Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Brazil (May 2007)


On the Journey to Brazil
"The Church Must Mobilize All of the Moral and Spiritual Energies"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 23, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today at the general audience in St. Peter's Square. The reflection focused on his recent trip to Brazil.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

In this general audience I would like to reflect on my recent apostolic journey to Brazil from May 9-14. After the first two years of my pontificate, I finally had the joy of going to Latin America, a place I love dearly and where a great number of the world's Catholics live.

The central destination of my journey was Brazil, but I also extended my embrace to the entire Latin American continent because the ecclesial event that called me there was the 5th General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean.

I wish to reiterate my profound gratitude for the welcome I received from my dear brother bishops, in particular, those of São Paulo and Aparecida. I thank the president of Brazil and the other civil authorities for their cordial and generous cooperation, with great affection I thank the Brazilian people for the warmth with which they welcomed me -- it was great and moving -- and for the attention they paid to my words.

My journey was an act of praise to God for the "wonders" he has done in the midst of the peoples of Latin America, for the faith that has animated their lives and their culture for more than 500 years. It was also a pilgrimage, culminating at the sanctuary of Our Lady of Aparecida, patroness of Brazil.

The theme of the relationship between faith and culture was always in the hearts of my venerated predecessors Paul VI and John Paul II. I also wished to take up this theme to confirm the Church in Latin America and the Caribbean in their walk of faith that has been and still is a living history -- as we see in popular piety, art, in dialogue with the rich pre-Columbian traditions as well as numerous European influences and influences from other continents.

A look back at a glorious past cannot ignore the shadows that accompanied the work of evangelization of the Latin American continent: It is impossible to forget the sufferings and injustices inflicted by colonizers on the indigenous peoples, who often had their basic human rights trampled on. But the very mention of these unjustifiable crimes -- crimes that were condemned at the time by missionaries such as Bartolomé de Las Casas and theologians such as Francisco de Vitoria of the University of Salamanca -- must not stop us from expressing gratitude for the wonderful work carried out by divine grace among those populations in these past five centuries.

Brazil is a great country that has deeply rooted Christian values, but is experiencing enormous social and economic problems. To help resolve these problems, the Church must mobilize all of the moral and spiritual energies of its communities, to find points of convergence with the healthy energies of the country.

Among the positive elements to point out are the creativity and the fecundity of the Church there, from which many new movements and institutes of consecrated life are born. No less worthy of praise is the generous dedication of the many lay faithful, who show themselves to be very active in the various initiatives promoted by the Church.

Brazil is also a country that can offer the world a new model of development: The Christian culture can facilitate a "reconciliation" between men and creation, beginning with the recovery of personal dignity in the relationship to God the Father.

An eloquent example of this is the "Fazenda da Esperança," a network of rehabilitation centers for young people who wish to come out of the dark tunnel of drug abuse. At the one I visited, taking away a profound impression that I will keep alive in my heart, I noticed the importance of the presence of the Poor Clares.

This appeared symbolic for the world of today, which is in need of a psychological and social "rehabilitation," but an even deeper spiritual rehabilitation.

Also symbolic was the canonization, celebrated in joy, of the first native Brazilian saint: Father Antonio de Sant'Ana Galvão. This Franciscan priest of the 18th century, devoted to the Blessed Virgin, an apostle of the Eucharist and of confession, was called, while living, "a man of peace and charity." His witness is yet another confirmation that holiness is the true revolution, which can promote the authentic reform of the Church and society.

In the cathedral of São Paulo, I met with the Brazilian bishops, the largest bishops' conference in the world. Conveying to them the support of the Successor of Peter was one of the major goals of my mission, because I know the great challenges that the proclamation of the Gospel faces in that country.

I encouraged my brother bishops to promote and strengthen the task of the new evangelization, exhorting them to develop in a methodical way, the spreading of God's word, so that the innate and widespread religiosity of populations can deepen and become a mature faith, adhering personally and communally to the God of Jesus Christ.

I encouraged them to recover the style of life of the first Christian community, described in the Acts of the Apostles: dedicated to catechesis, the sacramental life and works of charity.

I know the dedication of these faithful servants of the Gospel -- the Gospel they wish to present without reductions or confusion, keeping watch over the deposit of faith with discernment; and their constant goal of promoting social development mainly through the formation of the laity, who are called to assume responsibility in political and economic fields. I thank God for allowing me to deepen my communion with the Brazilian bishops and I continue to remember them in my prayers.

Another important moment of the journey was, without a doubt, the meeting with young people; hope not only for the future, but a vital force also for the present -- for the Church and for society. This vigil, animated by them in São Paulo, was a festival of hope, illuminated by Christ's words to the "rich young man" who asked him: "Master, what good must I do to inherit eternal life?" (Matthew 19:16).

Jesus points out, above all, the commandments as the way of life, and then invites him to leave everything to follow him. The Church does the same thing today: First of all, it proposes the commandments, the true education of freedom for personal and social good; and, above all, it proposes the "first commandment," that of love, because without love even the commandments cannot give full meaning to life and procure true happiness.

Only the person who experiences the love of God in Christ and places himself on this path to live it among humanity, becomes his disciple and missionary. I invited the young people to be apostles of their peers; and to therefore take great care of their own human and spiritual formation; to have great esteem for marriage and the way that leads to marriage, in chastity and responsibility; to be open to the call to consecrated life for God's kingdom. To summarize, I encouraged them to take advantage of the great "riches" of their youth, to be the young face of the Church.

The high point of the journey was the inauguration of the 5th General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean, in the sanctuary of Our Lady of Aparecida. The theme for this important meeting, which will continue until the end of the month, is "Disciples and Missionaries of Jesus Christ, so That Our People Might Have Life in Him -- I Am the Way, the Truth and the Life."

"Disciples and missionaries" corresponds to what the Gospel of Mark says concerning the call of the Apostles: "(Jesus) called the twelve that were with him and sent them out to preach" (Mark 3:14-15).

The word "disciple" recalls the aspects of formation and following, in communion and friendship with Jesus; the term "missionary" expresses the fruit of discipleship, that is, the witness and communication of the lived experience, of the truth and love that is known and assimilated.

To be disciples and missionaries implies a close link with the Word of God, with the Eucharist and the other sacraments, living in the Church, listening obediently to his teachings. Joyously renewing the desire to be Jesus' disciples, to "stay with him," is the primary condition for being his missionaries -- "beginning again with Christ," according to John Paul II's mandate to the Church after the Jubilee of the Year 2000.

My venerated predecessor always insisted on an evangelization that was "new in its ardor, its methods and its expression," as he said when speaking to CELAM [the Latin American bishops' council] on March 9, 1983, in Haiti (Insegnamenti VI/1 [1983], 698).

With my apostolic journey, I wished to exhort them to continue along this path, holding up the encyclical "Deus Caritas Est" as a unified perspective, an inseparable social and theological perspective, summarized in this expression: "It is love that gives life."

"God's presence, friendship with the Son of God incarnate, the light of his Word, are always fundamental conditions for the presence and efficacy of justice and love in our societies" (Inaugural speech of the 5th General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean, 4: L'Osservatore Romano, May 14-15, 2007, p. 14).

I entrust the fruits of this unforgettable apostolic journey to the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary who is venerated as Our Lady of Guadalupe and patroness of all Latin America, and to the new Brazilian saint, Father Antonio of Sant'Ana Galvão.



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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

My recent Pastoral Visit to Brazil embraced not only that great nation but all Latin America and the Caribbean, home to many of the world’s Catholics. My visit was above all a pilgrimage of praise to God for the faith which has shaped their cultures for over five hundred years. While we do not overlook the various injustices and sufferings which accompanied colonization, the Gospel has expressed and continues to express the identity of the peoples in this region and provides inspiration to address the challenges of our globalized era. In the Fazenda da Esperança, a network of centres for young people recovering from drug addiction, I saw a symbol of that spiritual "recovery" which our world truly needs, a recovery of our dignity as God’s children and a reconciled relationship with all creation. The canonization of Brazil’s first native saint, Frei Antônio de Sant’Ana Galvão, reminded us that holiness is the real "revolution" which brings about authentic reform in Church and society. In Aparecida, I opened the Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean, which is addressing our need to be convinced "disciples and missionaries" of Christ and his love. After my joyful meeting with the young people, I am confident that they will be apostles to their contemporaries, use their rich gifts in the service of the new evangelization and ensure a future of hope for the Church in Brazil and in all Latin America.

I am pleased to welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims here today, including members of the International Catholic Movement for Intellectual and Cultural Affairs, as well as the young artists from Nairobi. I thank all of you for your prayers during my visit to Brazil. May God bless you all!

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

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

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Pope's Opening Address for Aparecida Conference

"Not Only the Continent of Hope, but Also the Continent of Love!"

APARECIDA, Brazil, MAY 13, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today at the opening session of the 5th General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean.

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Dear Brother Bishops, beloved priests, religious men and women and laypeople,

Dear observers from other religious confessions:

It gives me great joy to be here today with you to inaugurate the Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean, which is being held close to the Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida, Patroness of Brazil. I would like to begin with words of thanksgiving and praise to God for the great gift of the Christian faith to the peoples of this Continent.

1. The Christian faith in Latin America

Faith in God has animated the life and culture of these nations for more than five centuries. From the encounter between that faith and the indigenous peoples, there has emerged the rich Christian culture of this Continent, expressed in art, music, literature, and above all, in the religious traditions and in the peoples’ whole way of being, united as they are by a shared history and a shared creed that give rise to a great underlying harmony, despite the diversity of cultures and languages. At present, this same faith has some serious challenges to address, because the harmonious development of society and the Catholic identity of these peoples are in jeopardy. In this regard, the Fifth General Conference is preparing to reflect upon this situation, in order to help the Christian faithful to live their faith with joy and coherence, to deepen their awareness of being disciples and missionaries of Christ, sent by him into the world to proclaim and to bear witness to our faith and love.

Yet what did the acceptance of the Christian faith mean for the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean? For them, it meant knowing and welcoming Christ, the unknown God whom their ancestors were seeking, without realizing it, in their rich religious traditions. Christ is the Saviour for whom they were silently longing. It also meant that they received, in the waters of Baptism, the divine life that made them children of God by adoption; moreover, they received the Holy Spirit who came to make their cultures fruitful, purifying them and developing the numerous seeds that the incarnate Word had planted in them, thereby guiding them along the paths of the Gospel. In effect, the proclamation of Jesus and of his Gospel did not at any point involve an alienation of the pre-Columbus cultures, nor was it the imposition of a foreign culture. Authentic cultures are not closed in upon themselves, nor are they set in stone at a particular point in history, but they are open, or better still, they are seeking an encounter with other cultures, hoping to reach universality through encounter and dialogue with other ways of life and with elements that can lead to a new synthesis, in which the diversity of expressions is always respected as well as the diversity of their particular cultural embodiment.

Ultimately, it is only the truth that can bring unity, and the proof of this is love. That is why Christ, being in truth the incarnate Logos, "love to the end", is not alien to any culture, nor to any person; on the contrary, the response that he seeks in the heart of cultures is what gives them their ultimate identity, uniting humanity and at the same time respecting the wealth of diversity, opening people everywhere to growth in genuine humanity, in authentic progress. The Word of God, in becoming flesh in Jesus Christ, also became history and culture.

The Utopia of going back to breathe life into the pre-Columbus religions, separating them from Christ and from the universal Church, would not be a step forward: indeed, it would be a step back. In reality, it would be a retreat towards a stage in history anchored in the past.

The wisdom of the indigenous peoples fortunately led them to form a synthesis between their cultures and the Christian faith which the missionaries were offering them. Hence the rich and profound popular religiosity, in which we see the soul of the Latin American peoples:

-- love for the suffering Christ, the God of compassion, pardon and reconciliation; the God who loved us to the point of handing himself over for us;

-- love for the Lord present in the Eucharist, the incarnate God, dead and risen in order to be the bread of life;

-- the God who is close to the poor and to those who suffer;

-- the profound devotion to the most holy Virgin of Guadalupe, the Aparecida, the Virgin invoked under various national and local titles. When the Virgin of Guadalupe appeared to the native Indian Saint Juan Diego, she spoke these important words to him: "Am I not your mother? Are you not under my shadow and my gaze? Am I not the source of your joy? Are you not sheltered underneath my mantle, under the embrace of my arms?" (Nican Mopohua, Nos. 118-119).

This religiosity is also expressed in devotion to the saints with their patronal feasts, in love for the Pope and the other Pastors, and in love for the universal Church as the great family of God, that neither can nor ever should leave her children alone or destitute. All this forms the great mosaic of popular piety which is the precious treasure of the Catholic Church in Latin America, and must be protected, promoted and, when necessary, purified.

2. Continuity with the other Conferences

This Fifth General Conference is being celebrated in continuity with the other four that preceded it: in Rio de Janeiro, Medellín, Puebla and Santo Domingo. With the same spirit that was at work there, the Bishops now wish to give a new impetus to evangelization, so that these peoples may continue to grow and mature in their faith in order to be the light of the world and witnesses to Jesus Christ with their own lives.

After the Fourth General Conference, in Santo Domingo, many changes took place in society. The Church which shares in the achievements and the hopes, the sufferings and the joys of her children, wishes to walk alongside them at this challenging time, so as to inspire them always with hope and comfort (cf. "Gaudium et Spes," 1).

Today’s world experiences the phenomenon of globalization as a network of relationships extending over the whole planet. Although from certain points of view this benefits the great family of humanity, and a sign of its profound aspiration towards unity, nevertheless it also undoubtedly brings with it the risk of vast monopolies and of treating profit as the supreme value. As in all areas of human activity, globalization too must be led by ethics, placing everything at the service of the human person, created in the image and likeness of God.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as in other regions, there has been notable progress towards democracy, although there are grounds for concern in the face of authoritarian forms of government and regimes wedded to certain ideologies that we thought had been superseded, and which do not correspond to the Christian vision of man and society as taught by the Social Doctrine of the Church. On the other side of the coin, the liberal economy of some Latin American countries must take account of equity, because of the ever increasing sectors of society that find themselves oppressed by immense poverty or even despoiled of their own natural resources.

In the ecclesial communities of Latin America there is a notable degree of maturity in faith among the many active lay men and women devoted to the Lord, and there are also many generous catechists, many young people, new ecclesial movements and recently established Institutes of consecrated life. Many Catholic educational, charitable or housing initiatives have proved essential. Yet it is true that one can detect a certain weakening of Christian life in society overall and of participation in the life of the Catholic Church, due to secularism, hedonism, indifferentism and proselytism by numerous sects, animist religions and new pseudo-religious phenomena.

All of this constitutes a new situation which will be analyzed here at Aparecida. Faced with new and difficult choices, the faithful are looking to this Fifth Conference for renewal and revitalization of their faith in Christ, our one Teacher and Saviour, who has revealed to us the unique experience of the infinite love of God the Father for mankind. From this source, new paths and creative pastoral plans will be able to emerge, capable of instilling a firm hope for living out the faith joyfully and responsibly, and thus spreading it in one’s own surroundings.

3. Disciples and Missionaries

This General Conference has as its theme: "Disciples and Missionaries of Jesus Christ, so that our peoples may have life in him -- I am the Way, the Truth and the Life" (John 14:6).

The Church has the great task of guarding and nourishing the faith of the People of God, and reminding the faithful of this Continent that, by virtue of their Baptism, they are called to be disciples and missionaries of Jesus Christ. This implies following him, living in intimacy with him, imitating his example and bearing witness. Every baptized person receives from Christ, like the Apostles, the missionary mandate: "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized, will be saved" (Mark 16:15). To be disciples and missionaries of Jesus Christ and to seek life "in him" presupposes being deeply rooted in him.

What does Christ actually give us? Why do we want to be disciples of Christ? The answer is: because, in communion with him, we hope to find life, the true life that is worthy of the name, and thus we want to make him known to others, to communicate to them the gift that we have found in him. But is it really so? Are we really convinced that Christ is the way, the truth and the life?

In the face of the priority of faith in Christ and of life "in him", formulated in the title of this Fifth Conference, a further question could arise: could this priority not perhaps be a flight towards emotionalism, towards religious individualism, an abandonment of the urgent reality of the great economic, social and political problems of Latin America and the world, and a flight from reality towards a spiritual world?

As a first step, we can respond to this question with another: what is this "reality"? What is real? Are only material goods, social, economic and political problems "reality"? This was precisely the great error of the dominant tendencies of the last century, a most destructive error, as we can see from the results of both Marxist and capitalist systems. They falsify the notion of reality by detaching it from the foundational and decisive reality which is God. Anyone who excludes God from his horizons falsifies the notion of "reality" and, in consequence, can only end up in blind alleys or with recipes for destruction.

The first basic point to affirm, then, is the following: only those who recognize God know reality and are able to respond to it adequately and in a truly human manner. The truth of this thesis becomes evident in the face of the collapse of all the systems that marginalize God.

Yet here a further question immediately arises: who knows God? How can we know him? We cannot enter here into a complex discussion of this fundamental issue. For a Christian, the nucleus of the reply is simple: only God knows God, only his Son who is God from God, true God, knows him. And he "who is nearest to the Father’s heart has made him known" (John 1:18). Hence the unique and irreplaceable importance of Christ for us, for humanity. If we do not know God in and with Christ, all of reality is transformed into an indecipherable enigma; there is no way, and without a way, there is neither life nor truth.

God is the foundational reality, not a God who is merely imagined or hypothetical, but God with a human face; he is God-with-us, the God who loves even to the Cross. When the disciple arrives at an understanding of this love of Christ "to the end", he cannot fail to respond to this love with a similar love: "I will follow you wherever you go" (Luke 9:57).

We can ask ourselves a further question: what does faith in this God give us? The first response is: it gives us a family, the universal family of God in the Catholic Church. Faith releases us from the isolation of the "I", because it leads us to communion: the encounter with God is, in itself and as such, an encounter with our brothers and sisters, an act of convocation, of unification, of responsibility towards the other and towards others. In this sense, the preferential option for the poor is implicit in the Christological faith in the God who became poor for us, so as to enrich us with his poverty (cf. 2 Corinthians 8:9).

Yet before we consider what is entailed by the realism of our faith in the God who became man, we must explore the question more deeply: how can we truly know Christ so as to be able to follow him and live with him, so as to find life in him and to communicate that life to others, to society and to the world? First and foremost, Christ makes his person, his life and his teaching known to us through the word of God. At the beginning of this new phase that the missionary Church of Latin America and the Caribbean is preparing to enter, starting with this Fifth General Conference in Aparecida, an indispensable pre-condition is profound knowledge of the word of God.

To achieve this, we must train people to read and meditate on the word of God: this must become their staple diet, so that, through their own experience, the faithful will see that the words of Jesus are spirit and life (cf. John 6:63). Otherwise, how could they proclaim a message whose content and spirit they do not know thoroughly? We must build our missionary commitment and the whole of our lives on the rock of the word of God. For this reason, I encourage the Bishops to strive to make it known.

An important way of introducing the People of God to the mystery of Christ is through catechesis. Here, the message of Christ is transmitted in a simple and substantial form. It is therefore necessary to intensify the catechesis and the faith formation not only of children but also of young people and adults. Mature reflection on faith is a light for the path of life and a source of strength for witnessing to Christ. Most valuable tools with which to achieve this are the Catechism of the Catholic Church and its abridged version, the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

In this area, we must not limit ourselves solely to homilies, lectures, Bible courses or theology courses, but we must have recourse also to the communications media: press, radio and television, websites, forums and many other methods for effectively communicating the message of Christ to a large number of people.

In this effort to come to know the message of Christ and to make it a guide for our own lives, we must remember that evangelization has always developed alongside the promotion of the human person and authentic Christian liberation. "Love of God and love of neighbour have become one; in the least of the brethren we find Jesus himself, and in Jesus we find God" (Encyclical Letter "Deus Caritas Est," 15). For the same reason, there will also need to be social catechesis and a sufficient formation in the social teaching of the Church, for which a very useful tool is the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. The Christian life is not expressed solely in personal virtues, but also in social and political virtues.

The disciple, founded in this way upon the rock of God’s word, feels driven to bring the Good News of salvation to his brothers and sisters. Discipleship and mission are like the two sides of a single coin: when the disciple is in love with Christ, he cannot stop proclaiming to the world that only in him do we find salvation (cf. Acts 4:12). In effect, the disciple knows that without Christ there is no light, no hope, no love, no future.

4. "So that in him they may have life"

The peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean have the right to a full life, proper to the children of God, under conditions that are more human: free from the threat of hunger and from every form of violence. For these peoples, their Bishops must promote a culture of life which can permit, in the words of my predecessor Paul VI, "the passage from misery towards the possession of necessities … the acquisition of culture … cooperation for the common good … the acknowledgement by man of supreme values, and of God, their source and their finality" ("Populorum Progressio," 21).

In this context I am pleased to recall the Encyclical "Populorum Progressio," the fortieth anniversary of which we celebrate this year. This Papal document emphasizes that authentic development must be integral, that is, directed to the promotion of the whole person and of all people (cf. No. 14), and it invites all to overcome grave social inequalities and the enormous differences in access to goods. These peoples are yearning, above all, for the fullness of life that Christ brought us: "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (John 10:10). With this divine life, human existence is likewise developed to the full, in its personal, family, social and cultural dimensions.

In order to form the disciple and sustain the missionary in his great task, the Church offers him, in addition to the bread of the word, the bread of the Eucharist. In this regard, we find inspiration and illumination in the passage from the Gospel about the disciples on the road to Emmaus. When they sit at table and receive from Jesus Christ the bread that has been blessed and broken, their eyes are opened and they discover the face of the Risen Lord, they feel in their hearts that everything he said and did was the truth, and that the redemption of the world has already begun to unfold. Every Sunday and every Eucharist is a personal encounter with Christ. Listening to God’s word, our hearts burn because it is he who is explaining and proclaiming it. When we break the bread at the Eucharist, it is he whom we receive personally. The Eucharist is indispensable nourishment for the life of the disciple and missionary of Christ.

Sunday Mass, Centre of Christian life

Hence the need to give priority in pastoral programmes to appreciation of the importance of Sunday Mass. We must motivate Christians to take an active part in it, and if possible, to bring their families, which is even better. The participation of parents with their children at Sunday Mass is an effective way of teaching the faith and it is a close bond that maintains their unity with one another. Sunday, throughout the Church’s life, has been the privileged moment of the community’s encounter with the risen Lord.

Christians should be aware that they are not following a character from past history, but the living Christ, present in the today and the now of their lives. He is the living one who walks alongside us, revealing to us the meaning of events, of suffering and death, of rejoicing and feasting, entering our homes and remaining there, feeding us with the bread that gives life. For this reason Sunday Mass must be the centre of Christian life.

The encounter with Christ in the Eucharist calls forth a commitment to evangelization and an impulse towards solidarity; it awakens in the Christian a strong desire to proclaim the Gospel and to bear witness to it in the world so as to build a more just and humane society. From the Eucharist, in the course of the centuries, an immense wealth of charity has sprung forth, of sharing in the difficulties of others, of love and of justice. Only from the Eucharist will the civilization of love spring forth which will transform Latin America and the Caribbean, making them not only the Continent of Hope, but also the Continent of Love!

Social and Political problems

Having arrived at this point, we can ask ourselves a question: how can the Church contribute to the solution of urgent social and political problems, and respond to the great challenge of poverty and destitution? The problems of Latin America and the Caribbean, like those of today’s world, are multifaceted and complex, and they cannot be dealt with through generic programmes. Undoubtedly, the fundamental question about the way that the Church, illuminated by faith in Christ, should react to these challenges, is one that concerns us all. In this context, we inevitably speak of the problem of structures, especially those which create injustice. In truth, just structures are a condition without which a just order in society is not possible. But how do they arise? How do they function? Both capitalism and Marxism promised to point out the path for the creation of just structures, and they declared that these, once established, would function by themselves; they declared that not only would they have no need of any prior individual morality, but that they would promote a communal morality. And this ideological promise has been proved false. The facts have clearly demonstrated it. The Marxist system, where it found its way into government, not only left a sad heritage of economic and ecological destruction, but also a painful destruction of the human spirit. And we can also see the same thing happening in the West, where the distance between rich and poor is growing constantly, and giving rise to a worrying degradation of personal dignity through drugs, alcohol and deceptive illusions of happiness.

Just structures are, as I have said, an indispensable condition for a just society, but they neither arise nor function without a moral consensus in society on fundamental values, and on the need to live these values with the necessary sacrifices, even if this goes against personal interest.

Where God is absent -- God with the human face of Jesus Christ -- these values fail to show themselves with their full force, nor does a consensus arise concerning them. I do not mean that non-believers cannot live a lofty and exemplary morality; I am only saying that a society in which God is absent will not find the necessary consensus on moral values or the strength to live according to the model of these values, even when they are in conflict with private interests.

On the other hand, just structures must be sought and elaborated in the light of fundamental values, with the full engagement of political, economic and social reasoning. They are a question of recta ratio and they do not arise from ideologies nor from their premises. Certainly there exists a great wealth of political experience and expertise on social and economic problems that can highlight the fundamental elements of a just state and the paths that must be avoided. But in different cultural and political situations, amid constant developments in technology and changes in the historical reality of the world, adequate answers must be sought in a rational manner, and a consensus must be created -- with the necessary commitments -- on the structures that must be established.

This political task is not the immediate competence of the Church. Respect for a healthy secularity -- including the pluralism of political opinions -- is essential in the authentic Christian tradition. If the Church were to start transforming herself into a directly political subject, she would do less, not more, for the poor and for justice, because she would lose her independence and her moral authority, identifying herself with a single political path and with debatable partisan positions. The Church is the advocate of justice and of the poor, precisely because she does not identify with politicians nor with partisan interests. Only by remaining independent can she teach the great criteria and inalienable values, guide consciences and offer a life choice that goes beyond the political sphere. To form consciences, to be the advocate of justice and truth, to educate in individual and political virtues: that is the fundamental vocation of the Church in this area. And lay Catholics must be aware of their responsibilities in public life; they must be present in the formation of the necessary consensus and in opposition to injustice.

Just structures will never be complete in a definitive way. As history continues to evolve, they must be constantly renewed and updated; they must always be imbued with a political and humane ethos -- and we have to work hard to ensure its presence and effectiveness. In other words, the presence of God, friendship with the incarnate Son of God, the light of his word: these are always fundamental conditions for the presence and efficacy of justice and love in our societies.

This being a Continent of baptized Christians, it is time to overcome the notable absence -- in the political sphere, in the world of the media and in the universities -- of the voices and initiatives of Catholic leaders with strong personalities and generous dedication, who are coherent in their ethical and religious convictions. The ecclesial movements have plenty of room here to remind the laity of their responsibility and their mission to bring the light of the Gospel into public life, into culture, economics and politics.

5. Other priority areas

In order to bring about this renewal of the Church that has been entrusted to your care in these lands, let me draw your attention to some areas that I consider priorities for this new phase.

The family

The family, the "patrimony of humanity", constitutes one of the most important treasures of Latin American countries. The family was and is the school of faith, the training-ground for human and civil values, the hearth in which human life is born and is generously and responsibly welcomed. Undoubtedly, it is currently suffering a degree of adversity caused by secularism and by ethical relativism, by movements of population internally and externally, by poverty, by social instability and by civil legislation opposed to marriage which, by supporting contraception and abortion, is threatening the future of peoples.

In some families in Latin America there still unfortunately persists a chauvinist mentality that ignores the "newness" of Christianity, in which the equal dignity and responsibility of women relative to men is acknowledged and affirmed.

The family is irreplaceable for the personal serenity it provides and for the upbringing of children. Mothers who wish to dedicate themselves fully to bringing up their children and to the service of their family must enjoy conditions that make this possible, and for this they have the right to count on the support of the State. In effect, the role of the mother is fundamental for the future of society.

The father, for his part, has the duty to be a true father, fulfilling his indispensable responsibility and cooperating in bringing up the children. The children, for their integral growth, have a right to be able to count on their father and mother, who take care of them and accompany them on their way towards the fullness of life. Consequently there has to be intense and vigorous pastoral care of families. Moreover, it is indispensable to promote authentic family policies corresponding to the rights of the family as an essential subject in society. The family constitutes part of the good of peoples and of the whole of humanity.

Priests

The first promoters of discipleship and mission are those who have been called "to be with Jesus and to be sent out to preach" (cf. Mark 3:14), that is, the priests. They must receive preferential attention and paternal care from their Bishops, because they are the primary instigators of authentic renewal of Christian life among the People of God. I should like to offer them a word of paternal affection, hoping that "the Lord will be their portion and cup" (cf. Psalm 16:5). If the priest has God as the foundation and centre of his life, he will experience the joy and the fruitfulness of his vocation. The priest must be above all a "man of God" (1 Timothy 6:11) who knows God directly, who has a profound personal friendship with Jesus, who shares with others the same sentiments that Christ has (cf. Philippians 2:5). Only in this way will the priest be capable of leading men to God, incarnate in Jesus Christ, and of being the representative of his love. In order to accomplish his lofty task, the priest must have a solid spiritual formation, and the whole of his life must be imbued with faith, hope and charity. Like Jesus, he must be one who seeks, through prayer, the face and the will of God, and he must be attentive to his cultural and intellectual preparation.

Dear priests of this Continent, and those of you who have come here to work as missionaries, the Pope accompanies you in your pastoral work and wants you to be full of joy and hope; above all he prays for you.

Religious men and women and consecrated persons

I now want to address the religious men and women and consecrated members of the lay faithful. Latin American and Caribbean society needs your witness: in a world that so often gives priority to seeking well-being, wealth and pleasure as the goal of life, exalting freedom to the point where it takes the place of the truth of man created by God, you are witnesses that there is another meaningful way to live; remind your brothers and sisters that the Kingdom of God has already arrived; that justice and truth are possible if we open ourselves to the loving presence of God our Father, of Christ our brother and Lord, and of the Holy Spirit, our Comforter. With generosity and with heroism, you must continue working to ensure that society is ruled by love, justice, goodness, service and solidarity in conformity with the charism of your founders. With profound joy, embrace your consecration, which is an instrument of sanctification for you and of redemption for your brothers and sisters.

The Church in Latin America thanks you for the great work that you have accomplished over the centuries for the Gospel of Christ in favour of your brothers and sisters, especially the poorest and most deprived. I invite you always to work together with the Bishops and to work in unity with them, since they are the ones responsible for pastoral action. I exhort you also to sincere obedience towards the authority of the Church. Set yourselves no other goal than holiness, as you have learned from your founders.

The lay faithful

At this time when the Church of this Continent is committing herself whole-heartedly to her missionary vocation, I remind the lay faithful that they too are the Church, the assembly called together by Christ so as to bring his witness to the whole world. All baptized men and women must become aware that they have been configured to Christ, the Priest, Prophet and Shepherd, by means of the common priesthood of the People of God. They must consider themselves jointly responsible for building society according to the criteria of the Gospel, with enthusiasm and boldness, in communion with their Pastors.

There are many of you here who belong to ecclesial movements, in which we can see signs of the varied presence and sanctifying action of the Holy Spirit in the Church and in today’s society. You are called to bring to the world the testimony of Jesus Christ, and to be a leaven of God’s love among others.

Young people and pastoral care of vocations

In Latin America the majority of the population is made up of young people. In this regard, we must remind them that their vocation is to be Christ’s friends, his disciples. Young people are not afraid of sacrifice, but of a meaningless life. They are sensitive to Christ’s call inviting them to follow him. They can respond to that call as priests, as consecrated men and women, or as fathers and mothers of families, totally dedicated to serving their brothers and sisters with all their time and capacity for dedication: with their whole lives. Young people must treat life as a continual discovery, never allowing themselves to be ensnared by current fashions or mentalities, but proceeding with a profound curiosity over the meaning of life and the mystery of God, the Creator and Father, and his Son, our Redeemer, within the human family. They must also commit themselves to a constant renewal of the world in the light of the Gospel. More still, they must oppose the facile illusions of instant happiness and the deceptive paradise offered by drugs, pleasure, and alcohol, and they must oppose every form of violence.

6. "Stay with us"

The deliberations of this Fifth General Conference lead us to make the plea of the disciples on the road to Emmaus our own: "Stay with us, for it is towards evening, and the day is now far spent" (Luke 24:29).

Stay with us, Lord, keep us company, even though we have not always recognized you. Stay with us, because all around us the shadows are deepening, and you are the Light; discouragement is eating its way into our hearts: make them burn with the certainty of Easter. We are tired of the journey, but you comfort us in the breaking of bread, so that we are able to proclaim to our brothers and sisters that you have truly risen and have entrusted us with the mission of being witnesses of your resurrection.

Stay with us, Lord, when mists of doubt, weariness or difficulty rise up around our Catholic faith; you are Truth itself, you are the one who reveals the Father to us: enlighten our minds with your word, and help us to experience the beauty of believing in you.

Remain in our families, enlighten them in their doubts, sustain them in their difficulties, console them in their sufferings and in their daily labours, when around them shadows build up which threaten their unity and their natural identity. You are Life itself: remain in our homes, so that they may continue to be nests where human life is generously born, where life is welcomed, loved and respected from conception to natural death.

Remain, Lord, with those in our societies who are most vulnerable; remain with the poor and the lowly, with indigenous peoples and Afro-Americans, who have not always found space and support to express the richness of their culture and the wisdom of their identity. Remain, Lord, with our children and with our young people, who are the hope and the treasure of our Continent, protect them from so many snares that attack their innocence and their legitimate hopes. O Good Shepherd, remain with our elderly and with our sick. Strengthen them all in faith, so that they may be your disciples and missionaries!

Conclusion

As I conclude my stay among you, I wish to invoke the protection of the Mother of God and Mother of the Church on you and on the whole of Latin America and the Caribbean. I beseech Our Lady in particular, under the title of Guadalupe, Patroness of America, and under the title of Aparecida, Patroness of Brazil, to accompany you in your exciting and demanding pastoral task. To her I entrust the People of God at this stage of the third Christian millennium. I also ask her to guide the deliberations and reflections of this General Conference and I ask her to bless with copious gifts the beloved peoples of this Continent.

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Pope's Address to "Fazenda da Esperança"
"You Must Be Ambassadors of Hope"

GUARATINGUETA, Brazil, MAY 13, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave during his visit Saturday to "Fazenda da Esperança" in Guaratingueta, a rehabilitation center for youth with drug addictions.

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Dear Friends!

At last I am here with you at "Fazenda da Esperança "!

1. I greet with particular affection Brother Hans Stapel, founder of the charity "Nossa Senhora da Glória", which is also known as "Fazenda da Esperança ". Firstly I wish to rejoice with each of you for having believed in the ideals of good and of peace which define this place.

To all of you who have come here today from the various "fazendas" to be with the Pope -- those undergoing treatment and those who have been cured, volunteers, families, those who have already been through the programme, and benefactors -- I wish to say: "pax et bonum!"

I know that there are representatives here from other places where the "Fazenda da Esperança " has opened centres. You have come to see the Pope. You have come to listen and to assimilate what I wish to say to you.

2. The Church of today needs a renewed awareness of its task to draw the world's attention to the voice of him who says: "I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (John 8:12). It is the Pope's mission to renew in the hearts of people everywhere that light which does not grow dim, because it seeks to illumine the depths of every soul that seeks the true good and peace that the world cannot give. All that this light needs is a heart open to the desire for God. God does not force us, he does not oppress our individual freedom; he simply asks for openness in the inner sanctum of our conscience, through which pass all our noblest aspirations, as well as the affections and disordered passions which tend to obscure the message of the Almighty.

3. "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me" (Revelation 3:20). These are divine words which penetrate to the depths of our souls and shake us at our deepest roots.

At some stage in people's lives, Jesus comes and gently knocks at the hearts of those properly disposed. Perhaps for you, he did this through a friend or a priest, or, who knows, perhaps he arranged a series of coincidences which enabled you to realize that you are loved by God. Through the institution which has welcomed you, the Lord has given you this opportunity for physical and spiritual recovery, so vital for you and your families. In turn, society expects you to spread this precious gift of health among your friends and all the members of the community.

You must be Ambassadors of hope! Brazil's statistics concerning drug abuse and other forms of chemical dependency are very high. The same is true of Latin America in general. I therefore urge the drug-dealers to reflect on the grave harm they are inflicting on countless young people and on adults from every level of society: God will call you to account for your deeds. Human dignity cannot be trampled upon in this way. The harm done will receive the same censure that Jesus reserved for those who gave scandal to the "little ones", the favourites of God (cf. Matthew 18:7-10).

4. Through treatment, which includes medical, psychological and educational assistance, and through much prayer, manual work and discipline, many people -- especially young people -- have already succeeded in freeing themselves from alcohol and drug dependency, thereby recovering meaning in their lives.

I wish to express my appreciation for this work, which has the charism of Saint Francis and the spirituality of the Focolare Movement as its spiritual foundation.

Reintegration in society undoubtedly demonstrates the effectiveness of your initiative. Yet it is the conversions, the rediscovery of God and active participation in the life of the Church which attract even greater attention and which confirm the importance of your work. It is not enough to care for the body, we must adorn the soul with the most precious divine gifts acquired through Baptism.

Let us thank God for all those who have set out along the path of renewed hope, with the help of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the celebration of the Eucharist.

5. Dear friends, I cannot let this opportunity pass without thanking all those who contribute materially and spiritually to enable the charity "Nossa Senhora da Glória" to continue its work. May God bless Brother Hans Stapel and Nelson Giovanelli Ros for having answered his call to devote their lives to you. I ask the Lord also to bless all those who work here: the consecrated men and women, and the volunteers. We ask God's special blessing too on all those friends, support groups and authorities who supply your needs, and on all those who love Christ present in these beloved children of his.

My thoughts turn now to those many other institutions throughout the world which work to rebuild and renew the lives of these brothers and sisters of ours present in our midst, whom God loves with a preferential love. I am thinking of groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous as well as the sobriety associations working generously in many communities so as to build up the lives of others.

6. The proximity of the Shrine of Aparecida assures us that the "Fazenda da Esperança " came into being under her protection and maternal gaze. For a long time now, in my prayers, I have been asking Our Lady, Queen and Patron of Brazil, to extend her protective mantle over the participants in the Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean. Your presence here provides a considerable help for the success of this great gathering; offer your prayers, sacrifices, and renunciations on the altar of the Chapel, in the certainty that they will rise up to heaven in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as a fragrant offering to Almighty God. I am counting on your help! May Saint Frei Galvão and Saint Crescentia keep watch over you and protect each one of you. I bless you all in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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Benedict XVI's Greeting to Poor Clares
"Proclaim the Message of Love That Conquers Sorrow"

GUARATINGUETA, Brazil, MAY 13, 2007- Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's greetings to the Poor Clares during his visit Saturday to "Fazenda da Esperança " in Guaratinguetá.

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Be praised, my Lord, for all your creatures! -- With these words, addressed to the Almighty and Good Lord, the Poor Saint of Assisi acknowledged the unique bounty of God the Creator, and the tenderness, strength and beauty that gently flows out upon all his creatures, making them mirrors of the Creator's omnipotence.

Dear Sisters, spiritual daughters of Saint Clare, our gathering here in this "Fazenda da Esperança " is meant to be a sign of the affection of the Successor of Peter towards the cloistered Sisters, and also a serene manifestation of love, echoing through the hills and valleys of the Mantiqueira mountain-range and spreading throughout the whole land: "No speech, no word, no voice is heard; yet their span extends through all the earth, their words to the utmost bounds of the world" (Psalm 18:4-5). From this place, the daughters of Saint Clare proclaim: "Be praised, my Lord, for all your creatures!"

In places where society no longer sees any future or hope, Christians are called to proclaim the power of the Resurrection: it is here, in this "Fazenda da Esperança " -- home to so many, especially young people, who are seeking to overcome drug addiction, alcoholism, and chemical dependency -- that a clear witness is given to the Gospel of Christ amid a consumer society far removed from God. What a contrast from the prospect of the Creator beholding his work! In their contemplative lives, the Poor Clare Sisters and other cloistered religious gaze upon the greatness of God and also discover the beauty of his creation; hence they can picture him as the sacred author indicates, caught up in wonder at his handiwork, his beloved creation: "And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good!" (Genesis 1:31).

When sin entered the world, and with sin, death, God's beloved creation, though wounded, was not totally deprived of beauty: on the contrary, a still greater love was received: "O happy fault, which gained for us so great a Redeemer!" -- as the Church proclaims in the Exsultet during the mysterious and radiant night of Easter. It is the risen Christ who heals the wounds and saves the sons and daughters of God, saves humanity from death, from sin and from slavery to passions. The Passover of Christ unites heaven and earth. In this "Fazenda da Esperança ", the prayers of the Poor Clare Sisters are united with the demanding work of medicine and therapy in order to vanquish the prisons and break the chains of drugs that bring so much suffering to God's beloved children.

In this way God's creation is restored to the beauty that so delights and amazes its Creator. He is the Almighty Father, it is he alone whose essence is love and whose glory is man fully alive, in the expression of Saint Irenaeus. He "so loved the world that he gave his only Son" (John 3:16), in order to raise up the one who had fallen along the roadside, attacked and wounded by thieves on the way from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the pathways of the world, Jesus is "the hand" that the Father stretches out to sinners; he is the way that leads to peace (cf. Second Eucharistic Prayer for Reconciliation). Truly we discover here that the beauty of creation and the love of God are inseparable. Francis and Clare of Assisi also discover this secret and they propose to their beloved sons and daughters one very simple thing: to live the Gospel. This is their norm of conduct and their rule of life. Clare expressed it very well when she said to her sisters: "Among yourselves, my daughters, let there be the same love with which Christ has loved you" (Testament).

In this same love, Brother Hans invited them to be the guarantors of all the work carried out in the "Fazenda da Esperança ". Through the strength of silent prayer, through fasting and penance, the daughters of Saint Clare live out the commandment of love for God and neighbour in its supreme form, loving to the end.

This means that we must never lose hope! Hence the name given to this work by Brother Hans: "Fazenda da Esperança ". We need to build up hope, weaving the fabric of a society that, by relaxing its grip on the threads of life, is losing the true sense of hope. This loss, according to Saint Paul, is the self-imposed curse of "heartless persons" (cf. Romans 1:31).

My dear Sisters, make it your task to proclaim that "hope does not disappoint" (Romans 5:5). May the sorrow of the Crucified Lord, which filled Mary's soul at the foot of the Cross, console the hearts of many mothers and fathers who weep with sorrow because of their children's continuing dependency on drugs. By your silent prayerful self-offering, an eloquent silence that the Father hears, proclaim the message of love that conquers sorrow, drugs and death. Proclaim Jesus Christ, a human being like us, who suffers like ourselves, who took our sins upon himself in order to deliver us from them!

Soon we shall begin the Fifth General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean at the Shrine of Aparecida, so close to the "Fazenda da Esperança ". I trust in your prayers, that our peoples may have life in Jesus Christ and that we may all be his disciples and missionaries. I implore Mary, the Mother Aparecida, the Virgin of Nazareth who, in following Christ, kept all these things in her heart, to keep you in the fruitful silence of prayer.

To all cloistered Sisters, especially to the Poor Clares present in this institution, I impart my blessing with great affection.

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Pope's Address at Rosary Meeting
"Remain in the School of Mary"

APARECIDA, Brazil, MAY 13, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Saturday evening at the Shrine of Our Lady of Conceição Aparecida, after praying the rosary with priests, religious, seminarians and deacons of Brazil and the delegates of the 5th General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean.

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My Venerable Brothers in the College of Cardinals, in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,

Beloved Religious and all of you who have lovingly followed Christ in response to sound of his voice,

Dear Seminarians, preparing for the priestly ministry,

Dear Members of Ecclesial Movements and all you lay people who bring the power of the Gospel into the world of work and culture, in the heart of your families and your parishes!

1. Just as the Apostles, together with Mary, "went up to the upper room" and there, "with one accord devoted themselves to prayer" (Acts 1:13-14), so too we are gathered here today at the Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida, which at this time is our "upper room" where Mary, Mother of the Lord, is in our midst. Today it is she who leads our meditation; it is she who teaches us to pray. It is she who shows us the way to open our minds and hearts to the power of the Holy Spirit, who comes to fill the whole world.

We have just prayed the rosary. Through these sequences of meditations, the divine Comforter seeks to initiate us in the knowledge of Christ that issues forth from the clear source of the Gospel text. For her part, the Church of the third millennium proposes to offer Christians the capacity for "knowledge -- according to the words of Saint Paul -- of God's mystery, of Christ, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Colossians 2:2-3). Mary Most Holy, the pure and immaculate Virgin, is for us a school of faith destined to guide us and give us strength on the path that leads us to the Creator of Heaven and Earth. The Pope has come to Aparecida with great joy so as to say to you first of all: "Remain in the school of Mary." Take inspiration from her teachings, seek to welcome and to preserve in your hearts the enlightenment that she, by divine mandate, sends you from on high.

How beautiful it is to be gathered here in the name of Christ, in faith, in fraternity, in joy, in peace and in prayer, together with "Mary, the mother of Jesus" (Acts 1:14). How beautiful it is, my dear Priests, Deacons, Consecrated men and women, Seminarians and Christian families, to be here in the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida, which is God's Dwelling-place, the House of Mary and the House of the Brothers; and in the coming days it is also to serve as the setting for the Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean. How beautiful it is to be here in this Marian Basilica, towards which, at this time, the gaze and the hopes of the Christian world are turned, especially for the Christians of Latin America and the Caribbean!

2. I am glad to be here with you, in your midst! The Pope loves you! The Pope greets you affectionately! He is praying for you! And he implores the Lord's choicest blessings upon the Movements, Associations and new ecclesial realities, a living expression of the perennial youth of the Church! Be truly blessed! From here I address my truly affectionate greeting to the families who are gathered here to represent all the dearly beloved Christian families present throughout the world. I rejoice especially with you and I offer you an embrace of peace.

I am grateful for the welcome and the hospitality of the Brazilian people. Ever since my arrival I have been received with great affection! The various manifestations of appreciation and the greetings show how much you love, esteem and respect the Successor of the Apostle Peter. My Predecessor, the Servant of God John Paul II, mentioned on numerous occasions your affability and your spirit of fraternal welcome. He was completely right!

3. I greet the dear priests who are present, and I keep in my thoughts and prayers all the priests spread throughout the world, especially those in Latin America and the Caribbean, including the Fidei donum priests. What great challenges, what difficult situations you have to face, with such generosity, self-denial, sacrifices and renunciations! Your faithfulness in the exercise of the ministry and the life of prayer, your search for holiness, your total self-giving to God at the service of your brothers and sisters, as you expend your lives and energy in order to promote justice, fraternity, solidarity and sharing -- all this speaks powerfully to my pastoral heart. The witness of a priestly life well lived brings nobility to the Church, calls forth admiration among the faithful, and is a source of blessings for the community; it is the best way to promote vocations, the most authentic invitation to other young people to respond positively to the Lord's call. It is true collaboration in building the Kingdom of God!

I thank you sincerely and I encourage you to continue living in a manner worthy of the vocation you have received. May the missionary fervour, the passion for an increasingly contemporary approach to evangelization, the authentic apostolic spirit and the zeal for souls always be present in your lives! My affection, my prayers and my thanks go also to the elderly and infirm priests. Your conformation to Christ Suffering and Risen is the most fruitful apostolate. Many thanks!

4. Dear Deacons and Seminarians, you have a special place in the Pope's heart, and so I extend to you too my most fraternal and heartfelt greetings. Your exuberance, enthusiasm, idealism and encouragement to face new challenges boldly serve to give the People of God a renewed openness, make the faithful more dynamic and help the community to grow, to progress, and to become more trusting, joyful and optimistic. I thank you for the witness that you bear, working together with your Bishops in the pastoral activities of your dioceses. Always keep before your eyes the figure of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who "came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28). Be like the first deacons of the Church: men of good reputation, filled with the Holy Spirit, with wisdom and with faith (cf. Acts 6:3-5). And you, seminarians, give thanks to God for the call that he addresses to you. Remember that the Seminary is the cradle of your vocation and the first place where you experience communal life (cf. Directory for the Ministry and Life of Priests, 32). I ask you, with God's help, to be holy faithful and happy priests in the service of the Church!

5. I now turn my gaze and my attention to you, dear consecrated men and women, gathered here in the Shrine of the Mother, Queen and Patron of the Brazilian people, and also to those who are spread throughout the whole world.

Dear religious men and women, you are an offering, a present, a divine gift that the Church has received from her Lord. I give thanks to God for your lives and for the witness that you offer the world of faithful love for God and for your brethren. This unreserved, totally, definitive, unconditional and impassioned love is manifested in silence, in contemplation, in prayer and in the most varied activities that you undertake in your religious families, in favour of humanity and especially of the poorest and most abandoned. All this calls forth in the hearts of the young the desire to follow Christ the Lord more closely and radically, and to offer their lives so as to bear witness before the men and women of our day to the fact that God is Love, and that it is worth allowing oneself to be conquered and entranced in order to devote one's life exclusively to him (cf. "Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata," 15).

Religious life in Brazil has always been important and has had a key role in the work of evangelization, from the very beginnings of the colonial era. Only yesterday, I had the great joy of presiding at the eucharistic celebration which included the canonization of Saint Antônio de Sant'Ana Galvão, a Franciscan priest and religious and the first saint to have been born in Brazil. Alongside him, another admirable witness to the consecrated life is Saint Pauline, foundress of the Little Sisters of the Immaculate Conception. I could quote many other examples. May all of them together serve as an incentive to you to live out your total consecration. God bless you!

6. Today, on the eve of the opening of the Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean, at which it will be my pleasure to preside, I want to tell each of you how important it is to maintain our sense of belonging to the Church, which leads us to grow and to mature as brothers and sisters, children of the one God and Father. My dear men and women of Latin America, I know that you have a great thirst for God. I know that you follow the Lord Jesus who said: "No one comes to the Father, but by me" (John 14:6). The Pope therefore wants to say to all of you: The Church is our home! This is our home! In the Catholic Church we find all that is good, all that gives grounds for security and consolation! Anyone who accepts Christ, "the way, the truth and the life" in his totality, is assured of peace and happiness, in this life and in the next! For this reason, the Pope has come here to pray and to bear witness with you all: It is worth being faithful, it is worth persevering in our faith! The coherence of the faith also requires, however, a solid doctrinal and spiritual formation, which thus contributes to building a more just, humane and Christian society. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, together with its abridged version published under the title of "Compendium", will be of help here because of the clear notions it provides concerning our faith. Let us ask straight away that the coming of the Holy Spirit may be for all people like a new Pentecost, so that it may illumine our hearts and our faith with the light that comes down from above.

7. It is with great hope that I turn to all of you assembled here within this majestic Basilica, and to all who took part in the Holy Rosary from outside, to invite you to become profoundly missionary and to bring the Good News of the Gospel to every point of the compass in Latin America and in the world.

Let us ask the Mother of God, Our Lady of Aparecida, to protect the lives of all Christians. May she, who is the Star of Evangelization, guide our steps along the path towards the heavenly Kingdom:

"Our Mother, protect the Brazilian and Latin American family! Guard under your protective mantle the children of this beloved land that welcomes us. As the Advocate with your Son Jesus, give to the Brazilian people constant peace and full prosperity. Pour out upon our brothers and sisters throughout Latin America a true missionary ardor, to spread faith and hope, make the resounding plea that you uttered in Fatima for the conversion of sinners become a reality that transforms the life of our society, and as you intercede, from the Shrine of Guadalupe, for the people of the Continent of Hope, bless its lands and its homes. Amen."

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Benedict XVI's Address to Brazil's Bishops
"Become Messengers of Eternal Salvation"

SÃO PAULO, Brazil, MAY 11, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave to 400 Brazilian bishops who gathered today in the Cathedral of São Paulo to pray vespers with the Holy Father.

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Dear Brother Bishops!

Although he was the Son of God, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him." (cf. Hebrews 5:8-9).

1. The text we have just heard in the Lesson for Vespers contains a profound teaching. Once again we realize that God's word is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword; it penetrates to the depths of the soul and it grants solace and inspiration to his faithful servants (cf. Hebrews 4:12).

I thank God for the opportunity to be with this distinguished Episcopate, which presides over one of the largest Catholic populations in the world. I greet you with a sense of deep communion and sincere affection, well aware of your devotion to the communities entrusted to your care. The warm reception given to me by the Rector of the Catedral da Sé and by all present has made me feel at home in this great common House which is our Holy Mother, the Catholic Church.

I extend a special greeting to the new Officers of the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops and, with gratitude for the kind words of its President, Archbishop Geraldo Lyrio Rocha, I offer prayerful good wishes for his work in deepening communion among the Bishops and in promoting common pastoral activity in a territory of continental dimensions.

2. With its traditional hospitality, Brazil is hosting the participants in the Fifth Conference of Latin American Bishops. I express my gratitude for the kind welcome given to its members, and my deep appreciation for the prayers of the Brazilian people, particularly their prayers for the success of the Bishops' meeting in Aparecida.

This meeting is a great ecclesial event and part of the missionary outreach which Latin America needs to undertake, beginning here -- on Brazilian soil. That is why I wished to speak first to you, the Bishops of Brazil, evoking these words, so rich in content, from the Letter to the Hebrews: Although he was Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and being made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him" (Hebrews 5:8-9). Filled with meaning, these verses speak of God's compassion for us, as expressed in the passion of his Son. They speak of Christ's obedience and his free, conscious acceptance of the Father's plan, which appears most clearly in his prayer on the Mount of Olives: "Not my will, but yours, be done" (Luke 22:42). Jesus himself teaches us that the true way of salvation lies in conforming our will to the will of God. This is what we pray for in the third petition of the "Our Father": that God's will be done on earth as it is in heaven, since wherever God's will reigns, there the Kingdom of God is present. Jesus attracts us by his will, his filial will, and so he leads us to salvation. By freely accepting the will of God, in union with Jesus Christ, we open the world to God's Kingdom.

We Bishops have come together to manifest this central truth, since we are directly bound to Christ, the Good Shepherd. The mission entrusted to us as teachers of the faith consists in recalling, in the words of the Apostle of the Gentiles, that our Saviour "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4). This, and nothing else, is the purpose of the Church: the salvation of individual souls. For this reason the Father sent his Son, and in the Lord's own words transmitted to us in the Gospel of Saint John, "as the Father has sent me, even so I send you" (John 20:21). Hence the mandate to preach the Gospel: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Matthew 28:19-20). These words are simple yet sublime; they speak of our duty to proclaim the truth of the faith, the urgent need for the sacramental life, and the promise of Christ's continual assistance to his Church. These are fundamental realities: they speak of instructing people in the faith and in Christian morality, and of celebrating the sacraments. Wherever God and his will are unknown, wherever faith in Jesus Christ and in his sacramental presence is lacking, the essential element for the solution of pressing social and political problems is also missing. Fidelity to the primacy of God and of his will, known and lived in communion with Jesus Christ, is the essential gift that we Bishops and priests must offer to our people (cf. "Populorum Progressio," 21).

3. Our ministry as Bishops thus impels us to discern God's saving will and to devise a pastoral plan capable of training God's People to recognize and embrace transcendent values, in fidelity to the Lord and to the Gospel.

Certainly the present is a difficult time for the Church, and many of her children are experiencing difficulty. Society is experiencing moments of worrying disorientation. The sanctity of marriage and the family are attacked with impunity, as concessions are made to forms of pressure which have a harmful effect on legislative processes; crimes against life are justified in the name of individual freedom and rights; attacks are made on the dignity of the human person; the plague of divorce and extra-marital unions is increasingly widespread. Even more: when, within the Church herself, people start to question the value of the priestly commitment as a total entrustment to God through apostolic celibacy and as a total openness to the service of souls, and preference is given to ideological, political and even party issues, the structure of total consecration to God begins to lose its deepest meaning. How can we not be deeply saddened by this? But be confident: the Church is holy and imperishable (cf. Ephesians 5:27). As Saint Augustine said: "The Church will be shaken if its foundation is shaken; but will Christ be shaken? Since Christ cannot be shaken, the Church will remain firmly established to the end of time" ("Enarrationes in Psalmos," 103,2,5: PL 37,1353).

A particular problem which you face as Pastors is surely the issue of those Catholics who have abandoned the life of the Church. It seems clear that the principal cause of this problem is to be found in the lack of an evangelization completely centered on Christ and his Church. Those who are most vulnerable to the aggressive proselytizing of sects -- a just cause for concern -- and those who are incapable of resisting the onslaught of agnosticism, relativism and secularization are generally the baptized who remain insufficiently evangelized; they are easily influenced because their faith is weak, confused, easily shaken and naive, despite their innate religiosity. In the Encyclical "Deus Caritas Est," I stated that "being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction" (No. 1). Consequently, there is a need to engage in apostolic activity as a true mission in the midst of the flock that is constituted by the Church in Brazil, and to promote on every level a methodical evangelization aimed at personal and communal fidelity to Christ. No effort should be spared in seeking out those Catholics who have fallen away and those who know little or nothing of Jesus Christ, by implementing a pastoral plan which welcomes them and helps them realize that the Church is a privileged place of encounter with God, and also through a continuing process of catechesis.

What is required, in a word, is a mission of evangelization capable of engaging all the vital energies present in this immense flock. My thoughts turn to the priests, the men and women religious and the laity who work so generously, often in the face of immense difficulties, in order to spread the truth of the Gospel. Many of them cooperate with or actively participate in the associations, movements and other new ecclesial realities that, in communion with the Pastors and in harmony with diocesan guidelines, bring their spiritual, educational and missionary richness to the heart of the Church, as a precious experience and a model of Christian life.

In this work of evangelization the ecclesial community should be clearly marked by pastoral initiatives, especially by sending missionaries, lay or religious, to homes on the outskirts of the cities and in the interior, to enter into dialogue with everyone in a spirit of understanding, sensitivity and charity. On the other hand, if the persons they encounter are living in poverty, it is necessary to help them, as the first Christian communities did, by practising solidarity and making them feel truly loved. The poor living in the outskirts of the cities or the countryside need to feel that the Church is close to them, providing for their most urgent needs, defending their rights and working together with them to build a society founded on justice and peace. The Gospel is addressed in a special way to the poor, and the Bishop, modelled on the Good Shepherd, must be particularly concerned with offering them the divine consolation of the faith, without overlooking their need for "material bread". As I wished to stress in the Encyclical Deus Caritas Est, "the Church cannot neglect the service of charity any more than she can neglect the sacraments and the word" (No. 22).

The sacramental life, especially in the celebration of Confession and the Eucharist, here takes on a particular importance. As Pastors, it is your primary task to ensure that the faithful share in the eucharistic life and in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. You must be vigilant to ensure that the confession and absolution of sins is ordinarily individual, inasmuch as sin itself is something profoundly personal (cf. Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Reconciliatio et Paenitentia," 31, III). Only physical or moral impossibility exempts the faithful from this form of confession, in which case reconciliation can be obtained by some other means (cf. Code of Canon Law, can. 960, Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 311). It is appropriate, therefore, to instil in priests the practice of generously making themselves available to the faithful who have recourse to the sacrament of God's mercy (cf. Apostolic Letter "Misericordia Dei," 2).

4. Starting afresh from Christ in every area of missionary activity; rediscovering in Jesus the love and salvation given to us by the Father through the Holy Spirit: this is the substance and lifeline of the episcopal mission which makes the Bishop the person primarily responsible for catechesis in his diocese. Indeed, it falls ultimately to him to direct catechesis, surrounding himself with competent and trustworthy co-workers. It is therefore clear that the catechist's task is not simply to communicate faith-experiences; rather -- under the guidance of the Pastor -- it is to be an authentic herald of revealed truths. Faith is a journey led by the Holy Spirit which can be summed up in two words: conversion and discipleship. In the Christian tradition, these two key words clearly indicate that faith in Christ implies a way of living based on the twofold command to love God and neighbour -- and they also express life's social dimension.

Truth presupposes a clear understanding of Jesus' message transmitted by means of an intelligible, inculturated language, which must nevertheless remain faithful to the Gospel's intent. At this time, there is an urgent need for an adequate knowledge of the faith as it is presented in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and its accompanying Compendium. Education in Christian personal and social virtues is also an essential part of catechesis, as is education in social responsibility. Precisely because faith, life, and the celebration of the sacred liturgy -- the source of faith and life -- are inseparable, there is need for a more correct implementation of the liturgical principles as indicated by the Second Vatican Council, as well as those contained in the Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops (cf. 145-151), so as to restore to the liturgy its sacred character. It was with this end in view that my Venerable Predecessor on the Chair of Peter, John Paul II, wished "to appeal urgently that the liturgical norms for the celebration of the Eucharist be observed with great fidelity ... Liturgy is never anyone's private property, be it of the celebrant or of the community in which the mysteries are celebrated" (Encyclical Letter "Ecclesia de Eucharistia," 52). For Bishops, who are the "moderators of the Church's liturgical life", the rediscovery and appreciation of obedience to liturgical norms is a form of witness to the one, universal Church, that presides in charity.

5. A leap forward in the quality of people's Christian lives is needed, so that they can bear witness to their faith in a clear and transparent way. This faith, as it is celebrated and shared in the liturgy and in works of charity, nourishes and reinvigorates the community of the Lord's disciples while building them up as the missionary and prophetic Church. The Brazilian Episcopate has an impressive structure based on recently revised and more easily implemented statutes which focus more directly on the good of the Church. The Pope has come to Brazil to ask that, through following the word of God, all these Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate truly become messengers of eternal salvation for all those who obey Christ (cf. Hebrews 5:10). If we are to stay true to our solemn commitment as successors of the Apostles, we Pastors must be faithful servants of the word, eschewing any reductive or mistaken vision of the mission entrusted to us. It is not enough to look at reality solely from the viewpoint of personal faith; we must work with the Gospel in our hands and anchor ourselves in the authentic heritage of the Apostolic Tradition, free from any interpretations motivated by rationalistic ideologies.

Indeed, "within the particular Churches, it is the Bishop's responsibility to guard and interpret the word of God and to make authoritative judgments as to what is or is not in conformity with it" (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian, 19). As the primary Teacher of faith and doctrine, the Bishop will rely on collaboration with the theologian, who, in order "to be faithful to his role of service to the truth, must take into account the proper mission of the Magisterium and collaborate with it" (ibid., 20). The duty to preserve the deposit of faith and safeguard its unity calls for strict vigilance so that the faith may be "preserved and handed down with fidelity and so that particular insights are clearly integrated into the one Gospel of Christ" (Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops, 126).

This, therefore, is the enormous responsibility you have assumed as formators of your people, and especially of the priests and religious under your care. They are you faithful co-workers. I am aware of your commitment to seeking ways of forming new vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Theological formation, as well as education in sacred sciences, needs to be constantly updated, but this must always done in accord with the Church's authentic Magisterium.

I appeal to your priestly zeal and your sense of vocational discernment, especially so that you will know how to bring to completion the spiritual, psychological and affective, intellectual and pastoral formation needed to prepare young people for mature, generous service to the Church. Good and assiduous spiritual direction is indispensable for fostering human growth and eliminating the risk of going astray in the area of sexuality. Always keep in mind that priestly celibacy "is a gift which the Church has received and desires to retain, convinced that it is a good for the Church itself and for the world" (Directory on the Ministry and Life of Priests, 57).

I would also like to commend to your care the religious communities which play such an important role in the lives of your dioceses. They offer their own valuable contribution since "there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:4). The Church cannot help but show its joy and gratitude for all that religious men and women are able to contribute in universities, schools, hospitals, and other works and institutions.

6. I am familiar with the dynamic of your Assemblies and the efforts involved in formulating the various pastoral plans so that they give priority to the formation of clergy and those who assist them in their pastoral work. Some of you have encouraged evangelization movements to assist in the work of gathering groups of faithful together to carry out certain types of action. The Successor of Peter is relying on you to ensure that the preparation you give them is always based on a spirituality of communion and fidelity to the See of Peter, so that the work of the Spirit is never in vain. In fact, the integrity of the faith, together with ecclesiastical discipline, is and will always be an area requiring careful oversight on your part, especially when it comes to living out the consequences of the fact that "there is only one faith and one baptism".

As you know, among the various documents dealing with Christian unity, there is the Directory for Ecumenism published by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Ecumenism -- or the search for unity among Christians -- has become in our time an increasingly urgent task for the Catholic Church, as is evident from the growth of intercultural exchange and the challenge of secularism. Consequently, given the rapidly growing number of new Christian denominations, and especially certain forms of often aggressive proselytism, the work of ecumenism has become more complex. In this context, a good historical and doctrinal formation is absolutely essential, so as to foster necessary discernment and lead to a better understanding of the specific identity of each of these communities, the elements that divide them, and those elements that can be helpful on the road to greater unity. The greatest area of common ground for collaboration should be the defence of fundamental moral values -- transmitted by the biblical tradition -- against the relativistic and consumerist cultural forces that seek to destroy them. Another such area is faith in God the Creator and in Jesus Christ his incarnate Son. Moreover, there will always be the principle of fraternal love and the search for mutual understanding and rapprochement. Yet we must also be concerned with defending the faith of our people, confirming them in the joyful certitude that "unica Christi Ecclesia … subsistit in Ecclesia catholica, a successore Petri et Episcopis in eius communione gubernata" ["The one Church of Christ … subsists in the Catholic Church which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him"] ("Lumen Gentium," 8).

In this way, through the National Council of Christian Churches, you will be able to move towards candid ecumenical dialogue, committing yourselves to complete respect for those other religious confessions that wish to remain in contact with the Catholic Church in Brazil.

7. There is nothing new in the observation that your country is living through a historic deficit in social development, whose extreme effects can seen in the vast cross-section of Brazilians living in need and the great inequalities in income, even at the highest levels of society. It is your task, my dear Brothers, as the hierarchy of the people of God, to promote the search for new solutions imbued with the Christian spirit. A vision of the economy and social problems from the perspective of the Church's social teaching should always bring us to consider things from the viewpoint of human dignity, which transcends the simple interplay of economic factors. Hence, it is necessary to work untiringly to form politicians, and all Brazilians who wield a certain influence, be it great or small, as well as all members of society, so that they can fully assume their responsibilities and learn to give the economy a truly human and compassionate face.

There is a need to form a genuine spirit of truthfulness and honesty among the political and commercial classes. Those who take on leadership roles in society must try to foresee the social consequences -- direct and indirect, short-term and long-term -- of their own decisions, always acting according to the criteria that will maximize the common good, rather than merely seeking personal profit.

8. God willing, my dear Brothers, we will find other opportunities to explore these questions that call for our joint pastoral concern. For now, without pursuing them in an exhaustive way, I have tried to put forward the more significant themes that clamour for my attention as Pastor of the universal Church. I offer you my affectionate encouragement, which is at the same time a fraternal and heart-felt plea: that you will always work and act -- as indeed you are doing now -- in a spirit of harmony, building yourselves on the communion that finds its highest expression and inexhaustible source in the Eucharist. Entrusting all of you to Mary Most Holy, Mother of Christ and Mother of the Church, I cordially impart to each of you, as well as your respective communities, my Apostolic Blessing.

Thank you!

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Pope's Address at Canonization of 1st Brazilian
"His Immense Charity Knew No Bounds"

SÃO PAULO, Brazil, MAY 11, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today at the canonization Mass of Blessed Antônio de Sant'Ana Galvão (1739-1822), the first Brazilian to be proclaimed a saint.

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My Venerable Brothers in the College of Cardinals,
Archbishop Scherer of São Paulo,
Bishops of Brazil and Latin America,
Distinguished Authorities,
Sisters and Brothers in Christ!

I will bless the Lord at all times, his praise always on my lips (Psalms 32:2)

1. Let us rejoice in the Lord, on this day when we contemplate another marvel of God, who in his admirable providence allows us to taste a trace of his presence in this act of self-giving Love that is the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar.

Yes, we cannot fail to praise our God. Let all of us praise him, peoples of Brazil and America, let us sing to the Lord of his wonders, because he has done great things for us. Today, Divine Wisdom allows us to gather around his altar with praise and thanksgiving for the grace granted to us in the canonization of Frei Antônio de Sant'Ana Galvão.

I would like to express my thanks for the affectionate words spoken on behalf of all of you by the Archbishop of São Paulo. I thank each one of you for your presence here, whether you come from this great city or from other cities and nations. I rejoice that, through the communications media, my words and expressions of affection can enter every house and every heart. Be sure of this: the Pope loves you, and he loves you because Jesus Christ loves you.

In this solemn eucharistic celebration, we have listened to the Gospel in which Jesus exultantly proclaims: "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes" (Matthew 11:25). I am glad that the elevation to the altars of Frei Galvão will always remain framed in the liturgy that the Church presents to us today.

I greet with affection all the Franciscan community, and especially the Conceptionist Sisters who, from the Monastery of Light, from the capital of the State of São Paulo, spread the spirituality and the charism of the first Brazilian to be raised to the glory of the altars.

2. Let us give thanks to God for the lasting benefits obtained through the powerful evangelizing influence that the Holy Spirit impressed upon so many souls through Frei Galvão. The Franciscan charism, lived out in the spirit of the Gospel, has borne significant fruits through his witness as an ardent adorer of the Eucharist, as a prudent and wise guide of the souls who sought his counsel, and as a man with a great devotion to the Immaculate Conception of Mary, whose "son and perpetual servant" he considered himself to be.

God comes towards us, "he seeks to win our hearts, all the way to the Last Supper, to the piercing of his heart on the Cross, to his appearances after the Resurrection and to the great deeds by which, through the activity of the Apostles, he guided the nascent Church along its path" (Encyclical Letter "Deus Caritas Est," 17). He reveals himself through his word, in the sacraments and especially in the Eucharist. The life of the Church, therefore, is essentially eucharistic. In his loving providence, the Lord has left us a visible sign of his presence.

When we contemplate the Lord at Mass, raised up by the priest after the consecration of the bread and wine, or when we devoutly adore him exposed in the monstrance, we renew our faith with profound humility, as Frei Galvão did in "laus perennis", in a constant attitude of adoration. The Holy Eucharist contains all the spiritual wealth of the Church, that is to say Christ himself, our Passover, the living bread come down from heaven, given life by the Holy Spirit and in turn life-giving because it is the source of Life for mankind. This mysterious and ineffable manifestation of God's love for humanity occupies a privileged place in the heart of Christians. They must come to know the faith of the Church through her ordained ministers, through the exemplary manner in which they carry out the prescribed rites that always point to the eucharistic liturgy as the centre of the entire task of evangelization. The faithful, in their turn, must seek to receive and to venerate the Most Holy Sacrament with piety and devotion, eager to welcome the Lord Jesus with faith, and having recourse, whenever necessary, to the sacrament of reconciliation so as to purify the soul from every grave sin.

3. The significance of Frei Galvão's example lies in his willingness to be of service to the people whenever he was asked. He was renowned as a counsellor, he was a bringer of peace to souls and families, and a dispenser of charity especially towards the poor and the sick. He was greatly sought out as a confessor, because he was zealous, wise and prudent. It is characteristic of those who truly love that they do not want the Beloved to be offended; the conversion of sinners was therefore the great passion of our saint. Sister Helena Maria, the first religious sister destined to belong to the Recolhimento de Nossa Senhora da Conceição, witnessed to what Frei Galvão had said to her: "Pray that the Lord our God will raise sinners with his mighty arm from the wretched depths of the sins in which they find themselves." May this insightful admonition serve as a stimulus to us to recognize in the Divine Mercy the path towards reconciliation with God and our neighbour, for the peace of our consciences.

4. United with the Lord in the supreme communion of the Eucharist and reconciled with him and our neighbour, we will thus become bearers of that peace which the world cannot give. Will the men and women of this world be able to find peace if they are not aware of the need to be reconciled with God, with their neighbour and with themselves? Highly significant in this regard are the words written by the Assembly of the Senate of São Paulo to the Minister Provincial of the Franciscans at the end of the eighteenth century, describing Frei Galvão as a "man of peace and charity". What does the Lord ask of us? "Love one another as I have loved you." But immediately afterwards he adds: "Go out and bear fruit, fruit that will last" (cf. John 15:12,16). And what fruit does he ask of us, if not that of knowing how to love, drawing inspiration from the example of the Saint of Guaratinguetá?

The renown of his immense charity knew no bounds. People from all over the country went to Frei Galvão, who offered a fatherly welcome to everyone. Among those who came to implore his help were the poor and the sick in body and spirit.

Jesus opens his heart and reveals to us the core of his entire saving message: "No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). He himself loved even to the extent of giving his life for us on the Cross. The action of the Church and of Christians in society must have this same inspiration. Pastoral initiatives for the building up of society, if directed towards the good of the poor and the sick, bear within themselves this divine seal. The Lord counts on us and calls us his friends, because it is only to those we love in this way that we are capable of giving the life offered by Jesus through his grace.

As we know, the Fifth General Conference of the Latin-American Episcopate will take as its fundamental theme: "Disciples and Missionaries of Jesus Christ, so that our Peoples may have Life in Him". How can we fail to see, then, the need to listen with renewed fervour to God's call, so as to be able to respond generously to the challenges facing the Church in Brazil and in Latin America?

5. "Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest", says the Lord in the Gospel (Matthew 11:28). This is the final recommendation that he makes to us. How can we fail to recognize here God's fatherly and at the same time motherly care towards all his children? Mary, Mother of God and our Mother, stands particularly close to us at this moment. Frei Galvão prophetically affirmed the truth of the Immaculate Conception. She, the Tota Pulchra, the Virgin Most Pure, who conceived in her womb the Redeemer of mankind and was preserved from all stain of original sin, wishes to be the definitive seal of our encounter with God our Saviour. There is no fruit of grace in the history of salvation that does not have as its necessary instrument the mediation of Our Lady.

In fact, the saint that we are celebrating gave himself irrevocably to the Mother of Jesus from his youth, desiring to belong to her for ever and he chose the Virgin Mary to be the Mother and Protector of his spiritual daughters.

My dearest friends, what a fine example Frei Galvão has left for us to follow! There is a phrase included in the formula of his consecration which sounds remarkably contemporary to us, who live in an age so full of hedonism: "Take away my life before I offend your blessed Son, my Lord!" They are strong words, the words of an impassioned soul, words that should be part of the normal life of every Christian, whether consecrated or not, and they enkindle a desire for fidelity to God in married couples as well as in the unmarried. The world needs transparent lives, clear souls, pure minds that refuse to be perceived as mere objects of pleasure. It is necessary to oppose those elements of the media that ridicule the sanctity of marriage and virginity before marriage.

In our day, Our Lady has been given to us as the best defence against the evils that afflict modern life; Marian devotion is the sure guarantee of her maternal protection and safeguard in the hour of temptation. And what an unfailing support is this mysterious presence of the Virgin Most Pure, when we invoke the protection and the help of the Senhora Aparecida! Let us place in her most holy hands the lives of priests and consecrated laypersons, seminarians and all who are called to religious life.

6. My dear friends, allow me to finish by recalling the Vigil of Prayer at Marienfeld in Germany: in the presence of a multitude of young people, I spoke of the saints of our epoch as true reformers. And I added: "Only from the saints, only from God does true revolution come, the definitive way to change the world" (Homily, 25 August 2005). This is the invitation that I address to all of you today, from the first to the last, in this Eucharist without frontiers. God said: "Be holy, as I am holy" (Leviticus 11:44). Let us give thanks to God the Father, to God the Son, to God the Holy Spirit from whom, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, we receive all the blessings of heaven; from whom we receive this gift which, together with faith, is the greatest grace that can be bestowed upon a creature: the firm desire to attain the fullness of charity, in the conviction that holiness is not only possible but also necessary for every person in his or her own state of life, so as to reveal to the world the true face of Christ, our friend! Amen!

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Papal Address to Youth
"I Send You Out on the Great Mission of Evangelizing"

PACAEMBU, Brazil, MAY 10, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered to youth, during the first full day of his visit to Brazil.

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My dear young friends!

"If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor … and come, follow me" (Mt 19:21).

1. I was particularly eager to include a meeting with you during this my first journey to Latin America. I have come to inaugurate the Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America which, according to my wish, will take place at Aparecida, here in Brazil, at the Shrine of Our Lady. It is she who leads us to the feet of Jesus so that we can learn his teachings about the Kingdom, and it is she who stirs us up to be his missionaries so that the people of this "Continent of Hope" may have full life in him.

In their General Assembly last year, your Bishops here in Brazil reflected on the theme of the evangelization of youth and they placed a document into your hands. They asked you to receive that document and add your own reflections to it in the course of the year. At their most recent Assembly, the Bishops returned to the theme, enriched now by your collaboration, in the hope that the reflections and guidelines proposed therein would serve as a stimulus and a beacon for your journey. The words offered by the Archbishop of São Paulo and the Director of Pastoral Care for Young People, both of whom I thank, confirm the spirit that moves your hearts.

While flying over the land of Brazil yesterday evening, I was already anticipating our encounter here in the Stadium of Pacaembu, anxious to extend to all of you a warm Brazilian embrace and to share with you the sentiments which I carry in the depths of my heart, and which are very appropriately indicated to us in today's Gospel.

I have always felt a very special joy at these encounters. I remember especially the Twentieth World Youth Day at which I was able to preside two years ago in Germany. Some of you gathered here today were also present! It is an emotional memory for me on account of the abundant fruits of the Lord's grace poured out upon those who were there. Among the many fruits which I could point to, there is little doubt that the first was the exemplary sense of fraternity that stood as a clear witness to the Church's perennial vitality throughout the world.

2. For this reason, my dear friends, I am certain that today the same impressions I received in Germany will be renewed here. In 1991, during his visit to Mato Grosso, the Servant of God Pope John Paul II, of venerable memory, said that "youth are the first protagonists of the third millennium … they are the ones who will be charged with the destiny of this new phase in human history" (16 October 1991). Today, I feel moved to make the same observation regarding all of you.

The Christian life you lead in numerous parishes and small ecclesial communities, in universities, colleges and schools, and most of all, in places of work both in the city and in the countryside, is undoubtedly pleasing to the Lord. But it is necessary to go even further. We can never say "enough", because the love of God is infinite, and the Lord asks us -- or better --requires us to open our hearts wider so that there will be room for even more love, goodness, and understanding for our brothers and sisters, and for the problems which concern not only the human community, but also the effective preservation and protection of the natural environment of which we are all a part. "Our forests have more life": do not allow this flame of hope which your National Hymn places on your lips to die out. The devastation of the environment in the Amazon Basin and the threats against the human dignity of peoples living within that region call for greater commitment in the different areas of activity than society tends to recognize.

3. Today I would like to reflect on the text we have just heard from Saint Matthew (cf. 19:16-22). It speaks of a young man who ran to see Jesus. His impatience merits special attention. In this young man I see all of you young people of Brazil and Latin America. You have "run" here from various regions of this Continent for this meeting of ours. You want to listen to the words of Jesus himself -- spoken through the voice of the Pope.

You have a crucial question -- a question that appears in this Gospel -- to put to him. It is the same question posed by the young man who ran to see Jesus: What good deed must I do, to have eternal life? I would like to take a deeper look at this question with you. It has to do with life. A life which -- in all of you -- is exuberant and beautiful. What are you to do with it? How can you live it to the full?

We see at once that in the very formulation of the question, the "here" and "now" are not enough; to put it another way, we cannot limit our life within the confines of space and time, however much we might try to broaden their horizons. Life transcends them. In other words: we want to live, not die. We have a sense of something telling us that life is eternal and that we must apply ourselves to reach it. In short, it rests in our hands and is dependent, in a certain way, on our own decision.

The question in the Gospel does not regard only the future. It does not regard only a question about what will happen after death. On the contrary, it exists as a task in the present, in the "here" and "now", which must guarantee authenticity and consequently the future. In short, the young man's question raises the issue of life's meaning. It can therefore be formulated in this way: what must I do so that my life has meaning? How must I live so as to reap the full fruits of life? Or again: what must I do so that my life is not wasted?

Jesus alone can give us the answer, because he alone can guarantee us eternal life. He alone, therefore, can show us the meaning of this present life and give it fullness.

4. But before giving his response, Jesus asks about a very important aspect of the young man's enquiry: why do you ask me about what is good? In this question, we find the key to the answer. This young man perceives that Jesus is good and that he is a teacher -- a teacher who does not deceive. We are here because we have the very same conviction: Jesus is good. It may be that we do not know how to explain fully the reason for this perception, but it undoubtedly draws us to him and opens us up to his teaching: he is a good teacher. To recognize the good means to love. And whoever loves -- to use a felicitous expression of Saint John -- knows God (cf. 1 Jn 4:7). The young man in the Gospel has perceived God in Jesus Christ.

Jesus assures us that God alone is good. To be open to goodness means to receive God. In this way, he invites us to see God in all things and in everything that happens, even where most people see only God's absence. When we see the beauty of creation and recognize the goodness present there, it is impossible not to believe in God and to experience his saving and reassuring presence. If we came to see all the good that exists in the world -- and moreover, experience the good that comes from God himself -- we would never cease to approach him, praise him, and thank him. He continually fills us with joy and good things. His joy is our strength.

But we can only know in an imperfect, partial way. To understand what is good, we need help, which the Church offers us on many occasions, especially through catechesis. Jesus himself shows what is good for us by giving us the first element in his catechesis: "If you would enter life, keep the commandments" (Mt 19:17). He begins with the knowledge that the young man has surely already acquired from his family and from the synagogue: he knows the commandments. These lead to life, which means that they guarantee our authenticity. They are the great signs which lead us along the right path. Whoever keeps the commandments is on the way that leads to God.

It is not enough, however, simply to know them. Witness is even more important than knowledge; or rather, it is applied knowledge. The commandments are not imposed upon us from without; they do not diminish our freedom. On the contrary: they are strong internal incentives leading us to act in a certain way. At the heart of them we find both grace and nature, which do not allow us to stay still. We must walk. We are motivated to do something in order fulfil our potential. To find fulfilment through action is, in reality, to become real. To a large extent, from the time of our youth, we are whatever we want to be. We are, so to speak, the work of our own hands.

5. At this point, I turn once more to you, young people, because I want to hear you give the same response that the young man in the Gospel gave: all these I have observed from my youth. The young man in the Gospel was good. He kept the commandments. He was walking along the way of God. Jesus, therefore, gazing at him, loved him. By recognizing that Jesus was good, he showed that he too was good. He had an experience of goodness, and therefore of God. And you, young people of Brazil and Latin America, have you already discovered what is good? Do you follow the Lord's commandments? Have you discovered that this is the one true road to happiness?

These years of your life are the years which will prepare you for your future. Your "tomorrow" depends much on how you are living the "today" of your youth. Stretching out in front of you, my dear young friends, is a life that all of us hope will be long; yet it is only one life, it is unique: do not let it pass it vain; do not squander it. Live it with enthusiasm and with joy, but most of all, with a sense of responsibility.

Many times, we who are pastors feel a sense of trepidation as we take stock of the situation in today's world. We hear talk of the fears of today's youth. These fears reveal an enormous lack of hope: a fear of death, at the very moment when life is blossoming and the young are searching to find how to fulfil their potential; fear of failure, through not having discovered the meaning of life; fear of remaining detached in the face of a disconcerting acceleration of events and communications. We see the high death rate among young people, the threat of violence, the deplorable proliferation of drugs which strike at the deepest roots of youth today. For these reasons, we hear talk of a "lost youth".

But as I gaze at you young people here present -- you who radiate so much joy and enthusiasm -- I see you as Christ sees you: with a gaze of love and trust, in the certainty that you have found the true way. You are the youth of the Church. I send you out, therefore, on the great mission of evangelizing young men and women who have gone astray in this world like sheep without a shepherd. Be apostles of youth. Invite them to walk with you, to have the same experience of faith, hope, and love; to encounter Jesus so that they may feel truly loved, accepted, able to realize their full potential. May they too may discover the sure ways of the commandments, and, by following them, come to God.

You can be the builders of a new society if you seek to put into practice a conduct inspired by universal moral values, but also a personal commitment to a vitally important human and spiritual formation. Men and women who are ill-prepared for the real challenges presented by a correct interpretation of the Christian life in their own surroundings will easily fall prey to all the assaults of materialism and secularism, which are more and more active at all levels.

Be men and women who are free and responsible; make the family a centre that radiates peace and joy; be promoters of life, from its beginning to its natural end; protect the elderly, since they deserve respect and admiration for the good they have done. The Pope also expects young people to seek to sanctify their work, carrying it out with technical skill and diligence, so as to contribute to the progress of all their brothers and sisters, and to shed the light of the Word upon all human activities (cf. Lumen Gentium, 36). But above all, the Pope wants them to set about building a more just and fraternal society, fulfilling their duties towards the State: respecting its laws; not allowing themselves to be swept along by hatred and violence; seeking to be an example of Christian conduct in their professional and social milieu, distinguishing themselves by the integrity of their social and professional relationships. They should remember that excessive ambition for wealth and power leads to corruption of oneself and others; there are no valid motives that would justify attempting to impose one's own worldly aspirations -- economic or political -- through fraud and deceit.

There exists, in the final analysis, an immense panorama of action in which questions of a social, economic and political nature take on particular importance, as long as they draw their inspiration from the Gospel and the social teaching of the Church. This includes building a more just and fraternal society, reconciled and at peace, it includes the commitment to reduce violence, initiatives to promote the fullness of life, the democratic order and the common good and especially initiatives aimed at eliminating certain forms of discrimination existing in Latin American societies: avoiding exclusion, for the sake of mutual enrichment.

Above all, have great respect for the institution of the sacrament of Matrimony. There cannot be true domestic happiness unless, at the same time, there is fidelity between spouses. Marriage is an institution of natural law, which has been raised by Christ to the dignity of a sacrament; it is a great gift that God has given to mankind: respect it and honour it. At the same time, God calls you to respect one another when you fall in love and become engaged, since conjugal life, reserved by divine ordinance to married couples, will bring happiness and peace only to the extent that you are able to build your future hopes upon chastity, both within and outside marriage. I repeat here to all of you that "eros tends to rise . . . towards the Divine, to lead us beyond ourselves; yet for this very reason it calls for a path of ascent, renunciation, purification and healing" (Encyclical Letter Deus Caritas Est , 5). To put it briefly, it requires a spirit of sacrifice and renunciation for the sake of a greater good, namely the love of God above all things. Seek to resist forcefully the snares of evil that are found in many contexts, driving you towards a dissolute and paradoxically empty life, causing you to lose the precious gift of your freedom and your true happiness. True love "increasingly seeks the happiness of the other, is concerned more and more with the beloved, bestows itself and wants to 'be there for' the other" (ibid., 7) and therefore will always grow in faithfulness, indissolubility and fruitfulness.

In all these things, count upon the help of Jesus Christ who will make them possible through his grace (cf. Mt 19:26). The life of faith and prayer will lead you along the paths of intimacy with God, helping you to understand the greatness of his plans for every person. "For the sake of the kingdom of heaven" ( Mt 19:12), some are called to a total and definitive self-giving, by consecrating themselves to God in the religious life -- an "exceptional gift of grace", as the Second Vatican Council expressed it (cf. Decree Perfectae Caritatis, 12). Consecrated persons, by giving themselves totally to God, prompted by the Holy Spirit, participate in the Church's mission, bearing witness before all people to their hope in the heavenly Kingdom. I therefore bless and invoke divine protection upon all those religious who have dedicated themselves to Christ and to their brothers and sisters within the vineyard of the Lord. Consecrated persons truly deserve the gratitude of the ecclesial community: monks and nuns, contemplative men and women, religious men and women dedicated to apostolic works, members of Secular Institutes and Societies of Apostolic Life, hermits and consecrated virgins. "Their existence witnesses to their love for Christ as they walk the path proposed in the Gospel and with deep joy commit themselves to the same style of life which he chose for himself" (Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life, Instruction Starting Afresh from Christ, 5). I pray that in this moment of grace and profound communion in Christ, the Holy Spirit will awaken in the hearts of many young people an impassioned love, prompting them to follow and imitate Jesus Christ, chaste, poor and obedient, totally devoted to the glory of the Father and to love for their brothers and sisters.

6. The Gospel assures us that the young man who went to meet Jesus was very rich. We may understand this wealth not only on the material level. Youth itself is a singular treasure. We have to discover it and to value it. Jesus appreciated it so much that he went on to invite the young man to participate in his saving mission. He had great potential and could have accomplished great things.

But the Gospel goes on to say that this young man, having heard the invitation, was saddened. He went away downcast and sad. This episode causes us to reflect further on the treasure of youth. It is not, in the first place, a question of material wealth, but of life itself, and the values inherent in youth. This wealth is inherited from two sources: life, transmitted from generation to generation, at the ultimate origin of which we find God, full of wisdom and love; and upbringing, which locates us within a culture, to such an extent that we might almost say we are more children of culture and therefore of faith, than of nature. From life springs freedom, which manifests itself, especially in this phase, as responsibility. There comes the great moment of decision, in a twofold choice: firstly, concerning one's state of life, and secondly concerning one's profession. It is about providing an answer to the question: what do I do with my life?

In other words, youth appears as a form of wealth because it leads to the discovery of life as a gift and a task. The young man in the Gospel understood that his youth was itself a treasure. He went to Jesus, the good Teacher, in order to seek some direction. At the moment of the great decision, however, he lacked the courage to wager everything on Jesus Christ. In consequence, he went away sad and downcast. This is what happens whenever our decisions waver and become cowardly and self-seeking. He understood that what he lacked was generosity, and this did not allow him to realize his full potential. He withdrew to his riches, turning them to selfishness.

Jesus regretted the sadness and the cowardice of the young man who had come to seek him out. The Apostles, like all of you here today, filled the vacuum left by that young man who went away sad and downcast. They, and we, are happy, because we know the one in whom we believe (cf. 2 Tim 1:12). We know and we bear witness with our lives that he alone has the words of eternal life (cf. Jn 6:68). Therefore, we can exclaim with Saint Paul: Rejoice always in the Lord! (cf. Phil 4:4).

7. My appeal to you today, young people present at this gathering, is this: do not waste your youth. Do not seek to escape from it. Live it intensely. Consecrate it to the high ideals of faith and human solidarity.

You, young people, are not just the future of the Church and of humanity, as if we could somehow run away from the present. On the contrary: you are that young man now; you are that young man in the Church and in humanity today. You are his young face. The Church needs you, as young people, to manifest to the world the face of Jesus Christ, visible in the Christian community. Without this young face, the Church would appear disfigured.

My dear young people, soon I shall inaugurate the Fifth Conference of the Bishops of Latin America. I ask you to follow its deliberations attentively; to participate in its discussions; to receive its fruits. As was the case with earlier Conferences, the present one will also leave a significant mark on the next ten years of evangelization in Latin America and the Caribbean. No one must stay on the sidelines or remain indifferent in the face of this ecclesial initiative, least of all you young people. You are full members of the Church, which represents the face of Jesus Christ for Latin America and the Caribbean.

I greet the French speakers who live on the Latin American continent, and I invite them to be witnesses of the Gospel, and to be actively engaged in the life of the Church. My prayer is addressed to you young people in a particular way: you are called to build your lives on Christ and on fundamental human values. Everyone should feel invited to work together in order to build a world of justice and peace.

My dear young friends, like the young man in the Gospel who asked Jesus: "What good deed must I do, to have eternal life?", you are all seeking ways to respond generously to God's call. I pray that you may listen to his saving words and that you may become his witnesses for the peoples of today. May God pour out upon all of you his blessings of peace and joy.

My dear young people, Christ is calling you to be saints. He himself is inviting you and wants to walk with you, in order to enliven with his Spirit the steps that Brazil is taking at the beginning of this third millennium of the Christian era. I ask the Senhora Aparecida to guide you with her maternal help and to accompany you throughout your lives.

Praised be our Lord Jesus Christ!

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Pope's Address Upon Arriving in Brazil
"Peace to All of You Who Are in Christ"

SÃO PAULO, Brazil, MAY 9, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave upon arriving at the Guarulhos International Airport in São Paulo. In the discourse he addresses Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

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Mr President,
My Venerable Brothers in the College of Cardinals and in the Episcopate,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ!

1. I am very pleased to begin my Pastoral Visit to Brazil and to express to Your Excellency, as Head of State and Supreme Representative of the great Brazilian Nation, my gratitude for the warm welcome offered to me. I willingly extend my thanks also to the members of the Government accompanying you, as well as to the civil and military dignitaries present, and to the authorities of the State of São Paulo. In the words of welcome which you addressed to me, Mr President, I hear an echo of the sentiments of affection and love that all the Brazilian people bear towards the Successor of the Apostle Peter.

I offer my fraternal greetings in the Lord to my dear Brother Bishops who have come to receive me in the name of the Church in Brazil. I also greet the priests, religious men and women, the seminarians and the lay people dedicated to the Church's task of evangelization and to authentic Christian living. Finally, I extend my warm greetings to all Brazilians without distinction, men and women, families, the old and the sick, young people and children. To all of you I say from my heart: thank you very much for your generous hospitality!

2. Brazil has a very special place in the Pope's heart, not only because it was born Christian and has today the largest number of Catholics, but above all because it is a nation endowed with a rich potential and an ecclesial presence that gives joy and hope to the whole Church. My visit, Mr President, has a scope that goes beyond national borders: I have come to preside at the opening Session of the Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean at Aparecida. This country, in the providence and goodness of the Creator, will become the cradle of the ecclesial proposals that, with God's help, will give renewed vigour and missionary impetus to this Continent.

3. In this geographical area, Catholics are in the majority. This means that they must make a particular contribution to the common good of the nation. The word solidarity will acquire its full meaning when the living forces of society, each in its own sphere, commit themselves seriously to building a future of peace and hope for all.

The Catholic Church, as I stated in the Encyclical letter "Deus Caritas Est," "transformed by the Holy Spirit, is called to become a witness before the world of the love of the Father who wishes to make humanity a single family in his Son" (cf. No. 19). From here springs her deep commitment to the mission of evangelization at the service of the cause of peace and justice. Hence the decision to undertake an essentially missionary Conference reflects clearly the concern of the Bishops, as it does mine, to seek suitable ways by which in Jesus Christ "our peoples may have life", as the theme of the Conference reminds us. With these sentiments I raise my eyes beyond the frontiers of this country, and I extend my greetings to all the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean in the words of the Apostle: "Peace to all of you who are in Christ" (1 Peter 5:14).

4. Mr President, I am grateful to Divine Providence for this grace of visiting Brazil, a Nation with a great Catholic tradition. I have had occasion to point out the principal motive of my visit, which is concerned with Latin America and has a fundamentally religious significance.

I am happy to be able to spend some days among the Brazilian people. I am well aware that the soul of this people, as of all Latin America, safeguards values that are radically Christian, which will never be eradicated. I am certain that at Aparecida, during the Bishops' General Conference, this identity will be reinforced through the promotion of respect for life from the moment of conception until natural death as an integral requirement of human nature. It will also make the promotion of the human person the axis of solidarity, especially towards the poor and abandoned.

The Church seeks only to stress the moral values present in each situation and to form the conscience of the citizens so that they may make informed and free decisions. She will not fail to insist on the need to take action to ensure that the family, the basic cell of society, is strengthened, and likewise young people, whose formation is a decisive factor for the future of any nation. Last but not least, she will defend and promote the values present at every level of society, especially among indigenous peoples.

5. With these good wishes and with renewed gratitude for the warm reception that I have received as the Successor of Peter, I invoke the maternal protection of "Nossa Senhora da Conceição Aparecida," remembered also as "Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe," Patroness of all America, so that she may protect and inspire those who govern in their difficult task as promoters of the common good, and renew the bonds of Christian fellowship for the good of all the people. May God bless Latin America! God bless Brazil! Thank you!

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Benedict XVI's Words at Monastery

SÃO PAULO, Brazil, MAY 9, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is the Vatican translation of the words Benedict XVI pronounced from the balcony of the Monastery of St. Benedict to the crowds gathered below.

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Dear Friends,

Your affectionate welcome is heart-warming for the Pope! Thank you for waiting here to greet me.

These days, for all of you and for the Church, will be full of emotion and joy.

The Church is in festal mode! In every corner of the world people are praying for the fruits of this journey, the first Pastoral Journey to Brazil and to Latin America that Providence has granted me to carry out as the Successor of Peter.

The canonization of Frei Galvão and the inauguration of the Fifth Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean will be milestones in the history of the Church. I am counting on you and on your prayers!

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Vatican Spokesman Summarizes Brazil
Says Pope Combined Spirituality and Modern Times

VATICAN CITY, MAY 14, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI's message to the general conference of the episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean combined a spiritual message with the realities of modern times, says the Vatican spokesman.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, commented on the message the Pope delivered Sunday to open the 5th General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean.

"The Pope's speech began with the proclamation of God, who is love, and went on to talk about the life of the Church in which this proclamation is carried out, cultivated and spread," Father Lombardi said on Vatican Radio.

"The Pope's speech, however, was not simply spiritualistic, cut off from the reality of the surrounding world," the Vatican spokesman added. "It was a response to those who asked him how the Church would respond to the challenges that come from the great injustices and imbalances of this continent -- challenges that were dealt with in the past, and that are still around today, sometimes based on different ideologies -- on one hand materialistic liberalism and on the other Marxism."

Father Lombardi continued: "The Pope responded with a balanced and profound discourse distinguishing the Church's task of proclaiming God's word from the strictly political task, making clear the Church's role in teaching values, giving a religious view of the person and the reality that is essential -- so that it will not be seen in reductive terms, as something merely material.

"And therefore one should not search for solutions that are partial at best, that result in negative consequences.

"The values of love and justice that we receive from the Gospel and the Church's preaching help those who are building social, economic and political structures to find an ever greater justice, to find solutions that are rational and upright, that are aware of the entire human person."

The Vatican spokesman quoted the Holy Father in saying that "the Church is not directly involved in politics, but is an advocate of justice and of the poor."

Father Lombardi also underlined the Pope's observation of the need for lay Catholics in politics in Latin America: "The characterizing task of the laity is that of transforming the world, making it more just, more human, making it better able to respond to the needs of a respectful coexistence for everyone, in harmony and with justice for all members of society."

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The Pope in Brazil
Key Themes Raised During Visit

By Father John Flynn

ROME, MAY 21, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Brazil, Benedict XVI announced upon arriving in São Paulo on May 9, has a very special place in his heart. The Pope explained that this is due to it being the country with the largest number of Catholics and because of its potential that gives joy and hope for the Church.

During his first trip to the Americas, the Pontiff addressed many important themes in his discourses and homilies. Some of them were directed more toward Brazil, but many of the points raised had implications for the Church as a whole.

Evangelization an urgent task

The need for the Church to be imbued by a missionary attitude was repeatedly mentioned by Benedict XVI. In his brief address upon arriving in Brazil, the Pope commented that the Church has a "deep commitment to the mission of evangelization at the service of the cause of peace and justice" (No. 3).

The Holy Father returned to this theme in his address to some 400 bishops, gathered on May 11 to pray vespers in the Cathedral of São Paulo. God desires all to be saved and to know the truth, he observed. "This, and nothing else, is the purpose of the Church: the salvation of individual souls" (No. 2).

Therefore, there is an urgent need to instruct people in the faith and to celebrate the sacraments. In fact, in explaining why so many have left the Church Benedict XVI argued that: "It seems clear that the principal cause of this problem is to be found in the lack of an evangelization completely centered on Christ and his Church" (No. 3).

In general, he noted, those who are most vulnerable to the activity of the sects or to falling victim to the temptation of secularism and relativism, have been insufficiently evangelized.

The Pope urged the bishops to put into practice a pastoral plan to seek out and welcome back those Catholics who have left the Church, or who know little about Christ.

What must we do to have eternal life?

During his encounter with youth, held at the Pacaembu stadium May 10 in São Paulo, the Pope reflected on the implications of the question the young man made to Jesus when he asked what he should do to have eternal life (cf. Matthew 19:16-22).

We can also understand this interrogatory as meaning: "What must I do so that my life has meaning?" noted the Pontiff (No. 3). "Jesus alone can give us the answer, because he alone can guarantee us eternal life," he added.

Part of the answer, he continued, is to be open to goodness, and to see God in all that is around us and in all that happens. We also need to keep the commandments, but not just by knowing them, we must keep them and give witness in our own lives to them. This is much more than just obeying external rules, Benedict XVI commented. At the heart of the commandments we find both grace and nature, and by following them we fulfill our potential. We only have one life to live and it is important not to squander this opportunity, he urged.

The Pope also encouraged young people to evangelize, and to invite their friends and those around them to encounter Jesus, so they too can experience his love. He invited youth to demonstrate their faith in their commitment to marriage and the family, and to build a more just society.

In all of this it is important to remain close to Jesus through giving sufficient attention to the interior life: "The life of faith and prayer will lead you along the paths of intimacy with God, helping you to understand the greatness of his plans for every person" (No. 5).

The role of bishops

During his address on May 11 to bishops in the Cathedral of São Paulo, the Pope gave some advice on what he saw as the priorities for those chosen to be pastors of the Church. "Fidelity to the primacy of God and of his will, known and lived in communion with Jesus Christ, is the essential gift that we bishops and priests must offer to our people" (No. 2).

Bishops must also ensure that the work of catechesis is carried out properly. The catechist's task, the Holy Father explained, is not to merely communicate "faith experiences," but to be "an authentic herald of revealed truths" (No. 4). This means a faith that is characterized by conversion and discipleship.

Part of this catechesis, he continued, also consists in ensuring the correct implementation of liturgical principles. "For bishops, who are the 'moderators of the Church's liturgical life,' the rediscovery and appreciation of obedience to liturgical norms is a form of witness to the one, universal Church that presides in charity" (No. 4).

Bishops should also avoid any reductive vision of the mission they have been entrusted with, the Pope advised. "It is not enough to look at reality solely from the viewpoint of personal faith; we must work with the Gospel in our hands and anchor ourselves in the authentic heritage of the apostolic Tradition, free from any interpretations motivated by rationalistic ideologies" (No. 5).

The Pope also recommended that the bishops apply the social teaching of the Church in dealing with the economic and social problems of Brazil, and consider issues from the viewpoint of human dignity, which is a vision that rises above the mere interaction of economic forces.

Christ the Savior

On May 13, Benedict XVI gave the inaugural address for the 5th General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean, held near the shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida. In his opening his remarks the Pope commented that the continent can count on a rich Christian culture, five centuries after the initial evangelization, but at the same time faces some serious challenges.

One interesting point raised by the Pontiff dealt with the arrival of the Christian faith in the region. This event meant the arrival of Christ, which the people living in those nations had been seeking, but without realizing it, in their local religious traditions. "Christ is the Savior for whom they were silently longing," the Pope stated (No. 1).

Seen in this perspective, "the proclamation of Jesus and of his Gospel did not at any point involve an alienation of the pre-Columbian cultures, nor was it the imposition of a foreign culture," he argued.

Turning to the challenges to be considered by the bishops, the Holy Father mentioned globalization. This brings with it benefits, he noted, but at the same time the risk of economic priorities dominating society. Globalization, like other activities, must be guided by ethics, the Pope exhorted.

He also spoke of progress made towards democracy in the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. There are, however, still some regimes that follow ideologies that do not correspond to the Christian vision of man and society.

We must, the Pontiff enjoined, avoid the error of considering material goods as the only reality in our lives. This is the mistake made in the last century by both the Marxist and capitalist systems. "Only those who recognize God know reality and are able to respond to it adequately and in a truly human manner," he commented (No. 3).

Part of his address laid out what the Pope saw as priorities for the renewal of the Church. In this respect he mentioned the family, the role of priests and religious, and the mission entrusted to the laity.

In his words Benedict XVI observed that the region has been referred to as the continent of hope. He also augured that it could become the continent of love. An aspiration no doubt seconded by many.

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