Pope's Words of Thanks to Bavarian Pilgrims
"Yes, God is good and it is good to be a person"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 6, 2012 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Friday to a group of pilgrims from his homeland, who came to Italy for a "Bavarian evening" as a gift for the Pope's 85th birthday, which he marked in April.

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Lord cardinals,

dear confrères,

dear friends!

At the conclusion of this "Bavarian evening" I can only offer a "Vergelt's Gott" (May God reward you -- a southern German and Austrian expression for "thank you") sincerely from my heart. It has been beautiful to be here in the heart of Lazio, in Castel Gandolfo, and in Bavaria at the same time. I have truly been "dahoam" (at home), and I must offer my compliments to Cardinal Marx since he already succeeds in pronouncing this word so well!

We have been able to see that the Bavarian culture is a culture of gladness: we are not crude people, it is not simply a matter of entertainment, but of a culture of gladness, imbued with joy; it is born of an interior acceptance of the world, of an interior "yes" to life that is a "yes" to joy. It is founded upon the fact that we are in harmony with creation, in harmony with the creator himself, and for this reason we know that it is good to be a person. It is true that we must say that in Bavaria, God has made this task easy: he has given us such a beautiful world, such a beautiful land, that it is easy to recognize that God is good and be glad about it. At the same time, however, he has also done it in a way that the men who live in this land, precisely from their "yes," knew how to give it its complete beauty; it became so beautiful only through the culture of persons, through their faith, their joy, songs, music and art. The Creator did not wish to do this alone but only with the help of men.

Now, someone could ask whether it is right to be so happy when the world is so full of suffering, when there exists so much darkness and evil? Is it right to be so high spirited and joyful? The answer can only be "yes!" Because saying "no" to joy we do nothing of use to anyone, we only make the world darker. And whoever does not love himself cannot give anything to his neighbor, he cannot help him, he cannot be a messenger of peace.

From our faith we know and every day we see that the world is beautiful and God is good. And because of the fact that he became man and dwelled among us we know it definitively and concretely: yes, God is good and it is good to be a person. We live in this joy, and from this joy we try to bring joy to others, to reject evil and to be servants of peace and reconciliation.

Now, certainly, I should thank everyone, one by one, but an old man's memory is not trustworthy. So, I prefer to avoid it. I would, nonetheless, like to thank dear Cardinal Marx for having come up with the idea of this event, for having brought Bavaria to Rome and for having made the interior unity of Christian culture tangible in this way; I would like to thank him for having gathered Bavarians of our archdiocese, from lower Bavaria to the Oberland, from the region of Rupertigau to the Werdenfelser Land; I would like to thank the host, who graced us with her beautiful Bavarian dialect: I do not think that I am capable of speaking Bavarian and of being, at the same time, so "elevated," but she knows how to do it. I thank all of the groups, the wind ensemble ..., but, well, I do not want to begin. You know, it all touched me deeply and I am grateful and happy for everything. Of course, the "Gebirgsschützen," which I could only hear from a distance, merit a special thanks, because I am an honorary "Schütze," even if, at the time I was a mediocre "Schütze." Then, I especially thank you, Cardinal Wetter, for having come: you are my direct successor to the See of St. Corbinian; you led the archdiocese as a good shepherd for a quarter century: thank you for being present!

[In Italian the Holy Father said:]

Cardinal Bertello, thank you for your presence. I hope that you too saw that Bavaria is beautiful and the culture of Bavaria is beautiful.

[In German he said:]

Now, as my thanks, I can only give you my blessing, but first let us chant the Angelus together and, as much as we know it, the "Andachtsjodler" (a religious song in the form of a yodel). A heartfelt "Vergelt's Gott"!

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Papal Greeting to Mar Dinkha IV, Catholicos Patriarch of the Assyrian Church
"I wish to reiterate my solidarity with the Christian communities in Iraq and throughout the Middle East"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 22, 2012 - Here is a message Pope Benedict XVI sent to Mar Dinkha IV, Catholicos Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East congratulating him on the anniversary of his episcopal consecration.

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The Golden Jubilee of the episcopal consecration of Your Holiness, which has culminated in your distinguished ministry as Catholicos Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, offers me the opportunity to extend my congratulations and prayerful good wishes to you.

I thank the Lord for the many blessings he has bestowed on the Assyrian Church of the East through your ministry, and I am grateful for your commitment to promoting constructive dialogue, fruitful cooperation and growing friendship between our Churches. I recall your presence at the funeral of John Paul II and, previously, your 1994 visit to Rome to sign a Common Declaration on Christology. The subsequent Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East has borne many fruits. I renew the hope which I expressed during your visit to Rome in June 2007, that "the fruitful labour which the Commission has accomplished over the years can continue, while never losing sight of the ultimate goal of our common journey towards the re-establishment of full communion".

I wish also to reiterate my solidarity with the Christian communities in Iraq and throughout the Middle East, praying that effective forms of common witness to the Gospel and pastoral collaboration in the service of peace, reconciliation and unity may be deepened between the Catholic and Assyrian faithful.

Your Holiness, on this significant anniversary, I pray that the love of God the Father may enfold you, the wisdom of the Son enlighten you and the fire of the Holy Spirit continue to inspire you.

With sentiments of respect, I extend to Your Holiness a fraternal embrace in Jesus Christ our Saviour.

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Pope's Thanksgiving After Anniversary Concert
"In you, Lord, I joyfully place my hope, make me love you as your Holy Mother"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 14, 2012- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Friday evening at the end of a concert offered in honor of his seventh anniversary as Pope. The concert was offered by Italian President Giorgio Napolitano; the Orchestra and Choir of the Roman Opera House, conducted by Riccardo Muti and Roberto Gabbiani, played Antonio Vivaldi's "Magnificat RV611," and the "Stabat Mater" and "Te Deum" from Giuseppe Verdi's "Quattro pezzi sacri."

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Lord Cardinals,

Honorable Ministers and Authorities,

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and Presbyterate,

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen!

A heartfelt and deferent greeting to the President of the Italian Republic, Honorable Giorgio Napolitano and to his kind wife, to which I unite my sincere gratitude for the cordial words, for the gifts of a violin and of a valuable score, and for this concert of sacred music by two great Italian authors. They are signs that manifest once again the bond between the Successor of Peter and this dear nation. A greeting to the President of the Council, Senator Mario Monti, and to all the Authorities. A sincere thank you to the Orchestra and Choir of the Teatro dell’Opera of Rome, to the two sopranos, and especially to Maestro Riccardo Muti for the intense interpretation and performance. Maestro Muti’s sensibility for sacred music is well known, as is his commitment to have this rich repertoire, which expressed in music the faith of the Church, better known. Because of this, I am also happy to confer on him a papal decoration. I express my gratitude to the municipality of Cremona, to the Walter Stauffer Musicology Center and to the Antonio Stradivari-La Triennale Foundation for having placed at the disposal of the first parts of the Orchestra some antique and precious instruments of their collections.

Antonio Vivaldi is a great exponent of Venetian musical tradition. Who does not know at least his Four Seasons! However, still not well known is his sacred production, which occupies a significant place in his work and is of great value, especially because it expresses his faith. The Magnificat, which we heard, is Mary’s song of praise and that of all the humble of heart, who recognize and acknowledge with joy and gratitude the action of God in their own life and in history; of God whose “style” is different from man’s, because he sides with the least to give hope. And Vivaldi’s music expresses praise, exultance, and also wonder in face of God’s work, with an extraordinary richness of sentiments: from the solemn chorale at the beginning, in which the whole Church magnifies the Lord, to the vivacious “Et exultavit,” to the most beautiful choral moment of the “Et misericordia” on which he pauses with bold harmonies, rich with improvised modulations, to invite us to meditate on the mercy of God who is faithful and extends himself to all generations.

With the two sacred pieces of Giuseppe Verdi that we heard, the register changes: we find ourselves before Mary’s sorrow at the foot of the Cross: Stabat Mater dolorosa. The great Italian opera composer, who looked into and expressed the drama of so many personages in his works, here sketches that of the Virgin who looks at her Son on the Cross. The music becomes essential, it almost “grips” the words to express the content in the most intense way possible, a great gamut of sentiments. Suffice it to think of the aching sense of “mercy” with which the Sequence begins, to the dramatic “Pro peccatis suae gentes,” to the whispered “dum emisit spiritum,” to the choral invocations charged with emotion, but also of serenity, addressed to Mary “fons amoris,” so that we can participate in her maternal grief and make our hearts burn with love for Christ, up to the last stanza, intense and potent prayer to God that the glory of Paradise may be given to the soul, ultimate aspiration of humanity.

The Te Deum is also a succession of contrasts, but Verdi’s attention to the sacred text is painstaking, in order to give a different reading from tradition. He does not see so much the song of the victories or crownings but, as he writes, the succession of situations: the initial exultance – “Te Deum,” “Sanctus” - the contemplation of the incarnate Christ, who liberates and opens the Kingdom of Heaven, the invocation to the “Judex venturus,” to have mercy, and finally the repeated cry of the soprano and the chorus “In te, Domine speravi” with which the passage closes, almost a request of Verdi himself to have hope and light in the last part of life. Those we heard this evening are the last two pieces written by the composer, not destined for publication, but written only for himself; in fact, he would have liked to have been buried with the score of the Te Deum.

Dear friends, I hope that this evening we can repeat to God with faith: In you, Lord, I joyfully place my hope, make me love you as your Holy Mother, so that at the end of the journey my soul may be given the glory of Paradise. Again thank you to Mr. President of the Republic, to the soloists, to the whole of the Teatro dell’Opera of Rome, to Maestro Muti, to the organizers and to all here present. May the Lord bless you and your loved ones. My heartfelt thanks!

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Pope's Homily at Birthday Mass

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 17, 2012 - Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave Monday at a Mass marking his 85th birthday and baptism anniversary.

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Lord Cardinals,

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

On the day of my birthday and Baptism, April 16, the liturgy of the Church points to threewhich indicate to me where the road leads and which help me to find it. In the first place, there is the memoria of Saint Bernadette Soubirous, the visionary of Lourdes; then, there is one of the more particular Saints of the history of the Church, Benedict Joseph Labre; and then, above all, is the fact that this day is always immersed in the Paschal Mystery, in the Mystery of the Cross and of the Resurrection, and in the year of my birth it was expressed in a particular way: it was Holy Saturday, the day of God’s silence, of the apparent absence, of the death of God, but also the day in which the Resurrection was proclaimed.

Bernadette Soubirous. The simple girl of the South, of the Pyrenees – we all know and love her. Bernadette in the France of the Enlightenment of the 19th century, in a poverty difficult to imagine. The prison, which was abandoned because it was too unhealthy, became, in the end – after some hesitations -- the family’s dwelling, in which she spent her childhood. There was no possibility of school formation, only some catechism in preparation for her First Communion. But precisely this simple girl, who was pure and genuine in heart, who had a heart that sees, was able to see the Lord’s Mother and, in her, the reflection of the beauty and goodness of God. Mary was able to show herself to this girl and through her to speak to the century and beyond the century itself. Bernadette was able to see with a pure and genuine heart. And Mary indicated to her the source: she was able to discover the source, the living water, pure and uncontaminated; water that is life, water that gives purity and health. And through the centuries, now, this living water is a sign on Mary’s part, a sign that indicates where the sources of life are, where we can be purified, where we find what is uncontaminated. In this our time, in which we see the world in so much anxiety, and in which the need of water bursts out, of pure water, this sign is that much greater. From Mary, from the Mother of the Lord, from a pure heart, pure, genuine water also comes which gives life, the water than in this century – and in the centuries that might come – purifies and heals us.

I think we can consider this water as an image of the truth that comes to us in faith: truth not simulated but uncontaminated. In fact, to be able to live, to be able to become pure, we are in need of having in us the nostalgia of the pure life, of the truth that is not distorted, of what is not contaminated by corruption, of being men without stain. See how this day, this little Saint has always been for me a sign that has indicated where the living water comes from of which we are in need – the water that purifies us and gives us life -- and a sign of how we should be: with all the knowledge and all the capacities, which also are necessary, we must not lose the simple heart, the simple look of the heart, capable of seeing the essential, and we must always pray to the Lord that we preserve in us the humility that enables the heart to be clear-sighted – to see what is simple and essential, the beauty and goodness of God – and thus find the source from which the water comes that gives life and purifies.

Then there is Benedict Joseph Labre, the pious mendicant pilgrim of the 18th century who, after several useless attempts, finally found his vocation of pilgrim as mendicant – without anything, without any support and not keeping for himself anything of what he received except that of which he had absolute need – pilgrimaging through the whole of Europe, to all the shrines of Europe, from Spain to Poland and from Germany to Sicily: a truly European Saint! We can also say: a somewhat particular Saint who, begging, wandered from one shrine to another and wished to do nothing other than pray and with this give witness to what matters in this life: God. He certainly does not represent an example to emulate, but he is a, a finger pointing to the essential. He shows us that God alone suffices, that beyond all thatin this world, beyond our needs and capacities, what counts, the essential is to know God. He alone suffices. And this “God alone” he indicates to us in a dramatic way. And at the same time, this really European life that, from shrine to shrine embraces the whole European continent makes evident that he who opens himself to God is no stranger to the world or to men, rather he finds brothers, because on God’s side, borders fall, God alone can eliminate borders because thanks to Him we are all only brothers, we are part of one another; it renders present that the oneness of God means, at the same time, the brotherhood and reconciliation of men, the demolishing of borders that unites and heals us. Thus he is a Saint of peace precisely in as much as he is a Saint without any exigency, who is poor of everything yet blessed with everything.

And then, finally, the Paschal Mystery. On the same day I was born, thanks to the care of my parents, I was also reborn by water and the Spirit, as we just heard in the Gospel. In the first place, there is the gift of life that my parents gave me in very difficult times, and for which I owe them my gratitude. However, it is not taken for granted that man’s life is in itself a gift. Can it really be a beautiful gift? Do we know what is incumbent on man in the dark times he is facing – also in those more luminous ones that might come? Can we foresee to what anxieties, to what terrible events he might be exposed? Is it right to give life thus, simply? Is it responsible or is it too uncertain? It is a problematic gift if it remains independent. Biological life of itself is a gift, and yet it is surrounded by a great question. It becomes a real gift only if, together with it, one can make a promise that is stronger than any misfortune that can threaten one, if it is immersed in a force that guarantees that it is good to be man, that for this person it is a good no matter what the future might bring. Thus, associated to birth is rebirth, the certainty that, in truth, it is good for us to be, because the promise is stronger than the threats.

This is the meaning of rebirth from water and the Spirit: to be immersed in the promise that God alone can make: it is good that you are, and it is true regardless of what happens. From this certainty, I have been able to live, reborn by water and the Spirit. Nicodemus asks the Lord: “Can an old man be born again?” Now, rebirth is given to us in Baptism, but we must grow continually in it, we must always let ourselves me immersed in God’s promise, to be truly reborn in the great, new family of God which is stronger than all the weaknesses and all the negative powers that threaten us. This is why this is a day of great thanksgiving.

The day on which I was baptized, as I said, was Holy Saturday. Then it was usual to anticipate the Easter Vigil in the morning, which would have been followed again by the darkness of Holy Saturday, without the Alleluia. It seems to me that this singular paradox, this singular anticipation of the light in a dark day, could be almost an image of the history of our days. On one hand, there is still the silence of God and his absence, but in the Resurrection of Christ there is already the anticipation of the “yes” of God, and on the basis of this anticipation we live and, through the silence of God, we hear his speaking, and through the darkness of his absence we perceive his light. The anticipation of the Resurrection in the midst of a history that evolves is the force that indicates the road to us and that helps us to go forward.

We thank the good God for this light he has given us and we pray that it will always be with us. And on this day I have reason to thank Him and all those who have always made me perceive the Lord’s presence, who have accompanied me so that I would not lose the light.

I am facing the last lap of the course of my life and I do not know what awaits me. I know, however, that the light of God is, that He is risen, that his light is stronger than any darkness; that God’s goodness is stronger than any evil of this world. And this helps me to go forward with confidence. This helps us to go forward and in his hour I give my heartfelt thanks to all those who continually make me perceive the “yes” of God through their faith.

Finally, Cardinal Dean, my cordial gratitude for your words of fraternal friendship, for all the collaboration in all these years. And a big thank you to all the collaborators of the 30 years in which I have been in Rome, who helped me bear the weight of my responsibility. Thank you. Amen.

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Papal Homily for Visit to Leo XIII's Birthplace
"Represented a Church Capable of Dealing With the Great Contemporary Questions"

CARPINETO ROMANO, Italy, SEPT. 5, 2010 - Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave today when he visited the birthplace of Pope Leo XIII, Carpineto Romano, to mark the 200th anniversary of that Pontiff's birth.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

First of all, permit me to express my joy in finding myself with you in Carpineto Romano, in the footsteps of my beloved predecessors Paul VI and John Paul II! And it is also a happy circumstance that has called me here: the bicentennial of the birth of Pope Leo XIII, Vincenzo Gioacchino Pecci, which took place March 2, 1810, in this beautiful town. I thank you all for your welcome! In particular I greet with gratitude the bishop of Anagni-Alatri, Lorenzo Loppa, and the mayor of Carpineto, who welcomed me at the beginning of the celebration, along with the other authorities present. I offer a special greeting to the young people, in particular those who took part in the diocesan pilgrimage.

My visit, unfortunately, is very brief and is restricted to this Eucharistic celebration; but here we have everything: the Word and the Bread of Life that nourish faith, hope and charity; and we renew the bond of communion that makes of us the one Church of the Lord Jesus Christ.

We have heard the Word of God and it is natural to receive it in this circumstance thinking again of the figure of Pope Leo XIII and the legacy that he has left us. The principal theme that emerges from the biblical readings is that of the primacy of God and of Christ. In the Gospel passage, taken from St. Luke, Jesus himself declares with frankness the three conditions necessary to be his disciples: to love him more than any other person and life itself; to carry one’s own cross and follow him; to give up all one’s belongings. Jesus sees a great crowd that is following him together with his disciples, and he wants to be clear with everyone: following him is demanding, it cannot depend on enthusiasm and opportunism; it must be a reflective decision made after asking one’s conscience: Who is Jesus for me? Is he truly “the Lord,” does he take first place, like the sun about which all the planets turn?

And the first reading, from the Book of Wisdom, indirectly suggests the reason behind this absolute primacy of Jesus Christ: In him are the answers to the questions that man asks in every age about the truth of God and himself. God is beyond our reach, and his designs are inscrutable. But he wanted to reveal himself in creation and above all in the history of salvation, until in Christ he fully revealed himself and his will. While it remains true that “No one has seen God” (John 1:18), now we know his “name,” his “face,” and also his will, because they have been revealed to us by Jesus, who is the Wisdom of God made man. “Thus,” the sacred author of the first reading writes, “men were instructed in what is pleasing to you and were saved through wisdom” (Wisdom 9:18).

This fundamental call of the Word of God makes one think of two aspects of the life and ministry of your venerable fellow citizen who we commemorate today, the Supreme Pontiff Leo XIII. Before all else it must be stressed that he was a man of great faith and profound devotion. This always remains the basis of everything, for every Christian, including the Pope. Without prayer, that is, without interior union with God, we can do nothing, as Jesus clearly tells his disciples during the Last Supper (cf. John 15:5).

The words and deeds of Pope Pecci revealed his deep religiosity; and this had a correspondence in his magisterium: Among his many encyclicals and apostolic letters, like the string of a necklace, there are those of a specifically spiritual character, dedicated above all to the growth of Marian devotion, especially through the rosary. It is a real “catechesis” that stretches from the beginning to the end of the 25 years of his pontificate.

But we also have the documents on Christ the Redeemer, on the Holy Spirit, on consecration to the Sacred Heart, on devotion to St. Joseph, on St. Francis of Assisi. Leo XIII was especially close to the Franciscan family and he himself belonged to the Third Order. I like to consider all of these different elements as various facets of a single reality: the love of God and of Christ, which absolutely nothing must come before. And this his first and principal quality, Vincenzo Gioacchino Pecci learned here, in his native town, from his parents, from his parish.

But there is a second aspect, which derives from the primacy of God and of Christ and that one meets in the public action of every pastor of the Church, especially of every Supreme Pontiff, with the characteristics proper to each one. I would say that precisely the concept of “Christian wisdom,” which already emerged from the first reading and the Gospel, offers us the synthesis of this position of Leo XIII -- it is not by chance that it is also the “incipit” of one of his encyclicals. Every pastor is called to transmit to the People of God, not abstract truths, but a “wisdom,” that is, a message that joins faith and reason, truth and concrete reality. Pope Leo XIII, with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, was able to do this in one of the most difficult historical periods of the Church, remaining faithful to tradition and, at the same time, measuring it with the great open questions. And he succeeded in his efforts precisely on the basis of the “Christian wisdom,” founded on sacred Scriptures, on the immense theological and spiritual patrimony of the Catholic Church and also on the solid and limpid philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas, which he appreciated in the highest way and promoted in the whole Church.

At this point, after having considered the foundation, that is, faith and the spiritual life, and therefore the general framework of the message of Leo XIII, I can turn to his social teaching, made famous and timeless in his encyclical “Rerum novarum,” but also richly expressed in multiple interventions that constitute an organic body, the first nucleus of the Church’s social doctrine. We take our cue from St. Paul’s Letter to Philemon, which happily the liturgy has us read precisely today. It is the shortest of all the Pauline epistles. During a period of imprisonment the Apostle transmitted the faith to Onesimus, a slave from Colossae, who had fled from his owner Philemon, a wealthy inhabitant of that city, who, along with his family, had become Christian through the preaching of Paul. Now the Apostle writes to Philemon, inviting him to welcome Onesimus no longer as a slave but as a brother in Christ. The new Christian brotherhood overcomes the separation between slaves and freemen, and it triggers in history a promotion of the person that will lead to the abolition of slavery, but also to the overcoming of the barriers that had existed up until then. Pope Leo XIII dedicated his 1890 encyclical “Catholicae Ecclesiae” precisely to the theme of slavery.

From this particular experience of St. Paul with Onesimus there can develop a broad reflection on the movement of human promotion brought by Christianity to the path of civilization, and also on the method and style of this contribution, conformed to the evangelical images of the seed and the leaven: Christians, acting as individual citizens or groups within the reality of history, constitute a beneficent and peaceful force for profound change, actualizing the development of the potentialities within reality itself. This is the form of presence and action in the world proposed by the Church’s social doctrine, which always points to the maturation of consciences as the valid and lasting condition for transformations.

We must now ask ourselves: What was the context in which the man who would become Pope Leo XIII 68 years later was born? Europe was feeling the effects of the great Napoleonic storm, which followed the French Revolution. The Church and many expressions of Christian culture were radically called into question (one thinks, for example, of the efforts to count the years no longer from Christ’s birth but from the beginning of the new revolutionary age, or to remove the names of the saints from the calendar, the roads, the villages…). The people of the countryside certainly were not favorable to these changes, and remained attached to religious traditions. Daily life was hard and difficult: the sanitary and dietary conditions were very poor. Meanwhile, industry developed and the workers’ movement along with it, which became more and more politically organized. The Church’s magisterium, at its highest level, was moved and helped by reflections and local experiences to elaborate a comprehensive and prospective reading of the new society and its common good. Thus, when he was elected to the pontifical office in 1878, Leo XIII felt called to bring this reading to completion in light of his ample knowledge of international breadth, but also of many initiatives launched “in the field” by Christian communities and men and women of the Church.

There were in fact dozens and dozens of saints and blessed since the end of the 1700s to the beginning of the 1900s who sought out and took -- with the imagination of charity -- many roads to actualize the evangelical message within the new social realities. Without a doubt these initiatives, with the sacrifices and reflections of these men and women, prepared the soil of “Rerum novarum” and of the other social documents of Pope Pecci. Already at the time that he was apostolic nuncio in Belgium, he had understood that the social question could be dealt with positively and effectively with dialogue and mediation. In an age of bitter anti-clericalism and of volatile demonstrations against the Pope, Leo XIII knew how to guide and support Catholics along the path of constructive participation, rich in contents, firm about principles and capable of openness.

Immediately after “Rerum novarum” there was a real explosion of initiatives in Italy and other countries: associations, rural and artisan banks, newspapers … a vast “movement,” which had an enlightened guide in the Servant of God Giuseppe Toniolo. Thus a very old but wise and farseeing Pope was able to introduce into the 20th century a rejuvenated Church, with the right attitude to face the new challenges. He was a Pope still politically and physically a “prisoner” in the Vatican, but in reality, with his magisterium, he represented a Church capable of dealing with the great contemporary questions without complexes.

Dear friends of Carpineto Romano, we do not have time to go deeply into these matters. The Eucharist that we are celebrating, the Sacrament of Love, recalls us to the essential: charity, the love of Christ that renews men and the world; this is the essential thing, and we see it well, we almost perceive it in St. Paul’s expressions in the Letter to Philemon. In that brief missive, in fact, one feels all the meekness and at the same time all the revolutionary power of the Gospel; one grasps the discreet and irresistible style of charity, which, as I wrote in my social encyclical, “Caritas in veritate,” is the “principal driving force behind the authentic development of every person and of all humanity” (1).

With joy and with affection, I leave you with the old and ever new commandment: love each other as Christ has loved us, and with this love be the salt and light of the world. In this way you will be faithful to the legacy of your great and venerable fellow citizen, Pope Leo XIII. And let it be thus in the whole Church! Amen, dear brothers and sisters!

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Papal Letter for Cardinal Bertone's Golden Jubilee
"Vestiges of Your Pastoral Ministry Are Found All Around"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 2, 2010 - Here is a translation of the letter Benedict XVI sent to Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Pope's secretary of state, on the occasion of his 50th anniversary of priestly ordination, which the cardinal celebrated Thursday. The letter, which is dated June 1, was published today by L'Osservatore Romano.

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To Our Venerated Brother
Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone, SDB
Secretary of State and Chamberlain of the Holy Roman Church

Given our mutual and assiduous familiarity, which stems from the fact of meeting together almost daily, it is fitting and right to personally address to you my heartfelt good wishes on the 50th year of your presbyterial ordination. However, beyond this duty, it is a pleasure to communicate my thoughts to you through this letter, so that my consideration toward you will be more evident.

While we are going through difficult times, I think you should turn your mind to happier things of the past, when by the imposition of the hands of the venerated [Bishop] Albino Mensa, you were promoted to Holy Orders, surrounded by relatives and fellow priests. Don't fail to recall as well of when later on, following further studies in jurisprudence, you dedicated yourself to educate and guide young people with teaching and writing, both within as well as outside your Salesian family.

It is no wonder then that you had the esteem and an important position near our predecessor, the Venerable Servant of God John Paul II, who wanted you to be archbishop of Vercelli and a faithful herald of divine benefits there. By the will of the same Pontiff, you later began to carry out the office of secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, establishing a familiarity between the two of us in the work we shared.

Also in the Church of Genoa, to which you dedicated your zeal and your apostolic toil, vestiges of your pastoral ministry are found all around, of which we acknowledge the benefit that came to that ecclesial community and where you obtained a largely illustrious title through your admission to the College of Cardinals.

Recalling the memory of more recent times, I wanted you to be a close collaborator, choosing you as secretary of state, with whom to share decisions and tasks. Undoubtedly, you are exerting yourself with great commitment and skill in being part of the pastoral projects of the universal Church, and initiatives addressed to the whole world, so that the family of God will be reinforced and the world may become more harmonious.

Because of this, while I rejoice wholeheartedly in recalling the happy beginning of your priesthood, I express these sentiments of esteem and affectionate congratulations as I implore, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary Help of Christians and of St. John Bosco, the abundant recompense of the Divine Teacher. Finally to you, venerated brother, I impart with fraternal affection the spostolic blessing, destined copiously also to all those with whom you have family and work ties.

From the Vatican, June 1, 2010, the sixth of Our Pontificate.

Benedict XVI

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Papal Address on 400th Anniversary of Matteo Ricci's Death
"An Example of Balance Between Doctrinal Clarity and Prudent Pastoral Action"
VATICAN CITY, JUNE 21, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered May 29 upon receiving several dioceses of the Marches region on the 400th anniversary of the Italian Jesuit missionary Father Matteo Ricci (1552-1610).

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Your Eminences,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Distinguished Authorities,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am pleased to meet you to commemorate the fourth centenary of the death of Fr Matteo Ricci, SJ. I offer a fraternal greeting to Bishop Claudio Giuliodori of Macerata-Tolentino-Recanati-Cingoli-Treia, who is leading this numerous pilgrimage.

With him, I greet my Brother Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of the Marches and their respective Dioceses, the Civil, Military and Academic Authorities; the priests, seminarians and students, as well as the Pueri Cantores.

Macerata is proud of such an illustrious citizen, a religious and a priest! I greet the Members of the Society of Jesus to whom Fr Ricci belonged and in particular Fr Adolfo Nicolás, Superior General, the Jesuits' friends and collaborators and the educational institutes connected with them. A thought also goes to all the Chinese.

This great missionary a true protagonist of Gospel proclamation in China in the modern age, following the first evangelization there by Archbishop Giovanni da Montecorvino reached the end of his earthly life in Peking on 11 May 1610.

The extraordinary privilege he was granted, unthinkable for a foreigner, of being buried in Chinese soil is proof of the high esteem in which he was held, both in the Chinese capital and at the Imperial Court itself.

Today it is also possible to venerate his tomb in Peking, fittingly restored by the Local Authorities. The many initiatives promoted in Europe and in China in honour of Fr Ricci show the keen interest that his work continues to kindle in the Church and in the different cultural contexts.

The history of the Catholic missions includes figures important because of their zeal and courage in bringing Christ to new and distant lands; but Fr Ricci is a unique case of a felicitous synthesis between the proclamation of the Gospel and the dialogue with the culture of the people to whom he brought it; he is an example of balance between doctrinal clarity and prudent pastoral action. Not only his profound knowledge of the language but also his assumption of the lifestyle and customs of the cultured Chinese classes, the result of study and its patient, far-sighted implementation, ensured that Fr Ricci was accepted by the Chinese with respect and esteem, no longer as a foreigner but as the "Master of the Great West".

Among the important figures of Chinese history in the "Millennium Museum", Peking, only two foreigners are recorded: Marco Polo and Fr Matteo Ricci.

This missionary's work presents two dimensions that must not be separated: the Chinese inculturation of the Gospel proclamation and the presentation to China of Western culture and science. The scientific aspects often attracted greater interest but the perspective with which Fr Ricci entered into relations with the Chinese world and culture should not be forgotten. It consisted of a humanism that viewed the person as part of his context, cultivated his moral and spiritual values, retaining everything positive that is found in the Chinese tradition and offering to enrich it with the contribution of Western culture and, above all, with the wisdom and truth of Christ.

Fr Ricci did not go to China to take it the science and culture of the West but rather to bring to it the Gospel, to make God known.

He wrote: "For more than 20 years, every morning and every evening I have prayed with tears to Heaven. I know that the Lord of Heaven takes pity on living creatures and pardons them.... The truth about the Lord of Heaven is already in human hearts. But human beings do not immediately understand it and are not inclined to reflect on such a matter" (Il vero significato del "Signore del Cielo", [the true meaning of the "Lord of Heaven"], Rome 2006, pp. 69-70).

And it was precisely while he was proclaiming the Gospel that Fr Ricci discovered in those with whom he was conversing the request for a broader exchange, so that the encounter motivated by faith also became an intercultural dialogue; a disinterested dialogue, free from financial or political ambition and lived in friendship. This makes the work of Fr Ricci and his followers one of the loftiest and happiest peaks in the relationship between China and the West.

The "Treaty of Friendship" (1595), one of his first and best known works in Chinese, is eloquent in this regard. In Fr Ricci's thought and teaching science, reason and faith find a natural synthesis: "Anyone who knows Heaven and earth", he wrote in the preface to the third edition of the world map, "can prove that the One who rules Heaven and earth is absolutely good, absolutely great and absolutely one. The ignorant reject Heaven, but knowledge that does not relate back to the Emperor of Heaven as to the first cause is no knowledge at all".

However, admiration for Fr Ricci must not lead us to forget the role and influence of his Chinese conversation partners. The decisions he made did not depend on an abstract strategy of inculturation of the faith but rather on events as a whole, on the meetings and experiences that he continued to have, which is why what he was able to achieve was also thanks to his encounter with the Chinese.

He experienced this encounter in many ways but deepened it through his relationship with a few friends and followers, especially his four famous converts, "pillars of the nascent Chinese Church".

The first and most famous of them was Xu Guangqi, a native of Shanghai, a literary man and a scientist, mathematician, astronomer and agricultural expert who reached the highest ranks in the imperial bureaucracy, an integral man of great faith and Christian life, who was dedicated to serving his country and occupied an important place in the history of Chinese culture.

It was he, for example, who convinced and helped Fr Ricci to translate into Chinese Euclid's Elements, a fundamental work of geometry, and who persuaded the Emperor to entrust the reform of the Chinese calendar to Jesuit astronomers.

Li Zhizao, another of the Chinese scholars who converted to Christianity, likewise helped Fr Ricci in completing the last and most developed editions of the world map that were to give the Chinese a new image of the world.

He described Fr Ricci in these words: "I believed him to be a unique man because he lives in celibacy, steers clear of intrigue in his office, speaks little, has an orderly conduct and this is his daily practice he cultivates virtue secretly and serves God ceaselessly".

Thus it is right to associate with Fr Matteo Ricci his closest friends who shared with him the experience of faith.

Dear brothers and sisters, may the memory of these men of God dedicated to the Gospel and to the Church, their example of fidelity to Christ, their deep love for the Chinese people, their commitment of intelligence and study and their virtuous lives be an opportunity to pray for the Church in China and for the entire Chinese people, as we do every year, on 24 May, addressing Mary Most Holy, venerated in the famous Shrine of Sheshan in Shanghai; and may they also be an incentive and an encouragement to live the Christian faith intensely, in dialogue with the different cultures but in the certainty that in Christ true humanism is fulfilled, open to God, rich in moral and spiritual values and capable of responding to the deepest desires of the human soul.

Today I too, like Fr Matteo Ricci, express my profound esteem to the noble Chinese people and to their 1,000-old culture, in the conviction that a renewed encounter with Christianity will bear abundant fruits of good, just as it then fostered a peaceful coexistence among peoples. Many thanks.

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Papal Homily at Cardinal Mayer's Funeral Mass
"The Christian Is Distinguished by the Fact That He Places His Security in God"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 3, 2010 - Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave during the funeral liturgy for Cardinal Paul Augustin Mayer, who died Friday at the age of 98. The funeral was held today in St. Peter's Basilica.

The cardinal, although retired at the time of his death, had served as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments and president of the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei."

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Venerated Brothers,
Distinguished Gentlemen and Ladies,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Also for our beloved brother, Cardinal Paul Augustin Mayer, the hour has come to leave this world. He was born, almost a century ago, in my own land, precisely in Altotting, where the famous Marian shrine arises to which many of the affections and memories of us, Bavarians, are linked. Thus is the destiny of human existence: It flowers from the earth -- at a precise point of the world -- and is called to Heaven, to the homeland from which it comes mysteriously. "Desiderat anima mea ad te, Deus" (Psalm 41/42:2). In this verb "desiderat" is the whole man, his being flesh, spirit, earth and heaven. It is the original mystery of the image of God in man. Young Paul -- who later as a monk was called Augustin -- Mayer studied this topic, in the writings of Clement of Alexandria, for his doctorate in theology. It is the mystery of eternal life, deposited in us as a seed since baptism, which must be received in the journey of our life, until the day that we give back the spirit to God the Father.

"Pater, in manus tuas commendo spiritum meum" (Luke 23:46). Jesus' last words on the cross guide us in prayer and in meditation, while we are gathered around the altar to give our last farewell to our mourned brother. Every funeral celebration of ours is placed under the sign of hope: In the last breath of Jesus on the cross (cf. Luke 23:46; John 19:30), God gave himself wholly to humanity, filling the void opened by sin and re-establishing the victory of life over death. Because of this, every man who dies in the Lord participates through faith in this act of infinite love, in some way gives up his spirit together with Christ, in the sure hope that the hand of the Father will resurrect him from the dead and introduce him into the Kingdom of life.

"Hope does not disappoint us," says the Apostle Paul, writing to the Christians of Rome, "because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us" (Romans 5:5). The great and unfailing hope, founded on the solid rock of the love of God, assures us that the life of those who die in Christ "is not taken away but transformed"; and that "while the dwelling of this earthly exile is destroyed, an eternal dwelling is prepared in heaven" (Preface of the Dead I). In an age such as ours, in which fear of death leads many people to despair and to the search for illusory consolations, the Christian is distinguished by the fact that he places his security in God, in a love so great that it can renew the whole world. "Behold, I make all things new" (Revelation 21:5), states he who sits on the throne at the end of the Book of Revelation. The vision of the new Jerusalem expresses the realization of humanity's most profound desire: to live together in peace, with no more threat of death, but enjoying full communion with God and among ourselves. The Church and, in particular, the monastic community, are a prefigurement on earth of this final goal. It is an imperfect anticipation, marked by limitations and sins and hence always in need of conversion and purification; and yet, in the Eucharistic community we taste ahead of time the victory of the love of Christ over that which divides and mortifies. "Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor" -- the Love of Christ has gathered us in unity: This is the episcopal motto of the venerated brother who has left us. As a son of St. Benedict, he has experienced the promise of the Lord: "He who conquers shall have this heritage, and I will be his God and he shall be my son" (Revelation 21:7).

Formed in the school of the Benedictine Fathers of the Abbey of St. Michael in Metten, in 1931 he made his monastic profession. During his whole life he sought to realize all that St. Benedict says in the Rule: "Prefer nothing to the love of Christ." After studies in Salzburg and Rome, he undertook a long and appreciated teaching activity in the St. Anselm Pontifical Athenaeum, where he became rector in 1949, holding this office for 17 years. Founded, precisely at that time, was the Pontifical Liturgical Institute, which became an essential point of reference for the preparation of formators in the field of liturgy. Elected, after the Council, Abbot of his beloved Abbey of Metten, he held this office for five years, but in 1972 the Servant of God Pope Paul VI appointed him Secretary of the Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes, and consecrated him personally bishop on Feb. 13, 1972.

During the years of service in this dicastery, he promoted the progressive implementation of the dispositions of Vatican Council II in regard to religious families. In this particular realm, in his capacity as religious, he demonstrated outstanding ecclesial and human sensitivity. In 1984, the Venerable John Paul II entrusted him with the post of prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, creating him later cardinal in the consistory of May 25, 1985 and assigning him the title of St. Anselm on the Aventine. Subsequently he appointed him first president of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei. Also in this post, Cardinal Mayer proved to be a faithful and zealous servant, attempting to implement the content of his motto: The love of Christ has gathered us in unity.

Dear brothers, our life is in the hands of the Lord at every instant, above all at the moment of death. Because of this, with the confident invocation of Jesus on the cross: "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit," we want to accompany our brother Paul Augustin, while he takes his step from this world to the Father.

At this moment, my thoughts cannot but go to the Shrine of the Mother of Graces of Altotting. Spiritually turned to that place of pilgrimage, we entrust to the Holy Virgin our prayer of suffrage for mourned cardinal Mayer. He was born near that Shrine, conformed his life to Christ according to the Benedictine Rule, and died in the shadow of this Vatican Basilica. May the Virgin, St. Peter and St. Benedict accompany this faithful disciple of the Lord to his Kingdom of light and peace. Amen.

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On the Curé d'Ars
"Since His Earthly Youth He Sought to Conform Himself to God

VATICAN CITY, AUG. 17, 2009 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Aug. 5 at his Summer Residence in Castel Gandolfo, during which commented on the Holy Curé d'Ars.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In today's Catechesis I would like briefly to review the life of the Holy Curé of Ars. I shall stress several features that can also serve as an example for priests in our day, different of course from the time in which he lived, yet marked in many ways by the same fundamental human and spiritual challenges.

Precisely yesterday was the 150th anniversary of his birth in Heaven. Indeed it was at two o'clock in the morning on 4 August 1859 that St John Baptist Mary Vianney, having come to the end of his earthly life, went to meet the heavenly Father to inherit the Kingdom, prepared since the world's creation for those who faithfully follow his teachings (cf. Mt 25: 34).

What great festivities there must have been in Heaven at the entry of such a zealous pastor! What a welcome he must have been given by the multitude of sons and daughters reconciled with the Father through his work as parish priest and confessor!

I wanted to use this anniversary as an inspiration to inaugurate the Year for Priests, whose theme, as is well known, is "Faithfulness of Christ, Faithfulness of Priests". The credibility of witness depends on holiness and, once and for all, on the actual effectiveness of the mission of every priest.

John Mary Vianney was born into a peasant family in the small town of Dardilly on 8 May 1786. His family was poor in material possessions but rich in humanity and in faith. Baptized on the day of his birth, as was the good custom in those days, he spent so many years of his childhood and adolescence working in the fields and tending the flocks that at the age of 17 he was still illiterate.

Nonetheless he knew by heart the prayers his devout mother had taught him and was nourished by the sense of religion in the atmosphere he breathed at home. His biographers say that since his earthly youth he sought to conform himself to God's will, even in the humblest offices.

He pondered on his desire to become a priest but it was far from easy for him to achieve it.

Indeed, he arrived at priestly ordination only after many ordeals and misunderstandings, with the help of far-sighted priests who did not stop at considering his human limitations but looked beyond them and glimpsed the horizon of holiness that shone out in that truly unusual young man.

So it was that on 23 June 1815 he was ordained a deacon and on the following 13 August, he was ordained a priest. At last, at the age of 29, after numerous uncertainties, quite a few failures and many tears, he was able to walk up to the Lord's altar and make the dream of his life come true.

The Holy Curé of Ars always expressed the highest esteem for the gift he had received. He would say: "Oh! How great is the Priesthood! It can be properly understood only in Heaven... if one were to understand it on this earth one would die, not of fright but of love!" (Abbé Monnin, Esprit du Curé d'Ars, p. 113).

Moreover, as a little boy he had confided to his mother: "If I were to become a priest, I would like to win many souls" (Abbé Monnin, Procès de l'ordinaire, p. 1064). And so he did. Indeed, in his pastoral service, as simple as it was extraordinarily fertile, this unknown parish priest of a forgotten village in the south of France was so successful in identifying with his ministry that he became, even in a visibly and universally recognizable manner, an alter Christus, an image of the Good Shepherd who, unlike the hired hand, lays down his life for his sheep (cf. Jn 10: 11).

After the example of the Good Shepherd, he gave his life in the decades of his priestly service. His existence was a living catechesis that acquired a very special effectiveness when people saw him celebrating Mass, pausing before the tabernacle in adoration or spending hour after hour in the confessional.

Therefore the centre of his entire life was the Eucharist, which he celebrated and adored with devotion and respect. Another fundamental characteristic of this extraordinary priestly figure was his diligent ministry of confession.

He recognized in the practice of the sacrament of penance the logical and natural fulfillment of the priestly apostolate, in obedience to Christ's mandate: "if you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained" (cf. Jn 20: 23).

St John Mary Vianney thus distinguished himself as an excellent, tireless confessor and spiritual director. Passing "with a single inner impulse from the altar to the confessional", where he spent a large part of the day, he did his utmost with preaching and persuasive advice to help his parishioners rediscover the meaning and beauty of the sacrament of Penance, presenting it as an inherent demand of the Eucharistic presence (cf. Letter to Priests for the inauguration of the Year for Priests).

The pastoral methods of St John Mary Vianney might hardly appear suited to the social and cultural conditions of the present day. Indeed, how could a priest today imitate him in a world so radically changed? Although it is true that times change and many charisms are characteristic of the person, hence unrepeatable, there is nevertheless a lifestyle and a basic desire that we are all called to cultivate.

At a close look, what made the Curé of Ars holy was his humble faithfulness to the mission to which God had called him; it was his constant abandonment, full of trust, to the hands of divine Providence.
It was not by virtue of his own human gifts that he succeeded in moving peoples' hearts nor even by relying on a praiseworthy commitment of his will; he won over even the most refractory souls by communicating to them what he himself lived deeply, namely, his friendship with Christ.

He was "in love" with Christ and the true secret of his pastoral success was the fervor of his love for the Eucharistic Mystery, celebrated and lived, which became love for Christ's flock, for Christians and for all who were seeking God. His testimony reminds us, dear brothers and sisters, that for every baptized person and especially for every priest the Eucharist is not merely an event with two protagonists, a dialogue between God and me. Eucharistic Communion aspires to a total transformation of one's life and forcefully flings open the whole human "I" of man and creates a new "we" (cf. Joseph Ratzinger, La Comunione nella Chiesa, p. 80).

Thus, far from reducing the figure of St John Mary Vianney to an example albeit an admirable one of 18-century devotional spirituality, on the contrary one should understand the prophetic power that marked his human and priestly personality that is extremely timely.

In post-revolutionary France which was experiencing a sort of "dictatorship of rationalism" that aimed at obliterating from society the very existence of priests and of the Church, he lived first in the years of his youth a heroic secrecy, walking kilometers at night to attend Holy Mass. Then later as a priest Vianney distinguished himself by an unusual and fruitful pastoral creativity, geared to showing that the then prevalent rationalism was in fact far from satisfying authentic human needs, hence definitively unlivable.

Dear brothers and sisters, 150 years after the death of the Holy Curé of Ars, contemporary society is facing challenges that are just as demanding and may have become even more complex.

If in his time the "dictatorship of rationalism" existed, in the current epoch a sort of "dictatorship of relativism" is evident in many contexts. Both seem inadequate responses to the human being's justifiable request to use his reason as a distinctive and constitutive element of his own identity.

Rationalism was inadequate because it failed to take into account human limitations and claims to make reason alone the criterion of all things, transforming it into a goddess; contemporary relativism humiliates reason because it arrives de facto at affirming that the human being can know nothing with certainty outside the positive scientific field.

Today however, as in that time, man, "a beggar for meaning and fulfillment", is constantly in quest of exhaustive answers to the basic questions that he never ceases to ask himself.

The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council had very clearly in mind this "thirst for the truth" that burns in every human heart when they said that it is the task of priests "as instructors of the people in the faith" to see to the "formation of a genuine Christian community", that can "smooth the path to Christ for all men" and exercise "a truly motherly function" for them, "showing or smoothing the path towards Christ and his Church" for non-believers and for believers, while also "encouraging, supporting and strengthening believers for their spiritual struggles" (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis, n. 6).

The teaching which in this regard the Holy Curé of Ars continues to pass on to us is that the priest must create an intimate personal union with Christ that he must cultivate and increase, day after day.

Only if he is in love with Christ will the priest be able to teach his union, this intimate friendship with the divine Teacher to all, and be able to move people's hearts and open them to the Lord's merciful love. Only in this way, consequently, will he be able to instil enthusiasm and spiritual vitality in the communities the Lord entrusts to him.

Let us pray that through the intercession of St John Mary Vianney, God will give holy priests to his Church and will increase in the faithful the desire to sustain and help them in their ministry. Let us entrust this intention to Mary, whom on this very day we invoke as Our Lady of the Snow.
 

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Pope's Homily at His Birthday Mass
"One's Own Life Can Serve to Proclaim God's Mercy"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 20, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's homily at his birthday Mass on Monday.

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MASS OF THANKSGIVING IN REMEMBRANCE OF THE POPE'S 80th BIRTHDAY
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

St Peter's Square
Second Sunday of Easter, 15 April 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This Sunday is called "in Albis", in accordance with an old tradition. On this day, neophytes of the Easter Vigil were still wearing their white garment, the symbol of the light which the Lord gave them in Baptism. Later, they would take off the white garment but would have to introduce into their daily lives the new brightness communicated to them.

They were to diligently keep alight the delicate flame of truth and good which the Lord had kindled within them, in order to bring to this world a gleam of God's splendour and goodness.

The Holy Father, John Paul II, wanted this Sunday to be celebrated as the Feast of Divine Mercy: in the word "mercy", he summed up and interpreted anew for our time the whole mystery of Redemption. He had lived under two dictatorial regimes, and in his contact with poverty, neediness and violence he had a profound experience of the powers of darkness which also threaten the world of our time.

But he had an equally strong experience of the presence of God who opposed all these forces with his power, which is totally different and divine: with the power of mercy. It is mercy that puts an end to evil. In it is expressed God's special nature -- his holiness, the power of truth and love.

Two years ago now, after the First Vespers of this Feast, John Paul II ended his earthly life. In dying, he entered the light of Divine Mercy, of which, beyond death and starting from God, he now speaks to us in a new way.

Have faith, he tells us, in Divine Mercy! Become day after day men and women of God's mercy. Mercy is the garment of light which the Lord has given to us in Baptism. We must not allow this light to be extinguished; on the contrary, it must grow within us every day and thus bring to the world God's glad tidings.

In these days illumined in particular by the light of divine mercy, a coincidence occurs that is significant to me: I can look back over 80 years of life.

I greet all those who have gathered here to celebrate this birthday with me. I greet first of all the Cardinals, with a special, grateful thought for the Dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who has made himself an authoritative interpreter of your common sentiments. I greet the Archbishops and Bishops, including the Auxiliaries of the Diocese of Rome, of my Diocese; I greet the Prelates and other members of the Clergy, the men and women Religious and all the faithful present here.

I also offer respectful and grateful thoughts to the political figures and members of the Diplomatic Corps who have desired to honour me with their presence.

Lastly, I greet with fraternal affection His Eminence Ioannis, Metropolitan of Pergamon, personal envoy of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I. To him I express my appreciation for this kind gesture and the hope that the Catholic-Orthodox dialogue may proceed with new enthusiasm.

We are gathered here to reflect on the completion of a long period of my life. Obviously, the liturgy itself must not be used to speak of oneself, of myself; yet, one's own life can serve to proclaim God's mercy.

"Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for me", a Psalm says (66[65]:16). I have always considered it a great gift of Divine Mercy to have been granted birth and rebirth, so to speak, on the same day, in the sign of the beginning of Easter. Thus, I was born as a member of my own family and of the great family of God on the same day.

Yes, I thank God because I have been able to experience what "family" means; I have been able to experience what "fatherhood" means, so that the words about God as Father were made understandable to me from within; on the basis of human experience, access was opened to me to the great and benevolent Father who is in Heaven.

We have a responsibility to him, but at the same time he gives us trust so that the mercy and goodness with which he accepts even our weakness and sustains us may always shine out in his justice, and that we can gradually learn to walk righteously.

I thank God for enabling me to have a profound experience of the meaning of motherly goodness, ever open to anyone who seeks shelter and in this very way able to give me freedom.

I thank God for my sister and my brother, who with their help have been close to me faithfully throughout my life. I thank God for the companions I have met on my way and for the advisers and friends he has given to me.

I am especially grateful to him because, from the very first day of my life, I have been able to enter and to develop in the great community of believers in which the barriers between life and death, between Heaven and earth, are flung open. I give thanks for being able to learn so many things, drawing from the wisdom of this community which not only embraces human experiences from far off times: the wisdom of this community is not only human wisdom; through it, the very wisdom of God -- eternal wisdom -- reaches us.

In this Sunday's First Reading we are told that at the dawn of the newborn Church, people used to take the sick out into the squares so that when Peter passed by his shadow might fall on them: to this shadow they attributed a healing power. This shadow, in fact, was cast by the light of Christ and thus in itself retained something of the power of divine goodness.

From the very first, through the community of the Catholic Church, Peter's shadow has covered my life and I have learned that it is a good shadow -- a healing shadow precisely because it ultimately comes from Christ himself.

Peter was a man with all the human weaknesses, but he was above all a man full of passionate faith in Christ, full of love for him. It was through his faith and love that the healing power of Christ and his unifying force reached humanity, although it was mingled with all Peter's shortcomings. Let us seek Peter's shadow today in order to stand in the light of Christ!

Birth and rebirth, an earthly family and the great family of God: this is the great gift of God's multiple mercies, the foundation which supports us. As I continued on my path through life, I encountered a new and demanding gift: the call to the priestly ministry.

On the Feast of Sts Peter and Paul in 1951, as I faced this task, when we were lying prostrate on the floor of the Cathedral of Freising -- we were more than 40 companions -- and above us all the saints were invoked, I was troubled by an awareness of the poverty of my life.

Yes, it was a consolation that the protection of God's saints, of the living and the dead, was invoked upon us. I knew that I would not be left on my own. And what faith the words of Jesus, which we heard subsequently on the lips of the Bishop during the Ordination liturgy, inspire in us! "No longer do I call you servants, but my friends...". I have been able to experience this deeply: he, the Lord, is not only the Lord but also a friend. He has placed his hand upon me and will not leave me.

These words were spoken in the context of the conferral of the faculty for the administration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and thus, in Christ's Name, to forgive sins. We heard the same thing in today's Gospel: the Lord breathes upon his disciples. He grants them his Spirit -- the Holy Spirit: "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven...".

The Spirit of Jesus Christ is the power of forgiveness. He is the power of Divine Mercy. He makes it possible to start all over again -- ever anew. The friendship of Jesus Christ is the friendship of the One who makes us people who forgive, the One who also forgives us, raises us ceaselessly from our weakness and in this very way educates us, instils in us an awareness of the inner duty of love, of the duty to respond with our faithfulness to his trust.

In the Gospel passage for today we also heard the story of the Apostle Thomas' encounter with the Risen Lord: the Apostle is permitted to touch his wounds and thereby recognizes him -- over and above the human identity of Jesus of Nazareth, Thomas recognizes him in his true and deepest identity: "My Lord and my God!" (Jn 20:28).

The Lord took his wounds with him to eternity. He is a wounded God; he let himself be injured through his love for us. His wounds are a sign for us that he understands and allows himself to be wounded out of love for us.

These wounds of his: how tangible they are to us in the history of our time! Indeed, time and again he allows himself to be wounded for our sake. What certainty of his mercy, what consolation do his wounds mean for us! And what security they give us regarding his identity: "My Lord and my God!". And what a duty they are for us, the duty to allow ourselves in turn to be wounded for him!

God's mercy accompanies us daily. To be able to perceive his mercy it suffices to have a heart that is alert. We are excessively inclined to notice only the daily effort that has been imposed upon us as children of Adam.

If, however, we open our hearts, then as well as immersing ourselves in them we can be constantly aware of how good God is to us; how he thinks of us precisely in little things, thus helping us to achieve important ones.

With the increasing burden of responsibility, the Lord has also brought new assistance to my life. I repeatedly see with grateful joy how large is the multitude of those who support me with their prayers; I see that with their faith and love they help me carry out my ministry; I see that they are indulgent with my shortcomings and also recognize in Peter's shadow the beneficial light of Jesus Christ.

At this moment, therefore, I would like to thank the Lord and all of you with all my heart. I wish to end this Homily with a prayer of the holy Pope, St Leo the Great, that prayer which precisely 30 years ago I had written on the souvenir cards for my ordination:

"Pray to our good God that in our day he will be so good as to reinforce faith, multiply love and increase peace. May he render me, his poor servant, adequate for his task and useful for your edification, and grant me to carry out this service so that together with the time given to me my dedication may grow. Amen".

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Papal Letter to Cardinal Arinze
On the Occasion of the 43rd Anniverary of "Sacrosanctum Concilium"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 9, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is the Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's letter of to Cardinal Francis Arinze on the occasion of the study day in honor of the 43rd anniversary of the promulgation of the Second Vatican Council constitution on the sacred liturgy, "Sacrosanctum Concilium."

* * *

To My Venerable Brother, Cardinal Francis Arinze, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments

I am pleased to offer my cordial greeting to you and to those taking part in the Study Day organized by this Dicastery on the anniversary of the promulgation of the Constitution "Sacrosanctum Concilium." After reflecting in the past on the Roman Martyrology and on Sacred Music, you are now preparing to examine in depth the theme: "Sunday Mass for the sanctification of the Christian People". Because of its spiritual and pastoral implications, this is a very timely topic.

The Second Vatican Council teaches that "the Church celebrates the Paschal Mystery every seventh day, which day is appropriately called the "Lord's Day' or "Sunday'" ("Sacrosanctum Concilium," n. 106).

Sunday remains the fertile foundation and at the same time the fundamental nucleus of the liturgical year which originated in Christ's Resurrection, thanks to which the features of eternity were impressed on time.

Thus, Sunday is, so to speak, a fragment of time imbued with eternity, for its dawn saw the Crucified and Risen Christ enter victorious into eternal life.

With the event of the Resurrection, creation and redemption reach their fulfillment. On the "first day after Saturday", the women and then the Disciples, meeting the Risen One, understood that this was "the day which the Lord has made" (Ps 118[117]:24), "his" day, the "Dies Domini." In fact, this is what the liturgy sings: "O first and last day, radiant and shining with Christ's triumph".

From the very outset, this has been a stable element in the perception of the mystery of Sunday: "The Word", Origen affirms, "has moved the feast of the Sabbath to the day on which the light was produced and has given us as an image of true repose, Sunday, the day of salvation, the first day of the light in which the Savior of the world, after completing all his work with men and after conquering death, crossed the threshold of Heaven, surpassing the creation of the six days and receiving the blessed Sabbath and rest in God" (Comment on Psalm 91).

Inspired by knowledge of this, St Ignatius of Antioch asserted: "We are no longer keeping the Sabbath, but the Lord's Day" (Ad Magn. 9, 1).

For the first Christians, participation in the Sunday celebrations was the natural expression of their belonging to Christ, of communion with his Mystical Body, in the joyful expectation of his glorious return.

This belonging was expressed heroically in what happened to the martyrs of Abitene, who faced death exclaiming, "Sine dominico non possumus": without gathering together on Sunday to celebrate the Eucharist, we cannot live.

How much more necessary it is today to reaffirm the sacredness of the Lord's Day and the need to take part in Sunday Mass!

The cultural context in which we live, often marked by religious indifference and secularism that blot out the horizon of the transcendent, must not let us forget that the People of God, born from "Christ's Passover, Sunday", should return to it as to an inexhaustible source, in order to understand better and better the features of their own identity and the reasons for their existence.

The Second Vatican Council, after pointing out the origin of Sunday, continued: "On this day Christ's faithful are bound to come together into one place. They should listen to the Word of God and take part in the Eucharist, thus calling to mind the Passion, Resurrection and Glory of the Lord Jesus and giving thanks to God who "has begotten them again, through the Resurrection of Christ from the dead, unto a living hope'" ("Sacrosanctum Concilium," n. 106).

Sunday was not chosen by the Christian community but by the Apostles, and indeed by Christ himself, who on that day, "the first day of the week", rose and appeared to the disciples (cf. Mt 28:1; Mk 16: 9; Lk 24:1; Jn 20:1,19; Acts 20:7; I Cor 16: 2), and appeared to them again "eight days later" (Jn 20:26).

Sunday is the day on which the Risen Lord makes himself present among his followers, invites them to his banquet and shares himself with them so that they too, united and configured to him, may worship God properly.

Therefore, as I encourage people to give ever greater importance to the "Lord's Day", I am eager to highlight the central place of the Eucharist as a fundamental pillar of Sunday and of all ecclesial life. Indeed, at every Sunday Eucharistic celebration, the sanctification of the Christian people takes place as it will take place until the Sunday that never sets, the day of the definitive encounter of God with his creatures.

In this perspective, I express the hope that the Study Day promoted by this Dicastery on such a timely theme will contribute to the recovery of the Christian meaning of Sunday in the context of pastoral care and in every believer's life.

May the "Day of the Lord" that could well be called "the lord of days" regain all its importance and be perceived and lived to the full in the celebration of the Eucharist, from which the Christian community grows authentically and on which it depends (cf. "Presbyterorum Ordinis," n. 6).

As I assure you of my remembrance in prayer and invoke upon each one the motherly protection of Mary Most Holy, I warmly impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you, Venerable Brother, to your collaborators and to all the participants in this important meeting.

From the Vatican, 27 November 2006

BENEDICT XVI

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Benedict XVI on Film About John Paul I
"A Pontiff Who Was Strong in Faith"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 27, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Oct. 8 after previewing the film about Pope John Paul I entitled "Pope Luciani, God's Smile."

* * *

Palazzo San Carlo
Sunday, 8 October 2006

Mr President of RAI,

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

Together, we have just seen this beautiful film that chronicles the most important milestones in the life of my venerable Predecessor, the Servant of God John Paul I.

I feel the need to express my deep gratitude first of all to you, Mr President, and then to the Board of Administration and the General Director of RAI, for giving this pleasant opportunity to me and my collaborators.

I greet those responsible for RAI Fiction and for the Società Leone Cinematografica who conceived and produced this interesting feature. I extend my special greetings and thanks to Georgio Capitani, the director, and to the various actors, with a special mention for Neri Marcoré who played the role of Albino Luciani.

I also cordially greet all of you who accepted the invitation to come to this meeting, where we have been able to relive evocative moments in the life of the Church in the past century.

In particular, we have been able to revisit the sweet and gentle figure of a Pontiff who was strong in faith, firm in principles but ever ready with a welcome and a smile.

Faithful to tradition and open to renewal, the Servant of God Albino Luciani, as Priest, Bishop and Pope, was unflagging in his pastoral activity, constantly encouraging clergy and lay people alike to pursue in the various fields of the apostolate the one common ideal of holiness.

A teacher of truth and a passionate catechist, he reminded all believers with his customary fascinating simplicity of the work and joy of evangelization, emphasizing the beauty of Christian love, the one force that can defeat violence and build a more fraternal humanity.

Lastly, I would like to recall his devotion to Our Lady. When he was Patriarch of Venice he wrote: "It is impossible to conceive of our life, the life of the Church, without the Rosary, the Marian feasts, Marian shrines and images of Our Lady".

It is beautiful to accept his invitation and, as he did, to find in humble entrustment to Mary the secret of daily serenity and effective work for peace in the world.

Once again, dear friends, thank you for your presence. I bless all of you and your loved ones with affection.

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Papal Message on '56 Hungarian Uprising
"The Human Person … Takes Precedence Over the State"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 23, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's message to Hungarian President László Sólyom, on the 50th anniversary of the Budapest uprising.

* * *

To His Excellency
Mr. László Sólyom
President of the Republic of Hungary

On 23 October 1956, the courageous people of Budapest struggled to express their desire for freedom, in the face of a regime that was pursuing ends contrary to the values of the Hungarian Nation. Memories are still vivid of the tragic events that, in the space of a few days, left thousands of people dead or wounded, and caused deep distress throughout the world. At that time the grief-stricken appeals of my venerable Predecessor Pope Pius XII resounded strongly; with four impassioned public interventions, he pleaded insistently that the International Community recognize Hungary's right to self-determination, within a framework of clear national identity, in order to guarantee true freedom. I gladly support the various initiatives planned to commemorate this significant event, so vital for the history of the Hungarian People and for Europe. It is for this reason that I have asked the Dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, until recently my Secretary of State, to be present at the celebrations in my name and to voice the sentiments that arise in my heart on this Fiftieth Anniversary of the Budapest uprising.

Mr. President, in asking you to receive my Legate "a Latere," Cardinal Angelo Sodano, with the same honor that you would show to me, I gladly take the opportunity to call to mind the thousand-year-old agreement that governs relations between the Apostolic See and the noble people of Hungary. At the same time, I am pleased to observe, Mr. President, that despite all the oppression they have endured down the centuries, most recently from Soviet Communism, your people have always maintained the correct evaluation of the relationship between the State and citizens, beyond all ideology. According to the Christian vision that inspired the various peoples who were to form the Hungarian Nation, the human person, with his legitimate moral, ethical and social aspirations, takes precedence over the State. The legal structure and the secular nature of the State have always been conceived with respect for natural law expressed in authentic national values which, for believers, are enriched by Revelation. The heartfelt wish that I now renew is that Hungary may build a future free from all forms of oppression and ideological conditioning. Mr. President, I ask you to count me among those who gratefully commemorate this most important historical event, and I pray that it will provide an occasion for timely reflection on the moral, ethical and spiritual ideals and values that have shaped Europe, of which Hungary is a part. May your country, Mr. President, continue to promote a civilization based on respect for the human person and his supreme destiny.

May Mary, the "Magna Domina Hungarorum," Saint Stephen, Saint Elizabeth and the other saints from the noble land of Pannonia continue to watch over the legitimate aspirations of the Hungarian people. I assure them of my spiritual closeness, and as a sign of my constant affection, I impart to you and to your compatriots a special Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 7 October 2006

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

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Papal Message Recalls Assisi Meeting of '86
"Religion Must Be a Herald of Peace"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 9, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the message Benedict XVI sent Sept. 4 to Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino of Assisi-Nocera, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Interreligious Meeting of Prayer for Peace.

* * *

MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
TO BISHOP DOMENICO SORRENTINO

ON THE OCCASION OF THE 20th ANNIVERSARY
OF THE INTERRELIGIOUS MEETING OF PRAYER FOR PEACE

To my Venerable Brother
Bishop Domenico Sorrentino of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino

This year is the 20th anniversary of the Interreligious Meeting of Prayer for Peace, desired by my venerable Predecessor John Paul II on 27 October 1986 in Assisi.

It is well known that he did not only invite Christians of various denominations to this Meeting but also the exponents of different religions. The initiative made an important impact on public opinion. It constituted a vibrant message furthering peace and an event that left its mark on the history of our time.

Thus, the memory of those events continues to inspire initiatives of reflection and commitment. Some are planned to take place in Assisi itself on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of that initiative. I am thinking of the celebration organized in agreement with this Diocese by the Sant'Egidio Community, like its other annual meetings.

Moreover, on the actual days of the anniversary, a Convention organized by the Theological Institute of Assisi will be held, and the particular Churches of this Region will gather at the Eucharist concelebrated by the Bishops of Umbria in the Basilica of St Francis.

The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue will organize a meeting of dialogue, prayer and peace training for Catholic young people and those from other religious backgrounds.

These initiatives, each with its own specific style, highlight the value of John Paul II's insight and demonstrate its timeliness in light of what has happened in the past 20 years and of humanity's situation today.

There is no doubt that the most significant event in this period was the fall of the Communist-inspired regimes in Eastern Europe. This brought an end to the Cold War that had given rise to a sort of division of the world into an axis of opposing influence that spawned the storing of terrifying arsenals and armies in preparation for a full-scale war.

This was a moment when the widespread hope for peace induced many people to dream of a different world, where relations between peoples would develop, safe from the nightmare of war, and where the "globalization" process would unfold under the banner of a peaceful encounter of peoples and cultures in the context of a common international law inspired by respect for the needs of truth, justice and solidarity.

Unfortunately, this dream of peace never came true. On the contrary, the third millennium opened with scenes of terrorism and violence that show no sign of abating. Then, the fact that armed conflicts are taking place today against a background of the geographical and political tensions that exist in many regions may give the impression that not only cultural diversity but also religious differences are causes of instability or threats to the prospect of peace.

It is under this profile that the initiative John Paul II promoted 20 years ago has acquired the features of an accurate prophecy. His invitation to the world's religious leaders to bear a unanimous witness to peace serves to explain with no possibility of confusion that religion must be a herald of peace.

As the Second Vatican Council taught in the Declaration "Nostra Aetate" on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions: "We cannot truly pray to God the Father of all if we treat any people in other than brotherly fashion, for all men are created in God's image" (n. 5).

Despite the differences that mark the various religious itineraries, recognition of God's existence, which human beings can only arrive at by starting from the experience of creation (cf. Rom 1:20), must dispose believers to view other human beings as brothers and sisters. It is not legitimate, therefore, for anyone to espouse religious difference as a presupposition or pretext for an aggressive attitude toward other human beings.

It could be objected that history has experienced the regrettable phenomenon of religious wars. We know, however, that such demonstrations of violence cannot be attributed to religion as such but to the cultural limitations with which it is lived and develops in time.

Yet, when the religious sense reaches maturity it gives rise to a perception in the believer that faith in God, Creator of the universe and Father of all, must encourage relations of universal brotherhood among human beings.

In fact, attestations of the close bond that exists between the relationship with God and the ethics of love are recorded in all great religious traditions. We Christians feel strengthened in this and further enlightened by the Word of God. The Old Testament already expresses God's love for all peoples which, in the covenant that he established with Noah, he gathered in one great embrace, symbolized by the "bow in the clouds" (Gn 9:13,14,16), and which, according to the Prophets' words, he intended to gather once and for all into a single universal family (cf. Is 2:2ff.; 42:6; 66:18-21; Jer 4:2; Ps 47[46]).

In the New Testament the revelation of this universal plan of love culminates in the Paschal Mystery, in which the Son of God Incarnate, in an overwhelming act of saving solidarity, offers himself as a sacrifice on the Cross for the whole of humanity. Thus, God demonstrates that his nature is Love. This is what I meant to emphasize in my first Encyclical, which begins precisely with the words "Deus caritas est" (1 Jn 4:7).

Scripture's assertion not only casts light on God's mystery but also illumines relations between human beings who are called to abide by the commandment of love.

The gathering that the Servant of God John Paul II organized in Assisi appropriately puts the emphasis on the value of prayer in building peace. Indeed, we are aware of how difficult and, at times, how humanly desperate this process can be. Peace is a value in which so many elements converge. To build it, the paths of cultural, political and economic order are, of course, important, but first of all peace must be built in hearts. It is here, in fact, that sentiments develop that can nurture it or, on the contrary, threaten, weaken and stifle it.

Moreover, the human heart is the place where God intervenes. In this regard, in addition to the "horizontal" dimension of relations with other human beings, the "vertical" dimension of each person's relationship with God, the foundation of all things, is proving to be of fundamental importance. This was exactly what Pope John Paul II intended to recall to the world with the 1986 event.

He asked for genuine prayer which involves the whole of life. Thus, he desired it to be accompanied by fasting and expressed in pilgrimage, a symbol of the journey toward the encounter with God. And he explained, "Prayer entails conversion of heart on our part" (Inauguration of the World Day of Prayer for Peace, Assisi, 27 October 1986, n. 4; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 3 November, p. 1).

Among the features of the 1986 Meeting, it should be stressed that this value of prayer in building peace was testified to by the representatives of different religious traditions, and this did not happen at a distance but in the context of a meeting. Consequently, the people of diverse religions who were praying could show through the language of witness that prayer does not divide but unites and is a decisive element for an effective pedagogy of peace, hinged on friendship, reciprocal acceptance and dialogue between people of different cultures and religions.

We are in greater need of this dialogue than ever, especially if we look at the new generations. Sentiments of hatred and vengeance have been inculcated in numerous young people in those parts of the world marked by conflicts, in ideological contexts where the seeds of ancient resentment are cultivated and their souls prepared for future violence. These barriers must be torn down and encounter must be encouraged.

I am glad, therefore, that the initiatives planned in Assisi this year are along these lines and, in particular, that the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue has had the idea of applying them in a special way for young people.

In order not to misinterpret the meaning of what John Paul II wanted to achieve in 1986 and what, to use his own words, he habitually called the "spirit of Assisi", it is important not to forget the attention paid on that occasion to ensuring that the interreligious Prayer Meeting did not lend itself to syncretist interpretations founded on a relativistic concept.

For this very reason, John Paul II declared at the outset: "The fact that we have come here does not imply any intention of seeking a religious consensus among ourselves or of negotiating our faith convictions. Neither does it mean that religions can be reconciled at the level of a common commitment in an earthly project which would surpass them all. Nor is it a concession to relativism in religious beliefs" (ibid., n. 2).

I would like to reaffirm this principle which constitutes the premise for the interreligious dialogue that the Second Vatican Council was hoping for, as is expressed in the Declaration on the Relations of the Church to Non-Christian Religions (cf. "Nostra Aetate," n. 2).

I gladly take this opportunity to greet the representatives of other religions who are taking part in one or other of the Assisi commemorations. Like us Christians, they know that in prayer it is possible to have a special experience of God and to draw from it effective incentives for dedication to the cause of peace.

However, here too, it is only right to avoid an inappropriate confusion. Therefore, even when we are gathered together to pray for peace, the prayer must follow the different uses proper to the various religions. This was the decision in 1986 and it continues to be valid also today. The convergence of differences must not convey an impression of surrendering to that relativism which denies the meaning of truth itself and the possibility of attaining it.

For his daring and prophetic initiative John Paul II desired to choose the evocative setting of this town of Assisi, known across the world on account of St. Francis.

In fact, the "Poverello" embodied in an exemplary way the Beatitude proclaimed by Jesus in the Gospel: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God" (Mt 5:9). The witness Francis bore in his time makes him a natural reference point today for people who are fostering the ideal of peace, respect for nature and dialogue between people, religions and cultures. It is important, however, to recall, if one does not want to betray his message, that it was Christ's radical decision that provided him with a key to understanding the brotherhood to which all people are called, and in which inanimate creatures -- from "brother sun" to "sister moon" -- also in a certain way participate.

I would therefore like to recall that the eighth centenary of the conversion of St Francis coincides with this 20th anniversary of John Paul II's Prayer Meeting for Peace. The two commemorations shed light upon each other. In the words addressed to him by the Crucifix of St Damian: "Francis, go, repair my house"; in his choice of radical poverty, in the kiss of the leper that expresses his new capacity to see and love Christ in his suffering brethren, began that human and Christian adventure which continues to fascinate so many people in our day and to make this town the destination of countless pilgrims.

I entrust to you, Venerable Brother, Pastor of this Church of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino, the task of making these reflections known to the participants in the various celebrations planned to commemorate the 20th anniversary of that historic event, the Interreligious Meeting of 27 October 1986. Also kindly impart to everyone my affectionate greeting and my Blessing, which I accompany with the greeting and prayer of the "Poverello" of Assisi: "May the Lord grant you peace!".

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Letter Recalls John Paul II's '86 Visit to Australia
"The Plight Which Still Afflicts So Many Aboriginal Citizens"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 9, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is the letter Benedict XVI sent to Cardinal Edward Cassidy, retired president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and to the participants in the meeting held in Alice Springs, Australia, from Oct. 2-7, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of John Paul II's visit to that country.

* * *

To My Venerable Brother
Cardinal Edward Idris Cassidy

It is with great gladness that, through you, I convey my greetings to the Most Reverend Edmund Collins, Bishop of Darwin, and all those meeting in Alice Springs from 2 to 7 October 2006 to mark the Twentieth Anniversary of the visit of my beloved predecessor Pope John Paul II. Please be assured of my prayers and spiritual closeness at this time of joyful remembrance.

The art of remembrance, exercised within an arch of hope, is not just an occasion of simple recollection. It renews purpose. For the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders communities of Australia gathered today, this is expressed in the desire to propose anew the challenges with which Pope John Paul II encouraged them: "be faithful to your worthy traditions, adapt your living culture whenever this is required and above all open your hearts to the consoling, purifying and uplifting message of Jesus Christ who died so that we might have life and have it to the full" (Address to the Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, Alice Springs, 29 November 1986, "Insegnamenti IX," 2 1986, p. 1763).

How might these challenges be embraced when there is much that could lead to discouragement or even despair? As Jesus, during his time on earth, moved from village to village preaching the Good News of truth and love, he captured the attention of those who heard him. Unlike the Scribes, who were rejected for their hypocrisy, we are told that the Lord "made a deep impression because he taught them with authority" (Mk 1:22). Indeed, every human community needs and seeks strong, inspiring leaders to guide others into the way of hope. Much rests therefore upon the example of the Elders of communities. I encourage them to exercise authority wisely through faithfulness to their traditions -- songs, stories, paintings, dances -- and most especially through a renewed _expression of their deep awareness of God, made possible through the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Your Eminence, through you I wish to appeal directly to the young people present: keep alight the flame of hope and 'walk tall'. Christ is at your side! Even in the darkest hour his light continues to shine. Indeed, with the Psalmist we can proclaim "I hear whispering of many -- terror on every side -- but I trust in you, O Lord: I say, 'You are my God'" (Ps 31:13-15). Don't allow your "dreaming" to be undermined by the shallow call of those who might lure you into the misuse of alcohol and drugs, as promises of happiness. Such promises are false, and lead only to a circle of misery and entrapment. Instead, I exhort you to foster the encounter with the mystery of God's spirit active in you and in creation, beckoning you to a life of purpose, service, satisfaction, and joy.

To the wider community, I wish to repeat what I have already alluded to in my address earlier this year to the nation's Ambassador to the Holy See. Much has been achieved along the path of racial reconciliation yet there is still much to be accomplished. No one can exempt himself from this process. While no culture may use past hurt as an excuse to avoid facing the difficulties in meeting the contemporary social needs of its own people, it is also the case that only through the readiness to accept historical truth can a sound understanding of contemporary reality be reached and the vision of a harmonious future espoused. I therefore again encourage all Australians to address with compassion and determination the deep underlying causes of the plight which still afflicts so many Aboriginal citizens. Commitment to truth opens the way to lasting reconciliation through the healing process of asking for forgiveness and granting forgiveness -- two indispensable elements for peace. In this way our memory is purified, our hearts are made serene, and our future is filled with a well-founded hope in the peace which springs from truth.

With these sentiments of prayerful solicitude, and confident in the love of Christ which draws us forward (cf. 2 Cor 5:14), I cordially impart to you and all those gathered my Apostolic Blessing, which I readily extend to their family members wherever they may be.

From the Vatican, 22 September 2006

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI


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PEACE MUST FIRST BE BUILT IN THE HUMAN HEART

 VATICAN CITY, SEP 4, 2006 (VIS) - Made public today was a Message from the Holy Father to Bishop Domenico Sorrentino of Assisi-Nocera-Umbra-Gualdo Tadino, Italy, for the 20th Inter-religious Meeting of Prayer for Peace, being held in Assisi on September 4 and 5.

  Benedict XVI recalls how twenty years ago, on October 27 1986, the first such meeting was held, promoted by Servant of God John Paul II. Since then, writes the Pope in his Message, "the most important event ... has without doubt been the fall of the communist-inspired regimes of Eastern Europe," and the end "of the Cold War which had created a kind of division of the world into opposing spheres of influence. ... That was a moment of general hope for peace. ... Unfortunately this dream has not come true. Quite the contrary, the third millennium began with episodes of terrorism and violence that show no signs of abating."

  John Paul II's call "to the leaders of world religions to bear choral witness to peace, served to clarify beyond any possibility of doubt that religion cannot but be a harbinger of peace." On this subject, Benedict XVI highlights how, as a consequence, no one is permitted "to present religious difference as a reason or pretext for a belligerent attitude towards other human beings."

  The Holy Father goes on to point out how the 1986 meeting promoted by John Paul II highlighted "the value of prayer in the construction of peace. ... Firstly, however, peace must be built in the human heart," which "is the place of God's interventions."

  John Paul II, writes Pope Benedict, "called for authentic prayer, prayer that involved all of existence. For this reason he wished it to be accompanied by fasting and expressed through pilgrimage, symbol of the journey towards the meeting with God." The value of prayer "in building peace was expressed by exponents of different religious traditions" who thus demonstrated "how prayer does not divide but unites, and constitutes a vital element in an effective education for peace."

  "Of such education we have more need than ever, especially if we consider the new generations," says the Holy Father, going on to express his joy at an initiative being promoted in Assisi by the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, involving a meeting for dialogue, prayer and education for peace, for young Catholics and young people from other religions.

  Benedict XVI's Message also recalls the care taken at Assisi twenty years ago to ensure that "the inter-religious prayer meeting did not lend itself to syncretistic interpretations based on relativist concepts."

  Therefore, his Message concludes, "even when we find ourselves together to pray for peace, it is important that prayer take place according to those distinct paradigms particular to the various religions. This was the decision in 1986, and such a decision cannot but still be valid today. The convergence of opposites must not give the impression of a capitulation to the relativism that denies the very meaning of truth and the possibility of attaining it."

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Papal Letter on Lithuanian Anniversary
"Wrong Use of Freedom Leads to Emptiness"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 19, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is the letter Benedict XVI sent to Jesuit Metropolitan Archbishop Sigitas Tamkevicius, of Kaunas, Lithuania, to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the establishment of the Ecclesiastical Province and the creation of the Archdiocese of Kaunas.

* * *

To my Venerable Brother

Metropolitan Archbishop Sigitas Tamkevicius, S.J., of Kaunas

I received with great pleasure the letter in which you informed me of the events planned to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the establishment of the Ecclesiastical Province and the creation of the Archdiocese of Kaunas.

In fact, on April 4, 1926, with the Apostolic Constitution Lituanorum Gente, Pope Pius XI of venerable memory crowned the ancient desire of the Lithuanian bishops and faithful who, in a spirit of deep communion with the Pope of Rome after the rebirth of their own state at the end of the First World War, had asked to enjoy full ecclesiastical organization in the Land of Lithuania.

On this happy occasion, how can we forget all the people who cooperated to achieve this providential work and toiled with dedication in the Lord's vineyard for the good of the People of God?

In the first place was Blessed Archbishop Jurgis Matulaitis, M.I.C., apostolic visitor in Lithuania, and Cardinal Vincentas Sladkevicius, M.I.C., metropolitan archbishop of Kaunas, of venerable memory, who were instruments of reconciliation and balance in God's hands, thanks also to their example of personal holiness in the fulfillment of their pastoral ministry.

The painful trials imposed upon the Lithuanian people in the past eight decades are well known. The Ecclesiastical Province, young in years but already rich and flourishing with apostolic vitality, came under attack in the harsh Soviet persecution, opposed to the values of the Catholic faith which is deeply rooted in a large part of the Lithuanian people.

Thanks to God's help, which was never lacking, the years of trial saw the flourishing of a true nursery of witnesses and martyrs of the faith.

With the fall of the Communist dictatorship, the Lithuanian People regained its freedom and has become increasingly part of the family of nations, contributing to it its own patrimony of values.

The newfound freedom, together with the new challenges to the Church, showed the need for a reorganization of the Ecclesiastical Province. This was provided with the creation of the new Ecclesiastical Province of Vilnius by my Predecessor, the Servant of God John Paul II.

On the happy event of the anniversary being celebrated, it is helpful to take a look at the new needs of life today which also require of Lithuanian Catholics a strong and mature witness of the human and Christian values inherited from their forefathers.

As the lessons of past and also recent history attest, the wrong use of freedom leads to emptiness and to the distortion of the authentic face of the human being, created in the image and likeness of God.

I hope that the Catholics of Lithuania, and the faithful of the Ecclesiastical Province of Kaunas in particular, will be able to respond ever better to God's fatherly love, of which I spoke in my first encyclical. Authentic Christian life is expressed and certified in the witness of active charity to all, on the basis of the deep certainty that God is love. This is the eternal proclamation of Christ's Church, established in the world to enlighten consciences and guide them towards knowledge of the deeper meaning of human and Christian life.

I gladly join in the spiritual gratitude of the Church of Kaunas, which is raising her praise to God for the gifts received during the eight decades that have passed, and I invoke the intercession of the Mother of God, venerated at Lithuania's shrines, and especially at the Shrine of Siluva.

May God, under the auspices of the Immaculate Virgin, pour out an abundance of his spiritual favors upon the faithful in the above-mentioned Ecclesiastical Province and upon those gathered in the Basilica-Archcathedral of Kaunas on the occasion of this joyful celebration.

With these wishes, I cordially impart to you, Venerable Brother, to the clergy, to the men and women religious, to the consecrated persons and to all the faithful, the implored apostolic blessing, which I gladly extend to the bishops, priests and faithful of the current suffragan Dioceses of Siauliai, Telsiai and Vilkaviskis.

From the Vatican, June 23, 2006, Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

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Papal Letter on 50th Anniversary of "Haurietis Aquas"
Remembrance of Encyclical on Devotion to Sacred Heart

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 15, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's letter to the superior general of the Jesuits to mark the 50th anniversary of Pope Pius XII's encyclical "Haurietis Aquas," on devotion to the Sacred Heart.

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To the Most Reverend Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J.
Superior General of the Society of Jesus

Today, 50 years later, the Prophet Isaiah's words, which Pius XII placed at the beginning of the Encyclical with which he commemorated the first centenary of the extension of the Feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus to the entire Church, have lost none of their meaning: "With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation" (Isaiah 12:3).

By encouraging devotion to the Heart of Jesus, the Encyclical "Haurietis Aquas" exhorted believers to open themselves to the mystery of God and of his love and to allow themselves to be transformed by it. After 50 years, it is still a fitting task for Christians to continue to deepen their relationship with the Heart of Jesus, in such a way as to revive their faith in the saving love of God and to welcome him ever better into their lives.

The Redeemer's pierced side is the source to which the Encyclical "Haurietis Aquas" refers us: We must draw from this source to attain true knowledge of Jesus Christ and a deeper experience of his love. Thus, we will be able to understand better what it means to know God's love in Jesus Christ, to experience him, keeping our gaze fixed on him to the point that we live entirely on the experience of his love, so that we can subsequently witness to it to others.

Indeed, to take up a saying of my venerable Predecessor John Paul II, "In the Heart of Christ, man's heart learns to know the genuine and unique meaning of his life and of his destiny, to understand the value of an authentically Christian life, to keep himself from certain perversions of the human heart, and to unite the filial love for God and the love of neighbor."

Thus: "The true reparation asked by the Heart of the Savior will come when the civilization of the Heart of Christ can be built upon the ruins heaped up by hatred and violence" (Letter to Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, superior general of the Society of Jesus for the beatification of Blessed Claude de la Colombière, Oct. 5, 1986; L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, Oct. 27, 1986, p. 7).

In the Encyclical "Deus Caritas Est," I cited the affirmation in the First Letter of St John: "We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us," in order to emphasize that being Christian begins with the encounter with a Person (cf. No. 1).

Since God revealed himself most profoundly in the Incarnation of his Son in whom he made himself "visible," it is in our relationship with Christ that we can recognize who God really is (cf. "Haurietis Aquas," Nos. 29-41; "Deus Caritas Est," Nos. 12-15).

And again: since the deepest _expression of God's love is found in the gift Christ made of his life for us on the Cross, the deepest _expression of God's love, it is above all by looking at his suffering and his death that we can see God's infinite love for us more and more clearly: "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).

Moreover, not only does this mystery of God's love for us constitute the content of the worship of and devotion to the Heart of Jesus, but in the same way it is likewise the content of all true spirituality and Christian devotion. It is consequently important to stress that the basis of the devotion is as old as Christianity itself.

Indeed, it is only possible to be Christian by fixing our gaze on the Cross of our Redeemer, "on him whom they have pierced" (John 19:37; cf. Zechariah 12:10).

The Encyclical "Haurietis Aquas" rightly recalls that for countless souls the wound in Christ's side and the marks left by the nails have been "the chief sign and symbol of that love" that ever more incisively shaped their life from within (cf. No. 52).

Recognizing God's love in the Crucified One became an inner experience that prompted them to confess, together with Thomas: "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28), and enabled them to acquire a deeper faith by welcoming God's love unreservedly (cf. "Haurietis Aquas," No. 49).

The deepest meaning of this devotion to God's love is revealed solely through a more attentive consideration of its contribution not only to the knowledge, but also and especially to the personal experience of this love in trusting dedication to its service (cf. ibid., No. 62).

It is obvious that experience and knowledge cannot be separated: The one refers to the other. Moreover, it is essential to emphasize that true knowledge of God's love is only possible in the context of an attitude of humble prayer and generous availability.

Starting with this interior attitude, one sees that the gaze fixed upon his side, pierced by the spear, is transformed into silent adoration. Gazing at the Lord's pierced side, from which "blood and water" flowed (cf. John 19:34), helps us to recognize the manifold gifts of grace that derive from it (cf. "Haurietis Aquas," Nos. 34-41) and opens us to all other forms of Christian worship embraced by the devotion to the Heart of Jesus.

Faith, understood as a fruit of the experience of God's love, is a grace, a gift of God. Yet human beings will only be able to experience faith as a grace to the extent that they accept it within themselves as a gift on which they seek to live. Devotion to the love of God, to which the Encyclical "Haurietis Aquas" invited the faithful (cf. No. 72), must help us never to forget that he willingly took this suffering upon himself "for us," "for me."

When we practice this devotion, not only do we recognize God's love with gratitude but we continue to open ourselves to this love so that our lives are ever more closely patterned upon it. God, who poured out his love "into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us" (cf. Romans 5:5), invites us tirelessly to accept his love. The main aim of the invitation to give ourselves entirely to the saving love of Christ and to consecrate ourselves to it (cf. "Haurietis Aquas," No. 4) is, consequently, to bring about our relationship with God.

This explains why the devotion, which is totally oriented to the love of God who sacrificed himself for us, has an irreplaceable importance for our faith and for our life in love.

Whoever inwardly accepts God is molded by him. The experience of God's love should be lived by men and women as a "calling" to which they must respond. Fixing our gaze on the Lord, who "took our infirmities and bore our diseases" (Matthew 8:17), helps us to become more attentive to the suffering and need of others.

Adoring contemplation of the side pierced by the spear makes us sensitive to God's salvific will. It enables us to entrust ourselves to his saving and merciful love, and at the same time strengthens us in the desire to take part in his work of salvation, becoming his instruments.

The gifts received from the open side, from which "blood and water" flowed (cf. John 19:34), ensure that our lives will also become for others a source from which "rivers of living water" flow (John 7:38; cf. "Deus Caritas Est," No. 7).

The experience of love, brought by the devotion to the pierced side of the Redeemer, protects us from the risk of withdrawing into ourselves and makes us readier to live for others. "By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren" (1 John 3:16; cf. "Haurietis Aquas," No. 38).

It was only the experience that God first gave us his love that has enabled us to respond to his commandment of love (cf. "Deus Caritas Est," No. 17).

So it is that the cult of love, which becomes visible in the mystery of the Cross presented anew in every celebration of the Eucharist, lays the foundations of our capacity to love and to make a gift of ourselves (cf. "Haurietis Aquas," No. 69), becoming instruments in Christ's hands: Only in this way can we be credible proclaimers of his love.

However, this opening of ourselves to God's will must be renewed in every moment: "Love is never 'finished' and complete" (cf. "Deus Caritas Est," No. 17).

Thus, looking at the "side pierced by the spear" from which shines forth God's boundless desire for our salvation cannot be considered a transitory form of worship or devotion: The adoration of God's love, whose historical and devotional _expression is found in the symbol of the "pierced heart," remains indispensable for a living relationship with God (cf. "Haurietis Aquas," No. 62).

As I express the wish that the 50th anniversary will give rise to an ever more fervent response to love of the Heart of Christ in numerous hearts, I impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you, Most Reverend Father, and to all the Religious of the Society of Jesus, who are still very active in promoting this fundamental devotion.

From the Vatican, May 15, 2006

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

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Pope's Address on Rome's 2,759th Anniversary
The City "Has Fulfilled a Special Mission"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 5, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered in Rome's new auditorium on April 21, following a concert on the occasion of the 2,759th anniversary of the city's birth, and the first anniversary of his pontificate.

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Mr. President of the Republic and Distinguished Authorities,
Mr. Mayor,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I accepted with great joy the invitation to come to this concert in the new auditorium and I feel duty-bound to address warm thanks to Mr. Mayor, who promoted the initiative. As I offer him my cordial greetings, I also express sincere gratitude to him for the respectful words he has addressed to me on behalf of all those present. My cordial greetings then go to the president of the Italian republic, who has honored me by his presence, together with the other authorities who are gathered here.

Lastly, I address special thanks to Professor Bruno Cagli, director of the National Academy of St. Cecilia, to the orchestra and choir conducted by Maestro Vladimir Jurowski, and to Laura Aikin, the soprano, who have performed famous passages and arias by that musical genius, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

I very gladly accepted the invitation to be present at this evening's performance. Various reasons have combined to make it a solemn, but at the same time a family celebration.

On this very day the birth of Rome is celebrated in memory of the traditional anniversary of the city's foundation, a historical event which, thinking back to the origins of the city, becomes a favorable opportunity for a better understanding of Rome's vocation to be the beacon of civilization and spirituality for the entire world.

Thanks to the convergence of its traditions with Christianity, Rome has fulfilled a special mission down the centuries and still today continues to be an important reference point for the many visitors who are attracted by its rich artistic heritage, closely associated with the city's Christian history.

The concert this evening is also intended to commemorate the first anniversary of my Pontificate. One year ago, after the death of the beloved and unforgettable Pope John Paul II, the Catholic community of Rome was entrusted by divine providence, surprisingly I must say, to my pastoral care.

At my first meeting with the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square on the evening of April 19 last year, I personally experienced how generous, open and welcoming the Roman people are. Other occasions have subsequently brought me further encounters with this special human and spiritual warmth.

How can I fail to recall, for example, the embrace with so many people that is renewed every Sunday at the traditional midday meeting for prayer? I also take this opportunity to express my gratitude for the warmth by which I am surrounded and which I gladly reciprocate.

This evening I want to address a heartfelt "thank you" to the community of the city which has desired to combine the commemoration of Rome's birthday with the anniversary of my election as Bishop of Rome. Thank you for this gesture, which I deeply appreciate.

Thank you too for selecting a musical program taken from the works of Mozart, a great composer who left an indelible mark on history. This year is the 250th anniversary of his birth, and various initiatives have accordingly been planned throughout 2006, which has also rightly been named the "Mozartian Year."

The compositions performed by the orchestra and choir of the National Academy of St. Cecilia are marvelous passages by Mozart which are very famous, including some of remarkable religious inspiration. The Ave Verum, for example, which is often sung at liturgical celebrations, is a motet with deeply theological words and a musical accompaniment that moves the heart and invites us to prayer.

Thus, by raising the soul to contemplation, music also helps us grasp the most intimate nuances of human genius, in which is reflected something of the incomparable beauty of the creator of the universe.

I once again thank those who in various capacities have made possible today's event of high artistic value, in particular the performers and musicians and those who work in this auditorium. I assure each one of my remembrance in prayer, strengthened by a special blessing which I now gladly impart to you all, extending it to the whole of the beloved city of Rome.

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April 19 Address on 1st Anniversary of Pontificate

"Alone I Could Not Carry Out This Task"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 27, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave at the Wednesday general audience on April 19, the first anniversary of his pontificate.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

At the beginning of today's general audience which is taking place in the joyful atmosphere of Easter, I would like to thank the Lord together with you. After calling me, exactly a year ago, to serve the Church as the Successor of the Apostle Peter -- thank you for your joy, thank you for your applause -- he never fails to assist me with his indispensable help.

How quickly time passes! A year has already elapsed since the cardinals gathered in conclave and, in a way I found absolutely unexpected and surprising, desired to choose my poor self to succeed the late and beloved Servant of God, the great Pope John Paul II. I remember with emotion my first impact with the faithful gathered in this same square, from the central loggia of the basilica, immediately after my election.

That meeting is still impressed upon my mind and heart. It was followed by many others that have given me an opportunity to experience the deep truth of my words at the solemn concelebration with which I formally began to exercise my Petrine ministry: "I too can say with renewed conviction: I am not alone. I do not have to carry alone what in truth I could never carry alone" (L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, April 27, 2005, p. 2).

And I feel more and more that alone I could not carry out this task, this mission. But I also feel that you are carrying it with me: Thus, I am in a great communion and together we can go ahead with the Lord's mission. The heavenly protection of God and of the saints is an irreplaceable support to me and I am comforted by your closeness, dear friends, who do not let me do without the gift of your indulgence and your love. I offer very warm thanks to all those who in various ways support me from close at hand or follow me from afar in spirit with their affection and their prayers. I ask each one to continue to support me, praying to God to grant that I may be a gentle and firm Pastor of his Church.

The Evangelist John says that precisely after his Resurrection Jesus called Peter to tend his flock (cf. John 21:15,23). Who could have humanly imagined then the development which was to mark that small group of the Lord's disciples down the centuries?

Peter, together with the apostles and then their successors, first in Jerusalem and later to the very ends of the earth, courageously spread the Gospel message, whose fundamental and indispensable core consists in the paschal mystery: the passion, the death and the resurrection of Christ.

The Church celebrates this mystery at Easter, extending its joyous resonance in the days that follow; she sings the alleluia for Christ's triumph over evil and death.
The celebration of Easter in accordance with a date on the calendar, Pope St. Leo the Great remarked, reminds us of the eternal feast that surpasses all human time. Today's Easter, he noted further, is the shadow of the future Easter. For this reason we celebrate it, to move on from an annual celebration to a celebration that will last forever.

The joy of these days extends throughout the liturgical year and is renewed especially on Sunday, the day dedicated to the memory of the Lord's resurrection. On Sunday, as it were, the "little Easter" of every week, the liturgical assembly gathered for holy Mass proclaims in the Creed that Jesus rose on the third day, adding that we wait for "the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come."

This shows that the event of Jesus' death and resurrection constitutes the center of our faith and that it is on this proclamation that the Church is founded and develops.

St. Augustine recalled incisively: "Let us consider, dear friends, the Resurrection of Christ: indeed, just as his Passion stood for our old life, his Resurrection is a sacrament of new life. ... You have believed, you have been baptized; the old life is dead, killed on the Cross, buried in Baptism. The old life in which you lived is buried: The new life emerges. Live well: Live life in such a way that when death comes you will not die (Sermo Guelferb. 9, 3).

The Gospel accounts that mention the appearances of the Risen One usually end with the invitation to overcome every uncertainty, to confront the event with the Scriptures, to proclaim that Jesus, beyond death, is alive forever, a source of new life for all who believe in him.

This is what happened, for example, in the case of Mary Magdalene (cf. John 20:11-18), who found the tomb open and empty and immediately feared that the body of the Lord had been taken away. The Lord then called her by name and at that point a deep change took place within her: Her distress and bewilderment were transformed into joy and enthusiasm. She promptly went to the apostles and announced to them: "I have seen the Lord" (John 20:18).

Behold: Those who meet the risen Jesus are inwardly transformed; it is impossible "to see" the Risen One without "believing" in him. Let us pray that he will call each one of us by name and thus convert us, opening us to the "vision" of faith.

Faith is born from the personal encounter with the Risen Christ and becomes an impulse of courage and freedom that makes one cry to the world: "Jesus is risen and alive for ever."

This is the mission of the Lord's disciples in every epoch and also in our time: "If, then, you have been raised with Christ," St. Paul exhorts us, "seek the things that are above. ... Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth" (Colossians 3:1-2). This does not mean cutting oneself off from one's daily commitments, neglecting earthly realities; rather, it means reviving every human activity with a supernatural breath, it means making ourselves joyful proclaimers and witnesses of the resurrection of Christ, living for eternity (cf. John 20:25; Luke 24:33-34).

Dear brothers and sisters, in the Pasch of his Only-begotten Son, God fully revealed himself, his victorious power over the forces of death, the power of Trinitarian Love. May the Virgin Mary, who was closely associated with the Passion, death and Resurrection of the Son and at the foot of the cross became the Mother of all believers, help us to understand this mystery of love that changes hearts and makes us experience fully the joy of Easter, so that we in turn may be able to communicate it to the men and women of the third millennium.

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Papal Homily on 40th Anniversary of Close of Vatican II
"Mary Turns to Us, Saying: 'Have the Courage to Dare With God!'"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 14, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the homily delivered by Benedict XVI at the Mass commemorating the 40th anniversary of the close of the Second Vatican Council. The Mass was on the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception last Thursday in St. Peter's Basilica.

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Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Pope Paul VI solemnly concluded the Second Vatican Council in the square in front of St. Peter's Basilica 40 years ago, on 8 December 1965. It had been inaugurated, in accordance with John XXIII's wishes, on 11 October 1962, which was then the feast of Mary's Motherhood, and ended on the day of the Immaculate Conception.

The Council took place in a Marian setting. It was actually far more than a setting: It was the orientation of its entire process. It refers us, as it referred the Council Fathers at that time, to the image of the Virgin who listens and lives in the Word of God, who cherishes in her heart the words that God addresses to her and, piecing them together like a mosaic, learns to understand them (cf. Luke 2:19,51).

It refers us to the great Believer who, full of faith, put herself in God's hands, abandoning herself to his will; it refers us to the humble Mother who, when the Son's mission so required, became part of it, and at the same time, to the courageous woman who stood beneath the Cross while the disciples fled.

In his discourse on the occasion of the promulgation of the dogmatic constitution on the Church, Paul VI described Mary as "tutrix huius Concilii" -- "Patroness of this Council" (cf. "Oecumenicum Concilium Vaticanum II, Constitutiones Decreta Declarationes," Vatican City, 1966, p. 983) and, with an unmistakable allusion to the account of Pentecost transmitted by Luke (cf. Acts 1:12-14), said that the Fathers were gathered in the Council Hall "cum Maria, Matre Iesu" and would also have left it in her name (p. 985).

Indelibly printed in my memory is the moment when, hearing his words: "Mariam Sanctissimam declaramus Matrem Ecclesiae" -- "We declare Mary the Most Holy Mother of the Church," the Fathers spontaneously rose at once and paid homage to the Mother of God, to our Mother, to the Mother of the Church, with a standing ovation.

Indeed, with this title the Pope summed up the Marian teaching of the Council and provided the key to understanding it. Not only does Mary have a unique relationship with Christ, the Son of God who, as man, chose to become her Son. Since she was totally united to Christ, she also totally belongs to us. Yes, we can say that Mary is close to us as no other human being is, because Christ becomes man for all men and women and his entire being is "being here for us."

Christ, the Fathers said, as the Head, is inseparable from his Body which is the Church, forming with her, so to speak, a single living subject. The Mother of the Head is also the Mother of all the Church; she is, so to speak, totally emptied of herself; she has given herself entirely to Christ and with him is given as a gift to us all. Indeed, the more the human person gives himself, the more he finds himself.

The Council intended to tell us this: Mary is so interwoven in the great mystery of the Church that she and the Church are inseparable, just as she and Christ are inseparable. Mary mirrors the Church, anticipates the Church in her person, and in all the turbulence that affects the suffering, struggling Church she always remains the Star of salvation. In her lies the true center in which we trust, even if its peripheries very often weigh on our soul.

In the context of the promulgation of the constitution on the Church, Paul VI shed light on all this through a new title deeply rooted in Tradition, precisely with the intention of illuminating the inner structure of the Church's teaching, which was developed at the Council. The Second Vatican Council had to pronounce on the institutional components of the Church: on the bishops and on the Pontiff, on the priests, lay people and religious, in their communion and in their relations; it had to describe the Church journeying on, "clasping sinners to her bosom, at once holy and always in need of purification ..." ("Lumen Gentium," No. 8).

This "Petrine" aspect of the Church, however, is included in that "Marian" aspect. In Mary, the Immaculate, we find the essence of the Church without distortion. We ourselves must learn from her to become "ecclesial souls," as the Fathers said, so that we too may be able, in accordance with St. Paul's words, to present ourselves "blameless" in the sight of the Lord, as he wanted us from the very beginning (cf. Colossians 1:21; Ephesians 1:4).

But now we must ask ourselves: What does "Mary, the Immaculate" mean? Does this title have something to tell us? Today, the liturgy illuminates the content of these words for us in two great images.

First of all comes the marvelous narrative of the annunciation of the Messiah's coming to Mary, the Virgin of Nazareth. The Angel's greeting is interwoven with threads from the Old Testament, especially from the Prophet Zephaniah. He shows that Mary, the humble provincial woman who comes from a priestly race and bears within her the great priestly patrimony of Israel, is "the holy remnant" of Israel to which the prophets referred in all the periods of trial and darkness.

In her is present the true Zion, the pure, living dwelling-place of God. In her the Lord dwells, in her he finds the place of his repose. She is the living house of God, who does not dwell in buildings of stone but in the heart of living man. She is the shoot which sprouts from the stump of David in the dark winter night of history. In her, the words of the Psalm are fulfilled: "The earth has yielded its fruits" (Psalm 67:7).

She is the offshoot from which grew the tree of redemption and of the redeemed. God has not failed, as it might have seemed formerly at the beginning of history with Adam and Eve or during the period of the Babylonian Exile, and as it seemed anew in Mary's time when Israel had become a people with no importance in an occupied region and with very few recognizable signs of its holiness.

God did not fail. In the humility of the house in Nazareth lived holy Israel, the pure remnant. God saved and saves his people. From the felled tree trunk Israel's history shone out anew, becoming a living force that guides and pervades the world. Mary is holy Israel: She says "yes" to the Lord, she puts herself totally at his disposal and thus becomes the living temple of God.

The second image is much more difficult and obscure. This metaphor from the Book of Genesis speaks to us from a great historical distance and can only be explained with difficulty; only in the course of history has it been possible to develop a deeper understanding of what it refers to.

It was foretold that the struggle between humanity and the serpent, that is, between man and the forces of evil and death, would continue throughout history. It was also foretold, however, that the "offspring" of a woman would one day triumph and would crush the head of the serpent to death; it was foretold that the offspring of the woman -- and in this offspring the woman and the mother herself -- would be victorious and that thus, through man, God would triumph.

If we set ourselves with the believing and praying Church to listen to this text, then we can begin to understand what original sin, inherited sin, is and also what the protection against this inherited sin is, what redemption is.

What picture does this passage show us? The human being does not trust God. Tempted by the serpent, he harbors the suspicion that in the end, God takes something away from his life, that God is a rival who curtails our freedom and that we will be fully human only when we have cast him aside; in brief, that only in this way can we fully achieve our freedom.

The human being lives in the suspicion that God's love creates a dependence and that he must rid himself of this dependency if he is to be fully himself. Man does not want to receive his existence and the fullness of his life from God.

He himself wants to obtain from the tree of knowledge the power to shape the world, to make himself a god, raising himself to God's level, and to overcome death and darkness with his own efforts. He does not want to rely on love that to him seems untrustworthy; he relies solely on his own knowledge since it confers power upon him. Rather than on love, he sets his sights on power, with which he desires to take his own life autonomously in hand. And in doing so, he trusts in deceit rather than in truth and thereby sinks with his life into emptiness, into death.

Love is not dependence but a gift that makes us live. The freedom of a human being is the freedom of a limited being, and therefore is itself limited. We can possess it only as a shared freedom, in the communion of freedom: Only if we live in the right way, with one another and for one another, can freedom develop.

We live in the right way if we live in accordance with the truth of our being, and that is, in accordance with God's will. For God's will is not a law for the human being imposed from the outside and that constrains him, but the intrinsic measure of his nature, a measure that is engraved within him and makes him the image of God, hence, a free creature.

If we live in opposition to love and against the truth -- in opposition to God -- then we destroy one another and destroy the world. Then we do not find life but act in the interests of death. All this is recounted with immortal images in the history of the original fall of man and the expulsion of man from the earthly Paradise.

Dear brothers and sisters, if we sincerely reflect about ourselves and our history, we have to say that with this narrative is described not only the history of the beginning but the history of all times, and that we all carry within us a drop of the poison of that way of thinking, illustrated by the images in the Book of Genesis.

We call this drop of poison "original sin." Precisely on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, we have a lurking suspicion that a person who does not sin must really be basically boring and that something is missing from his life: the dramatic dimension of being autonomous; that the freedom to say no, to descend into the shadows of sin and to want to do things on one's own is part of being truly human; that only then can we make the most of all the vastness and depth of our being men and women, of being truly ourselves; that we should put this freedom to the test, even in opposition to God, in order to become, in reality, fully ourselves.

In a word, we think that evil is basically good, we think that we need it, at least a little, in order to experience the fullness of being. We think that Mephistopheles -- the tempter -- is right when he says he is the power "that always wants evil and always does good" (J.W. von Goethe, "Faust" I, 3). We think that a little bargaining with evil, keeping for oneself a little freedom against God, is basically a good thing, perhaps even necessary.

If we look, however, at the world that surrounds us we can see that this is not so; in other words, that evil is always poisonous, does not uplift human beings but degrades and humiliates them. It does not make them any the greater, purer or wealthier, but harms and belittles them.

This is something we should indeed learn on the day of the Immaculate Conception: The person who abandons himself totally in God's hands does not become God's puppet, a boring "yes man"; he does not lose his freedom. Only the person who entrusts himself totally to God finds true freedom, the great, creative immensity of the freedom of good.

The person who turns to God does not become smaller but greater, for through God and with God he becomes great, he becomes divine, he becomes truly himself. The person who puts himself in God's hands does not distance himself from others, withdrawing into his private salvation; on the contrary, it is only then that his heart truly awakens and he becomes a sensitive, hence, benevolent and open person.

The closer a person is to God, the closer he is to people. We see this in Mary. The fact that she is totally with God is the reason why she is so close to human beings. For this reason she can be the Mother of every consolation and every help, a Mother whom anyone can dare to address in any kind of need in weakness and in sin, for she has understanding for everything and is for everyone the open power of creative goodness.

In her, God has impressed his own image, the image of the One who follows the lost sheep even up into the mountains and among the briars and thornbushes of the sins of this world, letting himself be spiked by the crown of thorns of these sins in order to take the sheep on his shoulders and bring it home.

As a merciful Mother, Mary is the anticipated figure and everlasting portrait of the Son. Thus, we see that the image of the Sorrowful Virgin, of the Mother who shares her suffering and her love, is also a true image of the Immaculate Conception. Her heart was enlarged by being and feeling together with God. In her, God's goodness came very close to us.
Mary thus stands before us as a sign of comfort, encouragement and hope. She turns to us, saying: "Have the courage to dare with God! Try it! Do not be afraid of him! Have the courage to risk with faith! Have the courage to risk with goodness! Have the courage to risk with a pure heart! Commit yourselves to God, then you will see that it is precisely by doing so that your life will become broad and light, not boring but filled with infinite surprises, for God's infinite goodness is never depleted!"

On this feast day, let us thank the Lord for the great sign of his goodness which he has given us in Mary, his Mother and the Mother of the Church. Let us pray to him to put Mary on our path like a light that also helps us to become a light and to carry this light into the nights of history. Amen.


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Benedict XVI Reflects on "Dei Verbum"
''Lectio Divina' Will Bring to the Church a New Spiritual Springtime"

ROME, NOV. 8, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered in the courtyard of the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo, on Sept. 16, to 400 participants in the international congress on "Sacred Scripture in the Life of the Church."

The Sept. 14-18 congress, in Rome, attracted 400 experts, including about 100 bishops. The initiative commemorated the 40th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council's dogmatic constitution on divine Revelation, "Dei Verbum."

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Your Eminences,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I offer my most cordial greeting to all of you who are taking part in the Congress on "Sacred Scripture in the Life of the Church," an event organized by the Catholic Biblical Federation and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the promulgation of "Dei Verbum,"
the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation. I congratulate you on this initiative, connected with one of the most important Documents of the Second Vatican Council.
I greet the Cardinals and Bishops, who are the first witnesses of the Word of God, the theologians who investigate, explain and translate it into today's language, the Pastors who seek in it appropriate solutions for the problems of our time.

I warmly thank all who work in the service of the translation and circulation of the Bible, providing the means for explaining, teaching and interpreting its message. In this regard, my special thanks go to the Catholic Biblical Federation for its activity, the biblical ministry it promotes and its faithful support of the directives of the Magisterium as well as to its spirit of openness to ecumenical collaboration in the biblical context.

I express my deepest joy at the presence at this Congress of "Fraternal Delegates" of the Churches and Ecclesial Communities of East and West, and I greet with cordial respect the representatives who have spoken on behalf of the great world Religions.

The Dogmatic Constitution "Dei Verbum," whose drafting I personally witnessed as a young theologian, taking part in the lively discussions that went with it, begins with a deeply meaningful sentence: "Dei Verbum religiose audiens et fidenter proclamans, Sacrosancta Synodus ..." ["Hearing the Word of God with reverence, and proclaiming it with faith, the Sacred Synod ..."] (n. 1).

With these words the Council points out a descriptive aspect of the Church: she is a community that listens to and proclaims the Word of God.

The Church does not live on herself but on the Gospel, and in the Gospel always and ever anew finds the directions for her journey. This is a point that every Christian must understand and apply to himself or herself: only those who first listen to the Word can become preachers of it.

Indeed, they must not teach their own wisdom but the wisdom of God, which often appears to be foolishness in the eyes of the world (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:23).

The Church knows well that Christ lives in the Sacred Scriptures. For this very reason -- as the Constitution stresses -- she has always venerated the divine Scriptures in the same way as she venerates the Body of the Lord (cf. "Dei Verbum," n. 21).

In view of this, St. Jerome, cited by the conciliar Document, said that ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ (cf. "Dei Verbum," n. 25).

The Church and the Word of God are inseparably linked. The Church lives on the Word of God and the Word of God echoes through the Church, in her teaching and throughout her life (cf. "Dei Verbum," n. 8). The Apostle Peter, therefore, reminds us that no prophecy contained in Scripture can be subjected to a personal interpretation. "Prophecy has never been put forward by man's willing it. It is rather that men impelled by the Holy Spirit have spoken under God's influence" (2 Peter 1:20).

We are grateful to God that in recent times, and thanks to the impact made by the Dogmatic Constitution "Dei Verbum" the fundamental importance of the Word of God has been deeply re-evaluated. From this has derived a renewal of the Church's life, especially in her preaching, catechesis, theology and spirituality, and even in the ecumenical process. The Church must be constantly renewed and rejuvenated and the Word of God, which never ages and is never depleted, is a privileged means to achieve this goal. Indeed, it is the Word of God, through the Holy Spirit, which always guides us to the whole truth (cf. John 16:13).

In this context, I would like in particular to recall and recommend the ancient tradition of "Lectio divina": "the diligent reading of Sacred Scripture accompanied by prayer brings about that intimate dialogue in which the person reading hears God who is speaking, and in praying, responds to him with trusting openness of heart" (cf. "Dei Verbum," n. 25). If it is effectively promoted, this practice will bring to the Church -- I am convinced of it -- a new spiritual springtime.

As a strong point of biblical ministry, "Lectio divina" should therefore be increasingly encouraged, also through the use of new methods, carefully thought through and in step with the times. It should never be forgotten that the Word of God is a lamp for our feet and a light for our path (cf. Psalm 119[118]:105).

In invoking God's Blessing upon your work, your projects and the Congress in which you are taking part, I join in the hope that enlivens you: "May the Word of the Lord make progress" (cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:1) to the very ends of the earth, so that through the proclamation of salvation the whole world through hearing it may believe, through belief it may hope, and through hope it may come to love (cf. "Dei Verbum," n. 1). I thank you with all my heart!

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Papal Message for Centenary of von Balthasar's Birth
Reflections on Swiss Theologian

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 10, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Here is the message Benedict XVI sent to the participants in the international congress entitled "Love Alone Is Credible," held at the Lateran University, on the centenary of the birth of Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar.

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Lord Cardinals
Venerated Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is a particular pleasure to unite myself spiritually to you in the celebration of the centenary of the birth of Hans Urs von Balthasar, the noted Swiss theologian whom I had the joy to know and meet frequently. I think that his theological reflection maintains intact, to this day, a profound timeliness and leads many to penetrate ever more in the profundity of the mystery of faith, held by the hand of such an authoritative guide.

On an occasion such as this, it would be easy to fall into the temptation to return to personal memories, based on the sincere friendship that united us and on the numerous works that we undertook together, addressing many of the challenges of those years. The foundation of the Communio review, at the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, continues to be the most evident sign of our common commitment in theological research. However, I do not wish to make reference to memories, but rather to the richness of von Balthasar's theology.

He made the mystery of the Incarnation the favored object of his study, seeing in the "triduum paschale" [Easter triduum] -- as he significantly entitled one of his writings -- the most expressive form of God's entry in the history of man. In the death and resurrection of Jesus, in fact, is revealed in fullness the mystery of the Trinitarian love of God. Here the reality of faith finds its unsurpassable "beauty." In the "drama" of the paschal mystery, God fully lives his humanity, but at the same time gives meaning to man's action and content to Christian commitment in the world.

This is how von Balthasar saw the "logic" of Revelation: God became man so that man may live the communion of life with God. In Christ is offered the final and definitive truth of the search for meaning that each one poses to himself. Theological aesthetics, drama and logic, constitute the trilogy, in which these concepts find ample space and convinced application. I can attest that his life was a genuine search for truth, which he understood as a search of the true Life. He sought the traces of God's presence and his truth everywhere: in philosophy, in literature, in religions, always breaking those circuits which often imprison reason, opening it to the realms of the infinite.

Hans Urs von Balthasar was a theologian who put his research at the service of the Church, as he was convinced that only theology could be characterized by the ecclesial. Theology, as and how he conceived it, had to be combined with spirituality; only in this way, in fact, could it be profound and effective.
Reflecting specifically on this aspect, he wrote: "Does scientific theology only begin with Peter Lombard? And, yet, is there someone who has spoken of Christianity in a more appropriate way than Cyril of Jerusalem, than Origen in his homilies, than Gregory of Nazianzus, and than the master of theological reverence, the Areopagite? Who would dare to reproach anything to any of the Fathers? Then it was known what the theological style was, the natural unity both in the attitude of faith and the scientific attitude as in objectivity and reverence. While theology was the work of saints, it was a praying theology. This is the reason why its fruits of prayer, its fecundity for prayer and its power to generate it are so disproportionately great" ("Verbum Caro," "Saggi Teologici" [Theological Essays] I, Brescia, 1970, 228).

These are words that lead us to think again about the correct place of research in theology. The need to be scientific is not sacrificed when placed in religious listening of the Word of God, when it lives from the life of the Church and is strengthened by her magisterium. Spirituality does not diminish its scientific weight, but imprints on theological study the correct method to be able to arrive at a coherent interpretation.

A theology conceived in this way led von Balthasar to a profound existential reading. For this reason, one of the central topics to which he dedicated himself with pleasure was to show the need for conversion. Change of heart was a central point for him; only in this way, in fact, is the mind freed from the limits that prevent it from acceding to the mystery and the eyes become capable of fixing their gaze on the face of Christ.

In a word, he had understood profoundly that theology can only be developed with prayer which is capable of perceiving the presence of God and trusts in him obediently. It is a path worth following to the end. This calls for avoiding unilateral paths which can only distance one from the goal and calls for fleeing from the fashions that fragment interest in the essential. The example that von Balthasar has left us is rather that of an authentic theologian who had discovered in contemplation the coherent action in favor of Christian witness in the world. In this significant circumstance, we remember him as a man of faith, a priest who in obedience and hiddenness, never sought personal affirmation, but full of the Ignatian spirit always desired the greater glory of God.

With these sentiments, I wish that all of you continue with interest and enthusiasm the study of von Balthasar's work and that you find paths for its efficacious application. Upon you and the working sessions of the congress I call on the Lord abundant gifts of light, as a pledge of which I impart a special blessing.

Vatican, October 6, 2005

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

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Benedict XVI's Address on a Film About John Paul II (May 19, 2005)

"Karol, a Man Who Became Pope"

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am certain to interpret the common sentiments and express living gratitude to those who wanted to offer me and all of you the opportunity to view this moving film tonight; it traces the life of young Karol Wojtyla, leading to his election as the Pontiff known as "John Paul II."

I greet and thank Cardinal Roberto Tucci for his introduction to the film. I then address a word of admiration to the director and writer, Giacomo Battiato, and to the actors, especially Piotr Adamczyk who played the part of John Paul II, to the producer Pietro Valsecchi and to the networks Taodue and Mediaset.

I cordially greet the other Cardinals, Bishops, priests, Authorities and all those who wanted to take part in this viewing in honor of the beloved Pontiff, recently deceased. We all remember him with deep affection and heartfelt gratitude. Yesterday, he would have celebrated his 85th birthday.

"Karol, un uomo diventato Papa" [Karol, a Man Who Became Pope] is the title of the drama, taken from a text by Gian Franco Svidercoschi. The first segment, as we have seen, highlights the situation in Poland under the Nazi regime, with emphasis -- now and then very emotionally strong -- given to the repression of the Polish people and to the genocide of the Jews. These are atrocious crimes that show all of the evil that was contained in the Nazi ideology.

Young Karol, shocked by so much suffering and violence, decided to do something about it in his own life, answering the divine call to the priesthood. The film presents scenes and episodes that, in their severity, awaken in the viewers an instinctive "turning away" in horror and stimulates them to consider the abyss of iniquity that can be hidden in the human soul.

At the same time, calling to the fore such aberration revives in every right-minded person the duty to do what he or she can so that such inhuman barbarism never happens again.

Today's viewing takes place just some days after the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. On 8 May 1945 the conclusion was marked of that frightful tragedy which sowed destruction and death, in a measure never-before heard of, in Europe and in the world.

Ten years ago, John Paul II wrote that World War II appears with evermore clarity as a "suicide of humanity." Each time a totalitarian ideology crushes man, humanity as a whole is seriously threatened. With the passing of time, memories do not have to fade; rather, they must be a stern lesson for this and future generations. We have the responsibility of reminding especially youth of the forms of unprecedented violence that can lead to contempt for men and women and the violation of their rights.

Under the light of Providence, how can we not read as a divine plan the fact that on the Chair of Peter, a Polish Pope is succeeded by a citizen of that Country, Germany, where the Nazi regime was the most vicious, attacking the nearby nations, Poland among them?

In their youth, both of these Popes -- even if on opposing fronts and in different situations -- knew the cruelty of the Second World War and of the senseless violence of men fighting men, people fighting people.

During the final days of the Second Vatican Council held here in Rome, the Polish Bishops consigned the "letter of reconciliation" to the German Bishops; the letter contained those famous words that today too resound in our souls: "We forgive and we ask forgiveness."

In last Sunday's homily I reminded the newly ordained priests that "nothing can improve the world if evil is not overcome. Evil can be overcome only by forgiveness" (L'Osservatore Romano English Edition, 18 May, p. 7). May the mutual and sincere condemnation of Nazism, as with atheistic communism, be everyone's duty for the building of reconciliation and peace on forgiveness.

"To forgive," our beloved John Paul II again reminds us, "does not mean to forget," adding that "if memory is the law of history, forgiveness is the power of God, the power of Christ that works in the vicissitudes of man" (cf. "Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II," XVII/2 [1994], p. 250). Peace is, in the first place, a gift of God, who makes sentiments of love and solidarity arise in the heart of the person who welcomes it.

I hope that, thanks also to this witness of Pope John Paul II commemorated in this meaningful film, there will be a revival on the part of each person in the proposal to work -- each in his or her own field and according to one's means -- at the service of a definite action for peace in Europe and in the entire world.

I entrust the hope of peace that all of us carry in our heart to the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary, who is venerated especially in this month of May. May she, Queen of Peace, encourage the generous contribution of those who intend to put their efforts toward the building of true peace on the solid pillars of truth, justice, freedom and love. With these sentiments, I extend to all my Apostolic Blessing.

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