, chose her to be mother of his Only-begotten Son, and, in anticipation of his death, preserved her from all stain of sin (cf. Collect Prayer). Thus, in the Mother of Christ and our Mother, the vocation of the human being has been perfectly realized.

All people, the Apostle Paul reminds us, are called to be immaculate saints in the presence of God in love (cf. Ephesians 1:4). When contemplating the Virgin, how is it possible not to reawaken in us, her children, the aspiration to beauty, to goodness, to purity of heart? Her heavenly innocence attracts us to God, helping us to overcome the temptation of a mediocre life, made up of compromises with evil, to direct us decisively to the authentic good, which is the source of joy.

On this day, my thought goes back to December 8, 1965, when the Servant of God Paul VI solemnly closed the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council, the greatest ecclesial event of the 20th century, which Blessed John XXIII had begun three years earlier. Amid the exultation of numerous faithful in St. Peter's Square, Paul VI entrusted the application of the conciliar documents to the Virgin Mary, invoking her with the gentle title Mother of the Church. When presiding this morning at a solemn Eucharistic celebration in the Vatican basilica, I wished to thank God for the gift of the Second Vatican Council. Moreover, I wished to praise Mary Most Holy for having accompanied these 40 years of ecclesial life, rich in so many events.

In a special way, Mary has watched with maternal care over the pontificates of my venerated predecessors, each of whom guided Peter's bark on the route of authentic conciliar renewal, working incessantly for the faithful interpretation and execution of the Second Vatican Council.

Dear brothers and sisters, as the crowning of this day, dedicated entirely to the Holy Virgin, following an ancient tradition, during the afternoon I shall go to Piazza di Spagna, to the foot of the statue of the Immaculate Conception. I ask you to join me spiritually on this pilgrimage, which endeavors to be an act of filial devotion to Mary, to commend to her the beloved city of Rome, the Church and the whole of humanity.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Religious Freedom
"God Awaits a Response of Love" (December 4, 2005)

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

In this time of Advent, the ecclesial community is invited, while it prepares to celebrate the great mystery of the Incarnation, to rediscover and deepen its personal relationship with God. The Latin word "adventus" refers to the coming of Christ and highlights God's movement toward humanity, to which each one is called to respond with openness, expectation, search and adherence. And just as God is sovereignly free when he reveals and gives himself, as he is moved only by love, so the human person is free in giving him his assent, although it is something that is due: God awaits a response of love. In these days, the liturgy presents the Virgin Mary -- whom we will contemplate next Thursday, Dec. 8, in the mystery of the Immaculate Conception -- as the perfect model of this response.

The Virgin listens, ready at all times to fulfill the will of the Lord, and is an example for the believer who lives searching for God. To this topic, as well as to the relationship between truth and freedom, the Second Vatican Council dedicated a careful reflection. In particular, the conciliar Fathers approved, exactly 40 years ago, a declaration on the question of religious freedom, namely, the right of persons and communities to be able to seek the truth and profess their faith freely. The first words that make up the title of this document are "dignitatis humanae": Religious freedom stems from the singular dignity of man who, among all the creatures of this earth, is the only one able to establish a free and conscious relationship with his creator.

"It is in accordance with their dignity as persons -- that is, beings endowed with reason and free will and therefore privileged to bear personal responsibility -- that all men should be at once impelled by nature and also bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth," said the council.

Thus the Second Vatican Council reaffirms the traditional Catholic doctrine, according to which, man, in so far as spiritual creature, can know the truth and, therefore, has the duty and right to seek it (cf. Ibid., 3). With this foundation, the council insists extensively on religious freedom, which must be guaranteed both to individuals as well as to communities, in respect of the legitimate exigencies of public order. And this conciliar teaching, after 40 years, continues to be very timely. In fact, religious freedom is far from being ensured everywhere: In some cases it is denied for religious or ideological motives; in others, even though recognized in written form, it is hindered in practice by the political power or, in a more insidious way by the cultural prevalence of agnosticism and relativism.

Let us pray that every human being will be able to realize the religious vocation he bears inscribed in his being. May Mary help us to recognize in the face of the child of Bethlehem, conceived in her virginal womb, the divine Redeemer, who came into the world to reveal to us the authentic face of God.

[After praying the Angelus, the Pope greeted pilgrims in several languages. In French, he said:]

I greet the French-speaking pilgrims present this morning. Prepare the way of the Lord in your hearts, paying renewed attention to the most underprivileged.

In this week that begins, on Dec. 9, we will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Declaration on the Rights of Disabled Persons, proclaimed by the U.N. On this occasion, I invite each one to work increasingly in favor of disabled persons in society, in the working world, as well as in the Christian community, remembering that every human life is worthy of respect and must be protected from conception until its natural end. I assure my prayer and support to all who are dedicated to this immense task.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

At Start of Advent
A Time "Full of Hope and Spiritual Expectation"  (November 27, 2005)

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

With this Sunday Advent begins, an extremely evocative time from the religious point of view, as it is full of hope and spiritual expectation. Every time the Christian community prepares to remember the birth of the Redeemer, it feels a tremor of joy, which is communicated, in a certain measure, to the whole of society.

During Advent, the Christian population relives a double movement of the spirit. On one hand, it raises its gaze to the final goal of pilgrimage in history, which is the glorious return of the Lord Jesus; on the other, recalling his birth in Bethlehem with emotion, it bends down before the crib. The hope of Christians is directed to the future, but always remains well rooted in a past event. In the fullness of time, the Son of God was born of the Virgin Mary, "born of woman, born under the law," as St. Paul writes (Galatians 4:4).

The Gospel invites us today to remain vigilant while awaiting the last coming of Christ. "Watch!" says Jesus, "for you do not know when the master of the house will come" (Mark 13:35-37). The brief parable of the master who left on a trip and of the servants, in charge of taking his place, manifests the importance of being ready to receive the Lord, when he comes unexpectedly. The Christian community awaits his "manifestation" with longing, and the Apostle Paul, when writing to the Corinthians, exhorts them to have confidence in God's fidelity, and to live so that when he returns he will find them "guiltless" (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:7-9) in the day of the Lord. For this reason, very appropriately, at the beginning of Advent the liturgy puts on our lips the invocation of the Psalm: "Show us thy steadfast love, O Lord, and grant us thy salvation" (Psalm 84:8).

We could say that Advent is the time in which Christians must awaken in their hearts the hope of being able, with the help of God, to renew the world. In this connection, I would also like to recall today the Second Vatican Council's constitution "Gaudium et Spes" on the Church in the contemporary world: It is a text profoundly permeated with Christian hope.

I am referring in particular to Number 39, entitled: "New Earth and New Heaven." In it, one can read: "We are taught that God is preparing a new dwelling place and a new earth where justice will abide (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:2; 2 Peter 3:13). Nevertheless, "the expectation of a new earth must not weaken, but rather stimulate our concern for cultivating this one." We will rediscover the good fruits of our efforts, in fact, when Christ hands to his father his eternal and universal kingdom. May Mary most holy, virgin of Advent, enable us to live this time of grace watching and committed while awaiting the Lord.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Christ, King of the Universe
"The Kingdom Is a Gift Offered to People of All Times"  (November 20, 2005)

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Today, the last Sunday of the liturgical year, the solemnity of Christ, King of the Universe, is celebrated. From the announcement of his birth, the only-begotten Son of the Father, born of the Virgin Mary, is defined as "king," in the messianic sense, that is, heir to the throne of David, according to the promises of the prophets, over a kingdom that will have no end (cf. Luke 1:32-33).

Christ's royalty remained totally hidden until he was 30 years old, spent in an ordinary life in Nazareth. Later, during his public life, Jesus inaugurated the new kingdom, which "is not of this world" (John 18:36), and he realized it fully at the end with his death and resurrection. Upon appearing, risen, to the apostles, he said to them: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me" (Matthew 28:18). This power arises from love, which God has fully manifested in the sacrifice of his Son. The kingdom of Christ is a gift offered to people of all times so that whoever believes in the incarnate word "should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). For this reason, precisely in the last book of the Bible, Revelation, proclaims: "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end" (22:13).

"Christ, Alpha and Omega," thus is entitled the paragraph with which the first part concludes of the Second Vatican Council's pastoral constitution "Gaudium et Spes," promulgated 40 years ago. In this beautiful page, which takes up some of the words of the servant of God, Pope Paul VI, we read: "The Lord is the goal of human history, the focal point of the longings of history and of civilization, the center of the human race, the joy of every heart and the answer to all its yearnings."

And he adds: "Enlivened and united in his Spirit, we journey toward the consummation of human history, one which fully accords with the counsel of God's love: 'To re-establish all things in Christ, both those in the heavens and those on the earth' (Ephesians 11:10)" (No. 45).

In the light of Christ's centrality, "Gaudium et Spes" interprets the condition of contemporary man, his vocation and dignity, as well as the realms of his life: family, culture, economy, politics and international community. This is the mission of the Church yesterday, today and always: to proclaim and witness to Christ, so that man, every man, may fully realize his vocation.

May the Virgin Mary, associated by God in a singular way to the royalty of her Son, enable us to acknowledge him as lord of our lives to cooperate faithfully in the coming of his kingdom of love, justice and peace.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Vocation of the Laity
"Apostolate Depends Upon the Laity's Living Union With Christ"   (November 13, 2005)

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Proclaimed blessed this morning in St. Peter's Basilica were the Servants of God Charles de Foucauld, presbyter; Maria Pia Mastena, founder the Sisters of the Holy Face; and Maria Crocifissa Curcio, of the Carmelite Missionary Sisters of St. Théérèèse of the Child Jesus. They are added to the great number of blessed who, during John Paul II's pontificate, were proposed to the veneration of the ecclesial communities in which they lived, with the awareness of what the Second Vatican Council intensely stressed, namely, that those who are baptized are called to the perfection of Christian life: priests, religious and laity, each one according to his own charism and specific vocation.

In fact, the Council paid great attention to the role of the lay faithful, dedicating a whole chapter to them, the fourth, of the constitution "Lumen Gentium" on the Church to define their vocation and mission, rooted in baptism and confirmation, and oriented to "seek[ing] the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God" (No. 31).

On Nov. 18, 1965, the fathers approved a specific decree on the apostolate of the laity, "Apostolicam Actuositatem." Above all it stresses that "the success of the lay apostolate depends upon the laity's living union with Christ" (No. 4), that is, a solid spirituality, nourished by active participation in the liturgy and expressed in the style of the evangelical beatitudes.

Of great importance for the laity, moreover, are professional competence, a sense of family, a civic sense and social values. Although they are called individually to offer their personal testimony, especially precious wherever the freedom of the Church finds impediments, the Council stressed the importance of the organized apostolate, necessary to influence the general mentality, social conditions and institutions (cf. No. 18). In this connection, the fathers encouraged the various lay associations, insisting also on their formation in the apostolate. Our beloved Pope John Paul II wished to dedicate the 1987 synodal assembly to the topic of the vocation and mission of the laity, after which the apostolic exhortation "Christifideles Laici" was published.

In conclusion, I would like to recall that last Sunday in the Cathedral of Vicenza a mother of a family was beatified, Eurosia Fabris, known as "Mamma Rosa," model of Christian life in the lay state. Let us commend all the people of God to all those who are already in the heavenly homeland, to all our saints and, first of all, to Mary Most Holy and her husband, Joseph, so that in every baptized person the awareness will grow of being called to work with commitment and fruitfulness in the vineyard of the Lord.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On "Dei Verbum" and Reading Scripture
"The Church Always Draws From the Gospel"  (November 6, 2005)

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

On Nov. 18, 1965, the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council approved the dogmatic constitution on Revelation, "Dei Verbum," which is one of the pillars of the whole conciliar edifice. This document speaks of Revelation and its transmission, of the inspiration and interpretation of sacred Scripture and of its fundamental importance in the life of the Church.

Gathering the fruits of the preceding theological renewal, Vatican II puts Christ at the center, presenting him as "both mediator and the fullness of all revelation" (No. 2). In fact, the Lord Jesus, Word made flesh, dead and risen, carried to fulfillment the work of salvation, realized with gestures and words, and manifested fully the face and will of God, so that until his glorious return no other new public revelation must be awaited (cf. No. 3).

The apostles and their successors, the bishops, are the depositories of the message that Christ has entrusted to his Church so that it is fully transmitted to all generations. The sacred Scripture of the Old and New Testament and sacred Tradition contain this message, whose understanding grows in the Church under the assistance of the Holy Spirit. This same Tradition allows one to know the full canon of the sacred books and makes them correctly understood and effective, so that God, who spoke to the patriarchs and prophets, does not cease to speak to the Church and, through her, to the world (cf. No. 8).

The Church does not live of herself but of the Gospel and always draws from the Gospel the direction for her path. The conciliar constitution "Dei Verbum" gave an intense impulse to the appreciation of the Word of God, from which has derived a profound renewal of the life of the ecclesial community, above all in preaching, catechesis, theology, spirituality and ecumenical relations.

The Word of God, by the action of the Holy Spirit, guides believers to the fullness of truth (cf. John 16:13). Among the many fruits of this biblical spring, I want to mention the spread of the ancient practice of "lectio divina," or spiritual reading, of sacred Scripture. It consists of meditating fully on a biblical text, reading and rereading it, "ruminating it" in a certain sense, as the Fathers write, and squeezing all its "juice" so that it nourishes meditation and contemplation and, like sap, is able to irrigate concrete life. As a condition, "lectio divina" requires that the mind and heart be illuminated by the Holy Spirit, that is, by the inspirer himself of the Scriptures and to place oneself, therefore, in an attitude of "religious listening."

This is the typical attitude of Mary Most Holy exactly as shown in the emblematic image of the annunciation: The Virgin receives the heavenly messenger while meditating on the sacred Scriptures, represented generally with a book that May holds in her hands, or on her lap, or on a lectern. This is also the image of the Church offered by the Council itself, in the constitution "Dei Verbum" (No. 1).

Let us pray so that, like Mary, the Church is a docile handmaid of the Divine Word and proclaims it always with firm confidence so that "the whole world, hearing, will believe the proclamation of salvation; believing will hope, and hoping will love" (ibid.).

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Reflection on All Saints Day and All Souls Day
"A Family United by Profound Bonds of Spiritual Solidarity"   (November 2, 2005)

Today we celebrate the solemnity of All Saints, which allows us to experience the joy of being part of the great family of God's friends, or as St. Paul writes, "to share in the inheritance of the saints in light" (Colossians 1:12). The liturgy again presents the _expression full of surprise of the Apostle John: "See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are" (1 John 3:1).

Yes, to be saints means to realize fully what we already are insofar as raised in Christ Jesus to the dignity of adopted sons of God (cf. Ephesians 1:5; Romans 8:14-17). With the incarnation of the Son, his death and resurrection, God willed to reconcile with himself the whole of humanity and allow it to share in his own life. He who believes in Christ the Son of God is reborn "from above," is again as though begotten by the work of the Holy Spirit (cf. John 3:1-8). This mystery is acted in the sacrament of baptism, through which Mother Church gives birth to "saints."

The new life, received in baptism, is not subjected to corruption nor to the power of death. For one who lives in Christ, death is the passage of the earthly pilgrimage to the heavenly homeland, where the Father welcomes all his children, "from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues," as we read today in the Book of Revelation (7:9).

For this reason, it is very significant and appropriate that, after the feast of All Saints, the liturgy makes us celebrate tomorrow the commemoration of all the deceased faithful. The "communion of saints," which we profess in the creed, is a reality that is constituted here, but which will be fully manifested when we see God "as he is" (1 John 3:2).

It is the reality of a family united by profound bonds of spiritual solidarity, which unites the faithful deceased with those on pilgrimage in the world. A mysterious bond, but real, nourished by prayer and participation in the sacrament of the Eucharist. In the Mystical Body of Christ, the souls of the faithful meet, surmounting the barrier of death, pray for one another, [and] realize in charity a profound exchange of gifts. With this dimension of faith is also understood the practice of offering prayers for the repose of the deceased, in a special way the Eucharistic sacrifice, memorial of the Pasch of Christ, who has opened to believers the entrance to eternal life.

Uniting myself spiritually with those who are going to cemeteries to pray for their dead, I will also recollect myself in prayer tomorrow afternoon in the Vatican Grottoes before the tombs of the Popes, which crown the sepulcher of the Apostle Peter, and I will remember in particular our beloved John Paul II.

Dear friends, may the traditional visit of these days to the tombs of our dead be an opportunity to think without fear about the mystery of death and cultivate that incessant vigilance that prepares us to face it with serenity. May we be helped by the Virgin Mary, Queen of the Saints, whom we now address with filial confidence.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Closing of Synod and Year of the Eucharist
"Bread Broken for the Life of the World"  (October 23, 2005)

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 23, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's words before and after reciting the Angelus, at the end of the Mass that closed the Synod on the Eucharist and the Year of the Eucharist. He also he canonized five saints at the Mass.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

With today's Eucharistic celebration in St. Peter's Square, the assembly of the Synod of Bishops has closed and, at the same time, the Year of the Eucharist has ended, which our beloved Pope John Paul II opened in October 2004.

To the beloved and venerated synodal fathers, with whom I have been able to share three weeks of intense work in an atmosphere of fraternal communion, I renew my cordial gratitude. Their reflections, testimonies, experiences and propositions on the theme "The Eucharist, Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church" have been gathered together to be elaborated in a postsynodal exhortation that, taking into account the different realities of the world, will help to portray the face of the "Catholic" community, oriented to live united, in the plurality of cultures, the central mystery of the faith: the redeeming Incarnation, of which the Eucharist is the living presence.

Moreover, today, as the images exposed on the facade of the Vatican basilica show, I have had the joy of proclaiming five new saints that, at the end of the Eucharistic year, I want to point out as exemplary fruits of communion of life with Christ.

They are Jozef Bilczewski, bishop of Lviv of the Latins; Gaetano Catanoso, presbyter, founder of the Congregation of the Veronican Sisters of the Holy Face; Zygmunt Gorazdowski, Polish priest, founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph; Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga, Jesuit priest, Chilean; and the Capuchin religious Felice de Nicosia.

Each one of these disciples of Jesus was formed interiorly by his divine presence received, celebrated and adored in the Eucharist. Each one of them, moreover, lived with different hues a tender and filial devotion to Mary, mother of Christ. These new saints, whom we contemplate in heavenly glory, invite us to take recourse in every circumstance to the maternal protection of the virgin to make ever more progress on the path of evangelical perfection, supported by constant union with the Lord really present in the sacrament of the Eucharist.

In this way we will be able to live the vocation to which every Christian is called, namely, that of being "bread broken for the life of the world," as World Mission Sunday reminds us, which we observe today. Particularly significant is the link that exists between the mission of the Church and the Eucharist. In fact, the missionary and evangelizing action is the apostolic diffusion of love that is found as though concentrated in the Blessed Sacrament.

Whoever receives Christ in the reality of this Body and Blood cannot keep this gift to himself, but is impelled to share it in courageous witness of the Gospel, in service to brothers in difficulty, in forgiveness for offenses. For some, moreover, the Eucharist is seed of a specific call to leave everything to go and proclaim Christ to those who still do not know him. Let us commend to Mary Most Holy, Eucharistic woman, the spiritual fruits of the Synod and of the Year of the Eucharist. May she watch over the path of the Church and teach us to grow in communion with the Lord Jesus to be witnesses of his love, in which is the secret of joy.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Anniversary of John Paul II's Election
"A Pope Totally Consecrated to Jesus Through Mary"  (October 16, 2005)

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Twenty-seven years ago, on a day like today, the Lord called Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, archbishop of Krakow, to succeed John Paul I, deceased shortly after a month from his election. With John Paul II began one of the longest pontificates in the history of the Church, during which a Pope, "who came from a distant country,\" was recognized as a moral authority, including by many non-Christian and non-believing persons, as was demonstrated by the moving manifestations of affection because of his illness, and of profound sympathy after his death.

Before his tomb, in the Vatican grottoes, the pilgrimage of many faithful still continues without interruption, and this constitutes an eloquent sign of how our beloved John Paul II has entered people's hearts, above all because of his testimony of love and surrender in suffering. In him we have been able to admire the strength of faith and prayer, and the way in which he entrusted himself totally to Mary Most Holy, who always accompanied and protected him, especially in the most difficult and dramatic moments of his life.

We might describe John Paul II as a Pope totally consecrated to Jesus through Mary, as his motto clearly manifested: "Totus tuus." He was elected in the heart of the month of the rosary, and the rosary, which he often had between his hands, became one of the symbols of his pontificate, watched over by the Immaculate Virgin with maternal solicitude. Through radio and television, the faithful worldwide were able to join him on numerous occasions in this Marian prayer and, thanks to his example and teachings, rediscover its authentic meaning, contemplative and Christological (cf. apostolic letter "Rosarium Virginis Mariae," Nos. 9-17).

In fact, the rosary is not opposed to meditation of the Word of God and to liturgical prayer; moreover, it is a natural and ideal complement, in particular as preparation and thanksgiving for the Eucharistic celebration. We contemplate Christ encountered in the Gospel and in the sacraments in the different moments of his life, thanks to the joyful, luminous, sorrowful and glorious mysteries.

In the school of Mary we thus learn to conform ourselves to her divine Son and to proclaim him with our life itself. If the Eucharist is for the Christian the center of the day, the rosary contributes in a privileged way to prolong communion with Christ, and it educates us to live keeping our hearts' gaze fixed on him to radiate on everyone and everything his merciful love.

Contemplative and missionary: so was our beloved Pope John Paul II. He was this way thanks to his profound union with God, nourished daily by the Eucharist and prolonged moments of prayer.

At the time of the Angelus, so loved by him, it is a delight and a duty to remember him on this anniversary, renewing our thanksgiving to God for having given the Church and the world a successor so worthy of the Apostle Peter. May the Virgin Mary help us to make a treasure of his precious legacy.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Reflects on Synod, and a Foe of Nazism
"Faith Cannot Be Reduced to a Private Sentiment"  (October 9, 2005)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This morning the beatification took place in St. Peter's Basilica of Clemens August von Galen, bishop of Muenster, intrepid cardinal opponent of the Nazi regime. Ordained a priest in 1904, for a long time he carried out his ministry in a Berlin parish and, in 1933, became the bishop of Muenster. In the name of God, he denounced the neo-pagan ideology of nationalism, defending the freedom of the Church and of human rights, gravely violated, protecting the Jews and the weakest people, which the regime considered as debris that had to be eliminated.

Well-known are the three famous sermons that intrepid pastor delivered in 1941. Pope Pius XII made him cardinal in February 1946 and, he died a month later, surrounded by the veneration of the faithful, who recognized in him a model of Christian courage. This is precisely the message, always timely, of Blessed von Galen: Faith cannot be reduced to a private sentiment, which, perhaps, is hidden when it becomes something uncomfortable; rather, it implies coherence and witness in the public realm in favor of man, justice and truth. I express my profound congratulations to the diocesan community of Muenster and to the Church in Germany, invoking upon all, through the intercession of the new blessed, abundant graces of the Lord.

In these days, as you know, the assembly of the Synod of Bishops is taking place in the Vatican, to reflect in-depth on the topic of the Eucharist in the life and mission of the Church. I have presided at the meetings of the first week and also, in the two that will follow. The synod will become my principal engagement. I ask you to continue to pray for the synod so that it can give the expected fruits. In particular, in this month of October, in which all the ecclesial community is called to renew its own missionary commitment, I invite you to take up what John Paul II wrote in the fourth part of the apostolic letter "Mane Nobiscum Domine," in regard to the Eucharist as "principle and plan of mission" (Nos. 24-28): "The encounter with Christ, constantly intensified and deepened in the Eucharist, issues in the Church and in every Christian an urgent summons to testimony and evangelization" (No. 24). It is underlined by the dismissal greeting at the end of the Mass: "Ite, missa est," which reminds of the "mission," the task of those who have participated in the celebration to take to all the Good News received and to animate society with it.

Let us commend this intention to the intercession of Mary Most Holy and St. Daniele Comboni, who will be remembered tomorrow in the liturgy. May he, famous evangelizer and protector of the African continent, help the Church in our time to respond with faith and courage to the risen Lord's mandate, who invites her to proclaim the love of God to all peoples.

[At the end of the Angelus, the Pope greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

It was with deep sadness that I learned of yesterday's earthquake in South Asia, which caused such great damage and loss of life in Pakistan, India and Afghanistan. I commend to God's loving mercy all those who have died and I extend my deepest sympathy to the many thousands who are injured or bereaved. I pray that the international community will be swift and generous in its response to the disaster and I ask the Lord to grant courage and strength to those involved in the task of rescue work and reconstruction.

To the English-speaking visitors present here today, I offer a warm welcome. I ask your prayers for the work of the synod, and for the bishops from all over the world who have gathered here for this great event in the life of the Church. Be assured of my prayers for you, your families and those who are dear to you. May God bless you all.

[In Spanish, he said:]

I cordially greet the Spanish-speaking pilgrims, especially the delegation of Officers of the Military Navy of Ecuador and the faithful of Alzira, Aledo and Totana, Spain. At this time, I wish to remember the dear nations of Central America and Mexico, especially El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, which are suffering the effects of intense rains and floods, which have caused numerous victims, as well as substantial material damage. I pray to the Lord for the eternal rest of the deceased and express my spiritual closeness and affection to those who are deprived of their dwellings and work instruments. Moreover, I invite institutions and persons of good will to give effective help with a spirit of true fraternal solidarity.

[After speaking in French, German, Hungarian and Polish, the Pope spoke again in Italian]

I greet the Italian-speaking pilgrims, in particular the teachers of the Catholic religion from all over Italy, which during these days have had their first national meeting. Dear friends, your commitment in the school is a precious contribution to the formation of the new generations and to their growth in knowledge of the Catholic tradition and culture in awareness of their personal responsibilities and in the adherence to the values of civil coexistence. For this reason, I remember you in prayer and wish you good work.

With joy I welcome the "Children for Unity" of the Focolare Movement who today will participate here in Rome and in many cities worldwide in a sports relay for unity and peace. Dear boys and girls, remain always united to Christ and you will be builders of genuine fraternity.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On the Synod of the Eucharist
"The Motor of the Church's Evangelizing Action" (October 2, 2005)

Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before praying the midday Angelus and after celebrating the opening Mass of the Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

The celebration of the Eucharist just ended in St. Peter's Basilica, with which we opened the Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. The synodal fathers, from all parts of the world, with experts and other delegates, will live over the next three weeks, together with the Successor of Peter, a privileged time of prayer, reflecting on the theme: "The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church."

Why this theme? Isn't it an argument that is taken for granted -- a given? In fact, the Catholic doctrine on the Eucharist, defined authoritatively by the Council of Trent, must be received, lived and transmitted to the ecclesial community in an ever new way, appropriate to the times.

The Eucharist might also be considered as a "lens" with which to constantly examine the face and path of the Church, which Christ founded so that all men may know the love of God and find in him the fullness of life. For this reason, our beloved Pope John Paul II wished to dedicate to the Eucharist a whole year, which closes precisely with the end of the Synodal Assembly on Oct. 23, when World Mission Sunday will be observed.

This coincidence helps us to contemplate the Eucharistic mystery from the missionary perspective. The Eucharist, in fact, is the motor of the whole of the Church's evangelizing action, as the heart is in the human body. Christian communities -- without the Eucharistic celebration, where they are nourished at the dual table of the Word and body of Christ -- would lose their authentic nature: Only in the measure that they are "Eucharistic" can they transmit Christ to men, and not just ideas or values regardless of how noble or important they are.

The Eucharist has molded notable missionary apostles in all states of life: bishops, priests, religious, laity, and saints of active and contemplative life. Let us think, on one hand, of St. Francis Xavier, whose love of Christ took him to the Far East to proclaim the Gospel; and on the other hand, of St. Théérèèse of Lisieux, young Carmelite, whose feast in fact we celebrated yesterday. She lived in the cloister her ardent apostolic spirit, meriting being proclaimed, together with St. Francis Xavier, patron of the Church's missionary activity.

Let us invoke their intercession on the works of the synod, as well as that of the Guardian Angels, whom we remember today. With confidence, let us entrust ourselves above all to the Virgin Mary, whom we will venerate next Oct. 7 with the title Virgin of the Rosary. The month of October is dedicated to the holy rosary, singular contemplative prayer with which, led by the Lord's heavenly Mother, we fix our gaze on the Redeemer's face to be conformed in his mystery of joy, light, suffering and glory.
This ancient prayer is undergoing a providential new flowering, thanks in part to the example and teaching of our beloved Pope John Paul II. I invite you to reread his apostolic letter "Rosarium Virginis Mariae" and to put into practice his indications at the personal, family and community level. We entrust to Mary the works of the synod: May she lead the whole Church to an ever clearer awareness of her mission at the service of the redeemer, really present in the sacrament of the Eucharist.

[After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

I greet all the English-speaking visitors present, and in these days I ask you to pray for the synod fathers as they reflect on the Eucharist in the Church's life and mission. May Christ's presence in the Blessed Sacrament inspire you in fidelity to the Gospel and its saving truth. God bless you and your families!

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On the Eucharist and Love
"Source of the Spiritual Energy That Renews Our Life"  (September 25, 2005)

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

In this last Sunday that I spend in Castel Gandolfo, I wish to greet all the townspeople, renewing to all my heartfelt gratitude for the reception they have given me.

Continuing with the reflection on the Eucharistic mystery, heart of Christian life, today I would like to emphasize the bond between the Eucharist and charity. Love -- "agape" in Greek, "caritas" in Latin -- does not mean first of all a charitable act or sentiment, but the spiritual gift, the love of God that the Holy Spirit infuses in the human heart and that leads in turn to giving oneself to God himself and to one's neighbor.

The whole of Jesus earthly existence, from his conception until his death on the cross, was an act of love, to the point that we can summarize our faith in these words: "Jesus, caritas" -- Jesus, love. In the Last Supper, knowing that his hour had come, the divine Master gave his disciples the supreme example of love, washing their feet, and entrusted to them his precious legacy, the Eucharist, in which the whole paschal mystery is centered, as the venerated Pope John Paul II wrote in the encyclical "Ecclesia de Eucharistia." Take and eat, all of you, because this is my Body," "Take and drink all of you, because this is the cup of my Blood."

Jesus' words in the cenacle anticipated his death and manifested the consciousness with which he faced it, transforming it into a gift of himself, in the act of love that gives itself totally. In the Eucharist, the Lord gives himself to us with his body, with his soul and with his divinity, and we become one with him and among ourselves.

Our response to his love therefore must be concrete, and must be expressed in a genuine conversion to love, in forgiveness, in reciprocal acceptance and in attention for the needs of all. Many and varied are the forms of service that we can offer our neighbor in everyday life, if we pay a little attention. The Eucharist becomes in this way the source of the spiritual energy that renews our life every day and, in this way, renews the love of Christ to the world.

Exemplary witnesses of this love are the saints, who drew from the Eucharist the strength of an operative and often heroic charity. Now I am thinking in particular of St. Vincent de Paul, whose liturgical memorial we will celebrate day after tomorrow, who said: "What joy to serve the person of Jesus in his poor members!" and he did so with his life. I am also thinking of Blessed Mother Teresa, founder of the Missionaries of Charity, who, in the poorest of the poor, loved Jesus, received and contemplated every day in the consecrated Host.

Divine charity transformed the heart of the Virgin Mary before and more than that of all the saints. After the Annunciation, moved by the one she bore in her womb, the Mother of the Word incarnate went to visit and help her cousin Elizabeth. Let us pray so that every Christian, nourished by the Body and Blood of the Lord, will grow ever more in the love of God and in the generous service of his brothers.

[Speaking again in Italian, he said:]

I greet cordially the participants in the international meeting of the Benedictine Oblates [the pilgrims then interrupted the Pope with the singing of "Ubi Caritas"]. Thank you for this response to my address, thank you. Dear brothers and sisters, with the example and intercession of St. Benedict, to whom I have entrusted my pontificate, may you always be able to live in profound friendship with Christ and witness it to all.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Holiness and the Blessed Sacrament
"The Priests Who Are in Love With the Eucharist" (September 18, 2005)

Dear brothers and sisters:

As the Year of the Eucharist comes to an end, I would like to take up again a particularly important topic, one which was dear to the heart of my predecessor, Pope John Paul II: the relationship between holiness, the path and destination of the Church and of every Christian, and the Eucharist.

In particular, my words today are directed to priests in order to underline that in the Eucharist is precisely the secret to their sanctification. In virtue of holy orders, the priest receives the gift and the commitment to repeat sacramentally the gestures and words with which Jesus, in the Last Supper, instituted the memorial of his Pasch.

In his hands this great miracle of love is renewed, from which he is called to convert himself into witness and herald, every day more faithful ("Mane Nobiscum Domine," No. 30).

For this reason the priest must be, before all else, one who adores and contemplates the Eucharist, from the moment he celebrates the sacrament.

We know well that the validity of the sacrament does not depend on the holiness of the celebrant, but the effectiveness of the sacrament for him and for others would be greater in the measure that he lives with a profound faith, an ardent love and a fervent spirit of prayer.

During the year, the liturgy presents us as examples holy ministers of the altar, which from daily intimacy with Christ in the celebration and adoration of the Eucharist, have found the strength to imitate him.

A few days ago we celebrated the feast of St. John Chrysostom, patriarch of Constantinople at the end of the fourth century. It was said that he had a "golden mouth" due to his extraordinary eloquence, but he was also called a "Eucharistic doctor" for the magnitude and profundity of his doctrine on the Blessed Sacrament.

The Divine Liturgy, which is more celebrated in Eastern Churches [and] carries his name and his motto -- "A man full of zeal is enough to transform an entire people" -- demonstrates the effectiveness of the action of Christ through his sacraments.

In our time, the figure of St. Pio of Pietrelcina stands out, whom we will remember next Friday. Celebrating the holy Mass, he relived with such fervor the mystery of Calvary and the faith and devotion of all. Even the stigmata that God gave to him were expressions of his intimate conformity with Jesus crucified.

Thinking of the priests who are in love with the Eucharist, it is not possible to forget St. John Mary Vianney, humble parish priest of Ars in the time of the French Revolution. With a holy life and pastoral zeal he managed to make the small town of Ars into a model Christian community animated by the Word of God and the sacraments.

We will direct ourselves now to Mary, praying in a special way for all priests of the world so that they take from this Year of the Eucharist the fruit of renewed love for the sacrament that they celebrate.

May they, through the intercession of the Virgin Mother of God, be able to always live and give testimony to the mystery that has been place in their hands for the salvation of the world.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On the Eucharist and the Cross  (September 11, 2005)
"Each Mass Actualizes Christ's Redeeming Sacrifice"

Next Wednesday, Sept. 14, we celebrate the liturgical feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. In the year dedicated to the Eucharist, this celebration has a particular significance: It invites us to meditate on the profound and indissoluble bond that unites the Eucharistic celebration with the mystery of the cross. Each holy Mass, in fact, actualizes Christ's redeeming sacrifice. To Golgotha and to the "hour" of the death on the cross -- wrote our beloved John Paul II in the encyclical "Ecclesia de Eucharistia," returns "[e]very priest who celebrates Holy Mass, together with the Christian community which takes part in it" (No. 4).

The Eucharist is therefore the memorial of the whole paschal mystery: passion, death, descent into hell, resurrection and ascension to heaven, and the cross is the tangible manifestation of the infinite act of love with which the Son of God has saved man and the world from sin and death. Because of this the sign of the cross is the fundamental gesture of the Christian's prayer. To make the sign of the cross is to pronounce a visible and public yes to him who died for us and who is risen, to the God who in the humility and weakness of his love is omnipotent, stronger than all the power and intelligence of the world.

After the consecration, the assembly of faithful, conscious of being in the real presence of the crucified and risen Christ, acclaims thus: "We proclaim your death, Lord Jesus, until you come in glory." With the eyes of faith the community acknowledges the living Jesus with the signs of his passion and, together with Thomas, full of wonder, can repeat: "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28). Like the cross, the Eucharist is mystery of death and glory, which is not a passing incident, but the passage through which Christ entered into his glory (see Luke 24:26) and reconciled the whole of humanity, overcoming all enmity. Because of this the liturgy invites us to pray with confident hope: "Mane nobiscum Domine!" Stay with us, Lord, who by your holy cross have redeemed the world!

Mary, present on Calvary by the cross, is equally present with the Church and as Mother of the Church, in each of our Eucharistic celebrations (see "Ecclesia de Eucharistia," No. 57). Because of this, no one better than she can teach us to understand and live with faith the holy Mass, uniting us to Christ's redeeming sacrifice. When we receive holy Communion we also, as Mary and united to her, embrace the wood, which Jesus with his love has transformed into instrument of salvation, and pronounce our "Amen," our "yes" to crucified and risen Love.

[After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father said:]

Next Wednesday will begin at the United Nations in New York the summit of heads of state and government which will address important topics concerning world peace, respect for human rights, the promotion of development and the reinforcement of the United Nations. The Holy See, as usual, was also invited, and Cardinal Angelo Sodano, secretary of state, will represent me.

My fervent hope is that the political leaders gathered there will find suitable solutions to achieve the great objectives fixed beforehand, in a spirit of concord and generous solidarity. In particular, I wish them success in implementing effective concrete measures to respond to the most urgent problems posed by extreme poverty, sickness and famine, which afflict so many peoples.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On the Final Phase of Year of the Eucharist  (September 4, 2005)
"Central Character of the Sacrament of the Real Presence"

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

The Year of the Eucharist is now approaching its final phase. It will close this coming month of October, with the holding of the ordinary assembly of the Synod of Bishops in the Vatican, which will have as its theme: "The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church."

This year especially dedicated to the Eucharistic mystery was called by Pope John Paul II to reawaken in Christian people, faith, wonder and love for this great sacrament which is the authentic treasure of the Church. With how much devotion he celebrated Holy Mass, the center of each one of his days! How much time he spent in adoring and silent prayer before the tabernacle!

In the last months, his illness assimilated him ever more with the suffering Christ. It is moving to know that at the hour of his death he united the giving up of his life with that of Christ in the Mass that was being celebrated next to his bed. His earthly existence closed in the Easter octave, precisely in the heart of this Eucharistic Year, in which the passing of his great pontificate to mine took place. With joy, therefore, from the beginning of this service that the Lord has asked of me, I reaffirm the central character of the sacrament of the real presence of Christ in the life of the Church and of every Christian.

In view of the October synodal assembly, the bishops who will attend are studying the "working document" prepared for this occasion. I request, however, that the whole ecclesial community feel involved in this phase of immediate preparation, and that it participate with prayer and reflection, taking advantage of every occasion, event and meeting. Also in the recent World Youth Day there were many references to the mystery of the Eucharist. I remember, for example, the thought-provoking Saturday night vigil, on August 20, in Marienfeld, which had its culminating moment in Eucharistic adoration: a courageous choice, which made the glance and hearts of young people converge on Jesus, present in the Most Holy Sacrament. I remember, moreover, that during those memorable days, in some churches of Cologne, Bonn and Duesseldorf there was continuous adoration, day and night, with the attendance of many young people, which in this way were able to discover together the beauty of contemplative prayer.

I trust that, thanks to the commitment of pastors and faithful, participation in the Eucharist will be ever more assiduous and fervent in every community. Today, in particular, I would like to urge sanctifying with joy the "Lord's Day," Sunday, a sacred day for Christians. In this context, I am happy to recall the figure of St. Gregory the Great, whose liturgical memorial we celebrated yesterday. That great Pope made a contribution of historical importance to the promotion of the liturgy in its different aspects, in particular, to the appropriate celebration of the Eucharist. May his intercession, together with that of Mary Most Holy, help us to live in fullness every Sunday the joy of Easter and the encounter with the risen Lord.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Evangelization  (August 28, 2005)
"Wherever God Is Not in the First Place, Man's Dignity Is Endangered"

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

It was truly an extraordinary ecclesial experience lived last week in Cologne, on the occasion of World Youth Day, with the participation of a very great number of young people from all parts of the world, accompanied by many bishops, priests and men and women religious. It was a providential event of grace for the whole Church.

Speaking with bishops of Germany, shortly before returning to Italy, I said that young people have given their pastors, and in a certain way all believers, a message which is at the same time a request: "Help us to be disciples and witnesses of Christ. As the Magi, we came to find him and to worship him." Young people left Cologne for their cities and nations animated by a great hope, without however losing sight of the not few difficulties, obstacles and problems that in our time accompany the authentic search for Christ and faithful adherence to his Gospel.

Not only young people, but also communities and pastors themselves must be ever more aware of a fundamental fact of evangelization: Wherever God is not in the first place, wherever he is not acknowledged and worshipped as the Supreme Good, man's dignity is endangered. It is therefore urgent to lead the man of today to "discover" the true face of God, which has been revealed to us in Jesus Christ. Also humanity of our time, like the Magi, will be able to prostrate itself before him and worship him.

Speaking with the German bishops, I recalled that adoration is not "a luxury, but a priority." To seek Christ must be the incessant longing of believers, of youths and adults, of the faithful and their pastors. This search is encouraged, supported and guided. Faith is not simply the adherence to an ensemble of dogmas complete in itself, that would slake the thirst for God present in the human spirit. On the contrary, it projects for man a path in time toward a God ever new in his infinitude. The Christian is therefore at the same time one who seeks and one who finds. It is precisely this that makes the Church young, open to the future, rich in hope for the whole of humanity.

Saint Augustine, whom we remember today, has wonderful reflections on the invitation of Psalm 104 "Quaerite faciem eius simper" -- Seek his face continually. He notes that that invitation does not hold good just for this life but also for eternity. The discovery of "God's face" is never exhausted. The more we enter into the splendor of divine love, the more beautiful it is to go forward in the search, so that "amore crescente inquisitio crescat inventi" -- To the degree that love grows, so grows the search for him who is found" (Psalm 104:3; "Corpus Christianorum," Series Latina (CCL) 40, 1537).

This is the experience to which we also aspire from the depth of our hearts. May it be obtained for us by the intercession of the great bishop of Hippo; may it be obtained by the maternal help of Mary, star of evangelization, whom we now invoke with the Angelus prayer.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Example of Canaanite Woman  (14th August 2005)
"An Encouragement to Us Never to Lose Heart"

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On this 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time, the liturgy presents a rare example of faith to us: a Canaanite woman who asks Jesus to heal her daughter who was "terribly troubled by a demon." The Lord resisted her insistent entreaties and seemed impervious to them even when the disciples themselves interceded for her, as the Evangelist Matthew relates.

In the end, however, confronted by the perseverance and humility of this unknown woman, Jesus consented: "Woman, you have great faith! Your wish will come to pass" (cf. Matthew 15:21-28).

"Woman, you have great faith!" Jesus singles out this humble woman as an example of indomitable faith. Her insistence in imploring Christ's intervention is an encouragement to us never to lose heart and not to despair, even in the harshest trials of life. The Lord does not close his eyes to the needs of his children, and if he seems at times insensitive to their requests, it is only in order to test them and to temper their faith.

This is the witness of saints, this is especially the witness of martyrs, closely associated with the redeeming sacrifice of Christ. In recent days, we have commemorated some of them: the Pontiffs, Pontianus and Sixtus II, the priest Hippolytus, Lawrence the Deacon with his companions, killed in Rome at the dawn of Christianity.
We have also commemorated a martyr of our time, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Edith Stein, co-patroness of Europe, who died in a concentration camp; and on this very day the liturgy presents to us a martyr of charity who sealed his witness of love for Christ in the bunker of starvation at Auschwitz: St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe, who willingly sacrificed himself in place of a father with a family.

I invite every baptized person and especially the young people who will be taking part in World Youth Day to look at this shining example of Gospel heroism. I invoke upon them all their protection and in particular, that of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, who spent several years of her life at the Carmelite convent in Cologne.

May Mary, Queen of Martyrs, whom we will contemplate tomorrow in her glorious assumption into heaven, watch over each one.

[After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father said to the English-speaking pilgrims present:]

I greet all the English-speaking visitors present today. I hope that your visit to Castel Gandolfo and Rome will be a source of physical and spiritual renewal, so that you return home strengthened in faith and Christian love. I invite you to join me during these days in praying for the success of the coming World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany. May the Lord bless you and your families!

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

We have come to worship him (August 7, 2005)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Thousands of young people are about to leave or have already set out for Cologne for the 20th World Youth Day, whose theme, as you know, is: "We have come to worship him" (Matthew 2:2).

One might say that the whole Church has been spiritually mobilized to live this extraordinary event, looking to the Magi as unique models of people seeking Christ, before whom to kneel in adoration. But what does "worship" mean? Might it be an _expression of past times, meaningless to our contemporaries? No! A well-known prayer that many recite in the morning and the evening begins precisely with these words: "I adore you, my God, and I love you with all my heart. ..."

Every day, at sunrise and sunset, believers renew their "adoration" or acknowledgment of the presence of God, Creator and Lord of the Universe. This recognition is full of gratitude that wells up from the depths of their heart and floods their entire being, for it is only by adoring and loving God above all things that human beings can totally fulfill themselves.

The Magi adored the Child of Bethlehem, recognizing him as the promised Messiah, the Only-begotten Son of the Father in whom, as St. Paul says, "the fullness of the deity resides in bodily form" (Colossians 2:9). The disciples Peter, James and John, to whom Jesus revealed his divine glory -- as the feast of the Transfiguration celebrated yesterday reminds us -- predicting his definitive victory over death, experienced something similar on Mount Tabor.

Subsequently, with Easter, the crucified and Risen Christ was fully to manifest his divinity and offer to all men and women the gift of his redeeming love. Saints are those who accepted this gift and became true worshippers of the living God, loving him without reserve at every moment of their lives. With the forthcoming meeting in Cologne, the Church wants once again to present this holiness, the peak of love, to all the young people of the third millennium.

Who can accompany us better on this demanding journey of holiness than Mary? Who can teach us to adore Christ better than she? May she help especially the new generations to recognize the true face of God in Christ and to worship, love and serve him with total dedication.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On the coming World Youth Day (Castel Gandolfo. Sunday, 31 July 2005)

After the days I spent in the mountains in the Aosta Valley, I am glad to be with you today, dear people of Castel Gandolfo, who are always so hospitable to the Pope. I greet you all with affection, starting with the Bishop of Albano, the Parish Priests and the other Priests of Castel Gandolfo. I greet the Mayor, the Municipal Board and the other Authorities present, and extend my affectionate thoughts to the Director and Staff of the Pontifical Villas, as well as to the entire population of this delightful and peaceful little town.

I offer an especially warm greeting to the pilgrims from so many places who have come to pay me a visit. It is my first summer stay here in Castel Gandolfo: I thank you for your festive welcome last Thursday, which you are repeating today.

The 20th World Youth Day is approaching, and we are already on our way. This Day, as we know, will be held in Cologne, and, please God, I shall be taking part in it - even if I am not young, but my heart is young - from Thursday to Sunday, 18 to 21 August. In the upcoming days, groups of young men and women will be setting out for Germany from every corner of Europe and of the world, following the example of the Holy Magi, as the theme suggests: "We have come to worship him" (Mt 2: 2).

I would like to invite young believers from all over the world, also those who will be unable to take part in this extraordinary ecclesial event, to join forces in a common spiritual pilgrimage to the wellsprings of our faith. In accordance with a felicitous intuition of our beloved Pope John Paul II, World Youth Day is a privileged encounter with Christ, in the firm awareness that he alone offers human beings fullness of life, joy and love.

Every Christian is called to enter into profound communion with the Crucified and Risen Lord, to adore him in prayer, meditation and above all, in devout participation in the Eucharist, at least on Sunday, the little "weekly Easter". In this way one truly becomes his disciple, ready to proclaim and to witness at every moment to the Gospel's beauty and power of renewal.

May the Virgin Mother of the Redeemer, whose Assumption into Heaven we commemorate in the month of August, watch over all who are preparing to take part in World Youth Day. May she who always goes before us on the pilgrimage of faith, guide young people in a special way in their search for true good and authentic joy.

As you know, in these past days the Irish Republic Army (IRA) of Northern Ireland has announced that it has formally ordered the end of armed conflict in favour of the exclusive use of peaceful negotiations. This is wonderful news, which contrasts with the sorrowful events in many parts of the world that we are witnessing daily, and has rightly given rise to pleasure and hope in that Island and the entire International Community.

For my part, I am particularly glad to join in these sentiments. In addition, I encourage everyone, without exception, to continue to walk courageously on the path marked out and to take further steps that will make it possible to strengthen mutual trust, promote reconciliation and consolidate the negotiations for a just and lasting peace.

I do so as vigorously as my venerable Predecessor, John Paul II when, in Drogheda in September 1979, he implored people to desert the paths of violence and return to the ways of peace. Let us entrust our common prayer for this intention to the intercession of Mary Most Holy, to St Patrick and all the Saints of Ireland.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Europe's Christian Roots (July 24, 2005)
"Return to Yourself"  Les Combes, Italy.

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Tomorrow is the feast of the Apostle St. James, John's brother, whose relics are venerated in the famous shrine of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, destination of innumerable pilgrims from all over Europe. Yesterday we remembered St. Bridget of Sweden, patroness of Europe. Last July 11, St. Benedict was celebrated, another great patron of the "Old World." When contemplating these saints, one pauses spontaneously to reflect on the contribution that Christianity has offered and continues to offer to the making of Europe.

I would like to do so by recalling the pilgrimage that the Servant of God John Paul II made in 1982 to Santiago de Compostela where he carried out a solemn "European Act," in the course of which he pronounced these memorable words: "I, Bishop of Rome and pastor of the universal Church, from Santiago, send to you, age-old Europe, a cry full of love: Return to yourself. Be yourself. Discover your origins. Revive your roots. Revive those authentic values that made your history glorious and your presence beneficial among the other continents."

John Paul II then launched the project of a Europe conscious of its own spiritual unity, based on the foundation of Christian values. He returned to this them on the occasion of World Youth Day of 1989, which took place precisely in Santiago de Compostela. He expressed the desire of a Europe without borders, which does not disavow the Christian roots from which it sprang and does not renounce the authentic humanism of Christ's Gospel! How timely this appeal still is, in the light of the recent events of the European continent!

In less than a month, I will also go as a pilgrim to an historical European cathedral, that of Cologne, where young people have made an appointment for their 20th World Day. Let us pray that the new generations, drawing their vital sap from Christ, will be able to be in European society the leaven of a renewed humanism, in which faith and reason cooperate in fruitful dialogue in the promotion of man and the making of authentic peace. We pray for this to God, through the intercession of Mary Most Holy, who, as Mother and Queen, watches over the path of all nations.

[After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father added:]

These days of peace and rest have also been disturbed by the tragic news of the execrable terrorist attacks, which have caused death, destruction and suffering in several countries, such as Egypt, Turkey, Iraq and Great Britain. While entrusting to divine goodness the deceased, the wounded and their loved ones, victims of such gestures that offend God and man, we invoke the Almighty to stop the murderous hand of those who, moved by fanaticism and hatred, have committed them and to convert their hearts to thoughts of reconciliation and peace.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On the Value of Vacation  (July 17, 2005)
"Days in Which More Time Can Be Dedicated to Prayer"  LES COMBES, Italy.

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

I have been here for a few days, in the marvelous mountains of Val d'Aosta, where the memory is still alive of my beloved predecessor John Paul II, who for several years spent brief relaxing and invigorating stays here.

This summer pause is a truly providential gift of God, after the first months of the demanding pastoral service that Divine Providence has entrusted to me. My heartfelt gratitude goes to the bishop of Aosta, esteemed Monsignor Giuseppe Anfossi, and to all those who made it possible, as well as to those who with discretion and generous abnegation see to it that everything runs smoothly. Moreover, I am also grateful to the local population and to the tourists, for their cordial welcome.

In the world in which we live, it is almost a necessity to be able to regain one's strength of body and spirit, especially for those who live in the city, where the conditions of life, often feverish, leave little room for silence, reflection and relaxed contact with nature.

Holidays are, moreover, days in which more time can be dedicated to prayer, reading and meditation on the profound meaning of life, in the peaceful context of one's family and loved ones.

Vacation time offers the unique opportunity to pause before the thought-provoking spectacles of nature, a wonderful "book" within reach of everyone, adults and children. In contact with nature, a person rediscovers his correct dimension, rediscovers himself as a creature, small but at the same time unique, with a "capacity for God" because interiorly he is open to the Infinite. Driven by his heartfelt urgent search for meaning, he perceives in the surrounding world the mark of goodness and Divine Providence and opens almost naturally to praise and prayer.

Reciting the Angelus together in this pleasant Alpine locality, let us ask the Virgin Mary to teach us the secret of the silence that becomes praise, of recollection that disposes to meditation, of love of nature that blossoms in thanksgiving to God. We will thus be able to receive more easily in our hearts the light of Truth and practice it in freedom and love.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On St. Benedict of Norcia  (July 10, 2005)
"Prefer Nothing to the Love of Christ"

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Tomorrow the feast of St. Benedict of Norcia is celebrated, patron of Europe, a saint who is particularly dear to me, as can be intuited from my choice of his name.

Born in Norcia about 480, Benedict's first studies were in Rome but, disappointed with city life, he retired to Subiaco, where he stayed for about three years in a cave -- the famous "sacro speco" -- dedicating himself wholly to God.

In Subiaco, making use of the ruins of a cyclopean villa of the emperor Nero, he built some monasteries, together with his first disciples, giving life to a fraternal community founded on the primacy of the love of Christ, in which prayer and work were alternated harmoniously in praise of God.

Years later, he completed this project in Monte Cassino, and put it in writing in his Rule, the only work of his that has come down to us. Amid the ashes of the Roman Empire, Benedict, seeking first of all the kingdom of God, sowed, perhaps even without realizing it, the seed of a new civilization which would develop, integrating Christian values with classical heritage, on one hand, and the Germanic and Slav cultures on the other.

There is a particular aspect of his spirituality, which today I would particularly like to underline. Benedict did not found a monastic institution oriented primarily to the evangelization of barbarian peoples, as other great missionary monks of the time, but indicated to his followers that the fundamental, and even more, the sole objective of existence is the search for God: "Quaerere Deum."

He knew, however, that when the believer enters into a profound relationship with God he cannot be content with living in a mediocre way, with a minimalist ethic and superficial religiosity. In this light, one understands better the _expression that Benedict took from St. Cyprian and that is summarized in his Rule (IV, 21) -- the monks' program of life: "Nihil amori Christi praeponere." "Prefer nothing to the love of Christ."

Holiness consists in this valid proposal for every Christian that has become a true pastoral imperative in our time, in which one perceives the need to anchor life and history in solid spiritual references.

A Sublime and perfect model of sanctity is Mary Most Holy, who lived in constant and profound communion with Christ. Let us invoke her intercession, together with that of St. Benedict, so that the Lord will multiply also in our time men and women who, through an enlightened faith, witnessed in life, will be in this new millennium salt of the earth and light of the world.

[After the Angelus the Holy Father said:]

We all feel profound sorrow for the atrocious terrorist attacks in London last Thursday. Let us pray for the people who were killed, for those who were wounded and for their dear ones. But let us also pray for the attackers: That the Lord will touch their hearts. To all those who foment sentiments of hatred and to all those who carry out such repugnant terrorist attacks, I say: God loves life, which he has created, not death. Stop, In the name of God.

Tomorrow I will go to the Val d'Aosta, where I will spend a brief period of rest. I will be a guest in the house that many times received Pope John Paul II. I thank all those who will accompany me with their prayer, and to you I say with affection: "See you soon!"

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On the Compendium of the Catechism (July 3, 2005)
"Renewal of Catechesis and Evangelization"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 3, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today from the window of his study, before praying the midday Angelus with tens of thousands of tourists and pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

A few days ago I had the joy of presenting the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. For years the need was felt for a brief catechism, which would summarize in a simple but complete manner all the essential elements of the Catholic doctrine. Divine Providence so ordained that this project be realized on the same day that the cause of beatification was introduced of our beloved John Paul II, who gave it a determinant boost. While I thank the Lord for this, dear brothers and sisters, I would like to underline once again the importance of this useful and practical instrument for the proclamation of Christ and his Gospel of salvation.

In the Compendium, as a dialogue between teacher and disciple, is synthesized the broadest exposition of the Church's faith and of Catholic doctrine contained in the Catechism, published by my venerated predecessor in 1992. The Compendium takes up its four parts well connected among themselves, allowing one to understand the extraordinary unity of the mystery of God, his plan of salvation for the whole of humanity, the central character of Jesus, the only-begotten Son of God, made man in the womb of the Virgin Mary, who died and rose for us. Present and operating in his Church, in particular in the sacraments, Christ is the source of our faith, the model of every believer and the teacher of our prayer.

Dear brothers and sisters, at the beginning of the third millennium, how necessary it is that the whole Christian community proclaim, teach and witness integrally, unanimously and in agreement the truth of the Catholic faith, of the doctrine and of morality! May the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church contribute also to the desired renewal of catechesis and evangelization so that all Christians -- children, youths and adults, families and communities -- docile to the action of the Holy Spirit, may become catechists and evangelizers in all environments, helping others to encounter Christ. We ask this with confidence of the Virgin Mother of God, star of evangelization.

[After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father added:]

Next Wednesday, July 6, the G-8 meeting will open in Gleneagles, Scotland, that is, the summit of the heads of state and government of the world's most industrialized countries, which will have Africa, an often forgotten continent, among its priorities.

I wish for the total success of this important meeting, hoping that it will lead to sharing with solidarity the expenses of debt reduction, to implementing concrete measures to eradicate poverty and to promoting the genuine development of Africa.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

MAY PETRINE MINISTRY BE A SUPPORT ON PATH TO UNITY

 VATICAN CITY, JUN 29, 2005 (VIS) - Pope Benedict, in reflections made before reciting the Angelus today with the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square, many of whom had just attended the Mass where he bestowed palliums on 32 metropolitan archbishops, spoke of today's feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles, and of the Petrine ministry of the bishop of Rome.

   Telling Romans that he feels close to them on this feast of their patron saints, he said: "Divine Providence called me to be your pastor. I thank you for the affection with which you have welcomed me and I ask you to pray that Sts. Peter and Paul obtain for me the grace to faithfully fulfill the pastoral ministry entrusted to me. As bishop of Rome, the Pope performs a unique and indispensable service to the Universal Church: he is the perpetual and visible beginning and foundation of the unity of bishops and of all the faithful."

   Referring to the just-concluded Mass and imposition of the pallium, "the liturgical sign of the communion that links the See of Peter and his Successor to metropolitans and, through them, with all bishops in the world," the Holy Father noted the presence at today's ceremony of the delegation of the ecumenical patriarchate of Constantinople whom he cordially welcomed. "How can we not recall today," he said, "that the primacy of the Church that is in Rome and of her bishops is a primacy of service to Catholic communion. Starting with the double martyrdom of Peter and Paul, all Churches began to look to the one in Rome as a central reference point for doctrinal and pastoral unity."

   "May the Virgin Mary, concluded Benedict XVI, "obtain for us that the Petrine ministry of the Bishop of Rome is not seen as a stumbling block but as a support in the walk on the path of unity."

   Following the Angelus prayer and greetings to the faithful in various languages, Pope Benedict went to the Domus Sanctae Marthae in the Vatican for lunch with the delegation from the ecumenical patriarchate. They were joined by several other members of the Roman Curia.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Looking Ahead to Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul (June 26, 2005)
"Occasion to Underline the Unity of the Church"

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

We are preparing to celebrate with great solemnity the feast of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, who sealed with blood in Rome the proclamation of the Gospel. At 9:30 a.m. on June 29 I will preside over the holy Mass in the Vatican basilica: It will be a significant occasion to underline the unity and catholicity of the Church.

As in the past, the celebration will be attended by a special delegation sent by the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople. I invite the faithful of Rome -- who venerate the holy Apostles Peter and Paul as their special patrons -- pilgrims, and the whole People of God to invoke heavenly protection on the Church and her pastors.

The end of June marks for countries of the north of the world the beginning of the summer season and for many people the time of vacation begins. While I wish everyone to be able to live serenely a few days of merited rest and relaxation, I wish to make an appeal to prudence to those who set out for different holiday places. Every day, unfortunately, especially on weekends, incidents occur on the roads with so many human lives tragically cut short, and more than half of the victims are young people.

In recent years much has been done to prevent such tragic events, but there can be and must be more done with the contribution and commitment of all. Distraction and superficiality must be combated, which in an instant can ruin one's own future and that of others. Life is precious and unique: It must always be respected and protected, including with correct and prudent conduct on the roads.

May the Virgin Mary, who accompanies us in our daily journey of life, watch over those who are traveling and obtain mercy for road victims. To her, heavenly Queen of the Apostles, on the imminent feast of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, we entrust the Church and her missionary action in the whole world.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Benedict XVI on World Refugee Day  (June 19, 2005)

The Church Is "a Homeland Where No One Is a Stranger"

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Tomorrow, June 20, World Refugee Day will be observed, promoted by the United Nations to keep alive attention on the problems of those who must forcibly abandon their homeland. The theme this year, "The Courage to Be a Refugee," underlines the strength of spirit needed by those who must leave everything, at times even their families, to escape from grave difficulties and dangers. The Christian community feels close to those who live this painful condition; it exerts itself to support them and manifests in different ways its interest and love, which is translated into concrete gestures of solidarity so that whoever finds himself far from his country, feels the Church as a homeland where no one is a stranger.

Christians' loving attention to those in difficulty and their commitment in favor of a more solidaristic society are continually nourished by active and conscious participation in the Eucharist. Whoever is nourished with the faith of Christ at the Eucharistic table assimilates his same style of life, which is the style of attentive service, especially to weaker and less favored people (see apostolic letter "Mane Nobiscum Domine," No. 28). May the Year of the Eucharist, which we are living, help diocesan and parish communities to revive this capacity to go out to meet the numerous poverties of our world.

Today we wish to entrust especially the men, women and children who live the condition of refugees to the maternal protection of Mary Most Holy, who, together with her husband St. Joseph and the Child Jesus, experienced the suffering of exile. At that time, the Holy Family had to flee to Egypt, due to the absurd persecution of Herod (Matthew 2:13-23). Let us pray to the Virgin Most Holy that these brothers and sisters of ours may find acceptance and understanding on their journey.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Importance of Sunday Mass (June 12, 2005)
"Not an Imposition, But a Joy"

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

The Year of the Eucharist continues, called by our beloved Pope John Paul II, to reawaken ever more, in the consciences of believers, wonder toward this great Sacrament. In this singular Eucharistic time, one of the recurring topics is Sunday, the Day of the Lord, a topic that was also at the center of the recent Italian Eucharistic Congress, held in Bari. During the conclusive celebration, I also underlined how participation at Sunday Mass must be seen by a Catholic not as an imposition or a weight, but as a need and joy. To meet with brothers, to listen to the Word of God and to be nourished of Christ, immolated for us, is an experience that gives meaning to life, which infuses peace in the heart. Without Sunday, we Catholics cannot live.

For this reason parents are called to make their children discover the value and importance of the response to Christ's invitation, who calls the whole Christian family to Sunday Mass. In this educational endeavor, a particularly significant stage is the first Communion, a real celebration for the parish community, which receives for the first time its smallest children at the Lord's Table.

To underline the importance of this event for the family and the parish, next October 15, God willing, I will have in the Vatican a special meeting of catechesis for children, in particular of Rome and Latium, who during this year have received their first Communion. This festive gathering will fall almost at the end of the Year of the Eucharist, while the Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops is under way, centered on the Eucharistic mystery. It will be an opportune and beautiful circumstance to confirm the essential role that the sacrament of the Eucharist has in the formation and spiritual growth of children.

From now on I entrust this meeting to the Virgin Mary, that she may teach us to love Jesus ever more, in constant meditation of his Word and adoration of his Eucharistic presence, and help us to make young generations discover the "precious pearl" of the Eucharist, which gives true and full meaning to life.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On the Sacred Heart  (June 5, 2005)

"We Adore God's Love of Humanity"

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Last Friday we celebrated the solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, devotion profoundly rooted in the Christian people. In biblical language, "heart" indicates a person's center, seat of his feelings and intentions. In the heart of the Redeemer we adore God's love of humanity, his will of universal salvation, his infinite mercy. Worship of the Sacred Heart of Christ means, therefore, worship of that heart which, after having loved us to the end, was pierced by the spear, and from the cross on high, shed blood and water, inexhaustible source of new life.

The feast of the Sacred Heart has also been the World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests, propitious occasion to pray so that presbyters will prefer nothing to the love of Christ. Profoundly devoted to the Sacred Heart of Christ was Blessed Giovanni Battista Scalabrini, bishop and patron of immigrants, the centenary of whose death we observed on June 1. He founded the men and women Missionaries of St. Charles Borromeo, known as the "Scalabrini," to proclaim the Gospel among Italian immigrants.

Recalling this great bishop, my thoughts go to those who are far from their homeland and often also from their families; I hope that they will always meet receptive friends and hearts on their path who are capable of supporting them in the difficulties of every day.

Undoubtedly, the heart that is most like Christ's is the heart of Mary, his Immaculate Mother, and precisely for this reason, the liturgy introduces her for our veneration. Responding to the invitation addressed by the Virgin of Fatima, let us commend to her Immaculate Heart, which we contemplated in a particular way yesterday, the whole world so that it will experience the merciful love of God and true peace.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Eastern Easter and the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker

"To Greet the Orthodox Churches and the Eastern Orthodox Churches" VATICAN CITY, MAY 2, 2005

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

I address you for the first time from this window, which the beloved figure of my predecessor made familiar to innumerable people worldwide. Faithful to an appointment that became a cherished custom, Sunday after Sunday, for more than a quarter of a century John Paul II supported the history of the Church and of the world, and we continue to feel him closer than ever.

My first sentiment is again of gratitude to those who have supported me in these days with prayer and those who from all parts of the world have sent me messages and good wishes.

I would like to greet the Orthodox Churches and the Eastern Orthodox Churches with particular affection, who precisely this Sunday celebrate the resurrection of Christ. To these our beloved brothers I address the traditional proclamation of joy: "Christos anesti!" Yes, Christ is risen, he is truly risen. It is my heartfelt hope that the celebration of Easter will be for them a unanimous prayer of faith and praise of him who is our common Lord, and who calls us to walk with determination on the path to full communion.

Today we begin the month of May with a liturgical memorial that is very dear to the Christian people, that of St. Joseph the Worker. It was instituted by Pope Pius XII of venerated memory, precisely 50 years ago, to underline the importance of work and of the presence of Christ and of the Church in the working world. It is necessary to witness also in today's society the "Gospel of work," of which John Paul II spoke in the encyclical "Laborem Exercens." I hope that work will not be lacking especially for young people, and that working conditions will be increasingly respectful of the dignity of the human person.

I think with affection of all workers and I greet those gathered in St. Peter's Square, belonging to numerous associations. In particular I greet the friends of ACLI (Christian Associations of Italian Workers), who this year are celebrating the 60th anniversary of their foundation, and I encourage them to continue to live their option of "Christian fraternity" as a value to incarnate in the field of work and social life, so that solidarity, justice and peace will be the pillars on which the unity of the human family is built.

Finally, my thoughts turn to Mary: The month of May is particularly dedicated to her. With his words and even more so with his example, Pope John Paul II taught us to contemplate Christ with Mary's eyes, valuing especially the prayer of the holy rosary. With the singing of the Regina Caeli we entrust to the Virgin all the needs of the Church and of humanity.

[After the Regina Caeli, the Holy Father said:]

These days I find myself thinking often of all people who are suffering due to wars, illness and poverty. In particular, today I am close to the beloved peoples of Togo, distressed by painful internal struggles. For all these nations I implore the gift of harmony and peace.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On World Communications Day

Media Can "Spread Peace or Foment Violence"   VATICAN CITY, MAY 8, 2005

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Today is celebrated in many countries, among them Italy, the solemnity of the Lord's Ascension to heaven. This feast invites the Christian community to look to the one who, 40 days after his resurrection, to the astonishment of the apostles, "was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight" (Acts 1:9). We are called, therefore, to renew our faith in Jesus, only true anchor of salvation for all men. When ascending to Heaven, he reopened the way to our final homeland, which is paradise. Now, with the power of his Spirit, he sustains us in our daily pilgrimage on earth.

Today, World Communications Day is being observed, on the theme "The Media at the Service of Understanding among Peoples." In the present age of the image, the media effectively constitute extraordinary resources to promote the solidarity and understanding of the human family. We have had proof of this recently on the occasion of the death and solemn funeral rites of my beloved predecessor, John Paul II. However, it all depends on the way they are used. These important instruments of communication can favor reciprocal knowledge and dialogue or, on the contrary, fuel prejudice and contempt among individuals and peoples; they can contribute to spread peace or to foment violence. For this reason, people must always be reminded of their responsibilities; it is necessary that all do what corresponds to them to ensure objectivity, respect for human dignity and attention to the common good in all forms of communication. In this way a contribution is made to bring down the walls of hostility that still divide humanity and to consolidate bonds of friendship and love which are signs of the kingdom of God in history.

Let us return to the Christian mystery of the Ascension. After the Lord ascended to heaven, the disciples were gathered in prayer in the Cenacle, with the mother of Jesus (cf. Acts 1:14), invoking together the Holy Spirit, who would invest them with power to witness to the risen Christ (cf. Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8). United to the Most Holy Virgin, every Christian community relives in these days this singular experience in preparation for the solemnity of Pentecost. We also now turn to Mary with the singing of the Regina Caeli, imploring her protection on the Church, in particular on those dedicated to the work of evangelization through the means of social communication.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Priestly Ordinations and Pentecost

Without Holy Spirit, Church Is "Merely Human"   May 15, 2005.

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

The eucharistic celebration just concluded in St. Peter's Basilica, in which I had the joy of ordaining 21 new priests, is an event that marks an important moment of growth for our community. From the ordained ministers it receives life, especially through the service of the Word of God and the sacraments. Therefore, it is a day of celebration for the Church of Rome. And for the new priests this is, in a special way, their Pentecost. I renew my greetings to them and I pray that the Holy Spirit will accompany them always in their ministry. Let us thank God for the gift of the new presbyters, and let us pray that in Rome, as well as in the whole world, numerous and holy priestly vocations will flower and mature.

The happy coincidence between Pentecost and the priestly ordinations allows me to highlight the indissoluble bond that exists in the Church between the Spirit and the institution. I already mentioned it last Saturday, when taking possession of the chair of the Bishop of Rome in St. John Lateran. The chair and the Spirit are profoundly united realities, as are the charism and ordained ministry.

Without the Holy Spirit, the Church would be reduced to a merely human organization, with the weight of its very structures. For its part, moreover, in God's plans, the Spirit habitually makes use of human mediations to act in history. Precisely for this reason, Christ, who constituted his Church on the foundation of the Apostles united around Peter, enriched her with the gift of the Spirit, so that he would console her (cf. John 14:16) and guide her to all the truth (cf. John 16:13). May the ecclesial community remain always open and docile to the action of the Holy Spirit, in order to be a credible sign and effective instrument of God's action among men.

We commend this hope to the intercession of the Virgin Mary, whom we contemplate today in the glorious mystery of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit, who descended on her in Nazareth to have her become the mother of the Word Incarnate (cf. Luke 1:35), descended today on the nascent Church gathered around her in the cenacle (cf. Acts 1:14). With confidence, let us invoke Mary Most Holy that she may obtain a renewed effusion of the Spirit on the Church of our days.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Trinity-Sunday Reflection on the Human Person

"Image of God, Fulfilled In Love" May 22, 2005.

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Today the liturgy celebrates the solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, to emphasize that in the light of the paschal mystery the center of the cosmos and of history is fully revealed: God himself, eternal and infinite Love. This is the word that summarizes the whole of revelation: "God is love" (1 John 4:8,16). And love is always a mystery, a reality that surpasses reason without contradicting it; what is more, it exalts its potentialities.

Jesus has revealed to us the mystery of God. He, the Son, has made us know the Father who is in heaven, and has given us the Holy Spirit, the Love of the Father and of the Son. Christian theology summarizes the truth about God with this _expression: only one substance in three persons. God is not solitude but perfect communion. For this reason, the human person, image of God, is fulfilled in love, which is the sincere gift of oneself.

We contemplate the mystery of God's love by participating in a sublime way in the most holy Eucharist, sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, representation of his redemptive sacrifice. Because of this, I greet with joy today, feast of the Most Holy Trinity, the participants in the Eucharistic congress of the Italian Church, which opened yesterday in Bari. At the heart of this year dedicated to the Eucharist, the Christian people gather around Christ, present in the Most Holy Sacrament, source and summit of their life and mission. In particular, each parish is called to rediscover the beauty of Sunday, day of the Lord, in which Christ's disciples renew, in the Eucharist, communion with the One who gives meaning to their joys and exhaustions of each day. "We cannot live without Sunday," professed the first Christians, even if it cost their lives, and this is what we are called to repeat today.

In the hope of going personally to Bari next Sunday for the Eucharistic celebration, I now already unite myself spiritually to this important ecclesial event. Together we invoke the intercession of the Virgin Mary so that these days of such intense prayer and adoration of the Eucharistic Christ will kindle in the Italian Church a renewed ardor of faith, hope and charity.

I would also like to entrust to Mary all the children, adolescents and young people who at this time are making their first Communion or receiving the sacrament of confirmation. With this intention, we now pray the Angelus, reliving with Mary the mystery of the Annunciation.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Pope Benedict's first Angelus address (May 1, 2005)

VATICAN CITY, MAY 1, 2005 (VIS) -  Today at noon, for the first time since his election to the papacy on April 19, Pope Benedict XVI appeared at the window of the study of the papal apartment to recite the Regina Coeli and address the tens of thousands of faithful that filled St. Peter's Square. The Pope had been living in the Vatican's St. Martha Residence since his election and moved into the apartment on Saturday.
 
  "I address you for the first time from this window that the beloved figure of my predecessor made familiar to countless people throughout the world. From Sunday to Sunday, John Paul II, faithful to an appointment which had become a pleasant custom, accompanied for over a quarter of a century the history of the Church and the world and we continue to feel him more than ever close to us."
 
  The Holy Father greeted "with special affection the Orthodox Churches and the Eastern Orthodox Churches that today celebrate the Resurrection of Christ. To these dear brothers and sisters of ours, I address the traditional announcement of joy: 'Christos anesti!' Christ is Risen!" He said he hoped that Easter will be for these Churches " a choral prayer of faith and praise to the One Who is our common Lord, and Who calls us to walk decisively on the path towards full communion."
 
  "Today we begin the month of May with a liturgical memory so dear to Christians, that of St. Joseph the Worker." He then added, to the applause of the faithful: "You know that my name is also Joseph!" Noting that this feast was instituted 50 years ago by Pius XII "to underline the importance of  work and of the presence of Christ and the Church in the world of work," the Pope said he hoped that everyone, especially young people, would have work "and that working conditions are ever more respectful of the dignity of the human person." He had special words for the groups present in St. Peter's Square, including ACLI, the Christian Associations of Italian Workers which this year celebrates the 60th anniversary of its founding.
 
  Turning his thoughts to Mary, to whom the month of May is dedicated, Benedict XVI remarked how, "through words, and even more by example, John Paul II taught us to contemplate Christ with the eyes of Mary."
 
  Following the Regina Coeli prayer, the Holy Father said that in recent days he has been thinking "of all people who suffer because of war, illness and poverty. In particular, today I am close to the people of Togo, upset by painful internal struggles. For all these nations I implore the gift of harmony and peace."

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------