Benedict XVI's 2011 Lenten Message
"God Created Men and Women for Resurrection and Life"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 22, 2011 - Here is Benedict XVI annual Lenten message, which was released today with a theme from Colossians: "You were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him." The message offers a reflection for each of the Sunday Gospel readings of the liturgical season.

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"You were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him." (cf. Col 2: 12)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Lenten period, which leads us to the celebration of Holy Easter, is for the Church a most valuable and important liturgical time, in view of which I am pleased to offer a specific word in order that it may be lived with due diligence. As she awaits the definitive encounter with her Spouse in the eternal Easter, the Church community, assiduous in prayer and charitable works, intensifies her journey in purifying the spirit, so as to draw more abundantly from the Mystery of Redemption the new life in Christ the Lord (cf. Preface I of Lent).

1. This very life was already bestowed upon us on the day of our Baptism, when we "become sharers in Christ's death and Resurrection", and there began for us "the joyful and exulting adventure of his disciples" (Homily on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, 10 January, 2010). In his Letters, St. Paul repeatedly insists on the singular communion with the Son of God that this washing brings about. The fact that, in most cases, Baptism is received in infancy highlights how it is a gift of God: no one earns eternal life through their own efforts. The mercy of God, which cancels sin and, at the same time, allows us to experience in our lives "the mind of Christ Jesus" (Phil 2: 5), is given to men and women freely.The Apostle to the Gentiles, in the Letter to the Philippians, expresses the meaning of the transformation that takes place through participation in the death and resurrection of Christ, pointing to its goal: that "I may come to know him and the power of his resurrection, and partake of his sufferings by being molded to the pattern of his death, striving towards the goal of resurrection from the dead" (Phil 3: 10-11). Hence, Baptism is not a rite from the past, but the encounter with Christ, which informs the entire existence of the baptized, imparting divine life and calling for sincere conversion; initiated and supported by Grace, it permits the baptized to reach the adult stature of Christ.

A particular connection binds Baptism to Lent as the favorable time to experience this saving Grace. The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council exhorted all of the Church's Pastors to make greater use "of the baptismal features proper to the Lenten liturgy" (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum concilium, n. 109). In fact, the Church has always associated the Easter Vigil with the celebration of Baptism: this Sacrament realizes the great mystery in which man dies to sin, is made a sharer in the new life of the Risen Christ and receives the same Spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead (cf. Rm 8: 11). This free gift must always be rekindled in each one of us, and Lent offers us a path like that of the catechumenate, which, for the Christians of the early Church, just as for catechumens today, is an irreplaceable school of faith and Christian life. Truly, they live their Baptism as an act that shapes their entire existence.

2. In order to undertake more seriously our journey towards Easter and prepare ourselves to celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord – the most joyous and solemn feast of the entire liturgical year – what could be more appropriate than allowing ourselves to be guided by the Word of God? For this reason, the Church, in the Gospel texts of the Sundays of Lent, leads us to a particularly intense encounter with the Lord, calling us to retrace the steps of Christian initiation: for catechumens, in preparation for receiving the Sacrament of rebirth; for the baptized, in light of the new and decisive steps to be taken in the sequela Christi and a fuller giving of oneself to him.

The First Sunday of the Lenten journey reveals our condition as human beings here on earth. The victorious battle against temptation, the starting point of Jesus' mission, is an invitation to become aware of our own fragility in order to accept the Grace that frees from sin and infuses new strength in Christ – the way, the truth and the life (cf. Ordo Initiationis Christianae Adultorum, n. 25). It is a powerful reminder that Christian faith implies, following the example of Jesus and in union with him, a battle "against the ruling forces who are masters of the darkness in this world" (Eph 6: 12), in which the devil is at work and never tires – even today – of tempting whoever wishes to draw close to the Lord: Christ emerges victorious to open also our hearts to hope and guide us in overcoming the seductions of evil.

The Gospel of the Transfiguration of the Lord puts before our eyes the glory of Christ, which anticipates the resurrection and announces the divinization of man. The Christian community becomes aware that Jesus leads it, like the Apostles Peter, James and John "up a high mountain by themselves" (Mt 17: 1), to receive once again in Christ, as sons and daughters in the Son, the gift of the Grace of God: "This is my Son, the Beloved; he enjoys my favor. Listen to him" (Mt17: 5). It is the invitation to take a distance from the noisiness of everyday life in order to immerse oneself in God's presence. He desires to hand down to us, each day, a Word that penetrates the depths of our spirit, where we discern good from evil (cf. Heb 4:12), reinforcing our will to follow the Lord.

The question that Jesus puts to the Samaritan woman: "Give me a drink" (Jn 4: 7), is presented to us in the liturgy of the third Sunday; it expresses the passion of God for every man and woman, and wishes to awaken in our hearts the desire for the gift of "a spring of water within, welling up for eternal life" (Jn 4: 14): this is the gift of the Holy Spirit, who transforms Christians into "true worshipers," capable of praying to the Father "in spirit and truth" (Jn 4: 23). Only this water can extinguish our thirst for goodness, truth and beauty! Only this water, given to us by the Son, can irrigate the deserts of our restless and unsatisfied soul, until it "finds rest in God", as per the famous words of St. Augustine.

The Sunday of the man born blind presents Christ as the light of the world. The Gospel confronts each one of us with the question: "Do you believe in the Son of man?" "Lord, I believe!" (Jn 9: 35. 38), the man born blind joyfully exclaims, giving voice to all believers. The miracle of this healing is a sign that Christ wants not only to give us sight, but also open our interior vision, so that our faith may become ever deeper and we may recognize him as our only Savior. He illuminates all that is dark in life and leads men and women to live as "children of the light".

On the fifth Sunday, when the resurrection of Lazarus is proclaimed, we are faced with the ultimate mystery of our existence: "I am the resurrection and the life… Do you believe this?" (Jn11: 25-26). For the Christian community, it is the moment to place with sincerity – together with Martha – all of our hopes in Jesus of Nazareth: "Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into this world" (Jn 11: 27). Communion with Christ in this life prepares us to overcome the barrier of death, so that we may live eternally with him. Faith in the resurrection of the dead and hope in eternal life open our eyes to the ultimate meaning of our existence: God created men and women for resurrection and life, and this truth gives an authentic and definitive meaning to human history, to the personal and social lives of men and women, to culture, politics and the economy. Without the light of faith, the entire universe finishes shut within a tomb devoid of any future, any hope.
The Lenten journey finds its fulfillment in the Paschal Triduum, especially in the Great Vigil of the Holy Night: renewing our baptismal promises, we reaffirm that Christ is the Lord of our life, that life which God bestowed upon us when we were reborn of "water and Holy Spirit", and we profess again our firm commitment to respond to the action of the Grace in order to be his disciples.

3. By immersing ourselves into the death and resurrection of Christ through the Sacrament of Baptism, we are moved to free our hearts every day from the burden of material things, from a self-centered relationship with the "world" that impoverishes us and prevents us from being available and open to God and our neighbor. In Christ, God revealed himself as Love (cf. 1Jn 4: 7-10). The Cross of Christ, the "word of the Cross", manifests God's saving power (cf. 1Cor 1: 18), that is given to raise men and women anew and bring them salvation: it is love in its most extreme form (cf. Encyclical Deus caritas est, n. 12). Through the traditional practices of fasting, almsgiving and prayer, which are an expression of our commitment to conversion, Lent teaches us how to live the love of Christ in an ever more radical way. Fasting, which can have various motivations, takes on a profoundly religious significance for the Christian: by rendering our table poorer, we learn to overcome selfishness in order to live in the logic of gift and love; by bearing some form of deprivation – and not just what is in excess – we learn to look away from our "ego", to discover Someone close to us and to recognize God in the face of so many brothers and sisters. For Christians, fasting, far from being depressing, opens us ever more to God and to the needs of others, thus allowing love of God to become also love of our neighbor (cf. Mk 12: 31).

In our journey, we are often faced with the temptation of accumulating and love of money that undermine God's primacy in our lives. The greed of possession leads to violence, exploitation and death; for this, the Church, especially during the Lenten period, reminds us to practicealmsgiving – which is the capacity to share. The idolatry of goods, on the other hand, not only causes us to drift away from others, but divests man, making him unhappy, deceiving him, deluding him without fulfilling its promises, since it puts materialistic goods in the place of God, the only source of life. How can we understand God's paternal goodness, if our heart is full of egoism and our own projects, deceiving us that our future is guaranteed? The temptation is to think, just like the rich man in the parable: "My soul, you have plenty of good things laid by for many years to come…". We are all aware of the Lord's judgment: "Fool! This very night the demand will be made for your soul…" (Lk 12: 19-20). The practice of almsgiving is a reminder of God's primacy and turns our attention towards others, so that we may rediscover how good our Father is, and receive his mercy.

During the entire Lenten period, the Church offers us God's Word with particular abundance. By meditating and internalizing the Word in order to live it every day, we learn a precious and irreplaceable form of prayer; by attentively listening to God, who continues to speak to our hearts, we nourish the itinerary of faith initiated on the day of our Baptism. Prayer also allows us to gain a new concept of time: without the perspective of eternity and transcendence, in fact, time simply directs our steps towards a horizon without a future. Instead, when we pray, we find time for God, to understand that his "words will not pass away" (cf. Mk 13: 31), to enter into that intimate communion with Him "that no one shall take from you" (Jn 16: 22), opening us to the hope that does not disappoint, eternal life.

In synthesis, the Lenten journey, in which we are invited to contemplate the Mystery of the Cross, is meant to reproduce within us "the pattern of his death" (Ph 3: 10), so as to effect a deepconversion in our lives; that we may be transformed by the action of the Holy Spirit, like St. Paul on the road to Damascus; that we may firmly orient our existence according to the will of God; that we may be freed of our egoism, overcoming the instinct to dominate others and opening us to the love of Christ. The Lenten period is a favorable time to recognize our weakness and to accept, through a sincere inventory of our life, the renewing Grace of the Sacrament of Penance, and walk resolutely towards Christ.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, through the personal encounter with our Redeemer and through fasting, almsgiving and prayer, the journey of conversion towards Easter leads us to rediscover our Baptism. This Lent, let us renew our acceptance of the Grace that God bestowed upon us at that moment, so that it may illuminate and guide all of our actions. What the Sacrament signifies and realizes, we are called to experience every day by following Christ in an ever more generous and authentic manner. In this our itinerary, let us entrust ourselves to the Virgin Mary, who generated the Word of God in faith and in the flesh, so that we may immerse ourselves – just as she did – in the death and resurrection of her Son Jesus, and possess eternal life.

From the Vatican, 4 November, 2010


© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Cor Unum's Presentation of Pope's Lenten Letter
"We Must Make Known the Concrete Charity of the Catholic Church"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 22, 2011 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address delivered today by Cardinal Robert Sarah, the president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, at the public presentation of Benedict XVI's message for Lent.

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"You were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him" (cf. Col 2:12).

These words, addressed by Saint Paul to the Christian community at Colossae, indicate the theme of Baptism chosen by Pope Benedict XVI for His Lenten Message this year. The Holy Father returns to a citation from the Apostle to the Gentiles as a synthesis of the goal of this sacrament: that "I may come to know him and the power of his resurrection, and partake of his sufferings by being molded to the pattern of his death" (Phil 3:10-11).

Pope Benedict appointed me on October 7th of last year as President of Cor Unum, the Dicastery of the Holy See entrusted with the presentation of His Lenten Message. As you know, our Pontifical Council’s main task is to diffuse the Church’s catechesis on charity and the concrete charitable initiatives of our Holy Father. To help us understand this year’s Lenten Message and the evident link that Pope Benedict wishes to underline between Baptism and charity, please allow me to share three events in these last months that provide some insight into this connection.

The first concerns the "formation of the heart" that the Pope asked for in His first Encyclical, "Deus Caritas est" (n. 31a). Last November at the Marian Shrine of Our Lady of Jasna Góra in Cze;stochowa, Poland, our Dicastery organized Spiritual Exercises for the responsibles of Caritas and other Catholic charitable organizations throughout Europe, just as we have already done for America and Asia, so that they may be led, as the Holy Father exhorts "to that encounter with God in Christ which awakens their love and opens their spirits to others".

The Pope goes on to indicate that this encounter with Christ, "to know him", as Saint Paul points to as a goal of Baptism – through intimacy in prayer, the sacraments, the Word of God – nurtures faith, which, in turn, gives birth to good works. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta used to say: "The fruit of silence is prayer. The fruit of prayer is faith. The fruit of faith is love."

Whereas this first event, we might say, concerns a fundamental ad intra and formative aspect of charitable activity, the other two events focused very much on its ad extra nature. On January 12th this year, our Holy Father asked that I go in His name to Haiti, one year after the devastating earthquake that struck that nation. Who has not been cut deep in the heart by the relentless suffering of our brothers and sisters in that nation? Hundreds of thousands killed in an instant – children, parents, brothers and sisters, friends, as well as priests, religious, seminarians – all who lost their lives, which they held dear just as we do, full of fear and in great pain. Countless thousands robbed of their possessions, still wondering how to build a future. Homes, monuments and buildings, including great religious edifices, reduced to rubble.

Sickness and disease that continue to devastate the lives of the already most afflicted.
And just one week ago, I returned from a meeting in Africa of the "John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel", one of two foundations that Cor Unumoversees to attend to our suffering brethren, the other being the Foundation "Populorum Progressio" to assist indigenous peoples in Latin Americaand the Caribbean. The Sahel is the poorest region of our entire planet. It includes countries, such as Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad, Senegal and Mali, whose populations struggle daily to combat starvation, deadly diseases and dire poverty, in the face of the rapidly advancing encroachment of the Sahara desert. As we have witnessed in so many other places of the world, intense misery leads to economic and political instability, creating a vacuum for conflict and unrest that produce a vicious circle of deepening hardship, especially for the most vulnerable.

For Haiti, the Sahel, Latin America and the Caribbean, as for every corner of the world where concrete help is needed, the Catholic Church has been at the forefront of relief efforts. How often we hear our Holy Father appeal to the international and Church community for material aid when disasters strike, irrespective of creed or race or political persuasion! In Haiti alone, Pope Benedict has given over two million dollars in aid. Perhaps we may think that this is a "drop in the ocean" when confronted with the enormity of the reconstruction needed in that troubled nation. But how important it is for our suffering brothers and sisters to know that the Pope is close to them. Nor should we overlook the truly massive response of hundreds of years to caring for the needy of the Church’s charitable agencies, religious congregations, the movements, and so many individuals. In a media environment that wishes to speak only of errors committed by Church members, we must make known the concrete charity of the Catholic Church. Today, I launch an appeal to you to take up this initiative.

But, however important it is to provide for material necessities, these alone can never guarantee our lasting happiness and peace. In the face of the very real suffering that we encounter on a global level – natural disasters, disease, famine, war – of course, we are obliged to seek out concrete solutions to alleviate misery. Governments and supra-national organizations have a role to play, corruption and unjust structures need to be challenged, the scandal of the massive differences between the "have’s" and the "have not’s" must be addressed. But Christ founded the Church to give much more. Suffering, both global and personal – sickness, loneliness, financial distress, family problems, and ultimately, the greatest enemy of all, death – requires an answer that only the possession of eternal life can give: to know "the power of Christ’s resurrection, and partake of his sufferings by being molded to the pattern of his death, striving towards the goal of resurrection from the dead".

Is this not what was promised to us in our Baptism? The Greek word for baptism (báptisma) signifies an immersion or plunging in the baptismal waters of what the Apostle Paul refers to as the "old man" or the man who lives according to the flesh (cf. Col 3:9). This is the man who lives only for himself, arrogantly cutting himself loose from his Creator and selfishly closing his eyes to the needs of his neighbor. It is not merely a theological description: every one of can readily understand this "old man" because we experience the direct effects of this nature within us, summed up in the seven capital sins: wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy and gluttony. And, like Saint Augustine, who knew all too well these negative impulses, defining them as "twisted and tangled knottiness" (Confessions, II, 10.18), deep down we want to be rid of them: "I do long for you, O Righteousness and Innocence, so beautiful and comely to all virtuous eyes – I long for you with an insatiable satiety. With you is perfect rest" (Saint Augustine, ibid).

Baptism is the "encounter with Christ", writes Pope Benedict in His Message. It washes away the original sin that we have inherited from our first parents and imparts a new nature, allowing us to put on "the mind of Jesus Christ". This "new man" lives according to the sentiments of Jesus through the supernatural life that he receives in the Holy Spirit. Saint Paul lists the fruits of God’s spirit dwelling within us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22). In the very depths of our being, do we not all desire these fruits in our lives? Only they provide the lasting remedy to every human suffering, both personal and universal.

The consequence of this new nature received in Baptism is the source of specific deeds of charity on behalf of our brothers and sisters. "In Christ, God revealed himself as Love," the Pope writes. Fasting, almsgiving and prayer are aids to assist us to die to our old nature and open our heart to receive this new nature of love of God and neighbor, the first and greatest Commandment of the new Law and compendium of the entire Gospel (cf.Mt 22:34-40). I am grateful for the presence here today of Myriam García Abrisqueta, who will speak of how this is lived concretely through one of the largest of the Church’s charitable organizations in Spain, Manos Unidas.

Allow me to conclude by singling out three elements of the great gift that Pope Benedict offers the Church this Lent – as individuals or in communities – a "road map" to rekindle the supernatural life that was given to us in Baptism:

1. First, the Holy Father fixes for us concrete appointments with specific persons and events on the five Sundays of Lent. He puts before us the Word of God proclaimed on those Sundays. By doing so, he wishes for us to experience a personal encounter with Christ, the answer to the deepest longings of the human person and the world. How necessary it would be, personally or with others, to spend time with these Scripture passages, allowing ourselves in these forty days to hear, contemplate and act on God’s Word!

2. Second, the encounter with Christ in His Word and the sacraments manifests itself in concrete works of mercy. Here, too, our parishes, communities, educational and other institutions and each of us personally have an opportunity in this favorable time, with the help of God’s grace, to move our hearts from living for ourselves to loving our neighbor in need. This is the impetus, too, for the Lenten Campaigns, which Episcopal Conferences worldwide are called to organize.

3. Third, the Pope puts the season of Lent before us as a "path" or "journey", a span of time to bring to fruition the seed planted at Baptism. This, he indicates, mirrors the entire existence of every human being, lived in between Christ’s resurrection and our own; this ultimate offer of communion with God in eternity shapes life, both social and individual, today. Its foretaste is found in the night of Easter, when we shall hear proclaimed "darkness vanishes for ever" (Paschal Prc'conium).

Dear friends: God has created us for love! For this, the power of the gift of God’s life within us, bestowed upon us at Baptism, needs to be nurtured. It is there for the taking! This is the adventure Pope Benedict invites us to this Lent. At Easter, when we shall reap what we sow, the "old man" within us can be drowned and we can arise, through God’s grace, a new creation. The Holy Father’s invitation is not a utopia. Allow me to conclude with some moving words from a fellow countryman of mine, Saint Cyprian of Carthage, the first African Bishop to obtain the crown of martyrdom, the ultimate and irrevocable gift of life out of love for the enemy. He often told of his own spiritual journey of transformation:

"When I was still lying in darkness and gloomy night", he wrote a few months after his Baptism, "I used to regard it as extremely difficult and demanding to do what God’s mercy was suggesting to me. I myself was held in bonds by the innumerable errors of my previous life, from which I did not believe I could possibly be delivered, so I was disposed to acquiesce in my clinging vices and to indulge my sins ... But after that, by the help of the water of new birth, the stain of my former life was washed away, and a light from above, serene and pure, was infused into my reconciled heart ... a second birth restored me to a new man. Then, in a wondrous manner every doubt began to fade ... I clearly understood that what had first lived within me, enslaved by the vices of the flesh, was earthly and that what, instead, the Holy Spirit had wrought within me was divine and heavenly" (Ad Donatum, 3-4).

Thank you very much.


Spanish Charity "Manos Unidas" on Papal Lent Message
"From the Source of Baptism Springs the Water of Charity"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 22, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address delivered today by Myriam García Abrisqueta, the president of the Spanish charity "Manos Unidas" (United Hands), at the press conference that presented Benedict XVI's 2011 message for Lent.

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First of all, and with absolute humility, I want to thank the Lord for being here for the presentation of the message of Benedict XVI to the universal Church in preparation for Lent 2011. It is a great honor for Manos Unidas that the Pontifical Council Cor Unum chose us on this occasion to accompany you, and I do so with the joy and emotion I feel to be able to share the treasure of our faith with you.

As the document points out, Lent is a time to revive -- to live again or to live more intensely -- the grace of baptism in us. From the source of baptism springs the water of charity -- of gratuitous and selfless love -- that through so many charitable associations of the Church distributes the gifts, goods, longings for justice and talents of the faithful among the poorest of the whole world. And I would like to give witness to this.

Man was created by God with an immense dignity, and has made us brothers of one another, his children, and that condition has also given us a heart sensitive to the needs of those nearest to us. He has given us a compassionate heart (which has the ability to move with genuine passion for the other). It is by keeping this bond of being children of God, this being anointed and chosen by baptism, and our being gifted with the gift of love, which enables us to explain the birth of Manos Unidas, which was born as a commitment that springs from the Christian vocation.

More than 50 years ago, the women of the World Union of Catholic Women's Organizations (WUCWO), cried out for attention to hunger in the world. In a beautiful expression of the "feminine genius" in the Church, they published a manifesto in which they joined in a masterly way their natural desire and God's action of love in them. Thus they saw themselves moved, by their nature and as mothers, to give and protect life, and as Catholic women called by Jesus Christ "to give witness of a universal and effective love for the human family."[1] As a consequence of this manifesto, the women of Spanish Catholic Action initiated "the campaign against hunger," which eventually became Manos Unidas.

They could not remain at peace seeing the suffering of men who lived and died without the right to full dignity to which they had been called.

And they began to work with a true spirit of sacrifice and service to make possible in Spain a greater awareness of love for one's neighbor. They never thought they were doing something unusual other than what was expected of them in their condition of daughters of God, and so we continue to think like this today.

From the beginning they understood that they had to fight against the hunger for bread, the hunger for culture and the hunger for God; that they had to do so through the sensitization and education of our rich society, without forgetting the importance of small things, from domestic actions to cooperation with international organizations and to do so, at the same time, through concrete actions of development, where the dimension of love would always be present, as always, from our origin, we have thought that authentic development happens when a person is loved.

Since then, this association has continued to grow, and today it is a beautiful reality, in which thousand of men and women participate. Always united to the Church, in which it was born and to which it belongs.

Over time we have strengthened a profoundly ecclesial spirituality, because we wish to serve the Church, we wish to be an instrument to take the truth of Christ and of the Gospel to the world through the mission that the Church in Spain has entrusted to us: to foster the integral and authentic development of developing peoples, united to those who in one way or another participate in our work, apostolate and service.

Thus, this organization of the Church in Spain has been able to be by the side of men and women of more than 60 countries through some 25,000 development projects.

I would like to stress that what makes our work possible in so many projects and countries -- collaborating with missionaries, local Caritas, religious Orders, local NGOs and grass-roots organizations -- is the baptismal life that is developed in the Christian communities, as our work has its origin primarily in the gratuitousness of thousands of volunteers distributed in diocesan delegations, and by small collections made by the faithful in parishes and schools throughout Spain, in an infinity of small gestures of persons that, as the widow of the Gospel, in giving the little they have give everything.[2]

In fact, Manos Unidas is an institution made up of volunteers, given that, although there are professionals who work with us, the weight of the responsibility is that of the laity who in a gratuitous way, with a simple spirit of dedication, collaborate as volunteers in all the fields in which it is necessary to be present to carry out the mission entrusted to us. We can say with joy that in all the parishes and dioceses there are volunteers that, according to their capacities and possibilities, contribute their time, their knowledge and their sacrifice. Thus we join all persons of good will that share our dream of gratuitous commitment, especially in this year 2011, which the European Union has dedicated to volunteers and which marks the 10th anniversary of the United Nations' Year of Volunteers.

With a spirit of faith and with great trust in Divine Providence, Manos Unidas has strengthened the spirituality of its volunteers rooted in our baptism which makes us be witnesses of a greater love, God's love for men. A love that was expressed and materialized in the incarnation of the Word, assuming the condition of man, but who was not satisfied with that but wished to identify himself with those who have the least; "for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty, and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me."[3]

This is the consequence of what the Holy Father calls "the joyful and enthusiastic adventure of the disciple."[4] It is a clear example of the operating charity born from baptism. It is charity that is not lost in an intense but fleeting emotional act, but it is sustained by Grace over time.

Our work, discreet and certainly secondary in the charitable institutions of the Church, has no other purpose than to help the man of today to encounter Christ dead and risen, so that they discover that all, each in his own concrete situation, without distinctions of race, sex, color, culture, age, or formation, are called to live the life of Christ.

Manos Unidas, with the other institutions of the Church dedicated to charity, can help the man of today by opening channels for them to direct their good resolutions, their desire to serve and their authentic vocation. Charity, the Holy Father has told us, is "the best witness of God in whom we believe and who stimulates us to love."[5]

When detachment, service, generosity, the desire to give oneself to one's neighbor, are fostered in man's heart, what is being fostered is rejection of that life that was buried with baptism, which is the life of sin and self-sufficiency that is borne within us.

I conclude these words, which I was asked to address on the occasion of the beginning of Lent of this year, thanking His Holiness for his teachings which help all of us to put things in their place, to rediscover the need to live the Gospel with simplicity and humility, but also with generosity and selflessness. His last encyclical letter on integral human development in charity and in truth, "Caritas in Veritate," has been a new encouragement in our daily work to make this world more beautiful, where Christ can make himself present.

I hope that this Lent will bring us the desired fruit: the resurrection and eternal life that the Lord has won for all on the cross, in his redeeming sacrifice.

I place at the Lord's disposition our united hands and hearts, the work of all of us who are at the service of charity.

Thank you very much.


[1] WUCWO manifesto, July 2, 1995
[2] Cf. Mark 12:41-44
[3] Matthew 25:35ff
[4] Homily on the Feast of the Lord's Baptism, Jan. 10, 2010
[5] "Deus Caritas Est," No. 31