Benedict XVI  from March 2011


Pope's Message to Somascan Fathers
"Poverty of Love": "Root of Every Serious Human Problem"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, JULY 29, 2011 - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's message to the superior of the Somascan Fathers, on the occasion of the jubilee to be celebrated by the order to mark the 500th anniversary of the founder's miraculous release from prison.

The founder, St. Jerome Emiliani (1481-1537), is the patron of orphans and abandoned children.

The celebrations will open in Venice on Sept. 25, with a Mass in St. Mark's Basilica, and will continue throughout the year with a series of historical meetings dedicated to the person and spirituality of the saint. The jubilee will conclude with a nighttime youth pilgrimage to the shrine of the Great Virgin of Treviso, in Italy. The official closing will take place in Somasca on Sept. 30, 2012.

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To the Reverend Father Franco Moscone, CRS

Minister-General of the Order of the Somasca Regular Clerics

I have learned with profound satisfaction that this order is preparing to celebrate with a jubilee year a joyous and important date for its history and charism. Next Sept. 27 is, in fact, the fifth centenary of the miraculous release from prison, wrought by Mary Most Holy, of the founder, St. Jerome Emiliani, universal patron of orphans and abandoned youth: a prodigious event that, at the same time, changed the course of a human life and began a highly significant experience of consecrated life for the history of the Church.

The life of Venetian layman Gerolamo Miani was as though "re-founded" on the night of Sept. 27, 1511, when after sincerely vowing to the Great Virgin of Treviso that he would change his conduct, he was freed from the chains of prison through the intercession of the Mother of God. He himself placed these chains before the altar of the Virgin.

"Dirupisti vincula mea" (Psalm 116:16). The verse of the psalm expresses the genuine interior revolution that took place after that liberation, linked to the tormented political vicissitudes of the age. It became an integral renewal of Jerome's personality: By divine intervention he was liberated from the fetters of egoism, pride, and the search for personal affirmation, so that his existence, initially oriented especially to temporal goods, was centered solely on God, whom he loved and served in a particular way in orphaned, sick and abandoned youth.

Marked by his family vicissitudes, because of which he had become the tutor of all his nephews who had been orphaned, St. Jerome developed the idea that youth, in order to grow up with health -- and especially the neediest -- cannot be abandoned, but that love is an essential requisite. In him, love went beyond resourcefulness, and given that it was a love that arose from the very charity of God, it was full of patience and understanding: attentive, tender, ready for sacrifice, like that of a mother.

The Church of the 16th century, divided by the Protestant schism and in search also of a serious internal reform, enjoyed a re-flowering of holiness that became the first and most original answer to requests for renewal. The testimony of saints shows that one must only have confidence in God: Trials, in fact, both on the personal as well as the institutional level, serve to increase faith. God has his plans, even when we do not succeed in understanding his ordinances.

Care of youth and their human and Christian education, which characterizes the charism of the Somascans, continues to be a commitment of the Church, at all times and in all places. It is necessary that the growth of the new generations is nourished not only by cultural and technical notions, but above all by love, which conquers individualism and egoism and enables one to pay attention to the needs of every brother and sister, even when they cannot be changed, and even more, precisely then.

The luminous example of St. Jerome Emiliani, described by Blessed John Paul II as a "layman who inspired laymen," helps us to be concerned about all the poverties experienced by our youth: moral, physical, existential and above all, the poverty of love, the root of every serious human problem.

Continuing to guide us with her support will be the Virgin Mary, unsurpassable model of faith and charity. Just as she released the chains that kept St. Jerome prisoner, with her maternal goodness may she continue to liberate men from the fetters of sin and the prison of a life deprived of love for God and for neighbor, offering the keys that open God's heart to us and our hearts to God.

With these sentiments, I impart to you, Reverend Father, to all the members of the Somascan Family, and to all those who will join the jubilee celebrations with faith, a special apostolic blessing.

Castel Gandolfo, July 20, 2011


On Solomon's Heart
"The Capacity to Hear the Voice of Truth, to Be Docile to Its Instructions"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, JULY 24, 2011- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before and after praying the midday Angelus with those who had gathered at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

Today in the Liturgy, the Old Testament reading presents to us the figure of King Solomon, son and successor of David. He is presented to us at the beginning of his reign, when he was still very young. Solomon inherited a demanding task and the responsibility that weighed on him was great for a young sovereign. The first thing that he did was offer a solemn sacrifice to God –- "1,000 holocausts," the Bible says. Then the Lord appeared to him in a vision at night and promised him to grant him what he asked for in prayer. And here we see the greatness of Solomon's soul: he did not ask for a long life, nor riches, nor the elimination of his enemies; instead he said to the Lord: "Grant a docile heart to your servant that he might know how to render justice to his people and know how to distinguish good from evil" (1 Kings 3:9). And the Lord heard him, so that Solomon became celebrated in all the world for his wisdom and his just judgments.

Solomon asked God for "a docile heart." What does this expression mean? We know that in the Bible the "heart" does not only mean a part of the body, but the center of the person, the seat of his intentions and his judgments. We might say that it is the conscience. "Docile heart" therefore means a conscience that knows how to listen, which is sensitive to the voice of truth, and because of this it is able to discern good from evil. In the case of Solomon, the request is guided by the responsibility of leading a nation, Israel, the people through whom God had chosen to manifest his plan of salvation to the world. For this reason the king of Israel must seek to be in harmony with God, listening to his Word, to lead his people in the ways of the Lord, the ways of justice and peace.

But Solomon's example is valid for every man. Each of us has a conscience to be in a certain sense "king," that is, to exercise the great human dignity of acting according to a properly formed conscience, doing good and avoiding evil. Moral conscience presupposes the capacity to hear the voice of truth, to be docile to its instructions. Persons who are called to the office of ruling of course have a further responsibility, and therefore -- as Solomon says -- have even more need of God. But each person has his own part to perform in the concrete situation in which he finds himself. An erroneous mentality suggests that we ask God for nice things and privileged situations; in fact, the true quality of our life and social existence depends on each person's properly formed conscience, on the capacity of each and every person to recognize the good, separating it from evil, and to attempt patiently to realize it.

So, let us ask for the help of the Virgin Mary, Seat of Wisdom. Her "heart" is perfectly "docile" to the Lord's will. Although she is a humble and simple person, Mary is a queen in the eyes of God, and as such we venerate her. May the Holy Virgin help us also to form, with God's grace, a conscience always open to the truth and sensitive to justice, to serve the Kingdom of God.

[Following the Angelus the Holy Father addressed the pilgrims in several languages. In Italian, he said:]

To our dismay once again news has arrived of death and violence. We all experience a deep sorrow for the grave terroristic acts that occurred on Friday in Norway. Let us pray for the victims, for the wounded and for their loved ones. To all I wish to repeat the urgent call to abandon the way of hate forever and to flee from the logic of evil.

[In English, he said:]

I am pleased to welcome the English-speaking visitors gathered for this Angelus prayer. In today's Gospel, the Lord urges us to see the Kingdom of God as the most important thing in our lives, a treasure which will last to life eternal. May we welcome Christ ever more fully into our hearts and allow his grace to transform our lives. Upon you and your families I cordially invoke the joy and peace of God's heavenly Kingdom!


Vatican Spokesman's Statement on Cloyne Report
"A New Stage on the Long and Arduous Journey in Search of Truth"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 20, 2011 - Here is a translation of the statement released Tuesday by Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican press office, on the Report by the Commission of Inquiry into the Diocese of Cloyne. The original statement was released in Italian.

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The Report by the Irish Commission of Inquiry into cases of child abuse committed by clergy in the diocese of Cloyne, published July 13, as with the previous report on the Archdiocese of Dublin, has once again highlighted the gravity of the facts which have occurred, this time in a rather recent period. In fact, the period covered by the new report goes from 1.1.1996 to 1.2.2009.

The Irish authorities have forwarded a copy of the Report to Rome by way of the Nuncio, requesting a response from the Holy See. It is to be expected, therefore, that the Holy See’s response and considerations will be forthcoming in the most appropriate time and manner.

For my part, however, I believe it opportune to say a few words on the Report and how it has been received, while underlining -- as I have already mentioned -- that these considerations do not in any way constitute an official response from the Holy See.

First, it seems only right to recall and renew the intense feelings of grief and condemnation expressed by the Pope during his meeting with the Irish bishops, summoned to the Vatican on December 11, 2009, precisely to deal with the difficult situation of the Church in Ireland in light of the Report into the Archdiocese of Dublin, then recently published. At the time, the Pope openly spoke of his "shock and shame" at the "heinous crimes" committed.

We must also remember that following this meeting, and a subsequent one from February 15 to 16, 2010, the Pope published his well-known and wide-ranging letter to the Catholics of Ireland, the following 19 March, which contains the strongest and most eloquent expressions of his participation in the suffering of victims and their families, as well as a reminder of the terrible responsibility of the guilty and the failures of church leaders in their tasks of government or supervision.

One of the concrete actions that followed the Pope's letter was the Apostolic Visitation of the Church in Ireland, divided into the four visitations of the archdiocese, the seminaries and religious congregations. The results of the visitation are at an advanced stage of study and evaluation.

Therefore it is only right to recognise the Holy See’s decisive commitment in encouraging and effectively supporting the efforts of the Church in Ireland towards the "healing and renewal" necessary to definitively overcome the crisis linked to the dramatic wound of the sexual abuse of minors.

It is also important to recognize the efforts made by the Holy See in the normative field, with the clarification and the revision of the canonical norms concerning the issue of sexual abuse of minors. A milestone in this regard -- as noted -- was the 2001 Motu proprio, which unified all competencies under the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and subsequent updates until the promulgation of the reformulated norms in July 2010.

As for the more distant past, in recent days a Letter dated 1997, 14 years ago, has had particular resonance. Mentioned in the new Report, but already published last January, it is a letter addressed by the then Nuncio in Ireland to the Bishops Conference, which emphasises that, according to information received from the Congregation for the Clergy, the document "Child Sexual Abuse: Framework for a Church Response" lent itself to objections, because it contained aspects that were problematic from the point of view of compatibility with universal canon law. It is only fair to remember that this document was not sent to the Congregation as an official document of the Bishops Conference, but as a "Report of the Irish Catholic Bishops' Advisory Committee on Child Sexual Abuse by Priests and Religious," and that its foreword stated: "This document is far from being the last word on how to address the issues that have been raised". The fact that the Congregation raised objections was therefore understandable and legitimate, taking into account Rome's competence with regard to the laws of the Church, and -- although one can argue about the adequacy of Rome's intervention in relation to the seriousness of the situation in Ireland at the time -- there is no reason to interpret that letter as being intended to cover up cases of abuse. In fact, it warned against the risk that measures were being taken which could later turn out to be questionable or invalid from the canonical point of view, thus defeating the purpose of the effective sanctions proposed by the Irish bishops.

Moreover, there is absolutely nothing in the letter that is an invitation to disregard the laws of the country. During the same period, Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos, then Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, in a meeting with the Irish Bishops stated: "The Church, especially through its pastors, should not in any way put an obstacle in the legitimate path of civil justice ... while, at the same time she should move forward with her own canonical procedures" (Rosses Point, Sligo, 11/12/1998). The objection the letter referred to regarded the obligation to provide information to civil authorities ("mandatory reporting"), it did not object to any civil law to that effect, because it did not exist in Ireland at that time (and proposals to introduce it were subject to discussion for various reasons in the same civil sphere).

Therefore, the severity of certain criticisms of the Vatican are curious, as if the Holy See was guilty of not having given merit under canon law to norms which a State did not consider necessary to give value under civil law. In attributing grave responsibility to the Holy See for what happened in Ireland, such accusations seem to go far beyond what is suggested in the Report itself (which uses a more balanced tone in the attribution of responsibility) and demonstrate little awareness of what the Holy See has actually done over the years to help effectively address the problem.

In conclusion, as stated by several Irish bishops, the publication of the Report on the Diocese of Cloyne marks a new stage on the long and arduous journey in search of truth, penance and purification, of healing and renewal of the Church in Ireland, from which the Holy See does not in any way feel extraneous, but in which it participates in solidarity and with commitment in the various forms that we have outlined here.

[Translation provided by the Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference]


Our Good and Great Father
"Where He Is Not, There Can Be No Good"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, JULY 17, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before and after praying the midday Angelus with those who had gathered at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

The Gospel parables are brief narratives that Jesus uses to proclaim the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven. Using images and situations of daily life, the Lord "wishes to indicate the true foundation of everything. He shows us ... the God who acts, who enters our life and wants to take us by the hand" (Gesu di Nazaret, I, Milan, 2007, 229).

With these reflections, the divine Teacher invites us to recognize first of all the primacy of God the Father: Where he is not, there can be no good. He is a decisive priority for everything. Kingdom of Heaven means, in fact, lordship of God, and that means that his will must be assumed as the guiding criterion of our existence.

The subject contained in this Sunday's Gospel is precisely the Kingdom of Heaven. "Heaven" should not be understood only in the sense of some height that is above us, because this infinite space also has the form of man's interiority. Jesus compares the Kingdom of Heaven to a field of wheat, to make us understand that within us is sown something small and hidden, which, nevertheless, has an unrestrainable vital force. Despite all the obstacles, the seed will develop and the fruit will mature. This fruit will only be good if the terrain of life has been cultivated according to the divine will. Because of this, in the parable of the good seed and the weeds (Matthew 13:24-30,) Jesus warns us that, after the owner planted the seed, "while all were sleeping," "his enemy" came and sowed weeds. This means that we must be ready to guard the grace received on the day of our baptism, continuing to nourish faith in the Lord, which prevents evil from taking root. Commenting on this parable, St. Augustine observed that "many at first are weeds and then become good seed" and he added: "if the former, when they were evil, were not endured with patience, they would not have attained the praiseworthy change" (Quaest. septend. in Ev. sec. Matth., 12, 4:PL 35, 1371).

Dear friends, the Book of Wisdom -- from which today's first reading draws, emphasizes this dimension of the divine being and states: "There is no god besides you who have the care of all ... For your might is the source of justice; your mastery over all things makes you lenient to all." (Wisdom 12:13,16). And Psalm 85 [86] confirms it: "You, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in kindness to all who call upon you" (verse 5).

Hence, if we are children of such a great and good Father, we must seek to resemble him! This was the aim that Jesus set himself with his preaching; he said, in fact, to those who listened to him: "Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48). Let us turn with confidence to Mary, whom we invoked yesterday with the title of Most Holy Virgin of Mount Carmel, so that she will help us to follow Jesus faithfully, and thus live as true children of God.



Jesus, Himself a Parable
"God Does Not Force Us to Believe in Him, But He Draws Us to Himself"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, JULY 10, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before and after praying the midday Angelus. It was the first public Angelus address to be held this summer in Castel Gandolfo.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

I thank you for having come for the Angelus here in Castel Gandolfo, where I arrived a few days ago. I gladly welcome the occasion to address my cordial greetings to all the inhabitants of this dear town with wishes for a good summer.

In today's Sunday gospel (Matthew 13:1-23), Jesus tells the crowd the celebrated parable of the sower. It is a passage that is in some sense "autobiographical" because it reflects the experience itself of Jesus, of his preaching: He identifies himself with the sower, who sows the good seed of the Word of God, and sees the different effects that follow according to the type of reception that is given to the proclamation. There are those who listen superficially but do not accept it; there are those who take it in at the moment but lack constancy and lose everything; there are those who are overcome by the worries and seductions of the world; and there are those who listen in a receptive way like good soil: Here the Word bears fruit in abundance.

But this Gospel also insists on the "method" of Jesus' preaching, that is, precisely, the use of parables. "Why do you speak to them in parables?" the disciples ask (Matthew 13:10). And Jesus answers by making a distinction between them and the crowd: To the disciples, that is, to those who have already decided for him, he can speak openly of the Kingdom of Heaven; but to others he must speak in parables, precisely to awaken the decision, the conversion of the heart; parables, in fact, by their nature require an effort at interpretation, they engage one's reason but also freedom.

St. John Chrysostom explains: "Jesus pronounced these words with the intention of drawing his listeners to him and to call them, assuring them that if they turn to him, he will heal them (Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, 45, 1-20). Ultimately, the true "Parable" of God is Jesus himself, his Person who, through the sign of humanity at the same time conceals and reveals the divinity. In this way God does not force us to believe in him, but he draws us to himself with the truth and goodness of his incarnate Son: love, in fact, always respects freedom.

Dear friends, tomorrow we will celebrate the feast of St. Benedict, abbot and patron saint of Europe. In light of this Gospel we look to him as a master of listening to the Word of God, a deep and persevering listening. We must always learn from the great patriarch of Western monasticism to give God the place that belongs to him, the first place, offering him, with morning and evening prayer, our daily activities. May the Virgin Mary help us by her example to be "good soil" where the seed of the word might bear fruit.


Papal Address to Artists of Anniversary Exhibit
"Never Seek Beauty Far From Truth and Charity"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 7, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Monday at the opening of an exhibit in his honor titled "The Splendor of Truth; the Beauty of Charity: Artists' Homage to Benedict XVI on the 60th Anniversary of His Priesthood."

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Lord Cardinals,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,
Dear Friends,

It is a great joy for me to meet you and to receive your creative and manifold homage on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of my priestly ordination. I am sincerely grateful for your closeness on this most significant and important celebration for me. In the Eucharistic celebration of last June 29, Solemnity of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, I thanked the Lord for the gift of the priestly vocation. Today I thank you for the friendship and kindness you manifest to me. I greet cordially Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the Sacred College, and Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture who, together with his collaborators, organized this singular artistic demonstration, and I thank him for the courteous words he dedicated to me. I also greet all those present, in particular you, dear artists, who accepted the invitation to present a creation of yours in this exhibition.

Our meeting today, in which I have the joy and the interest to admire your works, is a new stage on that path of friendship and dialogue we undertook on Nov. 21, 2009, in the Sistine Chapel, an event that I still have engraved on my soul. The Church and artists meet again, to talk with one another, to support the need for a conversation that is and must be ever more intense and articulated, also to offer to culture, more than that, to the cultures of our time, an eloquent example of fruitful and effective dialogue, oriented to making our world ever more human and beautiful. Today you present to me the fruit of your activity, of your reflection, of your talent, expressions of the different artistic realms that you represent here: painting, sculpture, architecture, craftsmanship, photography, cinema, music, literature and poetry.

Before admiring them with you, allow me to pause just a moment on the thought-provoking title of this exhibition: "The Splendor of Truth; the Beauty of Charity." In fact, in the homily of the Mass pro eligendo pontifice, commenting on the beautiful expression of St. Paul in the Letter to the Ephesians, veritatem facientes in caritate (4:15), I defined the "living of truth in charity," as a fundamental formula of Christian existence. And I added: "Truth and charity coincide in Christ. To the degree that we come close to Christ, in our life also truth and charity unite. Charity without truth would be blind: truth without charity would be like a 'clanging cymbal' (1 Corinthians13:1)."

It is precisely from this union, I would like to say symphony, from the perfect harmony of truth and charity, that genuine beauty springs, capable of awakening admiration, wonder and true joy in men's hearts. The world in which we live needs truth to shine and not be obfuscated by lies or banality; it needs charity to inflame it and not to be overcome by pride and egoism. We need the beauty of truth and charity to reach the depth of our hearts and make them more human. Dear friends, I would like to renew to you and to all artists a friendly and passionate appeal: never separate artistic creativity from truth and charity; never seek beauty far from truth and charity, but with the richness of your genius, of your creative impulse, be always courageous seekers of truth and witnesses of charity. Make truth shine in your works so that their beauty awakens in the sights and hearts of those who admire them the desire to make their existence, all existence, beautiful and true, enriching it with that treasure that never diminishes, which makes of life a work of art and of every man an extraordinary artist: [the treasure of] charity, love.

May the holy Spirit, architect of all beauty that is in the world, enlighten you always and guide you to the ultimate and definitive Beauty, the one which inflames our minds and hearts, and which we hope to be able to contemplate one day in all its splendor. Once again, thank you for your friendship, for your presence and for taking to the world a ray of this Beauty which is God. I impart to you wholeheartedly, to your loved ones and to the whole world of art my Apostolic Blessing.


Papal Words Upon Visiting L'Osservatore Romano Offices
"This Is Not Only a Newspaper, But Also a Cultural Journal"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 5, 2011 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today upon visiting the offices of the semi-official Vatican daily, L'Osservatore Romano, to mark the newspaper's 150th anniversary.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am pleased to be able to meet you in the offices of the daily newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, where every day you carry out your valuable and highly qualified work at the service of the Holy See. I greet you all with affection. I greet the Editor-in-Chief, Prof. Giovanni Maria Vian, the Assistant Editor, the editorial staff, and the whole of this paper's large family.

A few days ago, on 1 July, L'Osservatore Romano reached the important milestone of 150 years of existence. I would like to wish you really warmly, as one does at home, "Happy Birthday!" This event gives rise to sentiments of gratitude and legitimate pride, but alongside the special, solemn commemorations -- I also wanted to come here to be with you, to express my gratitude to each one of those who actually "put out" the newspaper, with human and Christian enthusiasm and with professionalism.

For some time I have been truly curious to see how a newspaper is produced today, to see where the paper comes into being and to meet, at least for a moment, the people who put our paper together. I now have the joy of discovering the modern method, totally different from what it was 50 years ago, which brings a newspaper into being. It demands far more human creativity, let us say, than technical work. And thus this "workshop" is certainly dedicated to doing, but first and above all to knowing, to thinking, to judging and to reflecting. It is not even solely a "workshop." It is above all a great observatory, as its name says. An observatory for seeing the reality of this world and for informing ourselves of this reality.

It seems to me that from this observatory we see both things that are distant from us as well as those that are close. Distant in a dual sense: first of all remote in all the parts of the world, as are the Philippines, Australia and Latin America; for me this is one of the great advantages of L'Osservatore Romano which truly offers a universal information, which really views the whole world and not only a part of it. I am really grateful for this because in newspapers news is provided but with a preponderance of our own world and this makes us forget many other parts of the earth that are no less important.

Here may be seen something of the coincidence of the Urbs et Orbis which is characteristic of catholicity and, in a certain sense, is also a Roman heritage, truly to view the world and not only ourselves.

In the second place, from this observatory we see distant things in another sense too. "L'Osservatore" [the observer] does not stop at the surface of events but goes to their root. Beyond the surface it shows us the cultural roots and the depth of things.

Moreover in my opinion this is not only a newspaper but also a cultural journal. I admire the fact that it is possible every day to make important contributions that help us understand better the human being, the roots from which things come and how they should be understood, brought about and transformed. But this newspaper also sees things from close at hand. Sometimes it is really difficult to see our small world from close to which is nevertheless an immense world.

There is another phenomenon that makes me think and for which I am grateful: namely, that no one can be informed about everything. Even the most globalized media, so to speak, cannot say everything: it is impossible.

Discernment, a choice, is always necessary. Hence in presenting events the criterion of choice is crucial: there is never pure fact, there is always also a choice that determines what appears and what does not appear. And we know well that the priority choices today, in many organs of public opinion, are often highly disputable. And L'Osservatore Romano, as the Editor-in-Chief said, has always offered in its masthead two criteria: "Unicuique suum" and "Non praevalebunt".

This characteristically sums up the culture of the Western world. On the one hand, the great Roman law, natural law, the natural human culture expressed in Roman culture, with its law and its sense of justice; and on the other hand the Gospel.

One could also say: with these two criteria -- of natural law and of the Gospel -- we have justice as our criterion and, moreover, the hope that derives from faith. Together, these two criteria -- justice that respects everyone and hope that sees even negative things in the light of a divine goodness of which we may be sure through faith -- really help to offer a human, a humanistic, information in the sense of a humanism whose roots are in God's goodness. And in this way it is not only information but, really, cultural formation. For all this I am grateful to you. I warmly impart to all of you and to your loved ones the Apostolic Blessing.

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Holy See's Statement on Episcopal Ordination in China
"The Church's Doctrine and Discipline Must Be Respected"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 5, 2011 - Here is the Vatican statement issued Monday on the June 29 episcopal ordination of Father Paul Lei Shiyin in the Diocese of Leshan, China, which occurred without the Pope's approval.

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With regard to the episcopal ordination of the Rev. Paul Lei Shiyin, which took place on Wednesday 29 June last and was conferred without the apostolic mandate, the following is stated:

Rev. Lei Shiyin, ordained without the Papal mandate and hence illegitimately, has no authority to govern the diocesan Catholic community, and the Holy See does not recognize him as the Bishop of the Diocese of Leshan. The effects of the sanction which he has incurred through violation of the norm of can. 1382 of the Code of Canon Law remain in place.

The same Rev. Lei Shiyin had been informed, for some time, that he was unacceptable to the Holy See as an episcopal candidate for proven and very grave reasons.

The consecrating bishops have exposed themselves to the grave canonical sanctions laid down by the law of the Church (in particular, canon 1382 of the Code of Canon Law; cf. Declaration of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts of 6 June 2011).

An episcopal ordination without Papal mandate is directly opposed to the spiritual role of the Supreme Pontiff and damages the unity of the Church. The Leshan ordination was a unilateral act which sows division and unfortunately produces rifts and tensions in the Catholic community in China. The survival and development of the Church can only take place in union with him to whom the Church herself is entrusted in the first place, and not without his consent as, however, occurred in Leshan. If it is desired that the Church in China be Catholic, the Church’s doctrine and discipline must be respected.

The Leshan episcopal ordination has deeply saddened the Holy Father, who wishes to send to the beloved faithful in China a word of encouragement and hope, inviting them to prayer and unity.

From the Vatican, 4 July 2011


Pope's Address to Italian Pilgrims: On Church, Education, Family
"The Church Is Not a Social, Philanthropic Organization"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 5, 2011- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Saturday in Paul VI Hall to a group of pilgrims from the Italian Diocese of Altamura-Gravina-Acquaviva delle Fonti.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

I am truly happy to receive you, so numerous and full of enthusiasm for the faith. Thank you! I thank your bishop, Mario Paciello, for the words he addressed to me on behalf of all. I greet civil authorities, priests, men and women religious, seminarians and each one of you, extending my thoughts and my affection to your diocesan community, in particular to those who live in situations of suffering and hardship.

I am thankful to the Lord because your visit gives me the possibility to share with you a moment of the synodal journey of the Church that is in Altamura-Gravina-Acquaviva delle Fonti. The synod is an event that gives a concrete experience of being "People of God" on the way, of being Church, a pilgrim community in history [journeying] toward its eschatological fulfillment in God. This signifies recognizing that the Church does not possess in herself a life-giving principle, but depends on Christ, of whom she is the sign and effective instrument. In the relationship with the Lord Jesus she finds her own most profound identity: to be gift of God to humanity, prolonging the presence and work of salvation of the Son of God through the Holy Spirit. In this context we understand that the Church is essentially a mystery of love at the service of humanity in view of its sanctification.

On this point, the Second Vatican Council stated: "God, however, does not make men holy and save them merely as individuals, without bond or link between one another. Rather has it pleased Him to bring men together as one people, a people which acknowledges Him in truth and serves Him in holiness" (Lumen Gentium, No. 9) We see here that the Word of God has really created a people, a community; it has created a common joy, a common pilgrimage toward the Lord. Hence, being Church does not happen only by our own human organizational strength, but finds its source and its real meaning in the communion of love of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: This eternal love is the source from which the Church springs and the Most Holy Trinity is the model of unity in diversity and generates and molds the Church as a mystery of communion.

It is always necessary to start again and in a new way from this truth to understand and to live more intensely our being Church, "People of God," "Body of Christ," "Communion." Otherwise, we run the risk of reducing the whole to a horizontal dimension, which alters the identity of the Church and the proclamation of the faith and would make our life and the life of the Church poorer. It is important to stress that the Church is not a social, philanthropic organization, as so many others are: She is the Community of God, the Community that believes, that loves, that adores the Lord Jesus and opens her "sails" to the breath of the Holy Spirit, and because of this, she is a Community capable of evangelizing and humanizing. The profound relationship with Christ, lived and nourished by the Word and by the Eucharist, renders proclamation effective, motivates a commitment to catechesis and animates the testimony of charity. Many men and women of our time are in need of encountering God, of encountering Christ or of rediscovering the beauty of the close God, of the God that in Jesus Christ has shown his face as Father and calls us to recognize the meaning and value of existence. To make it understood that it is good to live as man. The present historical moment is marked, we know it, by lights and shadows. We witness complex attitudes: withdrawal into oneself, narcissism, desire to possess and to consume, feelings and affections bereft of responsibility. Many are the causes of this disorientation, which manifests itself in a profound existential uneasiness, but behind all this one can perceive a negation of the transcendent dimension of man and of the fundamental relationship with God. Because of this, it is decisive that Christian communities promote sound and demanding journeys of faith.

Dear friends, particular attention must be given to the way of considering education in Christian life, so that every person can follow an authentic path of faith, through the different ages of life; a path in which -- like the Virgin Mary -- the person receives profoundly the Word of God and puts it into practice, becoming a witness of the Gospel. In the Declaration Gravissimum Educationis, the Second Vatican Council stated: Christian education "has as its principal purpose this goal: that the baptized, while they are gradually introduced the knowledge of the mystery of salvation, become ever more aware of the gift of Faith they have received, ... and be conformed in their personal lives according to the new man created in justice and holiness of truth" (No. 2).

In this educational effort, the family remains the first responsible party. Dear parents, be the first witnesses of the faith! Do not be afraid of the difficulties amid which you are called to realize your mission. You are not alone! The Christian community is close to you and sustains you. Catechesis accompanies your children in their human and spiritual growth, but catechesis is a permanent formation, not limited to preparation to receive the sacraments; we must grow throughout our lives in knowledge of God, thus in knowledge of what it means to be a man. Know how to draw strength and light from the liturgy: participation in the Eucharistic celebration on the Day of the Lord is decisive for the family, for the whole community, it is the structure of our time. Let us remember always that in the sacraments, above all in the Eucharist, the Lord Jesus works for the transformation of men assimilating us to himself. It is precisely thanks to the encounter with Christ, to communion with him, that the Christian community can give a witness of communion, lending itself to service, receiving the poor and the little ones, recognizing the face of God in the sick and in every needy one. Hence I invite you, beginning from contact with the Lord in daily prayer and above all in the Eucharist, to appreciate adequately the educational proposals and the forms of volunteer work in dioceses, to form persons in solidarity, open and attentive to situations of spiritual and material hardship. In short, pastoral action should be geared to forming persons mature in the faith, able to live in contexts in which often God is ignored; persons coherent with the faith, so that the light of Christ will be taken to all environments; persons that live the faith with joy, to transmit the beauty of being Christians.

Finally, I wish to address a special thought to you, dear priests. Always be grateful for the gift received, so that you can serve with love and dedication the People of God entrusted to your care. Proclaim the Gospel with courage and fidelity, be witnesses of the mercy of God and, guided by the Holy Spirit, be able to indicate the truth, not fearing dialogue with the culture and with those who are in search of God.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us entrust the journey of your diocesan community to Mary Most Holy, Mother of the Lord and Mother of the Church, our Mother. In her we contemplate what the Church is and is called to be. With her "yes" she gave Jesus to the world and now participates fully in the glory of God. We are also called to give the Lord Jesus to humanity, not forgetting to be his disciples at all times. I thank you very much again for your lovely visit and I wholeheartedly thank you for your faith and I accompany you with prayer and impart to all of you and to the entire diocese the Apostolic Blessing.



VATICAN CITY, 4 JUL 2011 (VIS) - The Holy See Press Office today released the following English-language communique concerning the episcopal ordination of Fr. Paul Lei Shiyin, which took place on Wednesday 29 June and was conferred without the apostolic mandate.

"Fr. Lei Shiyin, ordained without the papal mandate and hence illegitimately, has no authority to govern the diocesan Catholic community, and the Holy See does not recognise him as the bishop of the diocese of Leshan. The effects of the sanction which he has incurred through violation of the norm of canon 1382 of the Code of Canon Law remain in place.

"Fr. Lei Shiyin had been informed, for some time, that he was unacceptable to the Holy See as an episcopal candidate for proven and very grave reasons.

"The consecrating bishops have exposed themselves to the grave canonical sanctions laid down by the law of the Church (in particular, canon 1382 of the Code of Canon Law; cf. Declaration of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts of 6 June 2011).

"An episcopal ordination without papal mandate is directly opposed to the spiritual role of the Supreme Pontiff and damages the unity of the Church. The Leshan ordination was a unilateral act which sows division and unfortunately produces rifts and tensions in the Catholic community in China . The survival and development of the Church can only take place in union with him to whom the Church herself is entrusted in the first place, and not without his consent as, however, occurred in Leshan. If it is desired that the Church in China be Catholic, the Church's doctrine and discipline must be respected.

"The Leshan episcopal ordination has deeply saddened the Holy Father, who wishes to send to the beloved faithful in China a word of encouragement and hope, inviting them to prayer and unity".


On the Yoke of Christ
"The Force of Truth ... Is What Can Ensure a Future Worthy of Man"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 3, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before and after praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

In today's Gospel the Lord Jesus repeats to us those words we know well, but which always move us: "Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light" (Matthew 11:28-30). When Jesus went about the roads of Galilee proclaiming the Kingdom of God and curing many sick, he felt compassion for the crowds "because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd" (cf. Matthew 9:35-36).

That gaze of Jesus seems to extend to today, to our world. Even today it rests on so many people oppressed by difficult conditions of life, but also deprived of valid points of reference to find a meaning and aim to their existence. Many of the weak are found in the poorest countries, tested by poverty; and even in the richest countries there are so many dissatisfied men and women, in fact sick with depression. Then we think of the numerous dispersed peoples and refugees, and all those who emigrate putting their own life at risk. Christ's look pauses on all these people, rather on each one of these children of the Father who is in Heaven and repeats: "Come to me, all you ..."

Jesus promises to give all "rest," but he puts a condition: "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart." What is this "yoke," which instead of weighing is light, and instead of crushing lifts? The "yoke" of Christ is the law of love, it is his commandment, which he left to his disciples (cf. John 13:34; 15:12). The true remedy for the wounds of humanity -- whether they are material, such as hunger and injustice, or psychological and moral, caused by a false sense of well being -- is a rule of life based on fraternal love, which has its source in the love of God.

It is therefore necessary to abandon the path of arrogance and violence that is used to procure positions of greater power, so as to ensure success at any cost. Also, out of respect for the environment, it is necessary to give up the aggressive lifestyle that has become prevalent in the last centuries and to adopt a reasonable "meekness." But above all in human, interpersonal and social relations, the rule of respect and of nonviolence, that is, the force of truth against any abuse is what can ensure a future worthy of man.

Dear friends, yesterday we celebrated the particular liturgical memorial of Mary Most Holy praising God for her Immaculate Heart. May the Virgin help us to "learn" from Jesus' true humility, to take up with determination his light yoke, to experience interior peace and become in turn capable of consoling our brothers and sisters who continue to work hard as they travel the path of life.


Benedict XVI's Address to FAO
"The Rural Family Is a Model"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 1, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today to participants in the 37th session of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

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Mr. President,

Gentlemen Ministers,

Mr. Director General, Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. I am particularly happy to receive you all who are participating in the 37th Conference of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, following a long and pleasant tradition initiated sixty years ago with the creation of FAO in Rome.

Through you, Mr. President, I wish to thank the numerous governmental delegations that wished to be present at this meeting, thus attesting to the effective universality of FAO.

I would also like to renew the Holy See's support for the meritorious and irreplaceable work of the Organization and to confirm to you that the Catholic Church commits herself to collaborate with your efforts to respond to the real needs of numerous brothers and sisters in humanity.

I take advantage of this opportunity to greet Mr. Jacques Diouf, Director General, who with efficiency and dedication has enabled FAO to address the problems and crises arising from the changing global realities that affect, even in a dramatic way, its specific field of action.

To the Director General elect, Mr. José Graziano da Silva, I express my most sincere wishes for the success of your future activity, with the hope that FAO can respond, ever more and better, to the hopes of its Member States and to contribute concrete solutions to persons suffering from hunger and malnutrition.

2. Your works have indicated policies and strategies capable of contributing to the important re-launching of the agricultural sector, of the levels of food production and of the more general development of rural areas. The present crisis that now affects all the aspects of the economic and social reality requires, in fact, every effort to try to eliminate poverty, the first step to free from hunger the millions of men, women and children who do not have their daily bread. A complete reflection, however, exacts that the causes of this situation be sought, without being limited to the levels of production, to the growing demand for foods or the volatility of prices: factors that, though important, can make the tragedy of hunger be read in exclusively technical terms.

Poverty, underdevelopment and hence, hunger, are often the result of egoistic behavior that, coming from man's heart, is manifested in social action, in economic exchanges, in the market conditions, in the lack of access to food, and is translated in the negation of the primary right of all persons to nourish themselves and, therefore, to be free from hunger. How can we be silent about the fact that even food has become an object of speculations or is linked to changes in a financial market that, deprived of certain laws and poor in moral principles, seems anchored only in the goal of profit? Food is a condition that concerns the fundamental right to life. To guarantee it means also to act directly and without delay on the factors that, in the agricultural sector, weigh negatively on the capacity to produce, the mechanisms of distribution and the international market. And this, when global food production -- according to FAO and authoritative experts -- is capable of feeding the world population.

3. The international framework and the frequent fears caused by instability and the increase in prices, call for concrete and necessarily unitary answers to get results, which states, individually, cannot guarantee. This means to make of solidarity an essential criterion for every political action and every strategy, so that international activity and its rules are instruments of effective service of the whole human family and, in particular, of the neediest. Hence, it is urgent to have a model of development that considers not only the economic amplitude of the needs or the technical reliability of the strategies to be followed, but also the human dimension of all the initiatives, [a model] that is able to bring about genuine fraternity (cf. Caritas in Veritate, 20), appealing to the ethical recommendation "to feed the hungry," which belongs to the sentiment of compassion and humanity inscribed in the heart of every person and that the Church counts among the works of mercy. From this perspective, the institutions of the International Community are called to work in a coherent way following their mandate to support the values proper to human dignity, eliminating closed behavior and leaving no room to particular requests that are made to appear as general interests.

4. FAO is also called to re-launch its structure, freeing it from obstacles that remove it from the objective indicated by its Constitution: to guarantee nutritional growth, the availability of food production, the development of rural areas, in order to ensure for humanity freedom from hunger (cf. FAO, Constitution, Preamble). Essential for this objective is the full harmony of the Organization with the governments to direct and support initiatives, especially in the present circumstance, which sees the reduction of economic-financial resources, while the number of the hungry in the world does not diminish in keeping with the expected objectives.

5. My thought goes to the situation of millions of children who, as the first victims of this tragedy, are condemned to an early death, or to delay in their physical and psychic development or who are obliged to forms of exploitation to be able to receive a minimum of food. Attention to young generations can be a way of resisting the abandonment of rural areas and agricultural work, to allow whole communities, whose survival is threatened by hunger, to see their future with greater confidence. We must say, in fact, that despite the commitments assumed and the consequent obligations, assistance and concrete aid is often limited to emergencies, forgetting that a coherent concept of development must be able to design a future for every person, family and community, favoring long-term objectives.

Hence, initiatives must be supported that are desired to be carried out in the ambit of the whole International Community to rediscover the value of the rural family enterprise and to support its central function to attain stable food security. In fact, in the rural world, the traditional family nucleus makes an effort to favor agricultural production through the wise transmission of parents to children, not only of systems of cultivation or conservation and distribution of foods, but also of ways of life, of educational principles, of culture, of religiosity, of the concept of the sacredness of the person in all the phases of his existence. The rural family is a model, not only of work but of life and of concrete expression of solidarity, where the essential role of woman is confirmed.

Mr. President, Ladies, Gentlemen,

6. The objective of food security is a genuinely human need, we are conscious of it. To guarantee it to the present generations and to those that will follow also means to preserve the natural resources from frenetic exploitation, because the race of consumption and waste seems to ignore all consideration of the genetic patrimony and of biological diversities, so important for agricultural activities. However, to the idea of an exclusive appropriations of these resources is opposed the call that God addresses to men and women so that "working and looking after" the land (cf. Genesis 2:8-17), they promote a participation in the use of the goods of Creation, an objective that multilateral activity and international rules can certainly help to attain.

In our time in which to the many problems that affect agricultural activity are added new opportunities to contribute to alleviate the drama of hunger, you can work so that through the guarantee of food corresponding to needs, each one can grow in keeping with his true dimension as a creature made in the likeness of God.

This is the hope I wish to express, while I invoke upon you and your work the abundance of divine blessings.


Papal Address to Ratzinger Prize Winners
"The Real Question": "Is What We Believe True or Not?"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 1, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Beneedict XVI gave Thursday when he conferred the Ratzinger Prize on its first three winners. The prize recognizes work in theology.

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Lord Cardinals,

Venerable Brothers,

Distinguished Gentlemen and Ladies!

First of all I would like to express my joy and gratitude for the fact that, with the awarding of its theological prize, the Foundation that bears my name gives public recognition to the work carried out over a lifetime by two great theologians, and to a theologian of the younger generation it gives a sign of encouragement to advance on the path undertaken.

With Professor González de Cardedal I am bound by a common path of many decades. Between us we began with St. Bonaventure and we allowed him to indicate the direction. In a long life of scholarship, Professor González has discussed all the great topics of theology, and he has done so not simply by reflecting or speaking from a purely theoretical point of view, but always addressing the drama of our time, living and also suffering in an altogether personal way the great questions of the faith and with that the questions of the man of today. Thus, the word of faith is not something of the past; in his works it becomes truly contemporary for us.

Professor Simonetti has opened for us in a new way the world of the Fathers. Precisely by showing us precisely and carefully, from the historical point of view, what the Fathers say, they become contemporary with us, speaking with us.

Father Maximilian Heim was recently elected abbot of the monastery of Heiligenkreuz near Vienna -- a monastery rich in traditions -- taking on the task of rendering present a great history and of leading it to the future. In this, I hope that the work on my theology that he has given us can be useful to him, and that the Abbey of Heiligenkreuz will be able in our day to further develop monastic theology, which has always supported university [theology], forming with it the whole of Western theology.

However, it is not my task to offer here a laudatio of the winners, which has already been competently done by Cardinal Ruini.

Perhaps, however, the awarding of the prize can offer the occasion to dedicate ourselves for a moment to the fundamental question of what "theology" really is.

Theology is the science of faith, tradition tells us. But here the question immediately arises: Is this really possible? Is this not, in itself, a contradiction? Is not science, perhaps, the contrary of faith? Does faith not cease to be faith when it becomes science? And does not science cease to be science when it is ordered or even subordinated to faith?

Such questions -- which already for medieval theology represented a serious problem -- with the modern concept of science, have become even more difficult, at first glance, even unsolvable. Hence we understand why in the modern age, in vast ambits, theology retracted primarily to the field of history, in order to demonstrate in this area its serious scientific nature. It is necessary to acknowledge, with gratitude, that grandiose works were carried out in this vein, and the Christian message received new light, rendering visible its profound richness. However, if theology withdraws totally into the past, it leaves faith today in darkness.

In a second phase, theology then concentrated on praxis, to show how theology, in connection with psychology and sociology, is a useful science that gives concrete indications for life. This is also important. But if faith, the foundation of theology, does not become at the same time an object of study, if praxis refers only to itself, or lives only by borrowing from the human sciences, then praxis becomes empty and deprived of foundation.

Hence, these paths are not sufficient. For as useful and important as they might be, they become escapes if the true question remains unanswered. The real question is this: Is what we believe true or not? The question of truth is at stake in theology; it is its ultimate and essential foundation.

Something Tertullian said can bring us to take a step forward here; he wrote that Christ did not say: "I am custom," but, "I am the Truth" -- non consuetudo sed veritas (Virg. 1,1).

Christian Gnilka has shown that the concept consuetudo can refer to the pagan religions that, according to their nature, were not faith, but were "custom": what is done is what has always been done; the traditional forms of worship are observed and one thus hopes to remain in the right relationship with the mysterious ambit of the divine. The revolutionary aspect of Christianity in antiquity was precisely the break with "custom" for love of the truth. Tertullian speaks here above all on the basis of the Gospel of John, in which is found the other fundamental interpretation of the Christian faith, which is expressed in the designation of Christ as Logos.

If Christ is the Logos, the truth, man must correspond to Him with his own logos, with his reason. To arrive at Christ, man must be on the path of truth. He must open himself to the Logos, to creative Reason, from which derives his own reason and to which his reason refers back. In this way we see that Christian faith, by its very nature, must give rise to theology, must question itself on the reasonableness of faith, even if, of course, the concept of reason and that of science encompass many dimensions, and thus the concrete nature of the nexus between faith and reason should and must always be plumbed anew.

Thus, even when the fundamental nexus between Logos, truth and faith is clearly presented in Christianity, the concrete form of this nexus has aroused and always arouses new questions. It is clear that at this moment such a question, which has occupied and will occupy every generation, cannot be treated in detail, and not even broadly. I would like to proposes only a very small note.

In the Prologue to his Commentary on the Sentences, St. Bonaventure spoke of a double use of reason -- of a use that is irreconcilable with the nature of faith and of a use that instead belongs precisely to the nature of faith. There exists, he says, the violentia rationis, the despotism of reason, which makes itself the supreme and ultimate judge of everything. This kind of use of reason is certainly impossible in the ambit of faith. What does Bonaventure mean by this? An expression of Psalm 95:9 can show us. Here God says to his people: "In the wilderness ... your fathers tested me, and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work." Here there is reference to a double encounter with God: they "saw." This, however, was not enough for them. They put God "to the proof." They want to subject him to experiment. He is, as it were, subjected to a questioning and must submit Himself to a procedure of experimental testing.

This way of using reason has reached the culmination of its development in the modern age in the realm of the natural sciences. Experimental reason widely seems today to be the only form of rationality declared scientific. What cannot be scientifically verified or falsified falls outside the scientific ambit. With this approach, great works have been accomplished, as we know, and no would dare to seriously deny that this approach is right and necessary in the realm of knowledge of nature and of its laws. However such a use of reason has a limit: God is not an object of human experimentation. He is Subject and manifests himself only in the person to person relationship, which is part of the essence of person.

In this perspective Bonaventure refers to a second use of reason, which is valid for the ambit of the "personal," for the great questions regarding man himself. Love wants to know better the one it loves. Love, true love, does not make one blind but seeing. Part of it is a thirst for knowledge, true knowledge of the other. Because of this, the Fathers of the Church found precursors and forerunners of Christianity -- outside the world of revelation to Israel -- not in the ambit of conventional religion, but in men searching for God, searching for truth, in the "philosophers": in persons who were thirsting for truth and hence were on the path to God.

When there is not this use of reason, then the great questions of humanity fall outside the ambit of reason and are left to irrationality. Because of this authentic theology is so important. Right faith orients reason to its openness to the divine, so that, guided by love for the truth, it can know God more closely. The initiative for this path is with God who has put in man's heart the search for his Face. Hence, part of theology, on one hand, is humility that lets itself be "touched" by God, and on the other hand, discipline that is linked to the order of reason, which preserves love from blindness and which helps to develop its strength for seeing.

I am well aware that with all this an answer has not been given to the question about the possibility and the task of correct theology. Only the greatness of the challenge innate in the nature of theology has been held up for consideration. However, it is precisely this challenge that man needs, because it pushes us to open our reason, asking ourselves about truth itself, about the face of God. That is why we are grateful to the prize winners who have shown in their work that reason, walking on the path traced by faith, is not an alienated reason but is reason that responds to its very lofty vocation. Thank you.


Benedict XVI's Homily on Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul
"It Is Only in the Unity Represented by Peter That We Truly Lead People to Christ"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 29, 2011 - Here is a Vatican translation of the homily Benedict XVI delivered today at a Mass for the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, which he presided over in St. Peter's Basilica.

At the Mass, the Pope conferred the pallium upon 41 new archbishops, and recalled his 60th anniversary of priestly ordination.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

"Non iam dicam servos, sed amicos" -- "I no longer call you servants, but friends" (cf. Jn 15:15).

Sixty years on from the day of my priestly ordination, I hear once again deep within me these words of Jesus that were addressed to us new priests at the end of the ordination ceremony by the Archbishop, Cardinal Faulhaber, in his slightly frail yet firm voice.

According to the liturgical practice of that time, these words conferred on the newly-ordained priests the authority to forgive sins. "No longer servants, but friends": at that moment I knew deep down that these words were no mere formality, nor were they simply a quotation from Scripture. I knew that, at that moment, the Lord himself was speaking to me in a very personal way. In baptism and confirmation he had already drawn us close to him, he had already received us into God’s family. But what was taking place now was something greater still. He calls me his friend. He welcomes me into the circle of those he had spoken to in the Upper Room, into the circle of those whom he knows in a very special way, and who thereby come to know him in a very special way. He grants me the almost frightening faculty to do what only he, the Son of God, can legitimately say and do: I forgive you your sins. He wants me -- with his authority -- to be able to speak, in his name ("I" forgive), words that are not merely words, but an action, changing something at the deepest level of being. I know that behind these words lies his suffering for us and on account of us. I know that forgiveness comes at a price: in his Passion he went deep down into the sordid darkness of our sins. He went down into the night of our guilt, for only thus can it be transformed. And by giving me authority to forgive sins, he lets me look down into the abyss of man, into the immensity of his suffering for us men, and this enables me to sense the immensity of his love. He confides in me: "No longer servants, but friends". He entrusts to me the words of consecration in the Eucharist. He trusts me to proclaim his word, to explain it aright and to bring it to the people of today. He entrusts himself to me. "You are no longer servants, but friends": these words bring great inner joy, but at the same time, they are so awe-inspiring that one can feel daunted as the decades go by amid so many experiences of one’s own frailty and his inexhaustible goodness.

"No longer servants, but friends": this saying contains within itself the entire programme of a priestly life. What is friendship? Idem velle, idem nolle -- wanting the same things, rejecting the same things: this was how it was expressed in antiquity. Friendship is a communion of thinking and willing. The Lord says the same thing to us most insistently: "I know my own and my own know me" (Jn 10:14). The Shepherd calls his own by name (cf. Jn 10:3). He knows me by name. I am not just some nameless being in the infinity of the universe. He knows me personally. Do I know him? The friendship that he bestows upon me can only mean that I too try to know him better; that in the Scriptures, in the Sacraments, in prayer, in the communion of saints, in the people who come to me, sent by him, I try to come to know the Lord himself more and more. Friendship is not just about knowing someone, it is above all a communion of the will. It means that my will grows into ever greater conformity with his will. For his will is not something external and foreign to me, something to which I more or less willingly submit or else refuse to submit. No, in friendship, my will grows together with his will, and his will becomes mine: this is how I become truly myself. Over and above communion of thinking and willing, the Lord mentions a third, new element: he gives his life for us (cf. Jn 15:13; 10:15). Lord, help me to come to know you more and more. Help me to be ever more at one with your will. Help me to live my life not for myself, but in union with you to live it for others. Help me to become ever more your friend.

Jesus’ words on friendship should be seen in the context of the discourse on the vine. The Lord associates the image of the vine with a commission to the disciples: "I appointed you that you should go out and bear fruit, and that your fruit should abide" (Jn 15:16). The first commission to the disciples, to his friends, is that of setting out -- appointed to go out -- stepping outside oneself and towards others. Here we hear an echo of the words of the risen Lord to his disciples at the end of Matthew’s Gospel: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations" (cf. Mt 28:19f.). The Lord challenges us to move beyond the boundaries of our own world and to bring the Gospel to the world of others, so that it pervades everything and hence the world is opened up for God’s kingdom. We are reminded that even God stepped outside himself, he set his glory aside in order to seek us, in order to bring us his light and his love. We want to follow the God who sets out in this way, we want to move beyond the inertia of self-centredness, so that he himself can enter our world.

After the reference to setting out, Jesus continues: bear fruit, fruit that abides. What fruit does he expect from us? What is this fruit that abides? Now, the fruit of the vine is the grape, and it is from the grape that wine is made. Let us reflect for a moment on this image. For good grapes to ripen, sun is needed, but so too is rain, by day and by night. For noble wine to mature, the grapes need to be pressed, patience is needed while the juice ferments, watchful care is needed to assist the processes of maturation. Noble wine is marked not only by sweetness, but by rich and subtle flavours, the manifold aroma that develops during the processes of maturation and fermentation. Is this not already an image of human life, and especially of our lives as priests? We need both sun and rain, festivity and adversity, times of purification and testing, as well as times of joyful journeying with the Gospel. In hindsight we can thank God for both: for the challenges and the joys, for the dark times and the glad times. In both, we can recognize the constant presence of his love, which unfailingly supports and sustains us.

Yet now we must ask: what sort of fruit does the Lord expect from us? Wine is an image of love: this is the true fruit that abides, the fruit that God wants from us. But let us not forget that in the Old Testament the wine expected from noble grapes is above all an image of justice, which arises from a life lived in accordance with God’s law. And this is not to be dismissed as an Old Testament view that has been surpassed -- no, it still remains true. The true content of the Law, its summa, is love for God and for one’s neighbour. But this twofold love is not simply saccharine. It bears within itself the precious cargo of patience, humility, and growth in the conforming of our will to God’s will, to the will of Jesus Christ, our friend. Only in this way, as the whole of our being takes on the qualities of truth and righteousness, is love also true, only thus is it ripe fruit. Its inner demand -- faithfulness to Christ and to his Church -- seeks a fulfillment that always includes suffering. This is the way that true joy grows. At a deep level, the essence of love, the essence of genuine fruit, coincides with the idea of setting out, going towards: it means self-abandonment, self-giving, it bears within itself the sign of the cross. Gregory the Great once said in this regard: if you are striving for God, take care not to go to him by yourselves alone -- a saying that we priests need to keep before us every day (H Ev 1:6:6 PL 76, 1097f.).

Dear friends, perhaps I have dwelt for too long on my inner recollections of sixty years of priestly ministry. Now it is time to turn our attention to the particular task that is to be performed today.

On the feast of Saints Peter and Paul my most cordial greeting goes first of all to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomaios I and to the Delegation he has sent, to whom I express sincere thanks for their most welcome visit on the happy occasion of this feast of the holy Apostles who are Rome’s patrons. I also greet the Cardinals, my brother bishops, the ambassadors and civil authorities as well as the priests, the confrères of my first Mass, religious and lay faithful. I thank all of you for your presence and your prayers.

The metropolitan archbishops appointed since the feast of Saints Peter and Paul last year are now going to receive the pallium. What does this mean? It may remind us in the first instance of Christ’s easy yoke that is laid upon us (cf. Mt 11:29f.). Christ’s yoke is identical with his friendship. It is a yoke of friendship and therefore "a sweet yoke", but as such it is also a demanding yoke, one that forms us. It is the yoke of his will, which is a will of truth and love. For us, then, it is first and foremost the yoke of leading others to friendship with Christ and being available to others, caring for them as shepherds. This brings us to a further meaning of the pallium: it is woven from the wool of lambs blessed on the feast of Saint Agnes. Thus it reminds us of the Shepherd who himself became a lamb, out of love for us. It reminds us of Christ, who set out through the mountains and the deserts, in which his lamb, humanity, had strayed. It reminds us of him who took the lamb -- humanity -- me -- upon his shoulders, in order to carry me home. It thus reminds us that we too, as shepherds in his service, are to carry others with us, taking them as it were upon our shoulders and bringing them to Christ. It reminds us that we are called to be shepherds of his flock, which always remains his and does not become ours. Finally the pallium also means quite concretely the communion of the shepherds of the Church with Peter and with his successors -- it means that we must be shepherds for unity and in unity, and that it is only in the unity represented by Peter that we truly lead people to Christ.

Sixty years of priestly ministry -- dear friends, perhaps I have spoken for too long about this. But I felt prompted at this moment to look back upon the things that have left their mark on the last six decades. I felt prompted to address to you, to all priests and bishops and to the faithful of the Church, a word of hope and encouragement; a word that has matured in long experience of how good the Lord is. Above all, though, it is a time of thanksgiving: thanks to the Lord for the friendship that he has bestowed upon me and that he wishes to bestow upon us all. Thanks to the people who have formed and accompanied me. And all this includes the prayer that the Lord will one day welcome us in his goodness and invite us to contemplate his joy. Amen.

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pope's Prayer for 60th Anniversary
"Thank You For the Grace of the Priestly Ministry"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 29, 2011- Here is a translation of the prayer Benedict XVI wrote for the 60th anniversary of his priestly ordination, which he celebrated today.

* * *


We thank you because you have opened your Heart for us;

Because in your Death and Resurrection

You have become source of life.

Make us living persons,

Living from your source,

And give us the power to be sources ourselves,

Able to give to this, our time

The water of life.

We thank you

For the grace of the priestly ministry.

Lord, bless us

And bless all men of this time

Who are thirsty and in search


Benedictus PP XVI

1951 - June 29 - 2011

60th of Priestly Ordination


Papal Address to Orthodox Delegation
"The Incomplete Communion That Already Unites Us Must Grow"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 28, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today when he was visited by a delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

The Orthodox delegation made the traditional visit to the Holy Father to mark Wednesday's feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. A Catholic delegation similarly visits Constantinople for the feast of St. Andrew.

* * *

Dear Brothers in Christ,

You are welcome in Rome on the occasion of the Feast of the Patrons of this Church, the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul. It is particularly gratifying to me to greet you with the words that Saint Paul addressed to Christians of this city: "The God of peace be with you all" (Romans 15:32). I thank from my heart the Venerable Brother, the Ecumenical Patriarch, His Holiness Bartholomew I and the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate who wished to send you, dear Brothers, as their representatives to participate here with us in this solemn celebration.

The Lord Jesus Christ, having appeared to his disciples after his Resurrection, gave them the mission to be witnesses of the Gospel of Salvation. The Apostles carried out this mission faithfully, on attesting their faith in Christ the Savior and their love of God the Father even to the bloody sacrifice of their life. In this city of Rome, the Apostles Peter and Paul faced martyrdom, and since then their tombs have been the object of veneration. Your participation in our Feast, like the presence of our representatives in Constantinople for the Feast of the Apostle Andrew, manifests the friendship and genuine fraternity that unites the Church of Rome and the Ecumenical Patriarchate, bonds solidly founded in the faith received through the testimony of the Apostles. The intimate spiritual closeness that we experience each time that we meet is for me a motive of great joy and gratitude to God. At the same time, however, the incomplete communion that already unites us must grow until it attains full visible unity.

We follow with great attention the work of the Mixed Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church as a whole. From a purely human point of view, one might have the impression that the theological dialogue is having trouble in progressing. In reality, the rhythm of dialogue is linked to the complexity of the themes being discussed, which call for an extraordinary effort of study, of reflection and of reciprocal openness. We are called to continue this course together in charity, invoking light and inspiration from the Holy Spirit, in the certainty that He wishes to lead us to the full accomplishment of the will of Christ: that they may all be one (John 17:21). I am particularly grateful to all the members of the Mixed Commission and in particular to the co-Presidents, His Eminence the Metropolitan of Pergamum Ioannis and His Eminence Cardinal Kurt Koch, for their tireless dedication, their patience and their competence.

In a historical context of violence, of indifference and of egoism, many men and women of our time feel lost. It is precisely by the common testimony of the truth of the Gospel that we can help people of our time to rediscover the way that leads them to truth. The search for truth, in fact, is always also the search for justice and peace, and it is with great joy that I witness the important involvement with which His Holiness Bartholomew spends himself on these subjects. Uniting myself to this intention which is common to us, and recalling the beautiful example of my predecessor, Blessed John Paul II, I wish to invite Christian brothers, representatives of other religious traditions of the world and personalities of the world of culture and science, to participate next October 27 in the city of Assisi, in a Day of Reflection, of Dialogue and of Prayer for Peace and Justice in the World, whose theme will be: "Pilgrims in Truth, Pilgrims in Peace." Walking together along the streets of St. Francis' city will be a sign of the will to continue to advance on the path of dialogue and fraternity.

Eminence, dear members of the Delegation, thanking you again for your presence in Rome on this solemn occasion, I ask you to transmit my fraternal greeting to my venerable Brother, Patriarch Bartholomew I, to the Holy Synod, to the clergy and to all the faithful of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, assuring them of my affection and of the solidarity of the Church of Rome, which today is celebrating its Holy Founders.


On the Eucharist as Antidote to Individualism
"Without the Eucharist the Church Simply Would Not Exist"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 26, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before and after praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters!

Today in Italy and other countries Corpus Domini is celebrated, the feast of the Eucharist, the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of the Lord, which he instituted with the Last Supper and which is the Church's most precious treasure. The Eucharist is like the beating heart that gives life to the whole mystical body of the Church: a social organism entirely founded on the spiritual but concrete link with Christ. As the Apostle Paul states: "Because there is one bread, we, although many, are one body: all of us in fact participate in the one bread" (1 Corinthians 10:17).

Without the Eucharist the Church simply would not exist. It is the Eucharist in fact that makes a human community a mystery of communion, able to bring God to the world and the world to God. The Holy Spirit, which transforms the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, also transforms into members of the Body of Christ those who receive it with faith, so that the Church is truly the sacrament of the unity of men with God and of men with each other.

In a culture that is ever more individualistic -- like that in which Western societies are immersed and which is spreading throughout the world -- the Eucharist constitutes a kind of "antidote," which operates in the minds and hearts of believers and continually sows in them the logic of communion, of service, of sharing, in a word, the logic of the Gospel. The first Christians, in Jerusalem, were an evident sign of this new way of life because they lived in fraternity and held all of their goods in common so that no one should be indigent (cf. Acts 2:42-47). Where did all of this come from? From the Eucharist, that is, the risen Christ, really present with his disciples and working with the power of the Holy Spirit. And in the succeeding generations, through the centuries, the Church, despite human limits and errors, continued to be a force for communion in the world. We think especially of the most difficult periods, the periods of trial: What did it mean, for example, for countries that were under the heal of totalitarian regimes to have the possibility to gather for Sunday Mass! As the ancient martyrs of Abitene proclaimed: "Sine Dominico non possumus" – without the "Dominicum," that is, the Sunday Eucharist, we cannot live. But the void produced by false freedom can be dangerous, and so communion with the Body of Christ is a medicine of the intellect and will to rediscover taste for the truth and the common good.

Dear friends, let us call upon the Virgin Mary, whom my predecessor, Blessed John Paul II defined as a "Eucharistic woman" ("Ecclesia de Eucharistia," 53-58). In her school our life too becomes fully "Eucharistic," open to God and to others, able to transform evil into good by the power of love, which fosters unity, communion, fraternity.

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

Dear brothers and sisters, today too I have the joy to announce the proclamation of some newly beatified persons. Yesterday, in Lübeck, Germany, Johannes Prassek, Eduard Müller and Hermann Lange, who were killed by the Nazis in Hamburg in 1943, were beatified. Today there will be three beatifications in Milan: Don Serafino Morazzone, an exemplary parish priest in Lecchese, who lived in the 18th and 19th centuries; Father Clement Vismara, heroic PIME missionary in Burma; and Enrichetta Alfieri, a Sister of Charity, called the "angel" of the Milanese prison of San Vittore. We praise the Lord for these luminous witnesses to the Gospel!

In Italy on this Sunday that precedes the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul we celebrate the Day for the Pope's Charity. I would like to thank warmly all those who, with prayer and donations, offer their support to my apostolic and charitable ministry. Thank you! May the Lord give you recompense!

[In English he said:]

I am happy to welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, particularly the group from Saint Fidelis Parish in Toronto. In many places today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ. May our hearts rejoice in the great gift of Jesus, the Bread of Life, who has given himself for us and has come to nourish us. As we open our hearts to others and walk the path of life, may he always sustain and guide us. God bless you all!

[Concluding in Italian, he said:]

I wish you all a good Sunday, a good week. Happy Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. I wish you all a good Sunday!


Papal Address to Association of Sts. Peter and Paul
"Fidelity Is needed! We Live in a Society That Has Lost This Value"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 26, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before and after praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear friends of the Association of Sts. Peter and Paul,

I greet you with joy and affection! I am glad to meet with you while you are gathered for the occasion of the 40th anniversary of your founding: a happy moment that invites thanksgiving, to the Lord first of all, and to the beloved Servant of God Paul VI, who did so much to renovate the environment of the Vatican according to contemporary exigencies. I greet your president in particular, Dr. Calvino Gasparini, and I thank him for his courteous words; I greet the spiritual assistant, Monsignor Joseph Murphy, the other officials and all the members of the Association, as well as the former assistants, among whom is Cardinal Coppa, who honors us with his presence, and Cardinal Bertone, who as a young priest was a formator for the Palatine Guards of the time. At the altar of the Lord and the tomb of St. Peter in this moment we especially remember all of those who in these 40 years have led the Association and those who were dedicated members. May the Lord grant the peace and beatitude of his Kingdom to those among them who have left this world.

In this meeting with you in my heart the sentiment of gratitude dominates, and it is directed to you for the service that you offer, above all for the love and the spirit of faith with which you carry it out. You dedicate part of your time -- harmonizing it with family duties, and often at the expense of your leisure -- to coming to the Vatican to help with the good order of various celebrations. Furthermore, you undertake various charitable projects in collaboration with the Figlie della Carità Sisters and the Missionaries of Charity. Such efforts require a profound motivation, which must always be renewed by an intense spiritual life. To help others to pray, we must have our heart turned toward God; to recall them to respect for holy places and holy things, it is necessary for us to have in us the Christian sense of the sacred; to help our neighbor with true Christian love, we must have a humble soul and the eyes of faith. Your attitude, often without words, constitutes an indication, an example, a reminder, and as such also has an educational value.

Your personal formation is naturally a presupposition for all of this; and I would like to tell you that precisely because of this, as for everything that you do, I am especially grateful. The Association of Sts. Peter and Paul, like every authentic ecclesial association, pays special attention, first of all, to the formation of its members, never as a substitute or alternative to parishes, but always in a complementary way with respect to them. Thus, I am glad that you are well inserted in your parish communities and that you educate your children in the meaning of the parish. At the same time I am pleased that the Association is in the appropriate measure demanding in planning specific periods of formation for those who desire to be effective members and regularly offers opportune moments to support perseverance. A special thought goes out precisely to those who pronounced the solemn promise of fidelity this morning; I wish them the joy of feeling like disciples of Christ in the Church, and I exhort them to give a valid witness to the Gospel in every sphere of their life. Again from this same perspective, I supported from the beginning the project of launching a youth component. I greet the young people with special affection, and I encourage them to follow the example of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, loving God with their whole heart, tasting the beauty of Christian friendship and serving Christ with great discretion in our poorest brothers.

Dear friends, I also thank you for the congratulations, and above all for the prayers, on the occasion of my 60th anniversary of priesthood. The gift that you gave me, a beautiful chasuble, is a reminder for me that I am always first of all a priest of Christ, and it also invites me to remember you when I celebrate the redemptive Sacrifice. I thank you from my heart!

Finally, I would like to entrust all of you to the Virgin Mary. I know that in your Association she is venerated with the title of "Virgo Fidelis." Today more than ever fidelity is needed! We live in a society that has lost this value. Change, "mobility," "flexibility," are exalted for economic and organization reasons that are sometimes legitimate. But the quality of a human relationship is seen in fidelity! Sacred Scripture shows us that God is faithful. With his grace and Mary's help, may you be faithful to Christ and to the Church, ready to endure with humility and patience the price that this carries. May the Virgo Fidelis obtain peace for your families and that authentic Christian vocations be born in them to marriage, the priesthood and the consecrated life. For this I assure you a special remembrance in my prayer, while I bless all of you and all of your loved ones from my heart.


Pope's Address to Aid Agencies for Eastern Churches
"Never Forget the Eucharistic Dimension of Your Objective"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 24, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today on receiving in audience members of the Assembly of Societies for Aid to Eastern Churches (ROACO).

* * *

[In Italian]

Esteemed Cardinal,


Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood

Dear members and friends of ROACO,

I wish to express to each one of you my most cordial welcome and I gladly return, with my best wishes, the courteous words of greeting addressed to me by Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Easter Churches and president of the Assembly of Societies for Aid to Eastern Churches (ROACO), accompanied by the archbishop secretary, the undersecretary and the ecclesiastical and lay collaborators of the dicastery. I address a fraternal greeting to the new Maronite patriarch, His Beatitude Bechara Boutros Rai, and extend my thought to the other prelates, to the representatives of the international agencies and of the University of Bethlehem, as well as to the benefactors here present. I thank all for the generous cooperation with the mandate of universal charity that the Lord Jesus entrusts incessantly to the Bishop of Rome as Successor of the Blessed Apostle Peter.

Yesterday, we celebrated the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of the Lord. The Eucharistic procession, over which I presided from the Lateran Cathedral to the Basilica of St. Mary Major, constitutes always an appeal to the beloved City of Rome and to all the Catholic community to remain and walk in the not easy paths of history, among the great spiritual and material poverties of the world, to offer the charity of Christ and of the Church, which springs from the Paschal Mystery, mystery of love, of total gift that engenders life. Charity "will never end" (1 Corinthians 13:8), says the Apostle Paul, and it is able to change hearts and the world with the strength of God, sowing and awakening everywhere solidarity, communion and peace. They are gifts entrusted to our frail hands, but their development is certain, because the power of God acts precisely in weakness, if we are able to open to his action, if we are true disciples who try to be faithful to him (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:10).

[In French]

Dear Friends of ROACO, never forget the Eucharistic dimension of your objective so as to remain within the ambit of ecclesial charity, which particularly seeks to reach the Holy Land, but also the Middle East as a whole, in order to support the Christian presence there. I ask you to do everything possible -- including intervening with public authorities that you interact with on an international level -- to ensure that the pastors and faithful of Christ can remain in the East where they were born, not as strangers but as citizens (Ephesians 2:19) who bear witness to Jesus Christ as the saints of the Eastern Churches did before them. The East is their earthly homeland. It is there that they are called today to promote, without distinction, the good of all mankind. Everyone professing this faith must be recognized as having equal dignity and true freedom, thus favoring more fruitful ecumenical and inter-religious collaboration.

[In English]

I thank you for your reflections on the changes that are taking place in the countries of North Africa and the Middle East, which are a source of anxiety throughout the world. Through the communications received at this time from the Coptic-Catholic Cardinal-Patriarch and from the Maronite Patriarch, as well as the Pontifical Representative in Jerusalem and the Franciscan Custos of the Holy Land, the Congregation and the agencies will be able to assess the situation on the ground for the Church and the peoples of that region, which is so important for world peace and stability. The Pope wishes to express his closeness, also through you, to those who are suffering and to those who are trying desperately to escape, thereby increasing the flow of migration that often remains without hope. I pray that the necessary emergency assistance will be forthcoming, but above all I pray that every possible form of mediation will be explored, so that violence may cease and social harmony and peaceful coexistence may everywhere be restored, with respect for the rights of individuals as well as communities. Fervent prayer and reflection will help us at the same time to read the signs emerging from the present season of toil and tears: may the Lord of history always turn them to the common good.

[In German]

The Special Assembly on the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops held last October in the Vatican and in which some of you participated, has brought brothers and sisters of the East in a more decisive way to the heart of the Church and it has prepared us to perceive the signs of novelty of the present time. However, immediately after that summit, absurd violence struck fiercely defenseless persons (cf. Angelus of Nov. 1, 2010) in the Syro-Catholic Cathedral of Baghdad and, in subsequent months, in other different places. This sorrow suffered by Christ can be of help for the growth of the good seed and to bear even more fecund fruits, God willing. Hence, I entrust to the good will of the members of ROACO, what arose in the Synod and also the precious spiritual patrimony, constituted by the chalice of the passion of many Christians, as reference for an intelligent and generous service, which begins from the least and excludes no one, and that will always measure its authenticity in reference to the Eucharistic Mystery.

[In Italian]

Dear friends, under the guidance of your generous pastors and also with your irreplaceable support, the Catholic Eastern Churches will always be able to confirm communion with the Apostolic See, jealously protected for centuries, and to make an original contribution to the New Evangelization, both in the homeland as well as in the growing diaspora. I put these wishes under the protection of the Most Holy Mother of God and of the Precursor of Christ, Saint John the Baptist, on the liturgical Solemnity of his birth. Approaching also is the Solemnity of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul: on that day I will thank the Good Shepherd, as Cardinal Sandri has mentioned, on the 60th anniversary of my priestly Ordination. I am most grateful to you for the prayer and good wishes, of which you made me a gratifying gift. I ask you to share my prayer to the "Lord of the harvest" (Matthew 9:38) that he will grant the Church and the world numerous and ardent laborers of the Gospel. And as a sign of my affection, I am very happy to impart to each one of you, to all your loved ones and to the communities entrusted to you, the comforting Apostolic Blessing.


Benedict XVI's Corpus Christi Homily
"Thank You, Lord Jesus! Thank You for Your Fidelity"

ROME, JUNE 24, 2011 - Here is an unofficial Vatican Radio translation of Benedict XVI's homily for the feast of Corpus Christi, celebrated Thursday in Rome.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters!

The feast of Corpus Domini is inseparable from the Holy Thursday Mass of Caena Domini, in which the institution of the Eucharist is also celebrated. While on the evening of Holy Thursday we relive the mystery of Christ who offers himself to us in the bread broken and wine poured out, today, in celebration of Corpus Domini, this same mystery is proposed for the adoration and meditation of God's people, and the Blessed Sacrament is carried in procession through the streets of towns and villages, to show that the risen Christ walks among us and guides us toward the kingdom of heaven. Today we openly manifest what Jesus has given us in the intimacy of the Last Supper, because the love of Christ is not confined to the few, but is intended for all. This year during the Mass of Our Lord's Last Supper on Holy Thursday, I pointed out that the Eucharist is the transformation of the gifts of this land -- the bread and wine -- intended to transform our lives and usher in the transformation of the world. Tonight I would like to return to this point of view.

Everything starts, you might say, from the heart of Christ, who at the Last Supper on the eve of his passion, thanked and praised God and, in doing so, with the power of his love transformed the meaning of death, which he was about to encounter. The fact that the sacrament of the altar has taken on the name "Eucharist," "thanksgiving," expresses this: that the change in the substance of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ is the fruit of the gift that Christ made of himself, a gift of a love stronger than death, divine love that brought him to rise from the dead. That is why the Eucharist is the food of eternal life, the Bread of life. From the heart of Christ, from his "Eucharistic Prayer" on the eve of his passion, flows the dynamism that transforms reality in its cosmic, human and historical dimensions. All proceeds from God, from the omnipotence of his love One and Triune, incarnate in Jesus. The heart of Christ is immersed in this love; because of this he knows how to thank and praise God even in the face of betrayal and violence, and thus changes things, people and the world.

This transformation is possible thanks to a communion stronger than division, the communion of God himself. The word "communion," which we use to designate the Eucharist, sums up the vertical and horizontal dimension of the gift of Christ. The beautiful and eloquent expression "receive communion" refers to the act of eating the bread of the Eucharist. In fact, when we carry out this act, we enter into communion with the very life of Jesus, in the dynamism of this life that is given to us and for us. From God, through Jesus, to us: a unique communion is transmitted in the Holy Eucharist. We have heard as much, in the second reading, from the words of the Apostle Paul to the Christians of Corinth: "The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ"(1 Corinthians 10:16-17).

St. Augustine helps us to understand the dynamics of holy Communion when referring to a kind of vision he had, in which Jesus said to him: "I am the food of the mature: grow, then, and you shall eat me. You will not change me into yourself like bodily food; but you will be changed into me"(Confessions, VII, 10, 18). Therefore, while the bodily food is assimilated by the body and contributes to sustain it, the Eucharist is a different bread: We do not assimilate it, but it assimilates us to itself, so that we become conformed to Jesus Christ and members of his body, one with him. This is a decisive passage. Indeed, precisely because it is Christ who, in Eucharistic communion, transforms us into him, our individuality, in this encounter, is opened up, freed from its self-centeredness and placed in the Person of Jesus, who in turn is immersed in the Trinitarian communion. Thus, while the Eucharist unites us to Christ, we open ourselves to others making us members one of another: We are no longer divided, but one thing in him. Eucharistic communion unites me to the person next to me, and to the one with whom perhaps I might not even have a good relationship, but also to my brothers and sisters who are far away, in every corner of the world. Thus the deep sense of social presence of the Church is derived from the Eucharist, as evidenced by the great social saints, who have always been great Eucharistic souls. Those who recognize Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, recognize their brother who suffers, who is hungry and thirsty, who is a stranger, naked, sick, imprisoned, and they are attentive to every person, committing themselves, in a concrete way, to those who are in need.

So from the gift of Christ's love comes our special responsibility as Christians in building a cohesive, just and fraternal society. Especially in our time when globalization makes us increasingly dependent upon each other, Christianity can and must ensure that this unity will not be built without God, without true Love. This would give way to confusion and individualism, the oppression of some against others. The Gospel has always aimed at the unity of the human family, a unity not imposed from above, or by ideological or economic interests, but from a sense of responsibility toward each other, because we identify ourselves as members of the same body, the body of Christ, because we have learned and continually learn from the Sacrament of the Altar that communion, love is the path of true justice.

Let us return to Jesus' act in the Last Supper. What happened at that moment? When he said: This is my body which is given to you, this is my blood shed for you and for the multitude, what happened? Jesus in that gesture anticipates the event of Calvary. He accepts his passion out of love, with its trial and its violence, even to death on the cross; by accepting it in this way he transforms it into an act of giving. This is the transformation that the world needs most, because he redeems it from within, he opens it up to the kingdom of heaven. But God always wants to accomplish this renewal of the world through the same path followed by Christ, indeed, the path that is himself. There is nothing magic in Christianity. There are no shortcuts, but everything passes through the patient and humble logic of the grain of wheat that is broken to give life, the logic of faith that moves mountains with the gentle power of God. This is why God wants to continue to renew humanity, history and the cosmos through this chain of transformations, of which the Eucharist is the sacrament. Through the consecrated bread and wine, in which his Body and Blood is truly present, Christ transforms us, assimilating us in him: He involves us in his redeeming work, enabling us, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, to live according to his same logic of gift, like grains of wheat united with him and in him. Thus unity and peace, which are the goal for which we strive, are sown and mature in the furrows of history, according to God's plan.

Without illusions, without ideological utopias, we walk the streets of the world, bringing within us the Body of the Lord, like the Virgin Mary in the mystery of the Visitation. With the humble awareness that we are simple grains of wheat, we cherish the firm conviction that the love of God, incarnate in Christ, is stronger than evil, violence and death. We know that God is preparing for all people new heavens and new earth where peace and justice prevail -- and by faith we glimpse the new world, that is our true home. Also this evening as the sun sets on our beloved city of Rome, we set out again on this path: With us is Jesus in the Eucharist, the Risen One, who said, "I am with you always, until the end of world "(Mt 28:20). Thank you, Lord Jesus! Thank you for your fidelity, which sustains our hope. Stay with us, because the evening comes. "Jesus, good shepherd and true bread, have mercy on us; feed us and guard us. Grant that we find happiness in the land of the living." Amen.



On Learning to Pray With the Psalms
Addressing Him "With the Words That He Himself Gives Us"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 22, 2011 - Here is a translation of the Italian-language catechesis Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience held in St. Peter's Square. The Pope continued with his series of catecheses on prayer, turning today to a consideration of the Book of Psalms.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

In the preceding catecheses, we paused to consider a number of Old Testament figures who are particularly significant for our reflection on prayer. I spoke about Abraham, who intercedes for the foreign cities; about Jacob, who in his nighttime combat receives a blessing; about Moses, who begs for forgiveness for his people; and about Elijah, who prays for the conversion of Israel. With today's catechesis, I would like to begin down a new path: Rather than commenting on particular accounts of persons at prayer, we will enter into the "prayerbook" par excellence, the Book of Psalms. In the upcoming catecheses we will read and meditate on a number of the most beautiful psalms which are also dearest to the Church's tradition of prayer. Today I would like to introduce them by speaking about the Book of Psalms as a whole.

The Psalter presents itself as a "formulary" of prayers, a collection of 150 psalms that the biblical tradition gives to the people of believers in order that they may become their -- our prayer -- our way of addressing God and of relating to Him. In this book, the whole of human experience with its many facets finds expression, along with the entire range of emotions that accompany man's existence. In the Psalms, joy and suffering, desire for God and the perception of one's own unworthiness, delight and the sense of abandonment, trust in God and painful solitude, fullness of life and fear of death are all interwoven and expressed. The believer's whole reality flows into these prayers, which first the people of Israel and then the Church took up as a privileged meditation on the relationship with the one God, and the fitting response to His self-revelation in history.

As prayer, the Psalms are manifestations of the soul and of faith, in which everyone can recognize himself and in which there is communicated that experience of special closeness to God, to which each man is called. And it is the whole complexity of human existence that converges in the complexity of the different literary forms of the various psalms: hymns, lamentations, individual and collective supplication, songs of thanksgiving, penitential psalms, and other genre that are found in these poetic compositions.

Despite this wide range of expression, two great areas can be identified that synthesize the prayer of the Psalter: petition, which is connected with lament, and praise -- two interconnected and almost inseparable dimensions. For petition is animated by the certainty that God will respond, and this opens up to praise and thanksgiving; and praise and thanksgiving flow from the experience of salvation received, which assumes the need for the help expressed by the petition.

In petition, the one who prays laments and describes his situation of distress, of danger, of desolation; or, as in the penitential psalms, he confesses guilt and sin, and asks to be forgiven. He lays bare his neediness before the Lord, in the confidence of being heard, and this implies an acknowledgement of God as good, as desirous of the good, and as the "lover of life" (cf. Wisdom 11:26) who is ready to help, save and forgive. Thus, for example, the Psalmist in Psalm 31 prays: "In thee, O Lord, do I seek refuge; let me never be put to shame [ … ] take me out of the net which is hidden for me, for thou art my refuge (verses 2,5 [1,4]). Therefore, already in the lament something of praise may emerge, announcing itself in the hope of divine intervention, and becoming explicit once divine salvation has become a reality.
In an analogous way -- in the psalms of thanksgiving and of praise -- in remembering the gift received or in contemplating the greatness of God's mercy, one recognizes one's own littleness as well as one's need for salvation, which is at the foundation of petition. In this way, one confesses to God one's own condition as a creature, inevitably marked as it is by death, and yet the bearer of a radical desire for life. For this reason, in Psalm 86 the Psalmist exclaims: "I give thanks to thee, o Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify thy name forever. For great is thy steadfast love toward me; thou hast delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol" (verses 12, 13). In this way, in the prayer of the Psalms, petition and praise are interwoven and blend together into one unique song that celebrates the Lord's eternal grace that bends down to our frailty.

The book of the Psalter was given to Israel and to the Church precisely in order that the people of believers might be permitted to unite themselves to this song. The Psalms, in fact, teach us to pray. In them, the Word of God becomes the word of prayer -- and they are the Psalmists' inspired words -- which also become the word of the one who prays the Psalms. This is the beauty and the special nature of this biblical book: Unlike other prayers we find in sacred Scripture, the prayers contained [in the Book of Psalms] are not inserted into a narrative story which specifies either their meaning or their function. The Psalms are given to the believer precisely as a text of prayer, which has as its one end that of becoming the prayer of the one who takes them up and, with them, addresses himself to God. Since they are the Word of God, he who prays the Psalms speaks to God with the very words that God has given to us; he addresses Him with the words that He Himself gives us. Thus, in praying the Psalms we learn to pray. They are a school of prayer.

Something analogous happens when a child begins to talk; when he learns, that is, to express his feelings, emotions, and needs with words that do not belong to him naturally, but which he learns from his parents and from those who live around him. What the child wants to express is his own personal experience, but the means of expression belong to others; and little by little he appropriates them -- the words received from his parents become his words, and through those words he also learns a way of thinking and feeling; he enters into a whole world of concepts, and in this [world] he grows, relates with reality, with men and with God. At last, the language of his parents becomes his language; he speaks with the words received from others, which by now have become his words.

And so it is with the prayer of the Psalms. They are given to us so that we might learn to address ourselves to God, to communicate with Him, to talk to Him about ourselves with His words, to find language for an encounter with Him. And, through those words, it will also be possible to know and to receive the standards of his way of acting, to approach the mystery of his thoughts and of his ways (cf. Isaiah 55:8-9), so as to grow always more in faith and love. As our words are not only words, but also teach us about a real and conceptual world, so also these prayers teach us about the heart of God, for which reason are we able not only to speak with God, but also to learn who God is and -- in learning how to speak with Him -- we learn what is it to be man, to be ourselves.

In this regard, the title given to the Psaltery by the Jewish tradition appears significant. It is called Tehellim, an Hebraic term that means "songs of praise," [which comes] from the root word we find in the expression "Halleluiah" -- literally: "praise the Lord." Thus, even though this prayerbook is so multifaceted and complex -- with its various literary genre and with its connection between praise and petition – it is ultimately a book of praise, that teaches us to give thanks, to celebrate the greatness of the gift of God, to acknowledge the beauty of His words and to glorify His holy Name.

This is the most fitting response before God's self-revelation, and the experience of His goodness. By teaching us to pray, the Psalms teach us that, even in the midst of desolation, in suffering, God's presence remains and is the source of wonder and of consolation; we can cry, beg, intercede, lament, but [we do so] in the knowledge that we are walking toward the light, where praise can be definitive; "in thy light do we see light" (Psalm 36:10 [9]).
But beyond the book's general title, the Jewish tradition has also given specific titles to many of the psalms, attributing them in great part to King David. A figure of notable human and theological depth, David is a complex personality who passed through the most varied experiences fundamental to life. A young shepherd of his father's flock -- passing through the ups and downs and at times dramatic events of life -- he becomes king of Israel, the shepherd of God's people. Although a man of peace, he fought many wars; an untiring and tenacious seeker of God, yet he betrayed His love, and this is characteristic: He always remained a seeker of God, even though he sinned gravely many times; a humble penitent, he received divine forgiveness, even divine pity, and he accepted a fate marked by suffering. Thus, in all his weakness, David was a king "after God's own heart" (cf. 1 Samuel 13:14); that is, a passionate man of prayer, a man who knew what it meant to petition and to praise. The connection of the Psalms with this illustrious king of Israel is important, then, for he is a messianic figure, the Lord's Anointed, in whom the mystery of Christ is in some way foreshadowed.

Just as important and meaningful are the ways and frequency with which the words of the psalms are repeated in the New Testament, taking up and underscoring the prophetic value suggested by the Psalter's connection with the messianic figure of David. In the Lord Jesus, who during His earthly life prayed with the Psalms, they find their definitive fulfillment and reveal their fullest and most profound meaning. The prayers of the Psalter, with which we speak to God, speak to us of Him, they speak to us of the Son, the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15), who fully reveals to us the Face of the Father. The Christian, therefore, in praying the Psalms, prays to the Father in Christ and with Christ, taking up those songs within a new perspective, which finds its ultimate interpretative key in the Paschal mystery. Thus do the horizons of the one who prays open up to unexpected realities -- each Psalm acquires a new light in Christ and the Psalter is able to shine in all its infinite richness.

Dearest brothers and sisters, let us take this holy book in hand; let us allow ourselves to be taught by God to address ourselves to Him; let us make the Psalter a guide that helps us and accompanies us daily along the way of prayer. And let us, like Jesus' disciples, also ask: "Lord, teach us to pray" (Luke 11:1), opening our hearts to receive the Teacher's prayer, in which all prayers attain their fulfillment. Thus, made sons in the Son, will we be able to speak to God calling Him "Our Father." Thank you.

[Translation by Diane Montagna]

[The Holy Father then greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our catechesis on Christian prayer, we have looked to a number of Old Testament figures who represent models of prayer. We now turn to the great "prayerbook" of sacred Scripture: the Book of Psalms. These inspired songs teach us how to speak to God, expressing ourselves and the whole range of our human experience with words that God himself has given us. Despite the diversity of their literary forms, the Psalms are generally marked by the two interconnected dimensions of humble petition and of praise addressed to a loving God who understands our human frailty. In Hebrew, the Psalms are called Tehellim or songs of praise; the prayer of praise is, in fact, our best response to the God who even at times of trial remains ever at our side. Many of the Psalms are attributed to David, the great King of Israel who, as the Lord’s Anointed, prefigured the Messiah. In Jesus Christ and in his paschal mystery the Psalms find their deepest meaning and prophetic fulfilment. Christ himself prayed in their words. As we take up these inspired songs of praise, let us ask the Lord to teach us to pray, with him and in him, to our heavenly Father.

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


On World Refugee Day
"Guarantee a Welcome and Dignified Living Conditions for Refugees"

SERRAVALLE, San Marino, JUNE 19, 2011 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today in Italian and French before praying the Marian prayer of the Angelus after celebrating Mass in the Olympic Stadium of Serravalle at the beginning of his one-day trip to the Diocese of San Marino-Montefeltro.

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[In Italian, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As we conclude this celebration, the midday hour invites us to turn in prayer to the Virgin Mary. Also in this land, our Most Holy Mother is venerated in various shrines, ancient and modern. To her I entrust all of you and the whole Sammarinese and Montefeltrina population, in a particular way persons suffering in body and spirit. At this moment I address a special thought of gratitude to all those who cooperated in the preparation and organization of my visit. My heartfelt thank you!

[In French, he said:]

I am happy to recall that today in Dax, France, Sister Marguerite Rutan, Daughter of Charity, has been proclaimed blessed. In the second half of the 18th century she worked with great commitment in the hospital in Dax, but in the tragic persecution following the Revolution, she was sentenced to death for her Catholic faith and fidelity to the Church.

I participate spiritually in the joy of the Daughters of Charity and of all the faithful who, in Dax, are taking part in the beatification of Sister Marguerite Rutan, luminous witness of the love of Christ for the poor.

[In Italian, he said:]

Finally, I wish to remind that tomorrow is World Refugee Day. On this occasion, this year we mark the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the international convention to protect those who are persecuted and forced to flee their own countries. I urge civil authorities and all people of good will to guarantee a welcome and dignified living conditions for refugees, until they can freely and safely return to their homeland.


Pope's Address to Youth of San Marino-Montefeltro
"In the Risen Lord We Have the Certainty of Our Hope"

PENNABILLI, Italy, JUNE 20, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave during an encounter with the youth of the Diocese of San Marino-Montefeltro, held Sunday in the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele of Pennabilli.

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Dear Young People!

I am very happy to be among and with you today. I feel all the joy and enthusiasm that characterizes your age. I greet and thank your Bishop Luigi Negri for his cordial words of welcome, and to your friend who made himself the interpreter of the thoughts and sentiments of you all, and who has formulated some very serious and important questions. I hope that in the course of this exposition of mine you will also find elements to obtain answers to these questions. I greet affectionately the priests, the nuns, the animators who share with you the path of faith and friendship; and, of course, also your parents, who rejoice in seeing you grow strong in goodness.

Our meeting here in Pennabilli, before this cathedral, heart of the diocese, and in this square, takes us in thought to the numerous and diverse meetings of Jesus that the Gospels narrate to us. Today I would like to recall the famous episode in which the Lord was on his way and one -- a youth -- ran to meet him and, kneeling, posed this question: "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" (Mark 10:17). Perhaps we would not say it like that today, but the sense of the question is precisely: What must I do, how must I live to really live, to find life?

Thus, in this question we can see contained the wide and varied human experience, which opens in search of the meaning and of the profound sense of life: How to live? Why live? In fact, the "eternal life" to which that youth of the Gospel makes reference does not only indicate life after death, he does not want to know only how to reach heaven. He wants to know how he must live now so that he can have eternal life. Hence, with this question the young man shows his need to have meaning, plenitude and truth as a part of his daily existence.

Man cannot live without this search for the truth about himself -- who he is and why he should live -- truth that pushes to open the horizon and go beyond the material, not to flee from reality, but to live it in a more truthful way, richer in meaning and hope, and not just in superficiality. And I think that this -- and I have seen and heard it in the words of your friend -- is also your experience. The great questions we have within us are always there, they are always reborn: Who are we? Where do we come from? What are we living for?

And these questions are the highest sign of the transcendence of the human being and of our capacity not to stay on the surface of things. And it is precisely by looking at ourselves with truth, with sincerity and with courage that we intuit not only beauty, but also the precariousness of life, and we feel dissatisfaction, a restlessness that nothing concrete is able to assuage. In the end, all promises often show themselves to be insufficient.

Dear friends, I invite you to be aware of this healthy and positive restlessness, not to fear asking yourselves the fundamental questions about the meaning and value of life. Do not be content with partial, immediate answers, certainly easier at the moment and more comfortable, which can give a moment of happiness, of exaltation, of inebriation, but which do not give the true joy of living, the one born for the one who builds -- as Jesus says -- not on sand but on solid rock. Learn therefore to reflect, to read not superficially but in profundity your human experience: you will discover with surprise and joy, that your heart is a window open to the infinite!

This is man's grandeur and also his difficulty. One of the illusions produced in the course of history is that of thinking that technical-scientific progress, in an absolute way, can give answers and solutions to all of humanity's problems. And we see that it is not like this. In reality, even if it had been possible, nothing and no one would have been able to erase the most profound questions on the meaning of life and of death, on the meaning of suffering, of everything, because these questions are inscribed in the human soul, in our heart, and they surpass the sphere of necessities. Man, also in the era of scientific and technological progress -- which has given us so much -- continues to be a being who desires more, more than comfort and well-being, he continues to be a being open to the whole truth of existence, who cannot stay with material things, but who opens to a much wider horizon.

All this you experience continually every time you ask yourselves: But why? When you contemplate a sunset, or when music moves your heart and mind; when you experience what it means to really love; when you feel strongly the sense of justice and truth, and when you also feel the lack of justice, of truth and of happiness.

Dear young people, human experience is a reality that unites us all, but to the latter several levels of meaning can be given. And it is here where one decides in what way to orient one's life and one chooses to whom to entrust it, to whom one will entrust oneself. The risk is always to remain prisoners in the world of things, of the immediate, of the relative, of the useful, losing the sensibility for what concerns our spiritual dimension. It is not at all about being contemptuous of the use of reason or of rejecting scientific progress. On the contrary, it is, rather, to understand that each one of us is not made only of an "horizontal" dimension, but also includes a "vertical" dimension. Scientific data and technological instruments cannot replace the world of life, the horizons of meaning and of liberty, the richness of relationships of friendship and love.

Dear young people, it is precisely in openness to the whole truth of ourselves and of the world where we perceive God's initiative toward us. He comes to meet every man and makes him know the mystery of his love. In the Lord Jesus, who died for us and has given us the Holy Spirit, we have also been made participants in the very life of God; we belong to the family of God. In Him, in Christ, you can find the answers to the questions that accompany your path, not in a superficial, easy way but walking with Jesus, living with Jesus. The encounter with Christ is not resolved in adherence to a doctrine, to a philosophy, but what He proposes to you is to share his very life, and thus learn to live, to learn what man is, what I am. To that youth, who asked him what he had to do to enter eternal life, namely, to really live, Jesus responds, inviting him to separate himself from his goods and adds, "Come, follow me" (Mark 10:21).

The word of Christ shows that our life finds meaning in the mystery of God, who is Love: an exacting, profound Love that goes beyond superficiality. What would become of your life without that love? God looks after man from creation to the end of time, when he will bring his plan of salvation to fulfillment. In the Risen Lord we have the certainty of our hope. Christ himself, who descended to the depths of death and is resurrected, is hope in person, is the definitive Word pronounced on our history, He is a positive word.

Do not fear to address difficult situations, moments of crisis, the trials of life, because the Lord accompanies you, he is with you. I encourage you to grow in friendship with Him through frequent reading of the Gospel and of the whole of Sacred Scripture, faithful participation in the Eucharist as personal encounter with Christ, commitment within the ecclesial community, your path with a valid spiritual guide. Transformed by the Holy Spirit you will be able to experience genuine liberty, which is so when it is oriented to the good. In this way your life, animated by a continual search for the Lord's face and by the sincere will to give yourselves, will be for many of your contemporaries a sign, an eloquent call to make the desire for plenitude that is in all of us be finally realized in the encounter with the Lord Jesus. Let the mystery of Christ illumine your whole person!

Then you will be able to bring to different environments that novelty that can change relations, institutions, structures to build a more just and solidaristic world, animated by the quest for the common good. Do not yield to individualist and egoistic logics. May you be comforted by the testimony of so many young people who have attained the end of sanctity: think of Therese of the Child Jesus, Saint Dominic Savio, Saint Maria Goretti, Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, Blessed Albert Marvelli -- who is of this land -- and so many others, unknown to us, but who lived their time in the light and strength of the Gospel and who found the answer: how to live, what I must do to live.

As conclusion to this meeting, I wish to entrust each one of you to the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church. Like her, may you be able to pronounce and renew your "yes" and always proclaim the greatness of the Lord with your life, because He gives you words of eternal life. Therefore, I encourage you dear ones, in your path of faith and Christian life. I am also always close to you and accompany you with my Blessing. Thank you for your attention!


Papal Homily at Mass in Serravalle's Olympic Stadium
"The Unity Created By Love Is a Greater Unity Than a Merely Physical One"

SERRAVALLE, San Marino, JUNE 19, 2011 - Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI delivered today during a public Mass celebrated at the Olympic Stadium of Serravalle at the beginning of his one-day trip to the Diocese of San Marino-Montefeltro.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

It is my great joy to be able to break the bread of God's Word and the Eucharist with you, and to address to you, dear people of San Marino, my most cordial greeting. A special thought goes to the Captains Regent and to the other political and civil authorities present at this Eucharistic celebration. With affection, I greet your Bishop Luigi Negri, and thank him for the kind words he addressed to me; with him, I also greet all of the priests and faithful of the Diocese of San Marino-Montefeltro. I greet each one of you and I express to you my heartfelt gratitude for the kindness and affection with which you have welcomed me.

I have come to share with you in the joys and hopes, the efforts and commitments, the ideals and aspirations of this diocesan community. I know that, also here, difficulties, problems and concerns are not lacking. I want to assure everyone of my closeness and my remembrance of you in prayer, and I unite to this my encouragement to persevere in your witness to human and Christian values, which are so profoundly rooted in the faith and history of this land and its people, with their granite-like faith, of which His Excellency spoke.

Today we celebrate the feast of the Most Holy Trinity: God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, the feast day of God -- of the center of our faith. When we think of the Trinity, the aspect of mystery most often comes to mind: they are Three and they are One, one only God in three Persons. In reality, God in His greatness cannot be other than a mystery for us, and yet He has revealed Himself: we can know Him in His Son, and so also know the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Today's liturgy instead draws our attention not so much to the mystery, as to the reality of love that is contained in this first and supreme mystery of our faith. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are one, because [they are] love, and love is the absolute life-giving force; the unity created by love is a greater unity than a merely physical one. The Father gives all to the Son, the Son receives all from the Father with gratitude; and the Holy Spirit is like the fruit of this reciprocal love of the Father and the Son.

The texts of today's Holy Mass speak of God and, therefore, speak of love. They dwell not so much upon the mystery of the three Persons, as they do upon the love which constitutes their substance and unity and trinity in the same moment.

The first passage we heard was taken from the Book of Exodus -- I looked at it in a recent Wednesday catechesis -- and it is surprising that the revelation of God's love occurs after the people have sinned gravely. The Covenant pact has just been concluded at Mount Sinai, and already the people fail in fidelity. Moses' absence lengthens, and the people say: "But where has this Moses gone, and where is his God?" And they ask Aaron to make them a god that is visible, accessible, manageable, within man's reach, instead of this invisible, distant, mysterious God. Aaron consents and fashions a golden calf. Coming down the mountain, Moses sees what has occurred and breaks the tables of the Covenant -- which is already broken, ruptured -- two stones on which were written the "Ten Words," the concrete content of their pact with God. All seems lost, the friendship, right from the beginning -- already broken.

And yet, in spite of the people's very grave sin, God -- through Moses' intercession -- decides to forgive and invites Moses to reascend the mountain to receive again His law, the Ten Commandments, and to renew the pact. Moses then asks God to reveal Himself, to let him see His face. But God does not show His face; rather, He reveals His being, filled with goodness, with these words: "The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness" (Exodus 34:8). And this is the Face of God. God's definition of Himself manifests His merciful love: a love that conquers sin, covers it, eliminates it. And we can always be secure in this goodness, which never leaves us. There can be no clearer revelation. We have a God who abandons destroying the sinner and who wants to manifest His love in a still more profound and surprising way, precisely before the sinner, in order to offer [him] the possibility of conversion and forgiveness.

The Gospel completes the revelation that we hear about in the first reading, because it indicates to what point God has shown His mercy. The Evangelist John relates this expression of Jesus: "God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish by have eternal life" (John 3:16). In the world there is evil, there is egoism, there is malice, and God could come to judge this world, to destroy evil, to castigate those who work in darkness. Instead He reveals His love for the world, His love for man, despite his sin, and He sends what is most precious to Him: His only-begotten Son. And not only does He send Him, but He makes Him a gift to the world. Jesus is the Son of God who was born for us, who lived for us, who healed the sick, forgave sins, welcomed everyone. Responding to the love that comes from the Father, the Son gave His very life for us: on the Cross God's merciful love reaches its culmination. And it is on the Cross that the Son of God obtains for us a participation in eternal life, which is communicated to us through the gift of the Holy Spirit. And so, in the mystery of the Cross, the three divine Persons are present: the Father, who gives His only-begotten Son for the salvation of the world; the Son, who carries out the Father's plan to the very end; the Holy Spirit -- poured out by Jesus at the moment of death – who comes to make us sharers in the divine life, to transform our existence, so that it might be animated by divine love.

Dear brothers and sisters! Faith in the Trinitarian God has also characterized this Church of San Marino-Montefeltro throughout the course of its ancient and glorious history. The evangelization of this land is attributed to the stonecutting Saints Marino and Leone, who in the middle of the third century after Christ, arrived in Rimini from Dalmatia. For their holiness of life, they were consecrated -- the one a priest, the other a deacon -- by Bishop Gaudentius, and they were sent by him to the inland, one to Mount Feretro, which then took the name of San Leo, and the other to Mount Titano, which then took the name San Marino. Beyond the historical matters -- which is not our task to go into -- it is worth affirming how Marino and Leo brought new perspectives and values into the context of this local reality, with faith in the God who had revealed Himself in Jesus Christ, establishing the birth of a culture and of a society centered on the human person -- the image of God, and therefore the bearer of rights that precede all human legislation. The variety of the different ethnicities -- Romans, Goths, and then Lombards -- that came in contact with them, at times in very conflicting ways, found in the common reference to the faith a potent element for ethical, cultural, social, and in some sense, political edification. It was evident to their eyes that a project for the building of civilization could not be considered complete until all of the elements constituting the people had become a living Christian community, well structured and well built upon faith in the Trinitarian God.

Rightly, therefore, can we say that the wealth of this people, your wealth, dear people of San Marino, was and is the faith, and that this faith created a truly unique society. In addition to this faith, it is also necessary to remember [San Marino's] absolute fidelity to the Bishop of Rome, to whom this Church has always looked with devotion and affection, as well as its attention to the great tradition of the Eastern Church, and its profound devotion to the Virgin Mary.

You are rightly proud and grateful for all the Holy Spirit has accomplished down the centuries in your Church. But you also know that the best way to appreciate an inheritance is by cultivating and enriching it. In reality, you are called to develop this precious deposit in one of the most decisive moments in history. Today, your mission is met by the necessity of confronting profound and rapid cultural, social, economic, and political changes that have determined new trends and modified mentalities, customs and sensibilities. Also here, in fact, as elsewhere, difficulties and obstacles are not wanting, due above all to hedonistic models that darken the mind and risk annihilating morality altogether. The temptation has crept in to hold that a man's wealth is not the faith, but his personal and social power, his intelligence, his culture and his ability to scientifically, technologically and socially manipulate reality. And so, also in these lands, some have begun to substitute the faith and Christian values with presumed riches that, in the end, reveal their emptiness and their inability to hold up to the great promise of the true, the good, the beautiful and the just which, for centuries, your ancestors identified with the experience of the faith.

We should not forget, then, the crisis of not a few families, which is aggravated by the widespread psychological and spiritual frailty of married couples, as well as the hardships experienced by many educators in obtaining formative continuity for the young who are conditioned by many uncertainties, first among them [the uncertainty of] their role in society and of the possibility of work.

Dear friends! I am well aware of the commitment of each element of this particular Church to promoting the Christian life in its various aspects. I exhort all of the faithful to be as leaven in the world, showing yourselves -- whether in Montefeltro or in San Marino -- as Christians who are present, resourceful and coherent. May priests, and men and women religious, always live in heartfelt and effective ecclesial communion by helping and listening to their diocesan pastor. The urgency of a renewal in vocations to the priesthood and to special consecration makes itself felt also among you: I make an appeal to families and to young people, to open their souls to a ready response to the Lord's call. You will never regret being generous with God!

To you laity, I urge you to actively commit yourselves within the community, so that, in addition to your particular civil, political, social and cultural tasks, you will be able to find time and availability for the life of faith, for the pastoral life. Dear people of San Marino! May you remain firmly faithful to the patrimony constructed down the centuries through the impetus of your great patrons, Marino and Leone. I invoke God's blessing upon your path today and your path tomorrow, and I entrust all of you "to the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit" (2 Corinthians 13:11). Amen!


Benedict XVI's Address to Politicians in San Marino
"Build a Community Founded on Shared Values"

SAN MARINO, San Marino, JUNE 19, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today at a meeting with government authorities, elected officials and the diplomatic corps at the Public Palace of San Marino. Maria Luisa Berti and Filippo Tamagnini, the two heads of government, called the captains regent, were also present.

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Most Serene Captains Regent,
Illustrious Gentlemen and Ladies!

My heartfelt gratitude for your hospitality, in particular I express my gratitude to the captains regent, also for the courteous words they addressed to me. I greet the members of the government and of the Congress, as well as the diplomatic corps and all the other authorities gathered here. In addressing you, I embrace ideally the whole people of San Marino. From its birth, this republic has had friendly relations with the Apostolic See, and in recent times they have been intensified and consolidated; my presence here, in the heart of this ancient republic, expresses and confirms this friendship.

More than 17 centuries ago, a group of faithful, won over to the Gospel by the preaching of Deacon Marin and his witness of holiness, gathered around him to give life to a new community. Continuing with this valuable heritage, the people of San Marino remained always faithful to the values of the Christian faith, firmly anchoring to them their own peaceful coexistence, according to criteria of democracy and solidarity. Down through the centuries, your ancestors were aware of these Christian roots and were able to make fruitful the great moral and cultural patrimony they had received, giving life to an industrious and free people. Despite the exiguity of the territory, [San Marino] has not failed to offer the bordering populations of the Italian peninsula and to the whole world a particular contribution of civilization, marked by peaceful coexistence and mutual respect.

Addressing you today, I rejoice to see your attachment to this patrimony of values and I exhort you to preserve and appreciate it, because it is at the foundation of your most profound identity, an identity that asks to be fully assumed by the people and institutions of San Marino. Thanks to it, a society can be built that is attentive to the true good of the human person, to dignity and liberty, and capable of safeguarding the right of all peoples to live in peace.

These are the foundations of a healthy laicism, within which civil institutions must act with a constant commitment to the defense of the common good. The Church, respectful of the legitimate autonomy that civil authority must enjoy, collaborates with it, at the service of humanity, in the defense of humanity's fundamental rights, of those ethical instances that are inscribed in his very nature. Because of this, the Church is committed to legislation that always promotes and protects human life from conception to its natural end.

Moreover, it requests due recognition and active support for the family. In fact, we know how the family institution is currently being called into question, as if in an attempt to ignore its inalienable value. Those who suffer the consequences [of these efforts] are the weakest social groups, especially the young generations, who are more vulnerable and thus easily exposed to disorientation, to situations of self-marginalization and to the slavery of addictions. Education institutions often seek to give young people adequate answers, and see the diminishing support of the family as an obstacle to normal integration into the social fabric. Because of this, it is importance to recognize that the family, just as God has constituted it, is the main institution that can foster harmonious growth and the maturity that makes individuals free and responsible, formed in deep and perennial values.

In the predicament of economic difficulties in the Italian and international context, which also affects the San Marino community, I wish my words to be of encouragement. We know that the years following the Second World War were a time of economic restrictions, which obliged thousands of your fellow citizens to emigrate. Then a period of prosperity arrived, in the wake of developing the industries of trade and tourism, especially in that type of summer enjoyed so close to the Adriatic coast.

During this phase of relative abundance there was a certain loss of the Christian sense of life and of fundamental values. However, the San Marino society manifests again a good vitality and conserves its best energies, proof of this are the many charitable and voluntary initiatives to which numerous fellow citizens of yours are dedicated. I would like to recall also the numerous San Marino missionaries, lay and religious, who in the last decades have left this land to take the Gospel of Christ to various parts of the world. Not lacking, hence, are the positive forces that enable your community to address and overcome the present situation of difficulty. To this end, I hope that the question of border workers, who see their own occupation endangered, will be able to be resolved taking into account the right to work and to the protection of families.

Also in the Republic of San Marino, the present crisis leads to a need to plan for the future, and it becomes a moment for discernment (cf. Encyclical Caritas in Veritate, 21); in fact, it puts the entire social fabric before the impelling need to address the problems with courage and a sense of responsibility, with generosity and dedication, making reference to that love of liberty that distinguishes your people. In this regard, I would like to repeat the words addressed by Blessed John XIII to the Regents of the Republic of San Marino during an official visit to the Holy See: "The love of liberty," said my Predecessor, "boasts exquisitely among your Christian roots and your ancestors, picking up their true meaning, taught you not to ever separate their name from that of God, who is its irreplaceable foundation" (Addresses, Messages, Conversations of the Holy Father John XIII, I, 341-343: AAS 60 [1959], 423-424.

This warning maintains its everlasting value still today: the liberty that institutions are called to promote and defend at the social level is manifested more profoundly by the Spirit of God, whose life-giving presence in the human heart gives the ability to [individuals to] direct themselves toward and dedicate themselves to the good. As the Apostle Paul affirms: "for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13). And St. Augustine, commenting this passage, stresses: "It is true that we are the ones who will when we will, but He is the one to make us will the good." It is God, he says, adding, "The steps of man will be directed by the Lord, and man will want to follow his way" (De gratia et libero arbitrio, 16, 32).

Hence to you, illustrious gentlemen and ladies, is the task to build the earthly city in the due autonomy and respect of those human and spiritual principles to which every individual citizen is called to adhere with all the responsibility of his own personal conscience and, at the same time, the duty to continue to operate actively to build a community founded on shared values.

Most serene captains regent illustrious authorities of the Republic of San Marino, I express from my heart that your whole community, in the shared civil values and with their specific cultural and religious peculiarities, will be able to write a new and noble page of history and become ever more a land in which solidarity and peace prosper. With these sentiments I entrust this beloved people to the maternal intercession of Our Lady of Graces and I invoke from my heart on all and each one the apostolic blessing.


On Elijah's Lessons in Prayer
"True Adoration of God Does Not Destroy, But Renews"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 15, 2011 - Here is a translation of the Italian-language catechesis Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience held in St. Peter's Square. The Pope continued with his new series of catecheses on prayer, reflecting today on prayer in sacred Scripture, in particular on the prayer of the Prophet Elijah.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

In the religious history of ancient Israel, great importance was given to the prophets, to their teaching and their preaching. Among them, there emerges the figure of Elijah, who was raised up by God in order to lead the people to conversion. His name means "the Lord is my God," and it is in accord with this name that his life unfolds -- [a life] totally consecrated to bringing about in the people the acknowledgement of the Lord as the one God. Sirach says of Elijah: "Then the prophet Elijah arose like a fire, and his word burned like a torch" (Sirach 48:1). By this flame, Israel rediscovers its way to God.

In his ministry, Elijah prays: He asks the Lord to bring back to life the son of a widow who had given him lodging (cf. 1 Kings 17:17-24); he cries out to God in weariness and distress as he flees for his life into the desert, pursued by queen Jezebel (cf. 1 Kings 19:1-4); but it is above all on Mount Carmel that he shows himself in all his power as intercessor when, before all of Israel, he begs the Lord to reveal Himself and to convert the people's hearts. It is this episode, recounted in Chapter 18 of the First Book of Kings, that we pause to consider today.

We are in the Northern Kingdom, in the 9th century B.C., at the time of King Ahab, in a moment when, in Israel, a situation of open syncretism had developed. In addition to the Lord, the people also adored Baal, the reassuring idol from which they believed came the gift of rain, and to whom they therefore attributed the power of giving fruitfulness to the fields and life to men and livestock alike. Although they claimed to follow the Lord, the invisible and mysterious God, the people also sought security in a comprehensible and predictable god, from which they thought they could obtain fecundity and prosperity in exchange for sacrifice. Israel was yielding to the seduction of idolatry -- a continual temptation for the believer -- by fooling itself into thinking it could "serve two masters" (cf. Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:13) and ease the impenetrable ways of faith in the Almighty by also placing its trust in a powerless god fashioned by man.

It is precisely in order to unmask the deceptive foolishness of such an attitude that Elijah has the people of Israel gather on Mount Carmel and puts before them the necessity of making a choice: "If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him" (1 Kings 18:21). And the prophet, the bearer of God's love, does not leave his people alone before this choice, but helps them by pointing out [to them] the sign that will reveal the truth: Both he and the prophets of Baal will prepare a sacrifice and will pray, and the true God will reveal himself by responding with the fire that will consume the offering. Thus begins the confrontation between the Prophet Elijah and the followers of Baal, which in reality is between the Lord of Israel, the God of salvation and of life, and a mute and empty idol that can do nothing, neither good nor evil (cf. Jeremiah 10:5). There also begins the confrontation between two completely different ways of turning to God and ways of prayer.

The prophets of Baal in fact cry aloud, stir themselves up, dance limping about, and enter into a state of excitement that culminates in them cutting their own bodies "with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them" (1 Kings 18:28). They turn to themselves in order to approach their god, relying on their own abilities to bring about a response. The idol's deceptive reality is thus revealed: Man thinks of it as something that can be regulated, [something] that can be managed with one's own strength, that can be accessed on the basis of oneself and one's own vital forces. The adoration of an idol, instead of opening the human heart to the Other, and to a freeing relationship that allows one to leave egoism's narrow confines in order to enter the dimensions of love and reciprocal gift, closes the human person up within the exclusive and desperate circle of self seeking. And the deception is such that, in adoring the idol, man finds himself forced to resort to extreme acts in the illusory attempt to subject it to his own will. For this reason, the prophets of Baal reach the point of even doing themselves harm, of inflicting themselves with wounds, in a dramatically ironic gesture: In order to get a response, some sign of life from their god, they cover themselves in blood, thereby symbolically covering themselves in death.

Elijah's attitude to prayer is quite other. He asks the people to come near, thereby involving them in his action and in his petition. The goal of the challenge he posed to the prophets of Baal was to bring back to God the people who had gone astray by following idols; he therefore wants Israel to unite itself to him, and to thereby become a participant and protagonist in his prayer and in all that is happening. Then the prophet erects an altar, making use of -- as the text says -- "twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord came, saying, 'Israel shall be your name'" (verse 31). These stones represent all Israel and are the tangible memorial of its history of election, of predilection and of salvation of which the people were the object.

Elijah's liturgical action has a decisive impact: The altar is the sacred place that indicates the Lord's presence, but the stones that form it represent the people, who now, through the prophet's mediation, are symbolically placed before God, becoming an "altar," the place of offering and of sacrifice.

But it is necessary that the symbol become a reality, that Israel acknowledge the true God and rediscover its own identity as the Lord's own people. For this reason, Elijah asks the Lord to reveal Himself, and the twelve stones intended to remind Israel of its own truth also serve to remind the Lord of His fidelity, which the prophet appeals to in prayer. The words of his invocation are dense in meaning and in faith: "O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that thou, O Lord, art God, and that thou hast turned their hearts back" (verses 36-37; cf. Genesis 32:36-37).

Elijah turns to the Lord, calling Him God of the Fathers; he thus makes implicit reference to the divine promises and to the history of election and covenant that indissolubly united the Lord to His people. God's involvement in mankind's history is such that His Name is now inseparably connected with those of the Patriarchs, and the prophet pronounces that holy Name so that God might remember and reveal His fidelity; but he also does this in order that Israel might hear itself called by name and rediscover its own faithfulness. But Elijah's pronouncement of the divine title appears a bit surprising. Instead of using the usual formula, "God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob," he employs a less common appellative: "God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Israel." The substitution of the Name "Jacob" with "Israel" evokes Jacob's struggle at the ford of the Jabbok along with the name change to which the narrator makes explicit reference (cf. Genesis 32:21) and which I spoke about in one of the most recent catecheses. This substitution becomes pregnant with meaning within the context of Elijah's invocation. The prophet is praying for the people of the Northern Kingdom, which was called Israel, as distinct from Judah, which indicated the Southern Kingdom. And now, this people, who seem to have forgotten their own origins and their own privileged relationship with the Lord, hear themselves called by name, as the Name of God -- God of the Patriarch and God of the people -- is also pronounced: "Lord, God [ … ] of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel."

The people for whom Elijah prays is placed once again before its own truth, and the prophet asks that the Lord's truth also be revealed, and that He intervene in Israel's conversion by turning it away from the deception of idolatry, thus bringing it to salvation. His request is that the people finally know -- and know in fullness -- who truly is their God, and that they make the decisive choice to follow Him alone, the true God. For only in this way is God acknowledged as He truly is – Absolute and Transcendent -- without the possibility of putting him next to other gods, which would deny Him as the Absolute by relativizing Him. This is the faith that makes Israel God's people; it is the faith proclaimed in the well known text of the Shema'Israel: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might" (Deuteronomy 6:4-5). To God's absolute, the believer must respond with an absolute, total love that commits his entire life, his strength, his heart. And by his prayer, the prophet begs conversion precisely for his people's hearts: "that this people may know that thou, O Lord, art God, and that thou hast turned their hearts back!" (1 Kings 18:37). By his intercession, Elijah asks of God what God himself desires to do -- reveal Himself in all His mercy, faithful to His own reality as the Lord of life who forgives, converts and transforms.

And so it happens: "Then the fire of the Lord fell, and consumed the burnt offering, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, 'The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God'" (verses 38-39). Fire, this element at the same time so necessary and so terrible, which is tied to the divine manifestations of the burning bush and of Sinai, now serves to signal the love of God that responds to prayer and reveals itself to His people. Baal, the mute and powerless god, failed to respond to his prophets' invocations. It was the Lord who responded, and in an unequivocal way, not only by burning the holocaust, but even by drying up all of the water that had been poured out around the altar. Israel can no longer doubt; divine mercy has come to meet them in their weakness, in their doubt, in their lack of faith. Now, Baal the vain idol is conquered, and the people, who seemed lost, rediscover the path of truth and rediscover themselves.

Dear brothers and sisters, what does this history of the past have to say to us? What is this history's present? What is in question here first and foremost is the priority of the first commandment: to adore God alone. Where God disappears, man falls into the slavery of idolatry, as the totalitarian regimes of our own time have demonstrated, along with the various forms of nihilism that make man dependent upon idols, upon idolatry -- they enslave him. Second: the primary end of prayer is conversion: the fire of God transforms our hearts and makes us capable of seeing God, of living according to God and of living for the other. And the third point: The Fathers tell us that this history of a prophet is also prophetic, if -- they say -- it foreshadows the future, the future Christ, it is a step on the path to Christ. And they tell us that here we see the true fire of God: the love that leads the Lord all the way to the Cross, to the total gift of Himself. True adoration of God, then, is to give oneself to God and to men -- true adoration is love. And true adoration of God does not destroy, but renews. Certainly, the fire of God, the fire of love burns, transforms, purifies, but it is precisely in this way that it does not destroy but rather creates the truth of our being, recreates our hearts. And thus, truly alive by the grace of the fire of the Holy Spirit, of God's love, may we be adorers in spirit and in truth. Thank you.

[Translation by Diane Montagna]

[The Holy Father then greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our continuing catechesis on Christian prayer, we now turn to the prophet Elijah as a model of intercessory prayer. At a time when the kingdom of Israel saw the spread of Baal-worship and syncretism, Elijah invited the people to renew their covenant with the Lord and to reject every form of idolatry. In the episode of his contest with the priests of Baal on Mount Carmel (cf. 1 Kg 18), he calls upon Israel to choose the Lord and prays for their conversion of heart. What is more, he urges the people themselves to draw near and share in his prayer. In response to Elijah’s prayer, God reveals his fidelity, mercy and saving power through the consuming fire sent down from heaven. He also enables the people to turn back to him and to reaffirm the covenant made with their fathers. As we look to Elijah’s example, let us be ever more convinced of the power of intercessory prayer, so that we can help all people to know the one true God, to turn away from every form of idolatry, and to receive the grace offered to us on the wood of the Cross and in the fire of the Holy Spirit.

I welcome the members of the Catholic-Pentecostal International Dialogue and I offer prayerful good wishes for the next phase of their work. I also welcome the Fiftieth Conference of the International Association of Schools and Institutes of Administration, now meeting in Rome. I thank the choirs, and particularly the University Choir from Indonesia, for their praise of God in song. Finally, I greet the delegates to the General Chapter of the Congregation of the Resurrection. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims, especially those from the Philippines, Canada and the United States, I invoke the Lord’s blessings of joy and peace.

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pope's Address to Roman Ecclesial Congress
"May There Be a Growing Commitment to a Renewed Season of Evangelization"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 14, 2011 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Monday in the Basilica of St. John Lateran at the opening of the 2011 Diocesan Convention (13-16 June), which concludes the pastoral year of the Diocese of Rome.

The theme of the Convention this year is: "When they heard this they were cut to the heart" (Acts 2:37), while "The Joy of Nurturing Faith in the Church of Rome (13-16 June 2011) is the theme of the latest stage in the Diocese's pastoral reflection.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Our hearts filled with gratitude to the Lord, we are meeting in this Basilica of St John Lateran for the opening of the annual Diocesan Convention. Let us give thanks to God who this evening permits us to have an experience of the first Christian community whose members "were of one heart and soul" (Acts 4:32). I thank the Cardinal Vicar for the words he has so courteously addressed to me on behalf of all. I offer each one of you my most cordial greeting, assuring you of my prayers for you yourselves and for those of you who are unable to be here to share in this important stage in the life of our Diocese, and in particular for those who are going through moments of physical or spiritual suffering.

I learned with pleasure that in this pastoral year you began to put into practice the instructions that resulted from last year's Convention. I trust that in the future too every community, especially parish communities, will persevere, with the help offered by the Diocese, in its commitment to have a special regard for the Eucharistic celebration -- particularly on Sundays -- by preparing pastoral workers properly and by striving to ensure that the Mystery of the Altar is lived increasingly as a source from which to draw strength for a more effective witness of charity that will renew the social fabric of our city.

The theme of this new stage in your pastoral verification, "The Joy of Nurturing Christian faith in the Church of Rome -- Christian Initiation," will fit in with the process that has already been completed. Indeed, for many years now our Diocese has been committed to reflecting on the transmission of faith. I remember that in this very Basilica, in an intervention during the Synod for Rome, I quoted a few words that Hans Urs von Balthasar wrote to me in a short letter: "Faith must never be presupposed but proposed." This is just how it is. Faith is not kept by itself in the world, it is not automatically passed on to the human heart, but must always be proclaimed.

Moreover if the proclamation of faith is to be effective it must stem in turn from a heart that believes and loves, a heart that adores Christ and believes in the power of the Holy Spirit! This is what happened from the outset, as the biblical episode chosen to illuminate the pastoral verification reminds us. It is taken from chapter 2 of the Acts of the Apostles in which St Luke, immediately after recounting the event of the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, presents the first discourse that St Peter addressed to everyone. The profession of faith placed at the end of the discourse -- "God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified" (Acts 2:36) -- is the happy announcement which for centuries the Church has not ceased to repeat to every human being.

When they heard this proclamation -- we read in the Acts of the Apostles -- "they were cut to the heart" (2:37). This reaction was certainly brought into being by God's grace: they all realized that this proclamation fulfilled the promises and made them all desire conversion and forgiveness for their sins. Peter's words were not limited to merely announcing the events but revealed their meaning, connecting what happened to Jesus with God's promises, with the expectations of Israel and hence with those of every man and woman. The people of Jerusalem realized that Jesus' resurrection could illuminate human existence. And, in fact, this event gave rise to a new understanding of human dignity and of the eternal destiny of human beings, of the relationship between man and woman, of the ultimate meaning of suffering and of the commitment to building society. The response of faith is born when the person discovers, through God's grace, that believing means finding true life, "full life."

St. Hilary of Poitiers, one of the great Fathers of the Church, wrote that he became a believer when he understood, in listening to the Gospel, that for a truly happy life both the possession and the tranquil enjoyment of things were insufficient and that there was something more important and precious: the knowledge of the truth and the fullness of the love given by Christ (cf. "De Trinitate," 1,2).

Dear friends, the Church, each one of us, must bring to the world this joyful news that Jesus is Lord, the One in whom God's closeness and love for every individual man and woman, and for humanity in its entirety, was made flesh. This proclamation must ring out anew in the regions that have an ancient Christian tradition. Bl. John Paul II spoke of the need for a new evangelization addressed to all those who, although they have heard talk of the faith, no longer appreciate, no longer know the beauty of Christianity; on the contrary, at times they even view it as an obstacle to achieving happiness. Therefore today I would like to repeat what I said to the young people at the World Youth Day in Cologne: "Dear young people, the happiness you are seeking, the happiness you have a right to enjoy has a name and a face: it is Jesus of Nazareth, hidden in the Eucharist!"

If people forget God it is partly because the Person of Jesus is often reduced to that of the figure of a wise man and his divinity weakened, if not denied. This manner of thinking is an obstacle to understanding the radical newness of Christianity, because if Jesus were not the Only Son of the Father then God did not come to visit human history either. We only have human ideas about God. The incarnation, on the other hand, belongs to the heart of the Gospel! Therefore may there be a growing commitment to a renewed season of evangelization, which is not only the task of some of the members of the Church but rather of them all. Evangelization tells us that God is close: God has shown himself to us. In this period of history, is this not the mission that the Lord entrusts to us: to proclaim the newness of the Gospel, like Peter and Paul when they reached our city? Should we not today too show the beauty and reasonableness of faith, carry God's light to the people of our time, with courage, with conviction, with joy?

There are many people who have not encountered the Lord: special pastoral care should be dedicated to them. Beside the children and young people of Christian families who ask to begin the process of Christian initiation, there are adults who have not received Baptism or who have drifted away from the faith and from the Church. This pastoral attention is especially urgent today and asks us to commit ourselves with confidence, sustained by the certainty that God's grace works in the human heart today too. Every year I myself have the joy of baptizing several young people and adults at the Easter Vigil and of incorporating them in the body of Christ, in communion with the Lord, and thus in communion with God's love.

However, who is the messenger of this joyful proclamation? Certainly every baptized person. Especially parents, whose task it is to ask for baptism for their children. How great is this gift which the liturgy calls the gateway to our salvation, the beginning of life in Christ, the source of new humanity (cf. Preface of Baptism)! All fathers and mothers are called to cooperate with God in the transmission of the inestimable gift of life and also to make known the One who is Life. And life is not really transmitted if one does not know the foundation and the perennial source of life as well.

Dear parents, the Church, as a loving mother, wishes to support you in your fundamental task. Children stand in need of God from an early age, because people need God from the beginning and have the ability to perceive his greatness, they know how to appreciate the value of prayer -- to speak to this God -- and the rites and thus how to discern the difference between good and evil. May you therefore be able to guide them, accompanying them in the faith, in this knowledge of God, in this friendship with God, and in this knowledge of the difference between good and evil, accompany them in faith from the most tender age.

And how is it possible to cultivate the seed of eternal life as the child gradually grows up? St. Cyprian reminds us: "No one can have God as Father unless they have the Church as Mother." And this is why we do not say "my Father," but "Our Father," because it is only in the "we" of the Church, of the brothers and sisters, that we are children. The Christian community has always accompanied the formation of children and young people, not only helping them to understand intelligently the truths of faith, but also to live experiences of prayer, charity and brotherhood. The word of faith risks remaining mute if it does not find a community that puts it into practice, making it lively and attractive, as an experience of the reality of the true life.

Still today, the after-school prayer and recreation centers, the summer camps and small and important experiences of service are a precious help to adolescents who are undertaking the process of Christian initiation in order to develop a consistent commitment to life. I therefore encourage them to take this path, which leads to discovery of the Gospel, not as a utopia but as the full form of life. All this should be proposed in particular to those who are preparing to receive the sacrament of Confirmation, so that the gift of the Holy Spirit may strengthen the joy of being generated as children of God. I therefore invite you to dedicate yourselves enthusiastically to the rediscovery of this sacrament so that those who are already baptized may receive the seal of the faith as a gift from God and fully become witnesses of Christ.

For all this to prove effective and fruitful, knowledge of Jesus must develop and must be extended beyond the celebration of the sacraments. This is the task of catechesis, as Bl. John Paul II recalled: "The specific character of catechesis, as distinct from the initial conversion -- bringing proclamation of the Gospel, has the twofold objective of maturing the initial faith and of educating the true disciple of Christ by means of a deeper and more systematic knowledge of the person and the message of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Apostolic Exhortation "Catechesi Tradendae," No. 19). Catechesis is an ecclesial action and it is therefore necessary that catechists teach and witness to the faith of the Church and do not give their own interpretation of it. For this very reason the Catechism of the Catholic Church was compiled. This evening I present it in spirit to all of you anew so that the Church of Rome may be committed with fresh joy to educating in the faith. The structure of the Catechism derives from the experience of the catechumenate in the early Church and takes up the fundamental elements that make a person Christian: faith, the sacraments, the commandments, the "Our Father."

For all these reasons it is necessary to teach silence and interiority. I trust that in the parishes of Rome the itineraries of Christian initiation will teach prayer so that it may permeate life and help people discover the Truth that dwells in our hearts. And we really find it in personal conversation with God. Fidelity to the faith of the Church, then, must be conjugated with a "creative catechetics" which will take into account the context, culture and age of those to whom it is addressed. The patrimony of history and art that Rome preserves is a further way in which to bring people close to faith: many things speak to us of the reality of faith here in Rome. I invite you all to make the most in catechesis of this "path of beauty" which leads to the One who, according to St Augustine, is Beauty, so ancient and yet ever new.

Dear brothers and sisters, I would like to thank you for your generous and invaluable service in this fascinating work of evangelization and catechesis. Do not be afraid to commit yourselves to the Gospel! Despite the difficulties you will encounter in reconciling the requirements of the family and of work with those of the community in which you are carrying out your mission, always trust in the help of the Virgin Mary, Star of Evangelization. Even Bl. John Paul ii, who did his utmost to the very end to proclaim the Gospel in our city and had a special soft spot for young people, intercedes for us with the Father. As I assure you of my constant prayers, I warmly impart to all of you the Apostolic Blessing.

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Benedict XVI's Audience With Gypsy Pilgrim Group
"May Your People Never Again Be the Object of ... Contempt"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 13, 2011 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered Saturday upon receiving some 2,000 gypsies in audience in Paul VI Hall.

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Venerable Brothers,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

O Del si tumentsa! [The Lord be with you]

It gives me great joy to meet you and to offer you a warm welcome on the occasion of your pilgrimage to the Apostle Peter's tomb. I thank Archbishop Antonio Maria Vegliò, president of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, for his words also on your behalf and for organizing the event. I also extend the expression of my gratitude to the Migrantes Foundation of the Italian Episcopal Conference, to the Diocese of Rome and to the Sant'Egidio Community for their collaboration with this pilgrimage and for all they do every day for your acceptance and integration. I extend a special "thank you" to you, who have offered your truly significant accounts.

You have come here to Rome from every part of Europe to express your faith and your love for Christ and for the Church — which is a home to you all — and for the Pope.

The Servant of God Paul VI addressed these unforgettable words to Gypsies in 1965: "In the Church you are not on the fringes of society but in some respects in its centre, in its heart. You are in the heart of the Church". Today too I repeat with affection: you are in the Church! You are a beloved portion of the pilgrim People of God and remind us that here "we have no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come" (Heb 13:14). The message of salvation also reached you and you responded to it with faith and hope enriching the ecclesial community with gypsy lay believers, priests, deacons and religious.

Your people has given the Church Bl. Ceferino Giminéz Malla, the 150th anniversary of whose birth and the 75th anniversray of whose martyrdom we are celebrating. Friendship with he Lord made this martyr a genuine witness of faith and charity. Bl. Ceferino loved the Church with the same intensity as that with which he adored God and discovered his presence in every person and in every event. As a Third Order Franciscan, he stayed faithful to his gypsy existence, to the history and identity of his race.

Having married in accordance with the gypsy tradition, he decided together with his wife to validate the bond in the Church with the Sacrament of Marriage. His deep religious sense was expressed in his daily participation in Holy Mass and in the recitation of the Rosary. The rosary beads themselves, which he always kept in his pocket became the cause of his arrest and made Bl. Ceferino an authentic "martyr of the Rosary" because he did not let anyone take the rosary from him, not even when he was at the point of death. Today Bl. Ceferino invites us to follow his example and shows us the way: dedication to prayer and in particular to the Rosary, love for the Eucharist and for the other sacraments, the observance of the commandments, honesty, charity and generosity to our neighbor, especially the poor; all this will strengthen you in the face of the risk that sects may endanger your communion with the Church.

Your history is complex and in some periods, painful. You are a people who in past centuries did not live out nationalistic ideologies nor aspire to possess land or dominate other peoples. You were left without a homeland and, in spirit, you considered the entire continent your home. However, serious and disturbing problems persist, such as the frequently difficult relations you have with the societies in which you live. Unfortunately down through the centuries you have tasted the bitterness of inhospitality and at times, persecution, as occurred during the Second World War: thousands of women, men and children were barbarously killed in extermination camps. As you say, it was the Porrájmos, the "Great Devouring", a tragedy still little known and whose proportions are difficult to gauge, but which your families bear impressed on their hearts. During my visit to the concentration camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau on 28 May 2006, I prayed for the victims of persecution and bowed before the stone slab engraved, in the romanes tongue, with the names of your dead. The European conscience cannot forget so much suffering! May your people never again be the object of harassment, rejection and contempt! On your part, always seek justice, legality, reconciliation and do your utmost never to be the cause of others' suffering!

Today, thanks be to God, the situation is changing: new opportunities are unfolding before you while you are acquiring new awareness. As time has passed you have created a culture with important expressions, such as the music and song which have enriched Europe. Many races are no longer nomadic, but seek stability with new expectations as they face life. The Church walks with you and invites you to live in accordance with the demanding requirements of the Gospel, trusting in the power of Christ, towards a better future.

Even Europe, which is reducing its boundaries and considers the diversity of peoples and cultures a treasure, is offering you new possibilities. I ask you, dear friends, to write together a new page of history for your people and for Europe! The search for housing and dignified work and education for your children are the foundations on which to build that integration of which you and the whole of society will benefit. You too offer your effective and loyal collaboration so that your families may fit into the civil fabric of Europe with dignity! Many of your children and your young people wish to be educated and to live with and like others. I see them with special affection, convinced that your children are entitled to a better life. May their good be your greatest aspiration! Preserve the dignity and value of your families, little domestic churches, so that they may be true schools of humanity (cf. Gaudium et Spes, No. 52). The institutions, for their part, should do all they can to offer this process adequate guidance.

Lastly, you too are called to participate actively in the Church's evangelizing mission, promoting pastoral activity in your communities. The presence among you of priests, deacons and consecrated people, who belong to your races, is a gift from God and a positive sign of the dialogue between the local Churches and your people, necessary to sustain and to develop. Trust these brothers and sisters of yours and listen to them, and with them offer the consistent and joyful proclamation of God's love for the gypsy people, as for all the peoples! The Church wants men and women to see themselves as children of the same Father and members of the same human family.

We are on the eve of Pentecost, when the Lord poured you his Spirit upon the Apostles who began to proclaim the Gospel in the languages of all the peoples. May the Holy Spirit lavish an abundance of his gifts upon you all, upon your families and upon your communities scattered across the world, and make your generous witnesses of the Risen Christ. May Mary Most Holy, so dear to your people and whom you invoke as "Amari Devleskeridej", "Our Mother of God", accompany you on the highways of the world and may Bl. Ceferino support you with his intercession.

I warmly thank you all for coming here to the See of Peter to express your faith and love for the Church and for the Pope. May Bl. Ceferino always be for you an example of a life lived for Christ and for the Church, in observing the commandments and in love for your neighbor. The Pope is close to each one of you and remembers you in his prayers. May the Lord bless you, your communities, your families and your future. May the Lord give your good health and good fortune! Stay with God!

Thank you! And a good Pentecost to you all!

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Papal Address to Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy
"Loyalty, Coherence and Profound Humanity Are the Essential Virtues of Any Envoy"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 13, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Friday upon receiving in audience members of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy. The academy is responsible for training candidates for the Holy See diplomatic service.

* * *

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear Priests,

I am happy to meet again this year with the students and community of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy. I extend my greetings to the president, Archbishop Beniamino Stella, and I thank him for the kind words with which he communicated your sentiments. I greet you all affectionately, who are preparing to exercise a particular ministry in the Church.

Pontifical diplomacy, as it is commonly called, has a very long tradition and its activities have contributed in no small part to shaping the very face of modern diplomatic relations between States. In the traditional conception, already found in the ancient world, the envoy -- the ambassador -- is essentially the one appointed to bear in an authoritative manner the word of the sovereign, and subsequently, can act as his representative and negotiate in his name. The solemnity of the ceremony, the honors rendered traditionally to the person of the envoy, which have also assumed a religious character, are in reality a tribute to the representative, and to the message he relays. On the part of a sovereign authority, respect for the envoy is one of the highest forms of recognizing the right of others to exist on a plane of equal dignity.

Hence, to receive an envoy as interlocutor, to receive the word, means to lay the foundation for the possibility of a peaceful coexistence. It is a delicate role that exacts, on the part of the envoy, the capacity to communicate the message in such as way so that it is at the same time faithful and as respectful as possible of the sensitivities and opinions of others, and effective. Herein lies the real skill of the diplomat, and not in the astuteness or other behaviors that represent above all the degeneration of the diplomatic practice. Loyalty, coherence and profound humanity are the essential virtues of any envoy, who is called to put not only his own work and qualities, but in some way, his entire self at the service of a word that is not his.

The rapid transformations of our age have profoundly reconfigured the figure and role of diplomatic representatives; however, their mission is the same: that of being the means of a correct communication among those who exercise the function of government and, consequently, instrument of construction of the communion possible between peoples and of the consolidation among them of peaceful and solidaristic relations.

In all this, how is the person and action of the Holy See diplomat placed, who obviously presents totally particular aspects? As has been pointed out many times, he is a priest first, a bishop. Hence, a man who has chosen to live at the service of a Word that is not his own. In fact, he is a servant of the Word of God who, like every priest, has received a mission that cannot be carried out part time but that requires him to be, with his entire life, an echo of the message that has been entrusted to him, the Gospel message. It is precisely on the basis of this priestly identity, very clearly and deeply lived, that one is called to adopt, with a certain naturalness, this specific task of being the bearer of the word of the Pope; called to bring the universal horizon of his ministry and his pastoral charity to the particular churches and the institutions in which his sovereignty is legitimately exercised in the state sphere or that of international organizations.

In the exercise of such a delicate ministry, the care of one's own spiritual life, the practice of human virtues, and the formation of a solid culture are interwoven and mutually sustained. They are dimensions that allow one to maintain a deep inner balance in a work that requires, among other things, the capacity of openness to others, an equanimity of judgment, a critical distance from personal opinions, sacrifice, patience, constancy, and, at times, even firmness in the dialogue with others.

Moreover, service to the person of the Successor of Peter, whom Christ constituted as principle and perpetual and visible foundation of the unity of the faith and of communion (cf. Vatican Council I, "Pastor Aeternus," Denz. 1821 (3051); Vatican Council II, "Lumen Gentium," No. 18), allows one to live in constant and profound reference to the catholicity of the Church. Where there is openness to the objectivity of catholicity, there also exists a principle of true personalization: a life dedicated to the service of the Pope and ecclesial communion is, in this sense, extremely enriching.

Dear students of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, in sharing these thoughts with you, I exhort you to commit yourselves totally to the path of your formation; and, at this moment, I remember, with particular gratitude, the nuncios, apostolic delegates, permanent observers and all those who lend their service in the Pontifical representations scattered throughout the world. I willingly impart to you, to the president, to his collaborators and to the community of the Franciscan Missionaries of the Child Jesus, the apostolic blessing.


The Church's Baptism Day
"The Breath of the Holy Spirit Fills the Universe"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 12, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before and after praying the Regina Caeli with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

The Solemnity of Pentecost that we are celebrating today concludes the liturgical season of Easter. In effect, the paschal mystery -- the passion, death and resurrection of Christ and his ascension into heaven -- finds its fulfillment in the powerful effusion of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles gathered together with Mary, the Mother of the Lord, and the other disciples. It was the "baptism of the Church," a baptism in the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 1:5).

As recounted by the Acts of the Apostles, on the morning of Pentecost, a roaring, as of wind, rolled through the cenacle and upon each of the disciples a tongue like fire descended (cf. Acts 2:2-3). St. Gregory the Great comments: "Today the Holy Spirit has descended with a sudden sound upon the disciples and within his love has transformed the minds of beings of flesh, and while tongues of fire appeared without, hearts became enflamed within so that, receiving God in the vision of fire, they were ardent with love" (Hom. in Evang. XXX, 1: CCL 141, 256).

God's voice divinized the human language of the Apostles, who became able to proclaim the one divine Word polyphonically. The breath of the Holy Spirit fills the universe, generates faith, brings truth, preparing unity among the nations. "At that sound the crowd came together and was disturbed, for each one heard in his own language" of the "great deeds of God" (Acts 2: 6, 11).

Blessed Antonio Rosmini explains that "on the day of Christian Pentecost God promulgated … his law of love, writing with the Holy Spirit, not on tablets of stone but in the hearts of the Apostles, and through the Apostles communicated it then to the whole Church" ("Catechismo disposto secondo l'ordine delle idée," no. 737, Torino, 1863). The Holy Spirit, "who is the Lord and giver life" -- as we recite in the Creed -- is joined to the Father through the Son and completes the revelation of the Most Holy Trinity. He comes from God as the breath of his mouth and has the power to sanctify, to abolish divisions, to resolve the confusion wrought by sin. He, incorporeal and immaterial, bestows the divine goods, assisting living beings, so they act in conformity with the good. As intelligible Light he gives meaning to prayer, he gives vigor to the evangelizing mission, he makes the hearts of those who hear the glad tidings burn, he inspires Christian art and liturgical melody.

Dear friends, the Holy Spirit, who creates faith in us in the moment of our baptism, allows us to live as children of God, conscious and obliging, according to the image of the Only Begotten Son. The power to remit sins is a gift of the Holy Spirit too; in fact, appearing to the Apostles on Easter night, Jesus breathes upon them and says: "Receive the Holy Spirit. Those whose sins you forgive shall be forgiven" (John 20:23).

To the Virgin Mary, temple of the Holy Spirit, we entrust the Church, that she might always live according to Jesus Christ, his Word, and his commandments, and that through the perennial action of the Spirit Paraclete she might proclaim to all that "Jesus is Lord" (1 Corinthians 12:3).

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

Dear brothers and sisters, I am happy to recall that tomorrow in Dresden, Germany, Alois Andritzki, priest and martyr, who was killed by the National Socialists in 1943 at the age of 28, will be proclaimed blessed. Let us praise the Lord for this heroic witness of the faith, who joins the ranks of those who gave their lives in the name of Christ in the concentration camps.

This day of Pentecost I would like to entrust to your intercession the cause of peace in the world. May the Holy Spirit inspire courageous proposals for peace and support the effort to advance it, that dialogue might prevail over arms and respect for man's dignity overcome party interests. May the Spirit, who is the bond of communion, rectify hearts twisted by egoism and help the human family to rediscover and carefully safeguard its fundamental unity.

The day after tomorrow, June 14, is World Blood Donor Day -- millions of persons who in a silent way contribute to the help of brothers in difficulties. To all blood donors I address a cordial greeting and invite young people to follow their example.

[In English he said:]

I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking visitors gathered for this Regina Caeli prayer. My particular greeting goes to the group of ringers from the United States. On this Pentecost Sunday we celebrate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church. Let us pray that we may be confirmed in the grace of our Baptism and share ever more actively in the Church's mission of proclaiming the Good News of our salvation in Jesus Christ. Upon you and your families I cordially invoke the Holy Spirit's gifts of wisdom, joy and peace.

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

[Concluding in Italian, he said:]

I wish everyone a good Sunday.


Benedict XVI's Pentecost Homily
"God Is Reason, God Is Will, God Is Love, God Is Beauty"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 12, 2011 - Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave today when he celebrated a Mass for the feast of Pentecost in St. Peter's Basilica.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Today we celebrate the great solemnity of Pentecost. If, in a certain sense, all of the Church's liturgical celebrations are great, this one of Pentecost is so in a singular manner, because, arriving at the 50th day, it marks the fulfillment of the Easter event, of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, through the gift of the Risen Lord's Spirit. The Church has prepared us in recent days for Pentecost with her prayers, with the repeated and intense plea to God for a renewed outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon us. The Church re-lived in this way the events of her origins, when the Apostles, gathered in the cenacle in Jerusalem "were perseverant and united in prayer together with some women and Mary, the mother of Jesus, and his brothers" (Acts 1:14). They were gathered in humble and confident expectation that the Father's promise communicated to them by Jesus would be fulfilled: "Before long you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit … you will receive the power of the Holy Spirit, who will descend upon you" (Acts 1:5, 8).

In the Pentecost liturgy, corresponding to the narrative of the Acts of the Apostles of the birth of the Church (cf. Acts 2:1-11), is Psalm 103, which we heard: a praise that goes up from all creation, exalting the Creator Spirit, who did everything with wisdom: "How many are your deeds, O Lord! You have done them with wisdom; the earth is filled with your creatures … may it always be the glory of the Lord; may the Lord rejoice in his works" (Psalm 103:24, 31). What the Church wishes to tell us is this: The creator Spirit of all things, and the Holy Spirit whom Christ had sent from the Father to the community of disciples, are one and the same: creation and redemption belong reciprocally to each other and they constitute, in their depths, a single mystery of love and salvation. The Holy Spirit is first of all the Creator Spirit and so Pentecost is the feast of creation. For us Christians the world is the fruit of an act of the love of God, who made all things and who rejoices in them because they are "good," "very good," as the account of creation states (cf. Genesis 1:1-31).

Thus God is not totally Other, unnamable and obscure. God reveals himself, he has a face, God is reason, God is will, God is love, God is beauty. The faith in the Creator Spirit is the faith in the Spirit whom the risen Christ bestowed upon the Apostles and bestows on each one of us; they are therefore inseparably joined.

Today's second reading and Gospel show us this connection. The Holy Spirit is he who helps us recognize the Lord, and he makes us pronounce the Church's profession of faith: "Jesus is Lord" (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:3b). "Lord" is the title given to God in the Old Testament, a title that in the reading of the Bible took the place of his unspeakable name. The Church's Creed is nothing more than the development of what is said with this simple affirmation: "Jesus is Lord." St. Paul tells us of this profession of faith that it is from the word and work of the Holy Spirit. If we want to be in the Spirit, we must adhere to this Creed. Making it our own, accepting it as our word, we acquiesce to the work of the Holy Spirit.

The expression "Jesus is Lord" can be read in two senses. It means: Jesus is God, and at the same time: God is Jesus. The Holy Spirit illuminates this reciprocity: Jesus has divine dignity, and God has the human face of Jesus. God shows himself in Jesus and with this conveys to us the truth about ourselves. The event of Pentecost is letting ourselves be deeply enlightened by this word. Reciting the Creed we enter into the mystery of the first Pentecost: There occurs a radical transformation in the chaos of Babel, in those voices that vie against each other: the multiplicity becomes a multiform unity; from the unifying power of Truth comes growth in understanding. In the Creed that brings us together from the four corners of the earth, which, through the Holy Spirit, does this in a way that permits understanding even in the midst of the diversity of languages, through faith, hope and love, is formed the new community of the Church of God.

The Gospel passage offers us a marvelous image to clarify the connection between Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the Father: the Holy Spirit is represented as the breath of the risen Jesus Christ (cf. John 20:22). The Evangelist John borrows an image here from the account of creation, where it says that God breathed into man's nostrils a breath of life (cf. Genesis 2:7). The breath of God is life. Now the Lord breathes into our soul the new breath of life, the Holy Spirit, his most intimate essence, and in this way we are welcomed into the family of God. With baptism and confirmation we are given this gift in a specific way, and with the sacraments of the Eucharist and penance it is continually repeated: the Lord breathes a breath of life into our soul. All of the sacraments, each in its proper way, communicate the divine life to man thanks to the Holy Spirit who works in them.

In today's liturgy we see another connection. The Holy Spirit is both Creator and the Spirit of Jesus Christ, in a way however that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one single God. And in light of the first reading we can add: The Holy Spirit animates the Church. She does not derive from the human will, from reflection, from man's ability and from his capacity to organize, because if this were the case, she would have already been extinct for some time, just as every human thing passes. She is rather the Body of Christ animated by the Holy Spirit. The images of wind and fire, used by St. Luke to represent the coming of the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 2:2-3), recall Sinai, where God was revealed to the people of Israel and he granted them his covenant; "Mount Sinai was covered in smoke," we read in the Book of Exodus, "because the Lord had descended upon it in fire" (19:18). In fact Israel celebrated the 50th day after Passover, after the commemoration of the flight out of Egypt, as the feast of Sinai, the feast of the Covenant. When St. Luke speaks of tongues of fire to represent the Holy Spirit, the ancient covenant, established on the basis of the Law received by Israel on Sinai, is recalled. Thus, the event of Pentecost is represented as a new Sinai, as the gift of a new covenant in which the alliance with Israel is extended to all the peoples of the earth, in which all of the barriers of the old Law crumble and its holiest and immutable core appears, which is love, that precisely the Holy Spirit communicates and spreads, the love that embraces all things. At the same time the Law expands, it opens while remaining more basic: It is the New Covenant that the Holy Spirit "writes" in the hearts of those who believe in Christ. The extension of the Covenant to all the nations of the earth is represented by St. Luke through the considerable list of peoples of that time (cf. Acts 2:9-11).

With this we are told something very important: that the Church is catholic from the very first moment, that her university is not the fruit of the subsequent inclusion of diverse communities. From the first instant, in fact, the Holy Spirit created her as the Church of all peoples; she embraces the whole world, she transcends all frontiers of race, class, nation; she razes all the bastions and unites men in the profession of God one and triune. From the very beginning the Church is one, catholic and apostolic: This is her true nature and as such she must be recognized. She is holy, not due to the capacity of her members, but because God himself, with his Spirit, always creates her, purifies her and sanctifies her.

Finally, today's Gospel gives us this beautiful expression: "The disciples rejoiced in seeing the Lord" (John 20:20). These words are profoundly human. The lost Friend is present again, and those who were frightened before now rejoice. But it says more than this. Because the lost Friend does not come from just anywhere but from the night of death -- and he passed through it! -- he is not just anyone but both the Friend and he who is the Truth that gives men life; and what he gives is not just any joy, but joy itself, the gift of the Holy Spirit. Yes, it is beautiful to live because I am loved, and it is the Truth who loves me. The disciples rejoice, seeing the Lord. Today on Pentecost this expression is also intended for us, because we can see him in faith; in faith he comes among us and he also shows to us his hands and side, and we rejoice in this. So, we wish to pray: Lord, show yourself! Give us the gift of your presence, and we will have the best gift: your joy. Amen!


Benedict XVI's Address to Envoy From Syria
"An Example of Harmonious Relations Between Christians and Muslims"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 10, 2011 - Here is the message Benedict XVI gave on Thursday to Hussan Edin Aala, the new ambassador of Syria to the Holy See, upon receiving his letters of credence.

The Pope received in audience at the same time Stefan Gorda of Moldava, Narciso Ntugu Abeso Oyana of Equatorial Guinea, George Robert Furness Troup of New Zealand, Henry Llewellyn Lawrence of Belize, and Geneviève Delali Tsegah of Ghana. The Holy Father gave one speech addressing all the new diplomats and then gave letters to each individually, which addressed the specific nations they represent.

* * *

Mr. Ambassador

I am pleased to receive you this morning at the moment of the presentation of your letters, which accredit you as ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the Arab Republic of Syria to the Holy See. You have transmitted to me the greetings of His Excellency the president of the republic, and I would be grateful if you thanked him. Through you, I would also like to greet the whole Syrian nation, wishing it peace and fraternity.

As you have stressed, Mr. Ambassador, Syria has been a very significant place for Christians since the origins of the Church. Since his meeting with the Risen Christ on the road to Damascus, Paul would become the Apostle to the Gentiles, becoming the first of numerous great saints who have marked the religious history of your country. Numerous are the archaeological testimonies of churches, of monasteries, and of mosaics of the first centuries of the Christian era, which refer us to the origins of the Church. Syria has traditionally been an example of tolerance, concord, and harmonious relations between Christians and Muslims and today the ecumenical and interreligious relations are good. I very much hope that this coexistence between all the cultural and religious components of the nation will continue and develop for the greater good of all, thus reinforcing a unity founded on justice and solidarity.

However, such unity can only be built in a lasting way through the recognition of the centrality and dignity of the human person. "As one created in the image of God, each individual human being has the dignity of a person; he or she is not just something, but someone, capable of self-knowledge, self-possession, free self-giving and entering into communion with others" (Message for the World Day of Peace, 2007, No. 2). Hence, the path toward unity and stability in every nation passes through the recognition of the inalienable dignity of every human person. Therefore, the latter must be at the center of institutions, of laws, and of societies' action. Consequently, it is of essential importance to foster the common good, putting aside personal or party interests. Moreover, the path of listening, of dialogue and of collaboration must be recognized as a means by which the different components of society can compare their points of view and achieve a consensus on the truth relative to the particular values and ends. This will bring great benefits for individuals and communities (cf. Address to the United Nations, April 18, 2008).

In this perspective, the events of the past months in some nearby Mediterranean countries, Syria among them, demonstrate the desire for a better future in the areas of political, economic, and social life. Nevertheless, it is greatly desirable that this evolution not take place in a climate of intolerance, discrimination, or conflict and, sill less, of violence, but rather in a climate of absolute respect for the truth, for co-existence, for the legitimate rights of the person and the collective, and of reconciliation. These are the principles that should guide the authorities, keeping always in mind the aspiration of civil society and international directives.

Mr. Ambassador, I wish to stress here the positive role of Christians in your country, who as citizens are involved in the construction of a society where everyone finds his place. I cannot fail to mention the service carried out by the Catholic Church in the social and educational realm, which is appreciated by all. Allow me to greet very particularly the faithful of the Catholic communities, with their bishops, and to encourage them to develop bonds of fraternity with everyone. Daily contact with their Muslim countrymen highlights the importance of interreligious dialogue and the possibility of working together in many ways for the common good. May the impulse given by the recent Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops bring abundant fruit to your country, for the benefit of the whole population and for authentic reconciliation among peoples!

To advance peace in the region, a comprehensive solution must be found. It must not damage the interests of the parties involved, and it must be the fruit of a compromise and not of a unilateral decision imposed by force. This [force] does not resolve anything, nor do partial or unilateral solutions, which are insufficient. Conscious of the population's suffering, one must proceed with a comprehensive approach that deliberately excludes no one from seeking a negotiated solution that takes into account the legitimate aspirations and interests of the various peoples involved. Moreover, the situation that the Middle East has been facing for so many years has led you to receive a great number of refugees, primarily from Iraq, and among them many Christians. I heartily thank the Syrian people for their generosity.

At the moment that you begin your noble mission of representation to the Holy See, I address to you, Mr. Ambassador, my best wishes for the success of your mission. Be sure that you will always find among my collaborators the reception and understanding you might need. Upon Your Excellency, your family and your collaborators, as well as upon the inhabitants of Syria, I invoke from my heart an abundance of divine blessings.


Holy Father's Note to Envoy of Equatorial Guinea
"Participate Actively and Wisely in the Building of a Serene and Harmonious Coexistence"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 10, 2011 - Here is the message Benedict XVI hand delivered on Thursday to Narciso Ntugu Abeso Oyana, the new ambassador of Equatorial Guinea to the Holy See, upon receiving his letters of credence.

The Pope received in audience at the same time Hussan Edin Aala of Syria, Stefan Gorda of Molova, George Robert Furness Troup of New Zealand, Henry Llewellyn Lawrence of Belize, and Geneviève Delali Tsegah of Ghana. The Holy Father gave one speech addressing all the new diplomats and then gave letters to each individually, which addressed the specific nations they represent.

* * *

Mr. Ambassador:

1. I am happy to receive from Your Excellency's hands the letters that accredit you as ambassador extraordinary plenipotentiary of Equatorial Guinea to the Holy See, expressing at the same time my most cordial welcome to this solemn act.

I am grateful for the kind greeting you transmit to me on behalf of the president of the republic. While I correspond with pleasure to this deference, I pray to the Almighty that the diplomatic mission that Your Excellency begins today will strengthen further the trajectory of healthy independence and reciprocal respect between the Church and state in your dear nation, with which the Holy See maintains close relations and which it follows with solicitous attention, eloquent sign of which is the recent appointment of the new bishop of Ebebiyin.

2. Mr. Ambassador, as your courteous words manifested, which have made me feel closer to your homeland, your compatriots harbor profound sentiments toward the Successor of Peter, all of them filled with heartfelt and faithful devotion, fruit of the vigor and diligence with which the evangelical seed was sown in your noble lands, to be deeply rooted in them and to produce a splendid harvest both in the spiritual as well as the material order.

3. In perfecting a society and in implementing new structures capable of giving it a more flexible character, the encouraging presence of the Church is not absent to the sons and daughters of Equatorial Guinea, instilling the light of faith in Christ, who manifests to man his authentic vocation and helps him to work without faltering for all that which dignifies and exalts. This makes one harbor the firm hope that your compatriots, strengthened by this same faith, will not vacillate in their resolutions to participate actively and wisely in the building of a serene and harmonious coexistence. In that climate, the human person will be able to realize himself fully in keeping with his lofty dignity and fundamental rights and the essential values of protection of life, health care, the development of education and solidarity, as well as the safeguarding of the environment and the equitable distribution of wealth will germinate copiously. All this is the indispensable condition to intensify real social progress, which reaches all, but especially the poorest and neediest, and to which all can contribute with their appropriate, free and responsible, contribution.

4. In this connection, I do not doubt that the authorities of your beloved country, whom Your Excellency represents, will be able to channel and interpret the genuine aspirations of your fellow citizens, reflection of the historical, moral and cultural patrimony itself, and in whose development and subsequent consolidation in persons' conscience and in society itself the constant, selfless and intense task of the Church has also had a role of eminent significance.

In this respect, one cannot fail to note with heartfelt satisfaction the efforts carried out to recuperate and restructure many places of worship, as well as the business initiatives for improving living conditions of the citizens, especially those who experience great difficulty living in a dignified way. Hence I encourage all to continue following this path with enthusiasm, remedying the existing social, economic and cultural needs. For its part, in the realm of its own mission, the Christian community will continue with renewed and generous commitment to put at the disposal of the people of Equatorial Guinea its long and fruitful experience in the field of the promotion of marriage and the family, health care, the formation of new generations and the exercise of charity and beneficence. It could not be otherwise, as the Church does not ignore that all that fosters concord and fraternity, the eradication of poverty, the increase of justice and dialogue, as well as the fostering of mutual understanding, opens luminous horizons for the future and exalts the human being, whom it must never be forgotten is image of God.

5. Mr. Ambassador, on praying to the Almighty that the high responsibility that has been entrusted to you be surrounded by abundant success, I assure you that the Roman Curia and its different offices will always be willing to help you in carrying it out. Upon Your Excellency, your relatives and collaborators, as well as on all the peoples of Equatorial Guinea, I invoke fervently bountiful blessings from heaven.


Papal Letter to Molodovan Ambassador
"Your Nation Has Written Glorious Pages in the History of the European Continent"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 10, 2011 - Here is the message Benedict XVI gave on Thursday to Stefan Gorda, the new ambassador of Moldova to the Holy See, upon receiving his letters of credence.

The Pope received in audience at the same time Hussan Edin Aala of Syria, Narciso Ntugu Abeso Oyana of Equatorial Guinea, George Robert Furness Troup of New Zealand, Henry Llewellyn Lawrence of Belize, and Geneviève Delali Tsegah of Ghana. The Holy Father gave one speech addressing all the new diplomats and then gave letters to each individually, which addressed the specific nations they represent.

* * *

Mr. Ambassador,

I am happy to receive you this morning, on the occasion of your presentation of the letters that accredit you in the capacity of ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the Republic of Moldova to the Holy See. I thank you for the kind words you addressed to me. In turn, I will be grateful if you transmit to Mr. Marian Lupu, acting president of the Republic of Moldova, my cordial wishes for his person, as well as for all the Moldovan people.

The year 2011 marks the 20th anniversary of your country's independence. It is possible to see what has already been achieved and what still remains to be built. In your address, you frequently stressed the tests that your country has faced, as well as the intense hope that prevails among the population when it comes to resolving the economic problems and those of national unity. It is evident that unity in peace and in serenity is a factor that fosters economic and social development, and that this development also has a positive effect for the realization of unity. I pray that lasting solutions will be found for the good of all through a just political mediation and the safeguarding of the various identities. Your nation has written glorious pages in the history of the European Continent. May this past inspire your present!

Your country wishes to continue progressing. It has established very comprehensible and necessary economic priorities, but they must also respect the interests of national sovereignty, and contribute to the well being of all the components of your society, attempting to avoid derivations that favor some to the detriment of others. To contribute the achievement of this objective, your country wishes to establish close relations with the European Union. It is good that Moldova has the desire to return to the common European home, but this legitimate quest cannot be done if it does not respect the positive values of your country. It must not be determined solely by the economy and material well being. The ideologizing of these two elements in the past indicates the pitfalls to be avoided, given that they can lead to the unilateral abdication of the age-old values of your culture. This adherence, which is an important element, will only be authentic if the European Union recognizes the specific contribution that Moldova can make to be able advance united toward a rich future because of the identity of each nation. Because of its tradition and Christian faith, Moldova can courageously help the European Union rediscover what it no longer wants to see and even denies. Moreover, Moldova's peace, justice and prosperity, which will result certainly from the realization of its European aspirations, will only be effective if they are experienced by each one of your fellow citizens in the quest for the common good and a permanent ethical concern. Among the essential values are religious values.

Diplomatic relations between Moldova and the Holy See, established 18 years ago now, are harmonious, and I am delighted because of this. They are so because of the Christian faith that dwells in your nation and its inhabitants, and I pay homage to the whole of the Orthodox Church. It has always shared with the Catholic Church the need to defend religious and cultural values against the materialism and relativism that put into question the Christian contribution to life and society. I hope that fraternal relations between Orthodox and Catholic faithful will deepen. These relations of reciprocal respect and friendship are a testimony of love that indicates that beyond the divisions and their consequences, hearts can open to reconciliation, solidarity and fraternity.

The faithful of the Catholic Church in Moldova are not very numerous. Through you, I greet them and, very particularly, the bishop of Chisinau. I am grateful for the juridical recognition that the Catholic Church enjoys in Moldova, for her progressive organization and for the building of new churches such as the cathedral. These events demonstrate the excellence of the dialogue and the collaboration between civil institutions and the Catholic Church. We all know that certain inherited problems from the recent past must yet be resolved. To attempt to cure and close the wounds is another way of contributing positively to the unity of the country and to its development.

I hope that the civil Authorities will have the courage to find satisfactory, just and equitable solutions for the confiscated ecclesiastical patrimony, to allow the Catholic Church to have at her disposal the means to realize her mission, not only in the religious realm, but also in the educational, health care and charitable realms. The Church does not ask for the granting of particular privileges. She wishes to be faithful to her own end and to serve every person without distinction, in keeping with the mission entrusted by Christ. The happy integration of Catholics in your country and the excellent relations with the Orthodox Church demonstrate their good will.

Moreover, many Moldovans have established themselves in European countries of Catholic tradition. Of course they seek economic stability but they also establish bonds with Catholics, thus deepening even more the good relations between both Churches. These two factors are encouraging to find further solutions that will reinforce even more the harmony between the Moldovan State and the Catholic Church. However, I am thinking particularly of young Moldovans. I pray for them and wish to encourage them. I want to express my joy on learning that some one hundred of them will be able to take part for the first time in next August's World Youth Day in Madrid. And, next October, the Catholic Church will organize her first Social Week. The prospects of these two events have given me great satisfaction. It should inspire pride in your country.

At this time that Your Excellency begins officially your functions to the Holy See, I express my best wishes for your success in the realization of your mission. Be assured, Mr. Ambassador, that among my collaborators you will find the cordial attention and understanding that your high office deserves, as well as the affection of the Successor of Peter for your country.

Invoking the intercession of the Virgin Mary, I pray to the Lord that he may shed abundant blessings upon you, your family and your collaborators, as well as upon the Moldovan people and their leaders.


Holy Father's Words to 6 New Ambassadors
"Technology Should Help Nature Develop Along the Lines Envisioned by the Creator"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 9, 2011 - Here is a translation of the message Benedict XVI gave to six new ambassadors to the Holy See: George Robert Furness Troup of New Zealand, Stefan Gorda of Moldava, Narciso Ntugu Abeso Oyana of Equatorial Guinea, Hussan Edin Aala of Syria, Henry Llewellyn Lawrence of Belize, and Geneviève Delali Tsegah of Ghana.

The Holy Father gave one speech addressing all the new diplomats and then gave letters to each individually, which addressed the specific nations they represent.

* * *

Lady and Gentlemen Ambassadors,

I receive you happily this morning in the Apostolic Palace for the presentation of the letters that accredit you as ambassadors extraordinary and plenipotentiary of your respective countries to the Holy See: Moldavia, Equatorial Guinea, Belize, the Arab Republic of Syria, Ghana and New Zealand. I thank you for the kind words you addressed to me on behalf of your respective heads of state. Please be kind enough to transmit to them in return my deferent greetings and my respectful wishes for their persons and for the high mission they carry out at the service of their countries and their people. Through you, I also wish to greet all the civil and religious authorities of your nations, as well as the whole of your compatriots. Naturally, my prayers and thoughts go also to the Catholic communities present in your countries.

As I have had the opportunity to meet each one of you privately, I now wish to speak to you in a more general way. The first half of this year was marked by innumerable tragedies that have affected nature, technology and people. The magnitude of these catastrophes challenges us. It is good to remember that before all else, the person comes first. Humanity, to whom God has entrusted the stewardship of nature, cannot be dominated by technology and become its subject. This awareness should lead states to reflect together on the short-term future of the planet, given their responsibilities with regard to our lives and technology. Human ecology is an imperative. Adopting a lifestyle that respects our environment and supports the research and use of clean energies that preserve the patrimony of creation and that are safe for human beings should be given political and economic priority.

In this sense, it is necessary to completely revise our approach to nature. Nature is not simply a space that is useful or recreational. It is, rather, the place where man was born; his "home," so to speak. It is essential for us. A change in mentality in this realm, even with the contradictions it entails, must make it possible to quickly arrive at a global lifestyle that respects the covenant between humanity and nature, without which the human family risks disappearing. Hence, serious reflection must be engaged in and precise and viable solutions must be proposed. Every government must commit themselves to protecting nature and assisting it to carry out its essential role in the survival of humanity. The United Nations seem to be the natural framework for this type of reflection, which should not be obscured by blindly partisan political or economic interests in order to give preference to solidarity over particular interests.

It is also helpful to ask ourselves about the appropriate role of technology. The wonders it is capable of go hand in hand with social and ecological disasters. By extending the relational aspect of work to the planet, technology imprints on globalization an especially accelerated rhythm. However, the basis of the dynamism of progress corresponds to man who works and not to technology, which is no more than a human creation. To bet on it unreservedly or to believe it is the exclusive agent of progress or happiness, entails a reification of humanity that leads to blindness and misery when he himself attributes and delegates to it the powers it does not have. It is enough to see the "ravages" of progress and the dangers that an all-powerful and ultimately uncontrolled technology poses to humanity.

Technology that dominates human beings deprives them of their humanity. The pride it generates has created an impossible economism in our societies as well as a hedonism that subjectively and selfishly regulates behavior. The weakening of the primacy of the person leads to existential confusion and the loss of the meaning of life. The vision of man and material things that lacks a reference to transcendence uproots man from the earth and, more fundamentally, impoverishes his very identity. Hence, it is urgent that we match technology with a strong ethical dimension, given that the capacity man has to transform and, in a certain sense, to create the world through his work is always based on the first original gift of things made by God (John Paul II, "Centesimus annus," No. 37). Technology should help nature develop along the lines envisioned by the Creator. In working together, the researcher and the scientist adhere to God's plan that wished to place humanity as the apex and the administrator of creation. Solutions based on this principle will protect human life and its vulnerability, as well as the rights of the present and future generations. And humanity will be able to continue to benefit from the progress that man, by his intelligence, is able to realize.

Conscious of the risk that humanity runs when it considers technology to be a more efficient "answer" than political will or patient educational efforts to civilize customs, governments should promote a humanism that respects the spiritual and religious dimension of human persons. The dignity of the human person does not vary with changes in opinion. Respecting human aspirations to justice and peace allows the construction of a society that promotes itself when it sustains the family or when it refuses, for example, the exclusive primacy of finance. A country lives from the plenitude of the life of the citizens that make it up, each one being conscious of his own responsibilities and being able to give worth to his own convictions.

Moreover, the natural tendency to the true and the good is a source of a dynamism that engenders the will to collaborate in bringing about the common good. Thus social life can be enriched constantly by integrating the cultural and religious diversity through putting values in common, source of fraternity and communion. Social life should be considered, above all, as a reality of the spiritual order. Politicians in charge have the mission of guiding persons to human harmony and the wisdom they so desire, which should culminate in religious freedom, a true sign of peace.

On beginning your mission to the Holy See, I assure you, Excellencies, that you will always find in my collaborators attentive listening and the help you might need. Upon you yourselves, your families, the members of your diplomatic missions and upon all the nations you represent, I invoke the abundance of divine blessings.


Pontiff's Letter to New Zealand Representative
"Nurture the Greatest Respect for the Whole Human Person"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 9, 2011 - Here is the message Benedict XVI gave to George Robert Furness Troup, the new ambassador of New Zealand to the Holy See, upon receiving his letters of credence. The Pope received in audience at the same time Stefan Gorda of Moldavia, Narciso Ntugu Abeso Oyana of Equatorial Guinea, Hussan Edin Aala of Syria, Henry Llewellyn Lawrence of Belize, and Geneviève Delali Tsegah of Ghana.

The Holy Father gave one speech addressing all the new diplomats and then gave letters to each individually, which addressed the specific nations they represent.

* * *

Your Excellency,

I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican today and to accept the letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of New Zealand to the Holy See. I thank you for the kind greeting which you conveyed from Governor-General Sir Anand Satyanand, and I would ask you kindly to assure him of my good wishes and prayers for the well-being of the nation.

I take this opportunity to express once more my solidarity with all those still suffering from the devastating earthquake which struck Christchurch on 22 February last. Conscious of the considerable work of reconstruction on which you and your fellow citizens have embarked, I am confident that the impressive outpouring of generosity and the countless acts of charity and goodness which were seen in the wake of the disaster will contribute in no small part to meeting the material and moral challenges of the immense task now before you.

In your address you kindly made reference to the cordial relations existing between the Holy See and New Zealand. By its presence in the international community, the Holy See seeks to promote universal values which are rooted in the Gospel message of the God-given dignity of each man and woman, the unity of the human family and the need for justice and solidarity to govern relations between individuals, communities and nations. These values are deeply inscribed in the culture which gave birth to New Zealand’s political and legal institutions. A cornerstone of that heritage remains respect for the rights of freedom of religion and freedom of worship, to the benefit of all. These rights, enshrined in the legal traditions to which you are heirs, are proper to each person because they are inherent in the humanity which is common to us all. Through the promotion of these freedoms, society is better equipped to respond to profound political and social challenges in a way consonant with humanity’s deepest aspirations.

Due to its geographical position, your country is able to assist in the development of smaller, more distant countries with fewer resources. Some neighbouring countries, including the Small Island Developing States, look to New Zealand as an example of political stability, rule of law and high economic and social standards. They also look to you as a source of assistance, encouragement and support as they develop their own institutions. This gives your country a particular moral responsibility. Faithful to the best of its traditions, New Zealand is called to use its position of influence for the peace and stability of the region, the encouragement of mature and stable democratic institutions, and the fostering of authentic human rights and sustainable economic development. The desire for development poses a number of important challenges concerning the environment, some of them with serious consequences for people’s well-being and livelihoods, and especially for the poor. I would like to encourage the work being done to promote models of development at home and abroad that reflect a truly human ecology, are economically sustainable and fulfil our duty as stewards of creation (cf. Caritas in Veritate, 48; 51).

The Catholic Church in your country, drawn from the populations both ancient and new of your islands, strives to play her part in knitting together a truly multicultural society with a sense of mutual respect, shared purpose and solidarity, for the peace and prosperity of all. She wishes to serve the common good by bringing the spiritual and moral wisdom of the faith to bear upon the important ethical questions of the day. In a particular way, the Church wishes always to nurture the greatest respect for the whole human person, defending the inalienable right to life from conception until natural death, promoting a stable family environment and providing education.

Regarding this last point, the Church has always placed great emphasis on the education of young people, recognizing it as an essential component in the preparation and development of individuals for the good, so that they might take their proper place in society. In addition to the pursuit of excellence in academic studies, athletics and the arts, Catholic schools are concerned above all with the moral and spiritual formation of their pupils. The enduring attraction of educational institutions steeped in authentic Christian values demonstrates the perennial desire of parents to have their children prepared for life in the best possible way in a healthy environment that will bring out the best in young people as they prepare for life’s challenges. I am confident that your Government will continue to support parents in their role as the primary educators of their children, by ensuring that the faith-based education system remains accessible to those who wish to avail themselves of it for the good of their children and of society at large.

Finally, Mr Ambassador, let me take this opportunity to reiterate my good wishes as you begin your mission and to assure you that the Roman Curia stands ready to assist you. Upon you and your family and upon all the people of New Zealand, I cordially invoke God’s abundant blessings.

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Papal Message to Ghanaian Envoy to Holy See
"May Your Country Give an Example in Establishing Effective Instruments of Solidarity"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 9, 2011 - Here is the message Benedict XVI gave to Geneviève Delali Tsegah, the new ambassador of Ghana to the Holy See, upon receiving her letters of credence. The Pope received in audience at the same time Stefan Gorda of Moldavia, Narciso Ntugu Abeso Oyana of Equatorial Guinea, Hussan Edin Aala of Syria, Henry Llewellyn Lawrence of Belize, and George Robert Furness Troup of New Zealand.

The Holy Father gave one speech addressing all the new diplomats and then gave letters to each individually, which addressed the specific nations they represent.

* * *

Your Excellency,

In welcoming you to the Vatican and accepting the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Ghana to the Holy See, I wish first of all to express my gratitude to you for transmitting the courteous greeting of your President, His Excellency John Evans Atta Mills, and I would ask you kindly to reciprocate and to convey, in turn, my good wishes to him, as well as my appreciation of the cordial relations existing between the Holy See and your country.

It is widely acknowledged that Ghana has been able to overcome certain obstacles in order to make steady economic, social and political progress in recent times. Certainly, the conduct of regular and peaceful democratic elections does credit to both the people and the political leaders of your country. The establishment of ethnic harmony, too, not without the contribution of the local Christian communities including the Catholic Church, has been an important factor in creating conditions of peace, stability and greater social progress for all your citizens. I hope that this process will be crowned by the positive outcome of the ongoing constitutional consultation, in such a way that the nation’s legislative and administrative framework will consolidate a culture of responsible and active participation in the development of the country in freedom, justice and solidarity.

I have also noted the climate of religious freedom enjoyed in Ghana. A democratic society that fosters freedom of religion and freedom of worship, and that appreciates the presence of religious institutions that strive to rise above political interests and are instead motivated by faith and moral values, understands that there is much to gain through these freedoms for the positive growth of all the country’s institutions. Indeed, countries that do so may derive many benefits from those institutions, by drawing on the wisdom found in religious traditions, especially when citizens are confronted by questions for which science and technology provide little or no answer. Indeed, here secular and religious interests find common ground and are able to grow together by combining the demands of macroeconomic progress and scientific knowledge with religion’s perennial wisdom and understanding of man and society. All stand to benefit from such cooperation in a world that has grown uncertain about moral choices and is often drawn towards narrow interests and selfishness.

Your Excellency, your land has been blessed with natural resources which are now bringing prosperity to your people. It is much to be hoped that, through social solidarity, the proceeds from the correct exploitation of these resources will contribute to the sustainable economic development of your people. Let this be achieved, however, while giving due attention to those who are much poorer, or unable to provide for their families through no fault of their own. In this sense, may your country give an example in establishing effective instruments of solidarity (cf. Centesimus Annus, 16), to the true enrichment of all members of society.

You also mention the work of the Catholic Church in Ghana in the fields of education, health care and other social services. Motivated by the love of Christ, and acting on the basis on the human dignity shared by all members of the human family, the Church wishes to contribute in many ways to the good of society, especially in the areas you have mentioned. She is a willing partner with civil authorities wherever she is able to fulfil her mission untrammelled, in the light of Gospel values.

Finally, Your Excellency, I wish you every success in your mission as Ambassador of the Republic of Ghana to the Holy See and I assure you of the willing cooperation of the departments of the Roman Curia. May Almighty God bestow upon the people of Ghana abundant and lasting blessings of harmony, prosperity and peace!

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Benedict XVI's Letter to New Belizean Ambassador
"Education Bears Fruit When Based on Virtue Already Grounded in the Family"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 9, 2011 - Here is the message Benedict XVI gave to Henry Llewellyn Lawrence, the new ambassador of Belize to the Holy See, upon receiving his letters of credence. The Pope received in audience at the same time Stefan Gorda of Moldavia, Narciso Ntugu Abeso Oyana of Equatorial Guinea, Hussan Edin Aala of Syria, Genevieve Delali Tsegah of Ghana, and George Robert Furness Troup of New Zealand.

The Holy Father gave one speech addressing all the new diplomats and then gave letters to each individually, which addressed the specific nations they represent.

* * *

Mr Ambassador,

I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to receive the Letters of Credence by which you have been appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Belize to the Holy See. I am grateful to you for transmitting the courteous greetings from the Governor-General, Sir Colville Young, and in return I would ask you kindly to convey my own good wishes to him and to all the people of your nation.

The Holy See values its diplomatic relations with Belize as an important means for achieving mutual cooperation for the moral and material well-being of all its citizens. With the cooperation of men and women of good will throughout Central America, the Church works to promote peace and prosperity among all the peoples of the region, even amid challenging circumstances, based upon unchanging Gospel values which have always served the people of the region well. With a special care for the poor and the weak, the Church draws attention to the dignity of man and works to foster and promote that dignity through her many social, charitable and developmental initiatives. The commitment to this activity draws strength not only from a love for the human person, but first and foremost from a profound love for God, "in whose light the identity, meaning and purpose of the person are fully understood" (World Day of Peace Message 2011, 1).

Historically, the Catholic Church in Belize has enjoyed cordial relations with the civil authorities, in an atmosphere conducive to the fulfilment of the mission entrusted to her by the Lord. Such an atmosphere is due in large part to the foundations upon which Belize was established, a basis which supports traditional Christian values and acknowledges the perennial value of authentic human rights and fundamental civil and political freedoms that promote respect for the human person, social harmony and the progress of society as a whole.

Among the laws established in your country are the rights to religious freedom and freedom of worship. As I had occasion to note recently, "the right to religious freedom is rooted in the very dignity of the human person, whose transcendent nature must not be ignored or overlooked" (ibid., 2). Freedom of religion and freedom of worship allow believers to flourish as individuals and to contribute positively and fully to the life of the country in every sphere of human activity. May your country, Mr Ambassador, be an example in this regard to its neighbours and to those who would seek to diminish the consequences of such rights and their corresponding values.

The Catholic Church in Belize involves herself in society in a variety of ways, including the education of the young in cooperation with the state. In principle, education prepares individuals and draws the best from them so that they in turn may willingly contribute socially, culturally and economically to society as a whole. Religious education, and Catholic education in particular, makes its own contribution to your people's welfare, since it "leads new generations to see others as their brothers and sisters, with whom they are called to journey and work together so that all will feel that they are living members of the one human family" (ibid., 4). Education bears fruit when based on virtue already grounded in the family, "the first cell of human society," and "the primary training ground for harmonious relations at every level of coexistence, human, national and international" (ibid.). Possessing a solid grounding in faith and virtue, intelligence and good will, the young people of Belize will be better prepared to assume the mantle of civic and social leadership, and provide for a stable, just and peaceful future for the nation.

With these sentiments, Mr Ambassador, I offer you every good wish for your new mission and assure you of the readiness of the Roman Curia to assist you in your high office. Upon you and upon all the people of Belize, I invoke Almighty God's abundant blessings.

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


On Moses' Intercessory Prayer
"A Man Stretched Between Two Loves"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 1, 2011 - Here is a translation of the Italian-language catechesis Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience held in St. Peter's Square. The Pope continued with his new series of catecheses on prayer, reflecting today on prayer in sacred Scripture, in particular on the prayer of Moses.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In reading the Old Testament, one figure stands out among others: that of Moses, the man of prayer. Moses, the great prophet and leader during the time of the Exodus, carried out his role as mediator between God and Israel by becoming, among the people, the bearer of the divine words and commandments, by guiding them toward the freedom of the Promised Land, and by teaching the Israelites to live in obedience and trust toward God during their long sojourn in the desert; but also, and I would say especially, by praying. He prays for Pharaoh when God, through the plagues, was trying to convert the Egyptians' hearts (cf. Exodus 8:10); he asks the Lord to heal his sister Miriam who was struck with leprosy (cf. Numbers 12:9-13); he intercedes for the people who had rebelled, fearful of the scouts' report (cf. Numbers 14:1-19); he prays when fire was about to devour the camp (cf. Numbers 11:1-2) and when poisonous serpents were killing the people (cf. Numbers 21:4-9); he addresses himself to the Lord and reacts by protesting when the burden of his mission had grown too heavy (cf. Numbers 11:10-15); he sees God and speaks with him "face to face, as a man speaks to his friend" (cf. Exodus 24:9-17; 33:7-23; 34:1-10,28-35).

Also at Sinai, when the people ask Aaron to fashion for them a golden calf, Moses prays, thus carrying out in an emblematic way the true role of an intercessor. The episode is narrated in Chapter 32 of the Book of Exodus and has a parallel account in Deuteronomy Chapter 9. It is this episode that I would like to dwell upon in today's catechesis; and in particular on the prayer of Moses that we find in the Exodus account.

The people of Israel were at the foot of Mount Sinai while Moses, on the mountain, was awaiting the gift of the tablets of the Law, fasting for forty days and forty nights (cf. Exodus 24:18; Deuteronomy 9:9). The number forty has symbolic value and signifies the totality of experience, while fasting points to the fact that life comes from God, that it is he who sustains it. The act of eating, in fact, involves taking in the nourishment that sustains us; therefore fasting, or the renunciation of food, acquires in this case a religious significance: It is a way of indicating that man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord (cf. Deuteronomy 8:3). Fasting, Moses shows himself to be awaiting the gift of the divine Law as a source of life: It reveals the Will of God and nourishes the heart of man, enabling him to enter into a covenant with the Most High, who is the fount of life, who is life itself.

But while the Lord, upon the mountain, gives the Law to Moses, at the foot of the mountain the people transgress it. Unable to withstand the mediator's delay and absence, the Israelites ask Aaron: "Make us a god, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him" (Exodus 32:1). Tired of a journey with an invisible God, now that Moses, the mediator, has also disappeared, the people ask for a tangible, touchable presence of the Lord, and find in the molten calf made by Aaron, a god made accessible, maneuverable, within man's reach. It is a constant temptation on the journey of faith: to elude the divine mystery by constructing a comprehensible god, corresponding to one's own plans, to one's own projects. What occurs at Sinai demonstrates all the foolishness and the illusory vanity of this demand since, as Psalm 106 ironically affirms, "they exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox who eats grass" (Psalm 106:20).

Therefore the Lord responds and orders Moses to go down the mountain, revealing to him what the people were doing, and ending with these words: "Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them: but of you I will make a great nation" (Exodus 32:10). As with Abraham in regard to Sodom and Gomorrah, so also now God reveals to Moses what he intends to do, as though not wanting to act without his agreement (cf. Amos 3:7). He says: "Let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot." In reality, this "let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot" is said precisely so that Moses might intervene and ask him not to do it, thereby revealing that God's desire is always to save. As with the two cities in the time of Abraham, punishment and destruction, in which the wrath of God is expressed as the rejection of evil, point to the gravity of the sin committed; at the same time, the intercessor's request is meant to manifest the Lord's will to forgive. This is the salvation of God, which involves mercy but together with it also exposes the truth of the sin, of the evil that is present, so that the sinner, aware of and rejecting his own sin, can allow himself to be forgiven and transformed by God. Intercessory prayer makes divine mercy so active within the corrupted reality of the sinful man, that it finds a voice in the supplication of one who prays and through him becomes present where salvation is needed.

Moses' prayer is wholly centered on the Lord's fidelity and grace. He at first relates the history of the redemption that God initiated with Israel's departure from Egypt, in order then to recall the ancient promise given to the Fathers. The Lord wrought salvation by freeing his people from Egyptian slavery; why then -- Moses asks -- "should the Egyptians say: 'With evil intent did he bring them forth, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth?'" (Exodus 32:12). The work of salvation begun must be brought to completion; if God were to allow his people to perish, this could be interpreted as a sign of a divine inability to bring to completion the project of salvation. God cannot permit this: He is the good Lord who saves, the guarantor of life, he is the God of mercy and forgiveness, of liberation from sin which kills. And so Moses appeals to God, to the interior life of God, against the exterior pronouncement. But then, Moses argues with the Lord, if his elect were to perish, even if they are guilty, he might appear incapable of conquering sin. And this is unacceptable. Moses had a concrete experience of the God of salvation; he was sent as a mediator of divine liberation, and now, with his prayer, he voices a twofold concern -- concern for the fate of his people, but alongside this, concern for the honor that is owed to the Lord, for the truth of his name. The intercessor, in fact, wants the people of Israel to be saved, because they are the flock that has been entrusted to him, but also because, in that salvation, the true reality of God is manifested. Love of the brothers and love of God interpenetrate in intercessory prayer; they are inseparable. Moses, the intercessor, is a man stretched between two loves, which in prayer overlap into but one desire for good.

Moses then appeals to God's faithfulness, reminding him of his promises: "Remember Abraham, Isaac and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou didst swear by thine own self, and didst say to them, 'I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever'" (Exodus 32:13). Moses recalls the founding history of [Israel's] origins, of the fathers of the people, and of their wholly gratuitous election in which God alone had had the initiative. Not by reason of their merits did they receive the promise, but through the free choice of God and of his love (cf. Deuteronomy 10:15). And now, Moses asks that the Lord faithfully continue his history of election and salvation, by forgiving his people.

The intercessor does not make excuses for the sin of his people; he does not list presumed merits either of his people or of himself; rather, he appeals to the gratuitousness of God: a free God, who is total love, who never ceases to go in search of the one who has strayed, who always remains faithful to himself and offers the sinner the possibility of returning to him and of becoming, through forgiveness, just and capable of fidelity. Moses asks God to show himself stronger than sin and death, and by his prayer he brings about this divine self-revelation. A mediator of life, the intercessor shows solidarity with the people; desiring only the salvation that God himself desires, he renounces the prospect of becoming a new people pleasing to the Lord. The phrase that God had addressed to him, "but of you I will make a great nation," is not even taken into consideration by the "friend" of God, who instead is ready to take upon himself not only the guilt of his people, but also all of its consequences.

When, after the destruction of the golden calf, he will return to the mountain once again to ask for Israel's salvation, he will say to the Lord: "But now, if thou wilt forgive their sin -- and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written" (verse. 32). Through prayer, desiring God's desire, the intercessor enters ever more profoundly into the knowledge of the Lord and of his mercy, and becomes capable of a love that reaches even to the total gift of self.

In Moses, who stands upon the mountain height face to face with God, who becomes the intercessor for his people, and who offers himself -- "blot me out" -- the Fathers of the Church saw a prefiguration of Christ, who on the heights of the cross truly stands before God, not only as a friend but as Son. And not only does he offer himself -- "blot me out" -- but with his pierced heart he is blotted out, he becomes, as St. Paul himself says, sin; he takes our sins upon himself in order to spare us; his intercession is not only solidarity, but identification with us; he carries us all in his body. And in this way his whole existence as man and as Son is a cry to the heart of God, it is forgiveness, but a forgiveness that transforms and renews.

I think we should meditate upon this reality. Christ stands before the face of God and prays for me. His prayer on the cross is contemporaneous with all men, contemporaneous with me: He prays for me, he suffered and suffers for me, he identified himself with me by taking on our human body and soul. And he invites us to enter into his identity, making ourselves one body, one spirit with him, because from the heights of the cross he brought not new laws, tablets of stone, but rather he brought himself, his body and his blood, as the new covenant. He thereby makes us one blood with him, one body with him, identified with him. He invites us to enter into this identification, to be united with him in our desire to be one body, one spirit with him. Let us pray to the Lord that this identification may transform us, may renew us, since forgiveness is renewal -- it is transformation.

I would like to conclude this catechesis with the words of the Apostle Paul to the Christians in Rome: "Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies; who is to condemn? Is it Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? [ … ] neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities [ … ] nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:33-35, 38, 39).

[The Holy Father then greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Continuing our catechesis on Christian prayer, we now turn to the great prophetic figure of Moses. As the mediator between God and Israel, Moses is a model of intercessory prayer. We see this clearly in the episode of the golden calf (Ex 32). As Moses descends from Mount Sinai where he has spoken to God and received the gift of the Law, he confronts both the infidelity of the people, who now worship an idol of gold, and God’s wrath. Moses intercedes for his people, fully acknowledging the gravity of their sin. He also pleads with God to remember his mercy, to forgive their sin and thus to reveal his saving power. Moses’ prayer of petition is an expression of God’s own desire for the salvation of his people and his fidelity to the covenant. Through his intercessory prayer Moses grows in deeper knowledge of the Lord and his mercy, and becomes capable of a love which extends to the total gift of self. In this prayer Moses points beyond himself to that perfect intercessor who is Jesus, the Son of God, who brings about the new and eternal covenant in his blood, shed for the forgiveness of sin and the reconciliation of all God’s children.

[In Italian, he said:]

Finally I greet the youth, the sick and newlyweds. Today we begin the month of June, which is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Let us often pause to contemplate this profound mystery of divine Love. In the school of the Heart of Christ, may you, dear young people, learn to assume with serenity the responsibilities that await you. May you, dear sick, find in this infinite fount of mercy the courage and patience to fulfill God's will in every situation. And may you, dear newlyweds, remain faithful to the love of God, and may you witness to it by your married love.


Pope's Meditation at Conclusion of Marian Month
"We Wish to Join Our Voices to Mary's, in Her Own Canticle of Praise"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 1, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered during a celebration Tuesday in the Vatican Gardens to mark the end of the month of May, which is traditionally dedicated to Mary.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am happy to join you in prayer, at the feet of the Holy Virgin, whom we contemplate today on the feast of the Visitation. I greet and thank Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of St. Peter's Basilica, the cardinals and bishops present, and all of you who have gathered here this evening.

As conclusion of the month of May, we wish to join our voices to Mary's, in her own canticle of praise. With her we wish to praise the Lord for the wonders he continues to do in the life of the Church and of each one of us. In particular, it has been and continues to be for all of us a motive of great joy and gratitude, to have begun this Marian month with the memorable beatification of John Paul II. What a great gift of grace for the whole Church was the life of this great Pope! His testimony continues to illumine our lives and drives us to be true disciples of the Lord, to follow him with the courage of faith, to love him with the same enthusiasm with which he gave his own life.

Meditating today on Mary's Visitation, we are impelled to reflect on this courage of the faith. She whom Elizabeth received in her home is the Virgin who "believed" in the Angel's annunciation and responded with faith, accepting with courage the plan of God for her life and thus receiving, in herself, the Eternal Word of the Most High. As my Blessed Predecessor pointed out, in the encyclical
"Redemptoris Mater," through the faith that Mary pronounced with her "fiat," "she abandoned herself to God without reservations and 'consecrated herself totally as the Lord's handmaid, in the person and the work of her Son'" (No. 13; cf., "Lumen Gentium," No. 56). Because of this, in her greeting Elizabeth exclaims: "Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled" (Luke 1:45).

Mary truly believed that "with God nothing will be impossible" (v. 37) and, firm in this confidence, she allowed herself to be led by the Holy Spirit in the daily obedience of his plans. How can we not desire to have the same confident abandonment in our life? How can we oppose this happiness born from a profound and intimate familiarity with Jesus? Because of this, addressing ourselves to her "full of grace," we pray that she will obtain for us also, from Divine Providence, the ability to say every day our "yes" to God's plans with the same humble and sincere faith with which she pronounced hers. May she who, receiving in herself the Word of God, abandoned herself to him without reservations, lead us to a more generous and unconditional response to his plans, also when we are called to embrace the cross.

In this Easter Season, while we invoke from the Risen One the gift of the Holy Spirit, we entrust to the maternal intercession of the Virgin the Church and the whole world. May Mary Most Holy, who in the Cenacle with the Apostles invoked the Consoler, obtain for all the baptized, the grace of a life illumined by the mystery of the crucified and risen God, the gift to be able to accept increasingly in our life, the lordship of him who with his resurrection defeated death. Dear friends, upon each one of you, and of your loved ones, in particular all those who suffer, I impart from my heart the Apostolic Blessing.


Pope's Letter to Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music
"The Glory of God and the Sanctification of the Faithful"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 31, 2011 - Here is a translation of the letter Benedict XVI addressed to the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music on the occasion of the centenary of its foundation, which was made public today by the Holy See.

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To the Venerable Brother

Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski

Grand Chancellor of the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music

One hundred years have gone by since my holy predecessor Pius X founded the Higher School of Sacred Music, elevated to Pontifical Institute after twenty years by Pope Pius XI. This important event is a reason for joy for all the cultivators of sacred music, but more in general for all those, beginning of course with the pastors of the Church, who give weight to the importance of the Liturgy, of which sacred singing is an integral part (cf. Ecumenical Vatican Council II, Constitution "Sacrosanctum Concilium," No. 112). Hence, I am particularly happy to express my sincere congratulations for this event and to formulate to you, venerable brother, to the director and to all the community of the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music my cordial wishes.

This institute, which depends on the Holy See, forms part of the singular academic reality constituted by the Pontifical Roman Universities. In a special way, it is linked to the St. Anselm Athenaeum and to the Benedictine Order, as attested also by the fact that its didactic headquarters are located, since 1983, in the abbey of St. Jerome in Urbe, whereas the legal and historical headquarters continue to be in Sant'Apollinare. On celebrating the centenary, my thought goes to all those -- and only the Lord knows them perfectly -- who cooperated in some way in the activity of the Higher School, before and after the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music: from the Superiors who succeeded one another in its direction, to the illustrious professors, to the generations of pupils. Added to the thanksgiving to God for the many gifts granted is the recognition of all that each one has given the Church, cultivating musical art at the service of divine worship.

To understand clearly the identity and mission of the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music, it is opportune to recall that Pope Saint Pius X founded it eight years after having issued the Motu Proprio Tra le sollecitudini, of Nov. 22, 1903, with which he carried out a profound reform in the field of sacred music, returning to the great tradition of the Church against the influences exercised by profane music, especially operatic. This masterful intervention needed, for its realization in the universal Church, a center of study and teaching that could transmit, in a faithful and qualified way, the lines indicated by the Supreme Pontiff, in keeping with the authentic and glorious tradition that goes back to St. Gregory the Great. Hence, in the span of the last one hundred years, this institution has assimilated, elaborated and transmitted the doctrinal and pastoral contents of the Pontifical Documents, as well as of Vatican Council II, concerning sacred music, so that they can illumine and guide the work of composers, of chapel maestros, of liturgists, of musicians and of all formators in this field.

In this connection, I wish to highlight a fundamental aspect that is particularly dear to me: how the essential continuity of the teaching on sacred music in the Liturgy has been perceived since St. Pius X up til today, despite the natural evolution. In particular, the Pontiffs Paul VI and John Paul II, in the light of the conciliar constitution "Sacrosanctum Concilium," wished to reaffirm the end of sacred music, namely, "the glory of God and the sanctification of the faithful" (No. 112), and the fundamental criteria of Tradition, which I limit myself to recall: the sense of prayer, of dignity and of beauty; the full adherence to the texts and to the liturgical gestures; the involvement of the assembly and, finally, the legitimate adaptation to the local culture, preserving at the same time the universality of the language; the primacy of Gregorian chant, as supreme model of sacred music, and the wise appreciation of the other expressive forms which form part of the historical-liturgical patrimony of the Church, especially but not only, polyphony; the importance of the "schola cantorum," in particular in the cathedral churches. They are important criteria, which must be considered carefully also today.

At times, in fact, these elements, which are found in "Sacrosanctum Concilium," such as, in fact, the value of the great ecclesial patrimony of sacred music or the universality that is characteristic of Gregorian chant, were considered expressions of a conception that responded to a past to be overcome and neglected, because it limited the liberty and creativity of the individual and the communities. However, we must always ask ourselves again: Who is the authentic subject of the liturgy? The answer is simple: the Church. Not the individual or the group that celebrates the liturgy, it is first of all the action of God through the Church, which has her history, her rich tradition and her creativity.

The liturgy, and consequently sacred music, "lives from a correct and constant relation between healthy 'traditio' and legitimate 'progressio,'" keeping very present that these two concepts -- that the conciliar Fathers clearly underscore -- integrate mutually because "tradition is a living reality that, because of this, includes in itself the principle of development, of progress" (Address to the Pontifical Liturgical Institute, May 6, 2011).

All this, venerable Brother, forms, so to speak, the "daily bread" of the life and work of the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music. On the basis of these solid and sure elements, to which are added an age-old experience, I encouraged you to carry on with renewed impetus and commitment your service in the professional formation of the students, so that they acquire a serious and profound competency in the different disciplines of sacred music. Thus, this Pontifical Institute will continue to offer a valid contribution for the formation, in this field, of the pastors and lay faithful in the different particular Churches, fostering also an adequate discernment of the quality of the musical compositions used in liturgical celebrations. For these important ends you can count on my constant solicitude, supported by a particular remembrance in prayer, which a entrust to the heavenly intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of Saint Cecilia, while wishing copious fruits from the centenary celebrations, I impart from my heart to you, to the director, to the professors, to the staff and to all the pupils of the Institute a special Apostolic Blessing.

In the Vatican, May 13, 2011



Papal Address to New Council on Evangelization
"To Proclaim Jesus Christ ... Seems More Complex Today"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 30, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today to members of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, who are concluding the council's first plenary assembly.

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Lord Cardinals,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

When last June 28, at First Vespers of the Solemnity of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, I announced that I wished to institute a dicastery for promoting the New Evangelization, I gave an operative beginning to a reflection that I had had for a long time on the need to offer a concrete answer to the moment of crisis in Christian life, which is being verified in so many countries, above all those of ancient Christian tradition. Today, with this meeting, I can see with pleasure that this new pontifical council has become a reality. I thank Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella for the words he addressed to me, introducing me to the work of your first plenary assembly. My warm greetings to all of you with my encouragement for the contribution you will make to the work of the new dicastery, above all in view of the 13th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops that, in October of 2012, will in fact address the topic "New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith."

The term "New Evangelization" speaks of the need for a renewed method of proclamation, especially for those who live in a context, such as the present one, in which the developments of secularization have left heavy traces even in countries with a Christian tradition. The Gospel is the ever new proclamation of the salvation wrought by Christ to render humanity a participant in the mystery of God and in his life of love and to open it to a future of sure and strong hope. To underscore that at this moment in the history of the Church she is called to carry out a New Evangelization, means intensifying missionary action to correspond fully with the Lord's mandate. The Second Vatican Council reminded that "the groups among which the Church dwells are often radically changed, for one reason or other, so that an entirely new set of circumstances may arise" (Decree Ad Gentes, 6). With farsighted understanding, the Conciliar Fathers saw on the horizon the cultural change that today is easily verifiable. Precisely this changed situation, which has created an unexpected situation for believers, requires particular attention to the proclamation of the Gospel, to give the reason for one's faith in situations that are different from the past.

The crisis being experienced bears in itself traces of the exclusion of God from people's lives, of a generalized indifference toward the Christian faith itself, to the point of attempting to marginalize it from public life. In past decades it was still possible to discover a general Christian sense that unified the common feeling of whole generations, growing up in the shadow of the faith that had molded the culture.

Today, unfortunately, we are witnessing the drama of a fragmentation that no longer consents to a unified point of reference; moreover, we often see the phenomenon of persons who wish to belong to the Church, but are strongly molded by a vision of life that opposes the faith.

To proclaim Jesus Christ the only Savior of the world seems more complex today than in the past; but our task remains the same as at the dawn of our history. The mission has not changed, just as the enthusiasm and the courage that moved the Apostles and the first disciples must not change. The Holy Spirit who pushed them to open the doors of the Cenacle, making them into evangelizers (cf. Acts 2:1-4), is the same Spirit that moves the Church today in a renewed proclamation of hope to the men of our time. St. Augustine said that one must not think that the grace of evangelization was extended only to the Apostles and with them that source of grace was exhausted, but that "this source manifests itself when it flows, not when it ceases to be poured out. And it was in this way that, through the Apostles, grace also reached others, who were sent to proclaim the Gospel ... what is more, it has continued to call, up to these last days, the whole body of his only-begotten Son, namely, his Church spread throughout the earth" (Sermon 239, 1). The grace of the mission is always in need of new evangelizers capable of receiving it, so that the salvific proclamation of the Word of God will never diminish in the changing conditions of history.

A dynamic continuity exists between the proclamation of the first disciples and our own. In the course of the centuries the Church has never ceased to proclaim the salvific mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but that same proclamation today needs a renewed vigor to convince contemporary man, often distracted and insensitive. Because of this, the New Evangelization will have to be responsible for finding the methods to make the proclamation of salvation more effective, without which personal existence remains in its state of contradiction, deprived of the essential.

Even in one who remains linked to his Christian roots, but lives the difficult relationship with modernity, it is important to make it understood that being Christian is not a sort of uniform to wear in private or on particular occasions, but is something alive and all-encompassing, able to take up all that is good in modernity.

I hope that in the work of these days you will be able to delineate a plan able to help the whole Church and the various particular Churches, in a commitment to the New Evangelization; a plan where the urgency for a renewed proclamation will take care of formation, in particular for the new generations, and be combined with a proposal of concrete signs able to make evident the answer that the Church intends to offer in this peculiar moment. If, on one hand, the whole community is called to reinvigorate the missionary spirit to give the new proclamation that the men of our time await, it must not be forgotten that believers' style of life needs to be genuinely credible, convincing all the more when the life situations of those who see it is all the more dramatic. It is because of this that we wish to make our own the words of the Servant of God Pope Paul VI when, in regard to evangelization, he said: "It is therefore primarily by her conduct and by her life that the Church will evangelize the world, in other words, by her living witness of fidelity to the Lord Jesus -- the witness of poverty and detachment, of freedom in the face of the powers of this world, in short, the witness of sanctity" (Apostolic Exhortation "Evangelii Nuntiandi," 41).

Dear friends, invoking the intercession of Mary, Star of evangelization, so that she will accompany the bearers of the Gospel and open the hearts of those who listen, I assure you of my prayer for your ecclesial service and impart to all of you the apostolic blessing.


Pope's Address to Marian Group of His Youth
Nazi Power "Cast Doubt on the Future of Christianity"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 30, 2011 - Here is a translation of an address Benedict XVI gave Saturday to the Marianische Männer-Congregation "Mariä Verkündung" (the Sodality of Our Lady), a Marian group from Regensburg, Germany, which he himself joined as a teenager.

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Dear Mr. President,
Dear Members of the Sodality,

A cordial "vergelt's Gott" [God reward you] for your visit, for the gift, for the fact of having drawn out of the past a forgotten moment of my life. In fact, it is a time that is not simply "in the past": admission in this Marian Congregation looks to the future, and it is never simply a time that passed. See, after 70 years, this moment is a time of "today," a time that indicates the way to "tomorrow." I am grateful for your having "pulled out" this time and I am happy.

I thank you from my heart, dear president, for your kind words, which came from the heart and go to the heart. At that period, then -- they were dark times; there was the War. Hitler had subjected one country after another, Poland, Denmark, the Benelux States and France, and in April of 1941 -- precisely in this season 70 years ago -- he had occupied Yugoslavia and Greece. It seemed that the Continent was in the hands of this power that, at the same time, cast doubt on the future of Christianity.

We had been admitted to the Congregation, but shortly after the war began against Russia, the seminary was dissolved, and the Congregation -- before it was reunited, before it succeeded in coming together again -- was already scattered to the four winds. Thus what was not considered an "exterior moment" of life nevertheless remained an "interior moment" of life, because it has always been clear that Catholicity cannot exist without a Marian expression, that to be Catholics means to be Marian, that this means love for the Mother, that in the Mother and by the Mother we find the Lord.

Here, through bishops' "ad limina" visits, I constantly witness how people -- above all in Latin America, but also on the other continents -- can entrust themselves to the Mother, can love the Mother and, through the Mother they learn to know, understand and love Christ. I see how the Mother continues entrusting the world to the Lord, how Mary continues to say "yes" and to bring Christ into the world.

After the War, when we studied, the Mariology that was taught in the German universities was a bit austere and sober -- and I believe it has not changed much today; I do not think the situation is much improved. I believe, however, that we found the essential. At that time, we were oriented to Guardini and to the book of his friend, parish priest Josef Weiger, "Maria, Mutter der Glaubenden" (Mary, Mother of Believers), which referred to the words of Elizabeth: "Blessed are you who have believed!" (cf. Luke 1:45).

Mary is the great believer. She took up Abraham's mission to be a believer and made Abraham's faith concrete in faith in Jesus Christ, thus indicating to us the whole way of faith, the courage of entrusting ourselves to that God who gives himself into our hands, the joy of being his witnesses; and then her determination to remain firm when all fled, the courage to be on the Lord's side when he seemed lost, and rendering precisely in this way that witness that led to Easter.

Therefore, I am pleased to know that in Bavaria there are about 40,000 members of the Sodality; that still today there are men who, together with Mary, love the Lord, men who, through Mary, learn to know and to love the Lord and, like her, give witness of the Lord in difficult hours and in happy hours; who are with him, under the cross and who continue to live Easter joyfully together with him. Hence, I thank all of you because you hold this witness high, because we know that there are Bavarian Catholic men who are in this Sodality, who journey on this path opened by the Jesuits in the 16th century, and who continue to demonstrate that faith does not belong to the past, but is always open to a "today" and, above all, to a "tomorrow."

"Vergelt's Gott fur alles" [God reward you for everything], and God bless you all! Thank you from my heart.


Papal Address to Indian Bishops on 5-Yearly Visit
"Love Is God's Gift to Humanity"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 30, 2011 - Here is the text of an address Benedict XVI gave today to the Indian bishops of Group III, who are concluding their five-yearly "ad limina" visit.

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Dear Brother Bishops,

I offer you a warm welcome on the occasion of your visit ad Limina Apostolorum, a particular moment of grace and a sign of the communion that exists between the Church in India and the See of Peter. I wish to thank Archbishop Maria Callist Soosa Pakiam for the devoted sentiments and the promise of prayers which he has voiced on your behalf and in the name of all those whom you serve. Please take with you my affectionate greeting to the priests, the men and women religious, and the laity entrusted to your pastoral care.

The Second Vatican Council reminds us that, among the more important responsibilities of Bishops, the proclamation of the Gospel is pre-eminent (cf. Lumen Gentium, 25). For the Church, the Body of Christ, proclaims the word of God which is at work in the hearts of those who believe (cf. 1 Thess 2:13) and she grows by constantly hearing, celebrating and studying that word (cf. Verbum Domini, 3). It is a source of satisfaction that the proclamation of God’s word is bearing rich spiritual fruit in your local Churches, especially through the spread of small Christian communities in which the faithful come together for prayer, reflection on the Scriptures and fraternal support. I encourage you, through your priests and with the help of qualified lay leaders, to ensure that the fullness of God’s word, which comes to us in the sacred Scriptures and the Church’s apostolic tradition, is made readily available to those who seek to deepen their knowledge and love of the Lord and their obedience to his will. Every effort should be made to stress that individual and group prayer is, by its very nature, born of, and leads back to, the wellspring of grace found in the Church’s sacraments and her entire liturgical life. Nor can it be forgotten that the word of God not only consoles but also challenges believers, as individuals and in community, to advance in justice, reconciliation and peace among themselves and in society as a whole. Through your personal encouragement and oversight, may the seeds of God’s word presently being sown in your local Churches bear abundant fruit for the salvation of souls and the growth of God’s kingdom.

In fidelity to the new commandment to love one another as the Lord has loved us (cf. Jn 13:34), Christians of all times and places have striven to serve their fellow human beings selflessly and to love them with all their heart. After all, love is God's gift to humanity, it is his promise and it is our hope (cf. Caritas in Veritate, 2). This selfless love finds practical expression in service to others and to the wider community. In this light, I am pleased to note the impressive signs of the Church’s charity in many fields of social activity, a service borne in a particular way by her priests and religious. Through their witness to Christian charity, the Church’s schools prepare young people of all faiths and none to build a more just and peaceful society. Church agencies have been instrumental in the promotion of microcredit, helping the poor to help themselves. In addition, they promote the Church’s healing and charitable mission through clinics, orphanages, hospitals and innumerable other projects aimed at promoting human dignity and well-being, assisting the poorest and the weakest, the lonely and the elderly, the abandoned and the suffering, helping all of them because of the dignity which is their due as human beings, and for no other motive than the love of Christ which impels us (cf. 2 Cor 5:14). I encourage you to persevere in this positive and practical witness, in fidelity to the Lord’s command and for the sake of the least of our brothers and sisters. May Christ’s faithful in India continue to assist all those in need in the communities around them, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or social status, out of the conviction that all have been created in God’s image and all are due equal respect.

As that gift of God’s "unconditional love" which gives ultimate meaning to our lives (cf. Spe Salvi, 26), charity is first experienced by most of us in the family home. The recent Synod on the Word of God recalled that the Church, by her proclamation of the Gospel, reveals to Christian families their true identity in accordance with God’s plan (cf. Verbum Domini, 85). Families in your dioceses, which are "domestic churches", are to be examples of that mutual love, respect and support which ought to animate human relations at every level. Insofar as they are attentive to prayer, meditate on the Scriptures, and participate fully in the sacramental life of the Church, they will help nourish that "unconditional love" among themselves and in the life of their parishes, and will be a source of great good for the wider community. Many of you have spoken to me about the grave challenges which threaten to undermine the unity, harmony and sanctity of the family, and about the work which must be done to build a culture of respect for marriage and family life. A sound catechesis which appeals especially to those preparing for marriage will do much to nourish the faith of Christian families and will assist them in giving a vibrant, living witness to the Church's age-old wisdom regarding marriage, the family, and the responsible use of God’s gift of sexuality.

With these thoughts, dear Brother Bishops, I commend all of you to the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, and the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul. Assuring you of my continued prayers for you and for those entrusted to your pastoral care, I impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of grace and peace in the Risen Lord.

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


The Joy the Gospel Brings
"It Is Possible for Humanity to Know True Joy"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 29, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before and after praying the Regina Caeli with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

The Book of the Acts of the Apostles states that after a first violent persecution, the Christian community of Jerusalem, except for the Apostles, spread to the surrounding areas. Philip, one of the deacons, arrived in a city of Samaria. There he preached the Risen Christ, and his proclamation was supported by numerous healings, so that the outcome of the episode was very positive: "There was great joy in that city." (Acts 8:8).

We are deeply impressed again and again by this expression, which in essence communicates a sense of hope, as if saying: It is possible! It is possible for humanity to know true joy, because wherever the Gospel arrives, life flourishes, just as an arid terrain that, irrigated by rain, is immediately verdant.

With the strength of the Holy Spirit, Philip and the other disciples accomplished in the villages of Palestine what Jesus had done: They preached the Good News and worked miraculous signs. It was the Lord who acted through them. As Jesus proclaimed the coming of the Kingdom of God, so the disciples proclaimed the Risen Jesus, professing that he is the Christ, the Son of God, baptizing in his name and driving out every illness from the body and the spirit.

"There was great joy in that city." Reading this passage, one thinks spontaneously of the healing power of the Gospel, which in the course of the centuries has "irrigated" so many populations, like a beneficial river. Some great men and women saints took hope and peace to whole cities -- we think of Charles Borromeo in Milan at the time of the plague; of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and of so many missionaries, whose names are known by God, who have given their lives to take the proclamation of Christ and to make profound joy flower among men. While the powerful of this world sought to conquer new territories for political and economic interests, Christ's messengers went everywhere for the purpose of taking Christ to men and men to Christ, knowing that he alone can give true liberty and eternal life.

Also today the vocation of the Church is evangelization: whether to populations which have not yet been "irrigated" by the living water of the Gospel, or those that, though having ancient Christian roots, are in need of new sap to bear new fruits, and rediscover the beauty and joy of the faith.

Dear friends, Blessed John Paul II was a great missionary, as an exhibition on display now in Rome shows. He re-launched the mission ad gentes and, at the same time, promoted the new evangelization. Let us entrust both to the intercession of Mary Most Holy. May Christ's Mother accompany the proclamation of the Gospel always and everywhere, so that the spaces where men rediscover the joy of living as children of God will multiply and spread in the world.

[After praying the Regina Caeli, the Holy Father greeted the people in various languages. In Polish, he said:]

I address my greeting to all the Poles. Yesterday was the 30th anniversary of the death of Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, Primate of the Millennium. Invoking the gift of his beatification, let us learn from him total abandonment to the Mother of God. May his trust expressed in the words: "I have put everything in Mary" be for us a particular model. We recall this at the end of the month of May dedicated in a particular way to Our Lady. I bless you from my heart.

[In English, he said:]

I greet the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims at today’s Regina Cæli, especially those from Sioux Falls, South Dakota. In the Gospel today, our Lord declares: "I will not leave you orphans", promising that the gift of the Holy Spirit will make us adopted children of God. Let us pray that we may be faithful to that gift and live fully the new life that Christ offers us. May God bless you all!

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pope's Words After Concert
God "Never Betrays, Never Forgets, Never Leaves Us Alone"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 29, 2011 - Here is a translation of an address Benedict XVI gave Friday after a concert offered in his honor by the president of Hungary, Pál Schmitt.

* * *

[The Pope said in Hungarian:]

I wish to address a deferent greeting to the president of the Republic of Hungary, Mr. Pál Schmitt, to his distinguished entourage and to the Hungarian delegation. I thank him for the words he addressed to me and for having offered us, with exquisite courtesy, this splendid concert, on the occasion of the Hungarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union and of the bicentenary of the birth of Ferenc Liszt, a truly European artist.

[He continued in Italian:]

I greet the other authorities, the ambassadors, the various distinguished guests and all of you. A special thank you to the director, the tenor, to the National Philharmonic Orchestra and to the Hungarian National Choral Group for their soaring performance, and to the organizers.

Liszt, one of the major pianists of all times, was a brilliant composer not only of music for the piano, but also of symphonic and sacred music, as we heard.

I would like to propose a thought to you that came to mind upon hearing the first three passages, the Festmarsch zur Goethejubiläumsfeier, la Vallée d’Obermann and l’Ave Maria-Die Glocken von Rom, the first in the re-elaboration and the other two in the pianoforte of Maestro Kotschisch according to the more genuine spirit of Liszt.

These three compositions made evident all the colors of the orchestra; that is why we were able to hear clearly the particular voice of the various sections that form an orchestral whole: the strings, the wind instruments, the woodwinds, the brass, the percussions -- timbres which are very characteristic and diverse. Yet we did not hear a mass of stray sounds: all these orchestral colors expressed harmoniously just one musical plan. And because of this they gave us the beauty and joy of listening, they aroused in us a vast gamut of sentiments: from the joy and festiveness of the march, to the pensiveness of the second piece with a recurring and heartbreaking melody, to the prayerful attitude to which the sorrowful Ave Maria invited us.

One word also on the most beautiful Psalm 13. It dates back to the years that Liszt spent in Tivoli and in Rome. It is the period in which the composer lived his faith in a very intense way, so much so as to produce sacred music almost exclusively. We recall that he received minor orders. The passage we heard gave us an idea of the quality and depth of this faith. It is a Psalm in which the one at prayer finds himself in difficulty; the enemy surrounds him, assails him, and God seems absent, he seems to have forgotten him. And the prayer becomes anguished in face of this situation of abandonment: "Until when, Lord?" the Psalmist repeats four times. "Her, wie lange?" is repeated almost in a hammering way by the tenor and the choir in the passage heard: it is the cry of man and of humanity, which feels the weight of the evil that exists in the world; and Liszt's music transmitted to us this sense of weight, of anguish. But God does not abandon. The Psalmist knows it and also Liszt, as a man of faith, knows it.

From anguish is born a prayer full of trust that leads to joy: "My heart will exult in your salvation ... I will sing to the Lord, who has helped me." And here Liszt's music is transformed: tenor, choir and orchestra raise a hymn full of trust in God, who never betrays, never forgets, never leaves us alone. In connection with his Missa Solemnis, Liszt wrote: "I can truly say that I prayed this Mass more than I composed it." I think we can say the same of this Psalm: The great Hungarian musician prayed it more than he composed it, or better he prayed it before composing it.

[He added in Hungarian:]

I renew my gratitude to the president of the republic, to the director, the tenor, to the Philharmonic Orchestra and to the choir, to all the organizers, for having given us this moment in which our heart was invited to lift itself to the heights of God.

[In Italian:]

May the Lord continue to bless your life. Thank you all.


Benedict XVI's Address to Caritas
"Charity Is Understood Not Merely as Generic Benevolence But as Self-Giving"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 27, 2011 - Here is the text of the address Benedict XVI gave today to representatives of Caritas, gathered for their general assembly, which marks the 60th anniversary of the charity organization.

* * *

Your Eminences,

Brother Bishops and Priests,

Dear Friends,

I am pleased to have this opportunity to join you on the occasion of your General Assembly. I thank Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, President of Caritas Internationalis, for his kind words on your behalf, and I offer a cordial greeting to all of you and to the entire Caritas family. I also assure you of my gratitude and my prayerful good wishes for the works of Christian charity which you accomplish in countries throughout the world.

The primary reason for our meeting today is to thank God for the many graces poured out on the Church in the sixty years which have passed since the foundation of Caritas Internationalis. Following the horrors and devastation of the Second World War, Venerable Pius XII wanted to demonstrate the solidarity and concern of the entire Church in the face of so many situations of conflict and emergency in the world. He did this by creating an agency which, at the level of the universal Church, would promote greater communication, coordination and cooperation among the Church’s numerous charitable agencies in the various countries (cf. John Paul II, Chirograph Durante l’Ultima Cena, 16 September 2004, No. 1). Blessed John Paul II further strengthened the bonds linking the individual national Caritas agencies to one another and to the Holy See by granting public canonical juridical personality to Caritas Internationalis (ibid., 3). As a result, the international agency took on a particular role in the heart of the ecclesial community and was called to share, in collaboration with the ecclesiastical hierarchy, in the Church’s mission of making manifest, through practical charity, that love which is God himself. Within the limits of the proper ends assigned to it, Caritas Internationalis thus carries out in the name of the Church a specific task for the common good (cf. Code of Canon Law, can. 116 § 1).

Being in the heart of the Church, being able in a certain way to speak and act in her name for the common good, entails particular responsibilities in terms of the Christian life, both personal and in community. Only on the basis of a daily commitment to accept and to live fully the love of God can one promote the dignity of each and every human being. In my first Encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, I reaffirmed how critical the witness of charity is for the Church in our day. Through such witness, seen in the daily lives of her members, the Church reaches out to millions of persons and makes it possible for them to recognize and sense the love of God, who is always close to every man and woman in need. For us Christians, God himself is the source of charity; and charity is understood not merely as generic benevolence but as self-giving, even to the sacrifice of one’s life for others in imitation of the example of Jesus Christ. The Church prolongs Christ’s saving mission in time and space: she wishes to reach out to every human being, moved by a concern that every individual come to know that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ (cf. Rom 8:35).

Caritas Internationalis differsfrom other social agencies in that it is ecclesial; it shares in the mission of the Church. This is what the Popes have always wanted and this is what your General Assembly is called forcefully to re-affirm. It should be noted that Caritas Internationalis is basically made up of the various national Caritas agencies. In comparison with many Church institutions and associations devoted to charity, Caritas is distinctive; despite the variety of canonical forms taken by the national agencies, all of them offer an outstanding aid to Bishops in their pastoral exercise of charity. This entails a particular ecclesial responsibility: that of letting oneself be guided by the Church’s Pastors. Since Caritas Internationalis has a universal profile and is canonically a public juridical person, the Holy See is also responsible for following its activity and exercising oversight to ensure that its humanitarian and charitable activity, and the content of its documents, are completely in accord with the Apostolic See and the Church’s Magisterium, and that it is administered in a competent and transparent manner. This distinctive identity remains the strength of Caritas Internationalis, and is what makes it uniquely effective.

I would also like to emphasize that your mission enables you to play an important role on the international level. The experience you have garnered in these years has taught you to be advocates within the international community of a sound anthropological vision, one nourished by Catholic teaching and committed to defending the dignity of all human life. Without a transcendent foundation, without a reference to God the Creator, without an appreciation of our eternal destiny, we risk falling prey to harmful ideologies. All that you say and do, the witness of your lives and activities, remains important and contributes to the advancement of the integral good of the human person. Caritas Internationalis is an organization charged with fostering communion between the universal Church and the particular Churches, as well as communion between all the faithful in the exercise of charity; at the same time it is called to help bring the Church’s message to political and social life internationally. In the political sphere - and in all those areas directly affecting the lives of the poor - the faithful, especially the laity, enjoy broad freedom of activity. No one can claim to speak "officially" in the name of the entire lay faithful, or of all Catholics, in matters freely open to discussion (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 43; 88). On the other hand, all Catholics, and indeed all men and women, are called to act with purified consciences and generous hearts in resolutely promoting those values which I have often referred to as "non-negotiable". Caritas Internationalis, then, is called to work in converting people’s hearts in openness towards all our brothers and sisters, so that everyone, in full respect for his or her freedom and in the full acceptance of his or her personal responsibilities, may always and everywhere act for the common good, generously giving the best of himself or herself in the service of his or her brothers and sisters, particularly those in greatest need.

It is within this greater horizon, then, and in close collaboration with the Church’s Pastors who are ultimately responsible for her witness of charity (cf. Deus Caritas Est, 32), that the national Caritas agencies are called to continue their vital witness to the mystery of God’s healing and transforming love made manifest in Jesus Christ. The same holds true for Caritas Internationalis, which can rest assured that it will enjoy the assistance and support of the Holy See – particularly through the competent dicastery, the Pontifical Council Cor Unum – as it strives to carry out its mission.

Dear friends, as I entrust these thoughts to your reflection, I once more thank you for your generous efforts in the service of our brothers and sisters in need. To you, to your co-workers and to all engaged in the vast network of Catholic charities, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of strength and peace in the Lord.

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Papal Address at Rosary With Italian Bishops
Mary's Life "Is a Call to Turn From What We Are to Hear and Accept the Word"

ROME, MAY 27, 2011 - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address Thursday at the Basilica of St. Mary Major.

The Pope met there with bishops of Italy to pray the rosary, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy.

* * *

Venerable and dear brothers,

You have come to this splendid basilica -- a place where spirituality and art come together in a centuries-old union -- to share an intense moment of prayer, by which we entrust to the maternal protection of Mary, Mater Unitatis, the whole Italian nation, 150 years after the political union of the country. It is significant that this initiative was prepared by similar meetings in the dioceses: also in this way you express the solicitude of the Church in making herself close to the destiny of this beloved nation.

We, in turn, feel in communion with every community, including the smallest, in which the tradition of dedicating May to Marian devotion is alive. This tradition is expressed in many signs: shrines, chapels, works of art and, above all, in the prayer of the holy rosary, with which the People of God give thanks for the good they receive incessantly from the Lord, through the intercession of Mary Most Holy, and pray to her for their many needs.

Prayer -- which has its summit in the liturgy, whose form is guarded by the living tradition of the Church -- is always leaving space for God: his action makes us participants in the history of salvation. This afternoon, in particular, in the school of Mary we have been invited to share in Jesus' steps: to go down with him to the Jordan River, so that the Spirit will confirm in us the grace of baptism; to sit at the banquet of Cana, to receive from him the "good wine" of the celebration; to enter the synagogue of Nazareth, as poor ones to whom is addressed the joyful message of the Kingdom of God; also to go up Mount Tabor, to receive the cross in the paschal light; and finally, to participate in the Cenacle in the new and eternal sacrifice that, anticipating the new heavens and the new earth, regenerates the whole of creation.

This basilica is the first dedicated to the Virgin Mother of God in the West. On entering it, my thoughts went back to the first day of the year 2000, when Blessed John Paul II opened the Holy Door, entrusting the Jubilee Year to Mary, so that she would watch over the path of all those who acknowledged themselves pilgrims of grace and mercy. We ourselves today do not hesitate to feel like pilgrims, desirous of crossing the threshold of that Most Holy Door that is Christ, and we want to ask the Virgin Mary to support our path and to intercede for us. As he is Son of God, Christ is the form of man: He is man's most profound truth, the sap that gives life to a history that otherwise would be irremediably impaired. Prayer helps us to recognize in him the center of our life, to remain in his presence, to conform our will to his, to do "what he tells us" (John 2:5), certain of his fidelity. This is the essential task of the Church, crowned by him as Mystical Bride, as we contemplate her in the splendor of the apse. Mary constitutes her model: she is the one who presents to us the mirror in which we are invited to recognize our identity. Her life is a call to turn from what we are to hear and accept the Word, being able in faith to proclaim the greatness of the Lord, before which our only possible greatness is that expressed in filial obedience: "Be it done unto me according to thy word" (Luke 1:38). Mary trusted: she is the "blessed one" (cf. Luke 1:42), who is blessed for having believed (cf. Luke 1:45), to the point of having been clothed in Christ to such a degree that she enters in the "seventh day," a participant in God's rest. The dispositions of her heart -- listening, acceptance, humility, fidelity, praise and waiting -- correspond to the interior attitudes and to the gestures that mold Christian life. The Church is nourished by them, conscious that they express what God expects from her.

Engraved on the bronze of this basilica's Holy Door is a representation of the Council of Ephesus. The building itself, whose original nucleus dates back to the 5th century, is linked to that ecumenical summit held in the year 431. In Ephesus the united Church defended and confirmed for Mary the title Theotokos, Mother of God: a title with Christological content, which refers to the mystery of the Incarnation and which expresses the unity of the human nature with the divine in the Son. Moreover, it is the person and the experience of Jesus of Nazareth that illumines the Old Testament and Mary's face itself. Understood clearly in her is the unitary design that intertwines the two Testaments. In her personal life is the synthesis of the history of a whole nation, which places the Church in continuity with ancient Israel. Within this perspective individual histories receive meaning, beginning with those of the great women of the Old Covenant, in whose life is represented a humiliated, defeated and deported people. However, they are also the same ones who personify hope; they are the "holy remnant," a sign that God's plan does not remain an abstract idea, but finds correspondence in a pure answer, in a liberty that gives itself without holding anything back, in a yes that is full acceptance and perfect gift. Mary is the highest expression of it. Upon her, Virgin, descends the creative power of the Holy Spirit, the same who "in the beginning" hovered over the shapeless abyss (cf. Genesis 1:1) and thanks to which God called being from nothing; the Spirit gives life to and molds creation. Opening to his action, Mary engenders the Son, the presence of God who comes to inhabit history and opens it to a new and definitive beginning, which is the possibility for every man to be reborn from on high, to live in the will of God and thus to be completely fulfilled.

Faith, in fact, is not alienation: the experiences that contaminate man's dignity and the quality of social coexistence [are not the experiences of faith]! In every historical period the encounter with the ever new Word of the Gospel was a source of civilization; it built bridges between peoples and enriched the fabric of our cities, expressing itself in culture, in the arts and, not last, in the thousand forms of charity. No wonder Italy, celebrating the 150 years of its political unity, can be proud of the presence and action of the Church. She does not pursue privileges or desire to substitute the responsibilities of the political institutions; respectful of the legitimate secularity of the state, she is attentive in supporting the fundamental rights of man. Among these are first of all the ethical demands and, therefore, openness to transcendence, which are values that precede any state jurisdiction, inasmuch as they are inscribed in the very nature of the human person. In this perspective, the Church -- strong because of collegial reflection and because of direct experience on the spot -- continues offering her own contribution to the building of the common good, reminding each one of his duty to promote and protect human life in all its phases and to support the family with deeds; the family continues to be, in fact, the first reality in which free and responsible persons can grow, formed in those profound values that open to fraternity and which also enable one to address the adversities of life. Not in the last place, there is today difficulty in accessing full and fitting employment; hence, I join all those who appeal to politics and to the business world to make every effort to surmount the widespread precariousness of labor, which in young people compromises the serenity of a plan for family life, with grave harm to an authentic and harmonious development of society.

Dear brothers, the anniversary of the founding event of the unitary state has found you diligent in recalling fragments of a shared memory, and sensible in pointing out the elements of a future perspective. Do not hesitate to stimulate the lay faithful to overcome every spirit of narrow-mindedness, distraction and indifference, and to participate personally in public life. Encourage initiatives of formation inspired in the social doctrine of the Church, so that whoever is called to political and administrative responsibilities is not a victim of the temptation to exploit his position for personal interests or because of thirst for power. Support the vast network of aggregations and associations that promote endeavors of a cultural, social and charitable character. Renew the occasions of encounter, in the sign of reciprocity, between North and South. Help the North to recover the original motivations of that vast cooperative movement of Christian inspiration which animated a culture of solidarity and economic development. Likewise, invite the South to put in circulation for the benefit of all the resources and qualities it possesses and those features of reception and hospitality that characterize it. Continue cultivating a spirit of sincere and loyal cooperation with the state, knowing that this relationship is beneficial both for the Church as well as for the whole country. May your words and action be encouragement and thrust for all those called to manage the complexity that characterizes the present time. It is a time when an appeal arises ever more strongly for solid spiritual references; be able to articulate to all what is peculiar to the Christian experience: God's victory over evil and death, as a horizon that casts a light of hope on the present. Assuming education as the theme of the pastoral commitment of this decade, you wished to express the certainty that Christian existence -- the good life of the Gospel -- is precisely the demonstration of a fulfilled life. On this path you ensure not only a religious and ecclesial but also a social service, contributing to build the city of man. Therefore, courage! Despite all the difficulties, "nothing is impossible for God" (Luke 1:37), for him who continues doing "great things" (Luke 1:49) through all those who, like Mary, are able to give themselves to him with unconditional availability.

We place the whole Italian nation under the protection of the Mater Unitatis, so that the Lord will grant it the inestimable gifts of peace and fraternity and, hence, of development in solidarity. May she also help the political forces to live the anniversary of unity as an occasion to reinforce the national bond and to surmount every harmful opposition: may the various and legitimate sensibilities, experiences and perspectives come together again in a wider picture to seek together what truly contributes to the good of the country. May Mary's example open the way to a more just, mature and responsible society, capable of rediscovering the profound values of the human heart. May the Mother of God encourage young people, sustain families, comfort the sick, implore upon each one a renewed effusion of the Spirit, helping us to recognize and also to follow the Lord in this time, who is the true good of life, because he is Life itself.

From my heart I bless you and your communitie


On Jacob's Wrestling With God
"He Who Allows Himself to Be Blessed by God ... Renders the World Blessed"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 25, 2011 - Here is a translation of the Italian-language catechesis Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience held in St. Peter's Square. The Pope continued with his new series of catecheses on prayer, reflecting today on prayer in the Patriarch Jacob's life.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today I would like to reflect with you upon a text from the Book of Genesis that narrates a rather particular episode in the history of the Patriarch Jacob. It is not an easily interpreted passage, but it is an important one for our life of faith and prayer; it recounts the story of his wrestling with God at the ford of the Jabbok, from which we have just heard a passage.

As you will remember, Jacob had taken away his twin brother Esau's birthright in exchange for a dish of lentils and then, through deception, had stolen the blessing of his father Isaac who was already quite advanced in years, by taking advantage of his blindness. Having escaped Esau's fury, he had taken refuge with a relative, Laban; he married and had grown rich and now was returning to the land of his birth, ready to face his brother after having put several prudent measures in place. But when he is all ready for this encounter -- after having made those who were with him cross the ford of the stream marking Esau's territory -- Jacob, now left alone, is suddenly attacked by an unknown figure who wrestles with him for the whole of the night. It is this hand to hand battle which we find in Chapter 32 of the Book of Genesis that becomes for him a singular experience of God.

Night is the favorable time for acting in secret, the best time, therefore, for Jacob to enter his brother's territory without being seen, and perhaps with the illusion of taking Esau unawares. But instead, it is he who is surprised by an unexpected attack for which he was not prepared. He had used his cunning to try to save himself from a dangerous situation, he thought he had succeeded in having everything under control, and instead he now finds himself facing a mysterious battle that overtakes him in solitude without giving him the possibility of organizing an adequate defense. Defenseless -- in the night -- the Patriarch Jacob fights with someone. The text does not specify the aggressor's identity; it uses a Hebraic term that generically indicates "a man," "one, someone;" it therefore has a vague, undetermined definition that intentionally keeps the assailant in mystery. It is dark. Jacob is unsuccessful in seeing his opponent distinctly, and also for the reader he remains unknown. Someone is setting himself against the patriarch; this is the only sure fact furnished by the narrator. Only at the end, once the battle has ended and that "someone" has disappeared, only then will Jacob name him and be able to say that he has wrestled with God.

The episode unfolds, therefore, in obscurity and it is difficult to perceive not only the identity of Jacob's assailant, but also the battle's progress. Reading the passage, it is hard to establish which of the two contenders succeeds in having the upper hand. The verbs used often lack an explicit subject, and the actions progress in an almost contradictory way, so that when one thinks that either of the two has prevailed, the next action immediately contradicts it and presents the other as the winner. At the beginning, in fact, Jacob seems to be the strongest, and the adversary -- the text states -- "did not prevail against him" (verse 26 [25]); yet he strikes the hollow of his thigh, dislocating it. One would then be led to think that Jacob has to surrender, but instead it's the other who asks him to let him go; and the patriarch refuses, laying down a condition: "I will not let you go, unless you bless me" (verse 27). He who by deception had defrauded his brother of the firstborn's blessing, now demands it from the stranger in whom perhaps he begins to see divine characteristics, but still without being able to truly recognize him.

The rival, who seemed to be held and therefore defeated by Jacob, instead of submitting to his request, asks his name: "What is your name?" And the patriarch responds: "Jacob" (verse 28). Here the battle undergoes an important development. To know someone's name, in fact, implies a kind of power over the person, since the name, in biblical thinking, contains the most profound reality of the individual; it unveils his secret and his destiny. Knowing someone's name therefore means knowing the truth of the other, and this allows one to be able to dominate him. When, therefore, at the stranger's request, Jacob reveals his own name, he is handing himself over to his opponent; it is a form of surrender, of the total giving over of himself to the other.

But in this act of surrender, Jacob paradoxically also emerges as a winner, because he receives a new name, together with an acknowledgement of victory on the part of his adversary, who says to him: "Your name shall no more be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed" (verse 29 [28]). "Jacob" was a name that recalled the patriarch's problematic beginnings; in Hebrew, in fact, it calls to mind the word "heel," and takes the reader back to the moment of Jacob's birth when, coming from the maternal womb, his hand took hold of his twin brother's heel (cf. Gen. 25:26), as though prefiguring the overtaking of his brother's rights in his adult life; but the name Jacob also calls to mind the verb "to deceive, to supplant." Now, in the battle, the patriarch reveals to his opponent, through an act of entrustment and surrender, his own reality as a deceiver, a supplanter; but the other, who is God, transforms this negative reality into something positive: Jacob the deceiver becomes Israel; he is given a new name that signifies a new identity. But also here, the account maintains its intended duplicity, since the most probable meaning of the name Israel is "God is mighty, God triumphs."

Jacob therefore prevailed, he triumphed -- it is the adversary himself who affirms it – but his new identity, received by the same adversary, affirms and testifies to God's triumph. When in turn Jacob will ask his contender's name, he will refuse to pronounce it, but he will reveal himself in an unequivocal gesture, by giving him his blessing. That blessing which the patriarch had asked at the beginning of the battle is now granted him. And it is not the blessing grasped by deception, but that given freely by God, which Jacob is able to receive because now he is alone, without protection, without cunning and deception. He gives himself over unarmed; he accepts surrendering himself and confessing the truth about himself. And so, at the end of the battle, having received the blessing, the patriarch is able finally to recognize the other, the God of the blessing: "I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved" (verse 31 [30]), and now he can cross the ford, the bearer of a new name but "conquered" by God and marked forever, limping from the wound he received.

The explanations that biblical exegesis can give regarding this passage are numerous; in particular, the learned recognize in it intentions and literary components of various kinds, as well as references to a few popular stories. But when these elements are taken up by the sacred authors and included in the biblical account, they change in meaning and the text opens itself up to broader dimensions. The episode of the wrestling at the Jabbok is offered to the believer as a paradigmatic text in which the people of Israel speak of their own origins and trace out the features of a particular relationship between God and man. For this reason, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church also affirms: "the spiritual tradition of the Church has retained the symbol of prayer as a battle of faith and as the triumph of perseverance" (No. 2573).

The biblical text speaks to us of the long night of the search for God, of the battle to know his name and to see his face; it is the night of prayer that, with tenacity and perseverance, asks a blessing and a new name from God, a new reality as the fruit of conversion and of forgiveness.

In this way, Jacob's night at the ford of the Jabbok becomes for the believer a point of reference for understanding his relationship with God, which in prayer finds its ultimate expression. Prayer requires trust, closeness, in a symbolic "hand to hand" not with a God who is an adversary and enemy, but with a blessing Lord who remains always mysterious, who appears unattainable. For this reason the sacred author uses the symbol of battle, which implies strength of soul, perseverance, tenacity in reaching what we desire. And if the object of one's desire is a relationship with God, his blessing and his love, then the battle cannot but culminate in the gift of oneself to God, in the recognition of one's own weakness, which triumphs precisely when we reach the point of surrendering ourselves into the merciful hands of God.

Dear brothers and sisters, our whole life is like this long night of battle and prayer that is meant to end in the desire and request for God's blessing, which cannot be grasped or won by counting on our own strength, but must be received from him with humility, as a gratuitous gift that allows us, in the end, to recognize the face of the Lord. And when this happens, our whole reality changes; we receive a new name and the blessing of God. But even more: Jacob, who receives a new name, who becomes Israel, also gives a new name to the place where he wrestled with God; he prayed there and renamed it Peniel, which means "the Face of God." With this name, he recognized that place as filled with God's presence; he renders the land sacred by imprinting upon it the memory of that mysterious encounter with God. He who allows himself to be blessed by God, who abandons himself to him, who allows himself to be transformed by him, renders the world blessed. May the Lord help us to fight the good fight of faith (cf. Timothy 6:12; 2 Timothy 4:7) and to ask his blessing in our prayer, so that he may renew in us the anticipation of seeing his face. Thank you.

[The Holy Father then greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our catechesis on Christian prayer, we now turn to the biblical account of the Patriarch Jacob's struggle with God at the ford of the Jabbok (cf. Gen 32:23-33). This mysterious encounter takes place at night, when Jacob is alone and unarmed; the identity of his assailant and the winner of the contest is not at first clear. Jacob is wounded and must reveal his name to his rival, suggesting his defeat, yet he receives a new name 'Israel' and is given a blessing. At daybreak Jacob recognizes that his opponent is God; limping from his wound, he now crosses the ford. The Church's spiritual tradition has seen in this story a symbol of prayer as a faith-filled struggle which takes place at times in darkness, calls for perseverance, and is crowned by interior renewal and God's blessing. This struggle demands our unremitting effort, yet ends by surrender to God's mercy and gift. At daybreak, Jacob called the place of his struggle Peniel, which means "face of God", for he said: "I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved" (Gen 32:30). In our prayers, let us ask the Lord to help us as we fight the good fight of faith, and to bless us as we long to see his face.


To Macedonian Delegation on Sts. Cyril and Methodius Feast
"There Can Be No Real Unity Without Respect for the Dignity of Every Person"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 23, 2011 - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address today to Gjorge Ivanov, president of Macedonia, whom he received in audience together with a Catholic-Orthodox delegation from the country.

The Pope received delegations from both Bulgaria and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to celebrate the feast day -- May 11 in the East and Feb. 14 in the West -- of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, the co-patrons of Europe.

* * *

Mr. President,

Honorable Members of the Government and Distinguished Authorities,

Venerable Brothers Representatives of the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church

I am particularly happy to receive you and to address my cordial greeting to each one of you, in particular to the president of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The feast of Sts. Cyril and Methodius is a motive of joy for us all. These holy brothers sent to the Slav peoples proclaimed the Gospel amid many difficulties, but always sustained by an indestructible trust in the Lord. They were animated by the passion to make the Gospel of Christ known and for that reason they spent themselves in teaching the Christian doctrine, reproducing it in books written in the Slavic language. Without a doubt this was a decisive event for the growth and development of the Slav civilization and culture in general. The testimony and teaching of Sts. Cyril and Methodius are still current both for those who are at the service of the Gospel as well as for those called to govern the destinies of nations.

The life of these men was totally dedicated to apostolic activity, and the divine intuition to make the message of Revelation comprehensible and accessible to the peoples was the reason for unity for different traditions and cultures. In acceptance of God's salvific plan, peoples can rediscover the foundations on which to build civilizations and societies imbued with the spirit of reconciliation and peaceful coexistence. There can be no real unity without respect for the dignity of every person and his inalienable rights. Sts. Cyril and Methodius understood well that the Gospel of Christ is able to illumine every ambit and dimension of the human experience, to make it fully human. The Word of God calls constantly to conversion of heart, so that every decision, every choice is purified of egotistical interests; and it is precisely from this permanent conversion to God that it is possible to have a new humanity born.

May your annual pilgrimage to Rome be the occasion to renew the bonds of friendship between your nation and the Catholic Church and, at the same time, to reinforce and promote the commitment for the good of your country. Let us invoke the intercession of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, so that the Lord may give you his peace and bless the peoples of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.


Address to Bulgarian Delegation on Europe's Patrons
"In Europe's Complex History, Christianity Represents a Central and Defining Element"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 23, 2011 - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address today to Tsetska Tsacheva, chairwoman of the National Assembly of Bulgaria, whom he received in audience together with a Catholic-Orthodox delegation from the country.

The Pope received delegations from both Bulgaria and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to celebrate the feast day -- May 11 in the East and Feb. 14 in the West -- of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, the co-patrons of Europe.

* * *

Mrs. President of the Parliament,

Honorable Members of the Government and Distinguished Authorities,

Venerable Brothers of the Orthodox Church and of the Catholic Church,

I wish to address my deferent greeting to the official delegation of Bulgaria -- headed by Mrs. President of the Parliament -- which has come to Rome as customary, in the context of the liturgical feast of Sts. Cyril and Methodius. This welcome meeting, which is renewed also this year, gives me the opportunity to reaffirm the spiritual and cultural relevance of these two illustrious and notable pioneers of the evangelization of Europe, whose figures are honored both in the East as well as the West. Thanks to their courageous preaching through the streets of the Continent, they fostered a vast spiritual renewal and laid the basis for an authentic promotion of the liberty and unity of Christian Europe. Cyril and Methodius were "living Gospels" and eloquent signs of the Lord's goodness, that is why their witness reached the men of their time more readily.

To European peoples, who are opening these years to new prospects of cooperation, these two great saints remind that its unity will be firmer if it is based on their common Christian roots. In fact, in Europe's complex history, Christianity represents a central and defining element. The Christian faith has molded the culture of the Old Continent, and is indissolubly intertwined in its history, to the point that the latter would not be comprehensible if it did not make reference to the circumstances that earlier characterized the great period of evangelization, and afterward the long centuries in which Christianity took on an ever more relevant role.

Hence, it is important that Europe grow also in the spiritual dimension, in the wake of its best history. The unity of the Continent, which is progressively maturing in consciences and is also being defined in the political aspect, represents a prospect of great hope. Europeans are called to commit themselves to create conditions of a profound cohesion and an effective collaboration between nations. To build the new Europe on solid bases it is not enough to appeal solely to economic interests, but, rather, it is necessary to begin from authentic values, which have their foundation in the universal moral law inscribed in every man's heart.

It is my heartfelt wish that the moral and cultural legacy of Sts. Cyril and Methodius will always nourish in each one of you the desire to appreciate the spiritual patrimony of your lands and, at the same time, openness and communion in reciprocal respect. May this meeting of ours be the motive for further relations in fraternity and solidarity. May the Lord bless your dear country and all its citizens.


Holy See's Address at UN Development Conference
"Promote the Good of Every Man and of the Whole Man"

ISTANBUL, Turkey, MAY 23, 2011 - Here is the address delivered by Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Holy See's permanent representative to the U.N. offices in Geneva at the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC-IV). The conference was held May 9-13 in Istanbul.

* * *

Mr. President,

First of all. My Delegation would like to thank the Government of Turkey for the effective organization of this timely and important conference and for the great hospitality of the Turkish people.

Mr. President,

1. The LDCs' development paradigm implemented over the past years has proven ineffective. Since the early 2000s the continued growth (7% per year from 2002 to 2007) in many LDCs has not translated into an improved situation for the people. The number of very poor people has actually increased (more than 3 million per year from 2002 to 2007). In 2007, 59% of the population in African LDCs was living on less than USD 1.25 per day.

2. Currently the growth in many of these countries comes primarily from the exploitation and export of natural resources, especially mineral reserves, while growth across other sectors is not robust or consistent. Unfortunately the growth that is realized in the extractives sector is the subject of many controversies on revenue distribution and local community impact, and only creates a significant number of jobs in the exploratory and build up phase of the project but very few that are long term. This correlates with ILO research that shows the labor force in LDC countries increasing by 2.5% per year but the opportunities for employment are not commensurate with either the robust growth or the demand for employment. The impact of these limited employment opportunities is experienced particularly by the young and those who are entering the work force for the first time. The success stories are found in countries that have created some productive capacities such as horticulture, in the cases of Uganda and Ethiopia. Ghana and Kenya that are not LDCs have also shown good performance in this area.

3. The analysis of this current reality in the LDC group has led UNCTAD, in its Least Developed Countries Report 2010, to propose a new international development architecture that calls for a more comprehensive approach to the challenges of development. It should be noted that at the session of the UNCTAD’s Trade Development Board (TDB) dedicated to LDCs, the majority of the groups were in favor of the proposed new international architecture for development. Several groups also insisted on the need to include specific considerations for post conflict management situations, the reconstruction of infrastructures and agricultural production, while others have insisted that regional approaches to these issues be considered.

The Holy See supports this new approach and will focus its intervention on three themes.

4. The first theme looks at the Pillars of "integral human development".

In the encyclical letter "Caritas in Veritate" that was released on 7 July 2009, Pope Benedict XVI reviews the foundational teaching on development that was presented in the encyclical letter of Pope Paul VI, "On the Progress of Peoples (Populorum Progressio)" in 1967: "development cannot be limited to mere economic growth. In order to be authentic, it must be complete: integral, that is, it has to promote the good of every man and of the whole man."1 It is important that we recall this foundational teaching on the nature of development and recover its central truth as we reflect on the specific challenges that the LDCs present at this ministerial conference.

Since 1967 numerous theories and approaches to development have been proposed and tested and this has resulted in a much deeper understanding of the complex and evolving challenges that any consideration of this topic presents. It remains however true that there are still millions who have little or no access to the goods and benefits that development offers. An honest evaluation of the progress that has been made is reflected in the words of the Holy Father who writes that "...progress, remains an open question, made all the more acute and urgent by the current economic and financial crisis. If some areas of the globe, with a history of poverty, have experienced remarkable changes in terms of their economic growth and their share in world production, other zones are still living in a situation of deprivation comparable to that which existed at the time of Paul VI, and in some cases one can even speak of a deterioration."[2]

In numerous other evaluations, including the aforementioned UNCTAD report, we have been reminded that a comprehensive and inclusive framework for international development is essential if any enduring results are to be achieved. In the Catholic Social Teaching tradition the pillars for such framework have been identified as follows: respect for human dignity; protection of human rights; care of creation; participation in community, subsidiarity and solidarity. Other pillars that are judged to be constitutive of an integral development plan are education; natural resource exploitation; agriculture; manufacturing; trade; financial services; infrastructure and technology.

As we continue to reflect on the specific challenges which development presents in LDCs it remains imperative that these pillars serve as a guide in our efforts to promote and sustain an approach to development that is integral and authentically human.[3]

5. The second theme deals with the kind of growth necessary for ‘integral human development".

Any approach to the challenge of development must recognize that "the development of individuals and peoples depends partly on the resolution of problems of a spiritual nature. Development must include not just material growth but also spiritual growth".[4] Too often the use of quantifiable metrics and economic criteria to measure such realities as gross domestic product or the narrow horizon of stock market growth fails to capture the full measure of what it means to be human, fails to appreciate the transcendent dimension of the person and therefore what it takes to promote the development of the whole person.

Growth therefore that promotes "integral human development" is one that is inclusive of the pillars already mentioned above and evaluated by how well it promotes sustainable development and communities, creates decent jobs, alleviates people’s poverty and protects the environment. A model of growth that includes these objectives will build a domestic economic and commercial cycle that is sustainable, respects the environment and promotes development. Among the necessary elements in this growth model, especially in LDCs, are a vibrant agriculture sector and job creation across a number of sectors that will engage the large number of people who are entering the employment sector.

In LDCs for example, the agricultural value added for workers rose three times more slowly than the GDP per capita over the last 20 years. At the same time, LDCs’ dependence on imported food commodities has greatly increased (multiplied by 3 between 2000 and 2008). As a result it is among the 2.5 billion people dependent on agriculture for their daily sustenance that one finds most of the people who suffer from malnutrition and hunger.

Any growth model that is adopted therefore must recognize and strengthen the central role of agriculture in economic activity; thereby reducing malnutrition in rural areas and increasing production per person in order to enhance local, regional or national food independence.

Investments to improve productivity are required in the areas of seeds, training, sharing of tools for cultivation and of the means for marketing. Structural changes are also demanded according to the specificity of individual states. For example, we must ensure security of land tenure for farmers, especially for those with small landholdings. The customary right of land ownership may be reconsidered. A clear property right gives the farmer the opportunity to pledge his land in exchange for seasonal credit to purchase necessary inputs. In addition, the aim of land tenure has now become increasingly important in the face of the expansion of the phenomenon of land grabbing. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 80% of the land is occupied by poor who have no land title.

Across all sectors of society from agriculture to manufacturing to delivery of services we must remember that decent work "expresses the essential dignity of every man and woman in the context of their particular society: work that is freely chosen, effectively associating workers, both men and women, with the development of their community."[5] Work is not a commodity. Decent work gives everyone the opportunity to use his own talents and to be creative; it is a motor of sustainable growth at the service of the common good and so it must be a central objective of the new architecture. The final goal, then, is the creation of a "work that makes it possible for families to meet their needs and provide schooling for their children, without the children themselves being forced into labor; work that permits the workers to organize themselves freely, and to make their voices heard; work that leaves enough room for rediscovering one's roots at a personal, familial and spiritual level; work that guarantees those who have retired a decent standard of living."[6]

6. The third theme to be kept in mind is the role of the State in promoting "integral human development".

The number of institutions, agents and actors in the development space has increased exponentially over the years. The official development commitments of governments alongside those of voluntary organizations have been substantial during that time. They have now been joined and in some instances are dwarfed by the presence of such actors as corporations, private foundations and private investors. There is, we believe, a need and room for all of these actors for they can bring different perspectives, modes of operating and can thereby make unique contributions to the development that is needed in LDCs.

In this environment, however, the role of the state and of regional, international and global authorities is critical and must be supported and respected. Combined with the Catholic perspective on the responsibility of the state to guarantee the public order and promote the common good, these bodies must play a pivotal role in orchestrating and directing LDC development. This can be especially challenging in a post-conflict context and especially so in a "failed state" situation.

The teaching of our tradition, when it comes to the responsibility of governments to enact the legal framework and rules so that financial and commercial activities fulfill their social purpose and function smoothly, has consistently asserted a positive role for a limited government, that is neither libertarian or collectivist. It became clear during the 2008 financial crisis that the market does not naturally contain in itself the ingredients for an automatic correction of errors and would have led to a collapse of the financial and economic system if the states had not acted. The rescue of the banks, necessary as it has been, did not prevent the painful impact of the crisis on the population since ultimately the correction of the market’s vagaries is carried out to the detriment of populations, states have a duty to intervene pre-emptively to avoid such suffering. "The articulation of political authority at the local, national and international levels is one of the best ways of giving direction to the process of economic globalization. It is also the way to ensure that it does not actually undermine the foundations of democracy".

While recognizing the benefits of free trade to promote development and therefore the urgency to close the gap in the Doha Development Round, the implementation of the commitments to introduce duty free, quota free access to the market for the LDCs should be accompanied by adequate measures to protect farmers against price volatility which has a strong impact on food security for several reasons: high prices make food unaffordable for the poor and temporarily low prices give farmers the incorrect information on needed seedlings after harvest for the following year. To prevent price volatility or at least weaken its impact, local food crops need to be protected against sudden disruptions in international prices. For example, the establishment of regional stockpiles of raw food (cereals, oil, sugar) can have a twofold benefit: these stocks can be sold at an affordable price in case of shock and they can play a moderating role against the volatility of local prices.

The "developmental state" plays a unique and key role in the development of a country and with other regional and international authorities is expected to coordinate appropriate and constructive plans. In addition to the tasks already mentioned above, the responsibility of mobilizing the domestic resources that are regarded as a critical component of stable financing for government priorities and development needs has been identified as essential. This is a tedious and complicated undertaking, especially where no basic framework or infrastructure exists to advance such an objective. Alongside the other resources like FDI (Foreign Direct Investment), ODA (Official Development Assistance) and remittances from local citizens working abroad, these domestic resources will play an essential role in any development plan.

Corporations: The presence of private corporations in communities, societies and countries continues to grow and they have a far reaching impact wherever they are located. Their influence on development, depending on their size and footprint, in local communities and across broad sections of society can be significant and should be monitored and evaluated by the state. They should also be expected to fulfill their obligations as good corporate citizens by keeping in mind according to the Holy Father that, "business management cannot concern itself only with the interests of the proprietors, but must also assume responsibility for all the other stakeholders who contribute to the life of the business: the workers, the clients, the suppliers of various elements of production, the community of reference."[7]

Private Finance and Development; The presence of private finance institutions and actors, such as private equity and hedge funds, in countries and regions across the world continues to increase. Facilitated by the continued expansion and integration of all aspects of the global financial system, their presence presents a unique set of challenges in LDCs. It is important that LDCs be in a position to benefit from their presence and assure that their activities are making a contribution to lasting development.

Once again Pope Benedict reminds all actors in this space and this applies especially to those investors in LDCs that, "What should be avoided is a speculative use of financial resources that yields to the temptation of seeking only short-term profit, without regard for the long-term sustainability of the enterprise, its benefit to the real economy and attention to the advancement, in suitable and appropriate ways, of further economic initiatives in countries in need of development. It is true that the export of investments and skills can benefit the populations of the receiving country. Labour and technical knowledge are a universal good. Yet it is not right to export these things merely for the sake of obtaining advantageous conditions, or worse, for purposes of exploitation, without making a real contribution to local society by helping to bring about a robust productive and social system, an essential factor for stable development."[8]

7. Conclusion

In conclusion, Mr. Pres?dent, LDCs continue to face enormous challenges as they search for the resources and the path to development for their citizens. There remains no easy formula for success but the promise of solidarity can be a foundation for the renewal of commitment by those who have wrestled with this challenge for decades and a guidepost for the new actors in this space. There are numerous different and essential roles and responsibilities for the successful implementation of the development process in the LDCs. Thus, the Holy See anticipates a new Programme of Action for the LDCs for the coming decade. Now is the time to translate into concrete action the commitments that have been made in these days. The future well being of the LDCs depends to a great extent upon the spirit of gratuitousness that motivates our common efforts. Working together in a coordinated and cooperative fashion the institutions and actors from all sectors can and must support the efforts of all LDCs to achieve their goals as members of the one human family.


[1] Paul VI, Encyclical Letter, Populorum Progressio; On the Development of Peoples, no. 14

[2] Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter, Caritas in Veritate: Charity in Truth, no. 33.

[3] Ibid., no. 23 Pope Benedict reiterates this approach when he writes; "Many areas of the globe today have evolved considerably, albeit in problematical and disparate ways, thereby taking their place among the great powers destined to play important roles in the future. Yet it should be stressed that progress of a merely economic and technological kind is insufficient. Development needs above all to be true and integral."

[4] Ibid., n. 7

[5] Ibid., no. 63

[6] Ibid.,

[7] Ibid., no. 34

[8] Ibid., no 40


On the Way, the Truth and the Life
"To Proclaim Jesus Christ ... Is the Main Task of the Church

VATICAN CITY, MAY 22, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before praying the midday Regina Caeli with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

The Gospel of this Sunday, the Fifth of Easter, proposes a twofold commandment on faith: to believe in God and to believe in Jesus. In fact, the Lord said to his disciples: "Believe in God and believe also in me" (John 14:1). They are not two separate acts, but just one act of faith, full adherence to the salvation wrought by God the Father through his Only-begotten Son.

The New Testament put an end to the Father's invisibility. God has shown his face, as Jesus' answer to the Apostle Philip confirms: "He who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). With his incarnation, death and resurrection, the Son of God has freed us from the slavery of sin to give us the freedom of the children of God and has shown us the face of God, which is love: God can be seen, he is visible in Christ.

St. Teresa of Avila wrote: "We must not distance ourselves from what constitutes all our good and our remedy, that is, the most holy humanity of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Interior Castle, 7, 6: "Opere Complete," Milan, 1998, 1001). Therefore, only by believing in Christ, by remaining united to him, the disciples, among whom we also are, can continue their permanent action in history: "Truly, truly I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do" (John 14:12).

Faith in Jesus means to follow him daily, in the simple actions that make up our day. "It is part of the mystery of God that he acts so gently, that he only gradually builds up his history within the great history of mankind; that he becomes man and so can be overlooked by his contemporaries and by the decisive forces within history; that he suffers and dies and that, having risen again, he chooses to come to mankind only through the faith of the disciples to whom he reveals himself; that he continues to knock gently at the doors of our hearts and slowly opens our eyes if we open our doors to him" (Jesus of Nazareth II, 2011, 276).

St. Augustine says that "it was necessary for Jesus to say: 'I am the way, the truth and the life' (John 14:6) because once the way was known, it remained to know the goal" (Tractatus in Ioh,, 69, 2: CCL 36, 500), and the goal is the Father. For Christians, for each one of us, hence, the way to the Father is to allow ourselves to the guided by Jesus, by his word of truth, and to receive the gift of his life. Let us make our own St. Bonaventure's invitation: "Open, therefore, your eyes, lend your spiritual ear, open your lips and dispose your heart, so that you will be able to see, hear, praise, love, venerate, glorify, honor your God in all creatures" ("Itinerarium mentis in Deum," I. 15).

Dear friends, the commitment to proclaim Jesus Christ, "the way, the truth and the life" (John14:6), is the main task of the Church. Let us invoke the Virgin Mary so that she will always assist the pastors and those who in the different ministries to proclaim the happy message of salvation, so that the Word of God is diffused and the number of disciples multiplied (cf. Acts 6:7).

[Translation by ZENIT]

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

I welcome all the English-speaking visitors who join us for this Regina Caeli prayer. In a special way I greet the participants in the leadership training course offered by the St. Egidio community, assuring them of my prayers for their efforts to proclaim the Gospel and serve the poor and needy in their native countries. Also in these days the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation, organized by the World Council of Churches, is meeting in Kingston, Jamaica. The Convention is the culmination of a decade-long programme aimed at combating all forms of violence. Let us join in prayer for this noble intention, and recommit ourselves to eliminating violence in families, in society and in the international community. Dear friends, in the joy of this Easter season, may we be strengthened by the Risen Lord to follow him faithfully and to share in his life. Upon you and your families I invoke God's abundant blessings.

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

[In Italian, he said:]

I address my cordial greeting to the Italian-speaking pilgrims, in particular to the numerous candidates for Confirmation of the diocese of Genoa, led by cardinal Bagnasco. A thought then goes to the large group of the Pro-Life Movement: dear friends, I congratulate you in particular for the commitment with which you help women who face difficult pregnancies, engaged couples and spouses who desire responsible procreation; thus you work concretely for the culture of life. I pray to the Lord that, thanks also to your contribution, the "yes to life" will be a motive of unity in Italy and in every country of the world. I bless the children accompanied by UNITALSI, who overcoming the hardship of illness make themselves witnesses of peace. I encourage the sick and volunteers present on the occasion of the National Week of Multiple Sclerosis. I greet the members of the Teresian Institution on the centenary of the Association; the faithful from Saiano, from Montegranaro and from some parishes of Rome; the schoolchildren of Verona and the youngsters of Torano Nuovo. I wish all a good Sunday.


Benedict XVI's Exchange With Space Station Crew
"Humanity Is Experiencing a Period of Extremely Rapid Progress"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 22, 2011 - Here is the Vatican transcription of the 20-minute teleconference that took place Saturday between Benedict XVI and the crew aboard the International Space Station, on the occasion of the last mission of the shuttle Endeavour.

From the Foconi Room of the Vatican Library, the Holy Father could see the astronauts on a large screen television, while the crew aboard the space station could only hear the Pope.

Accompanying the Pontiff were Enrico Saggese, president of the Italian Space Agency, Thomas Reiter, Director of Human Spaceflight and Operations at the European Space Agency, and General Giuseppe Bernardis of the Italian Air Force

Benedict XVI addressed five questions to the astronauts, and concluded with a final farewell.

* * *


Dear astronauts,

I am very happy to have this extraordinary opportunity to converse with you during your mission. I am especially grateful to be able to speak to so many of you, as both crews are present on the Space Station at this time.

Humanity is experiencing a period of extremely rapid progress in the fields of scientific knowledge and technical applications. In a sense, you are our representatives -- spear-heading humanity's exploration of new spaces and possibilities for our future, going beyond the limitations of our everyday existence.

We all admire your courage, as well as the discipline and commitment with which you prepared yourselves for this mission. We are convinced you are inspired by noble ideals and that you intend placing the results of your research and endeavors at the disposal of all humanity and for the common good.

This conversation gives me the chance to express my own admiration and appreciation to you and to all those who collaborate in making your mission possible, and to add my heartfelt encouragement to bring it to a safe and successful conclusion.

But this is a conversation, so I must not be the only one doing the talking. I am very curious to hear you tell me about your experiences and your reflections. If you don't mind, I would like to ask you a few questions.

First Question

From the Space Station you have a very different view of the Earth. You fly over different continents and nations several times a day. I think it must be obvious to you how we all live together on one Earth and how absurd it is that we fight and kill each other. I know that Mark Kelly's wife was a victim of a serious attack and I hope her health continues to improve. When you are contemplating the Earth from up there, do you ever wonder about the way nations and people live together down here, or about how science can contribute to the cause of peace?

Mark Kelly, USA

Well, thank you for the kind words, Your Holiness, and thank you for mentioning my wife Gabby. It's a very good question: we fly over most of the world and you don't see borders, but at the same time we realize that people fight with each other and there is a lot of violence in this world and it's really an unfortunate thing.

Usually, people fight over many different things. As we've seen in the Middle East right now: it's somewhat for democracy in certain areas, but usually people fight for resources. And it's interesting in space … on Earth, people often fight for energy; in space we use solar power and we have fuel cells on the Space Station.

You know, the science and the technology that we put into the Space Station to develop a solar power capability, gives us pretty much an unlimited amount of energy. And if those technologies could be adapted more on Earth, we could possibly reduce some of that violence.

Second Question

One of the themes I often return to in my discourses concerns the responsibility we all have towards the future of our planet. I recall the serious risks facing the environment and the survival of future generations. Scientists tell us we have to be careful and from an ethical point of view we must develop our consciences as well. From your extraordinary observation point, how do you see the situation on Earth? Do you see signs or phenomena to which we need to be more attentive?

Ron Garan, USA

Well, Your Holiness, it's a great honor to speak with you and you're right: it really is an extraordinary vantage point we have up here. On the one hand, we can see how indescribably beautiful the planet that we have been given is; but on the other hand, we can really clearly see how fragile it is. Just the atmosphere, for instance: the atmosphere when viewed from space is paper-thin, and to think that this paper-thin layer is all that separates every living thing from the vacuum of space and is all that protects us, is really a sobering thought.

You know, it seems to us that it's just incredible to view the Earth hanging in the blackness of space and to think that we are all on this together, riding through this beautiful fragile oasis through the universe, it really fills us with a lot of hope to think that all of us on board this incredible orbiting Space Station that was built by the many nations of our international partnership, to accomplish this tremendous feat in orbit, I think … you know, that just shows that by working together and by cooperating we can overcome many of the problems that face our planet, we could solve many of the challenges that face the inhabitants of our planet … it really is a wonderful place to live and work, and it's a wonderful place to view our beautiful Earth.

Third Question

The experience you are having right now is both extraordinary and very important -- even if you must eventually come back down to Earth like all the rest of us. When you do return, you will be much admired and treated like heroes who speak and act with authority. You will be asked to talk about your experiences. What will be the most important messages you would like to convey -- to young people especially -- who will live in a world strongly influenced by your experiences and discoveries?

Mike Finchke, USA

Your Holiness, as my colleagues have indicated, we can look down and see our beautiful planet Earth that God has made, and it is the most beautiful planet in the whole Solar System. However, if we look up, we can see the rest of the universe, and the rest of the Universe is out there for us to go explore. And the International Space Station is just one symbol, one example of what human beings can do when we work together constructively. So our message, I think -- one of our many messages, but I think one of our most important messages -- is to let the children of the planet know, the young people know that there is a whole universe for us to go explore. And when we do it together, there is nothing that we cannot accomplish.

Fourth Question

Space exploration is a fascinating scientific adventure. I know that you have been installing new equipment to further scientific research and the study of radiation coming from outer space. But I think it is also an adventure of the human spirit, a powerful stimulus to reflect on the origins and on the destiny of the universe and humanity. Believers often look up at the limitless heavens and, meditating on the Creator of it all, they are struck by the mystery of His greatness. That is why the medal I gave Robert (Vittori) as a sign of my own participation in your mission, represents the Creation of Man -- as painted by Michelangelo on the Sistine Chapel ceiling. In the midst of your intense work and research, do you ever stop and reflect like this -- perhaps even to say a prayer to the Creator? Or will it be easier for you to think about these things once you have returned to Earth?

Roberto Vittori, Italia

Your Holiness, to live on board of the International Space Station, to work as an astronaut on the shuttle Soyuz of the Station, is extremely intense. But we all have an opportunity, when the nights come, to look down on Earth: our planet, the blue planet, is beautiful. Blue is the color of our planet, blue is the color of the sky, blue is also the color of the Italian Air Force, the organization that gave me the opportunity to then join the Italian Space Agency and the European Space Agency.

When we have a moment to look down, beauty which is the three-dimensional effect of the beauty of the planet is capturing our heart, is capturing my heart. And I do pray: I do pray for me, for our families, for our future. I took with me the coin and I allow this coin to float in front of me to demonstrate lack of gravity. I shall thank you very much for this opportunity and I'd like to allow this coin to float to my friend and colleague Paolo: he will make return to Earth on the Soyuz. I brought it with me to space and he will take it down to Earth to then give it back to you.

Fifth Question -- in Italian -- for Paolo Nespoli

My last question is for Paolo. Dear Paolo, I know that your Mother passed away recently and that when you get back home in a few days she will not be there to greet you. We are all close to you in your loss, and I personally have prayed for her. How did you cope with this sorrowful time? In your space station, do you feel alone, separated and cut off, or do you feel united among yourselves and part of a community that accompanies you with attention and affection?

Paolo Nespoli, Italia

Holy Father, I've felt your prayers, your prayers even now: it's true, we are away from this world, orbiting around the earth and having a vantage-point of looking upon the earth and feeling all that's happening on it. My colleagues here aboard the station -- Dimitri, Kelly, Ron, Alexander and Andrei -- have been close in this important, very intense, time for me, just as my siblings, my aunts, cousins and relatives were close to my mother in her last moments. I'm grateful for all this. I've felt myself far, but also very close, and surely the thought of feeling all you close to me, closely united in this moment, has been an extreme comfort. I also thank the European and American space agencies which made their resources available so I could talk to my mother in her last hours alive.

Final greeting

Dear astronauts,

I thank you warmly for this wonderful opportunity to meet and dialogue with you. You have helped me and many other people to reflect together on important issues that regards the future of humanity. I wish you the very best for your work and for the success of your great mission at the service of science, international collaboration, authentic progress, and for peace in the world. I will continue to follow you in my thoughts and prayers and I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing.

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pope's Address to World of Culture in Venice
"The Glory of God Is the Full Health of Man"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 21, 2011 - Here is a Vatican translation of the homily Benedict XVI delivered May 8 at a meeting with representatives of the world of culture and of the economy at the Basilica of St. Mary of Health in Venice, at the close of his two-day pastoral visit to Aquileia and Venice.

* * *

Dear Friends,

I am glad to greet you cordially as representatives of the worlds of culture, art and the economy of Venice and its territory. I thank you for coming and for your warmth. I express my gratitude to the Patriarch and to the Rector who, on behalf of the Studium Generale Marcianum, has conveyed your feelings and introduced our meeting, the last on my busy schedule which began yesterday in Aquileia. I would like to leave you several very concise ideas, which I hope will be useful to you for reflection and for your common commitment. I have drawn these ideas from three words which are evocative metaphors: three words linked to Venice and, in particular, to the place in which we are now: the first word is aqua [water], the second is Salute [health/salvation], the third is Serenissima [most serene].

Let us begin with water, as would appear logical in many respects. Water is an ambivalent symbol: of life, but also of death; as the peoples hit by flooding and seaquakes know well. But water is first and foremost an element essential to life. Venice is called the "City of Water". And for you who live in Venice this condition is a double sign, both negative and positive. It entails much hardship and at the same time an extraordinary fascination. Venice being a "city of water" makes me think of a famous contemporary sociologist who has described our society as "liquid", and thus the European culture: to express its "fluidity", its scant or perhaps lack of stability, its changeableness, the inconsistence which at times seems to characterize it. And here I would like to insert the first proposition: Venice, not as a "liquid" city -- in the sense just mentioned -- but as a city "of life and of beauty". Of course, this is a choice but in history it is necessary to choose: men and women are free to interpret, to give a meaning to reality, and it is in this freedom itself that the great dignity of the human being consists.

In the context of a city, any city, the administrative, cultural and economic decisions depend, basically, on this fundamental orientation, which we may call "political" in the most noble, the loftiest sense of the term. It is a question of choosing between a "liquid" city, the homeland of a culture that appears ever more relative and transient, and a city that is constantly renewing its beauty by drawing on the beneficial sources of art, of knowledge and of the relations between people and peoples.

We come to the second word: "Salute". We find ourselves at the "Polo della Salute" [the pole of health]: a new reality which nevertheless has ancient roots. Here, on the Punta della Dogana [Customs], one of the most famous of Venice’s churches stands. It is a work of Longhena, built as a vow to Our Lady for liberation from the plague of 1630: Santa Maria della Salute. Beside it the famous architect built the Convent of the Somascans, which subsequently became the Patriarchal Seminary. "Unde origo, inde salus", reads the motto carved in the centre of the largest roundel in the Basilica, a phrase that indicates how closely linked to the Mother of God is the origin of the City of Venice which tradition claims was founded on 25 March 421, the day of the Annunciation. And it was through Mary’s intercession that health came, salvation from the plague. Yet reflecting on this motto we can also grasp another even deeper and broader meaning. From the Virgin of Nazareth came the One who gives us "salvation". "Salute" is an all-encompassing, integral reality: it extends from "being well" which enables us to live serenely a day of study and work or of vacation, to the salus animae, on which our eternal destiny depends. God takes care of all this, excluding nothing. He takes care of our health in the full sense. Jesus demonstrates this in the Gospel: he healed the sick, suffering from every kind of illness, but he also freed those possessed by the devil. He forgave sins; he resurrected the dead. Jesus revealed that God loves life and wants to deliver it from every denial, even to the point of rescuing it from that radical denial which is spiritual evil, sin, a poisonous root that contaminates all things.

For this reason Jesus himself can be called man’s "Salvation": Salus nostra Dominus Jesus. Jesus saves man by placing him once again in the salutary relationship with the Father in the grace of the Holy Spirit; immerses him in this pure and life-giving current which frees him from his physical, psychological and spiritual "paralyses"; heals him from hardness of heart and enables him to savour the possibility of truly finding himself, by losing himself for love of God and neighbour.

Unde origo, inde salus. This motto calls to mind a wealth of references; I limit myself to recalling one of them, the famous words of St Irenaeus: "Gloria Dei vivens homo, vita autem hominis visio Dei [est]" (Adv. Haer. IV, 20, 7) -- which could be paraphrased: the glory of God is the full health of man and this consists in being in a profound relationship with God. We can also say it in terms dear to the new Blessed, John Paul ii: man is the way of the Church and the Redeemer of man is Christ.

Lastly the third word: "Serenissima", the name of the Venetian Republic. This is a truly marvellous title, one might say utopian, in comparison with earthly reality; yet it is able to evoke not only the memories of past glories but also the driving ideals in the planning of today and of the future in this great region. In the full sense only the heavenly city is "most serene" the new Jerusalem, which appears at the end of the Bible, in the Book of Revelation, as a marvellous vision (cf. Rev 21:1-22:5).

Yet Christianity conceives of this holy City, completely transfigured by God’s glory, as a destination that moves human hearts and spurs them onwards, that enlivens their demanding and patient work to improve the earthly city. What the Second Vatican Council says about this should always be remembered: "it profits man nothing if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself. Far from diminishing our concern to develop this earth, the expectancy of a new earth should spur us on, for it is here that the body of a new human family grows, foreshadowing in some way the age which is to come" (Pastoral Costitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, n. 39).

We listen to these words in an epoch when the power of ideological utopias is exhausted and not only is optimism obscured but hope is also in crisis. We must not, therefore, forget that the Council Fathers who left us this teaching lived in the period of the two World Wars and totalitarianism. Their perspective was certainly not dictated by an easy optimism, but by Christian faith which enlivens hope at the same time great and patient, open to the future and attentive to the historical situations. In this same perspective the name "Most Serene" speaks to us of a civilization of peace founded on mutual respect, on reciprocal knowledge, on friendly relations.

Venice has a long history and a rich human, spiritual and artistic patrimony in order to be capable, today too, of making a precious contribution to helping people believe in a better future and in committing themselves to building it. However for this reason it must not be afraid of another symbolic element, contained in the coat of arms of San Marco: the Gospel. The Gospel is the greatest power for transformation in the world, but it is neither a utopia nor an ideology. The first Christian generations called it rather the "way", that is, the way of living that Christ practised first and invites us to follow.

The "Most Serene" city may be reached in this way, which is the way of charity in truth, knowing well, as the Council again reminds us, that "this love is not something reserved for important matters, but must be exercised above all in the ordinary circumstances of daily life", and that following Christ’s example "we must carry the cross, which the flesh and the world inflict on the shoulders of all who seek after peace and justice" (n. 38).

These, dear friends are the ideas for reflection that I wished to share with you. It was a joy to me to end my Visit in your company. Once again I thank the Cardinal Patriarch, the Auxiliary Bishop and all the collaborators for their magnificent welcome. I greet the Jewish Community of Venice -- which has ancient roots and is an important presence in the fabric of the city -- with its President, Prof. Amos Luzzatto. And I also extend a thought to the Muslims who live in this city. From this most important place I address my cordial greeting to Venice, to the pilgrim Church here and to all the Dioceses of the Triveneto while I impart the Apostolic Blessing, as a pledge of my everlasting remembrance. Thank you for your attention.

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pope's Homily at Mass in Mestre's San Giuliano Park
"See Everything and Everyone With God's Eyes, in the Light of His Love"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 20, 2011 - Here is a Vatican translation of the homily Benedict XVI delivered May 8 during Mass at San Giuliano Park in Mestre, on the second day of his two-day pastoral visit to Aquileia and Venice.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am very glad to be with you today and to be celebrating this solemn Eucharist with you and for you. It is significant that the place chosen for this Liturgy should be San Giuliano Park: a place where religious rites are not usually celebrated but where cultural and musical events are held. Today this place is hosting the Risen Jesus, truly present in his word, in the assembly of the People of God with its Pastors and, eminently, in the Sacrament of his Body and of his Blood. I address my most cordial greeting to you, venerable bishops, with the priests and deacons, to you, men and women religious and lay people, with a special thought for the sick and the invalids present here, accompanied by the National Italian Union for the Transport of the Sick to Lourdes and International Shrines [UNITALSI]. Thank you for your warm welcome!

I greet with affection Cardinal Angelo Scola, the Patriarch. I thank him for his moving words to me at the beginning of holy Mass. I address a respectful thought to the Mayor, to the Minister for Cultural Assets and Activities who is representing the Government, to the Minister for Labour and Social Policies and to the civil and military Authorities who have wished to honour our meeting with their presence. I offer my heartfelt thanks to all those who have generously cooperated in the preparation of my Pastoral Visit and to ensure that it goes smoothly. I extend to you my heartfelt thanks.

The Gospel of the Third Sunday of Easter -- which we have just heard -- presents the episode of the disciples of Emmaus (cf. Lk 24:13-35), an account that never ceases to astonish and move us. This episode shows the effects that the Risen Jesus works in two disciples: conversion from despair to hope; conversion from sorrow to joy; and also conversion to community life. Sometimes, when we speak of conversion we think solely of its demanding aspect of detachment and renunciation. Christian conversion, on the contrary, is also and above all about joy, hope and love. It is always the work of the Risen Christ, the Lord of life who has obtained this grace for us through his Passion and communicates it to us by virtue of his Resurrection.

Dear brothers and sisters, I have come among you as Bishop of Rome and perpetuator of Peter’s ministry, to strengthen you in faithfulness to the Gospel and in communion. I have come to share with the bishops and priests their concern for missionary proclamation, which must involve us all in a serious and well-coordinated service to the cause of the Kingdom of God. You, who are present here today, represent the ecclesial communities that were born from the mother Church of Aquileia. Just as in the past when those Churches were distinguished for their apostolic fervour and their pastoral dynamism, so today too it is necessary to promote and courageously defend the truth and unity of the faith. It is necessary to account for Christian hope to modern men and women who are often overcome by immense and troubling problems that plunge the very foundations of their being and action into crisis.

You are living in a context in which Christianity is presented as the faith which has accompanied the journey of many peoples down the ages even through persecutions and harsh trials. The many testimonies that have spread everywhere are an eloquent expression of this faith: churches, works of art, hospitals, libraries and schools; the actual environment of your cities, of the countryside and the mountains, is everywhere spangled with references to Christ. Yet today this existence of Christ risks being emptied of its truth and of its deepest content; it risks becoming a horizon that only superficially -- and rather, in its social and cultural aspects -- embraces life; it risks being reduced to a Christianity in which the experience of faith in the Crucified and Risen Jesus fails to illuminate the journey of life, as we have heard in today’s Gospel concerning the two disciples of Emmaus, who after the crucifixion of Jesus were going home immersed in doubt, sadness and disappointment. Unfortunately such an attitude is beginning to spread in your region too. This happens when today’s disciples drift away from the Jerusalem of the Crucified and Risen One, no longer believing in the power and in the living presence of the Lord. The problem of evil, sorrow and suffering, the problem of injustice and abuse, fear of others, of strangers and foreigners who come to our lands and seem to attack what we are, prompt Christians today to say sadly: we hoped that the Lord would deliver us from evil, from sorrow, from suffering, from fear, from injustice.

It is thus necessary for each and every one of us to let ourselves be taught by Jesus, as the two disciples of Emmaus were: first of all by listening to and loving the word of God read in the light of the Paschal Mystery, so that it may warm our hearts and illumine our minds helping us to interpret the events of life and give them meaning. Then it is necessary to sit at table with the Lord, to share the banquet with him, so that his humble presence in the Sacrament of his Body and Blood may restore to us the gaze of faith, in order to see everything and everyone with God’s eyes, in the light of his love. Staying with Jesus who has stayed with us, assimilating his lifestyle, choosing with him the logic of communion with each other, of solidarity and of sharing. The Eucharist is the maximum expression of the gift which Jesus makes of himself and is a constant invitation to live our lives in the Eucharistic logic, as a gift to God and to others.

The Gospel also mentions that after recognizing Jesus in the breaking of the bread, the two disciples “rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem” (Lk 24:33). They felt the need to return to Jerusalem and to tell of their extraordinary experience: the encounter with the Risen Lord. A great effort must be made so that every Christian, here in the North East [of Italy] as in every other part of the world, may be transformed into a witness, ready to proclaim vigorously and joyfully the event of Christ’s death and Resurrection.

I know the care which, as the Triveneto Churches, you devote to seeking to understand the reasons of the modern man’s heart and that, referring to the ancient Christian traditions, you are concerned to outline a programme for the new evangelization, looking attentively at the numerous challenges of the present time and rethinking the future of this region. With my presence I would like to support your work and to imbue everyone with trust in the full pastoral programme initiated by your pastors, hoping for a fruitful commitment on the part of all members of the ecclesial community.

Even a traditionally Catholic people can feel negatively or assimilate almost unconsciously the repercussions of a culture that ends by insinuating a mentality in which the Gospel message is openly rejected or subtly hindered. I know that you have made and are making a considerable effort to defend the eternal values of the Christian faith. I encourage you never to give in to the recurring temptations of the hedonistic culture and to the appeal of materialistic consumerism. Accept the invitation of the Apostle Peter, contained in today’s Second Reading, to conduct yourselves “with fear throughout the time of your exile” here below (1 Pt 1:17); an invitation that is put into practice by living intensely on the thoroughfares of our world in the awareness of the destination to be reached: unity with God, in the Crucified and Risen Christ.

In fact, our faith and our hope are addressed to God (cf. 1 Pt 1:21): they are addressed to God because they are rooted in him, founded on his love and on his fidelity. In past centuries, your Churches knew a rich tradition of holiness and of generous service to the brethren, thanks to the work of zealous priests and men and women religious of both active and contemplative life. If we wish to listen to their spiritual teaching it is not difficult for us to recognize the personal and unmistakable appeal that they address to us: Be holy! Make Christ the centre of your lives! Build the edifice of your existence on him! In Jesus you will find the strength to open yourselves to others and to make yourselves, after his example, a gift for the whole of humanity.

Around Aquileia people of different languages and cultures were to be found united. They were brought together not only by political needs but especially by faith in Christ and by the civilization of Love, inspired by the teaching of the Gospel. Today the Churches founded by Aquileia are called to strengthen that ancient spiritual unity, in particular in the light of the phenomenon of immigration and the new geographical and political circumstances that are coming into existence. The Christian faith can certainly contribute to the practicality of such a programme, which concerns the harmonious and integral development of the human being and of the society in which he or she lives. My presence among you is therefore intended to be a strong support in the efforts made to foster solidarity among your North-Eastern dioceses. Further, it is intended to encourage every project, striving to overcome those divisions which might thwart concrete aspirations to justice and peace.

This, brothers and sisters, is my hope, this is the prayer that I raise to God for all of you, as I invoke the heavenly intercession of the Virgin Mary and of the many Saints and Blesseds among whom I would like to recall St Pius X and Bl. John XXIII and also Venerable Giuseppe Toniolo, whose Beatification is now at hand. These luminous Gospel witnesses are the greatest treasure of your region; follow their example and their teaching, combining it with the needs of the present day. Be confident: the Risen Lord is walking with you, yesterday, today and for ever. Amen.

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Papal Address to the Teresianum
"How Can We Remain Indifferent to Such Love"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 19, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today to the community of the Pontifical Theological Faculty Teresianum. The institute is marking the 75th anniversary of its foundation.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

I am happy to meet with you and to join you in giving thanks to the Lord for 75 years of the Pontifical Theological Faculty Teresianum. I greet cordially the grand chancellor, Father Saverio Cannistrà, minister-general of the Order of Discalced Carmelites, and I thank him for the beautiful words he addressed to me. With him I gladly receive the fathers from the general directorate. I greet the president, Father Aniano Álvarez-Suarez, the academic authorities, and the entire docent body of the Teresianum, and with affection I greet you, dear students, Discalced Carmelites, men and women religious of various orders, priests and seminarians.

Three quarters of a century have passed since that July 16, 1935, liturgical memorial of the Blessed Virgin of Mount Carmel, in which the then International College of the Order of Discalced Carmelites in the city was promoted to the status of Theological Faculty. From the beginning it was oriented to deepening spiritual theology in the framework of the anthropological question. Over the course of the years, an Institute of Spirituality was established, which together with the Theological Faculty, makes up the academic group that has the name of Teresianum.

Taking a retrospective glance over the history of this institution, we want to praise the Lord for the wonders he has accomplished in and through it, in the many students that have attended it -- first of all, because to be part of such an academic community constitutes a unique ecclesial experience, strengthened by all the richness of a great spiritual family such as the Order of Discalced Carmelites. We think of the vast renewal movement began in the Church by the testimony of Sts. Teresa of Jesus and John of the Cross. It aroused a rekindling of the ideals and fervor of contemplative life, which in the 16th century set afire, so to speak, Europe and the whole world.

Dear students, placed in the wake of this charism is your work of anthropological and theological reflection as well, the task of penetrating the mystery of Christ, with that intelligence of heart that is at the same time a knowing and a loving; this calls for Jesus to be placed at the center of everything -- your affections and thoughts, your time of prayer, study and action, the whole of your life. He is the Word, the "living book," as he was for St. Teresa of Avila, who affirmed: "To learn the truth, there is no other book than God" (Vita 26, 5). I wish for each one of you that you will be able to say with St. Paul: "I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord" (Philippians 3:8).

To this end, I would like to recall St. Teresa's description of the interior experience of conversion, just as she herself lived it one day before the crucifix. She writes: "As soon as I looked at him ... the sorrow I felt was so great, the sorrow of ingratitude with which I responded to his love, that it seemed to me my heart would break. I threw myself at his feet all in tears and begged him to give me the grace not to offend him anymore (Autobiography 9,1).

With the same force, the saint seems to ask us too: How can we remain indifferent to such love? How can we ignore him who has loved us with such great mercy? The love of the Redeemer merits all the heart's and mind's attention, and can activate also in us that wonderful circle in which love and knowledge reciprocally nourish one another.

During your theological studies, always have your sight turned to the ultimate reason for which you undertook them, that is to Jesus who "has loved us and given his life for us" (cf. 1 John 3:16). Be conscious that these years of study are a precious gift of Divine Providence, a gift that must be received with faith and lived diligently, as an unrepeatable opportunity to grow in knowledge of the mystery of Christ.

In the present context, an in-depth study of Christian spirituality from its anthropological foundations is of great importance. The specific preparedness that this furnishes is certainly important because it gives a person the proper profile and qualifies him for teaching this discipline, but it constitutes an even greater grace because of the sapiential weight it carries with it, geared to the delicate task of spiritual direction.

As she has never failed to do, again today the Church continues to recommend the practice of spiritual direction, not only to all those who wish to follow the Lord up close, but to every Christian who wishes to live responsibly his baptism, that is, the new life in Christ. Everyone, in fact, and in a particular way all those who have received the divine call to a closer following, needs to be supported personally by a sure guide in doctrine and expert in the things of God. A guide can help defend oneself from facile subjectivist interpretations, making available his own supply of knowledge and experiences in following Jesus. [Spiritual direction] is a matter of establishing that same personal relationship that the Lord had with his disciples, that special bond with which he led them, following him, to embrace the will of the Father (cf. Luke 22:42), that is, to embrace the cross.

You also, dear friends, in the measure in which you are called to this invaluable task, make a treasure of all that you will have learned in these years of study, to support all those whom Divine Providence will entrust to you, helping them in the discernment of spirits and in the capacity to second the motions of the Holy Spirit, with the objective of leading them to the fullness of grace, "until we all attain," as St. Paul says, "to the measure of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13).

Dear friends, you come from the most diverse parts of the world. Here in Rome your heart and your intelligence are induced to open to the universal dimension of the Church; they are stimulated to feel "cum Ecclesia," in profound harmony with the Successor of Peter. Hence, I exhort you to live an ever greater and more passionate capacity to love and serve the Church. In this Eastertide, let us ask the Risen Lord for the gift of his Spirit, and we ask it sustained by the prayer of the Virgin Mary. May she, who in the Cenacle invoked with the Apostles the Paraclete, obtain for you the gift of wisdom of heart and attract a renewed effusion of heavenly gifts for the future that awaits you. By the intercession of the Mother of God and of Sts. Teresa of Jesus and John of the Cross, I impart from my heart to the community of the Teresianum and the whole Carmelite Family the Apostolic Blessing.


Pope's Greeting in St. Mark's Square
"Preserve Harmony Between the Eyes of Faith and Reason"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 19, 2011 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered May 7 upon greeting the people of Venice gathered in St. Mark's Square, at the beginning of his two-day pastoral visit to Aquileia and Venice.

* * *

Dear Cardinal Patriarch,
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
Mr Mayor and Distinguished Authorities,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I address a cordial greeting to each of you who have come to this quay, from the "calli" and "campi" [alleyways and squares] of this marvellous city, to express your affection to the Successor of Peter, who is here on pilgrimage to the land of St Mark. Your presence, accompanied by vibrant enthusiasm, expresses your faith and devotion, and in my opinion this is a reason for great joy. In particular, I thank the Mayor for the noble words he has addressed to me on behalf of the whole city and for the sentiments he has expressed to me; together with him, I greet and thank the Civil and Military Authorities who have come to welcome me.

Today I have the joy of being able to meet the people of this Lagoon. I have come to you to renew the profound link of communion which historically unites you with the Bishop of Rome and whose primary witnesses are the venerable Pastors who left this Patriarchal See for that of St Peter: many of you have kept a vivid memory of Patriarch Albino Luciani, a son of these Venetian regions, who became Pope with the name of John Paul I. How can one forget Patriarch Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, who, having become Pope John XXIII, has been raised by the Church to the honours of the altar and proclaimed Blessed? Lastly, let us remember Patriarch Giuseppe Sarto, the future St Pius X, who continues to enliven this particular Church and the whole universal Church with his example of holiness. The Pastoral Visits made by the Servant of God Paul VI and by Bl. John Paul II are a further testimony of the Popes’ pastoral care for your city. In the footsteps of my Predecessors, I too wished to be with you today to bring you a word of love and hope, and to strengthen you in the faith of the Church, which the Lord Jesus chose to found on the rock which was Peter and which he entrusted to the guidance of the Apostles and their successors in communion with the Church of Rome "which presides in charity" (St Ignatius).

Dear friends, in accordance with the Venetian traditions you have wished to welcome me in this evocative place which is, as it were, the gate to the heart of the city. From here one’s gaze embraces the serene basin of St Mark, the elegant Ducal Palace, the marvellous structure of Basilica di San Marco, the unmistakable profile of the city, rightly known as "the pearl of the Adriatic". From here one can appreciate the aspect of rare openness that has always characterized Venice, a crossroads of people and communities of all origins, cultures, languages and religions. As a landing and meeting place for human beings from all continents, due to its beauty, its history, its civil traditions, for centuries this city has responded to the special vocation of being a bridge between East and West.

In our day too, with its new perspectives and their complex challenges, Venice is called to take on important responsibilities with regard to a culture of hospitality and sharing in order to build bridges of dialogue between peoples and nations; a culture of harmony and love which has its solid foundations in the Gospel.

The splendour of its monuments and the reputation of its age-old institutions testify to its glorious history and the character of the Venetian people, honest and hard-working, endowed with great sensitivity, with organizational ability and with what in today’s parlance is called "common sense". This patrimony of civil, cultural and artistic traditions found fertile development thanks to its acceptance of the Christian faith, which is rooted in the very distant past, already from the time of the foundation of the first settlements on this lagoon. As the centuries passed, the faith transmitted by the first evangelizers became ever more deeply rooted in the social fabric, thus becoming an essential part of it. Visible evidence of this are the splendid churches and the many devotional aedicules along the streets, canals and bridges.

I would like in particular to recall the two important Shrines which, at different times, were built by the Venetians in compliance with a vow in order to obtain from divine Providence deliverance from the scourge of the plague: there they stand opposite this quay, the Basilica of the Redeemer and the Shrine of the Madonna della Salute, both destinations of numerous pilgrims on their respective anniversaries. Your ancestors knew well that human life is in the hands of God and that without his blessing man builds in vain. Therefore, as I visit your city, I ask the Lord to give you all a sincere and fruitful faith that is capable of nurturing great hope and a patient quest for the common good.

Dear friends, my prayer rises to God to implore him to pour out his blessings on Venice and its territory. I invite you all, dear Venetians, always to seek and to preserve harmony between the eyes of faith and reason, which enables the conscience to perceive the true good, so that the decisions of the civil community may always be inspired by ethical principles that correspond to the deep truth of human nature. Man cannot renounce the truth about himself without his sense of personal responsibility, solidarity with others and honesty in economic and working relations, suffering.

While in the evening of this day we are entering the Sunday feast, let us prepare ourselves to celebrate the weekly Easter of the Lord with the joy that characterizes the Easter Season and with the certainty that Jesus conquered death with his Resurrection and wants to make us share in his own life. As I entrust you to the maternal protection of Mary Most Holy, I invoke the Lord’s Blessing upon this city, upon those who live in it, upon those who govern it and upon those who do their utmost to make it ever more worthy of God and of man. Thank you all and have a nice Sunday.

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pope's Greeting at Aquileia's Piazza Capitolo
"It Is Only From Christ That Humanity Can Receive Hope and a Future"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 18, 2011 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered May 7 upon greeting the people of Aquileia gathered in the Piazza Capitolo, at the beginning of his two-day pastoral visit to Aquileia and Venice.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I come to you with great joy, children and heirs of the illustrious Church of Aquileia as I begin my Visit here to the Churches of this region. I address my cordial greeting to you all, pastors and civil Authorities, faithful from the Dioceses of the Triveneto, as well as those from Slovenia, Croatia, Austria and Bavaria. I thank the Mayor of Aquileia for his courteous words.

The archaeological ruins and the wonderful remains of artwork that make Aquileia famous everywhere, prompt me at this moment to retrace the origins of this City that was founded in 181 and prospered down the ages. The Bishop-poet Paulinus sang: "beautiful, illustrious, adorned with splendid palaces, renowned for your city walls and even more for the innumerable crowds of your citizens. All the cities of the Venetian region were subject to you and made you their capital and metropolis; you flourished because of your clergy, you were resplendent because of your churches, which you dedicated to Christ" (Poetae Latini aevi Carolini, in M.G.H., 1881, p. 142). Aquileia was born and developed at the height of the power of the Empire, it was a gateway between East and West, a garrison town, a place of economic and cultural exchanges.

But Aquileia's glory was something else! In fact, St Paul tells us that God did not chose what is noble and strong but what in the world's eyes is weak and foolish (cf. 1 Cor 1:27-28). The One who came to enlighten the people with the light of the Truth had been born in the distant Province of Syria at the time of Caesar Augustus: Jesus, Son of Mary, the consubstantial and eternal Son of the Father, revealer of God's everlasting dominion over humankind, of his plan of communion for all the peoples. The One who, with his death on the Cross suffered at the hand of the Empire, was to establish the true kingdom of justice, love and peace, giving to all who received him "power to become children of God" (Jn 1:12).

The Good News of Christ's salvation arrived here from Jerusalem, through the Church of Alexandria. The seed of great hope arrived in this Roman region. Very soon, in the Decima Regio of the Empire, the Church of Aquileia became a community of martyrs, of heroic witnesses to faith in the Risen One, a seed of other disciples and of other communities. Aquileia's greatness, therefore, was not only due to its place as Italy's ninth city, but also to being a lively, exemplary Church, capable of authentic Gospel proclamation, maintained and nurtured for centuries, courageously disseminated in the surrounding regions. I therefore pay homage to this blessed land, sprinkled with the blood and sacrifices of so many witnesses, and I pray that the holy Martyrs of Aquileia bring forth in the Church, today too, courageous and faithful disciples of Christ who are devoted to him alone, hence convinced and convincing.

The freedom of worship granted to Christianity in the 4th century did no more than to extend the radius of action of the Church of Aquileia, extending it beyond the natural boundaries of Venetia et Histria as far as Raetia and Noricum, to the vast Danubian regions, to Pannonia and to Pannonia-Savia. In this way the metropolitan ecclesiastical Province of Aquileia was formed. Bishops of quite distant Churches offered Aquileia their obedience, accepted its profession of faith, gathered round it in the indissoluble bonds of ecclesial, liturgical and disciplinarian and even architectural communion. Aquileia was the vibrant heart of this Region, under the learned, fearless guidance of holy Pastors who defended it against the spreading Arianism.

Among all these pastors I recall Chromatius -- on whom I reflected in the Catechesis of 5 December 2007 -- a solicitous and active Bishop, like Augustine of Hippo, and like Ambrose of Milan, described by Jerome as "the holiest and most learned of Bishops". What made the Church which Chromatius loved and served great was her profession of faith in Jesus Christ, true God and true man. In commenting on the Gospel narrative of the woman who pours perfume first on Jesus' feet and then on his head, Chromatius says: "The feet of Christ indicate the mystery of his Incarnation which is why he deigned to be born of a virgin in these recent times; the head, on the other hand, indicates the glory of his divinity which proceeds from the Father before all the ages. This means that we must believe two things about Christ: that he is God, and that he is man, God begotten by the Father, a man born of a virgin.... We cannot otherwise be saved, unless we believe these two things about Christ" (Chromatius of Aquileia, Catechesis to the People, Cittá Nuova, 1989, p. 93).

Dear brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, heirs of the glorious Church of Aquileia, I am with you today to admire this rich and ancient tradition, but, especially, to strengthen you in the profound faith of your forefathers: at this moment of history, may you rediscover, defend and profess this fundamental truth with spiritual warmth.

Indeed, it is only from Christ that humanity can receive hope and a future, only from him can it draw the significance and power of forgiveness, of justice, of peace. Always keep alive courageously the faith and deeds of your roots! May you be in your Churches and in society "like a choir of blesseds", as Jerome said of the clergy of Aquileia, through unity of faith, the study of the word, brotherly love, and in the joyful harmony of ecclesial witness in its many forms. I invite you to make yourselves ever new disciples of the Gospel, to express it in spiritual fervour, clarity of faith, sincere love and prompt sensitivity to the poor: may you shape your life in accordance with that "sermo rusticus", of which Jerome continued to speak, referring to the evangelical quality of the Aquileian community.

Be diligent in approaching the "manger", as Chromatius used to say, that is, the altar, where the food is Christ himself, the Bread of life, strength in persecution, nourishment that gives courage in every challenge and weakness, the food of courage and of Christian zeal. May the memory of the Holy Mother Church of Aquileia support you, spur you to new missionary goals in this troubled period of history, make you architects of unity and understanding among the people of your lands. May the Virgin Mary always protect you on your journey and may my my Blessing accompany you.

The Pope then greeted the people in their various languages beginning with the regional dialect of Friulan:

Dear brothers and sisters, may the Lord bless you and give you peace and prosperity! I greet the German-speaking faithful. May the ancient Christian roots of your lands bear abundant fruits in your communities. God bless you! I cordially greet the Slovenian faithful. God bless you and your families! Dear Croatian brothers and sisters, thank you for coming! In a month I shall go to Zagreb. God bless you.

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


On Abraham's Prayer
"It Is Forgiveness That Interrupts the Spiral of Sin"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 18, 2011 - Here is a translation of the Italian-language catechesis Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience held in St. Peter's Square. The Pope continued with his new series of catecheses on prayer, reflecting today on prayer in sacred Scripture, in particular in Abraham's life.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters,

In the two last catecheses we reflected on prayer as a universal phenomenon, which -- although in different forms -- is present in the cultures of all times. Today, instead, I would like to begin a biblical review on this subject, which will lead us to deepen in the covenant dialogue between God and man that animates the history of salvation, up to its culmination in the definitive Word that is Jesus Christ. This journey will bring us to pause on some important texts and paradigmatic figures of the Old and the New Testaments.

Abraham, the great Patriarch, father of all believers (cf. Romans 4:11-12.16-17), will offer us the first example of prayer, in the episode of his intercession for the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. And I would also like to invite you to take advantage of the journey we will make in the forthcoming catecheses to learn to know the Bible more, which I hope you have in your homes and, during the week, pause to read and meditate in prayer, to know the wonderful history of the relationship between God and man, between God who communicates with us and man who responds, who prays.

The first text on which we wish to reflect is found in Chapter 18 of the Book of Genesis; it recounts that the iniquity of the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah had reached a peak, so much so as to render necessary an intervention of God to carry out an act of justice and to halt the evil by destroying those cities. It is here that Abraham comes in, with his prayer of intercession. God decided to reveal to him what was about to happen and brings him to know the gravity of the evil and its terrible consequences, because Abraham is his chosen one, chosen to become a great people and to make the divine blessing reach the whole world. His is a mission of salvation, which must respond to the sin that has invaded man's reality; through him the Lord wishes to bring humanity back to faith, to obedience, to justice. And now, this friend of God opens to the reality and the need of the world, he prays for those who are about to be punished and prays that they be saved.

Abraham sets out the problem immediately in all its gravity, and says to the Lord: "Wilt thou indeed destroy the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; wilt thou then destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from thee to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from thee! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (vv. 23-25). With these words, with great courage, Abraham puts before God the need to avoid a summary justice: if the city is culpable, it is right to condemn its offense and inflict punishment, but -- affirms the great Patriarch -- it would be unjust to punish in an indiscriminate way all the inhabitants. If there are innocents in the city, they cannot be treated as the guilty. God, who is a just judge, cannot act like that, says Abraham rightly to God.

However, if we read the text more attentively, we realize that Abraham's request is even more serious and more profound, because he does not limit himself to ask for the salvation of the innocent. Abraham asks for forgiveness for the whole city and he does so appealing to God's justice. In fact, he says to the Lord: "Wilt thou then destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it?" (v. 24b). By so doing, he puts into play a new idea of justice: not the one that limits itself to punish the guilty, as men do, but a different, divine justice, which seeks the good and creates it through forgiveness that transforms the sinner, that converts and saves him. Hence, with his prayer Abraham does not invoke a merely retributive justice, but an intervention of salvation that, taking into account the innocent, also liberates the wicked from their guilt, forgiving them. Abraham's thought, which seems almost paradoxical, can be synthesized thus: obviously the innocent cannot be treated as the guilty, this would be unjust; instead, it is necessary to treat the guilty as the innocent, putting into act a "superior" justice, offering them a possibility of salvation, because if the evildoers accept God's forgiveness and confess their fault letting themselves be saved, they will no longer continue to do evil, they will also become righteous, without any further need to be punished.

It is this request of justice that Abraham expresses in his intercession, a request that is based on the certainty that the Lord is merciful. Abraham does not ask of God something that is contrary to his essence; he knocks on the door of God's heart, knowing his real will. Sodom was certainly a large city; fifty righteous seems but little, but are not God's justice and his forgiveness perhaps the manifestation of the force of goodness, even if it seems smaller and weaker than evil? The destruction of Sodom should have halted the evil present in the city, but Abraham knows that God has other ways and other means to check the spread of evil. It is forgiveness that interrupts the spiral of sin and Abraham, in his dialogue with God, appeals precisely for this. And when the Lord agrees to forgive the city if fifty righteous can be found, his prayer of intercession begins to descend to the abysses of divine mercy. Abraham -- as we recall -- makes the number of the innocent necessary for salvation diminish progressively: if there are not fifty, perhaps forty-five would suffice, and then ever lower to ten, continuing with his supplication, which is made almost bold in its insistence: "Suppose forty are found there ... thirty ... twenty ... ten" (cf. vv. And the smaller the number becomes, the greater is the manifestation of God's mercy, who listens with patience, accepts and repeats to every supplication: "I will spare, ... I will not destroy, ... I will not do it" (cf. vv.

Thus, by the intercession of Abraham, Sodom can be saved if in it are found just ten innocent. This is the power of prayer. Because manifested and expressed through intercession, prayer to God for the salvation of others is the desire of salvation that God always harbors for sinful man. Evil, in fact, cannot be accepted, it must be singled out and destroyed through punishment: the destruction of Sodom had precisely this function. But the Lord does not desire the death of the wicked, but that he be converted and live (cf. Ezekiel 18:23; 33:11); his desire is always to forgive, to save, to give life, to transform evil into good. Well, it is precisely this divine desire that, in prayer, becomes man's desire and is expressed through the words of intercession. With his supplication, Abraham is lending his own voice, but also his own heart, to the divine will: God's desire is mercy, love and will of salvation, and this desire of God found in Abraham and in his prayer the possibility of manifesting itself in a concrete way within the history of men, to be present where there is need of grace. With the voice of his prayer, Abraham is giving voice to God's desire, which is not to destroy, but to save Sodom, to give life to the converted sinner.

This is what the Lord wishes, and his dialogue with Abraham is a prolonged and unmistakable manifestation of his merciful love. The need to find righteous men within the city becomes ever less exacting and in the end ten will suffice to save the totality of the population. For what reason Abraham stops at ten is not said in the text. Perhaps it is a number that indicates a minimum community nucleus (also today, ten persons are the necessary quorum for Jewish public prayer). Nevertheless, it is a small number, a small particle of good from which to save a great evil. However, not even ten righteous are found in Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities were destroyed. A destruction attested paradoxically as necessary precisely by Abraham's prayer of intercession. Precisely because that prayer revealed God's salvific will: the Lord was ready to forgive, he wished to do so, but the cities were closed in a total and paralyzing evil, without even a few innocent from which to begin to transform the evil into good. Because it is precisely this way of salvation that Abraham also requested: to be saved does not mean simply to flee from punishment, but to be liberated from the evil that dwells in us. It is not the punishment that must be eliminated, but sin, that rejection of God and of love that already bears punishment in itself.

The prophet Jeremiah would say to the rebellious people: "Your wickedness will chasten you, and your apostasy will reprove you. Know and see that it is evil and bitter for you to forsake the Lord your God" (Jeremiah 2:19). It is from this sadness and bitterness that the Lord wishes to save man liberating him from sin. But, of service therefore is a transformation from within, some occasion of good, a beginning from which to transform evil into good, hatred into love, revenge into forgiveness. Because of this the righteous must be inside the city, and Abraham continually repeats: "perhaps there, they will be found ..." "There": is inside the sick reality that the germ of good must be which can heal and give back life. It is a word addressed also to us: that the germ of good be found in our cities; that we do everything so that there will be not just ten righteous, to really make our cities live and survive and to save ourselves from this interior bitterness which is the absence of God. And in the sick reality of Sodom and Gomorrah that germ of goodness was not found.

However, the mercy of God in the history of his people widens further. If to save Sodom ten righteous were sufficient, the prophet Jeremiah will say, in the name of the Almighty, that just one righteous will suffice to save Jerusalem. "Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, look and take note! Search her squares to see if you can find a man, one who does justice and seeks truth; that I may pardon her" (5:1). The number has gone down again, God's goodness shows itself even greater. And yet this is still not enough, the superabundant mercy of God does not find the answer of goodness that it seeks, and Jerusalem falls under the siege of the enemy.

It will be necessary for God himself to become that righteous one. And this is the mystery of the Incarnation: to guarantee a righteous one, he himself becomes man. There will always be a righteous one because he is: it is necessary, however, that God himself become that righteous one. The infinite and amazing divine love will be fully manifested when the Son of God becomes man, the definitive Righteous One, the perfect Innocent One, who will bring salvation to the whole world by dying on the cross, forgiving and interceding for those who "know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). Then the prayer of every man will find its answer, then every intercession of ours will be fully heard.

Dear brothers and sisters, the supplication of Abraham, our father in the faith, teaches us to open our hearts ever more to the superabundant mercy of God, so that in our daily prayer we will be able to desire the salvation of humanity and to ask for it with perseverance and trust in the Lord who is great in love. Thank you.

[The Holy Father then greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Continuing our catechesis on Christian prayer, we now turn to sacred Scripture and its witness to the dialogue between God and man in history, a dialogue culminating in Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh. We can begin with the prayer with which Abraham, the father of all believers (cf. Rom 4), implores God not to destroy the sinful city of Sodom (cf. Gen 18). Abraham's prayer of intercession appeals to God's justice, begging him not to destroy the innocent with the guilty. But it also appeals to God's mercy, which is capable of transforming evil into good through forgiveness and reconciliation. God does not desire the death of the sinner but his conversion and liberation from sin. In reply to Abraham's prayer, God is willing to spare Sodom if ten righteous men can be found there. Later, through the prophet Jeremiah, he promises to pardon Jerusalem if one just man can be found (cf. Jer 5:1). In the end, God himself becomes that Just Man, in the mystery of the Incarnation. Christ's prayer of intercession on the Cross brings salvation to the world. Through him, let us pray with unfailing trust in God's merciful love for all mankind, conscious that our prayers will be heard and answered.

I offer a warm welcome to the alumni of the Venerable English College on the occasion of their annual meeting in Rome. I also greet the members of the Catholic-Pentecostal Dialogue in Sweden, with prayerful good wishes for their work for Christian unity. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims present at today's Audience, especially those from England, Australia, the Republic of China, India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the United States, I invoke the joy and peace of Christ our Risen Saviour.

[In Italian, he said:]

I greet, finally, young people, the sick and newlyweds. Dear young people, I hope you will be able to recognize, in the midst of the many voices of this world, the voice of Christ, who continues to address his invitation to the heart of the one who knows how to listen. Be generous in following him. Do not be afraid to put your energies and your enthusiasm at the service of his Gospel. And you, dear sick, open your hearts to him with trust; he will not fail to give you the consoling light of his presence. Finally, to you, dear newlyweds, I hope that your families will respond to the vocation to be transparency of the love of God. Thank you.


Benedict XVI's Appeal for the Church in China
"We Can Help Them to Find the Path to Keep Their Faith Alive"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 18, 2011 - Here is the appeal Benedict XVI made today on behalf of the Church in China. He delivered the appeal at the end of the general audience held in St. Peter's Square for the Church in China.

* * *

During the Easter season, the liturgy sings to Christ risen from the dead, conqueror of death and sin, living and present in the life of the Church and in the affairs of the world. The Good news of God’s Love made manifest in Christ, the Lamb that was slain, the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep, is constantly spreading until it reaches the ends of the earth, and at the same time it encounters rejection and obstacles in every part of the world. Now, as then, the Cross leads to the Resurrection.

Tuesday, 24 May, is dedicated to the liturgical memorial of Our Lady, Help of Christians, who is venerated with great devotion at the Shrine of Sheshan in Shanghai: the whole Church joins in prayer with the Church in China. There, as elsewhere, Christ is living out his passion. While the number of those who accept him as their Lord is increasing, there are others who reject Christ, who ignore him or persecute him: "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" (Acts 9:4). The Church in China, especially at this time, needs the prayers of the universal Church. In the first place, therefore, I invite all Chinese Catholics to continue and to deepen their own prayers, especially to Mary, the powerful Virgin. At the same time all Catholics throughout the world have a duty to pray for the Church in China: those members of the faithful have a right to our prayers, they need our prayers.

We know from the Acts of the Apostles that when Peter was in prison, everyone prayed fervently, and as a result, an angel came to free him. Let us do likewise: let us all pray together intensely for this Church, trusting that by our prayers we can do something very real for her.

Chinese Catholics, as they have said many times, want unity with the universal Church, with the Supreme Pastor, with the Successor of Peter. By our prayers we can obtain for the Church in China that it remain one, holy and Catholic, faithful and steadfast in doctrine and in ecclesial discipline. She deserves all our affection.

We know that among our brother Bishops there are some who suffer and find themselves under pressure in the exercise of their episcopal ministry. To them, to the priests and to all the Catholics who encounter difficulties in the free profession of faith, we express our closeness. By our prayers we can help them to find the path to keep their faith alive, to keep their hope strong, to keep their love for all people ardent, and to maintain in its integrity the ecclesiology that we have received from the Lord and the Apostles, which has been faithfully transmitted to us right down to the present day. By our prayers we can obtain that their wish to remain in the one universal Church will prove stronger than the temptation to follow a path independent of Peter. Prayer can obtain, for them and for us, the joy and the strength to proclaim and to bear witness, with complete candour and without impediment, Jesus Christ crucified and risen, the New Man, the conqueror of sin and death.

With all of you I ask Mary to intercede that all of them may be ever more closely conformed to Christ and may give themselves ever more generously to their brethren. I ask Mary to enlighten those who are in doubt, to call back the straying, to console the afflicted, to strengthen those who are ensnared by the allure of opportunism. Virgin Mary, Help of Christians, Our Lady of Sheshan, pray for us!

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pope's Address at Closure of Venice Diocese's Pastoral Visit
"Never Let Yourselves Be Brought Low by the Failures That Can Scar Christian Communities"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 17, 2011 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered May 8 to the assembly at the conclusion of the Diocesan Pastoral Visit, which was gathered in the Venetian Basilica of St. Mark. The Pontiff traveled to Aquileia and Venice on May 7-8.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the words of the Virgin Mary I would like to raise with you the hymn of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord for the gift of the Pastoral Visit, which began in the Patriarchate of Venice in 2005 and which today has reached its appropriate conclusion in this General Assembly. To God, the Giver of all good, we address our praise for having supported your spiritual resolutions and your apostolic efforts during this time of the Pastoral Visit, made by your Pastor, Cardinal Angelo Scola, whom I greet and thank for his kind words to me on behalf of you all.

With him I also greet the Auxiliary Bishop and Bishop-elect of Vicenza, the episcopal vicars and all those who have assisted in this long and complex pastoral commitment, an event of grace and a powerful ecclesial experience, in which the entire Christian people has been regenerated in faith, reaching forward with renewed enthusiasm for its mission.

And it is therefore especially to you, dear priests, religious and lay faithful, that I extend my warm greetings and sincere appreciation for your service, particularly in the smooth-running of ecclesial Assemblies. I am very pleased to greet the ancient Armenian community of Venice with the Abbot and the Mechitarist monks. A thought goes to the Greek-Orthodox Metropolitan Gennadios of Italy and to Bishop Nestor of the Russian Orthodox Church, as well as to the representatives of the Lutheran and Anglican Communities.

Gratitude and joy are therefore the feelings that characterize our meeting. It is taking place in the sacred space, so full of art and memories, of the Basilica of San Marco, where faith and human creativity have given rise to an eloquent catechesis through images.

The Servant of God Albino Luciani, who was your unforgettable patriarch, described his first visit to this Church as a young priest: "I found myself immersed in a river of light ... At last I could see with my own eyes and enjoy the full splendour of a world of art and unique beauty, whose charm penetrates your inmost depths (Io sono il ragazzo del mio Signore, Venice-Quarto d'Altino, 1998). This temple is the image and symbol of the Church of living stones which you are, Christians of Venice. "‘[I] must stay at your house today’. So he made haste and came down and received him joyfully" (Lk 19:5-6). How often during the Pastoral Visit, did you listen to and ponder these words, addressed by Jesus to Zacchaeus!

They have been the main theme of your community meetings, providing you with an effective stimulus to welcome the Risen Jesus, a sure way to find fullness of life and happiness. In fact, genuine human fulfilment and true joy are not found in power, success or money, but only in God, whom Jesus Christ makes known and brings close to us.

This is Zacchaeus’ experience. According to the current mentality, he has it all: power and money. He can be called a " man who has ‘made it’": he has worked his way up, has achieved what he wanted and could say, like the rich fool in the Gospel parable, "Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years, take your ease, eat, drink and be merry" (Lk 12:19). For this reason his desire to see Jesus is surprising. What impelled him to seek Jesus out? Zacchaeus realized that what he possessed was not enough, he felt the desire for more. And here was Jesus, the Prophet of Nazareth, passing through Jericho, his hometown.

The echo of some unusual words spoken by Jesus had reached him: blessed are the poor, the meek, those who mourn, who hunger for righteousness. These words were strange to him, but perhaps for this very reason, were also fascinating and new. He wanted to see this Jesus. But though Zacchaeus was rich and powerful, he was short. So he ran ahead and climbed a tree, a sycamore. It did not matter to him whether he was exposing himself to ridicule: he found a way to make the meeting possible.

And Jesus arrived, he looked up at him and called him by name: "Zacchaeus, make haste and come down; for I must stay at your house today" (Lk 19:5). Nothing is impossible to God! From this meeting streamed forth a new life for Zacchaeus: he welcomed Jesus with joy, discovering at last the reality that can truly and fully fill his life. He had first hand experience of salvation, was no longer the same as before. As a sign of conversion he committed himself to donating half of his possessions to the poor and giving back four-fold to those he had robbed. He found the true treasure, because the Treasure, which is Jesus, found him!

Beloved Church in Venice! Imitate the example of Zacchaeus and surpass it! Overtake the men and women of today and help them to surmount the barriers of individualism, of relativism; never let yourselves be brought low by the failures that can scar Christian communities. Strive to look closely at the person of Christ, who said: "I am the way, the truth and the life" (Jn 14:6).

As Successor of the Apostle Peter, visiting your land in these days, I repeat to each one of you: do not be afraid to swim against the tide in order to meet Jesus, to direct your attention upwards to meet his gaze. The "logo" of my Pastoral Visit portrays the scene of Mark delivering the Gospel to Peter, taken from a mosaic in this basilica. Today, symbolically, I come to redeliver the Gospel to you, the spiritual children of St Mark, in order to strengthen you in the faith and encourage you in the face of the challenges of the present time. Move ahead with confidence on the path of the new evangelization, in loving service to the poor and with courageous testimony in the various social realities. Be aware that you bear a message meant for every man and and for the whole man; a message of faith, of hope and of love.

This invitation is in the first place, for you, dear priests, configured through the sacrament of Orders to Christ "Head and Shepherd" and placed as guides of his people. Recognizing the immense gift you have received, continue to carry out your ministry with generosity and dedication, seeking support both in priestly brotherhood lived as co-responsibility and cooperation, and in intense prayer and in-depth theological and pastoral renewal. An affectionate greeting to the sick and elderly priests who are united with us in spirit. This invitation is also extended to you, consecrated persons, who form a valuable spiritual resource for the entire Christian people, and who point out in a special way the importance and the possibility of total self gift to God through the profession of your vows.

Lastly, this invitation is for all of you, dear lay faithful. May you always and everywhere know how to account for the hope that is in you (cf. 1 Pt 3:15). The Church needs your gifts and your enthusiasm. Know how to say "yes" to Christ who calls you to be his disciples, to be holy. I would remind you, once again, that "holiness" does not mean doing extraordinary things, but following the will of God every day, living one’s own vocation really well, with the help of prayer, of the Word of God, the sacraments and with the daily effort for consistency. Yes, it takes lay faithful who are fascinated by the ideal of "holiness", to build a society worthy of man, a civilization of love.

During the Pastoral Visit you paid special attention to the testimony that your Christian communities are called upon to give, beginning with the faithful who are more motivated and aware. In this regard, you are rightly concerned to revive the evangelization and catechesis of adults and of the younger generations beginning with small communities of adults and parents, who, being domestic as it were, can live the logic of the Christian event first and foremost by witnessing to communion and love.

I urge you to spare no energy in proclaiming the Gospel and in Christian education, promoting both catechesis at all levels, and the cultural and educational contributions that make up your considerable spiritual heritage. May you be able to devote special attention to the Christian formation of children, adolescents and young people. They need effective points of reference: be an example to them of human and Christian coherence. During the course of the Pastoral Visit the need for an ever greater commitment in love, experienced as a free and generous gift of self, also emerged as well as the need to demonstrate clearly the missionary face of the parish to the point of creating pastoral realities which, without sacrificing pervasiveness, should be more capable of apostolic zeal.

Dear friends, the mission of the Church bears fruit because Christ is truly present among us in a quite special way in the Holy Eucharist. His is a dynamic presence which grasps us in order to make us his, to liken us to him. Christ draws us to himself, he brings us out of ourselves to make us all one with him. In this way he also inserts us into the community of brothers and sisters: communion with the Lord is always also communion with others.

For this reason our spiritual life depends essentially on the Eucharist. Without it, faith and hope are extinguished, love cools. I therefore urge you increasingly to pay special attention to the quality of Eucharistic celebrations, especially those on Sunday, so that the day of the Lord is lived fully and may illuminate the happenings and activities of daily life. From the Eucharist, the inexhaustible source of divine love, you can tap into the energy needed to bring Christ to others and to bring others to Christ, to be daily witnesses of charity and solidarity and to share the goods that Providence gives you with brothers and sisters who lack the necessities of life.

Dear friends, I assure you of my prayers that the demanding journey of growth in communion which you have made in these years of the Pastoral Visit, may renew the life of faith of your particular church as a whole and, at the same time, may kindle a more selfless dedication to service of God and neighbour.

May Most Holy Mary, whom you honour with the title "Virgin Nicopeja", whose evocative image is resplendent in this Basilica, obtain for all of you and for the entire diocesan community complete fidelity to Christ. I commend the journey that awaits you to the intercession of the heavenly Mother of the Redeemer and to the support of the saints and blesseds of your land, while with affection I impart to you and to the whole Church of St Mark a special Apostolic Blessing, which I extend to the sick, to prisoners and to all suffering in body and in spirit.

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Papal Words to Pontifical Missionary Societies
"New Problems and New Forms of Slavery ... Emerge in Our Time"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 16, 2011 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered Saturday in an audience with participants in the ordinary assembly of the High Council of the Pontifical Missionary Societies.

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Your Eminence, Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and Priesthood, dear Brothers and Sisters,

I would first of all like to address my cordial greetings to the new Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Archbishop Fernando Filoni, who I thank very much for the words he addressed to me on behalf of everyone.

To this I add my earnest wishes for a fruitful ministry. At the same time, I express deep gratitude to Cardinal Ivan Dias for his generous and exemplary service that he gave to the missionary Congregation and the universal Church over the years. May the Lord continue to lead with his light these faithful laborers in His vineyard.

I greet the Secretary Mgr. Savio Hon Tai-Fai, the Secretary Adjunct Mgr.Piergiuseppe Vacchelli, President of the Pontifical Mission Societies, the National Directors and staff of the Congregation of the Pontifical Mission Societies, convened in Rome from the various particular Churches for the Annual Ordinary Assembly Meeting of the Superior Council. A warm welcome to all.

Dear friends, with your valuable work of missionary animation and cooperation to the People of God "the necessity for our time is a firm commitment to the mission ad gentes" ("Verbum Domini," No. 95), to announce the "big Hope," "the God who has a human face and who loved us to the end, each person and mankind as a whole" ("Spe Salvi," No. 31). New problems and new forms of slavery, in fact, emerge in our time, both in the so-called first world, wealthy and rich but uncertain about its future, both in emerging countries, where, even as a result of globalization often characterized by profit, they end up increasing the poor masses, the immigrants and the oppressed, in which dims the light of hope. The Church must constantly renew its commitment to bring Christ, to prolong his messianic mission for the coming of the Kingdom of God, Kingdom of justice, peace, freedom, love.

To transform the world according to God's plan with the renewing power of the Gospel, "so that God may be all in all" (1 Corinthians 15:28) is the task of all the People of God. Therefore it is necessary to continue to work with renewed enthusiasm the mission of evangelization, the joyful proclamation of the Kingdom of God, came to Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit to lead people to true freedom of God's children against all forms of slavery. It is necessary to cast the nets of the Gospel in the sea of history so as to lead people to the Land of God

"The mission of proclaiming the Word of God is the duty of all disciples of Christ, as a result of their baptism" ("Verbum Domini," No. 94). But for there to be a strong commitment to evangelization, it is necessary that both individual Christians as the communities really believe that "the Word of God is the saving truth of which every man in every time needs" (ibid., No. 95). If this conviction of faith is not deeply rooted in our lives, we will not be able to feel the passion and beauty to announce it. In fact, every Christian should do his work for the urgency of building the kingdom of God. Everything in the Church is all in the service of evangelization: every sector of its activity and every person, in the various tasks they are called to carry out. Everyone must be involved in the missio ad gentes: Bishops, priests, religious and laity. "No believer in Christ can feel a stranger to this responsibility that comes from belonging to the sacramental Body of Christ" (ibid., No. 94). Therefore special attention must be paid to ensure that all areas of pastoral care, catechesis, charity are characterized by the missionary dimension: the Church is mission.

A fundamental condition for preaching is to completely allow yourself to be grabbed by Christ, the Word of God incarnated, because only those who listen attentively to the Word made flesh, who is closely united with him, may become preachers (cf. ibid., Nos. 51, 91). The messenger of the Gospel must remain under the rule of the Word and must feed himself from the Sacraments: this is the lifeblood that his existence depend on and his missionary ministry depend on. Only deeply rooted in Christ and his Word one is able not to fall in temptation to reduce evangelization to a purely human, social project , hiding or concealing the transcendent dimension of salvation offered by God in Christ. It is a word that should be witnessed and proclaimed explicitly, because without consistent witness it is less understandable and believable. Even if we often feel inadequate, poor, unable, we must retain confidence in the power of God, who puts his treasure “in jars of clay” because it is He who appears to act through us.

The ministry of evangelization is exciting and demanding: it requires love for the proclamation and witness, a love so complete that it can also be marked by martyrdom. The Church cannot fail in its mission to bring the light of Christ, to proclaim the glad tidings of the Gospel, even if it means persecution (cf. "Verbum Domini," No. 95). It is part of its own life, as it was for Jesus, Christians must not be afraid, even if "they are currently the religious group that suffers the greatest number of persecutions because of their faith" (Message for the World Day of Peace 2011, No. 1). St. Paul says “I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8.38-39).

Dear friends, thank you for the work of missionary animation and formation that the National Directors of the Pontifical Mission Societies carry out in your local Churches. The Pontifical Mission Societies, which my predecessors and the Second Vatican Council promoted and encouraged (cf. "Ad Gentes," No. 38) remain a preferred means of missionary cooperation and successful sharing of personnel and financial resources between the Churches. But neither should we forget the support that the Pontifical Mission societies offer to the Pontifical Colleges, here in Rome, where priests, religious and laity are formed and are chosen and sent by their Bishops, for the local Churches in mission territories.

Your work is valuable for the edification of the Church, destined to become the "common house" of all humanity. May the Holy Spirit, the protagonist of the Mission, guide us and sustain us always, through the intercession of Mary, Star of Evangelization and Queen of the Apostles. To all of you and your staff I cordially give you my Apostolic Blessing.


Benedict XVI's Address to Bishops of India
"Christ's Saving Power Is Also Proclaimed in the Lives of the Saints"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 16, 2011 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today when he received in audience Indian bishops of the Latin rite who are in Rome for their five-yearly "ad limina" visit.

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Dear Brother Bishops,

It gives me great joy to welcome you as you make your visit ad Limina Apostolorum during this Easter season. Through you I extend my greetings to all the faithful in your care, and I thank Cardinal Telesphore Placidus Toppo for the gracious sentiments of communion with the Successor of Peter which he has expressed on your behalf.

The Risen Christ’s presence among his disciples was a source of deep consolation for them, confirming them in their faith and deepening their love for him; and at his Ascension, he commissioned them, saying, "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" (Mt 28:19-20). This command impelled your own great patron Saint Thomas, the other Apostles and those who followed them, to preach the Gospel among the nations; and through the preaching of the word and the celebration of the sacraments, the divine life of the Blessed Trinity has been passed on to many Christian souls.

Today, as in every age, the apostolic mandate finds its source and its central focus in the proclamation of the Incarnate Son of God, who is the fullness of divine revelation and "the way, the truth, and the life" (Jn 14:6). The Saviour of all creation, he is the bearer of Good News for all and the fulfilment of man’s deepest yearnings. The definitive revelation of God which comes to us in Jesus Christ and which believers throughout the world joyfully proclaim is expressed in a particular way in the sacred Scriptures and in the sacramental life of the Church. Christ’s saving power is also proclaimed in the lives of the saints who have wholeheartedly taken up the Gospel message and lived it faithfully among their brothers and sisters. Christian revelation, when accepted in freedom and by the working of God’s grace, transforms men and women from within and establishes a wonderful, redemptive relationship with God our heavenly Father, through Christ, in the Holy Spirit. This is the heart of the message we teach, this is the great gift we offer in charity to our neighbour: a share in the very life of God.

Within the Church, believers’ first steps along the way of Christ must always be accompanied by a sound catechesis that will allow them to flourish in faith, love and service. Some of you have told me of the challenges you face in this regard, and I support you in your commitment to provide quality formation in this area. Recognizing that catechesis is distinct from theological speculation, priests, religious and lay catechists need to know how to communicate with clarity and loving devotion the life-transforming beauty of Christian living and teaching, which will enable and enrich the encounter with Christ himself. This is especially true of the preparation of the faithful to meet our Lord in the sacraments.

In relation to the wider world, the Christian commitment to live and to bear witness to the Gospel offers distinct challenges in every time and place. This is certainly true of your country, which is home to various ancient religions, including Christianity. The Christian life in such societies always demands honesty and sincerity about one’s own beliefs, and respect for those of one’s neighbour. The presentation of the Gospel in such circumstances, therefore, involves the delicate process of inculturation. This is an undertaking which respects and maintains the uniqueness and integrity of the divine revelation given to the Church as her inheritance, while showing that it is intelligible and attractive to those to whom it is proposed. The process of inculturation requires that priests, religious and lay catechists carefully employ the languages and appropriate customs of the people they serve in presenting the Good News. As you strive to meet the challenging circumstances of proclaiming that message in the various cultural settings in which you find yourselves, you, my dear brother Bishops, are called to oversee this process with a fidelity to the deposit of faith which has been handed down to us to maintain and transmit. Combine that fidelity with sensitivity and creativity, so that you may give a convincing account of the hope that is within you (cf. 1 Pet 3:15).

With regard to interreligious dialogue, I am aware of the challenging circumstances many of you face as you develop a dialogue with those of other religious beliefs, all the while encouraging an atmosphere of tolerant interaction. Your dialogue should be characterized by a constant regard for that which is true, in order to foster mutual respect while avoiding semblances of syncretism.

Moreover, as Indian Christians strive to live in peace and harmony with their neighbours of other beliefs, your prudent leadership will be crucial in the civil and moral task of working to safeguard the fundamental human rights of freedom of religion and freedom of worship. As you know, these rights are based upon the common dignity of all human beings and are recognized throughout the concert of nations. The Catholic Church strives to promote these rights for all religions throughout the world. I encourage you, therefore, to work patiently to establish the common ground necessary for the harmonious enjoyment of these basic rights in your communities. Even if he encounters opposition, the Christian’s own charity and forbearance should serve to convince others of the rightness of religious tolerance, from which the followers of all religions stand to gain. My prayers accompany you as you continue to address this sensitive and important question.

My brothers in the Episcopacy, I am grateful for this opportunity to renew our bonds of communion. May Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, whose patient, personal service to her neighbour was motivated by the love of Christ, obtain for you an abundance of heavenly graces to ensure the spiritual fruitfulness of your pastoral work. I assure you and all whom you serve of a constant remembrance in my prayers, and I willingly impart to you my Apostolic Blessing.

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


On Workers for the Lord's Harvest
"There Will Always Be a Need for Shepherds Who Announce the Word"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 15, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before praying the midday Regina Caeli with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

The liturgy of the Fourth Sunday of Easter presents us with one of the most beautiful images that, from the first centuries of the Church, has portrayed the Lord Jesus: that of the Good Shepherd. St. John’s Gospel, in the 10th chapter, describes to us the particular traits of the relationship between Christ the Shepherd and his flock, a relationship that is so close that no one can ever steal the sheep from his hands. The sheep, in fact, are united to him by a bond of love and mutual knowledge, which guarantees them the incommensurable gift of eternal life. Also, the attitude of the flock toward the Good Shepherd, Christ, is presented by the evangelist with two specific verbs: listening and following. These terms designate the fundamental characteristics of those who live as followers of the Lord. First of all, listening to his word from which faith is born and nourished. Only those who are attentive to the Lord’s voice are able to determine by their own conscience the right choices to act according to God. From listening, then, is derived the following of Jesus: we act as disciples after we have listened and internalized the Master’s teaching, to live it daily.

On this Sunday it is natural to remember the Shepherds of the Church of God, and those who are being formed to become Shepherds. I therefore invite you to say a special prayer for bishops -- including the Bishop of Rome! -- for parish priests, for all those who have a responsibility in leading the flock of Christ, that they might be faithful and wise in carrying out their office. In particular, let us pray for vocations to the priesthood on this World Day of Prayer for Vocations, that authentic workers for the Lord’s harvest never be lacking.

Seventy years ago Venerable Pius XII instituted the Pontifical Work for Priestly Vocations. The happy intuition of my predecessor was founded on the conviction that vocations grow and mature in the particular Churches, facilitated by healthy family contexts and strengthened by the spirit of faith, charity and piety. In my message for this day I stressed that a vocation is followed when we leave behind “our will that is closed in itself and our idea of self-actualization, to immerse ourselves in another will, God’s, letting ourselves be guided by it.” In this time too when the Lord’s voice risks being submerged by so many other voices, every ecclesial community is called to promote and safeguard vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life. Men, in fact, always have need of God, even in our technological world, and there will always be a need for Shepherds who announce the Word and help us to meet the Lord in the sacraments.

Dear brothers and sisters, reinvigorated by Easter joy and faith in the Risen Christ, let us entrust our proposals and our intentions to the Virgin Mary, Mother of every vocation, that with her intercession she awaken and support numerous holy vocations in service to the Church and the world.

[Before praying the Regina Caeli with the faithful, the Holy Father also made the following remarks:]

I continue to follow the armed conflict in Libya with great attention. This conflict has caused a great number of victims and suffering above all among the civilian population. I renew a pressing call that the path of negotiation and dialogue prevail over that of violence, with the help of international organizations that are seeking a solution to the crisis. I assure, furthermore, my prayerful and heartfelt participation in the local Church’s undertaking to help the population, in particular through consecrated persons present in the hospitals.

My thoughts also turn to Syria, where it is urgent that a coexistence marked by concord and unity be restored. I ask God that there be no more bloodshed in that homeland of great religions and civilization, and I invite the authorities and all citizens to stop at nothing in seeking the common good and in accepting the legitimate aspirations for a future of peace and stability.

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

Dear brothers and sisters, the beatification of Pope John Paul II had, as you know, a global impact. There are other exemplary witnesses of Christ, much less known, that the Church proposes with joy for the veneration of the faithful. Today in Würzburg, Germany, Georg Häfner, a diocesan priest who died in the concentration camp at Dachau is being proclaimed blessed. And last Saturday at Pozzuoli another priest was beatified, Giustino Maria Russolillo, the founder of the Society of the Divine Vocation. We thank the Lord that he does not allow the Church to do without holy priests!

[In English he said:]

I greet with joy the English-speaking visitors gathered here today, and I pray that your pilgrimage to Rome will strengthen your faith and your love for the Lord Jesus. Today we pray especially for vocations to the priesthood and the religious life, asking Christ our Lord to send shepherds to care for his flock, so that God’s people may have life in abundance. Upon all of you I invoke the peace and joy of the Risen Lord!

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

[Concluding in Italian he said:]

I wish everyone a good Sunday, a good week. Thank you for your presence.


Papal Address to Marriage and Family Institute
"In Love Man Is 'Re-created'"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 15, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Friday to mark the 30th anniversary of the foundation of the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family.

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Lord Cardinals,

venerable brothers in the Episcopate and Priesthood,

dear brothers and sisters,

With joy I receive you today, several days after the beatification of Pope John Paul II, who 30 years ago, as we heard, wanted to found both the Pontifical Council for the Family and your pontifical institute; two organisms that show how he was firmly convinced about the decisive importance of the family for the Church and for society. I greet the representatives of your great community, which has now spread to all the continents as has the worthy foundation for marriage and the family that I created to support your mission. I thank the president, Monsignor Melina, for the words that he has addressed to me in the name of everyone. The newly beatified John Paul II, who, as was recalled, exactly 30 years ago today was the victim of the terrible assassination attempt in St. Peter’s Square, especially entrusted to you his “catecheses on human love,” which contain a profound reflection on the human body for study, research and dissemination. Conjugating the theology of the body with the theology of love to find the unity of man’s journey: this is the theme that I would like to indicate as the horizon of your work.

Shortly after the death of Michelangelo, Paolo Veronese was called before the Inquisition with the accusation of having painted inappropriate figures in a depiction of the Last Supper. The painter said that in the Sistine Chapel too the bodies were depicted nude with little reverence. It was precisely the inquisitor who defended Michelangelo with the response that has become famous: “Do you not know that in these figures there is nothing save what is of spirit?” We moderns have a hard time understanding these words, because the body appears to us as inert, heavy matter, opposed to the consciousness and the freedom of the spirit. But the bodies of Michelangelo are inhabited by light, life, splendor. He wanted to show in this way that our bodies hide a mystery. In them the spirit manifests itself and operates. They are called to be spiritual bodies as St. Paul says (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:44). We can thus ask ourselves: can this destiny of the body illuminate the stages of its journey? If our body is called to be spiritual, should its story not be that of the alliance between body and spirit? In fact, far from opposing itself to the spirit, the body is that place where the spirit can dwell. In light of this it is possible to understand that our bodies are not inert, heavy, but they speak -- if we know how to hear them -- the language of true love.

The first word of this language we find in the creation of man. The body speaks to us of an origin that we did not confer on ourselves. “You knit me together in my mother’s womb,” the Psalmist of the Lord says (Psalm 139:13). We can say that the body, in revealing the Origin to us, bears in itself a filial meaning, because it reminds us of our generation, that derives, through our parents who transmitted life to us, from God the Creator. Only when he recognizes the originary love that gave him life, can man accept himself, can he reconcile himself with nature and the world. Following that of Adam is the creation of Eve. The flesh, received from God, is called to render possible the union of love between man and woman and to transmit life. The bodies of Adam and Eve, before the Fall, appear in perfect harmony. There is a language in them that they did not create, an eros rooted in their nature, that invites them mutually to receive themselves from the Creator, to be able thus to give themselves.

So, we understand that in love man is “re-created.” “Incipit vita nova,” Dante said (“Vita Nuova I, 1) -- “the new life begins” -- the life of the new union of the two in one flesh. The true appeal of sexuality is born from the greatness of this horizon that discloses integral beauty, the universe of the other person and the “we” that is born in the union, the promise of the communion that is hidden there, the new fruitfulness, the path that love opens to God, font of love. The union of one flesh is thus made a union for life so that man and woman also become one spirit. In this way a path is opened in which the body teaches us the value of time, of the slow maturation in love. In this light the virtue of chastity receives a new meaning. It is not a “no” to pleasures and to the joy of life, but the great “yes” to love as profound communication between persons, that requires time and respect, as a journey together toward fullness and as love that becomes able to generate life and generously welcome the new life that is born.

It is certain that the body also contains a negative language: it speaks to us of the oppression of the other, of the desire to possess and exploit. Nevertheless, we know that this language does not pertain to God’s original design, but is the fruit of sin. When it is detached from its filial meaning, from the connection with the Creator, the body rebels against man, it loses its capacity to make communion transpire and it becomes the terrain of the appropriation of the other. Is this not perhaps the drama of sexuality, which today remains shut up in the closed circle of one’s own body and in emotionalism, but that in reality can only fulfill itself in the call to something greater? In this regard John Paul II spoke of the body’s humility.

A character in Paul Claudel’s play “The Satin Slipper” says to his lover: “I am incapable of accomplishing the promise that my body makes to you,” and is answered thus: “The body is broken but not the promise…” (Day 3, Scence 13). The power of this promise explains how the Fall is not the last word on the body in salvation history. God also offers to man a journey of redemption of the body, whose language is preserved in the family. If after the Fall, Eve received the name Mother of the Living this testifies that the power of sin does not succeed in erasing the original language of the body, the blessing of life that God continues to offer when man and woman unite in one flesh. The family is the place where the theology of the body and the theology of love intersect. Here we learn the goodness of the body, its witness of a good origin, in the experience of love that we receive from our parents. Here is lived the gift of self in one flesh in conjugal charity that joins the spouses. Here the fecundity of love is experienced and our life is interwoven with that of other generations. It is in the family that man discovers his relationality, not as an autonomous individual who is self-actualized, but as a child, spouse, parent, whose identity is founded on being called to love, to receive himself from others and give himself to others.

This path from creation finds its fullness in the Incarnation, with the coming of Christ. God took on the body, he revealed himself in it. The upward movement of the body is here integrated into a more primordial movement, the humble movement of God who lowers himself toward the body to then raise it up to himself. As Son, he received the filial body in gratitude and obedience to the Father and gave his body for us, to thereby generate the new body of the Church. The liturgy of the Ascension sings this history of the flesh, sinful in Adam, assumed and redeemed in Christ. It is a body that becomes ever more full of light and of the Spirit, full of God. Here appears the profundity of the theology of the body. This, when it is read in the space of tradition, avoids the danger of superficiality and gathers the grandeur of the vocation to love, which is a call to the communion of persons in the double form of the life of virginity and of matrimony.

Dear friends, your institute is placed under the protection of the Madonna. Of Mary, Dante spoke illuminating words for a theology of the body: “In your womb love was rekindled” (Paradiso 23, 7). In her female body that Love that generates the Church took on a body. May the Mother of the Lord continue to protect your journey and to make fruitful your study and teaching, in service to the Church’s mission for the family and society. May the Apostolic Benediction, which I bestow on all of you from my heart, accompany you. Thank you.


Benedict XVI's Words After Anniversary Concert
"Believing Involves the Whole Person"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 12, 2011 - Here is a L'Osservatore Romano translation of the address Benedict XVI gave May 5 after a concert held in honor of his sixth anniversary as Pope.

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Mr President,

Your Eminences,

Honourable Ministers and Authorities,

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Once again this year, to mark the beginning of my Pontificate, the President of the Italian Republic, the Honourable Giorgio Napolitano, with his customary perfect courtesy has wished to enable us to enjoy an uplifting musical moment. While I offer you and your gracious Lady, my heartfelt thanks, Mr President, I express my deep gratitude for this pleasurable tribute and for your cordial words; they demonstrate the closeness of the beloved Italian people to the Bishop of Rome and recall the unforgettable event of the Beatification of John Paul II.

I also greet the other Authorities of the Italian State, the Ambassadors, the various important figures, the Municipality of Rome, and all of you. A special "thank you" goes to the conductor, the soloists, the orchestra and the choir of the Teatro dell'Opera di Roma for their splendid performance of the two masterpieces, one by Antonio Vivaldi and the other by Gioacchino Rossini, two supreme musicians, of whom Italy, which is celebrating the 150th anniversary of its political unity, can be proud. A "thank you" also goes to everyone who has made this event possible.

"Credo" and "Amen": the two words at both the beginning and the end of the Credo, the Church's "Profession of faith", which we have heard. What does credo mean? It is a word that has various meanings: it suggests receiving something from within one's own convictions, trusting someone, having assurance. When, however, we say it in the "Creed", it acquires a deeper meaning: it is affirming with trust the true meaning of the reality that sustains us, that sustains the world. It means accepting this meaning as the firm ground which we can stand on without fear; it is knowing that the foundation of all things cannot be made by us but only received.

And the Christian faith does not say "I believe in something", but rather, "I believe in Someone", in God who is revealed in Jesus; in him I perceive the world's true meaning. And this believing involves the whole person who is journeying on towards him. Moreover the word "Amen", which in Hebrew has the same root as the word "faith", takes up the same concept: confident reliance on the sound base of God.

And we come to the piece by Vivaldi, a great representative of 18th-century music in Venice. Unfortunately his sacred music is little known, [but it] contains precious treasures: we had an example of this in this evening's piece, most likely composed in 1715.

I would like to make three remarks. First of all, an anomalous factor in Vivaldi's vocal production: there are no soloists - there is only the choir. In this way Vivaldi wished to express the "we" of the faith. The "Credo" is the "we" of the Church which sings her faith, in space and in time, as a community of believers. When I say "credo" I do so inserted into the "we" of the community.

I would then like to point out the two splendid central movements: Et incarnatus est and Crucifixus. Vivaldi, as was the practice, dwells on the moment when God, who seemed remote, makes himself close, is incarnate and gives himself on the Cross. Here the repetition of words, the continuous modulations, convey the profound meaning of wonder before this Mystery and invite us to meditation and to prayer. One last observation: Carlo Goldoni, a great exponent of the Venetian theatre, noted at his first meeting with Vivaldi: "I found him surrounded with music and with the Breviary in his hand". Vivaldi was a priest and his music sprang from his faith.

This evening's second masterpiece, the Stabat Mater by Gioacchino Rossini, is a great meditation on the mystery of the death of Jesus and on the profound sorrow of Mary. Rossini had ended the active phase of his career when he was only 37 years old, in 1829, with William Tell. From this moment he no longer wrote pieces of vast proportions, with only two exceptions, both sacred music: the Stabat Mater and the Petite Messe solonnelle. Rossini's religious sense expressed a rich range of sentiments before the mysteries of Christ with a strong emotional tension. From the great initial fresco of the Stabat Mater, sorrowful and affectionate, to the passages in which the Rossinian and Italian lyrical quality emerges, but which are always dramatically tense, until the double final fugue with the powerful Amen, which expresses the firmness of faith, and the In sempiterna saecula, which seeks to convey the sense of eternity. However I think that the two true pearls of this work are the two passages a capella, the Eja mater fons amoris and the Quando corpus morietur. Here the Maestro returns to the lesson of the great polyphony with an emotional intensity that becomes heartfelt prayer: "When my body dies, grant that my soul may be granted the glory of Paradise". At the age of 71, after composing the Petite messe solonnelle, Rossini wrote "Good Lord, now this poor Mass has ended…. You know well that I was born for comic opera! Not much knowledge, a little heart, that's all. Therefore be blessed and obtain for me paradise" - a simple, genuine faith.

Dear friends, I hope that the pieces this evening have also nourished our faith. I renew my gratitude to the President of the Italian Republic, to the soloists, to the complexes of the Teatro dell' Opera di Roma, to the conductor, to the organizers and to everyone present and I ask for remembrance in prayer for my ministry in the Lord's vineyard. May he continue to bless you and your loved ones! Thank you.

(©L'Osservatore Romano - 11 May 2011)


Papal Address to B'nai B'rith
"Jews and Christians Can Cooperate for the Betterment of the World"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 12, 2011 - Here is the address Benedict XVI gave today to representatives of B'nai B'rith International ("Sons of the Covenant" in Hebrew), the oldest Jewish service organization in the world.

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Dear Friends,

I am pleased to greet this delegation of B'nai B'rith International. I recall with pleasure my earlier meeting with a delegation of your organization some five years ago.

On this occasion I wish to express my appreciation of your involvement in Catholic-Jewish dialogue and particularly your active participation in the meeting of the International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee, held in Paris at the end of February. That meeting marked the fortieth anniversary of the dialogue, which was jointly organized by the Holy See's Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews and the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations. What has happened in these forty years must be seen as a great gift from the Lord and a reason for heartfelt gratitude towards the One who guides our steps with his infinite and eternal wisdom.

The Paris meeting affirmed the desire of Catholics and Jews to stand together in meeting the immense challenges facing our communities in a rapidly changing world and, significantly, our shared religious duty to combat poverty, injustice, discrimination and the denial of universal human rights. There are many ways in which Jews and Christians can cooperate for the betterment of the world in accordance with the will of the Almighty for the good of mankind. Our thoughts turn immediately to practical works of charity and service to the poor and those in need; yet one of the most important things that we can do together is bear common witness to our deeply-held belief that every man and woman is created in the divine image (cf. Gen 1:26-27) and thus possessed of inviolable dignity. This conviction remains the most secure basis for every effort to defend and promote the inalienable rights of each human being.

In a recent conversation between delegations of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and the Holy See's Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, held in Jerusalem at the end of March, stress was laid on the need to promote a sound understanding of the role of religion in the life of our present-day societies as a corrective to a purely horizontal, and consequently truncated, vision of the human person and social coexistence. The life and work of all believers should bear constant witness to the transcendent, point to the invisible realities which lie beyond us, and embody the conviction that a loving, compassionate Providence guides the final outcome of history, no matter how difficult and threatening the journey along the way may sometimes appear. Through the prophet we have this assurance: "For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope" (Jer 29:11).

With these sentiments I invoke upon you and your families the divine blessings of wisdom, mercy and peace.

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pope's Address to Organizers of Aquileia Congress
"Share the Original Experience of Christianity ... The Personal Encounter With Jesus"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 11, 2011 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered Saturday at the Basilica of Aquileia to the representatives of the 15 dioceses of Triveneto who are preparing for the Second Congress of Aquileia, which will be held in 2012.

* * *

Dear Cardinal Patriarch,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate
and in the Priesthood,
Dear brothers and sisters,

In the magnificent setting of this historic Basilica that solemnly welcomes us, I extend my warmest greetings to all of you who represent the 15 Dioceses of Triveneto. I am very pleased to meet you as you prepare to celebrate the second Ecclesial Convention of Aquileia next year. I greet with affection the Cardinal Patriarch of Venice and my Brothers in the Episcopate, in particular the Archbishop of Gorizia, whom I thank for the words with which he welcomed me, and Archbishop-Bishop of Padua, who gave us a view of the path towards the Convention. I greet with equal affection, the priests, men and women religious and the many lay faithful.

With the Apostle John, I also repeat to you: "Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come" (Rev. 1:4). It is through the "synodal assembly" that the Holy Spirit speaks to your beloved Churches and to all of you individually, strengthening you for a more mature growth in fellowship and mutual cooperation. This "ecclesial gathering" allows all the Christian communities that you represent here, first of all to share the original experience of Christianity, that of the personal encounter with Jesus, who fully discloses to every man and every woman the meaning and direction of our path, both through life and through history.

It is appropriate that you wanted your Ecclesial Convention to take place in the Mother Church of Aquileia, from which the Churches of the North East of Italy have germinated, but also the Churches of Slovenia and Austria and some Croatian and Bavarian and even Hungarian churches.

Meeting at Aquileia is therefore a significant return to the "roots" in order to rediscover the living "stones" of the spiritual building that has its foundation in Christ and its extension in the most eloquent witnesses of the Aquileian Church: Sts Hermagoras and Fortunatus, Hilary and Tatian, Chrysogonus, Valerian and Chromatius. Coming back to Aquileia means above all learning from the glorious Church which generated you, how to commit yourselves today, in a world which is radically changed, to a renewed evangelization of your area, and how to hand down to future generations the precious heritage of our Christian faith.

"He who has ears, let him hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches" (Rev 2:7). Your pastors have repeated this invitation of the Book of Revelation to all your individual Churches and the various ecclesial realities. In this way they have urged you to discover and to "narrate" what the Holy Spirit has done and is doing in your communities; to read with the eyes of faith the profound changes taking place, the new challenges and questions emerging. How should one proclaim Jesus Christ, to communicate the Gospel and educate people in the faith today? You have chosen to prepare yourselves thoroughly, diocese by diocese, with a view of the Convention of 2012, in order to address challenges that cross the boundaries of individual diocesan realities with a new evangelization rooted in centuries of faith and renewed in vigour.

The presence today in this magnificent Basilica of the dioceses born from Aquileia seems to indicate the mission of the North-East of the future which is also open to the surrounding areas and to those who, for various reasons, come into contact with them. The North-East of Italy is a witness and heir to a rich history of faith, culture and art, the signs of which are still visible even in today's secularized society. The Christian experience has forged a people who are friendly, hardworking, tenacious and supportive and profoundly marked by the Gospel of Christ, despite the diversity of its cultural identities. This is demonstrated by the vitality of your parish communities, the liveliness of your groups, the responsible commitment of your pastoral workers.

The horizon of faith and its Christian motivations have given and continue to give a new impetus to social life, they inspire intentions and guide morals. There are clear signs of this in the openness and sensitivity to the transcendent dimension of life, despite widespread materialism; a basic religious sense, shared by almost the entire population; the attachment to religious traditions; the renewal of courses of Christian initiation; the many expressions of faith, love and culture; the manifestations of popular piety; the sense of solidarity and the voluntary work undertaken. Preserve, strengthen, and live this precious heritage. Be jealous of all that has made and still makes these lands great! The primary mission that God entrusts to you today, renewed by a personal encounter with him, is to bear witness to God's love for man. You are called to do this first and foremost with works of love and life decisions in favour of real people, starting with those most vulnerable, frail, helpless, and dependent, such as the poor, the elderly, the sick, the disabled, what St Paul calls the weak parts of the Body of the Church (cf. 1 Cor 12.15-27).

New ideas and achievements in the approach to longevity, such a precious asset for human relations, are a beautiful and innovative witness to evangelical charity projected into the social dimension. Be sure to put at the centre of your attention the family, the cradle of love and life, the fundamental cell of society and the ecclesial community; this pastoral commitment is made more urgent by the growing crisis of married life and the declining birth rate. In all your pastoral activities make sure that you reserve a very special care for young people: they, who today look to the future with great uncertainty, often live in a state of unease, insecurity and fragility, but who carry in their hearts a great hunger and thirst for God, which calls for a constant attention and response!

Also in this context of yours, Christian faith today must face new challenges: the often exacerbated search for economic well-being in a period of serious economic and financial crisis, the practical materialism, the prevailing subjectivism. It is within the complexity of these situations that you are called to promote the Christian meaning of life through the explicit proclamation of the Gospel, brought with gentle pride and great joy to the various milieus of daily life.

From faith lived with courage, today as in the past, flows a rich culture of love for life, from conception until its natural end, the promotion of human dignity, of the elevation of the importance of the family based on faithful marriage and open to life, and of the commitment to justice and solidarity. The cultural changes taking place are asking you to be committed Christians, "Always be prepared to make a defence to anyone who calls you to account for the hope" (1 Pet 3:15), able to face up to new cultural challenges, in a respectful confrontation which is both constructive and mindful with all those who live in this society.

The geographical location of the North East, no longer only the crossroads between East and West Europe, but also between the North and the South (the Adriatic carries the Mediterranean to the heart of Europe), the huge phenomenon of tourism and immigration, territorial mobility, the process of homogenization resulting from the action of a pervasive mass media, have accentuated cultural and religious pluralism. In this context, which in any case is that which Providence gives us, it is necessary that Christians, sustained by a "trustworthy hope", present the beauty of the event of Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life, to every man and every woman, in a frank and sincere relationship with the non-prasticing, with non-believers and with believers of other religions.

You are called to live with that attitude full of faith that is described in the Letter to Diognetus: do not deny anything of the Gospel in which you believe, but live in the midst of others with sympathy, communicating by your very way of life that humanism which is rooted in Christianity, in order to build together with all people of good will a "city" which is more human, more just and more supportive.

As the long tradition of Catholicism in these regions testifies, continue to witness vigorously God's love also by promoting the "common good": the good of each and by everyone. Your Church communities generally have a positive relationship with civil society and with the various institutions. Continue to give your contribution in order to humanize the areas of civil coexistence.

Finally, I entrust to you, as to the other Churches in Italy, the commitment to inspire a new generation of men and women capable of assuming responsibility in the various areas of society, especially in politics. This area needs more than ever people who are capable of building a "good life" for the benefit and at the service of all, especially young people. Indeed, Christians, pilgrims bound for Heaven but who already live an anticipation of eternity on earth cannot shirk this commitment.

Dear brothers and sisters! I thank God who has granted me to share with you this very significant moment. I entrust you to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, and to your holy Patrons, and with great affection I impart my Apostolic Blessing to all of you and your loved ones.

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pope's Message to Italian Catholic Action
"To Live the Faith, to Love Life: the Educational Commitment of Catholic Action"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 10, 2011 - Here is a translation of the message that Benedict XVI sent to the participants in the 14th General Assembly of Italian Catholic Action, held in Rome from May 6-8 on the theme "To Live the Faith, to Love Life: The Educational Commitment of Catholic Action."

* * *

Dear Friends of Italian Catholic Action!

You are gathered in your General Assembly on the theme: "To Live the Faith, to Love Life: the Educational Commitment of Catholic Action," to reaffirm your love for Christ and the Church and to renew your association's path in the commitment to assume fully your lay responsibility at the service of the Gospel. You are adolescents, young people and adults who place themselves at the disposition of the Lord in the Church with a solemn, public commitment in communion with the Pastors, to give good witness in all the realms of life. Your presence is omnipresent in parishes, in families, in neighborhoods, in social environments: a presence that you live every day in the aspiration to holiness. Your children and girls and boys, adolescents and young people want to be festive and happy, generous and courageous, as Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati.

You have the impetus of dedication in the building of the city and courage of service in institutions, as Vittorio Bachelet, as Blessed Alberto Marvelli, as Giuseppe Toniolo, who will soon be proclaimed Blessed. In your plan of human and Christian formation you wish to be faithful friends of Christ, as the Blesseds Pierina Morosini and Antonia Mesina, as the Venerable Armida Barelli. You want to revive our communities with children fascinating by the purity of their hearts, as Antonietta Meo, capable also of attracting their parents to Jesus. When I receive your young people on the occasion of Christmas or the month of peace, I am always in admiration of the authenticity with which they communicate the joy of the Lord.

In October of last year I met with your adolescents and young people, committed and joyful, lovers of true liberty that leads them to a generous life, to a direct apostolate. They have before them the example of men and women who are happy with their faith, who wish to support the new generations with love, with wisdom and with prayer, who wish to build patiently fabrics of community life and address the most urgent problems of daily life of the family: the defense of life, the suffering of separations and of abandonment, solidarity in misfortunes, acceptance of the poor and of the stateless. You are followed by assistant presbyters who know well what it means to educate to holiness. In the dioceses you are called to collaborate with your bishops, in a constant, faithful and direct manner, in the life and mission of the Church. All this is not born spontaneously, but with a generous response to God's call to live Baptism, the dignity of being Christians, with full responsibility. Because of this, you organize yourselves in associations with specific ideals and qualities as indicated by Vatican Council II: an association that has the apostolic objective of the Church, which collaborates with the hierarchy, which manifests itself as an organic body and which receives from the Church an explicit mandate (cf. Decree Apostolicam Actuositatem, 20). On the basis of what you are, I would like, dear friends, following the steps of my Venerable Predecessors, to entrust to you some indications of commitment.

1. The Educational Perspective

In the line marked out by the bishops of the churches located in Italy, you are particularly called to value your educational vocation. Catholic Action is a qualified educational force, sustained by good instruments, by a centenary tradition. You know how to educate children and young people with the ACR, you know how to carry out educational projects with adolescents and young people, you are capable of giving permanent formation for adults. Your action will be that much more incisive if, as you already do, you work even more among yourselves with a profoundly unitary point of view and favor collaboration with other educational forces, whether ecclesial or civil. To educate it is necessary to go beyond the occasion, the immediate moment, and to build, with the collaboration of all, a plan of Christian life based on the Gospel and on the Magisterium of the Church, placing at the center an integral vision of the person. Your Formative Project is valid for many Christians and men of good will, above all if they can see in you, models of Christian life, of generous and joyful commitment, of profound interiority and ecclesial communion.

2. The Proposal of Holiness

Your associations are gymnasiums of holiness, in which you train yourselves with full dedication in the cause of the Kingdom of God, in a profoundly evangelical system of life which characterizes you as lay believers in places of daily life. This calls for intense prayer, either community or personal, continuous listening to the Word of God, and an assiduous sacramental life. It is necessary to make the term "holiness" a an ordinary -- not exceptional -- word, which does not designate only heroic states of Christian life, but which indicates in the reality of every day, a decisive answer and an openness to the action of the Holy Spirit.

3. Formation to the Cultural and Political Commitment

Holiness also means for you to give yourselves to the service of the common good according to Christian principles, offering, in the life of the city, qualified, free, rigorous presences in behavior, faithful to the ecclesial magisterium and oriented to the good of all. Hence, formation in the cultural and political commitment represents for you an important work that calls for thought molded by the Gospel, able to debate ideas and valid proposals for the laity. This is a commitment that is fulfilled above all, beginning with daily life, by mothers and father who struggle in the challenges of the education of their children, by workers and students, by centers of culture oriented to the service of the growth of all. Italy has gone through difficult historical periods and has come out of them reinforced, also thanks to the unconditional dedication of the Catholic laity, committed in politics and in institutions. Today the country's public life calls for a further and generous response on the part of believers, so that they will put their own capacities and spiritual, intellectual and moral forces at the disposition of all.

4. An Ample Commitment in the Great Commotion of the World and of the Mediterranean

Finally, I ask you to be generous, hospitable, solidaristic and above all communicators of the beauty of the faith. Many men, women and young people put themselves in touch with our world, which they know superficially, blinded by illusory images, and who need not to lose hope, not to sell their dignity. They are in need of bread, of work, of liberty, of justice, of peace, of recognition of their own inalienable rights as Children of God. They need the faith, and we can help them, respecting their religious convictions, in a free and serene exchange, offering with simplicity, frankness and zeal our faith in Jesus Christ.

In the building of Italy's history, Catholic Action -- as I already wrote to the President of the Republic on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the Unity of Italy -- had a great role, making an effort to keep united love of the homeland and faith in God. Spread throughout the national territory, today it can also contribute to create a popular, widespread, positive culture, and form responsible persons, capable of placing themselves at the service of the country, as in the period in which the Constitutional Charter was elaborated and the country was reconstructed after World War II. Catholic Action can help Italy to respond to its peculiar vocation, placed in the Mediterranean, crossroads of cultures, of aspirations, of tensions that call for great strength of communion, of solidarity and of generosity. Italy has always offered to close and distant peoples, the wealth of its culture and its faith, of its art and its thought. Today you, lay Christians, are called to offer with conviction, the beauty of your culture and the reasons for your faith, beyond fraternal solidarity, so that Europe will be up to the task of the present challenge of the age.

I address to all the assembly my most cordial greeting; I greet the president, professor Franco Miano, the general assistant, Monsignor Domenico Sigalini, and all the delegates, and to each and every one of the great family of Catholic Action I send a special apostolic blessing.

From the Vatican, May 6, 2011



The Mother, Present With the Son
"If We Follow Her ... the Virgin Will Lead Us to Him"

VENICE, Italy, MAY 8, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before praying the midday Regina Caeli. The Pope was in Venice for a two-day trip to the region.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

At the end of this solemn Eucharistic Celebration, we turn our gaze to Mary, Regina Caeli. With the dawn of Easter she became the Mother of the Risen One and her union with him is so profound that there where the Son is present, the Mother cannot fail to be present. In these beautiful surroundings, gifts and signs of the beauty of God, how many shrines, churches and chapels are dedicated to Mary! In her the luminous face of Christ is reflected. If we follow her with docility, the Virgin will lead us to him.

In these days of the Easter season let us allow ourselves to be conquered by the risen Christ. In him the new world of love and peace constitutes the profound aspiration of every human heart. May the Lord grant to you the inhabitants of these lands rich with a long Christian history, to live the Gospel on the model of the nascent Church, in which “the multitude of those who had come to the faith were of one heart and one soul” (Acts 4:32).

Let us invoke Mary Most Holy, who supported the first witnesses of her Son in preaching the Good News, that she might also today support the apostolic efforts of priests; make the witness of those in religious life fruitful; animate the daily work of parents in the first transmission of the faith to their children; illuminate the path of young people so that they might walk confidently in the way traced by their fathers; fill the hearts of the elderly with hope; comfort the sick and all of the suffering with her nearness; assist the work of numerous laypeople who actively collaborate in the new evangelization, in parishes, in associations, such as Catholic Action, which is so deeply rooted and present in these lands; in the movements, which, in the variety of their charisms and their action, are a sign of the richness of the ecclesial fabric – I have in mind such groups as Focolare, Communion and Liberation and the Neocatechumenal Way, to mention but a few. I encourage everyone to work with the true spirit of communion in this great vineyard in which the Lord has called us to work. Mary, Mother of the Risen One and of the Church, pray for us!


Papal Address to Liturgical Institute "Not Infrequently Tradition and Progress Are Clumsily Opposed"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 6, 2011 - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address today to members of the St. Anselm Liturgical Institute, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of its foundation.
* * *
Reverend Father Abbot Primate,
Reverend Rector,
Illustrious Professors,

Dear Students,
I welcome you with joy on the occasion of the 9th International Liturgy Congress that you are holding in the context of the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the Pontifical Liturgical Institute. I greet each one of you cordially, in particular the Grand Chancellor, Abbot Primate Notker Wolf, and I thank him for the courteous words he addressed to me on behalf of all of you.

Blessed John XXIII, taking up the requests of a liturgical movement that wished to give new impetus and breath to the prayer of the Church, shortly before the Second Vatican Council and while it was being held, wanted the Faculty of the Benedictines on the Aventine Hill to be a center of study and research to ensure a solid basis for the conciliar liturgical reform. On the eve of the Council, in fact, the urgency of a reform in the liturgical field seemed ever more vital, put forward as well by requests made by several episcopates. Moreover, the strong pastoral demands that animated the liturgical movement called for fostering and arousing a more active participation of the faithful in liturgical celebrations through the use of national languages, and a deepening in the topic of the adaptation of the rites in different cultures, especially in mission lands. In addition, a need was revealed clearly from the beginning to study more profoundly the theological foundation of the liturgy, to avoid falling into ritualism or fostering subjectivism, the celebrant showing off, and for the reform to be well founded in the ambit of Revelation and in continuity with the tradition of the Church. Animated by his wisdom and prophetic spirit, to respond to these needs, Pope John XXIII created the Liturgical Institute, to which he wished to attribute immediately the name "Pontifical" to indicate its particular bond with the Apostolic See.

Dear friends, the title chosen for the Congress of this Jubilee Year is most significant: "The Pontifical Institute: Between Memory and Prophecy." In regard to memory, we must note the abundant fruits elicited by the Holy Spirit in half a century of history, and for this we must thank the Giver of all good, despite the misunderstandings and errors in the concrete realization of the reform. How could we forget the pioneers, present in the act of foundation of the Faculty: Cipriano Vagaggini, Adrien Nocent, Salvatore Marsili and Burkhard Neunheuser, who, receiving the requests of the Pontiff founder, committed themselves, especially after the promulgation of the Conciliar Constitution "Sacrosanctum Concilium," to reflect further on the "exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ. In the liturgy the sanctification of the man is signified by signs perceptible to the senses, and is effected in a way which corresponds with each of these signs; in the liturgy the whole public worship is performed by the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, that is, by the Head and His members" (No. 7).

To the "memory" belongs the life itself of the Pontifical Liturgical Institute, which has offered its contribution to the Church committed in the reception of Vatican II, through some fifty years of academic liturgical formation. Formation offered in light of the celebration of the holy mysteries, of comparative liturgy, of the Word of God, of liturgical sources, of the Magisterium, of the history of ecumenical requests and of a solid anthropology. Thanks to this important formative work, a great number of those with diplomas and licentiates are already rendering their service to the Church in several parts of the world, helping the Holy People of God to live the liturgy as expression of the Church at prayer, as presence of Christ in the midst of men and as constitutive making present of the history of salvation.

In fact, the conciliar document puts in clear light the twofold theological and ecclesiological character of the liturgy. The celebration accomplishes at the same time an epiphany of the Lord and an epiphany of the Church, two dimensions that are combined in unity in the liturgical assembly, where Christ actualizes the paschal mystery of Death and Resurrection and the nation of the baptized drinks more abundantly from the sources of salvation. Subsisting in the liturgical action of the Church is the active presence of Christ: what he did as he went among men, he continues to make operative through his personal sacramental action, whose center is the Eucharist.

With the term "prophecy," our gaze opens to new horizons. The liturgy of the Church goes beyond the "conciliar reform" itself (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium, 1), whose objective, in fact, was not primarily to change the rites and gestures, but rather to renew mentalities and to put at the center of Christian life and ministry the celebration of the paschal mystery of Christ. Unfortunately, perhaps, also for us pastors and experts, the liturgy was taken more as an object to be reformed rather than a subject capable of renewing Christian life, from the moment that "a very close and organic bond exists between the renewal of the Liturgy and the renewal of the whole life of the Church." The Church takes from the liturgy the strength for life." Blessed John Paul II reminds us of this in Vicesimus quintus annus, where the liturgy is seen as the beating heart of all ecclesial activity. And the Servant of God Paul VI, referring to the worship of the Church, affirmed with a synthetic expression: "From the lex credendi we pass to the lex orandi, and the latter leads us to the lux operandi et vivendi" (Address in the ceremony of the offering of the candles, Feb. 2, 1970).

The liturgy, summit to which the action of the Church tends and at the same time source from which her virtue springs (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium, 10), with its celebratory universe, thus becomes the great educator in the primacy of the faith and of grace. The liturgy, privileged witness of the living Tradition of the Church, faithful to its original duty to reveal and make present in the hodie of human vicissitudes the opus Redemptionis, lives from a correct and constant relationship between healthy traditio and legitimate progressio, made explicit lucidly by the conciliar constitution in No. 23. The conciliar fathers wished to commit their program of reform with both terms, in equilibrium with the great liturgical tradition of the past and the future. Not infrequently tradition and progress are clumsily opposed. In reality, the two concepts are integrated: tradition is a living reality, which because of this includes in itself the principle of development, of progress. It is as if saying that the river of tradition has its source in itself and flows toward the outlet.

Dear friends, I trust that this Faculty of Sacred Liturgy will continue its service to the Church with renewed impetus, in full fidelity to the rich and valuable liturgical tradition and the reform desired by Vatican II, according to the guidelines of "Sacrosanctum Concilium" and the pronouncements of the magisterium. The Christian liturgy is the liturgy of the promise realized in Christ, but it is also the liturgy of hope, of pilgrimage toward the transformation of the world, which will take place when God is all in all (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:28).

Through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, in communion with the heavenly Church and with the patrons St. Benedict and St. Anselm, I invoke on each one the Apostolic Blessing. Thank you.


Pope's Message to Biblical Commission
"Inspiration and Truth as Two Key Concepts"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 6, 2011 - Here is a translation of the message Benedict XVI sent to Cardinal William Levada, president of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, for the group's annual plenary assembly.

The message is dated Monday and deals with inspiration and truth in the Bible.

* * *
To Venerable Brother
Lord Cardinal William Levada
President of the Pontifical Biblical Commission
I am pleased to send you, the secretary and all the members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission my cordial greeting on the occasion of this annual plenary assembly. The commission gathers for the third time to reflect on the topic entrusted to it: "Inspiration and Truth of the Bible."

This topic constitutes one of the main points of my postsynodal apostolic exhortation "Verbum Domini," which treats it in the first part (cf. No. 19). I wrote in this document: "A key concept for understanding the sacred text as the word of God in human words is certainly that of inspiration." It is precisely inspiration, as the action of God that makes it possible to express the Word of God in human words. Consequently, the subject of inspiration is "decisive for an adequate approach to the Scriptures and their correct interpretation" (ibid.). In fact, an interpretation of the sacred writings that neglects or forgets their inspiration does not take into account their most important and valuable characteristic, their provenance from God.

Such an interpretation does not allow one to access the Word of God, and loses, therefore, the inestimable treasure that sacred Scripture contains for us. This kind of approach is concerned with merely human words, although they might be, in various ways according to diverse writings, words of extraordinary depth and beauty. The discussion on inspiration deals with the profound nature and decisive and distinctive meaning of sacred Scripture, namely, its quality as Word of God.

In the same apostolic exhortation, moreover, I reminded that "the Synod Fathers also stressed the link between the theme of inspiration and that of the truth of the Scriptures. A deeper study of the process of inspiration will doubtless lead to a greater understanding of the truth contained in the sacred books" (ibid.).

According to the conciliar constitution "Dei Verbum," God addresses his word to us to "to reveal Himself and to make known to us the hidden purpose of His will (cf. Ephesians 1:9)" (No. 2). Through his Word, God wills to communicate to us all the truth about himself and about the plan of salvation for humanity. The commitment to discover ever more the truth of the Sacred Books is equivalent therefore to seeking to know God more and more, and the mystery of his salvific will.

"Theological reflection has always considered inspiration and truth as two key concepts for an ecclesial hermeneutic of the sacred Scriptures. Nonetheless, one must acknowledge the need today for a fuller and more adequate study of these realities, in order better to respond to the need to interpret the sacred texts in accordance with their nature" (Verbum Domini, No. 19.).

In addressing the subject "Inspiration and Truth of the Bible," the Pontifical Biblical Commission is called to offer its specific and qualified contribution to this necessary study. In fact, it is essential and fundamental for the life and mission of the Church that the Sacred Texts be interpreted according to their nature: Inspiration and Truth are constitutive characteristics of this nature. That is why your commitment will have real usefulness for the life and mission of the Church.

Finally, I would like to refer to the fact that for a good interpretation, it is not possible to apply in a mechanical way the criterion of inspiration, nor that of absolute truth, extrapolating a single phrase or expression. The context in which it is possible to perceive holy Scripture as the Word of God is that of the unity of the history of God, in a totality in which individual elements are mutually illumined and opened to understanding.

In wishing each one of you a fruitful pursuit of your works, I would like finally to manifest my heartfelt appreciation for the work carried out by the Biblical Commission to promote the knowledge, study, and reception of the Word of God in the world. With these sentiments I entrust each one of you to the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary, who with all the Church we invoke as Sedes Sapientiae, and from my heart I impart to you, Venerable Brother, and to all the members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, a special Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, May 2, 2011


Papal Video-Message to Santo Domingo Book Fair
"The Task of a Good Book Is to Educate to a More Profound Understanding of Things"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 5, 2011, - Here is the translation of the video-message sent by Benedict XVI to the Santo Domingo International Book Fair, which is under way in the Dominican Republic through May 24. The Holy See was invited to the book fair as a guest of honor.

* * *

I greet cordially the president of the Republic, the authorities present, the participants in the inaugural ceremony of the 14th International Book Fair of Santo Domingo and the whole beloved Dominican nation. I thank those responsible for this initiative for the kind invitation they addressed to the Holy See to take part in it as guest of honor, precisely in this year in which is commemorated the fifth centenary of the canonical erection of the Diocese of Santo Domingo, one of the first three in American lands. Without a doubt, this prestigious event will give the opportunity to many persons to appreciate a significant exhibition of the literary production of the Catholic Church and her great contribution to the Dominican culture and people, which is appreciated in figures such as Monsignor Francisco Arnaiz and Father José Luis Sáez, to whom the fair has allocated an important place.

The Venerable Pope Pius XII said that the task of a good book is to educate to a more profound understanding of things, to think and to reflect.

God himself willed that the Word should assume our weak nature, to make himself comprehensible and close to men, and he decided that the one and eternal Word should be expressed, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, in human words that could be written in the form of a book so that, through sacred Scriptures, the Good News of salvation would reach all. May he also help you all to contribute effectively to preserve and diffuse, in the best of the human spirit through the books, the everlasting legacy for all men. I pray to the Almighty to give abundant fruits to the Book Fair and to bless the sons and daughters of that country.


Pope's Address to Delegation From the "Papal Foundation"
"The Church Is Missionary by Her Very Nature"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 5, 2011 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today upon receiving in audience members of the U.S.-based "Papal Foundation."

* * *

Dear Friends,

I am pleased to welcome you, the members of the Papal Foundation, on the occasion of your annual visit to Rome. During this Easter season, marked by spiritual joy and gratitude for the gift of our new life in Christ, I pray that this pilgrimage to the tombs of the apostles and martyrs will renew all of you in your love for the Lord and his Church.

This meeting gives me a welcome opportunity to renew my thanks for the important contribution which the Foundation makes to the Church’s mission by its promotion of charities close to the heart of the Pope. I am most grateful for your involvement in projects aimed at integral human development, your encouragement of the apostolic activities of dioceses and religious congregations throughout the world, your concern for the education of the Church’s future leaders and your support for the activities of the Holy See. The Papal Foundation was born as a means of demonstrating practical solidarity with the Successor of Peter in his solicitude for the universal Church. May you see your commitment to the ideals of the Foundation as a privileged expression of your Christian engagement in the Church and before the world. In this way, you will testify that the Church is missionary by her very nature; for "it is our responsibility to pass on what, by God’s grace, we ourselves have received" (Verbum Domini, 91).

Dear friends, with these sentiments and with affection in the Lord, I commend you and your families to the loving intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, and cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of Easter joy and peace.

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pope's Message to Social Sciences Academy
"The Roots of the West’s Christian Culture Remain Deep"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 4, 2011 - Here is the message that Benedict XVI sent April 29 to Mary Ann Glendon, president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, on the occasion of the academy's 17th plenary session.

The April 29-May 3 session focused on the theme "Universal Rights in a World of Diversity: the Case of Religious Freedom."

* * *

To Her Excellency Professor Mary Ann Glendon
President of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences

I am pleased to greet you and the members of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences as you hold your seventeenth plenary session on the theme of Universal Rights in a World of Diversity: the Case of Religious Freedom.

As I have observed on various occasions, the roots of the West’s Christian culture remain deep; it was that culture which gave life and space to religious freedom and continues to nourish the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religion and freedom of worship that many peoples enjoy today. Due in no small part to their systematic denial by atheistic regimes of the twentieth century, these freedoms were acknowledged and enshrined by the international community in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Today these basic human rights are again under threat from attitudes and ideologies which would impede free religious expression. Consequently, the challenge to defend and promote the right to freedom of religion and freedom of worship must be taken up once more in our days. For this reason, I am grateful to the Academy for its contribution to this debate.

Deeply inscribed in our human nature are a yearning for truth and meaning and an openness to the transcendent; we are prompted by our nature to pursue questions of the greatest importance to our existence. Many centuries ago, Tertullian coined the term libertas religionis (cf. Apologeticum, 24:6). He emphasized that God must be worshipped freely, and that it is in the nature of religion not to admit coercion, "nec religionis est cogere religionem" (Ad Scapulam, 2:2). Since man enjoys the capacity for a free personal choice in truth, and since God expects of man a free response to his call, the right to religious freedom should be viewed as innate to the fundamental dignity of every human person, in keeping with the innate openness of the human heart to God. In fact, authentic freedom of religion will permit the human person to attain fulfilment and will thus contribute to the common good of society.

Aware of the developments in culture and society, the Second Vatican Council proposed a renewed anthropological foundation to religious freedom. The Council Fathers stated that all people are "impelled by nature and also bound by our moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth" (Dignitatis Humanae, 2). The truth sets us free (cf. Jn 8:32), and it is this same truth that must be sought and assumed freely. The Council was careful to clarify that this freedom is a right which each person enjoys naturally and which therefore ought also to be protected and fostered by civil law.

Of course, every state has a sovereign right to promulgate its own legislation and will express different attitudes to religion in law. So it is that there are some states which allow broad religious freedom in our understanding of the term, while others restrict it for a variety of reasons, including mistrust for religion itself. The Holy See continues to appeal for the recognition of the fundamental human right to religious freedom on the part of all states, and calls on them to respect, and if need be protect, religious minorities who, though bound by a different faith from the majority around them, aspire to live with their fellow citizens peacefully and to participate fully in the civil and political life of the nation, to the benefit of all.

Finally, let me express my sincere hope that your expertise in the fields of law, political science, sociology and economics will converge in these days to bring about fresh insights on this important question and thus bear much fruit now and into the future. During this holy season, I invoke upon you an abundance of Easter joy and peace, and I willingly impart to you, to Bishop Sánchez Sorondo and to all the members of the Academy my Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 29 April 2011


© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


On Prayer: 1st Audience in New Series
"Virtually Always and Everywhere, People Have Turned to God"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 4, 2011- Here is a translation of the Italian-language catechesis Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience held in St. Peter's Square. With his address the Pope began a new series of catecheses on the subject of prayer.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today I would like to begin a new series of catecheses. After the catecheses on fathers of the Church, on great theologians of the Middle Ages, on great women, I would now like to choose a subject that we all have very much at heart: It is the subject of prayer, specifically, Christian prayer, which is the prayer that Jesus taught us and that the Church continues to teach us. It is in Jesus, in fact, that man is made capable of approaching God with the depth and intimacy of the relationship of fatherhood and sonship. Together with the first disciples, we now turn with humble trust to the Master and ask: "Lord, teach us to pray" (Luke 11:1).

In the forthcoming catecheses, approaching sacred Scripture, the great tradition of the fathers of the Church, the teachers of spirituality, and the liturgy, we will learn to live yet more intensely our relationship with the Lord, as though in a "school of prayer." We know well, in fact, that prayer cannot be taken for granted: We must learn how to pray, almost as if acquiring this art anew; even those who are very advanced in the spiritual life always feel the need to enter the school of Jesus to learn to pray with authenticity.

We receive the first lesson from the Lord through his example. The Gospels describe to us Jesus in intimate and constant dialogue with the Father: It is a profound communion of the One who came into the world not to do his will but that of the Father who sent him for man's salvation.

In this first catechesis, by way of introduction, I would like to propose some examples of prayer present in ancient cultures, to reveal how, virtually always and everywhere, people have turned to God.

I begin with ancient Egypt, as an example. Here a blind man, asking the divinity to restore his sight, attests to something universally human, as is the pure and simple prayer of petition on the part of one who is suffering. This man prays: "My heart desires to see you ... You who made me see the darkness, create light for me, that I may see you! Bend over me your beloved face" (A. Barucq -- F. Daumas, Hymnes et prieres de l'Egypte ancienne, Paris, 1980, translated into Italian as Preghiere dell'umanita, Brescia, 1993, p. 30).

That I may see you; here is the heart of prayer!

Prevailing in the religions of Mesopotamia was a mysterious and paralyzing sense of guilt, though not deprived of the hope of rescue and liberation by God. Hence we can appreciate a supplication by a believer of those ancient cults, which sounds like this: "O God who are indulgent even in the most serious fault, absolve my sin ... Look, Lord, to your weary servant, and blow your breeze on him: Forgive him without delay. Alleviate your severe punishment. Free from the shackles, make me breathe again; break my chain, loosen my ties" (M. J. Seux, Hymnes et prieres aux Dieux de Babylone at d'Assyrie, Paris, 1976, translated into Italian in Preghiere dell'umanita, op. cit., p. 37).

These are expressions that show how, in his search for God, man intuited, though confusedly, on one hand his guilt and on the other, aspects of divine mercy and kindness.

At the heart of the pagan religion of ancient Greece we witness a very significant evolution: prayers, though continuing to invoke divine help to obtain heavenly favor in all circumstances of daily life and to obtain material benefits, are oriented progressively toward more selfless requests, which enable believing man to deepen his relationship with God and to become better. For example, the great philosopher Plato reported a prayer of his teacher, Socrates, who is justly regarded as one of the founders of Western thought. Socrates prayed thus: "Make me beautiful within. That I may hold as rich one who is wise and possess no more money than the wise man can take and carry. I do not ask for anything more" (Opere I. Fedro 279c, translated into Italian by P. Pucci, Bari, 1966).

Above all he wanted to be beautiful and wise within, and not rich in money.

In the Greek tragedies -- those outstanding literary masterpieces of all time that still today, after 25 centuries, are read, meditated and performed -- there are prayers that express the desire to know God and to adore his majesty. One of these reads thus: "Support of the earth, who dwell above the earth, whoever you are, difficult to understand, Zeus, be the law of nature or of the thought of mortals, I turn to you: given that, proceeding by silent ways, you guide human affairs according to justice" (Euripide, Troiane, 884-886, translated into Italian by G. Mancini, in Preghiere dell'umanita, op. cit., p. 54).

God remains somewhat nebulous and yet man knows this unknown God and prays to him who guides the affairs of the earth.

Also with the Romans, who constituted that great Empire in which a large part of the origins of Christianity was born and spread, prayer -- though associated to a utilitarian conception fundamentally bound to the request for divine protection on the life of the civil community -- opens at times to admirable invocations because of the fervor of personal piety, which is transformed into praise and thanksgiving. Apuleius, an author of Roman Africa of the 2nd century after Christ, is a witness to this. In his writings he manifests contemporaries' dissatisfaction at comparing the traditional religion and the desire for a more authentic relationship with God. In his masterpiece, titled Metamorphosis, a believer addresses a feminine divinity with these words: "You, yes, are a saint, you are at all times savior of the human species, you, in your generosity, always give your help to mortals, you offer the poor in travail the gentle affection that a mother can have. Not a day or a night or an instant passes, no matter how brief it is, that you do not fill him with your benefits" (Apuleius of Madaura, Metamorphosis IX, 25, Translated into Italian by C. Annaratone, in Preghiere dell'umanita, op. cit., p. 79).

In the same period the emperor Marcus Aurelius -- who was as well a thoughtful philosopher of the human condition -- affirmed the need to pray to establish a fruitful cooperation between divine and human action. He wrote in his Memoirs: "Who has told you that the gods do not help us even in what depends on us? Begin then to pray to them and you will see" (Dictionnaire de Spiritualite XII/2, col. 2213). This advice of the philosopher-emperor was put into practice effectively by innumerable generations of men before Christ, thus demonstrating that human life without prayer, which opens our existence to the mystery of God, is deprived of meaning and reference. Expressed in every prayer, in fact, is the truth of the human creature, which on one hand experiences weakness and indigence, and because of this asks for help from heaven, and on the other is gifted with extraordinary dignity, as, preparing himself to receive divine Revelation, he discovers himself capable of entering into communion with God.

Dear friends, emerging from these examples of prayer from various periods and civilizations is the human awareness of his condition as a creature and his dependence on Another superior to him and the source of every good. The man of all times prays because he cannot fail to ask himself what is the meaning of his existence, which remains dark and discomforting, if he is not placed in relationship with the mystery of God and of his plan for the world. Human life is an interlacing of good and evil, of unmerited suffering and of joy and beauty, which spontaneously and irresistibly drives us to pray to God for that interior light and strength which aid us on earth and reveal a hope that goes beyond the boundaries of death. The pagan religions remain an invocation that from the earth awaits a word from Heaven. Proclus of Constantinople, one of the last great pagan philosophers, who lived already at the height of the Christian age, gave voice to this expectation, saying: "Unknowable, no one contains you. Everything that we think belongs to you. Our ills and goods are from you, every breath depends on you, O Ineffable One, may our souls feel you present, raising a hymn of silence to you" (Hymn,ed. E. Vogt, Wiesbaden, 1957, in Preghiere dell'umanita, op. cit., p. 61).

In the examples of prayer from the various cultures that we considered, we can see a testimony of the religious dimension and of the desire for God inscribed in the heart of every man, which receive fulfillment and full expression in the Old and New Testaments. Revelation, in fact, purifies and leads to fullness man's original longing for God, offering him, with prayer, the possibility of a more profound relationship with the heavenly Father.

At the beginning of this journey of ours in the "school of prayer" we now wish to ask the Lord to illumine our minds and hearts so that our relationship with him in prayer is ever more intense, affectionate and constant. Once again, let us say to him: "Lord, teach us to pray" (Luke 11:1).

[The Holy Father then greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The new series of catecheses which we begin today are devoted to prayer and, in particular, the prayer proper to Christians. Christian prayer is grounded in the gift of new life brought by Christ; it is an "art" in which Christ, the Son of God, is our supreme teacher. At the same time, prayer is a part of the human experience, as we see from the ancient cultures of Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece and Rome. There we find eloquent expressions of a desire to see God, to experience his mercy and forgiveness, to grow in virtue and to experience divine help in all that we do. In these cultures there is also a recognition that prayer opens man to a deeper understanding of our dependence on God and life's ultimate meaning. The pagan religions, however, remain a plea for divine help, an expression of that profound human yearning for God which finds its highest expression and fulfilment in the Old and New Testaments. Divine revelation, in fact, purifies and fulfils man's innate desire for God and offers us, through prayer, the possibility of a deeper relationship with our heavenly Father. With the disciples, then, let us ask the Lord: "[t]each us
to pray" (cf. Luke 11:1).


2nd General Audience Talk On the Universal Religious Sense
"Man Bears Within Himself the Desire for God"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 11, 2011 - Here is a translation of the Italian-language catechesis Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience held in St. Peter's Square. With his address the Pope continued the new series of catechesis on the subject of prayer.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today I would like to continue reflecting on how prayer and the religious sense have been a part of mankind throughout history.

We live in an age in which the signs of secularism are evident. It seems that God has disappeared from the horizon of many persons or that he has become a reality before which one remains indifferent. However, at the same time we see many signs that indicate to us an awakening of the religious sense, a rediscovery of the importance of God for man's life, a need of spirituality, of surmounting a purely horizontal, material vision of human life. Analyzing recent history, the prediction has failed of those who in the age of the Enlightenment proclaimed the disappearance of religions and exalted absolute reason, separated from faith, a reason that would have dispelled the darkness of religious dogmas and dissolved "the world of the sacred," restoring to man his liberty, his dignity and his autonomy from God. The experience of the last century, with the two tragic World Wars, put in crisis that progress that autonomous reason, man without God, seemed to be able to guarantee.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church affirms: "In the act of creation, God calls every being from nothingness into existence. [...] Even after losing through his sin his likeness to God, man remains an image of his Creator, and retains the desire for the one who calls him into existence. All religions bear witness to men's essential search for God" (No. 2566). We could say -- as I showed in the previous catechesis -- that there has been no great civilization, from the most ancient times up to our days, which has not been religious.

Man is religious by nature, he is homo religiosus as he is homo sapiens and homo faber. "The desire for God," the Catechism also affirms, "is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God" (No. 27). The image of the Creator is imprinted in his being and he feels the need to find a light to give an answer to the questions that have to do with the profound meaning of reality; an answer that he cannot find in himself, in progress, in empirical science. Homo religiosus does not emerge only from the ancient world, but he crosses the whole history of humanity.

To this end, the rich terrain of human experience has witnessed the emergence of different forms of religiosity, in the attempt to respond to the desire for plenitude and happiness, to the need of salvation, to the search for meaning. "Digital" man and the caveman alike seek in religious experience the ways to overcome his finitude and to ensure his precarious earthly adventure. Moreover, life without a transcendent horizon would not have complete meaning, and the happiness to which we tend, is projected toward a future, toward a tomorrow that is yet to be attained.

In the declaration "Nostra Aetate," the Second Vatican Council stressed it synthetically. It states: Men expect from the various religions answers to the unsolved riddles of the human condition, which today, even as in former times, deeply stir the hearts of men: What is man? What is the meaning, the aim of our life? What is moral good, what sin? Whence suffering and what purpose does it serve? Which is the road to true happiness? What are death, judgment and retribution after death? What, finally, is that ultimate inexpressible mystery which encompasses our existence: whence do we come, and where are we going?" (No. 1). Man knows that he cannot answer on his own his fundamental need to understand. Even if he is deluded and still believes that he is self-sufficient, he has the experience that he is not sufficient unto himself. He needs to open himself to the other, to something or someone, which can give him what he lacks, he must come out of himself toward the One who can fill the extent and profundity of his desire.

Man bears within himself a thirst for the infinite, a nostalgia for eternity, a search for beauty, a desire for love, a need for light and truth, which drive him toward the Absolute; man bears within himself the desire for God. And man knows, in some way, that he can address himself to God, that he can pray to him. St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the greatest theologians of history, defines prayer as the "expression of man's desire for God." This attraction toward God, which God himself has placed in man, is the soul of prayer, which is cloaked in many forms and modalities according to the history, time, moment, grace and finally the sin of each one of those who pray. In fact, man's history has known varied forms of prayer, because he has developed different modalities of openness toward the on High and toward the Beyond, so much so that we can recognize prayer as an experience present in every religion and culture.

In fact, dear brothers and sisters, as we saw last Wednesday, prayer is not linked to a particular context, but is found inscribed in every person's heart and in every civilization.

Of course, when we speak of prayer as man's experience in as much as man, of the homo orans, it is necessary to keep in mind that this is an interior attitude, rather than a series of practices and formulas, a way of being before God, rather than carrying out acts of worship or pronouncing words. Prayer has its center and founds its roots in the most profound being of the person; that is why it is not easily decipherable and for the same reason, it can be subject to misunderstandings and mystifications. Also in this sense we can understand the expression: it is difficult to pray. In fact, prayer is the place par excellence of gratuitousness, of the tension towards the Invisible, the Unexpected, the Ineffable. Because of this, the experience of prayer is a challenge for everyone, a "grace" to be invoked, a gift of the One whom we address.

In all the periods of history, in prayer man considers himself and his situation before God, from God and in regard to God, and he experiences himself as being a creature in need of help, incapable of achieving by himself the fulfillment of his existence and his hope. The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein reminded that "to pray means to feel that the meaning of the world is outside the world." In the dynamic of this relationship with the One who gives meaning to existence, with God, prayer has one of its typical expressions in the gesture of kneeling. It is a gesture that bears in itself a radical ambivalence: in fact, I can be obliged to kneel -- condition of indigence and slavery -- or I can kneel spontaneously, confessing my limit and, hence, my need for the Other. To Him I confess that I am weak, needy, a "sinner."

In the experience of prayer, the human creature expresses all his awareness of himself, all that he is able to understand of his existence and, at the same time, he addresses himself wholly to the Being before whom he is, he orients his soul to that Mystery from which he awaits the fulfillment of his most profound desires and help to surmount the indigence of his life. In this looking at the Other, in this addressing "the beyond" is the essence of prayer, as experience of a reality that surpasses the sentient and the contingent.

However, the full realization of man's search is found only in the God who reveals himself. Prayer, which is the opening and raising of the heart to God, becomes a personal relationship with Him. And even if man forgets his Creator, the living and true God does not fail to call man to the mysterious encounter of prayer. As the Catechism affirms: "In prayer, the faithful God's initiative of love always comes first; our own first step is always a response. As God gradually reveals himself and reveals man to himself, prayer appears as a reciprocal call, a covenant drama. Through words and actions, this drama engages the heart. It unfolds throughout the whole history of salvation" (No. 2567).

Dear brothers and sisters, let us learn to spend more time before God, let us learn to recognize in silence the God who has revealed himself in Jesus Christ, to recognize in the depth of ourselves his voice that calls us and leads us back to the profundity of our existence, to the fount of life, to the source of salvation, to make us go beyond the limits of our life and to open ourselves to the measure of God, to the relationship with Him who is Infinite Love. Thank you!

[The Holy Father then greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our catechesis on Christian prayer, we have seen how prayer is part of the universal human experience. Our own age, marked by secularism, rationalism and an apparent eclipse of God, is showing signs of a renewed religious sense and a recognition of the inadequacy of a purely horizontal, material vision of life. Man is made in the image of God; a desire for God is present in every heart and man in some way knows that he is capable of speaking to God in prayer. Saint Thomas Aquinas tells us that prayer is the expression of our desire for God, a desire which is itself God's gift. Prayer is first and foremost a matter of the heart, where we experience God's call and our dependence on his help to transcend our limitations and sinfulness. The posture of kneeling at prayer expresses this acknowledgment of our need and our openness to God's gift of himself in a mysterious encounter of friendship. Let us resolve to pray more frequently, to listen in the silence of our hearts to God's voice, and to grow in union with the God who has revealed himself in Jesus Christ, with the One who is infinite Love.


Pope's Address to European Broadcasting Union
"Promote Dialogue, Peace and Development of Peoples in Solidarity"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 2, 2011 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered Saturday in French and English to the 17th Assembly of the European Broadcasting Union, gathered at Castel Gandolfo as guests of Vatican Radio, which is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year.

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[In French, he said:]

Dear Friends,

I am very happy to welcome you all, members and participants on the 17th assembly of the European Broadcasting Union, which, this year, is the guest of Vatican Radio, on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of its foundation. I greet archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. I thank the president of the European Broadcasting Union, Monsignor Jean Paul Philippot, and Father Federico Lombardi, director general of Vatican Radio, for the courteous words with which they presented the nature of your meeting and the problems you must address.

When my predecessor Pius XI asked Guglielmo Marconi to equip Vatican City State with a broadcasting station provided with the best technology available at that time, he demonstrated having perceived with lucidity in what direction the world of communications was developing and the potentialities that the radio could offer for the service of the mission of the Church. Indeed, through the radio, the Popes were able to transmit beyond the borders messages of great importance for humanity, as those rightly famous of Pius XII during World War II, which gave voice to the most profound aspirations for justice and peace, or as that of John XXIII at the culminating moment of the crisis between the United States and the Soviet Union in 1962.

Through the radio, Pius XII was also able to diffuse hundreds of thousands of messages of families to the address of prisoners and those who had disappeared during the War, carrying out a humanitarian endeavor which won him imperishable gratitude. Sustained for a long time through the radio, moreover, were the attempts of believers and of peoples subjected to oppressive regimes to uphold human rights and religious liberty. The Holy See is conscious of the extraordinary potentialities of which the world of communication disposes for the progress and growth of persons and society. It can be said that all the teaching of the Church in this sector, beginning with the addresses of Pius XII, and passing through the documents of Vatican Council II, up to my most recent messages on the new numerical technologies, is traversed by a current of optimism, of hope and of sincere sympathy for those who are engaged in this domain to foster encounter and dialogue, to serve the human community and to contribute to the peaceful growth of society.

Each one of you knows of course that, hidden in the development of social communications, are difficulties and risks.

Hence, allow me to manifest to all of you my interest and solidarity for the important work that you accomplish. In today's society, basic values for the good of humanity are at stake, and public opinion, in whose formation your work has great importance, often finds itself disoriented and divided. You know well the concerns of the Church on the subject of respect of human life, of defense of the family, of the recognition of authentic rights and the just aspirations of peoples, of imbalances caused by underdevelopment and hunger in numerous parts of the world, of the reception of immigrants, of unemployment and of social security, of new poverties and social marginalizations, of discrimination and violations of religious liberty, of disarmament and the search for a peaceful solution to conflicts. I made reference to many of these questions in the Encyclical 'Caritas in Veritate.' To nourish every day correct and balanced information and an in-depth debate in order to find the best shared solutions to these questions in a pluralist society, is the task of radios as well as television stations. It is a task that requires great professional honesty, correctness and respect, openness to different prospects, clarity in the treatment of problems, liberty in regard to ideological barriers and awareness of the complexity of the problems.

It is a question of a patient search for this "daily truth" which translates better the values in life and directs better the path of society, and which is sought with humility by all.

[In English, he said:]

In this search, the Catholic Church has a specific contribution to offer, which she intends to offer by witnessing to her adherence to the truth that is Christ, yet doing so in a spirit of openness and dialogue. As I said during my meeting with leading figures from the worlds of British culture and politics at Westminster Hall in London last September, religion does not seek to manipulate non-believers, but to assist reason in the discovery of objective moral principles. Religion contributes by "purifying" reason, helping it not to fall prey to distortions, such as manipulation by ideology or partial application that fails to take full account of the dignity of the human person. At the same time, religion likewise recognizes its need for the corrective of reason in order to avoid excesses, such as fundamentalism or sectarianism. "Religion ... is not a problem for legislators to solve, but a vital contributor to the national conversation." I therefore invite you too, "within your respective spheres of influence, to seek ways of promoting and encouraging dialogue between faith and reason" with a view to serving the common good of the nation.

Yours is a "public service," a service to the people, to help them each day to know and understand better what is happening and why it is happening, and to communicate actively so as to accompany then in society's journey together. I am well aware that this service meets with difficulties that take on different features and proportions in different countries. These can include the challenge of competition from commercial broadcasters, the conditioning of politics understood as the carving up of power rather than service of the common good, scarcity of economic resources made more acute by situations of crisis, the impact of developments in new technologies of communication, the laborious search for viewers and listeners. But the challenges of the modern world on which you have to report are too great and too urgent to let yourselves become discouraged or tempted to give up in the face of such difficulties.

Twenty years ago, in 1991, when your general assembly was received in the Vatican by the Venerable John Paul II, whom tomorrow I shall have the joy of beatifying, he encouraged you to develop your mutual collaboration in order to favor the growth of the community of the peoples of the world.

Today, I think of the processes unfolding in certain countries of the Mediterranean and the Middle East, some of which are also members of your association. We know that the new forms of communication continue to play a role of some significance in these very processes. I urge you to place your international contacts and activities at the service of reflection and commitment aimed at ensuring that the instruments of social communication promote dialogue, peace and development of peoples in solidarity, overcoming cultural separation, uncertainties and fears.

Finally, dear friends, while I sincerely wish all of you and your Association much success in your work, I would also like to express my thanks for the specific collaboration that on many occasions you have provided for my ministry, and that you continue to provide, during the great festivals of Christmas and Easter, or on my apostolic journeys. For me too, and for the Catholic Church, you are therefore important allies and friends in our mission. In this spirit I am pleased to invoke the Lord's blessing upon all of you, upon those who are dear to you and upon your work.



VATICAN CITY, 1 MAY 2011 (VIS) - At 10:00am this morning, the Second Sunday of Easter of Divine Mercy Sunday, Benedict XVI presided over the Eucharistic celebration during which Servant of God John Paul II, Pope (1920-2005) was proclaimed a Blessed, and whose feastday will be celebrated 22 October every year from now on.

Eighty-seven delegations from various countries, among which were 5 royal houses, 16 heads of state - including the presidents of Poland and Italy - and 7 prime ministers, attended the ceremony.

Hundreds of thousands of people from around the world filled St. Peter's Square and the streets adjacent. The ceremony could also be followed on the various giant screens installed in Circo Massimo and various squares around the city.

The text of the Pope's homily follows:

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Six years ago we gathered in this Square to celebrate the funeral of Pope John Paul II. Our grief at his loss was deep, but even greater was our sense of an immense grace which embraced Rome and the whole world: a grace which was in some way the fruit of my beloved predecessor's entire life, and especially of his witness in suffering. Even then we perceived the fragrance of his sanctity, and in any number of ways God's People showed their veneration for him. For this reason, with all due respect for the Church's canonical norms, I wanted his cause of beatification to move forward with reasonable haste. And now the longed-for day has come; it came quickly because this is what was pleasing to the Lord: John Paul II is blessed!

I would like to offer a cordial greeting to all of you who on this happy occasion have come in such great numbers to Rome from all over the world - cardinals, patriarchs of the Eastern Catholic Churches, brother bishops and priests, official delegations, ambassadors and civil authorities, consecrated men and women and lay faithful, and I extend that greeting to all those who join us by radio and television.

Today is the Second Sunday of Easter, which Blessed John Paul II entitled Divine Mercy Sunday. The date was chosen for today's celebration because, in God's providence, my predecessor died on the vigil of this feast. Today is also the first day of May, Mary's month, and the liturgical memorial of Saint Joseph the Worker. All these elements serve to enrich our prayer, they help us in our pilgrimage through time and space; but in heaven a very different celebration is taking place among the angels and saints! Even so, God is but one, and one too is Christ the Lord, who like a bridge joins earth to heaven. At this moment we feel closer than ever, sharing as it were in the liturgy of heaven.

'Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe' (Jn 20:29). In today's Gospel Jesus proclaims this beatitude: the beatitude of faith. For us, it is particularly striking because we are gathered to celebrate a beatification, but even more so because today the one proclaimed blessed is a Pope, a Successor of Peter, one who was called to confirm his brethren in the faith. John Paul II is blessed because of his faith, a strong, generous and apostolic faith. We think at once of another beatitude: 'Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven' (Mt 16:17). What did our heavenly Father reveal to Simon? That Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Because of this faith, Simon becomes Peter, the rock on which Jesus can build his Church. The eternal beatitude of John Paul II, which today the Church rejoices to proclaim, is wholly contained in these sayings of Jesus: 'Blessed are you, Simon' and 'Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe!' It is the beatitude of faith, which John Paul II also received as a gift from God the Father for the building up of Christ's Church.

Our thoughts turn to yet another beatitude, one which appears in the Gospel before all others. It is the beatitude of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of the Redeemer. Mary, who had just conceived Jesus, was told by Saint Elizabeth: 'Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord' (Lk 1:45). The beatitude of faith has its model in Mary, and all of us rejoice that the beatification of John Paul II takes place on this first day of the month of Mary, beneath the maternal gaze of the one who by her faith sustained the faith of the Apostles and constantly sustains the faith of their successors, especially those called to occupy the Chair of Peter. Mary does not appear in the accounts of Christ's resurrection, yet hers is, as it were, a continual, hidden presence: she is the Mother to whom Jesus entrusted each of his disciples and the entire community. In particular we can see how Saint John and Saint Luke record the powerful, maternal presence of Mary in the passages preceding those read in today's Gospel and first reading. In the account of Jesus' death, Mary appears at the foot of the Cross (Jn 19:25), and at the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles she is seen in the midst of the disciples gathered in prayer in the Upper Room (Acts 1:14).

Today's second reading also speaks to us of faith. St. Peter himself, filled with spiritual enthusiasm, points out to the newly-baptized the reason for their hope and their joy. I like to think how in this passage, at the beginning of his First Letter, Peter does not use language of exhortation; instead, he states a fact. He writes: 'you rejoice', and he adds: 'you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls' ( 1 Pt 1:6, 8-9). All these verbs are in the indicative, because a new reality has come about in Christ's resurrection, a reality to which faith opens the door. 'This is the Lord's doing', says the Psalm (Ps 118:23), and 'it is marvelous in our eyes', the eyes of faith.

Dear brothers and sisters, today our eyes behold, in the full spiritual light of the risen Christ, the beloved and revered figure of John Paul II. Today his name is added to the host of those whom he proclaimed saints and blesseds during the almost twenty-seven years of his pontificate, thereby forcefully emphasizing the universal vocation to the heights of the Christian life, to holiness, taught by the conciliar Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium. All of us, as members of the people of God - bishops, priests, deacons, laity, men and women religious - are making our pilgrim way to the heavenly homeland where the Virgin Mary has preceded us, associated as she was in a unique and perfect way to the mystery of Christ and the Church. Karol Wojtyla took part in the Second Vatican Council, first as an auxiliary Bishop and then as Archbishop of Krakow. He was fully aware that the Council's decision to devote the last chapter of its Constitution on the Church to Mary meant that the Mother of the Redeemer is held up as an image and model of holiness for every Christian and for the entire Church. This was the theological vision which Blessed John Paul II discovered as a young man and subsequently maintained and deepened throughout his life. A vision which is expressed in the scriptural image of the crucified Christ with Mary, his Mother, at his side. This icon from the Gospel of John (19:25-27) was taken up in the episcopal and later the papal coat-of-arms of Karol Wojtyla: a golden cross with the letter 'M' on the lower right and the motto 'Totus tuus', drawn from the well-known words of Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort in which Karol Wojtyla found a guiding light for his life: 'Totus tuus ego sum et omnia mea tua sunt. Accipio te in mea omnia. Praebe mihi cor tuum, Maria - I belong entirely to you, and all that I have is yours. I take you for my all. O Mary, give me your heart' (Treatise on True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, 266).

In his Testament, the new Blessed wrote: 'When, on 16 October 1978, the Conclave of Cardinals chose John Paul II, the Primate of Poland, Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, said to me: "The task of the new Pope will be to lead the Church into the Third Millennium"'. And the Pope added: 'I would like once again to express my gratitude to the Holy Spirit for the great gift of the Second Vatican Council, to which, together with the whole Church - and especially with the whole episcopate - I feel indebted. I am convinced that it will long be granted to the new generations to draw from the treasures that this Council of the twentieth century has lavished upon us. As a Bishop who took part in the Council from the first to the last day, I desire to entrust this great patrimony to all who are and will be called in the future to put it into practice. For my part, I thank the Eternal Shepherd, who has enabled me to serve this very great cause in the course of all the years of my Pontificate'. And what is this 'cause'? It is the same one that John Paul II presented during his first solemn Mass in Saint Peter's Square in the unforgettable words: 'Do not be afraid! Open, open wide the doors to Christ!' What the newly-elected Pope asked of everyone, he was himself the first to do: society, culture, political and economic systems he opened up to Christ, turning back with the strength of a titan - a strength which came to him from God - a tide which appeared irreversible. By his witness of faith, love and apostolic courage, accompanied by great human charisma, this exemplary son of Poland helped believers throughout the world not to be afraid to be called Christian, to belong to the Church, to speak of the Gospel. In a word: he helped us not to fear the truth, because truth is the guarantee of liberty. To put it even more succinctly: he gave us the strength to believe in Christ, because Christ is Redemptor hominis, the Redeemer of man. This was the theme of his first encyclical, and the thread which runs though all the others.

When Karol Wojtyla ascended to the throne of Peter, he brought with him a deep understanding of the difference between Marxism and Christianity, based on their respective visions of man. This was his message: man is the way of the Church, and Christ is the way of man. With this message, which is the great legacy of the Second Vatican Council and of its 'helmsman', the Servant of God Pope Paul VI, John Paul II led the People of God across the threshold of the Third Millennium, which thanks to Christ he was able to call 'the threshold of hope'. Throughout the long journey of preparation for the great Jubilee he directed Christianity once again to the future, the future of God, which transcends history while nonetheless directly affecting it. He rightly reclaimed for Christianity that impulse of hope which had in some sense faltered before Marxism and the ideology of progress. He restored to Christianity its true face as a religion of hope, to be lived in history in an 'Advent' spirit, in a personal and communitarian existence directed to Christ, the fullness of humanity and the fulfillment of all our longings for justice and peace.

Finally, on a more personal note, I would like to thank God for the gift of having worked for many years with Blessed Pope John Paul II. I had known him earlier and had esteemed him, but for twenty-three years, beginning in 1982 after he called me to Rome to be Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, I was at his side and came to revere him all the more. My own service was sustained by his spiritual depth and by the richness of his insights. His example of prayer continually impressed and edified me: he remained deeply united to God even amid the many demands of his ministry. Then too, there was his witness in suffering: the Lord gradually stripped him of everything, yet he remained ever a 'rock', as Christ desired. His profound humility, grounded in close union with Christ, enabled him to continue to lead the Church and to give to the world a message which became all the more eloquent as his physical strength declined. In this way he lived out in an extraordinary way the vocation of every priest and bishop to become completely one with Jesus, whom he daily receives and offers in the Eucharist.

Blessed are you, beloved Pope John Paul II, because you believed! Continue, we implore you, to sustain from heaven the faith of God's people. How many time you blessed us from this very square. Holy Father, bless us again from that window. Amen".


On Blessed John Paul II
May His Example Inspire Us to Be "Icons of Divine Mercy"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 1, 2011 - After celebrating Mass in St. Peter's Square and beatifying Pope John Paul II today, Benedict XVI greeted the crowds in various languages before praying the midday Regina Caeli.

In English, he said:

I greet the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Mass. In a particular way I welcome the distinguished civil authorities and representatives of the world’s nations who join us in honouring Blessed John Paul II. May his example of firm faith in Christ, the Redeemer of Man, inspire us to live fully the new life which we celebrate at Easter, to be icons of divine mercy, and to work for a world in which the dignity and rights of every man, woman and child are respected and promoted. Trusting in his prayers, I cordially invoke upon you and your families the peace of the Risen Saviour!

He concluded in Italian:

Finally, I address a cordial greeting to the president of the Italian Republic and his entourage, with a special thanks to the Italian authorities for their appreciated cooperation in organizing these days of celebration. And how could I not mention here all of those who have been preparing this event for a long time and with great generosity: my Diocese of Rome with Cardinal Vallini, the municipality of the city with its mayor, all of the security teams and the various organizations, associations, the numerous volunteers and whoever made themselves available to offer help, even individually. My grateful thoughts also go out to the Vatican institutions and offices. In such efforts I see a sign of great love for John Paul II.

Finally, I offer my most affectionate greeting to all of the pilgrims – gathered in St. Peter’s Square, in the nearby streets and in various parts of Rome – and to those who join us through radio and television, whose directors and operators have spared nothing to make it possible even for those farthest away to participate in this great day. To the sick and the elderly, toward whom the newly beatified [John Paul II] felt particularly close, a special greeting. And now in spiritual union with John Paul II, we turn with love to Mary Most Holy, entrusting to her, Mother of the Church, the journey of the whole People of God.



VATICAN CITY, 1 MAY 2011 (VIS) - At the end of the beatification Mass and before the Regina Coeli, the Holy Father greeted the pilgrims and the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square and the surrounding area.

Speaking in French the Pope asked that "the life and work of Blessed John Paul II be the source of a renewed dedication to the service of all persons and all humankind. I ask him to bless the efforts of all in building a civilization of love, respecting the dignity of each person, created in the image of God, with special attention to those who are weakest".

Then, addressing the pilgrims in English, Benedict XVI expressed the wish that the new Blessed's "example of firm faith in Christ, the Redeemer of Man, inspire us to live fully the new life which we celebrate at Easter, to be icons of divine mercy, and, and to work for a world in which the dignity and rights of every man, woman, and child are respected and promoted".

"I invite you", he continued in Spanish, "to follow the example of faithfulness and love for Christ and Church that he left us as a precious inheritance. May his intercession always accompany us from heaven, so that the faith of Your peoples remain solid at its roots and that peace and harmony sustain the necessary progress of Your peoples".

On greeting the Polish dignitaries the Pope asked that their fellow countryman "obtain for you and your earthy nation the gift of peace, unity, and every prosperity".

Benedict XVI finished by thanking the Italian authorities for their collaboration in organizing the day. "I extend my most heartfelt greetings to all the pilgrims - those gathered here in St. Peter's Square, the adjoining streets, and other places around Rome - and all those who have joined in via radio and television; ... to the ill and the elderly, with whom the new Blessed felt particularly close".

At the end of the Eucharistic celebration, the Holy Father, accompanied by the concelebrating cardinals, walked inside the Vatican basilica to venerate the new Blessed. Then the various dignitaries present, along with the bishops, entered, following which the other faithful present also had the opportunity to venerate the new Blessed.


On the Heart of the Christian Mystery
"Be Luminous Witnesses of This New Life That Easter Has Brought"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 29, 2011 - Here is a translation of the Italian-language catechesis that Benedict XVI gave on Wednesday during the general audience held in St. Peter's Square. The Pope, who arrived by helicopter from the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo, focused his meditation on the meaning of Christ's resurrection.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In these first days of Eastertide, which is prolonged until Pentecost, we are still full of the freshness and new joy that the liturgical celebrations brought to our hearts. Therefore, today I would like to reflect briefly with you on Easter, heart of the Christian mystery. Everything, in fact, begins from here: Christ risen from the dead is the foundation of our faith. Radiating from Easter, as from a luminous, incandescent center, is all the liturgy of the Church, bringing with it content and meaning. The liturgical celebration of the death and resurrection of Christ is not a simple commemoration of this event, but the actualization of the mystery, for the life of every Christian and every ecclesial community, for our life. In fact, faith in the Risen Christ transforms our existence, effecting in us a continuous resurrection, as St. Paul wrote to the first believers: "For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth" (Ephesians 5:8-9).

How can we then make Easter become "life"? How can our whole interior and exterior existence assume a paschal "form"? We must begin from a genuine understanding of Jesus' resurrection: Such an event is not a simple return to the preceding life, as it was for Lazarus, for Jarius' daughter or for the young man of Nain, but rather it is something completely new and different. Christ's resurrection is the door that leads to a life no longer subject to the transience of time, a life immersed in the eternity of God. Initiated with the resurrection of Jesus is a new condition of being a person, which illumines and transforms our everyday path and opens a qualitatively different and new future for the whole of humanity. Because of this, St. Paul not only links in an inseparable way the resurrection of Christians to that of Jesus (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:16.20), but he also indicates how the paschal mystery must be lived in our daily life.

In the Letter to the Colossians, he says: "If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth" (3:1-2). At first sight, reading this text, it might seem that the Apostle intends to foster contempt for earthly reality, inviting, that is, to forget this world of sufferings, injustices, sins, to live in advance in a heavenly paradise. The thought of "heaven" would be in this case a sort of alienation. However, to understand the true meaning of these Pauline affirmations, suffice it not to separate them from the context. The Apostle specifies very well what he intends by "the things that are above," which the Christian must seek, and "the things of the earth" of which he must beware. Here are first of all "the things of the earth" that one must avoid: "Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry" (3:5-6). To put to death in us the insatiable desire for material goods, egoism, root of every sin. Hence, when the Apostle invites Christians to detach themselves with determination from the "things of the earth," he clearly wishes to make it understood that it belongs to the "old man" of whom the Christian must strip himself, to be clothed in Christ.

As he was clear in saying what the things are on which one must not fix one's heart, with like clarity St. Paul points out to us what the "things" are that are "above," which the Christian, instead, must seek and enjoy. They regard what belongs to the "new man," who is clothed in Christ once and for all in baptism, but who always has need of renewing himself "in the image of him who created him" (Colossians 3:10). Look how the Apostle of the Gentiles describes these "things from above": "Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another. ... And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection" (Colossians 3:12-14). Hence St. Paul is very far from inviting Christians, each one of us, to evade the world in which God has put us. It is true that we are citizens of another "city," where are true homeland is, but we must follow the path to this goal daily on this earth. Participating henceforth in the life of the Risen Christ, we must live as new men in this world, in the heart of the earthly city.

And this is the way not only to transform ourselves, but to transform the world, to give the earthly city a new face that fosters the development of man and of society according to the logic of solidarity, of goodness, in profound respect of the dignity of each one. The Apostle reminds us what the virtues are that must support Christian life; at the top is charity, to which all the others are correlated as to their source and matrix. It summarizes and abstracts "the things of heaven": charity, which with faith and hope, represents the great rule of the Christian's life and defines his profound nature.

Easter, therefore, bears the novelty of a profound and total passage from a life subject to the slavery of sin to a life of liberty, animated by love, the force that brings down every barrier and constructs a new harmony in one's heart and in one's relationship with others and with things. Every Christian, just as every community, if he lives the experience of this passage of Resurrection, cannot but be the ferment of a new world, giving himself without reservations for the most urgent and just causes, as the testimonies of saints demonstrate in every age and place.

The expectations of our times are so many: We Christians, believing firmly that Christ's resurrection has renewed man without taking him out of the world in which he builds his history, must be luminous witnesses of this new life that Easter has brought. Hence, Easter is a gift to receive ever more profoundly in faith, to be able to act in every situation, with the grace of Christ, according to the logic of God, the logic of love. The light of Christ's Resurrection must penetrate this world of ours, it must reach -- as a message of truth and life -- all men through our daily witness.

Dear friends, Yes, Christ is truly risen! We cannot keep only for ourselves the life and joy that he has given us in his Easter, but we must give it to all those we approach. It is our task and our mission: to arouse in our neighbor hope where there is despair, joy where there is sadness, life where there is death. To witness every day the joy of the Risen Lord means to live always in a "paschal way" and to make resound the happy proclamation that Christ is not an idea or a memory of the past, but a Person who lives with us, for us and in us, and with him, by and in him, we can make all things new (cf. Revelation 21:5).

Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


On Easter Monday
"The Lord’s Resurrection Marks the Renewal of Our Human Condition"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, APRIL 29, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Easter Monday, April 25, before praying the Regina Caeli in Castel Gandolfo.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Surrexit Dominus vere! Alleluja! The Lord’s Resurrection marks the renewal of our human condition. Christ triumphed over death, caused by our sin, and restores us to immortal life. This event gave rise to the whole of the Church’s life and to the very existence of Christians.

On this day, Easter Monday, we read in the first missionary discourse of the nascent Church: "This Jesus", the Apostle Peter proclaimed, "God raised up, and of that we are all witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this which you see and hear" (Acts 2:32-33).

One of the characteristic signs of faith in the Resurrection is the greeting among Christians during Eastertide, inspired by the ancient liturgical hymn: "Christ is risen! / He is truly risen!". It is a profession of faith and a commitment of life, as it was for the women described in Matthew’s Gospel: "And behold, Jesus met them and said: ‘Hail!’. And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshipped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see me’" (28: 9-10).

"The whole Church", the Servant of God Paul VI wrote, "receives the mission to evangelize, and the work of each individual member is important for the whole…. She remains as a sign -- simultaneously obscure and luminous -- of a new presence of Jesus, of his departure and of his permanent presence. She prolongs and continues him" (Apostolic Exhortation "Evangelii Nuntiandi, 8 December 1975, n. 15.

How can we encounter the Lord and increasingly become his authentic witnesses? St Maximus of Turin stated: "Anyone who wishes to reach the Saviour must first, in his own faith, seat him at the right hand of the Divinity, and place him with heartfelt conviction in Heaven" (Sermon 39 a, 3: CCL 23, 157), in other words one must learn to focus the gaze of one’s mind and heart constantly on the heights of God, where the Risen Christ is. In this way God encounters man in prayer and adoration.

The theologian Romano Guardini noted that "adoration is not something additional, something secondary… it is a matter of the utmost importance, of feeling and of being. In adoration man recognizes what is valid in the pure, simple and holy sense" (cf. La Pasqua, Meditazioni, Brescia 1995, 62). Only if we are able to turn to God, to pray him, do we discover the deepest meaning of our life and the daily routine is illumined by the light of the Risen One.

Dear friends, today the Church in both the East and the West is celebrating St. Mark the Evangelist, a wise herald of the Word and a writer of Christ’s teaching -- as he was described in ancient times. He is also Patron of the city of Venice, where, please God, I shall make a Pastoral Visit on 7 and 8 of May. Let us now invoke the Virgin Mary, so that she may help us faithfully and joyfully carry out the mission which the Risen Lord entrusts to each one.


"Urbi et Orbi" Message
"In Our Hearts There Is Joy and Sorrow, on Our Faces There Are Smiles and Tears" -  Benedict XVI

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 24, 2010 - Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's Easter message delivered today at midday before he imparted his blessing "urbi et orbi" (to the city of Rome and the world).

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"In resurrectione tua, Christe, coeli et terra laetentur! In your resurrection, O Christ, let heaven and earth rejoice!" (Liturgy of the Hours).

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Rome and across the world,

Easter morning brings us news that is ancient yet ever new: Christ is risen! The echo of this event, which issued forth from Jerusalem twenty centuries ago, continues to resound in the Church, deep in whose heart lives the vibrant faith of Mary, Mother of Jesus, the faith of Mary Magdalene and the other women who first discovered the empty tomb, and the faith of Peter and the other Apostles.

Right down to our own time – even in these days of advanced communications technology – the faith of Christians is based on that same news, on the testimony of those sisters and brothers who saw firstly the stone that had been rolled away from the empty tomb and then the mysterious messengers who testified that Jesus, the Crucified, was risen. And then Jesus himself, the Lord and Master, living and tangible, appeared to Mary Magdalene, to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and finally to all eleven, gathered in the Upper Room (cf. Mk 16:9-14).

The resurrection of Christ is not the fruit of speculation or mystical experience: it is an event which, while it surpasses history, nevertheless happens at a precise moment in history and leaves an indelible mark upon it. The light which dazzled the guards keeping watch over Jesus’ tomb has traversed time and space. It is a different kind of light, a divine light, that has rent asunder the darkness of death and has brought to the world the splendour of God, the splendour of Truth and Goodness.

Just as the sun’s rays in springtime cause the buds on the branches of the trees to sprout and open up, so the radiance that streams forth from Christ’s resurrection gives strength and meaning to every human hope, to every expectation, wish and plan. Hence the entire cosmos is rejoicing today, caught up in the springtime of humanity, which gives voice to creation’s silent hymn of praise. The Easter Alleluia, resounding in the Church as she makes her pilgrim way through the world, expresses the silent exultation of the universe and above all the longing of every human soul that is sincerely open to God, giving thanks to him for his infinite goodness, beauty and truth.

"In your resurrection, O Christ, let heaven and earth rejoice." To this summons to praise, which arises today from the heart of the Church, the "heavens" respond fully: the hosts of angels, saints and blessed souls join with one voice in our exultant song. In heaven all is peace and gladness. But alas, it is not so on earth! Here, in this world of ours, the Easter alleluia still contrasts with the cries and laments that arise from so many painful situations: deprivation, hunger, disease, war, violence. Yet it was for this that Christ died and rose again! He died on account of sin, including ours today, he rose for the redemption of history, including our own. So my message today is intended for everyone, and, as a prophetic proclamation, it is intended especially for peoples and communities who are undergoing a time of suffering, that the Risen Christ may open up for them the path of freedom, justice and peace.

May the Land which was the first to be flooded by the light of the Risen One rejoice. May the splendour of Christ reach the peoples of the Middle East, so that the light of peace and of human dignity may overcome the darkness of division, hate and violence. In the current conflict in Libya, may diplomacy and dialogue take the place of arms and may those who suffer as a result of the conflict be given access to humanitarian aid. In the countries of northern Africa and the Middle East, may all citizens, especially young people, work to promote the common good and to build a society where poverty is defeated and every political choice is inspired by respect for the human person.

May help come from all sides to those fleeing conflict and to refugees from various African countries who have been obliged to leave all that is dear to them; may people of good will open their hearts to welcome them, so that the pressing needs of so many brothers and sisters will be met with a concerted response in a spirit of solidarity; and may our words of comfort and appreciation reach all those who make such generous efforts and offer an exemplary witness in this regard.

May peaceful coexistence be restored among the peoples of Ivory Coast, where there is an urgent need to tread the path of reconciliation and pardon, in order to heal the deep wounds caused by the recent violence. May Japan find consolation and hope as it faces the dramatic consequences of the recent earthquake, along with other countries that in recent months have been tested by natural disasters which have sown pain and anguish.

May heaven and earth rejoice at the witness of those who suffer opposition and even persecution for their faith in Jesus Christ. May the proclamation of his victorious resurrection deepen their courage and trust.

Dear brothers and sisters! The risen Christ is journeying ahead of us towards the new heavens and the new earth (cf. Rev 21:1), in which we shall all finally live as one family, as sons of the same Father. He is with us until the end of time. Let us walk behind him, in this wounded world, singing Alleluia. In our hearts there is joy and sorrow, on our faces there are smiles and tears. Such is our earthly reality. But Christ is risen, he is alive and he walks with us. For this reason we sing and we walk, faithfully carrying out our task in this world with our gaze fixed on heaven.

Happy Easter to all of you!

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Faith in God Begins With Creation, Says Pope
Delivers Homily at Easter Vigil in St. Peter's

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 23, 2011 - Faith in God and in the events of salvation history must necessarily begin with a belief in God's role as Creator, says Benedict XVI.

In his homily at the Easter Vigil, held tonight in St. Peter's Basilica, the Pope asked, "Is it really important to speak also of creation during the Easter Vigil? Could we not begin with the events in which God calls man, forms a people for himself and creates his history with men upon the earth?"

"The answer has to be no," he stated. "To omit the creation would be to misunderstand the very history of God with men, to diminish it, to lose sight of its true order of greatness."

"The sweep of history established by God reaches back to the origins, back to creation," the Pontiff explained. "Our profession of faith begins with the words: 'We believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.' If we omit the beginning of the Credo, the whole history of salvation becomes too limited and too small."

According to the Holy Father, the central message of the creation account in Scripture was summed up best by St. John in the opening words of his Gospel: "In the beginning was the Word."

"The world is a product of the Word," Benedict XVI stated, "of the Logos, as St. John expresses it. [...] 'Logos' means 'reason,' 'sense,' 'word.' It is not reason pure and simple, but creative Reason, that speaks and communicates itself. It is Reason that both is and creates sense."

"The creation account tells us, then, that the world is a product of creative Reason," he continued. "Hence it tells us that, far from there being an absence of reason and freedom at the origin of all things, the source of everything is creative Reason, love, and freedom."

As a result, the Holy Father explained that the creation account of Scripture and St. John's Gospel affirm "that in the beginning is reason," and that mankind was not the product of random evolution "in the expanding universe, at a late stage, in some tiny corner of the cosmos."

"If man were merely a random product of evolution in some place on the margins of the universe, then his life would make no sense or might even be a chance of nature," he said. "But no, Reason is there at the beginning: creative, divine Reason."

The Pontiff urged the faithful to "place ourselves on the side of reason, freedom and love – on the side of God who loves us so much that he suffered for us, that from his death there might emerge a new, definitive and healed life."

The Easter revolution

Benedict XVI said that the events of Easter fundamentally changed the orientation of the week for early Church. In the Jewish tradition, the week culminates on the seventh day, which is the Sabbath, the day of encounter with God, and a day of rest.

For Christians in the early Church, however, the first day of the week, Sunday, became the day to commemorate the Resurrection, the day that Christ showed himself to his disciples, and the day of the Eucharist.

"The structure of the week is overturned," the Pope noted. "No longer does it point toward the seventh day, as the time to participate in God's rest. It sets out from the first day as the day of encounter with the Risen Lord."

"This change is utterly extraordinary, considering that the Sabbath, the seventh day seen as the day of encounter with God, is so profoundly rooted in the Old Testament," the Pontiff added. "If we also bear in mind how much the movement from work towards the rest-day corresponds to a natural rhythm, the dramatic nature of this change is even more striking."

He stated that the "revolutionary development" of the early Church "can be explained only by the fact that something utterly new happened that day."

On Easter, Benedict XVI said, "the world had changed": "This man who had died was now living with a life that was no longer threatened by any death. A new form of life had been inaugurated, a new dimension of creation."

"The first day, according to the Genesis account, is the day on which creation begins," he said. "Now it was the day of creation in a new way, it had become the day of the new creation."

"We celebrate the first day," the Holy Father said. "And in so doing we celebrate God the Creator and his creation. Yes, we believe in God, the Creator of heaven and earth. And we celebrate the God who was made man, who suffered, died, was buried and rose again.

"We celebrate the definitive victory of the Creator and of his creation. We celebrate this day as the origin and the goal of our existence. We celebrate it because now, thanks to the risen Lord, it is definitively established that reason is stronger than unreason, truth stronger than lies, love stronger than death."

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Benedict XVI's Holy Saturday Homily
"The Church ... Brings Man Into Contact With God"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 23, 2011 - Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's homily at the Easter Vigil, held tonight in St. Peter's Basilica.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The liturgical celebration of the Easter Vigil makes use of two eloquent signs. First there is the fire that becomes light. As the procession makes its way through the church, shrouded in the darkness of the night, the light of the Paschal Candle becomes a wave of lights, and it speaks to us of Christ as the true morning star that never sets – the Risen Lord in whom light has conquered darkness. The second sign is water. On the one hand, it recalls the waters of the Red Sea, decline and death, the mystery of the Cross. But now it is presented to us as spring water, a life-giving element amid the dryness. Thus it becomes the image of the sacrament of baptism, through which we become sharers in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Yet these great signs of creation, light and water, are not the only constituent elements of the liturgy of the Easter Vigil. Another essential feature is the ample encounter with the words of sacred Scripture that it provides. Before the liturgical reform there were twelve Old Testament readings and two from the New Testament. The New Testament readings have been retained. The number of Old Testament readings has been fixed at seven, but depending upon the local situation, they may be reduced to three. The Church wishes to offer us a panoramic view of whole trajectory of salvation history, starting with creation, passing through the election and the liberation of Israel to the testimony of the prophets by which this entire history is directed ever more clearly towards Jesus Christ. In the liturgical tradition all these readings were called prophecies. Even when they are not directly foretelling future events, they have a prophetic character, they show us the inner foundation and orientation of history. They cause creation and history to become transparent to what is essential. In this way they take us by the hand and lead us towards Christ, they show us the true Light.

At the Easter Vigil, the journey along the paths of sacred Scripture begins with the account of creation. This is the liturgy’s way of telling us that the creation story is itself a prophecy. It is not information about the external processes by which the cosmos and man himself came into being. The Fathers of the Church were well aware of this. They did not interpret the story as an account of the process of the origins of things, but rather as a pointer towards the essential, towards the true beginning and end of our being. Now, one might ask: is it really important to speak also of creation during the Easter Vigil? Could we not begin with the events in which God calls man, forms a people for himself and creates his history with men upon the earth? The answer has to be: no. To omit the creation would be to misunderstand the very history of God with men, to diminish it, to lose sight of its true order of greatness. The sweep of history established by God reaches back to the origins, back to creation. Our profession of faith begins with the words: "We believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth". If we omit the beginning of the Credo, the whole history of salvation becomes too limited and too small. The Church is not some kind of association that concerns itself with man’s religious needs but is limited to that objective. No, she brings man into contact with God and thus with the source of all things.

Therefore we relate to God as Creator, and so we have a responsibility for creation. Our responsibility extends as far as creation because it comes from the Creator. Only because God created everything can he give us life and direct our lives. Life in the Church’s faith involves more than a set of feelings and sentiments and perhaps moral obligations. It embraces man in his entirety, from his origins to his eternal destiny. Only because creation belongs to God can we place ourselves completely in his hands. And only because he is the Creator can he give us life for ever. Joy over creation, thanksgiving for creation and responsibility for it all belong together.

The central message of the creation account can be defined more precisely still. In the opening words of his Gospel, Saint John sums up the essential meaning of that account in this single statement: "In the beginning was the Word". In effect, the creation account that we listened to earlier is characterized by the regularly recurring phrase: "And God said ..." The world is a product of the Word, of the Logos, as Saint John expresses it, using a key term from the Greek language. "Logos" means "reason", "sense", "word". It is not reason pure and simple, but creative Reason, that speaks and communicates itself. It is Reason that both is and creates sense. The creation account tells us, then, that the world is a product of creative Reason. Hence it tells us that, far from there being an absence of reason and freedom at the origin of all things, the source of everything is creative Reason, love, and freedom. Here we are faced with the ultimate alternative that is at stake in the dispute between faith and unbelief: are irrationality, lack of freedom and pure chance the origin of everything, or are reason, freedom and love at the origin of being? Does the primacy belong to unreason or to reason? This is what everything hinges upon in the final analysis.

As believers we answer, with the creation account and with John, that in the beginning is reason. In the beginning is freedom. Hence it is good to be a human person. It is not the case that in the expanding universe, at a late stage, in some tiny corner of the cosmos, there evolved randomly some species of living being capable of reasoning and of trying to find rationality within creation, or to bring rationality into it. If man were merely a random product of evolution in some place on the margins of the universe, then his life would make no sense or might even be a chance of nature. But no, Reason is there at the beginning: creative, divine Reason. And because it is Reason, it also created freedom; and because freedom can be abused, there also exist forces harmful to creation. Hence a thick black line, so to speak, has been drawn across the structure of the universe and across the nature of man. But despite this contradiction, creation itself remains good, life remains good, because at the beginning is good Reason, God’s creative love. Hence the world can be saved. Hence we can and must place ourselves on the side of reason, freedom and love – on the side of God who loves us so much that he suffered for us, that from his death there might emerge a new, definitive and healed life.

The Old Testament account of creation that we listened to clearly indicates this order of realities. But it leads us a further step forward. It has structured the process of creation within the framework of a week leading up to the Sabbath, in which it finds its completion. For Israel, the Sabbath was the day on which all could participate in God’s rest, in which man and animal, master and slave, great and small were united in God’s freedom. Thus the Sabbath was an expression of the Covenant between God and man and creation. In this way, communion between God and man does not appear as something extra, something added later to a world already fully created. The Covenant, communion between God and man, is inbuilt at the deepest level of creation. Yes, the Covenant is the inner ground of creation, just as creation is the external presupposition of the Covenant. God made the world so that there could be a space where he might communicate his love, and from which the response of love might come back to him. From God’s perspective, the heart of the man who responds to him is greater and more important than the whole immense material cosmos, for all that the latter allows us to glimpse something of God’s grandeur.

Easter and the paschal experience of Christians, however, now require us to take a further step. The Sabbath is the seventh day of the week. After six days in which man in some sense participates in God’s work of creation, the Sabbath is the day of rest. But something quite unprecedented happened in the nascent Church: the place of the Sabbath, the seventh day, was taken by the first day. As the day of the liturgical assembly, it is the day for encounter with God through Jesus Christ who as the Risen Lord encountered his followers on the first day, Sunday, after they had found the tomb empty. The structure of the week is overturned. No longer does it point towards the seventh day, as the time to participate in God’s rest. It sets out from the first day as the day of encounter with the Risen Lord. This encounter happens afresh at every celebration of the Eucharist, when the Lord enters anew into the midst of his disciples and gives himself to them, allows himself, so to speak, to be touched by them, sits down at table with them. This change is utterly extraordinary, considering that the Sabbath, the seventh day seen as the day of encounter with God, is so profoundly rooted in the Old Testament. If we also bear in mind how much the movement from work towards the rest-day corresponds to a natural rhythm, the dramatic nature of this change is even more striking. This revolutionary development that occurred at the very the beginning of the Church’s history can be explained only by the fact that something utterly new happened that day. The first day of the week was the third day after Jesus’ death. It was the day when he showed himself to his disciples as the Risen Lord. In truth, this encounter had something unsettling about it. The world had changed. This man who had died was now living with a life that was no longer threatened by any death. A new form of life had been inaugurated, a new dimension of creation. The first day, according to the Genesis account, is the day on which creation begins. Now it was the day of creation in a new way, it had become the day of the new creation.

We celebrate the first day. And in so doing we celebrate God the Creator and his creation. Yes, we believe in God, the Creator of heaven and earth. And we celebrate the God who was made man, who suffered, died, was buried and rose again. We celebrate the definitive victory of the Creator and of his creation. We celebrate this day as the origin and the goal of our existence. We celebrate it because now, thanks to the risen Lord, it is definitively established that reason is stronger than unreason, truth stronger than lies, love stronger than death. We celebrate the first day because we know that the black line drawn across creation does not last forever. We celebrate it because we know that those words from the end of the creation account have now been definitively fulfilled: "God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good" (Gen 1:31). Amen.


Transcript of Pope's Appearance on Italian TV
"We Cannot Be Christians Alone, Following a Christianity Based on Our Own Ideas"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 22, 2011 - Here is a Vatican translation of the transcript from Benedict XVI's appearance today on a television program titled "A Sua Immagine" [In His Image] of the Italian channel RAI. The Pontiff answered questions posed by seven individuals, including a Muslim woman from the Ivory Coast and Christians from Italy seeking deeper understanding of Christ's resurrection and Mary's role in our lives.

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Q. Holy Father, I want to thank you for your presence here, which fills us with joy and helps us remember that today is the day in which Jesus showed His love in the most radical way, that is, by dying on the cross as an innocent. It is precisely on this theme of innocent sorrow that is the first question that comes from a seven-year-old Japanese child who says: "My name is Elena. I am Japanese and I am seven years old. I am very frightened because the house where I felt safe really shook a lot and many children my age have died. I cannot go to play at the park. I want to know: why do I have to be so afraid? Why do children have to be so sad? I'm asking the Pope, who speaks with God, to explain it to me".

A. Dear Elena, I send you my heartfelt greetings. I also have the same questions: why is it this way? Why do you have to suffer so much while others live in ease? And we do not have the answers but we know that Jesus suffered as you do, an innocent, and that the true God who is revealed in Jesus is by your side. This seems very important to me, even if we do not have answers, even if we are still sad; God is by your side and you can be certain that this will help you. One day we will even understand why it was so. At this moment it seems important to me that you know "God loves me" even if it seems like He doesn't know me. No, He loves me, He is by my side, and you can be sure that in the world, in the universe, there are many who are with you, thinking of you, doing what they can for you, to help you. And be aware that, one day, I will understand that this suffering was not empty, it wasn't in vain, but behind it was a good plan, a plan of love. It is not chance. Be assured, we are with you, with all the Japanese children who are suffering. We want to help you with our prayers, with our actions, and you can be sure that God will help you. In this sense we pray together so that light may come to you as soon as possible.

Q. The second question presents us with a Calvary because we have a mother under her son’s cross. This mother is an Italian named Maria Teresa and she asks you: "Your Holiness, has the soul of my son Francesco, who has been in a vegetative coma since Easter Sunday 2009, left his body, seeing that he is no longer conscious, or is it still near him?"

A. Certainly his soul is still present in his body. The situation, perhaps, is like that of a guitar whose strings have been broken and therefore can no longer play. The instrument of the body is fragile like that, it is vulnerable, and the soul cannot play, so to speak, but remains present. I am also sure that this hidden soul feels your love deep down, even if unable to understand the details, your words, etc. He feels the presence of love. Your presence, therefore, dear parents, dear mother, next to him for hours and hours every day, is the true act of a love of great value because this presence enters into the depth of that hidden soul. Your act is thus also a witness of faith in God, of faith in man, of faith, let us say, of commitment, to life, of respect for human life, even in the saddest of situations. I encourage you, therefore to carry on, to know that you are giving a great service to humanity with this sign of faith, with this sign of respect for life, with this love for a wounded body and a suffering soul.

Q. The third question takes us to Iraq, to the youth of Baghdad, persecuted Christians who send you this question; "Greetings from Iraq, Holy Father", they say. "We Christians in Baghdad are persecuted like Jesus. Holy Father, in your opinion, in what way can we help our Christian community to reconsider their desire to emigrate to other countries, convincing them that leaving is not the only solution?"

A. First of all I want to cordially greet all the Christians of Iraq, our brothers and sisters, and I have to say that I pray every day for the Christians in Iraq. They are our suffering brothers and sisters, as those who are suffering in other lands are too, and therefore they are particularly dear to our hearts and we must do whatever we can so that they might be able to stay, so that they might be able to resist the temptation to emigrate, which is very understandable in the conditions they are living in. I would say that it is important that we are near to you, dear brothers and sisters in Iraq and we also want to help you, when you come, to truly receive you as brothers and sisters. Naturally, all the institutions that truly have the possibility to do something in Iraq for you should do it. The Holy See is in permanent contact with the diverse communities, not only the Catholic community and the other Christian communities, but also with our Muslim brothers and sister, Shi?ites and Sunni. We want to create reconciliation and understanding, with the government as well, to help in this difficult journey of rebuilding a torn society. Because this is the problem, that the society is profoundly divided, torn, there is no longer the awareness that "In our diversity we are one people with a common history, where each has its place". This awareness needs to be rebuilt: that in diversity, they have a common history, a common determination. In dialogue, precisely with the various groups, we want to assist the process of reconstruction and encourage you, dear brothers and sisters in Iraq, to have faith, to be patient and have faith in God, to collaborate in this difficult process. Be assured of our prayers.

Q. The next question comes to you from a Muslim woman from the Ivory Coast, a country that has been at war for years. This lady's name is Bintu and she greets you in Arabic, saying "May God be in all the words that we say to one another and may God be with You". It is an expression that they use when beginning an address. She then continues in French: "Dear Holy Father, here in the Ivory Coast we have always lived in harmony between Christians and Muslims. Families are often formed by members of both religions. There also exists a diversity of ethnicities but we have never had problems. Now everything has changed: the crisis we are living under, caused by politics, has sown division. How many innocents have lost their lives! How many persons have been displaced, how many mothers and how many children traumatized! The messengers have exhorted peace, the prophets have exhorted peace. As an ambassador of Jesus, what do you advise for our country?

A. I would like to respond to your greeting: May God also be with you and help you forever. I have to say that I have received heartbreaking letters from the Ivory Coast in which I see the sorrow, the depth of suffering, and I am saddened that I can do so little. We can do one thing always: remain in prayer with you and, as much as possible, we can offer works of charity. Above all we want to help, as much as is in our power, the political and human contacts. I have entrusted Cardinal Turkson, who is the president of our Council for Justice and Peace, to go to the Ivory Coast to try to mediate, to speak with the various groups and various persons to encourage a new beginning. Above all we want to make the voice of Jesus, whom you also believe in as a prophet, heard. He was always a man of peace. It could be expected that, when God came to earth, He would be a man of great power, destroying the opposing forces. That He would be a man of powerful violence as an instrument of peace. Not at all. He came in weakness. He came with only the strength of love, totally without violence, even to going to the cross. This is what shows us the true face of God, that violence never comes from God, never helps bring anything good, but is a destructive means and not the path to escape difficulties. He is thus a strong voice against every type of violence. He strongly invites all sides to renounce violence, even if they feel they are right. The only path is to renounce violence, to begin anew with dialogue, with the attempt to find peace together, with a new concern for one another, a new willingness to be open to one another. This, dear lady, is Jesus' true message: seek peace with the means of peace and leave violence aside. We pray for you, that all sections of your society might hear Jesus' voice and thus that peace and communion will return.

Q. Holy Father, the next question is on the theme of Jesus' death and resurrection and comes from Italy. I will read it to you: "Your Holiness, what is Jesus doing in the time between His death and resurrection? Seeing that in reciting the Creed it says that Jesus, after His death, descended into Hell, should we think that that will also happen to us, after death, before going to heaven?"

A. First of all, this descent of Jesus' soul should not be imagined as a geographical or a spatial trip, from one continent to another. It is the soul's journey. We have to remember that Jesus' soul always touches the Father, it is always in contact with the Father but, at the same time, this human soul extends to the very borders of the human being. In this sense it goes into the depths, into the lost places, to where all who do not arrive at their life's goal go, thus transcending the continents of the past.

This word about the Lord's descent into Hell mainly means that Jesus reaches even the past, that the effectiveness of the Redemption does not begin in the year 0 or 30, but also goes to the past, embraces the past, all men and women of all time. The Church Fathers say, with a very beautiful image, that Jesus takes Adam and Eve, that is, humanity, by the hand and guides them forward, guides them on high. He thus creates access to God because humanity, on its own cannot arrive at God's level. He himself, being man, can take humanity by the hand and open the access. To what? To the reality we call Heaven. So this descent into Hell, that is, into the depth of the human being, into humanity's past, is an essential part of Jesus' mission, of His mission as Redeemer, and does not apply to us. Our lives are different. We are already redeemed by the Lord and we arrive before the Judge, after our death, under Jesus' gaze. On one had, this gaze will be purifying: I think that all of us, in greater or lesser measure, are in need of purification. Jesus’ gaze purifies us, thus making us capable of living with God, of living with the Saints, and above all of living in communion with those dear to us who have preceded us.

Q. The next question is also on the theme of Resurrection and comes from Italy. "Your Holiness, when the women reach the tomb on the Sunday after Jesus' death, they do not recognize their Master but confuse him with another. It also happens to the apostles: Jesus shows them his wounds, breaks bread, in order to be recognized, precisely by his actions. He has a true body, made of flesh, but it is also glorified. What does it mean that His risen body didn't have the same characteristics as before? What, exactly, does a glorified body mean? Will the Resurrection also be like that for us?"

A. Naturally, we cannot define the glorified body because it is beyond our experience. We can only note the signs that Jesus has given us to understand, at least a little, in which direction we should seek this reality. The first sign: the tomb is empty. That is, Jesus dead not leave his body behind to corruption. This shows us that even matter is destined for eternity, that it is truly resurrected, that it does not remain something lost. But he then assumed this matter in a new condition of life. This is the second point: Jesus no longer dies, that is, He is beyond the laws of biology and physics because He endured this one death. Therefore there is a new condition, a different one, that we do not know but which is shown in the fact of Jesus and which is a great promise for all of us: that there is a new world, a new life, toward which we are on a journey. Being in this condition, Jesus had the possibility of letting himself be felt, of offering his hand to his followers, of eating with them, but still of being beyond the conditions of biological life as we live it. We know that, on the one hand, He is a real man, not a ghost, that he lives a real life, but a new life that is no longer submitted to the death that is our great promise.

It is important to understand this, at least as much as we can, for the Eucharist. In the Eucharist, the Lord gives us His glorified body, not flesh to eat in a biological sense. He gives us Himself, this newness that He is in our humanity, in our being as person, and it touches us within with His being so that we might let ourselves be penetrated by His presence, transformed in His presence. It is an important point because we are thus already in contact with this new life, this new type of life, since He has entered into me and I have gone out of myself and am extended toward a new dimension of life. I think that this aspect of the promise, of the reality that He gives Himself to me and pulls me out of myself, toward on high, is the most important point. It is not about noting things that we cannot understand but of being on a journey to the newness that always begins again anew in the Eucharist.

Q. Holy Father, the last question is about Mary. At the cross we witness a poignant dialogue between Jesus and his mother in which Jesus says to Mary: “Behold your son”, and to John, “Behold your mother”. In your latest book, Jesus of Nazareth, you define it as “Jesus’ final provision”. How are we to understand these words? What meaning did they have at that moment and what do they mean today? And, on the subject of entrusting, do you intend to renew a consecration to the Virgin at the beginning of this new millennium?

A. These words of Jesus are, above all, a very human act. We see Jesus as a true man who makes a human act, an act of love for His mother, entrusting the mother to the young John so that she might be safe. A woman living alone in the East at that time was an impossible situation. He entrusts his mother to this young man and to this young man he gives his mother, therefore Jesus actually acts as a human with a deeply human sentiment. This seems very beautiful to me, very important, that before any theology we see in this act the true humanity of Jesus, his true humanism. Naturally, however, this has several dimensions, not just about this moment but regarding all of history.

In John, Jesus entrusts all of us, the whole Church, all future disciples, to His mother and His mother to us. In this the course of history is fulfilled. More and more, humanity and Christians have understood that the mother of Jesus is their mother and more and more they have entrusted themselves to the Mother. Think of the great sanctuaries, think of this devotion for Mary in which more and more people feel “This is your mother”. And even some who have difficulty reaching Jesus in his greatness, the Son of God, entrust themselves without difficulty to the Mother. Someone said, “But this doesn’t have any Biblical foundation!” To this I reply, with St. Gregory the Great: “In reading”, he says, “grow the words of Scripture.” That is, they develop in lived reality. They grow and more and more in history this Word develops. We see how we can all be grateful because there is truly a Mother; we have all been given a mother. We can also go to this Mother with great confidence because she is also the Mother of every Christian. However, it is also true that this Mother expresses the Church. We cannot be Christians alone, following a Christianity based on our own ideas. The Mother is the image of the Church, the Mother Church, and entrusting ourselves to Mary means we must also entrust ourselves to the Church, live the Church, be the Church with Mary.

And so we arrive at the meaning of entrusting ourselves: the Popes—whether it was Pius XII, or Paul VI, or John Paul II—have made a great act of entrusting the world to the Madonna and it seems to me, as a gesture before humankind, before Mary herself, that it was a very important gesture. I believe that now it is important to internalize this act, to let ourselves be penetrated, and to bear it out in ourselves. In this sense I have gone to some of the great Marian sanctuaries of the world: Lourdes, Fatima, Czestochowa, Altötting…, always with this sense of making real, of interiorizing this act of entrustment, so that it might truly become our act. I think that the great, public act has been made. Perhaps one day it will be necessary to repeat it again, but at the moment it seems more important to me to live it, to make it real, to enter into this entrusting so that it might truly be our own.

For example, at Fatima I saw how the thousands of persons present truly entered into this entrustment. In themselves, for themselves they entrusted themselves to her; they made this made this trust real within them. It thus becomes a reality in the living Church and thus also the Church grows. The common entrustment to Mary, letting ourselves be penetrated by this presence, creating and entering into communion with Mary makes the Church, make us together with Mary, truly the Bride of Christ. Thus, at the moment, I do not intend to make a new act of public entrustment, but I would rather invite you to enter into this entrustment that has already been made, so that we might truly live it every day, and thus that a truly Marian Church might grow, a Church that is Mother, Bride, and Daughter of Jesus.


Pope's Words At Conclusion of Good Friday Via Crucis
"Tonight We Have Relived, Deep Within Our Hearts, the Drama of Jesus"

ROME, APRIL 22, 2011 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address delivered today by Benedict XVI after the Stations of the Cross at the Colosseum.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This evening, in faith, we have accompanied Jesus as he takes the final steps of his earthly journey, the most painful steps, the steps that lead to Calvary. We have heard the cries of the crowd, the words of condemnation, the insults of the soldiers, the lamentation of the Virgin Mary and of the women. Now we are immersed in the silence of this night, in the silence of the cross, the silence of death. It is a silence pregnant with the burden of pain borne by a man rejected, oppressed, downtrodden, the burden of sin that mars his face, the burden of evil. Tonight we have relived, deep within our hearts, the drama of Jesus, weighed down by pain, by evil, by human sin.

What remains now before our eyes? It is a crucified man, a cross raised on Golgotha, a cross which seems a sign of the final defeat of the One who brought light to those immersed in darkness, the One who spoke of the power of forgiveness and of mercy, the One who asked us to believe in God’s infinite love for each human person. Despised and rejected by men, there stands before us "a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity, one from whom others hide their faces" (Is 53:3).

But let us look more closely at that man crucified between earth and heaven. Let us contemplate him more intently, and we will realize that the cross is not the banner of the victory of death, sin and evil, but rather the luminous sign of love, of God's immense love, of something that we could never have asked, imagined or expected: God bent down over us, he lowered himself, even to the darkest corner of our lives, in order to stretch out his hand and draw us to himself, to bring us all the way to himself. The cross speaks to us of the supreme love of God and invites, today, to renew our faith in the power of that love, and to believe that in every situation of our lives, our history and our world, God is able to vanquish death, sin and evil, and to give us new, risen life. In the Son of God’s death on the cross, we find the seed of new hope for life, like the seed which dies within the earth.

This night full of silence, full of hope, echoes God’s call to us as found in the words of Saint Augustine: “Have faith! You will come to me and you will taste the good things of my table, even as I did not disdain to taste the evil things of your table... I have promised you my own life. As a pledge of this, I have given you my death, as if to say: Look! I am inviting you to share in my life. It is a life where no one dies, a life which is truly blessed, which offers an incorruptible food, the food which refreshes and never fails. The goal to which I invite you … is friendship with the Father and the Holy Spirit, it is the eternal supper, it is communion with me … It is a share in my own life (cf. Sermon 231, 5).

Let us gaze on the crucified Jesus, and let us ask in prayer: Enlighten our hearts, Lord, that we may follow you along the way of the cross. Put to death in us the "old man" bound by selfishness, evil and sin. Make us "new men", men and women of holiness, transformed and enlivened by your love.

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Benedict XVI's Chrism Mass Homily
"It Is Not Only We Who Seek God: God Himself Is Searching for Us"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 21, 2011 - Here is a Vatican translation of the homily Benedict XVI delivered today at the Chrism Mass held at St. Peter's Basilica.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

At the heart of this morning’s liturgy is the blessing of the holy oils – the oil for anointing catechumens, the oil for anointing the sick, and the chrism for the great sacraments that confer the Holy Spirit: confirmation, priestly ordination, episcopal ordination. In the sacraments the Lord touches us through the elements of creation. The unity between creation and redemption is made visible. The sacraments are an expression of the physicality of our faith, which embraces the whole person, body and soul. Bread and wine are fruits of the earth and work of human hands. The Lord chose them to be bearers of his presence. Oil is the symbol of the Holy Spirit and at the same time it points us towards Christ: the word "Christ" (Messiah) means "the anointed one".

The humanity of Jesus, by virtue of the Son’s union with the Father, is brought into communion with the Holy Spirit and is thus "anointed" in a unique way, penetrated by the Holy Spirit. What happened symbolically to the kings and priests of the Old Testament when they were instituted into their ministry by the anointing with oil, takes place in Jesus in all its reality: his humanity is penetrated by the power of the Holy Spirit. He opens our humanity for the gift of the Holy Spirit. The more we are united to Christ, the more we are filled with his Spirit, with the Holy Spirit. We are called "Christians": "anointed ones" – people who belong to Christ and hence have a share in his anointing, being touched by his Spirit. I wish not merely to be called Christian, but also to be Christian, said Saint Ignatius of Antioch. Let us allow these holy oils, which are consecrated at this time, to remind us of the task that is implicit in the word "Christian", let us pray that, increasingly, we may not only be called Christian but may actually be such.

In today’s liturgy, three oils are blessed, as I mentioned earlier. They express three essential dimensions of the Christian life on which we may now reflect. First, there is the oil of catechumens. This oil indicates a first way of being touched by Christ and by his Spirit – an inner touch, by which the Lord draws people close to himself. Through this first anointing, which takes place even prior to baptism, our gaze is turned towards people who are journeying towards Christ – people who are searching for faith, searching for God. The oil of catechumens tells us that it is not only we who seek God: God himself is searching for us. The fact that he himself was made man and came down into the depths of human existence, even into the darkness of death, shows us how much God loves his creature, man. Driven by love, God has set out towards us. "Seeking me, you sat down weary ... let such labour not be in vain!", we pray in the Dies Irae. God is searching for me. Do I want to recognize him? Do I want to be known by him, found by him? God loves us. He comes to meet the unrest of our hearts, the unrest of our questioning and seeking, with the unrest of his own heart, which leads him to accomplish the ultimate for us. That restlessness for God, that journeying towards him, so as to know and love him better, must not be extinguished in us. In this sense we should always remain catechumens. "Constantly seek his face", says one of the Psalms (105:4). Saint Augustine comments as follows: God is so great as to surpass infinitely all our knowing and all our being. Knowledge of God is never exhausted. For all eternity, with ever increasing joy, we can always continue to seek him, so as to know him and love him more and more. "Our heart is restless until it rests in you", said Saint Augustine at the beginning of his Confessions. Yes, man is restless, because whatever is finite is too little. But are we truly restless for him? Have we perhaps become resigned to his absence, do we not seek to be self-sufficient? Let us not allow our humanity to be diminished in this way! Let us remain constantly on a journey towards him, longing for him, always open to receive new knowledge and love!

Then there is the oil for anointing the sick. Arrayed before us is a host of suffering people: those who hunger and thirst, victims of violence in every continent, the sick with all their sufferings, their hopes and their moments without hope, the persecuted, the downtrodden, the broken-hearted. Regarding the first mission on which Jesus sent the disciples, Saint Luke tells us: "he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal" (9:2). Healing is one of the fundamental tasks entrusted by Jesus to the Church, following the example that he gave as he travelled throughout the land healing the sick. To be sure, the Church’s principal task is to proclaim the Kingdom of God. But this very proclamation must be a process of healing: "bind up the broken-hearted", we heard in today’s first reading from the prophet Isaiah (61:1). The proclamation of God’s Kingdom, of God’s unlimited goodness, must first of all bring healing to broken hearts.

By nature, man is a being in relation. But if the fundamental relationship, the relationship with God, is disturbed, then all the rest is disturbed as well. If our relationship with God is disturbed, if the fundamental orientation of our being is awry, we cannot truly be healed in body and soul. For this reason, the first and fundamental healing takes place in our encounter with Christ who reconciles us to God and mends our broken hearts. But over and above this central task, the Church’s essential mission also includes the specific healing of sickness and suffering. The oil for anointing the sick is the visible sacramental expression of this mission. Since apostolic times, the healing vocation has matured in the Church, and so too has loving solicitude for those who are distressed in body and soul. This is also the occasion to say thank you to those sisters and brothers throughout the world who bring healing and love to the sick, irrespective of their status or religious affiliation. From Elizabeth of Hungary, Vincent de Paul, Louise de Marillac, Camillus of Lellis to Mother Teresa – to recall but a few names – we see, lighting up the world, a radiant procession of helpers streaming forth from God’s love for the suffering and the sick. For this we thank the Lord at this moment. For this we thank all those who, by virtue of their faith and love, place themselves alongside the suffering, thereby bearing definitive witness to the goodness of God himself. The oil for anointing the sick is a sign of this oil of the goodness of heart that these people bring – together with their professional competence – to the suffering. Even without speaking of Christ, they make him manifest.

In third place, finally, is the most noble of the ecclesial oils, the chrism, a mixture of olive oil and aromatic vegetable oils. It is the oil used for anointing priests and kings, in continuity with the great Old Testament traditions of anointing. In the Church this oil serves chiefly for the anointing of confirmation and ordination. Today’s liturgy links this oil with the promise of the prophet Isaiah: "You shall be called the priests of the Lord, men shall speak of you as the ministers of our God" (61:6). The prophet makes reference here to the momentous words of commission and promise that God had addressed to Israel on Sinai: "You shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Ex 19:6). In and for the vast world, which was largely ignorant of God, Israel had to be as it were a shrine of God for all peoples, exercising a priestly function vis-à-vis the world. It had to bring the world to God, to open it up to him. In his great baptismal catechesis, Saint Peter applied this privilege and this commission of Israel to the entire community of the baptized, proclaiming: "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. Once you were no people but now you are God’s people" (1 Pet 2:9f.) Baptism and confirmation are an initiation into this people of God that spans the world; the anointing that takes place in baptism and confirmation is an anointing that confers this priestly ministry towards mankind. Christians are a priestly people for the world. Christians should make the living God visible to the world, they should bear witness to him and lead people towards him. When we speak of this task in which we share by virtue of our baptism, it is no reason to boast. It poses a question to us that makes us both joyful and anxious: are we truly God’s shrine in and for the world? Do we open up the pathway to God for others or do we rather conceal it? Have not we – the people of God – become to a large extent a people of unbelief and distance from God? Is it perhaps the case that the West, the heartlands of Christianity, are tired of their faith, bored by their history and culture, and no longer wish to know faith in Jesus Christ? We have reason to cry out at this time to God: "Do not allow us to become a ‘non-people’! Make us recognize you again! Truly, you have anointed us with your love, you have poured out your Holy Spirit upon us. Grant that the power of your Spirit may become newly effective in us, so that we may bear joyful witness to your message!

For all the shame we feel over our failings, we must not forget that today too there are radiant examples of faith, people who give hope to the world through their faith and love. When Pope John Paul II is beatified on 1 May, we shall think of him, with hearts full of thankfulness, as a great witness to God and to Jesus Christ in our day, as a man filled with the Holy Spirit. Alongside him, we think of the many people he beatified and canonized, who give us the certainty that even today God’s promise and commission do not fall on deaf ears.

I turn finally to you, dear brothers in the priestly ministry. Holy Thursday is in a special way our day. At the hour of the last Supper, the Lord instituted the new Testament priesthood. "Sanctify them in the truth" (Jn 17:17), he prayed to the Father, for the Apostles and for priests of all times. With great gratitude for the vocation and with humility for all our shortcomings, we renew at this hour our "yes" to the Lord’s call: yes, I want to be intimately united to the Lord Jesus, in self-denial, driven on by the love of Christ. Amen.

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Papal Homily at Last Supper Mass
"At His Final Meal, More Than Anything Else, Jesus Prayed"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 21, 2011 - Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's homily at the Mass of the Lord's Supper, held today at the Basilica of St. John Lateran.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

“I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Lk 22:15). With these words Jesus began the celebration of his final meal and the institution of the Holy Eucharist. Jesus approached that hour with eager desire. In his heart he awaited the moment when he would give himself to his own under the appearance of bread and wine. He awaited that moment which would in some sense be the true messianic wedding feast: when he would transform the gifts of this world and become one with his own, so as to transform them and thus inaugurate the transformation of the world. In this eager desire of Jesus we can recognize the desire of God himself – his expectant love for mankind, for his creation. A love which awaits the moment of union, a love which wants to draw mankind to itself and thereby fulfil the desire of all creation, for creation eagerly awaits the revelation of the children of God (cf.Rom 8:19). Jesus desires us, he awaits us. But what about ourselves? Do we really desire him? Are we anxious to meet him? Do we desire to encounter him, to become one with him, to receive the gifts he offers us in the Holy Eucharist? Or are we indifferent, distracted, busy about other things?

From Jesus’ banquet parables we realize that he knows all about empty places at table, invitations refused, lack of interest in him and his closeness. For us, the empty places at the table of the Lord’s wedding feast, whether excusable or not, are no longer a parable but a reality, in those very countries to which he had revealed his closeness in a special way. Jesus also knew about guests who come to the banquet without being robed in the wedding garment – they come not to rejoice in his presence but merely out of habit, since their hearts are elsewhere. In one of his homilies Saint Gregory the Great asks: Who are these people who enter without the wedding garment? What is this garment and how does one acquire it? He replies that those who are invited and enter do in some way have faith. It is faith which opens the door to them. But they lack the wedding garment of love. Those who do not live their faith as love are not ready for the banquet and are cast out. Eucharistic communion requires faith, but faith requires love; otherwise, even as faith, it is dead.

From all four Gospels we know that Jesus’ final meal before his passion was also a teaching moment. Once again, Jesus urgently set forth the heart of his message. Word and sacrament, message and gift are inseparably linked. Yet at his final meal, more than anything else, Jesus prayed. Matthew, Mark and Luke use two words in describing Jesus’ prayer at the culmination of the meal: “eucharístesas” and “eulógesas” – the verbs “to give thanks” and “to bless”. The upward movement of thanking and the downward movement of blessing go together. The words of transubstantiation are part of this prayer of Jesus. They are themselves words of prayer. Jesus turns his suffering into prayer, into an offering to the Father for the sake of mankind. This transformation of his suffering into love has the power to transform the gifts in which he now gives himself. He gives those gifts to us, so that we, and our world, may be transformed. The ultimate purpose of Eucharistic transformation is our own transformation in communion with Christ. The Eucharist is directed to the new man, the new world, which can only come about from God, through the ministry of God’s Servant.

From Luke, and especially from John, we know that Jesus, during the Last Supper, also prayed to the Father – prayers which also contain a plea to his disciples of that time and of all times. Here I would simply like to take one of these which, as John tells us, Jesus repeated four times in his Priestly Prayer. How deeply it must have concerned him! It remains his constant prayer to the Father on our behalf: the prayer for unity. Jesus explicitly states that this prayer is not meant simply for the disciples then present, but for all who would believe in him (cf. Jn 17:20). He prays that all may be one “as you, Father, are in me and I am in you, so that the world may believe” (Jn 17:21). Christian unity can exist only if Christians are deeply united to him, to Jesus. Faith and love for Jesus, faith in his being one with the Father and openness to becoming one with him, are essential. This unity, then, is not something purely interior or mystical. It must become visible, so visible as to prove before the world that Jesus was sent by the Father. Consequently, Jesus’ prayer has an underlying Eucharistic meaning which Paul clearly brings out in the First Letter to the Corinthians: “The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (1 Cor 10:16ff.).

With the Eucharist, the Church is born. All of us eat the one bread and receive the one body of the Lord; this means that he opens each of us up to something above and beyond us. He makes all of us one. The Eucharist is the mystery of the profound closeness and communion of each individual with the Lord and, at the same time, of visible union between all. The Eucharist is the sacrament of unity. It reaches the very mystery of the Trinity and thus creates visible unity. Let me say it again: it is an extremely personal encounter with the Lord and yet never simply an act of individual piety. Of necessity, we celebrate it together. In each community the Lord is totally present. Yet in all the communities he is but one. Hence the words “una cum Papa nostro et cum episcopo nostro” are a requisite part of the Church’s Eucharistic Prayer. These words are not an addendum of sorts, but a necessary expression of what the Eucharist really is. Furthermore, we mention the Pope and the Bishop by name: unity is something utterly concrete, it has names. In this way unity becomes visible; it becomes a sign for the world and a concrete criterion for ourselves.

Saint Luke has preserved for us one concrete element of Jesus’ prayer for unity: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren” (Lk 22:31). Today we are once more painfully aware that Satan has been permitted to sift the disciples before the whole world. And we know that Jesus prays for the faith of Peter and his successors. We know that Peter, who walks towards the Lord upon the stormy waters of history and is in danger of sinking, is sustained ever anew by the Lord’s hand and guided over the waves. But Jesus continues with a prediction and a mandate. “When you have turned again…”. Every human being, save Mary, has constant need of conversion. Jesus tells Peter beforehand of his coming betrayal and conversion.

But what did Peter need to be converted from? When first called, terrified by the Lord’s divine power and his own weakness, Peter had said: “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” (Lk 5:8). In the light of the Lord, he recognizes his own inadequacy. Precisely in this way, in the humility of one who knows that he is a sinner, is he called. He must discover this humility ever anew. At Caesarea Philippi Peter could not accept that Jesus would have to suffer and be crucified: it did not fit his image of God and the Messiah. In the Upper Room he did not want Jesus to wash his feet: it did not fit his image of the dignity of the Master. In the Garden of Olives he wielded his sword. He wanted to show his courage. Yet before the servant girl he declared that he did not know Jesus. At the time he considered it a little lie which would let him stay close to Jesus. All his heroism collapsed in a shabby bid to be at the centre of things. We too, all of us, need to learn again to accept God and Jesus Christ as he is, and not the way we want him to be. We too find it hard to accept that he bound himself to the limitations of his Church and her ministers. We too do not want to accept that he is powerless in this world. We too find excuses when being his disciples starts becoming too costly, too dangerous. All of us need the conversion which enables us to accept Jesus in his reality as God and man. We need the humility of the disciple who follows the will of his Master. Tonight we want to ask Jesus to look to us, as with kindly eyes he looked to Peter when the time was right, and to convert us.

After Peter was converted, he was called to strengthen his brethren. It is not irrelevant that this task was entrusted to him in the Upper Room. The ministry of unity has its visible place in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Dear friends, it is a great consolation for the Pope to know that at each Eucharistic celebration everyone prays for him, and that our prayer is joined to the Lord’s prayer for Peter. Only by the prayer of the Lord and of the Church can the Pope fulfil his task of strengthening his brethren – of feeding the flock of Christ and of becoming the guarantor of that unity which becomes a visible witness to the mission which Jesus received from the Father.

“I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you”. Lord, you desire us, you desire me. You eagerly desire to share yourself with us in the Holy Eucharist, to be one with us. Lord, awaken in us the desire for you. Strengthen us in unity with you and with one another. Grant unity to your Church, so that the world may believe. Amen.

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


On the Triduum
"I Invite You to Seek in These Days Recollection and Prayer"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 20, 2011 - Here is a translation of the Italian-language catechesis Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience held in St. Peter's Square. The Pope focused his address on the meaning of the Easter Triduum, the culmination of the Lenten journey.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We have already arrived at the heart of Holy Week, the fulfillment of the Lenten journey. Tomorrow we will enter the Easter Triduum, the three holy days in which the Church commemorates the mystery of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus. After being made man in obedience to the Father, the Son of God, being in everything like us except for sin (cf. Hebrews 4:15), accepted fulfilling his will to the end, to face for love of us his Passion and Cross, to make us sharers in his Resurrection, so that in him and through him we can live forever, in consolation and peace. Hence, I exhort you to receive this mystery of salvation, to take part intensely in the Easter Triduum, the culmination of the whole liturgical year and a moment of particular grace for every Christian. I invite you to seek in these days recollection and prayer, to be able to accede more profoundly to this source of grace. In connection with this, given the imminent festivities, every Christian is invited to celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation, a moment of special adherence to the death and resurrection of Christ, to be able to participate with greater fruitfulness in Holy Easter.

Maundy Thursday is the day in which we recall the institution of the Eucharist and the ministerial priesthood. In the morning, each diocesan community, gathered in the cathedral church around the bishop, will celebrate the Chrism Mass in which the sacred chrism, the oil of the catechumens, and the oil of the sick are blessed. Beginning with the Easter Triduum and during the whole liturgical year, these oils will be used for the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and priestly and episcopal ordination and the anointing of the sick; in this is manifested how salvation, transmitted by the sacramental signs, springs precisely from the paschal mystery of Christ. In fact, we are redeemed by his death and resurrection and, through the sacraments, we go to that same salvific source. During the Chrism Mass tomorrow, the renewal of priestly promises takes place. Throughout the world, every priest renews the commitments he assumed on the day of ordination, to be totally consecrated to Christ in the exercise of the sacred ministry at the service of his brothers. Let us support our priests with our prayer.

On the afternoon of Maundy Thursday the Easter Triduum effectively begins, with the remembrance of the Last Supper, in which Jesus instituted the Memorial of his Pasch, fulfilling the Jewish paschal rite. According to tradition, every Jewish family, gathered at table on the feast of Passover eats the roasted lamb, recalling the Israelites' deliverance from the slavery of Egypt; thus in the Cenacle, conscious of his imminent death, Jesus, the true paschal Lamb, offered himself for our salvation (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:7). Pronouncing the blessing over the bread and wine, he anticipated the sacrifice of the cross and manifested the intention of perpetuating his presence amid the disciples: Under the species of bread and wine he makes himself present in a real way with his body given and his blood shed. During the Last Supper, the apostles were constituted ministers of this sacrament of salvation. Jesus washed their feet (cf. John 13:1-25), inviting them to love one another as he loved them, giving his life for them. Repeating this gesture in the liturgy, we are also called to give witness with the deeds of our Redeemer.

Maundy Thursday, finally, is closed with Eucharistic Adoration, in memory of the Lord's agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. Leaving the Cenacle, he withdrew to pray, alone, in the presence of his Father. At that moment of profound communion, the Gospels recount that Jesus experienced great anguish, such suffering that he sweat blood (cf. Matthew 26:38). Conscious of his imminent death on the cross, he felt great anguish and the closeness of death. In this situation an element is seen that is of great importance also for the whole Church. Jesus said to his own: Stay here and watch; and this call to vigilance refers in a precise way to this moment of anguish, of menace, in which the betrayer arrives, but it concerns the whole history of the Church. It is a permanent message for all times, because the somnolence of the disciples was not only the problem of that moment, but is the problem of the whole of history.

The question is what this somnolence consists of, and what is the vigilance to which the Lord invites us. I would say that the disciples' somnolence in the course of history is a certain insensitivity of soul to the power of evil, an insensitivity to all the evil of the world. We do not want to let ourselves be too disturbed by these things, we want to forget them: We think that perhaps it is not so grave, and we forget. And it is not only insensitivity to evil; instead, we should be watching to do good, to struggle for the force of good. It is insensitivity to God -- this is our real somnolence: this insensitivity to the presence of God that makes us insensitive also to evil. We do not listen to God -- it would bother us -- and so we do not listen, of course, to the force of evil either, and we stay on the path of our comfort.

The nocturnal adoration on Maundy Thursday, our being vigilant with the Lord, should be precisely the moment to make us reflect on the somnolence of the disciples, of Jesus' defenders, of the apostles, of ourselves, who do not see, we do not want to see all the force of evil, and we do not want to enter into his passion for the good, for the presence of God in the world, for the love of neighbor and of God.

Then the Lord began to pray. The three apostles -- Peter, James and John -- slept, but then they woke up and heard the phrase of this prayer of the Lord: "Not my will but thine be done." What is this will of mine, what is this will of yours, of which the Lord speaks? My will is that I "should not die," that he be spared this chalice of suffering: It is the human will, of human nature, and Christ feels, with all the consciousness of his being, life, the abyss of death, the terror of nothingness, this menace of suffering.

And he more than us, who have this natural aversion to death, this natural fear of death, even more than us, he felt the abyss of evil. He also felt, with death, all the suffering of humanity. He felt that all this was the chalice he must drink, that he must make himself drink, accept the evil of the world, everything that is terrible, the aversion to God, the whole of sin. And we can understand that Jesus, with his human soul, was terrified before this reality, which he perceived in all its cruelty: My will would be not to drink the chalice, but my will is subordinated to your will, to the will of God, to the will of the Father, which is also the real will of the Son. And thus Jesus transformed, in this prayer, the natural aversion, the aversion to the chalice, to his mission to die for us. He transformed this natural will of his into the will of God, in a "yes" to the will of God.

On his own man is tempted to oppose the will of God, to have the intention to follow his own will, to feel free only if he is autonomous; he opposes his own autonomy against the heteronomy of following the will of God. This is the whole drama of humanity. But in truth this autonomy is erroneous and this entering into God's will is not an opposition to oneself, it is not a slavery that violates my will, but it is to enter into truth and love, into the good. And Jesus attracts our will, which is opposed to the will of God, which seeks its autonomy. He attracts this will of ours on high, to the will of God. This is the drama of our redemption, that Jesus attracts our will on high, all our aversion to the will of God and our aversion to death and sin, and unites it to the will of the Father: "Not my will but thine be done." In this transformation of the "no" into "yes," in this insertion of the will of the creature in the will of the Father, he transforms humanity and redeems us. And he invites us to enter into this movement of his: To come out of our "no" and enter into the "yes" of the Son. My will exists, but the decisive will is the will of the Father, because the will of the Father is truth and love.

A further element of this prayer seems important to me. The three witnesses have kept -- as it appears in sacred Scripture -- the Hebrew or Aramaic word with which the Lord spoke to the Father, he called him: "Abba," father. But this formula, "Abba," is a familiar form of the term father, a form that is used only in the family, which has never been used toward God. Here we see in the intimacy of Jesus how he speaks in the family, he speaks truly as Son with his Father. We see the Trinitarian mystery: The Son who speaks with the Father and redeems humanity.

One more observation. The Letter to the Hebrews gives us a profound interpretation of this prayer of the Lord, of this drama of Gethsemane. It says: these tears of Jesus, this prayer, these cries of Jesus, this anguish -- is not all this simply a concession to the weakness of the flesh, as could be said. But precisely in this way he realizes the task of High Priest, because the High Priest must lead the human being, with all his problems and sufferings, to the height of God. And the Letter to the Hebrews says: with all these cries, tears, sufferings, prayers, the Lord took our reality to God (cf. Hebrews 5:7ff). And it uses this Greek word "prosferein," which is the technical term for what the High Priest must do to offer, to raise his hand on high. Precisely in this drama of Gethsemane, where it seems that God's strength is no longer present, Jesus realizes the function of High Priest. And it says, moreover, that in this act of obedience, namely, of conformity of the natural human will to the will of God, he is perfected as priest. And it uses again the technical word to ordain a priest. Precisely in this way he becomes the High Priest of humanity and thus opens heaven and the door to resurrection.

If we reflect on this drama of Gethsemane, we can also see the great contrast between Jesus, with his anguish, with his suffering, in comparison with the great philosopher Socrates, who remains peaceful, imperturbable in the face of death. And this seems to be the ideal. We can admire this philosopher, but Jesus' mission is another. His mission was not this total indifference and liberty; his mission was to bear in himself all the suffering, all the human drama. And because of this, precisely this humiliation of Gethsemane is essential for the mission of the Man-God. He bears in himself our suffering, our poverty and transforms them according to the will of God. And thus opens the doors of heaven, he opens heaven: This curtain of the Most Holy, which up to now man closed against God, is opened by his suffering and obedience. These are some observations for Maundy Thursday, for our celebration of the night of Maundy Thursday.

On Good Friday we will recall the passion and death of the Lord; we will adore Christ Crucified, we will share in his sufferings with penance and fasting. Looking "on him whom they have pierced" (cf. John 19:37), we will be able to drink from his broken heart that gushes blood and water as a fountain; of that heart from which springs the love of God for every man, we receive his Spirit. Hence, on Good Friday we will also accompany Jesus as he goes up to Calvary; let us be guided by him to the cross, let us receive the offering of his immaculate body.

Finally, on the night of Holy Saturday, we will celebrate the Easter Vigil, in which the resurrection of Christ will be proclaimed to us, his definitive victory over death which calls us to be, in him, new men. Participating in this holy vigil, the central night of the whole liturgical year, we will recall our baptism, in which we were buried with Christ, to be able to resurrect with him and take part in the banquet of heaven (cf. Revelation 19:7-9).

Dear friends, we have tried to understand the state of spirit with which Jesus lived the moment of extreme trial, to understand what guided his action. The criterion that guided all of Jesus' choices during his whole life was the firm will to love the Father, to be one with the Father, and to be faithful to him. This decision to correspond to his love impelled him to embrace the Father's plan in every circumstance, to make his own the design of love that was entrusted to him to recapitulate everything in him, to lead everything back to him.

On reliving the Holy Triduum, let us dispose ourselves to receive also in our lives the will of God, conscious that in the will of God, though it seems hard, in contrast to our intentions, is found our true good, the path of life.

May the Virgin Mother guide us on this journey and obtain for us from her divine Son the grace to be able to use our life for love of Jesus at the service of brothers. Thank you.

[The Holy Father then greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Tomorrow marks the beginning of the Easter Triduum, the three days in which the Church commemorates the mystery of the Lord's passion, death and resurrection. The liturgies of these days invite us to ponder the loving obedience of Christ who, having become like us in all things but sin, resisted temptation and freely surrendered himself to the Father's will. Tomorrow, at the Chrism Mass, priests renew their ordination promises, the sacred oils are blessed, and we celebrate the grace of the crucified and risen Lord which comes to us through the Church's sacramental life. On the evening of Holy Thursday, the Mass of the Lord's Supper begins the actual Triduum and recalls the institution of the sacraments of the Eucharist and Holy Orders. The Liturgy of Good Friday invites us to share in Christ's sufferings through penance and fasting, and to receive the gift of God's love flowing from the Lord's pierced Heart. The Easter Vigil joyfully proclaims Christ's resurrection from the dead and the new life received in Baptism. By our prayers and our sharing in these liturgies, let us resolve to imitate Christ's loving obedience to the Father's saving plan, which is the source of authentic freedom and the path of eternal life.


Papal Address to Spain's New Envoy to Holy See
"Life Is Sacred and No One Can Dispose of It Arbitrarily"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 18, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered Saturday upon receiving the letters of credence from Spain's new ambassador to the Holy See, María Jesús Figa López-Palop.

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Mrs. Ambassador,

On receiving the letters of credence that accredit Your Excellency as ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of Spain to the Holy See, I thank you cordially for the words you addressed to me, as well as the deferent greeting that you transmit to me from Their Majesties the [monarchs of Spain], the government and the Spanish people. I correspond gladly expressing my best wishes for peace, prosperity and spiritual good for all of them, whom I have very present in my memory and prayer. Receive the most cordial welcome on beginning your important task in this diplomatic mission, which has centuries of brilliant history and very many illustrious predecessors of yours.

I recently visited Santiago de Compostela and Barcelona, and I recall with gratitude so many attentions and manifestations of closeness and affection to the Successor of Peter on the part of the Spanish and their authorities. They are two emblematic places, in which is highlighted both the spiritual attraction of the Apostle James, as well as the presence of admirable signs which invite to look on high even in the midst of a plural and complex environment.

During my visit I perceived many expressions of the vivacity of the Catholic faith in those lands, which have seen the birth of so many saints, and which are dotted with cathedrals, centers of assistance and culture inspired by the fecund rootedness and fidelity of its inhabitants in their religious beliefs. This entails also the responsibility of diplomatic relations between Spain and the Holy See which will try to foment always -- with mutual respect and collaboration, within the legitimate autonomy in their respective fields -- all that leads to the good of persons and the genuine development of their rights and liberties, which includes the expression of their faith and conscience, both in the public as well as the private sphere.

Because of your significant trajectory in diplomatic activity, Your Excellency knows well that the Church, in the exercise of her own mission, seeks the integral good of every nation and its citizens, acting in the ambit of their competencies and respecting fully the autonomy of the civil authorities, whom it appreciates, and for whom it prays to God that they will exercise their service to society with generosity, honesty, success and justice. This framework in which the mission of the Church and the function of the state come together, moreover, has acquired a definite form in bilateral agreements between Spain and the Holy See on the main aspects of common interest, which furnish the juridical support and necessary stability so that their respective actions and initiatives benefit all.

The beginning of your lofty responsibility, Mrs. Ambassador, takes place in a situation of great economic difficulty of global reach that also grips Spain, with truly worrying results, above all in the field of unemployment, which causes discouragement and frustration especially in young people and less favored families. I keep all the citizens very present and ask the Almighty to illumine all those who have public responsibilities to seek boldly the path to a profitable recovery for the whole society. In this connection, I would like to point out the praiseworthy action that Catholic institutions are carrying out to give prompt aid to the needy, and at the same time I hope there will be a growing disposition to the cooperation of all in this solidaristic endeavor.

With this, the Church shows an essential characteristic of her being, perhaps the most visible and appreciated by many, whether or not they are believers. However, she intends to go beyond mere external and material aid, and to aim at the heart of Christian charity, for which the neighbor is first of all a person, a child of God, always in need of fraternity, respect and acceptance in any situation in which he finds himself.

In this connection, the Church offers something that is innate to her and that benefits persons and nations: She offers Christ -- the hope that encourages and strengthens -- as an antidote to the disappointment of other fleeting proposals and a heart lacking in values, which ends by being hardened to the point of no longer being able to perceive the genuine meaning of life and the reason for things.

This hope gives life to confidence and collaboration, thus changing a somber present into strength of spirit to address the future with hope, [the future] both of the person as well as of the family and of society.

However, as I reminded in the message for the celebration for the 2011 World Day of Peace, instead of living and organizing society in such a way that it fosters openness to transcendence (cf. No. 9), there is no lack of ways, often sophisticated, of hostility to the faith which "are expressed at times reneging history and religious symbols, in which the identity and culture of the majority of the citizens is reflected" (No. 13). The fact that in some realms there is a tendency to consider religion as a socially insignificant factor, even annoying, does not justify trying to marginalize it, at times through denigration, ridicule, discrimination and even indifference in face of incidents of clear profanation which violate the fundamental right of religious liberty inherent to the dignity of the human person, and which is "an authentic weapon of peace, because it can change and improve the world" (cf. No. 15).

In her concern for every human being in a concrete way and in all his dimensions, the Church watches over the person's fundamental rights, in frank dialogue with all those who contribute to their being effective and without reductions. She watches over the right to human life from its beginning to its natural end, because life is sacred and no one can dispose of it arbitrarily. She watches over protection and aid to the family, and advocates economic, social and juridical measures so that the man and woman who enter marriage and form a family will have the necessary support to fulfill their vocation to be sanctuaries of love and life. She also advocates an education that integrates the moral and religious values in keeping with the parents' convictions, as is their right, and as fits the integral development of young people, and that, for the same reason, includes also the teaching of the Catholic religion in all centers for those who choose it, as is established in the juridical legislation itself.

Before concluding, I wish to make a reference to my new visit to Spain to participate in Madrid, in the forthcoming month of August, in the celebration of the 26th World Youth Day. I join with joy the efforts and prayers of its organizers, who are preparing carefully such an important event, with the hope that it will give abundant spiritual fruits for young people and for Spain. I am conscious also of the willingness, cooperation and generous help that both of the government of the nation as well as the autonomous and local authorities are dispensing for the greater success of an initiative that will attract the attention of the world and show once again the greatness of heart and spirit of the Spanish.

Mrs. Ambassador, I wish you the very best in carrying out the lofty mission that has been entrusted to you, so that relations between Spain and the Holy See are consolidated and progress, while I assure you of the great appreciation the Pope has for the ever beloved peoples of Spain. I ask you also to be the interpreter of my sentiments to the monarchs of Spain and the other authorities of the nation, while I invoke abundant blessings from the most High on Your Excellency, your family accompanying you today, as well as on your collaborators and the noble Spanish people.


Christ's Triumphant Entry Into Jerusalem
Mary's "Heart, Like That of the Son, Was Ready for Sacrifice"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 17, 2011 - After celebrating Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square today, Benedict XVI greeted the crowds in several languages before praying the traditional midday Angelus.

In English, he said:

I welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors here in Rome this Palm Sunday, as the whole Church sings "Hosanna" to the Son of David, commemorating Our Lord’s solemn entry into Jerusalem in the days leading up to his passion and death. In a special way I greet all the young people present and I look forward to celebrating World Youth Day in Madrid this summer with many thousands of others from around the world.

Concluding his greetings in Italian, he said:

And now we turn in prayer to Mary, asking her to help us to Holy Week with intense faith. Understanding the prophecies, Mary too exulted in the spirit when Jesus entered Jerusalem in royal procession; but her heart, like that of the Son, was ready for sacrifice. Let us learn from her, the faithful Virgin, to follow the Lord even when his way leads to the cross.


Pope's Palm Sunday Homily
To the "Heights of God" He "Wanted to Lift Every Human Being"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 17, 2011 - Here is a Vatican translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave today when he celebrated Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Dear young people!

It is a moving experience each year on Palm Sunday as we go up the mountain with Jesus, towards the Temple, accompanying him on his ascent. On this day, throughout the world and across the centuries, young people and people of every age acclaim him, crying out: "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"

But what are we really doing when we join this procession as part of the throng which went up with Jesus to Jerusalem and hailed him as King of Israel? Is this anything more than a ritual, a quaint custom? Does it have anything to do with the reality of our life and our world? To answer this, we must first be clear about what Jesus himself wished to do and actually did. After Peter's confession of faith in Caesarea Philippi, in the northernmost part of the Holy Land, Jesus set out as a pilgrim towards Jerusalem for the feast of Passover. He was journeying towards the Temple in the Holy City, towards that place which for Israel ensured in a particular way God's closeness to his people. He was making his way towards the common feast of Passover, the memorial of Israel's liberation from Egypt and the sign of its hope of definitive liberation. He knew that what awaited him was a new Passover and that he himself would take the place of the sacrificial lambs by offering himself on the cross. He knew that in the mysterious gifts of bread and wine he would give himself for ever to his own, and that he would open to them the door to a new path of liberation, to fellowship with the living God. He was making his way to the heights of the Cross, to the moment of self-giving love. The ultimate goal of his pilgrimage was the heights of God himself; to those heights he wanted to lift every human being.

Our procession today is meant, then, to be an image of something deeper, to reflect the fact that, together with Jesus, we are setting out on pilgrimage along the high road that leads to the living God. This is the ascent that matters. This is the journey which Jesus invites us to make. But how can we keep pace with this ascent? Isn't it beyond our ability? Certainly, it is beyond our own possibilities. From the beginning men and women have been filled - and this is as true today as ever - with a desire to "be like God", to attain the heights of God by their own powers. All the inventions of the human spirit are ultimately an effort to gain wings so as to rise to the heights of Being and to become independent, completely free, as God is free. Mankind has managed to accomplish so many things: we can fly! We can see, hear and speak to one another from the farthest ends of the earth. And yet the force of gravity which draws us down is powerful. With the increase of our abilities there has been an increase not only of good. Our possibilities for evil have increased and appear like menacing storms above history. Our limitations have also remained: we need but think of the disasters which have caused so much suffering for humanity in recent months.

The Fathers of the Church maintained that human beings stand at the point of intersection between two gravitational fields. First, there is the force of gravity which pulls us down - towards selfishness, falsehood and evil; the gravity which diminishes us and distances us from the heights of God. On the other hand there is the gravitational force of God's love: the fact that we are loved by God and respond in love attracts us upwards. Man finds himself betwixt this twofold gravitational force; everything depends on our escaping the gravitational field of evil and becoming free to be attracted completely by the gravitational force of God, which makes us authentic, elevates us and grants us true freedom.

Following the Liturgy of the Word, at the beginning of the Eucharistic Prayer where the Lord comes into our midst, the Church invites us to lift up our hearts: "Sursum corda!" In the language of the Bible and the thinking of the Fathers, the heart is the centre of man, where understanding, will and feeling, body and soul, all come together. The centre where spirit becomes body and body becomes spirit, where will, feeling and understanding become one in the knowledge and love of God. This is the "heart" which must be lifted up. But to repeat: of ourselves, we are too weak to lift up our hearts to the heights of God. We cannot do it. The very pride of thinking that we are able to do it on our own drags us down and estranges us from God. God himself must draw us up, and this is what Christ began to do on the cross. He descended to the depths of our human existence in order to draw us up to himself, to the living God. He humbled himself, as today's second reading says. Only in this way could our pride be vanquished: God's humility is the extreme form of his love, and this humble love draws us upwards.

Psalm 24, which the Church proposes as the "song of ascent" to accompany our procession in today's liturgy, indicates some concrete elements which are part of our ascent and without which we cannot be lifted upwards: clean hands, a pure heart, the rejection of falsehood, the quest for God's face. The great achievements of technology are liberating and contribute to the progress of mankind only if they are joined to these attitudes - if our hands become clean and our hearts pure, if we seek truth, if we seek God and let ourselves be touched and challenged by his love. All these means of "ascent" are effective only if we humbly acknowledge that we need to be lifted up; if we abandon the pride of wanting to become God. We need God: he draws us upwards; letting ourselves be upheld by his hands - by faith, in other words - sets us aright and gives us the inner strength that raises us on high. We need the humility of a faith which seeks the face of God and trusts in the truth of his love.

The question of how man can attain the heights, becoming completely himself and completely like God, has always engaged mankind. It was passionately disputed by the Platonic philosophers of the third and fourth centuries. For them, the central issue was finding the means of purification which could free man from the heavy load weighing him down and thus enable him to ascend to the heights of his true being, to the heights of divinity. Saint Augustine, in his search for the right path, long sought guidance from those philosophies. But in the end he had to acknowledge that their answers were insufficient, their methods would not truly lead him to God. To those philosophers he said: recognize that human power and all these purifications are not enough to bring man in truth to the heights of the divine, to his own heights. And he added that he should have despaired of himself and human existence had he not found the One who accomplishes what we of ourselves cannot accomplish; the One who raises us up to the heights of God in spite of our wretchedness: Jesus Christ who from God came down to us and, in his crucified love, takes us by the hand and lifts us on high.

We are on pilgrimage with the Lord to the heights. We are striving for pure hearts and clean hands, we are seeking truth, we are seeking the face of God. Let us show the Lord that we desire to be righteous, and let us ask him: Draw us upwards! Make us pure! Grant that the words which we sang in the processional psalm may also hold true for us; grant that we may be part of the generation which seeks God, "which seeks your face, O God of Jacob" (cf. Ps 24:6). Amen.

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pope to Maronite Patriarch
"You Have an Immense Mission … to Announce the Good News"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 14, 2011 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today upon receiving in audience Patriarch Béchara Boutros Raï, 71. The Pope affirmed his communion with the new patriarch of the Maronite Church, who is the 77th patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites. He succeeded Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir, who resigned at age 90.

* * *

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear Sons and Daughters of the Maronite Church,

This first visit to the Successor of Peter, after your election to the Patriarchal See of Antioch of the Maronites, is a privileged moment for the universal Church. I rejoice to receive you here, with the Maronite bishops, the priests, the consecrated persons and the faithful, to solemnize the "Ecclesia Communio" which I made known to you by letter last March 24. Your election which occurred a few days after the closure of the Holy Year, promulgated to celebrate the 1,600 anniversary of the death of St. Maron, seems the most eminent fruit of numerous graces that he obtained for his Church.

I greet all of you warmly, you who have come to surround your Patriarch for this great moment of fraternal communion and of unshakeable unity of the Maronite Church with the Church of Rome, thus underlining the importance of the visible unity of the Church in her catholicity. In the absence of Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir, I take the liberty to express to him my affection and my gratitude for having consecrated 25 years of his life to lead the Maronite Church as Patriarch amid the upheavals of history.

Soon, this ecclesiastical communion will find its most authentic expression in the Divine Liturgy where the one Body and Blood of Christ will be shared. It is there that the plenitude of communion is manifested between the Successor of the Prince of the Apostles and the 77th successor of St. Maron, father and head of the Church of Antioch of the Maronites, that very prestigious Apostolic See where the faithful of Christ received for the first time the name of "Christians!" Your Patriarchal Church, her rich spiritual, liturgical and theological tradition, the tradition of Antioch, always adorns the entire Church with that treasure.

Because you are in the heart of the Middle East, you have an immense mission with regard to humanity, to whom the Love of Christ urges to announce the Good News of Salvation. Since the recent Synod that I convoked in October of 2010, the urgency has been recalled numerous times to propose the Gospel again to persons who know it little or who are estranged from the Church. With all the living forces present in Lebanon and in the Middle East, I know, Beatitude, that you will have at heart to proclaim, to witness and to live in the communion of this Word of life in order to rediscover the ardor of the first faithful who "devoted themselves to the Apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers" (Acts 2:42). This region of the world that the patriarchs, the prophets, the Apostles and Christ himself blessed by their presence and by their preaching, aspires to this durable peace that the Word of Truth, received and lived, has the capacity to establish.

You pursue this task through a human and spiritual, moral and intellectual education of young people thanks to your school and catechetical network, whose quality I know. I ardently wish that your role in their formation will always be better recognized by society, so that the fundamental values will be transmitted, without discrimination. So that in this way the young people of today will become responsible men and women in their families and in society, to build greater solidarity and greater fraternity among all the components of the nation. Transmit to young people all my esteem and affection while reminding them that the Church and society have need of their enthusiasm and their hope. To effect this, I invite you to intensify the formation of priests and of numerous young people that the Lord is calling in your eparchies and in your religious congregations. That by their teaching and by their life, they may be genuine witnesses of the Word of God to help the faithful to ground their lives and missions in Christ!

Beatitude, I address to you fraternal wishes that the Holy Spirit may assist you in the exercise of your charge. May he console you in difficulties and procure for you the joy of seeing your Church grow in fervor and in number! At the dawn of your ministry, I wish to repeat those words of Christ to the disciples: "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12:32). While I address to all the Lebanese people my warm greetings, I entrust you in an altogether special way to the intercession of Our Lady of Lebanon, given that Your Beatitude is a son of the Maronite Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and also of St. Maron and of all the Lebanese saints and blessed. And I give you my big-hearted apostolic blessing, as well as to the bishops and priests, to the men and women religious and to all the faithful of your patriarchate.


Everyone's Call to Be a Saint
Holiness Consists in "Making Our Own His Attitudes, His Thoughts, His Conduct"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 13, 2011 - Here is a translation of the Italian-language catechesis Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience held in St. Peter's Square. The Pope centered his reflection on the holiness to which every Christian is called, thus concluding a series of catecheses on the lives of saints.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the general audiences of the last two years, we have been accompanied by the figures of many men and women saints: We have gotten to know them up close and to understand that the whole history of the Church is marked by these men and women, who with their faith, their charity, and their lives were the beacons of many generations, as they are also for us. The saints manifest in many ways the powerful and transforming presence of the Risen One; they let Christ possess their lives completely, being able to affirm as St. Paul, "yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me" (Galatians 2:20). Following their example, taking recourse to their intercession, entering into communion with them, "joins us to Christ, from Whom as from its Fountain and Head issues every grace and the very life of the people of God" (Lumen Gentium 50). At the end of this series of catecheses, I would like to offer an idea of what holiness is.

What does it mean to be saints? Who is called to be a saint? Often it is thought that holiness is a goal reserved for a few chosen ones. St. Paul, however, speaks of God's great plan and affirms: "[God] chose us in him [Christ], before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. In love he destined us" (Ephesians 1:4). And he speaks of all of us. At the center of the divine design is Christ, in whom God shows his Face: the Mystery hidden in the centuries has been revealed in the fullness of the Word made flesh. And Paul says afterward: "For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell" (Colossians 1:19). In Christ the living God has made himself close, visible, audible, tangible so that all can obtain his fullness of grace and truth (cf. John 1:14-16).

Because of this, the whole of Christian existence knows only one supreme law, the one St. Paul expresses in a formula that appears in all his writings: in Christ Jesus. Holiness, the fullness of Christian life does not consist of realizing extraordinary enterprises, but in union with Christ, in living his mysteries, in making our own his attitudes, his thoughts, his conduct. The measure of holiness is given by the height of holiness that Christ attains in us, of how much, with the strength of the Holy Spirit, we mold all our life to his. It is our conforming ourselves to Jesus, as St. Paul affirms: "For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son" (Romans 8:29). And St. Augustine exclaimed: "My life will be alive full of You" (Confessions, 10, 28). In the Constitution on the Church, the Second Vatican Council spoke with clarity of the universal call to holiness, affirming that no one is excluded: "The classes and duties of life are many, but holiness is one -- that sanctity which is cultivated by all who are moved by the Spirit of God, and who ... follow the poor Christ, the humble and cross-bearing Christ in order to be worthy of being sharers in His glory" (No. 41).

However, the question remains: How can we journey on the path of holiness, how can we respond to this call? Can I do so with my own strength? The answer is clear: A holy life is not primarily the fruit of our own effort, of our actions, because it is God, the thrice Holy (cf. Isaiah 6:3), who makes us saints, and the action of the Holy Spirit who encourages us from within; it is the life itself of the Risen Christ, which has been communicated to us and which transforms us. To say it again according to Vatican Council II: "The followers of Christ are called by God, not because of their works, but according to His own purpose and grace. They are justified in the Lord Jesus, because in the baptism of faith they truly become sons of God and sharers in the divine nature. In this way they are really made holy. Then too, by God's gift, they must hold on to and complete in their lives this holiness they have received" (ibid., 40).

Hence, holiness has its main root in baptismal grace, in being introduced into the paschal mystery of Christ, with which his Spirit is communicated to us, his life as the Risen One. St. Paul points out the transformation wrought in man by baptismal grace and even coins a new terminology, forged with the preposition "with": "We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life" (Romans 6:4). However, God always respects our liberty and asks that we accept this gift and that we live the demands it entails. He asks that we allow ourselves to be transformed by the action of the Holy Spirit, conforming our will to the will of God.

How can we make our way of thinking and our actions become thinking and acting with Christ and of Christ? What is the soul of holiness? Again Vatican II specifies: It tells us that holiness is none other than charity fully lived. "We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us. God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him" (1 John 4:16). Now God has amply diffused his love in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us (cf. Romans 5:5); because of this, the first and most necessary gift is charity, with which we love God above all things and our neighbor out of love for him. For charity to grow as a good seed in the soul and fructify us, every faithful one must listen willingly to the Word of God, and with the help of his grace, realize the works of his will, participate frequently in the sacraments, above all in the Eucharist and in the holy liturgy, constantly approach prayer, abnegation of oneself, in the active service to brothers and the exercise of all virtue. Charity, in fact, is the bond of perfection and fulfillment of the law (cf. Colossians 3:14; Romans 13:10); it directs all the means of sanctification, gives them their form and leads them to their end.

Perhaps also this language of Vatican II is a bit solemn for us; perhaps we should say things in a still simpler way. What is the most essential? Essential is that no Sunday be left without an encounter with the Risen Christ in the Eucharist -- this is not a burden but light for the whole week. Never to begin or end a day without at least a brief contact with God. And, in the journey of our life, to follow "road signs" that God has communicated to us in the Decalogue read with Christ, which is simply the definition of charity in specific situations. I think this is the true simplicity and grandeur of the life of holiness: the encounter with the Risen One on Sunday; contact with God at the beginning and end of the day; in decisions, to follow the "road signs" that God has communicated to us, which are simply forms of charity. From whence charity for God and for our neighbor is made the distinctive sign of the true disciple of Christ. (Lumen Gentium , 42). This is true simplicity, grandeur and profundity of the Christian life, of being saints.

This is why St. Augustine, commenting on the fourth chapter of the First Letter of St. John can affirm an astonishing thing: "Dilige et fac quod vis" (Love and do what you will). And he continued: "If you are silent, be silent out of love; if you speak, speak out of love; if you correct, correct out of love; if you forgive, forgive out of love, may the root of love be in you, because from this root nothing can come that is not good" (7, 8: PL 35). He who lets himself be led by love, who lives charity fully is led by God, because God is love. This is what this great saying means: "Dilige et fac quod vis" (Love and do as you will).

Perhaps we might ask ourselves: Can we, with our limitations, our weakness, reach so high? During the liturgical year, the Church invites us to recall a line-up of saints, who have lived charity fully, have been able to love and to follow Christ in their daily lives. In all the periods of the history of the Church, in every latitude of the geography of the world, the saints belong to all the ages and to all states of life; they are the concrete faces of all peoples, languages and nations. And they are very different among themselves. In reality, I must say that also, according to my personal faith, many saints, not all, are true stars in the firmament of history. And I would like to add that for me not only the great saints that I love and know well are "road signs," but also the simple saints, that is, the good persons that I see in my life, who will never be canonized. They are ordinary people, to say it somehow, without a visible heroism, but in their everyday goodness I see the truth of the faith. This goodness, which they have matured in the faith of the Church, is for me a sure defense of Christianity and the sign of where the truth is.

In the communion with saints, canonized or not canonized, which the Church lives thanks to Christ in all her members, we enjoy their presence and company and cultivate the firm hope of being able to imitate their way and share one day the same blessed life, eternal life.

Dear friends, how great and beautiful and also simple, is the Christian vocation seen from this light! We are all called to holiness: It is the very measure of the Christian life. Once again St. Paul expresses it with great intensity when he writes: "But grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ's gift. ... And he gave some as apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers, to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the extent of the full stature of Christ" (Ephesians 4:7,11-13).

I would like to invite you to open yourselves to the action of the Holy Spirit, who transforms our life, to be, we also, pieces of the great mosaic of holiness that God is creating in history, so that the Face of Christ will shine in the fullness of its brilliance. Let us not be afraid to look on high, to the height of God; let us not be afraid that God will ask too much of us, but let us be guided in all our daily actions by his Word, even if we feel that we are poor, inadequate, sinners: He will be the one to transform us according to his love. Thank you.

[The Holy Father then greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As a conclusion to this series of catecheses on the lives of the saints, I would like today to speak of the holiness to which each Christian is called. Holiness is the fullness of the Christian life, a life in Christ; it consists in our being united to Christ, making our own his thoughts and actions, and conforming our lives to his. As such, it is chiefly the work of the Holy Spirit who is poured forth into our hearts through Baptism, making us sharers in the paschal mystery and enabling us to live a new life in union with the Risen Christ. Christian holiness is nothing other than the virtue of charity lived to its fullest. In the pursuit of holiness, we allow the seed of God's life and love to be cultivated by hearing his word and putting it into practice, by prayer and the celebration of the sacraments, by sacrifice and service of our brothers and sisters. The lives of the saints encourage us along this great path leading to the fullness of eternal life. By their prayers, and the grace of the Holy Spirit, may each of us live fully our Christian vocation and thus become a stone in that great mosaic of holiness which God is creating in history, so that the glory shining on the face of Christ may be seen in all its splendour.


The Resurrection of Lazarus
"It Is a Reality That Goes Beyond the Limits of Our Reason"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 10, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before praying the midday Angelus together with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

There are only two weeks until Easter, and the biblical readings of this Sunday all speak of resurrection. They do not yet speak of Jesus' resurrection -- which will irrupt as something absolutely new -- but of our resurrection, the one to which we aspire and that Christ himself granted to us, rising from the dead. In effect, death is for us like a wall that keeps us from seeing what lies beyond; and yet our heart desires to go beyond this wall, and even if we are unable to know what it hides, we nevertheless think about it, we imagine it, we express our yearning for eternity with symbols.

To the Hebrew people, in exile far from Israel, the prophet Ezekiel announces that God will open the tombs of the deported people and bring them back to their land, to lay them to rest in peace (cf. Ezekiel 37:12-14). This ancestral aspiration of man to be buried together with his fathers is a longing for a "fatherland" that will receive him at the end of his earthly toil. This notion does not yet contain the idea of a personal resurrection from the dead, which appears only toward the end of the Old Testament, and still at the time of Jesus it was not accepted by all of the Jews. After all, even among Christians, faith in the resurrection and eternal life is often accompanied by many doubts and much confusion, because it is a reality that goes beyond the limits of our reason, and requires an act of faith. In today's Gospel -- the resurrection of Lazarus -- we hear the voice of faith speak from the lips of Martha, Lazarus' sister. In reply to Jesus who says to her: "Your brother will rise again," she says: "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day" (John 11:23-24). But Jesus responds: "I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he die, he will live" (John 11:25-26). Here is the novelty that breaks and goes beyond every barrier! Christ destroys the wall of death, in him there dwells the fullness of God, who is life, eternal life. For this reason death did not have power over him; and Lazarus' resurrection is the sign of his complete dominion over physical death, which before God is like a dream (cf. John 11:11).

But there is another death, which cost Christ the most difficult struggle, indeed the price of the cross: It is spiritual death, sin, which threatens to ruin the existence of every man. Christ died to defeat this death, and his resurrection is not a return to the previous life, but the opening to a new reality, a "new earth," finally reconnected to God's heaven. This is why St. Paul wrote: "If the Spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit dwelling in you" (Romans 8:11). Dear Brothers, let us turn to the Virgin Mary, who already participates in this Resurrection, that she might help us to declare with faith: "Yes, O Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God" (John 11:27), to discover truly that he is our salvation.

[After reciting the Angelus the Holy Father addressed the pilgrims in various languages. In English he said:]

I offer a warm greeting to all the English-speaking visitors present for this Lenten Angelus prayer, including those from the Cathedral School of Skara, Sweden. In today's Gospel, Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead as a sign that he himself is "the resurrection and the life" (John 11:25). Let us renew our faith in Christ's promises as we prepare to unite ourselves to the Church's celebration of the Paschal Mystery. Upon you and your families I invoke the Lord's abundant blessings!

[In Italian he said:]

I wish you all a good Sunday and a good week. Thank you, have a good Sunday.


Pope's Words About John Paul II Documentary Film
"He Continues to Accompany Us From Heaven"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 10, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address given Saturday by Benedict XVI after the screening of a documentary film, "The Pilgrim Dressed in White," about Pope John Paul II.

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Eminences, Excellencies, Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I would like to offer a cordial greeting and a warm word of thanks too to the producers, to the makers of this documentary film on the Venerable Pope John Paul II. I am happy to have been able to view it here in the Vatican and to express a warm appreciation for the work that was done, joining in the acclaim that the Polish hierarchy and some of my co-workers have already expressed.

Because of the seriousness with which it was prepared, the quality of its making, this film belongs among the more valuable gifts to the public offered on the occasion of the upcoming beatification of my beloved predecessor.

There are now many audio-visual works that have the figure of John Paul II for their object, among which are various documentaries produced by television broadcasters. There are certain elements that distinguish this film, "The Pilgrim Dressed in White," in this panorama, for example, the interviews with aides close [to John Paul II], the testimonies of famous people, the wealth of documentation. All of this has the aim of faithfully bringing out both the personality of the Pope and his untiring work during the period of his long pontificate.

I would like to highlight once again the two hinges of his life and of his ministry: prayer and missionary zeal. John Paul II was a great contemplative and a great apostle of Christ. God chose him for the See of Peter and he has led all of us in this pilgrimage and he continues to accompany us from heaven.

Thanks once more to all those who, in many ways, collaborated in the realization of this film that helps us to value the luminous witness of Pope John Paul II. With this sentiment of gratitude, I bless all of you and your loved ones from my heart.


Benedict XVI's Address to Latin America Commission
"Faith Must Be the Main Source of Popular Piety"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 8, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today upon receiving in audience a group of participants from the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.

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Esteemed Cardinals,
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. I greet affectionately the advisers and members of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, who have gathered in Rome for their plenary assembly. I greet in a special way Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and president of the aforementioned pontifical commission, thanking him heartily for the words he addressed to me on behalf of all to present to me the results of these days of study and reflection.

2. The theme chosen for this meeting, "Impact of Popular Piety on the Process of Evangelization in Latin America," addresses directly one of the most important aspects of the missionary task in which the particular churches of that great Latin American continent are committed. The bishops who met in Aparecida for the 5th General Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean episcopate, which I had the pleasure of opening on my trip to Brazil in May 2007, present popular piety as a way of encounter with Jesus Christ and a way of expressing the faith of the Church. Hence, it cannot be considered as something secondary in Christian life, as that "would be to forget the primacy of the action of the Spirit and the gratuitous initiative of the love of God" (Final Document, No. 263).

This simple expression of faith has its roots in the very beginning of the evangelization of those lands. In fact, to the degree that the saving message of Christ was illumined and animated by their cultures, the rich and profound popular religiosity was gradually woven that characterizes the living of the faith of the Latin American peoples, which, as I said in the opening address of the Conference of Aparecida, constitutes "the precious treasure of the Catholic Church in Latin America, and that she must protect, promote and, in so far as necessary, also purify" (No. 1).

3. To carry out the new evangelization in Latin America, in a process that permeates the whole being and work of the Christian, the many demonstrations of popular piety cannot be put to one side. All of them, well channeled and duly supported, propitiate a fruitful encounter with God, an intense veneration of the Most Blessed Sacrament, a profound devotion to the Virgin Mary, a cultivation of affection for the Successor of Peter and an awareness of belonging to the Church. May all this serve also to evangelize, to communicate the faith, to bring the faithful to the sacraments, to strengthen the bonds of friendship and family and community union, as well as to increase solidarity and the exercise of charity.

Consequently, faith must be the main source of popular piety so that it will not be reduced to a simple cultural expression of a specific region. More than that, it must be in close relationship with the sacred liturgy, which cannot be substituted by any other religious expression. In this respect, it cannot be forgotten, as the "Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy" affirmed, published by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, that "liturgy and popular piety are two expressions of worship which must be in mutual and fruitful relationship: in any case, the Liturgy must constitute the point of reference to 'channel with lucidity and prudence the longings of prayer and of charismatic life' that appear in popular piety; for its part popular piety, with its symbolic and expressive values, can contribute some references to the liturgy for a true inculturation, and stimuli for an effective creative dynamism" (No. 58).

4. Found in popular piety are many expressions of faith connected to the great celebrations of the liturgical year, in which the simple peoples of Latin America reaffirm the love they feel for Jesus Christ, in whom they find the manifestation of God's closeness, of his compassion and mercy. Innumerable are the shrines that are dedicated to the contemplation of the mysteries of the childhood, passion, death and resurrection of the Lord, and to them multitudes of persons go to place in his divine hands their sorrows and joys, praying at the same time for copious graces and imploring forgiveness of their sins. Profoundly united to Jesus is also the devotion of the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean to the Most Holy Virgin Mary. She, from the dawn of evangelization, accompanies the children of that continent and is for them inexhaustible source of hope. That is why, they take recourse to her as Mother of the Savior, to feel constantly her loving protection under different names. In the same way, the saints are held as luminous stars that surround the heart of numerous faithful of those countries, edifying them with their example and protecting them with their intercession.

5. It cannot be denied, however, that certain deviated forms exist of popular religiosity that, far from fomenting an active participation in the Church, create instead confusion and can foster a merely exterior religious practice detached from a well-rooted and interior living faith. In this respect, I would like to recall here what I wrote to seminarians last year: "Popular piety can incline toward the irrational and perhaps also remain on the outside. However, to exclude it is completely erroneous. Through it, faith has entered into men's heart, forming part of their sentiments, customs, feeling and common living. That is why, popular piety is a great patrimony of the Church. Faith has become flesh and blood. Popular piety must certainly always be purified and point to the center, but it merits all our appreciation and makes us integrate ourselves fully in the 'People of God'" (Letter to Seminarians, Oct. 18, 2010, No. 4).

6. During the meetings I have had in these last years, on the occasion of their "ad limina" visits, the bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean have always referred to me what they are doing in their respective ecclesiastical circumscriptions to initiate and encourage the Continental Mission, with which the Latin American episcopate has wished to re-launch the process of new evangelization after Aparecida, inviting all the members of the Church to put themselves in a permanent state of mission. It is an option of great transcendence, as the desire is to return to a fundamental aspect of the work of the Church, namely, to give primacy to the Word of God so that it will be the permanent nourishment of Christian life and the pivot of all pastoral action.

This encounter with the divine Word must lead to a profound change of life, to a radical identification with the Lord and his Gospel, to become fully aware that it is necessary to be solidly cemented in Christ, acknowledging that "one does not begin to be Christian because of an ethical decision or a great idea, but because of the encounter with an event, with a Person, who gives a new horizon to life and, with it, a decisive orientation" ("Deus Caritas Est," No. 1).

In this connection, I am pleased to know that in Latin America the practice of "lectio divina" has been growing in the parishes and in small ecclesial communities, as an ordinary way to nourish prayer and, in that way, give solidity to the spiritual life of the faithful, given that "in the words of the Bible, popular piety will find an inexhaustible source of inspiration, unsurpassable models of prayer and fruitful proposals of different topics" (Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, No. 87).

7. Dear brothers, I thank you for your valuable contributions geared to protect, promote and purify all that is related to the expressions of popular religiosity in Latin America. Of great value to achieve this objective, will be to continue stimulating the Continental Mission, in which particular space must be given to all that refers to this pastoral realm, which constitutes a privileged way for the faith to be received in the heart of the people, touch the most profound sentiments of persons and manifest itself vigorous and operative through charity (cf. G a 5, 6).

8. On concluding this joyful meeting, while I invoke the sweet name of Mary Most Holy, perfect disciple and pedagogue of evangelization, I impart to you from my heart the apostolic blessing, pledge of the divine benevolence.


Papal Address to Syro-Malabar Bishops
"Each Bishop ... Is Called to Be a Minister of Unity"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 7, 2011 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today upon receiving in audience prelates of the Syro-Malabar Church of India, who are in Rome for their five-yearly "ad limina" visit.

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Dear Brother Bishops,

I offer you a warm fraternal welcome on the occasion of your visit "ad Limina Apostolorum" a moment which is now sadly marked by the death of Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil. Before you all, I wish again to give thanks to God for his able and willing service over many years to the whole of the Church in India. May our loving Saviour welcome his noble soul into paradise, and may he rest in peace in communion with all the saints.

Thank you for the sentiments of respect and esteem offered by Mar Bosco Puthur on your behalf and in the name of those whom you shepherd. Your presence is an eloquent expression of the deep spiritual bonds which unite the Syro-Malabar Church to the Church universal, in fidelity to Christ’s prayer for all his disciples (cf. Jn 17:21). You bring to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul the joys and hopes of the entire Syro-Malabar Church, which my predecessor the Venerable John Paul II happily raised to the status of a Major-Archiepiscopal Church in 1992.My greetings go to the priests, the women and men religious, the members of the lay movements, the families and in particular the young people who are the hope of the Church.

The Second Vatican Council taught that "Bishops have been designated by the Holy Spirit to take the place of the Apostles as pastors of souls and, together with the Supreme Pontiff and subject to his authority, they are commissioned to perpetuate the work of Christ, the eternal Pastor" (Christus Dominus, 1). Today’s encounter thus forms an essential part of your pilgrimage "ad Limina Apostolorum"; it is also an occasion to intensify the awareness of the divine gift and responsibility received in the ordination by which you became members of the College of Bishops. I join you in seeking the intercession of the Apostles for your ministry. They, who were the first to receive the charge of caring for Christ’s flock, continue to guide and watch over the Church from their place in heaven and remain a model and inspiration to all Bishops by their holiness of life, teaching and example.

Your visit also provides a precious opportunity to give thanks to God for the gift of communion in the apostolic faith and in the life of the Spirit which unites you among yourselves and with your people. With divine inspiration and grace on the one hand, and with humble prayers and efforts on the other, this precious gift of fellowship with the Triune God and with one another will grow ever richer and deeper. Each Bishop, for his part, is called to be a minister of unity (cf. ibid., 6) in his particular church and within the universal Church. This responsibility is of special importance in a country like India where the unity of the Church is reflected in the rich diversity of her rites and traditions. I encourage you to do all you can to continue to foster the communion between yourselves and all Catholic Bishops throughout the world, and to be the living expression of that fellowship among your priests and faithful. Let the gentle command of Saint Paul continue to guide your hearts and your apostolic endeavours: "Let love be genuine, hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good, love one another with brotherly affection, outdo one another in showing honour. Live in harmony with one another" (Rom 12:9-10,16). Thus will the unity of the Triune God be proclaimed and lived in the world, and thus will our new life in Christ be experienced always more profoundly, to the benefit of the entire Catholic Church.

Within this mystery of loving communion, a privileged expression of sharing in the divine life is through sacramental marriage and family life. The rapid and dramatic changes which are a part of contemporary society throughout the world bring with them not only serious challenges, but new possibilities to proclaim the liberating truth of the Gospel message to transform and elevate all human relationships. Your support, dear Brother Bishops, and that of your priests and communities for the sound and integral education of young people in the ways of chastity and responsibility will not only enable them to embrace the true nature of marriage, but will also benefit Indian culture as a whole. Unfortunately, the Church can no longer count on the support of society at large to promote the Christian understanding of marriage as a permanent and indissoluble union ordered to procreation and the sanctification of the spouses. Have your families look to the Lord and his saving word for a complete and truly positive vision of life and marital relations, so necessary for the good of the whole human family. Let your preaching and catechesis in this field be patient and constant.

At the heart of many of the works of education and charity exercised in your Eparchies are the various communities of men and women religious who devote themselves to the service of God and their neighbour. I wish to express the Church’s appreciation for the charity, faith and hard work of these religious, who by professing and living the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience offer an example of complete devotion to the divine Master and thus help considerably to equip your faithful for every good work (cf. 2 Tim 3:17). The vocation to religious life and the pursuit of perfect charity is attractive in every age, but it should be nourished by a constant spiritual renewal which is to be fostered by superiors who devote great care to the human, intellectual and spiritual formation of their fellow religious (cf. Perfectae Caritatis, 11). The Church insists that preparation for religious profession is to be marked by long and careful discernment with the goal of ensuring, before final vows are made, that each candidate is firmly rooted in Christ, solid in his or her capacity for genuine commitment and joyful in the gift of self to Jesus Christ and his Church.

Furthermore, by its nature, formation is never completed, but is ongoing and must be an integral part of the daily life of each individual and community. Much needs to be done in this area, utilizing the many resources available in your Church, above all through deeper training in the practice of prayer, the particular spiritual and liturgical traditions of the Syro-Malabar rite, and the intellectual demands of a solid pastoral practice. I encourage you, in close collaboration with religious superiors, to plan effectively for such a solid ongoing formation, so that religious men and women continue to be powerful witnesses to the presence of God in the world and to our eternal destiny, so that the complete gift of self to God through religious life may shine with all its beauty and purity before men.

With these thoughts, dear Brother Bishops, I once again express my fraternal affection and esteem. Commending you to the intercession of Saint Thomas, Apostle of India, I assure you of my prayers for you and for those entrusted to your pastoral care. To all I impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of grace and peace in the Lord.

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


On St. Thérèse of Lisieux
"This Love Has a Face, It Has a Name, It Is Jesus"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 6, 2011 - Here is a translation of the Italian-language catechesis Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience held in St. Peter's Square. Continuing with the cycle of catecheses on Doctors of the Church, the Pope centered his meditation on the figure of St. Thérèse of Lisieux (1873-1897).

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today I would like to speak to you about St. Thérèse of Lisieux, [also known as] Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, who lived only 24 years in this world, at the end of the 19th century, leading a very simple and hidden life, but who after her death and the publication of her writings, became one of the best known and loved saints.

"Little Thérèse" has not failed to help the simplest souls, little ones, the poor, those who suffer and who pray to her, but she has also illumined the whole Church with her profound spiritual doctrine, to the point that, in 1997 the Venerable John Paul II wished to give her the title of doctor of the Church, adding it to the title of patroness of the missions, which Pius XI gave her in 1939. My beloved predecessor described her as an "expert in the scientia amoris" ("Novo Millennio Ineunte," 27).

Thérèse expresses this science, which sees the whole truth of the faith shine in love, primarily in the account of her life, published a year after her death with the title "Story of a Soul." The book immediately had great success. It was translated into many languages and spread throughout the world. I would like to invite you to rediscover this little-great treasure, this luminous commentary on the Gospel fully lived! "Story of a Soul," in fact, is a marvelous history of Love, recounted with such authenticity, simplicity and freshness, before which the reader cannot but be fascinated! But, what was this Love that filled Thérèse's whole life, from her childhood to her death? Dear friends, this Love has a Face, it has a Name, it is Jesus! The saint spoke continually of Jesus. Let us review, therefore, the great stages of her life, to enter into the heart of her doctrine.

Thérèse was born on Jan. 2, 1873, in Alecon, a city of Normandy, in France. She was the youngest daughter of Louis and Zélie Martin, exemplary spouses and parents, both beatified on Oct. 19, 2008. They had nine children, four of whom died at an early age. Five daughters remained, all of whom became religious. Thérèse, at 4, was profoundly affected by the death of her mother (Ms A, 13r). The father, together with his daughters, then moved to the city of Lisieux, where the whole life of the saint unfolded. Later Thérèse, suffering from a serious nervous illness, was cured thanks to a divine grace, which she herself described as "the smile of the Virgin" (ibid., 29v-30v). She received her first Communion, which she lived intensely (Ibid., 35r), and put the Eucharistic Jesus at the center of her life.

The "Grace of Christmas" of 1886 marked the point of inflection, what she called her "complete conversion" (ibid., 44v-45r). In fact, she was completely cured of her infantile hyper-sensitivity and began a "giant's race." At the age of 14, Thérèse grew ever closer, with great faith, to Jesus Crucified, and took very seriously the case, apparently desperate, of a criminal condemned to death and impenitent (ibid., 45v-46v). "I wanted at all costs to prevent his going to hell," wrote the saint, with the certainty that her prayer would have put him in contact with the redeeming Blood of Jesus. It was her first and fundamental experience of spiritual maternity. "So much confidence I had in Jesus' Infinite Mercy," she wrote. With Mary Most Holy, the young Thérèse loves, believes and hopes with "a mother's heart" (cf. PR 6/10r).

In November of 1887, Thérèse went on pilgrimage to Rome with her father and her sister Celine (ibid., 55v-67r). The culminating moment for her was the audience with Pope Leo XIII, from whom she requested permission to enter the Carmel of Lisieux, though she was just 15 years old. A year later, her wish came true: She became a Carmelite, "to save souls and to pray for priests" (ibid., 69v). At the same time, her father's painful and humiliating mental illness began. It was a great suffering that led Thérèse to the contemplation of Jesus' Face in his Passion (ibid., 71rv).

In this way, her name in religion -- Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face -- expresses her whole life's program, in communion with the central mysteries of the Incarnation and the Redemption. Her religious profession, on the feast of the Nativity of Mary, Sept. 8, 1890, was for her a real spiritual marriage in the "littleness" of the Gospel, characterized by the symbol of the flower. "What a beautiful feast is the Nativity of Mary to become the Bride of Jesus!" she wrote. "I was the little Holy Virgin of one day, who presented her little flower to the little Jesus" (ibid., 77r). For Thérèse, to be a religious meant to be the bride of Jesus and mother of souls (cf. Ms B, 2v). On the same day, the saint wrote a prayer that indicates the direction of her life: She asked Jesus for the gift of his infinite love, to be the littlest one, and above all she asked for the salvation of all men. "That no soul be condemned today" (Pr 2). Of great importance is her Offering to Merciful Love, made on the feast of the Most Holy Trinity of 1895 (Ms A, 83v-84r; Pr 6): an offering that Thérèse shares immediately with her sisters, being now vice-mistress of novices.

Ten years after the "Grace of Christmas," in 1896 the "Grace of Easter" came, which opened the last period of Thérèse's life, with the beginning of her passion profoundly united to the Passion of Jesus. It was the passion of the body, with the illness that led her to death through great sufferings, but above all it was the passion of her soul, with a very painful test of faith (Ms C, 4v-7v). With Mary next to the cross of Jesus, Thérèse now lived the most heroic faith, as light in the darkness that invaded her soul. The Carmelite was aware of living this great trial for the salvation of all the atheists of the modern world, whom she called "brothers." Hence, she lived fraternal love more intensely (8r-33v): toward the sisters of her community, toward her two spiritual missionary brothers, toward priests and all men, especially the most alienated. She became a "universal sister!" Her kind and smiling charity was the expression of the profound joy whose secret she revealed to us: "Jesus, my joy is to love You" (P 45/7). In this context of suffering, living the greatest love in the smallest things of daily life, the saint fulfilled completely her vocation to be Love in the heart of the Church (cf. Ms B, 3v).

Thérèse died on the night of Sept. 30, 1897, pronouncing the simple words: "My God, I love You!," looking at the crucifix that she clasped in her hands. These last words of the saint are the key of her whole doctrine, of her interpretation of the Gospel. The act of love, expressed in her last breath, was like the continual breathing of her soul, like the beating of her heart. The simple words: "Jesus, I love you" are the center of all her writings. The act of love for Jesus introduces her in the Most Holy Trinity. She wrote: "Ah, you know it, Divine Jesus, I love you./ The spirit of Love inflames me with its fire,/ and loving You, I am attracted to the Father" (P 17/2).

Dear friends, with St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus we also must be able to repeat each day to the Lord that we want to live of love for him and for others, to learn in the school of the saints to love in a genuine and total way. Thérèse is one of the "little ones" of the Gospel who allow themselves to be led by God in the profundity of his Mystery. A guide for all, above all for those who among the People of God carry out the ministry of theologian. With humility and charity, faith and hope, Thérèse entered continually into the heart of sacred Scripture, which contains the Mystery of Christ. And this reading of the Bible, nourished by the science of love, is not opposed to academic science. The science of the saints, in fact, of which she speaks in the last page of the "Story of a Soul," is the highest science: "All the saints have understood it and in particular, perhaps, those who filled the universe with the radiation of the evangelical doctrine. Is it not, perhaps, through prayer that Sts. Paul, Augustine, John of the Cross, Thomas Aquinas, Francis, Dominic and so many other illustrious Friends of God obtained this divine science that fascinates the greatest geniuses" (Ms C, 36r).

Inseparable from the Gospel, the Eucharist was for Thérèse the sacrament of Divine Love that descends to the extreme to lift us to him. In her last Letter, the saint wrote these simple words on the image that the Child Jesus represents in the consecrated Host: "I cannot fear a God who for me has made himself so small! (...) I love him! In fact, he is none other than Love and Mercy!" (LT 266).

In the Gospel, Thérèse discovered above all the mercy of Jesus, to the point of affirming: "He has given me his infinite Mercy, through it I contemplate and adore the other divine perfections! (...) And then they all seem radiant with love, with Justice itself (and perhaps much more than any other), it seems to me covered with love" (Ms A, 84r). She expressed herself also in this way in the last lines of the "Story of a Soul": "No sooner I leaf through the Holy Gospel, I immediately breathe the perfume of Jesus' life and I know where to run to .... It's not the first place, but the last to which I go ... Yes, I feel it, even if I had on my conscience all the sins than can be committed, I would go with my heart broken by repentance, to throw myself into Jesus' arms, because I know how much he loves the Prodigal Son who returns to Him" (Ms C, 36v-37r).

"Trust and Love" are therefore the final period of the account of her life, two words that like beacons, illumined the whole of her path of sanctity, to be able to lead others on her same "little way of trust and love" of spiritual childhood (cf Ms C, 2v-3r; LT 226). Trust like that of the child who abandons himself into the hands of God, inseparably because of the strong, radical commitment of true love, which is the total gift of self, for ever, as the saint said contemplating Mary: "To love is to give everything, and to give oneself" (Perche ti amo, O Maria, P 54/22). Thus Thérèse indicates to all of us that Christian life consists in living fully the grace of baptism in the total gift of self to the Love of the Father, to live like Christ, in the fire of the Holy Spirit, his very love for others.

[The Holy Father then greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Our catechesis today deals with Saint Theresa of Lisieux, the young Carmelite nun whose teaching of the "little way" of holiness has been so influential in our time. Born and raised in a devout French family, Theresa received permission to enter the Carmel of Lisieux at the tender age of fifteen. Her name in religion -- Sister Theresa of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face -- expresses the heart of her spirituality, centred on the contemplation of God's love revealed in the mysteries of the Incarnation and Redemption. In imitation of Christ, Theresa sought to be little in all things and to seek the salvation of the world. Taken ill in her twenty-third year, she endured great physical suffering in union with the crucified Lord; she also experienced a painful testing of faith which she offered for the salvation of those who deny God. By striving to embody God's love in the smallest things of life, Theresa found her vocation to be "love in the heart of the Church." May her example and prayers help us to follow "the little way of trust and love" in spiritual childhood, abandoning ourselves completely to the love of God and the good of souls.


On Laetare Sunday
"Let Us Revive in Ourselves the Gift Received in Baptism"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 3, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before and after praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

The Lenten journey that we are embarked upon is a special time of grace during which we can experience the gift of the Lord’s benevolence in our regard. The liturgy of this Sunday, which we call “Laetare Sunday,” invites us to rejoice and be glad as the entrance antiphon of the Eucharistic celebration proclaims: “Rejoice, Jerusalem! Be glad for her, you who love her; rejoice with her, you who mourned for her, and you will find contentment at her consoling breasts” (cf. Isaiah 66:10-11).

What is the profound reason for this joy? Today’s Gospel, in which Jesus heals a man blind from birth, tells us. The question that the Lord Jesus asks the man who was blind constitutes the culmination of the account: “Do you believe in the Son of man?” (John 9:35). That man recognizes the sign that Jesus works and passes from the light of the eyes to the light of faith: “I believe, Lord” (John 9:38).

It is to be noted how a simple and sincere person, in a gradual way, sets out on the journey of faith: In a first moment he meets Jesus as a “man” among others, then he considers him a “prophet,” and in the end his eyes open and he proclaims him “Lord.” In opposition to the faith of the blind man there is the hardening of the hearts of the Pharisees who do not want to accept the miracle, because they refuse to accept Jesus as the Messiah. The crowd, instead, stops to debate about what happened and remains distant and indifferent. The parents themselves of the blind man are overcome by fear of the judgment of others.

And we, what attitude do we assume toward Jesus? We too, because of the sin of Adam, are born “blind,” but in the baptismal fount we were enlightened by the grace of Christ. Sin wounded humanity, destining it to the obscurity of death, but in Christ there shines the newness of life and the goal to which we are called. In him, reinvigorated by the Holy Spirit, we receive the strength to defeat evil and do good. In fact, the Christian life is a continually conforming to Christ, the image of the new man, to attain full communion with God. The Lord Jesus is “the light of the world” (John 8:12), because in him “there shines the knowledge of the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 4:6) that continues to reveal in the complex plot of history the meaning of human existence.

In the rite of baptism, the candle that is presented, lit from the great paschal candle, which is the symbol of the risen Christ, is a sign that helps us grasp what happens in the sacrament. When we let our life be illumined by the light of Christ, we experience the joy of being liberated from all that threatens our life’s complete fulfillment. In these days that prepare us for Easter let us revive in ourselves the gift received in baptism, that flame that is sometimes in danger of being extinguished. We must make it burn brighter with prayer and charity toward our neighbor.

We entrust the Lenten journey to the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, that all may encounter Christ, the Savior of the World.

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

Dear brothers and sisters, yesterday was the sixth anniversary of the death of my beloved predecessor, Venerable John Paul II. Because of his upcoming beatification, I did not celebrate the traditional Mass of suffrage for him, but I recalled him affectionately in prayer, as I think all of you did. While through the Lenten journey we prepare for the feast of Easter, we also draw near with joy to the day in which we will be able to venerate this great Pontiff and witness of Christ as Blessed, and entrust ourselves still more to his intercession.


Papal Address on Sacrament of Reconciliation
"How Many Conversions ... Began in a Confessional"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 2, 2011 - Here is a L'Osservatore Romano translation of Benedict XVI's March 25 address to participants in a course on the internal forum organized by the Apostolic Penitentiary.

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Dear Friends,

I am very glad to address to each one of you my most cordial welcome. I greet Cardinal Fortunato Baldelli, Major Penitentiary, and I thank him for his courteous words. I greet Bishop Gianfranco Girotti, Regent of the Penitentiary, the personnel, the co-workers and all the participants in the Course on the Internal Forum which has now become a traditional appointment and an important occasion for deepening the knowledge of topics linked to the sacrament of Penance. I would like to reflect with you on an aspect not sufficiently thought about but which is of great spiritual and pastoral importance: the pedagogical value of Sacramental Confession.

Although it is true that it is always necessary to safeguard the objectivity of the effects of the sacrament and its correct celebration in accordance with the norms of the Rite of Penance, it is not out of place to reflect on how much it can educate the faith of both the minister and the penitent. The faithful and generous availability of priests to hear confessions - after the example of the great saints of the past from St John Mary Vianney to St John Bosco, from St Josemaría Escrivá to St Pius of Pietrelcina, from St Joseph Cafasso to St Leopold Mandi - shows all of us that the confessional may be a real "place" of sanctification.

How does the sacrament of Penance educate? In what sense does its celebration have pedagogical value, especially for ministers? We may start by recognizing that the mission of priests is a unique and privileged observation point, from which it is daily granted to contemplate the splendour of divine Mercy. How often in celebrating the sacrament of Penance the priest witnesses real miracles of conversion which, in renewing "the encounter with an event, a person" (Deus Caritas Est, n. 1), reinforces his own faith! Basically, hearing confession means witnessing as many professiones fidei as there are penitents, and contemplating the merciful God's action in history, feeling tangibly the saving effects of the Cross and of the Resurrection of Christ, in every epoch and for every person.

We are often faced with true and proper existential and spiritual dramas that find no answer in human words but are embraced and taken up by divine Love, which pardons and transforms: "though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow (Is 1:18).

If, on the one hand knowing and, in a certain way, visiting the depths of the human heart, even its darkest aspects, tests the humanity and the faith of the priest himself, on the other, it fosters within him the certainty that it is God who has the last word over human evil and history, it is his Mercy which can make all things new (cf. Rev 21:5).

Then, how much the priest can learn from exemplary penitents: through their spiritual life, the seriousness with which they carry out their examination of conscience, the transparency with which they admit their sins and their docility to the Church's teaching and to the confessor's instructions.

From the administration of the sacrament of Penance we may draw profound lessons of humility and faith! It is a very strong appeal to each priest for knowledge of his own identity. We will never be able to hear the confessions of our brothers and sisters solely by virtue of our humanity! If they approach us, it is only because we are priests, configured to Christ the Eternal High Priest, and enabled to act in his Name and in his Person, to make God who forgives, renews and transforms, truly present. The celebration of the sacrament of Penance has a pedagogical value for the priest, as regards his faith, as well as the truth and poverty of his person, and nourishes within him an awareness of the sacramental identity.

What is the pedagogical value of the sacrament of Penance for penitents? We should state beforehand that first and foremost it depends on the action of Grace and on the objective effect on the soul of the member of the faithful. Of course, sacramental Reconciliation is one of the moments in which personal freedom and an awareness of self need to be expressed particularly clearly. It is perhaps also for this reason, in an epoch of relativism and of the consequent attenuated awareness of one's being, that this sacramental practice is also weakened.

Examination of conscience has an important pedagogical value. It teaches us how to look squarely at our life, to compare it with the truth of the Gospel and to evaluate it with parameters that are not only human but are also borrowed from divine Revelation. Comparison with the Commandments, with the Beatitudes and, especially, with the Precept of love, constitutes the first great "school of penance".

In our time, marked by noise, distraction and loneliness, the penitent's conversation with the confessor can be one of the few - if not the only - opportunities to be truly heard in depth.

Dear priests, do not neglect to allow enough room for the exercise of the ministry of Penance in the confessional: to be welcomed and heard is also a human sign of God's welcoming kindness to his children. Moreover the integral confession of sins teaches the penitent humility, recognition of his or her own frailty and, at the same time, an awareness of the need for God's forgiveness and the trust that divine Grace can transform his life. Likewise, listening to the confessor's recommendations and advice is important for judging actions, for the spiritual journey and for the inner healing of the penitent.

Let us not forget how many conversions and how many truly holy lives began in a confessional! The acceptance of the penance and listening to the words "I absolve you from your sins", are, lastly, a true school of love and hope that guides the person to full trust in the God Love, revealed in Jesus Christ, to responsibility and to the commitment to continuous conversion.

Dear priests, our own prior experience of divine Mercy and of being humble instruments teaches us an ever more faithful celebration of the Sacrament of Penance and profound gratitude to God who "gave us the ministry of reconciliation" (2 Cor 5:18).

I entrust to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mater misericordiae and Refugium peccatorum, the fruits of your Course on the Internal Forum and the ministry of all Confessors, as I bless you all with great affection.

(©L'Osservatore Romano - 30 March 2011)


On St. Alphonsus Liguori
"Priests Are a Visible Sign of the Infinite Mercy of God"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 30, 2011 - Here is a translation of the Italian-language catechesis Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience held in St. Peter's Square. Continuing the cycle of catecheses on the doctors of the Church, he focused his meditation on St. Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787).

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today I would like to present to you the figure of a holy doctor of the Church to whom we are very indebted, since he was an outstanding moral theologian and a teacher of the spiritual life for everyone, above all for simple people. He is the author of the words and music of one of the most popular Christmas songs in Italy, "Tu scendi dalle stelle" [You come down from the stars], and of many other things.

Alphonsus Maria Liguori was born in 1696 of a noble and rich Neapolitan family. Gifted with remarkable intellectual qualities, at just 16 he received a degree in civil and canon law. He was the most brilliant lawyer of the bar in Naples: For eight years he won every cause he defended. However, his soul thirsted for God and desired perfection and the Lord led him to understand that he was calling him to another vocation. In fact, in 1723, indignant about the corruption and injustice that plagued his environment, he left his profession -- and with it wealth and success -- and decided to become a priest, despite his father's opposition.

He had excellent teachers, who introduced him to the study of sacred Scripture, history of the Church and mysticism. He acquired a vast theological culture that he brought to fruition when, after a few years, he began his work as a writer. He was ordained a priest in 1726 and for his ministry, joined the diocesan Congregation of the Apostolic Missions.

Alphonsus began evangelization and catechesis among the most humble strata of Neapolitan society, to whom he loved to preach and whom he instructed on the basic truths of the faith. Not a few of these persons whom he addressed, poor and modest, very often were dedicated to vices and carried out criminal activity. With patience he taught them to pray, encouraging them to improve their way of living. Alphonsus obtained great results: In the poorest quarters of the city, there were increasing groups of persons who gathered in the evening in private homes and shops, to pray and meditate on the Word of God, under the guidance of some catechists formed by Alphonsus and other priests, who regularly visited these groups of faithful. When, by desire of the archbishop of Naples, these meetings were held in the chapels of the city, they took the name "evening chapels." They were a real and proper source of moral education, of social healing, of reciprocal help among the poor: thefts, duels and prostitution virtually disappeared.

Even though the social and religious context of St. Alphonsus' time was very different from ours, these "evening chapels" are a model of missionary action in which we can be inspired today as well, for a "new evangelization," particularly among the poorest, and to build a more just, fraternal and solidary human coexistence. Entrusted to priests is a task of spiritual ministry, while well-formed laymen can be effective Christian leaders, genuine evangelical leaven in the heart of society.

After having thought of leaving to evangelize the pagan peoples, Alphonsus, at the age of 35, came into contact with peasants and shepherds of the interior regions of the Kingdom of Naples and, stricken by their religious ignorance and their state of abandonment, he decided to leave the capital and dedicate himself to these people, who were poor spiritually and materially. In 1732 he founded the religious Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, which he placed under the protection of Bishop Thomas Falcoia, and of which he himself became superior. These religious, guided by Alphonsus, were genuine itinerant missionaries who reached the most remote villages, exhorting to conversion and to perseverance in the Christian life, above all through prayer. Still today, the Redemptorists spread over so many countries of the world with new forms of apostolate, continue this mission of evangelization. I think of them with gratitude, exhorting them to always be faithful following the example of their holy founder.

Esteemed for his goodness and pastoral zeal, in 1762 Alphonsus was appointed bishop of Sant'Agata dei Goti, a ministry that he left in 1775 by the concession of Pope Pius VI because of the illnesses afflicting him. In 1787 that same Pontiff, hearing the news of his death that came after many sufferings, exclaimed: "He was a saint!" And he was not mistaken: Alphonsus was canonized in 1839, and in 1871 he was declared a doctor of the Church.

This title was bestowed on him for many reasons. First of all, because he proposed a rich teaching of moral theology, which adequately expresses Catholic doctrine, to the point that Pope Pius XII proclaimed him "patron of all confessors and moral theologians." Widespread at his time was a very rigorous interpretation of moral life, also because of the Jansenist mentality that, instead of nourishing trust and hope in God's mercy, fomented fear and presented God's face as frowning and severe, very far from that revealed to us by Jesus.

Above all in his principal work, titled "Moral Theology," St. Alphonsus proposes a balanced and convincing synthesis between the demands of God's law, sculpted in our hearts, revealed fully by Christ and interpreted authoritatively by the Church, and the dynamics of man's conscience and his liberty, which precisely by adherence to truth and goodness allow for the maturation and fulfillment of the person. To pastors of souls and to confessors, Alphonsus recommended faithfulness to Catholic moral doctrine, accompanied by a comprehensive and gentle attitude so that penitents could feel accompanied, supported and encouraged in their journey of faith and Christian life.

St. Alphonsus never tired of repeating that priests are a visible sign of the infinite mercy of God, who forgives and illumines the mind and heart of the sinner so that he will convert and change his life. In our time, in which there are clear signs of the loss of the moral conscience and -- it must be acknowledged -- of a certain lack of appreciation of the sacrament of confession, the teaching of St. Alphonsus is again of great timeliness.

Together with the works of theology, St. Alphonsus composed many other writings, designed for the religious formation of the people. The style is simple and pleasing. Read and translated into numerous languages, the works of St. Alphonsus have contributed to mold popular spirituality of the last two centuries. Some of them are texts to be read with great profit again today, such as "The Eternal Maxims," "The Glories of Mary," "The Practice of Loving Jesus Christ" -- this last one a work that represents the synthesis of his thought and his masterpiece.

He insisted a lot on the need for prayer, which enables one to open to Divine Grace to carry out daily the will of God and to obtain one's sanctification. In regard to prayer, he wrote: "God does not deny to anyone the grace of prayer, with which one obtains the help to overcome every concupiscence and every temptation. And I say, and repeat and will always repeat, for my entire life, that the whole of our salvation rests on prayer." From which stems his famous axiom: "He who prays is saved" (From the great means of prayer and related booklets. Opere ascetiche II, Rome 1962, p. 171).

There comes to mind, in this connection, the exhortation of my predecessor, the Venerable Servant of God John Paul II: "Christian communities must become genuine 'schools' of prayer. Therefore, education in prayer should become in some way a key-point of all pastoral planning" (Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, 33, 34).

Outstanding among the forms of prayer fervently recommended by St. Alphonsus is the visit to the Most Blessed Sacrament or, as we would say today, adoration -- brief or prolonged, personal or in community -- of the Eucharist. "Certainly," wrote Alphonsus, "among all the devotions this one of adoration of the sacramental Jesus is the first after the sacraments, the dearest to God and the most useful to us. O, what a beautiful delight to be before an altar with faith and to present to him our needs, as a friend does to another friend with whom one has full confidence!" (Visits to the Most Blessed Sacrament and to Mary Most Holy for each day of the month. Introduction).

Alphonsus' spirituality is in fact eminently Christological, centered on Christ and his Gospel. Meditation on the mystery of the incarnation and the passion of the Lord were often the object of his preaching: In these events, in fact, redemption is offered "copiously" to all men. And precisely because it is Christological, Alphonsus' piety is also exquisitely Marian. Most devoted to Mary, he illustrated her role in the history of salvation: partner of the Redemption and Mediatrix of grace, Mother, Advocate and Queen. Moreover, St. Alphonsus affirmed that devotion to Mary will be of great comfort at the moment of our death. He was convinced that meditation on our eternal destiny, on our call to participate for ever in God's blessedness, as well as on the tragic possibility of damnation, contributes to live with serenity and commitment, and to face the reality of death always preserving full trust in God's goodness.

St. Alphonsus Maria Liguori is an example of a zealous pastor who won souls preaching the Gospel and administering the sacraments, combined with a way of acting marked by gentle and meek goodness, which was born from his intense relationship with God, who is infinite Goodness. He had a realistically optimistic vision of the resources of goods that the Lord gives to every man and gave importance to the affections and sentiments of the heart, in addition to the mind, to be able to love God and one's neighbor.

In conclusion, I would like to remind that our saint, similar to St. Francis de Sales -- of whom I spoke a few weeks ago -- insists on saying that holiness is accessible to every Christian: "The religious as religious, the lay person as lay person, the priest as priest, the married as married, the merchant as merchant, the soldier as soldier, and so on speaking of every other state" (Practice of Loving Jesus Christ, Opere ascetiche I, Rome 1933, p. 79). I thank the Lord who, with his Providence, raises saints and doctors in different times and places who, speaking the same language, invite us to grow in faith and to live with love and joy our being Christians in the simple actions of every day, to walk on the path of holiness, on the path to God and to true joy. Thank you.

[The Holy Father then greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Our catechesis today deals with Saint Alphonsus Liguori, an outstanding eighteenth-century preacher, scholar and Doctor of the Church. Alphonsus left a brilliant career as a lawyer to become a priest, and greatly contributed to the renewal of the Church in his native Naples. He began as a missionary among the urban poor, gathering small groups for prayer and instruction in the faith.

Broadening his pastoral outreach, he founded the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer -- the Redemptorists -- as a group of itinerant missionaries. Alphonsus' pastoral zeal also found expression in his moral teaching, which emphasized divine mercy and the relationship between God's law and our deepest human needs and aspirations. His many spiritual writings, marked by a deep Christological and Marian piety, stressed the practice of prayer, especially before the Blessed Sacrament. May this great Doctor of the Church, venerated also as the patron of moral theologians, help us to respond ever more fully to God's call to grow in holiness, and inspire in priests, religious and laity a firm commitment to the new evangelization.


Pope's Letter to Family Meeting of Latin American Bishops
"Encourage Parents in Their ... Obligation to Educate the New Generations"

BOGOTA, Colombia, MARCH 29, 2011 - Here is a translation of the message Benedict XVI sent to participants in a meeting of bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean responsible for the pastoral care of families and life. The five-day meeting, which ends Friday in Bogota, is sponsored by the Latin American bishops' council (CELAM) and the Pontifical Council for the Family.

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To the Venerable Brother
Cardinal Ennio Antonelli
President of the Pontifical Council for the Family

I am pleased to greet cordially Your Eminence as well as the other cardinals, bishops and priests taking part in the meeting of persons in charge of the episcopal commissions for family and life of Latin America and the Caribbean, which is taking place in Bogota.

As the 5th General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean has reiterated, the family is the most beloved value of the peoples of this noble region. For this reason, the pastoral care of families has a primary place in the evangelizing action of each of the different particular Churches, promoting the culture of life and working so that the rights of families are recognized and respected.

We witness with sorrow, however, how homes suffer increasingly adverse situations caused by rapid cultural changes, social instability, migratory flows, poverty, programs of education that trivialize sexuality and false ideologies. We cannot remain indifferent in face of these challenges. In the Gospel we find light to respond to them without being discouraged. With his grace, Christ stimulates us to work diligently and enthusiastically to support each of the members of families in the discovery of the plan of love that God has for the human person. Hence, no effort will be useless in working so that every family, founded on the indissoluble union between a man and a woman, will carry out its mission to be a living cell of society, seedbed of virtues, school of constructive and peaceful coexistence, instrument of concord, and privileged realm in which human life will be received and protected, in a joyful and responsible way, from its beginning to its natural end. It is also worthwhile to continue to encourage parents in their right and fundamental obligation to educate the new generations in the faith and in the values that dignify human existence.

I do not doubt that the continental mission promoted in Aparecida, which is awakening so many hopes everywhere, will serve to revive in the beloved Latin American and Caribbean countries the matrimonial and family ministry. The Church counts on Christian homes, calling them to be a real subject of evangelization and apostolate and inviting them to become conscious of their valuable mission in the world.

Hence, I encourage all the participants in this significant reunion to develop in their reflections the great pastoral lines marked out by the episcopates gathered in Aparecida, thus fostering the family's ability to live a profound encounter with Christ through listening to his word, prayer, the sacramental life and the exercise of charity. In this way they will be helped to put into practice a solid spirituality which fosters in all its members a determined aspiration to sanctity, without fear of showing the beauty of the high ideals and ethical and moral demands of life in Christ. To promote this, it is necessary to enhance the formation of all those who, in one way or another, are dedicated to the evangelization of families. Likewise, it is important to trace paths of collaboration with all men and women of good will to continue to intensely protect human life, marriage and the family in the whole region.

I conclude expressing my affection and solidarity to all the families of Latin America and the Caribbean, in particular those who find themselves in situations of difficulty, while commending at the same time to the powerful protection of the most Holy Virgin Mary the fruits of this laudable initiative, I impart from my heart the apostolic blessing, which I am pleased to extend to all those who are involved in the evangelization and promotion of the good of families.

Vatican, March 28, 2011



Christ, Weary and Thirsty
"Jesus' Weariness ... Can Be Seen as a Prelude to the Passion"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 27, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before praying the midday Angelus together with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

This third Sunday of Lent is marked by the celebrated dialogue of Jesus with the Samaritan woman, recounted by the Evangelist John. The woman goes every day to get water from an ancient well put there by the patriarch Jacob, and that day Jesus was sitting there, "tired from the journey" (John 4:6). St. Augustine comments: "It is not for nothing that Jesus is tired … the power of Christ created you, the weakness of Christ recreated you … With his power he created us, with his weakness he has come to find us" (In Ioh. Ev., 15, 2). Jesus' weariness, sign of his true humanity, can be seen as a prelude to the passion, with which he brought the work of our redemption to completion.

The theme of "thirst" emerges in particular in the meeting with the Samaritan woman at the well and it culminates with the cry on the cross: "I thirst" (John 19:28). Of course this thirst, like the weariness, has a physical basis. But Jesus, as Augustine continues, "had thirst of the woman's faith" (In Ioh. Ev. 15, 11), as he has for the faith of all of us. God the Father sent him to quench our thirst for eternal life, giving us his love, but asks our faith for bestowing this gift. Love's omnipotence always respects man's freedom; it knocks at his heart and awaits his answer with patience.

In the meeting with the Samaritan woman the symbol of water is prominent. It clearly alludes to the sacrament of baptism, the source of new life through faith in the grace of God. This Gospel, in fact -- as I pointed out in the catechesis on Ash Wednesday -- is part of the ancient program of preparation of the catechumens for Christian initiation, which took place in the great Vigil on Easter night. "Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give," Jesus says, "will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life" (John 4:14). This water represents the Holy Spirit, the "gift" par excellence that Jesus has come to bring us from God the Father. Whoever is reborn by the water of the Holy Spirit, that is, baptism, enters into a real relation with God, a filial relation, and can worship "in spirit and truth" (John 4:23, 24), as Jesus discloses to the Samaritan woman. Thanks to the encounter with Jesus Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit, man's faith comes to its fulfillment, as an answer to God's revelation.

Each one of us can identify ourselves with the Samaritan woman: Jesus awaits us, especially during this season of Lent, to speak to our hearts, to my heart. Let us pause a moment in silence, in our room, or in a church, or in a place apart. Let us listen to the voice that says: "If you knew the gift of God." May the Virgin Mary help us not to miss this opportunity on which our true happiness depends.

[After the Angelus the Pope made the following appeal in Italian:]

In the face of the ever more dramatic news that is coming from Libya, my trepidation for the safety of the civil population grows as does my apprehension for the developments of the situation, which is now marked by the use of arms. In moments of great tension there is a greater urgency to the exigency to have recourse to every means at the disposal of diplomatic action and to support even the weakest signs of openness and desire for reconciliation among all the parties involved, in the pursuit of peaceful and lasting solutions. In this regard, as I lift up my prayer to the Lord for a return to concord in Libya and the whole region of North Africa, I make a concerned appeal to international organizations and to political and military leaders for the immediate launching of dialogue and a suspension of the use of weapons.

I finally address the authorities and citizens of the Middle East, where in recent days various episodes of violence have sprung up, asking that there too the way of dialogue and reconciliation be privileged in the pursuit of just and fraternal coexistence.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

[He then greeted the pilgrims in various languages. In English, he said:]

I offer a warm greeting to all the English-speaking visitors present for this Angelus prayer. In today's Gospel Jesus speaks to the Samaritan women of the gift of the Holy Spirit, the water which wells up to eternal life in those who believe. Through our Lenten observance may all of us be renewed in the grace of our Baptism and prepare with hearts renewed to celebrate the gift of new life at Easter. Upon you and your families I invoke God's blessings of joy and peace!

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

[In Italian, he said:]

I wish everyone a good Sunday!


Papal Address at Rome's Fosse Ardeatine
"What Happened Here ... Is a Deeply Grave Offense Against God"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 27, 2011 - This is the address Benedict XVI delivered today upon visiting Fosse Ardeatine on the outskirts of Rome to mark the 67th anniversary of the 1944 Nazi massacre of 335 Italians with a private visit to the commemorative monument.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters!

I gladly accepted the invitation of the "Associazione Nazionale tra le Famiglie Italiane dei Martiri caduti per la libertà della Patria" (National Association of the Italian Families of the Martyrs Who Fell for the Freedom of the Fatherland) to make a pilgrimage to this memorial, dear to all Italians, especially to the people of Rome. I greet the cardinal vicar, the chief rabbi, the president of the association, the commissary general, the director of the mausoleum and, in a special way, the relatives of the victims, and all those present.

"I believe in God and in Italy / I believe in the resurrection / of the martyrs and heroes / I believe in the rebirth / of the fatherland and in / the freedom of the people." These words were scratched on the wall of a torture cell on the Via Tasso in Rome during the Nazi occupation. They are the testimony of an unknown person who was imprisoned in the cell and show that the human soul remains free even in the harshest of conditions.

"I believe in God and in Italy": this expression struck me also because this year is the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy, but above all because it affirms the primacy of faith, from which confidence and hope for Italy and for its future. What happened here on March 24, 1944, is a deeply grave offense against God because it is deliberate violence of man against man. It is the most execrable effect of war, of every war, while God is life, peace, communion.

Like my predecessors, I have come here to pray and to renew the memory. I have come to invoke divine mercy, which alone can fill the voids, the chasms opened by men when, driven by blind violence, they renounce their dignity as sons of God and brothers. I too, as Bishop of Rome, the city consecrated by the blood of the martyrs of the Gospel of Love, I come to pay homage to these brothers, murdered a short distance from the ancient catacombs.

"I believe in God and in Italy." In that testimony scrawled in a place of violence and death, the link between faith and love of the fatherland appears in all of his purity, without any rhetoric. Whoever wrote those words did it out of an intimate conviction, as an extreme witness to truth believed, which ennobles the human soul even in extreme abasement. Every man is called to realize his dignity in this way: witnessing to that truth that he recognizes with his conscience.

Another witness struck me, and this was found right in the Fosse Ardeatine. A sheet of paper on which one of the fallen wrote: "God my great Father, we pray to you that you might protect the Jews from the barbaric persecutions. 1 Pater noster, 10 Ave Maria, 1 Gloria Patri."

In that moment so tragic, so inhuman, in the heart of that person there was the greatest prayer: "God my Father" Father of all! As on the lips of Jesus, dying on the cross: "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit." In that name, "Father," there is the sure guarantee of hope; the possibility of a different future, free from hatred and revenge, a future of freedom and fraternity, for Rome, Italy, Europe, the world. Yes, wherever he is, on every continent, to whatever people he belongs, man is the son of the Father who is in heaven, he is the brother of all in humanity.

But this being son and brother is not taken for granted. The Fosse Ardeatine unfortunately show this. It is necessary to want it, it is necessary to say yes to good and no to evil. It is necessary to believe in the God of love and of life, and reject every other false image of the divine, that betrays his holy name and consequently betrays man, made in his image.

Thus, in this place, a sorrowful memorial of the most horrendous evil, the truest response is to take each other’s hands, as brothers, and say: Our Father, we believe in you, and with the power of your love we want to walk together, in peace, in Rome, In Italy, in Europe, in the whole world. Amen.


Pope's Address to Terni Pilgrimage Group
"Work Is a Fundamental Element of the Person and Society"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 27, 2011 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered Saturday in Paul VI Hall upon receiving in audience participants of a pilgrimage from the Diocese of Terni-Narni-Amelia, Italy, on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the 1981 visit of Pope John Paul II to Terni and its steel industry.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters,

I am very happy to receive you this morning and to offer my cordial greeting to the officials who are present, the workers and to all of you who have come as pilgrims to the See of Peter. A special greeting to Bishop Vincenzo Paglia, whom I thank for the words that he addressed to me also on your behalf. You have come in great numbers to this meeting -- I am sorry that not everyone was able to come inside -- on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of John Paul II's visit to Terni.

Today we would like to recall him in a special way for the love that he showed for the working world; we can almost hear him repeat the first words that he spoke shortly after he arrived at Terni: "The main reason for this visit, which takes place on St. Joseph's day … is to bring a word of encouragement to all the workers and express my solidarity with them, my friendship and my affection" (Speech to Officials in Terni, March 19, 1981). I make these sentiments my own and from my heart I embrace all of you and your families. On the day of my election, I also presented myself with conviction as a "humble worker in the Lord's vineyard," and today, together with you, I would like to remember all workers and entrust them to the protection of St. Joseph the Worker.

Terni is marked by the presence of one of the largest steel factories, which has contributed to the growth of a significant worker culture. A path with bright spots but also with difficult moments, like the one that we are experiencing today. The crisis of industrial stability is a harsh trial for the life of the city, which must rethink its future. In all of this your life as workers is also involved along with that of your families. In the words of your bishop I heard the echo of the worries that you carry in your heart.

I know that the diocesan church makes them her own and feels the responsibility of standing with you to communicate to you the hope of the Gospel and the strength to build a more just and worth society for man. And she does this beginning from the source, from the Eucharist. In his first pastoral letter, "The Eucharist Saves the World," your bishop indicated the source that you must draw from and return to in order to live the joy of the faith and have passion for improving the world. The Sunday Eucharist has thus become the fulcrum of the diocese's pastoral action. It is a decision that has born its fruits; participation in the Sunday Eucharist has increased, from which the diocese's commitment to your land takes its start.

From the Eucharist, in fact, in which Christ makes himself present in his supreme act of love for all of us, we learn to live in society as Christians, to make it more welcoming, more solidary, more attentive to the needs of everyone -- especially the weakest -- richer in love. St. Ignatius of Antioch, bishop and martyr, defined Christians as those who "live according to Sunday" (iuxta dominicum viventes), that is, "according to the Eucharist." Living in a "eucharistic way" means living as one Body, one family, one society bound together by love. The exhortation to be "eucharistic" is not a mere moral invitation addressed to individuals, but it is much more: it is the exhortation to participate in Jesus' dynamism itself, Jesus who offers his life for others so that all might become one.

Within this context there is also situated the theme of work, which concerns you today, with its problems, especially unemployment. It is important always to remember that work is a fundamental element of the person and society. If it is difficult to find work, the conditions for society itself -- living according to the demands of the common good -- becomes threatened. In the encyclical "Caritas in Veritate," as Bishop Paglia recalled -- I said that we must not fail "to prioritize the goal of access to steady employment for everyone" (32).

I would also like to mention the grave problem of job safety. I know that you have had to face this tragic reality many times. We must make every effort to break the chain of deaths and accidents. And what can be said about dangers in the workplace above all with regard to young people? It is something that causes anxiety in many families! The bishop also touched on the difficult situation of the chemical industry in your town along with problems in the steelworks. I am especially near to you, putting in God's hands all of your anxieties and worries, and it is my wish that, in the logic of gratuitousness and solidarity, these problems will be overcome, so that you are assured of safe, dignified and stable work.

Work, my friends, helps us to be closer to God and to others. Jesus himself was a worker, indeed he spent most of his earthly life in Nazareth in Joseph's shop. The evangelist Matthew records that the people spoke of Jesus as the "carpenter's son" (Matthew 13:55) and John Paul II spoke in Terni of the "Gospel of Work," saying that it was "written above all by the fact that the Son of God, becoming man, worked with his own hands. In fact, his work, which was a physical work, occupied the majority of his life on this earth, and it thus entered into the work of his redemption of man and the world" (Speech to Workers in Terni, March 19, 1981).

Already this speaks to us of dignity of work, indeed of the specific dignity of human work that is inserted into the mystery itself of redemption. It is important to understand it in this Christian perspective. Often it is understood instead only as an instrument for gain if not, in various situations in the world, as a means of exploitation and so as an offense to the dignity itself of the human person. I would also like to note the problem of work on Sunday. Unfortunately, in our societies the rhythm of consumption threatens to steal away the meaning of feasts and of Sunday as the day of the Lord and of the community.

Dear workers, dear friends all, I would like to conclude these brief words of mine telling you that the Church supports, comforts, encourages direct effort to guarantee safe, dignified and stable work for everyone. The Pope is near to you and your families, your children, your young people, your elderly and he carries all of you in his hear before God. May the Lord bless you, your work and your future. Thank you.


Benedict XVI's Message to Courtyard of the Gentiles
"Let Your Deepest Feelings Rise Toward the Unknown God"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 26, 2011 - Here is the text of the video message of Benedict XVI sent to the the Courtyard of the Gentiles, a new forum for dialogue between believers and nonbelievers, which was launched Thursday at the Paris headquarters of UNESCO, in the presence of diplomats, international officials and representatives of the world of culture.

The initiative, promoted by the Pontifical Council for Culture, takes up a suggestion of Benedict XVI to create a space for dialogue "with those to whom religion is something foreign, to whom God is unknown and who nevertheless do not want to be left merely Godless, but rather to draw near to him, albeit as the Unknown" (Benedict XVI, Dec. 21, 2009).

Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, chose the French capital to launch the forum because of its symbolic status as the home of the Enlightenment and its impact on the world.

* * *
Dear young people, dear friends!

I know that at the invitation of Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, the Archbishop of Paris, and of Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, the President of the Pontifical Council for Culture, you are gathered in great numbers in front of the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. I greet all of you, together with our brothers and friends from the Taizé Community. I am grateful to the Pontifical Council for having taken up and extended my invitation to open a number of "Courts of the Gentiles" within the Church. This image refers to the vast open space near the Temple of Jerusalem where all those who did not share the faith of Israel could approach the Temple and ask questions about religion. There they could meet the scribes, speak of faith and even pray to the unknown God. The Court was then an area of separation, since Gentiles did not have the right to enter the consecrated area, yet Jesus Christ came to "break down the dividing wall" between Jews and Gentiles, and to "reconcile both to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility in himself". In the words of Saint Paul, "He came and proclaimed peace..." (cf. Eph 2:14-17).

At the heart of the "City of Light", in front of the magnificent masterwork of French religious culture which is Notre Dame, a great court has been created in order to give fresh impetus to respectful and friendly encounter between people of differing convictions. You young people, believers and nonbelievers alike, have chosen to come together this evening, as you do in your daily lives, in order to meet one another and to discuss the great questions of human existence.

Nowadays many people acknowledge that they are not part of any religion, yet they long for a new world, a world that is freer, more just and united, more peaceful and happy. In speaking to you tonight, I think of all the things you have to say to each other. Those of you who are nonbelievers challenge believers in a particular way to live in a way consistent with the faith they profess and by your rejection of any distortion of religion which would make it unworthy of man.

Those of you who are believers long to tell your friends that the treasure dwelling within you is meant to be shared, it raises questions, it calls for reflection. The question of God is not a menace to society, it does not threaten a truly human life! The question of God must not be absent from the other great questions of our time.

Dear friends, you are challenged to build bridges between one another. Take advantage of this opportunity to discover, deep within your hearts and with serious arguments, the ways which lead to profound dialogue. You have so much to say to one another! Do not turn away from the challenges and issues before you!

I believe deeply that the encounter of faith and reason enables us to find ourselves. But all too often reason falters in the face of self-interest and the lure of profit, and is forced to regard the latter as the ultimate criterion. Striving for truth is not easy. But each of us is called to make a courageous decision to seek the truth, precisely because there can be no shortcut to the happiness and beauty of a life of genuine fulfillment. Jesus says as much in the Gospel: "The truth will make you free".

Dear young people, it is up to you, in your own countries and in Europe as a whole, to help believers and nonbelievers to rediscover the path of dialogue. Religions have nothing to hear from a just secularity, one that is open and allows individuals to live in accordance with what they believe in their own consciences.

If we are to build a world of liberty, equality and fraternity, then believers and nonbelievers must feel free to be just that, equal in their right to live as individuals and in community in accord with their convictions; and fraternal in their relations with one another. One of the reasons for this Court of the Gentiles is to encourage such feelings of fraternity, over and above our individual convictions yet not denying our differences. And on an even deeper level, to recognize that God alone, in Christ, grants us inner freedom and the possibility of truly encountering one another as brothers and sisters.

Our first step, the first thing we can do together, is to respect, help and love each and every human being, because he or she is a creature of God and in some way the road that leads to God. As you carry on the experience of this evening, work to break down the barriers of fear of others, of strangers, of those who are different; this fear is often born of mutual ignorance, skepticism or indifference. Work to create bonds with other young people, without distinction and keeping in mind those who are poor or lonely, unemployed, ill or on the margins of society.

Dear young people, what you can share is not only your experience of life, but also your approach to prayer. Believers and nonbelievers, as you stand in this court of the Unknown, you are also invited to approach the sacred space, to pass through the magnificent portal of Notre Dame and to enter the cathedral for a moment of prayer. For some of you this will be a prayer to a God you already know by faith, but for others it may be a prayer to the Unknown God. Dear young friends who are nonbelievers, as you join those who pray in Notre Dame on this day of the Annunciation of the Lord, open your hearts to the sacred texts, let yourselves be challenged by the beauty of the music and, if you truly desire it, let your deepest feelings rise towards the Unknown God.

I am happy to have been able to speak to you this evening for the inauguration of the Court of the Gentiles. I hope you will be able to join me for the other events to which I have invited you, especially the World Youth Day to be held in Madrid this coming summer. The God whom believers learn to know invites you to discover him and to find ever greater life in him. Do not be afraid! As you walk together towards a new world, seek the Absolute, seek God, even if for you he is the Unknown God. And may this God, who loves each and every one of you, bless you and keep you. He is counting on you to be concerned for others and for the future, and you can always count on him!

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Papal Address to Bishops of Syro-Malankara Church
"Seek to Form Your People in a Deeper Knowledge and Love of the Faith"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 25, 2011- Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today upon receiving in audience a group of bishops of the Syro-Malankara Church, who have just completed their five-yearly "ad limina" visit.
* * *

Dear Brother Bishops,

I welcome all of you here today on the occasion of your pilgrimage ad limina apostolorum. I thank His Beatitude Baselios Cleemis for the devoted sentiments which he has addressed to me in your name. Through you, I extend greetings to all the priests, religious and lay faithful of your eparchies, and I wish to assure them of my prayers for their spiritual and material well-being. This time together is a privileged occasion to deepen the bonds of fraternity and communion between the See of Peter and the Syro-Malankara Church, happily promoted to Major Archiepiscopal Church by the Venerable John Paul II in 2005.

The apostolic traditions which you maintain enjoy their full spiritual fruitfulness when they are lived in union with the Church universal. In this sense, you rightly follow in the footsteps of the Servant of God Mar Ivanios, who led your predecessors and their faithful into full communion with the Catholic Church. Like your forefathers, you too are called, within the one household of God, to continue in firm fidelity to that which has been passed down to you.

All Catholic Bishops share a proper concern for faithfulness to Jesus Christ and are desirous of that unity which he willed for his disciples (cf. John 17:11), while preserving their legitimate diversity. So it is that "the Catholic Church wishes the traditions of each particular Church or rite to remain whole and entire, and she likewise wishes to adapt her own way of life to the various needs of time and place" ("Orientalium Ecclesiarum," 2). Each generation must confront the challenges to the Church in accordance with its capacities and in harmony with the rest of the Mystical Body of Christ. I encourage you, therefore, to foster an affection among your priests and people for the liturgical and spiritual heritage that has come down to you, while steadfastly building upon your communion with the See of Peter.

The deposit of faith handed down from the Apostles and faithfully transmitted to our times is a precious gift from the Lord. It is that message of salvation which has been revealed in the person of Jesus whose Spirit unites believers of every time and place, giving us fellowship with the Father and with his Son so that our joy may be complete (cf. 1 John 1:1-4). You and your priests are called to promote this fellowship through word and sacrament, and to strengthen it by a sound catechesis, so that the Word of Life, Jesus Christ, and the gift of divine life - communion with him - may be known throughout the world (cf. "Verbum Domini," 2).

Due to its ancient roots and distinguished history, Christianity in India has long made its proper contribution to culture and society, and to its religious and spiritual expressions. It is through a determination to live the Gospel, "the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith" (Romans 1:16), that those whom you serve will make a more effective contribution to the entire body of Christ and to Indian society, to the benefit of all. May your people continue to flourish by the preaching of God’s word and by the promotion of a fellowship based on the love of God.

I note the particular challenges to many of your parishes in providing proper pastoral care and mutual support, especially when there is not always a parish priest at hand. And yet, smaller parishes, bearing in mind the social reality Christians face in the broader cultural context, present their own opportunities for truly fraternal upbuilding and assistance. Small Christian communities have often, as you know, given outstanding witness in the history of the Church. Just as in apostolic times, the Church in our age will surely thrive in the presence of the living Christ, who has promised to be with us always (cf. Matthew 28:20) and to sustain us (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:8).

It is this divine presence which must remain at the centre of your people’s life, faith and witness, and which you their Pastors are called to watch over so that, even if they must live far from their community, they will not live far from Christ. Indeed, it is important to remember that Christian communities are "the proper setting where a personal and communal journey based on the word of God can occur and truly serve as the basis for our spiritual life" ("Verbum Domini," 72).

One of the ways in which you exercise your role as teachers of the faith to the Christian community is through the catechetical and faith formation programmes taking place under your direction. Since "instruction should be based on holy scripture, tradition, liturgy, and on the teaching authority and life of the Church" ("Christus Dominus," 14), I am pleased to note the variety and number of programmes that you currently employ. Along with the celebration of the sacraments, such programmes will help ensure that those in your care will always be able to give an account of the hope which is theirs in Christ. Indeed, catechesis and spiritual development are among the most important challenges which pastors of souls face, and so I warmly encourage you to persevere along the path you have chosen as you seek to form your people in a deeper knowledge and love of the faith, aided by God’s grace and by your humble trust in his providence.

With these thoughts, I renew my sentiments of fraternal affection and esteem for you. Invoking the intercession of Saint Thomas the Apostle, India’s great patron, I assure you of my prayers and willingly impart to you and to those entrusted to your care my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of grace and peace in the Lord Jesus Christ.

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


On St. Lawrence of Brindisi
"All His Activity Was Inspired in His Great Love for Sacred Scripture"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 23, 2011 - Here is a translation of the catechesis Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience held in St. Peter's Square. In his Italian-language address, the Pope continued with the catecheses cycle on the doctors of the Church, focusing his reflection on St. Lawrence of Brindisi (1559-1619).

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters,

I still remember with joy the festive reception I was given in 2008 in Brindisi, the city that in 1559 witnessed the birth of an illustrious doctor of the Church, St. Lawrence of Brindisi, the name that Giulio Cesare Rossi assumed on entering the Order of Capuchins. From his youth he was attracted to the family of St. Francis of Assisi. In fact, when he lost his father at age 7, he was entrusted by his mother to the care of the Conventual friars of the city. A few years later, however, he moved with his mother to Venice, and precisely in the Veneto he met the Capuchins, who at that time gave themselves generously to the service of the entire Church, to enhance the great spiritual reform promoted by the Council of Trent.

In 1575, Lawrence made his religious profession, becoming a Capuchin friar, and in 1582 he was ordained a priest. Already during his ecclesiastical studies he showed the eminent intellectual qualities with which he was gifted. He easily learned ancient languages, such as Greek, Hebrew and Syriac, and modern ones, such as French and German, which were added to his knowledge of the Italian language and Latin, once spoken fluently by all ecclesiastics and men of culture.

Thanks to his command of so many languages, Lawrence was able to carry out an intense apostolate for various categories of people. An effective preacher, he thoroughly knew not only the Bible but also rabbinical literature, such that rabbis themselves were amazed and admiring, manifesting to him their esteem and respect. A theologian versed in sacred Scripture and the fathers of the Church, he was also able to illustrate in an exemplary way the Catholic doctrine to Christians who, above all in Germany, had followed the Reformation. With his clear and quiet exposition he showed the biblical and patristic foundation of all the articles of the faith called into question by Martin Luther. Among these, the primacy of St. Peter and his Successors, the divine origin of the episcopate, justification as man's interior transformation, the need of good works for salvation. The success that Lawrence enjoyed helps us to understand that also today, in carrying forward ecumenical dialogue with so much hope, the confrontation with sacred Scripture, read in the Tradition of the Church, is an irreplaceable element of fundamental importance, as I wished to recall in the apostolic exhortation "Verbum Domini" (No. 46).

Even the simplest among the faithful, those not gifted with great culture, were benefited by the convincing word of Lawrence, who addressed humble people to call them all back to a coherence of their lives with the faith they professed. This was a great merit of the Capuchins and of other religious orders that in the 16th and 17th centuries contributed to the renewal of Christian life, penetrating society profoundly with their testimony of life and their teaching. Also today the new evangelization needs well-prepared, zealous and courageous apostles, so that the light and beauty of the Gospel will prevail over the cultural orientations of ethical relativism and religious indifference, and transform various ways of thinking and of acting into a genuine Christian humanism. It is amazing that St. Lawrence of Brindisi was able to carry out uninterruptedly his activity as an esteemed and tireless preacher in many cities of Italy and in several countries, despite carrying out other onerous tasks of great responsibility. Within the Order of Capuchins, in fact, he was a professor of theology, master of novices, several times provincial minister and counselor-general, and finally minister-general from 1602 to 1605.

Amid so many endeavors, Lawrence cultivated a spiritual life of exceptional fervor, dedicating much time to prayer and in a special way to the celebration of Holy Mass, which often took hours, penetrating and being moved by the memorial of the passion, death and resurrection of the Lord.

In the school of the saints, every presbyter -- as was often stressed during the recent Year for Priests -- can avoid the danger of activism, that is, of acting while forgetting the profound motivations of the ministry, only if he takes care of his interior life. Speaking to priests and seminarians in the cathedral of Brindisi, the city of St. Lawrence's birth, I recalled that "the time he spends in prayer is the most important time in a priest's life, in which divine grace acts with greater effectiveness, making his ministry fruitful. The first service to render to the community is prayer. And therefore, time for prayer must be given a true priority in our life. If we are not interiorly in communion with God we cannot even give anything to others. Therefore, God is the first priority. We must always reserve the time necessary to be in communion of prayer with our Lord."

With the unmistakable ardor of his style, Lawrence moreover exhorted everyone, not just priests, to cultivate the life of prayer because through it we speak to God and God speaks to us. "O, if we only considered this reality!" he exclaimed. "Namely that God is really present to us when we speak to him by praying; that he really listens to our prayer, even if we only pray with the heart and mind. And that not only is he present and listens to us, but that he can and desires to willingly comply, and with the greatest pleasure, to our requests."

Another trait that characterizes the work of this son of St. Francis was his work for peace. Both Supreme Pontiffs and Catholic princes repeatedly entrusted to him important diplomatic missions to settle controversies and foster concord between the European states, threatened at the time by the Ottoman Empire. The moral authority that he enjoyed made him a sought after and listened to counselor. Today, as in the times of St. Lawrence, the world is in such great need of peace, in need of peaceful and pacifying men and women. All those who believe in God must always be sources and agents of peace. It was precisely during one of these diplomatic missions that Lawrence concluded his earthly life in 1619 in Lisbon, where he had gone to the king of Spain, Philip II, to plead the cause of the Neapolitan subjects oppressed by the local authorities.

He was canonized in 1881 and, because of his vigorous and intense activity, his vast and harmonious learning, he merited the title of Doctor Apostolicus, "Apostolic Doctor," from Blessed Pope John XXIII in 1959, on the occasion of the fourth centenary of his birth. This recognition was accorded to Lawrence of Brindisi also because he was the author of numerous works of biblical exegesis, theology and writings designed for preaching. In these he gives an organic presentation of the history of salvation, centered on the mystery of the Incarnation, the greatest manifestation of divine love for men. Moreover, being a Mariologist of great value, and author of a collection of sermons on Our Lady entitled "Mariale," he made evident the unique role of the Virgin Mary. He affirmed with clarity the Immaculate Conception and her cooperation in the work of redemption carried out by Christ.

With fine theological sensitivity, Lawrence of Brindisi also highlighted the Holy Spirit's action in the life of the believer. He reminds us that with His gifts the Third Person of the Most Holy Trinity illumines and aids our commitment to joyfully live the message of the Gospel. "The Holy Spirit," wrote St. Lawrence, "makes gentle the yoke of the divine law and its weight light, so that we observe the Commandments of God with great facility, even with pleasure."

I would like to complete this brief presentation of the life and doctrine of St. Lawrence of Brindisi underscoring that all his activity was inspired in his great love for sacred Scripture, which he knew in great part by heart, and by the conviction that the listening and acceptance of the Word of God produces an interior transformation that leads us to holiness. "The Word of the Lord," he affirmed, "is light for the intellect and fire for the will, so that man can know and love God. For the interior man, who through grace lives from the Spirit of God, it is bread and water, but bread that is sweeter than honey and water that is better than wine and milk. ... It is a hammer against a hard heart obstinate in vices. It is a sword against the flesh, the world and the devil, to destroy every sin."

St. Lawrence of Brindisi teaches us to love sacred Scripture, to grow in familiarity with it, to cultivate daily the relationship of friendship with the Lord in prayer, so that every action of ours, every activity will have its beginning and fulfillment in Him. This is the source from which to draw so that our Christian witness will be luminous and capable of leading the men of our time to God.

[The Holy Father then greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Our catechesis today focuses on Saint Lawrence of Brindisi, a Capuchin friar of the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries known for his vigorous labour for the salvation of souls, his vast learning and his eloquent preaching. Coming of age at a time when many of the articles of the faith were being called into question, Saint Lawrence applied his immense talents to making clear the biblical and patristic foundations of the teachings of the Church. This son of the Franciscan tradition also applied himself heroically to efforts towards peace and reconciliation between the nations and peoples of Europe. His witness serves as an excellent example for our age, so fraught with violence, ethical relativism and religious indifference. The new evangelization needs well-prepared, zealous and courageous apostles like Saint Lawrence so that the light and beauty of the Gospel may reach into the depths of every human heart. Dear friends, in order to achieve such a lofty vocation, Saint Lawrence of Brindisi would have us grow close to our lord Jesus Christ by reading the Sacred Scriptures and by cultivating daily the relationship of love with him in personal prayer, because every good action of ours has its beginning and its end in him.


The Lord's Transfiguration
"It Is a Revelation of His Divinity"
VATICAN CITY, MARCH 20, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before praying the midday Angelus together with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

I thank the Lord for having granted me the opportunity to make a retreat these past several days, and I am grateful to those who were near to me with their prayers. This Sunday, the second of Lent is called Transfiguration Sunday because the Gospel reading recounts this mystery of the life of Christ. He, after having foretold his passion to the disciples, "took Peter, James and John, the brother of James, with him to a high mountain. He was transfigured before them: his face shined like the sun and his garments became bright as light" (Matthew 17:1-2). In the realm of the senses the light of the sun is the most intense that there is in nature, but in the realm of the spirit the disciples experience, for a brief time, a splendor that is still more intense, that of Jesus' divine glory, which illumines the whole of salvation history. St. Maximus the confessor says that "the garments having become white symbolized the words of Sacred Scripture, which became clear and transparent and luminous" ("Ambiguum" 10: PG 91, 1128 B).

According to the Gospel, alongside the transfigured Jesus "there appeared Moses and Elijah who conversed with him" (Matthew 17:3); Moses and Elijah, the figure of the Law and the Prophets. It was then that Peter, in ecstasy, exclaimed: "Lord, it is good for us to be here! If you wish, I will make three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah" (Matthew 17:4). But St. Augustine comments saying that we have but one dwelling place: Christ. He is "the Word of God, the Word of God in the Law, the Word of God in the Prophets" (Sermo De Verbis Ev. 78,3: PL 38, 491). In fact, the Father himself proclaims: "This is my Son, the Beloved, in whom I take delight. Listen to him" (Matthew 17:5). The transfiguration did not change Jesus but it is a revelation of his divinity: "the profound interpenetration of his being with God, which then becomes pure light. In his oneness with the Father, Jesus is himself 'light from light'" ("Jesus of Nazareth," San Francisco, Ignatius Press, 2008). Peter, James and John, contemplating the divinity of the Lord, are prepared to face the scandal of the cross, as is sung in an ancient hymn: "You were transfigured on the mountain and your disciples, so far as they were able, contemplated your glory, seeing you crucified, they understood that your passion was voluntary and they proclaimed to the world that you are truly the splendor of the Father" ("Kontakion eis ten Metamorphosein," in Menaia, t. 6, Roma 1901, 341).

Dear Friends, we also participate in this vision and this supernatural gift, giving room to prayer and listening to the Word of God. Moreover, especially in this time of Lent, I exhort you, as the Servant of God Paul VI writes, "to respond to the divine precept of penance with some voluntary act beyond that self-denial imposed by the burden of daily life" (apostolic Constitution "Pænitemini," Feb. 17, 1966, III, c: AAS 58 [1966], 182). We invoke the Virgin Mary so that she might help us always to listen to and follow the Lord Jesus Christ even unto the passion and the cross, to participate in his glory also.

[After reciting the Angelus the Holy Father addressed the pilgrims in various languages. In Italian he said:]

In recent days the troubling news that has come from Libya has also stirred trepidation and fear in me. I prayed especially for this to the Lord during the week of retreat. I follow the latest events with great apprehension. I pray for those who are involved in the dramatic situation in the that country and I address a pressing call to the political and military leaders that they take the security of the citizens to heart and guarantee access to humanitarian aid. I wish to assure the people of my affectionate nearness, as I ask God that peace and concord dawn for Libya and the whole region of North Africa as soon as possible.

[In English he said:]

I am pleased to greet the English-speaking pilgrims present at this Angelus prayer. As we continue our journey through Lent, today at Mass we recall the Transfiguration of the Lord and how it prepared the Apostles for the coming scandal of the Cross. Strengthened by our faith in Jesus, true God and true man, may we be inspired, not scandalized, by the Cross given to our Saviour and to our fellow Christians who suffer with him throughout the world. Especially during this holy season, I invoke upon you and your families God's abundant blessings!

[In Italian he said:]

I wish everyone a good Sunday!

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pontiff's Letter to Spiritual Exercises Preacher
"This Retreat … Made Us Sense the Church as Communion of Saints"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 20, 2011 - Here is a translation of a letter sent by Benedict XVI to Discalced Carmelite Father François-Marie Lethel, secretary of the Pontifical Academy of Theology, who preached this year's Lenten retreat for the Pope and the Roman Curia. The week-long spiritual exercises ended Saturday.

* * *

Reverend Father
François-Marie Lethel, O.C.D.
Secretary of the Pontifical Academy of Theology

From my very heart I would like to express to you my sincere gratitude for the precious service that you have offered me and my coworkers in the Roman Curia preaching this retreat over these past several days. Thanks also to the work that you have done during this time we have been able to enter into the Lenten season as Mother Church, following the divine Word, asks us: making ourselves more attentive to the voice of the Lord.

The itinerary that you, Reverend Father, have helped us to follow through your meditations is a reason for special gratitude: a spiritual journey inspired by the witness of my Venerable Predecessor John Paul II, whose upcoming beatification has suggested the theme of holiness, reflected upon through an encounter with the living figures of the saints, who are like luminous stars that circle about the Sun that is Christ, Light of the World. The content of this retreat corresponds quite well with the program of catechesis that I have undertaken in these years of my Pontificate in the general audiences with the aim of making the Church known and loved better as it manifests itself in the life and teachings of the saints: beginning with the Apostles and through the great host of the Fathers and other ancient writers, the theologians and mystics of the medieval period, with particular attention to a large number of women, to the series of Doctors of the Church, which I am about to finish. This line of reflection and contemplation on the mystery of Christ reflected, so to speak, in this existence of his most faithful imitators is something fundamental that I inherited from Pope John Paul II and that I carry forward with complete conviction and great joy.

I know well, Dear Brother, that you understand my gratitude as also addressed to the Carmelite Order of which you are a part. I appreciate and share this sentiment and I extend it to the widest ecclesial dimension, because with this retreat you have more than ever made us sense the Church as communion of saints. May our acknowledgement be to the Church animated by the Holy Spirit, and to the Mother of the Church, the Blessed Virgin Mary. May Our Lady and St. Joseph, Husband and Patron of the universal Church, whose feast we celebrate today, and to whom you dedicated this morning's meditation, obtain for you the abundance of heavenly gifts in pledge of which I bestow from my heart a special apostolic blessing, which I extend also to those whom you hold dear.
At the Vatican, March 19, 2011



Papal Address at Conclusion of Lenten Retreat
"Great Love Sees More Than Reason Alone"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 20, 2011 - Here is a translation of an address given Saturday by Benedict XVI at the conclusion of his Lenten retreat. Discalced Carmelite Father François-Marie Léthel, secretary of the Pontifical Academy of Theology, preached this year's week-long spiritual exercises for the Pope and the Roman Curia.

* * *

Dear Brothers,

Dear Father Léthel,

In the light of this journey of reflection, of meditation, of prayer in the company of the holy friends of John Paul II, I would like to say with my whole heart: thank you, Father Léthel, for your sure guidance, for the spiritual riches that you have bestowed upon us. You presented them to us as "stars" in the firmament of history and, with your enthusiasm and your joy, you situated us in the circle of these saints and you showed us that it is precisely the "little" saints who are the "great" saints. You showed us that the "scientia fidei" (science of faith) and the "scientia amoris" (science of love) go together and complete each other, that the greatness of reason and the greatness of love go together, indeed, that great love sees more than reason alone.

Providence has willed that this retreat conclude with the Feast of St. Joseph, my personal patron and the patron of the Holy Church: a humble saint, a humble worker, who was made worthy to be the guardian of the Redeemer.

St. Matthew characterizes St. Joseph with one word: "He was a just man," "dikaios," [in Greek], from "dike," and in the Old Testament, as we find it for example in Psalm 1, "just" is the man who is immersed in the Word of God, who lives in the Word of God, who lives the Law not as a "yoke" (giogo), but as a "joy" (gioia), who lives -- we could say -- the Law as "Gospel." St. Joseph was just, he was immersed in the Word of God, written, transmitted in the wisdom of his people, and precisely in this way was prepared and called to know the Incarnate Word -- the Word who came among us as a man -- and predestined to care for, to protect this Incarnate Word; this remains his mission forever: to care for the Holy Church and Our Lord.

We entrust ourselves in this moment to his care, we pray that he help us in our humble service. We go forward in courage under this protection. We are grateful for the humble saints; we pray to the Lord that he also make us humble in our service and therefore saints in the company of saints.


Pope's Letter on 150th Anniversary of Italian Unity
"Christianity Contributed in a Fundamental Way to the Construction of the Italian Identity"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 16, 2011 - Here is a translation of the letter Benedict XVI sent to the president of Italy, Giorgio Napolitano, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Italy's political unity. The message was delivered by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Pope's secretary of state.

* * *

The 150th anniversary of the political unification of Italy offers me the happy occasion to reflect on the history of this beloved country, whose capital is Rome, city in which Divine Providence placed the See of the Successor of the Apostle Peter. Hence, in formulating to you and to the entire nation my most fervid good wishes, I am happy to share with you, in sign of the profound ties of friendship and collaboration that link Italy and the Holy See, these considerations of mine.

The process of unification that took place in Italy in the course of the 19th century, which passed into history with the name Risorgimento, constituted the natural outlet of a national identity development that began a long time before. In fact, the Italian nation, as a community of persons united by language, culture, sentiments of the same membership, though in the plurality of political communities articulated on the Peninsula, began to be formed in the Middle Ages. Christianity contributed in a fundamental way to the construction of the Italian identity through the work of the Church, of her educational and charitable institutions, fixing models of behavior, institutional configurations, social relationships, but also through a very rich artistic activity in literature, painting, sculpture, architecture and music. Dante, Giotto, Petrarch, Michelangelo, Raphael, Pierluigi of Palestrina, Caravaggio, Scarlatti, Bernini and Borromini are only some of the names of a long line of great artists that, through the centuries, have made a fundamental contribution to the formation of the Italian identity.

Also the experiences of holiness, with which numerous individuals have studded the history of Italy, contributed strongly to construct such identity, not only under the specific profile of a peculiar realization of the evangelical message, which has marked in time the religious experience and spirituality of Italians (one thinks of the great and manifold expressions of popular piety), but also under the cultural and even political profile. St. Francis of Assisi, for example, is pointed out also for his contribution in forging the national language; St. Catherine of Siena, though a simple ordinary woman, offered a formidable stimulus to the elaboration of Italian political and juridical thought. The contribution of the Church and of believers to the process of formation and consolidation of the national identity continues in the modern and contemporary ages.

Also, when parts of the Peninsula were subjected to the sovereignty of foreign powers, it was precisely thanks to this identity, now clear and strong, that notwithstanding the persistence in time of the geo-political fragmentation, the Italian nation was able to continue to subsist and to be conscious of itself. Because of this, the unity of Italy, realized in the second half of the 1800s, was able to take place, not as an artificial political construction of different identities, but as a natural political outlet of a strong national identity, rooted and subsisting for some time. The nascent unitary political community at the conclusion of the Risorgimento movment had, in short, as cement the still subsistent local diversities, precisely the pre-existing national identity, to whose molding Christianity and the Church made a fundamental contribution.

For complex historical, cultural and political reasons, the Risorgimento passed as a revolt against the Church, against Catholicism, and at times against religion in general. Without denying the role of traditions of different thought, some marked by jurisdictional or secular veins, one cannot omit the contribution of thought -- and at times of action -- of Catholics to the formation of the unitary state. From the point of view of political thought, suffice it to recall the whole affair of neo-Guelphism which had in Vincenzo Gioberti an illustrious representative; or to think of the Catholic-Liberal orientations of Cesare Balbo, Massimo d'Azeglio, Raffaele Lambruschini. Outstanding for philosophic, political and also juridical thought is the great figure of Antonio Rosmini, whose influence was displayed in time, to the point of informing significant points of the present Italian Constitution. And in that literature which contributed so much to "make the Italians," namely to give them the sense of belonging to the new political community that the process of the Risorgimento was molding, how can one not recall Alessandro Manzoni, faithful interpreter of the Catholic faith and morality; or Silvio Pellico, who with his autobiographical work on the painful vicissitudes of a patriot was able to witness the compatibility of love of the homeland with an unbending faith. And again figures of saints, such as St. John Bosco, driven by his pedagogical concern to compose manuals of homeland history, which molded membership in the institute founded by him on a paradigm consistent with a healthy liberal conception: "A citizen before the state, and a religious before the Church."

The political-institutional construction of the unitary state involved several personalities of the political, diplomatic and military world, among whom were, also, exponents of the Catholic world. This process, in as much as it must be inevitably measured with the problem of the temporal sovereignty of the Popes (but also because it led to extend the territories it gradually acquired a legislation in ecclesiastical matters of a strongly secular orientation), it had lacerating effects on the individual and collective conscience of Italian Catholics, divided between the opposite sentiments of fidelity born from citizenship on one side and of ecclesial membership on the other. However, it must be recognized that, if it was the political-institutional process of unification that produced that conflict between state and Church, which passed into history with the name of the "Roman Question," arousing as a consequence the expectation of a formal "conciliation," no conflict was verified in the social body, marked by a profound friendship between the civil and ecclesial community.

The national identity of Italians, so strongly rooted in the Catholic traditions, constituted in truth the most solid foundation of the acquired political unity. In short, the conciliation should have happened between the institutions, not in the social body, where faith and citizenship were not in conflict. Even in the years of the conflict, Catholics worked for the unity of the country. The abstention from political life, following the "non expedit," turned the reality of the Catholic world toward a great assumption of responsibility in the social realm: education, instruction, charity, health, cooperation, social economy were realms of commitment which made a solidaristic and strongly cohesive society grow.

The controversy that began between the state and Church with the proclamation of Rome as capital of Italy and with the end of the Papal State was particularly complex. It was undoubtedly a wholly Italian case, to the degree in which Italy alone has the singularity of hosting the headquarters of the papacy. Moreover, the question also had an undoubted international relevance. It must be noted that, with its temporal power at an end, the Holy See, though claiming the fullest liberty and sovereignty that corresponds to it in its order, has always rejected the possibility of a solution of the "Roman Question" through impositions from outside, trusting in the sentiments of the Italian people and in the sense of responsibility and justice of the Italian State. The signing of the Lateran Pacts, on Feb. 11, 1929, marked the final solution of the problem. In connection with the end of the Papal States, in memory of Blessed Pope Pius IX and of his Successors, I take up again the words of cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini, in his address held in Campidoglio on Oct. 10, 1962: "The papacy takes up with unheard of vigor its functions of teacher of life and witness of the Gospel, so as to rise to such heights in the spiritual governance of the Church and in her radiation on the world as never before."

The fundamental contribution of Italian Catholics to the elaboration of the Republican Constitution of 1947 is well known. If the Constitutional text was the positive fruit of a meeting and a collaboration between several traditions of thought, there is no doubt that only the Catholic constituents presented themselves to the historic appointment with a precise project on the fundamental law of the new Italian State; a project matured within Catholic Action, in particular by the FUCI and the Laureates' Movement, and of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, and object of reflection and of elaboration in the Camaldoli Code of 1945, and in the 19th Social Week of Italian Catholics of the same year, dedicated to the topic "Constitution and Constituent." From there began the very significant commitment of Italian Catholics in politics, in labor union activity, in public institutions, in the economic realities, in the expressions of civil society, thus offering a very important contribution to the growth of the country, with demonstrations of absolute fidelity to the state and of dedication to the common good, placing Italy in a European projection.

In the painful and dark years of terrorism, then, Catholics gave their witness of blood: How can one not remember, among the different figures, that of the Honorable Aldo Moro and of Professor Vittorio Bachelet? The Church, thanks also to the long liberty ensured by the Lateran Concordat of 1929, continued with her own institutions and activity, to furnish an energetic contribution to the common good, intervening in particular in the support of the most marginalized and suffering persons, and above all continuing to nourish the social body with those moral values that are essential for the life of a democratic, just and ordered society. The good of the country, understood integrally, was always pursued and particularly expressed in moments of high significance, such as in the "great prayer for Italy" proclaimed by the Venerable John Paul II on Jan. 10, 1994.

The conclusion of the Agreement of revision of the Lateran Concordat, signed on Feb. 18, 1984, marked the passage to a new phase of relations between Church and State in Italy. This passage was clearly perceived by my Predecessor who, in his address given on June 3, 1985, in the ceremony of exchange of instruments of ratification of the Agreement, noted that, as "instrument of concord and collaboration, the Concordat is now situated in a society characterized by the free competition of ideas and by the pluralistic articulation of the different social components: this can and must constitute a factor of promotion and growth, fostering the profound unity of ideals and sentiments, by which all Italians feel themselves brothers in one same homeland." And he added that in the exercise of her diakonia for man "the Church intends to operate in full respect of the autonomy of the political order and of the sovereignty of the State. Likewise, she is attentive to the safeguarding of the liberty of all, indispensable condition for the construction of a world worthy of man, who only in liberty can seek the truth fully and adhere to it sincerely, finding in it the motive and inspiration for solidaristic and unitary commitment to the common good."

The Agreement, which contributed largely to the delineation of that healthy laicism which denotes the Italian State and its juridical ordering, has evidenced the two supreme principles which are called to preside over the relations between Church and political community: that of the distinction of realms and of collaboration. A collaboration motivated by the fact that, as Vatican Council II taught, between both, namely the Church and the political community "even if with different title, are at the service of the personal and social vocation of the same human persons" (Constitution "Gaudium et Spes," No. 76).The experience matured in the years of enforcement of the new agreed dispositions has seen, yet again, the Church and Catholics committed in various ways in favor of that "promotion of man and of the good of the country" that, in respect of their reciprocal independence and sovereignty, constitutes the inspiring and guiding principle of the Concordat in force (Article 1). The Church is aware not only of the contribution she makes to the civil society for the common good, but also of what she receives from the civil society, as Vatican Council II affirmed: "whoever promotes the human community in the field of the family, of culture, of economic and social life, as well as of politics, whether national or international, offers not little help, according to the will of God, to the ecclesial community in the things on which she depends on external factors" (Constitution "Gaudium et Spes," No. 44).

In taking a long look at history, it is necessary to recognize that the Italian nation has always perceived the burden but at the same time the privilege given by the peculiar situation by which there is in Italy, in Rome, the See of the Successor of Peter and, hence, the center of Catholicism. And the national community has always responded to this awareness expressing affectionate closeness, solidarity, and help to the Apostolic See for its liberty and to support the realization of the conditions favorable to the exercise of the spiritual ministry in the world of the Successor of Peter, who is bishop of Rome and Primate of Italy. The turbulence having passed of the "Roman Question," having arrived at the hoped for Conciliation, the Italian State also offered and continues to offer a precious collaboration, which the Holy See enjoys and of which it is consciously grateful.

In presenting to you, Mr. President, these reflections, I invoke from my heart on the Italian people the abundance of heavenly gifts, so that they will always be guided by the light of faith, source of hope and persevering commitment to liberty, justice and peace.

From the Vatican, March 17, 2011


Papal Address to Italian Political Leaders
"Unity and Plurality Are ... Values That Mutually Enrich Each Other"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 14, 2011 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered Saturday when he received in audience members of the National Association of Italian Local Authorities.
* * *

Illustrious and Esteemed Mayors!

I address my cordial greeting to all of you and I am grateful for your presence, which is the expression of a tradition that has been consolidated by time, as is witnessed to by the similar audiences granted by Venerable John Paul II and the preceding pontiffs, and as was recalled by your association's president, whom I thank for the fine words full of realism, but also of poetry and beauty, with which he opened our meeting. This fact attests in particular to the link that exists between the Pope, Bishop of Rome and Primate of Italy, and the Italian nation, which is characterized by the variegated multiplicity of its cities and towns.

The first idea that comes to mind in meeting the representatives of the Associazione Nazionale Comuni Italiani [National Association of Italian Municipalities], is that of the origin of municipalities, which are expressions of a community that meets, engages in dialogue, celebrates and plans together, a community of believers that celebrates the Sunday liturgy, and then gathers in the piazzas of the ancient cities or, in the countryside, in front of the little churches of the village. Carducci, the Italian poet, also recalls this in an ode to the people of Carnia:

"[I dream] of the ancient civic virtues
Encamped in the cool shadows
I contemplate them during the grazing season
After Mass on the feast day."

Today too there is always alive the need to dwell in fraternal community, where for example, the parish and the city are both artificers of a just and solidary "modus vivendi" even in the midst of all the tensions and suffering of modern life. The multiplicity of subjects and situations is not in contradiction with the unity of the nation, which is recalled by the 150th anniversary is being celebrated. Unity and plurality are, at different levels, including the ecclesiological, two values that mutually enrich each other if they are maintained in just and reciprocal balance.

Subsidiarity and solidarity -- which are typical of the social teaching of the Church -- are two principles that permit this harmonious co-presence of unity and plurality. This social doctrine has for its object truths that pertain not only to the patrimony of the believer but that are rationally accessible to every person. I also reflected on these principles in the encyclical "Caritas in Veritate," where the principle of subsidiarity is considered "an expression of inalienable human freedom." In fact, [s]ubsidiarity is first and foremost a form of assistance to the human person via the autonomy of intermediate bodies.

Such assistance is offered when individuals or groups are unable to accomplish something on their own, and it is always designed to achieve their emancipation, because it fosters freedom and participation through assumption of responsibility" (No. 57). As such, "the principle of subsidiarity is particularly well-suited to managing globalization and directing it towards authentic human development" (ibid.). "The principle of subsidiarity must remain closely linked to the principle of solidarity and vice versa, since the former without the latter gives way to social privatism, while the latter without the former gives way to paternalist social assistance that is demeaning to those in need" (No. 58).

These principles must also be applied at the local level, and in a double sense: in the relationship with public agencies of the state, region and province, and in the relationship that the municipal authorities have with social organizations and the intermediary entities present in the area. The latter carry out activities of relevant social utility being supporters of humanization and socialization, especially dedicated to marginalized and needy groups. Among these are also numerous ecclesial organizations such as parishes, oratories, religious houses, Catholic institutes of education and assistance. It is my wish that these precious activities are always properly appreciated and supported even in financial terms.

In this regard, I would like to stress again that the Church does not ask for privileges, but to be able to freely carry out her mission, as an effective respect for religious freedom requires. This permits the collaboration that exists in Italy between the civil community and the ecclesial community. Unfortunately, in other countries Christian minorities are often the victims of discrimination and persecution. I would like to express my appreciation for the motion of Feb. 3, 2011, unanimously approved by your national council, which promoted the sensitizing of the member municipalities to such phenomena and restated at the same time "the undeniable character of religious freedom as a foundation of free and peaceful coexistence among peoples."

Furthermore, I would like to underscore the importance of the theme of "citizenship," which you have placed at the center of your work. On this theme the Church in Italy is developing a rich reflection -- above all beginning with the ecclesial conference at Verona -- which understands that citizenship constitutes one of the fundamental ambits of life and coexistence among persons. The next national eucharistic congress in Ancona will also dedicate a day to such a relevant topic, a session to which the Italian mayors have been appropriately invited, as we have been told.

Today citizenship is indeed situated in the context of globalization, which is characterized by, among other things, great migratory movement. In the face of this reality, as I said a moment ago, there is a need to join together solidarity and respect for the laws so that social coexistence is not imperiled and the principles of law and the cultural and religious tradition from which the Italian nation originates are taken into account. This demand is felt in a special way by you who, as local administrators, are closer to the life of the people. Of you there is required a special dedication, in the public service that you render to the citizens, to being promoters of collaboration, of solidarity and humanity. History has left us the examples of mayors who with their prestige and their commitment marked the life of their communities: you rightly recalled the figure of Giorgio La Pira, exemplary Christian and esteemed public administrator. May this tradition continue to bear fruit for the good of the country and of its citizens! For this I assure you of my prayers and I exhort you, illustrious friends, to confide in the Lord, because -- as the Psalm says -- "if the Lord does not watch over the city, in vane does the sentinel keep watch" (121:1).

Invoking the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary -- venerated by the Italian people in their many sanctuaries, places of spirituality, of art and of culture -- and of the holy patrons Francis of Assisi and Catherine of Siena, I bless all of you, your coworkers and the whole Italian nation.


Pope's Address to Belgian Pro Petri Sede Association
"The Service of Charity Belongs to the Very Nature of the Church"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 11, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today upon receiving in audience members of the Belgian charitable association Pro Petri Sede.

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Dear Friends,

I receive you joyfully this morning on the occasion of the pilgrimage that brings you to the See of Peter to reinforce your Christian life and to renew your commitment to service of the many persons to which the association Pro Petri Sede helps with great generosity.

With the whole Church, we have just entered the season of Lent. This season fosters the interior pilgrimage toward him who is the "Light of the World." In fact, we need to let ourselves be illumined by Christ so that, in turn, seeing the urgency of our responsibility to the poor of the present time, we direct our look to them that gives us confidence again and clarifies the perspective of blessed eternity. Each one, in fact, is called to the salvation offered by Christ's victory over all the evil that oppresses man. The season of Lent is the time of fasting, prayer and sharing (cf. Matthew 6:1-18).

Contributing to the struggle against poverty, sharing with almsgiving, we come close to others. As you know, a gift is nothing without the love that animates it and the fraternal bonds it weaves. Acting thus with charity, we express the truth of our being as there is more joy in giving than in receiving (cf. Acts 20:35), and we manifest the unity of the double commandment to love. In fact, sharing with our neighbor, we experience through the joy received, that fullness of life comes from love of God. Thus alms bring us closer to God and invite us to conversion.

The generous offer that you bring to the Successor of Peter today allows him to help populations harshly tried in recent times, especially those of Haiti. The service of charity belongs to the very nature of the Church. It is a lively expression of God's solicitude for all men. By contributing indispensable material aid, the Church can also offer care of the heart and the love of which persons being tested are in so much need. I thank you, therefore, warmly in their name for the support you give in the struggle against what debases and degrades the dignity of every person "created in the image of God."

Dear friends, may you be everywhere luminous and effective witnesses of the hope that the love of God infuses! Entrusting each one of you and your families, as well as the members of your association, to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to St. Peter and to the saints of your countries, I impart to you with all my heart the apostolic blessing.


Papal Message to Brazil's 2011 Lenten Campaign
"God Entrusts His Creation to Man [...] to Preserve and Care for It"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 11, 2011 - Here is a translation of the message Benedict XVI sent to the bishops of Brazil in support of their annual Lenten campaign. This year the campaign is focused on fraternity and life on the planet.

The Feb. 16 message was addressed to the president of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil, Archbishop Geraldo Lyrio Rocha of Mariana.

* * *

To the Venerable Brother

Dom Geraldo Lyrio Rocha

Archbishop of Mariana (MG) and President of the CNBB

With good pleasure I wish to join, once more, the whole Church in Brazil, which intends to follow the penitential itinerary of Lent in preparation for the Lord Jesus' Easter, in which the Campaign of Fraternity is inserted. The theme this year is: "Fraternity and Life on the Planet," appealing for a change in mentality and attitudes for the safeguarding of creation.

Thinking of the motto of this campaign, "creation has been groaning in travail," which echoes St. Paul's words in the Letter to the Romans (8:22), we can include among the reasons for that groaning the damage caused in creation by human egoism. Nevertheless, it is equally true that "creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God" (Romans 8:19). Just as sin destroyed creation, it is restored when "the sons of God" become present, looking after the world so that God will be all in all (cf. 1 Corinthians15:28).

The first step for a correct relationship with the world that surrounds us is, precisely, the recognition on man's part of his condition as a creature: man is not God, but his image; that is why he must try to be more sensitive to the presence of God in what surrounds him: in all creatures and, especially, in the human person in whom there is a certain epiphany of God. "Those who can recognize in the cosmos the reflections of the Creator's invisible face, tend to have greater love for creatures" (Benedict XVI, Homily on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Mother of God, 1-01-2010).

Man will only be capable of respecting creatures to the degree that he has in his spirit a full sense of life; otherwise, he will be led to contempt for himself and for what surrounds him, failing to respect the environment in which he lives, creation. That is why the first ecology that must be defended is "human ecology" (cf. Benedict XVI, Encyclical Caritas in Veritate, 51). That is, without a clear defense of human life, from its conception to its natural death, without a defense of the family based on marriage between a man and a woman, without a real defense of those who are excluded and marginalized by society, without forgetting in this context those who lose everything, victims of natural disasters, there can never be talk of a genuine defense of the environment.

While reminding that the duty to look after the environment is an imperative that stems from the awareness that God entrusts his creation to man, not so that he can exercise over it an arbitrary dominion, but to preserve and care for it, as a son takes care of his father's inheritance -- and God entrusted an inheritance to Brazilians -- I happily send you a propitious Apostolic Blessing.

Vatican, Feb. 16, 2011



Pope's Homily During Ash Wednesday Mass
"Let Us Begin This Lenten Itinerary Confident and Joyful"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 10, 2011 - Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI delivered Ash Wednesday, during a Mass he presided over in the Roman Basilica of St. Sabina.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We begin today the liturgical season of Lent with the thought-provoking rite of the imposition of ashes, through which we wish to take on the commitment to convert our hearts to the horizons of grace. In general, in common opinion, this time runs the risk of being marked by sadness, by the darkness of life. Instead, it is a precious gift of God; it is an intense time full of meanings in the journey of the Church; it is the itinerary to the Lord's Easter. The biblical readings of today's celebration give us indications to live this spiritual experience fully.

"Return to me with all your heart" (Joel 2:12). In the first reading taken from the Book of the prophet Joel, we have heard these words with which God invited the Jewish people to sincere, not apparent, repentance. It is not about a superficial and transitory conversion but, rather, a spiritual itinerary which has much to do with the attitudes of the conscience and which implies a sincere resolution to repent. The prophet begins with the plague of the invasion of locusts, which fell on the people destroying their crops, to invite them to interior penance, to rend their hearts and not their garments (cf. 2:13).

Hence, it is about putting into practice an attitude of genuine conversion to God -- of return to him -- recognizing his holiness, his power, his majesty. And this conversion is possible because God is rich in mercy and great in love. His is a regenerating mercy, which creates a pure heart in us, renews our interior in a firm spirit, restoring to us the joy of salvation (cf.Psalm 50:14). God, in fact, does not will the death of the sinner, but that he be converted and live (cf. Ezekiel 33:11). So the prophet Joel orders, in the name of the Lord, that an appropriate penitential environment be created: It is necessary to blow the trumpet, convoke the meeting, awaken consciences.

The Lenten period proposes to us this liturgical and penitential ambit: a journey of forty days where we can experience in an effective way the merciful love of God. Today the call resounds for us: "Return to me with all your heart"; today we are the ones called to convert our hearts to God, conscious that we cannot carry out our conversion by ourselves, with our own efforts, because it is God who converts us. He offers us once again his forgiveness, inviting us to return to Him to give us a new heart, purified from the evil that oppresses it, to have us take part in his joy. Our world needs to be converted to God; it needs his forgiveness, his love; it needs a new heart.

"Be reconciled to God" (2 Corinthians 5:20). In the second reading, Saint Paul offers us another element on the path to conversion. The Apostle invites to look away from him and to direct our attention instead to the One who has sent him and to the content of the message he brings: "[s]o we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you, on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God" (Ibid.). An ambassador repeats what he has heard his Lord say and he speaks with the authority and within the limits he has received. He who carries out the office of ambassador must not attract attention to himself, but must place himself at the service of the message he must transmit and of the one who sent him. Saint Paul acts thus when carrying out his ministry of preaching the Word of God and of Apostle of Jesus Christ. He does not shrink in face of the task received, but carries it out with total dedication, inviting us to open ourselves to grace, to allow God to convert us. "Working together with him, then, we entreat you not to accept the grace of God in vain" (2 Corinthians 6:1).

"Now then, Christ's call to conversion," the Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us, "continues to resound in the lives of Christians. [...] is an uninterrupted task for the whole Church who 'clasping sinners to her bosom, [is]at once holy and always in need of purification, [and] follows constantly the path of penance and renewal' (LG 8). This endeavor of conversion is not just a human work. It is the movement of a 'contrite heart' (Psalm 51:19), drawn and moved by grace (cf. John 6:44; 12:32) to respond to the merciful love of God who loved us first (cf. 1 John 4:10)" (No. 1428).

St. Paul speaks to the Christians of Corinth, but through them he intends to address all men. All in fact are in need of the grace of God, to illumine their minds and hearts. And the Apostle adds: "now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation" (2 Corinthians6:2). We can all open ourselves to God's action, to his love; with our evangelical witness, we Christians must be a living message, in fact, in many cases we are the only Gospel that the men of today still read. This is our responsibility, following the steps of Saint Paul, here is another reason to live Lent well: to give witness of a lived faith to a world in difficulty that needs to return to God, which is in need of conversion.

"Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them" (Matthew 6:1). In today's Gospel, Jesus repeats the three essential works of piety established in the Mosaic Law. Almsgiving, prayer and fasting characterized the Jews who observed the law. With the passing of time, these prescriptions were stained by the rust of exterior formalism, or they have even been transformed into a sign of superiority.

In these three works of piety Jesus makes evident a common temptation. When something good is done, almost instinctively the desire arises to be esteemed and admired for the good action, to have some satisfaction. And this, on one hand, shuts us in on ourselves, and on the other it takes us out of ourselves, because we live projected to what others think of us and admire in us. In proposing these prescriptions again, the Lord Jesus does not ask for formal respect to a law foreign to man, imposed by a severe lawmaker as a heavy burden, but he invites us to rediscover these three works of piety by living them more profoundly, not for love of self but for love of God, as means on the path of conversion to Him.

Almsgiving, prayer and fasting is the course of the divine pedagogy that supports us, not only in Lent, toward the encounter with the Risen Lord; a path to follow without ostentation, in the certainty that the heavenly Father is able to read and also to see in the secrecy of our hearts.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us begin this Lenten itinerary confident and joyful. Forty days separate us from Easter; this "intense" time of the liturgical year is a propitious time to attend, with greater commitment, to our conversion, to intensify listening to the Word of God, prayer and penance, opening our hearts to the docile acceptance of the divine will, for a more generous practice of mortification, thanks to which we will go more readily to help our needy neighbor: a spiritual itinerary which prepares us to receive the Paschal Mystery.

May Mary, our guide on our Lenten path, lead us to an ever more profound knowledge of Christ, dead and resurrected, may she help us in the spiritual battle against sin, may she sustain us on invoking forcefully: Convert us, "Deus salutaris noster" -- Convert us to You, O God, our salvation." Amen!


On the Itinerary of Lent
"We Must Encounter, Receive and Follow" Christ

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 9, 2011 - Here is a translation of the catechesis Benedict XVI gave today, Ash Wednesday, during the general audience held in Paul VI Hall.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters,

Today, marked by the austere symbol of ashes, we enter the Lenten season, beginning a spiritual journey that prepares us to celebrate worthily the Paschal Mysteries. The blessed ashes placed on our heads are a sign that reminds us of our condition as creatures; they invite us to penance and to intensify our commitment to conversion to follow the Lord ever more.

Lent is a journey; it is to accompany Jesus who goes up to Jerusalem, the place of the fulfillment of the mystery of his passion, death and resurrection; it reminds us that the Christian life is a "journey" to undertake, which consists not so much in a law to be observed but in the very person of Christ, who we must encounter, receive and follow. Jesus, in fact, says to us: "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9:23). That is, he tells us that to arrive with him to the light and the joy of resurrection, to the victory of life, of love, of the good, we must also take up our cross every day, as a beautiful page of the "Imitation of Christ" exhorts us: "take up your cross and follow Jesus; in this way you will go to eternal life. He went before, carrying his cross, and died for you on the cross so that you would carry your cross and be willing to die on it. Because if you die with him, you will also live with him. And if you are his partner in sorrow, you will also be so in triumph" (L. 2, c. 12, n. 2).

In the holy Mass of the First Sunday of Lent we will pray: "O God our Father, with the celebration of this Lent, sacramental sign of our conversion, grant your faithful to grow in the knowledge of the mystery of Christ and to give witness of him with a fitting conduct of life" (Collect). It is an invocation that we address to God because we know that only he can convert our heart. And it is above all in the liturgy, in participation in the holy mysteries, where we are led to undertake this journey with the Lord; it is putting ourselves in Jesus' school, reflecting on the events that brought us salvation, but not as a simple commemoration, a memory of past events. In the liturgical actions, where Christ makes himself present through the power of the Holy Spirit, those salvific events become actual. There is a key word to which recourse is often taken in the liturgy to indicate this: the word "today"; and it must be understood in its original, not metaphorical sense. Today God reveals his law and lets us choose today between good and evil, between life and death (cf. Deuteronomy 30:19); today "the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the Gospel" (Mark 1:15); today Christ died on Calvary and has resurrected from the dead; he has ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father; today we are given the Holy Spirit; today is the favorable time. To participate in the liturgy means, therefore, to submerge one's life in the mystery of Christ, in his permanent presence, to undertake a journey in which we enter into his death and resurrection to have life.

In the Sundays of Lent, in a very particular way in this liturgical year of Cycle A, we are introduced into living a baptismal itinerary, virtually following the journey of the catechumens, those who are preparing to receive baptism, to revive this gift in us, so that our life will recover the demands and commitments of this sacrament, which is at the base of our Christian life. In the message I sent for this Lent, I wished to recall the particular nexus that links the Lenten season to baptism. The Church has always associated the Easter Vigil with the celebration of baptism, step by step: a great mystery is realized in it, by which man, dead to sin, is made a participant in new life in Christ Risen and receives the Spirit of God that resurrected Jesus from the dead (cf. Romans 8:11). The readings we will hear in the forthcoming Sundays and to which I invite you to pay special attention, are taken precisely from the ancient tradition, which accompanied the catechumen in the discovery of baptism: They are the great proclamation of what God does in this sacrament, a wonderful baptismal catechesis addressed to each one of us.

The First Sunday, called Sunday of the Temptation because it presents the temptations of Jesus in the desert, invites us to renew our definitive decision for God and to face with courage the struggle that awaits us to remain faithful to him. The need for this decision, to resist evil, to follow Jesus, is always anew. On this Sunday, the Church, after having heard the testimony of godparents and catechists, celebrates the election of those who are admitted to the Easter sacraments.

The Second Sunday is called that of Abraham and the Transfiguration. Baptism is the sacrament of faith and divine filiation; like Abraham, father of believers, we are also invited to leave our land, to leave the securities we have built for ourselves, to again put our trust in God; the goal is presented in the transfiguration of Christ, the beloved Son, in which we also become "children of God."

In the following Sundays, baptism is presented in the images of water, light and life. The Third Sunday has us meet the Samaritan woman (cf. John 4:5-42). Like Israel in Exodus, we have also received in baptism the saving water; as he says to the Samaritan woman, Jesus has the water of life, which slakes all thirst, and this water is his own Spirit. On this Sunday, the Church celebrates the first examination of the catechumens and during the week gives them the Symbol: the Profession of Faith, the Creed.

The Fourth Sunday has us reflect on the experience of the "blind man from birth" (cf. John 9:1-41). In baptism we are liberated from the darkness of evil and we receive the light of Christ to live as children of the light. We must also learn to see the presence of God in the face of Christ, and thus the light. The second examination is celebrated in the journey of the catechumens.

Finally, the Fifth Sunday presents to us the resurrection of Lazarus (cf. John 11:1-45). In baptism we passed from death to life and we are made able to please God, to make the old man die, to live from the Spirit of the Risen One. The third examination is held for the catechumens and during the week they are given the Lord's Prayer, the Our Father.

This Lenten itinerary that we are invited to follow is characterized, in the tradition of the Church, by some practices: fasting, almsgiving and prayer. Fasting means abstinence from food but it includes other forms of privation for the sake of a more sober life. [But] all of this does not yet constitute the full reality of fasting: It is the external sign of an interior reality, of our commitment, with God's help, to abstain from evil and to live the Gospel. He does not really fast who does not know how to nourish himself on the Word of God.

Fasting, in the Christian tradition, is closely linked to almsgiving. In one of his addresses on Lent, St. Leo the Great taught: "Whatever a Christian does always, he must now do with greater dedication and devotion, to fulfill the apostolic norm of Lenten fasting consisting in abstinence not only from food, but above all abstinence from sins. To this obligatory and holy fast, no more useful deed can be added than almsgiving, which under the unique name of 'mercy' includes many good works. Immense is the field of works of mercy. Not only the rich and wealthy can benefit others with alms, so can those of modest and poor condition. In this way, though unequal in goods, all can be equal in their sentiments of mercy of the soul" (Address 6 on Lent, 2: PL 54, 286). In his Pastoral Rule, St. Gregory the Great reminded that fasting is holy because of the virtues that accompany it, above all charity, for each gesture of generosity that gives to the poor and needy the fruit of our privation (cf. 19, 10-11).

Lent, moreover, is a privileged time for prayer. St. Augustine says that fasting and almsgiving are "the two wings of prayer," which gives them greater impulse to reach God. He states: "In this way our prayer, made with humility and charity, in fasting and almsgiving, in temperance and the forgiveness of offenses, giving good things and not returning bad things, removing ourselves from evil and doing good, seeks peace and obtains it. With the wings of these virtues our prayer flies safely and is taken with greater certainty to heaven, where Christ, our peace, has preceded us" (Sermon 206, 3 on Lent: PL 38, 1042).

The Church knows that, because of our weakness, it is very difficult to be silent and to place oneself before God, and to become aware of our condition as creatures who depend on him and sinners in need of his love. This is why Lent invites us to a more faithful and intense prayer and to a prolonged meditation on the Word of God. St. John Chrysostom exhorts us: "Embellish your house with modesty and humility through the practice of prayer. Make your house splendid with the light of justice; adorn its walls with good works as if they were a patina of pure gold and instead of walls and precious stones place faith and supernatural magnanimity, placing over all things, high on a pediment, prayer as decoration of the whole complex. In this way you will prepare a worthy dwelling for the Lord; in this way you will receive him in a splendid palace. He will enable you to transform your soul into a temple of his presence" (Homily 6 on Prayer: PG 64, 466).

Dear friends, on this Lenten journey let us be careful to accept Christ's invitation to follow him in a more determined and coherent way, renewing the grace and commitments of our baptism, to abandon the old man that is in us and to clothe ourselves with Christ, so that renewed, we will reach Easter and be able to say with St. Paul, "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Galatians 2:20). A good Lenten journey to you all! Thank you!

[Translation by ZENIT]

[The Holy Father then greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today the Church celebrates Ash Wednesday, the beginning of her Lenten journey towards Easter. The Christian life is itself a constant journey of conversion and renewal in the company of the Lord, as we follow him along the path that leads through the Cross to the joy of the Resurrection. The primary way by which we follow Christ is by the liturgy, in which his person and his saving power become present and effective in our lives. In the Lenten liturgy, as we accompany the catechumens preparing for Baptism, we open our hearts anew to the grace of our rebirth in Christ. This spiritual journey is traditionally marked by the practice of fasting, almsgiving and prayer. The Fathers of the Church teach that these three pious exercises are closely related: indeed, Saint Augustine calls fasting and almsgiving the "wings of prayer", since they prepare our hearts to take flight and seek the things of heaven, where Christ has prepared a place for us. As this Lent begins, let us accept Christ's invitation to follow him more closely, renew our commitment to conversion and prayer, and look forward to celebrating the Resurrection in joy and newness of life.

I welcome all the English-speaking visitors present at today's Audience, especially those from Ireland, Japan, South Korea and the United States. I also greet the pilgrims from Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. With prayerful good wishes for a spiritually fruitful Lent, I cordially invoke upon you and your families God's blessings of joy and peace!

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

[He concluded in Italian:]

I offer, finally, my greeting to young people, the sick and newlyweds. May the Lenten season, which we begin today, lead each one of you to an ever more profound knowledge of Christ, so that in the various situations in which you find yourselves, you will be able to have his same sentiments and do everything in communion with him.



Benedict XVI's Address to Filipino Bishops
"The Greatest Good We Can Offer Those Whom We Serve Is … the Eucharist"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 3, 2011 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered upon receiving in audience bishops from the Philippines who are in Rome for their five-yearly "ad limina" visit.

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My dear Brother Bishops,

It is with joy that I welcome you as you make your visit ad Limina Apostolorum. I extend my cordial greetings through you to the priests, religious, and faithful of your various dioceses. Our meeting today affords me the opportunity to thank you collectively for the pastoral work you carry out with love for Christ and for his people. As Saint Paul says, "Let us not grow weary of doing good; if we do not relax our efforts, in due time we shall reap our harvest" (Gal 6:9). With these words, the Apostle encourages his readers to do good to all, but especially to those of the household of the faith. He presents us with a double imperative, one which is most appropriate to your ministry as bishops in the central and southern islands of the Philippine archipelago. You must labor in doing good among Christians and non-Christians alike.

Regarding "those of the household of the faith" who require your apostolic care, the Church in your respective regions naturally shares many of the pastoral challenges confronting the rest of the country. Among them, one of the most important is the task of ongoing catechetical formation. The deep personal piety of your people needs to be nourished and supported by a profound understanding of and appreciation for the teachings of the Church in matters of faith and morals. Indeed, these elements are required in order for the human heart to give its full and proper response to God. As you continue to strengthen catechesis in your dioceses, do not fail to include in it an outreach to families, with particular care for parents in their role as the first educators of their children in the faith. This work is already evident in your support of the family in the face of influences which would diminish or destroy its rights and integrity. I appreciate that providing this kind of catechetical formation is no small task, and I take the opportunity to salute the many religious sisters and lay catechists who assist you in this important work.

Indeed, as diocesan bishops you never face any challenge alone, being assisted first and foremost by your clergy. Along with you, they have devoted their lives to the service of God and his people, and require in their turn your fatherly care. As you are aware, you and your fellow bishops have a particular duty to know your priests well and to guide them with sincere concern, while priests are always to be prepared to fulfill humbly and faithfully the tasks entrusted to them. In such a spirit of mutual cooperation for the sake of the Kingdom of God, surely "in due time we shall reap our harvest" of faith.

Many of your dioceses already have in place programs of continuing formation for young priests, assisting them in their transition from the structured schedule of the seminary to the more independent setting of parish life. Along these lines, it is also helpful for them to be assigned mentors from among those older priests who have proven themselves to be faithful servants of the Lord. These men can guide their younger confrères along the path toward a mature and well-balanced way of priestly living.

Moreover, priests of all ages require ongoing care. Regular days of recollection, yearly retreats and convocations, as well as programs for continuing education and assistance for priests who may be facing difficulties, are to be promoted. I am confident that you will also find ways to support those priests whose assignments leave them isolated. It is gratifying to note how the Second National Congress for the Clergy, held during the Year for Priests, was just such an occasion for renewal and fraternal support. In order to build upon this momentum, I encourage you to profit from the yearly celebration of Holy Thursday, during which the Church commemorates the priesthood in a special way. In accordance with their solemn promises at ordination, remind your priests of their commitment to celibacy, obedience, and an ever greater dedication to pastoral service. In living out their promises, these men will become true spiritual fathers with a personal and psychological maturity that will grow to mirror the paternity of God.

With respect to Saint Paul's command to do good to those not of the household of the faith, dialogue with other religions remains a high priority, especially in the southern areas of your country. While the Church proclaims without fail that Christ is the way, the truth, and the life (cf. Jn 14:6), nevertheless she respects all that is true and good in other religions, and she seeks, with prudence and charity, to enter into an honest and amicable dialogue with the followers of those religions whenever possible (cf. Nostra Aetate, 2). In doing so, the Church works toward mutual understanding and the advancement of the common good of humanity. I commend you for the work you have already done and I encourage you, by means of the dialogue that has been established, to continue to promote the path to true and lasting peace with all of your neighbors, never failing to treat each person, no matter his or her beliefs, as created in the image of God.

Finally, as we strive not to "grow weary of doing good," we are reminded that the greatest good that we can offer those whom we serve is given to us in the Eucharist. In the Holy Mass, the faithful receive the grace needed to be transformed in Jesus Christ. It is heartening that many Filipinos attend Sunday Mass, but this does not leave room for complacency on your part as shepherds. It is your task, and that of your priests, never to grow weary in pursuing the lost sheep, making sure that all the faithful draw life from the great gift given to us in the Sacred Mysteries.

Dear Brother Bishops, I thank the Lord for these days of your visit to the City of Peter and Paul, during which God has strengthened our bonds of communion. Through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, may the good Lord bring your work to completion. I assure you of a remembrance in my prayers and willingly impart to you and to the faithful entrusted to your care my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of grace and peace.

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


On St. Francis de Sales
"A Teacher Who Gave to His Disciples the 'Spirit of Liberty'"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 2, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience, held in Paul VI Hall. In his Italian-language address, the Pope focused his meditation on the figure of St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622), bishop of Geneva and doctor of the Church.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

"Dieu est le Dieu du coeur humain" [God is the God of the human heart] ("Treatise on the Love of God," I, XV): In these seemingly simple words we see the essence of a great teacher's spirituality, St. Francis de Sales, bishop and doctor of the Church, of whom I would like to speak to you today.

Born in 1567, in a French border region, he was the son of the Lord of Boisy, from an ancient and noble family of Savoy. Living across the span of two centuries, the 16th and 17th, he brought together the best of the teachings and cultural conquests of the century that was ending, joining a heritage of humanism with mysticism's longing for the absolute. His formation was quite complete: He did his higher studies in Paris, dedicating himself to theology as well, and at the University of Padua, he studied jurisprudence as his father wished, finishing brilliantly with a degree in utroque iure, canon law and civil law.

During his tranquil youth, while reflecting on the thought of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, he had a profound crisis that drove him to question his eternal salvation and God's predestination in his respect, thus suffering as a true spiritual drama what were the principal theological questions of his time.

He prayed intensely, but doubt tormented him so strongly that for some weeks he could scarcely eat or sleep. At the height of this trial, he went to the church of the Dominicans in Paris, opened his heart and prayed thus: "No matter what happens, Lord, you who have everything in hand, and whose ways are justice and truth, whatever you have established in my regard ... you who are always a just judge and merciful Father, I will love you, Lord [...] I will love you here, O my God, and I will always hope in your mercy, and I will always repeat your praise ... O Lord Jesus, you will always be my hope and my salvation in the land of the living" (I Proc. Canon., vol I, art 4).

The 20-year-old Francis found peace in the radical and liberating reality of the love of God: to love him without asking anything in return and to trust in his divine love; not to ask any longer what God will do with me: I will simply love him, regardless of what he does or does not give me. Thus he found peace, and the question of predestination -- which was being discussed at that time -- was resolved, because he no longer sought what he could have from God; he simply loved him, abandoned himself to his goodness. And this would be the secret of his life, which would shine in his principal work, "Treatise on the Love of God."

Overcoming his father's resistance, Francis followed the Lord's call and on Dec. 18, 1593, was ordained a priest. In 1602 he became bishop of Geneva, at a time when the city was the stronghold of Calvinism, so much so that the episcopal see was "in exile" in Annecy. As pastor of a poor and tormented diocese, in a mountainous landscape in which he knew well both its harshness and beauty, he wrote: "I found [God] full of sweetness and gentleness among our highest and roughest mountains, where many simple souls loved and adored him in all truth and sincerity; and deer and chamois ran here and there among the frightening frost to proclaim his praises" (Letter to the Mother of Chantal, October 1606, in Oeuvres, Mackey publishers, T. XIII, o. 223).

And yet the influence of his life and of his teaching on the Europe of that time and of the following centuries was immense. He was an apostle, preacher, writer, man of action and prayer; committed to carrying out the ideals of the Council of Trent; involved in controversy and dialogue with Protestants, experiencing more and more more the efficacy of personal relationships and of charity, beyond a necessary theological confrontation. He was charged with diplomatic missions at the European level, and with social tasks of mediation and reconciliation.

However, above all, St. Francis de Sales was a guide of souls: from his meeting with a young woman, Mrs. de Charmoisy, he got the idea to write one of the most well-read books in the modern age, "Introduction to the Devout Life." From his profound spiritual communion with an exceptional personality, St. Jane Frances de Chantal, a new religious family was born, the Order of the Visitation, characterized -- as the saint wished -- by total consecration to God lived in simplicity and humility, in doing ordinary things extraordinarily well: "... I want my Daughters -- he wrote -- to have no ideal other than that of glorifying [Our Lord] with their humility" (Letter to Monsignor de Marquemond, June 1615). He died in 1622, at 55 years of age, after an existence marked by the harshness of the times and apostolic toil.

St. Francis' life was relatively brief, but lived with great intensity. An impression of rare fulfillment emanates from this saint, demonstrated in the serenity of his intellectual research, but also in the richness of his affections, and in the "gentleness" of his teachings, which have had great influence on the Christian conscience. He embodied several meanings of the word "humanity," which, today as yesterday, can denote culture and courtesy, liberty and tenderness, nobility and solidarity. His appearance had something of the majesty of the landscape in which he lived, also preserving simplicity and naturalness. The old words and the images with which he expressed himself surprisingly sound like a native and familiar language to people's ear even today.

To Philotea, the fictional recipient of his "Introduction to the Devout Life" (1607), Francis de Sales addressed an invitation that might have seemed at the time revolutionary. It is the invitation to belong completely to God, living his presence in the world and the tasks of one's state in fullness. "My intention is to instruct those who live in the city, in the conjugal state, in the courts [...]" (Preface to "Introduction to the Devout Life"). The document with which Pope Leo XIII, more than two centuries later, would proclaim him doctor of the Church insisted on this extension of the call to perfection, to sanctity. He wrote there: "[true piety] has penetrated to the throne of the king, in the tents of army heads, in the praetorium of judges, in offices, in shops and even in shepherds' huts [...]" (Brief "Dives in misericordia," Nov. 16, 1877).

Thus was born the appeal to the laity, that care to consecrate temporal things and sanctify the every day, on which the Second Vatican Council and the spirituality of our time insist.

He spoke of the ideal of a reconciled humanity, harmony between action in the world and prayer, between the secular state and the pursuit of perfection, with the help of God's grace, which permeates the human and, without destroying it, purifies it, raising it to the divine heights. To Theotimus, the adult, spiritually mature Christian to whom he would address a few years later his "Treatise on the Love of God" (1616), St. Francis de Sales gives a more complex lesson. It supposes at the beginning a precise vision of the human being, an anthropology: man's "reason," in fact the "reasonable soul," was seen as a harmonious structure, a temple articulated in more spaces around a center, which, together with the great mystics, he called the "summit," the "point" of the spirit, or the depths of the soul. It is the point in which reason, having passed through all its degrees, "closes its eyes" and knowledge becomes altogether one with love (cf. Book I, Chapter XII). The fact that love, in its theological, divine dimension is the reason for being of all things, in an ascending ladder that does not seem to know fractures or abysses, St. Francis de Sales resumed in a famous phrase: "Man is the perfection of the universe; the spirit is man's perfection; love is the perfection of the spirit, and charity is the perfection of love" (ibid., Book X, Chapter I).

In an epoch of intense mystical flowering, the "Treatise on the Love of God" was a true and proper summa, as well as a fascinating literary work. His description of the itinerary toward God starts from the recognition of the "natural inclination" (ibid., Book I, Chapter XVI) inscribed in man's heart to love God above all things, despite being a sinner. Following the model of sacred Scripture, St. Francis de Sales speaks of the union between God and man by developing a whole series of images of interpersonal relationships. His God is Father and Lord, spouse and friend; he has maternal and nursing characteristics. He is the sun of which even the night is a mysterious revelation. Such a God draws man to himself with bonds of love, that is of true liberty: "because love does not force or have slaves, but reduces everything under its obedience with such a delicious force that, if nothing is as strong as love, nothing is as lovable as his force" (Book I, Chapter VI). We find in our saint's "Treatise" a profound meditation on the human will and the description of its flowing, passing, dying, to live (cf. Ibid., Book IX, Chapter XIII) in complete abandonment not only to the will of God, but to what pleases him, to his "bon plaisir," to his approval (cf. Ibid., Book IX, Chapter I). At the summit of union with God, in addition to the raptures of contemplative ecstasies, is placed the reappearance of concrete charity, which is attentive to all the needs of others and which he calls "ecstasies of life and works" (Ibid., Book VII, chapter VI).

Reading the book on the love of God and even more so the many letters of direction and of spiritual friendship, one perceives what an expert St. Francis de Sales was on the human heart. To St. Jane of Chantal, he wrote: "[...] Here is the general rule of our obedience, written in capital letters: DO ALL THROUGH LOVE, NOTHING THROUGH CONSTRAINT; LOVE OBEDIENCE MORE THAN YOU FEAR DISOBEDIENCE. I want you to have the spirit of liberty, not the kind that excludes obedience -- this is freedom of the flesh -- but the liberty that excludes constraint, anxiety and scruples" (Letter of Oct. 14, 1604). Not for nothing, at the origin of many paths of pedagogy and spirituality of our time we rediscover the stamp of this teacher, without whom there would be no St. John Bosco or the heroic "little way" of St. Thérèse of Lisieux.

Dear brothers and sisters, in an age such as ours that seeks liberty, even with violence and disturbance, the timelines of this great teacher of spirituality and peace should not be missed, a teacher who gave to his disciples the "spirit of liberty," the true one, as the culmination of his fascinating and complete teaching on the reality of love. St. Francis de Sales is an exemplary witness of Christian humanism; with his accessible style, with words that at times have the touch of poetry, he reminds that man bears inscribed in his deepest self nostalgia for God and that only in him is found his true joy and most complete fulfillment.

[The Holy Father then greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Our catechesis today deals with Saint Francis de Sales, an outstanding Bishop and master of the spiritual life in the period following the Council of Trent. After a powerful experience of God's liberating love in his youth, Saint Francis became a priest and then Bishop of Geneva, at that time a stronghold of Calvinism. His fine education, his personal gifts of charity, serenity and openness to dialogue, together with his brilliance as a spiritual guide, made Francis a leading figure of his age. His spiritual writings include the celebrated Introduction to the Devout Life, which insists that all Christians are called to perfection in their proper state of life, foreshadowing the insistence of the Second Vatican Council on the universal call to holiness. His Treatise on the Love of God develops this teaching, stressing that we find ourselves and our true freedom in the love of God. The Christian humanism of Saint Francis de Sales has lost none of its relevance today. May this great Saint and Doctor of the Church guide us in the pursuit of holiness and help us to find our fulfillment in the joy and freedom born of the love of God.


Pope's Letter Accepting Resignation of Maronite Cardinal
"It's With the Ardent Desire for Peace … That You Have Guided This Church"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 1, 2011 - Here is a translation of the letter Benedict XVI addressed to Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir in which the Pontiff accepts the cardinal's resignation as the Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites. The letter is dated Feb. 26.

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To His Most Eminent Beatitude Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir,
Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites,

The year dedicated to the 1,600th anniversary of the death of St. Marone is reaching its conclusion: During this exceptional jubilee, the Maronite Church was granted a time of grace. It is also the crowning of her service for the greater glory of God and the good of all her faithful.

God, in his unfathomable love, has molded and marked it with his own indelible sign for a particular election to his service. This secret choice has found a confirmation in your free and enthusiastic response following the example of the Mother of God: "Let it be to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38).

Last year, you were able to celebrate the 60th anniversary of priesthood: testimony of fidelity and of love for Jesus Christ, High Priest. In the forthcoming month of July, you will again have the occasion to elevate a thanksgiving to the Holy Trinity for the fulfillment of 50 years of episcopate.

For almost 25 years, you collaborated with your two predecessors in the See of Antioch, before being chosen by the synod as their successor on April 19, 1986: an important moment that puts you today at the threshold of the silver jubilee in this office.

You began the noble ministry of patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites in the storm of the war that bloodied Lebanon for too long. It is with the ardent desire for peace for your country that you have guided this Church and traveled over the world to console your people constrained to emigrate. Finally, peace returned, always fragile, but always opportune.

Pope John Paul II, who I will have the joy of beatifying next May 1, called you to be part of the College of Cardinals on Nov. 26, 1994, which placed you in more profound communion with the universal Church. The visit of my venerable predecessor to Beirut in 1997, to sign the postsynodal apostolic exhortation "A New Hope for the Lebanon" has marked again the constant bond of your Church with the Successor of Peter.

When I convoked the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East in September 2009, I appointed you president delegate ad honorem to underscore the importance of the ecclesial service that you have carried out in the name of Christ.

In recent days I blessed the statue of St. Marone, placed in a niche of St. Peter's Basilica at the end of the jubilee year, and I was then able to greet you, as well as the president of Lebanon and numerous bishops and faithful.

You have chosen to resign from the office of patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites in this very particular circumstance. I now accept your free and generous decision, which is an expression of great humility and profound detachment. I am certain that you will always support the journey of the Maronite Church with your prayer, your wise counsel and sacrifices.

I pray to God Almighty, through the intercession of St. Marone and of Our Lady of the Lebanon, to fill her with his blessings. With my whole heart I impart to you the apostolic blessing, and also to the bishops, to the priests and to the consecrated persons, as well as to all the faithful of the Maronite Church and to the beloved Lebanese nation.

From the Vatican, Feb. 26, 2011
Benedict XVI


Benedict XVI's Address to Social Council
"It Is Urgent to Reflect on the Languages Developed by New Technologies"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 28, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today upon addressing the participants in the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am happy to receive you on the occasion of the dicastery's plenary assembly. I greet the president, Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, whom I thank for his courteous words, the secretaries, the officials and all the staff.

In this year's message for the World Day of Social Communications, I invited all to reflect on the fact that new technologies have not only changed the way of communicating, but are carrying out a vast cultural transformation. A new way of learning and thinking is being carried out, with unheard of opportunities to establish relationships and to build communion. I would now like to reflect on the fact that thought and relationship always occur in the form of language, understood of course in a general sense, not just verbal. Language is not a simple interchangeable and provisional coating of concepts, but the living and palpitating context in which the thoughts, concerns and projects of men are born to the conscience and are molded in gestures, symbols and words. Hence, man not only "uses," but in a certain way "inhabits" the language. In particular today, what the Second Vatican Council described as the marvelous technical inventions" ("Inter Mirifica," No. 1) are transforming the cultural environment, and this requires specific attention to the languages being developed in it. The new technologies "have the capacity to weigh not only on the forms, but also on the contents of thought" ("Aetatis Novae," No. 4).

The new languages being developed in digital communication determine, on the other hand, a more intuitive and emotive than analytical capacity, they orient toward a logical organization of thought and of the relationship with reality, often privileging the image and hyper-textual connections. Moreover, the clear traditional distinction between the written and oral language seems to vanish in favor of a written communication that takes the form and immediacy of oral communication. The dynamics proper to the "participatory networks" require, moreover, that the person be involved in what he communicates. When persons exchange information, they are already sharing themselves and their vision of the world: they become "witnesses" of what gives meaning to their existence. The risks that are run are certainly far from everyone's eyes: the loss of interiority, superficiality in living relationships, the flight to the emotive nature, the prevalence of the most convincing opinion in regard to the desire for truth. And with all this is the incapacity to live with fullness and authentically the meaning of the motivations. That is why it is urgent to reflect on the languages developed by new technologies. The point of departure is Revelation itself, which gives us testimony of how God communicated his wonders precisely in the language and the real experience of men, "according to the culture proper to each epoch" ("Gaudium et Spes," No. 58), up to the full manifestation of himself in the Incarnate Son. Faith always penetrates, enriches, exalts and vivifies culture and the latter, in turn, becomes a vehicle of faith, to which it offers the language to think and express itself. Hence, it is necessary to become attentive listeners of the languages of the men of our time, to be attentive to the work of God in the world.

In this context, important is the work carried out by the Pontifical Council for Social Communications to deepen the "digital culture," stimulating and supporting reflection for a greater awareness of the challenges that await the ecclesial and civil community. It is not just about expressing the evangelical message in today's language, but of having the courage to think in a more profound way, as happened in other times, the relationship between faith, the life of the Church and the changes man is experiencing. It is a commitment to help those who have the responsibility in the Church to be able to understand, interpret and speak the "new language" of the media in their pastoral endeavor (cf. "Aetatis Novae," No. 2), in dialogue with the contemporary world, asking oneself: what challenges does so-called "digital thought" pose to faith and theology? What are the questions and requirements?

The world of communication is of interest to the whole cultural, social and spiritual universe of the human person. If the new languages have an impact on the way of thinking and living, they also affect, in some way, the world of faith, its intelligence and its expression. According to a classic definition, theology, understood as reflective and critical knowledge, is not foreign to cultural changes underway. The digital culture poses new challenges to our capacity to speak and to listen to a symbolic language that speaks of transcendence. In the proclamation of the Kingdom, Jesus himself was able to use the elements of the culture and the environment of his time: the flock, the fields, the banquet, the seeds, etc. Today we are called to discover, also in the digital culture, significant symbols and metaphors for persons, which can be of help when speaking of the Kingdom of God to contemporary man.

We must consider also that communication in the times of the "new means of communication" entails an ever narrower and ordinary relationship between man and machines, from computers to mobile telephones, to mention only the most common. What will be the effects of this constant relationship? Referring to the first projects of automation of the linguistic analysis of the biblical text, Pope Paul VI already indicated a path of reflection when he asked: is not this effort to infuse in mechanical instruments the reflection of spiritual functions, how a service is ennobled and elevated which touches the sacred? Is it the spirit that is made a prisoner of matter, or is it not, perhaps, matter, now tamed and obliged to follow laws of the spirit, the one that offers to the spirit itself a sublime homage?" (Address to the Automation Center of the Aloisianum of Gallarate, June 19, 1964). Intuited in these words is the profound bond with the spirit to which technology is called by vocation (cf. "Caritas in Veritate," No. 69).

It is precisely the appeal to spiritual values which will make it possible to promote a truly human communication: beyond all enthusiasm or easy skepticism, we know that this is an answer to the call imprinted on our nature of beings created in the image and likeness of God in communion. Because of this, biblical communication according to the will of God is always linked to dialogue and responsibility, as attested, for example, by the figures of Abraham, Moses, Job and the Prophets, and never to linguistic seduction, as is, instead, the case of the serpent, or of incommunicability and of violence, as in the case of Cain. Hence the contribution of believers could be of help for the world of the media itself, opening horizons of meaning and value that the digital culture is not capable to perceive and represent on its own.

In conclusion, I wish to recall, together with many other figures of communicators, that of Father Matteo Ricci, protagonist of the proclamation of the Gospel in China in the modern era, the fourth centenary of whose death we have observed. In his work of spreading the message of Christ he always considered the person, his cultural and philosophic context, his values, his language, taking up all that was positive that was found in his tradition, and offering to encourage and elevate him with the wisdom and truth of Christ.

Dear friends, I thank you for your service. I entrust it to the protection of the Virgin Mary and, assuring you of my prayer, I impart to you the Apostolic Blessing.


Papal Address to Pontifical Academy for Life
"It Is Necessary That the Whole of Society Defend the Right to Life"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 28, 2011 - Here is translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered Saturday upon receiving in audience those who participated in the 17th general assembly of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

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Esteemed Cardinals,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I receive you with joy on the occasion of the annual assembly of the Pontifical Academy for Life. I greet, in particular, the president, Bishop Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, and I thank him for his courteous words. I address my cordial welcome to each one of you!

In the activities of these days you addressed topics of current importance, which question contemporary society profoundly and challenge it to find answers that are appropriate for the good of the human person. Post-abortion syndrome -- the serious psychological difficulties often felt by women who have taken recourse to voluntary abortion -- reveals the irrepressible voice of the moral conscience, and the grave wound it suffers each time that human action betrays the person’s innate vocation to good, and of which he gives witness.

It would be useful also in this reflection to focus attention on the conscience, at times blurred, of the fathers of the children, who often abandon pregnant women. The moral conscience -- teaches the Catechism of the Catholic Church -- "is a judgment of reason whereby the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act that he is going to perform, is in the process of performing, or has already completed. In all he says and does, man is obliged to follow faithfully what he knows to be just and right" (No. 1778).

It is, in fact, the duty of the moral conscience to discern good from evil in the different situations of existence, in order that, on the basis of this judgment, the human being can orient himself towards the good. Many would like to deny the existence of the moral conscience in man, reducing its voice to the result of external conditioning or to a purely emotive phenomenon, and it is important to affirm that the moral quality of human action is not an extrinsic value or even optional and it is not even a prerogative of Christians or believers, but common to every human being. In the moral conscience, God speaks to each one and invites him to defend human life at all times. In this personal bond with the Creator lies the profound dignity of the moral conscience and the reason for its inviolability.

Fulfilled in the conscience of every man -- intelligence, emotive nature, will -- is his vocation to the good, so that the choice of good or evil in the concrete situations of existence ends by marking the human person profoundly in each expression of his being. The whole man, in fact, is wounded when his behavior is contrary to the dictate of his own conscience.

However, even when man rejects the true and the good that the Creator proposes to him, God does not abandon him, but through the voice of conscience, continues to seek and speak to him, so that he will acknowledge his error and open himself to Divine Mercy capable of healing any wound.

Doctors, in particular, cannot fail to consider important the grave duty to defend against the deception of the conscience of many women who think they will find in abortion the solution to family, economic, social difficulties or to the problems of health of their children. Especially in this last situation, the woman is convinced, often by the doctors themselves, that abortion represents not only a licit moral choice, but that in addition it is a necessary "therapeutic" act to avoid the suffering of the child and of its family and an "unjust" burden to society.

In a cultural background characterized by the eclipse of the meaning of life, in which the common perception of the moral gravity of abortion and of other forms of attempts against human life has been attenuated, exacted from doctors is a special fortitude to continue affirming that abortion does not resolve anything, but that it kills the child, destroys the woman and blinds the conscience of the child's father, often ruining family life.

This duty, however, does not only affect the medical profession or health professionals. It is necessary that the whole of society defend the right to life of the conceived and the true good of the woman, who never, under any circumstance, will be fulfilled in the choice of abortion. In the same way it is necessary -- as has been indicated in your works -- to provide the necessary help to women who sadly have already taken recourse to abortion, and who now experience all its moral and existential tragedy. There are many initiatives, at the diocesan level or through individual volunteer entities, which offer psychological and spiritual support for a complete human recovery. The solidarity of the Christian community cannot give up this type of co-responsibility.

I would like to recall, in this connection, the invitation addressed by the Venerable John Paul II to women who have taken recourse to abortion. "The Church is aware of the many factors which may have influenced your decision, and she does not doubt that in many cases it was a painful and even shattering decision. The wound in your heart may not yet have healed. Certainly what happened was and remains terribly wrong. But do not give in to discouragement and do not lose hope. Try rather to understand what happened and face it honestly. If you have not already done so, give yourselves over with humility and trust to repentance. The Father of mercies is ready to give you his forgiveness and his peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. To the same Father and his mercy you can with sure hope entrust your child. With the friendly and expert help and advice of other people, and as a result of your own painful experience, you can be among the most eloquent defenders of everyone's right to life" ("Evangelium Vitae," No. 99).

The moral conscience of researchers and of the whole of society is profoundly involved also in the second topic of your works: the use of umbilical cord banks for clinical and research purposes. Medical-scientific research is a value and, hence, a commitment, not only for researchers but for the whole civil community. The result is the duty to promote ethically valid research on the part of institutions, and the value of the solidarity of individuals in the participation of research directed to promote the common good.

This value, and the necessity of this solidarity, are very well evidenced in the case of the use of stem cells from the umbilical cord. They are important clinical applications and promising research at the scientific level, but for their realization many depend on the generosity, on the donation of blood of the cord at the moment of birth, on the part of the women who have just given birth. Hence, I invite all of you to be promoters of a true and conscious human and Christian solidarity. In this connection, many medical researchers rightly regard with perplexity the growing number of private storage banks of the blood of the cord for exclusive autologous use. Such an option -- as the works of your Assembly demonstrate -- in addition to lacking a real scientific superiority in relation to the donation of the cord, weakens the genuine spirit of solidarity which must constantly animate the search of that common good to which, in the last analysis, science and medical research tend.

Dear brothers and sisters, once again I express my gratitude to the president and to all the members of the Pontifical Academy for Life for the scientific and ethical courage with which you carry out your commitment to the service of the good of the human person. My hope is that you will maintain always alive the spirit of authentic service which makes hearts and minds sensitive to recognize the needs of the men who are our contemporaries. To each one of you and to your loved ones, I impart my heartfelt apostolic blessing.